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Justin Smith will be pulled if he isn’t productive

Justin Smith AP

In the aftermath of last Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III both said part of the reason Griffin wasn’t pulled despite being at less than 100 percent was because the team felt he was still their best option at quarterback.

We don’t know what 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would do with Griffin, but he said Tuesday that defensive lineman Justin Smith won’t be extended the same courtesy in this weekend’s game agains the Packers. Fangio said that he would rather have another player at 100 percent than stick with Smith if he is limited by his partially torn left triceps.

“If, from point of view, he’s not playing up to his standard or close to it, we’ll put the next guy in,” Fangio said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s been my experience that someone at 80 percent is not as good as the next guy at 100 percent.”

Ricky Jean Francois started in place of Smith in the final two weeks of the regular season and would presumably be the next guy if Fangio decides that Smith’s play isn’t up to par.

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Jerry Jones points out that Peterson initiated the call

Jones Getty Images

While the initial comments of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones regarding his June conversation with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson didn’t address many/any relevant specifics of the call, Jones later revisited the subject — and his defense to any potential tampering investigation became crystal clear.

“I understand the tampering thing, and you have to be an initiator,” Jones said, via Drew Davison of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

While Jones definitely would be facing a serious problem under the tampering policy if he’d been the one to call Peterson, the policy specifically addresses the situation in which a player contacts another team and expresses interest in eventually playing for that team.

Here’s the precise language: “If a club is contacted by a player (or his representative) who is under contract to or whose negotiating rights are held by another club, and such player had not been given permission to deal with other clubs, or such player is not in a permissible negotiating period under the terms of an operative collective bargaining agreement, then the contacted club is prohibited from talking or otherwise dealing with the player or his representative, and the contacted club must immediately report such contact to the owner or operating head of the club which holds the player’s rights.”

Here’s what it means in English: Jerry Jones should have called Zygi Wilf as soon as the call with Peterson ended. If, as it appears, Jones didn’t do that, he has violated the tampering policy.

So what will the NFL do about it? Based on past precedent in this and other contexts, the simple answer is whatever it wants.

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Adrian Peterson would give up all the yards for a Super Bowl

Adrian Peterson AP

Well, this should take care of any of the concerns about Adrian Peterson wanting to go to Dallas.

The Vikings running back and subject of tampering questions has said his priority isn’t individual accomplishments (i.e. glitz and glamour), but a Super Bowl ring.

I’d give up everything,” Peterson told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “MVP, 2,000 yards in a season, Rookie of the Year. Every accomplishment I’ve ever had, I’d trade for a Super Bowl. Hands down. And that Super Bowl season, even if I couldn’t get 1,000 yards, if I could win a Super Bowl, I would trade it.”

Other than losing to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, he hasn’t come close to that in Minnesota, even as the big numbers piled up.

And he admitted in an interview — which apparently happened before the tampering usse came up — that it was wearing on him, since his teams were 54-57-1 in the regular season.

“It’s been frustrating,” Peterson said. “Especially when you put in a lot of work and think about two-a-days. You think about [training] camp and all the time you invest into that ultimate goal, and then when you don’t even touch the playoffs or you’re out in the first week, it’s tough.

“That’s hard on anyone. So it’s been tough, but that’s why we made the switches. That’s why we brought in guys to help change that.”

He’s since said he wanted to retire a Viking, though that might not get him any closer to his goal than retiring a Cowboy would.

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Kellen Moore stakes a claim for the Lions’ backup QB job

kellenmoore AP

Kellen Moore has always seemed like the classic case of a great college player who couldn’t cut it in the NFL: Although he was a two-time All-American at Boise State, he’s small and he doesn’t have a great arm and he isn’t a great athlete, and he went undrafted in 2012. He signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent but has been buried at No. 3 on the depth chart for two years and has never played in a regular-season game.

But Moore has managed to stick around in Detroit, and this preseason he’s making a strong case that he at least deserves to move up to No. 2 on the depth chart. In Thursday night’s preseason finale, Moore completed 17 of 28 passes for 172 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall, Moore completed 68.6 percent of his passes in the preseason, never threw an interception and finished with a passer rating of 108.4. Coach Jim Caldwell liked what he saw.

He’s been pretty consistent the entire time,” Caldwell said of Moore. “He has composure, he has moxie, he’s got a good touch on the ball, he’s got a good feel for things and I thought he performed well.”

