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Notre Dame Pro Day attendees knock Te’o as a first-round prospect

Manti Teo AP

As the calendar approaches April, the pre-draft spin cycle will soon hit overdrive.

The rules are simple.  Teams that don’t like a player will say good things about him, hoping that someone with a higher pick will take the player, which will push a more viable prospect down the board.  Teams that like a player will say bad things about him, hoping that he’ll still be there when the team makes its pick.

It’s important to keep those rules in mind when considering any off-the-record assessments of players by scouts and coaches who, depending on the teams for which they work, may be hoping to influence what other teams will or won’t do.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports spoke to scouts and coaches from multiple unnamed teams who attended the Monday Pro Day workout of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.  And none of those folks regard Te’o as a first-round pick.

“Nice player, but not worth a first-round pick.  Not in my view,” said an unnamed “AFC personnel man.”

“He’s not a star,” an AFC head coach said.  “If I’m taking a linebacker in the first round, I want a guy who can change my defense.  Trust me, I’ve been wrong about linebackers before, but this guy doesn’t fit the bill of what I spend a high pick on.”

“[H]e’s not good enough in my view,” an NFC defensive coordinator said.

We don’t doubt for a second that these sources said what Cole says they said.  But without knowing which team they work for, it’s impossible to know whether they really mean it.

It’s a common reality of the pre-draft process.  Scouts and coaches knock certain players, possibly because the scouts and coaches believe what they’re saying — and possibly because they have an agenda.  When it comes to the draft, everyone has an agenda.  When it comes to the strategy-driven NFL, everyone periodically (or more often) tells untruths to advance their agenda.

We’re not saying it’s right or it’s wrong.  That’s just the way it is.  But that makes it impossible to put much stock in the things being said by unnamed sources who may be secretly hoping that the player they’re knocking slides into their laps.

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Lawyer says Skuta was the victim, not the aggressor

dan-skuta2

The lawyer representing Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta has done something far more conventional than accidentally text strategic secrets to the media. Mark NeJame has declared his client’s innocence.

NeJame told TMZ that the allegation of Skuta shoving the head of a woman who refused to provide her phone number into a window was made up.

“Eyewitnesses who we have already received statements from in our initial investigation will attest that Dan was alongside his girlfriend when this fabricated event supposedly took place,” NeJame said.

Skuta contends, via NeJame, that the accuser and another female were harassing Skuta and his group.

“Dan was then struck in the face by one of the women, as is evidenced by his mugshot which clearly shows where he was struck,” NeJame said.

The mugshot does indeed show Skuta with an abrasion under his right eye.

“Dan never placed his hands on anyone,” NeJame said.

That explanation may indeed be persuasive to a judge or a jury, but it didn’t keep Skuta from being arrested. If the version from Skuta’s lawyer is accurate, Skuta eventually should get off scot-free.

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NFLPA questions what evidence NFL has to justify PED investigation

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Inside linebacker Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers in action against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has decided to investigate whether five players named in an Al Jazeera documentary on performance-enhancing drugs violated league policy. The NFL Players’ Association questions why mere allegations in a documentary are enough to justify such an investigation.

In a statement released today, the NFLPA noted that the primary source for the Al Jazeera documentary recanted his claims before the documentary even aired. Given that, the union believes the NFL has no basis to question Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, free agent defensive end Mike Neal and retired quarterback Peyton Manning.

“The NFL has chosen to initiate an investigation of these players based upon now-recanted statements that appeared in an Al Jazeera report,” the union’s statement said. “The NFLPA requested from the NFL any additional evidence supporting an investigation of the players; the NFL did not provide any such evidence, nor did they inform the NFLPA or the players that any such evidence exists. Instead, the NFL has decided to publicly pressure the players into submission. We will continue to advise our players about their rights and hold the NFL accountable.”

The league says it intends to interview all five players. If the league’s investigation turns up evidence of PED use, the active players could be suspended, even if they’ve never failed a drug test.

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Cowboys feel good about depth of their wide receiver group

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 27:  Cole Beasley #11 of the Dallas Cowboys runs after the catch past Ron Brooks #33 of the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the subject of wide receivers has come up around the Cowboys this offseason, the conversation usually tilts to Dez Bryant’s recovery from a pair of surgeries and his prospects for turning in a healthier season than he had in 2015.

Bryant isn’t the only wideout on the roster, however, and the Cowboys would like to see some of their other receivers thrive as part of the effort to turn things around from last year. The team didn’t make any big moves at the position this offseason, but it’s clear from wide receivers coach Derek Dooley’s take on Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Vince Mayle, Lucky Whitehead and Devin Street that they don’t see that as a problem.

