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Saints announce deal in principle with Payton

Payton Getty Images

As expected, the Saints have announced that a deal in principle has been reached with coach Sean Payton on a multi-year contract extension.

“I am pleased that Sean Payton will be our head coach for a long time,” owner Tom Benson said.  “Now we can focus our attention on building on the winning tradition with the Saints that Sean has played such a large role in.”

The contract ends a protracted period of uncertainty regarding Payton’s future, which launched with breathless (and ultimately inaccurate) reports that Payton definitely “will” become a free agent.

Indeed, he won’t.

Still, Payton remains suspended for his role in the team’s bounty/pay-for-performance program.  Technically, he must petition for reinstatement.  And with Commissioner Roger Goodell still chafing over former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s decision to overturn the player suspensions and with Tagalibue’s 22-page ruling placing blame squarely on the Saints and the coaches, it’s not entirely out of the question to think that Goodell may not immediately give Payton permission to return to work.

If that’s what Goodell chooses to do, he’d be wise to hold his decision until after he leaves New Orleans upon the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVII.

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Percy Harvin’s contract set to void on Friday

Percy Harvin, Jayron Hosley AP

The Bills signed wide receiver Percy Harvin to a three-year contract last offseason, although there never was much chance that he’d see the final two years of the deal.

With base salaries of $9 million for 2016 and 2017, those years were tacked on to make his 2015 cap hit easier to swallow as the Bills had the ability to void the deal after paying $3 million in salary and a $3 million signing bonus in the first year. As Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 points out, those years void on Friday at 4 p.m. and Harvin will become a free agent again on March 9.

Harvin only played five games for the Bills in 2015 because of knee and hip injuries that cast some doubt about whether he’d be back on the field for anyone in 2016 or any other year. Bills director of player personnel Jim Monos said last month that the team is “still not sure” what’s going on with the wideout, although General Manager Doug Whaley later expressed hope of bringing the veteran back for another season.

“We’ll talk to him, see where he is and hopefully he comes back,” Whaley said, via the Buffalo News. “We want him back.”

It’s hard to imagine Harvin generating too hot a market given his injury history which could help the Bills hold onto him at a low price. Banking on anything substantial from a player who has played 28 games for three different teams over the last four years doesn’t sound like all that sound an idea, however.

 

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Brock Osweiler hopes to stay among “special group” in Denver

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Brock Osweiler #17 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after winning Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Once Peyton Manning does what feels inevitable, the Broncos will then have to decide how to proceed with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler.

But for his part, the once-and-maybe-future starter said he feels a part of something unique there, and wants to return.

“Every single guy on this team embraced me, and that is something I think they all know how thankful I am for that, but this is the best team in the world and we have a very special group in our locker room,” he said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

Osweiler filled in more than acceptably during Manning’s injury/ineffective streak midseason. He was 5-2 as their starter, reasonably in line with expectations on a team that doesn’t ask the quarterback to do too much on his own.

But they think he’s capable of more in the future based on this experience.

“I wish every quarterback in the league could have a chance to learn before being put to the fire test,” Broncos quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp said. “It is not just the game itself to learn about, but how you manage the team as a quarterback. How do you handle the tough questions after a tough loss, how do you look in the locker room after a Monday or a Tuesday after a tough loss to your teammates. That’s such a valuable tool because a young quarterback, say he’s a rookie high draft pick, has to play and they have a tough loss, he’s got no experience to pull from. He has no knowledge on how to manage that situation.”

But Osweiler has that experience now, and the inside track to the starting job there in the future. But first, they have to figure out his contract status. If they can’t get a long-term deal done with Von Miller before the deadline, they’re expected to use the franchise tag on their pass-rush star.

That leaves Osweiler as a free agent, and much like Kirk Cousins in Washington, it’s hard to gauge the market value of someone with a promising but limited resume.

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Friday morning one-liners

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

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney says Bills RB LeSean McCoy needs to “answer for his actions” after a weekend fight with off-duty police officers.

Dolphins K Andrew Franks didn’t have much to do in the final weeks of the season.

The Patriots need some new faces in the backfield.

Should the Jets part ways with CB Antonio Cromartie?

The Ravens have started putting their draft board together.

Looking at S Reggie Nelson’s future with the Bengals.

The Browns continue to reorganize their scouting department.

Breaking down the Steelers’ cap position at the start of the offseason.

Texans players paid a visit to patients at Texas Children’s Heart Center.

It’s time for Colts P Pat McAfee’s standup comedy tour.

