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Bears suffer humbling and costly loss at St. Louis

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Without context, and looking at just wins and losses, the Bears and Lions are still tied for the NFC North lead. With the Bears and Lions both losing Sunday and the Packers tying the Vikings, Chicago and Detroit are knotted at 6-5, with Green Bay a half-game back at 5-5-1.

However, the Lions swept the season series with Chicago, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bears. In short, if the season ended today, the Lions would win the NFC North.

That tiebreaker could be a real problem for Chicago, which lost 42-21 at St. Louis on Sunday.

The Bears’ NFC record also could be a problem relative to their postseason hopes.

The loss to the Rams dropped the Bears’ conference record to 3-5. Conference record is one the first tiebreakers for wild-card spots. Only the Vikings, Redskins, Buccaneers and Falcons have more NFC losses than Chicago. The Rams (5-6) also have five NFC losses — but now have the head’s up win vs. Chicago. The Giants are 3-4 in the NFC pending the result of their game with Dallas.

Of course, tiebreakers aren’t going to matter much if the Bears don’t improve on defense. In defeat Sunday, Chicago surrendered 258 rushing yards to St. Louis. The Rams gained 8.9 yards per carry, and tailbacks Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy combined for 196 yards and two TDs on 25 carries.

The Bears have five games left, four of which are against NFC foes. With a strong December, they can play into January, and they finally have the offensive might they have long lacked. However, Sunday’s loss wasn’t flattering, and it was an NFC defeat to boot.

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NFL Shop gets very confused about location of Washington’s team

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Apparently, the reluctance of some (I’m looking at me) to use the nickname of the Washington NFL franchise has created some confusion for the fine folks at NFLShop.com.

Via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, a line of “State Pride” license plates offered by the league has the Washington team logo over the outline of the state of Washington.

Of course, Washington is in D.C., with the name technically being the team’s only connection to the area. Home games currently are played in Maryland, and training camp currently is held in Virginia.

The link to the item is now dead. Hopefully, someone managed to order the thing before the item was yanked.

And, even more hopefully, the man for whom both the state and the capital were named is currently making the same face he was making in the portrait accompanying this article regarding the blunder, somewhere.

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Riddick is a candidate in Kansas City, but he hasn’t directly been contacted yet

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A strange situation emerged on Sunday morning, when the league-owned media conglomerate (i.e., partially owned by the Chiefs) reported that the Chiefs had reached out to ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive back Louis Riddick about interviewing for the unanticipated G.M. vacancy in Kanas City. Riddick, who presumably would be interested in interviewing for the job given his interest in the 49ers G.M. position earlier this year, took to Twitter to declare that he hasn’t been contacted by the Chiefs.

So what’s going on? One theory, as offered earlier today on the non-vacation vacation edition of the PFT Live podcast (and in the video attached to this post) is that Riddick simply hadn’t been contacted yet, but that he will be. In that case, his more prudent move arguably would have been: (1) to appreciate having his name in circulation for another G.M. job; and (2) to wait for what may have been inevitable.

As one media source explains it to PFT, the truth is that, technically, the Chiefs hadn’t directly contacted Riddick, but that the team had contacted his representation. Which allowed Riddick to technically claim that he hadn’t been contacted by the Chiefs.

So why did Riddick, who definitely is a candidate for the job, shout down the report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media on social media? It likely has something to do with what he said, or more accurately didn’t say, about the situation to ESPN. Another factor quite likely may be the fact that ESPN’s NFL information machinery ended up being scooped by a competitor — a dynamic that one specific reporter at ESPN is reputed to be very sensitive about, even if said reporter pretends publicly to not be.

For now, Riddick is continuing to pretend to not be a candidate for the Chiefs job, even though he is. It likely is a matter of time for him to interview, unless he withdraws his name or the team decides based on the clunky public denial to move on to another candidate.

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Teez Tabor’s mental makeup impresses Lions

Some scouts questioned Teez Tabor’s lack of top-end speed after he ran a 4.62 at the combine, but Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has downplayed concerns by mentioning the cornerback’s instincts and “reactionary athleticism.”

Tabor has impressed Lions cornerbacks coach Tony Oden with his mental makeup.

“I consider him a balcony thinker as opposed to a ground-level floor thinker,” Oden said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “So he wants to know what the guy next to him is doing. Before I go over it he starts to think about, ‘OK, what if this route happens? What’s our adjustment vs. that?’ But it’s in a positive way. Sometimes you get guys doing it, trying to just kind of get on your good side. He’s doing it because it’s a legit question.”