Moore and another young Lion, receiver Corey Fuller, connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass — and disagreed afterward about who deserved credit for it, with both saying it was the other’s big play.

That’s all on Corey,” Moore said. “Awesome route, a really good job. I threw a crappy ball, and he made a good catch.”

Fuller disagreed: “Kellen needled the ball right through the defense, and all I had to do was get right underneath. I give it all to Kellen.”

All that humility is nice, but what are Moore’s chances of showing that he deserves the Lions’ No. 2 quarterback job? Probably not great. Throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason, Dan Orlovsky has been ahead of Moore on the depth chart. Moore has been better than Orlovsky in the preseason, but Caldwell has always liked Orlovsky, going back to their time together in Indianapolis, when Orlovsky saved Caldwell from the ignominy of having an 0-16 season on his record by playing well in two-late season victories after the Colts’ other two quarterbacks, Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins, had lost all the games they started.

The question for Moore is probably less whether he can earn the No. 2 job in Detroit than whether he played well enough to force the Lions to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. And it would seem that he did: It would be tough to justify cutting Moore at this point.

And it’s worth revisiting whether Moore may have better pro potential than it appeared when he was at Boise State. Moore went an amazing 50-3 as a college starter, with two of the losses coming by one point and the third coming on a field goal in overtime. At the time, however, Moore was viewed more as the perfect fit for Boise’s offense than a great quarterback in his own right. Boise has steadily declined since Moore’s departure and has lost six of its last 14 games, including a 35-13 beatdown at the hands of Ole Miss last night. Moore’s qualities as a quarterback are demonstrated by Boise’s struggles in his absence. And by his play on the field over the last four weeks, even if it’s only the preseason.

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Conflicting reports regarding Bills offers

BonJovi Reuters

Eventually, a winning bidder will emerge for the Bills, with a check that precisely identifies the exact dollars, down to the 00/100.  For now, it’s unclear how much that amount will be.  Especially since the reports are conflicting regarding the amounts that have been offered.

Last week, the Buffalo News reported that Sabres owner Terry Pegula bid $890 million for the team, with a bid of $820 million from Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group and $809 million (not $1 billion, all cash) from Donald Trump.  Those same numbers have since been reported by Forbes.

Now, John Kryk of the Toronto Sun reports with “certainty” that Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group bid between $1 billion and $1.1 billion for the team.  And Kryk then makes the point that the other bids (specifically, Pegula’s) are much higher, given that Kryk agrees with reports that the Bon Jovi bid hasn’t been strong enough.

Which leads back to the initial report from the New York Post that Pegula bid more than $1 billion for the team.

So why would someone be leaking numbers south of $900 million?  Kryk theorizes that Pegula perhaps wants potential competitors not named Bon Jovi or Trump to believe the target is lower than it is, so that when the time comes (and it’s coming soon) to make binding bids, they’ll come in far too low.

Regardless, the final price seems destined to be well below the $2 billion that Steve Ballmer has paid for the L.A. Clippers.  That’s probably a result of apparent provisions in Ralph Wilson’s will and trust that require the team to stay in Buffalo.  Which means that Wilson likely sacrificed hundreds of millions for his family in order to enhance the likelihood that the team will never leave the only place it ever has called home.

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Jimmy Garoppolo on Thursday night’s start: It could have gone better

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

The Patriots gave second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo the start at quarterback on Thursday night against the Giants in a move that some saw as an extended audition for the No. 2 job behind Tom Brady.

Garoppolo faced the Giants starting defense with a team of backups around him, which likely contributed to a shaky start that saw him throw one interception that was wiped out by a Giants penalty and another that stayed on the board. Garoppolo also showed some high points, including a deep ball that Aaron Dobson snagged for a touchdown, on the way to going 22-of-42 for 284 yards.

“You know, it could have gone better,” Garoppolo said, via WEEI.com. “There was definitely some things that, you know, we messed up on, fixable things and things to learn from when you watch the film. I’m not sure. I don’t know. It’s one of the things that we’ll see on the film, whatever it was, that we weren€’t clicking like we should€’ve been. We’€’ll fix it.”

