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Browns add Raiders assistant John Defilippo to OC mix

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Now that he’s finally in the job, Browns head coach Mike Pettine is picking up the pace with interview to fill his coaching staff.

In addition to the previously reported interview Wednesday with former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the Browns are also going to talk to Raiders quarterbacks coach John Defilippo on Thursday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The 35-year-old Defilippo was the quarterbacks coach for the Jets in 2009, when Pettine worked there. He’s also worked for the Giants in addition to his two stints with the Raiders.

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Browns are getting a new mascot

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Like many teams, the Browns will have a mascot.  Unlike many teams, Cleveland’s mascot won’t take off his suit when it’s time to go home.

Per Chris Fillar of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, Browns V.P. of marketing Kevin Griffin said that the Browns will use a live bulldog as the team mascot this season.  His name will be “Swagger.”

Given the owner’s propensity for replacing key employees, it’s unknown whether Swagger will simply be fired if he doesn’t fulfill his duties to the satisfaction of management — or whether Swagger will be taking a one-way ride to Euthanasiaville.

No pressure, Swagger.  No pressure at all.

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Bills stadium report delayed

Ralph Wilson Stadium AP

A report identifying potential sites for a new Bills stadium had been expected to be released on Friday.  It wasn’t.

Per the Associated Press, the target for the release of the report has moved to the end of the month.

The delay, according to the AP, resulted from the significant volume of information to be processed.  One option continues to be the current home of the team — Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“I’ve said all along the one thing we cannot do is take off the table Ralph Wilson Stadium,” Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz told the AP.  “We’re investing $130 million there, one of the reasons it was done was not only to make it good for the next five to ten years, but many years thereafter.  After the investments we’re doing now it’s going to be a different stadium and when people go there this fall they’re going to realize that it’s still very viable to have ‘the Ralph’ as the home of the Bills.”

Regardless of the potential options identified by the L.A. firm hired to prepare the report, the new owner will have a major say in what ultimately happens.  Especially since the lease allows the Bills to exit with a buyout clause after the 2019 season.  And since the lease expires after the 2022 season.

While few expect the Bills to move to a place like L.A., the threat of a move could be the primary catalyst for whatever the new owner wants.  No one will know what the new owner wants until we know who the new owner is.

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New owner likely will mean new key employees in Buffalo

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As both training camp for the Bills and the official process of selling the franchise prepare to open at nearly the same time, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News points to the only virtual certainty currently surrounding the team.

After the new owner arrived, a bunch of people will get fired.  Regardless of whether the owner is the guy with the “You’re fired!” catch phrase or someone else.

That’s the way it works in the NFL.  New owner hires new people.  The new owner’s people.  Hand picked through a vision for constructing a football operation that would include any of the current executives and/or coaches only as a coincidence.

The folks running the Bills know it.  They also know that the only way to save their jobs is to win the mob, putting together a team so strong that the fans would revolt if the new owner implements a new approach right away.

Regardless of what they say when explaining the move, that’s really why the Bills gave up a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick to move up five spots with the Browns for potential impact player Sammy Watkins.  It’s also why the Browns two years ago moved up one spot for Trent Richardson and burned a second-round pick in the supplemental draft on receiver Josh Gordon.  The powers-that-be knew that a new person would soon be holding ultimate power over the operation, and that anything other than a dramatic improvement in the team’s fortunes would result in pink slips flying like confetti in the ticker-tape parade that neither the Bills nor the Browns have ever had in the Super Bowl era.

The mandate for the Bills’ brass is to win enough games that the new owner won’t want to risk incurring the wrath of the fan base.  Even then, change is inevitable, unless the Bills become a consistent contender so potent that the new owner adopts a new vision based on not fixing that which ain’t broke.

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DeBartolo scores last touchdown at Candlestick Park

DeBartolo AP

The stadium that became best known for the exploits of the team owned by Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. closed its doors on a touchdown scored by DeBartolo himself.

Via Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, DeBartolo scored the game-winning touchdown at the flag football game that closed out Candlestick Park, giving former 49ers a 45-40 win over a team of All-Stars in a flag football game.

“Trust me. I was as nervous as you were,” quarterback Joe Montana told DeBartolo after the two-yard completion won the game and dropped the curtain on the legendary venue.  Per Brown, DeBartolo sneaked onto the field for the decisive score.

As the modest crowd — estimated at 30,000 by Brown and at 25,000 by Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle — chanted “Ed-die!,” DeBartolo found a microphone.

