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Justin Smith will need triceps surgery after season

Justin Smith AP

Justin Smith knows he’s going to need surgery eventually.

But the 49ers defensive tackle is hoping he’s able to play through the pain and weakness associated with his partially torn triceps tendon and get through the playoffs.

Smith told reporters Friday he’d be “ready to roll” even if the playoffs start next week for the 49ers. They could clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Cardinals and a loss or tie by the Packers, or a tie and a Packers loss.

They could use the time, as Smith needs to heal and build strength.

“Yeah, I’d be ready to play,” Smith said, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “Just go with it. That’s all you can do.”

Even 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh acknowledged Smith’s injury could worsen.

“Yes, I think there’s a higher risk,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something that he’ll have to have surgically repaired at the end of the season either way.”

Smith himself downplayed that risk.

“They can fix just about anything nowadays, so they told me,” Smith said. “Yeah, you’ve got to have surgery regardless.”

Smith’s listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s game against the Cardinals, and frankly, it would be foolish to play him. The 49ers need as much time for him to heal as possible, since pass-rusher Aldon Smith has been quiet since his bodyguard’s injury on Dec. 16 against the Patriots.

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Ezekiel Elliott says “evil never prevails” in wake of domestic violence allegations

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Getty Images

In the aftermath of Friday’s claim that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had assaulted a former girlfriend, multiple people had denied the allegations on Elliott’s behalf, including Michael Irvin and Elliott’s father. Eventually, Elliott provided a three-word assessment of the situation on Twitter: “Evil NEVER prevails.”

He followed that message a few hours later by thanking everyone for the birthday wishes on what was his 21st birthday.

Elliott’s aggressive message in response to the allegation will surely do little to weaken the resolve of the person alleging that he committed violence against her. The question now becomes whether the claims are proven or debunked when the authorities and the NFL conduct separate investigations — applying very different standards of proof.

Elliott faces criminal sanctions only if a jury finds proof beyond a reasonable doubt. He could be punished by the league if an investigation shows the claim is more likely than not to have occurred.

Elliott seems confident that the evidence will vindicate him.

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Drew Brees: I haven’t heard from the Saints on a contract in 3 months

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints signals to his teammates at the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Early in the offseason, there was widespread talk that the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees would come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension that would make Brees the franchise quarterback for the remainder of his career. That hasn’t happened.

Instead, Brees says he has heard nothing from the Saints since an exchange of proposals three months ago.

Not sure why things have not progressed,” Brees told ESPN. “They made an offer in March, we made an offer shortly thereafter. And besides the Josh Norman deal [when the Saints and Brees talked about a deal to clear cap space], there has been no talk about a contract since.”

Brees, who is heading into the final year of his contract, said he views the start of the regular season as the deadline to get a deal done. Without a long-term deal, the Saints really don’t have a realistic option of using the franchise tag on Brees next year: Because Brees has already been franchised twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. It’s just not realistic to think the Saints would devote that kind of cap space to Brees next year.

If nothing does get done, Brees becomes a free agent in March.

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Farewell, Minnesota

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Before Wednesday, I’d never been to Minnesota. I kind of don’t want to leave.

But leave I must, back home to West Virginia to get ready for the looming launch of training camps. Over the next couple of days, I’ll post quotes from some of the interviews we did during two days of PFT Live at U.S. Bank Stadium, where guests included Vikings owner Mark Wilf, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, and brand-new Vikings guard Alex Boone.

The trip was capped by a visit to the legendary Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul, where the Mancini brothers took good care of us — and filled me with enough fat and calories that I won’t need to eat until Thanksgiving. I’ll eat before then anyway.

For now, you feast on all episodes (fat and calorie-free) of PFT Live from the week that was at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Report: Le’Veon Bell missed “several” drug tests

Le'Veon Bell AP

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell claimed last month that he never missed a drug test. He reportedly missed more than one.

Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Network that Bell missed “several” drug tests.

Bell was already in the NFL’s substance-abuse program and was suspended for the first two games of last season in connection with a 2014 arrest for marijuana possession and DUI. Players who have never violated the policy are generally only tested for drugs of abuse once a year, but players who are already in the policy, like Bell, are subject to many tests.

Bell is appealing the suspension, but realistically, it’s hard to see why he would win an appeal: The NFL’s drug-testing policy makes clear that players are required to make themselves available to drug testing, and a player who misses several tests has clearly violated the policy. Missing one test could be a miscommunication. Missing several tests is a lot harder to explain away.

