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Dimitroff: Falcons, Matt Ryan “feeling good” about contract talks

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A new contract for Matt Ryan is not a high priority in the Falcons’ front office at the moment. But that’s not because talks have stalled.

Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff says that the Falcons are putting Ryan’s contract on hold right now because all of their focus is on next week’s draft, but he has no doubt a deal can get done.

“The situation is, as we’ve mentioned, both parties, we’re in a very comfortable situation,” Dimitroff said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are focused on the draft again. After the draft we’ll continue to discuss [Ryan’s contract] and I’m sure both parties, Matt and the Falcons are feeling good about making sure that this gets done at the right time.”

Dimitroff says he’s not being coy about Ryan’s status, he’s just being realistic about what the team’s priorities are now.

“There is no time frame on it right now and I don’t want to keep you hanging on it, but I feel confident that things are going to be taken care of when the time is proper,” Dimitroff said.

When the time is proper, Ryan may end up with a contract even bigger than Joe Flacco’s six-year, $120 million deal.

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Report: Chris Johnson will start for Cardinals Thursday

Chris Johnson AP

Chris Johnson is set to debut with the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night, and per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Johnson will be the team’s starting running back in the preseason finale.

Johnson signed with the Cardinals Aug. 17, before the second preseason game, but has been slowed by a hamstring injury. The Cardinals know that Johnson, who’s three weeks from turning 30, isn’t the same player who had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Tennessee to start his career but they hope he can still provide some big-play pop and catch up to a new offense.

Johnson’s contract option wasn’t picked up by the Jets after he rushed 155 times for 663 yards last year. He was shot in the shoulder last March in an incident during which his friend was killed in Florida.

The plan, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Wednesday, is for Johnson to get 10-12 carries as the Cardinals evaluate him. Arians has said he believes Johnson can help the Cardinals but is guaranteed nothing.

The Cardinals won’t play their starters Thursday, so it will be Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson getting the carries early. They’re competing for touches behind the team’s current starter, Andre Ellington.

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Redskins deny that G.M. Scot McCloughan’s wife sent vulgar tweet

McCloughan AP

Several websites have published a tweet today that originated with a Twitter account purportedly belonging to the wife of Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan. The tweet in question directed a vulgar message and alleged improper behavior by an ESPN reporter who has reported on the team.

But the team says McCloughan’s wife did not send the tweet in question. Redskins Senior Vice President Tony Wyllie tells PFT that Jessica McCloughan did not post the tweet, it came from a fake account, and it has been forwarded to the NFL’s security department. The Twitter account has since been deleted.

We’re choosing not to publish the identity of the ESPN reporter named in the tweet, or the specific contents of the tweet. We initially thought we’d just ignore the tweet entirely, but it’s been picked up in enough places that we decided we’d publish what we know.

And what we know is that the team is adamant that the tweet is a fake.

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Phil Taylor visits Steelers

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On Tuesday, the Browns gave defensive tackle Phil Taylor $5.477 million to not play for the Browns. The Steelers may now be paying Taylor even more to not play for the Browns.

Per a league source, Taylor visited the Steelers on Wednesday.

It was only a visit, but it could lead to something more, given that the Steelers could use any help they can get on defense.

A first-round pick in 2011, Taylor asked to be released by the Browns after Danny Shelton emerged as a starter. The Browns made no request that Taylor reduce the money he’s owed or agree to provide any offset in exchange for his freedom.

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Peyton Manning visits Wednesday’s PFT on NBCSN

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Peyton Manning doesn’t have (so far) a commercial in which he’s a really hip and cool Peyton Manning who has DirecTV and a dorky, undesirable Peyton Manning who has cable. But he was nevertheless hip and cool on Wednesday, because he visited Pro Football Talk on NBCSN via satellite as part of his annual preseason DirecTV promotional tour.

A clip from the interview appears below. For the whole thing, tune in to NBCSN at 6:00 p.m. ET. Rodney Harrison (who has caught a couple of passes from Peyton Manning that weren’t intended for Rodney), Paul Burmeister (crack about Paul throwing interceptions while playing quarterback at Iowa has been omitted), and yours truly will get you caught up on all the latest news in the NFL.

Including a full assessment of the #DeflateGate ruling. (There hasn’t been one yet; I’m just seeing whether you’re paying attention.)

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Raiders sign former Cards linebacker Lorenzo Alexander

Lorenzo Alexander,Devonta Freeman AP

Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander wasn’t out of work long.

