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Report: Le’Veon Bell slated to play in Week Four

Le'Veon Bell AP

Le’Veon Bell’s NFL regular-season debut could come Sunday in London.

According to Jay Glazer of Fox, the winless Steelers are “planning to play” their rookie tailback against 0-3 Minnesota on Sunday.

Bell has missed the Steelers’ first three regular-season games with a foot injury.

Glazer reported the Steelers were inclined to sit Bell through their Week Five bye, but the second-round pick from Michigan State has healed quicker than expected.

With Bell out, the Steelers have employed a committee approach in the backfield, with Felix Jones, Isaac Redman and Johnathan Dwyer getting the most work. Dwyer led the Steelers with 39 yards on 12 carries in Pittsburgh’s 40-23 loss to Chicago on Sunday night. Jones got the start, but he fumbled on his first carry of the second half and did not get another rushing attempt the rest of the way.

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Ted Ginn admits leaving Carolina was “going out and chasing a check”

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Among our favorite kinds of football players, right up there with the ones who overcome long odds or do inspirational things, we have a soft spot for those with a little self-awareness.

So it was a great relief to hear one of them admit that yes, in fact, it was about the money.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers wideout Ted Ginn admitting that leaving for Arizona last year was about nothing more than “going out and chasing a check.”

Ginn appeared to have hit free agency at the right time, after catching five touchdown passes (one short of what he had done the six previous years) for the Panthers in 2013 while working on a one-year deal. So when the Cardinals gave him a three-year, $9.75 million contract, he had to go.

“You only have a short window in this league, so you just gotta go and do what’s good for your family,” Ginn said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think going out there was best for my family. I think being here was the best thing for me. It’s only a short window to go out and get what you can get, so I just praise God that they had their hands open for me to be able to return. Now that I’m here I have to put all that I can do in, and show what I have on and off the field to be a Panther.”

When the Cardinals got tired of him after a year (he caught 14 balls and made minimal impact, other than a playoff fumble), the Panthers were happy to bring him back. For whatever reason, he looks like an NFL wide receiver when he’s with them, as he’s made numerous deep play connections with Cam Newton already in camp.

So while he doesn’t regret trying to capitalize on his good season, he’s also aware that the Panthers seem to work for him.

 

“No, not at all,” he said. “Like I said, you gotta do what you do for your family. The best thing about the whole situation is coming back somewhere where somebody likes you.”

And with the way Ginn’s career has gone, finding that place has been tough, so he’s hanging on now.

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Tom Coughlin cranky about first training camp fight of the year

Tom Coughlin AP

In case you haven’t heard, the Giants have a guy who is dealing with a bit of a hand issue at the moment.

So they are perhaps more sensitive to the possibility of having another one at the same time.

Via the New York Daily News, Giants coach Tom Coughlin reacted grumpily to the first camp fight of the year, when offensive lineman Justin Pugh and defensive end Damontre Moore threw punches before being separated.

“I had a problem with that one, because they’re out there swinging,” Coughlin said. “I’ve been hurt first-hand by a guy who broke his hand in a fight, . . . In the old days, they used to wrap it up and play. But they don’t do that anymore.

“I was upset about the fight, losing their temper and all that stuff, but the bottom line is you can’t afford to do it and lose a guy.”

It’s especially true at the two positions in question, as they’ve already lost left tackle Will Beatty for the year to a pectoral injury and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for who knows how long (though they did finally talk) after he blew a finger off in a fireworks accident.

So while Pugh and Moore got the “get off my lawn” treatment from Coughlin, his frustration is likely as cumulative as anything else.

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Cowboys letting Sean Lee ease back into things in camp

Dallas Cowboys OTA Getty Images

At the rate the Cowboys were losing linebackers, it’s no wonder they want to be careful with Sean Lee.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, they’re holding him out of 7-on-7 drills during camp to give him plenty of time to recover from last year’s torn ACL which knocked him out the entire season.

“As Sean gets older, and Sean’s been through some adversity, I think he’s learning and I’m learning to have the ability to understand what the final product needs to look like and also understand the process to get there,” linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. “I think he’s understanding of that and I’m doing a better job, I hope, of understanding as well. It’s a work in progress. We’re going to work to the final product.”

It’s a matter of pragmatism as much as anything else. They’ve already lost Keith Rivers to retirement, and Rolando McClain and rookie Mark Nzeocha were placed on the physically unable to perform and non-football injury lists with knee injuries at the start of camp. Of course, McClain is also staring at a four-game suspension when he is well, and then Saturday Justin Jackson tore an ACL.

