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Panthers aren't the only victim of Peppers tampering

We know what many of you think.  With the Panthers making it clear that they don’t want defensive end Julius Peppers, there’s no harm in letting the Bears meet with agent Carl Carey to discuss Peppers a week or so before Peppers hits the market.  (The version of the story that has made its way to ESPN is even more sinister, with the early-morning pre-SportsCenter update desk anchor characterizing the Chicago Tribune — incorrectly — as reporting that Peppers himself met with the Bears.)

That’s one of the reasons why the NFL has been considering a change in the rules that would allow conversations between the agents for looming free agents and potentially interested teams before the clock strikes 12 on the first day of the new league year.  The league knows that tampering is rampant.  It’s so bad that, as we’ve said in the past, some teams that previously followed the rules realized that they were putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage by doing so.  And so they started tampering, too.

Thus, even though the tampering rules speak only in terms of the team that holds the player’s rights, the other victims of this dynamic are the other potentially interested teams.  If the Bears are able to reach a consensus now on key terms like guaranteed money and average annual pay and then the Bears push hard as of midnight Friday to get the deal done quickly, other teams that had not yet spoken to Carey will be scrambling to catch up.

The message, then, to any other team that hopes to pick a peck of pickled Peppers (man, I’ve been waiting eight years to use that one) is that the time for action has come.

Even now, it might be too late.

Meanwhile, if the Bears have indeed talked about Peppers with Carey, the 49ers have every reason to be even more pissed off about the fact that they were the most recent scapegoat for the rampant tampering problem.  It was, after all, the Bears who cried to 280 Park Avenue about the fact that the 49ers had spoken to the agent for linebacker Lance Briggs about a possible contract extension at a time when the 49ers and the Bears were engaged in serious talks regarding a trade for Briggs, who at the time was playing under a one-year franchise-tag deal.  (The irony is that the contract, by rule, couldn’t have been extended by the Bears or the 49ers until after the season had ended.)

Last year, the Redskins faced a tampering inquiry regarding the acquisition of former Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth due in part to a Scouting Combine meeting between owner Daniel Snyder and Haynesworth’s agent.  But since Chad Speck also represents Redskins receiver Malcolm Kelly, the two sides were able to claim that they were talking only about Kelly.

This time around, it could be harder for the Bears to explain themselves, since Carey has no other client on the Bears.  And no other client at all.

But nothing will happen unless the Panthers pitch a fit.  With the owners determined to remain united for the purposes of the ongoing labor dispute, we’d be shocked if Panthers owner Jerry Richardson pushes the issue.  Instead, the Panthers will likely turn the tables on the Bears at some point, and if the Bears cry again to the league office the Panthers will make it known privately (and, if necessary, publicly) that the Bears got away with tampering in 2010.

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Luke Joeckel out to prove he can still be left tackle of the future

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Jaguars have done everything to suggest to Luke Joeckel this offseason that he’s not their left tackle of the future.

But the former No. 2 overall pick is determined to prove he can still be the left tackle of the present.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Joeckel said he’s fighting to keep the job expected of him since the 2013 NFL Draft, when he was the second player off the board, ostensibly to become a franchise cornerstone.

I’m going in planning on winning the job,” Joeckel said. “I’m competing for a spot – that’s what this program is based on. I have to go out there and improve myself each and every day.”

He’ll have to. Already this offseason, the Jaguars went out and signed former Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum, and yesterday they gave Joeckel snaps at guard as part of the kind of experiments you try in the spring.

But the toughest blow was when they didn’t pick up the 2017 option on his rookie contract, since they didn’t want to guarantee $11.9 million a year from now to a guy they didn’t know what to do with.

“I don’t know if insulted is the right word for it,” he said. “[General manager] Dave [Caldwell] was honest with me the whole time.

“You do take it personally, for sure. But I want to stick in Jacksonville. I like it here. It all comes down to my play and I know that.”

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he could see a difference in Joeckel this spring, saying: “It feels like he’s on a little bit of a mission.”

A mission for a new contract, and to convince the Jaguars he can still be the guy they thought they were getting in 2013.

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J.J. Watt still working on the side as Texans begin OTAs

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 04:  J.J. Watt attends the J.J. Watt At Mizzen+Main Pop-Up Shop In San Francisco on February 4, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Mizzen+Main) Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has a cool new logo, and also some free time on his hands.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Watt wasn’t among the Texans practicing at the start of OTAs, as he recovers from offseason groin surgery.

Watt, the defending NFL defensive player of the year after a 17 1/2-sack season which also included a broken hand, worked out on the side while his teammates got started on the field.

He wasn’t the only Texans star on the sidelines, as left tackle Duane Brown continues to recover from a torn quadriceps tendon. Brown has said he’ll be ready by the start of the regular season.

