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Fujita to Goodell at appeal hearing: “What the hell are you doing, Roger?”

AP

Lawyer Peter Ginsberg wasn’t the only one who had tough words for Commissioner Roger Goodell at Monday’s appeal hearing in the bounty case.  Browns linebacker Scott Fujita was far more brief, and far more pointed.

“I saw [Goodell] in the [appeal] hearings and he offered to shake all of our hands,” Fujita told Dave Zirin of SiriusXM Radio’s Edge of Sports Radio, via SI.com.  “Some of the other players didn’t, but I went ahead and shook his hand, and I just said to him, ‘What the hell are you doing, Roger?‘”

How did the Commissioner respond?

“He had nothing to say,” Fujita said.  “His face sure turned red, though.”

So much for the draft-night man hugs.

Fujita also addressed the merits of the situation, echoing the notion that the Saints had a pay-for-performance system coupled with tough talk but no deliberate intent to injure.

“I know exactly what [happened] and what didn’t,” Fujita said.  “The problem with this whole thing is that it’s just an unfortunate situation where you have a defensive coordinator [Gregg Williams] who I like a lot, but said a lot of really vulgar, inappropriate, outlandish things.  You couple that with some guys who occasionally throw in some money for big plays — which I have admitted to doing — and it becomes a perfect storm, and also it comes at a time politically when I think the league was looking for something like this.

“So, it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that a lot of players have been dragged into it when the reality is it’s just a kind of loose, joking around, performance-type system of motivation coupled with some really, really inappropriate language that I’m sensitive to, but again, it is just language.”

Fujita apparently wants the NFL to focus on what the program was, and to clarify what it wasn’t.

“People said I was stupid for confessing to paying for big plays.  I didn’t think of that as a big deal,” Fujita said.  “Is it against the rules?  Technically, yeah, it’s against the rules, but that’s the way it was done when I was a young player and I’m not ashamed of that.  If that’s what I’m going down for, let’s call it for what it is.  The problem is that the league has billed this thing as being this super-organized pay-to-injure scheme, which it never was.

“Now, it turns out when the evidence is getting released that there is actually very little to nothing on anything pay-to-injure related, especially as it pertains to me.  So, again, if it’s pay-for-performance, let’s call it what it is, and if I have to take my medicine for that, I’ll do that, and we’ll move on, but that’s not what the league has billed this as.”

Fujita explained that the issue is about more than the money he’ll lose during a three-game suspension.

“Another thing I have a hard time with is that a lot of people just say, ‘You only have a couple games [suspension].  Just be glad with what you got.  Stop complaining and move on.’  It’s more than just a couple games,” Fujita said.  “My reputation is a lot more valuable to me than three game checks.  So for someone to say ‘just take your medicine and move on,’ my response is no.  If you’re accused of something you didn’t do, and they were going to not only ruin your reputation, but also take a lot of money away from you, you would not just lie down.  So it’s troubling.  It’s been hard for me.  It’s been a stress at home.  I’m lucky to have such a supportive family with young kids who don’t understand any of this kind of stuff so that brightens my day, but it has been very hard for me.”

The good news is that the discussion of the actual or perceived flaws in the NFL’s investigation could be prompting the league to focus on precisely why the players are being disciplined — for contributing to and participating in a pay-for-performance system that created an incentive to inflict injury on opponents (regardless of whether they actually did) and not for deliberately attempting to inflict injury in exchange for cash.

The bad news is that it’s too late to put the bounty toothpaste back in the tube.  The Saints were painted as a marauding gang of Gilloolys in March; calling it what it really was in June will do nothing to change the perception that has been cemented into the public’s collective consciousness.

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Chiefs DL Chris Jones will start on PUP after knee surgery

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Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, according to Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star.

Jones, who made 11 starts and had 28 tackles and two sacks last season, had arthroscopic knee surgery July 12.

Tight end Travis Kelce, who had offseason shoulder surgery, and linebacker Derrick Johnson, who ruptured his left Achilles tendon last December, will not have to go on the PUP list. Burkholder said Johnson can do a “good bit” already.

