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Week Three Monday 10-pack

The third week of the 2010 season provided plenty of memorable highlights and outcomes. 

From an overtime thriller in New Orleans to a couple of 0-2 underachievers getting things pointed in the right direction to what nearly became an overtime thrilled in Miami, we hope the next 14 weeks are just like this one.

Then again, some teams would prefer to forget all about Week Three.  For 10 story lines focusing on the good and the bad from Week Three, read on.


1.  Coughlin out, Cowher in?

Two years ago, the Giants started the season 0-2, giving up 80 points in
two games.  This year, after a sloppy Week One win against a grossly
overmatched Panthers team, the Giants have surrendered 67 in two even
sloppier losses.

Publicly, coach Tom Coughlin has taken the blame.  Privately, he has
begun the process of holding his players accountable.

Whether it works remains to be seen.  The Giants are becoming every bit
as dysfunctional as they were when Coughlin somehow pulled a Super
Bowl-sized rabbit out of his hat.  The championship season has become
largely forgotten, however, especially as the Giants become upstaged in their new
stadium by the look-at-me Jets, at whom New York and the rest of the
country are looking, both for what they do on the field, and what they
do off it.

After the Giants collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs,
co-owner John Mara blew a gasket.  This year, if the Giants fail to
qualify for the postseason, he’ll do more than talk tough.

Coughlin has one year left on his contract, and the Giants will have to
decide after 2010 whether to re-up Coughlin’s deal — or whether to move
on.  If they choose to thank the 64-year-old coach for his
contributions and pay him not to work for the franchise in 2011, the
most obvious candidate to replace him becomes Bill Cowher.

The 15-year coach of the Steelers, who resigned after the 2006 season,
recently said that he’s looking for the “right situation.”  And former
Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis, who called Cowher’s coming resignation
at the outset of the 2006 season, sad earlier this year that Cowher
covets” the Giants job.

Unless and until Coughlin can get his Giants to play disciplined,
winning football, a guy who led the Steelers with square-jawed intensity
could become the ultimate answer to the cross-town team led by a
player-coach who doesn’t actually play.

2.  Tebow takes a big step backward.

Entering the regular season, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow occupied the
No. 2 spot on the depth chart, behind starter Kyle Orton and ahead of
Brady Quinn.  Per a league source, Tebow was under the impression that
he’d be the top backup all year.

After only two games, Tebow fell to No. 3.  Inactive for Sunday’s game
against the Colts, the elevation of Quinn prevented Tebow from entering
the game before the fourth quarter, essentially eliminating the team’s “Wild Horse”
single-wing package.  As it turns out, neither Quinn nor Tebow entered
the game at all.

Following the 27-13 loss to Indy, Bronco coach Josh McDaniels downplayed
the situation.

“Just made a decision after the week of practice,” McDaniels said. 
“Brady had a good week and it wasn’t anything about Tim — we just felt
like Brady was probably better equipped at this point to handle this
style of game plan, the style of defense that they played.  Again, they
get very few reps anyways, but the reps that they get — we felt more
comfortable doing that.”

Whether it’s a one-time thing remains to be seen.  The fact that Tebow
believed he’d be the No. 2 guy all year makes the move surprising.  The
possibility that he’ll stay at No. 3 shows just how far he has to go
before he becomes the full-time starter.


3.  Pink slips coming soon?

The desperation that has prompted so many quarterback changes could soon
result in a flurry of firings.  Coordinators could be the initial
scapegoats in some cities.  But with bye weeks beginning,
underperforming head coaches could soon find themselves staying home for
the rest of the year, with pay.

The Panthers have looked putrid, and if they hit their break at 0-5,
coach John Fox could be out the door.

The Browns, who are 0-3 but just as easily could be 3-0, face the
Bengals, Falcons, Steelers, and Saints before their bye.  And if the
Browns are 0-7, Eric Mangini may not get a chance to host the Patriots
and the Jets in consecutive weeks — which likely would drop Cleveland
to 0-9, anyway.

Another potential candidate for a bye week “buh-bye” is Jaguars coach
Jack Del Rio.  As one league source explained it, multiple factions
currently are clashing in Jacksonville.  “If [Del Rio] survives the
season,” the source said, “he likely won’t survive the offseason.”

