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Statement from Jermichael Finley’s agent

[Editor's note:  Blake Baratz, agent for Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, has released a statement regarding the question of whether Finley will undergo neck surgery.  The full text of the statement appears below.]

We have spent countless hours over the past few weeks meeting with the top spine specialists, neurologists, and neurosurgeons throughout the country to gather information and opinions regarding Jermichael Finley’s spinal-cord injury. Since Mr. Chmura decided to speak out publicly and inaccurately regarding this situation, we felt that it would be best to clarify the facts on Jermichael’s behalf. First and foremost, Jermichael’s long-term health is our primary concern.  While his return to professional football is a hot topic of conversation, his ability to live a long and fulfilling life with his loved ones is by far and away our main objective.

Regarding Jermichael’s specific injury, it is important to note that expert opinions differ across the board, from surgical procedures to rehabilitation methods to returning to contact sports. Working alongside the Packers organization, we have discussed and analyzed all of these opinions, as well as all of the potential scenarios moving forward. We have collectively determined that while surgery may not be 100% necessary, it is a proactive measure that should alleviate future risks with regards to a similar episode or re-injury. Jermichael has elected to undergo a spinal fusion with Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers team Neurosurgeon. Dr. Maroon is experienced in conducting this type of procedure on professional athletes in contact sports, and is confident that Jermichael will fully recover following the procedure. Once surgery has been completed, Jermichael has every intention of resuming his football career, and we fully support his efforts to do so.

Jermichael and his family appreciate all of the love and support they have received, and simply ask that we all respect their privacy during his recovery process.  Jermichael promises to keep everyone updated over the coming days, weeks, and months.

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Jerry Jones has had “good visits” with Dez Bryant, doesn’t know if deal will get done

jerryjonesdezbryant Getty Images

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant doesn’t want to think about a contract extension once the 2014 season is underway, which leaves the two sides a short amount of time to come to an agreement if it is going to happen before Bryant plays out the final year of his current deal.

There are ongoing talks to see that a deal does get done, including one-on-one meetings between Bryant and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones this week. Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com reports that Bryant is “encouraged by the individual attention” he’s received in what Jones calls a rare situation where he’s met directly with a player.

“We have had good visits,” Jones said. “It’s a little different to be talking directly, for me to be talking directly with the player. I know of two that I’ve spent a lot of time directly talking with in some pretty sensitive areas when you’re talking about money. We all understand what that means. One of them Michael Irvin. He asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later and Emmitt Smith, he asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later. Troy [Aikman] always had Leigh Steinberg there, but we kind of talked straight in there together. But Dez and I have been visiting for years, ever since he’s been a Cowboy regarding things, and so it is a fairly unique situation that we’ve talked as much as we’ve talked, made it pretty easy and maybe propitious to be able to talk to him about his contract. That’s why we were actually talking there.”

The visits have been good, but Jones said that he doesn’t know if the two sides will make enough progress to get things finalized by the start of the regular season. If they don’t, the franchise tag could be in play for the 2015 season but there doesn’t seem to be much concern that Bryant will be anything but a Cowboy.

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Report: Injured reserve/return a possibility for Geoff Schwartz

New York Giants v New York Jets Getty Images

The Giants got some good news about guard Geoff Schwartz’s dislocated toe this week when it was determined that he wouldn’t need surgery to repair the injury.

The team said the plan was for Schwartz to wear a walking boot for 7-10 days before starting his rehabilitation with the situation being reevaluated on a week-to-week basis beyond that point. According to a report from Kimberly Jones of NFL Media, that plan might be altered a bit.

Jones reports that Schwartz is “likely, but not certain” to be placed on injured reserve with the designation to return as the team sets up its roster for the start of the regular season. Going that route would allow the Giants to play with a full roster while Schwartz recovers, but would mean that Schwartz couldn’t return to the lineup until at least the ninth week of the regular season.

That would take away perhaps the best offensive lineman on a team that needs to do a better job of protecting Eli Manning, so you’d imagine the Giants would want to be sure that Schwartz won’t be healthy in the first two months of the season before going that route. Rookie Weston Richburg has taken over the left guard spot for the Giants since Schwartz’s injury.

