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Jaguars still a popular bet to exceed expectations this year

Fowler AP

Many people thought the Jaguars were going to be better last year, and surprisingly, they weren’t.

But that sag to three wins notwithstanding, the Jaguars are still a popular proposition in Las Vegas.

According to Graham McKean of ESPN.com, the Jaguars surpassing the over-under of 5.5 wins is a popular bet at a number of sports books. The most money at the Westgate and 7 percent of all the bets taken at William Hill’s 100-plus operations has been on the Jaguars exceeding the over.

That comes despite the casinos’ price dropping from minus-170 to minus-145 upon the season-ending injury to first-rounder Dante Fowler.

“The reason for the move on the Jags was more [Dante] Fowler getting hurt in camp than the money. We are still very bullish on the Jags this year,” said Ed Salmons of the Westgate.

While losing Fowler hurts, the Jaguars improved offensively this offseason, adding tight end Julius Thomas and running back T.J. Yeldon. Whether that’s enough to double their win total and satisfy bettors remains to be seen.

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Mariota contract not stalled by surfing clause

surfer Getty Images

There’s a report that’s getting some traction (especially in the slow time of the NFL calendar) that the Titans and quarterback Marcus Mariota haven’t been able to work out a contract because the Titans want Mariota to agree to stop surfing, due to the risk of injury.

It’s would be intriguing debate. If Mariota were a surfer. He’s not.

A source with direct knowledge of the situation tells PFT that there’s no truth to the report, and that Mariota isn’t a surfer.

“Somebody made something up here,” the source said.

That doesn’t change the fact that Mariota doesn’t have a contract. But the impasse has nothing to do with surfing.

I’ll explain once again the likely source of the impasse in a separate post. Because it’s the slow time of the NFL calendar and we need to milk the cow judiciously.

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Kaufman knows he’d have a hard time getting Warren Sapp in the Hall of Fame now

Warren Sapp AP

In early 2013, Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune managed to persuade the Hall of Fame voters to induct former Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp on the first ballot. While off-field, post-career behavior technically isn’t an official factor in the selection process (although maybe it should be), Kaufman knows that he’d have a very hard time getting enough votes for Sapp if Sapp were up for election in the aftermath of a pair of arrests in 2015.

“I’ve already heard from three or four of the selectors saying, ‘Kaufman, you want to rescind that speech and do it all over again?'” Kaufman said on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.

Kaufman explained that Sapp’s primary competition for first-ballot induction was Michael Strahan, and that Kaufman managed to persuade the voters to set aside their personal opinions of Sapp and focus on a football career that included election to a pair of All-Decade teams.

“As soon as I got to town in New Orleans, I talked to my guys on the committee that know which way the wind’s blowing,” Kaufman said, “and they were saying, ‘You got your work cut out, Ira. A bunch of guys, they want to make Sapp wait. They don’t want to put him in that first year. They still remember how he treated them.’ I knew what I was up against.”

Kaufman kept the focus on Sapp the football player by addressing the problem of his off-field persona from the outset of the presentation.

“I had a quote from Keyshawn Johnson, ‘Yeah, he belongs in the Hall. He’s an A-hole, but he belongs,'” Kaufman said. “And so I think that’s the first time that word was ever used, Mike, in a Hall of Fame speech. And I didn’t mine saying it, because I got Keyshawn to say it. I didn’t have to say it. And that put it to bed right there. He’s an A-hole, but he belongs.”

It’s one thing to be an A-hole. It’s another thing to be twice accused of violence against women in a three-month period.

“He had a lot of problems here in Tampa, the way he treated people, without question,” Sapp said. “He would be out with Tony Dungy in a public situation, and Tony Dungy would cringe at some of the things Sapp did. Chewing out a father whose five-year-old asked for an autograph. Chewing out the father in front of the kid. Just gross, boorish behavior.

