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Key deadline looms for NFLPA executive director election

NFLPA

For the first time in decades, a sitting NFL Players Association executive director faces a challenge to his position.  And while at least five challengers have emerged for the job, only two of them currently have the ability to challenge DeMaurice Smith.

The NFLPA Constitution requires candidates for executive director to secure written nominations from three voting (not alternate) player representatives.  A voting player representative can nominate as many candidates as he wants.

Currently, only Sean Gilbert and Andrew Smith have received the sufficient number of nominations.  The other candidates who have come forward — James Acho, John Stufflebeam, and Sean Morey — have three days to comply with the three-nomination requirement.  Any other candidates who haven’t come forward likewise can get on the ballot with three nominations submitted by player representatives.

The nomination deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 5.  It’s a simple process; the player representatives need to send an email to NFLPA president Eric Winston nominating the candidate.

On March 15, DeMaurice Smith will face Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and any other challengers who have been properly nominated by March 5.  A simple majority of the 32 player representatives secures the election on the first ballot.  If anyone has fewer than 17 votes, the top two square off.

Then, the NFLPA will continue with DeMaurice Smith for three more years or start fresh with a new executive director.

With so many candidates interested in the job, it becomes more amazing that Gene Upshaw held the position for so many years without a challenge.  DeMaurice Smith won the position over three other candidates in 2009, and DeMaurice Smith was unopposed in 2012.

On one hand, the identity of the executive director doesn’t really matter because the current labor deal lasts through the end of the decade and beyond.  On the other hand, the day-to-day work consists of pushing back against efforts by the NFL to infringe on player rights, as the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases have shown over the past few months.

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Monday morning one-liners

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

Bills DL Corbin Bryant is spending three weeks working for Under Armour this offseason.

DT Jared Odrick ran into Dolphins exec Mike Tannenbaum at the airport, which may have given them a chance to talk contract.

The time for the Patriots to make a call on using the franchise tag on S Devin McCourty has arrived.

Will the Jets bring back LB David Harris?

The Ravens are aiming for better results in the AFC North race in coming seasons.

A look at the Bengals wide receivers with free agency a little more than a week away.

John Hughes thinks better days are ahead on the Browns defensive line.

Previewing the activity on the Steelers defensive line this offseason.

Cornerback is a popular choice for the Texans in mock drafts.

Colts WR Reggie Wayne got a mention in one of the final episodes of Parks & Recreation.

The Jaguars won’t be shopping in the quarterback aisle this offseason.

The Titans’ plans for the No. 2 pick remain under wraps.

Some potential free agent targets for the Broncos.

C Eric Kush may wind up in a bigger role for the Chiefs in 2015.

John Clayton of ESPN writes that the Raiders need to spend in free agency.

Trying to figure out the best stadium plan for San Diego.

How long a deal makes sense for Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray?

Giants WR Odell Beckham thinks he could have gone pro in soccer as well.

Will the Eagles use their franchise tag to ensure WR Jeremy Maclin doesn’t leave?

Should the Redskins want to add a center, here’s a look at who’s available.

Will the Bears target coach John Fox’s former Broncos charges in free agency?

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press predicts the Lions will do the wrong thing and use their franchise tag on DT Ndamukong Suh.

What’s the best route for the Packers to take at backup quarterback?

Some of the best second-round picks in Vikings history.

The Falcons have started shaping the 2015 roster.

The Panthers website puts the spotlight on Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson.

How will a deep running back market affect Mark Ingram and the Saints?

Three offensive players who could fit for the Buccaneers in the draft.

The best free agent signings in Cardinals history.

Relocation talk has taken some attention away from the Rams’ personnel needs.

The pros and cons of the 49ers re-signing RB Frank Gore.

Can the Seahawks make a luxury pick in the first round?

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Odell Beckham thinks he could have been a pro soccer player

Odell Beckham, Darrell Stuckey AP

For a guy who can do such amazing things with his hands, Odell Beckham Jr. thinks he could have made a living with his feet as well.

The Giants wide receiver said during appearance on the English talk show “Soccer AM” (via NJ.com) that he had to make a tough decision as a teenager.

“I started when I was three years old and played until I was about 14,” Beckham said. “My coach was pushing to try and get me on the national team and tryout. At that age, you’re 13, 14 years old you know that to make it big in soccer you are probably going to have to go overseas. Obviously that would be a goal and that would be the dream. At that age it would have been hard for me to leave my family and just go.

