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League lifts StarCaps case back to federal court

On Monday, a trial was scheduled to commence in the StarCaps case.

It possibly won’t.

The Associated Press reports that the NFL “wants to move” the lawsuit filed by Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams back to federal court. 

Standard practice in cases of this nature involves an automatic removal of the case to federal court.  Given that the StarCaps case already was in federal court, the situation apparently is more complex.

Federal judge Paul Magnuson will take up the request, which was filed on Wednesday.  Magnuson previously ruled that the Vikings players may pursue in state court claims arising under Minnesota drug-testing laws.  His decision was upheld on appeal.

Barring the intervention of the federal court, the Minnesota proceeding eventually will take up various claims of alleged violations of drug-testing statutes, and the key question of whether the NFL is liable for any violations as a joint employer of the players.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press that the attempted move to federal court is a procedural matter.  Technically, he’s right.  As a practical matter, however, the league is making the move in the hopes of securing a better outcome than the outcome the league fears it will experience in Minnesota court.

UPDATE:  Amazingly, Magnuson already has denied the effort, saying that the attempt to return to federal court “borders on abuse of process.”

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Reggie Bush says he has no plans to retire

Reggie Bush AP

Reggie Bush’s 2015 season came to an abrupt end after skidding on concrete at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis in November.

The slip left Bush with a torn ACL and ended his season after just five games with the San Francisco 49ers.

But despite the injury and the fact he’ll be 31 in March, Bush isn’t considering retirement yet. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Bush wants to keep playing in 2016.

“I’m not retiring,” Bush said. “I’m still playing. No, I’m not done. And I would never – knock on wood – I never want to end my career like that, going out with that.”

Bush had just eight carries for 28 yards in five games with San Francisco last season before the injury. He also carried just 76 times for 297 yards and two touchdowns in 2014 with the Lions as both seasons have been plagued by injuries.

Bush will be a free agent when the new league year begins next month.

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Super Bowl 50 first in 22 years without a touchdown pass

Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning, right, is sacked by Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly (59) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) AP

The NFL has increasingly become more of a passing league over the last two decades as offensive production has exploded to previously unseen heights.

But Super Bowl 50 featured a rare occurrence when it comes to the NFL’s championship game.

Neither Peyton Manning or Cam Newton completed a touchdown pass in the Denver Broncos 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night. It’s just the first time in 22 years – and fourth time in history – that the Super Bowl didn’t feature a touchdown pass.

Super Bowl XXVIII between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills was the last Super Bowl without a passing touchdown. Emmitt Smith ran for two touchdowns in the Cowboys 30-13 win over the Bills.

Super Bowl VIII between the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings and Super Bowl III between the New York Jets and Baltimore Colts are the only other Super Bowls that didn’t feature a touchdown pass. The Dolphins beat the Vikings 24-7 behind two Larry Csonka rushing touchdowns. Matt Snell of the Jets and Jerry Hill of the Colts each found the end zone on the ground in the Jets’ 16-7 victory.

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Tony Dungy, Malik Jackson headline Wednesday’s PFT Live

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Day Three of the newly-reconfigured PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio gets rolling at 6:00 a.m. ET, and the final-hour simulcast on NBCSN features a couple of great guests.

Hall of Famer Tony Dungy and Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackson join the show at 8:15 a.m. ET and 8:35 a.m. ET, respectively.

The two hours before that will include plenty of news, analysis, and hot-takery, with a visit from Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer regarding the latest in the daily drip-drip-drip of news regarding eventually-former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Until then, here’s a snippet from Tuesday’s PFT on NBCSN with plenty of high praise for Jackson, from Jonathan Vilma and yours truly.

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Broncos should consider exclusive version of franchise tag for Von Miller

Zz1jYjY1NWYyZDI5MGJjZGI4MTJmZDFkNjRjMGY0NGIzNA== AP

Last year, after the Chiefs applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to linebacker Justin Houston, speculation emerged that a team would gladly give up a pair of first-round picks as compensation for signing him to an offer sheet that Kansas City wouldn’t or couldn’t match. Ultimately, no one did.

This year, the Broncos plan to use the franchise tag if they can’t work out a long-term deal with linebacker Von Miller. If they ultimately apply the non-exclusive version of the tag to Miller, would another team sign the Super Bowl 50 MVP to an offer sheet?

