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Lefeged’s case highlights loophole in Rookie Symposium

Joe Lefeged AP

It never will be known whether Colts safety Joe Lefeged would have avoided an arrest on weapons charges if he had the benefit of attending the Rookie Symposium.  It’s possible, if not probable, that he still would have gotten in to trouble.

But at least the effort to provide Lefeged with the full extent of the information provided at the annual event for first-year players would have been made.

Only drafted players attend the Rookie Symposium, as Ross Tucker explained during Friday’s PFT Live.  Undrafted players don’t, presumably due to the high cost of sending them and the reality that most will never make it in the NFL.

Those who do, like Lefeged, should be asked to go to the Rookie Symposium before the start of their second season.

Of course, even if undrafted players were invited as rookies, it wouldn’t have mattered for Lefeged.  The NFL scrapped the event in 2011, due to the lockout.

Moving forward, Lefeged’s case hopefully will prompt the NFL to consider whether undrafted rookies should be asked to attend the event once they have proven themselves capable of securing and holding a roster spot.

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Colts waive Ryan Lindley

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 03:  Ryan Lindley #3 of the Indianapolis Colts looks for an open receiver during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts needed to bring in a couple of veteran quarterbacks for the end of the regular season due to injuries to Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck, but there’s no need for so many of them on the offseason roster.

Indianapolis parted ways with one of them on Tuesday. The Colts announced that they have waived Ryan Lindley.

Lindley signed with the team before the regular season finale and split time with fellow late arrival Josh Freeman in the team’s Week 17 win over the Titans. He went 6-of-10 for 58 yards and a touchdown in his only action of the 2015 season.

His previous experience all came with the Cardinals, including a start in the team’s playoff loss to the Cardinals after the 2014 season. He’ll look for work as a backup this offseason.

Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst are set to become free agents. The Colts have Freeman and Stephen Morris on the roster to go with Luck.

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Silver regrets saying Browns lied, stands by report Manziel was drunk

Johnny Manziel AP

After reporting on the air that the Browns lied about Johnny Manziel having a concussion to cover up Manziel’s drinking, NFL Network reporter Mike Silver has backed off. But only backed off half of the report.

Silver wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that he regrets saying that the Browns lied about Manziel having a concussion. But Silver still says Manziel was drunk when he reported to work on the Wednesday of Week 17.

“I’ve been told by multiple sources that Manziel showed up late to the team facility for a meeting & noticeably drunk on Wednesday, Dec. 30,” Silver wrote today. “He was later placed in the concussion protocol & sent home. I am not a doctor & thus cannot presume to question the diagnosis of an independent neurologist or any medical professional. I do not have direct knowledge of what Manziel may have told the doctor or doctors who evaluated him, or what might have been suggested. If the Browns say they did not lie about Manziel’s diagnosis, I will take them at their word, and I regret using that term (‘lied’). I stand by my original report that Manziel showed up drunk at practice & that witnesses believed this was the cause of his ‘behavior’.”

In his original on-air report, Silver was emphatic that the Browns lied about Manziel’s concussion diagnosis. It’s not a leap to wonder if the Browns, who own a 1/32nd share of NFL Network, may have suggested to Silver’s bosses that they were not too pleased with that report, and that may have led to Silver backing off.

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Panthers G.M. “not afraid” to franchise Josh Norman if need be

Josh Norman AP

The Panthers don’t have too many free agent decisions to make, but they have one big one.

And it’s worth remembering that General Manager Dave Gettleman said Tuesday he’s “not afraid” of using the franchise tag.

He wasn’t specifically talking about cornerback Josh Norman but he didn’t have to be, as the cornerback who became a star this season is the only one on their roster it’s a consideration for.

“I’ve used it before,” Gettleman said, via Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. “I’m not shy, I’m not afraid of it. After we evaluate everything, we’re going to do what we think is in the best interests of the Carolina Panthers.”

The tag may be the most sensible answer for the Panthers, even though it would cost them north of $13 million for a year. But because Norman’s 28, there’s a danger in doing a long-term extension now as well. The two sides talked about a deal last offseason, but Norman wasn’t biting on an offer of around $7 million a year, betting on himself.

