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Report: Hernandez failed no drug tests with Patriots

Hernandez Getty Images

Regardless of whether Aaron Hernandez failed one drug test or six drug tests or something in between during his time at Florida, Hernandez reportedly failed no drug tests during his NFL career.

According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, zero is the magic number as it relates to the number of times Hernandez tested positive for recreational drugs.

It’s important to understand what that does, and doesn’t, mean.  For players not in the substance-abuse program, testing happens once per year — between April 20 and August 9.  After that test, the player isn’t tested again until the next stretch from April 20 through August 9.

Which means that, once a player has submitted to his annual test for recreational drugs, he can use them with impunity, as long as he engages in no behavior that would place him in the program, such as being arrested for marijuana possession or having a joint fall out of his backpack during a visit to the league office.  (In contrast, testing for PEDs happens on a random basis throughout the year, with one confirmed positive resulting in a four-game suspension.)

There’s no evidence that Hernandez was smoking marijuana or taking any other drugs while playing for the Patriots.  Still, that’s currently the least of his and their problems.

Volin also reports the team had no concerns with Hernandez as a player.  “He showed up to meetings and practices on time, practiced hard, stayed in shape, was very coachable, and starred on the field, scoring 18 touchdowns in three seasons,” Volin writes, citing an unnamed team source.

The only issue, and ultimately it may have been a big one, came from Hernandez’s reluctance to sever ties with his friends in Connecticut.  Per Volin, Hernandez would “tune out and occasionally become angry” when a coach or other team employee tried to raise the issue with him.

That makes the decision to sign Hernandez to a $40 million deal in 2012 with a $12.5 million signing bonus even more surprising.  It’s one thing to take a fourth-round flier on a first-round talent.  But the Pats decided after only two seasons to tie the knot with Hernandez, despite his reluctance to break from folks whom the Patriots apparently believed could get Hernandez in to trouble.

The contact negotiations provided a perfect opportunity to draw bright lines regarding the things Hernandez can and can’t do going forward.  The Patriots routinely dictate terms to players and agents; when it comes to free agency, for example, agents and players know that they can pretty much do nothing without angering (and possibly alienating) Bill Belichick and company.

At a minimum, Hernandez’s contract could have been constructed to provide better (any) protections for the team, with roster bonuses replacing an eight-figure lump sum that Hernandez earned once he signed the deal.  While there remains no plausible or logical way to project murder from Hernandez’s history, the Patriots’ failure to properly guard against a worst-case scenario is stunning, given that they at least had reason to be concerned that something could happen with Hernandez.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t have periodically asked him to quit hanging around with his friends in Connecticut.

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Giovani Bernard not present at practice Friday

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The Bengals’ leading rusher could be in danger of missing Sunday’s game vs. Jacksonville.

Tailback Giovani Bernard (hip/clavicle) wasn’t spotted at Friday’s practice, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported this morning. Bernard didn’t participate in the Bengals’ first two workouts of the week, and a third straight missed practice would throw his status for Week Nine into doubt.

A second-year pro from North Carolina, Bernard has racked up 446 yards and five TDs on 109 carries this season, starting all seven games.

If Bernard can’t go, rookie running back Jeremy Hill would get the start for Cincinnati (4-2-1). The second-round pick from LSU has rushed for 195 yards and three TDs on 50 attempts.

While Bernard wasn’t present at practice, wideout A.J. Green (toe) was on the field Friday, Geoff Hobson of reported. Green is seeking to return to action after missing the last three games. The Pro Bowl receiver was a limited practice participant on Wednesday and Thursday after missing the previous eight workouts with his injury.

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Jerry says we’ll know if Romo is playing when inactives come in

Bush Library AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said today that the Cowboys won’t reveal whether or not Tony Romo can play Sunday until they turn in their list of inactive players on Sunday morning.

Jones said Romo is loosening up his back today and looks OK, but we’ll have to wait until we see whether Romo’s name is on the inactive list before kickoff to learn whether Romo or Brandon Weeden is the starter.

“He’s moving around, been in the meetings today,” Jones said on KRLD. “We make that decision at game time when it’s day to day. We turn that in, obviously you’ve got your 53-man roster and you’ve got to turn your actives in within an hour before the game, and that’s when you’ll know.”

