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Ayanbadejo says he accepts Ravens decision to cut him

Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl XLVII Media Availability Getty Images

Brendon Ayanbadejo wants to make it clear, he’s as big a proponent of the Ravens as he is gay marriage.

While his earlier remarks gave the clear impression he thought his release was in part because of his outspoken advocacy, Ayanbadejo has circled back to say he doesn’t think that’s why the Ravens released him.

Ayanbadjeo told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun Friday morning that he understands and accepts the Ravens decision.

“The Ravens have been backing me, they knew my stance for years and have been facilitating me and organizing me with LGBT and set me up with Equality Maryland, they helped me,” Ayanbadejo said. “If they didn’t like what I was doing, they would have cut me a long time ago. I’m a special-teams player and you can find somebody to do what I did for less than half that value. They can find someone to do the same job.”

Ayanbadejo was due to make $940,000 this year, and his point about economics is a valid one. Even the best special teamers are still just special teamers in the eyes of the accountants, and at a time when the Ravens were retooling their defense to get younger, players such as Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and others weren’t sacred, so why should a 36-year-old backup be?

But he also makes a valid point about the culture of a locker room. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, and Ayanbadejo openly courted attention to himself to bring attention to his cause.

“No team wants any situation to be bigger than football,” he said. “I think equality rights is inherently bigger than football, but, in no way, was I distraction for my team. It was a balancing act. I was there to play football. I was also there to promote positive issues, things bigger than football.

“The NFL doesn’t really want that. I was saying the NFL as a whole organization, not just the Ravens. The NFL isn’t talking about politics, immigration policies, war and AIDS. The NFL doesn’t touch those things.

“The NFL keeps it safe, talking about charities for kids and those less fortunate, cancer, stuff like that. I was touching on issues bigger than football. I think the Ravens think I’m mad at them, but I’m absolutely not. I love the Ravens. When I say my bark was louder than my bite. I’m saying I’m not the player I once was and the Ravens did the right thing. They were justified. I have no problem with them at all.”

He shouldn’t. Players such as Ayanbadejo gain a greater value to the team that knows them than to others. Most teams have a guy or two on the roster who hang on an extra few years because they’re smart and accountable and reliable. He was one of those guys for the Ravens.

And he wants to make sure he’s still considered a “Raven for life,” regardless his first words which indicated a problem.

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Ron Rivera defends Cam Newton on fumble, press conference

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers and head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers stand on the field prior to Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has no issues with the way Cam Newton conducted himself in Super Bowl 50, on the field or afterward.

Asked on PFT Live about Newton’s sullen attitude at the post-Super Bowl press conference, Rivera said the public got to see the raw feelings of a great competitor whose team had just fallen short.

“The one thing about Cam that I think a lot of people have to understand is he hates to lose. He really does. And a lot of great ones have that,” Rivera said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t win the big one. I think he’ll learn and grow from this situation and come back stronger next year.”

Rivera also said criticism of Newton for failing to fall on a fourth-quarter fumble is unfounded. Rivera said Newton was trying to locate the ball and get himself into position to recover it.

“I think he was looking for the rebound. When that group of guys came diving in, when it ricocheted backwards, he tried to turn and get after the ball. When you look at the circumstances he was looking at, I have no problem with that,” Rivera said.

Now, Rivera says, he needs his team to get back on track and ready to come back better in 2016.

“Just rebuilding the confidence, getting that swagger back that we’re going to need heading into next season,” Rivera said. “Right now we’re down, I know that, our players feel it, but we’ve got to get it back and get it back early.”

That starts with his best player.

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Greg Jennings says Ryan Tannehill wants more freedom in offense

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Since being hired as the new Dolphins head coach, Adam Gase has spoken often about the need for quarterbacks to have the full support of their coaches.

That’s something that didn’t always appear to be the case for Ryan Tannehill in Miami when Joe Philbin was the head coach and Bill Lazor ran the offense. During an interview with the team’s website, wide receiver Greg Jennings said that Tannehill was “hand-held” by the previous coaching staff and that has hindered his growth as a player because he hasn’t been able to learn from mistakes he’s made in the past.

“Anytime you’re holding someone’s hand, you’re refusing to let them grow…,” Jennings said. “I’m going to speak for Ryan right now, which I typically don’t do. He wants some more freedom. He knows that he’s not been able to do the things that he really wants to do.”

