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Rookies routinely get stuck with big bills

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While it’s apparent that whatever happened to Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin likely went beyond normal rookie hazing, the notion that veterans force rookies taken in the higher rounds of the draft to finance expensive trips or dinners is hardly unprecedented.

Routinely, players taken in round one or two of the draft are expected to foot the bill for a trip or a expensive meal.  It’s therefore impossible to assess whether the report that other Dolphins have been forced to pay for expensive things at the behest of veterans reflects an isolated situation or something that is part of the broader NFL culture.

Regardless of the extent to which it happens elsewhere, it definitely happens.  Former Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf once tried to resist paying for a team dinner.  As legend has it, linebacker Junior Seau eventually got Leaf’s credit card and charged a dinner for everyone on the team except Leaf.

Leaf complained, and Seau responding by flattening Leaf in practice.

“The reason behind the hit was that a bunch of veterans had pulled a prank,” former Chargers exec Billy Devaney told Sports Illustrated last year.  “They’d gone out to dinner and charged it to Ryan’s credit card.  They did stuff like that to first-round picks every year. It might have been a couple thousand dollars, and Ryan went crying to [General Manager Bobby Beathard], saying, ‘This isn’t right. I’m not paying it.’ When the guys found out Ryan had gone to management, they were so pissed. Normally [on an interception in practice] you stop and say no big deal. Well, Junior wanted to send a message. He hunted Leaf down and decleated him. The whole defense came over and high-fived him right away.”

That’s exactly why players don’t complain about stuff like this, and why Martin has been reluctant to complain about whatever his teammates were doing to him that prompted him to leave the team last week.

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Cardinals first-round pick D.J. Humphries OK after minor knee scare

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The Arizona Cardinals have suffered many injuries to offensive linemen in recent years. So when first-round pick D.J. Humphries left the practice field while having his right knee looked at, it would be no surprise if the Cardinals were holding their collective breath.

Apparently then can now all exhale.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Humphries knee injury isn’t serious and should only limit him for about a week.

Humphries is competing with 2014 starter Bobby Massie at right tackle. Massie was the Cardinals starter in 2012 and 2014 at the position, but Humphries will push for the right to start opposite left tackle Jared Veldheer.

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Brian Westbrook named to Eagles Hall of Fame

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Brian Westbrook’s versatility made him a nightmare for opposing defenses to handle during his nine-year career spent predominantly with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now the Eagles are honoring him with a spot in their Hall of Fame.

Westbrook, an analyst for ProFootballTalk on NBCSN, will join linebacker Maxie Baughn as new members of the Eagles Hall of Fame. They will bring the number of members to a total of 40.

It means a lot to me. I mean it means a lot to my family as well,” Westbrook said, per the team’s website. “I worked hard to be honored like this, and I played with a lot of guys that got me to this place. I just mentioned out there that they say how did you get here? Well I played with an awful lot of good players, and they made my job a lot easier.

“For me to just go out there and make people miss and gain yards is the easy work, but those guys in front on the offensive line and those guys outside blocking helped me a lot. But, this is a great honor. I never really thought about it. I’ve seen guys like Dawk (Brian Dawkins) and Donovan (McNabb), those guys that carried this team for so long get inducted to the Hall of Fame, and I believe they got their numbers retired. Of course I congratulated, I celebrate those guys because I know that they were great players. I never really knew I was going to get the opportunity. But, my day came and it’s a blessing.”

Westbrook was a jack-of-all-trades for Philadelphia. He was an avid runner, skilled receiver and occasional kick returner for the Eagles. Westbrook rushed for 6,335 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career and posted a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. He also caught 442 passes for 3,940 yards and 30 touchdowns.

In 2007, he led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage, an Eagles all-time season-single record. Westbrook made the Pro Bowl twice and was twice named a first-team All-Pro.

Westbrook players eight seasons for the Eagles before ending his career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010.

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Vincent admits Brady was disciplined under policy not given to players

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While basic P.R. concerns prevent the NFLPA from putting it this way, the primary argument against the suspension of Tom Brady is that, even if he did what he’s accused of doing, he can’t be suspended for it.

As to Brady’s alleged “general awareness” that one or more Patriots employees were deflating footballs, the NFLPA argues that the discipline was imposed under a policy that is not distributed to players. Which, as a matter of basic labor law, prevents the NFL from disciplining Brady for any violations of the policy.

