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Replay review still could end up being done only at league office

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When the NFL changed the replay rules in 2014 to permit the league office to be involved in the process of reviewing a call on the field, the end result happened only after it appeared that the league would take the function completely out of the stadium and move it exclusively to 345 Park Avenue.  That still could occur.

Giants co-owner John Mara recently explained that the league office may assume full control over the replay system in the future.

“We had discussion about whether those reviews should be made from the command center in New York and the final decision made there or whether it’s made by the on-field official,” Mara said regarding the 2015 Competition Committee meetings.  “I still think that we’re heading closer to a situation where those calls will ultimately be reviewed and determinations made by the command center, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.  But I think we are getting there.”

It’s a change that would make plenty of sense.  With every referee potentially applying a different standard for assessing whether indisputable visual evidence exists to overturn the call on the field, having one central location for assessing the calls and making the decision ensures that a referee won’t surrender to the temptation to re-do the decision instead of giving it the extreme deference that the replay standard provides.

Of course, business considerations may result in the referee still having a role in the process.  With Microsoft and Bose paying the league millions for sponsorships based in large part on product placement, having the referee grab a tablet and slap on a set of headphones during the replay review could advance the bottom line, even if the referee eventually becomes a bystander.

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Friday morning one-liners

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WR Percy Harvin thinks he can “show the world I can be an every down receiver” with the Bills.

The Dolphins have to continue investing in their offensive line.

Cameron Fleming’s versatility is useful to the Patriots offensive line.

Jets CB Darrelle Revis plans to join his former team at the White House next week.

WR Michael Campanaro is working for a bigger role in the Ravens Offense.

The Bengals made a big donation to the University of Cincinnati.

Browns WR Andrew Hawkins shows off his fast feet.

Former Steelers DE Brett Keisel was honored with the Bob Prince Award in Pittsburgh.

A vote against the Texans picking a receiver early in the draft.

An early guess at the Colts’ starting lineup in September.

Said Jaguars coach Gus Bradley of LB Paul Posluszny, “Out of all those three traits we have a guy like that with Poz, who has that humility and intelligence and that warrior spirit. It’s hard to find those three traits.”

The Titans set the dates for their annual spring caravan.

William & Mary’s Tre McBride and Michigan State’s Keith Mumphrey are a pair of wide receivers who visited the Broncos.

The Chiefs are one of the teams waiting for medical evaluations from this weekend’s combine re-checks.

The Raiders website takes stock of the team’s running backs.

How real is the trade talk swirling around Chargers QB Philip Rivers?

Five areas the Cowboys can improve via the draft.

The Giants don’t have the best history when it comes to drafting offensive linemen.

New Jersey Governor and noted Cowboys fan Chris Christie ran into Brian Westbrook and some Eagles fans at a recent event.

The Redskins held a forum with fans about their gameday experience.

Safeties are on the draft radar for the Bears.

What will the Lions do with the fifth-round pick they acquired this week?

Reminiscing about the life of late Packers PR man Lee Remmel.

RB Adrian Peterson will be back on the Vikings active roster Friday, but will he stay there?

Falcons LB Paul Worrilow is working to improve his mobility.

Looking back to when the Panthers traded the first overall pick of the 1995 draft to the Bengals, who picked RB Ki-Jana Carter.

Former Xavier basketball player Sydney Coleman will work out for the Saints.

What would the Buccaneers helmet look like if redesigned for the Star Wars universe?

A bet against the Cardinals trading for Adrian Peterson.

DT Michael Brockers is happy to leave the gaudy stats to other members of the Rams defensive front.

The 49ers are confident that the turf at Levi’s Stadium will hold up under a heavy workload.

How big a draft need is wide receiver for the Seahawks?

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C.J. Spiller finding it so hard to say goodbye to Buffalo

C.J. Spiller AP

Even though he’s found someone who wants him, and even though that might be a better professional situation for him, it was still hard for C.J. Spiller to leave.

As the now-Saints running back was packing up his things in Buffalo, he told Tim Graham of the Buffalo News that he didn’t realize how difficult it would be to go.

I thought it would be a smooth cleanout,” Spiller said. “But you start packing up and keep coming across something that brings all the memories flooding back to you. It starts sinking in that you’re moving on. . . .

“I’ll always be a Buffalo Bill at heart. This is where my journey began. I’ll always have love for this city and look forward to watching them play and look for them to get back to where they belong. This is a special place, and I can tell they’re building something special.”

