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Dr. Andrews says RG3 was never cleared to re-enter game

Washington Redskins starting quarterback Griffin III is helped off field by team trainers late in fourth quarter against Baltimore in Landover Reuters

Renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews serves as one of the Redskins’ game-day physicians.  That relationship could now be in danger, grave or otherwise.

Andrews admits to USA Today that he never cleared quarterback Robert Griffin III to re-enter a Week 15 game against the Ravens, after Griffin suffered a knee injury that looked much worse than it ended up being.  Griffin skipped one play, re-entered the game, and then exited for good several snaps later.

“He didn’t even let us look at him,” Andrews tells Robert Klemko of USA Today.  “He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players, and took off back to the field.  It wasn’t our opinion.

“We didn’t even get to touch him or talk to him.  Scared the hell out of me.”

Andrews’ comments may scare the hell out of coach Mike Shanahan, who specifically said the day after the game that Andrews had cleared Griffin to return.

“He’s on the sidelines with Dr. Andrews,” Shanahan said at the time, via Klemko.  “He had a chance to look at him and he said he could go back in.  [I said] ‘Hey, Dr. Andrews, can Robert go back in?’

‘Yeah, he can go back in.’

‘Robert, go back in.’

“That was it.”

But that wasn’t it.  And now, as the Redskins prepare to host the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon, Shanahan and Andrews may be having an awkward conversation at some point this morning.  Especially since Andrews is still concerned about Griffin’s status.

“I’m the one that shut him down that day, finally,” Andrews said.  “I’ve been a nervous wreck letting him come back as quick as he has.  He’s doing a lot better this week, but he’s still recovering and I’m holding my breath because of it.

“He passed all the tests and all the functional things we do, but it’s been a trying moment for me, to be honest with you.”

This back-and-forth highlights the tension between doctors and the teams that pay those doctors to provide care and evaluation to players.  And it suggests that Andrews, who doesn’t need his relationship with the Redskins in order to remain the go-to orthropedic specialist for NFL players, has opted to jeopardize that role with the team in order to keep his conscience clear.

Other team-hired doctors don’t have that luxury.  Routinely, those doctors tell coaches what the coaches want to hear about player availability, knowing that if the coaches aren’t told what they want to hear they’ll find another doctor who will.That’s why the NFL and NFLPA should work toward the use of a truly independent staff of game-day physicians, who can work with only one concern in mind — the health and well-being of their patients.

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Nearly 1,000 fans greeted Panthers at stadium upon return

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 07: Fans of the Carolina Panthers cheer on their team against the Denver Broncos while watching Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016 at Rooftop 210 in the EpiCentre area of uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) Getty Images

After a crushing Super Bowl 50 loss as favorites, the Panthers had to endure a long flight home.

But at least when they got there, they found they were still local favorites.

Via Anna Douglas of the Charlotte Observer, nearly 1,000 fans were at Bank of America Stadium last night as buses rolled in, following the team’s arrival at the airport around 6:30 p.m. ET.

Airport firetrucks greeted the team with spraying from water cannons — which ain’t exactly champagne in the locker room — and a number of fans were also at the airport, pressed against fences to catch a glimpse of the team which lost only two games all year.

“We’ve said all along we have the best fans in the NFL and seeing this turnout tonight only reinforces that,” team president Danny Morrison said.

Players will be at the stadium today for their end of seasons meetings, and it’ll be interesting to see if we hear more from quarterback Cam Newton, who had little to say in the wake of the loss.

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Von Miller says contract talks will be “a peaceful thing”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 08:  Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos addresses the media during the trophy presentation at the Moscone Center West on February 8, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller waged war on the Panthers, and won.

But the Super Bowl 50 MVP promised in the aftermath that his future contract talks with the team would be “peaceful.”

Miller’s set to be an unrestricted free agent in March, but he’s not expecting a rough negotiation with Broncos executive vice president John Elway.