Whether Del Rio survives the season depends on whether the Jaguars can
turn things around, quickly.  Outscored by a total of 50 points in two
weeks, things get no easier next week, when the Colts come calling.  (It also doesn’t help that the Jags are stuck in a division with Indy, Tennessee, and Houston.)

In San Francisco, Mike Singletary could be on the hot seat, too — if
anyone there had the nerve to actually communicate the decision to fire him. 
(Would you?)

Then there’s Raiders coach Tom Cable, who faces some risk of being fired
every minute of every day, of every season.

4.  Time to change inherently unfair fumble rule.

While watching the Chargers-Seahawks game, which Seattle surprisingly
won, a play late in the first half reminded us of one of the most
inequitable rules in all of sport.

When an offensive player fumbles the ball out of bounds, his team keeps
possession.  But when an offensive player fumbles the ball out of the
end zone that his team is trying to invade, the ball is regarded as
having been recovered by the other team, and it’s placed at the 20.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora described it as a “long-standing rule, in
place for decades.”

That’s fine, but that doesn’t make it fair.

It simply makes no sense to punish the offensive team for getting so
close to the end zone, losing the grasp on the ball near paydirt, and
then losing possession even if the other team never actually recovers
it.  

Instead of giving the ball to the defense at the 20, the rule should
give the ball to the offense, at the opponents’ 20.  Some would argue
that possession should be awarded at the line used for the try after a
touchdown.  Either way, possession shouldn’t be handed over the defense
when the defense has done squat to secure possession.


5. Jets, Falcons seize control of their divisions.

With 13 games to go, a lot can — and will — happen.  But two teams
confidently can claim that, for now, they rule the four-team roosts in
which they reside.

Both the Jets and the Falcons went on the road and knocked off rivals
who had been 2-0.  So now the Dolphins will have to win in New York and
the Saints will have to win in Atlanta in order to avoid what amounts to
a three-game swing in the standings — 2-0 versus 0-2, plus ownership
of the tiebreaker.

Coupled with the Jets’ win over the Patriots, New York has come a
long way in only 13 days

Ditto for the Falcons, who lost a heartbreaker in Week One and suddenly
have broken the Saints’ hammerlock on the NFC South.  It likely was the biggest win of quarterback Matt Ryan’s three-year career.

Again, there’s a long way to go.  For now, though, the Jets and Falcons
have to be feeling pretty good about where they are.


6. Chiefs are for real.

When a team exceeds expectations, expectations eventually will be
adjusted.  For that reason alone, look for the Chiefs to continue to
downplay their success, in the hopes that no one will believe that
they’re a legitimate contender to win the AFC West.

But they are.  Already, the 3-0 Chiefs possess a two-game lead over the rest
of the division, and they’ve toppled the perennial top dogs from San
Diego.

Moving forward, the Chiefs benefit from a fourth-place schedule.  While
the Chargers play the Ravens and the Patriots, the Chiefs get the Browns
and the Bills. (All four AFC West teams play all four AFC South teams
in 2010.)  Those two games could end up making a huge difference, if the
race gets tight in late December.

The biggest question mark comes at quarterback, but that question mark
became an exclamation point, at least for a day, when Matt Cassel
completed 16 of 27 for 250 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception
— good for a passer rating of 111.7.

It’s the kind of triple-digit performance that became commonplace for
Cassel in 2008, when he replaced Tom Brady in New England.  Now that
Cassel could be clicking with Charlie Weis, the guy who helped make Tom
Brady into Tom Brady, there could be even more strong performances from the
player whom many regard as the weak link on a slowly-improving
franchise.

Until then, the Chiefs would prefer that we all regard them as
slowly-improving, with no reason to think that they may be headed in the
direction that their 3-0 record suggests they’re heading.

7.  Dallas Desperadoes deliver for Wade.

Backed against the wall, the Dallas Cowboys proved the value of a single
NFL weekend by avoiding an 0-3 start, pulling into a three-way tie for
second place in the NFC East, and getting themselves back on track for a
season that still could end with a Super Bowl.

Desperation suited the Cowboys well on Sunday in Houston, and now
they’ve got time during their bye week to continue to tweak the offense
and refine the defense and prepare to continue the push toward and
beyond .500.

At a time when the NFL is considering a move from 18 games, it’s
important to remember the impact of a single NFL game when a total of
only 16 are played.  The significance of each and every contest makes
each and every one dramatic and memorable; for the Cowboys, who
faced full-blown implosion after only two weeks, a single game changed
everything.

