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Don’t wait for Flacco to liven up Super Bowl week

Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor AP

The Ravens are arriving in New Orleans later this afternoon, with enough characters to liven up the town for a week.

None of those characters are quarterback Joe Flacco.

In fact, the Ravens quarterback can’t even seem to entertain his own family.

Flacco’s father Steve told Scott Cacciola of the New York Times that his son was not the kind who will make headlines this week.

Joe is dull,” Steve Flacco said. “As dull as he is portrayed in the media, he’s that dull. He is dull.”

Gee, thanks Dad.

While Super Bowl lore is full of quarterback antics, we’re apparently getting none of those from the Ravens this week. Which is fine for him, since he’s on pace for a different kind of history.

Maybe Colin Kaepernick will moon a helicopter or something.

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Goodell: Standard practice to have dialogue back and forth with NIH

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gestures during a press conference at the NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez) AP

Monday’s release of a Congressional report critical of the NFL for allegedly trying to influence the direction of a National Institutes of Health study about detecting Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living brains has led to a variety of responses from the league and its medical advisors.

Commissioner Roger Goodell echoed many of those previous responses during a Tuesday press conference when he was asked about the report.

“I take a much different position to that on several fronts,” Goodell said. “One is our commitment to medical research is well documented. We made a commitment to the NIH. It is normal practice to have discussions back and forth with the NIH. We have several members that are advisors on our committees — Betsy Nagel, Rich Ellenbogen —who have had experience with NIH or worked with NIH. It is very important to continue to have that kind of dialogue through appropriate channels, which our advisors have. That’s a standard practice. We have our commitment of $30 million to the NIH. We’re not pulling that back one bit. We continue to focus on things our advisors believe are important to study. Ultimately it is the NIH’s decision.”

Goodell went on to say that he did not think it was “appropriate” for the report to be released without speaking to those aforementioned medical advisors and took issue with the report referencing Ellenbogen and others as reaching out on behalf of the NFL.

In a follow-up question about NFL players not trusting the league on concussion issues, Goodell said that it was something the league has to do better at and pledged to “continue to find ways to make our game safer.” He also said that the league has to “make sure people understand the facts” about the effects of head trauma, something that’s been difficult given how often the league and outside groups find themselves on opposite sides of the issues raised by research.

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Mark Davis says Las Vegas will “unite the Raider nation”

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28:  Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis attends a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV on April 28, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Davis told the committee he is willing to spend USD 500 million as part of a deal to move the team to Las Vegas if a proposed USD 1.3 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium is built by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. and real estate agency Majestic Realty, possibly on a vacant 42-acre lot a few blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip recently purchased by UNLV.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell said little on Tuesday about a potential move of the Raiders to Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis said plenty.

“I’m excited about it,” Davis said in comments televised on NFL Network. “It’s a new market. It’s got the potential to be a really exciting market. . . . The Raider fan in Northern California get upset a little bit when we talk about going to Los Angeles, and the L.A. fans get a little ticked off at the fans in Northern California, so it seems like Las Vegas is a neutral site that everybody’s kind of bought into. It will unite the Raider nation more than divide it.”

Asked if this means he’s given up on staying Oakland, Davis said, “No.”

And then he said this: “I’ve given my commitment to Las Vegas, and if they can come through with what they’re talked about doing, then we’ll go to Las Vegas.”

So, yeah, it looks like Davis is ready to leave. And it looks like the only way he’ll stay is if Oakland wakes up and puts together a plan sufficiently viable to get at least nine owners to vote against approving a move to Las Vegas.

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Jameis Winston is glad to have Roberto Aguayo in Tampa

roberto-aguayo-tampa-bay-buccaneers Getty Images

Last year, the Buccaneers not surprisingly made a former Florida State quarterback the first overall pick in the draft. This year, the Bucs surprisingly used a second-round pick to acquire kicker Roberto Aguayo.

“It’s special to have another Seminole on the roster,” quarterback Jameis Winston told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of Gators on this roster so I’m glad we’ve got Roberto with me.”

So why is Aguayo such an attractive option?

“Other than he’s automatic, he’s competitive as well,” Winston said. “He’s always having fun out there. He has a different swagger for a kicker. He’s always focused but he likes to have fun doing it.”

This doesn’t change the fact that the Bucs are bring criticized for taking Aguayo so high in the process.

“Opinions are always going to be out there,” Winston said. “I’m just happy to have Roberto on this team. Just like a lot of people had opinions about me when I first came out and first started the season, like Roberto’s going to do, he’s going to shut them up. . . . We came in together at Florida State so we always were close. I always knew he was good because we always used to say that Florida State 2012 class was the best class to ever come through Florida State, so we always stood by that. We always were good buddies.”