“As far as my situation coming up, we have — Mr. Elway, he’s played in the National Football League, he’s one of the best GMs that there is, we’re here today because of him,” Miller said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “And I have people representing my situation as well. It’s going to be a peaceful thing. I’m not really worried about it.”

Of course, there’s a good reason not to worry.

He’s either going to get rich immediately, or the Broncos will use the franchise tag to buy themselves time to do a long-term deal, as they have with other stars in recent years. That’s what happened with both left tackle Ryan Clady and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, so it’s clearly a plan Elway’s familiar with.

They have other free agents pending, and some have suggested the possibility of tagging quarterback Brock Osweiler. But Miller’s clearly the priority, and Elway has said he has a “plan” for Miller, and that he knows “what the numbers would be.”

Six years and $101 million is a good starting point, considering the deal Justin Houston got with the Chiefs last summer. And that will buy a man a lot of peace.

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Report: Arrest warrants “imminent” in LeSean McCoy incident

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Bills running back LeSean McCoy hasn’t been arrested yet in the wake of a reported altercation that sent a pair of off-duty police officers to the hospital. That could change, soon.

Mark Schwarz of ESPN reported near the top of the 5:00 a.m. ET SportsCenter (so much for me getting up at 5:55 a.m. ET for a 6:00 a.m. ET radio show) that arrest warrants are “imminent” in the case. Citing an unnamed official in the Philadelphia police department, Schwarz says McCoy was “definitely involved,” and that arrest warrants could surface in the next 24-48 hours.

The delay results from the high-profile nature of the case, and the involvement of police officers. Both have broken ribs, and one has an orbital fracture. Although they weren’t on duty and didn’t identify themselves as police officers, the system tends to operate a little more zealously when police officers are the victims of criminal conduct.

So McCoy and the Bills could soon be facing a major distraction in a season that reportedly includes a playoffs-or-bust mandate for coach Rex Ryan and G.M. Doug Whaley.

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Possibility of paid leave looms for LeSean McCoy, Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel AP

A prolonged stretch of good behavior by nearly every NFL player and employee has caused the new realities of the post-Ray Rice NFL to fade a bit from memory. Those new realities could be returning to focus soon.

The revised Personal Conduct Policy, promulgated by the league without the consent of the NFL Players Association in December 2014 (the NFL believed the union’s consent wasn’t needed), allows for the unilateral placement of players on paid leave pending the outcome of league investigations and/or criminal prosecutions regarding allegations of violence.

Crafted in direct response to the problem of domestic violence, the revised conduct policy gives the league wide latitude and discretion to determine who does or doesn’t get placed on paid leave. Based on information emerging on Monday, paid leave becomes at least a possibility for Bills running back LeSean McCoy and Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

As to McCoy, he and former NFL running back Curtis Brinkley allegedly sent a couple of off-duty cops to the hospital as the result of a fight over a bottle of champagne. As to Manziel, he allegedly hit his ex-girlfriend so hard in the ear that she couldn’t hear in one ear for several days.

Whatever happens with both guys, the Browns could be sweating this one out for exactly one month, until they acquire the cap space to cut him. If the league puts him on paid leave before March 9, they possibly won’t be able to cut him until the investigation and any eventual prosecution ends, potentially requiring the Browns to pay his $1.169 million salary for 2016.

Presumably, the Browns could act sooner by creating roughly $2 million in cap space immediately, through the cutting of veteran players and/or renegotiation of existing contract during the final weeks of the 2015 league year. The Browns otherwise can’t dump Manziel’s contract because all remaining cap space for 2015 already has been carried to 2016.

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Report: Players convicted of weapons or domestic offenses barred from combine, draft

Troy Vincent, Rick Smith AP

An NFL policy change will bar players with convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses from attending the league’s the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.

USA Today reported Monday night that teams were informed of this policy change in a memo from NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent in late January. In the memo, Vincent wrote that players would be barred from “any league-related event” if a background check turns up a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Those players would also be prevented from attending the draft.

