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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 27: New York Jets

Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith AP

This could be Rex Ryan’s last stand.

Ryan survived a purge this offseason that claimed a general manager, both coordinators and several veteran players, including cornerback Darrelle Revis, but there’s not much strength to his position. General Manager John Idzik will surely be using this year to evaluate whether or not he can or wants to work with Ryan in the future. Ryan hasn’t been given a cupboard stocked with talent to use to make his case, which doesn’t do much to build confidence that he’ll be back in 2014.

One of the biggest questions the Jets need to answer is whether Mark Sanchez will get one more chance as the starting quarterback or if Geno Smith will grab the job without looking back. Self-preservation normally means going with the vet, but Ryan may be able to build a better argument for himself if Smith plays well enough to give hope that he’s the long-term answer at the position.

Even if that happens, a winning record might be a stretch for a team that hasn’t replaced enough of the talent that helped them to consecutive AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010.

Strengths.

Revis is gone, but the Jets still have a very good cornerback at their disposal in Antonio Cromartie. He sometimes gained more notice for his progeny and his run support allergy early in his career, but Cromartie was excellent in 2012 as the top corner after Revis fore his ACL even as the team crumbled around him. He’ll be back in that role this year and there’s no reason to think he won’t thrive once again.

Muhammad Wilkerson isn’t the flashiest player in the league. He’s awfully effective, though, and stood out as one of the top three or four 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL last season. More growth will give the Jets defense an anchor that they hope to mirror on the other side of the line with 2013 first-rounder Sheldon Richardson.

Jeremy Kerley set an NFL record with 36 fair catches as a punt returner last year, so you can definitely count fair catches in the strength column.

Too backhanded? Fair enough. For all his foibles, Ryan has always been able to put together competitive defenses and he’ll likely be able to do the same with this year’s group. As for the other side of the ball…

Weaknesses.

You can choose the epithet you like, but we’ll go with horror show for the 2012 offense. They scored 281 points all year and turned the ball over 37 times, which is why Marty Mornhinweg is now the coordinator and why Smith was taken in the second round. They made changes at running back and on the offensive line, but the receiver group is heavily reliant on Santonio Holmes getting healthy, Stephen Hill improving rapidly and Kellen Winslow Jr. rebounding. None is a bet you’d want to make with the mortgage payment.

Of course, it wouldn’t help all that much if Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham were running patterns as long as the Jets don’t get at least average play from their quarterback. There are no guarantees that either Sanchez or Smith will provide it.

In Ryan’s first couple of years, the Jets were able to disguise their lack of an elite pass rusher with a variety of packages and blitzes that relied on having a shutdown corner on one side to confound offenses. That wasn’t the case last year and the lack of Revis means it may not be the case this year, which is troubling because they are still missing that special player off the edge. They signed Antwan Barnes in hopes he’s over last year’s hamstring issues and moved Quinton Coples from defensive end in hopes of finding something close to one.

Mike Tannenbaum is gone from the front office, but the roster continues to bear his thumbprints. Developing players was put on the back burner in favor of going with expensive vets. Clearing out those older players this offseason has left them without players who may not be ready to step into bigger roles and short on cap space to bring in quality replacements.

Changes.

We’ve already mentioned Tannenbaum’s ouster, Idzik’s hiring, Smith’s arrival and the Revis trade. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though.

Shonn Greene was bid a less-than-fond farewell and replaced at running back by Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson, who at least assured the Jets some more unsavory headlines thanks to his offseason arrest. Dustin Keller signed with the Dolphins, giving Winslow a chance to resume his career after playing just one game in 2012.

Braylon Edwards remains unsigned, although there are intermittent indications that the Jets would be up for a third go-round with the wide receiver. The Jets will have two new starting guards, with Brandon Moore and Matthew Slauson leaving and Willie Colon, Stephen Peterman and rookie Brian Winters arriving.

On defense, the Jets said goodbye to defensive end Mike DeVito, defensive tackle Sione Pouha and linebackers Bryan Thomas and Bart Scott, leaving them with several holes to fill. Demario Davis will be expected to step in for Scott, which could wind up as an upgrade given the step that Scott clearly lost in recent years.

Safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell played well last season. Eric Smith didn’t, but he’s gone too and the Jets are left with Dawan Landry and untested Josh Bush as their prospective starters at safety.

Some fellow named Tim Tebow, who saw most of his action on the punt team, was also released this offseason. Smaller story, but we’re sure you’ve been following it.

Camp Battles.

