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Sam Baker, Akeem Dent ruled out for Falcons

Sam Acho, Sam Baker AP

The Falcons won’t be at full strength when they welcome the Jets to the Georgia Dome on Monday night.

The team has ruled out left tackle Sam Baker and linebacker Akeem Dent for the game. Baker missed the Week Three loss to the Dolphins with a knee injury and then aggravated it in his return to the field against the Patriots last Sunday night. The injury obviously hasn’t made much progress since then, so the Falcons will go with Lamar Holmes, who recently lost the starting right tackle job to Jeremy Trueblood, at left tackle on Monday.

Dent left the Patriots game with an ankle injury and hasn’t practiced this week. He’ll be replaced by Omar Gaither in a linebacking corps already without Sean Weatherspoon.

Wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White were both limited participants in practice and both are expected to play. Running back Steven Jackson didn’t practice and is expected to miss another game and return after the Week Six bye, but coach Mike Smith said Thursday that Jackson hasn’t been ruled out of the lineup yet.

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NFL offered Brady “at least 50 percent” reduction in exchange for admission of guilt


Before Roger Goodell the Arbitrator upheld Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four game suspension, Roger Goodell the Commissioner offered to make a deal with Brady.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL was willing to drop the suspension by “at least 50 percent” if Brady: (1) admitted to having knowledge of whatever John Jastremski and Jim McNally were doing to the footballs; (2) admitted to failing to cooperate with the Ted Wells investigation; and (3) apologized.

It’s believed that Brady’s suspension would have been dropped at least to two games, with the possibility of dropping it to one if he were sufficiently persuasive and profuse in his acceptance of guilt.

Although Goodell has ruled, settlement talks can continue because the litigation is just getting started. And if Brady were inclined to cry “uncle,” he could get the suspension reduced by two (or maybe three) games.

Unless the federal judge who ultimately handles the case tells Brady that he’ll definitely lose in court if he doesn’t take the deal, Brady likely won’t be settling. Even then, he may prefer not accepting responsibility and sitting out four games to confessing and cutting it in half.

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Jen Welter: Coaching in the NFL is a dream girls can have

Arizona Cardinals Introduce Levon Kirkland and Jen Welter Getty Images

New Cardinals coaching intern Jen Welter, the first woman to work on an NFL coaching staff, is hoping girls will see what she’s doing and dream of being not just the next Jen Welter, but the next Pete Carroll or Bill Belichick.

Welter said today that she fell in love with football as a little girl, but she didn’t think there was a future in football for women. Playing in a minor professional football league, however, made her think differently and begin to look for opportunities in coaching.

“I didn’t even dream that it was possible. And I think the beauty of this is that though it’s a dream I never had, now it’s a dream that other girls can have. I guess if that makes me a trailblazer, then I’m honored,” Welter said.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians noted that two of his previous interns were hired this year as full-time assistant coaches, and Welter may get that opportunity some day. And a generation of girls watching Welter today may one day live in a world where it’s not even news when an NFL team hires a female coach.

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John Mara: “Very disappointing” Pierre-Paul didn’t let team see him

John Mara AP

Jason Pierre-Paul kept the Giants at arm’s length while recovering from the loss of a finger in a fireworks accident.

And Giants co-owner John Mara thinks his franchise-tagged defensive end is receiving bad counsel.

Via Steve Serby of the New York Post, Mara said it was “very disappointing” that Pierre-Paul would not allow Giants officials to visit him in the hospital, and that he had “no idea” when Pierre-Paul would report.

“I don’t think JPP is receiving very good advice right now,’’ Mara said. “He has told people that he’s fine and he’s going to be ready to play, but until we see the hand, we’re just not sure.”

The Giants report to camp Thursday, though Pierre-Paul is not expected to be there after the severe injuries suffered on July 4th.

When asked his initial reaction to the news, Mara said it wasn’t fit for print.

“I think I may have used some language that I wouldn’t like my grandchildren to hear me use,’’ Mara said. “I could not believe, that here we haven’t even gone to training camp yet and we’ve lost two starters — one [left tackle Will Beatty] in the weight room and one to a fireworks accident. So it was more of a state of disbelief that I was in. I’ve been around a long time, seen a lot of things, . . . but this one was a shock.’’

Mara also wasn’t prepared to discuss how it would affect Pierre-Paul’s contractual future with the team. He hasn’t signed his $14.8 million tender and the team hasn’t rescinded it, though they did pull their long-term offer off the table.

But until they can get a good look at him, they won’t know how to proceed.

