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Seahawks have some fun with “Fail Mary” replacement ref

Lance Easley AP

In an event that Seahawks fans will find a lot more amusing than Packers fans, the replacement official who awarded Seattle a game-winning touchdown with no time left in a Week Three game against Green Bay spent some time with the Seahawks today.

Wearing a football referee’s uniform, Easley worked as an umpire at Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s charity softball game. PFT’s Curtis Crabtree was on the scene and passes along word that Easley made some questionable calls that caused Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to run out and argue with him at first base.

That was all in good fun, but it was no laughing matter to the NFL when Easley’s call shined a bright light on the league’s use of replacement officials while the regular officials were locked out. The outcry over the Seahawks’ “Fail Mary” touchdown may have been what ended the officials’ lockout.

Easley took a moment to pose with Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who scored the Fail Mary touchdown. Tate always seems to do well with Easley around: He was named MVP of the softball game.

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Jets want to give Chris Ivory plenty of goal-line chances

Chris Ivory AP

The Jets are confident — as they are with all things — that Chris Johnson will get plenty of touches and gain plenty of yards.

But he might lose some chances near the goal line to Chris Ivory, for what running backs coach Anthony Lynn said was good reason.

Lynn called Ivory “the best power runner in the game,” which means Rex Ryan might not win the annual award for hyperbole.

“If we were playing tomorrow, Chris Ivory would be on the goal line, obviously,” Lynn said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News. “Sometimes in those situations you have an extra defender that you can’t block, and you need a back that can take him on.”

All exaggerations aside, Ivory has proven himself a tough runner in the past, specifically as a guy who doesn’t go down on first contact.

“Some guys have that unique ability to get skinny in a hole, find a soft spot,” Lynn said of short-yardage backs. “It’s not necessarily a power back.”

So while some might prefer an Adrian Peterson or a Marshawn Lynch, the Jets are going to give Ivory plenty of chances at the goal line, it seems.

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PFT Live: Lions talk with Dave Birkett, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Lions president Tom Lewand announced Monday that the team was putting a pin in negotiations with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until after the season, a move that raises the chances that Suh will be playing elsewhere in 2015.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press will join Mike Florio on Tuesday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the Lions’ decision and share his thoughts on how he thinks things will play out once the sides revisit the issue. They’ll also catch up on other developments from Lions camp, including the progress new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is making with the installation of his scheme.

From there, the course is up to PFT Planet. Florio will be answering your questions during the show, so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 while things are in progress.

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

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Lardarius Webb’s back injury “lingering a little bit”

Mike Wallace, Lardarius Webb AP

The Ravens shrugged off the severity of cornerback Lardarius Webb’s back injury over the weekend, but the level of concern in Baltimore has gone up after Webb remained out on Monday.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that coach John Harbaugh said that Webb, who was forced out of Friday’s practice, is expected to have further evaluation of the problem in the coming days.

“He’s got some back things that we’re looking at right now,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “Backs are a little weird. At first, it was no big deal. It’s lingering a little bit, so we’ll find out what’s going on with it.”

Webb bounced back well from a 2012 ACL tear and is slated to start across from Jimmy Smith this season. The Ravens lost Aaron Ross to a torn Achilles and Dominique Franks is on the NFI list, leaving them without much experienced depth at corner right now. That should help some younger players develop, but would be a problem if Webb’s back injury were to linger more than a little bit.

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Watered-down settlement reached in NCAA concussion suit

Brain Getty Images

NCAA football players get far less compensation than their professional counterparts.  That same dynamic will apply to their respective concussion lawsuits, at least for now.

Via the Associated Press, a pending college football class action has resulted in a settlement.  But the settlement won’t actually pay any benefits.  Instead, it will establish a $70 million fund for testing current and former college athletes for brain injuries.

The lawsuit also creates a uniform policy for returning to play, and it makes baseline neurological testing mandatory.  And, of course, it will pay the lawyers a nice chunk of change.

The class covers all male and female football, ice hockey, soccer, basketball, wrestling, field hockey, and lacrosse players.  Current and former players qualify for testing.