Dooley called the group the deepest “top-to-bottom” that the team has employed since he joined the staff in 2013, an assessment that was met with agreement by Beasley.

“We’ve had some good groups, but this one has been a really good one, just as far as obviously talent, but guys knowing what to do and really studying and taking it upon themselves to learn everything,” Beasley said, via the Dallas Morning News.

As much as the Cowboys might like their depth, the group without Bryant isn’t one that’s going to strike much fear into opposing defenses. It’s good news for them, then, that Bryant is on track to be all systems go at training camp.

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Aaron Hernandez friend pleads guilty to accessory charge in Odin Lloyd murder

Carlos Ortiz AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of murdering Odin Lloyd in April 2015 and sentenced to life in prison.

One of the friends that helped Hernandez on the June 2013 night he killed Lloyd in Massachusetts is headed behind bars as well. Carlos Ortiz faced charges of first-degree murder and accessory to murder after the fact for his role in that night’s activities and plead guilty to the latter charge on Monday.

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn announced that Ortiz has been sentenced to 4.5-7 years in prison. Hernandez’s other accomplice, Ernest Wallace, was found guilty of the same charge earlier this year and received the same sentence.

Prosecutors said Ortiz and Wallace were in a car with Hernandez when they picked up Lloyd and drove him to an industrial park so Hernandez could shoot him. The Associated Press reports Ortiz told the judge in his case that he saw Hernandez and Lloyd walk off together, heard a shot and then Hernandez returned to the car alone.

Hernandez still faces charges in a 2012 double murder in Boston. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Refrigerator Perry is struggling, but says he’s happy

refrigeratorperry Getty Images

One of the best things about William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who took America by storm as a 300-plus pound rookie defensive tackle-turned-running back on the 1985 Bears, was his infectious smile. So maybe when he says he’s happy, we should all just be happy for him.

“I’m home,” Perry told Rick Telander of Sports Illustrated on a visit to Perry’s South Carolina home. “And I’m happy. I can’t say everything is peachy keen, but I’m still enjoying life. I love Chicago, but there’s no place like home.”

The picture Telander paints of Perry, however, is less than happy.

According to Sports Illustrated, Perry drinks too much, his weight has ballooned to somewhere in the range of 430 to 450 pounds, he rarely sees his four kids or his two ex-wives, he lives alone in a retirement facility, the money he made playing football is long gone, he has both physical and mental ailments, and his doctor says he’s taking pills he shouldn’t take and not taking the medication he needs to take.

Perry’s brother, former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry, was appointed by a judge to be William’s guardian and conservator because William was in such bad shape that he could no longer care for himself. Perry’s son Willie thinks his uncle Michael Dean isn’t caring for his dad and wants guardianship for himself, an accusation that Michael Dean says is false. The Fridge’s old coach Mike Ditka says he seems to have given up on life.

For his part, Perry says, simply, “I’m my own man,” and he doesn’t need anyone telling him how to live his life. Perry doesn’t sound interested in changing, even if the way he’s living now can’t last much longer.

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Tony Grossi see Robert Griffin as “underwhelming” in offseason workouts

BEREA, OH - APRIL 21, 2016: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Cleveland Browns drops back to pass during a voluntary mini camp on April 21, 2016 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Robert Griffin III Getty Images

The Browns have yet to hand quarterback Robert Griffin III the starting job, because they want him to earn it. If he truly is required to earn it, the question now becomes whether he actually will.

Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com has covered the Browns for decades. He shared his assessment of Griffin’s first offseason with the Browns during a Monday appearance on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.

“Well, if he was looking fantastic you’d be hesitant to overstate it during the OTA and minicamp season,” Grossi said. “I mean, it’s touch football and Hue Jackson constantly reminds everyone of that. But the fact is he’s been underwhelming in that environment and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or it’s just a sign that they haven’t started playing real football yet. He is learning a new offense. First of all he is healthy, he’s very healthy. He looks physically like the old Robert Griffin in that he’s moving great, he can zing the ball pretty well, but that’s just the first step. So I guess the positive is that he looks very healthy and we’ll have to see when they go to camp July 29th is if he’s really taken advantage of the minicamp season and learned the offense because he has been underwhelming.”

Griffin has been overwhelming in one specific way: When throwing the ball away, he has thrown it over a high fence on multiple occasions. Should fans wonder whether this is Griffin’s way of expressing displeasure with the fact that he’s being repeatedly told to throw the ball away?

