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Mayock “a little bit confused” by Te’o situation

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Of all people in the media, Mike Mayock occupies the most unique position when it comes to the question of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s draft stock in the wake of the hoax that he was or wasn’t involved in.

Mayock is NFL Network’s in-house draft expert, and he also provides on-air analysis during Notre Dame’s home games for NBC.

“Like most of the people that surround the Notre Dame program and all over the country, people that watched those games, I’m a little bit confused right now,” Mayock said Thursday on NFL Network.  “I have a lot of respect for Manti Te’o, I’ve gotten to know him over the last few years and at this point all I can do is what I think NFL teams are doing, which is taking a step back [and] waiting for the facts to come out.  And ultimately these facts will come out.  In addition to the public understanding, I also think that all 32 teams will get ample opportunity to interview this kid.  How he handles this going forward is going to be critical to his future as an NFL player.”

Mayock is right.  But we still don’t know how Te’o will handle it, because he has remained silent in the wake of the news that his deceased girlfriend never existed, but for a written statement in which he claims he was the victim.

He will soon be the victim of a fickle and judgmental public if he doesn’t share his story, especially since the vacuum is being filled with more and more nuggets highlighting inconsistencies and raising questions about whether he truly had no role in the hoax.

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Eric Berry named comeback player of the year

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After a journey that took him from chemotherapy to the Pro Bowl, Chiefs safety Eric Berry has been named the NFL’s comeback player of the year.

Berry, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 but made the Pro Bowl in 2015, received the comeback player award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in San Francisco.

The comeback player of the year honor, which was first awarded in 1963, has usually gone to a player coming back from an injury suffered on the field the previous season. But Berry is an even more inspirational choice than most, having come back from a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis that ended his 2014 season. Despite undergoing chemotherapy in the offseason, Berry played all 16 games for the Chiefs in 2015, and played very well.

Upon receiving the award tonight, Berry thanked the medical professionals who helped nurse him back to health, and encouraged his fans to follow their dreams, as he’s continuing to follow his.

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Cam Newton snags offensive player of the year

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton isn’t at the NFL Honors show in San Francisco on Saturday because he’s trying to win the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, but he’s going to be going home with some hardware whether or not the Panthers can win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Newton has been named the Associated Press offensive player of the year for his efforts during the 2015 season. His father is accepting the award on his behalf.

Newton turned in his best professional season while leading the Panthers to an NFL-best 15-1 record during the regular season. He completed 296-of-495 passes for 3,837 yards and added 636 rushing yards. He threw for 35 touchdowns and ran for 10 more as the centerpiece of the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The MVP award will be handed out later on Saturday evening and it will be a pretty big surprise if Newton’s father isn’t picking up another trophy for his son when the winner is announced.

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Gurley named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year

Todd Gurley, Eric Reid AP

The NFL Honors show is Saturday night, and lots of guys in tuxedos and fancy suits will be honored for what they did in helmets and shoulder pads through the fall.

One of the first big awards went to Rams running back Todd Gurley, who was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Gurley played in 13 games last fall and rushed for 1,106 yards, the NFL’s third-highest total.

He had 566 yards in his first four games, the most by any rookie in the Super Bowl era, and that’s made more impressive by the fact his debut was delayed because his final college season ended with Gurley suffering a torn ACL in Nov. 2014.

Gurley is just 21. He went to the Pro Bowl to cap his rookie year and figures to be back, assuming the Pro Bowl still exists.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was honored as the Pepsi Offensive Rookie of the Year, an award voted by fans. The No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, Winston went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate after throwing for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns.

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Jim Irsay says Marvin Harrison in HOF, believes Tony Dungy is too

Marvin Harrison AP

Terrell Owens let us know that one wide receiver among the finalists for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame fell short of the votes needed for election on Saturday.

On his way into the NFL Honors show, Colts owner Jim Irsay let us know that another one did get the nod from electors. Irsay said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, that Marvin Harrison has been elected to the Hall in his third year of eligibility.