“But you know what? He did not have a history of putting his hands on people, specifically women. He did not. And now, with the Phoenix affair coupled with this one in Vegas, I’ve been telling you, Mike, it’s not gonna end well for Warren Sapp. But when I said that, I didn’t think it would evolve into domestic violence. This is a new area for Sapp.”

Some have suggested that Sapp, who was fired by NFL Network after the February incident in Arizona, should be removed from the Hall of Fame as a result of the allegation that he assaulted his long-time girlfriend in April. That’s something that won’t happen unless the rules of the Hall of Fame dramatically change — and unless plenty of other guys are removed, too (e.g., O.J. Simpson).

Kaufman pointed out that, locally, some are suggesting Sapp should be removed from the team’s Ring of Honor, pointing to the word “Honor” in that specific recognition. Since that’s an award controlled exclusively by the Buccaneers, it’s something to keep an eye out — especially if Sapp ends up being convicted of domestic violence for the April incident.

To hear the entire interview with Ira Kaufman, click here, select PFT Live, and choose the second hour of the June 30 show. And then cast a ballot on whether Sapp should be removed from the Hall of Fame, the Ring of Honor, both, or neither.

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Don Shula learned an early lesson about business with Donald Trump

Don Shula Getty Images

Many are distancing themselves from real estate mogul/combover cautionary tale/presidential candidate Donald Trump these days.

But former Dolphins coach Don Shula found out first hand how hard it was to do business with him in the early 1980s.

During his USFL years, Trump craved attention, and was willing to spend incredible amounts of money and air to keep his name in the papers. (My inner editor just sent the first four words of that sentence back to me as redundant. But they’re already typed. Carry on).

Via Dave George of the Palm Beach Post, it was October 1983 when Trump approached Don Shula — then in the final year of his deal with the Dolphins — about becoming coach of the New Jersey Generals. Trump announced the negotiations, which ultimately broke down (depending on whose version of the story you believe) over an apartment in Trump Plaza on Fifth Avenue. Of course, the fact Trump leaked the talks himself during the middle of Shula’s season didn’t help the process.

Shula quickly declared himself “no longer interested,” and said: “It really has developed into a huge distraction.”

Naturally, Trump interpreted it differently.

“Don is a good man,” he said. “An excellent guy, really. He just called me to say he was no longer interested, but I could not have done the deal. I could not have given him an apartment in Trump Tower.

“Money is one thing. Gold is another. I wasn’t very enthusiastic over the past few days. There was no way I could part with the apartment. I guess he was a little upset that the apartment thing came out. You know he was interested.”

That prompted Dolphins owner Joe Robbie to blast his rival, saying: “This confirms my impression that Donald Trump has been engaged more in ballyhoo for his grand entrance to the U.S. Football League than in a serious effort to build his franchise competitively by sound, professional management. Headlines in the sports pages and network television can be mighty heady to Fifth Avenue tycoons.”

Shula admitted he had discussed the job with Trump, and he had jumped from the Colts to the Dolphins previously, so it’s not as if the idea was unthinkable. But he had just landed a quarterback named Dan Marino, so walking away for the bright lights of the big city would have been hard anyway.

But working for Trump might have been harder.

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Five weeks later, still no Greg Hardy ruling

Greg Hardy AP

Apparently, “as soon as practicable” means “if you need five weeks, take five weeks . . . or more!”

The non-deadline deadline in Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, requiring a ruling on an appeal under the Personal Conduct Policy to be issued by the league’s designated hearing officer “as soon as practicable” has translated into 35 days and counting for Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy.

Hardy faces a 10-game suspension. The NFL Players Association believes that the punishment was imposed under the revised Personal Conduct Policy, even though the behavior at issue occurred under the old policy — which ordinarily would have resulted in a two-game suspension at most for a domestic violence incident.

Harold Henderson devoted seven hours to the matter on May 27. To date, Henderson still hasn’t issued a decision.

