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Panthers finally win a coin toss, take early lead

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Maybe it’s an omen.

The Panthers won their first coin toss of the year, and thus inspired, drove down the field for an early lead on the Falcons.

The Panthers were 0-13 on coin tosses this year (including an overtime), which can perhaps only be explained by their black cat mascot.

Cam Newton then directed an impressive 11-play, 77-yard drive, hitting Greg Olsen for a 25-yard touchdown. Newton was 5-of-5 passing on the opening drive, continuing a run of solid play.

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Kessler: The NFL “doesn’t want to comply with the CBA”

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At a time when many in the media think that the NFL Players Association is trying to “rewrite” the Collective Bargaining Agreement through the courts, the man who keeps beating the NFL in court in CBA cases has a different perspective.

On Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, I asked lawyer Jeffrey Kessler whether his 5-0 run in high-profile player suspension is the result of Kessler working legal magic or the NFL providing him with low-hanging fruit.

“I’d like to say it’s all my legal magic, but the situation is we have a league that just doesn’t want to comply with the CBA,” Kessler said. “It doesn’t want to follow the rules of arbitration when they’re arbitrating, and they really create these situations. It’s the reason why, for example, it’s so important that the players picked De Smith to be the head of the union, who’s an experienced lawyer. You could say, ‘Well, why do you need to be an experienced lawyer to be the head of the union?’ Well, that’s the only way that the union’s been able to protect the legal rights of these players. So it’s been critical to this process, but frankly if the NFL behaved like a lot of other leagues and we had a system that was fair and open in which they followed the rules they would need a lot less of my time.”

Kessler, who has been working for the union for a long time, said it hasn’t always been this way.

“This system of the Commissioner being able to arbitrate discipline, I’ll bet you it’s more than 75 years old,” Kessler said. “It long predates the union let alone the last CBA, and yet it has only become an enormous problem since I would say 2012 with Bountygate. It’s like some switch got flipped in the league office where they said, ‘Okay, let’s see how far we can push this and basically impose penalties wherever we want to without any process and let’s see what happens.’ Well, what’s happened is that the union’s had to repeatedly fight and as you mentioned we’ve had great success in protecting the players’ rights. It’s been a hand-to-hand combat that would seem not to be what you would want. From the league standpoint, from the player standpoint, there’s got to be a better way, and that’s what the union would like to see happen here.”

Whether it will happen is a different story. Literally. I’ll eventually write a different story on that.

For now, here’s the full transcript. Or you can listen to what Kessler had to say below.

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Falcons down to 67 players

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Friday brought reports that the Falcons have settled on Sean Renfree as the backup to Matt Ryan by cutting Rex Grossman and T.J. Yates.

The Falcons confirmed those moves on Friday night and they added six other cuts to get the ball rolling toward the 53-man limit they and the other 31 teams in the NFL must reach by Saturday afternoon.

None of the other names are as recognizable as the two quarterbacks. Linebacker Terrell Manning has seen time with the Packers, Chargers, Bears and Giants since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2012 and defensive end Cliff Matthews has played in 32 games for the Falcons over the last three seasons. The Falcons also cut 2015 seventh-round tackle Jake Rodgers.

Safety Sean Baker, guard Jared Smith and cornerback Kevin White have also been cut loose.

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Report: Independent neurologist resigns after RG3 fiasco

Robert Griffin III, Tyrunn Walker, Ezekiel Ansah AP

The odd story of Robert Griffin III’s concussion has taken another strange turn: The independent neurologist who first cleared Griffin to play, then said the next day that Griffin could not play, has reportedly resigned and will no longer work with the NFL going forward.

The Washington Post reports that Dr. Robert N. Kurtzke resigned from the neurological consultant program operated by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. According to the report, Kurtzke will continue to consult with Griffin until he’s fully cleared to return to the field, but otherwise Kurtzke is done working with the NFL.

It’s unclear why Kurtzke has decided to stop working with the NFL, which has said that its reliance on independent neurologists like Kurtzke is an important part of keeping players safe after suffering concussions. But whatever the reasons, it’s a bad look after the situation with Griffin has been thoroughly botched from the beginning.