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Making sense of the Arthur Jones PED suspension

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18:  Arthur Jones #97 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on before the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones suspended four games under the PED policy, some may think that he committed multiple violations before triggering a suspension, because that’s how suspensions work under the substance-abuse policy (which encompasses marijuana and other non-PED-type drugs). Under the PED policy, however, the first positive test results in a suspension.

In 2014, the formula changed to impose a two-game suspension if the player tests positive for a diuretic or masking agent, a four-game suspension if the player tests positive for a stimulant or anabolic agent, and a six-game suspension if he tests positive for a both  a “prohibited substance” and a diuretic or masking agent, or if the player attempted to substitute, dilute, or adulterate a specimen, if the player attempted to manipulate a test result, or if the player committed a violation of the law or other documented violation based on credible evidence.

A second violation triggers a 10-game suspension, and a third violation results in a banishment for at least two full seasons.

Jones joined the Colts in 2014 after spending his first four seasons with the Ravens. In two years with the Colts, Jones has appeared in only nine games with three starts.

As explained by Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, the ineffectiveness, injury history, and suspension could combine to prompt the Colts to dump Jones sooner than later.

Jones signed a five-year, $33 million deal in 2014. Cutting him now would result in a $1.1 million cap charge for 2016, and a $2.2 million cap charge for 2017.

But with Jones previously agreeing to reduce his salary from $4.5 million to $2.5 million for 2016, the Colts may decide to see whether Jones provides any evidence of an ability and willingness to step up before they tell him to step off.

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Hue Jackson has drawn up plays specifically for Terrelle Pryor

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor #17 of the Cleveland Browns rushes against cornerback Richard Sherman #25 and outside linebacker K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Browns 30-13.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The guy who once drew up plays for Terrelle Pryor the quarterback is now doing the same thing for Terrelle Pryor the receiver.

As explained by Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns coach Hue Jackson has devised specific ways to get the ball into Pryor’s hands so that he then can use his size and speed to do good things for the offense. It’ll happen via short, quick passes and reverses.

Five years ago, Hue Jackson was the coach in Oakland, and Pryor was a quarterback who arrived via the supplemental draft.

As Pryor continues to learn the receiver position, plays aimed specifically at letting him do what he does best will increase his confidence, justify his roster spot, and ultimately help the team win games.

Pryor isn’t the only weapon who will be used creatively by Jackson, according to Pluto. Running back Duke Johnson will be  used at times as a receiver, because Jackson wants to find different ways to throw passes to him.

Ultimately, the player throwing the passes will have the biggest impact on the offense. The more Jackson can get out of the options available to quarterback Robert Griffin III (or, if there’s a true competition, perhaps Josh McCown), the better the quarterback will look.

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Dennis Green’s success with any quarterback may be his greatest legacy

Bears v Vikings Getty Images

After news broke that longtime NFL coach Dennis Green had died at the age of 67, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway paid tribute to Green.

“My heart and prayers go out to Dennis Green and his family. Had the pleasure of playing for Dennis at Stanford for 2 years. Great Coach!” Elway wrote on Twitter.

But the single most impressive accomplishment of Green’s career may be that he didn’t need a great quarterback like Elway. In fact, Green could take just about any quarterback, plug him into Green’s offense, and get to the playoffs. Green took the Vikings to the playoffs eight times in his 11 seasons as head coach, in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Just take a look at the quarterbacks Green had in those seasons:

1992: The Vikings went 8-4 with Rich Gannon as their starter and 3-1 with Sean Salisbury as their starter. Although Gannon would later become a very good quarterback with the Raiders, he was viewed at the time as a nobody — and Salisbury was viewed as worse. And yet Green rode them to the playoffs in his first season as head coach.

1993: Jim McMahon was viewed as old and washed up and just a backup at that point in his career, but Green brought him to Minnesota and rode him to the playoffs.

1994: Warren Moon is a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he was seen as way past his prime when the Vikings acquired him in a trade with the Houston Oilers. And yet with Moon as the starter, the Vikings made the playoffs again.

1996: Moon was injured at the start of the season, so Brad Johnson — who had never started a game in a four-year NFL career up to that point — stepped in and led the Vikings to a 4-0 start. Moon would eventually return, he and Johnson would flip-flop on the depth chart, and it would ultimately be Johnson who led the Vikings to the playoffs.

1997: Johnson shared the job with Randall Cunningham, who had been viewed as so far past his prime that he wasn’t even in the league the year before. Again, Green led the Vikings to the playoffs.

