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Ryan Clark: Be physical with RG3

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Steelers safety Ryan Clark, a still-active player who is spending the week at ESPN, continues to share trade secrets and opinions about players he may be facing again at some point in his career, either in 2013 or beyond.

On Thursday, Clark talked about how to handle Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, based on the manner in which the Steelers handled Griffin during a 27-12 win over Griffin’s team.

“Our goal was to be physical with him at any opportunity we had, and I think it affected his play,” Clark said.

It surely did.  Griffin had only 177 yards passing, and he gained only eight yards on six carries.

The Steelers’ approach included Clark applying a big, high hit to Griffin as he ran a pass route on a gadget play.  “We were focused on being physical with him,” Clark said.  “When they ran the read-option, he was the guy we were focused on.  [We] had James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on him at every chance and every opportunity that we got, just so he knew every play, he was gonna be hit.”

It’s rare and intriguing candor from a player who is still playing, but it makes us wonder how the Steelers really feel about one of their guys talking about how they approach certain situations.  While it makes sense for Clark to lay the foundation for a post-football career in the media (especially since he won’t have the star power that will instantly get him hired), Clark’s nonchalance when it comes to talking about how to stop Griffin or his perception that Tom Brady sees “ghosts” and Danny Amendola is “fragile” could be unnecessarily providing ammunition for motivation.

And while we realize the Steelers won’t face the Redskins again in the regular season until 2016, the two teams in theory could cross paths in February of any given year.

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NFL uses eye-tracking technology to improve game presentation

The NFL has decided to take steps aimed at improving the TV presentation of its games, with specific focus on pace. To do that, the league actually went to the homes of fans to “replicat[e] the game experience.”

That’s what NFL COO Tod Leiweke told the second annual Geek Wire Sports Tech Conference at CenturyLink Field, via Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.

“We’re really starting to study how people are watching games,’’ Leiweke said. “And we’re doing it in really, really interesting ways.’’

Among other things, the league is using eye-tracking technology in fan homes to monitor the things they follow during the games, along with what they do during commercial breaks. The study has contributed to a decision to reduce the total number of commercial breaks from five per quarter to four.

“They want a pace of play that doesn’t involve us chopping things up,’’ Leiweke said. “[Y]ou’re going to see, next [season] really working hard to tighten up that game presentation and present the game with more of that pace.’’

It’s all part of an effort to deal with any ever-changing present that continues to raise questions about the future, given the explosion of options that consumers now have when it comes to the many different ways to spend their time — considerably more than the days when the options were to watch one of three channels on TV, read a book or a magazine, or stare off into space like David Puddy.

“Anyone who thinks they know exactly what’s going to happen is not telling you the truth,’’ Leiweke said. “Because it’s very, very hard to tell, in this rapidly changing world, what this is all going to look like in 2025.’’

It’s very, very to tell what it’s all going to look like in 2017. For those who watch NFL games, it’s apparently going to start looking a lot different.

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Report: Dorsey decision fueled by concerns over communication, management style

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Typically, the reasons for the firing of a G.M. are clear, either because the team has stunk or the organization has clumsily leaked the reasons in advance of the move. In Kansas City, it’s still not clear why the General Manager of a team that has made it to the playoffs three times in four years was dumped on the same day the head coach was extended.

According to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star, concerns about communication and management styles contributed at least in part to the seemingly abrupt decision to part ways with G.M. John Dorsey.

John does stuff and doesn’t tell people why,” an unnamed source told Paylor regarding the decision to move on from a pair of executives, Trip MacCracken and Will Lewis, without much internal explanation. Another unnamed source told Paylor that Dorsey’s management style “could wear on people.”

“He’s not a big disciplinarian or big on chain of command, so people did what they wanted,” an unnamed source told Paylor.

“It’s more about his management skills,” another unnamed source told Paylor.

It’s unclear what was done to remedy the situation before taking the drastic step of firing a G.M. who had been getting the job done, or whether Dorsey had been put on notice of his deficiencies before termination became the right move for the Chiefs. The circumstances invite speculation that coach Andy Reid, who received an extension on the same day Dorsey got a pink slip, at a minimum approved of the move and at maximum wanted it. It’s also possible, however, that owner Clark Hunt simultaneously evaluated both men and decided that one should get extra additional years with the team and the other should get none.

