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NFL morning after: The unappreciated Jay Cutler

Bears quarterback Cutler is pressured by Vikings defensive end Griffen during the first half of their NFL football game at Soldier Field in Chicago Reuters

If you don’t like Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, you’re not alone. A poll of fans conducted last season found that Cutler was one of the Top 5 most disliked players in the NFL.

And if you’re looking for reasons not to like Cutler, you saw one when the Bears beat the Vikings on Sunday: Cutler committed one of the dumber penalties of the day when he ran out of bounds and then threw the ball at Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson. Throwing the ball at an opponent is an automatic 15-yard penalty, as every NFL player should know. Yes, Cutler can be an idiot sometimes.

But if you don’t think Cutler is a good quarterback, well, you’re wrong. Cutler’s abilities were on display in Sunday’s 28-10 win over the Vikings, but they were even more on display in the way the Bears completely fell apart without him a week ago against the 49ers. And Cutler’s importance to the Bears is on display in every game he misses: In the last three years, in games Cutler both started and finished, the Bears are 26-9. In games Cutler either missed entirely or was knocked out because of an injury in the first half, the Bears are 1-8.

No, Cutler doesn’t put up the kinds of numbers that the NFL’s elite quarterbacks produce, but Cutler doesn’t have anywhere near the kind of offensive talent surrounding him that the NFL’s elite quarterbacks have. The Bears have had one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines for Cutler’s entire tenure in Chicago, and they only got a high-level wide receiver for the first time this year, when they traded for Brandon Marshall.

I believe it’s that Chicago offensive line and that Chicago receiving corps — as well as, yes, acting like a jerk at times by doing things like throwing a ball at an opponent — that has made Cutler one of the most underappreciated players in the NFL. This is a good quarterback, playing on a team that appears headed toward the playoffs, in the NFL’s second-biggest media market, and he should get more credit than he does.

Cutler has a great opportunity, however, to change the way he’s regarded over the next couple of months. With the Bears right in the thick of the NFC playoff race, Cutler has the chance to do what he didn’t do when a knee injury knocked him out of the NFC Championship Game a couple years ago, and play the best football of his career on the biggest stage. I think Cutler is going to open some eyes in December and January. And maybe by February, he won’t be unappreciated anymore.

Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s games:

Robert Ayers was the toughest player in the league on Sunday. Ayers, a backup defensive end for the Broncos, found out late on Saturday night that his father had died suddenly. But instead of heading home right away, he decided to stay in Kansas City to be there for his team against the Chiefs. Ayers played and played well in a 17-9 win in which the Broncos’ defense shut down the Chiefs’ offense, then was awarded a game ball in the locker room afterward and headed home to tend to his family.

Jared Allen got away with a brutal cheap shot. While his teammate Antoine Winfield was returning an interception, Allen launched himself directly into the head of Bears offensive lineman Lance Louis, delivering a hit that knocked Louis out of the game. Allen said after the game that he thought the hit was legal, but he’s wrong. That’s a blatant penalty that the officials somehow missed, but the league office won’t. Allen is in for a big fine.

The Chiefs got too cute. Kansas City’s opening drive against Denver was running smoothly, with an emphasis on running: Out of the Chiefs’ first nine offensive plays, eight of them were runs, and those eight runs produced 48 yards. So what on earth were the Chiefs thinking with the play they called on third-and-3 in the red zone? Instead of running it again, the Chiefs called a bizarre trick play on which running back Peyton Hillis took the snap, ran to his right, then turned around and threw it to quarterback Brady Quinn. Hillis’s pass showed that there’s a reason he’s not a quarterback: He threw an ugly duck that didn’t even get close, falling to the ground a few feet in front of Quinn. That was a dumb play call that stopped a promising drive.

Something has to be done about the officials, Part 1. Everyone saw the horrendous call on Thanksgiving in which the officials somehow ruled that Texans running back Justin Forsett had run 81 yards for a touchdown, even though he was obviously down after just eight yards. But on Sunday not as many people noticed that the opposite mistake was made in the 49ers-Saints game: San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree caught a pass, got hit, put his hand down to steady himself and kept running, about to break a big play — except that the officials whistled the play dead, wrongly thinking Crabtree had been down. If we can’t count on the officials to get it right on a call as fundamental as whether or not a player was down, what can we count on them to get right?

