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NFL morning after: A Sunday of football, the best TV show ever

Aaron Dobson AP

The late, great Hall of Famer Art Donovan was in an old ESPN commercial, back when ESPN first began airing NFL pre-game and post-game shows, in which he pointed out that if you watched both of ESPN’s Sunday NFL shows, plus both of the NFL games airing in your own local market, you’d spend more than eight hours on Sunday watching nothing but football. As the idea of that much football in one day sunk in, Donovan proclaimed, “I love it!”

Now, of course, there’s a lot more pre-game and post-game coverage than there was back then, plus there’s the Sunday night game, which didn’t exist back then. Now you can turn on the TV for the first pre-game show, on NFL Network, at 7 a.m. Eastern, and keep watching football through the Sunday night game on NBC, which often ends after midnight, then watch the various highlight shows that keep going well after midnight. Forget eight hours of football, you can spend 16 hours or more in front of TV watching nothing but football.

And I love it.

The NFL is America’s best and most popular television show, and there’s simply no such thing as too much of it. I think nothing of turning on pre-game shows at 7 in the morning on Sunday and leaving some football, either live games or NFL news and highlight shows, on my TV until I go to bed after midnight. During the offseason, I love a good TV binge — I can go back to Breaking Bad or The Wire or Seinfeld or Arrested Development over and over and over again — but I’ve had my fill of any of those great shows long before I’ve watched 16 hours in one day. There really is no such thing as too much football.

Think about how great the television programming was yesterday, for those of us who can watch all the games on the Sunday Ticket package. In an insane rush of fantastic finishes starting around 4 p.m. Eastern, we got four different thrilling endings within minutes of each other:

– The Jets beat the Patriots in overtime after New England fans found out the hard way that you’re not allowed to push your teammate into the line to try to block a field goal.

– Washington beat Chicago 45-41 in a crazy back-and-forth battle that featured six rushing touchdowns, three passing touchdowns, a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown.

– Cincinnati beat Detroit on a 54-yard field goal as time expired.

– The Bills kicked a go-ahead field goal with 31 seconds left, then hung on for dear life as the Dolphins maneuvered into position for a last-second Hail Mary that fell incomplete in the end zone.

That kind of drama beats anything you’ll ever get in scripted television, but that was just a few minutes of Sunday’s football binge. We also got:

Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis, in which the Colts legend turned Broncos quarterback suffered his first loss of the season in front of fans who cheered him loudly when he was introduced before the game, then cheered even louder when the Colts won.

– The Steelers beating the Ravens on a field goal on the last play of the game.

– Two of the most talented receivers you’ll ever see, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, putting up 155 yards apiece in Bengals-Lions.

– Monte Kiffin’s Dallas defense stepping up in a big way, completely shutting down Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia offense in a 17-3 win.

Philip Rivers continuing his ridiculously efficient season passing the football by completing 22 of 26 passes in a win over the Jaguars. Rivers has now completed 73.9 percent of his passes this season. (The all-time single-season record is 71.2 percent, set by Drew Brees two years ago.)

Case Keenum leading the reeling Texans to a surprisingly competitive performance against the undefeated Chiefs before ultimately falling to Kansas City, the league’s most pleasant surprise.

Watch all of that football, all day long, and you’re going to be exhausted and bleary-eyed by the end of the day. But it’s still not too much football. There’s no such thing as too much of sitting in front of your TV watching football.

Here are the rest of my thoughts on a great Sunday in the NFL:

The first three touchdowns of the day were scored by the defense, and Matt Schaub wasn’t even playing. Mr. Pick Six himself was out for the Texans’ late afternoon game, but the early afternoon games got started with not one, not two, but three quarterbacks giving up the ball to a defensive player who took it to the house. First we had Sam Bradford throw an interception that Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn returned for a touchdown. Then we had Ryan Tannehill throw an interception that Buffalo’s Nickell Robey returned for a touchdown. Then we had Mike Glennon fumble a ball that Atlanta’s Thomas Decoud returned for a touchdown. It was Geno Smith and Jeremy Kerley, of all people, who got on the board for the Jets’ offense and ended the league-wide run of defensive touchdowns. (And Smith would throw a pick-six of his own later in the first quarter.)

