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Pats activate Jermaine Cunningham, waive Ron Brace

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Patriots added some depth to several thin areas with a series of roster moves.

According to Field Yates of, the Pats activated defensive end Jermaine Cunningham Saturday, after he served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

To make the roster spot for him, they waived defensive tackle Ron Brace, a former second-round pick who had a grand total of four tackles in 10 games this year.

They also promoted wide receiver Kamar Aiken and defensive back Malcolm Williams from the practice squad, addressing thin spots heading into tomorrow’s finale.

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Giants add Martin Mayhew to front office

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 15:  Head coach Jim Caldwell of the Detroit Lions is flanked by General Manager Martin Mayhew, left, and President Tom Lewand, right, after being introduced during a news conference at Ford Field on January 15, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) Getty Images

After hiring Bob Quinn as their new General Manager last month, the Lions hired Matt Harriss away from the Giants to be their vice president of football administration.

That left the Giants with an opening in their front office in Harriss’ former role as their director of football operations. They filled it on Thursday by hiring Quinn’s predecessor in Detroit.

The Giants announced that Martin Mayhew will be their director of football operations/special projects. Mayhew was dismissed by the Lions last November after 15 years with the club and spoke with other teams about positions since the end of the regular season without landing a role.

According to the team, Mayhew will work with assistant G.M. Kevin Abrams on issues dealing with “the salary cap, CBA compliance and player contract negotiations.” He will also work on special projects as determined by General Manager Jerry Reese.

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Hall of Fame voters definitely blocked T.O. for being “so disruptive”

Terrell Owens AP

It was widely believed that the Hall of Fame voters passed over receiver Terrell Owens ostensibly because of his reputation for divisiveness, even if the truth is that they were merely respecting a de facto waiting line that called for Marvin Harrison making it before Owens. On Thursday, one of the Hall of Fame voters admitted that the reason for T.O.’s omission was his inability to work and play well with others.

“I’ll take you inside the room on this, and it was the second longest discussion we had in the room other that Eddie DeBartolo,” Gary Myers of the New York Daily News told The Dan Patrick Show. “The bottom line on T.O. is he was so disruptive. Now with L.T., you don’t count the off-the-field stuff. That’s a mandate from the Hall of Fame. It’s only what you’ve done on the field. The argument that was made in the room, and I agree with this, is what T.O. did in the locker room is part of –”

“That counts?” asked guest host Ross Tucker. “Why don’t you just evaluate what’s inside the white lines?”

“Because I think that the locker room is an extension of that,” Myers said.

“But how do you really know what happened in the locker room?” Tucker said.

“But he tore teams apart.”

“But how do you really know that?”

“He’s a Hall of Fame player that five teams couldn’t wait to get rid of,” Myers said. “So what does that tell you about how disruptive he was?”

Myers then said he believes that Owens will make it in eventually, despite being viewed as a “cancer” by multiple teams.

The biggest problem with this logic is that, if it keeps Owens out once, it should keep him out forever. And Myers admits that it won’t. Instead, it provides the justification for ignoring the possibility that Owens objectively was a better player than Harrison and putting Harrison in before Owens.

The rhetoric used to defend the waiting-line approach separately becomes problematic because it’s overstated. The notion that “five teams couldn’t wait to get rid of” Owens simply isn’t true. In San Francisco, he became a free agent and elected to leave. In Philadelphia, the Eagles decided to cut him only after Owens decided he was going to force his way out because the Eagles wouldn’t renegotiate his contract following a stellar 2004 season.

Besides, not all voters agree with Myers. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s inaccurate to conclude that the entire room accepted the idea that Owens’ on-field achievements should be ignored because of the fact that Owens played for multiple teams and/or had a reputation for being a pain in the butt.

That’s not to say Owens wasn’t actually a pain in the butt. He may have been. But enough voters apparently felt strongly enough that Owens shouldn’t get in on his first try, and that Harrison (whose own candidacy possibly was delayed once or twice by troubling evidence regarding multiple Philadelphia shootings that never resulted in an arrest or prosecution) deserved to get in now.

And so a sense of order has been preserved, with Harrison getting a bronze bust and a gold jacket now and Owens getting one later. Even if the stated justification for not putting Owens in immediately creates the perception that he should never get in, and unnecessarily (and excessively) characterizes him as a habitually bad teammate.

