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D.J. Fluker, Justin Pugh cleared for Senior Bowl and NFL draft

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When I posted the list of 73 early entrants in the NFL draft, I heard from a couple readers who wanted to know why Alabama’s D.J. Fluker and Syracuse’s Justin Pugh weren’t on it. The reason, according to the NFL, is that Fluker and Pugh are in a separate category of players in the draft, having notified the NFL that they have graduated.

Although Fluker and Pugh both redshirted a year and could have chosen to return to school and played their final seasons of NCAA eligibility in 2013, they have also been cleared to play in the Senior Bowl, which was previously limited only to players who had completed their NCAA eligibility. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said he thinks allowing such players will make the Senior Bowl a better game.

This is a breakthrough moment for the Senior Bowl game because the league allowed us to bring in these two players who graduated in December and were on campus for four years and their coach supported their candidacy for the Senior Bowl,” Savage said. “The reason we wanted to do this was because in the past there have been a number of fourth-year juniors who had graduated who were not allowed to play in the Senior Bowl.”

Fluker won’t play in the Senior Bowl becasue of a calf injury, but Pugh will play. Both are considered potential first-round picks.

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William “Refrigerator” Perry auctioning off his SB XX ring

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William Perry helped lead the Chicago Bears to their only Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 1985.

Now “The Fridge” is auctioning off his Super Bowl ring.

Perry’s Super Bowl ring has been listed by The auction was supposed to go live on Thursday and is noted as having concluded. The starting bid for the size 25 ring was noted to begin at $16,000. The ring is being offered with a letter of authentication by Perry.

Perry famously scored a touchdown in the 46-10 victory over the Patriots while Walter Payton did not score in the Bears’ rout. Perry appeared in 138 games over 10 seasons with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

Perry had the ring returned to him in 2011 after a 10-year old purchased the ring for $8,500 from a bar that owned it as part of a sports memorabilia display. Perry has been dealing with Guillain-Barre syndrome since being diagnosed in 2008.

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James Jones to sign with Giants

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The New York Giants are expected to have a new receiver when they take to the practice fields for the first time on Friday.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Jones will sign a one-year deal with the Giants, pending a physical, when he arrives in New York.

Jones had interest from the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals before choosing the Giants.

Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns in his only season with the Oakland Raiders last season. The nine-year veteran spent his first eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers and has caught 383 passes for 4,971 yards and 43 touchdowns in his career.

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Russell Wilson’s deadline arrives soon; could it be extended?

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Friday has arrived in at least one portion of the contiguous 48 United States, and it soon will hit Seattle. It’s the artificial deadline, set in February, by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for doing a new deal.

So this means that no deal will be done until after the season, right? Maybe not.

Technically, the plug won’t be pulled until the Seahawks start their first camp practice, at 1:30 p.m. ET on Friday. Moreover, there’s a belief in league circles that a deal could be done within the next 48 hours, notwithstanding the deadline. It would mean that the Seahawks will have sweetened their pending offer, once they recognize that, come February, it will be much more expensive to keep Wilson — so expensive that they may end up not keeping him.

It’s possible that Wilson and agent Mark Rodgers will refuse to consider any offers made after the artificial deadline comes and goes. But that can’t stop the Seahawks from continuing to extend offers, and it can’t prevent Wilson from getting one that he likes enough to accept.

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Stephen A. Smith doesn’t seem to realize he was used by the NFL

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Six months after the NFL apparently leaked false information to Chris Mortensen of ESPN regarding the PSI readings for 11 of 12 Patriots footballs used in the AFC title game, the NFL expertly leaked true information to Stephen A. Smith of ESPN regarding the allegation that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “destroyed his cellphone.”

Smith broke the news (sort of) four hours before the Brady ruling was issued, priming the pump for the headline that the NFL wanted the court of public opinion to be repeating like a sitcom catch phrase: “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

Via Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, Smith was strident about those who doubted his less-than-unequivocal claim that he was “hearing” Brady destroyed his cellphone.

