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ProFootballTalk: McFadden the next star on the move?

When posed with the question of who should be the next big-name veteran on the move, Mike Florio is emphatic in his belief that it will be Raiders RB Darren McFadden.

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Mike Priefer: I’ve learned a hard lesson

Minnesota Vikings Media Access Getty Images

The Vikings suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer last Friday night after an investigation into claims by the team’s former punter Chris Kluwe that Priefer made homophobic remarks while speaking to the team.

Priefer made his first public comments about the suspension, which is for three games with the potential to go down to two games after Priefer completes sensitivity training, and said he made a mistake that went “way below the bar” by making the remarks. Priefer reiterated the apology that he made on Friday and said he’s learned a lesson.

“I’m not going to change the way I coach and I’m not going to change the way I teach,” Priefer said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “But I’ve learned a lesson. I have learned a lesson here. That’s a great thing about this situation, I’m going to look back and say something good had to come from this. But I learned a hard lesson, I’ve got to be sensitive to other people in what I say and that’s not going to happen again.”

Priefer didn’t go into specific detail about what he said and will undergo sensitivity training during the first week of the regular season. General Manager Rick Spielman indicated that the team considered firing Priefer, but thought a suspension was more appropriate. Coach Mike Zimmer said he stands behind Priefer because he’s a good person that made a mistake.

“We all make mistakes,” Zimmer said. “We all try to learn from our mistakes. And I think this guy is a very high-character, quality person that I want to stand behind. Honestly, I want to stand behind him because I know what is inside of him, I know what’s in his heart. And he made a mistake, and if anyone here hasn’t made a mistake, I want you to raise your hand, because I know I’ve made plenty.”

Kluwe and the Vikings are working toward a settlement that would avoid a lawsuit from Kluwe alleging wrongful discharge and defamation of character. Should that happen, Priefer and the team will be closer to fulfilling Priefer’s desire to “move on” from the investigation.

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Pierre-Paul says he’s “110 percent,” thinks he’ll remain with Giants past 2014

Jasn Pierre-Paul AP

After going 7-9 last season, there are several Giants veterans on the spot heading into the 2014 season.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is right at the top of that list. Pierre-Paul battled injuries early and late while putting forth performances far below the standard he set on the way to a Super Bowl title in 2011, leading him to call it a “lost year” on Thursday. Getting Pierre-Paul back to form is big for a team that doesn’t have many proven pass rushers and it’s big for Pierre-Paul as well.

He’s entering the final year of his contract and what was once assumed to be a big extension is less certain after Pierre-Paul’s poor 2013. The defensive end says he’s “110 percent” now, though, and expects to remain with the team.

“I’m not gonna lie,” Pierre-Paul said, via the New York Post. “Seeing Tuck gone, it’s on my mind a little bit. I think I’m going to be here next year. Honest. Because I know how I play and I know what kind of game I bring.”

Listing the players who are 110 percent or in the best shape of their lives heading into training camp would take most of the month, so such statements should always be taken with an oversize grain of salt. Pierre-Paul has to produce once the whistle blows or his future, Giants or otherwise, is going to be a lot dimmer than it was 12 months ago.

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Report: Jordy Nelson’s looking for $10 million a year

Jordy Nelson Charity Softball AP

Jordy Nelson is definitely a wide receiver.

And he wants to get paid like one of the best.

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, a source familiar with the negotiations said Nelson wants a deal “worth at least $10 million per season.”

Nelson’s currently working on the final year of the three-year, $12.6 million deal he signed in 2011, and his $4.2 million per season average is 34th among all receivers.

And since he signed that deal early during the 2011 season, he’s averaged 67 catches, 1,107 yards and 10 touchdowns per season.

With Roddy White cashing in with the Falcons today, the bar was raised again for Nelson, who just turned 29 years old.

The Packers would like to keep Nelson and Randall Cobb (who is also up for free agency after this season), but they might find themselves in a spot where they can afford one or the other, but not both.

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Titans agree with first-round pick Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan AP

The final unsigned 2014 draft pick has reached a deal.

The Titans announced Thursday they had agreed to a contract with first-round selection Taylor Lewan, an offensive tackle from Michigan.

The No. 11 overall pick, Lewan (6-7, 309) has played both left and right tackle in the offseason. It’s possible he could challenge veteran Michael Oher at right tackle.

Lewan made 48 starts at left tackle for the Wolverines, earning a variety of All-American honors as a junior and as a senior. He was the third offensive lineman selected in May.

