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Steelers’ James Harrison won’t be 100 percent at all this season

James Harrison AP

Steelers linebacker James Harrison missed the first four games of the season with a knee injury, and although Harrison has returned to start the last four games, he says he’s not 100 percent healthy. And not even close to 100 percent healthy.

Harrison told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he has no hope of being completely healthy until next season, and that all he can hope for is that as this season progresses, he can get into good enough shape that he’ll be able to make it through every game.

I don’t believe you’ll be able to get back to 100 percent, health-wise,” Harrison said. “Conditioning-wise, it’s a possibility. Health-wise, you’re not going to be able to because as soon as you get done with surgery, you start playing, and you know you’re going to continue to deal with that little issue until the end of the season. When you finally get time to rehab it properly, you’ll be able to get to 100 percent.”

Harrison added, however, that he still thinks he can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, saying, “A guy that’s not 100 percent can still be destructive.”

So far this season Harrison hasn’t been destructive, recording just one sack. The combination of an injury and age have made the 34-year-old Harrison a less imposing player for the Steelers’ defense.

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Joique Bell: I’m going to run for more than 1,200 yards

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Sitting out the Lions offseason program after knee and Achilles surgeries didn’t do much to dim running back Joique Bell’s expectations for the upcoming season.

No Lions running back has run for 1,200 yards in a season since Barry Sanders’s final campaign in 1998, but Bell plans to end that streak. He says that total represents the floor for his 2015 production.

“I’m going to rush for over 1,200 yards,” Bell said, via MLive.com. “That’s the minimum. If I do less than that, I’ll be surprised. I’ll be disappointed. Anything more than that, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”

The fact that the Lions made the run game a priority in the draft by taking guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round helps Bell. The Lions kept on that track in the second round when they selected running back Ameer Abdullah, who got strong reviews in the spring for his ability to make plays as both a runner and a receiver.

If Abdullah continues to impress, that should be a good thing for the Lions Offense as a whole. It would likely cut into the amount of chances that Bell, who has averaged a hair less than four yards per carry the last two seasons, will get to run the ball, however, and that could leave Sanders as the last 1,200-yard man in Detroit for a little while longer.

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Rex reportedly more enthusiastic about Taylor than Cassel

EJ Manuel,Tyrod Taylor, Matt Cassel

The Bills brought in two new quarterbacks this offseason, trading for Matt Cassel and signing Tyrod Taylor. Most people figured Cassel was in line to start and Taylor was brought in to be a backup. But that may not be the case.

The Buffalo News reports that Bills coach Rex Ryan has shown greater enthusiasm for Taylor than for Cassel, that Ryan has wanted to coach Taylor for a long time and previously wanted the Jets to acquire him, and that Ryan says Taylor is the fastest quarterback in the NFL and can change games with his speed.

Ryan might be right that Taylor is the fastest quarterback in the NFL: Among all active quarterbacks, the only one who ran a faster 40-yard dash at the Combine than Taylor’s 4.51 was Robert Griffin III, and Griffin doesn’t look as fast now as he did before the knee injury at the end of his rookie year. Taylor is so impressive with the ball in his hands that at times when he was Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore, the Ravens let Taylor take snaps in the Wildcat formation, much to Flacco’s chagrin.

But Taylor has never proven himself as an NFL passer: In very limited action as a backup to Flacco, he has completed 54.3 percent of his passes, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Both Cassel and EJ Manuel have shown more as NFL passers than Taylor has. It would be a big risk for the Bills to put such an unproven quarterback under center in Week One.

It might just be a risk Ryan is willing to take, however, on the theory that the Bills need to win games with their defense and running game, and Taylor is the quarterback on the roster whose skills are most conducive to that. Don’t be surprised if Taylor is the starter when the season starts, and Cassel is no longer on the roster at all.

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Michael Bennett: Seahawks want me to play five positions and pay me for one

Michael Bennett, Kellen Clemens AP

Michael Bennett said over the weekend that he didn’t mind staying at home in Honolulu for a little while when he was asked if he’d consider holding out of Seahawks training camp next month.

Bennett skipped voluntary work this offseason because he’s trying to get the Seahawks to address his contract for the second time in the last two years, but returned for mandatory minicamp this month. Bennett told Steve Wyche of NFL Media that it is “definitely possible” that he’ll stay away from camp while trying to make his case for a new deal.

“I know a lot of people disagree because I don’t put up all the numbers, but if you watch the games, I’m doing good things,” Bennett said. “They want me to play five positions but pay me for one.”

