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Peterson says decision to play was made the day after surgery

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson scores a touchdown past Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny Reuters

With all the talk about whether or not Vikings running back Adrian Peterson would play on the first Sunday of the 2012 regular season, the real question is when the decision finally was made that he would go.

Friday?  Saturday?  Sunday?

Peterson told PFT after the game that the decision was made — by him — the day after he had surgery in December to repair the torn ACL and MCL.

It was Peterson’s determination that not only got him ready to play but also to contribute.  He said that, as the game went on, the knee loosened up.  And while he said coach Leslie Frazier was the hardest person to persuade as Peterson tried to get a meaningful role in his first game back, Peterson explained that, after the first couple of carries he felt good and starting aggressively seeking out more reps.

Peterson got more, 17 in all.  And he added a 10-yard run and a 20-yard run in overtime, which gave the Vikings a go-ahead field goal.

Peterson knew that the new rule gave the Jaguars another chance.  But not everyone did; Peterson said Percy Harvin thought the game was over as the ball sailed through the uprights on a 38-yard kick from rookie Blair Walsh.

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O’Brien says Mallett remains the No. 2 quarterback

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Oversleeping may have relegated Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett to third-string for Friday. But the move won’t be permanent, at least not yet.

Coach Bill O’Brien told reporters on Friday that Mallett remains the second-string quarterback, behind starter Brian Hoyer.

Beyond that, O’Brien didn’t have much to offer.

“[T]he situation with Ryan not being at practice [Thursday], that’s between Ryan and I,” O’Brien told reporters. “There are a lot things that I will explain to you and I realize that you have a job to do, I really do. I said that in the very first meeting with you this year. I have a lot of respect for you and your profession and what you’re trying to do with information and all those things. I get it. But some things are left within the team, and this is one of them. I’m not going to take any more questions on [Thursday] as it regards to Ryan Mallett.”

It’s no surprise that O’Brien either sent Mallett home or told him to stay home after showing up late for work; O’Brien’s former boss in New England routinely does the same thing in response to tardiness, even if the tardiness is the result of a blizzard.

Perhaps Tuesday night’s edition of Hard Knocks will have more details about Mallett’s sleep habits, or other topics aimed at keeping the audience awake.

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Not much precedent for notable August QB trades

Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

With the top two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, immediately installed as starters for their respective teams, it’s easy to assume that there’s been outside interest in young quarterbacks already on those rosters, Mike Glennon of the Bucs and Zach Mettenberger of the Titans.

In a league with more teams than quality starting quarterbacks and even fewer legitimate backup options, Matt Flynn and Michael Vick, just to name a couple, have recently found work. So a player like Mettenberger, for example, who’s in his second season and has shown he shares at least some traits with successful starters across the league would and should draw outside interest.

Earlier this week, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt sounded like Mettenberger isn’t going anywhere.

“In the league today it is very hard for one quarterback to make it through the whole season, so you better have a plan in case your starter doesn’t go,” Whisenhunt said. “So we certainly feel very fortunate that we have Zach, and what Zach brings to the table.”

While the Browns and Jets and Bills, possibly among others, might have good reasons to explore possibilities for boosting their quarterback stables over the next week or so as rosters are trimmed and decisions are made, history says teams don’t trade quarterbacks at this time of year, at least not good ones.

Ryan Mallett was traded last Aug. 31 from the Patriots to the Texans. Mallett started two games last season before getting hurt, then no-showed a practice this week after it was announced he’d lost a training-camp battle with Brian Hoyer for the starting job in Houston.

There have been nine August quarterback trades in the last 15 years. The vast majority of them involved journeymen such as Kelly Holcomb, Sage Rosenfels, John Beck and Brooks Bollinger. The Packers trading Brett Favre to the Jets in 2008 stands out as an exception, but that was a soap opera all its own after Favre, then 38, basically refused to report to the Packers.

Going back to last winter, Glennon rumors started swirling as soon as it became clear the Bucs would use the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft on a quarterback. The Bucs ended up cutting Josh McCown and keeping Glennon, who’s been playing as the No. 2 behind Winston.

Speaking of McCown, he was traded from Miami to Carolina in August 2008. With Johnny Manziel injured and likely done for the preseason, Thad Lewis moves to the No. 2 spot behind McCown with the Browns. Lewis was traded in August 2013 from Detroit to Buffalo.

So, these August movers do not form an elite club. And though there could be talks and even a few calls made over the next week to 10 days, what Whisenhunt said about the Titans keeping Mettenberger has generally been the rule. The same reasons teams would be interested in a young quarterback are the same reasons his current team would have an awfully high asking price.

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Chris Johnson returns to practice

Chris Johnson AP

When Chris Johnson hurt his hamstring last week, word from the Cardinals was that he was expected to miss a week or two before returning to the field.

