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Eli’s willing to restructure, but is he willing to take less money?

Eli AP

Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the only two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback whose contract has become a ball and chain for his team.

Eli Manning of the Giants also has a contract that eats up too much cap room.  And so he says he’s willing to alter his deal to create cap space.

“I haven’t thought about it, but if they come to me, yeah, we’ll discuss it and figure out a plan,” Manning said Wednesday, via Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com.

Signed through 2015 at salaries of $15.15 million and $17 million over the next two seasons (via NFLPA records), the question isn’t whether Eli is willing to move money around for cap purposes while ultimately taking the same amount of money.  The question is whether he’ll sign a new contract that extends beyond 2015 and that pays him less than the current market value for franchise quarterback, which is in the range of $20 million per year.

Via Spotrac.com, Eli counts for $20.4 million and $19.75 million over the next two years under the cap.  Getting those numbers down while also getting Manning paid in line with other quarterbacks who have fewer Super Bowl rings (including Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan) will be a challenge.

Plenty of players are willing to restructure their deals, since that usually means converting a large chunk of the coming year’s base salary into a signing bonus, resulting in the player getting no less money.  With Eli having only two years under contract beyond 2013, a so-called “simple restructuring” isn’t a viable option.

The Giants need to extend Eli’s contract, and there will be nothing simple about determining the right long-term value to a player who has won a pair of Super Bowls but who has missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.

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Jay Cutler comes back from vicious hit to get Bears close

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

It looked like Jay Cutler was going to have to come out of the game.

Instead, he got the Bears back into it.

After taking a devastating shot to the sternum from 49ers defensive end Quinton Dial, Cutler delivered a highlight-reel touchdown to Brandon Marshall to cut the 49ers lead to 17-7 at halftime.

The Bears showed little life in the first half until their final possession of the half.

After a 25-yard scramble by Cutler, he took the painful-looking shot from Dial, but stayed in to deliver a high pass which Marshall was the only person in the end zone capable of reaching.

The 49ers controlled the game otherwise, as the Bears still only have 93 yards of offense.

But with Cutler hanging tough so far, it’s hard to say they’re out of it.

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Vikings reinstate Mike Priefer

mikepriefer AP

Mike Priefer, the Vikings special teams coordinator who was suspended for homophobic comments, will be back at work on Monday morning.

The Vikings announced Sunday evening that Priefer will be officially reinstated on Monday. The Vikings initially announced that Priefer would be suspended three games with the possibility to be reduced to two games if he met certain requirements including sensitivity training, so Priefer has presumably done everything asked of him.

In its announcement of Priefer’s reinstatement, the Vikings said he completed “anti-harassment, diversity and sexual orientation training” and that he “was fully and thoughtfully engaged throughout the process and successfully completed the program.”

Priefer’s suspension came after former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe accused Priefer of making homophobic comments in response to Kluwe began advocating for gay marriage. Priefer initially denied making the comments but later admitted that Kluwe’s allegations were true.

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Charles Woodson on Raiders after defeat to Houston: “We suck”

Chimdi Chekwa, DeAndre Hopkins, Arian Foster, Charles Woodson AP

In their home opener Sunday vs. Houston, the Raiders committed four turnovers and didn’t score their first points until the fourth quarter in a 30-14 loss.

And afterwards, veteran safety Charles Woodson gave an unflattering assessment of Oakland’s performance.

We suck,” Woodson said, according to Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area and other Raiders reporters.

Woodson said he knew the performance was a downer for Raiders fans, who haven’t seen their club make the postseason since 2002 and witnessed Oakland fall to 0-2 in a game in which it trailed by at least 14 points for three-quarters of the contest.

“Everybody’s optimistic. You know, it’s our first home game. They’re excited to see their Raiders, and what was that we put out there on the field?” Woodson said afterwards, according to a video clip posted by Marcus Thompson of Bay Area News Group. “That’s embarrassing. And I’m embarrassed for this team, I’m embarrassed for the fans, and the thing about is, I’m part of it. I don’t know what we need to do as a team going forward, but something’s going to have to be done. I don’t know what that is, but we’ve go to do better than we did today.”

The Raiders play the Patriots in New England next Sunday, then travel to London to face the Dolphins on Sept. 28. Their bye is in Week Five, giving them a little extra time to regroup. For now, though, the Raiders are left to adjust on the fly, for as Woodson indicated, their current level of play isn’t up to par.

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Richard Sherman refuses to speak to media after being “exposed”

Sherman Getty Images

Unlike the Packers, the Chargers decided to throw at Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.  And it worked.  And Sherman was in no mood to discuss it after San Diego’s 30-21 win over the defending NFL champions.

