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Josh Norman responds to Odell Beckham, says he’s only relevant “because of a catch”

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, file photo, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) and Carolina Panthers' Josh Norman (24) battle during the first half of an NFL football game in East Rutherford, N.J. Beckham  isn't changing the way he plays, just the actions that led to his recent one-game suspension for multiple violations of safety-related playing rules. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File) AP

The last time Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. were on the same field, the pair racked up multiple personal foul penalties and fought on the turf at MetLife Stadium. Beckham was suspended for a game while Norman was fined.

To say Norman is looking forward to the first meeting between his Washington Redskins and Beckham’s New York Giants this season would be an understatement.

According to Peter Sblendorio of the New York Daily News, Norman responded to Beckham’s comments that insisted the only reason Norman was “relevant” was due to his skirmish with Beckham.

He’s relevant because of a catch,” Norman said. “But we’re not gonna go there. I’m not into the war of words.”

After completely “going there,” Norman then recited the date of the first meeting between the two teams this season and the chance to face Beckham on the field once again.

“Sept. 25 we’re gonna put that to the test,” he said. “We’re gonna see what that look like.”

Beckham caught six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in last year’s game against Norman and the Carolina Panthers. His 1,450 receiver yards was fifth-most last year. His 13 touchdowns were tied for fourth-best.

While Beckham is clearly more than just one catch (his one-handed snag as a rookie against Dallas), Norman was clearly relevant before lining up against Beckham as well. But never let the truth get in the way of good smack talk.

Whichever officiating crew draws the duty of working the Redskins-Giants game in Week 3 will likely come in with orders to keep things from getting out of hand after Terry McAulay’s crew lost control of Beckham and Norman last season. All eyes will be on the matchup throughout the game and any transgression from either party could quickly result in action by the officiating crew. The continued verbal shots back-and-forth make that almost inevitable.

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Watt could be out up to 10 weeks

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  NFL player J.J. Watt attends the Launch of J.J. Watt's New Signature Sneaker, The Reebok JJ I at ArtBeam on June 23, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Reebok) Getty Images

NFL Media has grown to the point where it is capable of having NFL Media-on-NFL Media crime. Sort of.

Incumbent national insider Ian Rapoport and newcomer Mike Garafolo are having a bit of a hard time harmonizing their real-time Twitter reports regarding the expected absence of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt after undergoing back surgery.

Rapoport initially pegged it as a 6-8 week absence, squeezing him to be ready for Week One. Garafolo then suggested that 10 weeks could be the total recovery time.

That prompted Rapoport to note that Watt could require more than 6-8 weeks, which isn’t what was initially said.

Rapoport thereafter dumped the “6-8 week” thing entirely, calling eight weeks the “best case” scenario.

Watt suffered, according to Rapoport, a herniated disc. He felt the symptoms while working out on his own, which technically makes it a non-football injury.

Regardless of how long he’ll miss, news of Watt’s injury is the first example of the reality that, despite what anyone predicts about the coming season, injuries will happen — and they potentially will change everything. For the Texans, their best player already has been bitten by the bug.

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Report: J.J. Watt back injury happened “very recently”

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans reacts in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The Chiefs won 30-0 against the Texans.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt recently had back surgery. The procedure occurred not because of a lingering problem that he had decided to treat with rest or other strategies not involving a scalpel.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Watt’s the injury that resulted in surgery occurred “very recently.”

If it happened since the end of the offseason program, Watt would be a candidate for the non-football injury list, a designation that applies to ailments not occurring within the confines of official team activities. Placement on the NFI list or the physically unable to perform list makes no difference, as a practical matter — unless Watt would miss regular season games and the Texans would exercise their prerogative to not pay him.

They’d surely still pay him. Per Rapoport, it probably won’t come to that; Watt’s recovery time will be 6-8 weeks.

Still, the high side of that estimate definitely puts Watt up against Week One, against the Bears. Then there’s the question of whether he’ll be 100 percent or close to it that quickly.

