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Injuries, suspension make line a concern for Redskins

Washington Redskins v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

As much as Robert Griffin III has changed the quarterback position for the Redskins, they’re also benefitting from the fact they’ve started the same offensive line in all 14 games.

Injuries and a suspension have thrown that group into flux, however, at a time when they need to play their best.

It’s nice to not have to adjust, not so much what you’re doing, but the timing of everything just because you’ve got new guys in there that aren’t used to running the offense the way we’re doing it right now,” left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said while knocking on wood, via Rich Campbell of the Washington Times.

But center Will Montgomery injured his MCL in Sunday’s win over the Browns, and right tackle Tyler Polumbus suffered a concussion. With backup tackle Jordan Black suspended four games, the Redskins are suddenly running thin at what had been a stable position.

With Lichtensteiger shifting inside to snap, only two Redskins offensive linemen finished the game in the spot they started — left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Chris Chester.

“Whatever it is, guys have got to step up and play at a high level, and we expect them to do that,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.

On a team with veteran parts, it’s easier to cover things. But with a choice between a pair of rookies, one injured, the Redskins need all the help they can get up front.

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NFL will consider Talib suspension

Zz00MjdjZDdmNDk0ZmU3ZmRlNWYzYTI2MTg2M2FkMDkzYQ==-1 AP

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib viewed his decision to violently pull Panthers receiver Corey Brown to the ground by his facemask as something that would simply draw the equivalent of a parking ticket. Talib instead may be parked on the couch when the 2016 season begins. (And we now know that the couch is a dangerous place.)

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL will consider suspending Talib for his admittedly intentional and blatant decision to grab, twist, yank, and pull Brown’s facemask under circumstances that resulted in a small impact on field position, since Brown was inside the Denver five yard line.

The league office will examine Talib’s conduct within the confines of the normal course of post-game evaluations. Talib’s history will be a factor, along with his comments reflecting clear intent to violate an important safety rule.

Another factor will be the reality that more and more players are now admitting in public the nefarious purpose of their actions. Apart from discouraging the behavior, the NFL needs to create a clear disincentive when it comes to telling the world, essentially, “Yeah, I did it. I meant to do it. And I’ll do it again.”

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NFLPA not commenting on new rule for incoming players

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 25: Offensive lineman David DeCastro of Stanford participates in the vertical jump drill during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has decided to implement a new rule that bars college players with a record of certain types of crimes from participating in the Scouting Combine, attending the draft, or appearing at any other league-sanctioned event before they are selected. Reached by email on Tuesday, the NFL Players Association had no comment on the new rule.

Implied in the lack of comment is that the NFL did’t consult with the union before unveiling the new rule. It’s potentially not required, given that incoming players aren’t members of the NFLPA. Still, the union was directly involved in the development of the rule that imposes a three-year post-high-school waiting period on players entering the draft, and that rule directly impacts players not yet in the league.

The bigger question is this: Does it make a difference if players convicted of domestic violence, sexual assault, or weapons offenses are banned from attending the Scouting Combine? Teams will still find out everything they need to know about the player, and teams will still draft talented players regardless of their personal history.

The only way to ever change that would be to tie draft-pick forfeitures on teams who give a player a second chance and who then fail to ensure that the player doesn’t get in trouble again. To be clear, I’m not saying the league should do it that way; instead, I’m saying that any other approach is window dressing and/or P.R. spit-and-polish.

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Colts raise ticket prices, promise they’ll stay the same in 2017

Jim Irsay AP

The Colts went with continuity when it came to making a decision about keeping head coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson after a disappointing season, but there will be changes for the 2016 season.

Those changes go beyond the tweaks to the coaching staff under Pagano that have already been made and the inevitable alterations to the roster that will come in the next few months. In a letter to season ticket holders, owner Jim Irsay announced in a letter to season ticket holders that non-club/suite tickets will cost their owners more for the 2016 season.

The increase ranges from “1.4 percent to 6.3 percent” depending on the ticket, per the Indianapolis Star, with Irsay telling ticket holders that seats at Lucas Oil Stadium have increased about two percent per season since the building opened. Irsay vowed to make moves that will bring better results the next time out for the Colts.

“The 2015 season did not produce the outcome for which we continually strive, but I am extremely optimistic for the future!” Irsay wrote. “I will do whatever it takes to put our team in a position to have a successful 2016 season.”

Whether the Colts succeed or not, they won’t be asking for more from their fans this time next year. Irsay said there will be no increase for the 2017 season.

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NFL investigating McCoy and Manziel, paid leave not imminent


The afterglow of the Super Bowl has been disrupted by the dusting off of the police blotter, with two players grabbing headlines that otherwise would go to more talk about quarterbacks taking too long to jump on fumbles and/or leaving too quickly the post-game podium.