Offensive guard Parker Ehinger, who tore an ACL last November, and linebacker Dadi Nicolas, who ruptured his patellar tendon in January, both will start camp on PUP.

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Bills visit with Roy Miller, Devon Still and Leger Douzable

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The Bills had wide receiver Anquan Boldin in for a visit on Monday and he wasn’t the only veteran free agent meeting with the team.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive linemen Roy Miller, Devon Still and Leger Douzable were also in for visits to kick off the week.

It’s the second AFC East visit for Miller this month as the former Jaguar also spent time with the Dolphins recently. He’s coming off a torn Achilles last season. Still, a 2012 second-round pick of the Bengals, played three games for the Texans last season before ending the year on injured reserve.

Douzable is a familiar face to many players in Buffalo after playing in all 16 games and making five starts for the Bills last year. The changes at head coach and General Manager mean that the guys making the call on the roster makeup aren’t as familiar with his work, however.

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Veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers visiting Cardinals

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There are still a few free agents on the market who can be of service to teams, but time is drawing short to get them into camp.

One of them appears to be closer to finding a home.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, former Chargers and Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is visiting the Cardinals Wednesday.

He has also received some interest for the Patriots, and had contact with the Steelers early in free agency.

The 31-year-old Flowers finished last year on injured reserve with the latest in a series of concussions, which led to some concerns about his future.

The Cardinals are looking for answers at their number two corner spot, and coach Bruce Arians has declared the competition “wide open.” They apparently are opening it up beyond the options on the current roster.

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Eagles will “continue to look” for cornerbacks during camp

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The Eagles made some roster moves on Sunday to set up their roster for training camp and two of them included cornerbacks.

They cut Dwayne Gratz and placed second-round pick Sidney Jones on the non-football injury list. The Jones move was expected after he tore his Achilles in a pre-draft workout while Gratz’ departure left the team without much in the way of experienced depth.

That could change as camp unfolds. During a Monday press conference, head coach Doug Pederson suggested the team isn’t done making moves at corner.

“Well, again, it’s a position that we continue to look even outside, as we do every position, and as you know, we’re going to continue to look and try to bring in guys if we can and just create as much competition at that spot,” Pederson said in comments distributed by the team. “You know, it’s obviously a spot that we’re going to keep our eye on throughout camp. But now it gives a couple of our younger guys, you know, Jalen Mills, and guys like that, a chance to really get in here and get valuable reps.”

If those reps don’t yield the desired results, calls to other teams about trades and close perusal of the waiver wire will likely be in the Eagles’ future.

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Lucky Whitehead on shoplifting charge: I didn’t even know about that

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Lucy Whitehead said he was unaware he had a warrant issued for his arrest after failing to appear in court on a shoplifting charge.

I didn’t even know about that,” the Cowboys receiver said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Whitehead’s initial arrest occurred June 22 in Virginia, according to TMZ. At that time, he was accused of taking less than $200 worth of items from a convenience store.

On July 6, Whitehead failed to show up at Prince William County Court for an appearance related to the June 22 arrest, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He will now also face a charge of failure to appear in court.

The court date has been rescheduled for Aug. 10, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which will force Whitehead to leave training camp.

Cowboys officials first learned of the incident Monday, per Hill.

Whitehead has had an unusual offseason, saying last week that a dognapper was demanding ransom for his dog before the dog was returned a day later.

The Cowboys’ selection of Ryan Switzer in the fourth round made Whitehead a long shot to return to the Cowboys for a third season. Now, Whitehead might find his spot with the Cowboys even more precarious.

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Gareon Conley remains under investigation for rape

AP

As the Raiders’ rookies report to training camp, a legal cloud hangs over first-round draft pick Gareon Conley.

Just days before the draft, a woman told police that Conley raped her in a Cleveland hotel. Cleveland Police say they are still investigating.

“Detectives have had meetings with the prosecutor’s office,” Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia told Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “They would still classify it as being under investigation. No official charges have been filed. . . . They haven’t ruled it closed. The official statement is it still remains under investigation.”

