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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 13: New York Giants

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

If the NFL seeded every team one through 32 last January and had a playoff tourney, the Giants would have been a chic sleeper pick to win it all. Everyone knows New York is a serious threat no matter its seed.

Of course, there is no such 32-team tournament. Only six teams per conference make the playoffs. And in three of the last four seasons, the postseason has begun with the Giants at home.

The NFL isn’t about to open the postseason to everyone and thus devalue the regular season in the process, so it’s up to the Giants to rack up the wins necessary to get a playoff bid.

The question is, are the up to the task?

Here’s a look at the Giants as training camp approaches:

Strengths.

In Eli Manning, the Giants have a skilled, experienced, playoff-tested, durable quarterback. Think of all the teams that don’t have such stability at this key position. The Giants do, and it’s a primary reason they can’t be discounted.

Manning is surrounded by talented skill-position players. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are an elite wide receiving tandem. The depth beyond Nicks and Cruz is strong, too, with Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy and Ramses Barden also useful players.

The Giants also appear in good shape at running back, where David Wilson and Andre Brown comprise a capable tandem. New York also did well to add pass-catching tight end Brandon Myers (ex-Oakland) to replace Martellus Bennett, who signed with Chicago.

The strength of the defense is a deep defensive line led by ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, though the latter is recovering from back surgery.

Finally, the bulk of this club’s core has at least one Super Bowl ring. The Giants have won big, and they have thrived in one of the world’s biggest media markets for close to a decade under coach Tom Coughlin. GM Jerry Reese also deserves credit — the Giants annually have a deep, talented roster.

Weaknesses.

Whether the Giants make the postseason could well come down to the play of their defense, which has been below-par of late. The Giants have ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards per game and yards per play in each of the last two seasons. In 2012, only New Orleans was worse in both categories. The Giants struggled against the run (28th in yards per carry allowed) and pass (31st in opponents’ yards per pass play) a season ago.

While the Giants are strong in the front four, their back seven isn’t as imposing. Their linebacking corps lacks a standout, and the depth is questionable, too. The Giants have a similar situation at cornerback, where Prince Amukamara and Corey Webster are the starters with Aaron Ross (back after a forgettable one-year stint in Jacksonville), Jayron Hosley and Terrell Thomas other options. Thomas is coming off his third right ACL tear, and his ability to contribute remains to be seen.

Changes.

The Giants bid adieu to the tough tailback Ahmad Bradshaw, a key part of two Super Bowl teams, leaving Wilson (5-9, 205) and Brown (6-0, 227) to carry the load in the backfield.

Wilson, the club’s 2012 first-round pick, has exceptional speed. If he continues to round out his game, he could give an already potent offense yet another boost.

“He still makes mistakes, but there has certainly been . . . some significant growth,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said of Wilson in June, according to the club. “Now until you get the pads on — and he has to show that he, as a smaller guy, can do the things necessary that other small backs in this league have done — you are still kind of holding your breath when you see him.”

Brown, who scored eight TDs in just 73 carries in 2012, would figure to be the Giants’ short-yardage, red-zone and between-the-tackles specialist.

Two notable additions on offense are Myers, who caught 79 passes for 806 yards and four TDs for Oakland in 2012; and rookie right tackle Justin Pugh, who will compete to start right off the bat.

There are numerous changes on defense. Defensive Osi Umenyiora departed for Atlanta. Mathias Kiwanuka, who started six games at strong-side linebacker for New York in 2012, could see more time at end with Umenyiora gone and Pierre-Paul coming off back surgery. The Giants also added rookie pass-rush prospect Damontre Moore in Round Three.

Two former Eagles — Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson — were added to bolster New York’s defensive tackle ranks. The Giants also added Ohio State tackle Johnathan Hankins in Round Two.

Middle linebacker Dan Connor (ex-Dallas) was added in March, effectively replacing Chase Blackburn, who signed with Carolina. The Giants also parted ways with Michael Boley, who logged multiple starts at strong- and weak-side linebacker in 2012.

Talented-but-injury-prone safety Kenny Phillips signed with the Eagles. Ryan Mundy (ex-Pittsburgh) figures to be the third safety behind starters Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.

The Giants replaced longtime kicker Lawrence Tynes with Josh Brown, who connected on 11-of-12 field goals for Cincinnati in the 2012 regular season. In his prime, the 34-year-old Brown was regarded as one of the NFL’s best kickers, and he was sharp in his stint with the Bengals a season ago.

Position battles.