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Patriots: “Extremely disappointed” in Goodell’s Brady decision

Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft

Patriots owner Robert Kraft effectively threw up his hands in regards to the team penalties which stemmed from #DeflateGate.

But that doesn’t mean they’re going along quietly with the four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady, issuing a strongly worded statement regarding commissioner Roger Goodell’s refusal to overturn his own sentence, basically saying the league is assassinating Brady’s character.

“We are extremely disappointed in today’s ruling by Commissioner Goodell,” the team statement read. “We cannot comprehend the league’s position in this matter. Most would agree that the penalties levied originally were excessive and unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the league has no hard evidence of wrongdoing. We continue to unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady. We also believe that the laws of science continue to underscore the folly of this entire ordeal.

“Given all of this, it is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives.”

Brady already has the NFLPA eager to fight on his behalf, and Kraft took the position of a good company man when he yielded to the league’s $1 million fine and loss of first- and fourth-round draft picks. Based on today’s statement, you wonder if he’d be so willing again.

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NFLPA calls Brady decision “outrageous”


In response to the decision upholding his four-game suspension, Tom Brady has spoken. Through his agent.

Brady also has spoken, sort of, through his union.

“The Commissioner’s ruling today did nothing to address the legal deficiencies of due process,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement. “The NFL remains stuck with the following facts.”

The statement then lists the following facts, with bullet points: (1) the NFL “had no policy that applied to players”; (2) the NFL “provided no notice of any such policy or potential discipline to players”; (3) the NFL “resorted to a nebulous standard of ‘general awareness’ to predicate a legally unjustified punishment; (4) the NFL “had no procedures in place until two days ago to test air pressure in footballs”; and (5) the NFL “violated the plain meaning” of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“The fact that the NFL would resort to basing a suspension on a smoke screen of irrelevant text messages instead of admitting that they have all of the phone records they asked for is a new low, even for them, but it does nothing to correct their errors,” the statement asserts. “The NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady.”

The points raised in the statement surely will be reflected in the forthcoming legal documents from the NFLPA, which surely will not focus on Brady’s admission that he destroyed his cell phone on the same day he was due to meet with Ted Wells but on the overall flaws in the process.

But here’s the thing. If those are the arguments the NFLPA had previously planned to make on Brady’s behalf, why did he even testify at the appeal hearing? The points raised above could have been established via stipulation or other evidence. Having Brady admit that he destroyed the phone interjected an issue that will hamper Brady in the court of public opinion — and that could prompt a judge to conclude at a visceral level that justice requires upholding the suspension.

Although the destruction of the phone may not be relevant to any of the issues raised in the litigation challenging the suspension, skilled judges can find a way to get to whichever conclusion they believe is justified, even if the motivation to arrive at that destination comes from facts technically irrelevant to the specific issues presented in a given case.

In other words, if the presiding judge (whoever it ends up being) believes Brady’s hands are dirty, the judge will likely be able to find a way to rule accordingly, even if the written decision never mentions the destruction of the cell phone.

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Saints release Brodrick Bunkley

Mark Ingram, Brodrick Bunkley AP

The Saints have said goodbye to another member of last year’s defense.

Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley was released on Tuesday after failing a physical. Bunkley tore his quad last season and ended the year on injured reserve before taking a pay cut to remain with the team this offseason. The team also released linebacker Junior Galette this week.

Bunkley started 11 games with the Saints last season and spent the last three seasons as a regular on the team’s defensive line. He had 18 tackles and could help someone’s rotation as a run defender if he can show he’s healthy enough to contribute this season. The Saints

The Saints signed Kevin Williams this offseason to increase their options up front and 2013 third-round pick John Jenkins returns for a third year with the team.

New Orleans also placed safety Jairus Byrd, wide receiver Marques Colston and defensive tackle Glenn Foster on the physically unable to perform list. Byrd did limited work this offseason after last year’s season-ending knee injury while neither Foster nor Colston did much work during the spring. Cornerback Brian Dixon was also placed on the non-football injury list.

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Carlos Hyde, three other 49ers land on non-football injury list

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The 49ers will likely be looking for a bigger contribution from running back Carlos Hyde this season, but they’ll have to wait a little bit before he makes any contribution on the practice field.

Hyde was one of four 49ers placed on the non-football injury list on Tuesday. The 49ers didn’t reveal the reason for the move and Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports the only health news about Hyde this offseason was a muscle pull in late May. Branch also reports that Hyde isn’t expected to be on the NFI list for long, so it doesn’t appear to be anything serious.

Branch offers the same report for the expected return of linebacker Aaron Lynch and offensive lineman Trent Brown, who join Hyde and wide receiver DeAndre Smelter on the list to open camp. Offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore was placed on the physically unable to perform list.

