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NFL sees no increase in injuries on Thursdays

Goodell AP

When the NFL expanded its slate of Thursday night games, some questioned whether forcing more players to play in more games with less time off would lead to more injuries. But the NFL says that hasn’t happened.

According to a health and safety press release published by the NFL this week, the Competition Committee asked the league’s medical advisors to study whether there was an increase in the number of injuries — and specifically an increase in concussions — during Thursday night games. And the study said there was no increase at all.

The league says concussion rates were similar on Thursdays to Saturday, Sunday and Monday games, and the overall injury rate was actually slightly lower for Thursday games — 5.2 injuries a game on Thursday and 5.3 injuries a game on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

It’s easy to be skeptical, of course, when the NFL itself is the source of this information: Would the league really tell us if more players were getting hurt in the games that were moved to Thursdays to give the league-owned network more programming? But that’s the NFL’s story: There are no more injuries in Thursday games than in any other games.

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Doug Baldwin recalls humbling start to career after signing extension

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 27:  Wide receiver Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on December 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 23-17.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tuesday’s announcement that the Seahawks and wide receiver Doug Baldwin have agreed to a four-year contract extension didn’t come as much of a surprise given how often both sides talked this offseason about wanting to get a deal done.

Telling someone in 2011 that Baldwin would one day ink a deal with $24 million in guaranteed money and a total value of $46 million would have come as more of a surprise. That’s when Baldwin went undrafted after completing his career at Stanford, something that Baldwin reminisced about in a Facebook post after signing his contract.

“It was 2011,” Baldwin wrote. “I was sitting by myself at a small Mexican restaurant across the street from the Stanford campus. The draft had just ended and my name wasn’t called. I sat in my chair unable to move as if my heart had just been ripped out of my chest. I’ve been playing football since I was 7 years old and, in that moment, it seemed like it was all coming to an end. I humbled myself and waited out the lockout for one last shot at my dream. Then … Seattle called and they wanted me. That was almost 5 years ago. This is now. I’m thankful and blessed to formally announce my 4 year extension with the Seattle Seahawks.”

Baldwin’s production hit a new level in the second half of last season as the Seahawks passing offense took off, but he’d been an efficient and reliable target for Russell Wilson throughout his time with the team. Those traits matter more than how he entered the league or the fact that he doesn’t have the ideal size teams look for at receiver and explain why he has a shiny new contract that will keep him in a prime role on the Seahawks offense for the next few years.

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Eli Manning expects to score more points this season

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Ben McAdoo arrived as the Giants’ offensive coordinator in 2014, the Giants were coming off a season that saw them rank 28th in points scored.

McAdoo has overseen a steady rise over the last two seasons, with the Giants jumping from just over 18 to 26.3 points a game by the end of the 2015 season. That work helped McAdoo bump Tom Coughlin out of the head coaching job this offseason in a move that brought some change to the team without throwing out something that’s worked well the last two years.

Quarterback Eli Manning is happy that the offense has remained in place and sees room for improvement. Manning believes that adding rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard to the offense while also getting wideout Victor Cruz and tight end Larry Donnell back from injury will lead the team to put up even more points in 2016.

“We expect to be able score the ball,” Manning said, via Rhett Lewis of NFL Media. “We feel like we can score over 28 points a game. That’s what we want to do. We were close to hitting that last year.”

Scoring points is only half the battle, of course, and the Giants’ 420 points scored last season still left them with a -22 point differential thanks to the abysmal defense put together by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The Giants went with continuity by keeping him on the staff for this season, but tried to overhaul the personnel in free agency by spending big money on defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

Assuming the offense continues humming, it will be that side of the ball that again determines the Giants’ fate in the standings.

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Cardinals president says digital distribution of NFL games is the future

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16: Inside linebacker Dwight Freeney #54 of the Arizona Cardinals (left) celebrates with team president Michael Bidwill (right) after the Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers 26-20 in overtime of the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL’s major media partners remain the traditional television networks of NBC, CBS and FOX, the cable network ESPN and the satellite provider DirecTV. But it’s only a matter of time before an online distributor also becomes a major media partner of the NFL.

