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Broncos power away from Giants with three-TD burst

Knowshon Moreno Getty Images

Buoyed by stout defense and propelled forward by an offense that picked up its play in the second half, the Broncos rolled to an impressive 41-23 win against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

The Broncos’ defense played a major role in the victory, intercepting Giants quarterback Eli Manning four times. Denver also held New York to 23 yards rushing.

New York now has 10 turnovers in two games, with Manning throwing seven picks in that span.

The Broncos’ offense got a big game from running back Knowshon Moreno, who had touchdown runs of 20 and 25 yards. Quarterback Peyton Manning was sharp as usual, throwing for 307 yards and two touchdowns.

The Broncos’ special teams also chipped in, with punt returner Trindon Holliday picking up a bouncing punt and sprinting 81 yards for a touchdown to break the game open in the fourth quarter.

The Giants’ defense held up relatively well early in the game, but it started to give up more ground in the second half. The Giants needed their offense to come up big, and that did not happen.

The win improves Denver’s record to 2-0 in advance of a matchup with Oakland (1-1) on Monday night.

This was a close game until the Broncos powered away with three second-half TDs in 5:12 of game action encompassing the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter.

With Denver leading 17-16, Moreno rushed off the right side for a 25-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left in the third. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Manning was intercepted by Chris Harris, who grabbed a pass that bounded off the foot of teammate Tony Carter, who had broken in front of Rueben Randle to deflect the throw. Denver would capitalize with a Manning-to-Julius Thomas TD pass. Finally, the Broncos forced the Giants to punt, and Holliday broke free for his touchdown to give Denver a 38-16 lead with 10:13 in regulation.

Now 0-2 for the first time since 2007, the Giants travel to Carolina next Sunday. The Panthers are also 0-2 after 24-23 loss to Buffalo earlier Sunday. The Giants are just one game back of the Cowboys and Eagles in the NFC East after every division team lost in Week Two.

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Ryan brothers say working together has caused both to gain weight

Rob Ryan, Rex Ryan AP

Bills head coach Rex Ryan and his twin brother Rob have long talked openly about their weight struggles. When Rex hired Rob this year, working together did not help them take the pounds off.

Rex told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that he’s gained 30 pounds since hiring Rob, and Rob added that he had his lap band surgically removed and has gained 24 pounds. Rex said he hoped the two of them could work together on losing weight, but it didn’t work out that way.

“I was going to get his weight down to mine. No, no, my weight started going up to his. So that’s really what happened there,” Rex said.

Rob said that he started to get his weight under control while working from the Cowboys, going from 320 pounds to 260. But he gained 30 pounds in a month after he was fired by the Cowboys and hired by the Saints, and his weight has been a struggle since.

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Cowboys won’t just give Ronald Leary away

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 23:   Ronald Leary #65 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts in the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 23, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys are happy to explore the possibility of trading guard Ronald Leary, but they’re not going to just give him away.

The former starting guard, whose place was taken by La’El Collins last year, has been staying away from OTAs in hopes of finding someone who wants him to start.”We told Ron that he could certainly look around, but we’re not in the business of letting go of good football players for little or nothing,” Jones said Thursday. “We got calls during the draft asking to trade for some of our running backs. We just don’t have that interest. Ron’s a big part of this football team.

“We told Ron that he could certainly look around, but we’re not in the business of letting go of good football players for little or nothing,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News. “We got calls during the draft asking to trade for some of our running backs. We just don’t have that interest. Ron’s a big part of this football team.

“We know it’s disappointing when you’ve been starting and you’re not. We’d hoped that he would look at it as ‘let’s come in here and compete.’ . . . We expect him to come in here at some point. And we want to welcome him with open arms, and hopefully he’s getting in shape wherever he is right now.”

Leary proved to be a perfectly capable starter on good lines in 2013 and 2014, before Collins fell into their laps. There are plenty of places he could probably be starting, but the Cowboys know that too, and have no reason to make a hasty decision.

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Marcus Smith thinks things are different for him under Jim Schwartz

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 21: Pierre Garcon #88 of the Washington Redskins scores a touchdown against  Marcus Smith #90 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on September 21, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the two year since he became an Eagles first-round pick, Marcus Smith hasn’t done much to make people feel the team made the right choice in 2014.

Smith played sparingly at linebacker under former defensive coordinator Bill Davis and the bust word has been thrown around quite a bit. Smith’s chance to erase that label will come as a defensive end in Jim Schwartz’s defense and he believes that it will be a departure from his first two seasons.