Why not just say only five modern candidates can get in each year, and with two of the best receivers in NFL history up at the same time, we decided to give the spot to the guy who had been waiting the longest? It’s far closer to the truth, and it can be stated without requiring voters to take shots at a guy who, regardless of his real, embellished, and/or imagined behavior, merits at least some degree of respect for what he accomplished on the field.

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Arthur Blank: Matt Ryan can “absolutely” lead Falcons to Super Bowl

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons shakes hands with team owner Arthur Blank after beating the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons have a number of problems to address as they try to return to competitiveness in the NFC South.

But according to owner Arthur Blank, quarterback isn’t on the list of things to address, as he thinks Matt Ryan can lead them to the Super Bowl.

Absolutely,” Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of “No question about it. But it doesn’t take one player to get there. It takes a lot of players around him and having a lot of talent around him. It’s going to take a lot of players to do that; offensively, defensively, and special teams. And it’s going to take coaches and the coaching staff that will help support that.”

Ryan’s coming off a difficult season, which included 21 turnovers while he stood at the wheel of a team that started 5-0 but finished 8-8. But Blank remains confident that his $100 million quarterback is the right guy, so long as they put the right parts around him and Julio Jones.

“Obviously, we have a great faith in Matt Ryan,” Blank said. “He’s only 30 years old. He’ll be our quarterback for many years to come. As Rich Gannon said to me the other morning — and Gannon was a very competitive player in the league for many, many years and a high-level quarterback — he said, ‘You’ve got a quarterback that about 20 other teams would love to have.’ And I think I would agree with him on that.”

Twenty might be high, but it hasn’t been that long since Ryan looked like a guy who might be worth it the kind of money he’s making. And with so many issues looming, replacing him isn’t anything that comes close to being a priority.

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Report: No decision on LeSean McCoy charges expected Thursday

LeSean McCoy AP

Bills running back LeSean McCoy is waiting to find out what, if any, criminal charges he’ll be facing as a result of a fight at a Philadelphia nightclub over the weekend.

According to a report from Mark Schwartz of ESPN, those charges aren’t likely to come on Thursday. Schwartz, quoting a “high-ranking Philadelphia police official,” reports that prosecutors want to be thorough in their evaluation of the police report and other evidence before making a decision about how to proceed.

Reports on Wednesday indicated that police recommended to prosecutors that McCoy be charged with aggravated assault when they handed the case over. Two off-duty police officers went to the hospital after a fight over a bottle of champagne with four other men, one of whom is believed to be McCoy.

ESPN also reports that attorney Jack McMahon told them that he is no longer representing McCoy. McMahon said that McCoy will now be represented by Larry Krasner, another Philadelphia attorney, in matters related to the incident.

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Most owners wanted to keep Raiders from returning to L.A.

513654557RH00004_Oakland_Ra Getty Images

If the Chargers don’t finalize a move to Los Angeles by the middle of January 2017, dibs on sharing Kroenkeworld with the Rams will slide to the Raiders. But it’s hard to imagine the NFL ultimately allowing the Raiders to make the move.

As explained in a lengthy article from Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta, Jr. of ESPN The Magazine regarding the machinations that resulted in the league’s return to Los Angeles, most owners wanted to keep the Raiders from making the move. Per the report, the owners pointed to bridges burned by the late Al Davis (a dynamic confirmed by Texans owner Bob McNair) and the potential “co-opting of the team apparel by gangs.”

It’s been believed that the Raiders would be welcomed back enthusiastically by fans in L.A., perhaps even more enthusiastically than the Rams have been welcomed back. The notion that owners are concerned that the Raiders would be welcomed back too enthusiastically by a specific type of criminal element, coupled with the linger animosity toward Al Davis, suggests that, even if the Chargers don’t move to L.A., the league will find a way to keep the Raiders from making their way back to town.

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Haslam could still be indicted in Pilot Flying J scandal

Haslam Getty Images

After Pilot Flying J agreed to pay nearly $100 million in fines as a result of the fuel-rebate scandal, most assumed CEO and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam would not face prosecution. After the recent indictment of eight Pilot Flying J employees (including former president Mark Hazelwood), some assumed that Haslam’s absence from the group of defendants for now translates to absence forever.

