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NFL morning after: Bad rules a big problem for the NFL

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After Monday night’s mess in Carolina, where the game ended with a pass interference penalty in the end zone being picked up without explanation by the referee, I didn’t want to spend Sunday thinking about rules and referees. But it was hard not to think on Sunday that the NFL has a real problem on its hands with rules that are written badly, and officials who enforce those rules inconsistently.

Everyone likes to bash the referees when they get something wrong, and I’m going to criticize the referees here today, but it’s important to remember that the referees can only enforce the rules that the NFL gives them. And I’m starting to think that a bigger problem is that the NFL’s rules simply aren’t written clearly enough to allow the officials to do their jobs properly.

Here’s a sampling of my thoughts on the rules on Sunday:

I still don’t know what roughing the passer is. In the Buccaneers-Lions game, Detroit defensive tackle Nick Fairley hit Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon in the leg and was called for roughing the passer. According to the referee, it was because Fairley hit Glennon too low. But the problem is, Fairley’s hit on Glennon was in about the same part of the leg as Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget’s hit on Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning a couple weeks ago. Liuget wasn’t flagged and wasn’t fined and the NFL confirmed that Liuget’s hit was legal. But if Liuget’s hit was legal, I’m not sure why Fairley’s was illegal. And that wasn’t even the only roughing the passer call in that game I couldn’t figure out: Later in the same game, Tampa Bay’s Mark Barron was flagged for an even harder to understand roughing call against Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. And don’t get me started on Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers‘ flag for a clean hit on Josh McCown.

Protecting quarterbacks is a priority, or is it? Last week, when 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was flagged for a hit to the neck of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the NFL said it was the right call, supposedly because protecting quarterbacks is a priority. So why wasn’t Pittsburgh’s William Gay flagged on Sunday for his hit to the head of Jason Campbell? In both cases, a defensive player went high and hit a quarterback who was still holding the ball, forcing a fumble. When it was Brees getting clotheslined, it was a flag. When it was Campbell getting knocked out of the game with a concussion, it wasn’t a flag? Why? As far as I can tell, the answer is that the rules about protecting quarterbacks aren’t written clearly enough for the referees to call them consistently.

Referees are out of position even when they’re in position. Miami’s Cameron Wake lowered his helmet and drilled Carolina’s Cam Newton in the chin, and Newton ended up spitting out blood. It was a clear penalty on Wake, but the referee didn’t throw the flag. Why? Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira said the ref was positioned exactly where he’s supposed to be, but just didn’t see it. But if that’s the case, the NFL needs to have an official positioned in a place where he will see a hit like that, or make hits to the head of quarterbacks reviewable on instant replay.

Coaches should be allowed to challenge personal fouls. Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was tripped and fell into Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s leg, triggering a flag for a personal foul. On replay, it was clear that Wilkerson only hit Flacco because he was tripped, but the referee can’t look at the replay to get the call right. Jets coach Rex Ryan should have been allowed to challenge, but under NFL rules, he couldn’t.

Coaches shouldn’t be allowed to delay games by throwing bogus challenge flags. As Detroit’s offense was lining up following a missed Tampa Bay field goal, Bucs coach Greg Schiano threw his red challenge flag. After a long delay in which Schiano and the referee conversed on the sideline, it was announced that Schiano had tried to challenge a call that wasn’t reviewable — namely, whether the Bucs’ kick had gone through the goalposts or over a goal post. Under NFL rules, it wasn’t a penalty for Schiano to throw that flag even when he couldn’t challenge. But it should be. Why should Schiano be allowed to delay the game and give his defense time to adjust to the way the Lions’ offense lined up? Later on Sunday afternoon, Giants coach Tom Coughlin did the same thing, throwing his red flag even though the play in question wasn’t reviewable. If a coach throws a challenge flag for something that can’t be challenged, he should be charged a timeout.

A huge missed call cost the Vikings, and the referee was powerless to review it. Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk blatantly grabbed and twisted Adrian Peterson’s facemask before forcing Peterson to fumble. It was an obvious penalty, and the officials should have seen it. But they missed it, and the referee couldn’t use replay to review it because for some odd reason facemasking isn’t subject to replay reviews. If we’re going to have instant replay at all, and if we’re going to have all turnovers automatically reviewed, why on earth can’t the referee look at the replay, see the blatant facemask, and get the call right?

