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Ravens would be interested in having Ray Lewis as a coach, but Ray isn’t

Ray Lewis Jr. AP

Throughout his career (and especially in recent years), Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has operated essentially as an on-field coach.

Now that Lewis is retired as a player, the door is open as a coach.  Not surprisingly, Lewis isn’t interested.

“All of the guys that have played here come back often.  Talk to players, and they are always welcome,” Harbaugh said Thursday, via CSN Baltimore.com.  “Of course, Ray would be no less than that.  We have talked about it.  He knows he is always welcome.  He has not expressed an interest to coach.  I have asked him, and he is not interested.  But we have talked about it.”

Of course he’s not interested.  It’s long hours and low pay.  And it cuts against his desire to spend more time with his family, and also to get paid a lot more money for a lot less time at ESPN.

Ray also has said he wants to be an actor, which if he can make it to the “A” list pays a lot more than what he made for a full season of football.

Direct involvement in a football team has taken Ray Lewis as far as it ever will.  Unless and until other opportunities dry up, there’s no reason for him to coach — even though he’d likely be very good at it.

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Cary Williams: “No question” I’m in same class as the best corners in the league

Cary Williams AP

It has been a good offseason for cornerbacks.

Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden and Patrick Peterson have all gotten lucrative new contracts since the 2013 season came to a close. That race to the bank has also ramped up discussion among some members of the group about which of them is the best cornerback in football. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams’s name has never come up in those discussions, but Williams isn’t sure why that’s the case.

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reports that Williams said there’s “no question” that he belongs in a group of cornerbacks that he calls “equally as talented” as himself.

“I look at my career. I’ve played in playoff games,” Williams said. “Most of those guys haven’t played in playoff games. It is what it is. Hopefully those guys could make it to the playoffs. Hopefully those guys could continue the success that they’ve had in their careers. Much respect to those guys, because I don’t see a much of a difference in any of them.”

Williams is a capable NFL cornerback and, as he mentions, he’s played on some good teams in Baltimore and Philadelphia, but he’s not going to find many people buying into his argument that he’s played at the same level as those cornerbacks. Revis and Sherman have both had great success in the playoffs during their careers and Haden and Peterson’s play has been all the more impressive given how little help, relative to Williams’s teammates anyway, their teammates have given them. And all four have been much more impactful and consistent than Williams, should one need more than the playoff argument to chip away at the Eagles corner’s claim.

One thing is for certain after reading Williams’s take, though. Cornerbacks have officially replaced wide receivers as the most voluble (and occasionally delusional) group of players in the league.

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Brandon Marshall thinks Jay Cutler will win NFL MVP

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall AP

Peyton Manning is the betting favorite to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award this season. But Brandon Marshall’s money is on Jay Cutler.

Actually, Marshall can’t put any money on it because that would violate NFL rules. But Marshall does believe that Cutler is going to show this year that he’s the best player in football.

“League MVP,” Marshall said of Cutler on NFL Network. “He’s the first one in the building, last one to leave, his leadership is through the roof. He’s correcting the coaches. I mean, this is his offense. This is his organization. He’s running it, and I love it.”

Cutler missed five games with injuries last year, but he played well when healthy, with a career-high 89.2 passer rating. But Cutler will probably both need to be healthy for all 16 games and have an even higher passer rating this year if anyone is going to consider him seriously for the MVP.

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Chris Johnson: I’m going to do great things this year

Chris Johnson AP

There haven’t been many situations in the last few years when the Jets offense was compared favorably to that of any other team, but running back Chris Johnson doesn’t seem that interested in the past.

That goes for his own results as well. Johnson’s production the last couple of seasons has raised a lot of questions about whether or not Johnson has passed the point where he can be a top-flight runner in the NFL. Johnson has been adamant that there’s plenty left in his tank and thinks “it’s not hard to be the top guy” in a league where most of the top backs are running for 1,100 or 1,200 yards. He also thinks that moving from the Titans’ offense to the Jets’ scheme represents a big step forward.

“I went through a lot of situations last year. You look at [LeSean] McCoy. He got put in a great situation: great offense and great schemes. So he’s doing what he’s supposed to do,” Johnson said, via the New York Daily News. “I went through three different offensive coordinators [with the Titans]. I feel like I now have a great offensive coordinator in Marty [Mornhinweg]. And I’m going to do great things this year.”

There have been plenty of players who have seen their play take a positive turn after a change of scenery and Johnson has run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his six NFL seasons, so it’s not like he fell completely off the radar after 2009. We’ve also seen plenty of players who are unable to recapture their old magic and the answer to which camp Johnson belongs in will go a long way toward determining both the Jets’ fortunes in 2014 and his own future in the NFL.