Said Jaguars WR Allen Robinson, “We’ve had some success, but we still see the direction we’re going. We’re not even close to being at the peak of things. We still have a lot to accomplish, and I think for us that’s what keeps us so excited.”

Sifting through some possible Titans cuts.

QB Brock Osweiler and the Broncos have some contract talks in their future.

A preview of offseason moves the Chiefs may make at cornerback.

All the biggest points the Raiders would like to emphasize from their lease signing press conference.

Expecting a rebound from Chargers G Orlando Franklin in 2016.

Five of the biggest draft steals in Cowboys history.

The Giants are looking for a defensive assistant to round out their coaching staff.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson continues to say nice things about QB Sam Bradford.

Projecting the changes on the Redskins defensive line.

Bears LB Brian Urlacher is up to more than just growing hair during his retirement.

The Lions signed journeyman LB Jerry Franklin as a street free agent.

Offensive line additions may be in store for the Packers this offseason.

What’s coming up at wide receiver and tight end for the Vikings?

Former Falcons pass rusher Patrick Kearney breaks down Vic Beasley’s rookie season in Atlanta.

A big Super Bowl performance has Panthers DE Kony Ealy excited about his future.

Why haven’t the Saints parted ways with CB Brandon Browner yet?

How active will the Buccaneers be in free agency?

A look at what’s coming at cornerback for the Cardinals in free agency.

Any look at the Rams quarterbacks ends with the team needing an upgrade at the position.

Will DT Ian Williams be back with the 49ers?

A look at what will be missed with RB Marshawn Lynch gone from the Seahawks.

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Mark Davis: Oakland A’s are holding up progress on new stadium

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 30:  Josh Donaldson #20, Sam Fuld #23 and Brandon Moss #37 of the Oakland Athletics celebrate after Moss' three-run home run in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals during the American League Wild Card game at Kauffman Stadium on September 30, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

While the Raiders’ extending of their lease in Oakland for another year might have been a short-term relief, Mark Davis still has a long-term problem with his co-tenant in O.co Coliseum.

The Raiders owner took aim at the Oakland A’s as an impediment in his quest for a new stadium in Oakland.

The baseball team signed a 10-year lease on the old place in 2014, and Davis said until they declare their intentions for the future, it’s hard to move forward.

There’s an elephant in the room, and that’s the Oakland A’s. “They have to make a commitment to what they want to do,” Davis said, via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. “That’s the problem. They signed a 10-year lease while we were negotiating with Oakland officials, and it kind of put somebody right in the middle of things. There isn’t much you can do. They’ve tied our hands behind our back.

“Now it’s up to the A’s to make a declaration of what they want to do. If they don’t do that, I don’t see how we can make a deal.”

Davis said his long-term plan is for each team to have a new building on the current site. But he also doesn’t want to compromise parking and tailgating possibilities during construction, hoping to tear down the decrepit hulk of a stadium and come back to a new one rather than work piecemeal.

“What I do not want to do,” Davis said, “is build a football stadium in a corner of a parking lot while the Oakland Coliseum is still standing and, once we have a brand new venue, we begin to tear down the old stadium and build a new ballpark, disrupting the ingress, egress, parking and tailgating experience for Raiders fans on game day.”

Of course, all that takes money, and that’s the problem. Local officials have insisted they won’t spend public funds on the project, and it’ll take more than the $100 million the league is offering them to stay put to make a new stadium magically appear.

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Steve Keim: “No doubt” Cardinals want Mathieu as fixture for years

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals, who is out for the season with an injury, looks on in the fourth quarter while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

When safety Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL in Week 15 of the regular season, General Manager Steve Keim said it made for a “deflated” locker room while the team was simultaneously celebrating their NFC West title.

Given how much Mathieu did for the defense in the weeks before his injury, it’s not hard to understand why the team felt that way. Mathieu’s production covered the entire stat sheet the way he covers the entire field when he’s healthy and General Manager Steve Keim said the team is in no hurry to deal with the deflation that would come with his departure from the roster.

During an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim said that one of the team’s goals for the offseason is to sign Mathieu to an extension before he plays out the final year of his rookie deal.

“It’s hard to say that that we’ll be able to get something done for sure, but we certainly have that goal in mind and there’s no doubt that this organization wants Tyrann Mathieu to be a fixture here for years,” Keim said.

Mathieu has expressed a desire to remain in Arizona, so the chances of getting a deal done look pretty good. It wouldn’t be too surprising if serious talks were to wait until a bit later in the offseason, though, as the Cardinals would probably like to see how Mathieu’s rehab has progressed before putting the finishing touches on a new deal.

