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Vernon Davis says Seattle “building a dynasty”

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The battle for the NFC West crown this season is expected to be a fiercely contested duel between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks in one of the fastest growing rivalries in the league.

The head coaches don’t like each other. The players don’t like each other. The players don’t like the opposing coaches and so on and so on. It makes for a delightfully entertaining war of words this offseason and adds to the hype for a pivotal early season matchup between the two teams in Week 2 in Seattle for Sunday Night Football.

One member of the 49ers isn’t trying to stir the pot any further, however. 49ers tight end Vernon Davis spoke with Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network from the rookie symposium and said he’s incredibly impressed with the job the Seahawks are doing in trying to supplant San Francisco at the top of the division.

“You have a team like Seattle who is coming up. They are building a dynasty over there. They have some good players over there who are eager to win. These guys are starving. We have to really keep that in mind because these guys are coming to take us out,” Davis said. “I respect them, just like I respect my team, but we want to win too. We are in it to win.”

Whether Seattle truly is building a dynasty remains to be seen but it’s obvious the Seahawks and 49ers are among the most talented rosters  in the league. It should make for a pair of fantastic games this fall.

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Report: Delano Howell’s neck injury isn’t career ending

Indianapolis Colts v New York Giants Getty Images

Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson didn’t sound too many optimistic notes about safety Delano Howell’s neck injury earlier this week when he said that Howell would need to form an “opinion with his wife and his agent” about next steps.

Whatever those conversations might be, it doesn’t sound like they’ll involve bringing an end to his career. Mike Wells of ESPN.com reports that the injury is not going to force him to stop playing football.

Howell met with doctors this week to discuss the best course of action and, per Wells, the Colts are expected to speak with them on Friday about where things go from here. At that point the timetable for a return to the field will presumably start to take shape.

The injury knocks Howell out his presumed spot alongside LaRon Landry in the Colts defense. Mike Adams is the next man up in that spot.

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Geno Atkins to make preseason debut on Sunday night

Geno Atkins AP

One of the NFL most disruptive defensive tackles will reportedly return to the playing field on Sunday night.

Bengals lineman Geno Atkins, who hasn’t appeared in a game since suffering an ACL tear on October 31, is slated to play in Cincinnati’s exhibition at Arizona, coach Marvin Lewis said Friday, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“He’s had a great couple weeks of practice. He looks like Geno. I’ve been impressed,” Lewis said Friday, according to the Enquirer.

The 26-year-old Atkins has recorded 29 sacks in four NFL seasons, including a career-best 12.5 in 2012. The Bengals signed him to a five-year, $55 million contract last September.

Sunday’s Bengals-Cardinals game will air at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

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Bishop Sankey: I don’t plan on fumbling being a problem

Bishop Sankey, Daimion Stafford AP

Titans rookie running back Bishop Sankey has a shot to move ahead of veteran Shonn Greene into the top spot on the depth chart this summer as Greene dealt with knee problems, but he is at risk of fumbling it away.

Sankey has fumbled in each of the first two preseason games and displayed problems holding onto the ball in practice as well. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Sankey needs to show more attention to details like footwork and exchanges with the quarterback because they are the root cause of the fumbles. Sankey appears to have taken the coach’s words to heart.

“You definitely can’t put the ball on the ground. I want to do everything right assignment-wise, execution-wise. That’s really my main focus each and every game, to help the team win,” Sankey said, via 247Sports.com. “It seems like a small detail, but it’s something you’ve got to do right each and every time. It wasn’t an issue for me in college, and I don’t plan on it being an issue for me now.”

It’s hard to think of a running back who made a fumbling problem part of their plan for an upcoming season, but, as Sankey pointed out, holding onto the ball wasn’t an issue for him at Washington. That doesn’t mean the demands of the professional game won’t be and Sankey’s expected rise to a prominent offensive role will take some time if the little things continue to trip him up.

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Snoop Dogg wants Steelers to fire Todd Haley

300px-Snoop_Dogg_3-1

Snoop Dogg has become over the years the ultimate football frontrunner, gliding onto the bandwagon of any team that achieves any real success.  He’s apparently anxious to get back on the black and gold party bus.

