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Junior Seau, legendary linebacker, dies at 43

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Junior Seau had just turned 21 when the San Diego Chargers selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft, but he was already fully formed as everything a linebacker should be. Seau, who had led USC to back-to-back Rose Bowls and owned a Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year trophy, tackled with such ferocity that it was a little disarming to hear his gentle voice, see his easy smile and discover what an intelligent and thoughtful man he was.

Seau, who died of an apparent suicide Wednesday morning at the age of 43, would spend nearly his entire adult life as an NFL player. He announced one retirement in 2006, saying he was “graduating” to the next phase in his life, but for Junior Seau there was no phase in life other than football: He still had that fiery passion for the game, and when Bill Belichick picked up the phone and told Seau he could still help the Patriots win, Seau leapt at the opportunity and was in training camp in New England just four days after that retirement announcement.

When a man commits suicide it’s almost impossible not to view his life through the lens of his death, but Seau was a man who deserves to be remembered for what he did best and loved most: Football, played hard and played well. Former teammate Donte Stallworth said on ESPN shortly after police confirmed Seau’s death that everyone who was lucky enough to share a locker room with Seau will think of him as a congenial, energetic person — because that’s what he was, at least when he was playing football.

“You always looked at Junior as a very happy person,” Stallworth said. “He was always making people laugh. All the time. That’s what Junior will always be remembered for.”

Seau wasn’t just a good player, he was a great player. Few if any in NFL history can match both the peak that Seau reached at his best, and the longevity that Seau achieved. He was named to 12 Pro Bowl teams and 10 All-Pro teams, was on the All-Decade team for the 1990s, is in the Chargers’ Hall of Fame and was in the NFL, in total, for 20 seasons.

The 1990 Chargers felt Seau’s impact as a rookie immediately, and by the mid-1990s, and especially when he led the Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX, he was universally recognized as one of the best defensive players in football. He began to slow down in his 30s, and after a 2002 season in which a nagging ankle injury limited his effectiveness, the Chargers decided it was time to move on. But Seau was a long way from ready to retire.

Seau was traded to Miami in 2003, and he looked rejuvenated for the Dolphins that year. More injuries slowed him down in 2004 and 2005, however, and when the Dolphins released him in 2006, even Seau himself thought he was done with football.

Amazingly, Seau was not only not done, but actually an important player for the Patriots. He was much more than just a veteran leader and role player in his late 30s and was, in fact, a significant on-field contributor. He played in every game for the 16-0 Patriots of 2007 and recorded 75 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions, and he started the team’s victories in both the divisional round of the playoffs and the AFC Championship Game after that season. Seau was still going strong at age 38.

Eventually Seau did age, as everyone does, and he was only a bit player in his final NFL season with the 2009 Patriots. But after he walked off the field for the last time, Seau talked about how excited he was to spend more time in retirement with his family, work on his charitable endeavors and do more television work.

Unfortunately, Seau simply couldn’t find anything to replace the passion he had for competing on the football field. The stories that came out about Seau — an arrest for domestic violence, a car crash that was viewed by some as a suicide attempt — seemed completely out of character and nothing like the man we had watched play football for two decades. Seau, sadly, appears to be one of those players who could never replace football.

In 2015, the first year he’s eligible, Seau will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Despite his sad death at too young an age, his bust in Canton should carry that warm smile he always wore when he played the game he loved.

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Breaking down bounty suspensions

PFT Live: Mike Florio disccusses breaking news in the Saints bounty scandal, Alshon Jeffery signing with the Chicago Bears, and Eric Mangini’s regrets with the spygate scandal.

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Talkin’ Eagles with GM Howie Roseman

PFT Live: Mike Florio talks with Philadelphia Eagles GM Howie Roseman about drafting of Fletcher Cox, signing deals with their rookies, trading Asante Samuel and bouncing back from their 2011 season.

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Latest stadium update

PFT Live: Mike Florio talks with Jeremy Fowler of the Pioneer Press about the most recent news on the Vikings new stadium.

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Nate Clements could be candidate for release in Cincinnati

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The addition of Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round means that the Bengals now have a glut of cornerbacks on the roster.

They’ll need to pare down the group at some point and Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer points to Nate Clements as a guy who could be headed out the door. Clements is set to make $4.3 million in base salary this season and that could make his roster spot vulnerable if the team decides Kirkpatrick is ready to start at left corner as a rookie.

Such a turn of events is complicated by the fact that the Bengals don’t know what they are going to get from Leon Hall this season. Hall has started doing some running in his recovery from a torn Achilles, but there’s no sign yet that he’s going to be ready to go full speed when the team gets to camp or the start of the regular season. As mentioned, there are no shortage of options at corner, but Terence Newman, Pacman Jones and company haven’t been as reliable on the field as Clements has been for the Bengals.