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Ray Rice will take questions from reporters for first time today

Ray Rice, Janay Rice AP

Ray Rice has stood in front of his bosses, judges and the commissioner.

But for the first time since video showed him dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator, he’ll stand in front of reporters asking questions today.

The Ravens running back is scheduled to talk to reporters today about his two-game suspension, and the incident that led to it.

The organization has protected him carefully, from a press conference with no questions to passionate defenses on the team’s official website, but today he’ll be on his own.

You’ll see his heart, just like you saw it last time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “He’s not going to give you some polished press conference. That’s not Ray. Ray’s going to speak from the heart.”

Harbaugh said yesterday that he was proud of the way Rice has handled the situation (not the assault, the reaction to the assault), but Rice could make some headway this afternoon.

Of course, that would take acknowledging a mistake and doing something about it, rather than just referring to domestic violence as another one of the catch-all “distractions,” which plague NFL teams.

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Mike Zimmer: Cordarrelle Patterson is confident, but not cocky like T.O. and Chad Johnson

Cordarrelle Patterson AP

There are plenty of people who expect Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to have a breakout season in 2014.

That group includes the decision makers at Sports Illustrated, who have named Patterson as one of this year’s rising stars across all sports. Patterson has weighed in on the topic as well, saying that he plans to be a “top-five playmaker” among other things, but coach Mike Zimmer isn’t worried about Patterson’s confidence turning him into the kind of diva receiver he saw when he was the defensive coordinator with the Bengals.

“Honestly, it’s great,” Zimmer said, via the Pioneer Press. “He’s confident, but he’s not like a couple of guys we had in Cincinnati. He’s pretty respectful about it. He works hard, and he’s a young evolving player still. So I like it.”

Zimmer’s referring to Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, two players who saw their difficult personalities tolerated and indulged because of how productive they were on the football field. Patterson may be lacking the character traits that Zimmer didn’t like in those wideouts, but he also hasn’t performed at the same level and will need to in order for anyone to pay this much attention to him again in the future.

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Mike Wallace out for second straight day with a sore hamstring

Miami Dolphins Minicamp Getty Images

The Dolphins hope to get more out of wide receiver Mike Wallace in Wallace’s second season in Miami, but things haven’t gotten off to the best of starts.

Wallace is out of practice on Thursday because of a sore hamstring, which also kept him out of practice on Wednesday. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that the injury is expected to keep Wallace off the field through the weekend.

That means Wallace will miss a scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday and Salguero reports he’ll be evaluated again at the start of next week. If Wallace’s absence extends deeper into the week, he’ll be at risk of missing the team’s first preseason game on August 8 against the Falcons.

It doesn’t sound like it is a major injury, although anything that keeps Wallace from working with quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the team’s new offense is less than ideal for the chances of getting that improved second season from the centerpiece of their 2013 offseason moves.

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Robert Mathis balancing professional guilt and personal joy

Colts Camp Football AP

Robert Mathis is sorry that he’s going to miss four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.

But when he balances that against the joy of his new daughter, he’s able to sleep at night.

Mathis said the suspension stemmed from his use of Clomid, which he took because of “fertility challenges.” But they overcame those, and his daughter Brielle was born July 19.

The timing was wrong,” Mathis said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com. “I cost my team on the professional level. Personal level, I have a lifetime worth of smiles and kisses. I try to learn from it and move forward.”

But beyond the family issues, there was skepticism about Mathis going from 8.0 sacks to 19.5 last year, and Mathis said he doesn’t shy away from those questions. But with a baby girl in his arms, they matter less.

“I apologized for the professional side of it, the personal side of it. I have no regrets at all,” he said. “I look at my baby’s face in my phone every day and I have no regrets. . . . I know how people are going to react, know what people are going to say coming off a season like last year. That’s human nature. . . .

“(Brielle) looks at me and sees no wrong. She don’t know how she got here, she doesn’t care how she got here. She knows she’s here and feed me. That’s my job and that’s going to be my job for the next 18 years or however long it takes, football will be long gone. She’ll be here.”

And after the first four games, Mathis will be back with the Colts.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Captain Munnerlyn AP

Bills LB Nigel Bradham’s suspension stemmed from a dropped charge of marijuana possession.

The Dolphins are apparently moving on from the Shelley Smith experiment at C.

The Patriots like being able to go to the bullpen for FB James Develin.

Jets rookie TE Jace Amaro is struggling early in camp.

The Ravens are running a little thin at LB.

The Bengals have had their share of scuffles in camp.

The Browns added some offensive line depth.