He won.

He picked off four passes and returned two of them for touchdowns in the first month of the season, making himself a star for a team which would go 15-1. Now, the former fifth-round pick could join some of the top earners at his position if the Panthers don’t prevent him from reaching the market.

Gettleman can only hope it would work out better than the last time he used the tag — on Greg Hardy in 2014. That was a $13.1 million donation to domestic violence awareness, as Hardy played one game before going on the commissioner’s exempt list.

And while the tag makes sense, Gettleman wasn’t going to get into declaring it a necessity, as he prepares to make tough decisions this offseason for a team that should contend for the next few years, but needs upgrades in pass-rush and the rest of the secondary.

“I don’t want to go there,” Gettleman said when asked about Norman’s value. “You’re never only one player away. You’re not. I know you people look at me like I have brain damage but you’re not. I’ve seen it over and over and over again.”

They found out the hard way last time.

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Arthur Blank announces he has prostate cancer

during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. Getty Images

Falcons owner Arthur Blank made an announcement about his health on Tuesday.

Blank released a statement through the team to let the public know that he is receiving medical treatment for prostate cancer. Blank, who is 73, says the prognosis for recovery is a good one.

“In December I was diagnosed with a treatable form of prostate cancer,” Blank said in the statement. “Over the last several weeks Angie and I have visited a number of expert doctors and hospitals across the country to identify the best treatment options for me. I have chosen an aggressive approach that will include surgery and the overall prognosis is good. I’m looking forward to getting this behind me and continuing a very active lifestyle, my upcoming wedding, as well as continued active involvement in our businesses and philanthropic efforts for years to come.”

Everyone at PFT sends best wishes to Blank for success in his treatments and hope for a speedy recovery.

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Former A&M player says Manziel contributed to a chaotic culture

Manziel Getty Images

As the Browns try to clean up the mess left from their decision to spend a first-round draft pick on Johnny Manziel two years ago, a former Texas A&M player is saying Manziel left a mess behind at Texas A&M as well.

Former A&M quarterback Kyle Allen says he transferred to Houston last month largely because he disliked the culture of the A&M football program — a culture that Allen says goes back to Manziel thinking the rules didn’t apply to him.

“I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny’s era there — the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there,” Allen told CBS. “They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny . . . and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.”

Allen says there was enough talent at A&M that the Aggies were able to go 11-2 and 9-4 in Manziel’s two seasons as their starting quarterback, but thinking they could win on talent alone and not hard work was bad for the long-term health of the football team.

“A lot of people were riding off that, ‘I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday,'” Allen said.

If Allen’s characterization of Manziel is accurate, it doesn’t speak well for the Browns that they thought Manziel could be the leader of their franchise.

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Browns: We did not lie about Johnny Manziel concussion

Johnny Manziel AP

The circumstances surrounding the concussion that kept quarterback Johnny Manziel from playing in the season finale surfaced again when Mike Silver reported on NFL Network that Manziel was drunk at practice on Wednesday during the final week of the season.

Silver, who is close to new Browns coach Hue Jackson, said on air the Browns “lied, to try to protect, and I would argue enable, this irresponsible and very troubled young man.” It’s not the first time that there’s been mention of Manziel showing up to work inebriated, although the Browns maintain that Manziel suffered a concussion and was still dealing with it more than a week after the season ended.

“Johnny Manziel was diagnosed with a concussion by an independent neurologist,” the team said in a statement, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “He wasn’t cleared until Jan. 12. The fact that people are saying we lied about [Manziel’s] concussion is false.”

The NFL didn’t have a comment on the report and Cabot, who says she heard the same as Silver, pointed out their January 4th response to a possible inquiry about Manziel’s concussion was that it was “a team medical issue.” As of now, it doesn’t appear that the report making it to the network they own is causing them to change that opinion.

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Chiefs owner thinks team can contend for Super Bowl

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  Clark Hunt, CEO and Chairman of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, visits the SiriusXM set at Super Bowl 50 Radio Row at the Moscone Center on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM) Getty Images

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt believes he has a good team on his hands, and doesn’t think they need a major overhaul in order to compete for a title.

