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Peyton Manning: The game is harder after neck surgeries

Peyton Manning, Ryan Clady, Rob Ninkovich AP

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is on pace to throw for a career-high 4,821 passing yards. He’s on pace to throw 37 touchdown passes, which would be the second-best of his career, and both his completion rate (67.8 percent) and his passer rating (105.0) would be the second-best for his career. He’s on pace to throw 11 interceptions, which would be his lowest total since 2006. So does that mean he’s all the way back after having multiple neck surgeries and missing all of last season?

Not quite. Manning told Peter King of Sports Illustrated that although his stats might make it look like he’s 100 percent healthy, he’s not there yet.

“That’s how it might look like to someone on the outside,” Manning said. “Some things are harder than they used to be. The game is harder. The whole goal was try to get better every week, even if only a little bit better every week. And I knew all along the nerve would take a long time [to heal], and you couldn’t rush it. It’ll be a tad better in two weeks, then a tad better two weeks after that. On game day, I get a little juice and feel pretty good. All I’m saying is, I still have strength to recover and rehab to do.”

Watching Manning’s passes, they do sometimes appear to wobble and float more than they did when he was with the Colts. So it’s not surprising that Manning would say he’s not all the way back. But considering how well Manning is playing this season even at less than 100 percent, it’s scary for the rest of the league to think about how good he can be by playoff time if he keeps getting better.

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Browns cut former first-rounder Phil Taylor

Phil Taylor, Donte Whitner AP

Another year, another former first-round pick flushed by the Cleveland Browns.

The team has announced that the contract of defensive lineman Phil Taylor has been terminated as part of the effort to get to 75 players.

A first-round pick in 2011, the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on Taylor in 2014. By not cutting him before March 10, his salary of $5.477 million is fully-guaranteed.

But the guarantee is subject to offset language, which gives Cleveland a dollar-for-dollar credit on money he earns elsewhere. With 2015 first-rounder Danny Shelton winning a starting job, the Browns opted to let Taylor walk, hopeful he’ll make at or about that much money elsewhere.

Per a league source, Taylor asked to be released, and teams already are lining up for a shot at the player who made his first game appearance over the weekend after aggravating a knee injury in early November.

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Manziel says elbow issue just tendinitis, nothing to worry about

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It’s always something with Johnny Manziel, and the latest is an arm/elbow soreness issue that Browns coach Mike Pettine said last week was minor — and the next day Pettine announced the Browns were shutting Manziel down for the preseason.

Manziel hasn’t thrown in more than a week, but Tuesday he told reporters he is only battling tendinitis in his throwing elbow and said, “I’m not worried about it all.”

The issue will end up keeping Manziel from two valuable preseason games, and Pettine said last week that Manziel would have played with the No. 1 offense for the first time this summer in last Saturday’s preseason game had he been healthy. Pettine has been firm that Josh McCown is the team’s starting quarterback.

Manziel said the elbow soreness is something he’s dealt with every year since he got to Texas A&M in 2011 and that it generally gets better past training camp because quarterbacks are asked to make fewer throws once the regular season begins. He said he’s sought multiple opinions on his tendinitis, including having the team’s medical staff reach out to Dr. James Andrews, and that surgery was never recommended.

The Browns have to be as certain as Manziel is that he will be available for next week and the Sept. 13 season opener. Thad Lewis will start Thursday’s preseason finale and try to make a strong enough impression to win a roster spot in the process; if there’s concern about Manziel being able to serve as McCown’s backup, the Browns almost have to keep Lewis when the team trims the roster to the regular-season size of 53 this weekend.

Unless McCown can lead the Browns to a bunch of wins, Manziel will eventually get a shot to play this season and try to give the team a better showing than he did in basically seven quarters last season. But he has to be healthy first, and then he’ll have to prove he can be worth the wait.

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Jaguars owner wants to keep going to London until 2030

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Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants to keep going to London, but only once a year.

