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How close is “close”? Making sense of where things stand

-1 Reuters

Plenty of reports suggest that, once the NFL and the players hammer out the terms of a new rookie wage scale, which as Ross Tucker astutely observes via Twitter already is a win for the owners based on the current players’ proposal, the CBA will be, for all intents and purposes, a done deal.  But then there are those scattered quotes and reports suggesting that things aren’t quite as simple as bridging a fairly narrow gap between the league’s plan and the players’ proposal for paying first-rounders in year five.

“All that is hype coming from the owners side to try and put pressure on us to do a deal,” an unnamed player told Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, as Rosenthal pointed out Monday.  “They want to make us look bad.  It’s simply not true.  There is a lot of work to be done.  They are not close.  Consider where that information is coming from, it’s the owners.  Their reason is to try and create all this false hope to put more pressure on us.”

The unnamed player added that he’ll be “shocked” if a deal is completed within the next 10 days.

So where do things really stand?  Are the owners leaking selectively information to the media in order to create a false tidal wave of inevitability that will sweep the NFLPA* toward a new CBA?  Or is the NFLPA* privately painting the gaps as significant in order to avoid a genuine tidal wave of inevitability long enough to negotiate favorable terms on the final points?

We’ve been beating the bushes to get more information, and for now it appears that, indeed, it’s all coming down to the rookie wage scale.  And each passing day is making it less likely that big money will be spent on free agents.

Sure, the teams will have to spend money in 2011, as the salary floor moves higher than ever under the new CBA.  But to the extent that a compressed time frame prevents a curve-blowing feeding frenzy, teams will be able to spend more carefully and deliberately, holding back some money for the purposes of extending the contracts of young players during the regular season.

But if the league’s goal is to have a long-term win-win deal, there’s every reason to compromise on the issue of compensation for first-round picks in year five of their first contracts.  The solution already sweeps more broadly than the problem.  It’s time to find a way to close this thing, before the excruciatingly slow process of resolving the lockout does real damage to the shield by impacting the quality of play early in the 2011 campaign.

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Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount play into fourth quarter vs. Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

On the same day they were cited for marijuana possession, Steelers tailbacks Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount both played into the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh’s 31-21 preseason loss at Philadelphia.

Bell (nine rushes, 23 yards) and Blount (seven rushes, 32 yards) were the only Steelers tailbacks to carry the ball against the Eagles.

Afterwards, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shed some light on why Bell and Blount played.

“From my perspective, in terms of their participation tonight, I didn’t view it as punishment to send them home to be quite honest with you, to not play in this preseason game. I would rather them play more than anticipated than to remove them from the game,” Tomlin said, according to a transcript of his remarks from the club. “That’s why we took the stance that we took tonight.”

Tomlin called the Bell and Blount incident “conduct  . . . detrimental to our efforts. They’ll be dealt with appropriately.”

However, Tomlin said the club’s lackluster play Thursday night wasn’t related to the backs’ legal issues.

“We are not going to make any excuse for that performance. We are going to own that. What happened yesterday had nothing to do with how we performed tonight,” Tomlin said.

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Justin Britt looks set to win Seahawks starting right tackle job

San Diego Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks hoped Justin Britt would develop into their starting right tackle when they selected him in the second round of the draft out of the University of Missouri in May.

Turns out he may ascend to the starting role even earlier than anticipated.

Britt appears set to win the job over veteran tackle Eric Winston to replace departed starter Breno Giacomini. After an up and down preseason debut against the Denver Broncos, Britt fared much better against the San Diego Chargers last week. Seattle’s coaching staff has been pleased with Britt’s progress throughout the preseason and signs are pointing toward him starting the season opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 4.

“His progress has been really solid,” head coach Pete Carroll said Thursday. “He’s making great strides to be a legitimate starter. I’ve said before it’s all in his makeup that really kind of substantiates that he’s able to do this and handle this so it’s gone great so far”

The right tackle job has been one of few truly open competitions for starting roles on the Seahawks this offseason.

