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Josh Gordon: Codeine in strep throat medicine triggered suspension

Josh Gordon AP

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended two games and fined two additional game checks by the NFL on Friday for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Gordon has released a statement about the suspension with an explanation for why he was suspended for the league. According to Gordon, the culprit was medication prescribed by a doctor that included codeine.

“In February, I was diagnosed with strep throat for which a doctor prescribed antibiotics and cough medicine. Apparently, the medicine I took contained codeine, which is prohibited by the NFL policy,” Gordon said in the statement. “The policy terms are strict about unintentional ingestion, but the NFL has not imposed the maximum punishment in light of the facts of my case. Therefore, I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation. I sincerely apologize for the impact on my team, coaches, and Browns fans. I look forward to working hard in training camp and pre-season, and contributing immediately when I return in week three.”

First-time violations of the substance abuse policy, be they for intentional or unintentional ingestion and unlike violations of the performance-enhancing drug policy, don’t generally result in suspensions. Gordon, who admitted failing a drug test in college and reportedly failed others, was likely already in the program before taking the codeine.

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Josh Boyce among Patriots’ cuts

Josh Boyce AP

When the Patriots selected TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, they thought he had the potential to be a big-play player both on their offense and on special teams. It hasn’t worked out that way.

The Patriots announced today that Boyce has been released after two years with the team.

As a rookie the Patriots gave Boyce plenty of opportunities, but he ended the season with just nine catches for 121 yards, plus nine kickoff returns for 214 yards. In 2014 Boyce was largely phased out, playing only in the meaningless Week 17 game and never touching the ball.

Also cut by the Patriots today were receiver Jonathan Krause, tight end Jimmay Mundine, defensive lineman Joe Vellano and linebacker Dekoda Watson.

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Where will RGIII be in three years?

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Three years ago, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was preparing to take the league by storm. A lot has happened since then.

Three years from now, where will Griffin be?

That’s the subject of the poll question for Monday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN. Answer below, then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET for the show.

During the show, Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly will talk about the Griffin situation, along with plenty of other stuff. Enough stuff to fill up an entire half hour.

See you then. Which is a subtle way of persuading you to watch, by presuming that you will.

It probably would have been more effective if I’d simply stopped at, “See you then.”

So, see you then.

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Julius Thomas seeking second opinion, may miss four weeks

Julius Thomas AP

Julius Thomas’s tenure in Jacksonville is not off to a great start.

Thomas, the tight end who landed with the Jaguars in a big free-agent signing, has missed the last two preseason games with a hand injury. And now he may miss another month.

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said today that Thomas is getting a second opinion and may need surgery on his hand. If Thomas does need surgery, the recovery time would be four weeks. Which means Thomas could miss the first few games of the regular season.

A few games is not a big deal in the grand scheme of the five-year, $46 million contract Thomas signed with the Jaguars. But this is not the way the Jaguars were hoping Thomas would begin his tenure when he signed that deal.

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Rex announces Tyrod Taylor after “change of heart” on secrecy

Rex Ryan AP

Bills coach Rex Ryan has said for weeks that he would not announce the winner of his team’s quarterback competition. And then today he made the announcement.

Ryan confirmed today that Tyrod Taylor will start Week One against the Colts. Previously, Ryan said he wouldn’t announce the Bills’ Week One starter because he didn’t want to give the Colts any edge. But today Ryan said he had a “change of heart” about that and thought it made more sense to proclaim publicly that the franchise is behind Taylor as its quarterback.

The decision to start Taylor suggests that the Bills think the way they can win this year is by playing good defense and keeping the ball on the ground on offense. Taylor is unproven as a passer, but he may be the fastest quarterback in the NFL, and his running threat will make the Bills — who are already deep at running back — one of the NFL’s best running teams.

In fact, the Bills may even play offense a bit like Ryan’s Jets did in last year’s Monday night game against the Dolphins. On that night, the Jets ran the ball 49 times and threw the ball only 13 times, and they almost pulled off an upset of Miami. Ryan’s Bills may very well lead the league in rushing attempts.

