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Ray Lewis once again dances around issue of Super Bowl XXXIV murders

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When attending the Super Bowl, it’s difficult to watch much/any of the pregame coverage.

There’s a specific portion of the Super Bowl XLVII pregame coverage that was difficult to watch for other reasons.

As the network televising the game, CBS had an opportunity to conduct a one-on-one interview of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.  And the assignment predictably went to Shannon Sharpe.  Not only was Sharpe a former teammate of Ray’s in Baltimore, but Sharpe also was the teammate who loudly defended Lewis in the days preceding the Super Bowl they won together, a year after Lewis was accused of double murder following Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta.

CBS knew that the network would be killed (no pun intended) if Sharpe avoided the murder case entirely.  So Sharpe raised it, but he also slow-pitched a softball question on the subject.

Said Sharpe, “A couple of weeks ago, the family of the incident in 2000 — and I’m paraphrasing — but it goes something like this:  ‘While Ray Lewis is being celebrated by millions, two men tragically and brutally died in Atlanta.  Ray Lewis knows more than Ray Lewis ever shared.'”

The obvious question should have been, “Ray, what happened that night?”  But that’s where Sharpe flipped an underhand eephus to Ray.  Instead of being direct on the still-unknown issue of what transpired, Sharpe gave Lewis an open-ended question that allowed the subject of the interview to dictate its content.

“What would you like to say to the families?” Sharpe asked.

“It’s simple, you know,” Lewis said.  “God has never made a mistake.  That’s just who He is, you see?  And if our system — this is the sad thing about our system — if our system took the time to really investigate what happened 13 years ago, maybe they would have got to the bottom-line truth.  But the saddest thing ever was that a man looked me in my face and told me, ‘We know you didn’t do this, but you’re going down for it anyway.'”  (Actually, something much closer to “the saddest thing ever” is the two dead guys.)

“To the family, if you knew — if you really knew — the way God works, He don’t use people who commits anything like that for His glory,” Lewis said.  “No way.  It’s the total opposite.”

Whoa.  Time out.  Is Lewis saying that the fact that he went on to win a pair of Super Bowls and to become a great football player means he necessarily didn’t do anything wrong?  That bad men never rise to positions of prominence and public praise?

Ray needs to read a few history books.  Or maybe just one.  For centuries, murderers and maniacs have become kings and emperors.  They have enjoyed plenty of glory, to the detriment of the objectives of God.

Ray also incorrectly assumes that glory bestowed by man equates to true glory from God.  Time and again, I wrestle with the notion that God cares about the outcome of a football game.  Maybe I’m too much of a cynic.

Or maybe I’m simply on constant watch for false prophets while covering a sport that could easily give rise to them.

Consider Matthew 7:20-23.  “[Y]ou will know the false prophets by what they do.  Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.  When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’  Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you.  Get away from me, you wicked people!'”

I’m not saying Ray is a false prophet.  I’m just saying that his suggestion that success in football constitutes proof of his innocence is one of the absolute strangest things I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

Sharpe then pointed out that Lewis paid a financial settlement to both families.

“The one thing that I said that, because my name was used the wrong way, money is the last thing I’m worrying about,” Lewis said.  “But if money will help those kids out — and not just those kids — any kid that I can help, any family that I can support, I support.  So don’t just take that family and say, ‘I gave money to that family.’  Because I’ve gave money to thousands of families, time and time again, just to find a different way to help someone through a rough time.”

Ray’s words do what the lawyers in the crowd would call “opening the door.”  In all fairness, he should now authorize the release of every pleading, order, deposition transcript, and other document created via the litigation that resulted in what he’s now describing as an act of charity.  If he paid those families simply out of a sense of altruism that has prompted him to help “thousands” of other families, why did he have to be sued and questioned under oath and pursued through a court process before he agreed to pay?

And how much did he pay?

And what did he say under oath when asked the question his friend and former teammate failed to pose:  “Ray, what happened that night?”

Ray, what happened that night?

To his credit, Boomer Esiason of CBS expressed instant skepticism after the interview concluded.  “It’s a complex legacy that we’re talking about here,” Boomer said.  “This is a guy that was involved –“

“How’s it complex?” Sharpe said, interrupting Esiason with a clearly defensive tone.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Boomer said.  “Because he was involved in a double murder.  And I’m not so sure that he gave us all the answer that we were looking for.  He knows what went on there.  And he can obviously just come out and say it.  He doesn’t want to say it.  He paid off the families.  I get all that.  That’s fine.  But that doesn’t take away from who he is as a football player.  And I appreciate you going down there and asking him that direct question.  I’m not so sure I buy the answer.”

