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Team asks prospect, “Do you like girls?”

NickKasa AP

Recently, we explained that NFL teams are curious as to whether Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is gay.  Somehow, this reality was misinterpreted by some as being an official PFT position that this is a legitimate question, for Te’o or anyone else.

It isn’t.

But the NFL is a unique industry, both in good ways and in bad.  When it comes to outdated, intolerant views regarding the sexuality of its players, the NFL’s difference is that it doesn’t embrace diversity.

Case in point:  Colorado tight end Nick Kasa was asked a stream of questions that touched on sexual preference at the Scouting Combine.

“They ask you like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’  Are you married?’  Do you like girls?'” Kasa told ESPN Radio Denver on Tuesday.  “Those kinds of things, and you know it was just kind of weird.  But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”

It’s more than weird.  It’s troubling.  While on one hand teams try to throw players off the prepared answers that make them seem as complex as a cardboard cutout, on the other hand that effort should be undertaken without touching on inappropriate subject matter.

The league should be troubled, too.  And the league should contact Kasa immediately, with a very specific follow-up question:  “Which team(s) asked you that?”

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Lions president says they’re “looking for greatness”

Detroit Lions Training Camp Getty Images

The Lions have had good seasons before, just not often in succession.

But after going 11-5 last year, team president Tom Lewand thinks this is the team that can not just equal last year’s mark, but better it.

“It’s not sustaining it; it’s building on it,” Lewand said, via Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News. “That’s the important thing. Sustaining it gives sort of an impression that we’re comfortable with what happened last year. I think as coach (Jim Caldwell) has acknowledged several times, it was a very good season for us, but not a great one.

We’re looking for greatness.”

Of course, last year marked their best finish since 1991, and they haven’t had consecutive winning seasons since 1993-95. And this offseason was marked by star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s departure in free agency, but they still have high hopes.

“The critical piece is, don’t rest on our laurels,” Lewand said. “Look at the things that we did well and continue to do them; look at the things we can improve on and do those better. It sounds simple, but it’s true.”

For the Lions, simply being above .500 would be an accomplishment, but they don’t want to think that way.

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Chiefs keep investing in backup QBs, extend Tyler Bray

Kansas City Chiefs v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Chiefs are continuing to invest in the quarterback position, beyond Alex Smith.

Backup Tyler Bray has agreed to a two-year, $1.925 million contract extension through 2017, Field Yates of ESPN reports. Although the deal contains no guarantees, it’s a great deal for Bray in one respect: The Chiefs are agreeing to pay Bray’s $510,000 salary this year, even though Bray is on the non-football injury list because he tore his ACL this offseason. Teams are under no obligation to pay players who suffer non-football injuries, but the Chiefs think enough of Bray’s potential that they’re willing to pay him as part of a longer deal to keep him in the fold.

Kansas City isn’t shy about spending money on backup quarterbacks. No. 2 quarterback Chase Daniel costs $4.8 million this year, making him the second-most expensive backup quarterback in the NFL, second only to Washington’s Robert Griffin III. The Chiefs are also slated to pay Aaron Murray $563,000 this year, in addition to the $15.6 million Smith will count against their cap.

Although he hasn’t gotten on the field in the NFL yet, Bray is a talented quarterback who showed off a good arm in his college career at Tennessee. Right now he’s buried on the depth chart, but if he eventually becomes the starter in Kansas City, this will look like a great deal for the team.

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Peyton Manning visits PFT

Peyton Manning AP

Wednesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN included a visit from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who could be on the front end of his last NFL season.

Manning said that he still enjoys training camp, something that not all franchise quarterbacks (especially those with five-letter last names including an “F” and a “V”) can say. Manning also talked about the differences between timing in practice and timing in games when making throws to receivers like Cody Latimer and Jordan Norwood and Manning’s reduced practice reps under new coach Gary Kubiak.

The full, eight-minute interview, including plenty of stuff that was omitted from the show due to time constraints, appears below.

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Pagano: Colts better have “somebody fast enough” for when Tyrod Taylor runs

Tyrod Taylor AP

When Bills coach Rex Ryan discussed the team’s ultimate decision about a starting quarterback this summer, he said he was planning to keep the identity of the starter for Week One under wraps until as close to the game as possible.

The idea was to keep the Colts from getting any edge when it came to planning to face the Bills offense, but Ryan had a “change of heart” this week and opted to announce publicly that Tyrod Taylor is the team’s starter. That confirmed what was already reported and Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was in Baltimore when Taylor joined the Ravens, confirmed that the information is being put to use in practices.

