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Report: Gus Johnson still could stay with CBS

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Earlier today, Richard Deitsch of SI.com reported that play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson has left CBS.

Now, Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News calls Deitsch’s report “premature.”

Raissman reports that, as Deitsch reported, Johnson’s deal with CBS has expired.  Raissman reports that Johnson has received an offer from FOX to handle NFL and Pac-12 play-by-play duties.  But Raissman also reports that the offer from FOX has not yet been presented to CBS, and that CBS will have one week to match it.

Raissman fails to explain whether Johnson is contractually obligated to give CBS an opportunity to match, or whether Johnson is merely shopping the FOX offer.

Given the conflicting reports, it would make sense for Johnson or his agent to set the record straight sooner rather than later.

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Rashard Mendenhall loses endorsement deal with Champion

Rashard Mendenhall AP

The athletic apparel company Champion has decided it no longer wants to be associated with Rashard Mendenhall, days after Mendenhall wrote on Twitter that he didn’t believe hijacked planes caused the collapse of the World Trade Center, and that people shouldn’t celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.

“Earlier this week, Rashard Mendenhall, who endorses Champion products, expressed personal comments and opinions regarding Osama bin Laden and the September 11 terrorist attacks that were inconsistent with the values of the Champion brand and with which we strongly disagreed,” the company said in a statement, via Michael McCarthy of USA Today. “In light of these comments, Champion was obliged to conduct a business assessment to determine whether Mr. Mendenhall could continue to effectively communicate on behalf of and represent Champion with consumers. While we respect Mr. Mendenhall’s right to express sincere thoughts regarding potentially controversial topics, we no longer believe that Mr. Mendenhall can appropriately represent Champion and we have notified Mr. Mendenhall that we are ending our business relationship.”

It’s commendable that Champion noted in its statement that Mendenhall has a right to express his beliefs. No one can take away Mendenhall’s First Amendment right to make the comments he made.

But when you’re a celebrity endorser, your ability to do that job effectively is directly related to how much people like you. People just don’t like Mendenhall very much right now, and therefore it’s no surprise that a company doesn’t want its products associated with him.

Mendenhall took a step in the right direction when he offered an apology this week and attempted to expand upon his beliefs that celebrating the death of anyone is wrong. But Mendenhall has still not backed away from (or even explained) the bizarre 9/11 conspiracy theory tweet that he later deleted. That tweet was offensive to many, and it should serve as a cautionary tale to other professional athletes about how easy it is to lose an endorsement in 140 characters.

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NFL teams consider signing Mark Herzlich, research Lance Armstrong

Draft Herzlich Football AP

Former Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich, the 2008 ACC defensive player of the year who missed all of 2009 while battling cancer, returned to football in 2010 and then was passed over in last week’s NFL draft, has cited Lance Armstrong as an inspiration. Now NFL teams may examine Armstrong as a guide to what they could expect from Herzlich as an undrafted free agent.

According to Jason La Canfora of NFL Network, teams considering signing Herzlich have reached out to Armstrong and his doctors to learn more about how elite athletes respond to chemotherapy. What they’ve been told is that it can take 18 months for an athlete who’s gone through chemo to get back to full speed.

For Herzlich’s NFL hopes, an 18-month time frame for complete recovery from chemo would be a great sign: It would suggest that he should continue to improve after battling cancer in 2009 and become a better player than he was on the field for Boston College in 2010.

Herzlich can’t sign with any NFL team until the lockout ends, but when he is able to sign, he’s expected to get a shot to prove himself at a training camp or on a practice squad roster. If Armstrong’s recovery from chemotherapy is any indication, Herzlich still has a real chance to regain his 2008 form on the football field.

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Reche Caldwell arrested for marijuana possession

reche-caldwell

Former NFL wide receiver Reche Caldwell has been arrested for possession of marijuana.

The Gainesville Sun reports that Caldwell was arrested early Thursday morning in Hillsborough County, Florida, for possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis and driving with a canceled/suspended/revoked license.

Caldwell was released on a $750 cash bond.

After playing three years at Florida, Caldwell was a second-round draft pick of the Chargers in 2002, and he played four years in San Diego. His most productive season came in 2006 with the Patriots, when he had 61 catches for 760 yards and four touchdowns. His last year in the league was 2007 with the Redskins.

