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Fewell in limbo

Former Bills interim coach Perry Fewell was widely believed to be the heavy favorite for the Bears defensive coordinator job.  It was supposed to be his job if he wanted it.

He interviewed Monday, and there is still no word about what Fewell will do next.  He’s also the only man to have interviewed for the Giants defensive coordinator job.

A source close to Fewell tells the New York Daily News that the coach is “sorting through things.”  Fewell hasn’t been given an offer yet, but is reportedly likely to get one if he decides what job he prefers between Chicago and New York.

It’s possible Fewell is waiting to hear back from Buffalo, where he interviewed for the head coaching job.  The way that search is going, Fewell could be waiting a while just to hear that he didn’t get the job.  (Leslie Frazier is reportedly the leader in the clubhouse.)

Chicago and New York can only wait for so long for Fewell to get off the course.

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Report: Johnny Manziel fined $12,000 for flashing middle finger

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel’s Monday night middle finger toward the Washington sideline didn’t go unnoticed — or unpunished — by the league office.

The NFL docked Manziel $12,000 for his gesture in the third quarter of Monday’s game at FedEx Field, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday. The hand signal was caught by the ESPN cameras and went viral in a snap.

As PFT’s Mike Florio points out, Manziel can appeal to have the fine reduced to 25 percent of his weekly salary.

Manziel will enter the regular season as the Browns’ backup quarterback after Brian Hoyer was named the club’s starter earlier this week.

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Vikings, Wilfs increase stadium contribution to $526 million

VikingsStadium

Like any construction project, the actual costs always exceed the budget.  When it comes to the Vikings’ new stadium, however, the public contributions won’t be increasing.

Which means that certain bells and/or whistles will have to be dumped — or that someone else will come up with the cash.

So far, the Vikings and the family that owns the franchise have kicked more money into the project.  The team has announced that the private contribution have increased to nearly $526 million, up from the original $477 million.  Added to the hard-capped $498 million from state and local sources, the stadium has now crossed the $1 billion threshold.

“The Vikings have made a significant contribution to the stadium budget, which allows us to maintain the original design to ensure the stadium is the most iconic, world-class stadium in the country and perhaps the world,” Minnesota Sports Facilities Association chairperson Michele Kelm-Helgen said in a press release.  “The team stepping up to make this contribution was instrumental in helping to solve our budget gap.”

“It is critical that the original stadium design unveiled in 2013 is delivered to the public when the new stadium opens in 2016,” Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf said. “Our goal is to provide the best game day experience possible for our fans and for everyone in Minnesota who uses the stadium. We strongly believed eliminating significant items that contribute to that fan experience was not an option.”

As the construction proceeds, it’s possible that other unforeseen expenses and increases will emerge.  It appears that, if/when this happens, the private contributions once again will increase.

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Spinal cord injury ends Isaac Redman’s NFL career

Isaac Redman AP

In a statement posted to his verified Twitter account Friday, former Steelers running back Isaac Redman said he has been told to give up football because of a spinal cord injury.

Redman said he was examined by Dr. Robert Watkins, known in part for his work with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. According to Redman, Watkins advised he had a “career ending injury” to the spinal cord.

Redman said he played with the neck injury last year but “wasn’t myself on the field.”

The 29-year-old Redman rushed for 1,148 yards in five seasons with Pittsburgh (2009-2013). He was released after three games last season.

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Five questions: New York Jets

New York Jets v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Doom and gloom were the two leading predictions for the Jets in 2013, but the team defied those execrable expectations to go 8-8 while securing wins over teams like the Patriots and Saints over the course of the season.

Predictions aren’t quite as bad this time around, although that doesn’t mean people are clamoring to get in line for playoff tickets. The team improved their offensive supporting cast, but there’s still plenty of uncertainty about Geno Smith’s ability to drive the bus. On defense, the strength of the defensive line is balanced out by a shortage of cornerbacks that could prove fatal given the Jets’ schedule.

Questions about quarterback and cornerback kick off our five queries about the Jets and the answers to them will probably go a long way toward answering the final entry on the list.

