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Le’Veon Bell begins to process of coming back

Pittsburgh Steelers v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell took his first steps back toward the field, and immediately made sure everyone knew it was going to be a process.

The Steelers aren’t expecting him back for a few more weeks after his Lisfranc sprain on Aug. 19, but he did some things Wednesday in practice.

I don’t want to rush it,” Bell said, via Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’m still in the healing process. I’ve got to make sure I don’t re-injure it.”

“I’m making sure I’m confident enough to go out there and make all the proper cuts, that I can completely stop when I need to with a burst and jump.”

The Steelers obviously need him, at 0-2 with a faltering offense.

“I’m not promising anything or saying I can do anything,” Bell said. “I just want to help the offense.”

At this point, almost anything would.

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Luke Kuechly: Defense has plenty of “attitude, enthusiasm” without Josh Norman

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:   Luke Kuechly #59 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play against the Denver Broncos in the first quarter during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said last week that the Panthers need to bring the same mindset to the 2016 season that they had heading into last season, but they won’t be bringing back the same group of players.

The biggest departure is cornerback Josh Norman, who signed with the Redskins after the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag they used early in the offseason. Norman played a big role in Carolina’s success last season both with his play on the field and as an emotional leader off of it, but Kuechly thinks the team is well-stocked with players who can fill the latter void.

“When you lose a guy like Josh, obviously, he’s entertainment, energy, attitude, but that’s kind of been the attitude of our defense,” Kuechly said to Tiffany Blackmon of NFL Media. “You know, you still have Thomas [Davis] and Charles [Johnson] and Kurt Coleman bring an edge and we’ve got a bunch of guys that still bring that attitude, enthusiasm. We’ve got older guys that when the young guys come in and they can kind of teach them what the mentality’s like and get them on the same page.”

They drafted three cornerbacks in April to help fill out the corps in Norman’s absence and Kuechly said he thinks “they’ll be good for us” come the fall. With the likes of Kuechly, Davis, Johnson, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei still on hand, the Panthers have plenty of talent left on defense to help ease their transition to the professional ranks and reason to expect more success after last year’s NFC title.

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Networks escape Sunday Ticket class action

sundayticket

The networks that broadcast NFL games will no longer be required to answer for the way those broadcasts are bundled and sold by the NFL and DirecTV.

Via the Hollywood Reporter, NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN no longer appear as defendants in a class action that challenges the manner in which the league and its satellite partner market the NFL Sunday Ticket product.

This doesn’t mean that the networks will be immune from involvement in the case. For now, though, none of them face potential financial liability.

The lawsuits began last June, not long after the settlement of a challenge regarding the NHL’s distribution of games via DirecTV. Within a month, at least three class actions were filed. Now, all pending lawsuits have been consolidated into one case.

Apparently, the networks were added as some point in order to prevent consolidation, since the lawyers who filed the individuals cases presumably didn’t want to give up control over their own litigation. Once those efforts failed, the networks became unnecessary to the broader attack on the league’s exclusive distribution of out-of-market games through the Sunday Ticket package.

A key threshold question once the case gets to the substance and not the procedure will be whether the federal broadcast antitrust exemption applies to the distribution of out-of-market games. If it doesn’t, the end result of the litigation could be a requirement that each team be permitted to cut its own deal regarding the availability of games beyond the traditional broadcast marketplace, requiring (allowing) teams like the Cowboys and Packers and Steelers to make a lot more by selling, for example, streaming rights to their games beyond the markets where they otherwise are available via over-the-air broadcasts. (The other side of the coin would be that nationally unpopular teams — and they know who they are without me listing them — would make a lot less.)

If that happens, there would be dramatic changes to the way that football fans consume games that aren’t televised over FCC-regulated network affiliates in their local areas. If, for example, a Saints fan only wanted to see Saints games, the Saints fan would be able to buy the ability to watch all Saints games not otherwise televised for free in that fan’s geographic region. The price should be a lot less than buying the entire Sunday Ticket package, which is currently the only way for fans of one team to see that team’s games only.