Via Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego (and surely others), Sherman refused to talk to the media following the game.

Per Gehlken, multiple Chargers described Sherman with the same single word:  “Exposed.”  Eventually, the NFL may describe Sherman with another single word:  “Fined.”

UPDATE 9:14 p.m. ET:  Sherman didn’t speak to the media.  But he did speak to the Twitter.  “Lmao Exposed? …. Complete 3 passes 0 touchdowns 0 explosive passes…. These guys make me laugh,” Sherman said.

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Early turnover leads to Michael Crabtree TD, 49ers lead

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Bears made the early mistake, and the 49ers made them pay for it.

San Francisco’s already up 7-0 over the Bears, barely over two minutes into the game.

After a Bears three-and-out to start the game, 49ers rookie linebacker Aaron Lynch blocked the Chicago punt, setting up an easy touchdown.

Michael Crabtree had to climb the ladder to snag Colin Kaepernick’s short pass, but he came down with it, giving the locals something to cheer about in the grand opening of Levi’s Stadium.

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NFLPA should launch its own investigation into Rice case

Ray Rice AP

With the NFL’s independent investigation into the Ray Rice situation not as independent as it could be or should be and with the coming Ray Rice appeal of his indefinite suspension subject to whatever procedural and evidentiary limitations the NFL may choose to apply, there’s another entity that can look into the case.

The NFL Players Association has plenty of reasons to want to know what went so wrong in this case, especially since the same mechanism that bungled the Rice situation could result in other botched investigations.  The NFLPA has done it before, including most recently in connection with the MRSA and Josh Freeman situations in Tampa.

The NFLPA should do the same thing regarding the Rice fiasco.  And don’t be surprised if the NFLPA does just that.

Making an investigation even more important is the increasingly clear battle lines that the NFL is drawing on the question of whether Rice told the truth to the Ravens and the league.  On Sunday, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports said that Rice lied to the team and lied to the league regarding what happened in the elevator, claiming that he struck Janay Palmer Rice with an open hand, and that she then hit her head and went unconscious.

As the league, which began the week tiptoeing around the question by using words like ambiguous and inconsistent, characterizes the circumstances to Glazer as outright lying, the stakes will be higher than ever when Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome repeats under oath what he already has said on the record:  Rice didn’t lie.

It’s clear that someone is lying.  And it’s clear that the NFLPA needs to join the hunt for the truth, in order to ensure that the truth doesn’t accidentally slid into the same crevice where the league’s version of the Rice video reportedly resides.

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California’s Lieutenant Governor calls for 49ers to bench Ray McDonald

McDonald AP

The 49ers, unlike the Panthers, have refused to bow to public pressure regarding a player with pending domestic violence charges.  But the pressure on the 49ers is mounting.

The media has been getting louder and louder about the team’s decision to continue to honor the age-old sports double standard that excuses are made for stars and examples are made of scrubs. The 49ers want McDonald on that field, they need McDonald on that field. So they’ve take up residence under the cover of “due process.”

The politicians are pushing the issue now, with California Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome and his wife, Jen Seibel Newsom, calling on the 49ers to sit McDonald.

“The City and County of San Francisco and the entire Bay Area has long stood staunchly on the forefront of domestic violence awareness and prevention,” the Newsoms said.  “That’s why the 49ers’ continued insistence on playing Ray McDonald during his ongoing criminal investigation is a painful affront to every victim of domestic violence and sends a troubling message to our community and especially our children that ‘zero tolerance’ are empty words, not real actions.  In light of the increased public  awareness of this issue in the wake of the horrific Ray Rice assault and today’s decision by the Carolina Panthers to deactivate Greg Hardy, we strongly urge the 49er organization we grew up revering to do the right thing — right now — and bench Ray McDonald, pending the outcome of his felony domestic violence investigation by San Jose law enforcement.”

McDonald presumably will continue to play, in part because the 49ers believe he did nothing wrong. At some point, the NFL will have to investigate the case and make a decision as to whether McDonald is blameless. Otherwise, the issue could linger for months.

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Texans put away mistake-prone Raiders early, secure 30-14 win

Derek Newton, Arian Foster, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin AP

For the fifth straight season, the Texans are off to a 2-0 start.

Led by an opportunistic defense, efficient play from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and strong output from tailback Arian Foster, the Texans rolled to a 30-14 victory Sunday in Oakland.