That’s the word from Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, who said today on PFT Live that he expects an online video distributor like Amazon, Netflix or YouTube will some day out-bid the traditional television companies to broadcast NFL games.

“There’s no doubt it’s coming,” Bidwill said. “The question is how we transition into it. What we need to do is do a great job of listening to our fans about how they want to consume NFL content. Our fans are switching to digital, they’re switching to handheld and mobile devices, and we want to respond to that.”

The Cardinals teamed with Amazon for the new documentary series All or Nothing, which debuts July 1 on Amazon Prime. Bidwill is excited about the way that series can help the team draw fans from outside Arizona.

“This was a great way for us to tell our story across the country,” he said. “We want to expand our footprint, expand our fan base.”

Eventually, the NFL hopes to expand the fan base around the world, and the path to doing that will be broadcasting games online.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Former NFL Head Coach Buddy Ryan watches the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts warm up before the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Joe Namath says all the Jets on the Super Bowl III-winning team loved their defensive line coach, Buddy Ryan.

Bills WR Sammy Watkins might be better off not talking about his injury.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick says it was Buddy Ryan’s 46 that drove the two-back offense out of the NFL.

The Dolphins like their depth on the offensive line.

Buddy Ryan may deserve a bit of credit for the great 2000 Ravens defense.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says Buddy Ryan had a huge impact on him.

Jim Brown says suspended Browns WR Josh Gordon has been to rehab and is taking his recovery seriously.

Steelers LB James Harrison plays a version of volleyball with a heavy medicine ball.

The Texans like the versatility of TE Ryan Griffin.

Former Colts RB Zurlon Tipton, who died on Tuesday in an accidental shooting, is remembered as one of the loudest and funniest players in the locker room.

Jaguars OT Josh Wells is trying to learn the little things about playing on the offensive line in the NFL.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey talks about the lengths fans will go to to get him to give the ball to the players on their fantasy teams.

Former Broncos QB Peyton Manning says he was honored to call the late coach Pat Summitt a friend.

Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin is taking young receivers under his wing.

Here’s a look at some of the best videos on the Raiders’ website.

Ex-Chargers QB Moses Moreno is now a high school ref.

Does Cowboys QB Tony Romo have one of the worst contracts in the NFL?

Ex-Giants WR Preston Parker will avoid jail time in a plea deal on cocaine charges.

In Philadelphia, they still debate whether Buddy Ryan was good for the franchise.

Washington CB Josh Norman was name-dropped by Jay Z.

Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and other 1985 Bears loved Buddy Ryan.

The Lions are choosing their first cheerleading squad.

The Packers’ shareholders are considering a new director.

Former Vikings coach Bud Grant has fond memories of Buddy Ryan.

The Falcons think they have an improved offense.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera considered Buddy Ryan a great mentor.

Saints TE Coby Fleener is a self-proclaimed nerd.

Former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden says Pat Summitt made an impression on him.

When Buddy Ryan became coach of the Cardinals, he memorably said, “You’ve got a winner in town.”

New Rams assistant coach Mike Singletary was a teammate of head coach Jeff Fisher on the 1980s Bears.

Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin promises his new contract won’t turn him soft.

49ers DL Glenn Dorsey bought a home for $2.7 million.

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NFLPA agrees: NFL needs “credible evidence” before players must respond to PED charges

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13:  The logo for Al Jazeera America is displayed outside of the cable news channel's offices on January 13, 2016 in New York City. Al Jazeera America, which debuted in August 2013,  announced today that they are shutting down. Employees of the struggling news network known as AJAM were informed of the decision during an all-hands staff meeting on Wednesday afternoon.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The plain language of the NFL’s PED policy indicates that, before a player ever talks to the league or otherwise provides information regarding a potential violation arising from anything other than a positive test, the league must have “credible documented evidence” that a violation happened. Per a source with knowledge of the union’s thinking on the issue, the NFL Players Association agrees with that assessment and procedure.

Put as simply as possible, if the league believes that it has “credible documented evidence” of a violation arising from something other than a positive PED test, the league should impose discipline, which then triggers the obligation of the players to provide information via the appeal process.

Although NFLPA spokesman George Atallah didn’t put it that bluntly during a Tuesday appearance on PFT Live, that was the clear gist of his remarks.

