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Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl hopes could hinge on renovation deal

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 29:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer talks with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before Goodell announces a $1 million donation to the Tampa Bay YET Centers during a presss conference at Mort Park on January 29, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) Getty Images

Technically speaking, Tampa is in the running for Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020.

But unless the Glazer family comes up with a plan (i.e. money) to upgrade Raymond James Stadium, those bids might not go anywhere in the face of new and renovated buildings elsewhere.

Via Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune,  the Buccaneers are “currently negotiating” with the Tampa Sports Authority and Hillsborough County officials on plans to refurbish the 17-year-old stadium. Team COO Brian Ford is described as “confident” those plans will materialize soon.

Without them, the Bucs may have a hard time landing the big game.

The NFL has long used Super Bowls as both carrot and stick to leverage new stadiums and upgrades to existing ones.

Atlanta figures to be a shoe-in for building a brand new retractable roof facility next to the Georgia Dome, and with Los Angeles entering the mix for a title game soon, competition is going to be tough. That’s why Dolphins owner Stephen Ross just poured in $400 million to improve Sun Life Stadium.

“We got invited this time because basically Mr. Ross committed to make all the renovations,’’ Rodney Barreto, the chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee said.

So unless the Glazers are willing to make (or find someone to make) a similar investment, it might be some time before the Super Bowl returns to Central Florida.

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Rally to support Tom Brady draws about 150 people outside Gillette Stadium

Fans Attend "Free Tom Brady" Rally Getty Images

On Sunday, we learned something: if you hold a rally supporting a star quarterback suspended due to allegations of deflated footballs, they will come.

Approximately 150 people attended Sunday’s “Free Tom Brady” rally outside of Gillette Stadium, the Boston Globe reported, citing Foxborough, Mass. police for the crowd estimate.

Brady, the Patriots’ four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, has been banned for the first four regular season games of 2015 by the NFL. He is appealing.

The demonstration, per a Facebook page advertising the event, was intended to “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

According to media reports, the demonstration included a recently married couple that is not honeymooning in Bermuda in solidarity with with the Patriots after Brady’s four-game suspension.

“We want to be here to support our Patriots, and until that ban is lifted we’re not going on our honeymoon,” said Paul Goodrow of Watertown, Mass., according to the Boston Herald. “Our whole house is like a man cave.

“The NFL debacled this so-called Deflategate. It’s just ridiculous. It’s all because of fans from other states who hate us because they ain’t us. I believe that he is innocent. This is just a smear campaign against the Patriots.”

There was no indication any Patriots staff were present for the rally.

New England begins its organized team practice activities on Tuesday.

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All but one team will hold OTAs this week

The New England Patriots Workout In Foxborough, Mass. Getty Images

In less than four weeks, all NFL clubs will have wrapped up their organized offseason workouts.

Not surprisingly, then, the upcoming week will be a working one around the league.

Thirty-one of 32 NFL clubs will hold organized team practice activities (OTAs) between Tuesday, May 26 and Friday, May 29. Only the Rams will not be holding any club-overseen workouts this week.

OTAs are non-padded, non-hitting practices in which coaches can instruct players. Players can wear helmets, and full team drills are allowed, per the CBA between NFL teams and players.

The majority of clubs will have OTAs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before calling it a week. However, others will mix in a day off. The Patriots, for instance, are set to work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Here are the days in which teams will hold OTAs this week:

Arizona: Tuesday-Thursday.

Atlanta: Tuesday-Friday.

Baltimore: Tuesday-Thursday.

Buffalo: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Carolina: Tuesday-Thursday.

Chicago: Wednesday-Friday.

Cincinnati: Tuesday-Thursday.

Cleveland: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Dallas: Tuesday-Thursday.

Denver: Wednesday-Friday.

Detroit: Tuesday-Thursday.

Green Bay: Wednesday-Friday.

Houston: Tuesday-Thursday.

Indianapolis: Tuesday-Thursday.

Jacksonville: Tuesday-Thursday.

Kansas City: Tuesday-Thursday.

Miami: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Minnesota: Tuesday-Thursday.

New England: Tuesday; Thursday-Friday.