Regardless, the termination happened so swiftly and surprisingly to people outside and inside the organization that it’s easy to wonder whether a man now accused of having a subpar management style was also the victim of substandard management practices.

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Vacation (not really) starts tomorrow

It’s vacation time here at PFT. Which means, basically, nothing.

The work never stops because the news never stops and, frankly, none of this is really work. So as I embark on a four-week mandatory vacation (that sounds so much better than “suspension”) from PFT Live, a flood of new stories will continue to be posted here every day at PFT, and new audio/video content will continue to appear on a daily basis, even if PFT Live will be on hiatus from NBCSN (thanks, Tour de France) and replacements will be handling the weekday radio show on NBC Sports Radio.

On most of the weekdays over the next four weeks I’ll be taping a podcast that will replace the daily PFT Live podcasts. The podcasts will be available on Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else you get the PFT Live podcast.

So, basically, whether you’re working or on vacation we’re going nowhere. Which means we hope you’ll continue to park right here, multiple times per day every day.

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Should NFL hold its draft before free agency?

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The question was posed during Thursday night’s NBA draft in the form of a Twitter poll, and NFL fans who are typically reluctant to change embraced the idea by a 12-point margin: Hold the NFL draft before NFL free agency.

Basketball and hockey both do it. Perhaps the NFL should, too.

For veteran players, the knee-jerk reaction would be that they don’t want their looming paydays to be usurped by younger and cheaper draft picks, as teams fill needs by adding rookies in lieu of paying veterans. But what about the teams that don’t get what they want or need in the draft? At that point, a premium could be paid to add a talented veteran free agent because there’s no “screw it we’ll just draft someone” fallback.

One practical impediment to what would be a dramatic change to the offseason calendar comes from the intense time and effort devoted to the draft from the moment football season ends. With the Scouting Combine and Pro Days and team visits and private workouts, the draft couldn’t be moved up by very much if at all, thereby delaying free agency into April, and perhaps May. With offseason programs opening in April, that’s hardly ideal.

So while it’s fun to think about teams first drafting players and then signing veterans, the NFL isn’t likely to change its approach any time soon. Unless the NFL decides that there’s plenty of money to be made by turning the offseason on its head.

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Mark Cuban hopes to emulate Jerry Jones

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Two of the highest-profile American sports owners run their teams in Texas, where everything that’s bigger includes the egos of business moguls. But there seems to be no negativity between Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Cuban recently expressed excitement and praise for Jones, as he prepares to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Hopefully I emulate all this,” Cuban said, “Jerry had two goals: One, to be successful in business and he knew he had to sell, and two, to win. And when you’re trying to be successful usually someone’s not going to take kindly to the way you do it. Jerry’s always been a great salesperson and he set the example if you want to be successful it doesn’t hurt to eat, sleep and breathe your company. He’s done that and he does that to this day.”

That’s significant, given Cuban’s failed effort to back the long-dead UFL and his “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered” forecast for the grab-every-dollar NFL. But despite the flaws of pro football, Jones has been a huge part of what has made it continuously greater and greater since he bought the Cowboys in 1989. Jerry’s passion to make his franchise a success forced recalcitrant old-school owners to buy in, despite their desire to not fix things they deemed to be unbroken.

Even if something is working well, it can always be made to work better. Jones used business acumen to make that happen. Along the way he won three championships. Which is more than most owners can say, in any sport.

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Dede Westbrook has clear goals to achieve “at the beginning of the season”

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While he stopped short of reprising the Randy Moss vow to “rip up” the NFL, fellow Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook seems to have a plan for his rookie year. And he apparently plans to put it in motion quickly.

“[W]e all know what I’m capable of,” Westbrook said at an autograph session in Oklahoma, via Kendrick Marshall of the Tulsa World. “Of course, the expectations are high for me. I set goals for myself that I want to obtain at the beginning of the season.”

