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Ten ways to improve the Hall of Fame selection process

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Every year, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, 44 men and women gather in the host city and determine the members of the next class of Hall of Famers.

Typically, the panel considers 15 modern-era candidates, which systemically is whittled down to five finalists for an up-or-down vote.  The voters also consider two previously-determined finalists determined by the Seniors Committee, which comes up with two players who, for whatever reason, were passed over during past sessions.

In the end, as few as four and as many as seven secure admission to Canton.

Every year, complaints inevitably arise regarding the persons who make it and those who don’t.  At times, those complaints are aimed at the process.  Usually, the debate fizzles by the next day, when the Super Bowl starts.

This year, largely through the efforts of Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com, the criticism has lingered.  The fact that Whitlock’s opinions have sparked a pointed response from two of the voters has served only to give the discussion ongoing life.

Though some of the voters who perhaps feel a threat to their fiefdom may not like it, any effort to consider whether the process can be improved represents a valuable expenditure of time and effort.  In this vein, we now offer 10 specific ideas for improving the procedure for determining who gets in, and who’s left out of, the Hall of Fame.

1.  Expand the panel.

The panel currently consists only of media members, some of whom are unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.  One voter is assigned for each team, even if the voter has no specific jurisdiction over that team.  For example, Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange holds the vote that corresponds to the Falcons, even though he hasn’t focused his efforts on that team for years.  Ditto for David Elfin, the Redskins’ representative who no longer works for a Washington-focused publication.  Others, like Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, had limited experience covering the NFL but was the only guy at the only paper in the town in which the team is headquartered.

That’s not a knock on Joe, whom we know and like.  But, surely, he’ll acknowledge that he had limited experience covering the NFL when he got the assignment.  Before inheriting the Bengals beat from Mark Curnutte in 2009, Reedy previously covered the Jets for two years (1997 and 1998) at the Post-Star in Glen Falls, New York and the Jaguars for one year (1999) at the Gainesville Sun.  Many would contend that three relatively distant years at non-first-tier publications shouldn’t be enough to secure 2.27 percent of the say as to who makes it to Canton.

The panel also includes one representative of the Professional Football Writers Association and 11 at-large media members.  That’s 44 total voters.

The panel, put simply, is too small.  (And, trust me, I’m not saying that because I’m angling for a seat at the table.  I don’t want one, I don’t expect to ever be offered one — especially after writing this article — and I wouldn’t have the time to do the assignment justice unless and until I become unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.)  Because the human beings who comprise the panel are subject to the same human factors that influence us consciously or otherwise, one way to neutralize those realities is to involve more voters.

As explained below, that doesn’t mean more media members.  To enjoy the full faith and confidence of football fans, the process needs more voices, more perspectives, and less power in the hands of any one voter.

Many of the persons who hold these votes take great pride in the assignment.  As a result, they naturally will be inclined to resist any changes that will make the achievement less significant, such as adding significantly more people to the process.

Regardless, significantly more people need to be added to the process.

2.  Overhaul the Board of Trustees.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is governed by a Board of Trustees.  Some of the names are instantly recognizable, like Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  (One name is recognizable but curiously out of place. ESPN’s Todd Blackledge, whose bailiwick is college football, has a seat on the Board of Trustees.)

There is also a cluster of persons with no connection to the NFL, but who hold positions of prominence in and around Canton, Ohio, the geographic location of the Hall of Fame.

With all due respect to those Canton-area businesspeople, it makes no sense for the policies and procedures of the Hall of Fame to be set by folks whose biggest contribution to the process is the ability to show up for meetings without incurring travel expenses.  Though it makes sense for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to seek the support and involvement of the Canton business community, the Board of Trustees should be composed of folks who have a direct role in the game and who have the best interests of the game at all times in mind.

To the extent that there are some Canton-area businesspeople who have a direct role in the game, such as Packers great and successful Akron businessman Dave Robinson, they should have a seat at the table.  We also realize that some members of the Board of Trustees are instrumental in organizing the events that surround each year’s enshrinement ceremony.  But most of the persons who are setting policy for the Hall of Fame should have names that ardent fans and followers of the sport instantly recognize.