This idiocy,” Smith said on his SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio show. “Sometimes folks are just hard to take. And by the way, don’t bother calling me up about these so-called colleagues of mine. Colleagues who want to talk about me like a dog, questioning my knowledge of what I reported.”

Raissman quoted the explanation from MDS regarding the difference between someone from ESPN’s army of NFL insiders “reporting” that the NFL will contend the cellphone was destroyed and paid opinion factory Stephen A. Smith offering up a wishy-way, less-than-forceful claim that the phone was destroyed: “If ESPN’s respected veteran NFL reporters say they’re ‘hearing’ what Goodell is ‘likely’ to do, we can reasonably surmise that they’re ‘hearing’ it from well-placed sources within the league office. Even if such a report turned out to be wrong, if it came from a respected reporter it was probably based on contact with sources who are in a position to know what they’re talking about. When it comes from Smith, it doesn’t mean anything.”

“I will say this: I have no problem with some idiot blogger speaking against me or whatever,” Stephen A. Smith said. “They are trying to create headlines, trying to create hits for a website. But I do have a problem with folks who are supposed to be colleagues and contemporaries in this industry who understand the nuances of what surrounds this industry.”

We definitely understand the nuances. In this case, the nuance lost on Stephen A. Smith is that the league office specifically selected him as the guy best suited to blaze a Tuesday morning trial for the mantra that the NFL wanted everyone to be repeating at that night’s dinner table:  “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

Smith wasn’t wrong in what he said. He was wrong to hedge by saying things like “I’m hearing” and “I don’t know.” And he’s wrong not to realize that, in the same way someone from the league office used Chris Mortensen to spread the false notion that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were 2.0 pounds under the PSI minimum at halftime of the AFC title game, someone from the league office used Stephen A. Smith to introduce to an unsuspecting public the best-kept secret in the NFL from June 18 through July 28: “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

And so instead of reacting to the press release declaring that “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone” by saying, “What the hell is this all about?” the prevailing reaction was, “Damn. Stephen A. Smith was right. Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

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Kam Chancellor a no-show for start of Seahawks camp

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The Legion of Boom could be a bust, at least for now.

With safety Earl Thomas likely headed for the PUP list and cornerback Richard Sherman still a bit of a question mark after not having surgery on an elbow he dislocated in the NFC title game, safety Kam Chancellor has opted not to show up for the start of camp, due to dissatisfaction with his contract.

Per multiple reports, Chancellor officially will be holding out.

He’ll be subject to a fines of $30,000 per day for each day missed as he tried to get the Seahawks to enhance a contract that runs through 2017. He’s due to make $4.55 million in 2015.

Chancellor is the lone no-show, which means that defensive end Michael Bennett has opted to report, despite dissatisfaction with a contract of his own that runs through 2017. And quarterback Russell Wilson is present and accounted for; a holdout for him was never a possibility, even though as of this posting he doesn’t have a new contract.

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Judge tells NFL, NFLPA to ease up on the tough talk

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On Thursday, a judge in Minnesota told the NFL and NFLPA to get lost. Also on Thursday, a judge in New York told them to shut up.

Judge Richard M. Berman, in an order issued sua sponte (fancy lawyer talk for “on its own without a request from either side”) advising the parties to quit doing what many New Yorkers often do: Argue in public.

“While this litigation is ongoing, it is appropriate (and helpful) for all counsel and all parties in this case to tone down their rhetoric,” Judge Berman wrote, via

Also, and as expected, Judge Berman told the parties that they should attempt to settle the case.

“If they have not already done so, the parties and counsel are directed forthwith actively to begin to pursue a mutually acceptable resolution of the case,” Judge Berman wrote. “The earth is already sufficiently scorched, the Court’s view.”

This means two things. First, Judge Berman has been paying attention to the case, or at a minimum he very quickly has gotten up to speed. Second, Judge Berman may be inclined to squeeze the two sides to work out their differences.

Different judges handle settlement talks differently. Some get directly involved. Some will literally send the lawyers into a room and tell them to stay there until they work out the case.