1. Who will start the most games at quarterback?

Unless things go terribly wrong against the Giants in the team’s third preseason game on Friday night, Smith will be starting the opening game against the Raiders. That hardly settles things for the entire season, though.

With Michael Vick on the roster, Smith won’t have the same kind of rope he got when Matt Simms was the only other option during his rookie season. With Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and other new additions on offense, Smith also won’t get the benefit of doubt that comes from playing with a skeletal supporting cast. Smith will have to show that his strong close to last season was a building block for the future, something that hasn’t been readily apparent in the team’s first two preseason games.

If he can retain the job through the season, it should mean that the Jets have taken a significant step forward offensively. If he can’t, Vick may be able to rally the team but it would leave the Jets back at square one in their decades-long search for a franchise quarterback.

2. Were the Jets too dismissive of cornerback needs?

The offseason started with the Jets cutting Antonio Cromartie because of his outsize salary, a move that opened up cap space that many imagined General Manager John Idzik would use to bolster the position. While they did sign Dimitri Patterson, the Jets otherwise resisted the temptations of free agent cornerbacks and end the summer with a lot of cap space that should help them maintain fiscal sanity in the coming years.

It won’t do them any good against the pass, though, and that’s become a big problem with Dee Milliner’s readiness for the season in doubt because of an ankle injury and third-round pick Dexter McDougle lost for the season because of a torn ACL. Patterson’s also been banged up this summer, no surprise given his history, and there’s not much behind them on the roster.

Idzik says he has no regrets about how things went this offseason, but let’s check in again in a couple of months. The Jets open with the Raiders and then go on to face the Packers, Bears, Lions, Chargers, Broncos and Patriots with the last two coming five days apart. Those are all potent passing offenses and the Jets’ corner issues could make it late real early this season.

3. How will the running back workload shake out?

Johnson still has the aura of a marquee back because of his past exploits, but he’s not guaranteed much of anything with the Jets after offseason knee surgery and two disappointing years with the Titans. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are back after each had strong stretches for the Jets in 2013 and the desire to put too much on Smith’s shoulders should leave work for all of them come the regular season.

There’s little question that the best-case scenario for the Jets offense is that Johnson rediscovers his old magic and takes the lead role in the backfield while Ivory and Powell do complementary work. If he can’t, the Jets offense will likely be on the plodding side and that hasn’t worked out for them the last couple of years.

4. Will Quinton Coples take the next step?

Given the issues at corner, the Jets would help themselves a lot if they can pressure quarterbacks into mistakes. Rex Ryan’s defenses have had some success doing that over the years, but his recent Jets teams have been a bit short on that front if their talented defensive line doesn’t get the job done on its own.

The addition of Jason Babin gives the Jets another piece to use in hopes of generating a more robust pass rush this season, but it would be ideal if Coples were to find more success in that area. He’s a better all-around player at this point than Babin and his work down the stretch last season provides hope that the light’s coming on for the talented but inconsistent linebacker.

5. Is this Rex Ryan’s last season with the Jets?

Ryan signed an extension with the Jets after last season, but it fell well short of securing his job for years to come. He got one more year of guaranteed money, which means he enters this season in pretty much the same position he entered last season. He did some of his best coaching by squeezing an 8-8 record out of a roster short on talent, but he was hired before Idzik and may still face the axe if there isn’t a significant improvement after three years out of the playoffs.

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Le’Veon Bell to cops: “I smoked two hours ago. I’m not high anymore”

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Rather than employ the time-honored “It’s not my weed” defense, Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount admitted possession of a bag of marijuana when stopped by cops Wednesday.

But that wasn’t the only alarming(ly dumb) admission that took place.

According to the police report obtained by WPXI, Bell told the officer who pulled him over he had smoked recently, but he didn’t think it was recently enough to impair his driving.

According to the complaint, Bell told the officer at the scene: “I didn’t know you could get a DUI for being high. I smoked two hours ago. I’m not high anymore. I’m perfectly fine. Why would I be getting high if I had to make it to my game?”