While damages won’t be paid, lawsuits may still be filed by those who have injuries.  And the testing could fuel eventual liability.  But unless the settlement says otherwise (and it’s unclear at this point whether it does), the NCAA and any member schools also presumably would be able to advance all available defenses.  In many cases, the question of whether the case was filed within the applicable statute of limitations could be an important threshold argument for the plaintiff to overcome.

Like the NFL concussion settlement, the process now shifts to a federal judge for preliminary approval.  Which, as we learned with the NFL concussion settlement, could take a while.

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Aaron Dobson had screw inserted in foot during March surgery

Aaron Dobson AP

The Patriots continue to wait for wide receiver Aaron Dobson to make his training camp debut and a new detail about his March foot surgery sheds some light on why things are progressing slowly.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Dobson had a permanent screw inserted into his left foot to aid in his recovery from a stress fracture. The timetable for that recovery was supposed to be 2-3 months, but Dobson didn’t start running until July and hasn’t advanced to the aggressive planting and cutting that he’ll need to do on the field this season.

There’s no firm timetable for Dobson to make his return as the medical staff waits for signs that he’s not at an increased risk of suffering another injury to the foot. That leaves the offense without a receiver that they’d like to see make a step forward in his second NFL season and it increases the need for Josh Boyce or Kenbrell Thompkins to make that step in their sophomore campaigns.

Dobson is one of four Patriots players on the PUP list right now and he could remain on the list into the regular season if the team doesn’t feel that his foot is sound enough for him to resume playing.

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Lions asked Nick Fairley to lose weight, but 295 is too skinny

nickfairley AP

Not many people who weigh 295 pounds are told that they need to gain weight, but Nick Fairley is not like most people.

Fairley, the Lions defensive tackle who was told by the team that he needed to lose weight this offseason, took his conditioning seriously — and even took the weight-loss thing too far. Fairley slimmed down from more than 320 pounds at the end of last season to 295 pounds during offseason work, and coach Jim Caldwell said the team actually expressed concern to him that he might be getting too small to do the job of an NFL defensive tackle properly. Fairley put on about 10 pounds between the end of Organized Team Activities and the start of training camp, and Caldwell says the Lions now think he’s just the right size.

“We’ve given him a range, his range wasn’t 295, he was far below it at that particular point in time,” he said. “So the concern is a little bit different in that regard.”

Fairley said he thinks 305 is the right weight for a man of his build, although he added that there is more to conditioning than just getting his weight right.

“I think my body is kind of a 305-type of guy,” Fairley said. “I feel great. Of course I have to get into a little more shape but that’s camp. . . . One thing I’m going to harp on this year is being consistent and showing up each and every day.”

The Lions declined to pick up the $5.5 million option on Fairley for the 2015 season, meaning he will be a free agent next year. The Lions thought a contract year would be just that thing to get Fairley motivated, and it appears that they were right. If an in-shape Fairley has a big season, either the Lions or someone else will pay him more than $5.5 million next year.

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NFLPA president gets another NFL gig

Arizona Cardinals v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

It took a while, but veteran tackle Eric Winston finally has a new gig.  In addition to being the president of the NFL Players Association.

Winston, per a league source, has signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks.

The move keeps Winston in the NFC West.  Last year, he started all 16 games with the Cardinals.

Winston actually has started all 16 games in every NFL season since 2007.  After appearing in 12 games with seven starts as a Texans rookie in 2006, Winston hasn’t missed a game or a start in seven seasons, five in Houston, one in Kansas City, and one in Arizona.

Earlier this year, Winston became the new president of the NFLPA, despite concerns that players who occupy the position don’t get much play from NFL teams.  It’s likely an unrealistic complaint, given that the NFL typically doesn’t shy away from members of the Executive Committee or Board of Player Representatives.

Seattle lost starting right tackle Breno Giacomini to the Jets in free agency.  By getting to camp early, Winston has a chance to continue that streak of starts.

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Buffalo backlash building against Bon Jovi

YoungBonJovi Getty Images

As the deadline arrives on Tuesday for potential buyers of the Bills to formally express interest in acquiring the franchise, one of the biggest names of the bunch faces a building backlash in Buffalo.

