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James Harrison says old pal Goodell will win fight vs. Brady

James Harrison, Art Rooney II AP

James Harrison has never been afraid to speak out against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but when Harrison was asked by reporters about DeflateGate and Goodell’s court battle vs. Tom Brady and the Patriots, Harrison said he believes Brady’s four-game suspension will be upheld.

Because the Steelers play the Patriots Sept. 10 in the season opener, the result of the proceedings are of particular interest to Harrison. But the 37-year old linebacker had no personal feelings involved when he shared his viewpoint.

“I don’t see what a federal judge can do with something the players signed in the collective bargaining agreement, which gives Roger Goodell (power) to do what he wants to,” Harrison said. “And if that’s the case and he’s going by the letter of what he says, there’s nothing (a judge) can do.”

Monday, federal judge Richard Berman pledged to rule by Friday on Brady’s challenge of his four-game suspension after talks between Brady’s representatives and the NFL failed to reach a settlement.

Harrison and Goodell have quite a history, both of face to face meetings regarding fines that have totaled $150,000 and of Harrison publicly criticizing Goodell. Harrison called Goodell a “crook” and “devil” in a 2011 magazine interview and last year took to Twitter and needled Goodell for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.

“If (Goodell) was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it,” Harrison told Men’s Journal in 2011. “I hate him and will never respect him.”

Harrison tweeted last September, when he considered himself retired, that Steelers players voted against the new CBA in 2011.

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Sheldon Richardson pleads not guilty

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was practicing with his teammates Monday. Through his attorney in Missouri, he pleaded not guilty to resisting arrest and various other charges stemming from his July 14 arrest.

His next hearing is Oct. 5. Richardson is not required to attend.

Richardson is allowed to be with the Jets this week. His four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy starts this weekend, and the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is facing a possible longer ban based on the outcome of the charges he’s facing after police alleged he tried to elude them during a street race.

The police report stated that Richardson was clocked going 143 mph with a 12-year-old relative and a concealed loaded gun in the car. The arresting officer “smelled a very strong odor of burned marijuana emanating from the vehicle and all passengers smelled of burned marijuana.”

Though he’s only facing misdemeanor charges, Richardson is still subject to up to a year in jail if found guilty.

Last week, Richardson told reporters it was “pretty tough” to not know when he’ll play football again and that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could deliver a stiff penalty under the league’s personal conduct policy.

“It’s a cloud over my head,” Richardson said.

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Lesser charges for Justin Hunter

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The charges against Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter stemming from a July 3 incident in Virginia Beach have been lessened to misdemeanor assault and battery, per The Tennesseean.

His trial begins next week, and a Friday statement from state prosecutors said information gathered from interviews with witnesses “better supports the charge of assault and battery.”

Prosecutors said that Hunter punched another man several times, which led the alleged victim to go to the hospital to be treated for a broken jaw. After being released on a $25,000 bond, Hunter was placed under a court-ordered curfew that runs from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and barred from drinking alcohol.

The Titans are hoping this can be the year Hunter puts it all together on the field. The NFL has monitored the case but Hunter has not been subject thus far to any league or team discipline.

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Rich McKay reinstated as head of NFL competition committee

Rich McCay AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Falcons president Rich McKay on Wednesday and has reinstated McKay as the head of the league’s competition committee, effective immediately. McKay was suspended from the competition committee as part of the team’s penalty for pumping fake noise into the Georgia Dome during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The NFL concluded McKay was unaware of the artificial crowd noise but “bared some responsibility for ensuring that team employees comply with league rules.” McKay’s suspension began April 1, and he was eligible to apply for reinstatement after June 30.

A co-chairman since 1998, Goodell promoted McKay to head of the competition committee in 2011.

The Falcons were fined $350,000 and docked a 2016 fifth-round draft pick as part of the punishment.

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Joe Thomas compares NFL to WWE, Goodell to Vince McMahon

Joe Thomas, Mike Pettine AP

Browns left tackle Joe Thomas had an interesting take on Tom Brady and DeflateGate on Sunday when Cleveland-area reporters asked the eight-time Pro Bowler about it.

Per Pat McManamon of ESPN, Thomas likened the NFL to professional wresting and compared NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to WWE chairman Vince McMahon, saying the NFL is an “entertainment business” and that “basically, Goodell is Vince McMahon.”

That may not go over well with Goodell, but Thomas said the NFL set up a “sting operation” on Brady and ultimately gave him “the death penalty” for what Thomas said equated “to driving 66 [MPH] in a 65 zone.”

But Thomas said Goodell is making headlines and that “his predecessor did not act unreasonably” in dealing with such matters. Thomas sees football air pressure as a non-story but said he understands that everything is a story in today’s game.

“I’m not sure if [Goodell] realizes what he’s doing is brilliant, but what he’s doing is brilliant because he’s made the NFL relevant 365 [days] by having these outrageous, ridiculous witch hunts,” Thomas said. “It’s made the game more popular than ever and it’s become so much more of an entertainment business and it’s making so much money.

