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Nate Burleson describes chain of events that led to accident

Detroit Lions v Washington Redskins Getty Images

As Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson described it Friday, a series of little events led to the Tuesday morning auto accident that left him with a broken arm.

Burleson, who’s out indefinitely, told reporters that he was briefly distracted just before the incident.

“Hopped on the freeway and multitasking. I’ll be honest with you,” Burleson said, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “I’m the king of that. Well, I was.

“Plugging in my phone, reaching for something and I had some pizzas sitting in my passenger’s seat. They started to slide. Hand full of pizza.

“Once I looked up, I felt I was close to a vehicle, tried to correct the car, overcorrected it and boom, right into the center median.”

Burleson, per the Free Press, said he will return this season. Though he didn’t put a timetable on his return, he said it would be “sooner than I think a lot of people expect.”

Burleson, 32, has caught 19 passes for 239 yards in Detroit’s first three games. Entering Week Four, he was pace for about 101 catches and 1,275 yards, both of which would have been career-highs.

With Burleson out indefinitely, third-year pro Kris Durham is now listed as the starter opposite of Calvin Johnson at wide receiver.

Finally, for the record, Burleson told reporters his driving habits will change.

“I don’t want to sound like a public-service announcement, but like I said, I usually multitask a lot when I’m driving. And I’ve heard it all before: ‘Don’t do it.’ But, yeah, that’ll be the last time that I do anything,” Burleson said, per the Free Press.

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Eric Winston glad Jonathan Kraft “coming around” on player discipline

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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said in a recent radio interview that he thinks the league needs to take a look at possible changes to the way player discipline is meted out by the league office.

“There probably needs to be a rethinking so that the league office and the Commissioner aren’t put in a spotlight in a way that detracts from the league’s image and the game, even if the league office is doing the right thing, or the wrong thing, or whatever you think,” Kraft said. “It probably needs to be rethought for the modern era that we’re in and the different things that are coming up that I don’t think people anticipated and how the public wants to see them treated.”

Outside of a retweet of a story about Kraft’s comments from 49ers CEO Jed York, there hasn’t been much comment from ownership around the league about Kraft’s suggestion but NFLPA president Eric Winston liked what Kraft had to say. Winston said he’s “glad they’re coming around” and “starting to see what we’ve been seeing and what we’ve been saying” about the way NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wields his power over player discipline.

“I don’t want to keep pointing fingers at the league office, but that’s really what it is in the sense of running these rogue investigations that are clearly against the CBA,” Winston said, via USA Today. “An ex-commissioner has said so. Federal judges have said so. Arbitrators have said so. A lot of people can say, ‘Oh, well that’s just a partisan union hack.’ But don’t take my word for it. Take their word for it. Take federal judge David Doty recently questioning whether they know what the CBA says, because it’s clear to everybody but them that they’re not following it.”

Winston says he thinks every owner would see that the current system is “detrimental” to the game, something that doesn’t seem to be the case based on sentiments they’ve shared publicly.

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Crime rate among NFL players is relatively low, with some caveats

rayrice AP

The widespread perception that the NFL has a crime problem is contradicted by a detailed study of player arrests, which found that NFL players are arrested less often than men in their 20s and 30s as a whole.

Alex Piquero, a professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, says people who think NFL players are inordinately finding themselves in legal trouble are wrong.

“The data show that it’s not true. Over a 14-year period, for most types of crime, the general population has a greater rate of arrests than players in the NFL,” Piquero said.

Piquero’s research compared arrests of NFL players to crime data from the FBI for arrests among all men in the United States aged 20 to 39, stretching from 2000 to 2013. In every year, the crime rate was higher for American men in their 20s and 30s than for NFL players.

“The data show that the perception that NFL players are overly criminal compared to the U.S. population is false,” Piquero said. “In fact, when you look at the forest and not the trees, the trends over the 14-year period show that the general population has higher arrest rates than NFL players do.”

That’s not to say this research makes the NFL look great. For starters, NFL players are far wealthier than average men aged 20-39, which means they have far greater resources to keep themselves out of trouble — and far less incentive to commit crimes like theft. Other research has indicated that NFL players’ crime rates may be higher than crime rates of other wealthy Americans.

The researchers also weren’t able to determine whether rates of domestic violence — the crime that has brought the most negative attention to the NFL in the last year — are higher, lower or the same within the NFL as the general population.

And this research relies on media reports to determine how many players are arrested. But that may understate the actual number of arrests in the NFL because it’s possible that some players’ arrests are never reported.

Add it all up, and it’s not so clear that NFL players break the law any less often than American men as a whole. It may be more a matter of NFL players doing a better job of making their problems go away before an arrest hits the news. Especially if they’re taking Cris Carter’s advice.

