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Larry Fitzgerald good to go

Larry Fitzgerald AP

Fear not, Cardinals fans: Larry Fitzgerald will play today against the Lions.

Although Fitzgerald was listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, he insisted this week that he’ll be fine. And Adam Schefter of ESPN reported this morning that Fitzgerald is, in fact, going to play today.

The Cardinals promoted wide receiver Kerry Taylor from the practice squad on Saturday, which may be an indication that they wanted another receiver available in case Fitzgerald’s snaps are limited, but from all indications Fitzgerald can go.

Finally playing with a competent quarterback in Carson Palmer, Fitzgerald had a big game in Week One, catching eight passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. He may be ready for another big game today against a suspect Detroit secondary.

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Sexual assault trial of C.J. Spillman to begin Monday

C.J. Spillman Getty Images

Former NFL cornerback C.J. Spillman will finally be tried on sexual assault charges stemming from a 2014 incident at the team hotel of the Dallas Cowboys.

According to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, Spillman’s trial is set to begin Monday at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Fort Worth, Tex.

Spillman was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Tex. on Sept. 20, 2014. Spillman wasn’t officially charged until June 30, 2015 and Spillman played the remainder of the 2014 season with the Cowboys while charges were pending.

He has not been on an NFL roster since the conclusion of the 2014 season.

The charges against Spillman are for second degree felony sexual assault, which could bring between two and 20 years in prison, if convicted.

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Alan Roach to leave Broncos to become Vikings public address announcer

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After 16 years as public address announcer of the Denver Broncos, Alan Roach is returning home to Minnesota to become the public address announcer of the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In a post on his own website, Roach announced the move back to his Minnesota roots.

“Having grown up in Minnesota my entire childhood, the Minnesota Vikings have always provided for me what I see in the eyes of Bronco’s fans,” Roach wrote. ” I was raised and trained as a Bronco, but long ago I was born a Viking.  I will become the PA announcer at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Vikings starting this August.  I’ll be living a dream!”

Roach joined the Broncos in 1999 after the consecutive Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998. He’s worked with the Broncos, Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Rockies, and four Winter Olympics. He also served as the public address announcer for eight straight Super Bowls beginning with Super Bowl XL in 2005 between the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers, and concluding with Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.

Roach is originally from Slayton, Mn.

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Jaelen Strong, George Atallah join Tuesday’s PFT Live

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Jaelen Strong #11 of the Houston Texans makes a catch against Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

Slow time or not, there’s still plenty happening in the NFL. On Tuesday morning, we’ll devote three hours (as we do every weekday morning) to reviewing all of the latest in the sport that never has any actual downtime — even in the down time.

Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio includes visits from Texans receiver Jaelen Strong and NFLPA spokesman George Atallah.

Strong, who recently conducted a football camp in Philadelphia, will talk about the improvements he has made entering his second season and the team’s prospects with a new starting quarterback in the fold.

Atallah’s appearance is tied to the ongoing dispute over the investigation sparked by the Al Jazeera PED allegations. We’ve also invited the NFL to have someone address the situation, either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Later in the week, we’ll have Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and Cardinals running back David Johnson, both of whom will discuss the NFL Films All or Nothing series that debuts Friday on Amazon.com.

All PFT Live shows are available via podcast at iTunes or audioBoom. Subscribe now, and all shows will be delivered to your chosen device for listening at your leisure.

But don’t be too leisurely. With three hours of new content every day, you’ve got to keep up.

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NFL cites “shared responsibility” with NFLPA to investigate Al Jazeera allegations

al-jazeera-america Getty Images

The simmering controversy between the NFL and the NFL Players Association regarding a December report from Al Jazeera implicating multiple players finally has hit full boil.

After months of delays resulting from an apparent inability of the two sides to agree as to the necessity and scope of an investigation following a report that implicated Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, free-agent defensive lineman Mike Neal, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, and former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, the two sides have gone public with their dispute.

Said the NFLPA on Monday: “The NFL has chosen to initiate an investigation of these players based upon now-recanted statements that appeared in an Al Jazeera report. The NFLPA requested from the NFL any additional evidence supporting an investigation of the players; the NFL did not provide any such evidence, nor did they inform the NFLPA or the players that any such evidence exists. Instead, the NFL has decided to publicly pressure the players into submission. We will continue to advise our players about their rights and hold the NFL accountable.”

The NFL, which informed the non-retired players that they’ll be interviewed at the outset of training camp, has since responded.

