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Vikings QB coach says Christian Ponder needs to “suck it up”

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After the Vikings fell to 0-3 on Sunday, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said it was unfair for the team’s fans to shower quarterback Christian Ponder with boos.

The team’s quarterbacks coach has a different opinion. Craig Johnson said that he still believes in Ponder and that the quarterback “has done a lot of good things,” but that he has to accept that criticism come with the position.

“The bottom line is — and he knows this — if you do not win the game, you’re getting the blame,” Johnson said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “That’s just the way it is. Suck it up. You’re no different than quarterbacks in every other part of the country. When you lose, you’re getting the blame. That’s part of the deal.”

Ponder admits to being frustrated but said that his confidence hasn’t suffered in the three losses to start the season. Confidence in him will likely start to waver if the team keeps losing while Ponder fails to show signs of improvement in his third year, however, and that could mean a quarterback change that signals a bigger change at the position come the offseason.

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Miami may emerge as the major player for Suh

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On Saturday, the three-day period opens for agent Jimmy Sexton to negotiate with teams other than the Lions on behalf of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  It would be naive to assume negotiations haven’t already happened.

Some have linked teams like the Giants and Washington to Suh.  Many believe a team that currently has no national relevance will pursue Suh in an effort to transform the franchise, generate excitement, sell tickets, and ultimately hope that more games will be won.

There’s one team that remains somewhat nationally relevant thanks to a pair of Super Bowl trophies from the ’70s and the exploits of players like Dan Marino.  But with one playoff appearance since 2002, an annual sense of 8-8-at-best malaise, an owner who has wanted to recharge the franchise since getting the keys to it, and a new executive V.P. of football operations who may be looking to make a splash, keep a close eye on the Miami Dolphins as a potential destination for Suh.

There’s talk that the Dolphins will emerge as the leaders for Suh, and that teams like the Raiders, Jaguars, and Buccaneers are being floated not as serious candidates but as leverage.  Ultimately, it may come down to the Dolphins bidding against themselves as Suh and Sexton try to set the bar for defensive players as high as they can.

Owner Stephen Ross has tried unsuccessfully to land a big name over the last four years.  From Jim Harbaugh to Peyton Manning to Jeff Fisher, the Dolphins have yet to make anything happen.  With Suh quite possibly chasing the best offer he gets and getting a chance to head to a city with South Beach and a state with no income taxes, it’s not a stretch to see Suh wearing on his helmet a logo featuring a mammal that has no arms or legs on which to stomp.

If Suh ends up in South Florida, the AFC East would get only more interesting.  The Patriots continue to be the Patriots.  The Bills are poised to add running back LeSean McCoy, a move that suggests Rex Ryan and company have plenty more up their sleeves.  And the Jets seem to be serious about trying to upgrade through the kind of serious spending they haven’t done in recent years, with no secret being made of their desire to bring Darrelle Revis home.

Yes, the AFC East may not be the best division in the NFL.  But it’s the most interesting.  It got a lot more interesting with this Tuesday’s news of the LeSean McCoy trade.  It could get a whole lot more interesting if next Tuesday’s news includes Suh going to Miami.

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John DeFilippo wants Johnny Manziel “obsessed with football”

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The Browns have signed quarterback Josh McCown, giving themselves a veteran option to Johnny Manziel for the 2015 season shortly after Manziel entered a treatment facility in the wake of a rough rookie season.

It’s not the most inspiring scene for the offense or for Manziel’s future, but offensive coordinator John DeFilippo thinks that he can get things moving in the right direction. He said the offense Manziel ran in college was limited, leaving a lot of work for DeFilippo to do to “take the grey area” out and turn things into the “pure progression” he’ll need to succeed as a professional.

The coach said that Manziel “needs experience playing the game at this level” if he’s going to improve, but that there’s also a mental aspect that requires a commitment on the quarterback’s part.