When Griffin first went down in an August 20 preseason game, the team couldn’t get its story straight about whether he suffered a concussion or not. Later, coach Jay Gruden said Griffin did have a concussion but would remain the team’s starting quarterback. Reports out of Washington said the team didn’t think Griffin’s concussion was severe, and questions were raised about whether the concussion was just used as a pretext to keep Griffin from talking to the media. Griffin then returned to practice as Gruden continued to insist that Griffin would be the starter. Asked directly if he had a concussion or not, Griffin refused to answer. The team then said Griffin had been cleared to play and would start the third preseason game. A day later, the team announced that Kurtzke hadn’t cleared Griffin to play after all, and said it could be weeks before he’d be ready to go. Then Gruden abruptly changed course and announced that Griffin is now a backup.

Gee, why wouldn’t Dr. Kutzke want to be associated with something like that?

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Report: Robert Griffin III won’t be cut

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Today is the day that rosters must reduce to 53. Which means that every team will be cutting plenty of players between now at 4:00 p.m. ET.

According to Jeff Darlington of NFL Media, Washington won’t be cutting quarterback Robert Griffin III. Which means he won’t be RG-3-years-and-out.

Instead, the man who roughly a month ago was reconfirmed as the starter will be the primary backup to new starter Kirk Cousins. Which means Griffin won’t be RG-3-rd-string.

The decision likely arises at least in part from the fact that Griffin is RG-3-point-249-million-guaranteed in 2015, money he’ll make whether he’s on the team or not, with no offset for money he makes elsewhere. So if they’re going to pay him either way, why not keep him around?

The problem is that, if/when he plays this year, any injury that would carry into next season would entitle him to $16.1 million from the team, since his fifth-year option salary is guaranteed for injury.

Of course, he’s already injured; he has a concussion. And there’s an obvious temptation to not be cleared from the concussion through next season, in order to get the $16.1 million. That’s why the team needs to flip the incentive, telling him that he’ll be cut if he’s cleared to play, so that he can then play elsewhere in 2015 instead of being relegated to scrub with a franchise for which not long ago he was seen as a savior.

Even if he’s going to be a backup somewhere (and he surely would be at first), wouldn’t Griffin much rather be a backup in a place where he has never been a star? While his performance in 2012 seems like a long time ago for anyone of the outside, Griffin still works out in the same place, practices in the same place, plays in the same place, wears the same uniform.

A change of scenery could be just what he needs. Offering it could be exactly what the team needs to avoid the risk of Griffin receiving 17 game checks worth $947,000 each in 2016.

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Raiders expected to cut Christian Ponder

Christian Ponder AP

The NFL career of Christian Ponder is about to take another hit.

Ponder is expected to be cut by the Raiders today, Adam Caplan of ESPN reports.

That means the Raiders have wasted $1.5 million on Ponder, which is the signing bonus they gave him this offseason. At the time, the Raiders thought Ponder would make a good backup to Derek Carr, but Matt McGloin has out-played Ponder in the preseason, and the Raiders appear set to go with Carr as the starter and McGloin as the backup.

A former first-round draft pick of the Vikings, Ponder will now become a free agent. He’ll probably sign on with some other team as a backup, but the market won’t be strong. Ponder failed as a starter in Minnesota, and now he hasn’t even been able to succeed as a backup in Oakland.

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Report: RG3 knows nothing about his future in Washington

Robert Griffin III AP

Robert Griffin III is being left to wonder what his future in Washington holds.

According to an NFL Network report, Griffin has been told nothing about his future with the team and doesn’t know if he’ll be on the 53-man roster when the team makes its final cuts today.

The report also says Griffin doesn’t know if he’s been cleared to play or not. Griffin did undergo an examination with an independent neurologist as part of the NFL’s concussion protocol, but Griffin reportedly hasn’t heard if that neurologist will clear him to play. Last week, there was miscommunication on the subject, as the team initially announced that Griffin had been cleared, only to later announce that a neurologist decided not to clear him after all. Griffin himself has declined to say anything about the subject, refusing even to confirm that he had a concussion at all.

We’ll find out today if Griffin makes the 53-man roster. Griffin will apparently find out at the same time as the rest of us.

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Reports: Seahawks trying to trade Christine Michael; Robert Turbin to be waived/injured

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 14:  Running back Robert Turbin #32 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field on August 14, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The running back group for the Seattle Seahawks  appears to be undergoing a serious overhaul.

Marshawn Lynch is firmly set as the team’s starter, but the players behind him on the depth chart seem to be changing.

Former Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson is expected to sign with the team by the end of the weekend to serve as Lynch’s backup.

Robert Turbin, who had been Lynch’s backup each of the last three seasons, suffered a high-ankle sprain in last week’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Turbin will be waived/injured by Seattle as he is expected to miss around five weeks due to the ankle injury.

