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Goodell emails fans to tout player safety measures

Goodell AP

With the NFL facing criticism both from those who say the sport is dangerous and from those who say player safety rules have gone too far, Commissioner Roger Goodell is contacting fans directly.

In an email sent to fans, Goodell highlighted some of the ways the league is trying to make football safer.

“Within the NFL, safety-related rules will always be clearly defined and strictly enforced, and we will continue to work with our players, coaches, and others to identify new and safer ways to play the game,” Goodell wrote.

That may be the NFL’s intent, but the NFL still has a ways to go before it can truly say the rules are always clearly defined and strictly enforced. The new rule restricting players from delivering blows with the crown of the helmet has been incorrectly enforced multiple times this year.

Goodell is viewed by many fans as making fundamental changes to the game, but he tried to frame the recent rules changes within the context of an always-changing sport.

“There have been numerous safety-related rules changes going back decades: from the 1970s when we eliminated the head slap, to the 80s when we eliminated clubbing, to the 90s when we increased protection for defenseless players, to the 2000s when the horse collar tackle was made illegal. When we identify dangerous techniques, we adopt rules to eliminate them,” Goodell wrote.

Goodell may have been motivated to send this email now because of publicity for League of Denial, the book with a companion PBS documentary that accuses the NFL of intentionally covering up evidence that football leaves players brain damaged for life. In his email, Goodell said the NFL takes its players health seriously.

“One of the most important aspects of safety is providing players with the best possible medical care,” Goodell wrote. “We work closely with the NFL Players Association to ensure our players have access to the finest doctors and most cutting edge technology. In fact, a large part of our current Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players is devoted to health and safety protections.”

Many of the fans who received that email will no doubt say Goodell hasn’t done enough to ensure health and safety protections. Many others will say he has done too much.

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Jets release Matt Simms

Matt Simms, Josh Mauga AP

Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms recently shared his opinion that his younger brother Matt hasn’t gotten a serious shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL because he’s the son of Phil Simms and, therefore, a victim of “the politics of the NFL.”

Simms got some more fodder for his feeling on Thursday. The Jets announced that they have released Matt Simms from their roster.

The decision isn’t a great surprise with the Jets adding Bryce Petty in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick are going to hold down the top two spots on the depth chart and Petty will be developed behind them, which doesn’t leave many reps for the latest member of the Simms family to play quarterback in the NFL.

Getting released now will give him a chance to catch on with another team in time to make his case for a roster spot in the fall, assuming, of course, that the anti-Simms bias doesn’t rear its head once again. Simms played in four games for the Jets over the last two seasons and completed 19-of-39 passes for 195 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

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Bills open training camp on July 31

EJ Manuel AP

The Bills, who made multiple high-profile moves in the offseason, will commence training camp on Friday, July 31 at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York, the club said Thursday.

Seventeen practices are open to the public, with six requiring fans to have tickets.

The Bills’ preseason opener is August 14 vs. Carolina. The last practice open to fans is Tuesday, August 25.

In an attempt to jump-start their offense, the Bills acquired tailback LeSean McCoy and signed wide receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Charles Clay. The club also added Matt Cassel at quarterback. The Bills’ defense, formidable a season ago, could be all the more imposing with new head coach Rex Ryan at the helm.

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Broncos sign Ryan Harris

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Broncos may not be ready to rule Ryan Clady out for the 2015 season, but they didn’t wait long to add to their tackle options in the wake of his torn ACL.

Jeff Legwold and Adam Schefter of ESPN report that the team has added veteran Ryan Harris to the roster. It will be Harris’s third tour of duty in Denver after he began his career with the team as a third-round pick in 2007 and spent the 2012 offseason and preseason with the team.

Harris also has history with head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison after spending the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Texans when both men were on Houston’s staff. He started 15 games for the Chiefs at right tackle last season and has also played on the left side of the line during his time in the NFL.

Harris joins Chris Clark, Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield as options at tackle as the Broncos try to sort out their offensive line with Clady out of the picture.

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NFL got free use of Grant Park for the draft

GrantPark Getty Images

So what did it cost the NFL to use Grant Park in Chicago for the 2015 draft? How about nothing?

According to Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Park District waived a $937,500 rental fee, along with the security deposit.

Hopkins explains that the Chicago Park District will give discounts to nonprofit and charitable organizations that are using Park District properties. The application for the use of Park District facilities doesn’t contemplate a full waiver. Likewise, the NFL didn’t request a not-for-profit discount when submitting the application.

