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Cowboys finally release Kyle Orton

Kyle Orton AP

The Cowboys apparently saw enough of Brandon Weeden to make them willing to eat the money.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Cowboys have informed veteran quarterback Kyle Orton he will be released.

The Cowboys held out hope the veteran backup would return, and that he might retire (at which point he’d owe them $3 million in signing bonus). But when he skipped veteran minicamp (incurring $70,000 worth of fines) it was clear he wasn’t bluffing.

Now, they’ll roll with Weeden behind Tony Romo, who is coming off back surgery.

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NFL forms Chairman’s Committee to work with Roger Goodell

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has various committees that oversee different areas of league business and the chairmen of those committees have long worked closely with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Now they’ll do it in a formal committee of their own. According to multiple reports, Goodell sent a memo to NFL teams announcing the formation of the Chairman’s Committee made up of some of the most prominent members of the group that employs Goodell. Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Giants owner John Mara, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Texans owner Bob McNair and Steelers president Art Rooney II will serve on the committee.

The name that likely jumps out from that list is Kraft, who has had plenty of negative things to say about the way the league handled Deflategate over the last couple of years. He has remained an influential part of league operations as the chairman of the broadcast committee and member of the finance committee, however, and that keeps him in a prime spot at the table even if he’s been critical of Goodell.

The group isn’t expected to take any votes while serving as advisors for Goodell on the league’s internal priorities and strategies.

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Friday morning one-liners

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys passes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field during a preseason game on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills QB Tyrod Taylor is looking forward to WR Sammy Watkins‘ return to game action.

Identifying areas of uncertainty for the Dolphins.

DT Anthony Johnson will try to build on a good outing in Friday’s Patriots game.

Said Jets DE Sheldon Richardson of facing former teammate Damon Harrison, “He’s going to look weird in that uniform. Like a big blueberry.”

Ravens TE Benjamin Watson helped feed first responders to the flooding in Baton Rouge.

WR A.J. Green hopes his baby’s birth doesn’t coincide with a Bengals game.

The Barkevious Mingo trade continues the Browns’ rough run with first-round picks.

Steelers T Ryan Harris is no stranger to position battles.

QB Brock Osweiler feels more in sync with Texans coaches.

Colts QB Andrew Luck got a new phone, although you might not tell from looking at it.

The Jaguars are closing in on a plan for the left side of the offensive line.

A sports performance center named after Titans QB Marcus Mariota opened at the University of Oregon.

Will opening on Thursday night affect Broncos roster decisions?

S Brock Vereen hopes his twisty path through the summer ends with a Chiefs roster spot.

The Raiders will look at several running backs with the first team on Saturday.

The Chargers defensive line is coming together despite missing pieces.

QB Dak Prescott played earlier than expected Thursday and the Cowboys liked how he handled it.

Giants S Landon Collins slimmed down heading into his second season.

Who will make the Eagles at linebacker?

Five players who can help their chances of making the Redskins on Friday.

WR Daniel Braverman is making a push for the Bears roster.

The Lions will be patient with rookie T Taylor Decker.

Ball security is a priority for the Packers.

Vikings TE Rhett Ellison shared the difficulties of his recovery from a torn patellar tendon.

QB Matt Ryan says the Falcons have things to clean up.

A look at what’s different at Panthers home games this year.

Saints P Thomas Morstead has worked to get school supplies for kids affected by flooding in Baton Rouge.

LB Daryl Smith gives Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy an experienced teammate to lean on.

The Cardinals are still figuring out who will play corner across from Patrick Peterson.

Rams QB Jared Goff hopes for a better outing against the Broncos.

WR DiAndre Campbell’s bid for a 49ers roster spot looks like it will fall short.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll liked the way S Kam Chancellor played outside of a penalty.

