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David Garrard puts out word that he’s available

David Garrard AP

If there are any NFL teams in need of a veteran quarterback, David Garrard wants them to know he’s available.

Garrard, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in August and was released by the Dolphins in September, told Jay Glazer of FOX Sports that he is healthy and ready to play. Garrard was initially the No. 1 quarterback in Dolphins camp and was projected to start for them this season before suffering the knee injury. The Dolphins ended up going with rookie Ryan Tannehill and are obviously glad they did, but Garrard apparently looked good enough before he went down to impress the coaching staff in Miami.

Whether Garrard would be able to join a team right now and quickly absorb the playbook and get himself ready to contribute this season is a separate question, but with several starting quarterbacks — Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Chicago’s Jay Cutler, San Francisco’s Alex Smith, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick — going down this week, some team might want to consider giving Garrard a call.

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Vikings won’t be doing an Adrian Peterson jersey exchange “at this time”

Peterson AP

Given that the Ravens have offered to exchange Ray Rice jerseys for those bearing the names and numbers of other players, some Vikings fans want to do the same thing with their Adrian Peterson jerseys.

One fan forwarded to PFT earlier today his request to exchange five Adrian Peterson jerseys that he purchased for himself, and for his wife and three children.  The fan was informed that the Peterson jerseys will not be exchanged.

“First, we want to be clear that we have a strong stance on the protection and welfare of children, which is why we needed to get this decision right,” VikingsLockerRoom.com customer service supervisor Lane Lewis told the fan.  “We understand and appreciate the range of emotions our fans have expressed throughout the process, and we hope they can respect our decision.  At this time we do not have a jersey exchange program in place.  Adrian remains a member of the Vikings organization, and we will continue to support him through this legal and personal process.”

The Vikings confirmed the validity of the email, and separately provided this statement to PFT:  “No, we are not contemplating a jersey exchange program.  Adrian remains a member of this organization and we will support him through the legal and personal process.”

Eventually, that could change.  If Peterson eventually is convicted of or pleads guilty to child abuse, the Vikings could opt to accept the thousands of jerseys that have been sold with his name and number on them.

Either way, some fans want to unload their Peterson jerseys now.  That group could grow.  And if the voices are loud enough, the Vikings could end up deciding to include a jersey exchange within their ad nauseum effort to “get this right.”

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Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict not seen at practice on Friday

Vontaze Burfict AP

One of the Bengals’ key defensive players could be missing his third straight practice.

Starting weak-side linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion) wasn’t present at the beginning on Friday’s workout, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.

Considering Burfict has been in the league’s concussion protocol in each of the last two weeks, his status for Sunday’s game vs. Tennessee could be in doubt.

The 23-year-old Burfict has started 32 straight regular season games for Cincinnati since joining the club in 2012. He has never missed a game. Burfict made the Pro Bowl in 2013 after a 171-tackle, three-sack season for the AFC North-winning Bengals.

The Bengals will release their final injury report later today.

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PFT Live: Thomas Dimitroff, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Devin Hester AP

Thursday night was a good one for the Falcons as they scored eight touchdowns in the first three quarters of their game with the Buccaneers on the way to a 56-14 pasting of their division rivals.

The man who put the team together will be on Friday’s PFT Live to share his thoughts about that game. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff will join Mike Florio for a discussion that will cover plenty of other things as well, including the first two weeks of the season and the fast start for Devin Hester as both a returner and an offensive contributor.

We’ll also be taking questions from PFT Planet during the show, so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets going at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Roger Goodell holding press conference on Friday afternoon

Roger Goodell AP

There have been calls from all corners of the football world for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to come out from behind the curtain and address the myriad issues that have been plaguing the NFL over the last two weeks and Goodell will finally do it on Friday afternoon.

Goodell will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. ET in New York City, which will mark the first time that he’s spoken to any media member since doing a pair of one-on-one interviews last week.

Friday’s press conference comes after Goodell sent a memo to the 32 NFL teams outlining some of the initiatives that the league will undertake to help organizations devoted to assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Those initiatives fit with Goodell’s promise to have the league act to make positive change in the future and the future is sure to be a major talking point on Friday.