Khan said at today’s kickoff luncheon that he’d like to sign a long-term extension to play a game a year in England, perhaps as long as a 14-year deal which would carry them through 2030. Their original deal to play a game a year there expires in 2016.

“Nothing definitive, but I’m optimistic that we’ll have a renewal on that and it’ll go for a long time,” Khan said, via Michael DiRocco of “I think we would like it to be long term, like 2030, so it’s been probably the No. 1 element in stabilizing the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Hard to believe it’s over, the four-year deal now, but I think it’s a critical part of our franchise to be able to play games there, get the recognition, build the fan base and get sponsors.”

The Jaguars have benefitted from the ticket sales boost from playing in 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium, in addition to the visibility boost that comes from being a regular tenant there. Team president Mark Lamping has said London accounts for 15 percent of the team’s local revenue.

“For us, London and Jacksonville is almost a great marriage made in heaven,” Khan said. “I would expect the NFL may be looking at other areas, other markets to develop, but we want to have a focus and Jacksonville supplemented with London is our focus.”

The league has also struck a deal to play games in the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, but that one’s not going to be nearly as big as Wembley, thus might not be as attractive to Khan to visit.

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Lions down to 75 players

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The Lions shuffled up their roster over the last two days with moves including a trade for tight end Tim Wright and the release of wide receiver Ryan Broyles.

The other moves don’t involve such familiar names, but the Lions have made enough of them to reach Tuesday’s 75-man roster limit.

Cornerback Chris Owens has been placed on injured reserve. Owens played a lot for the Chiefs as a slot corner last season, but wasn’t set for quite as big a role in Detroit before the Lions ended his season. The injury is undisclosed so a settlement that allows him to find work elsewhere could be a possibility if it isn’t major.

The Lions also released tight end Deon Butler, quarterback Garret Gilbert, receiver Vernon Johnson, running back Desmond Martin, defensive tackle Roy Philon, cornerback Jocquel Skinner, cornerback R.J. Stanford, wide receiver Andrew Peacock, linebacker Justin Cherocci, tight end Jacob Maxwell and defensive end Erik Williams.

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NFL makes other changes to Super Bowl media schedule

Super Bowl XLIX Media Day Fueled by Gatorade Getty Images

The biggest change to the events of Super Bowl week comes from the shifting of the circus of frivolity known as Media Day to Super Bowl Opening Night. Other changes also have been made to the activities to be held in the days prior to the game.

PFT has obtained a copy of the email to teams outlining the adjustments to the events at which players and coaches will have to show up so they don’t get fined.

First, the joint press conference involving the head coaches on the Friday before the game has been scrapped. However, coaches will be “required to fulfill broadcast partner commitments as necessary.”

Second, the league has ditched the standard media availability upon the teams’ arrival to the site of the Super Bowl.

Third, in place of the Tuesday media day, the head coach, starting quarterback, and 10 other players will be available at the team hotels.

Other activities are unchanged, including the Wednesday and Thursday media sessions at the team hotels with all coaches and players, and the Monday-after press conference with the winning head coach and the game’s MVP.

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Bill O’Brien: Our running game is too inconsistent

Bill O'Brien AP

When Arian Foster had groin surgery this offseason, many wondered if the Texans would be able to generate the kind of running game that the team will need to keep pressure off of quarterback Brian Hoyer while Foster is out of the lineup.

The results in the preseason haven’t done much to alleviate that concern. Texans backs are averaging 2.8 yards per carry in three preseason contests and coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday that he wants to see more consistency from Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, Kenny Hilliard and Jonathan Grimes.

“I think our running game, at times, has been decent, but it’s too inconsistent,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Hopefully, you’ll see some improvement Thursday in the Dallas game. I think there have been times where we see glimpses of what it can be, but we’ve got to be a lot more consistent.”

Blue is expected to start while Foster is out of the lineup and he’s been the most effective back this month, although his average of 4.8 yards per carry speaks to O’Brien’s concern since he had a big run in the opening week before struggling the last two times out. With Foster expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the season, the Texans could opt to bring in another back to complement Blue if they continue to find the work of the others lacking.