Bennett lines up inside and outside while playing the run and the pass for the Seahawks, although the team would surely argue that all of those can fit snugly under the position of defensive lineman. There’s no doubt that Bennett is doing good things, but those good things don’t do much to create leverage so soon after signing a contract with Seattle because they are understandably wary of what could follow with other players if they redo Bennett’s deal with three years left on it.

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Fred Smoot says “no one cares” about the gay players in NFL

New York Giants v Washington Redskins Getty Images

As Michael Sam was trying to become the first openly gay player in the NFL, it was an open secret that he was not close to being the first gay player in the NFL.

While common sense might tell you that’s the case, former Washington and Minnesota cornerback Fred Smoot told us also yesterday.

Smoot did a Reddit AMA (“Ask me anything”) yesterday, which is the verbal equivalent of taking Rob Ryan to a beer-and-appetizer buffet. You never know what you’re going to get, but you know you’re going to get a lot of it.

Via Des Bieler of the Washington Post, Smoot said that he encountered “several” gay players, adding that “everyone knew” and “no one cares.”

Of course, most gay players (and most people in the world) are more discreet about their own off-field exploits than the former first mate on the Vikings’ infamous “Love Boat” cruise.

Since that came up, Smoot mentioned that if it happened now under Roger Goodell’s watchful eye, he’d have been “banished from the league”

“Gotta be famous for something i guess,” he said.

But while Smoot’s a bit of a clown, the fact he’s so matter-of-fact about gay players in the NFL should tell us something — very few teammates would care, so long as that teammate could play.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Roy Helu, Donte Moncrief AP

How does QB Tyrod Taylor fit into the Bills’ competition at the position?

LB Jelani Jenkins breaks down some of the Dolphins’ defensive philosophies.

The Patriots have set their training camp dates.

Former Jets DL Joe Klecko thinks this year’s defense will be good, but has his doubts about QB Geno Smith.

Plotting the path to a better Ravens secondary.

Memories of Bengals founder Paul Brown remain strong inside and outside the organization.

A prediction for what the Browns will do at tight end this season.

Bill Dudley was the first star running back for the Steelers.

Texans S Lonnie Ballentine is ready to get back on the field.

Hopes are high for Colts WR Donte Moncrief in his second season.

Where are the Jaguars short on depth?

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt shares some of his training camp expectations.

Previewing the Broncos safeties for the 2015 season.

The Chiefs remembered the late Joe Delaney 32 years after his death.

C Rodney Hudson is a key piece of the remade Raiders offensive line.

T Joe Barksdale is getting acclimated to life with the Chargers.

Which rookie wide receivers have a chance to make the Cowboys?

Giants RB Rashad Jennings gives an update on what he’s up to between now and training camp.

How will John Moffitt fit in on the Eagles offensive line?

CB David Amerson is hoping to be a more productive part of the Redskins secondary this year.

Former Bears LB Brian Urlacher is doing a lot of fishing these days.

The Lions will practice at two local high schools this summer.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers needs some work on his swordsmanship.

The Vikings want more consistency from P Jeff Locke.

Five of the most memorable plays made by Falcons WR Julio Jones.

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker hopes to build on his 2014 results.

The resisting arrest trial of Saints CB Brian Dixon has been pushed back.

Buccaneers TE Tim Wright told kids in his New Jersey hometown that he proves hard work pays off.

Cardinals rookies learned about life in the NFL last week.

The desire to help provide clean water for those who need it led Rams DE Chris Long to Africa.

Rookie LB Eli Harold wants to become a leader for the 49ers.

SI.com would put Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s legs on the perfect quarterback.

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Do the Browns intend to use Terrelle Pryor as a “slash-player”?

Terrelle Pryor AP

Before he was claimed on waivers by the Browns, quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor seemed to be wrestling with the transition, in one breath vowing to become a great receiver while in the next breath posting highlights of his practice performances as a quarterback with the Bengals. (To the chagrin of the Bengals.)

When the Browns claimed Pryor, the official release from the team made clear that he’ll “compete for a roster spot at wide receiver,” with no mention of perhaps being a change-of-pace quarterback.

That made Pryor’s recent remarks to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review even more intriguing. In saying that he will “give this slash-player deal a chance,” Pryor implied that he will be doing something more than competing for a roster spot at wide receiver, and that he’ll be doing something less than converting from quarterback to receiver.