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Jets didn’t know about Sheldon Richardson arrest

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The news of Sheldon Richardson’s arrest was news to the New York Jets.

According to Dom Cosentino of, the Jets didn’t know about the situation until Thursday, after media reports in St. Louis highlighted the July 14 incident.

Before the story broke, Richardson met with reporters after practice at training camp. He vowed to stay out of trouble.

“I take full accountability for my actions,” Richardson said. “Like I said before, I apologize to my teammates, to this organization, I told them you don’t have to worry about my name being in the news again.”

And then “again” came roughly an hour later, with allegations of street racing at high rates of speed (up to 145 mph) with a 12-year-old in the car, trying to avoid police, having possession of a gun, and smelling like marijuana.

The marijuana smell doesn’t speak well of Richardsons’ chances of passing up to 10 drug tests per month given his status in the substance-abuse policy. With a four-game suspension already due to commence in Week One, one more violation in the next year will result in a 10-game suspension.

Apart from any trouble he may find for the arrest or the smell of marijuana, the failure to disclose the latest incident to the Jets before Thursday could expose Richardson to enhanced penalties under the Personal Conduct Policy.

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Broncos are going to make Peyton Manning take days off in camp

Peyton Manning AP

Former MVP and Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers isn’t old enough to be forced into a pitch count yet.

Former MVP and Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning is.

According to Lindsay Jones of USA Today, the Broncos are going to force Manning into days off during training camp to protect the 39-year-old passer for the postseason, making him sit every three or four days.

“The key thing with Peyton, and I think Peyton is on board with it, is that even though you can’t feel it now, and if you’re doing too much work now, eventually that’s going to catch up to you,” Broncos boss John Elway said. “At 37, 38, 39 years old, where he is, you can’t make that up at the end. It’s going to be important that he’s a part of that management process and going to be able to take some time off to where he is just as good late as he is early, and we don’t wear him down.”

Given the way Manning works, and the pride he takes in preparation. That was probably a tough sell for Elway.

But Elway has been able to sell to Manning before, luring him to Denver in free agency.

Giving a future Hall of Famer a few days off in August should help the Broncos on two fronts.

First, it could keep Manning healthier, so he might not look as hobbled as he did coming down the stretch last season. But it also gives them more time to work with backup Brock Osweiler, since they need to decide whether he can play or not, considering Manning has kept them from having to find out.

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Mortensen to address initial #DeflateGate report on WEEI

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The #DeflateGate debacle instantly transformed from a strange curiosity into a full-blown controversy the moment Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were 2.0 pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. Mortensen has never address or explained the story publicly.

On Friday morning, he will. During a 7:45 a.m. ET appearance on WEEI radio in Boston.

The theory, as echoed by Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Wednesday, is that the NFL deliberately leaked false information to Mortensen. At a minimum, the NFL failed to dispute or to correct the erroneous report, with the Patriots not knowing the true reading until late March and the rest of us not knowing the truth until the release of the Ted Wells report in May.

The impact of the false report cannot be understated. The information caused many to assume that tampering with the footballs had occurred. The only remaining unknowns were the identity of the deflator (maybe it was “the Deflator”) and those who knew about it.

The information also put the Patriots on their heels at a critical stage of the investigation. Tom Brady’s awkward press conference only two days later was likely extra awkward because he believed, as did everyone else, that someone put a needle in those balls and released two pounds of air pressure. Brady likely continued to be under that false impression until late March, infecting everything he did (including his interview with Ted Wells) with a vague sense that someone was guilty of something.

If the real PSI numbers had been leaked (or released after the false leak), the Patriots could have shouted down any suggestion of tampering by explaining that the numbers fall within the range expected by the Ideal Gas Law — and by pointing out that the league’s shoddy procedures for calibrating footballs prior to kickoff of a conference title game included using a pair of gauges that differed by nearly a half of a pound. The strange curiosity would have quickly become a forgotten footnote to a blowout win.