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Dolphins slaughtering mosquitoes to try to ease Zika fears

A captured Aedes aegypti mosquito is shown at the Florida Mosquito Control District Office, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Marathon, Fla. Pending a November referendum vote, mosquito control officials are prepared to release up to three million mosquitoes produced by the British company Oxitec over the next three to six months. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

The worries about the construction schedule seem to be taken care of, and the Dolphins are confident they’ll be ready to host next week’s preseason finale in refurbished Hard Rock Stadium.

But while they can’t promise they won’t have to deal with weather (with a possible hurricane brewing in the Caribbean), they are taking aggressive steps to keep the stadium free from Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, team officials are taking extreme measures to kill any and all mosquitoes in the area, even though the stadium is 15 miles from the “Zika zone” in Miami.

They’ve hosed down the 265-acre site with pesticides, and have been treating areas of standing water around the stadium, and using backpack foggers to spray high-risk areas.

Of course, all those chemicals are EPA approved, the Dolphins say, and safe for people, pets and aquatic wildlife.

They’re hoping that eases the minds of their fans, who will then only have to worry about the Dolphins.

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Las Vegas investors: $750 million in public money for Raiders, or else

briefcase-cash Getty Images

Las Vegas is fairly new to the business of being a potential host for professional football, but the group that’s trying to bring the Raiders there is already employing a good old-fashioned NFL shakedown.

According to the Associated Press, the group headed by Sheldon Adelson told a local oversight committee last night that they needed no less than $750 million of public money for the project, and would walk away from their project if they don’t get it.

“Not to be difficult, but we’re not negotiable,” said Sands president Rob Goldstein, who spoke on behalf of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family. “If we can’t get 750, we respectfully thank you but we’re going to move on.”

Of course, there are critics of the plan, as there are every place when NFL business is built on the back of public money.

“There’s been a lot of conversation on why are we giving money to billionaires,” said Steve Hill, chairman of the oversight committee and head of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “The public is not making a contribution to a privately owned stadium.”

Goldstein said the total cost of the project was going to be $1.9 billion, and he said the list of proposed sites was down to two. They also showed off renderings of a proposed 65,000-seat domed stadium.

The Raiders haven’t been able to get their current hometown to come up with $500 million toward keeping them in Oakland, and have been working on Las Vegas in earnest, even applying to trademark “Las Vegas Raiders.”

Adelson and his company are also trying to rush the project through a September special legislative session, so they can secure the funding before the next NFL owners meeting in January.

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Jerry Jones doesn’t approve of Ezekiel Elliott’s visit to pot shop

look-but-dont

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in two of the 22 states in which the NFL does business. It’s legal, that is, for everyone except the NFL players who live in, work in, or visit those states.

The Cowboys visited the Seahawks on Thursday in Washington, one of the two states were marijuana legally can be purchased. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was photographed in a store that sells marijuana. There’s no evidence he bought any or that he smoked any. Regardless, his boss doesn’t approve of Zeke’s weed window shopping.

“Well, I think that, in and of itself, the reason we are talking about is in a way part of the learning process,” Jones said after Thursday’s game, via Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But it’s not good. It’s just not good. It’s just not good.”

Setting aside the fact that Jones has been photographed in compromising situations that weren’t illegal but that were at least ill-advised, why is it not good that Elliott was looking at marijuana that was legally for sale if there’s no evidence he bought it or smoked it? While behavior can get a player evaluated for placement in the substance-abuse program, behaving like a tourist is a far cry from behaving like a pothead, Focker.

It still doesn’t look good, but only because of the NFL’s Big-Shield-Knows-Best mandate regarding things a player can and can’t do on his own time. (And because the Cowboys have more than a few guys who consistently choose consuming banned substances over football.) The mere fact that a guy walking down the street and passing a store can’t even go in the store and look but don’t touch underscores the folly of the league’s lingering finger wagging over marijuana.

But the marijuana ban is here to stay, in part because the issue has become part of the broader push-and-pull of collective bargaining — and in part because the NFL Players Association knows that it’s relatively easy for players not in the program to smoke, if they want to. Regardless of whether they do, they should be able to walk into a store that sells it without being called out by their coach, owner, or anyone else.

