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NFL teams implementing new postseason ticket procedures, in July

Tickets Getty Images

After the NFL scrambled to avoid a trio of blackouts in the wild-card round two years ago, the league changed the procedure for reserving postseason tickets. Instead of requiring fans to pay for tickets to games for which the home team has yet to qualify, season-ticket holders can secure dibs on the ability to buy the tickets when a home game becomes a certainty.

Last year, it started in November. This year, the league has adjusted the policy to require reservations to be solicited before the regular season even begins.

According to the Associated Press, the process already has commenced, with the Broncos telling season-ticket holders they can reserve seats starting on August 10 and lasting until September 10.

It’s a no-lose proposition for the league, harnessing the 0-0/anything-can-happen optimism of the preseason to secure commitments to buy tickets to something that may never happen, which makes it more likely to fit within a given household budget.

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No appeal hearing yet for Le’Veon Bell

Le'Veon Bell AP

Earlier this year, the NFL imposed a three-game suspension on Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, after he resolved charges arising from allegations of driving under the influence of marijuana. The ruling is subject to appeal.

According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the appeal hearing hasn’t happened yet.

The combination of the DUI and possession (and use) of marijuana makes three games seems like the reasonable outcome, especially since the new substance-abuse policy imposes a standard penalty of two games for a first-offense DUI — and since the longstanding practice under the substance-abuse policy is the imposition of a one-game suspension for marijuana possession.

The recent decision to suspend Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith three games for an alcohol-based DUI that included driving into a light post doesn’t bode well for Bell’s chances of getting fewer than three games on appeal.

The absolute minimum punishment Bell would face is a one-game suspension, the same penalty imposed on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, who was riding with Bell last year when the arrest occurred. The fact that Bell was driving makes two games the more likely minimum, and three the most likely outcome.

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Pot Roast believes in RGIII

Griffin Getty Images

Last year during joint practices in training camp, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady declined a request from Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III to share some pointers. This year, Griffin will get some pointers from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Indirectly.

Washington defensive lineman Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton said on NFL Network’s Total Access that he’ll pass along some of the things he learned while playing in Denver with Manning.

Knighton apparently thinks Griffin doesn’t need much advice to get to where he needs to be.

“He has all the tools to be a great quarterback,” Knighton said. “His main thing is just confidence and just going out there every day and just proving that he’s the leader and doing things right all the time. He had a great rookie year, so he put a lot of pressure on himself, but I think he’s ready to prove everyone wrong.”

Griffin nevertheless has earned his current reputation for mediocrity; no one has unfairly dubbed him a borderline bust. This is the year a conclusive answer will come, and it could come quickly. With Griffin’s $16 million-plus salary for 2015 guaranteed for injury only, he’ll quickly be placed in bubble wrap if it becomes clear that he’s not getting it done.

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Eli Manning joins the DirecTV alter-ego circuit

Eli Getty Images

It’s not just Tony Romo who has shot a Rob Lowe-style commercial for DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning has one, too. In it, he plays himself with DirecTV and “Bad Comedian” Eli Manning with cable.

It’s just a matter of time before Peyton Manning shows up in a similar commercial, and possibly Andrew Luck. Feel free to guess the Peyton and/or Luck cable-owning alter egos in the comments.

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Tony Sparano, Vernon Davis make instant connection

Davis Getty Images

Lost amid the many departures in San Francisco this season is the potential impact of a new arrival on one of the veterans who didn’t retire or leave via free agency.

New tight ends coach Tony Sparano and tight end Vernon Davis have made an instant connection, as explained by Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sparano scoffs at the notion that Davis, 31, is too old to make a major impact.

“I’d like to drink from the same fountain as Vernon drinks from because he’s not a 31-year-old athlete,” Sparano said. “This guy takes care of his body, he can really run, he’s athletic and still very, very explosive. For me, what’s neat is I don’t have any knowledge of what happened in the past. When I came in here, it was a blank slate.”

