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Julio Jones doesn’t expect to be full speed until camp

Julio Jones AP

The Falcons are waiting for wide receiver Julio Jones‘ foot to heal enough for him to make a full return to the practice field, but it doesn’t sound like that is going to happen until the team gathers for training camp this summer.

Atlanta has OTAs this week and their mandatory minicamp next week, which doesn’t leave Jones much time to take part in a full practice before the offseason program comes to an end and he told SI.com that he doesn’t expect that his recovery will come to an end before that point. Jones is confident that the extended rehab time isn’t putting anything at risk come the regular season.

“Week One, I’ll be ready to go,” Jones said.

Jones sounded some optimistic notes about his condition. He said that he’s been running routes and that his foot “feels really good” when he plants on it while going through his workouts. He’s working on getting his stamina back up after such a long spell out of action, which is good news for an Atlanta team that will likely lean heavily on the talented receiver they missed so much last season.

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Jim Harbaugh takes half the blame for awkward radio interview

A Seattle Seahawks fan holds a sign referring to San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, during their NFL football game in Seattle, Washington

The low-water mark of the NFL offseason news cycle was filled in part by a cannonball from former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, via an awkward interview with Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio. The interview also provided plenty of free P.R. for both participants in the clumsy back-and-forth for which most people are blaming Harbaugh.

Harbaugh has now accepted the blame. But only so much of it.

“In my experience of participating in interviews, I’ve found it takes 2 to produce a clunker!” Harbaugh said on Twitter.  “I’ll take 50% responsibility 4 this clunker.”

That leaves 50 percent of the responsibility for Cowherd. Some may say that’s too much for Cowherd. Others would say it’s not enough.

Ultimately, the onus is on the interviewer to draw out the person being interviewed. Cowherd erred by leading with his chin, asking Harbaugh when he’s at his “least intense” and that if he ever says to himself, “‘Oh, man, I’m cupcake. I’m soft. I’m easygoing.’ When’s the part of the day when you’re a pushover?'”

But Harbaugh isn’t new at this. He has been interviewed by many different people over the years, in many different settings. He had a chance to present himself in a certain way, and he ended up presenting himself in a certain other way, thanks to an overriding desire to compete in each and every situation.

On one hand, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. On the other hand, any elite high-school football players or their parents who heard Harbaugh may be less inclined to choose Michigan after hearing the interview. Chances are they won’t be more inclined.

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Judge upholds Aaron Hernandez murder conviction

Aaron Hernandez AP

A bid by former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez to have his conviction on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Odin Lloyd has been denied in Massachusetts.

Hernandez’s attorneys filed motions asking Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh to set aside the jury’s verdict and find Hernandez not guilty of murder and one of the gun charges he was also convicted of in April because the state “utterly failed” to prove its case. Garsh didn’t agree with their argument.

“Considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the court finds that a rational jury could find that the Commonwealth proved every essential element of the crimes charged in counts 1 and 2 beyond a reasonable doubt,” Garsh wrote, via the Hartford Courant.

The defense attorneys also asked Garsh to reduce the first-degree murder charge because the crime did not “deviate in any drastic sense” from those resulting in second-degree murder charges. That request was also denied, but Hernandez can still pursue an appeal while also preparing for a December trial on charges that he murdered two other men in July 2012.

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Emmitt Smith withdraws as Miss USA judge after Trump controversy

Emmitt Smith Visits FOX Business Getty Images

Emmitt Smith is the latest person to distance himself from Donald Trump.

Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, was scheduled to be a judge in this year’s Miss USA pageant. But that pageant is owned by Donald Trump, who has stirred controversy since making negative comments about Mexicans while announcing that he is running for president.

As a result, NBC has announced it will not televise the pageant, and Smith (whose wife was first runner-up at the 1994 Miss USA pageant) has decided not to participate.

“In light of Mr. Trump’s statements and the subsequent decisions made by NBC, I have decided not to participate as a judge in the 2015 Miss USA pageant,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “Knowing firsthand through my wife, Pat Smith, how much the women prepare for this event, I continue to send my support and best wishes to everyone competing this year.”

This year’s Miss USA, which is scheduled to take place on July 12, is without a TV home.

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Texans rookie Brandon Ivory arrested on first degree burglary charges

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnkyjc2nthkzme0zmvjnmi0yze5ntk3odq3mti4nmm3 AP

This is how to not make a good impression in the month off before training camp.

Via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, Texans rookie defensive lineman Brandon Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges.

Ivory, who went to Alabama, was arrested in Tuscaloosa this morning. According to the police report, he and another man broke into a residence by kicking in the back door, one carrying an assault rife. After assaulting one person, they took cash and two iPads before fleeing in a 2003 Toyota Corolla.