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Julio Jones could be back by Sunday, MRIs for Neal and Clayborn today

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) celebrates with wide receiver Julio Jones (11) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard) AP

The Falcons have some problems coming out of last night’s game against the Dolphins. But apparently the condition of star receiver Julio Jones isn’t one.

Jones left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter, but it’s apparently not so bad, since coach Dan Quinn said he’d be back on the practice field as soon as this weekend.

“I think Julio will hopefully be back in short order and hopefully as quick as Sunday,” Quinn said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “I think he definitely wanted to go back in. And just for me, it was a coach’s decision where I said, ‘OK, you’re done.’ He definitely wanted to go. He was loose and ready to go.”

Given his importance to the team, and his not-insignificant injury history, keeping him tucked away was the wise decision.

The rest, the Falcons are going to have to wait and see on. First-round safety Keanu Neal (knee) and veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn (shoulder) will have MRIs today to determine the severity of their injuries.

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Tony Romo says he’s OK after leaving game with back injury

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is tended to by a trainer after he went down on a play against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left Thursday night’s preseason game with a back injury, but he said afterward that he’s fine.

In fact, Romo said after the game that he was glad to take a hard hit, which he said has him mentally ready for the 2016 season after an injury-plagued 2015.

“In a weird way I feel good about the fact that – that was probably as tough a hit I took on the back as I have in the last five years,” Romo said. “From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and you can keep going.”

Romo said the hit he took from Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril hurt at first, but he felt fine within a few minutes and wanted to go back in the game.

“At the moment when you go down – you crunch. And so your back gets squished,” he said. “You kind of feel the, almost like a sensation of if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder or something – where it just feels hot for a second and then that just dissipates after a minute.”

With Romo out, Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott continued his strong preseason, completing 17 of 23 passes for 116 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. Prescott’s preseason play has many in Dallas thinking they can withstand a Romo injury this year. But they’d prefer not to find out.

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Report: Keanu Neal tells teammates he’s OK

Atlanta Falcons rookie strong safety Keanu Neal (22) catches a ball during an NFL football practice Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

Falcons first-round safety Keanu Neal had a short night Thursday due to a knee issue, but signs point to Neal having avoided major injury.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported late Thursday night that Neal was telling teammates he believes he’ll be OK and ready to play in the season opener vs. the Buccaneers.

Neal was slow getting up after trying to make a tackle in the first quarter of Thursday night’s preseason game vs. the Dolphins. He ended up walking gingerly to the sideline after talking with trainers, then later was taken to the locker room.

Neal will undoubtedly continue to be evaluated and receive treatment as the Falcons return to Atlanta. He has more than two weeks until the Sept. 11 season opener, and being able to play in that game will be his focus.

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Ezekiel Elliott impressive in limited debut for Cowboys

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Running back Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on prior to the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The fourth overall pick from this year’s NFL Draft put on an impressive performance in his preseason debut on Thursday night.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 48 yards on seven carries for Dallas before yielding backfield duties to Alfred Morris for the remainder of the first half.

Elliott had carries of 9, 9, 13 and 8 yards as part of Dallas’ seven-play, 81-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter that gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead over Seattle.

He flashed speed in getting to the edges of the Seahawks’ defense, an ability to find creases between the tackles and ran over oncoming defenders. Elliott even won a couple of collisions with Seattle safety Kam Chancellor.

Elliott had been sidelined due to a hamstring injury suffered in the early stages of training camp. It didn’t look to be any issue Thursday night.

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John Mara’s arguments confirm the NFL has returned to the pre-Ray Rice mindset

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 photo, New York Giants co-owner John Mara walks across the field before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md. A visibly shaken Giants owner John Mara said Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016 he was fine with the NFL's suspension of placekicker Josh Brown for one game, despite allegations Brown abused his ex-wife as many as 20 times prior to the Giants signing Brown to a two-year extension last spring. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) AP

After the Ray Rice video rocked the NFL to its foundation and nearly toppled a Commissioner, the NFL reacted to immense public pressure by making big changes. And now that the PSI has reduced (yeah, I went there), the NFL has retreated to it pre-Ray Rice reality.