We don’t buy it, either.  But the question wasn’t nearly as direct as it should have been.

Ray, what happened that night?

Now that football season is over, we’ve got plenty of time to wait for an answer.

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Rooney on Raiders’ situation: “Something is going to have to give”

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Long-time rivals on the field, the Raiders and Steelers could be allies when it comes to the current stadium situation in Oakland.

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Steelers owner Art Rooney II addressed the challenges currently faced by Raiders owner Mark Davis, who plays in a dilapidated venue with periodic sewage problems and a baseball infield for half of football season.

“The Raiders have a stadium situation that’s difficult,” Rooney said.  “Something is going to have to give.”

Rooney, who serves as Chairman of the NFL’s Stadium Committee, took a direct role in the Minnesota stadium situation in 2012, helping to persuade the local politicians that action was needed.  Neither Rooney nor any other league officials have taken a public role in persuading the powers-that-be in Oakland to solve the stadium situation.

The Raiders have a one-year lease, which in theory allows them to leave Oakland after the current season.  Davis is currently flirting with San Antonio.

Davis would still need to persuade 23 other owners to approve of a move.  It’s unclear whether Davis could ever conjure the votes.

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Josh Gordon’s hearing with the NFL will continue Monday

Josh Gordon AP

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon’s hearing with the NFL is going to overtime.

A league source tells PFT that Gordon’s hearing in New York went from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and will continue Monday.

Gordon’s potential year-long suspension for his latest violation of the substance abuse policy hangs in the balance, and going into the process, there was a “slight chance” of a settlement  which might mean something shorter than a one-year ban from the league.

The difference between the A and B samples in Gordon’s test for marijuana created a chance for the Chewbacca defense to prevail, and the fact today’s hearing went so long only furthers that perception.

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Hall of Fame adds contributors category

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has decided to create a separate category for contributors to the game of football, who will now be nominated using a separate process from the way players and coaches are chosen for enshrinement in Canton.

In the past, contributors were elected in the same way that players and coaches were. But some voters and fans didn’t think that made much sense: After all, when the Hall of Fame Selection Committee is having its annual meeting on the day before the Super Bowl, how are they supposed to make a judgment between a player and a person like NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, a Hall of Famer whose contributions to the game aren’t easily enumerated through stats and Pro Bowl appearances.

Now contributors will be voted upon separately, using a process similar to the process for nominating senior candidates — a “contributors committee” will nominate a finalist, and although that finalist will be voted upon by the regular Hall of Fame Selection Committee, that vote will be separate from the vote on players and coaches. So a contributor (who could be an owner, commissioner or anyone else who has contributed to the sport off the field) will not be competing with a player for a spot in the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame believes there’s currently a backlog contributor candidates, so in 2015, 2017 and 2019 it will allow up to two contributors to be enshrined. In other years only one contributor can be enshrined per year.

Basically, this is good news for the Hall of Fame hopes of contributors who have been voted down recently. That includes former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell and former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Don’t be surprised if two of those three are putting on gold blazers in Canton a year from now.

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Steelers sign RB Jawan Jamison

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The Steelers have made a change to their RB corps, signing Jawan Jamison and waving Alvester Alexander, the club announced Friday.

A 2013 seventh-round pick of Washington, the 23-year-old Jamison spent most of last season on the Redskins’ practice squad, then was promoted to the roster for the final three games. Washington waived Jamison in March.

A Rutgers product, Jamison (5-7, 203) rushed for 1,075 yards and four TDs in 2012 for the Scarlet Knights. He’ll compete to be the Steelers’ fourth back. Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer will take three of the depth chart spots at tailback for Pittsburgh.

The 23-year-old Alexander is a first-year pro from Wyoming. He spent last season on the Steelers’ practice squad.

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Jim Harbaugh confident in Marcus Lattimore

Marcus Lattimore AP

Although 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is still unable to practice, 21 months after a horrific injury at South Carolina, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh says he’s confident Lattimore will contribute to the team.

Marcus is going to be a part of this team, in some form or fashion,” Harbaugh said, via CSNBayArea.com. “I know what he’s got inside of him and I know what he’s capable of doing on the football field. We all do.”

Unfortunately, there’s still no word on when Lattimore will be part of the 49ers, in any role other than an observer at practice.

“We’ll continue to do what’s best for him and ultimately that’ll be what’s best for the program,” Harbaugh said.

Lattimore has worked very hard to rehabilitate from an injury so severe that doctors feared at first he may never walk without assistance again, let alone play football again. Here’s hoping that Harbaugh’s confidence is well placed, and that Lattimore eventually gets on the field with the 49ers.

