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Report: Commissioner to meet with four bounty players

Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma AP

Before Commissioner Roger Goodell decides what to do about the four players whose suspensions were vacated, he’ll meet with them.

Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the meeting will take place next week in New York, with Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove making the trip.

It’s not the first time meetings have been scheduled.  And so it’s possible that the meetings will be scuttled, again.

We expect that no obstacles will get in the way of this one,” Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, told Breer.  “We’re prepared to move ahead.”

Still, how will they be moving?  The players previously declined to participate because the NFL refused to share evidence of guilt.  It’s possible, then, that the NFL has decided to put some cards on the table in the hopes of getting the players to do the same.

And while it’s easy to say that the players, if the truth is on their side, shouldn’t worry about the league’s evidence, the reality is that situations like this routinely involve the employer asking subtly loaded questions and taking responses out of context in the hopes of cramming the evidence obtained into the pre-determined narrative.  The more the players know about the specific evidence against them, the easier it will be to ensure that the answers are clear and unambiguous.

Of course, nothing about this situation is clear or unambiguous.  One of these days, hopefully it will be.

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Stephen Hill diagnosed with torn ACL

Stephen Hill AP

The feeling around the Panthers was that the knee injury suffered by wide receiver Stephen Hill on Saturday was a serious one and those feelings were proven correct on Sunday.

Assistant head coach Steve Wilks, who is filling in for Ron Rivera this weekend while Rivera is attending his brother’s funeral, announced that Hill tore his ACL. The team placed Hill on waivers with the injured designation, which means he’ll be placed on injured reserve for the team if he clears waivers.

“It’s tough anytime you lose a player,” Wilks said, via the team’s website. “We’re just praying that Stephen has a quick recovery, and we’ll move forward.”

Hill was a second-round pick by the Jets in 2012 and caught 45 passes in two years with the team before joining the Panthers practice squad last season. Hill’s issues with drops hastened his exit from the Jets, but the Panthers were hopeful that his size and speed would help them this season.

The Panthers signed undrafted rookie wide receiver Paul Browning.

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Report: Lions trade Mohammed Seisay to Seahawks

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Seahawks and Lions have reportedly hooked up for a trade that adds a cornerback to the mix in Seattle.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reports that the Seahawks have sent an undisclosed 2016 draft pick to Detroit in exchange for cornerback Mohammed Seisay.

Seisay was an undrafted rookie last season and initially made the Lions practice squad before getting a spot on the 53-man roster in September. He played in 13 games and made five tackles for Detroit. The Lions presumably didn’t feel he had a great chance of making the roster again this year after drafting two corners to go with free agent additions Josh Wilson and Chris Owens.

Seisay will now compete with Will Blackmon, Marcus Burley, Tye Smith and, once healthy, Tharold Simon in a group topped by Richard Sherman and Cary Williams. At 6’2″ and 200 pounds, Seisay has the kind of size the Seahawks have liked at corner in recent years.

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Mark Sanchez says talk of Chip Kelly being racist is “getting old”

Kelly Getty Images

The pattern has become predictable. Players who, for whatever reason, don’t fit within the Chip Kelly system point to something other than their failure to fit within the Chip Kelly system when dismissed from it.

It’s easy for some, and a little lazy, to suggest that Kelly makes decisions based in whole or in part on race. But that’s what cornerback Brandon Boykin did after being traded to the Steelers. While Boykin stopped short of echoing the kind of inflammatory remarks previously made by former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, Boykin told Derrick Gunn of CSN Philly that Kelly is “uncomfortable around grown men of our culture.”

Quarterback Mark Sanchez has sounded off in response to the suggestion that Kelly has any sort of racial bias.

That’s nuts,” Sanchez said, via Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “[During stretching today], guys were like, ‘Sanchez, ain’t you Mexican? And Bradford, aren’t you Native-American? And Kiko [Alonso] is Colombian. We’ve got black guys, white guys, Polynesian guys. C’mon, that’s crazy. It’s not even worth talking about. Stop asking the players about it. It’s getting old.”

It may be getting old, but it becomes news whenever a newly old Eagles player dusts off that narrative.