The Sanchez/Smith competition will be the headline grabber, but there are plenty of other things to watch when the Jets gather this summer. Colon is ticketed for one guard spot, but Peterman, Winters and Vladimir Ducasse will compete for snaps at guard with Ducasse a strong candidate for release if he can’t show more than he has through his first three seasons.

Ninth overall pick Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson are both options to start across from Cromartie. Wilson is better suited for nickel work, so the rookie should get the job if he’s healthy.

Calvin Pace was re-signed after being released and could wind up starting at outside linebacker if Coples can’t handle the transition or if Barnes is a better fit in a situational role. 2011 third-round pick Kenrick Ellis will battle Damon Harrison and veteran Antonio Garay to replace Pouha on the nose.

Prospects.

There’s a fair chance that the Jets won’t be as bad as most people think.

Unfortunately for the Jets, not being as bad as conventional wisdom isn’t the same thing as being good. When you look at the talent on the roster, predicting much more than last year’s 6-10 finish is very difficult and a drop to the bottom of the barrel is hardly unthinkable.

If that happens, Ryan and Sanchez will almost certainly be gone and the Jets will turn the page on an era that started with a lot of sound and fury before ultimately adding up to nothing all that different than the other seasons that have followed Joe Namath’s guarantee made good.

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Former Titans kicker Rob Bironas killed in car crash

rob_bironas Getty Images

Rob Bironas, who spent nine years as the kicker for the Tennessee Titans, has died in a car crash. He was 36.

Nashville police confirmed that Bironas was in a single-car crash at around 11 p.m. on Saturday. According to the Tennessean, Bironas lost control of his SUV and hit several trees. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Police say Bironas was driving toward his home and there was no evidence of alcohol on the scene.

Bironas grew up in Louisville and played college football first at Auburn and then transferred to Georgia Southern. After playing a few years of Arena Football and trying out for NFL teams, he signed with the Titans in 2005. His best season came in 2007, when he was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro. The Titans released Bironas this offseason, but he was still hoping to get back into the NFL, and just had a tryout with the Lions last week.

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Kelly effect: Over-Unders of 50 points or more commonplace for Eagles games

Chip Kelly AP

In addition to point spreads, oddsmakers post totals, or Over-Unders, on every pro football game. The total is a projection of the combined total points expected to be tallied by both clubs in a given contest, and bettors can either wager on the game finishing OVER or UNDER the total.

The logic behind the total is fairly straightforward; if two clubs with excellent quarterbacks are to meet in a climate-controlled setting, a total set in the 50s — a high final score — is a given. However, if two struggling offenses meet in the cold, the total might not hit 40.

We mention totals as we consider Sunday’s Washington-Philadelphia contest. At multiple Nevada sportsbooks, the prevailing Over-Under for this NFC East matchup is 50.5 points.

If the Philadelphia-Washington game closes at 50 points or higher, it will mark the 14th time in coach Chip Kelly’s 20-game tenure that an Eagles regular season or postseason matchup has had a total in the 50s, according to the Spreadapedia point spread database. That’s a 70 percent clip.

By contrast, only 10 games in Andy Reid’s 262 regular season and postseason contests in Philadelphia and Kansas City have had a total of 50 points or more — a 3.8 percent rate.

To be fair, totals have begun to inch up in recent seasons. There were 100 games with a total of 50 points or more in 2013, compared to 74 in 2012, 56 in 2011 and just 12 in 2010, per Spreadapedia. With some powerful offenses around the league and the pace of play picking up, it’s easy to see why high Over-Unders have become more commonplace.

Which brings us back to Kelly and all of those totals of 50-plus points. The OVER has cashed in 8-of-13 such games, a 61.5 percent clip. That’s a success rate that beats the house edge.

Which explains why you’re not going to see many low totals in Eagles games as long as the Kelly offense keeps humming.

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Jameis Winston suits up pregame, sent to change, still sidelined

Jameis Winston AP

Though suspended for Saturday’s game vs. Clemson, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston appeared in uniform in pregame warmups, per multiple reports.

However, after a talk with coach Jimbo Fisher, Winston went back inside and returned to the field without shoulder pads, according to a video clip of the incident posted by ESPN.

Winston’s collegiate career has been marked by stellar play and doses of off-field controversy. A redshirt sophomore, Winston can declare for the 2015 NFL Draft if he so chooses. He is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner as college football’s most outstanding player.