Something has to be done about the officials, Part 2. Remember during the lockout, how everyone complained that the replacement refs were dragging out the games by taking way too long to make their rulings? No delays from the replacement refs were as bad as the ridiculous delay late in Sunday’s Ravens-Chargers game. After Ray Rice made an amazing play to turn a short pass into a first down on fourth-and-29, the officials delayed the game by a whopping 10 minutes to watch a replay and re-measure the spot of the ball, only to discover that it had been correctly ruled a first down on the field all along. A 10-minute delay late in the fourth quarter of a close game takes all the energy out of the building. Make the call and move on, refs.

Anyone want to help Charlie Batch out? With Batch, the Steelers’ 38-year-old third-string quarterback, pressed into duty on Sunday, the Steelers needed to get big games from their running backs. Instead, Pittsburgh’s four running backs — Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Chris Rainey — combined for just 49 yards on 20 carries, while fumbling six times. Mendenhall and Rainey had two fumbles apiece, while Dwyer and Redman each had one. The Steelers’ eight turnovers were the most for any NFL team in one game since 2001, and the Steelers were upset by the Browns.

Jim Harbaugh made the right decision. Colin Kaepernick is a better quarterback than Alex Smith, and if anyone doubted it before, no one should doubt it after Kaepernick led the 49ers to a big win at New Orleans on Sunday. Harbaugh was wise to bench Smith in favor of Kaepernick, who is now 2-0 as a starter with wins over the Bears (playing without Cutler) and Saints. With Kaepernick under center, the 49ers are going to be a tough team to beat in January. Although if they meet again in the playoffs, I like the Bears’ chances with a healthy Cutler.

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Raiders sign two wide receivers

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 05:  Robert Herron #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 5, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders got a bit deeper at wide receiver on Tuesday.

The team announced that they have signed Nathan Palmer and Robert Herron as free agents.

Palmer worked out for the Saints earlier this month along with Vincent Brown and Hakeem Nicks, but the Saints signed Brown. Palmer opened the offseason in Chicago, but was waived by the Bears and has spent time with six teams over the course of his time in the NFL.

Herron played eight games for the Buccaneers in 2014, catching six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t make the Bucs out of camp last year and spent most of the season on the practice squad in Miami. Both players will fall into the competition for roster spots behind Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.

Andre DuBose won’t be part of that battle. The 2015 seventh-rounder was waived/injured and quarterback Garrett Gilbert was waived as the Raiders made room for their new players.

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Report: Tyler Eifert to have “minimal procedure” on ankle

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Generally speaking, not much of lasting impact happens at the Pro Bowl.

It looks like the ankle injury suffered by tight end Tyler Eifert is the exception to that rule. Eifert was in a walking boot after the Pro Bowl, but the issue wasn’t thought to be a particularly serious one.

Eifert wasn’t practicing with his teammates on Tuesday, however, and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that his ankle “not responded as quickly” as initially hoped. As a result, Eifert will have a “minimal procedure” on the ankle soon.

Minimal though it may be, Eifert’s recovery is expected to take three months. That would be sometime in August, which would leave the Bengals without Eifert for much of training camp and could leave Eifert on the sideline for the preseason schedule as well.

Eifert had 13 touchdowns last season, so the Bengals will trade some lost time now for having him healthy once the regular season is underway. Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt and C.J. Uzomah are in line for more time at tight end while Eifert is recovering.

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Rex Ryan claims no responsibility for team’s media policy

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills reacts during the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

For all NFL teams, the P.R. department serves as the conduit between the organization and the media. For most NFL teams, the P.R. staff has another important role.

They get blamed for all sorts of stuff.

If an owner, a coach, a G.M., or another high-level executive doesn’t want to do an interview, there’s no reason to decline directly. Instead, the owner, coach, G.M., or other high-level executive can simply blame it on the P.R. staff.

It happens all the time. On Tuesday, it happened in connection with the controversial media policy in Buffalo.

Asked by reporters about the new rules, coach Rex Ryan said (via Mike Rodak of, “Our media policy isn’t something that I’m involved with.” Ryan then pointed to (you guessed it) a team spokesperson.

That’s right. The new media policy came directly and exclusively from the P.R. staff, with no input of any kind from the head coach of the team. Maybe the G.M. and ownership had no say in it, either. Maybe the P.R. staff once-again has co-opted an NFL franchise, dictating policy without accountability to the various folks for whom the P.R. staff works.

That’s the lesson for today, kids. Don’t aspire to be a coach, a G.M., a team president, or an owner. The real power apparently resides in the P.R. staff.