The Raiders announced that they had signed Alexander, a day after he was cut by the Cardinals.

Alexander had officially qualified as a journeyman long before he made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer with Washington. He’s also had practice squad stints with the Panthers and Ravens, back when he was a defensive tackle.

The former Cal standout grew up in Berkeley, so getting back to the Bay Area made sense. But he adds a stable, adult presence for a Raiders team that seems to have made strides toward stability this year.

They waived linebacker Horace Miller to make room for Alexander.

 

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Report: Dolphins shopping Will Davis

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The Texans were able to get a 2017 sixth-round pick for tight end Khari Lee in a trade with the Bears on Wednesday and they won’t be the only team trying to see if they can shake loose something in return for a player that might not be in their plans for the 2015 season.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Dolphins cornerback Will Davis is such a player. Salguero reports that the Dolphins are shopping the 2013 third-round pick around the league ahead of Saturday’s cut to 53 players, although it is “unclear” if the team will cut him if they can’t find a trade.

Davis doesn’t have the most appealing profile as a trade target. He’s played just 15 games over his first two seasons because of injuries, including a torn ACL that ended his 2014 season after 10 games. He’s played in all three preseason games this summer and coach Joe Philbin said recently that the team is trying to gauge where he is now against where he’ll be down the road.

“I think there’s a little bit of both,” Philbin said. “Obviously, he is coming off of an injury and we’ve seen development over the last five weeks and so we think there will be some more development there from a physical standpoint. Then obviously the performance, you’ve got to weigh all those things when you make a decision.”

That’s the same determination any team considering a deal for Davis will have to make, although it’s hard to imagine any evaluation resulting in more than a late-round pick coming back to Miami.

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Lance Briggs takes TV job, hasn’t “officially” retired

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After a 12-year NFL career, former Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is moving on to a job in TV.

Briggs announced today that he is retiring from football and taking a job as a Bears analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

This was the right decision for me,” Briggs said.

Briggs later said on Twitter that he hasn’t “officially” retired, although at this point it’s extremely unlikely that any team is going to sign him.

A third-round pick of the Bears in 2003, Briggs spent his entire career in Chicago. At his best, Briggs was one of the top linebackers in football, making seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 2005 to 2011. After an injury-plagued season last year, the Bears weren’t interested in bringing him back.

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Concussion director fires back at New York Times

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Well, the Concussion movie is getting plenty of free publicity.

In response to a New York Times article that created the impression that Sony revised the script for the film due to concerns that it would antagonize the NFL even though Sony has no business relationship with the league, writer/director Peter Landesman accuses the New York Times of unfairly making Sony look worthless and weak.

“It does seem to me like the New York Times is working for the NFL,” Landesman tells Deadline.com. “That’s how it seems to me. It seems like a hatchet job has been done here, and came out of the NFL’s offices, that’s how it seems to me.”

Landesman’s assessment is likely wrong. Ken Belson, who wrote the first story criticizing the Hall of Fame and the NFL for trying to silence the daughter of Junior Seau at the August 8 induction ceremony, wouldn’t be trying to make the NFL look good. If anything, Belson and the Times would be trying to make the NFL look bad by painting the league as sufficiently powerful and intimidating to compel Sony to spontaneously slash portions of the Concussion script and to prompt Landesman to attempt to kiss the ring of Roger Goodell until the studio angrily told Landesman to not meet with the Commissioner.

“In the end even Sony, which unlike most other major studios in Hollywood has no significant business ties to the N.F.L., found itself softening some points it might have made against the multibillion-dollar sports enterprise that controls the nation’s most-watched game,” Belson wrote in the second paragraph of the story.

So the agenda, if there was one, was to make NFL look strong enough to bully even those companies with which it has no business relationship. Making Sony look lame was collateral damage.

The truth, as previously explained, seems to be that Sony was committed to telling the truth about a supposedly true story that makes necessarily the NFL look bad. Certain techniques that make movies more entertaining, like a real sense of physical peril for the protagonist and/or his family members, need to be used carefully — or not at all — when the goal is to tell a true story that does not make inaccurate claims.

“When you are telling a true story about something this controversial, it’s incumbent on us, it’s our responsibility to be as fair an accurate as possible,” Landesman said. “We don’t want to defame anybody, we don’t want to injure anybody. We just want to tell the truth, and that’s all we’ve done.”