If the season is “enhanced,” that quality could quickly be diminished.

8.  Steelers could run the table.

We know it’s way too early to say this, but we’re going to say it
anyway.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could go undefeated.

It’s unlikely.  Eventually, they’ll surely lose.  But if they can get past the
Ravens on Sunday in the last game without Ben Roethlisberger and if he
pumps up an offense that is complemented by the best defense in the
league, the Steelers will be unstoppable.

If they get to 16-0, it won’t have happened against a slew of patsies. 
They play at Miami and at New Orleans, and they host the Patriots and
the Jets.

Still, there’s already something special about this team, and it could
become even more special if Roethlisberger helps light up a scoreboard
that rarely will reflect many points from the opposition.

9.  Vick’s historic redemption tour continues.

As the football-watching world waits for Mike Vick’s triple-digit
passer-rating performances to drop dramatically, as they always have done in the past, Vick has instead put his
foot harder on the gas, authoring his best performance to date with the
Eagles.

In a 28-3 win at Jacksonville, Vick completed 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 119.2.

In 10 quarters, Vick has thrown six touchdown passes and not a single
interception.

He’ll face his toughest test yet next week, when Donovan McNabb returns
to Philly for a game that Eagles fans will want to win more than any
non-playoff game in franchise history.  And regardless of how well
McNabb does or doesn’t play, another strong showing from Vick could make
McNabb’s performance moot.

Meanwhile, at some point we need to acknowledge that we’re witnessing
one of the most compelling stories in league history.  Rather than
merely returning to the level he occupied before missing two years while
in prison, Vick could be on the verge of reaching new heights — and of
becoming the franchise quarterback he never quite became in Atlanta.

10.  Saints need to lose their blind spot for Garrett Hartley.

Kicker Garrett Hartley forever will occupy a position in the pantheon of
Saints stars, thanks to his delivery of the franchise’s first NFL title
via a 40-yard overtime kick in the NFC Championship and a trio of
40-plus-yard field goals in the Super Bowl.

But kicker remains one of the most fungible positions in football, and
if a guy can’t do his job there are plenty of others who can, and who will.

The challenge for coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis will be to
forget about the things Hartley did in the past, and to focus on what
he’s doing now.

Or, more importantly, on what he’s not doing.

Two missed field goals in Week One allowed the Vikings to hang around
much longer than they should have, and a redirection from 49ers
defensive tackle Ray McDonald may have prevented Hartley from being the
goat in Week Two.

The goat he was on Sunday, when he missed an overtime chip shot after
knuckling the game-tying kick that forced the extra session.

Peter King reported on Sunday night that the Saints will bring in
kickers this week
.  It shouldn’t simply be a shot across Hartley’s bow. 
Kickers need to be much more reliable than Hartley has been.  And if
Hartley continues to receive extra consideration for what he did in last
year’s Super Bowl, the Saints won’t win another one this year.

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Chargers job listing requires Los Angeles move, if necessary

LAX Getty Images

If you work as a tax manager, the San Diego Chargers could use your services.

Just be aware that the “San Diego” part of that proposal could very well be temporary.

The Chargers currently have posted a job listing on the NFL’s job board seeking a tax manager that will be responsible for handling the “managing of tax reporting and compliance within the organization.” Listed under the requirements of the job, the posting states that the applicant must be willing “to relocate to the Los Angeles area, if necessary.”

The Chargers have been leading the charge of NFL teams interested in moving to Los Angeles. The team has reached a stalemate with the city of San Diego on plans for a new stadium and clearly don’t feel discussions will lead to a new venue.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos, along with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, spent Tuesday meeting with Los Angeles officially as the team’s eye a joint move into a new stadium in Carson, Calif.

The Chargers are clearly planning for a future in the L.A. area. If you want to work for the team as a tax manager, you’d better be comfortable with that reality.

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Russell Wilson’s agent cares about one stat: Wins

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In addition to the two reasons mentioned earlier on Wednesday for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to do a new deal by September, there’s a third potential benefit: Ending the potential distraction coming from his unsettled status.

