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Antonio Cromartie: With Revis out, I’m the best corner in the NFL

Antonio Cromartie AP

Antonio Cromartie raised some eyebrows this year when he proclaimed himself the second-best receiver on the Jets. But his confidence in his abilities as a cornerback exceeds his confidence in his abilities as a receiver.

Cromartie told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that with Darrelle Revis out for the year with a torn ACL, Cromartie is not just the Jets’ top cornerback: He’s the best cornerback in the entire league.

I have said that I’m the second-best corner in the NFL,” Cromartie said. “I’m not backing off what I said. I don’t care what anyone else believe. . . . It’s my confidence in myself. I know what I’m capable of when I’m at the top of my game.”

Cromartie said he believes he’s off to an excellent start this season, and is now ready to take over Revis’s job of covering the best receiver on the field.

“I think I’ve been playing at a Pro Bowl level so far,” Cromartie said.

He’ll have to be, for the Jets’ defense to avoid falling apart without the guy who really is the best cornerback in the NFL.

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Judge Berman’s ruling may contain a warning for the NFL

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When reviewing a written ruling from a court, lawyers have a habit of going to the last page and working backwards. Judge Richard M. Berman surely knows that this happens, which means there’s a chance he included a specific message for the league’s lawyers at the very end of Thursday’s ruling in the Tom Brady case.

And the message may have been, “Appeal this decision at your own peril.”

Appearing at the top of the last full page of the 40-page ruling is the list of claims from Brady and the NFL Players Association that Judge Berman saw no need to address, including: (1) whether Commissioner Roger Goodell was “evidently partial” in presiding over the appeal of Brady’s suspension; (2) whether Goodell’s conclusions regarding Brady’s knowledge of and involvement in the alleged deflation scheme exceeded the findings of the Ted Wells report; and (3) whether Goodell undermined his competency to serve as arbitrator by publicly praising the work of Ted Wells.

So if the NFL, which already has filed a notice of appeal, pursues the appeal, wins the appeal, and forces the case back to Judge Berman for proceedings consistent with the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Judge Berman can take up those issues — and once again scrap the suspension. Or, at a minimum, he can order that a second appeal hearing occur.

Which means that the case could be tied up even longer in the courts, and that the eventual ruling (if the NFL wins its appeal) could directly undermine the Commissioner’s powers in future suspensions.

The NFL may not have thought of this. Frankly, I hadn’t thought of it until someone smarter than me (it’s a low bar) alerted me to this angle.

The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. The NFL should consider the situation carefully before deciding whether it makes sense to continue with its appeal.

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On Brady ruling, Jerry Jones is simply ready for some football

Jerry Jones AP

Regarding Tom Brady’s suspension, some believed that the owners pushing for Commissioner Roger Goodell to stick with four games included Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. On Thursday night, Jones didn’t have much to say about the outcome from federal court.

“I really hadn’t let my guard down about playing the Patriots [in Week Five], whether [Brady] was playing or not,” Jones said Thursday night, via 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “[Bill] Belichick and that organization are tough competition no matter what. And so I expected all we could handle, one way or the other, Brady or not. So from that standpoint it didn’t change anything.

“I’m ready for us to play football. Certainly I understood many sides of the issue, but as far as I’m concerned let’s keep that over in the courtroom and get to the football field and play some ball.”

Many would agree. Many more would prefer that the courtroom festivities end, too. But the league opted to prolong the case by filing an immediate appeal.

In the next item to be posted, I’ll explain why the league could eventually regret that decision.

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Falcons owner says it might be time to look at commissioner’s power

Roger Goodell, Arthur Blank AP

In the wake of today’s Tom Brady ruling, many of the questions that remain surround how the NFL moves forward, and with whom at the helm of its discipline.

And at least one owner seems willing to consider that the best person for that job might not be commissioner Roger Goodell.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted that Thursday’s ruling by Judge Richard Berman vacating Brady’s suspension was bad for the league.

It’s not healthy for the NFL to be in the kind of litigious position that it’s been for last several years,” Blank said. “I think that the commissioner is working hard to hold up the respect and integrity of the game, the competitive balance of the game and the shield. Having said that, I think we have to find ways to get to a better place sooner with the NFLPA than the process that we’ve gone through.”

