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Falcons linebacker gets suspension reduced to $50,000 fine

bartu Getty Images

Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu slid his paperwork in under the deadline, and saved himself a couple of games.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Bartu had a two-game suspension turned into a $50,000 fine for an alcohol-related offense last season.

Last year, Bartu pleaded no contest to a DUI, and got a two-day suspended sentence and a year of probation, and in March the league suspended him for two games.

But the league changed its policy last year, calling for two-game suspensions for DUIs which weren’t resolved before Nov. 1.

Bartu reached the plea agreement in late October, but didn’t appear before the judge until November. He was able to provide the league documentation of the deal before the deadline, so they circled back and amended his punishment.

See, the league is willing to work with punished players when “new information” comes to light.

Wonder if it will catch on?

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Former players file 2nd lawsuit claiming teams pushed painkillers to mask pain

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In December, Judge William Alsup dismissed a lawsuit brought by former players against the NFL claiming that team doctors urged players to use prescription painkillers to mask pain that might have kept them on the field without proper explanation of the risks involved with such medication.

Alsup ruled that the Collective Bargaining Agreement covered such a grievance and that “these benefits may not have been perfect but they have been uniform across all clubs and not left to the vagaries of state common law.” Alsup also suggested that the claims should be made against teams and not the league. That decision has been appealed and now a group of former players has filed another lawsuit against the 32 NFL teams on similar grounds.

The Associated Press reports “hundreds of former players” have filed suit in the U.S. Northern District of Maryland claiming that team doctors and trainers provided painkillers, sometimes illegally, “as part of a decades-long conspiracy to keep them on the field without regard for their long-term health.”

“This lawsuit alleges intentional activity by the teams, not negligence,” plaintiffs’ attorney Steve Silverman said. “It’s another part of a unified effort to provide health care and compensation to the thousands of former players who have been permanently injured or died as a result of playing professional football.”

The lawsuit also claims that several coaches, including Don Shula, Mike Holmgren and Wayne Fontes, told players that their jobs were in jeopardy if they didn’t take painkillers in order to return to the field. Players also allege that prescriptions for the medication were filled out without in their names without their knowledge.

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NFL suspends Marcell Dareus for Week 1

Marcell Dareus AP

Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will miss the season opener against the Colts.

The NFL announced today that Dareus has been suspended without pay for the first game of the regular season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Dareus can participate in the offseason and preseason, but he won’t be able to practice or play during Week One.

Dareus, who was arrested last year on charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, acknowledged that the suspension was warranted.

“Last year, I made a mistake involving possession of a banned substance,” Dareus said in a statement. “The NFL’s discipline for this conduct is part of the drug policy, and I apologize to my family, my teammates, the entire Bills organization and Bills fans that I will miss one game as a result of my mistake. I will work intensely that week and will be extremely happy to contribute to a win in week two for the Bills.”

Dareus has been to the Pro Bowl the last two years. He’ll be missed by the Bills in the first game of the season.

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Raiders special teams coach says new rule doesn’t change much

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Is the NFL’s new extra point rule much ado about nothing?

It is according to Raiders special teams coach Brad Seely, who said in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he thinks an extra point kick snapped from the 15-yard line is still close to a sure thing, while a two-point conversion attempt from the 2-yard line is still less than a 50-50 proposition.

“The ball is still on the 2, if you want to go for two, the conversion rate is 48 percent. The kickers are going to have to prove that they can’t convert those kicks from the 15,” Seely said.

Although there has been some talk that the extra point now becomes a harder play in bad weather, Seely doesn’t see it that way.

“It cracks me up, all these teams that are in the north are saying they’re at a disadvantage, they’re not at a disadvantage. They’re playing the other team on the same field. Let’s say you’re in Buffalo and there’s a blizzard going on, that’s going to maybe changing your thinking. The other part of that is, you still have to score from the 2 in a blizzard,” Seely said.

What does change for a special teams coach is that a blocked extra point can now be returned by the defense. Seely said he made a point of explaining that rule before it was even officially voted on.

“We were just coaching that up yesterday in the OTA for our field goal team,” Seely said. “I said they’re going to change the rules today probably and we always have it in there on a PAT in a fire situation – throw it up. Nothing bad is going to happen. Just let it go. Now you’ve got to treat those PATs like field goals, you got to make good decisions if you’re the holder or the kicker with the ball. You can’t do a Garo Yepremian, and throw it up in the air, now it could easily be two points.”

