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Darryl Sharpton fined for horse-collar tackle against Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch, Darryl Sharpton AP

The Texans didn’t have much go right for them after halftime against the Seahawks in Week Four and the hits have kept on coming even after an overtime field goal sent them home losers.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday that linebacker Darryl Sharpton has been fined by the league for a horse-collar tackle during the game. Sharpton brought down Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch by the back of the shoulder pads and was penalized on the field, which meant Kubiak was expecting to hear that the linebacker owed some money.

“Usually if you get an unnecessary roughness play, there’s like an immediate fine that you have to appeal, unless they think it’s a missed call,” Kubiak said, via the Houston Chronicle.

Kubiak didn’t divulge the amount of the fine and also said that the team hasn’t heard from the league about a fine for cornerback Kareem Jackson, who was penalized for throwing Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin to the ground after a play was ruled over during overtime. Kubiak said Monday that he disagreed with the call and we’ll find out by the end of the week whether the league agreed with his take.

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Vince Wilfork’s horse wins second straight race on Thursday

Vince Wilfork AP

Well, Thursday wasn’t a total loss for Vince Wilfork.

Great Minds, a racehorse owned by Wilfork, won the fifth race at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans this afternoon. It’s the second win in less than a month for Great Minds, a four-year-old gelding.

The horse’s victory came hours after Wilfork announced the Patriots would not be exercising his contract option for 2015.

Fifth of eight horses at the head of the stretch, Great Minds closed down the center of the course to best second-place finisher Liberal Spin by a head. The race was contested on turf at about 5.5 furlongs, or a little less than three-quarters of a mile.

The winner’s share of the purse was $22,800, increasing Great Minds’ career earnings to $89,765. In addition to the two wins, Great Minds has a pair of second-place finishes and one third-place tally in 10 starts.

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Wal-Mart says it doesn’t have video of July 2011 incident

WalMart Getty Images

In the early-morning hours of July 11, 2011, someone called the Lancaster, Texas police to explain that a man pulled a woman from a Mercedes registered to Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and dragged her to another car.  A woman later returned with Bryant to the scene to tell the police that she wasn’t assaulted “in any way.”

Despite this conflict in the evidence, the Lancaster, Texas police officer didn’t enter the Wal-Mart store and request an immediate opportunity to review the available surveillance video.  Which means that Wal-Mart didn’t officially preserve the video evidence that would have been captured by its cameras.

Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what Wal-Mart told Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal on Thursday.

“Wal-Mart director of national media relations, Brian Nick, said because no charges had been filed, the company would not have pulled the security footage at the time and created a videotape of the incident,” Kaplan writes.

Implicit in Nick’s answer is that security footage of the incident at one point existed and was in the possession of Wal-Mart for a period of time after the incident occurred.  Nick also was explaining the company’s normal procedures in cases like this; as a corporate-level employee, he wouldn’t know whether someone at the Lancaster Wal-Mart decided on his or her own to preserve the footage.

Nearly two weeks ago, when I mentioned during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that multiple NFL insiders were investigating the existence of a videotape of an incident involving Dez Bryant, I made it very clear that I didn’t know whether a video exists.  I still don’t know whether a video exists.  I said that people who cover the NFL had been aggressively pursuing the story (including the possible existence of a video), and that many league insiders are aware of the story.  Adam Schefter of ESPN thereafter confirmed that, indeed, people who cover the NFL had been aggressively pursuing the story.

Though I shared no specifics during the February 20 segment with Shan Shariff and R.J. Choppy of 105.3 The Fan, the police report obtained last month and published last week by NFL Media meshes with the details I’d been given back in November:  (1) something happened outside a Dallas-area Wal-Mart; (2) the incident occurred in 2011; and (3) the incident involved a woman being dragged across the parking lot.

Currently, we know the Lancaster police department doesn’t have the video because the Lancaster police officer never asked to see it.  We also now know that a Wal-Mart spokesman claims it didn’t preserve the video as a matter of corporate policy because law enforcement didn’t ask Wal-Mart to do so.

But we don’t know whether anyone at Wal-Mart preserved the images separate from an official law-enforcement directive to do so.  We also don’t know whether Carl King or Christopher Mitchell, who arrived at the scene in an Escalade registered to Bryant to retrieve the Mercedes that was parked with the door still open, will share with the media what they know about the incident.

