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NFL says strict illegal contact calls will continue

carrollref AP

Illegal contact penalties are way up this preseason, the result of the league office telling officials to monitor defensive backs closely and throw flags with impunity. That will continue in the regular season.

We’re not going to change how we’re calling the games once the regular-season starts,’’ NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino told The MMQB.

Blandino added, however, that the league office believes teams will adjust to the stricter rules enforcement and that there won’t necessarily be more flags when the season starts because players will have learned through the preseason what they can and can’t do.

“The way the game’s being officiated now is the way it’s going to be officiated when the season begins,” Blandino said. “We have to remain consistent. I knew we’d see a spike in calls when we put out these points of emphasis. But coaches adjust, and players adjust. They have to, and they know it. And we’ll correct our officials when we feel they’re being over-zealous with certain calls. Plus, I would say that between 70 and 75 percent of the calls I’ve gotten from teams after their games this preseason are asking the question, Why weren’t there more calls? I had a call today from a team with seven questions, and six were, Why wasn’t a foul called on this play?”

After a 2013 season in which several NFL passing records were set, we may see even more in 2014. It’s a good year to be a quarterback or a wide receiver.

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NFLPA warns players about contaminated meat in China and Mexico

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2010 file photo, steaks and other beef products are displayed for sale at a grocery store in McLean, Va. The meat industry is seeing red over the dietary guidelines. The World Health Organization’s cancer agency says Monday Oct.26, 2015  that processed meats such as ham and sausage can lead to colon and other cancers, and red meat is probably cancer-causing as well. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) AP

One of the tenets of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy is that players are responsible for everything that goes into their body and, as a result, that it does not matter if banned substances are ingested intentionally or not when determining punishment.

The NFLPA reminded players of that fact in a letter warning players who might be spending time in China or Mexico about meat in those countries. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith each shared the letter on social media Tuesday with Peterson noting that players might have to go vegan on vacation.

“There is some evidence that some meat produced in China and Mexico may be contaminated with clenbuterol, an anabolic agent which is banned by the NFL Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances,” the letter reads. “Consuming large quantities of meat while visiting those particular countries may result in a positive test for clenbuterol in violation of the Policy.”

“Players are warned to be aware of this issue when traveling to Mexico and China. Please take caution if you decide to consume meat, and understand that you do so at your own risk.”

There’s no mention of foods that are imported into the United States from either country, but it might not be a bad idea for players to make sure where those are coming from as well given the consequences for a positive test.

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Jets are willing to keep all four quarterbacks, as soon as they get a fourth

Geno Smith AP

There’s a reason the Jets re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick feels so inevitable. Mostly, it’s because every plan the team makes seems to include him.

During today’s appearance on WFAN, Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan said he was willing to take all four quarterbacks into camp and the regular season. Which would be more interesting if they had more than three on the roster at the moment.

Via Darryl Slater of NJ.com, Maccagnan said he liked the idea of keeping Geno Smith around along with youngsters Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.

“The simple answer to your question is yes,” Maccagnan said when asked if the Jets could keep four quarterbacks. “We even discussed that a little bit [internally]. At the end of the day, quarterbacks are important, obviously in the league in general. But in a perfect world, I think you’d like to take your time to develop [young] quarterbacks and have them almost in the pipeline, basically.

“So that’s kind of our approach to this whole thing. If it’s in the best interest of the team at the end of training camp that we carry four quarterbacks, then we carry four quarterbacks. It’s not unprecedented in the NFL. It’s been done before. To me, it’s a position where you have to take some time to really invest, grow, and develop players.”

With the widespread assumption that Fitzpatrick will eventually return, you know they’re keeping him and Hackenberg, who they just used a second-round pick on. But Maccagnan’s stance Tuesday was a bit of a vote of confidence in Smith as the veteran backup (Man, he has to get tired of being a backup to a guy who isn’t even on the roster) as well as in Petty as having more promise than previously displayed.

“This will be a big offseason for [Smith] going forward, and we’ll see how he develops,” Maccagnan said. “We like the idea of having Fitz, in a perfect world, back here in the organization with Geno and our young two quarterbacks.”

