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Te’o statement claims he was “victim” of hoax

Manti Te'o AP

The statement issued by Notre Dame regarding the fictitious dead girlfriend of linebacker Manti Te’o paints the Heisman Trophy runner-up as the victim of a hoax.

Not surprisingly, the statement from Te’o makes that same claim.

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” Te’o said in a statement released to PFT and other outlets.  “We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

“In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

His preparation for the draft will include facing plenty of questions from scouts and coaches and General Managers and the media regarding the details of the situation.  There are simply too many accounts of in-person contact between Te’o and his fictitious girlfriend to ignore the possibility that Te’o has staked out the safest harbor in a raging storm.

Indeed, if he were involved in any way in perpetrating the hoax (which the Deadspin story exposing the hoax strongly implies), it would be natural and fairly obvious to now claim that he was the victim.

If we’ve learned anything this week after the Lance Armstrong confession, it’s that everyone is capable of telling some pretty incredible lies, even those who can accomplish some pretty incredible things athletically.

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Marvin Jones won’t be giving Bengals a hometown discount

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 29: Marvin Jones #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals heads up the field during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones is happy to go back to Cincinnati.

But he’s not cutting them a break on price out of loyalty.

Via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jones said he’s fair game for anyone once free agency begins.

“I’d like to be back, but at the same time I am a free agent – no hometown discount, definitely not – but I’m a free agent,” Jones said. “It wouldn’t be good for me not to test the waters a little bit. So it’s just an exciting process.”

Any free agent who doesn’t say that at this point is not making sound business decisions, and Jones could find himself in an enviable position.

He’s 25, coming off a good season, and showing he is well-recovered from the foot injury that cost him the previous season. And with young wideouts in short supply (especially if the Bears keep or tag Alshon Jeffery), he could cash in.

The Bengals would like to keep him, but already have a wide array of targets in the passing game, and might not be willing to overspend to do so.

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Report: Browns lied about Manziel concussion to cover up his drinking

Mike Pettine, Johnny Manziel AP

In a report on the league’s own network, the Browns have been accused of lying about Johnny Manziel having a concussion in an effort to cover up that the real problem with Manziel was showing up to work drunk.

“Johnny Manziel, going into what would have been a start late in the season, showed up drunk at practice on a Wednesday. The Browns lied and said he was in the concussion protocol. Let me repeat that: The Browns lied, to try to protect, and I would argue enable, this irresponsible and very troubled young man,” Mike Silver said on the air on NFL Network.

As PFT pointed out at the time, there’s always been something very fishy about Manziel’s Week 17 concussion diagnosis. On Monday of the last week of the season, then-Browns coach Mike Pettine said he planned to talk to Manziel about a video that appeared to show him drinking alcohol and partying. At that time, there were no reports that Manziel being checked for a concussion. Then, when Manziel showed up to work on Wednesday, it was announced that he had a concussion and couldn’t play in that Sunday’s season finale. It was never explained why the Browns only diagnosed this concussion three days after it supposedly happened, and two days after Pettine said he was going to have a stern talk with Manziel about his off-field issues.

If NFL Network’s report is correct, the NFL should come down hard on the Browns. The league has spent the last few years repeating, over and over again, that concussions are to be taken seriously. If the Browns are using bogus concussion diagnoses to avoid having to discuss players’ off-field problems, that would be an appalling misuse of the league’s injury reports.

So while the Browns are done with Manziel, they may not be done paying the price for hitching their wagon to him. Cleveland could be facing league discipline for lying about a concussion.

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Michael Griffin tweets that he’s been cut by Titans

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Michael Griffin tweeted Tuesday that he “knew [his] time would come,” indicating that he’s been released by the Titans.

Griffin was a first-round pick of the Titans in 2007. He started 133 games, recorded 25 interceptions and went to two Pro Bowls in nine seasons.

Griffin, who turned 31 last month, was due to make $6.5 million in 2016.

He had one interception, one sack and three pass breakups in 15 games last season.

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Panthers players yell “we love Cam,” Ron Rivera approves


As Panthers quarterback Cam Newton met with the media to provide more thoughtful and complete responses to reporters, some of his teammates were providing background noise via a three-word mantra: “We love Cam!”

Coach Ron Rivera was pleased to hear about the display.

“This was a very special group of young men that came together,” Rivera told reporters. “I hope we can carry that forward into the 2016 season and everybody remain focused on what the task is. I think that’s one of the things as I said earlier, we know who Cam is. We understand who the young man is and who he wants to be for us. And that’s more important to us. He’s really committed himself to being our franchise quarterback.