For the right quarterback, being given more to do along with the knowledge that your coaches are confident you can do it can make a world of difference. The Dolphins may find out if Tannehill is the right quarterback under those conditions this season.

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T.J. Ward: Maybe Cam needed to stay healthy for next year

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos recovers a fumble by Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been roundly criticized for failing to fall on his fumble with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, a fumble that all but sealed the game for the Broncos.

The player who did recover that fumble, Broncos safety T.J. Ward, believes Newton was motivated by a desire to protect himself and stay healthy in the offseason.

“If he would have touched that ball, I was gonna hit him right in his face, and I wasn’t the only one,” Ward told Mike Silver of NFL.com. “We were hungry for that one. We saw that ball and it was like hyenas on an antelope. And I don’t know — maybe he needed to stay healthy for next year.”

It’s hard to understand what Newton was doing. It certainly looked like he didn’t want to dive into the scrum, but Newton has always been a physical runner, and he’s never been afraid to play through injuries. Why would he suddenly lose his toughness in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl? That’s a good question for Newton, who at the moment isn’t answering questions.

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Panthers center on fumble: “Cam’s not the quitting type”

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos and Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers attempt to recover a loose ball during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos (not pictured) recovered the fumble by Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers on the 9-yard line.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Many have wondered if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made a business decision, when he didn’t dive for a fumble late in their Super Bowl loss to the Broncos.

But Panthers center Ryan Kalil said it was ridiculous to think Newton quit on the play.

Cam’s not the quitting type. So this idea or this notion that he quit on us is garbage. I think it’s absolute garbage. That’s not who he is,” Kalil said. “We just didn’t play good enough. And as an offensive line group, didn’t give him enough confidence to do what he does best, . . .

“And really we just didn’t get in a rhythm. That’s what killed us. Any time we had any kind of momentum, we killed ourselves in penalties and not taking care of the football.”

That’s likely true in a general sense, though Kalil admitted he hadn’t seen the replay of the play in question.

It’s possible that the ball was between Newton’s feet and he see it well and didn’t think he could get to it (like a pop foul that goes straight over a catcher’s head and makes him look temporarily like he’s lost in a foreign land). But he had taken a step toward it before it bounced to that spot, which made it look like he pulled up to avoid diving into a pile.

During his brief post-game appearance, Newton’s only reply when asked about the play was “I don’t know.”

And that might be the only honest answer, since the play came when the Broncos were up 16-10 late in the fourth quarter, so it’s not as if it didn’t matter.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

27 NOV 1994:  LINEBACKER KEVIN GREENE OF THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS DURING THE STEELERS 21-3 WIN OVER THE LOS ANGELES RAIDERS AT THE MEMORIAL COLISEUM IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.  MANDATORY CREDIT:  MIKE POWELL/ALLSPORT Getty Images

What can the Bills learn from the Broncos?

A positive take on DT Ndamukong Suh’s first season with the Dolphins.

Taking a look at the long-term decisions at quarterback for the Patriots.

Joe Namath is in favor of Colin Kaepernick coming to the Jets.

A call for the Ravens to beef up their pass rush.

Thoughts about the Bengals in the wake of the Super Bowl.

Should the Browns be building around defense first?

A look back at Kevin Greene’s years with the Steelers.

Can the Texans become the first team to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium?

The Colts are expected to dip into the college ranks for a new wide receivers coach.

There’s plenty of money for the Jaguars to spend in free agency.

Said Titans QB Marcus Mariota, “It’s nice to have some time off, but I just can’t wait to get going and get back on he field. It seems like such a long time [until April], it’ll come quicker than we know.”

Denver is getting ready to host a Broncos victory parade.

The Chiefs weren’t thrilled that the Royals wished the Panthers luck in winning the Super Bowl next season.

Former Raiders QB and coach Tom Flores was one of two coaches ignored by Jim Nantz when he said Gary Kubiak was the first coach to win the Super Bowl for the team he played.

A Chargers-eye view of the Broncos winning the Super Bowl.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten shared three keys for better success next season.

A pair of Broncos that might interest the Giants in free agency.

Riley Cooper’s departure from the Eagles isn’t being met with much displeasure.

Will free agency be the path to improvement for the Redskins defense?

The 1985 Bears defense has been thrown into comparisons with this year’s Broncos unit.

Resource management is a lesson the Lions can learn from the Super Bowl.

DB Robertson Daniel hopes to earn a role on the Packers defense next season.

