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Jimmy Graham’s big day gets rewarded

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints’ attempt to dig out from under their 0-4 start to return to the playoff picture got a huge boost from Sunday’s 31-27 win over the Falcons.

Tight end Jimmy Graham played a big role in that winning effort. He caught seven passes for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints handed the Falcons their first loss of the season. As a result of that performance, the NFL announced today that Graham is the NFC offensive player of the week.

Graham wasn’t the only tight end to have a good day in New Orleans. Tony Gonzalez had 11 catches and two touchdowns, good enough to earn him (and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan) consideration for weekly honors despite the loss.

It was the first time this season that Graham topped 100 receiving yards in a game, although he has been on a pretty good roll since returning from an ankle injury three weeks ago. Graham has 20 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games, two of which have been Saints wins. The Saints will need him to keep producing at that level to keep their chances of moving on to the postseason alive. Based on recent results, Graham should be able to do that if he remains healthy.

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Lawyer says De’Andre Johnson was provoked

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The ability of De’Andre Johnson to ever get to the NFL depends initially on his ability to get into another college football program. His lawyer, Jose Baez, has begun the process of trying to rebuild Johnson’s image toward that end.

Baez, who helped gain an acquittal of Casey Anthony for the murder of her daughter in 2011, addressed with NBC News the brutal punch delivered by Johnson to the face of a female bar patron, an extreme act of violence that was caught on videotape.

He makes no excuses for what happened,” Baez said of Johnson. And then Baez tried to make some excuses for what happened, without ever denying that Johnson did it.

Baez claims that the woman used “racial epithets” toward Johnson and raised her fist after Johnson accidentally bumped into her at the bar. (Johnson should be glad he didn’t accidentally bump into Aaron Hernandez at a bar. Allegedly.) Baez also says that the woman kneed Johnson “in the groin area” and “took another swing” at him. Johnson then retaliated with the blow to the left side of the woman’s head.

“All he wants to do is learn from this experience and move on and get an education,” Baez said. “We certainly don’t want him to pay for the rest of his life for an incident that occurred in a bar.”

Setting aside the question of why Johnson, who is 19, was in a bar at all, no amount of provocation justifies what Johnson did. He faced no real threat of harm, and he clearly has the physical skills to defend himself without a counterattack, allowing him to get away from the woman who was trying to hit him.

Yes, things may have been different if the punch hadn’t been caught on tape. But it was, and that’s a lesson for Johnson that’s as valuable as anything he could ever learn in any school.

Besides, Johnson can still go to school somewhere. Like plenty of students who aren’t able to get a scholarship, however, he’ll have to find a way to pay for it himself, by taking out loans, getting a job, or both.

So he won’t be paying for the incident for the rest of his life. But he will be paying his way to college. That seems like a fair outcome, under the circumstances.

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Zach Mettenberger calls Texans, J.J. Watt letterman jackets “high schoolish”

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Zach Mettenberger incurred the wrath of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt last season after posting a celebratory selfie prior to making his first career start for the Tennessee Titans.

Watt said the NFL was “not high school” and felt that it showed Mettenberger wasn’t focused enough for the start, a 30-16 loss to Houston.

Mettenberger, in an interview with CampusSports.net, elected to re-open the subject over eight months later and take a shot at the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and the Texans.

“J.J. had to say it’s a bit high schoolish that I take selfies, and I think he still rags me on Instagram every time he posts a selfie,” Mettenberger said, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com. “At the same time, if that’s high schoolish, he got a letterman jacket made — a Texans letterman jacket.

“That’s pretty high schoolish to me, don’t you say?”

In December 2012, the Texans ordered lettermen’s jackets for the players to wear as the 11-1 team traveled to New England to face the Patriots.

By the way, Houston lost that game 42-14.

Is it too late for the Texans to schedule the Titans for their “Homecoming Game” this fall?

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NFL, Dolphins still have nothing to say about Ballers

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As to the manner in which the new HBO show Ballers portrays pro football players, the episode that premiered Sunday night, July 5, likely caused the most consternation for the NFL. In a cameo appearance, Jaguars defensive lineman Jared Odrick was engaged in illegal gambling. Likewise, a fictional NFL player was snorting cocaine. Both activities are viewed as cardinal sins by the powers-that-be at 345 Park Avenue.

But the league and the Dolphins, the team whose name and logos are featured most prominently in the show, continue to have nothing to say about the series.

The league has not yet responded to a request for comment submitted on Monday. On Tuesday, the Dolphins reiterated to PFT via text message that the team has no comment. Both the NFL and the Dolphins repeatedly have declined to say anything about the show.