The transcript of Brady’s appeal hearing includes admissions from executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent that prove these two key points.

“Where do you find the policy that says footballs can’t be altered with respect to pressure? Is that going to be in the competitive integrity policy that Mr. Wells cited in his report?” attorney Jeffrey Kessler asked Vincent.

“Game-Day Operations Manual,” Vincent said.

“Is it correct, to your knowledge, that the manual is given to clubs and GMs and owners, et cetera, but the manual is not given out to players; is that correct, to your knowledge?” Kessler said.

“That’s correct, to my knowledge,” Vincent said.

“In fact, when you were a player, you were never given that manual, right?”

“No,” Vincent said.

Earlier in the hearing, Brady testified he never received a copy of the Competitive Integrity Policy.

While the NFL will argue that Brady was disciplined generally for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game (indeed, that was the specific conclusion reached in the appeal ruling), the NFLPA will argue that labor law requires much more specificity and, fundamentally, notice as to what is prohibited.

By way of comparison, if a player were deliberately and intentionally using stickum, he arguably would be engaging in conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game, he’d be subject to only a fine, because the negotiated fine schedule allows a fine of $8,681 for having a foreign substance on the body or uniform. And other equipment or uniform violations result in a fine of only $5,787 for a first offense.

The NFL hasn’t secured via collective bargaining the ability to impose a suspension for these types of “cheating” violations, even when the player is personally committing the offense. More importantly, the NFL hasn’t informed players that they can be suspended for such behavior.

That alone, in the opinion of the NFLPA, will keep Brady from being suspended. The real question is whether Judge Richard M. Berman disagrees.

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Ruling mischaracterizes Brady’s testimony about communications with Jastremski

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When the NFL released the 20-page, single-space ruling upholding the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady without also releasing the transcript, it was impossible to verify the accuracy of any conclusions reached in the ruling. The transcript has now been released, and plenty of comparing-and-contrasting is going on.

The idea for this one comes from Doug Kyed of NESN.com, who compared a key conclusion drawn by Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding Brady’s credibility to the raw testimony generated in Goodell’s presence. And it’s clear that Goodell’s characterization reflects an incomplete (at best) review of the overall testimony.

At page 8 of the ruling, Goodell writes: “Mr. Brady testified that he was unable to recall any specifics of [his] discussions [with John Jastremski] and he suggested that their principle subject was the preparation of game balls for the Super Bowl. But the need for such frequent communication beginning on January 19 is difficult to square with the fact that there apparently was no need to communicate by cellphone with Mr. Jastremski or to meet personally with him in the ‘QB room’ during the preceding twenty weeks of the regular season and post-season prior to the AFC Championship Game. . . . The sharper contrast between the almost complete absence of communications through the AFC Championship Game and the extraordinary volume of communications during the three days following the AFC Championship Game undermines any suggestion that the communications addressed only preparation of footballs for the Super Bowl rather than the tampering allegations and their anticipated responses to inquiries about the tampering.”

Within that quote, the ruling drops the following footnote: “In response to the question, ‘Why were you talking to Mr. Jastremski in those two weeks?,’ Mr. Brady responded, in sum: ‘I think most of the conversations centered around breaking in the balls.’ For reasons noted, I do not fully credit that testimony.”

(Before going any farther, there’s a subtle blurring of the lines between the text of the ruling and the footnote. The text suggests Brady said he and Jastremski “only” discussed football preparation; the footnote quotes Brady as saying “most” of the conversations focused on breaking in the balls.)

Basically, Goodell thinks Brady was trying to conceal or downplay that fact that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations. If, under that theory, Brady was trying to hide that fact that he and Jastremski talked about the allegations, Brady would ultimately be trying to hide the fact that were hoping to get their ducks in a row, for illegitimate purposes.

If Brady had testified consistently throughout the hearing that they only discussed getting footballs ready for the Super Bowl, that would indeed be a little curious — even though Brady testified that he wanted to be sure that the 100 balls (not 12) used for the Super Bowl would be properly broken in, without the use of Lexol, which would have made the balls slick if it would have unexpectedly rained while the retractable roof at the University of Phoenix Stadium was opened. (Brady said it had rained after New England’s last game in Phoenix; it also rained there on several days during the week preceding the game.)