Even if that means something other than Goodell having final say.

“This Deflategate thing which isn’t about Deflategate any longer, it’s about what has been collectively negotiated for decades in terms of the commissioner’s responsibility in terms of disciplining players,” Blank said. “If we have to look at that differently in today’s light, in today’s environment, as an ownership group we should be prepared to do that. The commissioner should be prepared to do that.”

And while the league retains the right to appeal the ruling, Blank sounded like many fans who just want the matter put to rest.

“I would have rather seen it end with a positive ruling for the NFL,” Blank said. “I understand why the commissioner and the league feel as strongly as it does about trying to protect the rights that for decades have been collectively bargained. I think that is important.

“I don’t think they should be re-bargained in a federal court. Having said that, I think the commissioner and the ownership around the league have to be prepared to look at things, look at change and change may be appropriate.”

While there is a general sense that Goodell has the support of many owners, few have spoken out in the wake of today’s ruling. And without more of them talking, it’s impossible to know if Blank (who chairs the committee of owners who determine how much Goodell is paid) is an outlier or a prophet.

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Kurt Warner calls Patriots cheating speculation “unfortunate” for everyone

Super Bowl X Warner Getty Images

The Patriots won their first Super Bowl against the Rams in early 2002. From time to time over the past several years, members of the Rams have discussed the question of whether the New England win resulted in any way from cheating.

Much of that talk was sparked by a Boston Herald report from 2008, which alleged that the Patriots secretly videotaped a Rams’ walk-through practice prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. The Herald later retracted it, but people continue to believe it — as evidenced by a recent ESPN apology for stating the withdrawn allegations as fact.

Quarterback Kurt Warner addressed the topic again on Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, after Judge Berman’s ruling was issued on Thursday. Specifically, I asked whether Warner ever wonders whether something fishy may have occurred.

“You know what I really don’t,” Warner said. “I don’t think there was any wrongdoing I don’t have any reason to think that other than the reports and knowing that the Patriots were engaged in some of those things along the way. When, where, how much, I don’t really know.

“All I always say is that I think it’s unfortunate because there’s no question on that Super Bowl Sunday that the Patriots outplayed us and deserved to be Super Bowl champs. But I think anytime you have someone or an organization that’s caught doing something outside the rules, all it does is it gives reason for, I don’t even want to say doubt, but for speculation of what happened, when did it happen, how did it affect them and all of those things, and I think it’s unfortunate. I think it’s unfortunate for both sides. It’s unfortunate for the Patriots if it had absolutely nothing to do with them winning that we even have to talk about that. I think it’s unfortunate for the teams that maybe they beat along the way because now it makes those teams and those players and those fans go, ‘Well I wonder if they did and that’s why they beat us.’

“So I think it’s unfortunate all the way around, but I think it’s human nature that when somebody’s caught or it looks like they may have done something outside the rules. It’s going to always lend itself to if something else happens with that person or organization them saying, ‘Well, see.  Here you go. It’s a history of it.’ And I think that’s the unfortunate part to this whole thing you know, but it’s unfortunate that when you do something like that that pushes the envelope it’s always going to keep people talking and it’s always going to be in the back of people’s minds.”

What was in the front of everyone’s mind on Thursday was the scrapping of the suspension.

“I’ll say first I was very surprised,” Warner said. “Simply because I felt like the issue became more about Roger Goodell’s authority to be able to lay down this punishment as opposed to was the punishment warranted? So I thought based on the CBA and what I understood of the CBA that this was in the realm of what Roger Goodell could do, whether you agreed with it or not, and I believed that the courts were going to uphold that because it was in the agreement. So I was very surprised from that standpoint that they nullified the suspension.

“From the other side I definitely understand if you’re looking at it from a legal standpoint and for me from day one I’ve really felt like everything that I know and I don’t know everything was very circumstantial. It was very hard for me to see a man’s character attacked and to see a guy punished for four games because he likely knew about something but we had nothing extremely credible to say that he was involved in anything. So from that standpoint and the legal standpoint I definitely understand and not surprised if you were going from that standpoint that this was nullified.”

The full interview with Warner appears below.

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Reggie Wayne looking good in a Patriots uniform

Reggie Wayne AP

For the most part, the fourth and final game of the preseason features backups and scrubs. So it’s notable any time a recognizable player is on the field.