With Blackburn departing in free agency, the Giants will have a new starter at middle linebacker. Mark Herzlich, primarily a reserve in his first two NFL seasons, held the job in offseason workouts.

“He’s taken a leadership role out there and I think he has some good respect from his teammates in some of the things he’s done in the OTAs,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said in June, according to a transcript from the team. “Obviously, we want to find out what happens when the pads come on.”

Connor, who has 27 starts, is another option in the middle.

There may be greater uncertainty at outside linebacker, with Keith Rivers, Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger among the competitors for playing time. Per ESPNNewYork.com, Rivers and Paysinger were the starters outside in the offseason, though Williams was dealing with a knee injury. For the record, Rivers made three starts on the strong side and three on the weak side in 2012, with Williams starting two games on the strong side and one on the weak side. All three of Paysinger’s 2012 starts came at weak-side linebacker.

On offense, Pugh and veteran David Diehl will compete at right tackle. Both could potentially play guard, too. Also, how the Giants divide carries between Wilson and Brown will be closely watched by fans and fantasy-football players alike.

Prospects

The Giants lost their final four road games of 2012. Similar struggles away from home to begin this season would be very problematic for New York, which starts the 2013 campaign with three-of-four on the road, including the season-opener at Dallas. Overall, five of the Giants’ first eight contests before their Week Nine bye are away from MetLife Stadium.

After the bye, the Giants have three straight home games, with the Nov. 17 prime-time meeting vs. Green Bay perhaps the biggest challenge.

Nevertheless, all of that home cooking presents a big opportunity for Coughlin’s club. The Giants — like every other team in the competitive East — need to get their wins when they can. The division hasn’t produced multiple playoff teams since 2009.

Should the Giants get back to the postseason, there will be no doubting their readiness for the rigors of January. The NFC East is tough. And it will also take its toll, too, as the Giants, 9-9 in division play the last three seasons, too well know. To get to January, New York needs to slog through the schedule that encompasses the kids going back to school, the leaves turning colors and all of that holiday music on the radio.

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Vikings knew of other abuse accusation, reinstated Peterson anyway

Zygi Wilf, Adrian Peterson AP

The Minnesota Vikings were aware when they reinstated Adrian Peterson today that Peterson has been accused of abusing more than one of his children.

Hours after news broke this evening that Peterson has been accused of abusing another one of his sons — in a separate incident from the accusation that led to his indictment last week — the Vikings released a statement admitting that they knew of that accusation and decided to bring Peterson back to the team today anyway.

“As part of the information we have gathered throughout this process, we were made aware of an allegation from 2013 in which authorities took no action against Adrian. We will defer any further questions to Adrian’s attorney Rusty Hardin,” the Vikings’ statement said.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said nothing about the prior Peterson abuse accusation when he said today that the team would let the legal process play out. The Vikings deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game after he was indicted on a charge of injuring another one of his sons, but they said today that they will let him play the rest of the season.

The Vikings have already lost a sponsor in this mess, which may put pressure on other sponsors to act as well. If more sponsors pull out, that might be what it takes for the Vikings to take action. Apparently two separate abuse accusations aren’t enough to make the Vikings take action.

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Radisson pulling sponsorship of Vikings “effective immediately”

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptgyyje0odhkymywnjq2nwi5nzuwmmflzwrkngi5y2y5 AP

A Vikings sponsor is ending its corporate support of the club for the time being after Adrian Peterson’s Friday arrest on a charge of recklessly or negligently injuring a child.

The Radisson hotel chain announced Monday night it was “suspending its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances.”

Said the hotel in a statement issued on the website of its parent company, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group: “Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children.”

The suspension of the company’s sponsorship is “effective immediately,” Radisson said.

The Radisson logo was present behind the Vikings’ press conference podium on Monday, when G.M. Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer met with the media and were asked about the decision to reinstate Peterson, who was deactivated for Sunday’s game vs. New England.

Peterson’s arrest stems from an incident in which he disciplined his four-year-old son with a switch. In a statement Monday, Peterson said he “never ever intended to harm” his son.

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Adrian Peterson’s lawyer says other abuse accusation is untrue

Peterson Arrested Football AP

The attorney for Adrian Peterson says the latest accusation that Peterson abused one of his children is untrue.

Responding to today’s news that Peterson was investigated last year for causing a head wound to one of his sons, lawyer Rusty Hardin released a statement denying the charge.

“The allegation of another investigation into Adrian Peterson is simply not true. The allegation is more than one year old and authorities took no action. An adult witness admittedly insists Adrian did nothing inappropriate with his son,” Hardin said in a statement.