On the surface, the move seems to make more economic sense than football sense although it wouldn’t be the first time something happened for those reasons.

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Saints players will receive the “due process” for which the union bargained

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Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who injected himself into the Saints bounty scandal by releasing, over the objection of Steve Gleason, audio from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that Pamphilon recorded the night before the Saints lost to the 49ers in the division-round playoffs, is now injecting himself into the discipline imposed on the players who funded and/or received money for inflicting injury on opponents.

“In the USA we have due process,” Pamphilon says on Twitter.  “Where is evidence?  Who hears the appeal?  Rise up NFL media and say what’s true.  Where you at Mike Florio?

Here I am, Sean.  And here’s everything you need to know.

First, the four players who have been suspended — Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Scott Fujita — each had a chance to meet with the Commissioner before the disciplined was determined.  They declined.

Regardless of their reason for not taking advantage of a chance to meet with the Commissioner before the suspensions were imposed, they declined.

Second, they each have the right to appeal the decision.  While plenty of people are complaining that Commissioner Roger Goodell will handle the appeal of the decision he already has made (and those complaints are in many respects valid), that’s the procedure to which the players agreed in the August 2011 labor deal.  (Adam Schefter of ESPN reports, as we surmised, that the union will argue that the appeals should be heard by Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, who were jointly appointed and are jointly paid by the NFL and the NFLPA.)

During the appeal process, evidence will be presented, by both sides.  Hopefully, the evidence will be made publicly available, so that the media can scrutinize it and determine whether the sanctions were justified.

For Pamphilon’s sake, here’s also hoping that there’s no proof implicating Fujita.  As Pamphilon separately said on Twitter, “Show me the evidence Scott Fujita ever paid a man to hurt someone or took $ to do so and I will cut one of my testicles off & chew on it.”

Let’s further hope that scene will be omitted from any of Pamphilon’s upcoming documentaries.

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Junior Seau’s death another sad ending for the 1994 Chargers

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Today’s sad news that Junior Seau has died at the age of 43 is another tragic story about the star-crossed San Diego Chargers of 1994, a Super Bowl team that has now seen eight of its players die before reaching the age of 45.

Six months ago we noted that linebacker Lew Bush had died of an apparent heart attack, only six days after his 42nd birthday, making him, at the time, the seventh member of that team to die. Defensive lineman Shawn Lee died last year of a heart attack at 44. Defensive lineman Chris Mims died in 2008 of complications from having an enlarged heart at age 38. Offensive lineman Curtis Whitley died in 2008 of a drug overdose at age 39. Linebacker Doug Miller died in 1998 after he was struck by lightning, at age 28. Running back Rodney Culver died in 1996 in the crash of ValuJet Flight 592, at age 26. Linebacker David Griggs died in 1995 in a car accident at age 28.

The 1994 Chargers were a tough, hard-nosed, physical team, and no one personified those characteristics more than Seau, who was 25 years old, in his fifth NFL season, and emerging as one of the NFL’s great defensive players. Seau would play seven more seasons in San Diego, then three in Miami and four in New England, and by the end of his career he was as universally respected as an NFL player can be.

But in retirement, Seau seemed to lose his way. In 2010 he drove his SUV off a cliff shortly after he was arrested on a charge of spousal battery, and this morning he died, of what police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Seau exemplified that Chargers team, and he has now joined too many of his teammates in early death.

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Chargers confirm passing of Junior Seau

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The San Diego Chargers have confirmed the passing of linebacker Junior Seau.

“Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now,” the team said.  “We ask everyone to stop what they’re doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family.”

Seau, 43, reportedly died today of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  He spent 20 years in the NFL, and he undoubtedly will be enshrined in Canton upon his first eligibility.

We extend our condolences to Junior’s family, his friends, his teammates, his coaches, and the entire Chargers organization.

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Joe Webb says it’s a positive to focus only on quarterback

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Back in February, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said that the team was going to have Joe Webb work only as a quarterback this season.

With offseason workouts in full swing, the plan is being put into place. Webb is only working as a quarterback and the team has scrapped the packages they used to get him on the field as a receiver or runner last season. While Webb said that he’s happy to play whatever role the team wants him to play, he’s also happy to be focusing on only one thing this year.

“It’s a great role to have,” said Webb, via Jeremy Fowler of the Pioneer Press. “Any time you can concentrate on one position, that’s always a positive.”

Right now, the plan is for Webb to back up Christian Ponder. If Ponder doesn’t show improvement in the early part of the season, however, it’s fair to wonder if the Vikings will want to find a way to get Webb on the field. Whether he’s at quarterback or elsewhere, Webb is one of the most athletic players Minnesota has on offense and his best use probably isn’t carrying a clipboard all year.

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Report: Junior Seau dies in shooting

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TMZ.com, citing multiple law-enforcement sources, reports that former NFL linebacker Junior Seau has died in a shooting at his home.

