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Rob Gronkowski playing through significant pain

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has started all four games this year and played fairly well, but his numbers are down from his great 2011 season, and injuries may be the reason.

Mike Reiss of reports that Gronkowski, who has been listed on the injury report with a hip problem, is playing through significant pain.

Reiss suspects that the Patriots are actually more concerned about Gronkowski’s long-term health than about the health of tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has missed two games with an ankle injury.

The Patriots cut down on Gronkowski’s playing time last week against the Bills, presumably because he’s at less than 100 percent, and he has been limited in practice as well. Still, Gronkowski managed to five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, so Gronkowski at less than 100 percent is still one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

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Cowboys may bid on hosting Super Bowl LVI or LVII

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The Cowboys have hosted a single Super Bowl in their gigantic stadium. They could soon be trying to host another.

Via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys could make a play for one of the next two Super Bowls to be awarded: Super Bowl LVI, to be played in 2022, or Super Bowl LVII, to be played in 2023. Voting for those two games will occur in May 2018.

The first Super Bowl played at AT&T Stadium in February 2011 was marred by a winter storm that hit six days before the game. Lingering temperatures below freezing coupled with the absence of equipment to remove the ice made travel by car or foot treacherous. Two days before the game, large chunks of ice cascaded from the roof of the venue; if those pieces of ice had fallen two days later when thousands of people were trying to get inside the building for the game, the outcome would have been not good.

The delay in making a bid, as Williams explains it, has arisen primarily from the litigation sparked by an absence of sufficient seats.

“We obviously and totally understand we had business that we needed to clear up here from the previous Super Bowl, which was unfortunate,” Cowboys executive V.P. Stephen Jones said, via Williams. “Hopefully that is coming to an end here this summer, and then hopefully, we’ll be in the hunt. We think this building is special, AT&T Stadium, and certainly a great place for players to come play. I think if you asked players around the league, they certainly enjoy playing the game here. I think North Texas is a great area. I think we were a little snakebit that [Super Bowl 2011] weekend in terms of our weather. I think it’s the first time a snow storm had hit North Texas for a week in 75 years, where kids are out of school for a week.”

It really wasn’t a snowstorm. It was a two-inch coating of ice, on every exposed surface in the region. And there was no means, method, or effort to get rid of it.

When the time comes to make a bid, it’ll be interesting to see whether funds are set aside to prevent that from happening again — or whether the focus will simply be to give the league’s billionaires even more free stuff.

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Ryan Tannehill: A lot of freedom in Adam Gase’s offense

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03:  Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins in action during the second half of the game against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams said this week that he’s enjoying what he’s seen from the team’s defensive scheme after a dismal year with the Bills in 2015.

Williams isn’t the only member of the team excited about life under a new coaching staff. Unlike Williams, quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t have to switch teams to find something more to his liking.

Tannehill said that the offense being installed by coach Adam Gase allows for the quarterback to have more control over adjustments before the play, something that wasn’t the case under the previous regime and something that Tannehill’s teammates said hurt the quarterback at times.

“We do a lot of things differently now,” Tannehill said. “Being on the line of scrimmage adjusting, whether it’s protections, routes, a whole new play — there’s a lot of freedom in what we do. I think it’s going to make us always on the attack. We’re not going to have to sit on our heels and feel like the defense is coming after us and we have to figure out a way to make it work. We can put pressure on the defense by getting in a good play and always keeping the heat on the defense.”

The first year in a new offense can make for some growing pains, but the change in coaches won’t do anything to lower expectations that Tannehill show he can take the next step in his development during the 2016 season.

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Texans sign third-round pick Braxton Miller

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Braxton Miller #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes carries the ball against the Michigan Wolverines in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans drafted a pair of wide receivers last month and they got one of them under contract on Thursday.

According to multiple reports, the Texans have signed third-round pick Braxton Miller. It’s the standard four-year rookie contract for players picked outside of the first round.

