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Redskins say they aren’t talking to GrassMaster

nfl_griffin_d1_300 Getty Images

Yves De Cocker apparently spoke to soon.

The Desso GrassMaster executive told ESPN 980 in D.C. that the company is talking to the Redskins about installing the hybrid turf system at FedEx Field.

“Let me say that we’re on speaking terms,” DeCocker said.  “Yes, there is some action going over the ocean, let’s say, between the Redskins and our company.  I think both sides are looking at what would the system bring them.”

The action apparently consisted of De Cocker’s company putting a document in an envelope, and then putting the envelope in the mail.

“That story is false,” Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told PFT.  “They sent us a brochure.  That is it.”

So, in other words, the Redskins are sticking with dirt.  Painted green.

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Eli Manning says new system has “reenergized” him

Eli Manning AP

The easy thing for the Giants to have done this offseason is point to Super Bowl trophies and let Eli Manning do what he’s been doing.

Instead, the veteran quarterback is learning a new offense this offseason, which he said is exciting for him.

It’s reenergized me,” Manning said, via Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News. “I’m trying to speed up the process of getting comfortable in the new system. I don’t have 10 years. I have a few months.”

Manning is using his last few days before training camp getting some extra work in. While helping run the Manning Passing Academy back in Louisiana, he’s getting some extra work in on the side with new wide receiver Odell Beckham, the Giants’ first-rounder.

“Good to get some one-on-one time here,” Manning said.

Between the new offense and having ankle surgery in April, Manning will have more pressure than ever when he goes to camp. If he handles both challenges well, the Giants have an opportunity to make a jump in a division full of uncertainty.

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Will Vernon Davis show up for training camp?

Super Bowl XLVII Media Day Getty Images

With 49ers guard Alex Boone reportedly intent on holding out of training camp until he gets a new deal, the bigger question for the franchise is whether tight end Vernon Davis will do the same.

Davis has sent mixed signals in recent weeks regarding his intentions and his objectives.  Most recently, he created the impression that, if he doesn’t get a new deal, he’ll show up for camp after skipping the offseason program.

A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that, at the present time, Davis would not be reporting.  That doesn’t mean he won’t show; with nine days to go, Davis can change his mind and change it back again a few times or more before the time comes to report for duty.

The 49ers reportedly won’t negotiate with Boone or Davis until they show up.  If they boycott camp, the team will be able to fine them $30,000 per day and also to pursue a portion of any signing bonus money previously paid.

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Tomlin says Archer will play running back and receiver

Archer AP

Steelers rookie third-rounder Dri Archer recently said he’s not sure what his duties will be in his first NFL season, but that he expects to have a big role.  His coach provided some clarity on Friday.

Appearing on NFL Network, Mike Tomlin said that Archer will play both running back and receiver in 2014.

“We’re gonna work to get the ball in his hands in space,” Tomlin said.

It’s still unclear how many reps Archer will get at tailback, especially with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount at the top of the depth chart.  Tomlin added that the “division of labor” among the tailbacks will sort itself out during camp.

Archer also is expected to compete for opportunities in the return game, which could make him a multi-purpose weapon, if his speed translates to the next level.

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Joe Haden thinks the Browns and Cavs can both win big

Joe Haden AP

The Browns are approaching legitimacy, building a strong defense which could buy time for an offense that’s losing a key part, but adding a potential star in quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Their NBA neighbors got the quick-fix Friday, gaining superstar LeBron James.

But Browns cornerback Joe Haden said he wasn’t sure which team would win a title first.

“LeBron makes things happen pretty quickly, so we’re going to have to get to it,” Haden said during an NFL Network appearance, via the Akron Beacon Journal. ” I say it’s going to be a tight fight. I know me and Manziel will be pushing to make that happen before. That’s why LeBron is coming here to bring a championship to the city and I’m trying to do the same thing.”

Haden joked that he’d give James his jersey number 23 if he’d join the Browns, but noted that the buzz around the NBA team didn’t discount the progress they’ve made.

“Even if LeBron hadn’t have come, I felt really confident about what we got going on as far as the Browns organization and the way the direction that we’re going,” he said. “This is just nothing but add-on to it. This just boosts peoples’ spirits up. I think at the end of the day, what we have with the Browns we feel like we can games, we feel like our defense is very, very, very strong. With [Johnny] Manziel and [Brian] Hoyer fighting for the quarterback position, Ben Tate at running back — we’ve got a lot of different moving positions on offense. It could be special for us. I think with this team, we’re going to have a really big push.”