The Jets view both Hackenberg and Petty as developmental players, but the pace of that development would obviously hinge on when Fitzpatrick returns, since it doesn’t seem like if has ever been considered an option.

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Report: Terron Armstead signing five-year extension with Saints

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints passes while tackle Terron Armstead #72 of the New Orleans Saints blocks against the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 15, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees haven’t come to an agreement on a much-discussed contract extension this offseason, but it appears the team has had more luck with one of the players charged with keeping Brees upright.

Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that left tackle Terron Armstead is signing a five-year extension with the Saints on Tuesday. The deal would tie Armstead to the Saints through the 2021 season.

Armstead was a third-round pick in 2013 and has started 27 games over the last two seasons after taking over the job at left tackle late in his rookie season. He’s proven to be an asset to both the running and passing games and won’t turn 25 until July, which gives him a good chance to remain productive through the life of this new contract as long as he can avoid serious injuries.

With Armstead locked up, Brees and center Max Unger would be the biggest potential free agents for the Saints after the 2016 season.

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Thomas Dimitroff confident the Falcons pass rush will improve

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 07: Thomas Dimitroff, general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, stands on the field in the second half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on September 7, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons owner Arthur Blank expects the team to make the playoffs next season, something that will likely take a more robust effort from the pass rush than the defense was able to muster in 2015.

The Falcons had just 19 sacks as a team, but they didn’t address the position during the draft. In an interview with 92.9 The Game, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said that a run on pass rushers early in the second round took potential targets for the team off the table and defended the pick of safety Keanu Neal in the first round because of Neal’s “cover skills and legit physical presence.” He wouldn’t say if the team was concerned about defensive end Shaq Lawson’s shoulder, but said they didn’t take the eventual Bills first-round pick off their board.

Beyond anything having to do with the draft, Dimitroff said that the team has full faith in coach Dan Quinn’s ability to get the defense where it needs to go.

“We feel this is one of those things that Dan has a very, very good grasp on and that’s something we said from the very beginning,” Dimitroff said. “He knows this defense, he knows how he wants to build it as far as the pass rush. I have all the faith in the world that we know what we’re doing and he knows what he’s doing in terms of building our pass rush.”

2015 first-rounder Vic Beasley, Derrick Shelby and Adrian Clayborn will be the forefront of that effort and Dimitroff talked up linebacker Brooks Reed as well while discussing the in-house players the team expects to make more noise this time around. If they can’t and the Falcons don’t return to the postseason, the noises from Blank may not be overly enjoyable for his employees.

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Jets G.M. admits they tried to move up to take Laremy Tunsil

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #13 overall by the Miami Dolphins 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

Not every team was running away from Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil last Thursday night after video emerged of his gas mask bong hits.

One team was trying to run toward him.

Via Darryl Slater of NJ.com, Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan said during an appearance with WFAN’s Mike Francesa that the Jets did try to make a move to get to Tunsil, whose slide was stopped by the Dolphins at No. 13.

The Jets, picking 20th, settled for Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee.

The Jets lost left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson to retirement, and traded for Denver’s Ryan Clady to replace him to Tunsil would have been a longer-term fix to the problem.

Given the trades that happened to get to the eighth and ninth picks, the Jets would have ostensibly been calling the Saints (12th), Buccaneers (11th) and Giants (10th). All three stayed put with their picks, with the cross-town Giants taking some heat for taking cornerback Eli Apple. To run the risk of incurring the wrath of Giants G.M. Jerry Reese, it is interesting to consider whether Apple might have been there when the other Big Apple team picked at No. 20.

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Bills ready to resume extension talks with Cordy Glenn, Stephon Gilmore, Tyrod Taylor

Justin Houston, Cordy Glenn AP

The draft has a way of dominating the workload of a front office and leaving little time to pursue other business, which meant that the Bills haven’t been too focused on extending any contracts for current members of the team lately.