Teams can claim Turbin off waivers despite the injury. If he goes unclaimed, he would revert to injured reserve with Seattle.

Meanwhile, Jason La Canfora of reports the Seahawks are also attempting to trade third-string running back Christine Michael.

Michael has failed to earn substantial playing time with Seattle despite being a second round pick in 2013.

Undrafted free agents Thomas Rawls and Rod Smith have looked strong in preseason action for the Seahawks as well and could become beneficiaries of Seattle’s shuffling.

Rawls had 87 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the team’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night. He would be the favorite to land a third roster spot behind Lynch and Jackson if Turbin and Michael are gone.

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Tom Brady: “I am sorry our league had to endure this”

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In his first public comments since winning the legal battle to overturn his Deflategate suspension, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady expressed some regret.

Brady released a statement saying he’s sorry that the NFL went through Deflategate, and sorry “to anyone whose feelings I may have hurt.” Brady did not mention NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or anyone else by name.

“The regular season starts tomorrow morning and I can’t wait to fully commit my energy and emotion to focus on the challenges of the 2015 NFL season,” Brady said. “I want to thank my family, my friends, all of the fans, past and current players and my teammates for the support they have given me throughout this challenging experience. I also want to thank Judge Berman and his staff for their efforts to resolve this matter over the past five weeks. I am very grateful. My thanks also to the union’s legal team who has fought so hard right along with me.

“While I am pleased to be eligible to play, I am sorry our league had to endure this. I don’t think it has been good for our sport – to a large degree, we have all lost. I am also sorry to anyone whose feelings I may have hurt as I have tried to work to resolve this situation. I love the NFL. It is a privilege to be a member of the NFL community and I will always try to do my best in representing my team and the league in a way that would make all members of this community proud. I look forward to the competition on the playing field and I hope the attention of NFL fans can return to where it belongs – on the many great players and coaches who work so hard every week, and sacrifice so much, to make this game great. Most importantly, I look forward to representing the New England Patriots on Thursday night in our season opener. I hope to make all of our fans proud this year … and beyond!”

Brady has avoided answering questions from the media during the Deflategate investigation. By NFL rules, he will have to answer questions after the season-opening game on Thursday.

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Raiders trade LB Sio Moore to Colts

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The Colts are trading a late-round draft pick to the Raiders for linebacker Sio Moore, both teams announced Friday night.

Moore, a third-round pick in 2013, started 22 games in two seasons with the Raiders and should get an immediate chance to contribute with the Colts, who need help at linebacker and on defense in general.

Moore has never played in a 3-4 defense but he had 3 sacks last season and 4.5 as a rookie. It’s unclear which position he’ll play with the Colts or where he’ll fit in a linebacker corps that’s probably not settled.

The Colts added veteran Trent Cole in the offseason and hope to have Robert Mathis back soon but might not have seen enough from backup outside linebackers Bjoern Werner and Jonathan Newsome in the preseason. Werner, a first-round pick in 2013, had 4 sacks last year; Newsome had a strong rookie year getting after the quarterback and had 6.5 sacks.

Moore, who’s recovering from hip surgery, had fallen out of the rotation this summer with the Raiders.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that the compensation the Raiders will receive for Moore is a sixth-round pick.

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Seahawks, Fred Jackson agree to one-year deal

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Fred Jackson’s career will march on to Seattle.

Jackson, the aging veteran running back who was cut by the Bills this week, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Seahawks, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The 34-year-old Jackson appears to have lost a step and is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-low 3.7 yards a carry. But he can still provide valuable depth behind Marshawn Lynch in the Seahawks’ backfield, and he’s also excellent at picking up the blitz, which will help keep Russell Wilson upright behind an unproven Seattle offensive line.

Lynch and Jackson were previously teammates in Buffalo, and they remain close friends. Now they’ll be the 1-2 punch in Seattle.

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McDaniels says Brady suspension never affected preparation

Tom Brady AP

Shortly after Tom Brady was suspended, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels vowed that any looming suspension wouldn’t affect how the offense prepared. Now that Brady has had his suspension rescinded, McDaniels says the Patriots never allowed it to become an issue.

“Quite honestly, it hadn’t changed a whole lot of what we had done up to this point, and our preparation for the Steeler game should be normal. That’s kind of how it had gone the last so-many months anyway, trying to get everybody prepared for the season,” McDaniels said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.

The Patriots’ mantra is “do your job,” and McDaniels says that’s exactly what Brady has done.