It’s only July, and his situation has become a huge story, with multiple members of the media convinced that Wilson could be (not will be, could be) the first healthy franchise quarterback to change teams due to the inability to work out a new contract. Absent a contract that keeps Wilson from becoming a potential free agent in March, his status will continue to be a top story in the NFL and a constant source of reports and opinion and speculation about the Seahawks, threatening to turn upside down a locker room that already has more than a few players who resent Russell Wilson.

The guy guiding Wilson through the process is agent Mark Rodgers. A former football agent who focused on baseball and has now returned to football because one of his baseball clients is pretty damn good at the other game, Rodgers became the sole agent for Wilson after Wilson parted ways with Bus Cook last year. Some league insiders believe that, if Cook were still working for Wilson, a deal with the Seahawks already would be done. With Rodgers advising Wilson, it’s unclear when it will be resolved.

The Seahawks seem to be leery of Rodgers because there’s no broader working relationship with him, and because his approach to the negotiations has to date been unconventional, including that 16-page position statement sent to the Seahawks. That’s fitting because Wilson is an non-traditional franchise quarterback — a guy who wins without huge passing numbers.

“With Russell, he’s unique, so let the debate begin,” Rodgers told TCPalm.com. “He’s unconventional in size. People argue that he’s a game manager or say it’s the defense or Marshawn Lynch — or all of the above. I listen and take all that into account. At the end of the day, it’s about winning and what he’s asked to do and he does it very, very well.”

And that seems to be the focal point of the argument in favor of paying Wilson. Despite the absence of huge passing numbers, he wins football games.

“I don’t have to argue statistics with the Seattle Seahawks on the value of Russell Wilson,” Rodgers said. “In football, the most important stat to me has always been ‘Does he win?’ It’s hard to argue that Russell Wilson doesn’t win.”

He absolutely does win. But the question is whether he’ll still win if he accounts for a much larger piece of the total salary cap, which necessarily will leave less money behind for compensation other key players who also can answer the operative “does he win?” question in the affirmative.

At some point, Wilson will be making so much that it will be hard for him to win. The ability of the Seahawks and Rodgers to strike the right balance will directly influence their ability to keep Wilson in Seattle. If Wilson decides he simply wants to maximize his earning potential, the only way he’ll do that is by jumping to a team desperate for a franchise quarterback.

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A deal now helps Russell Wilson in two important ways

Russell Wilson

Despite the apparent willingness of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to play in 2015 for $1.5 million and to change teams if need be in 2016, signing a contract before the regular season begins carries a pair of significant benefits for Wilson.

First, and as previously mentioned, signing a contract before the 2015 season shifts the injury risk away from Wilson. Absent a new deal, Wilson will be in jeopardy of not only a career-ending injury (for which he obviously has insurance) but also a career-altering injury, which would allow him to keep playing but make him far less desirable financially.

At some point between now and the first week of the regular season, the Seahawks undoubtedly will offer something to Wilson that will be lower than what he’d like to have, but that also would be dramatically more than anything he’s ever made playing football. And then he’ll have to decide whether to continue to assume the injury risk for only $1.5 million — or to accept the offer and the immense financial security that goes with it.

There’s a chance Wilson’s extreme confidence will cause him to bet on himself, refusing a great-but-not-top-of-the-market offer, believing that he won’t suffer a serious injury, and pushing the negotiations toward a potential February clusterfudge for the Seahawks, with Wilson’s price tag shooting through the roof and applying the exclusive version of the franchise tag and trading Wilson becoming a viable option for the Seahawks.

Second, and as mentioned on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio by Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, doing a deal now gives Wilson a large amount of money that otherwise will forever disappear.

A long-term deal averaging a legitimate $20 million per year gives Wilson $18.5 million more this year than he otherwise will make. On a five-year deal, for example, that approach simulates Wilson playing for $1.5 million in 2015 and $24.625 million per year in each of the next four.

That’s what a five-year, $100 million deal can do. And agent Mark Rodgers can sell it as a four-year, $98.5 million extension. The new-money average of $24.625 million would surpass Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his $22 million annually, making Russell Wilson the highest-paid player in the league by $2.4625 million per year.

It would be a win for both sides, and it would hinge entirely on Wilson ripping up the last year of his rookie deal instead of swapping it for the kind of leverage that would get him a lot more than $98.5 million from 2016 through 2019.

Bottom line? If Wilson doesn’t accept whatever the Seahawks put on the table before Week One, the stage will be set for Wilson getting much more than $25 million per year by next season, from the Seahawks or someone else.