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NFL says demand for tickets in Mexico City is high

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MARCH 26:  People attend a match between Mexico and US as part of FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier at The Azteca stadium on March 26, 2013 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Miguel Tovar/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans and Raiders will play on November 21 in Mexico City, and the NFL says there’s strong interest from local fans.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, 100,000 people have already registered to buy up to four tickets each to the game. That would indicate that the game could top 100,000 fans at Estadio Azteca, just as the previous NFL game there, in 2005, did.

In the United States, football couldn’t be much more popular than it already is, and so as the NFL tries to continue growing, it is increasingly turning to foreign markets. This year, for the first time, four games will be played outside the United States, with three games in London in addition to the Texans-Raiders game in Mexico City.

Whether the NFL can ever become nearly as popular outside the United States as it is inside remains to be seen. But there’s little doubt that the league can sell out big stadiums in big cities abroad.

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Report: Manziel is “even more reckless” with his drug problem

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 13: Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns walks off the field during the end of the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

On one hand, Johnny Manziel currently isn’t in the NFL, and quite possibly never will be again. So his activities aren’t directly relevant to the NFL.

On the other hand, Manziel was a first-round draft pick who started eight games over two NFL seasons and who has washed out of the league due to off-field issues and a chronic unwillingness to fully commit to being a professional football player. His story continues to be intriguing.

It’s also sad and depressing. The latest comes from TMZ, which reports that “Manziel has become even more reckless with his drug problem recently — even blowing lines in front of people he barely knows.”

TMZ also cites unnamed sources close to Manziel who say that he “is going to die unless something changes soon.” Another source said that friends have confronted Manziel about his drinking and drug use, and that “[h]e flipped out and would not hear it.”

Manziel’s father expressed concern back in February that Manziel would not make it to his next birthday if he doesn’t get help. Since then, the situation apparently has gotten worse, not better.

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Jalen Ramsey had knee surgery Tuesday

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 6: Aaron Miller #12 of The Citadel Bulldogs stiff arms Jalen Ramsey #8 of the Florida State Seminoles during the first half at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jaguars first-round pick Jalen Ramsey solicited additional medical opinions this week after suffering a tear to the meniscus in his right knee and the result sent him to the operating room.

The Jaguars announced on Tuesday that Ramsey had surgery on his knee earlier in the day that they termed successful. The team added that the expectation is that Ramsey will be healthy enough to return “by training camp.”

Given the inability to travel back in time and keep Ramsey from getting injured at all, that outcome would represent as good a case for Ramsey and the Jaguars as they could hope for. According to multiple reports, the surgery, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews, involved trimming the meniscus rather than a full repair that would have kept Ramsey off the field for a longer period of time.

While he’ll miss some on-field time in the near future, he’ll get plenty of time to acclimate himself to playing cornerback in the Jacksonville defense.

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NFL passes minor expansion of replay rules

instant-replay-story Getty Images

As expected, NFL owners have made a change to the replay rules. As not expected, the NFL didn’t dramatically change the paradigm, with the list of reviewable plays scrapped in favor only of a list of non-reviewable plays.

Along the way, the owners expanded replay review, slightly, to include certain administrative matters. Items now subject to replay review that weren’t previously subject to replay review are as follows: (1) penalty enforcement; (2) proper down; (3) the spot of a foul; and (4) the status of the game clock.

The list of non-reviewable plays also has been revised to include the following situations: (1) the spot where an airborne ball crosses the sideline; (2) whether a player was blocked into a loose ball; (3) advance by a player after a valid or invalid fair catch signal; (4) whether a player created the impetus that put the ball into an end zone. The quarterback “spike” for the purposes of killing the clock, which previously was on the list of non-reviewable players, has been removed.

Apart from including these items within the formal replay-review system, the replay official and designated members of the league office may now consult with the on-field officials “to provide information on the correct application of playing rules, including appropriate assessment of penalty yardage, proper down, and status of the game clock.”

The new rule otherwise streamlines the replay rules, eliminating plenty of verbiage that arguably was unnecessary to the process of determining what could and couldn’t be reviewed. Also, the order of the relevant rule has been modified, with the list of non-reviewable plays now preceding the list of reviewable plays. (Previously, the reviewable plays came first.)

It’s hardly a major revision to the process. However, there’s one specific facet of the new rule that justifies further attention, in a separate post.

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Bills unveil stricter media policy for practices

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Head Coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills works the sideline against the New York Jets during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Every NFL team has policies about what can be reported by media members attending practices and they usually include a ban on mentioning trick plays or exotic formations and guidelines for when players and coaches are available to speak to the media.