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Cowboys add a defensive end

Jason Garrett AP

The Cowboys came into camp with deficiencies on the defensive line and things have only gotten worse since they arrived in Oxnard.

Second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot, defensive tackle Terrell McClain has a sprained ankle and defensive end Ben Bass is dealing with a hamstring injury. On top of that, Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye are on procedural lists that bar them from practicing.

If nothing else, the Cowboys need some healthy bodies to get through practice and they added one on Friday. Agent Brett Tessler announced that his client Ken Boatright has signed a two-year deal with the team.

Boatright, a defensive end, spent a portion of camp with the Seahawks after signing as an undrafted free agent last year and some more time on Seattle’s offseason roster this year before being cut loose. He’s never played in a regular season game.

Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com reports that the team could also sign defensive end Adewale Ojomo, who was released by the Titans following a solicitation arrest. Boatright, Ojomo and Cory Henry all worked out for the Cowboys on Friday.

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Jerry Rice Jr. suffers torn labrum

Jerry Rice Jr. AP

Redskins wide receiver Jerry Rice Jr. will need shoulder surgery after sustaining a torn labrum, head coach Jay Gruden said Friday, according to the club’s Twitter feed.

According to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com, Gruden seemed to indicate the club hoped Rice would end up on injured reserve, though no call yet has been made on how Washington will proceed.

If Rice Jr. has a season-ending injury, Washington has several options. The club can directly place him on injured reserve, or he could revert to injured reserve if he club waives him and he goes unclaimed. The team could also elect to waive him off the roster with a financial settlement.

The son of the Hall of Fame wide receiver, Jerry Rice Jr. signed with Washington in June as a undrafted free agent. He also had tryouts with San Francisco and Baltimore. Rice Jr. played college football at UCLA and UNLV.

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Brandon Lloyd joins Michael Crabtree on sideline

Brandon Lloyd AP

When it rains at wide receiver for the 49ers, it pours.

Michael Crabtree will miss the next week or two of practice with an injury that the 49ers have not disclosed, although Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that it is a sore hamstring that the team wants to rest so Crabtree doesn’t do further damage that keeps him out of the lineup for an extended period.

Crabtree will have some company in the trainer’s room. Coach Jim Harbaugh said that Brandon Lloyd will also be out for a week or two, although, as with Crabtree, the coach didn’t specify what kind of injury Lloyd suffered in practice this week.

Lloyd didn’t play at all last season, so he could probably use all the work the 49ers threw his way to earn a roster spot with the team or catch the eye of another club looking for help at receiver before the start of the season. Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson, Jonathan Baldwin, Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton and Kassim Osgood round out the receiver group in San Francisco.

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Packers fear Jared Abbrederis tore his ACL

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It looks like Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is going to spend his rookie season on injured reserve.

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Packers believe Abbrederis tore his ACL during practice on Thursday. Abbrederis was headed for more tests on Friday and coach Mike McCarthy wouldn’t confirm anything about the severity of the injury when he met the media.

“I haven’t had time to sit down with the medical staff,” McCarthy said. “Right now, he has a knee. He completed practice yesterday.”

Abbrederis was a fifth-round pick after catching 202 passes during his Wisconsin career and was competing for punt return duties in addition to an offensive role. Now it looks like he’ll have to wait and try his luck again next year.

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Cary Williams doesn’t want to practice with “Cheater” Patriots

Cary Williams AP

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams got himself thrown out of a joint practice with the Patriots last year for fighting.

He didn’t wait until the teams got together later this month to throw his next haymaker.

They are cheaters,” Williams said of the Patriots, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com. “They are.”

That was an obvious reference to the Spygate scandal, which saw the Patriots fined $250,000 they lost a 2008 first-round pick for illegally videotaping opponents’ signals. Coach Bill Belichick was also fined an additional $500,000.

But it wasn’t a drive-by for Williams, who kept piling on the team he grew to hate when he was with the Ravens. He said he didn’t like practicing against anyone, but especially New England.

“I’m trying not to go into details about it or disrespect that organization because I give that organization nothing but, . . .you still got to go out there and play the game,” Williams said. “All the credit. I give them all the credit in the world. But one fact still remains, they haven’t won a Super Bowl since they got caught.

“You got caught. I know you’re gonna be looking at the film when we go out there. That’s just that. I don’t want to show them my card. That’s just me, not them. Not them. Every team is gonna look at it anyway. We’re gonna look at what they do too.”

Williams has just guaranteed those practices will be watched a little more closely by everyone.