Lewan faces an October trial on assault and battery and aggravated assault charges related to a December incident in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Newsome calls Rice suspension “fair,” Rice doesn’t say whether he’ll appeal

Ray Rice AP

The suspension of Ray Rice has become official, which means that more statements will be issued from folks directly affected by the outcome.

“We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice,” Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome said in a statement issued by the team.  “The time the Commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues. While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league’s decision and believe it is fair.

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Rice stopped short of calling the suspension “fair,” which possibly means he’ll exercise his right to an appeal.  He nevertheless continues to accept responsibility for his behavior.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement issued by the team (which is the paper equivalent of a press conference with no questions allowed from the press, which Rice did in May).  “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways.  But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night.  The counseling has helped tremendously.

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident.  I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously.  My actions going forward will show that.”

Neither statement addresses the broader issue of domestic violence, and neither the Ravens nor Rice have said or done anything use this incident as a way to help reduce situations where men strike their wives, fianceés, girlfriends, or any other people (male or female) they regularly encounter in their day-to-day lives.

Maybe the $705,000 that the Ravens won’t be paying to Rice should be donated to one or more groups that support the victims of domestic violence, and maybe Rice should match the amount of his financial penalty with an equal donation.  Some would call the gesture transparent or hollow, but it would have far more tangible impact than generating a page of quotes that avoid acknowledging what happened — Rice threw a punch at the woman he supposedly loves, and he knocked her out cold.

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Jaguars owner says they won’t cut Justin Blackmon

Shad Khan

The Jaguars have every pragmatic reason to distance themselves from Justin Blackmon.

But owner Shad Khan said he’s not about to release his former first round pick, who has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL and was arrested for marijuana possession last night.

We want him to get help he needs,” Khan said, via John Oehser of the team’s official website.

That sentiment seems to be consistent through the organization, as linebacker Paul Posluszny said: “This is no longer a football issue…We want the best for him. He’s a good kid at heart.”

It’s good to hear the Jaguars embrace a kid (it’s hard to call him a player, since he’s barely played for them since his rookie year) who obviously has some problems.

He showed flashes of talent in 2012, when his play might have justified their investment in him. If he had torn an ACL, they’d have gone to great lengths to get him well, so they could benefit from his labor in the future.

But Blackmon’s problem now is not a physical one, and we hope the Jaguars are sincere in getting him the help he needs, even if he never plays another down for them.

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Rice suspended two games, fined a game check

ray-rice Getty Images

The reports regarding the two-game suspension to be imposed on Ravens running back Ray Rice were mostly accurate, but ultimately incomplete.  The league has announced that Rice will be suspended two games and also fined an additional game check.

The decision will result in $705,0882 in lost salary for Rice.  The Ravens also could try to recover $352,941 of Rice’s $15 million signing bonus, paid in 2012.

Since the Ravens play on Thursday night in Week Two, he’ll be back on Friday, September 12, before the rest of the league has played its second game.

“As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to Rice.  “The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

The suspension has been widely criticized as being too soft, even though the league-owned network has described the punishment as an example of the NFL’s iron fist.

That’s an unfortunate metaphor in cases of domestic violence.  In this specific case, many would also say it’s inaccurate.

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John Harbaugh: Ray Rice is a heck of a guy who made a mistake

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Getty Images

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is standing behind running back Ray Rice, who was suspended for the first two games of the regular season for assaulting his wife.

Harbaugh said today that he and his team would get past the suspension and continue to support Rice, one of the team’s veteran leaders.

“It’s not a big deal, it’s just part of the process,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN. “There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake, alright? He’s going to have to pay a consequence. I think that’s good for kids to understand it works that way. That’s how it works, that’s how it should be.”

To many, Harbaugh’s comments will come off as too supportive of Rice, and not reflective enough of the gravity of the situation. That’s also a criticism the Ravens as a franchise received when they arranged a press conference for Rice and his wife in May. Whether Harbaugh meant it this way or not, calling Rice’s crime a “mistake” suggests that it was a relatively minor transgression, and saying that it’s good for kids to learn from it suggests that there’s some kind of silver lining to this story. Harbaugh’s comments struck the wrong note.

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Five questions: Kansas City Chiefs

Reid Getty Images

The Chiefs followed a disastrous 2-14 season with an unlikely trip to the playoffs, followed by an even less likely 38-10 lead at Indy, capped by an even less likely second-half collapse.