Players that refuse to submit to a background check will also be uninvited.

The new rule would have applied last year to Frank Clark, who ended up being a second-round pick of the Seahawks. Clark pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after an arrest for a domestic violence incident that led to his dismissal from the Michigan football team.

“It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters,” Vincent wrote.

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Chargers hire consultant for ballot initiative

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The effort of the Chargers to get a new home has sparked plenty of contradictions. The team deemed Inglewood to be an unacceptable destination for an L.A. stadium until the owners picked it over Carson, and then the Chargers struck a tentative deal to play in the place they previously claimed to be unfit.

Now, as the Chargers embark on a last-ditch effort to remain in San Diego, they’re embracing a timeline the team decried as impractical a year ago.

To build a new stadium in the city the franchise has called home since 1961, a successful ballot effort and a successful environmental review process are critical. As to the former, the Chargers have hired a consultant to launch a citizens initiative intended to secure hundreds of millions in taxpayer money.

Fred Maas, whom the Chargers wanted the city to hire a year ago to spearhead the effort, has been hired by the Chargers, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The really encouraging thing is I believe to my very core Dean is committed to finding a solution in San Diego,” Maas told Acee.

Acee reports that the team plans to spend roughly $10 million in connection with the election, a process that commences with a citizens initiative.

“[Maas] has been around San Diego a long time,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a video post on the team’s website Monday, via Acee. “He’s very familiar with all the political aspects of what goes on in the city, how all that works. His knowledge of San Diego as whole will help us.”

Securing public money is only part of the process. Environmental approvals — and specifically beating back any litigation — also are critical to the effort.

Regardless of whether it all gets done, last year the Chargers were pooh-poohing the prospect of getting it all done in a year. This year, they’re singing a much different tune.

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Aqib Talib deliberately grabbed Corey Brown’s facemask

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Several years ago, the NFL got rid of the distinction between major and minor facemask fouls, with all penalties for grabbing and pulling the bars on the front of the helmet becoming 15-yard personal fouls.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s accidental or intentional; the penalty is the same. When it comes to determining discipline, however, evidence that the foul was flagrant and intentional should influence the league office.

Regarding Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib’s decision to grab and pull and twist the facemask of Panthers receiver Corey Brown in the first half of Super Bowl 50, it’s clear that the conduct was flagrant and intentional — because Talib has admitted it.

“It was B.S. flags,” Talib said regarding a pair of personal fouls called on him in the first half, via NESN.com.  “One was on our sidelines [for taunting] — the guy [Brown] was talking on our sideline. One I just did on purpose, and I just had to show him. It’s probably going to be a fine. But, hey, we’re world champs.”

Talib added that he was aware, given Carolina’s field position at the time, that the penalty wouldn’t result in a major loss of field position.

“My teammates knew what it was,” Talib said. “He was on the three-yard line. [With] a personal foul, he was on the one-and-a-half-yard line, so it is what it is.”

What it usually is will be a fine of $8,681 for a first offense. But Talib’s candor, coupled with a one-game suspension during the season for poking Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the eye, could result in an enhanced penalty, and possibly a suspension.

At a time when the NFL is more sensitive than ever to player safety, Talib has admitted to a deliberate and calculated violation of a rule directly aimed at avoiding potentially serious neck injuries. Under the circumstances, and in light of Talib’s history, he may end up with something stiffer than the NFL’s equivalent of a parking ticket.

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DeMarcus Ware explains why Cam Newton didn’t run more

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By standards applicable to other quarterbacks, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t have a horrible night in Super Bowl 50. By Newton’s standards, he did.

The goal, as Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware explained on Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, was to make the Panthers one dimensional by taking away their ability to run the ball. But that doesn’t account for the lack of scrambles from Newton, who was sacked six times and repeatedly fought to throw the ball away.

“He had to get the ball down the field,” Ware said of Newton’s decision to take off sparingly, “he had to score points.”