“It’s truly a lifestyle to be an NFL quarterback,” DeFilippo said on ESPN 850 WKNR. “It’s not just a job. It’s all-consuming. You need to sleep, eat, do everything fast and just think about football all the time. The great ones have an obsession with it. You watch the Peyton Mannings and the Drew Brees and the Aaron Rodgers, those guys are obsessed with football. And you talk about quarterback lifestyle, in our very first meeting that’s what we’re going to talk about with those guys.”

DeFilippo did an evenhanded job of assessing the areas where Manziel needs work on and off the field. He also laid out a pretty big mountain of work ahead for Manziel since there’s clearly a lot of work to do on both fronts in an environment that can be short on patience and rope for quarterbacks who aren’t ready for the job.

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Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate brains to science

Sidney Rice AP

Two more NFL veterans have promised to donate their brains to science, as doctors continue to look for ways to curb the league’s concussion problem.

Via Stephen Cohen of SeattlePI.com, former Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice and Giants punter Steve Weatherford made the announcement on “Fox and Friends,” saying they wanted scientists to see the effects of concussions during their playing days after their deaths.

Rice said he estimated he had eight to 10 concussions during his NFL career, but the first one came when he was 8 years old: “It was the first time I ever saw stars, aside from the cartoon shows.”

Rice said he could tell things have changed since his rookie year in 2007, with teams taking head injuries more seriously. But he said it’s hard to convince players to take themselves out sometimes.

“It’s just the way we’re brought up. I guess it’s the culture,” Rice said. “You feel like you have to be out there on the field. It’s the competition that’s instilled in you. You love it, you want to be out there, but it’s very important that you pay attention to what goes on when you get a concussion.”

Of course, it’s far from a perfect system, as the did-he-or-didn’t-he case of Julian Edelman in the Super Bowl shows.

But hopefully the science improves to help players who will admit if they’ve suffered a brain injury, and Rice and Weatherford’s donation can help toward that goal (though hopefully not soon).

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Jameis Winston during Bucs visit: “This smile isn’t fake”

Jameis Winston AP

Jameis Winston’s proving he knows a little bit about public relations.

But during his visit with the Buccaneers yesterday, he showed he also knows a little something about the history of draftable quarterback character assassination.

During an interview with state-run media/the team’s website (nice EXCLUSIVE), Winston said he understands what he has to prove to people after a turbulent college career.

“I just want them to know that I am human and I’m a great person,” he said. “This smile isn’t fake. I just want to show them that I can be the face of this franchise one day. Actions speak louder than words.”

That word choice couldn’t have been accidental, referencing the “fake smile” takedown of Cam Newton prior to the 2011 NFL Draft.

But Winston’s also right to understand he can’t convince people of much by talking, but that’s what yesterday was about, as he met with Bucs officials and ownership to convince them he could be trusted.

He added the obligatory “I would love to be here,” (another EXCLUSIVE), and the Bucs were careful to add the obligatory appearance that it wasn’t a done deal.

“Winston is widely believed to be on a very short list of players the team is considering with that #1 pick,” the house organ wrote. “along with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.”

Making a good first impression will help, but the Bucs have also indicated they’re going to do more research on Winston in particular as they make a franchise-changing pick.

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C.J. Spiller: I’m pretty sure Chip Kelly has my agent’s phone number

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Before the Eagles swung a trade with the Saints to acquire running back Darren Sproles last year, they reportedly contacted the Bills about trading for C.J. Spiller.

The Bills weren’t interested in making the move and Spiller played out the final year of his contract in Buffalo while Sproles joined LeSean McCoy in Philly. The Eagles pulled off another trade involving a running back on Tuesday when they agreed to send McCoy to the very same Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, a move that guarantees Spiller will be moving on as a free agent.

During an appearance on NFL Network, Spiller was asked about the possibility of taking over McCoy’s spot on the depth chart.

“I’m pretty sure that Chip [Kelly] has my agent’s phone number so I’m pretty sure we might have to make a call over there,” Spiller said. “I’ve never been in that type of system before, but I don’t think I’d have any problem adjusting to it.”

