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Roethlisberger lashes out again at ongoing reports of discord

Roethlisberger AP

NFL Network continues to drive a wedge between the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  And Roethlisberger continues to reiterate his desire to stay in Pittsburgh — and to express frustration at the reports regarding the existence of reports that tend to drive a wedge between the Steelers and Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger joined WDVE radio on Friday morning, following the latest barrage from NFLN, which among other things suggested that Roethlisberger needs to spend more working on his craft while away from the team’s facility.

“First and foremost, I don’t want to go anywhere,” Roethlisberger said.  “I want to be in Pittsburgh.  I hope that’s very clear to everybody that I want to stay, my family wants to stay.  We do not want to ask for a trade, we don’t want to go anywhere.  I want to finish my career here.  I’ve always said that, and I still feel firmly that way.”

While Roethlisberger suggested at times that the reports are fabricated, he acknowledged the possibility that someone in the building is talking out of turn, even though he doesn’t think that’s happening.

“When someone is a source and they’re unnamed, they have an agenda,” Roethlisberger said.  “And their agenda is not winning football games and not helping this team.  Whoever that agenda is coming from, they’re not helping us, they’re hurting us.”

Even if it’s coming from within the walls of the organization, Roethlisberger scoffed at the idea that he’s not working hard away from the facility.

“First of all, how does anybody know what I’m doing at home,” he said, “when I’m watching film or I’m looking through my playbook at home, unless someone someone’s got cameras set up in my house and they’re spying on me?  But then they’d see the truth that I am doing that stuff.”

He makes a good point, but it could be that folks in the building are concluding that he’s not doing anything at home based on where his level of preparation is, or isn’t, after a day or night off.

As to the far more relevant question regarding Roethlisberger’s next contract, given that his $17 million-plus cap number for 2014 can’t be reduced without an extension, Roethlisberger again avoided the question.

“I’m still ignorant to how all these cap things works and contracts,” Roethlisberger said.  “Honestly, if they come to me and say hey we want to restructure a deal or we want to do [a deal], whatever, I want to help the team out.  But all I can focus on right now is this season and this game.  Because that’s all that matters to me.  I don’t look for the future or the long term.  What’s gonna happen next year?  When’s my contract up?  These kind of things.  For me, it’s about how can I win this game, this week?”

Did you see what he did there?  In one breath, he says he never wants to leave the Steelers, but then he later says he’s not focused on the future.  If the last part is true, how can he say he never wants to leave, since that necessarily requires a focus on the future?

Initially, we suspected the Steelers were leaking these stories to generate a viable Plan B in the event that they can’t persuade Roethlisberger to insist on less than $20 million or more per year.  If so, it worked — because teams definitely will be inquiring about Roethlisberger in the offseason.

But the bigger goal seems to be helping the Steelers nail down Plan A:  Getting Ben to take less in order to stay in Pittsburgh.

While it appears at times that Plan A is working (especially when he angrily insists he never wants to leave), Ben continues to stop short of saying anything that would suggest he’d take less money than what he thinks he’s worth in order to stay in Pittsburgh.

Once he says that — once he declares that he’ll do whatever deal is necessary to stay with the Steelers — Plan A will be deemed successful.  So far, however, he has yet to take the bait.

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Giants awarded Mark Asper on waivers

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The Giants added a veteran offensive guard Tuesday, claiming Mark Asper on waivers from Buffalo, according to the league’s transaction wire.

The 28-year-old Asper was active for six regular season games for the Bills in 2013. He has also had stints with Jacksonville (2012-2013) and Minnesota (2012). Asper (6-7, 325) was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in 2012.

To open a roster spot for Asper, the Giants waived offensive tackle DeMarcus Love with an injury waiver. The 26-year-old Love is a second-year pro from Arkansas.

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Browns waive OT Chris Faulk, PK Jake Rogers

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The Browns waived offensive tackle Chris Faulk and kicker/punter Jake Rogers on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The move leaves the Browns with 88 players, two short of the 90-player limit.

The 24-year-old Faulk spent the 2013 season on injured reserve with Cleveland after knee surgery. Faulk suffered a torn ACL and MCL at LSU in 2012.

