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NFL morning after: Statement Sunday — or was it?

Falcons tight end Gonzalez celebrates after a touchdown against the New York Giants in the first half at their NFL football game in Atlanta Reuters

With six different games matching up teams with winning records, yesterday was hyped by the NFL as “Statement Sunday.” And while it didn’t deliver a lot of particularly competitive games, it certainly did deliver a lot of statements: Statements about the strengths of the Falcons, Packers, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys and 49ers, and statements about the weaknesses of the Giants, Bears, Ravens, Colts, Steelers and Patriots.

But the thing about statements made in the NFL in December is that they often don’t hold up in January. And I’m not so sure that the teams that made statements on Sunday are going to be the teams that continue to make statements in the playoffs. So let me go through a few of the statements that were made on Sunday, and explain which ones are true and which ones are false.

1. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC. FALSE: Yes, the Falcons can make the statement that they’re the best team in the conference, both on the strength of their 34-0 win over the Giants and on their status as the team with the best record in the NFC. But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.

2. The Giants are in danger. TRUE: The flip side of the Falcons’ blowout over the Giants is that it really did expose some serious problems with the Giants, namely that Eli Manning has been painfully inconsistent, and that injuries in the secondary have done major damage to the defense. Early in the season it looked like the NFC East would belong to the Giants, but now it’s a three-team race, and the Redskins and Cowboys actually appear to be in better shape. The good news for the Giants is that they’ll make the playoffs if they win their final two. The bad news is that the way they played on Sunday, I don’t have a lot of confidence that they’ll win their final two.

3. The Bears are in free fall and will miss the playoffs. FALSE: It’s easy to see why Bears fans are panicking, having lost five of their last six games. But Chicago’s schedule is about to get a lot easier, with trips to Arizona and Detroit. I see the Bears winning both games, finishing 10-6, and sneaking into the playoffs.

4. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Houston. TRUE: After the Texans’ disastrous loss in New England on Monday night, it would have been easy to disregard the Texans as legitimate title contenders. But the Texans clinched the AFC South with Sunday’s win over the Colts, and they’re now a win away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I think they’ll get that win against the Vikings on Sunday and ensure that if they rematch the Patriots, it will be in Houston.

5. The Broncos are the best team Peyton Manning has ever played on. TRUE: Does it sound premature to say that this year’s Broncos are better than Manning’s Super Bowl-winning 2006 team in Indianapolis? Maybe. But that team — like many of Manning’s teams in Indianapolis — had major holes on both defense and special teams that the Manning-led offense had to overcome. This Broncos team is winning every bit as much because of its defense as because of the Manning-led offense. If we could stuff these 2012 Broncos into a DeLorean and send them back in time to play any of Manning’s Indianapolis playoff teams, I’d pick these Broncos to win.

6. The Steelers blew it in overtime in Dallas and blew their postseason hopes. FALSE: The Steelers’ final two games are both at home, against the Bengals and the Browns, and if they win both they’re in the playoffs. I think Pittsburgh is going to do it.

7. New England’s Super Bowl hopes were dealt a big blow on Sunday night. FALSE: The Patriots’ loss to the 49ers probably means they’ll have to host a wild card team in the first playoff weekend, then win a couple of road games after that to get to the Super Bowl. But you know what? As much as I like the Broncos and Texans, I like the Patriots’ chances of winning at Denver and at Houston in back-to-back weeks. New England is still a formidable Super Bowl contender.

That’s where I stand on the statements NFL teams made on Sunday. And now here are my statements about the rest of Sunday’s action:

Adrian Peterson is making Eric Dickerson nervous. After his 212-yard effort on Sunday, Peterson needs to total 293 yards over the final two games of the season to break Dickerson’s NFL record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. Gaining 293 yards in two weeks isn’t easy, but it’s certainly doable for Peterson, considering that he has 366 in the last two games. In the last eight games, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards, a stunning yardage total that no NFL player has ever matched over an eight-game stretch of a season.