The end result for the league would be dramatic fluctuations in the money the various teams make from broadcasting games. Absent a commitment to share among all 32 teams whatever any of them earns by selling out-of-market satellite, cable, or streaming rights on their own, it could create a significant disparity in revenue between the most and least nationally popular clubs.

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Leonard Williams “more comfortable overall” in second year

Leonard Willimas AP

Among the reasons cited for the lack of a serious push from the Jets to sign defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a long-term contract this offseason is the presence of Sheldon Richardson and 2015 first-round pick Leonard Williams.

With Williams and Richardson filling out the defensive line, the argument is that the Jets don’t feel they need to commit to Wilkerson beyond the franchise tag they gave him for the coming season. Williams backed up that feeling as a rookie by leading the team in quarterback hits while recording 63 tackles and three sacks.

Williams says he’d like to do even more as a pass rusher this season and feels prepared to take a step up now that he’s had more time in the team’s defensive scheme.

“It is different because last year I just kept thinking, ‘rookie, rookie, rookie,’ but now … I know that I’m a pro now,” Williams said, via the New York Post. “I know the playbook now, so I don’t have to think as much when I’m out there, I can just play. It’s less pressure now that I’m not a rookie anymore, and I don’t have to have that tag or label on me. It’s just been more comfortable overall this year.”

Defensive line coach Pepper Johnson said Williams has taken his maturity “to another level” this offseason, which supports the notion that he’ll be doing more on the field for the Jets this season. If things play out that way, the Jets will likely feel comfortable about the future of their defensive line wherever Wilkerson winds up in 2017 and beyond.

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Julius Thomas could be poised to have a huge year

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes against  Dwight Lowery #33 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Three years ago, former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning provided during a preseason DirecTV-sponsored media tour a tip for anyone who was paying attention: Pay attention to tight end Julius Thomas.

As Thomas prepares for his second season with the Jaguars, here’s a tip for anyone who is paying attention: What Peyton said.

Via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union, Thomas and quarterback Blake Bortles looked “nearly unstoppable” during Organized Team Activities and minicamp. While shorts and T-shirts football remains a far cry from real football, it won’t be a surprise if Thomas and Bortles are indeed unstoppable this year.

Last season, Thomas broke his hand during the preseason. This season, assuming that he stays healthy, Thomas will have plenty of options in a passing game fueled by receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

Bortles finished second in the league last season with 35 touchdown passes. If he has a healthy Thomas for the full season, Bortles could throw even more touchdown passes — and Thomas could catch plenty of them.

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Greenbrier taking in flood victims

FALLING ROCK, WV - JUNE 25: People trudge through the mud left over from the flooding of the Elk River along State Route 119, on June 25, 2016 in Falling Rock, 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

The resort where the Saints have held training camp the last few years has closed its doors indefinitely after record flooding devastated the region. Although it’s not open for business, the Greenbrier is making some of its rooms available to those who have lost their homes as a result of 8-10 inches of rain that fell in only 6-8 hours.

The result has been described as “complete chaos,” with at least 24 dead.

“Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations,” Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill said, via Weather.com. “Multiple sections of highway just missing. Pavement just peeled off like a banana. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

With so many hills and mountains in West Virginia, the combination of water and gravity floods the valleys with water and mud (a lot of mud), where the houses and the people are.

“We pretty much live in a bowl, and the bowl filled with water, certainly,” Richwood, West Virginia Mayor Robert Johnson told the Associated Press.

People throughout West Virginia need help right now. Donations can be made to the United Way of Greenbrier County, the Red Cross, where an immediate $10 donation came be made by texting REDCROSS to 90999, and through an initiative launched by the Greenbrier to assist flood victims.

PFT has a strong connection to West Virginia. If you enjoy (or enjoy not enjoying) what you see on these pages, make a small donation to the effort to help people turn their lives around after, in barely a third of a day, their lives were turned upside down.