Likewise, we don’t know anything about Alex Penson’s knowledge of the incident; he’s the man with whom the alleged victim claims she simply had an argument.  Even though the police report says the officers spoke with “all parties involved,” there’s no evidence that anyone ever asked Penson whether he was in the Wal-Mart lot on or about 6:00 a.m. on July 11, 2011, whether he had an argument with the alleged victim, and/or whether he dragged her out of the Mercedes registered to Dez Bryant and/or dragged her to another car.

It’ll be interesting to see whether King, Mitchell, and/or Penson ever talk to the media about what happened in the Wal-Mart parking lot that morning.

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Aldon Smith trades guaranteed salary for roster bonuses

Aldon Getty Images

Under the fifth year of his top-10 rookie deal, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was due to earn a fully guaranteed (as of Tuesday) base salary of $9.754 million.  He’ll now earn that money only if he’s on the roster for the entire season.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Smith has converted his salary to a series of roster bonuses and salary that ultimately will pay him up to $9.754 million.

The specifics aren’t presently known.  Maiocco explains that Smith will receive “incremental” bonuses, starting in April.  He’ll earn $2 million before the start of the regular season.  The balance of the $9.754 million will come from base salary and 53-man roster bonuses paid throughout the season.

It means that, in return for a $2 million advance paid out from April through August, the 49ers will have the ability to cut Smith and avoid all or part of the money.

“It wasn’t like they said, ‘If you don’t do this, you’re cut,’” agent Doug Hendrickson told Maiocco.  “The thought behind it is that Aldon realizes he’s been his own worst enemy.  He has come a long way since he was suspended.  Ultimately his goal, my goal and the team’s goal is for him to sign a long-term contract with the Niners. . . .

“He’s basically saying, ‘I’m willing to bet on myself that I will not do anything stupid.'”

It’s possible Smith already did something stupid by betting on himself.  What does he gain if the bet pays off?  Nothing more than he would have been entitled to as of Tuesday.

Smith’s decision suggests that something other than a “bet on himself” is happening.  The fact that Smith will start collecting portions of money he otherwise wouldn’t have seen until the regular season starts suggests that Smith may have wanted (or perhaps needed) to trade financial security for cold, hard cash.  The fact that he gave up $9.754 million guaranteed for $9.754 million non-guaranteed suggests that, even without an ultimatum from the team, Smith may have been concerned that he would have been released before Tuesday.

It’s possible that the payoff will be a long-term deal with the 49ers before his rookie deal expires and Smith becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency.  Based on the grossly team-friendly deal that the 49ers foisted upon Colin Kaepernick last year, however, Smith could be better off forcing his way to the open market, where pass rushers who have racked up 44 career sacks in 50 career games don’t have to bet on themselves in order to get paid.

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Broncos reach four-year deal with long-snapper Aaron Brewer

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The Broncos have reached a deal with one of their restricted free agents, agreeing to a four-year contract with long-snapper Aaron Brewer on Thursday, the club said.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Brewer’s contract is worth $4 million, with a $740,000 signing bonus. Brewer (6-5, 230) notched three special teams tackles in 2014, per club statistics.

The 24-year-old Brewer has been Denver’s long-snapper the last three seasons. He signed with the club as an undrafted free agent out of San Diego State in 2012.

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Dockett looks forward to playing Cardinals twice per year

Dockett Getty Images

Thursday began with news that defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, an 11-year fixture in Arizona, agreed to terms with the 49ers.  Dockett later explained that one of the best aspects of his decision to sign with San Francisco was the opportunity to face his former team on multiple occasions.

“All I can say for San Fran is that they won the lottery,” Dockett told FOX Sports 910 in Arizona, via 49ers.com.  “The biggest thing is I get to play Arizona two times a year, so you know what time it is.”

It’s time for the Cardinals to find a permanent replacement for Dockett.

“My time in Arizona is over, and now it’s time for me to take my work ethic, my heart and my passion to another team,” Dockett said.  “And unfortunately for them, it’s for a rivalry team.  Now it’s all business.  I’m coming to win.”

Dockett said he was drawn to the 49ers due in part to the presence of coach Jim Tomsula, San Fran’s long-time defensive line coach.

“For me, the head coach is a defensive line coach, and people fail to realize, man, this guy is awesome,” Dockett said. “After every game I played against San Francisco, he was one of the guys who always came over and we talked it up.  He admired my game and admired what I bring to the table.”

Regardless, Dockett’s decision arose not from a desire to leave Arizona but from an impasse over his value to the team.  The 49ers decided to offer him more than the Cardinals had offered.  If the Cardinals had outbid the 49ers, Dockett likely would have remained in Arizona.  While talk of Tomsula being “awesome” and 49ers players welcoming Dockett to the team sounds good, money talked more loudly than anything else.  As it usually does.