Calvin Johnson is making Jerry Rice nervous. After his 121-yard effort on Sunday, Johnson needs to total 181 yards over the final two games of the season to break Rice’s NFL record of 1,848 receiving yards in a season. Johnson tied an NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard game on Sunday, so totaling 181 yards over the next two games shouldn’t be a problem. Johnson also became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,600 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. Unfortunately for Johnson (and unlike Peterson), he’s threatening an NFL record while playing meaningless games for a bad team.

What’s JaMarcus Russell up to these days? I ask because the Raiders chose Russell first overall in the 2007 NFL draft, leaving Johnson available for the Lions to draft second overall, and Peterson available for the Vikings to draft seventh overall. Sorry to have to bring that one up, Raiders fans.

Trent Richardson’s first touchdown run was a thing of beauty. If you love good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed football, it doesn’t get much better than Richardson taking a handoff up the middle at the six-yard line, plunging into the middle and getting stacked up just as he crossed the line of scrimmage, and then simply refusing to go down as he drove forward, churning his legs and getting help from his entire offensive line while the entire Redskins’ defensive line was trying to stop him, and finally falling forward through that massive rugby scrum and into the end zone. As a rookie Richardson hasn’t been the big-play runner the Browns were hoping they’d get when they traded up to take him with the third overall pick in the draft, but he might be the toughest runner to tackle in the league.

Randall Cobb is better than you realize. Cobb had an unreal leaping catch along the sideline in the second quarter in Chicago, picking up 31 yards on third-and-six and somehow getting both feet down in bounds despite taking a hard hit just as he was grabbing the ball. Cobb has been an excellent player for the Packers since arriving last season as a second-round draft pick, but I don’t know if most fans realize just how excellent. Cobb has 2,241 combined rushing, receiving and return yards this season, and 3,857 all-purpose yards so far in his NFL career. That’s an incredible career total for a guy who’s only 22 years old.

The Seahawks are stunning. After beating the Cardinals 58-0 last week, the Seahawks beat the Bills 50-17 this week. The last NFL team to score 50 or more points in back-to-back weeks was the 1950 New York Giants, who beat the Chicago Cardinals 51-21 and then beat the Baltimore Colts 55-20 a week later. (A note of caution for Seahawks fans: Those 1950 Giants were held to just three points in a postseason loss that year.)

I guess Cam Cameron wasn’t the only problem with the Ravens’ offense. The Ravens fired Cameron as their offensive coordinator last week. So how did the offense in Baltimore do in the first game without him? Badly: The Ravens had six three-and-outs, the most of any team in the NFL all season, as they lost 34-17. On Statement Sunday, the Ravens made a statement that they’re not contenders in the AFC, and Cameron made a major statement in his absence: Don’t blame me.

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Titans agree with first-round pick Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan AP

The final unsigned 2014 draft pick has reached a deal.

The Titans announced Thursday they had agreed to a contract with first-round selection Taylor Lewan, an offensive tackle from Michigan.

The No. 11 overall pick, Lewan (6-7, 309) has played both left and right tackle in the offseason. It’s possible he could challenge veteran Michael Oher at right tackle.

Lewan made 48 starts at left tackle for the Wolverines, earning a variety of All-American honors as a junior and as a senior. He was the third offensive lineman selected in May.

Lewan faces an October trial on assault and battery and aggravated assault charges related to a December incident in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Newsome calls Rice suspension “fair,” Rice doesn’t say whether he’ll appeal

Ray Rice AP

The suspension of Ray Rice has become official, which means that more statements will be issued from folks directly affected by the outcome.

“We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice,” Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome said in a statement issued by the team.  “The time the Commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues. While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league’s decision and believe it is fair.

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Rice stopped short of calling the suspension “fair,” which possibly means he’ll exercise his right to an appeal.  He nevertheless continues to accept responsibility for his behavior.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement issued by the team (which is the paper equivalent of a press conference with no questions allowed from the press, which Rice did in May).  “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways.  But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night.  The counseling has helped tremendously.

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident.  I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously.  My actions going forward will show that.”