“The NFLPA and NFL are obligated and have a shared responsibility to look into allegations that could impact the integrity of competition on the field and the health of our players,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have been obtaining and reviewing numerous records, conducting multiple interviews and working with other entities. We have made no conclusions but the report merits a review, including interviews with the players named.”

The NFLPA wasn’t impressed by the explanation.

“The only thing we are saying to the league is, ‘Show us what credible evidence you have, so that we can understand what the basis of your investigation is,'” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told Kaboly. “Because if the basis of your investigation is simply four sentences of dialogue exchanged in this media report from a guy who took back everything he said in a YouTube video, that’s not enough. . . . It’s not like there is some positive test or missed test out there. Literally, this is only about the media report from December. . . . So we have asked them to clarify what their [additional] evidence is, and they have so far told us nothing about that.”

The case raises an important question regarding the quality and nature of allegations that will trigger an investigation into potential PED violations unrelated to a positive test. It’s one thing for a player to be implicated in, for example, a criminal investigation of a doping lab. It’s another for allegations not confirmed or corroborated to result in a full-blown probe.

There’s a line that falls somewhere between justification for an investigation and a P.R.-driven fishing expedition. It’s unclear where that line is, but this specific situation could help define it in future cases.

Atallah will join Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss the issue in further detail. An invitation also has been extended to the league.

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Report: Lombardi’s split from Patriots may not have been mutual

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When word first emerged that former Brown G.M. Mike Lombardi no longer is working for the Patriots, it was suggested that the split was mutual. A new report suggests that it may not have been as mutual as initially believed.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that an unnamed league source characterized the move as Lombardi wanting to stay but the Patriots choosing not to renew his contract.

Volin suggests that the Patriots’ decision to move on coincided with the conclusion of Lombardi’s Cleveland contract. The Patriots, in theory, could have paid Lombardi a relatively small amount, with the Browns on the hook for the difference between the amount received from the Patriots and the amount that Lombardi was due to receive from the Browns.

Also, Volin writes that it’s believed Lombardi had only one ally in the building — coach Bill Belichick — and Volin contends that Lombardi’s contributions over the last two years were “a bit overstated.”

Lombardi worked in the media before joining the Browns and then the Patriots. He’s believed to be looking for work in the media again.

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Training camps: When, where and key dates for all 32 teams

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Will Allen

In a little more than four weeks, the first NFL training camps open.

Only 11 teams are going away for camp, both because many teams just find it easier to stay in their multi-million dollar facilities and because the new CBA cut down on camp time and on-field hours.

Though all teams can report for camp 15 days before their preseason opener, each team manages open practices and some early workouts differently. Below is a list of every team’s first full practice; teams that leave their home sites/facilities for camp are noted, as are key training camp dates.

AFC

Baltimore Ravens

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Open practices at M&T Bank Stadium Aug. 1 and Aug. 6

Buffalo Bills – at St. John Fisher College, Rochester

First practice: July 30

Cincinnati Bengals

First practice: July 29

Key dates: The Bengals host the Vikings for joint practices Aug. 10-11

Cleveland Browns

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Aug. 6, intrasquad scrimmage at Ohio Stadium in Columbus; Aug. 23-24 practices with the Buccaneers in Tampa

Denver Broncos

Official dates have not been released. The Broncos host the 49ers for joint practices Aug. 17-18.

Houston Texans

First practice: July 31

Key dates: Joint practices at 49ers Aug. 12 and vs. the Saints Aug. 18-19

Indianapolis Colts – at Anderson University, Anderson, Ind.

First practice: July 27

Jacksonville Jaguars

Official dates have not been released. The Jaguars will host the Buccaneers for joint practices Aug. 17-18.

Kansas City Chiefs – at Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Mo.

First practice: July 30

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins haven’t yet released official camp dates.

New England Patriots

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Joint practices with the Saints (Aug. 9-10) and Bears (Aug. 15-16).

New York Jets

First practice: July 28. Only six practices will be open to the public.

Oakland Raiders – at Napa Valley, Ca.

The Raiders haven’t yet released official camp dates.

Pittsburgh Steelers – at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Aug. 9-10 joint practices with the Lions

San Diego Chargers

First practice: July 30

Key dates: Joint practice with Cardinals Aug. 16 in Qualcomm Stadium

Tennessee Titans

First practice: July 30

Key dates: Aug. 6 stadium practice open to fans

NFC

Arizona Cardinals

First practice: July 29

Key dates: Joint practice at Chargers Aug. 16

Atlanta Falcons

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Aug. 5 “Friday Night Lights” practice at Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga.