While Oden cautions that Tabor has much to learn, the second-round pick has impressed thus far. Tabor will compete with Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden for time opposite Darius Slay.

A three-year starter at Florida, Tabor made 104 tackles, nine interceptions and 37 pass breakups.

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Ezekiel Elliott relies on hurdling to avoid getting hit in the knees

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Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will appear on the cover of a magazine while wearing no covering on his body. He’s the featured athlete in this year’s edition of the ESPN The Magazine “body issue,” which features “all nude, tastefully done” photos of various athletes.

In the press release announcing the placement of Elliott on the cover of the issue, ESPN included some quotes from Elliott, the most interesting of which relates to his habit of hurdling. Though he doesn’t say it directly, the clear message is that he’s trying to avoid taking low hits to the knee.

“One of my signature things is to hurdle people,” Elliott says. “I think it’s one of the most impressive physical feats I’m able to do, being a bigger, physical running back. I don’t have the highest vertical, but I think it’s more of a mental thing. Being a bigger running back, defensive backs will go lower on you — they tend to cut-tackle you. I just kind of gives them the aspect where they have to worry about me jumping over them and right through them; it adds an aspect to my game. I ran hurdles in high school. I was a really good hurdler.”

To continue to be a really good running back, Elliott needs to be durable. Which means it will be important for him to avoid taking the kind of hits that could make mincemeat of his knees.

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Vikings release statement supporting Michael Floyd

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The Vikings continue to support Michael Floyd as they have since signing him. On Monday, Floyd was sentenced to a day in jail for violation of his house arrest.

“When we signed Michael Floyd, we hoped he would show signs of improvement and we continue to expect that he shows progress and a professional attitude,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said in the statement. “We believe Michael will be a productive member of the Vikings organization, both on and off the field. Pursuant to the ruling of the Arizona Court earlier today, Michael will serve the remainder of his sentence and we expect him to be with the team at the start of training camp in Mankato when the players report on July 26.”

The Vikings supported Floyd’s defense that kombucha tea caused him to violate alcohol tests that were part of the terms of his house arrest. Floyd said he did not realize kombucha tea contained alcohol, which he was prohibited from consuming as part of his sentence for a December DUI in Arizona.

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Vernon Davis recalls the hardest hit he ever took, from Kam Chancellor

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Washington tight end Vernon Davis is heading into his 12th NFL season, but one hit stands out above all the rest as the hardest he’s ever taken.

Davis made an appearance for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and told a group of kids that the hardest hit he’s taken came from Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who hit Davis so hard he felt disoriented.

It was crazy. He hit me so hard, I just got up, I didn’t know where I was going. I kind of lost my memory a little bit. I just got up like this, my face was just like aaagh,” Davis said as he made a face, making the kids laugh. “I just didn’t know what happened. I was like, ‘Wow I just got hit by a very big man.’ He hit me hard. You know what somebody told me? He said, ‘Shake it off. It’s all right. Shake it off.’ I’m like, ‘I can’t remember anything. You tell me to shake it off? Why don’t you go shake it off, buddy?’ That was quite a hit.”

The hit Davis referred to gave him a concussion and drew a flag on Chancellor, although Chancellor was not fined by the NFL.

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Dak Prescott working on eliminating “potential Kryptonite”

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Dak Prescott arguably had the best rookie season for a quarterback in history. He went 13-3 as the starter with 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, only four interceptions and a 104.9 passer rating.

Whether it was easy or not, Prescott made his rookie season look that way.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, though, has warned Prescott that defensive coordinators have spent the offseason studying Prescott’s every move.

“You’ve got to build on the good things,” Linehan said, via Matt Mosley and Ed Weder on The Doomsday Podcast. “There were a lot of good things for a young player, but you know they will be gunning for him, studying him a little bit more. You’re not going to sneak up on anybody. They’re going to find out what it is about your game that is strong and what maybe wasn’t as good, and you really dig deep and you study. You say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to be better against this certain, whether it’s this blitz or this coverage they might be working on, my potential Kryptonite so to speak.’ So I think you’ve really got to hone in on that and be a little proactive with it.”

Everyone — from Jerry Jones to Jason Garrett to rookie teammates — has spent the offseason lauding Prescott’s work ethic, which Linehan calls “rare.” Prescott hasn’t sat idly by waiting for defensive coordinators to catch up with him.