That’s exactly what happened in the Josh Brown case. Arrested in May 2015 for a domestic violence incident that the NFL saw fit to discipline with a one-game suspension, the NFL still has provided no explanation as to why the league deviated from the six-game baseline that was adopted in an effort to put out the post-Ray Rice firestorm.

Mitigating factors are required to reduce the six-game suspension. So what were they?

The NFL has made no effort to identify the mitigating factors or to even say that there were any. The only real explanation provided in support of the action taken came from the inability of the NFL’s investigators to fully investigate the case, blaming their failure to get to the truth (under the low standard of “more probable than not”) by pointing out that Brown’s former wife refused to cooperate and that law enforcement officials likewise wouldn’t talk, outcomes that scream out “red flag” more than they say “dead end.”

Good investigators figure out ways to get people to tell the truth. Good investigators don’t shrug and say “oh well” and create a blueprint for all other players who are accused of domestic violence: If you can convince the witnesses not to talk, the league will have no choice but to go easy on you.

The bigger problem in this case is that the Giants also went easy on Brown. Although it wouldn’t be right for the team to look the other way if a key player on offense or defense were involved in a similar situation, at least it would make sense. Why are the Giants opening themselves up to criticism and scrutiny for a kicker? As one G.M. told me earlier this year, there are three great kickers, three bad kickers, and the other 26 are all the same. Brown is one of the other 26, and the Giants easily could have found another one of those 26.

“These are not easy decisions,” Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday, finally breaking the organization’s silence on the subject. “Very easy to say, ‘Guy’s been accused, get rid of him. Terminate him.’ But when you’re sitting at the top of an organization and you’re responsible for a lot of people, you’d better make more informed decisions than that.”

That’s fine, but in this case the Giants didn’t have to fire Brown. His contract had expired, they knew about the allegations, and instead of finding another kicker they hired Brown again.

Some may say that the Giants were being merciful or giving the player a second chance or whatever, but it’s impossible to reconcile the Giants’ actions with these words from Mara, uttered at a time when the league was under heavy siege: “Everyone in our league, players, coaches, front-office people, need to understand there is no excuse for domestic violence ever and there is going to be severe consequences.”

The fact that the NFL imposed a one-game suspension on Brown shows that some degree of domestic violence occurred. His ex-wife claimed, before clamming up, that there had been up to 20 prior incidents of violence.

“There is no excuse for domestic violence,” Mara said in 2014. In 2016, Mara sounds like a guy making multiple excuses for Brown.

“There’s a big difference between allegations and convictions or indictments,” Mara said Wednesday. “And a lot of times there’s a tendency to try to make these cases black and white. They’re very rarely black and white. You very rarely have a Ray Rice video.”

Those are all excuses for Brown’s domestic violence, for which the consequences were minimal — and which the Giants decided to ignore when re-hiring a player with whom the organization technically had no employment relationship.

The inescapable message is this: With the Ray Rice incident nearly two years old, the NFL and its teams have assumed the pre-Ray Rice posture. Unless, of course, there’s any chance a video exists that TMZ may eventually buy.

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Tony Romo leaves game after just three plays with apparent back injury

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, left, is tackled by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left Thursday night’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks after just three plays after being sacked from behind by defensive end Cliff Avril.

Romo stepped forward in the pocket and escaped pressure to his left while Avril closed from Romo’s backside. Romo began to slide as Avril chased him down and was caught in an awkward position as the two players went to the ground.

Romo immediately reached for his lower back area and was tended to be the Cowboys’ training staff being walking off the field under his own power.

Dak Prescott replaced Romo at quarterback upon his exit from the game.

Romo has not left the Cowboys sideline and is throwing passes during Seattle’s opening possession.

Romo completed his only pass – an 11-yard slant to Terrence Williams – before being hurt on the third snap of the game.

