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Goodell defends Redskins name, admits issues raised are “complex”

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When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the Redskins’ name during this year’s pre-Super Bowl press conference, his off-the-cuff response was, “I don’t think anybody wants to offend anybody.”  With the benefit of time to reflect on a written reply to a recent letter from 10 members of Congress, Goodell was more articulate and detailed.  And also surprisingly candid.

Goodell’s letter, a copy of which can be seen here, begins with an explanation of the origins of the label.

“As you may know,” Goodell writes, “the team began as the Boston Braves in 1932, a name that honored the courage and heritage of Native Americans.  The following year, the name was changed to the Redskins — in part to avoid confusion with the Boston baseball team of the same name, but also to honor the team’s then-head coach, William ‘Lone Star’ Dietz.  Neither in intent nor use was the name ever meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group.”

Goodell then argues that, because the name began with positive intentions, its meaning is “distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context.”  And so, he explains, “For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

Still, Goodell concedes that the “issues raised with respect to the Washington Redskins name are complex,” and he points out that the NFL “respect[s] that reasonable people may view it differently, particularly over time.”

In our view, it’s a delicate way of acknowledging that, at some point in time, the superficially negative connotations of the term “Redskins” will outweigh the positive (or at least non-negative) intentions.  A lot of things that were acceptable in 1932 are no longer deemed appropriate, regardless of original or current intent.  At some point in the future, the reasonable minds that see the term as unacceptable likely will outweigh those that don’t.

The fact that the letter wasn’t publicized by the NFL when sent to Congress on June 5 reflects, in our view, a subtle understanding that there’s no good way out of this corn maze.  (Or, in this specific context, maize maze.)

The reaction from at least one member of Congress has been loud and pointed.  Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday to complain about Goodell’s response.

“Whether good intentioned or not, the ‘R’ word is a racial slur akin to the ‘N’ word among African Americans, or the ‘W’ word among Latin Americans,” Faleomavaega said.

“Goodell has completely missed the point,” Faleomaveaga added.  “It is time for the NFL to stop making excuses for itself and fully embrace its so-called commitment to diversity.”

Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) chided Goodell’s response as demonstrating “twisted logic,” and she called it a “statement of absurdity.”

“Goodell’s letter is another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans,” McCollum said.

“Would Roger Goodell and Dan Snyder actually travel to a Native American community and greet a group of tribal leaders by saying, ‘Hey, what’s up, Redskin?’ I think not. . . .  Indian children, families and elders are Americans, and just like all racial, ethnic or religious groups, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, not as a demeaning caricature or mascot.  That shouldn’t be too much to ask of the NFL.”

Of course, Goodell and Snyder also wouldn’t say, “What’s up, Chief?” or “What’s up, Seminole?” or “What’s up, Brave?”  Still, those words — Chief, Seminole, Brave — when removed from the context of a team name and regarded in isolation aren’t objectively objectionable.  Redskin, when stripped from the football team and regarded as simply a word, carries a distinct know-it-when-you-see-it label of racism.

That’s the simple reality.  Fans and defenders tie the name to the team and the team to the name and see nothing problematic about it.  Or, for some fans and defenders, they realize that they need to outwardly claim there’s nothing problematic about it.

Goodell’s letter acknowledges in know-it-when-you-see-it fashion that he knows the day will come when the NFL sees the name changed.  It may not happen for 50 years or more, but eventually it will happen.

And then, for the next 50 years or more, people who wanted to see the name remain the same will complain that it shouldn’t have changed.

So, basically, get used to this controversy.  It’s officially one of the subplots of America’s ultimate reality show, and it could be lingering for longer than the NFL already has existed.

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Buccaneers sign WR Louis Murphy

Louis Murphy Jr. AP

The Buccaneers are bringing back a wide receiver whom they released just before the start of the regular season.

The club has re-signed receiver Louis Murphy, a sixth-year pro from Florida, the team’s website said Tuesday. Murphy, 27, spent the preseason with the Bucs, but the club released him one day before the opener vs. Carolina.

Murphy (6-2, 200) has hauled in 121 passes for 1,744 yards and eight touchdowns in regular season stints with the Raiders (2009-2011), Panthers (2012) and Giants (2013).

To make room for Murphy, the Buccaneers waived wideout Chris Owusu, a third-year pro from Stanford. Owusu appeared in the Buccaneers’ first three regular season games, catching two passes for 20 yards.

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Rex says there’s no QB controversy in the Jets’ locker room

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Jets coach Rex Ryan says there’s no dissension within the locker room about the starting quarterback situation.

After Geno Smith had a rough game in Monday night’s loss to the Bears, there’s been some talk on the outside that the Jets should turn to Michael Vick. But when Ryan was asked whether that talk could be a distraction within the team, he answered, “No, I don’t think so.”

