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Report: Sam Bradford informed of Johnny Manziel “smokescreen” before it started

Sam Bradford AP

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has said more than once this offseason that Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback in St. Louis, something that kept being necessary because the Rams kept finding themselves linked to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel during the pre-draft process.

Fisher made another show of support for Bradford on Wednesday night, telling a room filled with revelers at the team’s pre-draft party once again that Bradford’s “our guy.” Bradford was standing next to him at the time, which would have made it quite awkward to say anything else although Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Fisher’s show of support was about more than avoiding an uncomfortable situation.

Per Thomas, Bradford was made aware of the Manziel “smokescreen” before it got underway and the team has always been intent on dealing the pick rather than bringing Johnny Football to St. Louis. There might be another layer or two to the smokescreens before the Rams pick Manziel and he reveals himself to be Tom Cruise while on the stage with Roger Goodell, but things don’t really have a Mission: Impossible feel at the moment.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a push from teams trying to move up for a quarterback, though, although the reportedly high price for the Texans’ pick could make the No. 2 pick attractive to teams looking for help at other spots on Thursday. That would be especially true if Jadeveon Clowney is available after Houston picks, but the Rams may also just have to accept the “high-class problem” of picking second overall.

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Tim Jennings pleads guilty to reckless driving to resolve DWI case

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Getty Images

When Bears cornerback Tim Jennings was arrested early this year on a drunk driving charge, he admitted he was driving too fast but denied he was drunk. The authorities are apparently willing to accept that.

Jennings has pleaded guilty to reckless driving to resolve the DWI case, TMZ reports.

Police said Jennings was driving almost 100 miles an hour on a Georgia interstate. After the arrest, Jennings explained that he had been speeding because he was running late to a parent-teacher conference at his kid’s school.

Jennings will serve 12 months of probation, pay a fine, do 40 hours of community service and participate in a drunk driving program as part of his sentence.

A projected starter this year, Jennings was not at the first day of practice of Bears camp, presumably because he was dealing with his legal matters. There is no word yet on whether he will face league discipline as a result of the incident.

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PFT Live: Training camp updates from Chicago and Washington

Jay Cutler AP

Training camps are opening around the league and we’ll be checking in with a pair of NFC teams on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live.

Mike Florio will talk to Rich Tandler of CSN Washington about the leading storylines from Redskins camp and it’s a pretty good bet that the name Robert Griffin III will come up at some point in the discussion. They’ll also talk about linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s contract extension during the visit.

John Mullin of CSN Chicago will also drop by to fill us in on the latest from the Bears, who placed first-round wide receiver Kevin White on the PUP list because of a shin injury on Wednesday. We’ll also have the latest on the Tom Brady saga and much more from around the league during the show.

We also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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Luke Kuechly: Contract will get done when it gets done

Luke Kuechly AP

The Panthers were busy on the contract extension front this offseason as they struck deals with quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen.

General Manager Dave Gettleman said that the window will close at the end of training camp because he will not negotiate new deals during the regular season. That gives linebacker Luke Kuechly a bit more than a month to sign a new deal, although he said Thursday that he’s not sweating the deadline while he’s sweating on the practice field.

“I’m the same way I was in OTAs. I’m not concerned about it,” Kuechly said, via the Charlotte Observer. “This stuff gets done when it gets done. We trust the guys in the building. So it’ll get done when it needs to get done. … For right now, I know I’ve got a room. I know hopefully I’ve got a locker down there. And that’s all I really need right now.”

Kuechly is set to make $2.1 million this year and the Panthers exercised their $11.1 million option on his contract for next season, which gives them a lot of time to work something out if they don’t get a deal done before September. That may be more costly given how well Kuechly has played in his first three NFL seasons, but, barring a catastrophic injury this season, a deal for Kuechly’s going to be a big one whenever it’s signed.

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Gerald McCoy slimmed down before camp

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy didn’t wait for the Buccaneers to start offseason workouts to start his preparation for the 2015 season.

McCoy worked out 10 times a week on his own before Tampa’s program got underway and explained that his goal was to remain strong throughout games after seeing the Bucs fade in the second half of contests last season.

“[The objective] is to find out how tired you can be and still go hard, because last year we lost a lot of close games. And so I need to still be at my best in the fourth quarter when those close games are decided,” McCoy said, via the Tampa Tribune.

It doesn’t sound like McCoy took any time off between the end of that program and the start of training camp either. McCoy announced the results of his pre-camp work on Twitter Thursday.

“Down 12lbs and 2% body fat since leaving in June!! It’s go time!! No more talking!!”

