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Te’o camp produces spreadsheet of cell phone records

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Inexplicably, Notre Dame didn’t ask linebacker Manti Te’o to produce cell phone records corroborating the contention that he spent countless hours on the phone with his fake deal girlfriend.

There likewise had been no mention of objective proof of extensive and lengthy calls in any of the reporting from ESPN.

Now, ESPN reports that a “source close to Te’o” has produced the cell phone records.  Sort of.

While the online story isn’t clear, Mike Hill of SportsCenter has explained that the source didn’t produce the actual phone records but spreadsheets based on the raw data.  The spreadsheets show that, from May 11 through September 12, Te’o made more than 1,000 calls to a number in the 661 area code, where Lennay Kekua supposedly lived.  Of the calls, 110 lasted for more than 60 minutes.

That’s fine, but it’s meaningless without the actual records.  Te’o has claimed that he spent long stretches overnight on the phone with Kekua while she slept in a hospital bed.  It doesn’t matter if there are 110 calls of more than an hour in length if there isn’t a single one that lasted, say, six hours.  The report from ESPN doesn’t say whether the spreadsheet sheds light on that point.

Put simply, producing anything other than the actual records serves only to raise more suspicions in a case that already has plenty of them.

The only way out of this latest maze created by Te’o’s camp is to produce the records.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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Bills coach Sean McDermott wants to be up-tempo in practice, and some former Panthers should help that process.

The Dolphins are serious about keeping their offensive core together.

The Patriots were reportedly among the teams to inquire about trading for Seahawks CB Richard Sherman.

The Jets conducted a private workout with North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky.

The Ravens have some competition at TE which they’re interested to see.

Bengals CB Adam Jones continues to get support from the team.

The Browns are promising to “stay aggressive” at QB, after paying $16 million for a second round pick.

No one’s taking Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement threat seriously.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien is excited to get Wes Welker into coaching.

Colts QB Andrew Luck’s shoulder issues were a major problem last year, obviously.

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett took a shot at the poor Jaguars.

The Titans and Bucs don’t play each other, but they watch each other a lot.

The Broncos are reportedly among the teams most interested in RB Christian McCaffrey.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid will miss Oakland.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn isn’t afraid to pound the ball.

After the draft, the Raiders want to get some contract talks going.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thinks the division is better, but so is his team.

Giants LT Ereck Flowers keeps getting votes of confidence.

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie doesn’t think they have to worry about “Hard Knocks.”

Washington QB Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to a taller group of WRs.

Bears chairman George McCaskey wants to see “progress” from John Fox and Ryan Pace.

Lions season-ticket holders got a sneak peek at the new uniforms.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy thinks their offense is ready to reach another level.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said the Adrian Peterson decision boiled down to business.

Falcons CB Desmond Trufant will be held out of OTAs but should be ready for training camp.

The Panthers still expect OT Michael Oher to play this season.

Saints coach Sean Payton did his best to dismiss his meeting with Johnny Manziel as just a meeting.

The Buccaneers feel better about their chances in the division.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians thinks there’s one rookie QB capable of playing right away.

Rams coach Sean McVay is fitting in as an “L.A. guy.”

Of the 49ers and bro hugs, and their significance to Jed York and Kyle Shanahan.

The Seahawks are planning on Luke Joeckel being their LT.

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Tony Romo returns to golfing

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As the Cowboys play chess, checkers, and/or chicken with the Texans and/or the Broncos regarding Tony Romo, Romo is back to playing a different game.

Via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Romo will compete in the Azalea Invitational, Thursday through Sunday at the Country Club of Charleston, South Carolina.

Romo ditched competitive golf in 2013, due in part to his back surgeries and other injuries. The fact that he’s playing again suggests that he feels pretty good about his overall health.

It also suggests he’s not sitting around fretting about his football future, which has yet to be resolved and apparently may not be until July. More on where that all stands in a separate post.

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Adrian Peterson working out with Jameis Winston, intriguing Bucs

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Adrian Peterson hasn’t found a team interested in signing him yet, but there may be another one with some degree of interest.

After a social media post appeared of the former Vikings running back working out with Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, Bucs coach Dirk Koeetter said he’s curious to hear a scouting report.

“I’ve seen Adrian Peterson many times playing and that guy is one of the best running backs to ever play,” Koetter said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m anxious to talk to Jameis and ask him how his workouts went. That caught me off guard. I didn’t know that. I’ll be honest with you, first thing I thought when I saw that was Jamies is just an amazing guy. The guy is everywhere.”

Of course, the Bucs have at least a three-week opening for a starting running back next season, if not more.

Doug Martin will serve the first three games for a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, but the Bucs may make a move to sign or draft another one before the season, and the team has been hesitant to fully endorse him.