1998: With Cunningham supplanting Johnson as the starter, the Vikings had their best season of the Green era, going 15-1 and falling in the NFC Championship Game.

1999: Green benched Cunningham for Jeff George, another past-his-prime quarterback, and once again found a winning touch, as the Vikings went 8-2 in George’s 10 starts and made the playoffs again.

2000: Green started Daunte Culpepper and saw him put together an incredible season, with 3,937 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 470 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. The Vikings lost the NFC Championship Game, which would be the last playoff game Green coached.

That revolving door of quarterbacks is worth repeating: Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George and Daunte Culpepper. Green never had one franchise quarterback he could count on year after year. Instead, Green found a new quarterback year after year. And he kept finding ways to win. That was a great piece of coaching.

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Gabbert seen as better fit than Kaepernick in Kelly’s offense

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after being tackled close to the goal line during the first half of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. The ball was ruled down on the 1-yard line and the 49ers scored on the next play.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Blaine GabbertColin Kaepernick quarterback competition has an early leader, and it’s the guy who was once viewed as a draft bust, not the guy who was once viewed as a future superstar.

That’s the word from ESPN, which reports that Gabbert has picked up new coach Chip Kelly’s offense, is seen inside the organization as a better fit than Kaepernick, and has the edge heading into training camp.

Although Kelly and 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke have said publicly that they like Kaepernick and still think he can succeed, virtually all the talk coming out of San Francisco this offseason has indicated that Gabbert is leading in the quarterback competition. In fact, it’s fair to wonder if the only reason Kaepernick is even on the roster is that the 49ers misjudged the trade market and thought when they picked up his guaranteed $11.9 million salary this season that they’d be able to unload him for a draft pick.

When Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season and to the NFC Championship Game after the 2013 season, he was widely viewed as one of the league’s up-and-coming stars. At the same time, Gabbert was struggling mightily in Jacksonville as a No. 10 overall pick who appeared to be a massive mistake in the draft. At the time, it would have been unthinkable that Gabbert and Kaepernick could compete for a job and Gabbert would win. But from all indications, that’s what’s expected to happen in San Francisco this summer.

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Ameer Abdullah: NFL can’t take the kickoff away

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Lions running back Ameer Abdullah led the league in kickoff return yards as a rookie last year. But he’s worried that by the time his career ends, there will be no such thing as a kickoff.

Abdullah told MLive.com he knows the NFL has talked about eliminating the kickoff, but he doesn’t believe there’s any real evidence that it’s too dangerous, and he doesn’t want to change a play that has been so fundamental to the sport of football for as long as the sport has existed.

They can’t take the kickoff away . . . I have to see the numbers to believe it’s too dangerous,” Abdullah said. “I return kicks. I watch the film. What I see is what I see, and I think there are more dangerous plays out there. You can only have two-man wedges now too, so it’s basically just one-on-one blocks. I just don’t think it’s dangerous enough to eliminate.”

Abdullah likes kickoffs not only because returning them is part of his job but because they’re exciting. And he correctly points out that eliminating the possibility of an onside kick would fundamentally change football.

“It’s one of the most exciting plays in football,” Abdullah said. “It’s a play that changes the game, especially if you have a game where the offenses and defenses are matching each other. The kickoff return makes a difference. And what happens with onside kicks? Do they take that away too?”

The onside kick is probably the strongest reason to keep the kickoff: Without the onside kick, a game with more than a one-possession lead in the fourth quarter becomes a lot less exciting. But if the NFL can figure out a way to ditch the kickoff while preserving the opportunity for a team to get the ball back after scoring, the kickoff may go away. No matter how much Abdullah and other players want to keep it.

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Dez Bryant recently made agent change

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 21:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates his touchdown reception against the Indianapolis Colts in the first half at AT&T Stadium on December 21, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the wake of Thursday’s item regarding the potential unintended consequences of Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant’s decision to fight a lawsuit filed against him by Texas state senator Royce West with a lawsuit of his own, some league insiders have expressed confusion about the move, given that Bryant’s representation team includes agent Tom Condon, who surely has the ability to connect the dots from Bryant taking a fight with trusted advisors like Royce West and David Wells public and the havoc those trusted advisors could create if motivated to do so.

It’s a good point. But here’s the problem: Condon no longer is a member of the representation team.

Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal recently reported that Bryant ended the joint arrangement of Condon and Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports by parting ways with Condon and keeping Roc Nation. So, presumably, Condon didn’t have a chance to warn Bryant about the pitfalls of alleging that West and Wells (who is not yet a party to the litigation) misappropriated funds and/or failed to maximize his earning potential through endorsements and other marketing deals.

