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Members of Congress to Snyder: The R-word is like the N-word

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Several members of Congress have sent a letter to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, telling him that when he promises never to change the name of his team, he’s promising to keep using a racial slur.

In the letter, Snyder is told that the word “Redskins” is deeply offensive to many American Indians, and that he has a moral obligation to change the name. The letter is signed by the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s delegate in Congress.

“Native Americans throughout the country consider the R-word a racial, derogatory slur akin to the N-word among African Americans or the W-word among Latinos,” the letter states. “Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw widespread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”

Snyder’s “NEVER — you can use caps” proclamation strongly suggests that he’s going to ignore this letter. But if members of Congress feel strongly enough about this, they can make it an issue that’s going to be very tough for the NFL to ignore.

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Undercover visit with Bears helped Mitchell Trubisky land in Chicago

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One of the biggest curveballs in the first round of the draft came when the Bears traded up to the second overall pick in order to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

49ers General Manager John Lynch traded the pick to the Bears and wondered whether the Bears would take defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (who ultimately went third to the Niners), which made sense because there weren’t too many people linking the Bears with Trubisky. It helped that the team’s trip to Chapel Hill to work out Trubisky went down with plenty of cloak and dagger employed.

Dan Wiederer of Chicago Tribune got the details of the trip, including a note that Trubisky made a dinner reservation for the group under the name James McMahon. That reference to Bears history struck General Manager Ryan Pace as a “cool” move and Pace also used some misdirection during a workout on an intramural field on the North Carolina campus.

Someone asked if Pace and company were from the Cowboys and Pace said they were and then didn’t dispute the questioner’s guess that head coach John Fox was Paul Pasqualoni. It’s good luck for Pace and company that the man wasn’t aware Pasqualoni hasn’t coached for the Cowboys since 2010. Pace’s biggest worry was that fans who spotted Fox, who used to coach the Panthers, at the airport might put pictures on social media that spilled the beans on their visit.

That doesn’t seem to have happened and the Bears obviously liked what they saw and learned from Trubisky, even if Wiederer’s consistently entertaining and engaging story makes it clear he had to combat with a talkative Fox over steaks and red wine at that aforementioned dinner. If he can do as well against NFL defenses, the Bears will have the quarterback spot locked down for a while.

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Michael Oher’s absence not just concussion-related

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Panthers left tackle Michael Oher, whose career resurgence was derailed by an early-season concussion that caused him to miss 13 games and counting, continues to be absent from the team. But it’s more than the concussion keeping him away, reportedly.

Via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers aren’t expecting Oher to show up on Tuesday for the launch of OTAs. Person reports that the absence isn’t solely related to the concussion.

Oher also is dealing with personal issues. Those included an April altercation with an Uber driver in Nashville. As Person notes, Oher also seemed to be out of shape in the mugshot arising from the Uber incident.

The Panthers haven’t written Oher off, but between the signing of Matt Kalil and the drafting in round two of Taylor Moton, Carolina seems to be preparing to move on without Oher.

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Calvin Johnson easily could have avoided bonus reimbursement

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Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who never said much during his playing career, lately has been saying plenty. Over the weekend, he said plenty about his current disillusionment with the team.

Though he opted not to spell it out, the discontent comes from the fact that Johnson had to write out a check for $320,000 to the team, representing 10 percent of the $3.2 million in unearned signing bonus money remaining on his contract when he retired.

As noted by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the team’s squeezing of Calvin for $320,000 doesn’t mesh with the decision of teams like the Cowboys and Seahawks to not recover $5 million in signing-bonus money from Tony Romo and Marshawn Lynch, respectively. So why did the Lions want 10 cents on the dollar from Johnson?

The Lions may have wanted to collect something in order to avoid setting a precedent that other players could cite if retiring before earning all of their signing-bonus money. (In 1999, they pursued every unearned penny from Hall of Fame tailback Barry Sanders.) The easy way to avoid any untoward precedent would have been to cut Johnson, severing any right to bonus reimbursement.

And that’s ultimately what Johnson should have pushed them to do. With a salary of $15.95 million and a cap number of $24 million hitting the books in March 2016, the Lions likely could have cut Johnson if he’d refused to accept a restructured deal. So he should have held firm before choosing to retire.

In February 2016, Johnson was dragging his feet about his retirement decision, prompting speculation that he hoping to be released instead, both to avoid the repayment obligation and to have the ability sign with any other team he chooses, if he ultimately were to unretire.

So while Johnson has every right to be miffed at the Lions, Johnson also should be miffed at himself. Or at whoever advised him to retire instead of biding his time until the Lions would have released him.

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Derek Carr has “complete faith” contract will be done by camp

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is heading into the final year of the deal he signed after being drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft and that’s made an extension a major topic of conversation around the team this offseason.

A report last week described Carr as growing frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations for a new deal, which General Manager Reggie McKenzie responded to by saying the team will do everything they can in order to reach an agreement with their quarterback. For his part, Carr sounds like he’s OK with where things stand.

