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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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Confusion emerges regarding basis for Hardy discipline

Hardy Getty Images

The Greg Hardy appeal hearing has come and gone, and confusion has emerged regarding one of the most important aspects of the case.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Hardy and the NFL Players Association contend that the NFL failed to specify during the hearing whether league imposed on Hardy a 10-game suspension under the Personal Conduct Policy in force at the time of the alleged misconduct or under the version that came later in the year, following the Ray Rice debacle. Hardy and the NFLPA also contend that arbitrator Harold Henderson failed to force the NFL to say which version of the policy was used.

In an appearance last month on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash seemed to emphasize that the discipline was imposed under the old policy. But he also made it clear that the investigation occurred under the new procedures that were adopted after the Rice case.

The alleged confusion also comes in the wake of an effort by the union to have the NFL deemed to be in contempt of court for failing to comply with the court order issued in the case filed on behalf of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. That motion specifically claims that the league applied the new policy retroactively to Hardy, in defiance of the ruling from Judge David Doty to the contrary in Peterson’s case.

Absent a significant reduction in Hardy’s suspension, a lawsuit is inevitable in his case, too. And Hardy could easily win.

But no one would be able to accuse the NFL of going too soft on off-field misconduct. Given that the Rice situation nearly took down a Commissioner, the NFL will never be accused of going too soft on off-field misconduct ever again.

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Report: Giants meet with Jake Long

Jake Long AP

The Giants, who are likely to be without their starting left tackle for at least part of the 2015 season, have reportedly huddled with a four-time Pro Bowler at the position.

Ex-Ram Jake Long, who has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, met with the Giants on Thursday, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2008 by Miami, the 30-year-old Long has torn his right ACL in back-to-back seasons, most recently on October 26. He also has suffered biceps and triceps tears in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The Rams released Long in March after two seasons.

The Giants’ incumbent left tackle, Will Beatty, suffered a pectoral tear last week. The injury could force first-round pick Ereck Flowers to step into the lineup right off the bat on the left side.

If healthy, Long would bolster the Giants’ tackle depth, giving them insurance in the event Flowers isn’t ready. However, Long would have to pass a physical.

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Adrian Peterson takes aim at the NFLPA

Adrian Peterson AP

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson isn’t happy. The good news is he’s finally admitting it. The bad news is that it’s still not clear who or what he’s not happy with.

After months of leaks and comments from folks close to Peterson but not Peterson suggesting that he’s not happy with the Vikings because of how the team reacted to Peterson’s off-field issue last year, Peterson made it clear on Wednesday night that he’s not happy with a contract that provides him no further guaranteed money. On Thursday, Peterson broadened his attack to encompass the entire system.

On Thursday night, Peterson took specific aim at the NFL Players Association.

“To clarify,” Peterson said on Twitter, “since analysts & everyone else have the answers as to what place in MY Heart this ‘rant‘ came from, this is not against the Vikings. I am just frustrated that our union did not get guaranteed contracts for its players. NFL players deserve guaranteed contracts like Our NBA and MLB brothers. Owners have the right to release players, at will, without honoring their contracts. However, players do not have the luxury of saying that they want out of their contract. And I won’t even get into the franchise tag convo.”

I’m a huge Adrian Peterson fan. I always have been. But I’m definitely not a fan of this new tactic.

Peterson believes he has in some way been wronged, by someone, over the past nine months. Still, a shotgun attack on a system that has made him a very rich man and that has the Vikings ready to pay a 30-year-old running back $12.75 million this year makes little sense.

Four years ago, he could have insisted on a fully-guaranteed contract. Or he could have insisted on a shorter-term deal, which would have allowed him to get a fresh start elsewhere. Instead, with full awareness of a system that was reiterated by a Collective Bargaining Agreement signed not long before he signed his latest contract, Peterson made a seven-year commitment, knowing that the commitment would only go both ways as long as his employer wanted it to.

Peterson made that commitment after comparing pro football to “modern-day slavery.” So he went in with eyes and ears open as to what the NFL is (or as to what he thinks it is), he signed a long-term contract, he willingly and voluntarily took a $12 million signing bonus, he earned more than $35 million over four years at a position that has become largely interchangeable in recent seasons, and he’ll get another $12.75 million this year by simply showing up for work.

