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Goodwin’s speed shines light on talent/production debate

AP

With the wide receiver 40-yard dashes in the books, we have established that Marquise Goodwin and Tavon Austin were fast, Goodwin slightly more so.

Then again, we already knew most of that, and that one of them looked like a football player during the regular season.

The difference between the two represents one of the bigger challenges for evaluators, trying to justify physical gifts with on-field production.

It’s clear that Goodwin has the physical talent. His unofficial times were both under 4.3 seconds, while Austin’s second was a 4.31 after they both logged 4.25s the first time through.

But that didn’t mean much on the field the last four years. Goodwin only touched the ball 38 times this season at Texas, with 26 receptions. He caught 120 passes in four seasons for the Longhorns.

Austin caught 114 passes his senior year alone, and had more yards from scrimmage his senior year (1,932) than Goodwin had in four years (1,780).

Weighing how much of that is the personnel around him (Austin was playing with a first-round quarterback in Geno Smith) and how much was scheme is something pro scouts have to decide.

Because while Goodwin has shown himself to be fast, his performance in the other drills will be important to show if he’s a football player.

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Sean Payton doesn’t slam the door on adding Johnny Manziel

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A string of tweets last week from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media created the impression that Saints coach Sean Payton has interest in free-agent quarterback Johnny Manziel. In an interview with PFT Live that will be aired on Thursday (but that loyal PFT readers get to see and hear now), Payton explained his current interest level in the former first-round pick of the Browns.

Payton didn’t slam the door on adding Manziel, but Payton also didn’t create the impression that anything will be happening soon, and that plenty of additional conversations with Manziel would be needed before an understanding would be reached as to an arrangement between Manziel and the Saints.

To see and hear everything Payton said about Manziel and various other topics (including the willingness or lack thereof to give up the No. 11 pick in round one to secure cornerback Malcolm Butler and the decision to trade receiver Brandin Cooks) check out the video.

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Michael Irvin investigated for sexual assault

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Hall of Fame Cowboys receiver and NFL Network commentator Michael Irvin is being investigated in a sexual assault case.

A 27-year-old woman told police she and Irvin were out at a bar and went back to his hotel together. She says she began to feel sick in his room, remembers fighting him off, and woke up as he was checking out. She called 911 at 7:30 a.m. on March 21, said she feared she was drugged and raped, and went to a medical lab for a swab and blood test, according to TMZ.

Irvin’s lawyer, Larry Friedman, is denying the charge.

The allegations are completely false,” Friedman told TMZ. “In the few hours since we’ve learned about them we’ve already discovered many red flags about this young woman’s background and the allegations she made against Michael. Even the complaint that she made specifically says she does not recall the events that took place. She was very drunk that night. Nothing happened and there was no assault.”

This is at least the third time Irvin has been named in a sexual assault case, but he has never been criminally charged. In 1997 he was falsely accused by a woman named Nina Shahravan, who admitted she lied and was sentenced to 90 days in jail for misdemeanor perjury in connection with the incident. In 2007 he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room. Prosecutors did not press charges, she sued him in civil court, he countersued for defamation, and those lawsuits resulted in a confidential settlement.

NFL Network told PFT that it will decline comment at this time.

It would be hard for the league-owned NFL Network to justify not suspending Irvin now that he has been accused again, given the precedent the league set by suspending Ben Roethlisberger. Although Roethlisberger maintained his innocence and did not face criminal charges, he was first named in a civil suit by one woman who claimed he raped her in a hotel room, then named later in a criminal complaint by another woman who claimed he sexually assaulted her in a bar restroom. After the second accusation, the NFL suspended Roethlisberger for the first four games of the 2010 season. Although Roethlisberger is an active player while Irvin is a retired player who works for the league as a broadcaster, they both work in the NFL, and the NFL has said its personal conduct rules apply to everyone who works in the league.

Irvin has not commented on the accusation.

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Ejections for “egregious” hits now a point of emphasis for officials

AP

The NFL didn’t need a vote of the owners to make one significant change this week, as certain dangerous hits on the field can now be cause for ejections.

The competition committee recommendation that ejections or suspensions for certain illegal hits is being added as a point of emphasis this year, meaning it didn’t require a vote from owners to become part of the landscape.

Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said he didn’t think the measure was a sign the league had a huge problem, but that there were examples of three or four “egregious” hits last year that needed harsher punishment, since fines weren’t making them go away.

“We don’t typically get ejections for football plays during a game, we get ejections for other reasons but not football plays — we recommend suspension even for a first-time offense,” McKay said. “Why? Because the hits were very egregious, to be quite frank.