It won’t be a surprise if the Texans take their time with Watt, ensuring that he’ll be as close to full strength before throwing him into the week-in, week-out grind that wore him down in 2015. With five seasons already completed, the team needs to manage him now with an eye toward keeping him around as long as possible.

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J.J. Watt undergoes back surgery, to start camp on PUP

151210 watt2 Getty Images

J.J. Watt has endured a number of injuries and hasn’t missed a game yet.

But there’s reason for concern as the Texans’ superstar defensive end was about to head to training camp.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Watt has undergone back surgery, and will open camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Watt is expected to be fine by the start of the regular season.

Watt played through a number of problems last year including a broken hand and had offseason surgery for a sports hernia. But he’s continued to make himself available and play at a dominant level, so he’s earned some benefit of the doubt.

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Jaguars have no plans to sign Greg Hardy now, but could later

05-greg-hardy.w529.h352 Getty Images

Yes, the Jaguars gave free-agent defensive end Greg Hardy a visit and a workout. No, they won’t be signing him, yet.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the Jaguars wanted to learn more about Hardy so that they’ll know more about him if at some point down the road they need him.

That could be in a week. That could be in a month. That could be late in the regular season or in the postseason.

If they’d been blown away by Hardy, they likely would have signed him now. As it stands, they were doing their due diligence regarding who he is as a player and his issues in Carolina and Dallas.

The Jaguars first considered the possibility of looking at Hardy in March, but they deliberately waited to see how he conducted himself during his search for work.

Moving forward, the Jaguars know more about him if they find themselves in a situation where they urgently need help at a position that doesn’t have many competent free-agent players readily available. They now know more about Hardy, and it’s possible that at some point down the road they’ll make a move.

It means they haven’t slammed the door on signing him. But there’s no guarantee he’ll be walking through the door in the near future, or ever.

Whatever and whenever they make a decision, the move won’t be influenced, we’re told, by public reaction to the possible move. The Jaguars want to win, Hardy is eligible to be signed, and the possibility that someone will criticize the team for giving him another second chance won’t be a factor.

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Eric Winston says young players don’t realize Commissioner isn’t neutral

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 27:  Eric Winston #73 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

A decade ago, Roger Goodell became the NFL’s Commissioner. A decade ago, NFLPA president (and Bengals tackle) Eric Winston entered the league as a rookie with the Texans. And Winston had a much different view of the man who runs the league.

“Most [rookies think] the commissioner is this independent body and is autonomous from anything else,” Winston told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. “Guys have thought that for a long time. You just assume that’s the way it is — that he does a little bit of everything, growing the game, making sure things are taken care of. Then you realize that’s really not the case. At the end of the day, he’s the owners’ representative and that’s really it.”

During the 2011 lockout, the league tried to sell the notion that Goodell is the Commissioner of the entire game, answering to all of its constituents. Ultimately, however, the Commissioner works at the will and pleasure of the owners of the 32 NFL teams, and no one else. The entire world can despise him; if the 32 people with final say on behalf of the franchises they represent love him, that’s all that matters.

It doesn’t even take 32. It presumably would take at least 17 if not 24 owners to get rid of him. Which means that he needs to keep as few as 16 or even only nine owners on his side. And no one else.

“You’d think a commissioner, just from a union standpoint, would be worried about things like worker safety, and forcing labor and management together,” Winston said. “Find things that don’t divide us, keep us going on the right path, make sure our problems don’t fester, that’s what guys look for.”

Some would say that’s what the NFL should have. And some (like me) think that one of the NFL’s potential nightmare scenarios would be the creation of an independent federal commission that would fill that role, conclusively and completely taking away from the 32 owners their ability to control their business under the leadership (real or controlled with strings, buttons, or levers) of a “Commissioner” whose mere presence will cause plenty of people to think that the person running the sport doesn’t reside in the back pocket of the people who own the teams.

