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Mendenhall says “a lot of thought” went in to his decision to ditch Chargers game

Mendy AP

Like an increasing number of spectators, Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall decided earlier this month to watch the game at home.

He got to watch the next game at home, too.  Without pay.

But in response to coach Mike Tomlin’s explanation that Mendenhall was simply frustrated when he decided not to show up for a game in which he was told he wouldn’t dress, Mendenhall disagrees.

I wouldn’t use that word,” Mendenhall said, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  “There’s a lot of thought that goes into everything that I do.”

If there was a lot of thought that went in to his decision to boycott the game, he should have thought about it some more.  The one-game suspension cost Mendenhall more than $41,000.  And the open act of defiance won’t help the looming free agent’s already diminished marketability, given the position he plays, his injury history, and the controversial remarks he made after the death of Osama bin Laden.

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Report: Players convicted of weapons or domestic offenses barred from combine, draft

Troy Vincent, Rick Smith AP

An NFL policy change will bar players with convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses from attending the league’s the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.

USA Today reported Monday night that teams were informed of this policy change in a memo from NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent in late January. In the memo, Vincent wrote that players would be barred from “any league-related event” if a background check turns up a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Those players would also be prevented from attending the draft.

Players that refuse to submit to a background check will also be uninvited.

The new rule would have applied last year to Frank Clark, who ended up being a second-round pick of the Seahawks. Clark pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after an arrest for a domestic violence incident that led to his dismissal from the Michigan football team.

“It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters,” Vincent wrote.

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Chargers hire consultant for ballot initiative

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The effort of the Chargers to get a new home has sparked plenty of contradictions. The team deemed Inglewood to be an unacceptable destination for an L.A. stadium until the owners picked it over Carson, and then the Chargers struck a tentative deal to play in the place they previously claimed to be unfit.

Now, as the Chargers embark on a last-ditch effort to remain in San Diego, they’re embracing a timeline the team decried as impractical a year ago.

To build a new stadium in the city the franchise has called home since 1961, a successful ballot effort and a successful environmental review process are critical. As to the former, the Chargers have hired a consultant to launch a citizens initiative intended to secure hundreds of millions in taxpayer money.

Fred Maas, whom the Chargers wanted the city to hire a year ago to spearhead the effort, has been hired by the Chargers, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The really encouraging thing is I believe to my very core Dean is committed to finding a solution in San Diego,” Maas told Acee.

Acee reports that the team plans to spend roughly $10 million in connection with the election, a process that commences with a citizens initiative.

“[Maas] has been around San Diego a long time,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a video post on the team’s website Monday, via Acee. “He’s very familiar with all the political aspects of what goes on in the city, how all that works. His knowledge of San Diego as whole will help us.”

Securing public money is only part of the process. Environmental approvals — and specifically beating back any litigation — also are critical to the effort.

Regardless of whether it all gets done, last year the Chargers were pooh-poohing the prospect of getting it all done in a year. This year, they’re singing a much different tune.

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Aqib Talib deliberately grabbed Corey Brown’s facemask

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Several years ago, the NFL got rid of the distinction between major and minor facemask fouls, with all penalties for grabbing and pulling the bars on the front of the helmet becoming 15-yard personal fouls.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s accidental or intentional; the penalty is the same. When it comes to determining discipline, however, evidence that the foul was flagrant and intentional should influence the league office.

Regarding Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib’s decision to grab and pull and twist the facemask of Panthers receiver Corey Brown in the first half of Super Bowl 50, it’s clear that the conduct was flagrant and intentional — because Talib has admitted it.

“It was B.S. flags,” Talib said regarding a pair of personal fouls called on him in the first half, via NESN.com.  “One was on our sidelines [for taunting] — the guy [Brown] was talking on our sideline. One I just did on purpose, and I just had to show him. It’s probably going to be a fine. But, hey, we’re world champs.”

Talib added that he was aware, given Carolina’s field position at the time, that the penalty wouldn’t result in a major loss of field position.

