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More talk in Buffalo of drafting a quarterback

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Apparently beating the Dolphins on Thursday night didn’t do much to raise hopes that the Bills could turn their season around. Because the talk in Buffalo is all about the future, and drafting a franchise quarterback.

We noted earlier this month that Bills G.M. Buddy Nix says he wants to take a quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft, and today the main Bills story in the Buffalo News is about the quarterbacks the Bills might choose.

Unfortunately for the Bills, at the moment 2013 doesn’t look like a strong quarterback class. USC’s Matt Barkley has been widely regarded as the top quarterback prospect since the day he decided to return to school for his senior season, but his draft stock seems to be slipping. West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson of Arkansas are probably the next-best senior quarterbacks, but neither of them looks like an elite prospect either. There definitely isn’t an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in this year’s draft. If the Bills are set on a first-round quarterback, they may have to settle for a Ryan Tannehill.

But the best-case scenario for the Bills may be that there’s another Russell Wilson in next year’s draft, a quarterback who doesn’t look like an elite prospect but turns out to have talent that the scouts are overlooking. If they’re going to find their franchise quarterback in a draft without a Luck, the Bills will need some luck.

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Ray Rice says he’s a “rehabilitated man,” as he looks for work

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Since the last round of exclusive interviews designed to drum up sympathy and/or a job didn’t work, Ray Rice gave it another shot Tuesday.

The former Ravens running back, who has been out of the NFL since punching his wife in the face, said he wants back in the league, but also to change the storyline of his career.

I’m not afraid to say right now I’m a rehabilitated man,” Rice said on ESPN’s SportsCenter, via USA Today. “Some people will probably never forgive my actions but I think, . . . over time I want to be able to rewrite the script.”

Of course, it’s not the script so much as the video, as the images of him punching Janay Rice in a casino elevator created a visceral reaction, forcing the Ravens and the NFL to wake up and realize a two-game suspension wasn’t going to be enough (and that triggered a whole other set of issues for the league).

Rice said he was taking accountability for his actions, and is worried about how his daughter will view him as she gets older. He also hopes she’ll get to see him play again.

“I have a lot of hope and faith that I’ll be able to hang ‘em up the right way. That’s what’s keeping me going, keeping me working,” he said. “I always preach, one or two bad decisions, your dream can become a nightmare. Well, I had to eat my own words. I truly lived a nightmare. I’m just really hopeful for a second chance.”

This isn’t the first time he’s made such statements, and the league has continued to collectively shrug. While players such as Greg Hardy can find work easily because they offer something other than bad P.R., Rice’s 3.1 yards per carry average remains a convenient reason for most to hope his second chance comes with another team.

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San Antonio officials says they’re still talking to Raiders

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With the NFL continuing to flirt with Los Angeles, San Antonio is over the in the corner waving their arms, trying to make sure the NFL doesn’t forget about them.

And they think it’s working.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley told Scott Bailey of the San Antonio Business Journal that they’ve continued discussions with the Raiders and remain a possibility.

We have certainly raised the attention of the NFL,” Sculley said.

Of course, the focus of next week’s league meeting in Chicago will remain on the possibility of the Chargers, Raiders and Rams possibly heading to California, since the league is so clearly desperate to get a team or teams in the nation’s second-largest market.

“We are following closely what is going on in California,” Sculley said. “We expect to hear what [the Raiders’] plans are for the 2016 season after that meeting.”

The current discussions include the Raiders and Chargers working together on a shared stadium on Carson, but if that doesn’t come together, San Antonio will remain a fallback position.

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Texans bringing in Pierre Thomas for a workout today

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The Texans aren’t going to be able to replace the hole in their offense left by the news Arian Foster needs surgery and will miss part of the season.

But they can at least fill a spot on the depth chart, and are working on that as we speak.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are bringing in former Saints running back Pierre Thomas for a visit today, along with Joe McKnight and Ben Malena.