General Manager Doug Whaley said that is going to change now that the draft has come to a conclusion. Left tackle Cordy Glenn, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and quarterback Tyrod Taylor are all on the list and Whaley said the team is going to “regroup” this week to come up with a plan. Whaley says he’s “supremely confident” all three can fit under the 2017 cap and that the team isn’t prioritizing one over the others.

“They’re all the same,” Whaley said on WGR 550, via the team’s website. “We’re going to try to work as diligently as possible to get all three of those guys. This is where we want to get to. Have good players on our team and then keep them instead of going out into free agency. We’d like to use free agency for the value guys. So when you have potential stars that we’ve drafted or acquired and they’re on our roster now, why not throw the money at those guys?”

There’s a July 15 deadline to work out a multi-year deal with Glenn, who signed his franchise tender. There are no such issues involved with the other two players, although the last word on the Taylor front was that there was “some work to be done” on a deal for a player with one year of starting experience under his belt.

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Giants G.M. Jerry Reese: Critics “don’t know what they’re talking about”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Senior Vice President and General Manager Jerry Reese of the New York Giants celebrates after the Giants won 21-17 against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants General Manager Jerry Reese has caught some heat in recent years, partly because the Giants haven’t made the playoffs in four seasons and partly because with Tom Coughlin gone he’s the next logical target.

But Reese got a little defensive when asked about drafting Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick, since some considered him a bit of a reach and their previously identified targets Leonard Floyd and Jack Conklin were off the board thanks to teams trading in front of him.

Via James Kratch of NJ.com, Reese’s criticized his critics during an appearance on WFAN, saying they obviously weren’t qualified opinions.

When somebody doesn’t know what they’re talking about, it’s easy to depict it that way,” Reese said. “Because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Reese has the luxury of declaring that only he could possibly know the contents of the Giants draft board, though there were numerous reports linking them with Floyd and the top three tackles leading up to the draft. But he said that Apple was the top player left on their board (keeping alive the streak of every G.M. ever saying that), at least among players that didn’t have “circumstances or issues.” That would seem to cover Laremy Tunsil and Myles Jack.

“We thought those [targeted] guys were good players. We went through a lot of different scenarios, and we clearly had went through this scenario, that Apple could be the player that we would pick,” Reese said. “We were very happy that he was available when we picked there at No. 10. We absolutely had gone over this scenario many times.

“Obviously, not the [specific] situation that came up during the draft, but we thought some of the players might have been gone anyway. He was right in our window, where we had him ranked on our board, and he was an easy pick for us.”

Reese insisted that Apple was good value, because at 20 years old he’s still growing as a player, and that the Giants needed more help at the position, even after dropping the cash bomb on Janoris Jenkins in free agency.

While it’s true that many corners of the Internet are full of people who claim expertise they do not have, Reese’s own record of late invites criticism, which even his boss has noticed in pointing out how important this draft was.

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The annual PFT draft grades

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Once the draft ends, folks throughout the media apply grades to the picks that were made. Because why? Because click. Click. Click.

It’s a waste of time to write them, and it’s a waste of time to read them. No one knows what any player is going to do at the NFL level until the player gets on the field. In the absence of a crystal ball or a time machine, the grades applied by a given member of the media will reflect the extent to which the team did what the media member would have done with the various picks.

Ultimately, draft grades try to make something that is inherently subjective seem objective, with no way of determining whether the assessment is right or wrong until three or four years have passed. By then, however, no one cares enough to go back and sift through careers compiled by the various picks, compare them among the 32 teams, and devise a fair system for dispensing a representative amount of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s.

There’s only one reliable grading process. As noted by MDS, the decision to exercise or not exercise the fifth-year option provides a simple pass/fail assessment, three years later. By then, however, there’s no appetite for grading draft picks from three years earlier.

That’s the weird irony of the draft. No one really knows enough after it ends to apply a reliable grade. By the time that knowledge is available, no one really cares.

So here are the official PFT draft grades, for the 2016 draft and every draft to come: Incomplete. After that, it’s  time to sit back and wait to see which teams shoot their eyes out.