But here’s the thing. Brady ADMITTED on multiple occasions that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations.

At page 79, Brady testified that he texted Jastremski “You good, Johnny boy?” because Jastremski was “obviously nervous [about] the fact that these allegations were coming out that they would fall back on him.”

Later, at page 130, Brady testified while explaining an 11-minute call with Jastresmki on January 19, the day after the AFC title game: “I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. But like I said, there was two things that were happening. One was the allegations which we were facing and the second was getting ready for the Super Bowl, which both of those things have never happened before. [Editor’s note: It wasn’t the first time Brady went to a Super Bowl, but it was the first Super Bowl for the Patriots with Jastremski in that specific job.] So me talking to him about those things were unprecedented, you know, he was the person that I would be communicating with.” (Emphasis added.)

At page 144, Brady further elaborates on the reasons for phone calls with Jastresmki on January 19, 20, and 21: “[T]he initial report was that none of the Colts’ balls were deflated, but the Patriots, all the Patriots’ balls were. So I think trying to figure out what happened was certainly my concern and trying to figure out, you know, what could be — possibly could have happened to those balls.” (Emphasis added.)

To summarize, the ruling concluded that Brady testified that he didn’t speak to Jastresmki about the tampering allegations, which caused Goodell to disregard Brady’s denial of “awareness and consent” to the deflation scheme: “[T]he unusual pattern of communication between Mr. Brady and Mr. Jastremski in the days following the AFC Championship Game cannot readily be explained as unrelated to conversations about the alleged tampering of the game balls,” Goodell wrote at page 8 of the ruling.

But Brady testified — on multiple occasions — that he and Jastremski talked about the situation. And why wouldn’t they have talked? At that time, the NFL had told the Patriots that one of their footballs was measured at 10.1 PSI, ESPN had reported that 11 of 12 footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum, and the NFL had informed the Patriots that none of the Colts footballs measured below the 12.5 PSI minimum. Apart from the fact that each of these three contentions weren’t factual, they gave Brady plenty of reason to be talking to Jastremski, not to line up a lie but to try to figure out how someone could have taken so much air out of the footballs.

We now know that no one took that much air out of the footballs. For now, the new wrinkle is that the NFL forgot, conveniently or otherwise, that Brady had admitted talking to Jastremski about the tampering allegation when concluding that Brady had failed to admit to such communications, and in turn concluding that his denial of awareness and consent to a deflation scheme wasn’t believable.

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Why didn’t Goodell call Jastremski and McNally?

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Not long after PFT obtained a copy of the Tom Brady appeal hearing transcript, which was filed in federal court Tuesday by the NFLPA, I scrolled through the document to see how many pages I’d have to read.

When I got to the last page — 456 — I noticed a comment from NFL outside counsel Gregg Levy, who served as the legal advisor to non-lawyer arbitrator/Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“In your briefs, the Commissioner would like you to address the question of whether he should hear from Mr. McNally and/or Mr. Jastremski before resolving the issue, before deciding the matter,” Levy said.

At footnote 7 (where the good stuff always is hiding) of the 20-page ruling on the Brady appeal, the Commissioner explains that the NFLPA took the position that, because the two Patriots employees who exchanged the troubling Beavis-and-Butthead text messages denied a scheme to deflate footballs, there was “no need to call them as witnesses.” The NFL took the position that, since the NFLPA was questioning the findings of the Ted Wells report based on the interviews of McNally and Jastremski, “it was incumbent on them to call both witnesses.” The NFL also argued that the failure of the NFLPA to call McNally and Jastremski as witnesses requires an “adverse inference” that “their testimony would have confirmed Brady’s involvement.”

But that’s not what Levy requested. Levy wanted to know whether Goodell “should hear from” the witnesses before deciding the case. The NFLPA believed there was no need for it. The NFL essentially said that, because the NFLPA didn’t call them in the first place, the Commissioner should assume that whatever they said would prove Brady’s guilt.

So why didn’t Goodell simply insist on their testimony on his own? While it likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome, since Goodell would have needed a very good reason to scrap the decision he’d already approved based on the multi-million-dollar investigation he’d already authorized, it would have been far more prudent — and the record would have been far more clear — if the Commissioner had heard directly from them.

