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Rex Ryan challenged his team to not feed “circus” perception

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Getty Images

Call them clowns if you want.

But Rex Ryan’s going to make sure you know that’s not how they’re playing.

Ryan and Jets officials are sufficiently tired of the cracks about their circus atmosphere (trust us on that one) that they’re using the criticism as motivation.

That’s why he gathered his players last week and challenged them to not provide evidence that would point to such a conclusion.

It seems like that’s how people look at us,” Ryan said, via Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. “I was like, ‘You can think that all you want, but we see something totally different.’ I do — and I know this football team does. Our opponents will take us seriously, I promise you that.”

Several players said Ryan’s speech, prior to the win over the Bills, as a passionate one.

“It made it a bigger deal for us to go out there and prove to each other that we had each other’s back,” linebacker Aaron Maybin said.

It’s also moved them into the unusual spot of being quiet.

Cimini said starters present in the locker room in Monday’s media period were in the single digits, with no sign of linebacker Bart Scott after he snapped “you treat us like a f—— joke,” on Sunday.

“The big thing Rex was hammering last week was, he didn’t want us in the mode of proving outsiders wrong,” Maybin said. “He said it has to be about the people in this locker room.”

Ryan’s point is a valid one. They have played good football under his watch, with 30 wins since he took over as head coach in 2009. Only eight teams in the league (New England, New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, San Diego and Philadelphia) have more over the same span.

But they’ve also been active at times in pursuing the attention their neighbors get for winning championships. At times, the drama, much of it by their own creation, has overshadowed the product.

That’s not always Ryan’s fault. But he’s going to make sure to use the perceived slight as motivation all the same.

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NFLPA monitoring evidence of collusion in light of cap increases

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In recent years, the salary cap hasn’t been going up by much.  Which means spending hasn’t been going up much.  With the cap going up, spending should go up, too.  And the NFLPA is making sure that other forces, such as collusion, won’t be holding spending down.

Per a league source, the union conducted an informal conference call with a group of agents on Thursday to explore the question of whether any agents believe collusion is occurring.  During the call, no agent came forward with any specific proof or allegation about collusive behavior in the marketplace.  And for good reason; this year saw a record number of free-agent signings and total spending.

Still, with the cap going up $10 million per team this year and expected to continue to spike annually, the NFLPA will continue to monitor the situation, with specific attention being paid to veteran players who are cut with the excuse that the team needs salary-cap space.

Some have suspected collusion regarding the absence of long-term extensions for 2011 first-round picks.  With cornerback Patrick Peterson receiving a five-year extension from the Cardinals and tackle Tyron Smith getting an eight-year extension from the Cowboys, the hope is that other teams will reward 2011 first-round picks who were underpaid by a system that guards against busts.

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Seahawks place Anthony McCoy on I.R., sign WR Ronald Johnson

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Anthony McCoy will miss yet another season because of an Achilles injury.

According to PFT’s Curtis Crabtree, the Seahawks have announced they have placed McCoy on injured reserve and signed wide receiver Ronald Johnson to fill the roster spot.

Johnson, like McCoy, played for now-Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. Johnson has had stints with San Francisco (2011) and Philadelphia (2012-2013). Johnson missed the 2012 season with a broken and discloated left ankle. He was waived by the Eagles in April 2013.

Johnson was a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2011. He turns 26 on Sunday.

The Seahawks have just four tight ends on their roster: Zach Miller, Luke Willson, RaShaun Allen and Cooper Heifet.

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Eric Berry forced from Chiefs practice with ankle injury

Eric Berry AP

Injuries are starting to mount in the Chiefs secondary.

Three defensive backs are dealing with injuries at the moment, including safety Eric Berry. Berry had to leave Thursday morning’s practice after suffering an injury to his lower right leg during the session and was eventually carted back for further evaluation. A full diagnosis hasn’t been revealed, but coach Andy Reid said that it appears Berry has avoided a catastrophic injury.