The teams most tempted would be those currently picking at the bottom of round one, since they wouldn’t be giving up a high pick to get Miller now — and presumably wouldn’t be giving up a high pick in 2017, either.

One way for Denver to prevent an effort to swipe Miller would be to use the exclusive version of the franchise tag, which would increase Miller’s tender from the non-exclusive amount of roughly $14 million to the average of the five highest 2016 linebacker cap numbers.

Ultimately, the difference in amounts may not be significant. Making the decision to use the exclusive tag easier.

The safest course would be to get Miller signed before the deadline for using the tag. Then, it could be applied to someone else, like defensive lineman Malik Jackson. Whether they can get Miller signed before the tag deadline depends on how much Miller wants, and how much the Broncos are willing to pay. If a middle ground can’t be reached, the Broncos should consider using the exclusive version of the tag.

Otherwise, someone else could be breaking the bank for the man who did the most to shut down Carolina’s offense in the Super Bowl.

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Obama calls Broncos to congratulate them on Super Bowl win

BRIGHTON, CO - OCTOBER 26:  Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks on a cell phone to a potential voter during a stop at a campaign office October 26, 2008 in Brighton, Colorado. Obama continues to campaign as Election Day begins to draw near as he runs against his Republican challenger, Sen. John McCain.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Getty Images

At one point, the Super Bowl postgame coverage included the handing of a phone to the coach of the winning team with a call from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nowadays, the call comes after the fact.

The Broncos have announced that President Barack Obama called coach Gary Kubiak and team captain DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday to congratulate them on the win.

Quarterback Peyton Manning wasn’t included in the call. Possibly because his Colts beat Obama’s Bears in Super Bowl XLI. (That probably wasn’t the reason. But it would be great if it were.)

The Broncos eventually will visit the White House to meet with Obama. The biggest question is whether the menu for the occasion will include mozzarella sticks and, if so, whether Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller will eat them.

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Strange facts emerge about Super Bowl 50 replay assistant

Zz01N2RkYjhhOGJiNzZmODk4NjE4Njk5MGNkYjBmM2ZlNQ== AP

From Super Bowl 50 comes a strange postscript that could have become a major problem for the NFL. Via TheBigLead.com, the wife of the game’s replay assistant attended the game as a fan of the Broncos.

Jimmy Oldham reportedly is a Denver-area resident. His wife donned a Broncos jersey for the game and posted a celebratory video to a public Facebook page.

A replay assistant’s potential impact on a given game is limited, especially where (as in this case) NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino was in the booth. Still, it’s a bad look for the league — and it’s something that easily could have been avoided by appointing a replay assistant: (1) who doesn’t live in the Denver area; and (2) whose wife isn’t a Broncos fan.

Per TheBigLead.com, the NFL declined to respond to questions regarding officiating assignments in relation to residency.

During the officiating lockout of 2012, the NFL yanked side judge Brian Stropolo from a Saints-Panthers game due to his status as a rabid Saints fan. As former official Jim Dapoulos explained in the aftermath of the scandal, plenty of officials have rooting interests. Most are far more concerned about doing a good job and earning high marks for their work.

Still, with only one game being played that day, it would have made much more sense to give the assignment to someone else. And if the league believes it would have been unfair to not reward the replay assistant for a great season with a Super Bowl assignment despite where he lives, the league should have ensured that Mrs. Oldham exercised far more discretion regarding her desire to see the Broncos win the game.

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Goodell says extra point rule made the NFL more exciting in 2015

<> on February 8, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Getty Images

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says Year One of the new extra point rule was a success, and more rules tweaks are on the way.

Goodell said the new rule, which moved extra point kicks back 13 yards, is an example of the kinds of changes the league will continue to consider.

“From a competitive standpoint, this season, more games were decided by one score than ever in our history. That led to great competition and the average margin of victory lower than any time in our history. We’ll continue to try to make the game more exciting as we did this last year with the extra point,” Goodell said.

It is true that there were more two-point conversion attempts in 2015 than in 2014: NFL teams went 45-for-94 on two-point conversions in 2015 after going 28-for-58 in 2014. Most fans would agree that a two-point conversion is a more exciting play than an extra point, and so there was a little more excitement in that respect.