The key words in that comment are “defame” and “injure.” Sony’s lawyers reviewed the script for any scenes or dialogue that would tell a story other than the truth, in a way that would unfairly characterize the actions and words of NFL officials. It wasn’t the result of Sony running scared from the NFL, or of the NFL thumping its chest. It was the result of good and prudent lawyering, the kind of lawyering that happens in the crafting of any movie based on a real people and actual events.

“This movie is about an underdog, a David and Goliath story of telling the truth, against all odds,” Landesman said.  “About a thing that is such a sacred cow to America, that in its core, on this particular issue, is corrupt. Isn’t it ironic that another American institution, a newspaper, seems to be trying to damage that effort? In a way, it seems to be a strange self-fulfilling prophecy, or a weird mirror of the reality of this film.”

That comment shows that Landesman has no fear of the NFL (or, for that matter, of the New York Times). But it also suggests that Landesman doesn’t understand what the Times was actually doing — or that he does but is choosing to advance a narrative that makes himself and Sony seem like the David for which people will choose to cheer.

Or, more specifically, to surrender $10 for the purposes of sitting in a chair and staring at a screen for two hours.

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NFLPA files injury grievance on behalf of Taylor Thompson

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The Titans said Taylor Thompson was fine when they cut him.

He and the knee surgery he’s about to have disagree, so the union is going to bat for him.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, the NFLPA recently filed an injury grievance on behalf of the former Titans tight end.

Thompson worked during OTAs, but didn’t take part in minicamp because of knee problems. The Titans released him in June.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know what to tell you,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said then. “When [Thompson] left here, however many weeks ago, he was healthy. We communicated, he said he was fine, no issues, other than some personal matters. He shows up, says there’s something wrong with his knee, and I have no idea what he is talking about.”

When they released him, there was no injury designation, despite the fact he had played just three games because of a knee problem last year.

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Larry Foote sticking with coaching

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Larry Foote took a job coaching with the Cardinals this offseason, but didn’t close the door on returning to the field.

In April, Foote described himself as being “50-50” about continuing his career as a linebacker and said that there were a number of factors, including his health and the health of the Cardinals linebacking corps, that would determine his final decision. That decision would be made by the time the Cardinals made their initial cuts.

Those cuts came on Tuesday when the roster dropped to 75 players and Foote isn’t among them. He confirmed with ESPN.com that he will spend the 2015 season as the team’s inside linebackers coach and presumably will continue in a coaching capacity rather than attempting a comeback in 2016 unless he has a serious change of heart as the year plays out.

Foote entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2002, spent most of his career playing for the team and won two Super Bowl rings in Pittsburgh. He spent the 2009 season with the Lions and played for the Cardinals last year.

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Aaron Rodgers hopes Packers aren’t in Hall of Fame Game next year

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Unless the Hall of Fame voters have a collective case of amnesia when it comes time to cast ballots for next year’s class, Brett Favre is going to be among those elected to take their place in Canton.

Given the recent trend of pitting teams with connections to inductees against each other in the Hall of Fame Game, that makes the Packers a good bet to open up the preseason schedule in 2016. Their quarterback would prefer that two other teams get the nod, however.

“We hope we don’t get it,” Aaron Rodgers said, via Alex Marvez of FOX Sports. “But we know it’s going to be tough because No. 4 is going to be going in.”

Rodgers hasn’t been shy about sharing his disdain for summer football. He lamented the loss of Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL in a “meaningless” game last month and told Marvez that he doesn’t think they are a particularly good way of preparing a team for the regular season.

“There are a lot of things that need to get looked at. The number of games is obviously one of them,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think we need four. Two teams have to play five. That’s tough on everybody. Obviously, it’s important for young players to show what they can do. But a lot of times there’s agreements between coaches to maybe not pressure the [quarterback] during a game or do a certain type of coverage, or there are agreements within organizations in game plans that you’re not going to show different plays. How much of a real game are you really simulating? I’d say a lot less than people think.”

Rodgers makes some valid points about the shortcomings of preseason football as have many others, but there doesn’t seem to be much chance of a change as long as NFL owners are collecting money for the tickets, parking and concessions sold at those games. If the Packers are selected, at least Rodgers can take some solace in the fact that he’s about as likely to play in next year’s Hall of Fame Game as he would be if two other teams were selected for the contest.