Rogers, 27, signed with the Browns in June. He was waived with an injury.

By waiving Rogers, the Browns have just one punter (Spencer Lanning) and one kicker (Billy Cundiff).

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Jeromey Clary takes pay cut of nearly $3 million

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Chargers guard Jeromey Clary is coming off a rocky 2013 season and started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list while he recovers from hip surgery.

Waiting for him to get healthy wasn’t a sure thing for the Chargers because Clary was set to make $4.55 million and the team drafted guard Chris Watt in the third round in May, but Clary went a long way toward guaranteeing himself a job for the entire year on Monday.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Clary has agreed to take a big pay cut in exchange for the Chargers guaranteeing his entire salary for the season. Clary will now make $1.6 million with Gehlken reporting that the savings are earmarked for any needs that may arise over the course of the regular season.

If Clary recovers in time to play in the preseason, he could still wind up in the starting lineup come September. If not, his new salary makes Clary, who can also play tackle, a more viable reserve option.

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Report: Terrell Thomas signs with Seattle

Victor Cruz, Terrell Thomas AP

The Seahawks lost cornerback Walter Thurmond to the Giants as a free agent, costing them a bit of depth that they may fill with a player who used to play for the Giants.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Seahawks have agreed to terms on a contract that will bring Terrell Thomas to Seattle. The move reunites Thomas with Pete Carroll, who was the head coach at USC while Thomas was playing for the Trojans.

Thomas returned from two seasons lost to a pair of torn ACLs in the same knee to play in all 16 games for the Giants in 2013, starting seven times and recording one sack, one interception and one forced fumble over the course of the season. It was a fairly remarkable comeback given Thomas’ injuries, which followed another torn ACL in the same knee earlier in his career.

He worked out for a few teams over the course of the offseason, but no one bit until Seattle took the plunge on Monday. The Seahawks have Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane back from last season, and there’s been positive reviews of 2013 fifth-rounder Tharold Simon after he missed his rookie season with an injury.

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Patriots snag Tyler Gaffney off waivers from Panthers

Belichick AP

The Panthers didn’t really need sixth-round running back Tyler Gaffney this year anyway, so when he was injured recently, stashing him on IR made sense.

But the Patriots had other ideas.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots claimed Gaffney off waivers, even though he needs season-ending knee surgery.

It’s similar to their 2012 claim of injured Giants tight end Jake Ballard, meaning one of these days those unwritten rules are going to have to be written down.

It also means the Panthers are out the draft pick and the $96,600 signing bonus they gave him, since the Patriots only pick up his base salaries.

And the fact that Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman was with the Giants during the Ballard claim makes it more egregious, that they lost a guy they drafted because they had to have Fozzy Whittaker the next three weeks.

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Report: No timetable for Cordy Glenn’s return, but expected in time for season opener

Justin Houston, Cordy Glenn AP

The Bills have not provided much information about the illness that has forced tackle Cordy Glenn to miss all of training camp thus far, but whatever’s troubling him does not look like it will keep him out of the lineup into the season.

Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports via a team source that the Bills expect to have Glenn back in time for the start of the regular season. The source added that the team would be “shocked” if Glenn wasn’t able to play in at least one preseason game, but resisted sharing any information about what’s wrong with the left tackle.

Graham points to the team not adding any help at left tackle as a sign that they feel confident that Glenn will be back in action in time for the season. He also reports that seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson, whose draft stock was hurt by character questions, has “held down the fort quite well” in Glenn’s absence.

Glenn, a 2012 second-round pick, has started all 29 games he’s played for the Bills in his two-year career.

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Colbert can’t envision scenario where Roethlisberger would leave Pittsburgh

Ben AP

Probably because franchise quarterbacks without serious injury questions (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees) rarely if ever change teams, few have taken notice of the situation in Pittsburgh, where Ben Roethlisberger is grossly underpaid and the team won’t do anything about it until 2015 at the earliest.

The situation has prompted speculation that the two sides may not be able to work out a new contract next year, which would compel the team to pay more than $22 million to keep him under the franchise tag in 2016 and more than $26 million in 2017.  Which eventually could prompt the Steelers and Roethlisberger to go their separate ways.