It’s unclear whether Bryant was warned and ignored the advice, or whether no one bothered to tell him that throwing stones at a couple of guys who were once in his inner circle could create all sorts of problems within the confines of the litigation, and possibly beyond. If the litigation quietly goes away sooner than later, that could be a result of Bryant getting and heeding the message on a better-late-than-never basis.

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NFL insists players named in PED report must give interviews

Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The NFL is not backing down on its insistence that the players named in an Al Jazeera documentary about performance-enhancing drugs must agree to interviews as part of the league’s investigation.

The players involved are Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, Steelers linebacker James Harrison and free agent (and former Packer) Mike Neal. Peyton Manning is also part of the NFL’s investigation, although his retirement means he’s no longer a member of the NFL Players Association and not a part of the ongoing battle between the league and the union over whether players must give interviews to league investigators.

The four players submitted affidavits responding to the allegations made against them in the Al Jazeera documentary, but Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the NFL still insists that affidavits aren’t good enough, and they must give interviews.

The players’ union insists that the NFL has no right to investigate players unless there’s “credible evidence” that they used PEDs. The NFL says the league only needs credible evidence to impose discipline, not to launch an investigation. The league plans to send investigators to Packers camp and Steelers camp to interview the players, but the players are expected to decline to be interviewed.

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Browns add Nick Hayden

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Browns announced the signing of veteran defensive lineman Nick Hayden Friday.

The team was in the market for defensive line help after defensive end Desmond Bryant suffered a torn pectoral. Bryant is expected to miss the entire 2016 season.

Hayden has played in 76 career games over seven seasons with the Panthers, Bengals and Cowboys. He started 47 of 48 games over the last three seasons with the Cowboys.

Hayden, 30, was a sixth-round pick of the Panthers in 2008. He has two career sacks and two fumble recoveries.

The addition of Hayden puts the Browns at the cap of 90 players on the active roster. The Browns open full training camp July 29.

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Bears cut Omar Bolden

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Bears released defensive back Omar Bolden Friday, just a few months after signing him in free agency.

Per ESPN’s Adam Caplan, the Bears in March had guaranteed Bolden $80,000 on a one-year contract worth a total of $840,000.

A fourth-round pick of the Broncos in 2012, Bolden played in 56 games in four years in Denver. He had been handling the punt return duties for the Broncos before suffering a knee injury during the playoffs last January.

Bolden had his first career punt return touchdown last season. He only missed one game over his first three seasons before injuries limited him to nine games last season.

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Moss: Dennis Green picked the right words, right beats

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Former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss shared some memories of former Vikings coach Dennis Green Friday on ESPN’s NFL Live, and Moss remembered one Monday Night Football game during his rookie season for which Green was especially wound up.

“It was a big game, and I remember Coach Green saying throughout the week that he was going to unleash something on the Packers,” Moss said. “Before the game, some of us were playing some beats on the lockers. Now, everybody knew Coach Green liked to play the drums. He played some beats on the lockers, too, but after a minute he started playing the same beat [the players were], not his own. Everybody was geeked up, riled up and ready to go play the Packers.

“He would always say, ‘There’s only one ball. You have to play to one beat.'”

The Vikings won that game, 37-24. Moss had five catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns.

Green died Friday at age 67. He coached the Vikings for 11 seasons, eight of them playoff seasons, and later was head coach of the Cardinals.

Moss was just officially hired by ESPN. He was a rookie in 1998, when the Vikings went 15-1 and Moss caught 17 touchdowns for what was the highest-scoring offense in league history to that point.

“Coach Green gave me a chance,” Moss said. “I remember him on draft day calling and asking if I was ready to become a Viking. The answer was yes.

“Today I’ve been reading a lot of the comments and the positive things people are saying about him…and they’re very true. He meant a lot to me and meant a lot to others. His legacy will live on.”

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Colts’ Arthur Jones suspended four games for PEDs

Arthur Jones AP

Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Jones can participate in training camp and the preseason but will have to sit out the first four games of the regular season. He can return to the Colts on Monday, October 3.

This is the second time this month that a member of the Jones family has been suspended for violating a PED policy. Jones’s brother, UFC fighter Jon Jones, was pulled from his light heavyweight championship fight after he tested positive for two substances banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (The Joneses also have a third brother, Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones.)

Arthur Jones missed the entire 2015 season after suffering an ankle injury in the preseason.

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