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PFt Live 11/30: Charean Williams, PFT Planet

Mike Florio talks with Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about the latest news with the Cowboys. Will the Cowboys make the playoffs, will DeMarco Murray be back soon, will Garrett be the head coach next season, and should Jerry Jones fired himself as the general manager? Then, Florio takes calls and tweets from PFT Planet. Fans want to know if the Patriots as an number 3 seed will win the AFC title? Fans also want to know why the media was all over Ndamukong Suh, when Brodrick Bunkley’s clearly intentional kick.

 

 

 

 

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Brett Favre: “I think I could play”

Favre Getty Images

Herschel Walker isn’t the only middle-aged former NFL player who thinks he could still play in the NFL. Brett Favre says he could, too.

“I think I could play,” Favre tells Sports Illustrated in a “Where Are They Now?” double issue. “As far as throwing, of course. I could make all the throws I made before. . . . We’re not trying to start some he’s-coming-out-of-retirement deal. . . . But I could play.”

Plenty of former NFL players probably feel the same way, because they still feel like the guys they were when they played in the NFL. They won’t realize that they can’t until they try, and very few ever return after a multi-year absence from the game.

Regardless of whether Favre could play now, he could have played longer in Green Bay, if he hadn’t made such a hasty decision seven years ago to retire.

“Had I [taken my time deciding], I would have come back and played,” Favre said. “The drama would have been avoided.”

That response overlooks the fact that the Packers pushed him for an early decision, possibly because the Packers knew that by pushing Favre for an early decision, Favre would decide to retire — and the Packers could start the Aaron Rodgers era. If that was the plan, the performance of Aaron Rodgers since Favre retired has vindicated it.

This year, Favre finally returns to Green Bay. And the Packers can be confident that Favre won’t be unretiring one final time before his number 4 is finally retired.

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Colts bring back defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton

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The Colts brought back one of their own, now that he’s healthy.

The team announced they signed defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton.

He spent the last two years with the Colts, but was on injured reserve all last season because of a knee injury. He was originally a seventh-round pick by the Jaguars in 2012.

The 6-foot-2, 323-pounder gives them another big body up front, and someone they have experience with. He played in both playoff games for them in 2013, so they have an idea what he can do.

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NFL sets July 9 date for supplemental draft

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The date is set for the NFL supplemental draft.

The supplemental draft will take place on July 9, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

No team has made a supplemental selection since the Browns used a second-round pick on Josh Gordon in 2012, so the supplemental draft has become a non-event the last couple years. But this year there’s a good chance that a supplemental pick will be used: Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle, who declared for the supplemental draft last week, is an NFL talent who has a real shot of helping some team this season.

West Georgia defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey, West Georgia defensive end Darrius Caldwell and North Carolina Central wide receiver/kick returner Adrian Wilkins are also available in the supplemental draft.

If a team uses a supplemental pick on a player, that team loses the corresponding pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Players who are not selected in the supplemental draft become free agents.

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Jim Brown “encouraged” Johnny Manziel isn’t “still in denial”

Johnny Manziel, Jim Dray AP

Last summer, Browns icon Jim Brown said that he didn’t mind the amount of attention that quarterback Johnny Manziel received for his off-field social life because he remembered what life was like as a player.

Brown has a different opinion about enjoying the nightlife after the way Manziel’s rookie season with the Browns played out. Manziel went to alcohol rehab after an underwhelming rookie season and has talked about wanting to “close that chapter in my life” as he tries for better results in 2015, something that Brown finds encouraging.

“I’m encouraged, because Johnny is addressing his situation, and that’s speaking to the world,” Brown said, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “That message is encouraging. He’s going to give himself the best chance to succeed. Now if he were still in denial, we’d have a different conversation. If he didn’t go to rehab, this would be totally different. … What I would have said to Johnny, or would have hoped he’d do, he’s doing. So I’d say to him, ‘Your commitment to allow the world to know you want to work to change your life, I encourage and support you.’ It would be that simple. I wouldn’t try to impart any great wisdom on him, because it’s a day-to-day process that he’s got to live with.”

Brown doesn’t think the change in Manziel’s off-field habits will necessarily boost him to better things on the field. Brown said last year that he thought Manziel had “something going on” as a player and said this year that Manziel “creates action,” but added that Manziel is going to be a star or a bust without laying a bet on which side of the line the 2014 first-round pick would wind up on.

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Jeremy Hill focused on breaking more tackles this year

Cincinnati Bengals v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

After Bengals running back Jeremy Hill ran for 40 yards on 13 carries against the Buccaneers last season, he said there wasn’t a lot of running room available because the Bucs were playing eight men in the box.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson didn’t care for Hill’s read on what happened to the running game that afternoon. Jackson said that running backs are supposed to break tackles and that Hill’s “job is to run through somebody and come out the other side” regardless of what the defensive front looks like on a given play.