Pro Bowl voting begins way too early. The NFL allowed fans to start voting for Pro Bowl rosters on Sunday morning, when some teams had only played five games and some had only played six. Why on earth are we voting for Pro Bowlers now, when they’ve still got two-thirds of the season to play and the game is more than three months away? If the NFL wants to make the Pro Bowl more relevant, how about waiting until the end of the season to vote, so fans can actually vote for guys who had good years?

Jimmy Johnson said something about Jerry Jones masked as something about Jim Irsay. Asked on the FOX pregame show about Irsay’s comments tweaking Peyton Manning last week, Johnson said, “Just because a guy has money and owns an NFL team, doesn’t mean he’s smart.” Johnson was ostensibly talking about Irsay, but I think he was also taking a little shot at Jerry Jones, his old boss in Dallas with whom Johnson has had a famously prickly relationship.

Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner ever. Hester’s return touchdown was the 19th of his career, tying him with Deion Sanders for the most return touchdowns in NFL history. But most of Sanders’ return touchdowns came on defense. All of Hester’s were kick returns. There’s really no one who has been even close to the kind of consistent big-play threat returning kicks that Hester has been throughout his NFL career. Usually, once a return man establishes himself as one of the best in the league, opposing teams start kicking to him differently and limit his effectiveness. They punt high to force him to fair catch, or they punt out of bounds. On kickoffs, if they’re not sure the kicker can boot it out the back of the end zone, they tell him to kick it high and short to help the coverage team get into position to make the tackle. The amazing thing about Hester is that he’s still scoring touchdowns even after opposing teams have come to realize that they must kick away from him. As soon as a team’s attempted punt out of bounds ends up staying just barely inbounds — which is what happened with Washington on Sunday — Hester makes them pay for it.

The top picks in the next two drafts had big days on Saturday. It may be too early to talk about the top pick in next year’s NFL draft, and it’s definitely too early to talk about the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. But I’ll do it anyway. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney spent as much time in Tennessee’s backfield as their own running backs on Saturday, looking like the kind of one-man wrecking crew who absolutely deserves to be considered the top pro prospect in college football right now, despite some talk that he was off to a slow start this season. And then there’s Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. A redshirt freshman, Winston won’t be eligible for the draft until 2015. But his performance on the road against No. 3 Clemson, in which he completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, leaves little doubt that he’s good enough to play in the NFL. No, I don’t mean he will be good enough to play in the NFL. I mean he’s good enough right now, and the only thing holding him back is the NFL’s three-year eligibility rule. Winston is better right now than either of his two immediate predecessors at Florida State, EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder, ever were. And Manuel and Ponder were both first-round draft picks. Winston has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback.

I hate it when coaches won’t be aggressive. Tennessee’s Mike Munchak punted on fourth-and-inches in the third quarter while the Titans were trailing 24-0. What was Munchak afraid of? Your team is losing and needs to do something. If you’re just going to give up on fourth-and-inches, you might as well give up on the game. If there’s anything that’s not fun about a day watching football, it’s watching a bunch of punts from coaches who don’t have the guts to go for it.

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Jerry Jones: No one has a better feel for me than Jason Garrett

jonesgarrett AP

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has one very important thing going for him: His boss loves him.

That was confirmed by Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones, who when asked about Garrett’s job security insisted that the two of them are joined at the hip.

“I know first hand that we’ve got a relationship, that I have a relationship — there’s nobody that has a better feel for me than Jason in terms of a relationship,” Jones said.

Asked if the 2014 season is a make-or-break year for Garrett, and if Garrett has to make the playoffs or else he’ll be fired, Jones insisted that’s not the case. Jones also said he wouldn’t even use the word “playoffs” because he doesn’t want to jinx anything.

“This is not make or break. I’m not going to use that word you just used just because of superstitions,” Jones said. “But I’ll be serious with you: No, this is not. In terms of the record of this team, this is not a make-or-break situation for Jason and members of this staff.”