In New England, a very recognizable player is on the field: Reggie Wayne, the veteran receiver who has now caught his first passes in a Patriots uniform.

Wayne made an excellent play to catch an 18-yard pass from Ryan Lindley along the sideline and also picked up a six-yard gain. He repeatedly did a good job of getting open against the backups in the Giants’ secondary, although Lindley missed him a couple times.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has said that when Wayne played for the Colts, he was the best receiver the Patriots played against every year. Belichick has to like the look of Wayne as a Patriot.

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John Mara: Giants know JPP is coming, but that’s about it

Jason Pierre-Paul AP

The Giants now know that Jason Pierre-Paul is coming next week, but that’s about the extent of their knowledge.

Giants co-owner John Mara confirmed the earlier reports that their franchise-tagged defensive end was on his way back, but didn’t have much else to offer.

“His agent informed us that he plans to report sometime next week,” Mara said, via the New York Daily News. “That’s all I know.”

The Giants have been frustrated by the radio silence Pierre-Paul has used since blowing off a finger in a Fourth of July fireworks accident. At one point, a frustrated Mara even said that he wasn’t sure how many fingers he actually had.

But now they at least know they’re close to getting a look at him, so they can gauge for themselves the extent of the damage and figure out when he might get back on the field.

And all that’s hanging in the balance is the $14.8 million he’s owed under the franchise tender, and perhaps the fate of their defense for the year.

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Brady’s father emotional in discussing court decision

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Tom Brady’s victory in court on Thursday provided a major relief for Patriots fans. It also provided a major relief for Tom Brady and those close to him.

Appearing on Thursday night’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, Tom Curran of CSN New England said that Tom Brady’s father repeatedly became emotional when discussing the result and the impact that the uncertainty has had on the Patriots quarterback.

The uncertainty has now been removed. But the question remains regarding whether an offseason of turmoil will impact Brady once the stress of the regular season arrives. It arrives on Friday, the day the Patriots begin preparing for a visit from the Steelers on September 10.

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Jon Kraft: “It’s not our intention” to fight to get draft picks back

Jonathan Kraft AP

Long before the Patriots got their quarterback back, they threw up their hands and accepted their own punishment for what happened in #DeflateGate.

But even though their quarterback scored a technical knockout in court today (though something far less than being found innocent), they’re not trying to reverse their own penalty.

According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said that fans “are not the only ones” who want their forfeited draft picks back, “but as we sit here today, it’s not our intention” to fight penalties.

The Patriots were fined a record $1 million, and the league took their first-round pick in 2016 and their fourth-rounder in 2017. Owner Robert Kraft said in May that he wouldn’t fight the team’s penalties for the good of the league.

But that doesn’t mean the Patriots are in full forgive-and-forget mode.

Jonathan Kraft said the league’s disciplinary process “probably needs to be re-thought, for the good of the game.”

It’s unlikely that the Patriots are going to get any satisfaction (beyond handing the league another loss in court and getting one of the best players in league history back on the field for the opener). But they are clearly willing to look for a way to change the league’s method of punishment, and can appear magnanimous in the process when the league decides to go after another team the way it did them and the Saints.

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T.J. Ward apologizes for suspension

T.J. Ward AP

Broncos safety T.J. Ward has been suspended for the regular-season opener following an off-field incident from more than a year ago. On Thursday night, Ward apologized for his actions — and tried to minimize the situation, just a bit.

“I take full responsibility for the incident that occurred in May 2014 and am willing to accept the consequences of my actions by serving my one game suspension,” Ward said in a statement issued by the team.  “Although I was never arrested and all charges against me were ultimately dismissed, I have no one to blame but myself for being in the predicament that evening.”

It doesn’t matter that Ward wasn’t arrested or that the charges were dismissed. The NFL deemed him to be in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, resulting in the one-game suspension.

Besides, a warrant was issued for Ward’s arrest. While there may have been no perp walk, Ward appeared in court and posted a $1,900 bond. Eventually, the charges were dropped when Ward agreed to perform four hours of community service.

“To the Denver Broncos organization, the Bowlen family and to the Denver Bronco fans, I want to apologize for my conduct,” Ward said.  “I have learned from my mistakes and will continue to be a pillar in the community to make myself a stronger person and player for the Denver Broncos.”

