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Giovani Bernard scores two TDs as Bengals knock off Steelers

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After just four carries for 22 yards in his debut against the Chicago Bears last week, Giovani Bernard came through big for the Cincinnati Bengals offense against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night.

Bernard made the most of limited touches against the Steelers in scoring two touchdowns as the Bengals earned a 20-10 victory over their AFC North rival. The first running back selected in the 2013 draft, Bernard carried eight times for 38 yards and a touchdown and added a 27-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to break a 10-10 halftime tie.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis still took the majority of the carries for Cincinnati with 75 yards on 22 carries for the Bengals. Andy Dalton was 25 of 45 for 280 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Nugent added a 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to extend the lead and a costly turnover ended the Steelers chances. With the Steelers nearing the Bengals’ redzone, Ben Roethlisberger’s pass deflected off Jericho Cotchery and was picked off by Reggie Nelson with five minutes left to play in the game.

With the loss, the Steelers fall to 0-2 on the year. It’s the first time they’ve dropped their first two games of the season since 2002. A battered stable of running backs couldn’t get anything going for the Steelers as they rushed for just 44 yards on the night. Roethlisberger finished 20 of 37 for 251 yards with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye and the interception by Nelson.

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Unnamed exec “still confused about” Eagles trading for Sam Bradford

Chip Kelly, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow AP

When training camps open in a little under a month, one of the most-watched storylines will be the progress of Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, coming off a pair of torn ACLs.

But some are wondering whether too much has been made of his arrival by trade already.

Via Mark Eckel of, “one of the league’s top executives in personnel” was skeptical of the impact Bradford will actually have.

“I understand they gave up on Foles,” he said. “But I don’t know why they’re building up Bradford so much. I’m still confused about that whole deal. You can only talk about him being the first pick of the draft for so long. What has he done since then?

“If Bradford had gone anywhere else you wouldn’t even be talking about him. He’s been hurt the past two years and even when he was healthy, he was just average. But he’s with Chip Kelly, so there’s hope I guess. Chip Kelly is the one guy who can make Bradford a success.”

That might be because of Kelly’s magic milkshakes, which may have helped make his team the healthiest in the league over the last two years. But Bradford has played in just 49 of 80 possible games in his five seasons, so unless there’s something in the smoothies to keep him ACLs intact, it will be hard for Kelly to transform him.

Bradford has been a good quarterback at times, but he was stuck on some bad teams as well. If Kelly can polish him up, his reputation will only grow.

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Von Miller on contract: Do good things and it takes care of self

Josh Watson, Von Miller AP

The Broncos have nine more days left to hammer out a long-term deal with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas before the deadline to sign such contracts with players who received the franchise tag.

However things wind up playing out with Thomas, the process could serve as a practice run for next offseason. That’s when linebacker Von Miller will be eligible to become a free agent and the Broncos will have to make the same kinds of calculations that they’ve made with Thomas in order to hold onto the second overall pick of the 2011 draft.

If Thomas signs a multi-year deal, Miller can get the franchise tag but no new deal for Thomas would leave the Broncos with two key free agents and one tag after the 2015 season. For now, Miller’s not sweating those scenarios.

“But I just want to play the best I can,” Miller said, via “Everything takes care of itself if we do good things and I play like I want to for this team … I think guys here worry about winning. The time for all that other stuff is after the season.”

Miller has plenty of company on defense when it comes to playing out the final year of a contract. Defensive linemen Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe, linebackers Danny Trevathan and Stephen Johnson and safety David Bruton are also headed toward free agency in what will likely be another busy offseason in Denver.

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Still no interest in Ray Rice

Ray Rice AP

Three years ago this month, running back Ray Rice signed a contract with the Ravens that paid him $24 million over the first eight months. In the eight months since Rice’s indefinite suspension was overturned, Rice hasn’t gotten a single sniff from any of the NFL’s 32 teams.

