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Jimmy Haslam thinks Browns are “very close” to being in playoff mix

Jimmy Haslam, Tom Heckert AP

Ever since he bought the team earlier this year, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has said that he will hold off on making any decisions about the future of General Manager Tom Heckert or coach Pat Shurmur until after the season comes to an end.

Haslam stuck to that during an interview with Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but he did offer a potential hint into where his head is at as the team prepares to make those decisions. Haslam pointed to a series of close losses in games that the Browns could’ve won in the fourth quarter as a sign that the team is close to doing bigger and better things.

“I think we have better players and we’re better coached (than last year). We’re 3-8, but if you went back through the season, I could make a case where we could easily be 6-5,” Haslam said. “Dallas, Philly, Indy are all games I think we should’ve won. If we win those three games, we’re 6-5 and in the hunt for the playoffs, right? We’re very close.”

You could argue that a team that’s “very close” should stick with what’s working in order to take the next step. You could also argue that bringing in a coach other than Shurmur could be the thing that takes them from being close to being where they want to be. We’ll have to wait another month or so to find out which why Haslam and the Browns choose to go.

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Nate Burleson trying to lock down roster spot in Cleveland

Nate Burleson AP

Wide receiver Nate Burleson missed the first three Browns preseason games with a hamstring injuries, leading coach Mike Pettine to offer a variation on the old line about not being able to make the club from the tub when he was asked about whether Burleson had nailed down a roster spot with the Browns.

Burleson, who has returned to practice, has been around the league long enough to know that his extended absence means his experience alone won’t help him get a more certain answer from Pettine. He expects to play in Thursday night’s preseason finale and hopes to show the Browns what they’ve been missing.

“This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. So I can watch as many YouTube highlights of myself, but what I did today and what I do tomorrow is going to have a more profound effect than my resume,” Burleson said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “If I was the boss of a company, you [only] look at the people who are at work, not the people who want to be at work. So, there’s a big difference.”

Cleveland expects to lose Josh Gordon to a suspension of some duration, something that should help Burleson’s chances of sticking in a thin receiver group. It shouldn’t hurt his chances that Anthony Armstong, one of the few other experienced wideouts on the roster bubble, was released on the way to 75 players.

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Jets say Dimitri Patterson can return on September 1

Dimitri Patterson AP

The Jets originally suspended cornerback Dimitri Patterson indefinitely after he didn’t show up for last Friday’s preseason game against the Giants, but they came up with an end date for the ban on Tuesday.

The team announced that Patterson’s suspension will run through the rest of the preseason and he’ll be eligible to return to work on September 1. That means Patterson will miss the team’s final preseason game and the possibility that his play would boost his spot on the team’s depth chart. There have been reports that Patterson was unhappy with his spot below the starters on the team’s depth chart for the Giants game, which coach Rex Ryan addressed on Tuesday.

“He hadn’t worked to that extent, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have put him in there with the ones at some point,” Ryan said, via the New York Daily News.

Patterson’s bid for a starting job was already hurt by his struggles with leg injuries this summer, but his spot on the roster is helped by the team’s overall picture at cornerback. With Dee Milliner still out, the team isn’t really in a position to take a hard line with Patterson at this point. That could conceivably change as players shake loose during final cuts, but Patterson is still an experienced hand at a spot where the Jets don’t have a lot of other options.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Robert Griffin III AP

One Buffalo politician says there needs to be more transparency in the process of determining whether the Bills will get a new stadium.

Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, “The game is not that complicated. If the guy is open, we’ve got to get him the ball. It’s that simple. We can talk trajectory, we can talk it should be X amount of yards, y4 yards from the boundary and we can have red lines, which we do. We’ve got all that stuff. We’ve got all of the bells and whistles. But at the end of the day, when the guy is wide open, we’ve got to make the plays.”

There’s still trade talk surrounding Patriots QB Ryan Mallett.

Can the Jets stomach another year of WR Stephen Hill?

Ravens DE Chris Canty says the goal in Baltimore is always to win a championship.

For the Bengals, this season won’t be judged on whether or not they get to the playoffs; it will be judged on whether or not they win in the playoffs.