There have been crazier ideas than putting a player with Spiller’s skills into the Eagles offensive scheme, although it’s tough to predict just what the Eagles might have in mind with a lot of cap space and someone with Kelly’s willingness to make bold moves calling the shots.

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Kendall Langford has Jets, Saints visits after Lions trip

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He’s no James Casey in terms of travel, but former Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford is still putting together a nice little world tour.

According to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. Langford’s visit with the Lions went well, but he’s scheduled meetings with the Jets and the Saints in the coming days.

Langford’s smart to take advantage of his head start on free agency, since he was cut by the Rams.

He’s not a headline-grabber, but he’s the kind of solid, durable player lots of teams can use.

The 29-year-old defensive tackle hasn’t missed a game in seven years with the Dolphins and Rams. He’s No. 80 in our Free Agent Hot 100, a list you should bookmark in the coming days as the real free agency period picks up.

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Colts agree to terms on extension for long snapper Matt Overton

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The Indianapolis Colts announced Tuesday they have agreed to terms on a contract extension with long snapper Matt Overton.

While the team didn’t announce the length of the contract, Overton tweeted he’ll be with the Colts the next four years. Overton was going to be a restricted free agent upon the start of the new league year next week. His new contract should run through 2018.

Overton has played in all 48 games over the first three years of his career with 22 tackles on special teams.

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McCoy-for-Alonso swap would be a rare, fascinating NFL transaction

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It feels like a baseball trade. That’s how the proposed swap of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso feels.

It feels distinctly un-NFL.

Such player-for-player, big-contract-for-little-contract deals just don’t happen in the NFL. They’re baseball things. You know the drill: Team A acquires a veteran for the stretch run and sends young, untested, cheaper players to Team B.

Yes, NFL teams are willing to give out big deals. However, because the vast bulk of the money in those deals is not guaranteed, few teams are willing to take them secondhand. They are tailored financial instruments that generally just fit one team and one team only.

Instead, most clubs act as vultures, waiting for highly paid players to be released before swooping in to show interest, usually offering less money than the player received previously. It is logical economic behavior, but the rhythm of the dance is tedious.

But here we have the Bills reportedly showing significant interest in McCoy, who’s due $9.75 million in salary in 2015, $6.9 million in salary in 2016 and $7.6 million in salary in 2017, per NFLPA records. That’s the epitome of a splash trade.

On the other hand, the Eagles could be set to get significant salary-cap relief. A third-year pro from Oregon, Alonso is due about $1.7 million in combined salary over the next two seasons.

Some will praise the Eagles for their fiscal responsibility. Others will cheer on the Bills for swinging for the fences for McCoy, who doesn’t turn 27 until July.

Some will compare this proposed deal to the 2004 swap that sent cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick to Denver and running back Clinton Portis to Washington. However, in that case, both players got new contracts from the trading clubs. That’s unlikely to happen here. The Eagles would have ample reason to let Alonso — who’s coming off an ACL tear — play out at least the next year of his deal. And McCoy surely doesn’t figure to get more money if he’s dealt. At best, he’ll keep what he has.

Nevertheless, the Bills are set to take on quite a bit of money — on paper, about $24 million in salary, per NFLPA data. That doesn’t happen often in pro football trades, and it’s unlikely to be a common occurrence. (On Twitter, veteran agent Mike McCartney expressed surprise the Eagles were able to potentially move McCoy, given his high 2015 salary-cap number.)

But the Bills’ outside-the-box deal-making intrigues. As the salary cap goes up, teams with an an abundance of cap space may have greater ability to take on big existing deals for the right player. Also, draft picks are more valuable than ever under the existing rookie wage scale, making them perhaps tougher with which for clubs to part. Perhaps a few more player-for-player deals could allow clubs to fill needs and create financial flexibility.

Hey, maybe the Bills and Eagles are on to something.