Carolina Panthers – at Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.

First practice: July 28

Chicago Bears – at Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Aug. 6 practice at Soldier Field; Aug. 15-16 joint practices at the Patriots

Dallas Cowboys – at Oxnard, Ca.

First practice: July 30

Detroit Lions

First practice: July 29, though the Lions have not yet released a full camp schedule.

Key dates: Aug. 9-10 joint practices at the Steelers

Green Bay Packers – at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis.

First practice: July 26

Key dates: July 31, Family Night at Lambeau Field

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams haven’t yet released a full camp schedule.

Minnesota Vikings – at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Min.

Key dates: Joint practices vs. Bengals in Cincinnati Aug. 10-11

New York Giants

First practice: July 29

New Orleans Saints – at The Greenbrier, White Sulfur Springs, W.V.

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Joint practices at the Patriots Aug. 9-10 and at the Texans Aug. 18-19

Philadelphia Eagles

First practice: July 28

Key dates: Open practices at Lincoln Financial Field on July 31 and Aug. 14

San Francisco 49ers

Exact camp dates not yet announced. The 49ers will host the Texans for a joint practice Aug. 12, then visit Denver for joint practices Aug. 17-18.

Seattle Seahawks

First practice: July 30

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First practice: July 30

Key dates: Joint practices at the Jaguars (Aug. 17-18) and vs. the Browns (Aug. 23-24)

Washington Redskins – at Bon Secours Training Center, Richmond, Va.

First practice: July 28

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Saints still plan to hold camp in West Virginia, hope to help those affected by floods

New Orleans Saints training camp, Drew Brees AP

The Saints released a statement Monday evening affirming their plans to hold training camp at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Greenbrier County was hit by devastating floods last week. The PGA Tour event scheduled for The Greenbrier resort July 7-10 was canceled, and residents of the area have dealt with much larger issues than which pro athletes might be coming to town.

“Unfortunately, our community is very familiar with the loss of life and property these weather disasters can cause,” the team’s statement said. “We are working to assist those affected where we can.”

The statement said the Saints will continue to monitor the situation and “look for ways the organization can contribute in a positive way” this summer. The team encourages those who want to help to visit the United Way of Greenbrier Valley.

The Saints are scheduled to report to training camp July 27. They began holding training camp at The Greenbrier in 2014.

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Lawyer says Skuta was the victim, not the aggressor

dan-skuta2

The lawyer representing Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta has done something far more conventional than accidentally text strategic secrets to the media. Mark NeJame has declared his client’s innocence.

NeJame told TMZ that the allegation of Skuta shoving the head of a woman who refused to provide her phone number into a window was made up.

“Eyewitnesses who we have already received statements from in our initial investigation will attest that Dan was alongside his girlfriend when this fabricated event supposedly took place,” NeJame said.

Skuta contends, via NeJame, that the accuser and another female were harassing Skuta and his group.

“Dan was then struck in the face by one of the women, as is evidenced by his mugshot which clearly shows where he was struck,” NeJame said.

The mugshot does indeed show Skuta with an abrasion under his right eye.

“Dan never placed his hands on anyone,” NeJame said.

That explanation may indeed be persuasive to a judge or a jury, but it didn’t keep Skuta from being arrested. If the version from Skuta’s lawyer is accurate, Skuta eventually should get off scot-free.

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NFLPA questions what evidence NFL has to justify PED investigation

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Inside linebacker Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers in action against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has decided to investigate whether five players named in an Al Jazeera documentary on performance-enhancing drugs violated league policy. The NFL Players’ Association questions why mere allegations in a documentary are enough to justify such an investigation.

In a statement released today, the NFLPA noted that the primary source for the Al Jazeera documentary recanted his claims before the documentary even aired. Given that, the union believes the NFL has no basis to question Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, free agent defensive end Mike Neal and retired quarterback Peyton Manning.

“The NFL has chosen to initiate an investigation of these players based upon now-recanted statements that appeared in an Al Jazeera report,” the union’s statement said. “The NFLPA requested from the NFL any additional evidence supporting an investigation of the players; the NFL did not provide any such evidence, nor did they inform the NFLPA or the players that any such evidence exists. Instead, the NFL has decided to publicly pressure the players into submission. We will continue to advise our players about their rights and hold the NFL accountable.”

The league says it intends to interview all five players. If the league’s investigation turns up evidence of PED use, the active players could be suspended, even if they’ve never failed a drug test.