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Talib not worried about emphasis on fouls against receivers

Talib AP

The last time the NFL made defensive holding and illegal contact with receivers a point of emphasis in 2004, the number of flags thrown for both fouls increased from 79 to 191.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib doesn’t believe this year’s emphasis on those fouls will result in a similar uptick.

“They always talk about it but once it’s September and the real games start, it will probably be regular,” Talib told reporters on Friday.  “It’ll probably go through preseason and die out.  It doesn’t matter, it is what it is.  We’re just going to come out here and play football.”

It probably won’t die out, especially if teams like the Seahawks commit those fouls under the impression that the officials won’t throw a stream of flags for fear of bogging down the game.  The officials are under orders to throw the flags, and they apparently will.

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Jim Haslett not thrilled by referee’s suggestion that defense needs to be coached differently

Jim Haslett AP

Veteran referee Ed Hochuli said this week that there will be a closer emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact penalties this season, something that he predicted would lead to a lot of flags in the early part of the season.

Officials are visiting camps around the league to provide some instruction about how the rules will be applied. Referee Terry McAuley has been at Redskins camp this week and told a reporter that coaches are going to have to change the way they teach their players to play in pass coverage if they want to avoid flags, which he threw several of during the team’s practices. That suggestion didn’t sit well with Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

“You know what I would tell the official? I would tell him that he needs to worry about officiating and we’ll coach the team,” Haslett said, via CSNWashington.com. “He needs to worry about calling interference because he called about four or five yesterday where there was nothing. So tell him to worry about his job, we’ll worry about our job.”

While one can certainly understand Haslett’s distaste for someone telling him how to do his job, especially when the rules regarding holding and illegal contact are already on the books. We also imagine this won’t be the last complaint from a defensive coach about the officials throwing flags for what might be borderline calls so that they are in line with the league’s edict on emphasizing those calls.

Given the recent trends in football, those complaints will likely fall on deaf ears while passing offenses continue to put up bigger and bigger numbers.

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Kelvin Benjamin returning to practice tomorrow

Kelvin Benjamin AP

The Panthers dodged a bullet this week when rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin’s MRI turned up no structural damage to his knee.

They’ll get back to having a full arsenal soon.

According to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, Benjamin is scheduled to return to practice tomorrow.

The Panthers don’t have much to discuss at the position other than their first-round pick, as they filled out the roster with veterans and young projects.

Benjamin has also developed a quick friendship with quarterback Cam Newton. Considering there was always a little frost between Newton and Steve Smith, that’s important for the Panthers moving forward.

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Jim Harbaugh says it’s “refreshing” to table contract talk

Jim Harbaugh AP

The 49ers have tabled their contracts talks with coach Jim Harbaugh, and the owner has said they’re not apparently far apart on money.

But as to the cessation of talks, Harbaugh turned it into a positive, saying he didn’t want a new contract with two years left on his contract.

Isn’t it refreshing?” Harbaugh said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “It has to be refreshing for you, refreshing for everybody in the building, refreshing for our fan base that the concentration will be on the 2014 season and our goals as a football team and achieving those goals. That’s the 49er way that I subscribe to.

“As I stated on the record these past months, this past week, all focus is on the 2014 season and achieving our goals. Now, the organization and I are in lockstep and all energy, all focus is on achieving those goals.”

Well, except for holdout guard Alex Boone, and tight end Vernon Davis, who threatened a holdout before showing up.

Of course, Joe Staley had four years left on his contract when he got a contract extension, so apparently there are some loopholes in “the 49er way.”

“That’s another thing that I’m on the record for,” Harbaugh said “And expressed that last summer when I was presented with a new contract, just my feeling, my principle, just a value, as the leader of the team, if I’m running in for a contract extension every couple years, it has a tendency to send everybody else running for the water cooler.”

Until his status is clarified, however, people are going to continue to sidle up to the cooler for a refreshing drink of “When do I get mine?”

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San Antonio official believes Raiders have given city “a serious look”

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After meeting with Raiders owner Mark Davis last month, the president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce believes Davis will give the city some real consideration if the team decides to move.

In an interview Friday with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Chamber executive Richard Perez told hosts Alex Marvez and Ross Tucker that Davis “has indeed given us a serious look, and we’re going to see where this takes us.”

Perez also shed some light on Davis’ message to city officials.

“I will you tell that I felt very, very comfortable and confident that his word was true,” Perez said. “And he said, ‘Look, you know, I’m not telling you that I’m coming today, but I will tell you that I’m looking, and you all are definitely someone that we’re looking very closely at.’”

Referring to the city’s previous failed attempts to appeal to professional teams, Perez said: “The carrot’s been dangled in front of us before. We’ve jumped, and we haven’t been successful. But if you don’t take a chance, you never will succeed.”

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