Whatever the case, this sure was something.

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Dallas County D.A. has Wal-Mart police report

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Last week, former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said he had “no knowledge” of any incident at a Lancaster, Texas Wal-Mart on July 11, 2011 involving Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.  As it turns out, someone in his office does and/or did.

In response to a Texas Public Information Act request sent by PFT to the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, Assistant D.A. Laura Anne Coats forwarded on Tuesday a copy of the same incident report that the Lancaster Police Department previously sent to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

There’s one key difference in the version obtained by NFL Media and the version sent to PFT.  The version obtained by NFL Media, transmitted with a cover letter dated February 17, 2015, indicates that it was printed by the Lancaster Police Department that same day.  The version submitted to PFT by the Dallas County District Attorney reveals that it was printed on August 7, 2012 by the Lancaster Police Department, more than a year after the incident but still more than two years ago — while Watkins was still the District Attorney.

“Because there was no arrest and no complainant, the incident never comes to the District Attorney’s office,” Watkins told Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan last week.

But the incident did indeed come to the Dallas County District Attorney, on or about August 7, 2012.  If it hadn’t, the District Attorney’s office never would have had a copy of the incident report from the Lancaster Police Department printed on that date.  The question becomes whether the District Attorney has anything else relating to the incident; a second request under the Texas Public Information Act for additional, specific information regarding the incident and any investigation has been prepared and sent to the Dallas County District Attorney.

For now, it’s clear the incident that appeared to be a faint, open-and-shut blip on the Lancaster, Texas radar screen somehow made its way to the ultimate law enforcement authority in all of Dallas County, which at last count had a population of 2.48 million.

While no video of the incident has emerged, it remains difficult to believe no video existed, especially since Wal-Mart routinely secures its many retail properties with surveillance cameras.  It also remains difficult to understand the decision of the responding officer not to immediately enter the Wal-Mart security office after someone reported that a woman was pulled and dragged from a car registered to Bryant but the alleged victim then claimed that she wasn’t “injured or assaulted in any way.”

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Josh McCown discusses his decision to join the Browns

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After quarterback Josh McCown somewhat surprisingly was cut by the Buccaneers, he joined PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss the situation.  After McCown somewhat surprisingly decided to join the Browns, he returned to PFT Live to talk about the situation.

McCown address his decision, how close he came to joining the Bills, whether he has spoken to Johnny Manziel (McCown hasn’t), and whether McCown got an advance look at the team’s new uniforms before putting pen to paper (he didn’t).

To hear the whole thing, click the thing in the thing below.

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Reports: Ted Ginn visiting Titans, 49ers

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Free agent receiver Ted Ginn has two more visits lined up.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Ginn visited the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday. Ginn will then head west for a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

The Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns have also expressed interest in Ginn.

Ginn was released by the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 23.

Ginn caught just 14 passes for 190 yards in his only season in Arizona while primarily contributing as a return specialist. He played for the 49ers from 2010-12 and the Panthers in 2013.

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Zimmer will make pitch to Peterson on Wednesday

Zimmer AP

Twelve days ago, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made during< em>PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio the pitch he’d present to running back Adrian Peterson, if Zimmer had the chance to do so.  On Wednesday, Zimmer finally gets that chance.

Via Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman will fly to Houston on Wednesday to meet with Peterson.  Last week’s ruling in Peterson’s federal-court challenge to his suspension, coupled with the league’s decision to return Peterson to the Commissioner-Exempt list, authorizes the face-to-face meeting.

On Monday, Spielman told reporters that the Vikings have been in contact with Peterson.

Peterson has expressed lingering concern about returning to Minnesota. His father, Nelson, recently confirmed reports that Peterson believes Vikings executive Kevin Warren worked with the NFL to keep Adrian away from the field in the 2014 season, even after Peterson resolved his criminal child-abuse case by pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges.