“Well, I had that concern and I’d been watching that also,” Grossi said. “I’ve been covering practices at their facility for, they’ve been there since the ’90s in that location, I’ve never seen a quarterback throw the ball over the fence and they doubled the height of the fence this year to 16 feet. This is the first quarterback I’ve seen throw the ball in the neighborhood yard. So there’s a concern because it’s almost another ‘look at me’ moment there on the practice field for [Griffin].

“Hue Jackson had talked of [Griffin’s] humbleness and all that when he interviewed him for two days. Not only has [Griffin] thrown the ball over the fence, on a number of occasions he’s done the slide, he’s done the stand-up slide and jumped up and shouted, ‘Who says I can’t slide?’ and stuff like that. You know, if you’re on the team and you’re the coaching staff who’s aware of his background, you’re cringing at that because you don’t want to see that. You don’t see [Tom] Brady and [Peyton] Manning and the great ones doing those little ‘look at me’ moments. Maybe he’s just having fun in the drudgery of minicamp, but it’s something to watch as training camp begins later in July.”

The Browns are trying to change Griffin’s mechanics, and they also are surely trying to strip him of the sense of entitlement that was created the moment Washington traded up to the No. 2 spot in the draft four-plus years ago to take him. If he’s going to become a successful quarterback on a consistent basis, Griffin needs to eradicate both sets of flaws.

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Saints still plan to hold training camp in West Virginia

CLENDENIN, WV - JUNE 25:  After the flood waters receded, mud covers a street intersection on June 25, 2016 in Clendenin, West Virginia. The flooding of the Elk River claimed the lives of at least 23 people in West Virginia. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images) Getty Images

At least one report has indicated that the Saints won’t hold 2016 training camp in West Virginia, following devastating flooding in Greenbrier County, site of the team’s practice facility for three weeks in each of the last two preseasons. The Saints, however, still plan to return to their home away from home.

A source close to the situation tells PFT that the Saints intend to hold training camp at The Greenbrier resort, and that the Saints believe the practice complex and all other necessary facilities will be ready for them when camp opens late next month. Look for a statement to be issued by the team, sooner than later.

The Saints also plan to do something tangible to help with flood relief efforts. Which is very much needed and which the folks who will benefit from it surely will appreciate.

People living in that area are dealing with far bigger issues than whether a football team will practice there for a few weeks next month, but the decision of the Saints to stand with Greenbrier County should give the region a psychological lift as it embarks on the very difficult ordeal of recovering from the devastation brought about by 8-10 inches of rain falling over the course of 6-8 hours into valleys that became bowls for the water and mud that the mountains couldn’t hold.

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Monte Kiffin, Wade Phillips win Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman award

Wade Phillips AP

In this week’s installment his weekly column for TheMMQB.com, Peter King took some time to update readers on how his former Sports Illustrated colleague and legendary football writer Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman is doing after suffering a series in strokes in 2008.

Zimmerman, who lives at an assisted living facility in New Jersey, has unfortunately not been able to resume the writing career that made him an essential part of the football landscape for so many years. That place in the landscape is honored each year when the Pro Football Writers of America present an award in his name to recognize the lifetime achievement of NFL assistant coaches.

The PFWA announced on Monday that Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips are this year’s winners.

Kiffin was out of coaching last year, but returns to the NFL with the Jaguars as a senior defensive assistant this season. It’s the seventh team he’s worked for in a career that began as a graduate assistant at Nebraska in 1966 and reached its pinnacle when he constructed the Buccaneers defense that helped the team to the Super Bowl XXXVII title in January 2003.

Phillips joined Kiffin as a Super Bowl winner this February when his Broncos unit stifled the Panthers on the way to the third championship in franchise history. The ring was something Phillips was chasing since taking a job on his father Bum’s staff with the Oilers in 1976, which makes getting it pretty sweet even if the name on the bauble was initially incorrect.

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Saints haven’t officially moved training camp from West Virginia, yet

CLENDENIN, WV - JUNE 25: People take pictures of the mud covering the front of their home and a street intersection on June 25, 2016 in Clendenin, West Virginia. Bennett said they lost many of the belongings they had in the flood. The flooding of the Elk River claimed the lives of at least 23 people in West Virginia. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images) Getty Images

With devastating flooding in and around The Greenbrier in West Virginia, real questions have arisen regarding whether the facility will be ready to host the Saints for training camp, starting in late July.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com has reported that the Saints will not be coming to West Virginia this year, and that they instead will train at the team’s facility in Metairie, Louisiana.