“The things that he does, you guys don’t see. You guys don’t get an opportunity to talk about the early mornings or the late afternoons, coming in on Tuesday on his own time and helping to come upstairs and sit down with Coach Shula and the other coaches and talk about what he likes in our game plan, what he sees, what he’s already seen on a Tuesday. Most players haven’t even looked at the opponent until Wednesday morning. So those are the things that his teammates appreciate. . . . I’m proud of the fact that they’re willing to stand up for him.”

Rivera also should be relieved a bit, because the gesture shows that, as Rivera embarks on an offseason that will consist of rebuilding Newton’s confidence, Rivera apparently won’t have to contend with a locker-room schism regarding the way Newton handled himself after the game and/or regarding his failure to dive on a key fumble late in the game.

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Devin Funchess: Cam wasn’t rattled, Broncos are just great

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Devin Funchess #17 of the Carolina Panthers makes a catch in the second quarter against  Bradley Roby #29 of the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Lost amid the controversy over Cam Newton walking out of his post-Super Bowl press conference was the fact that most Panthers players sat there and answered every question the media asked. One of those players was receiver Devin Funchess, who used the post-game media opportunity to stick up for his quarterback.

Asked if Newton was rattled by the Broncos’ defense, Funchess turned the question around and said the real story of the game was just how well Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller and the rest of the front seven played.

“The front seven that was back there. They’re fast. Cam barely had two seconds to throw the ball, so that’s what I think about that,” Funchess said. “I mean, he wasn’t rattled. He was just under pressure because Miller is back there, DeMarcus Ware is back there. It’s just tough. You have to try to scheme up and try to switch it around, but those guys are good. They won.”

Funchess was as sick about the loss as anyone, and he didn’t exactly seem thrilled at the media obligations that come with the Super Bowl. But he still took the time to credit the Broncos.

“I mean, we have emotions. We aren’t just people out there trying to entertain you guys. Of course it’s hard to deal with. Everybody wants to win. We have to tuck our heads on this one and congratulate Denver for winning the game,” Funchess said.

At a time when many were criticizing Newton for being a sore loser, the 21-year-old Funchess showed a lot of maturity.

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Greg Olsen: “No reason” Panthers can’t be better next year

Carolina Panthers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

The Panthers hoped to be getting ready for a parade in Charlotte this week, but they’re cleaning out their lockers on Tuesday instead after losing 24-10 to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

Once that’s over, the Panthers will turn their attention toward trying to take the next step and winning the Super Bowl in Houston next season. A 15-1 regular season and NFC title leaves a lot of room for a letdown, but tight end Greg Olsen doesn’t think that will be the case.

“The future is bright here,” Olsen said, via Max Henson of the team’s website. “No reason to think we can’t be better next year.”

The biggest free agent on the roster is cornerback Josh Norman, although there’s little chance he’ll be heading elsewhere with the franchise tag available to the Panthers. Even with him back, there’s need for some new blood in the secondary and Sunday’s loss showed the need for help on the offensive line as well. Getting a healthy Kelvin Benjamin back should make the offense more potent, though, and the talent is definitely strong enough for another good run starting next September.

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Patriots in talks to bring back line coach Dante Scarnecchia

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Getty Images

Based on the beating Tom Brady took in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots can use all the offensive line help they can find this offseason.

That might begin on the sidelines.

According to Mike Reiss of, longtime Patriots line coach Dante Scarnecchia and the Pats have had discussions about his returning to the coaching staff.

The 67-year-old Scarnecchia broached the subject with the team, hoping to return after a two-year retirement. He’s been around the team as a consultant, and advised during the scouting process the last two years.

The Patriots didn’t renew offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo’s contract, so there’s an opening.

The Patriots allowed 38 sacks this season, the third-most of his career. He was also hit 20 times by the Broncos in the AFC title game. They were also 30th in rushing.

Of course, unless Scarnecchia is also a faith-healer, the problems there are beyond coaching. They were hammered by injuries all year, going through five left tackles over the course of the year.

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Cam Newton: Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers with a score of 24 to 10 to win Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s response to losing Super Bowl 50 has been the subject of much discussion in the last couple of days and Newton addressed it while players cleared out their lockers in Charlotte on Tuesday.

