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Full text of Roger Goodell’s presentation at the Harvard School of Public Health

[Editor's note:  On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke at the Harvard School of Public Health. The full text of his prepared remarks, as distributed by the NFL, appears below.]

Let me begin by thanking Dean Julio Frenk for inviting me to speak here today.  It is truly an honor to discuss two topics that I am passionate about: the game of football and its future.

The history of football is closely connected with the history of Harvard. Football has been played here with distinction since 1873. Professor Paul Weiler of Harvard Law School persuasively argues that the first college football game took place in Cambridge between Harvard and McGill University.

President Faust paid eloquent tribute to Harvard’s football legacy in a speech the night before last year’s Harvard-Yale game. She mentioned the university’s landmark innovations in the game – uniforms, a team doctor, a trainer, a kicking specialist. Harvard’s legacy includes eight national championships and 20 College Football Hall of Famers. Also the current starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick – and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk – who last year won the Walter Payton Award as the NFL Man of the Year for his service on, and especially, off the field.

Football is embedded in your traditions, and your contributions have defined and changed how we play the game. We are proud of the connection. And we know that Harvard is proud of your team and players for their extraordinary accomplishments on the football field, in the classroom, and in life. From Harvard’s first African-American football captain, William Lewis in 1893, to Coach Murphy’s fine team this year, you have given so much to the sport we love. And good luck to the Crimson this Saturday in “The Game” against Yale, one of football’s grandest traditions.

Harvard and the NFL both stand for something else – leadership. Others in education, sports, and countless places beyond the playing fields look to us to influence their own decisions. We embrace our leadership position. And leadership means certain things, whether in sports, academia, or public health. It means thinking about the long term. It means listening and learning from people, including your critics or those who may be telling you what you don’t want to hear. It means facing up to your challenges and working tirelessly to make sure you make the right choices, for the right reasons, based on science and facts, not speculation.

So today, in this place of leadership, I want to speak about our role in protecting the health and safety of athletes – not just in the NFL and football, but in all sports and all levels of play. Our nation is experiencing a public health crisis fueled by growing levels of obesity, particularly in children. You understand the consequences and what needs to be done to reverse the trend. We know kids need to exercise – put simply, to play. And we know that whatever they play, they need to do it safely – with respect for the rules and other competitors, and in support of teamwork and sportsmanship.

Other than my family, my passion in life is football, and always has been. As a kid, it seemed like I was always either playing or thinking about football. The values I learned from the game are central to who I am. I learned about commitment, communication, sacrifice and determination. It was fun, exciting, and the ultimate team sport.

Thirty years ago, I joined the NFL as an intern in Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s office. I was Pete Rozelle’s driver at Super Bowl XX in New Orleans in 1986. I couldn’t believe my luck and couldn’t imagine a better job. It was the beginning of a dream I am still living. It has been, at times, a humbling journey.

I have been fortunate to preside over the National Football League for seven seasons now. As a league, we continue to achieve great success. A growing number of fans – more than one million a week – attend games at our stadiums. The 16 most-watched TV shows this fall are NFL games – that is, aside from the presidential debates. And they were almost a contact sport, too.

A recent Harris Poll indicated that the NFL’s popularity is rising, at an all-time high, and up 12 percent from just 10 years ago. The second most popular sport is college football. The interest is simply amazing – driven by the character of the game, the talent and hard work of our athletes, the dedication of coaches, and the passion of our fans.

I don’t need to tell you that our nation is sharply divided on many issues. But, as President Obama said just last week, “One of the big unifiers in this country is sports, and football in particular. You don’t go anyplace where folks don’t talk about football.”

Football connects generations. Many of us remember watching games with parents and grandparents. We’ve experienced the joy of introducing the game to our own children. It inspires us to rally around our players, teams, and cities. It brings together families, friends, and communities. And on a few occasions every year, it brings together the entire country.

Football has earned a vital place in the rhythm of American life. Nearly 6 million kids play flag or tackle football; another 1.1 million play in high school; and 75,000 play in college. For many reasons, I have never been more optimistic about football’s future or more confident about its place in our society. Optimistic, but not complacent.

The game of football is thriving. It is more compelling than ever. But it is also seen by some as a game at a crossroads. And not for the first time. We are well aware of social commentators who now question our future. And I am here to tell you: If we are at another crossroads, we have already taken the right path. We took it a long time ago, and our commitment to stay on it will not waver.

The risk of injury in football is well known. Throughout history, football has evolved; it has become safer and safer again. President Faust talked last year about eliminating the dangerous “flying wedge” in the college game more than a century ago. In recent years, there has been a much sharper focus on concussions in football and other sports. There are still unanswered questions, but scientists and doctors know more about concussions and their long-term potential effects than they did even a few years ago. The key issue for us is how we use this new understanding to make the game even safer and more exciting in the future.

