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Panthers come back to take halftime lead

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Panthers have remembered they’re a running team, and have taken a 14-10 halftime lead over the Buccaneers.

The Bucs jumped out to a 10-0 lead, scoring after a fumbled punt return by Panthers returner Captain Munnerlyn. But the Panthers cornerback atoned by returning an interception for a touchdown, and Jonathan Stewart scored his first rushing touchdown of the year (believe it or not).

The Panthers have 85 rushing yards at halftime, after managing just 10 yards against the Bucs in a Week One loss.

The game’s more competitive than an artistic success, with some good defense being played by both sides. Cam Newton looks off after taking a low hit, and trainers have been busy on both sides.

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Jahri Evans refused pay cut, plans to play this year

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Before they cut him last week, the Saints offered to let veteran guard Jahri Evans hang around, as long as he took less money.

Agent Jerrold Colton told WIP Radio that the Saints offered Evans a reduced salary, after doing the same thing a year ago.

“The Saints came to us for the second year in a row about doing a little contract adjustment and pay cut this year,” Colton said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We weren’t going to do it again.

“He’s healthy and hungry and looking forward to the next chapter of his career.”

The Saints saved $3.1 million by cutting the 10-year veteran, and had to do it when they did because $2 million of his salary would have become guaranteed this week.

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Bob McNair: No reason Texans wouldn’t be able to draft a quarterback

MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 17:  Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers throws a pass during a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.  The Tigers defeated the Rebels 37-24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last month, Texans owner Bob McNair said that the team was working on ways to improve at quarterback this offseason and the topic was on his mind again on Thursday.

McNair was at an event for the Houston Super Bowl committee to discuss the road to Super Bowl LI next year and the discussion turned at one point to what the Texans would have to do to play the game in their home stadium. McNair pointed out that the Broncos “did it with defense” and said that he thought his team needed a reliable quarterback who “won’t take anything away from us” in order to have a shot at following in Denver’s footsteps.

That quarterback could come to town via the draft. McNair sounded like he expects to see the team use a draft pick on a signal caller later this year.

“There are a number of quarterbacks out there, college quarterbacks coming out and I think we have a good chance at getting one of them,” McNair said, via the Houston Chronicle. “There are four or five of them who look like they have enough talent and size and athletic ability. I don’t know any reason why we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

While drafting a quarterback won’t guarantee the Texans reliable play or the improvement they’d need to make it to the Super Bowl, it’s hard to argue with Houston going that route if there’s a player they think can be a starter in Bill O’Brien’s offense. Brian Hoyer isn’t going to be a long-term answer at the position and Tom Savage, a fourth-round pick in 2014, hasn’t played enough for the Texans to know what they have with him.

That leaves them without the solution they need at quarterback and, as McNair mentioned, no reason not to extend their search into this year’s draft class.

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Archie Manning: “I’m not going to blast” Cam Newton for walk-off

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts after a play against the New Orleans Saints during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) Getty Images

Archie Manning knows something about Super Bowl-losing quarterbacks bailing early.

So maybe that’s why he’s not joining the chorus criticizing Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for leaving his press conference abruptly Sunday night.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, the elder Manning compared it to when his son left the field after Super Bowl XLIV without shaking hands.

It’s really hard, really, really hard,” Manning said. “I like Cam. I’m not going to blast Cam. As a parent you say, ‘I wish he’d have handled it a little different.’ But it hurts.”

When Peyton lost to the Saints in 2010, he left the field without congratulating anyone else. But Archie said Peyton texted Sean Payton and Drew Brees from the locker room that night.

But nothing matched the furor Newton triggered by huffing off the podium after losing to the Broncos.

“He did catch flak about it,” Archie said of his son. “I don’t think until that game I ever had enough sympathy for the losing team in a Super Bowl. You’re really probably the second-best team out of 32 that year, but you come away from that game and feel like you’re 32nd instead of second. I can remember that. I remember how hurt [Peyton] was. . . .

“It’s a hard time, winning the Super Bowl or losing the Super Bowl. Cam, he’ll learn from it.”

Peyton did, and has handled losses gracefully since then. And while Newton said in the aftermath he wouldn’t necessarily change things, it’s hard to imagine the natural process of time won’t lead him a different way.

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Keenan Reynolds, Jake Coker don’t get combine invites

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 28:  Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen rushes the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the third quarter of their 44-28 win during the Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 28, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL will hold its annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later this month and the league released the list of 332 players that have been invited.

Ohio State leads the way with 14 invites and Notre Dame was second with 10 players asked to go through drills for NFL scouts. Alabama had nine players invited from their national championship squad, although quarterback Jake Coker was not one of them.