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Pete Morelli gets entirely new officiating crew after multiple errors last season

Morelli Getty Images

After a poor season for Pete Morelli and his officiating crew last season that featured two separate disciplinary measures from the league for mistakes, the league has given Morelli an entirely new crew for 2016.

According to Ben Austro of FootballZebras.com, Morelli’s crew has been entirely reassigned after errors with timing in the Pittsburgh Steelers-San Diego Chargers game and a Baltimore Ravens-Jacksonville Jaguars contest last season resulted in league discipline against the crew.

Side judge Rob Vernatchi was suspended for Week 6 games after failing to notice a clock error in the Steelers-Chargers game. Another mistake in the Jaguars-Ravens game gave Jacksonville the opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal when time should have expired. The result was Morelli’s crew getting yanked from working a Sunday Night Football game in Week 13 between the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.

The league is also set to add three new officials this season. Side judge Alan Eck and head linesman Jerod Phillips from the Big 12, and umpire Ramon George of Conference USA. Head linesman George Hayward is the only retirement from the on-field officiating roster.

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Chargers, Cardinals to practice together in training camp

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 18:  Head coach Mike McCoy of the San Diego Chargers calls a play in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers haven’t conducted joint practices with another team during training camp since 2012, a year before Mike McCoy arrived as head coach. They’ll do it this year.

Via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Cardinals and Chargers plan to practice together in advance of an August 19 preseason game between the two teams.

“You can count on us doing it,” McCoy said Monday, according to Gehlken. “I can’t tell you it’s going to be this day, it’s going to be that day. But we’re going to practice against Arizona.”

A couple of Chargers veterans with experience facing other teams during camp approve of the approach.

“I don’t want to say it breaks training camp up, but it’s not your teammates you’re going up against, so it’s kind of nice,” running back Danny Woodhead said, per Gehlken. “You get to compete against people who haven’t seen you every single day. It’s always fun to do that — not necessarily a measuring stick to where you’re at but just to go against a different team.”

“[Y]ou get tired of going up against your guys,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “At the end of the day, you start to pick up on all the tendencies. I’m not saying it’s not fun anymore, but you get used to it. Every day, you do the same thing. If a different team comes in here to practice, it amps up the intensity.”

The challenge is to ensure that the intensity doesn’t result in practices that get out of hand, with scuffles and fights and, ultimately, opportunities for guys to get injured beyond the scope of normal football activity.

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Jaguars’ Luke Bowanko suffers hip injury, will go on PUP

Jacksonville Jaguars Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

Yet another Jacksonville Jaguar is dealing with an injury.

This time it’s center Luke Bowanko, who has a torn labrum in his right hip and will need surgery. The Jaguars have announced that Bowanko will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

The 24-year-old Bowanko, a sixth-round pick in 2014, started 14 games at center as a rookie in 2014 but played in only six games, with no starts, in 2015.

Jacksonville has also seen first-round pick Jalen Ramsey suffer a torn meniscus and seventh-round pick Jonathan Woodard suffer a torn Achilles.

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Colts sign second-round safety T.J. Green

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  T.J. Green #15 of the Clemson Tigers reacts in the first half while taking on the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts continued the process of signing their 2016 draft picks to contracts on Monday by agreeing to terms with second-round safety T.J. Green.

Green was the 57th overall pick of the NFL draft and is the seventh of eight Colts selections to sign a contract with the team. It’s a four-year deal for Green, as it will be for third-round tackle Le’Raven Clark when the time comes for him to sign his name on the dotted line.

Green started his career at Clemson as a wide receiver before moving to safety for his final two seasons. He was only a starter for one full season (alongside Vikings seventh-rounder Jayron Kearse), but caught the eye of NFL teams because of the possibilities they saw in his mix of size (Green is 6’3″) and speed.

Mike Adams and Clayton Geathers are back at safety for the Colts, which should allow Green time to continue honing the finer points of playing the position without being on the front line of defense.

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Broncos don’t expect Mark Sanchez on field for start of OTAs

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez attends the 142nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Churchill Downs) Getty Images

Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez had surgery on his left, non-throwing thumb a little more than a week ago, but expressed hope last week that he’d be on the field with the rest of the team for the start of organized team activities this week.

It doesn’t look like things are going to play out that way, however. According to Andrew Mason of the Broncos website, Sanchez is expected to miss the start of OTAs while recovering from the operation. That was the initial report when Sanchez’s injury went public.

It’s not clear when the team expects Sanchez will get the green light to resume football work, but his absence to kick off the final phase of offseason work will provide Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian with additional reps running the first team.

Those reps could conceivably lead to a rethinking of the pecking order at quarterback heading into training camp and the preseason, although it would stand to reason that those latter stages of the offseason will still provide the final determination of who leads the Broncos offense come September.

