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PFT Live: Montana says Moss is no Rice

Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana joins Mike Florio and talks about his new Tide commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, relationships between quarterbacks and wide receivers, Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans and more.

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Chip Kelly: Draft hype is worst thing about the NFL

2014 NFL Draft Getty Images

There’s no question that the NFL loves the draft and all they hype that goes along with it.

They’ve added days to the process, moved it to prime time and pushed it further back in the calendar to expand the amount of eyes taking in the move from college to the pros for the top prospects in the land. They spend plenty of time and money to promote the event each year and get even more free publicity from around the country as mock drafts and draftniks help whet everyone’s appetite for the selections, a hyperbolic process that inevitably leads to huge expectations for players a few years removed from high school.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly has gone through the process twice on the NFL side and he doesn’t share the league’s fondness for the event.

“What’s the worst thing about the league? I said the draft. I mean, the hype that goes into the draft is insane. Totally insane,” Kelly said, via Peter King of TheMMQB.com. “The biggest thing for me is that everybody thinks whoever you drafted or whoever you signed is now gonna be a savior. They come in just like me and you come in as freshmen in high school or freshmen in college, or your first year on the job at Sports Illustrated – you’re not telling people what to do, you’re just trying to figure out what room to go to.”

“I think a lot of times the hype turns into really, really hard times for the individual who got picked, because there’s so many expectations of everyone building them up to be Superman because they had three months to write about them and talk about them. Then when they get picked, they’re a very, very good prospect, but there’s a learning curve when you go from any job out of college into a company. If you take a job at Wells Fargo when you get out of college, your first day of the job they don’t say, ‘He’s our first-round draft pick, he’s the savior to the company!’”

Kelly went on to add the NFLPA’s Rookie Premiere event, post-draft grades and just about everything short of the food in the Eagles’ war room onto the list of things he doesn’t like about the draft process. Kelly’s either going to have to grin and bear it or find somewhere else to coach, though.

While the draft came into existence as a way for teams to add young players to their rosters, it has gradually become a television show devoted to promoting the league and a new crop of future stars. That creates an industry for people trying to make it seem like there’s a science, rather than educated guessing, to picking 21-year-olds who will become great 26-year-old football players and a message that the moves made over seven rounds in the spring can profoundly change the fortunes of a team in the fall.

With those conditions in place, hype is an unavoidable byproduct and it is one that isn’t going anywhere.

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Buccaneers sweating it out this training camp

Buccaneers Camp Football AP

Most of the other teams in the steamy part of the country are going early or late (or to West Virginia) to avoid the heat.

But the Buccaneers are charging right into the teeth of it, practicing in the swelter of the afternoon.

According to JoeBucsFan.com, the heat index for today’s 1 p.m. practice is scheduled to hit 100 degrees.

 

Bucs coach Lovie Smith has talked about using the heat to play into their home field advantage this fall, and most of their practices are scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are having most of their workouts in the morning, while the Saints headed to the mountains of West Virginia where the conditions are fall-like.
We’ll see if it works to Smith’s advantage this year, or whether his team is wiped out in camp and has little left for the regular season.

 

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Stephen A. Smith apologizes for his “provocation” remarks

Smith Getty Images

On Friday’s edition of First Take, Stephen A. Smith embraced something far more than debate by suggesting in connection with the Ray Rice suspension that female victims of domestic abuse need to be careful to avoid provoking the men in their lives to commit violence.  The comments drew a very strong reaction, including pointed comments on Twitter from ESPN’s Michelle Beadle, who said among other things after watching Friday’s show, “I’ll never feel clean again” and “I’m now aware that I can provoke my own beating.”

Smith responded by clumsily attempting to explain himself on Twitter, but in reality digging in deep enough that he eventually deleted the stream of tweets and posted a lengthy apology.

To launch Monday’s edition of First Take, Smith delivered what seemed to be a heartfelt apology, apology while reading from a teleprompter.

“Good morning,” Smith began.  “On Friday, speaking right here on First Take on the subject of domestic violence, I made what can only amount to the most egregious error of my career.  While elaborating on thoughts concerning the NFL’s ruling versus Ray Rice, following a domestic dispute with his then fiancee, I ventured beyond the scope of our discussion by alluding to a woman’s role in such heinous matters, going so far as to use the word ‘provoke’ in my diatribe.  My words came across that it is somehow a woman’s fault.  This was not my intent.  It is not what I was trying to say.  Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders.  To say what I actually said was foolish is an understatement.  To say I was wrong is obvious.  To apologize, to say I’m sorry, doesn’t do the matter its proper justice to be quite honest.”

Based on his grave delivery of that line, I actually wondered whether the next comment would be that he’s stepping down, for a week or a month or forever. That’s not the case.