“It was an honor being your owner,” he said.  “But it was an even bigger honor to be your friend.”

Per Tafur, Montana threw three touchdown passes for the 49ers, and Steve Young added one.  But Young also threw a pair of Matt Schaub-style pick-sixes to former NFL safety Robert Griffith, prompting boos from the crowd and cries of “We want Joe”!

Quarterbacking the All-Stars were Dan Marino, Drew Bledoe, and Dave Krieg.  They used iPads on the field to help call plays.  It didn’t always work too well; former 49ers safety Tony Parrish intercepted them three times, returning one for a touchdown.

The 49ers will christen their new Santa Clara stadium this season, hosting Super Bowl 50 there in early 2016.

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The Jets land at No. 19 in PFT’s preseason power rankings

Geno Smith, Michael Vick AP

The Jets said goodbye to their previous would-be savior at quarterback early in the offseason when they parted ways with Mark Sanchez, a move that cut ties with the good and bad of his four years as the team’s starter while making the key to a successful 2014 season all the more obvious.

The Jets need a consistent and reliable quarterback if they are going to be a consistent playoff participant and they aren’t sure if they have one. The hope is that Geno Smith can build off a rough rookie season thanks to the push he’ll receive from Michael Vick this summer, but it’s hard to find too many strong predictions that things will play out that way.

There’s more certainty about the quality of the offensive talent around the quarterbacks this year, though. Adding Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and Jace Amaro gives the Jets a much deeper group of options at skill positions to go with a defense that did a very good job on the way to last year’s 8-8 record. Even a modest bump in production at quarterback would give the Jets the right to think about the playoffs, so the pressure is on for those trying to provide it.

For now, though, the jury is out and that leaves the Jets in pretty much the same middle of the pack position they were in to end last season. Our PFT panel has voted them into the 19th spot on our preseason power rankings, but we want to know what you think as well. Check out the preview and then cast your vote below.

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Jim Leonhard has had conversations with the Packers about 2014 season

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The Packers drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round this year, but they may not be done adding at safety.

Former Bills, Ravens, Jets and Broncos safety Jim Leonhard wants to continue playing this season and the Wisconsin native told WQOW that he has spoken to his home state’s team about donning their uniform.

“It would mean a lot, but we’ve had a lot of conversations with teams, Green Bay being one of them,” Leonhard said, via CheeseheadTV.com. “They’re a great organization, I’d love to play for them but it hasn’t worked out up to now. You never know what can happen in the future, but we’ll see. They’re a great organization and it’s always fun to see the fans and have a lot of family that follows them closely.”

Leonhard played all 16 games for the Bills last season, starting seven times and picking off four passes. The Packers have Morgan Burnett back from last year to go with Clinton-Dix and Micah Hyde, who has made the move from cornerback, so there’s not a particularly pressing need for another safety. That explains why nothing has worked out up to now and why Leonhard, who is also an experienced punt returner, may have to look elsewhere if he’s going to play in 2014.

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Brian Hoyer isn’t thinking about what his teammates do off the field

Brian Hoyer AP

After LeBron James announced he’d be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer tweeted that he appreciated that James wrote that “everything is earned” for athletes in Northeast Ohio.

It wasn’t hard to see why such a thought would resonate with Hoyer, who is trying to remain ahead of Johnny Manziel as the starter in Cleveland. On Saturday, Hoyer again mentioned James when told Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan that he’s not looking for “anything to be handed to me” and that he’s looking forward to competing against Manziel. He also said that he hasn’t been paying attention to any of Manziel’s off-field exploits.

“Not really. I’m not really focused on my teammates, what they do in their off life so that’s none of my business,” Hoyer said. “They can make those decisions on their own. All that matters is that we come back ready to go for the season.”

Hoyer said his knee is totally healthy after last year’s torn ACL and that he’s been throwing to Browns receivers Andrew Hawkins and Charles Johnson during the time off before training camp in order to be as sharp as possible when his competition with Manziel heats up later this month. He’ll need to be to remain on top of the depth chart and it’s clear that Hoyer isn’t taking that spot for granted.

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E.J. Manuel: I’m stronger than I was last year

EJ Manuel AP

It’s shaping up to be a big year for Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel.

Injuries kept him from practicing fully leading up to his rookie season and then cost him six games during the season, leaving the Bills unsure whether their 2013 first-round pick could be the long-term starter that they have been looking for in Buffalo. With a new owner coming soon, there’s a chance that the front office and coaching staff could be shaken up so Manuel will have to offer more convincing evidence that he can be that guy during his second season or run the risk that the franchise will start looking in other directions.