Miller started his Ohio State career as a quarterback and did well before missing the 2014 season with a shoulder injury. He moved to wide receiver for his final college season and caught 26 passes for 341 yards and six touchdowns.

The Texans will have to do more work on polishing Miller’s skills at his new position, but his athletic ability offers the upside that could make for a handsome return on that investment of time.

With Miller signed, first-round wideout Will Fuller is the only unsigned member of the Texans draft class.

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Associated Press considering changes to All-Pro team

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 30:  Khalil Mack #52 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after sacking Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals at Coliseum on August 30, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Associated Press publishes every January the All-Pro team based on the recently-concluded regular season. And while much of the list is aimed at sparking debate and/or percolating #hottaeks, plenty of players have bonuses, escalators, and/or incentives riding on this honor.

Currently, the AP is exploring (#asexpected) the possibility of “modernizing” the All-Pro team. A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that input has been requested from all AP voters for potential changes to the structure of the roster.

The All-Pro offense consists of one quarterback, two running backs, a fullback, two receivers, a tight end, a center, two guards, and a tackle. (Curiously, the communication from the AP to the voters did not mention the fullback position, which means either that it already has been dumped or that the position was accidentally omitted, which maybe confirms that it should be dumped.)

On defense, the All-Pro team has two defensive ends, two defensive tackles, two outside linebackers, two inside linebackers, two cornerbacks, and two safeties. The roster also has a kicker, a punter, and a kick returner.

Possible additions to the team include a slot receiver, a nickel back, a pass rusher, and a special-teams player. Voters have been invited to provide input and reasoning through the end of June. Put some of your own input and reasoning below, if you want.

Here’s one idea: The Associated Press should ensure that players get votes at only one position. Last year, Khalil Mack won a first-team spot both as a defensive end and as a linebacker. The easy fix would be to publish a ballot that specifies the position played by the players from each team who possibly will get votes.

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Knile Davis thinks he has a future, even if it’s not with the Chiefs

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 21:  Running back Knile Davis #34 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates his second-quarter touchdown against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) Getty Images

Knile Davis doesn’t want his fumble in the playoffs to define him, but he also knows he might not get the chance to redeem himself in Kansas City.

But he also said he didn’t ask to be traded this offseason, even after the Chiefs signed two running backs who were not him to extensions.

I hope so, but that’s not up to me,” Davis said of staying in Kansas City, via Adam Teicher of “This is my team. I’m under contract. I’m here until I’m not.”

Davis had a chance to play in the postseason, after injuries knocked out Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, and Charcandrick West. And things seemed promising, at least until his third quarter fumble killed any chance Kansas City had of beating the Patriots.

“It was probably my best game for a while,” Davis said. “I was effective on kickoff returns, caught all my [passes], ran good routes, averaged five [yards] per pop.

“And then [came] the fumble.”

Oh yes, that.

If it were an isolated event, it might be easier to overlook, but Davis hasn’t been the most sure-handed back in the league prior to that, never quite living up to his third-round status. And with kickoff returns minimized with rules changes, his job was already tenuous.

“I feel like I’ve showed glimpses of good ability,” Davis said. “I just need an opportunity. Some people in this league wait six years for their opportunity. Some people get theirs quicker than others. The name of this business is stay healthy and be patient and that’s what I’m doing.

“At this point I can pretty much do it all. I just haven’t had the opportunity to show it. That’s a hard deal. But one day I will get the opportunity to show what I can do and I’m looking forward to that day.”

Of course, the Chiefs signed Ware and West to contract extensions this offseason, so Davis might be forced to wait for free agency for a chance to redeem himself.

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Fines imposed against Harbaugh, Ravens show NFL didn’t think there was a “mistake”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 24:  Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens watches action during the first quarter of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 24, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL did the Ravens a favor by not disclosing the amount of the fines imposed on the team and coach John Harbaugh for violating the rules regarding offseason practices. That’s the extent of any gratuity given to the team or its coach.