“I think everybody’s behind Geno,” Ryan said. “He’s our quarterback and our football team believes in him, so that’s it. And like we mentioned, Geno’s a mentally tough guy. We’re happy that we have Mike Vick on this team, but we believe in Geno. We understand it wasn’t great, he made some mistakes, but we’ve just got to get better and we’ve got to learn from these and then move on.”

Smith may have improved a bit as a passer since last year — his completion percentage has risen from 55.8 percent as a rookie in 2013 to 63.1 percent this year, and his passer rating has risen from 66.5 to 77.0. But his numbers still are far from great, and his bad decision-making, both on his two interceptions Monday night and on another pass that should have been intercepted on the Jets’ final drive, are raising questions about whether he’s learning fast enough.

Ryan says the answer is simple: Smith is the starting quarterback. Now Ryan needs to figure out a way to get Smith to play better.

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Chargers sign RB Shaun Draughn

Shaun Draughn AP

As expected, the Chargers have moved to bolster their running back depth.

The club announced the signing of ex-Bears tailback Shaun Draughn on Tuesday. Draughn tried out for San Diego today before signing, a league source told PFT.

Draughn, 26, played in the first two games of the season for Chicago, which waived him one week ago. He will likely back up Donald Brown and Branden Oliver in Sunday’s game vs. Jacksonville.

The signing of Draughn comes on the same day the team officially placed Danny Woodhead on injured reserve with a broken leg. The Chargers were already without Ryan Mathews (MCL sprain) when Woodhead suffered his season-ending injury on Sunday.

In other moves Tuesday, the Chargers signed outside linebacker Cordarro Law and inside linebacker Kevin Reddick to the roster while waiving defensive end Lawrence Guy. The Chargers have injury concerns at both LB spots. Inside linebacker Manti Te’o has a broken foot expected to keep him out multiple games, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Also, the club’s OLB depth is a concern. Reserve Reggie Walker suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s win at Buffalo, per the Union-Tribune, and rookie Jerry Attaochu is dealing with a hamstring ailment.

Finally, the Chargers also signed rookie tailback D.J. Adams, third-year tight end David Paulson and rookie inebacker Colton Underwood to the practice squad, while safety Adrian Phillips was released.

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Jordan Reed likely out for Week Four

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Washington looks set to again be without one of its key passing game targets.

According to John Keim of ESPN.com and multiple other reporters who cover the team, tight end Jordan Reed indicated Tuesday he’s doubtful to play Thursday night vs. the Giants because of a lingering hamstring injury.

Reed, who did not practice on Tuesday, has missed the last two games. Niles Paul has been the primary pass-catching option at tight end in his absence for Washington (1-2).

In addition to Reed, left guard Shawn Lauvao (knee) sat out practice on Tuesday. Josh LeRibeus is listed as the top backup to Lauvao on the depth chart.

Nine Washington players were limited on Tuesday, including wide receiver DeSean Jackson (shoulder) and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (finger). Orakpo has signaled he will play against New York.

Also, tailback Alfred Morris (knee) was among five Washington players who put in full practices Tuesday despite landing on the injury report.

For the Giants (1-2), six players were limited on Tuesday, including linebacker Jon Beason (foot, toe), wideout Odell Beckham (hamstring) and punter Steve Weatherford (left ankle). For Beckham, the club’s No. 1 pick in May, the practice is his first of the regular season; he’s missed the first three games with his injury.

Reserve outside linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) was the only Giants player to sit out practice on Tuesday, according to the injury report.

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With Pitta gone, Ravens kick tires on tight ends

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Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has dislocated the same hip he dislocated in training camp a year ago.  He’s done for the year, and the Ravens are looking for help.

Per a league source, the Ravens worked out four tight ends on Tuesday:  Kellen Davis (pictured), Matthew Mulligan, Jake Murphy, and Emmanuel Ogbuehi.

Veteran Owen Daniels becomes the top option for the Ravens, with Pitta gone.  Also on the roster at tight end are Crockett Gillmore (or is it Gillmore Crockett?) and Phillip Supernaw.

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Jags, Raiders, Bucs acquire dibs on waivers

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From the end of one regular season through the third week of the next regular season, the team with the worst reason in the prior season has dibs on all players placed on waivers.

This year, that was the Texans, from February through today.

As of today, that ended.  The Jaguars, Raiders, and Buccaneers — all 0-3 and tied when it comes to strength of schedule played so far — are tied for the top spot.  If two or more make a waivers claim for the same player, the issue will be resolved by the flip of a coin.

The Jets and Rams are tied for fourth position, and the Chiefs, Vikings, and Saints are tied at No. 6.  Again, coin flips would decide priority.