Currently, it’s roughly a 50-50 split.  That needs to change.

3.  Change the bylaws.

The Board of Trustees ultimately determine the contents of the Hall of Fame’s bylaws.  All too often, members of the panel who are faced with criticism of the selection process instantly explain that their hands are tied by the bylaws.

So change the bylaws.

Every year, the NFL changes multiple rules in the hopes of making the game better.  In the past half-decade, the only meaningful change to the bylaws occurred when the modern-era finalists were increased from 13 to 15.

The bylaws shouldn’t be used as a shield for avoiding change, but as a sword for implementing it.  All too often, the bylaws become an excuse for the status quo, not the impetus for improvement.  For that reason alone, the powers-that-be need to be willing and able on an annual basis (or more often) to look for ways to improve the rules that govern the selection process.

4.  Include Hall of Famers.

Every year, the winner of the Heisman Trophy acquires the ability to vote on all future winners of the award.  The logic is simple, and undeniable.  Winning the Heisman represents membership in an exclusive club, and the men who have won it should have a say in who gets it.

The argument applies even more strongly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame coach John Madden believes that the busts talk to each other at night.  If they do, the first comment when a new crop joins them shouldn’t be, “Who in the hell let that guy in?”

They say it takes one to know one, and a Hall of Famer is in the best position to know another Hall of Famer.  Though giving Hall of Famers votes would introduce the possibility of biases and prejudices, those factors surely apply from time to time (or, as the case may be, every year) to the 44 men and women who currently have the keys to Canton, especially when players who earn a reputation for being hard on the media seem to have a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame.

The only requirement?  To vote, the Hall of Famer must attend the meeting.  No proxies or absentee ballots.  If they show up, they get a say in the process.

5.  Include coaches and other established football minds.

In responding to Jason Whitlock’s column calling for change, Bob Gretz argued that “Rick Gosselin has forgotten more football in a week than Whitlock has known in his life.”  That same observation likely applies to many of the folks currently on the selection committee.

And that observation probably would apply to all of them if, say, guys like Joe Gibbs or Ron Wolf or Bill Parcells or Chuck Noll were in the room.

So why not give people who have devoted their careers to coaching football and/or running football teams a direct say in who should and shouldn’t land in the Hall of Fame?  For those not already in the Hall of Fame, they’d have to forfeit their own eligibility for the Hall until two years after leaving the committee.

Frankly, those folks are far better suited to picking the new members of the Hall of Fame than pretty much everyone on the selection committee as its currently constituted.

6.  Categorize the candidates.

Every year, the finalists are thrown into a vat regardless of the position they played, with the new members of the Hall emerging from a stew that can’t distinguish between pancake blocks and pick-sixes.  It would make more sense to allow one new member per year from each of the various positions on the field:  quarterback, running back, receiver/tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, and coach/G.M./contributor.

The finalists would be determined by position, with the list of candidates trimmed to three-to-five before the selection meeting, and with no requirement that a person be admitted from each position group.

This would expand the potential maximum size of the class from seven to eight, but the high-water mark of seven per year has been in place since 1964, the year after the charter class was inducted.  At the time, the NFL and AFL had only 22 teams.

Today, the NFL has 32 franchises, as a result of the addition of two in 1966, one in 1967, one in 1968, two in 1976, two in 1995, one in 1999, and one in 2002.  Moving the maximum annual class from seven to eight in light of the growth of the league isn’t simply justified, it’s overdue.

7.  Scuttle the Senior Committee.

The Senior Committee serves the purpose of allowing the selection committee to revisit two players from past seasons who fell through the cracks.  In other words, it gives the selection committee to right past wrongs.  By improving the selection process, there would be no reason to clean up past messes by devoting two of seven annual spots to guys who failed to get in when competing directly with their peers.

In his response to Jason Whitlock’s criticisms, Bob Gretz unwittingly proved our point.

Gretz explained that, ever year, a pair of Hall of Famers join the Seniors Committee to assist in the process of whittling down the previously overlooked players to two finalists, who seem to almost always get in.  For the 2011 class, Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham and Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders worked with the Seniors Committee.