“But I do sincerely apologize,” Smith continued.  “As a man raised by the greatest mother in the world and four older sisters, I’ve religiously spoken out against domestic violence all of my life.  I’ve done so repeatedly over 20 years in this business, as well as over these very airwaves.  Right here on First Take.  My primary reason for doing so is because I’ve experienced and dealt with the matter within my own family.  Unfortunately, I did an incredibly poor job of asserting my point of view last Friday.  For that, again, I am truly, truly sorry.  Particularly to victims of domestic abuse and to my female family members and loved ones I’ve disappointed and who know I know better, you all deserved a better professional and quite frankly a better man last Friday sitting on this very set, in this very chair.  My heartfelt apologies to each and every one of you.”

Smith paused and looked down for dramatic effect before saying “in this very chair,” which made me think of another guy who said something stupid about Donovan McNabb in one of the various chairs at ESPN roughly 11 years ago.  That guy was dumped.  Smith wasn’t.

While the situations may be distinguishable in many ways, ESPN has shown a hair trigger in the past when it comes to suspending on-air talent for a week or two.  Smith apparently won’t be suspended or otherwise disciplined.

“We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic,” ESPN said in a statement released after Smith’s on-air apology.  “Stephen’s comments last Friday do not reflect our company’s point of view.  As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.”

We’ll leave it for others to argue whether Smith should or shouldn’t be fired or suspended.  But his remarks were clearly wrong.  When it comes to domestic violence, there’s no “last straw” that justifies an attack.  Disengage from the argument.  Run away, to a stream of insults if need be.  Assume a defensive posture as a last resort.  But find a way out before it ever gets to the point where anyone could even begin to think that the actions of another justify something like an uppercut to the chin.

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NFL V.P. Adolpho Birch struggles to justify Ray Rice suspension

Ray Rice AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not yet spoken publicly on the controversial two-game suspension given to Ravens running back Ray Rice for assaulting his wife. But one of Goodell’s top deputies, NFL V.P. of labor policy and government affairs Adolpho Birch, went on the radio this morning in an attempt to explain. It did not go well.

Birch’s appearance on this morning’s Mike & Mike was so bad — so totally incapable of justifying the relatively light punishment handed to Rice — that host Mike Greenberg felt the need after the interview to address the listeners who had contacted the show to express their frustration with Birch’s evasions. Greenberg said he was frustrated by Birch’s evasions, too.

“I’m a little taken aback by the conversation, to be honest with you. The reaction is overwhelming and no one seems to think that he did a particularly good job of answering the questions,” Greenberg said minutes after the interview with Birch ended. “I do not feel that most people listening to that discussion feel they got an adequate explanation of how they arrived at two games.”

So how did the NFL arrive at two games for Rice? Well, Birch didn’t really have much of an answer. At one point he said the NFL was “bound in large part by precedent in prior cases.” But Birch said that just moments after insisting that prior cases — particularly the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger after he was accused of (but not criminally charged with) sexual assault — couldn’t be compared to the Rice case.

Birch also refused to answer whether the NFL is aware of information that isn’t available to the general public, such as surveillance camera footage beyond what has been widely distributed showing Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator. But Birch insisted that a two-game suspension without pay isn’t a minor punishment.

“It is multiple games and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think it’s fair to say that doesn’t reflect that you condone the behavior,” Birch said.

But the question isn’t whether the NFL condones a player beating up his wife. The question is whether the NFL is willing to take severe disciplinary actions against a player who beats up his wife. And the answer to that question is a resounding, “No.” The NFL hands out longer suspensions for everything from getting caught smoking pot repeatedly, to taking Adderall without filling out the necessary paperwork to — in the case of Roethlisberger — being accused of crimes without any arrests or charges. For the NFL to come down harder on pot smokers, Adderall users and players who weren’t evan arrested than it came down on Rice is baffling and requires an explanation.

Birch may have been trying to explain, but he failed. Greenberg said that in the minutes after the interview, the show got thousands of reactions via Twitter and email and that, “I can’t find a single one of them that said, ‘Well, that explained it for me.’ Literally not a single one.”

After Birch’s unsuccessful attempt to to explain the suspension, it’s time for Goodell to step up. NFL fans want to know why Ray Rice got off easy, and they want to hear it from Goodell.

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Ray Rice doesn’t appeal suspension, fine

Ray Rice, Janay Palmer AP

There are plenty of people who felt that the league did not impose the proper discipline on Ravens running back Ray Rice last week when they suspended him for two games and fined him an additional game check from the 2013 season in response to Rice’s February arrest for assaulting his wife and subsequent entry into a pre-trial diversion program.