McCoy was listed at 300 pounds last season and if there’s a concern about dropping weight it would likely be how well he’ll hold up against the run with less girth to throw against blockers. An increase in quickness from an already quick player would mitigate that, however, and it will be interesting to see how McCoy plays now that there’s less of him to love.

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Kessler: “It doesn’t matter to us where the case is”

Kessler Getty Images

On Thursday morning, Judge Richard H. Kyle transferred the lawsuit filed Wednesday by the NFLPA in the Tom Brady case to New York, where the NFL had initially filed a lawsuit against the NFLPA a day earlier. NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler shrugged at the decision.

“It really doesn’t matter to us where the case is,” Kessler told PFT by phone. “What we finally have is a neutral forum. Before a neutral forum, we are very confident in our position.”

Asked about the appointment of the New York case to Judge Richard M. Berman, Kessler said, “We’re very happy to have him.”

Perhaps the NFLPA should be very happy to not have Judge Richard H. Kyle, to whom the Minnesota case was assigned. His order sending the case to New York was worded somewhat strongly against the union, questioning among other things the decision to file in Minnesota in the first place.

Kessler explained that the paperwork filed Wednesday in Minnesota will be re-filed in New York. He said the documents will have “some revisions,” but that “ostensibly we will be making the same arguments.”

Kessler also reiterated that the plan remains to request a ruling by September 4 or, alternatively, an order allowing Brady to play pending the resolution of the case.

Look for more content from the Kessler interview to be posted here throughout the day, and to be discussed during the upcoming three-hour daily look at the latest news and information in the football world, PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.

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Jets fans fly “Cheaters” banner over Patriots training camp


No longer content to advocate for the firing of their own General Manager, a group of Jets fans have broadened their horizons.

A plane dragging a banner reading “Cheaters Look Up! @JetsFanMedia” is currently flying over Patriots practice at the team facility during their first day of training camp, heckling them for the #DeflateGate penalties.

While that’s apparently a different group than the guys who had “Fire John Idzik” banners flown over Jets practice, the fact all Jets fans share an affinity for airborne advertising is a charming show of solidarity.

Of course, the shame of it all is that coach Bill Belichick has already talked to reporters before practice, so we don’t get a chance for him to tell us the plane “has already been addressed.”

Photo credit: Sunday Night Football twitter account

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Mike Pettine: We’re motivated by outside disrespect

Mike Pettine AP

The Browns may lack talent at certain positions on their roster, but they shouldn’t be short on motivation.

That’s the message sent by coach Mike Pettine, who was asked Wednesday about predictions regarding the team’s chances of contending for anything more than a high draft pick next year. Pettine joked that he’s seen projections ranking the Browns fifth in the four-team AFC North, but got more serious about how the Browns can use that to their advantage.

“Nobody wants to be disrespected,” Pettine said, via the Associated Press. “It’s a prideful group, and I just see it as a motivating thing. We had two wins over division opponents last year by 21 points, and we just feel our best path to get to where we want to be is in the division. We played well enough — at times — to be in that conversation and at other times we didn’t. I think so much of the NFL is every team is capable, but who can do it consistently and who can do it the longest. I think that’s where we have to take that next step this year.”

Pettine steered the Browns to a 7-4 record last season, but everything unraveled during a five-game losing streak that left the Browns in their familiar position on the outside looking in at the teams that advanced to the playoffs. That makes it 13 years without a playoff berth, which makes it feel less like disrespect and more like a desire for others to see something that makes them think that it will be anything other than the same old Browns this season.

However you frame it, though, there should be plenty of motivation in Cleveland for a better outcome this year.

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Minnesota court hands off Brady case to New York

Brady Getty Images


On Tuesday, the NFL immediately filed in federal court in Manhattan a lawsuit seeking confirmation of the arbitration award that suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games. On Wednesday, the NFLPA filed a competing lawsuit in Minnesota.

On Thursday, the Minnesota court stepped aside.

As NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, the Minnesota case has been transferred to New York, where the NFL first filed the case.

While the NFL managed to avoid Minnesota, they still have to deal with Judge Richard M. Berman, who was appointed to the bench by a Democratic president — which means that Judge Berman’s overall philosophies and precedents will more likely favor labor, not management.

On Wednesday, Judge Berman directed the NFLPA to respond to the NFL’s lawsuit by August 13. The transferred case from Minnesota possibly constitutes that response.

Regardless, look for the NFLPA to swiftly ask Judge Berman to rule on the case by September 4 or, alternatively, to issue an injunction allowing Brady to play pending the outcome of the case.

