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Report: Jon Gruden may meet with Tennessee Volunteers AD soon

gruden-1 Getty Images

Jon Gruden’s denial isn’t ending the speculation that he could become the next head football coach at the University of Tennessee.

Within a couple hours of Gruden saying that he had not been offered an ownership stake in the Cleveland Browns in exchange for coaching Tennessee, Mike Freeman ‏of CBS reported that Gruden may meet with the Tennessee Volunteers’ athletic director later this week.

What Gruden specifically denied was a report that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, a Tennessee graduate whose brother is the governor of Tennessee, had offered Gruden a piece of the Browns. Gruden didn’t pull a Nick Saban and say “I’m not going to be the coach of Tennessee,” not that anyone believes any coach anymore after Saban infamously lied about taking the Alabama job.

The report about Haslam’s role in the Volunteers’ coaching search is farfetched for a number of reasons, including the fact that the NCAA wouldn’t allow a booster to give a coaching candidate part of his business, and the fact that Haslam is probably too busy considering his own football team’s future to worry about his alma mater’s next coach. But that doesn’t mean there’s no truth to the many reports that the University of Tennessee would like to lure Gruden.

However, if Gruden does leave the Monday Night Football booth to return to the sideline, most indications are that it would be an NFL sideline. Gruden’s name surfacing in the college coaching carousel is likely just an appetizer before the talk of Gruden returning to the NFL heats up.

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Chris Myers visiting Seahawks

Houston Texans v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Seahawks traded last year’s starting center Max Unger to the Saints in the deal for tight end Jimmy Graham and they’re visiting with a potential replacement on Monday.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that Chris Myers is in Seattle for a visit. Myers was released by the Texans earlier this month.

Myers started every game for the Texans over the last seven seasons and has drawn reports of interest from other teams looking for a center without landing a new deal. The Seahawks have also been linked with former Raiders center Stefan Wisniewski, although Wisniewski’s offseason shoulder surgery makes him somewhat riskier as a plan for the starting job in 2015.

Signing Myers would give them a veteran option to use in the event that they can’t find a better one in the draft, which is something Seattle would still need to explore with Myers’s age making him a short-term solution at best.

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Panthers add running back/return man Jordan Todman

Jordan Todman AP

The Panthers continue to sift through the discard pile, and found another guy who can help them in an area of need.

The team announced they signed former Jacksonville running back Jordan Todman to a one-year deal.

Todman has had his moments as a back, but his value to the Panthers lies in his return ability, averaging 25.6 yards per attempt on kickoffs last year (the Panthers averaged 21.8 as a team last year).

“Jordan is a veteran running back who has had some success in this league,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in the team released. “We think he has some return skills and we are always looking to be good in that area. At running back, he brings versatility. He is stout and physical enough to run the ball up inside, but he’s got the quickness and speed to get outside to the corner.”

The Jaguars didn’t tender him an offer this offseason, setting him free into the market. As a result, he won’t cost the Panthers anything in terms of next year’s comp pick formula, making it a risk-free add. They’ve made a number of those this offseason, including Friday’s waiver-claim of former Dolphins and 49ers tackle Jonathan Martin.

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Jimbo doesn’t understand why there is a question about Jameis

jimbojameis AP

Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is widely expected to be the first overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, and there are few questions that he has the talent to be an NFL quarterback. But there are major questions about whether he has the character to be the face of a franchise.

At least, there are questions for many people. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says that not only does he not think there are any questions about Winston, but he doesn’t even understand why anyone else has any questions.

“Why is there a question?” Fisher said on WDAE. “Because of the character assassination that he’s lived through in the media, and the misinformation that has been printed and half-truths that have been printed. What amazes me about this whole process is the unprofessionalism of a lot of major newspapers, a lot of major outlets that did not report the whole truth of the situation and only slanted it for their own opinion. And when you go through that you have to answer those questions. Jameis has great characte Did he make mistakes? Yes. Did he make silly mistakes? Yes. I mean, he’s still a 20-year-old kid.”

Does Fisher really not understand why there is a question about Winston’s character? I suspect he does, but just in case he doesn’t, I’m going to explain it to him: There’s a question about Winston’s character because a woman says he raped her.