As explained by Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports, Jon Bon Jovi currently doesn’t have many fans in the city where the Bills currently reside, due to the perception that Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based ownership group would move the team there.

“It’s a big threat,” 49-year-old truck driver Charles Pellien told Adelson. “He’s aligned with guys from Toronto. They’ve got more money than everybody else. We don’t believe they will keep the Bills in Buffalo. Why would they?”

From a perception standpoint, he’s right.  If Bon Jovi were aligned with a group based in Los Angeles, it would be a given that the group wants to move the team there.  With Bon Jovi, a New Jersey native, becoming the front man for Toronto money, it’s impossible to not think that Bon Jovi’s group would move the team to Ontario at the first legal opportunity.

Pellien has organized a grass-roots group to keep Bon Jovi’s group from winning the team.  Coupled with Bon Jovi’s ongoing silence about his plans or intentions, it makes it hard for anyone to believe the reports that Bon Jovi and company intend to keep the team in Buffalo.

“It’s the Buffalo Bills, and they will do everything they can to make that work there,” consultant to the Toronto group recently told the Buffalo News.

Which doesn’t make it any better.

“They will do everything they can to make that work there” possibly means, “They’ll dog paddle in Buffalo, saying all the right until the lease allows them to load up the Mayflowers and declare, ‘Well, we did everything possible to make it work there.  Bye.'”

Bon Jovi, who seems to be doing all the right things behind the scenes to position himself to have a legitimate shot at the team, should have been doing all the right things in front of the scenes, too.  Free concerts.  Donations to local charities.  Other public appearances.  Radio interviews.

For a guy who has made millions and millions working the crowd, he has blown it on this one.  His silence has invited suspicion, and as the suspicion mounts and the silence continues, the suspicion gets even stronger.

At this point, nothing short of a public group hug involving Bon Jovi, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and Bruce Smith will commence the process of getting folks in Buffalo to believe that Bon Jovi is buying the Bills not because they’re in Buffalo but because they can be taken, eventually, to Toronto.

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Texans sign a running back

Tim Cornett AP

The Texans haven’t expressed any concern that the hamstring injury that kept running back Arian Foster out of practice on Monday is a big deal, but they have made a move to make sure they aren’t left short at the position in the event things develop in a different way.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans have signed running back Tim Cornett. Cornett signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent this spring, but didn’t last long on the roster in Arizona. Cornett finished his collegiate career as UNLV’s all-time leading rusher and will compete with Dennis Johnson and Alfred Blue for a roster spot behind Foster and Andre Brown.

The Texans also signed offensive tackle Mike Farrell, who played for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien at Penn State. He spent time with the Broncos and Steelers in 2013.

Houston cleared room on the roster for the new arrivals by releasing linebacker Ricky Sapp and making procedural moves with injured guard Cody White and wide receiver Alan Bonner. White tore his Achilles and Bonner injured his leg during training camp practices.

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Suh says his contract won’t be a distraction

Suh AP

With the Lions tabling Ndamukong Suh’s contract talks until after the 2014, his future with the team instantly becomes one of the top stories surrounding the franchise.

Suh would like other employees of the franchise to not be asked about his future with the team.

“I would ask you guys to not bother my teammates about something that they have nothing involved in,” Suh told reporters on Monday.  “So, for sure, I definitely don’t want them to have to answer any questions about it.  It’s really a tough situation, more so for them.  They have no clue, they’re blindsided or whatever it maybe is, as most people are blindsided about things that come out in the media, and that’s the way it is.  So I’d ask you all not to ask them questions about it and let it be a distraction to our team.  As I don’t think it will.  It won’t be a distraction to me.”

Of course, they won’t be “blindsided” by questions about Suh’s contract because everyone knows that the talks are being tabled until after the season, which in turn increases significantly the possibility that Suh won’t be a Lion come 2015.