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Hines Ward: Police who stopped me just doing their jobs

Hines Ward AP

Some people who were handcuffed by police at gunpoint over a misunderstanding would cry foul and say they were mistreated. Hines Ward is not one of those people.

Instead, Ward is making a point of letting his fans know that the police who stopped him early this morning did nothing improper. Ward posted a brief note to his fans on Facebook, saying that everything was OK.

“The incident in the news that involved me getting pulled over. I want everyone to know that this was a complete misunderstanding,” Ward wrote. “The police were just doing their job. Apologies were made and it’s now in the past. Moving forward.”

Ward, the Steelers receiver who’s a contestant this season on Dancing With the Stars, was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by the Los Angeles Police Department, and he was handcuffed while officers checked whether it was stolen. In reality, the driver had reported it stolen after a valet couldn’t produce it, then failed to report that it wasn’t stolen when the valet eventually found it.

Ward’s comments stand in contrast to those of Titans running back Chris Johnson, who also used social media this week to discuss an incident when police questioned him even though he did nothing wrong. While Johnson suggested that he was targeted because he’s young, black and rich, Ward has a more magnanimous reaction to his own encounter with police.

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Rick Smith updates the state of the Texans

Texans G.M. Rick Smith joined PFT Live Thursday to update us on the direction of the franchise he helps to run.

Basically, the defense has completely changed philosophy.  But Smith wants to maintain the productivity the offense has enjoyed in recent years.

Smith expects Matt Schaub to be their franchise quarterback indefinitely, and didn’t sound to be in a hurry to take Arian Foster off the field more in hopes of reducing the wear and tear on him.

For all of Thursday’s PFT Live segments, including Rex Ryan’s full interview, head over the to the PFT Live homepage.  Or download the show on iTunes.

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Martz on Bears future: “I’m sure it will work out”

Mike Martz AP

We told you recently that Mike Martz declined a contract extension because it didn’t give him a raise, and that his deal runs out after the 2011 season.

Martz says he’s not overly worried.

“I have a representative in Bob LaMonte who’s the best at what he does,” Martz told Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.  “I just do whatever he tells me to.  He doesn’t tell me how to coach, and I don’t tell him how to negotiate. But he knows how badly I want to be here, and I would like an extension. I don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’ll work out.”

Martz, as is his custom, was fired up about the Bears’ recent draft picks.

On Gabe Carimi: “[Carimi] has too many pluses.  It’s hard to find a nick on him.”

On fifth-round QB Nathan Enderle: “We didn’t draft [Enderle] to be the third quarterback.  If that was the case, then there was no reason to draft a quarterback.”

In this year-to-year league, Martz’s market value could rise or fall dramatically based on how the 2011 Bears finish.  He would have quite a bit of leverage if Jay Cutler continue to progress; the Bears are investing too much in the Martz system.

At this point, we’d guess that Lovie Smith is going to sink or swim with Martz by his side.

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Rex Ryan says Jets won’t play second fiddle to Giants

Rex Ryan AP

During his Thursday visit to PFT Live, part of the effort to promote Play Like You Mean It, Jets coach Rex Ryan addressed the growing sense of rivalry between the two teams that share a stadium in New Jersey.

Ryan says that “people see where the Jets are heading,” and that they’re not happy “playing second fiddle” to the Giants.

Still, Ryan says he’d much rather beat the Patriots than the Giants.

He’ll get two cracks at both teams this year, with the usual home-and-home against the Pats and a preseason and regular-season contest against the Giants.

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Gus Johnson out at CBS

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Earlier today, many were surprised to learn that Mike Mayock will be joined not by Gus Johnson but by Brad Nessler in the NFL Network broadcast booth.

But there’s an even bigger surprise, courtesy of Richard Deitsch of SI.com.  Johnson, a high-energy announcer who calls NFL and NCAA basketball games, has left CBS after the network and Johnson couldn’t work out a new deal.

Deitsch reports, citing unnamed industry sources, that Johnson has discussed possible employment with FOX Sports in its college football coverage.  Surely, FOX would consider Johnson for its Sunday NFL slate of games, and pretty much any other sport FOX televises.

The move comes at a time when Johnson’s star has continued to rise, and it’s possible he wanted more money and/or a larger profile than CBS would or could provide.  With Jim Nantz entrenched as the voice of CBS, Johnson could rise only so far.  Whether he’ll rise (and fire) even higher with another network remains to be seen.

