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NFLPA “coming after everyone” for breach of Freeman’s confidentiality under drug program

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The ongoing drama regarding Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman continues.

A day after ESPN’s Chris Mortensen dropped a fairly ominous hint regarding the possibility that Freeman is in the league’s substance-abuse program, Mortensen reports that Freeman is in Stage One.

It means that Freeman has done something — either a failed drug test, a missed test, or some other violation of the substance-abuse policy — to land in the lowest level of the program.

Mortensen reports that Freeman isn’t one strike away from a suspension, and that Freeman has a therapeutic use exemption for a prescription drug that is otherwise banned. (Mortensen doesn’t mention whether the medication is banned by the substance-abuse policy or the performance-enhancing drug policy.)

Typically, multiple violations of the substance-abuse policy are required before a suspension arises.  One violation of the performance-enhancing drug policy typically triggers a suspension.

The broader problem is that someone has committed a significant breach of the confidentiality requirements of the substance-abuse policy. A player’s status in the program is supposed to remain secret unless and until a suspension is finalized.

Breaches of the confidentiality relating to the substance-abuse program, which covers recreational substances, are all too common. Rarely if ever is action taken.

This time, it could be different. Per a league source, the NFLPA will be “coming after everyone” to determine who violated the confidentiality provisions by leaking news of Freeman’s status to Mortensen.

The leak could have come from one or more potential sources. The Buccaneers would know about Freeman’s status.  The league office would know, as would Freeman’s representatives.

Other teams would be entitled to know Freeman’s status only if Freeman were one strike away from a suspension.

It could be difficult to prove who said what to whom, but it’s about time the words on paper regarding the consequences of confidentiality (i.e., a fine of up to $500,000) come to life via an effort to prove who has violated the player’s legal rights under the CBA.

Even if the offender in this case is never caught, an aggressive attempt to enforce the rule could prompt folks who may be tempted to leak confidential drug policy information in the future to think twice.

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Biggest PFT Live ever coming Thursday from Radio Row


The first Super Bowl week for the three-hour PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio has produced some excellent conversations with current players, former players, media members, and others connected to the NFL. Thursday’ show from Phoenix breaks new ground for the program.

Twelve segments. Twelve guests.

Every segment, it’ll be someone else to talk a little about themselves, a little about the Super Bowl, a little about whatever product or service they’re endorsing this week, and a little about whatever happens to come up in the moment.

Today’s show includes, in chronological order, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, Bengals receiver A.J. Green, Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, Bills coach Rex Ryan, Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, legendary coach Dick Vermeil, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Hall of Fame finalist Tim Brown, and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon.

I’m worn out from just typing up the list of names.

All three hours of every show this week is simulcast at PFT, and the audio is always available at

Until 12:00 p.m. ET arrives, you can listen to the audio from Wednesday’s show, which included visits from former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson, NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell, Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, Bills running back Fred Jackson, Packers great Jerry Kramer, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, and former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Peterson Getty Images

Bills RB Fred Jackson says Patriots don’t need to cheat to win.

Former Dolphins QB Dan Marino is not surprised by #DeflateGate.

Ten years after his first one, Patriots DT Vince Wilfork is hungry for another Super Bowl.

CB Antonio Cromartie would be open to a return to the Jets.

Ravens K Justin Tucker is hoping for a long-term deal this offseason.

Even the Bengals can find a good #DeflateGate storyline of their own.

Browns CB Joe Haden hopes the team hangs onto Josh Gordon,

The Steelers could stand to learn from the Seahawks as it pertains to defense.

Will the Colts make a run at Ndamukong Suh?

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles hit it off with new coordinator Greg Olson.

RB LeGarrette Blount’s stay in Tennesseee was a short one.

The Broncos have plenty of marketable young stars.

Former Chiefs teammates are stumping for Will Shields for the Hall of Fame,

The Raiders’ search for a defensive coordinator winds on.

LaDainian Tomlinson thinks the Chargers should make a run at Adrian Peterson.

RB Ryan Williams gives the Cowboys some backfield options.

Former Giants S Will Hill owes $16,000 in child support.

Will the Eagles be able to afford their stars this offseason?

New Washington coordinator Joe Barry is “jacked” to be there.

Bears LB Lance Briggs isn’t sure about his future.

A former Lions kicker has a Kickalicious new video.

The Packers could still make a change at special teams coach.

A new lighting system will set the mood inside the new Vikings stadium.

Dan Quinn’s going to bring a new style of tackling to the Falcons.

Taking a look at how the Panthers might rebuild their WR corps.

Former Saints scouting director Rick Reiprish stands by his record.

Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith lost games, but not his locker room.

Seahawks LB O’Brien Schofield is past his bitter parting from the Cardinals.

Patriots WR Danny Amendola keeps up with his old Rams teammates.

The 49ers are finding out raising banners is easier said than done.

The Seahawks are healthy going into the Super Bowl.

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Woody Johnson: Reserving cash for the future not part of Jets’ makeup

New York Jets Introduce General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles Getty Images

When Jets Owner Woody Johnson was asked last season about then-General Manager John Idzik’s decision to hold onto some $20 million in cap space, he defended Idzik by saying that he approved of Idzik’s approach without mandating it.

Johnson also mentioned that he believes you should always have cash in reserve by never spending your last dollar. A few months can make a big difference. Whether because of the team’s results or a change in personal economic theory, Johnson has changed course.

During an interview with ESPN Radio in New York on Wednesday, Johnson reiterated that he didn’t direct Idzik to sit on his money and said that he now does not believe in the reserve approach he previously espoused.

I’m not going to say to him, ‘Save it.’ That’s ridiculous. We’re in this to win it,” Johnson said. “We’re in the win business. Reserving firepower in terms of cash for some future date is not part of the makeup of the New York Jets. We will spend what we are allowed to spend, to try to make us as competitive as we can be.”

New General Manager Mike Maccagnan has already said he plans to be “very active” in free agency this offseason and it seems that he’ll have no problem convincing Johnson to return to the freer spending ways of the years before Idzik implemented his more austere approach to running the team. That might turn out to be good news for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was purged last year for cap reasons but hits free agency off a rebound in Arizona with thoughts of a Jets reunion on his mind.

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Rams expected to stay in-house for offensive coordinator

Arizona Cardinals v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Nathaniel Hackett took a job as the Jaguars quarterbacks coach, which meant that the Rams will not be hiring him to run their offense for the 2015 season.

Offensive coordinator candidates fading off the radar has been a frequent occurrence for the Rams since Brian Schottenheimer left for a job at the University of Georgia and it looks like the team is going to cut down the distance of their search for his replacement. Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that it is “all but a certainty” that the team is likely to stay in-house to ultimately make the hire.

Quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti and tight ends coach Rob Boras are the options identified by Thomas. Both coaches have been on the Rams staff since Fisher became the head coach in St. Louis in 2012 and neither has been a coordinator at the professional level.

Boras did run the offense at UNLV for three years, however, and Cignetti was a coordinator at Fresno State, North Carolina, Cal, Pittsburgh and Rutgers along with previous quarterbacks coach work in the NFL.


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Questions raised about Blount orchestrating his return to Patriots

blount AP

Questions have been raised this week in Phoenix about whether Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount purposely got himself cut by the Steelers with the knowledge that if he left Pittsburgh, he could return to New England.

Blount was waived by the Steelers in November after walking off the field before the end of a game, and the Patriots re-signed him that week. That has resulted in stories with headlines like, “The other Patriots conspiracy theory: LeGarrette Blount’s scheme to reunite with Bill Belichick?” A segment on Pardon the Interruption discussed whether tampering rules were violated by the Patriots, who let Blount know he’d have a place to play if he got cut by the Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Blount answered with a soft “No” and shook his head when asked if he orchestrated his exit from the Steelers. Blount wouldn’t answer whether he knew the Patriots wanted him back before he left the Steelers.

But the conspiracy theories don’t make a lot of sense. Even if Blount was purposely acting out because he was unhappy in Pittsburgh, he had no way of knowing for sure that his act would result in the Steelers waiving him. It could have just as easily resulted in the Steelers suspending him or benching him, options that wouldn’t have had the desired effect. And the Patriots didn’t even claim Blount on waivers after Pittsburgh waived him. Some other team could have claimed him, which would have prevented Blount from getting back to New England.

So while it worked out well in the end for both Blount and the Patriots, that doesn’t mean it was planned in advance. A conspiracy theory makes for a good topic of conversation during Super Bowl week — even a conspiracy theory that doesn’t add up.

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Antonio Cromartie on Jets: I didn’t want to leave, I’m open to returning

Pro Bowl Getty Images

At this point last year, discussion about cornerback Antonio Cromartie centered on when the Jets would release him to save money under the cap following an injury-plagued and ineffective 2013 season.

Cromartie wound up getting cut in March and signing in Arizona, where he turned in a strong bounce back season with the Cardinals to set him up on stronger footing heading into this offseason. Cromartie is on track to be a free agent and talked about making a return to the Jets on Wednesday.

“My door is always open to returning,” Cromartie said, via the New York Post. “Everybody knows I didn’t want to leave. I’m going to keep my door open and see what happens.”