“The interpretation has been there for many, many years that we need, from our perspective, we need some sort of credible evidence beyond just eight lines in a dialogue where the main source recanted everything he said in order to trigger a full-blown investigation the way the league has positioned it,” Atallah said. “So I think from our point of view, we are where we are because in the report from December they had one source, that one source recanted everything. You know, for a guy like James Harrison, I mean we pulled all of the documentary. Our attorneys watched the whole thing over and over again to see what exactly was alleged during that report and all we came up with for a guy like James was literally eight lines of a dialogue in a piece where Charlie Sly, the source, recanted all of his statements. So we certainly don’t think that that’s enough to merit an investigation. You and I both know that people say a bunch of crazy things on media and social media and if were in a world where the league wanted to investigate every time somebody tweeted something about a player they’d have a whole heck of a lot of staff they’d need to hire to do that.”

Thus, even though the NFL has said that the interviews of the players implicated in the Al Jazeera report will happen at the opening of training camp, the NFLPA does not yet believe the time has come for the players to speak.

“We’re at the point now where the process, we believe, dictates that we need specific credible evidence to make a determination and recommendation for how the players are going to move forward,” Atallah said. “The league has not provided that evidence yet beyond, again, the initial report that was there. They have said to us that the MLB is looking into it and USADA is looking into it. That frankly so far is not enough.”

The league apparently thinks it is enough, to the point where the NFL apparently will take action against players who fail to submit to an interview.

“If you take the league at their word from the letter that they leaked on Friday, they are threatening to impose some sort of discipline if the players don’t cooperate so I would assume that that would trigger some sort of mechanism by which an arbitrator would have to resolve this,” Atallah said. “Our position [is] pretty clear. They have not provided anything beyond the report to substantiate doing a full-blown investigation and the dance goes on.”

It could be, as suggested in our Tuesday item, that the league doesn’t want to impose discipline based simply on the Al Jazeera report, and that the NFL hopes the players will say something during interviews that will in some way conflict with whatever objective evidence the NFL has gathered, justifying the finding of a violation. The NFLPA strongly objects to this approach, if that’s what the NFL is doing.

“That’s not a fair due process and I think that is a concern that has been highlighted in the way that they have done other investigations in the past,” Atallah said. “If this was a league office that had a shred of integrity left then there would not be this issue at the moment and we would have figured out a way already to resolve this. If we had a group of players and a group of fans and media who had a shred of confidence in the way that they proceed with these issues we would not be having this discussion about whether or not they have the right to investigate or not because we would have resolved this thing already. They’re not in the business of resolving issues quietly, amicably, and in a way that’s best for business. They just are interested in imposing their will any which way they want, and we’re always going to stand up for our players rights.”

If that means the players will refuse to be interviewed, this one could get a lot more interesting once training camps open.

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Jim Kelly getting stronger as he goes through cancer battle: “I feel awesome”

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly walks off the field before the Buffalo Bills play the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly didn’t want to dive back into his recent controversial comments about the future of coach Rex Ryan, but said something that was even more important to Bills fans.

Via Jack Woods of the Buffalo News, Kelly said he was feeling much stronger than he has during his battle with cancer, enough so that he can get back to throwing the football around with the kids at his annual camp.

I feel awesome,” Kelly said. “I’m at playing weight. I’m at 230, which is cool. I gained a little over 30 pounds back, which is good. I got the green light to work out now, which is good. I just started back. Hopefully I’ll get a bit stronger.”

“I’ve been through so much. I just live each day, and whatever happens, happens. I’ve lived a very good life. My life has definitely changed, but the attitude is still the same.”

He joked that he’s starting with the youngest players at his camp, and working his way up the ranks to gauge his progress.

“The more I get loose, the more I’ll start going up, maybe with the seniors,” Kelly said. “I will do it with the seniors because they’re already talking their crap. I’ll have to go out and show them what an old man can do.”

The fact he’s able to get out there and throw — and talk a little trash — is an excellent sign for one of Buffalo’s true icons.

