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Rivera realizes pressure goes with the territory

Rivera AP

As Panthers coach Ron Rivera enters his third season on the job, he occupies one of the hotter seats in the league.  He knows it, and he’s fine with it.

Every year, there is pressure,” Rivera said Monday, via the Winston-Salem Journal.  “I’ve seen a coach that was 14-2 get fired, and last year, I saw a coach go 10-6 and get fired.  I saw a coach one year win the Super Bowl and the next year he gets fired.”

(He’s referring to Marty Schottenheimer, Lovie Smith, and frankly we’re stumped as to the coach who won a Super Bowl and was fired the next year.  Former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer got two years after winning Super Bowl XXX, and former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson’s exit was largely mutual in the months after Super Bowl XXVIII.  Feel free to un-stump us in the comments.)

“This is a performance-based industry, and I understand that,” Rivera said.  “I understand that Mr. Richardson has to sell tickets and put people in the stands, and the only real way to do that is to win. . . .  Now we have to take the next step, and I understand that.  We have to get over the hump, and I get that.  But I do appreciate the opportunity I have, and with the development of these players and the improvement we are showing, we are going in the right direction.”

It starts this weekend with a rookie minicamp.  “I’m actually really glad the draft stuff is over, because now the fun part for me is getting to see those guys in action,” Rivera said.

“Those guys” are led by a pair of defensive tackles taken in the first two rounds — Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.  Former Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, a sixth-rounder, could diversify the offense and possibly allow the team to move on from one of the various, high-priced veteran members of the running back depth chart.

Still, it could take at least a playoff berth to extend Rivera’s stay to a fourth season, given that Richardson fired G.M. Marty Hurney during the 2012 season and hired Dave Gettleman after it.  Every G.M. typically likes to hire his own coach; it’s now on Rivera to persuade Gettleman that Rivera is the guy Gettleman would hire.

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Steelers linemen on David DeCastro talks: “Pay the man”

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers are working on a contract extension for guard David DeCastro, but they’re pushing up against their self-imposed deadline of the regular season.

So according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, his linemates are doing what they can to speed things up.

Pay the man,” center Maurkice Pouncey said.

“Please, pay the man,” left guard Ramon Foster added.

Of course, the former first-round guard from Stanford is under contract through this year (after they picked up the $8 million option on his rookie deal), but they don’t want to face the prospect of losing him for nothing in free agency after the season.

“He deserves [to get paid], and hopefully they can get it done so he can stay around for a long time,” Pouncey said. “One thing I know for sure is that we have to sign him before that first game.”

DeCastro termed the talks between his side and the team as “Nothing really,” though that could change in an instant.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t think about it, but at the same time, it is just so hard to dwell on it,” DeCastro said. “You have practice every day and you have other things to worry about to keep your mind busy, so that’s a blessing.”

And before his eventual payday rolls in — whether from the Steelers now or someone else later — he knows he has the support of his linemates.

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Unsure what to do about Roberto Aguayo, Bucs are supporting him

NEW YORK - MAY 16:  Jayson Littman spreads his arms as he prepares to hug a woman May 16, 2004 in Washington Square Park In New York City.  For about the last month Jayson, a financial analyst, has been offering free hugs on Sunday from 1pm to 4pm.  (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers don’t know how to fix Roberto Aguayo at the moment.

But they know he’s theirs, so they’re going to support him.

After a rough day of practice from the rookie kicker yesterday which included heckling from his own fans, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter admitted the obvious.

He’s struggling,” Koetter said, via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s struggling a little bit right now. He has to work his way through it. We’ve talked to him. He knows what he has to do. He’s working through it.”

The former Florida State kicker never missed inside 40 yards in college, but opened his pro career by missing his first extra point in his first preseason game. He followed that with two more misses in the second game, before yesterday’s shank.

But his teammates know that they need to be there for him, especially the ones that have been scrutinized themselves. While the Bucs traded up to take Aguayo in the second round, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was the third overall pick, who needed three seasons to make a Pro Bowl.