Sophomore Sean McGuire has started in place of Winston for No. 1 Florida State, which has won 18 consecutive games entering Saturday night. Winston is wearing his uniform top and a baseball cap and is present on the sidelines.

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Lions sign CB Mohammed Seisay from practice squad

Minnesota v Nebraska Getty Images

The Lions’ roster shuffling with an eye on adding secondary help continues.

Detroit has promoted rookie cornerback Mohammed Seisay from the practice squad, the team’s website said Saturday. A Nebraska product, Seisay (6-2, 206) gives the Lions four healthy cornerbacks entering Sunday’s game with the Packers, and the rookie could very well be active in his NFL debut. Veteran reserve corner Cassius Vaughn, who played 31 defensive snaps and 13 special teams snaps in Week Two, is out with an ankle injury, and at the least, Seisay could see some reps in the kicking game.

Two of the Lions’ four cornerbacks (Seisay, Danny Gorrer) were not on the 53-player roster to begin the season. The club lost cornerbacks Bill Bentley and Nevin Lawson to season-ending injuries in the first two weeks. Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis are the Lions’ top two corners.

The Lions opened a roster spot for Seisay by releasing veteran wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Detroit now has five receivers on the roster.

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Jay Gruden calls DeSean Jackson “a very terrible blocker”

DeSean Jackson AP

We still don’t know if Washington’s injured receiver DeSean Jackson will play against his old team in Philadelphia on Sunday, but we do know this: Coach Jay Gruden doesn’t see much point in Jackson taking the field if he’s not at full speed.

Gruden said on ESPN 980 that Jackson needs to be close to 100 percent if he’s going to play.

“He did a little bit today,” Gruden said. “I think he’s gonna be a game-day type deal. He wants to go really bad — obviously he’s going back to Philly. But if he’s not 100 percent — if he’s 60-70 percent — he’s really not that good to us.”

When ESPN 980’s Brian Mitchell, the longtime NFL running back and return man, pointed out that NFL players are rarely 100 percent, Gruden made the wise crack about Jackson that everyone has been quoting today.

“I know, but he’s already 160 pounds,” Gruden said. “He’s already a very terrible blocker. We’ll see. I think he wants to play. He’s a tough guy. He is allowed to wear shoulder pads, so he might be all right.”

As Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post notes, Gruden sounded like he was kind of joking when he made the “terrible blocker” comment.

But only kind of: Gruden is right that a player like Jackson provides his value with the ball in his hands. If his injured shoulder makes him struggle to catch the ball or struggle to run full speed with the ball, there’s not much use in having him out there. No matter how much he wants to play in Philadelphia.

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Ravens sign bring up RB Fitzgerald Toussaint from practice squad

Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jacoby Jones AP

With one of their top tailbacks questionable for Sunday’s game at Cleveland, the Ravens have bolstered their backfield depth.

The club has signed rookie running back Fitzgerald Toussaint from the practice squad, the team said Saturday afternoon.

Toussaint joins the Ravens’ roster after Bernard Pierce (thigh) was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. A Michigan product, Toussaint (5-10, 205) racked up 123 yards on 21 carries in preseason play for Baltimore. He was inactive for the Ravens’ season-opening loss vs. Cincinnati, then waived, then re-signed to the practice squad.

To make room for Toussaint, the Ravens waived wide receiver Deonte Thompson.

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You read this right: Panthers need to add RB depth

Darrin Reaves

Among the Panthers offseason problems in recent years, the amount of money they invested in the backfield was among them.

But Saturday, they had to sign a back to give them enough to work with.

The team announced they had promoted undrafted rookie Darrin Reaves from the practice squad. He’s an undrafted rookie from UAB.

He fills the roster spot created when Greg Hardy was placed on double secret probation/paid vacation/the commissioner’s exempt list.

DeAngelo Williams is questionable after he was bothered by a hamstring problem, and fullback Mike Tolbert wasn’t able to finish last week’s game with a rib injury. Coupled with special teamer Fozzy Whittaker (doubtful) getting dinged during the game, and Jonathan Stewart was their only healthy back by the end of the game.

And yes, the irony of that isn’t lost on us either.

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With Vernon Davis hurting, 49ers promote tight end from practice squad

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The 49ers listed tight ends Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald as questionable for Sunday’s game in Arizona and they added a little insurance to the roster Saturday to cover themselves in the event either of them can’t play.

The team announced that they have promoted tight end Asante Cleveland from the practice squad. Cleveland was signed as an undrafted free agent after wrapping up at the University of Miami and signed to San Francisco’s practice squad after failing to make the team out of training camp.