Jones referenced his “Dr. Jones” nickname and said that he’s not involved with the decision, and all he knows is what he hears from Romo and the team’s medical staff. But Jones also hinted that the Cowboys may be purposely vague because they want the Cardinals to have to prepare for both Romo and Weeden.

“The more you can make that other thing cover preparation, cover different possibilities, I think that is a good thing,” Jones said.

It may be a good thing for the Cowboys to make the Cardinals guess. It won’t be a good thing for the Cowboys to be without Romo — or with a Romo who’s less than 100 percent healthy — when they take on the team with the best record in the NFC.

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Belichick has a bone to pick with meteorologists

belichick AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick wishes the weatherman would get his act together.

Belichick said today that while wind or rain might affect Sunday’s game against the Broncos, he isn’t game planning for any particular weather because he doesn’t think the weather forecasts are particularly accurate.

“Based on the forecasts we’ve gotten so far this year, none of them were very close to what the game conditions were. There was a 100 percent chance of rain last week, and the only water I saw was on the Gatorade table,” Belichick said, via the Boston Globe. “It is what it is. We’ve got to be ready for whatever it is.”

Mark Twain once said that if you don’t like the weather in New England, you just have to wait 15 minutes for it to change. Beichick says there’s no point in even trying to predict the weather 48 hours in advance.

“My experience of going with the forecast, in this area, two days before the game, I’d bet a lot that they’re wrong, just based on history, because they’re almost always wrong,” Belichick said. “An hour before the game? Maybe, you might have something to work with there. But if you start game planning for what the weather is going to be and you game plan wrong, you’ve wasted a lot of time.”

Belichick waits until just before kickoff to give any thought to whether the weather should affect the Patriots’ play calling.

“When you walk out on the field, that’s really when you know what it is. The rest of it is a bunch of hot air,” he said. “We played down in Miami two years ago and there was a zero percent chance of rain – zero – and it rained. If I did my job the way they do theirs, I’d be here about a week.”

It was pointed out to Belichick that some meteorologists might take offense to his criticism.

“Look, I’m not saying I could do it better than them. I’m just saying they’re wrong a lot,” Belichick said. “That’s a fact. They’re wrong a lot.”

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PFT Live: Cowboys talk with Charean Williams, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Tony Romo AP

The Cowboys lost for the first time since the opening week of the season on Monday night in a game that also saw quarterback Tony Romo knocked out for a while after taking a hit to the back.

Romo’s status for this Sunday is unclear at this point and Mike Florio will be talking to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram during Friday’s edition of PFT Live about the chances that he’ll be in the lineup. They’ll also discuss the potential risks involved with running back DeMarco Murray’s heavy workload, some injury issues on the offensive line and much more about the Cowboys during the show.

Florio will be asking the questions during that segment of the program, but he’ll also be answering them from PFT Planet a bit later on. Let us know what’s on your mind in Week Nine on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or by calling 888-237-5269 during the program.

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

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Stevie Johnson not frustrated by spot on 49ers depth chart

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When wide receiver Stevie Johnson was in Buffalo, he served as the team’s No. 1 receiver most of the time.

No one was surprised when that changed with the offseason trade that brought him to San Francisco because the 49ers already had Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree in house, but there wasn’t a wide expectation that Johnson would wind up as the fourth man in the pecking order at wideout. That’s how things have played out, however, and Johnson has been playing fewer snaps than Brandon Lloyd.

Johnson admits that he’d like to be doing more, but says he isn’t frustrated by his spot because of the players in front of him.

“No frustration at all. [The] only sense of frustration is being a competitor, you know, wanting to do more. But it ain’t like there’s a bunch of pansies in front of me,” Johnson said, via “It’s cool to a certain extent. When we get in those situations, in the heat of the moment, of course, I’m a warrior. I’m ready to go out there. We got great guys out there on the field. You can’t be frustrated. It’s not going to look right.”

Johnson has produced in the playing time he has received with 10 catches in the two weeks before San Francisco went on their bye and 30 catches overall this season, which likely joins with the chance to make it to the postseason for the first time to help with any feelings of frustration.

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Two Jets fans launch assault on John Idzik’s job

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It’s nearly November, which means it’s nearly time for website, billboards, and airplane banners calling for the ouster of NFL coaches and/or General Managers.

In New York, a pair of Jets season-ticket holders have launched, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

Brothers Jason and Jared Koeppel hope to raise enough money to purchase a billboard outside MetLife Stadium calling for Idzik’s ouster.  The idea came from this week’s Idzik press conference, which began with an extended exercise in self-flagellation by the G.M.