“Tom’s a veteran player with a lot of experience, and he’s had to deal with different types of adversities and distractions in the past, whether it be injuries or personnel or something else,” McDaniels said. “I thought he went out and practiced and improved, tried to do his job, worked at his craft and put in a lot of hard work in different areas of playing the position of quarterback. He was prepared, studied hard for practice and games, the OTAs, and all those things we’ve done. That’s the best way to try to go about — control the things you can control — and I thought he did a good job of that.”

Brady did not play well in the preseason, completing just 10 of 22 passes for 107 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. But if McDaniels is to be believed, that’s not a cause for concern in New England. Brady is as ready for this season as he has been for any other.

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Patriots work out DE Lawrence Okoye

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The Patriots worked out nine players Friday, per a league source, including defensive end Lawrence Okoye.

Cut by the 49ers earlier this week, Okoye is a former Olympic discus thrower and rugby player from England. He spent the previous two seasons on the 49ers practice squad while trying to transition to American football.

At 6’6, 304, he’s the kind of project Patriots coach Bill Belichick has taken on before.

The Patriots also worked out running backs Joe Don Duncan and Joey Iosefa, wide receivers Nathan Palmer and Marquez Clark, defensive linemen Derrick Lott and Jimmy Staten, quarterback Jeff Tuel and defensive back Justin Coleman.

Coleman signed with the Patriots after his workout. He’s an undrafted rookie who was cut by the Vikings earlier in the week.

Tuel started two games for the Bills in 2013. The Patriots released quarterback Ryan Lindley Friday, a day after a federal judge overturned Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in time for Brady to start next Thursday’s season opener.

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Matt Cassel: Every indication is that Bills will keep three QBs

Matt Cassel AP

The Bills parted ways with Matt Simms on Friday, leaving them with three quarterbacks on the roster with Saturday’s deadline to set a 53-man roster fast approaching.

We know the plan is for Tyrod Taylor to start Week One, which makes him highly unlikely to wind up on the waiver wire. How EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel fit is less clear and coach Rex Ryan cited “strategic purposes” as the reason he wasn’t willing to discuss the team’s plans for them on Friday.

Cassel was a bit more forthcoming.

“I don’t know if they want to go into depth about what the conversation was about, who’s going to be No. 2 or No. 3,” Cassel said, via “But every indication was made that we’re probably gonna keep three quarterbacks, and that’s all I can go off of right now.”

Indications don’t mean anything until the moves are submitted to the league, obviously, and the team could decide to move forward with just two quarterbacks or bring in a different player to hold the No. 3 job if someone they like shakes loose from another team. For now, though, Cassel thinks he’ll be spending the next few months in Buffalo along with Manuel and Taylor.

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Patriots cut Ryan Lindley and nine others

Devon Kennard, Ryan Lindley AP

It’s not every year that a team cuts a quarterback that started a playoff game the previous year, but, then, it’s not every year that events conspire to allow a quarterback like Ryan Lindley to start a playoff game.

Lindley was forced into action with the Cardinals late last season and led the offense in their playoff loss to the Panthers before hitting the ranks of the unemployed this offseason. The Patriots signed him last month and he started Thursday’s preseason finale, but there wasn’t much need for him on the 53-man roster now that the team is assured of having Tom Brady in the lineup next week.

Lindley will be joined by running back Tony Creecy, wide receiver Zach D’Orazio, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, guard Ryan Groy, tackle Caylin Hauptmann, tackle Chris Martin, linebacker James Morris, defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali’i and defensive tackle Casey Walker on the list of former Patriots.

The Patriots signed cornerback Justin Coleman, who was dropped by the Vikings last weekend. The moves leave them with 66 players and 13 moves to go before Saturday’s deadline to set a 53-man roster.

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Jets work out Brandon Bostick, four receivers

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Brandon Bostick, the tight end best known for not recovering the onside kick in last year’s NFC Championship Game that allowed the Seahawks to complete an improbable comeback, worked out for the Jets Friday.

Per a league source, the Jets also worked out four wide receivers — Shane Wynn, DeAndre Carter, Vernon Johnson and Alan Bonner — and quarterback Matt Blanchard.

Bostick, 26, was released earlier this week by the Vikings. He caught nine passes over the last two seasons with the Packers.

Wynn caught a touchdown pass from Johnny Manziel in the second preseason game but was waived earlier this week, mostly because the Browns already have a bunch of smaller wide receivers. Bonner was a sixth-round pick of the Texans in 2013 and was also let go earlier this week.

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