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Jason Garrett: Romo “doesn’t look overly comfortable”

AP

The Cowboys have officially signed Jon Kitna, which means all they need to figure out now is whether or not Tony Romo is going to be available for Sunday’s game.

As you’d imagine, that was a chief topic of coach Jason Garrett’s Christmas Day meeting with reporters. Garrett said, via Desmond Purnell of NFL Network, he saw Romo on Wednesday morning and termed the quarterback’s status as day-to-day for Sunday night’s game against the Eagles.

Garrett said that Romo was trying to fight through the injury and that it seemed like Romo, who had an epidural injection in his back on Tuesday, was feeling a little better on Wednesday. Garrett also said that Romo “doesn’t look overly comfortable” while dealing with his back injury, so you can read into that what you will.

It doesn’t look like the Cowboys will be saying anything definitive on Romo’s status until they need to say something definitive, but Romo won’t practice Wednesday and they’ll be preparing Kyle Orton to start for the first time this season. Linebacker Sean Lee isn’t practicing either, so it looks like there’s a good chance they’ll be without the man Jerry Jones called the quarterback of the defense as well.

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Oakland makes last ditch effort to disrupt Raiders move

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With all signs pointing to the Raiders securing at least 24 votes next week to relocate to Las Vegas, Oakland isn’t going down without a fight. Or at least without a random, awkward swing at air.

Via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, Oakland claims that the investment firm trying to build a new Raiders stadium is willing to lend money to the Raiders on the same terms that Bank of America will do for the Las Vegas venue. If the terms don’t include at any level a path to equity in the franchise, maybe it would get the attention of owner Mark Davis.

It’s a slim maybe. Davis seems to be determined to move the team to Las Vegas, with a mindset hardened by the failure of Oakland to do anything until the Raiders were picking out drapes in their new house.

Kaplan also explains that a new Oakland stadium would be ready by 2021, only one year after a new stadium in Las Vegas. He likewise points out that Oakland regards concerns about baseball’s A’s being displaced by the project as a red herring, and that the site is large enough to allow an NFL stadium to be built without the A’s being disrupted or forced to move.

The last-ditch effort to secure at least nine votes to block the move could be too late. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com recently reported that the Raiders have 27 or 28 votes in his pocket. And if it appears that Davis won’t have 24, the vote will likely get pushed to the quarterly meeting in May.

For now, the indications are that the vote is coming next week, and that the Raiders will secure the green light to head to the city where gambling is prevalent — and no one connected to the NFL seems to be particularly seems to be troubled by that.

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MVP to finding Brady’s jerseys? Houston mayor says Houston PD

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The FBI Boston Division called it “truly a collaborative effort.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said it was “another example of the importance of teamwork and what can be accomplished when everyone works together.”

The Houston mayor is saying, well, something else.

Sylvester Turner expressed pride in his local police force Friday for the department’s role in two stolen Tom Brady Super Bowl jerseys being recovered this week in Mexico. And he took it a step further, saying that Houston police was the real MVP to an international joint operation.

“I’m very proud of the Houston Police Department,” Turner said via Fox 26 Houston Sports Director Mark Berman. “And to be honest with you, it was the Houston Police Department that did the legwork, that found that jersey. A lot of other people are taking credit for it, but the reality is it was the Houston Police Department, the law enforcement community right here, that … found the jerseys and made that happen.”

It is unclear where, along the way, Turner felt his local authorities were slighted.

In his Thursday statement, Kraft mentioned “many different local agencies” being involved in the process along with skepticism that any one of the involved agencies could’ve accomplished the feat alone. The Houston Police Department was included by name when the FBI Boston Division released a statement earlier this week.

“We want to thank our FBI field offices in Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston; the United States Attorney’s Offices in the District of Connecticut, the Southern District of Texas, and the District of Arizona; and our FBI Mexico City Legal Attaché,” the statement read. “We would also like to thank our law enforcement partners in Mexico, in particular, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, for their invaluable assistance in resolving this matter. Assistance was also provided by the security teams from the NFL and the New England Patriots, the Massachusetts State Police, and Houston Police Department.”

Apparently, the best was saved for last.

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Blandino acknowledges 10-minute overtime will lead to more ties, Ty

When it comes to whether Rich McKay and Dean Blandino believe that a reduced overtime period will result in more ties, Ty, we have a tie.

On Thursday, the Competition Committee chairman downplayed the risk of more teams having win-lose-draw records. Sort of.

“We don’t think it will lead to more ties,” McKay said. “Could it? It could.”

On Friday’s PFT Live, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino admitted the obvious.