The simple math of 22 starters vs. five means it’s easier for one player to make a huge difference for the team, but if Manziel can play to the star-status he’s reached by hanging around James, the Browns could be interesting in the next few years.

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Archie Manning: 2014 Saints may be the best in franchise history

Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning arrives for the Inaugural National Football League Honors at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis Reuters

Archie Manning spent 11 seasons in New Orleans, and he was never on a good team: The Saints’ record in games he started was 35-91-3, and never did they finish a season above .500. So it should go without saying that the Saints today are a much better team than the Saints teams that Manning played on.

But Manning would go further than that: He believes that the 2014 Saints are the best team the franchise has ever seen.

The Saints are really good,” Manning told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “They’re really good — what [coordinator] Rob Ryan did with their defense last year, and they’ve still got [coach] Sean Payton and Drew [Brees]. I think the Saints’ lineup on paper to start the season is maybe as strong as I’ve ever seen before.”

Manning may be right. There are plenty of reasons for Saints fans to be optimistic that this year’s Saints could be a Super Bowl team. Maybe a team good enough to beat Archie’s son Peyton in the Super Bowl. Again.

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Lions check in at No. 21 in our preseason power rankings

stafford AP

Jim Schwartz is out and Jim Caldwell is in as the head coach of the Lions, but will they be any better this year?

Not really, at least as we see it. The Lions, who squandered a golden opportunity to run away with the NFC North late last season and ended the year at 7-9, look like they’re going to finish this season in the same range: We’ve got them at No. 21 in our preseason power rankings.

You can read the full Lions preview right here, but what it basically comes down to is that we’re not sold on Matthew Stafford developing as the kind of franchise quarterback Detroit needs, and we’re not sold that the Lions have any cornerbacks who can shut down opposing wide receivers.

PFT Planet, let us know if you think we’re too high, too low or right on the money in our ranking of the Lions.

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Source says evidence indicates Pounceys did not assault accuser

Maurkice Pouncey AP

Although police are investigating after a man claimed early this morning that he was assaulted by Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT the preliminary evidence indicates the Pounceys were not involved in the alleged assault.

The Pouncey twins were having their annual birthday party at the Cameo nightclub in Miami Beach on Friday night and into Saturday morning. A man named Ricky Vasquez posted several messages on Twitter and Instagram saying he was assaulted at the club by four bouncers and the Pouncey twins.

Vasquez said he went to the hospital for medical treatment that included 10 stitches.

Police have confirmed they are investigating the situation but have not confirmed that the Pounceys are the subjects of the investigation.

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Joel Dreessen: Low pay for tight ends is frustrating

Joel Dreessen AP

Add Denver’s Joel Dreessen to the list of NFL tight ends who aren’t thrilled with the way they get paid.

Dreessen said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that in the wake of Saints tight end Jimmy Graham losing his arbitration ruling, tight ends are feeling underpaid. Dreessen agreed with Tony Gonzalez, who said players should be paid based on production, not their position.

“It actually kind of strikes a nerve,” Dreessen said. “Tight end was historically one of the lowest-paid positions in the league. We don’t get paid as much as offensive linemen, we certainly don’t get paid as much as wide receivers for those top-tier contracts. But we’re asked to do so much. We’re asked to play special teams, we’ve got to know every single pass pattern, protection and run game. So it’s kind of frustrating that the guys who get asked to do probably the second most behind the quarterback are kind of down there on the pay scale.”

Dreessen is a backup who caught only seven passes last season, so it’s not like he would be making top-shelf money even if elite tight ends were paid as much as elite wide receivers. But on principle, he believes the best tight ends’ contracts should be on par with the contracts of the best wide receivers in the NFL. In reality, the tight end pay scale is well behind the scale for wide receivers.

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Wes Welker’s Undrafted finishes fourth at Newmarket

Wes Welker

In the sternest test of his career, Wes Welker’s Undrafted garnered a measure of esteem on Saturday, finishing a good fourth in the Group 1 July Cup at England’s Newmarket Racecourse.