Drafted in round four despite off-field issues and a crowded Jacksonville depth chart, Westbrook quickly was compared to controversial 2016 Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill when the Jaguars justified the move.

“[W]hatever role they want me to play,” Westbrook said Saturday. He could be playing multiple roles, given his skills from scrimmage and in the return game. Overall, however, Westbrook realizes the transition from college to the NFL won’t be easy.

“The fact that you have to go out and practice hard each and every day — the playbook is huge,” Westbrook said. “It isn’t like college anymore, where pretty much everything is guaranteed as far as a scholarship goes. Regardless if you’re drafted or not, in the NFL you can get cut.”

That’s a very accurate observation, especially with 90-man rosters that eventually will shrink to 53. But Westbrook, if he stays out of trouble, could end up being a big part of a turnaround in Jacksonville that many have believed has been due for the past few years. Getting key contributors in the middle rounds of the draft will be one of the ingredients in building the roster of a contender, and if Westbrook reaches the goals he has for the early part of the season maybe this year will be the year the Jaguars finally match their performance to their potential.

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Terrelle Pryor working out with Antonio Brown

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Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor is still relatively new to wide receiver and his preparation for his first season at the position in Washington includes work with one of the best wideouts in the league.

Pryor posted video and pictures on social media of workouts with Steelers star Antonio Brown in recent days. Pryor spoke earlier in the offseason about plans to work with Randy Moss and Michael Irvin as well and the Redskins free agent pickup said this spring that he knows he still has a lot to learn after playing quarterback for the majority of his career.

“The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it,” Pryor said, via John Keim of ESPN.com. “They always want to learn. I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there. I’m always pinpoint in meetings, always answering questions. I jump on a question before anyone else can. I enjoy it. Once you stop learning and think you’ve got it, that’s when you lose. I never want to get to that point. I’m always curious, how to get better and how to be a dominant player and how to make people look at me and say, ‘I want to be like that.’ That’s what drives me.”

Brown, Moss and Irvin are pretty good people to go to for pointers about how to succeed as a receiver in the NFL and continued growth from Pryor will make his new team very happy he’s part of the offense in 2017.

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Aaron Rodgers hires CAA to handle off-field interests

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has made plenty of money on the field but apparently not as much as he’d like to make away from it, has made a change in his representation for the purposes of capitalizing on his name and image.

Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal reports that Rodgers has parted ways with Excel Sports Management, and he has hired CAA.

“Aaron has a clear vision for growing his brand and business off the field,” Michael Levine of CAA Sports told Mullen.

Making the move far more intriguing is the fact that CAA has become one of the largest and most successful agencies for on-field work, particularly when it comes to quarterbacks. So while Rodgers continues to be represented by David Dunn of Athletes First when it comes to Rodgers’ contract, it’s hard not to wonder whether the folks at CAA will be looking for ways to leverage the marketing relationship with Rodgers into a piece of his next big contract — especially since many believe he’s already overdue to receive one.

That said, Rodgers praised Dunn earlier this month on the issue of Rodgers’ four-year-old deal, which tied him to the Packers for three more seasons.

I have a fantastic agent, he does a great job,” Rodgers said. “He worries about that stuff. When it comes to setting the market values, I let that stuff take care of itself. I know my value in this league, and I know the team appreciates me. I’m going to continue to make myself an indispensable part of this roster. When you do that, when your time comes up to get a contract, you usually get a contract extension.”

He’s right, but the problem is that Rodgers’ current deal pushed that time too far into the future, instead of ensuring that he’d be back at the trough for a new contract while on the right side of 35, or that his compensation in the out years of a seven-year commitment would be tied to the ongoing spikes in the salary cap.

Rodgers has had a decent amount of off-field visibility during his career, fueled largely by his relationship with the State Farm insurance company. But he hasn’t parlayed his football success into the same profile that others have enjoyed, like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. He arguably hasn’t made as much money as he could have or should have playing football, either. As CAA works to improve the former, it’s fair to wonder whether they’ll be hoping for a chance to enhance the latter, too.

