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Manuel doesn’t shrink from responsibility

EJ Manuel AP

All the draft picks at this week’s NFL Rookie Symposium are learning about the pitfalls that can come with their new opportunities.

But as the first quarterback taken, and the guy expected to lead the Bills out of a generation of mediocrity-at-best, there’s an extra burden on E.J. Manuel.

Manuel said that the Symposium was an introduction into what he can expect as the guy the Bills expect to become the face of the franchise.

It’s a great responsibility,” Manuel said, via Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. “You’re always going to be watched, always going to be evaluated each and every day. You’ve got to take that responsibility and respect it. . . .

“I had high expectations no matter where I went in the draft. I’m a natural competitor. I mean, that’s something I was going to work toward anyway. So I don’t feel any added pressure.”

Of course, the first thing Manuel has to do to reach his goal is to prove more able than Kevin Kolb. While that shouldn’t be the most difficult thing in the world, being in a setting where setting up their future is the main topic of discussion had Manuel thinking about what his legacy as a player would be.

“I’ve always been taught that a good name is more important than great treasure,” Manuel said. “So just keeping that respect for yourself and keeping your name clean, I think that’s what adds to your legacy.

“Obviously, when you play well you have a football legacy. But at the end of the day, I still want to be known as more than a football player. I want to be remembered as a great man.”

If he can deliver the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, he’ll have the first half of that taken care of.

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Terrelle Pryor not sure if he’s playing Saturday

Terrelle Pryor AP

Terrelle Pryor practiced for the Browns again on Thursday, but he’s not sure whether he’ll be in the lineup for the team’s third preseason game on Saturday.

Pryor said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that how his hamstring feels on Friday will determine whether or not he can make his first appearance of the preseason and his first game appearance since making the move to wide receiver upon joining the Browns this offseason.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said recently that Pryor’s extended absence this summer has hurt his chances of making the team, something Pryor is aware of but says won’t stop him from following the injury protocol laid out by the team.

Given the lack of potential playmakers on Cleveland’s offense, Pryor may stand a better chance than most players who have had as little to do on the field as he’s had during camp. Still, a good showing on Saturday that ends with Pryor healthy would go a long way toward extending his stay with the team.

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Eagles waive/injured Emmanuel Acho after thumb surgery

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Eagles are down one inside linebacker in the competition to make the 53-man roster.

According to multiple reports, Emmanuel Acho has been waived/injured because of a thumb injury. Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Acho’s injury required surgery.

Every team in the league will have an opportunity to claim Acho off of waivers. If no one does, he can revert to injured reserve with the Eagles or reach an injury settlement with the team that makes him a free agent.

Acho played 20 games for the Eagles the last two seasons and made two starts last year. He was competing for a backup inside linebacker job this year.

His departure leaves Brad Jones and Najee Goode in the mix for spots along with Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and third-round pick Jordan Hicks. Jones has been getting some work at outside linebacker as well, which could boost his chances of surviving the cut to 53 players.

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RG3 declines to say if he had a concussion

Robert Griffin III AP

If you were inclined to believe that Robert Griffin III didn’t really suffer a concussion in last week’s preseason game, nothing he said today would change your mind.

Griffin met with the media today for the first time since the team announced last Thursday that he had a concussion, and when he was asked directly if he actually had a concussion, Griffin wouldn’t answer.

“You’ve got to talk to the people who report that stuff. I don’t report that stuff. I was in the locker room, taking a shower, getting ready to watch the rest of the game, so I don’t know,” Griffin said.

Questions have been raised about whether the team used a concussion diagnosis as a convenient way to let Griffin dodge the media. The NFL’s media policy says that all players are required to talk to reporters after games — with the exception of players who suffered concussions.

Asked today if he suffered a concussion when he got hit on his final play, Griffin answered, “I have no idea. I just know I was in some pain, the trainers came out and that was it.”

The team couldn’t get its story straight on the night of the game about whether Griffin had a concussion, and Griffin sounded today like he wanted to wash his hands of the team’s official concussion diagnosis, without coming right out and contradicting it.

What Griffin did say is that he’s been cleared to return, and he’s planning to play Saturday. He’ll have to address the media again after that game. Unless the team says he has another concussion.