It could be that Suh doesn’t want his teammates to be asked about the situation because he doesn’t want them talking about it, on or off the record. By not doing a new contract, Suh accounts for more than 16 percent of the team’s total cap space. That’s money that could have been spent on other guys at other positions of need, like cornerback. In a room full of players having the ability to talk to a reporter under the condition of anonymity, it’s inevitable that someone would say Suh is being greedy.

The high cap number increases the possibility that Suh will leave in 2015 because the Lions could force him to stay only via the franchise tag, which under the rules would entitle him to a 20-percent raise on his 2014 cap number. Which would give him more than $26 million for one more year.

He’s not worth that much, and the Lions won’t pay him that much. But every offer the Lions make necessarily will be compared to the $26 million he’d get under a franchise tag the team will never use. Which means that the only way to determine his actual value will be to let Suh negotiate with other teams. Which increases the probability that someone else will offer more than the Lions, or that Suh will choose to go to a team that offers as much or less.

That’s the bottom-line in this one. With the Lions as a practical matter unable to use the tag on Suh and unwilling to negotiate further until the 2014 season ends, why should Suh do a deal with Detroit until he knows what someone else will pay?

Along the way, Suh hopes that his teammates: (1) don’t realize it’s likely his last year in Detroit; and (2) won’t say negative things about him when asked about his contract or anything else about Suh, such as the report from earlier this year that Suh has been uncontrollable, a contention that his teammates previously denied because that’s what good teammates do.  If/when Suh’s teammates realize he won’t be a teammate beyond 2014, he may no longer get the benefit of that specific provision in the unwritten rules of team sports.

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Report: Odell Beckham out at least another week

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

Giants coach Tom Coughlin is going to have to deal with being beyond disappointed about first-round wide receiver Odell Beckham’s absence from the practice field a little bit longer.

Jordan Raanan and Conor Orr of NJ.com report that Beckham will miss at least another week as a result of the hamstring injury that troubled him in the spring and then flared up again during one of the opening practices of camp. That news won’t make Coughlin any happier, but there was some good news on Monday as an MRI came back negative for a more serious injury.

With the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday and another preseason game a week from Saturday, it would seem that Beckham will miss at least two preseason games. That won’t do him any favors as he tries to earn playing time ahead of Jerrel Jernigan and other receivers once the regular season gets underway.

Given the plans to utilize Beckham’s speed in the passing game, it doesn’t do the Giants’ offense any favors either.

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Jairus Byrd up and moving for the Saints

JairusByrd Getty Images

The Saints appear close to realizing some of their investment in Jairus Byrd.

The free agent safety, who was sidelined by offseason back surgery, is on the field this morning in pads, according to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com.

Byrd also tweeted out he was “thankful for this day,” which seems like a more grateful version of #riseandgrind.

After giving him a six-year, $54 million contract this offseason, the Saints need him healthy. If he is, he should join with Kenny Vaccaro to give them a dynamic pair of safeties, which they’ll need to continue to make strides as a defense.

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Julius Peppers is having a good time in Green Bay

Julius Peppers, Mike Neal AP

Julius Peppers has always been good at sports in general, rushing the passer in particular.

So if anything stands out about his arrival in Green Bay, it’s how much fun the 34-year-old Peppers is having.

“You look at my last year. Was it one of my better years? Probably not, you know, statistically,” Peppers said. “But if you compare it to a lot of the guys who played last year, it was better than a lot of guys. So, I don’t really think I need to revitalize anything.

I’m actually having a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it. It’s a little different than what I’ve been used to in the past. I actually think it fits my skill set better than just being down every play. I’m having fun doing it. I’m just enjoying it.”

Peppers has always played with his hand down, though he mentioned wanting to play in a 3-4 when he was trying to bluff his way out of Carolina. But now, he’s playing a hybrid role in the Packers’ 3-4 system, opposite Clay Matthews, where he will get plenty of chances to rush the quarterback instinctively.

“That was one of the things that attracted me to coming, along with all of the other things they having going for themselves – a chance to stand up, move around, drop, rush, play in different positions,” Peppers said. “I think the scheme is set up to create some confusion and get the perfect mismatches on the edge, so be able to stand up and bluff a little bit is going to help the defense.