(Sure, the league office was a non-profit organization when making arrangements for the 2015 draft, but the NFL is and always has been a for-profit operation.)

In response to the suggestion that the three-letter football league is getting the kind of treatment typically enjoyed by a currently-embattled four-letter fútbol federation, NFL points out that it spent “millions” on the draft, via the placement of tents and exhibits in and around a 900,000-square-foot area they called “Draft Town.”

“We also hosted free football clinics for more than 1,500 area schoolchildren in the park,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Tribune. “ESPN and NFL Network went live for the week of the draft from sets on site inside the theater and also out in the park. Our hotel needs alone in Chicago were 1,000 rooms for draft week.”

Those are fair points, similar to the arguments raised when a city does a bad financial deal to host a Super Bowl. But the reality remains that local governments will continue to do bad financial deals in order to do business with the NFL. As long as local governments will keep competing with each other to do those bad deals, the NFL will continue to get great deals for the Super Bowl, the draft, stadiums, or anything else the league wants.

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Kubiak on Ryan Clady’s 2015 status: No decisions will be made quickly

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals AP

The Broncos Offense suffered a serious blow on Wednesday when left tackle Ryan Clady tore his ACL, but coach Gary Kubiak isn’t ready to rule Clady out for the season yet.

Kubiak met with the media on Thursday and said that the team wasn’t ready to make a decision about whether or not Clady will be able to return at some point in 2015. Even in the best-case scenario they are going to need to replace Clady for a large chunk of the year, however, and the team isn’t ready to make any final calls on that front either.

Kubiak said, via Troy Renck of the Denver Post, that the team will move players around to figure out the best mix in front of quarterback Peyton Manning. The coach added that the initial thought is to leave Chris Clark, who replaced Clady after a 2013 foot injury, on the right side and second-round pick Ty Sambrailo on the left side. Sambrailo, who Kubiak said isn’t “a rookie anymore,” played left tackle at Colorado State.

Michael Schofield is another option at both tackles and the Broncos will likely keep a close eye on players who become available before the start of the regular season. However they line up come September, though, the team will be scrambling to fill a spot they weren’t expecting to be an issue during an offseason that’s already seen a lot of change in Denver.

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Bengals sign Tyler Kroft

Tyler Kroft AP

The Bengals are down to one unsigned 2015 draft pick with agent Mike McCartney announcing that his client Tyler Kroft has signed a four-year deal with the team.

The tight end was a third-round pick this month and his agreement leaves first-round tackle Cedric Ogbuehi as the only member of the draft class without a deal. He is one of 11 first-round picks still waiting to sign deals with their teams.

Kroft is expected to help fill the role vacated by the still-unsigned free agent Jermaine Gresham during the 2015 season. That should mean a heavy dose of blocking duties alongside Tyler Eifert. Eifert hasn’t been fully participating in offseason work after having a torn labrum in his shoulder and dislocated elbow surgically repaired after last season.

“We’re just kind of taking it day to day, just easing back into things,” Eifert said, via ESPN.com. “My shoulder and elbow are cleared 100 percent, but I’m just getting back into things gradually. I’ll be out there soon enough.”

The Bengals also took tight end C.J. Uzomah in the fifth round to fill out their depth chart at the position.

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Jaguars hire former Jets G.M. John Idzik to full-time position

Idzik Getty Images

Maybe now all the people who went to the Tim Tebow rally in Jacksonville can divert their attention to buying airplane banners.

Because the Jaguars have hired a man who created far more of a grassroots effort among his former fanbase.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have hired former Jets General Manager John Idzik to a full-time position with the team.

Idzik was hired by the Jaguars as an consultant prior to free agency. His new title is special assistant to the G.M. (apparently assistant to the traveling secretary was taken).

“He’ll do a little bit of everything,” Jags G.M. Dave Caldwell said. “He’s a great cultural fit for us. He has a great understanding of the salary cap and the different ways to do a contract.”

Idzik was fired by the Jets after the 2014 season, but not before he became a lightning rod for fans, complete with planes bearing “Fire John Idzik” banners flying over practices there.

The Jaguars also promoted Chris Polian from director of pro personnel to director of player personnel and Chris Driggers from pro scout to director of pro personnel.

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Mike Wallace: Vikings offense “more what I’m accustomed to”

Minnesota Vikings v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Wide receiver Mike Wallace caught just 12 passes of 20 or more yards over two season with the Dolphins, which wasn’t what most people expected after he averaged 11 such plays a season in his four years with the Steelers.

