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Darnell Nurse, nephew of Donovan McNabb, is well-regarded NHL prospect

Darnell Nurse getty Getty Images

When the National Hockey League Entry Draft begins June 30, a defenseman prospect with a connection to a former NFL star could reportedly hear his name called fairly early in the seven-round event.

Darnell Nurse, who most recently played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, is the nephew of former Vikings, Redskins and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. NHL.com currently ranks Nurse as its No. 9 North American prospect among skaters, or all players excluding goalies.

In a story published Sunday, the 18-year-old Nurse, who is the son of McNabb’s sister, told the Cherry Hill (N.J.) Courier-Post his uncle has been a valuable resource for him.

“No matter what the question is or no matter what I’m going through, he’s always been available,” Nurse said of McNabb, according to the Courier-Post. The publication says Nurse is “projected to be a high pick” in the 2013 NHL draft.

McNabb, who co-hosts a show with Mark Malone weekdays on NBC Sports Radio from 3-7 p.m. ET, told the Courier-Post he’s impressed by Nurse’s work ethic and attitude.

“Darnell is a really mature kid,” McNabb said, according to the Courier-Post. “He’s goal oriented. He’s the guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes in order to be the best.”

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PFT Live: Julius Thomas, Ross Tucker

Julius Thomas AP

Broncos tight end Julius Thomas is entering the final year of his contract after a breakout 2013 season, which makes it a big year for the former basketball player.

We’ll find out how he’s feeling with the start of the season just around the corner when Thomas joins Mike Florio on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live. We’ll talk to Thomas about his contract situation, the Broncos’s mindset after losing the Super Bowl last season and playing with Peyton Manning during his visit to the show.

Ross Tucker of NBCSN will also join Florio to talk about some of the biggest stories around the league as the preseason comes to a close. They’ll talk about on and off-field matters that are likely to impact the Broncos and every other team vying for the championship this time around.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Chiefs sign Mike McGlynn

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

Offensive lineman Mike McGlynn was one of the players dropped by the Redskins this week as they dropped to 75 players, but he didn’t spend much time out of work.

The Chiefs announced on Wednesday that they have signed McGlynn. They waived offensive lineman Ben Gottschalk to make room for him on the roster.

Kansas City is set to start the season without right tackle Donald Stephenson, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and rookie Zach Fulton is starting at right guard. With Eric Fisher struggling in his transition to left tackle, the team has a need for other options should they need to shuffle the line.

McGlynn has made 48 starts on the interior of the offensive line over his career so he should be able to give the Chiefs that depth at the very least.

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Ravens, needing cornerback help, sign Derek Cox

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Derek Cox wasn’t out of work long.

The veteran cornerback, who was just released by the Vikings, is about the sign with the Ravens, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.

Clifton Brown of CSNBaltimore.com reports the Ravens waived wide receiver Jace Davis to make room for him.

After turning in four solid years with the Jaguars, Cox signed with the Chargers last year, but was released one year into what was originally a four-year, $20 million deal.

He may have never been good enough to deserve that kind of money, but he’s been an acceptable player in the past, and the Ravens have a need.

With starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb injured, they have just four healthy corners on the roster at the moment.

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A “drone” once killed a fan at an NFL game

Lawnmower

In recent years, the term “drone” has acquired a sinister feel, what with all the lethal firepower that unmanned military planes routinely carry and deploy.  So when a non-weaponized remote-controlled helicopter with simply a camera attached to it is called a “drone,” there’s a real difference.

But maybe not a huge difference.

In the wake of the news that a “drone” invaded the airspace of Bank of America Stadium during a recent preseason contest involving the Chiefs and the Panthers, Jim Celania of WFNZ in Charlotte mentioned this morning that a flying lawnmower once killed a fan at a game in the ’70s.

Initially, I assumed that Jim had simply doused his Post Toasties with something more potent than two-percent.  And while that’s still entirely possible, Jim was right.

It happened in December 1979, at Shea Stadium.  The Jets hosted the Patriots, and at halftime the Electronic Eagles of the Radio Control Association of Greater New York took the field, flying a collection of model airplanes.

During the show, a plane shaped like a lawnmower landed in the stands, striking 20-year-old John Bowen and 25-year-old Kevin Rourke.  Bowen, who reportedly “looked like he had been attacked by an ax,” underwent emergency surgery.  Several days later, Bowen died.