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Texans sign first-round pick Will Fuller

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 21:  Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish makes a catch with pressure from Gabriel McClary #14 of the Boston College Eagles during the second half at Fenway Park on November 21, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Fighting Irish defeat the Eagles 19-16.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

It took some time for WR Will Fuller and the Texans to work out the details of Fuller’s first professional contract, but they’ve finally come to an agreement.

According to multiple reports, Fuller has agreed to his rookie deal with Houston. It’s a four-year contract that Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports has a total value of $10.164 million. The Texans also have the standard team option for a fifth year that all first-round picks have as part of their deals.

Fuller was one of two wide receivers the Texans drafted as they continued their offseason attempts to upgrade their offense. He and fellow rookie Braxton Miller will join DeAndre Hopkins as targets for the newly signed quarterback Brock Osweiler in Houston this season and Fuller’s speed should make him a threat down the field as long as he shows he can hang onto the ball when it comes his way.

With Fuller signed, the Texans have now struck deals with their entire draft class.

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Sunday morning one-liners

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 3: Outside linebacker Julius Peppers #56 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a sack during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 3, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills S Corey Graham has remained close to his high school coach.

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had to remain patient during Dolphins offseason work.

S Jordan Richards is bidding for a bigger role with the Patriots.

Which Jets players are on the roster bubble?

The names have changed, but the scheme is the same for the Ravens defense.

Opinion of Bengals QB Andy Dalton’s around the league has grown.

WR Jordan Payton is eager to get to work with the Browns.

LB Jordan Zumwalt has another chance to make the Steelers.

The Texans have seen progress from TE C.J. Fiedorowicz.

Which Colts could make their Pro Bowl debut after the 2016 season?

Jaguars rookies got advice from many former players about transitioning to the pros.

The Titans feel they have a reliable backup quarterback in Matt Cassel.

A few unexpected names pop up on this Broncos 53-man roster projection.

WR Jeremy Maclin has built a strong relationship with Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

A look at how the Raiders secondary is coming together.

An argument that the Chargers are short on star power defensively.

The Cowboys are putting a new restaurant in their stadium.

Giants WR Roger Lewis wants to be known for more than his past arrest.

Is DE Vinny Curry the key to the Eagles defense?

Colt McCoy tries to help Redskins QB Kirk Cousins thrive while backing him up.

T Nate Chandler is grateful for his chance with the Bears.

S Miles Killebrew could be in the mix for a starting job with the Lions.

Packers LB Julius Peppers has made a case for a spot in the Hall of Fame.

OL Carter Bykowski is trying for a spot with his hometown Vikings.

The Falcons looked to the rugby world for help with their tackling.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen accepts the physical risks that come with playing in the NFL.

CB Damian Swann feels past the concussions that hampered him in his first year with the Saints.

Setting some training camp expectations for the Buccaneers.

Breaking down the state of the Cardinals offense.

Said Rams WR Brian Quick, “I just need to be consistent and that’s it. I have to adjust and adapt.”

The 49ers liked what they saw at practice from rookie G Joshua Garnett.

Seahawks WR Paul Richardson is trying to shed the injury-prone label.

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Jim Irsay buys a Prince guitar for $137,500

princeguitar Getty Images

Colts owner Jim Irsay isn’t saving all his money for Andrew Luck’s next contract.

Irsay spent $137,500 on the “Yellow Cloud” guitar that Prince used in the 1990s, the Associated Press reports. Irsay made the purchase at an auction in Beverly Hills on Saturday night.

Although $137,500 sounds like a lot of money to those of us who didn’t inherit a football team, it’s nowhere near the most money Irsay has ever spent on a musical instrument. In December he spent about $2 million on a Ringo Starr drum set that allowed him to complete a collection that also included guitars previously owned by Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison.

Irsay will be writing a much bigger check when Luck signs a contract extension, which is expected to come in the next month.

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Sanders will “keep playing ball” while agents talk new deal with Broncos

Emmanuel Sanders AP

Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is entering the final season on his current contract, and it makes sense that the Broncos would want to keep Sanders with the team.