“We quite frankly just want to get any of those hits out of the game. We think one way to get them out of the game is suspension because we think that is the ultimate deterrent to all players to not have those type of plays occur. We didn’t have very many of them. We don’t expect it to happen a lot. But it was a point of emphasis and it will be looked at this year.”

Eagles punt returner Darren Sproles being laid out by Washington safety Deshazor Everett was one of the examples they cited. Everett was penalized on the field and fined later in the week but not suspended.

But enforcing a new edict will still carry the burden of interpretation, giving officials more gray area to wade through, along with the inherent pressure of ejecting a player.

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Roger Goodell still doesn’t like gambling, but can live with Las Vegas

AP

Roger Goodell still doesn’t like gambling. And don’t even get him started on brothels.

But neither of those things kept him from jumping in the sack with Las Vegas this week, as the NFL casually voted to put the Raiders in Sin City.

The commissioner said Tuesday night as he wrapped up the NFL owners meeting that he’s still very concerned about the issue of gambling, but that enough other things changed that kept Las Vegas from being the boogeyman it once was.

“I would probably tell you that I think society has probably had a little bit of a change with respect to gambling in general,” Goodell said. “I think we still strongly oppose it in that room, and otherwise, legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.

“But I also believe that Las Vegas is not the same city it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. It’s a much more diverse city. It has become an entertainment mecca. It’s the fastest-growing city in the country. So I think when you look at it today versus what it was a decade or two ago, I think it’s a much different city. And they made a very compelling proposal, which the owners obviously approved overwhelmingly.”

That change in attitudes, and $750 million in public money (plus add-ons) made a difference, apparently.

Goodell has previously called gambling his top concern when it came to the integrity of the game. And while a question about the Raiders-themed brothel got a laugh out of him, the specter of gambling still looms large over the move. He made his serious face and talked about the importance of maintaining the “integrity of the game,” while at the same time suggesting the danger of putting 21-year-olds in Vegas on a full-time basis was no more dangerous than anywhere else (and to be fair, Odell Beckham and his boat trip in South Beach underscored some of that for him).

“My experience is that 21-year-olds can find trouble in a lot of different places, so that’s one of the reasons why we focus so much on our personal conduct policies,” he said. “It’s educating players and helping them make better judgments, giving them better information so they avoid problems. . . .

“We’re going to have to obviously keep a focus on that, no matter where our franchises are.”

But this one, obviously, he’ll need to keep both eyes on, even if that means lifting the eye patch.

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Adam Gase wants a more aggressive Ryan Tannehill in 2017

AP

Dolphins coach Adam Gase doesn’t want quarterback Ryan Tannehill worrying about making mistakes.

Gase said on PFT Live that his No. 1 priority for Tannehill in 2017 is to be willing to take chances, both with his arm and with his legs, if that’s what he has to do to make plays.

“Just be more aggressive,” Gase said. “I really want him to feel comfortable that his decision is going to be right. If he feels like something is not really happening the way he wants, escape from the pocket and not hesitate and worry about, Did I miss something? He’s a perfectionist so he wants to be able to stand back there and go through his progression, go one to two to his checkdown. Guys that have athletic ability, that can run, want to prove they can be a great pocket passer. All I care about is getting the first down and scoring points.”

Tannehill’s completion percentage was a career-high 67.1 percent in his first year in Gase’s offense, but Gase may be willing to see that number go down a little bit if it means Tannehill is taking more chances and making more plays downfield.

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Report: Patriots will not consider drafting Joe Mixon

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Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is the most controversial player in this year’s draft, a first-round talent who was caught on tape hitting a woman in an incident every bit as ugly as the one that ended Ray Rice’s career.

Some teams have confirmed, however, that they’re still considering drafting Mixon. Other teams won’t give him a thought. We can add the Patriots to that latter group.

According to the Boston Herald, the Patriots absolutely will not even consider drafting Mixon.

That means the Patriots will join the Dolphins, who also have reportedly decided they don’t want Mixon and his baggage on their team.

But for Mixon, all it takes is one team willing to overlook his past in favor of his future. There will surely be at least once such team, even if many others think he’s more trouble than he’s worth.

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Jay Gruden was disappointed by the firing of Scot McCloughan

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Washington head coach Jay Gruden was sorry to see G.M. Scot McCloughan go.

Gruden said at the league meeting that he was upset when he learned McCloughan had been fired.

“I was disappointed,” Gruden said, via Liz Clarke of the Washington Post. “I like Scot; I liked working with Scot. I think he’s a good person and a great talent evaluator. Anytime you lose someone, it’s disappointing. But at the end of the day, it’s professional football. Anyone who has been around it understands that change is going to happen.”