The delay in the ruling necessarily shortens Hardy’s window for challenging the case in court. Which in turn increases the chances of Hardy seeking a preliminary injunction that allows him to play while the litigation proceeds. Which means that Hardy could be suiting up for Week One against the Giants.

A ruling could come at any time, including during the looming Fourth of July weekend bad-news dump. Then, the next guy up for an “as soon as practicable” ruling will be Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose appeal of a four-game suspension for #DeflateGate falls under the same provision of the CBA.

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Report: Rams not interested in Evan Mathis

Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Guard Evan Mathis remains unsigned after his release from the Eagles last month and it doesn’t look like he’ll wind up in St. Louis for the 2015 season.

Jason Cole of Bleacher Report reports that the Rams are not interested in signing Mathis. Per Cole, the team wants “to let young players grow together” on the offensive line this season.

The Rams will certainly be young up front if that remains their plan. Left guard Rodger Saffold is entering his sixth year, but left tackle Greg Robinson is headed into his second year and prospective center Barrett Jones would be a starter for the first time after playing 10 games across his first two seasons. Right guard and right tackle are likely to be manned by rookies after the Rams added four linemen in this year’s draft.

It may take some time for that unit to gel, which may hurt the team’s chances of finishing in the top 20 in points scored for the first time since the 2006 season but doesn’t appear to be enough of a concern for them to look in Mathis’s direction.

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Mohamed Sanu shows Bengals he can hit a 60-yard field goal

060815 BENGALS OTAs AP

The Bengals haven’t limited wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pass catching during his three years with the team.

In addition to making 119 catches, Sanu has also run the ball 16 times for 82 yards and completed five passes (two for touchdowns) in five attempts as a quarterback on gadget plays. Based on a video that Sanu posted on Twitter this week, there may be room to add more to his portfolio.

Sanu posted several videos of himself achieving various athletic feats, ranging from basketball to one-handed catches from a ball machine, before capping the list with film of him attempting a 60-yard field goal. It’s not the prettiest flight you’ll ever see a ball take to the uprights, but Sanu’s kick splits them with some room to spare.

It’s probably not enough to make the team part ways with Mike Nugent and dial the clock back to the days of Pat McInally, who saved the team a roster spot by playing both wide receiver and punter in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but a little more versatility never hurts for a team that’s struggled to put points on the board in the playoffs the last four seasons.

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Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders staying upbeat through cancer battle

Pro Football Hall of Fame Press Conference Getty Images

Charlie Sanders was known for his toughness as a player, during his Hall of Fame career with the Lions.

He needs it now, as he’s battling something bigger than any football opponent.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Sanders remains upbeat after undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy as he fights the disease.

“Just as on the field, Charlie Sanders is a fighter and he is going to fight to the end like any game, like any journey,” Sanders’ daughter, Charese Sailor said. “We are rallying around him and supporting him in that fight, and until God says differently, we’re going to push on. . . .

“One thing that I really do want people to know is that he feels all the prayers and all the love and he knows that there are so many people really giving back to him what he gave. So in this critical time we are just rallying with him and it’s so difficult to get to everyone, but he would like everyone to know that he really feels and appreciates their prayer.”

Sanders was diagnosed last November when doctors found a tumor behind his right knee during prep work for a knee replacement surgery. He said in the spring that “the knee operation saved my life.”

Sanders was one of the top pass-catching tight ends of the 1970s, and continued to work for the team as a a broadcaster a coach and a personnel man since a knee injury shortened his brilliant career.

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Teammate says Ben Roethlisberger stuck it to rookie in club

Ben Roethlisberger AP

When the Steelers hear stories about Ben Roethlisberger in a bar, they have to hold their breath.

Actually, this one only ends up poorly for some rookie who went home with a big bar tab.

In a profile of former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall in Men’s Journal, he mentioned that leaving a credit card with the quarterback was a bad idea.

Mendenhall recalled that rookies are expected to throw a party at the beginning of the season, and it apparently was a big one for some unfortunate offensive lineman.