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Cowboys feel good about depth of their wide receiver group

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 27:  Cole Beasley #11 of the Dallas Cowboys runs after the catch past Ron Brooks #33 of the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the subject of wide receivers has come up around the Cowboys this offseason, the conversation usually tilts to Dez Bryant’s recovery from a pair of surgeries and his prospects for turning in a healthier season than he had in 2015.

Bryant isn’t the only wideout on the roster, however, and the Cowboys would like to see some of their other receivers thrive as part of the effort to turn things around from last year. The team didn’t make any big moves at the position this offseason, but it’s clear from wide receivers coach Derek Dooley’s take on Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Vince Mayle, Lucky Whitehead and Devin Street that they don’t see that as a problem.

Dooley called the group the deepest “top-to-bottom” that the team has employed since he joined the staff in 2013, an assessment that was met with agreement by Beasley.

“We’ve had some good groups, but this one has been a really good one, just as far as obviously talent, but guys knowing what to do and really studying and taking it upon themselves to learn everything,” Beasley said, via the Dallas Morning News.

As much as the Cowboys might like their depth, the group without Bryant isn’t one that’s going to strike much fear into opposing defenses. It’s good news for them, then, that Bryant is on track to be all systems go at training camp.

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Aaron Hernandez friend pleads guilty to accessory charge in Odin Lloyd murder

Carlos Ortiz AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of murdering Odin Lloyd in April 2015 and sentenced to life in prison.

One of the friends that helped Hernandez on the June 2013 night he killed Lloyd in Massachusetts is headed behind bars as well. Carlos Ortiz faced charges of first-degree murder and accessory to murder after the fact for his role in that night’s activities and plead guilty to the latter charge on Monday.

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn announced that Ortiz has been sentenced to 4.5-7 years in prison. Hernandez’s other accomplice, Ernest Wallace, was found guilty of the same charge earlier this year and received the same sentence.

Prosecutors said Ortiz and Wallace were in a car with Hernandez when they picked up Lloyd and drove him to an industrial park so Hernandez could shoot him. The Associated Press reports Ortiz told the judge in his case that he saw Hernandez and Lloyd walk off together, heard a shot and then Hernandez returned to the car alone.

Hernandez still faces charges in a 2012 double murder in Boston. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Refrigerator Perry is struggling, but says he’s happy

refrigeratorperry Getty Images

One of the best things about William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who took America by storm as a 300-plus pound rookie defensive tackle-turned-running back on the 1985 Bears, was his infectious smile. So maybe when he says he’s happy, we should all just be happy for him.

“I’m home,” Perry told Rick Telander of Sports Illustrated on a visit to Perry’s South Carolina home. “And I’m happy. I can’t say everything is peachy keen, but I’m still enjoying life. I love Chicago, but there’s no place like home.”

The picture Telander paints of Perry, however, is less than happy.

According to Sports Illustrated, Perry drinks too much, his weight has ballooned to somewhere in the range of 430 to 450 pounds, he rarely sees his four kids or his two ex-wives, he lives alone in a retirement facility, the money he made playing football is long gone, he has both physical and mental ailments, and his doctor says he’s taking pills he shouldn’t take and not taking the medication he needs to take.

Perry’s brother, former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry, was appointed by a judge to be William’s guardian and conservator because William was in such bad shape that he could no longer care for himself. Perry’s son Willie thinks his uncle Michael Dean isn’t caring for his dad and wants guardianship for himself, an accusation that Michael Dean says is false. The Fridge’s old coach Mike Ditka says he seems to have given up on life.

For his part, Perry says, simply, “I’m my own man,” and he doesn’t need anyone telling him how to live his life. Perry doesn’t sound interested in changing, even if the way he’s living now can’t last much longer.

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Tony Grossi see Robert Griffin as “underwhelming” in offseason workouts

BEREA, OH - APRIL 21, 2016: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Cleveland Browns drops back to pass during a voluntary mini camp on April 21, 2016 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Robert Griffin III Getty Images

The Browns have yet to hand quarterback Robert Griffin III the starting job, because they want him to earn it. If he truly is required to earn it, the question now becomes whether he actually will.

Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com has covered the Browns for decades. He shared his assessment of Griffin’s first offseason with the Browns during a Monday appearance on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.

