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PFT Live: Is MJD a top priority?

Mike Florio lists some of the top items on the Jaguars’ to-do list for the off-season, and wonders which QB the team will commit to long-term and if Maurice Jones-Drew is guaranteed a return to Jacksonville next season.

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Jeff Fisher still angry at ESPN over shower coverage

New Orleans Saints v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

ESPN has already apologized for its out-of-line story about Michael Sam’s showering habits.

But that’s not necessarily enough for Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

Via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fisher is still quite angry with reporter Josina Anderson and her employer about the story, even after getting a follow-up apology call from ESPN president John Skipper.

I’m extremely disappointed in her piece,” Fisher said. “I think it’s unethical. I think it’s very, very unprofessional. Not only the piece itself, the content. The manner in which she did it.”

Part of Fisher’s displeasure is apparently with Anderson’s talking to players away from the team facility. Coaches don’t like anything that happens outside their controlled little world, and for that, Anderson behaved like every other professional reporter who covers the NFL.

“She was out of line because she went and contacted several players on their personal time,” Fisher said. “Misled them with questions and then put this piece together. . . .

“I’m disappointed for Mike. I’m disappointed for the players who she put in this position, and mostly I’m disappointed for her because she felt what she was doing was right — and it wasn’t right.”

Rams defensive end Chris Long followed up the initial report with a Twitter message which read: “Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.”

We wish that was the truth.

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Sheldon Richardson: Eli Manning is watching the rush

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The dismal state of the Giants offense has been a frequent topic of conversation this preseason and the starters will be out there for a while in the fourth preseason game in hopes of working out the kinks before the results start to count in the standings.

Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson got an up close look at the Giants offense in last Friday’s preseason game and identified one thing that’s not working for the tenants of the other home locker room at MetLife Stadium. Richardson said that he thought quarterback Eli Manning, who struggled for most of the first half before leading a touchdown drive just before halftime, was spending too much time thinking about the guys trying to sack him.

“Got some kinks to work out, you can notice that stuff, little stuff like that — it’s to the point where he don’t trust his offensive line that much, ’cause he’s watching the rush,” Richardson said, via the New York Post. “Little stuff like that.”

Manning took a pounding last season with 39 sacks and a plethora of other hits allowed by a leaky offensive line, which the Giants worked hard to upgrade this offseason. That’s still a work in progress and Manning has looked understandably unsure of his protection this summer as a result.

That can’t continue if the Giants offense is going to rebound this season, so that offensive line is going to have to come together quickly.

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Chargers announcer suspended for anti-Semitic comment

hankbauer

Hank Bauer, a longtime broadcaster for San Diego Chargers games, has been suspended after making an anti-Semitic comment on the air last week.

After Bauer’s on-air partner Josh Lewin said at the end of last week’s game that he wouldn’t leave a game early if he had paid for the ticket, Bauer made a joke implying that Lewin is cheap because he’s Jewish.

As a result, Bauer is suspended for this week’s preseason finale. The Chargers issued a statement saying it was the broadcaster Clear Channel, not the team, that suspended Bauer.

“Although we know Hank had no ill-will behind his remarks, we agree the comments were inappropriate. Per Clear Channel’s decision, Hank will not be broadcasting Thursday night’s game,” the statement said. “Hank has been a strong radio voice for the Chargers for the past 16 years and a passionate supporter of the team since his playing days. We look forward to Chargers fans receiving the same high-quality broadcast from Josh and Hank when he returns to the booth for the regular season.”

Bauer apologized on Twitter.

“I made a hurtful insinuation that I regret and I would like to express how sorry I am. My poor choice of words were unfortunately open for negative interpretation, please know it was never my intention to offend any of my listeners. I hope you accept my apology,” Bauer wrote.

Bauer was a running back for the Chargers from 1977 to 1982, spent four seasons with the team as an assistant coach and has been broadcasting in San Diego for 27 years.

Photo via KGTV.

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Report: Lardarius Webb restructures deal

Lardarius Webb AP

Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb hasn’t been able to help the team on the field this summer because of a back injury, but he has reportedly been able to help out with their salary cap.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that Webb has agreed to restructure his deal with the Ravens by converting $4 million of his $7.5 million base salary into a signing bonus. That allows the Ravens to drop further under the cap now and spread out the cap hit over the three remaining years on his contract.

If there’s an immediate reason for the Ravens to want extra cap space, it could be to sign an extension with one of the team’s other players. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith and kicker Justin Tucker are a few of the candidates for a new deal and the Ravens could use their new cap space to reach a deal with one or more of those players.

That’s a concern for the front office. Webb’s top priority is getting healthy and back on the field to help an ailing cornerback corps that added Derek Cox to the mix on Tuesday.

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Gordon may apply for reinstatement after 2014 season

Gordon Getty Images

The good news for the Browns and Josh Gordon is that hearing officer Harold Henderson ultimately didn’t apply the substance-abuse policy as written regarding the duration of Gordon’s suspension.  The bad news is that Gordon will still miss the full season.