Winston’s comments come a day after the man who put that recruiting class together once again said “never say never” about making the leap to the NFL. With team ownership showing increasing impatience with the team’s inability to contend on a regular basis, there may eventually be one more addition to the Tallahassee reunion.

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Mike McCarthy on Eddie Lacy’s progress: So far, so good

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Running back Eddie Lacy #27 and defensive end outside linebacker Mike Neal #96 of the Green Bay Packers walk off the field after losing in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals 26-20  in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers coach Mike McCarthy ensured that running back Eddie Lacy’s physical condition would be a running storyline this offseason when he said shortly after the team’s playoff loss to the Cardinals that Lacy “cannot play at the weight he did” in 2016.

There were varying reports and responses from the Packers about how much of that weight the team wanted Lacy to lose, but the mandate for the third-year back was a clear one. On Tuesday, McCarthy was asked about how the process has gone.

“So far, so good,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I don’t know [how much work Lacy has left to do]. Eddie will be fine. I believe he’ll hit the target that we’re looking for when the lights come on.”

One of the ways that Lacy worked to drop weight was by hooking up with P90X founder Tony Horton. Horton told the newspaper that Lacy reached out to him early in the offseason and that he agreed to it despite having “never done anything quite like that before.”

“But I knew I could help him, and I knew what he was struggling from, and I think we both agreed in our meeting that he needed sort of a new perspective and a new approach,” Horton said. “And we got along really great. We just met each other up in San Francisco the week before the Super Bowl. And we said hey, let’s give this thing a try. Come hangout with me in Jackson Hole and then after that stint is done we’ll come back to LA and continue it there. We just got along, you know what I mean? We laughed a lot and we worked hard and we ate clean food and just took care of business, you know?”

Horton said Lacy made dietary changes and started taking supplements for the first time. Should Lacy bounce back with a big 2016 season after that offseason work, Horton will probably be getting more calls from NFL players in offseasons to come.

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Leary absent from OTAs, wants Cowboys to trade him

Ronald Leary AP

Cowboys guard Ronald Leary is staying away from the team’s organized team activity (OTA) practices because he wants to be traded, per multiple reports.

Leary signed his restricted free-agent tender worth $2.553 million in hopes of facilitating a trade, possibly during the draft, and the Cowboys took some calls from interested teams. But no deal got done, and Leary has remained away from the team’s offseason program.

Leary was the team’s starting left guard in 2013 and 2014 but made just four starts last season. He was inactive for the 12 games he didn’t start.

If no trade is made, Leary would have to show up for the team’s mandatory June minicamp or risk being fined because he signed his tender in April. Leary, 27, broke into the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and became a starter after spending his rookie season on the practice squad. Maybe the Titans losing starting guard Byron Bell to an injury at the start of their OTA workouts will eventually give him the trade he’s seeking.

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Dolphins sign a pair of draft picks

PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 10:  Leonte Carroo #4 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights celebrates his touchdown in the second quarter against the Michigan State Spartans on October 10, 2015 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Super Bowl will be coming back to Miami in 2020 and the Dolphins would love to play in it on their home field.

If they do, a pair of players who signed contracts with the team on Tuesday could be part of making it happen. The Dolphins announced that third-round wide receiver Leonte Carroo and seventh-round tight end Thomas Duarte have agreed to four-year deals with the team.

Carroo is the latest addition to a receiving corps that has been remade since the end of the 2013 season. Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills have all joined the team since then and Miami drafted Carroo and Jakeem Grant this season.

Duarte could factor into the receiving mix as well at some point after playing as something of a wide receiver/tight end hybrid at UCLA. With Carroo and Duarte under contract, the Dolphins only have third-round running back Kenyan Drake left to sign from their draft class.

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New Los Angeles stadium gets Super Bowl LV in 2021

This undated rendering provided by HKS Sports & Entertainment shows a proposed NFL football stadium in Ingewood, Calif. During an NFL owners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Houston the owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to a new stadium just outside Los Angeles, and the San Diego Chargers will have an option to share the facility. The stadium would be at the site of the former Hollywood Park horse-racing track. (HKS Sports & Entertainment via AP)

The NFL is back in Los Angeles. The Super Bowl is coming back, too.

League owners voted Tuesday to award Los Angeles Super Bowl LV in 2021. It will be played in the shiny new stadium being built in Inglewood for the return of the Rams.

Also Tuesday, separate votes awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta in 2019 and to South Florida in 2020.