Ham, per Gretz, made a strong case for linebacker Chris Hanburger.

“Ham told the group that when he went to the Steelers in the 1971 NFL Draft out of Penn State, the Pittsburgh coaches gave him film of Hanburger to study,” Gretz writes.  “There was no doubt in Ham’s mind that Hanburger was a legitimate candidate.  Whose word are your going to take on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or Jason Whitlock?”

Gretz essentially is admitting that the selection committee screwed up by not putting Hanburger in the Hall years earlier.  With the involvement on the selection committee of guys like Hall of Famer Jack Ham convinced that Hanburger should get in, that wouldn’t have happened.

In other words, if Ham and the other Hall of Famers had a seat at the table, perhaps Hanburger wouldn’t have been erroneously passed over.

After all, whose word should the Hall of Fame been taking on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or any member of the media?

8.  Embrace transparency.

Though many voters seek refuge in the bylaws and regard them as if they’d been etched onto stone tablets by the hand of God, many also will acknowledge the validity of Whitlock’s complaint that the process unfolds in secrecy.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC, who has nothing but the best interests of the process in mind (and I say that not because he’s a friend and a colleague but because I’ve spent enough time around him to know that’s who he is and how he operates), would welcome transparency.

I’d be fine with our votes being made public, which the Hall currently doesn’t want us to do,” King wrote in his February 7 Monday Morning Quarterback column.  “The feeling from Hall officials is if our votes are published, then some voters might vote differently; if a voter from Buffalo, for instance, didn’t vote for Andre Reed (and this is only an example, not the truth), he might face a backlash when he goes back to cover his team. Or in some small way it might affect his vote if he or she knew everyone would know exactly how the vote went. I believe it’s incumbent on us to not hide behind the privacy of the room. The Hall is a huge deal, obviously, with burgeoning interest every year. If we’re going to sit on the committee and sit in judgment of these men for enshrinement, I think you ought to know how we vote.”

If one of the most respected members of the NFL media believes that the process should be more transparent, then it’s fair to say that the process should be more transparent.  With an expanded panel of voters, anyone who covers the team on which a player played most or all of his career could abstain from voting, thereby addressing the biggest concern that King raised.

9.  Involve the NFL.

As mentioned above, the Commissioner and various owners occupy seats on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees.  But the NFL should be even more involved than that.

Though it’s called the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s essentially the NFL Hall of Fame, and the NFL should be in position to propose changes to bylaws and initiate procedural enhancements aimed at improving the process of determining each class of enshrinees.

One change the NFL would likely make relates to the consideration of off-field conduct.  Currently forbidden by the bylaws, the reality is that plenty of voters consider the things a candidate did when not playing football, especially in close cases.  The bylaws, then, should change to reflect the reality of the process.

If the NFL is the perpetual custodian of the highest levels of the sport, the NFL should have much greater involvement in and dominion over the museum that celebrates those who made the biggest impact on the game.

10.  Commit to continuous improvement and change.

Most of the criticisms of the current selection process arise from a perception that the system is stale and stagnant, in large part because change doesn’t happen often and doesn’t seem welcome.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly explains that the league constantly must look for ways to enhance and improve the game.  That same attitude must infect, and overtake, the Hall of Fame.

So many things about the selection process need to be changed because so little change has happened in the 48 years since the Hall of Fame opened.  Egos and agendas and pride and any other factor that stands in the way of change needs to be set aside, and folks need to look for ways to make the process better, and ultimately more fair.

We’re not advocating change for the sake of change.  But in this case there has been little or no change.  Changes need to be made, and then the Hall of Fame needs to be willing to consider future change without external calls for it.

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Earl Thomas on track to play in season opener

Earl Thomas AP

Despite still wearing a red “no-contact” jersey in practice, Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is expected to be ready to play in the team’s season opener against the St. Louis Rams.

“Earl got a lot of work this week,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s getting ready to be in shape to play for the opener. His timing is getting down, his calls, and you can see him fitting in. His intensity that he brings is starting to show up. That’s important.”