Twelve years ago, the NFL said plenty about ESPN’s Playmakers, a show based on a fictional professional team. Eventually, the league pressured ESPN to cancel it.

That makes the current situation even more odd. Although HBO doesn’t televise games, the NFL and HBO are business partners for the Hard Knocks series. Thus, regardless of legalities, it’s strange that the NFL would simply shrug at the series.

Since there’s always a strategy when it comes to the NFL and its business interests, here’s an idea: Perhaps the NFL has decided not to give the show any legitimacy, in the hopes that it will go unnoticed and largely unwatched and, ultimately, unrenewed.

Unlike other HBO shows, Ballers hasn’t registered much of a blip in the national consciousness. Only 2.162 million watched the premiere, and the audience fell to 1.846 million for the second episode. Having the NFL get publicly riled up about the show could give the series the kind of boost it desperately needs.

I’m not a TV critic, and I don’t currently watch many shows. Still, I know enough to recognize when a show resonates with the audience. This one hasn’t.

It doesn’t resonate because, frankly, it’s not very good. Maybe it will improve dramatically after the four initial episodes I watched last month, but there was nothing about those four episodes that made me the even mildly interested in seeing anything more from the characters or the plot. Apparently, nothing about the first three that have aired on HBO have generated much of an audience.

Maybe that’s the league’s plan on this one. Ignore the show, hope it goes away, and save the public rancor for a future series that both infringes on the league’s trademarks and copyrights — and that actually generates ratings, buzz, and quite possibly a second season.

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Giants have yet to be able to meet with Jason Pierre-Paul in Florida

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The New York Giants are anxious to find out more information about the status of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul after a fireworks mishap left him with a significantly injured hand last weekend. However, they have not yet been able to visit Pierre-Paul in person.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Giants officials have been in South Florida since Monday night and are still patiently waiting to see Pierre-Paul and hope that he’s all right.

The full severity of the injury is still somewhat uncertain still at this point. It isn’t thought to be career-threatening, but could force him to miss the start of the season.

The Giants already pulled a long-term contract offer off the table for Pierre-Paul. They’re going to want to know his full status before extending another deal his direction. But with the deadline for signing players under the franchise tag to long-term deals just over a week away, it seems unlikely that process will get completed in time.

Meanwhile, all the Giants can do is wait until they can get a better indication of just how Pierre-Paul is doing at this stage.

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DeAngelo Hall optimistic about practicing on first day of camp

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Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, whose 2014 season was cut short by a torn Achilles tendon, is optimistic about being on the field on the first day of training camp. But he’s realistic about needing some time to get into football shape.

“I hope I’m ready to go the first day,” Hall said on 106.7 the Fan, via CSNWashington.com. “When I say wean me back in, I know they are going to monitor me. I know they are not going to just throw me out there and [have me] take all the reps with the [first team]. I’m just going to get out there and see how the body feels.”

Hall added, however, that he’s not going to do anything more than what the team wants him to do.

“I’m at the mercy of the trainers and coaching staff. So they’re going to kind of wean me back in slowly. But I’m excited to get back out there going with the guys,” he said.

Hall did not practice at all during minicamp or Organized Team Activities, which means no one knows just yet whether he’s going to be able to get back to full speed, at the age of 31 and coming off a serious injury. Hall’s status is one of the biggest questions in Washington heading into training camp.

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Russell Wilson’s abstinence sparks ESPN in-house Twitter fight

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On Monday, a lengthy interview with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at a San Diego church generated plenty of headlines. The biggest headline (elsewhere) was that Wilson and his current girlfriend, Ciara, aren’t having sex, because God told Wilson not to have sex with her.

The comments have invited a wide range of opinions. Within ESPN, they have provoked a Twitter fight.

Bomani Jones questioned the wisdom of Wilson’s position on ESPN’s Highly Questionable. And ESPN’s Chris Broussard quickly responded.

“Regarding Russell/Ciara u implied people trying to do it Jesus’ way by waiting till marriage r stupid,” Broussard said. “U owe all Bible-believing Christians trying to live as Russell/Ciara are an apology.”

Jones refused to back down, saying “not today” in response to Broussard’s demand for apology and then elaborating on the position.

“I think americans value chastity in a way i find silly, problematic, and ultimately, counterproductive,” Jones said. “I don’t apologize for that.”

Jones makes a very good point as it relates to the potential consequences of chastity — people (like Johnny Dangerously’s kid brother) getting married before they really should, so that they can have sex.

“If i was a 22 year-old virgin i would have hastily gotten married cuz…yanno?” Jones said on Twitter.

There’s other thought-provoking stuff on Twitter from Jones, which will definitely invite further debate among Christians who believe that premarital sex is forbidden and who successfully practiced that ideal, Christians who believe that premarital sex is not prohibited, and Christians who believe that premarital sex is forbidden but who nevertheless had it and/or are still having it.

