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Saints win in overtime, ruin Cowboys comeback

Gerald Sensabaugh, Pierre Thomas, Jimmy Graham AP

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said last week that if they were within two scores in the fourth quarter, they felt like they’d win.

But despite erasing a 31-17 deficit in the final 3:35 of regulation, they still fell 34-31 to the Saints in overtime.

The loss dropped the Cowboys to 8-7, forcing them to watch scoreboards instead of controlling their own destiny.

Garrett Hartley was able to kick the chip-shot field goal to win after Saints tight end Jimmy Graham recovered a fumble after a Marques Colston catch. After a lengthy review, the play stood as called, and the Saints left Cowboys Stadium shocked.

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Jaguars say Bortles suffered from a dead arm late last year

Jacksonville Jaguars v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles struggled through a rough rookie season, but the team expects much more of a fresh Bortles this year.

Jacksonville General Manager Dave Caldwell told USA Today that by the end of last season, Bortles was worn down and had a “dead arm.”

“People don’t realize that as you look later in the season, he was on injury report,” Caldwell said. “You’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to survive. It wasn’t anything that was ingrained in him [mechanically]. He knew he was doing it. But in order to drive the ball 15 yards, there were some things that he needed to do to get the velocity on the ball.”

We noted late last season that Bortles looked like he was throwing shorter passes and not going downfield as much as he had earlier in the year. That led to a decrease in interceptions, which was good, but it also led to a decrease in his passing yardage — and it was alarming because Bortles’s big arm was a big reason the Jaguars chose him with the third overall pick in last year’s draft. It would appear that the “dead arm” was a big part of the reason Bortles changed his playing style.

So far, Bortles hasn’t proven that he’s the man to lead the franchise in the future. Now the Jaguars hope Bortles will be well-rested and ready to go for his second season.

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Mohamed Sanu shows Bengals he can hit a 60-yard field goal

060815 BENGALS OTAs AP

The Bengals haven’t limited wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pass catching during his three years with the team.

In addition to making 119 catches, Sanu has also run the ball 16 times for 82 yards and completed five passes (two for touchdowns) in five attempts as a quarterback on gadget plays. Based on a video that Sanu posted on Twitter this week, there may be room to add more to his portfolio.

Sanu posted several videos of himself achieving various athletic feats, ranging from basketball to one-handed catches from a ball machine, before capping the list with film of him attempting a 60-yard field goal. It’s not the prettiest flight you’ll ever see a ball take to the uprights, but Sanu’s kick splits them with some room to spare.

It’s probably not enough to make the team part ways with Mike Nugent and dial the clock back to the days of Pat McInally, who saved the team a roster spot by playing both wide receiver and punter in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but a little more versatility never hurts for a team that’s struggled to put points on the board in the playoffs the last four seasons.

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Michael Sam gets some tough press in Canada

Michael Sam AP

Publicly, Michael Sam has been embraced by the Canadian Football League since signing with the Montreal Alouettes. Privately, some CFL insiders seem to resent the attention Sam is getting.

Sam left the Alouettes before the start of the season and missed last week’s season opener, but he’s now back with the team and expected to take the field at some point and become the first openly gay player to appear in a CFL game. That will generate plenty of publicity in both the United States and Canada, but that publicity isn’t being welcomed by everyone.

The Winnipeg Sun‘s “CFL Blitz” item includes a series of anonymous quotes from CFL coaches and managers, and a couple of those quotes show a less-than-welcoming attitude toward Sam.

“Michael Sam hasn’t played a down of football north of the border and he has gotten a thousand times more recognition than Randy Chevrier, who won the Tom Pate Award [for outstanding sportsmanship and someone who has made a significant contribution to his team, his community and CFLPA]. That’s pathetic. You guys [in the media] should be embarrassed,” one anonymous source said.

Said another anonymous source, “Our players are saying they’re hearing Michael Sam is an American prima donna. Thought he could just show up and dominate our league. Wrong.”

Of course, it’s easy for people to rip Sam while hiding behind anonymity. And it’s something that Sam has had to put up with since he came out: Before he was drafted by the Rams in 2014, there was a spate of anonymous quotes from around the league about concerns that he would be a distraction. Those concerns turned out to be unfounded, as Sam by all accounts fit in during training camp and the preseason, although he wasn’t able to make the 53-player roster.