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Texans don’t dump Brandon Ivory, yet

Ivory

When word emerged that Texans defensive lineman Brandon Ivory faces a charge of first-degree burglary, it seemed likely that the Texans would quickly dump the undrafted rookie. So far, the Texans haven’t.

“The Houston Texans are aware of the police report regarding DT Brandon Ivory in Tuscaloosa, Ala.,” the Texans said in a statement. “At this time, we will have no further comment until we gather all of the relevant facts.”

They’ll likely be gathering the relevant facts quickly. Training camp opens soon, and HBO camera and microphones will be present. Unless the Texans concluded during the offseason program that Ivory is poised to become a star player, it will be a surprise if Ivory is.

Apart from the P.R. consequences of having on the roster a player accused of an armed home invasion, keeping Ivory around could mean paying him while he’s on mandatory leave pending the resolution of the charges.

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Brandon Magee still waits for NFL call, would give up baseball

Brandon Magee Getty Images

In March, the Buccaneers released linebacker Brandon Magee. The next day, he reported for Red Sox training camp.

The offseason program came and went without any team offering Magee an NFL job. In the interim, Magee has kept playing baseball — continuing with Boston’s Class A affiliate, the Lowell Spinners.

Bating .250 through seven games, Magee took a few minutes before his team’s latest game to visit with PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. And Magee made it clear that, if/when an NFL team would offer Magee a roster spot, he’d give up baseball in an instant.

On one hand, the fact that Magee (who has played for the Browns and Bucs) doesn’t have one of 90 roster spots is a red flag. On the other hand, once training camps open and players start going full speed in pads, injuries will happen. It could just be a matter of time before Magee gets another chance to return to pro football.

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Jim Harbaugh takes half the blame for awkward radio interview

A Seattle Seahawks fan holds a sign referring to San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, during their NFL football game in Seattle, Washington

The low-water mark of the NFL offseason news cycle was filled in part by a cannonball from former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, via an awkward interview with Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio. The interview also provided plenty of free P.R. for both participants in the clumsy back-and-forth for which most people are blaming Harbaugh.

Harbaugh has now accepted the blame. But only so much of it.

“In my experience of participating in interviews, I’ve found it takes 2 to produce a clunker!” Harbaugh said on Twitter.  “I’ll take 50% responsibility 4 this clunker.”

That leaves 50 percent of the responsibility for Cowherd. Some may say that’s too much for Cowherd. Others would say it’s not enough.

Ultimately, the onus is on the interviewer to draw out the person being interviewed. Cowherd erred by leading with his chin, asking Harbaugh when he’s at his “least intense” and that if he ever says to himself, “‘Oh, man, I’m cupcake. I’m soft. I’m easygoing.’ When’s the part of the day when you’re a pushover?'”

But Harbaugh isn’t new at this. He has been interviewed by many different people over the years, in many different settings. He had a chance to present himself in a certain way, and he ended up presenting himself in a certain other way, thanks to an overriding desire to compete in each and every situation.

On one hand, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. On the other hand, any elite high-school football players or their parents who heard Harbaugh may be less inclined to choose Michigan after hearing the interview. Chances are they won’t be more inclined.

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Judge upholds Aaron Hernandez murder conviction

Aaron Hernandez AP

A bid by former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez to have his conviction on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Odin Lloyd has been denied in Massachusetts.

Hernandez’s attorneys filed motions asking Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh to set aside the jury’s verdict and find Hernandez not guilty of murder and one of the gun charges he was also convicted of in April because the state “utterly failed” to prove its case. Garsh didn’t agree with their argument.

“Considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the court finds that a rational jury could find that the Commonwealth proved every essential element of the crimes charged in counts 1 and 2 beyond a reasonable doubt,” Garsh wrote, via the Hartford Courant.

The defense attorneys also asked Garsh to reduce the first-degree murder charge because the crime did not “deviate in any drastic sense” from those resulting in second-degree murder charges. That request was also denied, but Hernandez can still pursue an appeal while also preparing for a December trial on charges that he murdered two other men in July 2012.

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Emmitt Smith withdraws as Miss USA judge after Trump controversy

Emmitt Smith Visits FOX Business Getty Images

Emmitt Smith is the latest person to distance himself from Donald Trump.

Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, was scheduled to be a judge in this year’s Miss USA pageant. But that pageant is owned by Donald Trump, who has stirred controversy since making negative comments about Mexicans while announcing that he is running for president.

As a result, NBC has announced it will not televise the pageant, and Smith (whose wife was first runner-up at the 1994 Miss USA pageant) has decided not to participate.

“In light of Mr. Trump’s statements and the subsequent decisions made by NBC, I have decided not to participate as a judge in the 2015 Miss USA pageant,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “Knowing firsthand through my wife, Pat Smith, how much the women prepare for this event, I continue to send my support and best wishes to everyone competing this year.”

This year’s Miss USA, which is scheduled to take place on July 12, is without a TV home.

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Texans rookie Brandon Ivory arrested on first degree burglary charges

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This is how to not make a good impression in the month off before training camp.

Via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, Texans rookie defensive lineman Brandon Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges.

Ivory, who went to Alabama, was arrested in Tuscaloosa this morning. According to the police report, he and another man broke into a residence by kicking in the back door, one carrying an assault rife. After assaulting one person, they took cash and two iPads before fleeing in a 2003 Toyota Corolla.

He was signed as an undrafted rookie this year.

And because he occupies one of the lowest rungs on the organizational ladder, it’s easy to imagine his stint with the team might not be a long one.

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Gloria Allred slams NFL for letting C.J. Spillman play in 2014

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

With free-agent defensive back C.J. Spillman now officially charged with sexual assault, he’ll likely remain a free agent indefinitely. The lawyer for Spillman’s alleged victim believes he should have been taken off the field months ago.

“Despite this sexual assault allegation for which Mr. Spillman is now indicted and another allegation of sexual assault made to the police in California by another alleged victim prior to the Texas sexual assault allegation made to the police, the NFL continued to allow Mr. Spillman to play with the Dallas Cowboys,” attorney Gloria Allred said in a statement, via Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News.

In her statement, Allred says that the victim reported the alleged sexual assault the day after Commissioner Roger Goodell’s September 2014 press conference regarding the issue of domestic violence. Allred also says she notified the NFL of the allegation on September 26, 2014 and that she spent “countless hours” with NFL investigators who were exploring the allegations regarding Spillman.

“[T]he NFL appeared to do nothing and never informed me that they would take any action or impose any discipline at all against Mr. Spillman,” Allred said. “I am very happy that the criminal justice system will now try to move forward to prosecute Mr. Spillman but it is shameful that the NFL has taken no meaningful action in the interim.

“Their face-saving P.R. campaign which, in my opinion, was designed to make them appear to be sympathetic to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence is now revealed for what it really was, a sham and a slick P.R. trick, because their words did not match their deeds in this case.”

The Cowboys handled the Spillman case by pointing to the fact that he hadn’t been charged. Of course, that didn’t stop the NFL from conducting its own investigation and coming to its own conclusion. While the Spillman situation arose before the NFL finalized a new Personal Conduct Policy that contemplates an investigative process that will unfold regardless of the justice system, it also happened in the immediate aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle.

With separate situations involving Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy in full boil at the time, the NFL likely glossed over Spillman’s case because of the player’s low profile. If Spillman had been a star, the league would have been forced to deal with the situation.

Which underscores the notion that the league’s entire strategy regarding off-field misconduct arises not necessarily from doing the right thing but from doing the thing that keeps the NFL from absorbing widespread criticism and alienating customers. Otherwise, the NFL and the Cowboys would have moved much more swiftly to deal with Spillman regarding an incident that allegedly occurred at the team’s hotel.

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ESPN denies telling Olbermann to quit ripping Goodell

ESPN Getty Images

It didn’t take long for ESPN to deny the report that it wants Keith Olbermann to tone down his criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Responding to a report from the Hollywood Reporter that ESPN wants to put a clause in Olbermann’s next contract prohibiting him from commentaries critical of the league or its commissioner, ESPN released a statement saying that simply isn’t the case.

“Keith Olbermann has never been told any topic is off limits for his commentary nor has continuation of it been part of any conversation about his future at the company,” ESPN’s statement said.

Olbermann, who returned to ESPN two years ago with a daily show on ESPN2, has been highly critical of Goodell, saying that he should have lost his job in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

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Isaiah Battle to work out for teams on July 7

Adam Choice, Isaiah Battle AP

Clemson tackle Isaiah Battle is the only player from an FBS program in next week’s supplemental draft and he’s thought to have the best chance of any player in the pool to become the first player to enter the league this way since the Browns took wide receiver Josh Gordon in 2012.