The NFL says that it began reviewing incidents involving Bills running back LeSean McCoy and Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel “immediately after they occurred.”

While paid leave is possible for both players, nothing will happen in the immediate future.

“The players are off per the CBA and not being paid now,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email. “It would serve no purpose and is not what paid leave was designed to accomplish.”

Paid leave was designed to take the heat out of a hot kitchen by putting the player on the couch without officially suspending him. With no games currently being played, there’s no reason to take action.

That’s very good news for the Browns, who can now resume waiting for March 9 to cut Manziel without having to rush to create cap space so that he could be put on permanent unpaid leave before the league puts him on paid leave.

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Family was celebrating, but Eli Manning was lost in thoughts of two

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks pon during warm ups prior to their game against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium on September 21, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Plenty of people were wondering why Giants quarterback Eli Manning had a blank stare on his face when his brother led a Super Bowl-clinching touchdown drive.

The short answer might be that that’s just his default face.

Via the New York Daily News, the younger Manning said that when network cameras caught him expressionless while the rest of his family was celebrating, he was thinking about game situations.

I was just focused on whether they’d go for two and uh, the defense had to step up and make some stops,” Eli said to a TMZ cameraman.

Of course, that didn’t keep it from going viral, as it was the look of a man with a pending dental appointment as opposed to a man whose brother just tied him for the family lead with two Super Bowl wins each.

Eli was able to laugh about being caught hollow-eyed while his mom and brother were going bananas, but the fact he’s calmly thinking about clock management and when to go for two could be of some consolation to Giants fans.

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Ron Rivera defends Cam Newton on fumble, press conference

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers and head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers stand on the field prior to Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has no issues with the way Cam Newton conducted himself in Super Bowl 50, on the field or afterward.

Asked on PFT Live about Newton’s sullen attitude at the post-Super Bowl press conference, Rivera said the public got to see the raw feelings of a great competitor whose team had just fallen short.

“The one thing about Cam that I think a lot of people have to understand is he hates to lose. He really does. And a lot of great ones have that,” Rivera said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t win the big one. I think he’ll learn and grow from this situation and come back stronger next year.”

Rivera also said criticism of Newton for failing to fall on a fourth-quarter fumble is unfounded. Rivera said Newton was trying to locate the ball and get himself into position to recover it.

“I think he was looking for the rebound. When that group of guys came diving in, when it ricocheted backwards, he tried to turn and get after the ball. When you look at the circumstances he was looking at, I have no problem with that,” Rivera said.

Now, Rivera says, he needs his team to get back on track and ready to come back better in 2016.

“Just rebuilding the confidence, getting that swagger back that we’re going to need heading into next season,” Rivera said. “Right now we’re down, I know that, our players feel it, but we’ve got to get it back and get it back early.”

That starts with his best player.

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Greg Jennings says Ryan Tannehill wants more freedom in offense

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Since being hired as the new Dolphins head coach, Adam Gase has spoken often about the need for quarterbacks to have the full support of their coaches.

That’s something that didn’t always appear to be the case for Ryan Tannehill in Miami when Joe Philbin was the head coach and Bill Lazor ran the offense. During an interview with the team’s website, wide receiver Greg Jennings said that Tannehill was “hand-held” by the previous coaching staff and that has hindered his growth as a player because he hasn’t been able to learn from mistakes he’s made in the past.

“Anytime you’re holding someone’s hand, you’re refusing to let them grow…,” Jennings said. “I’m going to speak for Ryan right now, which I typically don’t do. He wants some more freedom. He knows that he’s not been able to do the things that he really wants to do.”

For the right quarterback, being given more to do along with the knowledge that your coaches are confident you can do it can make a world of difference. The Dolphins may find out if Tannehill is the right quarterback under those conditions this season.

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T.J. Ward: Maybe Cam needed to stay healthy for next year

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos recovers a fumble by Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been roundly criticized for failing to fall on his fumble with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, a fumble that all but sealed the game for the Broncos.

The player who did recover that fumble, Broncos safety T.J. Ward, believes Newton was motivated by a desire to protect himself and stay healthy in the offseason.

“If he would have touched that ball, I was gonna hit him right in his face, and I wasn’t the only one,” Ward told Mike Silver of “We were hungry for that one. We saw that ball and it was like hyenas on an antelope. And I don’t know — maybe he needed to stay healthy for next year.”

It’s hard to understand what Newton was doing. It certainly looked like he didn’t want to dive into the scrum, but Newton has always been a physical runner, and he’s never been afraid to play through injuries. Why would he suddenly lose his toughness in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl? That’s a good question for Newton, who at the moment isn’t answering questions.