“It doesn’t mean that they couldn’t throw another guy in there at some point during the course of that game, but you can kind of hone in on what you want to do, especially from a pass-rush standpoint, if you have a pure pocket passer that is not mobile, can’t run around, you’re probably going to go after him a certain way,” Pagano said, via ESPN.com. “If you’ve got a guy that’s as athletic and mobile as Tyrod is, then you have to plan accordingly.”

One part of that plan is to be prepared for when Taylor tucks the ball and runs with it. Pagano said the team “better get a package in to have somebody fast enough” to run down Taylor when he takes off and runs the ball.

Another issue for the Colts will be replacing Arthur Jones on the defensive line against a Bills team that’s expected to run the ball a lot this season. The health of LeSean McCoy may be an issue, but teams haven’t needed a running back of McCoy’s pedigree to have success running on the Colts the last couple of years.

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LaVar Arrington points to “weird phenomenon” in D.C. that makes a player ordinary

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 24:  Linebacker LaVar Arrington #56 of the Washington Redskins looks on against the New York Giants at FedExField on December 24, 2005 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Giants 35-10. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Getty Images

While the current dysfunction in D.C. has manifested itself in plenty of new and unusual ways, the current sense that the franchise can’t get anything right currently flows from the circumstances surrounding a guy who seemed like the right man for the present and future only three years ago. But that dysfunction has been there long before the arrival of Robert Griffin III.

Fifteen years ago, the team entered the 2000 season with a Dream Team of free agents and a pair of top-three draft picks in Chris Samuels and LaVar Arrington, causing many to presume that another Super Bowl run was coming. The team didn’t even make the playoffs, and it feels as if the organization has never fully recovered from a failure that in most corners of the NFL has been long forgotten.

Arrington, who now works for NFL Media, hasn’t forgotten it. And he sees similarities to his career in Washington and the career of the team’s current quarterback.

“Every year that the Hall of Fame inductees go in and I watch it, I just sit there and I think about, I gave my best years to dysfunction,” Arrington told Sportsnet 590 The Fan, via Scott Allen of the Washington Post. “It just kind of bothers me a little bit . . . because it’s like if you had the structure in place to have success, my track record kind of speaks for itself. Guys that have come in there, Robert Griffin III, guys that have been there, their track records speak for themselves. How does a guy go from being special on every level, and then they come to the Redskins and it’s gone? The magic is gone. I can’t explain it. It’s almost a weird phenomenon, and I hate that I’m a statistic of that weird phenomenon.”

With the chances of success in Washington now seemingly destroyed, where could Griffin thrive?

“A different profession, probably,” Arrington said. “For me, I look at it like this: Once you’ve damaged somebody the way he’s damaged right now, I just think that it will be a long shot for him to turn out to be what he was and what people expected and anticipated him to be.”

Arrington may be right, but for now there seems to be no inclination to cut the cord on a guy to whom the franchise owes $3.249 million in 2015, whether he’s on the roster or not. Besides, if Griffin goes elsewhere and thrives, that would only punctuate the notion that it’s not about any given player, but that it’s about the “weird phenomenon” to which Arrington alluded.

Still, at some point the effort to justify a mistake becomes an even bigger mistake. It’s now clear that three first-round picks and a second-round pick shouldn’t have been invested in Griffin. The best thing the team can do is to cut him.

And the best way to handle that would be to tell Griffin that the team will cut him the moment he’s cleared to play following a concussion suffered two weeks ago. Currently, a $16.1 million injury-guaranteed salary for 2016 creates a potent temptation to exit from football not by admitting failure but by pointing to a head injury that, if he’s never cleared to play, would give Griffin nearly $20 million over the next two years.

The best move for a team that hasn’t made many good ones in recent years would be to flip that incentive around, tap into his lingering (if not flickering) confidence that he could thrive elsewhere, and tell him that, the moment he’s cleared by an independent neurologist to play, he’ll be released — freeing the team of the potential $16.1 million obligation for 2016 and giving Griffin a chance to pick his next team after he inevitably clears waivers.

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Clark Hunt expects Chiefs to build on and “hopefully better” last two seasons

Seattle Seahawks v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Chiefs have won 20 games in the regular season over the last two years, but they haven’t added any postseason victories to the ledger.

