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Russell Shepard says he “signed” with Eagles during draft

Shepard Getty Images

Every year, at least one player admits that a team engaged in shenanigans near the end of the draft, striking a deal with the player as a free agent before the draft was over.

Last year, it was quarterback Chandler Harnish, who said he had a deal with the Chargers before the Colts took him with the last pick in the process.

This year, it’s LSU receiver Russell Shepard, who claims that he agreed to terms with the Eagles before the draft ended.

I actually took myself off the draft board during the draft,” Shepard told WNXX radio, via LouisianaDaily.com.  “Teams started calling me probably in the middle of the sixth round asking me ‘Is it true that you’ve signed with a team already?’ and I actually got it out of the way before the draft was over, because that was the perfect fit for me.”

The host asked for clarification, and Shepard gave it.

“I signed with them before the draft was over,” Shepard said, explaining that after he fell through round five he decided to focus on the Eagles.  Shepard believes he’ll play receiver, running back, and Wildcat quarterback in Philly’s offense, and that he’ll return kicks and punts and play gunner on the punt team.

Shepard also said that Eagles coach Chip Kelly personally called Shepard at the beginning of the sixth round to explain that the Eagles couldn’t draft him because the team had lost some picks via the trade up to get quarterback Matt Barkley at the top of round four.

If this is all true, Kelly and the Eagles could be losing some more draft picks.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 27:  Max Bullough #53 of the Houston Texans wraps up Harry Douglas #83 of the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

When serving as a Bills assistant gets frustrating, Ed Reed hits golf balls.

An attempt to project Dolphins WR Kenny Stills‘ output for the coming season.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman will hold a football clinic for women.

The Jets will hold six public practices during training camp.

LB Zachary Orr is pushing for a starting job with the Ravens.

Kim Wood reminisces about his long run as the Bengals strength coach.

Browns LB Scooby Wright found some admirers during offseason work.

The Steelers spent about $1 million to restore a sculpture on one of Pittsburgh’s bridges.

TE Stephen Anderson generated some positive buzz with the Texans this spring.

Rookie LB Antonio Morrison’s toughness impressed the Colts heading into the draft.

The Jaguars picked a company to install new video displays at their stadium.

Will WR Harry Douglas make the Titans this year?

Running back for the Broncos seems a better career pursuit than portrait artist for C.J. Anderson.

Chiefs wide receivers Chris Conley and Albert Wilson hope working out with Jeremy Maclin leads to improvement.

Former Raiders LB Kirk Morrison shared some thoughts with the team’s rookies.

Chargers WR Tyrell Williams made a big first impression on the field last season.

Will WR Devin Street win a spot on the Cowboys roster?

Andre Williams is facing new competition in the Giants backfield.

Eagles LB Jordan Hicks is heading to the altar.

Confidence is rising for Redskins QB Kirk Cousins.

The Bears have 34 players left from last year’s opening roster.

Is Lions QB Matthew Stafford one of the league’s most overpaid players?

The Packers want RB John Crockett to take on a bigger role that includes special teams.

Mark Brunell thinks the Vikings are set up well for the coming season.

If CB C.J. Goodwin makes the Falcons, Mel Blount will get some credit for getting him on the NFL radar.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen’s 1969 Camaro sold to NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick for $100,000 at a charity auction.

Cooper Kupp, grandson of former Saints G Jake Kupp, could be a high draft pick in 2017 as a receiver.

The Buccaneers expect to make several roster tweaks in the next couple of months.

The relationship between Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and coach Bruce Arians is a strong one.

Linebackers coach Frank Bush was miked up for a recent Rams practice.

49ers LB Navorro Bowman had 500 kids at his football camp.

Marshawn Lynch is expected to be at Seahawks CB Richard Sherman’s charity softball game next month.

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Rita Benson LeBlanc says she’ll still own part of Saints after settlement

LeBlanc Getty Images

Even after a settlement reached earlier this month between Saints owner Tom Benson and a group of his former heirs, the granddaughter who was effectively cut out of the will maintains she’ll still have a role.

Rita Benson LeBlanc, who was fired by her grandfather in December 2014, told Bruce Schoenfeld of Sports Business Daily that she’d always have some connection to the Saints and Pelicans.

