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Back come the Pack

After falling into a 21-point hole early in the third quarter of Sunday’s playoff game in Arizona, all hope was seemingly lost for the Packers.

And it might just be that the Packers had the Cardinals right where they wanted them.

After driving 80 yards in ten plays to cut the margin to 31-17, the Packers pulled off a surprise onside kick, recovered it, and drove 57 yards in eight plays to make the score 31-24 with plenty of time left.

To win, the Packers will have to find a way to stop Cards quarterback Kurt Warner, who has completed 15 of 17 passes for 192 yards and three scores.

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Russell Wilson contract details begin to emerge

USA - 2014 300 dpi Chris Ware caricature of Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. (MCT via Getty Images) Getty Images

“New money” has become one of the great fictions in the assessment of NFL contracts. But, you know, when in Rome.

For Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the headline is that he signed a four-year, $87.6 million extension, with a new-money average of $21.9 million. The truth is that the last year of his current contract, at a base salary of $1.542 million, has been ripped up and replaced with a new five-year, $89.1 million deal.

But since the average of the total five-year deal is $17.8 million, it won’t be characterized that way when it comes to deciding whose is bigger.

For Wilson, the details of the five-year, $89.1 million deal have begun to emerge. With one important key metric still missing.

The signing bonus, per multiple reports, is $31 million. The total guarantee, per multiple reports, is $60 million. The amount fully guaranteed of the remaining $29 million in guarantees remains unknown.

It’s a key point because the Seahawks and Wilson’s agent had been squabbling about the portion of the contract that will be fully guaranteed at signing, since future fully-guaranteed payments must be placed into escrow now. (To raise the money, Gantt could have organized a bake sale for owner Paul Allen.)

The Dolphins fully guaranteed $60 million of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s contract. For Wilson, the question is whether and to what extent he has fully-guaranteed payments beyond the $31 million signing bonus.

The base salaries are, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, $700,000 in 2015, $12.34 million in 2016, $12.6 million in 2017, $15.5 million in 2018, and $17 million in 2019.

This makes the cap numbers $6.9 million in 2015 (plus any remaining bonus proration from his rookie deal), $18.54 million in 2016, $18.8 million in 2017, $21.7 million in 2018, and $23.2 million in 2019.

As the salary cap continues to climb, Wilson won’t last long as the second highest-paid player in the NFL. From Eli Manning to Philip Rivers to Andrew Luck to other young quarterbacks who become stars, the bar soon will be pushed to $23 million, $25 million, and beyond.

By 2019, Wilson’s salary of $17 million will be middle-of-the-pack at best. Before then, if he keeps playing like he has, Wilson likely will have another new deal.

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Ray Farmer: I gave the NFL my cell phone in Textgate investigation

Ray Farmer AP

Tom Brady refused to let the NFL see his cell phone as part of the Deflategate investigation, but Browns General Manager Ray Farmer took a different approach when he was investigated in Textgate.

Farmer, who is suspended for the first four games of the season for texting members of the Browns’ coaching staff during games, says he allowed the NFL to view his phone as part of its investigation.

“I turned over my cell phone,” Farmer said, via Cleveland.com. “Again, I made the mistake. I made the admission. It is what it is. I’ll deal with any penalty I got. If they saw fit to be lenient, than that was their call; it wasn’t mine.”

There are several differences between Farmer’s case and Brady’s. The phone was central to the violation in the case of Farmer; the texts themselves were his violations, whereas in Deflategate the NFL only thought Brady’s calls or texts might have included information about rules violations. Brady is a member of a union that has a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL; Farmer is not in a labor union. And Farmer has admitted breaking the rules, whereas Brady has denied any wrongdoing.

Farmer and Brady also approached the NFL’s investigation differently. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when suspending Farmer that he had been cooperative and that his suspension was lessened as a result, whereas Goodell criticized Brady for his lack of cooperation.

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Bashaud Breeland’s day gets worse, carted off practice field

breeland AP

We can now consider training camp season to be officially open, as we’ve had our first mention of the dreaded cart.

According to Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com, Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland was carted off the practice field with an apparent knee injury.

NBC 4 had video of the spill, showing a non-contact situation, where Breeland’s knee collapsed as he tried to break with a receiver.

That makes this a really bad day for the second-year corner, since he was suspended one game by the league for a marijuana possession charge last year.

While there’s no official word, they can only hope that’s all the time he misses.

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Jay Gruden: RGIII “starting to realize he has to put the work in”

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Patience hasn’t been a word frequently associated with Robert Griffin III during his NFL career.