Bill Belichick called it a “good experience” for the rookie while pointing out that he “obviously” has a long way to go as a quarterback, which leads us to the questions of whether Garoppolo or Ryan Mallett will be the backup to start the season and whether Mallett will remain in New England if Garoppolo beat him out. Belichick offered no hint beyond saying that Mallett being the backup last year holds no bearing on the decision this year so we’ll have to wait until Saturday for something more concrete.

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Cody Parkey makes challenge for Eagles’ kicking job

Cody Parkey AP

The preseason finale couldn’t have gone much better for Eagles rookie placekicker Cody Parkey, which could leave Philadelphia with a decision to make.

Parkey, whom the Eagles acquired from Indianapolis last week, connected on field goals of 53 and 54 yards in Thursday’s exhibition win vs. the Jets. He also forced two touchbacks in four kickoffs.

Parkey is challenging fourth-year incumbent Alex Henery for the Eagles’ kicking job. Henery was 1-of-3 on field goals in the exhibition season, and his accuracy on longer kicks has been a discussion point this summer.

With the Eagles unlikely to keep both kickers, the question now is whether Parkey has done enough in a little more than a week’s time to knock off the established Henery.

“The length of the evaluation is what it is,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Thursday night, according to a transcript from the club. ” . . . We have to do it just based upon what it is.  We can’t call and ask for another game, we have to do it based on the information that we have.”

The other intriguing storyline is whether the runner-up in the Eagles’ kicker competition lands a job elsewhere. If nothing else, Parkey showed some NFL-caliber leg strength and accuracy on Thursday night, which wouldn’t hurt his case with other clubs should it come to that.

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Eli Manning on offense: We got out healthy, that’s the most important thing

New England Patriots v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants offense failed to impress once again on Thursday night as the starters mustered one first down amid the dropped passes, miscommunication and poor throws that were far too prevalent over the course of the preseason.

Quarterback Eli Manning hasn’t bought into the doom and gloom about the offense at any point this summer and his reaction wasn’t any different after Thursday’s 1-for-4, zero yard outing. Manning found silver linings wherever he could find them, including the old standby about the week of practice offering no hint of the struggles that were to come.

“Well, I thought we had a good week of practice,” Manning said, via NJ.com. “We didn’t get much going [Thursday night], but we’re getting ready for Detroit, that first game. We got the starters out healthy so that’s always the most important thing. We have to get ready for Detroit on Monday night. It should be fun.”

The Giants have held fast to a confident line about the offense being where it needs to be for the regular season, something that can be seen in Manning’s relative nonchalance about the struggles. They’ve got over a week to make sure that’s the case or the game against the Lions won’t be as much fun as Manning is predicting.

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Martavis Bryant has an AC sprain in shoulder

Martavis Bryant AP

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger thinks wide receiver Martavis Bryant can have a bright future as part of the team’s offense, but the team may have to decide how much he’ll be able to do in the present before setting their 53-man roster this weekend.

The fourth-round pick isn’t going to be cut, but he could be headed to injured reserve with the designation to return after suffering a shoulder injury in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Panthers. Bryant was hurt after making a catch on a pass from Landry Jones and did not return to the game.

After the contest, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that Bryant had suffered an AC sprain in his right shoulder. Tomlin added that the significance of the injury was unknown, but it might be tough to keep him on the active roster if it is a multi-week injury to a player who wasn’t expected to play an outsize role on the offense in the immediate future.

Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore have roster spots locked down, leaving Justin Brown, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Derek Moye to join Bryant as aspirants for spots lower on the depth chart.

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Jim Harbaugh wants to keep three QBs, but that’s not his call

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Even though the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh have tabled contract talks for now — which he called “refreshing” — it’s still interesting to watch the push-pull of the organization from afar.

So while roster spots for backup quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson might not be headline news, getting both of them would seem to be a win for Harbaugh.

I’d really like to,” Harbaugh said of keeping three, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “We’ve done that most of the time.”

Of course, General Manager Trent Baalke has the final say over the 53-man roster, and the 49ers might not be able to keep a third quarterback with some other spots up in the air.

They’ve kept three in the past, but finished last year with just two, so it’s not clear cut.

They’ve sunk $2 million in guaranteed money into Blaine Gabbert, so they’re probably stuck with him. Gabbert left last night’s game with a shoulder injury, but returned to throw a touchdown. He had X-rays, which were negative.