However, the Saints haven’t announced this news, and a team spokesman told PFT that word of a change in location of training camp has not yet made its way to him.

It won’t be a surprise if training camp ultimately is relocated, but a lot can be done to clean up after flooding in a month’s time. With initial accounts indicating that the practice facility itself wasn’t affected by the flooding, it’s possible that the situation could be remedied in time for the Saints to return for a third year in West Virginia.

Obviously, the Saints need to be sure that they’ll be able to conduct a productive and meaningful camp, and if they simply can’t do that in West Virginia, they shouldn’t. If they can, having them present for a few weeks would be a solid first step in the process of rebuilding a region that underwent dramatic changes in a very short period of time.

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NFL: All players implicated by Al Jazeera will be interviewed, including Peyton Manning

DUBLIN, OH - JUNE 01:  Former NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning, plays a shot during the pro-am round prior to The Memorial Tournament Presented By Nationwide at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 1, 2016 in Dublin, Ohio.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Recent reports regarding the NFL’s intention to interview players implicated by the Al Jazeera PED documentary omitted reference to retired quarterback Peyton Manning. Some (me) thought this arose simply from the fact that Manning is no longer a member of the NFL Players Association, and thus not part of the push-and-pull and back-and-forth between the NFL and the NFL Players Association as the interviews are arranged.

On Monday, Peter King of TheMMQB.com dropped this intriguing nugget into his column when addressing recent developments in the PED probe: “As for Peyton Manning, since he’s retired, the league doesn’t plan to interview him—though for the sake of transparency and full disclosure, it would be a good idea if the league did.”

Via email, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT that all players will be interviewed, including the retired one.

It makes sense, for a variety of reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, it would be awkward if, for example, the NFL found that the Al Jazeera report was credible as to the active players but had no ultimate comment on whether the report accurately implicated the retired player.

Third, Manning already has said he’ll cooperate. With many believing that Manning eventually will return to the NFL as an executive with a team, there can be no loose ends from his playing days.

Of course, Manning sitting for an “it’s all lies” investigation is a far cry from a full-blown, turn-every-rock effort to obtain all relevant records from the Guyer Institute regarding treatment provided both to Manning and to his wife, Ashley, who allegedly received HGH for use by Peyton. It remains to be seen whether the league seeks such details, or whether the Mannings will provide it.

Regardless of how the investigation plays out, it will include an interview of Peyton Manning. Beyond that, time will tell.

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Marc Trestman “in a lot better position” in second year as Ravens offensive coordinator

Marc Trestman, John Harbaugh AP

The Ravens had a new offensive coordinator for the second straight year in 2015 with former Bears head coach Marc Trestman replacing Gary Kubiak after Kubiak moved on to the top job with the Broncos.

Trestman integrated things that Kubiak (and Jim Caldwell, who held the job in 2013 before becoming the Lions’ head coach) had used to build the offense last year. That process ate up a good portion of the offseason, something that Trestman didn’t have to deal with this year.

“It’s a little unnatural when you [first] come in, and there is a pre-existing offense in place,” Trestman said, via the team’s website. “It was a very good offense, as we all know. But I spent three months on it, trying to make sure that I simulated the things that were necessary for me to do my job. Coming into it a day after the season is over, you feel you are in a lot better position, because you aren’t using those 90 days out of 120 to learn another offense. It’s the offense you know now.”

Head coach John Harbaugh agrees that it’s been smoother this offseason, saying that the offense is going to be in “much better shape” now that Trestman has more time in the job. While that may be the case, getting better results on the field will rest heavily on returns to health from quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Steve Smith and others as well as strong play from an offensive line that will have a pair of new starters.

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Chris Givens likes the way Sam Bradford throws the deep ball

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 18: Chris Givens #13 of the St. Louis Rams makes a catch against the Kansas City Chiefs during a pre-season game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 18, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Sam Bradford hasn’t exactly been known for airing it out in his career.

But when free agent wide receiver Chris Givens was looking for a new team this offseason, he signed with Philadelphia because he’s convinced Bradford is capable of it.

“His strengths match my strengths: he can get the ball downfield and I can get downfield,” Givens said, via Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com.

Givens did have his best season as a rookie, alongside Bradford in St. Louis. He hasn’t matched his rookie numbers since then, and Bradford hasn’t exactly established himself as having a cannon, as his 7.0 yards per attempt last year were a career high, and he has a pedestrian 6.5-yard career average.

Givens also said his plateauing had something to do with the guys who replaced Bradford after injuries, which puts the Rams problems into context.