Britt was initially expected to be in competition for the job with second-year player Michael Bowie.

Bowie stated eight games as a rookie for Seattle with seven starts coming at right tackle. However, Bowie showed up to training camp 20 pounds overweight, according to Carroll. He then suffered a shoulder injury that would require surgery and was waived/injured by Seattle before being claimed by the Cleveland Browns.

Once Bowie injured his shoulder, the Seahawks signed Winston to a one-year deal to compete with Britt for the job. Up until this point, Britt has predominantly worked with the first-team offense for the entirety of training camp. If he’s able to put together another strong performance against the Chicago Bears on Friday night, the starting job will certainly be his for the taking.

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Steelers’ starters struggle in tune-up at Philadelphia

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Last season, the Steelers were compromised by an 0-4 start.

And with the regular season a little more than two weeks away, it’s clear the 2014 Steelers have some things to clean up before the gates open.

In Thursday night’s 31-21 loss at Philadelphia, the Steelers surrendered 482 yards. Eagles star tailback LeSean McCoy riddled the Steelers for 50 yards on six touches in the first quarter, and Philadelphia quarterbacks combined to complete 31-of-43 attempts for 309 yards for the game.

The Steelers’ first-team offense didn’t manage a single point until about four minutes left in the third quarter, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a 27-yard TD pass to tight end Heath Miller. By then, though, the Eagles’ defense was playing backups.

With Roethlisberger still a blue-chip quarterback, the Steelers’ offense should be a strength this season. And on their best, the Steelers are quite capable of garnering their first playoff spot since 2011.

But Thursday’s loss had to be an uncomfortable one for Pittsburgh. Yes, the game didn’t count, but here was an elite offense making Pittsburgh look . . . well, pedestrian. Maybe it’s nothing. But even if it’s nothing, it was a cringeworthy nothing.

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Jason Worilds leaves with knee injury

Jason Worilds AP

Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds has been ruled out for the remainder of Thursday’s preseason game at Philadelphia with a right knee injury, the club said.

Worilds was credited with a sack of Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez early in the third quarter, but the play was nullified by a penalty. On the next play, Worilds appeared to be no longer in the game, and the Eagles scored a touchdown. The Steelers then ruled him out the rest of the way.

The 26-year-old Worilds had a breakout 2013 season, recording a career-high eight sacks. He’s playing under the one-year transition tender.

The Steelers have not played well in their third exhibition game of the summer, and starters have played well into the third quarer on both sides of the ball.

UPDATE 9:56 p.m. ET: Ken Laird of TribLive Radio in Pittsburgh reports Worilds was icing his knee.

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X-rays negative on LeSean McCoy’s thumb

McCoy AP

A sprain, not a break.

That’s the word on tailback LeSean McCoy’s right thumb.

According to the Eagles, X-rays on McCoy’s thumb came back negative, and he has been ruled out of the rest of Thursday’s exhibition against Pittsburgh.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports the injury is a sprain.

McCoy racked up 24 yards rushing on just four carries and caught a 22-yard TD pass in the first quarter before departing to get his thumb examined. He does not figure to play much, if at all, in the team’s final preseason game next Thursday.

The Eagles begin the regular season on Sunday, September 7 vs. Jacksonville.

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After scary moment, Jeremy Maclin returns to game

Jeremy Maclin AP

In what looks to be a good turn of luck for a player who’s coming back from a right knee injury that sidelined him last season, Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin stayed in Thursday’s exhibition vs. Pittsburgh after momentarily looking to have injured the leg again.

With about 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Maclin went down trying to make a sharp cut, and he grabbed his knee as he lay on the ground. However, Maclin reportedly was able to get up and walk off the field, and he was then seen walking on the sideline.

Then — happily — Maclin was back on the field on the Eagles’ next series. And he even started the drive with a nine-yard catch. In the end, it appeared to be just a brief scare for Maclin, one of the club’s key passing game players.