Making that testimony before Goodell even more important is the fact that Ted Wells wanted to re-question McNally because Wells and company inexplicably had failed to notice the controversial “deflator” text message before interviewing McNally the first time.

The fact that the NFLPA didn’t want them to testify suggests that the NFLPA was concerned about what they would say. But why didn’t the Commissioner — who wasn’t bashful about asking his own questions of Tom Brady — decide to pose his own questions to McNally and Jastremski?

If the Commissioner was intent on getting to the truth, he should have at least been curious to hear what they had to say, and to observe their demeanor while they said it.

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Ravens assistant alerted Colts to issue with footballs

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In the days before they played the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, the Colts were alerted by the Ravens to pay special attention to potential problems with the game balls.

Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan sent an email to G.M. Ryan Grigson before the AFC Championship saying that the Ravens’ special teams coach, Jerry Rosburg, had called Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to warn him of potential problems with game balls. According to the email, the Ravens had problems in their own playoff loss to the Patriots the week before, and urged the Colts to be careful.

“Two concerns came up as of yesterday on footballs at New England,” Sullivan wrote, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “First off the special teams coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens called Coach Pagano and said that they had issues last week at the game that when they were kicking (Baltimore that is) they were given new footballs instead of the ones that were prepared correctly.”

Sullivan then added that the Patriots are known to play fast and loose with the rules regarding the game balls.

“As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage,” Sullivan wrote.

If it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots were breaking the rules about game balls, at Tom Brady’s request, it’s baffling that it never became public until Deflategate broke out after the AFC Championship Game. But Sullivan’s email makes clear that this was an issue the Colts were bracing for heading into the game.

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John Mara sees two teams sharing a stadium in L.A. in 2016

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Giants owner John Mara, a member of the NFL’s Los Angeles committee, thinks the league will have two L.A. teams next season.

Mara said on WFAN 660 that the short-term answer for the league will be to have teams playing in a temporary home, and the long-term answer will be building a new stadium.

“I think LA will certainly happen and I think there’s a good chance there will be two teams playing there next year in a temporary facility,” he said.

Mara said he thinks it’s more viable to have two teams sharing one stadium, as his team and the Jets do in New York, than to move only one team to Los Angeles or to have two teams in separate Southern California stadiums. Mara said stadiums are simply too expensive to justify building one in Los Angeles for only one team.

So of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders, it appears likely that only one will be staying put next year, and two will be pulling up and moving to Los Angeles.

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At hearing, Brady tiptoed around preference for 12.5 PSI

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The NFLPA has made its initial filing in a New York federal court in the case involving Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. Filed with the main document was the lengthy transcript of the 10-hour appeal hearing.

PFT has obtained a copy of the transcript, and the resident lawyer has been assigned the responsibility of reading and digesting it. (Hooray?)

The process began with the testimony from the first witness called by NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler: Tom Brady.

In response to questions from Kessler, Brady said all the things that would be expected. He didn’t know about any effort to deflate footballs, he didn’t direct anyone to do it, and he wasn’t even aware of the limits for air pressure inside footballs until after the 2014 game against the Jets, when Brady became “very pissed off” because the balls used in that game were “very hard.”

It turned out that the balls somehow had been inflated to 16 PSI. This prompted Brady to look up the relevant rule. He said that he then learned for the first time about the 12.5 to 13.5 PSI range, and he told Patriots equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld to “make sure when the referees get the balls, give them this sheet of paper that highlighted” the minimum and the maximum. Brady specifically said at that time that the balls should be inflated to 12.5 PSI.

On cross-examination, Lorin Reisner asked Brady how he arrived at 12.5 PSI as his preferred inflation.

“We basically just picked a number at that point, I guess, historically, we had always set the pressure at — before John Jastremski took over, it had been historically set at, like, 12.7 or 12.8,” Brady said. “That’s what I learned after the fact. And I think based on the Jets game, I said why don’t we just set them at 12.5, bring this [copy of the rule] to the ref and I didn’t think about it after that.”

Then Reisner asked again why Brady would pick 12.5 PSI.