UPDATE 10:40 p.m. ET: Romo has not returned to the game and multiple on-field reporters have said it’s a coach’s decision to keep him on the sidelines.

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Mike McCoy walks the fine line between employee and coach

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 3:  Head coach Mike McCoy of the San Diego Chargers smiles and gives a fist bump to strong safety Jahleel Addae #37 of the San Diego Chargers during a game against the Denver Broncos  at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers and defensive end Joey Bosa remain at an impasse. And coach Mike McCoy is caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place.

McCoy met with the media on Thursday, a day after folks higher on the organizational chart than McCoy poured gasoline and threw a match onto the bridge over which they hope Bosa eventually will walk. Watch the press conference. McCoy is doing everything he can to be a good employee and also a good coach.

Interestingly, McCoy sidestepped questions about the team’s assertion that Bosa would not be able to help the team as of Week One, even if he shows up right now. Then again, McCoy previously has made it clear that the plan they have for every player means that if a player has a uniform issued to him, he’ll be playing.

On Thursday morning, Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy addressed the challenges that can arise for the man stuck in the middle of a contract dispute between front office and player.

“You’re walking a fine line,” Dungy said on PFT Live. “You work for your bosses. They’ve made a decision how much they’re going to pay and how they’re going to structure this contract. You can’t criticize them, you work for them, you want the player there, and you’re also going to have to work with the player for the next 10 years and you want him to know that you’re in his corner as well. You want him to get paid as much as he can make, you want him to be happy and be part of the team. So you are caught in the middle, and I had a couple of those as a coach. You don’t negotiate but you do stay in communication with the player. ‘Hey, we need you Joey. We’re on your side, we’re with you. Don’t let the business part of it enter into the football part. When you get here, here’s what we’ve got to get done.’ So you do have to keep those lines of communication open but you’re also working as part of that team representing the Chargers, so it’s a very, very fine line.”

McCoy is walking that line very well, since he’ll be expected to get the most out of Bosa — and to create an atmosphere where it will quickly seem like the holdout never happened. If the holdout ever ends.

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Julio Jones, Adrian Clayborn hurt, too

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 11:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons runs on the field during player introductions prior to facing the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on August 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons are dropping like flies in Orlando.

With first-round rookie safety Keanu Neal already being evaluated for a knee injury, starting receiver Julio Jones has an ankle injury. The only good news is that he hasn’t gone to the locker room, which suggests it’s not serious.

Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn has been taken to the locker room for X-rays on his shoulder. Which sounds a lot more ominous than the Jones injury.

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Ndamukong Suh injures ankle

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and Chris Jones (52) pressure Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

The Falcons aren’t the only team sweating out an injury to a starting defensive player on Thursday night in Orlando. Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh suffered an ankle injury, too.

Suh is being evaluated in the locker room. Like Neal, Suh is questionable to return. Since it’s a preseason game, “questionable” is a lot closer to “no freaking way.”

The Falcons lead the Dolphins, 7-0. I felt compelled to list the score, even though the score doesn’t matter. The injuries do.

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Falcons first-round safety Keanu Neal suffers leg injury

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) is shown during their annual Friday Night Lights NFL football practice at Grayson High School, in Loganville, Ga. Free-agent signee Dwight Freeney and rookie safety Keanu Neal are expected to make their preseason debuts for the Falcons on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016,  at Cleveland, bringing Atlanta's defense closer to its projected regular-season status. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) AP

The top priority for every team in the preseason is to emerge from it with as many players healthy as possible. The Falcons currently are holding their breath regarding first-round safety Keanu Neal.

The rookie seemed to tweak his right knee while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Dolphins in Orlando. Plenty of rubber pellets went flying, which could result in criticism of the footing on an artificial turf surface in a building that hasn’t hosted NFL teams since 1997.

He walked off with mild assistance, and he has been taken to the locker room for further evaluation.

The Falcons hope Neal will become a Kam Chancellor-type presence for the Falcons. The more important question at this point is whether he’ll be ready to play in 17 days when the Falcons open the regular season at home against the Buccaneers.

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