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Panthers center on fumble: “Cam’s not the quitting type”

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos and Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers attempt to recover a loose ball during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos (not pictured) recovered the fumble by Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers on the 9-yard line.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Many have wondered if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made a business decision, when he didn’t dive for a fumble late in their Super Bowl loss to the Broncos.

But Panthers center Ryan Kalil said it was ridiculous to think Newton quit on the play.

Cam’s not the quitting type. So this idea or this notion that he quit on us is garbage. I think it’s absolute garbage. That’s not who he is,” Kalil said. “We just didn’t play good enough. And as an offensive line group, didn’t give him enough confidence to do what he does best, . . .

“And really we just didn’t get in a rhythm. That’s what killed us. Any time we had any kind of momentum, we killed ourselves in penalties and not taking care of the football.”

That’s likely true in a general sense, though Kalil admitted he hadn’t seen the replay of the play in question.

It’s possible that the ball was between Newton’s feet and he see it well and didn’t think he could get to it (like a pop foul that goes straight over a catcher’s head and makes him look temporarily like he’s lost in a foreign land). But he had taken a step toward it before it bounced to that spot, which made it look like he pulled up to avoid diving into a pile.

During his brief post-game appearance, Newton’s only reply when asked about the play was “I don’t know.”

And that might be the only honest answer, since the play came when the Broncos were up 16-10 late in the fourth quarter, so it’s not as if it didn’t matter.

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Tuesday morning one-liners


What can the Bills learn from the Broncos?

A positive take on DT Ndamukong Suh’s first season with the Dolphins.

Taking a look at the long-term decisions at quarterback for the Patriots.

Joe Namath is in favor of Colin Kaepernick coming to the Jets.

A call for the Ravens to beef up their pass rush.

Thoughts about the Bengals in the wake of the Super Bowl.

Should the Browns be building around defense first?

A look back at Kevin Greene’s years with the Steelers.

Can the Texans become the first team to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium?

The Colts are expected to dip into the college ranks for a new wide receivers coach.

There’s plenty of money for the Jaguars to spend in free agency.

Said Titans QB Marcus Mariota, “It’s nice to have some time off, but I just can’t wait to get going and get back on he field. It seems like such a long time [until April], it’ll come quicker than we know.”

Denver is getting ready to host a Broncos victory parade.

The Chiefs weren’t thrilled that the Royals wished the Panthers luck in winning the Super Bowl next season.

Former Raiders QB and coach Tom Flores was one of two coaches ignored by Jim Nantz when he said Gary Kubiak was the first coach to win the Super Bowl for the team he played.

A Chargers-eye view of the Broncos winning the Super Bowl.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten shared three keys for better success next season.

A pair of Broncos that might interest the Giants in free agency.

Riley Cooper’s departure from the Eagles isn’t being met with much displeasure.

Will free agency be the path to improvement for the Redskins defense?

The 1985 Bears defense has been thrown into comparisons with this year’s Broncos unit.

Resource management is a lesson the Lions can learn from the Super Bowl.

DB Robertson Daniel hopes to earn a role on the Packers defense next season.

Vikings LB Anthony Barr is rooting for Von Miller to cash in this offseason.

Von Miller had praise for Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith after being named Super Bowl MVP.

What do the Panthers need to do to return to the Super Bowl?

G Jahri Evans made a big impact during his Saints career.

A new position coach probably isn’t the end to the changes to the Buccaneers defensive line.

Upgrading the pass rush is a priority for the Cardinals.

Former members of the Rams had big roles on both sides of the Super Bowl.

Former 49ers RB Ricky Watters is working to help children from foster homes make successful transitions to adulthood.

Some ways the Seahawks could spend the money they’re saving with RB Marshawn Lynch retiring.

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Wade Phillips: Too much dab will undo you

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 22:  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips of the Denver Broncos waits on the field before their game against the Houston Texans  at  NRG Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Unlike many football coaches (and 68-year-olds), Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has shown an affinity for social media.

Phillips has been a pretty active Twitter user in the last few years and his account has been an entertaining one to follow, particularly after the team wins a big game. Phillips had some fun after the Broncos beat the Packers in the regular season and he got in a shot at the Panthers a day after his defense overwhelmed Carolina in the Super Bowl.

“A little Dab with [sic] do you but too much Dab will undo you!” Phillips wrote.

During Super Bowl week, the Broncos got asked a lot about the Panthers’ penchant for celebrating big plays and pretty much went with the approach that it was the defense’s job to make sure that the offense had nothing to celebrate. Unlike the other teams to face the Panthers this season, they were actually able to do it and Phillips makes it pretty clear that they took a lot of satisfaction in doing it.

Phillips followed up the tweet a bit later with one that said his father always told him “you can have fun and win.” It’s a lot easier to have fun after you win, though, and Phillips was doing just that on Monday.