Thomas was cut by the Saints this offseason, after eight years there. He filled a number of roles for them, showing he could run and be an effective receiver out of the backfield. And while his 4.6 yards per carry average is strong, he’s never been asked to be the kind of bell cow back the Texans are going to need.

Foster injured his groin Monday, and is going to need surgery which will likely require him to go on injured reserve/designated for return. That’s a huge blow to an offense which was built around him, and lacks other skill players to make up for it as they continue to look for a starting quarterback.

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Cardinals first-round pick D.J. Humphries OK after minor knee scare

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The Arizona Cardinals have suffered many injuries to offensive linemen in recent years. So when first-round pick D.J. Humphries left the practice field while having his right knee looked at, it would be no surprise if the Cardinals were holding their collective breath.

Apparently then can now all exhale.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Humphries knee injury isn’t serious and should only limit him for about a week.

Humphries is competing with 2014 starter Bobby Massie at right tackle. Massie was the Cardinals starter in 2012 and 2014 at the position, but Humphries will push for the right to start opposite left tackle Jared Veldheer.

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Brian Westbrook named to Eagles Hall of Fame

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Brian Westbrook’s versatility made him a nightmare for opposing defenses to handle during his nine-year career spent predominantly with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now the Eagles are honoring him with a spot in their Hall of Fame.

Westbrook, an analyst for ProFootballTalk on NBCSN, will join linebacker Maxie Baughn as new members of the Eagles Hall of Fame. They will bring the number of members to a total of 40.

It means a lot to me. I mean it means a lot to my family as well,” Westbrook said, per the team’s website. “I worked hard to be honored like this, and I played with a lot of guys that got me to this place. I just mentioned out there that they say how did you get here? Well I played with an awful lot of good players, and they made my job a lot easier.

“For me to just go out there and make people miss and gain yards is the easy work, but those guys in front on the offensive line and those guys outside blocking helped me a lot. But, this is a great honor. I never really thought about it. I’ve seen guys like Dawk (Brian Dawkins) and Donovan (McNabb), those guys that carried this team for so long get inducted to the Hall of Fame, and I believe they got their numbers retired. Of course I congratulated, I celebrate those guys because I know that they were great players. I never really knew I was going to get the opportunity. But, my day came and it’s a blessing.”

Westbrook was a jack-of-all-trades for Philadelphia. He was an avid runner, skilled receiver and occasional kick returner for the Eagles. Westbrook rushed for 6,335 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career and posted a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. He also caught 442 passes for 3,940 yards and 30 touchdowns.

In 2007, he led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage, an Eagles all-time season-single record. Westbrook made the Pro Bowl twice and was twice named a first-team All-Pro.

Westbrook players eight seasons for the Eagles before ending his career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010.

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Vincent admits Brady was disciplined under policy not given to players

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While basic P.R. concerns prevent the NFLPA from putting it this way, the primary argument against the suspension of Tom Brady is that, even if he did what he’s accused of doing, he can’t be suspended for it.

As to Brady’s alleged “general awareness” that one or more Patriots employees were deflating footballs, the NFLPA argues that the discipline was imposed under a policy that is not distributed to players. Which, as a matter of basic labor law, prevents the NFL from disciplining Brady for any violations of the policy.

The transcript of Brady’s appeal hearing includes admissions from executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent that prove these two key points.

“Where do you find the policy that says footballs can’t be altered with respect to pressure? Is that going to be in the competitive integrity policy that Mr. Wells cited in his report?” attorney Jeffrey Kessler asked Vincent.

“Game-Day Operations Manual,” Vincent said.

“Is it correct, to your knowledge, that the manual is given to clubs and GMs and owners, et cetera, but the manual is not given out to players; is that correct, to your knowledge?” Kessler said.

“That’s correct, to my knowledge,” Vincent said.

“In fact, when you were a player, you were never given that manual, right?”

“No,” Vincent said.

Earlier in the hearing, Brady testified he never received a copy of the Competitive Integrity Policy.

While the NFL will argue that Brady was disciplined generally for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game (indeed, that was the specific conclusion reached in the appeal ruling), the NFLPA will argue that labor law requires much more specificity and, fundamentally, notice as to what is prohibited.