No one ever declared Ward to be a pillar of the community, but if John Bowlen can call himself the “blood of the city,” it’s hard to quibble with Ward’s contention.

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Greg Hardy will have a hard time getting his suspension reduced

Dallas Cowboys training camp Getty Images

Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy reportedly is considering a legal challenge to his four-game suspension, which an arbitrator reduced from 10. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Hardy is waiting for a final recommendation from the NFL Players Association.

If Hardy proceeds, he’ll have a tough time getting anything other than the money he would have made if he had been suspended only two games, the amount he believes he should have been suspended under the Personal Conduct Policy at the time he violated it.

With the regular season only 10 days away, Hardy is only 18 days away from what would be the conclusion of a two-game suspension. If Hardy were going to push for a court order allowing him to be available for Week Three and Week Four, Hardy should have filed a lawsuit weeks ago.

Hardy could still file something now, but he won’t get a final ruling before Monday, September 21. He possibly could get a temporary injunction allowing him to play pending the resolution of the case, but the judge may not be thrilled with Hardy and the NFL Players Association rushing into court with a sudden sense of urgency with respect to a decision that was issued on July 10.

The bigger problem for Hardy and the NFLPA comes from the potential P.R. reaction to an effort to reduce his suspension from four games to two, after it already had been reduced from 10 games to four — especially since Hardy’s suspension flows from an act of domestic violence.

Most fans and plenty of media members would contend that Hardy should simply be happy with the reduction by six games and not fight to have his suspension reduced even more. Which could be why Hardy hasn’t already filed suit. And which could be why he ultimately won’t.

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Rams remind fans that their signs may be removed

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As the Rams consider a move out of town, they’re making plans to prevent fans in St. Louis from expressing their displeasure.

A warning posted at the Edward Jones Dome, which longtime Rams beat writer Jim Thomas says he’s never seen before, tells fans that the team reserves the right to remove any signs for reasons including “message content.”

“Signs, banners or similar items must be football related and in good taste,” the warning continues.

In other words, if you’re planning to go to the Edward Jones Dome with a sign ripping Rams owner Stan Kroenke for trying to take the Rams to Los Angeles, you’d better be ready for stadium security to confiscate it. The Rams want the taxpayers to finance their stadium, but that doesn’t mean they want the taxpayers exercising freedom of speech inside their building.

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Tom Brady wasn’t “exonerated”

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Patriots fans have spent most of the day rejoicing Judge Berman’s decision in the Tom Brady case, and rightfully so. But to the extent that anyone believes Judge Berman “exonerated” Brady, the celebration is going a little farther than it should.

Judge Berman didn’t exonerate Brady. More specifically, Judge Berman didn’t find that Tom Brady had no awareness or involvement in an alleged (or actual) football deflation scheme. Judge Berman also didn’t find that Brady did not obstruct an NFL investigation.

Instead, Judge Berman found that, even if Brady is guilty as charged, he can’t be suspended. The NFL Players Association wisely refrained from putting it in those terms, since it would have caused some in the media to claim that the NFLPA is conceding that Brady is guilty. (When, for example, the NFL argued to Judge Berman that it doesn’t matter whether Ted Wells was truly “independent,” some thought the NFL was admitting that Wells wasn’t independent.)

The question for Judge Berman wasn’t whether Brady did or didn’t do it, even though some of his questions to the lawyers suggested that Judge Berman was curious about whether Brady did or didn’t do it. The question was whether the NFL had the power to suspend Brady. Judge Berman concluded that the NFL did not have that power.

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Report: Jason Pierre-Paul to return to Giants next week

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Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has kept his distance from the Giants since the July 4 fireworks accident that led to the amputation of his right index finger and a fractured right thumb, but things may be changing next week.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports that Pierre-Paul will return to the Giants next week. Pierre-Paul has not signed the franchise tag, which pays $14.813 million, placed on him by the Giants this offseason, which means his presence hasn’t been mandatory. That hasn’t made the Giants very happy, but there isn’t much they could do about it other than rescind the franchise tag and make Pierre-Paul a free agent.