Right now, Jones is saying nothing but supportive things about Garrett. Five months from now, if Garrett is concluding a fourth straight 8-8 season (or if the Cowboys’ record is even worse), Jones may feel it’s time for a new head coach.

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Jermaine Gresham to PUP, Christo Bilukidi non-football injury list for Bengals

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The Cincinnati Bengals have placed tight end Jermaine Gresham on the physically unable to perform list and defensive end Christo Bilukidi on the non-football injury list ahead of the start of training camp on Thursday.

According to Coley Harvey of ESPN.com, the Bengals said Gresham is dealing with a back injury and Bilukidi is suffering from a tooth problem.

Gresham missed the majority of the Bengals offseason workouts due to hernia surgery, which appears unrelated to his current issues.

Cincinnati now has 15 players listed on the physically unable to perform list or non-football injury list to begin training camp.

Joining Gresham on PUP is defensive tackle Geno Atkins (knee), guard Clint Boling (knee), linebacker Marquis Flowers, cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles), punter Kevin Huber (neck), receiver Colin Lockett (hamstring), defensive tackle Zach Minter (back), defensive tackle Devon Still (back), receiver Ryan Whalen (hamstring) and offensive lineman Mike Pollak (knee).

Joining Bilukidi on the non-football injury list is receiver Marvin Jones (ankle), quarterback A.J. McCarron (shoulder) and cornerback Onterio McCalebb (knee).

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Golden Tate and Ziggy Ansah placed on PUP for Lions

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Shoulder injuries will keep a handful of players on the physically unable to perform at the start of training camp for the Detroit Lions.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, receivers Golden Tate and T.J Jones, and defensive end Ziggy Ansah will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Ansah had shoulder surgery in February and was expected to be ready for the start of the season. However, he apparently still isn’t quite able to get on the field for the start of camp.

Jones also had shoulder surgery in June to repair a lingering college injury. Tate missed mini-camp in June after falling on his shoulder during OTAs.

The move to place the trio on PUP for the start of training camp in likely just a procedural decision. All three players are expected to be healthy in time for the season. However, the Lions would lose the ability to place the players on PUP for the regular season if they aren’t designated before the start of camp.

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Seahawks expected to sign receiver Morrell Presley

Seattle Seahawks Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

The unexpected retirement of wide receiver Sidney Rice on Wednesday leaves the Seattle Seahawks with an open roster spot ahead of the start of training camp on Friday.

According to Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times, the Seahawks are expected to fill the vacancy with receiver Morrell Presley.

Presley, an undrafted rookie from Division II California (Pa.) University, took part in the Seahawks rookie mini-camp in May as a tryout player.

Presley was a highly touted prep athlete that was initially committed to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll at USC. Presley ultimately signed with rival UCLA before transferring down to California.

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Presley could be an interesting player to keep an eye on as the Seahawks lack height at the receiver position. Only Presley and former Canadian Football League star Chris Matthews (6-foot-5) are taller than 6-foot-2 following Rice’s retirement.

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Jim Brown sues to stop sale of 1964 NFL championship ring

Brown Getty Images

To whoever successfully bids on the 1964 NFL title ring awarded to Jim Brown, buyer beware.

According to the Associated Press, Brown has filed suit in a Manhattan federal court, claiming that the ring was stolen from Brown.  The complaint seeks to stop the online auction, which is scheduled to end on Friday.

Joshua Evans, the founder of Lelands Collectibles, says the lawsuit is “without merit.”  (Will someone who is sued ever declare in response, “Well, we thought we’d get away with it.”)

Brown immediately claimed via comments to the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the ring was stolen after word of the auction first emerged earlier this month.  Lelands claims that a clear and proper chain of title and authenticity exists, with Brown giving the ring to a family member who sold it to Lelands.  The company sold the ring in 1998, and it has since bought the ring back.

The current high bid on the ring is $58,948.68.