Vikings LB Anthony Barr is rooting for Von Miller to cash in this offseason.

Von Miller had praise for Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith after being named Super Bowl MVP.

What do the Panthers need to do to return to the Super Bowl?

G Jahri Evans made a big impact during his Saints career.

A new position coach probably isn’t the end to the changes to the Buccaneers defensive line.

Upgrading the pass rush is a priority for the Cardinals.

Former members of the Rams had big roles on both sides of the Super Bowl.

Former 49ers RB Ricky Watters is working to help children from foster homes make successful transitions to adulthood.

Some ways the Seahawks could spend the money they’re saving with RB Marshawn Lynch retiring.

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Wade Phillips: Too much dab will undo you

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 22:  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips of the Denver Broncos waits on the field before their game against the Houston Texans  at  NRG Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Unlike many football coaches (and 68-year-olds), Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has shown an affinity for social media.

Phillips has been a pretty active Twitter user in the last few years and his account has been an entertaining one to follow, particularly after the team wins a big game. Phillips had some fun after the Broncos beat the Packers in the regular season and he got in a shot at the Panthers a day after his defense overwhelmed Carolina in the Super Bowl.

“A little Dab with [sic] do you but too much Dab will undo you!” Phillips wrote.

During Super Bowl week, the Broncos got asked a lot about the Panthers’ penchant for celebrating big plays and pretty much went with the approach that it was the defense’s job to make sure that the offense had nothing to celebrate. Unlike the other teams to face the Panthers this season, they were actually able to do it and Phillips makes it pretty clear that they took a lot of satisfaction in doing it.

Phillips followed up the tweet a bit later with one that said his father always told him “you can have fun and win.” It’s a lot easier to have fun after you win, though, and Phillips was doing just that on Monday.

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Report: Eagles close to massive deal with Fletcher Cox

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 26: Fletcher Cox #91 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during the closing moments of a game against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Redskins defeated the Eagles 38-24. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles have moved quickly to sign up their young players for the foreseeable future, and they may be nearing the biggest one yet this offseason.

According to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, the Eagles are negotiating a massive deal with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox which could feature more than $50 million in guarantees.

The report says the deal is “close,” and given the pace at which they’ve been passing out money to Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry, it’s reasonable that they’re trying to get as much done as quickly as they can. Cox had a year left on his rookie deal, after they picked up his option for 2016.

Cox had 9.5 sacks as a 3-4 defensive end last year, and will slide inside as they convert to a 4-3 defense next season, but he’s versatile enough to play a number of roles.

Of course, until one of those roles is quarterback, the Eagles still have a pretty big item on their offseason to-do list.

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Brady: I wish I could make it look as easy as other quarterbacks do

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in action against the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tom Brady was part of a pregame ceremony honoring past Super Bowl MVPs before the Broncos beat the Panthers in Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 and he’s one of two players who has taken home the award three times in his career.

On top of those postseason exploits, Brady ranks among the all-time leaders in passing yards, touchdowns and most of the other metrics that are widely seen as positive attributes for an NFL quarterback. That didn’t stop the crowd at Levi’s Stadium from booing him, although that seemed to have more to do with the fact that there were a lot of Broncos fans on hand than a judgement that Brady didn’t belong at the ceremony.

Brady might have been OK with that judgement, though. In a interview with Jim Gray of Westwood One before the game, Brady said he “wouldn’t put myself in there” with the best quarterbacks of all time because he thinks he has to work harder than some of the others usually included in that group.

“I have to work my butt off all week and work really hard to get to the game feeling confident with what I am trying to accomplish and get down the field to score some points,” Brady said, via ESPN.com. “I guess for me because I have to work so hard at it and try so hard at it, that’s part of enjoying it for me. But I look at other players and say, ‘Gosh, I wish I could make it look as easy as they make it look.'”

Brady plays the humble card well — the “gosh” is a particularly nice touch — but there are plenty of times that the game looks easy for him and there’s plenty of hard work behind the success of every other great quarterback in the history of the league. The balance of talent to work may vary from quarterback to quarterback, but the results don’t leave much doubt about Brady’s spot among the league’s most accomplished quarterbacks.

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Nearly 1,000 fans greeted Panthers at stadium upon return

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 07: Fans of the Carolina Panthers cheer on their team against the Denver Broncos while watching Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016 at Rooftop 210 in the EpiCentre area of uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) Getty Images

After a crushing Super Bowl 50 loss as favorites, the Panthers had to endure a long flight home.