That could leave the door open for Peterson, as other teams including the Giants have been more willing to do lately.

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Fans of indoor team vote “no” on Greg Hardy signing

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Indoor football fans in Utah, it seems, are just like the NFL.

They don’t want to bother with Greg Hardy either.

Via ESPN, the fans of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the Indoor Football League voted against adding the former Panthers and Cowboys defensive end.

The team said it would sign Hardy provided fans approved in an online vote. And while the team app showed a fairly even split of fans, a trophy was put next to the no column, which should keep him out.

It’s a another speed bump for Hardy in his redemption tour, which has clumsily waded through the NFL, some MMA training and soon the Spring League in West Virginia. He keeps talking about being a changed man, while never quite owning some of his past mistakes including the domestic violence arrest in Charlotte which was settled out of court and eventually dismissed.

So while Hardy was ready to play for the team Friday night against the Colorado Crush, yet another group of people has decided they’re not all that interested in seeing him play.

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Texans feel good about J.J. Watt’s recovery from back surgery

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Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt had two back surgeries last year and played in just three games, but he should be good to go this year.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said at the league meeting that Watt will arrive in good shape when the team opens offseason work in three weeks.

J.J. is doing great,” O’Brien said. “He’s really looking forward to being back in Houston [for the start of the offseason program]. He’s definitely on track to be ready to go. I don’t know how much he’ll do in OTAs and things like that, but he’s on track to be ready to play. And, knowing J.J. the way I do, I will tell you he cannot wait to be back out on the field.”

The Texans were a playoff team even without Watt. If they can get the best defensive player in the league back and healthy, they have to feel very good about their chances in 2017.

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Overtime rule tabled indefinitely

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Many of you (OK, several of you . . . OK, some of you . . . OK, one of you . . . OK, no one yet) have asked when the proposed reduction in overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes will be presented again to the league’s owners for a potential vote. Some in the media have suggested that it definitely will happen in May. A league source tells PFT that there’s currently no timetable for reintroducing it.

With nine teams opposed to the measure, the league needs only one to flip. As the source explained it, the measure will be back on the table in May if that happens before then.

If it doesn’t, the proposal will continue to reside on the back burner, with no vote taken because if that happens the “no” vote would prevail.

So how will a team end up changing its position? The most direct way would be to lobby the nine holdouts until one of them sees things differently. The more complicated way entails old-fashioned horse trading, with one or more of the teams that oppose the proposal being offered something else on a wink-nod basis.

Is that proper? It doesn’t matter. It’s how things happen in any organization that requires votes to be cast in order for things to get done.

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NFLPA keeps close tabs on Jaguars under Tom Coughlin

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From the moment the clocks in Jacksonville were set five minutes early, the NFL Players Association knew that the ticking had begun toward confrontations with new Jaguars executive V.P. of football operations Tom Coughlin.

Already, two have occurred. First came the mandate that players return in March for physicals, a requirement that has sparked an argument that the Jaguars have violated the terms of the labor deal. Per multiple sources, players actually did show up for the physicals — and those who came from out of town weren’t happy about it.

Next came the attempt to launch the offseason program earlier than allowed. The Jaguars claim that the hiring of a new coach (Doug Marrone) permits them to begin before April 17. The statement issued by the team reiterates this belief, glossing over the fact that (per a source with knowledge of the situation) the NFLPA filed on Monday a grievance challenging the proposed starting date and, by Tuesday night, the issue had been resolved with the Jaguars delaying the opening of the program until April 17, the earliest starting date for teams with returning coaches.

It’s not the first time the union has been keeping close tabs on Coughlin. When he became Giants coach in 2004, the late Gene Upshaw (who served for years as NFLPA executive director) put Coughlin “on notice” regarding the voluntary nature of the offseason program.

“We don’t care if they get a new coach,” Upshaw said in May 2004. “He has rules, we have rules. If he doesn’t want to live within our rules, we will get him.”

Current leadership of the NFLPA already has gotten him twice, and the offseason program hasn’t opened yet. If there’s any potential noncompliance by the Jaguars once players report for optional workouts on April 17, it’s safe to assume that there will be more grievances.

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CBS reportedly considering Tony Romo as “potential replacement” for Phil Simms

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When it comes to playing football, Tony Romo currently has limited options. When it comes to broadcasting football, Tony Romo has two. And one of them could make him a major network’s No. 1 analyst, potentially.

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, CBS is eyeing Romo as a “potential replacement” for Phil Simms. It’s unclear whether this means Romo would supplant Simms right out of the gates, or whether Romo would start at a lower rung and work his way up.