For Year Two of the Andy Reid/John Dorsey regime much higher than a year ago, the bar moves higher.  Possibly, too high.

Here are five questions we (or at least I) have about the 2014 edition of the Kansas City Chiefs.

1.  Did they take too many hits in free agency?

A whopping 60 percent of the team’s offensive line bolted for bigger dollars in free agency, led by left tackle Branden Albert.  The team now hopes that Eric Fisher, the first overall pick a year ago, will be able to play better on the left side of the line than the right, where he struggled as a rookie.

Also gone is Dexter McCluster, a versatile weapon who may or may not be replaced effectively by rookie De’Anthony Thomas.

On defense, lineman Tyson Jackson and safety Kendrick Lewis signed elsewhere, and cornerback Brandon Flowers was cut late in the offseason.

The departures, which weren’t offset by many free-agent arrivals, will make it harder to run the streak of playoff appearances to two.

2.  Can they put the playoff collapse behind them?

Maybe it’s good that so many of the old players are gone.  It’ll make it a little easier to get past the playoff collapse if guys who weren’t part of it aren’t still around.

But plenty are still there, and they’ll need to learn from what happened against the Colts without having a wedge arise between the offense and the defense.  Otherwise, whenever the offense builds a lead in 2014 and the defense starts to blow it, “Here we go again” will be the refrain (spoken or otherwise) up and down the Kansas City sideline.

The offense will likely follow the lead of quarterback Alex Smith on this point, especially since his stellar day (378 passing yards, 57 rushing yards, four passing touchdowns, no interceptions) was barely noticed in the aftermath of one of the most deflating losses in franchise history.  If he stays positive when the defense starts to show signs of falling apart, others will be inclined to do the same.

3.  Is Alex Smith the answer at quarterback?

There’s a chance Smith eventually won’t be the guy leading, or cutting off, resentment of defensive failures.  Andy Reid has shown over the last 15 years a knack for getting great performances out of any and every quarterback he coaches, and rookie Aaron Murray could easily become Big Red’s next star pupil.

Smith has one year left on his contract, with the two sides still far apart.  If Smith won’t do a deal on the team’s terms, the team could turn to Murray.

And if the 2014 season goes south quickly, Murray may get a chance at some point to show what he can do before the Chiefs have to essentially choose between Smith and Murray.

4.  How good will Dee Ford be right away?

Before the draft, Dee Ford declared he’s better than Jadeveon Clowney.  Chiefs owner Clark Hunt cautiously has compared Ford to the late Derrick Thomas.

If Ford lives up to either of those assessments, the Chiefs will be able to let Justin Houston walk in free agency and install Ford as the four-letter complement to Tamba Hali.

Or maybe it’s Hali who’ll become expandable after the 2014 season, with the Chiefs opting for the two youngest options at pass rusher.  If we’ve learned nothing else in the past few years, it’s that no high-priced veteran on any team is safe.

5.  Are they nearly done with Dwayne Bowe?

Speaking of high-priced veterans who may be in danger of not being with the team, receiver Dwayne Bowe could be on the outs.  With $11 million in cash due come 2015, Bowe may be on the verge of being a former Chief if he doesn’t increase the production in 2014.

His first season under a five-year, $56 million contract resulted in only 57 catches for 673 yards.  That’s 13 fewer catches and 20 yards less than running back Jamaal Charles, who also ran the ball for 1,287 yards.

Bowe knows that his time is running short if he can’t produce a better return on the investment the Chiefs made not long after Reid and Dorsey arrived.  Otherwise, that cash and cap space will go to someone else.

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Terrance West removed from non-football injury list

Terrance West AP

Terrance West’s stay on the Browns’ non-football injury list was a short one.

The Browns announced Thursday that West, a rookie tailback from Towson, has been removed from the list, clearing the way for him to be on the practice field when Cleveland’s training camp practices begin Saturday.

According to multiple reports, West’s inclusion on the list was related to the club’s conditioning test, but the matter looks to have been quickly squared away — good news for a rookie who could challenge for major work in Cleveland’s backfield.

Three other Browns — offensive lineman Chris Faulk, defensive lineman Jacobbi McDaniel and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren — were also taken off the non-football injury list and added to active roster, the club said.

The Browns also announced they had waived running back Jourdan Brooks and wide receiver Kenny Shaw. This leaves Cleveland with four open roster spots.

