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A critic of concussion litigation, Deion Sanders seeks compensation for head injuries

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Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders has suggested that half the players who have sued the NFL for concussions are making a money grab.  Sanders is now making what some would call a money grab.

The Los Angeles Times has obtained documents relating to the workers’ compensation claim made by Sanders in California.  The paperwork includes cognitive impairment among a total collection of 13 different injuries that has left him, in the opinion of four doctors, 86 percent impaired.

“The game is a safe game, the equipment is better,” Sanders has said.  “I don’t buy all these guys coming back with these concussions.  I’m not buying all that.  Half these guys are trying to make money off the deal.  That’s real talk.  That’s really how it is.  I wish they’d be honest and tell the truth because it’s keeping kids away from our game.”

Sanders didn’t file a concussion lawsuit, and now he won’t have to do so in order to obtain a chunk of the $675 million concussion compensation fund.  If he can persuade the independent doctors that Deion has a severe cognitive impairment, he’ll be eligible for payment.  It’s another reason why some of the players who filed suit against the league will resent the men who didn’t join in the effort, but who will now be able to join in the recovery.

Meanwhile, Sanders will keep trying to persuade the powers-that-be in California that he deserves compensation for head trauma and 12 other injuries.

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Cardinals place Tyrann Mathieu on PUP list

Tyrann Mathieu AP

The Cardinals aren’t sure whether or not safety Tyrann Mathieu will be healed from torn ligaments in his knee in time to play in the team’s first regular season game, so it comes as little surprise to learn that he won’t be practicing with the team early in training camp.

Mathieu was one of two Cardinals placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list on Thursday, which means he’ll be held out of the team’s practices until the medical team feels he’s ready to take on a bigger workload. The procedural move can be undone at any point during camp, but Mathieu’s questionable status for Week One could lead the team to leave him on the list for at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

Mathieu will be joined on the PUP list by defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu. Ta’amu is also recovering from a torn ACL that was suffered in Week 17 last season and said in the spring that he hopes to return to action before the end of camp.

The Cardinals also waived wide receiver Kelsey Pope as they set their roster for the start of camp.

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Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice is retiring

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The Seattle Seahawks will enter the 2014 season with one less player than they expected to have.

Per a league source, receiver Sidney Rice has decided to retire from football.  The source says that the 27-year-old Rice’s decision arises from his history of concussions.

More recently, Rice has been unable to play due to a knee injury suffered during the 2013 season.  A torn ACL caused him to miss eight games in the regular season and the playoffs.

Signed in 2011 after four seasons in Minnesota, Rice never came close to matching a breakout season third season in the league.  With Brett Favre arriving in Minnesota, Rice generated 1,312 receiving yards in 2009.  Since then, he has appeared in 16 regular-season games only once.

Cut after the 2013 season by the Seahawks, Rice rejoined Seattle in April after getting clearance from Dr. James Andrews.  Rice was due to earn a base salary of $1 million this year.

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NaVorro Bowman opens 49ers camp on the PUP list

NaVorro Bowman AP

Some of the roster moves teams are making come as a surprise, but the 49ers knew this one was coming.

The team announced linebacker NaVorro Bowman was placed on the active/physically unable to perform list.

Bowman suffered a torn ACL and MCL in last year’s NFC Championship Game, so he wasn’t expected to be back on the field for the start of camp.

But getting him back on the field early in the season will be crucial for the 49ers if they want to get back to that level, as Bowman was playing as well as any defensive player in the league last season.

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Kluwe suit on hold as settlement talks continue

Kluwe AP

Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe will absolutely, positively sue the Vikings this week.

Unless he doesn’t.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, lawyer Clayton Halunen says that the lawsuit he previously promised to file on Wednesday has been placed on hold.  Instead, Halunen will take the next couple of weeks” to see whether the case can be resolved via negotiations with the team.

“We have spoken with the Vikings lawyer Joe Anthony and we have agreed to recommend to our clients that they continue with their conversations,” Halunen said Wednesday, via Tomassaon.  “We will not be taking any action pending the completion of those discussions.”

It’s a smart move, by both sides.  The early 1980s Wapnerization of America flooded courts with civil complaints, forcing judges to come up with mandatory mediation programs, which compel litigants to try to work out their differences under the auspices of a neutral third party.  Eventually, the Vikings and Kluwe will have to do just that.  With the facts of Kluwe’s case not very complicated, why not just do it now?

“We have not set a deadline so I can’t say there’s a deadline but I think both sides are interested in trying to determine whether or not our conversations are going to be a productive in a very short period,” Halunen said.