“That’s why I’m sure there’s plenty of people saying this is embarrassing for the league. But it’s an entertainment business when it comes right down to it. When the game gets eyeballs in newspapers and on TV, that’s what in the end is the goal for everyone. And that’s what this controversy is giving them.”

More of what Thomas said is posted here in McManamon’s blog.

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Delmas has ACL injury

Delmas AP

As the Dolphins try to avoid another late-season collapse that wipes them out of playoff contention, they’ll be dealing with an injury that wipes a starting defensive player out of the lineup for the rest of the year.

Via Adam H. Beasley and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, safety Louis Delmas suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during Sunday’s loss to the Ravens.

Delmas, who signed with the Dolphins after spending five years with the Lions, started 12 games for a Miami team that entered Sunday’s game at 7-5 but that now sits at 7-6, good for ninth in the six-team playoff seeding.  And the Dolphins travel to New England on Sunday.

Rookie Walt Aikens is the next man up in a secondary that has had several next men up in recent weeks.

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Christie signs bill allowing sports betting in New Jersey

Chris Christie AP

New Jersey hasn’t given up on its sports betting dreams.

On Friday, Governor Chris Christie signed a new sports wagering bill into law, and the Monmouth Park horse racing track in Oceanport announced it would begin taking bets on Sunday, October 26.

In a statement released by Christie’s office Friday, the governor said the bill “closely adheres to controlling federal law.”

The federal law in question is the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, passed in 1992. The law has effectively limited sports betting to a few states, with Nevada the only state that’s been able to offer single-game wagering.

That Monmouth would plan to start taking sports wagers on a Sunday shouldn’t come as any surprise. The ability to legally wager on NFL games figures to fuel a good deal of the public interest in sports betting in the state.

However, New Jersey might not be home free just yet. The NFL has more than a week to legally challenge New Jersey’s betting plans, something it successfully did just last year in conjunction with other athletic leagues and governing bodies, including the NCAA and NBA.

The NFL declined comment Friday night about New Jersey’s designs on sports betting.

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Winslow calls suspension a “huge surprise”

Winslow AP

And the streak of NFL players suspended for use of PEDs but who didn’t intend to use PEDs continues, unbroken.

Jets tight end Kellen Winslow says he didn’t know he had ingested a banned substance.

“It came as a huge surprise to me when I learned that I tested positive for a banned substance,” Winslow said in a statement, via Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com.  “I have investigated all possible sources since learning of the positive test, including possible medical causes but frustratingly, I do not know the source.  I do not take supplements that list any banned ingredients, but NFL policy is very strict so I am accountable for the results.  I sincerely apologize to my teammates, coaches and Jets fans for this situation I will work extremely hard during this time away from the field and look forward to contributing as soon as the suspension end.”

So instead of claiming that he took a supplement that had been spiked or that he took Adderall (which had become the non-stigmatizing PED), Winslow has basically played the “I tested positive but didn’t cheat” card.

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NFLPA tells agents to report any hint of collusion

NFL Players Association Annual State of the Union Press Conference Getty Images

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has told agents that the union has “heard reports of a concern that teams are working in concert” to “set” player compensation, NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported Wednesday.

Smith expressed this view in a letter to agents in which he asked them to share any evidence gathered of collusion among teams in free agency should they have it, Breer reported.

The news of Smith’s letter comes three weeks into free agency. Though the start of the 2013 league year brought some lucrative longer-term deals, such as the one the Dolphins gave wideout Mike Wallace, the free-agent market has been far from overheated.

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New Jersey to offer fantasy sports games at casinos

Atlantic City Skyline (file / credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

Next month, Atlantic City casino patrons could begin to get the chance to play fantasy sports for prizes.

Beginning April 22, New Jersey will allow Atlantic City casinos to conduct fantasy sports contests. In short, you will be able to put together a fantasy team and play for casino winnings.

Participants in the fantasy games, according to the proposed regulations crafted by the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, will “(compete) against other against other patrons or a target score for a predetermined prize.”

“The casinos’ vast customer base and the ability to have contest winners utilize the casino cage to accept entry fees for fantasy sports tournaments and pay out winnings resulting from those tournaments provides an exciting opportunity to bring fantasy sports tournaments to Atlantic City,” said David Rebuck, the division’s director. “We see this as an added amenity and beneficial to the casinos and their customers.”

With New Jersey’s bid to offer sports betting suffering a big setback recently in federal court (the state is appealing), a move into the fantasy games realm for Atlantic City is rather intriguing.

One issue to watch is whether the state draws any sort of legal challenge to these plans.

Generally speaking, fantasy sports are viewed more kindly by the law than sports betting, with the federal Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act of 2006 drawing a legal distinction between wagering on a game and participating in fantasy sports. A reading of the 2006 betting law and New Jersey’s proposed regulations shows some clear similarities – which is likely no accident. Also, the proposed regulations for the fantasy games make it clear that the games are not considered to be gambling in the division of gaming enforcement’s eyes.

