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Tim Ryan: “I love Calvin Johnson”

Calvin Johnson AP

On Sunday, I weighed in on why I disagree with Tim Ryan, the former Bears defensive tackle and current FOX analyst who was the only All-Pro voter who didn’t cast a vote for Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. On Monday, Ryan called me and gave me his explanation.

Even though I criticized his vote, Ryan was perfectly pleasant and cordial in our conversation, and he said that his vote shouldn’t be construed as a knock on Johnson.

“I love Calvin Johnson. I’ve got tremendous respect for him. If I had known it was going to create such a stir I may have just voted for him. I don’t know,” Ryan said.

Still, Ryan said that Bears receiver Brandon Marshall and Bengals receiver A.J. Green, both of whom scored 11 touchdowns to Johnson’s five, were strong candidates and worthy of their spots on his All-Pro ballot. Ryan argued that as impressive as Johnson’s NFL record 1,964 receiving yards were, his lack of touchdowns were a mark against him.

“Breaking the Jerry Rice yardage record? Awesome. Jerry had 15 touchdowns that year,” Ryan said. “If I would have just done it based on numbers because he broke the record, I would have given it to Calvin. But when I was doing it — and maybe I don’t know the criterea — my feeling was, the two guys [Marshall and Green] had twice as many touchdowns with less targets.”

Ryan worked the Lions’ games against the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals in 2012, and those were not among Johnson’s best games. Ryan allowed that seeing those games may have made him discount Johnson, and he also said he was particularly impressed with Marshall when working the Seahawks-Bears game, in which Marshall had 10 catches for 165 yards, including a 56-yard catch to set up a game-tying field goal at the end of the fourth quarter.

“I also did the Bears-Seattle game where Brandon Marshall was all they had and they still got him the ball and he was able to make it happen,” Ryan said.

In the end, Ryan doesn’t want his vote to suggest that he doesn’t view Johnson as one of the NFL’s elite receivers.

“Calvin Johnson’s a great player,” Ryan said.

But in Ryan’s view, he’s a great player who was the NFL’s third-best wide receiver in 2012.

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No settlement in Brady case, Berman likely to rule Tuesday or Wednesday

Tom Brady AP

The settlement talks in the Tom Brady case haven’t led to a resolution, which means the decision on Brady’s four-game suspension will rest with Judge Richard Berman.

“We did not reach a settlement. The parties tried quite hard I think,” Berman said, via Stephen Brown of the New York Daily News. “In some case [a settlement] doesn’t happen. This is one of those cases.”

According to multiple reports from the Manhattan courthouse where the talks were being held, Berman said that his ruling is likely to come on Tuesday or Wednesday. The two sides had asked Berman to rule by September 4, less than a week before the Patriots will kick off their regular season against the Steelers.

Berman’s eventual ruling could uphold the suspension (while potentially allowing Brady to play pending appeal), wipe it out (which the NFL could appeal) or send the whole thing back for another appeal heard by someone other than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

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Bills release 11 players in addition to Fred Jackson

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Running back Fred Jackson’s release is the headline for the Bills ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to cut rosters to 75 players, but there are plenty of other guys out of work in Buffalo as well.

The Bills have dropped 11 other players from the roster, leaving them with 77 players and two more moves to make to reach Tuesday’s limit.

Among the group is cornerback Ross Cockrell, who was a fourth-round pick by the team last year. He had one tackle in seven appearances with the team as a rookie.

The Bills also released defensive end Michael Buchanan, defensive tackle Justin Hamilton, linebacker Andrew Hudson, tackle Terren Jones, cornerback Ellis Lankster, safety Kenny Ladler, safety Wes Miller, guard D.J. Morrell, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Ricky Seale.

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Broncos send Chris Clark to Texans for 2016 pick

Chris Clark AP

The two teams that have hired Gary Kubiak as a head coach have come together on a trade that will send tackle Chris Clark to Houston.

The Denver Post reports that the Broncos will get a 2016 seventh-round pick in return for Clark. The deal will not be official until Clark passes a physical with the Texans.