Ben just did the whole thing,” Mendenhall said “One night — the rookie ended up with a $25,000 bill from the club.”

As rookie initiations go, that’s probably not the worst possible outcome, so long as it was a high enough draft pick whose signing bonus could cover the tab. But it was also an expensive lesson in trusting the Steeler with the most expensive contract.

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Duke Ihenacho laments NFL contracts amid NBA spending spree

Washington Redskins OTAs AP

Free agency opened in the NBA on Wednesday, which meant that the day was filled with reports of players signing big new contracts.

That sounds a lot like the first day of free agency in the NFL, although there’s one significant difference in the kind of contracts that were being handed out. NBA players generally sign deals that are fully guaranteed while NFL players sign contracts whose total possible value is often significantly higher than the amount they’re guaranteed to make.

On Wednesday, Redskins safety Duke Ihenacho lamented that disparity on Twitter while calling for higher minimum salaries for NFL players

“All this guaranteed money NBA throwing. Meanwhile the NFL, which generates the most money wont even make the league minimum $1M,” Ihenacho wrote. “Yes $1M minimum. That means every single player’s salary in the NFL should start there. Highest risk of injury..brain trauma, richest league.”

The Denver Post collected several other NFL reactions to the NBA spending spree with several players experiencing hoop dreams (or hoop paycheck dreams, at least) as Wednesday unfolded.

Ihenacho isn’t the first player to suggest that NFL contracts should pay more or that they lack the same security enjoyed by athletes in other sports. There will be future CBA negotiations that offer a chance for players to grab a larger slice of the revenue, although doing so would likely take players being willing to miss the paychecks they didn’t want to miss in 2011.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Bills fans can watch “The Rex Ryan Show” beginning Sept. 13 (like they haven’t been watching it already).

The Dolphins will host a scrimmage at Florida International University during training camp.

The Patriots will hold their Hall of Fame induction on Aug. 5, before an open practice in training camp.

Jets G James Carpenter could be a key to the success of the offense.

Tyrod Taylor didn’t give much of an indication he could be a starter when he was with the Ravens.

They’re already talking up Bengals backup QB A.J. McCarron.

Browns rookie DT Danny Shelton is expected to anchor a rebuilt defensive line.

Steelers LB James Harrison is still a very strong person.

The Texans were in the running for free agent G John Moffitt before he signed with the Eagles.

The Colts have an offense built to win now.

Jaguars LB LaRoy Reynolds is passing along his hard-earned special teams knowledge.

The only real issue between the Titans and QB Marcus Mariota’s deal probably shouldn’t be one at all.

Former Broncos S Duke Ihenacho kind of wishes he played in the NBA right now.

Chiefs G.M. John Dorsey will be recognized for his community service.

The guy trying to keep the Raiders in Oakland is angry about his proposal being leaked (maybe he’s just not for this business).

There are still those in San Diego who think Chargers owner Dean Spanos wants to stay.

Will a new coach change the success of the Cowboys’ offensive line?

Giants DT Markus Kuhn knows there’s “no more excuses.”

The Eagles could still be looking to move LB Mychal Kendricks.

Washington has to fix a glaring third-down problem this season.

The Bears won’t miss having to look at Ndamukong Suh twice a year.

Lions WR Golden Tate is looking for consistency from his team.

If you have any slogans for the return of Packers QB Brett Favre to Lambeau, let this guy know (must, … resist, … easy, … punchlines, …)

A pair of former Vikings were moved by a recent trip to Israel.

The Falcons have shown interest in a supplemental draft prospect.

Panthers stadium renovations include some early words from owner Jerry Richardson.

Saints QB Drew Brees is fired up about a local NBA star staying in town.

The Buccaneers figure to continue to pick through the waiver-wire heap often.

The Cardinals might have to adjust how often they blitz on defense.

Rams TE Jared Cook is bullish about QB Nick Foles.