During a radio interview with WHB in Kansas City, Hunt said last week that he thought the Chiefs were capable of contending for a Super Bowl, and injuries leading into their playoff loss to the Patriots underscored the importance of earning a bye.

I do think we have a lot of the ingredients that you need in order to make it to the Super Bowl, namely a great head coach and his coaching staff, a quality quarterback and a tough defense,” Hunt said, via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. “I think we have those ingredients and we have a lot of players who are entering the prime of their careers, and hopefully we’ll be playing in Super Bowl 51 next year.’’

Of course, there’s plenty of work to be done before then, as they have 15 unrestricted free agents, a list topped by Pro Bowler linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry.

“Free agency and the [salary] cap are a challenge each year,’’ Hunt said. “We have a number of free agents this year, important players. We are in pretty good cap shape, maybe the best cap shape we’ve been in for a few years. Certainly getting those players re-signed is going to be a big priority for us here over the next couple of months.’’

Other than the big names, the Chiefs also have several other free agents worth retaining, including cornerback Sean Smith, defensive lineman Jaye Howard and offensive lineman Jeff Allen. And if they’re going to keep the band together, they have a lot of work to do between now and the start of free agency.

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Adam Vinatieri wants to kick at least a couple more years

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 03:  Adam Vinatieri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after making a field goal against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Adam Vinatieri recently finished his 20th season in the NFL and he’s not planning on stopping any time soon.

Vinatieri said during a visit with Mike Florio on PFT Live from Radio Row in San Francisco last week that he didn’t want to put a timetable on how much longer he’ll remain in the NFL, but it looks like he’s looking for at least two more seasons.

“Not only a season, but Lord willing, a couple of years,” Vinatieri said, via the Indianapolis Star. “There will come a time when it’s over for me. I don’t think that time is yet. I enjoy playing. I enjoy doing my thing.”

On PFT Live, Vinatieri said that he only wanted to keep playing if he’s going to be helping his team win games. Vinatieri was 25-of-27 on field goals in 2015 and hit 32-of-35 extra points.

He did admit to having an eye on Morten Andersen’s record for points in the NFL, however, and the fact that he’s 291 points away from tying the mark doesn’t seem to hurt his motivation to continue kicking. He’s set to be a free agent, although the Colts have made it clear they want Vinatieri back.

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Super Bowl 50 audience gets embellished

Zz01MTM2OGM1OTJkYTUwZTQ3NzBlODY1ODBmMzE1MjJjNw== AP

The 2015 football season included an apples-to-paperclips comparison of normal TV ratings to Internet numbers generated by the Bills-Jaguars stream on Yahoo. The 2015 football season ended with a little (or a lot) of embellishment of the Super Bowl audience.

CBS announced, and NFL.com trumpeted, that 167 million viewers tuned in for the game, “making it the most-watched single broadcast per Nielsen’s Fast Total Audience Estimates.”

That’s fine, but the total audience isn’t one of the standard metrics for determining TV ratings. The key number is average audience. For Super Bowl 50, the average audience was 111.9 million and the rating was 46.6.

Using the standard, industry-recognized measurement, the audience for Super Bowl 50 did not set a record. The record came a year ago, when 114.4 million tuned in on average during Patriots-Seahawks, generating a rating of 47.5.

The decision to make the audience seem bigger than it was obscures the fact that the audience was the smallest since Super Bowl XLVII. But to admit that would be to admit that a sport that prides itself on constant growth has seen only the second shrinkage of Super Bowl audience in a decade, based on the total numbers published by SportsBusiness Daily.

Thus, as the sport gets bigger and bigger every year, the average audience for the Super Bowl didn’t get any bigger in 2016. It got smaller. Which probably isn’t the way the NFL wanted to cap a full season of hyping the 50th Super Bowl in league history.

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Elway calls re-signing Danny Trevathan, Malik Jackson priorities

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:   Malik Jackson #97 of the Denver Broncos recovers a fumble for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Linebacker Von Miller said that he expects his contract discussions with the Broncos will be “a peaceful thing,” an outlook made easier by the fact that the team would likely use the franchise tag to secure Miller’s return for at least one more season if they can’t strike a deal by early March.