But there will be times when the Bills need a quarterback who can throw the ball. And if Taylor can’t deliver, it won’t be a surprise if Ryan has another “change of heart” and switches to Matt Cassel.

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NFL changes auction procedures after AFC title game mishap

images Getty Images

The AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Colts remains best known for #DeflateGate, which has prompted the NFL to change the way it handles footballs. A lesser-known glitch from that same game also has prompted the league to make a change.

In a memo sent last week to all teams, the NFL informed all teams that it has changed the way it harvests game-used footballs for auction. Basically, the league office no longer will be doing the harvesting.

“NFL Auction employees will no longer carry jerseys and other game-used items with them from games,” the memo from Jeff Pash, Troy Vincent, and Anna Isaacson to all teams said in a memo that PFT has obtained. “Instead, when Auction employees are onsite, they will coordinate prior to the game with the club’s equipment manager and meet them postgame to photograph items to be provided for sale on NFL Auction. This will enable the items to be posted quickly on the Auction website to capitalize on timing and interest. In all cases, however, shipping will go directly from the club to The Hibbert Group.”

In January, former NFL employee Scott Miller removed a kicking ball from play in the first half of the AFC title game, sparking a chain of events that resulted in an erroneous ESPN report that the Patriots had tried to introduce an unapproved kicking ball into the game. Miller later was fired, as PFT reported in February.

The specific events, as chronicled in the Ted Wells report, remain unclear, but the Patriots were exonerated of any wrongdoing as to that specific portion of the investigation. Moving forward, there will be no room for confusion in matters of this nature, since NFL employees will not remove footballs or other game-used items from the game site, either during or after the contests. Instead, the teams will be sending the materials directly to the auction house that sells the items.

NFL employees will be responsible for taking photographs of items to be auctioned after the game, and then to compare the photos from the game site to photos taken by the auction house to ensure authenticity.

It still seems that the best way to ensure authenticity is to have an NFL employee physically remove the item and deliver it to the auction house. Apparently, however, there was a flaw in that process sufficiently fatal to prompt the NFL to completely abandon it.

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Seahawks make their moves, including cutting projected center

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In addition to pawning off unwanted wide receiver Kevin Norwood to the Panthers in a pre-deadline trade, the Seahawks have announced the rest of the moves they’ll need to get to the 75-man roster limit.

The team announced 14 other moves, as they did the work they need to do a day ahead of time.

The biggest name among those cut was Lemuel Jeanpierre. While perhaps not a household name, he did head into camp as their projected starting center, after dealing Max Unger to the Saints in the Jimmy Graham trade.

The Seahawks line is in a reasonable degree of flux anyway, and this cut leaves the job to Drew Nowak for the moment.

They also released defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith, and waived tackle Jesse Davis, cornerback George Farmer, wide receivers Deshon Foxx and Deontay Greenberry, cornerback Keelan Johnson, linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, defensive end Greg Scruggs and safety Ty Zimmerman.

They also waived/injured fullback Brandon Cottom and cornerback Triston Wade, and placed cornerback Jeremy Lane and wide receiver Paul Richardson on reserve/PUP, meaning Lane and Richardson will miss at least the first six weeks of the season.

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Report: Seahawks trading Norwood to Panthers

Kevin Norwood AP

The Seahawks will trade wide receiver Kevin Norwood to the Panthers, according to a report from Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

A fourth-round pick in 2014, Norwood caught nine passes in games as a rookie. Earlier Monday, Wilson reported that the Seahawks were going to waive Norwood.

The Panthers didn’t have a stellar receiving corps even before the loss of Kelvin Benjamin for the season to a torn ACL, so this move makes sense. Per Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the compensation is an undisclosed draft pick. This is the the kind of trade that happens often at this stage of the preseason and often involves a conditional draft pick — and generally a seventh-rounder — based on how much Norwood eventually contributes to the Panthers.

The emergence of rookie Tyler Lockett and presence of young receivers Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams made Norwood expendable in Seattle.