“I played every other sport, soccer, basketball, baseball, football. And I just said, ‘I don’t think I can leave my family.’ So that’s when I kind of put the soccer dreams aside and stuck close to home with the other sports.”

Beckham described himself as a “Neymar, Messi type of guy” as a soccer player, which would be like some South American teenager declaring that he had “hands like Odell Beckham” while playing a sport that doesn’t require them.

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Report: Eagles working to lower Trent Cole’s cap hit

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles parted ways with guard Todd Herremans last week after deciding his $5.2 million cap hit was too high a price to pay for an older player who missed half of last season with an injury.

They’d like to create some more cap room by addressing linebacker Trent Cole’s contract, but they’d like to do it without having him follow Herremans out the door. Elliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com reports that the two sides have been discussing a reworked contract that would slash Cole’s current cap figure of $11.6 million.

It’s something that Cole, who has had 14.5 sacks over the last two seasons, said he was open to doing earlier this offseason.

“I want to do whatever we can to make things work,” Cole said. “Hopefully that results in me being here … I want to be here. I’ve been here ten years, going on my 11th year and want my next stop to be here with the Eagles next year. Time will tell. Things will get done and everyone will be happy.”

Releasing Cole would save the team $8.4 million, but some portion of that would likely be earmarked for another pass rusher off the edge to go with Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. Keeping Cole at a lower number would make that a less acute need while avoiding dead money under the cap that can’t be used to help the team at all.

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NFL to do market research in San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis

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We noted a week ago that the NFL had sent out surveys to 185,000 fans in St. Louis.

As it turns out, that’s just the tip of their market research iceberg.

NFL senior vice president Eric Grubman told Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King that the league is commissioning detailed market studies in San Diego and Oakland as well, as they prepare the game of musical chairs involving the Los Angeles market.

The studies are important as they give the league a chance to take the temperature of the locals on a number of topics — primarily how much money they’re willing to fork over in exchange for football. There’s obviously more to it than that — such as the viability of PSLs, ticket price points, luxury suite demand — but giving the tree a shake and seeing how much money falls out seems the central issue.

The studies should be wrapped up in May, giving the league plenty of information as they try to gerrymander someone or several someones into L.A. while still proclaiming the viability of current markets.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Super Bowl that the goal was to keep all 32 teams in their current spots, but it’s more clear than ever someone’s finally grabbing the brass ring that is L.A.

Asked how many teams would be playing there by 2020, Grubman made the league’s intentions clear.

“I don’t know the number,” Grubman said. “But the least probable of those numbers is zero. I would say we’ve gone above the 50 percent probability that we’ll have at least one team there. . . .

“You have to have some stomach to let the thing play out. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now, I don’t think anyone does. I do know this: Los Angeles has real momentum for the first time in 20 years.”

And with the league checking out the other markets, it seems the primary goal is to see who the better bridesmaid will be for anyone who isn’t able to get to L.A.

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Wintry weather causes Hernandez trial to start a little later on Monday

Aaron Hernandez AP

Yet another wave of wintry weather in Massachusetts has reportedly caused Aaron Hernandez’s trial to reconvene a little later than planned on Monday morning.

According to the Associated Press, court will not restart until 10:15 a.m. Eastern on Monday.

The 25-year-old Hernandez, a former Patriots tight end, faces a first-degree murder charge in the June 2013 death of Odin Lloyd.

According to the AP, weather issues have led to more than five days of delays for the trial, which is being held in Fall River, Mass. The trial is entering its fifth full week.

The National Weather Service forecasts up to seven inches of snow overnight in the area.

Updates on the trial, as well as a recap of past developments in the case, can be found by bookmarking our link to Hernandez court coverage.

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Richard Dent among 2015 Black College Football Hall of Fame inductees

Richard Dent AP

A Super Bowl MVP who went on to gain enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is among seven members of the Black College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

Former Bears, 49ers, Colts and Eagles defensive end Richard Dent, a Tennessee State product who captured game MVP honors as Chicago rolled to victory in Super Bowl XX, was one of six former NFL players in the Hall’s sixth class of inductees.

Also inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame were former Rams and Lions defensive tackle Roger Brown (Maryland Eastern Shore), former Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas at Pine Bluff), former Chargers, Oilers and Chiefs defensive tackle Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd (Grambling), former Bengals defensive back Ken Riley (Florida A&M), former Steelers safety Donnie Shell (South Carolina State) and former Jackson State head coach W.C. Gorden.

