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Vilma’s lawyer calls Goodell “misguided and irresponsible”

Lions Saints Football AP

Attorney Peter Ginsberg, who represents Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the bounty appeal and the defamation lawsuit filed against Commissioner Roger Goodell, has issued a statement in response to Friday’s stories regarding the ledger that supposedly documents bounty payments to Saints players.

Ginsberg calls the report “yet more evidence of how misguided and irresponsible Commissioner Goodell has been in handling this issue.”

The lawyer then raises three alleged deficiencies regarding the leaked ledger evidence:  (1) the information identifies no specific players who were injured or paid; (2) statistics from the 2009 game between the Saints and the Panthers, for which three $1,000 payments allegedly were made, “show that opposing defensive players, not offensive players, were the brunt of any physical plays”; and (3) the payments made, regardless of the name applied, reflected “good, clean, legal plays, and . . . any dirty or penalized play resulted in fines to players, not awards.”

Ginsberg then offers a general comment on Vilma’s role in the alleged bounty program:  “The truth is that Jonathan Vilma gave no money, incentive or encouragement ever — not at any time in his eight-year career — to injure or knock out of any game any player with a dirty or unsportsmanlike hit.  The facts are plain and simple.  During the three seasons in question, Jonathan Vilma was one of the least penalized players not only on the Saints but in the NFL.  There is not one instance in which Jonathan Vilma set out to injure a player or gave any incentive to another player to injure an opposing player.”

That final paragraph invites questions as to whether Vilma gave money, incentive, and/or encouragement to knock a player out of a game with a clean or sportsmanlike hit.  Either way, this controversy won’t be resolved until someone/anyone discloses all evidence of player guilt and/or innocence.

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Marqise Lee sits out Friday with hamstring injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 7: Wide receviver Marqise Lee #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars warms up prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 7, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the 2014 draft, the Jaguars took a pair of wide receivers in the second round with hopes of injecting some life into their passing game.

They hit on Allen Robinson with one of those picks and scored again when they signed Allen Hurns as an undrafted free agent, but Marqise Lee’s time in Jacksonville hasn’t been as successful. A string of injuries, including a hamstring issue last summer, have limited his availability and productivity.

Lee was on the field for OTAs, but the injury bug has reared its head again early in camp. Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports that Lee is sitting out Friday’s practice because of a left hamstring injury. There’s no word on how much time it will cost Lee, but any time lost is a negative for a player who has already missed so much action in his first two seasons.

Adding Lee to Robinson and Hurns has a lot of promise for the continued improvement of the Jacksonville offense, but it will remain something the Jags have to look at as a bonus until Lee shows he can remain on the field.

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Belichick displays disgust with reporter’s question (again)

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16: Fans hold a sign depicting head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and the words "Get Some" during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

If Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t have four pelts on the wall, he probably wouldn’t still be an NFL head coach.

He’d be a defensive coordinator, most likely. But not a head coach. He simply doesn’t have the temperament to survive as a head coach if he were anything another than one of the best head coaches in NFL history.

With those accomplishments comes the ability to consistently choose not to cooperate with the media, and also to periodically bristle at questions he regards as foolish or otherwise beneath him. Two years ago, his annoyed reaction to questions about Tom Brady from Albert Breer, then working for NFL Media, after the notorious “on to Cincinnati” loss to the Chiefs apparently have resulted in Breer being yanked from the Patriots beat — even though he lives in Boston.

On Friday, Belichick became annoyed (again) when asked (again) about Brady. Specifically, Belichick was asked if he can think of an occasion where he ever has clarified the starting quarterback position so early into camp.

“I don’t know,” Belichick said.

He then was asked, “What happens if Jimmy Garoppolo plays better?”

“Look, I told you what’s going to happen,” Belichick said, referring to Brady returning as the starter when his suspension ends.

The reporter followed with, “So there’s no . . . .”

And then a more-disgusted-than-usual Belichick shook his head and said, “Jesus Christ.”

Patriots fans and media haters alike loved the moment. The Patriots apparently weren’t proud of it; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been scrubbed from the official transcript.

Was it a dumb question? Sure. Is there a way to be a little more respectful (or a little less disrespectful) to someone who asks a stupid question? Absolutely.

Belichick isn’t the first, and hardly will be the last, coach to act that way. But plenty of coaches treat the media — even those who ask stupid questions — with respect, recognizing that coaches get paid what they get paid because people care about the sport, and because the media is one of the main conduits of the relationship between teams and fans.

As I argued (ranted) on Friday’s PFT Live regarding the unreasonably restrictive media policy adopted by the Bears, everything the media does in covering the NFL and its teams amounts to free advertising. The media promotes the sport at no cost to the sport, and those involved in the sport benefit from that.