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Still no timetable for Breshad Perriman’s return

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When Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman injured his knee in late July, the Ravens said they didn’t think it was a serious injury and that Perriman should be back without missing much time.

It’s almost a month since the injury and Perriman has yet to resume practicing, however. Coach John Harbaugh said last week that an MRI came back “normal,” but said Thursday that there still isn’t a timetable for Perriman to get back on the field.

“I’m asking too,” Harbaugh said, via the team’s website. “It’s just slower healing than [the doctors] expected. They really don’t have a timetable right now. That’s all I really have to say on that.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco called Perriman’s absence “disappointing” and said that Perriman will likely have work to do to get himself back into shape once he does get the green light to resume football activities. There will also be a lot of making up for lost practice time, all of which could lead to less of an impact from Perriman than the Ravens hoped to receive during the 2015 season.

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Pettine: Manziel likely done for preseason

Johnny Manziel AP

The mystery surrounding the elbow and arm soreness plaguing Browns second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel continues to grow with Thursday’s announcement by Browns coach Mike Pettine that Manziel is definitely going to miss Saturday’s preseason game at Tampa Bay and probably won’t be able to play in the Sept. 3 preseason finale at Chicago, either.

Pettine said Wednesday that an MRI on Manziel had shown no structural damage and that he was dealing with “a little bit of soreness.”

A day before announcing Manziel was likely done for the preseason, Pettine said Manziel “could play [if he had to]” in Saturday’s preseason game, but the team saw no reason to risk it. Thursday, Pettine said basically said the same, which adds to the mystery.

Earlier this week, new Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo told reporters Manziel’s injury was a function of his delivery.

Is it just soreness? Or is it something more — and potentially more serious — that’s likely to keep a player trying to rebound from a lost rookie season to miss basically two weeks of practice and two preseason games?

Pettine said Thursday the Browns had planned to give Manziel his first reps of the preseason with the starting offense at Tampa Bay. He led one touchdown drive in each of the first two preseason games with the No. 2 offense.

Manziel’s injury all but assures that Josh McCown will be the team’s starting quarterback for the Sept. 13 preseason opener at the Jets. Pettine had been firm that McCown was the No. 1 quarterback, but unless McCown can win a bunch of games the Browns need to see Manziel at some point to get a further evaluation on whether he can end the team’s ongoing quest for a franchise quarterback, and having arm problems makes things even more difficult on Manziel.

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Letroy Guion’s three-game suspension is upheld

Letroy Guion AP

Packers defensive lineman Letroy Guion was suspended three games by the NFL under the substance-abuse policy. He had appeal rights under a procedure that, as of September 2014, removed final say from the league office and exported it to an external panel.

The panel has now spoken, and the appeal has been upheld — only three days after a hearing on the situation.

The league has announced that Guion will miss the first three games without pay of the 2015 regular season. He’ll be eligible to return after the September 28 game against the Chiefs. The suspension begins following the preseason finale.

Guion was arrested in February on marijuana charges. He eventually reached a plea deal in the case.

Packers linebacker Datone Jones also has been suspended for the first game of the 2015 season for violation of the substance-abuse policy.

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IK Enemkpali goes the “no comment” route, which is probably best

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

While it’s hard to imagine what he could say to make this better, IK Enemkpali chose to play it safe this time.

According to Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News, the Bills linebacker declined comment through a team spokesman about the bizarre catfishing story which has landed his name in the headlines again.

As we noted this morning, Enemkpali was named in a 2011 report saying he — maybe you should catch your breath here — punched a man he thought was a woman he had arranged to have sex with who now happens to be a pastor in Louisiana, allegedly breaking out two of his teeth before the imposter named “Missy Lee” tried to extort him out of $1,000.

Yeah, that’s what we thought too.

So yes, this story is lewd, lascivious, salacious, and outrageous. And it’s embarrassing for a kid who has enough to worry about without it.

At the same time, it’s at least the third time he is documented to have punched someone (along with an off-duty cop and former Jets teammate Geno Smith), which ought to be a concern for the league and perhaps the Bills beyond the prurient details of this particular story.

