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Didn’t take long for Dolphins-DeCosta rumor to die

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Well, that didn’t take long.

Within minutes of posting a story about the Miami Herald report that the Dolphins had contacted Ravens assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta, the reaction was as swift as it was predictable.

From Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun came word that DeCosta wasn’t expected to leave the Ravens. Then Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times added that per a source, the Dolphins hadn’t contacted DeCosta, and he wasn’t interested if they did. Then Peter King of Sports Illustrated offered that DeCosta had “no interest” in the job.

This one was clear from the word go. Throwing DeCosta’s name into the mix of candidates might lend an air of legitimacy to a process that desperately needs any it can find.

It’s as if the Dolphins said, “Hey Eric, let us buy you a plate of stone crabs so this job looks better to the guy we eventually hire.”

The sad part for the Dolphins is that no one thought for a minute DeCosta was a serious candidate.

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Bruce DeHaven won’t let cancer keep him from Panthers camp

Bruce DeHaven, Richie Brockel AP

Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven took a leave of absence from the team this spring, and for good reason.

But even though his time with them may be limited, he decided the lure of coaching was too strong to walk away from.

DeHaven told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that a doctor told him in May he had prostate cancer, and might have three to five years left to live. That caused him to step away and consider his options, but ultimately, the longtime assistant chose to come back to work.

I just figured that I am determined to beat this,” DeHaven said. “And I hope I can beat it. I hope I can outlast it. I’m so busy that I don’t even think of it unless someone brings it up. But I think I figured that, if I quit, 20 years from now I’d ask myself, ‘Why’d you walk away from a job you love doing so much?’”

The Panthers are working closely with DeHaven, and brought in longtime assistant Russ Purnell to help him. But DeHaven insisted on coming back for a 29th NFL season, one which has saw him work with legends of the game and win a Super Bowl.

“Look,” he said, “I love coaching. I just do. I love teaching football. There’s a story I need to tell you. I grew up in Kansas, a farm kid. And I got to be a high school coach, and in 1976, the team I coached in Wichita went to Kansas City and won the state championship. So we’re headed home to Wichita after the game on a yellow school bus, and everyone’s so happy, and I’m happy we won, of course. But part of me was so sad. The season’s over. I don’t get to coach these kids I love to coach on Monday. It’s over. So it’s the coaching, the teaching, the process. That’s what I love.

“From life on the farm to the NFL … I mean, are you kidding me? Coaching in the Super Bowl? With Hall of Fame coaches? Marv Levy, Bill Parcells. My gosh, I understand what Lou Gehrig said. I honestly feel it. I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

DeHaven is undergoing treatments for the disease, and by all appearances seems to be coaching as he ever has. And hopefully, he’s able to do what he loves for many years to come.

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Brandon Boykin clarifies, says Chip Kelly just can’t communicate

Philadelphia Eagles v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Now-Steelers cornerback Brandon Boykin brought up an old topic when his initial remarks on being traded from the Eagles suggested that coach Chip Kelly wasn’t comfortable with black men.

But upon arriving at Steelers camp, Boykin tried to clarify his remarks, saying Kelly’s problem was more one of communication.

“When you’re a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach off the field,” Boykin said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “There were times he just didn’t talk to people. You would walk down the hallway, he wouldn’t say anything to you. I’m not saying he’s a racist in any way. . . .

“I felt a lot of guys in that locker room feel the same way. Of course, when you’re in the organization, you’re not going to voice your opinion. For me, I’ve always been a guy of honesty. Not trying to put anybody out in any way, but if you’re honest with me, I’ll be honest with you, and I felt like that honesty wasn’t there all the time.”

Boykin also said he was finished talking about Kelly, which is probably a good idea.

The idea of Kelly being racist, first broached by former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, seemed ludicrous on its face. But Boykin’s initial remarks that Kelly was “uncomfortable around men of our culture,” can still be true while not equalling racism.

The group of people Kelly seems most uncomfortable with is people. He’s approached the NFL with a style which borders on Moneyball, only more ruthless — treating players like commodities to be maximized or brokered, rather than individuals with feelings.

