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Arians: Mendenhall to start, Ellington to get 20 touches

Andre Ellington, Paul Worrilow AP

Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall is healthy again and ready to return to the Cardinals’ starting lineup. And yet Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says he wants backup running back Andre Ellington to have a bigger role in the offense than ever.

Arians told the team’s website that Mendenhall will start Sunday, but Arians also wants Ellington to get about 20 touches a game.

That sounds highly unlikely: Even with Mendenhall out and Ellington starting in the Cardinals’ last game, Ellington totaled just 17 touches, with 15 carries and two catches. It seems awfully unlikely that Ellington would get more touches while backing Mendenhall up than he got while starting in Mendenhall’s place.

But what is clear is that even though Arians feels a lot of loyalty toward Mendenhall, Arians realizes that Ellington has been the more explosive playmaker of the two of them this season. Mendenhall has 92 carries for 281 yards this season, an average of 3.1 yards a carry, plus 10 catches for 66 yards, an average of 6.6 yards a catch. Ellington has 43 carries for 333 yards this season, an average of 7.7 yards a carry, plus 22 catches for 198 yards, an average of 9.0 yards a catch.

Mendenhall may be the starter, but Ellington is playing better. And Arians wants to put the ball in the hands of the back who’s making plays, regardless of who’s listed first on the depth chart.

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Adrian Peterson “started off slow” in return to practice

Marshall Faulk, Adrian Peterson AP

Adrian Peterson got rave reviews from his Vikings teammates regarding his physical condition when he returned to the fold this spring, but it was still a long time since the running back was taking part in full practices with the team when training camp got underway.

It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that Peterson wasn’t firing on all cylinders at the moment he stepped back onto the field this week. In a conversation with Marshall Faulk of NFL Media on Tuesday, Peterson explained what was missing in his first practice of the year.

“I kind of started off slow the first practice, 9-on-7,” Peterson said. “It was decent but really didn’t feel as explosive as I would have liked so I kind of had to grind, normally I do my hulk, little grind, wake myself up and felt a little spark and kind of got back into the groove. After that I feel pretty good. That hunger is there. I’m sure as we go through camp, get these pads on, it’ll just wake up even more.”

Peterson’s already shared his goal of 2,500 rushing yards for the season and told Faulk that he’s aiming to do “something the eyes haven’t seen before” in 2015, but none of that’s possible without knocking off almost a year’s worth of rust. That process is underway and the Vikings will be hoping none is left by the time Week One rolls around.

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Cowboys not interested in Ray Rice or Chris Johnson — yet

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Cowboys haven’t been afraid to line up players with checkered pasts, or big personalities.

But for the moment, they don’t appear ready to add either to their patchwork running back corps.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys aren’t prepared to make a run at either Ray Rice or Chris Johnson at the moment.

They cut Ryan Williams Tuesday, making some wonder if they wanted to bring in a name-brand back to replace him. Instead, they signed a rookie from Stephen F. Austin named Gus Johnson. That leaves Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar as the three atop the depth chart after they let league-leading rusher DeMarco Murray go to Philadelphia.

The on-hand options are at least going to get a chance to prove themselves in camp before the team makes a move, although they’re the Cowboys, and may not be able to help themselves.

“Never know what will happen in a couple weeks,” a source there said.

If someone gets hurt or reveals themselves to be unprepared, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cowboys make a splashy move. Mainly. because they’re the Cowboys.

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Mike Brown takes blame for Bengals not honoring past players

Cincinnati Bengals v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Packers fans filled Lambeau Field earlier this month to celebrate Brett Favre’s entry into the team’s Hall of Fame and they’ll fill it again on Thanksgiving to celebrate Favre’s career again.

Plenty of other stadiums will play host to similar moments this season as teams guarantee their fans will have something to cheer about by welcoming back old heroes for another round of applause. Paul Brown Stadium will have no such events because the Bengals have no team Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor or anything else devoted to the achievements of players like Anthony Munoz, Ken Anderson or Ken Riley other than pictures by one entrance to the stadium.

Some former Bengals have complained about that and owner Mike Brown said Tuesday that he’s heard their complaints.

“I understand the players,” Brown said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “They want to be remembered. I think it is a good thing to do that. We have never traded here on nostalgia. That’s probably my fault. Because a little of it is a good thing. Fans like that sort of thing. What I’m saying is I’m stewing on it. I’m aware of the discomfort with our position. … We’ve had decades now of wonderful players here. I can understand why people feel we should have celebrated them more and perpetuated their achievements better than we have. I’m probably at fault.”

Brown’s admission isn’t a promise that the Bengals will immediately start doing things differently. While he admits the pictures hanging are “probably not” enough reference to the team’s history, Brown said that “maybe someone who comes after me can do better” when it comes to celebrating the past.