Extra points also became more difficult, with kickers converting on 94.2 percent in 2015 after converting on 99.3 percent in 2014. But not all fans buy the idea that more missed extra points translates to more excitement.

What would really be exciting is if the new rule led to some coach deciding to go for two as the default option after touchdowns. So far no coach has done that. Perhaps it will happen if the NFL moves extra points back another 10 or 15 yards.

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New NFL policy requires prospects to authorize background checks

Unknown Getty Images

Before the NFL can determine whether draft prospects should be barred from the Scouting Combine or other league-related draft events for certain criminal offenses, the NFL must be able to make that determination. Before the NFL can make that determination, the NFL must be able to investigate the prospect.

Before that can happen, the prospect must provide authorization to the NFL during the Scouting Combine registration process. If the prospect refuses to provide authorization, the prospect’s invitation to participate in the Scouting Combine will be revoked, according to the memo sent on January 25 to all team presidents, General Managers and coaches.

As a practical matter, players will gladly sign whatever paperwork they need to sign in order to participate in the Scouting Combine. Still, the mandatory background check represents yet another thing that is required of players as part of a lengthy preemployment process that, via the Combine, provides plenty of free entertainment and TV content for the NFL.

The new policy applies to all felony or misdemeanor convictions, and it broadly encompasses any conviction “involving violence,” with specific citation to crimes involving the “use of a weapon, domestic violence, sexual offense and/or sexual assault.”

As noted earlier, the NFLPA had no comment on the new policy, which the league implemented unilaterally.

The policy has no impact on the ability of teams to independently evaluate or draft the players who are barred from league-related draft events, either due to the outcome of the background check or the refusal to consent to one.

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Patriots release Montee Ball, but most thought he wasn’t on the team

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Getty Images

It was believed that the contract of Patriots running back Montee Ball expired on February 1. If it did, the team at some point re-signed him. Because on Tuesday the Patriots released his rights.

The league’s transaction report for Tuesday shows that the Patriots waived Ball, who finished the season on the team’s practice squad.

A second-round pick in 2013, Ball entered the 2014 season as the starting running back in Denver. He lost the job during the 2014 season and was cut just before the start of the 2015 regular season.

Ball was arrested February 5 after a dispute with his girlfriend. The waiver of Ball on February 9 indicates he was employed by the Patriots on February 5, which resets the “days without an arrest” meter to that day, just as it was once again approaching 50.

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Colts add a few more coaches

Chuck Pagano AP

The Colts let go of several assistant coaches last month after reaching a deal to keep head coach Chuck Pagano and they announced some of the new faces on the staff on Tuesday.

Lee Hull will be the team’s new wide receivers coach, replacing Jim Hostler. There have been reports that Hostler will remain with the Colts in a new role but it has not been announced at this point. Hull spent the last two seasons as the head coach at Morgan State and has also worked at Maryland and Oregon State.

Jemal Singleton has been hired as running backs coach after spending last year as the special teams and running backs coach at the University of Arkansas. Charlie Williams was let go in January after four years with the team.

The Colts also hired Maurice Drayton as assistant special teams coach, Quadrian Banks as conditioning/performance analyst and Andrew Hayes-Stoker as assistant to the head coach. They also announced that Joe Philbin will be assistant head coach in addition to working with the offensive line.

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Raiders move on from Nate Allen

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The Raiders have plenty of money to spend in 2016. They’ll be spending none of it on safety Nate Allen.

Per a league source, Allen has been released after one season with the Raiders.

Signed as a free agent after five years with the Eagles, Allen appeared in five games with three starts last season, picking off one pass.

Allen signed a four-year, $23 million contract in 2015. With no signing bonus and a $4.9 million base salary that was due to become available on the third day of the 2016 league year, the Raiders walk away from Allen with no cap hit and no financial responsibility.

A vested veteran, Allen becomes a free agent immediately.

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Police deliver LeSean McCoy investigation to prosecutors

Zz03YmNkYjgzNzI3OWZhMmRlNmI5MzE3YTM3YTA0Njk3OQ== AP

Amid a report that an arrest of Bills running back LeSean McCoy is “imminent,” police in Philadelphia have completed their investigation. Via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, the file has been delivered to the District Attorney’s office for potential prosecution.

McCoy apparently anticipates that he’ll be defending himself in court. Via John Barr of ESPN, McCoy has hired Philadelphia defense lawyer Jack McMahon to handle the case.