“No matter what happens in the litigation,” she said, “I’ll still be a partial owner.”

Details of the settlement have been few. In fact, the settlement may have been hastened along specifically to keep details of the family businesses out of the public eye. But throughout the ugly family squabble, LeBlanc (who was fired along with her mother and her brother) has stayed out of the public eye.

She’s still involved in many local charitable affairs, but no longer attends league meetings or has any other apparent dealings with the team.

“I wouldn’t say I’m happy,” she said. “I’m fulfilled. I don’t have a private life. There’s miserable things in the press and miserable things that aren’t being reported. No family should have to go through this.”

The story details some of the uglier parts of the split with the family, and describes her as someone saddened by her loss of contact with other NFL owners as well as her grandfather. It’s not much of a peek behind the curtain at a woman who was the presumptive heir to the franchise, but it does underscore how bitter the squabble truly became.

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Irving Fryar released after 8 months of 5-year prison sentence

Irving Fryar, Allene McGhee AP

Former NFL wide receiver Irving Fryar is out of prison after serving just eight months of a five-year sentence for mortgage fraud.

Fryar was released this month and placed in New Jersey’s Intensive Supervision Program for nonviolent offenders, Philly.com reports.

At the time he was convicted of conspiring with his mother to defraud various lending institutions, Fryar was pastor at the New Jerusalem Church of God. He will return to that position now that he’s been released.

Fryar and his mom fraudulently used the same property to take out mortgages from multiple lenders. His mom got three years of probation.

The 53-year-old Fryar was an All-American at Nebraska, the first overall pick in the 1984 NFL draft and a five-time Pro Bowler for the Patriots, Dolphins and Eagles, although his off-field issues sometimes overshadowed his on-field excellence. He missed the AFC Championship Game in his second NFL season because he had injured his hand in a fight with his wife and was arrested on weapons charges a couple years after that. He retired after the 2000 season with 851 catches for 12,785 yards and 84 touchdowns.

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NFL making $10 million donation to sexual violence prevention groups

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The NFL is preparing to put its wallet behind efforts to end sexual violence.

According to Lindsay Jones of USA Today, the league is going to announce $10 million in funding over the next five years to a group of non-profits working to prevent sexual violence.

“What I can’t stress enough is the potential for this progress and how excited we are to be standing behind these organizations because their goals are so lofty and this is such a huge moment in sexual violence. To be able to use these moments and actually make real change, it’s something that we really believe in,” Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility said. “The coalition really believes they can end sexual violence in a generation and they’ve convinced the NFL that they can do it, and that’s really huge and exciting and something that we’re going to be watching closely and following for many years.”

Of course, the league’s going to have to convince plenty of people they’re serious about the efforts, after Ray Rice initially drew a two-game suspension for punching his wife in the face — before video of the incident emerged and caused them to handle such matters more seriously.

The new donations are going to a group called Raliance, a coalition between the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

The NFL met with the NSVRC after the Rice and Greg Hardy situations, and helped to fund sexual assault hotlines. Now, they’re taking a step to become a more active partner with the groups trying to bring changes in patterns of behavior, hopefully doing more than writing a check.

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Bills are in no hurry to build a new stadium

GettyImages-493260416.0 Getty Images

The league is nudging the Bills to begin the process of replacing Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills aren’t budging, yet.

“We have not met and discussed anything relative to all the noise,” Bills president Russ Brandon said regarding a public and private group formed previously for discussing a new stadium, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “We have not met since April [2014], right after Ralph [Wilson] passed away, on a new stadium. . . . We’re going to take a very slow, quantitative, objective view on what makes sense.”

Here’s what makes sense: With the national mood (except in Las Vegas) changed dramatically when it comes to subsidizing billionaires with taxpayer money for football stadiums, any effort to force the issue now would likely force ownership to pay for most of it themselves — which would force them to consider the basic nuts-and-bolts business decision regarding whether to pay for their own stadium in one of the smallest markets in the league, or whether to pay for their own stadium in a considerably larger market.

Carruci points out that Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has criticized the NFL for pushing the Bills to build a new stadium that would generate all sorts of new revenue, in theory. Brandon isn’t sure that a new stadium would have that effect.