There’s not much Sam can do about that except play, and play well. If he starts sacking the opposing quarterback on a regular basis, he can shut those anonymous quotes up.

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Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders staying upbeat through cancer battle

Pro Football Hall of Fame Press Conference Getty Images

Charlie Sanders was known for his toughness as a player, during his Hall of Fame career with the Lions.

He needs it now, as he’s battling something bigger than any football opponent.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Sanders remains upbeat after undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy as he fights the disease.

“Just as on the field, Charlie Sanders is a fighter and he is going to fight to the end like any game, like any journey,” Sanders’ daughter, Charese Sailor said. “We are rallying around him and supporting him in that fight, and until God says differently, we’re going to push on. . . .

“One thing that I really do want people to know is that he feels all the prayers and all the love and he knows that there are so many people really giving back to him what he gave. So in this critical time we are just rallying with him and it’s so difficult to get to everyone, but he would like everyone to know that he really feels and appreciates their prayer.”

Sanders was diagnosed last November when doctors found a tumor behind his right knee during prep work for a knee replacement surgery. He said in the spring that “the knee operation saved my life.”

Sanders was one of the top pass-catching tight ends of the 1970s, and continued to work for the team as a a broadcaster a coach and a personnel man since a knee injury shortened his brilliant career.

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Teammate says Ben Roethlisberger stuck it to rookie in club

Ben Roethlisberger AP

When the Steelers hear stories about Ben Roethlisberger in a bar, they have to hold their breath.

Actually, this one only ends up poorly for some rookie who went home with a big bar tab.

In a profile of former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall in Men’s Journal, he mentioned that leaving a credit card with the quarterback was a bad idea.

Mendenhall recalled that rookies are expected to throw a party at the beginning of the season, and it apparently was a big one for some unfortunate offensive lineman.

Ben just did the whole thing,” Mendenhall said “One night — the rookie ended up with a $25,000 bill from the club.”

As rookie initiations go, that’s probably not the worst possible outcome, so long as it was a high enough draft pick whose signing bonus could cover the tab. But it was also an expensive lesson in trusting the Steeler with the most expensive contract.

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Duke Ihenacho laments NFL contracts amid NBA spending spree

Washington Redskins OTAs AP

Free agency opened in the NBA on Wednesday, which meant that the day was filled with reports of players signing big new contracts.

That sounds a lot like the first day of free agency in the NFL, although there’s one significant difference in the kind of contracts that were being handed out. NBA players generally sign deals that are fully guaranteed while NFL players sign contracts whose total possible value is often significantly higher than the amount they’re guaranteed to make.

On Wednesday, Redskins safety Duke Ihenacho lamented that disparity on Twitter while calling for higher minimum salaries for NFL players

“All this guaranteed money NBA throwing. Meanwhile the NFL, which generates the most money wont even make the league minimum $1M,” Ihenacho wrote. “Yes $1M minimum. That means every single player’s salary in the NFL should start there. Highest risk of injury..brain trauma, richest league.”

The Denver Post collected several other NFL reactions to the NBA spending spree with several players experiencing hoop dreams (or hoop paycheck dreams, at least) as Wednesday unfolded.

Ihenacho isn’t the first player to suggest that NFL contracts should pay more or that they lack the same security enjoyed by athletes in other sports. There will be future CBA negotiations that offer a chance for players to grab a larger slice of the revenue, although doing so would likely take players being willing to miss the paychecks they didn’t want to miss in 2011.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Bills fans can watch “The Rex Ryan Show” beginning Sept. 13 (like they haven’t been watching it already).

The Dolphins will host a scrimmage at Florida International University during training camp.

The Patriots will hold their Hall of Fame induction on Aug. 5, before an open practice in training camp.

Jets G James Carpenter could be a key to the success of the offense.

Tyrod Taylor didn’t give much of an indication he could be a starter when he was with the Ravens.

They’re already talking up Bengals backup QB A.J. McCarron.

Browns rookie DT Danny Shelton is expected to anchor a rebuilt defensive line.

Steelers LB James Harrison is still a very strong person.

The Texans were in the running for free agent G John Moffitt before he signed with the Eagles.

The Colts have an offense built to win now.

Jaguars LB LaRoy Reynolds is passing along his hard-earned special teams knowledge.

The only real issue between the Titans and QB Marcus Mariota’s deal probably shouldn’t be one at all.

