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Clay Matthews set to make return for Packers

Clay Getty Images

The Packers wanted to see how linebacker Clay Matthews managed with a club on his right hand in Thursday’s practice before making a decision about whether or not he’d play against the Eagles this Sunday and it seems that he managed just fine.

Matthews has been listed as probable by the Packers, which puts him on track to play for the first time since October 6. Matthews broke his thumb in that game and had surgery that has kept him out of the last four games.

Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that coach Mike McCarthy said that the team would closely monitor Matthews’ snaps, especially because the no-huddle attack employed by the Eagles makes it difficult to sub on the fly if they feel Matthews needs to come out of the game.

The Packers remain hopeful that they can also get Nick Perry back at linebacker this week, but he’s listed as questionable with the foot injury that’s forced him out in recent weeks. McCarthy said the way he feels on Saturday will be a big factor in whether or not he’s able to be part of a defense that Green Bay will need to carry some extra weight with Aaron Rodgers out of the lineup.

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Arian Foster: Local media members ask mundane questions

Arian Foster AP

Texans running back Arian Foster got some attention this summer for breaking a streak of silence with the local media by answering every question at a media session by saying that he was just trying to be the best teammate that he could be.

Foster followed that session by writing on Twitter that the media is “full of propaganda” and then wrote that the media chastises him for not giving them what they want after another terse chat later in camp. Foster addressed the two meetings during an interview with USA Today that had the running back blaming his uninformative answers on the poor questions he’s asked.

“I only have that reputation with the local media, the Houston media here it’s they ask really mundane questions and when I give them mundane answers they get upset with me,” Foster said. “When you’ve been in the same city — it will be six years [in Houston], you get the same questions and I feel like as reporters it’s your job to write your story, not have your interviewee write your story and so I kind of hold them accountable to that and they get really upset. Especially when I was injured I just didn’t have anything to say so I thought if you don’t have anything to say why should you have to talk? And they felt differently.”

The NFL has requirements for players in terms of being available for the media, but there are none that force players to be good or engaging interviews. As a result, Foster’s choices on that front, banal as they may be when dealing with local media, aren’t likely to have consequences on anyone but Texans fans who’d like to know what their favorite team’s starting running back thinks about the mundane developments of an NFL season.

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Gordon asks Browns for permission to go to CFL


Receiver Josh Gordon is suspended from the NFL.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be playing football this year.

Per a league source, Gordon has asked the Browns for permission to play in the CFL for the balance of the Canadian league’s season.  Permission is required because Gordon remains under contract with the Browns.

Here’s the relevant language, from paragraph 3 of the NFL Player Contract:  “Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”

In 2007, the Titans actually sued cornerback Pacman Jones, who wanted to do a little pro wrestling during his one-year suspension.  Jones ultimately agreed to not actually do anything that could risk injury.

But the Browns may not have the last word, if they agree to let Gordon go to the CFL.  After the Dolphins allowed then-suspended running back Ricky Williams to play for the Toronto Argonauts, the CFL reportedly adopted a policy preventing suspended NFL players from playing in the CFL.

Then again, receiver LaVon Brazill remains suspended by the NFL, and he recently joined the Toronto Arognauts’ practice squad.  Being cut by the Colts means that he needs no permission to play in Canada.  But Brazill’s NFL suspension remains in full force and effect.

So whatever the CFL’s current policy is or isn’t, it’s apparently sufficiently malleable to allow the league to do whatever it wants to do.  Why wouldn’t it want Gordon?

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Special delivery: Derek Anderson to make tonight’s game

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots Getty Images

No one can ever say Derek Anderson doesn’t take his job serious.

The Panthers backup quarterback is flying to Pittsburgh this morning to catch up with his teammates, after the birth of his daughter last night.

According to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, Anderson admitted he hadn’t gotten much sleep in the ensuing hours, but will be on hand for the all-important preseason finale.

His wife was due last week, so he’s been on call for some time.

The Panthers only have one healthy quarterback on the trip, and without Anderson rolling in, Joe Webb would have had to take every snap.

Starter Cam Newton’s going to sit this one out with sore ribs, and they put fourth-stringer Matt Blanchard on injured reserve after he suffered a concussion last week.