But Johnson has had an impressive camp, and was 14-of-17 for 135 yards and three touchdowns last night. Johnson played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, so he’s a bit of a pet project.

Harbaugh wouldn’t answer a question on which was the backup, but was adamant that Johnson deserved a roster spot.

“I’ve been convinced of that for a while,” Harbaugh said.

If he can convince Baalke of that this weekend, it could be construed as a positive sign for his own future there, as well.

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Two Redskins go down with knee injuries on Thursday night

Washington Redskins v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Two players on the roster bubble in Washington may have knee injuries suffered on Thursday bring an end their chances of playing for the team in 2014.

Nose tackle Chris Neild and inside linebacker Akeem Jordan were both forced out of the game against the Buccaneers and the early word from coach Jay Gruden didn’t sound good for either player. Gruden said, via the Washington Times, Neild’s injury “looks like an ACL tear” and Jordan would be evaluated for the same injury after suffering what was initially diagnosed as an MCL sprain.

Both veterans were playing on Thursday night because they had failed to lock down a roster spot heading into the final preseason game. Even if the initial diagnosis is more dire than the actual extent of the injury, any missed time is going to work against their chances of sticking on the 53-man roster after Saturday’s cuts.

On the defensive line, that would seem to make Clifton Geathers staying with the team a likelier option while Jordan’s injury should benefit Will Compton’s bid to make the team this year.

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Friday morning one-liners

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bills offense couldn’t find the end zone in the preseason finale.

DT Garrison Smith made a strong final impression on the Dolphins.

Patriots WR Aaron Dobson caught a touchdown in his first preseason action of the year.

If WR Stephen Hill needed a strong game to make the Jets, he’ll have a hard time surviving final cuts.

The Ravens went unbeaten in the preseason for the first time since 2009.

RB Jeremy Hill looks ready for a role in the Bengals offense.

Five Browns who helped themselves in the final preseason game.

Longtime Steelers publicist Ed Kiely died at the age of 96.

Texans CB Andre Hal scored for the second time this preseason.

What will the Colts roster look like after final cuts?

Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts says he’s ready to start the regular season.

The Titans kicking competition continued on Thursday night.

Said Broncos DE DeMarcus Ware of returning to Dallas, “It’s just different. When you’re used to going into a stadium for at least five years and play for a team for nine years, you get accustomed to games. For the first time, going into the stadium to play the opposing team, which is the team you played with for so long [is different].”

The Chiefs hope CB Phillip Gaines‘ play against the Packers serves as a learning experience.

Raiders WR Denarius Moore has made a good case for a roster spot.

The Chargers upped CB Jason Verrett’s reps in the preseason finale.

DT Henry Melton didn’t wind up playing for the Cowboys on Thursday.

A calf injury might have sealed WR Mario Manningham’s departure from the Giants.

Eagles RB Chris Polk remained out with a hamstring injury.

S Akeem Davis helped his chances of making the Redskins with his special teams work.

WR Santonio Holmes showed the Bears some positives against the Browns.

Lions QB Kellen Moore played well to close the preseason.

Thursday night was a good one for the Packers backup quarterbacks.

Said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, “I’m especially proud of Christian Ponder because I know there’s been a lot of fans and a lot of people that have really been negative towards him. And the guy’s been nothing but a first-class guy, works hard every single day and went on to perform well tonight.”

Falcons QB T.J. Yates led the team to three touchdowns against the Jaguars.

Four things to like about the Panthers’s final preseason contest.

The Saints haven’t settled on a kicker yet.

Will RB Jeff Demps stick with the Buccaneers?

G Jonathan Cooper and LB Kevin Minter returned from injury for the Cardinals.

Injury avoidance was the focus for the Rams on Thursday.

Josh Johnson threw three touchdowns for the 49ers.

WR Bryan Walters fumbled a punt and caught a touchdown on an uneven night.

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New policy could force more players to choose to stand trial

Judge

With the NFL implementing a sweeping new domestic violence/sexual assault policy that also encompasses “assault” and “battery” generally, a player charged with any of those crimes could face a much more complicated decision when the time comes to accept or reject a plea deal.

Under the new policy, that plea agreement opens the door to a six-game suspension on a first offense, with potential adjustment downward or upward based on factors that, at least for the first few players caught in the gears of the new policy, there will be little or no guidance because there will be little or no precedent.  If/when a player faces a second offense, copping a plea could mean taking a seat for a minimum of a year.

