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Payton urges New Orleans to show Roger Goodell hospitality

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With the NFL preparing to descend on New Orleans, local residents are preparing to roll out the unwelcome mat for Commissioner Roger Goodell, given his handling of the bounty case.

Saints coach Sean Payton hopes that doesn’t happen.

“I think that would be a shame,” Payton said during Friday’s PFT Live.  “Number one, he’s the Commissioner of our league but number two . . .  there’s no better place in the world to host events like this, and I mean that. . . .

“I think that all eyes are on you and now the impression is very important,” Payton added.  “I think we, as a city, embrace everyone and part of closure for us is moving past it.  That’s the same way that the fans and everyone else has to approach it.  I think they’ll be very gracious. . . .  I think it’s important when all eyes are on you to put your best foot forward and I think we will.”

So far, there’s evidence that not everyone will.  Kevin McGill of the Associated Press reviews some of the fairly innocent indignities and insults that the locals are directing to Goodell, but there’s a sense that folks have their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks.

Still, here’s hoping that the vast majority of folks in the Big Easy take Payton’s advice and go easy on the NFL’s Big Kahuna.

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Greetings from the Greenbrier

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I’m not much for the training-camp tours because:  (1) Florio Jr. is still in high school; and (2) with a noon ET web show and a 5:30 p.m. ET NBCSN show every weekday, the logistics can be a little challenging.

But with the Saints practicing 140 miles or so down the road from the West Virginia headquarters of PFT, it was impossible to pass on the opportunity to swing down to the Greenbrier for a couple of days.  So we loaded up the ’68 VW bus after Wednesday’s show and drove south, and we’ll be broadcasting both PFT Live and Pro Football Talk from White Sulphur Springs on Thursday and Friday.

Saints fans hopefully will have added interest in the shows.  Fans of other NFC teams also may want to see what the Saints are up to, given that the Saints finally have found a way to win on the road in the postseason.  After beating the Eagles in Philly, the Saints gave the Seahawks all they could handle in Seattle.  If New Orleans can play like that on a consistent basis away from home in 2014, the road to the Super Bowl may once again go through the Superdome, making it much harder for anyone other than the Saints to qualify.

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The full Jordy Nelson breakdown

Nelson AP

Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, after signing a team-friendly deal in 2011, wanted to make $10 million per year on his extension.  Here’s every dollar he’ll potentially make through 2018, per a source with knowledge of the terms.

Nelson’s $11.5 million signing bonus is the only guaranteed money, but it’s the best kind of guaranteed money.  It’s cash up front.  No other portion of the deal is guaranteed, fully or partially.  With a cap charge of $2.3 million spread over each of the five years Nelson is under contract, the potential acceleration probably gives him at least two years of security.

There’s no security in annual roster bonuses of $31,250 per game.  It ties $500,000 per year — $2.5 million in all — to Nelson’s ability to play, week-in and week-out.  If, for example, he misses four games like he did in 2012, $125,000 disappears.

The contract also carries healthy workout bonuses of $500,000 per year from 2015 through 2018.  It’s easy money, as long as he shows up for enough sessions of the offseason program.

The base salaries are $2 million, $1.3 million, $5.5 million, $8.25 million, and $9.25 million from 2014 through 2018.  The cap numbers in those years are $5.925 million, $4.6 million, $8.8 million, $11.55 million, and $12.55 million.

Very affordable for the first two years, Nelson will move toward a higher cap ground in 2016.  Come 2017, when only $4.6 million in unallocated bonus dollars will remain and the cap number goes past $10 million, Nelson could be looking at a potential pay cut or a cap-reducing extension, based on his performance level at the time.

So it’s almost definitely a two-year commitment from the team.  Probably at least three.  After 2016, it all depends on whether his anticipated value in 2017 and 2018 justifies the larger salaries and cap numbers.

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NFL extra point experiment begins at the Hall of Fame Game

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Extra points will be a little bit harder at the start of the preseason, as the NFL is experimenting with moving the spot of the ball back for point after attempts.