Neither statement addresses the broader issue of domestic violence, and neither the Ravens nor Rice have said or done anything use this incident as a way to help reduce situations where men strike their wives, fianceés, girlfriends, or any other people (male or female) they regularly encounter in their day-to-day lives.

Maybe the $705,000 that the Ravens won’t be paying to Rice should be donated to one or more groups that support the victims of domestic violence, and maybe Rice should match the amount of his financial penalty with an equal donation.  Some would call the gesture transparent or hollow, but it would have far more tangible impact than generating a page of quotes that avoid acknowledging what happened — Rice threw a punch at the woman he supposedly loves, and he knocked her out cold.

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Jaguars owner says they won’t cut Justin Blackmon

Shad Khan

The Jaguars have every pragmatic reason to distance themselves from Justin Blackmon.

But owner Shad Khan said he’s not about to release his former first round pick, who has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL and was arrested for marijuana possession last night.

We want him to get help he needs,” Khan said, via John Oehser of the team’s official website.

That sentiment seems to be consistent through the organization, as linebacker Paul Posluszny said: “This is no longer a football issue…We want the best for him. He’s a good kid at heart.”

It’s good to hear the Jaguars embrace a kid (it’s hard to call him a player, since he’s barely played for them since his rookie year) who obviously has some problems.

He showed flashes of talent in 2012, when his play might have justified their investment in him. If he had torn an ACL, they’d have gone to great lengths to get him well, so they could benefit from his labor in the future.

But Blackmon’s problem now is not a physical one, and we hope the Jaguars are sincere in getting him the help he needs, even if he never plays another down for them.

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Rice suspended two games, fined a game check

ray-rice Getty Images

The reports regarding the two-game suspension to be imposed on Ravens running back Ray Rice were mostly accurate, but ultimately incomplete.  The league has announced that Rice will be suspended two games and also fined an additional game check.

The decision will result in $705,0882 in lost salary for Rice.  The Ravens also could try to recover $352,941 of Rice’s $15 million signing bonus, paid in 2012.

Since the Ravens play on Thursday night in Week Two, he’ll be back on Friday, September 12, before the rest of the league has played its second game.

“As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to Rice.  “The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

The suspension has been widely criticized as being too soft, even though the league-owned network has described the punishment as an example of the NFL’s iron fist.

That’s an unfortunate metaphor in cases of domestic violence.  In this specific case, many would also say it’s inaccurate.

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John Harbaugh: Ray Rice is a heck of a guy who made a mistake

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Getty Images

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is standing behind running back Ray Rice, who was suspended for the first two games of the regular season for assaulting his wife.

Harbaugh said today that he and his team would get past the suspension and continue to support Rice, one of the team’s veteran leaders.

“It’s not a big deal, it’s just part of the process,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN. “There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake, alright? He’s going to have to pay a consequence. I think that’s good for kids to understand it works that way. That’s how it works, that’s how it should be.”

To many, Harbaugh’s comments will come off as too supportive of Rice, and not reflective enough of the gravity of the situation. That’s also a criticism the Ravens as a franchise received when they arranged a press conference for Rice and his wife in May. Whether Harbaugh meant it this way or not, calling Rice’s crime a “mistake” suggests that it was a relatively minor transgression, and saying that it’s good for kids to learn from it suggests that there’s some kind of silver lining to this story. Harbaugh’s comments struck the wrong note.

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Five questions: Kansas City Chiefs

Reid Getty Images

The Chiefs followed a disastrous 2-14 season with an unlikely trip to the playoffs, followed by an even less likely 38-10 lead at Indy, capped by an even less likely second-half collapse.

For Year Two of the Andy Reid/John Dorsey regime much higher than a year ago, the bar moves higher.  Possibly, too high.

Here are five questions we (or at least I) have about the 2014 edition of the Kansas City Chiefs.

1.  Did they take too many hits in free agency?

A whopping 60 percent of the team’s offensive line bolted for bigger dollars in free agency, led by left tackle Branden Albert.  The team now hopes that Eric Fisher, the first overall pick a year ago, will be able to play better on the left side of the line than the right, where he struggled as a rookie.

Also gone is Dexter McCluster, a versatile weapon who may or may not be replaced effectively by rookie De’Anthony Thomas.