As anyone who follows NFL beat reporters on social media is well aware, they normally stop well short of barring reporters from reporting on whether passes are completed during practices and what players are on the field. The Bills would like to change that at their practices this season.

Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News shared the new policy distributed by the Bills on Tuesday which puts things like the identity of players who drop passes, complete passes, throw interceptions, rush the passer, or line up with the first team on a list of things that are “strictly prohibited.”

The Bills are holding a practice on Tuesday and reporters are handling things in different ways. We’ve learned that Manny Lawson and Reggie Ragland are among the first-team linebackers and that Jordan Mills is seeing a lot of time at right tackle. There’s also dispatches like the one below.

Ultimately, it would seem that avid Bills fans who enjoy getting this information will be the ones most affected by shutting down the flow of information from practices as it seems unlikely that future Bills opponents will be changing game plans based on whether Robert Woods is able to hold onto a ball at a May practice session.

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Bubba Smith had CTE

162379838 Getty Images

The list of deceased NFL players officially diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has now reached 90.

Via Ken Belson of the New York Times, the late Bubba Smith has been diagnosed with CTE. Smith, who died in 2011, spent nine years in the NFL. The first overall pick in the 1967 draft, Smith played for the Colts, Raiders, and Oilers.

Smith, who became an actor after his football career ended, had Stage 3 CTE, according to the findings of researchers. The scale consists of four total stages.

Few are surprised to learn that players from the years before the NFL began to regard head trauma seriously had CTE. Much still remains unknown about the condition, however, including the specific symptoms that it causes.

Reports of deceased players having CTE will continue to emerge periodically. The real challenge for the NFL will arise if/when a test for CTE in living patients is developed — and if it detects the disease on a sufficiently widespread basis to impact the supply of willing participants in professional football.

Coincidentally (or not), the National Institutes of Health study over which the league allegedly attempted to exert undue influence relates to detecting CTE in living patients.

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After dumping Brian Hartline, Browns add a receiver

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Wide receiver David Richards #4 of the Arizona Wildcats during the college football game against the UTSA Roadrunners at Arizona Stadium on September 3, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Roadrunners 42-32. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

With four draft picks devoted to the receiver position, the Browns decided not to pay veteran Brian Hartline $3 million for 2016. But they still need bodies at the position.

The Browns have announced that the team has added receiver David Richards to the roster.

Signed earlier this month by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona (and obviously cut), Richards faces a steep uphill climb to make it onto the 53-man roster, especially with 11 other receivers on the team and Josh Gordon potentially returning in August.

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Steelers, Lions to practice together ahead of preseason game

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 17 :  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions runs for a first down in front of Cameron Heyward #97 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 17, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 37-27.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Lions did not hold joint practices with other teams in Jim Caldwell’s first two years as the team’s head coach, but that will change this summer.

The Lions and Steelers announced that the teams will practice together on August 9 and 10 at Steelers camp at Saint Vincent College before facing off in their preseason opener on Friday, August 12 in Pittsburgh. Joint practices have become popular in recent years as teams have found benefits in varying their practice routine by working against outside competition after weeks of banging heads with teammates.

The Patriots are frequently among the teams holding these sessions, which may explain why the Lions are shifting course from the last two years. They hired General Manager Bob Quinn out of the New England front office this offseason.

It’s the second time that the Steelers are holding workouts with another team under head coach Mike Tomlin. They last did it with the Bills in 2014.

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Roger Goodell will be earning his money on Tuesday

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 2: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY)  In this handout image supplied by Carnival Cruise Lines, film extras surround a huge pinata, which has broken the Guinness Record for the world's largest pinata, on November 2, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The giant mock donkey measures 60 feet, 4 inches long; 23 feet, 10.5 inches wide and 61 feet, 10.25 inches tall and is filled with 8,000 pounds of candy. A wrecking ball will be used later on Sunday to smash the pinata during a public event. (Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines via Getty Images) Getty Images

On Monday, a Congressional report slammed the NFL for trying to improperly influence a National Institutes of Health study regarding the possible detection of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients. On Tuesday, the man PFT’s Darin Gantt calls the world’s highest-paid piñata could be spewing candy all over the place.

Whether it happens during his post-meeting press conference or whether it occurs behind closed doors with his bosses, Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to be facing tough questions on Tuesday in Charlotte regarding the conclusion that the league crossed the line by trying to tie a supposedly no-strings-attached donation to the selection of a researcher that the league deemed to be acceptable — and then by yanking $16 million for the study when the league didn’t get its way. Goodell also may be asked to explain to those who pay him why the league didn’t respond to the report more quickly and more aggressively.