It’s easier to sell that at the high levels of the NCAA, where the football coach is practically a deity whose power can be absolute. But as teenagers grow into adults, they’re going to want to feel respected. And if Kelly can’t figure out a way to strike that balance, he may eventually find himself more comfortable in the college game.

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Matt Cassel seems to be edging ahead in Bills quarterback derby

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One of the oldest football cliches is that teams that have two quarterbacks actually have none. But even though the Bills have four, they may be settling in on one of them.

According to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, veteran Matt Cassel took starting reps for the third day in a row Sunday, which could be a sign he’s the leader in the clubhouse for the job.

Tyrod Taylor, who was taking backup reps Saturday, alternated in with the starters at times as well, so it doesn’t appear they’re close to declaring anything.

If anything, none of them have seemed particularly impressive in practice (with EJ Manuel reportedly struggling the most), leaving the door open waiting for someone to walk through it.

The Bills love the mobility Taylor offers, but Cassel might be the safest of the lot, and on a team built to run and play defense, that might be enough of an edge.

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Report: Chargers, Rivers will have new contract or suspend talks, soon

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers throws a pass during drills at opening day of training camp at Chargers' Park Thursday, July 30, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi) AP

With Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signing his second contract, attention now turns to two other veterans closing in on their third NFL deals: Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

As to Rivers, Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that, one way or the other, an answer could be coming soon.

Specifically, Gehlken writes that, if the Chargers and Rivers haven’t worked out a new contract by the team’s first preseason game against the Cowboys on August 13, “they aren’t expected to this year.”

While the talks are described as amicable, Rivers doesn’t want talks to continue as the regular season approaches.

Rivers is due to earn a base salary of $15.8 million in 2015. To match the current high-water mark of $22 million per year in “new money,” Rivers would need, for example, a five-year, $103.8 million deal or a six-year, $125.8 million contract.

If talks end up being tabled until after the season, both sides will have much more clarity regarding whether the next Rivers contract will be held by the San Diego Chargers or the Los Angeles Chargers.

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Michael Johnson has Grade 2 MCL sprain

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson participates in NFL football training camp, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) AP

The news isn’t bad for Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson. But it’s not as good as it could have been.

Per a league source, Johnson suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain during practice on Sunday. He’s expected to be back in four weeks.

The MCL, a rope-like ligament, frays when injured to a mild-to-moderate degree. Surgery isn’t needed unless the injury is severe.

Johnson left the Bengals for the Buccaneers after the 2013 season. He was cut by Tampa after one season with the Bucs, choosing the Bengals over the Vikings.

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Could Brady case result in reduction of Goodell’s power?

Roger Goodell AP

The immediate aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle triggered widespread speculation that the Commissioner had no choice but to yield final say over player penalties under the Personal Conduct Policy.

And then the league unveiled a new Personal Conduct Policy, with the Commissioner still having final say.

The Tom Brady suspension arises not under the Personal Conduct Policy but under the Commissioner’s Article 46 power to impose discipline for conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football. It’s the only other area of player discipline over which the Commissioner has retained the ability to personally process a player’s appeal.

The handling of the Brady appeal and its aftermath have raised new questions regarding whether Commissioner Roger Goodell ever can be truly impartial in cases where he has direct involvement in the underlying disciplinary decision.

As the NFLPA argued at paragraph 151 of the original court filing in Minnesota, “It is hard to imagine any person in Goodell’s position even attempting to serve as arbitrator under these circumstances, but that is exactly what he did. He denied the NFLPA’s Recusal Motion and simultaneously (and summarily) rejected the delegation [of the initial decision to Troy Vincent] argument — trying to pave his own path to stay on as arbitrator of Brady’s appeal. This conduct shows not merely evident partiality but actual bias, rendering Goodell unfit to serve as arbitrator under any standard.”