Overall, professional sports leagues seem to view fantasy sports in a favorable light. The NFL, in fact, offers its own fantasy football game. On NFL.com, one of the first words to the right of the NFL shield is “FANTASY” in block letters.

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Federal judge rules for NFL, other leagues in N.J. sports betting case

SportsBetting-300x199 Getty Images

The NFL, other major sports leagues and the federal government scored a legal victory Thursday when a federal judge ruled in favor of their efforts to block New Jersey’s plans to offer sports wagering.

In a written opinion granting a permanent injunction blocking New Jersey from enacting sports betting, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp ruled that existing federal gaming law, which limits sports betting to just four states, is constitutional.

State Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, a supporter of expanding gaming in New Jersey, told multiple media outlets Friday that the state plans to appeal the ruling.

In an email to PFT, NFL vice president of corporate communications Brian McCarthy said that the “ruling speaks for itself.”

In addition to the NFL, the NCAA, NBA, NHL and MLB are plaintiffs in the suit against New Jersey, which ramped up its efforts to offer sports betting last year.

This isn’t the first time sports leagues have fought expanded efforts to wager upon their games. The NFL and other leagues previously fought Delaware’s plans to offer a wide array of sports wagering. The state is allowed to take parlay, or multi-game bets, on pro football games.

The ruling is also a victory for Nevada, the only state that can offer single-game sports betting.

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49er Demarcus Dobbs arrested after single-car accident

Eric Weems, Demarcus Dobbs AP

You can fill in one inactive for the 49ers’ game against the Rams right now.

Defensive tackle/tight end Demarcus Dobbs will not travel with the team to St. Louis after he was arrested early Friday following a single-car accident. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that Dobbs has been charged with a pair of misdemeanors for the accident, which occured around 3:45 a.m. in Santa Clara.

“He was involved in a crash and we suspect he was under the influence of alcohol,” California Highway Patrol Officer D.J. Sarabia said. “He was not injured and he was also arrested for possession of marijuana.”

Dobbs has been a key part of the teams’ special teams units in all 11 games this season. He turned 26 on Friday, which may explain the late night. The 49ers released a statement on Friday about their response to the arrest.

“The 49ers are aware of the recent matter involving Demarcus Dobbs. We are gathering the relevant facts as it pertains to this situation,” the statement reads. “We have been in contact with both Demarcus and the League office. He will not be making the trip to St. Louis, and we will reserve further comment at this time.”

The 49ers promoted linebacker Michael Wilhoite from the practice squad. Per Maiocco, he should be active and playing on special teams Sunday.

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Leroy Hill arrested for marijuana possession

Sam Bradford, Leroy Hill, Roy Lewis AP

Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill is in trouble with the law again.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune reports via the Atlanta police department that Hill was arrested for marijuana possession.

According to the police reports, cops were called to an apartment after a complaint regarding the “strong odor” of marijuana. The police investigated and found a few “blunts.” Hill and his girlfriend were arrested. He had less than an ounce of marijuana on him.

As NFL arrests go, this one is pretty benign.  But it could spell trouble for Hill, who has been arrested three times in the last three years. Two of those arrests were related to marijuana, so Hill was in the league’s substance abuse program.

The timing couldn’t be much worse for Hill. He’s about to be a free agent, and it’s hard to imagine him getting a job anytime soon with a possible suspension hanging over his head.

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Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas arrested

Chicago Bears Training Camp Getty Images

Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas was arrested early Monday morning in Morgantown, West Virginia and charged with a misdemeanor for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana.

The West Virginia MetroNews Network reports Thomas was pulled over going the wrong way down a one-way street. When the former Mountaineer was asked for his registration, he opened his glove compartment and pulled out a bundle that contained two bags of what appeared to be marijuana.

(Always keep the weed and the registration separate!)

The sixth-round pick in 2011 spent last year on injured reserve. He was back in his college town raising money for his foundation. Thomas was the subject of a great profile during Super Bowl week. His foundation deals with children with epilepsy and he surprised one boy he met at team holiday event by bringing the boy to the Super Bowl.

It’s uncertain if Thomas was already in the league’s substance abuse program, but he will be part of it now.

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David Boston faces battery charge after alleged assault of woman

D. Bostonmugshot

Former Cardinals receiver David Boston is just about the least surprising former player to show up back in the news after an arrest.

ABC 25 in West Palm Beach cites a police report that Boston was charged with aggravated battery on Wednesday. Boston allegedly punched a woman twice in the head, leaving a gash that required 10 stitches.

One woman who lived with Boston (but was not the one beaten) said she witnessed Boston drink a bottle of vodka, a bottle of wine, and take some pills on Wednesday. Boston was supposedly set to move out into a nearby hotel.

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