As Gantt noted on Monday, there’s no indication that the Browns are looking at Pryor as a “slash-player.” Which means either that they aren’t and Pryor has yet to fully embrace that he won’t be taking snaps under any circumstances with the Browns — or that the Browns intend to use him in that role but that they had hoped to be discreet about it.

Coach Mike Pettine knows the value of having a specialty package for a quarterback other than the starter. Three years ago, while Pettine served as defensive coordinator with the Jets, he spoke about the value of having a base offense led by Mark Sanchez and a specialty package led by Tim Tebow.

“We’re in the ‘whatever-it-takes’ business,” Pettine said at the time. “We’re not looking for style points.  People might say, ‘Well, you’re not running a NFL-style offense.’  Yeah, so what?  We’re moving the ball, we’re scoring, we’re creating problems on defense. Because that’s what it does.  It forces you to take extra time to prepare and you can’t get that time back.”

It was odd that the Jets were so open about the plan to use Tebow, a plan that never materialized because Tebow, who is notoriously bad in practice, was so bad in practice that former Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano refused to use Tebow much in games. A package for a second quarterback has a much better chance of initially succeeding if it’s unveiled with the element of surprise — like the Dolphins did to the Patriots with Ronnie Brown running the Wildcat in 2008.

As to the Browns and Pryor, there’s a chance that the team hopes to supplement starter Josh McCown not with dashes of Johnny Manziel but with flashed of Terrelle Pryor, that the Browns don’t want to publicize that plan, and that Pryor said more than he should have said by referring to himself as a “slash-type” player.

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Warrant issued for John Abraham’s arrest for misdemeanor battery

John Abraham AP

Longtime pass-rusher John Abraham might be out of the NFL, but he’s still in the news.

According to WGCL in Atlanta, Abraham was charged with battery for an incident that happened outside a strip club in February 2014.

Brookhaven police responded to a call around 4 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2014, for an assault that took place the night before at the Pink Pony on Corporate Boulevard. The alleged victim was reportedly assaulted by Abraham as he was approached by the victim to resolve an old dispute. A warrant has been obtained for Abraham’s arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge.

While the timing of the warrant is odd, the timing of the incident less so. The Pink Pony is a strip club, and strip club parking lots at 3 a.m. have been known to be the site of trouble.

Also Pers, according to Vernon Davis.

Abraham missed most of last season for the Cardinals with a concussion, likely capping a career that included 133.5 sacks in 15 total seasons, including stints with the Jets and Falcons.

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Ryan Tannehill wants to be a “big leader” for hungry Dolphins team

Miami Dolphins OTA's

It’s been a pretty good offseason for Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

He saw the team trade away Mike Wallace after two frustrating seasons and add Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and DeVante Parker at wide receiver while also signing Ndamukong Suh to anchor the defense that will try to make Miami’s offensive production stand up. Tannehill then signed a big contract extension that shows the team’s belief that he’s the right man to create that production, something that Stills said Tannehill has responded to by “taking the team on his shoulders.”

For his part, Tannehill sees a “hungry” team that he wants to lead to better results than the team has managed to achieve the last few years.

“I think we have a lot of great leaders, but I definitely consider myself a big leader on this team,” Tannehill said, via the team’s website. “As far as the franchise, they have been great to me this offseason as far as communication through free agency, through the team last year. Obviously the contract is huge. They put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, with the contract and really taking my viewpoint and my thoughts on things throughout the offseason.”

The Dolphins have been aggressive in the offseason in the past without having much to show for it come the fall. The chances of things playing out differently this time around will have much to do with Tannehill’s ability to both lead and play at a high level, which makes his embrace of his position a positive for the team.

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Now that Russell Wilson said a number, his agent’s pumping it up

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With the news on Russell Wilson’s contract situation trickling out in tweets (sub- and otherwise) and thinly veiled references to leaving town in radio interviews, it was notable last night that the Seahawks quarterback finally said a number.

As you might imagine, his agent wishes he’d have said a bigger one.

Shortly after Wilson floated the number $25 million in his meandering way, agent Mark Rodgers replied with his own take on the situation which has taken on a life of its own this offseason.

I wish he had said $40 million,” Rodgers wrote on Twitter. “Then this would be really interesting. #patience #relax #no_deadline.”

The hashtags have been staple messages of both Wilson and his agent since this process began.

And continuing to talk about big numbers and patience at the same time does nothing to deter one from thinking their end game is to see what an open market would bear for them — assuming the Seahawks let them reach it unfettered.