Quarterback Josh Johnson was waived to make room for Cleveland. Johnson, who played for Jim Harbaugh in college, was third on the depth chart behind Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. Johnson has had two stints with the Niners and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a third once the Niners are healthier at tight end.

Neither Davis (knee, ankle) nor McDonald (knee) practiced at all this week. If neither can play on Sunday, Cleveland would join Derek Carrier and long snapper Kyle Nelson, who had six catches in the preseason, as tight end options for San Francisco.

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Chargers lose Melvin Ingram for at least eight weeks

San Diego Chargers Minicamp Getty Images

The injury woes that have plagued Melvin Ingram continue.

Ingram, the outside linebacker who was the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in 2012, has been placed on injured reserve with the return designation. That means he’ll miss at least the next eight weeks.

Ingram had started the first two games of this season but suffered a hip injury last week against the Seahawks. Ingram missed 12 games last year with a torn ACL.

The Chargers haven’t announced a corresponding move to fill Ingram’s spot on the 53-player roster.

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Saturday one-liners

Dick LeBeau AP

Rookie OT Seantrel Henderson has been impressive in Buffalo.

Trading up to draft Dion Jordan looks like a mistake for Miami.

Patriots RB Shane Vereen may not be a workhorse, but he has an important role to play in New England’s offense.

The Jets will have their hands full with the Bears’ receivers.

Jeremy Zuttah is showing himself to be a leader on the Ravens’ offensive line. (Maybe they should move him to the front office, which also needs some leadership.)

Bengals CB Pacman Jones says he isn’t particularly worried about facing Titans QB Jake Locker.

Browns QB Johnny Manziel swears he’s proud of Brian Hoyer.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau says of Panthers QB Cam Newton, “He’s the quintessential modern quarterback.”

Texans WR Andre Johnson is on pace to reach 950 career receptions in his 158th game, which would tie him with Marvin Harrison for the fastest pace ever to that milestone.

The Colts may need to blitz more to bring pressure on the quarterback, which is lacking with Robert Mathis out for the season.

With 10 points in the last six quarters, the Jaguars need more offense.

Titans TE Delanie Walker has picked up the new offense quickly.

Broncos DT Marvin Austin plans to play tomorrow, even after his father died yesterday.

Ron Parker was pressed into playing safety on short notice but acquitted himself nicely for the Chiefs.

The Raiders may be without two starting linebackers on Sunday.

The players in the Chargers’ secondary take pride in their tackling.

Cowboys K Dan Bailey is looking to set a franchise record.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin is loosening up by allowing music on the practice field.

Eagles CB Cary Williams doesn’t give a damn about his reputation.

Kirk Cousins has exercised patience throughout his football career. (But he only had to wait until Week Two to get to play this year.)

The Bears are happy for their old pal Devin Hester breaking the NFL return record on Thursday.

Lions WR Ryan Broyles has been inactive for the first two games of the season, but he’s hoping to get his chance.

Packers GM Ted Thompson will live and die with his philosophy of building a team by drafting talent and developing it.

The Vikings are preparing for a loud atmosphere in New Orleans.

Falcons WR Harry Douglas got some good news on the injury front.

The Panthers’ turnover margin is plus-6 through two games.

The father of Saints DE Cameron Jordan will be rooting against the Saints on Sunday.

The Bucs need to find a way to overcome adversity.

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams says defensive end Robert Quinn is playing well against the run.

The Seahawks’ tackling has left something to be desired through two games.

The Niners have been outscored 35-3 in the final two quarters in the first two weeks.

Cardinals DL coach Brentson Buckner says Calais Campbell’s 10-tackle effort in Week Two “can be a regular day for him.”

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Brandon Marshall questionable, Dee Milliner doubtful for Monday night

Dee Milliner AP

After a limited practice Saturday, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall is questionable for Monday night’s game at the Jets, according to the league’s injury report.

The practice was Marshall’s first since suffering an ankle injury in the season-opening loss to Buffalo. He caught three TD passes in the Bears’ Week Two win at San Francisco despite not practicing at all.

The Bears’ other starting wideout, Alshon Jeffery, is questionable with a hamstring injury. But like Marshall, he played through the injury a week ago, and he’s put in three limited practices this week. These would seem to be positive signs for his readiness for Chicago’s second consecutive road game in primetime.

While the Bears appear on track to have Marshall and Jeffery, they will not have center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle). Both have been ruled out for a second straight game. Brian de la Puente will replace Garza, with Michael Ola to step in for Slauson.