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Andy Reid: Kelce could play if he had to

Travis Kelce AP

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went down in Monday’s practice with what looked to be a leg or ankle injury, giving the team a scare.

Before Tuesday’s practice, though, Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters that Kelce just suffered a sprained ankle, not the dreaded high ankle sprain, and would be ready to play this week if the team had a regular-season game.

The Chiefs open the season Sept. 13, and there’s no reason for the team to rush its talented young tight end back for Thursday’s preseason finale. So, as long as Kelce can get back on the field Saturday or Sunday when the Chiefs really begin preparing for their opener vs. the Texans, Monday’s injury will quickly be forgotten.

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Antonio Brown gets $2 million moved from 2016 to this year

Antonio Brown AP

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said recently that the team would not break from tradition to revisit wide receiver Antonio Brown’s contract this year.

Brown signed a six-year, $43 million deal with the Steelers before the 2012 season and approached the team this offseason about altering it to get himself more money. Colbert met with Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, but said that Brown’s contract would remain unchanged.

That wasn’t quite right. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Tuesday that the Steelers restructured Brown’s contract and Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that the restructure involved moving $2 million of his 2016 salary into a bonus this year.

It’s a raise for Brown this year and, along with restructures of tight end Heath Miller and kicker Shaun Suisham, helps the Steelers gain $6 million in cap room. Per Schefter, that money will be used to offset the money they’ll be spending on injured players this year.

PFT has confirmed the restructuring and that Brown is happy to be the player that got the Steelers to change their philosophy on reopening a deal for a non-quarterback with more than a year left.

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Would the NFL appeal a two-game Brady suspension?

Richard Berman AP

It’s become a given that Judge Richard M. Berman doesn’t have the option to impose anything less than a four-game suspension on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Technically, that’s accurate.

As a practical matter, Judge Berman can reduce the suspension to two games, explaining that he has decided to deem the four-game suspension as two for “general awareness” (or whatever) of the alleged deflation scheme and two for failure to cooperate with the NFL’s investigation. Sure, he’d be susceptible to a reversal on appeal.

But what if no one appeals?

Tom Brady, if suspended two games for failure to cooperate at a time when he’s reportedly willing to accept at least one game for that infraction and exonerated on the question of whether he should be suspended for the deflation-related activities, could be inclined to accept the two games and move on. Which means that the case would be over — unless the NFL appeals.

At that point, would the NFL appeal? More specifically, would the NFL allow itself to be responsible for prolonging a case that the fans want to see end, when the NFL can legitimately claim partial victory and retreat?

From a legal perspective, the NFL would have a strong argument on appeal, arguing that Judge Berman has no right to chop the suspension in half and that it’s an all-or-nothing decision. From a P.R. perspective, the NFL possibly would be criticized heavily for not accepting a middle ground and moving on.

So maybe, just maybe, Judge Berman will technically get it wrong, but ultimately get to the right solution.

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Jets place Jace Amaro on injured reserve

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Jets had high hopes for tight end Jace Amaro as a receiver in his second NFL season, but they were put on ice Tuesday.

Amaro has been placed on injured reserve and will have surgery on the shoulder injury that’s kept him out of action this summer. The move strips the Jets of a target for Ryan Fitzpatrick and/or Geno Smith and robs Bills coach Rex Ryan of two chances to face Amaro after the tight end was critical of Ryan this offseason for the lack of accountability on the Jets last season.

Amaro had 38 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Davis are the veteran tight ends left on the roster, which may lead the Jets to look for another receiving option at the position as cuts are made this week.

The Jets also placed veteran defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson on injured reserve and waived cornerback Dashaun Phillips with an injured designation.

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NFL turns Media Day into “Super Bowl Opening Night”

Super Bowl Media Day Getty Images

If you thought the hype surrounding the Super Bowl couldn’t possibly get any more overdone, think again.