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Giants co-owner: Deal for Eli Manning coming soon, if not this week

Odell Beckham Jr, Eli Manning AP

While there hasn’t been much talk about the Super Bowl-winning quarterback entering the final year of his contract (no, we’re not talking about you, Russell Wilson), it does appear a new deal is on the horizon.

Giants co-owner John Mara told Steve Serby of the New York Post that it might not be by the time the Giants report to camp Thursday, but that a deal for Eli Manning could be done before the start of the regular season.

“I would doubt that that would happen in that quick a time frame,” Mara said. “We would hope to have it done at some point before the season. But if not, it’ll hopefully get done at some point after that.

Mara said “I don’t believe that anybody’s put any deadlines on it,” but made it clear he doesn’t want anyone else quarterbacking his team in the near future.

“Well we still believe that he can play at a very high level and win a championship for us,” Mara said. “He looked like a new man in the spring, his arm was very live, and he’s moving around very well. His play in 2014 was significantly better than it was in 2013, so I think the arrow is still up for him.”

Manning doesn’t make much of a flap about anything, so it’s not a surprise that a new contract seems inevitable if not quite imminent without a blow-by-blow accounting of the process. But it will be interesting to see how it slots in with other recent deals, to point to how the Giants truly value him.

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Todd Bowles will be ready for camp after knee surgery

New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles talks to the media after practice at the team's NFL football rookie minicamp, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz) AP

Todd Bowles might be glad there are no more two-a-days, and not just for the welfare of his players.

Via Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the Jets coach had a partial knee replacement on July 6, but is expected to be ready when the Jets report to camp and begin practicing this week.

The 51-year-old Bowles played in the NFL, so some wear and tear is expected. He joked about a sore knee when he got on a podium to talk to reporters earlier this spring, and wore a sleeve on one knee.

He’s not expected to be limited when practices start, keeping him from having to be listed on the physically unable to perform list.

We’ll see this week if he’s holding up better than 72-year-old Jerry Jones, as the Cowboys owner had his hip replaced last week.

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Bills release Chris Williams after failed physical

Chris Williams Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills released guard Chris Williams after he failed a physical with the team on Tuesday.

The former 2008 first-round pick of the Chicago Bears played in three games for the Bills last season after signing a four-year deal with the team last offseason. However, a back injury led to Williams being placed on injured reserve in October.

Williams hasn’t been able to perform at a high level consistently throughout his career. After five sub-par seasons with the Bears, Williams signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2012. He appeared in 19 games for the Rams over two season, including starting all 16 games in 2013 before moving on to Buffalo.

Richie Incognito appears to be the favorite to replace Williams as the team’s starting left guard this season.

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Eric Berry is cleared to practice on Wednesday

Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

And now it’s time for a little good news. Or a lot of great news.

The Chiefs have announced that safety Eric Berry has been cleared to return to practice on Wednesday, when the team launches training camp. The final decision came Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, coach Andy Reid and trainer Rick Burkholder will address the situation at a press conference.

Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December of 2014. He immediately started treatments, and he concluded the process in June.

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Brady offered to help NFL gather missing text messages

Phone Getty Images

If nothing else, the NFL can (when it wants to) master the art of public relations. Sure, the league screwed the pooch in the Ray Rice debacle last year, failing to realize that a video existed or that it would inevitably be leaked. But while the #DeflateGate episode has featured many very real flaws regarding the substance of the case, the league has done a great job of getting its messages out in a strong, clear way.

It started, of course, with the mistaken air pressure information from the initial letter to the Patriots, in which league executive Dave Gardi told the team that one of the footballs measured at 10.1 PSI — even though none of them were that low. It quickly continued with the leak of blatantly false information to ESPN that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were a full two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. This cemented the notion that someone deflated the footballs, leaving only two questions: (1) who did it?; and (2) who knew about it?

Months later, it became clear that the information was incorrect. But the damage already had been done, with a curiosity instantly morphing into a multi-million-dollar investigation and the Patriots thrown against the ropes from the outset of the fight.

The P.R. mastery continued with the release of the Ted Wells report, which created the initial widespread impression that the Patriots cheated, and that quarterback Tom Brady knew about it. By the time those in the media inclined to digest the 243-page opus began to notice the warts, the narrative had been locked in by those who admittedly didn’t bother to roll up their sleeves and start reading.

The coup de grâce came Tuesday morning, when the league leaked to ESPN that “Brady destroyed his cell phone,” locking in the notion that something sinister — and irreparable — had occurred. The press release announcing the decision likewise focused on the destruction of the cell phone, raising eyebrows from sea to shining sea and reinforcing for many the idea that Brady had something to hide, and that he tried to hide it.