The Raiders made the surprising decision to draft Conley in the first round despite the rape allegation, and at the time they expressed confidence that he would be exonerated. Three months later, he hasn’t been.

Conley has not yet signed his rookie contract and it is unclear whether the Raiders will sign him without some clarity about his legal status.

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Cowboys featured in ad opposing Bathroom Bill

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The Cowboys are working behind the scenes, opposing the passage of the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. A special legislative session is considering a bill that would have people use the restroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate.

Passage of the bill could derail the Cowboys’ bid for the 2018 NFL Draft, among other future events they hope to host.

Per Moore, the Cowboys are featured in a $1 million ad buy by the Texas Association of Business that begins play on radio stations Tuesday. In the ad, a lifelong Cowboys fan describes her excitement that the 2018 draft could be in North Texas. She then says the NFL could reject the club’s bid to host the festivities, costing Texas “millions of dollars in lost revenue and leaving a lot of Cowboys fans angry” if the bathroom bill passes.

Cowboys officials are taking a diplomatic approach, trying not to alienate Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill’s primary proponent. Owner Jerry Jones carefully chose his words when asked about the bill, showing no interest in entering the debate publicly.

“There are different bills being discussed,” Jones said, via Moore. “They are fluid and change by the day.”

The Cowboys long have played the role of favorite for the 2018 draft, but the NFL has yet to announce the site for the event. NFL officials have not commented publicly, but a league spokesman addressed the bathroom bill in the wake of Super Bowl LI in Houston in February, saying, “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”

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Packers apparently will have to beat out every other NFL team to host draft

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Every team apparently has a desire to host the NFL Draft, according to Packers CEO Mark Murphy. Murphy told shareholders Monday that every NFL city, plus Canton, Ohio, has bid to host the draft.

The Packers have bid for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

“What I’ve heard is they’re gong to announce soon the ‘18 draft [location], so it would probably around this time a year from now that they’re looking at ’19,” Murphy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

The Packers’ Titletown District would play host to the event, with the 10,000-seat Resch Center, which sits across Oneida Street from Lambeau, mentioned as a possibility for the draft itself.

The 2014 draft was the last one in New York City, with Chicago hosting in 2015 and 2016. Philadelphia hosted this year.

The Cowboys are viewed as the favorites for 2018, although a so-called “Bathroom Bill” in the works for the state’s special legislative session could send the event elsewhere. Kansas City has expressed strong interest in hosting the event in the next few years.

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Adolphus Washington pleads not guilty on concealed firearm charge

AP

With the Bills set to start training camp this week, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington took care of some legal business on Monday.

Washing was arrested in Cincinnati earlier this month and charged with improperly carrying a concealed firearm. A police report from the incident says Washington “reached for and displayed a gun while sitting inside his vehicle, just feet away from officers” and a video of the incident features an officer telling Washington he was lucky that things didn’t escalate after showing the firearm.

Washington pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge on Monday and a pre-trial hearing was set for August 1. His attorney Clyde Bennett told Mike Rodak of ESPN.com that he hopes to have the case dismissed.

“I believe the charges are factually and legally inappropriate,” Bennett said. “I don’t believe that Mr. Washington committed any crimes. That is why we have filed a motion to dismiss. Our intent and plan is to have the charges against him dismissed.”

Washington, a 2016 fourth-round pick, is due at the Bills’ first practice of training camp on Thursday.

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Cowboys’ Lucky Whitehead arrested, warrant issued for shoplifting

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Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead was reportedly arrested for shoplifting last month, then had a warrant issued for his arrest after he failed to appear in court to answer for the charge.

Whitehead’s initial arrest took place on June 22 in Virginia, according to TMZ. At that time, he was accused of taking less than $200 worth of items from a convenience store.

On July 6, Whitehead failed to show up at Prince William County Court for an appearance related to the June 22 arrest, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He will now also face a charge of failure to appear in court.