Clark has spent the last five years with the Broncos and started most of the 2013 season on the left side after Denver lost Ryan Clady to a foot injury. Clady is out again this year after tearing his ACL, but Ty Sambrailo and Ryan Harris have the starting jobs with 2014 third-rounder Michael Schofield set for swing tackle duties.

Clark gives the Texans some insurance in the event Duane Brown’s hand injury keeps him out into the regular season. The Texans started undrafted rookie Kendall Lamm at left tackle in Sunday’s game against the Saints. Clark also has played on the right side, so he’ll give Houston an experienced option behind Derek Newton as well.

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Kirk Cousins is indeed the Week One starter

Kirk Cousins AP

If the goal for the Washington football organization is to confuse anyone and everyone possible, mission accomplished.

There’s currently one less area of confusion. Per multiple sources, and confirming multiple reports, quarterback Kirk Cousins will start in Week One against Miami.

“He’s the head coach and it’s his call,” one source said. “All are on board with the process and support the coach.”

That’s consistent with our report from last night that there’s no schism between the coaching staff/front office and owner Daniel Snyder. The owner is letting the football people manage the football team, with G.M. Scot McCloughan deciding who is on the roster and coach Jay Gruden deciding who plays and who doesn’t.

Griffin remains cleared to practice but not play. The goal as of last night was to give Griffin until next week to re-take the concussion test, in the hopes that he’ll pass it. Gruden apparently wasn’t comfortable proceeding under the assumption that Griffin will be cleared in time for the game. That approach would have set the stage for another potential Griffin-is-cleared-no-he’s-not episode.

The fact that Cousins is getting the start may not be cause for celebrating and/or fantasy-football squatter’s rights. He showed promise against the Jaguars and Eagles last year before a Thursday night four-pick disaster against the Giants and an eventual benching for Colt McCoy.

Perhaps the goal this year is to throw Cousins to the wolves in Week One and Week Two (Dolphins and Rams) before putting Griffin on the field against the Giants, whose defense isn’t what it used to be.

Also, by then there’s a good chance fans will actually be clamoring for Griffin. Or maybe McCoy. Again.

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Broncos get roster down to 79, cut Zac Dysert and Reggie Walker

Denver Broncos v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Broncos cut quarterback Zac Dysert and veteran linebacker Reggie Walker among a flurry of cuts, as they pared their roster to 79 in advance of tomorrow’s deadline.

They also placed tight end Jeff Heuerman, this year’s third-round pick, on injured reserve.

The Broncos waived cornerback Tevrin Brandon, guard Andre Davis, tight end Joe Don Duncan, punter Spencer Lanning, safety Ross Madison, tight end Jake Murphy, running back Jeremy Stewart and linebacker Chase Vaughn.

Walker was signed in March in free agency, but fell behind some younger players. Lanning was claimed off waivers earlier this month but wasn’t going to unseat Britton Colquitt.

Dysert lost the third quarterback job (if the Broncos keep three) to rookie Trevor Siemian.

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Bills dump veteran RB Fred Jackson

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Bills have cut veteran running back Fred Jackson, making Jackson the most notable name of the early cuts leaguewide.

Jackson, 34, has amassed over 1,000 total yards in five of the last six seasons. He started nine games and played in 14 last season.

He was due to make $2.35 million this season.

The move indicates the Bills believe LeSean McCoy, who’s been out the last two weeks, will be ready for the team’s Sept. 13 season opener. It also gives Jackson, who’s played his entire career in Buffalo, the chance to catch on with another team as a free agent. With many teams across the league dealing with injuries at the running back or just looking to bolster their backfields, Jackson likely won’t be unemployed for long.

In a team statement, Bills general manager Doug Whaley said Jackson had “an incredible career” in Buffalo and thanked Jackson for his “hard work, dedication and leadership.”

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Jaguars trade kicker Josh Scobee to the Steelers

Josh Scobee AP

The Steelers quest to find a healthy kicker has le them to trade for one.

According to Jeff Prosser of 1010XL in Jacksonville, Scobee is already en route to the Steelers.

Scobee was the longest-tenured Jaguars player, having worked for them since 2004, when he was chosen in the fifth round. They’re now handing the job to rookie Jason Myers.