In the meantime, Sanders is saying the right things as his representatives talk with the Broncos about a possible extension. Even if the Von Miller situation takes priority for the Broncos, Sanders has been good enough that a new deal would probably be good for both parties.

“I don’t think it weighs on me,” Sanders said of his situation. “I think it weighs on other people and then they talk about [it] and it’s like, ‘All right, you’re trying to put the weight on me.’ If I could just keep my ears closed and not listen to the noise, I wouldn’t even know this is a contract year.

“For me, it’s going to come. If it’s meant for me, it’s meant for me. But I’m going to keep playing ball because I love to do it.”

Even if Sanders isn’t sweating a potential extension, he’s not going to be the bargain he was for the Broncos when they signed him away from the Steelers in 2014 with a three-year deal worth $15 million.

Sanders, 29, has caught 177 passes and 15 touchdowns over his two seasons in Denver. Sanders had 76 catches for 1,135 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Prior reports said the Broncos and Sanders’ representation had “exchanged proposals” and that Sanders was “hopeful” a deal could be reached.

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Herschel Walker, king of the hollow offseason boast

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library Getty Images

Maybe Herschel Walker doesn’t want to be known as the subject of the worst trade in NFL history. Alternatively, Walker could be angling to become known as the king of the hollow offseason boast.

He’s done it again this year. Not once, but twice. Making the media rounds on Thursday, he said he’ll participate in another MMA fight, at age 54. On Friday, Walker continued his media tour by claiming he could still play in the NFL, at age 54.

“I don’t think I can, I know I can,” Walker said, via TheScore.com. “In a third-down situation, I could help a team out today. I could do a few things and do it well.”

If either of those things sound familiar, they should. Last year, Walker said he could still play football, but that he won’t because he’s still MMA fighting. He’s done neither since.

I can return kickoffs,” Walker said last June. “I still run very well, like I’ve always [run]. So I know I can be a positive thing. . . . Once I get out of the MMA stuff, then I may go back and play. I want to be the George Foreman of football.”

At this rate, Walker could end up being the George Burns of football.

In 2014, Walker said he could still play football, but never actually mounted a comeback. In 2013, Walker said he plans to engage in another MMA fight, but never did.

He still hasn’t done either, last playing football in 1997 and last fighting in 2011. But he keeps talking about both.

Herschel can keep talking about it if he wants, but unless and until he actually does it, we’re done listening.

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PGA Tour event at site of Saints training camp canceled due to flooding

Greenbrier Getty Images

The heavy flooding that closed The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia has canceled the PGA Tour stop there set for the second weekend in July.

The Saints hold their training camp at The Greenbrier, located in White Sulphur Springs. With the Saints set to report to training camp July 27, it could take some major work to get the fields and facilities ready in time for camp, so the team will at least have to explore contingency plans.

The PGA Tour’s statement on the cancellation of The Greenbrier Classic said the golf course “suffered excessive damage” and “is beyond reasonable repair” for an event set to begin July 7.

In hopes of beating the Louisiana heat, the Saints have held camp at The Greenbrier since 2014. The Cardinals also spent a week at The Greenbrier last October, practicing there between games in Detroit and Pittsburgh instead of flying back to Arizona.

Donations for those affected by the West Virginia flooding can be made through the Red Cross, by visiting redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. An immediate $10 donation can be made by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

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Falcons have sold $172.3 million in PSLs

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Most people would like to receive money for nothing. Some sports fans still pay plenty of money for literally nothing.

It’s called the Personal Seat License: a private tax on the ability to buy season tickets with a catchy name that literally means you are paying for the privilege to sit in the chair that corresponds with the ticket you have purchased that corresponds with that chair.

Sports teams continue to sell PSLs because sports fans continue to pay for them. At the new Falcons stadium, fans have purchased 29,835 personal seat licenses for a total revenue stream of $172.3 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Of course, imposing a private tax on those who will be attending games at the stadium makes more sense than imposing public taxes on people who won’t be attending games at the stadium. Most sports teams prefer doing both.