The real narrative is that Chip Kelly is committed to putting together the best team he can, without special treatment for players with big names or big contracts. Everyone is replaceable, regardless of what he has done. And if anyone doesn’t like that, he’ll soon be gone.

Actually, Kelly’s approach gives players a convenient path out of Philly. By not buying in, privately or publicly, Kelly eventually will cut a guy loose, regardless of the precedent it sets. A decade ago, that mindset would have saved the Eagles plenty of stress and strain during an pay-me-trade-me-or-cut-me extended showdown with receiver Terrell Owens.

Kelly ultimately wants guys who want to be there, and who want to do things the way he wants them to be done. While that mentality won’t guarantee a guy special treatment, either, it gives every player a fair chance to make the team and to get onto the field.

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Jerry Reese: We’re going to surprise people defensively

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The Giants defense wasn’t any good last season and hopes for a revival under returning coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took a hit on July 4 when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was injured in a fireworks accident.

Pierre-Paul has not signed his franchise tender with the team and has opted not to share his current medical condition with the team while he recovers in Florida, a decision that has led to criticism from co-owner John Mara and coach Tom Coughlin in the last week. General Manager Jerry Reese didn’t have anything to say about Pierre-Paul’s approach when asked about the defensive end on Sunday.

“Guys, I’m not gonna say much,” Reese said, via the New York Daily News. “I don’t really have anything to report about that situation, but I am gonna say this: I wish Jason nothing but the best. It’s a traumatic situation that was — it was an accident. There’s plenty of people that have opinions about it, but my heart goes out to him. For a young man to have a traumatic event like that in his life, it’s life-changing for him and I hope and pray for the best for him. That’s what I can say about that. But other than that, I’m not gonna say anything else about what Jason’s situation is except I hope for the best, and hopefully he’s healing mentally and physically, and that he can be back to himself as soon as possible. That’s all I’m gonna say about the Jason situation.”

Damontre Moore and Kerry Wynn were two players that Reese pointed out while discussing how the defense will line up for however long they’ll be without Pierre-Paul and the G.M. added that they would contribute to a better defense than many people are predicting.

“I think we’ll be really good defensively,” Reese said. “I think we’re gonna surprise people.”

Getting to really good defensively looked hard when expecting a healthy Pierre-Paul in the lineup from the start of the season and meeting Reese’s expectations would make Spagnuolo look pretty good in his return to Jersey.

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Steelers dump Michael Egnew

Egnew Getty Images

Even with 90 guys on every roster, the churning continues in the early days of training camp.

For the Steelers, that churning has resulted in the arrival of cornerback Brandon Boykin via trade with Philly, and also the signing of rookie free agent running back Jawon Chisholm. The team announced the arrival of Chisholm on Sunday; he was a participant on a tryout basis in the team’s rookie minicamp.

To make room for Boykin and Chisholm, the Steelers released tight end Michael Egnew and placed rookie running back Ross Scheuerman on the waived/injured list.

A third-round pick of the Dolphins in 2012, Egnew appeared in 16 games for the Dolphins in 2013. Cut in August 2014 by the Dolphins, he bounced from the Lions to the Jaguars before being released from Jacksonville’s practice squad on September 24 and spending the rest of the year out of football.

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Rex Ryan names Richie Incognito starter at left guard

Richie Incognito AP

Richie Incognito was out of the NFL for the entire 2014 season, but he’s on track to be in the starting lineup when the 2015 season gets underway.

Bills coach Rex Ryan said Sunday, via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW, that Incognito is the team’s starter at left guard. Incognito has not played in the NFL since the Dolphins suspended him in November 2013 after allegations of harassment and bullying toward tackle Jonathan Martin that became the subject of the NFL’s first Ted Wells report.

He signed with Buffalo in February and declared himself a changed man. He’s done nothing off the field to draw attention since joining the Bills and earned rave reviews from Ryan during offseason work for his work on the field. Incognito was selected to the Pro Bowl with the Dolphins in 2012 and has 102 NFL starts in his career.

Ryan also announced Cordy Glenn will be the starter at left tackle. With Eric Wood at center, that leaves the Bills down to two unsettled positions on their offensive line.

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NFL supervisor of officials acknowledges “slow leak” possibility

Football

The Ted Wells report should have resulted, in the opinion of PFT and not necessarily anyone else, in a finding that the results of the investigation were inconclusive as to whether the Patriots had tampered with footballs prior to the AFC title game.

