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Domestic violence prevention group wants Ray Rice to get chance

Ray Rice AP

Ray Rice still doesn’t have much substantial interest, but he is building a base of people behind him, pushing for him to get another chance to play in the NFL.

Via Adam Schefter of ESPN, the co-founders of a national anti-domestic violence group are calling for Rice to get another chance. Coupled with the support of former coach Greg Schiano, they’re hoping it gets him an invitation to a training camp.

Both Tony Porter and Ted Bunch, co-counders of “A Call To Men,” have worked with Rice since November, and they think he deserves a chance to play.

“We have been around a lot of abusive men, but our experience with Ray has been tremendously positive,” Porter said this weekend. “We feel strongly about him having the opportunity of having a second chance. He’s deserving of it.”

Porter and Bunch have worked up-close with Rice, watching him speak to athletes at Rutgers and at his old high school, sharing a message about learning from mistakes and growing from the.

“He’s held himself accountable,” Bunch said. “He is saying everything that you would want him to say and doing everything that you would want him to do. So why wouldn’t he deserve another chance? His work in the area of educating young men is more important than him getting back on the field. He knows that and has said that to us. He is seeing the bigger picture. He has a desire to compete again, but also to make a difference in the world. This is what mistakes should be about; learning from them and teaching others. We’ve been in front of a lot of batterers. He is as transparent as I’ve seen, and as sincere as I’ve seen.”

He’s also coming off a 3.1 yards per carry season the last time he played football. While Rice’s contrition might be pure and his intentions good, that could ultimately be the thing keeping him off the field when players such as Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson are both on it, and handsomely rewarded.

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Sammy Watkins: It’s a problem if we don’t make playoffs

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Getty Images

Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins has spent the offseason recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, something that allowed him to slow down after a whirlwind first year in the NFL.

Watkins thinks that’s a positive, saying that his body “feels great” heading into training camp and that he was able to spend time focusing on the coaching he was getting from new receivers coach Sanjay Lal over the last few months. Watkins says the wideouts were “kind of limited” by the coaching last season, but that Lal’s coaching has given him a greater understanding about how to succeed in the NFL.

Watkins’s individual success is going to be tied to quarterback play and that may not work out well for him statistically unless someone wildly overperforms the meager expectations for the Bills signal callers. Watkins isn’t letting it limit his expectations for the team, though.

“Winning, playoffs, championship,” Watkins said, via the Buffalo News. “We’ve got a great team and great coaches. I mean, there’s just no way we shouldn’t be in the playoffs or win a championship. I mean, with the team and coaches and staff that we have, and what they’re doing to bring us together, I think that there’s no doubt that we should win our division and be in the playoffs. It’s a problem if we don’t.”

The defense and collection of skill position players definitely look ready to make a run at a playoff spot in Buffalo. It’s tough to win with the offensive line and quarterback play playing at a low level, however, and the Bills have to get more from those spots before they can mount a serious playoff push.

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Roger Goodell checks out virtual reality system, Vikings too

Allen & Co. Media And Technology Conference Getty Images

Maybe STRIVR Labs made a virtual reality appeals simulator, and when Roger Goodell went to check it out, that’s causing his delay in announcing his Tom Brady decision.

Either way, the NFL commissioner has checked out the rapidly expanding technology, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

Goodell toured their facilities last week, to get a sense of what the company is doing for an ever-expanding list of teams.

The Vikings are the latest to sign on, with Teddy Bridgewater set to benefit from the same immersive training that other quarterbacks are getting their hands on to get extra reps without the chance of contact.

The Cowboys, 49ers and Patriots have signed on with STRIVR, while the Buccaneers are with rival EON Sports.

Perhaps Goodell could use the program to review games in real time, perhaps streamlining the fine process as well.

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Six more teams report to training camp today


A handful of teams have already opened training camps, primarily with just rookies.

Today, the numbers get another boost.

The Bengals, Broncos, Jaguars, Rams, 49ers and Buccaneers will have rookies report today to kick things off.

Veterans in most camps will show up the middle of the week, and by the weekend, everyone will have reported.

The Lions will be the last team to check in, as their veterans report for work on Aug. 2, after their rookies show up tomorrow.