I can say in no uncertain terms that this is our biggest challenge: Changing the culture in a way that reduces the injury risk to the maximum possible extent – especially the risk of head injury. We want players to enjoy long and prosperous careers and healthy lives off the field. So we focus relentlessly on player health and safety, while also keeping the game fun and unpredictable.

My most important job is to protect the integrity of the game – but it goes beyond that. It is also to protect the 1,800 professionals who choose to play and who make our game so great.

The responsibility to our players does not end when they hang up their uniform for the last time. The health and safety of former, current, and future players involves many facets, not just head injuries. It includes the quality of playing fields, the equipment players wear, rules to protect them from unnecessary risk, programs to support their lives off the field, and post-career benefits.

At one time spinal cord injuries were considered a greater risk than they are today. But after changes in rules and techniques, those injuries have been dramatically reduced. We also have addressed the impact of heat and hydration, better educating our medical staffs and players and supporting the outstanding work of the Korey Stringer Institute. Now we are devoting more resources to the well-being of players as they transition away from the game, including their mental health.

We more than accept this responsibility on total health and safety. We seek it; we pursue it; we honor it. We do it to make a difference in football, in all sports and, we hope, beyond.

I’m sure some of you have asked yourselves the same tough questions others ask: When there is risk associated with playing tackle football, why do people continue to play? And for parents, should I let my kids play tackle football?

These are valid, important questions. Answers can differ from person to person – and especially from parent to parent.

In trying to respond to these concerns, we have looked to the realities of football. We have established an open dialogue – speaking frankly and engaging our critics directly – so that we can improve the safety of football. Whether to play football or any contact sport is a highly personal choice for kids and parents. It must be a thoughtful, informed decision.

The simple truth is that any physical activity comes with risk and reward. Head injuries occur in sports. Earlier this month, many of the world’s top sports concussion experts convened in Zurich, Switzerland. It is the leading conference on concussion in sport. In attendance were experts from the International Olympic Committee, international soccer (or as they say “football”), rugby, equestrian competition, Australian Rules Football and many other sports, including the NFL. The chief medical officer of the international soccer federation noted that 300 million people around the world play soccer. Concussions are hardly an issue limited to football or the NFL.

The conference reached a thoughtful consensus on how to advance safety – teach proper techniques and fundamentals; educate coaches, parents and players about concussion recognition and management; eliminate unnecessary contact; and continue to research the unanswered questions surrounding concussions.  At the same time, these international experts recommended that sports be played actively, but safely, without regard to age. These few steps will make sports safer for all.

There is no question that there are tremendous benefits to playing team sports like football, whether it’s tackle, flag or touch football in the backyard – benefits such as physical fitness, self-discipline, friendships, leadership opportunities, self-esteem, college scholarships, and, most importantly, just plain fun.

Presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to John Kennedy to Gerald Ford played and loved football. Business leaders like Jeff Immelt and military leaders like General Ray Odierno learned important lessons from playing football. At West Point, the cadets are required to play a team sport because the experience is fundamental to leadership development.

Is playing tackle football worth the risk? For some, the answer may be no. But millions say yes. We emphatically say yes. And I pledge that the NFL will do everything in its power to minimize the risks and maximize the rewards of this great and increasingly global game.

The way I look at it: Football is always at a crossroads, facing challenges that require leaders to act with courage and purpose to secure and advance its future.

Let’s look back at one issue that involved Harvard more than a century ago, in 1905, before the NFL even existed. This was a time when football was extremely dangerous and violent. More than 150 college players suffered serious injuries and 18 players died in 1904 alone – – at a time when far fewer athletes played football.

Just think about that for a moment … 18 student-athletes died … in one season, primarily from skull fractures.

The nature of the game at that time led to widespread criticism. In 1903, The New York Times stated that football was trending toward “mayhem and homicide.” Some called for ending the sport, including Harvard President Charles Eliot.

The future of football was very much in doubt.

But a Harvard graduate, who happened to be the President of the United States, loved football. And Teddy Roosevelt came to football’s rescue.

He had not played football at Harvard, but he loved the game. He saw the merit in the lessons and principles that make football compelling. And in December of 1905, he brought the Big Three – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – to the White House. He convinced them that something had to change. President Roosevelt recognized that the game did not need to end. It needed to evolve.

As a result of President Roosevelt’s initiative, and the leadership of Harvard, key rules and the equipment of the game were changed and what became the NCAA was created. This led to modern football, one that included the forward pass, 10 yards for a first down, and the elimination of the flying wedge. These changes led to a more wide open, safer game.
Teddy Roosevelt helped transform a sport in trouble into something better – a game that has helped shape the lives and careers of generations of young men in so many positive ways.

In 1910, President Woodrow Wilson observed that the changes were working. “The new game of football seems far more enjoyable than the old one,” he said. “The new rules are doing much to bring football to a high level as a sport, for its brutal features are being done away with and better elements retained.”