Of course, the Bills never built around Spiller the way it seemed they might after taking him ninth overall in 2010. Part of that was on him, part on old coaches and part on a deep depth chart at his position, but Spiller only hinted at his ability.

His 2012 Pro Bowl season of 1,703 yards from scrimmage was the outlier rather than the norm, as coaches struggled to involve him, particularly in the red zone. That became increasingly difficult under Doug Marrone the last two years.

“It was frustrating,” Spiller said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I was happy about the situation because I would be lying. Like any competitor, you want to be on the field, trying to help your team win, trying to score touchdowns. To have the opportunity … I don’t want to say ‘taken away.’ I guess I should say ‘to not be given the opportunity’ because of my size was tough. . . .

“Probably a young, college No. 28 would’ve said some things,” he said. “But I grew as a player by watching guys like Fred [Jackson] and Marshawn [Lynch] prepare and from guys like Kyle Williams.

“Just watching the way Kyle Williams competed each and every Sunday, how he battled through injuries, how he gave it his all, his passion for the game, the energy he brought to the locker room and the way he handled himself off the field. Those are the things you take with you.”

Now, he’ll be splitting time in the Saints backfield with Mark Ingram, a situation not unique to him. But given the way coach Sean Payton has used guys such as Darren Sproles in the past, there’s no reason to think Spiller won’t have an impact in New Orleans.

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Will #DeflateGate report come before the Patriots visit the White House?

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Saturday marks the three-month anniversary of the AFC title game, which sparked the #DeflateGate scandal.  And there’s still no resolution to the question of whether the Patriots used footballs that became accidentally or deliberately underinflated.

Upon hiring Ted Wells to participate in the investigation, the NFL placed no timetable upon the project.  His prior effort on behalf of the NFL (the Dolphins bullying scandal) resulted in a full report roughly 3.5 months after Jonathan Martin left the team.  And that appeared to be a much more complicated situation.

It’s unclear why Wells hasn’t finished his work yet in this specific case.  As a reader has pointed out, it’s unlikely that Wells will release his report before next Thursday, when the Patriots visit the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl win.  Even if the report fully and completely exonerates the Patriots, putting the issue back on the front burner as the Patriots prepare to hang out in the Rose Garden with the Commander-in-Chief would add a degree of awkwardness that neither the NFL nor the administration would appreciate.

If the report will be issued before the draft, that leaves a fairly narrow window for getting it done, assuming the penalty will include the removal of 2015 draft picks.  Even if it doesn’t, the Patriots need to know whether they’ll have their full complement of picks as they finalize their plans for the draft.  At some point, they’ll have to just assume they do — unless and until they find out that they don’t.

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Rams add Brett Hundley, Garrett Grayson to workout list

Brett Hundley AP

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley wants to hear his name mentioned alongside Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston and we’re going to make that wish come true.

Sort of, anyway. Hundley isn’t going to be under consideration for one of the first few picks in the draft like the other two quarterbacks, but he is right next to them on the list of players who have worked out or are scheduled to work out for the Rams.

The Rams worked out Mariota in Eugene, Oregon on Thursday, have a workout scheduled with Winston and Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Hundley is on the docket as well. Thomas also reports that the team will work out Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson along with a previously reported visit with Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

It’s the kind of approach you’d expect the team to take based on coach Jeff Fisher made a vow to draft a quarterback earlier this offseason. With the 10th pick, the Rams aren’t likely to take one in the first round but the other three quarterbacks (and perhaps Oregon State’s Sean Mannion as well) will all be in play as the draft moves into the second and third days.

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DeMeco Ryans “definitely” will be ready for training camp

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Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans tore his Achilles for the second time in his career last season, which isn’t the sort of thing that you like to do more than once but at least it gave him a comparison point for his current rehab.

Ryans says that tearing his Achilles in the past gave him the confidence to know he’d make it back from this injury and added that his recovery is going better than it did in 2010. Ryans plans to take things slow for the rest of the offseason before making a full return when the Eagles open up training camp this summer.

“My recovery is going really great,” Ryans said, via CSNPhilly.com. “I haven’t had any setbacks. Everything is right on schedule. I’ve been out on the field doing some running, put the cleats on last week, doing some position drills. I’m in the weight room lifting with guys, doing everything they’ve been doing. I feel really good with where I am right now in the recovery phase. With the OTAs and minicamps, I’ll ease my way back into those. I’m not going to rush it. But I’ll definitely be ready to go full go during training camp.”

How they’ll integrate Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso at inside linebacker remains to be seen, but the Eagles showed they believe Ryans will make it back earlier in the offseason. They tacked a year onto his contract, which was set to expire after this season, and guaranteed him $6.25 million to continue as a leader on their defense.

