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Bears’ Major Wright says Matthew Stafford folds under pressure

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Bears safety Major Wright says the key to stopping the Lions’ offense on Sunday is simple: Pressure Matthew Stafford.

Wright thinks Stafford will break down if the Bears are bringing pressure against him, and that’s the way to stop the Lions’ passing game.

“You put a little pressure on him, you close the pocket on him, and he hesitates,” Wright said Wednesday. “He doesn’t make that perfect throw. . . . He can make any throw on that field, so you have to be aware of putting pressure on him because you put a little pressure on him he kind of folds.”

The Bears sacked Stafford three times and pressured him many more times in their win over the Lions earlier this season, and Wright said that’s what they have to continue to do.

“You don’t want to sit back and let him pick you apart because he’s a good quarterback, and if he has time he can complete any throw,” Wright said. “We definitely want to get in his face and kind of bother him.”

That’s what the Bears want to do in their must-win game against the Lions on Sunday.

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Eagles owner speaks out against polarized political system

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At a time when most NFL figures steer clear of anything remotely political, one owner has spoken out against the current political system in general.

In a column posted at Time.com, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie urges an end to the intense polarization that currently infects all things political, with people clinging to positions and refusing to consider the possibility that their views should be softened, revised, or flat-out abandoned.

“What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large,” Lurie writes. “Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent — not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.”

The American political system currently features those qualities, but only within the confines of the red state/blue state battle that constantly plays out on each and every issue. Lurie advocates unity for one specific cause: Solving the problem of autism.

“Imagine how we would benefit from understanding aspects of the autistic brain that can include rare mathematical, creative and other cognitive abilities that may well enhance our own brain power and human potential,” Lurie writes.

Whatever challenges we face as a society, it would be useful if people with different viewpoints would find a way to compromise and cooperate. The fact that an observation as innocuous and common sensical as that would be met with cries of “stick to sports!” demonstrates just how deeply divided we have become.

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Connor Barwin: Eagles were ‘smart’ to cut me

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Connor Barwin gets it. He understands.

The veteran defensive end carried a lofty salary. On the other side of the ball, a young quarterback in Carson Wentz needed more surrounding pieces to facilitate his development.

What followed was logical.

The former Eagle said Friday that there are no hard feelings for his release. Quite the contrary, in fact. Barwin told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane the Eagles were “smart” for choosing to part ways with him as they did, a March 9 move that sliced $7.75 million off the salary cap.

“Obviously, there was a ton of money invested in the defensive line room with Fletcher (Cox), Vinny (Curry), (Brandon Graham) and myself,” Barwin said to McLane. “Now they have a quarterback that appears to have a chance to be a really, really good player.

“I wish it wasn’t the money I was getting paid, but I think it was smart to use that money and help Carson.”

Barwin, 30, spent four seasons in Philadelphia.

That’s not long enough for a city statue to be built — Paul Walker may have a better chance in San Clemente, Calif. (seriously, just watch) — but it was long enough for Barwin to leave an impression for the class he showed while on the roster and grace exhibited once off it.

And to his point, the Eagles were active this month on offense.

They signed wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith along with offensive linemen Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski. Veteran Nick Foles also joined the quarterbacks room on a two-year deal.

More help for Wentz.

Barwin understands.

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Jaguars sign DE Malliciah Goodman

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Defensive end Malliciah Goodman was a spectator for most of last season.

After the Falcons waived him in early September, he remained a free agent for the season’s first seven weeks. The Seahawks then signed him for a week, waived him, and he went unsigned for another five through November. Goodman had a brief December stint with the Falcons before watching their run to the Super Bowl

This year, he hopes to stick.

Goodman signed Friday with the Jaguars. He will compete for a roster spot, although nothing will be guaranteed to him. The 2013 Falcons fourth-round pick has started 11 of 37 career games.

The bulk of that playing time came at the start of his career.

He’s played 40 defensive snaps combined in the past two years.