“First of all, Sunday’s game was ridiculous,” Jason Koeppel told Mehta.  “We left the stadium beyond another level of angry.  Then Monday was the tipping point.  I’m listening going ‘are you kidding me?’  We had to do something.”

Although Idzik hasn’t even had the chance to hire his own head coach, the 2014 could end badly enough that Idzik doesn’t survive it.  At 1-7 through eight games, would owner Woody Johnson keep Idzik if the team finishes 2-14 or 3-13?

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Mike Wallace says he’s just being honest calling out Dolphins’ offense

Mike Wallace AP

Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace used an obscenity to describe the quality of Miami’s offense in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars. Asked to elaborate this week, Wallace said he was just trying to give a frank assessment.

“Y’all asked me a question and I told y’all my honest answer. That’s just what it is,” Wallace told reporters. “I don’t look at stuff in the media or whatever to get me fired up. I get fired up just ’cause that’s what we do. We love to play this game and you just want to go out and be the best player you can be. You should be fired up anyway — not because of nothing I say or my teammates or coaches say.”

The Dolphins’ offense was not particularly good on Sunday, but they won 27-13 thanks to two interception returns for touchdowns by the Dolphins’ defense. Wallace did catch a 50-yard pass, which was nice, but other than that big play he had just one catch for nine yards. There’s been talk in Miami that Wallace isn’t happy with the inability of the offense to make use of his big-play talents, and talk that the Dolphins aren’t happy with Wallace’s level of production. But Wallace says there are no issues.

“There was no disconnect between me and the coaches,” Wallace said. “We’re all on the same page. We all want what’s best for the team. We all want to win, we all want to get our offense where we want to go and that’s the top. If we’re not No. 1, we’re behind.”

The Dolphins’ passing game has a long way to go before it’s No. 1. Making those 50-yard catches a common occurrence would be a good step toward getting to No. 1.

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Report: Criminal charges unlikely for Ray McDonald

McDonald Getty Images

49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald has yet to be charged with assaulting his pregnant fiancée, and he apparently won’t be.

According to Tracey Kaplan of the San Jose Mercury News, prosecutors in Santa Clara County are leaning against officially charging McDonald.  Kaplan writes that the prosecutor is “likely to announce the decision soon,” which will be accompanied by a report that explains the reasons for not proceeding.

Evidence that the alleged victim may have been the aggressor undermines the case, and the involvement of San Jose police officer Sean Pritchard further complicates the situation.  Pritchard, who had worked on the side for the 49ers, already was present at McDonald’s house when the officers responding to the 911 call arrived.

The San Jose police department has directed its officers to stop providing security services to the 49ers while not on duty, given that this separate relationship creates an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to the enforcement of the laws in a way that could make key 49ers players not available for games.

McDonald has continued to play, creating confusion among NFL fans and the perception of competitive imbalance, given the decision to essentially suspend Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy with pay until their own legal cases have been resolved.

For McDonald, there ultimately may be nothing to resolve.

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Reshad Jones: I’m playing like the best safety in the league

Reshad Jones AP

The Dolphins Defense will be tasked with slowing down Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing attack this weekend, something that would have probably been more troubling to them before safety Reshad Jones returned from his suspension.

In the three games that Jones has played for the Dolphins this year, he has recorded 24 tackles and an interception while quarterbacks are completing under half of their passes to his area of the field. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle believes Jones is playing his best football in the three years that Coyle’s been with the team and Jones had some high praise of his own for his work in 2014.

“I’m playing like the best safety in the league, actually,” Jones said, via the Miami Herald. “Numbers don’t lie. If you compare my numbers to the other safeties in the league, with what I’ve done, it stacks up with the best of them.”

It’s a good time for Jones to be playing at a high level. The game with the Chargers kicks off a four-game stretch against teams with winning records, including a visit from the Bills that will weigh heavily on the playoff chances for both teams.

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Browns trying to bring out the dog in their defense

Oakland Raiders v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Some football players are easier to motivate than others.

And the Browns are using props to help keep their defensive players on edge, playing on the team’s Dawg Pound heritage.

According to Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil came up with a system to reward his guys for making plays.

“What we came up with that was unique to the Dawg Pound was to give each player a dog collar,” O’Neil said. “And those guys would be rewarded for plays on the field with a bone for every time they did something that we considered a ‘Play Like A Brown’ play.”