Gruden’s public comments stand in contrast with some of the anonymous sources out of Washington who bad-mouthed McCloughan out the door and suggested that he has a drinking problem that contributed to his firing. Gruden wouldn’t say directly when asked if the team needed to fire McCloughan.

“I’m not going to say it had to be made. It was made,” he said. “That’s all I can live with. When decisions are made of that magnitude, you reflect on the good things you learned from Scot and the good things he did for the team. And you move forward.”

Gruden sounds like he would have been perfectly happy to keep working with McCloughan. But the higher-ups in the organization, owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen, apparently thought otherwise.

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Jaguars bump offseason reporting date back after NFLPA challenge

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Doug Marrone is the newly appointed head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. New head coaches in the NFL are permitted to begin their offseason programs a week earlier than incumbent coaches in order to give new staffs a chance to get a head start.

However, Marrone had already been coaching in Jacksonville for the last two seasons as an assistant on Gus Bradley’s staff. And that distinction has led to a butting of heads between the Jaguars and the NFL Players’ Association.

The Jaguars had received approval from the NFL to begin their offseason program on April 10 along with the other teams with new head coaches. However, the NFLPA challenged the Jaguars’ status of having a new head coach since Marrone served as interim head coach to end last season.

“Our position is that Doug Marrone is a new head coach this season after serving as interim head coach for the last two games of the 2016 season,” Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said in a statement released by the team.

Following conversations with the league, the Jaguars have revised their offseason program to begin on April 17.

“We are glad to now know our reporting date, although we had planned to begin on April 10, and we had already invited our players to come in on that day,” Coughlin said.

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L.A. Chargers gift jersey to all season-ticket holders

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The Chargers are trying.

No one can accuse them of less.

They’ve run the Los Angeles Marathon as a relay team. They’ve eaten a team-themed chili dog at Pink’s Hot Dogs, a Hollywood staple. They’ve made a gaggle of L.A. radio and TV appearances, including “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Tight end Jeff Cumberland, who missed all of 2016 to injury, wore his Chargers jersey during a Kingdom Day Parade appearance. He also attended a Clippers-Lakers game where we was jeered and the club’s logo was booed on the big screen.

And this is all since the Jan. 12 move.

On Tuesday, the franchise made the latest effort to endear itself to its new market, gifting all season-ticket holders a Philip Rivers powder-blue home jersey. The jerseys are available in both male and female classifications.

“Fight for L.A.” is the former San Diego franchise’s marketing slogan.

This is the newest round.

“To show our appreciation for you, we are offering exclusively to all 2017 Season Ticket Members a Philip Rivers powder blue Nike Game Jersey for each Season Ticket Member,” the official notice to customers reads, via Vincent Bonsignore of the L.A. Daily News. “Yes, a Nike Game Jersey for you to wear at all home games at StubHub Center!

“This is our way of saying thank you from your Los Angeles Chargers.”

During their final years in San Diego, the Chargers did make an effort to enhance the perks provided to season-ticket holders, be it through such events as exclusive practice access and conference calls with the general manager or head coach.

Even so, some in San Diego viewed the jersey as an upgrade.

Said one former customer on Twitter: “10 yrs as a season ticket holder the best we got was a shirt that said ‘We’re All In’ during a season they were planning their escape to L.A.”

In any event, it’s a gesture.

The L.A. Chargers haven’t lacked for those.

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John Schneider on idea of trading Richard Sherman: “We listen to everything”

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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman may find it hilarious there’s talk he could be traded. However, General Manager John Schneider didn’t exactly slam the door shut on the concept on Tuesday.

In meeting with Seattle reporters at the league meetings, Schneider said that they listen to every proposal that comes their way.

“We listen. We listen to everything you would think,” he said. “We’re in a lot of stuff. We try to pride ourselves on that. I think I’ve told you guys before we walk away from 98 percent of the deals that we’re involved with or talking about. But at least we know that we’ve knocked down their door, we’ve gone in there and checked it out. We’re not just going to assume. We always just have to constantly be thinking about the organization and how we’re going to move it forward.”

The idea of trading Sherman came about after former NFL executive Michael Lombardi said in a podcast that he’d heard Seattle would be open to trading the All-Pro cornerback.

“I truly believe, based on what I hear around the National Football League, that the Seahawks would in fact, for the right deal, trade Richard Sherman,” Lombardi said as part of a larger discussion surrounding the New Orleans Saints interest in New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.

The practicality of a deal for Sherman this year doesn’t seem feasible. Sherman’s contract isn’t particularly advantageous for Seattle to try to move him. Additionally, they need him. With Deshawn Shead expected to be out well into the regular season following a torn ACL sustained in the playoffs, Seattle’s cornerback depth is currently lacking.