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NFL: “Inaccurate” to say Laremy Tunsil won’t be in substance abuse program

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laremy Tunsil #78 of the Mississippi Rebels scores runs in a touchdown during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Monday, a report from ESPN indicated that Dolphins rookie tackle Laremy Tunsil would not be placed in the first stage of the league’s substance abuse program as a result of the gas mask bong hit video that surfaced just before the start of the first round of the draft last week.

The NFL, via spokesman Brian McCarthy, says that it is premature to make any assumptions about what Tunsil’s status will be because the program’s advisors have not made an evaluation of Tunsil at this point.

“The reports regarding Laremy Tunsil’s status are inaccurate,” McCarthy wrote in an email to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “Any incoming player with behavior or conduct involving a substance of abuse will be evaluated by the program’s advisors. Those clinical professionals — not the club, league or union —  will determine whether based on that evaluation the player should be entered into the program. Neither the club nor the league has a role in that process, and are not notified of their decision.”

Tunsil says the video is two years old and has not failed a drug test, but players can be placed in the first stage of the program without a positive test if their “behavior” shows “physical, behavioral, or psychological signs” of drug use. They are given a treatment plan and are subject to testing for up to 90 days and would move to the second stage, which carries suspension as a possible penalty, if not completed successfully.

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Condon: Teams were interested in Peyton Manning for 2016

Zz0zNjViZGE4YjM0MjE2MTdhNjdhODE0ZGYzNTBhOGMyZQ== AP

It’s now known that Peyton Manning won’t be doing two things in 2016: Playing football or talking about it on TV. It’s unclear how close he came to the latter, but it’s now clear that the former was a more viable option than anyone realized.

Appearing on The Business of Sports with Andrew Brandt, agent Tom Condon said that: (1) Peyton Manning told Condon, “I really like to play”; and (2) teams were interested in having Manning play for them.

It’s unclear why a match wasn’t made between Manning and a new team. Condon, who made it clear that Denver wasn’t a consideration, mentioned the amount of love and respect Manning has for the game, and that Manning doesn’t view himself as a guy who would “hopscotch” from one team to another. Condon also pointed out the physical toll that playing 18 years of pro football has on the body, citing Peyton’s four neck surgeries and the experiences of Peyton’s father, Archie, during his NFL career.

It also could be that no one was willing to clearly commit to Peyton Manning being the unquestioned starter in 2016 and that, in turn, no one was willing to pay him the kind of significant money that reflects the level of respect with which Peyton Manning is accustomed.

Frankly, it sounds a little like the Sam Bradford situation. Bradford wants to play, but he also wants to be “the guy.” Just as no team apparently is willing to make Bradford “the guy” at this point in his career, no team apparently was willing to make that same commitment to Peyton Manning.

Here’s the point where the dog starts chasing its tail. No one was willing to make Peyton Manning “the guy” in 2016 because it was painfully clear in 2015 that he’s not capable of recovering from the week-to-week pounding that the body absorbs when playing against men you seemingly get a little bigger, faster, and stronger with each passing year. So the spirit was still willing, the flesh had become weak, and no NFL team was willing to provide the kind of offer that Peyton couldn’t have refused to play one more year.

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Sexton connection surely helped Adam Gase feel better about Laremy Tunsil

DAVIE, FL - JANUARY 09:  The Miami Dolphins announce Adam Gase as their new head coach at Sunlife Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Davie, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Often, the dynamic of an agent representing a coach and a player provides folder for rants against the potential conflict of interest that arises. Sometimes, however, the connection can be helpful.

In the case of tackle Laremy Tunsil, the fact that Tunsil and Dolphins coach Adam Gase share an agent surely didn’t hurt. At a time when coaches and General Managers surely were nervous about what they may be getting in Tunsil, agent Jimmy Sexton of CAA was able to talk to a coaching client about a playing client in a way that the coaching client can trust, fully and completely.

While the Dolphins may have taken Tunsil regardless of the agent connection, having that link to Sexton surely hoped — especially in those crazy minutes on Thursday night as teams were on the clock and forced to decide what to do.