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Adrian Peterson misses a pair of practices

Peterson AP

The Vikings don’t plan to use running back Adrian Peterson much, if at all, during the preseason.  For the past two days, they haven’t used him at all during practice.

According to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Peterson has missed practice the last two days due to an undisclosed personal matter.  He is expected to travel to Kansas City with the Vikings for the team’s third preseason game of 2014.

Peterson hasn’t touched the football during the preseason since 2011, when he had 14 carries for 81 yards during the third preseason game, against the Cowboys.

This year, the Vikings have their first new offense since 2011.  It could take some time for Peterson to get comfortable in the attack, given the absence of preseason reps.

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LeSean McCoy returns to sideline after having right thumb X-rayed

LeSean McCoy AP

Eagles tailback LeSean McCoy left the club’s sideline in the first quarter of Thursday’s exhibition vs. Pittsburgh to get X-rays on his right thumb, the club’s official Twitter feed said.

The club said McCoy’s return was “unknown.” He was not on the field when the Eagles got the ball back late in the first quarter.

Before going inside to get checked out, McCoy showed no ill-effects from a toe injury that’s bothered him, racking up 50 yards on six touches. On his final play before departing, McCoy turned a short reception into a 22-yard TD.

Now, the focus turns to whether he’s suffered a hand injury. Perhaps of note: he was able to palm the ball with his right hand as he celebrated in the endzone right after the touchdown.

UPDATE 8:25 p.m. ET: Here’s some promising news for Eagles fans: Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports McCoy is having his hand taped on the Eagles’ sideline. And according to Jeff Darlington of NFL Media, McCoy still is wearing his pads.

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Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount both see action early for Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

As expected, the Steelers didn’t bench Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount for Thursday’s exhibition at Philadelphia after both were cited for marijuana possession.

In fact, Bell started and Blount played on the Steelers’ first drive. And it was an especially eventful drive for Bell, who rushed three times for 11 yards while dishing out and taking a good deal of punishment. While he showed excellent power finishing out a seven-yard run, he later took a hit to the head/neck area from Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans on a passing play.

Ryans was penalized on the play, and Bell left for one snap, giving way to Blount, who rushed for five yards on his first carry. However, Bell then re-entered the contest. The Steelers’ drive would end in a punt.

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Griffin stands by his “doubters” tweet

Griffin AP

Some folks conjure imaginary friends.  Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has crafted some imaginary enemies.  On Wednesday, he chastised his unidentified — and possibly non-existent — “doubters” via Twitter.  On Thursday, Griffin dug in even deeper.

“As far as I’m concerned, I said what I needed to say,” Griffin said Thursday, via the Associated Press.  “It is what I believe, and what our household deems necessary to go out every day and be successful.”

Griffin added that he’ll continue to periodically communicate through Twitter, reasoning that his followers follow him for a reason.

“There are 1.1 million people on Twitter that want to hear what [I] have to say,” Griffin said, going scoreboard on his seven-figure collection of Twitter users who receive any and all of his tweets and retweets.  “And it’s not that we tweet all the time, but anytime we tweet something it gets blown up, but it is what it is.”

If Griffin has concocted a narrative that many doubt him in order to provide extra motivation for himself and his teammates, that’s fine.  The perception that he’s thin-skinned, however, will serve as chum in the Internet shark tank, inviting plenty of real doubt, hate, and vitriol to replace the exaggerated and/or fabricated collection of criticism that prompted his tweet.

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Chris Polk out for Eagles on Thursday night; Lance Moore expected to sit for Steelers

Chris Polk AP

The Eagles and Steelers will be several players short on Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (hamstring), wide receiver Josh Huff (shoulder), linebacker Jake Knott (hamstring), tailback Chris Polk (hamstring), wide receiver Brad Smith (hamstring) and center Julian Vandervelde (back) will not play, the club’s website reported.

Polk, a second-year pro from Washington, is in a competition for a roster spot in a crowded RB corps.