On defense, lineman Tyson Jackson and safety Kendrick Lewis signed elsewhere, and cornerback Brandon Flowers was cut late in the offseason.

The departures, which weren’t offset by many free-agent arrivals, will make it harder to run the streak of playoff appearances to two.

2.  Can they put the playoff collapse behind them?

Maybe it’s good that so many of the old players are gone.  It’ll make it a little easier to get past the playoff collapse if guys who weren’t part of it aren’t still around.

But plenty are still there, and they’ll need to learn from what happened against the Colts without having a wedge arise between the offense and the defense.  Otherwise, whenever the offense builds a lead in 2014 and the defense starts to blow it, “Here we go again” will be the refrain (spoken or otherwise) up and down the Kansas City sideline.

The offense will likely follow the lead of quarterback Alex Smith on this point, especially since his stellar day (378 passing yards, 57 rushing yards, four passing touchdowns, no interceptions) was barely noticed in the aftermath of one of the most deflating losses in franchise history.  If he stays positive when the defense starts to show signs of falling apart, others will be inclined to do the same.

3.  Is Alex Smith the answer at quarterback?

There’s a chance Smith eventually won’t be the guy leading, or cutting off, resentment of defensive failures.  Andy Reid has shown over the last 15 years a knack for getting great performances out of any and every quarterback he coaches, and rookie Aaron Murray could easily become Big Red’s next star pupil.

Smith has one year left on his contract, with the two sides still far apart.  If Smith won’t do a deal on the team’s terms, the team could turn to Murray.

And if the 2014 season goes south quickly, Murray may get a chance at some point to show what he can do before the Chiefs have to essentially choose between Smith and Murray.

4.  How good will Dee Ford be right away?

Before the draft, Dee Ford declared he’s better than Jadeveon Clowney.  Chiefs owner Clark Hunt cautiously has compared Ford to the late Derrick Thomas.

If Ford lives up to either of those assessments, the Chiefs will be able to let Justin Houston walk in free agency and install Ford as the four-letter complement to Tamba Hali.

Or maybe it’s Hali who’ll become expandable after the 2014 season, with the Chiefs opting for the two youngest options at pass rusher.  If we’ve learned nothing else in the past few years, it’s that no high-priced veteran on any team is safe.

5.  Are they nearly done with Dwayne Bowe?

Speaking of high-priced veterans who may be in danger of not being with the team, receiver Dwayne Bowe could be on the outs.  With $11 million in cash due come 2015, Bowe may be on the verge of being a former Chief if he doesn’t increase the production in 2014.

His first season under a five-year, $56 million contract resulted in only 57 catches for 673 yards.  That’s 13 fewer catches and 20 yards less than running back Jamaal Charles, who also ran the ball for 1,287 yards.

Bowe knows that his time is running short if he can’t produce a better return on the investment the Chiefs made not long after Reid and Dorsey arrived.  Otherwise, that cash and cap space will go to someone else.

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Terrance West removed from non-football injury list

Terrance West AP

Terrance West’s stay on the Browns’ non-football injury list was a short one.

The Browns announced Thursday that West, a rookie tailback from Towson, has been removed from the list, clearing the way for him to be on the practice field when Cleveland’s training camp practices begin Saturday.

According to multiple reports, West’s inclusion on the list was related to the club’s conditioning test, but the matter looks to have been quickly squared away — good news for a rookie who could challenge for major work in Cleveland’s backfield.

Three other Browns — offensive lineman Chris Faulk, defensive lineman Jacobbi McDaniel and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren — were also taken off the non-football injury list and added to active roster, the club said.

The Browns also announced they had waived running back Jourdan Brooks and wide receiver Kenny Shaw. This leaves Cleveland with four open roster spots.

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Jonathan Stewart out a couple of weeks, Edmund Kugbila out for year

Jonathan Stewart, Lavonte David AP

The Panthers dealt with injuries to running back Jonathan Stewart and members of their offensive line throughout last season and they aren’t wasting much time picking up where they left off.