Making the league’s failure to respond to Mortensen’s report becomes even more glaring in light of the fact that the NFL has not hesitated to correct other information with which it disagrees, including for example the claim from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Brady had only four hours to present his case on appeal.

Speaking of Schefter, he appeared earlier today on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show, and he addressed the criticism of Mortensen’s 11-of-12 footballs report.

“First of all, I’ve never had in-depth conversations with Chris about the story,” Schefter said. “Chris is as good a reporter as there is. And he’s been a pioneer in this industry. So when he decides to do things, he has a reason for doing them. And I’ll just stand behind him as a reporter and as a man. I love him.

“And I don’t know the particulars of what happened. I really don’t, OK?. But I can tell you this, somebody wanted information out. You’re blaming him. But I will say this. Number one, I’m sure he has an explanation. Number two, any reporter in the country, if they have high level people calling them, giving them this information, almost anyone’s gonna run with it.”

In other words, someone lied to Mortensen.

“If that is indeed the case that one, two, three high-level individuals intentionally misled him to try to smear the Patriots, I saw more shame on those people than Mort,” Schefter said.

I agree with that, completely. And Mort should be upset, because he’s been taking the heat (which has increased considerably in recent days) for reporting information that was given to him by someone in the league office whom Mort trusted.

ESPN surely would have preferred that the glaring error continue to go largely unnoticed. When PFT asked for comment on the discrepancy between Mortensen’s report and the actual PSI numbers in the Wells report, an ESPN spokesman initially said this: “[The] Wells report has been out for a week. Why are you seeking comment about his reporting now?”

More than two later, a comment from Mort apparently is coming. He’ll likely say basically the same things Schefter said. If pressed, Mort may indeed be tempted to disclose whoever it was that gave him deliberately false information.

Sure, reporters need to protect their sources. But should reporters protect sources who deliberately put reporters in professional danger?

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Bengals place Rey Maualuga on non-football injury list

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Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga will not be ready to go for the start of training camp.

The team announced today that Maualuga will start camp on the non-football injury list. There’s no official word on the nature of Maualuga’s non-football injury, but he has dealt with hamstring problems and had to sit out for much of the Bengals’ offseason work.

Maualuga played in 12 games for the Bengals last year and signed a new three-year contract with the team just before he was slated to become a free agent this year.

The Bengals also announced that they signed receiver Greg Little and waived receiver Cobi Hamilton.

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Report: Sheldon Richardson was arrested on July 14

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On July 3, word emerged that Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson would miss the first four games of the 2015 regular season due to violations of the substance-abuse policy. Eleven days later, it didn’t get much better.

Via FOX 2 in St. Louis, Richardson was arrested on July 14 in Missouri for street racing and resisting arrest.

“The vehicles were clocked on radar three times at speeds of 122, 135, and 143 miles per hour,” per the report.

Richardson’s vehicle, a 2014 Bentley Silver Spur, allegedly increased its speed to avoid the police, running through a traffic signal and turning off the lights. The driver then turned into the driveway of a home to avoid detection.

Richardson turned out to be the driver. Two other men and a 12-year-old child was in the car. So was a fully-loaded handgun and the odor of marijuana.

And soon-to-be free agent Muhammad Wilkerson gets even more leverage.

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James Jones visiting with Giants

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Victor Cruz’s recovery from a torn patellar tendon has gone well enough that he’s expected to take part in Friday’s opening practice of training camp, but the Giants are still looking at potential additions to their receiving corps.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that veteran free agent wideout James Jones is visiting with the team. Jones was released by the Raiders this offseason after one year with the team.

Rapoport adds that both sides hope the meeting will result in a deal that would reunite Jones with Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. McAdoo was on the Packers staff when Jones was in Green Bay and the receiver should be familiar with aspects of a Giants offense that borrows from what the Packers did while McAdoo was in the organization.

Jones had 73 catches for 666 yards and six touchdowns in Oakland last year. He had 310 catches for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns during seven years with the Packers.

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NFLPA “stunned” by role of Wells colleague at Brady hearing

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The NFL Players Association will attack the Tom Brady suspension both on the question of whether NFL rules permit the punishment and on the issue of whether fair and appropriate procedures were used by the league.