“Every day we give him something more,” Linehan said. “It just makes sense to do in a systematic and timely fashion. I don’t think you say, ‘Hey, Dak, in your second year you need to do 10 times more.’ You need to do a few things more every day, just like you did last year. Where you started the season isn’t where you finished. We were doing things at the end of the year we didn’t even dream of doing at the beginning of the year, but there is a time factor that needs to go by.

“…Our job is to put him in a position to succeed and his job is to go out and the execute the plays we call in the situations that we’re in. That’s probably one of his best attributes is he plays his position. He takes it to another level based on a guy who does all the intangible stuff that some guys just don’t get. He’s got that part. The mental side, the experience side, that comes with daily reps and really off the field preparation that he does. He’s got some rare work ethic type stuff.”

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“Huge win” for Michael Floyd

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Yes, Vikings receiver Michael Floyd is going back to jail. No, he’d prefer not to. Yes, the fact that his sentence has been limited to only one day is being viewed by him and his representatives as a major victory.

One source with knowledge of the situation called it a “huge win,” pointing out that the presiding judge had broad discretion. The judge could have, for example, forced Floyd to spend in jail the 96 days he was given the opportunity to serve on house arrest. Likewise, the judge could have imposed a fresh sentence of house arrest, with an order requiring Floyd to serve the term in Arizona.

As it stands, one day in jail and five days of house arrest represent a “can I start serving it right now?”-type of an outcome, allowing Floyd to quickly pay his debt to Arizona and then to focus on his efforts to make the team in Minnesota, and to have a major impact on the field in 2017. This outcome allows him to miss not a single day of training camp and the preseason.

Also, the decision possibly will have no impact on his looming suspension from the league for the extreme DUI guilty plea. He faces a baseline suspension of two games, and it can be increased based on aggravating factors. The positive alcohol test becomes less of a problem if, from the judge’s perspective, the glitch necessitated only one day in jail.

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FOX Sports ditches online written content for video (welcome, former FOX Sports customers)

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The times are a-changing for online written content. But this one is driven more by money grabs than shifting audience habits.

Yes, plenty of younger folks are consuming online content via video. But plenty of folks from all demographics are still looking to get information about sports via the written word.

Here’s the problem: Online videos currently carry much more lucrative advertising dollars (and, in turn, higher commissions) than online articles. Which means that many of the people who are hired to sell advertisements are focusing more on selling video ads than on selling digital ads. Which means that websites are having a harder time selling digital ads, because they are selling more video ads. Which means that websites are focusing on generating video content that will carry the video ads their advertising employees are selling.

Which means that websites are ditching written content that has far fewer advertising dollars attached to it.

The latest, and most significant, example of this phenomenon comes from FOX, which is dumping its entire online writing and editing crew and replacing them with employees who will be enhancing the video operation. Via Bloomberg, by way of SportsBusiness Daily, FOX Sports National Networks President Jamie Horowitz justified the move by explaining that “[c]reating compelling sports video content is what we do best at FOX Sports,” and that FOX Sports “will be shifting our resources and business model away from written content and instead focus on our fans’ growing appetite for premium video across all platforms.”

It’s entirely possible that this claim is true, and that it’s just not cover for the decision to not give all customers what they want but to let the FOX Sports advertising staff chase the biggest commissions in order to serve only those who want video. But if Horowitz’s contention is accurate, that’s on FOX Sports for not hiring people who can generate written content that will whet the appetite of visitors to FOXSports.com.

Either way, welcome to PFT and NBCSports.com, those current-or-soon-to-be-former FOXSports.com customers who can’t or won’t get their information about sports via video, and who have little interest in the #EmbraceControversy style for the purposes of capturing inauthentic moments that will make waves on social media. Here, as you may have noticed, we’re providing content both in writing and through video — but not through video that features yelling and screaming and preening and posturing; instead, we’re generating video that supplements our written content and presents it in an entertaining and engaging way.

If/when FOX decides that it once again can make money from online written content or that it can’t fully and effectively promote video without tying the content to digital articles or that it cares about all of its audience and not just some of it, we hope you’ll remember that we didn’t bail on the format you prefer simply because the current business cycle entails greater financial rewards for generating video.

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Saints place Nick Fairley on non-football illness list

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Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been visiting doctors recently for opinions about a heart condition that created concern about his ability to continue playing in the NFL.

It looks like the consensus is that it is better for Fairley to put his career on hold. The Saints have placed Fairley on the reserve/non-football illness list, which means he will not be playing football for the team this season.

Coach Sean Payton said earlier this month that Fairley visited with three doctors and that at least one of them told him to stop playing football.

