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Teams grumbling over breadth of Bears’, Eagles’ coaching searches

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Two head-coaching jobs have been filled, and five (for now) remain vacant.  Two of the teams still looking have caused some grumbling in NFL circles over the width of their nets.

Per a league source, some teams believe the Bears and Eagles are employing the Al Davis approach to interviewing coaching candidates.  Davis was notorious for using a head-coaching vacancy as cover for bringing in assistant coaches from other teams and picking their brains, all under the guise of possibly hiring them.

In Chicago specifically, the feeling is that G.M. Phil Emery wants to get as much intelligence as possible regarding how the various candidates would fix quarterback Jay Cutler and/or a perennially porous offensive line.  At last count, the Bears’ list of candidates included Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Falcons special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, Cowboys special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

There are no limits on the number of interviews a team can conduct.  And if an assistant coach believes that there’s no serious interest in hiring him, he has no duty to accept the invitation to interview.

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Jim Kelly has spoken to groups wanting to buy Bills

Jim Kelly AP

Appearing at his annual youth football camp Thursday, former Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly told multiple media outlets he’s spoken to various figures with interest in purchasing the Bills.

“I’m just doing what I can to make sure the Bills stay in Buffalo,” Kelly said, according to Syracuse.com. “Things really haven’t changed. Yes, I’ve met with different people. I hope it gets to a point where we get somebody that’s really committed to Buffalo and to turning this program. And to play football in January.”

Kelly indicated Thursday he has not joined an ownership group, per multiple reports.

The Buffalo News reported Thursday that investor Jeffrey Gundlach has talked to Kelly about joining his potential bid for the Bills. Kelly’s brother, Dan, said in April that prospective buyers of the club had reached out to the former Bills quarterback, per the News.

Kelly, who has undergone treatment for oral cancer, said Thursday he has lost 51 pounds, according to NBC affiliate WGRZ-TV in Buffalo.

“I just started eating real food within the last week,” Kelly said, according a video clip on the WGRZ-TV website.

Kelly, noting that he was told to be “patient” as he goes through his recovery, noted: “I’m not that patient kind of guy.”

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Crabtree on Sherman: I don’t talk, I concentrate on football

crabtreesherman AP

Michael Crabtree will not engage with Richard Sherman until their teams meet on the field.

Crabtree, the 49ers wide receiver who has a long history with Sherman, declined to get into it when he was asked this week about Sherman’s recent comments about his personal animosity toward Crabtree. Instead, Crabtree said he would rather focus on preparing to face Sherman on the field.

“I don’t get into talking about these guys. I concentrate on football. It’s my life. I don’t have too much to prove when it comes to talking on TV. I’m a baller,” Crabtree told ESPN.

Whether Crabtree and Sherman talk about each other or not, when they play each other it will be must-see TV. The first of their two regular-season meetings will be on Thanksgiving night in San Francisco. We know Sherman will have plenty to say, but Crabtree will try to let his play do the talking.

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Calvin Johnson: Lions feel we could win the Super Bowl

Calvin Johnson AP

Another day, another Lion who thinks his team has what it takes to win a title.

Lions safety James Ihedigbo said his team has “championship DNA,” and Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh agreed. Now Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is saying he thinks the Lions can win a championship.

“We need to win a Super Bowl,” Johnson said on NFL Network, via Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News. “That’s the No. 1 thing. That’s the No. 1 thing [and] should be for every team going into the beginning of the year. We’re definitely in a place where we feel we could do that.”

Johnson said new head coach Jim Caldwell has inspired the team through a strong offseason.

“It’s an overall change and vibe here, and we love it,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go out and bust our butts every day because Jim is such a great guy, a great leader for our team. And he’s helped bring us together, and we’re doing a lot of stuff on our own off the field to keep that camaraderie going.”

In his previous head-coaching stint, Caldwell got the Colts to the Super Bowl in his first season in Indianapolis. The team Caldwell has inherited Detroit is nowhere near as good as that team in Indianapolis, but the players’ public comments suggest that if nothing else, Caldwell has instilled confidence.