Newton didn’t have much to say to the media during a sulking postgame appearance in the Levi’s Stadium interview room and briefly walked away from the podium, likely because of what he could hear jovial Broncos players saying on the other side of a partition erected between the two teams. On Tuesday, Newton agreed with those that have called his reaction the behavior of a sore loser.

“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser,” Newton said, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “If I offended anyone, that’s cool … I don’t have to conform to anybody’s wants for me. I’m not that guy. This is a great league with or without me. I am my own person.”

The problem with that is that plenty of players and coaches that no one would describe as a loser have been able to handle the aftermath of a loss without the reaction that Newton had on Sunday night. It’s a pretty big stretch to say that group has less of a desire to win than Newton has, although giving those answers after the game or some variation that illustrated how hard it was for him to accept losing would have likely elicited much less of a reaction.

The group of people who have handled it better include many of his teammates and head coach Ron Rivera, who defended Newton during an appearance on PFT Live Tuesday while adding that the quarterback needs to “learn and grow” from the Super Bowl experience.

Rivera also said that he had “no problem” with Newton not diving for his late fumble that set up C.J. Anderson’s touchdown. Newton also addressed that on Tuesday.

“I don’t dive on one fumble because the way my leg was — it could have been [contorted] in a way,” Newton said. “OK, you say my effort. I didn’t dive down. I fumbled. That’s fine. But we didn’t lose that game because of that fumble. I can tell you that.”

Newton added that no one’s expectations for him are greater than his own and that the Panthers are going to be back in 2016. Their ability to meet that expectation will continue to be discussed for the many months to come before they can return to the field to prove it.

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NFL will consider Talib suspension

Zz00MjdjZDdmNDk0ZmU3ZmRlNWYzYTI2MTg2M2FkMDkzYQ==-1 AP

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib viewed his decision to violently pull Panthers receiver Corey Brown to the ground by his facemask as something that would simply draw the equivalent of a parking ticket. Talib instead may be parked on the couch when the 2016 season begins. (And we now know that the couch is a dangerous place.)

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL will consider suspending Talib for his admittedly intentional and blatant decision to grab, twist, yank, and pull Brown’s facemask under circumstances that resulted in a small impact on field position, since Brown was inside the Denver five yard line.

The league office will examine Talib’s conduct within the confines of the normal course of post-game evaluations. Talib’s history will be a factor, along with his comments reflecting clear intent to violate an important safety rule.

Another factor will be the reality that more and more players are now admitting in public the nefarious purpose of their actions. Apart from discouraging the behavior, the NFL needs to create a clear disincentive when it comes to telling the world, essentially, “Yeah, I did it. I meant to do it. And I’ll do it again.”

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NFLPA not commenting on new rule for incoming players

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 25: Offensive lineman David DeCastro of Stanford participates in the vertical jump drill during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has decided to implement a new rule that bars college players with a record of certain types of crimes from participating in the Scouting Combine, attending the draft, or appearing at any other league-sanctioned event before they are selected. Reached by email on Tuesday, the NFL Players Association had no comment on the new rule.

Implied in the lack of comment is that the NFL did’t consult with the union before unveiling the new rule. It’s potentially not required, given that incoming players aren’t members of the NFLPA. Still, the union was directly involved in the development of the rule that imposes a three-year post-high-school waiting period on players entering the draft, and that rule directly impacts players not yet in the league.

The bigger question is this: Does it make a difference if players convicted of domestic violence, sexual assault, or weapons offenses are banned from attending the Scouting Combine? Teams will still find out everything they need to know about the player, and teams will still draft talented players regardless of their personal history.

The only way to ever change that would be to tie draft-pick forfeitures on teams who give a player a second chance and who then fail to ensure that the player doesn’t get in trouble again. To be clear, I’m not saying the league should do it that way; instead, I’m saying that any other approach is window dressing and/or P.R. spit-and-polish.

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Colts raise ticket prices, promise they’ll stay the same in 2017

Jim Irsay AP

The Colts went with continuity when it came to making a decision about keeping head coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson after a disappointing season, but there will be changes for the 2016 season.

Those changes go beyond the tweaks to the coaching staff under Pagano that have already been made and the inevitable alterations to the roster that will come in the next few months. In a letter to season ticket holders, owner Jim Irsay announced in a letter to season ticket holders that non-club/suite tickets will cost their owners more for the 2016 season.

The increase ranges from “1.4 percent to 6.3 percent” depending on the ticket, per the Indianapolis Star, with Irsay telling ticket holders that seats at Lucas Oil Stadium have increased about two percent per season since the building opened. Irsay vowed to make moves that will bring better results the next time out for the Colts.