It’s a safe bet, though, that there will be plenty of questions about the way Goodell and the league behaved in the past when it comes to these issues as well as questions about the concrete ways the league will deal with those that commit these kinds of criminal acts in the future after two weeks of constantly shifting reactions as public opinion came down strongly against the way the NFL handled the cases of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and others.

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NFL loses a corporate partner for its breast cancer initiative

pink Getty Images

The NFL doesn’t seem to be losing any money over the ongoing domestic violence mess, but it is losing plenty of good will.

The latest example of that comes from the folks at Procter & Gamble, who have decided they don’t want their brand to be affiliated with the NFL during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Procter & Gamble had been planning to sponsor an initiative where one player on each team would use a pink mouth guard in October, with the players raising awareness about breast cancer and Procter & Gamble donating money. Now, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS, Procter & Gamble has decided to go ahead with the monetary donation but scrap the plans for the pink mouth guards, because Procter & Gamble isn’t comfortable with playing a part in the NFL’s efforts to appeal to women at a time when the NFL is facing criticism for players abusing women.

There was a time when it would have been unthinkable that any corporate entity wouldn’t want to be associated with a brand as popular as the NFL and a feel-good cause like breast cancer awareness, but that time was before the Ray Rice elevator video became public.

With October just around the corner, the NFL is sure to face withering scrutiny about the fact that it dons pink clothing when it wants to appeal to female fans, but doesn’t act quickly when players commit acts of violence against women.

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A.J. Green says he’s on track to play

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green’s status for Sunday has been closely monitored throughout the week and things are looking up as it comes to a close.

Green’s toe injury kept him out of practice on Wednesday and left him unsure if he’d be able to get on the field against the Titans after getting through just six plays in last week’s victory. While Green said he wanted to play as long as he wasn’t too compromised by the injury, the Bengals’ Week Four bye added to that uncertainty since he could get an extended rest by sitting out this weekend.

Friday morning brought a bit more certainty and optimism, though. Geoff Hobson of the Bengals website reports that Green said that he’s feeling no soreness from the injury and, as a result, feels ready to go for Sunday.

The Bengals were able to win last week despite the cameo appearance from their top receiver, but their best chance for winning consistently is going to come with Green on the field. It looks like that will be the case this weekend.

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“Thousands” line up to exchange Ray Rice jerseys

Rice AP

The two-day Ray Rice jersey exchange started today.  And so far it’s a success.

Or, from the perspective of the organization taking back Rice jerseys and giving out new ones at no charge, a catastrophe.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “thousands” of fans lined up outside M&T Bank Stadium to trade a Ray Rice jersey for an “available jersey” of another Ravens player.  If the team runs out, vouchers will be provided.

The program runs from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Last year, the Patriots offered a jersey exchange after tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder.

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John Harbaugh: Just looking at Suggs’ sacks? You don’t know football

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Getty Images

Sacking the quarterback is what Terrell Suggs is best known for, and that’s something Suggs hasn’t done much of lately: Suggs doesn’t have any sacks this season, and he only had one over the last eight games of last season.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, however, says people who are only looking at Suggs’ sack totals aren’t looking at a complete picture of his impact on Baltimore’s defense.

“Anybody who knows anything about football who watches the tape will tell you he’s playing really, really well,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN. “He was very disruptive in his pass rush. Not just that, he’s playing great in the run game. I’d say all around his game is an A-plus.”

Harbaugh is right. We only have one commonly used statistic for pass rushers, and that statistic is sacks, and so people tend to focus only on how many sacks a defensive end or outside linebacker records, without bothering to look at how many times he pressures the passer, how he plays the run, and so on. In reality, Suggs has made plenty of plays that aren’t reflected in his sack total, including a hit on Ben Roethlisberger in Week Two and a tackle on Andy Dalton after a short scramble in Week One. Opposing quarterbacks have felt Suggs’ presence, even if he hasn’t sacked anyone. Yet.

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Goodell advises teams of domestic violence initiatives

NDVH

While absent from public view for 10 days, Commissioner Roger Goodell and his administration have been working on specific efforts to address the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault beyond the boundaries of the NFL.

In a memo sent Thursday night to all teams, a copy of which PFT has obtained, Goodell outlined the league’s plans to support organizations aimed at preventing domestic violence and sexual assault and helping those impacted by it.

