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Sunday night wrap-up: Eagles escape

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

After so many times, you’re conditioned to expect Eli Manning and the Giants to win this game.

Instead, it was the Philadelphia Eagles with the late-game magic, and a 19-17 win Sunday night.

Manning has earned the benefit of the doubt. Having a pair of Super Bowl rings will do that for you.

But there are times he’s like a golfer who is great at getting out of trouble because he gets himself into trouble. He followed a nice fourth-down conversion pass early in the fourth quarter with a ridiculous interception, killing a potential go-ahead drive.

Again, he’s Eli Manning, so it might be quibbling, but there is a tendency to make red zone mistakes that require his brilliant knack for saving himself.

The last drive was undone by an offensive pass interference call on Ramses Barden, and the Giants missed a pair of potential game-winning field goals (after Andy Reid successfully iced the first miss).

It was counter to what you were expecting, but the Eagles earned this one, by playing aggressive defense throughout, and preventing Manning from doing what you anticipated.

In doing so, they’ve moved to 3-1, having won their three games by a combined four points.

Maybe that means we need to rethink our expectations of these two teams.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. There was a terrifying moment in the third quarter when I feared someone kidnapped Reid.

The Eagles called run plays, four of them in a row, and they worked.

LeSean McCoy is obviously a talented player, but works for a guy who may never use him to his full potential. While he did have 23 carries for 123 yards, he’s the kind of back who could do it weekly given appropriate opportunity.

Put simply, when the Eagles put him to work, the Eagles move the ball.

Having more balance to their offense in the form of letting McCoy do his thing is only going to make the Eagles weapons on the perimeter that much more dangerous.

And having more polish in that area might help them turn a lot of those field goals into something more valuable, and there will be nights when that matters more.

2. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will never be conventional, and he has taken a beating.

But his unique gifts at least give him a chance to survive, and perhaps thrive.

Vick showed his remarkable balance in the first half, when he was nearly knocked down by Giants defensive tackle Rocky Bernard in the end zone for a safety, but collected himself enough to sidearm the ball out of bounds to reset himself on the next play.

It was a small thing, but shows the ability he has.

3. Both the Giants and Eagles have plenty of talent on the defensive line.

But not as much as it appeared.

Both offensive lines have been depleted by injuries, and the tackles took turns clutching and grabbing and holding (with Giants tackle Will Beatty at one point using what, I think, was either the Sleeperhold or the Cobra Clutch).

The Eagles showed a little more muscle in the second half, but neither line is going to send very many players to Hawaii.

4. It may take time for David Wilson to work his way out of the doghouse, after his fumble in the opener.

But the Giants clearly need him to earn some trust.

Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown have their value, but the Giants lack a dynamic element in the running game.

Wilson could be that guy, if Tom Coughlin ever trusted him.

He looked outstanding in the return game, and they need to harness some of that in the base offense.

5. It was very helpful of the Eagles to announce that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was taken to a nearby hospital to get his eye checked.

It was even more helpful later when they announced that he didn’t go to the hospital, which was right before he went back on the field.

You’d think as much money as they spent on him, they’d have a better handle on where he is at any given moment.

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Rex Ryan won’t stop players from speaking freely

LeSean McCoy AP

Bills tailback LeSean McCoy garnered widespread attention Wednesday for his published remarks in ESPN The Magazine claiming his former head coach, Chip Kelly, had gotten rid of “all the good black players” in Philadelphia.

At a press conference today, Bills head coach Rex Ryan indicated reporters would be best asking McCoy about his comments.

“Anything that’s brought up with a guy in his past, with a different team, is better addressed with him, not me,” Ryan said, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak.

However, Ryan also noted that he was “not going to put a muzzle” on his players, as ESPN noted.

As policies go, this seems a fair one: you can speak freely, but you have to own your remarks. It’s a policy Ryan has applied to himself over the years, which makes it easy to set down for the rest of the team.

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Ted Wells: “More probable than not” Patriots manipulated balls

Tom Brady AP

The NFL has released the long-awaited DeflateGate report, and the short version of the findings by Ted Wells is that the Patriots seem to have done something funny here.

The full report was released moments ago, and in his summary, Wells writes that the irregularities in the balls used in the AFC Championship Game.

“For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules,” Wells concluded. “In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally [the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots] and John Jastremski [an equipment assistant for the Patriots] participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.

“Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady [the quarterback for the Patriots] was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

That’s a huge finding, particularly as it relates to Brady, who has previously avoided adding much fuel to the fire.