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Fifth-year options show everyone’s guessing in the NFL draft

Minnesota Vikings v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

In the days following the NFL draft, we’re inundated with draft report cards who are certain they know which team deserves an ‘A’ and which team deserves an ‘F.’

Here’s the truth: No one knows anything.

For proof of that, look no further than the fifth-year options on the contracts of first-round picks. Those are the options that teams chose this week whether or not to pick up on their 2013 first-round picks, and they basically tell us whether or not the draft pick worked out.

As it turned out, players in the 2013 draft had basically a 50-50 chance of working out: Of the 32 players taken in the first round, 17 had their fifth-year options picked up, 12 had their options declined, one has already been cut, one has already agreed to a new contract and one is currently suspended and has no option to pick up.

The Top 10 of the draft was a little worse than the next 22; five of the top 10 picks didn’t have their options picked up, and Dion Jordan, the third overall pick, is suspended.

NFL teams, which spend several months and millions of dollars evaluating players, just can’t consistently say which college players will pan out and which ones will bust. The rest of us can’t, either. The draft is a lot of fun, but it’s a crap shoot.

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Raiders tight end Clive Walford injures knee in ATV crash

Clive Walford, Jimmy Wilson AP

The injury news seemingly never stops in the NFL, but in the offseason, the injuries become more unusual.

According to Mike Garafolo and Peter Schrager of FOX Sports, Raiders tight end Clive Walford suffered a knee injury in an ATV crash and will miss spring practices.

The hope is that Walford will be back on the field by training camp, with one source saying the injury “may not be as bad as originally thought.”

Walford has already had surgery to repair the damage, but word of his condition has been kept under wraps.

The third-round pick from Miami caught 27 passes last year for 329 yards and three touchdowns, showing signs he could be a downfield threat. How this impacts those plans remains to be seen, and probably means that any interest they had in moving tight end Mychal Rivera is over, at least until they know how Walford is and when he’ll be back.

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NFL opposes union’s request for extra time in Brady appeal

Tom Brady AP

In the legal system, lawyers routinely request other lawyers for more time to file certain documents. And lawyers routinely grant those requests.

To no surprise, the NFL is not willing to grant the NFL Players Association’s request for more time to decide whether to file a petition for a rehearing of the appeal in case arising from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game #Deflategate suspension.

CBS Boston has posted the full document. Only four pages in length, the NFL’s response points out that the parties have previously agreed to expedite the appeal and claims that the 14-day period “is a presumptively sufficient amount of time even in ordinary cases that have not been expedited.”

The league seems to think that the union has asked for more time in the hopes of tapping the brakes, so that the case will be resolved as late as possible. But what’s two more weeks at this point, especially in light of the fact that the original investigation and internal appeal process dragged on for months?

If the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit doesn’t agree to grant a full rehearing before the entire court, that decision surely will be made before Week One of the 2016 regular season. If the Second Circuit chooses to grant a full rehearing, the ensuing process likely will consume all of the upcoming season.

Should the NFLPA need 14 extra days beyond the initial 14-day period? Probably not. Will it matter to the process if the extra time is granted? Definitely not.

But the NFL has made its point. Now that the league has the upper hand for the first time since the NFL filed the federal lawsuit that started the current litigation process, the league wants to apply that hand to Brady’s throat and squeeze.

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Dana Stubblefield’s lawyer declares his innocence

Former-NFL-player-Dana-Stubblefield-jpg Getty Images

The streak of criminal defense lawyers proclaiming the innocence of their clients continues, unblemished.

Kenneth Rosenfield, who represents former NFL defensive lineman Dana Stubblefied, says that the pending rape charge against Stubblefield is “a false and completely untrue allegation.”

“This is nothing but a money grab, and an attempt to get money and take advantage of his celebrity status,” Rosenfield said, via NBC Bay Area.

Rosenfeld also said that Stubblefield has taken — and passed — a lie-detector test that will “clearly show” the interaction was consensual.

Although polygraph tests continue to be inadmissible in court, they can be effective in the court of public opinion.

Stubblefield is accused of raping a “developmentally delayed” female who had interviewed for a nanny job. The alleged assault occurred in April 2015.

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