No one knows what constitutes a catch. Late in the Cowboys’ win over the Giants, Dallas’s Dez Bryant grabbed a pass from Tony Romo, went to the ground and then lost possession. The officials ruled it incomplete, and I think the officials got it right. But the NFL’s convoluted rules about what constitutes a catch make it almost impossible for anyone to say with any confidence what will or will not be ruled a catch, and there were plenty of fans on Twitter saying they were sure Bryant had caught the pass. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett seemed to think it was a catch, too, as he called a timeout in the hopes that the extra time would trigger the replay assistant to tell the referee to review the play — which he didn’t do. The NFL simply has to do a better job of explaining what makes a catch and what makes an incompletion, so fans and coaches aren’t left confused at big moments in big games.

Forward progress isn’t clearly defined. The biggest play of the Giants-Cowboys game came when Giants receiver Victor Cruz caught a pass, was wrapped up by two Cowboys, then had the ball ripped out of his hands. The officials ruled it a fumble, and Dallas’s Jeff Heath picked it up and ran 50 yards for a touchdown. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after the game that it was “unbelievable” that the officials didn’t rule Cruz’s forward progress had been stopped, but I can believe it because I see forward progress ruled inconsistently every week.

The NFL should eject players who enter the field during fights. When Rams defensive end Chris Long saw his brother, Bears guard Kyle Long, engaged in a skirmish on the field, Chris ran from the sideline onto the field to grab Kyle and pull him away. Chris may have simply been trying to break up the fight, but even if all they’re trying to do is break up a fight, players shouldn’t run onto the field and into a skirmish. One of the ugliest incidents in the history of American sports came in a 1977 NBA game, when Rudy Tomjanovich ran into a skirmish and Kermit Washington reacted by turning around and swinging, shattering bones in Tomjanovich’s face. The way to avoid such incidents is for all players to allow the officials to break up fights, not enter fights themselves. Other sports give automatic ejections to players who run from the sideline onto the field during a fight, and the NFL should, too.

I don’t like the overtime rule. Overtime in Green Bay felt unsatisfying all around. Here’s how I’d change the overtime rules: 1. Do away with the overtime kickoff. 2. Let the home team pick which yard line the first overtime possession will start on. 3. Let the road team pick whether to start on offense or defense, based on where the home team put the ball to start overtime. 4. Play pure sudden death, first team to score wins, and play until someone scores, with no ties.

NFL refs have a communication problem. The NFL admitted after last week’s Monday Night Football mess that referee Clete Blakeman dropped the ball when he failed to explain why a flag thrown on Carolina’s Luke Kuechly in the end zone was picked up, and the league office told refs last week that they need to use their microphones to explain to the fans why penalty flags get picked up. Amazingly, on Sunday against Miami, Kuechly committed another penalty on a pass into the end zone — and again, an official threw a flag, only to have the referee announce that there wouldn’t be a penalty, without explaining why. How does the NFL allow this to continue happening? The referees need to explain themselves. And the NFL needs to give the referees clearer rules to work with, so those explanations will make more sense.

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Schneider: Seahawks will place Marshawn Lynch on retired list by June 1

Marshawn Lynch AP

Marshawn Lynch cryptically announced his retirement during Super Bowl 50 with a tweet showing a pair of sneakers hanging from a telephone wire. However, he still hasn’t officially filed the paperwork and the Seahawks haven’t placed him on the retired list.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said following the conclusion of the draft on Saturday that Lynch remains “committed to being retired.”

“He’s riding camels and stuff, man,” general manager John Schneider joked when asked if he saw a scenario where Lynch would play for Seattle in 2016.

Schneider expanded on the Lynch topic in an interview with Mitch Levy on Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle. The Seahawks could spread out the cap hit from Lynch’s retirement by waiting to place him on the reserve/retired list until after June 1. The $5 million cap charge could be split into equal $2.5 million shares in 2016 and 2017. However, Schneider said they aren’t looking to do that.

“If we place him on reserve/retired, then we accept that cap hit this year and we’d rather do that than do it after June 1,” Schneider said. “That’s the situation for us. We’d rather pay as we go, so we’d rather do it right now.”

Seattle prepared for life after Lynch through last weekend’s draft. They selected three running backs and three offensive linemen among their 10 selections. Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise, Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Clemson’s Zac Brooks will join Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael as the group to take over the rushing attack for Seattle in the post-Lynch era.

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Colts sign first-round pick Ryan Kelly

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The Colts announced Wednesday night that they’ve agreed to terms with their first-round pick, Ryan Kelly.