Plenty of people have said Rice deserves a second chance, but no one has given him one. The stigma arising from his brutal assault on then-fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer lingers, and Rice lacks the talent to overcome it. His age (28) works against him, as does the fact that Rice’s play dropped dramatically in his most recent full season of action, with 660 yards rushing and an average of 3.1 yards per carry — the lowest of his career by 0.9.

Many think if Rice’s name were Adrian Peterson, he’d still be playing. But it would be hard even for Peterson to overcome the video evidence that emerged only four days before Rice’s two-game suspension was due to end. Even though anyone with any degree of common sense and/or basic human empathy knew what a man knocking out a woman looked like without having to see it, seeing it changed everything for Rice.

With the offseason program over and training camp looming, the only question remaining is whether Rice’s name shows up on any team’s list of players to call if/when injuries happen to running back already on the roster. Even if he’s a candidate to be contacted, the ultimately challenge will be to get the owner to sign off on signing Rice.

So far, no one has. It would be naive not to at least wonder whether the league office has put out the word to shy away from Rice, given the controversy his conduct sparked — and the consequences it nearly caused. Still, the league always consists of a team or two that is inclined to stick it to 345 Park Avenue; the bigger question is whether the rush that would come from defiance would outweigh the ruckus that Rice’s arrival could cause for the team that gives him a job.

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As Mariota, Titans haggle over offsets, history says it’s a non-issue

Marcus Mariota AP

The Titans and first-round draft pick Marcus Mariota haven’t come to terms because they haven’t agreed on whether his rookie contract will include offset language. Which is an odd issue to become a stumbling block, because history says it will almost certainly be a non-issue.

Offsets only come into play if a player gets cut by the team that drafts him and then signs on with a new team. Although first-round picks’ contracts are guaranteed, if there are offsets in his contract, the team that drafted the player can deduct whatever he makes with his new team from the money the team that drafted him has to pay. In other words, if Mariota’s rookie contract calls for him to make a base salary of $615,000 in 2017, he’s guaranteed to get paid that money even if the Titans cut him after the 2016 season. But if some other team signs Mariota and pays him $615,000 in 2017, the Titans don’t have to pay it to him. If there are no offsets in the contract, Mariota can “double dip” and collect $615,000 from both the Titans and his new team.

Here’s why it doesn’t matter: Mariota would have to be so bad that the Titans cut him in the next four years, but not so bad that some other team wouldn’t sign him. and that almost never happens. In the 21st Century, only one quarterback has been drafted in the first round, cut in his first four years, and then signed with another team. That quarterback was Brandon Weeden, who lasted two years in Cleveland and then signed in Dallas after the Browns cut him.

Other first-round quarterbacks have been cut in the first four years but not signed anywhere else (JaMarcus Russell), or been traded away by the teams that drafted them (Blaine Gabbert, Tim Tebow). But only Weeden has been cut and then signed elsewhere, which means Weeden is the only first-round quarterback for whom offsets have been an issue.

The Browns did convince Weeden to agree to offsets in his rookie contract, which meant they were allowed to deduct the league-minimum salary he earned from the Cowboys last year from the amount Cleveland still owed him on his rookie deal. The Titans want Mariota to agree to offsets so that if they cut him and he’s playing for some other team in 2017, they can also deduct his salary with his new team from the amount he gets paid by Tennessee.

But if Mariota is as bad for the Titans as Weeden was for the Browns, the Titans will have bigger problems than saving a few hundred thousand dollars.

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Bengals quietly shifting Onterio McCalebb from corner to receiver

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In college at Auburn, Onterio McCalebb played running back, becoming one of only two players in SEC history with more than 2,000 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving, and 1,000 yard returning kickoffs.

And he wasn’t drafted.

The Bengals signed him, with an eye toward making the 4.34-in-the-40 speedster into a cornerback. While he’s still listed as a cornerback after spending most of the last two years on the practice squad (he has appeared in one career regular-season game), McCalebb is getting a new opportunity in Cincinnati.

During last month’s mandatory minicamp, the Bengals switched McCalebb from cornerback to receiver. And that’s apparently where he will be when training camp opens.