It’s been an odd offseason for Whitehead, who said last week that his dog had been taken and was being held for ransom, then said a day later that his dog had been returned.

Whitehead has an uphill battle to make the Cowboys’ roster, and off-field distractions won’t help.

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Clayton Geathers will be on PUP list to start regular season

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The Colts won’t have safety Clayton Geathers in the lineup for the first six weeks of the regular season.

General Manager Chris Ballard said Monday that Geathers will go on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and will remain on that list when the team makes the cut to 53 players. That means he will be ineligible to play or practice for at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

The word from Ballard doesn’t come as a surprise as the possibility of Geathers missing regular season time has been on the table since he had neck surgery in March.

In better health news at safety, Ballard also said, via George Bremer of the Anderson Herald Bulletin, that first-round pick Malik Hooker is good to go for the start of camp. Hooker had shoulder and sports hernia surgeries after his final season at Ohio State, but has recovered and should be a strong candidate for a starting spot right out of the gate.

Quarterback Andrew Luck will open camp on the PUP list, but is expected to come off before the start of the season. The same is true of defensive lineman Kendall Langford and offensive lineman Brian Schwenke.

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Willie Snead says he’ll be at camp on Thursday

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Saints wide receiver Willie Snead has not signed the exclusive rights free agent offer that the team tendered early this offseason and made no bones about his desire for a different deal than the one-year, $615,000 one that’s on the table, but that won’t stop him from being at training camp on Thursday.

Snead wrote in a text message to Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he will report to camp with the rest of the team’s veterans.

“No holdout,” Snead wrote. “I’ll be on the practice field Thursday.”

Because Snead hasn’t signed his tender, he would not be a holdout if he did decide to stay home but the wideout participated in all of the team’s offseason activities so it’s no surprise that he’ll continue to get his work in.

Snead has 141 catches for 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns over the last two seasons and is set for a big role in the offense again this year. If he doesn’t sign a multi-year deal with the team this season, Snead will be a restricted free agent in 2018.

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Linebacker Zach Orr visiting Texans today

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Zach Orr’s quest to get back into the league after initially announcing his retirement earlier this offseason has taken him to Houston.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the former Ravens linebacker is visiting the Texans Monday.

Orr was a second-team All-Pro selection last year and led the team in tackles, but the Ravens didn’t tender him as a restricted free agent. That wasn’t negligence on their part, it came after he announced his retirement because of a neck issue which was deemed career-ending.

But Orr has found doctors willing to clear him, and now he’s looking for a team for follow suit.

He had some interest earlier this summer after announcing his comeback plans, talking to the Lions, Colts and Jets.

The Texans could use some linebacker depth after losing John Simon to the Colts in free agency.

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Andrew Luck to open Colts camp on PUP

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The good news is Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is throwing footballs again.

The bad news is he’s not ready to start training camp with the rest of his teammates.

Via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, Colts General Manager Chris Ballard said that Luck would open camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Luck can come off that list at any time, and Ballard said there had been no setbacks after Luck’s shoulder surgery, and that he’s still expected to be ready for the regular season.

Ballard added that Luck’s progressing well, with his weight gain on target as he works to build strength. In a macro view, that’s fine, but because Luck’s so central to everything they do, anything other than perfect health is going to cast a cloud over everything the team does.

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Mark Murphy presumes a Super Bowl appearance for the Packers

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The Packers haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2010. Their CEO thinks that streak will end in 2017.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun for all our fans to drive across the state when we’re in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis,” Mark Murphy told shareholders on Monday, via Aaron Nagler of PackersNews.com.

It’s a dream scenario for Packers fans, and a potential nightmare for Vikings fans. And the Packers will indeed be one of the favorites to make it to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII.

Of course, they’ve been one of the favorites for each of the past six seasons, but they still haven’t gotten there. Making it to the first, and likely only, Super Bowl to be played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will more than make up for losing the first regular season game there, which happened last September.

If it happens, it still could have been worse for Vikings fans. The Packers could have signed running back Adrian Peterson and brought him home to Minnesota for a game the Vikings haven’t played since 1977.

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