Former Broncos S Duke Ihenacho kind of wishes he played in the NBA right now.

Chiefs G.M. John Dorsey will be recognized for his community service.

The guy trying to keep the Raiders in Oakland is angry about his proposal being leaked (maybe he’s just not for this business).

There are still those in San Diego who think Chargers owner Dean Spanos wants to stay.

Will a new coach change the success of the Cowboys’ offensive line?

Giants DT Markus Kuhn knows there’s “no more excuses.”

The Eagles could still be looking to move LB Mychal Kendricks.

Washington has to fix a glaring third-down problem this season.

The Bears won’t miss having to look at Ndamukong Suh twice a year.

Lions WR Golden Tate is looking for consistency from his team.

If you have any slogans for the return of Packers QB Brett Favre to Lambeau, let this guy know (must, … resist, … easy, … punchlines, …)

A pair of former Vikings were moved by a recent trip to Israel.

The Falcons have shown interest in a supplemental draft prospect.

Panthers stadium renovations include some early words from owner Jerry Richardson.

Saints QB Drew Brees is fired up about a local NBA star staying in town.

The Buccaneers figure to continue to pick through the waiver-wire heap often.

The Cardinals might have to adjust how often they blitz on defense.

Rams TE Jared Cook is bullish about QB Nick Foles.

Let’s hear from the “Master of the Obvious” on how to interview former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

Seahawks S Earl Thomas got another ring, or gave one anyway.

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Brandon Ivory’s agent says “name will be cleared” of burglary charge

Florida v Alabama Getty Images

The Texans have moved deliberately in the case of defensive tackle Brandon Ivory, announcing that they were aware of his arrest for first degree burglary for a home invasion involving an assault rifle and a knife, but not much else.

But the agent for the undrafted rookie maintains this is all a big misunderstanding.

“I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges,” Ivory’s agent Jeff Guerriero told Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com.

Of course, that’s what an agent says.

And even though this is America, with that whole pesky “innocent until proven guilty” thing, that’s not necessarily enough to keep a player employed unless he’s a star.

Ivory is not one, signed as an undrafted rookie this year, a two-year starter at Alabama. He’s also the first Texans player arrested since 2009, so they don’t have a lot of recent precedent to work with here.

Plus, the arrest report said Ivory and another man kicked in the back door of a residence, one with an assault rifle and one with a knife, and stole money and two iPads. The image of an armed invader alone would be enough for many teams to walk away from a player they don’t have much time or money invested in.

Especially a team which will be inviting around-the-clock television cameras into its training camp soon.

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Geno leading the Jets in July workouts

Geno Smith AP

Jets quarterback Geno Smith needs to do everything right if he’s going to keep his precarious hold on the team’s quarterback job. One thing he’s doing right this month is leading workouts with the team’s wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.

Yes, we will all be getting together,’’ Smith told the New York Post. “It’s about a month from us reporting for camp, so it’s very important for us to continue to build on what we ended with back in minicamp.’’

The workouts are reminiscent of the “Jets West” camp that Mark Sanchez had in California during each year of his tenure as the team’s starter. Except that these will be in Chicago, so that Jets receiver Brandon Marshall can be close to his family, making these workouts more like Jets Midwest.

Smith said backup quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty aren’t expected to attend, although they’re invited.

“I’ll probably be the only [quarterback] there,’’ Smith said. “It’s welcome to anyone who wants to come.It’s not like I’m barring them from coming. If they want to they can be there too.’’

Smith knows that there are no promises of him keeping the starting job, but he says he’s not nervous heading into the season.

“I don’t feel any pressure,’’ he said. “The key thing is going into camp, I’m going in with the right mind-set. I feel like we’ve got a lot of room for improvement, but I love the way we’re working and competing. To have guys around me that are so, so good, it takes all the pressure off of me. I’m in competition with myself to try and be perfect. I’m in competition with Ryan. I’m in competition with Bryce. All the guys out there, the defense. I’m in competition with the guys on offense. We all want to try to perfect our game and we’re all gonna set the standard high and try to hold each other accountable.’’

Whether Smith can keep his job remains to be seen, but he’s saying, and doing, the right things in the offseason.

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Chargers job listing requires Los Angeles move, if necessary

LAX Getty Images

If you work as a tax manager, the San Diego Chargers could use your services.

Just be aware that the “San Diego” part of that proposal could very well be temporary.