So if you were planning on getting anything else done this offseason, we suggest you start quickly.

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LeSean McCoy changes his party from ladies only

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy has indeed proceeded with his pre-camp party. But he has made some changes to his plans.

In an Instagram post issued Sunday evening McCoy announced his plans. The full text appears below, without edit or correction.

“Since the media and Internet took my before camp party outta context, I had to switch up my party strategy,” McCoy said. “So tonight I’ll be inviting everyone to my back to business party . Featuring DJ @DonaldTrump on the 1’s and 2’s . Special invited guests @RexRyan , @chipKelly ,@Rogergodell , my man Barack .oprah, Carli Llyod , and even that terrible waiter with the awful service from the burger joint is invited. Don’t bring your Id because there won’t be any alcohol anyway. Open smoothie bar all night tho . Don’t worry bout the confidentiality agreement. No only are ladies invited but everyone is invited , except hulk hogan he can’t come . Maybe even @meekmill and @drake will hit the stage together . Turn up time party time !!!!”

It’s unclear how “the media and Internet” took the original party plan “outta context,” given the contents of the original ladies-only invitation and the bizarre information provided to anyone who expressed an interest in attending.

Regardless of what McCoy previously intended, the revised plan is a smart move, even if it came at the urging of the Bills or the league office.

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Jameis Winston quickly realizes NFL has no offseason

Winston AP

In past years, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston spent the time that wasn’t football season playing baseball. This year, he devoted his offseason exclusively to football. And he has learned something.

“The thing about the offseason is you really don’t get an offseason,” Winston told WTSP-TV, via “You got to continue to work, continue to prepare. I feel like I’ve got better.”

One of the narratives that point to Winston being more Peyton Manning than Ryan Leaf comes from the reality that he has yet to go all in on football — and that when he does he’ll be even better at football.

Soon, we’ll all find out whether there’s any merit to that concept, starting with Winston starting his regular-season career against the quarterback taken one spot after Winston in the draft, Marcus Mariota of the Titans.

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Joe Philbin didn’t come to Miami to be “average”

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Coach Joe Philbin has guided the Dolphins for three seasons, to a record of 23-25 and no playoff berths. He knows that’s not an acceptable track record.

I came here to win championships. I didn’t come here to be average and be 8-8,” Philbin told James Walker of “Steve Ross doesn’t own the team to be average. Our fans don’t want to be average. Our players don’t want to be average. So that’s what we’re here for. That’s why we invest and put the effort, the time into what we do.”

Of course, no coach or owner or fan base aspires to be average. But the 256-game zero-sum exercise known as an NFL season necessarily means that some teams will be good, some teams will be bad, and some teams will be average.

“There’s three championships right now that are out there: There’s the AFC East, there’s the AFC and there’s the NFL championship,” Philbin added. “So nothing’s been decided. I can honestly tell you sitting here we’ve had a couple of clunkers in three years. But we haven’t had a ton of clunkers where we just got manhandled from start to finish. So I’ve gone into every game thinking we’re going to win every game.”

Under Philbin, they’ve won nearly as many games as they’s lost, making them average at best. And average is better than bad; the Dolphins have been in contention for a playoff berth in each of the last two season.

At some point, however, they need to bust through the postseason ceiling or Ross will be looking for another coach who won’t be coming to Miami to be average, even if that’s precisely what he ends up being.

For now, Philbin is simply doing what every coach should be doing. Building plausible hope and viewing the glass as half full, so that the customers will, too.

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Hall of Fame emphasizes 8-10 minute speeches for 2015


The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s policy that family members of posthumously-inducted enshrinees won’t be permitted to speak at the ceremony was intended to streamline the event. The fact that plenty of the living enshrinees choose to drone on and on (and on) when at the podium only prolongs it.

After last year’s filibuster free-for-all, which featured too many speeches that went on for far too long, the Hall of Fame has spent plenty of time communicating the preferred duration to this year’s new entries.

“We have emphasized to the guys the importance of keeping their speeches within the 8-10 minute range,” Hall of Fame spokesman Joe Horrigan recently told PFT. “That coupled with the presenter videos and unveiling of their busts will make for a terrific representation of their careers and capture their emotions.”