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Chargers don’t see a problem with Melvin Gordon’s pass protection

Dallas Cowboys v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Running back Melvin Gordon came out of Wisconsin without much experience as a pass catcher or pass blocker, although that didn’t stop the Chargers from making him their first-round pick.

They also didn’t let that limited experience stop them from installing him at the top of their backfield depth chart either. Pass protection is going to be important if Gordon is going to be on the field often enough to play that role and if the Chargers are going to strike the right balance on offense this season.

All of that makes it a good sign that running backs coach Ollie Wilson says that he hasn’t seen anything from Gordon to suggest that he lacks the pass protection skills he needs to play in the NFL.

“I know this: When he matches up, he’ll put his head in and strike somebody,” Wilson said, via ESPN.com. “He’s a big-bodied guy, and he’s long, so he keeps people off of him. I don’t see what people say, that he won’t pass protect. I’ve had no problem with it.”

Wilson’s one concern with Gordon in that area is recognizing and adjusting to blitzes during the course of games. There’s only so much work that can be done on that front without actually playing in games so it seems Gordon will be proving himself under fire this season.

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Duane Brown to miss Sunday’s game with hand injury

Duane Brown AP

The Texans will be without their starting left tackle for their third preseason game of the year.

Coach Bill O’Brien said Friday that Duane Brown has a hand injury that will keep him out of Sunday’s matchup with the Saints. O’Brien said, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, that Brown will miss some time with the injury, although he doesn’t think it is particularly serious.

O’Brien also said that Brown is not expected to miss any regular season action at this point, although he pointed out that could change depending on how Brown’s injury responds. Ganguli reported that Brown had a “cast-like thing” on his right hand.

If he were to be out of the lineup for Houston, it would be a blow to a team already missing running back Arian Foster as Brian Hoyer settles in as their starting quarterback.

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PFT Live: Jets talk with Manish Mehta, Bills talk with Tyler Dunne

Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan AP

Friday’s PFT Live will bring you the latest on a couple of AFC East teams.

Mike Florio will talk to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News about the Jets ahead of Saturday’s game against their co-tenants at MetLife Stadium. They’ll discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick’s prospects at quarterback, Geno Smith’s recovery from a broken jaw and more.

Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News will also be on hand to talk about Rex Ryan’s new team. Quarterbacks will be a big topic in that conversation as well, namely Ryan’s decision to start EJ Manuel in the Bills’ third preseason game.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour by clicking right here.

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Ryan Mallett back to practice, with the third string

Ryan Mallett AP

It wasn’t that long ago when Ryan Mallett was competing for the Texans’ starting quarterback job.

Now, he’s working his way up the depth chart from the bottom.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Mallett was back in practice today after missing yesterday because he pulled a Jean-Paul, but he was running third in drills, behind starter Brian Hoyer and second-year quarterback Tom Savage.

If that’s not a message, nothing is, though Texans coach Bill O’Brien didn’t get into details yesterday when asked where Mallett was.

Mallett apparently threw a few touchdown passes in practice, and that’s going to be the only way for him to climb the ladder again — by performing.

Of course, they say biggest part of ability is availability (God I’ve heard a lot of coach cliches in my life), and that’s something Mallett obviously still needs to work on.

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Maurkice Pouncey likely to miss first 10 games

Maurkice Pouncey AP

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey appears likely to miss the first 10 games of the season with a broken fibula.

Although the team has not made the designation official, the Steelers’ website says Pouncey is expected to be placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list. That would mean he’d miss at least half the season. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Pouncey is likely to return after the Steelers’ bye week.

Pittsburgh’s bye is Week 11, which would mean Pouncey would miss 10 games and then perhaps be ready to Week 12, November 29 at Seattle.

Of course, less than a week after an injury, there’s no way to say for sure how long it will take a player to recover. Pouncey might recover faster than expected, or he might need more time. But for now, set the over/under at 10 games, and expect the Steelers to get their All-Pro center back for what they hope is a playoff push late in the year.

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Jeff Fisher says rules won’t change for zone-read quarterbacks

Jeff Fisher, Alan Eck, Laird Hayes AP

Two years ago, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh lobbied for greater protections for mobile quarterbacks. Greater protections weren’t adopted then, and they likely won’t be adopted now, or in the near future.

In response to the most recent debate regarding whether quarterbacks who have adopted the zone-read posture have any protections beyond those that apply to ball carriers, a member of the league’s Competition Committee doesn’t see the rules changing.

“The Committee talks about this every year,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters on Thursday. “We have rules in the rule book that are very specific. If the quarterback is in a throwing position, he gets protection. But in the event that the ball is handed off, at that instant, there’s no telling whether or not he is a runner or not, so he loses that protection.