Cromartie isn’t the only former Jets cornerback that can be a free agent this offseason, but he might be the more realistic return option. He’ll cost less than Darrelle Revis and he comes with a year of work in new head coach and former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’s system under his belt. Cromartie said he thought Jets players accustomed to Rex Ryan would love Bowles and said he may meet with linebacker Demario Davis soon to give some pointers about Bowles’s scheme.

It doesn’t make sense for players about to hit the open market to limit their potential landing spots, but the Jets’ need at corner and Cromartie’s ties to the area (he’s living in New Jersey this offseason) suggest there could be something to this potential reunion beyond the Bowles connection.

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Joe Haden: Johnny Manziel is definitely not a joke

Johnny Manziel, Kyle Shanahan AP

Last week, a report from on Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel’s rookie season painted Manziel in a negative light.

Several unnamed members of the team slammed Manziel on various fronts, including one anonymous teammate who called his first NFL year a “100 percent joke.” Cornerback Joe Haden was willing to put a name on a different view.

Haden said that Manziel is “definitely not a joke” and named Phil Taylor and Travis Benjamin as two other teammates who feel that way. Haden said criticisms of Manziel’s work ethic, preparation and practice performance were overblown for a player that Haden suggested was held to an unfair standard.

“Johnny takes too much bashing for nothing and the thing is that being a quarterback in the NFL is so much harder,” Haden said, via “They can’t do anything. If Johnny is to do anything that shows him having fun instead of being in the meeting room, they blow him up.”

Linebacker Karlos Dansby has also chosen to avoid the cloak of anonymity to discuss his teammate. Dansby publicly called for Manziel to dedicate himself to the game in the past, but also said Wednesday that criticism of Manziel’s practice work was incorrect. He said Manziel made the defense “better every day” and that he thinks Manziel will do what it takes to improve heading into his second season.


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Darrell Bevell: Robert Turbin “understands his role”

Robert Turbin AP

Some teams use a running back-by-committee approach.

The Seahawks are not one of those teams.

Marshawn Lynch, of course, will get the vast majority of backfield snaps for Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX, and with good reason.

But even a back at the top of his game like Lynch needs a rest once in a while. And when that happens, the Seahawks turn to third-year pro Robert Turbin, who has carved a niche as the backup to Lynch.

The 25-year-old Turbin has been solid in limited opportunities for Seattle, gaining a little more than four yards per carry in 2014 in 83 rushing attempts over the regular season and postseason. He’s never missed a regular season or playoff game, and he’s lost just two fumbles in more than 300 touches on offense in that span.

At Wednesday’s media session, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell praised Turbin’s approach to the game.

“He does a great job. Number one, he understands his role and he embraces that role,” Bevell said, according to a transcript from the NFL. “He doesn’t gripe and complain about the role he is in. He is very prepared. If something happened and he had to play every snap, there would be no question that he would be able to get it done.

“He is a true professional who works hard at his craft. He tries to get better every day. No detail is too small for him. That is why you like guys like that in that role.”

Turbin’s role Sunday figures to be limited — around 10 snaps. But he’s earned that work, and he’s kept it for three seasons now. In a backfield where the starter dominates the carries, Turbin has nonetheless found a way to contribute.

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Pats could get Stork back for Super Bowl

Brady AP

The Patriots won the AFC title without the services of center Bryan Stork, who has a knee problem.  Injured in the divisional round against the Ravens, Stork could be back for Super Bowl XLIX.

According to the official injury report for Wednesday, Stork practiced on a limited basis.  Also practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday were linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (foot).

Quarterback Tom Brady fully participated despite a lingering ankle issue.  His cold apparently isn’t severe enough to merit a mention in the injury report.

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Tyrann Mathieu shares secrets on how to stop Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham Getty Images

Wednesday’s star-studded edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN included an LSU mini-reunion.  Former Tigers Odell Beckham Jr. (now with the Giants) and Tyrann Mathieu (now with the Cardinals) joined the program to discuss, among other things, how to slow down Beckham.

Mathieu told Paul Burmeister the best way to do it is with a quick jam at the line of scrimmage.

“I think somebody in his face the entire game, it’ll probably give him some trouble,” Mathieu said.

Beckham agreed:  “It’s true, it’s true,” he said.

“That’s probably one of the things that I want to work on the most is just that press game.  I feel like if you can get that first five yards down, I feel very comfortable about the rest of my game,” Beckham said.

Mathieu then got a chance (sort of) to demonstrate when Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed up to throw a pass to Beckham.  To see the whole exchange, click below.