So it was that a Harvard graduate and the university itself played a pivotal role in transforming football and paving the way to its future success.

The game has continued to evolve. Not long ago, the game allowed the head slap, tackling by the face mask, horse collar tackles, dangerous blocks, and hits to the head of defenseless receivers and quarterbacks. All of that has changed.

“The war against roughness in pro football is a continuing one,” said the NFL commissioner. That was Pete Rozelle in 1963.

“An Unfolding Tragedy.” That was a headline. The story said, “As football injuries mount, lawsuits increase and insurance rates soar, the game is headed toward a crisis, one that is epitomized by the helmet, which is both a barbarous weapon and inadequate protection.” It was a Sports Illustrated cover story in 1978.

Protecting the health and safety of players has included taking drug abuse and steroids out of the game. We have randomly tested year-round for steroids since 1990, the first league to do so, with immediate suspensions for any violations. Next we need to implement testing to make sure human growth hormone is out of the game. Performance enhancing drugs are dangerous. They also present unknown risk that may be seriously impacting an athlete’s health in ways he or she never considered. Some have suggested that there may be a link between performance enhancing drugs and concussions and brain disease.

Football has always evolved, and it always will. Make no mistake: change does not inhibit the game; it improves it.

It’s with Teddy Roosevelt in mind that we embrace today’s challenges. I learned a long time ago that you don’t do things because they are popular in the short term. You do them because they are right for the long term. And this is the right conversation to be having.

My commitment has been and will continue to be to change the culture of football to better protect players without changing the essence of what makes the game so popular.

It has been done. And it will be done.

As stewards of the game, it is our responsibility to promote a culture of safety. To be leaders. So let me share with you some specifics on how we are leading.


Leaders do not sit and wait for others to provide answers. We will continue to make rule changes, invest in innovative protective equipment, and provide our medical staffs the tools and authority to protect players on the field.

The rule in our league is simple and straightforward: Medical decisions override everything else. There has been attention this week on the fact that three NFL quarterbacks sustained concussions last Sunday. The positive development was that all three were taken out of the game as soon as they showed symptoms. The team medical staff then diagnosed a concussion, and each player was out of the game. That is progress. That is the way it should be in all sports at every level.

We know that our actions set an example. The concussion awareness material and training videos we developed with the Centers for Disease Control were used by the U.S. Olympic team this past summer. The United States military, NASCAR and college conferences have adopted our concussion protocols.

The Ivy League this year adopted rules similar to the ones in the new agreement with our NFL players, limiting contact in practices and emphasizing taking the head out of the game – as we have been doing.

High schools and colleges must take leadership roles as well with their coaches and athletes. An aggressive dialogue and educational efforts at all levels will raise awareness and change the culture to more strongly emphasize safety. We challenge everyone in sports to be agents of culture change. And we will learn from each other.

There is more to be done. And we will continue to lead by example.


Second, leaders base decisions on facts. We actively support independent and transparent medical research. Much of this focuses on the brain, sometimes called the last frontier of medicine and a public health issue that affects millions. Most of them do not even play sports.

We hope our focus on brain injury and the discoveries ahead will benefit the broader population. We recently committed $30 million to the National Institutes of Health for research on the brain. The agreement with our players sets aside an additional $100 million for similar medical research over the next decade. We have invested millions more in medical research through our charitable foundations, including at the Boston University Center for the Study of CTE. The center’s co-director, Dr. Robert Stern, is here today.

We may learn through breakthroughs in science that there are genetic or other factors that make certain individuals predisposed to concussions or brain disease. If an athlete has repeated concussions or takes longer to recover, it may signal a problem unique to that individual. Such individuals will benefit from advances in the science of concussion. They will be able to make more informed decisions about whether to accept the risk of playing a contact sport.

We support research into new helmet designs and have sponsored independent helmet testing to provide better information to players on helmet performance. One of the helmets our players wear was designed by a former Harvard quarterback, Vin Ferrara.

We may see a day when there are different helmets for different positions, based on which helmet can best protect players at their position.

As a sport that is on the national stage and under the spotlight, we are working to make a difference. Innovations in research today will improve safety in the sport tomorrow and for future generations in all sports.


Third, we are committed to strengthening our playing rules – and insisting on strict enforcement. Preserving the essence of the game, while reducing unnecessary risk, means we have to constantly reevaluate and refresh our rules reasonably and responsibly.

Strategy, strength and speed are what make the game great. We don’t want to take physical contact out of the game. But we must ensure that players follow rules designed to reduce the risk of injury. Enforcing rules on illegal hits to the head with fines and suspensions has changed tackling for the better. Players and coaches have adjusted. They always do. We now see fewer dangerous hits to the head and noticeable changes in the way the game is being played.

We continue to look for other ways to take the head out of the game. Two years ago we moved the kickoff line five yards forward to the 35. That reform yielded real benefits – a 40 percent reduction in concussions last year on kickoffs. College football then adopted our rule. Some think that the kickoff – the play with the highest injury rate – should be eliminated from the game or modified even further.