We’ll be going through the full report this afternoon and bringing you the latest on a complicated story.

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Rex Ryan: I had dinner with La’el Collins and “that’s really the extent of it”

Rex Ryan AP

In response to questions about teams meeting with undrafted LSU tackle La’El Collins on Tuesday, the NFL explained in an email to PFT that “clubs are prohibited from visiting a player who was eligible for the 2015 Draft at his campus or residence if the player has withdrawn from school and final exams have yet to conclude at the school.”

That explanation came a day after Bills coach Rex Ryan reportedly had dinner with Collins in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after contacting Collins himself. On Wednesday, Ryan confirmed that he broke bread with Collins but shared little else beyond the fact that he had gumbo rather than a reported lobster appetizer.

“I did have dinner with him. That’s really the extent of it,” Ryan said, via Mike Rodak of

Rodak described Ryan as “uncharacteristically quiet” about the dinner, their conversation and the Bills’ level of interest in bringing Collins on board. Teams will likely continue to be on the reserved side when it comes to interest in Collins, who will be free to meet with the Bills, Dolphins and anyone else when LSU wraps up the school year on May 9.

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The artist formerly known as Evan Dietrich-Smith shortens name

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Ndamukong Suh won’t have Evan Dietrich-Smith to kick around anymore.

And neither will anyone else.

The Buccaneers announced the offensive lineman would heretofore be known as Evan Smith, which was the name he went by until college.

He signed with the Buccaneers last offseason, after a stint with the Packers best known for being stomped on by the former Lions defensive tackle, who is now in Miami.

No explanation was given for the change, though we can only presume he was not adopted by Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith.

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Marv Hubbard passes away at age 68

Oakland Raiders v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Former NFL fullback Marv Hubbard, a key cog for the 1970s Raiders, passed away Monday at age 68, the Raiders said.

A three-time Pro Bowler with Oakland (1971, 1972, 1973), Hubbard rushed for 4,544 yards and 23 touchdowns in eight NFL seasons. An 11th-round pick from Colgate, Hubbard played his first seven pro campaigns with the Raiders (1969-1975) before finishing his career with the Lions in 1977.

“He was a hard runner,” former Raiders head coach John Madden said of Hubbard in a statement issued by the club. “We used to use him — you think back now, people don’t do things like this, but we used to run him early to kind of wear the defense down and then in the middle we would pass and do all our stuff, and then when we got ahead we would run him to finish the game. He was a great game finisher.

“Once we got that lead, you weren’t going to get it back again. You weren’t going to get the lead back again. You weren’t going to get the ball back again, and we had the defense worn down, and we just kept feeding Marv Hubbard, and Marv Hubbard loved that part of football.”

Hubbard had been dealing with prostate cancer, his wife, Virginia, told the Bay Area News Group.

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Shonn Greene missing Titans voluntary work due to family obligations

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The Titans selected running back David Cobb in the fifth round of the draft and the arrival of the big back was seen as bad news for Shonn Greene’s future in Tennessee.

It doesn’t look like he’ll be able to convince anyone otherwise during the team’s voluntary work this offseason. Paul Kuharsky of reports that Greene has not been with the team since their workouts started two weeks ago.

Per Kuharsky, Greene is spending time with his three-week-old son and spoke to the team about the need to handle his paternal obligations. He is expected to take part in the team’s mandatory minicamp next month.

Cobb joins last year’s leading rusher Bishop Sankey, Greene, Antonio Andrews and Lache Seastrunk on the running back depth chart in Tennessee. Greene has run for 687 yards on 171 carries in two years with the Titans and is set to make $3.5 million in 2015, all but $833,000 of which the Titans would get back under the cap if they parted ways with the veteran.

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Eric Weddle: I’m not coming in until Chargers do something

San Diego Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Chargers have been working out without safety Eric Weddle for the last couple of weeks and it looks like they’ll continue to be without one of their top defensive players.

Weddle is in the final year of his deal and wants a new contract with the Chargers, something that General Manager Tom Telesco said he has “no doubt” they’ll be discussing now that the draft is over. Until those discussions pick up steam, however, Weddle said he’ll be doing his work apart from the team.

“I’m not coming in anytime soon until something on their side is said,” Weddle said during an appearance with Dan Sileo of The Mighty 1090. “They know where we’re at and they obviously know their stance, so we’ll see what happens from there.”