He was signed as an undrafted rookie this year.

And because he occupies one of the lowest rungs on the organizational ladder, it’s easy to imagine his stint with the team might not be a long one.

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Gloria Allred slams NFL for letting C.J. Spillman play in 2014

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

With free-agent defensive back C.J. Spillman now officially charged with sexual assault, he’ll likely remain a free agent indefinitely. The lawyer for Spillman’s alleged victim believes he should have been taken off the field months ago.

“Despite this sexual assault allegation for which Mr. Spillman is now indicted and another allegation of sexual assault made to the police in California by another alleged victim prior to the Texas sexual assault allegation made to the police, the NFL continued to allow Mr. Spillman to play with the Dallas Cowboys,” attorney Gloria Allred said in a statement, via Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News.

In her statement, Allred says that the victim reported the alleged sexual assault the day after Commissioner Roger Goodell’s September 2014 press conference regarding the issue of domestic violence. Allred also says she notified the NFL of the allegation on September 26, 2014 and that she spent “countless hours” with NFL investigators who were exploring the allegations regarding Spillman.

“[T]he NFL appeared to do nothing and never informed me that they would take any action or impose any discipline at all against Mr. Spillman,” Allred said. “I am very happy that the criminal justice system will now try to move forward to prosecute Mr. Spillman but it is shameful that the NFL has taken no meaningful action in the interim.

“Their face-saving P.R. campaign which, in my opinion, was designed to make them appear to be sympathetic to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence is now revealed for what it really was, a sham and a slick P.R. trick, because their words did not match their deeds in this case.”

The Cowboys handled the Spillman case by pointing to the fact that he hadn’t been charged. Of course, that didn’t stop the NFL from conducting its own investigation and coming to its own conclusion. While the Spillman situation arose before the NFL finalized a new Personal Conduct Policy that contemplates an investigative process that will unfold regardless of the justice system, it also happened in the immediate aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle.

With separate situations involving Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy in full boil at the time, the NFL likely glossed over Spillman’s case because of the player’s low profile. If Spillman had been a star, the league would have been forced to deal with the situation.

Which underscores the notion that the league’s entire strategy regarding off-field misconduct arises not necessarily from doing the right thing but from doing the thing that keeps the NFL from absorbing widespread criticism and alienating customers. Otherwise, the NFL and the Cowboys would have moved much more swiftly to deal with Spillman regarding an incident that allegedly occurred at the team’s hotel.

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ESPN denies telling Olbermann to quit ripping Goodell

ESPN Getty Images

It didn’t take long for ESPN to deny the report that it wants Keith Olbermann to tone down his criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Responding to a report from the Hollywood Reporter that ESPN wants to put a clause in Olbermann’s next contract prohibiting him from commentaries critical of the league or its commissioner, ESPN released a statement saying that simply isn’t the case.

“Keith Olbermann has never been told any topic is off limits for his commentary nor has continuation of it been part of any conversation about his future at the company,” ESPN’s statement said.

Olbermann, who returned to ESPN two years ago with a daily show on ESPN2, has been highly critical of Goodell, saying that he should have lost his job in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

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Isaiah Battle to work out for teams on July 7

Adam Choice, Isaiah Battle AP

Clemson tackle Isaiah Battle is the only player from an FBS program in next week’s supplemental draft and he’s thought to have the best chance of any player in the pool to become the first player to enter the league this way since the Browns took wide receiver Josh Gordon in 2012.

Teams interested in taking Battle off the board will get a chance to watch him work out a couple of days before the July 9 draft. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Battle will hold a pro day workout on Tuesday, July 7. Any team that takes Battle will surrender their pick from the same round in the 2016 draft.

Battle said that he’s leaving Clemson now because he has “some family matters to address,” including the birth of a child this summer, but he also had a string of disciplinary issues while at the school that helped hasten his move to the professional ranks.

Battle started 11 games at left tackle during the 2014 season and, at 6-7, has the kind of size that teams like although he probably needs to bulk up from 275 pounds before he’ll be a contender to play the position in the NFL.

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Report: ESPN wants Olbermann to stop ripping Goodell

keith-olbermann-fired2 Getty Images

There’s long been a perception in sports media circles that when the NFL tells ESPN to jump, ESPN asks, How high? Whether it’s the cancellation of Playmakers, the shunning of League of Denial or the suspension of Bill Simmons, ESPN seems eager to please the NFL, which provides ESPN with its most popular programming.

So today’s story from the Hollywood Reporter about ESPN’s negotiations with Keith Olbermann will be closely scrutinized within the sports media. According to the report, ESPN has told Olbermann that if his contract is going to be extended, the network wants Olbermann to stop engaging in commentary.

