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Wisconsin coach: NFL scouts tell me Montee Ball is draft’s top back

Montee Ball AP

Wisconsin’s Montee Ball will be the first running back taken in the 2013 NFL draft. At least, he will be if you believe his coach.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema told ESPN that he has spoken with NFL scouts about their views on his team, and they’ve always told him that Ball is the best running back prospect in the country.

“I’ve had several guys comment to me this year that they thought he’s the first back to go in this year’s draft,” Bielema said. “Many make the statement without a doubt.”

Ball decided to return to Wisconsin for his senior year after first checking with the NFL draft advisory board and being told he would likely be a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. As I wrote at the time, it’s hard to see what Ball could do as a senior to change NFL teams’ minds from the way they viewed him as a junior, and Ball’s production this year has declined significantly from last year.

If NFL scouts view Ball as the top running back in the draft, that may mean NFL scouts don’t think there’s much running back talent in this draft. Even if Ball is the first running back selected, it might not be in the first round.

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Bills think they can have the greatest defense ever

Alex Smith, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams

Confidence continues to pour out of Buffalo, as the arrival of Rex Ryan has made a major impact on the attitude of the Bills.

Multiple players on the Bills’ defense have said that they believe they can have the best defense in the history of the NFL this season.

We want to be the best in history — one of the greatest,” linebacker Nigel Bradham told the Toronto Sun. “That’s what we’re striving for … the greatest of all time, not just this year or last year.”

Asked about the defense’s goal for the season, Marcell Dareus answered, “Best ever. It’s so obtainable. All we have to do is continue to do what we want, and not what we can. If we do what we want, and do everything to head in that direction, why can’t we? Why can’t we?”

Dareus has bought into everything that Ryan is selling.

“We finally have a coach who will really lay it on the line for us,” he said. “I mean, Rex will make the tough calls and really put us in the position to win, regardless of whatever the stakes are. And he’s not going to be buddy-buddy. He’s like, ‘You’re a grown man and I’m going to tell it to you like it is.’ And that’s what we all need. We’re all grown men. To have somebody babying us, or somebody trying to micro-manage us — I mean, no man really wants to ever be under somebody’s thumb all the time. Rex is just that type of guy where he’s going to let you play ball, he’s going to put you in the best situations, and he’s going to do his best not to let you fail.”

Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams echoed those sentiments.

“Yeah, I think big goals and big dreams produce pretty great things,” Williams said. “And if you’re not willing to put yourself out there and be held accountable to that, you’ll just be happy with any results that you get. That’s not what we want. We want to be the best.”

The Bills had one of the NFL’s best defenses last year and should have one of the NFL’s best defenses this year, too. But best ever? That’s a title often given to the 1985 Bears Defense coached by Rex’s father, Buddy Ryan. The Bills have a long way to go before they’re in that company.

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Lions fan fined for using laser pointer to distract Kyle Orton


Then-Bills quarterback Kyle Orton said after last season’s game at Detroit that a fan had been distracting him on the field with a laser pointer. That fan has now been fined and sentenced to community service.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Marko Beslach, an 18-year-old from West Bloomfield, Michigan, paid a $235 fine and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in connection with the incident.

After last year’s game (which the Bills won), the Lions issued a statement saying that laser pointers were banned at the stadium and that the team was made aware that the Bills had complained. Beslach was caught in part because he bragged on Twitter that he had distracted Bills players with a laser.

Beslach has been banned from Ford Field. The Lions revoked the season tickets of the fan who brought Beslach to the game.

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Eric Winston: Don’t expect too much from Jake Fisher too soon

Jake Fisher, C.J. Uzomah AP

The Bengals took offensive linemen with each of their first two picks in this year’s draft, although first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi is likely to have a delayed start to his pro career after tearing his ACL in Texas A&M’s bowl game after last season.

Second-round pick Jake Fisher has been much busier, however. Fisher saw time at left tackle, right tackle and left guard during spring work and drawn good reviews for his athleticism after playing in the high-tempo Oregon system. That system is different than what we’re used to seeing in the NFL and veteran tackle Eric Winston says Fisher’s going to need time before he’s able to handle life in the professional trenches.

“He’s going to go through a lot of growing pains,” Winston said, via “To anoint him or think he’s going to be able to step in Day 1 and be able to do it, hell, I can’t do that. There’s not a lot of guys that can do that and step in Day 1 and be a guy the team can rely on, especially at one of the tougher spots like the tackle position. It’s rough. It’s not easy.”