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NFLPA hopes other owners will follow in Kraft’s footsteps

Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft AP

Patriots owner Robert Kraft took an unusual step this week when he publicly criticized the league office, saying Commissioner Roger Goodell was wrong to suspend Tom Brady and saying that the Patriots were wrong to trust the league office to handle Deflategate appropriately.

Those words were music to the ears of the NFL Players Association.

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said on Mike & Mike that Kraft was saying many of the same things the union has been saying about the league office doing a poor job of enforcing the league’s own rules. Atallah said he hopes other owners will listen to Kraft and agree to a new disciplinary process.

“It says a lot when you have an owner echo the sentiments of our union. It says a lot when you have someone like Robert Kraft, who is respected around the league and obviously in the league office, say the things that he said with respect to fairness and process and faith in the league office. Those are the things that, frankly, give us a lot of validation for many of the fights that we’ve had over the last several years. Now the hope is that other owners will step up and say, This disciplinary process doesn’t make sense. We need to negotiate a new one with the union.”

Atallah said Kraft is now learning the hard way that someone needs to stand up to Goodell.

“For somebody like him to step up and say that he made a mistake by not fighting the initial discipline against the team, that’s exactly why we fight everything,” he said. “We fight every violation of our players’ due process.”

It’s not often that the players’ union views an owner as an ally, but that’s how the NFLPA now views Kraft. The union and the Patriots have a common enemy in Goodell.

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2009 Jets-Patriots incident becomes issue in Brady case

Kicking Getty Images

From SpyGate to #DeflateGate to tampering allegations to two (and sometimes three) games per season, the Jets and Patriots have had a combustible relationship in recent years. Fittingly, a previously unknown chapter in the rivalry has made its way into the Tom Brady suspension litigation.

Paragraph 111 of the 54-page lawsuit filed Wednesday by the NFLPA elaborates on a point briefly addressed in the ruling from Commissioner Roger Goodell upholding the Brady discipline. In 2009, the NFL suspended a member of the Jets’ equipment for attempting “to use unapproved equipment to prep the K[icking] Balls” before a game against the Patriots.

As the NFLPA points out, the NFL did not investigate or discipline the Jets kicker for “general awareness” or specific involvement, even though the Jets kicker (like Brady in this case) was the player most likely to benefit from the behavior and, in turn, the player most likely to be aware of the conduct.

The NFLPA explains in its lawsuit that the decision not to investigate or discipline the Jets kicker “was perfectly consistent with the Competitive Integrity Policy’s application to Clubs, not players.”

So why suspend Brady under a policy that applies to teams and not players? At paragraph 108 of the lawsuit, the NFLPA claims that “a fine would not have quenched other NFL owners’ thirst for a more draconian penalty.”

The 54-page filing says nothing more about owners wanting a “more draconian penalty,” and no specific owners are named. Given the history between the Jets and Patriots, the NFLPA probably believes that one of them was Woody Johnson.

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Alameda County wants out of proposals for new Raiders stadium in Oakland

San Francisco 49ers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Oakland officials planned to submit a letter to the Raiders on Wednesday outlining a proposal for a new stadium at the site of Coliseum, but they never handed it over because they couldn’t get Alameda County to sign on to the deal.

Instead, the county wants the city to buy them out of their stake of the Coliseum land that they share with the city. County supervisor Nate Miley said that the county’s exit from the negotiations will make it easier to work toward an agreement on a new building.

“Having a two-headed government agency overseeing the management of a sports and entertainment venue is not necessarily the most effective way for any of the parties to function properly,” Miley said, via the Bay Area News Group.

The county’s exit from talks would be complicated. There’s $100 million in bond debt that needs to be paid back and the city and county would need to come to agreement on a payment plan because, as Miley acknowledged, “the city doesn’t have the money.” That could take time and the clock is already ticking on Oakland’s chances of holding onto the Raiders with plans for a stadium in Los Angeles already in motion.

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Darrelle Revis: AFC East will be toughest division in the league

Dwyane Wade Fantasy Camp Getty Images

Cornerback Darrelle Revis won a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last season, but he isn’t going to be showing it off this summer.

Revis is now a member of the Jets, of course, and said Wednesday that “you’ll see [a ring] in New York Jet green when we get it.” That may sound like a continuation of his recent Sports Illustrated photo shoot mimicking famous shots of former Jets quarterback and noted guarantee-maker Joe Namath, but Revis’s other comments didn’t make it seem as if he thought a trip to Santa Clara was definitely in the team’s future. They’ll have to navigate the AFC East first and Revis doesn’t think that will be easy.

“I feel like this would be the toughest division in the NFL,” Revis said, via the New York Daily News. “Just how all the pieces have moved: me being back here, Rex [Ryan] going to Buffalo, you have [Mike] Tannenbaum down in Miami. It’s a lot of moving pieces.”