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Troy Williamson says it wasn’t his eyes, it was his head

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 5:  Troy Williamson #82 of the Minnesota Vikings drops the ball during the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Monster Park on November 5, 2006 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings tried everything to tap into the potential they saw in wide receiver Troy Williamson.

When you draft a guy seventh overall in 2005, that’s what you do.

But after watching him struggle to catch the ball, the Vikings decided he had depth-perception problems, and he had special exercises prescribed to try to fix it.

That didn’t have anything to do with it,” Williamson said, via Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I had every physical attribute to be an elite or even a good receiver in the NFL. I always go back to my mental game, as far as reading too much into things people were saying in the papers. When I was in college or high school I never read the papers, I never looked at what anyone said. That took a big mental toll on me. I’d say that was the biggest thing. Any player I talk to now that’s going.

“Any player I talk to now that’s going into the NFL, I tell them football of course is physical but it’s more mental than anything. When I look now at prospects who don’t pan out, I go back to my own situation as far as having all the tools but not having it there mentally when it came down to it.”

Of course, the dastardly newspapers might not have been the reason (he caught just 79 passes in three seasons for the Vikings), who traded him to Jacksonville for a sixth-round pick. Williamson was out of the league by 2010, but he was definitely glad to be out from under former Vikings coach Brad Childress, who once withheld a game check when Williamson went to South Carolina when his grandmother died.

“For me, it was about not understanding the importance of family and some of the things I had going on back home,” Williamson said. “And I never really got a true apology for that. He went back and gave me the game check back — which I donated to charity to show it wasn’t even about the money — but that was because the veterans like Antoine Winfield and Bryant McKinnie went back at it. They know the importance of family and other things bigger than football.

“So that was the time that I lost all respect [for Childress]. After that, it was tough playing for him, and I was kind of glad I got to leave Minnesota and get out from under him.”

He’s probably not the only one to share that sentiment, but hearing it out loud also underscores the business realities many players encounter, when they realize just playing the game well is no longer enough.

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Darren McFadden says elbow injury came from slipping on wet cement

Darren McFadden AP

Turns out Darren McFadden didn’t injure his elbow diving for a dropped phone after all.

According to Pete Perkins in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, McFadden said the injury actually came from slipping on wet cement next to a swimming pool.

“I just slipped down and landed on my elbow,” McFadden said. “My phone was in my hand, and so people kind of put that story out.”

It came as a surprise when McFadden suddenly had to have elbow surgery prior to the team’s veteran mini-camp earlier this month. The Cowboys initially said McFadden suffered the injury while trying to catch his cell phone and keep it from hitting the ground.

McFadden said he has a few more weeks in his arm brace but feels great otherwise. He had 1,089 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games with Dallas last season.

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Gore, others reflect on Zurlon Tipton’s death

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 28:  Zurlon Tipton #37 of the Indianapolis Colts carries the ball during the second half of a game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 28, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

The death of ex-Colts running back Zurlon Tipton hit Frank Gore hard.

Teammates for much of last season, Gore and Tipton spent plenty of time together in the running back meeting room and in practices.

“This really messed me up,” Colts running back Frank Gore told the Indy Star. “He was a good dude. He really wanted football to work out. He was always great with the playbook but most of all, he was a great person. He loved to have fun. He was always loud and acting crazy in the locker room. That’s just who he was.”

The Colts retweeted a series of tweets on Tipton from current Colts players on the team’s official Twitter account.

Tipton played in 16 games for the Colts over the last two seasons. He was killed Tuesday when a gun he was carrying in a duffel bag accidentally discharged and Tipton was hit. He died after being transported to a Detroit hospital.

“Rest in peace, Zurlon,” Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Tipton family.”

Tipton was a four-year contributor at Central Michigan and had 19 rushing touchdowns in 2012, his junior season.

“This is shocking and tragic news, and our condolences go out to Zurlon’s family and friends,” a statement from the Central Michigan athletic department said. “We knew Zurlon as a good guy, a captain and a student who grew as a person and a player on his way to getting his degree at CMU. What he did on the field in his career established him as one of the top running backs in CMU history.”

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Seahawks, Baldwin agree on four-year extension

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks and wide receiver Doug Baldwin have agreed to a four-year contract extension, per multiple reports.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the new deal is worth “north of $11 million per year,” and Mike Garafolo of FS1 reported that it averages $11.5 million per season.