For ESPN, the bigger problem is that a pair of its employees are squaring off on the subject, with Broussard firing the first shot and Jones being both candid and respectful in his replies. If ESPN is going to have shows that are heavy on opinion, ESPN perhaps needs to better inform its employees to handle any complaints about any of those opinions internally, not through social media.

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NFL to hold part of its kickoff celebration in the Bay Area

Sea gull takes flight with Golden Gate Bridge in the background during sunset in San Francisco Reuters

The game’s in New England, and the Steelers are the visitors.

But the NFL is planning part of its pre-game hype for the regular season opener on the other coast.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, there will be events in the San Francisco area along with the typical party they throw at the site of the game.

The location coincides with the venue for Super Bowl 50 (I think I still prefer L), and having the concert there allows the league to begin the promotion of that game early.

The league hasn’t announced the musical act for the Bay Area concert, though the Golden State Warriors hit it out of the park by having Carlos Santana and Metallica play national anthems during the NBA Finals.

On the other hand, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady grew up in nearby San Mateo, so they might just station a camera at his old high school since he’s not going to be playing in the game anyway (pending his appeal).

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Coral Springs PD says JPP won’t face charges for fireworks possession

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

We’re still waiting to find out if Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is going to miss any time during training camp and the 2015 regular season because of the hand injuries he suffered while setting off fireworks last weekend, but we won’t have to keep an eye open for criminal charges.

On Tuesday, Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reported that the Coral Springs, Florida Police Department opened an investigation into the incident that could have led to Pierre-Paul facing charges of criminal fireworks possession. One of the things they were investigating was whether Pierre-Paul was in Coral Springs when he discharged the fireworks and it apparently didn’t take them long to find out.

Raanan updated his original report later on Tuesday afternoon with word from the Coral Springs police that they will not be pursuing charges against the Giant. Per the report, the investigation determined Pierre-Paul was not in their jurisdiction at the time. Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that other police departments are monitoring and might launch their own investigation once jurisdiction is determined.

Avoiding criminal charges is always a positive, although Pierre-Paul has plenty of other consequences to deal with from his decision to light up the sky on July 4.

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Police are investigating JPP’s fireworks incident

Fireworks Getty Images

When it comes to the July 4 fireworks incident that seriously injured Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, he may have something else to worry about. Something that pales in comparison to the injuries he sustained.

According to Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com, the Coral Springs, Florida police have commenced an investigation regarding the incident. Pierre-Paul could face charges for illegal possession of fireworks

Per Ranaan, the authorities have contacted Pierre-Paul and his agents in an effort to arrange a meeting.

If Pierre-Paul is indeed going to face charges for illegal possession of fireworks on the Fourth of July, there are at least a few million people throughout the country who could be sharing a cell with him. So why not just leave the guy alone while he deals with far more serious consequences than whatever fine or slap on the wrist the law would require?

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Tom Jackson receives Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award

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At a time when Sunday Ticket and Red Zone Channel make it possible to watch every NFL game, and big plays instantly get tweeted as GIFs, it’s easy to forget just how big an innovation NFL Primetime was.

Primetime, which aired Sunday evenings on ESPN beginning in 1987, was the one and only way for NFL fans to see all the best highlights from the day’s NFL action. Before Primetime, most fans only got to see a couple of games shown on their local network affiliates, and then maybe a few minutes of highlights from other games. Primetime was a full hour of highlights. You didn’t just see the touchdown, you saw the two third-down conversions that kept the drive alive before the touchdown. You didn’t just see the sack, you saw another angle that showed why the quarterback couldn’t find an open receiver. When you watched Primetime in those pre-Internet, pre-DirecTV days, you felt like a whole new world of football had been opened up to you.

And you heard expert analysis that ventured far beyond the ordinary highlight-reel shtick. That expert analysis, provided by former Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson, may have been the best thing of all about NFL Primetime. Jackson, who has just been named as the recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award, could be overshadowed at times by Primetime host Chris Berman, whose boisterous personality and array of nicknames made him ESPN’s first star. And Primetime had other co-hosts as well, including Pete Axthelm, Robin Roberts, Bill Pidto, and Stuart Scott. But it was Jackson’s steady hand that kept Primetime focused. Jackson had fun with the highlights while also remembering that the types of people who were watching Primetime were hard-core football fans who didn’t need to be entertained by anything other than football.

Eventually, Primetime faded away (although it still exists, in a different format as a Monday follow-up show) because a pure highlights show just isn’t necessary anymore. Jackson, however, remains a staple of ESPN’s NFL programming, having been there for 28 years — twice as long as his 14-season career with the Broncos. The Rozelle Award, which the Hall of Fame awards each year to recognize longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football, couldn’t go to a more deserving recipient.