That inability to make plays down the field made for a sour relationship between Wallace and the team at various points during his stay in Miami and it helped make Wallace a Viking earlier this offseason. On Thursday, Wallace said that he’s finding things more to his liking in Norv Turner’s offense.

“I think it’s more so [like] my first four years,” Wallace said, via ESPN.com. “It’s a vertical offense, [rather] than a short, West Coast offense. You go down the field a lot more here, more what I’m accustomed to.”

Wallace and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater have been spending extra time together at practice to sharpen their chemistry, something that never developed with Ryan Tannehill the way the Dolphins hoped it would. All of that paints a promising picture for Wallace in 2015, but we’ll have to wait until the fall to see if it is any more grounded in reality than the optimism that accompanied Wallace to Miami in the first place.

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Ryan Clady suffers torn ACL

Arizona Cardinals v Denver Broncos Getty Images

One of the NFL’s top left tackles has suffered an injury likely to end his 2015 season.

Denver’s Ryan Clady sustained a torn left ACL in Wednesday’s organized team practice activities, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday. PFT’s Mike Florio has confirmed the injury to Clady, a four-time Pro Bowler who protects Peyton Manning’s blind side.

The Broncos have since announced Clady’s injury and have said it is likely to keep him off the field in 2015.

With the 28-year-old Clady out indefinitely, the Broncos will have to adjust at a vital position. Veteran right tackle Chris Clark could be an option on the left side; he filled in for Clady in 2013 when Clady missed most of the campaign with a foot injury.

Rookie Ty Sambrailo and second-year pro Michael Schofield are other potential replacements for Clady, whose loss is a tremendous blow to a Denver club that lost tight end Julius Thomas, offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and safety Rahim Moore in free agency.

Clady suffered a patellar tendon tear in his left knee in 2010, but he played the preseason finale and all 16 regular season contests that year.

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Sam Bradford expected to start 7-on-7 drills next week

Philadelphia Eagles OTA's Getty Images

The Eagles started their organized team activities this week, but quarterback Sam Bradford hasn’t been a full participant.

Bradford is recovering from his second torn ACL in as many years and the Eagles have been easing him into the flow of things with individual drills this week while Mark Sanchez takes the first-team snaps in team work. Coach Chip Kelly said the plan is for that to change next week when Bradford should begin participating in the 7-on-7 portions of practice.

“He is on schedule,” Kelly said, via Philly.com. “We all think there’s three phases — there’s medical rehab, performance rehab, and prepare to play. He’s probably at the tail end of medical rehab. He’ll probably start throwing some 7 on 7 next week, and I think he’s right on schedule.”

The Eagles haven’t etched Bradford’s name into the top spot on the depth chart yet, but Kelly didn’t trade for a player making $12 million for him to sit on the bench behind Sanchez, Matt Barkley or Tim Tebow unless the reasons for doing so were too compelling to resist. As long as Bradford is healthy, it’s hard to imagine other reasons qualifying.

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Michael Vick: Last year with Jets “certainly a wake-up call”

Vick Getty Images

With each team able to carry 90 players this time of year, the idea of not being one of the top 2,880 players in the league is tough for Michael Vick to accept.

And he admitted to his hometown newspaper that it’s hard realizing he might be out of the league.

“Sometimes, it takes certain things to wake you up and [last year] was certainly a wake-up call for me,” Vick told Ed Miller of the Virginian-Pilot.

For all the highlights and controversy he created early in his career, last year might be remembered for his admission that he wasn’t prepared to play against the Chargers, and things didn’t really get better from there.

But he’s continuing to work. A month away from his 35th birthday, he’s continuing to work, saying he’s added muscle and that his arm is stronger than ever.

“I still feel like I can help a football team win a couple of games,” he said. “I see my role as being a mentor first and foremost, a confident quarterback who can come off the bench if necessary in whatever the situation may be and win football games.

“Whether it’s two or three games a year or four or five, I feel like I can put myself in that situation where I can, . . . use the weapons around me, play some smart football.”

Whatever the role, he said he’d like to play three more years. But at this stage, he might need to worry about one more, since there doesn’t appear to be much of a market for his services.