Weddle said that he’s been in contact with defensive coordinator John Pagano about changes to the team’s defensive playbook and the team doesn’t have any mandatory work until minicamp starts on June 16. That leaves some time to start working toward an agreement that would keep Weddle from deciding whether he wants to risk fines as part of his push for a new deal.

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Falcons reach deals with 19 undrafted free agents

Terron Ward AP

The brother of a Pro Bowl safety is among 19 undrafted free agents who have reached deals with the Falcons.

Oregon State’s Terron Ward, the brother of Broncos standout safety T.J. Ward, is the lone running back among the undrafted free agents announced by Atlanta on Tuesday.

Ward (5-7, 201) rushed for a career-high 696 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Beavers in 2014. He suffered a season-ending torn meniscus in Oregon State’s upset of Arizona State in November.

Ward will aim to stick in a Falcons backfield that includes fellow rookie Tevin Coleman and veterans Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith.

The Falcons also reached agreements with the following rookie free agents: North Texas linebacker Derek Akunne, Tarleton State defensive tackle Chris Brown, Central Oklahoma wide receiver Marquez Clark, Azusa Pacific offensive lineman Cody Clay, Louisville safety Terell Floyd, Northern Arizona tight end Beau Gardner, Wisconsin defensive tackle Warren Herring, Fort Valley State cornerback Mike Lee, Cincinnati offensive tackle Eric Lefeld, Oregon linebacker Derrick Malone, Houston defensive tackle Joey Mbu, Central Florida cornerback Jordan Ozerities, Florida Atlantic safety Damian Parms, Ottawa University wide receiver Joshua Stangby, Auburn safety Robenson Therezie, New Mexico State center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, Texas Central cornerback Kevin White and Indiana wide receiver Shane Wynn.

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PFT Live: Jake Fisher, PFT Planet calls and tweets

05022015 NFL DRAFT AP

The Bengals picked two offensive tackles with their first two picks in the draft and one of them will join Mike Florio on PFT Live Wednesday.

Jake Fisher was Cincinnati’s second-round pick and we’ll find out how his first few days as a member of the organization have gone. We’ll also see if he’ll share any of the team’s plans for him during his rookie season and get his reaction to Andrew Whitworth’s public comments about the team drafting players who could be replacing him in the lineup.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox 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 of the show by clicking right here.

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LeSean McCoy: Chip Kelly got rid of “all the good black players”

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy isn’t backing down from the idea that he and Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s relationship is the reason for his departure, saying Kelly didn’t like or respect stars.

And he doubled down on those comments by making a serious allegation.

In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, McCoy said Kelly was uncomfortable with him, with an uncomfortable reason for it.

“The relationship was never really great,” McCoy said. “I feel like I always respected him as a coach. I think that’s the way he runs his team. He wants the full control. You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That’s the truth. There’s a reason. . . .

“It’s hard to explain with him. But there’s a reason he got rid of all the black players — the good ones — like that.”

McCoy didn’t elaborate, and the Eagles didn’t comment on the statement, which they’re inevitably going to have to do.

McCoy’s statements track along with the accusation/non-accusation of ESPN talker Stephen A. Smith in March, who suggested the same sinister motive.

Kelly’s approach to running off stars seems color-blind, considering the way he openly taunted guard Evan Mathis last weekend, saying no one has offered to trade for him in two years.

But clearly, McCoy has a problem with Kelly that goes beyond skin deep.

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Gregory makes permanent commitment to Cowboys


Five days ago, the Cowboys drafted defensive end Randy Gregory.  Much longer than five days from now, the Cowboys will be part of Gregory.

Gregory’s forearm carries a large tattoo in the shape of the star the Cowboys wear on their helmets.

“This journey is a marathon, not a sprint!!” Gregory proclaimed in the message with the photo that he posted on Twitter.

He’s right.  But a tattoo is permanent, unless someone wants to take much more time than it took to get the tattoo to get it removed.  And in today’s NFL, rarely does a player spend his entire career with one team.

But at least Gregory is likely to be with the Cowboys longer than Stevan Ridley will be with the Jets — and Ridley already has a Jets tattoo.

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Cam Newton’s diploma going next to his Heisman Trophy

Cam Newton AP

As you might imagine, Cam Newton is still a pretty big deal on campus at Auburn.

So much so, that he’s passing on his graduation so he doesn’t take away from others on their big day.

Via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, the Panthers quarterback told the school newspaper there that he was skipping the ceremony after finishing his degree this semester.