And that request is the result of the fact that Olbermann’s commentaries regularly rip the NFL in general and Commissioner Roger Goodell in particular. Olbermann called for Goodell to lose his job over his handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case, and Olbermann has regularly been a thorn in Goodell’s side.

The report says that ESPN remains sensitive about its relationship with the NFL, and that multiple sources within ESPN believe that the NFL gave ESPN a weak slate of Monday Night Football games this year as “payback for Simmons and Olbermann.” It seems unlikely that the NFL would cut off its nose to spite its face like that, but some folks at ESPN apparently believe that’s exactly what happened.

Olbermann’s contract with ESPN expires next month. With his longtime interest in politics, he may be looking to leave for a news channel where he can comment freely on next year’s presidential election. Especially if ESPN is telling him that he needs to muzzle his critiques of Goodell.

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Bills sign Wayne Hunter

Dallas Cowboys v New York Jets Getty Images

The last time Rex Ryan coached a team trying to get Wayne Hunter to sign a contract, he got a tattoo of a Hawaiian design on his leg to show Hunter how much the Jets valued him.

Ryan landed Hunter that time and he’s landed Hunter again in Buffalo, presumably without any new ink being added to his body. The Bills announced Wednesday that they’ve signed Hunter, who worked out for the team last month.

The move to re-sign Hunter in 2011 didn’t work out all that well for the Jets, who missed the playoffs after two straight trips to the AFC title game and saw Hunter struggle in his only season as the team’s starter at right tackle. They traded him to the Rams for Jason Smith the next year and Hunter played in 14 games with St. Louis, but he hasn’t played for anyone in the last two seasons.

The Bills had Cyrus Kouandjio ahead of Seantrel Henderson at right tackle when minicamp wrapped up and it seems likely that Hunter will be competing for a reserve role in his return to the NFL this summer.

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Pittsburgh readying bid for 2023 Super Bowl

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers have won the Super Bowl six times, but they’ve never hosted the game.

Team chairman Dan Rooney said earlier this year that he’d like to see that change and the team is moving forward with an attempt to land the 57th edition of the game in 2023. The team submitted an application to be considered as a host for the game at the league meetings in May and met with officials from Pittsburgh, including Mayor Bill Peduto, to work on the bid Wednesday.

“We met this morning with local community leaders to provide an update on formally submitting our application to the NFL to bid for Super Bowl LVII in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania,” Steelers president Art Rooney II in a statement. “The application is an early step in the bidding process, and we will continue to meet with representatives of the Mayor’s Office, County Executive’s Office, VisitPittsburgh, Allegheny Conference as well as other community leaders to review the requirements with the hopes of submitting our bid to host Super Bowl LVII in 2023.”

Peduto said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that the region will have enough hotel rooms to host the game and that he believes Pittsburgh has “an opportunity to be competitive” with their bid.

The league will select the bidders in 2018 and pick a site in 2019, which leaves the team and city with plenty of time to research other regions. The team says that process will include “sending representatives to Northern cities that have already hosted the game.

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Brandon Spikes cuts plea deal, probably saves a few bucks this time

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Since there wasn’t some poor deer to blame this time, Brandon Spikes went through with a plea deal Wednesday.

According to WBZ Radio, the former Patriots and Bills linebacker pleaded guilty to leaving scene of his recent car crash, and received a fine, a year of probation, and lost his license. He’ll also have to attend a driver’s safety class.

He also cost himself a job, as the Patriots promptly cut him after the incident. Spikes was charged with hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the side of I-495 near Gillette Stadium, but cops said he told an OnStar operator that he had hit a deer and not the Nissan which was found damaged a short distance away. He hasn’t been linked with any other teams since.

We’re still waiting for an update on the deer, who police amazingly found no trace of after the incident.

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Woody Johnson on hand for dedication of “smart home” for wounded vet

woodyjohnson AP

The Jets were among the teams who took some heat this offseason for taking government money (i.e. yours) in exchange for some advertising campaigns for the armed services.

But they’ve spent plenty of their own, and got to see the return on their investment today.

After making a $1 million donation, Jets owner Woody Johnson was on hand for the dedication of an accessible  “smart home” for Sgt. Adam Keys, a seriously wounded veteran.

“These veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and deserve a home that supports their specific physical needs to enable them to live independently,” Johnson said upon making the donation.

Keys lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan nearly five years ago, and the high-tech house was designed for him to be able to regain his ability to perform basic household functions.

“I’m thankful for all those people who donated money, labor or time, and volunteered to do this,” Keys told LehighValleyLive.com. “It’s incredible to see the outpouring of love from people — the majority of whom I’ve never met.”

That includes Johnson, who used his wealth and his team’s platform for a good cause.

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Obama Administration: Team should change name before returning to D.C.