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Broncos hiring Joe Woods as defensive backs coach

Houston Texans v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Broncos have added an experienced defensive backs coach to their staff.

Joe Woods, who oversaw the Raiders’ secondary in 2014, has agreed to become Denver’s defensive backs coach, the team said Wednesday night.

The 44-year-old Woods has worked with NFL defensive backs the last 11 seasons. Before his season with Oakland, he had stints with Minnesota (2006-2013) and Tampa Bay (2004-2005).

The news of Woods’ addition comes on the same evening Denver reached a deal with Wade Phillips to become defensive coordinator.

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Seahawks head toward Super Bowl with minimal injuries

Marshawn AP

On Friday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declared the shoulder injury to safety Earl Thomas to be “over.”  Technically, it isn’t.  As a practical matter, it is.

Thomas fully participated in the team’s “Competition Wednesday” practice session despite the shoulder injury.  Ditto for tackle Justin Britt (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (back; pictured), cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow), and guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle).

No injured players practiced on a limited basis or not at all.

The Seahawks will place an official availability label on each player after Friday’s practice.  Barring a setback, it’s hard to imagine any of them to be less than probable.

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Broncos hiring Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator

Wade Phillips AP

Wade Phillips is back for a second tour with the Broncos.

Phillips has agreed to become Denver’s defensive coordinator, the team announced Wednesday night.

Phillips, 67, was the Texans’ defensive coordinator from 2011 through 2013, working with head coach Gary Kubiak, with whom he will team again in Denver.

Phillips’ hiring could signal changes ahead for the Broncos’ defense. A move to a 3-4 scheme is likely; the club employed a “40” front a season ago.

Phillips was the Broncos’ head coach from 1993 through 1994 after a four-season stint as their defensive coordinator (1989-1992). This is his eighth stint as an NFL defensive coordinator. In addition to his prior work in Denver and Houston, he oversaw defenses in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Atlanta and San Diego.

Phillips also has a solid resume as a head coach, posting an 83-69 record. He was 16-17 in his two seasons with Denver.

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Revis, Patriots not talking yet

Revis AP

In March, the $20 million in 2015 compensation due and owing to Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis becomes fully guaranteed.  If the Patriots can’t work out with Revis a new deal before then, they’ll have to decide whether to pay the money or to cut him.

Per a league source, negotiations have not yet commenced between the Patriots and Revis on a new deal that would replace the current one.  The starting point presumably will be a package that pays out at least $20 million in the first year.

If the Patriots aren’t willing to go that high, the question becomes whether other teams will be willing to offer more than what the Patriots would put on the table.  Any team that provides that information to the player’s agent engages in tampering; agents, however, call it “gauging the market” in order to better assess the player’s value.

Multiple teams are expected to be interested in Revis, if he becomes available.  Teams currently believed to be interested include the Jets, Bills, Chiefs, and Browns.

Some think that the tampering charges filed by the Patriots against the Jets, based on public comments made by owner Woody Johnson about his interest in re-signing Revis, were intended primarily to scare the Jets away from pursuing Revis.

Drafted in 2007, Revis was traded to the Buccaneers in 2013.  After one season in Tampa, the Bucs opted not to continue his year-to-year $16 million annual arrangement, due in large part to the shift in defensive philosophy to the Cover 2.  Revis then signed with the Patriots a contract that was viewed as a one-year deal for cap purposes, with a trigger aimed at forcing a new contract or putting Revis back on the market.

To keep Revis off the market, there’s a chance the Patriots will have to fork over 2.5 times the amount they’ll be paying to quarterback Tom Brady in 2015.

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Two more candidates for Eagles job didn’t interview

Chip Kelly AP

The list of folks still in the running for the vacant personnel executive position in Philly could be a lot shorter than the list of men either who said “no thanks” or whose teams said “no touchy.”

Per a league source, the list of men who have declined interviews for the job includes Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutenkunst and Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.  Their teams either denied requests for permission or the candidates declined the opportunity.

Teams can deny permission because the job does not entail final say over the draft or the 53-man roster.

Earlier this month, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie promoted G.M. Howie Roseman to the position of executive V.P. of football operations, gave coach Chip Kelly full power over personnel, and authorized Kelly to hire his own table-setter from a player standpoint.  Kelly has not yet made a hire, and some believe the perception of a power struggle between Kelly and Roseman has caused some candidates to decide to avoid becoming essentially the buffer between the coach and the guy in charge of negotiating contracts.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that uncertainty exists in the agent community regarding Roseman’s role.  That uncertainty will linger until Kelly’s right-hand man in hired — and possibly longer.

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