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York says Niners hope to keep Kaepernick and Smith

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After the 49ers cleared the Superdome following media day, CEO Jed York made his way to Radio Row, where we “borrowed” the set of NBC Sports Radio for a quick interview, as Vagabond Week continues at PFT Live.

On one of the most pressing offseason topics — the status of backup quarterback Alex Smith — York said that he’d like to have Smith and Colin Kaepernick on the team in 2013.

“I hope he’s with us,” York said.  “From a cap standpoint, we have the room to be able to keep him.  One quarterback is usually not enough to get you through a season.  And to have two guys which the Niners had in Steve [Young] and Joe [Montana] for a long time, there’s no reason why you can’t have two guys on your team.  And I hope we can find a way to make that happen.”

Smith may not want it to happen, because he may want to actually play.  So what if Smith asks the 49ers to release him?

“He hasn’t made the request yet, and that’s something we’ll assess at end of the season,” York said.  “I think Alex has been very clear, he’s been very up front, he’s been very professional throughout this whole thing.  And he’s still a captain of the 49ers.  And I think Alex deserves the opportunity and figure out what he wants to do at the end of the season.”

It all may have been very different, if Smith hadn’t suffered a concussion against the Rams.  Still, York doesn’t believe Smith lost his job because of a concussion.  York believes Kaepernick won the job.

“I don’t know that I would say Alex lost his job due to injury,” York said.  “I think Kaep stepped up and played.  And he got his opportunity and he took the most of his opportunity.  It’s easy to say, ‘Well he lost his job because of injury.’  That’s not necessarily the case.  And you need to understand that if you do go out there and play with a concussion, you might lose your career.  And whether Alex is playing for us or he’s playing somewhere else next year, Alex has another 10 to 15 years to play in the National Football League because he was safe and he didn’t put himself in a position where he ended his career early.”

Regardless, Kaepernick got his opportunity because of a concussion suffered by Smith, and Smith ultimately could end up owning a Super Bowl ring because of it.

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Ted Ginn wins special teams player of the week for his third team

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No matter where he goes, Ted Ginn Jr. is a dangerous kick returner.

Ginn, the Cardinals’ punt and kickoff returner, was named the NFC special teams player of the week award today. It’s the third time Ginn has been named special teams player of the week — with the third different team. Ginn won AFC special teams player of the week with the Dolphins in 2009, when he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against the Jets, and won NFC special teams player of the week with the 49ers in 2011, when he returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown against the Seahawks.

This week Ginn got the award for a 71-yard touchdown that helped the Cardinals beat the Giants. The Cardinals were trailing with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Ginn raced through the Giants’ punt team and into the end zone to give Arizona a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“Once I get into the open field, it would be kind of bad if someone ran you down from the back,” Ginn said. “I’m supposed to have world class speed. I just get into the open field and let my legs do the rest.”

The 29-year-old Ginn has 7,920 career return yards, putting him 18th in NFL history.

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NFL, NFLPA announce PED deal, three suspensions lifted

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It only took them three years after initially “agreeing” to an hGH policy, but the NFL and the NFLPA have now put it in writing.

The league and the union just put out a joint statement announcing changes to the performance enhancing substance policy (which must mean they’re still hammering out the details of the substance abuse policy).

Accordingly, several players will be allowed to return to their teams this week, including Wes Welker, Orlando Scandrick and Stedman Bailey.

According to the release, positive tests are subject to third-party arbitration appeals, and testing for hGH will begin “within the next few weeks.”

Testing for hGH will be “fully implemented” this season, with procedures being sent to clubs and players this week. Testing will begin later this month.

First violations will result in a suspension without pay for up to six games. Masking agents or diuretics will draw a two-game suspension, while use of a “steroid, stimulant, HGH or other banned substance” will result in four-gamer. Manipulating a test can get you six.

Second violations will result in a 10-game suspension, and a third will be a minimum of two years.