“I understand it,” Smith said, via Philly.com. “I wanted to be on the field, but I wasn’t. I learned a lot of things from my first to second year. I think I’ve grown and matured a lot that this third year. You’ll see a different Marcus.”

Smith said he and Schwartz have talked about Jerry Hughes, who went from a disappointing linebacker with the Colts to 10 sacks off the edge as a defensive end under Schwartz in Buffalo. That led to a five-year, $45 million deal for Hughes and the loss of any bust tag that might have been placed on him when he was with the Colts.

Can lightning strike twice? Smith and the Eagles certainly hope so.

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Rex-Rob Ryan go for broke in Buffalo

speaks onstage during the 5th Annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Getty Images

Over the past two weeks in Buffalo, it felt like the season already was slipping out of coach Rex Ryan’s control. With a up-or-out ultimatum reportedly in place for Ryan and G.M. Doug Whaley, it’s now clear that Rex and Rob Ryan are taking over.

And for good reason. If a failed season is going to get Rex fired, then Rex wants to be the one responsible for it, with his fraternal twin and other trusted lieutenants at his side.

We never lost a fight in our life,” Rex Ryan said of his brother Rob in a joint interview with TheMMQB.com. “Ever. And we ain’t losing this one. And that’s a true statement. Not just because we are badasses — because we are, individually — but collectively, it’s a lot different. To this day, no man is going to whip me. Why? Because I’ve got my brother with me. And I’ve got my brother, [defensive coordinator] Dennis Thurman, with me. Ed Reed is here for a reason. These players are going to be like that, too. We want to fight like brothers. I don’t know if we have 100 percent buy-in from even the entire building. I don’t know yet. But the people directly with me, my coaching staff and the players, that’s where it starts. I don’t know all the business people yet; they should be ‘all in,’ but I don’t know. There’s times when the doubt part, that can be driven through the media. But I’m going to surround myself with the very best, and I’m going to win.”

It’s unclear who isn’t buying in, but the reference to business people would apply most naturally to team president Russ Brandon. There’s also Whaley, who may have already sealed his own fate with that goofy “humans shouldn’t play football” remark from earlier in the week. For him, the outcome very well could be: (1) get fired if the team doesn’t make the playoffs; or (2) get pushed out in a Rex Ryan power play if Rex-Rob manages to get the team to the playoffs.

Rex-Rob are surely aiming higher, due in large part to the failing health of their father, Buddy. Asked for Buddy Ryan’s thoughts on the Rex-Rob coaching reunion, Rob said, “He’s struggling. That’s another reason –”

And then Rex finished the thought: “We’re going for broke, man.”

However it plays out, the Bills have immediately have become one of the most compelling teams in the NFL. They’ll be even more compelling when the games begin, especially if in the process of going for broke everything breaks bad.

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Friday morning one-liners

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 16:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals talks with teammate A.J. Green #18 prior to the start of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 16, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

A look at how the Bills’ receivers are faring in OTAs without Sammy Watkins.

The Dolphins expect WR DeVante Parker to create fear in opposing defenses.

DE Chris Long is learning from Rob Ninkovich in his first year with the Patriots.

By staying away from OTAs, Jets WR Eric Decker is showing uncommon loyalty to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Lardarius Webb is adjusting to life as a safety with the Ravens.

QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green remain in place while the Bengals offense changes around them.

Hopes for Browns RB Duke Johnson are high this season.

Steelers quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones welcomed children to their families this week.

The Texans defense is shooting for a faster start this season.

Colts LB D’Qwell Jackson still enjoys playing the “chess game” with opposing offenses.

DT Malik Jackson is growing comfortable in his role on the Jaguars defense.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is the only hand guiding the Titans defense in 2016.

How can the Broncos defense be better this year?

Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin left Thursday’s practice early with what the team calls a minor ankle injury.

Sean Smith thinks fellow Raiders CB D.J. Hayden can still realize his potential.

A case for the Chargers using DE Joey Bosa in a variety of ways.

The Cowboys won’t be giving G Ronald Leary away.

Delving into concerns about the Giants offensive line.

Tracing the roots of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme.

Redskins WR Rashad Ross‘ cousin is trying to land a spot on an NFL roster.

The Bears hope a bigger C Hroniss Grasu is a better one.

Lions LB DeAndre Levy is excited about a “fresh start” after missing last year with a hip injury.

Packers WR Ty Montgomery shrugged off concerns about his ankle.