Harrison ranks third all-time in catches with 1,102, seventh all-time in receiving yards with 15,580 and fifth all-time in touchdowns with 128.

This summer’s induction ceremony may have even more Colts flavor as Irsay also said that he believes the team’s former coach Tony Dungy also got the votes needed to receive a yellow blazer and bust in Canton. Harrison and Dungy both earned Super Bowl rings with the Colts along with Peyton Manning, who will be trying for his second on Sunday in Super Bowl 50.

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Terrell Owens announces he didn’t get into Hall of Fame

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The official announcement about this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class is coming shortly, but reports about who is in and who didn’t make the cut are starting to surface.

Among those that didn’t make the cut is Terrell Owens. The former 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals wide receiver announced on Twitter that he was not elected after making the cut to 15 finalists under consideration by electors on Saturday.

“Unfortunately I did not make it. CONGRATS to the 2016 HOF CLASS. Thanks to ALL MY FANS for ur unwavering love & support. #ONLYGODCANJUDGEME,” Owens wrote on Twitter.

Owens was in his first year of eligibility in 2016. It’s hard to argue that Owens’ on-field production isn’t worth a slot in Canton, but Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News reports that his candidacy was discussed for more than 43 minutes during Saturday’s meeting and that suggests his habit of making waves in the locker room worked against him in this year’s final reckoning.

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Report: Eddie DeBartolo elected to HOF

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Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor, CSNBayArea.com’s Matt Maiocco reported Saturday.

The committee voted Saturday, and the full list of 2016 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced later Saturday evening.

DeBartolo took over ownership of the 49ers in 1977, and under his ownership the 49ers won five Super Bowls, 13 NFC West championships, advanced to the NFC Championship game 10 times and made 16 playoff appearances. The 49ers had the NFL’s highest winning percentage in the 1980s and 1990s.

He owned the team until 2000, when he reached an agreement with his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, to split their financial interests. In 1999, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced a one-year suspension for DeBartolo for his role in a gambling scandal that resulted in DeBartolo pleading guilty to a felony for failure to report an extortion attempt from former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.

DeBartolo was the only person in the contributor category among this year’s Hall of Fame finalists. He’s from Youngstown, Ohio, which is about 60 miles from the Hall of Fame in Canton.

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Ron Rivera not worried that people were watching Saturday’s practice from rooftop

Ron Rivera AP

In an interview this week, former Panthers fullback Brad Hoover became the latest member of Carolina’s previous Super Bowl team to say he thinks the Patriots used skullduggery to obtain information about the Panthers’ game plan before Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area filed a pool report from Saturday’s final practice at San Jose State before Super Bowl 50 and reported that five men and a child watched the session from a nearby rooftop. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that he wasn’t concerned that any of them might have had motives beyond taking in the practice from a cool vantage point on a sunny day, however.

“No, that doesn’t concern me,” Rivera said. “The truth of the matter is that we still have to play the game. I know there are certain things that people worry about, but there are some things that are out of your hands. Shoot, who knows how it’s going to end up. I don’t worry about those things. I really don’t.”

Maiocco reports that the Panthers worked on “down-and-distance possibilities” and their opening drive before closing with a two minute drill. Should the Broncos look overly prepared for any of those things come Sunday, some may wonder if Rivera was too easygoing about the eyes in the sky on Saturday.

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Titans confident ownership structure will satisfy NFL requirements

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During his Friday press conference, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about league concerns about the Titans’ ownership structure.

Amy Adams Strunk is the controlling owner of the Titans and controls 33 percent of the team. Another daughter of the late Bud Adams also owns 33 percent and other heirs own smaller shares. Goodell said that the league would have to work with the Titans to “see how [their structure is] going to conform with our policies” about a single owner representing the team locally and at the team level.

In response to Goodell’s comments, Titans president Steve Underwood released a statement saying the team believes they will show the league they are in compliance with those policies.

