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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.

(Leadership)

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.

(Research)

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.

(Rules)

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.

(Advocacy)

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.

(Partnerships)

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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Bakhtiari bemoans Green Bay’s constant close calls

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On one hand, the Packers should be happy that they contend every year. On the other hand, they should be upset that they keep knocking on the door but can’t kick it in.

Put left tackle David Bakhtiari in the second category.

It’s starting to piss me off a little bit,” Bakhtiari recently said, via Pete Dougherty of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “You’re not guaranteed another year. Keep getting close and not making it is stressful. We’ve got to collectively — we’ve got to do more. . . . The Green Bay Packers — I mean, the trophy is the Lombardi Trophy. We have to get back there and win it.”

The Packers last did in 2010. Since then, armed with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, the Packers chronically have come up short. In some years, in-season sputters keep them from securing home-field advantage in the playoffs. In other years, they earn home games in January, and lose there.

Many will point to the Packers as the team to beat once again in the NFC. And, if recent history holds, someone eventually will beat them before they get a chance to win the trophy named after their legendary coach for a fifth time.

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Vikings support Michael Floyd’s kombucha tea defense

When it comes to his effort to avoid jail for violating the terms of his house arrest, Vikings receiver Michael Floyd has an ally: His employer.

According to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Vikings C.O.O. Kevin Warren sent a letter to the presiding judge supporting Floyd’s claim that he didn’t know kombucha tea contains alcohol.

“I am writing to request Mr. Floyd not have his court mandated requirements negatively impacted since he did not know the kombucha he ingested contained alcohol,” Warren wrote in the letter dated June 21.

In a sworn affidavit, Floyd said the team encourages players to drink the tea for health reasons, and that it is “on tap” at the team’s training facility. (That may not be the best choice of words.) Floyd also hired a forensic pathologist to explain that, because Floyd purchased a case of kombucha tea without refrigerating it, additional fermentation occurred, elevating its alcohol content.

Perhaps most importantly for Floyd’s case, the forensic pathologist concluded that, based on Floyd’s explanation regarding the amount of kombucha tea he ingested before failing multiple home alcohol tests, the time frame during which he drank it, and the blood-alcohol concentration that was measured, the numbers are “achievable and consistent” from consuming kombucha tea “to a reasonable degree of medical and scientific certainty.”

The question now becomes whether prosecutors have hired an expert of their own to dispute the conclusions from Floyd’s expert, or whether prosecutors will simply say, “It doesn’t matter. He was prohibited from consuming alcohol.” Ultimately, the question will be whether the judge is motivated by any of this to give Floyd a pass or to say, “It doesn’t matter. He was prohibited from consuming alcohol.”

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Colts may hit more in camp, despite being “scared to death” of injuries

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After seeing his team miss too many tackles last season, Colts coach Chuck Pagano says he may work more on tackling in camp.

Pagano said he’s still as concerned as ever about keeping players healthy for the regular season, but he also thinks there’s limited time to work on tackling, and training camp is the right time for it.

“You’re always scared to death, but at the same time if you don’t tackle, it’s hard to get good at tackling,” Pagano said, via ESPN. “We do, obviously, a lot of what we call ‘thud.’ It’s first contact, it’s wrap up, and you try to stay off the ground as much as you can and take care of each other. But we’ll continue to have discussions regarding that, and there may be some periods come training camp that we decide we want to go live here.”

New Colts G.M. Chris Ballard says going live is a must.

“This will be a physical camp for us,” Ballard told the team’s website. “We’ve got a young football team and you need to spar. I think we will have a physical camp and I think you need to. It helps get your body ready. I think a lot of the problems we have is that we don’t hit enough. You’re always worried about injuries, but this is football and it’s a physical game. It’s much like boxing. You need to spar.”

The Colts will be sparring more in training camp this year, while trying to avoid anyone getting knocked out.

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Saturday one-liners

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Seven more veteran Jets could be dumped after the 2017 season.

Dolphins K Andrew Franks thinks he could “kill it from 65” without wind.

The Patriots will have several public practices during training camp.

Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander is holding a free youth football camp on Saturday in Oakland, California.

It’s a make or break year for plenty of Ravens.

Could Browns TE Seth DeValve have a big season?

Here’s a look behind the scenes of NBC’s photo shoot with the Bengals.