G.M. Kevin Colbert doesn’t see that happening.  In fact, he’s gone all in, telling reporters, “I don’t see any circumstances where Ben does not finish his career here,” via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

While it remains probable if not highly likely that Roethlisberger will remain in Pittsburgh, circumstances definitely exist where Ben moves on.  What if he gets injured this year or next year and the Steelers aren’t willing to make a huge financial commitment to keep him, a la the Colts and Manning?  What if Ben won’t accept the team’s best offer on a new deal for 2015, forcing the team to use the franchise tag until the price gets so high that they can’t afford to do it?  While $22 million for 2016 could be stomached, $26 million for 2017 gets a little pricey.  By 2018, when Ben would be the same age Manning was when he left the Colts (36), and the price tag for one more year will shoot to $38.1 million for one season.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger would have made more than $70 million on a year-to-year arrangement.  If he’s willing to continue to bear the injury risk, why not let it play out that way?

So, yes, there’s a way that dominoes fall that will lead to Roethlisberger walking away.  Given the zeal with which Steelers fans follow the team, both sides need to tread lightly for fear of catching the blame for an eventual divorce.  And, ideally, to ensure that as few Steelers fans as possible realize that a divorce, while still far from likely, could indeed happen.

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Dolphins sign two new linemen, cut Gerald Ford

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The Dolphins offensive line is one big construction zone, so why not shuffle the deck a little more the first few days into camp.

The team announced they had signed veteran Tony Hills and Steven Baker, who apparently are an upgrade over the camp bodies they have.

Hills has kicked around a bit, spending time with the Steelers, Broncos, Colts, Bills and Raiders, playing in 10 games with one start.

To make room for the new blockers, the Dolphins released tackle Michael Phillip and wide receiver Gerald Ford, who was signed in June.

With the bounty scandal in their recent past, there was no way they could avoid the bad publicity that came with pardoning Richard Nixon.

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Emmanuel Sanders: Peyton is a far better leader than Ben

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Emmanuel Sanders arrived in Denver this offseason after four years in Pittsburgh. He immediately noticed a big difference between Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

Sanders said on 104.3 The Fan in Denver that Manning’s leadership and determination to win goes far beyond that of Roethlisberger or any other teammate Sanders has ever had.

“I feel like Peyton is a far better leader, in terms of staying after practice, catching balls, wanting guys to get on the same page with him, things of that sort,” Sanders said. “This is the first time that I’ve had a quarterback that every single day after practice — no matter what his accolades, NFL MVP, Super Bowl ring — he keeps guys like me and [rookie receiver Cody] Latimer after practice. . . . He’s not one of those guys you’ve got to chase down. He’s going to be right in the same spot, ready to work, every single day. I just feel like that’s a difference from a mental standpoint.”

Sanders said he views Roethlisberger as a winner, too, and he enjoyed their time as teammates. But he’s enjoying his time with Manning even more.

“I’ve got so much love for Ben,” Sanders said. “At the same time, I’m not going to lie. I’m happy to be part of this organization and happy that Peyton is my quarterback.”

Those comments will surely be received better in Denver than in Pittsburgh.

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PFT on NBCSN covers lots of ground in first show back

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The riders in that Tour de France thing covered plenty of ground in Europe during the last three weeks, knocking Pro Football Talk on NBCSN off the air in the process.  In our first show back after the annual cycling hiatus, we’ll climb back on the tricycle and pedal like hell for 60 minutes.

With co-host Dave Briggs, Ross Tucker (I didn’t mention him in an earlier post about the show returning, and he undoubtedly noticed and was miffed about it), Kevin Gilbride, and Brian Westbrook in studio and yours truly firing up the remote location in West Virginia, we’ll get you caught up on the biggest news of the day, and we’ll take a close look at the Seahawks and Texans as the best and worst teams from a year ago launch training camp.

Briggs and I also will do the fast-moving daily whiparound, which he’s never done and I haven’t done in 25 days so it’s destined to go flawlessly.  Speaking of things that won’t go without a hitch, the poll question focuses on the future of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who rightfully wants his new franchise-quarterback contract now and who won’t be getting it.