“Commissioner Goodell’s remarks very ably set out the standard our club and the Adams family have been working with the league staff to satisfy,” Underwood said, via the Tennessean. “We are confident that the next time we meet with the Commissioner, he will be satisfied that Amy Adams Strunk has exactly what he said she needs — local operating control and full authority to represent the Titans in league decisions.”

Giants co-owner John Mara said Friday that he doesn’t think there’s a major issue about the way the Titans are being run, which may suggest that the team is on its way to solving the issue.

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Goodell open to changing league discipline procedures

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference Getty Images

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he’s open to change on the way the league handles player discipline.

Goodell noted on Friday that the owners and the players’ union negotiated for the current rules that give the commissioner wide latitude on discipline, and that any changes would have to be renegotiated. But Goodell said he’d at least consider that.

“We’re open to changes in the way we do discipline, but we negotiated for a system in 2011,” Goodell said. “It was a system that was quite similar for decades prior to that in collective bargaining agreements prior to that. It is almost exactly the same when it comes to protecting the integrity of the game and the Commissioner’s authority. I am certainly open to that.”

Still, Goodell believes the current personal conduct policy is working, as evidenced by a reduction in player arrests.

“We’ve had a tremendous focus in recent months on the Personal Conduct Policy, but it is working,” Goodell said. “We’ve had a 40 percent reduction in player arrests just through the 2015 calendar year. Forty percent. Our arrest rates for our players are far below the average for males of that age, and it reflects for me on the quality of our players off the field. They’re great young men. There’s a lot of attention when people violate the rules. You don’t put as much attention on the finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. That’s what we’re trying to do, but if we can find a better system, I’m all for it.”

Ultimately, Goodell and the owners may be open to change only if they get something from the NFLPA in return. And that won’t be an easy negotiation.

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Saturday one-liners

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Patriots CB Malcom Butler said Friday that he missed the Pro Bowl due to a sprained knee.

Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christenson, who worked with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, isn’t buying the idea that Sunday will be the Sheriff’s last rodeo.

Bills coach Rex Ryan said he’s open to drafting a quarterback, but that he’s not “done with” EJ Manuel, the backup to Tyrod Taylor.

Patriots-hater Bill Polian thinks the Jets have a great G.M.

The grass to be planted at the Ravens stadium is coming from Carolina.

Bengals WR Marvin Jones, soon to be a free agent, says there will be no hometown discount.

Former Browns QB Derek Anderson, now a backup in Carolina, regrets not leading Cleveland to the playoffs in 2007.

Snoop Dogg weighs in with his thoughts on the Steelers, and people actually listen to him.

Texans DE J.J. Watt could end up winning his third defensive player of the year award in only five NFL seasons.

Colts K Pat McAfee made a 40-yard field goal while blindfolded.

The Jaguars, who once drafted a punter over Russell Wilson, also cut Denver LB Brandon Marshall.

Three former Titans will be playing in the Super Bowl.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt says the team will do everything it can to keep S Eric Berry.

Raiders WR Amari Cooper thinks QB Derek Carr will be an “elite” quarterback.

Four former Chargers coaches and four former Chargers players are in the Super Bowl.

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak benefited greatly from spending 2014 on the staff of John Harbaugh.

The Cowboys were reportedly never interested in Johnny Manziel.

Giants OL Geoff Schwartz doesn’t seem to be interested in seeing his brother, Mitchell, join the team in free agency.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson is an offshoot of the Mike Holmgren coaching tree.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins wants guaranteed contracts for all players.

Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliot calls the possibility of being drafted by the Bears a “dream situation.”

The Lions likely will keep raising ticket prices.

Packers WR Randall Cobb thinks his punctured lung may have been caused by a microphone battery.

Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf buried the loss in the wild-card round by declaring, “We’re on to next season.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank saw value in continuity with the decision to keep G.M. Thomas Dimitroff.

A 2-14 disaster in 2010 laid the foundation for the Panthers’ Super Bowl team.

CB Brandon Browner is the “eternal punch line” for bad personnel moves by the Saints.