The Steelers are letting QB Ben Roethlisberger run a little more no-huddle.

New Texans coach Bill O’Brien is taking a hands-on approach.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano says his team can “decide” to go to the Super Bowl.

Jaguars TE Clay Harbor could miss a month with a calf injury.

Titans DT Jurrell Casey is ready to earn some big money.

Broncos fans finally got to see camp, and they got soaked (as opposed to every other time they enter the stadium).

Chiefs T Donald Stephenson returned to practice after an ankle injury.

The Raiders are excited about their pass-rush options.

The Chargers WRs are having a good camp so far.

The Cowboys are going to have to use a committee to replace their latest injured DE.

Giants QB Ryan Nassib is showing progress.

The Eagles’ secondary is showing some growth.

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is ready for zone-read plays, but not too many of them.

Bears G Kyle Long has been cleared to return to practice.

The Lions still have plenty of concerns with their kicking game.

The Packers want to lock up coach Mike McCarthy to a contract extension next.

The Vikings activated CB Captain Munnerlyn from the PUP list.

Falcons RB Steven Jackson is out with a hamstring injury.

Panthers rookie G Trai Turner has impressed early in camp.

Saints OLB Victor Butler hopes to have a role this season, after coming back from injury.

The Buccaneers aren’t worried about practice scuffles.

The Cardinals have moved CB-WR Teddy Williams back to defense.

Rams DT Aaron Donald has made an early impression.

WR Brandon Lloyd has made a connection with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman has kept his Twitter beef with Patrick Peterson going.

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Colts guard Donald Thomas tore his quad again

Justin Anderson, Donald Thomas, Lee Ziemba, Mike McGlynn AP

The worst fears were realized for Colts guard Donald Thomas.

A league source tells PFT that he indeed tore his quadriceps in practice yesterday, and will need surgery.

The same injury cost Thomas the last 14 games of last season. The Colts signed him to a four-year, $14 million deal last offseason.

He’s out indefinitely now, and most likely for the entire season. That will likely push rookie Jack Mewhort into a larger role.

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Report: Aldon Smith to meet with Goodell on August 8

Aldon Smith AP

49ers linebacker Aldon Smith took a trip to Los Angeles on Wednesday for a hearing wrapping up the case stemming from his ill-advised fake bomb threat at LAX earlier this year.

Smith avoided charges in that incident, but he was sentenced to 12 days in jail on gun and DUI charges that could also lead to discipline from the league. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Smith will be in New York on Friday, August 8 to discuss that possibility with NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will likely be asked about the report at some point, but we wouldn’t expect him to offer up a confirmation.

Schefter writes that Smith is facing a “significant suspension” as a result of multiple infractions, an opinion that’s held by many others as well. That was also the case when Ravens running back Ray Rice was facing a suspension, though, and it appears that he and his wife were able to convince Goodell to go a different direction during their meeting. Smith will likely try to do the same by focusing on the trip to rehab that kept him out of five games last season and the fact that he’s been sober since then.

If the meeting does go down on the 8th, it will come at the end of a busy stretch for Goodell. He’s scheduled to meet with Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, former Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent and a media contingent looking for answers on the Rice suspension between now and the reported meeting with Smith.

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Chris Harris back at practice for Broncos

Chris Harris Jr. AP

It has been a little more than six months since Broncos cornerback Chris Harris tore his ACL in the team’s playoff win over the Chargers, but it doesn’t look like a decision on Harris’ readiness for the regular season will go down to the wire.

The Broncos activated Harris from the PUP list on Wednesday, clearing Harris to return to practice and eliminating the possibility that he could go on the regular season PUP list if there should be any setback in his rehab. Harris isn’t going to be doing everything right away as they try to avoid such a setback, but he’s going as fast as he can while doing the things he is allowed to do at the moment.

“They actually had to slow me down a couple of times even in the walkthrough,” Harris said, via the team’s website. “Right now the walkthrough is like practice to me. I’m just getting back out there and getting my skills retuned and ready to go.”

Harris’ return to the lineup is one of many ways the Broncos secondary will look different than the one we last saw. Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby are new to the team and Rahim Moore is also returning from an injury that kept him off the field at the end of the season. It is a group with a lot of talent and they’ll look to develop cohesiveness over the next month so that they can provide the better final result that the Broncos are looking for this time around.

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Greetings from the Greenbrier

Vaccaro AP

I’m not much for the training-camp tours because:  (1) Florio Jr. is still in high school; and (2) with a noon ET web show and a 5:30 p.m. ET NBCSN show every weekday, the logistics can be a little challenging.