However, the mere fact that Hardin is admitting there was another allegation against Peterson — in addition to the criminal charge he’s facing for allegedly abusing another son — could be enough to force the NFL to suspend Peterson. In 2010, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Ben Roethlisberger for two allegations of sexual assault, even though Roethlisberger was never arrested or charged in either case. When Goodell made that decision, he said that multiple accusations constitute a pattern of behavior, and that when there’s been a pattern established, the NFL will act.

“The issue here is with respect to a pattern of behavior and bad judgments,” Goodell told Dan Patrick in 2010. “You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy.”

Peterson has not been convicted, but he has been charged in one case and accused in another. Based on the precedent Goodell set with the Roethlisberger case, there’s more than enough reason to suspend Peterson now.

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Richardson struggles, Bradshaw gives Colts an early lead

richardson AP

Trent Richardson is the starter, but Ahmad Bradshaw is the Colts’ best running back.

Bradshaw played well after replacing Richardson on the Colts’ second drive tonight, extending the drive with a 29-yard gain on fourth-and-1 and later catching a one-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to give the Colts an early 7-3 lead.

Richardson looked more or less like he’s always looked since the Colts sent a first-round draft pick to Cleveland to acquire him: Slow and plodding, and prone to fumbling. Richardson did break off a nice 15-yard run, but his other four runs went for a total of five yards. Richardson also got bailed out by Reggie Wayne, who pounced on Richardson’s fumble on the Colts’ second drive.

Eventually, the Colts’ coaches may realize that Bradshaw is better than Richardson, just as they eventually realized last year that Donald Brown was better than Richardson. But Eagles fans should hope that realization does not come tonight. The more carries Richardson gets, the better chance the Eagles have of winning.

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Second Adrian Peterson case involves alleged head wound, scar

AdrianPeterson Reuters

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, revered for years as one of the nicest guys in all of sports, is turning out to be anything but nice or reasonable when it comes to administering discipline to his children.

According to KHOU 11 in Houston, the second case against Peterson, which has not yet resulted in criminal charges, arose after he administered a “whooping” to another four-year-old son by creating a head wound that reportedly left a scar over the boy’s right eye.

In a chain of text messages with the boy’s mother, Peterson admits that the wound occurred as Peterson disciplined the boy for cussing at a sibling.

Per the report, Peterson never admits what he struck the boy with, but Peterson told the boy’s mother, “Be still n take ya whooping he would have saved the [scar].”  No charges were filed, according to the report.  The boy’s mother filed a report with Child Protective Services; the outcome of the investigation is unclear.

The fact that Peterson faces allegations in a separate case compels the league to aggressively investigate both incidents, and to take action against Peterson, if the league determines that Peterson did what he is accused of doing.  Failure to act promptly would suggest a level of indifference to child welfare that justifiably should make fans equally indifferent to the NFL.

UPDATE 9:50 p.m. ET:  Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, says that the allegation against Peterson is “simply not true.”

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Reports: Adrian Peterson investigated for another abuse case

adrianpeterson AP

If, as it appears, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson didn’t see anything wrong with spanking one of his children with a switch until the boy’s flesh ripped open and bled, logic suggests that it wasn’t a one-time occurrence.

According to multiple reports, it may not have been.

KHOU 11 in Houston and FOX 9 in Minneapolis report that Peterson has been investigated for a second abuse case involving another one of his sons.

The Vikings reinstated Peterson on Monday after a one-game deactivation arising from Friday’s indictment on charges of reckless of negligent injury to a child in Texas.  Stay tuned for more details regarding the second case.

Peterson is presumed innocent in a court of law.  The Vikings and the NFL will be presumed inept and immoral in the court of public opinion if either or both continue to hide behind Constitutional protections that relate only to the deprivation of a person’s liberty and not to the privilege to play football in exchange for millions of dollars and worldwide fame.

UPDATE 8:05 p.m. ET:  The full report from KHOU 11 indicates that the boy’s mother made a report of the injury to Child Protective Services, but that no charges were filed against Peterson.

UPDATE 9:50 p.m. ET:  Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, says that the allegation against Peterson is “simply not true.”

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Khaled Holmes, Marcus Smith II among inactives for Eagles-Colts

Indianapolis Colts v New York Jets Getty Images

The Colts’ starting center will miss another game.

Khaled Holmes (ankle) is inactive for Monday’s matchup against the Eagles, the Colts announced this evening.

A.Q. Shipley is expected to get the call in place of Holmes, who was questionable on the final injury report. He was a limited practice participant all week.