For Winston, the misimpression lasted until 2011, when he witnessed the labor negotiations that resulted in a lockout that dragged through the offseason.

“You kinda assume he’s gonna be the referee,” Winston said. “You then realize he’s just there aiding the owners.”

Winston realizes that’s simply the system.

“It’s not Roger,” Winston said. “It’d be that way with anyone. Ideally it’d be an autonomous position where he can say whatever to whomever. He should be able to back owners off, and back players off. That’s always been my view, that it should be a consensus builder . . . a guy who is worried about doing the right thing, not anything else. That’s hard. It’s idealistic. It’s not the way the world works.”

The world only will work that way if the NFL and its Commissioner ever push the envelope so far that Congress decides the NFL (and possibly other sports leagues) require oversight aimed at ensuring everyone involved in the taking of physical risks and the creation of billions in revenues is treated properly and fairly.

Some would say that kind of governmental regulation should never occur. Others would say that, without that kind of regulation, the playing field will always be tilted in the favor of the people who hold the pink slips of the NFL’s 32 franchises.

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Gipson: Ramsey ahead of his time, demands respect

jalen-ramsey-042916-getty-ftrjpg_1qkn7u8h8br4n1ajqgeg94igt8 Getty Images

New Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson was a guest on Sirius XM NFL Radio Thursday, and Gipson spent a chunk of that interview singing the praises of one his new teammates, rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Gipson said Ramsey has the presence of “a five-year veteran” and said Ramsey is “an amazing athlete” who’s impressed his older teammates with his willingness to improve and learn.

“He understands that he’s got to work,” Gipson said. “He’s always talking to me, trying to pick my brain. And one of the things that I see in him is that he’s eager to learn and one thing about him is that I don’t think that the stage is going to be too bright for him.”

Gipson signed with the Jaguars as part of the team’s big-spending first few days of free agency. The Jaguars drafted Ramsey at No. 5 overall in April.

Gipson said Ramsey reminds him of his former Browns teammate, two-time Pro Bowler Joe Haden, “where he just demands that respect. You know when Jalen’s in the room because his presence and just his understanding about the game. I love the dude, I love his game and I love his understanding.”

Ramsey had knee surgery that forced him out of much of the team’s spring work, but he’s said he plans to be ready when the Jaguars report to training camp next week.

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Jaguars kick tires on Greg Hardy

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 7: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins passes the ball against defensive end Greg Hardy #76 of the Dallas Cowboys in the first quarter at FedExField on December 7, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ray Rice wants back in to the NFL, but his skills aren’t sufficiently unique. Greg Hardy’s apparently still are.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, free-agent defensive end Greg Hardy spent the last two days visiting with and working out for the Jaguars.

Hardy, who spent last season with the Cowboys, has become a notorious figure in league circles, due to his May 2014 domestic violence incident and ensuing suspension and some of his behavior during his only season in Dallas. His efforts to find new employment since becoming a free agent in March had, to date, been unsuccessful.

The Jaguars have been compiling talented players on both sides of the ball, and the football operation realizes that time is running short to become a true contender. With Hardy in the rotation at pass rusher in a division with quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, and Brock Osweiler, the Jacksonville defense could be improved.

The move isn’t without P.R. risk, and the reaction locally and nationally to the news of the flirtation with Hardy could influence whether he’s signed. Is the criticism is loud and widespread, they may back away. If the news comes and goes without a major fracas or brouhaha, maybe they’ll roll the dice.

But if the goal is to win games and if coach Gus Bradley believes he can manage Hardy and if the organization is willing to take the heat for giving Hardy his latest second chance, Hardy could be getting a chance to earn a roster spot during training camp and the preseason.

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Fitzgerald says he feels good, isn’t counting years

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Janoris Jenkins #21 of the St. Louis Rams looks to tackle Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on December 6, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is about to start his 13th NFL season, and he recently said that anyone talking about Fitzgerald being near the end of his career hasn’t talked to him.