When the officer asked what game he was referring to, Bell replied: “I have to be on a plane at 3 to be in Philadelphia. I play for Steelers.”

Bell initially told the officer there was no marijuana in the car, but when asked if they had smoked any, he replied: “It was about a minute ago,” before clarifying that it could have been within the previous two hours.

The Steelers played both backs Thursday night, and they combined for 55 yards in a loss.

And that sound you hear in emanating from Western Pennsylvania is Mike Tomlin’s head exploding, as a team with issues moving the ball now has to worry about how long they’ll be without two regulars.

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Taylor Lewan has to “be smarter” after drawing fine for unnecessary roughness

Green Bay Packers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Rookie seasons are full of learning experiences and Titans tackle Taylor Lewan had one this week.

He learned that he’ll wind up with less money in his pocket if he isn’t able to avoid unnecessary roughness penalties on the field. Lewan was fined $8,200 for drawing a flag in the second quarter for retaliating to a shove from Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks with a shove of his own to Hicks’s facemask.

“It was petty; it was not very mature of me to do,” Lewan said, via the Tennessean. “But it was one of those heat-of-the moment things you have to be smart about.”

Lewan also drew a flag for grabbing Cameron Jordan’s facemask later in the contest, which makes for 30 yards in penalties for a Titans offense that doesn’t need those kinds of obstacles for success. It’s little surprise, then, that Lewan says he needs to “be smarter” moving forward because players that hurt their teams can find playing time hard to come by.

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Drew Brees hopes to shake off some rust, and a goatee

Tennessee Titans v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Drew Brees will be able to shake off a little rust tomorrow night.

But perhaps more importantly (at least to his wife), he’ll be able to shave the goatee he’s been growing while he was on the sidelines rehabbing a strained left oblique.

I can’t say I grew a real good one,” Brees said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “But I said, ‘Until I play, I’m going to grow it out.’ It’s getting shaved off pretty soon.”

And so is the time for him to prepare for the season. Unless they depart from normal protocol, that will give Brees exactly one game to get ready for the year, and he’s only going to play about half that one.

“It is important. That’s why I want to play well,” Brees said. “I want to get out there and feel comfortable. I feel like this week’s been great, just to get back out and feel like I’m throwing the ball like I should. Now it is time to take it to the game field and go through this final dress rehearsal before the [regular] season.”

Brees said he tried to hold himself back at first, not wanting to aggravate the injury. But when the game starts, his instincts will kick in, and it will be harder to slow down.

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Pettine says a package of plays for Manziel is a possibility

johnnymanziel AP

Brian Hoyer beat him out to be the Browns’ starting quarterback, but Johnny Manziel still might take some snaps in Week One against the Steelers.

Browns coach Mike Pettine told Ross Tucker on SiriusXM NFL Radio that a “Manziel package” is “on the table.”

“We could potentially look at a two-quarterback system down the road,” Pettine said.

That may conflict with what Pettine said when he announced Hoyer as the starter this week: Pettine had said that he didn’t want Hoyer to feel like he was on a short leash, and he wanted Hoyer to feel that the starting quarterback job was his to run with. Now Pettine is suggesting that Hoyer may have to take a seat (or line up wide as nothing more than a decoy) while Manziel comes on the field for certain plays.

However, Pettine has said in the past that he likes the idea of making opposing defenses think about the possibility of Manziel coming in and using his mobility to make plays. Pettine knows all too well how that can be tough for a defense: In 2012, when Pettine was defensive coordinator for the Jets, the 49ers used then-backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a special package of plays, and Kaepernick ran five times for 50 yards and a touchdown as the 49ers whipped the Jets 34-0.

I’ve seen that give defenses some trouble,” Pettine said. in July. “I think there’s positives and negatives to it. You’re taking your starter off the field. You have his rhythm and continuity to take into account, but at the same time defensively you’re now forcing a team to basically come up with two game plans. I mean, there are pluses and minuses to it.”

The pluses are that Manziel could get some playing experience, and that his athletic ability could help the Browns move the ball on the ground. But the big minus is that Pettine is already saying, just days after anointing Hoyer the starter, that Manziel may take some snaps away from Hoyer.