Inconclusive, because the NFL had (as former NFL official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos has told PFT) never regarded the inflation of footballs as a science.

Inconclusive, because the NFL had never even checked air pressure in footballs during or after any game in the 95-year history of the league.

Inconclusive, because of the significant gap between the two gauges made available to the officials responsible for setting the air pressure in the footballs used for the AFC Championship Game.

Inconclusive, because the measurements generated by the Patriots footballs (the real ones, not the false ones leaked to ESPN) on one of those gauges — the one the referee specifically recalled using before kickoff to set the air in the Patriots footballs — fell within the range expected by the Ideal Gas Law.

Inconclusive, because one of the gauges showed three of four Colts footballs to be under the 12.5 PSI minimum at halftime, even though they started at 13.0 or 13.1 PSI.

Inconclusive, because a $1,000-an-hour lawyer wasn’t able to parlay troubling Beavis-and-Butthead text messages into a pants-pissing confession from a day-of-game employee who carries around a bag of footballs on Sundays.

And, now, inconclusive, because a current NFL supervisor of officials has acknowledged that some footballs are defective, when it comes to keeping air inside them.

“These are man-made products,” Central Region supervisor of officials Gary Slaughter said during a via to the Steelers, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “There is a bladder and a valve. We have all checked them for many years. Sometimes when you check the ball in the locker room right out of the box, there could be a problem. They could have a slow leak, and you wouldn’t even know it at the time.”

The possibility of a slow leak doesn’t exonerate the Patriots. But it’s another reason for concluding based on the information available to Ted Wells that the evidence of cheating prior to the AFC Championship Game is inconclusive.

The sheer volume of the evidence generated by Ted Wells allows for a 243-page decision supporting any outcome Wells wanted to reach. Whatever outcome he wanted to reach, the end result should have been that the evidence is inconclusive.

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Seahawks move on from Tony McDaniel

McDaniel Getty Images

The Seahawks truly can’t keep everybody.

The team has released defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, PFT has confirmed. PFT likewise has confirmed that McDaniel was informed that the team needed to move on for cap reasons after giving new contracts to quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner.

McDaniel was due to earn a base salary of $2.5 million in 2015, along with a per-game roster bonuses with a full-season total of $500,000. He remains on the books for $625,000, the proration of his signing bonus from 2014.

He arrived in Seattle two years ago, appearing in 32 regular-season games with 29 starts.  He also has started five of six postseason games in the last two years, including Super Bowl XLIX.

McDaniel appeared in every game during his Seattle tenure; he becomes an immediate free agent, able to sign with any team.

And the next question becomes who’s the next to go after so much money has gone to Wilson and Wagner.

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Lions not sure when Joique Bell will be ready to practice

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Lions placed running back Joique Bell on the physically unable to perform list to open training camp after an offseason that saw Bell undergo surgeries on both his knee and Achilles, but they aren’t concerned about Bell falling behind in the offense.

Coach Jim Caldwell said that Bell “understands and knows how to run the ball” in the team’s offensive scheme, which leaves the team “majorly concerned” with getting the back healthy enough to actually run the ball. As of now, though, the team doesn’t have any idea about when that is going to be.

“Like I said, I’m not sure how long it’s going to take,” Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I do know one thing, that he’s coming along quickly, and we’ll see what the doctor says. I can’t put an exact timetable on it right now. That’s the tough thing about even talking about medical. Sometimes you don’t know.”

Second-round pick Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick will get the snaps with the first team while Bell, who led the Lions in rushing last season, is out of the lineup and strong work from Abdullah could lead the Lions to tweak their plans in the backfield for the season.

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Chip Kelly: I don’t know why Brandon Boykin would say that

Philadelphia Eagles v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Eagles coach Chip Kelly sounds shocked that Brandon Boykin, who was traded from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh yesterday, is suggesting racial motivations in the decision to trade him.

“I don’t know. In talking to him last night I think he was stunned, he was disappointed. He really liked it here,” Kelly said.

Kelly said that when he informed Boykin he had been traded, Boykin took it like a pro and didn’t express any hard feelings.