Here’s an idea I’ve heard from an NFL head coach: put a weight limit on players for kickoffs. Smaller players against smaller players would mean less severe collisions.

We will monitor the data on kickoffs, and all plays, with an open mind toward change.

Our Player Safety Panel, co-chaired by Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott and John Madden, has recommended that our Competition Committee carefully review the rules on all blocks below the waist. Protecting “defenseless” players started decades ago by banning the hitting of kickers. We now have nine separate categories of defenseless players in our rule book. All players can be defenseless in certain situations and we must address it comprehensively.

The right safety equipment is also crucial. Next year NFL players will be required to wear knee and thigh pads, as players are required to do at every other level of football. Many NFL players haven’t been wearing them. Getting them into the right equipment is part of changing the culture.

Technology is also helping us. Recent developments include new protocols, certified athletic trainers in press boxes to serve as spotters for team medical staffs, and the use of iPads and cell phones by medical staffs on the sidelines. We allow this technology for medical reasons, but not for competitive purposes.

We are testing accelerometers in helmets. They are sensors that determine the impact of a hit. We are also testing sensors in shoulder pads which could provide important information.

The most significant innovation may be the use of video by medical staffs on the sidelines to evaluate the mechanism of injury. We started it late last season and now use it for every game. It allows team doctors and trainers to more quickly understand and better treat an injury. Our team medical staffs are raving about it.


Fourth, we use our leadership position to advocate for safety in sports. We took a lead role in supporting the Zackery Lystedt Youth Concussion Law. It applies to all sports. It requires education for coaches, players, and parents, removal from games or practice for any school athlete who suffers a concussion, and clearance by a medical professional before the athlete can return to play. This law has now been passed by 40 states and the District of Columbia. Our goal is to secure approval in all 50 states. And I am confident that we will get there.

We are committed to the safety of young athletes, starting as soon as they step on the field. My twin daughters in middle school play lacrosse and soccer. Girls’ soccer has the second highest rate of concussions in youth sports. I am concerned for their safety. I want them to play, but I want them to play for coaches who know how to teach proper techniques and who are trained in the safety of their sport.

Ten years ago, we helped endow a non-profit organization called USA Football. With the CDC and other medical and football experts, USA Football created the only nationally accredited coaching course in the history of football. Tens of thousands of coaches have completed the course. Better certification and background checks of all coaches must be among the highest priorities for all youth sports.

USA Football has commissioned an injury study – research that the youth game has never seen. It also established a pilot program this year called “Heads Up Football.” This program invites parents to participate and delivers training and education for safer tackling, practice regimens modeled on the NFL, and a safety coach whose sole task is to monitor and ensure player safety in practices and games.

In fact, there is a critical need for more certified athletic trainers for youth and high school sports. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, in 2010 only 42 percent of high schools had access to certified trainers who were trained in concussion care.

There is more we can do to make youth sports safer. And again, we stand ready to lead.


And finally, we know we can’t do it alone. To learn what needs to be learned and do what needs to be done, we need partners with expertise to make things happen.

We will continue to work with leading organizations to support independent research. One day we hope that will include the Harvard School of Public Health.

We have assembled an all-volunteer advisory panel of doctors, scientists, and thought leaders in brain injury from academia, sports medicine, engineering, the NIH, CDC, and Department of Defense. It includes some of our earlier critics. This group has four subcommittees and is directing discussion and research – ranging from long-term outcomes to education to making safer equipment. It includes another Harvard graduate and former Crimson football player, Dr. Mitch Berger. Dr. Robert Cantu, long respected in this area, is here today and he is an advisor to our committee.

We have eight other medical advisory committees within our league, comprised mostly of doctors plus other experts from inside and outside the league. These committees are overseen by a committee of owners chaired by an NFL owner who is also a physician, Dr. John York of the San Francisco 49ers.

Earlier this year, with the help of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, we launched a pilot program to replace helmets in underserved schools.

We need to be driven by facts and data, not perceptions and suppositions. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has done studies on NFL players. This summer NIOSH exploded a myth that has been circulating for years that the life expectancy of NFL players was 55 years of age. That caused many NFL players to make a bad decision to take their pension early at a much lower rate. NIOSH found that the true life expectancy of an NFL player is actually longer than the general population. There are real-life consequences when working off bad facts.

One of our most exciting and innovative new partnerships is with the Army, helping to change the culture in both organizations. Too often, bravery and commitment to the unit or team stand in the way of safety. In this new partnership, NFL players and service members are working together to put in place a culture of safety. It is helping players and soldiers identify the signs and symptoms of brain injuries, and empowering them to make better decisions. We are working cooperatively to make soldiers and athletes safer.