Coker has good size at 6’6″ and 236 pounds, but evaluators would seem to feel that his limited experience as a starter and reliance on a talented supporting cast didn’t make him a candidate for a longer look in Indy. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds didn’t have the same kind of talent on hand on his way to scoring an NCAA-record 88 rushing touchdowns, but he also didn’t get an invite to show whether his skills might translate to another position at the professional level.

Missing the combine doesn’t close the door on an NFL career. Doug Baldwin, Julian Edelman, Sam Shields and James Harrison are a few players who have gone on to success in the pros without running drills in Indianapolis.

Click here for the full list of players invited to take part from February 23-29.

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Burfict’s three-game suspension upheld

Burfict AP

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s appeal of a three-game suspension to start the 2016 season has been denied, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported Thursday.

Graziano reported that Burfict, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent and Goodell met, and the appeal was denied after that meeting. The NFL considers Burfict a repeat violator of the league’s safety rules.

Burfict and Lewis had worked to secure the meeting. Burfict had filed the appeal last month after being notified of the suspension.

The appeal was heard by Derrick Brooks, who’s appointed and compensated by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Burfict was fined four times during the 2015 regular season, and his hit on Antonio Brown which ended up costing the Bengals their playoff game to the Steeelers brought on the suspension.

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Rick Spielman “very excited” about Teddy Bridgewater heading into third year

during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at TCFBank Stadium on January 10, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Getty Images

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was a guest on PFT Live Thursday morning and one of the main topics of conversation was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Spielman said he’s “very excited” about what the team will see from Bridgewater in 2016. That will be his third year with the Vikings and Spielman said that he’s seen “significant jumps” from other quarterbacks when they reach that point in their careers. Spielman pointed to additions to the offensive coaching staff and the way the offense played in the final weeks of the regular season as reasons for the optimism. 

He also touched on the move indoors as the Vikings take possession of their new stadium for 2016. During an appearance on Pro Football Talk on NBCSN from the Super Bowl last week, Bridgewater said he was looking forward to the move and Spielman feels the same although he adds the caveat that the quarterback will still need to be successful when playing in the elements.

“If you look at Teddy’s stats and how he performed when we were indoors –when we were in Detroit, even out at Arizona, some of those ideal conditions — we feel he’s going to even take another step forward,” Spielman said. “He still has to be able play outdoors. We still have to go to Chicago, we have to go to Green Bay every year.”

To find out everything Spielman said during his visit to the show, check out the video below.

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C.J. Anderson knows he can be a bell cow back

Zz01NzEzODg4ZjliY2ViM2M0YzM4ZmQ2ZTgxZmVjZTFjYg== AP

At no point during the 2015 regular season did Broncos running back C.J. Anderson carry the ball more than 15 times. In the Super Bowl, he had 23 carries and four receptions for a total of 100 yards from scrimmage.

Did that make him think he can do that job more frequently?

“Oh, I know that’s something I can do,” Anderson said during a visit to Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “You know, we chose to go the two-back route and we chose to split time with me and Ronnie [Hillman] and just try to get a change of pace. You know, keep defenses off balance. But I mean if they want me to touch the ball 25 times, 27 times, 28 times, either way whether it’s all carries or carries and catches I believe I can handle it always, whether it’s being a third-down back catching the ball out of the backfield or picking up the blitz and also being first- and second-down just every-down back.”

Anderson, the unsung hero of Super Bowl 50, had 90 yards rushing, including a 34-yard burst punctuated by his ability to shake off Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Anderson also scored Denver’s only offensive touchdown. Unlike defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who scored the other touchdown for the Broncos, Anderson didn’t through the ball into the stands.

He could have more footballs to add to the collection, if Sunday’s performance is a sign of things to come.

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Who’s to blame for Michael Oher on ice?


As we continue to be amazed by the Madden-glitch Vine that has Panthers tackle Michael Oher skating backward in Super Bowl 50, it’s still not clear who bears the blame for the failure of Oher’s shoes to grab the grass.

The potential universe of culprits is small. Either the NFL, which is responsible for the field at all Super Bowls, did a poor job preparing the turf or the Panthers equipment staff did a poor job outfitting Oher with cleats.

Oher isn’t the only guy who had issues with the field. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib called the footing on the field “terrible.”

Predictably, NFL field guru George Toma has defended the field, even though players from both teams had problems with it. Panthers coach Ron Rivera has called the field “outstanding,” but we’ll assume that this is likely an extension of Rivera’s decision to take the high road and to make no excuses for the fact that his team lost the game.

And so for now it’s unclear whether the blame falls to the NFL or to the equipment managers of both teams, given that players from both teams had problems with the turf. Regardless, it’s hard to remember an offensive lineman sliding 10 feet backward in any prior Super Bowl. Or in any game at any time.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict to meet with Goodell in next week

during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Getty Images

At his press conference in San Francisco last Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that he would like to see the NFL adopt a rule that would see players flagged for two personal fouls in the same game ejected.