Ware added the Broncos defense was able to get inside Newton’s head. Physically, they also were able to match him.

“It’s hard to beat us with his feet because we have a lot of fast guys like me and Von [Miller] and [Derek] Wolfe and Malik [Jackson],” Ware said. “And we made sure we kept the pocket tight so he couldn’t get out and run.”

Speaking of Jackson, Ware emphasized the importance of not letting him get away in free agency.

“The game is won in the trenches,” Ware said. “And just him, Derek Wolfe, . . . [those] two guys if you’re doing 3-4 or 4-3 they’re dominant and they make plays especially with [nose tackle] Sylvester [Williams] in the middle. I mean, all of those guys just giving them kudos. That’s the reason why we’ve been able to do so much.”

The salary cap will prevent the Broncos from doing as much as they’d like when it comes to keeping free agency, and Jackson could be one of the ones who gets away — especially as other teams become willing to pay a premium in order to both bring a Super Bowl champion to town and to partially dismantle the most recent champion.

To hear the full spot from Ware, check out the podcast from Monday’s edition of PFT Live, the first one that launched at 6:00 a.m. ET.

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111.9 million Super Bowl viewers

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Last year, a record 114.4 million viewers on average enjoyed Super Bowl XLIX, between the Patriots and Seahawks. This year, the numbers were down because the game was less compelling, but the audience was still gigantic.

According to CBS, an average of 111.9 million watched the game, with a peak of 115.5 million between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. ET.

As big as the Super Bowl audience has become, the question that comes up every year for me is this: What is everyone else in the country doing at that time?

FOX has the game next year in Houston, and after that NBC in Minnesota. The size of the audiences will be driven largely by the size of the markets represented in the game and the perceived (and actual) competitiveness of the game.

While Sunday night’s game wasn’t a shootout, tension permeated most of the game, with a nagging sense that the Panthers eventually were going to find the gas pedal and win the game easily.

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Tom Coughlin: Not coaching “a very difficult thing”

Tom Coughlin AP

For the first time since 2004, Tom Coughlin isn’t going to be preparing a team for September.

Coughlin was replaced as the Giants’ head coach by Ben McAdoo after a second straight 6-10 season and brief dalliances with the 49ers and Eagles didn’t lead anywhere. During a Monday appearance on FOX News, Coughlin talked about how he’s dealing with the change in circumstances.

“It’s a very difficult thing, I don’t care who you are, or how long you’ve been doing it. I’ve been doing it a long time, so you get yourself into the rhythm,” Coughlin said, via NJ.com. “Your whole life, the calendar of your life is based on football, about the seasons, whether it’s in-season or out of season. You have a schedule that you follow. So there’s some adjusting for me to make.”

One adjustment Coughlin isn’t making is considering the change in schedule a permanent one. He said he doesn’t like the retired and that he’s “way to young” for that label.

When they parted ways, the Giants talked about wanting Coughlin remain with the team he coached to two Super Bowl titles in a different position. Co-owner John Mara repeated that desire during Super Bowl week in San Francisco, but it doesn’t appear that anything immediate is in the works.

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Aqib Talib calls Levi’s Stadium turf “terrible”

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The 49ers have had repeated issues with the quality of the sod at Levi’s Field. On Sunday, the NFL’s first stint as the caretaker of the gridiron at Santa Clara encountered difficulties, too.

The footing on the field was terrible,” Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib said, via the Associated Press. “San Fran has to play eight games on that field so they better do something to get it fixed. It was terrible.”

Talib apparently hasn’t been paying attention to the home team’s troubles with the turf. Because the troubles have been persistent for the team. The league has had troubles, too. And now the 49ers get the turf back, indefinitely.

Not everyone complained about the field, including the guy who won the game’s MVP award.

“I had to change my cleats,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “It was a great field. We came out here [Saturday] and it was fast. As the game went on, I just needed a little more support. I was able to get the detachable [spikes] and real quick change them.”