That’s a discussion every special teams coach will have to have with his players. But other than that, the new extra point rule may not change much about the way special teams are coached in the NFL.

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Tell us about your most unexpected NFL memorabilia find

Gus Frerotte figurine

There has never been a better time to find sports apparel and memorabilia. Titans fan in Alaska? Saints fan in Spain? There are numerous websites to find what you seek. (Including, we will add helpfully, this one.)

However, the knick-knacks we find unexpectedly can be the most enjoyable to secure.

And sometimes, we find them in the oddest places.

For instance, on Sunday, I picked up the Gus Frerotte figurine pictured here for a cool $1.99 in a dollar/discount store. I went in looking for old-school sports apparel, and I came out with . . . well, a Gus Frerotte action figure with a head sized disproportionately big relative to the rest of its body. It’s now in my home office, to be treasured until it is “accidentally” lost in a move or a spring cleaning.

eBay can be a treasure trove for interesting older NFL stuff. For a time in college, I collected vintage NFL ski caps. (The Steelers one, it should be noted, is an original; I would suspect I’ve had that since 1983.)

Anyways, with Bud Grant’s spectacular garage sale on the mind, let’s open it up to PFT Planet. What’s the best piece of NFL memorabilia or apparel you have ever found in an unexpected place? It can be any memento, and it can be from anywhere you weren’t looking — maybe a garage sale, a yard sale, a strange outlet mall, an unlicensed vendor selling knock-off stuff outside a stadium.

Let us know in the comments. And vote in the poll, which concerns all NFL memorabilia, regardless of where you got it.

Have fun.

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Incorrect report emerges that NFL will announce Rams return to L.A. in August

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A day after the latest flurry of developments regarding the NFL’s inevitable return to Los Angeles, Glen Walker of KTLA took it to the next level.

Walker reported Thursday that the NFL will announce in August that the Rams will return to Los Angeles.

In response, multiple reports have shot down Walker’s report. Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times did it more generally, with this tweet: “You might hear some reports that the NFL has already decided the LA site/team(s). There is a scientific word for reports like these: Bogus.”

Even if the Rams will eventually be returning to L.A., the NFL surely won’t be announcing that in August. As of August, the Rams would still have a full season to play in St. Louis. After the mess than unfolded in Cleveland when the Browns announced in November a plan to move to Baltimore, the NFL learned that these issues can’t come to a head when a team still has games left to play in its current town.

Besides, the NFL is committed to its formal relocation process. The window to apply for relocation won’t open until late in the 2015 season, at the earliest. Then, the application must be considered and approved, before a move can be announced.

None of that will happen by August. Which means that there’s no way the NFL will announce that the Rams or anyone will be moving to Los Angeles in August.

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Saints sign Andrus Peat

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The Saints aren’t sure where Andrus Peat will fit on their offensive line, but they do have him under contract.

The team announced Thursday that they have agreed to terms with the first of their two first-round picks. Peat, like all first-rounders, signed a four-year deal that comes with a team option for a fifth year that must be exercised in the offseason after his third professional season.

Peat was the 13th pick in the draft after a career at Stanford that saw him make 27 starts over the last two seasons. He was the left tackle in Palo Alto last season, but has been talked about as a right tackle in the NFL often enough that current Saints right tackle Zach Strief thinks Peat will eventually replace him in the starting lineup.

The Saints haven’t said when or if that will happen and even offered the possibility that Peat could kick inside to guard, where they are looking to replace the traded Ben Grubbs. Peat will have to wait a bit to continue working with the team because of Stanford’s schedule, but should compete for a job on a line that needs to improve this year once he returns to the team.

With Peat signed, the Saints have now agreed to contracts with their entire 2015 draft class.

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Ryan Tannehill: I’m really excited to have DeVante Parker

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill signed a contract extension that runs through the 2020 season this week that was a bet on his future by the team after three promising years that have ended without playoff berths.

The team reworked Tannehill’s receiving corps during the early stages of the offseason by welcoming Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and tight end Jordan Cameron while saying goodbye to Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and tight end Charles Clay. They then added wide receiver DeVante Parker with their first-round pick in a move that has left Tannehill excited about what the former Louisville wideout can bring to the offense.

“I like what I see so far. He’s an athletic guy. Fast, strong hands, adjusts to the ball really well,” Tannehill said during a Thursday appearance on PFT Live. “He’s a natural pass catcher, he doesn’t fight the ball and it’s easy for him to make the tough catch. A guy with that range, his body size and natural pass catching ability, I’m really excited to have him and like what I’ve seen thus far.”