The Steelers lost Shaun Suisham to a torn ACL in the preseason opener, and replacement Garrett Hartley suffered a hamstring injury Saturday that looked like it was going to keep him out of the regular season opener.

Now the Steelers have a reliable veteran in the last year of his contract, giving them some stability at the position going into the season.

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Mara shows up for Brady hearing

John Mara AP

The NFL didn’t want him to do it. And he didn’t want to do it. But Giants co-owner John Mara has arrived at the federal courthouse in Manhattan for Monday’s latest hearing in the litigation arising from Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Judge Richard M. Berman requested Mara to be present, and so Mara is present.

“Requested” is probably putting it mildly. The case filed by the league in Judge Berman’s court listed only one party as the plaintiff: The National Football League Management Council. Mara, not Commissioner Roger Goodell, is the chairman of the NFL Management Council. So Judge Berman has every right to not request but to demand that Mara attend.

The real question is whether other owners will be involved, in person or by phone. The entire NFL Management Council Executive Committee routinely accompanied Goodell for labor negotiations in 2011; why not do the same now?

And spare me the “this is about the Commissioner’s powers” nonsense. Currently, the case is about whether the specific exercise of power by the Commissioner on behalf of the NFL will be upheld or overturned in court. It’s not longer a Commissioner issue. It’s an NFL issue.

Specifically, it’s an NFL Management Council issue. Which is why Mara has been “requested” to attend.

The only question remaining is whether Mara’s presence will soften the league’s position. If, as some believe, Mara is one of the owners pushing Goodell to stand firm, and if Judge Berman can successfully persuade Mara directly — not through messengers or emissaries — on the potential consequences of not settling, Mara may soften and, in turn, the NFL may soften.

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Jeris Pendleton among first round of Colts cuts

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The Colts have confirmed the release of guard Donald Thomas along with 13 other moves that leave the team with 76 players.

Among the most recognizable of the names that have been dropped from the roster is defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton. Pendleton spent the last two seasons with the team, although a knee injury left him on injured reserve for all of the 2014 season. The Colts brought him back on June 30, but his second stint in Indianapolis has come to an end.

The Colts also placed cornerback Tevin Mitchel on injured reserve. Mitchel was a sixth-round pick by the Redskins this year, but was waived after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder. The Colts claimed him and will wait until next year to see if he can contribute to the defense.

Guard Harland Gunn, linebacker Nicklas Haag, linebacker Zack Hodges, tackle Tyler Hoover, wide receiver Ezell Ruffin, linebacker Justin Shirk, tight end Justin Sinz, running back Abou Toure, center Brandon Vitabile, wide receiver Ryan Lankford and cornerback Donald Celiscar rounded out the cuts for the Colts.

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Pettine: Thursday’s game isn’t “make or break” for Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor AP

Terrelle Pryor wasn’t in the lineup for the Browns on Saturday as the team held him out a few days after he returned to practice after healing from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first two preseason contests.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said a little more than a week ago that the window for Pryor making the team “narrows every day that he’s not out there.” The message was a bit different late last week with Pettine saying that the Browns know Pryor’s move to wide receiver makes him a project that requires patience if it is going to work out. As a result, the coach won’t say Pryor has to play this week to make the team.

“I don’t want to say make or break,” Pettine said, via “I’m not going to deal with an absolute, saying he has to play, but we want to see him out there. I can’t say today that he definitely will, but he should be. He was close to being able to go, and give it another week, we’re hopeful he’ll be out there and we’ll be able to see him.”

Pryor would likely draw attention from other teams if the Browns cut him loose, although that alone isn’t reason enough to keep him on the roster. The best argument for that is the dearth of playmakers on the Browns offense and the glimpses of that potential that Pryor has shown in his too-brief appearances at practice for the Browns to this point in his tenure with the team. Things may not play out that way, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason to change course if the Browns were already prepared to be patient with Pryor’s development.

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Wide receiver Denarius Moore among Bengals early cuts

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Once upon a time, Denarius Moore was a good receiving prospect.

But not even reuniting him with the coach who led him to his best work helped him keep a job this year.

The Bengals just announced that Moore was among their cuts today in advance of tomorrow’s deadline to get to 75.

