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Flacco sheds his dullness label, a little

Flacco AP

The Super Bowl victory tour has taken Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco from New Orleans to Orlando to New Jersey to New York City, where he finished a whirlwind day with an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman (which tapes much earlier than 11:30 p.m. ET).

And while Flacco is far closer to Eli Manning than Peyton on the natural charisma spectrum, Flacco showed enough personality to allow him to start cashing in off the field — but not to the extent Flacco will cash in on the field.  More importantly, Flacco continues to prove that, contrary to his father’s opinions, Flacco isn’t dull.

For example, Letterman at one point asked, “Tell me about this guy Ray Lewis.  What’s his deal?”

“Well, half the time I don’t know,” Flacco said, laughing.  “But come Sunday, he has something special.”

Is that something special “deer hoof spray,” as Letterman described it?

“You’d have to ask him about that one, man,” Flacco said.

On slightly meatier subjects, Flacco said he’ll have no concerns having his infant son (and any others he may have) play football.

“No doubt about it,” Flacco said.  “I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to play at the level that we play at.  But football’s a great sport, and it’s the reason why I’m able to live the life I live today and the reason he’s gonna grow up the way he grows up.”

Flacco said the he never has had a concussion; “I haven’t been knocked out, but I’ve been knocked down,” Flacco said.

And brainpower apparently isn’t as important as fans would think.

“An NFL playbook is much easier than people make it out to be,” Flacco said.

“You’re hurting yourself a little in that contract negotiation,” Letterman observed.

It was a funny line, but the proverbial hay is already in the barn.  The only question left is how much Flacco will get paid for it — and whether he’ll have to withhold services in order to get what he wants.

Until then, maybe Flacco can host Saturday Night Live.

[Editor's note:  Since there was no studio photo of Flacco with Letterman, we opted for a picture of Flacco rubbing the head of Letterman employee "Biff" Henderson.  And, yes, that's Rich Eisen in the background, possibly remarking to Flacco, "You're better than that."]

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Rice caught a break on his one-game fine

Rice AP

For the many who believe Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t go nearly far enough by suspending Ravens running back Ray Rice only two games for knocking out the woman who would later become his wife, Rice got another piece of favorable treatment.

Via ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the one-game fine attached to the two-game suspension will be calculated based on Rice’s 2013 base salary of $1 million, not his 2014 base salary of $4 million — even though the incident happened in 2014 and the suspension was imposed in 2014.

It reduces the fine from $235,529 to $58,823, a savings to Rice of $176,706.

That wrinkle wasn’t mentioned in the press release announcing the punishment, creating the reasonable impression that the money was coming from 2014:  “[H]e will be suspended without pay for the first two 2014 regular season games and fined an additional game check.”

Meanwhile, some have defended the league’s wrist-slap for Rice’s chin-punch by pointing to other language from the release:  “In May, Rice resolved the charges by entering into a pretrial intervention program. Under this program, he will not be prosecuted and is not required to serve jail time or pay any fine. After one year, the charges will be expunged and will not be part of Rice’s record.”

If the punishment from the league was truly intended to simulate the punishment imposed by the criminal justice system, why was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suspended four games for a civil lawsuit in 2009 and allegations that never culminated in an arrest in 2010?  The obvious explanation is that the NFL did its own investigation and concluded that unacceptable behavior occurred, and that Roethlisberger had become a repeat offender.  Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that the contents of the still-unleaked video of Rice punching the woman who became his wife supports the notion that Janay had crossed the line repeatedly before Ray reacted.

Maybe it’s time for that video to be released, since it happened in a public place and has become a matter of public concern.

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David Tyree says he’d support a gay player on the Giants

david-tyree-super-bowl-catch Getty Images

When the Giants hired former receiver David Tyree as their new director of player development, it resulted in some criticism because Tyree has a history of making anti-gay comments. But Tyree says that he would be supportive of gay players on the Giants.