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Jerome Simpson suspended three games for substance abuse

Vikings wide receiver Simpson makes a catch in front of Bears cornerback Tillman during the first half of their NFL football game at Soldier Field in Chicago Reuters

The Vikings have one less cut to make to get to the 53-man roster limit, at least for the next three weeks.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, wide receiver Jerome Simpson will be suspended for the first three games of the season.

Simpson had appealed to the league after getting a DUI in November, and failing to submit to a chemical test.

While it was his first alcohol-related violation, he had previously been suspended three games for violating the substance abuse policy in 2012.

Simpson has slid down the depth chart behind some younger options, and it will be interesting to see whether or how long the Vikings hold onto him.

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Browns deserve scrutiny for mishandling receiver position

Gordon AP

While the NFL’s outdated, illogical, and unfair “War on Drugs” obsession with players smoking marijuana on their own time triggered the suspension of Browns receiver Josh Gordon, the Browns nevertheless mishandled the situation, especially since they’ve known for a long time that they’ve been facing the potential absence of Gordon.

As Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer mentioned on Thursday’s PFT Live, the Browns could have traded Gordon last year for a second-round pick and a player.  But former coach Rob Chudzinski was willing to continue to keep a player who was a mere 15 ng/ml of marijuana metabolites in one of up to 10 tests per month away from a one-year suspension.

Then, aware of the looming suspension in May, the Browns opted not to use the fourth overall pick on receiver Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans.  The Browns then used none of their draft picks on a receiver.

And so they’ll move forward with Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, and Nate Burleson, barring the acquisition of a veteran who has been cut or who is available via trade.  But even if the Browns bring someone like Santana Moss to Cleveland from Washington, given his familiarity with the offense, it’s always difficult for a receiver to make an impact without the benefit of offseason, training camp, and/or preseason reps with his new team.

In one fell swoop, the Browns went from having one of the best receivers in the NFL to having a revolving door of players who are past their prime or who may never have one.  It puts extra pressure on the running game, on the quarterback, on tight end Jordan Cameron, and on a defense that now needs to serve up great field position and/or to score points via turnovers, if the Browns will have any hope in the AFC North.

General Manager Ray Farmer has defended the decision not to take Watkins or Evans by arguing that no connection exists between having a high-end receiver and winning a Super Bowl.  Which actually makes even more glaring the decision to not trade Gordon when they could have gotten value for him.

Now, the Browns definitely don’t have a high-end receiver.  If Farmer’s theory is correct, maybe that means the Browns will win the Super Bowl this year.

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PFT Live: Raiders talk with Vic Tafur, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Seattle Seahawks v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The preseason schedule came to an end on Thursday night with few starting players taking part in the action.

The Raiders used the occasion to give rookie quarterback Derek Carr the start and extended playing time and Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle will join Mike Florio on Friday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss Carr’s performance. Carr handled things well, but entered the game behind Matt Schaub on the depth chart so we’ll also get an update on the state of Schaub’s sore elbow while looking ahead to the Raiders season.

We’ll close out the week by taking another set of questions from PFT Planet. Whether you’re thinking about who will make 53-man rosters or looking for predictions about the coming season, let us know on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Aldon Smith still awaits a decision

Smith Getty Images

With nine days to go until the 49ers open the 2014 regular season, the franchise still hasn’t heard whether linebacker Aldon Smith will be available for Week One.

Smith met with Commissioner Roger Goodell more than three weeks ago, with no decision yet on the number of games he’ll miss for multiple violations of the personal-conduct and substance-abuse policies.

The NFL has developed a habit over the years of resolving suspensions based on offseason developments before the start of the next regular season.  For Smith, who’ll have appeal rights, it becomes more and more difficult to get everything resolved in the next nine days.

Either way, the clock is ticking.  Loudly.  If an initial decision doesn’t come today, Smith may end up being available to play on September 7 against the Cowboys.

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Ryan Mundy considering legal action against Schutt after cut to head

Ryan Mundy, Marcedes Lewis AP

Bears safety Ryan Mundy suffered a cut to his head that required stitches during the team’s preseason game against the Seahawks and he’s considering legal action against the helmet manufacturer as a result.

Mundy was wearing a Schutt helmet when he collided with Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman and says a sharp edge inside the helmet caused a cut that led to 16 stitches. Mundy said he has to “do some diligence about what action” he can take against the company, which he says came to the Bears to fix the issue on other helmets in the wake of Mundy’s injury.