New Orleans: Tuesday-Thursday.

N.Y. Giants: Wednesday-Friday.

N.Y. Jets: Tuesday-Thursday.

Oakland: Tuesday-Thursday.

Philadelphia: Tuesday-Thursday.

Pittsburgh: Tuesday-Thursday.

St. Louis: None.

San Diego: Tuesday-Thursday.

San Francisco: Wednesday-Friday.

Seattle: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Tampa Bay: Tuesday-Thursday.

Tennessee: Tuesday-Thursday.

Washington: Tuesday-Thursday.

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Kris Durham worked out for Saints and Cowboys

Kris Durham, Dwayne Gratz AP

Veteran free agents trying to catch on with a team before the end of offseason work are running short on time, but they can be heartened by the fact that teams are still taking a look at who’s available on the open market.

Wide receiver Kris Durham was a guest on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi and said that he’s had workouts with both the Saints and Cowboys recently. Durham played for the Titans last season.

The Saints recently added Josh Morgan to their receiving corps and Drew Brees has talked up the chance to see Nick Toon and Seantavius Jones get more looks behind Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks during the 2015 season. Throw in Joe Morgan and Durham would likely have a tough route to playing time in New Orleans.

Dallas has a bit less depth with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley backed up by a group of players short on experience and Durham played for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in Detroit. Mickey Spagnola of the Cowboys website adds that the team also worked out former 49ers first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and reports there’s a good chance the team adds a “somewhat veteran” wideout in the coming weeks.

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Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman likely to split reps in Atlanta

devontafreeman AP

Steven Jackson is out after two years as the Falcons’ top running back. At the moment, the plan is for last year’s fourth-round pick and this year’s third-round pick to split the job of taking Jackson’s place.

Devonta Freeman, who had 65 carries for 248 yards as a rookie last year, and Tevin Coleman, a rookie from Indiana, will be in a two-back system with equal reps, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

Whether Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sticks with a two-back system throughout the season remains to be seen. Both Freeman and Coleman will get the opportunity to separate himself during training camp. But it will be an equal opportunity for both players.

It also remains to be seen what the Falcons will get out of Antone Smith, who played very well in limited action last season before breaking his leg. Smith has played very sparingly so far in his career, but when he has had the ball in his hands, he’s been fantastic: He has averaged 9.9 yards on 29 carries and 15.5 yards on 15 catches. A trio of Freeman, Coleman and Smith may make the Falcons better at running back without Jackson than they were with him.

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ESPN says NFL lawyers “recommend” Goodell handle Brady appeal

Lawyers

There’s apparently a little-known principle of journalism that goes like this: Fool me once, shame on me. Now fool me again!

Four months after allowing itself to provide the primary catalyst for #DeflateGate via a false report that sparked a frenzy, ESPN is currently helping to boost artificially the perception that there are no problems at all with the decision of Commissioner Roger Goodell to personally handle the appeal of the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Appearing as of this posting on the front page of ESPN’s NFL page is this headline: “Lawyers endorse Goodell hearing Brady appeal.” With no explanation of which lawyers to which the headline refers, it isn’t clear who exactly is endorsing the decision. Which prompted me to click on the story. Which made the link pretty good click bait.

So I clicked. And I was greeted with this headline: “Lawyers recommend Roger Goodell hear Tom Brady appeal.” Which is actually a little stronger than “endorse.” Which prompted me to read more than the headline, in order to find out who was doing the recommending.

Here are the first two sentences of the article: “Attorneys for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have recommended that Goodell reject the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension. While Goodell still could step aside as arbitrator, he would be doing so against the advice of his lawyers.”

Which apparently makes it all OK.

The article then says nothing more about who made the recommendation or why the recommendation was made or whether Goodell relied on the recommendation in making the decision to handle the appeal. It cites no sources, named or unnamed, for the report that Goodell’s lawyers made the recommendation, and it credits no reporter until the very end of the story, where it adds in italics, “ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In all, it looks and feels like an effort to artificially legitimize Goodell’s decision to handle the appeal to a potentially skeptical public. The clear takeaway isn’t that Goodell is intent on handling the appeal personally; it’s that the lawyers advised him to do it. So he’s not doing what he wants to do in order to ensure that he decides the matter in light of the broader business interests of the league or because he simply wants to control everything, he’s simply doing what the lawyers have told him to do.