The NFLPA also pointed out that Goodell’s public statement of appreciation to Ted Wells made it impossible for Goodell to reach a contrary conclusion in the appeal, “as doing so would undermine his own competency as Commissioner.” Not specifically articulated in the NFLPA’s initial filing (but quite likely to be raised during the federal litigation) are the delicate balance Goodell must strike when placating his 32 constituents (i.e., the owners), along with the very real influence of P.R. concerns on his decisions. Given that he never is criticized for imposing too strong of a punishment on a player but was placed under siege after not going far enough with Ray Rice, the Commissioner will be far more likely to go too far than to not go far enough.

If the Brady case isn’t settled before the first of two scheduled conferences in court, Judge Richard M. Berman could hammer that point home via aggressive questioning of the NFL’s lawyers and, quite possibly, through a direct and pointed interrogation of Goodell in Judge Berman’s chambers as part of settlement efforts. And as Judge Berman potentially peppers the NFL’s non-lawyer CEO with questions about these issues that are difficult for even a seasoned litigator to properly explain, Judge Berman likely will insist that the answers come not from any lawyers in the room with him but from Goodell personally.

That’s why the NFLPA currently believes that, as a result of the Brady case, the NFL may finally be inclined to yield on the issue of Goodell’s power over players. NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler addressed this dynamic in an interview with PFT conducted before Judge Berman ordered the parties to tone down the rhetoric.

“The union has been advocating for some time that the Commissioner allow neutral arbitration of all disputes in the NFL, just as there is in all the other leagues,” Kessler said, explaining that the “contradiction between the NFL Commissioner holding himself out as an arbitrator while also being the employer just can’t stand the test of time.”

Kessler added that it’s “better for the league, better for the Commissioner, better for the players if there was neutral arbitration.”

But what of the common refrain that the NFLPA should have insisted on neutral arbitration for all disciplinary issues during the 2001 Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations?

“We did,” Kessler said. “That’s what people don’t understand. The final CBA has many things that the players demanded such as improved health and safety, reduced practice, and lots of improvement in many areas. And it has many things the league insisted on. The league made its no. 1 priority the ability of Roger Goodell to retain final say over issues of this type.”

And now the NFL may be having second thoughts about that. Kessler pointed out that the NFL doesn’t have to wait until the current CBA expires after the 2020 season to fix the problem.

“The union and the league have issues to address all the time,” Kessler said. “We changed the drug program after the CBA was done, including moving to a neutral arbitrator. There’s really no reason why the parties can’t sit down and re-do the whole Personal Conduct Policy now. . . . It boggles the mind that the league thinks it benefits from having constant legal battles. Why does the league think this is a good idea?”

In theory, it’s possible that the Commissioner’s lingering power over player discipline could be surrendered as part of the settlement of the Brady case. While that would complicate the back-and-forth over Brady’s ultimate punishment, if Judge Berman will be clunking heads together in order to get the NFL and NFLPA to settle their differences regarding Brady, why not push them for a broader settlement that would help prevent lawsuits like this one from ever being filed again?

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Bills suspend Aaron Kromer for six regular-season games

Kromer Getty Images

Yes, the battery charges against Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer were dropped. No, that doesn’t matter to the NFL.

The Bills have announced that Kromer will be suspended for the first six regular-season games of 2015.

“Over the past several weeks the Bills organization has gathered information regarding the incident involving offensive line coach Aaron Kromer,” Bills president Russ Brandon said in a statement. “Today we have concluded our investigation and the Buffalo Bills will suspend Coach Kromer without pay for the first six games of the 2015 NFL regular season. The suspension will begin on Monday, September 7, 2015 and end with the conclusion of the Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals game on October 18, 2015.

“We worked in conjunction with the NFL on this matter and we are highly supportive of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy that holds all NFL and club employees to a higher standard.

“We look forward to Coach Kromer rejoining the Bills organization at training camp.”

The six-game suspension matches the new baseline punishment for crimes of violence under the Revised Personal Conduct Policy. Even though Kromer ultimately will face no criminal punishment (the charges against him recently were dropped, possibly in exchange for a civil settlement), the NFL applies a higher standard to its employees — along with a much lower standard of proof.