“Ball pressure has been so inconsequential, I hadn’t even thought about that,” Brady said. “I think at the end of the day, the only time I thought about it was after the Jet game and then after this was brought up, after the [AFC] championship game. It’s never something that has been on my radar, registered. I never said ‘psi.’ I don’t think I even know what that meant until after the [AFC] championship game. It was something that never crossed my mind.”

And then Reisner asked again why Brady picked 12.5 PSI.

“We looked in the rule book,” Brady said.

And then, one more time, Reisner asked Brady why he picked 12.5 PSI.

“I don’t know exactly how we did it,” Brady said. “I don’t remember how we came to that other than the experience I had in the Jet game when they were grossly overinflated and then they showed me the rule book or the copy of the page in the rule book. And I said, why don’t we just set them here, 12.5, and not think about it ever again.”

Reisner then posed the obvious question that Brady apparently didn’t want to directly answer: “Did you pick 12.5 because it was toward the lower end or the lower end of the permissible range?

“I’m not sure why I picked it in particular,” Brady said, “other than having to put some — I think John [Jastremski] said he did either 12.5 or 12.6. You know, we had to pick some number that we were ultimately going to set them to, so I said why don’t we just set them all to 12.5 and that was it.”

Then came the direct point that Brady’s prior answers were trying to avoid: “Is it fair to say that you prefer the footballs inflated to a pressure level at the low end of the range?”

“Like I said, I never have thought about the ball, the air pressure in a football,” Brady said. “The only time I have ever thought about the air pressure in a football was after the Jets game when they were at the level of 16.

“So whenever I went to pick the game balls, I never once in 15 years ever asked what the ball pressure was set at until after the Jet game. So whether it’s 12.5 or 12.6 or 12.7 or 12.8 or 12.9 or 13, all the way up to the Colts game, I still think it’s inconsequential to what the actual feel of a grip of a football would be.

“So the fact that there could be a ball that’s set at 12.5 that I would disapprove of, there could be a ball at 13 that I could approve of. It all is depending on how the ball feels in my hand on that particular day.”

Reisner kept at it, trying to get Brady to admit he wanted as little air as possible in the balls, with the implication being that he’d take even less than the minimum, if he could get it.

“And the request that 12.5 was your preferred pressure level was because you like the balls inflated at the low end of the permissible range; is that fair?” Lorin Reisner asked.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Brady said.

“You didn’t just pick 12.5 randomly, correct?”

“No, we picked 12.5 because that was — I don’t know why we picked 12.5. We could have picked 12.6. I don’t even remember it being part of the conversation; I really don’t. I don’t remember exactly how we set it other than I had this experience at the Jet game where the balls were at 16.

“I didn’t like that. That’s the first time I ever complained. So when I say 12 and a half and 13 and a half, I made the determination let’s just set them at 12 and a half.”

“And that wasn’t chosen randomly,” Reisner later asked, “but it was chosen because you preferred that inflation level, fair?”

“I never thought about the inflation level, Lorin” Brady said. “I never in the history of my career, I never thought about the inflation level of a ball.”

Brady later explained that none of it matters; “I think the irony of everything is I don’t even squeeze a football,” he said.

“I think that’s something that’s really important to know is I grip the ball as loosely as possible. I don’t even squeeze the ball and I think that’s why it’s impossible for me to probably tell the difference between what 12.5 and 12.7 and 12.9 and 13 because I’m just gripping it like a golf club. I’ve tried to explain it. It’s like a golf club. You don’t squeeze the golf club. You handle it very gently. And that’s the same way I handle a football.”

Brady never directly admitted what his decision to go with 12.5 PSI necessarily conveys — that he preferred the footballs to be inflated at 12.5 PSI because that was the lowest permissible amount. That kind of evasiveness can make people think he’s wary of that next logical step is, if he likes 12.5 PSI, he possibly loves 12.3 or 12.0 or 11.5.

The truth could be that Brady simply allowed him competitive nature take over during the questioning, which caused him to fight as hard as he could to avoid conceding a point that could be used against him. What Brady didn’t realize is that the effort to fight the point he should have just conceded does even more potential damage.

When I practiced law (and while reading through the 456-page transcript I’m more and more grateful I no longer do), I always told my witnesses to concede whatever they had to concede, without resistance. Resistance always comes off worse than just agreeing with the undeniable point the lawyer is trying to make, and moving on.