Getting past initial contact was a focus for Hill this offseason and Jackson said that the back did a good job laying the groundwork for better results.

“For me, it’s just getting that acceleration from the first level to the second level,” Hill said, via ESPN.com. “I’m just trying to lift my acceleration up and miss more tackles. That’s the biggest thing for me. The first guy got me down way too much last season.”

ESPN Stats and Info had Hill averaging 2.29 yards after contact during his rookie season, which was good for fourth in the league last season and helps explain why Hill became such a big part of the offense in the second half of the season. If he becomes even harder for defenses to stop this time around, the backfield work in Cincinnati may not be as balanced as Hill expected earlier this offseason.

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Brian Dixon set to go on trial during Saints’ training camp

Josh Lenz, Brian Dixon

Saints cornerback Brian Dixon may miss some of training camp as a result of his March arrest.

Dixon is scheduled to go on trial in Florida on August 3, the Times-Picayune reports. The Saints will be in training camp in West Virginia at that time.

Dixon was arrested for resisting arrest without violence after a traffic stop in Miami Beach. He has accused the arresting officers of racial bias.

As an undrafted rookie last season, Dixon became a surprisingly important player to the Saints, appearing in all 16 games.

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How much is Russell Wilson worth?

Seattle Seahawks v Washington Redskins Getty Images

In his latest interview, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson once again declined to talk about his contractual expectations. But he mentioned two salaries numbers for 2015 — $1.5 million (the amount he’s due to earn under his current contract) and $25 million.

Some have brushed it off as a random figure, plucked from the sky. Others believe it possibly reveals what Wilson is actually targeting.

The numbers came after Wilson was asked what he deserved, provoking this question from Wilson: How much would you pay me?

So we’ll put that question out to PFT Planet. How much would you pay him per year?

The options are below, and we’ll be discussing the issue during Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, which also will feature phone visits from two-sport athlete Brandon Magee, former NFL player and current multimedia superstar (or something) Ross Tucker, and Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.

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Bud Dupree: We want to be the group that revives Steelers defense

Bud Dupree AP

The Steelers have a long history of riding strong defenses to playoff berths, but that trend has slowed in the last couple of years as the team has said goodbye to several fixtures of the unit without getting the same production in their place.

They’ve spent high picks on defensive players in each of the last three drafts with a particular focus on linebackers. Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree have been the team’s last three first-round selections and Dupree says that they want to be part of the core that brings about a revival of the old defensive ways in Pittsburgh.

“I want to be in that group that brings it back,” Dupree said, via Cleveland.com. “We want to bring back that hunger, that eagerness to go after the quarterback.”

Dupree said he takes particular motivation from the chance to join players like Joey Porter, Greg Lloyd and James Harrison as star outside linebackers in the Steelers system. Harrison is still around and Dupree said he’s learned a lot from the veteran about how to thrive in the NFL during their short time working together.

Expecting Dupree to turn into that kind of linebacker as a rookie may be asking too much, but the Steelers need some of their young defenders to make significant strides if there’s going to be a reprise of the old days in 2015. With a strong offense already in place, getting that would leave the team well positioned for another playoff berth.

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United Church of Christ joins effort to change Washington nickname

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The United Church of Christ usually has other business on Sundays, but they’re using their massive membership to try to get involved in the NFL.

According to John Woodrow Cox of the Washington Post, the nearly 1 million-member church is asking its members to boycott Washington’s franchise because of the nickname that many find offensive.

The Rev. Linda Jaramillo, a national officer of the church, said the name “is offensive and causes direct harmful effects to the public health and well-being of the Native American population.”

The UCC is far from the first to take that stance, but their support was noted in a joint release from the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation, which has led the effort for a change.

“We applaud the United Church of Christ for taking a bold stance against the use of this demeaning and damaging racial epithet,” the statement read. “With its vote, the UCC is demonstrating that organizations and individuals can make conscious choices to demonstrate compassion and respect for their fellow man by working to eliminate this offensive, dictionary-defined slur from our nation’s vernacular.

“As religious leaders from diverse backgrounds all across America continue to speak out about the need to change this derogatory term, Washington team owner Dan Snyder should face the facts and stop clinging to this deeply offensive name. Profiting from the slurring of people of color is a choice that he is making, but we remain hopeful that he will in time come to recognize that changing the mascot is an important moral and civil rights issue that is not going away.”

Of course, Snyder has refused all such suggestions in the past, and will likely continue to until it becomes more attractive to him (financially) to do so.