The end result could be more players rejecting plea agreements and taking their cases to trial, since only complete exoneration will avoid a lengthy suspension.  For some players, it could make the suspension moot; they’ll be convicted and go to jail.  For others, the cost of securing an acquittal could approach the net wage loss flowing from a suspension.

Ultimately, it’s a potentially unintended consequence of the new policy, forcing players into a much more precarious game of Door No. 1/Door No. 2.  It’s also a dynamic that judges generally won’t like, since it could become an impediment to the preference to get as many cases resolved as possible, so that the courts aren’t jammed up with trials.

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Michael Sam expects to make the Rams, or some other roster

michaelsam AP

After his final preseason game, Rams defensive end Michael Sam said he expects to survive tomorrow’s cutdown and be on the regular-season roster — or to get picked up by some other team if the Rams cut him.

“I’m very confident,” Sam said, via the Associated Press. “I’m going to sleep really well tonight and I’m very confident I’m going to be on a team, the Rams or any other team in the NFL.”

Sam has played well throughout the preseason and played well again on Thursday night against the Dolphins, leading the team with five solo tackles. Unfortunately for Sam, the Rams are deep on the defensive line and won’t be an easy roster for any seventh-round draft pick to make. Sam is widely viewed as competing with fellow rookie defensive end Ethan Westbrooks for the final roster spot, and Westbrooks had a very good preseason finale, with a sack, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.

If Sam gets cut by the Rams when they get down to the 53-player limit on Saturday, he’ll go on waivers and be available to all 31 other teams. Sam has played well enough in the preseason to make a good case that if he doesn’t last with the Rams, some other team should pick him up, and he’ll become the first openly gay player to make a regular-season roster.

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Pettine says Browns will discuss how to use Manziel next week

Mike Pettine, Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel did some Johnny Manziel things last night for the Browns.

Which is making head coach Mike Pettine think about ways to involve his backup quarterback next week in Pittsburgh.

It’s something we’ll discuss,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I don’t know if that’s necessarily something just because of tonight. We’ll have discussions on how we want to game plan and how we want to use those guys. I think one of the reasons that Brian [Hoyer] and the first team did look better tonight is because we didn’t mix the reps and he got all the reps with the No. 1’s. A big part of tonight was getting those guys playing together and getting that cohesion.”

Hoyer authored a steady 13-play touchdown drive in his one chance to play, but Manziel came through with some highlight plays.

He was 6-of-17 passing for 83 yards and a touchdown, missing a number of open receivers and getting a few others drilled. But he also ran for 55 yards on four carries, and was able to improvise enough to move the offense, getting a pair of field goals and a touchdown in five drives.

“He did [make some big plays],” Pettine said. “I think he had a couple of drops too, so I don’t think his numbers ended up what they maybe should have been. That’s who he is. Somebody said on the sideline, ‘There’s Johnny being Johnny.’ There was one play where it was ‘no, no, no, yes, yes, yes’ — and that was just typical of his playmaking ability.”

That’s what the Browns drafted, and that’s what they need to figure out how to use, for good or for ill.

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Logan Mankins surprised by trade, but knew it was possible

Washington Redskins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Like most of us, Logan Mankins admitted that he was surprised he was traded to the Buccaneers.

But the 32-year-old guard also spent enough time in New England to know that the Patriot Way is built on pragmatism as much as anything else, so swapping a big salary for a fourth-round draft pick and a spare tight end is the way they work.

Once you’ve been around this business long enough, you know anything’s possible,” Mankins said, via Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune. “It’s a business, first and foremost. If you don’t understand that it’s a business, you’re lying to yourself.”

Once the trade was finalized, Mankins called his now-former quarterback Tom Bradywho clearly was not pleased — to say his goodbyes.

“I’ll miss Tom for sure and I had a lot of good friends there,” Mankins said. “It’s a sad day not to be with those guys, but I’ve got new teammates here that I’m looking to develop relationships with.”

He was putting on a brave face for his new team, which is clearly in a different spot in the process as the Patriots are.

“They’ve had a little dry spell here, but I’ve looked at the roster and there’s some guys I’ve got a lot of respect for,” Mankins said.

But the Bucs are also not asking for any of his money back, and are grateful for the leadership and protection he has to offer.

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