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Vikings raise ticket prices

Following a season in which they reached the NFC Championship Game, demand for Minnesota Vikings tickets is surely higher than it was a year ago. So it’s no surprise that ticket prices are going up.

Vikings season tickets will cost anywhere from $290 to $1,280, or $29 to $128 a game for the eight regular-season games and two preseason games. For the last two years, the per-game cost ranged from $25 to $123.

The Vikings say their tickets are still more affordable than most around the NFL.

“While we could not realistically duplicate the flat pricing structure of last season, we wanted to make the increase as minimal as possible to acknowledge the commitment of our season-ticket owners,” chief marketing officer Steve LaCroix told the Star Tribune. “We wanted to continue one of the NFL’s lowest priced season-ticket offerings at $29 per game, while keeping nearly 9,000 tickets priced the same or less.”

Single-game ticket prices haven’t yet been determined for 2010. Those tickets go on sale in the summer. The Vikings have sold out 126 straight games.

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Falcons release Steven Jackson

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The man who currently sits at 16 on the all-time rushing list will have to continue his climb through the record book with a new team.

The Falcons have announced that running back Steven Jackson has been released.

After nine seasons with the Rams, Jackson joined the Falcons two years ago. Jackson gained 1,250 yards on 347 carries, scoring 12 touchdowns.

For his career, Jackson has 11,388 yards, more than Hall of Famers John Riggins and O.J. Simpson.

The Falcons won only 10 of 32 games with Jackson on the team, a slump that came after five straight winning seasons.

For Jackson, the sub-.500 seasons continue a career trend. He has never played on a team that finished the year with a winning record. As a rookie in 2004, the Rams qualified for a wild-card berth with an 8-8 record.

The move creates $3.75 million in cap space. Jackson will still count for $1.1 million based on previously-paid bonus money. He immediately becomes a free agent, able to sign with any other team.

For Jackson’s sake, here’s hoping he lands with a team that finally finishes the year with a winning record.

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Vikings can now talk to Adrian Peterson

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The statement they issued didn’t expressly address the question of whether the Vikings can now speak directly to running back Adrian Peterson, who has been restored from suspended status to the Commissioner-Exempt list. Per a team source, they can.

That’s a huge development for the Vikings, who hadn’t been able to make their case directly to Peterson as to why he should return for a ninth season with the team. In a visit last week to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, coach Mike Zimmer made the case that he’d make directly to Peterson.

Now, Zimmer can make that case directly to Peterson, and the Vikings can try to secure from him a renewed commitment to remain in Minnesota.

Ultimately, the decision could come down to money. For now, the Vikings have the ability to mend fences and rebuild bridges before allowing him to once again break the bank with a base salary of $12.75 million.

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Jean Francois lands in D.C.

Super Bowl XLVII Media Day Getty Images

The Ricky Jean Francois free-agency tour has ended. Jean Francois, per a source with knowledge of the situation, has signed a three-year deal in Washington.

Cut by the Colts earlier this month, Jean Francois attracted interest from several teams (Washington, 49ers, Seahawks) in a process shepherded by his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Per the source, the agreement has a base value of $9 million, with $4 million guaranteed. It’s unclear how much of that is fully guaranteed at signing. With incentives, the deal could be worth up to $11.25 million.

Jean Francois spent the last two seasons in Indianapolis after starting his career with the 49ers as a draft pick of former 49ers G.M. (and new Washington G.M.) Scot McCloughan.

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Washington hires Dave Ragone as quality control coach

Dave Ragone, Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

A former Titans position coach has been added to Jay Gruden’s coaching staff.

Washington has hired Dave Ragone as an offensive quality control coach, the club announced Thursday.

The 35-year-old Ragone was the Titans’ quarterbacks coach in 2013 and their wide receivers coach in 2011 and 2012. He also coached quarterbacks for the UFL’s Hartford Colonials in 2010.

Ragone played three seasons at quarterback with the Texans (2003-2005), starting two games as a rookie. He also had stints with the Bengals and Rams in 2006.

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Vikings continue to focus on welcoming Adrian Peterson back

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The Vikings have been silent in the hours since Judge David Doty vacated the suspension of running back Adrian Peterson. Earlier in the hour, they issued a statement which makes it clear that, for now, they’ll continue to be silent when it comes to talking directly to Peterson.

“Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization,” the Vikings said in a statement. “Today’s ruling leaves Adrian’s status under the control of the NFL, the NFLPA and the legal system, and we will have no further comment at this time.”

Peterson already was due to have his suspension revisited on April 15, with the possibility of a reinstatement at that time. It’s unclear whether the NFL’s appeal and/or further proceedings before arbitrator Harold Henderson will alter that timeline.

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Recalling the Raymond Berry era and New England’s failed run at Bill Walsh

Raymond Berry on the sideline Getty Images

Bill Belichick. Pete Carroll. Bill Parcells. As coaching goes, the Patriots couldn’t have done much better over the last 22 seasons.

Parcells is a Hall of Famer, and Belichick will surely have his day in Canton, too. Carroll, meanwhile, went on to lead title-winning teams at USC and with the Seattle Seahawks after leaving New England, so the Patriots were on the right track.

But let’s go back a little further, to December 1989, when the Patriots tried to hire another Hall of Fame coach.

According to the late, great Will McDonough of the Boston Globe, then-Patriots owner Victor Kiam offered New England’s head coaching/G.M. roles to former 49ers coach Bill Walsh. However, Walsh turned down the offer, citing his commitment to continue working for NBC, the Globe reported.

Still, a coaching change was coming for New England, which fell to 5-11 in ’89.

Twenty-five years ago Thursday, the Patriots parted ways with head coach Raymond Berry, reportedly because of a conflict over the hiring of New England’s offensive and defensive coordinators.

A Hall of Fame wide receiver, Berry was a successful NFL head coach, too. He led the Patriots to a 51-41 mark, with New England making the Super Bowl for the first time in its history in his first full season on the job. Overall, the Patriots posted winning records in his first four full campaigns (1985-1988).

The Patriots would tab Steelers defensive coordinator Rod Rust to replace Berry, but he was fired after New England was a league-worst 1-15 in 1990. The Pats then turned to Syracuse head coach Dick McPherson, who led New England to a 6-10 mark in ’91. However, New England was 2-14 in ’92, with McPherson missing seven games because of illness. He was replaced in January 1993.

From there, the Patriots hired Parcells, who led New England to the playoffs in his second season and the Super Bowl in his fourth. Then came the three-season stint for Carroll (1997-1999), who was then replaced by Belichick.

But before that trio of coaches came the 9-39 stretch the franchise endured in the three seasons after Berry’s departure. Would things have been different if the Patriots lured Walsh east, or if Berry stayed on? If Walsh succeeded in New England, would Parcells ever have had reason to join the franchise? How would franchise history have been altered?

We’ll never know. But we do know this: Raymond Berry, like Belichick and Carroll, won more than he lost in his time in Foxborough, and he has his own spot in Patriots history.

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NFL appeals ruling in Adrian Peterson case

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Like the Ray Rice grievance process, the NFL lost the legal challenge in the Adrian Peterson suspension.  Unlike the Rice case, the league has the power to appeal the Peterson ruling.

“[W]e believe strongly that Judge Doty’s order is incorrect and fundamentally at odds with well-established legal precedent governing the district court’s role in reviewing arbitration decisions,” the NFL said in statement released to PFT.  “As a result, we have filed a notice of appeal to have the ruling reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In the interim, Adrian Peterson will be returned to the Commissioner Exempt List pending further proceedings by appeals officer Harold Henderson or a determination by the Eighth Circuit Court.”

It’s unclear how Peterson’s placement on the Commissioner-Exempt list affects his ability to speak to the Vikings about topics such as returning to the team when his suspension ends.  Peterson previously was scheduled to have his suspension revisited by the league on April 15.

It’s also unclear whether the appeal will be expedited.  The new league year, which opens the windows for trades, launches on March 10.

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Lancaster police say they don’t have Wal-Mart video

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When Ian Rapoport of NFL Media secured and published the police report from a July 11, 2011 incident at a Lancaster, Texas Wal-Mart, the chase for the surveillance video corresponding to that incident intensified.

First up, the Dallas Morning News attempted to get the video from the Lancaster, Texas police.

“Rona Stringfellow, assistant city manager for Lancaster, said in an email that the police department has no video of the incident,” writes David Moore of the Morning News.

It’s not surprising that the Lancaster police doesn’t have the video.  The responding officer, M.L. Johnson, makes no mention of reviewing the video or of preserving it in his report.  Absent a follow-up report, there’s no reason to think the Lancaster, Texas police ever had a copy of the video in their files.