That’s what all those questions about Winston’s character are about. The other stuff — the shoplifting of crab legs, the screaming of an inappropriate phrase on campus, an incident with a BB gun — that stuff doesn’t help. But that stuff is so trivial compared to a rape accusation that it’s hardly even worth mentioning.

The rape accusation is a real red flag, and it’s wrong for Fisher to pretend it’s not. The Tallahassee Police Department botched the investigation so thoroughly that prosecutors decided not to charge Winston because they said they couldn’t prove his guilt. But prosecutors found no reason to believe Winston’s accuser lied, either. The Winston case is not like the Duke Lacrosse case, in which the accused were eventually declared innocent. The Winston case is one in which we will probably never know for certain what happened. If Fisher really thinks Winston is innocent, the people he should be criticizing are the Tallahassee Police, whose sub-par investigation leaves very valid questions about Winston’s innocence or guilt.

If Fisher chooses to believe his player’s side of the story, he’s free to do so. But to claim that those who take seriously the accuser’s side of the story are engaged in “character assassination” is absurd.

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Arthur Blank says Falcons won’t appeal noise ruling

arthurblank AP

Not only did the Falcons identify the culprit in their noise violation and fire him, they’ve also apologized for his actions.

In a statement released by the team, Falcons owner Arthur Blank was contrite (or as contrite as you can be in a statement released by the team).

“What took place was wrong and nowhere near the standards by which we run our business,” Blank said. “Anytime there are actions that compromise the integrity of the NFL or threaten the culture of our franchise, as this issue did, they will be dealt with swiftly and strongly.”

“The league conducted a thorough investigation of this matter, and we cooperated fully. We understand the penalties imposed and their impact on our team, and we will not appeal the league’s decisions. Further, we have addressed the matter internally and taken actions to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

“The Falcons and all of our other businesses are built upon a foundation of values that drive our decision making. This issue was a clear failure in that regard. I apologize for any embarrassment this situation has caused the NFL, our fans, and our Falcons players and associates.”

While losing a 2016 fifth-round penalty and $350,000 hurts the team at certain levels, it’s also convenient to have a lone wolf to pin it on.

Former director of event marketing Roddy White, who lost his job two weeks ago as a result of the incident, took the hit.

Team president Rich McKay won’t get to take part in any of the competition committee fun for a few months, but the team can now move forward, a little lighter in the wallet and short the ability to draft a backup guard next year.

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NFL identifies former Falcons marketing exec as noise villain

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Well, now we know who the real asswhole in Atlanta is.

In the statement released by NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent on the Falcons losing a 2016 fifth-rounder and being fined $350,000, the league has pointed a finger at former Falcons director of event marketing Roddy White (not their wide receiver of the same name, a longtime friend of PFT).

Vincent’s statement says White “was directly responsible for the violation,” and “would have been suspended without pay for the first eight weeks of the 2015 regular season had he still been with the club.” It adds that if White gets another job in the league, he “may be required to serve some or all of this suspension.”

White was fired by the Falcons two weeks ago, and a league source says it was because of this incident, which seemed apparent.

The statement also points out that Falcons president Rich McKay was not aware of the violation, but should have been (since he’s the guy in charge). That’s why he was suspended from the league’s competition committee beginning April 1, and may apply for reinstatement to that post no sooner than June 30.

That takes McKay out of the mix for the May meeting, at which point there may be a proposal about extra points, among other things.

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Falcons lose a 2016 fifth-rounder, fined $350,000

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

A lot of the chatter around the Scouting Combine was that the Falcons were going to be hit hard for piping in artificial crowd noise.

Either the league successfully scared a bunch of people by their piping in of saber-rattling noises, or a lot of people define “hard” differently.

According to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, the Falcons will lose a fifth-round pick in 2016 and be fined $350,000 for their admitted infraction.

I mean, that’s a lot of money to you and me. (I wonder how many fixed cameras $350,000 will buy?)

And to be certain, no team likes losing a pick.

But that’s hardly harsh justice, and hardly commensurate with the kind of hand-wringing folks were doing about it previously.

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NFL suspends Ray Farmer four games for Textgate

Ray Farmer, Jimmy Haslam AP

Browns General Manager Ray Farmer will be suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season for texting coaches during games, in violation of NFL rules.