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict would not have been ejected from the team’s playoff loss to the Steelers if such a rule was already in place because the only personal foul he received was for the shot to the head he delivered to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown late in the fourth quarter. Burfict was suspended for the first three games of next season in the days following the game, however.

Burfict’s suspension came because of repeated violations of player safety rules — he’s been flagged for 16 personal fouls in the regular season and playoffs since 2012 — and he’s reportedly going to talk to Goodell about a possible reduction to that ban. Coley Harvey and James Walker of report that Burfict is expected to meet with the commissioner in the next week.

Given the proposal for stiffer penalties for players crossing the line during games, it would be a surprise to see the league pull back on the punishment handed out to a habitual offender like Burfict.

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Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham is now officially an American citizen

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 09: Kicker Shaun Suisham #6 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the New York Jets during a game at MetLife Stadium on November 9, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Shaun Suisham has another title today, beyond “injured Steelers kicker.”

Now, he can call himself “American.”

The 34-year-old Suisham was sworn in as an American citizen yesterday as part of a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in Wilkins, Pa.

I have grown to love the United States of America; specifically, Pittsburgh,” Suisham said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And it has become our home.

“I have been here for my entire adult life, and the United States has provided me and my family with wonderful opportunity. And I’m extremely grateful for that.”

Suisham was born and raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada, but came to the U.S. in 2000 on scholarship to kick at Bowling Green. He then met his wife, and they have two daughters.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of ever being separated for any reason from my girls,” Suisham said, “and that was the catalyst for going through this.”

And because he’s a bit of a local celebrity, he gave a brief speech at the ceremony where 31 others became citizens.

“[The speech] was really a cool moment of reflection of the past 15 years and what it has meant to me,” Suisham said. “It is pretty cool to see it on paper, and it’s been an awesome journey. I’m looking forward to continuing it.”

He joked that he’s lost his Canadian accent, meaning he now merely sounds like a Pittsburgher.

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Duane Brown off crutches in recovery from torn quad

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 03: An injured Duane Brown #76 of the Houston Texans is carted off the field while playing agains the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter on January 3, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans played without left tackle Duane Brown in their playoff loss to the Chiefs last month after Brown tore his quadriceps in the regular season finale.

While his presence probably would not have been enough to overcome the team’s poor play at quarterback, Brown’s absence was a blow to the Houston offense in a game they needed just about everything to go right to win. It doesn’t look like the injury will leave them to play without him once they get to next season, though.

“Coming along great, man,” Brown said, via the team’s website. “Tomorrow will be five weeks out of surgery. Off of crutches, which is a big step for me. It’s healing pretty well. I’m pretty amazed at the recovery I’ve had so far. Long road ahead of me, but just taking it one day at a time and looking forward to getting back.”

Brown is now working on regaining the full range of motion in his leg and increasing the strength in his quad. He’s set to make $7 million in 2016, which will be his ninth year as a starter in Houston.

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Giants add Martin Mayhew to front office

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 15:  Head coach Jim Caldwell of the Detroit Lions is flanked by General Manager Martin Mayhew, left, and President Tom Lewand, right, after being introduced during a news conference at Ford Field on January 15, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) Getty Images

After hiring Bob Quinn as their new General Manager last month, the Lions hired Matt Harriss away from the Giants to be their vice president of football administration.

That left the Giants with an opening in their front office in Harriss’ former role as their director of football operations. They filled it on Thursday by hiring Quinn’s predecessor in Detroit.

The Giants announced that Martin Mayhew will be their director of football operations/special projects. Mayhew was dismissed by the Lions last November after 15 years with the club and spoke with other teams about positions since the end of the regular season without landing a role.

According to the team, Mayhew will work with assistant G.M. Kevin Abrams on issues dealing with “the salary cap, CBA compliance and player contract negotiations.” He will also work on special projects as determined by General Manager Jerry Reese.

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Hall of Fame voters definitely blocked T.O. for being “so disruptive”

Terrell Owens AP

It was widely believed that the Hall of Fame voters passed over receiver Terrell Owens ostensibly because of his reputation for divisiveness, even if the truth is that they were merely respecting a de facto waiting line that called for Marvin Harrison making it before Owens. On Thursday, one of the Hall of Fame voters admitted that the reason for T.O.’s omission was his inability to work and play well with others.

“I’ll take you inside the room on this, and it was the second longest discussion we had in the room other that Eddie DeBartolo,” Gary Myers of the New York Daily News told The Dan Patrick Show. “The bottom line on T.O. is he was so disruptive. Now with L.T., you don’t count the off-the-field stuff. That’s a mandate from the Hall of Fame. It’s only what you’ve done on the field. The argument that was made in the room, and I agree with this, is what T.O. did in the locker room is part of –”

“That counts?” asked guest host Ross Tucker. “Why don’t you just evaluate what’s inside the white lines?”