We are proud to be leaders in sports health and safety. Members of Congress, former critics, influential members of the news media, and others have praised our initiatives. But while we have worked hard throughout our history, the right road is never ending. Evolution, by nature, does not stop. Football will always continue to evolve.

The culture of the athlete is still too much of a play-through-it, rather than player safety mentality. Many players have publicly admitted to hiding concussions and other head injuries.

I was recently at dinner with family friends. Their 15-year-old daughter plays field hockey and told me how during a recent game she hit her head on the turf and blacked out for a moment. She didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t want to come out. The next day she was diagnosed with a concussion. It’s the warrior mentality – in a 15-year-old girl. This is unfortunate, but we are working with players, team doctors and coaches to change that culture. It is changing, but will take more time, resolve, patience, and determination.

Let me conclude with a question: What is our goal? I can answer in one simple word: Safety.

A safer game for all who play at every level of football. A safer game made even more exciting through thoughtful adjustments of the rules, next-generation equipment, pioneering research, and transparent partnerships with the best minds.

The road may be long and twisting. But I have no doubt we will reach our destination – a culture of safety for every sport so our world continues to be blessed by the vital and vibrant rewards that come uniquely from sports. For football, I can say with humility, resolve, and confidence: the best is yet to come.

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Larry Fitzgerald says Cardinals must overcome injury to Darnell Dockett

Larry Fitzgerald AP

In the NFL, injuries are an unavoidable occurrence.

No matter how lucky a team gets on the injury front in a given year, they are bound to lose someone to injury at some point during the season.

The Arizona Cardinals lost defensive lineman Darnell Dockett to a torn ACL this week. Dockett has been a stalwart of Arizona’s defense for years and his loss will create a sizable void to be filled this season.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald said it’s something the Cardinals still must be able to overcome.

“It’s something that happens far too often in our game and teams have to weather it,” Fitzgerald said, via “The Drive” on FOX Sports 910 in Phoenix. “Coach [Bruce] Arians talked about it yesterday in our night meeting that no team has even won a Super Bowl that starts the season with the same 11 or 22 guys that finish the season when they win the Super Bowl. Even when we made our Super Bowl run, there are guys that went down, there was guys that stepped up to the plate and we’re going to need guys to come in and perform and fill those big shoes that he’s leaving.”

The Cardinals defense was among the league’s best last season. Arizona ranked 6th in total defense and kept the Cardinals in every game they played over the final three months of the season.

If it was just the loss of Dockett, the Cardinals may have very well been able to overcome his injury. However, Arizona has also lost linebackers Karlos Dansby to the Cleveland Browns and Daryl Washington to suspension. Replacing that many pieces may be too much for the Cardinals to overcome.

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Malcolm Smith returns to Seahawks practice, makes one-handed INT for touchdown

Malcolm Smith AP

It was a good day back on the job for reigning Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Smith missed all offseason workouts and the start of training camp for the Seattle Seahawks after having ankle surgery this spring. After a limited workload in his first practice on Monday, Smith was ramped up to full participation in practice on Tuesday. It didn’t take long for Smith to flash the form with which he finished the 2013 season.

Smith perfectly positioned himself in the throwing lane of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and made a leaping one-handed interception that he returned 60 yards for a touchdown.

Safety Earl Thomas, linebacker K.J. Wright and other members of the Seahawks defense chased Smith into the endzone with shouts of “MVP! MVP!” trailing him for the score.

“Hopefully keep it rolling,” Smith said. “I don’t think one practice will do it all but just trying to stack some good days together.”

Smith became a key contributor on Seattle’s defense last season and became indispensable late in the year. Smith had four interceptions in the final five games the Seahawks played. His interception of a tipped pass by Richard Sherman for Michael Crabtree sealed the NFC Championship for Seattle, while his 69-yard interception of Peyton Manning and fumble recovery of Demaryius Thomas in the Super Bowl helped earn him most-valuable player honors.

Seattle has been without three of their top four linebackers for the majority of training camp. Smith is the first to return with Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner both expected back in the next couple weeks. Wagner and Irvin could both return to practice as soon as next week.

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Browns should have made Manziel the starter from Day One

Manziel AP

In an effort to not create a monster, the Browns may have made a mess.

Two years ago, Washington immediately installed quarterback Robert Griffin III as the team’s starter.  And Griffin, who instantly rose to superstardom in D.C., ended up being not quite as coachable as former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan may have wanted.

With Shanahan now in Cleveland and the Browns taking the biggest celebrity quarterback in this year’s draft, the Browns may have consciously opted to do the opposite, humbling Johnny Manziel in the hopes that, as he earns the job, he’ll learn to listen to an offensive coordinator with a reputation for wanting the offense to be run the way he wants it.  Indeed, Coach Mike Pettine hinted at a desire to avoid Manziel Mania when defending in June the team’s decision not to install Manziel immediately as the starter.

