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10 claps for Randy Moss

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We’ll accept Randy Moss at his word (for now) that he won’t be returning to the NFL.  And so it’s an appropriate time to reflect on his 13-year career.  Though Moss had more than his fair share of low moments, we’ll accentuate the positive (for now).

And there was plenty of positive.

So here’s one clap for Moss.  Ten different times.

Here are our (or at least my) 10 favorite Randy Moss memories, in chronological order.

1.  September 6, 1998.  Versus Tampa Bay.

Moss arrived from Marshall, which at the time had just moved from Division I-AA to low-level Division I-A.  And despite the large gap between the MAC and the NFL, Moss vowed to come to the pro game and “rip it up.”

He made good on that promise from the first game of his career.

Visiting the Metrodome, the Bucs opted not to use double coverage against the unproven player.  Four catches, 95 yards, two touchdowns, and a 31-7 score later, the Bucs wished they had.

2.  October 5, 1998.  At Green Bay.

The Packers, two-time defending NFC champions, hosted the upstart Vikings in a Monday night game at Lambeau Field.  It was widely expected that Brett Favre and company would put Moss and his cohorts in their place.

What unfolded instead was something former Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick would call a “game for the ages,” via the rookie’s official coming-out party on football’s national stage.

Moss racked up 190 yards on only five catches, adding two touchdowns in a 37-24 romp that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score suggested.

3.  November 26, 1998.  At Dallas.

Like many teams, the Cowboys made the mistake of passing on Moss in the first round of the 1998 draft.  Unlike every other team, the Cowboys told Moss they’d be picking him.

And so that huge shoulder chip Moss carried throughout his rookie season grew even bigger when he showed up in Texas Stadium and delivered three touchdowns on only three catches, averaging nearly 55 yards per reception.

Two of those came out of what would become routine — Moss running deep and coming up with the ball, even with one or two guys trying to keep it from happening.  The third featured Moss catching a short pass and then exploding down the sideline with the kind of burst rarely seen from someone whose hair isn’t on fire.

4.  December 12, 1999.  At Kansas City.

The Vikings of 1998 won 15 of 16 regular-season games, petering out in the NFC Championship at home.  The next season was, in comparison, disappointing, with the Vikings digging an early 1-2 hole and falling to 2-4 before waking up, thanks to the decision to bench Randall Cunningham and rely on Jeff George.

Traveling to Kansas City for a Sunday night game and clinging to playoff hopes with a 7-5 record, the Vikings fell behind the Chiefs, 21-0.  The Vikings tied the game in the third quarter at 21 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from George to Moss.  After a fumble by George was returned 44 yards for a touchdown and a fumble by Moss at the Chiefs’ seven with barely four minutes to play ended a scoring threat, the Vikings held the Chiefs.

Moss lined up deep, received the punt, and ran largely untouched 64 yards for the game-tying score.

But for a late field goal by the Chiefs to win the game, it would have been remembered as one of the biggest regular-season wins in Vikings history.

5.  October 1, 2000.  At Detroit.

On ESPN’s NFL Matchup, Merril Hoge became the first analyst to mention what many had noticed.  When the ball isn’t coming to Moss, he tends to loaf.

Moss responded that same week by catching seven passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 win at Detroit.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard somebody criticize me,” Moss said after the game.

It wouldn’t be the last.  Ironically, however, it was Hoge who spoke out on behalf of Moss after Moss was criticized in 2009 for, you guessed it, loafing when the ball didn’t come his way.

6.  January 9, 2005.  At Green Bay.

Swept by the Packers via identical 34-31 scores during the season but back in the playoffs for the first time since a 41-0 Meltdown in the Meadowlands in January 2001, no one expected the Vikings to go to Lambeau and win.

But win they did, with Moss poofing out his afro and catching two touchdown passes, including the unforgettable faux mooning that left Joe Buck appalled and triggered a $10,000 fine.

And, of course, that fine gave rise to Randy’s “straight cash homey” catch phrase, along with an even more entertaining description of what his next touchdown celebration may entail.

7.  November 18, 2007.  At Buffalo.

The win over the Packers would be Moss’ last victory during his first stint with the Vikings.  Traded to Oakland in early 2005, Moss disappeared for two seasons.  With everyone assuming Moss was washed up, the Patriots stole him for a fourth-round draft pick during the 2007 draft.

And then Moss would only go on to have one of the greatest single seasons for any receiver of all time.

The highlight of the 23-touchdown effort came against the Bills.  For the first and only time in his career, Moss scored four touchdowns in one game, via 10 catches for 128 yards during a 56-10 romp.

8.  The 2008 season.

After quarterback Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL during the first game of the season, Moss could have mentally checked out.