The Colts selected Kelly with the 18th pick last Thursday. He was a three-year starter at Alabama who did not allow a sack in his final two college seasons.

Kelly won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center last fall. He was a second-team All-American, a first-team All-SEC pick and a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy that’s awarded to the nation’s top lineman.

He started 36 of 46 career games at Alabama and figures as the immediate starter at center for the Colts.

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Mathis tutoring potential replacement as Colts switch DE to OLB

Robert Mathis AP

The Colts used four draft picks on offensive linemen last week, addressing one major area of need.

That means the team still has a pretty glaring need for pass-rush help, and Zak Keefer of the Indy Star wrote Wednesday that one way the Colts are addressing that is switching second-year player Earl Okine from defensive end to outside linebacker.

In making the switch, Okine is following and learning from veteran pass rusher Robert Mathis, who learned the outside linebacker spot in 2012 after nine years as a 4-3 defensive end. Mathis, 35, shared the team lead with seven sacks last season.

He’s probably a pretty good teacher for Okine, 26, who played just 59 snaps last season. Mathis has 118 career sacks in 178 games.

Okine called Mathis the greatest pass rusher of all-time said learning from Mathis “is all I do in meetings. I ask him everything.”

Okine has played in the CFL, the FXL and the Arena League over the last three years. He was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster by the Colts last October, and now he’s looking at a four-month trial period that could determine whether he’ll stick around.

“I’m pretty confident in myself,” Okine said. “I’m ready.”

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Adrian Peterson partners with Salvation Army to raise funds for Palestine, TX floods

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The most famous native of Palestine, Texas is doing what he can to help his hometown in an hour of need.

Flash flooding in Palestine over the weekend killed six people, including four children. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who went to school with one of the adult victims, has partnered with the Salvation Army to raise awareness to the problem and funds for those in need.

Peterson has donated $100,000. He’ll also match all fan donations on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to another $100,000.

Fans can donate by texting “AP28” to 51555 or by visiting the Salvation Army page created for contributions.

Every dollar you give gets doubled, up to $100,000. Any amount helps.

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Former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman hospitalized

2 Nov 1997:  Brett Perriman of the Miami Dolphins in action against the Buffalo Bills during a game at Rich Stadium in  Orchard Park, New York.  The Bills defeated the Dolphins 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport

Former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman collapsed and was taken to a Miami-area hospital Tuesday night, per multiple reports.

CBS Radio in Miami reported that Perriman, 50, collapsed due to “extremely high blood pressure” and quoted an unnamed family member as saying Perriman had shown “small signs of progress” from Tuesday into Wednesday.

Perriman played 10 NFL seasons and played for the Saints, Lions, Chiefs and Dolphins. He was a second-round pick of the Saints in 1988.

His son, Breshad Perriman, was a first-round pick of the Ravens in 2015. Also a wide receiver, Breshad Perriman was injured early in training camp last summer and did not play as a rookie.

CollegeSpun.com collected some tweets showing support for Perriman, including one from his son.

Brett Perriman had a career-best 1,488 receiving yards in 1995 with the Lions. In that season, Perriman and Herman Moore became the first teammates in NFL history to each record more than 100 receptions and more than 1,400 receiving yards in the same season.

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Eagles sign five picks

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 07:  Wendell Smallwood #4 of the West Virginia Mountaineers rushes for a 16 yard touchdown in the first half during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The bad old days when it took weeks or months to sign a draft class are long gone.

The latest reminder of that came on Wednesday when the Eagles announced that they’ve signed five players they selected last week.

Running back Wendell Smallwood is the highest pick to agree to a deal. He was drafted in the fifth round after leading the Big 12 in rushing last season. He’ll try to earn time on offense along with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles.

The Eagles also signed two safeties, sixth-rounder Blake Countess and seventh-rounder Jalen Mills. Seventh-round defensive end Alex McCalister and seventh-round linebacker Joe Walker round out the group.

That leaves three players unsigned, including second overall pick Carson Wentz. Once upon a time that contract negotiation could drag into camp, but Wentz will be joining today’s quintet soon enough.

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Johnny Manziel turns himself in, posts a $1,500 bond

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Former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel has taken a break from whatever he’s been doing lately, to turn himself into authorities.

According to the NBCDFW.com, Manziel has been booked and posted bond for his domestic violence case in Texas. He faces his first court hearing tomorrow.

His attorney said Manziel had posted his $1,500 bond in Highland Park, and will appear in a Dallas County courtroom tomorrow.