Wade Davis, an openly gay former NFL player, writes at TheMMQB.com that Tyree assured him that an openly gay player on the Giants would be welcomed.

“I would absolutely support any player on the Giants who identified as gay, in any way I could,” Tyree said. “And I will continue to stay in touch with Wade to ensure I am aware of the right ways to do that.”

Tyree is best remembered for his “helmet catch” in Super Bowl XLII. He has previously said that he would give up that catch and that Super Bowl to prevent gay marriage. Tyree hasn’t specifically disavowed those views, but he does recognize that accepting all gay players — including gay players — is a requirement of his job.

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Gerald McCoy: People are about to see how good Josh McCown is

Josh McCown AP

As training camps spring to life across the NFL, hope springs eternal in a league defined by its parity.

Praise of players and teammates also comes easily as everyone is “way better than last year,” “ready to take a step forward” or “poised for big things this season.”

One such player getting glowing reviews from teammates is Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, defensive end Gerald McCoy believes the league isn’t giving McCown enough credit for his ability.

“I don’t know how much people really know how good Josh McCown is,” McCoy said. “I think a lot of people are about to see how good he really is.”

“He’s (35), but with the amount of time he’s played, he’s 28. His mental capacity is as old as it gets. He’s been around for a while. His leadership ability is incredible, and he’s going to lead this team.”

McCown is the favorite to start for the Buccaneers this season. Entering his 12th season in the NFL, it would be only McCown’s second opportunity as a full-time starter. He also started 13 games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.

However, McCown parlayed a strong season in relief of Jay Cutler in Chicago into a starting job with the Buccaneers. McCown appeared in eight games with five starts for the Bears last year. He completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,829 yards with 13 touchdowns and one interception.

While it helps having arguably the best receiver tandem in the league in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, McCown took full advantage of the opportunity and earned his chance in Tampa Bay. With Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins among the targets McCoy will have to throw too, the league should find out if McCown can live up to the praise this season.

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Report: Josh Gordon went to rehab after latest arrest

Cleveland Browns v New York Jets Getty Images

It’s been a tumultuous offseason for Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon that has seen him suspended (pending an Aug. 1 appeal) for another substance-abuse policy violation, ticketed for speeding and arrested for a DUI charge.

However, Gordon has apparently taken his latest infraction more seriously and has begun to seek help for his string of problems.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Gordon checked into a rehab facility following his DUI arrest in North Carolina earlier this month. Gordon is still expected to report to training camp with the Browns on Friday and the team currently has no intention of releasing him.

The move to attend rehab won’t do anything to help him avoid suspension. It likely won’t help him avoid further possible punishment stemming from the DUI arrest either. But it may be the first step toward Gordon getting his life in order to be able to return to football at some point in the future.

Or Gordon won’t learn from his mistakes and he’ll follow in Tanard Jackson’s footsteps instead. No matter what choice Gordon makes, the decision is up to him. Checking into rehab and admitting he has a problem is a good first step.

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Seahawks, Lynch have been talking new deal for four months

Lynch AP

Running back Marshawn Lynch wants a new deal from the Seahawks.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, there’s a “zero percent chance” he’ll show up for the start of training camp without a contract that replaces the final two seasons of his four-year, $30 million contract.

Talks have been occurring on and off, according to the source, for four months.  The Seahawks have resisted due to concerns that giving a player a new contract with two years left on his current agreement would set a bad precedent.

If that’s the case, it’s hard to see how rewarding the offensive player most critical to the team’s success in the last two years would set a bad precedent.  If, moving forward, other players with two years left on a contract want new deals because Marshawn Lynch got one, the easy answer is, “You’re not Marshawn Lynch.”

Besides, if Lynch waits until he has one year left on his contract, he may have far less value to the team than he does right now.  Indeed, the Seahawks may decide by next year to move on to someone else at tailback.

And so Lynch won’t be moving in to camp until he gets a new deal.  Given his personality and temperament, there’s a chance he’ll stay away as long as it takes, even if it never happens.