Farmer will be permitted to stay in his current capacity through the rest of the offseason, including working the NFL draft and being there when the Browns cut down to their 53-player roster. He will have to stay away from the team for Weeks 1-4 of the regular season.

Word first surfaced that Farmer had violated the texting ban early this offseason, amid a flurry of stories of discontent between the coaching staff and the front office. Farmer had reportedly used text messages to tell coaches which plays to call.

The Browns will also be fined $250,000, but the team will not lose a draft pick. The NFL noted in its statement about the discipline that no other team officials were involved in the illegal texting, and that the team was fully cooperative with the NFL’s investigation into the matter.

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Jenkins admits to disposing of box, at Hernandez’s request

Jenkins AP

Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancée of accused triple-murderer Aaron Hernandez, previously faced perjury charges for allegedly lying to a grand jury about having no knowledge of disposing of a box that may have contained a key piece of evidence in the Odin Lloyd murder case.  At the trial regarding the June 2013 shooting death of Lloyd, Jenkins has admitted to disposing of the box — although she claimed to have no knowledge of its contents.

“He told me to go downstairs in our storage room and remove a box from our house,” Jenkins testified Monday, via Greg Bedard of TheMMQB.com.

“I believe he said it was important, I’m not sure,” Jenkins added.  She later explained that she doesn’t remember whether he told her specifically why the box should be removed.

Jenkins admitted that she indeed disposed of the box, but that she doesn’t remember where she disposed of it.

Prosecutors have long believed that the box contained the murder weapon, a Glock used to repeatedly shoot Lloyd.  And the jury now has enough evidence to account for the absence of the murder weapon, since common sense suggests that innocent people rarely instruct a loved one to remove a box with unknown contents from the house during the early stages of an investigation arising from the murder of a friend whose body was found not far from the house from which the mystery box was removed and disposed.

On Friday, Jenkins admitted that she asked Hernandez if he killed Lloyd, and that Hernandez denied it.  The mere fact that she asked the question could become strong circumstantial evidence of guilty during jury deliberations.  While Hernandez’s denial is as useful as the standard response to the “do I look fat in these jeans?” question, the “hey, did you kill that guy?” question rarely gets floated in the households of the non-criminal.

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A week of PFT Live kicks off at noon ET

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston AP

A new week of the offseason kicked off on Monday and it’s the last that will start in the month of March.

That means we are a month away from the first round of the draft, which marks the next important milestone in the offseason. PFT Live will be bringing you everything you need to know about what will go down as the league takes the draft to Chicago. Mike Florio will have the latest on the draft front and the latest from around the league in general during the program.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Report: McKay to be suspended from Competition Committee

RichMcKay AP

The Falcons publicly and privately have insisted that the use of artificial noise in 2013 and 2014 did not involve football operations, in any way.  And if, as previously noted here, the situation unfolded without the involvement or knowledge of G.M. Thomas Dimitroff or former coach Mike Smith, the buck stops on the desk of team president and CEO Rich McKay.

The NFL apparently agrees.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that McKay will be suspended from the Competition Committee as a result of the infraction.  McKay has ultimate responsibility for the stadium operations, and anything that happened in the venue falls under his jurisdiction, whether he knew about it or not.

Schefter reports that the Falcons also will lose a draft pick.  At the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the chatter suggested that a second- or third-round pick would be forfeited.

Despite the punishment from the league, which hardly could have allowed McKay to continue as chair of the Competition Committee without interruption in the wake of a fairly significant game-integrity infraction that spanned two seasons, it appears that Falcons owner Arthur Blank won’t be making a change at the president/CEO position.  That’s possibly because McKay has a reputation for being very smart, incredibly savvy, and very well connected; some, however, regard McKay as a master politician, skilled at claiming credit and sliding away from blame.

Regardless, McKay’s boss seems to be fully inclined to keep McKay around, even though McKay was deemed to be sufficiently responsible for the situation to lose at least temporarily his spot on the league’s most influential committee.

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Report: Panthers working out Randy Gregory

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory was frequently mentioned as a candidate to go in the top 10 of the draft next month, but a failed drug test for marijuana at the combine might give teams picking early a reason to pass on him.