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So why are the Texans playing hardball with Andre Johnson?

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

If the Texans could have brought receiver Andre Johnson back into the fold by simply giving him a way to earn back the $1 million roster bonus he had forfeited by skipping the early phases of the offseason program, why didn’t they?

Before delving into the question, consider this.  It’s true and accurate, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, that Johnson offered to show up for OTAs and minicamp in exchange for a way to earn back the $1 million roster bonus — and that the Texans said thanks and no.  Johnson’s olive branch came after he took some time to get to know the knew coaching staff, and after he concluded that the franchise hasn’t plunged into a full-blown rebuilding process.  Johnson was ready to show up and get to work, with his only request being that the organization give him a way to earn the money that hinged on his full participation in the offseason program.

That was it.  That’s all he wanted.  And the Texans said no.

For now, the fracture has become a full-blown schism.  After the team refused to give him a way to earn back the money, Johnson became committed to the idea of playing elsewhere.

So why didn’t the Texans simply let Johnson save a little face and in turn a lot of money?  If there’s a rational explanation, the explanation has yet to make its way into the eyes and ears of the media.  While it shows the other players on the team that contracts will be honored as written, it undermines, and potentially poisons, the relationship with Johnson.

Maybe he eventually decides to not lose any additional money, and to show up and happily cash $10 million in game checks.  Maybe, by Johnson asking for the $1 million back, the Texans have gambled on Johnson not giving up $30,000 per day in fines for skipping training camp and, ultimately, more than $588,000 per week for missing games as of September.

Or maybe the Texans have decided that they don’t want Johnson — and they’ve opted to take a hard line on the $1 million so that they’ll be able to unload via trade his $10 million salary.

Keep this in mind:  Whoever leaked news of the $1 million bonus also leaked that four teams are interested in trading for Johnson.  Which means that the leak probably came from someone who wants to see Johnson traded.

Usually, that points to the player and/or his agent.  In this case, there’s a chance that the Texans have decided that they don’t want to pay $10 million to a 33-year-old receiver, and that now is the best time to turn the asset into something of value.

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Texans come in 25th in our Preseason Power Rankings

Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans could have filled their biggest need with the first pick in the NFL Draft.

Instead, they took the best player.

The Texans may have created one of the NFL’s most dangerous defenses by choosing South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, but they also left themselves with plenty of uncertainty.

Largely because they lack a stable quarterback, they’re slotted at No. 25 in our Preseason Power Rankings (you can read the full preview by clicking right here).

If they can get even moderate play out of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, they will be good enough on defense to be in the mix of an unsettled division.

You can weigh in on the poll below, and in the comments whether you think Fitzpatrick’s capable of that.

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A.J. Green: I only want to catch passes from Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton, A.J. Green AP

Quarterback Andy Dalton’s quest for a new contract has been a frequent topic of conversation during the Bengals’ offseason and plenty of people have weighed in with opinions on what the team should do with a player that has gotten them to the playoffs in all three of his NFL seasons without winning a game during any of the trips.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has been one of Dalton’s loudest supporters, saying that he’s seen the quarterback improve continually since joining the Bengals and going as far as calling Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green the best quarterback-wide receiver combination in the entire league. Those comments didn’t get Dalton the contract he wants, but perhaps the words of the receiver half of that combo will move the needle a bit.

“We came in together and that is the great thing for me and him,” Green said on NFL Network. “I know he’s my guy. I don’t want any other quarterback throwing me the ball. I think he feels the same way about me.”

Green is under contract through next season after the Bengals exercised their option for a fifth year on his rookie contract and the Bengals will likely want to extend the stay of one of the league’s top receivers beyond that point. Keeping a quarterback who Green likes playing with would probably help them do that, but Green’s opinion alone probably won’t be enough to get the deal done. Dalton hasn’t totally convinced the skeptics in Cincinnati and his best chance of doing that will come on the field rather than from the endorsements of others.

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Austin Seferian-Jenkins confident foot will be ready for training camp

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kevin Smith AP

The Buccaneers didn’t get much of a chance to work with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins after selecting him in the second round of May’s draft.