“In my letter of August 28, I said we would ensure that everyone in the NFL has knowledge of and access to resources — both through and independent of the clubs — relating to issues of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell wrote.  “I also said that we recognize that these issues affect our entire society, and that we would work to make a genuine and positive difference in a broader context.  Today, I write to update you on some significant steps we are taking as part of our long-term commitment to help people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It was brought to our attention that recent events caused The National Domestic Violence Hotline to receive 84 percent more calls during the week of September 8-15. According to the organization, more than 50 percent of those calls went unanswered due to lack of staff. That must not continue.

“To help address this and other critical and immediate needs, we are entering into long-term partnerships to provide financial, operational and promotional support to two of the leading domestic violence and sexual assault resources: The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). These commitments will enable both The Hotline and NSVRC to help more people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.”

As a result of the NFL’s support, The Hotline will add 25 full-time advocates in the coming weeks, which will allow for an additional 750 calls per day to be answered.  The league’s support of the NSVRC will bolster state and local sexual assault hotlines.

“The NFL’s support also will enable Loveisrespect to service 24-hour-a-day text chats with young adults affected by dating abuse,” Goodell wrote.  “Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, is a resource to engage, educate and empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships.”

Goodell also explained that, within the next 30 days, all league and team personnel will participate in educational sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault.

“These initial sessions will begin to provide the men and women of the NFL with information and tools to understand and recognize domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell wrote.  “We will work with the NFL Players Association to develop and present this training in the most effective way.”

The league also will dedicate “significant resources” to raising awareness on the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“These are by no means final steps,” Goodell wrote.  “We will continue to work with experts to expand and develop long-term programs that raise awareness, educate, and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault both within the NFL and in our society in general.”

It’s a good start, and it goes a long way toward Goodell’s plan to convert recent events into positive change, for the NFL and beyond.

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Son of Broncos boss John Elway gets probation for domestic violence

John Elway, Jack Elway AP

Domestic violence is not a football problem, it is a societal problem.

And while the high-profile cases involving players such as Ray Rice and Greg Hardy grab the headlines, the problem runs through every community.

Via Jordan Steffen of the Denver Post, the son of Broncos boss John Elway pleaded guilty to the domestic violence case against him and was sentenced to a year’s probation.

Jack Elway, the 24-year-old son of the Hall of Fame quarterback and now-General Manager of the Broncos, was arrested in May for disturbing the peace and assault after what police called a violent fight with his girlfriend.

According to a statement given to police then, the younger Elway pulled out parts of her hair while dragging her out of his car and pushing her to the ground.

As part of the plea agreement, the assault charge was dropped and Elway pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace. His year of probation is part of a deferred judgment, and if he gets through the year without incident, the case will be dismissed.

He also had to pay fines and court costs and attend domestic violence counseling, and can’t have any contact with the victim.

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Starting quarterback looking like game-time decision for Rams

Austin Davis AP

The Rams look like they’ll be going down to the wire with their decision about a starting quarterback again this week.

Shaun Hill did more work at practice on Thursday, including some reps during 7-on-7 drills, but Austin Davis continued to get most of the reps with the first team after starting and leading the Rams to a win in Week Two. That didn’t change coach Jeff Fisher’s opinion that Hill will be the starter as long as he’s healthy, however, and he says the team isn’t prepared to name a starter against the Cowboys yet.

“Shaun was limited today,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He did more, but we’re still day-to-day. It’ll most likely be a pregame decision like it was last week.”

Davis played well against Tampa, something that seems to be in vogue in the NFL right now, and the best bet is that he’ll be in the lineup again on Sunday. Another solid outing in a win might lead to more calls for the Rams to see what Davis can do over a longer period rather than go back to the veteran Hill as soon as his thigh has stopped bothering him.

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Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t concerned with stopping the Texans offense

Jason Pierre-Paul AP

The Giants may be 0-2, but defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t lacking for confidence.

Pierre-Paul and the rest of the team’s defense has spent the week preparing to face the Texans and Pierre-Paul made it clear that he hasn’t been impressed by much on tape when he was asked what concerns him about the Houston offense.

“Uh, nothing,” Pierre-Paul said, via NJ.com. “Yeah, I think we should be able to handle that offense. Nothing concerns me.”

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell didn’t quite share Pierre-Paul’s take, indicating that he’s concerned with stopping Arian Foster and the Texans running game. Doing so would put pressure on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to carry a heavy load on offense, something that the Giants would surely prefer.

