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Moss gets his second shot at a Super Bowl ring

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Last year, when Randy Moss was retired and opted to take to the Internet to declare out of the blue (moon) his desire to return to football, the notion that Moss would be competing once again for his first Super Bowl ring would have been unfathomable.

But Moss picked the 49ers, where the future Hall of Famer has become a secondary player on the brand-new NFC champion.  In 16 regular-season games (with two starts), he had only 28 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns.  And in a pair of playoff games, Moss has five total catches for 71 yards and no scores.

Moss didn’t do much on Sunday, but the end result — a win over the top-seeded Falcons on their home field — had to go a long way toward exorcising the demons that doomed his historic rookie season, when the Falcons knocked off the top-seeded Vikings on their home field.

Now, his memories will shift to 2007, and the game that capped another historic season.  The last time Moss played in the Super Bowl (with the Patriots, who scored only 14 points against the Giants), he had put together one of the greatest seasons of all time for a receiver, with a league-record 23 touchdown receptions.  This time around, with 20 fewer touchdowns, he has perhaps his last chance to emerge with a ring.

Over the next 13 days, Raven linebacker Ray Lewis will be absorbing plenty of attention for his effort to strut into the sunset with a Super Bowl trophy, like John Elway, Jerome Bettis, and Michael Strahan.  But let’s not forget that the guy who could actually be capping his career by rubbing his butt against the Lombardi is Randy Moss.

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NFL announces Gordon suspension

Cleveland Browns v St. Louis Rams 8-8-2013 Getty Images

It’s official.  The NFL has suspended Browns receiver Josh Gordon for a full year, effective immediately.

The banishment, first proposed more than three months ago and languishing on appeal until today, has been announced by the league.

“Appeals officer Harold Henderson has upheld the suspension for the 2014 NFL season of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse,” the NFL said in a statement.  “The suspension is effective immediately.  Gordon’s eligibility for reinstatement will be determined following the 2014 season.”

Gordon, whose suspension comes under the substance-abuse policy, likewise has issued a statement acknowledging the situation.

““I’d like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans,” Gordon said.  “I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing officer didn’’t exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff.””

Gordon will need even more support over the next year, since he will be prohibited from receiving any assistance from the NFL or the Browns.  It’s a sad situation, with Brown banished for smoking a substance that is legal in two of the 22 states in which the NFL does business.  At a time when he may have an addiction.

At a time when Ray Rice will miss only two games for knocking out his then-fiancée, now wife.

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Source: NFL upholds Josh Gordon suspension

Gordon AP

Nearly four months after the NFL proposed a one-year suspension for Browns receiver Josh Gordon, a decision has been reached on his appeal.

Per a league source, hearing officer Harold Henderson has upheld the one-year suspension for Gordon’s latest violation of the subtance-abuse policy.

It means that Gordon will be banished from the team and the league for a full calendar year.  He’ll be eligible for reinstatement as of August 27, 2015, only days before the start of the 2015 regular season.

We’ll have plenty of news and angles and reaction as the day unfolds.  For now, the headline is that the Browns will have to make it through all of the 2014 season without one of the best receivers in the NFL.

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Phillip Tanner back in Dallas

Paul Soliai, Phillip Tanner, Austin Spitler (53) AP

The Cowboys have two running backs they don’t want to use in Thursday night’s preseason finale and two others battling injuries, leaving them with a need for someone to help get them through 60 minutes against the Broncos.

They’ve called on a familiar face to fill the need. Nick Eatman of the team’s website reports that Phillip Tanner is back with the team after spending the offseason with the Colts, who released him earlier this month.

Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams are competing for the third spot on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar, but Randle has an oblique injury and the oft-injured Williams is fighting a groin issue. Per Eatman, Tanner, who ran for 12 yards on nine carries in Dallas last year, will handle “most” of the running on Thursday while also seeing time on special teams.

The Cowboys will have to drop a player from the roster to make room for Tanner and could wind up dropping multiple players as Eatman says Tanner may have company as the Cowboys work to set up their roster for Thursday and beyond.

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Adrian Peterson: This is the offense I’ve been waiting for

Adrian Peterson AP

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson hasn’t taken any snaps in a game as part of Norv Turner’s offense yet, but he’s seen enough from the bench to feel very positive about the offensive coordinator’s vision.