Seferian-Jenkins was forced to stay away from the team during most of the program because NFL rules barred him from practice until the University of Washington completed its academic year and he wasn’t able to do much during rookie minicamp after February foot surgery. That leaves Seferian-Jenkins with a fair amount of catching up to do once camp gets underway.

It’s good news, then, that the rookie feels confident he’ll be ready to go once camp opens in a couple of weeks.

“I feel really good. My foot feels really good,” Seferian-Jenkins said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve been running route, doing all the exercise and workout drills that they’ve asked me to do. I feel very comfortable and confident that I’ll be ready to go when it comes to training camp.”

The Bucs added Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans to Vincent Jackson this offseason to give them three plus-sized receivers to use as targets for Josh McCown this season. If the two rookies can make a quick transition to the NFL game, it should mean a major improvement in the passing game over the dismal results that Tampa turned in last year.

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Supplemental draft comes and goes with no selections

Roger+Goodell+2014+NFL+Draft+Xi_DvWMjhocl Getty Images

Just as it did last year, the NFL supplemental draft has yielded a grand total of zero players selected.

The supplemental draft came and went quickly this afternoon, with no players selected.

Four players were eligible to be selected: New Mexico wide receiver Chase Clayton, North Carolina linebacker Darius Lipford, Virginia-Lynchburg defensive tackle Lakendrick Ross and Southern Methodist running back Traylon Shead. None of those players is considered a particularly good prospect, so it’s not surprising that no team was even willing to give up a 2015 seventh-round pick to acquire one of them.

Now Clayton, Lipford, Ross and Shead are all unrestricted free agents and can sign with any team. All four of them have a good shot of at least getting a training camp invitation, but they’ll all be viewed as long shots to make a 53-man roster.

The last time anyone was picked in the supplemental draft was 2012, when the Browns gave up their 2013 second-round pick to acquire Josh Gordon.

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Lions defensive line “will have some fun” in 2014

Ezekiel Ansah AP

The Lions brought in a new coaching staff this offseason after firing Jim Schwartz, including defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

Austin inherits a defensive line that has been the strength of the Detroit defense for several years, but his tweaks to the unit will not leave that group alone. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said that the group “will have some fun” in 2014 and one of the big changes appears to be the way that players will line up. Austin is planning to move players around to create mismatches and boost a sack total that has dropped in each of the last three seasons. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is one of the players who will be lining up in a variety of places.

“I like the changes we have now,” Ansah said, via the team’s website. “I don’t always have to be on the right side. I can get up and move around and drop into coverage. I think [Austin] is a great coach and going to bring a lot to the team.”

The Lions’ defensive line has not always played up to the level their talent would suggest, so it makes sense to find ways to maximize their output. That may be especially true of Ansah, who had eight sacks as a rookie while lining up in the same spot pretty much every time he stepped on the field and could see even better results when offenses have a harder time planning for him.

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Judge allows Washington bounty lawsuit to proceed

Greg Williams AP

It’s been a bad month in court for the Washington NFL franchise.

In June, the team owned by Daniel Snyder lost its federal trademark protection.  (The decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been appealed.)  Now, the team has lost the first round of a fight regarding a bounty system allegedly used by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, a judge in Maryland declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former NFL linebacker Barrett Green against the team and tight end Robert Royal.  Green contends he was deliberately injured by Royal under the bounty system maintained by Williams, who now serves as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis.

The team challenged the lawsuit as being filed too late and barred by the labor deal between the NFL and NFLPA.

“[T]he battery alleged here — a block intentionally designed to cause physical injury harm — could not conceivably be authorized under the CBA, and therefore is not inextricably intertwined with it,” the judge wrote, per Kaplan.

While it doesn’t mean Green will win, he has secured for now the ability to develop evidence to support his claims, including sworn testimony from Williams and the men who played for Williams in Washington and elsewhere.

Yes, playing football entails physical risk.  But certain risks should not be tucked under that umbrella, such as the risk that someone will use the cover of football as a way to deliberately injure another player.