Which apparently makes it all OK.

It’s a distinction without a difference, since: (1) the lawyers work for him and will be inclined to tell him what he wants to hear; and (2) the lawyers presumably are moving in lock step with Goodell on his intent to make the decision without deferring to anyone truly neutral and independent, who would then have the power to scuttle the findings and conclusions that Ted Wells charged the league millions of dollars to reach, possibly at the direct or indirect behest of the league.

As NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “The Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.” And that’s a common dynamic in American business. Lawyers routinely provide an “independent analysis” that gives credence and credibility to the thing the client wants to have credence and credibility when judged by someone else.

It’s still unclear whether that’s exactly what happened as to the findings of the Wells report. It’s very clear that’s what happened as to the “recommendation” that Goodell personally handle the Wells report. And it’s abundantly clear that ESPN has gone out of its way to help sell to the public the notion that the decision has a degree of credence and credibility that ultimately is meaningless — even though it was ESPN that undermined its own brand by passing along blatantly false information in the early days of #DeflateGate that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs measured at two full pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.

ESPN’s ongoing willingness to carry water for the league on this topic is surprising in light of the lie it was told. Then again, with hardly anyone wagging a finger at ESPN for allowing itself to be so grossly manipulated, it’s easy for ESPN to react to the situation like Kevin Bacon taking a paddle to the ass in Animal House.

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Lane Johnson puked his way through brutal offseason workouts

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson wasn’t interested in rest and relaxation this offseason.

Johnson spent five weeks early in the offseason doing a workout routine based around mixed martial arts principles and devised by Jay Glazer and former UFC champion Randy Couture. Johnson said it was the most brutal thing he has ever been through, but when it was time for Organized Team Activities to start, he surprised himself with how much he had improved.

“The first couple days, I was puking non-stop,” Johnson said. “It was terrible. Going into OTAs now, I’m in the best shape of my life. I notice now I’m a lot quicker with my hands and a lot stronger with my hands. I don’t have to really think about it. It comes naturally.”

Johnson thinks these workouts are going to take him to the next step in his career.

“I want to be elite at my position in the NFL, and I felt that this would help me get there,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of confidence about what’s ahead of me. I think I’m getting close to being elite. Last year was a big stepping stone from my rookie year and I just have to be more aggressive and more violent going into Year 3.”

If Johnson can develop into an elite offensive tackle, all that puke will be worth it.

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49ers want to “cause confusion” on defense this season

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Among the many changes to the 49ers this offseason is the decision to hand the reins of the defense to coordinator Eric Mangini after they parted ways with Vic Fangio.

Fangio has been followed out the door by linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Justin Smith and others from last year’s defense and the holdovers will be utilized in a different fashion by Mangini. Safety Antoine Bethea said that the defense is moving away from Fangio’s fairly straightforward approach as Mangini, whose move from tight ends coach back to defense may have confused some during the 49ers’ offseason upheaval, tries to keep offenses guessing about what the 49ers will do.

“Coach Mangini, his thing is we’re going to cause confusion,” Bethea said, via CSNBayArea.com. “The opposing offense isn’t going to know what we’re going to be able to do each down. It could be bringing the pressure. It could be dropping eight into coverage. But it’s just keeping the offense on their heels. However, you want to look at it, I think it’s going to be a good deal for our defense.”

Bethea said that “everybody has to know what everybody else is doing” in the defense, something that could cause some confusion for the 49ers if a team with shifting personnel doesn’t have things nailed down come the regular season. Bethea and coach Jim Tomsula both said that the team would use OTAs to see what new wrinkles work and which should be discarded when the team gets to training camp, but the end philosophical change offers more proof that 2015 is going to be about new directions for the 49ers.

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Report: Brooks Reed may miss start of OTAs

Baltimore Ravens v Houston Texans Getty Images

Linebacker Brooks Reed may miss the first set of organized team activities with his new team.