It’s unclear whether Peterson is willing to not play this year or to retire if the Vikings don’t guarantee his contract beyond 2015 or if they won’t trade him. It’s possible he simply needed to vent, as he makes his way from anger to bargaining then denial, depression, and finally acceptance.

Regardless, he’s not going to find much sympathy here, or pretty much anywhere.

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Cowboys sign rookie LB Damien Wilson

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

The Cowboys almost have their entire rookie class under contract.

Dallas has signed fourth-round selection Damien Wilson, a linebacker from Minnesota, the team said Thursday.

The pact with Wilson leaves cornerback Byron Jones, the Cowboys’ first-round selection, as the only rookie without a deal.

Wilson (6-0, 243) notched 197 tackles (16 for loss) in two seasons with the Golden Gophers. He was timed at 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, and he posted a 37-inch vertical leap.

“He’s learning real well, and he’s working real hard, so excited about where’s he going,” Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said of Wilson on Wednesday.

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Malcolm Jenkins: No one on the Eagles thinks we have a race issue

malcolmjenkins AP

Former Eagle LeSean McCoy may think Chip Kelly got rid of the good black players, but those who have remained in Philadelphia don’t see it that way.

That’s the word from Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who said he and his teammates respect Kelly and don’t believe he’s basing his evaluations on race.

“Chip has been very, very transparent on what he’s evaluating us on,” Jenkins said, via CSNPhilly.com. “That’s not only what we do on the field, but what we do in our assessments and how disciplined we are with our nutrition and all the sports science stuff. I haven’t seen him make a move outside of those parameters. I don’t think anybody in the locker room now thinks we have an issue with race. I don’t see that being a problem in the future. I don’t think there’s any need for Chip to address it.”

If other players on the Eagles agree with McCoy about Kelly, it has the potential to undermine Kelly’s ability to coach his team. But their public comments suggest that other players agree with Jenkins that there’s not a race problem on the Eagles.

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DeMaurice Smith suggests Ray Rice is being blackballed

Ray Rice Press Conference Getty Images

NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith thinks it doesn’t speak well for the NFL that no team is willing to give Ray Rice another chance.

Smith told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN that Rice, who is not suspended and is eligible to play as soon as a team signs him, would be back in the NFL if teams were willing to give him a fair chance.

“This, unfortunately, is a league that has a history of blackballing players. I find it hard to believe that a player of Mr. Rice’s caliber hasn’t at least gotten one offer from a team to come work out,” Smith said.

The term “blackballing” suggests something underhanded, but the reality is that NFL teams aren’t hiding the fact that they simply don’t want to do business with the man who last year became the poster boy for domestic violence in America. That’s the prerogative of each team, and while the union is free to advocate on Rice’s behalf, there’s not much the union can do about it.

If all 32 NFL teams have decided that they’re never going to give Rice another chance, then Rice has only himself to blame for that.

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Dez Bryant does the smart thing by showing up

Dez Bryant AP

It’s become a given that a player saddled with the franchise tag won’t show up for any workouts or practices until he signs a long-term deal or accepts his one-year franchise tender. But it may not be the smart thing to do — especially if the tagged player plans to work out on his own.

As Broncos G.M. John Elway pointed out several weeks back when venting regarding the absence of receiver Demaryius Thomas, unsigned franchise players who get injured while working out on their own get nothing. Unsigned franchise players who show up pursuant to a letter agreement that guarantees their franchise tender if they tear an ACL or pop out an Achilles who get injured get full pay.

So unless staying away was going to squeeze more money out of the team’s coffers (it wasn’t), why not continue to get ready to have a big season while working out with the team? For Bryant, the best play would be to take the $12.8 million this year, do it again next year at a 20-percent raise ($15.36 million), and then hit the market in 2017 — because there’s no way the Cowboys would pay him $22.11 million under a third franchise tag.

More franchise-tagged players need to consider the wisdom of Bryant’s move. And more will do what Bryant did the minute that one of them suffers a serious injury while unsigned and while working out at the local YMCA.

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Adrian Peterson’s rant misses the mark

Volcano

Mt. Peterson finally erupted. And it went about as well as Peter Brady’s volcano. (Timely reference, I know.)

Arguably he last man who should be painting himself as a victim but who nevertheless tried to shift blame to the Vikings for a predicament created by his own behavior has gone to Twitter for a general rant regarding the system of paying players.