Baldwin had been set to make $4 million in 2016, the final year of the contract he was playing under prior to the extension. Baldwin, 27, has been a key part of the Seahawks offense since making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2011.

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said earlier this month that team intended to get Baldwin signed “for a good while” and that extending him was “a big deal.”

Baldwin’s 78 catches, 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 were all career highs.

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Cowboys could see Ezekiel Elliott get 300 carries

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott during the team's rookie camp at Happy Valley in Irving, Texas, on Saturday, May 7, 2016. (Brandon Wade/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS) Getty Images

The Cowboys plan to make rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott a workhorse.

That’s the word from David Helman of, who writes that Elliott will have somewhere in the range of 280 to 300 carries, or around 18 a game, in 2016.

That would suggest that the Cowboys plan to use Elliott about as much as any NFL team uses any running back. Last year Adrian Peterson led the NFL with 327 carries, while Doug Martin was second with 288 carries. If Elliott really carries the ball 18 times a game, he could compete for the league lead in carries.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to the way Cowboys coach Jason Garrett used running back DeMarco Murray in 2014, when Murray had 392 carries, the most for anyone in any season in the NFL in the last 10 years. Garrett has proven he won’t hesitate to give a running back a heavy workload.

Elliott won’t have that heavy a workload. But he’s going to get the ball a lot this year.

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Seahawks rookie QB facing one assault charge from bowl game incident

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 29:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs carries the ball against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks rookie quarterback Trevone Boykin faces one count of misdemeanor assault for his role in a Dec. 31 fight in San Antonio that resulted in Boykin being sent home before his final college game, TMZ reported Tuesday.

Boykin was initially charged with a felony count of assualting a public servant, public intoxication and resisting arrest. Court documents say Boykin struck an officer trying to take him into custody after he was removed by staff members from a bar. He didn’t play in the Alamo Bowl for TCU after the charges.

The report said Boykin faces up to a year in a jail on the assault charge he’s facing and is due to be arraigned in August.

Boykin signed with the Seahawks after the draft. The Seahawks went through the spring with only Boykin and Jake Heaps in their quarterback room behind Tarvaris Jackson, and with Jackson still unsigned and now facing gun charges after an incident last weekend, Boykin could end up being the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

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Cordarrelle Patterson: Sometimes I didn’t work hard enough

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 03:  Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Minnesota Vikings fumbles the football as he returns a kick during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings didn’t pick up their fifth-year option on wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson’s contract this offseason, leaving the 2013 first-round pick on track for free agency after the season.

If Patterson is going to generate a robust market for his services, he’ll need to be more than the kick return specialist he was in 2015. Patterson returned two kicks for touchdowns, but caught just two passes while playing 64 snaps on offense. One way that Patterson can improve his chances of seeing the field as a wideout is by boosting his work ethic. It’s an area that Patterson admits has been lacking at times.

“Sometimes you can be here and you feel like you’ve got to be on the team,” Patterson said, via the Pioneer Press. “You feel like, ‘Yeah, I’m a first-round pick, I’m on the team.’ Things like that, sometimes they make you not work hard, they make you don’t want to do things, make you be lazy.”

Patterson’s work this offseason drew notice from coach Mike Zimmer for being short on the mental errors that have plagued him in the past, although the addition of Laquon Treadwell in the first round leaves little room at the top of the depth chart. Patterson says he feels thing “will work out well” for him if he shows the coaches that he can “do what I’m supposed to.” Anything less and there won’t be much offensive film for Patterson to show suitors on the open market next year.

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Plain language of PED policy cuts against NFL’s attempt to interview players

al_jazeera_america Getty Images

With the NFL and the NFL Players Association squaring off over whether and to what extent five players implicated by an Al Jazeera documentary featuring since-recanted allegations of PED use, it makes sense to retreat to square one and determine when and how an investigation regarding PED use based on media reports can even happen.

Arguably, it can’t happen at all, in the absence of “credible evidence” that would justify discipline of Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, and/or James Harrison. (Peyton Manning was implicated, but he has retired and is apparently not subject to discipline.)