Criminal charges never were pursued, but a lawsuit later was filed against the Jets, the Radio Control Association of Greater New York, and Philip Cushman, who was flying the plane.

So, yeah, it’s probably a good idea for the NFL to ensure that “drones” don’t get anywhere close to the paying customers.  Otherwise, the paying customers will opt to watch the games from a place where the lawnmowers remain in the garage, with all wheels on the ground at all times.

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Report of Richard Sherman minicamp fight sparked NFLPA investigation

Sherman AP

So what caused the NFL to ultimately impose six-figure fines on the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll for impermissible contact during a supposedly non-contact minicamp practice?

Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA started the investigation after reports emerged of a fight at a June 18 practice involving cornerback Richard Sherman and receiver Bryan Walters.  Coach Pete Carroll had to stop practice in order to restore order.

The NFLPA caught wind of the situation via TV reports of the altercation.  At that point, the NFLPA asked the Seahawks to surrender the video of all offseason practices.

Inspection of the footage resulted in the union concluding that the practice was “way too aggressive,” per the source.  Aggression was detected not simply on one or two plays but for the entire practice.  While the penalties reportedly cover only the day of the fight evidence of excessive aggressiveness was spotted over multiple days of the minicamp.

“Coaches were coaching contact,” the source said.  And the NFL apparently agreed, given that the league ultimately imposed unprecedented fines for something that happens in plenty of offseason practices.  But apparently not to this extent.

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Falcons’ special teams coach blows a gasket on Hard Knocks

keitharmstrong Getty Images

In an ordinary workplace, a boss who screams obscenities into the faces of his underlings would not be tolerated. One of the lessons that HBO’s Hard Knocks has taught us through the years is that an NFL team is not an ordinary workplace.

On Tuesday night’s episode, Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong lit into several players with a string of profanity and nasty insults.

“Who do you think you are? The game don’t mean enough to you, and that’s very f–king apparent,” Armstrong told one player during a film session. “You better wake up and get your pride in the game. Go out there and play like s–t? The s–t was coached the right way! I don’t want any excuses, selfish ass. What the hell is this? Look at this crap. Are you kidding me?”

As the team reviewed tape of a blocked punt, Armstrong exploded.

“It ain’t OK to go around here and not know. That ain’t cute. It ain’t OK. Really don’t care. That’s as selfish an act as you can make. Grow the f–k up,” Armstrong said.

Two rookie defensive linemen were singled out for poor play on the field goal unit. Armstrong told Jacques Smith, “You do what I tell you to do. You understand, Smith? You ain’t good enough to be an asshole. Do you understand that? Do you understand that?” And Armstrong told Ra’shede Hageman, “Do you start on defense? No. So what you going to do, sit your ass on the sidelines and watch the goddam game? We got enough people around here doing that s–t. Ain’t important to you.”

Armstrong made a point of explaining to the players that when he’s disappointed with them, he’ll tell them to their faces, “one man talking to another man.”

That’s fine, but Armstrong’s tirade raises some questions about where, exactly, the line is when coaches are addressing their players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made respect the theme when he opened the owners’ meeting in March. Goodell’s emphasis on respect was a direct result of the situation that unfolded in Miami last year, when Jonathan Martin decided to leave the team because he couldn’t take the way he was being treated in the locker room anymore. Richie Incognito may be wondering why he was suspended and treated like the NFL’s worst villain last year for his unkind treatment of Martin, while Armstrong can insult players with impunity.

An NFL meeting room may never look like an ordinary workplace, but NFL players do have the right to be treated respectfully. Armstrong treated his players with something less than respect.

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ESPN apologizes for reporting on Michael Sam’s shower habits

Shower Getty Images

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Josina Anderson filed a report from Rams camp that included fairly extensive commentary on the shower habits of Michael Sam.  On Wednesday, ESPN apologized for the report.

“ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report,” the network said in a statement posted at its media-relations website, via SportsBusiness Daily.  “Clearly on Tuesday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”

The Big Lead has the video of the report, which included a minute or so on whether Sam is avoiding showering with his teammates so that they aren’t uncomfortable.

It’s hard to listen to the explanation about whether Sam avoids showering with teammates without becoming uncomfortable, and ESPN ultimately decided that it was uncomfortable with the discomfort created by the report.