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Addiction doesn’t matter under collectively-bargaining drug policy

marijuana Getty Images

Earlier this year, Colts owner Jim Irsay made a compelling case for compassion when it comes to addiction.  For players subject to the substance-abuse policy and testing program, it doesn’t matter.

“These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases,” Irsay told Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.  “People shy away from seeking help because it’s viewed as being somewhat morally off the path, that they’ve lost their way.  I really think the disease aspect gets lost when you’re talking about alcoholism and addiction; it’s not like you’re battling leukemia or a heart problem; it is that.  But even in 2014, there’s still this stigma.

“That stigma gets carried forward and it’s unfortunate because people die and families get affected and people don’t seek treatment. It’s an unusual disease in the sense that the person has to diagnose himself.  He has to realize that there’s this genetic disease you have to deal with through treatment.  My grandfather and father both died of the disease, and you realize you’ve spent a lot of time on this path.  Certainly, I have.”

If Browns receiver Josh Gordon has an addiction to marijuana, shouldn’t those same concepts apply to him?  In theory, yes.  As a practical matter, the NFL and NFLPA decided back in the Nancy Reagan “War on Drugs” days that the league should have the right to reach into a player’s bladder from time to time in order to police whether he has been smoking marijuana or taking other recreational substances that don’t enhance performance.

Fair or not, just or not, reasonable or not, the league and the union jointly decided long ago that the NFL would serve as the unofficial police force when it comes to the use of marijuana and other street drugs.  So what if a player is in his own home, on his own time?  The stone tablets from Park Avenue say, “Thou Shalt Not Wake And Bake.”

The challenge for the NFLPA will be to decide whether to attempt to secure relaxed standards regarding marijuana.  Collective bargaining entails a give and take; if the union wants something, it must be prepared to give something up.  The current system, which imposes a once-per-year test between April 20 and August 9 on players not in the program, can be easily navigated by players who want to smoke marijuana and who are able and willing to stop in the middle of March and quit until after their annual test has happened.  The NFLPA must decide whether to give up something to the NFL in exchange for changes that ultimately help the small percentage of players who aren’t smart enough to quit in March, or who due to an addiction can’t.

Until that happens, players will real addictions will face the ultimate loss of employment for a full season, if they can’t produce clean urine up to 10 times per month.  Meanwhile, Irsay will battle his own addiction issues without fear that, if the disease wins from time to time, he could eventually be kicked out of the league for a year.

And until the NFL applies the same substance-abuse testing program to the owners that it applies to the players, the NFL can never claim with a straight face that owners are somehow held to a higher standard than players.

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Dimitri Patterson: My absence wasn’t about depth chart

Dimitri Patterson, Thad Lewis AP

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson will have to cool his jets for a few more days after the Jets announced that his suspension for failing to show up for last Friday’s game against the Giants would extend through at least September 1.

Patterson took issue with characterizations of his absence as going AWOL, although that’s how the Jets presented it before and after handing down the suspension. Patterson has now addressed the absence again in a statement to Josina Anderson of ESPN that continued to keep the reason for his absence private while saying he let the Jets know he wouldn’t be there and that his absence wasn’t due to dissatisfaction with his role on defense.

“As it relates to my whereabouts and me missing for 48 hours without being seen or heard from me or my representative is completely false. My agent reached out to the Jets organization multiple times several hours prior to Friday night’s game,” Patterson said in the statement. “My commitment to the Jets organization and to my teammates has never been an issue and never will be an issue. As it relates to the rumors about my frustration in regards to the depth chart is totally and completely false. In nine years I have never had control over the depth chart.”

The Jets never said that they hadn’t heard from Patterson’s agent, just that he failed to show up for the game without being excused by the team ahead of time. As for the reason and his commitment to the Jets, Patterson only needs to satisfy the Jets’s concerns and their need for help at cornerback appears to be a big boost for him on that front.

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Seahawks’ punt team not getting much work in the preseason

jonryan AP

In the regular season, not having to punt is good. In the preseason? Well, it’s still good, but it may raise some concerns about whether the punt team will be rusty heading into Week One.