The Steelers think it’s time for DT Daniel McCullers to move up or move out.

Texans WR Braxton Miller is hoping to make a leap in 2017, in part by recognizing coverages.

Here’s the projected roster and depth chart for the Titans.

Colts RB Robert Turbin thrives as a pass blocker.

Projecting the Jaguars defense for 2016.

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce went yard at the Big Slick Celebrity Softball Game on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.

Raiders QB Derek Carr’s contract is backloaded, which helps the team manage the cap — and helps Carr avoid giving money to the State of California.

Broncos coach Vance Joseph thinks Glover Quin would make a great head coach.

Chargers OL Matt Slauson learned a lot from older players; now that he’s one of them, he can pass the knowledge along.

Get to know Cowboys DE Benson Mayowa.

A Giants fan has a tattoo of WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s most famous catch.

New Washington safety D.J. Swearinger knew that either he or Tony Jefferson would be joining Swearinger’s new team based on the quality of the safety play in 2016; “Watching it on film we was like, ‘Bro, one of us is going to Washington for sure,'” Swearginger told Jefferson.

Here’s a look at the development of the Eagles’ draft class.

The Bears held their annual 5K on Saturday morning. They signed seven of the runners.

Lions CB Teez Tabor made a play while trying to cover WR Marvin Jones, eventually.

Have the benefit of a full offseason with the Packers will benefit LB Jordan Tripp, who joined the team with three weeks left in the 2016 regular season.

Vikings WR Randy Moss was wired for sound when he returned to the team’s facility to learn he’d been added to the Ring of Honor. (The real question is whether they him served food that he’d feed to his dog.)

Saints LT Terron Armstead has undergone surgery to repair the torn labrum in his shoulder, and he’ll focus his rehab efforts in New Orleans.

Panthers G.M. Dave Gettleman says WR Kelvin Benjamin’s “ability to make people miss is to run through them.”

Here’s how you can witness whether Falcons players will be squabbling with each other about Super Bowl LI during training camp.

How did Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston perform under pressure?

The daughter of former 49ers DL Michael Carter, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the shot put, will compete in the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships on Saturday.

Rams rookies visited Warner Bros. Studios. (It’s June 24. That’s all I got.)

As he enters a contract year, Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham’s big offseason translate to a big regular season?

Cardinals LB Haason Reddick threw out the first pitch on Friday night at the Diamondbacks game, delivering a strike; “Can’t go up there and look like 50 Cent,” Cardinals OT Will Holden said.

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Bill O’Brien: Clemson’s sophisticated offense helped Deshaun Watson

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NFL coaches often say that college football offenses don’t really get quarterbacks ready to play at the next level. But Texans coach Bill O’Brien says that’s not the case with his rookie quarterback, Deshaun Watson.

O’Brien says Watson ran an offense at Clemson that forced him to develop a mind for football at the highest level.

“He had to learn a pretty sophisticated offense at Clemson,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “He had to do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. I think he was trained really well. That’s a credit to the Clemson staff. He’d already been in some big games when he got here. When he came here, he put his head down and came to work every day.”

O’Brien has already been impressed with Watson’s football intellect, based only on spring practices.

“For being a rookie, he’s wise beyond his years. He asks great questions in the morning meeting, and you can tell he’s studied the night before. Every practice isn’t perfect. He knows he needs to get a lot better. And he did get better every day during the spring. It’s no pads, of course. It’s not real football, but he did improve in his knowledge of the offense,” O’Brien said.

If Watson keeps that up, he should be ready to start in Week One.

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Broncos still haven’t re-sold stadium naming rights

The Denver Broncos continue to play in a stadium that may as well be known as Vandelay Industries Park. And there’s no indication that this odd dynamic will be ending any time soon.

As noted by 9news.com in Denver, the high-priced latex salesmen from WME-IMG have yet to find a suitable buyer for the rights to “Sports Authority Field,” named for a company that went bankrupt in 2016.

“We continue to work closely with WME-IMG and have had several productive discussions with potential partners,” Broncos spokesman Patrick Smyth told 9news.com. “We’re focused more on finding the right, long-term naming rights partner than meeting any deadline for this process, which is extensive.”