Said Browns backup QB Johnny Manziel, “I don’t look at is as I was drafted to come in Day 1 and save the franchise. For me, there’s no pressure, there’s no timetable. It’s to continue to develop, get smarter, get better, and whenever that time is, I’ll go out there and play football like I’ve been doing for the past years of my life.”

Steelers CBs Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay feel like they have something to prove.

The Texans want to demolish the Astrodome, which sits next to their home stadium.

The Colts have a plan in place to get through the four-game suspension of OLB Robert Mathis.

Jaguars K Josh Scobee is dealing with a quad injury.

Titans QB Dominique Davis probably doesn’t have a future in Tennessee, but he could see playing time in the preseason finale.

Broncos DE DeMarcus Ware has lost weight and gotten healthier.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid views the fourth preseason game as an opportunity for young players to show what they can do.

Raiders QB Matt Schaub on whether he’s in danger of losing his job, as veteran QB Matt Flynn did in Oakland last year: “I don’t know what happened here last year. I don’t know what happened with anybody who was here last year. I just know myself and what we’re going through right now to be ready for Week 1.”

The mayor of San Diego remains open-minded about the possibility of development that would include a new stadium for the Chargers.

Cowboys backup RB Ryan Williams says he deserves a roster spot, “without a doubt.”

Giants G Geoff Schwartz’s dislocated toe is described as a “minor setback.”

The Eagles expect a breakout season from TE Zach Ertz.

Washington QB Robert Griffin III may need a confidence boost.

The Bears’ ugly showing in last week’s loss to the Seahawks exposed some flaws on the roster.

The Lions like the look of their defensive line, when everyone is healthy and playing together.

Packers CB Davon House has impressed throughout training camp and the preseason.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wants to see the players on the roster bubble fight for a spot.

Falcons C Joe Hawley has had a good camp, when he’s not getting thrown out of practice for fighting.

The Panthers have injury issues, but coach Ron Rivera says it’s just “the nature of the game.”

The Saints cut LB Victor Butler without him having played a single snap because he couldn’t get healthy.

Trading for G Logan Mankins shows the Buccaneers are serious about winning now.

Cardinals G Jonathan Cooper is trying to push through pain.

Said Rams DE Ethan Westbrooks of the final preseason game, which may determine whether he makes the team, “I don’t know if it’ll be the most exciting game of my life, but it’ll definitely be the most important game. It’s very important, vital, to me staying in the NFL.”

San Francisco LB Ahmad Brooks admits he needs to eat better and lose a few pounds.

A Seahawks fan has a prosthetic eye with the team’s logo on it.

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Titans trying out kicker Rian Lindell today also

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The Titans went for the no-name kicker approach, and apparently didn’t like the results.

So now, in addition to the previously reported Jay Feely workout, the Titans are bringing in other veterans.

According to Alex Marvex of FOX Sports, Rian Lindell will be auditioning for the Titans today as well.

The 37-year-old Lindell was last with the Buccaneers, after a decade with the Bills.

The Titans went as long as they could with Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons, so now apparently they’re looking for someone with a bit more of a track record.

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Burfict won’t talk about his contract

vontaze AP

A week after it was reported that the Bengals and linebacker Vontaze Burfict had reached a deal on a new contract, he remains unsigned. And he remains unwilling to talk about it.

Burfict was asked about his contract situation and said, “No comment,” according to Cincinnati.com.

The subject is apparently a topic of conversation in the Bengals’ locker room, however. Bengals cornerback Terence Newman piped up to reporters with a line from Rounders.

“Just like the line in that movie, pay that man his money,” Newman said.

The situation with Burfict is strange: A week ago the reports said the contract had been agreed upon, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has said he expects Burfict to sign. Until the contract is signed, however, everything else is just talk. And Burfict won’t talk.

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Raiders claim kicker Giorgio Tavecchio off waivers from Detroit

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions Getty Images

With Sebastian Janikowski currently dealing with a strained quadriceps that will keep him out of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks, the Oakland Raiders announced Tuesday they have claimed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio off waivers from the Detroit Lions.

Tavecchio, who played college football just a few miles away in Berkeley at the University of California, was waived by the Lions Monday as they trimmed their roster to the maximum 75 players.