Starting with Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game and through the second week of the preseason, teams will line up at the 15-yard line when kicking extra points. (Two-point conversion attempts will remain at the 2-yard line, and extra points will move back to the 2 for the third week of the preseason and throughout the regular season.)

The NFL decided to try that after a groundswell during last season to do something — anything — to make extra points more interesting. Right now, NFL kickers make more than 99 percent of extra point attempts, making the extra point the most boring play in football. NFL owners voted down a proposal to move extra points back to the 25-yard line, but they agreed to experiment with moving them to the 15 in the preseason and reconsider the idea next offseason.

An extra point spotted at the 15 is the equivalent of a 33-yard field goal, which is still a chip shot for NFL kickers. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if every single longer extra point attempt is good this preseason. If the NFL wants to see how the game is changed by more challenging extra points, it should have moved them back to the 25, or farther.

The NFL could also consider moving two-point conversion attempts from the 2-yard line to the 1, making them easier and therefore giving coaches a greater incentive to go for two. The two-point conversion is one of the most exciting plays in football, and replacing those boring chip-shot kicks with exciting two-point conversion attempts would make the game better for the fans.

But the NFL’s owners are a conservative bunch, and they’re hesitant to make significant changes. Moving back the extra point kick by 13 yards is a very small step in the right direction, and that’s all we’re going to get this year.

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Dwight Freeney still shaking the rust off

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San Diego Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney appeared in just four games in his debut season in Southern California before a torn quad tendon tear ended his year.

Freeney is back at practice for the Chargers in training camp but fully admits he has some ground to cover before he feels he’s back to himself on a football field.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Freeney is working to shake the rust off.

“My last time actually playing football was in September, so I have a lot of rust I’m trying to get off,” Freeney said. “That’s what this process is about. That’s why you come out here.”

Freeney started all four games but had just two tackles and 0.5 sacks before his season came to an end. Freeney is entering his 13th NFL season and is coming off a pretty significant injury. The Chargers hope Freeney can shake the rust off enough to be a significant contributor this fall.

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Report: Josh Brent seeks reinstatement, will meet Goodell

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Former Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent is reportedly attempting to resume his NFL career.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to meet with Brent by the conclusion of next week, Brent’s agent, Peter Schaffer, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter in a story published Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Brent served a 180-day prison sentence earlier this year after being convicted of intoxication manslaughter in a December 2012 accident that took the life of Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown.

According to ESPN, Brent officially petitioned for reinstatement on Tuesday, the same day he concluded a stay in rehabilitation. Schaffer told ESPN that Brent reached out to Brown’s family for their permission to seek a return to the game, and the family consented.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated Wednesday that the club would weigh bringing back Brent, who retired in July 2013. However, Jones also expressed uncertainty about the reinstatement outcome.

“Well, I will look at that, but I don’t want to get ahead of our self in any way to look presumptuous relative to the commissioner or anybody else in the National Football League,” Jones said. “I don’t want to do that, because I don’t know that he can be reinstated.”

According to Jones, Brent is “contrite” about the accident and “has a lot of resolve” to resume his NFL career, the Cowboys’ owner said Wednesday. The question now is whether Brent will be granted that opportunity.

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Seahawks not revisiting Jermichael Finley after injury to Anthony McCoy

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Seattle Seahawks backup tight end Anthony McCoy is likely lost for the season after suffering an apparent torn left Achilles tendon in practice on Tuesday.

With the injury to McCoy, the Seahawks may be in search of some added tight end depth for the roster. However, they won’t be kicking the tires again on free agent Jermichael Finley.

A league source told PFT’s Mike Florio that the Seahawks would not be revisiting discussions regarding the former Green Bay Packers tight end.

Seattle had Finley is for a visit earlier in the offseason but moved on after getting starter Zach Miller to agree to a restructured contract.

One likely complication barring the Seahawks from pursuing Finley is the $10 million insurance policy Finley could cash in on if he doesn’t play football again. Seattle, currently unwilling to budge on Marshawn Lynch’s contract, likely can’t give Finley enough money to provide incentive to forgo a claim on his insurance policy.

Seattle also has a few young tight ends in Cooper Helfet, RaShaun Allen and Morrell Presley that could seize hold of the third tight end spot on their roster.