By way of comparison, if a player were deliberately and intentionally using stickum, he arguably would be engaging in conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game, he’d be subject to only a fine, because the negotiated fine schedule allows a fine of $8,681 for having a foreign substance on the body or uniform. And other equipment or uniform violations result in a fine of only $5,787 for a first offense.

The NFL hasn’t secured via collective bargaining the ability to impose a suspension for these types of “cheating” violations, even when the player is personally committing the offense. More importantly, the NFL hasn’t informed players that they can be suspended for such behavior.

That alone, in the opinion of the NFLPA, will keep Brady from being suspended. The real question is whether Judge Richard M. Berman disagrees.

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Ruling mischaracterizes Brady’s testimony about communications with Jastremski

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When the NFL released the 20-page, single-space ruling upholding the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady without also releasing the transcript, it was impossible to verify the accuracy of any conclusions reached in the ruling. The transcript has now been released, and plenty of comparing-and-contrasting is going on.

The idea for this one comes from Doug Kyed of NESN.com, who compared a key conclusion drawn by Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding Brady’s credibility to the raw testimony generated in Goodell’s presence. And it’s clear that Goodell’s characterization reflects an incomplete (at best) review of the overall testimony.

At page 8 of the ruling, Goodell writes: “Mr. Brady testified that he was unable to recall any specifics of [his] discussions [with John Jastremski] and he suggested that their principle subject was the preparation of game balls for the Super Bowl. But the need for such frequent communication beginning on January 19 is difficult to square with the fact that there apparently was no need to communicate by cellphone with Mr. Jastremski or to meet personally with him in the ‘QB room’ during the preceding twenty weeks of the regular season and post-season prior to the AFC Championship Game. . . . The sharper contrast between the almost complete absence of communications through the AFC Championship Game and the extraordinary volume of communications during the three days following the AFC Championship Game undermines any suggestion that the communications addressed only preparation of footballs for the Super Bowl rather than the tampering allegations and their anticipated responses to inquiries about the tampering.”

Within that quote, the ruling drops the following footnote: “In response to the question, ‘Why were you talking to Mr. Jastremski in those two weeks?,’ Mr. Brady responded, in sum: ‘I think most of the conversations centered around breaking in the balls.’ For reasons noted, I do not fully credit that testimony.”

(Before going any farther, there’s a subtle blurring of the lines between the text of the ruling and the footnote. The text suggests Brady said he and Jastremski “only” discussed football preparation; the footnote quotes Brady as saying “most” of the conversations focused on breaking in the balls.)

Basically, Goodell thinks Brady was trying to conceal or downplay that fact that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations. If, under that theory, Brady was trying to hide that fact that he and Jastremski talked about the allegations, Brady would ultimately be trying to hide the fact that were hoping to get their ducks in a row, for illegitimate purposes.

If Brady had testified consistently throughout the hearing that they only discussed getting footballs ready for the Super Bowl, that would indeed be a little curious — even though Brady testified that he wanted to be sure that the 100 balls (not 12) used for the Super Bowl would be properly broken in, without the use of Lexol, which would have made the balls slick if it would have unexpectedly rained while the retractable roof at the University of Phoenix Stadium was opened. (Brady said it had rained after New England’s last game in Phoenix; it also rained there on several days during the week preceding the game.)

But here’s the thing. Brady ADMITTED on multiple occasions that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations.

At page 79, Brady testified that he texted Jastremski “You good, Johnny boy?” because Jastremski was “obviously nervous [about] the fact that these allegations were coming out that they would fall back on him.”

Later, at page 130, Brady testified while explaining an 11-minute call with Jastresmki on January 19, the day after the AFC title game: “I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. But like I said, there was two things that were happening. One was the allegations which we were facing and the second was getting ready for the Super Bowl, which both of those things have never happened before. [Editor’s note: It wasn’t the first time Brady went to a Super Bowl, but it was the first Super Bowl for the Patriots with Jastremski in that specific job.] So me talking to him about those things were unprecedented, you know, he was the person that I would be communicating with.” (Emphasis added.)

