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Santonio Holmes can’t say if he’ll play this season

Santonio Holmes AP

Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes‘ recovery from last season’s Lisfranc injury continues on the side while his teammates practice at training camp and it doesn’t sound like Holmes will be joining them on the field anytime soon.

And he wasn’t able to rule out the possibility that he won’t join them on the field at all. Holmes was asked Friday if he was sure that he’d be able to play at some point in the 2013 season, the wideout answered that he couldn’t answer that question.

“I want to, but I have to do what the foot says to do,” Holmes said, via Brian Costello of the New York Post. “If it’s not ready to roll, it’s not ready to roll.”

Holmes didn’t make it sound like the foot would be ready to roll anytime in the near future. He said he and the training staff are taking each step “as slow as possible” to avoid any setbacks in the future. Holmes is on the PUP list right now and the slow pace of recovery suggests he might be staying there to start the season.

That would mean at least six games without Holmes in the lineup, which would leave the winner of the Jets quarterback competition with the kind of receiving corps that makes you wonder if the word winner is really the right word to use.

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Carl Nicks excused from reporting to Bucs camp for personal reason

Carl Nicks AP

Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks did not participate in voluntary work with the team this spring and wasn’t able to practice during the team’s mandatory minicamp because of the toe injury and resulting staph infection that wiped out his 2013 season, but said in June that he felt like he would be ready to participate in training camp.

The Bucs reported for work on Thursday, but Nicks wasn’t among the players checking in for camp. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that coach Lovie Smith said that Nicks was excused for the day because of personal reasons.

“It’s part of life. Things come up,” Smith said.

Because of the toe injury, the Bucs have gotten very little return on their free agent investment in Nicks two years ago. He’s played in just nine games for the team and it will continue to be unclear whether he’ll provide much help in the future until he actually gets back on the football field. Smith indicated that Nicks was only excused for Thursday, so Friday should bring more word on how Nicks is feeling and what his future in Tampa looks like.

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Panthers following NFL’s lead on Greg Hardy punishment

Carolina Panthers v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

It’s a banner day for women everywhere around the NFL.

After Ray Rice’s two-game suspension for knocking his wife unconscious (Hey, she apologized), it now appears the league’s other star abuser of women is going to continue to make his full $13 million this year.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman indicated the team was not going to suspend defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted last week on charges of assaulting his girlfriend and communicating threats.

“We’ve been in touch with the league, . . . we have to respect the legal process,” Gettleman said.

Hardy has appealed his conviction, and will get a jury trial next. But that’s unlikely to happen before January, which means the Panthers will likely have Hardy available this season.

The franchise-tagged defensive end will make $13.1 million this season, or just over $770,000 per week.

They could conceivably suspend him up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team, but teams always prefer to leave such cases to the NFL. And as today’s ruling in the Rice case shows, that punishment will come later, if it’s felt at all.

Considering they’ve made no effort to reach a long-term contract with Hardy, who could be an unrestricted free agent again next year, they might never have to feel it, either.

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Frank Gore not ready to give up heavy workload

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers have accumulated quite a bit of depth behind running back Frank Gore over the last few years, leading some to wonder if 2014 will be the year when the longtime workhorse starts to cede more of the workload to other backs.

If it is up to Gore, the wait will last a little longer. Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde and LaMichael James are all on the roster and looking for playing time, but Gore has no plans on stepping aside so someone else can do the heavy lifting.

“I’m from Miami,” Gore said, via CSNBayArea.com. “I’ve been competing ever since I left high school. I’ve been with top guys who’ve been in the league. I’m up for it. One day, they’re going to get this role. But I’m here, and I’m going to make it a challenge.”

Gore is 31 and coming off a year that saw him take three-quarters of the team’s offensive snaps, the second-most of his 49ers career, so his overall workload will likely drop during the season. If he’s still as effective as he was last season, though, the drop probably won’t be a particularly dramatic one since the 49ers know that they can win with Gore leading the way on the ground.

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Get ‘em while they’re hot: Buy your ladies’ Ray Rice gear

pinkray

The league’s in house network referred to the “iron fist of the NFL” this morning while discussing the pending two-game suspension for the Ravens running back Ray Rice.

But that iron palm can still be greased, mind you.

In case you wanted to show your support for the Ravens running back during his time off for knocking his wife unconscious, you can order your very own Ray Rice ladies’ jersey from the team store, for the low price of $94.95.

Or even better, you can order the shimmering pink one (with the sassy laces to cover up your cleavage) from the league for only $59.95.

Those will be perfect for the warm autumn afternoons of October, when the league goes to great pains to remind you it supports breast cancer research.

If only they showed as much respect for the rest of the woman.