Thomas came off the Physically Unable to Perform list on August 5th but did not return to practice until last week. He’s been held out of contact drills even while practicing as the team wants to limit strain on his surgically repaired shoulder.

With Kam Chancellor’s holdout continuing with no resolution in sight, having Thomas ready for the start of the regular season will be a big boost for Seattle. If Chancellor continues his stance into the regular season, the Seahawks will have a much better of chance of weathering his absence with Thomas patrolling the middle of the field.

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Tough decisions loom as teams turn towards end of preseason, roster cuts

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There are lots of jobs to be won across the NFL over the next seven days. There are almost as many to be lost.

Roster cuts are right around the corner. So, too, is the regular season. After this weekend’s rounds of preseason games, teams will be required to cut their rosters from 90 to 75. By Sept. 5, rosters have to be at the regular-season size of 53.

Practice squads are formed following that final cut, and just about every team finds itself busy scanning the waiver wire or trying to make a trade to plug a hole or fortify a position. On Sept. 6 teams can officially designate a player on injured-reserve as designated to return and claim players waived by other teams following the end of the preseason.

The Steelers and Patriots open the 2015 season Sept. 10. Everyone else plays Sept. 13 or 14.

The full NFL calendar through the season and into the spring can be viewed here.

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NaVorro Bowman says he’s “not really” spending two hours to get ready to practice

NaVorro Bowman AP

49ers linebacker Navorro Bowman recently told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that Bowman needs two hours of preparation time before practicing or playing. Bowman now says he doesn’t need two hours of preparation.

Via Matt Maicco of CSNBayArea.com, Bowman said the time that he devotes to preparing is “not really two hours.”

Apparently, it can be more than two hours.

“I’m just a perfectionist,” Bowman said. “I like to warm up my leg as much as possible and to go out there and have a perfect practice. If it takes three hours, I’ll take three hours. Some guys take a lot of things out of context. . . . I had surgery. [The knee] doesn’t feel the same as the other one, so I have to make sure I’m able to do everything I have to before practice starts. That’s where the time frame came from.”

Bowman seems to be sensitive to the perception that he’s returning too early from a torn ACL. Earlier this week, Rodney Harrison of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN said that Bowman runs the risks that offensive lineman will target Bowman’s knee in order to test it.

“Me coming back early,” Bowman said, “that would have been if I would have come back during the season last year.”

So Bowman believes he’s ready, and that the time to prepare has no relation to how he feels once he’s prepared.

Regardless of what Bowman told King or what Bowman said Thursday, the knee will be tested by opposing offensive linemen. He therefore should take whatever time he needs to prepare the knee for that reality.

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Mort says Kraft apologized to him, Patriots deny it

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Not much had been said in recent days about Chris Mortensen’s role in the hatching of #DeflateGate because nobody had really said much about it. Mort said some more stuff about it on Thursday, and he probably now wishes that he hadn’t.

Appearing on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, Mortensen addressed various aspects of his report that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs measured at two pounds below the 12.5 PSI minimum at halftime of the AFC Championship Game.

Among other things, Mortensen claimed that Patriots owner Robert Kraft and team president Jonathan Kraft separately called to apologize to him for “the way this thing has gone down.” WEEI in Boston reports that the Patriots say the Krafts did not apologize to Mortensen.

Beyond the disputed notion that the Krafts apologized, Mortensen made other claims during the interview regarding the report. They’re listed below.

First, Mortensen downplayed the perception that the NFL peddled false information by explaining that the sources didn’t reach out to him, but that he reached out to the sources.

“The whole narrative that somebody from the league deliberately leaked false information to me is so much baloney,” Mortensen said. “It’s actually insulting, because I made the inquiry.”

In other words, Mortensen is saying the league is absolved of deliberately leaking false information because the sources didn’t affirmatively provide the information to Mortensen, but that the league instead provided the information upon request. However, the league then never corrected the false information, even after the same false information was reported both by Mortensen and by Peter King.