At page 144, Brady further elaborates on the reasons for phone calls with Jastresmki on January 19, 20, and 21: “[T]he initial report was that none of the Colts’ balls were deflated, but the Patriots, all the Patriots’ balls were. So I think trying to figure out what happened was certainly my concern and trying to figure out, you know, what could be — possibly could have happened to those balls.” (Emphasis added.)

To summarize, the ruling concluded that Brady testified that he didn’t speak to Jastresmki about the tampering allegations, which caused Goodell to disregard Brady’s denial of “awareness and consent” to the deflation scheme: “[T]he unusual pattern of communication between Mr. Brady and Mr. Jastremski in the days following the AFC Championship Game cannot readily be explained as unrelated to conversations about the alleged tampering of the game balls,” Goodell wrote at page 8 of the ruling.

But Brady testified — on multiple occasions — that he and Jastremski talked about the situation. And why wouldn’t they have talked? At that time, the NFL had told the Patriots that one of their footballs was measured at 10.1 PSI, ESPN had reported that 11 of 12 footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum, and the NFL had informed the Patriots that none of the Colts footballs measured below the 12.5 PSI minimum. Apart from the fact that each of these three contentions weren’t factual, they gave Brady plenty of reason to be talking to Jastremski, not to line up a lie but to try to figure out how someone could have taken so much air out of the footballs.

We now know that no one took that much air out of the footballs. For now, the new wrinkle is that the NFL forgot, conveniently or otherwise, that Brady had admitted talking to Jastremski about the tampering allegation when concluding that Brady had failed to admit to such communications, and in turn concluding that his denial of awareness and consent to a deflation scheme wasn’t believable.

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Why didn’t Goodell call Jastremski and McNally?

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Not long after PFT obtained a copy of the Tom Brady appeal hearing transcript, which was filed in federal court Tuesday by the NFLPA, I scrolled through the document to see how many pages I’d have to read.

When I got to the last page — 456 — I noticed a comment from NFL outside counsel Gregg Levy, who served as the legal advisor to non-lawyer arbitrator/Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“In your briefs, the Commissioner would like you to address the question of whether he should hear from Mr. McNally and/or Mr. Jastremski before resolving the issue, before deciding the matter,” Levy said.

At footnote 7 (where the good stuff always is hiding) of the 20-page ruling on the Brady appeal, the Commissioner explains that the NFLPA took the position that, because the two Patriots employees who exchanged the troubling Beavis-and-Butthead text messages denied a scheme to deflate footballs, there was “no need to call them as witnesses.” The NFL took the position that, since the NFLPA was questioning the findings of the Ted Wells report based on the interviews of McNally and Jastremski, “it was incumbent on them to call both witnesses.” The NFL also argued that the failure of the NFLPA to call McNally and Jastremski as witnesses requires an “adverse inference” that “their testimony would have confirmed Brady’s involvement.”

But that’s not what Levy requested. Levy wanted to know whether Goodell “should hear from” the witnesses before deciding the case. The NFLPA believed there was no need for it. The NFL essentially said that, because the NFLPA didn’t call them in the first place, the Commissioner should assume that whatever they said would prove Brady’s guilt.

So why didn’t Goodell simply insist on their testimony on his own? While it likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome, since Goodell would have needed a very good reason to scrap the decision he’d already approved based on the multi-million-dollar investigation he’d already authorized, it would have been far more prudent — and the record would have been far more clear — if the Commissioner had heard directly from them.

Making that testimony before Goodell even more important is the fact that Ted Wells wanted to re-question McNally because Wells and company inexplicably had failed to notice the controversial “deflator” text message before interviewing McNally the first time.

The fact that the NFLPA didn’t want them to testify suggests that the NFLPA was concerned about what they would say. But why didn’t the Commissioner — who wasn’t bashful about asking his own questions of Tom Brady — decide to pose his own questions to McNally and Jastremski?