The Steelers have announced the following players are not expected to play: wide receiver Lance Moore (undisclosed), tight end Eric Waters (concussion), center/offensive guard Cody Wallace (finger), long-snapper Greg Warren (knee), safety Will Allen (hamstring), running back Tauren Poole (hamstring), fullback Will Johnson (hamstring), wide receiver Shaquille Richardson (knee), linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (undisclosed).

UPDATE 6:51 p.m. ET: According to Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Eagles cornerback Cary Williams will also miss tonight’s game.

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Marrone mad after Bills brawl at practice for second straight day

Marrone Getty Images

Bills coach Doug Marrone said after fights broke out at Wednesday’s that he didn’t want to see that anymore. Apparently his players weren’t listening.

More fights broke out at today’s practice, and Marrone was not pleased. Marrone yelled at players for getting into it, and when defensive end Jerry Hughes said something back to his coach, Marrone went off, spewing profanity at Hughes and asking, “Do you want to play on this team?

Marrone also told Hughes, “If you’ve got a problem with me, you need to come and tell me.” The two talked after practice, and Marrone later said Hughes wasn’t the only one he was disappointed with.

“That’s directed at anyone who doesn’t want to be part of the team,” Marrone said. “I told Jerry that I love the way he practices and I love the way he plays special teams and how he goes about it. And we’ve got to get some other guys who are starters to do that.”

Some coaches believe that fights at training camp can be a good sign of a tough team, but Marrone doesn’t see it that way.

“I’m going to say it again, and I’m not going to answer another question on it: We’re responsible for the integrity of the game,” Marrone said, via ESPN. “Can you figure it out? Figure it out. We’re responsible for the integrity of the game. There is no use for fighting in the game of football. Period. End of discussion. Move on.”

Marrone sounds ready to move on from a fight-filled training camp, which concluded with today’s practice.

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Derek Carr won’t play this week

Derek Carr, George Johnson, Andre Fluellen AP

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr made a quick return to practice after suffering a concussion and rib injury during last weekend’s game against the Lions, but he hasn’t recovered enough for the team to play him against the Packers.

Steve Wyche of NFL Media reports that coach Dennis Allen said that Carr won’t play on Friday night because his bruised ribs are still sore. Allen added that Carr has been cleared after his concussion.

The injury likely eliminates what little chance Carr had of starting for the Raiders when they face the Jets in Week One. Barring an injury of his own, you can put Matt Schaub’s name into the lineup for that game.

His performance there and in the following weeks will determine how long it is before Carr gets his chance to lead the Raiders offense. If Schaub looks anything like he did with the Texans last season, it probably won’t be long.

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Report: Steelers want to sign Cortez Allen to new contract

Cortez Allen AP

The Steelers are reportedly efforting to sign one of their starting defensive backs to a contract extension.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the team wants to sign cornerback Cortez Allen to a new deal.

The 25-year-old Allen is in the final year of his contract. He has appeared in 44 games in three seasons with Pittsburgh, notching 121 tackles, defending 23 passes and recording four interceptions.

As a general rule, the Steelers don’t negotiate contracts during the regular season, so if Allen and Pittsburgh are to finalize a deal this year, it will have to be soon. Earlier this week, the club signed offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert to a five-year, $30 million contract.

The Steelers have long had a knack for signing their core players before they hit unrestricted free agency. Allen, who’s entering his prime, could draw quite a bit of interest next offseason, given his age and the demand for his position. But it appears Pittsburgh is working to strike a deal now.

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Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount officially charged with marijuana possession

Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount AP

Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are in Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Thursday, but they were in Pittsburgh on Wednesday when police found marijuana in a car the two men were in.

They were arrested and, on Thursday, formally charged with crimes. Ross Township Police detective Brian Kohlhepp informed PFT that Blount and Bell are both charged with marijuana possession, as was Mercedes Dollson, a 21-year-old woman who was also in the car at the time of the stop.

Bell, who was driving, has also been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.

There’s no word on court dates at this point and the cases should take some time to make their way through the legal system. Until they do, it is unlikely that either player will face league discipline that could threaten their availability for games this season.

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