Whether it was immediately entering the starting lineup after going No. 2 in the 2012 draft or making the start in the 2013 season opener after a knee injury in the playoffs earlier that year, instant gratification was the goal since Griffin joined the Redskins. Coach Jay Gruden told Albert Breer of NFL Media that he’s trying a different path.

Gruden wanted Griffin to earn his spot as the starter last season and benched him during the season when Griffin failed to meet expectations, but has installed him as the starter this year with a plan to let Griffin ride out rough patches in hopes of improving.

“Let’s see what he can do, and give him some time,” Gruden said.

For the plan to succeed, Gruden believes his willingness to be patient has to be met by the same willingness from Griffin. The coach says that he’s seen signs of it from the quarterback this offseason.

“He’s not used to failure. He’s very competitive,” Gruden said. “It has an effect on him. He wants to be the best, and he’s got a long way to go to be that. But he still has the confidence and still [has] the swagger where he thinks he can be, and he’s starting to realize he has to put the work in and he has a lot to learn.”

Gruden also pointed to the need for the team to play better across the board to help Griffin succeed, but the patience is only going to extend so far. The Redskins picked up Griffin’s 2016 option, but it’s guaranteed for injury only and they aren’t likely to pay him $16.2 million if he doesn’t look closer to the quarterback they want by the time the season comes to an end.

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Vernon Davis no longer in the brand building business

San Francisco 49ers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

When 49ers tight end Vernon Davis stayed out of the team’s offseason workouts in 2014 in hopes of getting a new deal, he said that everything he did was in “the best interest of building my brand.”

Davis didn’t get that new deal, didn’t have a good 2014 season and didn’t make any waves this offseason. On Friday, he said that he’s come up with a new approach that included firing the financial advisor who encouraged him to stay away from the team because that unnamed person “worships money.” Davis insists that he’s not laying down in front of that altar.

“That’s not who I am. That’s not what I stand for. I don’t do anything for money,” Davis said, via the Sacramento Bee. “I don’t let money represent me. That’s just not me. I play for the love of the game. And that’s the beauty of this sport — it’s that about the love, the teammates, your coaches.”

Davis says he feels “great overall” as training camp gets underway and the 49ers offense could certainly use the kind of production he provided before last season if they’re going to bounce back from last year’s showing.

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Photos show Jason Pierre-Paul in a sling with huge bandage

Pierre-Paul Getty Images

Giants co-owner John Mara said yesterday he wasn’t quite sure how many fingers Jason Pierre-Paul had at the moment.

And while none of us can be sure, the first photos of the Giants defensive end since he lost a finger in a fireworks accident don’t look good.

The New York Daily News has photos of Pierre-Paul taken in Florida, showing him in a sling with a gigantic bandage covering his right hand.

It’s hard to tell much, other than it looks like he has a boxing glove on, and doesn’t look like a guy who’ll be participating in football any time soon. We already knew he lost his right index finger, but the way he’s wrapped, it’s unclear what else is going on under there.

“We don’t know how extensive the damage is. That’s the problem,” Mara said yesterday. “I don’t know how many fingers he has.”

But at least there’s something to look at now.

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Joint NFL-NFLPA request could set stage for settlement

Moe

On Thursday, Judge Richard M. Berman made like the Honorable Moses Harry Horowitz (a/k/a Moe Howard) and clunked together the heads of the NFL and NFLPA, directing them to: (1) quit talking publicly about the #DeflateGate case; and (2) start talking to each other privately about resolving it.

The next day, instead of submitting a motion requesting a ruling by September 4 or, alternatively, an injunction allowing Brady to play until the case is resolved, NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler submitted a letter informing Judge Berman that the two sides have been talking, and that they’ve agreed on a proposed schedule for resolving the case.

They’ve agreed that the case can be concluded without depositions or document requests or testimony or the formal introduction of evidence in court. They’ve also agreed it can be resolved quickly, with the NFL and NFLPA submitting initial documents supporting their respective positions by August 7 and the parties then responding to each other’s initial submissions seven days later.

The focus then would shift to the oral argument before Judge Berman, because that would be the day on which — before, during, or after the hearing ends — he likely would call the lawyers and a key representative from each party (perhaps Roger Goodell and Tom Brady) into his chambers for the purposes of twisting arms (or gouging eyes) in an effort to settle the case.

I’ve said all along that a four-game fine, with no acknowledgment of wrongdoing from Brady, would make the most sense. Although the NFL may strenuously object to that outcome, the league could feel differently if/when Judge Berman says, “You can take no suspension and a four-game fine, or you’ll get no suspension and no fine. It’s up to you.”

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Trent Richardson lands on non-football injury list

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Trent Richardson’s fresh start with the Raiders has hit a snag.

