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NFLPA to file grievance over Toradol waivers

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With the NFL’s past handling of concussions creating a storm of present litigation, the league is now trying to anticipate — and block — future lawsuits arising from current practices.

Specifically, the NFL is requiring players to sign comprehensive waivers of liability for the dissemination of Toradol shots.  The waivers need to be signed before team doctors will give the players the shots.

Toradol, a potent painkiller that doesn’t fall within the category of banned substances, can cause long-term kidney, liver, and/or gastrointestinal problems.  The league wants to be able to allow players to use Toradol during their playing careers, without having to worry about responsibility of any kind in the future.  The release from liability, a copy of which PFT has obtained, includes the team, the doctors, all teammates, and any employees of the team.

And so, as NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said earlier today on CBS This Morning, the union will be attempting to block the practice.  Specifically, a grievance will be filed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, claiming that the labor deal prevents the league from seeking a waiver of liability resulting from the use of Toradol.

Last month, we explained that players have objected to efforts to restrict the use of Toradol, given that it allows players to deal with serious pain and continue to work.

So while they want to use it and likewise understand the risks of using it, the players want to have the ability to pursue future claims if the player develops kidney or liver problems later in life.

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Panthers sign receiver Trevor Graham

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With players set to report to training camp on Tuesday, the Carolina Panthers made one last addition to their roster before getting their season preparations underway.

The Panthers announced Monday they have signed receiver Trevor Graham. The Panthers’ roster is now full with 90 players under contract.

Graham, known by his initials T.J. when he was selected in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Buffalo Bills, has decided to go with his given first name instead.

Graham was not on an NFL roster last season after the Philadelphia Eagles released him in August. Given the Eagles struggles at wide receiver last year, that may not bode well for Graham’s chances of making the Panthers roster.

Graham caught 54 passes for 683 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Bills before being released at the end of training camp in 2014.  He briefly stopped in Tennessee before appearing in 12 games for the New York Jets that season and four games for the New Orleans Saints in 2015. He totaled just seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown over that span.

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Plaxico Burress, Tommy Kelly join Cardinals as coaching interns

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Former receiver Plaxico Burress and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly have joined the Arizona Cardinals for training camp as coaching interns on Bruce Arians’ staff.

According to Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports.com, Edwards and Kelly are among several coaching interns serving on staff for training camp.

Burress played under Arians for one season in Pittsburgh when Arians was the Steelers’ wide receivers coach in 2004. Kelly played his final season under Arians in Arizona in 2014.

It’s a regular occurrence around the league to have extra bodies help as interns on the coaching staff with the increased roster size of training camp. Burress spent 12 seasons in the NFL with the Steelers, New York Jets and New York Giants. Kelly played 11 seasons with the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

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Saints activate Travin Dural from non-football injury list

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The New Orleans Saints had placed wide receiver Travin Dural on the non-football injury as rookies reported to training camp last week.

The stay on the NFI list ultimately ended up being a short one. Dural passed his physical with the team on Monday and will be able to practice when the Saints first take to the practice field later this week.

Dural caught 37 passes for 758 yards and seven touchdowns with LSU in 2014. He appeared in 38 career games, catching 100 passes for 1,716 yards and 13 touchdowns.

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Chargers interested in Griffin but not Kaepernick

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When other quarterbacks get workouts or sign contracts with teams instead of Colin Kaepernick, there are semi-plausible ways to distinguish the situation based on football principles. When Robert Griffin III draws interest from the Chargers and Kaepernick doesn’t, it’s impossible to explain the interest in one and not the other.

Unless, of course, the Chargers are deliberately shying away from Kaepernick for the reasons that many assume teams are shying away from Kaepernick — because he used the platform provided by an NFL team to lead a movement.

Kaepernick has achieved far more from a football standpoint than Griffin, who simply hasn’t been able to adjust his game to the pro level, where he can’t ran away from trouble like he did in high school and at Baylor. At the NFL level, he gets hit and he gets hurt and he hasn’t done squat since before injuring his knee against the Ravens as a rookie.

No one would suggest he has mastered a pro style offense. He’s roughly the same kind of quarterback that Kaepernick has been, and the Chargers being interested in the lesser option who has roughly the same skill set makes the decision to shun Kaepernick for either political or clumsily-justified business reasons obvious.