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Hopkins praises Osweiler, who praises O’Brien

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans looks over practice during rookie minicamp on May 16, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Football teams never get along better than they do when the record is 0-0. And the 0-0 Texans are currently getting along great.

On the first day of OTAs, receiver DeAndre Hopkins praised his new quarterback, who in turn praised his new coach.

“He operates like a pro’s pro,” Hopkins said regarding Brock Osweiler. “He comes out and he demands the best out of everybody, offensive line, fullbacks, even the guys that aren’t even in the huddle. He’s a natural leader.”

Osweiler, in turn, gushed about the man he didn’t even meet before committing to a four-year, $72 million contract.

“Today was my first experience in a practice environment with Coach O’Brien and I loved it,” Osweiler said. “I loved his energy, I loved his fire. He kept us on task and he expects a lot out of us which as a player you love. Sometimes he’s going to get on you, which he should. I had a couple turnovers today. I’m going to [chalk] those up as learning experiences. I’m going to make sure they don’t happen again, but I want him to be on me. I don’t want that to be acceptable. It’s a lot of fun being out there with Coach O’Brien. He’s a phenomenal football coach. He’s very smart and he’s a lot of fun to be around.”

Of course, not everything said on Monday was flowery. In response to a comment from a reporter regarding the value of entering the season knowing who the quarterback is, Hopkins said,  “[W]e thought we knew who our quarterback was going into last year.”

That’s a reference to the fact that Brian Hoyer was the starter for Week One but got a quick hook for Ryan Mallett, sparking a revolving door fueled by injuries and ineffectiveness. This year, it’s unclear what will happen with Osweiler and the Texans. It’s safe to say, however, that Osweiler won’t be benched during the first game of the regular season.

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Tyrann Mathieu just wants to get paid as a “top defender”

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 27:  Free safety Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up before the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The state of his knee five months after a torn ACL isn’t the only topic of interest concerning Tyrann Mathieu these days.

While Mathieu said that he hasn’t spent much time talking about numbers with agent Tom Condon, he’s entering the final year of his contract and extension talks with the Cardinals have already gotten underway. One potential complication in those talks is the question of Mathieu’s position.

Mathieu is listed as a safety, but lines up as a cornerback more often and, at the top level, cornerbacks are compensated at a higher rate than safeties. General Manager Steve Keim said on PFT Live that he views Mathieu as “a football player regardless of position” and that two torn ACLs in the last three years are more of an issue on the team’s end. Mathieu acknowledged that it’s “tough” because of the injuries and outlined his own hopes for how the position question gets handled.

“I just want to get paid as a top defender,” Mathieu said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “I don’t want to be slotted as a corner or a safety, because I’m not Patrick Peterson and I’m not Earl Thomas. I’m kind of different than both of those guys, but I still have the same type of impact on the game as those guys do. I just want to be paid as a top defender, and however that looks on paper, that’s what I want. … I don’t see myself as a safety. I don’t see myself as a cornerback. I see myself as a chess piece, a guy that can move around and can play seven different positions. I don’t necessarily want to be slotted as either or.”

A deal for Mathieu would provide some framework about how to handle the increasing number of players who play hybrid roles in the NFL. A failure to reach an agreement, on the other hand, could set the table for franchise tag fights about how to designate the position for a player who plays more than one of them.

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Jimbo Fisher would never say never about an NFL job

Image: Jimbo Fisher AP

More than a year ago, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said on PFT Live that he had recently heard from an NFL team that was interested in interviewing him for a head coaching job. Fisher wasn’t interested in leaving Florida State then, and he isn’t now either, but he wouldn’t rule it out some day.

You can’t ever say never in this business,” Fisher told the Palm Beach Post.

So what would make Fisher make the leap? The right offer.

“I love college and I had opportunities to go to pro football as an assistant coach and as a coordinator and I’ve had inquiries as a head coach,” Fisher said. “It’s got to be the right organization at the right time and the right situation if you’re ever interested. We have a great situation where I’m at. It’s not something that drives me.”

Fisher is one of the most successful coaches in college football, and he has a knack for working with quarterbacks. No one should be surprised if some NFL owner decides to make Fisher the right offer.

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Dante Fowler feels good in return to practice

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Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler had a long wait before he got to take part in his second NFL practice.

His first time on the field as a professional ended with a torn ACL in Jacksonville’s first practice of rookie minicamp last year and Fowler missed the entire 2015 season as a result. Fowler was back at practice on Monday for the first day of OTAs, an event that had him feeling antsy enough on Sunday night that it was difficult to get to sleep.

Fowler got his rest, though, and said after Monday’s practice that everything went well physically.