‘There’s no question that when you shorten that overtime period, the potential for ties does increase,” Blandino said. “And I don’t think we feel that ties are necessarily a bad thing. They’re certainly great for tiebreakers when it comes to postseason. But ultimately you want to have a winner in the game. But it’s about player safety. And it’s about the number of snaps that our players have to take part in in overtime games.

“We had two ties last year. One game that went down to the final second. And we really can’t control in the regular season when that team is playing again. And sometimes a team plays five quarters and then has to go back out on Thursday night. So it’s about player safety. We understand the potential for more ties, but the safety risks outweigh the potential for tie games.”

First, while the NFL may not think ties are “necessarily a bad thing,” pretty much everyone else does.

Second, more ties won’t make it “great” for tiebreakers. As ties pile up they’ll no longer be a curiosity that avoids exercises like comparing winning percentage against common opponents because more teams will have records like 9-6-1, 10-5-1, and even 7-7-2.

Third, there’s no guarantee that a shorter overtime will correlate to reduced game action. The Week Seven tie between the Seahawks and Cardinals had 36 extra snaps. The Week Eight tie between Washington and the Bengals included 41 extra snaps. Shortening overtime by five minutes doesn’t automatically mean ties will have two thirds of the snaps, since teams will try to jam in as many snaps as possible in order to break the tie.

As long, however, as it’s fewer than 36 or 41 snaps, then it will be safer than a 15-minute overtime. And that seems to be what the league wants, primarily as it relates to avoiding one of the primary criticisms of short-week football. There’s no way to know without trying it out, and that’s why the change in overtime should be adopted on a one-year basis, requiring only nine votes to end it next year instead of 24 to wipe it from the books if the reduced snaps don’t outweigh the increased ties.

Or they could adopt the PFT overtime idea, which is explained in detail in the video attached to this post, after the quote from Blandino.

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49ers bring RFA pass-rusher Jacquies Smith in for a visit

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Trent Baalke’s gone, but the 49ers still have a thing for guys with torn ACLs.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the 49ers are having restricted free agent defensive end Jacquies Smith in for a visit.

The Buccaneers put the low tender of $1.797 million on Smith, after he tore his ACL in Week One last year. But since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent, he can be obtained without compensation (though the Bucs can match any offer sheet the 49ers might offer).

Smith has shown some pass-rush ability, with 13.5 sacks the last two healthy seasons. And since it would only cost money, it’s worth a shot for the 49ers if Smith is able to come back healthy.

Baalke, their former G.M., tried to buy low on talented players coming off ACLs in the draft, even if he missed more often than he hit with that strategy.

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Cardinals aren’t panicking about all the free agency defections

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If you’re the General Manager of a team that just lost five defensive starters in free agency, it would probably be bad for morale to run down the halls screaming “We’re all gonna die!”

So if you’re Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim, you look for the half-full glass and proceed, after losing defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger, cornerback Marcus Cooper, and linebacker Kevin Minter.

“You can see we’ve obviously done a good job of identifying players,” Keim said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “When guys like Marcus Cooper get five-plus million dollars [from the Bears] or D.J. Swearinger are getting big contracts, these are guys we took off the street that nobody else wanted. Our personnel department does a fantastic job and our coaches do a good job of developing these guys and getting them ready.”

Well, I guess if that’s your perspective, he has a point. They acquired Cooper for a seventh-round pick and got a good year out of him. Swearinger had bounced around. Jefferson was an undrafted rookie who grew into a starter. They drafted Campbell and Minter.

And if you really want to be Mr. Silver Lining, they ought to be on the right side of the margin when it comes time for compensatory picks next year.

But there’s still the matter of replacing the production, and signing old guys like Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea also comes with some risks as well, and the Cardinals still need to draft some difference-makers to replace the talent other people paid for.

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Jets G.M. not saying if Josh McCown is the starting quarterback

AP

Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan signed quarterback Josh McCown to a contract that guarantees him $6 million this year, but he’s not ready to declare McCown the starting quarterback.

On a conference call today, Maccagnan declined to talk about who will be the starting quarterback for the Jets this year, other than to say the call will be made by head coach Todd Bowles. Maccagnan did say, however, that the Jets are unlikely to add another veteran quarterback.

McCown certainly seems like the favorite to be the starter. Neither of the other two quarterbacks on the roster, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, has shown himself ready to start in the NFL. McCown has at least been a competent starter for a long time in the NFL, and that gives him a leg up.

It’s still possible, of course, that the Jets will acquire their starting quarterback in the draft. But at the moment McCown looks like the most likely Week One starter, even if the Jets aren’t ready to say so just yet.

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Michael Oher “working his fanny off” in comeback effort

AP

Techincally, Michael Oher remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

But the Panthers tackle is apparently working like a man who intends to play next season.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said Oher “has been working his fanny off.”