Because they can. And for as long as they can, they will.

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Elway on Von Miller photo crop: “You know, that’s too bad”

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 06:  Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway (L) and Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak (R) listen as U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks welcoming the Super Bowl champions to the White House Rose Garden on June 6, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) Getty Images

The contract impasse between the Broncos and linebacker Von Miller recently spread to social media, with Miller cropping Broncos G.M. John Elway out of a photo taken at the team’s visit to the White House. Elway has responded to the gesture, at the urging of someone carrying a camera on behalf of TMZ as Elway emerged from Craig’s in Los Angeles.

Congratulated initially by the cameraman on Elway’s “refreshingly candid and open media policy award,” Elway pointed and said, “Good for you, bud.”

Then asked while getting to a vehicle about Miller’s social-media diss, Elway said, “You know, that’s too bad.”

Mike Klis of 9news.com, in perhaps a roundabout way of suggesting that Elway was afflicted by a case of Affleckenza, said via Twitter that there’s “Nothing wrong with NFLGMs blowing off steam in summer but come on John u know cameras roll in LA.”

Far more important than any camera rolling is the clock that’s ticking toward 4:00 p.m. ET on July 15, the deadline for the Broncos and Miller to do a long-term deal.

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Megatron: I’m content with what I did, not coming back

160106 calvin johnson Getty Images

Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson says anyone who thinks he might come out of retirement can think again.

I’m not coming back. You don’t have to worry about that,” Johnson told the Detroit Free Press.

Johnson said the wear and tear on his body from nine NFL seasons contributed to his decision, but the most important reason he decided to retire is simply that he thinks he has accomplished enough in the game of football and is willing to move on to other things in his life.

“There’s just a time when you’re content with what you did. I’m content with what I did,” Johnson said.

Although Johnson was a fairly private and quiet guy off the field, in retirement he said he may start advocating for “common sense” gun laws. He’s ready to make contributions to society that don’t involve catching a football.

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Peterson thinks Mathieu deal will get done “pretty soon”

090815-NFL-Arizona-Patrick-Peterson-Tyrann-Mathieu-MM-PI.vadapt.980.high.43 Getty Images

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson received his second contract after three years in the NFL. Teammate and close friend Tyrann Mathieu is currently negotiating his own second deal after three seasons. Peterson recently told PFT Live that he believes Mathieu will get his new contract soon.

“I was in kind of a similar situation when it was time for me to sign a new deal and obviously wanting a new deal,” Peterson said. “Like I tell Tyrann all the time, let his agent handle that and also it’s gonna be a long, drawn out process, you just have to be patient. I know it will happen, just don’t know when it will happen but the Cardinals organization understands what Tyrann means to the football team, to the community, and when you have a top notch player like that, that just doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and we have great ownership upstairs and the General Manager and the president and owner of the team. I mean those guys know at the end of the day what Tyrann means and like I said, I’m quite sure that the deal will get done here pretty soon.”

I then asked Peterson, tongue partially in cheek, whether he supports Mathieu getting a new deal as long as Mathieu doesn’t get more than Peterson.

“Not at all,” Peterson said, laughing. “I want him to get every penny that he deserves and if the team obviously wants to pay him more than me, I don’t have a problem with that all because Tyrann’s very, very gifted. He’s very talented, he means so much to this defense as you can tell. I believe we missed a beat last year when he got knocked out for the rest of the season with the ACL injury. But I don’t have a problem with that at all. If they feel he’s worth more than me, it is what it is.”

Mathieu previously predicted on PFT Live that his negotiations will be “kind of a wrestling match but at the end of the day as long as we understand it’s a business and as long as we take care of our relationships I think it’ll be all right.”

The core of the wrestling match could hinge on whether Mathieu should be paid as a safety or a cornerback, since he plays more corner than safety. Mathieu’s pair of ACL tears also could be an issue at the bargaining table.

Regardless, everyone continues to be optimistic that the deal will get done. Now it just needs to get done.

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