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Martavis Bryant suspension becomes official

Martavis Bryant AP

We still don’t know whether the Patriots will have quarterback Tom Brady for the regular-season opener. But we now know that the Steelers won’t have two key offensive weapons due to suspension.

Running back Le’Veon Bell previously was suspended two games for violating the substance-abuse policy. Receiver Martavis Bryant has now been suspended four games for violating the substance-abuse policy.

“We are disappointed in Martavis’ actions that has led to his four-game suspension,” Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert said in a team-issued release. “It is a disappointment to our entire organization as well as our fans, but we will continue to support Martavis during his suspension. It is very unfortunate his actions have put our team in this situation to begin the year, but we are confident he will learn from his mistake and return in excellent shape in Week Five.”

It was more than a mistake; it was a series of violations of the substance-abuse policy that culminated in the four-game suspension, with Bryant consistently choosing a banned substance over football. Now, he’ll have to unequivocally choose football, or he’ll eventually face a 10-game suspension and, in time, a full-year banishment.

The Steelers apparently have chosen to stick with Bryant. Five years ago, they abruptly dumped receiver Santonio Holmes onto the Jets after Holmes was suspended four games under the substance-abuse policy.

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49ers to put center Daniel Kilgore on reserve/PUP

Daniel Kilgore AP

The 49ers hope to get center Daniel Kilgore back on the field this season, but it won’t be for at least the first six weeks.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the 49ers informed Kilgore he’d be placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which will be part of their roster moves to get to the 75-man limit by Tuesday’s deadline.

The move makes Kilgore ineligible for at least the first six weeks of the season. There’s then a five-week window for him to begin practicing, and from the day he starts, the team has three weeks to make a roster decision.

Kilgore suffered a broken leg last season, but needed follow-up surgery in June, and is still wearing a walking boot, so he doesn’t appear to be close to a return.

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Fred Jackson would have “done anything” to retire with Bills

Fred Jackson AP

We’ve heard from Bills G.M. Doug Whaley regarding the decision to part ways with running back Fred Jackson after 10 years with franchise. We’ve yet to hear from Jackson.

But here’s what PFT has heard, given that Whaley didn’t really say much regarding the decision to move on from Jackson.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jackson would have “done anything” to retire with the Bills. Jackson, however, wasn’t given that chance.

In meeting with the media, Whaley answered questions but said nothing, citing “competitive reasons” for not elaborating on the decision to move on from Jackson.

Whaley declined to say whether the Bills tried to trade Jackson, but he acknowledged that the salary cap was part of the decision. If so, the cap number could have been reduced. Again, Jackson wasn’t given that chance.

The question now becomes whether Jackson will get that chance elsewhere. The Browns make plenty of sense, given the fact that coach Mike Pettine spent time in Buffalo as defensive coordinator. Other teams with needs in the top two spots of the depth chart make sense, too.

Still, Jackson would have more options if the decision had come earlier. While Whaley tried to paint the timing of the decision as a favor to Jackson in his effort to find a new team, the real favor would have been to let Jackson go in March, so that he could land on a team has already made other plans based on the players who were available in March.

And April. And May. And June. And July. And August 1 through August 30.

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Dave Zastudil, Lorenzo Alexander part of early cuts in Arizona

Dave Zastudil AP

Punter Dave Zastudil missed 14 games last season after suffering a groin injury in September and it looks like the two games he did play with the Cardinals will be his last with the team.

The Cardinals announced that they have released Zastudil on Monday, leaving Drew Butler as the only punter on the roster heading into the 2015 season. Zastudil spent four years with the Cardinals and has also played for the Ravens and Browns during a 12-year NFL career.

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander was also cut loose on Monday. Alexander spent the last two seasons in the desert and appeared in all 16 games for the team last year. He was listed as a second-teamer during the preseason, but his departure is a good reminder of how unofficial those charts are at this time of the year.