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Report: Bon Jovi’s ownership group has explored building Toronto stadium

Bon Jovi Getty Images

While the potential Bills ownership group fronted by Jon Bon Jovi may currently be saying all the right things about keeping the team in Buffalo, Bon Jovi and company reportedly have explored the possibility of moving the team to Toronto.

According to the Associated Press, the Bon Jovi group has conducted a feasibility study regarding the construction of a stadium in the Toronto area.  The study identified at least three potential sites.

Andy Bergmann, who oversees the group’s stadium plan, denied that any feasibility study has been conducted.

“We have undertaken engineering and design studies,” Bergmann told the AP via email.  “All of our work has been about a generic site and whether it was more rural or urban. We are aware of potential sites in the western NY and southern Ontario region, and are in fact meeting with two Buffalo area developers next week.”

Despite reports that the Bon Jovi group wouldn’t move the team, many aren’t buying it — including Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

“It is my personal opinion that any bid associated with the Toronto group has a long-term interest in moving the team to Toronto,” Poloncarz told the AP.

Any group that would move the team can’t say it would move the team until the time comes to actually move the team, for a variety of reasons.  So none of the groups looking to buy the team will admit they want to move the team, and the question then becomes whether anyone believes the statements of intention to remain in Buffalo.

Few Bills fans believe that Bon Jovi would keep the team in Buffalo.  The latest report from the AP will do nothing to change the minds of those who are convinced that on a steel horse the franchise will ride to Toronto.

I knew if I babbled long enough I’d eventually come up with a way to force a Bon Jovi song reference into this thing.

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Seahawks to sign David Gilreath, C.J. Davis

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Following the retirement of Sidney Rice and a handful of roster moves earlier on Thursday, the Seattle Seahawks had two open roster spots ahead of the start of training camp on Friday morning.

The Seahawks have apparently found the two players that will fill those vacancies prior to camp getting underway.

According to his agent, Neil Schwartz, the Seahawks have agreed to terms with guard C.J. Davis. In addition, the team has signed receiver David Gilreath to a one-year deal, per Mike Garafolo of FOXSports.com.

Davis appeared in seven games for the Carolina Panthers in 2010, and seven games for the Denver Broncos in 2012.

Gilreath has been an NFL vagabond during his previous three seasons. He has played for seven teams – the Oakland Raiders being the most recent pit stop. The Seahawks will be his eighth team.

Gilreath appeared in three games for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012 with one carry for seven yards.

The additions will get the Seahawks to their roster limit of 90 players.

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Steelers waive LB Kion Wilson, sign rookie CB Lew Toler

Pittsburgh Steelers helmets AP

The Steelers have signed undrafted rookie cornerback Lew Toler and waived veteran inside linebacker Kion Wilson. The roster moves were disclosed in the NFL’s Thursday transactions.

Wilson, 27, appeared in seven games for Pittsburgh in 2013, notching 12 tackles. He started at left inside linebacker in Weeks Two and Three before being replaced by Vince Williams.

Toler (5-11, 189) played collegiately at Western Michigan and Rutgers, recording 180 tackles and picking off eight passes in 43 games (41 starts). The 23-year-old Toler is one of nine cornerbacks on the Steelers’ roster.

The Steelers begin training camp on Friday.

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Seahawks don’t seem to be inclined to give Lynch a raise

Lynch AP

It was quite the coincidence, or perhaps not a coincidence at all, that Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch called former teammate Michael Robinson while Robinson was spending several hours on the air at NFL Network and told Robinson that Lynch plans to hold out.

Lynch has been making noise for weeks about wanting a new deal, but he has yet to take concrete action toward that end.  He showed up for a mandatory minicamp amid reports he wouldn’t.  Now, Lynch potentially is throwing a Hail Mary pass in the hopes the Seahawks will blink.