So Mort can choose to be insulted, but the “baloney” narrative seems accurate.

Second, Mortensen continues to downplay the clearly false report that 11 of 12 footballs were two pounds under the minimum by claiming that he quickly amended the report, claiming that the footballs were “significantly” underinflated. But what is “significantly” underinflated, given the NFL’s admitted ignorance of the operation of the Ideal Gas Law and the fact that, on one of the two pressure gauges, the measurements fell within what the Ideal Gas Law would predict? Moreover, despite his claim that ESPN quickly clarified the report, the original ESPN.com story to this very moment states that 11 of the 12 footballs were two pounds under the minimum.

Third, Mortensen fails to acknowledge that three of the four Colts footballs also were measured below the 12.5 minimum on one of the two pressure gauges, even though those footballs started the game at 13 PSI.

Fourth, Mortensen claims he didn’t suggest that the balls were tampered with. But the magnitude of the report — 11 of 12 footballs a full two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum — did the suggesting for him. Indeed, the most common reaction to Mortensen’s report was “wow, somebody tampered with the footballs,” and the only remaining questions related to who ordered it and/or who knew about it.

Fifth, Mortensen tries to shift the focus away from himself by claiming that he “never implicated” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and that the first person who did was coach Bill Belichick. Technically, Mortensen is right; his report didn’t specifically implicate Brady. But it was a damning report to the Patriots, and it turned a curiosity into a hashtag, making the decision to hire “independent” investigator Ted Wells a no-brainer and putting Belichick, Brady, and the rest of the organization squarely on the defensive until the team finally was told the truth in late March.

The truth remains that Mortensen’s sources lied to him. Instead of blaming the sources for lying to him, Mortensen is trying to create the impression that they didn’t lie to him.

So now Mortensen’s sources owe him. Big time. Here’s hoping that the stuff they give him this season and beyond is a lot more accurate.

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Concussed last week or not, Robert Griffin III is cleared to play

Robert Griffin III, Tyrunn Walker, Ezekiel Ansah AP

A week ago tonight, there was confusion regarding the question of whether Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III had been cleared to return to a preseason game against the Lions following a possible concussion. Earlier on Thursday, Griffin danced around the question of whether he actually was concussed.

Concussion or not, the team has announced that Griffin has been cleared to play in the Week Three preseason game against the Ravens.

“[A]n independent neurologist has cleared quarterback Robert Griffin III to play for Saturday’s game at Baltimore,” the team said in a release issued earlier Thursday evening.

The declaration comes after Griffin opted to defer to “the people who report that stuff,” adding that “I don’t report that stuff.”

On the surface, it seems a little goofy that Griffin didn’t know whether he had a concussion. But goofy could be the right approach for Griffin; Rodney Harrison praised the player for taking a page out of the Bill Belichick “say nothing” playbook during Thursday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN.

Click below to hear Rodney say a lot more than nothing about the situation.

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Ryan Mallett missed practice because he overslept

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Maybe Ryan Mallett hit the snooze alarm for an extra five and it never came back. Or maybe he messed up the AM/PM. Or maybe there was a separate knob for the radio alarm.

Whatever the reason, Mallett overslept today and missed practice, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Texans had previously confirmed that Mallett missed practice but refused to say why.

That doesn’t reflect well on Mallett, who lost the Texans’ quarterback competition to Brian Hoyer this week and took it hard. If Mallett ever wants to convince coach Bill O’Brien that he deserves to start, missing practice isn’t the way to do it.

There have been reports about Mallett lacking maturity going back to his college days, and his failure to get to work on time today won’t do anything to change the perception that he’s just not ready to lead an NFL team.

In the future, perhaps Mallett should arrange for a wakeup call. And try not to offend the wakeup guy.

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Josh Johnson joins Jets, Jake Heaps jettisoned

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The Jets have made a change at the bottom of the quarterback depth chart.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed with the Jets today, while rookie Jake Heaps was cut.

Johnson, who was cut by the Bengals this week, is one of the NFL’s most athletic quarterbacks, but has struggled as a passer. He has played in 29 games and thrown five touchdown passes and 10 interceptions while rushing for 274 yards. Heaps is an undrafted free agent from the University of Miami who threw one pass, an incompletion, for the Jets this preseason.