“Because I think that the locker room is an extension of that,” Myers said.

“But how do you really know what happened in the locker room?” Tucker said.

“But he tore teams apart.”

“But how do you really know that?”

“He’s a Hall of Fame player that five teams couldn’t wait to get rid of,” Myers said. “So what does that tell you about how disruptive he was?”

Myers then said he believes that Owens will make it in eventually, despite being viewed as a “cancer” by multiple teams.

The biggest problem with this logic is that, if it keeps Owens out once, it should keep him out forever. And Myers admits that it won’t. Instead, it provides the justification for ignoring the possibility that Owens objectively was a better player than Harrison and putting Harrison in before Owens.

The rhetoric used to defend the waiting-line approach separately becomes problematic because it’s overstated. The notion that “five teams couldn’t wait to get rid of” Owens simply isn’t true. In San Francisco, he became a free agent and elected to leave. In Philadelphia, the Eagles decided to cut him only after Owens decided he was going to force his way out because the Eagles wouldn’t renegotiate his contract following a stellar 2004 season.

Besides, not all voters agree with Myers. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s inaccurate to conclude that the entire room accepted the idea that Owens’ on-field achievements should be ignored because of the fact that Owens played for multiple teams and/or had a reputation for being a pain in the butt.

That’s not to say Owens wasn’t actually a pain in the butt. He may have been. But enough voters apparently felt strongly enough that Owens shouldn’t get in on his first try, and that Harrison (whose own candidacy possibly was delayed once or twice by troubling evidence regarding multiple Philadelphia shootings that never resulted in an arrest or prosecution) deserved to get in now.

And so a sense of order has been preserved, with Harrison getting a bronze bust and a gold jacket now and Owens getting one later. Even if the stated justification for not putting Owens in immediately creates the perception that he should never get in, and unnecessarily (and excessively) characterizes him as a habitually bad teammate.

Why not just say only five modern candidates can get in each year, and with two of the best receivers in NFL history up at the same time, we decided to give the spot to the guy who had been waiting the longest? It’s far closer to the truth, and it can be stated without requiring voters to take shots at a guy who, regardless of his real, embellished, and/or imagined behavior, merits at least some degree of respect for what he accomplished on the field.

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Arthur Blank: Matt Ryan can “absolutely” lead Falcons to Super Bowl

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons shakes hands with team owner Arthur Blank after beating the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons have a number of problems to address as they try to return to competitiveness in the NFC South.

But according to owner Arthur Blank, quarterback isn’t on the list of things to address, as he thinks Matt Ryan can lead them to the Super Bowl.

Absolutely,” Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of “No question about it. But it doesn’t take one player to get there. It takes a lot of players around him and having a lot of talent around him. It’s going to take a lot of players to do that; offensively, defensively, and special teams. And it’s going to take coaches and the coaching staff that will help support that.”

Ryan’s coming off a difficult season, which included 21 turnovers while he stood at the wheel of a team that started 5-0 but finished 8-8. But Blank remains confident that his $100 million quarterback is the right guy, so long as they put the right parts around him and Julio Jones.

“Obviously, we have a great faith in Matt Ryan,” Blank said. “He’s only 30 years old. He’ll be our quarterback for many years to come. As Rich Gannon said to me the other morning — and Gannon was a very competitive player in the league for many, many years and a high-level quarterback — he said, ‘You’ve got a quarterback that about 20 other teams would love to have.’ And I think I would agree with him on that.”

Twenty might be high, but it hasn’t been that long since Ryan looked like a guy who might be worth it the kind of money he’s making. And with so many issues looming, replacing him isn’t anything that comes close to being a priority.

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Report: No decision on LeSean McCoy charges expected Thursday

LeSean McCoy AP

Bills running back LeSean McCoy is waiting to find out what, if any, criminal charges he’ll be facing as a result of a fight at a Philadelphia nightclub over the weekend.

According to a report from Mark Schwartz of ESPN, those charges aren’t likely to come on Thursday. Schwartz, quoting a “high-ranking Philadelphia police official,” reports that prosecutors want to be thorough in their evaluation of the police report and other evidence before making a decision about how to proceed.

Reports on Wednesday indicated that police recommended to prosecutors that McCoy be charged with aggravated assault when they handed the case over. Two off-duty police officers went to the hospital after a fight over a bottle of champagne with four other men, one of whom is believed to be McCoy.

ESPN also reports that attorney Jack McMahon told them that he is no longer representing McCoy. McMahon said that McCoy will now be represented by Larry Krasner, another Philadelphia attorney, in matters related to the incident.

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