So why not show at least a minor degree of respect to those employed to promote the sport for free? Yes, it’s fun at times to see a coach behave in a way that few of us ever would in public. At a time when that passionate rooting interest can’t be satiated by games that count, a great sound bite or other compelling moment from the coach may be the next best thing.

It’s not all that much fun for the folks doing the job of promoting the sport for free to be on the wrong end of that treatment, and it surely makes everyone in the team’s press room afraid of saying anything that would make him or her become the next reporter who provokes an eye roll, a head shake, a verbal rebuke, and then a zealous round of digital applause from fans of the team and/or those jockeying for access to a coach who wants to keep all of them tiptoeing on eggshells.

I’m probably alone or close to it in thinking that Belichick was out of line on Friday. Then again, someone with the Patriots apparently agrees with me. Otherwise, the key question and answer would have appeared in the official transcript distributed by the franchise.

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Eifert: I’ll never go back to the Pro Bowl

Tyler Eifert AP

After a Pro Bowl injury led to surgery that’s left Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert on the physically unable to perform list for now and uncertain if he’ll be ready for the season opener, Eifert told reporters Friday that he’ll never go to the Pro Bowl again, even if he’s invited.

He sounded like he hoped someone at the NFL office is listening.

It’s just not worth it,” Eifert said.

Though his initial injury was deemed minor, Eifert later had ankle surgery and has missed the entire offseason program.

Eifert said Friday that he only expects to have to wear a protective boot on his ankle for another week, but he also said there’s no exact timetable for his return to real action and that his only goal is just to be healthy as soon as possible.

Eifert led all NFL tight ends with 13 touchdown catches last season despite missing games due to a concussion. An elbow injury limited him to one game in 2014.

As for the Pro Bowl, people watch. And recently signed contracts say the game* isn’t going away anytime soon.

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Jay Cutler thinks Kevin White is “going to be something special”

Kevin White AP

Thanks to a leg injury that kept him out for his entire rookie season, the Bears have waited a long time to get wide receiver Kevin White into their offense.

The feeling around the team is that White is going to prove to be worth the wait. He drew positive reviews from his position coach during offseason work and quarterback Jay Cutler thinks the sky is the limit for White once he has a full grasp of the offense.

“He’s got a lot of things he’s processing, thinking through,” Cutler said, via “I think for anybody taking a year off football, jumping back into it is going to be hard. A rookie missing kind of that vital year, where you learn so much that first year jumping into that second year, it’s a big miss for him. But he’s so physically gifted I think he’s going to make it up really, really quickly. It’s just a matter of him letting those athletic gifts come through and him getting comfortable with the system and the verbiage and the splits and everything else that he’s going to learn, and being at a place where he doesn’t have to think and can just go out and play football. I think once we hit a fast-forward button and get to that point, he’s going to be something special.”

White says that he and Cutler have spent a lot of time working on their chemistry, something that should speed up the learning curve for White as he prepares for the season. With Alshon Jeffery on the other side, the Bears will be well equipped at wideout as long as everyone is healthy and on the field.

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Rey Maualuga cleared to return to practice for Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Bengals got a linebacker back on the field today.

The team announced that veteran Rey Maualuga had passed his physical and was cleared to practice.

He had started camp on the active/non-football injury list, but three days later, he’s apparently ready to go. The 29-year-old linebacker didn’t do much through the spring, but being on NFI meant it had to have been something that happened away from the team program.

The Bengals are also keeping Vontaze Burfict under tight reins during the preseason, so they’re going to give some younger players plenty of reps during camp.

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Mike Wallace passes conditioning test

Teddy Bridgewater, Mike Wallace AP

When wide receiver Mike Wallace failed his first try at the Ravens’ conditioning test earlier this week, coach John Harbaugh said he didn’t think it would be long before Wallace was cleared for practice.

Harbaugh was proven correct on Friday. Wallace didn’t practice in the first session of training camp on Thursday, but the team announced that he’ll be on the field for the second workout after passing the test.

The team shared a video of Wallace and safety Eric Weddle walking out of the locker room with an animated Wallace telling spectators “we back” as he made his way to the field.

With Wallace back in action, the Ravens are now waiting on Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman to get the green light and make their receiving corps whole for the first time this year.

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Dolphins now have a decision to make on Dion Jordan

Dion Jordan AP

The NFL began the week by reinstating Browns receiver Josh Gordon on a conditional basis. The Browns, despite a somewhat tepid statement issued in the wake of the news, are on board with the return of Gordon.

The NFL has ended the week by reinstating Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan. The ball is now in the team’s court.

With Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald pointing out that the NFL leaked the news to national reporters (league employees) before telling the Dolphins, it’s possible the Dolphins aren’t quite as on board with the move as the Browns are with Gordon.

The team’s position will be known soon. With a $1.7 million roster bonus due on Monday, the Dolphins will have to trade him or cut him to avoid paying him the money.