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Jonathan Stewart out a couple of weeks, Edmund Kugbila out for year

Jonathan Stewart, Lavonte David AP

The Panthers dealt with injuries to running back Jonathan Stewart and members of their offensive line throughout last season and they aren’t wasting much time picking up where they left off.

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said on Thursday that Stewart injured his hamstring recently and will miss a week or two of camp while he recovers. The team doesn’t feel it is an overly serious injury, so Stewart will remain on the active roster as opposed to being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Whether or not this specific injury is serious, it is part of a pattern that doesn’t bode well for Stewart earning a big role in a backfield that also features DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. He’s played just 15 games over the last two years and has averaged under four yards a carry both seasons while dealing with a variety of aches and pains.

Gettleman also announced that guard Edmund Kugbila will have back surgery in August and miss the entire season. The 2013 fourth-round pick missed his rookie season because of a knee injury and his absence exposes a few more ribs on an already thin offensive line.

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Carl Nicks excused from reporting to Bucs camp for personal reason

Carl Nicks AP

Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks did not participate in voluntary work with the team this spring and wasn’t able to practice during the team’s mandatory minicamp because of the toe injury and resulting staph infection that wiped out his 2013 season, but said in June that he felt like he would be ready to participate in training camp.

The Bucs reported for work on Thursday, but Nicks wasn’t among the players checking in for camp. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that coach Lovie Smith said that Nicks was excused for the day because of personal reasons.

“It’s part of life. Things come up,” Smith said.

Because of the toe injury, the Bucs have gotten very little return on their free agent investment in Nicks two years ago. He’s played in just nine games for the team and it will continue to be unclear whether he’ll provide much help in the future until he actually gets back on the football field. Smith indicated that Nicks was only excused for Thursday, so Friday should bring more word on how Nicks is feeling and what his future in Tampa looks like.

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Panthers following NFL’s lead on Greg Hardy punishment

Carolina Panthers v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

It’s a banner day for women everywhere around the NFL.

After Ray Rice’s two-game suspension for knocking his wife unconscious (Hey, she apologized), it now appears the league’s other star abuser of women is going to continue to make his full $13 million this year.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman indicated the team was not going to suspend defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted last week on charges of assaulting his girlfriend and communicating threats.

“We’ve been in touch with the league, . . . we have to respect the legal process,” Gettleman said.

Hardy has appealed his conviction, and will get a jury trial next. But that’s unlikely to happen before January, which means the Panthers will likely have Hardy available this season.

The franchise-tagged defensive end will make $13.1 million this season, or just over $770,000 per week.

They could conceivably suspend him up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team, but teams always prefer to leave such cases to the NFL. And as today’s ruling in the Rice case shows, that punishment will come later, if it’s felt at all.

Considering they’ve made no effort to reach a long-term contract with Hardy, who could be an unrestricted free agent again next year, they might never have to feel it, either.

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Frank Gore not ready to give up heavy workload

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers have accumulated quite a bit of depth behind running back Frank Gore over the last few years, leading some to wonder if 2014 will be the year when the longtime workhorse starts to cede more of the workload to other backs.

If it is up to Gore, the wait will last a little longer. Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde and LaMichael James are all on the roster and looking for playing time, but Gore has no plans on stepping aside so someone else can do the heavy lifting.

“I’m from Miami,” Gore said, via CSNBayArea.com. “I’ve been competing ever since I left high school. I’ve been with top guys who’ve been in the league. I’m up for it. One day, they’re going to get this role. But I’m here, and I’m going to make it a challenge.”

Gore is 31 and coming off a year that saw him take three-quarters of the team’s offensive snaps, the second-most of his 49ers career, so his overall workload will likely drop during the season. If he’s still as effective as he was last season, though, the drop probably won’t be a particularly dramatic one since the 49ers know that they can win with Gore leading the way on the ground.

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Get ‘em while they’re hot: Buy your ladies’ Ray Rice gear

pinkray

The league’s in house network referred to the “iron fist of the NFL” this morning while discussing the pending two-game suspension for the Ravens running back Ray Rice.

But that iron palm can still be greased, mind you.

In case you wanted to show your support for the Ravens running back during his time off for knocking his wife unconscious, you can order your very own Ray Rice ladies’ jersey from the team store, for the low price of $94.95.

Or even better, you can order the shimmering pink one (with the sassy laces to cover up your cleavage) from the league for only $59.95.

Those will be perfect for the warm autumn afternoons of October, when the league goes to great pains to remind you it supports breast cancer research.

If only they showed as much respect for the rest of the woman.

Photo credit: NFLShop.com

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