Peterson spent the last three years as the focal point in Bill Musgrave’s plodding scheme and there was no point in that stretch where anyone felt like the Vikings could succeed offensively without Peterson on the field. This year, though, Peterson says his impression of the unit without him is “like, ‘Man, they don’t even need me.'” It’s little surprise, then, that Peterson is excited about what the future holds.

“This is going to be the best offense I’ve played in. This is the offense I’ve been waiting for,” Peterson said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We’ve got the pieces to facilitate moving the ball around. When Brett Favre was here, listen, when I saw those deep balls going up and guys making big plays, I was like, ‘Yeah!’ That makes your team very scary.”

The team has moved the ball well throughout the preseason with Matt Cassel throwing the ball to Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph. Those players should get even more chances when defenses also have to contend with Peterson and the variety of options in Minnesota is richer than its been in recent years.

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Dominique Easley not expected to play Thursday, still hopeful for Week One

Dominique Easley AP

The Patriots released defensive tackle Tommy Kelly this week in a move that came as a bit of a surprise.

Kelly was coming off a torn ACL, but the Patriots don’t have much experience at the position outside of Vince Wilfork and first-round pick Dominique Easley has yet to play in a preseason game after tearing his own ACL in 2013. That’s not expected to change on Thursday night against the Giants.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Easley is not expected to play in the team’s final exhibition game of the summer, but the team remains hopeful that he’ll be able to suit up for the season opener against the Dolphins. If he can’t go, the Patriots will have to turn to someone (or some combination) from the group Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga, Joe Vellano and Jerel Worthy to fill the spot next to Wilfork.

Some of those players will be in the rotation anyway as neither Easley nor Wilfork projects to play every snap of the game for the Patriots this season, but the decision to part ways with Kelly will have much less potential to come back as a negative if Easley is able to make it on the field come September 7.

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Patriots asked Mankins to take a pay cut before trading him

haircut Getty Images

Anyone reading Bill Belichick’s heartfelt tribute to Logan Mankins would know that they didn’t want to trade him — right up until they did.

But they gave the best guard Belichick ever coached a true example of The Patriot Way on his way out the door.

Per multiple reports, the Patriots went to Mankins asking for some of his money back. He was scheduled to make $6.25 million this year and $6.75 million in 2015 and 2016.

It’s similar in theme to the spot defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was in this offseason, but enough paper was shuffled to allow him to stay.

But when Mankins balked at a pay cut, as you might imagine he would, he suddenly became expendable — as they all will be at some point.

Their pragmatism was the Buccaneers’ gain, as a problematic offensive line now has a bit more stability.

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Packers think Eddie Lacy can lead the league in rushing

lacy AP

Last year Packers running back Eddie Lacy started his rookie season slowly but finished as one of the best backs in football. This year, the Packers think he can be the best back in football.

Packers running backs coach Sam Gash says there’s no question that Lacy can lead the league in rushing, and Gash even thinks Lacy may end up leading the league in total yards from scrimmage.

“Without a doubt,” Gash told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He has the capability of being the leading rusher and maybe even combined yards if he catches a lot of balls. I absolutely do think that. I think he’s a bell cow. He’s a big guy, and he’s physical.”

In 2013, Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing yards with 1,607 and scrimmage yards with 2,146. Lacy was eighth in rushing yards with 1,178, and 14th in yards from scrimmage with 1,435. That’s a big gap, but then again Lacy was a rookie who only ran for 51 yards in the first three weeks of last season. If Lacy plays for 16 games like he played down the stretch last year, he could lead the league in rushing.

And the mere fact that the Packers expect that much of Lacy is a good sign for their offense. In Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay already has one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. If Lacy proves himself to be the NFL’s top runner, that should frighten every defensive coordinator on the Packers’ schedule.

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PFT Live: Julius Thomas, Ross Tucker

Julius Thomas AP

Broncos tight end Julius Thomas is entering the final year of his contract after a breakout 2013 season, which makes it a big year for the former basketball player.

We’ll find out how he’s feeling with the start of the season just around the corner when Thomas joins Mike Florio on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live. We’ll talk to Thomas about his contract situation, the Broncos’s mindset after losing the Super Bowl last season and playing with Peyton Manning during his visit to the show.