But he didn’t.

Even though the Patriots ultimately failed to make the playoffs (despite winning 11 games), his decision to remain focused and committed with Matt Cassel at quarterback demonstrated a level of maturity that, unfortunately, was the exception and not the rule.  He’d finish with 11 touchdowns, less than half of his record-setting total in 2007, but Moss was a good soldier during what turned out to be a bad year.

9.  September 19, 2010.  At New York Jets.

Dubbed a “slouch” in the offseason by All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, Moss got a chance to show Revis what a slouch can do.

Drawing single coverage from Darrelle with one minute to play in the first half of a 7-7 tie, Moss blew by Revis and made an incredible one-handed catch in the end zone.

Revis would reinjure a hamstring on the play and miss the second half of the eventual Jets win, plus the next two games.

10.  October 11, 2010.  At New York Jets.

Only three weeks later, Moss was back in New York for the first game of his second tour with the Vikings.

With Antonio Cromartie holding him in check for much of the game, Moss eventually got behind the coverage for a 37-yard rainbow from Brett Favre, his 500th career touchdown pass.

The play gave Vikings fans flashbacks to 1998, even though coach Brad Childress would dump Moss only three weeks later. . . .

Before Super Bowl XLII, Moss said he didn’t really know how he wanted to be remembered.  And that’s fitting, because many football fans don’t really know how they’ll remember him.  Even though I’ll remember plenty of the bad things, including a stubborn, play-when-I-wanna-play unwillingness to get the absolute most out of a God-given skill set that superseded even Jerry Rice’s, it will be hard to forget these 10 moments, along with plenty of other great things he did on the field.

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Report: Marshawn Lynch ending holdout

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It looks like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has decided not to be all about that holdout, boss.

Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Lynch is expected to end his holdout in the next 24 hours and report to work with the Seahawks.

Per the report, Lynch will not be receiving a new deal from the Seahawks to replace the two years he has left on his current pact or any added money. He will be receiving “financial concessions” on his current deal, however. Those concessions are not spelled out, but could involve the Seahawks waiving the nearly $500,000 in fines that Lynch has accrued during his absence from training camp.

Lynch’s return should allow the Seahawks to return to business as usual on offense, although there’s a chance that Christine Michael will see more time in the backfield this season as Seattle begins to plan for a future without Beast Mode.

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Falcons DT Peria Jerry to retire

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Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, the club’s first-round pick in 2009, will retire, the team announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old Jerry recorded 67 tackles and 5.5 sacks in five seasons with Atlanta. The club re-signed him in March. Overall, Jerry played in 64 games, making 29 starts. He missed 14 games of his rookie season after suffering a knee injury that required surgery.

The Falcons invested heavily in their defensive line in the offseason, signing nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson and drafting defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman in Round Two. The club has transitioned to a 3-4 scheme after employing a base 4-3 defense in previous years.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict negotiations with Bengals hit impasse

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There were optimistic signs about the state of negotiations on an extension for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, but it has been a while since the last one and the latest word isn’t as sunny.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that talks between the team and Burfict have hit an impasse. There’s no word on whether the talks will continue in hopes of finding a way around said impasse, but, for now, it appears things will be in a holding pattern.

Burfict is entering the final year of the three-year pact he signed as an undrafted free agent and will become a restricted free agent after the season as long as the Bengals tender him a qualifying offer. That seems like the very least they’ll do after striking gold with Burfict, who fell out of the draft because of character concerns and responded by leading the NFL in tackles during his second season.

Another year like that would only drive Burfict’s price up on a long-term deal, which may mean the issue now is that the Bengals haven’t come up with an offer big enough for Burfict to pass up on the chance for more money down the road. If that’s the case, the deal may have to wait a while because Burfict’s restricted free agent status means he won’t be leaving the team unless the Bengals don’t want him anymore.

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PFT on NBCSN invades Saints camp

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Pro Football Talk on NBCSN has moved temporarily (and technically partially) to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for a two-day visit to Saints camp.  I’ve made the drive to The Greenbrier, toured the impressive practice facility (including a world-class weight room outfitted with Rogue equipment), watched practice, heard several Rob Ryan “F” bombs (but not nearly enough), rooted for fights, and interviewed six key figures from the organization.

From coach Sean Payton to quarterback Drew Brees to safety Kenny Vaccaro to defensive end Cam Jordan to running back Pierre Thomas to receiver Marques Colston, we obtained a good look at where the Saints are, and where they’re going.

Tune in tonight for portions of the Payton, Brees, and Vaccaro interviews.  The full Payton interview was included in Thursday’s PFT Live; the other five will be used in full on Friday.