A playoff loss to the Colts after the 2013 season was followed by nine wins and no playoff berth last year, although it sounds like a winning record alone won’t be enough to satisfy team chairman Clark Hunt’s expectations for 2015. Hunt stopped short of naming any specific milestones that the team has to reach this season while making it clear that he thinks the pieces are in place for bigger things in coach Andy Reid’s third season with the team.

“I think we have a very talented roster, I think we have a very deep roster,” Hunt said, via the Kansas City Star. “I think Andy, his coaching staff, [General Manager] John Dorsey and his staff have done a tremendous job, not only this year but really in the last three years, of building this thing, this team. I’m always a little reluctant to say this is going to be our record, but I certainly expect us to build on what we’ve accomplished the last couple of years and hopefully better it.”

The Chiefs still have question marks on the offensive line and Alex Smith is far from everyone’s cup of tea at quarterback, but there’s enough talent on the roster to make Hunt’s expectation of growth from the last two seasons both reasonable and realistic. A quick start to the season would make them more attainable, although the Chiefs may have to pull it off without injured nose tackle Dontari Poe in addition to the suspended cornerback Sean Smith.

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K balls can be prepped before games

NFL-Wilson-footballs-on-field-jpg Getty Images

From time to time during the extended #DeflateGate saga, reference has been made to the preparation of K balls before the start of a game. Many have been confused by such comments, since there’s a belief that the K balls come straight out of the box, with no preparation.

Actually, preparation of the out-of-the-box K balls occurs in the presence of the officials, with each team having up to 45 minutes to work on the balls. The NFL recently reminded teams of the do’s and don’t’s for pregame K ball preparation.

The K balls arrive from Wilson inflated to 13.0 PSI, and they’re buffed with a sponge and brushed with a ball brush. The K ball is then individually bagged and sealed for shipping.

Before a given game, teams are allowed to: (1) apply a wet towel to the ball;  (2) brush it with a standard ball brush; (3) use the side of the brush to soften the leather and remove the slickness of the ball; and (4) use the back of the brush to warm the leather and polish the ball.

The following actions are prohibited: (1) submersing the ball in water; (2) using a buffing machine; (3) sticking a knee into the ball; (4) standing on the ball; (5) exerting any other excess pressure to alter the shape of the ball; (6) bouncing the ball; (7) throwing the ball; (8) using any hard surface to alter the shape of the ball; or (9) adding air above 13.5 PSI at any point in the process.

It’s a bit odd that the rules say nothing about deflating the K balls at any point in the process, given the controversy that continues to hover over the league like the intestinally-processed odor of last night’s chili. While kickers would have no desire to kick a deflated ball, removing air could make it easier to grip the ball for preparation purposes.

In 2009, a Jets employee was suspended for attempting to use unapproved equipment in the preparation process. As Jay Feely recently explained it on The Doug Gottlieb Show, the employee tried to place a pad on the brush for comfort purposes during what can be a vigorous rubbing of the K ball in order to remove the slickness of the brand-new ball.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Adrian Clayborn, Matt Moore AP

Bills QB Matt Simms gets his chance to petition for a job tonight.

Dolphins CB Brent Grimes is still getting it done in his 30s.

Some folks are already thinking of the Patriots as a new home for QB Matt Cassel if he’s cut by the Bills.

John Idzik drafts are the gift that keeps on giving for the Jets.

Ravens S Terrence Brooks has a “calm” feeling during his return from ACL surgery.

Bengals RB Terrell Watson is hoping tonight is a big chance for him.

It’s almost as if Browns fans aren’t optimistic about this whole QB situation.

The Steelers have gotten younger and faster on defense (now they should try better).

Texans DE J.J. Watt deserves a little more recognition, don’t you think?

Taking a look at potential Colts cuts.

The Jaguars are hoping investments up front pay off for their offense.

The Titans will be looking at NT options in tonight’s preseason finale.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning is having fun with (or perhaps jealous of) rookie QB Trevor Siemian’s “borderline mullet.”

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt wants to “build on” two successful seasons.

There’s more pressure on Raiders RT Austin Howard now.

Chargers RB Melvin Gordon has climbed a hill, literally and figuratively.

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick is promising a triumphant return.

Female ref Sarah Thomas will work tonight’s Giants game.

Eagles MLB Kiko Alonso is scheduled to play tonight, for some reason.

There are reasons Washington should consider keeping Robert Griffin III.

The Bears were a little cranky in their final “camp” practice of the year.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford is “tired of splitting” with the Packers.