“I have an agent who is in charge of that and I am confident that he and Mr. McKenzie will work it out,” Carr said, via Anthony Galaviz of the Fresno Bee. “I am only focused on becoming a better football player and helping my teammates become better players. I have complete faith it will get done before training camp. These things take time. The Raiders know I want to be here; this is my family, and I know they want me to be their quarterback.”

There’s no deadline to getting a deal done until it becomes time to hand out franchise tags next year and even that would only leave the Raiders with the option of using it to buy even more time to talk about a long-term extension. That doesn’t mean it will take that long, but we’re well off from any point to worry about Carr moving on from Oakland.

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Seahawks, Falcons enter OTA season with fewer OTAs than others

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Organized Team Activities, a fancy, word-wasting synonym for “football practice,” begin Monday throughout the NFL. For two of the final eight teams from a year ago, however, three of the 10 practices won’t be happening.

Both the Seahawks and the Falcons lost a week of OTA sessions — three each — due to excessive contact during 2016 offseason workouts. While the extra aggression apparently worked, with both teams making it to the divisional round in the year the rules violations occurred, it’s now time to pay the fiddler via the forfeiture of important 2017 practice time.

For the Seahawks, the loss of OTAs included a forfeited fifth-round draft pick, a $400,000 fine for the team, and a $200,000 fine for coach Pete Carroll, given that it was their third violation of the offseason rules. The Falcons apparently lost only the practice time, with the league office opting not to fine the franchise or the head coach.

Contact is inevitable when 22 football players are put on a football field in football helmets with a football introduced into the mix. As the bottom of the 90-man roster constantly churns, players who don’t get the job done end up out of a job long before the total jobs get cut from 90 down to 53.

And so football coaches are expected to get football players to operate against every football instinct they possess. It’s amazing that more violations don’t occur, and it’s likely that the NFL and the NFLPA tolerate a certain amount of contact during offseason workouts because a certain amount of contact is unavoidable.

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Bucs release Sean Renfree to make room for Ryan Fitzpatrick

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The Buccaneers made some paperwork official Monday, and parted ways with a quarterback after adding Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The team announced that the veteran quarterback officially signed his contract. To make room for him on the 90-man roster, they waived quarterback Sean Renfree.

The Bucs signed the former Falcons backup earlier this offseason. Renfree played two games for the Falcons in 2015, but was released last year in the preseason and wasn’t with a team in 2016.

The Bucs also have Ryan Griffin and undrafted rookie Sefo Liufau on the roster behind starting quarterback Jameis Winston and Fitzpatrick.

They also announced the signings of first-rounder O.J. Howard, and that restricted free agent Jacquies Smith had signed his tender.

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Jaguars sign Tyler Patmon

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The Jaguars have been spending time with several free agents of late, but the one they signed one on Monday wasn’t in any reports of visitors to Jacksonville.

The team announced that they have signed cornerback Tyler Patmon to their 90-man roster.

Patmon didn’t see any action in the regular season last year and spent the season on the practice squads of the Chiefs and Panthers after being waived by the Titans at the end of the preseason. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys in 2014, played 22 games with them over his first two seasons and returned his only interception 58 yards for a touchdown against the Cardinals.

The Jaguars have O.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey at the top of the depth chart at corner with Aaron Colvin and seventh-rounder Jalen Myrick joining Patmon among those contending for other spots in the secondary.

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Saints bring back tackle Bryce Harris

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The Saints had three years to look at Bryce Harris, but apparently another few days convinced them.

According to Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints are signing the veteran tackle, who recently attended their rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.

Harris spent his first three years with the Saints (2012-14), but was claimed off waivers by the Falcons in 2015.

He was among final cuts in Atlanta last year, and was out of football, but the Saints apparently saw enough to bring him back for another stint.

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Buccaneers sign O.J. Howard

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Another first-round pick has signed his first NFL contract.

Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard became the latest addition to the list on Monday. The team announced that Howard has signed his four-year deal, which, like all deals for first-round picks, grants them an option for a fifth season.

Howard caught 114 passes for 1,726 yards and performed well as a blocker in the running game for Alabama before showing off his speed at the Scouting Combine. That led some to project Howard as a top 10 pick, but he wound up going 19th overall to the Buccaneers.

That short drop likely came as a pleasant surprise to Jameis Winston, who will now have Howard at tight end to go with wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson in the passing game.

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Giovani Bernard to be limited in OTAs, six months after ACL tear

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Bengals running back Giovani Bernard has come along well enough after last season’s torn ACL that he can get at least some work in at organized team activities.

Bernard is expected to be a limited participant at OTAs, Katherine Terrell of ESPN reports.

In 10 games last season, Bernard had 91 carries for 337 yards and 39 catches for 336 yards. He suffered a torn ACL against the Bills on November 20.

The Bengals’ backfield has grown more crowded this offseason with the arrival of second-round draft pick Joe Mixon. Bernard may get fewer carries this year thanks to the presence of Mixon, although he’ll likely still be an important part of the passing game.