“Their guy came in a few days ago and put a protective pad inside the helmet of the other guys that are wearing Schutt helmets to cover up the edge that was kind of sharp,” Mundy said, via the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve never seen anything like this ever. This can’t happen. It’s not supposed to work out like that at all.”

We’ll leave discussions on legal action to those with law degrees, but something does seem off if a helmet designed to protect its wearer contributes to his injury instead.

Mundy hasn’t worn a helmet since suffering the injury, but is expected back on the field this week wearing a Riddell helmet.

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New policy possibly wouldn’t have applied to Roethlisberer

Roethlisberger Getty Images

That new beefed-up policy regarding domestic violence, sexual assault, and assault and battery generally imposes real and substantial penalties, especially for a second offense.

But plenty of questions remain officially unanswered, including what precisely constitutes an offense.

ESPN has reported that an offense would arise only upon an adjudication resulting in responsibility being imposed on the player, via a conviction at trial, a guilty plea, a plea of no contest, or admission to a diversionary program.  If accurate, this means that players who aren’t criminally prosecuted will never face scrutiny.

Which means that the new policy may have not applied to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

His first offense was a lawsuit for sexual assault, filed in Nevada.  He never was arrested or charged criminally, and the case eventually was settled without an admission of guilt.  For his second offense, arising from an accusation of sexual assault in Milledgeville, Georgia, Roethlisberger never was arrested, charged, or even sued.

If, as ESPN has reported, the enhanced penalties apply only when a criminal case has been adjudicated, Roethlisberger wouldn’t have been eligible for punishment under the new policy.

That said, the league could have still found a way to impose some sort of discipline on Roethlisberger, especially in light of circumstances that potentially entailed Roethlisberger furnishing alcohol to a minor, a dynamic that the prosecutor specifically acknowledged in announcing that no charges would be filed.

Ultimately, the league will address and any all situations on a case-by-case basis, finding a way to impose discipline if it believes discipline is warranted.  But the strict penalties (especially the minimum one-year ban for a second offense) apply only if there are two adjudications that result in responsibility for domestic violence, sexual assault, assault, or battery.  If a player can avoid such an outcome — either by fighting the charges through to a verdict or by settling all claims with the alleged victim via the transfer of a large bag with a dollar sign on it — the new policy won’t apply.

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Kaepernick gets the night off, unexpectedly

Kaepernick Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick was scheduled to play in the preseason finale, unless he wasn’t.

“Yes, he’ll play,” coach Jim Harbaugh said regarding Kaepernick.  “We’ll go into it like we have these other games.”

While noteworthy because of the starting offense’s struggles this year, the starting quarterback had typically played in the final preseason game under the Harbaugh.

And then came Thursday night.  And Kaepernick didn’t play against the Texans.

“I felt like a short week traveling down to Houston, I just decided to make a battlefield decision and treat it like a bye week going into the first game, rather than play a majority of the starters,” Harbaugh said after the game.

The move puts a little extra pressure on Harbaugh and the starting offense entering Week One, since he opted not to take advantage of one more opportunity to work out the many kinks in the system.  Then again, the 49ers play the Cowboys in nine days, which should go a long way toward working out the offensive kinks.

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Bengals’ Jeremy Hill gets 20 carries in preseason finale

Jeremy Hill AP

One day, Jeremy Hill might earn the night off in the Bengals’ exhibition finale, but on Thursday, the rookie tailback was exceptionally busy, touching the ball on nearly half of Cincinnati’s plays in a 35-7 victory over Indianapolis.

Most importantly, the 21-year-old Hill handled the extra work very well. With the Bengals sitting four running backs, Hill rushed 20 times for 90 yards and caught six passes for 70 yards.

Afterwards, coach Marvin Lewis explained why the second-round pick from LSU got so many reps.

“Well, Jeremy has to understand what it’s like to be an NFL running back. We aren’t five deep,” Lewis said, according to a transcript from the club. “When we get to Sundays and we go down to 46 guys, and if he’s going to be the guy, then he’s going to have to be able to shoulder the load.

“You can get some good conditioning out here tonight. He’s going to learn to run with his pads down and protect the football. They were good snaps for him to learn with tonight.”

The 6-foot-1, 238-pound Hill said he would study the tape to see how he could improve on the performance, and he also indicated all the reps would help his fitness.