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De Smith says 18-game season isn’t his decision

DeMaurice Smith AP

Sean Gilbert, who conducted a media conference call on Tuesday in connection with his plan to pursue the position of NFLPA executive director, wants to achieve a variety of gains for the players.  In return, Gilbert is willing to give the NFL something for which it had stopped asking:  An 18-game regular season.

Appearing that same day (coincidentally, or not) on ESPN’s SportsCenter, Smith addressed the issue of expanding the regular season.

It’s not my decision to make,” Smith said.  “If someone thinks it’s better for them to play 18 games.  I know that there’s a healthy number of football players now who would say go ahead and do play 18 games.”

Current NFLPA president Eric Winston strongly opposes the idea of expanding the regular season to 18 games.  Few players have argued in favor of adding a pair of games.  Given the current climate of player health and safety, it’s hard to imagine Gilbert’s proposal taking root among the rank and file.

Smith also addressed the fact that he faces an actual challenger for the job, a dynamic that the sitting NFLPA executive director hasn’t confronted in decades.

“I don’t give much thought to people who want this job,” Smith said.  “I have the pleasure of working for the players of the National Football League, the players decide who their leaders will be.  I look forward to March.  I intend to be in this job for as long as the players will have me.”

The issue could be resolved long before March.  The election of the 2014-15 team-by-team player representatives, which will occur in the coming weeks, potentially will result in the eventual winner being determined, if at least 17 of the 32 reps favor one of the candidates.

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Jay Cutler not thrilled with seeing Jordan Palmer so soon

Jay Cutler, Jordan Palmer AP

When the Bears chose Jimmy Clausen over Jordan Palmer as their backup quarterback, they opened the door for Palmer to find another job.

They also opened their playbook to their opening week opponent.

According to Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler wasn’t wild about the fact Palmer will likely be turning over 10 months of information about the Bears offense in the next 10 days.

It’s not an ideal situation,” Cutler said. “It’s not exactly what you’d want. He can give them a few things I’m sure. If he does sign, he’ll be meeting with [Bills defensive coordinator Jim] Schwartz pretty much immediately.

“He knows snap counts, some of the stuff we do with some of our checks, what plays we like. But they still have to defend it. So I don’t think we’ll change much if anything. Maybe a few tweaks here and there. But we’ll just have to go play football.”

Players and coaches usually downplay any edge an opponent might glean, but given the level of detail the quarterback has to know, it’s the one position which could force a team to make a major adjustment.

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Cardinals taking a look at James Harrison

James Harrison AP

The Cardinals have lost a number of impact players on defense, and they’ve previously reached out to guys who made an impact with the Steelers.

They’re taking that path again, as they’re apparently thinking about bringing in linebacker James Harrison.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Harrison is on his way to visit the Cardinals today.

The 36-year-old Harrison might be trolling for a Steelers offer the same way defensive end Brett Keisel was, as there was a previous mention the Steelers hadn’t ruled him out.

At the same time, the Cards might just want to see if he has anything left. Harrison had 2.0 sacks for the Bengals last season, after years of declining production led to his release in Pittsburgh in lieu of a pay cut.

After losing Karlos Dansby to free agency, Daryl Washington to suspension and Darnell Dockett to a torn ACL, the Cards are scrambling to find replacements on defense.

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Hernandez legal team scores minor victory in court

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has experienced plenty of losses and disappointments in court as he remains jailed while awaiting trial on a trio of murder charges.  On Monday, Hernandez received a rare bit of good news in the Odin Lloyd case.

Via the Boston Globe, Judge Susan Garsh issued a 28-page ruling that prevents the use of evidence culled from certain electronic devices seized by authorities during a search of Hernandez’s home in the days after Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was found less than a mile away.

The warrant targeted a GPS device that Hernadnez told investigators contained Lloyd’s home address.  Investigators serving the warrant took an iPhone 5, a Blackberry Bold cellphone, an Apple iPad, and two iPad minis.  Judge Garsh wrote that the authorities “operated under the misimpression that the Search Warrant authorized the seizure of GPS devices when they seized the cell phones and tablets from Hernandez’s residence.”

Prosecutors argued that a warrant authorizing the seizure of a specific cellphone allowed all similar devices to be taken from the property.