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Chiefs move on from Joe Mays

Mays Getty Images

The days before the start of the new league year routinely feature teams creating cap space by moving on from contracts with cap numbers they no longer can justify.  On Thursday, the Chiefs did just that with veteran linebacker Joe Mays.

Mays, perhaps best known for a hit on quarterback Matt Schaub that dislodged a piece of his ear, was due to earn a salary of $2.35 million in 2015, along with a per-game roster bonuses of up to $350,000.  The Chiefs will carry $1 million in dead money arising from the $2 million signing bonus Mays received in 2014.

A sixth-round pick of the Eagles in 2008, Mays also has played for the Broncos and Texans.  He appeared in eight games with three sacks in 2014, racking up zero sacks and no whole or partial auriculectomies.

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Colts tender Jerrell Freeman, Boom Herron, Daniel Adongo

jerrellfreeman AP

The Colts made the necessary offers to hang onto some of their restricted free agents today.

Most notably, the Colts tendered restricted free agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman at the second-round level. That means any team signing Freeman away would have to give the Colts a second-round draft pick. That won’t happen, and the Colts will keep Freeman for a salary of about $2 million this season.

The Colts also made qualifying offers to three exclusive rights free agents: Running back Daniel “Boom Herron,” linebacker Daniel Adongo and linebacker Cam Johnson.

Herron got increasing playing time late last season when the Colts finally began to realize that Trent Richardson simply isn’t good enough, and Herron out-played Richardson down the stretch. (Not that that’s saying much.) With the qualifying offer, Herron will be back in Indianapolis this season, potentially as their starting running back.

Adongo is a former rugby player who’s been with the Colts for two years. He hasn’t done much of anything yet, but the Colts think he has the athletic talent to amount to something, and they’ll give him at least another offseason to see what he can do.

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Jerry Jones is ordered to testify in Super Bowl ticket case

jerryjones AP

The plaintiffs in the Super Bowl XLV ticket case may not get the verdict that they want, but they’ve secured another victory on the path to whatever justice they’ll obtain.

In 2013, the plaintiffs secured the ability to question Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose deposition was played for the jury earlier this week.  Per multiple reports, the judge presiding over the case has now ruled that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will be required to testify live and in person at the trial.

Jones resisted the effort to compel his testimony.

The NFL has acknowledged responsibility for the failure to have enough seats in place to correspond to the tickets sold.  At trial, the plaintiffs are trying to demonstrate that the NFL engaged in a sufficiently high level of misconduct to justify punitive damages and/or other compensation above and beyond the out-of-pocket losses suffered by fans who traveled to Dallas, showed up at the stadium, and found out they wouldn’t be watching the game.

Whatever the outcome of the trial, Jones’ testimony could be entertaining given his history of extemporaneous speaking and the dangers of billionaires trying to dodge and parry with lawyers asking questions the billionaires don’t want to answer.

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49ers sign Jerome Simpson to two-year deal

Jerome Simpson AP

Jerome Simpson will attempt to jump-start his career in San Francisco.

Simpson, the former Bengals and Vikings wide receiver, has signed a two-year contract with the 49ers, the club said Thursday.

The 29-year-old Simpson has gained 13.8 yards per catch in his six-year NFL career. He was out of football in 2014 after Minnesota released him in September toward the end of a three-game suspension for a violation of the substance-abuse policy. He also served a three-game ban at the start of the 2012 season after a marijuana-related arrest and plea.

With Michael Crabtree set to be a free agent and Stevie Johnson’s future in San Francisco in question, the 49ers’ receiving corps could undergo some real changes this offseason. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Simpson’s size and athleticism can make him a field-stretching threat, and he certainly has the talent to make the roster, but he’ll probably need to do the little things well, too, in order to stick with San Francisco.

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Panthers sign Greg Olsen to three-year contract extension

Greg Olsen AP

The Panthers entered the offseason needing to add offensive weapons.

But their first move was to hang onto their most explosive one.

The Panthers announced that tight end Greg Olsen had signed a three-year extension to keep him in place through the 2018 season.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus told PFT the deal was worth $22.5 million with $12 million to sign.

It’s really a dream come true,” Olsen said. “Since we’ve come to Charlotte, we very quickly realized that this is home. This community quickly embraced our family, so we put down roots here. We love it here. This is home for us.

