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PFT Live 11/28: T.Y. Hilton, Coaching Hot Seat

Mike Florio talks to Colts WR T.Y. Hilton about his historic performance in Sunday’s win over the Bills, his head coach Chuck Pagano, and the Colts playoff hopes. Mike also put five coaches on the hot seat for Week 13.

 

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John Mara’s arguments confirm the NFL has returned to the pre-Ray Rice mindset

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 photo, New York Giants co-owner John Mara walks across the field before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md. A visibly shaken Giants owner John Mara said Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016 he was fine with the NFL's suspension of placekicker Josh Brown for one game, despite allegations Brown abused his ex-wife as many as 20 times prior to the Giants signing Brown to a two-year extension last spring. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) AP

After the Ray Rice video rocked the NFL to its foundation and nearly toppled a Commissioner, the NFL reacted to immense public pressure by making big changes. And now that the PSI has reduced (yeah, I went there), the NFL has retreated to it pre-Ray Rice reality.

That’s exactly what happened in the Josh Brown case. Arrested in May 2015 for a domestic violence incident that the NFL saw fit to discipline with a one-game suspension, the NFL still has provided no explanation as to why the league deviated from the six-game baseline that was adopted in an effort to put out the post-Ray Rice firestorm.

Mitigating factors are required to reduce the six-game suspension. So what were they?

The NFL has made no effort to identify the mitigating factors or to even say that there were any. The only real explanation provided in support of the action taken came from the inability of the NFL’s investigators to fully investigate the case, blaming their failure to get to the truth (under the low standard of “more probable than not”) by pointing out that Brown’s former wife refused to cooperate and that law enforcement officials likewise wouldn’t talk, outcomes that scream out “red flag” more than they say “dead end.”

Good investigators figure out ways to get people to tell the truth. Good investigators don’t shrug and say “oh well” and create a blueprint for all other players who are accused of domestic violence: If you can convince the witnesses not to talk, the league will have no choice but to go easy on you.

The bigger problem in this case is that the Giants also went easy on Brown. Although it wouldn’t be right for the team to look the other way if a key player on offense or defense were involved in a similar situation, at least it would make sense. Why are the Giants opening themselves up to criticism and scrutiny for a kicker? As one G.M. told me earlier this year, there are three great kickers, three bad kickers, and the other 26 are all the same. Brown is one of the other 26, and the Giants easily could have found another one of those 26.

“These are not easy decisions,” Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday, finally breaking the organization’s silence on the subject. “Very easy to say, ‘Guy’s been accused, get rid of him. Terminate him.’ But when you’re sitting at the top of an organization and you’re responsible for a lot of people, you’d better make more informed decisions than that.”

That’s fine, but in this case the Giants didn’t have to fire Brown. His contract had expired, they knew about the allegations, and instead of finding another kicker they hired Brown again.

Some may say that the Giants were being merciful or giving the player a second chance or whatever, but it’s impossible to reconcile the Giants’ actions with these words from Mara, uttered at a time when the league was under heavy siege: “Everyone in our league, players, coaches, front-office people, need to understand there is no excuse for domestic violence ever and there is going to be severe consequences.”

The fact that the NFL imposed a one-game suspension on Brown shows that some degree of domestic violence occurred. His ex-wife claimed, before clamming up, that there had been up to 20 prior incidents of violence.

“There is no excuse for domestic violence,” Mara said in 2014. In 2016, Mara sounds like a guy making multiple excuses for Brown.

“There’s a big difference between allegations and convictions or indictments,” Mara said Wednesday. “And a lot of times there’s a tendency to try to make these cases black and white. They’re very rarely black and white. You very rarely have a Ray Rice video.”

Those are all excuses for Brown’s domestic violence, for which the consequences were minimal — and which the Giants decided to ignore when re-hiring a player with whom the organization technically had no employment relationship.

The inescapable message is this: With the Ray Rice incident nearly two years old, the NFL and its teams have assumed the pre-Ray Rice posture. Unless, of course, there’s any chance a video exists that TMZ may eventually buy.