The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement provides that the head coach “shall be subject to a fine in the amount of $100,000 for the first violation,” and the team “shall be subject to a fine in the amount of $250,000 for the first violation.” The base amount of the fines from 2011 increase each year based on growth in league revenue.

In this case, PFT has confirmed that the infraction resulted in fines of $137,223 for Harbaugh and $343,057 for the Ravens. (Jim Trotter of ESPN first reported the fine amounts.)

Article 21, Section 8 of the CBA permits the Commissioner, in consultation with the NFLPA, to reduce the fines if the conduct of the coach resulted from a “good faith” interpretation of the rules regarding offseason workouts or that the violation did not result in a material violation of the rules. Based on Trotter’s report, there was no reduction.

This means, as a practical matter, that the NFL didn’t buy the team’s claim that it made a “mistake” when it put players in pads during rookie minicamp. Ultimately, the NFL cut the Ravens no slack, imposing more than $480,000 in fines on the coach and his team.

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Trent Richardson missing time with hamstring injury

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 30:  Trent Richardson #33 of the Oakland Raiders in action against the Arizona Cardinals at Coliseum on August 30, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Trent Richardson signed with the Ravens this offseason in an effort to resuscitate a career that started going off the rails shortly after Richardson was the third overall pick of the 2012 draft.

His effort to get things moving in the right direction can’t hit too many snags if it is going to continue into the regular season. It’s already hit a snag, however.

Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday that Richardson has not been participating in OTA practices because of a hamstring injury he suffered last week. There’s no word on when the Ravens might expect to get Richardson back on the field, but any amount of missed time is going to work against Richardson’s chances to impress coaches enough to keep him on the roster.

Justin Forsett is at the top of the depth chart at running back in Baltimore with Buck Allen, Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro and fourth-round pick Kenneth Dixon also on hand.

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Who will be in room when league office consults with on-field officials?

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With the NFL now allowing on-field officials to use the real-time communications system devised for allowing the league office to assist with replay for other matters (whatever those matters specifically may be), some of the folks whose interests will hinge directly on the outcome of these decisions are raising once again an important question regarding the process.

When “designated members of the Officiating Department at the League office” are communicating with on-field officials, who else will be present in the room?

Are the “designated members” alone, without anyone else present to distract or influence them? Or are the “designated members” operating in a swarm of activity, with other league employees in position to chime in with their own views regarding the issue about which consultation is happening? Are non-NFL employees (visitors, for example, to the league office) in the room for these communications?

As one league source has explained it to PFT, teams began raising this question once the league office obtained authorization to consult with referees during replay review, with the league office never providing a clear answer. Now that the universe for potential communication has expanded to include matters other than replay review, the issue takes on even greater importance.

PFT posed this question to the league office on Wednesday. As of this posting, the league office has not responded.

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Payton says Brees won’t let contract be a distraction

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 3: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints talks to head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints in the 2nd half of the Jets 26-20 win over the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on November 3, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints quarterback Drew Brees says he doesn’t want to talk about a new contract during the season, which suggests that if a deal is going to get done, it has to get done this summer. So could that distract from Brees’ offseason work?

Not according to Saints coach Sean Payton, who said after the third day of practice of the Saints’ Organized Team Activities that Brees does an excellent job of compartmentalizing his off-field and on-field responsibilities.

“He does that extremely well,” Payton said. “He’s someone that’s extremely focused. He’s been sharp here these three days. I would say it’s been a strength of his with regards to playing, the ability to focus, whatever situation we’re in, and certainly this is no different.”

What’s different for Brees this year is that it looks ever more likely that he really could be heading into his final season in New Orleans. The structure of Brees’ contract makes it virtually impossible for the Saints to franchise him next year, which means there’s a real chance he’ll hit unrestricted free agency next year and sign elsewhere.

Brees won’t allow that to become a distraction, but if a deal doesn’t get done this summer, the potential that Brees could be in his last season with the Saints will be a major story in New Orleans in the fall.