An immediate installment as the No. 1 guy could be overwhelming for Romo, given that CBS has the Thursday night package for the first half of the season. In his first year of learning how to call games, he’d be calling two per week.

Landing at the top of the CBS football food chain also could make it harder for Romo to pull a Roger Clemens and return to the field during the season, if an opportunity to play half a season for a contender would emerge with the bursting of a tendon or the shredding of a ligament.

Then there’s the question of whether Simms would be demoted to the No. 2 team — or whether CBS would simply throw eem overboard.

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Saints re-sign veteran tight end Phillips

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Drew Brees has made a habit of throwing to his tight ends over the years.

On Wednesday, they Saints re-signed an exception.

John Phillips, a blocker first and a blocker second, returned to the club on a one-year deal. He initially joined the club in November, New Orleans claiming him after Denver placed him on waivers.

Herbie Tepo of the Times-Picayune first reported the signing.

Last season, Phillips caught 10 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown between his time with the Broncos and Saints. He has 55 catches for 390 yards and five scores over a 111-game career.

That’s fine.

Phillips, 29, is there to do the dirty work.

 

 

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John Fox sees a Bears team in “striking distance”

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It is easy to be skeptical of the Bears’ outlook for 2017.

Of their current quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez attempted the most passes last year; he threw 18 as a backup in Dallas. They finished in last place in the NFC North for a third straight year. Their 3-13 record was the franchise’s worst, in the terms of loss total, since 1969.

But John Fox expressed optimism in December. He’s expressing it still.

Near the end of last season, the Bears coach said his club was “closer than people think” and in “striking distance.” He dug himself deeper into that position Wednesday, again telling reporters he believes the Bears are in “striking distance.”

He cited the amount of roster turnover since he and GM Ryan Pace arrived in 2015.

“Going back to a lot of the changes, we’ve had a lot of change,” Fox said, via CSN Chicago. “I think we’re better for it. Unfortunately, you can’t walk around with your chest out about that because of our record the last two years. But I have total confidence, and (Pace) has done an outstanding job and will continue to.

“I understand you have to win. And I finally feel like we’re in striking distance.”

Fox is entering the third season of a four-year contract.

The Bears have proven to be a project. He owns a 9-23 record compared to a 46-18 ledger across his four regular seasons in Denver.

“I would have thought that we would have done better to this point,” Fox said, via the Chicago Tribune. “But I kind of still feel really positive and encouraged for where we’re headed. I just saw it happening a little bit faster.”

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Reports: Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement a matter of time

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It was around this time last year Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said Martavis Bryant stood at a “crossroads of his professional life.”

Soon, it appears Bryant will resume that life.

The Steelers wide receiver, who was suspended for all of 2016 after repeated violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, is headed for reinstatement. There were multiple Wednesday reports to that effect anyway, as the Beaver County Times cited a source who called his NFL return “imminent.”

The Houston Chronicle‘s Aaron Wilson later reported that, while Bryant has yet to be reinstated, the result is expected “eventually.”

So, it’s a matter of time.

This had been the expectation. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin addressed his status Tuesday when meeting with reporters at an NFL owner meeting in Phoenix.

“We’re hopeful,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Martavis is a good guy. We wish him nothing but the best. But the train moves on and we’ve been on it for 12 months. Hopefully, he’ll get on.”

Despite a four-game suspension, Bryant caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns in 2015 .He averaged 21.1 yards on 26 receptions, including eight touchdowns, in 2014 as a rookie fourth-round pick from Clemson.

In January, while his application for reinstatement was being prepared, Bryant’s agent characterized him as “clean” and “a new person.”

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NFL suspends free agent T.J. McDonald eight games

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T.J. McDonald is a good enough safety that he’s the No. 67 player in our Free Agent Hot 100. But he hasn’t found a team yet, and he won’t play until midway through the season.

McDonald has been suspended by the NFL for the first eight games of the season.

In May McDonald crashed into a parked car and was charged with driving under the influence of drugs. He resolved the case in January by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of reckless driving involving drugs or alcohol.

The Rams drafted McDonald in the third round in 2013. Last year he started all 16 games.

If a team signs McDonald, he’ll be eligible to go through offseason work, training camp and the preseason, but he will have to leave the team for the first eight games of the regular season.

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Greg Hardy to play indoor football if fans approve

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It’s been difficult to keep up with Greg Hardy.

Long ago, NFL teams stopped trying.

The guilty verdict for domestic violence and issuing threats. The absence of his accuser, leading to the case’s dismissal. The personal pleas of innocence — “I’ve never put my hand on any woman” — amid graphic evidence to the contrary. An arrest for cocaine possession. His apparent blacklisting from the CFL. An announced new career in mixed-martial arts. A commitment to the non-NFL affiliated Spring League. Somewhere along the way, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called him a “real leader.”