“Well, if he was looking fantastic you’d be hesitant to overstate it during the OTA and minicamp season,” Grossi said. “I mean, it’s touch football and Hue Jackson constantly reminds everyone of that. But the fact is he’s been underwhelming in that environment and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or it’s just a sign that they haven’t started playing real football yet. He is learning a new offense. First of all he is healthy, he’s very healthy. He looks physically like the old Robert Griffin in that he’s moving great, he can zing the ball pretty well, but that’s just the first step. So I guess the positive is that he looks very healthy and we’ll have to see when they go to camp July 29th is if he’s really taken advantage of the minicamp season and learned the offense because he has been underwhelming.”

Griffin has been overwhelming in one specific way: When throwing the ball away, he has thrown it over a high fence on multiple occasions. Should fans wonder whether this is Griffin’s way of expressing displeasure with the fact that he’s being repeatedly told to throw the ball away?

“Well, I had that concern and I’d been watching that also,” Grossi said. “I’ve been covering practices at their facility for, they’ve been there since the ’90s in that location, I’ve never seen a quarterback throw the ball over the fence and they doubled the height of the fence this year to 16 feet. This is the first quarterback I’ve seen throw the ball in the neighborhood yard. So there’s a concern because it’s almost another ‘look at me’ moment there on the practice field for [Griffin].

“Hue Jackson had talked of [Griffin’s] humbleness and all that when he interviewed him for two days. Not only has [Griffin] thrown the ball over the fence, on a number of occasions he’s done the slide, he’s done the stand-up slide and jumped up and shouted, ‘Who says I can’t slide?’ and stuff like that. You know, if you’re on the team and you’re the coaching staff who’s aware of his background, you’re cringing at that because you don’t want to see that. You don’t see [Tom] Brady and [Peyton] Manning and the great ones doing those little ‘look at me’ moments. Maybe he’s just having fun in the drudgery of minicamp, but it’s something to watch as training camp begins later in July.”

The Browns are trying to change Griffin’s mechanics, and they also are surely trying to strip him of the sense of entitlement that was created the moment Washington traded up to the No. 2 spot in the draft four-plus years ago to take him. If he’s going to become a successful quarterback on a consistent basis, Griffin needs to eradicate both sets of flaws.

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Saints still plan to hold training camp in West Virginia

CLENDENIN, WV - JUNE 25:  After the flood waters receded, mud covers a street intersection on June 25, 2016 in Clendenin, West Virginia. The flooding of the Elk River claimed the lives of at least 23 people in West Virginia. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images) Getty Images

At least one report has indicated that the Saints won’t hold 2016 training camp in West Virginia, following devastating flooding in Greenbrier County, site of the team’s practice facility for three weeks in each of the last two preseasons. The Saints, however, still plan to return to their home away from home.

A source close to the situation tells PFT that the Saints intend to hold training camp at The Greenbrier resort, and that the Saints believe the practice complex and all other necessary facilities will be ready for them when camp opens late next month. Look for a statement to be issued by the team, sooner than later.

The Saints also plan to do something tangible to help with flood relief efforts. Which is very much needed and which the folks who will benefit from it surely will appreciate.

People living in that area are dealing with far bigger issues than whether a football team will practice there for a few weeks next month, but the decision of the Saints to stand with Greenbrier County should give the region a psychological lift as it embarks on the very difficult ordeal of recovering from the devastation brought about by 8-10 inches of rain falling over the course of 6-8 hours into valleys that became bowls for the water and mud that the mountains couldn’t hold.

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Monte Kiffin, Wade Phillips win Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman award

Wade Phillips AP

In this week’s installment his weekly column for TheMMQB.com, Peter King took some time to update readers on how his former Sports Illustrated colleague and legendary football writer Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman is doing after suffering a series in strokes in 2008.

Zimmerman, who lives at an assisted living facility in New Jersey, has unfortunately not been able to resume the writing career that made him an essential part of the football landscape for so many years. That place in the landscape is honored each year when the Pro Football Writers of America present an award in his name to recognize the lifetime achievement of NFL assistant coaches.

The PFWA announced on Monday that Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips are this year’s winners.

Kiffin was out of coaching last year, but returns to the NFL with the Jaguars as a senior defensive assistant this season. It’s the seventh team he’s worked for in a career that began as a graduate assistant at Nebraska in 1966 and reached its pinnacle when he constructed the Buccaneers defense that helped the team to the Super Bowl XXXVII title in January 2003.

Phillips joined Kiffin as a Super Bowl winner this February when his Broncos unit stifled the Panthers on the way to the third championship in franchise history. The ring was something Phillips was chasing since taking a job on his father Bum’s staff with the Oilers in 1976, which makes getting it pretty sweet even if the name on the bauble was initially incorrect.

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