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DeVito courtship suggests violation of pre-free agency rules

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Last Saturday, the NFL opened for the first time in a non-lockout year a three-day window for negotiating with agents for upcoming free agents.  Given that the league used a similar period after the 2011 lockout, it was widely assumed that agreements in principle could be reached during this period, as long as the contracts weren’t formally executed until after the launch of free agency.

Then, on the day before the window opened, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo that essentially closed it, scaring teams into not talking the same type of turkey they had intended with a threat of the least-used weapon in the NFL arsenal:  the tampering investigation.

Through it all, it was clear that teams and agents “may not discuss or make any travel arrangements” until the launch of free agency.  Which makes the first paragraph from an article by Rich Cimini of particularly interesting.

“It was Monday night, and Mike DeVito was getting ready for a flight to Kansas City,” Cimini writes.  “There was an offer on the table from the Chiefs — a good offer — and he was leaving the next day to sign it.”

Those facts, apparently gleaned from a phone interview with DeVito, suggest a violation of the letter and spirit of the restrictions on the negotiating window.  And before Chiefs fans start accusing us of trying to start trouble for their team, we mention this only because the March 8 memo expressly threatened tampering investigations, and because most teams had seemed to be scared into not doing anything that could cross the line.

In the end, it could be that teams were crossing the line, but insisting on discretion from agents.

Regardless, the process apparently gave teams a chance to understand the market for unrestricted free agents — and essentially kill it.

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Bills add three, and of course one of them’s an ex-Jet

Anthony Dixon, T.J. Barnes AP

The Bills made some moves to replenish their injury thinned defensive line.

And yes, of course, they went out and found a former Jet among them.

The Bills announced they had signed defensive tackle T.J. Barnes and defensive end Lavar Edwards, along with linebacker LB Kevin Reddick, while placing veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams on season-ending injured reserve because of a knee problem.

The 6-foot-7, 364-pound Barnes came from the Jets practice squad. He was with them last year when Bills coach Rex Ryan was coaching the Jets, hence the requisite familiarity. He’s bounced between the practice squad and active roster in New York, playing in six games this season.

Reddick has bounced among five teams, and was on the Bills practice squad earlier this year. Edwards was signed off the Cowboys practice squad.

The Bills were short up front, with Williams not able to come back from a year-long knee issue, and defensive tackle Alex Carrington going down with a knee injury last week. They don’t know whether defensive end Mario Williams is going to be able to go this week, hence the need for depth there.

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PFT Live: Broncos talk with Vic Lombardi, Colts talk with Bob Kravitz

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The Broncos became the first team to beat the Patriots this season with last Sunday night’s overtime victory, leaving them with a 9-2 record ahead of this weekend’s trip to San Diego.

That game will mark Brock Osweiler’s third start at quarterback and we’ll spend some time on PFT Live talking about Osweiler’s play when Vic Lombardi of CBS4 in Denver joins Mike Florio. In addition to looking at Osweiler, they’ll discuss the Broncos rushing performance against New England and Peyton Manning’s injury.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR will join the show as well for a chat about the 6-5 Colts. That conversation will also have a lot to do with quarterbacks and injuries, specifically the one that is keeping Andrew Luck out of the lineup.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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Ben Roethlisberger: “I’ll play through any injury but brain”

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When rules were tightened up to reduce high hits, many players complained that it would result in defenders diving at their knees.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger apparently values another part of his body slightly more.

After self-reporting concussion symptoms during last week’s game and taking himself off the field, Roethlisberger said today on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan that “I’ll play through any injury but brain.”

“I feel like I made the right [decision],” he said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-GazetteI think more guys should do it.”

Roethlisberger said he thinks he’s cleared the concussion test he took this morning, saying it was more of a migraine. During the game, he told team doctors that his peripheral vision wasn’t normal, and that’s when they shut him down for the day. But he said those symptoms went away shortly after the game.

Roethlisberger has played through a number of injuries, often coming back well before he should. And while it’s certainly easier for a star with financial and positional security to raise his hand and ask out of a game, perhaps his being willing to do so will help others take the necessary steps for self-preservation.