The inductees were recognized in a ceremony Saturday night in Atlanta.

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Report: Raiders to part ways with LaMarr Woodley

LaMarr Woodley AP

The Raiders will be cutting one of their free-agent signees of 2014.

Oakland is set to release defensive end LaMarr Woodley, Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area reported Sunday.

Woodley, 30, notched just five tackles in six games in 2014 before a torn biceps ended his season. Last March, he signed a two-year deal reportedly worth up to $12 million.

Woodley was set to make $3.8 million in salary in 2015, per NFLPA data. Also, he was due a $1 million roster bonus on March 14, according to CSN Bay Area.

Woodley rose to stardom with Pittsburgh, notching double-digit sacks in 2008, 2009 and 2010. However, he has just nine sacks in his last 30 games, and he has not played all 16 regular-season contests since 2010.

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Le’Veon Bell faces a maximum suspension of four games

Le'Veon Bell AP

The new substance-abuse policy imposes a two-game suspension for a first-offense DUI.  By landing on probation for a July 2014 DUI arrest arising from marijuana use, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to be suspended for two games.

But there’s a catch that could result in a doubling of Bell’s expected punishment.  The new substance-abuse policy makes a two-game suspension the standard penalty for a DUI arising from alcohol use.  For violations of the law involving other substances of abuse, a first offense exposes the player to a suspension of “up to four” games.

It’s unclear whether the NFL will give Bell, who becomes the test case for the new substance-abuse policy, four games, three, two, or fewer.  The prior substance-abuse policy also exposed players to a suspension without pay of “up to four” games for violations of the law for substances other than alcohol.  Still, it would be a surprise if Bell gets less for DUI-marijuana under the new policy than he would get for DUI-alcohol under the new policy.

But don’t be surprised if he gets more, especially since alcohol is legal in Pennsylvania and marijuana currently isn’t.

Either way, the Steelers need to have a solid plan in place for replacing the team’s workhorse tailback for at least two and as many as four regular-season games in 2015.

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Key free agency date could move up a month

DarylSmith Getty Images

In addition to conversations about tinkering with roster size and getting rid of inactive lists for Thursday games, the NFL’s Competition Committee is considering the acceleration of a key date on the free-agency calendar.

Currently, players who become unrestricted free agents on the first day of the league year and who are not signed by June 1 (and not tendered a one-year contract by their prior teams) aren’t included in the formula for determining compensatory draft picks.  As a result, any signing after June 1 won’t make the prior team eligible for greater compensation or the new team eligible for less.

Per a league source, the June 1 line of demarcation could move to May 1.  The goal would be to give players who otherwise won’t be employed until June 1 a chance to participate in the bulk of the offseason practices.  By signing after June 1, the players get limited opportunities for offseason reps.

Over the years, teams like the Ravens have become experts at finagling this technique, waiting patiently until June 1 comes and goes before going bargain shopping.  That’s how they acquired linebacker Daryl Smith, who started 16 games in 2013, re-signed last year, and started 16 games in 2014.

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Ravens defensive back arrested for DWI

Bengals AP

Last month, the Ravens signed defensive back Victor Hampton, an undrafted free agent in 2014.  He likely will be cut before he ever shows up for an offseason training session.

According to WSOC-TV, Hampton has been arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in Charlotte.  He reportedly was driving 100 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone on Interstate 77.  Hampton’s blood-alcohol content was determined to be 0.10 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08.

Under the revised substance-abuse policy, Hampton, who initially was signed by the Bengals and who spent time on the Giants’ practice squad last year, faces a two-game suspension, if ultimately found to be responsible for driving while intoxicated.  To be suspended, however, he first has to be on a regular-season roster.  Given the new charges, that may never happen.

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Roger Goodell’s absolute power over players is a myth

Goodell AP

There’s a popular view among some in the media that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell enjoys complete and total power over the league’s players, especially on matters of discipline.  That popular view also is not accurate.

Apart from the reality that all discipline for on-field infractions falls under the jurisdiction of Ted Cottrell or Derrick Brooks, who were jointly appointed and are jointly paid by the NFL and NFLPA, the recently-revised PED and substance-abuse policies feature unprecedented use of third-party arbitration for most offenses.