Tavecchio has also spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers in training camp the prior two seasons. He was 1-for-2 on field goal attempts this preseason and converted both extra points he attempted.

To make room for Tavecchio, the Raiders released kicker Kevin Goessling. Tavecchio could be a hedge option for the Raiders in case Janikowski isn’t ready for the start of the season as well.

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Seahawks claim center Patrick Lewis off waivers from Jacksonville

Jacksonville Jaguars v Chicago Bears Getty Images

There has seemingly been a pipeline connecting the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks since Gus Bradley left to become the head coach of the Jaguars last year.

However, that pipeline has predominantly flowed in one direction – from Seattle to Jacksonville – when it comes to picking up the cast-offs from the other team.

Seattle reversed the flow on Tuesday by claiming center Patrick Lewis off waivers from the Jaguars.

Lewis was an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2013 that initially signed with the Green Bay Packers. After being released, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns to their practice squad. He was then signed off the practice squad to Jacksonville’s active roster last December.

Lewis likely won’t find a way onto Seattle’s roster either as they appear set at center with starter Max Unger and backup Lemuel Jeanpierre. He could be a practice squad candidate following final cuts this weekend.

To make room on their roster, Seattle released linebacker Marcus Dowtin.

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CBA makes coaches, teams jointly responsible for offseason violations

Carroll AP

Some of you have asked why the NFL fined both the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll for violating the rules prohibiting contact during offseason workouts.  It’s a new twist to the 2011 labor deal, which contains enhanced penalties for the team and the coach if/when offseason workouts result in contact.

Prior to 2011, the labor deal prohibited offseason contact, and a certain amount of it routinely was ignored.  Only in egregious cases would the league get involved, with teams losing one or more OTA days and fines rarely if ever imposed.

Carroll didn’t receive a fine when the Seahawks violated the rules two years ago, presumably under the portion of Article 21, Section 8 that allows the Commissioner to reduce or eliminate fines if the violation resulted from a good-faith interpretation of the rules or if the violation wasn’t “material.”

This time around, the Commissioner opted to fine Carroll more than $100,000 — but less than the $250,000 specified for a second offense.  The Seahawks were fined more than $200,000 for the second offense — but less than the $500,000 specified for a second offense.  This suggests that the Commissioner believed the certain circumstances justified a reduction in the fines contemplated by the CBA.

While the Seahawks reportedly have lost “at least two minicamp practices in 2015,” the rules contemplate the elimination not of minicamp practices but of a week of OTAs.  If two violations occur in the same league year, the team also loses a fourth-round draft pick.

Violations of the rules against offseason contact are inevitable, given that players are competing for roster spots and depth-chart position.  But the Seahawks have become the first team to receive a fine for violating offseason rules under the new CBA, and Carroll has become the first coach to personally be fined for an offseason workout violation.  Whatever happened was noteworthy, but also isolated.

Otherwise, the fines would have been much higher, and the Seahawks would have lost a fourth-round draft pick.

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Rams may not be able to slide Sam to practice squad

Sam Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams soon have a decision to make regarding seventh-round rookie defensive end Michael Sam.  In a Tuesday appearance on PFT Live, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explained that Sam could still have a difficult time making the team, despite a couple of sacks in the preseason.

With the Rams destined to keep eight defensive lineman, Sam will be competing with Ethan Westbrooks, who arrived undrafted from West Texas A&M for the ninth spot.  If the Rams decide to carry 10 defensive lineman on the 53-man roster, Sam and Westbrooks will both stay.

As Rams G.M. Les Snead told PFT Live in May, the team used a late-round pick on Sam due to concerns that it would be difficult to persuade rookie defensive ends to choose to join a loaded depth chart via undrafted free agency.  Westbrook, to his credit, embraced the challenge.

As Peter King of TheMMQB.com pointed out on Tuesday, Sam could be destined for the practice squad.  To get to the practice squad, however, Sam would first have to clear waivers.  And there’s a good chance Sam has played well enough in the preseason to prompt a team with needs at the position to make a claim on Sam’s contract.

So, basically, all those 96 jerseys in blue and gold could soon be worthless.