Hardy is now up for a new opportunity.

The former Cowboys and Panthers defensive end could be headed to Utah to play for the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the Indoor Football League. A fan vote will help determine if he will. The results so far, as of the publishing of this article, are 64 percent in favor of Hardy’s signing.

Before any vote is cast, the team’s prompts users to read a statement from the club’s ownership group.

Some of Hardy’s background is addressed in that.

“He has expressed a strong desire to join the Screaming Eagles as a way for him to showcase his football skills and prove worthy of another chance,” the statement reads in part. “As a football player, Hardy is a physically gifted pass-rusher who could make an immediate impact on our defensive line. As an off-the-field member of the community, there are past allegations and arrests that he carries.

“We have spent the past week speaking with Greg directly and with many of his former teammates and coaches. After hours of deliberation and debate, Screaming Eagles ownership, management, and coaches are in unanimous agreement that we will support Greg joining the team under one condition — that our fans vote to allow him.”

It is unclear what a shot with the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles stint would mean for Hardy’s MMA career.

Indications are Hardy is more interested in a return to the NFL.

“He is not doing this for the money; he just wants to play football and show the type of person he is both on and off the field,” the statement reads. “If all goes well, he hopes to have a chance to play again on Sundays.”

Fan voting ends Wednesday at 10 p.m. PT.

The club allows fans to vote, its site says, on “key team decisions.”

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Lions want it both ways on Thanksgiving, early-season home games

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The Lions have talked to the NFL about getting themselves a more favorable early-season schedule after playing three of their first four games on the road the last two years. But given that the NFL’s schedule-makers already give the Lions a home game on Thanksgiving every year, there’s only so much flexibility the Lions can get.

Laying out the NFL schedule is an enormous task that requires some give and take from every club. The Florida teams prefer not to play in the early Sunday afternoon time slot in September because of the heat. The New York teams prefer not to play at night on Jewish holidays. Every team prefers not to have road trips during short weeks.

The issue with short weeks is part of the problem facing the schedule-makers for accommodating the Lions: In five of the last six seasons, the Lions have played at home on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, in addition to playing on Thanksgiving. That’s an accommodation the NFL tries to give to all the teams playing on Thanksgiving so they won’t have too much travel during a short work week.

But there’s a problem with blocking out two straight home games in late November when putting together a team’s schedule: That leaves just six home games for the other 15 weeks of the season. Obviously, that means there are going to be some stretches earlier in the season when that team is going to be on the road more than at home.

Taken by itself, it wouldn’t seem that hard for the NFL to accommodate the Lions’ request not to play three road games in the first four weeks of the season this year. But the NFL needs to consider the scheduling requests of 31 other teams, and not all of those teams are automatically given a prime home game on a national holiday like the Lions are. So by asking the league to accommodate them both on Thanksgiving and early in the season, the Lions may be asking more than it’s fair for the schedule makers to grant any one team.

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McCarthy: Martellus Bennett “potentially” NFL’s best TE

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Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski shared a depth chart in New England last season.

Based on Wednesday comments, Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes there’s a chance he got the better of the two in free agency.

McCarthy spoke glowingly about Bennett at the annual head-coach media breakfast in Phoenix. Specifically, he said the 30-year-old may “potentially be” the NFL’s best tight end.

“We had him in our cutups this year, so I got to see him play a lot of football,” McCarthy said, via the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe. “To me, he is one of the best or potentially be the best tight end in the National Football League. It’s my responsibility to make sure I create those opportunities for him to succeed.”

This won’t hurt Bennett’s jersey sales in Green Bay.

McCarthy, it’s worth noting, never made a direct comparison between Bennett or Gronkowski, so he wasn’t searching for the “hot take” that could be deducted from his regard for Bennett’s standing among his peers.

But clearly, McCarthy has done his homework.

He detailed the degree to which he’s studied the Patriots over the years. And Bennett’s three-year, $21 million contract, which includes a $6.3 million signing bonus, adds weight to his words.

“He has very good tape,” McCarthy told reporters. “He was a very productive player in an outstanding offense. I have great respect for the Patriots and especially what they do on offense. We like a lot of things that they do. We keep an eye on what they do up there, particularly with some of the route progressions and more importantly how you use each player throughout the passing game.”

Bennett, predominantly used as a blocker to begin his career, caught 55 of 73 passes last season for 701 yards and seven scores. He is one of two tight ends the Packers signed this month in free agency; former Rams tight end Lance Kendricks is the other.

If nothing else, McCarthy’s praise of Bennett further explains Green Bay’s willingness to let Jared Cook walk this month.

He signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract with the Raiders.

 

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