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Burfict’s suspension is second-longest ever for on-field actions

A. Haynesworth J. Fisher Getty Images

The news that Vontaze Burfict has lost his appeal of his three-game suspension means that Burfict will serve the second-longest suspension in NFL history for an on-field action.

All of the NFL’s most lengthy suspensions have been for misconduct away from the field, like failing a drug test or gambling on games. The longest suspension ever for an on-field incident came when Albert Haynesworth was suspended Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was suspended five games for stomping on the head of Cowboys center Andre Gurode in 2006. That suspension came only a month after Roger Goodell was named commissioner, and it announced that Goodell would have a different approach to league discipline.

Since then, only two players have received a suspension longer than one game for an on-field infraction: Ndamukong Suh for stomping on Evan Dietrich-Smith, and Brandon Meriweather for multiple helmet-to-helmet hits.

The length of Burfict’s suspension comes as a result of his status as a repeat offender, as well as (though the league wouldn’t admit this) the fact that his violations came during a high-profile playoff game. Burfict is now the second player in NFL history to be suspended more than two games for an on-field action.

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Joe Thomas: Browns have to get this QB decision right

Joe Thomas AP

As sad as left tackle Joe Thomas is about the way the personal story of Johnny Manziel is ending, he also has a job to do.

And he has a pretty good idea that when he lines up this season, he’s going to be blocking for yet another first-round quarterback.

“Well, I think we’re in really good shape right now,” Thomas said (of the Browns, presumably with a straight face) to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Obviously going into my 10th year I wish this was the position we were in my second or third year. We’re probably going to draft a first-round quarterback, the best quarterback in the draft or the second best at worst. And we’ve got a guy in Josh McCown who’s proven he can be a good player when he’s starting and healthy.

“[He’s] a tremendous mentor. You’re not going to find a better mentor as a quarterback in the NFL, and he’s better than you could do as a quarterback coach because he’s actually on the field showing the kid how to do it. So you’ve got hopefully the future of the franchise getting drafted in the first round and then you’ve got Josh mentoring him and coaching him along the way. I can’t see a better situation that the Browns could possibly be in than that.”

Any quarterback they bring in during the draft will end up being the 25th different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999, which makes it clear the problem there’s not just about Manziel. But Thomas said he was encouraged once he had a chance to sit down with new coach Hue Jackson. But he also knows that Jackson can only do so much.

“As long as you pick the right quarterback, if there is one out there, the future is really bright for the Cleveland Browns ’cause it doesn’t really matter what you do with the rest of the team if don’t have a quarterback,” Thomas said. “I mean it’s great to hire a new coach and bring in free agents and stuff, but unless you solve the quarterback piece of the puzzle, you’ll be finding a new coach every two years.”

And that’s what the Browns have been doing, for longer than Thomas’s tenure there.

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C.J. Anderson has no idea who’ll be handing him the ball in 2016

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None of the many Broncos players who have spoken (and plenty have) since Super Bowl 50 have had any inside information regarding whether quarterback Peyton Manning will return in 2016. Which means either that they know and they’re all doing a great job of saying nothing, or they just don’t know.

On Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, running back C.J. Anderson joined the list of Broncos players saying they simply don’t know whether Peyton will play.

“I have no idea,” Anderson said when asked who will be handing him the football next year. “If it’s Peyton, you know, I’ll still be happy. If it’s Brock [Osweiler], I’ll still be happy. We’re gonna do whatever Peyton wants to do and we’re gonna have his back. That’s one thing, believe me, if he decides to give it up and ride off in the sunset the correct way, we’re just so happy that we’re doing it for him the right way.”

The use of terms like “correct way” and “right way” could be interpreted as Anderson hoping that Peyton doesn’t come back since that would be the fitting end to his football story.

“I mean what else does he have to accomplish with five MVPs and first in every statistical category that you can think of with Peyton?” Anderson said. “True pro on and off the field with two Super Bowl rings. I mean he’s a slam dunk Hall of Famer. When it comes five years from now, he shouldn’t even have to go through the elimination process. They should just already have him in Canton. Then with Brock, if we can bring Brock back, he’s a free agent, but Brock plays a huge part of how we got to the No. 1 seed [in the AFC] and how we got to the playoffs. I mean, Brock showed that he can play in this system.”

Since portions of Anderson’s comments created the impression that he thinks Manning will retire, Anderson was asked whether he has any inclination as to what Peyton will do.