Teams interested in taking Battle off the board will get a chance to watch him work out a couple of days before the July 9 draft. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Battle will hold a pro day workout on Tuesday, July 7. Any team that takes Battle will surrender their pick from the same round in the 2016 draft.

Battle said that he’s leaving Clemson now because he has “some family matters to address,” including the birth of a child this summer, but he also had a string of disciplinary issues while at the school that helped hasten his move to the professional ranks.

Battle started 11 games at left tackle during the 2014 season and, at 6-7, has the kind of size that teams like although he probably needs to bulk up from 275 pounds before he’ll be a contender to play the position in the NFL.

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Report: ESPN wants Olbermann to stop ripping Goodell

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There’s long been a perception in sports media circles that when the NFL tells ESPN to jump, ESPN asks, How high? Whether it’s the cancellation of Playmakers, the shunning of League of Denial or the suspension of Bill Simmons, ESPN seems eager to please the NFL, which provides ESPN with its most popular programming.

So today’s story from the Hollywood Reporter about ESPN’s negotiations with Keith Olbermann will be closely scrutinized within the sports media. According to the report, ESPN has told Olbermann that if his contract is going to be extended, the network wants Olbermann to stop engaging in commentary.

And that request is the result of the fact that Olbermann’s commentaries regularly rip the NFL in general and Commissioner Roger Goodell in particular. Olbermann called for Goodell to lose his job over his handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case, and Olbermann has regularly been a thorn in Goodell’s side.

The report says that ESPN remains sensitive about its relationship with the NFL, and that multiple sources within ESPN believe that the NFL gave ESPN a weak slate of Monday Night Football games this year as “payback for Simmons and Olbermann.” It seems unlikely that the NFL would cut off its nose to spite its face like that, but some folks at ESPN apparently believe that’s exactly what happened.

Olbermann’s contract with ESPN expires next month. With his longtime interest in politics, he may be looking to leave for a news channel where he can comment freely on next year’s presidential election. Especially if ESPN is telling him that he needs to muzzle his critiques of Goodell.

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Bills sign Wayne Hunter

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The last time Rex Ryan coached a team trying to get Wayne Hunter to sign a contract, he got a tattoo of a Hawaiian design on his leg to show Hunter how much the Jets valued him.

Ryan landed Hunter that time and he’s landed Hunter again in Buffalo, presumably without any new ink being added to his body. The Bills announced Wednesday that they’ve signed Hunter, who worked out for the team last month.

The move to re-sign Hunter in 2011 didn’t work out all that well for the Jets, who missed the playoffs after two straight trips to the AFC title game and saw Hunter struggle in his only season as the team’s starter at right tackle. They traded him to the Rams for Jason Smith the next year and Hunter played in 14 games with St. Louis, but he hasn’t played for anyone in the last two seasons.

The Bills had Cyrus Kouandjio ahead of Seantrel Henderson at right tackle when minicamp wrapped up and it seems likely that Hunter will be competing for a reserve role in his return to the NFL this summer.

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Pittsburgh readying bid for 2023 Super Bowl

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The Steelers have won the Super Bowl six times, but they’ve never hosted the game.

Team chairman Dan Rooney said earlier this year that he’d like to see that change and the team is moving forward with an attempt to land the 57th edition of the game in 2023. The team submitted an application to be considered as a host for the game at the league meetings in May and met with officials from Pittsburgh, including Mayor Bill Peduto, to work on the bid Wednesday.

“We met this morning with local community leaders to provide an update on formally submitting our application to the NFL to bid for Super Bowl LVII in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania,” Steelers president Art Rooney II in a statement. “The application is an early step in the bidding process, and we will continue to meet with representatives of the Mayor’s Office, County Executive’s Office, VisitPittsburgh, Allegheny Conference as well as other community leaders to review the requirements with the hopes of submitting our bid to host Super Bowl LVII in 2023.”

Peduto said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that the region will have enough hotel rooms to host the game and that he believes Pittsburgh has “an opportunity to be competitive” with their bid.

The league will select the bidders in 2018 and pick a site in 2019, which leaves the team and city with plenty of time to research other regions. The team says that process will include “sending representatives to Northern cities that have already hosted the game.

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