Ultimately, Winston thinks the struggles will be a necessary part of Fisher’s growth as a player because it will force him to figure out the right ways to approach difficult situations. It should also help that the Bengals have players on hand — tackles Winston, Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith and guards Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler — who should allow them to give Fisher time to grow before he’s thrust into the lineup.

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Eagles announce signing of John Moffitt

John Moffitt AP

The Eagles have officially added John Moffitt to their offensive line.

Moffitt, a guard who abruptly retired from the Broncos during the 2013 season, will now compete for a roster spot in Philadelphia, the team announced today.

The 28-year-old Moffitt has faced legal troubles and been charged with assault, public urination and possession of marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. But he has reportedly gone to rehab and has worked to get his life back on track. Now he’ll hope to get his career back on track as well.

The Eagles released guard Cole Manhart to make room for Moffitt on the roster.

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Vernon Davis: Very good at football, less so at Family Feud

St Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

New 49ers coach Jim Tomsula might be off the hook.

Tight end Vernon Davis may have created the most unintentionally hilarious video of their offseason, with one of the worst Family Feud answers in the history of the game.

Via The Diamondback, Davis was part of the celebrity version of the popular game show last night, in an episode pitting AFC players against NFC players, when he came up with his own version of the football follies.

When host Steve Harvey asked players to “Name something that follows the word strip,” Davis thought he had hit one out of the park.

“Pers,” he replied with a bit of a confused look, dropping a solid suffix but something less than a good answer.

“Club,” perhaps. “Mall,” even. “Steak,” makes sense. Heck, “mining” would have been a better answer than “pers.”

While that was the best of the night, it wasn’t his only memorable answer. Earlier in the show, he was asked: “If you’re good at reading body language, what part of a woman speaks the loudest?”

He replied “feet,” which may tell us something about the kind of pers Davis is into.

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Ron Jaworski likes the Jets’ future with Geno Smith

Geno Smith, Chris Ivory AP

Jets quarterback Geno Smith hasn’t found many admirers in his first two NFL seasons, but the Jets haven’t found a surefire replacement for the 2013 second-round pick which means that he’s the favorite to be under center when they start the 2015 season as well.

Some, including Smith’s teammate Willie Colon, have shared their opinion that Smith’s play could hold back a Jets team with a talented defense and improved group of offensive skill position players. Colon also said that he thought Smith was pushed into the lineup before he was ready to play, something that Ron Jaworski of ESPN agreed with while sharing his own positive take on Smith’s growth as a quarterback.

“I think Geno, when I’ve looked at him now for a couple of years in the NFL, I see a quarterback that’s getting better,” Jaworski said, via the team’s website. “He’s forgotten the mistakes and I still remember going to Morgantown, West Virginia for his Pro Day and outside of Robert Griffin III –- it was one of the best pro days I’ve seen. So he can make every throw, he can do everything it takes to be an NFL quarterback. It’s just about consistency. It’s now Year 3 and believe me we put these guys way before their time out there on the field and we expect a Peyton Manning performance. It doesn’t happen. I see a nice growth every single year in Geno and I like the future of the Jets with Geno Smith at quarterback.”

Greg Cosell of NFL Films wasn’t quite as bullish about Smith, but gave the Jets high marks at receiver and running back when he said “they have people in place” to help Smith be more successful in 2015. That cast won’t matter without the gains in consistency that Jaworski mentions, however, and the Jets won’t know until Smith is under fire whether or not he’s able to fix the problems of the past to be the leader the Jets need on offense.

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Report: Hyundai deal worth $50 million per year

SCHAUMBURG, IL - AUGUST 26:  A Hyundai logo is displayed outside Schaumburg Hyundai August 26, 2005 in Schaumburg, Illinois. Strike action by Hyundai workers in South Korea demanding higher pay, improved working conditions and greater say in management decisions has shut down vehicle production for a second day.  (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the NFL will be taking any heat for doing business with a non-American car company, it’ll be worth it.

Via Darren Rovell of, Hyundai will be paying the NFL $50 million per year for the new four-year sponsorship deal. That’s twice the amount General Motors had been paying.

And there’s more. Or, technically, less. Hyundai didn’t obtain total exclusivity; per Rovell, the NFL can (and surely will) sell the truck category separately, giving that vehicle to the Super Bowl MVP.

In other words, the one time per year that the NFL has a link to an automobile manufacturer, Hyundai’s $50 million per year won’t be getting anything.

In other words, the Kanye lyric “win a Super Bowl and drive off in a Hyundai” still won’t relate to something good.