“Question for the people, is a contract two sided or one?” Adrian Peterson asked. “There’s never no talk about honoring a contract!”

But NFL contracts are indeed one-sided, unless they’re individually negotiated to be two-sided. If Peterson wanted in 2011 to ensure that his contract would be two-sided through its final year of 2017, he could have — by insisting on the contract being fully guaranteed for its full duration. When NFL contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, the team can insist on the player honoring every game of every season while in turn having the power to tear up the deal whenever the team wants.

That’s just the way it is, and that system was reiterated via the Collective Bargaining Agreement ratified by the players only weeks before Peterson signed his latest deal.

On one hand, it’s good that Peterson has dropped the passive-aggressive approach with the Vikings. On the other hand, it’s not good that he opted to take a shotgun to a system that won’t be changing — especially after that system (as enhanced by the Commissioner-Exempt list) resulted in Peterson making plenty of money last year from the Vikings despite playing in only one game.

But now that Peterson has decided to attack the situation the same way that he attacks a defense, it may be only a matter of time before Peterson is doing shirtless driveway situps and agent Ben Dogra is rattling off “next question” at a press conference held on Peterson’s front lawn.

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Dez Bryant shows up at Cowboys OTAs, does individual drills

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Cowboys thought Dez Bryant was in “great shape,” despite his staying away from voluntary workouts and OTAs.

But Thursday, they saw for themselves.

According to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the franchise-tagged wide receiver showed up at OTAs Thursday and participated in individual drills.

That’s a bit of a surprise, considering he hasn’t signed his $12.823 million franchise tender.

But apparently, Bryant wanted to be around the team, and see his teammates. He apparently went through individual drills, but didn’t do any team drills. Considering what happened to Ryan Clady and Dante Fowler, it’s prudent to not push himself with so much money on the line.

Bryant’s not even required to attend mandatory minicamp since he hasn’t signed yet, but his showing up today is at least a sign of good faith.

Whether it’s a sign of progress toward a long-term deal, or whether Bryant just wanted to get out of the house remains to be seen.

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Adrian Peterson: Players need “same power” NFL clubs hold in contracts

Adrian Peterson AP

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, in the midst of a dispute with Minnesota, used his verified Twitter account Thursday to vent about teams being able to void contracts while players are bound to those same deals.

Here are Peterson’s thoughts on the subject, which were published one day after he told ESPN his absence from Minnesota’s offseason program was “about securing my future” in Minnesota:

“I love people who think they know it all! Smh, Research how many NFL teams hasn’t honored a player’s contract & learn something.

“Question for the people, is a contract two sided or one?

“Ok great two sided! Well why when one party decides . . . Mr. ? we wan’t you to take a pay cut now or better yet flat out release you!

“There’s never no talk about honoring a contract!

“I know hundreds of player’s that wished their team would’ve HONORED the contract! But instead got threw to the side like like trash.

“A lill crazy how one side has so much power that they can do as they please when it come to the contract! But when the other-side (player’s)  . . . Feels for whatever reason! Family, Change of scenery or simply – what they feels just might work best for them! Those same laws don’t apply!

“It’s all about honoring you’re contract! Sounds like free will is being a lil challenged to me!

“All I’m saying as a Minnesota Viking player! WE need the same power to do as all 32 teams do we they feel, under contract or not!

“It’s time for a change! Then again I’m grateful because at the end of the day, I know some of those same guys that wish a team held on!”

Peterson has three years left on his current contract. He is set to make $12.75 million in salary in 2015, $14.75 million in 2016 and $17.75 million in 2017. However, the salaries are not guaranteed.

The Vikings have insisted they will not trade Peterson. On Wednesday, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said the 30-year-old tailback would play for Minnesota or not at all.

Peterson spent most of last season on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list after being charged with felony child abuse. He eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault.

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DeMarco Murray hopes Joseph Randle “can taste some of that meat this year”

Philadelphia Eagles OTA's Getty Images

Cowboys running back Joseph Randle shared his opinion about how much the Cowboys might miss running back DeMarco Murray this week by saying that he thought Murray “left a lot of meat on the bone” on his way to a league-leading 1,845 rushing yards in 2014.

That comment made its way to Murray on Thursday, but Murray didn’t fire back at Randle or try to make the case that he gnawed all the way down to the bone while carrying the ball the seventh-most times in league history last year. Instead, Murray wished Randle well in his opportunity to do a little feasting of his own behind the Cowboys offensive line.