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Tony Romo leaves game after just three plays with apparent back injury

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, left, is tackled by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left Thursday night’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks after just three plays after being sacked from behind by defensive end Cliff Avril.

Romo stepped forward in the pocket and escaped pressure to his left while Avril closed from Romo’s backside. Romo began to slide as Avril chased him down and was caught in an awkward position as the two players went to the ground.

Romo immediately reached for his lower back area and was tended to be the Cowboys’ training staff being walking off the field under his own power.

Dak Prescott replaced Romo at quarterback upon his exit from the game.

Romo has not left the Cowboys sideline and is throwing passes during Seattle’s opening possession.

Romo completed his only pass – an 11-yard slant to Terrence Williams – before being hurt on the third snap of the game.

UPDATE 10:40 p.m. ET: Romo has not returned to the game and multiple on-field reporters have said it’s a coach’s decision to keep him on the sidelines.

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Mike McCoy walks the fine line between employee and coach

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 3:  Head coach Mike McCoy of the San Diego Chargers smiles and gives a fist bump to strong safety Jahleel Addae #37 of the San Diego Chargers during a game against the Denver Broncos  at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers and defensive end Joey Bosa remain at an impasse. And coach Mike McCoy is caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place.

McCoy met with the media on Thursday, a day after folks higher on the organizational chart than McCoy poured gasoline and threw a match onto the bridge over which they hope Bosa eventually will walk. Watch the press conference. McCoy is doing everything he can to be a good employee and also a good coach.

Interestingly, McCoy sidestepped questions about the team’s assertion that Bosa would not be able to help the team as of Week One, even if he shows up right now. Then again, McCoy previously has made it clear that the plan they have for every player means that if a player has a uniform issued to him, he’ll be playing.

On Thursday morning, Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy addressed the challenges that can arise for the man stuck in the middle of a contract dispute between front office and player.

“You’re walking a fine line,” Dungy said on PFT Live. “You work for your bosses. They’ve made a decision how much they’re going to pay and how they’re going to structure this contract. You can’t criticize them, you work for them, you want the player there, and you’re also going to have to work with the player for the next 10 years and you want him to know that you’re in his corner as well. You want him to get paid as much as he can make, you want him to be happy and be part of the team. So you are caught in the middle, and I had a couple of those as a coach. You don’t negotiate but you do stay in communication with the player. ‘Hey, we need you Joey. We’re on your side, we’re with you. Don’t let the business part of it enter into the football part. When you get here, here’s what we’ve got to get done.’ So you do have to keep those lines of communication open but you’re also working as part of that team representing the Chargers, so it’s a very, very fine line.”

McCoy is walking that line very well, since he’ll be expected to get the most out of Bosa — and to create an atmosphere where it will quickly seem like the holdout never happened. If the holdout ever ends.

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Julio Jones, Adrian Clayborn hurt, too

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 11:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons runs on the field during player introductions prior to facing the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on August 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons are dropping like flies in Orlando.

With first-round rookie safety Keanu Neal already being evaluated for a knee injury, starting receiver Julio Jones has an ankle injury. The only good news is that he hasn’t gone to the locker room, which suggests it’s not serious.

Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn has been taken to the locker room for X-rays on his shoulder. Which sounds a lot more ominous than the Jones injury.

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Ndamukong Suh injures ankle

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and Chris Jones (52) pressure Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

The Falcons aren’t the only team sweating out an injury to a starting defensive player on Thursday night in Orlando. Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh suffered an ankle injury, too.

Suh is being evaluated in the locker room. Like Neal, Suh is questionable to return. Since it’s a preseason game, “questionable” is a lot closer to “no freaking way.”

The Falcons lead the Dolphins, 7-0. I felt compelled to list the score, even though the score doesn’t matter. The injuries do.

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Falcons first-round safety Keanu Neal suffers leg injury

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) is shown during their annual Friday Night Lights NFL football practice at Grayson High School, in Loganville, Ga. Free-agent signee Dwight Freeney and rookie safety Keanu Neal are expected to make their preseason debuts for the Falcons on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016,  at Cleveland, bringing Atlanta's defense closer to its projected regular-season status. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) AP

The top priority for every team in the preseason is to emerge from it with as many players healthy as possible. The Falcons currently are holding their breath regarding first-round safety Keanu Neal.