The running back has been placed on the non-football injury list to open camp. The Raiders didn’t disclose an injury, but it’s possible that Richardson failed to pass the team’s conditioning test or has some issue that kept him from taking it.

Offensive line coach Mike Tice said earlier in the offseason that Richardson’s “quickness came around” during the team’s spring work, but Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this week that “whispers” around the team were that Richardson’s attempt to bounce back from his dismal stint with the Colts “is not going so well.” When he’s activated, Richardson will be competing with Latavius Murray and Roy Helu for snaps in the backfield and/or a roster spot.

Wide receiver Rod Streater was also placed on the NFI list while defensive tackle Stacy McGee and kick returner Trindon Holliday were placed on the physically unable to perform list. They join linebacker Sio Moore on that list.

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Dwayne Bowe: Josh McCown has potential to be a top-five quarterback

Josh McCown AP

The first two days of practice have done nothing to lessen the feeling that quarterbacks will be a major, if not the major, focus of Browns training camp.

Johnny Manziel’s rough start on Thursday was followed by a better day on Friday with Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan reporting that the presumptive No. 2 was 10-of-11 during 11-on-11 drills. Josh McCown had more success on Thursday and was 9-of-11 on Friday, which led wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to offer a rave review of the veteran’s work.

“He’s showing all the potential of being a top-five quarterback in the NFL,” Bowe said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “The way he’s performing out here, it’s unbelievable, making tight throws, trusting his receivers.”

Bowe’s assessment of McCown’s potential to move into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks at this point in his career probably won’t find too many co-signers, but coach Mike Pettine also gave McCown positive marks a couple of days into camp.

“That’s the one thing that has jumped out is his accuracy, not just on the underneath stuff but those intermediate to deeper throws,” Pettine said. “I talk about having to watch the film and being able to evaluate, but I don’t have to watch the film to know he threw some pretty good balls in practice today. It’s good to see. Hopefully, that will carry over when we’re in pads.”

The Browns have their first padded practice on Saturday and it’s a good bet that the performance of the quarterbacks will continue to be a leading storyline.

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Sheldon Richardson won’t be charged for weed, child endangerment

Sheldon Richardson AP

For all the alarming stuff in the police report regarding Sheldon Richardson’s July arrest, it appears he’ll only face misdemeanors and traffic charges.

Via Brian Costello of the New York Post, the local prosecutor said he can’t bring child endangerment or marijuana charges against Richardson even though the report said there was a 12-year-old and the fresh odor of marijuana in a car that was clocked as fast as 143 mph.

“Our role is to take a look at the evidence that we know we have and say, given that, are we going to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed this felony?” St. Charles (Mo.) County prosecutor Tim Lohmar said. “The plain and simple answer to you is when we had all the facts in front of us we thought we’re going to have a tough time proving this beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Lohmar said he wasn’t sure he could get a conviction on a felony count of endangering the welfare of the child for several reasons, including the possibility that the family of the child (who has not been identified) might not cooperate.

Likewise, he said the lack of evidence kept him from pursuing drug charges, though that doesn’t mean he thinks Richardson is innocent.

“There were no drugs found in the car, but anybody who takes a look at the situation knows what’s going on there,” Lohmar said. “The odor, according to the officer, was such that it was a fresh odor. The weed had just burned. I think you can reasonably assume that had been taken place while they were driving and somewhere between that and the time they were pulled over whatever was in the car was thrown from the car. We don’t know that, obviously.”

Since Richardson didn’t make it easy on cops by admitting he had just smoked all the weed like Le’Veon Bell did, there’s no basis for the charges.

That won’t necessarily keep the league from acting on it, as they’ve made it clear they’ll investigate things on their own and not be bound by legal schedules under the new personal conduct policy. Richardson is already facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

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Report: Mike Kensil was Mortensen’s “main source”

Kensil Getty Images

It’s unlikely that ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was going to out the source(s) of the blatantly false report from January that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were a full two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum during a Friday appearance on WEEI. (That likelihood became even smaller once Mortensen canceled.)

John Dennis of WEEI reports, via Tom Curran of CSNNE.com, that one of Mortensen’s “main sources” for the false report was NFL V.P. of game operations Mike Kensil.

Curran reported more than six months ago that Kensil, a former Jets employee whose father once was the team’s president, was the “driving force” behind the investigation.

During a Thursday appearance on WEEI, Adam Schefter of ESPN seemed to suggest that Mortensen had multiple sources. Regardless of the total number, the information was false — and the report caused #DeflateGate to morph from a curiosity to, eventually, a federal case.