“When people criticize how we handled it, what’s the alternative?” Pettine told USA Today at the time.  “Would it have been more prudent for us the night we drafted him to name him the starter?  And have him come in here and let the media have access to him every day and have a huge press conference for him?  Handle him that way?”

Time has shown that it doesn’t matter whether Manziel is the starter or merely competing for the job.  Media interest attaches naturally to his name, especially with the quarterback decision nudging toward a regular-season decision that hardly will be final.

And if the Browns opted to use a quarterback competition to humble Manziel, the splitting of first-team reps during practice and regular-season games has made it harder for Manziel or Brian Hoyer to be as prepared as the starter would be if the starter had been named right out of the gates.

Surely, it would have been Manziel.  Otherwise, the Browns wouldn’t have traded up from No. 26 to No. 22 to add a quarterback.  They would have opted to ride with Hoyer and use the pick on someone who could help the team at another position.

By trading up for Manziel, the Browns made their choice.  By not following through with it, the Browns have made it harder for Manziel to be ready for the job that they’d hoped to hand him as of Week One.  Now, they may have to go with an equally unprepared Brian Hoyer and hope he doesn’t play so well that it becomes impossible to use Manziel at any point in 2014, or to start 2015.

Browns fans know that dynamic all too well from seven years ago, when Derek Anderson made it impossible to use Brady Quinn in 2007, setting the stage for a controversy in 2008 from which the team still hasn’t fully recovered.

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Panthers trade RB Kenjon Barner to Eagles

Kenjon Barner AP

The Eagles have added a tailback who shouldn’t need much time to pick up Chip Kelly’s offense.

The club announced Tuesday night it had acquired Panthers running back Kenjon Barner for a conditional 2015 seventh-round pick.

The 25-year-old Barner played collegiately at Oregon under Kelly, rushing for 3,623 yards and 41 touchdowns. A 2013 sixth-round pick of the Panthers, Barner appeared in eight games as a rookie, rushing six times for seven yards, catching two passes for seven yards and returning two kickoffs for 17 yards.

“Kenjon will hopefully bring some depth to both our running back and return positions,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said in a team-issued statement Tuesday night. “He’s obviously a guy I know really well from Oregon, where he had a very productive career. He has a lot of speed, explosiveness and had a knack for making some really big plays. But our plan with him right now is get him in Philadelphia as soon as we can and plug him in at running back and returner and let him compete.”

Barner’s addition gives the Eagles seven tailbacks. He’ll vie for a reserve role in the Philadelphia backfield. Darren Sproles, Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey and David Fluellen are the other options behind starter LeSean McCoy. Polk is dealing with a hamstring injury.

Eagles rookie Josh Huff, who’s listed as the club’s second-team kickoff returner, will miss the Eagles’ third preseason game with a shoulder injury, which could lead to Barner getting some special teams work in his Philadelphia debut.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are left with just four tailbacks: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker and Darrin Reaves. However, fullback Mike Tolbert will also see some carries.

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Fairley squarley a second-stinger in Detroit

Fairley AP

The Lions opted not to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s rookie contract in order to give him extra incentive in what became a contract year.

So far, it hasn’t worked.

As coach Jim Caldwell recently explained, Fairley has officially become a second-team player, backing up C.J. Mosley, who now is the starter alongside Ndamukong Suh.  But that could still change.

“If you’re asking me whether or not Fairley is going to be a starter, he’s not starting right now,” Caldwell said, via  “He’s second team. . . .  But the rest of it, we’ll look.  It’s a long week.  We’ve got a lot of work to do in between and typically like most games, we’ll take a look at where we are and make an assessment on that toward the end of the week.”

In other words, if Fairley finally reaches the potential that made him a first-round draft choice on a consistent basis, he’ll return to the starting lineup.  If chasing a new contract won’t flip that switch, nothing ever will.

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Nick Collins announces retirement

Nick Collins of tyhe Green Bay Packers s Getty Images

Former Packers safety Nick Collins announced his retirement on his verified Twitter account on Tuesday.

Collins’ Green Bay career ended because of a neck injury suffered in the club’s second regular season game of 2011. Collins, who underwent vertebrae fusion surgery, was released by Green Bay in April 2012. He has not appeared in an NFL game since.

Earlier this year, Collins had indicated he was willing to consider a return to football.

Collins’ ball skills were a major strength. A three-time Pro Bowler, Collins picked off 21 passes in regular season play for Green Bay from 2005 through 2011, and he scored the Packers’ second touchdown in their Super Bowl XLV victory over Pittsburgh on an interception return.

In his statement Tuesday, Collins thanked his “family, friends, and the Packer Nation for the love and support.”

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Still no ruling in the Josh Gordon case

Gordon AP

A full 15 days have passed since hearing officer Harold Henderson concluded the hearing in connection with the appeal of Browns receiver Josh Gordon’s one-year suspension.  Nearly four months have passed since word of the suspension first emerged.