Johnson has made it back on the early end of that timeframe. According to multiple reports from Cardinals practice on Friday, Johnson is in pads and taking part in practice with the team.

Sunday’s matchup against the Raiders might be too quick a turnaround for Johnson to get in his first game action with the team, but he could see a few carries next week if his hamstring holds up well after practicing.

Whether Johnson plays in the preseason or not, he should still compete for snaps in the backfield with Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson as Arizona looks for a more effective running game than they featured last year. The younger Johnson ran 13 times for 66 yards last week while Ellington has had five carries as the starter in both preseason outings.

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Saints spending one-fifth of their cap space on players not on the team

Jimmy Graham AP

Every NFL team has some dead money on its salary cap, money that is allocated to a certain player who’s no longer on the team. But no team is allocating cap space like the Saints.

In New Orleans, 20 percent of the cap is dead money, according to Spotrac. Among the players who count huge amounts against the Saints’ salary cap even though they’re no longer on the team are tight end Jimmy Graham ($9 million), guard Ben Grubbs ($6 million), linebacker Junior Galette ($5.45 million) and linebacker Curtis Lofton $5 million).

The Saints’ cap situation has been problematic for a while now, and the problem isn’t going away. Based on the contracts they already have, the Saints are projected to be $7.3 million over the cap next year.

The team with the lowest dead cap number is the Bengals, who have less than $1 million allocated to players no longer on the team. Bengals owner Mike Brown has been criticized at times for being miserly, but if you’re going to criticize the Bengals for that, you also have to credit them for being smart enough to make the playoffs four years in a row while not mortgaging the future with high-priced contracts for players who don’t last.

The player with the league’s highest dead-cap number is Ndamukong Suh, who counts $9.737 million against the Lions’ salary cap this year even though he signed with the Dolphins in March. After Suh, the highest dead cap number in the NFL is $9.5 million, the amount of the Ravens cap that is allocated to Ray Rice.

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Reggie Wayne on playbook: They’re throwing a lot at me right now

Reggie Wayne AP

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is wrapping up his first week as a member of the Patriots and it’s been full of new things.

Wayne is wearing a new number on a new team after spending 14 years with No. 87 on the back of a Colts jersey and he’s also trying to lear a new offensive playbook with limited time to cram in all the new information before the start of the regular season. The scheme may be new but the experience brings back some old memories.

“Like a rookie,” Wayne said, via the Boston Herald. “They’re throwing a lot at me right now. I’m not getting very much sleep. I feel like a rookie all over again.”

Other veteran wideouts have struggled to pick up the Patriots offense quickly enough to make an impact for the team, so it’s not surprising to hear that Wayne’s working hard to pick everything up. With Brandon LaFell on the PUP list and Julian Edelman out of action for almost all of August, the Patriots may need that work to pay off early in the season.

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Eric Winston glad Jonathan Kraft “coming around” on player discipline

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptkymmq0ymvimzfmmdk5njyzmdljymzkzjk5mtfkyza0 AP

Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said in a recent radio interview that he thinks the league needs to take a look at possible changes to the way player discipline is meted out by the league office.

“There probably needs to be a rethinking so that the league office and the Commissioner aren’t put in a spotlight in a way that detracts from the league’s image and the game, even if the league office is doing the right thing, or the wrong thing, or whatever you think,” Kraft said. “It probably needs to be rethought for the modern era that we’re in and the different things that are coming up that I don’t think people anticipated and how the public wants to see them treated.”

Outside of a retweet of a story about Kraft’s comments from 49ers CEO Jed York, there hasn’t been much comment from ownership around the league about Kraft’s suggestion but NFLPA president Eric Winston liked what Kraft had to say. Winston said he’s “glad they’re coming around” and “starting to see what we’ve been seeing and what we’ve been saying” about the way NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wields his power over player discipline.

“I don’t want to keep pointing fingers at the league office, but that’s really what it is in the sense of running these rogue investigations that are clearly against the CBA,” Winston said, via USA Today. “An ex-commissioner has said so. Federal judges have said so. Arbitrators have said so. A lot of people can say, ‘Oh, well that’s just a partisan union hack.’ But don’t take my word for it. Take their word for it. Take federal judge David Doty recently questioning whether they know what the CBA says, because it’s clear to everybody but them that they’re not following it.”

Winston says he thinks every owner would see that the current system is “detrimental” to the game, something that doesn’t seem to be the case based on sentiments they’ve shared publicly.

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Crime rate among NFL players is relatively low, with some caveats

rayrice AP

The widespread perception that the NFL has a crime problem is contradicted by a detailed study of player arrests, which found that NFL players are arrested less often than men in their 20s and 30s as a whole.