Before it became a federal case, it became a supposedly independent investigation. However independent the investigation was (or wasn’t), it wasn’t sufficiently independent to prompt Ted Wells to turn the focus back against the league for its potentially dissemination of false information to ESPN — and for its failure to immediately correct the information.

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NFL, NFLPA request expedited schedule in Brady case

Tom Brady AP

The NFL and NFLPA have found a point of agreement when it comes to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s challenge of his four-game suspension.

Gabe Feldman of Tulane Law School reports that the two sides have asked Judge Richard Berman for an expedited schedule that would lead to a final resolution of the case, subject to appeal, before the start of the 2015 season. They propose a timeline that would have motions filed by August 7 and replied to by August 14 with the oral arguments and decision to follow in short order.

The two sides have also agreed that “no discovery is needed to adjudicate the motions, which will be based on the arbitration record.”

That request would avoid the need for Brady and the NFLPA to pursue an injunction, although a loss for Brady could lead him to ask an appeals court for one that would allow him to play pending an ultimate decision in the case.

UPDATE 2:19 p.m.: The Boston Globe has posted a copy of the entire motion.

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LeSean McCoy: I cancelled party, but it wasn’t to be “a weird orgy”

LeSean McCoy AP

Bills running back LeSean McCoy made some pre-camp headlines when a copy of an invitation asking for women only to submit proof of being 21 and pictures along with their RSVPs to a party scheduled for last Sunday night surfaced on social media.

There was also a mention of signing a confidentiality agreement once they arrived at the party, but the Bills directed McCoy to take the invitation down and McCoy later switched the party to be open to all comers because the earlier invitation had been taken “outta context.” On Friday, though, McCoy told reporters that the party was cancelled altogether.

McCoy took the blame for things blowing up while also making sure that everyone knew the party wasn’t going to be something out of Caligula’s time in Rome.

“I should have never posted it and I take blame for it. But for the record, it was no weird orgy thing going on,” McCoy said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.

If HBO had selected the Bills to appear on Hard Knocks this season they could have just combined it with True Detective and found a way to have weird orgies while also putting Rex Ryan in a starring role instead of Vince Vaughn. There’s always next year.

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Cam Newton walks into training camp healthy, and smiling

Cam Newton, Dave Gettleman AP

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton walked into an interview room Friday, and after hobbling through training camp last year, that was an achievement in itself.

Because even though his year began with ankle surgery and nearly ended with a car accident which left him with two broken bones in his back, Newton led his team to a second straight division title and playoff appearance, and then a new $100 million contract.

So why not smile?

“I had a person ask me if this was the best shape I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t want to say that, but this is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Newton said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “That’s saying a lot. Waking up and being able to run and not limp, and an obvious limp, too.”

In addition to the contract, Newton’s offseason has been a busy one, from a trip to Australia (where he played some of the local football) to running around in a flag football tournament. And while there was some criticism of him taking what could be perceived as chances, Newton shrugged it off.

“Walking down the street you could get hit by a car, you know what I’m saying?” he said. “‘Cam playing flag football. Oh my God, he can do something!’ ‘Oh my, look at him pulverize people! Cam’s driving fast, slow down! He’s driving again!’ You know it’s always something, but that’s just the life we live. . . .

“I’m the type of person, especially with the things I went through the past few years, that I make the most and appreciate the many blessings that I have on any day. Because, like my father always told me, ‘One day you can be on top of the world, and the next, the world can be on top of you.’”

So far, nothing has fallen on top of Newton, which already puts him ahead of last year’s pace.

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Zimmer says Peterson is looking like a Hall of Famer at training camp

Adrian Peterson, Mike Zimmer AP

Adrian Peterson is as good as ever after a year away.

That’s the word from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who said on today’s PFT Live that his star running back stayed in great shape while he missed 15 games last year for abusing his son. Zimmer says Peterson seems excited for the season and looks like the All-Pro running back he’s been in the past.

“He’s in fantastic shape. His body is rock hard. He’s really into all the football stuff, he’s got a smile on his face, he seems to be extremely happy and excited to be here. Every day you see a couple cuts that look like a Hall of Fame running back, so those are good sights to see,” Zimmer said.

The Vikings have become a trendy pick to be a playoff team, with Peterson returning, Teddy Bridgewater improving in his second season and Zimmer getting another year to build his defense. Zimmer knows that expectations are high, and he’s fine with that.

“I would personally like to be below the radar but that’s obviously not the case,” Zimmer said. “Like I tell our football team, I want us to have high expectations. I want us to have higher expectations than the fans and everyone else.”

The expectations for Peterson are sky high.

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