But Gordon may be reinstated before August 27, 2015, which would mean that the supposedly mandatory one-year suspension contained in the policy won’t be enforced in this case.

While it does nothing to help Gordon or the Browns in 2014, it means that he could be back with the team in time to better prepare for 2015.  If the policy had been applied as written, Gordon would not have been back until August 27, 2015.

Of course, Gordon must stay clean over the next several months and beyond, passing up to 10 drug tests per month.  If he fails before he’s reinstated, he may not be reinstated.  If he fails after, he’ll face another lengthy suspension.

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Gordon considers all options, including legal action

Gordon AP

Now that the NFL has suspended receiver Josh Gordon for the 2014 regular season (and, if the substance-abuse policy is applied as written, a full calendar year), the question becomes whether Gordon will continue to fight the ban.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, all options currently are on the table, including legal action.

Any lawsuit would face an immediate and aggressive challenge from the NFL under the Federal Arbitration Act, which requires courts to respect the outcome of private litigation.  Only in rare circumstances can a court throw out the results of a private arbitration procedure, and the standard for scuttling the outcome is high.

Gordon’s best bet could be to fashion a plausible legal theory and attempt to secure a so-called “preliminary injunction,” which would prevent the NFL from implementing the suspension under the litigation concludes.  Former Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams successfully delayed, but failed to defeat, a suspension in the StarCaps case.

If litigation is going to be filed, it needs to be filed soon.  At this point, there’s a chance it will be.

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Loss of Gordon = more targets, more $ for Jordan Cameron

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The big losers in the Josh Gordon suspension, other than Gordon, are the Browns.

But Browns *tight end Jordan Cameron could benefit handsomely from this, on the field and at the teller’s window.

The Pro Bowl pass-catcher is now clearly the Browns’ most capable receiving target, and should have the opportunity to put up monster numbers since the Browns don’t many reliable options in the passing game.

While they wait for Miles Austin’s hamstring to explode or Nate Burleson to go out for a pizza or for Andrew Hawkins to develop into something other than a complementary slot player, Cameron should get all the looks from Brian Hoyer and/or Johnny Manziel.

That’s good news for a guy going into the final year of his rookie contract.

Cameron said recently that talks toward an extension were “going well,” and there are many reasons to take care of him now.

Not only do the Browns need to dilute (pun intended) the impact of the bad news about losing the league’s leading receiver from last year, they need to make sure they don’t lose Cameron a year from now, when Gordon might come back.

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Cam Newton: “No doubt” I’m playing in Week One

Cam Newton AP

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s preseason work was probably over after the third preseason game under any circumstances, but a rib injury suffered against the Patriots last weekend made it a certainty.

An MRI found a hairline fracture that Newton said on Wednesday affects several ribs, leaving him with some healing up to do before the regular season. The quarterback is adamant that the injury won’t keep him from answering the bell against the Bucs on September 7.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Newton said, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “I’m just going to worry about things that I can control. I’m going to continue to come in and get as much treatment as possible so my body will be 100 percent.”

Coach Ron Rivera delivered a similar message on Wednesday, adding that the team wouldn’t be taking zone read plays out of the playbook while Newton is dealing with the rib injury. That’s likely the best thing for the Panthers’s chances of winning, but those runs and the team’s shaky offensive line mean that Newton will be at some risk of further injury once he does return to the lineup.

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NFL announces Gordon suspension

Cleveland Browns v St. Louis Rams 8-8-2013 Getty Images

It’s official.  The NFL has suspended Browns receiver Josh Gordon for a full year, effective immediately.

The banishment, first proposed more than three months ago and languishing on appeal until today, has been announced by the league.

“Appeals officer Harold Henderson has upheld the suspension for the 2014 NFL season of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse,” the NFL said in a statement.  “The suspension is effective immediately.  Gordon’s eligibility for reinstatement will be determined following the 2014 season.”

Gordon, whose suspension comes under the substance-abuse policy, likewise has issued a statement acknowledging the situation.

““I’’d like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans,” Gordon said.  “I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing officer didn’’t exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff.””

Gordon will need even more support over the next year, since he will be prohibited from receiving any assistance from the NFL or the Browns.  It’s a sad situation, with Gordon banished for smoking a substance that is legal in two of the 22 states in which the NFL does business.  At a time when he may have an addiction.

At a time when Ray Rice will miss only two games for knocking out his then-fiancée, now wife.

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Source: NFL upholds Josh Gordon suspension

Gordon AP

Nearly four months after the NFL proposed a one-year suspension for Browns receiver Josh Gordon, a decision has been reached on his appeal.

Per a league source, hearing officer Harold Henderson has upheld the one-year suspension for Gordon’s latest violation of the subtance-abuse policy.

It means that Gordon will be banished from the team and the league for a full calendar year.  He’ll be eligible for reinstatement as of August 27, 2015, only days before the start of the 2015 regular season.

We’ll have plenty of news and angles and reaction as the day unfolds.  For now, the headline is that the Browns will have to make it through all of the 2014 season without one of the best receivers in the NFL.