On the latter point, the NFLPA will focus on the role of Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison. Initially hired to conduct an “independent” investigation via partner Ted Wells, the firm eventually became an advocate for the NFL’s position, participating in the appeal hearing.

Specifically, the NFLPA claims that Paul, Weiss partner Lorin Reisner (pictured) sat at counsel table with the NFL, “conducted the vast majority of witness examinations (including Brady’s), and otherwise defended Brady’s discipline even though his personal work on the Wells Report was being reviewed, and even though his law partner Wells testified at the hearing.”

“We were frankly stunned when Paul, Weiss showed up as counsel for the NFL defending the discipline,” NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler told PFT by phone on Thursday.

The NFLPA contends that the involvement of Reisner as counsel for the NFL, coupled with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s refusal to make the investigative files generated by Wells and Reisner (including notes of witness interviews) available to the NFL, make the procedure fundamentally unfair.

NFL outside counsel Gregg Levy, who served as the Commissioner’s legal adviser at the Brady appeal hearing, told PFT by phone that notes generated by NFL security officials before the hiring of Ted Wells were given to the NFLPA. Levy confirmed that notes of interviews conducted by Wells and his team were not made available to the NFLPA.

“The substance of the interviews was reflected in the Wells report,” Levy said.

The problem, as the NFLPA would explain it, is that the notes become necessary to ensuring the accuracy of the report. Information from the notes possibly were omitted from the report. Information not in the notes possibly were present in the report. Information in the notes possibly contradict statements in the report.

With Reisner having access to the notes as NFL counsel at the appeal hearing and the NFLPA not having access to the notes at all, the imbalance becomes one of the key arguments the NFLPA will be advancing in court.

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Chip Kelly: Almost all the Eagles’ moves were about money

Chip Kelly AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly says his offseason moves were less about changing the team’s culture than about changing the team’s salary structure.

Kelly said today that the vast majority of the team’s decisions were about managing the salary cap, getting rid of players whose contracts made them tough to keep, even if they were productive on the field.

“Almost all the maneuvers we made with people going out were because of contracts,” Kelly said, via “People making too much money in our opinion of what the evaluation for what the pay for play is. Every guy we released, we offered in a trade to everybody in the league, and no one took the trade. Why? Because the contract is too high. [They] all sign somewhere else after they get released for less money than they were getting paid because you’re not going to trade for that.”

Kelly makes a good point: Many of the players he’s cut, like DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis, are very good players. But they were also overpaid players with the Eagles. That’s why Jackson had to take less money in Washington than he was making in Philadelphia, and why Mathis will almost certainly remain unsigned until he agrees to a deal that pays him less money than the Eagles were paying him.

Kelly also pointed out that that happens around the league: Darrelle Revis may be the best cornerback in the NFL, but the Patriots still cut him this year rather than pay him $20 million.

“They had one common denominator — they were all very expensive,” Kelly said. “I think that’s just the nature of contracts in this league. A lot of them are back-end loaded. Then decisions have to be made. So guys are making $10, $11 million a year, you have to make a decision on them.”

For expensive veterans, the decision Kelly usually makes is to cut them and find someone cheaper.

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Victor Cruz expected to practice on Friday

Victor Cruz AP

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said earlier this offseason that he would avoid a stay on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp and his prediction has come true.

Cruz, who was wearing the No. 45 Chicago Bulls jersey that Michael Jordan wore in his return to the NBA after a foray on the baseball diamond, told reporters that he’s “93 percent” of the way healed from last year’s torn patellar tendon. That appears to be enough for the Giants to get him into drills for the first time since suffering the injury.

Cruz is expected to practice when the Giants hold their first workout of training camp on Friday, although Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News notes that it will take some time before he’s a full participant.

Tackle Will Beatty was placed on the PUP list as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle. He will almost certainly remain on the list into the regular season unless the Giants determine he won’t make it back at all this year and put him on injured reserve instead.

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