Let’s hear from the “Master of the Obvious” on how to interview former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

Seahawks S Earl Thomas got another ring, or gave one anyway.

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Brandon Ivory’s agent says “name will be cleared” of burglary charge

Florida v Alabama Getty Images

The Texans have moved deliberately in the case of defensive tackle Brandon Ivory, announcing that they were aware of his arrest for first degree burglary for a home invasion involving an assault rifle and a knife, but not much else.

But the agent for the undrafted rookie maintains this is all a big misunderstanding.

“I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges,” Ivory’s agent Jeff Guerriero told Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com.

Of course, that’s what an agent says.

And even though this is America, with that whole pesky “innocent until proven guilty” thing, that’s not necessarily enough to keep a player employed unless he’s a star.

Ivory is not one, signed as an undrafted rookie this year, a two-year starter at Alabama. He’s also the first Texans player arrested since 2009, so they don’t have a lot of recent precedent to work with here.

Plus, the arrest report said Ivory and another man kicked in the back door of a residence, one with an assault rifle and one with a knife, and stole money and two iPads. The image of an armed invader alone would be enough for many teams to walk away from a player they don’t have much time or money invested in.

Especially a team which will be inviting around-the-clock television cameras into its training camp soon.

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Chargers job listing requires Los Angeles move, if necessary

LAX Getty Images

If you work as a tax manager, the San Diego Chargers could use your services.

Just be aware that the “San Diego” part of that proposal could very well be temporary.

The Chargers currently have posted a job listing on the NFL’s job board seeking a tax manager that will be responsible for handling the “managing of tax reporting and compliance within the organization.” Listed under the requirements of the job, the posting states that the applicant must be willing “to relocate to the Los Angeles area, if necessary.”

The Chargers have been leading the charge of NFL teams interested in moving to Los Angeles. The team has reached a stalemate with the city of San Diego on plans for a new stadium and clearly don’t feel discussions will lead to a new venue.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos, along with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, spent Tuesday meeting with Los Angeles officially as the team’s eye a joint move into a new stadium in Carson, Calif.

The Chargers are clearly planning for a future in the L.A. area. If you want to work for the team as a tax manager, you’d better be comfortable with that reality.

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Texans don’t dump Brandon Ivory, yet

Ivory

When word emerged that Texans defensive lineman Brandon Ivory faces a charge of first-degree burglary, it seemed likely that the Texans would quickly dump the undrafted rookie. So far, the Texans haven’t.

“The Houston Texans are aware of the police report regarding DT Brandon Ivory in Tuscaloosa, Ala.,” the Texans said in a statement. “At this time, we will have no further comment until we gather all of the relevant facts.”

They’ll likely be gathering the relevant facts quickly. Training camp opens soon, and HBO camera and microphones will be present. Unless the Texans concluded during the offseason program that Ivory is poised to become a star player, it will be a surprise if Ivory is.

Apart from the P.R. consequences of having on the roster a player accused of an armed home invasion, keeping Ivory around could mean paying him while he’s on mandatory leave pending the resolution of the charges.

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Brandon Magee still waits for NFL call, would give up baseball

Brandon Magee Getty Images

In March, the Buccaneers released linebacker Brandon Magee. The next day, he reported for Red Sox training camp.

The offseason program came and went without any team offering Magee an NFL job. In the interim, Magee has kept playing baseball — continuing with Boston’s Class A affiliate, the Lowell Spinners.

Bating .250 through seven games, Magee took a few minutes before his team’s latest game to visit with PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. And Magee made it clear that, if/when an NFL team would offer Magee a roster spot, he’d give up baseball in an instant.

On one hand, the fact that Magee (who has played for the Browns and Bucs) doesn’t have one of 90 roster spots is a red flag. On the other hand, once training camps open and players start going full speed in pads, injuries will happen. It could just be a matter of time before Magee gets another chance to return to pro football.

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