But he thinks the team needs a little help first.

“Man, the Pittsburgh Steelers need a new f–king offensive coordinator,” Snoop Dogg says in a video posted online.  “This guy sucks.  Coach Tomlin, this is Snoop Dogg, man.  Fire that mutherf–ker and get us a real offensive coordinator.  We ain’t won a playoff game since we had that mutherf–ker.  Sh-t.”

Snoop Dogg is talking about Todd Haley.  And Snoop’s facts are a little off.  The Steelers haven’t even been to the playoffs since Haley arrived.

In an Instagram post accompanying the video, he asks, “Bruce Arians where r u?”  Actually, Arians is coaching one of the other teams for whom Snoop Dogg has shown support in the past.

Last year, it seemed that Haley would become the scapegoat for the Steelers’ struggles.  Instead, the team changed offensive line coaches.

For now, it’s way too early to panic.  The offense has been improving under Haley, and there’s reason to believe it will be even better this year.  Besides, it’s still the preseason, and last night’s game was marred by the misadventures of a couple of guys who engaged in an activity that fits far more neatly into Snoop’s wheelhouse.

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Doug Martin to be Tampa’s “bell cow” after injuries to Sims, James

Doug Martin AP

Over the course of the offseason, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford each said that the team wanted to use a variety of running backs this season in order to keep Doug Martin fresh and healthy after his 2013 season came to an early end with a shoulder injury.

As the old saying goes, though, man plans and the injury rate for running backs in the NFL laughs. The Bucs have lost rookie Charles Sims for much of the season to an ankle injury and Mike James is sidelined by a shoulder injury, cutting what was once a deep backfield down to Martin and Bobby Rainey. According to Smith, the result will be a familiar role for Martin.

“With Mike James going down with an injury and with Charles going down, [Martin and Rainey] need to play at a certain level,” Smith said, via the Associated Press. “They’re both good players, but Doug is our bell cow. He likes that role. He’s had a good camp, hasn’t missed a beat.”

If that’s going to work out, the Bucs are going to need to sort out their issues at guard sooner rather than later because there’s only so many times you can send a back into a swarm of defenders before he doesn’t get back up.

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PFT Live: Packers talk with Tyler Dunne, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Green Bay Packers v St Louis Rams Getty Images

The Packers will welcome back an old friend on Friday night when Charles Woodson and the Raiders come calling for a preseason matchup.

We could all probably predict a warm reception for a player who had his best years in a Packers uniform, but for more insight into what’s going on in Green Bay these days we’ll ask Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to share his thoughts on Friday’s edition of PFT Live. Dunne and Mike Florio will talk about what to watch for on the Packers side of the ball in the traditional dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Then we’ll close out the week by finding out what PFT Planet wants to know. Florio will be taking your questions on the Packers, the Raiders and everybody else in the league so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or call 888-237-5269 during the show.

It all gets started at 1 p.m. ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Report: Bon Jovi’s bid close to collapsing

BonJovi Reuters

I’ve tried not to reference existing Bon Jovi song or album titles when talking about his effort to purchase the Buffalo Bills.  But there could be some future song or album titles lurking in the quotes that have emerged in connection with the faltering push for the franchise.

“They’re hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” an unnamed source told John Kryk of the Toronto Sun.  “The bid’s on life support.”

The clearest objective evidence regarding the coming collapse of the attempt to buy the Bills comes from the cancellation of a Wednesday tour of Ralph Wilson Stadium.  It’s part of the due diligence process for all finalists, and with the tour canceled and not expected to be rescheduled, it will be impossible for the Bon Jovi bid to be accepted.

Kryk also explains that Bon Jovi would have been the controlling owner, which can be accomplished only if he purchases at least 30 percent of the team.  To keep Bon Jovi’s 30-percent stake within the range of what he can afford, however, the total bid wasn’t as competitive as it could have been.  And without adequate assurances that the team won’t move, Bon Jovi will have to wait for the next opportunity.