“When he left here last night he shook my hand and gave me a hug, didn’t say anything,” he said. “I like Brandon. I just don’t know. I really don’t know.”

Kelly said the Steelers, who gave up a 2016 draft pick for Boykin, have been calling the Eagles for months about acquiring him in a trade. The Steelers recently upped their offer to either a fourth-round pick or a fifth-round pick, depending on Boykin’s playing time, and that was the offer the Eagles accepted.

“They actively pursued him. They wanted to trade for him at the draft and we turned it down,” Kelly said.

Kelly also said he would have liked to keep Boykin, but the Eagles think they have more good cornerbacks than they’ll be able to keep on the 53-player roster. So if they can get a draft pick for one of those cornerbacks, they’re going to do it.

“It more speaks to what our depth was at the position,” Kelly said. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions at corner and we’re not going to be able to keep them all.”

Despite Boykin’s comments, Kelly said he still likes Boykin.

“I’ve always been a Brandon Boykin fan. I think he did an unbelievable job in the two and a half years I was with him and I wish him nothing but success,” Kelly said.

The feeling does not appear to be mutual.

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Jimmy Haslam: We’re on right track, won’t blow things up

Jimmy Haslam AP

Johnny Manziel isn’t the only member of the Browns organization that owner Jimmy Haslam is promising to be patient with this year.

On Saturday, Haslam addressed the possibility that the team could change coaches and key front office personnel for the third time since he bought the team and admitted that no one will be happy until the team wins consistently. He said, however, that the team has “the right people” in place to build a winner in coach Mike Pettine and General Manager Ray Farmer and that they’ll remain in place.

“We’re not going to blow things up, okay?” Haslam said, via Cleveland.com. “I think we’re on the right track so we’re not going to blow things up. I understand why people might ask that after a couple of bumps in the first couple of years, but we are not going to do that. I think we’re putting a good foundation in place.”

There have been reports about struggles between Pettine and Farmer about the direction of the organization that Pettine denied while speaking with reporters this week. If there is an issue there it could force the Browns to make different choices about who is calling the shots, although finding a way to put together a winner would likely put questions about changes to the hierarchy to rest for a while.

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Brandon Boykin suggests Chip Kelly is uncomfortable with black men

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

Brandon Boykin is the latest former Eagle to suggest that the coach who traded him, Chip Kelly, was motivated by racism.

In a text message to Comcast SportsNet’s Derrick Gunn, Boykin said Kelly is “uncomfortable around grown men of our culture.”

Boykin suggested that he agrees with former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who said after he was traded to the Bills that Kelly was getting rid of all the good black players.

“He can’t relate and that makes him uncomfortable,” Boykin said. “He likes total control of everything, and he don’t like to be uncomfortable. Players excel when you let them naturally be who they are, and in my experience that hasn’t been important to him, but you guys have heard this before me.”

We have heard it before, but we still haven’t heard an explanation for why Kelly, if his roster moves are motivated by racism, has also jettisoned good white players like Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. There’s no doubt that Kelly is radically reshaping the roster he inherited in Philadelphia, but that radical reshaping of the roster hasn’t significantly changed the racial makeup of the Eagles’ roster.

It’s easy to find on-field explanations for why Kelly has made these allegedly racist moves. He prefers a straight-ahead running style, so he traded LeSean McCoy and signed DeMarco Murray to a lucrative contract. He prefers bigger cornerbacks, so he traded Brandon Boykin and signed Byron Maxwell to a lucrative contract. That’s evidence that Kelly has clear ideas about the kinds of players he wants on his football team, but those ideas aren’t tied to race.

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Andre Smith: I’m tired of being mediocre

Carolina Panthers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals drafted offensive tackles with their first two picks in this year’s draft, which is the sort of thing that sends a message to the team’s incumbent starters.

Right tackle Andre Smith seems to have heard that message. He reported to camp down 23 pounds from last year, completely healed from the torn triceps that ended his 2014 season and feeling better than he has since he was the team’s first-round pick in 2008. Smith said he’s set a goal of being the best right tackle in the NFL and that he’s “tired of being mediocre.”

“I do feel fresh,” Smith said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I got a year off to prepare my body, get better mentally, physically, get in great shape, stay in shape and be out there with my teammates now and do what I’m supposed to do.”