The passing of Seau has not been confirmed.  According to 10news.com, police are indeed at Seau’s home.

Chargers spokesman Bill Johnston tells PFT that the team is in the process of gathering information regarding the situation.

Seau, 43, last played in the NFL in 2009.

Again, the report from TMZ is not confirmed.  We will provide updates as events warrant.

UPDATE 2:33 p.m. ET:  The North County Times, citing an unnamed source, reports that Seau has died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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PFT Live 05/02: Howie Roseman, Jeremy Fowler

Mike Florio talks with Philadelphia Eagles General Manager, Howie Roseman about their 1st round pick, Fletcher Cox and the Eagles plans to bounce back from their 2011 season. Florio also talks with Jeremy Fowler of the Pioneer Press about the most recent news on the Vikings new stadium.

 

 

 

 

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First bounty battle could relate to who handles the appeals

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The players who have been suspended for their roles in the bounty program reportedly intend to fight, on multiple fronts.  The first fight will arise via the appeal process.

Actually, the first fight before the first fight could be whether the NFL has designated the right appeal process.  “Each player disciplined today is entitled to appeal the decision within three days,” the league’s official announcement explains.  “If an appeal is filed, Commissioner Goodell would hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel.

For punishments imposed due to on-field infractions, the appeals are handled by either Ted Cottrell or Art Shell, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA.  For punishments imposed due to off-field infractions, the NFL handles the appeal.

The designation of Goodell as the person holding the hearing means that the NFL has characterized the bounty penalties as relating to off-field violations.  The NFLPA could decide to argue that the NFL should have treated the situation as an on-field infraction.

It’s unclear whether the NFLPA will make that argument or where the argument would be made, but why not give it a try?  It’s unlikely that Roger Goodell will change his own mind; Shell or Cottrell could decide to change it for him.

Then again, to the extent that the players hope to attack the process via federal court, they may be better off letting it ride, so that they can challenge Goodell’s review of Goodell’s decision.

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Jonathan Vilma learned on TV that he’s suspended for 2012

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Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is suspended for the entire 2012 season, and his season-long suspension actually begins right now: He’s banished from the team’s facilities effective immediately. But he didn’t find out about that from the NFL. He found out on TV.

That’s the word from Saints quarterback Chase Daniel, who wrote on Twitter that he was there with Vilma when the word came down, and Vilma learned at the same time as millions of NFL fans.

“I was standing right next 2 @jonvilma51 when he found out abt his suspension ON @SportsCenter. Really? He has to find out about it that way?” Daniel wrote.

It is surprising that the NFL wouldn’t inform Vilma (or, presumably, suspended players Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita) personally, and would instead simply issue their statement on the suspensions and let the players find out through the media. The NFL’s plan appears to be to have no contact whatsoever with Vilma, starting now.

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NFLPA says it has still not seen evidence of “pay-to-injure” program

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As expected, the NFL Players Association has issued a statement in response to the punishment imposed earlier in the day on four members of the 2009-11 Saints.  As expected, the NFLPA disagrees with the suspensions of Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (one year), Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove (eight games), Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), and Brown linebacker Scott Fujita (three games).

“After seeing the NFL’s decision letters, the NFLPA has still not received any detailed or specific evidence from the league of these specific players’ involvement in an alleged pay-to-injure program,” the union said.  “We have made it clear that punishment without evidence is not fair.  We have spoken with our players and their representatives and we will vigorously protect and pursue all options on their behalf.”

As a threshold matter, “vigorous protection” includes an immediate appeal of the decision.  (More on that soon.)

Regarding the NFLPA’s allegation that “detailed or specific evidence” has not been received, the question is whether the NFL didn’t give the union anything, whether the union hasn’t given everything, and/or whether what the league has provided has been regarded as deficient.  Either way, here’s hoping that all of the evidence comes out, so that the public can assess whether or not the suspensions were indeed justified.

Or not.

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Vilma, Hargrove, Smith, Fujita plan appeal and legal battle

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The four players suspended today for their role in the Saints’ bounty scandal do not plan to accept their punishment without a fight.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, Saints defensive end Will Smith and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita have all already decided that they will appeal. Vilma is suspended for all of 2012, Hargrove (who left the Saints after the 2010 season) has been suspended for the first eight games of the season, Smith has been suspended for the first four games and Fujita (who left the Saints after the 2009 season) has been suspended for the first three games.

The appeals were widely anticipated, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the players expect to go beyond the usual appeals process within the league office and instead expect to go to federal court.

“Get ready for a massive legal battle on many fronts,” Schefter quoted a source as saying.

The NFL’s announcement of the suspensions said that each player is entitled to appeal the decision within three days, and that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel. But all indications are that both the players and their union believe that they’ll be represented by counsel not only in front of Goodell, but also in front of a federal judge. This story is a long way from over.

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