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson won the NFL’s Salute to Service Award.

Carolina backup QB Derek Anderson finally thinks that bizarre Monday night with the Cardinals was funny.

Rams RB Todd Gurley is ready to become the team’s next L.A. superstar.

49ers OT Joe Staley gave his two Super Bowl tickets to strangers.

Newly-released documents contain troubling details about the car wreck involving Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman.

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Beckham, Norman both would have been ejected under proposed rule

A referee, left, separates New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) and Carolina Panthers' Josh Norman (24) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) AP

If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gets his way, a situation like the one that arose in this season’s Panthers-Giants game would result in multiple ejections.

Goodell wants the NFL owners to adopt a rule that would result in an automatic ejection for any player who gets two personal fouls in a game. If that had been the case this season, Giants receiver Odell Beckham and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman both would have been ejected. Beckham had three personal fouls in the game, while Norman had two.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that if such a rule had been in place, the two players wouldn’t have been called for multiple personal fouls. Perhaps if the rule is adopted, a player will toe the line after getting one personal foul — that’s the intent of the rule. Or perhaps if the rule is adopted, officials will be hesitant to throw a second personal foul flag for the same reason that officials are currently hesitant to eject players.

Beckham should have been ejected under the current rules. Perhaps what the NFL really needs is not an automatic ejection rule, but officials who feel more empowered to throw a player out of a game when necessary.

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38 NFL scouts attended Ohio State informational session

Joey Bosa AP

Nine Ohio State players gave up their remaining college football eligibility to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, and though very few of those decisions caught NFL scouts off guard, the rules in place make it so those scouts have to play catch up on early entries.

Maybe to help that process — or maybe to save himself 50 phone calls — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer held a scout summit of sorts last week in the Buckeyes’ training facility. Meyer, strength coach Mickey Marotti and other coaches and staff members were available to answer questions on Ohio State’s draft prospects.

Various projections have Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa as a top three pick and at least five Buckeyes as potential first-round picks, and though just about everybody has a draft guide and a guess at this time of year, that 38 scouts showed up to talk to Meyer and others says the buzz is legit.

Ohio State’s top senior prospects are Taylor Decker, Braxton Miller, Adolphus Washington and Nick Vannett.

Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Vonn Bell, Michael Thomas, Darron Lee and Eli Apple are the biggest names among the underclassmen who declared. That was one hell of a recruiting class Meyer and his staff put together in 2013.

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Lions to give Calvin Johnson time, but the clock is still ticking

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The Lions want receiver Calvin Johnson to take his time regarding his decision to retire. But even though they have yet to say it, their patience can’t be open-ended.

“Right now I want him to come to his own conclusion and decide what he wants to do,” team president Rod Wood told reporters on Friday in San Francisco, via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. “I wouldn’t want to try to convince him to play, if that’s not what he wants to do. But obviously if he wants to play, we want him back. . . . We’re going to give him time to kind of go through all the decision processes, and hopefully come to the conclusion that’s right for him. Whatever that is, we’ll support it.”

They likely won’t support it if the decision is, “I’ll play in 2016 but I want my full $16 million salary and full $24 million cap number.” Which means that they’d surely like to know what he’d like to do before March 9, when his cap number for 2016 must be wedged along with all other player salaries under the reconfigured spending limit.

Maybe, in a weird sort of way, Johnson has threatened pre-emptively to retire in order to make his otherwise prohibitive compensation package a non-issue. Last year, when Vikings running back Adrian Peterson started making noise through his agent about wanting out of Minnesota, it became a given that the team wouldn’t try to chop down his salary. If he hadn’t been so coy about staying, maybe the Vikings would have made a run at getting him to take less money.

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Another idea for improving player behavior

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On Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell proposed a soccer-style approach to ejections, with personal fouls becoming essentially yellow cards and two of them getting a player removed from the game. His comments prompted some to go back and research the situations involving players getting multiple personal fouls, calculating the increase in ejections that would have occurred in 2015.