While doing so, he should work on boosting his overall financial position, perhaps by writing songs called Skin Of My Teeth or The Bid’s On Life Support or If I Had More Cash And A Better P.R. Plan, I’d Be Able To Hang Out At NFL Games Not As A Friend Of A Coach Or An Owner But As The Dude Actually In Charge Of The Team.

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Report: Johnny Manziel fined $12,000 for flashing middle finger

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel’s Monday night middle finger didn’t go unnoticed — or unpunished — by the league office.

The NFL docked Manziel $12,000 for his gesture in the third quarter of Monday’s game at Washington, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday. The hand signal was caught by the ESPN cameras and went viral in a snap.

Manziel can appeal to have the fine reduced, as it is more than 25 percent of his weekly salary of $24,075.

Here’s the applicable language in the CBA between the NFL and NFLPA regarding fine reduction appeals:

“On appeal, a player may assert, among other defenses, that any fine should be reduced because it is excessive when compared to the player’s expected earnings for the season in question. However, a fine may be reduced on this basis only if it exceeds 25 percent of one week of a player’s salary for a first offense, and 50 percent of one week of a player’s salary for a second offense.”

Manziel will enter the regular season as the Browns’ backup quarterback after Brian Hoyer was named the club’s starter earlier this week.

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Vikings, Wilfs increase stadium contribution to $526 million

VikingsStadium

Like any construction project, the actual costs always exceed the budget.  When it comes to the Vikings’ new stadium, however, the public contributions won’t be increasing.

Which means that certain bells and/or whistles will have to be dumped — or that someone else will come up with the cash.

So far, the Vikings and the family that owns the franchise have kicked more money into the project.  The team has announced that the private contribution have increased to nearly $526 million, up from the original $477 million.  Added to the hard-capped $498 million from state and local sources, the stadium has now crossed the $1 billion threshold.

“The Vikings have made a significant contribution to the stadium budget, which allows us to maintain the original design to ensure the stadium is the most iconic, world-class stadium in the country and perhaps the world,” Minnesota Sports Facilities Association chairperson Michele Kelm-Helgen said in a press release.  “The team stepping up to make this contribution was instrumental in helping to solve our budget gap.”

“It is critical that the original stadium design unveiled in 2013 is delivered to the public when the new stadium opens in 2016,” Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf said. “Our goal is to provide the best game day experience possible for our fans and for everyone in Minnesota who uses the stadium. We strongly believed eliminating significant items that contribute to that fan experience was not an option.”

As the construction proceeds, it’s possible that other unforeseen expenses and increases will emerge.  It appears that, if/when this happens, the private contributions once again will increase.

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Spinal cord injury ends Isaac Redman’s NFL career

Isaac Redman AP

In a statement posted to his verified Twitter account Friday, former Steelers running back Isaac Redman said he has been told to give up football because of a spinal cord injury.

Redman said he was examined by Dr. Robert Watkins, known in part for his work with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. According to Redman, Watkins advised he had a “career ending injury” to the spinal cord.

Redman said he played with the neck injury last year but “wasn’t myself on the field.”

The 29-year-old Redman rushed for 1,148 yards in five seasons with Pittsburgh (2009-2013). He was released after three games last season.

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Five questions: New York Jets

New York Jets v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Doom and gloom were the two leading predictions for the Jets in 2013, but the team defied those execrable expectations to go 8-8 while securing wins over teams like the Patriots and Saints over the course of the season.

Predictions aren’t quite as bad this time around, although that doesn’t mean people are clamoring to get in line for playoff tickets. The team improved their offensive supporting cast, but there’s still plenty of uncertainty about Geno Smith’s ability to drive the bus. On defense, the strength of the defensive line is balanced out by a shortage of cornerbacks that could prove fatal given the Jets’ schedule.

Questions about quarterback and cornerback kick off our five queries about the Jets and the answers to them will probably go a long way toward answering the final entry on the list.

1. Who will start the most games at quarterback?

Unless things go terribly wrong against the Giants in the team’s third preseason game on Friday night, Smith will be starting the opening game against the Raiders. That hardly settles things for the entire season, though.