The Broncos assumed full responsibility for the naming-rights deal last August, deciding to keep the name in place — presumably to avoid any negative P.R. that would flow from reverting to a non-corporate moniker and then jamming a new one back in to the official title of the facility.

Regardless, nearly a year after the Broncos decided to continue to keep the name of a non-existent company on their stadium, there’s no indication that a real name will be replacing it any time soon.

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Kerley wishes teams would ask him about Kaepernick

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One of the biggest problems with the various leaks to the media of assumptions and narratives and opinions about Colin Kaepernick is that many of those who are whispering to willing reporters have done no real due diligence about the player. The latest example of a lack of homework comes from one of the men who caught plenty of passes from Kaepernick a year ago.

Receiver Jeremy Kerley, a pleasant surprise in 2016 for the 49ers with 64 total receptions, got and kept his hands on 38 thrown by Kaepernick. Yet no one from any other team has asked Kerley what he thinks about Kaepernick.

I wish they would,” Kerley recently told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I would speak very highly of him. First, if you don’t stand for something then you don’t stand for nothing. He spoke up about a subject at a time where maybe just the right people weren’t stepping up. He did it, he stood behind it. He made the sacrifice that maybe not a lot of guys would have made knowing that the consequences would be what they were.”

That’s one thing that often gets lost in the lingering resentment and hatred of Kaepernick regarding his decision not to stand for the national anthem in 2016. He had (and clearly still has — as do many) concerns about the training and experience requirements for the issuance of a gun and the power to use it. (If you don’t have at least some concern over the ease with which a police officer can produce a handgun and immediately pull the trigger repeatedly to neutralize a perceived threat in a confined space with a small child present, then you’ve paid no attention at all to the Philando Castile case.)

“You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist,” Kaepernick said last August. “That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

Kerley spent most of the year with Kaepernick, arriving via trade from the Lions after his decision to take action, to speak out, and to risk his career for it.

“He’s been a man of his word,” Kerley said. “He still gives back. He’s promoting change. . . . Do I agree with it? Who’s to say. Everybody goes about their business a different way. But do I have much, much respect for him? Hell yeah.”

It’s still not clear what Kaepernick truly wants or expects from his football career. And it’s quite possible that the phone will never ring, regardless of his abilities, team needs, and the inevitability of quarterback injury. The point continues to be this: Few if any teams did any real homework on Kaepernick prior to or during free agency, which suggests given the countless hours otherwise spent researching hundreds of players that coaches and executives knew they would have been wasting their time on a guy ownership would have never approved signing.

That’s where this issue continues to be. A quarterback who nearly won a Super Bowl, whose numbers compared favorably to Tyrod Taylor’s in 2016, and who is still on the right side of 30 has gotten no sniffs as a potential starter in a league where Tom Savage, Brian Hoyer, Cody Kessler, Mike Glennon, and Josh McCown currently sit atop depth charts. And Kaepernick has drawn interest from only one team about being a backup. (He was deemed to be overqualified for the job.)

If anyone wants to continue to rely on reports from those who gladly pass along negative leaks about Kaepernick in support of a belief that these decisions are based only on actual or perceived football skills and abilities, that’s their right, I suppose. But others have the right to continue to say that we’re being fed a steaming plate of BS, and that too many in the media are gladly slopping it onto the plate.

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Before football, Larry Ogunjobi was so obese his parents feared he’d die

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Browns rookie defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi weighs in at 305 pounds — which is a whole lot less than he weighed when he first started playing football.

Ogunjobi was a 350-pound teenager whose main interests were video games and junk food when his parents made him play football in a desperate attempt to get him healthy.

“His parents were afraid he’d eat potato chips, play video games and die,” his high school football coach Tommy Norwood told the Chronicle-Telegram.

Intense high school football practices burned plenty of calories, and when Ogunjobi realized he had finally found a sport a guy his size could play, he became so devoted to offseason cardio workouts that he eventually got down to 237 pounds. Then he turned to lifting weights, and by the end of high school he had earned a college scholarship as a 267-pound defensive lineman. In college he took lifting even more seriously and turned himself into a chiseled 300-pounder.

“He lost all that weight and rebuilt it,” his college coach Brad Lambert said. “That’s what’s amazing about the story.”