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Arians had surgery due to Christmas Eve hug from Fitzgerald

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Near the end of an otherwise lost season for Arizona, the Cardinals pulled off a memorable road win in Seattle on Christmas Eve. The victory triggered an overly enthusiastic reaction from receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

As explained by Kent Somers of azcentral.com, Fitzgerald hugged coach Bruce Arians hard enough to tear a rotator cuff in his shoulder.

“It’s all Fitz’s fault, he caused the whole thing,” Arians said, via Somers. “It’s going to cost him.”

The question came up of Fitzgerald getting Arians a get-well card.

“It’s going to be a get-well convertible,” Arians said. “I’m still deciding what kind.”

Arians remains in a sling. Which probably means that the convertible should be an automatic, not a standard.

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NFLPA opens inquiry of Jaguars after Tom Coughlin email

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The Jaguars hired Tom Coughlin to be their executive vice president of football operations on Jan. 9.

Since then, the NFL Players Association is known to have begun at least two separate inquiries related to the club’s front-office activity, the latest of which reportedly involves an email Coughlin sent to several players.

According to the Florida Times-Union’s Ryan O’Halloran, Coughlin requested via email for certain players under contract to report for a physical earlier this month. The union is looking into the off-season request, specifically in regard to its allowance under the collective bargaining agreement.

A Jaguars and NFL spokesman both declined comment when reached by Pro Football Talk.

This grievance from the NFL Players Association is not a total surprise, having been foreshadowed earlier this month. The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on March 2 there was discontent among agents and the union at the NFL Scouting Combine over the Jaguars requiring players without medical clearance to rehab at the facility four days a week.

Coughlin’s email similarly involves a request of injured players.  Per O’Halloran, player agents advised their clients to take the team’s physical as the union continued to explore the matter.

Earlier this off-season, former Jaguars defensive end Jared Odrick filed a $5.5 million grievance against the club, seeking to recoup guaranteed money. Per USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, the Jaguars contend Odrick “voided (the) guarantees by refusing checkups during injury rehab.” Odrick’s grievance has yet to be resolved, a source said Friday.

Any fallout related to Odrick’s situation is expected to be contained within the two parties.

If the Jaguars’ activity related to injured players is deemed a CBA violation, however, possible punishment could involve the forfeiture of a designated number of practices this spring.

 

 

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Oakland touts last-ditch effort as better than Vegas offer

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Yep, Oakland is making one last play to keep the Raiders. Whether it’s political cover or a viable Hail Mary pass remains to be seen.

For now, here’s what we know: Via ESPN.com, Oakland and its partners have submitted a “revised” plan to finance a $1.3 billion stadium at the site where the team’s current facility sits.

“At the end of the day this is the decision of the Raiders and the NFL,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told ESPN. “What I am confident about is, if the Raiders want to stay in Oakland we have a viable plan to build them a stadium with no upfront money from them, in financial terms that I believe are more favorable to them than the terms in Las Vegas — what we know of them.

“And then, of course, we have something that Vegas can never offer, and that’s legacy and loyalty. This team was born in Oakland. This team enjoys some of the most passionate and dedicated fans of any NFL franchise. Those things belong uniquely to Oakland.”

Those things have been a non-issue when it comes to the team’s desire to get a new stadium, which over the past year or so has centered on Las Vegas. The question now becomes whether those qualities will prompt the Raiders to slam the brakes on the momentum building toward Las Vegas and explore an offer that could, in theory, get worse once it accomplishes its objective to pulling the emergency cord in the train car.

According to the last-second offer, the Raiders and the NFL would kick in the same $500 million that they’d contribute in Las Vegas. Fortress Investment Group would loan $650 million to the project, similar to the loan Bank of America would be making to the project in Las Vegas. Also, Oakland would contribute $200 million in infrastructure improvements, with Fortress paying $150 million of that amount up front and making it back later.