“The transition to corner maybe was not as smooth as we had hoped,” Bengals receivers coach James Urban told, via Mark Inabinett of “But he’s a great kid who can run, and it’s obvious he’s natural with the ball in his hands since he’s played offense his whole life. Let’s see what he does at training camp when everybody is starting from square one.”

McCalebb is far from square one in his NFL career. Eventually, he’ll run out of practice-squad eligibility, which means that, at some point, it’s up or out for McCalebb.

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Khiry Robinson “all good” with role in crowded Saints backfield

Khiry Robinson AP

With Pierre Thomas on his way out and Mark Ingram headed for free agency, Saints running back Khiry Robinson may have had moments early this offseason when he saw himself playing a prominent role in the Saints backfield in 2015.

He’d performed well when given opportunities late in 2013 and early in 2014, although an arm injury last year kept him from building on that early success. Assuming he was healthy, it looked like Robinson would get that chance this year.

Ingram re-signed, however, and the Saints added C.J. Spiller as a free agent after parting ways with Thomas, which presents a different scenario for the third-year running back. Robinson isn’t complaining about how things played out, however. He says he’s “all good” with the current pecking order in New Orleans.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said, via “I just gotta keep working. It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”

Robinson may be third on the depth chart, but that doesn’t rule him out of the mix for playing time. The Saints have played three or more backs throughout Sean Payton’s tenure as head coach and all the talk this offseason in New Orleans has been about maximizing the output of all the team’s skill position players along with a renewed focus on running the ball. That philosophy and Robinson’s attitude about the situation should bode well for the back once the team starts getting serious about divvying up playing time later this summer.

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Golden Tate taking better care of his body

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Lions receiver Golden Tate has finally beaten his donut habit.

After a career season in 2014, Tate (whose rookie season in Seattle included the alleged theft of Top Pot donuts) has focused on taking better care of his body.

I’ve been doing some yoga, trying to work on my flexibility,” Tate said recently, via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “Eating healthier than I ever have and just really trying to build my endurance up, trying to build my body as much as I can because, as you know, the season will break it down.”

The yoga has a specific purpose for the player who’ll soon by 27.

“I’m just trying to loosen up my [hamstrings] and my hips, my groin, just so I can get a longer stride,” Tate said. “Just trying to set myself up to get better this year. The older I get, the more people want to say, ‘He’s losing a step.’ In my case, I want, ‘The older I get, the better he’s getting.'”

He was better than ever in 2014, with 99 catches, 1,331 yards, and his first-ever trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

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Monday morning one-liners

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

TE MarQueis Gray has found a home with the Bills.

CB Zack Bowman looks like he’s on the roster bubble heading into camp.

What can the Patriots learn from their last Super Bowl repeat?

The Jets are taking a look at Dakota Dozier at center.

Breaking down the competition for playing time at defensive tackle with the Ravens.

Looking back at the last five Bengals drafts.

Comparing the Browns secondary with the rest of the units in the league.

What might a Super Bowl hosted by the Steelers look like?

Texans P Shane Lechler is filling his down time by doing some fishing.

Are there more roster moves coming before the Colts start camp?

The Jaguars have made a smooth transition on offense this offseason.

Vegas doesn’t have much love for the Titans.

How many yards will Broncos RB C.J. Anderson get this season?

Longtime Chiefs executive Jack Steadman died at 86.

Remembering the Raiders’ role in the “Golden Age” of Bay Area sports.

Everything you need to know about Chargers DL Corey Liuget.

Assessing the fallout from LB Rolando McClain’s suspension for the Cowboys.

Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News scolds Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul for injuring himself while setting off fireworks.

T Isaiah Battle could be a fit for the Eagles in the supplemental draft.

Taking a look at RB Alfred Morris’s future with the Redskins.

Forecasting WR Kevin White’s role in the Bears Offense as a rookie.

Will WR Ryan Broyles win the slot receiver job with the Lions?