I can play as long as I need to,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald will turn 33 during the preseason, but he’s been both durable and productive. Fitzgerald has only missed six games in his career — and just two since 2007.

His 109-catch, 1,215-yard season last season marked his sixth season of at least 90 catches and seventh over 1,000 receiving yards. He was named to his ninth Pro Bowl, too.

Fitzgerald spoke as part of a program with equipment maker Riddell called “Riddell Smarter Football.” He’s always been a good spokesman for the game, and his longevity shows he’s a great example of how to lengthen a career.

“My body feels good,” he said. “I still like the mental preparation. The only thing that changes is people’s perception about you when you reach a certain age.”

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Dez Bryant’s lawsuit against Royce West could have unintended consequences

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys takes the field before the Cowboys take on the New York Jets at AT&T Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, faced with a lawsuit filed by a former member of his inner circle, has opted to engage the battle with a lawsuit of his own. The ensuing legal tit-for-tat could have unintended consequences for Bryant.

State Senator Royce West, who previously served as a trusted advisor to Bryant, launched the process by suing Bryant for trashing a rental home. Instead of defending those claims on the merits, Bryant exercised his right to countersue West, accusing West and non-party (for now) David Wells of various misdeeds regarding Bryant’s financial interests, including a claim that West and his law firm took more than $300,000 from Bryant and that Wells “absconded” with more than $200,000 in endorsement funds. The lawsuit reportedly seeks an award of “exemplary” (also known as punitive) damages against West.

Officially, West responded by threatening another lawsuit against Bryant and his lawyer for defamation, calling Bryant’s allegations “lies and frivolous.”

Unofficially, West and Wells could be in position to create plenty of havoc for Bryant. Parties in contentious litigation routinely resort to tactics that on one level are aimed at helping the case and that on a deeper level are aimed at causing mischief — either to leverage the opponent into a settlement or to make the opponent miserable. That’s why lawyers consulting with parties reviewing their options in such situations need to ask questions like this: (1) what’s the worst thing about you that isn’t publicly known?; (2) is there any way the people you’d be suing know about this or within the confines of the litigation will uncover it?; and (3) are you comfortable with that information becoming publicly known?

West and Wells surely know everything there is to know about Bryant, and the claims against West will eventually give West a platform and an incentive to make these things known — and to characterize them as negatively as possible. If Bryant is claiming that West and/or Wells should have made better or more marketing deals on Bryant’s behalf, they’ll have a natural opening to delve into and/or otherwise expose anything and everything that would have made Bryant far less marketable to potential sponsors that his lawyers will argue that he was or should have been.

The fact that Bryant pursued this strategy suggests either that these questions were asked and he’s fine with the possible consequences of giving West (and perhaps Wells) an incentive to use their inside information to make Bryant look bad, or that the questions weren’t asked. If it’s the latter, and if there’s anything that West and/or Wells know about Bryant and can use to paint him in a negative light, there’s a good chance that, if the litigation continues, they eventually will.

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Patriots cut two; Cardona becomes team’s lone long snapper

Christian Yount AP

The Patriots trimmed their roster by two players Thursday, waiving undrafted rookie linebacker C.J. Johnson and long snapper Christian Yount.

Yount was the Browns’ long snapper from 2011-14 before being released in May 2015. He had signed with the Patriots in April.

The release of Yount leaves Joe Cardona as the lone long snapper on the Patriots’ roster as the team heads to training camp and seems to affirm that Cardona will be available to play in the NFL this season. He’s a graduate of the Naval Academy who has a service commitment to fulfill.

Cardona was a fifth-round pick of the Patriots in 2015 and handled all of the team’s long-snapping duties last season.

The Patriots signed Johnson in May. He was a four-year contributor at Ole Miss, where he played both defensive end and linebacker.