So for a player as important as Lee, they’re practically putting him in bubble wrap, as he plans to be ready for the Sept. 13 regular season opener.

“He’s made a lot of progress,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We don’t want big setbacks so we’ll kind of incrementally up his work and hopefully he can handle it and we’ll just keep making progress.”

With Lee moving to the weakside linebacker spot, he’s going to have more room to make plays, and making sure he’s ready to make them at the right time.

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Former Lions running back Mel Farr dies at 70

Mel Farr Getty Images

Former Detroit Lions running back Mel Farr has passed away at the age of 70, the team confirmed on Monday night.

Farr, the 1967 NFL offensive rookie of the year, was a two-time Pro Bowl selection during his seven seasons with the Lions. Farr had 739 carries for 3,072 yards and 26 touchdowns during his tenure. He also caught 146 passes for 1,374 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.

Farr and teammate Lem Barney, the 1967 defensive rookie of the year, sang backup vocals on Marvin Gaye’s hit song “What’s Going On.”

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Mortensen’s original story still has the 11-of-12 footballs falsehood

Pressure Getty Images

On Monday afternoon, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen appeared on ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard Show to elaborate on the report that sparked the neverending #DeflateGate investigation and arbitration and, now, litigation.

Our preliminary item on the interview appears here. The good folks at MassLive.com have typed up the entire transcript. The good folks at TheBigLead.com have posted the audio, along with their own informative assessment of the interview.

Courtesy of the good folks at Deadspin.com, who haven’t ripped me recently but, oh, it’s coming, comes an intriguing nugget that cuts against the notion that Mortensen changed his story from “11-0f-12 footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum” to “11-0f-12 footballs were significantly underinflated.” Apparently, his official story hasn’t changed.

From the item posted at ESPN.com on January 21, 2015, the first sentence: “The NFL has found that 11 of the New England Patriots’ 12 game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements, league sources involved and familiar with the investigation of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game told ESPN.”

And then the second sentence, still present in the story and not removed: “The investigation found the footballs were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below what’s required by NFL regulations during the Pats’ 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, according to sources.” (The “below what’s required” phrase should pull the plug on efforts to explain away the erroneous information given to Mortensen as referring perhaps not to the balls being two pounds below the 12.5 PSI minimum but two pounds below the 13.5 PSI maximum.)

Then there’s the original tweet, which is still live, and which could be removed at any time by pressing the three little dots and then selecting “Delete Tweet.”

Mort, who I like and respect, continues to be in a very tough spot on this one, and privately he should be livid with those who lied to him on multiple occasions about the 2.0-pounds information, and about other things. For months, it appeared that the glaringly false leak that instantly converted an odd circumstance into presumed Patriots guilt never would become the focus of national scrutiny.

It now has, and the early consensus is that even though Mortensen has explained the situation more extensively than ever, real questions remain regarding the origin of the report — and a real reason continues to exist for the NFL to investigate itself.

If finding out whether someone in the league office had received a copy of the Ray Rice elevator punch video before TMZ leaked it merited the hiring of former FBI director Robert Mueller, the much simpler task of finding out who talked to Mortensen can be accomplished with someone having a far less impressive pedigree, and a far lower hourly rate.

So why won’t the league do it?

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Texans no closer to naming a starting quarterback

Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer walks onto the field for an NFL football organized team activity, Monday, June 1, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) AP

Nearly two months ago, Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he could be picking a starting quarterback “very soon.” He’s apparently no closer to making a decision.

“Eventually I will tell you who it is,” O’Brien told reporters on Monday, via comments distributed by the team. “I am not going to keep it a secret. When we are ready to make a decision, I will tell you who it is.”

Those remarks came a day after O’Brien denied the rumor that he already has settled on Brian Hoyer.

“That would be absolutely untrue,” O’Brien said Sunday. “Every play, every day is evaluated. These guys are very even. No decisions have been made.”

Hoyer, who went through a quarterback competition last yearn Cleveland, is widely believed to have the edge. But Ryan Mallett looked good on Sunday, when he got his shot with the first-team offense.

So this back-and-forth could continue, giving both guys a chance to win the job — but giving the guy who wins it fewer opportunities to be fully prepared for it.

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Jimmy Graham prepares to block “75 percent” of the time

Seattle Seahawks' Jimmy Graham reaches to catch a ball at an NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Regardless of whether Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham likes to block, he’ll be doing plenty of blocking with his new team. And he says he welcomes it.