The Texans had Oakland chasing throughout, scoring on their first three possessions and building a 27-0 lead before the Raiders added a couple of fourth-quarter TDs to make the score respectable. Oakland (0-2) committed four turnovers, which resulted in 17 Houston points.

Foster exceeded 100 yards rushing for the second straight week, racking up 138 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, was 14-of-19 passing for 139 yards with two TD tosses and no turnovers.

The first of Fitzpatrick’s touchdowns went to  . . . J.J. Watt. Yes, the J.J. Watt. Lined up as an in-line tight end, the Texans’ star defensive lineman ran a pass route and scored a one-yard TD, putting Houston up 7-0 in the first quarter. Watt wasn’t credited with a single tackle on defense, but he did put a tremendous hit on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr late in the game.

Carr, for his part, was solid enough in his second NFL start, completing 27-of-42 passes for 263 yards. However, he threw two picks, and tight end Mychal Rivera and wideout James Jones lost fumbles in Houston territory.

The Texans travel to face the winless Giants next Sunday, with the Raiders now having to regroup and face the Patriots in Foxborough.

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Packers take 31-24 win in wild one against the Jets

Jordy Nelson, Darrin Walls AP

Jets history is filled with all manners of painful defeats and Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Packers fits right in.

The Jets led 21-3 early in the game thanks to fine play from Geno Smith and a defense that was giving Aaron Rodgers fits, but they would up handing all of their lead back to the home team by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. It was 31-24 Packers, but the Jets were driving with time running short when they faced a fourth down from the Green Bay 36-yard line.

The offense remained on the field and Smith delivered a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley that seemed to push an already wild game to another level. That wound up happening, but not because the game was tied. The touchdown was waved off and a touchdown was charged to the Jets because of what appeared to be offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg screaming to tell Rex Ryan to call a timeout that the head coach didn’t call. The Jets converted the fourth down, but they ran out of downs a few plays later and one Packers first down iced the game.

There was also a David Harris interception deep in Packers territory negated because Damon Harrison didn’t quite make it off the field before the ball was snapped and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson’s third quarter ejection to keep Jets fans up on Sunday night. They might remember some of the bright spots for Smith and four sacks by the defense, but the pain of this loss is likely to linger for a bit.

Packers fans, meanwhile, can feel very good about their quarterback’s ability to thrive despite early adversity. Rodgers pulled himself together and wound up throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead 80-yarder to Jordy Nelson. Nelson ended the day with 209 receiving yards and outran the clearly not 100 percent Dee Milliner on the big score.

They can also feel good about a defense that was awful early before rebounding to allow 100 yards and three points in the second half of the game. That would probably have wound up being totally ignored if Kerley’s catch had remained on the board, but it didn’t and the Packers eventually made things stick. That leaves them at 1-1 heading into road dates with the Lions and Bears that will set the early pecking order in the NFC North.

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Austin Davis leads Rams to 19-17 win over Bucs

Josh McCown, Janoris Jenkins, Rodney McLeod AP

Austin Davis made his first NFL start a special one.

The Rams’ third-string quarterback, playing because of injuries to Sam Bradford and Shaun Hill, played a sharp game in the Rams’ 19-17 win over the Buccaneers Sunday.

Davis was an efficient 22-of-29 for 235 yards, and drove them to within range for Greg Zuerlein’s 38-yard game-winning field goal.

Davis spread the ball among eight receivers, and while it wasn’t a dynamic stat line, it was efficient enough for a defense that can play with anyone in the league.

The game became one of attrition, with both sides losing key pieces to injury.

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (broken hand) and linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) were forced from the game, while the Rams lost wide receiver Tavon Austin (knee).

The Bucs were still able to run, even with Doug Martin out of the game with a knee injury. Replacement Bobby Rainey had 22 carries for 144 yards. But it wasn’t enough to overcome an anemic passing game, with Josh McCown throwing for just 179 yards with an interception.

The game ended with a pass which could have gotten the Bucs into position for a field goal attempt, but Mike Evans was injured on the play with eight seconds left. With no timeouts and the required 10-second run-off, the Bucs lost that chance.

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Broncos jump ahead early, hold on late to beat Chiefs

peyton AP

The Broncos beat the division-rival Chiefs to improve their record to 2-0 today in Denver. But it wasn’t easy.

Although Denver took an early lead and appeared ready to cruise against an injury-depleted Kansas City team, it was the Chiefs who stormed back in the second half and drove deep into Denver territory, poised to score a game-tying touchdown. But the Chiefs fell just short and the Broncos hung on to win 24-17.