The reaction of those people, most of whom saw the footage of Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer out of an elevator, has been that Rice was not punished severely enough by a league that they feel has imposed harsher discipline on others for less egregious offenses.

Rice is not among the displeased. He had three days to appeal the penalty, but Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that window closed without Rice making any attempt to plead his case for a lighter penalty. Given the overwhelmingly negative response to the league’s initial decision and their actions in comparable situations, Rice probably didn’t have much chance of getting the penalty reduced and reacted accordingly.

That means he’ll miss the first two games of the season, but will be able to participate in training camp and preseason games before the suspension kicks in.

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Kelvin Benjamin getting a “precautionary MRI”

Kelvin Benjamin AP

The Panthers added a bunch of guys to their receiving corps this offseason, pinning much of the hope on first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin.

Now, they have to hope he’s well.

The Panthers announced this morning that Benjamin was “getting a precautionary MRI” after banging knees with a teammate in practice yesterday.

Benjamin wasn’t going to replace veteran Steve Smith immediately anyway, but if he’s out any amount of time, they could be in real trouble throwing the ball.

Though they’ll go two-tight end more (or maybe three), their next-best options at wide receiver are Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.

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Redskins sign Everette Brown

Drew Brees, Everette Brown AP

Everette Brown has landed with yet another NFC East club.

According to ESPN’s John Keim, the Redskins have reached a deal with the 26-year-old Brown, who likely will play outside linebacker in Washington’s 3-4 scheme.

Brown (6-1, 263) appeared in seven games for Dallas in 2013, recording 10 tackles and one sack. The Cowboys released him earlier in the offseason. Brown has also spent time with Carolina (2009-2011), San Diego (2011-2012), Detroit (2012) and Philadelphia (2013). Overall, Brown has played in 38 regular season games, notching seven sacks.

A Florida State product, the Panthers selected Brown in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, trading a 2010 first-round selection to San Francisco in the process.

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Panthers offensive lineman Travelle Wharton to retire

Jacksonville Jaguars v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Longtime Panthers guard Travelle Wharton might not have shrunk quite like his old teammate Jordan Gross, but he’s going to have the opportunity.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Wharton will announce his retirement Tuesday at a press conference at Panthers training camp.

The 2004 third-round pick spent most of his 10 years in the NFL with the Panthers, coming back last year as an injury replacement and playing fairly well.

But he ultimately decided not to try that route again, and will likely join Gross on the sidelines, getting skinny.

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PFT on NBCSN, PFT Live return today

NBCUniversal Logos

Now that that Tour de France thing is over, Pro Football Talk returns to NBCSN.  We’re back on the air at 5:30 p.m. ET, with Kevin Gilbride and Brian Westbrook in studio, along with today’s co-host, Dave Briggs.

Before that, I’ll get back on the non-Tour de France thing bike with PFT Live, the web show that streams right here (click the box in the right rail), featuring a visit from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News and your Twitter questions at phone calls.

PFT Live starts at noon ET.  Which means I have to shower and shave a lot earlier than I have at any time during the last three weeks, when frankly there hasn’t been much showering and/or shaving.

The best news is that I should be able to sleep inside the house tonight.

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Steven Jackson bought into his own hype last season

Steven Jackson AP

Steven Jackson was used to carrying a bad Rams team, so it’s perhaps natural he thought he’d be the thing that pushed an already good Falcons team over the top.

Instead, the season was as much of a disaster for him as for them, with his streak of 1,000-yard seasons ending at eight, and the Falcons falling miserably to 4-12.

“There were quite a few of the years in St. Louis when I shouldered a large burden, and I knew going into every season what I was going into,” Jackson said, via Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “When I came here last year, I kind of believed my own hype. The team was so close to going to the Super Bowl, and I thought I was going to be the missing link. Then reality slaps you. It’s still a team sport.

“This year I know I don’t have to shoulder the burden of carrying the franchise. I’m not the missing piece, I’m just one piece. I feel comfortable knowing that I can still compete at a high level. But all of the unnecessary stress is gone.”

The Falcons actually need Jackson to be a bigger piece this year. With tight end Tony Gonzalez retired, there’s a big offensive void that someone needs to fill.

Being well would be a good first step, since Jackson’s career-low numbers last year were attributed to a hamstring problem that bothered him throughout. But the Falcons also fixed their disaster of an offensive line, so the cumulative result should be a better chance for Jackson to get back to being himself.

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Chris Rainey cut for disciplinary reasons, not football reasons

raineypagano AP

For the second time in his brief NFL career, running back Chris Rainey has been cut for off-field reasons.

Rainey was cut by the Colts today for violating team rules, Adam Schefter ‏of ESPN reports. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star adds that the release is conduct related and that head coach Chuck Pagano plans to provide more details.