Now, players are competing to see who ends up with the most bones, though the coaches are withholding the standings for now

“It’s keeping guys competitive,” linebacker Jabaal Sheard said. “Not only against the other team, but against one another.”

“I don’t know how many bones you get for sacks,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “Because Paul Kruger, he should be outweighing me by a lot right now. I don’t know how many you get for a sack, but he’s got a lot.”

The Browns Defense is playing well, and has them above .500 after Halloween, which not many expected.

So if they want to dress up, more power to them.


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Brandon Weeden not sure if he’s getting called out of the pen

Brandon Weeden AP

Here’s a sentence that should strike more fear in the hearts of Cowboys fans than a carload of teenagers bearing eggs tonight.

Brandon Weeden is preparing to start for the Cowboys Sunday against the Cardinals.

Sure, they hope Tony Romo’s “pain tolerance” allows him to play, and he thinks it will, but the Cowboys still have to get ready as if their quarterback with a back injury might not.

Weeden compared the not knowing whether he’d be needed to his last year playing baseball, and his uneasiness with being in the bullpen.

“My last year playing baseball I was dealing with some shoulder issues, so I was a reliever and in the bullpen, and I used to get so ticked off because my manager never told me if I was hot that night or not,” Weeden said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s really hard. It’s just a different mindset. It’s the uncertainty of you may play or you may not play for six, seven, eight weeks, whatever. You just don’t know.

“So you’ve just got to approach it like you’re going to play at some point. That way, if your number is called, you’re not caught off guard.”

The 31-year-old Weeden played well in relief Sunday night, throwing a touchdown and completing 4-of-6 passes before Romo returned to the game. He led them on two scoring drives, and the game was tied when he left.

“He performed well,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He took us down on a couple of scoring drives. I think the thing that was most important was his demeanor. He looked very veteranlike. You could tell he’d played. He’s an older player. Young in the league, but the guy’s got a lot of maturity to him. It’s not too big for him to go out there and step in in a relief mode and play. Nor is it too big for him to be prepared as a starter, because he’s done it in this league. We’re very confident in him.”

The fact he’s gotten all the work in the preseason and on Wednesdays all season helps him familiarize, and he’ll need to be ready for long relief work, in case Romo can’t tolerate the pain which obviously has coaches worried.

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Friday morning one-liners

Mike Evans, C.J. Mosley AP

The Bills are working to get their running game on track.

It looks like Dallas Thomas will replace Daryn Colledge at left guard for the Dolphins this week.

LB Jonathan Casillas is doing all he can to learn the Patriots scheme on the fly.

Jets coach Rex Ryan remains high on T D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s play.

Ravens NT Brandon Williams is starting to play up to his size.

The Bengals are relying on their backup linebackers right now.

Browns CB Justin Gilbert feels he’s turned the corner in his rookie season.

Now that he’s healthy, Steelers WR Martavis Bryant is moving up the depth chart.

The Texans have gotten good play from cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson this season.

Colts S LaRon Landry’s status for Monday night remains up in the air.

The Jaguars will be heading to London on Sunday night.

The Titans haven’t gotten much return on their free agent investments.

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is preparing for another matchup with the Patriots.

Assistant coaches with the Chiefs liked what they saw from the Royals during the team’s run to the World Series.

The Raiders Offense needs more points to go with a spike in yards.

Chargers WR Keenan Allen looks to TE Antonio Gates as a mentor.

A plug from Barry Switzer helped RB DeMarco Murray land with the Cowboys.

Giants T Justin Pugh wants to prove he’s better than he’s looked in recent weeks.

The Eagles may need S Earl Wolff to step up this weekend.

Will the Redskins pass rush remain potent this week?

The Bears Defense hit the bye week with a lot of room for improvement.

WR Ryan Broyles may not be playing much for the Lions in the coming weeks.

A look back at some key in-season acquisitions from the past by the Packers.

Vikings QB Matt Cassel is doing what he can to help out while sidelined by injury.

The Falcons have allowed 11 plays of more than 40 yards totaling 607 yards of total offense for their opponents.

Thursday night was another quiet one for Panthers TE Greg Olsen.

The Saints got a strong outing from RB Mark Ingram on Thursday night.

Buccaneers rookie WR Mike Evans is getting more comfortable in the team’s offense.