All five players are eligible to be activated at any point during training camp and will be ineligible for the regular season version of the lists when and if they are given the green light.

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Dontari Poe could miss start of season after back surgery

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers AP

The Chiefs defense will be without cornerback Sean Smith while he serves a suspension to start the season and they may also be without nose tackle Dontari Poe.

The team revealed, via the Associated Press, Tuesday that Poe had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back on July 15. Poe initially hurt his back during the team’s offseason workouts and aggravated the injury while working out on his own to prepare for training camp.

Trainer Rick Burkholder said that Poe is out indefinitely and his absence could stretch into the regular season. Jaye Howard will step into Poe’s spot on the defensive line with Mike DeVito and sixth-round pick Rakeem Nunez-Roches also possibilities to see time on the nose while Poe recovers from the surgery.

Whoever is in Poe’s place will be hard pressed to provide the team with the same kind of impact that Poe gives them up front. With trips to Houston and Green Bay sandwiched around a visit from the Broncos in the first three weeks, the Chiefs will need everyone on defense to step up to avoid a rough start to the season in the event Poe can’t go.

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Panthers sign two tackles

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Tackle Jonathan Martin chose to retire on Monday and the Panthers responded on Tuesday by adding a pair of players at the position.

The team announced that they have signed Tony Hills and Davonte Wallace while also releasing running back Darrin Reaves.

Hills was a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2008 and played four games for them in 2010 before moving on to stints with the Broncos, Colts and Cowboys. He started one game for Indianapolis in 2012 and saw action in four contests for the Cowboys last season. Wallace spent time with the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie last year, but has never played in a regular season game.

The new arrivals join Michael Oher, Mike Remmers, Nate Chandler and fourth-round pick Daryl Williams on the depth chart. Oher and Remmers are projected to be the starters come September.

Reaves ran for 78 yards on 31 carries and caught five passes in six appearances with Carolina last season.

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Tom Brady’s agent calls NFL appeal process “a sham”

Tom Brady Says He Didn't Alter Footballs In Colts Game Getty Images

After NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, Brady’s agent ripped the decision.

In a statement distributed this afternoon, agent Don Yee called the league’s appeals process “a sham” and insisted that Brady has done nothing wrong in Deflategate.

“The Commissioner’s decision is deeply disappointing, but not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness,” Yee said. “Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong. And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred.

“The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision. For example, the Wells investigative team was given over 100 days to conduct its investigation. Just days prior to the appeal hearing, we were notified that we would only have four hours to present a defense; therefore, we didn’t have enough time to examine important witnesses. Likewise, it was represented to the public that the Wells team was ‘independent’; however, when we requested documents from Wells, our request was rejected on the basis of privilege. We therefore had no idea as to what Wells found from other witnesses, nor did we know what those other witnesses said.

“These are just two examples of how the Commissioner failed to ensure a fair process.

“Additionally, the science in the Wells Report was junk. It has been thoroughly discredited by independent third parties.

“Finally, as to the issue of cooperation, we presented the Commissioner with an unprecedented amount of electronic data, all of which is incontrovertible. I do not think that any private citizen would have agreed to provide anyone with the amount of information that Tom was willing to reveal to the Commissioner. Tom was completely transparent. All of the electronic information was ignored; we don’t know why. The extent to which Tom opened up his private life to the Commissioner will become clear in the coming days.

The Commissioner’s decision and discipline has no precedent in all of NFL history. His decision alters the competitive balance of the upcoming season. The decision is wrong and has no basis, and it diminishes the integrity of the game.”

Although Yee’s statement doesn’t say so, Brady is expected to take the NFL to court in an effort to have the suspension overturned.

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NFL seeks “confirmation of arbitration award” in New York

Goodell AP

What began with a 243-page report has culminated, for now, in a four-page lawsuit.

The short and simple complaint filed Tuesday by the NFL against the NFL Players Association in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York specifically seeks pre-emptive confirmation of the arbitration award reflected in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to uphold the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

It’s a move likely without precedent. In past controversies, the NFL has issued a decision and then played defense in court. In this case, the NFL has opted to go on the offensive against the union and Brady.

The effort, on the surface, projects confidence in the league’s position. At a deeper level, it suggests real concern about how the NFL would fare in a forum more naturally favorable to Brady.

The document itself contains no clues or hints about the arguments that the NFL is anticipating. Instead, it seeks confirmation of the decision “under well-established principles of federal labor law.”

Inevitably, Brady and the NFLPA will file a lawsuit in a jurisdiction of their own choosing.