“The 2015 season did not produce the outcome for which we continually strive, but I am extremely optimistic for the future!” Irsay wrote. “I will do whatever it takes to put our team in a position to have a successful 2016 season.”

Whether the Colts succeed or not, they won’t be asking for more from their fans this time next year. Irsay said there will be no increase for the 2017 season.

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NFL investigating McCoy and Manziel, paid leave not imminent


The afterglow of the Super Bowl has been disrupted by the dusting off of the police blotter, with two players grabbing headlines that otherwise would go to more talk about quarterbacks taking too long to jump on fumbles and/or leaving too quickly the post-game podium.

The NFL says that it began reviewing incidents involving Bills running back LeSean McCoy and Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel “immediately after they occurred.”

While paid leave is possible for both players, nothing will happen in the immediate future.

“The players are off per the CBA and not being paid now,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email. “It would serve no purpose and is not what paid leave was designed to accomplish.”

Paid leave was designed to take the heat out of a hot kitchen by putting the player on the couch without officially suspending him. With no games currently being played, there’s no reason to take action.

That’s very good news for the Browns, who can now resume waiting for March 9 to cut Manziel without having to rush to create cap space so that he could be put on permanent unpaid leave before the league puts him on paid leave.

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Family was celebrating, but Eli Manning was lost in thoughts of two

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks pon during warm ups prior to their game against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium on September 21, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Plenty of people were wondering why Giants quarterback Eli Manning had a blank stare on his face when his brother led a Super Bowl-clinching touchdown drive.

The short answer might be that that’s just his default face.

Via the New York Daily News, the younger Manning said that when network cameras caught him expressionless while the rest of his family was celebrating, he was thinking about game situations.

I was just focused on whether they’d go for two and uh, the defense had to step up and make some stops,” Eli said to a TMZ cameraman.

Of course, that didn’t keep it from going viral, as it was the look of a man with a pending dental appointment as opposed to a man whose brother just tied him for the family lead with two Super Bowl wins each.

Eli was able to laugh about being caught hollow-eyed while his mom and brother were going bananas, but the fact he’s calmly thinking about clock management and when to go for two could be of some consolation to Giants fans.

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Ron Rivera defends Cam Newton on fumble, press conference

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers and head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers stand on the field prior to Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has no issues with the way Cam Newton conducted himself in Super Bowl 50, on the field or afterward.

Asked on PFT Live about Newton’s sullen attitude at the post-Super Bowl press conference, Rivera said the public got to see the raw feelings of a great competitor whose team had just fallen short.

“The one thing about Cam that I think a lot of people have to understand is he hates to lose. He really does. And a lot of great ones have that,” Rivera said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t win the big one. I think he’ll learn and grow from this situation and come back stronger next year.”

Rivera also said criticism of Newton for failing to fall on a fourth-quarter fumble is unfounded. Rivera said Newton was trying to locate the ball and get himself into position to recover it.

“I think he was looking for the rebound. When that group of guys came diving in, when it ricocheted backwards, he tried to turn and get after the ball. When you look at the circumstances he was looking at, I have no problem with that,” Rivera said.

Now, Rivera says, he needs his team to get back on track and ready to come back better in 2016.

“Just rebuilding the confidence, getting that swagger back that we’re going to need heading into next season,” Rivera said. “Right now we’re down, I know that, our players feel it, but we’ve got to get it back and get it back early.”

That starts with his best player.

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Greg Jennings says Ryan Tannehill wants more freedom in offense

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Since being hired as the new Dolphins head coach, Adam Gase has spoken often about the need for quarterbacks to have the full support of their coaches.

That’s something that didn’t always appear to be the case for Ryan Tannehill in Miami when Joe Philbin was the head coach and Bill Lazor ran the offense. During an interview with the team’s website, wide receiver Greg Jennings said that Tannehill was “hand-held” by the previous coaching staff and that has hindered his growth as a player because he hasn’t been able to learn from mistakes he’s made in the past.

“Anytime you’re holding someone’s hand, you’re refusing to let them grow…,” Jennings said. “I’m going to speak for Ryan right now, which I typically don’t do. He wants some more freedom. He knows that he’s not been able to do the things that he really wants to do.”

For the right quarterback, being given more to do along with the knowledge that your coaches are confident you can do it can make a world of difference. The Dolphins may find out if Tannehill is the right quarterback under those conditions this season.

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