“One thing I’ve done with him is go to him and encourage him. He’s a rookie,” McCoy said. “He was drafted high as a kicker, so a lot of expectations come with that with being the guy. Who better than me to go talk to him about being drafted high and being expected to be the guy right away? Especially with me struggling the way I did early on with injuries and not living up to expectations, who better to go talk to him?

“I just go encourage him and say ‘Hey, listen, stay the course. It’ll come along.’ ”

That’s the human thing to do, and at this point, it’s the only choice the Bucs have.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans looks on before playing against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Said Texans coach Bill O’Brien of the new kickoff rule, “When the rule was put into place, it was, I believe, intended to be put in for player safety, to monitor player safety and try to help that issue as far as big hits. What I’m seeing, though – and preseason is a lot about experimentation – are a lot of coffin corner-type kicks where teams are trying to funnel the coverage and the kick into the corner, outside the numbers.”

Peyton Manning is joining a roast of Rob Lowe, who once prematurely reported Manning’s retirement from the Colts.

Peter King was impressed by his visit to Jaguars camp.

Titans rookie OLB Kevin Dodd is eager to make his preseason debut.

Tyrod Taylor was the MVP of Bills camp.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick likes the way OT Marcus Cannon is playing in camp.

The Jets are a more boring team, which might make them a better team.

Dolphins TE Jordan Cameron says he can’t worry about his dropped touchdown pass.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger wouldn’t mind taking a hit in the preseason.

Ravens WR Mike Wallace says the team’s receiving group lifts each other up.

Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wants his players to cut down on dropped interceptions.

Browns QB Josh McCown is facing his old team in the preseason game against the Buccaneers.

Here’s an argument that the Broncos should hand the starting quarterback job to Mark Sanchez.

The Chiefs are getting healthier as the regular season approaches.

The Raiders’ quarterbacks haven’t been sacked or even hit so far in the preseason.

It may be time for Chargers owner Dean Spanos to do whatever’s necessary to get a deal done with first-round pick Joey Bosa.

Are the Cowboys primed to jump from worst to first?

Giants CB Leon Hall knows how hard it is to cover WR Victor Cruz, at least if Cruz is healthy.

Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch says he’s ready to do whatever he’s asked in Jim Schwartz’s defense.

Washington outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky hurls bags at his players’ feet during drills.

Lions DE Brandon Copeland says a preseason game against the Ravens has extra meaning.

Bears RB Jacquizz Rodgers is looking good in camp.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says he’ll play as much as coach Mike McCarthy wants in his preseason debut on Friday.

The Vikings will continue to play it safe with QB Teddy Bridgewater, who resumed throwing on Tuesday.

The Falcons want to force more turnovers.

Panthers WR Philly Brown suffered a minor shoulder injury in practice.

Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is trying to show he can be a model citizen.

Saints DB Roman Harper’s foundation is helping local school kids.

Kickoff for Sunday’s Cardinals-Texans game has been pushed back 25 minutes.

The Rams like what their tight end group can do in the passing game.

Said 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins of why the team hasn’t picked a quarterback yet, “It’s not time. It’s a competition, and [Colin Kaepernick] hasn’t had a chance to perform yet. So when that happens and when coach [Chip Kelly] feels like it’s time, we’ll do that. But right now, it’s not time. We’ve still got a ways to go before we play.”

Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin and CB Richard Sherman have a spirited competition in camp.

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Jay Gruden optimistic Josh Doctson will play Week One

FILE - In this May 14, 2016 file photo, Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Doctson, 18, works out during NFL football rookie minicamp in Ashburn, Va. Doctson is inching his way back from an Achilles tendon injury, though the Washington Redskins still don’t know when the wide receiver will be ready to practice with the team, let alone play in a game. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) AP

Last week, Washington coach Jay Gruden said he had “no expectations” for when receiver Josh Doctson would return from an Achilles injury. This week, Gruden says he has “total expectation” that Doctson will play in the first regular season game.

“He did the route tree today, which is very positive – not 100 percent yet obviously – he’s not running full-speed but he’s doing a lot more now than he did a week ago, which the progress that we see is a very, very good sign for us,” Gruden said on Tuesday. “I have total expectation that he’s going to be ready Week One, possibly the fourth preseason game, but we’ll still see. Like I said, it’s a new injury to me.”