Sparano said that he and Davis, whom the coach had known casually from coaching Vontae Davis (Vernon’s brother) in Miami, quickly connected.

“I think the common interest we have is he wants to continue to get better and he knows that I’m going to push him to do that,” Sparano said. “And I think those two things work well together. I’ve been through enough experiences that when the veteran player needs a little bit of help — whatever it is — a little detail here or there, it’s something that I’ve seen before.

“When I was with Bill Parcells he would always say, ‘When I had so and so. When I did this with [Mark] Bavaro.’ Those are good things to draw from. I can do the same thing with Vernon in those situations. It’s been very healthy and I think he gets a lot out of it.”

Davis, who believed he had become forgotten last year after missing most of the offseason program in an effort to get a new contract, showed up for voluntary workouts this year, which has helped strengthen the connection with his new position coach.

“I think it’s gone really well — just having Vernon here the whole offseason,” Sparano said. “The daily interactions, the meetings, him learning what I want and me learning how he does things has been really valuable. I’m excited about his season.”

At a time when there’s not nearly as much to get excited about this year for the 49ers, it’s very good news for the 49ers that Davis could be back to his old form, and that he’s not as old as believed.

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David Nelson: Teams aren’t signing me because of my charity work

David Nelson, Michael Boley AP

David Nelson is a free agent wide receiver who spends a lot of his offseason time doing humanitarian work in Haiti. You’d think that would be the kind of thing that would make NFL teams proud to have him on their roster, but Nelson says that’s no the case.

In fact, Nelson wrote on his website that he remains unsigned as training camps are opening in large part because teams look at all the time he spends doing charity work and wonder if he’s fully committed to football.

“No one’s questioning my abilities,” Nelson wrote. “Instead, I’m hearing questions about my commitment because I’m outspoken about my nonprofit, and I do a lot to make it successful. Rather than posting pictures of me at the gym (which I go to every day), I choose to use my social media and interview opportunities to showcase our organization’s amazing work. They don’t think my head’s in the game, but it’s all guesswork. Perception isn’t always reality, and that’s the case here. These coaches and owners don’t know me, and they don’t have any interest in changing that.”

In fairness to the teams that aren’t signing him, it could just be a matter of teams not thinking Nelson is good enough. With the Jets last year, Nelson managed just eight catches for 65 yards, and he fumbled on two of those eight receptions. He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire when given the opportunity.

But in the NFL, where teams want players to be slavishly devoted to football, it wouldn’t be surprising if there are, in fact, teams that view Nelson’s charity work as a mark against him. If so, that doesn’t speak well for the NFL.

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Junior Galette sends video of angry workout to media

Jay Cutler, Junior Galette AP

Former Saints linebacker Junior Galette apparently is done talking about the team’s decision to cut him. But he still has a message to send.

Via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, Galette sent a video that shows him working out, slamming his way through a gauntlet of tackling dummies with a bad attitude.

Given that Galette was arrested for battery in January (the charges were later dropped) and that a video surfaced of a 2013 beach brawl that apparently includes an image of Galette striking a woman in the face with a belt, the sight of Galette using his hands to knock down upright objects is a little awkward.

But the moves he’s making are what football requires, and a guy who racked up 10 sacks in 2014 and 12 sacks in 2013 is available for any team that wants to sign him.

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Saturday one-liners

Rodney Getty Images

Bills WR Percy Harvinneeded plenty of detailed instruction on how to run routes” during offseason workouts.

The Patriots have released the schedule for the first four days of training camp.

Jets DL Sheldon Richardson: superstar, pothead, or both?

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is ready to get started with a season that could end with him being finished.

Are the Ravens better than last year?

Browns coach Mike Pettine anticipates some “subtle tweaks” to his second training camp.

After microfracture surgery on his knee, what can the Bengals reasonably expect from LB Vontaze Burfict in 2015?

S Jordan Dangerfield got no respect from the Steelers.

The Texans have added OT Aaron Adams, who was with Green Bay last year.