So while it had appeared that the league was still doing the team a favor by not ruling on Jordan’s request for reinstatement, the NFL did the team no favors by lighting a fairly short fuse.

Surely, the Dolphins have planned for this possibility. If they haven’t, it’s time to come up with a plan. Because if they don’t want a guy who was drafted under a different regime, they need to make speak now or owe Jordan $1.7 million.

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NFL conditionally reinstates Dion Jordan

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Dion Jordan #95 of the Miami Dolphins reacts to winning a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan has been reinstated to the NFL on a conditional basis.

Jordan, who had been suspended for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, was informed by Commissioner Roger Goodell today that he is conditionally reinstated. Before he can practice at training camp he needs to set up clinical services in Miami. He will need to meet with the NFL before the regular season to review his progress in order to be allowed to play in Week One.

The Dolphins liked Jordan so much heading into the 2013 NFL draft that they traded up to the third overall pick to select him. But he has started just one game, recorded just three sacks, and hasn’t been a part of the team at all since he was suspended in April of 2015.

Jordan’s camp has put out word that he is in great shape and ready to contribute to the Dolphins this season. He’ll be able to show that on the field soon.

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Dolphins owner says stadium will be ready for preseason finale

MIAMI - DECEMBER 19:  Stephen Ross owner of the Miami Dolphins poses for a photo before his team plays against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 17-14.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) Getty Images

While the Dolphins’ co-tenants in their refurbished stadium have made backup plans for September, the Dolphins are going to operate without a net.

Owner Steve Ross met with reporters Friday morning, and said the $500 million renovation project may have been more extensive and complex than he imagined, but that he planned to play the team’s preseason finale there.

I know we will be playing Sept. 1,” Ross said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “There.”

And while he admitted having some concerns about the pace of the project in the past, he added: “I don’t feel them today. There is no backup plan.”

Earlier this month, the Miami Hurricanes admitted they were lining up a Plan B for their Sept. 3 regular season opener. The Dolphins and/or the league shifted their Week Three preseason game to Orlando, in part as a dry run for the Pro Bowl game being held there.

The Dolphins open the regular season with two games on the road and don’t play at home until Sept. 25, giving them plenty of buffer in case the project hadn’t gone as planned.

Ross also said the tests they’ve done show the canopy being installed over the seating area drops the temperature by 31 degrees, a bit of shade Dolphins fans should enjoy.

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Bruce Arians: We expect to do better this season

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 20:  Head coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals argues a call in the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 20, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals had a strong season in 2015 as they passed the Seahawks for the NFC West title and then held off the Packers in the playoffs to earn a spot in the NFC title game.

Things didn’t go so well for the Cardinals in Carolina, but the team returns most of the key parts of last year’s team and has made additions to a couple of weak spots that could make for a deeper team. That would explain why coach Bruce Arians believes that anything short of a Super Bowl win will be an unacceptable end for the 2016 season.

“When you have the type of season we had, you expect to do better,” Arians said, via “So, we got to do better. We got to get back to where we were first and then do better.”

The Cardinals have built up a formidable roster over the first three years with Arians and General Manager Steve Keim pulling the strings and the team’s enjoyed success on the field as a result. Failing to take the final step this year wouldn’t invalidate that work, but there are only so many bites at the apple before time and contracts force that roster to be reworked.

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Emmanuel Sanders: “I’m not trying to break the bank”

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on October 11, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Money isn’t always easy for Broncos players to come by.

But wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders — who is the next man up on the team’s extension list — said yesterday he’s not trying to take it all.

As history has shown, that’s a reasonable expectation when dealing with John Elway, and Sanders said he’s hoping the ongoing talks can reach an amicable conclusion.

“It’s not frustrating. It’s actually a blessing,” Sanders said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. “We’re talking millions and millions of dollars that I can earn just by the game that I love. At the end of the day, I’m looking forward to it, but I know you guys want to know the answers to that, where are we at.

“We’re trying to find that middle ground of saying, you know what, this is a fair deal for me and for the Denver Broncos. I said it from Day One — I’m not trying to break the bank. I want to be here. But I also want a fair deal, and I want a fair deal for the production I’ve been putting out, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Sanders is entering the final year of the deal he signed in 2014, and is scheduled to make $5.6 million this season. But with recent contracts signed by Doug Baldwin and Allen Hurns and Keenan Allen, a player of his production appears underpaid.

Of course, with the Broncos, that’s hardly reason to think a deal’s going to happen, though the two sides are still talking.

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Ron Rivera: Kelvin Benjamin in “pretty doggone good form”

Kelvin Benjamin AP

It’s been almost a year since Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL during a training camp practice and that was enough time filled with enough rehab that the team felt comfortable giving him the green light for the first practice of this year’s camp.