The Falcons signed Reed to a five-year deal as a free agent in March and is expected to be a starter for the team in the fall, but Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that Reed may be on the bench as the team moves into the next phase of workouts this week. Reed reportedly suffered a groin injury during the team’s recent veteran minicamp.

McClure describes the injury as a minor one, but the Falcons don’t have much reason to push it toward being something more significant at this point in the offseason. O’Brien Schofield is expected to take Reed’s reps with the first team.

The Falcons may have several offensive linemen on the sideline when they start OTAs as well. Left tackle Jake Matthews, center Joe Hawley, tackle Sam Baker and interior lineman Peter Konz are all on the way back from injuries, as are safety William Moore and running back Antone Smith.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Mario Williams AP

Mario Williams is preparing for a change in his role on the Bills Defense.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is looking forward to the team’s organized team activities.

The chance to see QB Jimmy Garoppolo in a game could prove to be a positive for the Patriots.

Jets coach Todd Bowles shared his thoughts on making evaluations at non-contact practices.

The Ravens are spotlighting TE Nick Boyle’s minicamp highlights on their website.

Checking in on the chances of the Bengals reaching an extension with WR A.J. Green in the near future.

Will Josh McCown give the Browns a 30-something success story at quarterback?

Said Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt, “I have made some progress, but I am in my second year and I still have a lot to learn.”

The Texans’ uniforms didn’t get much love from ESPN.com’s Uni Watch.

Colts G Donald Thomas is trying to regain his spot in the lineup.

TE Connor Hamlett took a brief break from football before signing with the Jaguars.

A look at some of the best rookie seasons in Titans history.

The Broncos are preparing options for PATs based on this season’s rule changes.

How will the playing time break down on the Chiefs defensive line?

The Raiders hosted a tour of the USS Hornet for military families.

Stadium issues continue to dominate the Chargers landscape.

Ten things to know about Cowboys rookie OL Chaz Green.

The Giants are moving Bennett Jackson from corner to safety.

A projection of the Eagles starting defense.

A look at Redskins RB Alfred Morris’s best performances from his first three seasons.

Bears tight ends are forging quick bonds this offseason.

CB Rashean Mathis wants to be a mentor for younger Lions cornerbacks.

The Packers have one roster spot available.

The Vikings will need some unexpected contributors to step up this season.

Falcons WR Julio Jones is branching out into the restaurant business.

Comparing the Panthers’ front seven to the 2003 defensive front.

If the Texans appear on “Hard Knocks,” the Saints could make a cameo or two.

Buccaneers defensive line coach Joe Cullen said preparing to face the Lions last season made him aware of DE George Johnson, who joined the Bucs in a trade this offseason.

Checking out the inside linebacker possibilities with the Cardinals.

Who are the breakout candidates for the Rams this year?

Running through the contenders to replace 49ers DE Justin Smith in the lineup.

Previewing the choices defenses will have to make when facing the Seahawks this season.

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Art Rooney II hopes NFL will soon hold games in Mexico and Germany

Art Rooney II AP

One of the members of the NFL’s International Committee is optimistic the league will soon stage games in two countries in which it has shown interest.

In an interview with his club’s website, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he “would be disappointed” if the NFL wasn’t holding games in Germany and Mexico “within the next five years.”

Said Rooney, according to Steelers.com: “The audience in those two countries — there are enough NFL fans in both to support a game, and so it’s really a matter of being able to put together a stadium situation that would work well for us, as well as being able to put together a broadcasting and digital media-style programming so the games can be broadcast in those countries as well being played there.”

On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would “evaluate” Germany, Mexico and Brazil as game sites. However, as Rooney told Steelers.com, Germany and Mexico are more likely to host a game before Brazil.

Said Rooney: “Brazil is the one I would say is the newest discussion, and my guess is there will have to be a little longer lead time in developing that.”

The NFL will hold three regular season games in London in 2015. Overall, the league has scheduled 14 games in London since 2007.

At some point, the league would figure to play a game elsewhere, whether in Europe or somewhere else outside North America. And as Rooney sees it, Germany and Mexico are at the head of the line.

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Doug Whaley: All our quarterbacks are on equal footing

EJ Manuel AP

Last week, Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman denied a report that the Bills were thinking about parting ways with third-year quarterback EJ Manuel before the start of the 2015 season.