Per Graziano, Pierre-Paul thinks he’s close to that point and that he will be able to get on the field with the team “early in the season.” The Giants, whose doctors have yet to examine Pierre-Paul, will surely have something to say about that timeline.

How he’ll be able to play once everyone agrees he’s ready for action is another question and one that obviously can’t be answered at this point. We do know that the Giants could use the Pierre-Paul of past years to fortify their defense’s chances of rebounding from a poor 2014 season.

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Is Dwayne Bowe on the Browns’ roster bubble?

2015 Cleveland Browns Mini Camp Practice Getty Images

The Browns signed Dwayne Bowe to a two-year deal last March that included $9 million guaranteed. That should, ahem, guarantee Bowe a roster spot despite the soon to be 31-year old wide receiver missing nearly three weeks of training camp with a sore hamstring and not catching a preseason pass from starting quarterback Josh McCown.

But the Browns have a crowded receiving corps despite not having a true No. 1 receiver, and entering Thursday night’s preseason finale there’s still some uncertainty as to which receivers will make the final roster.

Solomon Wilcots, who works for NFL Network but is paid by the Browns to call preseason games on Cleveland television, appeared on the team’s official pregame radio show Thursday afternoon and hinted that Bowe is not a lock to make the roster.

“He needs to deliver (tonight),” Wilcots said. “After talking to the coaches he needs to show up tonight to be a part of the 53-man roster (this weekend).”

Wilcots didn’t say which coaches to whom he’d spoken, but his words at very least make for an interesting discussion. The Browns also have a decision coming on Terrelle Pryor, who’s trying to transition from quarterback to wide receiver but has yet to play in a preseason game.

Pryor is supposed to play in the preseason finale, but Browns coach Mike Pettine said this week that Pryor doesn’t necessarily have to play to make the 53-man roster.

Brian Hartline, another veteran receiver acquired in the offseason, is going to make the team. Andrew Hawkins and return specialist Travis Benjamin are going to make the team, too. Second-year receiver Taylor Gabriel and Bowe probably make the team, but fourth-round rookie Vince Mayle has had a tough camp.

Pryor is the wildcard and Marlon Moore is listed as a wide receiver but last year was a core special teams player. So, that’s eight players for six or seven spots — and seven probably only make it if Moore makes it.

The Browns earlier this week released defensive tackle Phil Taylor despite Taylor having more than $5.4 million guaranteed. Taylor had offseason knee surgery and might not be healthy enough to play this season.

Another expensive cut seems unlikely, but what Wilcots said at least adds a little intrigue to Thursday night’s preseason finale and the roster moves that will come in the 30 or so hours that follow.

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NFL could win Brady appeal

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As I said before Judge Berman ruled on Tom Brady’s suspension, anyone who tells you that they know what will happen in a court of law is lying or uninformed. Moving forward, I’ll say the same thing as it relates to the appeal of Judge Berman’s ruling.

No one knows what will happen, and anyone who claims that they know is lying or uninformed.

From a procedural standpoint, here’s what will happen, eventually. Of the 22 judges assigned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (located in New York), three will be randomly assigned to preside over the case. If only two of them agree with the NFL and disagree with Judge Berman, the NFL will win.

It’s that simple. Before the district court, it was an all-or-nothing argument to one judge and one judge only. On appeal, it’s a matter of persuading two of three judges.

The political backgrounds of those judges will be critical to the final ruling. If two of them were appointed by Republican presidents, chances are that they will be more inclined to agree with management. If, like Judge Berman, two of the judges were appointed by Democratic presidents, they could be inclined to agree with labor.

Indeed, there’s a good chance that one or more of the judges will have been involved with similar cases in the past, with their positions regarding the enforcement of arbitration agreements already firmly established, one way or the other.

In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, where I handled multiple cases while practicing law, the parties don’t even know who the judges are until the morning of the oral arguments. Ultimately, the outcome could hinge on which three judges are assigned to the case. Or, more accurately, which two judges get the assignment.

So the NFL could indeed win, although that victory may not come for a while. After that, the losing party would have to consider whether to file a petition for a rehearing before the entire Circuit. Eventually, the losing party will have to decide whether to attempt to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.

If the Supreme Court decides to make this case one of the very few it agrees to hear, it could be that the final answer comes multiple years from now, with the NFL possibly securing a victory after Tom Brady already has retired.

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