If the Commissioner was intent on getting to the truth, he should have at least been curious to hear what they had to say, and to observe their demeanor while they said it.

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Ravens assistant alerted Colts to issue with footballs

bradycolts AP

In the days before they played the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, the Colts were alerted by the Ravens to pay special attention to potential problems with the game balls.

Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan sent an email to G.M. Ryan Grigson before the AFC Championship saying that the Ravens’ special teams coach, Jerry Rosburg, had called Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to warn him of potential problems with game balls. According to the email, the Ravens had problems in their own playoff loss to the Patriots the week before, and urged the Colts to be careful.

“Two concerns came up as of yesterday on footballs at New England,” Sullivan wrote, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “First off the special teams coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens called Coach Pagano and said that they had issues last week at the game that when they were kicking (Baltimore that is) they were given new footballs instead of the ones that were prepared correctly.”

Sullivan then added that the Patriots are known to play fast and loose with the rules regarding the game balls.

“As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage,” Sullivan wrote.

If it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots were breaking the rules about game balls, at Tom Brady’s request, it’s baffling that it never became public until Deflategate broke out after the AFC Championship Game. But Sullivan’s email makes clear that this was an issue the Colts were bracing for heading into the game.

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John Mara sees two teams sharing a stadium in L.A. in 2016

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Giants owner John Mara, a member of the NFL’s Los Angeles committee, thinks the league will have two L.A. teams next season.

Mara said on WFAN 660 that the short-term answer for the league will be to have teams playing in a temporary home, and the long-term answer will be building a new stadium.

“I think LA will certainly happen and I think there’s a good chance there will be two teams playing there next year in a temporary facility,” he said.

Mara said he thinks it’s more viable to have two teams sharing one stadium, as his team and the Jets do in New York, than to move only one team to Los Angeles or to have two teams in separate Southern California stadiums. Mara said stadiums are simply too expensive to justify building one in Los Angeles for only one team.

So of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders, it appears likely that only one will be staying put next year, and two will be pulling up and moving to Los Angeles.

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At hearing, Brady tiptoed around preference for 12.5 PSI

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The NFLPA has made its initial filing in a New York federal court in the case involving Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. Filed with the main document was the lengthy transcript of the 10-hour appeal hearing.

PFT has obtained a copy of the transcript, and the resident lawyer has been assigned the responsibility of reading and digesting it. (Hooray?)

The process began with the testimony from the first witness called by NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler: Tom Brady.

In response to questions from Kessler, Brady said all the things that would be expected. He didn’t know about any effort to deflate footballs, he didn’t direct anyone to do it, and he wasn’t even aware of the limits for air pressure inside footballs until after the 2014 game against the Jets, when Brady became “very pissed off” because the balls used in that game were “very hard.”

It turned out that the balls somehow had been inflated to 16 PSI. This prompted Brady to look up the relevant rule. He said that he then learned for the first time about the 12.5 to 13.5 PSI range, and he told Patriots equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld to “make sure when the referees get the balls, give them this sheet of paper that highlighted” the minimum and the maximum. Brady specifically said at that time that the balls should be inflated to 12.5 PSI.

On cross-examination, Lorin Reisner asked Brady how he arrived at 12.5 PSI as his preferred inflation.

“We basically just picked a number at that point, I guess, historically, we had always set the pressure at — before John Jastremski took over, it had been historically set at, like, 12.7 or 12.8,” Brady said. “That’s what I learned after the fact. And I think based on the Jets game, I said why don’t we just set them at 12.5, bring this [copy of the rule] to the ref and I didn’t think about it after that.”

Then Reisner asked again why Brady would pick 12.5 PSI.

“Ball pressure has been so inconsequential, I hadn’t even thought about that,” Brady said. “I think at the end of the day, the only time I thought about it was after the Jet game and then after this was brought up, after the [AFC] championship game. It’s never something that has been on my radar, registered. I never said ‘psi.’ I don’t think I even know what that meant until after the [AFC] championship game. It was something that never crossed my mind.”