“My teammates knew what it was,” Talib said. “He was on the three-yard line. [With] a personal foul, he was on the one-and-a-half-yard line, so it is what it is.”

What it usually is will be a fine of $8,681 for a first offense. But Talib’s candor, coupled with a one-game suspension during the season for poking Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the eye, could result in an enhanced penalty, and possibly a suspension.

At a time when the NFL is more sensitive than ever to player safety, Talib has admitted to a deliberate and calculated violation of a rule directly aimed at avoiding potentially serious neck injuries. Under the circumstances, and in light of Talib’s history, he may end up with something stiffer than the NFL’s equivalent of a parking ticket.

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DeMarcus Ware explains why Cam Newton didn’t run more

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By standards applicable to other quarterbacks, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t have a horrible night in Super Bowl 50. By Newton’s standards, he did.

The goal, as Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware explained on Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, was to make the Panthers one dimensional by taking away their ability to run the ball. But that doesn’t account for the lack of scrambles from Newton, who was sacked six times and repeatedly fought to throw the ball away.

“He had to get the ball down the field,” Ware said of Newton’s decision to take off sparingly, “he had to score points.”

Ware added the Broncos defense was able to get inside Newton’s head. Physically, they also were able to match him.

“It’s hard to beat us with his feet because we have a lot of fast guys like me and Von [Miller] and [Derek] Wolfe and Malik [Jackson],” Ware said. “And we made sure we kept the pocket tight so he couldn’t get out and run.”

Speaking of Jackson, Ware emphasized the importance of not letting him get away in free agency.

“The game is won in the trenches,” Ware said. “And just him, Derek Wolfe, . . . [those] two guys if you’re doing 3-4 or 4-3 they’re dominant and they make plays especially with [nose tackle] Sylvester [Williams] in the middle. I mean, all of those guys just giving them kudos. That’s the reason why we’ve been able to do so much.”

The salary cap will prevent the Broncos from doing as much as they’d like when it comes to keeping free agency, and Jackson could be one of the ones who gets away — especially as other teams become willing to pay a premium in order to both bring a Super Bowl champion to town and to partially dismantle the most recent champion.

To hear the full spot from Ware, check out the podcast from Monday’s edition of PFT Live, the first one that launched at 6:00 a.m. ET.

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111.9 million Super Bowl viewers

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Last year, a record 114.4 million viewers on average enjoyed Super Bowl XLIX, between the Patriots and Seahawks. This year, the numbers were down because the game was less compelling, but the audience was still gigantic.

According to CBS, an average of 111.9 million watched the game, with a peak of 115.5 million between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. ET.

As big as the Super Bowl audience has become, the question that comes up every year for me is this: What is everyone else in the country doing at that time?

FOX has the game next year in Houston, and after that NBC in Minnesota. The size of the audiences will be driven largely by the size of the markets represented in the game and the perceived (and actual) competitiveness of the game.

While Sunday night’s game wasn’t a shootout, tension permeated most of the game, with a nagging sense that the Panthers eventually were going to find the gas pedal and win the game easily.

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Tom Coughlin: Not coaching “a very difficult thing”

Tom Coughlin AP

For the first time since 2004, Tom Coughlin isn’t going to be preparing a team for September.

Coughlin was replaced as the Giants’ head coach by Ben McAdoo after a second straight 6-10 season and brief dalliances with the 49ers and Eagles didn’t lead anywhere. During a Monday appearance on FOX News, Coughlin talked about how he’s dealing with the change in circumstances.

“It’s a very difficult thing, I don’t care who you are, or how long you’ve been doing it. I’ve been doing it a long time, so you get yourself into the rhythm,” Coughlin said, via NJ.com. “Your whole life, the calendar of your life is based on football, about the seasons, whether it’s in-season or out of season. You have a schedule that you follow. So there’s some adjusting for me to make.”

One adjustment Coughlin isn’t making is considering the change in schedule a permanent one. He said he doesn’t like the retired and that he’s “way to young” for that label.