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What a vas deferens a day makes for Saints QB Drew Brees

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

For the length of his professional relationship with Sean Payton, no one has ever accused Saints quarterback Drew Brees of shooting blanks.

But after celebrating the birth of his fourth child — and first daughter — Brees joked that his days of leading a prolific, ahem, offense might be over.

Brees returned to practice Tuesday after his wife Brittany delivered their daughter Monday, and joked that the fourth kid might be the last.

“I think I’m done,” Brees said, via Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I might have to follow Jim Henderson’s recommendation from the [New Orleans Touchdown Club] luncheon. … He was saying the ‘V’ word was next for me.

“Vasectomy. We’ve got some football games to win first. And then as I’ve been told by those who have experienced it, do it Saturday before the final round of The Masters so I’ve got an excuse to sit around and watch it.”

That might have been a bit more information than anyone needed, but then again, Brees was never in danger of getting cut this week anyway.

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Torrey Smith: I don’t think Meriweather should be suspended

smithmeriweather AP

Washington safety Brandon Meriweather is suspended for the first two games of the regular season for an illegal hit to Ravens receiver Torrey Smith. One person who doesn’t support the suspension is the player who bore the brunt of the illegal hit.

Smith wrote on Twitter that he doesn’t think Meriweather should have been suspended, although he hastened to add that he knows it’s not up to him.

“I don’t think he should be suspended,” Smith wrote, “but I don’t make or enforce the rules…I just play.”

It’s not uncommon for players to say they don’t want a fellow player punished, but in the case of Meriweather, the NFL really didn’t have much choice but to act. Meriweather has a long history of illegal hits to opponents’ heads, and fines don’t seem to deter him. A suspension was expected as soon as Meriweather delivered that hit, even if Smith didn’t think it was warranted.

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All 32 teams reach 75-player limit

Logan Mankins AP

The first of this week’s two big roster cutdown days has ended, and all NFL teams are down to the 75-player limit.

We’ve updated our NFL roster cuts tracker to give you one place to keep track of all the transactions that have been made in the NFL over the last couple of days.

There were no big surprises among today’s cuts. The biggest roster transaction of the day came when the Patriots traded guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay for tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round pick. But that move didn’t have any bearing on the 75-man roster limit, as each team lost one player and gained one player.

Some surprises are likely to come on Saturday, when all NFL teams must reach the 53-player roster limit for the regular season. We’ll be tracking all of it right here.

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Packers put B.J. Raji on injured reserve, get down to 75

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Injury-related roster moves got the Packers down to 75 players on their roster before today’s deadline.

The biggest move related to veteran defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn bicep.

Five other Packers were placed on injured reserve along with Raji: WR Jared Abbrederis, T/G Don Barclay, RB Rajion Neal, LB Joe Thomas and G Andrew Tiller.

Raji, who started all 16 games last season and has missed just two starts in the last four years, will be the biggest loss of the bunch for the Packers.

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Jeff Tedford absent due to undisclosed health condition

Tedford AP

As the Buccaneers address one of their biggest questions on offense, a major question is swirling regarding the man who runs it.

Via JoeBucsFan.com, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford is absent from the team after undergoing an undisclosed medical procedure.

The procedure went well,” coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s fine, alert, up.  Our staff will pull up the slack and we’ll go from there.”

Tedford won’t coach in the preseason finale.  For now, there’s no reason to think he won’t be available for Week One.

Whatever the condition, we extend our best wishes to Tedford as he recovers.

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Sam Bradford officially on IR as Rams reach 75-man limit

Sam Bradford AP

Not that there was any doubt, but now it’s official: Sam Bradford is out for the season.

Bradford, the Rams franchise quarterback who suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s preseason game, has been officially placed on injured reserve.

Moving Bradford to IR was one of four roster moves the Rams made today to get down to the 75-player limit. St. Louis also waived DE Sammy Brown and S Matt Daniels and placed C Demetrius Rhaney on injured reserve.

For the Rams and Bradford, the question now is whether Bradford has played his last game in St. Louis. The enormous contract Bradford got as a first overall draft pick under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement means it’s inconceivable that he could be back under his current contract. It’s possible that Bradford could return to the Rams if he’s willing to take a big pay cut, but it’s also possible that Bradford and the Rams are done.

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