The magnitude of the victory for Hernandez and his legal team isn’t known, because the specific contents of the seized devices isn’t known.  But with a very high standard of proof in criminal cases, any little piece of potentially incriminating evidence helps the effort to secure a conviction.

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Ahmad Brooks needs to lose some weight

Ahmad Brooks AP

49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks made the Pro Bowl and second-team All Pro last season, but the team isn’t worried that his personal success has gone to his head.

If anything, they’re worried that it has gone to his belly. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Tuesday that he hopes Brooks can turn in a repeat of his 2013 performance, but he’s concerned that Brooks is carrying extra weight that has been “holding him back” this summer. Brooks agreed that he needs to trim up and blamed something familiar to many of us  when discussing why his weight has become an issue this season.

“It’s all about eating right,” Brooks said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m 30 years old now, so my metabolism has slowed down. So it takes a little bit longer (to lose weight) than before. … Some of the things I used to get away with, I can’t get away with any more. Yeah, I do have to lose some weight. Is it affecting me? I don’t know. But, yeah, maybe a little bit.”

Brooks said it is unrealistic that he’ll lose the needed weight, 5-10 pounds by his estimation, before the start of the regular season. With NaVorro Bowman out for at least the first six weeks of the season and league discipline for Aldon Smith still a possibility, the team will need a productive Brooks at any weight.

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Alex Smith doesn’t know when his drop-dead day is for contract

Justin Trattou, Alex Smith AP

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said at the beginning of training camp that he’d break off contract talks at a certain point to eliminate distractions.

But with camp over and the regular season a week away, Smith is no closer to deciding what that date is.

“No, I haven’t — I wish I had an answer for you,” Smith said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “I feel like I’ve kind of been locked into games and practicing. With camp winding down here, preseason winding down, certainly we’ll see. But sorry. No answer for you today.”

At this point, he said he didn’t think the negotiations were distracting him, or his teammates.

“I can’t speak on how those guys think,” Smith said. “I certainly know that for myself, . . . it’s the last thing I’m thinking about. I think that as a football player, when you’re in that locker room it’s: What is that guy putting in? What is he sacrificing? Is he accountable? How bad does he want it for the team?

“Those are the things I think about as a teammate and that I look for in my teammates, . . . no matter what, if a guy is on his last year or he’s in a dispute, he’s tagged, whatever those things might be.”

Smith’s entering the last year of his deal, and has the benefit of the Chiefs wanting to get linebacker Justin Houston locked up too.

There’s only one tag to use between the pair of them, so something will have to give if the Chiefs want to keep both. And if they want to keep Smith from worrying about it during the regular season, they have a week and a half.

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Report: Joe Mays out at least six weeks

Josh Mauga, Jason Campbell AP

It looks like the Chiefs are going to have to play the first month or so of the regular season without linebacker Joe Mays.

Mays, who was projected to start alongside Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker, had wrist surgery recently and Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that he will miss at least six weeks while recovering from the operation. If that timeline holds, Mays would miss the first four games of the season and might not return until after the Chiefs bye in Week Six.

The Chiefs have a few options to use in Mays’s place. Nico Johnson started the team’s last preseason game and James Michael-Johnson and Frank Zombo also saw time in Mays’s spot during the contest. Josh Mauga is expected back from injury to make his case during Thursday night’s preseason finale and then the team will sort out the pecking order for the season opener against the Titans.

With wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and tackle Donald Stephenson set to serve suspensions while Mays is out in the early part of the season, it will take some time before the Chiefs get whole this season.

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FAA investigating drone flight over Panthers-Chiefs game

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There wasn’t much of an air attack in the recent Panthers-Chiefs preseason game, but there was a later-identified flying object hovering over Bank of America Stadium that night.

According to Mark Washburn of the Charlotte Observer, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the operator of the camera-wielding drone was detained and questioned, with the information turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Witnesses said they saw the drone late in the game, until lights from a helicopter hit it and then it disappeared behind a nearby building.

Airspace over stadiums is banned by both the NFL and (more importantly) the FAA. The FAA considers stadiums and major airports as Class B airspace, which is among the most restricted, and unmanned aircraft are prohibited.

A team spokesman said they weren’t aware of the drone until asked by reporters.

While there was no report of charges filed, the incident represents a security breach that aviation officials need to pay close attention to.

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