A four-year-old chestnut-colored gelding, Undrafted raced near the back of the back early and ran on well in the stretch, beaten about 2-to-3 lengths by winner and race favorite Slade Power. The race distance was about three-quarters of a mile on the turf.

Undrafted’s July Cup run was his best performance in a Group 1 race to date, and it comes on the heels of his June 7 win in the Jaipur Invitational Stakes at New York’s Belmont Park.

Welker, the Denver Broncos’ star slot receiver, attended Saturday’s race at Newmarket. According to the race course, Welker will be donating 5,000 British pounds, or more than $8,500, to a charity benefiting injured jockeys.

Per the Racing Post, the July Cup had a purse of 510,000 pounds, or more than $870,000, with fourth place paying about $47,000.

[Photo via Newmarket Racecourse's official Twitter feed.]

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Police investigating after man claims Pouncey twins assaulted him

Mike Pouncey AP

Police are investigating after a man claimed Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey assaulted him at a Miami Beach nightclub, but no arrests have been made and police have not confirmed that the Pounceys are the subjects of the investigation.

“There was an incident that occurred at Cameo last night at 4:20 a.m., where an alleged assault took place,” Miami Beach Police Sgt. Bobby Hernandez told New Times. “We have not confirmed it’s the Pouncey brothers that are the subjects, but we are going to have detectives contacting the victims to investigate further.”

A man named Ricky Vasquez posted several messages on Twitter and Instagram saying he was assaulted at Cameo, the club where the Pouncey twins also got attention at this time last year for wearing “Free Hernandez” hats after their college teammate Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder. The Pounceys, whose birthday is July 24, have an annual birthday party at Cameo.

Vasquez claims he was punched and has a chipped tooth and a cut that required 10 stitches. He also claims that he was called an anti-gay slur.

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Report: Alex Boone won’t show for start of camp without new deal

Alex Boone AP

49ers right guard Alex Boone wants a new contract.

And he’s reportedly set to stay away from training camp until he gets it.

Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports there is “no way” Boone is present when camp begins without a new deal.

The 27-year-old Boone has two years left on his current contract. His base salaries are $2 million in 2014 and $1.2 million in 2015.

Should Boone fail to report, the 49ers can fine him up to $30,000 per day missed, according to the CBA. The 49ers might also be reluctant to even discuss a deal with the starting guard if he doesn’t report.

The 49ers report for training camp on Wednesday, July 23.

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Teammate on Jimmy Graham: Welcome to the business of football

grahamwatson AP

Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, who is atop the depth chart as long as Jimmy Graham remains unsigned, says Graham has learned a valuable lesson this offseason: Even if your team appreciates the work you do, they’ll fight as hard as they can to pay you as little as they can.

Asked about Saints coach Sean Payton testifying against Graham at an arbitration hearing, Watson said that’s just the way management handles contract negotiations.

Welcome to the business side of football,” Watson told ESPN. “And a lot of times we don’t see this part because rarely does a situation make it all the way to arbitration. But that’s the business side of football. And it’s kind of no different than a contract situation where there’s a heated discussion over contracts, things are said back and forth. And in the end both sides are able to amicably move on and back to the business of football once there’s an agreement in place. But I’m with you. I was thinking much the same thing when I heard that Coach Payton was having to testify, and I don’t know if he was testifying on his own accord or was being forced to, and I also don’t know what conversations he’s had with Jimmy since then and where their relationship stands. But I do know that if and when Jimmy makes it back, and hopefully sooner than later, things will be smoothed over and we’ll get to trying to play Saints football and winning championships.”

The best-case scenario for the Saints is that they can reach an agreement on a long-term contract with Graham. If Graham ends up playing this season on the tight end franchise tag, he may wait until after training camp to report, and he may be disgruntled by his experiences with the business of football.

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Browns are 22nd in PFT’s preseason power rankings

Ben Tate AP

The Browns are getting better.

That’s how the PFT staff sees it, anyway.

Cleveland checks in at No. 22 in our preseason power rankings, compiled by a vote of PFT’s writers. Overall, that’s a jump of nine spots from a season ago. As far as the AFC goes, the Browns are 10th in our rankings after being 15th entering 2013.

Much of the summer focus on the Browns figures to fall on their quarterback competition, with rookie Johnny Manziel’s progress the biggest storyline of all. However, Manziel wasn’t the only major roster addition the Browns made in the offseason. The club was active in free agency, signing linebacker Karlos Dansby, safety Donte Whitner, tailback Ben Tate, offensive guard/tackle Paul McQuistan and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson and Miles Austin.