When they parted ways, the Giants talked about wanting Coughlin remain with the team he coached to two Super Bowl titles in a different position. Co-owner John Mara repeated that desire during Super Bowl week in San Francisco, but it doesn’t appear that anything immediate is in the works.

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Aqib Talib calls Levi’s Stadium turf “terrible”

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The 49ers have had repeated issues with the quality of the sod at Levi’s Field. On Sunday, the NFL’s first stint as the caretaker of the gridiron at Santa Clara encountered difficulties, too.

The footing on the field was terrible,” Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said, via the Associated Press. “San Fran has to play eight games on that field so they better do something to get it fixed. It was terrible.”

Talib apparently hasn’t been paying attention to the home team’s troubles with the turf. Because the troubles have been persistent for the team. The league has had troubles, too. And now the 49ers get the turf back, indefinitely.

Not everyone complained about the field, including the guy who won the game’s MVP award.

“I had to change my cleats,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “It was a great field. We came out here [Saturday] and it was fast. As the game went on, I just needed a little more support. I was able to get the detachable [spikes] and real quick change them.”

Players from both teams seemed to slip on the field. Panthers coach Ron Rivera, however, went out of his way to say the field wasn’t a problem.

“We didn’t have any issues with the field,” Rivera said, via the Associated Press. “Both teams played on the same field. As far as I’m concerned, for me to be able to blame the field is kind of a cop out. The truth of the matter is we both played on the surface. The surface was outstanding.”

Outstanding is an overstatement, but Rivera surely wants to say nothing that would create the impression he is making excuses for the outcome of the game. His refusal to make excuses provides the league with an excuse it doesn’t merit, because the field wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been, raising yet again the question of why the NFL fails far too often to ensure that players get the absolute best and safest surfaces.

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Saints cut Jahri Evans

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints released six-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans Monday.

Evans was due $3 million if he was still on the roster on Wednesday. He was set to make $4.9 million in 2016.

Evans, 32, has been with the Saints since 2006 and started all 153 games he played. He took a pay cut after the 2014 season, his sixth straight Pro Bowl season. He started 11 games in 2015.

Evans joins Riley Cooper and William Moore as notable cuts on the first day teams can make roster transactions. The Saints also cut wide receiver Seantavius Jones, linebacker David Hawthorne and linebacker Ramon Humber.

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Disturbing details in Manziel-Crowley affidavit

Johnny Manziel AP

The affidavit filed by Johnny Manziel’s ex-girlfriend as part of the protective order she’s received from him contains some disturbing details.

NBC 5 in Dallas posted the affidavit Monday. In it, Coleen Crowley said she told a parking valet she feared for her life and later had to threaten Manziel with a knife to get him to leave her apartment.

A police helicopter began searching for Manziel early on the morning of Jan. 30 after Crowley banged on a neighbor’s door and screamed to another for help. Crowley said Manziel had been physical with her, grabbing by the hair to throw her in the car and hitting her in the ear with an open hand. Crowley said that’s when she struck Manziel back and also said she still could not hear out of her ear days later.

Crowley said she was also restrained by Manziel against a hotel door and that Manziel threatened to kill them both.

Dallas Police opened a criminal investigation into the matter last week, and an NFL investigation is ongoing. The Browns have not been able to reach Manziel and plan to release him next month.

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Falcons drop Justin Durant, William Moore

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On Monday, teams can begin cutting players. The Falcons have dumped a pair of them.

Gone are linebacker Justin Durant (pictured) and safety William Moore. The team announced the moves on Monday.

“We want to thank both of these guys for their commitment and work ethic,” coach Dan Quinn said. “They battled through injuries to give everything they had for their teammates this season and I will always be appreciative of that.”

As to Durant, the Falcons avoid his base salary of $1.75 million for 2016. The team will take a cap charge of $833,000. Regarding Moore,the Falcons avoid his base salary of $4.5 million, but they take a cap charge of $3.3 million, the remainder of the $8.25 million signing bonus he received in 2013.