Most PED violations occur when a player submits a urine sample that reveals a banned substance. Under the PED policy, discipline also may be imposed for (as the title of Section 5 of the policy states) “violations of law and other documented evidence-based violations.”

With no alleged violation of the law happening in the case of the players implicated by the Al Jazeera report, the question becomes whether the Al Jazeera report and any ensuing investigation by the league permits discipline based on “other documented evidence-based violations.”

Under the policy, that clause specifically is triggered when players “are found through sufficient credible documented evidence (see footnote 4) to have used, possessed or distributed performance-enhancing substances.” At footnote 4, the policy defines “credible documented evidence” as “criminal convictions or plea arrangements; admissions, declarations, affidavits, authenticated witness statements, corroborated law enforcement reports or testimony in legal proceedings; authenticated banking, telephone, medical or pharmacy records; or credible information obtained from Players who provide assistance pursuant to Section 10 of the Policy.”

Footnote 4 at no point includes “media reports” or anything remotely close to it, making the Al Jazeera report an insufficient basis for imposing discipline. At most, it can be the starting point for an investigation.

But what is the ending point? According to the policy, a violation can be based only on “criminal convictions or plea arrangements; admissions, declarations, affidavits, authenticated witness statements, corroborated law enforcement reports or testimony in legal proceedings; authenticated banking, telephone, medical or pharmacy records; or credible information obtained from Players who provide assistance pursuant to Section 10 of the Policy.”

Setting aside for now the question of what that laundry list of potential pieces of evidence does and doesn’t include, the structure of the policy indicates that the league must determine that a violation has occurred based on “credible evidence,” impose discipline, and allow the appeal process to unfold.

As crafted, the policy doesn’t contemplate a “probable cause”-type determination of a potential violation that then justifies interrogating players under a proverbial or actual hot light. Instead, the policy requires the league to first find “credible evidence” of a violation, impose discipline for the violation, share the “credible evidence” with the players, and then hear from the players as part of the appeal process.

In other words, there’s no language in the policy requiring the players to provide any information before the NFL concludes based on the information it already has developed that a violation occurred.

The league is blurring the lines in this case, possibly for fear of creating the impression that it regards the Al Jazeera report to be “credible evidence” without having a chance to directly assess the credibility of the players who were implicated. Still, the policy as negotiated by the NFL and the NFLPA requires the league to make an assessment based on “credible evidence,” impose discipline, and then allow the players to defend themselves against the allegedly “credible evidence.”

If the NFL is sufficiently concerned that the players in this case would be able to successfully defend themselves in front of a neutral arbitrator, then maybe the “credible evidence” isn’t.

Critics of the NFLPA routinely blame the union for not doing enough at the bargaining table to, for example, compel the Commissioner to surrender final say over matters like the Personal Conduct Policy or threats to the integrity of the game. In this case, it’s fair to point out that the league signed off on a procedure that requires it to develop and identify “credible evidence” of a violation before the player must potentially implicate himself by answering questions at a hearing.

That seems to be the crux of the problem. Given the relevant language of the policy, the NFLPA’s best approach could be to say, “Impose discipline if you believe you have ‘credible evidence’ of a violation. Until that happens, the players have no obligation to do anything.”

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Johnny Manziel turns up in Mexico, taunts his dad

PALM SPRINGS, CA - APRIL 17:  Johnny Manziel attends REVOLVE Desert House on April 17, 2016  at  on April 17, 2016 in Palm Springs, California.  (Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams/FilmMagic) Getty Images

In case Johnny Manziel’s father is wondering if his tough love message last week got through, the answer seems to be a resounding “No.”

The former Browns quarterback just posted a photo on Instagram of himself at a resort in Mexico, wearing a Josh Gordon jersey and celebrating how good he thinks he has it.

The message includes the oh-so-rebellious hashtag #hiDad, which doesn’t suggest that the son was very receptive to his father calling him a “druggie” and saying he hoped he went to jail.

Of course, Manziel also made it clear Gordon wasn’t with him. Though the two are friends, Gordon’s probably relieved he pointed that out.

After all, Gordon’s trying to get reinstated, and apparently taking the steps needed to achieve that goal.

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