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Packers president: We don’t know much about Matthews, Peppers PED investigation

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 2: Julius Peppers #56 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with Sam Shields #37, Letroy Guion #98, and Clay Matthews #52 after scoring against the Minnesota Vikings on an interception in the second quarter on October 02, 2014 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL is investigating whether Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers used performance-enhancing drugs, as alleged in an Al Jazeera investigation. But the team is staying out of it.

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said at today’s shareholders meeting that the investigation, which has led to a clash between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, is between the league and the players.

“The league is pursuing that,” Murphy said, via Michael Cohen of the Journal Sentinel. “I know there’s been some resistance from the NFLPA about the credibility of some of the sources there. But I don’t think we know much more than that.”

The Al Jazeera documentary named Matthews, Peppers, former Packer and current free agent Mike Neal, Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Peyton Manning. The players have denied any wrongdoing.

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Titans want Dorial Green-Beckham to get in better shape

Dorial Green-Beckham AP

Based on talent alone, there aren’t many better wide receivers than Tennessee’s Dorial Green-Beckham. But the Titans want to see Green-Beckham put in the hard work to get the most out of his talent.

The Titans’ website says the team needs Green-Beckham to return to Nashville in better shape. Green-Beckham has vowed to do that and has already lost some weight.

As a rookie last year, Green-Beckham played well, with 32 catches for 549 yards and four touchdowns. But the team wants him to be more consistent this year.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, Green-Beckham has rare speed and agility for a man his size. He had an extremely promising start to his college career at Missouri but got into trouble off the field repeatedly and was eventually kicked off the team. He didn’t play football at all in 2014, so he was rusty as a rookie last year. Now the Titans want to see Green-Beckham put it all together.

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Ray Rice makes last-ditch effort to return to NFL

Ray Rice AP

Ray Rice thinks the window on his NFL career is closing. In reality, it’s already been nailed shut.

But he has one last plan for busting it open and extending his tenure. Rice tells USA Today that, if he gets another chance to play pro football, he’ll donate his entire salary to domestic-violence related causes.

“Me donating my salary is something that’ll be from the heart for me,” Rice said. “I only want to play football so I can end it the right way for my kids and for the people that really believed in me. But I know there’s a lot of people affected by domestic violence, and every dollar helps. It’s raising awareness.”

The gesture may be from Rice’s heart, but it’s also from a mind that understands a desperation play is needed to change a status quo that has resulted in no sniffs ever since the Ravens cut him on September 9, 2014. Given the supply of running backs, Rice’s age, his performance in his most recent NFL stint (already three seasons ago), and the pariah status he acquired at 345 Park Avenue through both the notorious elevator knockout video and his successful effort to overturn an indefinite suspension imposed after the video surfaced, Rice is done.

Even if the vow to donate his salary finally washes away the tarnish of his behavior, Rice still plays a dime-a-dozen position  featuring a never ending glut of young players having low minimum salaries and maximum tread on the tires.

Bills coach Rex Ryan has praised Rice in the past. A year ago, however, Ryan said Rice wasn’t an option because the team didn’t have needs at tailback. This year, with the Bills reportedly sniffing around Reggie Bush in the wake of the Karlos Williams suspension, a need exists. But there’s still no interest in Rice.

If the Bills and Ryan aren’t interested, why would anyone else be? For more than a full football season and all of a second offseason, no one has shown any desire to sign Rice. His vow to donate his salary to charity likely won’t change that.

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Steelers release veteran tight end Spaeth

Matt Spaeth, Vincent Rey AP

The Steelers released veteran tight end Matt Spaeth Thursday with a failed physical designation.

A third-round pick of the Steelers in 2007, Spaeth played seven seasons for the Steelers. He played for the Bears in 2011-12 before returning to the Steelers as a blocking tight end and occasional complement to Heath Miller in 2013.

Spaeth, 32, had knee surgery in January. He’s played in 123 career games and has 55 career receptions, 10 for touchdowns.

The Steelers signed Ladarius Green from the Chargers in March following the retirement of Miller, and young tight end Jesse James might have cut into Spaeth’s playing time even if Spaeth was healthy.

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