Donny Anderson and Jim Grabowski remain connected to the Packers long after their playing days.

A lot of people are waiting to see if the Vikings move their headquarters.

Falcons CB Desmond Trufant threw out the first pitch at a recent Braves game.

A look at why Panthers LB Luke Kuechly ranks at No. 14 in NFL Network’s list of the top players in the game.

Saints players were among those cheering on the U.S. soccer team on Sunday night.

The Buccaneers find comparisons from the past for their current players.

Three suggested additions to the Cardinals Ring of Honor.

Rams rookie QB Sean Mannion is adjusting to life in the NFL.

Some things the 49ers won’t miss about former coach Jim Harbaugh.

What will DE Cliff Avril’s role be for the Seahawks?

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Tony Romo on Dez Bryant talks: “I think it will work out with Dez”

Dez Bryant, Tony Romo AP

Maybe it’s just because he’s on vacation and back home in Wisconsin, but Tony Romo doesn’t seem worried.

Asked at his football camp back home about the Cowboys’ ongoing negotiations with wide receiver Dez Bryant, Romo expressed confidence a deal would get done.

“The NFL is a business, it really is, ” Romo said, via Mike Ramczyk of You’ll see that side sometimes, with DeMarco [Murray] leaving and Dez not being part of the offseason.

I think it will work out with Dez.”

Asked about the way the business side of the game affects the locker room, Romo took an equally que sera, sera approach.

“Once you play in the NFL, you recognize there’s turnover,” he said. “One of the big flaws for a football team will be if you have a little bit of success, you think you’re just going to pick up where you left off. You have to start over every year. Your team will be different each year.

“You’re not worried about much more than improvement on an individual basis. Collectively, you don’t worry about people that aren’t there. Over time, everyone will get better if you take that certain approach.”

If Bryant had stayed away in a huff all offseason, it would be easy enough to stretch that comment into a dig at the star wideout. But because Bryant’s been hanging around, joking with Romo on the sidelines during minicamp, it’s easy to see where the quarterback’s confidence comes from.

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Jason Pierre-Paul has burns, but his fingers remain intact

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

When the initial reports of Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks injury came out, there were few details beyond the term “severely injured.”

But while he has plenty of doctors visits in his future, it appears he may have escaped the worst of the damage.

According to  Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, some of the flesh on the Giants defensive ends’ hand was burned off his palm and fingers, but his fingers are intact. (Sorry if you were eating breakfast while reading this.)

While there was some speculation on the internet that he might have lost fingers or part of his hand, a Giants source told the Post those were “overblown.” We can only imagine what that same source said when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last night that the injury wasn’t career-threatening, and colleague Chris Mortensen followed that up by saying it “may not be game or season threatening either.”

Of course, massive burns, the kind that would result from an explosive device going off in one’s hand, are obviously still a serious issue. And that will likely have the Giants reviewing all their options with Pierre-Paul, who had yet to sign his $14.8 million franchise tender.

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Chris Borland says money was never a factor in retirement call

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Former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland has been widely supported for his decision to walk away from the NFL after a year because of long-term health concerns.

But when he talks to people, he hears a common refrain, wondering how he could step away from NFL paychecks.

“That has been the biggest surprise for me,” Borland said, via Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “People can’t get over the money.

“That’s all they think about. But your health is a little more important.”

Borland volunteered to hand back three-fourths of his signing bonus, or $463,077 from the $2.3 million deal he signed.

“I think people were surprised,” he said. “But I signed a contract. I was living by the contract.”

Borland suffered a concussion during his rookie training camp with the 49ers but didn’t report it, but as time went on, that began to weigh on him.

“Just a combination of my own experience, along with a lot of data that is out there regarding long-term health effects of head injuries,” he said of leaving. “And I play a position and a style of play where I was susceptible to the worst of it.

“I played a physical brand of football and played through some things where it makes sense for me.”

Borland said he’s still exploring “a few pretty decent options,” but wasn’t in a hurry to begin his next career. As with other calls, he seems willing to wait to make the right one at the right time.