But hey, as long as they’re “winning off the field,” no one really minds, or notices that they’re not winning on the field, right?

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Troy Vincent criticizes union spending on legal fees

Mike Grant, Troy Vincent AP

Plenty of people have criticized the NFL Players Association for the amount of money it spends on outside legal fees. The last group that should be criticizing the NFLPA for the money it spends on outside legal fees is the group that has compelled those expenditures by repeatedly overstepping its bounds. And the last guy from the last group that should be criticizing the NFLPA for those expenditures is a former NFLPA president who once was in line to be the executive director.

But none of that has stopped NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent from taking aim publicly at the NFLPA’s bills for outside lawyers.

“Look at the amount of money being spent on legal fees for a handful of people,” Vincent told Ashley Fox of ESPN.com. “It’s millions and millions of dollars, and we’ve got players that are hurting. We’ve got young men who don’t know how to identify a good financial adviser. Men are in transition who aren’t doing well, and yet $8-10 million a year is spent in court fees about who should make a decision on someone, who in some cases has committed a crime.

“Think about that logically. Wouldn’t it be better to spend our time and resources on the issues that are vital to our players — past, present and future — such as the players’ total wellness and growing the game together?”

But the NFL is forcing the NFLPA to spend that money, because the NFL routinely has gone too far in disciplining players — as evidenced by the ultimate outcomes in the Saints bounty scandal (where all player suspensions were overturned by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue), the Ray Rice indefinite suspension (which was overturned by a former federal judge), and the Adrian Peterson suspension (which was vacated by a federal court).

For every dollar spent by the NFLPA on lawyers, at least that same dollar (if not more) is being spent by the NFL. So couldn’t the same criticism be directed at the league for forcing litigation by not properly interpreting and applying the rules that govern the relationship between labor and management fairly and properly?

It would be different if the NFLPA were tilting at windmills. Instead, the NFLPA is hitting the bull’s-eye, far more often than not. And that’s because the NFL: (1) insists on having final say over the internal appeals process under the Personal Conduct Policy and matters regarding the integrity of the game; and (2) repeatedly exercises that power in a way that requires the union to seek relief in court.

Here’s an idea for saving money: Adopt a clean and simple internal appeals process that entails final and binding arbitration before a neutral third party in every case of player discipline. Sure, the NFL would have to sacrifice the ability to do whatever it wants to do. But the NFL has demonstrated consistently that it’s not able to do whatever it wants to do in a way that meshes with that it is legally permitted to so.

By curtailing powers that the NFL has shown an inability to responsible exercise, both sides would save millions in legal fees that could then be used, as Vincent said, “on the issues that are vital to our players — past, present and future — such as the players’ total wellness and growing the game together.”

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Michael Bennett comes closer to making his best argument for new deal

Bennett Getty Images

A year ago, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett signed a new four-year deal to stay with Seattle, after jumping to the Seahawks from the Buccaneers on a one-year contract. Now, he’s not happy with the contract he signed, and he’s not getting much sympathy from fans and the media.

On the surface, why should he? Bennett signed the contract as a free agent. If he wanted more, he should have asked for it then. Or he should have gone to a team that would have given it to him.

Bennett’s argument is falling on largely deaf ears because he’s making the wrong argument publicly. By talking recently about being signed to play one position but asked to play five, he’s getting closer to his best argument for more money.

Bennett’s best argument is that he signed the contract under the impression that he’d continue to be a part-time player, participating in roughly half the defensive snaps. Then, in the first year of his new contract, he became a full-time player, participating in nearly all of them.

During the 2014 regular season, Bennett didn’t have a problem with his increased workload.

I like playing that much,” Bennett said, via Terry Blount of ESPN.com. “It doesn’t bother me. I’m just moving around a lot and trying to make as many plays as I can. . . . When they pay you a lot of money they want you on the field all the time. That’s just how it is.”

Despite what Bennett said in December, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the disparity between Bennett’s playing time in 2013 and his playing time in 2014 is a “big factor” in the stand Bennett has taken.

That likely won’t make the Seahawks any more likely to tear up the final three years of his four-year contract, but it could make some fans understand why he’s unhappy with his current compensation level, notwithstanding what he said in December.

And if only Bennett hadn’t said what he said in December, more people would buy Bennett’s best argument for more money.

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Joique Bell: I’m going to run for more than 1,200 yards

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Sitting out the Lions offseason program after knee and Achilles surgeries didn’t do much to dim running back Joique Bell’s expectations for the upcoming season.

No Lions running back has run for 1,200 yards in a season since Barry Sanders’s final campaign in 1998, but Bell plans to end that streak. He says that total represents the floor for his 2015 production.