Benjamin only did individual work during OTAs, but made several catches during team drills on Thursday. While it’s early in the process and Benjamin has rust to knock off, Benjamin’s work made a good impression on head coach Ron Rivera.

“It could be a good harbinger in terms of seeing Kelvin — I don’t want to say in top form — but pretty doggone good form,” Rivera said, via the Charlotte Observer. “He’s still got a ways to go in terms of getting in game shape. But it’s really good to see him moving around.”

Benjamin’s loss seemed like a bad harbinger for the Panthers last summer, although things played out in a much better fashion for the eventual NFC champions. Their success in his absence may mean that Benjamin will be targeted less frequently than the 145 throws he saw as a rookie, but his return to health would be a boost to Carolina’s chances at repeating their success from last season.

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Friday morning one-liners

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptnjnwewzjy2zjyymwmxzwvmyzliytrmzdrlzdnkmgfi AP

The Bills have a couple of options for more speed on the outside of their offense.

Based on his experience at LSU, Dolphins coach Adam Gase thought it would be hotter in Miami for practices.

LB Jamie Collins was surprisingly absent from Patriots practice.

Said Jets coach Todd Bowles, “We didn’t have any offseason problems. So this camp is a little calmer than last year.”

A catch by TE Dennis Pitta was among the practice highlights for the Ravens on Thursday.

T Cedric Ogbuehi has stepped into the Bengals starting lineup.

There’s going to be a siren at Browns camp.

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton doesn’t know how his role will be impacted by Martavis Bryant’s suspension.

Health questions about another player helped DE J.J. Watt land with the Texans.

S Mike Adams says the Colts defense has a “different energy” this summer.

Jaguars T Kelvin Beachum is happy to be working on the field again.

Ten questions to ponder as Titans camp gets going.

Said Broncos RB C.J. Anderson of the team’s offense, “It can’t be worse. That’s how I look at it. You have no choice but to get better.”

CB KeiVarae Russell is trying to sponge up all the information he can about the Chiefs defense.

Tickets to the Raiders’ game in Mexico City went quickly.

The Chargers are waiting to see what happens with unsigned DE Joey Bosa.

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick wants to be better than before as he returns from a torn ACL.

Ben McAdoo will keep some of Tom Coughlin’s traditions as he starts his first training camp as Giants coach.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz is drawing a lot of attention in North Dakota.

The Redskins will evaluate what they have at linebacker after Junior Galette’s injury before seeing if they need any additions.

WR Kevin White hit the field running at Bears camp.

Punt returner is a job that Lions WR Golden Tate would like to fill.

Rookie LB Blake Martinez is seeing practice time in sub packages for the Packers.

Vikings G Alex Boone shared a cautionary tale about underestimating DT Kevin Williams on the field.

The Falcons added former London Warriors DE Efe Obada to their 90-man roster.

Panthers WR Stephen Hill is back to work after last year’s torn ACL.

The possibility of becoming a free agent after the season isn’t weighing on Saints C Max Unger’s mind.

Buccaneers DE Jacquies Smith “feels good” after missing the entire offseason program following shoulder surgery.

CB Patrick Peterson arrived at Cardinals camp in a helicopter.

A look at what to expect from the Rams running backs.

Sifting through the tight end options for the 49ers.

Seahawks G.M. John Schneider said having organizational continuity is a big part of success.

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Eagles sign Darren Sproles to one-year extension

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Darren Sproles #43 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after he returned a punt in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Buffalo Bills 23-20.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

There was a point this offseason when people wondered if the Eagles might trade running back Darren Sproles as he stayed away from the team’s offseason work, but coach Doug Pederson said during the team’s minicamp that Sproles’ “role will be extensive” this season.

It might be extensive next season as well because Sproles isn’t going to be a free agent come March. The Eagles announced on Friday morning that they have signed Sproles to a contract extension that runs through the 2017 season. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Sproles will make $4.5 million in 2017.

“Being one of the oldest guys, to know you’re going to be here a little bit longer, that’s a good feeling,” Sproles said, via the team.

Sproles leads all NFL players in all-purpose yards since 2007 and has continued to be a jack of all trades since coming to the Eagles in a 2014 trade. Pederson’s words suggest he’ll be a runner, receiver and returner again this year as the Eagles move forward with a backfield that also includes Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood.

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Arian Foster to open Dolphins camp on the PUP list

Miami Dolphins v Houston Texans Getty Images

Arian Foster’s Dolphins debut is going to be a little later than expected.

The veteran running back was among a group of five players who will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, the team announced.

Cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain, running back Damien Williams and linebacker Zach Vigil joined him on that list.

Foster was signed last week, after visiting a taking a physical. The fact they signed him suggested he was sufficiently recovered from last year’s torn Achilles, and he said he was healthy and wanted to prove he was still a “pro Bowl-caliber player.”

He may do that, but it’s not going to be this weekend, apparently.

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