“Number one, I don’t think walking really solidifies anything for me,” Newton said. “I have pretty much conquered the main reason why I’m here, and all I really need is a degree. Plus, I don’t want to take away anything from the people already graduating. After seeing the response coming from class, I wouldn’t want to take anything away from another person’s [graduation day].“

Twitter photos of Newton are common as he walks through campus, so the graduation selfies would have probably been out of control. But for Newton, the achievement is still as significant as anything he’s done on the football field.

“When I do get my diploma, I’m going to put it right above my mom’s door, so she knows her words were not in vain,” Newton said. “All my awards that mean the world to me are implanted [in her house], and this is no different. If anything, it’s going right along next to the Heisman.”

Newton also said he hopes to put his degree in sociology to good use when he’s through playing, with hopes of opening a day care center.

“As I get more educated about sociology, and education as a whole, shame on me if I don’t use my influence in a positive way,” Newton said. “Someone may look at my situation and say, ‘He may be financially set, but yet he’s bettering himself.’ Maybe I can encourage somebody else who is in my situation or is down and out [to] always strive for a better you and that’s what this was pretty much all about: making myself better.”

And as he does so, he’s letting the rest of the graduates enjoy their moment in the spotlight as well.

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Chris Johnson wants to be a Cowboy

chris-johnson-Titans-300x225 Getty Images

Some people don’t want to be a Cowboy. Others do.

Veteran running back Chris Johnson does. Via the Dallas Morning News, Johnson recently made his pitch to be signed by the Cowboys in a sidewalk interview with TMZ.

I’d fit good in Dallas,” Johnson said.  “They need it.  Yeah. That’s what we’re trying to do. . . . Dallas, come holler at me.”

Johnson has been working out since being cut by the Jets and then shot in the shoulder. At last word, Johnson still had the bullet in his body.

A first-round pick in the same year recent Dallas hire Darren McFadden entered the league, Johnson had six straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Titans, one of which saw Johnson pass 2,000 yards. With McFadden and Randle at the top of the depth chart, it’s hard not to think Johnson would make them better at the position.

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Report: Giants “in the mix” for La’el Collins

New York Giants v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

We’re starting to get more of an idea about the teams that are potential landing spots for La’El Collins as an undrafted free agent and the group reportedly includes the Giants.

Jordan Raanan of reports that the Giants are “in the mix” for the prospective first-round pick who was passed over by all 32 teams many times because teams were uncomfortable drafting him while police in Baton Rouge wanted to speak to him as part of a double murder investigation. Collins had that conversation with police on Monday and is not a suspect in the case.

“We thought about La’El the whole draft because he was sitting up there,” vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said. “But we were gonna pass on that.”

The Giants took tackle Ereck Flowers with their first-round pick, but Raanan reports that they see Collins as a guard at the NFL level. With underwhelming play across the line last season, Collins would join Flowers as a serious contender for early playing time wherever he might wind up if he landed in Jersey.

Should pursuit of Collins progress to following the Dolphins’ players lead and sending former LSU teammates to talk to him, the Giants could enlist last year’s first-round pick Odell Beckham to do some recruiting. The team can’t send any officials to meet with Collins on campus until May 9.

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#DeflateGate investigation still lingers

Wells Getty Images

The encore for Ted Wells officially has run longer than his debut.

As noted by NFL Media’s Albert Breer, the Wells-led investigation into the #DeflateGate scandal has now consumed more time than the investigation conducted by Wells regarding the Dolphins bullying scandal. In Miami, Wells’ work was done in 100 days; his latest project is at 103 days and counting.

While the two situations have many differences, the Dolphins scandal required interviews of many people and a review of thousands of text messages, followed by an effort to harmonize conflicts in the information provided by witnesses and to explore and explain other incidents that emerged as Wells examined the allegations that resulted in former Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin leaving the team abruptly in late October 2013. The question of whether the Patriots deliberately deflated footballs used during the AFC championship game against the Colts would seem on the surface to entail a far less complex set of facts and a far more narrow universe of potential witnesses and evidence.

In fairness to Wells, the NFL emphasized upon hiring him that there would be no timetable on his work. But did anyone expect that his work would last into May?

Commissioner Roger Goodell has repeatedly said that the report from Wells is coming soon. It’s unclear whether the NFL will release the report publicly before Goodell determines the penalties, if any, that will be imposed as a result of the findings.

Regardless, the ultimate bad-news dump comes in 16 days: The Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. The only thing keeping the report from being released then could be the league’s sensitivity to the perception that it tries to bury bad news into the final hours of the work week.

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