“I recognize that this could be our final chance, but we have worked so hard these last two years,” Schaaf said. “We’ve put together a viable deal that satisfies many requirements that we believe is the best deal for the Raiders and the NFL. We hope that they give it full consideration on Monday.”

Getting full consideration may be the primary objective of the latest offer. That way, Schaaf and other Oakland politicians can argue after the Raiders leave that they did everything they could to keep the team, but that it was the league and the Raiders that opted to leave.

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Broncos “not pursuing” Tony Romo

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With the annual meetings beginning this weekend and the Cowboys presumably hoping someone/anyone will make them a trade offer for quarterback Tony Romo, the Broncos are doing what they can to make sure the Cowboys know that there won’t be a spontaneous offer for Romo in Arizona.

Jeff Darlington of ESPN reports that the Broncos are “not pursuing” Romo, but that they haven’t closed the door on him.

The Broncos have consistently made it clear that they won’t trade for Romo, presumably because the momentum for weeks has been pointing toward the Cowboys cutting him. One day after telling Romo he’d be released, the Cowboys changed course, opting to wait for a possible trade.

The Cowboys likely have opted to wait for the league meetings in the hopes of getting an offer. If they don’t, they’ll have to decide whether to release him before the launch of the offseason program next month. At that point, they risk Romo suffering a fluke injury while on a treadmill or in the weight room that would put them on the hook for his full $14 million salary in 2017.

The Broncos were willing to trade for quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year. The talks broke down on the question of whether Kaepernick would reduce his $12 million base salary for 2016.

The Cowboys apparently believe that Romo has some value in trade, even if it’s a 2018 draft pick based on how many games he plays and how well his new team performs in 2017.

Given the possibility that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t want Romo to play for the Texans, the best outcome for everyone could be a decision by Romo to walk away from the game and to become a broadcaster with FOX or CBS — perhaps with the door open on a Roger Clemens-style return during the season, if a contender loses its quarterback to injury.

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Richard Sherman says he laughs at talk he could be traded

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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is aware that there’s been some talk that he could be traded, but he finds it more amusing than anything else.

Sherman said on ESPN that he doesn’t buy into talk that he could be traded, although he believes the Seahawks would miss him if he were gone.

I just laugh it off, man,” Sherman said. “It’s funny to me. But sometimes people need to see you gone to realize what you had. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But I don’t let things like that bother me. The chips will fall how they’re supposed to.”

The talk of trading Sherman started with former Browns and Patriots executive Michael Lombardi saying Sherman could be available in a trade for the right offer. Of course, every player in the league is available for the right offer, but there’s been no word on what the Seahawks would consider “the right offer” for a player like Sherman.

Sherman doesn’t sound too concerned about the possibility that he’ll be anywhere other than Seattle this season.

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Cowboys bolster O-line, sign Byron Bell

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The Cowboys’ offensive line absorbed a couple departures this offseason, losing right tackle Doug Free to retirement and parting with left guard Ronald Leary in free agency.

On Friday, the unit welcomed an addition.

Veteran lineman Byron Bell signed with the team following a Friday visit, ESPN’s Todd Archer first reported. Bell missed all of the 2016 season after dislocating his ankle on the first day of organized team activities.

Dallas had a ready-made option to replace Leary, turning to La’El Collins after Leary signed with the Broncos.

Bell now becomes an option to replace the retired Free at right tackle. The ex-Titan offers versatility between the guard and tackle positions. He has started 72 of 78 career games, including 16 during his lone healthy season with the Titans in 2015.

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Suspended Josh Gordon trains with ex-Olympian

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There is little sense in speculating as to whether or not this will be it, whether this comeback attempt from Josh Gordon will be the one that returns the uber-talented deep threat to the field.

That will come down to Gordon, if the NFL allows it.

But before potential reinstatement, it seems he’s putting in the work.

The suspended Browns wide receiver, who hasn’t played an NFL down the past two seasons, reportedly is training with speed coach Tim Montgomery, a former Olympian, in Florida as part of his effort to resurrect his career. Violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy have cost the 2012 supplemental second-round pick 44 games the past four years. He was suspended a 45th game in 2012 for a violation of team rules.