“I can turn it loose,” Fowler said, via the team’s website. “I felt pretty good, especially bending the corner and turning my torque and things like that. That was my biggest concern. That’s what I wanted to see, and I felt pretty good. … I’m just now soaking it all in like, ‘Man, I made it through a practice. I felt good. This didn’t hurt. That didn’t hurt.'”

Fowler knows the Jaguars need someone to provide a boost to their pass rush and said “that’s what I’m going to do” when discussing his plans for the coming season. If Fowler can pull that off, Jacksonville should be better on defense even if this year’s rookies have fallen victim to the same bad injury luck he experienced in 2015.

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Brady files petition for rehearing of federal appeal

FOXBORO, MA - MAY 24: A New Englad Patriots fan shows his support for quarterback Tom Brady during the "Free Tom Brady" rally at Gillette Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The rally was held in protest of Brady's four game suspension for his role in the "deflategate" scandal.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

As expected, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has decided to continue to fight his four-game suspension arising from the #Deflategate controversy.

On Monday, Brady and the NFL Players Association filed a 15-page petition for a rehearing before the original three-judge panel or a rehearing before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The assault against Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision begins quickly in the documents filed by the lawyers, accusing Goodell of “falsely portray[ing]” the Ted Wells investigation as independent and calling Goodell’s internal appeal ruling “biased, agenda-driven, and self-approving.” The petition also claims that the ruling from a divided three-judge panel “will fuel unpredictability in labor arbitrations everywhere and make labor arbitration increasingly capricious and undesirable for employers and employees alike.”

Tracking the dissenting opinion in the underlying ruling from Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, the petition points to the fact that Goodell’s conclusion on appeal was based on “new grounds that were not part of the disciplinary decision” and that Goodell “completely ignored the collectively bargained schedule of penalties for equipment-related violations.” The petition specifically emphasizes Judge Katzmann’s comparison of football deflation to the use of Stickum, which triggers only a four-figure fine for a first offense, not a suspension.

The problem, as argued by the petition, isn’t that Goodell considered the Stickum comparison and rejected it but that Goodell never even mentioned it, relying instead only on the purported comparison between deflation of football and the use of PEDs, which triggers a four-game suspension for a first offense.

“Under the panel majority’s misguided approach,” the petition argues, “an arbitrator is now free to ignore critical provisions a CBA reflecting collectively bargained penalties.”

It remains to be seen whether that’s enough to trigger a rehearing. For a rehearing before the full Second Circuit, at least seven of the 13 active judges must agree to do it. Presumably, the Chief Judge counts as Vote No. 1.

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Eagles cut Ryan Quigley

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 21:  Ryan Quigley #4 of the New York Jets in action against the Atlanta Falcons  during their pre season game at MetLife Stadium on August 21, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Punter Ryan Quigley joined the Eagles in April, but he didn’t stick on the roster through the end of May.

The team announced on Monday that they have released Quigley. Quigley spent the last three seasons punting for the Jets and posted a net average of 38.9 yards during his time in Jersey.

Donnie Jones remains on the roster and currently has no challengers on the roster who would keep him from a fourth season handling punting duties for the Eagles. Jones has also played for the Dolphins, Seahawks, Rams and Texans and ranks third among all active players in both punts and gross punting yards.

The Eagles also announced that they have signed defensive Derrick Lott. Lott has previously spent time with the Titans and Buccaneers without playing in a regular season game.

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Giants S Cooper Taylor out until camp after sports hernia surgery

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 20:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass in the second quarter against  Cooper Taylor #30 of the New York Giants during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants dealt with a slew of injuries at safety last year, leaving them without a consistent pair in the back end of their defense on their way to a third straight losing season.

They head into this season with Landon Collins set as the starter at one spot and a group of players vying for the other starting position. According to multiple reports, that group will be missing Cooper Taylor until training camp.

Taylor is not practicing as the Giants start OTAs this week because of recent surgery to repair a sports hernia. The recovery time after such an operation is typically around 4-6 weeks and the Giants open up training camp in late July.

With Taylor out of the mix, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson and third-round pick Darian Thompson are among those who will see more time in the competition for playing time in 2016.

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NFL says concerns over NIH study were raised “through the appropriate channels”

nfl1 Getty Images

The NFL has issued a full response to the Congressional report suggesting that the league tried to exert undue influence over a National Institutes of Health study regarding the detection of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients. The league, as expected, rejects the finding that the league withdrew $16 million in funding after failing to have Robert Stern removed as the person in charge of the work.

The league admits in a statement issued by NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy that “there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest.” However, the league contends that the concerns were raised “through the appropriate channels.”

The statement, which also summarizes the money spent by the league for research regarding head injuries, can be seen here. In all, it’s not nearly as detailed or aggressive as the league’s response to a recent New York Times report that the league strongly opposed.

It’s unclear whether the league will be doing anything more in response to the report, or whether the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will be taking any further action on the issue.

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