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Lions: To stop Packers, we have to stop run

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When the Lions and Packers met in Week 10, the Lions held the Packers to 47 yards on the ground and Green Bay’s 61 pass attempts couldn’t generate enough offense to avoid an 18-16 loss.

The Packers were missing Eddie Lacy in that game, but he’s returned with 205 yards on 39 carries in the last two games to provide some more balance to their offense. The Lions expect to see a heavy dose of Lacy in their rematch with the Pack on Thursday night and safety Glover Quin says that the team is focused on making sure that the Packers don’t run their way to victory.

“Even though Aaron Rodgers is a super, super great, talented quarterback, they got great running backs in Eddie Lacy and James Starks,” Quin said, via the Detroit Free Press. “And if you let those guys get going, that’s going to make Aaron Rodgers even better. So you’ve got to make sure you stop the run game.”

Coming into the season, it was hard to imagine too many people would predict that teams would propose that making Rodgers and the Packers beat them through the air would be a good way to wind up with a victory. Things haven’t played out as expected for the Packers offense, however, and it’s hard to argue with a goal of making Green Bay one-dimensional on Thursday night.

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Morelli should be glad to avoid another Colts-Steelers game

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After making a series of mistakes that included not properly counting the downs in Sunday’s game between the Cardinals and 49ers, referee Pete Morelli and his crew have been yanked from Sunday night’s game between the Colts and Steelers.

The crew isn’t happy, but maybe the chief of the crew should be.

A decade ago, Morelli presided over a playoff game between the Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. The sixth-seeded Steelers upset the Colts, who finished the season as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The game included a significant error from Morelli, who incorrectly overturned via replay review an interception made by former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

Despite the fact that the Steelers won the game, someone was sufficiently upset with the outcome to throw a rock through a window in Morelli’s California home. Via Deadspin, the authorities were stumped: “There was no way to determine if this had anything to do with his NFL job. . . . There was no note on the rock.”

By avoiding the Sunday night game between the Colts and Steelers, Morelli has less reason to worry about more rocks, with or without notes on them.

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Dolphins sign center as Mike Pouncey insurance

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 01:  Mike Pouncey #51 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the New York Jets  during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 1, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins coach Dan Campbell said Monday that Mike Pouncey’s foot injury wasn’t as serious as the team initially feared, but that there was a good chance that they’d bring in another center in the event Pouncey doesn’t come around in time to play in Week 13.

They signed that center on Tuesday morning. The team announced that they have signed Jacques McClendon to their 53-man roster.

McClendon has had two other stints with the Dolphins this year. He spent training camp with the team before being released ahead of the opener and then returned to the team to play one game in September. McClendon played in 18 games for the Jaguars in 2013 and 2014 and has also spent time with the Lions, Steelers and Falcons since entering the league as a Colts fourth-round pick in 2010.

Jamil Douglas replaced Pouncey in the loss to the Jets and had some issues with low snaps in the shotgun. Linebacker James-Michael Johnson was released to open a spot for McClendon.

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Davante Adams trying to shake off poor Thanksgiving performance

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 15: Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers tries to make a cacth over Quandre Diggs #28 of the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on November 15, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Lions defeated the Packers 18-16. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers wide receiver Davante Adams didn’t have much to feel thankful about on the field on Thanksgiving.

Adams dropped more passes than he caught in Green Bay’s loss to the Bears, including one on a post pattern that might have gone for a touchdown if Adams had been able to reel in Aaron Rodgers’s pass. Adams also caught blame from coach Mike McCarthy for the route he ran on a Rodgers interception in a performance that continued a trend that has the Packers finding little success when they look in Adams’s direction.

Adams says he’s trying to shake off the poor game, but he’s still “pissed off” about the way he played in the loss to the Bears and that’s making it difficult to completely turn the page.

“It’s hard to let it go,” Adams said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “You really want to have that, they call it, the DB [defensive back] mentality. Just let it go, and go to the next play. Forget about it. But it’s hard.”

In other seasons, a game like that might lead to extended time on the bench for Adams. As the 11 passes thrown his way last Thursday illustrate, however, the Packers aren’t filled with options at receiver at the moment and that means he’ll likely get more chances against the Lions this Thursday. If he doesn’t do more with them, the Packers’ chances of avoiding a Lions sweep of the season series will be more difficult.