The rookie seemed to tweak his right knee while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Dolphins in Orlando. Plenty of rubber pellets went flying, which could result in criticism of the footing on an artificial turf surface in a building that hasn’t hosted NFL teams since 1997.

He walked off with mild assistance, and he has been taken to the locker room for further evaluation.

The Falcons hope Neal will become a Kam Chancellor-type presence for the Falcons. The more important question at this point is whether he’ll be ready to play in 17 days when the Falcons open the regular season at home against the Buccaneers.

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Jets waiting on right tackle to return to practice

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini told reporters Thursday that he will play this season, but he’s unsure when that will be as he tries to recover from a back injury.

He’s currently on the active/physically unable to perform list, which leaves PUP as an option when the season begins. But the Jets haven’t made any decisions on that front, and ideally Giacomini would like to be back before the team’s seventh game, which is the earliest he could return if he starts the regular season on PUP.

For now, though, the Jets are waiting on Giacomini to be able to return to practice.

Unless he’s practicing, he’s not better,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said.

Giacomini, who suffered a lower back injury in a spring minicamp practice, said he’s “day to day” as far as being able to suit up. He’d have to be absolutely sure he’s ready to return if he wants to get back on the field because if he returns to practice, say, next week he becomes ineligible to start the regular season on PUP.

Bowles has acknowledged that the team has been looking to add another tackle, another sign that PUP to start the season is the most likely scenario.

A seventh-year pro, Giacomini has started every game the last two seasons at right tackle for the Jets. He previously played three seasons for the Seahawks.

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Kubiak still hasn’t decided on a No. 2 quarterback for Saturday

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch jokes with teammates as he heads to the locker room after the teams' joint NFL football training camp session against the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 in Englewood, Colo. Lynch, like the rest of the team's rookies, was sporting a new haircut as part of an end-of-camp tradition carried out by veterans. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) AP

In two days, the Broncos will host the Rams in the all-important third preseason game. Coach Gary Kubiak still hasn’t made a fairly important personnel decision regarding the game.

Trevor Siemian will start at quarterback. The next guy in at the position still isn’t known.

“I know who’s going first,” Kubiak told reporters on Thursday. “I haven’t made a decision [on who’s going second]. I’m telling the truth.”

The hard truth for veteran Mark Sanchez could be that he may have fallen to No. 3, behind Sieman and Paxton Lynch. Two guys who have never thrown a regular-season NFL pass. If so, there’s a good chance Sanchez will fall off the roster entirely.

Making matters worse for Sanchez is the praise that Kubiak has heaped on Lynch, the team’s first-round pick in 2016.

“I’m very excited about the progress he’s made,” Kubiak said of Lynch. “We knew we had ground to make up and we knew he had a ton of talent, but he’s really adapted to playing under center. He’s making the calls. What he had to do this week, run the Rams’ offense and then get in there and run ours, that’s hard to do. He really had a good week of practice. I think he’s very confident in what he’s doing and I think he has confidence in us to do what he does best. I think he’s made a lot of progress. He’s going to be a fine young player.”

The immediate question is whether he’ll be playing after Sieman on Saturday. The bigger question is when Lynch will be playing before him. There’s still a chance that, two weeks from tonight, Lynch’s career debut will come for the defending Super Bowl champions in a game against the team they beat for the 50th Lombardi Trophy.

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Which player is most likely to win his first career MVP award?

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans looks on before playing against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, the topic of the day focuses on predicting the best player of the upcoming year, with a twist.

Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, and Cam Newton have each won at least one league MVP award. Which player who has never won a league MVP is the most likely to win his first league MVP award in 2016?

We’ve come up with a list of 10 candidates — which is sure to spark some discussion about people who weren’t dubbed finalists. But lines had to be drawn somewhere, and 10 makes as much sense as any number more than nine and less than 11.

So cast a ballot and make your case for the guy you picked, or against a guy someone else picked, or in favor of someone not on the list, or just call me a stupid idiot. Again.