The Seahawks didn’t punt at all in their 41-14 win over the Chargers in Week Two of the preseason, and they only punted once, in the fourth quarter, in their 34-6 win over the Bears the following week. Seahawks punter Jon Ryan said that Week Two preseason game was the first time in his career that he was never called on to punt for a whole game, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that Ryan hasn’t had as many live reps as players like to get.

He’s a little underworked right now. It’s a good thing,” Carroll said. “We’re getting plenty of work in practice. We have a really good punt team. We have a bunch of guys that have played a lot together, so we have a lot of confidence in the whole mechanics of the snap and all that kind of stuff. It’s an experienced group, and we know they know how to play. All in all, we’ll take it this way.”

The fourth and final week of the preseason is so utterly meaningless that if the Seahawks don’t need to punt tonight against the Raiders, they might just punt on third down simply to get their punt unit some live game action. When they open the regular season a week from tonight against the Packers, they’d love to have Ryan do nothing more than hold on extra points.

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Mike McCarthy: Jarrett Boykin has taken the next step

Jarrett Boykin AP

The Packers felt comfortable letting James Jones go in free agency because they thought Jarrett Boykin was ready to move up the depth chart after a strong showing while filling in for the injured Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson at different points in 2013.

Nothing that they’ve seen this spring or summer has changed that feeling. Based on coach Mike McCarthy’s comments, the team may have even underestimated what Boykin will be able to bring to the offense this year.

“Clearly, Jarrett Boykin has taken the next step,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I just love the way he plays. He’s had an excellent camp. He’s physical, his toughness, he’s relentless. I think he’s exceptional at the top of his route. You see his strength and balance to separate from a DB.”

There was some thought after the draft that rookie Davante Adams would push Boykin for the third receiver job this offseason and Adams saw the most snaps of any receiver in the preseason, but he was never able to mount a serious challenge. Given the presence of Aaron Rodgers and the history of receivers in Green Bay, Boykin is well-positioned to put up big numbers this season.

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Jets rookie had to be restrained by cops during seizure

Jalen Saunders AP

The “medical event” a Jets rookie suffered which led to his car rolling off the road was actually a seizure, and police had to physically restrain him for his own safety.

According to A.J. Perez of, documents detail that three officers reported to the scene of Jalen Saunders‘ car accident, and one was taken to a nearby hospital to be evaluated for an injury sustained while assisting.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said that Saunders had a seizure, but was cleared to practice. He’s expected to play tonight.

“They just cleared him, so we feel good about that now,” Ryan said. “He’ll be ready to roll. Expect to see a great deal of him in this game against Philly on Thursday night as a receiver, as well as a punt returner.”

The good news is he’s been checked out and deemed well, so the issue of whether he can contribute to their special teams can again become an important one.

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ESPN’s shower report gets The Daily Show treatment

05-Oppenheimer-JonStewart-550x358 Getty Images

When it comes to determining whether an NFL news story has fully crossed over to the mainstream, I apply two general barometers:  (1) whether I get asked about the topic by people I don’t know very well (or at all) in places like the grocery store and restaurants; and (2) whether it becomes a topic on The Daily Show.

Wednesday night’s edition of the Comedy Central staple featured a look at the ESPN report regarding the shower habits of Michael Sam.

“Why would his teammates feel uncomfortable showering with Michael Sam?” Jon Stewart said.  “Does he use Axe Garlic & Rotten Egg body wash?  Does Michael Sam have a Kuato? . . . .  Michael Sam’s gay.  Are we not over this yet?”

Reacting to the explanation that Sam’s absence from the shower room with teammates may have resulted from Sam engaging in football-related activities, Stewart said, “Yes, those are all the most likely things a football team might be doing.  But couldn’t he also be singing show tunes or binge-watching Bravo?  ESPN viewers need to know.”

Stewart then brought in “Senior Sports Correspondent” Samantha Bee, who provided a “report” regarding Sam’s alarming lack of “locker room behavior of normal heterosexual NFL players,” such as “grab ass,” “dip snaps,” and “ball cupping.”

She then produced a copy of Jeff Pearlman’s Boys Will Be Boys, reading graphic quotes relating to Charles Haley’s notorious locker-room behaviors.