The Saints also have the option not to pay Fairley while he is on the list. Fairley signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Saints after recording 6.5 sacks for the team last season, but Monday’s news casts serious doubt about whether he will be on the field during the life of that deal.

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Taco Charlton’s first endorsement deal not with a taco chain

Taco Charlton seemed like a perfect fit with the Cowboys, what with a name like taco in a Tex-Mex crazy area. So who would have guessed the defensive end’s first endorsement deal would come from a soda company?

Big Red announced in a press release Monday that it had signed Charlton.

“I love my name and I actually do love tacos,” Charlton said in the release. “Although I am new to Texas, I quickly learned that nothing goes better with tacos than Big Red, so I’m excited to partner with such a unique, iconic brand.”

When Charlton arrived in DFW, he received offers of free tacos for life and one local pizza place even named a taco pizza after Charlton. Charlton, whose Twitter handle is @TheSupremeTaco, went on a taco tasting tour around the area soon after arriving.

Charlton’s given name is Vidauntae, but his grandmother nicknamed him “Taco” because he was premature and making a “run for the border,” which was a Taco Bell slogan airing at that time. 

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Michael Floyd sentenced to one day in jail for kombucha violation

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The judge apparently wasn’t a Star Wars fan.

According to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd was sentenced to a day in jail after a Scottsdale judge found him in violation of his house arrest for drinking kombucha tea.

Floyd was prohibited from drinking alcohol as part of his sentence for a December DUI in Arizona, which led the Cardinals to release him. He said he violated the alcohol tests that were a part of the terms of his house arrest (which was transferred to Minnesota) by drinking the tea, which he didn’t realize contained alcohol.

The Vikings bought that explanation, but the Scottsdale judge didn’t care. Floyd also has to serve the remaining five days of his house arrest.

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Michael Strahan unconcerned about Odell Beckham skipping OTAs

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Michael Strahan is unconcerned about Odell Beckham Jr. skipping the Giants’ organized team activities, pointing to Beckham’s work ethic and commitment to football.

I’ve seen this kid work,” Strahan said at the Just Rivals.com Golf Classic, via Jordan Raanan of ESPN. “I’ve talked to him this offseason. His head is where it needs to be.

“Everybody gives him a hard time about missing a little OTAs. Hell, I didn’t go to those things, so I’m the wrong person to be sympathetic for people who are giving him a hard time.”

Beckham spent most of the offseason in Los Angeles working with his personal trainer. The receiver showed up for the Giants’ mandatory minicamp earlier this month and is expected to report to training camp with his teammates July 27.

The Giants hope Beckham’s career is as productive as Strahan’s was. In 15 seasons with the Giants, Strahan had 141.5 sacks and was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

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Arthur Blank expects Devonta Freeman extension soon

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Falcons running back Devonta Freeman’s contract has been a storyline since Super Bowl week with Freeman making it clear he wants an extension as he moves into the final year of his rookie contract.

Freeman said recently that he believes “something special is coming” and the guy who would ultimately be paying the salary associated with any deal supports that viewpoint.

During an appearance with Jamie Dukes and Mike Bell on 92.9 The Game on Monday, Falcons owner Arthur Blank was asked about contract talks with Freeman. Blank said that he expects a deal with Freeman will be completed soon.

Blank added that General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn will be doing the legwork on negotiating a deal. Dimitroff said in May that he expected conversations about the extension to heat up heading into camp, so it looks like that timeline is shaping up as an accurate one.

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Khalif Barnes hopes to stick with Saints

Khalif Barnes keeps showing up on the Saints’ transaction wire, but he also keeps returning. The Saints have listed the veteran offensive lineman in their transactions 11 times the past 10 months.

It was unfamiliar territory, but, as crazy as it sounds, I knew they weren’t really letting me go,” Barnes said, via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Time-Picayune. “It was just their demeanor and how they would do it.

“It was a weird sense of loyalty on both sides.”

Barnes, a second-round pick of the Jaguars in 2005, played four seasons in Jacksonville and seven in Oakland with 117 career starts. He spent a few days with the Saints last season but never played. Barnes went from 358 pounds when he tried out for the Saints last August to 315 pounds for a tryout at the Saints’ rookie minicamp last month.

It was Barnes’ first rookie minicamp since 2005.

Barnes, 35, will compete to fill in for left tackle Terron Armstead, who is expected to miss at least the first six games of the regular season after shoulder surgery. For Barnes, just making the active roster will prove an accomplishment after seeing his name on the waiver wire so many times.

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