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said on Thursday that Stewart injured his hamstring recently and will miss a week or two of camp while he recovers. The team doesn’t feel it is an overly serious injury, so Stewart will remain on the active roster as opposed to being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Whether or not this specific injury is serious, it is part of a pattern that doesn’t bode well for Stewart earning a big role in a backfield that also features DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. He’s played just 15 games over the last two years and has averaged under four yards a carry both seasons while dealing with a variety of aches and pains.

Gettleman also announced that guard Edmund Kugbila will have back surgery in August and miss the entire season. The 2013 fourth-round pick missed his rookie season because of a knee injury and his absence exposes a few more ribs on an already thin offensive line.

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Carl Nicks excused from reporting to Bucs camp for personal reason

Carl Nicks AP

Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks did not participate in voluntary work with the team this spring and wasn’t able to practice during the team’s mandatory minicamp because of the toe injury and resulting staph infection that wiped out his 2013 season, but said in June that he felt like he would be ready to participate in training camp.

The Bucs reported for work on Thursday, but Nicks wasn’t among the players checking in for camp. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that coach Lovie Smith said that Nicks was excused for the day because of personal reasons.

“It’s part of life. Things come up,” Smith said.

Because of the toe injury, the Bucs have gotten very little return on their free agent investment in Nicks two years ago. He’s played in just nine games for the team and it will continue to be unclear whether he’ll provide much help in the future until he actually gets back on the football field. Smith indicated that Nicks was only excused for Thursday, so Friday should bring more word on how Nicks is feeling and what his future in Tampa looks like.

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Panthers following NFL’s lead on Greg Hardy punishment

Carolina Panthers v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

It’s a banner day for women everywhere around the NFL.

After Ray Rice’s two-game suspension for knocking his wife unconscious (Hey, she apologized), it now appears the league’s other star abuser of women is going to continue to make his full $13 million this year.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman indicated the team was not going to suspend defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted last week on charges of assaulting his girlfriend and communicating threats.

“We’ve been in touch with the league, . . . we have to respect the legal process,” Gettleman said.

Hardy has appealed his conviction, and will get a jury trial next. But that’s unlikely to happen before January, which means the Panthers will likely have Hardy available this season.

The franchise-tagged defensive end will make $13.1 million this season, or just over $770,000 per week.

They could conceivably suspend him up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team, but teams always prefer to leave such cases to the NFL. And as today’s ruling in the Rice case shows, that punishment will come later, if it’s felt at all.

Considering they’ve made no effort to reach a long-term contract with Hardy, who could be an unrestricted free agent again next year, they might never have to feel it, either.

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Frank Gore not ready to give up heavy workload

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers have accumulated quite a bit of depth behind running back Frank Gore over the last few years, leading some to wonder if 2014 will be the year when the longtime workhorse starts to cede more of the workload to other backs.

If it is up to Gore, the wait will last a little longer. Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde and LaMichael James are all on the roster and looking for playing time, but Gore has no plans on stepping aside so someone else can do the heavy lifting.

“I’m from Miami,” Gore said, via CSNBayArea.com. “I’ve been competing ever since I left high school. I’ve been with top guys who’ve been in the league. I’m up for it. One day, they’re going to get this role. But I’m here, and I’m going to make it a challenge.”

Gore is 31 and coming off a year that saw him take three-quarters of the team’s offensive snaps, the second-most of his 49ers career, so his overall workload will likely drop during the season. If he’s still as effective as he was last season, though, the drop probably won’t be a particularly dramatic one since the 49ers know that they can win with Gore leading the way on the ground.

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Get ‘em while they’re hot: Buy your ladies’ Ray Rice gear

pinkray

The league’s in house network referred to the “iron fist of the NFL” this morning while discussing the pending two-game suspension for the Ravens running back Ray Rice.

But that iron palm can still be greased, mind you.

In case you wanted to show your support for the Ravens running back during his time off for knocking his wife unconscious, you can order your very own Ray Rice ladies’ jersey from the team store, for the low price of $94.95.

Or even better, you can order the shimmering pink one (with the sassy laces to cover up your cleavage) from the league for only $59.95.