The more likely custodians of the video are Wal-Mart, which undoubtedly had a video of what happened in the parking lot at some point in time, and the Dallas County District Attorney.  On Friday, February 20, I made a written request to the Dallas County District Attorney for the incident report and video under the Texas Public Information Act; I’ve yet to get a response.

Wal-Mart may have the video either at its Lancaster, Texas store or at the corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas.  It has no legal obligation to release the video, but there’s likely no legal prohibition on doing so, either.

In addition to the inevitable requests that will be made to the potential custodians of the video, don’t be surprised to learn that members of the media are actively seeking comment from Carl King, Christopher Mitchell, Alex Penson, and the alleged victim.  All four are mentioned in the report, and all four may be able to answer some of the lingering questions regarding the incident and the investigation of it.

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Rams release Kendall Langford

St Louis Rams v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Rams joined some of their rivals around the league in creating more cap space on Thursday by parting ways with a veteran member of the club.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the team has released defensive tackle Kendall Langford. Langford was set to make $6 million in the final year of a four-year contract that he signed before the start of the 2012 season and the Rams will now have that money to use in other ways this offseason.

Langford started the first 32 games he played for the Rams and had five sacks as an interior rusher during the 2013 season, but the drafting of Aaron Donald in the first round of last year’s draft moved him into a rotational role. Langford was also a longtime starter in Miami before joining the Rams and that experience should lead to interest in his services from other teams.

Tackle Jake Long, who is coming off a torn ACL, and quarterback Sam Bradford could provide further cap relief for the Rams through releases or restructurings before the start of the new league year.

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NFL on Greg Hardy: He can’t be reinstated because he has yet to be disciplined

Greg Hardy AP

Thursday’s ruling in the Adrian Peterson case regarding retroactive application of the new personal conduct policy presumably helps Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. It necessarily means that the NFL can’t apply the new personal conduct policy to him.

The league has responded to the argument that the Peterson decision should result in the immediate reinstatement of defensive end Greg Hardy by pointing out that he has not yet been suspended.

“He hasn’t been disciplined. There is nothing for him to seek reinstatement from at this point,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.

The first part is accurate, if we suspend disbelief on the notion that missing games with pay isn’t discipline. The second part isn’t accurate. Hardy currently is on the Commissioner-Exempt list pending the outcome of his personal-conduct policy review.  He has not yet been fully reinstated to active player status.

The Peterson ruling likely won’t get Hardy reinstated; last year, arbitrator Shayam Das found that the Commissioner has the authority to keep a player on the Commissioner-Exempt even after the player’s legal case has ended.  Hardy, whose criminal charges were dismissed when the complaining witness couldn’t be produced at trial, can in theory be kept on the Commissioner-Exempt list until a decision has been made under the personal-conduct policy.

Hardy also can be disciplined under the prior personal-conduct policy. For first-time offenders who committed domestic violence, the standard penalty under the old policy was two games.  In this specific case, where Hardy ultimately faced no criminal responsibility, he arguably would get no suspension for a first offense, if there’s even an actual “offense.”

Regardless, the league needs to process Hardy’s case the same way it would have been processed prior to the release of the Ray Rice in-elevator video.  The league also needs to move quickly, given that Hardy is due to hit free agency in 12 days.

It would be convenient for the NFL to drag its feet on this, justifying the kind of delay that could cost Hardy millions on the open market by pointing out that he got $13.1 million for playing in only one game last season.  But that’s precisely the kind of results-oriented decision-making that has caused the NFL’s legal docket to recently resemble the 2008 Detroit Lions.

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Cardinals sign Bradley Sowell to one-year deal

Bradley Sowell AP

In 2013, the Cardinals’ need for a left tackle was acute enough that they turned to Bradley Sowell for 12 starts.

Sowell didn’t play particularly well and the Cardnals signed Jared Veldheer to take over the spot in 2014, but the team still wanted to make sure that they’ll have Sowell around as a reserve in 2015. The Cardinals announced Thursday that they have signed the impending restricted free agent to a one-year deal that will keep him in Arizona.

Sowell also played for head coach Bruce Arians when he was an undrafted rookie with the Colts in 2012 and will likely be the swing tackle behind Veldheer and right tackle Bobbie Massie.

The Cardinals also announced the signing of cornerback Damond Smith. Smith went undrafted in the 2013 supplemental draft and spent last summer in a failed attempt to make the Chiefs. He also played for the British Columbia Lions in the CFL.