“I kind of figured I would be getting a big work load today. It’s part of it. I just have to get myself in better shape,” Hill said, according to the club. “On one of those drives I got a little tired. But for the most part, I got my wind back and started finishing runs. It’s something I can hang my hat on.”

Hill is listed as the Bengals’ third-string tailback behind Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Green-Ellis is slated to make $2.3 million in salary this season, per NFLPA records. Hill, the second back selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, figures to have a role in the Cincinnati backfield. And in the preseason finale, the Bengals got a glimpse of what Hill might be able to do if that were a major role.

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Jerry Jones points out that Peterson initiated the call

Jones Getty Images

While the initial comments of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones regarding his June conversation with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson didn’t address many/any relevant specifics of the call, Jones later revisited the subject — and his defense to any potential tampering investigation became crystal clear.

“I understand the tampering thing, and you have to be an initiator,” Jones said, via Drew Davison of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

While Jones definitely would be facing a serious problem under the tampering policy if he’d been the one to call Peterson, the policy specifically addresses the situation in which a player contacts another team and expresses interest in eventually playing for that team.

Here’s the precise language: “If a club is contacted by a player (or his representative) who is under contract to or whose negotiating rights are held by another club, and such player had not been given permission to deal with other clubs, or such player is not in a permissible negotiating period under the terms of an operative collective bargaining agreement, then the contacted club is prohibited from talking or otherwise dealing with the player or his representative, and the contacted club must immediately report such contact to the owner or operating head of the club which holds the player’s rights.”

Here’s what it means in English: Jerry Jones should have called Zygi Wilf as soon as the call with Peterson ended. If, as it appears, Jones didn’t do that, he has violated the tampering policy.

So what will the NFL do about it? Based on past precedent in this and other contexts, the simple answer is whatever it wants.

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Adrian Peterson would give up all the yards for a Super Bowl

Adrian Peterson AP

Well, this should take care of any of the concerns about Adrian Peterson wanting to go to Dallas.

The Vikings running back and subject of tampering questions has said his priority isn’t individual accomplishments (i.e. glitz and glamour), but a Super Bowl ring.

I’d give up everything,” Peterson told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “MVP, 2,000 yards in a season, Rookie of the Year. Every accomplishment I’ve ever had, I’d trade for a Super Bowl. Hands down. And that Super Bowl season, even if I couldn’t get 1,000 yards, if I could win a Super Bowl, I would trade it.”

Other than losing to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, he hasn’t come close to that in Minnesota, even as the big numbers piled up.

And he admitted in an interview — which apparently happened before the tampering usse came up — that it was wearing on him, since his teams were 54-57-1 in the regular season.

“It’s been frustrating,” Peterson said. “Especially when you put in a lot of work and think about two-a-days. You think about [training] camp and all the time you invest into that ultimate goal, and then when you don’t even touch the playoffs or you’re out in the first week, it’s tough.

“That’s hard on anyone. So it’s been tough, but that’s why we made the switches. That’s why we brought in guys to help change that.”

He’s since said he wanted to retire a Viking, though that might not get him any closer to his goal than retiring a Cowboy would.

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Kellen Moore stakes a claim for the Lions’ backup QB job

kellenmoore AP

Kellen Moore has always seemed like the classic case of a great college player who couldn’t cut it in the NFL: Although he was a two-time All-American at Boise State, he’s small and he doesn’t have a great arm and he isn’t a great athlete, and he went undrafted in 2012. He signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent but has been buried at No. 3 on the depth chart for two years and has never played in a regular-season game.

But Moore has managed to stick around in Detroit, and this preseason he’s making a strong case that he at least deserves to move up to No. 2 on the depth chart. In Thursday night’s preseason finale, Moore completed 17 of 28 passes for 172 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall, Moore completed 68.6 percent of his passes in the preseason, never threw an interception and finished with a passer rating of 108.4. Coach Jim Caldwell liked what he saw.

He’s been pretty consistent the entire time,” Caldwell said of Moore. “He has composure, he has moxie, he’s got a good touch on the ball, he’s got a good feel for things and I thought he performed well.”

Moore and another young Lion, receiver Corey Fuller, connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass — and disagreed afterward about who deserved credit for it, with both saying it was the other’s big play.

That’s all on Corey,” Moore said. “Awesome route, a really good job. I threw a crappy ball, and he made a good catch.”