Pierre-Paul promised that the Giants will stop the run, although it’s worth noting that the Giants faced a similar challenge against the Cardinals last week and gave up 124 rushing yards that allowed Arizona to keep the game from being decided by Drew Stanton’s arm. If Pierre-Paul’s confidence is misplaced this week, the only concern around the Giants will be whether they match last year’s 0-6 start or if this year will play out even uglier.

 

 

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Anheuser-Busch contract has a termination provision for league-wide scandal

Bud Getty Images

Earlier this week, the folks at Anheuser-Busch huffed and puffed about their relationship with NFL, but could they have blown the NFL’s official beer sponsorship down?

Apparently, yes.

According to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, the hops masters could have jumped, based on the language of the company’s contract with the league.  Per the report, Anheuser-Busch has the ability to walk away if a “league-wide” incident “brings the entire NFL, not just particular member clubs, players, coaches or employees, into national disrepute, scandal or ridicule.”

So Anheuser-Busch could have pulled the plug.  The real question is would it?  And the smart answer is, “No way in hell.”

For starters, another beer company would have rushed to the front of the line for the privilege attaching The Shield to its product, because even if the board-room billionaires feel compelled to wag a finger at the league, Joe S. Pack and his beer-buying peers aren’t turning their backs on the NFL or anyone who does business with it.  If being the official beer of the NFL didn’t carry with it hundreds of millions in value, hundreds of millions wouldn’t be changing hands.

But then there’s the access for the individuals who move the millions.  Super Bowl trips every year, rubbing elbows in luxury suites with celebrities and entertainers, and surely plenty of swag.  For the people who divvy up the advertising dollars, that’s a huge part of the game — and only the NFL can deliver the opportunity to attend pro football games in far more exciting and creative ways that sitting in a plastic chair, out in the elements.

While recent events justify serious questions about the current direction and leadership of the sport, Anheuser-Busch knows that dumping the NFL would be the equivalent of yanking the Clydesdale away from the pond into which it has currently buried its head.

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Pep Hamilton: Criticism is “the nature of the beast”

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Colts are 0-2 and starting the season that way always leads to criticism of players and coaches.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been one of the leading targets of that criticism with his game plan on Monday night getting dinged for relying heavily on the run right up until the fourth quarter when he called a third down pass to T.Y. Hilton with the Colts in range for a field goal that would give them a 10-point lead. The pass was intercepted, the Eagles tied the game and the Colts went three and out to hand the ball back to Philly for the game-winning drive.

On Thursday, Hamilton said the emphasis on the run was designed to play the game at a pace that suited the Colts and admitted that there were some calls he’d like to have back. He also said that he understands criticism comes with his position.

“That is the nature of the beast,” Hamilton said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I understand that and embrace that challenge of making sure that, on a weekly basis, we put our players in the best position to be successful. We played a really physical football game up front. Trent [Richardson] ran the ball well and Ahmad [Bradshaw] ran the ball well. We made some plays in the passing game. But at the end of the day in this league, you guys know it always comes down to one or two or three plays that makes the difference in the game.”

There were similar criticisms of Hamilton’s reliance on the run last year as some believe the Colts aren’t putting enough of their offense on the shoulders of quarterback Andrew Luck. The approach wound up being good enough to get the Colts a division title, but anything less this year will lead to even more detractors and perhaps a hot seat under Hamilton.

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Torrey Smith not frustrated by usage in first two weeks

Torrey Smith AP

The first two weeks of the season weren’t particularly busy ones for wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Smith has been targeted 10 times by quarterback Joe Flacco through the first two weeks of the season, a drop of more than three targets from last year’s per game average and a total that leaves him behind Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta. The wideout has served as a decoy downfield much of the rest of the time, but he says he’s not disturbed because he’s confident things will balance out over the course of the season.

“I’m playing my part, and I know the ball is going to come more than it has been,” Smith said, via the Baltimore Sun. “So, I’m not frustrated at all.”

While Smith likely will have weeks where he’s seeing more balls in his direction, the shift in targets illustrates what the arrival of Steve Smith and a healthy Pitta has meant to an offense that didn’t have a reliable No. 2 receiver for most of last season. Flacco has more places to go with the ball and it is only natural to see that impact the guy who saw an outsize number of looks last season.

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