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Report: Panthers will take a look at Whitner

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Veteran safety Donte Whitner is flying to Charlotte Friday and will work out for the Panthers, NFL Network reported.

Whitner, 31, was cut by the Browns in April after two seasons. He’s a veteran of 10 NFL seasons and a three-time Pro Bowler.

The Panthers already have one former Ohio State safety, Kurt Coleman, under contract but have mostly young players in their backup spots.

The Panthers have been dealing with injuries at safety throughout camp and the preseason, and it’s the time of year that players in Whitner’s position who don’t necessarily need training camp start finding homes, so at least taking a look at Whitner makes sense for the Panthers.

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Tomlinson puts more pressure on Bosa

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 03:  LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers prepares to take the field prior to the game against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card Game on January 3, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Getty Images

When last we heard from former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, he was calling out defensive end Joey Bosa for holding out while ignoring that Tomlinson himself once held out.

Tomlinson is now doing it again.

“Any football player who wants to be great, it doesn’t matter about the money,” Tomlinson told the Mark and Rich Show on XTRA 1360 in San Diego, using generalized words that could be used against anyone who ever holds out, including Tomlinson when he did. “It really doesn’t. Because if you ball out, you’re going to get paid no matter what. That’s the beautiful thing about playing this game and being a player. If you ball out, then you will get paid.”

So how can the holdout affect Tomlinson? I mean, Bosa?

“You can run the risk of alienating yourself from your teammates and also from the organization,” Tomlinson said. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, the player could be scarred by this from the organization and not like the organization,’ it can be vice versa. The organization can feel like, ‘This guy will be a problem his whole entire career,’ so that could jeopardize what happens in three or four years when Joey comes up for a contract.”

Tomlinson’s rookie holdout didn’t keep him from getting a getting a big-money deal. And no team in its right mind would shun a talented, valued player on a second deal because of what should be a long-forgotten contract dispute on his first deal.

“I feel like he’s trying to figure all this out,” Tomlinson said of Bosa in 2016 (or of Tomlinson himself in 2001). “But at the end of the day he has to be the professional. This is his football life and he has to be the one to make sure that this goes the way he wants it to go, meaning his rookie year. Because that’s the only thing that’s important right now is him getting on the field and proving himself his rookie year and helping this team.”

In other words, Bosa and all holdouts (including Tomlinson in 2001) should cave.

The good news is that Tomlinson made an effort to distinguish his holdout from Bosa’s.

“When the money is guaranteed and you’re arguing about when you get paid,” Tomlinson said. “To me that’s where players start to question, ‘Man, does he really want to be on this team? Does he really want to play?'”

This statement shows that Tomlinson has little or no concept of the time value of money. If a $17 million signing bonus is earned now but a large piece of it is paid later, the player loses the chance to earn interest on the money already earned by the player but withheld — which allows the team to earn interest on the player’s money.

The overriding point continues to be that Tomlinson himself held out as a rookie, missing four weeks of camp and two preseason games. Also, while Tomlinson played for the Chargers, he didn’t call out Antonio Gates during his own 2005 holdout.

“He’s someone we need on the team, but business is business,” Tomlinson said in 2005. “He was hoping things got worked out. Hopefully things still get worked out. We obviously need him, but it is a business first and if Antonio is not here we are going to have to hold the fort down until he gets back.”

Tomlinson’s decision to attack Bosa given Tomlinson’s own holdout and Tomlinson’s failure to criticize Gates makes little sense. Applying Occam’s razor, this may simply be a case of Tomlinson saying what he thinks his current employers at NFL Media (which is owned by the league and partially owned by the Chargers) want him to say.

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Pagano holding Cromartie out of this weekend’s preseason game

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 08:  T.J. Yeldon #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is pushed out of bounds by Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets with Darrelle Revis #24 in pursuit during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 8, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

After signing veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie this week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano called Cromartie “a perfect fit” for the team’s depleted secondary.

Pagano is also perfectly fine with Cromartie having the same view of the preseason that he does.