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Pete Morelli’s crew yanked from Week 13 Sunday night game

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 30:  Referee Pete Morelli walk out of the tunnel towards the field before a game between the Oakland Raidersand Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on September 30, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

After dispensing no additional discipline beyond the grading process in response to multiple errors made by the officials during the Week 11 Monday night game, the NFL has decided to take action in response to mistakes made during one of the two late-afternoon games from the twelfth Sunday of the regular season.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL has removed referee Pete Morelli’s crew from the Colts-Steelers game to be played on Sunday night. Morelli’s crew has been reassigned to another game.

It’s the third time this season the NFL has taken specific action in response to officiating errors. Side judge Rob Vernatchi was suspended with pay after a clock error in the Steelers-Chargers Monday night game, and back judge Greg Wilson was assigned away from a Sunday night game between the Colts and Patriots after missing the illegal bat at the end of the Lions-Seahawks game.

UPDATE 10:20 a.m. ET: An earlier version of this item explained that Morelli’s crew had been reassigned from the Monday night game between Dallas and Washington. The crew had been assigned to work the Sunday night game between the Colts and Steelers, which actually will have a significantly larger audience given that it will be televised on a broadcast network, not cable.

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Sam Bradford to throw today as he comes back from shoulder injury

Sam Bradford AP

We can debate later whether it’s a good thing, but it appears Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford is closer to being back.

According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Bradford’s apparently been cleared from the left AC joint sprain that’s kept him out the last two weeks, along with the concussion which he was cleared from last week.

I just don’t know where we are from a throwing standpoint with him,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “He threw a little bit on Thursday in Detroit, . . . The big test will be [Tuesday] in terms of him throwing the ball around and seeing if there is residual soreness.”

While the injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, Kelly still worried whether it will affect Bradford’s throws.

“If you have some instability in there, you’re susceptible to something if you get hit,” he said. “Can he handle that? Can he take a hit? It’s not something that’s going to affect him long-term.”

Of course, unless Bradford can play defense, it might not be enough to help things, as the Eagles have been rather porous in his absence (90 points in two games), knocking Mark Sanchez way down the list of concerns.

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NFL really is doing a better job of spotting concussions

Brian Hoyer AP

In Week 11, the NFL’s current system for spotting a concussed player and getting him off the field failed, badly. Rams quarterback Case Keenum, clearly in distress, remained in the game when he shouldn’t have, due in large part to a too-many-chefs system that allows the buck to be passed like the salt and pepper when it fails.

But despite the periodic mishaps (and even one mishap per season is far too many), the NFL has truly made strides when protecting players from themselves. Peter King of explains that, in the same game that saw Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger self-report concussion symptoms (a headache), Steelers coach Mike Tomlin ensured that linebacker Ryan Shazier would submit to the concussion protocol, against his wishes.

Richard Ellenbogen, the co-chair of the NFL’s head, neck, and spine committee, told King that the ATC spotter noticed that Shazier was woozy in the second quarter. Video showed a helmet-to-helmet hit, with Shazier’s head also hitting the ground. As doctors attempted to evaluation Shazier, he insisted he was fine. And then Tomlin intervened, telling Shazier, “You will listen to these doctors, and you’ll do it now.”

Shazier was later ruled out for the game, and he now resides in the league’s concussion protocol.

“This was a very good day for culture change,” Ellenbogen told King. “The team was all-in. The coach was involved, and he was fully supportive of what the medical people were doing. He couldn’t have been more supportive. Then we had a player self-report in the middle of an intense game, which is exactly what we want. He put health and safety over the competition. Concussions sometimes can take a few minutes to appear, as in this case. Today the system worked. The humans worked.”

It was a fortuitous turn of events for the NFL, which only six days earlier saw the ESPN Monday Night Countdown crew properly chastising the league for its handling of the Keenum situation — with a commercial for the new movie Concussion playing during a break later in the show. And it was smart for the league to ensure that a positive story regarding the handling of concussions has made it to light.

But even before Keenum, the system worked in Houston, where quarterback Brian Hoyer was removed from play not because of anything the ATC spotter saw or anything Hoyer said but because others noticed Hoyer wasn’t right.