A five-way tie exists at No. 9, with the Browns, Packers, Colts, Dolphins, and Washington.  Ditto for the coin flips.

The Bengals currently are last on the 32-team pecking order.

The deck will now be reshuffled on a weekly basis, based on won-loss record and schedule strength.  Through the trade deadline, all players with less than four years of service pass through waivers.  After the trade deadline, all players who are released must first go through waivers.

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Titans cut T.J. Graham, sign Chase Coffman

T.J. Graham AP

Wide receiver T.J. Graham’s career prospects looked pretty bright when the Bills drafted him in the third round of the 2012 draft, but they’ve dimmed significantly this season.

Graham caught 54 passes in his first two years with the Bills, but failed to make the team of training camp this summer and was claimed off of waivers by the Titans. He didn’t see action in any of the first three Titans games of the season, however, and the team decided to move in a different direction on Tuesday.

The Titans announced that they have waived Graham and signed tight end Chase Coffman. Coffman has four catches in 22 career games with the Bengals and Falcons and spent training camp with Tennessee before being dropped as the team set its initial 53-man roster.

Graham’s speed was his big calling card coming into the NFL and it could earn him looks from other teams in the future, but it takes more than a good set of wheels to make it in the NFL and Graham is running out of time to show that he has the other requisite skills.

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Joe Philbin again declines to name Ryan Tannehill the starter for Week Four

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

On Monday, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin declined to say that Ryan Tannehill would start at quarterback against the Raiders in London this weekend and that guaranteed he’d be asked about it again on Tuesday.

Philbin didn’t change course when the inevitable question came. Philbin said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, that the team would play the “best 46″ against Oakland and that the team’s coaches would take this week’s practices into account before making the call between Tannehill and Matt Moore.

Dolphins players don’t seem to be buying into the uncertainty at quarterback. Salguero reports that it “seems obvious” to several members of the team that Tannehill will remain the starter this week.

That does seem to be the likeliest outcome. Making a move to Moore at this point would strap Philbin’s future as the team’s coach to Moore’s performance, which is at least as risky a proposition as moving forward with Tannehill and comes with the added demerit that Tannehill hasn’t progressed nearly as much as the team would have hoped under Philbin’s tutelage.

That said, Tannehill hasn’t played well enough to have the job on lockdown and there’s no reason for Philbin to try to make him feel otherwise going into a game that would deal a serious blow to both men if the Dolphins fall to 1-3.

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Goodell meets with former players to discuss conduct policy

Goodell AP

As Commissioner Roger Goodell embarks on an overhaul of the personal-conduct policy, he has done something that some players would say he hasn’t done enough — he has asked former players for input.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Goodell met with 11 former NFL players to discuss changes to the NFL’s current approach of off-field player misconduct.

Attending the session at 345 Park Avenue were Mike Singletary, Willie McGinest, Roman Oben, Eddie Mason, Matt Birk, Patrick Kerney, Robert Porcher, Charles Way, Scott Turner, Tony Paige, and Marty Lyons.

A 12th former player, Troy Vincent, attended the 3.5-hour meeting in his capacity as the executive V.P. of football operations.

Goodell plans to seek input from other experts and the NFL Players Association, with the goal of unveiling a new conduct policy before the Super Bowl.  The biggest question continues to be Goodell’s role in the enforcement of the new policy.

Currently, Goodell makes the initial decision regarding discipline, and he has the right to handle the appeal of the outcome.  At a minimum, look for him to surrender the initial decision to an expert in disciplinary matters.  Ultimately, Goodell will have a hard time yielding final say regarding any punishment that comes from presiding over the appeal process.

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John Brown unfazed by climb from Pittsburg State to NFL

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If Cardinals receiver John Brown were currently where he was a year ago, he’d be preparing to play Fort Hays State.  Instead, Brown’s next game will come against the Denver Broncos.  And he doesn’t seem to be freaked out by that.

“It’s not too much of a big transition,” Brown tells Paul Burmeister of NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk in an interview that will be televised on today’s edition of the show.  “At the end of the day it’s just football to me I just have to do a lot more studying and learn guys.”

One thing he’s learning is to forget about his blunders.

“Just learning from those guys every time I make a mistake they just tell me to forget about it,” Brown said regarding teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.  “They don’t remember the time they made a mistake, they make me have a short-term memory and just extra work putting it in after practice to be where those guys are.”

Brown already is where those guys are, after only three career regular-season games.  Averaging only three catches per week, he’s already got three touchdowns.

So join us at 5:30 p.m. ET for more from John Brown, along with more from Burmeister, Tony Dungy, Jason Taylor, Ross Tucker, and yours truly.

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Vernon Davis “feeling great” so 49ers cut a tight end

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Late last week, the 49ers promoted tight end Asante Cleveland from the practice squad to give them a healthy body in the event that Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald weren’t able to play against the Cardinals because of injury.