With Michael Vick on the roster, Smith won’t have the same kind of rope he got when Matt Simms was the only other option during his rookie season. With Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and other new additions on offense, Smith also won’t get the benefit of doubt that comes from playing with a skeletal supporting cast. Smith will have to show that his strong close to last season was a building block for the future, something that hasn’t been readily apparent in the team’s first two preseason games.

If he can retain the job through the season, it should mean that the Jets have taken a significant step forward offensively. If he can’t, Vick may be able to rally the team but it would leave the Jets back at square one in their decades-long search for a franchise quarterback.

2. Were the Jets too dismissive of cornerback needs?

The offseason started with the Jets cutting Antonio Cromartie because of his outsize salary, a move that opened up cap space that many imagined General Manager John Idzik would use to bolster the position. While they did sign Dimitri Patterson, the Jets otherwise resisted the temptations of free agent cornerbacks and end the summer with a lot of cap space that should help them maintain fiscal sanity in the coming years.

It won’t do them any good against the pass, though, and that’s become a big problem with Dee Milliner’s readiness for the season in doubt because of an ankle injury and third-round pick Dexter McDougle lost for the season because of a torn ACL. Patterson’s also been banged up this summer, no surprise given his history, and there’s not much behind them on the roster.

Idzik says he has no regrets about how things went this offseason, but let’s check in again in a couple of months. The Jets open with the Raiders and then go on to face the Packers, Bears, Lions, Chargers, Broncos and Patriots with the last two coming five days apart. Those are all potent passing offenses and the Jets’ corner issues could make it late real early this season.

3. How will the running back workload shake out?

Johnson still has the aura of a marquee back because of his past exploits, but he’s not guaranteed much of anything with the Jets after offseason knee surgery and two disappointing years with the Titans. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are back after each had strong stretches for the Jets in 2013 and the desire to put too much on Smith’s shoulders should leave work for all of them come the regular season.

There’s little question that the best-case scenario for the Jets offense is that Johnson rediscovers his old magic and takes the lead role in the backfield while Ivory and Powell do complementary work. If he can’t, the Jets offense will likely be on the plodding side and that hasn’t worked out for them the last couple of years.

4. Will Quinton Coples take the next step?

Given the issues at corner, the Jets would help themselves a lot if they can pressure quarterbacks into mistakes. Rex Ryan’s defenses have had some success doing that over the years, but his recent Jets teams have been a bit short on that front if their talented defensive line doesn’t get the job done on its own.

The addition of Jason Babin gives the Jets another piece to use in hopes of generating a more robust pass rush this season, but it would be ideal if Coples were to find more success in that area. He’s a better all-around player at this point than Babin and his work down the stretch last season provides hope that the light’s coming on for the talented but inconsistent linebacker.

5. Is this Rex Ryan’s last season with the Jets?

Ryan signed an extension with the Jets after last season, but it fell well short of securing his job for years to come. He got one more year of guaranteed money, which means he enters this season in pretty much the same position he entered last season. He did some of his best coaching by squeezing an 8-8 record out of a roster short on talent, but he was hired before Idzik and may still face the axe if there isn’t a significant improvement after three years out of the playoffs.

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Le’Veon Bell to cops: “I smoked two hours ago. I’m not high anymore”

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Rather than employ the time-honored “It’s not my weed” defense, Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount admitted possession of a bag of marijuana when stopped by cops Wednesday.

But that wasn’t the only alarming(ly dumb) admission that took place.

According to the police report obtained by WPXI, Bell told the officer who pulled him over he had smoked recently, but he didn’t think it was recently enough to impair his driving.

According to the complaint, Bell told the officer at the scene: “I didn’t know you could get a DUI for being high. I smoked two hours ago. I’m not high anymore. I’m perfectly fine. Why would I be getting high if I had to make it to my game?”

When the officer asked what game he was referring to, Bell replied: “I have to be on a plane at 3 to be in Philadelphia. I play for Steelers.”