Linebacker Glenn Carson, guard Nate Isles, linebacker Edwin Jackson, linebacker Andrae Kirk, cornerback Shaq Richardson, tight end Gannon Sinclair, cornerback Darren Woodard, wide receiver Ryan Spadola and wide receiver Travis Harvey have also been dispatched, leaving the Cardinals with one move to make to get to 75 players.

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Cowboys waive five players

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

None of the first five cuts the Cowboys made were especially notable or surprising.

Waived Monday were wide receiver Phil Bates, cornerback Robert Steeples, defensive tackle Carlif Taylor, punter Tom Hornsey and long snapper Casey Kreiter. The team still has to make more moves to meet Tuesday’s deadline for cutting the roster to 75.

All 32 teams close the preseason Thursday and must trim their rosters to the regular-season size of 53 by Saturday.

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Mike Pouncey: Everything came back good on MRI

Mike Pouncey AP

When center Mike Pouncey was forced from last weekend’s Dolphins game with a knee injury, it looked like 2015 might turn out to be a bad year for the Pouncey family.

Mike’s twin Maurkice will miss much of the Steelers season after breaking a bone in his ankle and it looked like it could be bad when the Dolphins center had someone crash into his leg while he was standing up during a play. Sunday’s release of J.D. Walton seemed to signal the news wouldn’t be too negative, however, and Pouncey confirmed that the MRI of his knee showed no serious damage.

“Yeah, definitely, it always is [a relief] when you go through evaluations on stuff like that,” Pouncey said in comments distributed by the team. “Everything came back good, so I’m ready to go.”

Pouncey practiced on Monday, so the level of concern about aggravating the injury is pretty low and all is on track for Pouncey to be snapping the ball in Week One.

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Cullen Jenkins: Giants don’t respond well to adversity

Tom Coughlin AP

With safeties getting injured at a fantastic rate, Jason Pierre-Paul away from the team while his fireworks injuries heal, left tackle Will Beatty out with a pectoral injury and Victor Cruz battling a calf injury, the Giants have had a fair amount of negative turns in 2015.

One member of the team’s defensive line thinks that kind of adversity could be setting the team up for another disappointing season. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins says he has seen the team “freeze up a little bit” in the face of tough situations over the last two years and that they need to develop a confidence that “won’t be denied” if they are going to do a better job this year.

“This is the NFL,” Jenkins said, via Newsday. “No one team is just going to go out there and not have its fair share of adversity. That comes along with the game. If you know that, you know it’s required that you have to be able to respond to it. That’s what we need to do a better job with. When we get hit in the mouth or go through adversity, we don’t respond as well as we should.”

Jenkins isn’t wrong about the need for NFL teams to shrug off adversity if they are going to succeed, but talent and scheme can’t be ignored as major factors in the team’s 13-19 record over the last two years.

The Giants have seen mediocre or worse performances from their running backs, offensive line and across the defense in those 32 games which has led to changes of coordinators on both sides of the ball. They’ve also seen the last four drafts produce few high-level contributors to a roster that hasn’t found quality replacements for many of the key players from their 2011 Super Bowl championship team. Add it all up and you get three seasons out of the playoffs and increased pressure to change their fortunes this year lest sweeping changes hit the team.

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Lions activate Joique Bell, Haloti Ngata

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Two of the Lions’ most important players are finally ready to go.

The Lions announced today that they’ve activated running back Joique Bell from the physically unable to perform list and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from the non-football injury list.

Bell was the Lions’ No. 1 running back last year and is expected to be the No. 1 running back again this year, although the Lions have liked what they’ve seen in the preseason from their other runners. Veteran Theo Riddick and second-round rookie Ameer Abdullah are both expected to get significant playing time, and undrafted rookie Zach Zenner has played so well in the preseason that he’s likely to get a role in the offense as well.

The acquisition of Ngata this offseason was extremely important for the Lions after defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley all left in free agency. The Lions need Ngata to be healthy for Week One and stay healthy.

Today’s move indicates that both players will be on the field when the Lions open the season at San Diego in 13 days.

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