The Bears will also be without outside linebacker Shea McClellin, who has missed the last two practices with a hand injury. Jon Bostic reportedly could get the call in his place against New York.

The Jets, meanwhile, are in danger of not having cornerback Dee Milliner in the lineup Monday night against Chicago’s strong passing game. Milliner is doubtful with quadricep and ankle injuries, and he missed a second straight practice on Saturday. Darrin Walls could start if Milliner can’t go.

The only other pressing Jets injury concern is the status of wideout Eric Decker, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. However, Decker did see his first practice work of the week on Saturday, putting in a limited workout.

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In Rice case, what does “accountable” really mean?

Goodell AP

Commissioner Roger Goodell has said on multiple occasions that he’s accountable for the many problems with the Ray Rice investigation and ultimate suspension.  But what does it really mean to be accountable?

For players, coaches, team executives, and owners who break the rules, it means fines and suspensions.  For teams, it means fines and the potential loss of draft picks or salary cap space.

For folks in the league office, accountability looks to be simply a word.

To confirm that, look no farther that the deposition given by Goodell in the Super Bowl ticket fiasco lawsuit.  PFT has obtained a copy of the 317-page document, and an intriguing exchange between Goodell and lawyer Michael Avenatti begins at page 119.  It appears below.

Q.  Who has been held accountable, if anyone, with the NFL with regard to what happened with the temporary seats?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection, vague.

Goodell:  What do you mean, accountable?

Q.  Have you ever used the word accountable?

Goodell:  Yes, sir.

Q.  All right.  What do you understand the word accountable to mean?

Goodell:  You’ve asked me in the beginning that you wanted me to make sure that I understand the question.  I’m trying to understand your question.

Q.  That’s not my question.  My question is what do you generally — what have you generally understood the word accountability to mean when you’ve used it.

Goodell:  Is that the first question that you asked or — I’m asking for a clarification on your question.

Q.  I’m going to strike the question and I’m going to ask you another question.

Goodell:  Okay.

Q.  All right.  What have you generally understood the word accountable to mean when you’ve used it?

Goodell:  That you are responsible, and that you take responsibility.

Q.  And that you make good on your failure, right?

Attorney Thad Behrens:   Objection.  It mischaracterizes his testimony.

Goodell:  I think I answered your question.

Q.  Have you held anyone with the NFL accountable for the failures relating to the temporary seats at Super Bowl 45?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection, vague.  You can answer.

Goodell:  Again, I’ve been very clear.  We’re all accountable for this.  Our staff has worked hard to contact those fans to make the offer.  We continue to still make good on those offers, and we will do so.  So yes, we’re all accountable for that.

Q.  Have you caused anyone to be disciplined in connection with their — the failures relating to the temporary seat issues at Super Bowl 45?

Goodell:  To be disciplined?

Q.  Yeah.  You’re familiar — you’re familiar with the word disciplined, right?

Goodell:  Yes.

Q.  Okay.  I mean you hand out discipline on a consistent basis, in connection with being the leader of the NFL, in an effort to protect the shield, right?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection.  You’re badgering the witness.

Goodell:  (Laughing).

Q.  No, I’m stating a fact.  I mean he — it’s well known that he does that.  Right, Mr. Goodell?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection.  This is outside the scope.

Goodell:  I apply discipline –

Q.  Okay.

Goodell:  — in the context of violation of our policies.

Q.  All right.

Goodell:  — when a team violates policies, lawyer or other individuals involved with the NFL.

Q.  Have you applied any discipline whatsoever in connection with the failures surrounding the temporary seating issues at Super Bowl 45?

Goodell:  Discipline wouldn’t be the word I would use.  There are people that recognize our responsibility, and there was an impact for that, for all of us.

Q.  Have you caused anyone to lose their job over the failures in connection with the Super Bowl 45 temporary seats?

Goodell:  No, I have not.

The questioning then focused on whether any employee has suffered a consequence to his or her job because of the Super Bowl ticket fiasco.  Goodell explained that, generally, it can affect bonus payments and promotions.  Pressed for the name of any person affected by the situation, Goodell did not provide one.

Many have assumed that, in the Rice case, one or more key employees of the league office will be held accountable with the loss of their jobs.  Based on the Super Bowl ticket fiasco, however, that assumption could be erroneous.

After all, if anyone in the upper reaches of the NFL loses his job now, it could become very hard to explain why the axe of accountability didn’t fall one level higher.