Gordon caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.

That came despite missing two games to a league suspension.

There is some off-the field relevancy in Gordon’s partnership with Montgomery. The latter is in position to mentor Gordon, having overcome his own pitfalls.

As cataloged by ESPN’s Dan Graziano,  Montgomery “served prison time after pleading guilty to possession and distribution of more than 100 grams of heroin in 2008 and was stripped of his medals and suspended in 2005 for using performance-enhancing drugs based on evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of the BALCO steroid scandal.”

Graziano cited sources who expect the NFL to determine Gordon’s status for 2017 “by late April or early May.” Gordon will turn 26 on April 13.

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Panthers sign quarterback Garrett Gilbert

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The Panthers needed another arm for OTAs, since Cam Newton’s isn’t available.

And boy they found one.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Panthers signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

Gilbert was most recently on the Raiders’ practice squad, and has also spent time with the Lions, Patriots and Rams.

He hasn’t thrown a regular season pass, but he did earn a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots in 2015.

The Panthers needed someone other than Derek Anderson and Joe Webb for practice since Newton’s about to have shoulder surgery next week, which will keep him out until at least the start of training camp.

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CBS is pursuing Tony Romo, too

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FOX isn’t the only network that hopes to hire Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. CBS reportedly wants to sign him up, too.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that CBS is “making a strong push” to add Romo.

At FOX, Romo reportedly would be the replacement for John Lynch, the 49ers G.M. who had been the No. 2 analyst at FOX. At CBS, it’s unclear where Romo would land on the pecking order.

In 2016, the No. 1 team at CBS was Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, following by Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon, Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots, Andrew Catalon and Steve Tasker/Steve Beuerlein, Tom McCarthy and Adam Archuleta, and Carter Blackburn and Chris Simms. Romo could supplant an analyst, or potentially slide into a spot and bump everyone else down a peg.

So how high would Romo land on the pecking order as a first-year analyst? Based on the routine social-media reaction, many will hope that he rockets to the top of the stack, bumping Phil Simms from the primary crew. (And, of course, once Romo has the job, he’ll be the guy from CBS that people constantly complain about on Twitter.)

The answer also depends on whether Romo is willing to conclusively slam the door on football. In theory, he could take a TV job and keep an eye on potential football opportunities for a mid-to-late-season jump back to the game. CBS likely wouldn’t install him as the No. 1 analyst unless he’s fully committed to the TV gig.

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Oakland makes last ditch effort to disrupt Raiders move

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With all signs pointing to the Raiders securing at least 24 votes next week to relocate to Las Vegas, Oakland isn’t going down without a fight. Or at least without a random, awkward swing at air.

Via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, Oakland claims that the investment firm trying to build a new Raiders stadium is willing to lend money to the Raiders on the same terms that Bank of America will do for the Las Vegas venue. If the terms don’t include at any level a path to equity in the franchise, maybe it would get the attention of owner Mark Davis.

It’s a slim maybe. Davis seems to be determined to move the team to Las Vegas, with a mindset hardened by the failure of Oakland to do anything until the Raiders were picking out drapes in their new house.

Kaplan also explains that a new Oakland stadium would be ready by 2021, only one year after a new stadium in Las Vegas. He likewise points out that Oakland regards concerns about baseball’s A’s being displaced by the project as a red herring, and that the site is large enough to allow an NFL stadium to be built without the A’s being disrupted or forced to move.

The last-ditch effort to secure at least nine votes to block the move could be too late. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com recently reported that the Raiders have 27 or 28 votes in his pocket. And if it appears that Davis won’t have 24, the vote will likely get pushed to the quarterly meeting in May.

For now, the indications are that the vote is coming next week, and that the Raiders will secure the green light to head to the city where gambling is prevalent — and no one connected to the NFL seems to be particularly seems to be troubled by that.