As expected, offseason stimulant tests will be handled under the substance abuse policy.

The commissioner “will retain his current disciplinary authority” over discipline for violations other than positive tests (such as arrests). Players have a right to appeal to a member of the existing CBA appeals panel.

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Chandler Jones’s big day makes him AFC defensive player of the week

Chandler Jones, Matt Cassel AP

By blocking a field goal and returning it for a touchdown, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones put himself in the running for consideration as the AFC special teams player of the week for Week Two of the 2014 season.

He didn’t wind up taking home that honor, but Jones got a pretty good prize all the same. The league announced on Wednesday that Jones is his conference’s defensive player of the week.

Jones practically took up residence in the Vikings’ backfield during a comfortable 30-7 Patriots victory. He finished the game with two sacks, three quarterback hits and four hurries as Minnesota failed to come up with any way to block him effectively over the course of the afternoon. Jones finished with eight tackles overall and was a leading part of the unit’s rebound from a rough second half against Miami in the opener.

It’s the first player of the week award for Jones, although he was named the defensive player of the month last November.

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New PED policy reinstates only three players (and not Dion Jordan)

Dion Jordan AP

Yes, the NFL and NFLPA finally have worked out a new drug policy.  Yes, players who tested positive in the offseason for stimulants banned under the PED policy will be reinstated.

But the joint announcement from the league and the union identifies only three players to return:  Broncos receiver Wes Welker, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, and Rams receiver Stedman Bailey.

So where are all the other players who supposedly were suspended for taking stimulants in the offseason?  Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan claimed that his four-game suspension came from taking a banned stimulant.  If so, he should be reinstated.

So maybe he didn’t really take a banned stimulant.  Unless he had prior violations of the substance-abuse policy that resulted in a four-game suspension based on the off-season reclassified stimulant violation or unless his positive test came before March 11, Jordan was lying.

UPDATE 11:19 a.m. ET:  Per a league source, Jordan’s positive test came before March 11, which means that his suspension won’t be listed.

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NFLPA signed off on Adrian Peterson outcome

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By parking Adrian Peterson on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, the Vikings took action to which the NFLPA could have taken offense.  But the NFLPA didn’t oppose the move.

“Adrian Peterson made a decision to take a voluntary leave with pay to take care of his personal and legal issues,” the union said in a statement.  “The NFLPA and NFL worked with Adrian and the Minnesota Vikings to resolve this unique situation.  We support this decision and hope the best for him and his family.”

While the situation was called “unique,” it likely won’t be unprecedented.  At least in the short term, it could become downright common.

The broader point is that it can’t happen unless the player is on board with it.  It remains to be seen whether Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy or 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald would agree to a similar outcome.

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Hardy could land on same exempt list as Peterson

Greg Hardy AP

With the Panthers trying to balance getting the most for their $13.1 million with the ever-building public outcry against players accused of domestic violence, the Vikings may have given owner Jerry Richardson a path through the corn maze.

A league source tells PFT that it’s “possible” Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy will be placed on the same, little-known Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list until his pending case is resolved.

It would pay Hardy $770,588.23 per week until his case ends, but it would keep him from playing.  And he’d have to agree to it, like Adrian Peterson did, since doing so doesn’t necessarily comply with the terms of the labor deal.

It also would create an incentive for Hardy to resolve the case by striking a deal, even though that would set him up for a suspension without pay under the personal-conduct policy.

Meanwhile, the 49ers continue to show no inclination to do anything with defensive end Ray McDonald other than to let him keep playing.

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Three touchdowns lead to player of the week honors for Antonio Gates

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Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a difficult offseason as he spent time away from the team while his younger sister battled Lupus in a fight she eventually lost at the far too young age of 22 this summer.

Gates said he found solace in being on the football field in the wake of his sister’s death and he’s looked quite comfortable over the first two weeks of the regular season. Gates had six catches for 81 yards in the opener and followed that up with an even better performance in San Diego’s 30-21 victory over the Seahawks.