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Report: Eagles close to massive deal with Fletcher Cox

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 26: Fletcher Cox #91 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during the closing moments of a game against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Redskins defeated the Eagles 38-24. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles have moved quickly to sign up their young players for the foreseeable future, and they may be nearing the biggest one yet this offseason.

According to Eliot Shorr-Parks of, the Eagles are negotiating a massive deal with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox which could feature more than $50 million in guarantees.

The report says the deal is “close,” and given the pace at which they’ve been passing out money to Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry, it’s reasonable that they’re trying to get as much done as quickly as they can. Cox had a year left on his rookie deal, after they picked up his option for 2016.

Cox had 9.5 sacks as a 3-4 defensive end last year, and will slide inside as they convert to a 4-3 defense next season, but he’s versatile enough to play a number of roles.

Of course, until one of those roles is quarterback, the Eagles still have a pretty big item on their offseason to-do list.

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Brady: I wish I could make it look as easy as other quarterbacks do

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in action against the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tom Brady was part of a pregame ceremony honoring past Super Bowl MVPs before the Broncos beat the Panthers in Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 and he’s one of two players who has taken home the award three times in his career.

On top of those postseason exploits, Brady ranks among the all-time leaders in passing yards, touchdowns and most of the other metrics that are widely seen as positive attributes for an NFL quarterback. That didn’t stop the crowd at Levi’s Stadium from booing him, although that seemed to have more to do with the fact that there were a lot of Broncos fans on hand than a judgement that Brady didn’t belong at the ceremony.

Brady might have been OK with that judgement, though. In a interview with Jim Gray of Westwood One before the game, Brady said he “wouldn’t put myself in there” with the best quarterbacks of all time because he thinks he has to work harder than some of the others usually included in that group.

“I have to work my butt off all week and work really hard to get to the game feeling confident with what I am trying to accomplish and get down the field to score some points,” Brady said, via “I guess for me because I have to work so hard at it and try so hard at it, that’s part of enjoying it for me. But I look at other players and say, ‘Gosh, I wish I could make it look as easy as they make it look.'”

Brady plays the humble card well — the “gosh” is a particularly nice touch — but there are plenty of times that the game looks easy for him and there’s plenty of hard work behind the success of every other great quarterback in the history of the league. The balance of talent to work may vary from quarterback to quarterback, but the results don’t leave much doubt about Brady’s spot among the league’s most accomplished quarterbacks.

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Nearly 1,000 fans greeted Panthers at stadium upon return

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 07: Fans of the Carolina Panthers cheer on their team against the Denver Broncos while watching Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016 at Rooftop 210 in the EpiCentre area of uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) Getty Images

After a crushing Super Bowl 50 loss as favorites, the Panthers had to endure a long flight home.

But at least when they got there, they found they were still local favorites.

Via Anna Douglas of the Charlotte Observer, nearly 1,000 fans were at Bank of America Stadium last night as buses rolled in, following the team’s arrival at the airport around 6:30 p.m. ET.

Airport firetrucks greeted the team with spraying from water cannons — which ain’t exactly champagne in the locker room — and a number of fans were also at the airport, pressed against fences to catch a glimpse of the team which lost only two games all year.

“We’ve said all along we have the best fans in the NFL and seeing this turnout tonight only reinforces that,” team president Danny Morrison said.

Players will be at the stadium today for their end of seasons meetings, and it’ll be interesting to see if we hear more from quarterback Cam Newton, who had little to say in the wake of the loss.

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Von Miller says contract talks will be “a peaceful thing”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 08:  Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos addresses the media during the trophy presentation at the Moscone Center West on February 8, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller waged war on the Panthers, and won.

But the Super Bowl 50 MVP promised in the aftermath that his future contract talks with the team would be “peaceful.”

Miller’s set to be an unrestricted free agent in March, but he’s not expecting a rough negotiation with Broncos executive vice president John Elway.

“As far as my situation coming up, we have — Mr. Elway, he’s played in the National Football League, he’s one of the best GMs that there is, we’re here today because of him,” Miller said, via Jeff Legwold of “And I have people representing my situation as well. It’s going to be a peaceful thing. I’m not really worried about it.”

Of course, there’s a good reason not to worry.

He’s either going to get rich immediately, or the Broncos will use the franchise tag to buy themselves time to do a long-term deal, as they have with other stars in recent years. That’s what happened with both left tackle Ryan Clady and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, so it’s clearly a plan Elway’s familiar with.

They have other free agents pending, and some have suggested the possibility of tagging quarterback Brock Osweiler. But Miller’s clearly the priority, and Elway has said he has a “plan” for Miller, and that he knows “what the numbers would be.”

Six years and $101 million is a good starting point, considering the deal Justin Houston got with the Chiefs last summer. And that will buy a man a lot of peace.

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