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Four-game suspension suggests multiple violations for Martavis Bryant in a year

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The new substance-abuse policy dramatically reduced the punishment for players who test positive for banned compounds like marijuana. Which means that more violations of the policy are now required to trigger a four-game suspension.

For Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant, the proposed four-game suspension means that the league believes he has violated the policy a second time while in Stage Two of the three-stage program.

Given the changes to the policy, the Steelers should be alarmed that Bryant already is facing a four-game suspension. It means that, only 16 months after he was drafted, he has failed to choose football over a banned substance on multiple occasions.

If he continues to not choose football over one or more banned substances, he eventually will face a 10-game suspension and, after that, a minimum suspension of one year.

The good news for the Steelers and Bryant is that, under the substance-abuse policy that was in place when Bryant joined the team, he possibly would be facing a one-year suspension now. The better news is that the new substance-abuse policy removes from Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee final say over the punishment, with neutral arbitration available for Bryant to present any arguments he may have in support of the position that he didn’t violate the policy, this time.

Still, if he loses, Bryant could eventually be facing a one-year suspension — with a requirement to pass up to 10 tests per months in order to get reinstated.

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NFLPA, NFL say nothing unusual about number of preseason injuries

Kelvin Benjamin AP

Several teams have found themselves changing plans this preseason after seeing a key player go down with a season-ending injury and the growing number of such injuries have some people wondering if those injuries have become more prevalent.

Both the NFL and the NFL Players Association say that they haven’t. The loss of players like Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, Orlando Scandrick, Ryan Clady and Junior Galette may leave teams shorthanded, but both the league and the union told Mark Maske of the Washington Post that there’s nothing unusual about the number of severe injuries to this point in the season.

“As a physician, your heart goes out to these guys,” NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer said. “You feel so bad for them. These guys put so much into this and it’s such a letdown for them, for their teams, for the fans. [But] as a research scientist, you have to say, ‘Let’s look at this over time.’ Statistically it doesn’t look like it’s a trend. Unless it continues at this pace for some time, it doesn’t look like anything out of the norm. But for each of these guys individually, it’s 100 percent of their experience. It’s a setback professionally and it’s very difficult personally.”

There have been coaches and others around the league that have shared their opinion that reductions in the number of practices and amount of hitting in those practices in the 2011 CBA have left players more vulnerable to injuries. Others argue that the league’s crackdown on high hits has left players at greater risk to knee injuries, but, per the league’s injury data, the number of ACL and MCL injuries has remained fairly steady in the last few years and, as we saw with Nelson and other players, many torn ACLs are non-contact injuries.

It’s still a subject that the league, union and teams should explore in order to make the game as safe as possible, but the end result may still be that playing football carries an inherent risk of injury that can’t be totally eliminated.

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Rich McKay reinstated as head of NFL competition committee

Rich McCay AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Falcons president Rich McKay on Wednesday and has reinstated McKay as the head of the league’s competition committee, effective immediately. McKay was suspended from the competition committee as part of the team’s penalty for pumping fake noise into the Georgia Dome during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The NFL concluded McKay was unaware of the artificial crowd noise but “bared some responsibility for ensuring that team employees comply with league rules.” McKay’s suspension began April 1, and he was eligible to apply for reinstatement after June 30.

A co-chairman since 1998, Goodell promoted McKay to head of the competition committee in 2011.

The Falcons were fined $350,000 and docked a 2016 fifth-round draft pick as part of the punishment.

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Steelers’ Martavis Bryant appealing substance-abuse suspension

Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant is facing a potential four-game suspension.

Bryant is currently appealing a suspension under the league’s substance-abuse policy, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

The Steelers selected Bryant with a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. As a rookie, Bryant didn’t play at all in the first six games but showed great promise down the stretch, catching 26 passes for 549 yards (a whopping 21.1 yards a catch), with eight touchdowns. This year the Steelers were expected to get Bryant even more involved in their passing game.

Instead, the Steelers may have to plan for a month without Bryant’s services. With Le’Veon Bell also suspended and Maurkice Pouncey injured, the Steelers will be starting the season at much less than full strength on offense.