Until the show begins at 5:30 p.m. ET, cast your vote in today’s poll question.  Which coincidentally relates to the Saints.

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Browns say Johnny Manizel will work with first team soon

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Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel said Thursday that he’s a better player in games than he is in practice because of an increased freedom to improvise, something that won’t help him all that much if he can’t get on the field.

It sounds like Manziel will have a chance to grab that playing time soon. Head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan both said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that they plan to give Manziel reps with the first team soon. They also said that it would be wrong to read too much into Brian Hoyer getting the first shot with the first team, because, per Pettine, Manziel is further along mentally than the team thought he’d be and because neither quarterback has done anything to speed up the decision-making process..

“I don’t think one is ahead of the other,” Shanahan said. “I hope one will make the decision easy on us.”

If Manziel doesn’t do that, Shanahan said that he’ll have a package of plays ready for the rookie quarterback to run in the opening week of the season in the event the team decides to use both quarterbacks in that week’s game plan. The chances of that happening will be higher if Manziel performs well once his chance with the starters does come.

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NFLPA monitoring evidence of collusion in light of cap increases

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In recent years, the salary cap hasn’t been going up by much.  Which means spending hasn’t been going up much.  With the cap going up, spending should go up, too.  And the NFLPA is making sure that other forces, such as collusion, won’t be holding spending down.

Per a league source, the union conducted an informal conference call with a group of agents on Thursday to explore the question of whether any agents believe collusion is occurring.  During the call, no agent came forward with any specific proof or allegation about collusive behavior in the marketplace.  And for good reason; this year saw a record number of free-agent signings and total spending.

Still, with the cap going up $10 million per team this year and expected to continue to spike annually, the NFLPA will continue to monitor the situation, with specific attention being paid to veteran players who are cut with the excuse that the team needs salary-cap space.

Some have suspected collusion regarding the absence of long-term extensions for 2011 first-round picks.  With cornerback Patrick Peterson receiving a five-year extension from the Cardinals and tackle Tyron Smith getting an eight-year extension from the Cowboys, the hope is that other teams will reward 2011 first-round picks who were underpaid by a system that guards against busts.

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Seahawks place Anthony McCoy on I.R., sign WR Ronald Johnson

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Anthony McCoy will miss yet another season because of an Achilles injury.

According to PFT’s Curtis Crabtree, the Seahawks have announced they have placed McCoy on injured reserve and signed wide receiver Ronald Johnson to fill the roster spot.

Johnson, like McCoy, played for now-Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. Johnson has had stints with San Francisco (2011) and Philadelphia (2012-2013). Johnson missed the 2012 season with a broken and discloated left ankle. He was waived by the Eagles in April 2013.

Johnson was a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2011. He turns 26 on Sunday.

The Seahawks have just four tight ends on their roster: Zach Miller, Luke Willson, RaShaun Allen and Cooper Heifet.

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Eric Berry forced from Chiefs practice with ankle injury

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Injuries are starting to mount in the Chiefs secondary.

Three defensive backs are dealing with injuries at the moment, including safety Eric Berry. Berry had to leave Thursday morning’s practice after suffering an injury to his lower right leg during the session and was eventually carted back for further evaluation. A full diagnosis hasn’t been revealed, but coach Andy Reid said that it appears Berry has avoided a catastrophic injury.

“Berry had a sore ankle. It’s not an Achilles tear or any of that, but they’re evaluating him. They’re just seeing what it is,” Reid said, via Herbie Teope of the Associated Press.

Berry was joined on the sideline by cornerback Marcus Cooper, who left practice with a hamstring injury that Reid called “slight.” Cooper was replaced on the first team by Sean Smith, reversing a switch that took place earlier in camp.

Reid also revealed that safety Sanders Commings is having surgery on his ankle after being injured earlier in the week. The second-year player only played a few snaps during his rookie season because of a broken collarbone and he may be hard-pressed to win playing time this year as a result of this injury.

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Blake Bortles impressing coaches with his progress

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Unlike other first-round quarterbacks, Blake Bortles has been able to navigate through his rookie training camp without much notice.

But his Jaguars coaches have noticed his work, and say he’s progressing well toward the stated goal of being ready to play at some point after this year’s opener.

“I think that one of the things you always worry about is how does a guy handle something that he’s never done before,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “He’s had OTAs and minicamp and then now he’s got four weeks to figure out what is he going to do. I thought he really prepared so he came back ahead of where I thought he was going to be.”

Bortles has a comfort zone, in that the Jaguars built their plan around Chad Henne starting this year, so as not to rush the No. 3 overall pick in before he was ready, or the parts were around him to succeed.

But Fisch said Bortles has impressed with how he has developed within the offense, and the fact he’s able to grow comfortably might allow him to grow faster.