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Dak Prescott uses celebrity to give back

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Dak Prescott was the third quarterback on the team’s depth chart this time last year. The Cowboys expected Prescott, a fourth-round pick in 2016, to spend the season behind Tony Romo and Kellen Moore, watching, waiting and learning.

Fate happened, and Prescott became an unexpected star as a rookie. That’s the reason Prescott drew an estimated 3,000 kids to his three camps over the past week — two in Mississippi and one in North Texas.

As a successful quarterback of the Cowboys, Prescott has become a celebrity. Everyone wants to be associated with him.

Prescott called on Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Charles Haley and several current Cowboys, including Cole Beasley, to help with his camp Sunday, which drew more than 900 kids.

“I didn’t think it would be within a year,” Prescott said, via Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News. “But I’ve also envisioned being able to do something like this [with football camps in his name]. It’s been an amazing week.”

Prescott said he has other commitments before the Cowboys depart for training camp July 22, but he also plans on enjoying some off time.

“Yeah, just that, doing them all, working out, doing some other obligations that I’ve already planned and then enjoying myself,” Prescott said. “So, going out and go to a beach somewhere, hang out with the time I need. But also getting ready for football at the same time.”

Prescott has earned some time off, but it’s a safe bet, working out will remain the priority for him the next four weeks.

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Tim Tebow gets a promotion from the Mets

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Tim Tebow’s baseball career has taken another step.

According to Teddy Kulmala of The State newspaper, the former NFL quarterback has been promoted a level in the Mets organization.

Tebow has been playing in low-A Columbia, S.C., and is being bumped up to the Class A-Advanced St. Lucie Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla. after Sunday’s game.

“Tim brought an incredible amount of experience and leadership to our clubhouse,” Fireflies president John Katz said. “His contributions, both on the field and in our community, have made a tremendous impact on our team, the City of Columbia and the entire South Atlantic League. We wish Tim the best as he continues his journey to Citi Field.”

While progress is progress, Tebow isn’t exactly killing the ball. He’s hitting .222 with three home runs in 63 games, with 23 RBI.

Then again, it’s the Mets.

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Cam Newton: A Super Bowl ring is the one thing missing from my life

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is motivated by just one thing.

A Super Bowl ring, Newton told high school players at a 7-on-7 tournament he hosted, is what drives him, and the only thing he’s seeking in life.

“I’m looking at my life right now and I’m saying, ‘I’m missing one thing: I want a Super Bowl,’” Newton said, via the Charlotte Observer. “Yeah, but it’s really certain things that you have to really fine-tune and say, ‘Am I deserving to be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? How can I push myself to be a better me?’”

Newton told the young players that when he was their age, he decided success at the highest level was his only option.

“The only way I put myself in this situation to be successful was I didn’t have no plan B,” Newton said. “I told myself, at the end of the day, I’m gonna be a football player and a football player only. And a lot of guys get it misconstrued because you’re setting yourself up for failure; that’s what some people think. But in myself I was thinking, ‘I ain’t got no other alternative. Either I’m gonna dominate this man in front of me or not.’”

Newton has done plenty in football since he told himself he had no plan B: He won a Heisman Trophy and a national championship in college, and he has an MVP award in the NFL. Now he just needs that ring.

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A year later, no clarity on Peyton Manning’s next move

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The annual Manning Passing Academy has generated plenty of sound bites and speculation regarding the status of retired quarterback Peyton Manning. It started with family patriarch Archie spilling the beans about text messages exchanged by Peyton and Dolphins coach Adam Gase last December, after Ryan Tannehill injured his knee. And it has continued with the perpetual question of what Peyton will do now that he’s done playing.

“It’s definitely important for me to stay close to the game and connected to it in different ways,” Peyton Manning said, via Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “If I took a job [in the NFL] I’m sure you’d probably hear about it. I doubt it would be kept quiet.”

But for his recent hiring as as strategic advisor to Riddell (which wasn’t kept quiet because the company issued a press release), quiet continues to be the key word with Peyton, as he spends time with family, pitches an occasional product, and otherwise enjoys life after having so much of his existence consumed by football. The fact that Peyton was fully and completely consumed by the game has caused some who know him to wonder whether he’ll ever return to the full-time grind, given his propensity to take over anything and everything about a football team — and the physical and mental burden that goes along with it.