“So, I don’t see that changing. You get the complaints in opposition from those that are running the read option, and those that [don’t] understand the rule probably a little bit more. There’s obviously a push to protect the quarterback, but you have to give the defensive players a chance. All of the quarterback has to do is pull the ball and he’s a runner. How’s the defender going to know if the ball is pulled or not? The quarterback gets plenty of protection in the pocket and he picks up protection out of the pocket, he’s got protection down the field on his slides. The read-option posture, I think everybody is clear as to the rule. It didn’t look right, but the [Sam] Bradford hit, it was a legal hit according to the rules.”

The key word indeed is posture. When a quarterback adopts the know-it-when-you-see-it zone-read posture, the goal is to make the defense uncertain as to who has the ball, in the hopes of getting the defense to pursue someone who doesn’t have it.

That’s exactly what happened with Bradford. He duped Terrell Suggs into pursuing the guy who didn’t have the football. So it’s disingenuous for anyone from the Eagles to complain about the fact that Bradford got hit when the goal was to lure Suggs to guy who didn’t have the ball.

It’s like saying, “We tried to fool you and it worked. How dare you!”

Regardless, the rules remain the same, and it looks like they won’t be changing.

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NFL, NFLPA tweak start of new league year

Calendar Getty Images

With the start of a new regular-season looming, it’s just a matter of time before a new league year will be launching in March.

And for those of you who look forward to the annual opportunity for your favorite team to get better (or worse) via the movement of veteran players in free agency, mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 9, at 4:00 p.m. ET. That’s when the period for signing free agents from other teams and making trades opens after the coming season closes.

The shift of the start of the league year to a Wednesday means that the three-day legal tampering period will begin on Sunday, March 6, at 12:00 p.m. ET. In previous years, free agency opened on a Tuesday, and the legal tampering period started on Saturday.

These dates were communicated on Thursday to all teams as a shift in the launch of the new league year, per agreement of the NFL and NFL Players Association.

The change also has triggered a shift in the two-week franchise tag window by a day, with the period for applying the tag opening on Tuesday, February 16, and closing on Tuesday, March 1.

With the Super Bowl happening on February 7 this year (due to the fact that Labor Day lands as late as possible this year, on September 7), there will be only nine days of down time before the offseason starts heating up — and only four weeks and three days until it explodes with the launch of a new league year.

The full list of upcoming dates and deadlines for the NFL appears here.

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Greg Toler’s neck injury will keep him out longer than originally expected

Trey Burton, Greg Toler AP

When Colts cornerback Greg Toler hurt his neck against the Bears last Saturday, it didn’t seem like something that would keep him off the field for long because coach Chuck Pagano said his status was day-to-day.

On Thursday, Pagano updated Toler’s condition and the revision extended the timeline for the starting corner’s return to the lineup.

“As you go through and the doctors evaluate, that’s where he’s at right now,” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star. “He’s week-to-week.”

With the start of the regular season a couple of weeks away, that downgrade in condition creates some doubt about Toler’s ability to make it back to the lineup for Week One. Toler started 15 games for the Colts last season as part of a corner tandem with Vontae Davis.

The Colts play the Rams on Saturday night and Toler’s injury will give other cornerbacks like third-round pick D’Joun Smith more reps with the first team.

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Bradford will play Saturday, but Kelly won’t say how much

Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford AP

Even with the starting quarterback on the other side unlikely to play and last week’s big hit by Terrell Suggs still a topic of discussion, Eagles coach Chip Kelly plans to play Sam Bradford in Saturday night’s preseason game at Green Bay.

Kelly isn’t saying how much Bradford will play, though, and it may depend on the weather. If it rains, Kelly might play it extra careful with his oft-injured new quarterback.

Bradford did not play in the first preseason game. He played 14 plays last week, all in one series, on what was essentially the one-year anniversary of the ACL tear that ended his 2014 season and was his second torn ACL in nine months.

Kelly has said he doesn’t need to exercise caution with Bradford but has said Bradford is making “daily progress” towards getting up to full speed physically and with the Eagles offense.

The Packers, still stinging from last week’s torn ACL that will cost star wide Jordy Nelson the season, are unlikely to play Aaron Rodgers in Saturday’s game. But Bradford is anxious to play more than one series as the Eagles prepare for their Sept. 14 season opener.

“It’s nice to go onto the field multiple times, establish that rhythm, come over, work on that communication with the line, the receivers [and] talk about what we’re seeing on the field, so when it gets to the regular season, that’s not something we’re working through,” Bradford said.

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Will Hill grateful to Ravens for doing what the Ravens do

Baltimore Ravens Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

Not every team would extend a player who has been suspended three times by the league for either substance abuse or PED violations.

Then again, not every team is Father Ozzie’s Home for Wayward Boys.