“It is a new challenge and I’m looking forward to not only proving to myself that I can do it but proving to the outsiders who don’t think I can do it.”

And he’s apparently enjoying himself quite a bit in the process.

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Dolphins sign QB Seth Lobato, two others

Seth Lobato AP

The Dolphins announced a series of transactions Tuesday morning, including the signing of one rookie quarterback and the release of another.

The Dolphins added three players, including Seth Lobato, an undrafted free agent quarterback from Northern Colorado. The 23-year-old Lobato completed 56.6 percent of his passes in his collegiate career (637-of-1126), throwing 53 touchdowns. The Colts waived Lobato (6-6, 223) in June.

The Dolphins also signed tight end Brett Brackett (6-5, 246) and defensive end D’Aundre Reed (6-4, 260). Brackett, 26, was with the Cardinals earlier in the offseason, while the 26-year-old Reed was let go by the Jaguars in April. Reed was active for six games with Minnesota in 2012.

To make room for the three additions, the Dolphins waived three undrafted rookies: quarterback Brock Jensen (North Dakota State), linebacker Derrell Johnson (East Carolina) and offensive guard Davonte Wallace (New Mexico State). Wallace was waived-injured.

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Kelly elaborates on his disdain for draft hype

Kelly AP

Unlike most of his peers, Eagles coach Chip Kelly is willing to pull the curtain back on the draft process and admit that it’s more blind luck than science.

“You don’t know how it’s going to pan out,” Kelly said the morning after round one of the 2014 draft.  “Just going through the analytics of it, 50 percent of first-round picks don’t make it.  That’s through the history of time.”

More recently, Kelly bemoaned the hype around the draft, which is driven in large part by the ever-growing draft-expert machine.  Apart from the fact that the draft experts never acknowledge that half the prospects bust and that we don’t know and won’t know who they are until they’re in the NFL, Kelly believes that, for some guys, the hype makes it harder to not be a bust.

“I think a lot of times the hype turns into really, really hard times for the individual who got picked, because there’s so many expectations of everyone building them up to be Superman because they had three months to write about them and talk about them,” Kelly told Peter King.

Kelly was asked to elaborate on his point during a Monday press conference, specifically as it relates to the hype surrounding second-round receiver Jordan Matthews.  While Kelly said he’s not concerned about the talk regarding Matthews, who already has been compared to Terrell Owens, Kelly explained his position on draft hype generally.

“I think the draft is integral obviously with putting together your team but literally from the day the Super Bowl ends until the draft, at the ending of May, or the beginning of June or maybe push it to July at some point in time; that’s all everybody talks about,” Kelly said.  “I felt the same way in college.  You devote everything to the signing day.  Well, how many of those guys on the signing day are actually going to contribute?  You may have one or two of your rookies that have an impact on your team but the rest of them it’s a part of having them develop. . . .

“The fact that people would watch the Combine; there’s times at the Combine where I fall asleep,” Kelly added.  “So I don’t know why people watch it on television.  They are running 40‑yard dashes.”

Kelly then reiterated his comparison of the draft-hype dynamic to other industries.

“[Y]ou guys are in the newspaper business,” Kelly said.  “If someone is a rookie coming into the newspaper thing, I don’t think you all just start applauding and saying, ‘Oh my God, the savior is here and our paper is safe because we just signed a kid out of Northwestern because the kid has really good prose.’  But in football it seems to be the biggest deal in the world and if a guy is not an All‑Pro in his first year but he was drafted in the first five picks, obviously he’s a bust.”

Kelly is right.  But what he didn’t say is that the NFL ultimately stirs the draft-hype drink via a TV and online media machine that no one will pay attention to if it’s not generating content.

I’m not complaining.  We cover the draft and the hype and everything that goes along with it.   But we’re always honest about the fact that there’s a disconnect between the impression that the draft experts have it all figured out and the reality that no one does.

Still, if the NFL or the rest of the draft-expert industry would use slogans like “Tune in for the crapshoot” in the ads and promos, fans eventually would ask, “Why am I watching?”

“Because it’s on TV” would only work for so long.

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