For hours on Monday, the league was silent. Which suggests that the NFL didn’t realize the report was coming or wasn’t otherwise prepared to counter the potential determination that the league had engaged in allegedly unsavory behavior. Which could spark some tough questions from owners on Tuesday regarding the league office’s handling of the issue.

It’s still unclear where this specific issue will go. Unlike most other NFL-related controversies, it won’t entail a judge banging a gavel or a jury reading a verdict. But it’s another example of the part-bullying, part-wagon-circling ways of the NFL on issues of head trauma, which will undoubtedly give the opponents of the league even more reason to continue to search for more evidence of the same kind of behavior.

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Report: Dwight Freeney to work out for Bengals

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 27:  Linebacker Dwight Freeney #54 and defensive end Frostee Rucker #92 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate after a play during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney went on ESPN recently to market himself to teams that might be looking for a little bit more off the edge this season and said his preference is to join a winning team.

Freeney’s quest for that job will reportedly take him to Cincinnati. Coley Harvey of reports that Freeney will work out for the Bengals this week.

Freeney had a team-high eight sacks and also added three forced fumbles in 11 games for the Cardinals after signing with them during the 2015 season. That production came in a situational role that showed Freeney hasn’t lost much of his ability to get to the quarterback after 14 years in the NFL.

Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are set to start at defensive end in the base 4-3 scheme that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther runs in Cincinnati, but the loss of Wallace Gilberry in free agency opens a role in sub packages that Freeney could fill.

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If Brady deserves punishment, why not the same as for Stickum?

Tom Brady AP

Remember when Buccaneers running back Errict Rhett was caught violating league rules by tampering with equipment in an effort to give himself a better grip on the football? You probably don’t, because in that case the NFL didn’t launch a months-long, multimillion-dollar investigation that concluded with Rhett being suspended and the Buccaneers being stripped of draft picks. No, when Rhett was caught putting Stickum on his jersey, the NFL responded by fining him $5,000.

With that decision, the NFL established a clear precedent that when a player commits an equipment violation, there’s a policy in place: He gets fined, and that’s the end of it. So why, when the NFL found that Tom Brady was caught violating the rules by tampering with equipment in an effort to give himself a better grip on the football, did the league have such a drastically different reaction?

That’s a question Ted Olson, the former United States Solicitor General who’s now part of Brady’s legal team, would like to have answered. Olson appeared this morning on PFT Live and pointed out that the Collective Bargaining Agreement already provides for players to get fined if they break a rule related to equipment. If the NFL thinks Brady broke an equipment rule, the punishment should have been a fine, not a four-game suspension.

“There’s a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with respect to equipment violations, and that’s what Brady is accused of,” Olson said. “We feel — and the evidence is very strong — that Tom Brady did not do anything wrong with respect to that. But if he did, and that’s what he’s accused of, those provisions are the appropriate provisions to apply. They call for a fine. . . . Instead, this very draconian punishment of a four-game suspension was imposed, instead of referring to the very provisions in the Agreement for people accused of violating the rules with respect to equipment. And the commissioner did not even discuss why he was not turning to that provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

It’s a strong argument on Brady’s side, one that the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit finds persuasive. And although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wouldn’t say so, it’s easy to wonder whether, in hindsight, he had just put this whole thing behind him a year and a half ago by fining Brady and moving on.

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Bills have no immediate plans to look for outside help after injuries

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills got two pieces of bad injury news recently with wide receiver Sammy Watkins‘ broken foot and linebacker Shaq Lawson’s shoulder issue.

During an appearance on WGR 550 on Tuesday, General Manager Doug Whaley said that there hasn’t been a firm timetable established for either player’s recovery at this point but did say Lawson is expected to miss at least the early part of the regular season. Whaley said they don’t anticipate Watkins will miss any time come September, but the team will have to prepare for that possibility in the coming months.

For now, neither that preparation nor the effort to replace Lawson will include an addition from outside the organization. Whaley was asked about signing veterans like Dwight Freeney and Anquan Boldin and said that the team wants to see how the players already on the roster fare before considering any move to bring in a new face.

Manny Lawson is expected to be the first man up at linebacker while the unrelated Lawson recovers from shoulder surgery. Greg Salas, Leonard Hankerson and rookie Kolby Listenbee are some of the receivers who will see more time while Watkins is out of the lineup.

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