RB Marion Grice could be on the spot for the Cardinals this weekend.

The Rams have learned this season that re-injuring ACLs is fairly common.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle compiles a list of 10 things the 49ers need to do in the second half of the season.

During his baseball days, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was once roommates with World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner.

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It’s our 13th anniversary (almost)

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OK, so PFT technically doesn’t become a teenager until midnight tonight, when Halloween yields to All Saints Day.  But since most of you will be:  (1) lethargic from all the candy you’ll be eating; (2) hungover from all the booze you’ll be drinking; or (3) both, we decided to give you a chance now to:  (1) congratulate us; (2) denigrate us; or (3) both. went live on November 1, 2001.  The story of how it all came to be isn’t short enough to retell in this context or interesting enough to retell in any context.  But that was the day the servers went live, complete with a cumbersome system for posting stories that would become far more cumbersome before it would ever begin to streamline.

In September 2002, I decided to pull the plug on a venture that I was convinced at the time would never amount to anything.  (I changed my mind about 36 hours later.)  The quest to turn the thing into actual revenue began, and the dam broke in early 2006, when Sprint became our first significant sponsor.

Three years later, NBC came calling.  I resisted and refused and rebelled until the servers exploded on the first day of free agency and NBC provided the temporary canvas for our busiest news weekend of the year.  Roughly four months later, the partnership with NBC launched.

The five-plus years since then have been too hectic to allow for much reflection.  But plenty has happened as this thing has continued to grow.  PFT’s team of contributors currently stands at six — with MDS, Josh Alper, Darin Gantt, Mike Wilkening, and Curtis Crabtree filling out a roster that keeps the news flowing every day of the year.

Thanks to each of them and thanks to all of you for allowing us to keep doing this by regularly visiting these pages to see what we’ve been doing.  Hopefully, we’ll keep doing whatever it is that we do for a lot longer than 13 more years.

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Eric Decker’s wife makes Twitter war worse, then retreats

Fall 2014 Men's Designer Party Getty Images

We noted yesterday that new Jets wide receiver invited the wrath of Jets fans on Twitter when he made the mistake of asking for some honest feedback.

Now, his wife has gone and made it worse.

Via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, country music singer Jessie James Decker took a poke at the Jets fans who mocked Decker, probably not helping things.

“You think he really cares what y’all think haters? He’s laughing his ass alllll the way home…. Life is pretty good here. Can’t complain,” she wrote on Twitter.

Of course, her bio claimed “I pee in the shower,” so delicate public relations skill isn’t her forte either. She’s since deleted her Twitter account.

To his credit, the Jets wideout said “you’ve got to expect that,” regarding the blowback to his initial attempt, and tried to play nice.

“I don’t think it’s against the law to try to unite or reach out to fans,” he said. “People obviously enjoy winning a lot more than losing, I get that. For me, that’s the biggest thing, making fans feel like they are important, because they are.

“Obviously I wish things could be different. I didn’t expect everything to be all happy and gung-ho; I knew I was going to get some sarcastic remarks.”

So at least he handled them better than his wife did.

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49ers getting away from printed tickets


Ticket stubs will soon be going the way of the dodo bird.

According to Don Muret of SportsBusiness Daily, the 49ers will stop printing tickets to games in 2015.

The decision flows from heavy adoption of the team’s mobile ticketing device.  The 49ers expect 30,000 fans to use mobile ticketing for Sunday’s game against the Rams.

“Our goal when we launched this system was to drive adoption and the numbers have been mind-boggling,” COO Al Guido told Muret. “We want to rip the Band-Aid in year two, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Customers will still be able to print tickets at home, but gone are the days of the collectible piece of tangible proof of attendance at a game.  And the 49ers will save a lot of money by doing it.

“We’ll be using those dollars for other gifts,” Guido said.

Of course, in 18 years (or a lot sooner) those duffel bags, ear phones, and wireless chargers will be long gone.  Unlike, for example, the ticket stub from the 1995 AFC title game in Pittsburgh, where it cost a mere $65 to see Bill Cowher’s Steelers narrowly beat 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and the Colts.  (It’s not for sale, but if it were, it would cost more than $65.)

At a time when the NFL wants to make the in-stadium experience better than the at-home experience, giving the fans something that will make going to the game even more memorable doesn’t hurt.  Here’s hoping other teams won’t follow the 49ers’ lead on this one.

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