But that assumes the officials would have thrown a second personal-foul penalty on a guy who already had one. For the same reason that officials are reluctant to eject players now, officials will be reluctant to give a player a second personal foul.

Goodell’s proposed formula also would require the league to take another look at the classification of penalties as personal fouls. Should a player be sent to the showers, for example, after a pair of dumb-luck inadvertent facemask grabs?

Another approach, borrowing not from soccer but from hockey, would entail putting the player in a de facto penalty box for a set period of time based on certain safety- or sportsmanship-related infractions. Illegal hit to the head or neck of a defenseless player?  Taunting? Pushing and/or shoving and/or throwing a punch? The player exits for 10 or 15 minutes of clock time.

Whatever gets proposed to the Competition Committee, it won’t be easy to get 24 votes. Teams have been reluctant in the past to support aggressive efforts to remove players from the field.

Then there’s the question of whether the league really cares. Based on the way it marketed highlights of the Steelers-Bengals brouhaha on NFL Network, the league likes to have its consternation and flaunt it, too.

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Mara gets defensive about concussions

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Yes, Commissioner Roger Goodell gets millions to be the pin cushion for the great and powerful men behind the curtain. Sometimes, however, one of Goodell’s bosses emerges from hiding to provide him with a little cover.

On Friday, Giants co-owner John Mara chimed in on the NFL’s concussion crisis, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Speaking after Goodell’s annual “all is well, but we’re trying to get better” press conference, Mara said tried to paint the concussion crisis as not a crisis, even as the number of concussions spiked from 206 in 2014 to 271 in 2015, and as more and more deceased former players are found to have CTE.

“[M]y God we spent a lot of time talking about this,” Mara said, in response to criticism from Chris Nowinski regarding the league’s alleged efforts to block funding for a CTE test in living patients. “This is not for show as far as I’m concerned. I, myself, spent a lot of hours in those meetings, both in the competition committee and in the health and safety committee. We’ve committed a lot of money for research. For me it’s not a game. It’s not for show. It’s to find answers to these problems.

“And we’ve been involved in this business in my family since 1925. You better believe it’s important to me to find out what’s going on and to improve this going forward. This is our business. We have a lot of young men playing this game that we want to try to protect. This is not for show. This is serious business.”

It’s serious business because, in theory, it threatens to end the business. But while Mara takes seriously the increase in concussions, like others connected to the league he has tried to explain the increase in concussions by pointing to something other than, you know, the actual increase in concussions.

“Yes, when that statistic came out it certainly caught my attention,” Mara said. “But I want to understand the reasons for that. Are we just diagnosing [concussions] more? Is there more self-reporting? Or are we actually having more incidents? I don’t fully understand that yet. That’s something [the health and safety] committee will look at in Indianapolis in a couple of weeks.”

Some have suggested that the Case Keenum debacle sparked a sudden culture change, with more diagnosis and self-reporting of concussions coming after it. But that incident happened in late November, not early September. Besides, it’s hard to call it a watershed moment when the fine-happy NFL opted to impose discipline on no one for failing to grab Keenum by the facemask and dragging him off the field when he clearly was concussed.

“That bothered me quite a bit,” Mara said of the Keenum situation. “It bothered all of us. How could that possibly happen when it was so obvious? I’d like to think that was an aberration. We put these protocols in place just to deal with situations like that. . . . A lot of people missed the boat there — the officials, the medical people, the unaffiliated neurosurgeon. A lot of people were wrong there. I don’t think you’re going to see many incidents like that going forward.”

We definitely shouldn’t have seen the Keenum incident, and we definitely should have seen the same kind of strong, swift, and harsh punishment that routinely is imposed on players who accidentally fail while moving at full speed to adjust their bodies to avoid hitting a guy in the head as he is catching a pass.

So why wasn’t punishment imposed? Probably because it would have made the story even bigger, and if the NFL ever wants to solve its problems in an authentic, transparent way, it needs to quit factoring the public and media reaction into every decision made or considered.

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