“I think the guys just recognized on the sideline I wasn’t acting normal and then you get checked out,” Hoyer told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “I think it was a little bit of everything teammates, coaches, trainers I mean it’s kind of a collective thing where I think for me you know I was lucky they spotted it. . . . [Y]ou’re kind of so used to playing and you get dinged a little bit. . . . [A]drenaline is carrying you, autopilot I guess you would call it. You can still function, but I think when you’re missing certain things some of those guys around kind of notice and did the right thing.”
It’s important that the league has plenty of eyes watching for signs of concussions. But unless the lines of responsibility and accountability are clear and unambiguous, it remains possible that a player from time to time will fall through the cracks.
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Rams owner Stan Kroenke meets with Missouri governor

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With increasing signs that his wish to move the Rams to Los Angeles lacks the support of the majority of owners, perhaps Stan Kroenke is looking at options closer to his current home.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kroenke met with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon at Rams Park Monday. The chair of the St. Louis stadium task force, Dave Peacock, was also at Rams Park but didn’t take part in the meeting. A spokesperson for Nixon would confirm the meeting but provided no other details.

The meeting might be the first face-to-face meeting between Kroenke and the Governor regarding the possibility of relocation, or the state’s effort to keep the team in place.

While details are scarce, it seems that the league may be trying to nudge Kroenke in the direction of a new stadium in St. Louis. Already, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has voiced his support for the Chargers (and possibly Raiders) and the competing Carson project.

The league’s oft-stated stance is that they’d prefer to keep teams in their existing markets if there’s a viable stadium plan in place. St. Louis has at least made an effort in that regard, while the Chargers and Raiders seem stuck in a years-long holding pattern looking for new buildings to replace their decrepit ones.

While Kroenke could just be checking off a box before he packs up and moves, the possibility of a thaw between him and the locals who want to keep his team could be an interesting development, on the eve of this week’s owners meetings in Dallas.

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Cromartie on Beckham: Still so much room for him to grow

Odell Beckham, Darrelle Revis AP

Earlier this year, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham a “one-year wonder” because he felt that he had not seen enough of Beckham to know that he could produce on an every-week basis.

Cromartie made those comments in early October and Beckham has done a pretty good job of proving that he can thrive every time out since then. He has 72 catches for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns on the year, putting him on pace to end the year with the kind of production rarely seen from wide receiver in their first two years.

On Monday, Cromartie again referenced that youth while discussing the potential for growth that he feels Beckham has within his reach.

“I still feel like there’s still so much room for him to grow,” Cromartie said, via “He’s a young, athletic guy that can go out and make plays, and make unbelievable catches. He’s proven that over and over. He does have a lot of room to grow, because he’s so young. He’s only in his second year, so he only can evolve in that offense. Being around the guys, like Eli Manning, [can] make him evolve more. Yes, he has a lot of room to grow, to be the guy that everyone knows he can be.”

Beckham has played 23 NFL games, so it would be rather silly to think that he’s a fully formed player even if what we’ve seen puts him squarely in the upper tier of NFL wideouts. With Darrelle Revis still in the concussion protocol, Marcus Williams battling a knee injury and Cromartie still prone to getting burnt, his current level may be more than enough to make nightmares for the Jets this Sunday.

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NFL convening “health and safety” call on Friday

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At a time when the NFL is more sensitive than ever to player health and safety, a meeting on the topic is coming up on Friday.

Per multiple sources, the league has scheduled for Tuesday a conference call between the NFL, the NFL Players Association, and the players regarding player “health and safety.”

The email message scheduling the call, according to one source, explains that the conference call is required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Another source suggested that the plan will be for all players to participate in the call.

One player who is directly involved in union activities told PFT on Monday that he had not yet been informed of the meeting.

It’s unclear whether this is an annual event. Regardless, it has gotten extra attention in light of last week’s Case Keenum concussion debacle, along with the looming release of the film Concussion, which based on the now-rampant TV commercials clearly hopes to make the NFL look bad for its mishandling of the concussion problem. In every version of the spots being televised pretty much everywhere (except NFL Network), a member of Congress is grilling the Commissioner, played by an actor who looks nothing like the Commissioner.