Ogunjobi is now a dedicated, hard-working player, although he admits that he never would have taken up football if it hadn’t been forced upon him as a weight-loss activity in high school.

“I was only there because I had to be,” he said.

Now he’s in the NFL, where he wants to be.

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Derek Carr: I’ll give it to Marshawn on the 1-yard line, not throw it

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has brought up a painful memory for Seahawks fans.

After signing his new contract on Friday, Carr said that he doesn’t think his status as the NFL’s highest-paid player forces him to try to win games himself. Instead, Carr said, he’ll be happy to hand off to Marshawn Lynch for a game-winning touchdown if the Raiders are in that position.

“My No. 1 goal is to make sure that I give everything I have to this organization,” Carr said. “So there’s no pressure, there’s no, ‘We’ll be on the 1-yard line and I won’t give it to Marshawn, I’ll throw it.’ None of that stuff. I don’t care about the stats. That’s not my No. 1 objective. I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns next year. If we win every game, that’s all I care about.”

Carr was referencing the Seahawks’ infamous decision to have Russell Wilson throw a pass, which was intercepted, rather than handing off to Lynch at the 1-yard line at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. Now that Lynch is a Raider, they plan to give him the ball at the goal line.

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Tavon Wilson seeks to throw out suits against him

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Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson denies he punched a former girlfriend during an altercation last year, according to TMZ.

Per TMZ, Alanda Jackson, the mother of Wilson’s 3-year-old, has filed suit against Wilson, alleging that he broke her nose during the melee. Jackson got into a verbal altercation with Wilson’s current girlfriend at a nightclub in Washington, D.C., on May 14, 2016. Jackson accuses Wilson of grabbing her, throwing her to the ground and punching her in the face. Jackson said a female friend was stabbed by someone in Wilson’s entourage, and both women were hospitalized.

Jackson was arrested, TMZ reports, with Wilson’s current girlfriend, Simone Leach, claiming she was the victim. Jackson seeks more than $2.5 million, and Wilson also faces a suit from the other alleged victim. Wilson has asked a judge to dismiss both suits.

The Lions released a statement: “We are aware of the report regarding Tavon Wilson. We have spoken to Tavon, and we have also notified the league office of this matter. Due to the personal nature of this situation, we will have no additional comment at this time.”

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Archie Manning: Adam Gase reached out to Peyton after Ryan Tannehill was injured

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At a time when many are wondering whether recently-retired quarterbacks Tony Romo and Jay Cutler would return to the NFL if a starter gets injured during the upcoming season, it turns out that last year’s high-profile retiree had an opportunity to return, sort of.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Archie Manning said Friday that he saw last December a text-message exchange between his son, Peyton, and Dolphins coach Adam Gase.

“He said, ‘Hey 18, [Ryan] Tannehill went down,'” Archie said. “[Gase] said, ‘I think he’s going to miss some time. The first question I’m going to get at the press conference in the morning is if I’m going to try to bring you to Miami. What do you want me to tell them?'”

It’s a creative way for Gase, Peyton’s offensive coordinator in Denver, to ask Peyton whether he was interested without officially asking him whether he was interested. Regardless, Peyton wasn’t interested.

Said Archie: “The text message came back from Peyton, ‘You tell them I could probably come play, but there’s no way I can miss carpool the next two weeks.’ So, he was done.”

Peyton was done, and he still is done. But it’s fascinating to think what could have happened late last season, if Peyton Manning had swooped in to help a Dolphins team that lost to Pittsburgh in the wild-card round — and that with an upset there would have been destined for a trip to New England to face the Patriots.

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Lakers G.M. compares Lonzo Ball to NFL’s best quarterbacks

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Typically, new players who arrive in a given sport are compared to other great players from that same sport. For reasons neither obvious nor apparent, the General Manager of the L.A. Lakers has compared the team’s latest first-round draft pick to the two best quarterbacks in the NFL.

“In press conferences, I don’t like a lot of hyperbole and a whole bunch of words,” Rob Pelinka said regarding Lonzo Ball, via Rob Baxter of ESPN.com. “I like to tell stories. I think when this really into focus for us was, we knew the talent was transcendent. The way he passes the ball, you look at quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, that just have a gift. There’s clearly a gift, with what he’s been blessed with.”