Doctson, Washington’s first-round draft pick, is behind in practice reps because of the injury. But Gruden says that doesn’t put Doctson as far behind as it might seem.

“He’s getting all of the mental reps he can,” Gruden said. “He’s been working in the meeting rooms and he is studying the game and he is a very bright kid. He understands football, which is good.”

The wait to see what Doctson can do on the field is almost over.

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Pete Carroll: Jimmy Graham uncertain for opener, but “everything is positive” in recovery

Jimmy Graham AP

The Seattle Seahawks gave Jimmy Graham a day off on Tuesday after four heavy days of work as he continues his rehabilitation from surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right leg over the offseason.

Graham has yet to be involved in full team workouts since being activated off the physically unable to perform list two weeks ago. He’s been relegated to early work in individual drills and rehab work on side fields during team periods of practice.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Graham was evaluated and tested over the weekend with all signs pointing in the right direction. However, he’s still uncertain whether Graham will be ready for Seattle’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 11.

I’m not calling that yet. I don’t know that,” Carroll said Tuesday in an interview with Dave “Softy” Mahler on 950 KJR-AM in Seattle. “Not until we really cut him loose in practice, which next week is going to be a really important week for him. He had a great week this week. He had his best day yesterday, really a big workload and he handled everything and feels really good coming out of that. So we’ll see. There has never been that deadline in my mind. We just want to get him back when he’s ready. But he looks really good, everything is positive and he’s really fired up and that’s what he wants to do. We’ll see if we can get that done.”

Graham’s injury has proven to be a difficult one for athletes to recover from and be the player they were before the injury. New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz hasn’t played a game in nearly two years after suffering similar injuries in the 2014 season. However, Carroll believes the player he’s seeing going through rehab work on a daily basis looks every bit the player Graham was when they traded for him a season ago.

“No, he looks exactly the same. I don’t think he’s going to be any different at all when he comes back. He’s worked too hard,” Carroll said. “We’ll have to see how the rigors of the games, how that weighs on him but I don’t see that. He looks really, really good. It’s jut been a marvelous effort by Jimmy to get back and the trainers to work with him. We just need to do it in the right timing. There’s not a rush. This is a very long season and if it takes a couple extra weeks that’s fine.”

If there was any doubt about Graham’s availability early in the season, the Seahawks could have left him on the physically unable to perform list to preserve the ability to place him on the reserve/PUP list to begin the season. That move would mean Graham would be ineligible for at least the first six weeks of the year.

Bringing him back to practice as early as they did means that the team believes he’ll be ready early in the season. If not Week 1, then soon after.

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Curious Phillies will check out Tebow workout

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In 2015, Tim Tebow spent much of the offseason as an employee of the Eagles. He could possibly become an employee of the Phillies. But not likely.

Via Jim Salisbury of, Philadelphia’s Major League Baseball team will send a scout to Tebow’s baseball workout next Tuesday in L.A.

But the Phillies reportedly are merely doing due diligence, checking out Tebow in the same way they would send a scout to check out other amateur athletes hoping to play baseball.

For that reason, plenty of teams could show up to see what Tebow can do. The real question is whether anyone will hire him. It would be wise not to hold your breath, or any other bodily function, in anticipation of Tebow signing a contract to become a player on a Major League roster.

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Gordon hopes trade rumors aren’t true

Josh Gordon AP

Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Browns have fielded multiple inquiries from teams potentially interested in trading for wide receiver Josh Gordon.

After the Browns practiced vs. the Buccaneers Tuesday in Tampa, Gordon told reporters he hopes he’s not going anywhere.

“I really can’t comment on [those rumors],” Gordon said, per the Browns’ official transcript. “I’m not really sure. I haven’t heard too much about it. Cleveland is my team. That is where I want to be.”

The NFL conditionally reinstated Gordon last month. He’s suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, and assuming he stays out of trouble he’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. These practices against the Bucs are Gordon’s first work vs. another team since Dec. 2014, when he played five games after being reinstated.

He was suspended for all of last season. Schefter’s report said the Browns didn’t want to trade Gordon, and the team quickly shot down the rumors.