So what will it take for the Colts to meet owner Jim Irsay’s expectation of at least two Super Bowl wins during QB Andrew Luck’s career?

Teammates are describing Jaguars CB Jeremy Harris as a leader.

Could Peyton Manning end up running the Titans?

Broncos CB Chris Harris did research regarding new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, learning that he “brings the heat.”

Former Raiders CEO Amy Trask still has a problem with the Tuck Rule.

Here’s a thorough look at the Chiefs’ roster entering training camp.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers thinks CB Jason Verrett can be one of the best in the league.

On November 15, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will pass Jimmy Johnson for No. 2 on the list of total games coached for the franchise; Garrett needs 21 more years on the job to catch Tom Landry.

Is Giants OT Marshall Newhouse overrated?

Sports Illustrated has determined the Eagles fan base to be the most hated in the NFL.

Here’s a look at the top position battles to watch in Washington this year.

It’s tough to get a feel for whether the Bears will be good or bad this year.

With rookie Ameer Abdullah joining Theo Riddick and Joique Bell, the Lions could have a very good corps of running backs.

The Vikings head to training camp on Saturday.

The Packers waived CB Bernard Blake with a non-football illness designation.

Harvard says the Falcons will win the NFC South. (Yale has better things to do.)

Some former Saints trolled now-former LB Junior Galette on Twitter.

Here’s a list of all Buccaneers training camp practice that will be open to the public.

The Panthers’ groundskeeper talks about the difference between preparing a field for football and soccer, in advance of Saturday night’s match between Chelsea and PSG.

Despite all the changes to the organization, the outside linebacker position for the 49ers is as deep as ever.

Eric Dickerson says the Rams belong in L.A.

Looking back at the training camp decision that changed everything for the Seahawks.

The kids of Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim don’t quite know what their dad does.

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NFL already plotting response to upcoming film Concussion

WillSmith Getty Images

While it now appears that the NFL didn’t try to muzzle the family of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Junior Seau in order to avoid a potential concussion-related embarrassment, the NFL already is making plans for the potential concussion-related embarrassment that it never will be able to silence.

Per a league source, owners spent significant time at their May 2015 meeting discussing how to deal with and respond to the movie Concussion, which has a planned release date of December 25.

Produced by a group including Ridley Scott, Concussion stars Will Smith at Dr. Bennet Omalu and Alec Baldwin as Dr. Julian Bailes. The list of characters suggests that the film will focus on the tragic endings to the lives of Mike Webster, Andre Waters, and Justin Strzelczyk.

While that may not be the subject matter on which American movie-goers will choose to spend their 2015 holiday season, the Columbia Pictures offering will put the concussion crisis squarely into the minds of mainstream America, in a way that could make football fans feel differently about the NFL — and that could cause more parents to steer more kids away from playing football.

As Christmas presents go, the NFL undoubtedly would prefer a can of Simoniz.

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Holmgren wanted to coach 49ers, 49ers wanted someone “younger”

Holmgren

Before Mike Holmgren agreed to coach a couple of games in New Zealand, he had interest in coaching a couple of teams in the NFL. By the sound of it, he had one opportunity he didn’t want (probably the Raiders), and another opportunity that didn’t want him.

“[T]his last December, after the season, I had a couple of chances, and almost took one of them, and then realized that, ‘What am I doing?'” Holmgren told Rich Eisen on Friday. “You know, I’d be traveling across the country and my grandkids are all in Seattle, and my life is really good but I had the bug still, and then I told my agent, ‘You know, the one I’d really kind of like to do is San Francisco,’ and so they reached out to the 49ers and essentially, I got a call back saying, ‘Nah, we’re going with a younger guy.'”

State and federal laws regarding age discrimination technically apply to the NFL, but they rarely are enforced — especially by G.M. and coaching candidates who hear the same thing Holmgren allegedly heard from the 49ers. He’s 67, the 49ers allegedly rebuffed his interest because they wanted someone younger, and they hired someone 20 years younger.