Fuller disagreed: “Kellen needled the ball right through the defense, and all I had to do was get right underneath. I give it all to Kellen.”

All that humility is nice, but what are Moore’s chances of showing that he deserves the Lions’ No. 2 quarterback job? Probably not great. Throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason, Dan Orlovsky has been ahead of Moore on the depth chart. Moore has been better than Orlovsky in the preseason, but Caldwell has always liked Orlovsky, going back to their time together in Indianapolis, when Orlovsky saved Caldwell from the ignominy of having an 0-16 season on his record by playing well in two-late season victories after the Colts’ other two quarterbacks, Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins, had lost all the games they started.

The question for Moore is probably less whether he can earn the No. 2 job in Detroit than whether he played well enough to force the Lions to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. And it would seem that he did: It would be tough to justify cutting Moore at this point.

And it’s worth revisiting whether Moore may have better pro potential than it appeared when he was at Boise State. Moore went an amazing 50-3 as a college starter, with two of the losses coming by one point and the third coming on a field goal in overtime. At the time, however, Moore was viewed more as the perfect fit for Boise’s offense than a great quarterback in his own right. Boise has steadily declined since Moore’s departure and has lost six of its last 14 games, including a 35-13 beatdown at the hands of Ole Miss last night. Moore’s qualities as a quarterback are demonstrated by Boise’s struggles in his absence. And by his play on the field over the last four weeks, even if it’s only the preseason.

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Conflicting reports regarding Bills offers

BonJovi Reuters

Eventually, a winning bidder will emerge for the Bills, with a check that precisely identifies the exact dollars, down to the 00/100.  For now, it’s unclear how much that amount will be.  Especially since the reports are conflicting regarding the amounts that have been offered.

Last week, the Buffalo News reported that Sabres owner Terry Pegula bid $890 million for the team, with a bid of $820 million from Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group and $809 million (not $1 billion, all cash) from Donald Trump.  Those same numbers have since been reported by Forbes.

Now, John Kryk of the Toronto Sun reports with “certainty” that Bon Jovi’s Toronto-based group bid between $1 billion and $1.1 billion for the team.  And Kryk then makes the point that the other bids (specifically, Pegula’s) are much higher, given that Kryk agrees with reports that the Bon Jovi bid hasn’t been strong enough.

Which leads back to the initial report from the New York Post that Pegula bid more than $1 billion for the team.

So why would someone be leaking numbers south of $900 million?  Kryk theorizes that Pegula perhaps wants potential competitors not named Bon Jovi or Trump to believe the target is lower than it is, so that when the time comes (and it’s coming soon) to make binding bids, they’ll come in far too low.

Regardless, the final price seems destined to be well below the $2 billion that Steve Ballmer has paid for the L.A. Clippers.  That’s probably a result of apparent provisions in Ralph Wilson’s will and trust that require the team to stay in Buffalo.  Which means that Wilson likely sacrificed hundreds of millions for his family in order to enhance the likelihood that the team will never leave the only place it ever has called home.

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Jimmy Garoppolo on Thursday night’s start: It could have gone better

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

The Patriots gave second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo the start at quarterback on Thursday night against the Giants in a move that some saw as an extended audition for the No. 2 job behind Tom Brady.

Garoppolo faced the Giants starting defense with a team of backups around him, which likely contributed to a shaky start that saw him throw one interception that was wiped out by a Giants penalty and another that stayed on the board. Garoppolo also showed some high points, including a deep ball that Aaron Dobson snagged for a touchdown, on the way to going 22-of-42 for 284 yards.

“You know, it could have gone better,” Garoppolo said, via WEEI.com. “There was definitely some things that, you know, we messed up on, fixable things and things to learn from when you watch the film. I’m not sure. I don’t know. It’s one of the things that we’ll see on the film, whatever it was, that we weren€’t clicking like we should€’ve been. We’€’ll fix it.”

Bill Belichick called it a “good experience” for the rookie while pointing out that he “obviously” has a long way to go as a quarterback, which leads us to the questions of whether Garoppolo or Ryan Mallett will be the backup to start the season and whether Mallett will remain in New England if Garoppolo beat him out. Belichick offered no hint beyond saying that Mallett being the backup last year holds no bearing on the decision this year so we’ll have to wait until Saturday for something more concrete.

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