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Russell Wilson’s agent says he’s content playing out current deal

Russell Wilson, player for Seattle Seahawks, right, poses for a "selfie" photograph with guests as he attends the Bloomberg cocktail party before the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) Dinner in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, April 25, 2015. The 101st WHCA raises money for scholarships and honors the recipients of the organization's journalism awards. Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Getty Images

There may be people in a hurry for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to get his contract finished.

According to his agent, none of those people are Russell Wilson.

Agent Mark Rodgers, appearing on the “Brock and Salk” show on 710 ESPN today, said there was no pressure to get a done quickly, and that Wilson was content playing out the year on his current deal.

“Neither side has any real deadlines,” Rodgers said. “I know the public and the fans and some of the media has put a sense of urgency on this, but there really are no deadlines.

“Russell Wilson’s under contract with the Seahawks and he absolutely, if he has to, would certainly be fine playing his fourth year under a four-year contract that he signed coming out, and then moving on from there. I don’t feel any particular crunch on time and any real particular deadlines.”

Wilson’s scheduled to make $1.5 million on the final year of his rookie deal, and Rodgers said his client had budgeted as if that’s all he was going to make in 2015. But he described talks with the Seahawks as “positive” and “robust at times.”

Rodgers insisted Wilson was not seeking to become the league’s highest-paid player.

“I think what he’s looking for is what everybody’s looking for,” Rodgers said. “And that’s a deal that feels fair, that feels reasonable and that at the end of the day makes him feel comfortable with the compensation he’s receiving for the skill and the performance that he’s delivering.”

And while that message isn’t coming from Wilson himself, it at least isn’t coming in the form of a subtweet.

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Chip Kelly says he’s called LeSean McCoy twice, but he “didn’t accept my call”

LeSean McCoy, Chip Kelly AP

When Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and now-Bills tailback LeSean McCoy next have a conversation, they figure to have some things to discuss.

But to hear it from Kelly, that talk hasn’t happened yet.

At a press conference Thursday at the Eagles’ OTAs, Kelly indicated he had twice contacted McCoy, but the tailback “didn’t accept my call,” per John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com.

While most relationships between coaches and former players don’t draw much public attention, this one is different.

A lot different.

In an interview with ESPN The Magazine published in May, McCoy suggested race might have had a hand in some of Kelly’s roster decisions.

“The relationship was never really great,” McCoy said of Kelly, per ESPN. “I feel like I always respected him as a coach. I think that’s the way he runs his team. He wants the full control.

“You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That’s the truth. There’s a reason.”

On Thursday, Kelly said he disagreed with McCoy’s contentions regarding race and personnel.

“I’ve got great respect for LeSean. However, in that situation, I think he’s wrong,” Kelly said, according to CSNPhilly.com. “We put a lot of time in looking at the characters and factors that go into selection and retention of players, and color’s never been one of them.”

The question now is whether the two men will get together to try and make this right.

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Odell Beckham says double-teaming him won’t work

Odell Beckham AP

Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. won’t surprise anyone this year, as every opposing secondary will play the Giants knowing that stopping Beckham is the top priority.

But while Beckham is expecting to see double coverage this season, he’s not expecting that to slow down the Giants’ passing game.

“I definitely expect to receive a lot more attention,” Beckham said, via NJ.com. “But it’s just not going to work.”

Beckham says that if opposing defenses force Eli Manning to throw him fewer balls this year, receivers Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle will benefit.

“You know you have Vic and Reuben, it’s going to be hard to double or have a safety over the top with the stuff that we have going on,” Beckham said. “I don’t think it’s going to be beneficial for them.”

Beckham may be right that doubling him won’t work, but defenses will try. After Beckham tore opposing secondaries apart last season, the Giants’ opponents will do everything they can to stop the NFL’s best young receiver.

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Chip Kelly: New PAT rules don’t really change anything

Chip Kelly AP

We’ve heard a variety of opinions about the NFL’s decision to change the rules for extra points since the announcement that kicks will now be snapped from the 15-yard line instead of the 2-yard line.

Some kickers have wondered about the impact on those kicking outside in cold weather and others have discussed the possibility of going for two more often, but not everyone thinks there’s much to think about. Eagles coach Chip Kelly was asked about the change on Thursday and took some issue with the very notion that anything changes.

“I don’t know what changes, to be honest with you,” Kelly said, via Albert Breer of NFL.com.

Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly adds that Kelly said that the team made 96 percent of their kicks from 15 yards or closer last season, which means that moving the kick back offers little incentive to go for two at points when they wouldn’t have gone for two last season.

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