Neither player could go, but things are looking up for Davis this week. Coach Jim Harbaugh said on Monday that he was “optimistic” that Davis would return to the lineup against the Eagles this week and Davis provided more reason for optimism on Tuesday.

“I’m feeling great,” Davis said, via the Sacramento Bee. “This is going to be a good week for me.”

If Davis is back in action, there’s not much need for Cleveland on the roster and the 49ers made a move Tuesday that showed their confidence in Davis’s condition. They waived Cleveland and re-signed quarterback Josh Johnson, who was dropped to make room for Cleveland on the roster.

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Cary Williams apologizing about his practice gripe

Cary Williams AP

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams apologized for causing a flap by complaining about the length of practices.

Sort of.

Williams said he should have kept the critiques of coach Chip Kelly’s methods in-house.

“I did that out of anger and frustration. I could have been better in that situation,” Williams said, via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I spoke to the team today. I addressed each man in there. Told them that I was sorry for what I said and put them in a difficult situation. I told them it won’t happen again.

“I told them I won’t talk negatively about the team or where we’re going. We are 3-0. That’s something to be proud of. I am happy that we are 3-0 because things could have gone otherwise.”

At the same time, he didn’t exactly walk back his criticism, saying “I try not to lie. In that situation I don’t think I did.”

Kelly declared it a non-issue yesterday, and the facts in the case seem to bear him out.

As the league noted earlier today, the Eagles have scored 74 second half points this season, more than 21 teams have scored all season.

 

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Aaron Rodgers: Offense will be fine

Aaron Rodgers AP

The Packers offense has not gotten off to the fast start to the season that the team would have liked.

The unit has not looked particularly good outside of scoring 28 points in the second and third quarters of the victory over the Jets in Week Two and last Sunday’s outing against the Lions wasn’t good enough in any respect. The run game never got going, quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t his sharpest and the offensive line didn’t serve either part of the attack all that well.

On his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee, Rodgers copped to some poor throws and said that running 51 plays means the offense didn’t play fast enough in the loss to Detroit. He also said that it wasn’t time to panic or look for deeper reasons for the slow start to the season.

“Five letters. R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be fine,” Rodgers said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

Rodgers called the Packers a “resilient bunch” and the fact they went from 1-2 to NFC North champs the last two years suggests that there’s something to be said for the patient approach after three weeks of the season.

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Jay Gruden on Cousins keeping job: Crazy things have happened in the NFL

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Quarterback Kirk Cousins provided plenty of support for arguments that he’s a good fit for head coach Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme in Sunday’s start against the Eagles.

Cousins went 30-of-48 for 417 yards in the 37-34 loss with only a slight downgrade for an interception to mar his record for the day. It’s the kind of performance that explains why some believe Cousins should be the team’s starter even when Robert Griffin III is healthy. It also leads to questions for Gruden about whether Griffin could wind up playing the role of Wally Pipp this season. Gruden didn’t rule it out before and he isn’t ruling it out now.

“Crazy things have happened in NFL,” Gruden said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. “I’m not going to discount anything.”

Cousins has looked very good since replacing Griffin in Week Two and more of the same in the coming weeks would make it very hard for the Redskins to pull the plug even if Griffin hadn’t looked uncomfortable in the offense during the Week One and the preseason. Since there are going to be several games between now and Griffin’s return, there’s not much reason for Washington to make a call either way at this point in the season but the stage is certainly set for Cousins to extend his run.

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Michigan could be moving closer to making a run at Harbaugh

Harbaugh AP

With the University of Michigan struggling to such a bad start that the program has been forced to give tickets away to anyone who purchased a bottle of Coca-Cola (unless it didn’t), the speculation already has begun regarding the next coach of the Wolverines.

Coincidentally, the speculation has been ongoing regarding the future of 49ers coach (and former Michigan quarterback) Jim Harbaugh for a while.  Mired in a contractual impasse that has been tabled until after the season, any college or program now knows that Harbaugh is in play for a jump to a new job come 2015.  With the 49ers already mired in a disappointing, stressful year, that jump could be more likely.

And while other NFL programs technically must wait to openly pursue Harbaugh until after the NFL season ends, Michigan can get a jump on everyone by dumping Brady Hoke and beginning the discussions with a man who has had great success at every stop of his coaching career.

Could Harbaugh be tempted to leave?  If he’d leave the NFL for any job, it surely would be the Michigan job.  And the Michigan job likely won’t be open every few years.  This could be the only time the planets line up just right, allowing Harbaugh to exit the 49ers after four seasons and return to the college game.

Where he can run the show.  And run the town.  And run to the bank with more money than the 49ers will pay him.

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