Apart from the comparison being odd, Pelinka’s comments amount to a potential curse for a player who already will be counted on to return to relevance one of the proudest franchises in the NBA, and who enters pro sports with one of the most high-profile and universally disliked fathers in all of sport.

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Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott not resting on their laurels

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Dak Prescott won 13 games and offensive rookie of the year honors. Ezekiel Elliott won the rushing title and earned six MVP votes as a rookie. Both were ranked among the top-14 players in the NFL Network’s poll of players.

But don’t think for a second that Prescott and Elliott have spent the offseason resting on their laurels. Instead, according to teammate Cole Beasley, Prescott and Elliott have worked harder than ever since the Cowboys fell short of their goals last season.

“Dak’s the type of guy, he could be the best in the world at his position, he’ll still come in here and not be satisfied or complacent,” Beasley said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “He’ll come in here and grind like he’s a rookie. He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever seen.

“Zeke’s approach is just like it was last year. Both of those guys have a chip on their shoulders. They’re not satisfied until we get to where we want to be. All the guys in here are the same way. Until we get a Super Bowl, we haven’t done our jobs.”

The Cowboys haven’t been to a Super Bowl since the 1995 season when they won the franchise’s fifth. They have not produced back-to-back winning seasons since 2008-09. Both are goals this season after a 13-3 regular season in 2016 ended in disappointment in the playoffs with a loss in the divisional round to Green Bay.

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Derek Carr wanted to leave money for teammates

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Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie now wants to sign some of quarterback Derek Carr’s teammates, and Carr wants to be sure McKenzie can.

“The main thing that I could just remember was all along the way, I was like, ‘How do we keep my teammates?’” Carr said at Friday’s press conference regarding his new deal, via Raiders.com. “That’s, I don’t know if it’s weird how it sounds, but that was just what I kept telling him. I was like, ‘OK. that’s cool. Yeah, that’s awesome, wow, cool. Is this good for Gabe [Jackson]? Is this good for Khalil [Mack]? Is this good for Amari [Cooper]?’ [Reggie] can tell you himself, these are things that I said to him numerous amounts of times. I didn’t want to hurt our team; that’s the last thing I would ever want to do. So, hopefully we didn’t That’s the last thing that I intended to do and that’s kind of why I was so involved.”

Few would call a deal that sets a record for new-money average team friendly, but if Carr had wanted to maximize his earnings he could have followed the Kirk Cousins path to a year-to-year haul that would have resulted in ridiculously high cap numbers, and that ultimately would have forced the Raiders to pay more than $25 million annually.

And while Carr hasn’t quite copied the Tom Brady playbook and taken considerably less than market value, Brady’s failure to push the envelope has indeed affected Carr, just as it will affect others. If Brady had decided to pursue maximum dollars, he’d be making more than $30 million per year by now, and other quarterbacks would see their own pay lifted by that dynamic. It’s a point that former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn made on Friday’s PFT Live, noting that the union likely isn’t thrilled by Tom Brady’s conscious failure to elevate the quarterback market.

For Carr, the question now becomes whether his teammates will be as charitable when it’s their turn to get paid, consciously taking less to help the team keep more players or saying, “Screw this. I only have so many years to make big money, and I’m going to.”

With limited years in a playing career, no equity, and likely orthopedic and cognitive problems later in life, players have every right to seek every last dollar, forcing teams to navigate the cap and to make good decisions through the draft, which under the current compensation rules allows teams to load up the roster with young, talented, and cheap labor, year in and year out.

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Packers spend offseason working on defending the pass

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The Packers concentrated on the passing game — and defending the pass — during 11-on-11 work during the offseason. Mike McCarthy had reasons for reducing the number of run calls.

The Packers coach insists run calls in no-pads practices create unrealistic looks, leading to linemen and running backs developing bad habits. The emphasis on the passing game served a second purpose in giving the defensive backs more work as defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent the offseason preaching improved coverage.

“We’ve really focused on the pass,” McCarthy said, via Pete Dougherty of USA Today Network.

The Packers have three new players expected to upgrade their secondary. They brought back cornerback Davon House in free agency and drafted cornerback Kevin King and safety/linebacker Josh Jones with their first two picks.

The Packers ranked 22nd in total defense last season, including 31st against the pass, so it’s obvious why Green Bay made changes in both personnel and practice plans.

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