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Giants can withdraw Pierre-Paul’s tender, but will they?

New York Giants v New York Jets Getty Images

With Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul suffering injuries from a fireworks mishap that reportedly aren’t career-threatening, the Giants now must address a more important question regarding his career: Will they rescind his franchise tender?

They can; under Article 10, Section 2(d), the franchise tender can be withdrawn at any time. It would instantly create $14.8 million in cash and cap space, but it also would make Pierre-Paul an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team, with no compensation for the Giants if Pierre-Paul signs with a new team.

But if Pierre-Paul signs the contract, he’s entitled to $14.8 million, fully guaranteed. Article 10, Section 2(c) contains a procedure for terminating a franchise player’s contract for failure “to establish or maintain his excellent physical condition,” which would allow the Giants to pull the plug on the contract if, for example, the Giants realize after he signs the tender that his injuries will keep him from playing.

But that likewise would make Pierre-Paul a free agent. There’s one approach that wouldn’t. The Giants could determine that Pierre-Paul won’t be able to play due to a non-football injury, they can place him on the non-football injury list, and they can elect to not pay him. He would be able to file a grievance challenging the designation, but if the medical evidence due to the fireworks-related injuries is clear, he’ll have a hard time prevailing.

Regardless of how it plays out, the Giants have picked up some leverage. Whether by rescinding the tender or terminating the contract or placing him on NFI, they can drop Pierre-Paul’s compensation for 2015 from $14.8 million to whatever another team would pay a guy with an injured hand to, if they choose the NFI route, nothing. This dynamic could push Pierre-Paul’s expectations on a long-term deal toward a range that Giants are willing to satisfy.

At a minimum, the injury could result in a structure that pays Pierre-Paul based in part on his ability to play, primarily through the use of per-game roster bonuses. Since Pierre-Paul is responsible for the injuries that have now created real questions about his ability to play, he should be amenable to a contract that protects the Giants in the event that he can’t.

Either way, the clock continues to tick. The Giants and Pierre-Paul have 10 days to work out a long-term deal, or the only option will be a one-year contract.

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Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks injury not believed career threatening

Houston Texans v New York Giants Getty Images

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul hurt his hand in a fireworks accident on the Fourth of July, but there is some good news to report.

Pierre-Paul’s injury is not believed to be career threatening, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

As we in the United States celebrate our nation’s birthday, fireworks are, for millions of Americans, part of the fun. But they’re not without their risks. The fifth of July is always a day full of news stories about injuries in fireworks accidents, and yesterday at least one man died while setting off fireworks.

Pierre-Paul easily could have lost his hand, or worse. If he survived this accident with his career intact, he can count himself as lucky.

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Raiders take out full-page ad to support U.S. women’s team

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As the U.S. national women’s soccer team prepares to face Japan in the final match of the World Cup, the Raiders have issued something far more significant than the perfunctory tweet in support of the effort.

Via the Sunday Night Football twitter page, the Raiders took out a full page ad in the Vancouver Sun, with a photo of star player Alex Morgan and beneath it the slogan “Just Win Baby,” along with the Raiders logo.

The match starts at 7:00 p.m. ET. The U.S. women’s team last won the World Cup in 1999.

The ad appeared in Saturday’s edition, which was the 86th anniversary of the birth of former owner Al Davis.

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Report: Jason Pierre-Paul injured in fireworks accident

Indianapolis Colts v New York Giants Getty Images

For many of us, last night was a chance to blow off some steam, if not some fingers.

But Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul might have gotten a little too close to the action.

According to Andy Slater of WINZ in Miami, Pierre-Paul “severely injured” his hand in a fireworks accident last night.

A woman who said she was his neighbor tweeted out a photo of a “truck load of fireworks,” showing large boxes in a van.

Details at this point are few, but this could potentially have a huge impact on him and the Giants, as he hasn’t signed his franchise tender worth $14.8 million, and they’d have a tremendous lack of pass rush without him if he missed an extended amount of time.

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