The tag probably won’t be an option with two other defensive starters headed for a free agency. Linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive end Malik Jackson can both head elsewhere this offseason, but the Broncos say they want to keep both in Denver.

“They are all priorities,” Elway said, via the Denver Post. “Getting Derek Wolfe done was the first step, and we want to get Danny and Malik done. We want to try and keep the group together. But it’s a fluid process. We will talk to their representatives and see where we are at and get a feel for it.

With Miller and quarterback Brock Osweiler also up for deals, it could be tough to bring back both pieces of what Elway called a “historic” defense.

Jackson should be a popular target for other teams as comes off a strong season and Wolfe’s deal sets the framework for another contract that will be tough to fit into the puzzle. Trevathan won’t cost as much, but there would be other suitors on the open market for a player who’s been a starter on two AFC champs. That could price him out as well, all of which leaves plenty to watch in Denver beyond Miller and the quarterbacks this offseason.

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Elway tiptoes around question of whether he wants Peyton back

Zz04YmZiZTRkMjhlNzYyOGIzOTBmZDJhNTI3Y2U3YTAyYQ== AP

Apart from the question of whether Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wants to return is the question of whether the team wants him to return. Broncos G.M. John Elway was asked that question at a Tuesday press conference, and he deftly avoided it.

Here’s the specific question: “I know Peyton has a tough decision to make, but would you personally like to see him come back to the game for another year, and would you be open to him coming back to the team?”

Here’s what Elway said, without ever showing his hand: “You know, I think that it’s important for him — the key thing is for him to want to come back. . . . It’s not really what we want to do. I think the important thing is is it’s going to be his decisions, and so where we get a chance to sit down and talk to him, and that why it’s up to Peyton to see that process. Where he is, where he is in his career, what he thinks he can do, how he can play, what he wants to do from here on out. And so in talking about retirement, retirement’s always hard. I mean you can butt up to that line and crossing that line, taking that final step, saying I am moving on. That is a very — even if the first 99 percent are easy to get there, that last one percent is as hard as that first 99 percent. So that’s why he’s gonna have the time he needs and it’s basically gonna be up to him.”

Later, another question reluctantly was posed to Elway about Peyton’s future with the Broncos.

Here’s the question: “Sorry to ask one more Peyton-related question, but Archie did say on Sunday night that he believed Peyton was done in Denver. Do you think he’s done in Denver?”

“I don’t know why Archie would say that, but obviously that’s up to Archie, and I said we’re gonna give Peyton plenty of time to think about what he wants to do,” Elway said.

The time isn’t unlimited. As noted by Mike Klis of 9news.com, the Broncos need to know what’s going on by March 8, because on March 9 Manning’s $19 million base salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed.

If Manning wants to play for the Broncos, and if the Broncos want him (Elway still hasn’t said they do), they’ll need to work out a contract for 2016. Last year, the Broncos initially requested a $10 million pay cut. Eventually, the Broncos dropped Manning’s pay from $19 million to $15 million, with the opportunity to earn the money back.

Complicating matters for the Broncos is that Manning has indeed earned it back, pushing the cap hit from $21.5 million to $25.5 million for 2016.

Few believe that the Broncos will want him at that number. If they want him at any number, the Broncos and Manning need to agree on what the number is. Then, they need to determine whether the contract should be extended in order to push cap dollars into 2017 by turning some of the 2016 pay into a signing bonus.

Regardless of how it all works out, the two sides have less than a month to get there. So, yes, the Broncos are currently being patient. Soon, they’ll be getting impatient.

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Marvin Jones won’t be giving Bengals a hometown discount

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 29: Marvin Jones #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals heads up the field during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones is happy to go back to Cincinnati.

But he’s not cutting them a break on price out of loyalty.

Via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jones said he’s fair game for anyone once free agency begins.