Sure, the Chargers may be concerned about alienating the L.A. market at a time when two teams are vying for the same hearts, minds, and wallets. But there’s also a way to argue that signing Kaepernick would give the Chargers an edge by immediately attracting the many fans in Southern California who would embrace Kaepernick’s activism.

Regardless of whether the reasons reflect prudence or wrong-headedness, the Chargers taking a look at Griffin and not Kaepernick confirms the idea that Kaepernick’s unemployment isn’t about football — and it definitely isn’t about catering to the many fans who would deem his non-football efforts to be a reason for becoming a fan of the L.A. Chargers.

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David Irving on his suspension: I made the mistake

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Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving thought the NFL had erred when he received word of a failed drug test.

I was pretty upset,” Irving said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. “As soon as I got the letter I called right away, like, ‘What the [expletive]! This has to be a mistake.’ But it wasn’t. I made the mistake.”

Irving, who earned NFC defensive player of the week honors when he forced three fumbles and had a sack in 19 snaps against the Packers in Week 6, will miss the first four games after violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Irving used an over-the-counter substance he hoped to endorse.

“Everything listed on the bottle was fine,” Irving said. “It was supposed to be all natural, but [it had] a hidden ingredient. It was a substance that actually wasn’t even listed on the bottle. When I asked about the substance, they don’t even know the substance. I guess my testosterone levels were too high.

“It gets you going. I started taking it after the season when you’re not working out with the team, you know, something to get my ass in the gym. It’s funny, I thought I was hitting a second puberty.”

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Jaylon Smith’s nerve shows improvement as Cowboys have high hopes for LB

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Jaylon Smith’s latest electromyogram (EMG) test showed improvement in the nerve, and though it still may be months before the linebacker’s peroneal nerve fully regenerates, it was good news.

Smith is practicing with his teammates, something he wasn’t able to do this time last year.

It feels great,” Smith said, via Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News. “Last year I was kind of a spectator just in the beginning stages of rehab. Now I’m in the mix and playing football.

“The plan is to work hard and every day. It varies as far as the scheduling. I’m just doing everything that they allow me to do.”

Smith, who will practice every other day during camp, has vowed to play in the season opener. His return to action has not been questioned as much as how good he will play if he has to wear a brace for drop foot. But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones compared Smith to a “No. 1 draft pick.”

Smith was rated as a top-10 pick for the 2016 draft before his devastating left knee injury during Notre Dame’s bowl game Jan. 1, 2016. The Cowboys used a second-round pick on Smith, who spent last season rehabbing.

“He was at the top of the board and would have been at the top of the board this year,” Jones said. “The caveat is what we all wonder. Can he play like he had the career playing at that particular time? So that’s what we’re here to see. To me, he’s just like looking at a No. 1 draft pick out here coming out on the field for the first time.

“We all know his circumstances, and what he needs to overcome. It looks really good, all testing, all feeling, really looks as good as I could have hoped that it would look at the time. We’ll see.”

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Andy Reid to Tamba Hali: Let’s just talk about it

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Andy Reid appreciates Tamba Hali’s love for the game, but the Chiefs coach isn’t promising the linebacker’s playing time will increase this season.

“The one thing you love about Tamba is that he loves to play,” Reid said, via Alec McChesney of the Kansas City Star. “I mean, that’s the one thing. I can’t tell you he’s getting any younger. I can’t tell you that. I do love the fact that he bugs on you that he wants to play.

“As coaches, we have to make that decision. And so, when we make the decision that he plays seven plays or 27 plays or 47 plays, that’s what we do. And is a player always going to be happy about that? No. That’s not how it works. But do I love the fact he wants to play? Yes. He’s probably going to be 50 years old and still tweeting out those things, that he wants to get in his plays. I love that about him.”

Hali, 33, took to Twitter on Saturday, expressing anger at getting only seven snaps in the team’s playoff loss to the Steelers. He started only two games last season with but 3.5 sacks, the second-fewest of his career, as Dee Ford and Justin Houston solidified starting roles.

Reid said he wishes Hali had talked to the coaching staff rather than airing his grievances on social media.

“We don’t want him to do it through the social media part and all that,” Reid said. “Let’s just talk about it. If you have a problem, let’s talk about it.”