It means, as a practical matter, that the Bills believe Kromer did indeed punch a teenage boy in a beach-chair dispute, under the “more likely than not” test that doesn’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, the Bills are considering donating the full amount of the money they won’t be paying Kromer to charity.

It’s unclear whether Kromer has waived his appeal rights. Even if he decides to pursue them, it will be very difficult for him to successfully fight the punishment, since he’s not protected by a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The fact that the Bills imposed the six-game suspension highlights a key difference between a team’s rights against a coach and a team’s rights against a player. Under the Personal Conduct Policy, only the NFL may impose discipline. Also, a franchise’s options are limited to cutting the player or imposing a maximum suspension of four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team.

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Dez Bryant takes a swing at a teammate at Cowboys camp

Dez Bryant AP

Dez Bryant’s new contract hasn’t lessened his intensity.

Bryant took a swing at Cowboys cornerback Tyler Patmon at training camp today. The two were first exchanging words on the sideline, and then Bryant reached out and took a shot at Patmon. Other teammates and coaches stepped in and things did not escalate.

According to reporters on the scene, quarterback Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett both talked to Bryant on the field, and Bryant then went over to Patmon and gave him a hug. Apparently cooler heads prevailed.

It’s a rare training camp that doesn’t have at least a couple of scuffles, so this isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things. Bryant is an intense competitor, and the Cowboys love that about him. Even if he occasionally goes too far.

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Jeremy Mincey ends holdout, Cowboys give him a raise

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Dallas defensive end Jeremy Mincey has ended his holdout, and the Cowboys have given him the raise he wanted.

The Cowboys agreed to give Mincey a raise of at least $500,000, the Star-Telegram reports.

Mincey engaged in a four-day holdout at the start of training camp and the Cowboys indicated that they weren’t willing to give into his contract demands. But the reality is that Mincey’s holdout worked, and he’s going to make more money this season.

Once Mincey reported, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he was “excited” to have him in camp. And Mincey is excited about earning an extra half million dollars this year.

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Martavis Bryant to miss some camp time after elbow infection

Martavis Bryant AP

One of the Steelers’ young prospects is going to miss some camp time after surgery to clear out an infection.

According to to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, wide receiver Martavis Bryant is expected to miss “several days” of training camp after undergoing a “minor procedure” on his elbow.

Of course, procedures for infections are generally most minor when they are on someone else’s elbow.

“He should be back to us sooner rather than later,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “But it will be a couple of days. Making sure that’s behind him. . . .  He had a bump or something on his elbow and it kind of graduated to [surgery]. We just exercised a little caution and got it removed.”

Bryant showed big-play potential last year as a rookie, averaging 21.1 yards per catch, with eight touchdowns on just 26 receptions. Playing for a team that has been able to cultivate its own receiving talent, he could become a significant factor soon, assuming he’s well.

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Houston’s goal for Clowney: August 17

Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien looks over practice during NFL football training camp at the Methodist Training Center on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey) AP

As the Texans wait for linebacker Jadeveon Clowney to be ready to practice after his rookie season ended in microfracture surgery on his knee, coach Bill O’Brien has a specific date in mind for his return.

“I would say that the goal is to get him back on the field by about August 17th and then go from there,” Bill O’Brien said Sunday, via comments distributed by the team.

So why the 17th? O’Brien didn’t elaborate.

“I don’t know,” O’Brien said. “We’ll see how he is on the 17th.”

O’Brien is nevertheless optimistic that, come the 17th, Clowney will be ready to go.

“Do I feel confident? Yeah, I’m confident,” O’Brien said. “I’m confident that he’ll be back here on that day. Now, again, come out here tomorrow, you never know, he’s working very hard. But as I stand here today, I feel confident about his ability to be back out there doing something on August 17th.”

The real question isn’t when Clowney will return to practice, but how he’ll play when he gets back onto the field in a game. What started as a torn meniscus when Clowney landed awkwardly on the much-criticized NRG Stadium turf in Week One of his rookie year ended with a surgical procedure aimed at creating cartilage to replace cartilage that is no longer there.