Washington Redskins v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

If Dan Snyder wants to move his team back from Maryland and into the District of Columbia, the Obama Administration says it should change its name first.

The Washington Post reports that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser that the National Park Service won’t accommodate construction of a new stadium on the site of the team’s old venue, RFK Stadium, unless the team changes its name.

Mayor Bowser wants to bring the team back to D.C., and Snyder has indicated that he’d like such a move as well. But Jewell, who as Secretary of the Interior oversees the federal land, has said that calling a team the “Redskins” is no more appropriate than calling a team the “Blackskins,” “Brownskins” or “Whiteskins,” and as a result the federal government couldn’t support such a move.

This is not the first time the federal government has pressured the team. In 1961, when Washington was the NFL’s last all-white team, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy told owner George Preston Marshall that the federal government would revoke his lease on D.C. Stadium unless he signed a black player. Marshall acquiesced and was allowed to keep his team at the site that now bears Kennedy’s name.

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Jim Harbaugh is still Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh Getty Images

As former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was on the verge of leaving the team, he was asked if he’d miss the NFL.

“Is the NFL going anywhere?” Harbaugh said. It was more humorous than obtuse. But Harbaugh is often more obtuse than humorous.

He was more obtuse than humorous earlier today, when Harbaugh appeared on ESPN Radio with Colin Cowherd. (The Big Lead has the audio and video.)

Part of the periodic awkwardness comes from Harbaugh’s desire to win at everything — including press conferences and interviews. At times, he seems to put his intended answers on an invisible teleprompter, reading them before uttering the words. At times during his interview with Cowherd, it sounded like Harbaugh was doing the same thing, giving the kind of short, eventually giving the kind of short, guarded responses that come from a witness who isn’t quite sure where the lawyer is going with his line of questioning.

Part of it comes from Harbaugh’s comfort level. In his recent Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel profile on HBO, Harbaugh had a comfort level with Andrea Kremer; enough of a comfort level that he confessed to a childhood that consisted of the consumption of mass quantities of milk in the hopes of growing to a certain height.

To her credit, Kremer knows how to press the right buttons to make Harbaugh comfortable. In this specific interview, Cowherd didn’t — possibly because Cowherd started the process with a question Harbaugh likely regarded as an attempted haymaker, “When are you at your least intense? ‘Cause you are a pretty intense guy. . . . Is there ever a moment in the day you’re like, ‘Oh, man, I’m cupcake. I’m soft. I’m easygoing. When’s the part of the day when you’re a pushover?”

And with that the turtle jammed his head back into the shell, retreating to his every-question-is-a-trick-question demeanor and never opening up. For example, after a long setup from Cowherd touting Harbaugh for seeming to be “all in” with the community at Michigan, Harbaugh paused (presumably while formulating the answer and running it through the invisible teleprompter) and said, “Uh, yeah. I would agree. Can’t disagree with that.”

To his credit, Cowherd eventually called Harbaugh on it, after Harbaugh openly bristled when Cowherd prefaced a question by saying “you’re not a rear-view mirror guy.”

“You’re not giving me a ton to work with, Coach,” Cowherd said, “So I just want to find something out about Jim Harbaugh the human being. . . . I’m a 4.3 wide receiver. Why should I play at Michigan?”

“You are?” Harbaugh said, equal parts humorous and obtuse.

Harbaugh eventually asked what he could do to make the interview better, but Cowherd opted to pull the plug, admitting that it was a “clunker.”

Indeed it was. Which raises an obvious question: Why do interviews at all if you’re going to treat them like a tug of war from which one side and only one side can emerge victorious?

It’s a question that I’d definitely be asking myself if I were a 4.3 wide receiver considering Michigan as a college football program.

And, no, Jim. I’m not a 4.3 wide receiver, either.

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Darrius Caldwell and Dalvon Stuckey holding pre-supplemental draft workout Thursday

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

We’re a little more than a week away from the July 9 supplemental draft and two of the players who have made themselves eligible will be working out for NFL teams on Thursday.

West Georgia defensive end Darrius Caldwell and defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey will hold their pro day workout at the school on Thursday. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that 20 teams have indicated they’ll be in attendance to scout the two players.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that the 49ers will be one of those teams. He adds that Caldwell, who started his college career at Illinois, would be an outside linebacker in the 49ers’ scheme and that he has the length and athleticism that the team likes at the position.

Barrows also thinks that Clemson tackle Isaiah Battle could be of interest to the team after Anthony Davis stepped away from the team. Battle is the only FBS prospect who has declared for the draft, which will require teams to hand over 2016 picks for the same round as any player selected on July 9. Wide receiver Josh Gordon was the last player selected in the supplemental draft, going in the second round to the Browns in 2012.

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