“I’m going to rush for over 1,200 yards,” Bell said, via MLive.com. “That’s the minimum. If I do less than that, I’ll be surprised. I’ll be disappointed. Anything more than that, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”

The fact that the Lions made the run game a priority in the draft by taking guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round helps Bell. The Lions kept on that track in the second round when they selected running back Ameer Abdullah, who got strong reviews in the spring for his ability to make plays as both a runner and a receiver.

If Abdullah continues to impress, that should be a good thing for the Lions Offense as a whole. It would likely cut into the amount of chances that Bell, who has averaged a hair less than four yards per carry the last two seasons, will get to run the ball, however, and that could leave Sanders as the last 1,200-yard man in Detroit for a little while longer.

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Rex reportedly more enthusiastic about Taylor than Cassel

EJ Manuel,Tyrod Taylor, Matt Cassel

The Bills brought in two new quarterbacks this offseason, trading for Matt Cassel and signing Tyrod Taylor. Most people figured Cassel was in line to start and Taylor was brought in to be a backup. But that may not be the case.

The Buffalo News reports that Bills coach Rex Ryan has shown greater enthusiasm for Taylor than for Cassel, that Ryan has wanted to coach Taylor for a long time and previously wanted the Jets to acquire him, and that Ryan says Taylor is the fastest quarterback in the NFL and can change games with his speed.

Ryan might be right that Taylor is the fastest quarterback in the NFL: Among all active quarterbacks, the only one who ran a faster 40-yard dash at the Combine than Taylor’s 4.51 was Robert Griffin III, and Griffin doesn’t look as fast now as he did before the knee injury at the end of his rookie year. Taylor is so impressive with the ball in his hands that at times when he was Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore, the Ravens let Taylor take snaps in the Wildcat formation, much to Flacco’s chagrin.

But Taylor has never proven himself as an NFL passer: In very limited action as a backup to Flacco, he has completed 54.3 percent of his passes, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Both Cassel and EJ Manuel have shown more as NFL passers than Taylor has. It would be a big risk for the Bills to put such an unproven quarterback under center in Week One.

It might just be a risk Ryan is willing to take, however, on the theory that the Bills need to win games with their defense and running game, and Taylor is the quarterback on the roster whose skills are most conducive to that. Don’t be surprised if Taylor is the starter when the season starts, and Cassel is no longer on the roster at all.

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Michael Bennett: Seahawks want me to play five positions and pay me for one

Michael Bennett, Kellen Clemens AP

Michael Bennett said over the weekend that he didn’t mind staying at home in Honolulu for a little while when he was asked if he’d consider holding out of Seahawks training camp next month.

Bennett skipped voluntary work this offseason because he’s trying to get the Seahawks to address his contract for the second time in the last two years, but returned for mandatory minicamp this month. Bennett told Steve Wyche of NFL Media that it is “definitely possible” that he’ll stay away from camp while trying to make his case for a new deal.

“I know a lot of people disagree because I don’t put up all the numbers, but if you watch the games, I’m doing good things,” Bennett said. “They want me to play five positions but pay me for one.”

Bennett lines up inside and outside while playing the run and the pass for the Seahawks, although the team would surely argue that all of those can fit snugly under the position of defensive lineman. There’s no doubt that Bennett is doing good things, but those good things don’t do much to create leverage so soon after signing a contract with Seattle because they are understandably wary of what could follow with other players if they redo Bennett’s deal with three years left on it.

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Fred Smoot says “no one cares” about the gay players in NFL

New York Giants v Washington Redskins Getty Images

As Michael Sam was trying to become the first openly gay player in the NFL, it was an open secret that he was not close to being the first gay player in the NFL.

While common sense might tell you that’s the case, former Washington and Minnesota cornerback Fred Smoot told us also yesterday.

Smoot did a Reddit AMA (“Ask me anything”) yesterday, which is the verbal equivalent of taking Rob Ryan to a beer-and-appetizer buffet. You never know what you’re going to get, but you know you’re going to get a lot of it.

Via Des Bieler of the Washington Post, Smoot said that he encountered “several” gay players, adding that “everyone knew” and “no one cares.”

Of course, most gay players (and most people in the world) are more discreet about their own off-field exploits than the former first mate on the Vikings’ infamous “Love Boat” cruise.

Since that came up, Smoot mentioned that if it happened now under Roger Goodell’s watchful eye, he’d have been “banished from the league”

“Gotta be famous for something i guess,” he said.

But while Smoot’s a bit of a clown, the fact he’s so matter-of-fact about gay players in the NFL should tell us something — very few teammates would care, so long as that teammate could play.

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