Whether that new cartilage will hold up under the stress of the explosiveness Clowney’s legs generate is anyone’s guess. And no one will know how the knee responds to that until it happens.

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Carroll on cutting McDaniel: “This decision sucks”

Carroll

Earlier today, multiple reports (including ours) indicated that the Seahawks cut defensive tackle Tony McDaniel for cap purposes following the signing of quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner to new contracts. In discussing the move with the media on Sunday, coach Pete Carroll said nothing to dispute that.

“It is a significant loss,” Carroll said, via comments distributed by the team. “Tony [McDaniel] has been a really good core player for us, and we really liked him and what he’s brought to our club. This decision sucks, but you know we had to do something, and so maybe there’s a chance we can get him back someday, I don’t know how that will work. Unfortunately, that’s what had to happen today.”

With McDaniel gone, Carroll mentioned several guys who have an opportunity to step up in his absence.

‘It’s always about opportunity,” Carroll said. “Opportunity knocked for a bunch of guys on this one. Tony’s done a lot of playing for us. So as has always been the case, we’re heralding these guys as they come through this thing, and waiting to see who’s going to rise up, and we’re looking for it. David King has a chance and of course Jordan Hill has a chance to rise up. All of the fellas in there, [Demarcus] Dobbs, and all these guys have done a nice job to position themselves, and here the competition opportunity presents itself.”

For Carroll and the Seahawks, competition has always been the key. As more and more players who have competed at a high level reap the rewards, others who have competed well will be moving on, opening more chances for others to compete.

It’s a delicate balance that becomes no easier to strike when two key players go from making six figures to making eight figures.

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Michael Johnson carted from Bengals practice with knee injury

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals brought defensive end Michael Johnson back to the team this offseason and now they’re waiting to find out what kind of time he’ll miss after exiting Sunday’s practice on a cart.

Johnson went down during team drills in the practice and held his right knee before trainers arrived to evaluate the injury on the field. Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that a cart was brought onto the field and that Johnson “gingerly wobbled” a few yards to it before sitting on the back to be transported for further examination.

It’s a good bet that Johnson will head for an MRI to determine whether he’s torn any ligaments. If he’s torn his ACL, Johnson’s second stint with the Bengals won’t get off the ground this year, but he could be back for the early part of the season (or before) if it’s a sprain or something else less severe.

Johnson had 26.5 sacks in five years with the Bengals, who drafted him in the third round of the 2009 draft. He signed a five-year deal with the Buccaneers last year, but was released a year after his arrival after a disappointing campaign in Tampa.

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Chip Kelly says Mychal Kendricks won’t get traded

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Many of the players who have been rumored to be on their way out of Philadelphia this offseason have eventually found themselves off the roster with cornerback Brandon Boykin the latest to find a new address in a trade with the Steelers on Saturday.

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks’s name came up as a trade candidate at various points in the last few months, but coach Chip Kelly insists that Kendricks won’t be joining the exodus out of Philadelphia.

“Mike Kendricks is not going anywhere. I can tell you that right now. You can write that down in ink, not pencil. Mike’s not going anywhere,” Kelly said, via the Philadelphia Daily News.

Kendricks said that he didn’t spend much time worrying about what might happen, but that he’s “glad to be here” and that thoughts about what will happen after his contract expires at the end of the season will wait until after the season. Kendricks, Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans will be the top inside linebackers in Philly this season and Kendricks says they’re “just rotating” during practices right now.

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Mo Wilkerson leaves practice with hamstring injury

Wilkerson Getty Images

The only sure thing about training camp is that players will be injured. We just don’t know when and whom and what body part and how long they’ll be out.

Today, the when and whom point to Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, Wilkerson left practice on Sunday. After practice, coach Todd Bowles said Wilkerson tweaked his hamstring.

Wilkerson, in the option year of a rookie contract signed in 2011, wants a new deal. His leverage has increased in recent weeks with the four-game suspension and then the arrest of Sheldon Richardson.

Wilkerson’s leverage could plummet if his injury is anything other than a short-term problem.

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