The real deadline comes on the two-year anniversary of May 2013 Kluwe’s release by the Vikings.  He’ll either sue or settle long before it’s four minutes to Wapner.

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Kyle Long out a few days with viral infection, Chris Conte to PUP list

Michael Ford, Kyle Long AP

The Bears got a standout rookie season from guard Kyle Long and expectations are high for the 2013 first-rounder in his second season, but it will be a few days before he hits the practice field.

The team announced Wednesday that Long is suffering from a viral infection and will not practice through the weekend as a result. Assuming that all goes well with his recovery, there shouldn’t be any impact on Long’s readiness for the season or his ability to handle the duties on the right side of the line.

The same appears to be true of right tackle Jordan Mills. Mills sat out minicamp because of a foot injury, but both he and left guard Matt Slauson (shoulder surgery) have been cleared by doctors to begin practicing with their teammates.

Safety Chris Conte isn’t quite that far along, however. Conte will start camp on the PUP list after having shoulder surgery in April. He’s expected back before camp comes to a close, but fourth-round pick Brock Vereen could use any extra reps he receives to stake a claim to the free safety job that could be too much for Conte to overcome.

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Ryan Harris announces he’s signed with Chiefs

Ryan Harris, Keshawn Martin AP

Tackle Ryan Harris spent the first four years of his career as a member of the Broncos, so he’s familiar with being on the opposite side of the field from their AFC West rivals in Kansas City.

Now Harris is going to get a chance to see how the other half lives. Harris announced on Twitter that he’s signed with the Chiefs a day before they hold their first full-squad practice of the summer.

Harris was a third-round pick of the Broncos in 2007 and played 46 games with the team before moving on to Houston. He played in all 32 games for the Texans over the last two seasons and made five starts.

The Chiefs have Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson set at left and right tackle, respectively, which likely leaves Harris with a chance at earning the swing tackle job behind them if he can beat out J’Marcus Webb during camp.

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NFL announces Lane Johnson suspended four games for PEDs

Lane Johnson AP

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has been suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Johnson blamed the suspension, which had previously been reported but only today officially announced, on a medication that he says he took without realizing it was on the list of banned substances. He did not name the medication.

“In April while training, I mistakenly and foolishly put a prescribed medication in my body to help with a medical issue. I mistakenly failed to clear it with Eagles trainers and check the NFL list of banned substances. I am extremely sorry for this mistake and I will learn from it and be smarter in the future,” Johnson said. “This will be very hard on me to not be battling with my teammates for four games – but I will be ready and better than ever when I return.”

With Johnson and Miami’s Dion Jordan both suspended from Week One through Week Four, two of the NFL’s Top 4 picks in the 2013 NFL draft will be serving PED suspensions to start the season.

Johnson can participate in training camp and the preseason but will have to be away from the team’s facility from the start of the regular season through Monday, September 29.

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Texans sign Tyson Clabo

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The Texans added some experience to their offensive line on Wednesday.

Agent Chad Speck announced on Twitter that his client Tyson Clabo has agreed to terms on a contract with the Texans. Speck offered no details on the deal, but Adam Caplan of ESPN reports it is a two-year contract. Caplan also reports that Clabo had contract discussions with the Cardinals after a visit that came to nothing as the two sides couldn’t agree on money.

Clabo spent last season with the Dolphins and started 15 games as part of a line that allowed 58 sacks over the course of the season. He was a starter with the Falcons for the previous seven seasons as well, holding down the right side of the line in both Atlanta and Miami.

Clabo will likely compete with incumbent Texans right tackle Derek Newton, who is coming off a rough year of his own in Houston. 2013 third-round pick Brennan Williams was thought to be Newton’s chief competition, but the Texans released Williams this week.

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Reports: Fred Davis sought by Washington D.C. police

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According to multiple published reports, Washington D.C. police are seeking free agent tight end Fred Davis in connection with a domestic violence allegation.

According to a statement from police obtained by PFT, the alleged simple assault occurred early on the morning of June 2 in Washington.

Police released a statement on the allegation Wednesday in the hopes of locating Davis, who has a residence in Leesburg, Virginia, according to authorities.

Davis played for Washington from 2008 through 2013, catching 162 passes for 2,043 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is currently serving an indefinite NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

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Odell Beckham tweaked hamstring on Tuesday

Odell Beckham AP

The Giants had a few players forced out of practice on Tuesday because of injuries or difficulties dealing with heat, including first-round pick Odell Beckham.

The wide receiver pulled up while running a pattern and grabbed his hamstring before going to the sideline for treatment. On Wednesday, General Manager Jerry Reese said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, that Beckham tweaked the muscle. Reese didn’t offer any update on what Beckham might do in practice on Wednesday or any other day.