It’s unlikely that Johnson will make the Jets’ roster, but he’ll provide depth for now. While Geno Smith continues to recover from a broken jaw, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter and the backups are rookie Bryce Petty and the recently signed veteran Matt Flynn.

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NFL slated to start the season with more than 30 players suspended

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The NFL has suspended more than 30 players this offseason.

Our NFL 2015 suspension tracker currently has the names of 34 players on it, with the possibility that more suspensions could still be coming.

It’s still possible that some suspensions could be overturned. Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant is still appealing his four-game substance-abuse suspension, while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still going through the courts to battle his four-game Deflategate suspension.

The two longest suspensions handed down this offseason were the 16-game bans given to Browns receiver Josh Gordon and Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan. Some of the suspended players are little-known free agents who likely wouldn’t play in Week One anyway, but some of the noteworthy suspensions include six games for 49ers receiver Jerome Simpson, four games for Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, four games for Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, four games for Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain, four games for Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, two games for Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, one game for Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and one game for Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

In all, players have been suspended for a cumulative 159 games for the 2015 season.

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Russell Wilson has more to say about Recovery Water

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Over the past two days, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has said plenty of stuff about Recovery Water, a company in which he has invested. And most of what he has said indicates a belief by him that the product helps prevent or treat concussions.

Wilson was back at it on Thursday, extolling the virtues of a beverage with nanobubbles, which he claims helped him not get a concussion when he took a blow to the head against the Packers in January.

“I didn’t have a concussion,” Wilson told reporters, via comments distributed by the team. “I guess it was perceived wrong, but I did not have a concussion. I was saying that I had consistently been drinking the water for about a month, month and a half, you know, five to seven times a day and maybe this stuff is helping me out. It’s one of those things that I truly do believe it helps with recovery, it’s one of those things that the science behind it, all that help that they’re trying to do.”

Via Twitter on Wednesday, Wilson said that Recovery Water helped prevent him from getting a concussion, which meshes with what he said today. But what he said today conflicts with the message sent by his quotes to Rolling Stone, when he said, “I banged my head during the Packers game in the playoffs, and the next day I was fine. It was the water.”

Saying “the next day I was fine” implies that the prior day he wasn’t. Wilson said today that he was.

“I didn’t have any head injuries, but I was trying to say I think it helped prevent it,” Wilson said. “I think your brain consists of like 75 to 80 percent water so I think that just being hydrated and drinking the Recovery Water really does help.”

Under that theory, drinking any type water would help. As, possibly, would playing football while wearing not a helmet but a fishbowl.

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It sounds like Aaron Rodgers won’t play on Saturday

Packers Camp Football AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday that the Packers offense is right where it needs to be for the start of the regular season before saying he wasn’t sure how much playing time he’d get in Saturday’s game against the Eagles.

Based on what one of his backups had to say on Thursday, it sounds like he won’t get any playing time at all. The Packers have three starting offensive linemen battling injuries heading into the game, which isn’t the kind of situation you want to put Rodgers in if you can avoid it. Quarterback Matt Blanchard says that they won’t when discussing his own plans for the game.

“I know the starters aren’t going to be playing but for us, it’s our first time out on Lambeau this season,” Blanchard said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “The backups don’t normally get these type of reps. We have a lot of respect for Philly and their defense. Their starters are going to be playing a lot of time. It’s a good opportunity for Brett [Hundley] and I to get in there and see where we’re at and take advantage of it.”

Given the usual operating procedure for the final week of the preseason, it seems likely that Rodgers’s next game action will come in Week One against the Bears. Demovsky reports the team’s defensive starters are expected to play in Saturday’s game.

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Thursday’s PFT on NBCSN poll question looks at Colts, Rams

NBCSN

Week Three of the preseason includes a game between a pair of franchises that were once swapped by Robert Irsay and Carroll Rosenbloom. The Colts visit the Rams in a matchup of teams that were in Baltimore and L.A. when their pink slips were swapped.