“The key is to realize that we are not L.A.,” Brandon said. “We are not Atlanta. We’re not Minneapolis. People say, ‘Oh, we’re very similar to Minneapolis.’ They have 28 Fortune 500 companies in that community. We have zero. We have to be a regional operation. We know that. That’s proven.”

The absence of a large corporate presence means that there will be far fewer buyers for high-end products like suites.

“With a new stadium comes new economics,” Brandon added. “And with new economics comes a public-private partnership, [Personal Seat Licenses], a lot of infrastructure cost. So we have to look at it in a very macro view and make sure that, as a community and as an organization, that there’s a partnership that exists that makes sense.”

That’s another way of saying that the Bills won’t be building a new stadium without taxpayer money. With taxpayer money currently harder to come by, the Bills aren’t willing to force the issue at a time when the issue could force the team out of town. If/when the Bills believe sufficient public money is available, that’s when a new stadium would likely be pursued.

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Medicinal marijuana advocates speak with NFLPA officials

NFLPA

The medicinal marijuana movement started by former Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe seems to be gaining some steam, and they’re trying to pick up a significant ally in the process.

According to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, one of the doctors Monroe’s working with the advocate research into cannabidiols as a pain management option has talked to NFLPA officials about their role in advancing the cause.

Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said he spoke with Nyaka Niilampti, the union’s director of player wellness. Much like a recent call with a pair of NFL medical officials, the session was informational, offering background on their research and the possible benefits.

“It’s really with the PA more than it is the league at this point, because they’re the ones from whom we need help,” Bonn-Miller said. “They’re in the process of circling back around to us to continue the conversation about whether they can help us out.”

Monroe, a growing number of former players and now Titans outside linebacker Derrick Morgan has been beating the drum for more research into compounds called CBDs as an option to the league’s use of opioid pain-killers.

But the researchers hope that adding the NFLPA in their fight against an NFL that has seemed hesitant at best to change their view on anything regarding marijuana (which is legal in two of the 31 cities they do business in).

“Our conversation with the NFL and Players Association has not been about policy,” Bonn-Miller said. “They are reaching out to us to learn more about the research. That’s honestly the most I could ask for at this point — a productive dialogue.”

It’s at least a first step, but getting the players union on board would likely only embolden more players to become advocates, as Monroe and Morgan have.

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Sexual assault trial of C.J. Spillman to begin Monday

C.J. Spillman Getty Images

Former NFL cornerback C.J. Spillman will finally be tried on sexual assault charges stemming from a 2014 incident at the team hotel of the Dallas Cowboys.

According to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, Spillman’s trial is set to begin Monday at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Fort Worth, Tex.

Spillman was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Tex. on Sept. 20, 2014. Spillman wasn’t officially charged until June 30, 2015 and Spillman played the remainder of the 2014 season with the Cowboys while charges were pending.

He has not been on an NFL roster since the conclusion of the 2014 season.

The charges against Spillman are for second degree felony sexual assault, which could bring between two and 20 years in prison, if convicted.

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Alan Roach to leave Broncos to become Vikings public address announcer

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After 16 years as public address announcer of the Denver Broncos, Alan Roach is returning home to Minnesota to become the public address announcer of the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In a post on his own website, Roach announced the move back to his Minnesota roots.

“Having grown up in Minnesota my entire childhood, the Minnesota Vikings have always provided for me what I see in the eyes of Bronco’s fans,” Roach wrote. ” I was raised and trained as a Bronco, but long ago I was born a Viking.  I will become the PA announcer at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Vikings starting this August.  I’ll be living a dream!”

Roach joined the Broncos in 1999 after the consecutive Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998. He’s worked with the Broncos, Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Rockies, and four Winter Olympics. He also served as the public address announcer for eight straight Super Bowls beginning with Super Bowl XL in 2005 between the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers, and concluding with Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.

Roach is originally from Slayton, Mn.

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Jaelen Strong, George Atallah join Tuesday’s PFT Live

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Jaelen Strong #11 of the Houston Texans makes a catch against Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

Slow time or not, there’s still plenty happening in the NFL. On Tuesday morning, we’ll devote three hours (as we do every weekday morning) to reviewing all of the latest in the sport that never has any actual downtime — even in the down time.

Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio includes visits from Texans receiver Jaelen Strong and NFLPA spokesman George Atallah.

Strong, who recently conducted a football camp in Philadelphia, will talk about the improvements he has made entering his second season and the team’s prospects with a new starting quarterback in the fold.

Atallah’s appearance is tied to the ongoing dispute over the investigation sparked by the Al Jazeera PED allegations. We’ve also invited the NFL to have someone address the situation, either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Later in the week, we’ll have Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and Cardinals running back David Johnson, both of whom will discuss the NFL Films All or Nothing series that debuts Friday on Amazon.com.

All PFT Live shows are available via podcast at iTunes or audioBoom. Subscribe now, and all shows will be delivered to your chosen device for listening at your leisure.

But don’t be too leisurely. With three hours of new content every day, you’ve got to keep up.

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NFL cites “shared responsibility” with NFLPA to investigate Al Jazeera allegations

al-jazeera-america Getty Images

The simmering controversy between the NFL and the NFL Players Association regarding a December report from Al Jazeera implicating multiple players finally has hit full boil.

After months of delays resulting from an apparent inability of the two sides to agree as to the necessity and scope of an investigation following a report that implicated Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, free-agent defensive lineman Mike Neal, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, the two sides have gone public with their dispute.

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

The NFL, which informed the non-retired players that they’ll be interviewed at the outset of training camp, has since responded.

“The NFLPA and NFL are obligated and have a shared responsibility to look into allegations that could impact the integrity of competition on the field and the health of our players,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have been obtaining and reviewing numerous records, conducting multiple interviews and working with other entities. We have made no conclusions but the report merits a review, including interviews with the players named.”

The NFLPA wasn’t impressed by the explanation.

“The only thing we are saying to the league is, ‘Show us what credible evidence you have, so that we can understand what the basis of your investigation is,'” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told Kaboly. “Because if the basis of your investigation is simply four sentences of dialogue exchanged in this media report from a guy who took back everything he said in a YouTube video, that’s not enough. . . . It’s not like there is some positive test or missed test out there. Literally, this is only about the media report from December. . . . So we have asked them to clarify what their [additional] evidence is, and they have so far told us nothing about that.”

The case raises an important question regarding the quality and nature of allegations that will trigger an investigation into potential PED violations unrelated to a positive test. It’s one thing for a player to be implicated in, for example, a criminal investigation of a doping lab. It’s another for allegations not confirmed or corroborated to result in a full-blown probe.

There’s a line that falls somewhere between justification for an investigation and a P.R.-driven fishing expedition. It’s unclear where that line is, but this specific situation could help define it in future cases.

Atallah will join Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss the issue in further detail. An invitation also has been extended to the league.

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Report: Lombardi’s split from Patriots may not have been mutual

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When word first emerged that former Brown G.M. Mike Lombardi no longer is working for the Patriots, it was suggested that the split was mutual. A new report suggests that it may not have been as mutual as initially believed.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that an unnamed league source characterized the move as Lombardi wanting to stay but the Patriots choosing not to renew his contract.

Volin suggests that the Patriots’ decision to move on coincided with the conclusion of Lombardi’s Cleveland contract. The Patriots, in theory, could have paid Lombardi a relatively small amount, with the Browns on the hook for the difference between the amount received from the Patriots and the amount that Lombardi was due to receive from the Browns.

Also, Volin writes that it’s believed Lombardi had only one ally in the building — coach Bill Belichick — and Volin contends that Lombardi’s contributions over the last two years were “a bit overstated.”

Lombardi worked in the media before joining the Browns and then the Patriots. He’s believed to be looking for work in the media again.

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Training camps: When, where and key dates for all 32 teams

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Will Allen

In a little more than four weeks, the first NFL training camps open.

Only 11 teams are going away for camp, both because many teams just find it easier to stay in their multi-million dollar facilities and because the new CBA cut down on camp time and on-field hours.

Though all teams can report for camp 15 days before their preseason opener, each team manages open practices and some early workouts differently. Below is a list of every team’s first full practice; teams that leave their home sites/facilities for camp are noted, as are key training camp dates.