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Giants sign kicker with Josh Brown hurting

Josh Brown AP

The Giants did better than meet the 75-man roster limit on Tuesday when they went down to 74 players ahead of the deadline.

They’re back up to 75 on Wednesday after re-signing kicker Chris Boswell. Boswell spent time with the team this summer and played in their first preseason game before being released on August 16.

Boswell’s return isn’t tied to dissatisfaction with Josh Brown’s work. It’s about Brown’s health as the veteran suffered a leg injury against the Jaguars in the Giants’ second preseason outing. Brown went on to kick against the Jets last Saturday, which suggests that the injury isn’t a great concern and that Boswell’s stay with the Giants will be limited to their preseason closer against the Patriots on Thursday night.

Boswell didn’t try a field goal or an extra point for the Giants in their game against the Bengals and made two field goals for the Texans during the 2014 preseason.

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Eddie DeBartolo Jr. to be contributor candidate for Hall of Fame vote

DeBartolo AP

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s new contributor category saw both longtime personnel men Ron Wolf and Bill Polian rubber-stamped for induction last year.

The next candidate in that pipeline might face a tougher road.

The Hall announced that the subcommittee of Hall of Fame selectors has forwarded former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. as this year’s contributor candidate. To be inducted, he’d have to receive 80 percent of the votes in a  simple yes-no ballot.

DeBartolo Jr. was a finalist in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but was eliminated from consideration each year during the vote from 15 to 10.

While his success as the owner of the 49ers during their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s is unquestioned (winning five Super Bowls takes care of that), there are also questions about his resume.

After he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of failing to report an extortion attempt during his attempt to acquire a riverboat gambling license in Louisiana, he was suspended for a year by then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue. He never regained control of the team.

DeBartolo has been a regular in Canton, however. When he presented Charles Haley last month, it was the fifth time he took the stage to introduce a Hall of Famer.

The day before next year’s Super Bowl, he’ll find out if he ever gets to join them.

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Seahawks need to find face-saving solution to Chancellor holdout

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The importance of safety Kam Chancellor to the Seahawks can’t be disputed. If there was any doubt following the comments of former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson on NFL Network, that doubt should be fully erased given the comments of receiver Doug Baldwin to SI.com regarding Chancellor’s role in helping the team get past the loss in Super Bowl XLIX.

Kam was pivotal,” Baldwin said. “He’s like the godfather of the locker room. Any problems, any issues, you go to him.”

So why can’t the Seahawks and Chancellor find a way to settle their differences and get Kam back in the fold? Currently, the two sides remain to be dug in, with no apparent middle ground.

The two sides need to find a way to save face. And it shouldn’t be that hard.

On Tuesday, the Steelers made receiver Antonio Brown happy by simply taking $2 million he was going to make in 2016 and sliding it to 2015.  The Seahawks did a similar thing last year with running back Marshawn Lynch. Why not do something like that with Chancellor?

Chancellor is due to make $4.55 million this year, $5.1 million in 2016, and $6.8 million in 2017. So take $1 million from next year and $1 million from 2017 and move it to 2015.

Alternatively, the Seahawks could give Chancellor more guaranteed money in 2016 and/or 2017, since those seems to be the seasons about which he’s more concerned than 2015.

At some point, the Seahawks have to quit reopening deals. But given Chancellor’s importance to the franchise, he doesn’t seem to be the best guy to start the process with.

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Pylon cameras coming to Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons

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In August, ESPN used pylon cameras in their broadcast of a preseason game between the Bills and Browns.

Unlike many of the players in that game, the cameras have made the cut for the regular season. CBS announced that they will be using the cameras on some of their broadcasts this year. In addition to their slate of Sunday games, CBS will televise nine Thursday night games in concert with NFL Network.

In the release about using the cameras, CBS says they may also be used during the playoffs and during Super Bowl 50 from Santa Clara.

While CBS touts the cameras as a way to give “NFL viewers the most field-level view of critical plays,” the application may go beyond a cool view of a player diving into the end zone. Those cameras could be used as part of the replay review process to determine whether a touchdown has been scored, assuming that no players are blocking the camera’s view and that they can also capture if a runner’s knees are down before the ball crosses into the end zone.

Those issues could limit the cameras’ effectiveness for reviews, but that’s hardly a reason not to see if they make the replay process better in addition to offering networks another angle to use for an entertaining broadcast. If they prove useful this year, it probably won’t be long before the pylon camera is a fixture on all NFL broadcasts.

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