The Chargers currently have posted a job listing on the NFL’s job board seeking a tax manager that will be responsible for handling the “managing of tax reporting and compliance within the organization.” Listed under the requirements of the job, the posting states that the applicant must be willing “to relocate to the Los Angeles area, if necessary.”

The Chargers have been leading the charge of NFL teams interested in moving to Los Angeles. The team has reached a stalemate with the city of San Diego on plans for a new stadium and clearly don’t feel discussions will lead to a new venue.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos, along with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, spent Tuesday meeting with Los Angeles officially as the team’s eye a joint move into a new stadium in Carson, Calif.

The Chargers are clearly planning for a future in the L.A. area. If you want to work for the team as a tax manager, you’d better be comfortable with that reality.

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Russell Wilson’s agent cares about one stat: Wins

Unknown

In addition to the two reasons mentioned earlier on Wednesday for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to do a new deal by September, there’s a third potential benefit: Ending the potential distraction coming from his unsettled status.

It’s only July, and his situation has become a huge story, with multiple members of the media convinced that Wilson could be (not will be, could be) the first healthy franchise quarterback to change teams due to the inability to work out a new contract. Absent a contract that keeps Wilson from becoming a potential free agent in March, his status will continue to be a top story in the NFL and a constant source of reports and opinion and speculation about the Seahawks, threatening to turn upside down a locker room that already has more than a few players who resent Russell Wilson.

The guy guiding Wilson through the process is agent Mark Rodgers. A former football agent who focused on baseball and has now returned to football because one of his baseball clients is pretty damn good at the other game, Rodgers became the sole agent for Wilson after Wilson parted ways with Bus Cook last year. Some league insiders believe that, if Cook were still working for Wilson, a deal with the Seahawks already would be done. With Rodgers advising Wilson, it’s unclear when it will be resolved.

The Seahawks seem to be leery of Rodgers because there’s no broader working relationship with him, and because his approach to the negotiations has to date been unconventional, including that 16-page position statement sent to the Seahawks. That’s fitting because Wilson is an non-traditional franchise quarterback — a guy who wins without huge passing numbers.

“With Russell, he’s unique, so let the debate begin,” Rodgers told TCPalm.com. “He’s unconventional in size. People argue that he’s a game manager or say it’s the defense or Marshawn Lynch — or all of the above. I listen and take all that into account. At the end of the day, it’s about winning and what he’s asked to do and he does it very, very well.”

And that seems to be the focal point of the argument in favor of paying Wilson. Despite the absence of huge passing numbers, he wins football games.

“I don’t have to argue statistics with the Seattle Seahawks on the value of Russell Wilson,” Rodgers said. “In football, the most important stat to me has always been ‘Does he win?’ It’s hard to argue that Russell Wilson doesn’t win.”

He absolutely does win. But the question is whether he’ll still win if he accounts for a much larger piece of the total salary cap, which necessarily will leave less money behind for compensation other key players who also can answer the operative “does he win?” question in the affirmative.

At some point, Wilson will be making so much that it will be hard for him to win. The ability of the Seahawks and Rodgers to strike the right balance will directly influence their ability to keep Wilson in Seattle. If Wilson decides he simply wants to maximize his earning potential, the only way he’ll do that is by jumping to a team desperate for a franchise quarterback.

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A deal now helps Russell Wilson in two important ways

Russell Wilson

Despite the apparent willingness of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to play in 2015 for $1.5 million and to change teams if need be in 2016, signing a contract before the regular season begins carries a pair of significant benefits for Wilson.

First, and as previously mentioned, signing a contract before the 2015 season shifts the injury risk away from Wilson. Absent a new deal, Wilson will be in jeopardy of not only a career-ending injury (for which he obviously has insurance) but also a career-altering injury, which would allow him to keep playing but make him far less desirable financially.

At some point between now and the first week of the regular season, the Seahawks undoubtedly will offer something to Wilson that will be lower than what he’d like to have, but that also would be dramatically more than anything he’s ever made playing football. And then he’ll have to decide whether to continue to assume the injury risk for only $1.5 million — or to accept the offer and the immense financial security that goes with it.

There’s a chance Wilson’s extreme confidence will cause him to bet on himself, refusing a great-but-not-top-of-the-market offer, believing that he won’t suffer a serious injury, and pushing the negotiations toward a potential February clusterfudge for the Seahawks, with Wilson’s price tag shooting through the roof and applying the exclusive version of the franchise tag and trading Wilson becoming a viable option for the Seahawks.