The NFL has announced that it is shifting the long-standing Media Day, which always took place on Tuesday in the late morning or early afternoon, into “Super Bowl Opening Night,” a primetime extravaganza on the Monday night of Super Bowl week.

Super Bowl Opening Night will be a three-hour show at the SAP Center in San Jose, starting at 5 p.m. Pacific on Monday, February 1. In addition to appearances from the players and coaches on the two Super Bowl teams, the event will also feature musical performances.

The league is selling tickets to fans, but this is mostly about creating more Super Bowl week content for NFL Network. And although plenty of people will roll their eyes at the idea, it’s sure to get good ratings. Fans have an insatiable appetite for football, especially during Super Bowl week.

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Report: Randall Cobb expected to be ready for regular season

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The Packers lost one of their starting wide receivers to a preseason injury, but it appears their other one is going to be fine.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, all indications are that Packers wideout Randall Cobb’s shoulder injury won’t prevent him from playing in the opener against the Bears.

After losing Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL, the Packers couldn’t afford to lose Cobb for any amount of time.

Cobb’s coming off a career season of his own (91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns) and was rewarded with a new contract before he hit free agency.

Now, there’s even more pressure on him to deliver, as the Packers try to bring along the next generation of young wideouts.

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Panthers put Kelvin Benjamin on IR; waive Melvin White, Robert Lester

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Panthers have reached the 75-man limit with a series of moves on Tuesday afternoon.

Some of the moves were expected, like placing wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin on injured reserve as a result of the torn ACL he suffered in August. The team also confirmed that they have parted ways with wideout Jarrett Boykin after swinging a deal with the Seahawks for Kevin Norwood.

The Panthers also waived cornerback Melvin White and safety Robert Lester. White, who has an injured designation after hurting his hamstring, made 17 starts over the last two seasons but lost his job with the first team last year. Lester played a lot in 2013, but only saw action in one game last year while also spending time on the practice squad.

Wide receiver DeAndre Presley, defensive tackle Kenny Horsley, tackle Davonte Wallace and defensive tackle Micanor Regis were also waived.

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James Harrison says old pal Goodell will win fight vs. Brady

James Harrison, Art Rooney II AP

James Harrison has never been afraid to speak out against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but when Harrison was asked by reporters about DeflateGate and Goodell’s court battle vs. Tom Brady and the Patriots, Harrison said he believes Brady’s four-game suspension will be upheld.

Because the Steelers play the Patriots Sept. 10 in the season opener, the result of the proceedings are of particular interest to Harrison. But the 37-year old linebacker had no personal feelings involved when he shared his viewpoint.

“I don’t see what a federal judge can do with something the players signed in the collective bargaining agreement, which gives Roger Goodell (power) to do what he wants to,” Harrison said. “And if that’s the case and he’s going by the letter of what he says, there’s nothing (a judge) can do.”

Monday, federal judge Richard Berman pledged to rule by Friday on Brady’s challenge of his four-game suspension after talks between Brady’s representatives and the NFL failed to reach a settlement.

Harrison and Goodell have quite a history, both of face to face meetings regarding fines that have totaled $150,000 and of Harrison publicly criticizing Goodell. Harrison called Goodell a “crook” and “devil” in a 2011 magazine interview and last year took to Twitter and needled Goodell for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.

“If (Goodell) was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it,” Harrison told Men’s Journal in 2011. “I hate him and will never respect him.”

Harrison tweeted last September, when he considered himself retired, that Steelers players voted against the new CBA in 2011.

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Report: Patriots to put James Develin on season-ending IR

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The Patriots lost one of Bill Belichick’s favorite players last week in Charlotte, and it will be a season-ending loss.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, versatile tight end/fullback James Develin will be placed on injured reserve today.

Develin broke his tibia Friday night against the Panthers, and stayed behind to have surgery there.

He met with Patriots officials yesterday, and they decided today to put him on season-ending IR rather than use the designated for return spot on him.

The injury was originally thought to keep him out for six to eight weeks, but they may have realized it was taking longer than that, or the team just wanted to use that spot otherwise.

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