The moves didn’t just include former members of the Jets organization shuffling around. Ndamukong Suh and several new receivers are in Miami, the Bills traded for LeSean McCoy and the Jets brought Brandon Marshall, Leonard Williams and Antonio Cromartie into the fold in addition to Revis. And then there are the Patriots, whose offseason tumult can’t erase their long history of success under Bill Belichick in the face of whatever circumstances they might need to navigate.

It should make for a competitive group and will be an especially imposing one if the Jets and Bills can get better quarterback play than they enjoyed last season. That’s a big if and one that will likely determine whether Revis’s second tour with the Jets features a shot at the hardware he earned in February.

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Le’Veon Bell unsure why suspension was reduced to two games

Ryan Shazier, Le'Veon Bell AP

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell doesn’t know why his suspension was reduced from three games to two.

He’s just glad it was.

“I just want to go out there and continue to practice with my team as long as I can,” Bell said, via Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I don’t want to go through all the details. I’m just glad I got the suspension reduced.”

Bell was initially given three games after being charged with DUI and marijuana possession, but may have gotten a break down to the DUI baseline because he admitted to having smoked the weed, effectively making it two penalties for one crime.

Either way, he’s made a good first impression on teammates, even as the team has wagged the finger of disapproval at him.

“Having him back a game earlier makes a difference for us,” guard Ramon Foster said. “He’s worked his butt off, and everyone sees the difference. Having that game back is what we needed. He fought for it and won it.”

Of course, he’s still going to miss the first two games, leaving the Steelers in the hands of veteran free agent DeAngelo Williams during that time.

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LeGarrette Blount lands on non-football injury list

New England Patriots OTA's Getty Images

Tom Brady’s fight with the NFL isn’t the only thing going on with the Patriots these days.

The team placed eight players on the physically unable to perform list earlier this week as they set up their roster for the start of training camp and they also placed quarterback Matt Flynn on the non-football injury list. Three players joined Flynn on that list Wednesday, including running back LeGarrette Blount.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports that Blount failed the conditioning test given to Patriots players when they reported to camp. Players had to run 20 sprints of 50 yards in under eight seconds each time and, per Volin, Blount was only able to complete 12 of them. He’ll likely be making further attempts at the test and should be activated once he completes it. Blount is suspended for the season opener, but is eligible to practice and play in the preseason.

Defensive tackle Alan Branch and offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann also landed on the NFI list ahead of Thursday’s opening practice of camp.

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Judge Kyle recused himself from prior NFL-Brady litigation

Businessman and woman entering and exiting revolving doors Getty Images

When I saw that the NFLPA lawsuit filed Wednesday in Minnesota had been assigned to Judge Richard H. Kyle, the name rang no bells. It should have.

As noted by Gabe Feldman of Tulane Law School, the antitrust lawsuit filed in 2011 against the NFL by, among others, Tom Brady initially was assigned to Judge Kyle. And Feldman’s tweet includes a link to the PFT story from 2011 regarding Judge Kyle’s prompt decision to step aside from the case.

At the time, Judge Kyle cited 28 U.S.C. § 455 as the basis for the move. Section 455 requires disqualification under certain specific circumstances pointing to an actual or potential bias, including “[w]here in private practice he served as lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom he previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter.”

As explained in the 2011 PFT post (which carries my name but which I have no recollection of writing), Judge Kyle practiced with the firm of Briggs & Morgan at the time he was appointed to the federal bench in 1992, and Briggs & Morgan served as the lead local counsel for the NFLPA in the original Reggie White antitrust case.  Even if Judge Kyle never worked on the White case, Section 455 potentially would apply if any of the lawyers with whom he worked while at Briggs & Morgan handled the case.

But there’s a big difference between the 2011 antitrust lawsuit and the current controversy. The complaint filed by Brady and other players following the expiration of the labor deal that traced back to the original Reggie White antitrust lawsuit, giving the two cases a real connection.

The current case has no connection to claims of antitrust or anything else that would be related to the case that Judge Kyle’s former firm was handling. Although his former firm represented the NFLPA, he apparently had no involvement in the representation.

Thus, recusal seems less likely in this case.

Of course, the NFLPA may secretly be rooting for a recusal, in the hopes that the case will land back on the docket of Judge David Doty. Even if Judge Kyle keeps the case, the NFLPA will argue that Judge Doty’s decision from earlier this year in the Adrian Peterson lawsuit should be applied to the Tom Brady case, since it stands for the proposition that the NFL must give players proper notice of the things for which they can be disciplined.

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