Those will be perfect for the warm autumn afternoons of October, when the league goes to great pains to remind you it supports breast cancer research.

If only they showed as much respect for the rest of the woman.

Photo credit: NFLShop.com

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John Harbaugh: Aaron Ross suffers torn Achilles

Aaron Ross, Ted Ginn AP

The Ravens’ cornerback depth has taken a hit at the outset of training camp.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced Thursday that ex-Giant Aaron Ross suffered an Achilles tendon tear during the team’s conditioning test, the club’s official Twitter feed said.

The Ravens signed the 31-year-old Ross in June to compete for a reserve role behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. However, the Achilles injury seems likely to end Ross’ season.

A first-round pick of the Giants in 2007, Ross has made 52 regular season starts, notching 250 tackles and intercepting 11 passes.

Veteran cornerback Dominique Franks, who’s also competing for a job, has not yet passed his conditioning test, Harbaugh said, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

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Manziel won’t get first-team reps right away

Pettine AP

Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel got plenty of first-team reps during offseason workouts.  He won’t be getting any in training camp, at least not initially.

He will get reps with the ones at some point,” coach Mike Pettine told Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com.  “But early on . . .  we only talked about how we would handle things very early in camp and then make that assessment after the first off day and then have a plan for the scrimmage [on August 2].  We’ll see where he is coming out of the summer.”

The summer break began with Manziel defiantly saying at the Rookie Symposium that he won’t be changing his off-field ways for anyone.  Grossi asked Pettine whether he was surprised by that.  But Pettine seems to still be OK with Johnny Football being Johnny Vegas or Johnny Rolled-Up-Hundy or Johnny Whatever when he’s off the clock.

“Yeah, but I think it still needs to get to a point where if it’s affecting his job, that he’s in a situation where he goes out and has a good time, are there other players in the NFL that do that? Absolutely,” Pettine said.  “But his persona, and it’s a phenomenon, has created something where people seek those photographs and are very eager to put them out.  Does he go out more than some guys?  Maybe.  But he’s young and that’s his lifestyle and it is the offseason.  If this is a pattern during the season and it is affecting his work, then that’s much more cause for concern. . . .  To me, his life as an NFL player truly starts now and he’ll be judged on that. And if we get the hint that there’s behaviors affecting his work or there’s criminal activity then absolutely there’s cause for concern.

And that’s precisely why the NFL should quit testing guys for recreational drugs, especially in the offseason.  Teams don’t care about what a guy does unless and until it affects his job or his freedom (which in turn affects his ability to show up for his job).  If the individual teams don’t care about anything more than that, why does the collection of 32 teams care?

Of course, Pettine does indeed have a concern about the photo of Manziel tightly rolling up a piece of paper money.  Pettine confirmed to Grossi that player and coach talked about it.

“I felt very positive coming out of the conversation and I’m very confident moving forward, now that it’s 100 percent about football, that it will be much less of an issue,” Pettine said.

If it’s truly 100 percent football, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.  And if Manziel hopes to be like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, it needs to be 100 percent football far more often than when it’s football season.

And when football season starts, it currently appears Manziel will be on the bench.  Pettine admitted that his goal of naming a starter sooner than later favors Brian Hoyer.

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Cowboys place Ronald Leary, Anthony Spencer on PUP list

Anthony Spencer AP

The Cowboys offensive line should be one of the team’s biggest strengths this season while the defensive line looks like one of their biggest weaknesses, but they have something in common as the team starts camp.

Both units will be shorthanded as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports that guard Ronald Leary and defensive end Anthony Spencer have both been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Spencer’s appearance on the list was expected as he continues to rehab from the microfracture surgery he had on his knee last October. Spencer is hopeful that he’ll be ready to go come the start of the regular season and the Cowboys are hopeful to have him on their shaky defensive line, but it will be a while before it becomes clear whether or not that’s a possibility.

Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com reports that Leary strained his hamstring during the team’s conditioning test earlier this week, leading to his placement on the PUP list. Both players can be activated at any time. The same is true of defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who has been placed on the Non-Football Illness list.

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