“Nah we don’t that’s just, that’s Peyton too, you know. . . . Peyton’s just — he’s a jokester and he’s gonna keep secretive,” Anderson said. “I mean, there’s times where you listen to him talk and it feels like it’s gonna be his last ride but, you know I think Mr. Elway said it the best, if I were at 99, that 99 percent and that one [percent]. You know you can be all in 99 percent of retiring but you’ve got to remember that one percent that made you wanna do this and love the game so much. You really don’t wanna give the game up because after you give it up, there’s no coming back and you know everything is gone.”

Brett Favre would disagree with that last sentence, but Anderson’s broader point is valid. Once it’s over, it’s typically over. Which surely has caused many guys to seek to milk one more year out of a career.

There’s another factor that could influence Manning to return. With so many options for his post-playing life and necessarily an obligation to pick something at the exclusion of the rest, playing one more year delays that decision. So instead of choosing to be a game analyst or a studio analyst or a coach or a G.M. or a president or a full-time Papa John’s franchisee or whatever else he’d want to do (and surely be wildly successful at anything he selects), Peyton can keep doing what he’s been doing, for one more season.

If he decides to do that, the next question becomes whether the Broncos will offer him enough money on a reduced contract to convince him to keep doing it in Denver. If not, then the question becomes whether he’ll take some of Magic Johnson’s money.

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Joe Thomas says it’s a “sad end” for Johnny Manziel in Cleveland

Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas celebrates after a 24-6 win over the Detroit Lions in a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) AP

Johnny Manziel will no longer be a part of the Cleveland Browns organization. At this point it’s just a matter of time.

Even teammates understand the end is near for Manziel.

It’s a sad end to the story in Cleveland for Johnny,” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “He’s a guy that personally I like. I believe he has a lot of talent. He’s got the talent to be an NFL quarterback, but it obviously hasn’t worked out so far.”

Manziel’s tenure with the Browns has been a near total disaster. Uneven play on the field and numerous incidents off of it have expedited his end in Cleveland. Manziel showed the occasional flash that would bring renewed promise over what he potentially could become. But it became clear he was incapable of getting out of his own way.

The official end is the only thing left between the Browns and Manziel.

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Seahawks sign CFL products Jeff Fuller and Cameron Marshall

Cameron Marshall AP

The Seattle Seahawks have looked to the Canadian Football League before in search of talent and are hoping to unearth some more success from north of the border.

The Seahawks signed former Calgary Stampeders receiver Jeff Fuller and former Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Cameron Marshall on Thursday.

Fuller is another stab at finding a receiver with size from the CFL. Seattle signed Chris Matthews in 2013 after two seasons with Winnipeg. At 6-foot-5, Matthews was a large receiver the Seahawks didn’t have at the time. Fuller is similarly large at 6-foot-4. Fuller caught 47 passes for 619 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games for Calgary.

Meanwhile, with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks only had one running back under contract for 2016 in Thomas Rawls. Marshall rushed for 614 yards and five touchdowns in 18 games for Winnipeg last season.

Both Fuller and Marshall were undrafted out of Texas A&M and Arizona State, respectively. Both players spent time with the Miami Dolphins before heading to Canada to continue their careers.

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Friday’s PFT Live has Kevin Greene, Bradley Roby, more

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The first week of the early early shift ends Friday, with another three-hour edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. And Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby will be dialing in extra early, halfway through the 6:00 a.m. ET hour.

Later in the program, new Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene joins the program, along with Vic Lombardi of Altitude Sports in Denver.

All three hours can be heard on Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, the NBC Sports Radio app, and on terrestrial affiliates throughout the country. The final hour of the show can be seen on NBCSN.

And here’s where I’d add some sort of a witty or snarky or glib remark, but I’ve been rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m. ET to get ready for the show, and in my exhausted state I’m even more unfunny that usual. Tune in tomorrow to see just how unfunny I may be.

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Justin Tuck plans to sign one-day contract to retire with Giants

Justin Tuck AP

Defensive end Justin Tuck spent nine seasons lining up for the New York Giants. So it only seems fitting he’d retire in a Giants uniform.

According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Tuck said during an appearance on the Giants’ team website that he intends to sign a one-day contract to retire with the Giants.

“One question we didn’t get asked that I’ve seen a lot of Giants fans tweet me is ‘Am I going to do a one-day contract with the Giants?’” Tuck said. “The answer to that is ‘Yes.’ We can’t do it yet because the league (year) doesn’t open until the second week of March. So for all the Giants fans out there asking me ‘Am I going to retire a Giant?’ Absolutely I am.”

Tuck announced his plans to retire earlier this month. While he spent the last two seasons of his career with the Oakland Raiders, the majority of Tuck’s success came in the Big Apple.