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Titans second-rounder Kevin Dodd out until camp after foot surgery

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Draftee Kevin Dodd of Clemson arrives to the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the three players selected in the second round of the draft by the Titans won’t be on the field for the rest of the team’s offseason work.

Coach Mike Mularkey said that defensive end Kevin Dodd had “preventative” foot surgery on Thursday and will miss the rest of OTAs and the team’s mandatory minicamp as a result. Mularkey said that the team expects to have Dodd back for training camp.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Dodd has a stress fracture in his fifth metatarsal and that a screw was inserted to repair the injury.

Dodd was the 33rd overall pick in the draft after wrapping up his career at Clemson. He has 12 sacks while playing on the same line with Bills first-round pick Shaq Lawson, who is also going to be off the field for a while due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.

The Bills described that surgery as preventative as well, although the history of players missing time after having surgery they don’t absolutely need isn’t a particularly long one.

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NFL fines John Harbaugh, cancels a week of Ravens’ OTAs

John Harbaugh AP

The Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh have been punished by the NFL for breaking the rule requiring rookie minicamp to consist only of non-contact practices without pads.

“We made a mistake and we are sorry for that. We accept the NFL discipline,” the Ravens said in a statement.

That discipline will consist of a fine for both Harbaugh individually and the Ravens as a team, as well as forfeiting their OTAs which had been scheduled to take place June 1-3.

The Ravens used the word “mistake” in their statement, but the NFL reportedly believes that the Ravens knew the rule against full-pad practices at rookie minicamp and violated it anyway. That’s not a mistake, it’s a conscious effort to break a rule that all teams must abide by.

The decision to fine the Ravens and dock them some practices is consistent with language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that says more stringent penalties — including losing draft picks — will only be imposed if a team breaks the rule multiple times in a year. But in a league where there’s a widespread belief that the rules are enforced inconsistently, fans of other teams will surely say the Ravens are getting off easy.

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More criticism appears regarding Washington Post poll

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Last Thursday, the Washington Post published a poll of 504 self-identifying Native American adults, 90 percent of whom said they aren’t bothered by the name of the local NFL team. Although some supporters of the name continue to insist that this means any lingering opposition to the name comes only from white liberal journalists, multiple Native American voices have criticized the poll.

The National Congress of American Indians has called it irrelevant, and the Native American Journalists Association has questioned whether ongoing use of a dictionary-defined slur should be the subject of public opinion, regardless of the outcome. Now, the co-founder of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry has challenged both the methodology of the poll and the decision to conduct it.

In an item appearing at, Jacqueline Keeler explores the flaws in the polling process, from failure to verify that the self-identifying Native Americans are indeed Native American to skewing the group polled in a way that does not properly reflect demographics like gender and age to using a geographic distribution that fails to properly represent the Native American community.

“Even if the poll was conducted perfectly and even if the results had been completely reversed,” Keeler writes, “the Washington Post did a grave disservice by utterly ignoring studies that clearly demonstrate the harm mascotting causes to Native youth — the most vulnerable population in the country by almost any statistic.”

Keeler explains that Native American youth “suffer measurably lower self-esteem after exposure to a Native American mascot,” and that those Native Americans who claim to have no issue with terms like the name of the Washington team “actually experience a greater drop in self-esteem.”

Via Keeler, Scott Clement of the Post responded to the criticism from groups like the NAJA by pointing out that the newspaper “pursued this poll without any idea as to how it would turn out and had no vested interest in the outcome.” Clement also defended the poll by explaining that “it’s entirely appropriate for a news organization to conduct a survey to test any assertions made about the breadth and depth of offense among Native Americans” by those who oppose the name, adding that it is “customary for any other public policy issue.”