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Brett Favre says he’ll probably “wing it” during his Lambeau speech

File photo of Brett Favre in New Orleans Reuters

When Brett Favre was playing, some of his most memorable moments were on the fly.

So it makes sense that when he’s inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 18, that he’s not planning on having it all written down.

“I think what I’ll probably say initially is, ‘I thought about writing something down. I thought about writing a script, but you know what? I figured I’d wing it sort of like I played, so just bear with me,'” Favre said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “It’s only fitting.

“I don’t want to sit there and make it longer than the whole event is anyway — and it’s going to be long — but I do want to acknowledge a lot of people and just maybe tell a few funny stories, kind of keep it as lighthearted as possible. It could be 20 minutes, it could be an hour, I don’t know.”

Of course, if the speech truly reflects his playing days, he’ll finish his talk, accept a round of applause, decide to tell another story, then leave the stage again, before coming back on a different stage altogether before wrapping it up.

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Victor Cruz: Everyone’s under the assumption that I’m ready to go

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The Giants have spent the last few days trying to figure out when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will be able to return to the team after his fireworks injury over the weekend.

It doesn’t sound like they expect to deal with much uncertainty about wide receiver Victor Cruz, however. Cruz has maintained all offseason that he expects to be ready to go for training camp after tearing his patellar tendon last season and said on Tuesday that everyone with a say in the matter also feels confident that Cruz will avoid the physically unable to perform list when the team reports to training camp.

“From the training staff, the coaches and the front office people, I think everyone’s under the assumption that I’ll be ready to go,” Cruz said on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon. “I don’t think PUP will be an option. Obviously, if it comes about then that’s a conversation I have to have with my superiors. It seems like I’m on track to be ready for training camp and, God willing, be out there Week One.”

Cruz’s return to the field is a major milestone, obviously, but how he looks while on the field will be more significant to Giants hopes for the 2015 season. Torn patellar tendons have robbed some players of the speed and agility they rode to the NFL altogether and others have needed extended time before they return to form. Neither outcome would be a plus for the Giants, who are looking for Cruz to be part of a potent passing attack in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s second season.

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McNabb makes statement about latest DUI arrest

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Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb currently works in the media, on TV with FOX and on radio with NBC Sports Radio.

His weekday show with Mark Malone follows PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, running from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET. On Tuesday, McNabb addressed the report that he was arrested for a second time in Arizona on DUI charges at the top of the first hour of the program.

“There was a story that was released, and I want everybody to be cognizant of it, because I am very aware of it, handling the matter at this particular point,” McNabb said. “But at this point, I have no further information, and as we continue on with the situation, then we’ll let it handle as it will handle itself.”

Obviously, McNabb isn’t going to address the substance of the allegation, given that anything he says can be used against him in court. And with second-offense DUI in Arizona entailing a mandatory sentence of 90 days in jail, McNabb should do nothing to undermine his right to mount a vigorous defense in court.

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Steelers, Vikings head to camp in 18 days

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We’ve reached the point in the offseason where more and more fans are wishing the next two months of their lives away, so that football will be back. They don’t have to wish much of it away to get training camp, which opens in full for two teams in 18 days.

The Steelers, under ninth-year coach Mike Tomlin, and Vikings, under second-year coach Mike Zimmer, launch training camp on July 25, in advance of their meeting in Canton for the Hall of Fame game.

The full list of all reporting dates for all teams can be seen here. (The Ravens actually will be the first team to open its doors, with rookies showing up on July 22. The veterans get there a week later.)

The real date to target is September 10, when the regular season begins. But for those who just can’t wait for football to return, 65 glorified scrimmages to be played in the month of August and early September will have to serve as the appetizer.

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The Marshawn Lynch biopic will never be released

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As if there were any doubt held by anyone who saw the abysmal trailer that appeared online in February, the movie about the life of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will never be released.

Yes, Family First: The Marshawn Lynch Story, directed by family friend Mario Bobino, has been deemed to be a bombino. (I did what you see there.)

“He did a terrible job, and the film will never be released,” agent Doug Hendrickson told Rolling Stone.

Apparently, that’s not the end of the story, because Bobino is now writing a script for a movie about his struggles in making the film, and regarding the things that occurred after the trailer emerged — prompting Lynch to tell TMZ, “It doesn’t look like some sh-t nobody would want their name attached to.”

It’s too late for that, because Lynch’s name is now permanently attached to the movie. And it’s safe to say it’s just a matter of time before someone gets their hands on the finished product and puts the whole thing online.

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