Durant was a second-round pick of the Jaguars in 2007; he signed last year with the Falcons. Atlanta drafted Moore in the second round of the 2009 draft.

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Making sense of Cam Newton’s abrupt departure

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Much can be said about the demeanor of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at his post-Super Bowl press conference, and reasonable minds may differ as to whether it was a sign of immaturity or evidence of his passionate desire to win.

Here’s an area where the answer is more clear. As noted last night on Twitter and throughout Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, the video of the press conference suggests that Newton bolted not because of any questions asked by the reporter but because he could hear someone from the Broncos crowing about the victory. Via the Denver Post, it was Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

So while Newton arguably should have been less sullen when talking about the game, the tone and content of his answers and the decision to get up and leave are really two different things.

Besides, if Newton’s reaction means that Newton will become even more determined to get back to the Super Bowl and win it, Panthers fans will be very happy about the outcome a year from now.

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Falcons hire Collier as pro personnel director

KANSAS CITY, MO - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Joel Collier of the Kansas City Chiefs poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons have hired Joel Collier as their director of pro personnel.

Collier’s addition comes as part of a restructuring of the personnel department, though general manager Thomas Dimitroff was retained. Former director of player personnel Lionel Vital left the team last month, and former general managers Ruston Webster and Phil Emery were hired.

Collier was assistant general manager with the Chiefs from 2009-13 and previously was an assistant coach with the Dolphins and Patriots. His father, Joe Collier, is a former head coach of the Bills and defensive coordinator with the Broncos and Patriots.

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Peyton Manning likely didn’t want to take attention from teammates

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After the Super Bowl, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning supplied the same message about his future every time he spoke. He’s waiting on the recommendation of Tony Dungy, who advised against an emotional decision.

It’s clear, then, that the emotional decision would have been to retire.

There’s another benefit that comes from waiting. By not announcing his intentions on Sunday night, Manning didn’t take attention away from his teammates and coaches.

During a pregame interview with Bill Cowher, which had been taped at some point before Sunday, Manning became emotional when talking about the importance of being known as a good teammate. And but for one slip after a 2005 playoff loss in which he said, after explaining that he’s trying to be a good teammate, the team had problems with protection, Peyton has always been an impeccable teammate.

If he knows he’s retiring, his decision to keep the decision to himself becomes a genuinely selfless act, allowing the aftermath of the win to be all about the team and not all about Peyton.

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Bengals sign veteran CB Chykie Brown

Washington Redskins v New York Giants Getty Images

The Bengals have signed veteran cornerback Chykie Brown.

Brown was out of the NFL last season but has 54 games of experience with the Ravens and Giants from 2011-14. He played in every game when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.

He went to the Giants via waivers in 2014 and was cut by the Giants prior to the start of the 2015 season.

The Bengals also signed offensive tackle Darryl Baldwin, who was with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie last season. Baldwin is a developmental prospect who was a defensive end at Ohio State before the arrival of 2016 NFL Draft prospect Noah Spence, among others, pushed him to the offensive side of the ball.

Baldwin played one preseason game with the Ravens before being placed on the non-football illness list and eventually waived by the Ravens before the regular season.

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Eagles release Riley Cooper

Riley Cooper AP

The Eagles announced the release of wide receiver Riley Cooper on Monday.

Cooper was due to make $4.5 million in 2016. He’d signed a five-year deal worth a guaranteed $8 million prior to the 2014 season. He’ll still count for $2.4 million against the cap in 2016.

Cooper caught 21 passses and two for touchdowns last season after having caught 102 passes and scored 11 touchdowns over the 2013-14 seasons. With those declining numbers, Chip Kelly gone and the Eagles having drafted Nelson Algholor in the first round last year, the move is not surprising.

Monday marked the first day teams could cut players who’d finished the 2015 season on an active roster. Cooper, 28, immediately becomes a free agent and does not have to wait for the start of the new league year in March to seek out a new team.

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