But like the much longer Wells report, closer inspection of the Goodell decision undermines the primary conclusion. And, as usual, the Achilles heel can be found in a footnote.

Specifically, it can be found at footnote 11 on page 12: “After the hearing and after the submission of post-hearing briefs, Mr. Brady’s certified agents offered to provide a spreadsheet that would identify all of the individuals with whom Mr. Brady had exchanged text messages during [the relevant time] period; the agents suggested that the League could contact those individuals and request production of any relevant text messages that they retained. Aside from the fact that, under Article 46, Section 2(f) of the CBA, such information could and should have been provided long before the hearing, the approach suggested in the agents’ letter — which would require tracking down numerous individuals and seeking consent from each to retrieve from their cellphones detailed information about their text message communications during the relevant period — is simply not practical.”

In English, here’s what the footnote means: Although the text messages couldn’t be retrieved directly from Brady’s phone, his agents provided all of the phone numbers with which Brady exchanged text messages. His agents also said that the league could attempt to get the actual text messages from the phones of the people with whom Brady communicated, but the league refused to attempt to try, claiming that it would be too hard to track down the various people and to persuade them to cooperate.

How hard would it be? Goodell’s ruling points out that “nearly 10,000 text messages” were exchanged on Brady’s phone in a four-month period, but Goodell’s ruling doesn’t provide the total volume of numbers that sent text messages to or received text messages from Brady’s “destroyed” phone. At an average of 2,500 text messages sent and received per month, which works out to an average of 83 sent and received per day (with some people surely sending and receiving a lot of short messages to and from Brady), how many people was he actually communicating with?

More importantly, how many of those people are Patriots employees, how many are family members, how many are friends, how many are people who would have no reason to be saying anything to or hearing anything from Brady about this specific case?

“I very much look forward to hearing from Mr. Brady and to considering any new information or evidence that he may bring to my attention,” Goodell said last month. And so Brady admits that he has a habit of dismantling his phone when he buys a new one, he provides the full list of phone numbers with which the dismantled phone communicated, and Goodell nevertheless refuses to try to identify the persons with whom Brady exchanged messages or to obtain the actual content of them, despite the commitment to “considering any new information or evidence.”

The league arguably opted not to track down the text messages or to match them up with text messages that the league already harvested from other phones, like the one used by John Jastremski, because the league already had the silver bullet it needed to win convincingly in the court of public opinion.

Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone. 

It was expertly leaked to ESPN by the same league office that had expertly leaked the 11-of-12 footballs falsehood to ESPN.

Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone.

It’s a theme that will be adhered to even though Brady made available the phone numbers necessary to reconstructing the contents of the messages.

Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone.

The details don’t matter once the message takes root. For #DeflateGate, a couple of giant oaks are growing at the NFL’s equivalent of Toomer’s Corner. The first one? 11 of 12 footballs were two pounds under the minimum PSI.

The second?

Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone.

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Jeromey Mincey a no-show for Cowboys camp

Unknown Getty Images

Dez Bryant will be at Cowboys training camp. At least for now, Jeremey Mincey won’t be.

Per multiple reports surfacing at roughly the same time (i.e., group text message from agent), Mincey has not reported to the team’s training camp in Oxnard, California.

Via Adam Schefter of ESPN, Mincey ranks 70th on the league-wide list of defensive ends. Efforts to get him a raise have been unsuccessful.

Mincey signed a two-year, $3 million contract last year, which included a $500,000 signing bonus. Since he’s still under contract, Mincey risks fines in the amount of $30,000 per day.

He’s due to earn a base salary of $1.5 million, with a cap hit of $1.75 million. Mincey started all 16 games last year, racking up six sacks.

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Antonio Smith will participate in training camp for Broncos

antonio-smith-ninja Getty Images

As Texas authorities continue to investigate Broncos defensive lineman Antonio Smith, the Broncos won’t continue to keep Smith on the shelf.

Smith will report to training camp, pending whatever prosecutors or the NFL decide to do about his situation.

“We’ve been in communication with Antonio and the league for the last couple of months,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “Based on those discussions, it’s appropriate for Antonio to be here and compete with the rest of the team as we begin training camp.”

While it’s unclear whether Smith will face child abuse charges in a case reportedly sexual in nature, it appears that he’s not destined for paid leave in the imminent future. Which means that any preliminary investigation conducted by the NFL has yet to result in a conclusion that it’s more likely that not that Smith engaged in any type of misconduct.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Cardinals Introduce Levon Kirkland and Jen Welter Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

John Mara AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft

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

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

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

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

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

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NFLPA calls Brady decision “outrageous”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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