Tannehill also talked about his growing comfort level with the other new targets and his hope that the offense can be more productive in the red zone and on deep balls this year. Many have pointed to a bad relationship with Wallace as a big part of those problems, but Tannehill avoided pointing fingers at anyone for those shortcomings in 2014 by saying that there were a variety of reasons why the team struggled in those areas.

The Dolphins obviously don’t think Tannehill was a major part of those problems and we’ll find out relatively soon if Parker and company were the right prescription for the offense.

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Blair Walsh has had “a little bit of communication” about extension

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Vikings got good immediate returns on their decision to draft kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round of the 2012 draft when Walsh went on to make the Pro Bowl after hitting on 35-of-38 field goals.

Walsh made all 10 of his tries from 50 yards or beyond that season and another good year in 2013 seemed to signal a long stay for Walsh in Minnesota. Things didn’t work out quite as well for Walsh last season, however. He only made 74.3% of his field goal tries and missed three kicks inside of 40 yards, which leads him to acknowledge the need to be “better” in 2015 even if he doesn’t think “wholesale changes” are necessary.

Walsh’s struggles haven’t stopped the team from opening up talks about an extension before Walsh’s contract is up at the conclusion of this season. Walsh said there’s been “a little bit of communication” about a deal he’d like to stay so he can remain in Minnesota.

“I would love to stay a Viking. This is the team that drafted me and put that faith in me to be an NFL kicker,” Walsh said, via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “But at the same time, I’ve had a Pro Bowl year here, I’ve had success and there’s been a lot of long attempts that we’ve made, so the numbers are going to have to be right for both of us. But when it comes down to it, I hope I can stay with the Vikings.”

It would be tempting to say that the Vikings’ move outside hurt Walsh’s accuracy last season, but only four of his nine misses came during Vikings home games and three of the road misses came at Ford Field. An extension now might come at a lower price than Walsh could command after a better 2015 season, but the security at a position that doesn’t usually come with a lot of it may be worth the trade.

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Another year, another Bud Grant Garage Sale Spectacular

Bud Grant AP

Former Vikings head coach Bud Grant is having yet another garage sale.

And he has a Twitter account to tell you about it.

Yes, the 88-year-old Hall of Famer has a verified Twitter account, but he’s using it only to get the word out about the garage sale, as he told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“I opened it out of necessity. I was looking at the want ads in your paper, and nobody buys the paper for the want ads anymore,” Grant said, according to the Pioneer Press. “So I had to find a way to advertise and get out the word. I opened a Twitter account, and I’ll close it as soon as the garage sale ends.”

So about this garage sale: it began Wednesday — Grant’s birthday — and it runs through Friday. Both hunting enthusiasts and Vikings fans would appear to have to some options. As a 1990s kid, this Starter jacket looks especially appealing. And really, you can’t really attach a value to this, or this.

Grant had a garage sale last year, so this year’s sale is indeed a pleasant surprise.

And it appears there’s plenty of interesting stuff from which to choose.

Especially that Starter jacket.

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Appeals court upholds settlement in lawsuit on retired players publicity rights

Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Dave Robinson, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Curley Culp, Warren Sapp AP

Back in 2013, the NFL reached a settlement with retired players who had brought a lawsuit over compensation for the use of their images but some retired players disagreed with the resolution and filed an appeal.

The Associated Press reports that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that upholds the $50 million settlement.

The players objected to the fact that the settlement did not provide for direct payments to players. Instead, it establishes a $42 million fund designed to help retired players with things like housing, career transition and medical needs in the coming years. The settlement calls for the fund to be administered by a group of retired players.

“The benefits of this settlement to the class are plain: it will assist those who most need assistance, and will resolve the very problem that this lawsuit seeks to address by allowing former players true access to the value of their rights of publicity,” U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson wrote in 2013. “Every hour of attorney time spent opposing the settlement only diminishes the value of that settlement to the members of the class.”

Money has also been set aside to set up a licensing agency to handle future publicity needs for retired players. Players who have yet to retire will also be able to use that agency in the future.

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Chargers owner says he still wants to stay in San Diego

Chargers' President and CEO Spanos is pictured during a news conference at the team's NFL headquarters in San Diego Reuters

The Chargers have looked into sharing a stadium with the Raiders in Carson. They’ve bought land. They have Carmen Policy working on the behalf of the stadium they might move into.

But team chairman Dean Spanos keeps saying he wants to stay in San Diego, even though he hadn’t seen the mayor’s advisory group’s proposal prior to leaving the owners meetings yesterday.