Even without the arrival of two rookie tackles, Smith has ample motivation for the 2015 season. His contract is up after the year and a season of strong play will be rewarded by the Bengals or someone else next offseason.

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Matt Elam may have torn his biceps on Saturday

Matt Elam AP

The Ravens spent the offseason talking about their hopes for better play from safety Matt Elam this season, but those hopes may have been dashed early in training camp.

Elam suffered an injury to his arm on Saturday and the Baltimore Sun reports that the team fears he tore his biceps. Elam will have an MRI on Sunday to determine the severity of the injury.

If Elam completely tore his biceps, there’s a good chance that he’ll miss the entire season. A partial tear would require a much shorter recovery period that could put Elam back on the field sometime in September.

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said in May that the Ravens haven’t been satisfied with the 2013 first-round pick’s play during his first two seasons with the team. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees praised Elam later in the offseason, but that may be moot if the MRI reveals a serious injury.

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In January, Mort told WEEI he reconfirmed PSI info

Mort Getty Images

On Friday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen pulled the plug on a planned appearance on WEEI in Boston to discuss his #DeflateGate floodgates report that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. As it turns out, Mortensen previously addressed the report on WEEI back in January, in an appearance with Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria.

Told about the PFT report from that same time frame that 10 of the 11 Patriots footballs were closer to one pound under the minimum than two pounds under it (which turned out to be accurate in light of the measurements first published by Ted Wells in May), Mortensen elaborated on his report.

“Listen, I went back . . .  and I can’t go through too many of the steps I took because it wasn’t just a single source,” Mortensen said. “Even before that report came back that maybe they were one pound underneath because I agree maybe it’s a huge difference, but you know what I was told was, I said, ‘Listen,’ I said, ‘is there any discrepancies in what I reported, because I want to know.’ Because even on a small detail like that. And I was just told, ‘No, you were right on.'”

Mortensen then speculated that maybe the frame of reference was 13.5 PSI, and that the sources meant that the footballs were two pounds under that. And then he essentially said that it didn’t matter because of other things his sources told him.

“They said, ‘Use common sense,’ Mortensen said. ‘One team’s footballs, basically all of them were underinflated. The other team’s footballs — they like them on the low end, too, by the way, the Colts — were all within regulation. So all the scientific minutiae that’s been thrown at us, be careful about buying into it.”

So, basically, Mortensen was lied to by his sources on multiple occasions. In addition to being told when he double-checked that he was “right on,” he was told that the Colts footballs “were all within regulation.” The truth, as demonstrated by the Ted Wells report, is that only four Colts footballs were tested — and on one of the gauges used three of the four balls were under 12.5 PSI.

Moreover, the Colts footballs didn’t start on the low end of the 12.5 to 13.5 PSI range, but right in the middle, at 13.0 or 13.1 PSI. But that’s not what Mortensen’s sources told him.

“I was told they prefer theirs at the lower level, too,” Mortensen said. Which means that his sources wanted him to believe the footballs started at the same point, and that only the Patriots dropped while exposed to cold, wet conditions. Which we now know is completely, you know, not true.

Moreover, the four (not 12, but only four) Colts footballs that were tested sat inside the warmer atmosphere of the locker room, readjusting to those conditions as the Patriots footballs were tested twice and then refilled to 13.0 PSI.

If anything, Mort’s January appearance on WEEI shows that he wasn’t lied to by one person on one occasion, but by multiple people on multiple occasions, regarding key facts beyond the notion that the Patriots footballs were two pounds under the minimum. It’s also now obvious that his sources were within the league office; who else would be lobbying Mort to “use common sense” by comparing the false information that was being provided to him about the Patriots footballs with false information that was being provided to him about the Colts footballs?

Mortensen then was asked if Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft sounded off in the days preceding the Super Bowl because they were irritated by the publication of misinformation. Mortensen bristled at the implication.

“You’re saying that they’re telling the truth and we’re disseminating misinformation,” Mortensen said.

It’s now clear that ESPN, through multiple league-office sources, was indeed disseminating misinformation. And ESPN still has not adequately answered for that, beyond Adam Schefter’s recent suggestion that Mort was indeed lied to by multiple high-level sources.

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