Photo credit: NFLShop.com

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John Harbaugh: Aaron Ross suffers torn Achilles

Aaron Ross, Ted Ginn AP

The Ravens’ cornerback depth has taken a hit at the outset of training camp.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced Thursday that ex-Giant Aaron Ross suffered an Achilles tendon tear during the team’s conditioning test, the club’s official Twitter feed said.

The Ravens signed the 31-year-old Ross in June to compete for a reserve role behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. However, the Achilles injury seems likely to end Ross’ season.

A first-round pick of the Giants in 2007, Ross has made 52 regular season starts, notching 250 tackles and intercepting 11 passes.

Veteran cornerback Dominique Franks, who’s also competing for a job, has not yet passed his conditioning test, Harbaugh said, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

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Manziel won’t get first-team reps right away

Pettine AP

Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel got plenty of first-team reps during offseason workouts.  He won’t be getting any in training camp, at least not initially.

He will get reps with the ones at some point,” coach Mike Pettine told Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com.  “But early on . . .  we only talked about how we would handle things very early in camp and then make that assessment after the first off day and then have a plan for the scrimmage [on August 2].  We’ll see where he is coming out of the summer.”

The summer break began with Manziel defiantly saying at the Rookie Symposium that he won’t be changing his off-field ways for anyone.  Grossi asked Pettine whether he was surprised by that.  But Pettine seems to still be OK with Johnny Football being Johnny Vegas or Johnny Rolled-Up-Hundy or Johnny Whatever when he’s off the clock.

“Yeah, but I think it still needs to get to a point where if it’s affecting his job, that he’s in a situation where he goes out and has a good time, are there other players in the NFL that do that? Absolutely,” Pettine said.  “But his persona, and it’s a phenomenon, has created something where people seek those photographs and are very eager to put them out.  Does he go out more than some guys?  Maybe.  But he’s young and that’s his lifestyle and it is the offseason.  If this is a pattern during the season and it is affecting his work, then that’s much more cause for concern. . . .  To me, his life as an NFL player truly starts now and he’ll be judged on that. And if we get the hint that there’s behaviors affecting his work or there’s criminal activity then absolutely there’s cause for concern.

And that’s precisely why the NFL should quit testing guys for recreational drugs, especially in the offseason.  Teams don’t care about what a guy does unless and until it affects his job or his freedom (which in turn affects his ability to show up for his job).  If the individual teams don’t care about anything more than that, why does the collection of 32 teams care?

Of course, Pettine does indeed have a concern about the photo of Manziel tightly rolling up a piece of paper money.  Pettine confirmed to Grossi that player and coach talked about it.

“I felt very positive coming out of the conversation and I’m very confident moving forward, now that it’s 100 percent about football, that it will be much less of an issue,” Pettine said.

If it’s truly 100 percent football, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.  And if Manziel hopes to be like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, it needs to be 100 percent football far more often than when it’s football season.

And when football season starts, it currently appears Manziel will be on the bench.  Pettine admitted that his goal of naming a starter sooner than later favors Brian Hoyer.

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Cowboys place Ronald Leary, Anthony Spencer on PUP list

Anthony Spencer AP

The Cowboys offensive line should be one of the team’s biggest strengths this season while the defensive line looks like one of their biggest weaknesses, but they have something in common as the team starts camp.

Both units will be shorthanded as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports that guard Ronald Leary and defensive end Anthony Spencer have both been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Spencer’s appearance on the list was expected as he continues to rehab from the microfracture surgery he had on his knee last October. Spencer is hopeful that he’ll be ready to go come the start of the regular season and the Cowboys are hopeful to have him on their shaky defensive line, but it will be a while before it becomes clear whether or not that’s a possibility.

Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com reports that Leary strained his hamstring during the team’s conditioning test earlier this week, leading to his placement on the PUP list. Both players can be activated at any time. The same is true of defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who has been placed on the Non-Football Illness list.

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Report: Justin Houston arrives at Chiefs camp

Justin Houston AP

Another potential holdout has died a whimpering death.

According to Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston has reported to Chiefs camp.

We noted last week that Houston wasn’t expected to hold out, even though he wants a new deal.

One of the most underpaid members of the Chiefs, Houston would have faced $30,000 a day fines if he didn’t show, and wouldn’t have created any amount of good will toward the organization which recently rewarded running back Jamaal Charles.

Perhaps playing nice will hold the same benefit for Houston, while he toils on the last year of his rookie contract.

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Rice will lose more than $470,000 due to suspension

Ray Rice AP

Apart from missing a pair of games and necessarily hurting his team, Ravens running back Ray Rice will lose plenty of money.