Ross Tucker of NBCSN will also join Florio to talk about some of the biggest stories around the league as the preseason comes to a close. They’ll talk about on and off-field matters that are likely to impact the Broncos and every other team vying for the championship this time around.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Chiefs sign Mike McGlynn

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

Offensive lineman Mike McGlynn was one of the players dropped by the Redskins this week as they dropped to 75 players, but he didn’t spend much time out of work.

The Chiefs announced on Wednesday that they have signed McGlynn. They waived offensive lineman Ben Gottschalk to make room for him on the roster.

Kansas City is set to start the season without right tackle Donald Stephenson, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and rookie Zach Fulton is starting at right guard. With Eric Fisher struggling in his transition to left tackle, the team has a need for other options should they need to shuffle the line.

McGlynn has made 48 starts on the interior of the offensive line over his career so he should be able to give the Chiefs that depth at the very least.

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Ravens, needing cornerback help, sign Derek Cox

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Derek Cox wasn’t out of work long.

The veteran cornerback, who was just released by the Vikings, is about the sign with the Ravens, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.

Clifton Brown of CSNBaltimore.com reports the Ravens waived wide receiver Jace Davis to make room for him.

After turning in four solid years with the Jaguars, Cox signed with the Chargers last year, but was released one year into what was originally a four-year, $20 million deal.

He may have never been good enough to deserve that kind of money, but he’s been an acceptable player in the past, and the Ravens have a need.

With starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb injured, they have just four healthy corners on the roster at the moment.

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A “drone” once killed a fan at an NFL game

Lawnmower

In recent years, the term “drone” has acquired a sinister feel, what with all the lethal firepower that unmanned military planes routinely carry and deploy.  So when a non-weaponized remote-controlled helicopter with simply a camera attached to it is called a “drone,” there’s a real difference.

But maybe not a huge difference.

In the wake of the news that a “drone” invaded the airspace of Bank of America Stadium during a recent preseason contest involving the Chiefs and the Panthers, Jim Celania of WFNZ in Charlotte mentioned this morning that a flying lawnmower once killed a fan at a game in the ’70s.

Initially, I assumed that Jim had simply doused his Post Toasties with something more potent than two-percent.  And while that’s still entirely possible, Jim was right.

It happened in December 1979, at Shea Stadium.  The Jets hosted the Patriots, and at halftime the Electronic Eagles of the Radio Control Association of Greater New York took the field, flying a collection of model airplanes.

During the show, a plane shaped like a lawnmower landed in the stands, striking 20-year-old John Bowen and 25-year-old Kevin Rourke.  Bowen, who reportedly “looked like he had been attacked by an ax,” underwent emergency surgery.  Several days later, Bowen died.

Criminal charges never were pursued, but a lawsuit later was filed against the Jets, the Radio Control Association of Greater New York, and Philip Cushman, who was flying the plane.

So, yeah, it’s probably a good idea for the NFL to ensure that “drones” don’t get anywhere close to the paying customers.  Otherwise, the paying customers will opt to watch the games from a place where the lawnmowers remain in the garage, with all wheels on the ground at all times.

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Report of Richard Sherman minicamp fight sparked NFLPA investigation

Sherman AP

So what caused the NFL to ultimately impose six-figure fines on the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll for impermissible contact during a supposedly non-contact minicamp practice?

Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA started the investigation after reports emerged of a fight at a June 18 practice involving cornerback Richard Sherman and receiver Bryan Walters.  Coach Pete Carroll had to stop practice in order to restore order.

The NFLPA caught wind of the situation via TV reports of the altercation.  At that point, the NFLPA asked the Seahawks to surrender the video of all offseason practices.

Inspection of the footage resulted in the union concluding that the practice was “way too aggressive,” per the source.  Aggression was detected not simply on one or two plays but for the entire practice.  While the penalties reportedly cover only the day of the fight evidence of excessive aggressiveness was spotted over multiple days of the minicamp.

“Coaches were coaching contact,” the source said.  And the NFL apparently agreed, given that the league ultimately imposed unprecedented fines for something that happens in plenty of offseason practices.  But apparently not to this extent.