Bell initially told the officer there was no marijuana in the car, but when asked if they had smoked any, he replied: “It was about a minute ago,” before clarifying that it could have been within the previous two hours.

The Steelers played both backs Thursday night, and they combined for 55 yards in a loss.

And that sound you hear in emanating from Western Pennsylvania is Mike Tomlin’s head exploding, as a team with issues moving the ball now has to worry about how long they’ll be without two regulars.

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Taylor Lewan has to “be smarter” after drawing fine for unnecessary roughness

Green Bay Packers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Rookie seasons are full of learning experiences and Titans tackle Taylor Lewan had one this week.

He learned that he’ll wind up with less money in his pocket if he isn’t able to avoid unnecessary roughness penalties on the field. Lewan was fined $8,200 for drawing a flag in the second quarter for retaliating to a shove from Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks with a shove of his own to Hicks’s facemask.

“It was petty; it was not very mature of me to do,” Lewan said, via the Tennessean. “But it was one of those heat-of-the moment things you have to be smart about.”

Lewan also drew a flag for grabbing Cameron Jordan’s facemask later in the contest, which makes for 30 yards in penalties for a Titans offense that doesn’t need those kinds of obstacles for success. It’s little surprise, then, that Lewan says he needs to “be smarter” moving forward because players that hurt their teams can find playing time hard to come by.

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Drew Brees hopes to shake off some rust, and a goatee

Tennessee Titans v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Drew Brees will be able to shake off a little rust tomorrow night.

But perhaps more importantly (at least to his wife), he’ll be able to shave the goatee he’s been growing while he was on the sidelines rehabbing a strained left oblique.

I can’t say I grew a real good one,” Brees said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “But I said, ‘Until I play, I’m going to grow it out.’ It’s getting shaved off pretty soon.”

And so is the time for him to prepare for the season. Unless they depart from normal protocol, that will give Brees exactly one game to get ready for the year, and he’s only going to play about half that one.

“It is important. That’s why I want to play well,” Brees said. “I want to get out there and feel comfortable. I feel like this week’s been great, just to get back out and feel like I’m throwing the ball like I should. Now it is time to take it to the game field and go through this final dress rehearsal before the [regular] season.”

Brees said he tried to hold himself back at first, not wanting to aggravate the injury. But when the game starts, his instincts will kick in, and it will be harder to slow down.

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Pettine says a package of plays for Manziel is a possibility

johnnymanziel AP

Brian Hoyer beat him out to be the Browns’ starting quarterback, but Johnny Manziel still might take some snaps in Week One against the Steelers.

Browns coach Mike Pettine told Ross Tucker on SiriusXM NFL Radio that a “Manziel package” is “on the table.”

“We could potentially look at a two-quarterback system down the road,” Pettine said.

That may conflict with what Pettine said when he announced Hoyer as the starter this week: Pettine had said that he didn’t want Hoyer to feel like he was on a short leash, and he wanted Hoyer to feel that the starting quarterback job was his to run with. Now Pettine is suggesting that Hoyer may have to take a seat (or line up wide as nothing more than a decoy) while Manziel comes on the field for certain plays.

However, Pettine has said in the past that he likes the idea of making opposing defenses think about the possibility of Manziel coming in and using his mobility to make plays. Pettine knows all too well how that can be tough for a defense: In 2012, when Pettine was defensive coordinator for the Jets, the 49ers used then-backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a special package of plays, and Kaepernick ran five times for 50 yards and a touchdown as the 49ers whipped the Jets 34-0.

I’ve seen that give defenses some trouble,” Pettine said. in July. “I think there’s positives and negatives to it. You’re taking your starter off the field. You have his rhythm and continuity to take into account, but at the same time defensively you’re now forcing a team to basically come up with two game plans. I mean, there are pluses and minuses to it.”

The pluses are that Manziel could get some playing experience, and that his athletic ability could help the Browns move the ball on the ground. But the big minus is that Pettine is already saying, just days after anointing Hoyer the starter, that Manziel may take some snaps away from Hoyer.

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