Manziel was indicted by a grand jury for misdemeanor assault family violence for allegedly hitting then-girlfriend Colleen Crowley.

If he’s convicted, he faces a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Obviously, it’s been more costly to him professionally, as the former first-rounder is radioactive to NFL teams.

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Lions add Andre Caldwell

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As the Lions try to prepare for life after Calvin Johnson, they’ve added another receiver to the depth chart.

Per a league source, Detroit has signed former Broncos receiver Andre Caldwell to a one-year deal.

Caldwell, who actually is older than Calvin Johnson, arrives after four seasons in Denver and four before that in Cincinnati.

His best season came in 2009, when Caldwell caught 51 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, Caldwell caught only 10 passes for 72 yards and a pair of scores in the regular season. He also added three catches for 36 yards in the postseason, including a 22-yard reception in Super Bowl 50.

The catch and run came on a third down during the opening drive of the game, which resulted in a field goal.

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Drew Nowak among five waived by Seahawks

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 20:  Center Drew Nowak #62 of the Seattle Seahawks during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Seahawks 27-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Drew Nowak opened last season as the Seahawks’ starting center, but he lost his spot to Patrick Lewis during the regular season.

Now he’s lost his spot on the roster altogether. The Seahawks made Nowak one of five cuts from the roster on Wednesday as they made changes to accommodate their incoming group of rookies.

Nowak made seven starts in the first eight weeks of the 2015 season, but was benched as the Seahawks tried to find a more productive offensive line group after a rocky start to the season. The offensive line remained a concern and continues to be a weak spot for the team, but the offense and quarterback Russell Wilson in particular took off over the final eight games.

Nowak ended the year on the practice squad after being waived from the active roster in December and signed a futures deal with the Seahawks early in the offseason. Running back Cameron Marshall, tight end Ronnie Shields, defensive end Josh Shirley and wide receiver Tyler Slavin were also let go.

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Dave Caldwell says Myles Jack currently is “full go”

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The NFL wants its new players to be as healthy as possible. Before the NFL pounds them to smithereens.

One of this year’s most debated cases of damaged goods was former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, G.M. Dave Caldwell discussed the thought process that resulted in a trade up in round two to get Jack — and the prognosis for his knee.

“As we started to get to the late 20s [in round one] I was relatively surprised because we still had [Jack] in our top five players,” Caldwell said. “So we were looking at him as a possible trade back in to the first round. I didn’t really want to give up the fourth-round pick [to trade into round one] because I knew there would still be good defensive players on the board.

“After we slept on it, I reached out to a few teams picking in front of us and I just said, ‘Hey, if our guy’s there, it’ll be a fifth-round pick if guys are willing to do it,’ and Baltimore graciously was willing to do it. They did a nice job, too, because they then parlayed it into another trade-back scenario.”

So what about the concern that Jack may need microfracture surgery at some point?

“I think there’s a lot of information out there, and all the information out there is not accurate,” Caldwell said. “We feel really good about the research that our doctors have done, our medical staff, our trainers. We’ve consulted some of the best cartilage specialists in the country, and we have a plan for him.”

The plan for now is to let Jack, who tore a meniscus last season, get ready for his rookie season.

“Right now, he’s full go,” Caldwell said. “If he was in spring ball, he’d be able to participating at UCLA’s practice, according to his operating surgeon. We look forward to getting him out here and practicing and if something does arise we do have a good plan for it. I don’t think the plan involves microfracture [surgery]. I feel confident with the kind of people we’ve consulted and our medical staff. I don’t think he’s a candidate for that from what I’ve been told, but there may be need to be a procedure somewhere down the line. As of right now he looks good, he feels good, and he’s ready to go.”

Caldwell also pointed out that the Jaguars don’t need Jack to become a major contributor right out of the gates, thanks to the presence of Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith.

“We would like [Jack] too but if something were to arise it’s not like our cupboard’s bare there,” Caldwell said. “So we look forward to having him come in and compete, and we think that with his skill set . . . he’ll come in and help us.”

So the Jaguars were willing to roll the dice on Myles Jack. If it works out, Jack could end up making a huge difference for the Jaguars as the team tries to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2007.

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Cowboys’ team doctor is confident in Jaylon Smith’s knee

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 06:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a tackle for a loss against the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 6, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan 31-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys took a big chance when they took linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round of the NFL draft, as Smith is recovering from a very serious knee injury.