“Hopefully he can taste some of that meat this year,” Murray said, via CSNPhilly.com. “They’re a good team. Hopefully he can get a chance to run behind that line and do some good things. But I’m not worried about it. I didn’t hear about it until now. It’s not a big deal.”

It’s a good response to Randle since Murray has no need to defend himself for his 2014 performance. His chief concern now should be making sure that he wasn’t worn down to the bone after being used so heavily last season because the Eagles will need Murray to play well to vault themselves above the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East in 2015.

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Jets release Matt Simms

Matt Simms, Josh Mauga AP

Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms recently shared his opinion that his younger brother Matt hasn’t gotten a serious shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL because he’s the son of Phil Simms and, therefore, a victim of “the politics of the NFL.”

Simms got some more fodder for his feeling on Thursday. The Jets announced that they have released Matt Simms from their roster.

The decision isn’t a great surprise with the Jets adding Bryce Petty in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick are going to hold down the top two spots on the depth chart and Petty will be developed behind them, which doesn’t leave many reps for the latest member of the Simms family to play quarterback in the NFL.

Getting released now will give him a chance to catch on with another team in time to make his case for a roster spot in the fall, assuming, of course, that the anti-Simms bias doesn’t rear its head once again. Simms played in four games for the Jets over the last two seasons and completed 19-of-39 passes for 195 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

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Bills open training camp on July 31

EJ Manuel AP

The Bills, who made multiple high-profile moves in the offseason, will commence training camp on Friday, July 31 at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York, the club said Thursday.

Seventeen practices are open to the public, with six requiring fans to have tickets.

The Bills’ preseason opener is August 14 vs. Carolina. The last practice open to fans is Tuesday, August 25.

In an attempt to jump-start their offense, the Bills acquired tailback LeSean McCoy and signed wide receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Charles Clay. The club also added Matt Cassel at quarterback. The Bills’ defense, formidable a season ago, could be all the more imposing with new head coach Rex Ryan at the helm.

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Broncos sign Ryan Harris

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Broncos may not be ready to rule Ryan Clady out for the 2015 season, but they didn’t wait long to add to their tackle options in the wake of his torn ACL.

Jeff Legwold and Adam Schefter of ESPN report that the team has added veteran Ryan Harris to the roster. It will be Harris’s third tour of duty in Denver after he began his career with the team as a third-round pick in 2007 and spent the 2012 offseason and preseason with the team.

Harris also has history with head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison after spending the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Texans when both men were on Houston’s staff. He started 15 games for the Chiefs at right tackle last season and has also played on the left side of the line during his time in the NFL.

Harris joins Chris Clark, Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield as options at tackle as the Broncos try to sort out their offensive line with Clady out of the picture.

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NFL got free use of Grant Park for the draft

GrantPark Getty Images

So what did it cost the NFL to use Grant Park in Chicago for the 2015 draft? How about nothing?

According to Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Park District waived a $937,500 rental fee, along with the security deposit.

Hopkins explains that the Chicago Park District will give discounts to nonprofit and charitable organizations that are using Park District properties. The application for the use of Park District facilities doesn’t contemplate a full waiver. Likewise, the NFL didn’t request a not-for-profit discount when submitting the application.

(Sure, the league office was a non-profit organization when making arrangements for the 2015 draft, but the NFL is and always has been a for-profit operation.)

In response to the suggestion that the three-letter football league is getting the kind of treatment typically enjoyed by a currently-embattled four-letter fútbol federation, NFL points out that it spent “millions” on the draft, via the placement of tents and exhibits in and around a 900,000-square-foot area they called “Draft Town.”

“We also hosted free football clinics for more than 1,500 area schoolchildren in the park,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Tribune. “ESPN and NFL Network went live for the week of the draft from sets on site inside the theater and also out in the park. Our hotel needs alone in Chicago were 1,000 rooms for draft week.”

Those are fair points, similar to the arguments raised when a city does a bad financial deal to host a Super Bowl. But the reality remains that local governments will continue to do bad financial deals in order to do business with the NFL. As long as local governments will keep competing with each other to do those bad deals, the NFL will continue to get great deals for the Super Bowl, the draft, stadiums, or anything else the league wants.

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