Oher suffered a concussion in Week Three and didn’t play again last season, with the team eventually putting him on IR. They then signed free agent left tackle Matt Kalil, which would return Oher to right tackle if he returns.

And apparently, they’re thinking that’s a when rather than an if.

“He’s doing NFL workouts. He’s fully engaged in that weight room sweating his butt off,” Gettleman said. “He looks great, he sounds great. . . .

“Like I told you, he’s doing NFL workouts right now. His workouts right now are not for the faint of heart. He’s down there grunting like everybody else.”

If he doesn’t return, the Panthers would have a pretty glaring hole at right tackle. Previous starter Mike Remmers went to Minnesota in free agency, and though they have former fourth-rounder Daryl Williams on the roster, it’s still thin if Oher is unable to play.

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Cowboys kick the tires on veteran tackle Byron Bell

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The Cowboys have enjoyed depth and stability on their offensive line, but now have to look around for options.

Friday, they brought in a guy with some decent starting experience.

According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys had former Panthers and Titans offensive lineman Byron Bell in for a visit. He has also met with the Packers this week.

Bell didn’t play last year after an ankle injury suffered in OTAs, but started 72 games over his first five seasons. He was a solid-to-good right tackle for the Panthers, but was in over his head when they moved him to left tackle, and they brought in Michael Oher as an upgrade. He played both guard and tackle for the Titans, starting all 16 games in 2015.

The Cowboys are looking at their options after losing Ronald Leary in free agency and Doug Free to retirement.

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Bob Brown was the one player who intimidated Mean Joe Greene

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Mean Joe Greene is known as perhaps the toughest player in NFL history, but he admits there was one guy who could get the best of him on the field.

Greene, the Hall of Fame Steelers defensive lineman, appeared on PFT Live and, when first asked whether he was ever intimidated during his playing days, answered, “That’s not something I experienced when I was on the football field.”

But after giving it some thought, Greene mentioned a fellow Hall of Famer, offensive lineman Bob Brown, whom Greene made the mistake of taking on just once.

“Probably my biggest example of being intimidated was a ball game we played in 1972, we played the Oakland Raiders and Bob Brown was the right offensive tackle and I was the left defensive tackle — I played one player removed from him. L.C. Greenwood lined up opposite Bob Brown.”

Greene recalled that Greenwood, his longtime teammate who was also a very tough player, was complaining during the game that Brown was whipping his butt. Greene, convinced that he could handle Brown one-on-one, told Greenwood to switch places with him for a play. As it turned out, Brown hit him so hard that Greene didn’t even know what happened except that he was on the ground and his helmet had been knocked sideways.

“I said ‘What’s happening?’ he said, ‘Oh man the guy is killing me.’ I said, ‘Let me have him. I’ll line up over him.’ And when I lined up across from Bob Brown, and I looked in that helmet, he’s a couple shades darker than me and all I could see was his eyes, just the look in that helmet, I was very fearful,” Greene recalled. “When the ball was snapped, all I remember was looking through the ear hole of my helmet, one shoe was off, and the play was gone.”

Younger fans may not know the name Bob Brown, but that story from Greene speaks volumes. Brown was one of the all-time tough guys.

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Packers reportedly considered Adrian Peterson visit

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The first free agency in the 10-year career of running back Adrian Peterson continues, for good reason. He still wants to be paid more than anyone wants to pay him.

One team that would be a logical fit for Peterson considered bringing him in for a visit. Via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, the Packers thought about it before deciding against it.

If the Packers said “no thanks” because they believe Peterson would have had the same response to any offer from the Packers, there’s possibly a chance they jump in, if/when Peterson realizes that the money simply won’t be close to where he thought it would be.

Still, the smartest play for Peterson could be to wait. Wait for teams to not emerge from the draft with the running back they hope to get. Wait for teams to become discontented with the running backs on their roster during offseason workouts. Wait for the inevitable torn ACL, broken leg, etc. suffered by a starting running back with a contending team.

Meanwhile the Packers will potentially wait for Peterson to decide that he wants to play for whatever he can get.

However it plays out, Peterson likely will play this year. The only questions are where and, perhaps more importantly, when.

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Panthers will pick up option on Kelvin Benjamin

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The Panthers still can’t be sure what they have in Kelvin Benjamin.

But they’re going to commit to him anyway.

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer the team plans to pick up the fifth-year option on the wide receiver, who has alternated between good and injured and confusing.

The option will pay Benjamin $8 million for the 2018 season.

The 2014 first-rounder was excellent as a rookie, with 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. But he followed a torn ACL in 2015 (the Panthers went to the Super Bowl without a legitimate starting receiver) with a less-productive 2016 (63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns).