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Unenforceable rule may become relevant to Gareon Conley’s contract

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With Raiders first-round cornerback Gareon Conley unsigned and still under investigation for rape, the team and the player have a problem. How do they work out a deal with a cloud still lingering that could result in Conley being prosecuted and possibly convicted?

The answer is simple. As one league source with extensive experience negotiating contracts explained it recently, teams drafting players who present unusual circumstances often will communicate with the player’s agent before the pick is made, making a verbal request for eventual contractual protections. Although any such terms would be both unenforceable and a violation of the labor deal, it happens — and both teams and agents respect these wink-nod arrangements.

If the Raiders asked Conley while on the clock (or, quite possibly, before being on the clock) whether Conley would agree to certain terms if the charges remain unresolved when camp opens and if Conley agreed, Conley’s camp should honor the commitment. If the Raiders made no such requests, then the team made Conley the 24th pick in the draft with no strings attached; he should get every penny and every term that he would have gotten regardless of the unresolved criminal case.

To date, we’ve been unable to determine whether the Raiders made any special requests, or whether Conley’s agents agreed. Side deal or not, both sides now know what the posture will be entering camp. The only thing left is to work something out in accordance with what was, or wasn’t, promised on the first night of the draft.

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Jourdan Lewis’ attorney says Lewis merely threw pillows at accuser

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While his Cowboys teammates practiced for the first time, rookie Jourdan Lewis was in Ann Arbor, Mich., as his domestic assault case began Monday with jury selection and opening statements.

According to John Counts of mlive.com, Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Lou Danner characterized the March 15 incident as a violent assault that started with three blows with a pillow.

“He did it hard,” Danner said, via Counts. “He used force behind it, and he knew he shouldn’t have.”

Lewis later dragged Nikole Miller, 21, across the floor and forcefully put his hands on her neck before leaving, Danner said in opening statements.

Lewis’ attorney, John Shea, said Lewis merely threw pillows at Miller after she woke him and confronted him about wasting “a few pennies worth of electricity” after falling asleep with the lights on.

“Throwing pillows at someone is not domestic assault by anyone’s definition,” Shea said.

Miller and Lewis are expected to testify Tuesday, with Shea telling the jury Monday that Miller had changed her story several times.

Five women and two men, all Ann Arbor residents, make up the jury.

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Mark Murphy: Packers will never give up a home date for an international game

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The Packers accept the fact that the NFL won’t host a Super Bowl at Lambeau Field. And since the Packers won’t host a Super Bowl at Lambeau Field, they won’t have to automatically sacrifice a home game to the league’s ongoing overseas obsession.

Thus, via SportsBusiness Daily, Packers CEO Mark Murphy told shareholders on Monday that the team will “never” make that swap.

The league office eventually could disagree. Even if the usual suspects continue to be the ones who give up home games for games in Europe, Mexico, or elsewhere, the league’s ongoing expansion of the international games could make a squeezing of the Packers and other teams supposedly immune from the obligation vulnerable.

Or maybe the league will offer the Packers some other sort of deal in exchange for a home game. Without knowing what the offer would be, it’s impossible to know that the Packers would refuse it.

So while “never” may draw cheers from the shareholders/fans who were at Lambeau Field on Monday (it did), “never” is the kind of commitment that it will be hard for Murphy to honor.

Of course, he only has to honor it for as long as he’s the CEO.

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Tony Sparano happy with his Vikings OL after injury-plagued 2016

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The best thing about this year is it’s not last year for the Vikings offensive line. Minnesota used 12 players and eight different starting combinations in its line last season.

In two games last season, the Vikings were down to five healthy offensive linemen on game day. Tight end David Morgan served as the emergency backup, though Minnesota never had to use him.

“It would be hard for me to imagine something like that happening again,” Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano said, via Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’ve never been involved in a scenario like that.”

Sparano asked for reinforcements in the offseason, and the Vikings gave him new tackles in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, who are expected to start on the left and right respectively.

“Looking at it right now, and after watching this group in the spring, I’m excited about where we are,” Sparano said. “I love this group of guys. They put their heads down, they work hard, they’re smart, they’re strong, and they’re tough. Those are the qualities you look for.”

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Robert Griffin III gets a workout with the Chargers

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With training camps opening around the NFL, Robert Griffin III has finally drawn some interest.