S Michael Griffin has enjoyed his first weeks as a member of the Vikings.

The Falcons are trying several things to jolt their pass rush.

Where does Panthers coach Ron Rivera rank in relation to his peers?

The Saints have moved Kaleb Eulls to the offensive line.

The Buccaneers took their rookies golfing.

Cardinals RB Chris Johnson shares the stories behind some of his tweets.

The Rams will be looking for some new leaders after this offseason’s roster moves.

Ray-Ray Armstrong is competing for a starting linebacker job with the 49ers.

Brandon Browner likes being back with the Seahawks.

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Rob Ryan: I did a damn good job with Saints and got fired for it

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Actor Aaron Paul and NFL coaches Rob Ryan and Rex Ryan speak onstage during the 5th Annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rob Ryan was relieved of his duties as the Saints’ defensive coordinator during the 2015 season while the team was on its way to finishing 32nd in the league in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed.

That performance came on the heels of a 2014 campaign that ended with the same ranking in yardage and a 28th-overall finish in points, but it probably comes as little surprise to learn that neither of those performances did much to temper Ryan’s confidence in his coaching ability.

Rob joined twin brother and Bills head coach Rex for an interview with Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that fits right in with what we’ve come to expect from the Ryans over the years. When asked about why the two brothers have joined forces, Rob managed to promise wins over Bill Belichick and declare his work in New Orleans a success in a short period of time.

“For me, and I’ll speak for myself on this, I have an extra hunger,” Rob Ryan said. “I have always been a guy who is going to work my tail off, and I think I have always advanced the head coach’s plan. But at the end of the day, the last two years in New Orleans were a waste of time for me. I want to give everything I have to a team that I want to be a part of, with a head coach I want to be a part of. Not only is Rex a great head coach, but he is also a great defensive coach. He’s going to be the best coach that I can work for, anytime. And I have worked for Belichick, who is the best head coach in football, in the history of the game. But we’re going to beat him, and we’re going to beat him together. And it’s going to be an awesome challenge. I need to be in a multiple system. I was hired to be in a multiple system in New Orleans, and I did a damn good job and got fired for it. I am more hungry now than I have ever been. So I wanted to go with the right guy. And the right guy is someone I have 100 percent trust in and 100 percent faith in.”

Rob Ryan’s defense of his time with the Saints centers on a 2014 move to make the defense more like the one the Seahawks have been running in recent years. He said signing safety Jairus Byrd “ruined us” and that all teams running a variation of the Seattle defense have been “s—ty” while his biggest mistake was sitting on his hands and letting it happen.

Rex Ryan has said similar things in defense of the Bills’ defensive performance in 2015 and promises a return to his full scheme in 2016 with his brother by his side. Based on this interview, it’s certainly a return/continuation of the full-throated style that will make the Ryans easy targets should the improvement fail to come.

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Dez Bryant wants to hang out with Nihar “The Machine” Janga

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MAY 26:  Spellers Nihar Saireddy Janga (2nd R) of Austin, Texas and Jairam Jagadeesh Hathwar (2nd L) of Painted Post, New York celebrate with family members after the finals of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee May 26, 2016 in National Harbor, Maryland. Both spellers were declared co-champions at the end of the annual spelling competition.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dez Bryant got caught up watching one of last night’s most intense back-and-forth sporting competitions, and he wants to hang with the winner.

It was 11-year-old Nihar Janga, who was named co-champion when the Scripps National Spelling Bee was declared a tie after 25 words for Janga and co-finalist Jairam Hathwar.

As Harthwar went in for a high five to celebrate, Janga ignored him and threw up the Cowboys wide receiver’s famous “X” as he was mobbed by family members.

This pleased Bryant greatly, and he was quick to reach out to the young speller, writing on Twitter: “ you just made my whole day buddy.. Congrats on winning the champ.. Some how some way I have to get you to a game

Young Nihar has a bit of showman in him — despite being a fifth-grader, and one of the youngest participants in the spelling bee. At varying points in the contest, he’d show off his knowledge by calling out definitions rather than ask judges for them, and cameras caught him shaking his head like Dikembe Mutombo when Hathwar got a word wrong.

Frankly, we love the blending of art and knowledge, and it is only right that two great sportsmen like Bryant and Janga should get together.

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Koa Misi detained but not arrested after punching man in bar fight

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi was handcuffed and detained by Fort Lauderdale police, but not arrested, after punching a man in the head in a bar fight last weekend.