Consider this observation from former Colts punter Pat McAfee during his visit last week to PFT Live:  “[I]f [Peyton] wanted practice to restart, if he didn’t like something that was going [on], practice would restart. If he wanted a guy to make the team, that guy made the team. He kicked [receiver] Austin Collie off the field in the middle of a game before because Austin attempted to catch [the ball] with one hand. . . .

“Peyton ran the show in Indianapolis. Everything about it. He wanted a curfew at the Super Bowl, [G.M.] Bill Polian didn’t. There was a curfew. Peyton Manning just ran everything, that’s just how it went.”

And that’s likely how it would go if Peyton Manning became a G.M. or an executive with a team. It’s his nature, and it’s one of the reasons he’ll succeed at whatever he chooses to do.

The prevailing view is that he’ll wait for a chance to join an ownership group, likely as the Bon-Jovi-in-Buffalo-style front man and not as the person who owns a controlling interest in the team. That said, the money interests that put him that position need to know he’ll essentially be controlling the team.

Fear of failure could be a factor in his decision-making process, which could cause him to be even more careful about picking the right spot to return. Or maybe he’ll be happy remaining close enough to the game to have influence and generate real revenue without sticking his hand back into the flame.

Regardless, he’s earned the right to take his time and to pick his future role(s), whatever they may be. Whatever they end up being, the game will likely be better off for it.

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Louis Riddick: I haven’t heard from Chiefs about G.M. opening

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Sunday morning brought a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media that the Chiefs have reached out to ESPN analyst Louis Riddick about setting up an interview for the General Manager vacancy they created by dismissing John Dorsey last week.

That report has been disputed by someone very close to the situation. That would be Riddick himself, who took to social media on Sunday to say that word of the Chiefs’ interest has not been conveyed to him.

That doesn’t mean that the Chiefs won’t reach out to Riddick at some point, but, for now, it seems that all is quiet on that front as the Chiefs look for Dorsey’s replacement.

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Steelers expect “great deal of improvement” from tight ends

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Before the 2016 season, the Steelers signed Ladarius Green as a free agent in hopes of keeping the tight end position as a key one in the wake of Heath Miller’s retirement.

Green missed a lot of time after offseason ankle surgery, however, and ended the year in the concussion protocol, leaving the Steelers without much to show for their rare dip into the veteran free agent pool. They released Green this offseason and are moving on with Jesse James and Xavier Grimble in line for significant playing time.

James, a 2015 fifth-round pick, has 47 catches through two seasons and Grimble, who was undrafted out of USC in 2015, had 11 catches in his first regular season action last year. James said the duo is “ready to step up and make the plays we’re asked to make” and offensive coordinator Todd Haley shares that expectation.

“Jesse will be a year better with lot of playing time last year. Xavier, same thing,” Haley said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s a guy who wasn’t even sure he was going to make the team going into last year, made it and then contributed for us. They are young guys. Until you see them through that full third year, I think it should be expected there will be a great deal of improvement.”

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took issue with a report that he wanted the team to add a tight end this offseason. If James and Grimble fulfill Haley’s expectations, there probably won’t be a need to do the same in 2018.

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Report: Chiefs want to interview Louis Riddick for G.M. opening

The Chiefs made waves last week with the surprising announcement that they had dismissed General Manager John Dorsey after four years with the team.

The team’s co-directors of player personnel Mike Borgonzi and Brett Veach are expected to be candidates for a promotion, but the team will be looking outside the organization as well. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Chiefs want ESPN analyst Louis Riddick to interview for the job.

Riddick was a defensive back for several teams in the 1990s and worked in the personnel departments in Washington and Philadelphia before making the move to TV. Riddick interviewed for the 49ers General Manager vacancy earlier this year before they hired John Lynch.

Riddick said he was close to getting that job and, true or not, it looks like he’s getting another chance to make his case for running an NFL personnel department.

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