Regardless, Holmgren sames no problem with what happened. In fact, he seems to appreciate the candor.

“I probably needed to hear that because you get your ego stroked and you’re flattered when people call you and you kind of get into a place where I’m not sure you’re making great decisions, but when I heard that I said, ‘Okay, I needed to hear that and now I’m going onto other things.’”

Holmgren’s other things have included plenty of media appearances in recent days, presumably in connection with a looming pair of exhibition games in New Zealand that will have a hard time generating much attention.

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Gregg Williams says bounties weren’t about inflicting injuries

Williams Getty Images

Former Saints coordinator Gregg Williams used a bounty system in New Orleans and, allegedly, elsewhere. Over the past three years, Williams hasn’t said much about his role in the case, which included cartoonish urgings of violence against 49ers players prior to a postseason game in January 2012.

Recently, Williams talked about the situation, emphasizing the disconnect between tough talk and deliberate attempts to inflict injury on an opponent.

Via Scout.com, Williams (who now serves as the Rams defensive coordinator) discussed the situation at length during an interview with Mike Claiborne of KMOX radio in St. Louis.

“That was a difficult year in a lot of ways because there was a lot of information that was misinformation that got out and I’m the only person in the whole deal that never said anything,” Williams said. “I never said a word. Everybody got out there and pushed their information one way or the other and I didn’t.”

That said, Williams testified in the hearing regarding player suspensions, at one point claiming he tried to stop the bounty program but that Saints assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt insisted that it continue.

“One of the things was it was on my watch, but there was nothing that hasn’t been done in the last 50 years in the sport and there was nothing done to try to hurt somebody,” Williams said. “There was never done with anybody trying to injure somebody. I’ve said this before, I take a look at all these high school programs, little league programs, college programs and you see the decals on the side of the helmet and you wonder, you get those decals because you shake hands and kiss after the game or you get those decals because you rushed for 100 and you threw 17 touchdown passes and you knocked the stuffing out of somebody?

“I remember over at Excelsior Springs when I’m 16 years old I had a big hit in a ballgame and all of a sudden I got a movie certificate and it wasn’t because I helped the guy up, it’s because I knocked the guy down. It’s just one of those things that we’re always trying to find little bitty advantages in sport and it was unfairly and uncharacteristically portrayed the wrong way.”

Williams has a point, although he’s the last guy who should be making it, given the over-the-top ravings encouraging defensive players to target former 49ers like Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, and Kyle Williams for blows to the chin, head, and knee. Still, the talk apparently was just talk, aimed at getting players properly motivated to play hard — not to get them to deliberately inflict injury through illegal hits.

Three years later, bounty systems in pro football are either gone or kept tightly under wraps. But players still have a clear motivation to hit opponents so hard that they can’t continue to play, because putting key players on the sidelines tends to help a team achieve its goal of winning games and, ultimately, championships.

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Sean Smith may have missed chance to avoid suspension

Smith Getty Images

Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith will miss the first three games of the season after pleading guilty to DUI charges earlier this year. It’s one more game than the new baseline punishment for drunk driving, possibly influenced by the fact that Smith crashed his car into a light post in downtown Kansas City.

But Smith could have had a much smaller punishment, and possibly no suspension at all, if he’d merely resolved the case before November 1. When the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to a new substance-abuse policy in September, any player with pending DUI charges had until November 1 to resolve those charges and qualify for treatment under the prior policy, which imposed a two-game fine (up to $50,000) for a first offense.

The end result? Instead of a $50,000 fine, Smith will lose $750,000 in base salary as a result of the three-game suspension.

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Romo takes on the Rob Lowe role for Sunday Ticket

Romo Getty Images

It’s been a while since DirecTV aired the Rob Lowe commercials, some of which were excellent and some of which were creepy.

The cable-alter-ego shtick is back for football season, with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo playing the dual role of himself, who has DirecTV, and bald-headed and bearded “Arts and Craftsy” Tony Romo, who has cable.