Tuck posted 60.5 sacks in nine seasons with the Giants. He posted at least 10 sacks in a season four times during his tenure in New York.

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McNair wants to end Super Bowl hosting curse

Zz1iMjIzODIxNjA3ZGQ4ZTkwYjhhYWU1NGE2YmQ5YjU1YQ== AP

No team hosting a Super Bowl in its own stadium has ever played in the game. Some think there’s actually a curse associated with hosting the game.

Regardless, with the torch now passed from San Francisco to Houston, Texans owner Bob McNair wants his team to be the first to qualify for a home game in the Super Bowl.

“It’s never happened that the host city, host team, played in the Super Bowl, so we’d like to break that record,” McNair said Thursday, at the unveiling of a Super Bowl countdown clock. “That would be wonderful and anything is possible.”

McNair likely had to grit his teeth a bit when praising coaches he had run out of Houston for winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos.

“We’re delighted to see the guys up in Denver succeed and you saw that they did it with their defense,” McNair said. “That’s what we’ve been working towards and we have a chance, so hopefully we’ll have that opportunity.”

But while defense clearly wins championships, an offense is at some point necessary to get there. The Texans have struggled at quarterback, and in a division with three potential franchise quarterbacks on the rosters of Houston’s primary rivals, it’s going to get harder, not easier, to win the division.

Two teams have come close to a Super Bowl home game. In Super Bowl XIV, the Rams played the Steelers in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In Super Bowl XIX, the 49ers faced the Dolphins at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.

Amazingly, no team hosting the Super Bowl in its home stadium has even made it to the conference championship round.

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Hasselbeck is “strongly leaning” toward playing again

Zz1lNGFkNGY1MGY0ZGZhYTM5NGEzMDUxMjQ0OTFkZTJmMw== AP

A quarterback who’ll turn 40 next month apparently is leaning toward retiring. A quarterback who’ll turn 41 later this year is leaning toward not retiring.

Colts quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck, who started eight games in 2015, could be back again in 2016.

“I haven’t really I guess made up my mind completely on it,” Hasselbeck told Brock & Salk of ESPN 710 in Seattle. “You’ve kind of got to count the cost of what it would mean, what you’re saying ‘yes’ to and what you’re saying ‘no’ to. My kids are getting older. But all in all I would say I’m strongly leaning toward playing again, and we’ll see.”

By thinking about playing past his 41st birthday, Hasselbeck may be creating the impression that he plans to play as long as possible. But he said that’s not the case.

“I’m not trying to play as long as I can,” Hasselbeck said. “I decided [that] I’m gonna play for five surgeries. That was like my mindset. Like five years or five surgeries. And I’ve only had one surgery in my entire life. I think it was a bad way to set a goal. I’m not sure.”

It’s not sure that the Colts want Hasselbeck, even if he chooses to play. Hasselbeck is due to become a free agent in March. Still, without enough competent quarterbacks to go around, someone will want him, if the Colts don’t.

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Offseason rules in full force

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 04:  A general view of the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility outside Arrowhead Stadium as the NFL lockout looms while negotiations are extended on March 4, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now that all 32 teams have completed the 2015 season, it makes sense to review the things that can and can’t be done until the offseason programs open in April.

The rules appear in Article 21, Section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Before the launch of the offseason program, players can’t participate in Club-supervised workouts, practices, group, or individual meetings with coaches, group or individual film study with coaches, or group or individual playbook study with coaches. This provision is the origin of periodic comments from coaches regarding their inability to communicate with players in the offseason.

Still, there’s no prohibition on phone calls or discussions that don’t amount to meetings, film study, or playbook study. If, for example, 49ers coach Chip Kelly simply wants to get to know quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Kelly can call Kaepernick and talk to him. But with Kelly taking the ridiculously extreme position that he can’t even talk about Kaepernick publicly, it seems that Kelly either doesn’t understand the rules or is being deliberately obtuse, possibly to enhance trade potential for Kaepernick by not taking a clear position on whether the 49ers want him during the window when interested teams might call.

Players nevertheless are allowed to work out in the team facility, with strength and conditioning coaches prevented from supervising workouts but permitted into supervise the weight room to prevent injury and correct misuse of the equipment. And plenty of players prefer to stay in shape that way, given the fact that it’s both familiar and free.

Regardless of the rules, football coaches who want to talk to their players will surely find a way to do it. In the five years since the new rules were promulgated, no coach ever has been accused to talking to players more than he should. Players who are truly committed to winning will do whatever they have to do, exercising discretion while also planning for an opportunity to compete more effectively in the coming season.

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