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Falcons’ special teams coach blows a gasket on Hard Knocks

keitharmstrong Getty Images

In an ordinary workplace, a boss who screams obscenities into the faces of his underlings would not be tolerated. One of the lessons that HBO’s Hard Knocks has taught us through the years is that an NFL team is not an ordinary workplace.

On Tuesday night’s episode, Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong lit into several players with a string of profanity and nasty insults.

“Who do you think you are? The game don’t mean enough to you, and that’s very f–king apparent,” Armstrong told one player during a film session. “You better wake up and get your pride in the game. Go out there and play like s–t? The s–t was coached the right way! I don’t want any excuses, selfish ass. What the hell is this? Look at this crap. Are you kidding me?”

As the team reviewed tape of a blocked punt, Armstrong exploded.

“It ain’t OK to go around here and not know. That ain’t cute. It ain’t OK. Really don’t care. That’s as selfish an act as you can make. Grow the f–k up,” Armstrong said.

Two rookie defensive linemen were singled out for poor play on the field goal unit. Armstrong told Jacques Smith, “You do what I tell you to do. You understand, Smith? You ain’t good enough to be an asshole. Do you understand that? Do you understand that?” And Armstrong told Ra’shede Hageman, “Do you start on defense? No. So what you going to do, sit your ass on the sidelines and watch the goddam game? We got enough people around here doing that s–t. Ain’t important to you.”

Armstrong made a point of explaining to the players that when he’s disappointed with them, he’ll tell them to their faces, “one man talking to another man.”

That’s fine, but Armstrong’s tirade raises some questions about where, exactly, the line is when coaches are addressing their players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made respect the theme when he opened the owners’ meeting in March. Goodell’s emphasis on respect was a direct result of the situation that unfolded in Miami last year, when Jonathan Martin decided to leave the team because he couldn’t take the way he was being treated in the locker room anymore. Richie Incognito may be wondering why he was suspended and treated like the NFL’s worst villain last year for his unkind treatment of Martin, while Armstrong can insult players with impunity.

An NFL meeting room may never look like an ordinary workplace, but NFL players do have the right to be treated respectfully. Armstrong treated his players with something less than respect.

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ESPN apologizes for reporting on Michael Sam’s shower habits

Shower Getty Images

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Josina Anderson filed a report from Rams camp that included fairly extensive commentary on the shower habits of Michael Sam.  On Wednesday, ESPN apologized for the report.

“ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report,” the network said in a statement posted at its media-relations website, via SportsBusiness Daily.  “Clearly on Tuesday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”

The Big Lead has the video of the report, which included a minute or so on whether Sam is avoiding showering with his teammates so that they aren’t uncomfortable.

It’s hard to listen to the explanation about whether Sam avoids showering with teammates without becoming uncomfortable, and ESPN ultimately decided that it was uncomfortable with the discomfort created by the report.

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De Smith says 18-game season isn’t his decision

DeMaurice Smith AP

Sean Gilbert, who conducted a media conference call on Tuesday in connection with his plan to pursue the position of NFLPA executive director, wants to achieve a variety of gains for the players.  In return, Gilbert is willing to give the NFL something for which it had stopped asking:  An 18-game regular season.

Appearing that same day (coincidentally, or not) on ESPN’s SportsCenter, De Smith addressed the issue of expanding the regular season.

It’s not my decision to make,” Smith said.  “If someone thinks it’s better for them to play 18 games.  I know that there’s a healthy number of football players now who would say go ahead and do play 18 games.”

Current NFLPA president Eric Winston strongly opposes the idea of expanding the regular season to 18 games.  Few players have argued in favor of adding a pair of games.  Given the current climate of player health and safety, it’s hard to imagine Gilbert’s proposal taking root among the rank and file.

Smith also addressed the fact that he faces an actual challenger for the job, a dynamic that the sitting NFLPA executive director hasn’t confronted in decades.

“I don’t give much thought to people who want this job,” Smith said.  “I have the pleasure of working for the players of the National Football League, the players decide who their leaders will be.  I look forward to March.  I intend to be in this job for as long as the players will have me.”

The issue could be resolved long before March.  The election of the 2014-15 team-by-team player representatives, which will occur in the coming weeks, potentially will result in the eventual winner being determined, if at least 17 of the 32 reps favor one of the candidates.

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