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Cowboys to wear “53” decals to honor Jerry Brown

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The Cowboys will honor the late Jerry Brown this weekend with a helmet decal.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, each Cowboys player will have a “53” sticker on his helmet to honor the practice squad linebacker who was killed in a car wreck last Saturday.

The team put in a request this week, and the NFL approved it Friday afternoon.

They clearly drew closer together last week in the wake of Brown’s tragic death, and this week’s symbol will keep his memory with them.

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Ron Rivera will miss some practice time to attend brother’s funeral

Ron Rivera AP

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was there when his team reported to training camp, even if his heart was elsewhere.

After leading their first practice tonight, Rivera will fly to Reno for the funeral of his brother Mickey, who died this week after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

It’s been a series of ups and downs,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. We got back off vacation and we were moving back into our home, and then we got the word about my brother.

“For the most part he’s in a better place now. In Mickey’s mind he didn’t want to be a distraction, but the timing was not good.”

Rivera was also just moving back into his home, which was damaged in a fire during last year’s playoff run, when he got the news.

“Ron’s a pro and we’re going to support him every which way we can,” General Manager Dave Gettleman said. “We’re a family and we’ll get through it as a family.”

Assistant head coach Steve Wilks will run practices and meetings Saturday and Sunday in Rivera’s absence.

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John Elway: Running game will be Peyton’s best friend

Denver Broncos versus the Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

In the last few years of his playing career, John Elway was joined by running back Terrell Davis in an offense run by coordinator Gary Kubiak and saw the team win 39 regular season games and two Super Bowls between 1996 and Elway’s retirement after the 1998 season.

Elway was 38 when he walked away, which is a bit younger than Peyton Manning is now, and there’s no one producing at quite the level Davis was in those days, but Elway is expecting a similar kind of relationship between quarterback and running game with Kubiak back in the fold as head coach. There’s been a lot of talk about increased offensive balance and a larger role for the running game this season and Elway drew on his own experience Thursday while discussing why it would benefit Manning.

“Late in my career, that was my best friend, the running game. And I think that running game will be Peyton’s best friend, also,” Elway said, via the Denver Post. “It’s obviously going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but you got two smart, bright offensive football minds that are competitive and want to win. There was never, ever a thought in my mind that this wasn’t going to work.”

Finding ways to keep Manning fresh deeper into the season is a priority for the Broncos and cutting down on the workload for an arm that has thrown 1,839 passes over the last three years would certainly help. That’s more than 500 more throws than Elway made in his final three NFL seasons and something closer to Elway’s totals could lead to the sharper and stronger Manning that the Broncos were in need of down the stretch last year.

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Dez Bryant: New contract won’t change the way he plays, acts

Dez Bryant AP

The Cowboys gave wide receiver Dez Bryant life-changing money.

But Bryant said the deal won’t change him.

It’s no pressure, man,” Bryant said after his first day of practice, via Todd Archer of “It’s no pressure. That deal don’t make me. It don’t make me. I play this game because I love this game. I don’t give a damn about none of that. It’s not going to change the way I play. It’s not going to change the way I act. I’m here. Like, thank you, I can go buy me a home and now I’m able to take care of my family. Yeah, I love that, but as far as me performing on the field, like, I take full pride in that.”

The $70 million deal included $45 million in guarantees, and it took the requisite amount of posturing and tough talk from both sides. Bryant reiterated that he’d have been willing to skip regular season games if a deal wasn’t done.

“Oh man, it was extremely hard, but at the same time, I was forced to be in a situation that I knew one day that would eventually come,” Bryant said. “I never experienced it. I’m glad that we got it done and I’m here. . . .

“I see myself always [as] a Cowboy at heart.”

Of course, he’ll be 31 when this contract expires, which means there could be another chance to prove it.

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Martellus Bennett no longer worrying about contract

Martellus Bennett, Jay Cutler AP

The Bears didn’t have tight end Martellus Bennett in the building for the voluntary portions of the offseason program because the veteran was trying to leverage his way into a new contract with the team.