“I’d like to be back, but at the same time I am a free agent – no hometown discount, definitely not – but I’m a free agent,” Jones said. “It wouldn’t be good for me not to test the waters a little bit. So it’s just an exciting process.”

Any free agent who doesn’t say that at this point is not making sound business decisions, and Jones could find himself in an enviable position.

He’s 25, coming off a good season, and showing he is well-recovered from the foot injury that cost him the previous season. And with young wideouts in short supply (especially if the Bears keep or tag Alshon Jeffery), he could cash in.

The Bengals would like to keep him, but already have a wide array of targets in the passing game, and might not be willing to overspend to do so.

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Report: Browns lied about Manziel concussion to cover up his drinking

Mike Pettine, Johnny Manziel AP

In a report on the league’s own network, the Browns have been accused of lying about Johnny Manziel having a concussion in an effort to cover up that the real problem with Manziel was showing up to work drunk.

“Johnny Manziel, going into what would have been a start late in the season, showed up drunk at practice on a Wednesday. The Browns lied and said he was in the concussion protocol. Let me repeat that: The Browns lied, to try to protect, and I would argue enable, this irresponsible and very troubled young man,” Mike Silver said on the air on NFL Network.

As PFT pointed out at the time, there’s always been something very fishy about Manziel’s Week 17 concussion diagnosis. On Monday of the last week of the season, then-Browns coach Mike Pettine said he planned to talk to Manziel about a video that appeared to show him drinking alcohol and partying. At that time, there were no reports that Manziel being checked for a concussion. Then, when Manziel showed up to work on Wednesday, it was announced that he had a concussion and couldn’t play in that Sunday’s season finale. It was never explained why the Browns only diagnosed this concussion three days after it supposedly happened, and two days after Pettine said he was going to have a stern talk with Manziel about his off-field issues.

If NFL Network’s report is correct, the NFL should come down hard on the Browns. The league has spent the last few years repeating, over and over again, that concussions are to be taken seriously. If the Browns are using bogus concussion diagnoses to avoid having to discuss players’ off-field problems, that would be an appalling misuse of the league’s injury reports.

So while the Browns are done with Manziel, they may not be done paying the price for hitching their wagon to him. Cleveland could be facing league discipline for lying about a concussion.

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Michael Griffin tweets that he’s been cut by Titans

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Michael Griffin tweeted Tuesday that he “knew [his] time would come,” indicating that he’s been released by the Titans.

Griffin was a first-round pick of the Titans in 2007. He started 133 games, recorded 25 interceptions and went to two Pro Bowls in nine seasons.

Griffin, who turned 31 last month, was due to make $6.5 million in 2016.

He had one interception, one sack and three pass breakups in 15 games last season.

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Panthers players yell “we love Cam,” Ron Rivera approves

Zz0wODM4ZjljODdjNDFiZWM1NGUzNjM4MDZhODA3ZmE1ZA== AP

As Panthers quarterback Cam Newton met with the media to provide more thoughtful and complete responses to reporters, some of his teammates were providing background noise via a three-word mantra: “We love Cam!”

Coach Ron Rivera was pleased to hear about the display.

“This was a very special group of young men that came together,” Rivera told reporters. “I hope we can carry that forward into the 2016 season and everybody remain focused on what the task is. I think that’s one of the things as I said earlier, we know who Cam is. We understand who the young man is and who he wants to be for us. And that’s more important to us. He’s really committed himself to being our franchise quarterback.

“The things that he does, you guys don’t see. You guys don’t get an opportunity to talk about the early mornings or the late afternoons, coming in on Tuesday on his own time and helping to come upstairs and sit down with Coach Shula and the other coaches and talk about what he likes in our game plan, what he sees, what he’s already seen on a Tuesday. Most players haven’t even looked at the opponent until Wednesday morning. So those are the things that his teammates appreciate. . . . I’m proud of the fact that they’re willing to stand up for him.”

Rivera also should be relieved a bit, because the gesture shows that, as Rivera embarks on an offseason that will consist of rebuilding Newton’s confidence, Rivera apparently won’t have to contend with a locker-room schism regarding the way Newton handled himself after the game and/or regarding his failure to dive on a key fumble late in the game.

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