But at least when they got there, they found they were still local favorites.

Via Anna Douglas of the Charlotte Observer, nearly 1,000 fans were at Bank of America Stadium last night as buses rolled in, following the team’s arrival at the airport around 6:30 p.m. ET.

Airport firetrucks greeted the team with spraying from water cannons — which ain’t exactly champagne in the locker room — and a number of fans were also at the airport, pressed against fences to catch a glimpse of the team which lost only two games all year.

“We’ve said all along we have the best fans in the NFL and seeing this turnout tonight only reinforces that,” team president Danny Morrison said.

Players will be at the stadium today for their end of seasons meetings, and it’ll be interesting to see if we hear more from quarterback Cam Newton, who had little to say in the wake of the loss.

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Von Miller says contract talks will be “a peaceful thing”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 08:  Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos addresses the media during the trophy presentation at the Moscone Center West on February 8, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller waged war on the Panthers, and won.

But the Super Bowl 50 MVP promised in the aftermath that his future contract talks with the team would be “peaceful.”

Miller’s set to be an unrestricted free agent in March, but he’s not expecting a rough negotiation with Broncos executive vice president John Elway.

“As far as my situation coming up, we have — Mr. Elway, he’s played in the National Football League, he’s one of the best GMs that there is, we’re here today because of him,” Miller said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “And I have people representing my situation as well. It’s going to be a peaceful thing. I’m not really worried about it.”

Of course, there’s a good reason not to worry.

He’s either going to get rich immediately, or the Broncos will use the franchise tag to buy themselves time to do a long-term deal, as they have with other stars in recent years. That’s what happened with both left tackle Ryan Clady and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, so it’s clearly a plan Elway’s familiar with.

They have other free agents pending, and some have suggested the possibility of tagging quarterback Brock Osweiler. But Miller’s clearly the priority, and Elway has said he has a “plan” for Miller, and that he knows “what the numbers would be.”

Six years and $101 million is a good starting point, considering the deal Justin Houston got with the Chiefs last summer. And that will buy a man a lot of peace.

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Report: Arrest warrants “imminent” in LeSean McCoy incident

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Bills running back LeSean McCoy hasn’t been arrested yet in the wake of a reported altercation that sent a pair of off-duty police officers to the hospital. That could change, soon.

Mark Schwarz of ESPN reported near the top of the 5:00 a.m. ET SportsCenter (so much for me getting up at 5:55 a.m. ET for a 6:00 a.m. ET radio show) that arrest warrants are “imminent” in the case. Citing an unnamed official in the Philadelphia police department, Schwarz says McCoy was “definitely involved,” and that arrest warrants could surface in the next 24-48 hours.

The delay results from the high-profile nature of the case, and the involvement of police officers. Both have broken ribs, and one has an orbital fracture. Although they weren’t on duty and didn’t identify themselves as police officers, the system tends to operate a little more zealously when police officers are the victims of criminal conduct.

So McCoy and the Bills could soon be facing a major distraction in a season that reportedly includes a playoffs-or-bust mandate for coach Rex Ryan and G.M. Doug Whaley.

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Possibility of paid leave looms for LeSean McCoy, Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel AP

A prolonged stretch of good behavior by nearly every NFL player and employee has caused the new realities of the post-Ray Rice NFL to fade a bit from memory. Those new realities could be returning to focus soon.

The revised Personal Conduct Policy, promulgated by the league without the consent of the NFL Players Association in December 2014 (the NFL believed the union’s consent wasn’t needed), allows for the unilateral placement of players on paid leave pending the outcome of league investigations and/or criminal prosecutions regarding allegations of violence.

Crafted in direct response to the problem of domestic violence, the revised conduct policy gives the league wide latitude and discretion to determine who does or doesn’t get placed on paid leave. Based on information emerging on Monday, paid leave becomes at least a possibility for Bills running back LeSean McCoy and Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

As to McCoy, he and former NFL running back Curtis Brinkley allegedly sent a couple of off-duty cops to the hospital as the result of a fight over a bottle of champagne. As to Manziel, he allegedly hit his ex-girlfriend so hard in the ear that she couldn’t hear in one ear for several days.

Whatever happens with both guys, the Browns could be sweating this one out for exactly one month, until they acquire the cap space to cut him. If the league puts him on paid leave before March 9, they possibly won’t be able to cut him until the investigation and any eventual prosecution ends, potentially requiring the Browns to pay his $1.169 million salary for 2016.