He also he also had moments of inconsistency last year that were bothersome, including the way he gave up pursuit of an interception on the play that resulted in Cam Newton’s shoulder injury (which led to Newton needing surgery next week).

That said, he’s still just 26 and gives Newton a large target, and he remains their best option at the position.

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2013 quarterback draft class was a disaster

AP

Four years ago, only one quarterback was drafted in the first round, and only two were taken through the first 72 selections. Most teams knew what they were doing in passing on available passers.

In hindsight, the 2013 draft class was a disaster.

Former Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, the 16th overall pick in the draft that year, started 10 games as a rookie and a total of seven since then. He has 19 career touchdown passes, 20 turnovers, and a passer rating of 77.5.

Geno Smith (pictured), picked 39th overall by the Jets, started all 16 games as a rookie and 13 in 2014. A broken jaw resulting from a locker-room punch in August 2015 ended his time with the Jets as a starter; he has 28 touchdown passes, 36 interceptions, seven lost fumbles, and a passer rating of 72.4.

The next guy off the board was Mike Glennon, in round three. He played well enough in two seasons to position the Buccaneers to earn the first overall pick in the draft, which they used to pick Glennon’s replacement, Jameis Winston. Glennon started 18 total games before taking a seat behind Winston.

With 30 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions, and a passer rating of 84.6, he’s clearly the best of a bad bunch. Which partially explains his $15 million per year deal in Chicago. (It’s still not clear who the Bears were bidding against.)

Also drafted that year were a flurry of fourth-rounders: Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, and Landry Jones. Of them, Barkley (six starts) and Jones (four starts) have played the most. Somewhat surprisingly, both ended up with better second contracts than Manuel or Smith.

Barkley signed a two-year, $4 million deal with a $500,000 signing bonus in San Francisco. Jones has a two-year, $4.4 million contract in Pittsburgh, with $600,000 to sign. In contrast, Manuel has a one-year, $800,000 contract in Oakland and Smith has a one-year deal with a base value of $775,000 and a maximum value of $2 million.

Also drafted that year were a quartet of seventh rounders: Brad Sorensen, Zac Dysert, B.J. Daniels, and Sean Renfree.

So it was a very bad year for quarterbacks in the draft. Kudos to (most) of the teams for realizing this and not over-drafting signal-callers. And condolences to Manuel and Smith for somehow sliding behind Barkley and Jones when the time came to sign a second deal.

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Colts cut Arthur Jones

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The Arthur Jones era in Indianapolis has come to an end.

The Colts announced this morning that they have released Jones, a defensive tackle who has spent the last three seasons with the team.

When the Colts signed Jones to a five-year, $33 million contract in 2014, they thought he’d make a huge impact in the defense run by coach Chuck Pagano, who had previously coached Jones in Baltimore. But Jones played in just 17 games in three seasons, missing time with injuries in all three years and also serving a four-game PED suspension.

The 30-year-old Jones probably still has some football left in him. But he’s going to have to sign with a team that’s offering him a lot less money than he made in Indianapolis.

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Four tech giants bidding for online streaming of Thursday games

AP

When owners meet in Phoenix next week, they’re expected to get an update on the bidding for the online streaming package for Thursday Night Football, and it’s apparently a competitive process.

According to Kurt Wagner of Recode, four tech giants are bidding for the package, with Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and YouTube expressing interest.

Twitter paid $10 million for the rights to 10 games last year, chosen from offers from the other three. This year, others could join the mix, and the added interest could drive that higher, which will be sweeter music to the ears of owners than any birds chirping.

The deal is more interesting for its potential for growth and worldwide reach than current value, because $10 million is bar tab money compared to what the league is getting from broadcast networks.

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All halftimes will be 13 minutes, 30 seconds

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As the NFL looks to tighten the belt regarding the amount of time it takes to play a game, the league will be adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to halftime.

The duration of intermission will expand from 12 minutes to 13 minutes and 30 seconds. While on the surface that could make some games longer, the 12-minute intermission currently has some play in the joints. Moving forward, all halftimes will last precisely 13 minutes and 30 seconds.

“Halftime currently is 12 minutes, but there is built-in delay time that involves teams getting to the locker room and the infrastructure of our stadiums and how they’re configured,” Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said during a Thursday conference call. “So we’re going to eliminate all of those discretionary periods of time and just have a clock, 13 minutes and 30 seconds, and at the end of that period, the ball will be made ready for play for the second half kickoff.”

The change doesn’t appear on a lengthy list of proposed rule changes for 2017. Apparently, this is the type of administrative matter that the league office can handle without a vote of the owners.

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