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Ravens reward safety Will Hill with a new two-year deal

Atlanta Falcons v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

The Ravens are the home of players on second chances, and they just rewarded a guy who is on his third or fourth.

Via Clifton Brown of CSNBaltimore.com, the Ravens have signed safety Will Hill to a new two-year contract.

Hill was scheduled to make $1.542 million this year on the low restricted free agent tender. That doesn’t reflect the way he’s played on the field, but staying on it has been the challenge.

He has been suspended three times by the league, twice when he was with the Giants and six games last year with the Ravens.

But he played well for them over the final 10 games, and apparently proved to them this offseason that he could be trusted.

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Report: Several Washington offensive linemen dislike RG3

Robert Griffin III AP

As Robert Griffin III morphed from the rookie of the year in 2012 to a huge disappointment in 2013, questions started to be raised about whether his offensive line disliked him. At one point late in the 2013 season, it was observed that Washington’s offensive linemen hardly ever helped Griffin up after sacks, and reports out of the team’s locker room began to indicate that players were tired of Griffin’s refusal to take the blame when things went wrong.

Two years later, Griffin still doesn’t seem to be winning any friends in the locker room.

At today’s press conference, Griffin was asked about problems with the team’s pass protection. Although Griffin said he wouldn’t point fingers at his offensive linemen, he also didn’t put the blame on himself, even though many observers have pointed to Griffin’s lack of pocket awareness as a bigger problem than Washington’s offensive line.

According to Jason Reid of ESPN, Griffin sidestepping his own responsibility for making the line look worse than it played is exactly the kind of thing that causes him problems in the locker room. Reid wrote on Twitter after Griffin’s press conference that coaches say “several” offensive linemen dislike Griffin.

There seem to be two problems facing Griffin. The more important one is that he simply hasn’t played very well since suffering a severe knee injury at the end of his rookie season. But another problem is that he hasn’t shown that he has the leadership qualities that a quarterback needs. And until he starts playing better, it’s hard to see how he’ll be able to rally his teammates around him.

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EJ Manuel to start Bills’ next preseason game

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Bills’ quarterback competition has taken an odd turn.

Just when it appeared to be a two-way race between Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor, Bills coach Rex Ryan announced today that EJ Manuel will start the Bills’ next preseason game, Saturday afternoon against the Steelers.

That’s a surprise, as the third preseason game is usually the game when teams put give their projected starters the most playing time. Putting Manuel in at quarterback for the third preseason game suggests that he has a real shot at earning the job for Week One of the regular season, which previously didn’t appear to be the case.

Ryan said, however, that all three quarterbacks will get some time with the first-string offense on Saturday. So Manuel’s time with the starters may be brief.

In the end, Manuel still appears to be a long shot to win the starting quarterback job for the regular season. But if he plays well on Saturday, and if Taylor and Cassel struggle, it’s at least possible that Manuel could find himself back on the top of the depth chart when the season starts.

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49ers stand by Ahmad Brooks after sexual battery charge

Jamaal Charles, Ahmad Brooks, Demarcus Dobbs AP

The 49ers have sent linebacker Ahmad Brooks home from Denver following his misdemeanor sexual battery charge. But that doesn’t mean they’re not standing by him.

General Manager Trent Baalke confirmed today that the team is supporting Brooks and is not cutting him.

Ahmad is still a member of this team,” Baalke said. “We excused him from team activities to get on top of this. . . Obviously, when you’re in a situation like this, it’s important that you get back to your family. It’s also important for him to start taking care of business on his end. And it’s our job to stay focused here on what we need to stay focused on.”

The 49ers did not release Brooks when he was first accused of groping a woman who had also accused ex-49er Ray McDonald of rape, and the 49ers will not release Brooks based on the information they have now, either.

“The one thing that we have to realize is this is not a new matter,” Baalke said. “This is a new development within that matter. Our players are well aware of the consequence that go along with their actions and are supportive of it. But they also understand that every situation is different.”

Last year, as McDonald played while facing a domestic violence accusation, the 49ers took a lot of criticism. The same may happen this year, as the 49ers sound inclined to allow Brooks to keep playing even as he has a sexual battery charge hanging over his head.

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