Moore averaged 18.7 yards per catch in 2011 as a rookie in Oakland under Hue Jackson, so there was a reasonable hope he might rekindle that magic under the Bengals offensive coordinator now. But he didn’t do nearly enough in the preseason (one catch in three games) to make it a worthwhile project for the Bengals to pursue.

The Bengals also waived defensive tackle Kwame Geathers, linebacker Nico Johnson, defensive end Sam Montgomery, offensive lineman Chris Jasperse, wide receiver Desmond Lawrence and tight end John Peters.

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Report: Martavis Bryant’s suspension didn’t surprise Steelers

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Martavis Bryant’s emergence last season helped the Steelers become the league’s most productive offense, and over the last month Bryant has looked like he’s going to be a star.

But last week’s news that Bryant will start the 2015 season by serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy was not a surprise to the Steelers. Per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette, the Steelers knew of Bryant’s failed drug tests as far back as last spring.

The four-game suspension for Bryant suggests he’s been caught breaking the league’s policy more than once. If he fails another test, he’ll be suspended for 10 games.

As a bit of Bryant insurance, the Steelers took a big receiver in the third round of last spring’s draft, Sammie Coates, and the plan was for Coates to be brought along slowly the way Bryant was last year. Per Dulac, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believes Coates did not come to camp in peak condition.

Bryant was inactive for the first six games last year before catching eight touchdown passes and averaging 21.2 yards per reception. The four-game suspension will cost him games against the Patriots, 49ers, Rams and Ravens.

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Falcons shrink roster to 76 players

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Falcons clipped the wings of 13 players and placed tackle Lamar Holmes on the regular season PUP list to get their roster to 76 players ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for the first round of cuts this summer.

Holmes broke his foot this offseason and will be ineligible to rejoin the team for practices or games for the first six weeks of the regular season. The injury kept Holmes from getting fully immersed in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which may limit his chances to contribute once he’s healthy.

The Falcons also parted ways with veteran linebacker Terrell Manning and journeyman tight end Mickey Shuler on Sunday.

The rest of the cuts were linebacker Boris Anyama, wide receiver Marquez Clark, running back Michael Ford, wide receiver John Harris, defensive tackle Warren Herring, nose tackle Derrick Hopkins, tackle Matt Huffer, cornerback Michael Lee, guard Eric Lefeld, defensive end Sam Meredith and center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke.

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Lovie Smith: Offensive line play “unacceptable”

Desmond Bryant, Jameis Winston AP

The Buccaneers hope they have their quarterback for years to come in Jameis Winston and now they need to work on finding offensive linemen who can do more than help him up after taking a hit from an opposing defensive player.

Winston has been sacked seven times in three preseason games, which is more than any other quarterback in the league, and he was dropped four times by the Browns on Saturday night. Tampa’s starting a pair of rookies and third-round right guard Ali Marpet struggled mightily against Cleveland. On Sunday, coach Lovie Smith said he’s seen progress from the group but the overall body of work leaves much to be desired.

“We had some bad plays last night, yes, along our offensive line,” Smith said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s like that most games, though. You have some plays you’d like to have back. Good plays on their part. Looking at the overall picture, just like before when we played a lot better, you take everything in, which we will do. But that play last night, for the most part, was unacceptable for us, and we’ll fix it.”

They’ll have to because their current pace of sacks allowed would leave Winston in David Carr territory come the end of the regular season. The pounding Carr took in his rookie season with the Texans put him on the path to being a disappointment, which held the franchise back and serves as a warning for the Bucs as they ready their own first overall pick for his first NFL year.

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Browns begin the process of getting to 75 with some vet cuts

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Browns began the process of getting to the 75-man roster limit by tomorrow’s deadline, cutting several veterans in the process.

The team announced they had cut linebackers Everette Brown and Moise Fokou, running back Jalen Parmele and cornerback Aaron Ross.

None of those names are necessarily surprises, though Fokou did start 12 games for the Titans last year before he was cut late in the year, picking up with the Saints to close the season.

The Browns also waived tight end Anthony Ezeakunne and wide receiver Shane Wynn.

Those moves get the Browns down to 84, meaning there are nine more moves to be made by tomorrow afternoon.

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