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Charles deal is worth $28 million over four years

Kansas City Chiefs v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was planning to hold out from training camp unless he wasn’t.  In the end, it didn’t matter; Charles signed a new contract that will pay him, per a league source, $28 million over four years.

“Jamaal is an elite player in the National Football League,” Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said in announcing the deal. “It was important for us to keep him here in Kansas City long-term.”

Multiple reports have characterized Charles as moving to No. 2 on the running back compensation list, behind only Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  The truth, according to one source, is that Charles has finagled the second highest new-money average, with the two extra years adding another $18.1 million to the existing two-year deal.

That’s a new-money average of $9.05 million.

That 0.05 become critical to the analysis and was hardly a coincidence, given that Eagles running back LeSean McCoy averages $9 million per year on a five-year, $45 million deal.  Likewise, Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams received $27 million over three years under a five-year, $43 million contract he signed in 2011.

Without knowing the money fully guaranteed at signing — because it hasn’t been leaked yet it’s likely not near the top of any league-wide lists — it’s impossible to know how much Charles actually will get.  His 2014 pay moves from $3.9 million to $8.3 million, a raise of $4.4 million.  Instead of making $6 million in 2015, he’ll make $6.7 million.

That’s $15 million over two.  Over three, it’s $21 million.  Play all four and he gets $28 million.

The full structure of the deal will shed more light on how much more money Charles actually is getting, beyond his $4.4 million raise for 2014.  But he’s not currently the second highest-paid running back in the NFL, not with an annual average on his full contract of $7 million.

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Browns rookie RB Terrance West lands on non-football injury list

Terrance West AP

Rookie tailback Terrance West, expected to be a key part of the Browns’ backfield, was one of six Cleveland players placed on the non-football injury list on Wednesday, according to the NFL’s daily transaction report.

On his Twitter account, West said he passed the club’s conditioning test and was “healthy” and “ready to go.” However, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer both reported West was on the non-football injury list because of the conditioning test.

A third-round pick from Towson, West appears the primary contender to veteran Ben Tate for carries in Cleveland’s backfield. The Browns’ first training camp practice is Saturday, giving West time to get off the list.

Other Browns placed on the non-football injury list Wednesday were linebacker Tank Carder, offensive tackle Chris Faulk, defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel, offensive guard Jeremiah Warren and defensive end Billy Winn. Per the Beacon Journal, Faulk, McDaniel, Warren and Winn were put on the list because of the conditioning test.

The Browns also made several other transactions Wednesday. They added offensive tackle Abasi Salimu, an undrafted free free agent from Nicholls State, on waivers from St. Louis. Cleveland also waived three veteran players: defensive back Royce Adams, linebacker Brandon Magee and wide receiver Conner Vernon.

The Browns have 88 players on the roster.

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Jerry Jones: Kyle Orton doesn’t intend to retire

Kyle Orton AP

When the Cowboys released quarterback Kyle Orton in July, it was widely believed Orton was weighing stepping away from the game for good.

Well, not so fast.

On Wednesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated Orton still has designs on playing in 2014, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

However, Orton won’t be playing for Dallas, which will move on with Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan as Tony Romo’s backups.

According to the Star-Telegram, Jones said the release of Orton was financially motivated, with the club now able to use some of the savings from Orton’s departure to address other areas, including potential contract extensions for wide receiver Dez Bryant and left tackle Tyron Smith.

By releasing Orton, the Cowboys got out from under his $3.25 million salary in 2014, but he gets to keep his signing bonus from Dallas.

Weeden, one of the Browns’ first-round picks just two years ago, got something of a vote of confidence from Jones on Wednesday, with the club’s owner saying his play helped the Cowboys feel comfortable parting ways with Orton, according to Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com.

If Orton indeed wants to play this season, he would rank as one of the top unsigned reserve quarterbacks on the market. A injury to a club’s starter could be a catalyst for interest in the 31-year-old Orton, who’s appeared in 75 regular season games.

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Giants defend hiring David Tyree despite anti-gay comments

D. Tyreecatch AP

The Giants’ decision to hire former receiver David Tyree as their new director of player development raised some eyebrows because Tyree has a history of anti-gay comments.