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Adrian Peterson “remand” should lead to immediate reinstatement

Peterson Getty Images

On Thursday, Judge David Doty overturn Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s suspension, finding the NFL could not apply the new personal conduct policy retroactively. That caused many to assume that Peterson immediately has been reinstated.

He hasn’t been. And whether that’s technicality depends on what the NFL does next.

Judge Doty didn’t reinstate Peterson. He concluded that the case is “remanded for such further proceedings consistent with this order as the CBA may permit.”

In many cases involving a reversal of a ruling, the “remand” is procedural. The tribunal whose decision is overturned routinely dots the right i’s and crosses the right t’s and then ends the case.

With Peterson, arbitrator Harold Henderson and/or the league office may not see it that way. Henderson and/or the NFL could try, for example, to argue that the ongoing suspension was justified by the pre-existing personal conduct policy.

But here’s the problem. It will be very difficult for Henderson to make a persuasive case that the suspension imposed on Peterson after his legal case ended, given that he already has served more than two games without pay (the existing precedent for first-offense domestic violence), the punishment under the prior personal conduct policy for violation of the already has been imposed on Peterson.

Unless the NFL can pull a legal rabbit out of its hat (or other orifice), the case is over and there’s nothing left to be done other than to reinstate Adrian Peterson.

That still may not be enough for a league that currently seems to like to make up the rules as it goes. But for a league that already has taken plenty of legal lumps in the past year, it would make sense not to try to play any games with Doty’s ruling.

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Greg Hardy preparing to seek immediate reinstatement

Hardy AP

Adrian Peterson’s win in Judge David Doty’s courtroom today isn’t just a win for the Vikings running back.

Other players who were stuck in commissioner’s exempt limbo caught a break as well.

A league source tells PFT that Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy will seek immediate reinstatement, in time to become a free agent.

Hardy made $13.1 million, but played one game for the Panthers last year after domestic violence charges (which were later dismissed), and many teams were concerned about the possibility he’d be suspended upon signing any new deal.

The Panthers aren’t expected to pursue him regardless, but the possibility he might be eligible from day one will certainly help his market.

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Tom Benson’s request for expedited review in battle over control of assets denied

Tom Benson AP

On February 9, a judge in Bexar County, Texas ruled that Saints owner Tom Benson needed assistance in managing his assets and appointed two people to do that while Benson and members of his family continue their litigation in New Orleans over Benson’s decision to change his will to keep them from taking over the Saints.

Benson’s attorneys filed a request on Monday asking the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio to speed up the 60-day briefing process as they try to get the decision overturned. They cited the significant costs of nearly $20,000 a day being paid to the two men appointed to oversee the trust, ex-San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger and San Antonio lawyer Art Bayern, and a failure to consider other remedies in their argument.

That request was denied on Thursday by a panel of judges, although they said that requests to extend the timeline would be frowned upon.

“Any such motion must provide evidence of extraordinary circumstances justifying the extension,” the order said, via the New Orleans Advocate.

Three physicians were chosen Wednesday in Louisiana to do a court-mandated mental evaluation of Benson, whose daughter and grandchildren contend he is not in sound mind to be making a decision to make business decisions.

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Adrian Peterson’s dad: This is a victory for all NFL players

Adrian Peterson AP

Judge David Doty’s ruling on Thursday that the NFL could not retroactively discipline Vikings running back Adrian Peterson under the terms of the league’s new personal conduct policy was quickly hailed as a victory of “fairness” by the NFLPA.

Peterson hasn’t issued any statement of his own yet, but his father Nelson gave Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press a similar take on Doty’s ruling.

“I’m happy and blessed that the judge saw this in Adrian’s favor and I see this ruling as not only a victory for Adrian but it’s a victory for all the players in the NFL,” the elder Peterson said.

The next steps for Adrian Peterson remain on hold since the NFL can appeal Doty’s ruling, but his father said that the Vikings “hold that card” whenever the time comes to make a decision about Peterson’s future because a contract’s in place through 2017. He repeated previous comments about no doors being closed regarding a return to the Vikings and no trade demand being made, although he also said that he’s heard “rumors” of interest from the Cowboys, Cardinals and Colts in a trade for his son.

All of that will have to wait until the NFL decides what action they’ll take in response to a ruling that might have pushed Peterson closer to a departure from Minnesota.

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