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Let’s play the “Who gets suspended this Friday?” game

Friday

It’s Friday.  And while the NFL privately bristles at the perception that it engineers the release of suspension-related news for the final day of the workweek, recent history warrants keeping an eye out for this week’s latest leak followed by an announcement that someone will be missing some time.

So who ya got?  Will it be Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who faces a one-year suspension under the substance-abuse policy?  Will it be 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, who faces a multi-game suspension for multiple violations of the substance-abuse policy and the personal-conduct policy?

Or will it be Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was arrested in March for operating a vehicle while under the influence of prescription pain medication?  Will it be “retired” defensive lineman Josh Brent, who hopes to be reinstated after serving time for the DUI-related death of former teammate Jerry Brown?

Then again, it also could be someone on whom we’re not focused.  That’s what happened last week, when Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe received a one-game suspension, arising presumably from last year’s arrest on marijuana possession charges.

So who will it be this week?  While we await an answer, make your pick below.

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Vick says Geno has to win now

Vick AP

Since not long after he joined the Jets in March, quarterback Mike Vick has conceded the Week One starting job to Geno Smith.  Now, Vick has challenged Smith to keep it.

“There wasn’t patience with me,” Vick said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.  “There wasn’t patience with Brett Favre.  I’ve seen Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco go in there as rookies.  Ben Roethlisberger.  They had to get it done and they got it done.  There’s really no patience, just being honest. . . . We got to win and we got to win now.”

Honesty hasn’t been an issue for Vick.  But this specific slice of honesty underscores the reality that Vick wasn’t brought in to serve as the content-to-hold-a-clipboard mentor to the younger player.  Vick will push Smith to get better, or Vick will push Smith to the bench.

As usual, Vick’s honesty is likely accurate.  With coach Rex Ryan’s contract extension operating as a practical matter as a one-year Band-Aid deal, he’s in the same position he occupied last year.  And Rex probably needs to get to the playoffs this time in order to secure a real extension.  If it appears that Geno, whom the team has propped up recently by pushing the notion that Smith took it upon himself to watch film of the defenses he’ll face this year (which many assumed already was standard operating procedure for starting quarterbacks), can’t get to the next level, Vick will get a chance to return to the level that made him one of the best players in the NFL both with the Falcons and more recently with the Eagles.

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A Jordan Palmer-Jimmy Clausen battle is important, really

Jordan Palmer, Jimmy Clausen AP

On its surface, the Jimmy Clausen-Jordan Palmer battle isn’t the kind of thing to make headlines.

But considering starter Jay Cutler hasn’t finished a season in four years, the Bears know better than anyone that a backup quarterback can determine their playoff future.

According to John Mullin of CSNChicago.com, Palmer and Clausen have alternated with the twos throughout the preseason, so it’s Palmer’s turn tonight against Seattle.

“I’ve been running this system for the past few weeks and OTA’s so I’m feeling very comfortable,” Palmer said. “It’s all about going through your progressions, getting the ball out of your hands because there’s so many guys who can make plays in this offense.”

If Palmer has an edge it’s familiarity and recent reps, as Clausen was signed late in OTAs and hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2010.

“It’s definitely difficult,” Clausen said. “You don’t get a lot of reps with some of the guys. Practice time is limited and we’re not in training camp, but you’ve just got to adjust to that. You’ve just got to see when they’re getting out of their breaks, anticipate it and put the ball there for them.”

“All the guys are different. You’ve just got to keep taking the mental reps, watching what this guy does, that guy does.”

And while it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you’d want to place your bets on, the collapse of 2011 should be enough to make Bears fans realize tonight’s worth paying attention to.

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Jason Verrett expected to make preseason debut

Jason Verrett AP

The Chargers made cornerback Jason Verrett their first-round pick in May knowing that he’d need time to recover from March shoulder surgery before he’d be ready to hit the field.

Verrett missed spring work, but started practicing in training camp and added more to his plate as his shoulder proved up to the challenge. Now he’s ready to take the next big step in his preparation for his rookie season as Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Verrett is expected to make his first appearance in a preseason game when the Chargers face the 49ers on Sunday.