The truth, as recently explained by John Caniglia of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is that Haslam could still face charges, especially if Hazelwood strikes a plea deal that includes giving testimony against Haslam.

As Caniglia notes, an FBI affidavit from April 2013 suggested that both Hazelwood and Haslam were aware of the scheme.

The league has said that there’s no evidence Haslam violated league policy in any way. In August 2013, SportsBusiness Journal reported that, if Haslam were forced to step down, his father, Jim, would take over. New Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo was forced to transfer the 49ers to his sister after pleading guilty to a felony charge of failing to report an effort by former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards to extort $400,000 from DeBartolo in order to secure a casino license.

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Jeb Bush was pulling for Peyton Manning, for one reason

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 23:  Former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks during the 2015 National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) conference on January 23, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Bush, who now owns a private consulting firm in Florida, recently announced that he is actively seeking support for a potential 2016 US presidential campaign. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Peyton ManningTom Brady rivalry will continue beyond their playing careers, and straight into the upcoming Republican primaries.

While Brady has refused to back off his support of lightning-rod candidate Donald Trump, Manning apparently supports a more mainstream candidate on that side.

During a campaign appearance in South Carolina, former Florida governor Jeb Bush risked the wrath of the home crowd by admitting he wasn’t pulling for the Panthers Sunday.

“I know that y’all probably maybe had some leanings toward Carolina,” Bush said, via Colin Campbell of the Raleigh News and Observer. “I was for Denver, not because of the Broncos, but because Peyton Manning wrote me a check.”

Campaign records show that Manning donated $2,700 to Bush’s campaign.

Bush said he also respected the Broncos quarterback for being “the adult in the room” in the NFL — which might just mean that Manning’s old, but is probably also the descriptive Bush is shooting for as well.

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Blandino, Blakeman inconsistent on Cotchery catch ruling

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Referee Clete Blakeman stands on the field in the first quarter between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The most controversial call of Super Bowl 50 happened in the first quarter, when Panthers receiver Jericho Cotchery bobbled a ball on the way to the ground. The officials on the field ruled it incomplete, and referee Clete Blakeman, with the assistance of NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, ruled on instant replay that the call on the field would stand.

Blakeman made it clear in announcing the ruling that the replay did not confirm the call on the field, only that the call stands. That meant there was no conclusive view of the play that could show definitively that Cotchery always had his hands between the ball and the ground, and so the Panthers would lose their challenge.

NFL Films has now shown the footage of Blakeman’s review and his subsequent discussion with Panthers coach Ron Rivera, and the discussion makes clear that Blakeman did not feel there was a definitive replay angle.

“We’re gonna go stands,” Blakeman said. “There was not enough confirmation. We couldn’t overturn it.”

Rivera asked Blakeman, “If you’d called it complete, it would have stayed complete, right?” Blakeman answered, “Yes.”

But that doesn’t quite align with Blandino’s explanation. Blandino wrote on Twitter that “the ball touched the ground and slid up his body. Not enough evidence to change the call on the field.”

If Blandino is sure that the ball touched the ground, then Blakeman should have explained to Rivera that the ball touched the ground. Instead, Blakeman just said that there was no definitive replay angle. At the end of a season in which officials, players, coaches, fans and reporters all struggled to figure out what constitutes a catch, the NFL struggled to explain why Cotchery’s catch was not a catch.

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Kwon Alexander: Bucs need more guys who can rush the quarterback

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 01:  Kwon Alexander #58 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates an interception during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 1, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers improved by four wins between 2014 and 2015 and while that wasn’t enough to allow coach Lovie Smith to keep his job, it was a sign that they hit on their decision to draft quarterback Jameis Winston with the first overall pick of last year’s draft.

Now they need to fill in other weak spots around the team so that they can continue to improve and make a return to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Linebacker Kwon Alexander has identified one area where he believes the team should be focused on this offseason.

“We need to get some more guys to, you know, to get some push on the quarterback,” Alexander said on WDAE, via “I think that’s what we’re going to be drafting this year, defensive ends. We had great defensive ends this year, but we need a little more help. So whoever we can get, you know, we’re going to need that pressure to get Cam [Newton] and, you know, try to get to the Super Bowl this season.”