Tyree, best remembered for his “helmet catch” that helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII, has said that he would give up that catch and that Giants Super Bowl title in exchange for banning gays and lesbians from getting married. Tyree views allowing gays and lesbians to marry as akin to “anarchy” and has also claimed that homosexuality is a choice, even though experts in the study of human sexuality say that’s not the case.

Now strong opposition to Tyree has come from the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin blasted the Giants for hiring Tyree.

“The idea that someone can change their sexual orientation or gender identity is ludicrous, and the New York Giants are risking their credibility by hiring someone who publicly advocates this junk science,” Griffin said. “His opposition to basic legal equality aside, David Tyree’s proselytizing of such dangerous practices goes against the positive work the Giants organization has done in recent years.”

The Giants, however, are standing by Tyree. Giants General Manager Jerry Reese confirmed that the Giants knew about Tyree’s anti-gay comments but still believe he’s the right man for the job.

“We do our due diligence on everyone we try and hire around here,” Reese said, via the Star-Ledger. “David was, No. 1 he was qualified, and we think he’s a terrific fit for us. We’re happy to have him on board.”

Tyree has committed to speak with Wade Davis, an openly gay former NFL player who has spoken publicly about the importance of the sports world being welcoming to gay athletes. To satisfy those who are criticizing the Giants, Tyree may also have to disavow some of his previous comments. So far, Tyree has not done that.

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Chargers waive Jonas Mouton

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The Chargers have let go of a former second-round pick whose career has been marked by injuries.

The club waived linebacker Jonas Mouton with a failed physical designation on Wednesday, the team announced. In all, Mouton – the No. 61 pick in 2011 — played just three games for San Diego, recording one tackle. The 26-year-old Michigan product missed the 2013 season with a torn right ACL and most of the 2011 campaign with a shoulder ailment.

In another transaction Wednesday, the Chargers placed right guard Jeromey Clary (hip) on the active/PUP list, the club said.

The Chargers have 89 players on their roster, one short of the limit. This includes ex-Ravens linebacker Adrian Hamilton, whose signing the team announced Tuesday. The 26-year-old Hamilton (6-3, 255) played in two games for Baltimore in 2012.

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Suggs wants Flacco to drop more “F” bombs

Joe Flacco AP

Yes, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has the hardware and the cold-hard-straight-cash-homey.  But is he ready to become a true franchise quarterback?  The kind of guy who acts like an unofficial member of the coaching staff, getting in guys’ faces when they screw up and/or periodically firing off a primal scream, Tom Brady-style, in order to keep his head from exploding, Scanners-style.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs wants to see Flacco act more like Brady and Peyton Manning, pissing and moaning and generally having tantrums when guys don’t show the same abilities and smarts as their on-field leaders do.

“Joe is just ‘Cool Joe,’” Suggs said upon arrival at training camp, via the team’s official website.  “Most of the time he’s not the most vocal.  But sometimes we may need that.   He may have to cuss somebody out.  He may have to cuss me out.  It’s good to hear your quarterback get after somebody sometimes.  I think it will be a good thing.”

Suggs suggested that Flacco has in the past been more passive-aggressive when it comes to making his points.  Suggs wants Flacco to be aggressive-aggressive.

“He has cussed me out before, but Joe knows how to do his little subliminal slick shots,” Suggs said.  “We’re looking for a little bit more direct. . . .  I’ve said it from the jump: We have a lot of leaders on this team.  I’m really looking forward to seeing Joe Flacco come into his own.  Be one of those premier, elite quarterbacks and talk to his team.  We’re definitely going to stand behind Joe, stand behind Haloti [Ngata] and hopefully they all stand behind me.”

The knock from some on Flacco is that he doesn’t seem to care enough.  Basically, Suggs is trying to get Flacco to care more.  Or to at least act like he does.

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Chris Johnson cleared for full practice, “flying” during conditioning run

Chris Johnson AP

Jets running back Chris Johnson didn’t do much during the spring while making his way back from knee surgery, but he said Wednesday that he’s ready to work.