Cromartie, 32, joined the Colts earlier this week following the news that cornerback Vontae Davis is out until at least October. Despite the fact that the Colts will play this weekend’s preseason game without at least three other injured cornerbacks, Cromartie won’t play.

“He knows exactly what to do, but I’m not going to throw him out there,” Pagano said, per the team’s official transcript. “He’s not had an offseason. He’s in great shape, he knows the plan, he knows the terminology. He picked that up, being in a similar system helped. He could play, but I’m not going to do it.”

Darius Butler and first-year player Tay Glover-Wright will likely start at cornerback Saturday vs. the Eagles. The Colts hope to have Patrick Robinson, an offseason free agent pickup, back from a groin injury and in the starting lineup for their Sept. 11 season opener.

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Browns VP: “We would be very disappointed if we have four wins”

St. Louis Rams v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Sure, the Browns offloaded Barkevious Mingo today. But in hanging onto Josh Gordon and Josh McCown for the moment, the Browns hope to prove they’re serious about winning.

As in, this year.

Seriously.

(Cue Donald Sutherland in Animal House: “I’m not joking, . . . this is my job“.)

Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said the accumulation of future draft picks should not stand as evidence they weren’t trying to compete this year, saying it was “silly” and “laughable” to think they were tanking.

“I think if anybody has been around our facility, they’d know how silly that is,” Brown said, via Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com. “We want to win. Our expectations are, just because we have a younger roster, doesn’t mean that we’re at all trying to lose, I guess.

“If that’s the perception, I would say that’s laughable and I think we’re all competitive guys. We understand that part of what we need to do is build a winning culture here, and everything that we’ve talked about and worked towards is aimed at winning and there are no seasons off or, for us even, reps off.”

“We would be very disappointed if we have four wins. That said, I think we’re not going to measure our success just in terms of wins. We’re realistic with where our roster is in terms of a proven roster that’s capable of winning.”

Of course, it’s easy to pick on Brown for saying such things, since the Browns have won more than five games in a season exactly once in the last eight years. And that’s a pretty low bar to clear.

It’s debatable that the presence of either of the Joshes will make a significant impact on breaking out of that skid. And they’re definitely not going to change things there without believing they can. But they’re just going to have to pardon the rest of us when we snicker when they say things like that.

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Ladarius Green holding out hope for Week One

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green (80) stands on the sideline during the first half of an NFL exhibition football game against the Detroit Lions in Pittsburgh, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) AP

Tight end Ladarius Green’s physical condition has been the subject of much discussion this summer, including a report that he’s still experiencing recurring headaches after suffering a pair of concussions last season.

That report led to talk that Green may not play for the Steelers at all after signing with Pittsburgh as a free agent this offseason. Green denied both the reports of the headaches and the possibility that he’s done as an NFL player, saying that his surgically repaired ankle is the only reason why he hasn’t been able to get on the field yet.

Green also said that he’s confident he’ll be able to play this season, but remains on Pittsburgh’s physically unable to perform list as they get ready for their third preseason game. On Thursday, Green told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that he’s still holding out hope that he’ll be able to play in the season opener despite his “very slow” recovery.

That may be a serious stretch given his lack of time on the field, but the Steelers can keep him on the PUP list into the regular season. That would cost him at least six weeks while keeping open the possibility that the team could get something from a player who was initially expected to play a big role in 2016.

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Patriots reinstate Alan Branch, ending his suspension

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16: Alan Branch #97 of the New England Patriots reacts after a play in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

New England defensive tackle Alan Branch is welcome back with the team.

The Patriots suspended Branch a week ago, but Field Yates of ESPN reports that the Patriots have reinstated him.

It remains unclear why Branch was suspended. The Patriots never announced the suspension and it only came to light because Branch told teammates he was suspended.

Branch arrived in the NFL as the 33rd overall pick in the draft with the Cardinals in 2007. He has bounced around the league and had his share of off-field issues and was cut by the Bills in 2014 a day after he was arrested for DUI. But the Patriots liked him enough that last year they signed him to a two-year, $4.3 million contract. If he makes the Patriots’ 53-man roster he’ll have a $1.2 million base salary this season.

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