“[Browns Owner] Mr. (Jimmy) Haslam, the organization and [Browns coach Hue] Jackson, I think the world of those guys and their decisions and this organization,” Gordon said. “They’re family. They’re showing me love and respect back to me by allowing me to stay here up to this point, and I expect to move forward with that.

“I’m excited about it. It’s where I want to be and I’m happy to be in Cleveland.”

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Marquise Goodwin leaves practice, enters concussion protocol

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 14:   Marquise Goodwin #88 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is in the NFL’s concussion protocol after leaving Tuesday’s practice.

Goodwin was examined by trainers and later escorted off the field after hitting his head on the ground while trying to make a catch.

The speedy Goodwin is trying to win a role in the Bills’ offense and has been impressive in camp. Two weeks ago, Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman praised Goodwin and said he appears to be “on a mission.”

Goodwin, who just missed qualifying for the Olympics in the long jump, is listed as a second-teamer on the Bills’ unofficial depth chart. He was limited to two games last year by injury and had 17 of his 20 career catches as a rookie in 2013.

Though the Bills expect Sammy Watkins to play in this weeks preseason game, they’re still shorthanded at receiver. Bills Coach Rex Ryan told reporters that Marcus Easley and rookie Kolby Listenbee aren’t close to returning.

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Report: Harrison’s NFL interview set for Thursday

Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The NFL has scheduled Steelers linebacker James Harrison’s meeting with league investigators regarding performance-enhancing drugs allegations made in an Al-Jazeera report for this Thursday, Aug. 25.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the change in date, which meets the initial requirements set forth by the NFL that players named in the report interview by Aug. 25. The league threatened to suspend players who refused to interview.

The NFLPA sent a letter on behalf of Harrison last week in which Harrison agreed to an interview. The initial date for that interview was Aug. 30.

Last week, Harrison told reporters the NFL has no credible evidence against him and proposed that his interview be broadcast live.

Packers players Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are scheduled to interview Wednesday. Harrison’s interview will take place before the Steelers fly to New Orleans for their Friday night preseason game.

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Karlos Williams visits the Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Karlos Williams #29 of the Buffalo Bills avoids Demario Davis #56 of the New York Jets to score a third quarter touchdown at MetLife Stadium on November 12, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Free agent running back Karlos Williams didn’t get any takers on waivers, but he is drawing some interest around the league.

Williams visited the Jets today, Sal Capaccio of WGR in Buffalo reports. The Jets are one of five teams that have reached out to show interest in Williams.

At the moment, all of that interest appears to be more of a feeling out process than an immediate contract offer. Williams won’t be able to play for the first four weeks of the season anyway because he’s under suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, and teams will need to be convinced that Williams won’t cause problems off the field before anyone will sign him. There are also concerns about Williams’ weight after he showed up to camp out of shape.

Williams is undeniably a talented player, and he made a number of big plays as a rookie for the Bills last season. If Williams can get in shape and stay out of trouble, he may still make plenty of big plays for some team this season. It could be the Jets, even if they’re not ready to sign him just yet.

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Jeremy Mincey announces retirement

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Former Cowboys, Broncos and Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey announced his retirement Tuesday.

Mincey, who played the last two seasons for the Cowboys, posted a picture on Instagram along with a thank-you letter in which he announced that he’s finished playing.

His contract with the Cowboys expired after last season. Mincey also had elbow surgery in the offseason after an elbow issue slowed him last season.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that Mincey, 32, had offers from interested teams but opted to retire. Mincey had 26 sacks over nine NFL seasons and six in 2014 with the Cowboys.

A sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2006, Mincey also spent time with the 49ers before he made his regular season debut with the Jaguars in 2007. He played for the Jaguars until 2013, when he was released and finished the season with the Broncos.

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Steelers keep linebacker Vince Williams with extension

Vince Williams, Ryan Shazier AP

The Steelers announced Tuesday that they’ve signed inside linebacker Vince Williams to a new, three-year contract.

Williams, a sixth-round pick in 2013, has been a valuable inside linebacker and special teamer in all three of his previous seasons. He’s again listed second on the depth chart at one of the team’s two inside linebacker spots as the Steelers prepare for the 2016 season.