Several videos have emerged showing portions of the fight that reportedly sent two off-duty police officers to the hospital, both with fractured ribs and one with a fractured orbital bone. One comes from CrossingBroad.com, another comes from TMZ.com, and the third comes from 6abc.com.

It’s hard to make out many details, although the TMZ video seems to show McCoy throwing at least one punch.

Given the symbiotic relationship between police officers and prosecutors, the D.A. will face plenty of pressure to pursue charges against McCoy and all other suspects, in order to obtain justice for the off-duty police officers who were injured in the assault. Given McCoy’s profile and resources, there also will be pressure on prosecutors to get everything right in order to seal off any potential avenues for injecting “reasonable doubt” into the case.

The NFL already is investigating the situation, and it could impose discipline on McCoy with or without prosecution.

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Jets fill out their coaching staff with three hires

26 Jul 1998:  Offensive lineman David Diaz-Infante #63 of the Denver Broncos looks on during the 1998 Denver Broncos training camp at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport Getty Images

Jets coach Todd Bowles has filled out his coaching staff, with the team announcing three more hires today.

The Jets hired former NFL offensive lineman David Diaz-Infante as assistant offensive line coach, promoted John Scott Jr. from defensive quality control coach to assistant defensive line coach, and hired Tim Atkins as defensive quality control coach.

Diaz-Infante had background with Bowles in Arizona, where he worked for two seasons.

He was part of two Super Bowl winning teams with the Broncos, and also played for the Chargers and Eagles, along with stints in the CFL, XFL and the World League.

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Rivera to shorten Panthers’ offseason program

Zz01OGJlNTM2ZjMyOTEwZTc1ZTE1MmY4MWVlZTgxMDI0Yw== AP

As a team that got to the Super Bowl this year tries to get back next year, one of the biggest impediments to playing into February comes from the fact that the team has just played into February.

The fatigue can take a toll on a team, and Panthers coach Ron Rivera already is thinking about how to manage the extra effort expended in 2015 as 2016 approaches. Specifically, he’ll be delaying the start of the offseason program in order to ensure that his players get more rest.

“We’ve checked with the league and we’re gonna be able to do some things a little bit differently as far as when we can start,” Rivera told reporters on Tuesday. “We checked with the league, the league checked with the Players Association. Because of finishing as late as we did, we’re going to start a little later. I am going to eliminate a little bit of the time, as far as what the OTAs and the offseason program brings.

“The whole idea is that we’ve had five extra weeks of work, our young guys have gotten five more weeks that they normally wouldn’t have gotten, or may not have gotten. So that I think is important. And, again, the idea right now in talking with the trainers, the docters, the strength and conditioning staff, it’s about rest right now. . . . It does complicate things, but it’s a great problem to have.”

The players, Rivera explained, will have the same amount of time off as they had last year. But the program will still end at the same time as it did last year.

It’s a plan that goes against the approach employed by most NFL coaches, who will take full advantage of every rep and every practice and every opportunity — especially under a CBA that limits contact and practice time.

Coaches want more, not less. Rivera’s decision to choose less could start a new trend, if it ensures that the players have more gas in the tank as the team gets to December and, more importantly, January and, even more importantly, February.

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Rams announce over 56,000 deposits for season tickets

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 03:  Chris Long #91 of the St. Louis Rams reacts after a play against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams started taking season ticket deposts on January 19 and more than 45,000 people put down $100 in a couple of days for the right to buy up to eight tickets for the team’s first season back in Los Angeles.

Their deposit drive continued through Monday and the team announced on Tuesday that more than 56,000 deposits were taken before they closed up that portion of their ticket sales effort.

“We are inspired by how enthusiastically NFL fans in Southern California have responded to the return of the Los Angeles Rams,” Rams Chief Operating Officer/Executive Vice President Kevin Demoff said in a statement. “We will reward their passion by providing a terrific game day experience at both the Coliseum this fall and ultimately in Inglewood. We can’t wait to welcome our fans on Sundays and become an integral part of the Greater Los Angeles community.”

The deposits, which are refundable, give holders the right to buy tickets at the Coliseum and season ticket holders will be at the front of the line when it’s time to start selling tickets for the Inglewood stadium that’s expected to be ready for the 2019 season.

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