Johnson said, via Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com, that Dr. James Andrews cleared him to make a full return to practice when the Jets hold their first session of training camp on Thursday. Johnson isn’t sure if the Jets will give him the green light to do everything right away, but it doesn’t look like the knee will hold him back from earning reps ahead of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell.

Coach Rex Ryan said that Johnson was “flying” during the team’s conditioning run and that speed is the reason why the Jets signed him to join an offense that was devoid of playmakers last season.

Johnson wasn’t the only player to do well during the conditioning test as Ryan revealed that everyone on the team passed the test for the first time in his six years as the team’s head coach. That left him with an “incredible” feeling about this year’s team, something that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to those who have been listening to Ryan for the last week.

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Dean Cain, Matt Leinart trade barbs (yes, it’s still a little slow)

Leinart Getty Images

With plenty of camps still not open, there’s still some time for slow-news-days stories.  Especially when they involved former first-round busts.

Actor Dean Cain, talking to TMZ while loading groceries into his Ford F-150, cautioned Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel against living a Hollywood lifestyle.

“I do remember another quarterback, back in the day, coming out and being a high draft choice, and hanging out with the Hollywood starlets and stars, and never really doing that well,” Cain said.  “I didn’t say any names coming out of USC wearing No. 11 named Matt Leinart. . . .  I’m not saying Matt Leinart can’t get ladies, but he can’t get a contract in the NFL now.”

Said Leinart on Twitter, presumably in response:  “Put 7 years in, pretty sure that’s 7 more than 99% of the world.  Some people should stick to their day job because they couldn’t cut it!”

He’s right, but drawing an NFL paycheck for seven years and fulfilling the potential that made him a top-10 pick are two different things.  Leinart undoubtedly was a bust of near-historic proportions.”Stick to being D list!” Leinart added in a shot at Cain that pretty much ignores the current status of the guy who just played the D-list card.  The biggest question over the next few years is whether Manziel will eventually join them as guys who used to be not far less than they were expected to be.

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John Elway: It will never be the same here without Pat Bowlen

John Elway, John Fox AP

Broncos General Manager John Elway worked for Pat Bowlen for his entire playing career and he returned to the Broncos fold as an executive several years ago, which made Bowlen’s decision to step down as owner on Wednesday because he has Alzheimer’s Disease an emotional one for the team’s General Manager.

Elway shed a few tears at a Wednesday press conference about the change at the top of the team’s hierarchy, calling it a “sad, sad day” for the organization and saying that he hopes his bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day resides next to one honoring the team’s longtime owner.

“From the inside out, it will never be the same here,” Elway said, via the Denver Post. “He has given me so much. It’s going to be hard to walk through those doors and not see him.”

Team president Joe Ellis, who has taken over much of the day-to-day responsibility for running the team, also spoke at the press conference and promised to keep running the team the way that Bowlen did over the last three decades.

“We are going to do right by his family, the team and the community,” Ellis said. “This is really hard. It doesn’t change what we do. He loved running this team and was really good at it. … We all wish Pat would walk through that door and do what he did so well. But he left us a blueprint that’s easy to follow.”

The Broncos have had just five losing seasons since Bowlen bought the team and have won two Super Bowls while advancing to four others during his time as owner.

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Vikings waive DE Spencer Nealy, sign TE Michael Higgins

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The Vikings have parted ways with suspended defensive end Spencer Nealy, waiving him on Wednesday, the club said.

The 24-year-old Nealy was banned four games earlier this month for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Should Nealy sign elsewhere, he could take part in training camp and the preseason before serving his suspension, which can end no earlier than September 29.

According to a statement released through the NFLPA, Nealy’s suspension stemmed from a banned stimulant in a supplement.

To fill Nealy’s roster spot, the Vikings signed tight end Michael Higgins, a Nebraska-Omaha product who was on the Saints’ practice squad a season ago and played four regular season games for New Orleans from 2011 through 2012.

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