No deal was struck and Bennett, who is set to make $4.9 million this year and just over $5 million next year, avoided one seat of fines by reporting to minicamp in June. He avoided another by reporting to training camp on time as well and said Thursday that there are no lingering resentments as a result of his failed gambit.

“I’m not even worried about a contract right now,” Bennett said, via “It’s just business. I have no hard feelings against anybody. Some business deals go the way you want. Some — I have several business deals this offseason that worked and didn’t work out. For me it’s just another business deal, and then that’s just the way it is. Some deals get done, some don’t. Still got to come to work and do my job.”

Bennett acknowledged that he may be a “leg behind” after the time he missed because the team has a new offensive coordinator in Adam Gase, but called himself a “quick learner” while expressing confidence that he’d have it all down by the start of the season. Bennett had 90 catches for 916 yards last season and repeating that kind of production in this offense will strengthen his case for a new deal when it is next time to talk business.

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Steven Jackson tweets he’d like to sign with the Cowboys

Bradley McDougald, Steven Jackson AP

With 11,388 career yards, Steven Jackson is the NFL’s active rushing leader. Or at least he would be, if he were currently on a team. Unfortunately for Jackson, training camps are opening and he doesn’t have a team.

In an effort to change that, Jackson is tweeting at the Cowboys.

Jackson took to Twitter on Thursday with an image of his number 39 being projected above the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.

A player who has to ask teams on Twitter if they’re interested probably isn’t drawing much attention, and in Jackson’s case it’s easy to see why. He’s 32 years old and isn’t the same explosive player he was in his best seasons with the Rams.

Perhaps some team that loses a running back to injury will give Jackson a call, but there’s a good chance we’ve seen the last of him in the NFL. Jackson has had a great career, but it’s a career that may be over.

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Jaguars don’t want to give up Packers game to London in 2016

Packers fans watch their team play the Seahawks during their Monday night NFL football game at Centurylink Field Reuters

The Jaguars want to continue to take games to London.

They just don’t want to give up one of their best home games next year.

Jaguars president Mark Lamping said their game against the Packers in 2016 would not be going overseas, contrary to previous reports.

“We get the Packers here in Jacksonville so infrequently,” Lamping said, via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union. “They have such a national following. We have a lot of people here in Jacksonville that are Jaguars fans but also fans of the traditional NFL teams. So, we look forward to that game being played here in Jacksonville.”

Translated: We can sell that one here.

The Jaguars are expected to extend their deal to take a game a year to England beyond 2016 as well, and they may take a division game at some point. Their 2016 home schedule also includes the Broncos, Raiders Vikings and an AFC North foe to be determined.

“For our London initiative to have the desired result, which is a more stable financially strong franchise in Jacksonville, we have to make sure the game in London is successful,” Lamping said. “As the game develops over there, hopefully, the fan base for the Jaguars grows. Just having the Jaguars over there at the right time may well be enough to sell out Wembley Stadium. We’re not there now. So, we’re sensitive to making an interesting matchup for our U.K. fans.”

That’s led them to play some high-profile opponents there, as the 49ers and Cowboys were their first two opponents there, with the Bills going to play them this year.

While the appetite for football overseas has been strong, we’re not sure our friends across the pond are ready to stomach a Titans-Jaguars game.

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William “Refrigerator” Perry auctioning off his SB XX ring

Fridge Getty Images

William Perry helped lead the Chicago Bears to their only Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 1985.

Now “The Fridge” is auctioning off his Super Bowl ring.

Perry’s Super Bowl ring has been listed by The auction was supposed to go live on Thursday and is noted as having concluded. The starting bid for the size 25 ring was noted to begin at $16,000. The ring is being offered with a letter of authentication by Perry.

Perry famously scored a touchdown in the 46-10 victory over the Patriots while Walter Payton did not score in the Bears’ rout. Perry appeared in 138 games over 10 seasons with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

Perry had the ring returned to him in 2011 after a 10-year old purchased the ring for $8,500 from a bar that owned it as part of a sports memorabilia display. Perry has been dealing with Guillain-Barre syndrome since being diagnosed in 2008.