General Manager Doug Whaley was on the same page during an appearance on The Jim Rome Show. Whaley called the report “just someone trying to get something stirred” during the offseason and said that the team remains excited about Manuel’s future in the NFL. That excitement wasn’t enough to stop the team from acquiring Matt Cassel and it isn’t enough to lift Manuel ahead of Tyrod Taylor or Jeff Tuel in the pecking order at this point in the offseason, however.

“I look for him to come in and compete and try to take the job,” Whaley said. “Everybody has got an equal footing. It’s a clean slate for all four of our quarterbacks. We’re not tied to anybody. We just want the best man to start. It’s exciting for us.”

The Bills may not be making any plans to cut Manuel at this point and there isn’t much reason for them to be in that mode. If all four quarterbacks really are on equal footing, though, then Manuel can end up fourth on the depth chart at the end of August and leave the Bills with a decision to make.

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John Madden: Super Bowl call will “torment” Pete Carroll forever

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks dejected after defeat to the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Seahawks 28-24.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks Pete Carroll acknowledged after the Super Bowl that he’d always regret the decision to pass at the goal line rather than run.

That’s almost easy to say now, at a time when he’s trying to insulate the coordinator who called the play, and the quarterback who threw the game-losing interception.

But one of the best coaches the game has ever known said the memory won’t get any easier with time.

That will torment him forever,” Hall of Famer John Madden told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “Winning one game is hard. Getting to the Super Bowl is hard. Then getting that close and losing has to be tough, because we only remember the winners of the Super Bowl.

“One of the biggest gaps in sports is the difference between the winning and losing teams of the Super Bowl. They don’t invite the losing team to the White House. They don’t have parades for them. They don’t throw confetti on them.

“Does it haunt you? Hell yes, it haunts you. I’m still haunted by some championship games.”

Madden’s Raiders lost five conference championship games in seven years, nearly taking the pleasure out of finally winning one.

But he doubts that Carroll having won one will take the sting away from the chance at a second.

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“Free Tom Brady” rally set for Sunday outside Gillette Stadium

The Destruction Of Tea In Boston Getty Images

Those aggrieved by Tom Brady’s four-game suspension are invited to a rally at a parking lot outside of Gillette Stadium on Sunday, per an announcement on Facebook.

The “Free Tom Brady rally” will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday and will “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

There is no indication the team has any connection to the rally.

The gathering, according to the announcement, will be “peaceful.”

As of this writing, 375 fans had indicated on Facebook that they would be attending.

One fan wrote: “Can’t be there but best wishes from England!”

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Tyrann Mathieu finally feels “free” after dealing with injuries

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 30:  Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Arizona Cardinals stands on the field during warm ups prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 30, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu had to overcome a lot just to stick in the NFL.

But once he got there, stuff kept happening which kept him from doing what he does best.

But after a series of injuries that limited him, he’s finally well and ready to get back to the player he was in 2013 before a late-season knee injury, which was followed by a broken thumb last year.

It just feels good to be free,” Mathieu said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

“He has a gleam in his eye that I didn’t see at all last year,” coach Bruce Arians said.

That’s saying something, because Mathieu was a playmaker on a good defense as a rookie, before the injuries took a toll on him. He admitted he was tentative last year, not confident in his own health.

“You try to stay as optimistic as possible,” Mathieu said. “But there is a reality to it, too. It’s kind of hard to keep telling yourself it’s going to be all right, especially when we got into the thick of everything last year, thinking that if I was 100 percent, I’d probably be able to help my team a whole lot more than I’m doing right now.”

So instead of playing freely, he worried about making mistakes.

“You play scared because you don’t want to give up a touchdown,” Mathieu said. “Or you play too aggressive because you don’t want to be singled out as if you’re not giving the effort. It’s kind of like the worst of both worlds.

“I’ve never thought about it as hard as I did last year. I was always thinking about something, rather than just going out there to play.”

So the fact he’s out there now, running around in OTAs, is a positive sign. Because when the Honey Badger doesn’t care about making mistakes, he’s at his most dangerous.

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