The Panthers are doing some due diligence to prepare themselves in the event that Gregory keeps falling all the way to the 25th pick of the round. Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that the team is working out Gregory on Monday.

There’s a need for some pass rush help in Carolina with Greg Hardy off the roster, although one wonders how willing the Panthers would be to take on a player who will start his career in the league’s substance abuse program with the risk of a suspension looming over his head.

It doesn’t help that Gregory also had failed drug tests at Nebraska or that he’s had a hard time keeping weight on while going through the pre-draft process. He was a productive player for the Cornhuskers, though, and someone will roll the dice that he can continue to be one in the NFL. Should that not happen in the first 24 picks, Carolina be that someone.

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Textgate discipline may hit Ray Farmer harder than the Browns

Ray Farmer AP

Browns General Manager Ray Farmer is expected to be held personally accountable for texting coaches during games in violation of NFL rules. But the Browns may get off without significant punishment for the team.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Farmer is likely to be suspended, but the Browns are not likely to lose a draft pick. The report adds that the Browns could also get a hefty fine, but in reality, “hefty fines” for teams in the NFL don’t mean much. Usually when the NFL gives a team a “hefty fine,” it’s in the neighborhood of a few hundred thousand dollars, which is a rounding error to a big business like an NFL team.

It’s unclear what the nature of Farmer’s suspension will be. If the NFL were to suspend Farmer during the draft, that would be a huge hit for a G.M. and would call into question whether he can effectively keep his job at all. But if the suspension will just be a few games at the start of the season, that’s not a huge deal. Once the 53-player roster has been set for Week One, the most important part of the G.M.’s job is over for the year.

If the NFL’s suspension turns out to be a suspension for Farmer during the regular season along with a fine — but no loss of a draft pick — then the Browns will have dodged a bullet. It could have been worse.

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Report: Packers offer B.J. Raji one-year deal

Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Packers have reportedly reached agreement on a one-year deal to bring defensive tackle Letroy Guion back to the team in 2015 and it appears they have designs on holding onto another veteran member of their defensive line as well.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports that the team has also offered defensive tackle B.J. Raji a one-year deal. Per Demovsky, the deal would pay Raji less than $2 million for the season.

Raji signed a one-year deal worth $4 million before the 2014 season, but missed the entire year after injuring his biceps in the preseason. That helped open the door for Guion to start every game for the Packers.

Raji started 62-of-64 games for the Packers before last year’s injury knocked him out of the lineup. That reportedly earned him an offer of a long-term deal during the 2013 season, but Raji opted to try his luck in free agency in a decision that he might like to have back given the way the last two years have played out.

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Eagles taking a look at wide receiver Miles Austin

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

As they work to restock their receiving corps, the Eagles are looking to a team that helped refill their backfield.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Eagles are bringing in former Cowboys wideout Miles Austin for a visit this week.

Of course, Austin was a Brown last year, but for the purpose of sustaining a fully functional narrative, let’s stick with his NFC East roots, shall we?

Austin caught 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns last season, solid numbers for 12 games. But he finished the year on injured reserve after he was hospitalized with a kidney injury.

I mean hey, it’s not a torn ACL or anything, but Chip Kelly wants what Chip Kelly wants.

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Wrestlemania in Santa Clara serves as dry run for Super Bowl

WWE AP

So which event generated the highest attendance numbers in the first year of the new 49ers stadium?  The regular-season opener in prime time against the Bears?  The Thanksgiving night game against the Seahawks?

Actually, the high-water mark came Sunday night, when Levi’s Stadium hosted the annual Wrestlemania event.  It drew 76,976 fans, according to the San Jose Mercury News.  Via SportsBusiness Daily, the prior record was 70,799.

It served, per the San Francisco Chronicle, as a dry run for Super Bowl 50, testing the highways and rail system and buses and parking and everything else that will go along with getting a bunch of people to Santa Clara for the NFL championship game early next year.

“Operationally, I think we’ve had pretty positive reports so far,” 49ers spokesman Bob Lange told the Chronicle.

The highlight of the night apparently was UFC fighter Ronda Rousey judo flipping Triple H out of the ring.  The entire spectacle maybe should give the NFL ideas for Super Bowl halftime content other than live music from a shrinking universe of acts that are truly worthy of a stage that big.

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