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Lions talking about extensions for DeAndre Levy and Haloti Ngata

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The Lions want to lock up a pair of key defensive parts, including one which hasn’t taken a snap for them.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew said he was working on new deals for both linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who are entering the finals years of their respective contracts.

The last time Mayhew talked much about negotiations, they centered on now-Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, so the G.M. is probably a little gun-shy about talking about such things.

We’re in discussions with DeAndre at this time,” Mayhew said. “That’s about all I’ll say about it.”

Levy is one of the most productive 4-3 outside linebackers in the league, though he hasn’t drawn Pro Bowl recognition because of the all-star game’s almost exclusive choices of 3-4 pass-rushers at that position. But he’s had 270 tackles the last two years, and the Lions recognize his value.

“He’s a heck of a football player, just a playmaker on our defense versus the run and the pass,” Mayhew said. “The guy’s an impact player, so we definitely want to keep him on our defense. It’s very important to our football team. His leadership is also excellent and professional in every sense of the word, so he has a lot of value to us and he’s one of our own guys so we want to definitely keep him around.”

Ngata hasn’t practiced yet because of a hamstring strain, but he’s fills a big need for them after both Suh and Nick Fairley were allowed to leave in free agency.

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Lions add Jerel Worthy off waivers

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Defensive lineman Jerel Worthy has bounced from the Packers to the Patriots and Chiefs over the last two years as he’s tried to find a home in the NFL and now he’ll look for an extended stay in the same state where he played his college ball.

Worthy has been claimed off of waivers by the Lions a day after the Chiefs parted ways with him. Worthy played at Michigan State in college and became a second-round pick of the Packers in 2012 after making the All-America team in his final year in Lansing.

Worthy saw action with Green Bay as a rookie, but tore his ACL at the end of the year and played in only two games during his second NFL season. The Packers traded him to the Patriots and he wound up on the Chiefs practice squad last year after failing to make the Pats out of camp.

According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions website, Worthy will compete for snaps at tackle, where Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, Caraun Reid and 2015 fourth-round pick Gabe Wright are already in the mix for playing time.

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Chris Houston retiring after short stay with Panthers

Marvin Jones, Chris Houston AP

The Panthers signed cornerback Chris Houston in June in hopes that he was recovered from the toe injury that kept him out of the league last season and could help their secondary, but that hope will go unfulfilled.

Houston has been able to practice with the team, but sat out Sunday after hurting his toe on Saturday. Houston returned to the field Monday, but it appears he’s lost the desire to continue pursuing professional football as a career. Houston announced that he’s retiring from the NFL on Tuesday.

Houston spent seven years with the Falcons and Lions and was a starter for most of his time with both teams. He ends his career with 376 tackles, 13 interceptions, three touchdowns and four forced fumbles.

His departure leaves the Panthers with the same collection of cornerbacks they had before taking a flier on Houston — Charles Tillman, Josh Norman, Bene’ Benwikere and Melvin White are the experienced names — and makes two retirements from the Panthers roster in as many weeks. Tackle Jonathan Martin also walked away from the game rather than try to resume his career after recovering from a back injury.

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Judge Berman orders NFL-NFLPA to not file documents under seal

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Full transparency is coming to the Tom Brady appeal process.

Judge Richard M. Berman, who strongly hinted on Friday that he won’t be inclined to allow the NFL and NFLPA to keep the transcript of the 10-hour Tom Brady appeal hearing secret, has ordered the parties to not submit materials under seal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

It means that the transcript of the Brady appeal hearing will soon be made public.

The NFLPA previously attached the transcript as an exhibit to the filing made under seal in federal court in Minnesota. With that case transferred back to New York, the union soon will be re-filing its initial submission, with the transcript as an exhibit.

And the transcript at that point will be a matter of public record. Which means that it’ll be time to brew some coffee and put on the cheaters, because anyone paid to comment on this case will be compelled to read every word of every page of the transcript.

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Chip Kelly: Handling of Cooper “could be” connected to current issue

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As he continues to defend himself against claims of racism, Eagles coach Chip Kelly acknowledged the reason may be because of the way he handled a guy who actually committed some.

According to Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com, Kelly was asked Tuesday if he saw a connection between his treatment of wide receiver Riley Cooper after his videotaped racial slur and remarks by former players including Brandon Boykin and LeSean McCoy.