Alexander’s mention of Newton makes sense since the Bucs are also in the NFC South and because of what we saw the Broncos pass rush do to the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Building a disruptive pass rush is hardly a new model for defensive success in the NFL, but that performance reinforced the point in a way that should lead to plenty of company for the Bucs in the search for help this offseason.

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Jim Schwartz wants to “cut the handcuffs off” Vinny Curry

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 19:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants is taken down by Vinny Curry #75 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on October 19, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 27-7. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles locked up defensive end Vinny Curry with a five-year contract extension worth as much as $47.25 million with $23 million in guaranteed money, which is a big splash for a player who didn’t start a game over the first four years of his career.

That lack of starts didn’t stop Curry from recording 16.5 sacks over the last three seasons and the contract indicates that the Eagles think Curry can up that production with more time on the field in the 4-3 scheme defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is installing. In an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic on Wednesday, Schwartz said that Curry is a player he liked coming out of college — Schwartz was coach of the Lions at the time — and that he thinks the fit between player and defense is going to be a good one.

“Vinny is a really hardcore competitor. You have to be a competitor to get to the quarterback,” Schwartz said. “It’s very rare to just beat your guy clean. It’s very rare that you’re clean to the quarterback. Most of the sacks are due to work ethic. You have to counter. You have to keep on coming. He does that. There are some guys that really fit in the defense here last year. I think he was one guy who wasn’t a great fit. He played in that square stance. They play a lot of two-gap. That’s been proven to be an effective system, also, it just didn’t fit Vinny very well. I think we can cut the handcuffs off of him, so to speak, and cut him loose along with the other guys up front.”

Schwartz’s defenses have been predicated on attacking the offense without relying on blitzing. That means the defensive line has to get to the quarterback and that the expectations for Curry in 2016 are crystal clear.

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Donovan McNabb upset people think he puked in the Super Bowl

McNabb Getty Images

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb did not throw up in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXIX. No one at the game saw him throw up. No one watching the game at home saw him throw up. It didn’t happen.

But there’s a persistent myth that McNabb puked in the Super Bowl, and when he was asked about it on Reddit, he took umbrage.

No, I didn’t puke. It’s unfortunate that we still talk about this 11 years after playing in the Super Bowl. But, no. That did not happen and hopefully we can stop talking about it. Once again, go watch the game tape,” McNabb wrote.

So where did the myth come from? It seems to be a combination of the fact that McNabb did throw up on the field in a regular season game once, and the fact that teammates discussed how exhausted McNabb was while trying to lead the Eagles down the field late in that Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. Over time, those two separate incidents have morphed into one.

It’s fair to criticize McNabb for the end of that Super Bowl, as his old teammate Terrell Owens did: Owens has pointed out that McNabb looked tired late in the game and struggled to move in the two-minute offense, and Owens is right about that. But we should put to rest the old myth about McNabb. He didn’t puke.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Kroenke Getty Images

Bills RB LeSean McCoy won’t be in the clear, even if he’s not convicted.

A look at the Dolphins’ unrestricted free agent class.

The Patriots are going to have to make some LB decisions in the near future.

The Jets’ need for pass-rush help can’t be overlooked.

The Ravens can’t be sure whether G Kelechi Osemele will take the money and run.

Former Bengals wideout had a unique treatment for sprained ankles (thank God he never broke his nose).

Browns coach Hue Jackson has challenges beyond personnel.

Steelers K Shaun Suisham intends to play for the Steelers in 2016 once he’s cleared to kick again.

In case you ever wondered what a chainsaw sculpture of Texans DE J.J. Watt looked like, here you go.

The Colts have some decisions to make before free agency starts.

They’re doing mock drafts for the Jaguars in February (God help us it’s that time of year again).

New Titans OL coach Russ Grimm is offering a clean slate.

The Broncos’ victory parade was big enough to see from outer space.

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce’s dating show is going to be a real train-wreck, isn’t it?

Raiders CB (or is it S) T.J. Carrie will play anywhere they tell him.

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt likes RB Melvin Gordon’s receiving ability.

Some think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones deserves Hall of Fame consideration.

How the Giants might look to fill some of the holes created yesterday.

Taking a look at some potential Eagles cap cuts.

Former Washington WR Josh Morgan Plaxico’d himself.