Ultimately, money will become a major factor, with the Vikings presumably willing and able to pay Peterson more than anyone else would — especially since a new team also would have to compensate the Vikings. The more Peterson is worth financially, the more he’s presumably worth in trade.

Zimmer’s PFT Live appearance from Indy, including the pitch he’d make to Peterson, appears below.

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C.J. Spiller says Bills informed him of LeSean McCoy deal

C.J. Spiller AP

As news broke that Buffalo had a deal in place to acquire Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, Bills running back C.J. Spiller was at NFL Network studios. And as Spiller related on Tuesday’s “NFL Total Access,” NFLN analyst Willie McGinest was the first to tell him of the trade.

Soon enough, though, the Bills were on the phone with Spiller to tell him they had made the deal — a move that all but ends Spiller’s career with Buffalo.

“[McGinest] walked in and said, ‘Did ya’ll hear that Kiko’s getting traded to the Eagles for Shady?’ ” Spiller said. “And to me, I thought he was joking, like just trying to play a joke on me, because he’s a Patriot, and I was a former Bill.

“But then, he put it on TV, and I seen it, and then probably about five minutes later, management called me and told me that they (were) going in that direction, and pretty much giving me a ‘Thank you for your services.’ ”

Spiller was then asked how he felt about the prospect of going into free agency in search of a new team.

“My feeling is still the same. Nothing’s changed,” Spiller said. “The gameplan’s still the same. The only thing is that I won’t be returning to Buffalo.”

Spiller indicated he was open to returning to the Bills, but the sixth-year pro said he understood players often have to change teams.

“Very few guys get to play (their) whole career at one team, but you know, unfortunately, that don’t happen in this business, and I found out today that that don’t happen in this business,” the 27-year-old Spiller said, smiling as he finished his thought and handling the moment about as well as anyone possibly could, given the circumstances.

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Rosenhaus: Eagles say no LeSean trade yet

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In response to the report that the Eagles will ship running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, agent Drew Rosenhaus contends that the deal isn’t done yet.

“I just spoke with the Eagles organization and there is no trade for LeSean at this time,” Rosenhaus said on Twitter.  “There have been discussions but nothing finalized.”

Nothing can be finalized until Tuesday, March 10 at 4:00 p.m. ET.  So the information the Eagles provided to Rosenhaus is correct, even if the two teams have struck a deal in principle.

Even if an agreement has been reached between the two teams, either side can back out.  If McCoy makes it clear that he’s not on board with the deal, the Bills may not want him.  So, basically, stay tuned.

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Report: Eagles, Bills swapping LeSean McCoy, Kiko Alonso

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As it turns out, the Eagles didn’t approach running back LeSean McCoy regarding a possible pay cut because the Eagles had other plans for McCoy.  Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Eagles will trade McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The agreement can’t be finalized until the start of the new league year, next Tuesday.  In theory, either side can back out until the clock strikes 4:00 p.m. ET  on March 10 and the paperwork is submitted.

It’s unclear whether other compensation will be involved.  For now, it appears to be a straight-up deal, player for player.

McCoy is due to earn $10.25 million in 2015.  Alonso, a second-round pick in 2013 who missed all of 2014 due to an offseason ACL tear, is due to earn a base salary of only $745,000.

Despite a slow start last season, McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards.  It’s unclear whether the Bills will attempt to restructure or extend his contract.  It’s also unclear whether McCoy will welcome the change of scenery from Philly to Buffalo.

The move underscores the willingness of the Bills to spend big in an effort to parlay their 9-7 finish in 2014 into the team’s first playoff appearance since 1999.  From Philly’s perspective, the trade makes it abundantly clear that coach Chip Kelly runs the show — and that there are no sacred cows.  Last year, DeSean Jackson got the heave-ho; this year, LeSean McCoy gets a one-way ticket out of town.

It also reunites Alonso with the man who recruited him to Oregon.  Which will serve only to fuel speculation that Kelly plans to do whatever it takes to get the quarterback he recruited to Oregon.

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