And then Reisner asked again why Brady picked 12.5 PSI.

“We looked in the rule book,” Brady said.

And then, one more time, Reisner asked Brady why he picked 12.5 PSI.

“I don’t know exactly how we did it,” Brady said. “I don’t remember how we came to that other than the experience I had in the Jet game when they were grossly overinflated and then they showed me the rule book or the copy of the page in the rule book. And I said, why don’t we just set them here, 12.5, and not think about it ever again.”

Reisner then posed the obvious question that Brady apparently didn’t want to directly answer: “Did you pick 12.5 because it was toward the lower end or the lower end of the permissible range?

“I’m not sure why I picked it in particular,” Brady said, “other than having to put some — I think John [Jastremski] said he did either 12.5 or 12.6. You know, we had to pick some number that we were ultimately going to set them to, so I said why don’t we just set them all to 12.5 and that was it.”

Then came the direct point that Brady’s prior answers were trying to avoid: “Is it fair to say that you prefer the footballs inflated to a pressure level at the low end of the range?”

“Like I said, I never have thought about the ball, the air pressure in a football,” Brady said. “The only time I have ever thought about the air pressure in a football was after the Jets game when they were at the level of 16.

“So whenever I went to pick the game balls, I never once in 15 years ever asked what the ball pressure was set at until after the Jet game. So whether it’s 12.5 or 12.6 or 12.7 or 12.8 or 12.9 or 13, all the way up to the Colts game, I still think it’s inconsequential to what the actual feel of a grip of a football would be.

“So the fact that there could be a ball that’s set at 12.5 that I would disapprove of, there could be a ball at 13 that I could approve of. It all is depending on how the ball feels in my hand on that particular day.”

Reisner kept at it, trying to get Brady to admit he wanted as little air as possible in the balls, with the implication being that he’d take even less than the minimum, if he could get it.

“And the request that 12.5 was your preferred pressure level was because you like the balls inflated at the low end of the permissible range; is that fair?” Lorin Reisner asked.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Brady said.

“You didn’t just pick 12.5 randomly, correct?”

“No, we picked 12.5 because that was — I don’t know why we picked 12.5. We could have picked 12.6. I don’t even remember it being part of the conversation; I really don’t. I don’t remember exactly how we set it other than I had this experience at the Jet game where the balls were at 16.

“I didn’t like that. That’s the first time I ever complained. So when I say 12 and a half and 13 and a half, I made the determination let’s just set them at 12 and a half.”

“And that wasn’t chosen randomly,” Reisner later asked, “but it was chosen because you preferred that inflation level, fair?”

“I never thought about the inflation level, Lorin” Brady said. “I never in the history of my career, I never thought about the inflation level of a ball.”

Brady later explained that none of it matters; “I think the irony of everything is I don’t even squeeze a football,” he said.

“I think that’s something that’s really important to know is I grip the ball as loosely as possible. I don’t even squeeze the ball and I think that’s why it’s impossible for me to probably tell the difference between what 12.5 and 12.7 and 12.9 and 13 because I’m just gripping it like a golf club. I’ve tried to explain it. It’s like a golf club. You don’t squeeze the golf club. You handle it very gently. And that’s the same way I handle a football.”

Brady never directly admitted what his decision to go with 12.5 PSI necessarily conveys — that he preferred the footballs to be inflated at 12.5 PSI because that was the lowest permissible amount. That kind of evasiveness can make people think he’s wary of that next logical step is, if he likes 12.5 PSI, he possibly loves 12.3 or 12.0 or 11.5.

The truth could be that Brady simply allowed him competitive nature take over during the questioning, which caused him to fight as hard as he could to avoid conceding a point that could be used against him. What Brady didn’t realize is that the effort to fight the point he should have just conceded does even more potential damage.

When I practiced law (and while reading through the 456-page transcript I’m more and more grateful I no longer do), I always told my witnesses to concede whatever they had to concede, without resistance. Resistance always comes off worse than just agreeing with the undeniable point the lawyer is trying to make, and moving on.