Second, and as mentioned on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio by Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, doing a deal now gives Wilson a large amount of money that otherwise will forever disappear.

A long-term deal averaging a legitimate $20 million per year gives Wilson $18.5 million more this year than he otherwise will make. On a five-year deal, for example, that approach simulates Wilson playing for $1.5 million in 2015 and $24.625 million per year in each of the next four.

That’s what a five-year, $100 million deal can do. And agent Mark Rodgers can sell it as a four-year, $98.5 million extension. The new-money average of $24.625 million would surpass Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his $22 million annually, making Russell Wilson the highest-paid player in the league by $2.4625 million per year.

It would be a win for both sides, and it would hinge entirely on Wilson ripping up the last year of his rookie deal instead of swapping it for the kind of leverage that would get him a lot more than $98.5 million from 2016 through 2019.

Bottom line? If Wilson doesn’t accept whatever the Seahawks put on the table before Week One, the stage will be set for Wilson getting much more than $25 million per year by next season, from the Seahawks or someone else.

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Texans don’t dump Brandon Ivory, yet

Ivory

When word emerged that Texans defensive lineman Brandon Ivory faces a charge of first-degree burglary, it seemed likely that the Texans would quickly dump the undrafted rookie. So far, the Texans haven’t.

“The Houston Texans are aware of the police report regarding DT Brandon Ivory in Tuscaloosa, Ala.,” the Texans said in a statement. “At this time, we will have no further comment until we gather all of the relevant facts.”

They’ll likely be gathering the relevant facts quickly. Training camp opens soon, and HBO camera and microphones will be present. Unless the Texans concluded during the offseason program that Ivory is poised to become a star player, it will be a surprise if Ivory is.

Apart from the P.R. consequences of having on the roster a player accused of an armed home invasion, keeping Ivory around could mean paying him while he’s on mandatory leave pending the resolution of the charges.

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Brandon Magee still waits for NFL call, would give up baseball

Brandon Magee Getty Images

In March, the Buccaneers released linebacker Brandon Magee. The next day, he reported for Red Sox training camp.

The offseason program came and went without any team offering Magee an NFL job. In the interim, Magee has kept playing baseball — continuing with Boston’s Class A affiliate, the Lowell Spinners.

Bating .250 through seven games, Magee took a few minutes before his team’s latest game to visit with PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. And Magee made it clear that, if/when an NFL team would offer Magee a roster spot, he’d give up baseball in an instant.

On one hand, the fact that Magee (who has played for the Browns and Bucs) doesn’t have one of 90 roster spots is a red flag. On the other hand, once training camps open and players start going full speed in pads, injuries will happen. It could just be a matter of time before Magee gets another chance to return to pro football.

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Jim Harbaugh takes half the blame for awkward radio interview

A Seattle Seahawks fan holds a sign referring to San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, during their NFL football game in Seattle, Washington

The low-water mark of the NFL offseason news cycle was filled in part by a cannonball from former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, via an awkward interview with Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio. The interview also provided plenty of free P.R. for both participants in the clumsy back-and-forth for which most people are blaming Harbaugh.

Harbaugh has now accepted the blame. But only so much of it.

“In my experience of participating in interviews, I’ve found it takes 2 to produce a clunker!” Harbaugh said on Twitter.  “I’ll take 50% responsibility 4 this clunker.”

That leaves 50 percent of the responsibility for Cowherd. Some may say that’s too much for Cowherd. Others would say it’s not enough.

Ultimately, the onus is on the interviewer to draw out the person being interviewed. Cowherd erred by leading with his chin, asking Harbaugh when he’s at his “least intense” and that if he ever says to himself, “‘Oh, man, I’m cupcake. I’m soft. I’m easygoing.’ When’s the part of the day when you’re a pushover?'”

But Harbaugh isn’t new at this. He has been interviewed by many different people over the years, in many different settings. He had a chance to present himself in a certain way, and he ended up presenting himself in a certain other way, thanks to an overriding desire to compete in each and every situation.

On one hand, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. On the other hand, any elite high-school football players or their parents who heard Harbaugh may be less inclined to choose Michigan after hearing the interview. Chances are they won’t be more inclined.

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