The Colts’ other inactives are outside linebacker Chris Carter, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, center Jonotthan Harrison, tailback Dion Lewis, offensive guard Joe Reitz and wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers. Josh McNary will reportedly start for Freeman, who had been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

The Eagles made the following players inactive for Monday night: quarterback Matt Barkley, offensive tackle Kevin Graf, defensive end Taylor Hart, wide receiver Josh Huff, linebacker Marcus Smith II, offensive lineman Matt Tobin and defensive back Jaylen Watkins.

Smith, the Eagles’ first-round pick in May, is a healthy scratch. He was active in Week One but did not play.

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Raiders reach one-year deal with Vincent Brown

Vincent Brown AP

The Raiders are adding to their pass catching corps.

The club has reached a one-year contract with ex-Chargers wide receiver Vincent Brown, the San Diego Union-Tribune and ESPN reported Monday afternoon.

The deal has yet to be announced, but the club has put a nameplate above a locker for Brown, according to CSN Bay Area.

A fourth-year pro from San Diego State, Brown (5-11, 190) has hauled in 60 passes for 801 yards and three touchdowns in his NFL career, all with San Diego, which drafted him in the third round in 2011.

Brown missed the 2014 preseason with a calf injury and was released with an injury settlement in September. His deal with the Raiders comes after wideout Rod Streater suffered a hip injury in Oakland’s 30-14 loss vs. Houston on Sunday.

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Dennis Allen’s job security already in question in Oakland

dennisallen AP

Raiders coach Dennis Allen was already on the hot seat before the season started. That’s what happens when you go 4-12 in each of your first two seasons.

But after an 0-2 start succinctly summed up by Charles Woodson saying, “We suck,” the question is less whether this will be Allen’s last season in Oakland and more whether Allen will even make it to the end of the season.

Raiders owner Mark Davis is already privately expressing his displeasure, according to CSNBayArea.com, to the point where Allen’s tenure as Raiders coach may come to an end this season. According to the report, the Raiders already have a plan to promote offensive line coach Tony Sparano to head coach if Allen gets fired during the season. Sparano spent four seasons as head coach of the Dolphins and is a more experienced coach than Allen.

Allen knows his team needs to get better.

“We need change,” Allen said after Sunday’s loss to Houston. “We need to do better, because we’re a better football team than what we put out on the field today.”

Allen is running out of time to show he’s a better football coach than what his team has put on the field in his first two-plus seasons.

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Bears place Charles Tillman on injured reserve

Charles Tillman AP

Charles Tillman’s season with Chicago has officially reached a close.

The Bears have placed the 12th-year cornerback on injured reserve with a right triceps injury, the team announced Monday. A similar injury ended his 2013 season.

Tillman, 33, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He indicated Monday he will work to return from his latest injury, which was suffered in the third quarter of Sunday’s win at San Francisco.

“I know this feeling way too well, but this isn’t the end of the road for me,” Tillman said, according to ChicagoBears.com. “As I rehab my injury, my role will transition to helping coach and support my teammates. I will be at Halas Hall and do everything I can to help our team reach its goals.”

Tillman has played his entire career with Chicago. He was named 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, which recognizes excellence in on-field and community work.

First-round pick Kyle Fuller stepped in for Tillman on Sunday night and starred, intercepting a pair of passes. But losing Tillman’s experience and playmaking ability is certainly a blow to the Bears’ defense. A starter for Chicago since his rookie season of 2003, Tillman has forced 42 fumbles and intercepted 36 passes in regular season play.

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Tom Coughlin: I’m a believer in this team

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants piled up another set of mistakes on Sunday during their 25-14 loss to the Cardinals, dropping their record to 0-2 and providing unhappy memories of their start to last season.

Even after opening 0-6, coach Tom Coughlin never stopped selling that 2013 squad as a playoff contender until mathematics made such claims impossible. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Coughlin says he’s “a believer” in this year’s squad and invited his team and the team’s fans to join him as believers with 14 games left to play this season.

“I don’t see this as being a reason for them not to be. Our task and our goal is to toughen up. Let’s go. Come on. Stop beating ourselves. This is professional football,” Coughlin said, via NJ.com. Make the plays necessary to win and do it on a consistent basis. Eliminate these bizarre events which take the heart right out of you. I hope they’ll respond to the fact that I’m counting on them to accept the challenge, to not feel sorry for ourselves and to realize the work that has to be done for us to win. I hope the fans will join in in that exact feeling.”

Coughlin’s passion never fades, but the Giants have faded on the field too often over the last two years to think that they can just flip a switch and start winning again. As Coughlin said, there’s “work that has to be done” and it will have to be done quickly and consistently for the Giants to avoid starting their season in another deep hole.