“I’m blocking here,” Graham told reporters on Monday, via comments distributed by the team. “Out there the last few I was pretty banged up so midway through the year I kind of stopped blocking . . . . Now here, I’m blocking quite a bit and I love it. It’s very important for me to be a part of that here because that’s about 75 percent of the offense here, and when you have a back like [Marshawn Lynch] you want to be in there on those explosive runs, and you want to be a part of that.”

The other 25 percent of the time, Graham will be the guy we’ve come to know in New Orleans.

“Third and 10 is when I’m going to make my money and that’s when I’m going to have to be special for this team,” Graham said. “Down there in the red zone. That’s just what I’ve always done. I’m doing the most down there.”

Other than the blocking. Apparently, he’ll be doing plenty of blocking.

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Kromer talks to media, says pretty much nothing

FILE - In this April 18, 2013, file photo, then-Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer talks to reporters during the team's NFL football minicamp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. Buffalo Bills President Russ Brandon says offensive line coach Aaron Kromer has been put on paid administrative leave after being accused of punching a boy in the face for using his beach chairs.  Kromer joined the team in January after being fired from the Chicago Bears. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

On Sunday, the Bills suspended offensive line coach Aaron Kromer for six regular-season games. On Monday, Kromer addressed the media. Like the Ray Rice no-questions-from-the-press conference of May 2014, Kromer simply made a statement without an ensuing back-and-forth with reporters.

“Can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to be back here at training camp,” Kromer said, via comments distributed by the team. “How grateful I am for Terry Pegula, Kim Pegula, Russ Brandon, of course Rex [Ryan] for allowing me back to do my job. I’m sure everybody wants to hear what happened over the last couple weeks and I’m not at liberty to talk about it. So all I can say right now is that I’m excited about being back here, working with the talent that we have on the offensive line, making them the best they can be this training camp, and getting them ready for the season. That’s my whole goal, that’s my whole focus at this point and I’m excited about being able to able to do that. Thank You.”

It was perhaps the shortest comment ending in “thank you” since Joe Pesci’s opening statement in My Cousin Vinny trial.

So why isn’t Kromer at liberty to talk about it? The fact that the Bills suspended Kromer tells us that Kromer did something.

Besides, who told Kromer he’s not at liberty to talk about it? As the NFL’s disciplinary process has taken on greater importance in the aftermath of the Ray Rice case, it becomes even more important that someone provide some sort of a tangible explanation about the reasons for a suspension, so that the public can make comparisons between the punishments imposed for different sets of circumstances.

In Kromer’s case, neither the team, coach Rex Ryan, nor Kromer said anything of substance; the reports are that Kromer punched a teenager much smaller than him in a beach-chair brouhaha. Still, the statement issued Sunday night was as general as it could have been, and Ryan punted in both directions when addressing the situation before Kromer on Monday.

“I just think that you know obviously we made a statement,” Ryan told reporters. “We issued a statement as an organization, so I’m really not going to add a whole lot to that. I think Aaron [Kromer] will be out here to talk to everybody and I certainly don’t want to speak for Aaron. So that’s really where I’m, you know comfortable saying I think we had a pretty thorough statement.”

But the statement wasn’t thorough. It said nothing about the incident other than to call it an “incident.” And Kromer said nothing.

So, officially, Kromer was suspended six games for an incident. And no one is going to talk about the incident. And now the story is over.

Thank you.

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Bill Davis said other players made Boykin expendable

Bill Davis AP

On Sunday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly addressed the decision to trade cornerback Brandon Boykin. On Monday, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis, who’ll have to make do without the team’s former nickel corner, talked about the decision from his own perspective.

“I think from an organizational standpoint, you make a decision and we were all part of that decision, and Boykin did give us quality starting reps,” Davis said in response to the question of why Boykin is gone, via comments distributed by the team. “But the guys behind him and the guys that replaced him were close enough in theory, because Boykin did it on Sunday. Now, Walter Thurmond has done it on Sundays, [safety Malcolm] Jenkins has done it on Sundays.  There are options there. JaCorey Shepherd has not [done it on Sundays], some of the younger guys have not. But there are enough options there to make it a good move for us as an organization.”

Davis, who said he’s a “Boykin fan,” explained that the move wasn’t a knock on the player.