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MVP to finding Brady’s jerseys? Houston mayor says Houston PD

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The FBI Boston Division called it “truly a collaborative effort.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said it was “another example of the importance of teamwork and what can be accomplished when everyone works together.”

The Houston mayor is saying, well, something else.

Sylvester Turner expressed pride in his local police force Friday for the department’s role in two stolen Tom Brady Super Bowl jerseys being recovered this week in Mexico. And he took it a step further, saying that Houston police was the real MVP to an international joint operation.

“I’m very proud of the Houston Police Department,” Turner said via Fox 26 Houston Sports Director Mark Berman. “And to be honest with you, it was the Houston Police Department that did the legwork, that found that jersey. A lot of other people are taking credit for it, but the reality is it was the Houston Police Department, the law enforcement community right here, that … found the jerseys and made that happen.”

It is unclear where, along the way, Turner felt his local authorities were slighted.

In his Thursday statement, Kraft mentioned “many different local agencies” being involved in the process along with skepticism that any one of the involved agencies could’ve accomplished the feat alone. The Houston Police Department was included by name when the FBI Boston Division released a statement earlier this week.

“We want to thank our FBI field offices in Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston; the United States Attorney’s Offices in the District of Connecticut, the Southern District of Texas, and the District of Arizona; and our FBI Mexico City Legal Attaché,” the statement read. “We would also like to thank our law enforcement partners in Mexico, in particular, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, for their invaluable assistance in resolving this matter. Assistance was also provided by the security teams from the NFL and the New England Patriots, the Massachusetts State Police, and Houston Police Department.”

Apparently, the best was saved for last.

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Blandino acknowledges 10-minute overtime will lead to more ties, Ty

When it comes to whether Rich McKay and Dean Blandino believe that a reduced overtime period will result in more ties, Ty, we have a tie.

On Thursday, the Competition Committee chairman downplayed the risk of more teams having win-lose-draw records. Sort of.

“We don’t think it will lead to more ties,” McKay said. “Could it? It could.”

On Friday’s PFT Live, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino admitted the obvious.

‘There’s no question that when you shorten that overtime period, the potential for ties does increase,” Blandino said. “And I don’t think we feel that ties are necessarily a bad thing. They’re certainly great for tiebreakers when it comes to postseason. But ultimately you want to have a winner in the game. But it’s about player safety. And it’s about the number of snaps that our players have to take part in in overtime games.

“We had two ties last year. One game that went down to the final second. And we really can’t control in the regular season when that team is playing again. And sometimes a team plays five quarters and then has to go back out on Thursday night. So it’s about player safety. We understand the potential for more ties, but the safety risks outweigh the potential for tie games.”

First, while the NFL may not think ties are “necessarily a bad thing,” pretty much everyone else does.

Second, more ties won’t make it “great” for tiebreakers. As ties pile up they’ll no longer be a curiosity that avoids exercises like comparing winning percentage against common opponents because more teams will have records like 9-6-1, 10-5-1, and even 7-7-2.

Third, there’s no guarantee that a shorter overtime will correlate to reduced game action. The Week Seven tie between the Seahawks and Cardinals had 36 extra snaps. The Week Eight tie between Washington and the Bengals included 41 extra snaps. Shortening overtime by five minutes doesn’t automatically mean ties will have two thirds of the snaps, since teams will try to jam in as many snaps as possible in order to break the tie.

As long, however, as it’s fewer than 36 or 41 snaps, then it will be safer than a 15-minute overtime. And that seems to be what the league wants, primarily as it relates to avoiding one of the primary criticisms of short-week football. There’s no way to know without trying it out, and that’s why the change in overtime should be adopted on a one-year basis, requiring only nine votes to end it next year instead of 24 to wipe it from the books if the reduced snaps don’t outweigh the increased ties.

Or they could adopt the PFT overtime idea, which is explained in detail in the video attached to this post, after the quote from Blandino.

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