Packers QB Brett Hundley has played well this preseason.

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is convinced they’ll be a good running team.

New Falcons DE Adrian Claiborne is thriving in a new location.

Panthers DE Charles Johnson won’t be joining the team for tonight’s game in Pittsburgh.

The Saints are banged up entering tonight’s finale.

The Buccaneers need to make strides on defense to help rookie QB Jamies Winston.

Cardinals LB Sean Weatherspoon will make his preseason debut tonight.

The Rams are going with QB Case Keenum as their backup.

The 49ers have a four-deep battle for a starting CB job.

Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable is excited about his group.

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Terrelle Pryor: I don’t like being given anything

Terrelle Pryor AP

Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor says his hamstring injury leaves him at about 70-80 percent heading into Thursday night’s game, which is expected to be his first of the preseason and first since making the move from quarterback upon joining Cleveland this year.

Being less than 100 percent isn’t ideal for a player still trying to make the 53-man roster, something Pryor acknowledged when he quipped that he needed some of Russell Wilson’s “miracle water” to get him where he needs to be. Nanobubbles or not, Pryor’s chances of making the team are going to come down to the Browns’ decision about whether the limited player they have right now can be a dynamic player when healthy despite his lack of experience of the position.

Pryor isn’t thrilled that’s the case, because he says he wanted to earn his roster spot because of the work he’s put in to make the change rather than having the Browns roll the dice on his athletic ability.

“I don’t like being given anything. I do want to help the Browns,” Pryor said, via Cleveland.com. “If that’s the opportunity I have, cool, but that doesn’t excite me. That doesn’t say I’ve worked for it. When I get on the field I’d say I’m a great teammate. I spend a long time in the facility, I always ask questions, I try to be the best teammate, player I can be. But that doesn’t excite me because I want to earn everything I have or get.”

If Pryor does make the Browns, he can take some solace in the fact that his work ethic will be part of the equation because talent alone wouldn’t get him on the team if the Browns didn’t think he’d work hard enough to learn the receiver position. He can also take solace in the fact that he would have been off the roster long ago if not for the athletic ability that made the Browns wait on Pryor through his long absence from the field.

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NFL considers a Scouting Combine in Australia

Jarryd Hayne, Steven Johnson, Josh Bush AP

The success of Australian rugby player Jarryd Hayne with the 49ers this preseason has the NFL thinking about identifying more talent Down Under.

NFL executive vice president of international Mark Waller told the Sydney Morning Herald that the league needs to do a better job of finding talented players all around the world, and a Scouting Combine in Australia could be the way to do that.

“We’ve not really done a good job, I don’t think, of actually thinking through how you build a system for that,” Waller said. “It’s odd because we have a very good system in the US – the Combine. That mechanic is a great way for providing a very clear focal point. It lays out very clearly what the skill requirements are, and in recent years we’ve extended the Combine from a single event to a series of regional events that lead into the Combine itself. It would seem logical to start with ‘well I wonder if there’s an extension of the Combine that we ought to look at’ that could look at bringing in athletes from elsewhere or holding a combines in some other markets. Should we extend that thinking maybe we need a global infrastructure and maybe we test it initially in a couple of markets. Maybe Australia would be a good market to test it in.”

The league is betting that there are other athletes as talented a Hayne, available if scouts can find them.

“It’s definitely stimulated a lot of thought here about what can we do better to create a system for great talented athletes to find their way to the NFL more easily,” Waller said. “Essentially, Jarryd basically took that decision himself and found his own way here. All credit to him. But we should probably be thinking about how we can make that easier. Not everyone is going to be as brave as he’s been or potentially not as immediately talented. That’s one aspect of thinking.”

As the NFL attempts to expand overseas, we may eventually see Scouting Combines all over the world.

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Steelers passing on Phil Taylor because of knee problem

St. Louis Rams v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Steelers might still be interested in finding a veteran defensive tackle, but it won’t be former Browns first-rounder Phil Taylor.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are taking a pass on the recent visitor because they think he has a bad knee which will require surgery.

Although the Browns released Taylor without any type of injury designation, he will receive his base salary of $5.477 million, most likely without offset.

Taylor visited the Steelers Wednesday, but they determined he wouldn’t be able to help them soon. They need some immediate depth up front, so expect them to continue to comb through the discard pile the next few days to look for a big body.

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Pierre Garcon hails Kirk Cousins’ leadership

Washington Redskins v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Never before in the history of the NFL has a team been so eager to have people talk about their quarterback controversy.