“It was definitely frustrating but at the same time, I accept full responsibility for not working the way I should have in the offseason and being the receiver I was capable of [being],” Givens said. “I just got a little complacent and a little comfortable knowing that I had Sam and things like that, and once things went south a little bit and I really didn’t have a quarterback to play to my strengths, I couldn’t really do the things I needed to do to get open.

“So I just looked at that as an opportunity for me to look in the mirror and fine-tune the things in my game that it will take for me to take my game to the next level.”

The Eagles could clearly use someone with Givens’ kind of speed to stretch the field, but it remains to be seen if Bradford is the kind of guy who can take advantage of it.

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Dan Skuta was arrested recently for battery

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Dan Skuta #55 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The amount of offseason arrests are down this year, but some NFL players have still wound up on the wrong side of the law.

Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta is the latest addition to the ledger. Skuta was arrested on misdemeanor battery charges a little more than a week ago in Orlando and CBS47/FOX30 in Jacksonville reports he was released from jail on Sunday, June 19. Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union adds that Skuta was arrested after a fight in a bar.

The Jaguars have released a statement confirming their knowledge of Skuta’s situation, but offered no further comment about the circumstances of the arrest.

“The Jaguars are aware of the situation involving linebacker Dan Skuta and are currently gathering more information. The team has been in constant communication with Dan through this process in its entirety. No further comment can be made at this time.”

Skuta is in the second year of the five-year contract he signed with the Jaguars before the 2015 season.

UPDATE 12:53 p.m. ET: Per the police report of Skuta’s arrest, Skuta asked a woman at a bar for her phone number and an argument followed when she opted not to give it to him. Skuta allegedly “pushed her face with an open hand and into a glass window,” leading one of the woman’s friends to get police.

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Pete Carroll: Tyler Lockett “right in the middle” of our offensive plans

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Head coach Pete Carroll congratulates  Tyler Lockett #16 of the Seattle Seahawks after a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd quarter during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Doug Baldwin said recently that fellow Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett is “continuously improving” as he heads into his second season and it seems the team agrees that Lockett is ready for a prominent role in his second NFL season.

Coach Pete Carroll said that the team wasn’t quite sure what Lockett could do when he joined the team last season, but learned that “he can do everything” as his rookie year unfolded. As a result, Lockett finds himself “right in the middle of all our planning and all of our preparation” as they head toward the 2016 season.

Baldwin said that one of the things Lockett has been working on is beating press coverage at the line of scrimmage and Lockett believes his best tool in that effort is one of his defensive teammates.

The biggest thing is I’ve been going against Richard about 95 percent of the camp, and he’s just made me a better player,” Lockett said, via ESPN.com. “Going against Richard, I’ve got to be able to move him and get him off at the line, and I can’t use the same stuff every time because he’s a smart defender, so I’ve got to switch some things up. And if things don’t work, at least it doesn’t work in practice against him. If it does work, he’ll let me know and be like, ‘Hey, that was a good release. That really does work.’ And it just makes it easier for me to go against anybody else, especially on other teams, after I go up against the best DB in the league.”

There are still some things for the Seahawks to figure out on offense, including how to best use tight end Jimmy Graham and the right mix at running back with Marshawn Lynch out of the picture. However they answer those questions, the signals that Lockett will be a major contributor are hard to miss.

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NFL has no comment on James Harrison’s interview “stipulations”

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 03:  (Editor's note: Image has been converted to black and white.) James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers takes the field during introductions prior to the preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on September 3, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers linebacker James Harrison has expressed a willingness to be interviewed in connection with the NFL’s Al Jazeera-fueled PED investigation, subject to certain stipulations. Those stipulations include doing the interview: (1) at Harrison’s home; and (2) with Commissioner Roger Goodell present.

The NFL has told PFT via email that it has no comment on Harrison’s comments.

The league may have plenty to say if Harrison ultimately refuses to be interviewed if his stipulations aren’t met, as they likely won’t be. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension supposedly arose, at least in part, from his obstruction of the league’s investigation.

The league also could conclude that Harrison violated the PED policy, in the absence of a denial from Harrison that he violated the PED policy.

Here’s where it gets complicated, and also potentially fascinating. A PED suspension would be subject to appeal under the PED policy, which as of 2014 incorporates neutral arbitration. A suspension for obstructing an NFL investigation arguably would fall under Article 46 of the labor deal, which allows the Commissioner to have final say over all matters that potentially threaten the integrity of the game.

Either way, Harrison won’t be able to stonewall without consequence. The specific consequence eventually will be determined, possibly in court.

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