While that technically doesn’t reset our days without arrest meter, it’s another incident for a player with a bit of a past.

Via to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, this incident never led to an arrest because the other party didn’t want to press charges.

According to the police report, Misi and a group of friends going into an argument with a man named Scott Cabrera outside the Cyn Nightclub. They separated briefly, but according to the report: “Seconds later, Misi and other members of his group charged toward the nightclub entrance where Cabrera was standing in line. I was unable to stop all of them from charging and ran back toward the entrance, to where I witnessed Misi strike Cabrera in the head, causing him to fall to the ground.”

Misi was ordered to get down, but he tried to run and the cop “executed a leg sweep to bring him to the ground.”

(We knew things might be getting slow for Johnny Lawrence, but had no idea he was working as a Florida cop).

Misi was eventually cuffed and put in the back of a patrol car, but when Cabrera wouldn’t provide a statement or wish to press charges, Misi was released.

The Dolphins issued the traditional “aware/gather information” statement, but reports of the incident came after their post-OTA media availability.

In 2012, Misi pleaded no contest to felony battery with serious bodily injury, after breaking down a man’s door and giving him a beating which resulted in a broken eye socket.

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Most NFL teams play near a casino

ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY - MARCH 30:  A patron plays the slots at the Trump Taj Mahal casino hotel on March 30, 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Atlantic City municipality is due to run out of funds on April 8 and is facing insolvency and the possibility of bankruptcy. Many city workers, including members of the fire and police departments, have vowed to continue working without pay until funds are restored. The Jersey Shore gambling resort town has seen four casinos close in recent years, cutting its casino tax revenue in half. The financial crisis has pitted Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian against New Jersery Governor Chris Christie, who has refused to bail out Atlantic City with state funds.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

Amid talk that the Raiders could move to Las Vegas, some around the NFL are concerned about playing in America’s gambling capital. But gambling is so pervasive around America today that most NFL teams play near a casino.

That’s the word from the American Gaming Association, which points out that 80 percent of NFL teams play within a one-hour drive of a casino.

The Rams’ new stadium in Los Angeles is being built right next door to the Hollywood Park Casino, which will make the Rams one of six teams (along with the Steelers, Ravens, Lions, Browns and Saints) that play less than a mile from a casino. Another 13 stadiums are between one and 20 miles from a casino, and seven stadiums are 20 to 40 miles from a casino.

Only six teams — the Cowboys, Texans, Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars and Titans — play more than 40 miles from a casino.

The reality is that if playing near a casino is a problem for the NFL, then the NFL already has a problem. Moving one team to Las Vegas won’t change that.

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Aaron Rodgers blames being mic’d up for Randall Cobb’s punctured lung

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Wide receiver Randall Cobb #18 of the Green Bay Packers makes a catch against cornerback Justin Bethel #28 of the Arizona Cardinals but it was called back due to off setting penalties in the first half in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t exactly been a fan of technology creeping onto the field. He doesn’t enjoy having cameramen on the field and microphones picking up everything said at the line of scrimmage.

But Rodgers believes the equipment was detrimental in another way as well. He believes it’s responsible for Randall Cobb suffering a punctured lung in the Packers’ playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals in January.

Rodgers joined his former Packer teammate and current free agent linebacker A.J. Hawk for a nearly two-hour conversation on Hawk’s “The Hawk Cast” podcast and expressed his disdain for the technology creep into the field of play. During the conversation, Rodgers said he believes Cobb’s injury was due to him being mic’d up for the game.

“Randall Cobb had a serious injury last year in a playoff game and I believe, as I think he would as well and the team, that that was caused from him being mic’d up,” Rodgers said. “Because he fell on his mic pack and he had an injury to his insides that kept him out of the game and probably would have kept him out of the rest of the playoffs. The puncture spot, or the injury spot, was directly adjacent to his mic pack.”

Cobb landed hard on his back while attempting to make a one-handed catch late in the first quarter of Green Bay’s playoff loss to the Cardinals. He began coughing up blood on the sidelines and had trouble breathing. He was released from the hospital after an overnight stay and is doing well now.

Whether the mic pack played a part in Cobb’s injury or not, Rodgers still isn’t fond of the technology encroaching on the game.

“Yeah, I think it’s too much information,” Rodgers said. “In 2008 there used to be no headset on defense, so the defense had to signal in every play and that was part of the whole Spygate issue and filming signals and what not. But now you have mics on both guards most of the time and you pick up everything that the quarterback says when we’re at home, and sometimes on the road as well, and I think that’s a competitive edge for the defense and it makes you have to work that much harder with your dummy words and your live and dead words. I mean, that’s part of the game there, but I think that the access is a little bit much.