“I think Boykin came out and he competed,” Davis said.  “It’s no knock on Boykin at all.  It’s a compliment to others, and it’s not [a knock on Boykin] for sure.  Obviously, it’s not.  We have to make decisions all the time and hope that it’s close enough and we’re right.  And sometimes you’re proven right, sometimes you’re proven wrong.  But, no, it’s not at all.”

Davis also addressed the vague criticisms of Kelly offered up by Boykin on his way out.

“He has got one of the most open door policies of guys I’ve been around,” Davis said. “He is wide open.  Boykin . . . went in in the offseason and he had a long talk with Chip about his role, about outside corner, about nickel. [Boykin] came into my office.  We had great conversations with Brandon about all those things.  I think Chip has one the biggest open door policies for the players, and ask the guys in the building.  He really does.  It’s really being portrayed outside different than it is inside because it really is an easy-to-be-around atmosphere.”

So why have three players now (Boykin, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson) expressed concerns about Kelly?

“I think every one of those three people need to answer their own questions,” Davis said. “I can answer from my view of being in 10 different organizations with all different head coaches, schemes, systems, and I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart this is a very great place for players. We do more for players than anything I’ve ever been around.  We do more for conditioning, their body, their health, their mental health, their growth and all parts of being a man and a player than anywhere I’ve been around.  And you can just ask the players about how much we spend time on them, on their mindset, on their moods, on how their bodies are feeling, their hydration, all of it.  I think it’s a couple isolated guys and they have to answer their own questions about that.”

There always will be isolated guys who complain. The strange thing here is that, while players get cut all the time by other coaches, rarely do players raise questions about the coach. Over the past year or so, three have taken aim at Kelly.

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NFL, NFLPA quickly accept invitation to use Magistrate Judge for settlement talks

Negotiation Getty Images

On Friday, Judge Richard M. Berman invited the NFL and NFLPA to utilize the services of Magistrate Judge James C. Francis, IV for assistance with settlement talks in the Tom Brady litigation. On Monday, the NFL and NFLPA wisely accepted.

Via attorney Daniel Wallach, who posted the recent docket entries on Twitter, proceedings were held before Judge Francis on Monday, via telephone conference.

Undoubtedly, Judge Francis asked for an update as to the offers exchanged by the parties to date, listened to any general comments about their positions as to the merits, and then conducted one or more individual conferences with each party in order to try to bridge the gap.

If Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s activity in the case includes another entry reflecting proceedings before Judge Francis, it will mean that the parties have kept talking. Which will mean that they had a reason to keep talking. Which will mean that they’re making progress toward a possible deal.

As noted over the weekend, Judge Francis seems determined to settle the case. The parties could avoid a potentially awkward and stressful trip to his chambers on August 12 if they can work out their differences before then.

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Ace Sanders suspended 10 games

Sanders Getty Images

Receiver Ace Sanders recently flunked a drug test.

PFT has confirmed that Sanders has been suspended for the first 10 games of the season under the substance-abuse policy. He is eligible to participate in all preseason activities, including games. His suspension becomes effective when the rosters reduce to 53 after the preseason finale.

A fourth-round pick of the Jaguars in the 2013 draft, Sanders previously was suspended four games, which happens after multiple violations of the policy. Under the old version of the policy, he would have been suspended for at least a full year.

Sanders was cut last month by Jacksonville, unclaimed on waivers, and to date unsigned. The suspension will run even if he’s not on a team. It’s unlikely that anyone will sign him until he’s reinstated.

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Eagles lose Travis Long to torn ACL for second straight year

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles linebacker Travis Long missed the entire season last year with a torn left ACL suffered in August. And now he’ll miss his second straight season after tearing the same ACL today.

The Eagles have confirmed that Long tore his left ACL in practice again today and will not play this season.

It’s obviously devastating news for a young man who now has to to be wondering if he’ll ever get to realize his dream of playing in the NFL. And it’s bad news for the Eagles, as well. Although Long wasn’t expected to be a big part of the defense, the Eagles don’t have a lot of depth at outside linebacker and thought Long could be a contributor there, and on special teams.

Long also tore his right ACL in 2012 at Washington State.

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Mortensen talks 11-of-12 footballs report on ESPN Radio

Mort Getty Images

On Friday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen bailed on an interview with WEEI aimed at addressing the delayed firestorm regarding his report that 11 of 12 footballs used by the Patriots in the first half of the AFC Championship were two pounds under the minimum allowable inflation of 12.5 PSI. On Monday, Mort appeared on ESPN Radio’s The Dan Le Batard Show to discuss the situation.