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NFL’s next Los Angeles meeting limited to owners only

Human hand open red velvet rope isolated over white Getty Images

We knew NFL owners were meeting in Chicago on Aug. 11 to discuss the future of the Los Angeles situation, that fact alone makes it noteworthy.

But when they call the roll, it’s going to be even more clear they’re there to do business.

According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, this meeting will be a rare one-per-club meeting, meaning the 32 owners will be alone in a room.

The sense is that without team presidents and other officials who are around for the annual spring meetings in the room, the owners will more comfortable to push through difficult issues with fewer people clattering about.

With only principal owners in the room (plus one family member each), it creates an opportunity for real movement on the issue in a behind-the-scenes-while-being-the-scene way.

At that meeting, they’re not expected to make a final decision on who goes to L.A. and where they play. But they will hear presentations from the Inglewood and Carson stadium sites, which are being forwarded by the Rams and the Chargers/Raiders jointly, respectively.

Having three teams and two stadium possibilities mean that deals going to be too tough to strike in any one day. But they are expected to refine and announce a new schedule for both accepting relocation applications and making the final decisions for the site of the team(s) involved.

It could also stem the tide of leaks (if fewer leaks is what they want), as fewer people in the room mean fewer people to spread the information shared within.

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Walter Thurmond says Tom Coughlin isn’t a fan of new-age medical practices

Tom Coughlin Getty Images

At 68 years old, Tom Coughlin is the oldest head coach in the National Football League. His personality and coaching style has always been rooted in the old-school ways of football.

While Coughlin has softened his demeanor in recent years, there may be one aspect of the game where he has yet to adapt to the changing norms of the NFL.

At least according to former New York Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond.

Thurmond played in just two games for the Giants last year before being lost for the season with a torn pectoral. It was just another in a long line of injuries that have helped derail the last several seasons for the Giants.

In an interview with Bleacher Report, Thurmond said Coughlin hasn’t accepted some of the new-age medical practices for football players Thurmond is familiar with under Pete Carroll in Seattle and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia and Oregon.

“I’ll start by saying they all have one thing in common: They are driven to win a championship,” Thurmond said. “And they believe with every fiber in their bodies all the way to their core in their philosophies. They realize some coaches would belittle the situation once the playoffs came by just trying to win this or that game. When the coach is confident in saying, ‘We’re here to win a championship, and that’s our sole purpose,’ I think guys react that way.

“Coach Coughlin is the same type of person, but we battled through injuries last season,” Thurmond continued. “Yes, he’s a little old-school, but he’s starting to come around to the times. He doesn’t believe in the sport-science aspect like Coach Carroll or Coach Kelly and the newfound technology for the players. His style takes a hit, because he doesn’t believe in this aspect. He believes in winning, but he doesn’t believe in the modern medicine to progress the players to that next level.”

Kelly implemented personalized smoothies for players after practice, in addition to installing his high-paced offense. Carroll has added the smoothies to the players’ regimen in Seattle as well and tries to strategically find ways to get players off their feet to recover throughout the week.

Is Coughlin’s supposed unwillingness to adapt to this shift in techniques a reason the Giants have suffered so many injuries in recent seasons? There’s no way to know. But for a league that tries to seek out every advantage possible during the week to gain an advantage on game days, the Giants may be lagging a step behind.

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Marshawn dives into Skittles, talks about “grabbing my ding-ding”

DingDing Getty Images

While Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was talking about his contract on ESPN, running back Marshawn Lynch was on TBS discussing slightly more sophisticated matters.

“I done got in a lot of trouble for grabbing my ding-ding,” Lynch told Conan O’Brien during Monday night’s show regarding the player’s habit of putting a hand on his crotch while diving into the end zone. (He grabbed said ding-ding at least twice while talking to Conan.)

Lynch also dove into a end zone full of Skittles. And, naturally, he grabbed his ding-ding while in the air.

Before that, Lynch said he was convinced he’d be getting the ball at the end of the Super Bowl, but  he said he’s not mad about the situation. (Lynch didn’t reiterate any of his remarks from Turkey about someone possibly not wanting him to become Super Bowl MVP and in turn the “face of the nation.”)

Lynch likewise admitted to contemplating retirement but explained that when the Seahawks “put 12 in front of you for a year, you start to think, maybe I could do this again.”

Said Conan, wistfully: “12 thousand dollars.”

Replied Lynch: “Yeah, something like that.”

It’s actually $12 million. Which allows Lynch to grab his ding-ding and pay the fine pretty much every play he touches the football. And pretty much every time he doesn’t.