What’s clear is that the decision was not about Rainey’s performance on the football field at training camp, which is consistent with what Pagano has been saying about Rainey: Pagano raved over the weekend about how much he likes Rainey, and when running back Vick Ballard was lost for the season with a knee injury, it appeared that Rainey would play an important role on the team as a backup running back as well as a kick returner.

Instead, Rainey has been released for something he did off the field. We don’t know exactly what that “something” was, but we do know that this has happened to Rainey before: The Steelers cut him shortly after his rookie year ended following an arrest on a charge of battery against his girlfriend. Now that Rainey has blown his second chance with the Colts, he’ll have to hope some team is willing to give him a third chance.

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No practice for Arian Foster on Monday

Arian Foster AP

The Texans played much of last season without running back Arian Foster because of a back injury, making life more difficult for their offense and creating some worry when Foster had to leave Sunday’s practice early.

The good news is that the reason for his departure, which came with the assistance of a cart, didn’t seem to have anything to do with his back. He was getting his legs stretched out on the sideline before riding the cart to the trainer’s room and the Texans didn’t express much concern about his status.

“Is Arian OK? As far as I know,” coach Bill O’Brien said, via CSNHouston.com.

Whatever the issue — Foster dealt with hamstring troubles in training camp last year — it is enough to keep the back off the practice field during Monday’s first padded practice of camp as well. It may just be precautionary as the Texans try to keep a small problem from blossoming, but it will certainly be something to watch given Foster’s recent injury history. Andre Brown will likely see a few more reps with Foster out of the lineup.

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Browns, agents explain Jason Pinkston has “not been medically cleared”

Pinkston Getty Images

On Sunday, no one would say anything about the absence of Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston from training camp.  On Monday, the team and Pinkston’s agents issued a brief, two-sentence statement on the situation.

“Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston has not been medically cleared to participate in football activities,” the Browns and agents Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod said.  “The team has been in communication with Jason and his representatives and will respect their wishes to not provide any further details at this time.”

The situation sparked plenty of speculation that Pinkston is holding out, given that Schwartz & Feinsod have a reputation for holding out their clients.  That’s apparently not the case, but the absence of complete information invites all sorts of additional guesswork.

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The incredible shrinking Jordan Gross

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Players come to camp every year saying they’re in the best shape of their life.

Former Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross clearly means it.

According to Adam Morgan of Black and Blue Review, Gross has dropped 70 pounds since retiring this offseason, from 305 down to 235.

“I don’t like it. I’m not a big fan of it. I think he looks kind of weird. He looks really unhealthy,” Panthers center Ryan Kalil cracked. “The problem is, he’s walking around and checking himself out in the mirror, and he thinks he looks cool. He just looks bad. And I’ve told him that many times.”

Gross will take it, even with the jabs coming from every direction.

“My wife’s freaking out. She says she’s having an affair on me with me,” Gross said. “I’ve been asked if my brother plays pro football. People look at me funny. I was actually out on our boat, and this girl said, ‘Are you Jordan Gross?’ and I said, ‘No. He’s fatter than I am.’ And she said, ‘Yeah and you’re probably better at football than him, too.’”

The shame of it is, he had finally grown into his ears, which are now again one of his more prominent features.

All jokes aside, the alarming rate at which Gross has dropped the weight underscores how hard it was for him to stay big enough to compete in the NFL. He looks like a fit person now, if not one who spent 12 years playing offensive line.

Photo credit: Black and Blue Review

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Matt Forte wants to disprove notions about aging running backs

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

There aren’t many walks of life when someone who is 28 is considered aging, but that’s the case for running backs in the NFL.

The much-feared 30th birthday isn’t too far away and any potential sign of slippage becomes a reason to worry that a back has hit the wall that separates the productive phase of their career from the final grinding years before retirement. Bears running back Matt Forte turns 29 in December and hopes to change some of the notions that we have about running backs that age during the 2014 season.

“I want to break the stereotype of old running backs going downhill,” Forte said, via the Chicago Tribune. “This offseason I feel better than I have the past five or six offseasons. I got my rest and I know how to take care of my body now. Yeah, it is going to be harder and harder every year, but as long as you continue to have your set routine and stick to it, and a lot of prayer too, that helps a lot. Health is the main deal.”

Health helped Forte stay on the field most of the time last season on his way to career highs in rushing yards and receptions and a third-place finish in total yards from scrimmage. It’s a strong argument against the start of the decline phase of his career, but it was also the most touches in the league and the cumulative effect of those touches could impact Forte this season. They’ll look to rookie Ka’Deem Carey to take some of those touches this season in hopes of keeping Forte fresh, but more production like 2013 will make it hard to keep Forte from showing that 28 is the new 25.

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