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Report: Brady authorizes NFLPA to go to federal court

tombrady AP

The NFL moved first, but, as expected, it looks like they’ll have company in going to federal court in the wake of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to uphold Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension.

Jim Trotter of ESPN reports that Brady has authorized the NFLPA to go to federal court in an attempt to overturn the suspension.

There aren’t any other details about the filing, including whether or not the union will seek an injunction that would allow Brady to play while the case is being heard. If Brady does get an injunction and ultimately loses the case, he would have to serve the suspension later in the season or even in the playoffs should the Patriots advance that far this season. If he doesn’t go for the injunction, he’d serve the suspension while trying to recoup the salary he’d lose while out for four games.

With the NFL filing in Manhattan, we’ll also be keeping an eye out for where the NFLPA files their action. Minnesota has been the preferred location because Judge David Doty’s rulings have been favorable in the past and the NFL’s desire to avoid that venue will likely add to the legal proceedings that will unfold in the coming weeks and months.

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Steelers: Le’Veon Bell must learn from his mistake

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers will have running back Le’Veon Bell back a week earlier than expected after Tuesday’s announcement that his suspension has been pared down to two games after settlement talks between the league and the NFLPA.

In a statement about the decision, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert didn’t concentrate on that aspect of the decision. Colbert instead focused on the need for Bell to avoid further off-field issues.

“As I have stated before, we were disappointed in Le’Veon Bell’s actions last August,” Colbert said in the statement. “Le’Veon made a mistake and now he must learn from his mistake and focus on eliminating distractions from his life. We look forward to continuing to work with Le’Veon to try to help him reach his full potential as a person and as a player.”

Bell will practice with the Steelers during camp and is eligible to play in the preseason before starting his suspension in the first week of the regular season.

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NFL goes forum-shopping with pre-emptive lawsuit

Forum Getty Images

At some point over the past few weeks, I considered the possibility that the courtroom portion of the Tom Brady saga could be initiated not by the NFL Players Association but by the NFL. I made a mental note of it, vowed to write about that possibility, and then forgot to do it.

The reminder came today, via the report from Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg that the NFL has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, seeking affirmation of the outcome of the Brady appeal.

Although I’ve yet to see the documents (the ask has been made), I’m certain that the NFL filed a case seeking what’s known as a “declaratory judgment” under the Federal Arbitration Act, explaining that a controversy clearly exists on the viability of Goodell’s final ruling in the Brady appeal and asking the court to determine the parties’ legal rights.

It’s not entirely uncommon, but it’s a very aggressive maneuver. As a practical matter, it potentially short-circuits the efforts of the NFLPA and Brady to file in Minnesota (with Judge David Doty presiding) or Massachusetts (with Judge Pats Fan presiding), where the ruling likely would be more favorable to Brady.

Whether through pre-emptive lawsuits or otherwise, forum shopping happens all the time in the legal profession. Part of securing the best outcome for a client is picking the best court for attempting to secure that outcome.

Still, there’s something that feels a bit unseemly about the NFL’s effort, creating a clear sense of coordination between Goodell the supposedly independent arbitrator and Goodell the chief executive at 345 Park Avenue. The ruling, which is required to be made “as soon as practicable” by Goodell the arbitrator undoubtedly was delayed long enough for Goodell the executive to ensure that his lawyers would be able to file immediately a lawsuit calling “shotgun” on the resolution of the legal rights.

The question now becomes whether the NFLPA will proceed with its own lawsuit, and if so whether one of the two judges will defer to the other one.

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Brandon Marshall: I was “just having fun” with tweets about pot smoke

Brandon Marshall AP

On Monday, we shared a couple of tweets that Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall sent from Jamaica over the weekend making reference to the amount of marijuana smoke in the air around the island.

One of them was directed to the NFL’s Twitter account with Marshall writing that he’s an occasional wine drinker and asking for the league’s help because he appeared to be worried about failing a drug test because of secondhand inhalation. At an event on Tuesday, Marshall was asked about the tweets and said he was “just having fun” after noticing the constant smell of pot in the air.

“I was at my sister’s wedding and I was just thinking about it because you hear about these cases all the time,” Marshall said, via Newsday. “I was just kidding around. It was like everywhere we would walk. I walk into my room after the day is over and it was like, ‘You smell that?!’ Or you’ll just be on the bus and the driver smells like it. I was like oh, man, this is crazy.”

The NFL raised the threshold for a positive marijuana test to 35 ng/ml in the updated drug policy, which should be high enough to keep Marshall and any other player exposed to secondhand smoke from failing a drug test.

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