The ultimate conclusion?

“If Michael Sam wants to fit in to the NFL, he’d better cut the shy act and gay it up,” Bee said.

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Another drug bust at house of former Steeler, but no chicken

Deshea Townsend AP

Pennsylvania police have raided another home owned by former Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend in a drug bust.

Thankfully, no chickens were involved this time.

According to Liz Navratil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Townsend owns a home in Ross where cops arrested several people on drug charges last year.

He also owned a property in Mount Washington, where cops found 1,500 bricks of heroin, 16 guns, more than $100,000 in cash and a live chicken.

Townsend, who now works as an assistant coach at Mississippi State, hasn’t been implicated in either case, and didn’t comment on either.

It appears he’s just the landlord, but he has a string of really bad tenants.

In the latest case, police responded to a call to a condominium, where a neighbor reported a loose pit bull, and then heard “a thud and then a dog yelping in pain.”

When they went inside, they found 30 bricks of heroin in a shopping bag with more than $7,000 in cash.

The case creates a number of questions, but the one that still haunts my dreams remains from the first one: Why one live chicken?

With two, you can have eggs. With multiple chickens, maybe it’s a cock-fighting ring or a poultry farm.

But one chicken is either dinner or a pet or a god or a sacrifice, and I may not sleep until I know the answer.

UPDATE 8:20 a.m. ET: I stand corrected. I’m informed by a renowned poultry scientist that one hen will lay unfertilized eggs without a rooster.

But still.

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Retirement decision not helping Josh Brent get back in, so far

Pittsburgh Steelers v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

A year ago, Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent helped the NFL avoid a delicate decision.  Charged with intoxication manslaughter in connection with the death of teammate Jerry Brown but not yet tried or convicted, Brent could have shown up for training camp and forced the NFL to try to suspend him.

It could have sparked a fight between the NFL and the NFLPA under the substance-abuse policy, given that Brent was a first-time offender and that his legal case had not yet been resolved.  Instead, Brent chose to retire.

Now with the case resolved and Brent’s debt to society paid, he wants to return.  And the Cowboys want him.

“He’s had that [life-changing] experience,” owner Jerry Jones recently told 105.3 The Fan Dallas/Ft. Worth, via Tim McMahon of “He deserved that, and some people think he deserved more, but the point is he has been through some eye-opening days. We could really benefit from that as a football team.”

But the NFL is dragging its feet on this one, considering the possibility of imposing a suspension on Brent, who already has missed 20 regular-season games since the incident.

In contrast, former NFL receiver Donté Stallworth missed one season, 16 games, after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter several years ago.  Stallworth’s penalty came via suspension, not retirement.

Brent was never suspended.  He now wants to play.  If the league imposes a suspension on him in the wake of his decision to unretire, future players in that situation will realize that choosing to retire could be worse than digging in their heels and forcing a suspension.

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LaVon Brazill lands in Canada after NFL suspension

LaVon Brazill AP

Wide receiver Josh Gordon was finally suspended by the NFL for the entire 2014 season on Wednesday, leaving him with a long stretch away from the football field in the coming months.

LaVon Brazill is in the same suspension pot as Gordon, but he’s going to be back on a field a lot sooner. Brazill was dropped by the Colts following his suspension, which left him free to head to Canada to continue playing the game.

Brazill has signed on to the practice roster of the Toronto Argonauts and could move up to the active roster if the team likes what they see from him in practice in the coming days and weeks. Should that happen, Brazill will get a chance to put some things on tape for NFL teams that might be interested in bringing him aboard for the 2015 season or start carving out a longer career in Canada.

The same option isn’t open to Gordon, who remains under contract to the Browns. That limits your ability to engage in physical activities, as Adam Jones found out when the Titans balked at his attempt to become a pro wrestler during his own long suspension from the league.

Brazill had 23 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns in 25 games for the Colts over the last two seasons.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Patrick Willis ,Greg Olsen AP

The Bills will get their first look at QB Jordan Palmer tonight.

Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas is still fighting for his job.

Patriots RB Jonas Gray is among the youngsters trying to make a good last impression.