Could it open the floodgates for other lawsuits by players who believe they’ve been intentionally injured by opponents?  Possibly.  But not many cases will carry with them evidence of a bounty system aimed at rewarding, and thus enticing, efforts to knock opposing players out of a game.

It’s safe to say that, as to Williams’ past use of a bounty system, it’s unlikely that other lawsuits will be filed.  More than two years have passed since the bounty program was exposed; in most American jurisdictions, the statute of limitations for injury cases stands at two years.

For anyone injured by a Gregg Williams bounty program, the clock began to tick no later than two years after the NFL disclosed that Williams had a bounty program in New Orleans, triggering a flurry of reports that Williams used a similar system in other cities, like Washington, Jacksonville, and Buffalo.

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Grocery list: Milk, bread, swap cars with Josh Gordon

SwapMeetSign

It’s true: Professional athletes are just like you and me.

The NBA rookie whose car was being driven by Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon when he got a DWI last weekend said the two met and swapped vehicles at a grocery store.

“Me and Josh Gordon met at the Fresh Market in Chapel Hill,” Charlotte Hornets first-rounder P.J. Hairston said, via Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “I walked there to get food and happened to run in to him in there.

“I am a football fan so I knew who he was. Right away, we started talking about football, basketball and we walked outside. He saw my car and asked me ‘What are you doing?’ He asked if I minded if we switched cars and we exchanged numbers and he was going to drive my car that night and bring it back to me.

I said OK and we switched cars. The rest of that is history.”

Of course.

So with that, Hairston drove off in Gordon’s Mercedes, Gordon drove off in Hairston’s Escalade, then got stopped for drunk driving and was bailed out by convicted felon Hadyn “Fats” Thomas, who just so happened to have rented a car to Hairston the night Hairston was arrested with a gun and marijuana during his college days at North Carolina.

It makes sense that Hairston tries to distance himself from Gordon, as he’s trying to overcome a reputation for trouble and begin his own career. Of course, Hairston was also accused of punching a high school kid during a pickup game this weekend, so it’s hard to tell who the bad influence was.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get Florio’s car back to him, as soon as I can retrieve the Kiss “Destroyer” 8-track that’s jammed in the tape deck again.
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Taking a look at the teams that would, could, should be interested in Andre Johnson

Andre Johnson AP

When reports link a player to multiple unnamed teams, there’s a good chance there aren’t as many unnamed teams as reported.  Or any.

But let’s suspend disbelief for now and assume at least four NFL franchise would be interested in giving up one or more draft picks for a 33-year-old receiver due to make $10 million this year and $11.5 million in 2015.  Who would, could, should those teams be?

The Browns.

Johnson knows the Kyle Shanahan offense, and the Browns will lack a true No. 1 wideout, if/when (when) Josh Gordon receives his latest suspension.  They also have a first-round pick to spare in 2015, thanks to the Sammy Watkins trade.  (Whether Johnson is worth a first-round pick in 2015 is a different issue, on par with whether he’s worth $20.5 million over the next two years.)

The Ravens.

Baltimore has plenty of pass-catchers, but they don’t seem to be thrilled with the group as a whole.  With former Texans coach Gary Kubiak now coordinating the Baltimore offense, Kubiak could be making the case for making the move.  But they’d probably have to be willing to ship someone like Torrey Smith to Houston in order to get Johnson — and that probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

The Falcons.

How about a straight-up trade of Andre Johnson for Roddy White?  While it’s debatable whether White and Julio Jones provide the best one-two punch at receiver in the NFL, Johnson and Jones would definitely push the Falcons to the top of the league.  The possibility has to at least be tempting for G.M. Thomas Dimitroff, who seems to be trying to strike the right balance between the goal of building for the long haul with the importance of trying to win now.

The Patriots.

They definitely need a clear-cut No. 1 receiver.  And before anyone says it would be out of character for the Patriots to make a move for Johnson, would it really be?  They’ve traded in past years for guys like Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, and Albert Haynesworth.  The question would be whether the Pats can do a deal that they believe to be a good deal for the Patriots.  If the trade package includes quarterback Ryan Mallett, who will undoubtedly leave via free agency in 2015, it could be a win for everyone.