Except that the surgeon who performed Smith’s surgery also happens to be the Cowboys’ head team physician, and he’s very confident that Smith will heal completely.

The Cowboys’ website reported that Cooper was a major part of the decision to draft Smith, and Cowboys Executive V.P. Stephen Jones said today on Mike & Mike that Cooper gave Smith a positive prognosis, leading the football people to get on board with the idea that he’s worth a second-round pick — even if he won’t play until 2017.

Dr. Cooper sat us down and walked us through other injuries where the nerve didn’t fire right away and then ultimately it did and ultimately they made a full recovery to be the player they had been before the injury,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News.

Cooper is staking his reputation on his belief that Smith will return to full speed and get on the field in a year. And the Cowboys believe in their team doctor.

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Cardinals cut Aussie import Joel Wilkinson, three others

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 06:  Joel Wilkinson of the Suns runs with the ball during the round 15 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Gold Coast Suns at The Gabba on July 6, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals drafted six players last week and they agreed to terms with 16 undrafted free agents, leaving them with more players than they had room for on their 90-man roster.

They began remedying that problem on Wednesday by parting ways with four players. They’ll need to make one more move in order to have room for all the rookies as the undrafted signings don’t count against the roster until they officially sign their contracts with the team at the start of rookie minicamp on Thursday.

Three of the players the Cardinals dispatched are listed as cornerbacks, including Joel Wilkinson. Wilkinson is an Australian Rules Football player who was trying to make the same jump that running back Jarryd Hayne made with the 49ers. Kevin White and Tyrequek Zimmerman were also cut after their chances of making the team took a hit when the Cardinals drafted a pair of corners.

Arizona also drafted center Evan Boehm in the fourth round, which likely helped them decide to waive center Valeran Ume-Ezeoke.

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Broncos release journeyman tight end Richard Gordon

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 3: Richard Gordon #89 of the Kansas City Chiefs makes a catch against Bryce Hager #54 of the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter during a pre-season game at the Edward Jones Dome on September 3, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos didn’t draft any tight ends last weekend, but they deemed one expendable Wednesday anyway.

The team announced they had waived tight end Richard Gordon, who made a cameo appearance for them last season when they were short at the position.

Gordon’s a blocker by trade, who will turn 29. He’s spent time with six different organizations, with stints with the Raiders, Steelers, Chiefs, Titans, Chiefs again, Broncos, Ravens and Broncos again. He has four career receptions, none since 2013.

He played five snaps in the one game he appeared in last year, before being cut when they needed safety help. He was re-signed this offseason, but they parted ways today.

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NFL V.P. of security Jeffrey Miller resigns

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The man who has been charge of NFL Security for nearly a decade is moving on.

Per multiple sources, NFL V.P. of security Jeffrey Miller has resigned. The NFL has confirmed that Miller is leaving.

“He informed the league last month that he was going to take a job on the West Coast with a private security firm,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “He worked the draft, will work at the league meeting and subsequent training session. He will leave the NFL next month.”

As one source put it, the move has nothing to do with performance, and it wasn’t initiated by the league. “This guy is awesome, really competent,” the source said.

Miller has taken a position that will allow him to move to the West Coast. He joined the league in 2008, after serving as Pennsylvania’s state police commissioner.

Plenty of scrutiny came Miller’s way in 2014, after the Ray Rice elevator video surfaced the day after the regular-season opener. The Associated Press reported in September 2014 that the video had been sent to Miller before it surfaced at TMZ.com. An independent investigation found no evidence that Miller or anyone else had received the video.

The NFL has not decided on a replacement, according to one source with knowledge of the situation.

For clarity, the Jeffrey Miller who is leaving the NFL runs security. The Jeff Miller who serves as executive V.P. of player health and safety remains on the job.

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Falcons, first-rounder Keanu Neal agree to terms

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Four 2016 draft picks are now under contract. Only one was a first-round pick.

Falcons safety Keanu Neal, the 17th overall selection in the draft, has agreed to terms on the standard four-year deal, with a fifth year option to be exercised by May 3, 2019. The contract will be signed Thursday.

Per a league source, Neal told the Falcons he wanted to focus on getting ready to play football and not on negotiating a contract. So the two sides got the deal done quickly, and Neal is now under contract for all offseason activities.

The move proves that all draft picks can — and should — be signed before they report for offseason workouts. Otherwise, they’re working out for free.

Neal played college football at Florida, entered the draft after three seasons of college football. At age 20, he’s one of the youngest players in the entire draft class.

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