UPDATE:  Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News reports that Johnson still could work out a new deal with CBS.

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Bruschi, Fisher will scale Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Former Titans coach Jeff Fisher won’t be working in 2011.  But it doesn’t mean he won’t be working.

Fisher, former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, and former NFL receiver Chad Lewis will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro later this month, along with four injured members of the armed services.  The effort aims at raising awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization with a mission of honoring and empowering wounded service members.

Making the climb with Fisher, Bruschi, and Lewis will be Bryan Wagner of Exeter, California and Ben Lunak of Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Each man lost a leg while serving in the line of duty.  Also participating will be Mike Wilson of Annapolis, Maryland, who suffers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and Nancy Schiliro of Hartsdale, New York, who lost an eye while serving the country.

“Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro will be memorable, but to be able to experience it with service members that have sacrificed so much for our country is what I’m truly looking forward to,” Bruschi said in a statement released by the NFL.  “These men and women are beyond inspiring, and I am thankful to the NFL for this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The climb begins on May 13.  The group’s progress will be updated at www.believeinheroes.org as well as http://on.fb.me/believeinheroes.  Fans will also have opportunities to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.

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Packers turned down hometown discount, Cullen Jenkins expects to go

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After seven years on the Packers’ defensive line, Cullen Jenkins assumes he’ll sign elsewhere in free agency.

Jenkins repeated Wednesday what he has previously said, that he wanted to stay in Green Bay enough that he offered last year to take less money to stay with the Packers than he thought he could make in free agency, but the Packers weren’t interested.

“Heading into last year, I’ve always been up there and always been a Packer, and I wanted to stay a Packer,” Jenkins said, per Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. “So we approached the team and wanted to get some type of security, some type of longer-term deal before the season so I would know I would be there. It wasn’t about money, it was about security, about trying to see if we could work something out.”

When asked if he would have given the Packers a hometown discount, Jenkins said, “Yeah. That was the thought then. I knew in going to them, I know Green Bay, I know the market, I know how they handle business, and the thought was if we could get something reasonable worked out, I knew I would take less than what I could’ve gotten in free agency. But they never approached me with anything and never got any type of negotiations going. It’s just how the business is. They had a lot of younger guys and felt they could move forward in that direction.”

So Jenkins expects to sign with another team, whenever free agents are allowed to sign with teams. He may not have to move his family too far, as the Bears are thought to be interested.

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Cowboys tackle Colombo has $500,000 roster bonus coming

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The Dallas Cowboys used the ninth overall pick in the draft on USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith.

And they’re probably going to show his predecessor the door.

According to FOX Sports’ Adam Caplan, incumbent Cowboys right tackle Marc Colombo is due a $500,000 roster bonus over the next few months. Add that $500k to Colombo’s $1.9 million base salary, and it’s probably too much for a backup offensive lineman coming off a dismal season.

The Cowboys should be able to retain left tackle Doug Free because he’s a tendered restricted free agent per 2010 uncapped year rules. Free and Smith will be the starters.

The organization is also high on 2010 sixth-round pick Sam Young, who could move into a “swing” tackle role behind Free and Smith. Former third-round pick Robert Brewster is another reserve option.

Colombo and free agent Alex Barron, who held the swing role last year, aren’t expected back.

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PFT Live: Will the Vikings have to move?

Mike Florio kicks off the latest edition of PFT Live with an update on the Vikings’ stadium situation. He says that if the Vikings don’t get a new stadium, they could be destined to end up in Los Angeles. Florio also talks about the NFL Network’s new team of Mike Mayock and Brad Nessler and Ryan Mallet’s vow of revenge against the Dolphins.

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PFT Live: Is Mark Sanchez a leader?

While waiting for Jets head coach Rex Ryan to call in and join the show, Mike Florio talks about the Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez and says that he thinks he may be embracing a leadership role, and that’s a good thing for the Jets. He also gives an update on the lockout and more.

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PFT Live: Ryan wants to be top dogs in New York

Jets head coach Rex Ryan joins Mike Florio and talks about his team’s rivalry with the Giants. Ryan says that he doesn’t want to play second fiddle to the other New York team. He also talks about his coaching style and says that his love of the game of football is probably stronger than any other coach in the league. And talking about his QB Mark Sanchez, Ryan says that he has the best work ethic of anyone he’s ever seen.

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