Gates caught seven passes for 96 yards with three of those passes from Philip Rivers going for touchdowns as the Chargers knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions. Those scores left him with 90 receiving touchdowns for his career, which ranks 11th in NFL history and leaves him 21 behind Tony Gonzalez when the list is whittled to include only tight ends.

It’s the first time that Gates has been so honored by the NFL, something that comes as a bit of a surprise given how good Gates has been over the course of his 12 years in the NFL.

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Darren Sproles is the NFC offensive player of the week

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Eagles running back Darren Sproles has done a lot of things over the course of his NFL career, but he’d never been named a conference’s offensive player of the week until Wednesday.

That’s when the league announced that Sproles has been given the honor as the conference’s top offensive player for Week Two. Sproles had previously been a special teams player of the week.

Sproles caught seven passes for 152 yards and ran the ball four times for 26 yards and a touchdown as the Eagles came back to beat the Colts on Monday night. Sproles had catches of 57 and 51 yards during the contest with the latter catch setting up Jeremy Maclin’s game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. According to Randall Liu of the NFL, Sproles was the first back in 20 years with two catches of more than 50 yards and a rushing touchdown in the same game.

Not too bad for a player acquired for a fifth-round pick this offseason.

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Kyle Fuller named NFC defensive player of the week

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There were several high-profile performances to choose from this week, but Bears rookie Kyle Fuller made a prime time impression.

Fuller was named the NFL defensive player of the week, after his two-pick performance against the 49ers.

Those plays sparked a comeback from a 17-0 deficit, and led the Bears back to a road win.

Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had a four-sack week, but that might have gotten lost in the fact it was merely 40 percent of the team total against Jacksonville (10).

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Peterson, Hardy, McDonald cases underscore importance of clear league policies, practices

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“Due process” has different meaning in different contexts.  In a criminal court of law, due process protects a citizen from unjustified incarceration.  That concept doesn’t protect citizens from discipline in the workplace.

For most American employers, an employee who finds trouble away from work doesn’t create an internal issue.  If it’s off the clock and off the premises, it’s not the employer’s business.

For the NFL, a decision was made years ago that failure to police the private lives of players could be bad for business.  Recently, the league has learned that not properly policing the private lives of players could be even worse.

That’s the real problem the NFL now faces.  Sure, the league stands against crimes ranging from domestic violence to smoking marijuana in the privacy of their own domiciles.  But the recent cases of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, and 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald expose a major flaw in the NFL’s handling of players accused but not yet legally responsible for off-field wrongdoing.

Waiting for “due process” in court used to be good enough.  In the NFL after the Ray Rice video, it’s not — especially where the allegations involve any kind of domestic violence or abuse.

It’s not enough for the teams to be entrusted to handle these situations, as Texans owner Bob McNair argued earlier today on CNBC’s Squawk Box, via SportsBusiness Daily.  Teams have incentives and temptations that can result in bizarre and inconsistent decisions, with key players getting the benefit of “due process” and the guys at the bottom of the roster getting chased out the door.

The post-Rice NFL needs adjust to the new reality proactively.  The post-Rice NFL needs to immediately mobilize a team of investigators after a player is arrested, charged, or indicted, especially in cases of domestic abuse.  The post-Rice NFL needs to make its own decision as to whether the player is guilty or innocent.  The post-Rice NFL needs to let the world know what it has found, and to impose fair and consistent discipline.

Could that potentially influence jurors or otherwise undermine the efforts of the legal system?  Yes.  But The Shield can no longer hide behind the shield of “due process.”  And the challenge for the NFL will be to come up with a fair and consistent way to ensure that an appropriate system is crafted for investigating allegations against players.

The other alternative would be to act like most other American employers whose employees get in trouble away from work, and not care.  Sure, the NFL would be criticized for not controlling its players.  But if the NFL is going to handle these cases in a way that invites criticism anyway, it would be a lot cheaper and easier to be criticized for taking the position that anything that happens away from the place of employment isn’t the employer’s problem, unless and until the player isn’t able to play because he’s not able to be at the stadium, what with the steel bars impeding his ability to get to his car.