But at least it beats that other thing in Washington right now.

With Robert Griffin III out and Kirk Cousins in just before the start of the season, players are having to adjust to a new leader in the huddle, and they think the new guy will do just fine.

Wide receiver Pierre Garcon said during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Cousins has a good chance because of his leadership.

“Kirk is a very enthusiastic guy,” Garcon said, via the Washington Post. “He commands the huddle, he has a lot of faith in us, that we can help him do well. He is a natural-born leader, he’s definitely been planning for that for a long time. You can tell from what kind of person he is that he’s a leader, he’s been doing it for a long time and he’s excited about the opportunity.

“We definitely want to keep him excited and never want to, you know, have him lose that faith in himself. He’s definitely ready and eager to get the season started to prove to everybody what he can do.”

Of course, Garcon was in a good mood, so he also thought highly of Griffin’s chances of returning to his pre-injury form of 2012.

“Oh yeah, he definitely can,” Garcon said. “You know, football is all about learning and advancing. We all come into the league, we’re excited, we play well, and then the second year or third year, people start to catch onto you. You have to find other ways to be better and continue to stay better, and keep working hard on what got you there. Sometimes, we all need help coaching, we all need personal help or mental help. It’s all finding what makes you better. And most of the time it’s actually film study and, you know, just continue to have that hustle mentality, like Alfred Morris does.

“He definitely can be a great player in this league. But Robert has been a great player himself, already. So he’ll definitely be a great player on any team that he goes to and help them out.”

The suggestion that he’s going to some other team isn’t farfetched, and might be preferable if they want Cousins to be able to grow into the job.

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Sammie Hill to miss three games after surgery on knee

Sammie Hill AP

Tennessee Titans nose tackle Sammie Hill had surgery to repair an injured MCL in his knee on Wednesday.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Hill is expected to miss the first three games of the season for the Titans but will be able to play after the team’s bye in Week 4.

The team was still debating a course of action for Hill on Tuesday for the injury suffered last week, either in practice or early in the Titans preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Hill suffered a knee injury during OTAs in May that kept him on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the start of training camp. He passed a physical and last week’s game against the Chiefs was his first game action of the preseason.

Hill played just four snaps against the Chiefs before being sidelined again.

Hill appeared in 15 games for the Titans last season and recorded 34 tackles and three sacks.

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Former Seahawks pro personnel director Tag Ribary dies at 48

tagribary

Tag Ribary, a long-time member of the Seattle Seahawks front office, died Friday at the age of 48.

The former Seahawks executive had parted ways with the franchise in May after working for the team since 2009. Ribary  (pictured right) worked for Seattle as an assistant director of pro personnel from 1990-2000 before joining the Washington Redskins as director of pro personnel in 2001. After one year, Ribary became a pro scout for the Carolina Panthers until returning to Seattle.

Ribary served as a scout for the Seahawks in 2009 before being promoted to director of pro personnel under new head coach Pete Carroll in 2010. He was promoted to director of team operations in 2013, where he spent his last two years working for the franchise.

Ribary is survived by his wife Eva, two children Regan and Bennett, his father John Ribary [wife Sharon], his mother Marsha Brody [husband Steve], and his brother Chuck Ribary.  Step siblings include Shon Steger and Heather Meyer.

photo courtesy of Seahawks.com

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Pylon cameras are mainly “worthless”

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has long been a proponent of fixed cameras. The NFL has resisted using them, due ostensibly to the expense.

So ESPN and CBS will be using them instead, with cameras installed in pylons. The chances of the NFL expanding pylon cameras to all games likely will diminish once the NFL sees the fruits of the networks’ labor.

An industry source predicts that the shots from the pylon cameras will be “worthless” in most cases, pegging the chances of a pylon camera providing a conclusive view of a play at one in 100,000.

“Short of someone spiking or dropping the ball before crossing the goal line this cam is a sham,” the source said.

The problem comes from the many legs and arms and torsos and helmets that will get in the way of the pylon cameras, which are low to the ground and easily obstructed.

And it’s not a fresh take; the viability of pylon cameras was first questioned here three years ago.

The far better system currently is used by NBC at AT&T Stadium in Texas, with a series of cameras allowing for a 360-degree rotating view of the red zone through the back of the end zone. It’s a far more expensive system than pylon cameras, but it allows for a much more comprehensive look at the action.

Besides, the NFL can afford it, whatever it costs.

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