It would be a surprise if they do.  As the Seahawks see it, Lynch has completed half of a four-year, $30 million contract.  He has two years left, and by the time those two years have expired, if not sooner, the team may begin to devote a sizable chunk of Lynch’s touches to Christine Michael or Robert Turbin.

Lynch knows that, given his age (28) and the hits he has absorbed, now is the time to get one last payday.  By next year or the year after, he’ll be at best among the smattering of veterans fetching $3.5 million annually, at best, on the open market.

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Saints host is a Parcells impersonator

Parcells Getty Images

Two years ago, Hall of Famer Bill Parcells nearly served as the interim head coach for the Saints.  In 2014, Parcells will be at Saints training camp.

Sort of.

West Virginia coal baron Jim Justice, the billionaire who owns The Greenbrier, is a Parcells doppleganger.  And Justice has been known to have some fun with it.

“I’ve been in airports and people walk up and say, ‘Coach Parcells, can I have your autograph?‘” Justice told Tom Corbett of USA Today.  “And I say, ‘Oh, sure.’  And I sign, ‘Best wishes, Bill Parcells’ — because it’s the happiest they can be.  [Parcells] is a lot better looking guy than I am.”

Justice said he plunked down $30 million of his own money to build a practice facility for the Saints.

“The Saints are paying for their rooms and their meals,” Justice said.  “Basically, that’s it. The Saints didn’t put money in this deal.”

It’s a bit surprising the Saints are even doing that, given the potential economic impact on a resort like The Greenbrier, both during camp and after.  Other resorts could be tempted to do the same thing in the future, luring an NFL team to town for an old-school camp experience that either saves the team a lot of money, or possibly puts some extra money into the team’s coffers.

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Tony Romo: You’ll see the best version of me in the next 4-5 years

tonyromo AP

A 34-year-old coming off back surgery isn’t exactly the perfect description of an athlete entering his prime. But that’s what Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo says he is.

Romo told reporters today that he thinks he’s going to be better than ever this year, and for a few more years to come.

“I feel personally like I’ve just started to come into the player that I wanted to be six, seven years ago,” Romo said, via the Star-Telegram. “I think over the course of the next four or five years, you’ll see the best version of me that I’ve had throughout my career. That’s for a lot of different reasons, but I really believe that. I believe that will show as we go forward, so I’m excited about that.”

Romo had a strong season statistically last year, with 31 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions in 15 games. Given the sorry state of the Cowboys’ defense, Romo may have to be even better than that this year if the Cowboys are going to break their streak of three straight 8-8 seasons and reach the playoffs.

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Peyton disappointed fans can’t attend Broncos camp

peyton AP

The Broncos have closed training camp to fans this year because of construction at the team facilities, and Peyton Manning says that makes this year’s camp different.

“As great as these facilities are going to be, the disappointing thing is that just due to the safety issues we couldn’t have fans here, and I’m disappointed in it – it was not the same today,” Manning told Tom Jackson on ESPN.

Manning said he and his teammates have always enjoyed hearing the fans cheering them on at practice, and this year that won’t be the case.

“You need fans out here in training camp. The energy, you get into the padded practices, those third and fourth padded practices, just a little shout out from the fans . . . it makes a difference and I missed it today,” Manning said. “I know we’re really going to miss it as these training camp practices go on. I just want them to know it will be missed and it was an unavoidable situation.”

The Broncos are planning some open practices at Mile High, but that’s not the same as the day-in, day-out close contact with fans that teams have when they open up training camp.

“We’ve got a couple practices at the stadium. Hopefully we’ll have a great turnout there,” Manning said. “But fans, to me, are a part of training camp, and this will be different this year, and it’s sad for me. Especially these Broncos fans, I know these are some loyal fans, I know fans that have been planning vacations around training camp. I’ve seen them for the past two years and [John] Elway said they’ve been here since he’s been playing so that tells you the kinds of fans we’re playing for and we’re sorry not to see them this year.”

The Broncos say this year’s construction will improve the facilities and make future training camps a better experience for fans. In Manning’s view, that will also make training camp a better experience for players.