Thursday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN bases a poll question on these two teams, asking whether it’s more likely that the Colts will make the Super Bowl or the Rams will make the playoffs.

Cast a ballot below and then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET for 30 minutes of new and analysis with Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly. It’s guaranteed to get you ready for the all-important third week of the preseason. Assuming any week of the preseason is important.

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Patriots waive/injured 2012 third-rounder Jake Bequette

Jake Bequette AP

The Patriots waived 2012 third-round pick Jake Bequette last year, but brought him back to the practice squad and then moved him from defensive end to tight end this year in an attempt to find a place for him on the roster.

That effort has come to an end. The NFL’s daily transactions report brings word that Bequette, who had been absent from practice of late, has been waived with the injured designation. If he’s not claimed, he can go on Patriots injured reserve or become a free agent after an injury settlement with the team.

Bequette was one of four players dropped from the roster on Thursday. The team announced that offensive lineman Mark Asper and linebacker Cameron Gordon have been waived and that veteran defensive tackle Antonio Johnson has been released. The team also waived defensive back Jimmy Jean on Wednesday.

All the moves leave the Patriots with several open roster spots, but they may remain unfilled with the deadline to cut rosters to 75 players coming next week.

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Terrelle Pryor not sure if he’s playing Saturday

Terrelle Pryor AP

Terrelle Pryor practiced for the Browns again on Thursday, but he’s not sure whether he’ll be in the lineup for the team’s third preseason game on Saturday.

Pryor said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that how his hamstring feels on Friday will determine whether or not he can make his first appearance of the preseason and his first game appearance since making the move to wide receiver upon joining the Browns this offseason.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said recently that Pryor’s extended absence this summer has hurt his chances of making the team, something Pryor is aware of but says won’t stop him from following the injury protocol laid out by the team.

Given the lack of potential playmakers on Cleveland’s offense, Pryor may stand a better chance than most players who have had as little to do on the field as he’s had during camp. Still, a good showing on Saturday that ends with Pryor healthy would go a long way toward extending his stay with the team.

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Eagles waive/injured Emmanuel Acho after thumb surgery

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Eagles are down one inside linebacker in the competition to make the 53-man roster.

According to multiple reports, Emmanuel Acho has been waived/injured because of a thumb injury. Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Acho’s injury required surgery.

Every team in the league will have an opportunity to claim Acho off of waivers. If no one does, he can revert to injured reserve with the Eagles or reach an injury settlement with the team that makes him a free agent.

Acho played 20 games for the Eagles the last two seasons and made two starts last year. He was competing for a backup inside linebacker job this year.

His departure leaves Brad Jones and Najee Goode in the mix for spots along with Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and third-round pick Jordan Hicks. Jones has been getting some work at outside linebacker as well, which could boost his chances of surviving the cut to 53 players.

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RG3 declines to say if he had a concussion

Robert Griffin III AP

If you were inclined to believe that Robert Griffin III didn’t really suffer a concussion in last week’s preseason game, nothing he said today would change your mind.

Griffin met with the media today for the first time since the team announced last Thursday that he had a concussion, and when he was asked directly if he actually had a concussion, Griffin wouldn’t answer.

“You’ve got to talk to the people who report that stuff. I don’t report that stuff. I was in the locker room, taking a shower, getting ready to watch the rest of the game, so I don’t know,” Griffin said.

Questions have been raised about whether the team used a concussion diagnosis as a convenient way to let Griffin dodge the media. The NFL’s media policy says that all players are required to talk to reporters after games — with the exception of players who suffered concussions.

Asked today if he suffered a concussion when he got hit on his final play, Griffin answered, “I have no idea. I just know I was in some pain, the trainers came out and that was it.”

The team couldn’t get its story straight on the night of the game about whether Griffin had a concussion, and Griffin sounded today like he wanted to wash his hands of the team’s official concussion diagnosis, without coming right out and contradicting it.

What Griffin did say is that he’s been cleared to return, and he’s planning to play Saturday. He’ll have to address the media again after that game. Unless the team says he has another concussion.

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