Alex Piquero, a professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, says people who think NFL players are inordinately finding themselves in legal trouble are wrong.

“The data show that it’s not true. Over a 14-year period, for most types of crime, the general population has a greater rate of arrests than players in the NFL,” Piquero said.

Piquero’s research compared arrests of NFL players to crime data from the FBI for arrests among all men in the United States aged 20 to 39, stretching from 2000 to 2013. In every year, the crime rate was higher for American men in their 20s and 30s than for NFL players.

“The data show that the perception that NFL players are overly criminal compared to the U.S. population is false,” Piquero said. “In fact, when you look at the forest and not the trees, the trends over the 14-year period show that the general population has higher arrest rates than NFL players do.”

That’s not to say this research makes the NFL look great. For starters, NFL players are far wealthier than average men aged 20-39, which means they have far greater resources to keep themselves out of trouble — and far less incentive to commit crimes like theft. Other research has indicated that NFL players’ crime rates may be higher than crime rates of other wealthy Americans.

The researchers also weren’t able to determine whether rates of domestic violence — the crime that has brought the most negative attention to the NFL in the last year — are higher, lower or the same within the NFL as the general population.

And this research relies on media reports to determine how many players are arrested. But that may understate the actual number of arrests in the NFL because it’s possible that some players’ arrests are never reported.

Add it all up, and it’s not so clear that NFL players break the law any less often than American men as a whole. It may be more a matter of NFL players doing a better job of making their problems go away before an arrest hits the news. Especially if they’re taking Cris Carter’s advice.

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Chargers don’t see a problem with Melvin Gordon’s pass protection

Dallas Cowboys v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Running back Melvin Gordon came out of Wisconsin without much experience as a pass catcher or pass blocker, although that didn’t stop the Chargers from making him their first-round pick.

They also didn’t let that limited experience stop them from installing him at the top of their backfield depth chart either. Pass protection is going to be important if Gordon is going to be on the field often enough to play that role and if the Chargers are going to strike the right balance on offense this season.

All of that makes it a good sign that running backs coach Ollie Wilson says that he hasn’t seen anything from Gordon to suggest that he lacks the pass protection skills he needs to play in the NFL.

“I know this: When he matches up, he’ll put his head in and strike somebody,” Wilson said, via ESPN.com. “He’s a big-bodied guy, and he’s long, so he keeps people off of him. I don’t see what people say, that he won’t pass protect. I’ve had no problem with it.”

Wilson’s one concern with Gordon in that area is recognizing and adjusting to blitzes during the course of games. There’s only so much work that can be done on that front without actually playing in games so it seems Gordon will be proving himself under fire this season.

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Duane Brown to miss Sunday’s game with hand injury

Duane Brown AP

The Texans will be without their starting left tackle for their third preseason game of the year.

Coach Bill O’Brien said Friday that Duane Brown has a hand injury that will keep him out of Sunday’s matchup with the Saints. O’Brien said, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, that Brown will miss some time with the injury, although he doesn’t think it is particularly serious.

O’Brien also said that Brown is not expected to miss any regular season action at this point, although he pointed out that could change depending on how Brown’s injury responds. Ganguli reported that Brown had a “cast-like thing” on his right hand.

If he were to be out of the lineup for Houston, it would be a blow to a team already missing running back Arian Foster as Brian Hoyer settles in as their starting quarterback.

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PFT Live: Jets talk with Manish Mehta, Bills talk with Tyler Dunne

Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan AP

Friday’s PFT Live will bring you the latest on a couple of AFC East teams.

Mike Florio will talk to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News about the Jets ahead of Saturday’s game against their co-tenants at MetLife Stadium. They’ll discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick’s prospects at quarterback, Geno Smith’s recovery from a broken jaw and more.

Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News will also be on hand to talk about Rex Ryan’s new team. Quarterbacks will be a big topic in that conversation as well, namely Ryan’s decision to start EJ Manuel in the Bills’ third preseason game.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour by clicking right here.

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Ryan Mallett back to practice, with the third string

Ryan Mallett AP

It wasn’t that long ago when Ryan Mallett was competing for the Texans’ starting quarterback job.

Now, he’s working his way up the depth chart from the bottom.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Mallett was back in practice today after missing yesterday because he pulled a Jean-Paul, but he was running third in drills, behind starter Brian Hoyer and second-year quarterback Tom Savage.

If that’s not a message, nothing is, though Texans coach Bill O’Brien didn’t get into details yesterday when asked where Mallett was.

Mallett apparently threw a few touchdown passes in practice, and that’s going to be the only way for him to climb the ladder again — by performing.

Of course, they say biggest part of ability is availability (God I’ve heard a lot of coach cliches in my life), and that’s something Mallett obviously still needs to work on.