Presumably, the Browns could act sooner by creating roughly $2 million in cap space immediately, through the cutting of veteran players and/or renegotiation of existing contract during the final weeks of the 2015 league year. The Browns otherwise can’t dump Manziel’s contract because all remaining cap space for 2015 already has been carried to 2016.

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Report: Players convicted of weapons or domestic offenses barred from combine, draft

Troy Vincent, Rick Smith AP

An NFL policy change will bar players with convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses from attending the league’s the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.

USA Today reported Monday night that teams were informed of this policy change in a memo from NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent in late January. In the memo, Vincent wrote that players would be barred from “any league-related event” if a background check turns up a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Those players would also be prevented from attending the draft.

Players that refuse to submit to a background check will also be uninvited.

The new rule would have applied last year to Frank Clark, who ended up being a second-round pick of the Seahawks. Clark pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after an arrest for a domestic violence incident that led to his dismissal from the Michigan football team.

“It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters,” Vincent wrote.

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Chargers hire consultant for ballot initiative

Zz02MDJjNDUwYThhYTAxYzcwNDZhMmViODdlNTllNjEzNg== AP

The effort of the Chargers to get a new home has sparked plenty of contradictions. The team deemed Inglewood to be an unacceptable destination for an L.A. stadium until the owners picked it over Carson, and then the Chargers struck a tentative deal to play in the place they previously claimed to be unfit.

Now, as the Chargers embark on a last-ditch effort to remain in San Diego, they’re embracing a timeline the team decried as impractical a year ago.

To build a new stadium in the city the franchise has called home since 1961, a successful ballot effort and a successful environmental review process are critical. As to the former, the Chargers have hired a consultant to launch a citizens initiative intended to secure hundreds of millions in taxpayer money.

Fred Maas, whom the Chargers wanted the city to hire a year ago to spearhead the effort, has been hired by the Chargers, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The really encouraging thing is I believe to my very core Dean is committed to finding a solution in San Diego,” Maas told Acee.

Acee reports that the team plans to spend roughly $10 million in connection with the election, a process that commences with a citizens initiative.

“[Maas] has been around San Diego a long time,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a video post on the team’s website Monday, via Acee. “He’s very familiar with all the political aspects of what goes on in the city, how all that works. His knowledge of San Diego as whole will help us.”

Securing public money is only part of the process. Environmental approvals — and specifically beating back any litigation — also are critical to the effort.

Regardless of whether it all gets done, last year the Chargers were pooh-poohing the prospect of getting it all done in a year. This year, they’re singing a much different tune.

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Aqib Talib deliberately grabbed Corey Brown’s facemask

Zz03NzBjOWE2ODlkYjk4N2Y5NmJkNDk3YjYxNTc3MTBjOA== AP

Several years ago, the NFL got rid of the distinction between major and minor facemask fouls, with all penalties for grabbing and pulling the bars on the front of the helmet becoming 15-yard personal fouls.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s accidental or intentional; the penalty is the same. When it comes to determining discipline, however, evidence that the foul was flagrant and intentional should influence the league office.

Regarding Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib’s decision to grab and pull and twist the facemask of Panthers receiver Corey Brown in the first half of Super Bowl 50, it’s clear that the conduct was flagrant and intentional — because Talib has admitted it.

“It was B.S. flags,” Talib said regarding a pair of personal fouls called on him in the first half, via NESN.com.  “One was on our sidelines [for taunting] — the guy [Brown] was talking on our sideline. One I just did on purpose, and I just had to show him. It’s probably going to be a fine. But, hey, we’re world champs.”

Talib added that he was aware, given Carolina’s field position at the time, that the penalty wouldn’t result in a major loss of field position.

“My teammates knew what it was,” Talib said. “He was on the three-yard line. [With] a personal foul, he was on the one-and-a-half-yard line, so it is what it is.”

What it usually is will be a fine of $8,681 for a first offense. But Talib’s candor, coupled with a one-game suspension during the season for poking Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the eye, could result in an enhanced penalty, and possibly a suspension.

At a time when the NFL is more sensitive than ever to player safety, Talib has admitted to a deliberate and calculated violation of a rule directly aimed at avoiding potentially serious neck injuries. Under the circumstances, and in light of Talib’s history, he may end up with something stiffer than the NFL’s equivalent of a parking ticket.

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