And there’s still no ruling.  The substance-abuse policy requires that a decision be made within a “reasonable time.”  That’s a fuzzy concept, but given the delays already inherent to the process, it’s all starting to feel unreasonable.

Under the plain language of the substance-abuse policy, it also would be unreasonable for Henderson to impose anything other than a one-year suspension or no suspension at all.  Despite multiple reports and a clear suggestion from ESPN’s Mike Tirico during Monday night’s Cleveland-Washington game that Henderson could split the difference, the rules simply don’t contemplate it.  If the policy is applied as written, it will be all or nothing.

While Henderson technically has the power to do whatever he wants, failing to interpret and apply the policy as written could result in the NFL no longer hiring Henderson to serve as a hearing officer.  Unless, of course, the NFL wants Henderson to find a middle ground, so that Gordon’s suspension for smoking marijuana (possibly on a second-hand basis) won’t be quite as glaring in comparison to Ray Rice’s two-game ban for domestic violence.

The cleaner outcome, if the difference is going to be split, would come from a negotiation.  As of Tuesday night, however, there have been no talks — and none are expected.

Still, if Henderson wants to work this out, he can get the parties on the phone and ask the NFL to offer an eight-game suspension and to keep it open for 24 hours while Gordon decides what to do, with a wink-nod understanding that, if a ruling is issued, it will be a full-year suspension.

Plenty of judges have used that and similar tactics to get cases settled.  Don’t be shocked if it happens here.

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Tim Shaw announces he has ALS

Shaw Getty Images

Former linebacker Tim Shaw, who retired after being released last year by the Titans, has become the latest NFL player to develop ALS.

Shaw spent six seasons in the NFL after arriving via the 2007 draft to Carolina.  He made the announcement on Tuesday via a video posted at the Titans’ website.  He then took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and Shaw thereafter challenged the current Titans roster and the Penn State football team to do the same thing.

Shaw, who also played for the Jaguars and Bears, talked about his plans for the future in March.  Now, those plans have changed dramatically.  We wish him the best as he fights this horrible disease, and we encourage everyone to contribute to the ALS Association and/or to The Gleason Initiative Foundation, started by former Saints defensive back Steve Gleason, and/or to The Brigance Brigade, launched by former Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance.

With enough money and research and dedication, ALS can be cured.  Here’s hoping it happens sooner than later.

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NFL wants Super Bowl halftime performers to pay for the privilege

121017095532_Cash Getty Images Getty Images

As it has grown and grown and grown some more, the NFL has continued to find more and more and more revenue streams.

The latest could be the Super Bowl halftime show.  Currently a gig the performer plays for free in order to turn a gigantic international platform into the high profile and profits that go with it, the league now wants a cut.

According to the Wall Street Journal (via SportsBusiness Daily), the NFL has asked the three artists under consideration for the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show to “contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income” to the NFL, or to “make some other type of financial contribution.”  Per the report, the idea received a “chilly reception” from the representatives of Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Coldplay.

Regardless, it only takes one performer to bite the hook in order for the NFL to parlay the halftime show into even more of a moneymaker.  And it’s entirely possible that the league leaked the development in order to pressure one of the three to blink, given that plenty of other performers who would gladly give up a piece of a pie they otherwise don’t have will now be calling the league to offer  whatever the league wants for the privilege of playing to one of the biggest audiences in TV history.

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PFT on NBCSN expands roster, adds co-host


With the new season starting, an enhanced in lineup is coming to NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk.

But you’ll still be stuck with me.  (Sorry.)

On Tuesday, NBC Sports Group announced that Paul Burmeister arrives as the new co-host of the program on Tuesday, September 2.  Burmeister, who played quarterback, served as a captain, and won the team MVP award at Iowa in 1993, became one of the original hires at NFL Network in 2003.  During his time with NFLN, Burmeister hosted a variety of shows there, including Total Access and Path to the Draft.

Joining the lineup of analysts will be former NFL defensive end and Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor, former NFL head coach and long-time assistant coach Kevin Gilbride, former NFL running back Brian Westbrook, and former NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes.  They’ll be part of a rotation that includes former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker and former NFL fullback Jon Ritchie.

“I certainly feel I can give a valid critique of what took place in a game, explain why and what the thinking was with players and coaches, or why that mistake occurred,” Gilbride told Richard Deitsch of “I will have no difficulty in judging whether something was a good or bad decision and maybe even offer some alternatives on other ideas.  People just see the behavior, the action.  But what has always been fascinating to me is what are the causes that led to that behavior.”

This season, PFT on NBCSN also will feature regular contributions from other NBC Sports Group analysts, including Tony Dungy and Hines Ward of Football Night in America, Cris Collinsworth of Sunday Night Football, and Doug Flutie of NBC’s Notre Dame football coverage.

Deepening the roster and breadth of expertise will be Mike Ryan, a 26-year NFL athletic trainer who will help explain injuries, rehab, and related issues.