While memorable, the entire campaign attempts to craft bizarre stereotype that anyone who has DirecTV is super cool — and anyone who has cable is some sort of a goofball. The perception quickly falls apart with this reality: I have DirecTV, and I don’t need to post a poll at PFT to know that I’m some sort of a goofball.

As to Romo, the far better campaign (setting aside the bizarre nature of the satellite-cable distinction) would have gone something like this: “‘Hi, I’m Tony Romo of 2015, and I have DirecTV.’ . . . ‘Hi, I’m Tony Romo of 2006 through 2014, the one that consistently screwed up when a big game was on the line, and I have cable.”

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Hall of Fame’s posthumous policy was adopted in 2010

2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Getty Images

When it comes to Friday afternoon bad-news dumps, the NFL typically engineers the placement of its own troublesome information. This Friday, the three-pack of suspensions released by the league was supplemented by a piece of bad news that came from another portion of Manhattan.

It was the New York Times, not the National Football League, that published a story about the late Junior Seau that makes the league look bad.

As noted previously by MDS, the Pro Football Hall of Fame won’t let Seau’s daughter give a speech on his behalf. The article from Ken Belson of the Times creates the impression that the Pro Football Hall of Fame simply said “no” without any specific reason or rationale. The Hall of Fame has since issued a press release regarding its policy on posthumous presentations.

“The policy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 2010 regarding individuals enshrined posthumously provides for an expanded presenting video (longer than the videos of living inductees) followed by the traditional unveiling of the bronzed bust and no additional comments made from the podium,” the Hall of Fame said in a statement issued late Friday. “This policy is not precedent setting and was implemented for the first time in 2011 when former Los Angeles Rams great Les Richter was inducted posthumously. The Pro Football Hall of Fame looks forward to honoring the careers of Junior Seau and the seven other members of the Class of 2015 during the upcoming Enshrinement Ceremony.”

The chain of events created suspicion that this policy was cobbled together not five years ago but today, especially since Belson’s story made no mention of any general policy regarding Hall of Famers who are inducted following their deaths, which would make the decision not to let Seau’s daughter speak seem disconnected to any concerns about the things she might say. However, the policy really was enacted in 2010, even if it wasn’t publicized and was otherwise poorly communicated until now.

The change came a year after both Chiefs G.M. Carl Peterson and Derrion Thomas spoke on behalf of the late Derrick Thomas, at the same time the Hall of Fame ditched the dual speeches and went with a video from the presenter followed by a speech from the new Hall of Famer. As Hall of Fame spokesman Joe Horrigan told Belson, the goal was to avoid redundancies between the two speeches.

Redundancies or not, the process continues to be tedious at times, with some of the Hall of Famers making their final moment in the sun last as long as humanly possible, and then some. The effort to streamline the process in 2010 should have gone well beyond ending the practice of having someone speak on behalf of the deceased enshrined; the fact that it didn’t will make it harder for many to accept that the five-year-old policy was actually about making a seemingly endless night end a few minutes earlier.

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Ravens place Dennis Pitta, Terrence Brooks on PUP List

Dennis Pitta, Manny Lawson Getty Images

Earlier this week, there was a report that Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was expected to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

That report was proven correct on Friday when the NFL’s daily transactions report brought word that the Ravens have placed Pitta on the PUP list. He’ll have company there. Safety Terrence Brooks has also been placed on the list, which bars players from practicing and can extend into the regular season. If it does, both players will be ineligible to play for six weeks.

Brooks tore ligaments in his knee last December against the Jaguars, so it’s not surprising that he’s not ready to go just yet. The 2014 third-round pick had 19 tackles in 11 games during his rookie season.

Pitta has played just seven games over the last two seasons after dislocating his hip twice and did some individual work this offseason. He’s guaranteed $4 million this season, so the Ravens have plenty of reasons to give him time to get healthy and see if he can return to a role in the offense.

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