“I think being mic’d up, when I’m mic’d up, it takes away from the authenticity of the game for me. I don’t feel comfortable mic’d up.”

Hawk then turned the conversation to idea of having point-of-view cameras in quarterbacks’ helmets at some point in the near future.

“Won’t be my helmet I’ll tell you that much,” Rodgers said.

“How are you going to stop them?” Hawk asked.

“I don’t get mic’d up. I’m not going to wear that,” Rodgers replied.

“What if they put them on every guy?” Hawk asked.

“Might have to call it a career,” Rodgers said with a laugh.

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Chris Berman’s agent denies report of looming retirement

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  TV personality Chris Berman attends ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN) Getty Images

Chris Berman is retiring. Unless he isn’t.

In response to a report that the George Ehhh-weeah-ashington of ESPN’s Mt. Rushmore is retiring after the 2016 NFL season, Berman’s agent tells Richard Sandomir of the New York Times that Berman isn’t calling it quits.

Chris is NOT retiring,” Berman’s agent told Sandomir. “Loves what he’s doing too much and is too young to hang ’em up.”

Berman’s agent also suspects foul play.

Perhaps people with an agenda put it out there,” Berman’s agent told Sandomir.

The news of Berman’s looming retirement comes at a time when ESPN is gutting its Sunday morning NFL programming. Even before TheBigLead.com reported that Berman will call it quits, rumors were rampant that Berman and Tom Jackson would eventually be joining Mike Ditka, Cris Carter, and Keyshawn Johnson as former members of the four-letter network.

If the “people with an agenda” occupy management positions at ESPN, it’s inevitable that Berman will continue his career elsewhere, if he indeed doesn’t retire following the upcoming season, when his contract expires. The last time Berman approached free agency, he reportedly was considering an offer from DirecTV.

With more and more non-traditional companies jockeying for NFL broadcasting rights both now and in the not-too-distant future, it makes plenty of sense for the likes of Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, etc. to consider Berman, who would instantly bring gravitas to any NFL-related production. Whether Berman would be interested in working for a non-traditional outlet is a much different proposition, but very large piles of money go a long way toward the defiance of expectations.

Sure, Berman has become a popular pin cushion for many, but it has happened in part because he’s a broadcasting institution — and because his approach skews toward making himself the center of attention. This doesn’t undermine his skills and his persona, both of which are still significant.

Besides, he’s only 61. At a time when Vin Scully has worked deep into his 80s and Al Michaels is as good as ever in his 70s, Berman surely has plenty of solid years left.

It’s fairly safe to say that those years won’t happen on the air at ESPN. And it’s possible that someone is hoping to provoke the kind of eruption from Mt. Berman that will trigger a possible buyout of his current deal, accelerating his exit from Bristol.

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Jimmy Graham jogging, catching passes at Seahawks OTAs

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 05:  Jimmy Graham #88 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field on October 5, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham saw his 2015 season come to an abrupt end when he suffered a torn patellar tendon in a game last November against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have been fairly optimistic that Graham would be ready in time for the start of the regular season, they were able to see another encouraging sign for themselves on Thursday. Graham was on the practice fields during OTAs on Thursday and managed to catch some passes from quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Trevone Boykin and Jake Heaps while jogging around during early workouts.

While it’s far from being ready from the rigors of the football season, it’s a good sign that Graham will be ready before games start in September.

“We’re thinking that that’s real possibility, yeah,” Carroll said. “That’s kind of what we are thinking. We have to avoid setbacks, obviously. But we are kind of counting on it.”

Carroll said that running back Thomas Rawls is farther along in the recovery process than Graham is at this point, but both players are progressing well from their surgeries late last season. Rawls suffered a broken ankle last December against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Those guys are both making really good progress.” Carroll said. “Thomas is running and Jimmy is back to running on the field the last couple of days, which is great. He’s made terrific progress. Both of their attitudes are really good. They are really positive about making it.”

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Report: ESPN’s Chris Berman retiring after ’16 season

chris-berman Getty Images

ESPN’s Chris Berman is retiring after the 2016 season, TheBigLead.com reported Thursday.

Berman, 61, is an original ESPN employee and the host of two of the network’s most popular NFL-related shows, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown.