There could be,” Kelly said. “I literally don’t spend time trying to connect Y to X to Z. We have other things to do.”

Of course, the other “grown men of our culture” might feel differently about it than Kelly, especially after Cooper was rewarded with a $22.5 million contract extension after the 2013 season.

“I think that Riley made a mistake,” Kelly said. “That’s part of it. We all backed him. Michael [Vick] backed him. Jason Avant backed him. I think that’s part of being in an organization and on a team. I look at that as a specific incident where he was 100-percent wrong. Those are things that should never be said.

“I hope he learned his lesson. I think he regrets what he did that day, every single day. I see that in him. Do I regret what I did in terms of how we handled Riley? No, I don’t.”

Kelly also defended himself against Boykin’s clarification that he thought Kelly struggled to communicate, rather than implying a more sinister motive.

“We have an open-door policy,” Kelly said. “I had a long talk with Brandon last spring when he came in and sat down and talked to me. You can come talk to me whenever you want to come talk to me. We also have a pretty structured day where guys are in meetings. I don’t just walk around and say, ‘Hey, let me go grab him and sit down and have a coffee together.’ When they get here, they’re doing stuff.

“In the offseason, we’re limited with our time. You get guys for four hours, there’s not a time when we’re all sitting around, holding hands, singing ‘Kumbaya’ together. We’re in meeting rooms, getting stuff done. They’re in the training room, getting stuff done. They’re on the training field, getting stuff done. I don’t think it’s any different from any other head coaches in terms of where you are.”

Of course, other coaches are more personable, or at least not so painfully uncomfortable in the public eye than Kelly, so interpersonal communication might not be so much of a struggle.

But to ignore the connection between sheltering/paying Cooper and the scorn of those who didn’t continue to receive checks from the Eagles seems naive. While many were able to forgive Cooper and move on, others were never going to be able to, and from that standpoint, what Kelly is dealing with now may have been inevitable.

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Terrelle Pryor tweaks hamstring, throws passes in Browns practice

Terrelle Pryor AP

The Browns want Terrelle Pryor “1000 percent” focused on playing wide receiver, but it doesn’t look like they’ll mind opposing defenses worrying about the possibility that he’ll be throwing passes this season.

Pryor threw a couple of passes during Tuesday’s practice, one of which came off an end-around during 11-on-11 drills. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com described the toss as a “wobbling duck down the right sideline” which Travis Benjamin was able to catch after cornerback Pierre Desir. Pryor poked some fun at himself after practice.

“They said it was wobbly and ugly,” Pryor said. “They said I lost my QB skills. I told them I never had them.”

Coach Mike Pettine suggested that this won’t be the last time the team tries a bit of trickery with Pryor on offense this season.

“Special plays are going to be part of our plan each week,” Pettine said, via ESPNCleveland.com. “You want to have those up, the sooner the better. I’m just a firm believer of always having that option. If it’s there, you have a couple practiced and ready to go. If you get into a game where there’s a lull on both sides offensively, you need something to break it open. Having a guy like Terrelle certainly gives us that ability.”

Any use of Pryor will be contingent on him being healthy enough to be on the field, something that wasn’t the case for all of Tuesday’s session. Pryor tweaked his hamstring, which he iced while watching practice. Pettine said that he didn’t believe it was serious, but that Pryor would undergo further evaluation.

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Darren Woodson to enter Cowboys Ring of Honor

Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Safety Darren Woodson stayed with the Cowboys long enough to play for five different head coaches and he played well enough for those coaches to earn a spot among the best players to wear the star on their helmets.

The Cowboys announced Tuesday that Woodson will enter the team’s Ring of Honor during the team’s November 1 game against the Seahawks. He’s the 21st inductee and the first since Drew Pearson, Larry Allen and Charles Haley were enshrined in 2011.

Woodson spent his entire 13-year career in Dallas and was selected to five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams during a tenure that also saw him earn three Super Bowl rings. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles and intercepted 23 passes during his career.

“He’s the ultimate warrior. There’s no more like him,” former teammate Nate Newton said, via the team’s website. “He never left the field. He played all the special teams. He only left the field with the offense. He made everyone better. He was the back end to our defense.”

Woodson was a semi-finalist in the voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2015 class and remains eligible for consideration for that body in 2016.

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