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Panthers, Thomas Davis working on a contract extension

Thomas Davis AP

Because of the way he’s played the last two years, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has moved on from just being “three-time ACL tear guy” to “really good linebacker.”

As a result, the Panthers want to make sure he sticks around.

Davis’ original post-lockout extension has been restructured four times, and is scheduled to expire after next season. And with a cap hit that’s nearing $10 million, the team has incentive to work out a deal to keep him in place.

We’re trying to get something worked out. It’s a process, but I’m not stressing over it one bit,” Davis told Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “Really and truly, I just want to be here. I want to play football here. If I’m not playing here, I’m not playing football.”

Davis has repeatedly said he won’t play for another team, so deep is his bond with the club that shepherded him through his run of ridiculous injury luck. And as they did with tight end Greg Olsen, they’re expected to hang onto one of their core players.

At 32, Davis is closer to the end than the beginning of his career, but is still playing at a high level to justify adding a few years to his deal. And the bond between the player and his bosses is such that both sides will be glad to keep him around.

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Jets bringing Leonard Williams in for a pre-draft look

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You get the sense the Jets might like to draft a quarterback, though sitting at No. 6 overall, that’s unlikely.

So the next best way to improving might be to continue to stockpile weapons on defense, and their draft visitors point to the notion that’s a strong possibility.

Via Darryl Slater of NJ.com, the Jets are bringing in Southern Cal defensive lineman Leonard Williams for a visit. Some consider Williams the best non-quarterback available in this draft.

While that might seem like a duplication with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson on hand, Wilkerson’s currently away while he waits on a new contract. So if Williams fell into their lap, it might be something that’s hard to pass up.

The Jets have also spent a ton of time with pass-rushers, with Vic Beasley the latest to visit, joining Shane Ray, Dante Fowler, Bud Dupree and others.

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Browns work out Garrett Grayson

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If the Browns can’t work out a trade to move up for Marcus Mariota in the first round of the NFL draft, their next option could be taking Garrett Grayson in the second round.

The Browns visited Colorado State and had a private workout with Grayson, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports.

The Browns own the No. 12 and No. 19 picks in the first round, and there’s been talk that they could package those picks to move up and draft Mariota. But if that doesn’t work out, Grayson would likely be available with their second-round pick, No. 43 overall.

Grayson is coming off an excellent senior season at Colorado State in which he was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year while completing 64.3 percent of his passes and gaining 4,006 yards, with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But there’s a big difference between the Mountain West and the NFL, and not everyone is sold on him as an NFL passer.

The Browns don’t seem to think Johnny Manziel has much of a future in Cleveland, which means Josh McCown is the short-term answer, and some other quarterback will be the long-term solution. Perhaps that other quarterback will be Grayson.

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Dez Bryant has attorney send cease-and-desist letter to adviser David Wells

Dez Bryant AP

David Wells served as an adviser for Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant through the last few years while Bryant continually ran into problems off the field.

Now Bryant is trying to cut some of his ties with Wells.

According to Jean-Jaques Taylor of ESPNDallas.com, Wells was sent a cease-and-desist letter from Bryant through lawyer Jordan Siev in order to end their formal business relationship. It also noted that Bryant had previously revoked power of attorney privileges for Bryant from Wells.

Per the report, the matter is part of the reason why Bryant has yet to get a new long-term deal with Dallas as the Cowboys want Wells to remain involved with Bryant.

Wells has helped Bryant stay out of trouble after multiple incidents that included being barred from a Dallas area mall and a domestic incident involving his mother. He has also assisted in securing marketing deals for Bryant in the past. Bryant now wants that handled by his agency, Roc Nation.

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Steelers put Troy Polamalu on reserve/retired list

Troy Polamalu AP

The Steelers officially placed safety Troy Polamalu on the reserve/retired list on Thursday.

The transaction appeared in the NFL’s daily personnel notice.

By putting Polamalu on the reserve/retired list, the Steelers retain Polamalu’s rights should he ever choose to return to action. Also, he no longer counts against the roster. In the event he ever wanted to return to the NFL, the Steelers would have to decide whether to add him to the roster or to release him to free agency.

Polamalu announced his retirement last week. He was under contract for two more seasons (2015, 2016).

The Steelers have 71-of-90 roster spots taken, but space will fill up quickly as draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents enter the fold.