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Phillip Tanner back in Dallas

Paul Soliai, Phillip Tanner, Austin Spitler (53) AP

The Cowboys have two running backs they don’t want to use in Thursday night’s preseason finale and two others battling injuries, leaving them with a need for someone to help get them through 60 minutes against the Broncos.

They’ve called on a familiar face to fill the need. Nick Eatman of the team’s website reports that Phillip Tanner is back with the team after spending the offseason with the Colts, who released him earlier this month.

Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams are competing for the third spot on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar, but Randle has an oblique injury and the oft-injured Williams is fighting a groin issue. Per Eatman, Tanner, who ran for 12 yards on nine carries in Dallas last year, will handle “most” of the running on Thursday while also seeing time on special teams.

The Cowboys will have to drop a player from the roster to make room for Tanner and could wind up dropping multiple players as Eatman says Tanner may have company as the Cowboys work to set up their roster for Thursday and beyond.

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Adrian Peterson: This is the offense I’ve been waiting for

Adrian Peterson AP

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson hasn’t taken any snaps in a game as part of Norv Turner’s offense yet, but he’s seen enough from the bench to feel very positive about the offensive coordinator’s vision.

Peterson spent the last three years as the focal point in Bill Musgrave’s plodding scheme and there was no point in that stretch where anyone felt like the Vikings could succeed offensively without Peterson on the field. This year, though, Peterson says his impression of the unit without him is “like, ‘Man, they don’t even need me.'” It’s little surprise, then, that Peterson is excited about what the future holds.

“This is going to be the best offense I’ve played in. This is the offense I’ve been waiting for,” Peterson said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We’ve got the pieces to facilitate moving the ball around. When Brett Favre was here, listen, when I saw those deep balls going up and guys making big plays, I was like, ‘Yeah!’ That makes your team very scary.”

The team has moved the ball well throughout the preseason with Matt Cassel throwing the ball to Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph. Those players should get even more chances when defenses also have to contend with Peterson and the variety of options in Minnesota is richer than its been in recent years.

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Dominique Easley not expected to play Thursday, still hopeful for Week One

Dominique Easley AP

The Patriots released defensive tackle Tommy Kelly this week in a move that came as a bit of a surprise.

Kelly was coming off a torn ACL, but the Patriots don’t have much experience at the position outside of Vince Wilfork and first-round pick Dominique Easley has yet to play in a preseason game after tearing his own ACL in 2013. That’s not expected to change on Thursday night against the Giants.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Easley is not expected to play in the team’s final exhibition game of the summer, but the team remains hopeful that he’ll be able to suit up for the season opener against the Dolphins. If he can’t go, the Patriots will have to turn to someone (or some combination) from the group Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga, Joe Vellano and Jerel Worthy to fill the spot next to Wilfork.

Some of those players will be in the rotation anyway as neither Easley nor Wilfork projects to play every snap of the game for the Patriots this season, but the decision to part ways with Kelly will have much less potential to come back as a negative if Easley is able to make it on the field come September 7.

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Patriots asked Mankins to take a pay cut before trading him

haircut Getty Images

Anyone reading Bill Belichick’s heartfelt tribute to Logan Mankins would know that they didn’t want to trade him — right up until they did.

But they gave the best guard Belichick ever coached a true example of The Patriot Way on his way out the door.

Per multiple reports, the Patriots went to Mankins asking for some of his money back. He was scheduled to make $6.25 million this year and $6.75 million in 2015 and 2016.

It’s similar in theme to the spot defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was in this offseason, but enough paper was shuffled to allow him to stay.

But when Mankins balked at a pay cut, as you might imagine he would, he suddenly became expendable — as they all will be at some point.

Their pragmatism was the Buccaneers’ gain, as a problematic offensive line now has a bit more stability.

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Packers think Eddie Lacy can lead the league in rushing

lacy AP

Last year Packers running back Eddie Lacy started his rookie season slowly but finished as one of the best backs in football. This year, the Packers think he can be the best back in football.

Packers running backs coach Sam Gash says there’s no question that Lacy can lead the league in rushing, and Gash even thinks Lacy may end up leading the league in total yards from scrimmage.

“Without a doubt,” Gash told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He has the capability of being the leading rusher and maybe even combined yards if he catches a lot of balls. I absolutely do think that. I think he’s a bell cow. He’s a big guy, and he’s physical.”

In 2013, Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing yards with 1,607 and scrimmage yards with 2,146. Lacy was eighth in rushing yards with 1,178, and 14th in yards from scrimmage with 1,435. That’s a big gap, but then again Lacy was a rookie who only ran for 51 yards in the first three weeks of last season. If Lacy plays for 16 games like he played down the stretch last year, he could lead the league in rushing.

And the mere fact that the Packers expect that much of Lacy is a good sign for their offense. In Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay already has one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. If Lacy proves himself to be the NFL’s top runner, that should frighten every defensive coordinator on the Packers’ schedule.

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