Bears WR Alshon Jeffery began offseason workouts with FOX’s Jay Glazer (but do they have a fricking laser beam?).

The Lions aren’t in a hurry to make decisions on veterans.

The Packers are looking for more liquor licenses for development around Lambeau Field.

RB is still fairly low on the Vikings’ offseason priority list.

Just-cut Falcons S William Moore says there’s already interest (such that he wouldn’t).

Panthers QB Cam Newton now has something in common with Rob Gronkowskierotic fan fiction.

Even with keeping Dannell Ellerbe, the Saints have questions at LB.

The Buccaneers are trying to up their technology game.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is celebrating a new delivery.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke had some money left over, so he bought a $725 million Texas ranch.

A look at how the 49ers can fix their pass-rush.

The Seahawks have some options in place for a future without RB Marshawn Lynch.

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Jerricho Cotchery has to live with what-ifs after Super Bowl drops

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Jerricho Cotchery #82 of the Carolina Panthers fails to make a catch against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The call of an incomplete catch was upheld upon review.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Panthers scrambled to find capable wide receivers last season when star Kelvin Benjamin was injured, they put a certain amount of trust in veteran Jerricho Cotchery.

For the most part, he earned that trust, though his two drops in the Super Bowl were a difficult memory to carry into the offseason.

“If you’re in this game long enough, you’re going to have those moments where you can look back and say, ‘Man, I should’ve made that play and if I would’ve made that play, this would’ve happened,” Cotchery said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “The other night will be no different.”

While there’s some debating his first drop of the Super Bowl (Hey, at least Mike Carey thought it was a catch!), the second was clear, and forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal attempt that doinked off the upright.

Now comes the question of whether the Panthers will offer him a chance to return, as the 33-year-old’s about to become an unrestricted free agent. Asked if he wanted to return, he said yes, with a condition.

“For Carolina,” he said. “This is a special place, but I don’t know what the future holds right now, especially at this point in time in my career. I just don’t know anything. . . .

“I do know this — coming back here the past two years have just been tremendously wonderful for me. Bringing my wife back down to her home state and just playing ball here again, being before these fans, it’s been wonderful.”

But as the Panthers move forward, they might look for a guy with younger legs, if not better hands.

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Magic Johnson recruits Peyton Manning to the Rams


The Rams reportedly are interested in adding quarterback Peyton Manning. Former Lakers star Magic Johnson clearly is interested in the Rams adding Peyton Manning.

Peyton and Magic appeared Wednesday on The Tonight Show, and Magic made a public pitch to get Peyton to L.A.

“I tried to talk somebody out of retirement and come to the Rams,” Johnson told Jimmy Fallon, while pointing over his shoulder to Manning. “I said, ‘Man, if you play again, come to the Rams.’ I was working on him backstage. I will even chip in some money.”

Manning sat quietly, laughing through it all as the rest of his face assumed the shade usually reserved for the middle of his forehead after taking off his helmet.

“Look, look, look,” Magic said. “He’s turning a few colors over here.”

“I’m getting embarrassed,” Peyton said.

“I want to cheer for him if he don’t retire as a Ram,” Johnson later said. “I got my recruiting hat on right now.”

No one knows what Peyton Manning will do in 2016, but we’ve all known for years that Peyton very much likes to be fully in control of every situation. And it’s hard to imagine Peyton walked into last night’s situation without being fully aware that Magic would bring up the subject on the air. It’s also hard to imagine that Peyton wouldn’t have done everything in his power to persuade Magic not to bring it up, if Peyton didn’t want to be put on the spot.

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Broncos re-sign Jordan Taylor, and the guy they sent home last week

during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Getty Images

When Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was throwing on the side when he was injured, he sang the praises of wideout Jordan Taylor, who became his personal receiver when he threw.

So upon the recommendation, the Broncos kept him.

Via Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post, the Broncos signed Taylor and eight others from the practice squad to future deals Wednesday, including running back Kapri Bibbs, safety Ryan Murphy, guard Dillon Day, tackles Cameron Jefferson and Kyle Roberts, tight end Nick Kasa, defensive end George Uko and linebacker Zaire Anderson.

Murphy shows that they’re a forgiving organization, as he was sent home during Super Bowl week after he was involved but not arrested in a prostitution bust in San Jose last week.

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