In extending safety Will Hill’s deal through the 2016 season, the Ravens continued their reputation as giver of second chances (or thirds), and that’s why General Manager Ozzie Newsome was excited to approach Hill on the practice field yesterday and give him the news the deal was done.

“He said, ‘I think highly of you,’ and I told him I thought highly of him and this organization, too,’” Hill said, via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. ‘Now, it’s time to take it to the next level and try to win a championship.”

The Ravens brought him in last year when the Giants released him, though he was suspended the first six games of the season. Then they did what they do, which is wrap their arms around guys other teams might not give chances to.

“It means a lot to me, just for this organization to even consider [having] me for more years than what they planned to in the beginning of the offseason,” Hill said. “When I first signed and I sat down with Ozzie, I knew from that point that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to be a Raven, and this extension, it just helped out and it gives me a lot of confidence on the playing field and it helps me see what the organization thinks of me.”

Of course, there’s something in this for Baltimore beyond benevolence. Hill could lend some stability in the secondary, which Newsome has overhauled in the last year. After losing Matt Elam to a season-ending biceps injury, they needed something secure, and in showing faith in Hill, they did just that.

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Mike Evans: I could play on hamstring, but no reason to risk it

Mike Evans, Major Wright AP

The Buccaneers shut wide receiver Mike Evans down for the rest of the preseason this week because of the hamstring injury he suffered in last week’s game, but Evans isn’t showing much concern that the injury will impact him once the regular season gets underway.

Evans said Thursday that while he agrees that keeping him out of the last two preseason games is the wisest course of action, his hamstring feels well enough that he could play in a game this weekend.

“I think it’s smart,” Evans said, via the Tampa Tribune. “There’s no reason to risk it. I’ve already proven myself. And this way I can just try to get back for Week 1 of the regular season.”

When Evans is back, he’s looking forward to playing the split end/X receiver spot in the offense this season. He thinks he’ll “get more opportunities” lining up on the line of scrimmage than he did as the flanker, something that should work out well for the Bucs if Jameis Winston has a firm grasp of the offense in his rookie season.

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Jay Gruden: Criticize my coaching, but don’t call me fat

Jay Gruden AP

It’s been another rough week for Jay Gruden.

Questions about Robert Griffin III’s concussion and the quarterback’s continued struggles in the offense have revived talk about dysfunction inside the Redskins organization, leading to columns like the one Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post wrote on Friday around his observation that it “already feels like the season is starting to rot.”

Gruden said Thursday that he knows changing the “perception of this franchise” will require the team to win games and said that he and his players are “used to blocking out the noise” coming from outside the team. He did find one bit of negativity that crossed the line, however.

“I listen to it a little bit. I read some articles,” Gruden said, via Mike Jones of the Washington Post. “I kind of have to be up to date so when I come up here, I’m aware of what’s going on. I really dislike the guy that called me a fat ass. That really ticked me off. I don’t mind you critiquing my coaching style, but to make fun of my weight, that’s unfair. I’m only 225 [pounds]. But other than that, man, it’s football. If you win, you usually get positive reviews as a coach.”

Jones adds that Gruden was laughing when he took issue with the crack about his weight, which was made by radio host Scott Ferrall during a rant about Gruden’s decision to leave Griffin in against the Lions last week despite the repeated hits that Griffin took while trying to run the offense. Whether he really took offense or not, the good news for Gruden is that people will have plenty of criticisms to lob in his direction that have nothing to do with the size of his posterior as long as things keep going the way they have over the last year-plus.

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Randy Gregory makes a different kind of play, earns early camp exit

Randy Gregory AP

Rookie pass-rusher Randy Gregory keeps making plays that make the Cowboys smile.

But Thursday, it wasn’t a sack or a pressure.

Via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Gregory bought the team an early departure from training camp by successfully fielding a punt. Coach Jason Garrett told his players they’d break early if one of the six linemen he chose could catch one (although we can’t imagine he’d have unloaded the planes and stayed an extra day if they didn’t).

“I had to step up, catch one for the team, send us back home,” Gregory said. “The pressure was all on me. I guess I performed well.”

Gregory said he hadn’t caught a punt since his freshman year in high school, but that didn’t deter him, completing the challenge on the first attempt. That created a celebration, as the players got home a day early before their home preseason opener against the Vikings this weekend.

“It’ll be good to get everybody back home, sleeping in their own bed tonight,” Garrett said. “We’ll go into Valley Ranch tomorrow and have a regular day before the game schedule and then play Saturday night.”

Of course, the Cowboys are counting on Gregory having impact in other ways this season, particularly early in the year, while Greg Hardy’s serving his four-game suspension. All the early returns on the second-round pick from Nebraska have been positive, and the Cowboys hope he rewards them for taking a chance on him when other teams were unwilling to.

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