Answer the question then tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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49ers say they’ll try to extend both Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati

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The 49ers appear willing to do business with those who will do business with them.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said the team wanted to try to extend both guard Mike Iupati and wide receiver Michael Crabtree before they become unrestricted free agents next spring.

We’re going to try,” Baalke said. “We’re going to work at it, certainly. But at some point, you got to stop negotiating deals and let these guys concentrate on playing football. I don’t know what point that is. We’ll make that determination as a club.

“But we’re certainly going to work toward that goal. Those are two very good football players, and guys we’d love to have in this organization for the long term.”

They can tag one or the other next offseason if they choose, buying time. Then again, Maiocco points out they’re not particularly close to deals for either Crabtree or Iupati, so at this point it’s just talk.

But talking about extending good players is also a way of extending a finger, perhaps the one in the middle, toward holdout guard Alex Boone.

 

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MRI reveals bone bruise for Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin AP

The Panthers were optimistic that wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin would avoid bad news from the MRI on his left knee that was scheduled after Benjamin banged knees with another player during Sunday’s practice.

Benjamin didn’t get a totally clear bill of health after his trip into the tube, but the diagnosis fell well short of the worst case scenario.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that coach Ron Rivera said that the tests showed a bone bruise and that the timetable for his return to the field would be measured in terms of days rather than weeks. Rivera added that there is still some swelling around the knee, but that it is structurally stable.

The news is good for the Panthers offense, which looks like it will be relying heavily on the first-round pick to make plays for Cam Newton this season. Benjamin will need all the practice time he can get in order to make a quick enough transition to the professional ranks for that to happen, so the news will be even better if it is just a couple of days before he’s back in action.

 

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Lions table Suh contract talks until end of season

Ndamukong Suh AP

Lions coach Jim Caldwell thinks that the team will be able to get a deal done that keeps defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in Detroit, but it won’t happen before the start of the regular season.

It won’t come during the regular season, either. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Lions president Tom Lewand said on Monday that the team was putting contract talks with Suh on hold until after the end of the regular season.

Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew both said they thought a deal could still get done, although the timing has obviously changed and the decision to call off talks for now suggests the two sides weren’t particularly close to reaching an agreement. The window to get an extension done at the end of the season will be short. One deadline they will face is the one governing the use of the franchise tag, something that neither man ruled out despite Suh’s price under the tag standing at a massive $26.9 million for the 2015 season.

That won’t be a factor if Suh doesn’t have a good season or if he gets hurt, but another strong year will make for some tough calls in Detroit come next winter. And those calls could lead Suh to another uniform for the 2015 season.

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Mario Manningham still lacking confidence in knee

Mario Manningham AP

Wide receiver Mario Manningham tore his ACL late in the 2012 season with the 49ers and finished last season on injured reserve because of continued knee troubles that still haven’t resolved themselves.

Manningham returned to the Giants this offseason as a free agent and said Monday that he’s not feeling as confident in the condition of his knee as he’d like to feel. He had the knee scoped in January and is “just trying to get back to where I was” while testing it out during camp.

“I know my knee [is] fixed,” Manningham said, via the New York Daily News. “It’s just confidence. It’s just me sticking the foot in the ground and going. So that’s like I say: every day it gets better and better.”

With Odell Beckham struggling to get past a hamstring injury, the Giants are short on healthy depth behind Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle right now. Should both injury issues linger deeper into the summer, the Giants may need to think about looking at outside options to provide them with a bit more certainty in the receiving corps as they try to form a group that will help Eli Manning complete 70 percent of his passes.

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Ware out with bruised leg bone

Ware AP

Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware suffered a lower leg injury during practice on Sunday.  He was held out of practice on Monday, with coach John Fox calling it a bruised leg.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Ware actually has a bruised bone in his leg.  The source says that Ware nevertheless should be fine, and that the injury is not serious.

Ware has played through many injuries during his NFL career, which until this season had unfolded entirely with the Cowboys.  If healthy, Ware can make a big difference in the Denver defense.

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