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What a great idea: NFL looking for someone to find stuff in cell phones


You think you can get a peek at Tom Brady’s cell phone? If so, the NFL wants to talk to you.

According to Christian Red of the New York Daily News, the league has placed an ad looking for a director of investigations.

After the debacle that was the Ray Rice investigation and the subsequent shame, the league has taken steps to be taken seriously in terms of internal investigations, or at least more seriously than just waiting for TMZ to post the videotape.

The job posting for a “Director of Digital Forensic Investigations” sounds like something that might have come in handy while they were shoveling money Ted Wells’ way during the #DeflateGate investigation.

The job posting says the individual: “is responsible for a wide variety of duties in the Security Department, including but not limited to: conducting or coordinating, supervising and managing detailed and complex investigations involving alleged impropriety or criminal conduct by League and Club personnel, conducting or coordinating, supervising and managing detailed and complex investigations of alleged impropriety or criminal conduct in which League or Club personnel are victims, background investigations for League and select Club personnel, liaison and support for other League and Club departments such as Compliance, Internal Audit and Legal. This role will have an emphasis on properly investigating and handling evidence related to social media, computers, telephones and mobile devices.”

Yeah, they definitely could have used one of those about six months ago (even if it meant booting the Director of Excessive Capitalization out of his Corner Office).

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Devin Funchess: I don’t care about the Combine, I’m fast on the field

Devin Funchess

Add Panthers rookie receiver Devin Funchess to the list of those who don’t think 40-yard dash times at the Scouting Combine are meaningful.

Funchess told Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News that when he ran a 4.7-second 40, making him the slowest receiver at this year’s Combine, he didn’t allow it to bother him.

“You don’t let people bring you down,” Funchess said. “I proved it to everybody at the pro day. It wasn’t open, as open as I wanted, but there were videos and film. And you can ask any scout there about what I ran. So, I don’t really care about what I ran at the Combine. I know what I know, and my game speed is faster than what most can run.”

Funchess makes a fair point. The fastest receivers at the Combine rarely pan out, and there have been good receivers like Anquan Boldin who ran slow times at the Combine. Speed isn’t everything for an NFL receiver. Especially speed in shorts and a T-shirt.

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Rookies get a primer on college vs. NFL rules at symposium

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This year’s NFL draft class has been taught at the annual rookie symposium about the differences between NFL rules and college rules.

NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that there are subtle differences between college and pro rules, especially player safety rules, that a lot of rookies don’t know.

“What we try to do is give the rookie players a basis, a foundation for the rules,” he said. “The rules are different from college to the pros. Some of the basic stuff that everybody knows — two feet vs. one foot and down by contact and those differences — but there are some differences that they have to know in terms of the chop block, what chop blocks are legal in the NFL that are not legal in the college game. We try to give them that background, revolving mainly around protection of the player, things like that, a lot of our safety rules and defenseless players.”

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a discussion of NFL rules if Dez Bryant’s playoff non-catch didn’t rear its ugly head.

“It is well received,” Blandino said. “I made the mistake yesterday with the rookies of showing the Dez Bryant play too early in the presentation so that was all anybody wanted to talk about.”

So add the rookie class of 2015 to the long list of people who can’t figure out what is and isn’t a catch in the NFL.

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Jason Kelce on Steve Weatherford: Is interviewing punters a thing now?

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Giants punter Steve Weatherford made some comments about the Eagles during a radio interview last week and they’ve gotten noticed in Philadelphia.

Weatherford shared his opinion that he wouldn’t want Tim Tebow taking snaps for his team and that Chip Kelly will “get himself in serious trouble” if Sam Bradford gets hurt after signing an extension with the team. Weatherford also described Bradford as a Ferrari that “won’t be running all the time” and Mark Sanchez as a nice sedan during the visit.

Eagles center Jason Kelce responded on Twitter on Monday and seemed to take the greatest issue with Weatherford’s comments about Bradford’s health.

“Of course a player who is literally not allowed to be touched is talking s—,” Kelce wrote. “Is interviewing punters a thing now?”

It is apparently a thing as Weatherford followed up his Friday interview with an appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philly on Monday that saw him trying to put out any fires that may have flared up after his initial foray on the airwaves.

“I got a lot of respect for the Eagles. I think people are reading the headlines and docking it the wrong way,” Weatherford said. “I 100 percent can see how you can take offense to that, but that is not the way I meant it. I think Chip Kelly is doing a wonderful job. You guys crushed us last year. hen you have a quarterback like Eli Manning, I would prefer that he takes the snaps for my team over Tebow. I’m not taking shots at Tim.”