QB Matt Simms is in the driver’s seat for the third job with the Jets.

The Ravens might dip into the trade market for some CB help.

The Bengals were extremely interested in Tyrann Matthieu in the draft two years ago.

Breaking down the Browns roster before final cuts.

The Steelers’ attempt to add speed this offseason has been evident.

Texans QB Tom Savage will get plenty of chances tonight.

Are the Colts really considering adding G Richie Incognito?

Jaguars rookie WR Allen Hurns has impressed with his maturity.

Veteran K Garrett Hartley was part of the Titans’ workout yesterday.

The competition for the final RB spots on the Broncos roster will be fierce.

The Chiefs are working to keep their training camp in St. Joseph.

Raiders QB Derek Carr is looking forward to an extended look tonight.

Richard Marshall is accepting his move from CB to S with the Chargers.

The Cowboys are expected to bring back RB Phillip Tanner for tonight’s game.

Giants QB Ryan Nassib is still fighting for the No. 2 job.

Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins has added some gravity to a questionable secondary.

The Redskins have shown the ability to run this preseason.

Bears WR Santonio Holmes is still trying to fit into a new offense.

Lions WR Golden Tate got the crowd fired up at the team’s kickoff luncheon.

Tonight’s the final chance for Packers QBs Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien to impress.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wants to see some poise from QB Christian Ponder tonight.

The Falcons have an app to allow fans get pictures with cheerleaders.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen didn’t travel to Pittsburgh with the team as his son had open-heart surgery.

Saints QB Drew Brees still has the desire to compete.

The Buccaneers’ starters won’t get much work tonight.

Taking a look at how the Cardinals’ 53-man roster might shake out.

Rams WR Chris Givens can feel QB Sam Bradford’s pain.

Rookie LB Aaron Lynch has a lot to prove to the 49ers tonight.

Seahawks QB Terrelle Pryor will be ready to see the Raiders again.

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Wes Welker cleared to travel, not to play

Welker AP

As Broncos receiver Wes Welker recovers from a third concussion in his last 10 games, Welker has received medical clearance to travel to Dallas for the preseason finale against the Cowboys.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Welker has not yet been cleared to play.

While the news constitutes tangible proof that Welker isn’t presently debilitated by his most recent brain injury, any doctor who signs off on Welker returning to action must be comfortable with the risk that the next concussion will be the one from which Welker doesn’t quickly and normally recover.  Though his total career concussions aren’t known because he spent plenty of time playing in the days of the how-many-fingers-two-you’re-good protocol, Welker could be on a path that results in concussions happening much more easily, and lingering much longer, given his history.

So at what point do the doctors operate like a boxing referee and stop the fight?  On one hand, Welker and any player should be permitted to accept whatever risk he consciously understands and chooses to embrace.  On the other hand, at a certain point a player must be protected from himself.

With each additional concussion, Welker gets closer and closer to that moment.

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Jets QB coach: Geno Smith’s made big improvement in ball security

New York Giants v New York Jets Getty Images

Geno Smith will be the starting quarterback for the Jets against the Raiders in the season opener, but he’s not guaranteed all that much beyond that if he doesn’t show clear improvement over his rookie season.

Quarterbacks coach David Lee thinks that Smith has already showed real progress in one area. Lee said Smith had a tendency to “go off the reservation” last year, but has reined things in as he’s become more comfortable in the offense. As a result, Smith is showing an increased ability to hang onto the ball heading into his second NFL season.

“That’s probably been the No. 1 most encouraging thing, is he’s secured the ball in the pocket,” Lee said, via the Newark Star-Ledger. “He’s had two hands on the ball, he’s working with two hands on the ball as he’s escaping the pocket and moving and sliding. Just his ball security has been a gigantic [improvement]. And that’ll be the biggest turnaround thing for us, if he just takes care of the ball and doesn’t get it knocked loose. So that’s a good observation. That’s the big thing he’s improved.”

Smith turned the ball over 25 times last season, but only two of them came in the final four weeks of the regular season and he’s thrown one interception this preseason. Keeping that up would be a major plus for both the offense and the defense, to say nothing of Smith’s chances of remaining the starter ahead of Michael Vick for the entire season.

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