The Panthers.

They clearly need a good pass-catcher.  But it wouldn’t be easy to muster the cap space.

The Chargers.

Pairing Johnson with Keenan Allen would give Philip Rivers the kind of weapons he needs to get the most out of the back nine of his NFL career.

The Chiefs.

We’ve previously heard they’d be interested in trading for Johnson, but the price would have to be right.  Maybe they’d be willing to ship Dwayne Bowe to Houston, but the cap consequences could be untenable.

The Rams.

They’ve invested plenty of draft picks in recent years to the receiver position.  Why not devote a couple of future selection for a guy who would help get the most out of quarterback Sam Bradford?  With Johnson and Tavon Austin and a smattering of players that inevitably has to include a guy or two who will step up (Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey, etc.), the Rams could be ready to make a serious run at the top of the division — especially with a defense that is on the verge of being one of the best in the league.

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Mark Tauscher purchases interest in Madison newspaper

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Well, here’s a bit of news sure to warm the hearts of newspaper lovers and Packers fans alike.

Via the Wisconsin State Journal, former Packers offensive tackle Mark Tauscher has purchased an interest in the Isthmus, a weekly newspaper published in Madison, Wisconsin.

“We hope our commitment to independent journalism and investigative reporting, and our love of all things Madison, will be clear as Isthmus begins this new chapter,” wrote Jeff Haupt, another new owner of the Isthmus, in the publication’s latest issue.

The 37-year-old Tauscher grew up in Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and played 11 seasons in Green Bay, starting 132 games.

Tauscher’s late father, Dennis, was a newspaper reporter in Wisconsin.

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NFL surely dreads prospect of Irsay testifying

Irsay Getty Images

The news that Colts owner Jim Irsay has been ordered to testify in a child-custody proceeding didn’t register on a national-radar screen currently consisting of only one large blip:  LeBron James.  The development involving Irsay, however, undoubtedly resulted in a stream of four-letter words at the league office.

Rich and/or powerful guys don’t like to submit to the authority of a court of law.  In part, they don’t like to do it because they don’t like to submit to any authority.  They also don’t like to do it because, even when submitting to authority, they often can’t or won’t truly submit to authority, resisting that authority with every response to every question.

From the fictional realm, think Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.  From a more timely, real-word perspective, think Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

It usually doesn’t go well when a rich, powerful guy with a history of surrounding himself by sycophants has to answer questions that he doesn’t want to answer and that he believes he shouldn’t have to answer.  Men in that position all too often lack the self-awareness to know when they are saying something really, really stupid or really, really unbelievable or really, really harmful to their broader image and/or the interests of the league they represent.

Forced, sworn testimony would potentially not go well for any owner in any major-league sport.  For Irsay particularly, a Pandora’s box of possibly bad outcomes for him personally and the league generally looms.  The challenge for the league office will be to ensure that Irsay receives appropriate and thorough preparation on how to handle the compulsory Q&A.

So enjoy the LeBron situation while you can.  Eventually, the biggest news in the NFL — and potentially in all of sports — could be the things Jim Irsay says on a witness stand and/or the manner in which he says them.

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Report: Andre Johnson wants a trade, four teams interested

Andre Johnson AP

Andre Johnson has already said he’s not sure he’ll show up for Texans training camp.

But what he really wants is to show up for someone else’s.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Johnson has told the Texans he wants to play elsewhere, and four teams are interested in making a move.

But to this point, the Texans haven’t budged, on money or location.

Johnson has already lost $1 million for not showing up this offseason, and he apparently asked the team for a chance to earn it back this year. As you might imagine, they said no.

For a guy about to turn 33, Johnson still has plenty to offer, but his contract makes a move tougher.

For one, the Texans would have to give in to what amounts to an offseason holdout. Plus, he’s due to make $10 million this year, meaning anyone who would trade for him would have to work out a new deal.

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