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Seahawks waive two players, sign WR Morrell Presley

Paul Richardson AP

The Seahawks signed rookie wide receiver Morrell Presley and waived second-year offensive guard Jared Smith and rookie tight end Chase Dixon on Thursday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

Presley (6-4, 225) tried out for Seattle in the spring. He played at UCLA (2009-2010) and California (Pa.) (2012). As PFT’s Curtis Crabtree noted, Presley — whose addition was first reported yesterday — adds a little more size to the club’s receiving corps after the retirement of Sidney Rice.

Smith, a seventh-round pick of Seattle in 2013, was waived/injured. According to the club’s website, Smith sustained a leg injury last year.

Dixon is an undrafted free agent out of Central Arkansas.

The roster moves leave the Seahawks with 88 players, leaving them two open roster spots in case they wanted to, you know, add another running back.

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Marshawn Lynch will be holding out

Marshawn Lynch AP

The Seahawks managed to coax running back Marshawn Lynch to show up for a mandatory minicamp amid concerns he would hold out.  Now, Lynch won’t be showing up for training camp.

Former teammate Michael Robinson, who’s currently working for NFL Network, said on the air moments ago that Lynch said he’ll hold out.

The move exposes Lynch to $30,000 per day in fines, along with (after five days) partial forfeiture of his $6 million signing bonus.

In 2012, Lynch signed a four-year, $30 million contract.  He’s due to earn $5.5 million in 2014, with a cap number of $7 million.

The move comes a day after the Chiefs bumped the 2014 pay of Jamaal Charles from $3.9 million to $8.3 million, via a two-year extension that puts him under contract for four years, $28 million.

Lynch’s holdout represents the first significant negative development for the defending Super Bowl champions, who gave long-term contracts in the offseason to safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.

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Browns may use Manziel in a specialty package

Manziel AP

For a guy who lived through the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow debacle in New York, Browns coach Mike Pettine doesn’t seem to be concerned about his quarterback competition in Cleveland becoming a potential two-man show.  In fact, it looks like that’s what Pettine wants.

During his interview with Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, Pettine said that the team is considering using Manziel as a Wildcat-style change-of-pace in his rookie year.

We’ve already talked about it,” Pettine said regarding the possibility of using both Manziel and Brian Hoyer in the same game.
“We’ve already installed elements of it in the spring.  We ran some of the zone-read stuff in practice and Kyle [Shanahan] incorporated some of the mobile quarterback elements of what he did in Washington.  We’re still going to go back to the beginning in pads, but as we get going, some of the stuff that’s more game-plan-specific that we don’t want to show, we might work on in our walk-throughs as opposed to a public practice.”

Pettine wisely didn’t point to the Sanchez-Tebow experiment as justification for doing it.

“That’s how Colin Kaepernick got his start in the NFL, as a package quarterback,” Pettine said of the former 49ers backup.  “On the other side of the ball, I’ve seen that give defenses some trouble.  I think there’s positives and negatives to it.  You’re taking your starter off the field.  You have his rhythm and continuity to take into account, but at the same time defensively you’re now forcing a team to basically come up with two game plans.  I mean, there are pluses and minuses to it and it’s something I’m sure will be discussed at some point.”

In theory, the Jets wanted Tebow because of the pressure that preparing for two quarterbacks puts on a defense.  And if former offensive coordinator Tony Sporano had any faith at all in Tebow, the Jets may have actually used him.

The Jets and Pettine nevertheless got a first-hand look at the challenge of dealing with two quarterbacks in September 2012, when Kaepernick rushed five time for 50 yards and a touchdown coming off the bench and showing the Jets how to properly employ a two-quarterback system.

If the Browns could pull it off, the dilution of the ability of the opposing defense to fully prepare for each guy could help both guys thrive.  The only downside is that, as Manziel has more and more success, more and more fans will be clamoring for him to be something other than a part-time player.

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