It’s not the first time Beckham has battled hamstring trouble in his brief Giants career. He dealt with it during the team’s spring work as well and said before Tuesday’s work that he wasn’t sure if it was 100 percent recovered.

Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger if not given sufficient time to heal so the Giants may dial things back with Beckham in the near future to be sure that he’s in peak condition when he returns to the field. After all, having a speedy new receiver in your offense doesn’t do a lot of good if you can’t use him because he’s got a bad wheel.

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Browns agree with Justin Gilbert, leaving one unsigned

justin gilbert AP

And then there was one.

According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Browns agreed to their deal with first-rounder Justin Gilbert today, getting the cornerback under contract before camp opens.

That leaves just Titans first-rounder Taylor Lewan as the only unsigned pick league-wide.

There used to be dozens of these to worry about this week, but the slotted rookie contracts of the new CBA had all but a handful done before July.

It’s no surprise Lewan is the last man standing, as Titans first-rounder Chance Warmack was the last first-rounder to sign last year.

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Jets place Willie Colon and Antwan Barnes on PUP

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Now we know part of the reason the Jets signed Jason Babin earlier today.

The Jets announced that they were placing linebacker Antwan Barnes and veteran guard Willie Colon on the physically unable to perform list to open training camp, in addition to the signing of the veteran pass-rusher.

Barnes is coming off some knee problems, so the addition of Babin gives them some experienced depth to get them through camp. Colon is dealing with knee and biceps injuries.

The Jets also released cornerback Lowell Rose to create the roster spot for Babin.

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Washington dismisses name opposition from George Preston Marshall’s granddaughter

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When they first emerged in Leesburg Today last week, comments from Jordan Wright about the name of the Washington NFL franchise got some attention, given that she’s the granddaughter of George Preston Marshall.  But her opinion didn’t move the needle very much.  After all, only so many stories can be written about specific people who think the team owned by Daniel Snyder should change its name; as time goes by and as more and more offer their views, the bar gets higher and higher.

We opted not to write a story about Jordan Wright’s opinion, relegating the subject to one-liner status.  But the matter has now migrated to the pages of the Washington Post, fueled by the team’s decision to respond to the comments from the daughter of the child of the man who applied the name to the team more than 80 years ago.

“We are aware that Jordan Wright has recently changed her long-held position on the Redskins name,” team P.R. spokesman Tony Wyllie told the Post.  “However, we do know from her bio that she has been paid by the newspaper Indian Country Today, which is owned and operated by the Oneida tribe, the most vocal critics of the Redskins name.  So her change of heart is consistent with her employment choices.”

There’s a certain irony that undoubtedly applies to Wyllie’s belief that beliefs can be so easily bought.  How many employees of the team, including perhaps Wyllie himself, are saying what needs to be said in order to ensure that checks signed by Daniel M. Syder, Millionaire will continue to be deposited into their accounts?  If the team thinks “employment choices” directly influence opinions, it’s fair to wonder how many people who have chosen to work for Snyder are muzzling any disagreement with the name in order to continue to be employed.

The team surely wouldn’t expect Wright to admit that her “employment choices” are influencing her opinion.  In turn, I don’t expect Wyllie or anyone else who works for Snyder to do the same thing.

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Alex Boone will hold out from 49ers camp

Alex Boone AP

Vernon Davis reported to 49ers training camp. Teammate Alex Boone will not.

Boone is holding out from 49ers camp, as expected. The 27-year-old Boone has two years left on his contract, with base salaries of $2 million in 2014 and $1.2 million in 2015, and he believes he deserves significantly more than that.

The question is whether the 49ers are willing to give him more than that. They may think they have the leverage because Boone has two years left in his deal and they can fine him $30,000 a day for every day he misses, and they may also think that giving him a pay raise would be rewarding a holdout.

Boone has started all 16 games in each of the last two seasons, and he’s an important part of the 49ers’ offense. By holding out, he’s betting that the 49ers will decide he’s too important to be without, and will give him a raise to get him back in the fold.

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Hernandez’s first murder trial moved to January

Aaron Hernandez AP

Whenever a headline about a guy’s upcoming murder trial contains the term “first,” that’s not good.

For former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, the first of two murder trial has been moved from October 2014 to January 2015.  Specifically, jury selection begins on January 3, and the trial starts on January 9.

Whenever the trial begins (and it could be delayed one or more additional times), Hernandez will face the accusation that he killed Odin Lloyd in June 2013.

Hernandez’s second murder trial, which accuses him of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, is scheduled to begin on May 28, 2015.  That date also is tentative.

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