Players from both teams seemed to slip on the field. Panthers coach Ron Rivera, however, went out of his way to say the field wasn’t a problem.

“We didn’t have any issues with the field,” Rivera said, via the Associated Press. “Both teams played on the same field. As far as I’m concerned, for me to be able to blame the field is kind of a cop out. The truth of the matter is we both played on the surface. The surface was outstanding.”

Outstanding is an overstatement, but Rivera surely wants to say nothing that would create the impression he is making excuses for the outcome of the game. His refusal to make excuses provides the league with an excuse it doesn’t merit, because the field wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been, raising yet again the question of why the NFL fails far too often to ensure that players get the absolute best and safest surfaces.

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Saints cut Jahri Evans

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints released six-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans Monday.

Evans was due $3 million if he was still on the roster on Wednesday. He was set to make $4.9 million in 2016.

Evans, 32, has been with the Saints since 2006 and started all 153 games he played. He took a pay cut after the 2014 season, his sixth straight Pro Bowl season. He started 11 games in 2015.

Evans joins Riley Cooper and William Moore as notable cuts on the first day teams can make roster transactions. The Saints also cut wide receiver Seantavius Jones, linebacker David Hawthorne and linebacker Ramon Humber.

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Disturbing details in Manziel-Crowley affidavit

Johnny Manziel AP

The affidavit filed by Johnny Manziel’s ex-girlfriend as part of the protective order she’s received from him contains some disturbing details.

NBC 5 in Dallas posted the affidavit Monday. In it, Coleen Crowley said she told a parking valet she feared for her life and later had to threaten Manziel with a knife to get him to leave her apartment.

A police helicopter began searching for Manziel early on the morning of Jan. 30 after Crowley banged on a neighbor’s door and screamed to another for help. Crowley said Manziel had been physical with her, grabbing by the hair to throw her in the car and hitting her in the ear with an open hand. Crowley said that’s when she struck Manziel back and also said she still could not hear out of her ear days later.

Crowley said she was also restrained by Manziel against a hotel door and that Manziel threatened to kill them both.

Dallas Police opened a criminal investigation into the matter last week, and an NFL investigation is ongoing. The Browns have not been able to reach Manziel and plan to release him next month.

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Falcons drop Justin Durant, William Moore

Zz1jMjkxZjg5N2NkYmZkOWE4NmFkMzBmMDZhN2JkYjI0Yw== AP

On Monday, teams can begin cutting players. The Falcons have dumped a pair of them.

Gone are linebacker Justin Durant (pictured) and safety William Moore. The team announced the moves on Monday.

“We want to thank both of these guys for their commitment and work ethic,” coach Dan Quinn said. “They battled through injuries to give everything they had for their teammates this season and I will always be appreciative of that.”

As to Durant, the Falcons avoid his base salary of $1.75 million for 2016. The team will take a cap charge of $833,000. Regarding Moore,the Falcons avoid his base salary of $4.5 million, but they take a cap charge of $3.3 million, the remainder of the $8.25 million signing bonus he received in 2013.

Durant was a second-round pick of the Jaguars in 2007; he signed last year with the Falcons. Atlanta drafted Moore in the second round of the 2009 draft.

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Making sense of Cam Newton’s abrupt departure

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Much can be said about the demeanor of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at his post-Super Bowl press conference, and reasonable minds may differ as to whether it was a sign of immaturity or evidence of his passionate desire to win.

Here’s an area where the answer is more clear. As noted last night on Twitter and throughout Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, the video of the press conference suggests that Newton bolted not because of any questions asked by the reporter but because he could hear someone from the Broncos crowing about the victory. Via the Denver Post, it was Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

So while Newton arguably should have been less sullen when talking about the game, the tone and content of his answers and the decision to get up and leave are really two different things.

Besides, if Newton’s reaction means that Newton will become even more determined to get back to the Super Bowl and win it, Panthers fans will be very happy about the outcome a year from now.

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