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Lovie Smith says Doug Martin would have practiced if Bucs practiced

Doug Martin AP

The Buccaneers have a short week this week thanks to their Thursday game against the Falcons and that means they have to produce a simulated practice report for Monday even though they didn’t practice.

Coach Lovie Smith said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, there were three players that wouldn’t have participated in practice and none of them was running back Doug Martin, who missed Sunday’s loss to the Rams with a knee injury. That would suggest he has a chance to get back on the field for this week’s game.

Running the ball wasn’t much of a problem against St. Louis as Bobby Rainey picked up 144 yards on 22 carries. That may work in Martin’s favor when it comes to the decision about dressing him on Thursday since the Bucs wouldn’t need him to be the bell cow in their running game.

Defensive end Michael Johnson was also on the list of Bucs who would have practiced. Johnson missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (broken hand), linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) were the three players who would have been on the sideline at a Monday practice.

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Report: Tavon Austin could miss two weeks with MCL sprain

Tavon Austin AP

The Rams could be without Tavon Austin for the rest of September.

The good news? It’s possible he may miss just one game.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Austin, the Rams’ 2013 first-round pick, is expected to miss “roughly two weeks” with a sprained MCL suffered in Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay.

The Rams have their bye in Week Four (Sept. 28). In short, if Austin misses just two weeks, the Rams might be without him for just one game. So while this is unwelcome news, the timing couldn’t be much better for St. Louis.

Austin (three catches, 34 yards; five rushes, 26 yards in 2014) is one of the Rams’ primary wide receivers and their top punt returner. Austin Pettis, who made a key 27-yard catch late in the Rams’ 19-17 victory against the Bucs, is listed as the top backup to Tavon Austin both at receiver and on punts.

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Gruden won’t rule out Cousins keeping job over a healthy RG3

cousinsgruden AP

After leading Washington to victory in relief of the injured Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins declared, “This is Robert’s team.” But it may not be RG3’s team for long.

Coach Jay Gruden was asked today if Cousins could play well enough in the coming weeks to hold onto the starting job even after Griffin’s dislocated ankle has healed well enough for him to play. Gruden declined to give a definitive answer.

“We’ll cross that bridge when that comes. Right now we’re going to prepare with Kirk Cousins as our starter, and Robert’s going to rehab. All decisions after that will come after that,” he said.

Cousins played very well on Sunday, completing 22 of 33 passes for 250 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Of course, that was in a home game against Jacksonville, one of the worst teams in the league. But if Cousins plays that well again next week in Philadelphia, and he leads his team to a win on the road against the NFC East rival Eagles, the calls for Cousins to keep the job will increase. If he keeps playing well, it’s going to be hard for Gruden to send him to the bench when Griffin is ready to go.

Gruden, however, isn’t going to commit to either quarterback until he has to.

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Previously, the Vikings have exhibited concern in abuse cases

MJUST1

The Vikings have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they will not tolerate a player laying hands on a family member.

Oh, wait, that was last year with a scrub.

While Adrian Peterson apparently isn’t getting more than a paid weekend off after admitting to beating/disciplining his 4-year-old son, the Vikings have acted swiftly before.

Last November, the Vikings released cornerback A.J. Jefferson less than 24 hours after he was arrested for probable cause for domestic assault. I’d look up the disposition of the case, but it’s not like anyone cares anyway.

Jefferson was a reserve, and not worth the trouble of clattering on about due process while pretending to care about anything but the bottom line, so he was released.

That’s life in the NFL. If you can help a team win, excuses will be made for you no matter how ridiculous they sound falling out of the mouths of the excuse-makers.

That’s not to pile on the Vikings. Everybody does it.

The Panthers released sixth-round linebacker Lawrence Wilson in 2011, five days after he was arrested for driving in possession of marijuana (and perhaps because he cried in front of the cops). He was on the practice squad at the time, after they realized he wasn’t worth that sixth-round pick.

But Greg Hardy was arrested in May and found guilty by a judge in July of assaulting his then-girlfriend and communicating threats, including saying he’d kill her and throwing her into a futon full of guns.

He played in the opener at Tampa, and it took video of Ray Rice punching his wife in the face to force them to deactivate him Sunday (that was some punch, that it was felt 450 miles away in Charlotte).

The league can hire women into prestigious jobs with titles and salaries, and they can educate and legislate, but until the paying customers demand accountability from everyone involved — and not just the disposable — nothing is going to change.

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