Manuel says that he has more confidence in himself as he moves toward the 2014 season and that he’s learned some things about staying healthy that leave him feeling like a stronger player than he was a year ago.

“I think that’s one thing I had to learn to be smart when I take off with the football. Instead of trying to get an extra three yards, either step out-of-bounds or slide. Those are all of the nuisances I had to learn,” Manuel said, via the Bills website. “Obviously, I didn’t want to go down with an injury because I’m a competitive player. I go hard each and every time I step on the field. It just so happened that I had to come down with an injury. I moved past it. Thankfully, I am 100 percent healthy right now. I feel like I’m stronger than I was last year, so I’m looking forward to moving on.”

There were some shaky reports about Manuel’s play during the spring, particularly when it came to accuracy, and Manuel says he’s been working on developing chemistry with new wideouts Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams. The hope is that increased familiarity will help Manuel’s passes find their target more frequently because anything less will leave the Bills with bigger questions to answer next offseason.

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Rams are 20th in PFT’s preseason power rankings

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The St. Louis Rams are no longer one of the worst teams in the NFL.

The Rams won just 15 games in five seasons between 2007 and 2011 but have risen back into the middle class of the league over the past two seasons. St. Louis has won seven games in each of the last two years but has yet to mount a true challenge against the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers for control of the division. The Arizona Cardinals even usurped the Rams as the biggest threat to the Seahawks and 49ers in 2013.

We have the Rams ranked 20th in the league as teams close in on their reporting dates for training camp. Sam Bradford’s performance will go a long way toward determining the fate of the Rams this season and whether St. Louis will be in the quarterback market again next spring.

Our full Rams preview is located here. Tell us in the poll below if you feel the Rams deserve the ranking we gave them heading into the season.

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Ravens’ Jimmy Smith arrested for disorderly conduct

Jimmy Smith AP

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has been arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, the fifth arrest for a Ravens player this offseason.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Smith was cited for failure to obey a lawful order of a police officer after authorities arrived at a bar, responding to a call about an unconscious woman in a bathroom. When police arrived, Smith was with the woman and said he was trying to assist her, but he would not move way after police repeatedly asked him to step aside so paramedics could attend to her.

“We’re gathering information about this,” Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne told the paper.

Smith was released from custody at 11:15 p.m. on Saturday. The woman was taken to a hospital, and police say she was intoxicated.

The Ravens’ other arrests this offseason: Lorenzo Taliaferro for destruction of property and public intoxication, Jah Reid for two counts of battery, Deonte Thompson for suspicion of possession of marijuana and Ray Rice for assault.

Although Smith has stayed out of trouble previously in his NFL career, he had several off-field incidents in both high school and college that led him to drop to the end of the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. Smith has looked like a good draft pick in the three seasons since then, but this arrest only adds to a disappointing offseason in Baltimore.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Jason Witten AP

Can DE Jacquies Smith win a spot on the Bills roster?

Matt Moore has embraced his role as backup quarterback for the Dolphins.

Checking in on the progress of the Patriots’ second-year players.

Setting the training camp stage for the Jets quarterbacks.

Ravens OL John Urschel is also a promising mathematician.

The Bengals website provided 58 things to ponder with 58 days to go before the season starts.

QB Brian Hoyer’s Cleveland pride goes deeper than his presence on the Browns roster.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will wait for the team’s running backs to sort out their pecking order by themselves.

The home of the Texans will play host to a soccer match between Italian team A.C. Milan and Mexican team Chivas in August.

Burning questions are hard to find when it comes to the Colts quarterbacks.

What are the most daunting matchups for the Jaguars this season?

Everything you ever needed to know about the Titans’ shower habits.

Previewing the Broncos special teams units.

Chiefs S Husain Abdullah took part in a traditional “Ghagba” dinner in Qatar.

Discussing Raiders RB Maurice Jones-Drew’s belief that London is ready for an NFL team.

The Chargers hosted the Alex Spanos All-Star Classic for local high school football standouts.

Said Cowboys DE Anthony Spencer of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, “Football is like a religion to him. You can tell in the way he talks about it. He is like a preacher. He believes in it so much. He believes that if you do the right things on the football field you also become a good person off it.”

The Giants website identifies potential sleepers to watch at training camp.

LB Connor Barwin and other Eagles showed off their hoop skills at RB LeSean McCoy’s charity game.

How many new faces will there be on the Redskins this season?