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James Jones to sign with Giants

James Jones Getty Images

The New York Giants are expected to have a new receiver when they take to the practice fields for the first time on Friday.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Jones will sign a one-year deal with the Giants, pending a physical, when he arrives in New York.

Jones had interest from the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals before choosing the Giants.

Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns in his only season with the Oakland Raiders last season. The nine-year veteran spent his first eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers and has caught 383 passes for 4,971 yards and 43 touchdowns in his career.

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Russell Wilson’s deadline arrives soon; could it be extended?

Wilson Getty Images

Friday has arrived in at least one portion of the contiguous 48 United States, and it soon will hit Seattle. It’s the artificial deadline, set in February, by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for doing a new deal.

So this means that no deal will be done until after the season, right? Maybe not.

Technically, the plug won’t be pulled until the Seahawks start their first camp practice, at 1:30 p.m. ET on Friday. Moreover, there’s a belief in league circles that a deal could be done within the next 48 hours, notwithstanding the deadline. It would mean that the Seahawks will have sweetened their pending offer, once they recognize that, come February, it will be much more expensive to keep Wilson — so expensive that they may end up not keeping him.

It’s possible that Wilson and agent Mark Rodgers will refuse to consider any offers made after the artificial deadline comes and goes. But that can’t stop the Seahawks from continuing to extend offers, and it can’t prevent Wilson from getting one that he likes enough to accept.

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Stephen A. Smith doesn’t seem to realize he was used by the NFL

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Six months after the NFL apparently leaked false information to Chris Mortensen of ESPN regarding the PSI readings for 11 of 12 Patriots footballs used in the AFC title game, the NFL expertly leaked true information to Stephen A. Smith of ESPN regarding the allegation that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “destroyed his cellphone.”

Smith broke the news (sort of) four hours before the Brady ruling was issued, priming the pump for the headline that the NFL wanted the court of public opinion to be repeating like a sitcom catch phrase: “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

Via Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, Smith was strident about those who doubted his less-than-unequivocal claim that he was “hearing” Brady destroyed his cellphone.

This idiocy,” Smith said on his SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio show. “Sometimes folks are just hard to take. And by the way, don’t bother calling me up about these so-called colleagues of mine. Colleagues who want to talk about me like a dog, questioning my knowledge of what I reported.”

Raissman quoted the explanation from MDS regarding the difference between someone from ESPN’s army of NFL insiders “reporting” that the NFL will contend the cellphone was destroyed and paid opinion factory Stephen A. Smith offering up a wishy-way, less-than-forceful claim that the phone was destroyed: “If ESPN’s respected veteran NFL reporters say they’re ‘hearing’ what Goodell is ‘likely’ to do, we can reasonably surmise that they’re ‘hearing’ it from well-placed sources within the league office. Even if such a report turned out to be wrong, if it came from a respected reporter it was probably based on contact with sources who are in a position to know what they’re talking about. When it comes from Smith, it doesn’t mean anything.”

“I will say this: I have no problem with some idiot blogger speaking against me or whatever,” Stephen A. Smith said. “They are trying to create headlines, trying to create hits for a website. But I do have a problem with folks who are supposed to be colleagues and contemporaries in this industry who understand the nuances of what surrounds this industry.”

We definitely understand the nuances. In this case, the nuance lost on Stephen A. Smith is that the league office specifically selected him as the guy best suited to blaze a Tuesday morning trial for the mantra that the NFL wanted everyone to be repeating at that night’s dinner table:  “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

Smith wasn’t wrong in what he said. He was wrong to hedge by saying things like “I’m hearing” and “I don’t know.” And he’s wrong not to realize that, in the same way someone from the league office used Chris Mortensen to spread the false notion that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were 2.0 pounds under the PSI minimum at halftime of the AFC title game, someone from the league office used Stephen A. Smith to introduce to an unsuspecting public the best-kept secret in the NFL from June 18 through July 28: “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

And so instead of reacting to the press release declaring that “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone” by saying, “What the hell is this all about?” the prevailing reaction was, “Damn. Stephen A. Smith was right. Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

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Kam Chancellor a no-show for start of Seahawks camp

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Carolina Panthers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Legion of Boom could be a bust, at least for now.