But you don’t have to wait until September 2 to watch the show.  It’s still on every weekday, through and beyond September.

And hopefully you’ll continue to be stuck with me.

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2014 status still undecided, Dorsey signs through 2016

Glenn Dorsey AP

The 49ers don’t know when or if defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey will play in 2014.  But they do know that they have him under contract through 2016.

The team has announced a two-year extension with Dorsey.

“Glenn is a true pro who has quickly become a valued contributor to our organization both on and off the field,” General Manager Trent Baalke said in a team-issued release.  “He is a quick study and a very good football player that has earned this extension, and we look forward to his future contributions.”

Dorsey may not do much more to earn his 2014 salary, due to a torn biceps suffered in training camp.  Per a league source, the team still is deciding whether to put Dorsey on season-ending injured reserve, to put him on injured reserve with the designation to return, or to carry him on the 53-man roster until he’s ready to play.

Dorsey entered the league in 2008 as the fifth overall pick in the draft.  He signed in 2013 with the 49ers, appearing in all 19 regular-season and postseason games, with 15 total starts as the replacement to nose tackle Ian Williams, who suffered a broken leg in Week Two.

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Kelly pushes McCoy’s practice buttons

Kelly Getty Images

On Sunday, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy missed practice with what he called a “small version of turf toe.”  On Tuesday, coach Chip Kelly rolled out a small version of passive aggression when talking about McCoy’s overall practice habits.

It’s OK,” Kelly said regarding the question of whether McCoy’s return to practice on Monday reveals a strong work ethic, via Geoff Mosher of  “Some days he’s great out there.  Other days, he’s not so great.”

McCoy, who recently said that Kelly pushes the star tailback like no other coach ever has, didn’t take questions about Kelly’s remark.  (And all that that implies, possibly.)

Kelly otherwise downplayed the toe injury, said that McCoy is “fine,” that it’s “not as big of an issue as I think anybody has made it out to be, and that the issue has become “way overblown.”

Still, McCoy used the phrase “small version of turf toe,” and former NFL athletic trainer Mike Ryan joined Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN to explain what that means and how it can affect a running back.  Plus he brought props.

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Jets place rookie receiver Shaq Evans on injured reserve

shaqevans AP

The rookie season of Jets fourth-round draft pick Shaq Evans is over before it began.

Evans, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury, has been placed on injured reserve.

Reports today that Evans was waived/injured proved to be incorrect, as the Jets decided to put Evans directly on injured reserve. If the Jets had waived/injured Evans, he could have been claimed by any other team. It’s rare for players who are waived/injured to be claimed, but it’s possible that Evans would have been: He showed a lot of promise in college at UCLA, and if some other team that had a high draft grade on Evans wants him, he would have been there for the taking.

That the Jets put him on injured reserve, rather than exposing him to waivers, suggests that they believe he can still be a contributor. But that won’t be until 2015 at the earliest. His 2014 season is over.

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J.J. Watt: If I got paid a little more, I wouldn’t be terribly upset

J.J. Watt AP

The list of players from the 2011 draft that have outperformed Texans defensive end J.J. Watt over the last three years is somewhere between minuscule and non-existent depending on your point of view.

Watt has had to sit and watch as players like Patrick Peterson, Andy Dalton and Richard Sherman have signed long-term deals with their teams, however. Watt says it’s great to see them sign these deals “because it shows that their teams appreciate what work they put in” and said that he wouldn’t mind seeing the same appreciation from the Texans.

“I like to see those guys be shown appreciation so far,” Watt said, via Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. “I hope that I’ve worked hard enough and hopefully I’ve put myself in a situation where I can be shown some of the same appreciation. Hopefully they feel I’ve outplayed my current contract, but the end of the day, we’re paid to play football. If I got paid a little more, I wouldn’t be terribly upset.”

Watt, who is under contract through next season after the Texans exercised their 2015 option on his rookie deal which will pay him the average of the 3rd-25th highest paid defensive ends, made it clear that he’s not thinking about a holdout and said he tries to live by the theory of giving $3 of work for $2 of pay. Still, Watt’s outperformed his current deal and has every reason to want another.

Texans owner Bob McNair said recently that the team would do an extension for Watt if it makes sense, but also pointed out that they could franchise him twice after the 2015 season to assure he remains in town. Such a decision might change Watt’s tune, although there’s plenty of time before push would come to shove on that front.

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Steelers bring back Brett Keisel after he snubs Arizona

Keisel AP

Well, now we know why longtime Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel turned down the Cardinals’ generous offer to come out for a visit.

Because he’s a Steeler again.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Keisel has agreed to return to the Steelers for a 13th season.

The move is a win-win, as Keisel lends some stability to a defensive line that lost some parts this offseason, and the timing kept him from having to go to training camp.

Any veteran will welcome that, and now the Steelers are welcoming Keisel home, and it only took using the Cardinals for a little leverage to get it done.

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