Williams has played in 47 games and started 13 in his career. He was very much in the middle of last year’s Steelers-Bengals heated moments that turned into offseason social media chatter that’s stoked the rivalry between the two teams.

Known as a run stopper, Williams also produced two fumble recoveries, a pass breakup and split a sack last season.

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Senquez Golson expects to return to Steelers this year

Senquez Golson AP

The first chapter of cornerback Senquez Golson’s Steelers career was a bust due to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the entire season.

Chapter two didn’t get off to a better start. Golson has been out since suffering a Lisfranc injury early in training camp, but he said Tuesday that this season will not play out the same way as the last one. The 2015 second-round pick vowed to return to the field in time to make his Steelers debut.

“I’ll definitely be back this year,” Golson said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m thinking sometime in November. For sure by the end of November, I’ll be full speed back.”

November is a long time to wait for a player who hasn’t seen much practice time since the Steelers drafted him, but the rule change allowing teams to wait on designating a player to return would seem to leave that door open. It would likely shut quickly if the Steelers need to use that spot for a player who has been more involved in the last two years, however.

In the meantime, the Steelers are visiting with Keenan Lewis about joining a cornerback group with plenty of question marks beyond the ones about Golson’s status for this season.

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Hall of Fame Game lawsuit re-filed in California, dismissed in Ohio

Football fans express their displeasure as it is announced that the preseason NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was cancelled due to unsafe field conditions, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Richard) AP

The NFL’s decision to embrace L.A. as a location for the Rams also means the NFL will from time to time have to embrace the L.A. civil justice system.

The lawsuit seeking compensation for fans who attended the Hall of Fame Game earlier this month in Canton, Ohio has been voluntarily dismissed without prejudice from federal court in Ohio and re-filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. To support the choice of the L.A. area as the forum, the class representative, Greg Herrick, is a resident of L.A. who purchased a ticket to the Hall of Fame Game and traveled to Ohio for it.

The lawsuit also points out that the NFL has four teams in California “including one within this district” — the Rams.

The allegations aren’t significantly different than the prior version of the lawsuit; the biggest change appears to come from allegations based on statements made by Colts punter Pat McAfee in a podcast the day after the canceled game. It’s likely that revised legal claims eventually will be filed to allege, among other things, fraud in the concealment of the cancellation of the game from the fans who had assembled at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium for it.

The biggest reason for the decision to proceed in federal court in Los Angeles likely comes from the belief that the combination of the judge, the jury pool, and the appeals court will lead to a better outcome for the plaintiffs. For that reason, the NFL and the Hall of Fame likely will fight the choice of venue, attempting to secure a transfer of the case to a more favorable location.

Picking the best forum is a key aspect of good lawyering. The NFL did that last year, when filing the initial lawsuit regarding Tom Brady’s suspension in federal court in Manhattan, before the NFL Players Association could filed a lawsuit attacking the suspension in federal court in Minneapolis.

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Chuck Pagano: Antonio Cromartie is a perfect fit

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets warms up prior to playing the Oakland Raiders in their NFL game at Coliseum on November 1, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been part of three teams that have sent the Colts packing from the playoffs over the course of his career, but if he has a hand in ending their season this year it will come while wearing a Colts uniform.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn’t seem to have much fear of that happening while discussing the decision to sign Cromartie on Tuesday, however. Pagano called Cromartie a perfect fit for the team’s defense who won’t need much time to catch up on the system because of similarities to systems he played in with the Jets and Chargers.

“Long, athletic, fast,” Pagano said, via the team’s website. “Ball skills, intelligent, smart, knows the game as well as anybody I’ve been around.”

What made Cromartie a particularly good fit for the Colts right now is the fact that he’s healthy. Cornerbacks Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson, Darius Butler, D’Joun Smith and Jalil Smith are all dealing with injuries of varying magnitudes, leaving a big hole to fill on the back end of the defense.

Cromartie didn’t look capable of filling it for much of last season with the Jets, although he says a groin injury contributed to his struggles and that he feels he can “still play at a high level” now that he’s healthy. If he can, his fit in Indianapolis will be a perfect one on several levels.

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