AFC

Baltimore Ravens

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Open practices at M&T Bank Stadium Aug. 1 and Aug. 6

Buffalo Bills – at St. John Fisher College, Rochester

First practice: July 30

Cincinnati Bengals

First practice: July 29

Key dates: The Bengals host the Vikings for joint practices Aug. 10-11

Cleveland Browns

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Aug. 6, intrasquad scrimmage at Ohio Stadium in Columbus; Aug. 23-24 practices with the Buccaneers in Tampa

Denver Broncos

Official dates have not been released. The Broncos host the 49ers for joint practices Aug. 17-18.

Houston Texans

First practice: July 31

Key dates: Joint practices at 49ers Aug. 12 and vs. the Saints Aug. 18-19

Indianapolis Colts – at Anderson University, Anderson, Ind.

First practice: July 27

Jacksonville Jaguars

Official dates have not been released. The Jaguars will host the Buccaneers for joint practices Aug. 17-18.

Kansas City Chiefs – at Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Mo.

First practice: July 30

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins haven’t yet released official camp dates.

New England Patriots

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Joint practices with the Saints (Aug. 9-10) and Bears (Aug. 15-16).

New York Jets

First practice: July 28. Only six practices will be open to the public.

Oakland Raiders – at Napa Valley, Ca.

The Raiders haven’t yet released official camp dates.

Pittsburgh Steelers – at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Aug. 9-10 joint practices with the Lions

San Diego Chargers

First practice: July 30

Key dates: Joint practice with Cardinals Aug. 16 in Qualcomm Stadium

Tennessee Titans

First practice: July 30

Key dates: Aug. 6 stadium practice open to fans

NFC

Arizona Cardinals

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Joint practice at Chargers Aug. 16

Atlanta Falcons

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Aug. 5 “Friday Night Lights” practice at Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga.

Carolina Panthers – at Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.

First practice: July 28

Chicago Bears – at Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Aug. 6 practice at Soldier Field; Aug. 15-16 joint practices at the Patriots

Dallas Cowboys – at Oxnard, Ca.

First practice: July 30

Detroit Lions

First practice: July 29, though the Lions have not yet released a full camp schedule.

Key dates: Aug. 9-10 joint practices at the Steelers

Green Bay Packers – at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis.

First practice: July 26

Key dates: July 31, Family Night at Lambeau Field

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams haven’t yet released a full camp schedule.

Minnesota Vikings – at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Min.

Key dates: Joint practices vs. Bengals in Cincinnati Aug. 10-11

New York Giants

First practice: July 29

New Orleans Saints – at The Greenbrier, White Sulfur Springs, W.V.

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Joint practices at the Patriots Aug. 9-10 and at the Texans Aug. 18-19

Philadelphia Eagles

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Open practices at Lincoln Financial Field on July 31 and Aug. 14

San Francisco 49ers

Exact camp dates not yet announced. The 49ers will host the Texans for a joint practice Aug. 12, then visit Denver for joint practices Aug. 17-18.

Seattle Seahawks

First practice: July 30

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First practice: July 30

Key dates: Joint practices at the Jaguars (Aug. 17-18) and vs. the Browns (Aug. 23-24)

Washington Redskins – at Bon Secours Training Center, Richmond, Va.

First practice: July 28

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Saints still plan to hold camp in West Virginia, hope to help those affected by floods

New Orleans Saints training camp, Drew Brees AP

The Saints released a statement Monday evening affirming their plans to hold training camp at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Greenbrier County was hit by devastating floods last week. The PGA Tour event scheduled for The Greenbrier resort July 7-10 was canceled, and residents of the area have dealt with much larger issues than which pro athletes might be coming to town.

“Unfortunately, our community is very familiar with the loss of life and property these weather disasters can cause,” the team’s statement said. “We are working to assist those affected where we can.”

The statement said the Saints will continue to monitor the situation and “look for ways the organization can contribute in a positive way” this summer. The team encourages those who want to help to visit the United Way of Greenbrier Valley.

The Saints are scheduled to report to training camp July 27. They began holding training camp at The Greenbrier in 2014.

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Lawyer says Skuta was the victim, not the aggressor

dan-skuta2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NFLPA questions what evidence NFL has to justify PED investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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