At a base salary of $4 million for 2014, the forfeiture of a pair of game checks will keep $470,588 out of Rice’s pocket.  (It’s also possible that Rice’s punishment will include a fine in the amount of one or more additional game checks; for now, the reports have focused only on the suspension.)

Of course, Rice also has received $25 million in the last 24 months, which undoubtedly is one of the reasons why the Ravens are standing behind him.  If they hadn’t already given him so much money and/or if they didn’t still think he can move the chains, the team would be moving on.

Indeed, if the Ravens had gone with a back-loaded deal instead of a ridiculously front-loaded package, the Ravens possibly wouldn’t be quite so understanding and supportive of a guy who knocked a woman out in a public place.Rice has appeal rights under the personal-conduct policy.  Given the justifiable criticism of the decision to suspend him only two games, Rice’s best play could be to accept the penalty and move on.

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Ravens website says Rice will be suspended two games, based on “reports”

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

As more and more sports leagues and more and more teams try to get into the media business, unusual developments occur from time to time.

Most recently, the Ravens have posted an item on their website acknowledging “multiple reports” that running back Ray Rice will be suspended two games for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.  Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that an announcement of the suspension will come later today.

On one hand, it’s smart that the Ravens didn’t avoid the topic.  On the other hand, it would have been stupid to post the item without running the issue by folks higher on the organizational chart who may know which way the wind is or isn’t blowing.  So if the folks who run the team’s website are smart, the mere posting of the story should be regarded as a very strong hint that, indeed, Rice will be suspended two games.

The backlash already has begun, on two fronts.  Some have argued that the suspension of Rice without a suspension of Colts owner Jim Irsay shows favorable treatment of the folks who sign the checks.  Others have argued that Rice didn’t get suspended long enough.

Both sentiments have a considerable degree of merit.  Even though players are almost never suspended for a first-offense DUI and despite the fact that no discipline comes for a first-time DUI offender until the case is resolved, a strong expectation has emerged that Irsay should be and will be held to a higher standard.  As to Rice, the fact that the NFL will throw a guy out of the game for a year due to the disease of addiction to marijuana or other non-PEDs but will ban a guy who knocked out his future wife in a public place for only two games seems more than a bit inconsistent.

The common thread between those two angles comes from the league’s ongoing desire to police what players do on their own time with substances that don’t enhance performance.  Regardless of whether Irsay is suspended sooner than later, the league likely won’t subject him to the same rigorous testing that would throw a player who has an uncured disease out of the league for a year or longer, for fear of ultimately having to throw an owner out of the league for a year or longer.  Or permanently.

So maybe the discussion eventually needs to focus squarely on the substance-abuse policy that applies to players.  With coaches constantly policing performance by playing and/or keeping only the best players, that should be the ultimate litmus test for determining whether a guy should remain in the league notwithstanding the use of recreational drugs.  If/when the use of street drugs affects his performance, he won’t have a job.  If the use of street drugs doesn’t affect his performance, why should the NFL or anyone other than the appropriate law-enforcement agencies care?

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Demaryius Thomas to miss start of Broncos camp after death in family

Demaryius Thomas AP

The Broncos will not have wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on the field when they start training camp on Thursday, but there are no injury concerns or contract squabbles for the team to worry about.

Thomas has been excused from Broncos camp until Monday so that he can return to Georgia to attend funeral services for his grandmother. Thomas was at the team’s facility for meetings and a physical on Wednesday, but coach John Fox said Thursday, via ESPN.com, that Thomas “is where he needs to be” and that the team’s prayers are with him.

Thomas is coming off a pair of excellent seasons catching passes from Peyton Manning and has caught 240 passes for 3,698 yards over four years with the Broncos. That’s put him in line for a big new contract with his current deal expiring after this season and the two sides have been talking about an extension. The missed time this week shouldn’t have any impact on either Thomas’ play or the contract talks.

PFT offers our condolences to Thomas and his family on their loss.

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HGH use up among high school students

HGH AP

Nearly three years ago, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to implement HGH testing.  And they’ve yet to actually implement it, due to a series of roadblocks and hurdles that currently has the two sides squabbling not over HGH testing but the Commissioner’s power when it comes to players disciplined for PED violations unrelated to positive drug tests.

Meanwhile, more and more kids are using HGH.  As mentioned earlier in the morning on The Dan Patrick Show, a new survey featured at Time.com shows that 11 percent of 3,705 high-school students admitted to using HGH without a prescription.  That’s an increase from five percent in 2012 and 2011.