“Now to have this contract that guarantees that I’ll play the rest of my career in Charlotte is a tremendous blessing. We’re just so thankful for the team believing in me and wanting me to still be a part of this. As a team, we have a lot of special times ahead of us.”

Originally acquired in a trade with the Bears, Olsen’s coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance after an 84-catch, 1,008-yard season.

He was Cam Newton’s most dependable receiver last season, as they’re developing wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

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Maurice Jones-Drew announces retirement

Maurice Jones-Drew AP

Maurice Jones-Drew is calling it a career.

Jones-Drew, a nine-year NFL veteran and a long-time Jaguars standout running back, announced his retirement Thursday on Twitter.

“Football has been a central part of my life for the past 24 years,” Jones-Drew wrote. “But, now I’m excited about and looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”

One of the most unique backs of any era, the 5-foot-7, 210-pound Jones-Drew amassed 11,111 rushing-receiving yards and 91 touchdowns. A second-round pick of Jacksonville in 2006, Jones-Drew burst on the scene as a rookie, scoring 15 touchdowns, which endeared him to Jaguars fans and fantasy-football enthusiasts alike.

And Jones-Drew’s tenacity made a mark, too. Look no further than his clean, de-cleating block of the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman early in his career.

After eight seasons with Jacksonville, Jones-Drew joined the Raiders for the 2014 season, but he mustered just 96 yards on 43 carries.

Now, the 29-year-old Jones-Drew’s career is at a close, by his choice, and there will forever be a place for him in the game’s lore as a back who, for many years, played bigger than his program weight and height.

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Jets, Titans slated for visits with Cary Williams

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

Cornerback Cary Williams isn’t lacking for interest in the wake of his release from the Eagles.

Williams is visiting with the Seahawks on Thursday and he’ll have two more visits lined up if he doesn’t strike a deal with the defending NFC champs. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Williams is scheduled to meet with the Jets next, assuming no other actual jet mishaps or winter weather force further closures of airports in the area, and then go to see the Titans on Monday.

Should Williams land with the Jets, he’ll surely get plenty of opportunities to share his feelings about the Patriots. Last summer, Williams made headlines by calling New England “cheaters” and returned an interception for a touchdown in a preseason outing.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Ravens have shown some interest in a reunion with one of their former players and that the Steelers may also move into the mix for Williams’s services.

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Bills tender WR Chris Hogan, two other exclusive-rights free agents

Chris Hogan AP

The Bills have tendered one-year contracts to three exclusive-rights free agents: wide receiver Chris Hogan, defensive tackle Corbin Bryant and wide receiver Justin Brown. The club announced the contract offers Thursday.

The 26-year-old Hogan emerged as a regular member of the club’s WR corps in 2014, catching 41 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns.

Bryant, 26, notched 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 16 games as a defensive line reserve.

A sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2013, Brown caught 12 passes for 94 yards this season for Pittsburgh. The Bills added the 23-year-old Brown on waivers in February.

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Land for Carson stadium will be purchased this month

Land Getty Images

Regardless of whether the Chargers and Raiders move to a new stadium to be built in Carson, California, the Chargers will own a large piece of land there.

According to Nathan Fenno and Tim Logan of the Los Angeles Times, the Chargers already have agreed to purchase from Starwood Capital Group the property on which the stadium would be built.

“There are no contingencies, there is no option,” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani told the Times.  “We have to buy it.  Starwood has to sell it.”

Meanwhile, an effort has been launched to secure 8,041 signatures, which would result in a ballot initiative landing in the lap of the Carson City Council.  If the members of the council approve the effort, the public would then vote on the plan.

The initiative would create a public authority that would own the team and lease it to the Chargers and Raiders.  Despite the public ownership of the venue, no tax money would be spent on the project.  Goldman Sachs and others have loaned $850 million to the effort, with the money being repaid from stadium revenues.

The Carson project currently is competing with a project in Inglewood for the privilege of building an NFL stadium.  AEG still hopes to build a stadium in downtown L.A.

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Bengals extend Rey Maualuga

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga is staying in Cincinnati.

The Bengals have announced that Maualuga, who was slated to become a free agent next week, has signed a three-year contract to remain with the team.

Maualuga has had his share of injury issues but has always been a starter when healthy, since the Bengals chose him in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. Last year Maualuga played 12 games in the regular season, and the Bengals’ playoff game.

The 28-year-old Maualuga would have drawn some interest elsewhere, but he’s been a mainstay in Marvin Lewis’s defense and can now return to his spot in the starting lineup in Cincinnati.

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