As it relates to the issue of concussions, the NFL looks nothing like it did prior to October 2009, when Roger Goodell and others were summoned to Capitol Hill and sufficiently intimated to take action. Still, the Keenum situation from nine days ago demonstrates that plenty still needs to be done.

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Pagano finally plays the “100 percent” card on Luck

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The initial Twitter-fueled headline emerging from Monday’s Chuck Pagano press conference focused on the adjectives he used to describe the question of whether 40-year-old Matthew Hasselbeck is supplanting Andrew Luck as the team’s starting quarterback. The far more significant comment from Pagano arose from the specific number he uttered.

“Andrew is our starting quarterback and when he is healthy and he is 100 percent healthy and the doctors and our trainers say he is ready to roll then he is going to be under center,” Pagano said, via comments distributed by the team.

And there it is. The “100 percent” rule. The standard that PFT argued Pagano should use on Luck back in Week Six, after Hasselbeck’s Jimmy Connors/Michael Jordan/Willis Reed performance against the Texans and when Luck still was nursing a shoulder and/or rib injury. (Heck, we even prefaced that explanation by saying it would be “ludicrous” to even suggest benching Luck for Hasselbeck; “ludicrous” is one of the terms Pagano used when addressing the possibility on Monday.)

So when is a guy with a lacerated kidney and a separate abdominal strain truly “100 percent”? February? April? May?

For all the clarity implied in the three digits, it’s a loose, vague, fuzzy standard, allowing Pagano to go with Hasselbeck’s hot hand as long as it stays hot, keeping Luck on the bench without ever benching him.

From the perspective of Pagano’s long-term employment prospects in a job he has said repeatedly will be his last, there’s nothing ridiculous or ludicrous about that.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs tackles Danny Woodhead #39 of the San Diego Chargers during a game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills parted ways with LB A.J. Tarpley.

Is firing offensive coordinator Bill Lazor now too little and too late for the Dolphins?

A look at the Patriots’ clock management on Sunday night.

Jets S Calvin Pryor got the support of coach Todd Bowles after Ryan Tannehill called Pryor “classless.”

A blocked field goal made for a happy NFL debut for Ravens DE Brent Urban.

The Bengals defensive backs tackled well against the Rams.

With Josh McCown injured again, what do the Browns do at quarterback?

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton took advantage of increased opportunities in Week 12.

There was no “Victory Monday” day off for the Texans.

WR Andre Johnson played 33 snaps for the Colts last Sunday.

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns’s status for this week hasn’t been determined yet.

How does the Titans’ home losing streak measure up to other extended bouts of futility?

A breakdown of playing time for the Broncos in their win over the Patriots.

Chiefs LB Tamba Hali’s NFL career has exceeded his own expectations.

The Raiders running game never caught fire against the Titans.

Youth is being served on the Chargers defense.

Rookie T Chaz Green is expected to return to action for the Cowboys.

Giants players say the playoffs, not beating the Jets, is the biggest motivation this week.

The Eagles added C Barrett Jones to the roster.

Redskins DL Ricky Jean Francois thinks his team can make a Super Bowl run.

Everybody around the Bears was in a dancing mood on Thanksgiving.

CB Alex Carter won’t get back on the field for the Lions this year.

The Packers got TE Andrew Quarless back at practice Monday.

Coach Mike Zimmer praised the Vikings for playing like a “smart football team.”

The Falcons hope RB Devonta Freeman and WR Devin Hester can provide some spark upon their returns to the lineup.

Said newly signed Panthers CB Cortland Finnegan, “Any guy who ever plays the game, they just want one more snap, let’s just be honest. I got giddy just putting on the helmet today.”

What approach should the Saints employ for their final five games?

Losing to the Colts hasn’t dampened good spirits around the Buccaneers.

It looks like rookie David Johnson will be the No. 1 running back for the Cardinals this week.

Rams RB Todd Gurley got emotional over his college coach Mark Richt’s ouster at Georgia.

RB Shaun Draughn is making the most of his chance with the 49ers.

TE Luke Willson’s importance to the Seahawks will go up with Jimmy Graham injured.

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