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Russell Wilson mentions a figure: $25 million

Sherman Getty Images

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has yet again been interviewed. And he has yet again avoided questions about his contract with the team.

But Wilson has finally floated a figure, during an interview with ESPN’s Marty Smith.

Said Smith, “Nobody’s won more than you in the last several years. We’ve seen what some of your peers have gotten on the market recently. Based on the current market for the quarterback and based on your resume, what do you deserve?”

Wilson opted to be coy. “I don’t know, how much would you pay me, Marty?” Wilson said with a laugh.

“I mean, you have a Super Bowl and you took ’em to another Super Bowl,” Smith said.

“I think ultimately it comes down to the play,” Wilson said. “Just let my play speak for itself, and let the rest take care of itself. Continue to love the game for what it is, continue to fight, continue to play.  No matter how much I’m getting paid, whether it’s $25 million or $1.5 million. I’ll be ready to go.”

The second number is what Wilson is due to make this year. The first number could be what Wilson is aiming to get, a possible slip of the tongue. (Or maybe he was simply thinking about the jersey number worn by teammate Richard Sherman.)

Wilson also called his relationship with the Seahawks “great” and “I don’t think it’s a bad relationship by any means.” He also reiterated his desire to stay in Seattle.

That’s fine, but at some point the desire to stay in Seattle and the desire to get paid will conflict, especially if he’s serious about making $25 million per year — which is $3 million more per year than the current high-water mark in the NFL set two years ago by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

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The NFL’s scientific consultant has bigger problems than the Wells report

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After the NFL hired outside investigator Ted Wells to handle the #DeflateGate probe, Wells retained a firm known as Exponent to provide scientific and mathematical support.

Initially, Columbia University was mentioned as a potential consultant for Wells, but that never materialized — possibly because Columbia wouldn’t reach the conclusion Wells wanted Columbia to reach. Instead, Wells picked Exponent, litigation-support firm that once concluded second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer in exchange for a likely sizable fee from one or more tobacco companies.

“Exponent’s research has come under fire from critics, including engineers, attorneys and academics who say the company tends to deliver to clients the reports they need to mount a public defense,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2010. (Exponent predictably denied the allegation.)

Most recently, Exponent has come under fire not for what it delivered but for what it didn’t deliver. Via WEEI.com, a court order entered earlier this month in Illinois found Exponent to be in violation of a court order requiring the company to produce certain documents in a civil lawsuit. Exponent tried to advance a couple of flimsy legal privileges for failing to comply, but the court ultimately found Exponent to be in violation of a prior court order — and the violation of a court order is a big deal in any form of litigation.

“[T]he Court cannot allow Exponent to stand in violation of a valid Court order compelling the production of documents which were demanded pursuant to a lawful subpoena and found relevant by the Court,” Judge Stephen A. Stobbs wrote in the June 2, 2015 order. “Methodologically sound science has nothing to fear from full and open disclosure.”

The last part makes a lot of sense, and it bolster our prior argument that the NFL should release all communications between Wells and Exponent, in order to allow the Patriots, Tom Brady, and the media to scrutinize whether Exponent provided an honest and objective analysis to Wells or whether Exponent gave Wells precisely what Wells was buying — a finding that the Patriots tampered with the air pressure in the footballs used in the AFC title game.

In the Illinois case, Exponent was required to reimburse the party seeking the documents for all legal fees relating to the pursuit of the materials, along with a $1,000 fine for each day that the company failed to deliver the documents, if the documents weren’t produced by June 23, 2015.

In this case, Exponent is facing no financial liability. But Exponent is facing a significant potential blow to its credibility. If it had any remaining credibility after claiming that second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer.

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J.J. Watt wipes out fan at concert, with a tackle that likely was staged

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Mike Curtis approves this message.

On Sunday night, a fan at a Zac Brown Band concert put his toes on the stage — and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt put his ass on the ground. Watt posted the video of the moment on his Twitter page with the message, “Nobody messes with @zacbrownband.”

Was it staged? As noted by Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, the fan at the Milwaukee show was wearing an Alabama T-shirt, and Wisconsin (Watt’s alma mater) faces the Crimson Tide to launch the 2015 college football season. Which strongly suggests that the moment was staged.

Still, it was an impressive wipeout by the guy who recently slapped a hockey puck past a goalie who dove away from the goal just as the shot was coming.

Neither moment was as impressive as the knee-jerk shoulder slam from the Colts linebacker who in 1971 stopped a fan who stormed the field and tried to abscond with the football.

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