“But is this really customary?” Keeler asks. “Are pollsters judging the ‘breadth and depth’ of how offensive other dictionary-defined slurs are? Tragically, it is only Native Americans who have to suffer this kind of humiliation, especially when the multibillion-dollar brand of the paper’s local football team hangs in the balance.”

And so the Post poll definitely won’t end the debate, even though many supporters of the name believe it should. If anything, the criticism of the poll should spark a meaningful debate over whether it’s proper to make any dictionary-defined slur the subject of polling or debate.

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Davante Adams “wasn’t proud” of his 2015 season

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When Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in the 2015 preseason, immediate fears about what it would mean for the Packers offense were lessened by the presence of Davante Adams.

Adams had been the subject of praise around the team all offseason, including Aaron Rodgers predicting stardom for the 2014 second-round pick. As is often the case, offseason hype didn’t materialize in regular season production.

Adams hurt his ankle early in the year and his knee in the playoffs while filling the middle with underwhelming production and chemistry with Rodgers.

“Obviously, the season I had last year, I wasn’t proud of it. So I’ve got to change it and do what I’ve got to do to move forward,” Adams said, via “It’s a new year. Obviously, not everything goes the way you plan it to go. You can’t control some things. I hurt my ankle, I hurt my knee; I can’t do anything about that. What I can do is bounce back from it. It’s not just [about] proving it to the team but proving it to myself.”

He’ll need to prove it to both to maintain a prominent role in the offense. Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery and Jared Abbrederis give the team other options to go with Nelson and Randall Cobb, which could leave Adams in a precarious position should last year’s issues continue to be part of the picture.

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Stephen Jones: Cowboys aren’t looking for outside help at defensive end

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Stephen Jones walks onto the field before the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys on September 20, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney is making the rounds right now in search of a home for the 2016 season, but a stop in Dallas doesn’t look like it will be one of the tour dates.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Thursday, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, that the team is not in the market for veteran help at defensive end despite a need to upgrade their pass rush from 2015 levels and a pair of players serving four-game suspensions to open the season. Jones said the team wants to see what younger players can do before potentially looking for an outside addition.

One of the young players that the Cowboys will be looking at is Randy Gregory, although anything he may show them will be mitigated by his status as one of the players facing a suspension at the start of the year. Jerry Jones said recently that “all thumbs are up” with Gregory and coach Jason Garrett says he’s seen progress, although he added plenty of unknowns remain.

“Just in everything he does, how he handles himself,” Garrett said, via the Dallas Morning News. “Again, it’s a work in progress. He has gotten better. But he has a long way to go. A lot of guys have a long way to go.”

The Cowboys have expressed confidence that a better offense will make the defense look better than it did last year, which may need to be the case because there hasn’t been much on the defensive side this offseason to suggest the unit is poised to make a leap of its own.

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Art Briles should be a coaching pariah after Baylor investigation

WACO, TX - DECEMBER 5: Head coach Art Briles of the Baylor Bears waits in the tunnel before the Bears take on the Texas Longhorns at McLane Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) Getty Images

When news broke this morning that Baylor would fire head football coach Art Briles, I dashed off a quick post about whether he would have a future in the NFL. A few minutes later, Baylor posted a statement about the investigation that led to Briles’ firing.

Having now read that statement, here’s what I think about Briles’ coaching future: Briles should have no coaching future.

Baylor’s statement suggests that women who were sexually assaulted by football players were discouraged from reporting those assaults, and in at least one case a woman actually faced retaliation for reporting an assault.

“There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct,” Baylor’s statement reads.

That ultimately falls on Briles. Major college football programs are essentially dictatorships in which the head coach outranks even the college president and athletic director, and if there’s a pattern of sexual assault and a refusal to hold football players accountable for sexual assaults, that falls on the head football coach. Briles was a highly successful coach and well respected offensive innovator, but that will not be his legacy at Baylor. His legacy will be the damning statement Baylor released today that made it clear that Briles cared more about winning than about the safety of Baylor students who were victimized by his players.

The football world should treat Briles as a pariah.

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