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Seahawks Jesse Williams carted off field after suffering knee injury

Jesse Williams, Richard Sherman AP

Defensive tackle Jesse Williams was a dominant force for the University of Alabama but slipped to the fifth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft due to injury concerns regarding his knees.

After missing all of his rookie season due to a knee injury, Williams was beginning to turn heads of the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff in training camp with his power to disrupt at the line of scrimmage. However, the injury bug appears to have jumped up and caught Williams again.

Williams was carted off the practice field on Tuesday and the team confirmed to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times that Williams had suffered a knee injury. No further update was given on Williams’ condition or the severity of the injury.

Williams was trying to work into the defensive line rotation for the Seahawks behind starting defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel.

“The thing going into this camp was could he stay healthy and could he play?” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said following practice. “For us right now with Jesse, we can see the strength at the line of scrimmage has not changed, and he actually got a little bit leaner. So for us, we can’t wait to see what he can do. He’s as strong as he ever has been, but still a little leaner so his mobility is better.”

The Seahawks will have to wait for the results of further testing to determine the full severity of the injury. However, leaving the practice field on the back of a cart is never a good sign.

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Antonio Brown unhappy after Emmanuel Sanders critiques Big Ben

Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown AP

Former Steelers and current Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders said recently that his current quarterback is a better leader than his former quarterback. One of his former teammates isn’t happy about that.

Responding to Sanders saying that Peyton Manning is “a far better leader” than Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown lashed out at Sanders.

That was terrible,” Brown said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You don’t throw the quarterback under the bus, the guy who makes you what you are.”

After realizing he had stirred up a controversy, Sanders took to Twitter to try to clarify.

“I never said Ben wasn’t a leader,” Sanders wrote. “I just said Peyton is a better one. I have nothing but respect for Ben as a man and as a player.”

But when a fan asked Sanders about Brown’s comments, Sanders seemed to take umbrage.

They throw dirt on my name-that means they still dig me,” Sanders wrote.

The folks in Pittsburgh won’t dig Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger, but Sanders was just giving his honest assessment: He’s in a position to know, and he says Manning is a better leader than Roethlisberger.

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Packers add WR Gerrard Sheppard

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In the NFL’s lone successful waiver claim Wednesday, the Packers added first-year wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard, according to the league’s transactions.

Sheppard (6-2, 211) had been waived by Baltimore on Tuesday. The 23-year-old Sheppard signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and earned a spot on the club’s practice squad as a rookie. Sheppard played collegiately at Connecticut (2008-2010) and Towson (2011-2012).

Sheppard’s addition gives the Packers 11 wide receivers, 10 of whom can practice, as rookie wideout Jeff Janis is on the non-football illness list. The move also puts the Packers at the 90-player roster limit.

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Jim Harbaugh annoyed with questions about Aldon Smith

jimharbaugh AP

The 49ers didn’t have linebacker Aldon Smith at practice today because Smith was in Los Angeles, dealing with the fallout from an April incident in which he was accused of making a bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport. Coach Jim Harbaugh wasn’t in the mood to talk about it.

As reporters questioned Harbaugh, he was having none of it. Here’s the transcript:

Is LB Aldon Smith here today?
“No.”

He’s in Los Angeles?
“What’s that?”

He’s in Los Angeles for his meeting there?
“He’s not here today.”

You can’t say where he is?
“No. Is that my responsibility to tell you where he is?”

You’re the head coach of the football team.
“Yeah, OK. Well you seem to already know. He’s going through a process.”

Then there’s a couple of places he could be. New York being one of them, Los Angeles being the other. He’s in the latter.
“OK. I don’t know if that was a question or a statement?”

Harbaugh answered five follow-up questions without providing reporters with any relevant information. Bill Belichick would be proud.

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Jones: Cowboys “committed” to keeping Dez Bryant “for life”

Stephen Jones AP

Tyron Smith might not be the only young Cowboys star cashing in.

Team vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys were “working hard” to get a long-term deal for wide receiver Dez Bryant done next.