“Berry had a sore ankle. It’s not an Achilles tear or any of that, but they’re evaluating him. They’re just seeing what it is,” Reid said, via Herbie Teope of the Associated Press.

Berry was joined on the sideline by cornerback Marcus Cooper, who left practice with a hamstring injury that Reid called “slight.” Cooper was replaced on the first team by Sean Smith, reversing a switch that took place earlier in camp.

Reid also revealed that safety Sanders Commings is having surgery on his ankle after being injured earlier in the week. The second-year player only played a few snaps during his rookie season because of a broken collarbone and he may be hard-pressed to win playing time this year as a result of this injury.

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Blake Bortles impressing coaches with his progress

Jaguars Football AP

Unlike other first-round quarterbacks, Blake Bortles has been able to navigate through his rookie training camp without much notice.

But his Jaguars coaches have noticed his work, and say he’s progressing well toward the stated goal of being ready to play at some point after this year’s opener.

“I think that one of the things you always worry about is how does a guy handle something that he’s never done before,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “He’s had OTAs and minicamp and then now he’s got four weeks to figure out what is he going to do. I thought he really prepared so he came back ahead of where I thought he was going to be.”

Bortles has a comfort zone, in that the Jaguars built their plan around Chad Henne starting this year, so as not to rush the No. 3 overall pick in before he was ready, or the parts were around him to succeed.

But Fisch said Bortles has impressed with how he has developed within the offense, and the fact he’s able to grow comfortably might allow him to grow faster.

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Donald Thomas placed on injured reserve

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Colts have officially lost starting left guard Donald Thomas for the season.

The team placed the 28-year-old Thomas on injured reserve Thursday, the club said.

Thomas suffered a torn quadriceps on Wednesday. He sustained the same injury last September.

With Thomas out, second-round pick Jack Mewhort is among the options to fill in at left guard.

In a corresponding roster move Thursday, the Colts re-signed undrafted rookie offensive lineman Eric Pike, who had a short stint with the club in May. A Towson product, Pike (6-5, 298) was a left tackle on the college level.

The signing of Pike puts the Colts back at the 90-player limit.

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Johnny Manziel expects to be better in games than in practice

manziel AP

Johnny Manziel says Browns fans will see a difference between what he’s shown in training camp and what he’ll show when they start playing games.

Asked if he expects to perform better once the games start than he has so far in practice, Manziel said that’s always been his way.

“Always, for me, I’ve been better in a game situation than I feel I have in practice. But I have to come out here and get better with the reps that I’m getting. That’s the main thing, keep getting better, and then when it’s time to go out and play football, it’s time to play football,” Manziel said.

At Texas A&M, Manziel was often at his best improvising when plays broke down and using his feet to avoid the pass rush. But in practices, a quarterback doesn’t get that opportunity: Coaches want to see the play run in practice exactly the way it’s drawn up, and when the pass rush gets near the quarterback, the play is blown dead. Manziel thinks that makes him a better game-day player than practice player.

“There will be times in games, situations in games when things break down, and obviously it’s not practice, there are not coaches on the field, and it will be a little bit — it will be a lot different. But practice is what it is, and we have to get better,” Manziel said.

At the moment, Manziel is running the second-string offense, and Brian Hoyer is the starter. Manziel may have to play better in practice to show that he deserves to start when it’s game time.

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Ray Rice says his wife “can do no wrong” in first press conference

Ray Rice AP

Ravens running back Ray Rice walked to the podium Thursday, and came right out with  the kind of contrition he hadn’t previously shown.

Rice spoke to reporters for the first time since his no-questions-asked press conference during which his wife apologized for getting knocked out cold, and admitted what appears obvious.

“My actions that night were totally inexcusable,” he began. “That’s not me. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.”

Rice apologized to his wife, which he neglected to do during his press conference, and talked about how difficult it would be to explain to his young daughter.

He also said he and his wife wanted to talk about domestic violence “when the time is right.”

That’s apparently not until he continues his counseling, as he said he’s still in that process.