However, the fact Schneider didn’t go out of his way to shrug off the idea is notable. Sherman twice blew up at members of Seattle’s coaching staff on the sidelines during games. He publicly criticized offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for calling a pass from the 1-yard line in a December game against the Los Angeles Rams, doubled down on the comments the following week, threatened to ruin the career of a media member and generally remained an issue for the remainder of the season.

The “right deal” probably doesn’t exist right now for Sherman. That doesn’t mean it won’t exist in the future. And Seattle might just be willing to pull the trigger when the time comes.

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Lions president asks favor of NFL schedule-makers

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The Lions lost their first five games in 2015 before winning seven of their final 11.

They started 1-3 in 2016 before winning eight of their next 12.

To say NFL schedule-makers were responsible for these slow starts would be a stretch. But in light of the arrangement of late, Lions President Rod Wood said Tuesday he’s kindly submitted a request to the powers that be before next month’s 2017 schedule release: Please, not again.

Wood told reporters he asked the NFL not to assign the Lions three road games in their first four weeks. Such has been the case the past two regular seasons.

Before that stretch, it hadn’t happened to Detroit since 2011.

The Lions went 10-6 that year, winning their first five games en route to the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1999. The results were less favorable when the schedule began the same in 2010; Detroit lost its first four games in a 6-10 year.

The Browns, Dolphins, Rams and Raiders are the only other clubs who began 2016 with three of four games on the road.

Only the Lions were doing so for a consecutive year.

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Goodell doesn’t think Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed shocked by the simple suggestion that such a thing could be possible.

When asked directly at the end of the league’s owners meetings if he thought former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was being blackballed for last year’s political protests, Goodell said he saw no evidence of that.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said. “My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams.

“But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Of course, if there was an active collusion happening, it’s unlikely they’d have held a committee meeting on the topic and read the minutes to Goodell to make sure he was caught up.

But a guy that teams wanted to trade for a year ago (namely the Broncos) suddenly can’t find a home as a free agent. The reports that he’s asking for too much money and a starting job have been refuted, leaving many to wonder if there’s not a bigger issue — even if the commissioner sees no evidence of it.

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Roger Goodell says he will attend regular season opener in New England

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It has become customary in the NFL for the first game of the regular season to be hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion. It is also customary that Commissioner Roger Goodell personally attends the first game of the season.

It just so happens that game will be in New England this year, which is a place Goodell has seemingly avoided at all costs since Deflategate began during the 2014 postseason.

But just like Goodell was forced to present Patriots owner Robert Kraft with the Lombardi Trophy in February in Houston, Goodell said Tuesday at the league meetings in Phoenix that he will be attending the season opener.

“I plan to be at the kickoff game,” Goodell said.

Goodell has reportedly not attended a game in New England since the AFC Championship in 2014 that sparked the Deflategate controversy. Goodell’s postseason appearances last year came in Atlanta for their Divisional Round game against the Seahawks and NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

That New England drought is now set to end on Sept. 7 with the Patriots home opener.

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Roger Goodell: Discussion of celebration rules tabled

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The NFL cleaned up some rules changes already today, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he wanted to get more information before proceeding on modifications to the league’s celebration rules.

Goodell said he asked owners to table the proposal to loosen the league’s collective ties, saying he wanted to talk to more players before any changes are made.

A vote could still be taken at their May meeting, but Goodell said he needed time to gain “clarity” to the rule, and allow players “more ability to express themselves” while maintaining order and decorum.

While the simple act of letting players have a bit more freedom on the field is nice, reaching across the aisle and getting input from players on any topic is an important step. Along with this week’s ban on leaping over the line of scrimmage on kicks (which was suggested by the NFLPA), there’s at least some notion that the league is willing to work with labor. That’s not an insignificant thing.

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Jerry Jones: Tony Romo has options, we’ll know by training camp

AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggested today that it could be four months before Tony Romo’s future is clear.

Asked today at the league meeting when he’ll know Romo’s status for the 2017 season, Jones said a decision would be made by training camp.

The option that was once seen as most likely was the Cowboys releasing Romo and letting him decide for himself what to do next. But it now seems that the Cowboys want to hold onto him, potentially to find a trading partner.

Jones also said he and Romo have spoken recently, that they’re doing great, and that Romo has “a lot of options.” That would seem to suggest that one option Romo is considering is retiring and moving on to a television job. That might be the option Jones likes best: Jones has always loved Romo and would probably rather see him retire a Cowboy.

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