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Pardon My Take guys crash PFT Live set

Last Monday, Barstool Big Cat and PFT Commenter, hosts of the immensely popular Pardon My Take podcast, made a scheduled appearance on set with me at the temporary PFT Live studio in 30 Rock. This Monday, they made an unexpected visit to the set in my home studio.

They’d come to town as part of their second annual Grit Week tour, hanging out in the PFT barn and eating the PFT possum-flavored steak and swinging axes in the PFT woods. Before their chariot of choice, Vanny Woodhead, left for the next stop (Detroit), they walked onto the set.

It happened during the segment from Monday’s show that is attached to this post, which includes Big Cat giving back to me a Grit Week gift I’d previously given to him.

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Josh Dobbs signs with Steelers

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The Steelers took a quarterback in the draft for the first time since 2013 and they now have him under contract.

Fourth-round pick Josh Dobbs tweeted out a picture of his contract signing on Monday. He’s the sixth member of the team’s eight-player draft class to agree to a deal.

Dobbs started 35 games for the University of Tennessee and had a 53-29 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the course of his career in Knoxville. He also left school as their all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns for a quarterback.

Landry Jones signed a two-year extension this offseason so Dobbs will likley be starting out his NFL career as the No. 3 quarterback in Pittsburgh. Both moves came after Ben Roethlisberger mused about retirement earlier this year and a strong showing for Dobbs in practices could have him set to move up a couple of rungs should Roethlisberger go through with it at some point in the near future.

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L.A. stadium should want to delay Super Bowl by a year

Immediately after word broke that the new L.A. stadium will have its opening delayed by a year, the leak/spin cycle began to sell the idea that the NFL could waive its rule requiring a stadium to be open for two years before hosting a Super Bowl. As the leak/spin cycle continues, an important point is being lost in the shuffle: The folks in L.A. should want to delay the stadium’s first Super Bowl by a year.

The reason for the rule (which the leak/spin cycle most recently described to Peter King of TheMMQB.com as an “unofficial policy,” which makes it even easier to disregard) is obvious. The NFL wants to be sure that all kinks have been worked out of a new stadium before it hosts the NFL’s premiere annual 100-million-plus-viewer event.

As King notes, the leak/spin cycle points to the fact that, with the Chargers and Rams sharing the venue, it will have hosted as many NFL games as the new stadiums in Minnesota and Atlanta will host before staging a Super Bowl. The counter to that, however, is that an already hectic and stressful year, with 20 preseason and regular season games in five months, should not be made even more hectic and stressful via the extra work and effort and time and money and everything else spent in order to host a Super Bowl.

Security concerns remain paramount at the Super Bowl. From design to construction to operation of the stadium, new challenges will emerge regarding the process of letting the right people in and keeping the wrong people out. Last year in Minnesota, at the end of the first year of the new stadium’s life cycle, mischief-makers were able to make mischief with equipment they never should have been able to sneak through the doors.

While similar issues problems have happened at older stadiums (like the one in Charlotte), deviating from a rule/unofficial policy/whatever invites a big, fat I-told-you-so if anything happens that shouldn’t during Super Bowl LV.

Then there’s the possibility of further construction delays. Already behind by a full year, what if more unanticipated delays emerge? It would make much more sense to push the Super Bowl back by a year now in order to avoid having to scramble at a time when it may be much harder to reserve thousands of hotel rooms and the various large halls and other spaces needed to pull off the full Super Bowl experience.

For those reasons, the folks building the L.A. stadium shouldn’t be trying to keep their current Super Bowl in place; they should be clamoring to get it delayed. As King notes, the new venue will host multiple Super Bowls. Whether the first one happens to cap the 2020 or 2021 season shouldn’t matter.

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Panthers reorganize scouting department

The Panthers have shuffled their personnel department a bit after the departure of assistant General Manager Brandon Beane for Buffalo, passing out some titles which should keep their scouting department largely intact.

The team hasn’t named a new assistant G.M., but pro scouting director Mark Koncz was named director of player personnel.

They also bumped veteran college scouting director Don Gregory to “senior executive scout,” putting him in an overseeing role for both pro and college scouting. They named longtime college scout Jeff Morrow their new director of college scouting.

“You are always looking to improve your scouting operation,” G.M Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “We made some moves after taking a look at everything. I feel really good about our personnel group, both pro and college. We feel this strengthens us even further.”

The Panthers also named Matt Allen the new director of pro personnel, Jonathan Fields a pro scouting assistant and Eli Montague an area scout.

Photo credit: Panthers.com

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Darrelle Revis won’t be punished by NFL after February incident

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Darrelle Revis doesn’t have a job at the moment.

But at least if he finds one, the former All-Pro cornerback won’t have to worry about any future punishment.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, the league has completed its review of the case surrounding assault charges (which were dismissed in March) and has decided to do nothing.

The 31-year-old Revis hasn’t found a taker since being released by the Jets, and frankly this decision shouldn’t have much bearing on his future employment.

The Jets still owe him $6 million, so it’s not like he’s out there hurting for cash. But his play last year was nothing to create a robust market for himself.

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