But with the Saints practicing 140 miles or so down the road from the West Virginia headquarters of PFT, it was impossible to pass on the opportunity to swing down to the Greenbrier for a couple of days.  So we loaded up the ’68 VW bus after Wednesday’s show and drove south, and we’ll be broadcasting both PFT Live and Pro Football Talk from White Sulphur Springs on Thursday and Friday.

Saints fans hopefully will have added interest in the shows.  Fans of other NFC teams also may want to see what the Saints are up to, given that the Saints finally have found a way to win on the road in the postseason.  After beating the Eagles in Philly, the Saints gave the Seahawks all they could handle in Seattle.  If New Orleans can play like that on a consistent basis away from home in 2014, the road to the Super Bowl may once again go through the Superdome, making it much harder for anyone other than the Saints to qualify.

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The full Jordy Nelson breakdown

Nelson AP

Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, after signing a team-friendly deal in 2011, wanted to make $10 million per year on his extension.  Here’s every dollar he’ll potentially make through 2018, per a source with knowledge of the terms.

Nelson’s $11.5 million signing bonus is the only guaranteed money, but it’s the best kind of guaranteed money.  It’s cash up front.  No other portion of the deal is guaranteed, fully or partially.  With a cap charge of $2.3 million spread over each of the five years Nelson is under contract, the potential acceleration probably gives him at least two years of security.

There’s no security in annual roster bonuses of $31,250 per game.  It ties $500,000 per year — $2.5 million in all — to Nelson’s ability to play, week-in and week-out.  If, for example, he misses four games like he did in 2012, $125,000 disappears.

The contract also carries healthy workout bonuses of $500,000 per year from 2015 through 2018.  It’s easy money, as long as he shows up for enough sessions of the offseason program.

The base salaries are $2 million, $1.3 million, $5.5 million, $8.25 million, and $9.25 million from 2014 through 2018.  The cap numbers in those years are $5.925 million, $4.6 million, $8.8 million, $11.55 million, and $12.55 million.

Very affordable for the first two years, Nelson will move toward a higher cap ground in 2016.  Come 2017, when only $4.6 million in unallocated bonus dollars will remain and the cap number goes past $10 million, Nelson could be looking at a potential pay cut or a cap-reducing extension, based on his performance level at the time.

So it’s almost definitely a two-year commitment from the team.  Probably at least three.  After 2016, it all depends on whether his anticipated value in 2017 and 2018 justifies the larger salaries and cap numbers.

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NFL extra point experiment begins at the Hall of Fame Game

San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Extra points will be a little bit harder at the start of the preseason, as the NFL is experimenting with moving the spot of the ball back for point after attempts.

Starting with Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game and through the second week of the preseason, teams will line up at the 15-yard line when kicking extra points. (Two-point conversion attempts will remain at the 2-yard line, and extra points will move back to the 2 for the third week of the preseason and throughout the regular season.)

The NFL decided to try that after a groundswell during last season to do something — anything — to make extra points more interesting. Right now, NFL kickers make more than 99 percent of extra point attempts, making the extra point the most boring play in football. NFL owners voted down a proposal to move extra points back to the 25-yard line, but they agreed to experiment with moving them to the 15 in the preseason and reconsider the idea next offseason.

An extra point spotted at the 15 is the equivalent of a 33-yard field goal, which is still a chip shot for NFL kickers. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if every single longer extra point attempt is good this preseason. If the NFL wants to see how the game is changed by more challenging extra points, it should have moved them back to the 25, or farther.

The NFL could also consider moving two-point conversion attempts from the 2-yard line to the 1, making them easier and therefore giving coaches a greater incentive to go for two. The two-point conversion is one of the most exciting plays in football, and replacing those boring chip-shot kicks with exciting two-point conversion attempts would make the game better for the fans.

But the NFL’s owners are a conservative bunch, and they’re hesitant to make significant changes. Moving back the extra point kick by 13 yards is a very small step in the right direction, and that’s all we’re going to get this year.

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Dwight Freeney still shaking the rust off

Houston Texans v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

San Diego Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney appeared in just four games in his debut season in Southern California before a torn quad tendon tear ended his year.

Freeney is back at practice for the Chargers in training camp but fully admits he has some ground to cover before he feels he’s back to himself on a football field.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Freeney is working to shake the rust off.

“My last time actually playing football was in September, so I have a lot of rust I’m trying to get off,” Freeney said. “That’s what this process is about. That’s why you come out here.”

Freeney started all four games but had just two tackles and 0.5 sacks before his season came to an end. Freeney is entering his 13th NFL season and is coming off a pretty significant injury. The Chargers hope Freeney can shake the rust off enough to be a significant contributor this fall.

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