Super Bowl LV will be the eighth hosted by Los Angeles and the first since 1993, when the Cowboys routed the Bills at the Rose Bowl. The first Super Bowl was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Super Bowl heads back to Miami in 2020

Stephen Ross AP

With stadium renovations underway, Miami is getting another Super Bowl.

The NFL’s owners voted today to award Super Bowl LIV in 2020 to South Florida, which edged out the other finalist for that year’s game, Tampa.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has spent significant money to renovate New Miami Stadium, which has previously hosted Super Bowls XXIII, XXIX, XXXIII, XLI and XLIV (under various other names). Miami is a popular destination for the Super Bowl, but the stadium had become dilapidated in recent years and wasn’t up to the standards that the NFL looks for in a Super Bowl venue.

Now the stadium is in the process of major renovations, and the Super Bowl is on the way back. This will be the 11th Super Bowl to be played in the Miami metropolitan area, the most Super Bowls of any host city.

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NFL ramps up its response to Congressional report

nfl-logo_1400603306311_4966139_ver1-0_640_480 Getty Images

It hasn’t quite reached the scorched Earth response of the NFL after the New York Times article in March, but the league is taking an aggressive stance after a Congressional report suggested they were trying to steer concussion research.

In a letter sent to Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen (who co-chair’s the league’s head, neck and spine committee) continued to defend his research, and disputes the notion that the league steered research funds to get the result they wanted.

“Dear Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Pallone,” the letter read. “Yesterday a report from the minority staff of your committee was released to the media alleging that I and others participated in an effort to influence an NIH grant selection process. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, I was not afforded the simple opportunity to make this plain to your staff members, despite the fact that my contact information was provided to them and my willingness to engage with them on any question was made clear to them. I find this basic lack of fairness, combined with the disregard for the opinions and reputations of the medical professionals named in this report, to be unworthy of the important committee that you lead. At a minimum, I hope you can understand my profound objection to this maligning without so much as the courtesy of a direct question to me by your staff.

“To be clear, I am not and never have been paid by the NFL nor have I ever received funding through the research grant dollars in question. I am a physician on the front lines of this issue, treating kids and counseling parents every day on understanding concussions and repetitive head injury. I feel passionately that there is urgent work ahead to fill the tremendous gap in funding and support on this issue.

“Medical professionals can and always will discuss priorities and debate protocols; that is healthy and appropriate. I believe strongly that there is a vital need for a longitudinal study that tracks the impact concussions have over many years. We need to better understand the long-term risks of traumatic brain injury. I made clear to the NIH that this should be a priority. The advancement of science and research in this field is of critical importance – and we must work to together to understand what it is telling us and how we must adapt accordingly.

“I regret that your minority staff report did nothing to further momentum on these goals and the understanding of these important scientific questions.”

The league’s response had previously been measured, but it’s clear they’re beginning to take the offensive again, at the suggestion they’re trying to achieve the result they want by virtue of money.

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Patriots will have Dion Lewis back before Week One

Dion Lewis, Tre Jackson AP

A torn ACL ended the season of Patriots running back Dion Lewis in November, but it’s not expected to affect him this year.

Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that people close to Lewis say he’s about a month away from being able to play in a game, which means that he should be ready for training camp and the preseason, and certainly before the start of the regular season.

Lewis suffered the torn ACL on November 8 and had surgery on November 18, so he has been rehabbing for about six months. The Patriots will likely take it slow with him in Organized Team Activities and training camp, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get some preseason carries, and he looks like a lock to play in the Sunday Night Football opener against the Cardinals.

Lewis was playing well before he got hurt last season, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and catching 36 passes. He and LeGarrette Blount will likely split first-team reps in the Patriots’ backfield this season.

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Super Bowl LIII is heading to Atlanta

Roger Goodell, Arthur Blank AP

New buildings get Super Bowls, and Atlanta is the latest beneficiary.

NFL owners just voted at their meeting in Charlotte to award Super Bowl LIII to the new Falcons stadium, the latest example of new facility being rewarded with the biggest game of the year.

Atlanta and New Orleans were the finalists for the game, with Miami and Tampa eliminated from the process on earlier ballots.

New Orleans had limited its bid to just the 2019 game (other cities were also bidding for 2020 and 2021), meaning it will be at least 2022 before they’re back in the mix for the game.

Atlanta previously hosted Super Bowl XXXIII, which featured an incredible game between the Titans and Rams, but also an ice storm that crippled the area in advance.