Of course, the Commissioner retains full authority over the personal-conduct policy, a power that has had for years.  But while many (including us) routinely have characterized Roger Goodell’s authority as reflecting “judge, jury, and executioner” status, it’s important to remember one key point:  In three recent high-profile executions, the guy swinging the axe has missed the mark.

In 2012, Goodell yielded his authority over the discipline imposed on players in the Saints bounty scandal following an aggressive legal challenge.  Faced with compelling arguments that Goodell should be recused from handling the appeal of the punishments because he had prejudged the case, Goodell handed the baton to former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.  And Tagliabue overturned the punishments with a subtle rebuke that apparently has destroyed whatever relationship the former Batman-and-Robin-style partners once enjoyed.

In 2014, Goodell agreed preemptively to designate a neutral party to handle the appeal of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension, given Goodell’s status as a witness in the case.  (A witness who fought hard not to testify in the case.)  Former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones overturned the punishment by finding that the main justification for it — that Rice had lied to the Commissioner in June 2014 regarding Rice’s assault on his then-fiancée — was not factually accurate.

Last week, current U.S. Judge David Doty found that Goodell and his hand-picked arbitrator, Harold Henderson, incorrectly determined that the unilaterally-revised personal-conduct policy could be applied retroactively to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  Pending appeal and/or further proceedings before Henderson, Goodell’s suspension of Peterson could end up being thrown out.

So while the emperor may have clothing, it’s covering far less muscle that most realize.  With the Saints players, with Rice, and with Peterson, Goodell believed he had the ability to impose whatever ruling he wanted to impose.  In each of those cases, Goodell and the rest of us learned that Goodell’s powers has real limits.

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Todd Herremans isn’t retiring

Herremans Getty Images

As noted in the Sunday one-liners, former Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans has said farewell to the fans of Philadelphia in the aftermath of his release.  But Herremans won’t be saying farewell to football.

Per a source with knowledge of Herreman’s plans, he fully intends to play elsewhere in 2015.  And he fully intends to be in another team’s starting lineup as a guard or right tackle on Week One.

A fourth-round pick in 2005 from Saginaw Valley State, Herremans has been a full-time starter since his second NFL season.  With the man who drafted Herremans a decade ago needing an upgrade at offensive line in Kansas City, it makes sense for Herremans to reunite with Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

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Stephen Tulloch “way ahead of schedule” in ACL rehab, hopes he stays with Lions

Stephen Tulloch AP

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch was lost for the season early in 2014 when he tore his ACL while celebrating a sack, but he said Sunday that he’s on track for a full return this year.

Tulloch told Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi of Sirius XM NFL Radio that he’s “way ahead of schedule” in his return from the knee injury and that he feels like his knee may be stronger than it was before he got hurt. He also said he hopes that he’ll be back playing behind defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh next season.

That may be about more than just the Lions re-signing Suh. Tulloch, who has a cap hit of $5.8 million, was asked about the possibility that the team might look in his direction to provide more money to put toward signing Suh. He said neither he nor his agents had heard anything from the team to suggest he won’t be there for the start of offseason workouts.

“I hope I am [back with the Lions]. I hope my body of work speaks for itself,” Tulloch said. “I’ve put a lot of work in this team and I’ve been there through it all. It’s the first time in my career I’ve ever been on this side with the unknown, but I know the organization will do what’s best for them.”

The Lions would save $3.2 million by releasing Tulloch, something that seems like an option after they had one of the best defenses in the league with Tahir Whitehead starting in Tulloch’s place last season.

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A.J. Smith announces his retirement

A.J. Smith Pic Getty Images

When A.J. Smith announced that he wouldn’t be back for a third season as a consultant in the Redskins front office, he said he and his family were going to discuss what was next after three decades in the NFL.

Smith announced the result of those discussions is his retirement.

“We had a family discussion and an actual voting process. It was unanimous!” Smith wrote in an e-mail, via Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego. “… We have experienced incredible highs and lows in our 38-year ride. At the age of 66, it’s time for me to enjoy my family and friends more than ever before. I will now get going on my long-awaited bucket list.”

Smith joined the Redskins after his 10-year run as the General Manager of the Chargers came to an end. Smith’s teams went to the playoffs in five of his first seven years in the job, but only advanced as far as the conference title game once before three years out of the postseason brought his time in San Diego to an end. The Chargers won 95 regular season games and three times in the playoffs while Smith was in charge.

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