The report said Berman is in the final year of his contract and will retire sometime after the end of the season that starts this September and ends with the Super Bowl next February. ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined comment to TheBigLead.com on the report.

The report lists Trey Wingo and Suzy Kolber as potential Berman replacements. Wingo hosts NFL Live daily, and the report said there’s a “strong internal push” for Kolber to replace Berman.

ESPN has made other changes to its extensive NFL coverage in recent weeks. Ray Lewis and Cris Carter are out at ESPN, and Randy Moss and Charles Woodson are among the new analysts set to join the network’s NFL coverage.

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Jets considered Holmgren as coach before hiring Bowles

Mike Holmgren AP

Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Holmgren was under consideration for the Jets’ head coaching job during the team’s search 16 months ago, Bob Glauber of Newsday in New York reported.

Jets Owner Woody Johnson told Glauber he was “delighted” the search ended up the way it did, with the hiring of Todd Bowles as head coach. But Johnson admitted that he had reached out to Holmgren during the process.

Holmgren was last seen taking a lot of money from former Browns owner Randy Lerner and delivering very little in the way of results in a front-office role from 2010-12. His time with the Browns ended when Jimmy Haslam bought the team.

But Holmgren was a successful coach who got to three Super Bowls and won one, with the Packers. He has a 174-122 career record as a coach with the Packers and Seahawks and has 13 playoff wins.

“This was for coaching, just coaching,” Johnson said of his discussions regarding Holmgren. “It wasn’t for general manager or anything else. That setup doesn’t work normally. You get too many jobs for one person. But I was flattered he took the call. It’s Mike Holmgren we’re talking about. He’s a legendary figure, a great coach. I enjoyed talking to him.”

Holmgren declined to comment to Newsday. He’s a native of the Bay Area and had been linked, at least by the rumor mill, to the 49ers’ coaching openings in the last two offseasons.

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Goodell letter reaffirms $30 million commitment to NIH

Roger Goodell AP

The week began with a Congressional report accusing the NFL of rescinding $16 million from a $30 million gift to the National Institutes of Health due to the league’s disagreement with the NIH’s selection of a researcher to oversee testing aimed at detecting Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients. The week is ending with Commissioner Roger Goodell emphasizing to his constituents that the full $30 million gift remains in place.

“As discussed during our recent meeting, the NFL has a unique responsibility and opportunity to drive change and advance progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries,” Goodell said in a letter to all owners and team presidents, a copy  of which PFT has obtained. “That is our unwavering commitment to our players, former players, athletes at all levels, and society more broadly.”

Goodell explains in the letter that the commitment arises primarily from “continued and robust support of independent medical research,” including the $30 million NIH donation.

“I want to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms my comments to you during the league meeting and my public statements this week reaffirming the NFL’s commitment to the NIH of the $30 million in grant funding we pledged to accelerate scientific understanding of concussion and head injury,” Goodell wrote. “There was no consideration given to anything other than honoring that commitment in its entirety.”

Goodell then explained how the money is being distributed: (1)$12 million allocated through the NIH for two $6 million agreements dedicated to studies that define the long-term changes that occur in the brain after a head injury or multiple concussions; (2) $6 million to the Boston University School of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a study on CTE and post-traumatic neurodegeneration; (3) $6 million for Mount Sinai Hospital for a study on the neuropathology of CTE and Delayed Effects of TBI; and (4) six pilot projects totaling more than $2 million to provide support for the early stages of sports-related concussion projects.

Implicit in this explanation is the concession that the NFL did indeed rescind $16 million that had been earmarked for a study aimed at detecting CTE in living patients. The Congressional report claimed that the NFL removed that specific contribution over objections to the selection of Robert Stern to oversee the research.

While the league definitely deserves credit for the $30 million donation, the issue of the $16 million for a study that would detect CTE in living patients remains. Goodell has characterized any communications with the NIH as part of a normal back and forth. But what the league may regard as normal dialogue apparently was perceived by someone with the NIH and/or Congress as an abnormal attempt to steer away from a researcher whom the league apparently believes has an agenda against the NFL a critical study that could, if it shows widespread CTE in current players, seriously damage the league’s interests.

Regardless of whether the league had just cause to be concerned about Robert Stern presiding over the study, Congress and ESPN (which instigated the investigation with its reporting from last December) caught the league flat-footed on Monday, and the NFL’s efforts to close the gap since then have failed to wipe away the general belief that the league engaged in the kind of behavior chronicled in the film Concussion.

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