This leads us to our poll question: which free agent signing will have the biggest impact for the Browns in 2014? Share your comments and vote, vote and vote again. You need something to do in the afterglow of LeBron James returning home, right?

 

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On a big Cleveland weekend, Brian Hoyer gets some spotlight

Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel AP

On a weekend when Cleveland gets to rise up out of its collective Clevelandness and feel good about all its sports teams, it’s only natural that the Browns quarterback throws out the first pitch at the Indians game.

No, not that one. The other one. The starter.

The Browns announced that Brian Hoyer would do the honors at this afternoon’s game, a brief reminder that he is, in fact, the starting quarterback for the local professional football franchise.

Of course, Hoyer took the opportunity of yesterday’s return of NBA star LeBron James to subtly underscore that message as well.

While everyone was celebrating the return of the King, Hoyer latched onto another passage of James’ letter home.

It would take a real cynic to read that as a passive-aggressive reminder to a certain Johnathan F. Football that he’s still atop the depth chart.

Fortunately for you, we employ a few of those here.

By all accounts, Hoyer is a good sport who has been thrust into a number of tough situations, and has impressed with his maturity.

So on a weekend when all things Cleveland are good for a change, we’re hoping the kid throws a strike.

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Saturday morning one-liners

Dalton Getty Images

The Bills have announced information regarding complimentary tickets for night practices at training camp.

Patriots DB Kyle Arrington will host the Triple A Football Camp on Saturday in Brandywine, Maryland.

Underprivileged kids in Rochester, New York will have backpacks full of supplies when school starts, thanks in part to Dolphins LT (and Rochester native) Branden Albert.

Dawan Landry and rookie Calvin Pryor are projected to start at safety for the Jets.

Browns S Donte Whitner says the team’s offense will rely heavily on the running game.

His quarterbacking skills remain the subject of debate, but Bengals QB Andy Dalton is undeniably stellar at pop-a-shot.

Former Steelers first-round tailback Rashard Mendenhall will start his retirement with a $1.4 million house in Santa Monica.

With Arthur Jones gone from the Ravens, DL DeAngelo Tyson knows he needs to step up.

Colts owner Jim Irsay has donated $100,000 to a program for at-risk youth.

Titans teammates give CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson a hard time because he listens to audio books.

The Texans have announced the themes for their 2014 home games.  (What’s wrong with, “Hey, let’s try to actually win this week”?)

How many undrafted rookies will make it to the Jaguars’ 53-man roster?

Deceased Chiefs RB Joe Delaney will get a long-overdue look at his life in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning is proud of the manner in which the Manning Passing Academy has grown.

Get to know Chargers LB Melvin Ingram.

The situation regarding the stadium shared by the Raiders and A’s continues to be a bit of a mess.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten sold more merchandise last year than any other player on the team.

Giants RB Rashad Jennings is giving back this weekend to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia.

Washington DL Chris Baker has started a foundation to help kids in Windsor, Connecticut.

If Eagles RT Lane Johnson ends up missing the first four games of the season, the offensive line should be fine.

So who will start at tight end for the Packers this year?

The man accused of killing the 2-year-old son of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson claims the boy choked on fruit snacks.

The Lions love the enthusiasm and professionalism of DL Darryl Tapp.

Bears rookie S Brock Vereen is working on his on-field communication skills.

Buccaneers K Connor Barth will co-host a kicking camp on Sunday at Hoggard High School in North Carolina.

Panthers QB Cam Newton’s youngest brother is competing in Newton’s 7-on-7 tournament.

Saints NT John Jenkins celebrated his 25th birthday by hosting a youth football camp in Connecticut.

Actor Michael Kelly from House of Cards is a big Falcons fan.

Cardinals OT Jared Veldheer is a big believer in spending lots of time in the weight room.

49ers WR Bruce Ellington hosted a youth football camp in South Carolina on Friday with his cousin, Arizona RB Andre Ellington.

Former Rams LB Will Witherspoon thinks WR Kenny Britt will finally become a star in St. Louis.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman claims he’s “done talking” about San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree.  (Many would prefer that Sherman generally be “done talking.”)

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