Weatherford also replied to Kelce on Twitter, questioning whether Kelce read his full quotes and telling the Eagles center that he’s “smarter than” letting “someone tell you your opinion.”

Given the relatively mild nature of Weatherford’s jabs, there may not be more legs to this bit of offseason fun but history says the Eagles and Giants will find more ways to rile each other up before their two meetings during the regular season.

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Hall of Fame voters won’t hold Deflategate against Brady

tombrady AP

The Baseball Hall of Fame has become a joke in recent years, with many of the greatest players in recent history, from Pete Rose to Barry Bonds to Roger Clemens, kept out over off-field issues. Fortunately, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will not follow that path.

The rules for the football Hall of Fame have always clearly stated that the voters are to consider only on-field accomplishments, and that’s exactly what Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will do in the case of Tom Brady. Although some might say that Deflategate should brand Brady as a cheater and keep him out of Canton, that’s not the view of the voters.

Richard Deitsch of reached out to eight Hall of Fame voters and found that they’re not going to let Deflategate outweigh the fact that Brady is a three-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time regular-season MVP, two-time first-team All-Pro and 10-time Pro Bowler.

About the closest any voter came to suggesting that Deflategate will cost Brady any Hall of Fame votes was Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, and even he opened his comments with, “Brady is still going into the Hall of Fame.” Gosselin just thinks Deflategate could cause Brady to have to wait a year rather than being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Even that would be wrong. Brady has done enough on the field that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Deflategate doesn’t change that.

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PFT Live returns on Monday

goneworking copy

After 17 days of not working, I’m back at my usual not-working post.

Actually, I was doing plenty of not working while not working. Through the two weeks without three hours of radio or one hour of TV, I will still sitting at a computer and typing words about football. Which has never been and never will be work.

Today, I’ll resume not working for three more hours, by returning to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. Brian Webber handled the show well enough the last two weeks to make me at least mildly concerned about being fired in favor of him.

I’d better start not working harder.

Today’s show is light on guests, in large part because I have plenty of stuff to say after 17 days of being able to say things only to people who were in position to say things back to me. Which is far less fun, especially when they disagree with the things I say.

The “people saying things back to me” portion of Monday’s show includes Tom Curran of CSN New England and Brendan Reilly, the CEO of EON Sports VR, one of the companies introducing long-overdue virtual reality training techniques to the NFL.

My time away from not working also was long overdue. But it feels good to get back to not working on a close-to-full-time basis. Pro Football Talk on NBCSN remains on its annual summer break, so I won’t have to interrupt my late afternoons of not working to not work for another hour per day.

Join producer Rob “Stats” Guerrera and me for three hours of not working at 12:00 p.m. ET on Monday, via any NBC Sports Radio affiliate, by dialing up Sirius 213 or XM 202, or by clicking the show logo at the top of the page.

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The Joe Delaney “30 for 30″ premieres in August as a digital short

Delaney Getty Images

Yes, ESPN is producing a “30 for 30″ documentary on Chiefs running back Joe Delaney, who died 32 years ago today while trying to save three drowning boys. No, it won’t be a full-blown “30 for 30″ documentary.

It won’t even be televised.

An ESPN spokesman has confirmed to PFT that a “30 for 30″ is in the works. However, it will be an online digital short. It’s due to premiere on August 19.

Which means that the opportunity is still there for someone to do a feature-length documentary on the life and death of Delaney, who dove into that water after two promising NFL seasons even though he couldn’t swim.

If only I had contacts at a major TV network. . . .

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Mike Evans: I’m just trying to be the best, period

Mike Evans AP

The 2014 class of rookie wide receivers was a sterling one with several members of the group making big impacts on the league immediately.

That led to debates about which member of the group would turn out to be the best over the long haul, although the second wideout to come off the board in the first round is setting his sights a bit higher than just being the best player to hit the league last year.

“I’m just trying to be the best, period,” Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

One way he’s attempting to do that is by working with Randy Moss this offseason, something he plans to do again in July before Tampa opens up training camp. Evans hopes that the work makes him more effective in the red zone, where he felt defenses could take him out of games as a rookie.

“The quarterback would just look me off, and then I’d be dead,” Evans said. “And I didn’t understand, because I always think I’m open. Just throw that thing up.”

With Jameis Winston now at quarterback in Tampa, the Bucs may feel a bit more comfortable about throwing the ball in Evans’ direction even when the defense is tilted his way. Much like Moss, Evans has the size and hands to win those battles and the Bucs should be doing all they can to exploit those advantages this season.

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