With safety Earl Thomas likely headed for the PUP list and cornerback Richard Sherman still a bit of a question mark after not having surgery on an elbow he dislocated in the NFC title game, safety Kam Chancellor has opted not to show up for the start of camp, due to dissatisfaction with his contract.

Per multiple reports, Chancellor officially will be holding out.

He’ll be subject to a fines of $30,000 per day for each day missed as he tried to get the Seahawks to enhance a contract that runs through 2017. He’s due to make $4.55 million in 2015.

Chancellor is the lone no-show, which means that defensive end Michael Bennett has opted to report, despite dissatisfaction with a contract of his own that runs through 2017. And quarterback Russell Wilson is present and accounted for; a holdout for him was never a possibility, even though as of this posting he doesn’t have a new contract.

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Judge tells NFL, NFLPA to ease up on the tough talk

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On Thursday, a judge in Minnesota told the NFL and NFLPA to get lost. Also on Thursday, a judge in New York told them to shut up.

Judge Richard M. Berman, in an order issued sua sponte (fancy lawyer talk for “on its own without a request from either side”) advising the parties to quit doing what many New Yorkers often do: Argue in public.

“While this litigation is ongoing, it is appropriate (and helpful) for all counsel and all parties in this case to tone down their rhetoric,” Judge Berman wrote, via

Also, and as expected, Judge Berman told the parties that they should attempt to settle the case.

“If they have not already done so, the parties and counsel are directed forthwith actively to begin to pursue a mutually acceptable resolution of the case,” Judge Berman wrote. “The earth is already sufficiently scorched, the Court’s view.”

This means two things. First, Judge Berman has been paying attention to the case, or at a minimum he very quickly has gotten up to speed. Second, Judge Berman may be inclined to squeeze the two sides to work out their differences.

Different judges handle settlement talks differently. Some get directly involved. Some will literally send the lawyers into a room and tell them to stay there until they work out the case.

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Jets didn’t know about Sheldon Richardson arrest

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The news of Sheldon Richardson’s arrest was news to the New York Jets.

According to Dom Cosentino of, the Jets didn’t know about the situation until Thursday, after media reports in St. Louis highlighted the July 14 incident.

Before the story broke, Richardson met with reporters after practice at training camp. He vowed to stay out of trouble.

“I take full accountability for my actions,” Richardson said. “Like I said before, I apologize to my teammates, to this organization, I told them you don’t have to worry about my name being in the news again.”

And then “again” came roughly an hour later, with allegations of street racing at high rates of speed (up to 145 mph) with a 12-year-old in the car, trying to avoid police, having possession of a gun, and smelling like marijuana.

The marijuana smell doesn’t speak well of Richardsons’ chances of passing up to 10 drug tests per month given his status in the substance-abuse policy. With a four-game suspension already due to commence in Week One, one more violation in the next year will result in a 10-game suspension.

Apart from any trouble he may find for the arrest or the smell of marijuana, the failure to disclose the latest incident to the Jets before Thursday could expose Richardson to enhanced penalties under the Personal Conduct Policy.

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Broncos are going to make Peyton Manning take days off in camp

Peyton Manning AP

Former MVP and Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers isn’t old enough to be forced into a pitch count yet.

Former MVP and Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning is.

According to Lindsay Jones of USA Today, the Broncos are going to force Manning into days off during training camp to protect the 39-year-old passer for the postseason, making him sit every three or four days.

“The key thing with Peyton, and I think Peyton is on board with it, is that even though you can’t feel it now, and if you’re doing too much work now, eventually that’s going to catch up to you,” Broncos boss John Elway said. “At 37, 38, 39 years old, where he is, you can’t make that up at the end. It’s going to be important that he’s a part of that management process and going to be able to take some time off to where he is just as good late as he is early, and we don’t wear him down.”