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Adrian Peterson article on Cowboys website probably doesn’t amount to tampering

Adrian Peterson AP

Last year, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones arguably violated tampering rules via a “pig Latin” phone conversation with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, during which Peterson expressed an interest in playing for the Cowboys and immediately after which Jones didn’t alert the Vikings to the comments from Peterson.  The NFL did not punish the Cowboys in any way.

With Peterson reinstated on Thursday following a suspension under the personal conduct policy, the website operated by the team Jones owns posted an article regarding the impact Peterson would have on the roster.  It looks and feels like tampering.  Based, however, on the plain language of the NFL Anti-Tampering Policy, the article doesn’t constitute tampering.

“Articles that appear on the website of a club that identify prospective free agents that the team might be interested in, or that rate prospective free agents, shall not be considered violations of the Anti-Tampering Policy unless they include a direct quote or expression of interest by an employee of the club (other than the author of the article) about a specific player,” the policy states.

The article, written by Rob Phillips, argues that the Cowboys should be interested in Peterson, but it contains no direct quote or expression of interest by any employee of the club, other than the author.  So it doesn’t appear to be tampering, as tampering is defined by a policy that is rarely enforced even when tampering obviously has happened.

That said, Peterson isn’t a “prospective free agent”; he’s under contract for three years. Given that the NFL rarely whacks a team for tampering even when the evidence is clear, the NFL may find a way to wedge Peterson within the language of the rule that allows articles on team websites.  We’ve asked the NFL to clarify the policy as applied to this situation.

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Report: Damion Soward’s death declared a homicide

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A coroner has reportedly declared the death of a man who shared living quarters with Lawrence Phillips in a California prison to be a homicide.

According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Damion Soward died of neck compression asphyxia, or strangulation, The Associated Press reported.

Soward died Sunday after being found stricken the previous day in his cell at the Kern Valley State Prison.

Phillips, 39, has been named as a suspect in Soward’s death.

A first-round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, Phillips is serving a 31-year sentence on multiple assault charges.

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Bucs say lawsuit doesn’t affect draft plans

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On Thursday, a lawsuit alleging sexual assault was filed against quarterback Jameis Winston.  The contention was widely known for months, and a lawsuit always was considered to be a possibility.

So the Buccaneers weren’t surprised, and they apparently are undeterred.  According to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, Buccaneers officials say that the lawsuit will have no impact on their draft plans.

Technically, this doesn’t mean the Bucs will be drafting Winston.  It just means the lawsuit doesn’t change their plans.  Whatever those plans may be.

Implicit in the information from Cummings is the notion that no portion of the lawsuit will change their plans, including the contention at paragraph 13 that “a second woman had come forward and reported being sexually assaulted by Winston.”  Which implies that the Buccaneers knew about the second allegation, and that they properly studied it in reach the point at which the filing of the lawsuit won’t impact their draft plans.

It’s also possible that the lawsuit and the information in it will indeed impact the team’s draft plans, but that they’d never actually admit that with only two weeks to go until the draft.

Beyond what the Buccaneers knew then and what they know now is the public reaction to the lawsuit.  That could ultimately change the team’s plans, regardless of whether they’ll ever admit that the plans have changed or could change.

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No talks between Chiefs, Justin Houston

Chargers' Rivers passes under pressure from Chiefs' Houston during their NFL football game in San Diego Reuters

In February, the Chiefs applied the franchise tag to linebacker Justin Houston, who piled up 22 sacks in 2014.  The two sides negotiated (unsuccessfully) not long before the tag was imposed.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, no talks have happened since then.

Owner Clark Hunt has said that the Chiefs eventually will get Houston signed to a long-term deal.  They have until July 15 to do it, or they’ll have to wait until after the regular season finale to try again.

In the interim, another team can sign Houston to an offer sheet, if that team is willing to give up a pair of first-round draft picks.  That’s not expected to happen before the 2015 draft; however, the window for signing Houston to an offer sheet extends beyond the 2015 draft.  Which means that an offer sheet from another team accepted by Houston and not matched by the Chiefs would result in Kansas City receiving 2016 and 2017 first-round picks as compensation.

That’s precisely what the Vikings planned to do in 2008, when they eventually sent a first-round and third-round pick to the Chiefs for defensive end Jared Allen.  But for that trade, the Vikings would have kept those picks, putting first-round selections in 2009 and 2010 on the line.

It’s unclear whether anyone will take that chance with Houston.  Every year, plenty of coaches and General Managers sit on the hot seat.  All it takes is one G.M./coach to roll the dice with draft picks they may not be there to use, anyway.

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