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Maurkice Pouncey likely to miss first 10 games

Maurkice Pouncey AP

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey appears likely to miss the first 10 games of the season with a broken fibula.

Although the team has not made the designation official, the Steelers’ website says Pouncey is expected to be placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list. That would mean he’d miss at least half the season. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Pouncey is likely to return after the Steelers’ bye week.

Pittsburgh’s bye is Week 11, which would mean Pouncey would miss 10 games and then perhaps be ready to Week 12, November 29 at Seattle.

Of course, less than a week after an injury, there’s no way to say for sure how long it will take a player to recover. Pouncey might recover faster than expected, or he might need more time. But for now, set the over/under at 10 games, and expect the Steelers to get their All-Pro center back for what they hope is a playoff push late in the year.

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Jeff Fisher says rules won’t change for zone-read quarterbacks

Jeff Fisher, Alan Eck, Laird Hayes AP

Two years ago, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh lobbied for greater protections for mobile quarterbacks. Greater protections weren’t adopted then, and they likely won’t be adopted now, or in the near future.

In response to the most recent debate regarding whether quarterbacks who have adopted the zone-read posture have any protections beyond those that apply to ball carriers, a member of the league’s Competition Committee doesn’t see the rules changing.

“The Committee talks about this every year,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters on Thursday. “We have rules in the rule book that are very specific. If the quarterback is in a throwing position, he gets protection. But in the event that the ball is handed off, at that instant, there’s no telling whether or not he is a runner or not, so he loses that protection.

“So, I don’t see that changing. You get the complaints in opposition from those that are running the read option, and those that [don’t] understand the rule probably a little bit more. There’s obviously a push to protect the quarterback, but you have to give the defensive players a chance. All of the quarterback has to do is pull the ball and he’s a runner. How’s the defender going to know if the ball is pulled or not? The quarterback gets plenty of protection in the pocket and he picks up protection out of the pocket, he’s got protection down the field on his slides. The read-option posture, I think everybody is clear as to the rule. It didn’t look right, but the [Sam] Bradford hit, it was a legal hit according to the rules.”

The key word indeed is posture. When a quarterback adopts the know-it-when-you-see-it zone-read posture, the goal is to make the defense uncertain as to who has the ball, in the hopes of getting the defense to pursue someone who doesn’t have it.

That’s exactly what happened with Bradford. He duped Terrell Suggs into pursuing the guy who didn’t have the football. So it’s disingenuous for anyone from the Eagles to complain about the fact that Bradford got hit when the goal was to lure Suggs to guy who didn’t have the ball.

It’s like saying, “We tried to fool you and it worked. How dare you!”

Regardless, the rules remain the same, and it looks like they won’t be changing.

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NFL, NFLPA tweak start of new league year

Calendar Getty Images

With the start of a new regular-season looming, it’s just a matter of time before a new league year will be launching in March.

And for those of you who look forward to the annual opportunity for your favorite team to get better (or worse) via the movement of veteran players in free agency, mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 9, at 4:00 p.m. ET. That’s when the period for signing free agents from other teams and making trades opens after the coming season closes.

The shift of the start of the league year to a Wednesday means that the three-day legal tampering period will begin on Sunday, March 6, at 12:00 p.m. ET. In previous years, free agency opened on a Tuesday, and the legal tampering period started on Saturday.

These dates were communicated on Thursday to all teams as a shift in the launch of the new league year, per agreement of the NFL and NFL Players Association.

The change also has triggered a shift in the two-week franchise tag window by a day, with the period for applying the tag opening on Tuesday, February 16, and closing on Tuesday, March 1.

With the Super Bowl happening on February 7 this year (due to the fact that Labor Day lands as late as possible this year, on September 7), there will be only nine days of down time before the offseason starts heating up — and only four weeks and three days until it explodes with the launch of a new league year.

The full list of upcoming dates and deadlines for the NFL appears here.

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Greg Toler’s neck injury will keep him out longer than originally expected

Trey Burton, Greg Toler AP

When Colts cornerback Greg Toler hurt his neck against the Bears last Saturday, it didn’t seem like something that would keep him off the field for long because coach Chuck Pagano said his status was day-to-day.

On Thursday, Pagano updated Toler’s condition and the revision extended the timeline for the starting corner’s return to the lineup.

“As you go through and the doctors evaluate, that’s where he’s at right now,” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star. “He’s week-to-week.”

With the start of the regular season a couple of weeks away, that downgrade in condition creates some doubt about Toler’s ability to make it back to the lineup for Week One. Toler started 15 games for the Colts last season as part of a corner tandem with Vontae Davis.

The Colts play the Rams on Saturday night and Toler’s injury will give other cornerbacks like third-round pick D’Joun Smith more reps with the first team.

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