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Donald Thomas placed on injured reserve

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The Colts have officially lost starting left guard Donald Thomas for the season.

The team placed the 28-year-old Thomas on injured reserve Thursday, the club said.

Thomas suffered a torn quadriceps on Wednesday. He sustained the same injury last September.

With Thomas out, second-round pick Jack Mewhort is among the options to fill in at left guard.

In a corresponding roster move Thursday, the Colts re-signed undrafted rookie offensive lineman Eric Pike, who had a short stint with the club in May. A Towson product, Pike (6-5, 298) was a left tackle on the college level.

The signing of Pike puts the Colts back at the 90-player limit.

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Johnny Manziel expects to be better in games than in practice

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Johnny Manziel says Browns fans will see a difference between what he’s shown in training camp and what he’ll show when they start playing games.

Asked if he expects to perform better once the games start than he has so far in practice, Manziel said that’s always been his way.

“Always, for me, I’ve been better in a game situation than I feel I have in practice. But I have to come out here and get better with the reps that I’m getting. That’s the main thing, keep getting better, and then when it’s time to go out and play football, it’s time to play football,” Manziel said.

At Texas A&M, Manziel was often at his best improvising when plays broke down and using his feet to avoid the pass rush. But in practices, a quarterback doesn’t get that opportunity: Coaches want to see the play run in practice exactly the way it’s drawn up, and when the pass rush gets near the quarterback, the play is blown dead. Manziel thinks that makes him a better game-day player than practice player.

“There will be times in games, situations in games when things break down, and obviously it’s not practice, there are not coaches on the field, and it will be a little bit — it will be a lot different. But practice is what it is, and we have to get better,” Manziel said.

At the moment, Manziel is running the second-string offense, and Brian Hoyer is the starter. Manziel may have to play better in practice to show that he deserves to start when it’s game time.

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Ray Rice says his wife “can do no wrong” in first press conference

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Ravens running back Ray Rice walked to the podium Thursday, and came right out with  the kind of contrition he hadn’t previously shown.

Rice spoke to reporters for the first time since his no-questions-asked press conference during which his wife apologized for getting knocked out cold, and admitted what appears obvious.

“My actions that night were totally inexcusable,” he began. “That’s not me. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.”

Rice apologized to his wife, which he neglected to do during his press conference, and talked about how difficult it would be to explain to his young daughter.

He also said he and his wife wanted to talk about domestic violence “when the time is right.”

That’s apparently not until he continues his counseling, as he said he’s still in that process.

Rice didn’t want to re-live what he called “the incident,” but said he “owned it,” and it was the “biggest mistake of my life.”

“My wife can do no wrong,” he said, several times.

He also said he’s never been involved in any kind of domestic abuse situation, though he repeatedly declined to offer specifics on the night of “the incident.”

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Ravens fourth-round pick Brent Urban tears ACL

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Brent Urban’s rookie season is over before it started.

Urban, a defensive lineman chosen by the Ravens in the fourth round of the NFL draft, suffered a torn ACL in practice yesterday. Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the diagnosis today.

The Ravens hoped the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Urban would be able to join their defensive line rotation as a rookie, but now he’ll go on injured reserve.

Fellow rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who went down on the same play as Urban, is dealing with back spasms and is not expected to miss much time.

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PFT Live from Saints camp: Sean Payton, Larry Holder

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PFT Live hits the road on Thursday with Mike Florio making the trip to the Greenbrier in West Virginia to visit the Saints as they visit his home state.

Saints coach Sean Payton will join Florio to talk about how the team’s first camp in the state has been going and what differences he’s found from working at the current site as opposed to past camps. They’ll also discuss the new faces around the Saints this year, including rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and his overall feelings about the team as they prepare for the regular season.

Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune will also be on hand to share his own thoughts about how the Saints are coming together during camp. We’ll get his take on some players to watch in the coming season and areas of concern for New Orleans as well during his visit.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live right here.

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Report: David Wilson “needs a miracle” to come back

David Wilson

David Wilson has been upbeat throughout his comeback from spinal fusion surgery, even after his “burner” earlier this week.

The Giants apparently do not share that optimism.

According to Jordan Raanan and Conor Orr of NJ.com, the Giants consider him a long shot to return to the field and one source familiar with his condition said he “needs a miracle” to come back.

Wilson tweeted Wednesday night that “everything was fine,” which may be true in the global, not football-centric case.

He’ll see a spinal specialist Monday, but the Giants seem to be bracing themselves for the possibility that Wilson might not return at all.

You could argue they did already, signing workhorse back Rashad Jennings this offseason.

But at this point, the concern should be with Wilson’s well-being, and any football considerations should come well after that.

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