We’re totally committed to make Dez a Cowboy for life,” Jones said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Our plans from Day 1, . . . figure a way to get Dez and Tyron extended.”

The 23-year-old left tackle signed an eight-year extension which will keep him with the team through the 2023 season.

Bryant, 25, is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and will make $1.78 million this year, but Jones wasn’t going to speculate on when anything might happen.

“I don’t guess on when things get done,” he said.

The only certainty is that when it happens, it will be big. Although getting Smith done now allows them the possibility of using the franchise tag, giving them a bit of starting-point leverage.

 

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Jim Leonhard reunites with Mike Pettine in Cleveland

Jim Leonhard AP

Safety Jim Leonhard said recently that he had spoken to the Packers about coming aboard for the 2014 season, but the Wisconsin native never reached agreement on a deal with the team.

He won’t have to leave the Midwest to play football this year, though. Leonhard tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that he has signed a contract to play for the Browns.

The move reunites Leonhard with Browns coach Mike Pettine, who was an assistant on Ravens, Jets and Bills teams that featured Leonhard. That year with the Bills came in 2013, when Leonhard started seven times and played all 16 games for a defense coordinated by Pettine. Leonhard had 41 tackles and four interceptions in Buffalo.

With that kind of familiarity and a thin group of backup safeties, the late start to camp shouldn’t hurt Leonhard much. Donte Whitner will hold one starting safety job for the Bills and Tashaun Gipson is pencilled in alongside him, although Leonhard could change that if Pettine decides to go with what he knows come the regular season.

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Bengals CB Chris Lewis-Harris suspended two games

Chris Lewis-Harris AP

The NFL has suspended Bengals cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris for the first two games of the 2014 regular season under the league’s substance-abuse policy, the team said Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Lewis-Harris appeared in six games for Cincinnati in 2013, recording three tackles. He’s vying for a reserve role with Cincinnati, which is deep at cornerback.

Lewis-Harris can play in exhibition games, but the earliest he can return to an active NFL roster is Monday, September 15.

A Tennessee-Chattanooga product, Lewis-Harris is one of 10 cornerbacks on Cincinnati’s roster.

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Cassel, Bridgewater begin even split of first-team reps

Bridgewater AP

The Vikings have a trio of quarterbacks about whom offensive coordinator Norv Turner periodically has raved.  With camp in full swing and the preseason games approaching, Turner has officially narrowed his focus to a pair of finalists for the Week One starting job.

Via multiple reports, veteran Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater have begun equally splitting first-team reps, with former starter Christian Ponder working exclusively with the reserves.

It’s unclear when a starter will be picked.  Appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live, tight end Kyle Rudolph said that he and the other pass catchers prefer that a decision be made as soon as possible, so that the pass-catchers can focus on working with the guy who’ll be throwing the passes when the season begins.

For more from Rudolph, click the thing in the thing below.

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Gordon’s appeal is indeed all or nothing

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Despite a belief in some league circles that the person designated to handle the appeal of Browns receiver Josh Gordon’s one-year suspension can split the proverbial baby by imposing a suspension somewhere between zero and 16 games, the NFL characterizes the substance-abuse policy in a way that makes clear the absence of discretion.

“The disciplinary penalties were negotiated by the NFLPA and NFL more than 20 years ago and there has never been a proposal to change them,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tells PFT via email.  “When they were first established, the union expressed the strong view that they needed to be stated and mandatory to ensure that all players be treated the same regardless of position, experience, level of ability, or competitive considerations.  On appeal, the hearing officer’s responsibility is to determine whether the violation was established and, if so, he is bound by the agreed-upon sanctions.”

For players in Stage III of the program, a positive test automatically triggers a one-year suspension.

For Gordon, then, only two options exist:  full-year suspension or no suspension at all.

If the terms of the policy are applied as written, Gordon could indeed be facing a one-year suspension, no matter how unfair or heavy-handed or otherwise wrong.  Or maybe the hearing officer will, consciously or otherwise, broaden the lens and consider the reaction to a one-year suspension for Gordon versus a mere two-game suspension for Ray Rice and his far more heinous conduct.

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