It’s entirely possible that the ongoing discussion of HGH arising from the inability of the NFL and NFLPA to actually implement testing has increased national awareness of HGH, introducing more kids to the product.  And with the NFL still not testing for it, kids looking for a reason to justify the use of HGH could easily twist the lack of testing into a belief that the NFL doesn’t really think it’s a big deal.

The NFL acts like HGH is a big deal, but the NFL won’t do what needs to be done to get HGH testing rolling.  While it’s understandable that the league doesn’t want to set a bad precedent by yielding to the union a little-used slice of Roger Goodell’s authority, the league office is full of very smart people who should be able to find a way to craft a win-win.

As a result, the impression lingers that the league is trying to avoid a lose-lose, in which HGH testing would expose a major PED problem and sideline many of the men fans pay to watch play football.  Some even wonder whether the unspoken goal of the protracted delay is to allow players who require some sort of pharmaceutical enhancement to find a comparable product that isn’t detected via current testing or easily masked.

Regardless, in the three years since the league and union agreed to adopt something other than the honor system for HGH, more kids are using it.  Which makes it even more important for the NFL and NFLPA to make a strong statement by finally testing for HGH and suspending those caught using it.

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Justin Blackmon arrested for marijuana possession

Justin Blackmon AP

Justin Blackmon, the talented but troubled Jaguars receiver who is currently serving an indefinite suspension for substance-abuse violations, has been arrested again.

Blackmon was arrested for possession of marijuana Wednesday night in Edmond, Oklahoma, according to Channel 6 News in Tulsa.

Police say Blackmon was initially pulled over for a traffic violation and officers could smell marijuana coming from his car. They searched, found marijuana and took Blackmon into custody.

Blackmon has previously been arrested twice for drunk driving.

The Jaguars spent the fifth overall pick on Blackmon in the 2012 NFL draft. He showed promise as a rookie but was suspended indefinitely after playing just four games in 2013. Even before this arrest the Jaguars were not counting on him to play for them at all this year, and his inability to stay out of trouble raises questions about whether he’ll ever play in the NFL again.

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Cowboys thinking Rolando McClain’s a good bet

Rolando McClain AP

The Cowboys were a little desperate for help when Sean Lee was lost for the season with a torn ACL in OTAs. And they certainly didn’t give up much to acquire Rolando McClain.

But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggested that McClain’s financial situation might have played a part in his comeback, and he thinks he’s getting a motivated player.

“I have a known a lot of people, a lot of successful people, that quit and then got it together and turned it around and came back and really made something of what they quit actually, in many cases,” Jones said, via Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com. “I’ve seen it happen several times in sports. Certainly I have seen it happen in short periods of time with frustration.

“I have a little empathy. He’s got a very plausible experience as to what has impacted him off the field. We all say that you’ve got to be a pro and work through that stuff. I, too, have first-hand seen people that have worked through things better than others. If you get behind them, they can go on to very productive. So based upon his background, his story, based upon the nature of why he’s here — his health, which is good — all those things, in my mind, he’s a great opportunity for our team.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he talked about McClain’s college coach Nick Saban before making the move as well, and came away convinced it was worth the (low) risk.

“Certainly he’s had some issues since he’s been in the NFL,” Garrett said. “Played a couple of years, retired, unretired. And the research that we did, the due diligence we did, both with coach Saban and other people who have been around him, we felt like with his ability with the kind of person he’s demonstrated himself to be in the past, maybe we can help him through some of these issues he has and get this guy back playing at the level we all thought he was capable of playing.”

McClain will have to wait to make that impression, as he’s heading back to Alabama for a court date Friday. But they expect him to return to camp over the weekend, at which point the former No. 8 overall pick can start making the most of his latest chance.

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Aldon Smith expects to hear from the league very soon

Aldon AP

Ray Rice isn’t the only guy waiting for the league office to lower the boom.  49ers linebacker Aldon Smith also is on deck for some sort of discipline under the NFL’s personal-conduct policy and/or its substance abuse policy.

The difference in the those cases comes from the fact that Rice has had his meeting at the league office.  Smith hasn’t.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Smith had not yet been summoned to 345 Park Avenue for a review of his latest off-field issue, which culminated in a no-contest plea to three misdemeanor weapons charges and one DUI charge.

For Smith, it’s his second DUI incident.  The first one, in Miami, was reduced to reckless driving.  That history could influence the NFL’s handling of the latest DUI.

The recent reduction of the weapons charges from felonies to misdemeanors could help Smith’s cause before the Commissioner, but Smith has had enough incidents and situations during his three NFL seasons that anything other than a multi-game suspension would be a surprise.

The source believes Smith’s meeting at the league office will happen next week.  Either way, the hearing, the decision, and the appeal need to happen before Week One, when the 49ers travel to Dallas.

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