Rice didn’t want to re-live what he called “the incident,” but said he “owned it,” and it was the “biggest mistake of my life.”

“My wife can do no wrong,” he said, several times.

He also said he’s never been involved in any kind of domestic abuse situation, though he repeatedly declined to offer specifics on the night of “the incident.”

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Ravens fourth-round pick Brent Urban tears ACL

brenturban AP

Brent Urban’s rookie season is over before it started.

Urban, a defensive lineman chosen by the Ravens in the fourth round of the NFL draft, suffered a torn ACL in practice yesterday. Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the diagnosis today.

The Ravens hoped the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Urban would be able to join their defensive line rotation as a rookie, but now he’ll go on injured reserve.

Fellow rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who went down on the same play as Urban, is dealing with back spasms and is not expected to miss much time.

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PFT Live from Saints camp: Sean Payton, Larry Holder

Sean Payton AP

PFT Live hits the road on Thursday with Mike Florio making the trip to the Greenbrier in West Virginia to visit the Saints as they visit his home state.

Saints coach Sean Payton will join Florio to talk about how the team’s first camp in the state has been going and what differences he’s found from working at the current site as opposed to past camps. They’ll also discuss the new faces around the Saints this year, including rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and his overall feelings about the team as they prepare for the regular season.

Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune will also be on hand to share his own thoughts about how the Saints are coming together during camp. We’ll get his take on some players to watch in the coming season and areas of concern for New Orleans as well during his visit.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live right here.

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Report: David Wilson “needs a miracle” to come back

David Wilson

David Wilson has been upbeat throughout his comeback from spinal fusion surgery, even after his “burner” earlier this week.

The Giants apparently do not share that optimism.

According to Jordan Raanan and Conor Orr of NJ.com, the Giants consider him a long shot to return to the field and one source familiar with his condition said he “needs a miracle” to come back.

Wilson tweeted Wednesday night that “everything was fine,” which may be true in the global, not football-centric case.

He’ll see a spinal specialist Monday, but the Giants seem to be bracing themselves for the possibility that Wilson might not return at all.

You could argue they did already, signing workhorse back Rashad Jennings this offseason.

But at this point, the concern should be with Wilson’s well-being, and any football considerations should come well after that.

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Cary Williams: “No question” I’m in same class as the best corners in the league

Cary Williams AP

It has been a good offseason for cornerbacks.

Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden and Patrick Peterson have all gotten lucrative new contracts since the 2013 season came to a close. That race to the bank has also ramped up discussion among some members of the group about which of them is the best cornerback in football. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams’s name has never come up in those discussions, but Williams isn’t sure why that’s the case.

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reports that Williams said there’s “no question” that he belongs in a group of cornerbacks that he calls “equally as talented” as himself.

“I look at my career. I’ve played in playoff games,” Williams said. “Most of those guys haven’t played in playoff games. It is what it is. Hopefully those guys could make it to the playoffs. Hopefully those guys could continue the success that they’ve had in their careers. Much respect to those guys, because I don’t see a much of a difference in any of them.”

Williams is a capable NFL cornerback and, as he mentions, he’s played on some good teams in Baltimore and Philadelphia, but he’s not going to find many people buying into his argument that he’s played at the same level as those cornerbacks. Revis and Sherman have both had great success in the playoffs during their careers and Haden and Peterson’s play has been all the more impressive given how little help, relative to Williams’s teammates anyway, their teammates have given them. And all four have been much more impactful and consistent than Williams, should one need more than the playoff argument to chip away at the Eagles corner’s claim.

One thing is for certain after reading Williams’s take, though. Cornerbacks have officially replaced wide receivers as the most voluble (and occasionally delusional) group of players in the league.

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Brandon Marshall thinks Jay Cutler will win NFL MVP

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall AP

Peyton Manning is the betting favorite to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award this season. But Brandon Marshall’s money is on Jay Cutler.

Actually, Marshall can’t put any money on it because that would violate NFL rules. But Marshall does believe that Cutler is going to show this year that he’s the best player in football.