Griffin will work out for the Chargers on Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

It’s the first report of any team having any interest at all in Griffin, who was the second overall draft pick and the NFL’s rookie of the year in 2012. A knee injury in the postseason after his rookie year changed the way Griffin played, and he’s never been even close to the star quarterback he was as a rookie.

Now he’ll get a shot to show he’s at least in good enough shape to serve as a camp arm and perhaps a backup to starter Philip Rivers.

Behind Rivers the Chargers have three quarterbacks on the depth chart: Kellen Clemens, Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins. If Griffin is even close to the same player he once was, he’s an improvement over any of those three backups. But whether Griffin can ever return to form remains to be seen.

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Gerald McCoy has a tweet storm of his own

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Another day, another disgruntled defensive player taking his displeasure to social media.

Two days after veteran Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali vented on Twitter about a lack of playing time in the playoffs, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has taken to Twitter to complain about, well, something.

They won’t appreciate you until you’re gone,” McCoy said in his first message. “Soon enough though. Then we’ll see.”

Three minutes later came this: “No more being quiet. I’m done holding my tongue. Believe that!!”

That one was immediately followed by this one: “You try and try with people but they don’t get it. They push you and push you until you cross that line. Well line crossed!!

Finally, and nearly a half-hour later, McCoy wrapped up his quartet of messages by declaring as follows: “Training camp, 2017-2018 season…………… LETS GO!! Now it’s really time to go!! No more talking or tweeting.”

Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times has tried to make sense of the various messages, and the reason(s) for them. Jones also suggests that there could be a link between McCoy’s comments and the looming launch of Hard Knocks.

Whatever the reason, it definitely adds a layer of flavor to Hard Knocks. If the Buccaneers decide to embrace the subplot and not leave it on the cutting room floor.

Ultimately, McCoy’s complaints may not matter for 2017, unless the Buccaneers can find a trade partner. His $13.25 million salary for the coming season is nearly fully guaranteed. Absent a trade, he’s not going anywhere until 2018, at the earliest.

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Cowboys cut Lucky Whitehead, whose agent says wasn’t in Va. at time of supposed arrest

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The Cowboys cut Lucky Whitehead, even though the receiver’s agent said Whitehead wasn’t in Virginia at the time of his supposed arrest.

Whitehead’s agent, Dave Rich, showed NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport flight records that have Whitehead flying to Dulles at 7:20 a.m. on June 22, six hours after Whitehead supposedly was arrested in Prince William County, Va.

Whitehead was accused of taking less than $200 worth of items from a convenience store.

On July 6, Whitehead failed to show for an appearance related to the June 22 arrest, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The court date has been rescheduled for Aug. 10.

As Whitehead was escorted off the practice field Monday by a member of the team’s public relations staff, Whitehead told reporters he didn’t know what they were talking about.

I didn’t even know about that,” Whitehead said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

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Antonio Brown has another message for Le’Veon Bell

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The Steelers don’t need to spend much time trying to persuade running back Le’Veon Bell to sign his franchise tender. Receiver Antonio Brown is doing the heavy lifting for them.

After public comments that followed a private conversation that created the clear impression that Brown wants Bell to accept the pending $12.1 million offer and to be “committed to the cause,” Brown has taken to Twitter with a “let’s go”-style plea for the teammate Brown wants to see at training camp.

The fact that Brown feels compelled to lobby Bell to show up confirms that a holdout is indeed possible. But Brown would be wise to tread lightly here.

The window on a long-term deal for Bell closed last Monday. Unless the Steelers plan to offer Bell more than $12.1 million for 2017 or to promise not to use the franchise tag again in 2018, there’s nothing more the Steelers can do to get him signed. Which means that Brown’s plea, absent a similar message to management aimed at getting them to sweeten the one-year pot, could be interpreted by Bell as an effort to pressure him to accept a franchise tender that, to date, he has decided to reject.

Brown has now gotten a pair of multi-year deals without ever having to play out a contract or operate under the franchise tag. Bell has yet to get any kind of long-term security. Whatever Bell’s plan for enhancing his financial position, Brown’s effort to get Bell to take the offer squeezes him to alter his approach. Perhaps more importantly, Brown’s well-intentioned exercise in teamwork could turn fans already inclined to embrace rookie James Conner against Bell.

So if Brown is going to continue to try to get Bell to show up, at some point he needs to publicly urge the people who have paid Brown millions to offer Brown another $3 million or so more for 2017.

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