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Doug Whaley doesn’t think humans should play football

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 14:  Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley addresses the media following a press conference announcing Rex Ryan's arrival as head coach of the Buffalo Bills on January 14, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

In many respects, the NFL has become its own worst enemy in the so-called War on Football. Typically, that happens when the league and people connected to it unreasonably downplay the risks associated with the sport. One team executive has potentially harmed the league’s interests by going to the other extreme.

Asked during an appearance on WGR 550 whether Bills G.M. Doug Whaley believes receiver Sammy Watkins is injury prone, Whaley painted with the broadest possible brush.

“This is the game of football,” Whaley said, via Harry Scull Jr. of the Buffalo News. “Injuries are part of it. It’s a violent game that I personally don’t think humans are supposed to play.”

That’s the kind of statement that could prompt plenty of humans to prevent their offspring from playing football. Making the words even more jarring is that Whaley drove directly into a ditch under the guise of trying to justify his faith in Watkins, for whom Whaley gave up the ninth overall pick in 2014, a first-round pick in 2015, and a fourth-round pick in 2015 to acquire.

Coach Rex Ryan was later asked about Whaley’s remarks, which apparently haven’t gathered much traction thanks to the brouhaha arising from the franchise’s goofy new media policy.

“I can say this, I love the game, I think it’s the greatest sports,” Ryan told reporters. “I know it’s the greatest sport, it’s the greatest game and we all know how I feel about it.”

Previously, it was believed that Whaley’s job may be riding on whether the team makes it to the playoffs this year. Tuesday’s gaffe may have sealed his fate, barring the team’s ability to perform what would be the superhuman task of winning a Super Bowl.

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“Long way to go” before Larry Fitzgerald will think about 2017

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 04:  Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald prepares to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the MLB opening day game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field on April 4, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald fulfilled a promise to his mother and received his college degree recently, which might not be necessary to his post-football employment options but certainly won’t hurt them.

Not that it’s clear when Fitzgerald might be ready to move into a different line of work. Fitzgerald’s future beyond the 2016 season has come up at points this offseason because it is the final year of his contract and the wideout said Tuesday that he “honestly” doesn’t have any idea about how long he’s going to keep playing.

“I really don’t look at it like that,” Fitzgerald said, via the team’s website. “I look at it as a day-to-day. I feel good every day, waking up and going to practice. Last year I was able to stay healthy. That puts you in a different state of mind when you are able to get up and do everything you are capable of doing. There’s a long way to go before that would even be a point of discussion. I’m just enjoying this and trying to make this the best year yet.”

Fitzgerald is coming off an excellent season punctuated by his dramatic touchdown catch to beat the Packers in overtime of their playoff matchup. If he’s healthy and continues to produce in 2016, it’s difficult to think he’ll just ride off into the sunset although it appears a final answer to that question isn’t right around the corner.

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York calls on North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2

SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Jed York, team president and owner of the San Francisco 49ers waits to go out for a half time presentation during home opener as the San Francisco 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park September 20, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL didn’t move its quarterly meeting from North Carolina to protest the controversial bathroom law known as House Bill 2. But that doesn’t stop the owners who showed up in Charlotte from making their views known while in town.

49ers CEO Jed York did so on Tuesday, strongly.

“The San Francisco 49ers are deeply concerned about North Carolina’s recently-enacted House Bill 2, which overturned protections for LGBT people and sanctioned discrimination across the state,” York said in a statement, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “HB 2 does not reflect the values of our organization, of our country, or the majority of North Carolinians.”

York also gave $75,000 to Equality NC, a statewide organization that promotes equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

“We firmly believe that discriminatory laws such as HB 2 are bad for our employees, bad for our fans, and bad for business,” York said. “We believe that HB 2 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the country. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for sporting events, tourism and conventions, and new business activity.
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The law requires people to use the bathroom that reflects the gender on their birth certificate. All political views aside, we’re still waiting to hear more about how the law is going to be enforced.

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Byron Bell dislocates ankle at Titans practice

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 13: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates with Byron Bell #76 after throwing for a 52-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Byron Bell re-signed with the Titans this offseason, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be seeing any action in the regular season.

Bell needed to be helped off the field after hurting his left ankle in Tuesday’s practice and coach Mike Mularkey said later in the day that Bell dislocated his ankle. Mularkey said that Bell would likely miss the entire season as a result of his injury.

“He’s a good football player,” Mularkey said. “We’re going to miss him.”

Bell started all 16 games for the Titans last season and was a regular starter for the Panthers over the four previous seasons, although the arrival of tackle Jack Conklin in the first round of the draft likely had him headed for a role at guard or as an experienced reserve in 2016. The Titans will have to look elsewhere for those options now.

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