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Vikings add Charles Johnson to fill Adrian Peterson’s roster spot

charlesjohnson AP

The Vikings have added a player to the roster to fill the spot vacated by putting Adrian Peterson on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list that most people had never heard of until this crazy week in the NFL.

That player is receiver Charles Johnson, who was signed off the Browns’ practice squad.

Johnson was initially a seventh-round pick of the Packers last year and didn’t make Green Bay’s 53-man roster but did make the practice squad. The Browns then signed Johnson away from the Packers’ practice squad and put him on the active roster, although he didn’t play in any regular-season games.

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was the Browns’ offensive coordinator last year, so Johnson arrives already knowing Turner’s offense.

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Ravens reiterate that ESPN report contains “inaccuracies,” without identifying one

Byrne Getty Images

In response to Friday afternoon’s bombshell report from ESPN regarding the Ravens’ gross mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation, the Ravens said only that the report contains “numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings.”

But the Ravens didn’t mention a single error, inaccuracy, false assumption, or misunderstanding. And they still haven’t.

Speaking to the media in connection with the Ray Rice jersey exchange, in which more than 7,000 fans participated, Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said (via Rick Ritter of CBS Baltimore), “There are inaccuracies in the report. We’ve been transparent and will continue to be.”

Exactly when have the Ravens been transparent?  Sure, plenty of folks started talking after the second Rice video was released.  Before that, however, the Ravens seemed to be focused on privately and publicly propping up Rice, wrapping their arms around him even though, according to the ESPN report, the organization knew that he had swung his closed fist into his then-fiancée’s jaw, knocking her “the f–k out.”

This is new territory for us,” Byrne said.  “It’s an unusual time for the franchise.  We’re learning as we go.”

They need to be learning — and they need to be sharing — exactly what they contend is wrong with the ESPN report.  If there are “numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings,” it should be easy to identify and rebut them.  After all, the topic has been a fairly hot one for the franchise in the last 12 days, and previously.

“Right now we’re focused on Cleveland and will address this next week,” Byrne said.

Sorry, but that’s not good enough.  The story is too big and its implications too significant to justify hiding behind a looming game day.  Besides, it’s not as if the players will be the ones crafting the response.

The deliberate delay creates the impression not of transparency but more damage control.  Instead of standing up and telling the truth, it seems the Ravens have used the cover of an approaching contest to justify planning and plotting a plausible response to the report.  One that will preserve the employment of as many people as possible.  One that will keep the league office from dropping the hammer on anyone who may have misrepresented to the Commissioner the severity of the incident.

One that will keep relevant law-enforcement officials from commencing the process of exploring whether any state of federal laws were broken in connection with the team’s apparent effort to minimize Rice’s ultimate legal responsibility, to shorten his suspension, and to keep the public from realizing exactly what Rice had done.

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Underappreciated Darren Sproles glad to show “I still have it”

sproles AP

Darren Sproles has been underappreciated throughout his football career. Maybe that changed after his fantastic performance on Monday night, but probably not.

Sproles, who in leading the Eagles to a win over the Colts on Monday night became the first player ever to top 150 receiving yards, 25 rushing yards and 25 punt return yards in the same game, thinks he may have proven some people wrong if they believed before that game that he was slowing down at age 31.

“It’s just telling some people that I still have it,” Sproles told Philly.com. “It’s still me. That’s the reason I do it.”

To see how underappreciated Sproles has been, just consider:

– Sproles has never been selected to a Pro Bowl — not even the year he set the NFL’s all-time record for total yards in a season. As noted by Philly.com, Sproles has more all-purpose yards than any player since he entered the NFL in 2005, and every other player in the top 10 in all-purpose yards since 2005 has been to at least two Pro Bowls.

– Sproles lasted until the fourth round of the NFL draft despite an All-American career at Kansas State and an insanely impressive Combine workout that showed off not just his good speed and agility but incredible upper-body strength: He managed 23 reps on the 225-pound bench press, a stronger showing than many big, powerful NFL running backs including Marshawn Lynch (20 reps) and Steven Jackson (16 reps).

– After four excellent seasons with the Chargers, they let him walk. After three excellent seasons with the Saints, they traded him for a fifth-round draft pick.

The Eagles are the beneficiaries of that. Chip Kelly has raved about Sproles not only for what he does in games but for his work ethic, calling him, “the most fit guy on the team.” The Eagles may be the first team that really appreciates how much Sproles has to offer.

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