“I think they submitted some sort of framework of a potential financing plan,” Spanos told Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego. “That’s what we’re going to take a look at this week . . . I’ve always said, and I maintain the fact we want to stay in San Diego. We’re committed to keep trying to see if there is a viable solution. It has now come down to a financing plan, so I am anxious to see what the city puts forth.”

Spanos said he was going to look at the plan when he returned, and he may have already.  But the clock is ticking, especially with momentum building to have a team in Los Angeles by 2016.

Owners heard proposals from both L.A. stadium groups, as well as from potential movers the Chargers, Rams and Raiders.

“I know what the San Diego market is all about,’ Spanos said. “I’ve been there for 31 years. It’s a great market. This is all going to come down to: Can we find a viable solution from a financing perspective?”

That’s not even a thinly veiled threat, for a guy with all the cards, and the possibility of a new stadium for a team that has been looking for one for years.

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Teddy Bridgewater: I want to be like Brett Favre

Teddy Bridgewater AP

There are high hopes for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater heading into his second NFL season and Bridgewater has some high hopes of his own when it comes to the quarterback whose career he’d like to emulate over the coming years.

Bridgewater was asked the question while accepting the 2014 Pepsi Rookie of the Year award and he named a former Vikings quarterback as the player whose path he’d like to follow. Based on his answer, though, it isn’t Brett Favre’s Minnesota swan song that he has in mind.

“If I could be like any other quarterback that played in the National Football League, I would have to say Brett Favre is the guy,” Bridgewater said, via the Pioneer Press. “Besides the injuries and the hits and everything, he had a pretty successful career. He’s a hall of famer for sure, multiple Super Bowls, and that’s something that I look forward to doing. Hopefully, I can win more Super Bowls.”

Given the lack of Super Bowl victories in Vikings history, the franchise would probably settle for a tie with Favre on that front. They’d also probably settle for a career that falls short of the statistical heights Favre reached if it means Bridgewater is a productive starter with Favre’s durability who can consistently land them ahead of the Green Bay team that Favre led past the Vikings many times during his own career.

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Kraft says refusing to fight the NFL was best for the Patriots

Kraft Getty Images

Patriots owner Robert Kraft says that in refusing to fight the league’s punishment for Deflategate, he wasn’t just doing what was best for the NFL. He was also doing what’s best for his own team.

Responding to criticism from some in New England that Kraft quit when he should have fought, Kraft said he firmly believes that he did the best thing for his franchise.

I only care about our fans,” said Kraft, via CSNNE.com. “I did my part to be a good partner, I think. The most important thing to me is that the fans of the New England Patriots know that I’m always trying to look out for our team’s best interests now. I think this was in the best long-term interest of the team.”

It may be tough for Patriots fans to swallow that they have to give up next year’s first-round draft pick and their 2017 fourth-round pick, and somehow accepting that is the best thing for the team. But Kraft is looking to play the long game and get in the good graces of the league, including perhaps doing what will aid Tom Brady in the appeal of his four-game suspension.

From that perspective, Kraft decided that he’d rather take his medicine than battle the league.

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Rex Ryan fired up to have Andre Reed join staff for the summer

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: Football player Andre Reed attends the NFL Inaugural Hall of Fashion Launch Event at Pillars 37 on September 16, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage) Getty Images

The Bills might think they have some good receivers on their roster, but the best one in training camp will be a coach.

Via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, the Bills will have Hall of Famer Andre Reed working as a coaching intern this summer.

“When I heard he was interested we jumped all over that opportunity,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “Bringing in a Hall of Fame receiver, one of Buffalo’s own, we are really excited about it.”

Reed’s working as part of the Bill Walsh coaching internship program, named after one of Reed’s fellow Hall of Famers to promote minority coaching opportunities. Reed also worked an internship with the Chiefs previously.

“He was really enthused about getting this opportunity and working here,” Ryan said. “It is special. This is his team. I think that will be great. . . .

“Anytime you can bring that expertise to your team, we jumped at it. Really excited to have Andre Reed to help our guys out this summer. The funny thing is that when I saw him I could not believe what he looked like. He looks like he could still play.”

While it’s a good opportunity for Reed to continue to learn and grow as a coach, it’s perhaps a bigger benefit for Ryan and the Bills.

A lot of Ryan’s job there is to create energy, and to convince players winning can happen in Western New York, where pertinence is missed as much as playoff appearances. Having a guy who was there for the Bills’ glory days can only help in that regard.

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