Safety looks like the hottest position battle for the Bears this summer.

How will the Lions’ backup cornerback depth chart shake out during camp?

The Packers website shares some memories of RB Dorsey Levens.

Former Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper thinks his old team got a gem in Teddy Bridgewater.

Previewing the state of affairs at wide receiver for the Falcons.

Former Panthers DL Brentson Buckner shares his thoughts on the current Panthers team.

Saints CB Keenan Lewis hosted a football camp with Dolphins WR Mike Wallace.

T Jeremy Trueblood makes this list of 20 underwhelming Buccaneers.

Can the Cardinals back up the confidence they bring into the 2014 season?

A look back at the Rams’ first trip to the Super Bowl.

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick got a big new tattoo before camp.

Seahawks LB Bruce Irvin says his hip is feeling much better.

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Report: DEA investigating prescription drug distribution in the NFL

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NFL locker rooms are reportedly the focus of a federal investigation into abuse of prescription medication.

The New York Daily News reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration has launched an investigation into the abuse of prescription medication in the NFL. Agents are talking to former players about how NFL doctors and trainers treat players with drugs like Percodan, Vicodin and Toradol, all of which players have said they are given by members of their teams’ medical staff.

“They want to find out who provided and distributed the drugs to football players,” one source told the newspaper.

The investigation began after a group of former players sued the NFL, saying they were not warned of possible side effects of taking the prescription medication that team doctors gave out. When that lawsuit was filed, it was easy to assume that the owners could make it go away with a settlement, just as they’ve managed to find a settlement to the concussion litigation that will satisfy most of the plaintiffs without bankrupting the league.

But a DEA investigation is very different, and potentially a much more serious problem for the NFL.

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Broncos view anything short of a championship as a disappointment

Washington Redskins  v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Losing the Super Bowl left a bitter taste in the Broncos’ mouths.

That’s why, as Denver cornerback Chris Harris says, this year there’s no satisfaction with being the second-best team in the NFL. The Broncos view a championship as their only goal, and anything less as a disappointment.

“Guys know what’s at stake this year, at least they should — it’s Super Bowl or bust for us,” Harris told ESPN. “It means a lot for this team for all of us to come back and hit the ground running fast. Especially the young guys, if they weren’t paying attention at OTAs and minicamp, but to make this Broncos team this year, these cats on defense better be working out because Peyton Manning will make you look crazy.”

In a sense, that’s every team’s view: At this time of year, every team in the league is dreaming of hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But the Broncos may feel that urgency more than any other team. A great season last year ended with a terrible performance in the Super Bowl, and all of the Broncos’ offseason moves indicated that they’re trying to win now, while Manning is still the top quarterback in the league. Compared to most teams, the Broncos’ 2013 season was a success. But a repeat of last year would be viewed as a disappointment in Denver.

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Eli Manning says new system has “reenergized” him

Eli Manning AP

The easy thing for the Giants to have done this offseason is point to Super Bowl trophies and let Eli Manning do what he’s been doing.

Instead, the veteran quarterback is learning a new offense this offseason, which he said is exciting for him.

It’s reenergized me,” Manning said, via Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News. “I’m trying to speed up the process of getting comfortable in the new system. I don’t have 10 years. I have a few months.”

Manning is using his last few days before training camp getting some extra work in. While helping run the Manning Passing Academy back in Louisiana, he’s getting some extra work in on the side with new wide receiver Odell Beckham, the Giants’ first-rounder.

“Good to get some one-on-one time here,” Manning said.

Between the new offense and having ankle surgery in April, Manning will have more pressure than ever when he goes to camp. If he handles both challenges well, the Giants have an opportunity to make a jump in a division full of uncertainty.

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Will Vernon Davis show up for training camp?

Super Bowl XLVII Media Day Getty Images

With 49ers guard Alex Boone reportedly intent on holding out of training camp until he gets a new deal, the bigger question for the franchise is whether tight end Vernon Davis will do the same.

Davis has sent mixed signals in recent weeks regarding his intentions and his objectives.  Most recently, he created the impression that, if he doesn’t get a new deal, he’ll show up for camp after skipping the offseason program.

A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that, at the present time, Davis would not be reporting.  That doesn’t mean he won’t show; with nine days to go, Davis can change his mind and change it back again a few times or more before the time comes to report for duty.

The 49ers reportedly won’t negotiate with Boone or Davis until they show up.  If they boycott camp, the team will be able to fine them $30,000 per day and also to pursue a portion of any signing bonus money previously paid.

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