“League MVP,” Marshall said of Cutler on NFL Network. “He’s the first one in the building, last one to leave, his leadership is through the roof. He’s correcting the coaches. I mean, this is his offense. This is his organization. He’s running it, and I love it.”

Cutler missed five games with injuries last year, but he played well when healthy, with a career-high 89.2 passer rating. But Cutler will probably both need to be healthy for all 16 games and have an even higher passer rating this year if anyone is going to consider him seriously for the MVP.

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Chris Johnson: I’m going to do great things this year

Chris Johnson AP

There haven’t been many situations in the last few years when the Jets offense was compared favorably to that of any other team, but running back Chris Johnson doesn’t seem that interested in the past.

That goes for his own results as well. Johnson’s production the last couple of seasons has raised a lot of questions about whether or not Johnson has passed the point where he can be a top-flight runner in the NFL. Johnson has been adamant that there’s plenty left in his tank and thinks “it’s not hard to be the top guy” in a league where most of the top backs are running for 1,100 or 1,200 yards. He also thinks that moving from the Titans’ offense to the Jets’ scheme represents a big step forward.

“I went through a lot of situations last year. You look at [LeSean] McCoy. He got put in a great situation: great offense and great schemes. So he’s doing what he’s supposed to do,” Johnson said, via the New York Daily News. “I went through three different offensive coordinators [with the Titans]. I feel like I now have a great offensive coordinator in Marty [Mornhinweg]. And I’m going to do great things this year.”

There have been plenty of players who have seen their play take a positive turn after a change of scenery and Johnson has run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his six NFL seasons, so it’s not like he fell completely off the radar after 2009. We’ve also seen plenty of players who are unable to recapture their old magic and the answer to which camp Johnson belongs in will go a long way toward determining both the Jets’ fortunes in 2014 and his own future in the NFL.

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Ray Rice will take questions from reporters for first time today

Ray Rice, Janay Rice AP

Ray Rice has stood in front of his bosses, judges and the commissioner.

But for the first time since video showed him dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator, he’ll stand in front of reporters asking questions today.

The Ravens running back is scheduled to talk to reporters today about his two-game suspension, and the incident that led to it.

The organization has protected him carefully, from a press conference with no questions to passionate defenses on the team’s official website, but today he’ll be on his own.

You’ll see his heart, just like you saw it last time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “He’s not going to give you some polished press conference. That’s not Ray. Ray’s going to speak from the heart.”

Harbaugh said yesterday that he was proud of the way Rice has handled the situation (not the assault, the reaction to the assault), but Rice could make some headway this afternoon.

Of course, that would take acknowledging a mistake and doing something about it, rather than just referring to domestic violence as another one of the catch-all “distractions,” which plague NFL teams.

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Mike Zimmer: Cordarrelle Patterson is confident, but not cocky “like a couple of guys” in Cincinnati

Cordarrelle Patterson AP

There are plenty of people who expect Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to have a breakout season in 2014.

That group includes the decision makers at Sports Illustrated, who have named Patterson as one of this year’s rising stars across all sports. Patterson has weighed in on the topic as well, saying that he plans to be a “top-five playmaker” among other things, but coach Mike Zimmer isn’t worried about Patterson’s confidence turning him into the kind of diva receiver he saw when he was the defensive coordinator with the Bengals.

“Honestly, it’s great,” Zimmer said, via the Pioneer Press. “He’s confident, but he’s not like a couple of guys we had in Cincinnati. He’s pretty respectful about it. He works hard, and he’s a young evolving player still. So I like it.”

Zimmer doesn’t name names, but it’s hard not to think of Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson as guys who weren’t respectful about expressing their self-confidence. Both played for the Bengals when Zimmer was there and were players who saw their difficult personalities tolerated and indulged because of how productive they were on the football field.

Patterson may be lacking the character traits that Zimmer didn’t like in whatever wideouts he might be referring to, but he also hasn’t performed at the same level and will need to in order for anyone to pay this much attention to him again in the future.

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