I tuned in a little late, and I plan to listen to the on-demand version and type up some of the most important responses. For now, here are the highlights based on the fastest hunting-and-pecking I could do while Mort was talking.

First, Mortensen said that he adjusted the report early on from “two pounds under” to “significantly underinflated.”

“I will never retract that,” Mortensen said of the revised report that the balls were “significantly underinflated.”  But he admitted that the two-pounds-under report was “obviously in error” and that it “technically was a mistake” to not retract it on Twitter. (The tweet still lives.)

The softened claim that the footballs were “significantly underinflated” is far more ambiguous than the hard numbers, which were generated by two air pressure gauges that varied by 0.45 PSI. It also overlooks the fact that cold weather and wet conditions will cause the PSI readings to drop.

So is it accurate to say that the footballs were “significantly underinflated”? Would it have been more accurate to say that the footballs were “underinflated”? Would it have been the most accurate to report the numbers actually measured by the two conflicting gauges?

Mortensen also pointed out that his report didn’t directly implicate Brady or the Patriots, but this explanation overlooks the importance of the original report to the story. It took what was a curiosity and converted it into a presumption that someone had tampered with the footballs, and that the only questions to be resolved were who did it and who knew about it?

If the actual numbers had been reported early on, the Patriots could have defused the bomb quickly, pointing to the discrepancy between the two gauges (which arguably is enough to justify a conclusion that the numbers are inconclusive) and explaining that one set of measurements falls squarely within the range predicted by the Ideal Gaw Law.

Mortensen also said he has recently spoken to Patriots owner Robert Kraft. While declining to delve into any details of the conversation, Mortensen said that Kraft told him, “Our fight is not with you. It’s with the NFL.”

Mort has no issue with the NFL. He said he doesn’t feel betrayed because he sought out the information.

Still, he was given false information. And even though he at some point changed the report to “significantly underinflated,” Mortensen told WEEI in January that he sought further confirmation of the accuracy of the two-pounds-under report, and that he received it.

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘is there any discrepancies in what I reported, because I want to know,’” Mortensen said at the time. “And I was just told, ‘No, you were right on.’”

Mort continues to be in a tough spot, and multiple someones at the league office owe him plenty of favors for taking the bullet on this one. And even though Mort never will give up his sources (and he shouldn’t), it would be easy for the NFL to investigate whether one or more league-office employees talked to Mortensen at or about the time of his initial report, and to find out who leaked the false information to him.

Assuming, of course, that none of the relevant persons have destroyed their cell phones.

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Jordan Cameron: I know I can be a Pro Bowl player

Brent Grimes, Jordan Cameron AP

The Dolphins made a change at tight end this offseason when they let Charles Clay go to Buffalo without matching the Bills’ offer for the restricted free agent and signed Jordan Cameron away from the Browns.

It’s a move that would have looked like an upgrade after the 2013 season. Cameron had 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns that year and looked like a rising star at the position. That star took on some tarnish last season as shoulder and head injuries helped limit him to just 24 catches in 10 games. The Dolphins would obviously like something closer to the 2013 numbers and Cameron says he feels capable of providing them.

“In my mind I know I can play,” Cameron said, via ESPN.com. “I know I can be a Pro Bowl player. I’m trying to help this team win. Right now I’m not going to set any goals and tell you what I’m going to do in the season. Right now I’m getting better at my craft and that’s the only thing I’m focusing on.”

Durability remains a question mark for Cameron, whose 2013 totals are more than the rest of his career combined, but he should get a boost from playing with a stable starting quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. Clay was targeted frequently the last two seasons and a healthy Cameron could approach his past highs if the Dolphins continue to make the tight end a focal point after overhauling their receiving corps this offseason.

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Jury tipster had “sexually explicit relationship” with Hernandez

Hernandez Getty Images

If you thought that the situation involving former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez couldn’t get any more bizarre, you thought wrong.

Via the Boston Herald, the anonymous tipster who contacted Hernandez lawyer James Sultan had  been involved in a “sexually explicit relationship” with Hernandez, “prior to and during the trial.”

The tipster, identified in court papers as only as “Katy,” told Sultan that a juror was “untruthful” during jury selection regarding knowledge of separate murder charges pending against Hernandez.

Sultan wants to question the tipster under oath. Prosecutors oppose the effort, claiming that “Katy” had ulterior motives to make an “implausible” allegation.

If “Katy” isn’t Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, the development is awkward, to say the least. It also will invite curiosity regarding the visitation rules at the jail where Hernandez was held before and during trial.

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