Given the way Manning works, and the pride he takes in preparation. That was probably a tough sell for Elway.

But Elway has been able to sell to Manning before, luring him to Denver in free agency.

Giving a future Hall of Famer a few days off in August should help the Broncos on two fronts.

First, it could keep Manning healthier, so he might not look as hobbled as he did coming down the stretch last season. But it also gives them more time to work with backup Brock Osweiler, since they need to decide whether he can play or not, considering Manning has kept them from having to find out.

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Mortensen to address initial #DeflateGate report on WEEI

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The #DeflateGate debacle instantly transformed from a strange curiosity into a full-blown controversy the moment Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were 2.0 pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. Mortensen has never address or explained the story publicly.

On Friday morning, he will. During a 7:45 a.m. ET appearance on WEEI radio in Boston.

The theory, as echoed by Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Wednesday, is that the NFL deliberately leaked false information to Mortensen. At a minimum, the NFL failed to dispute or to correct the erroneous report, with the Patriots not knowing the true reading until late March and the rest of us not knowing the truth until the release of the Ted Wells report in May.

The impact of the false report cannot be understated. The information caused many to assume that tampering with the footballs had occurred. The only remaining unknowns were the identity of the deflator (maybe it was “the Deflator”) and those who knew about it.

The information also put the Patriots on their heels at a critical stage of the investigation. Tom Brady’s awkward press conference only two days later was likely extra awkward because he believed, as did everyone else, that someone put a needle in those balls and released two pounds of air pressure. Brady likely continued to be under that false impression until late March, infecting everything he did (including his interview with Ted Wells) with a vague sense that someone was guilty of something.

If the real PSI numbers had been leaked (or released after the false leak), the Patriots could have shouted down any suggestion of tampering by explaining that the numbers fall within the range expected by the Ideal Gas Law — and by pointing out that the league’s shoddy procedures for calibrating footballs prior to kickoff of a conference title game included using a pair of gauges that differed by nearly a half of a pound. The strange curiosity would have quickly become a forgotten footnote to a blowout win.

Making the league’s failure to respond to Mortensen’s report becomes even more glaring in light of the fact that the NFL has not hesitated to correct other information with which it disagrees, including for example the claim from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Brady had only four hours to present his case on appeal.

Speaking of Schefter, he appeared earlier today on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show, and he addressed the criticism of Mortensen’s 11-of-12 footballs report.

“First of all, I’ve never had in-depth conversations with Chris about the story,” Schefter said. “Chris is as good a reporter as there is. And he’s been a pioneer in this industry. So when he decides to do things, he has a reason for doing them. And I’ll just stand behind him as a reporter and as a man. I love him.

“And I don’t know the particulars of what happened. I really don’t, OK?. But I can tell you this, somebody wanted information out. You’re blaming him. But I will say this. Number one, I’m sure he has an explanation. Number two, any reporter in the country, if they have high level people calling them, giving them this information, almost anyone’s gonna run with it.”

In other words, someone lied to Mortensen.

“If that is indeed the case that one, two, three high-level individuals intentionally misled him to try to smear the Patriots, I saw more shame on those people than Mort,” Schefter said.

I agree with that, completely. And Mort should be upset, because he’s been taking the heat (which has increased considerably in recent days) for reporting information that was given to him by someone in the league office whom Mort trusted.

ESPN surely would have preferred that the glaring error continue to go largely unnoticed. When PFT asked for comment on the discrepancy between Mortensen’s report and the actual PSI numbers in the Wells report, an ESPN spokesman initially said this: “[The] Wells report has been out for a week. Why are you seeking comment about his reporting now?”

More than two later, a comment from Mort apparently is coming. He’ll likely say basically the same things Schefter said. If pressed, Mort may indeed be tempted to disclose whoever it was that gave him deliberately false information.

Sure, reporters need to protect their sources. But should reporters protect sources who deliberately put reporters in professional danger?

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