Peyton Manning was his usual Peyton Manning self, completing 21 of 26 passes for 242 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Emmanuel Sanders had a big day, with eight catches for 108 yards, and Montee Ball had a few big plays, including a run of 23 yards on third-and-24 that set up his own one-yard run on fourth-and-1 on the next play.

But Alex Smith engineered some long second-half drives to keep the Chiefs in the game. Smith went 26-for-42 for 255 yards, and he ran for 42 yards as well. He played well even though the Chiefs lost Jamaal Charles to a first-quarter ankle injury, but he couldn’t get Kansas City across the finish line.

And so the Chiefs, last year’s surprise turnaround team, are now 0-2 and staring up in the standings at the Broncos. And now Denver prepares for next week’s Super Bowl rematch in Seattle, one of the marquee games of this NFL season.

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Washington hopes Griffin will miss only 4-5 weeks

Griffin AP

Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III dislocated his ankle on Sunday against the Jaguars.  On Monday, more will be known about how much time he’ll miss.

Per a league source, an MRI will be conducted tomorrow.  The current hope is that Griffin will miss only four or five weeks.

The team and the player will know more tomorrow.  Once we know what they know, you’ll know.

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Jets lose Eric Decker to hamstring injury

Oakland Raiders v New York Jets

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was ejected in the second half of the team’s game in Green Bay and now the team has lost one of its top offensive players as well.

Wide receiver Eric Decker has departed with a hamstring injury. Decker left the game and got some medical attention on the sideline before trying to return to the contest. That lasted just one play, though, and Decker is now done for the afternoon.

It’s a huge loss for the Jets, who trail 31-24 a little more than halfway through the fourth quarter of a game they once led 21-3. The Packers looked poised to run away with things after an 80-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson gave them their seven-point lead, but the Jets defense has rebounded.

That won’t matter much if the offense can’t generate some points without their top wide receiver on the field. It looked like they had cracked the code on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley on a fourth-and-four play, but it was disallowed because someone, possibly offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, called timeout just before the snap.

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Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall active for Bears

Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall AP

The Bears will have their starting wide receivers in the lineup for Sunday night’s game at San Francisco.

Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) are on the active roster against the 49ers, the team announced on its Twitter feed on Sunday evening.

Both receivers were questionable on the club’s final injury report.

While the Bears will have Jeffery and Marshall, they are down two starting offensive linemen, with center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson declared inactive, according to the club. Both players had previously been ruled out with ankle injuries. Brian de la Puente will start for Garza, with Michael Ola getting the call for Slauson.

The Bears’ other inactives are defensive end David Bass, linebacker Khaseem Greene, offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr., wide receiver Josh Morgan and defensive end Cornelius Washington.

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Chargers send Seattle to their first defeat since December 22

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The Chargers couldn’t close out the Cardinals last Monday night, but they figured out how to get the job done against the Seahawks on Sunday.

San Diego took a 27-14 lead with three minutes to go in the third quarter and then held on for the final 18 minutes thanks to a pair of timely stops by their defense after Seattle drew within one score. They were able to stop Russell Wilson just short of a first down on a third-and-15 scramble to kill one fourth quarter drive and then blew up a Percy Harvin sweep to set the Seahawks up with poor field position and a long way to go for a first down on their last meaningful possession of the game.

The Chargers added a late field goal and the Seahawks found themselves in the unfamiliar position of walking back to the locker room as losers.

It was a well-earned 30-21 victory for the Chargers, who were able to hold onto the ball for more than 42 minutes against a defense that has carved up every team it has seen since losing 17-10 to the Cardinals on December 22 of last year. It’s the first time the team has lost by more than seven points with Russell Wilson at quarterback.

Philip Rivers was 28-of-37 for 284 yards and three touchdowns and he compiled the numbers by doing just what he promised. Rivers went right after the Seahawks defense without much care for which of their stars might the in the vicinity. It paid off handsomely, especially on the three scoring passes to Antonio Gates.

That late carry by Harvin was one of only three offensive touches for the Seahawks speedster, something that may lead to questions about whether there’s something physically bothering him. Harvin had a 51-yard touchdown run that shouldn’t have counted and a fumble on a kickoff return, so he still had an impact on the proceedings. Marshawn Lynch also had one by catching a touchdown pass, but he got just six carries for 36 yards as the Seahawks were forced to play from behind while rarely holding the ball long enough to get momentum rolling their way.

The Chargers game plan had everything to do with that and it was executed almost flawlessly. Some may rue the fact that they aren’t 2-0, but Sunday’s win provided plenty of reason to believe that there are several more wins to come in San Diego this season.

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