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Lions talking about extensions for DeAndre Levy and Haloti Ngata

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The Lions want to lock up a pair of key defensive parts, including one which hasn’t taken a snap for them.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew said he was working on new deals for both linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who are entering the finals years of their respective contracts.

The last time Mayhew talked much about negotiations, they centered on now-Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, so the G.M. is probably a little gun-shy about talking about such things.

We’re in discussions with DeAndre at this time,” Mayhew said. “That’s about all I’ll say about it.”

Levy is one of the most productive 4-3 outside linebackers in the league, though he hasn’t drawn Pro Bowl recognition because of the all-star game’s almost exclusive choices of 3-4 pass-rushers at that position. But he’s had 270 tackles the last two years, and the Lions recognize his value.

“He’s a heck of a football player, just a playmaker on our defense versus the run and the pass,” Mayhew said. “The guy’s an impact player, so we definitely want to keep him on our defense. It’s very important to our football team. His leadership is also excellent and professional in every sense of the word, so he has a lot of value to us and he’s one of our own guys so we want to definitely keep him around.”

Ngata hasn’t practiced yet because of a hamstring strain, but he’s fills a big need for them after both Suh and Nick Fairley were allowed to leave in free agency.

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Lions add Jerel Worthy off waivers

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Defensive lineman Jerel Worthy has bounced from the Packers to the Patriots and Chiefs over the last two years as he’s tried to find a home in the NFL and now he’ll look for an extended stay in the same state where he played his college ball.

Worthy has been claimed off of waivers by the Lions a day after the Chiefs parted ways with him. Worthy played at Michigan State in college and became a second-round pick of the Packers in 2012 after making the All-America team in his final year in Lansing.

Worthy saw action with Green Bay as a rookie, but tore his ACL at the end of the year and played in only two games during his second NFL season. The Packers traded him to the Patriots and he wound up on the Chiefs practice squad last year after failing to make the Pats out of camp.

According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions website, Worthy will compete for snaps at tackle, where Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, Caraun Reid and 2015 fourth-round pick Gabe Wright are already in the mix for playing time.

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Chris Houston retiring after short stay with Panthers

Marvin Jones, Chris Houston AP

The Panthers signed cornerback Chris Houston in June in hopes that he was recovered from the toe injury that kept him out of the league last season and could help their secondary, but that hope will go unfulfilled.

Houston has been able to practice with the team, but sat out Sunday after hurting his toe on Saturday. Houston returned to the field Monday, but it appears he’s lost the desire to continue pursuing professional football as a career. Houston announced that he’s retiring from the NFL on Tuesday.

Houston spent seven years with the Falcons and Lions and was a starter for most of his time with both teams. He ends his career with 376 tackles, 13 interceptions, three touchdowns and four forced fumbles.

His departure leaves the Panthers with the same collection of cornerbacks they had before taking a flier on Houston — Charles Tillman, Josh Norman, Bene’ Benwikere and Melvin White are the experienced names — and makes two retirements from the Panthers roster in as many weeks. Tackle Jonathan Martin also walked away from the game rather than try to resume his career after recovering from a back injury.

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Judge Berman orders NFL-NFLPA to not file documents under seal

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Full transparency is coming to the Tom Brady appeal process.

Judge Richard M. Berman, who strongly hinted on Friday that he won’t be inclined to allow the NFL and NFLPA to keep the transcript of the 10-hour Tom Brady appeal hearing secret, has ordered the parties to not submit materials under seal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

It means that the transcript of the Brady appeal hearing will soon be made public.

The NFLPA previously attached the transcript as an exhibit to the filing made under seal in federal court in Minnesota. With that case transferred back to New York, the union soon will be re-filing its initial submission, with the transcript as an exhibit.

And the transcript at that point will be a matter of public record. Which means that it’ll be time to brew some coffee and put on the cheaters, because anyone paid to comment on this case will be compelled to read every word of every page of the transcript.

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