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Falcons extend long snapper Josh Harris too

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Today is the day that the Falcons take care of all family business.

All family business as it pertains to their punt team, anyway. The team announced that they have extended long snapper Josh Harris through the 2018 season. The Falcons have also extended punter Matt Bosher through 2019, which leaves kicker Matt Bryant as the only kicking specialist whose contract will be up before the next Presidential election.

Harris signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent from Auburn in 2012 and is in his third year as the team’s snapper. The team is obviously pleased with the job he’s done in the role and he’s also made six tackles covering kicks.

Bryant, who has joined Bosher and Harris as a fixture on special teams in Atlanta, is in the final year of his contract. He’ll turn 40 next year, but has remained a consistent and reliable kicker so the Falcons may move to keep all the band together rather than let him depart after this season.

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NFL and NFLPA have agreed on new drug policy

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Well, this is a total coincidence.

The NFL has something positive it would like to announce.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league and the NFLPA have reached agreement on a new drug policy.

The announcement is expected soon, the NFL needs all the other news they can muster to deflect from the shameful way they’ve done business lately with the Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson cases.

Now that the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed, we can expect several players to be reinstated or have their suspensions reduced, among other changes.

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Peterson’s agent: This is the best possible outcome given the circumstances

Adrian Peterson AP

The Vikings changed their decision about running back Adrian Peterson’s availability following his indictment on charges reckless or negligent injury to a child early on Wednesday morning and placed him on exempt/commissioner’s permission list.

Peterson will not play for the Vikings again until his legal proceedings related to the case have run their course and Peterson’s agent Ben Dogra told the Associated Press that he and his client feel that the current arrangement is best for all involved.

“This is the best possible outcome given the circumstances,” Dogra said. “Adrian understands the gravity of the situation and this enables him to take care of his personal situation. We fully support Adrian and he looks forward to watching his teammates and coaches being successful during his absence.”

Ed Werder of ESPN reported that the NFLPA asked Peterson if he wanted to challenge the team’s decision, but, as Dogra’s comments make clear, Peterson accepted the move to the exempt list. The growing number of sponsors expressing dissatisfaction with the Vikings’ plan to play Peterson made it clear that Peterson wasn’t going to wind up on the field this Sunday and probably not until the case was resolved, which makes settling it as soon as possible the best way for Peterson to return to the football field. His first court date is currently scheduled for October 8 in Houston.

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Vikings owners finally set to talk about Adrian Peterson

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So far, the Vikings have been willing to let their employees take the bullets for them.

Now, we’re finally going to hear from the desk at which the buck stops.

The Vikings have announced that ownership will address the Adrian Peterson situation at a noon ET press conference.

It’s a good move, too late for Zygi and Mark Wilf.

Sending poor General Manager Rick Spielman out to take the bullets for the ridiculous decision to let Peterson come back after a weekend off was dishonorable. So was changing their mind in the middle of the night, as if no one would notice.

They’ll get a chance to address all that today.

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Goodell “never intended” to hear Ray Rice appeal

Goodell Getty Images

Two years ago, the NFL aggressively defended the ability of Commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the appeal of the suspensions he imposed on the Saints players accused of participating in Gregg Williams’ bounty program.  Eventually, Goodell handed the baton to former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.  Who overturned the suspensions.

Now, the league won’t be fighting for Goodell’s right to run the Ray Rice appeal party.  According to the league office, Goodell “never intended” to handle Rice’s appeal.

This means that Goodell will grant the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from the appeal.  Which means that someone else will handle it.

Ultimately, Goodell has the right to designate a hearing officer.  For now, a decision hasn’t been made.

It could be someone from the league office.  But the NFLPA has asked for a truly independent arbitrator.

Maybe it should be Tagliabue again.

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