His teammate Brandon Flowers is looking forward to seeing what Verrett can do in a game situation.

“He sticks in coverage,” Flowers said. “He’s a playmaker. He has that ‘want to’ in his eyes. I’ve been around a lot of cornerbacks in my days, from old guys to young guys. He wants to be the one to make a play. He’s not going to shy away from it like, ‘I hope the quarterback doesn’t throw my way on third down.’ He wants the quarterback to throw his way on third down. Just having that ‘want to,’ his athleticism, I can’t wait to see him when the lights come on.”

Cornerback was a weak spot for the Chargers last season and they weren’t shy about addressing it this offseason with the additions of Flowers and Verrett. If both live up to expectations, the chance to at least compete for a second straight playoff berth should be within reach in San Diego.

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Montori Hughes on leave from Colts after death of daughter

i Getty Images

Colts defensive tackle Montori Hughes has taken a leave from the team to deal with a family tragedy.

Coach Chuck Pagano announced on Thursday that Hughes’s three-month old daughter Maveah Alice died last week and that Hughes will be away from the team while dealing with the loss. Pagano said that the little girl had visited practice early in training camp and “she was perfectly fine” before getting ill.

“I can’t imagine. No parent should have to bury a child. We all go through circumstances. This is an extremely, extremely difficult time for Montori and his family. But we’ve got his back and we’ll get through this thing as a family like we get through anything,” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star.

We offer our condolences to Hughes and his family as they deal with their loss and hope he can make a successful return to the field when he feels ready to resume his career.

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Nate Burleson: Johnny Manziel’s still the man

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel may not have won the starting quarterback job in Cleveland, but at least one member of the team’s receiving corps thinks that the future is still very bright for the first-round pick.

Nate Burleson said that Manziel’s extracurricular activities were not a problem for him because he has seen that Manziel “loves this sport and he wants to be great at it.” Burleson also thinks that a stint as a backup could make Manziel even better down the road.

“Johnny’s still the man. He’s still a really good quarterback. He’s an NFL-quality starting quarterback. … Johnny being the No. 2, as you want to call it, we got arguably the best No. 2 in the NFL,” Burleson said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “Johnny will be successful in this league. He’ll have his opportunities. Regardless of how many chances he’ll get or waves of opportunities he gets, he’s going to take advantage of them. It’s not a bad thing for him to be the No. 2 [quarterback] Week One. He is a rookie, still has a lot to learn and to do as a professional and as a player when it comes to the playbook. He’s going to be all right. I’m a Johnny Football fan.”

Burleson’s support for Manziel doesn’t come at Brian Hoyer’s expense as he said he felt the team had two “winners” to choose from and praised Hoyer’s command of the offense. That command hasn’t been as evident to many others during the team’s preseason work, something that will have to change if Manziel is going to remain the No. 2 in Cleveland.

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Jeremy Maclin relieved after knee scare last night

Jeremy Maclin AP

When Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin went down in the second quarter last night, it was natural to jump to the conclusion.

With Maclin coming off a torn ACL, and going down without contact and clutching the same knee, even Eagles coach Chip Kelly “thought the worst.”

But moments later, Maclin was back on the field, disaster averted.

If I was fine, I was going to play,” Maclin said, via John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com. “I got up fine. It wasn’t anything. I was excited to get back out there and play. I think God definitely had my back on that one. When I got up and I was walking, the initial shock kind of went away, and I was pretty good.”

After last year’s injury, Maclin has had to work through some soreness in his legs, but the bigger challenge was the mental one.

“It’s tough,” Maclin said. “You need a strong-minded person to get through stuff like this. I’ve always been in a good place mentally. Initially, when it first happened a year ago, I was emotional. I was upset. I think the thing that kind of helped me in rehab and kept me going was the fact that I was mentally tough. Now I’m excited about going forward.”

The Eagles are excited about getting Maclin on the field with Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews, and for a moment last night, it appeared that plan was dashed.

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