Of course, unless the Hall of Fame plans to employ an Oscars-style orchestra, a giant hook, or a large curtain, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop someone who chooses to not to drop the mic but to cling to it.

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Darius Slay: Not much difference between Detroit’s D and Seattle’s

Alshon Jeffery, Darius Slay AP

The Seahawks are widely regarded as having the best defense in the NFL over the last few years, but Lions cornerback Darius Slay says the defense in Detroit is as good as the defense in Seattle.

We’ve got the same kind of talent they got,” Slay told the Detroit Free Press. “They ain’t too much different. They got a pass rush, they’ve got DBs, we’ve got DBs. They’ve got ‘backers, we’ve got ‘backers.”

Slay said the Lions’ defense deserves comparisons with Seattle’s.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “We were one of the best defenses in the league. I mean, we were the No. 1 defense for like, I don’t how long, until the last few weeks of the season.”

Those last few weeks of the season, however, are significant — as are the playoffs, where the Seahawks have had a lot more success than the Lions. Throw in the fact that the Lions lost their best defensive player in Ndamukong Suh, and it’s hard to see much of a comparison between Detroit’s defense and Seattle’s, no matter what the players in Detroit may think.

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Keenan Lewis on Junior Galette: Give him a chance

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

In a story about the Saints’ decision to release linebacker Junior Galette, Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Galette had a poor relationship with his teammates that took a turn for the worse after Galette signed a long-term deal with the team last year.

One unnamed Saint said “the real Junior came out” after he got paid, which went along with a locker room fight to paint a picture that doesn’t make much of an advertisement for future employment. Cornerback Keenan Lewis had a friendlier appraisal of Galette when asked about his former teammate at Lewis’s annual youth football camp.

“You know, that’s a guy who I think is a good guy. Probably made a couple of bad decisions lately, but I don’t want people to judge him,” Lewis said, via the New Orleans Advocate. “Give him a chance, give him an opportunity. Wish the best for him. Don’t talk down on him and say this guy’s that. Like they say, don’t ever judge a book from the first two pages. Always read the middle.”

Safety Kenny Vaccaro was also at Lewis’s camp and stuck to Galette’s football ability while discussing the departure.

“I really didn’t follow all the stuff closely,” Vaccaro said. “Junior’s a great player, he played his heart out every game. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have him, because he’s a great pass rusher.”

The Saints felt comfortable moving on without Galette in spite of what they might lose in pass rush, but it doesn’t sound like cheers for his departure were totally unanimous in the New Orleans locker room.

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Jamaal Charles leads athlete oath at Special Olympics World Games

Opening Ceremony Of The Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 Getty Images

Anyone who has watched NFL football in recent years knows Jamaal Charles can move.

But watching him move the crowd at the opening ceremony at last night’s Special Olympics World Games last night might be the biggest highlight of his career.

Charles took the stage at the Los Angeles event last night to lead the participants in the Special Olympics athlete oath — “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

And before he did, he took a moment to recount his own boyhood, when was diagnosed with a learning disability and competed in the Special Olympics himself.

“I was afraid. I was lost,” Charles said. ” When I was a boy, I had trouble reading. I found out I had a learning disability. People made fun of me. They said I would never go anywhere. But I learned I can fly. When I was 10 years old, I had the chance to compete in the Special Olympics. That’s right — the Special Olympics gave me my first chance to discover a talent I did not know I had.”

Charles has many talents, on the field and off, as the video linked above confirms.

It’s something every fan of Charles should see, and one that will create many more fans for the Chiefs running back.

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Ben Roethlisberger: We want to score 30 points a game

Ben Roethlisberger AP

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has already shared his opinion that this year’s offense is probably the best collection of talent that the team has had since he came aboard in 2004.

Now that the team has started training camp, it’s time for them to prove it on the field. The Steelers set a franchise record by scoring 436 points last season and Roethlisberger wants to see the group put even more points on the board this time around. He’s setting a goal of 30 points per game, which some might argue is what they need to do in order to make up for a defense that was ineffective last season and is filled with uncertainty headed into this year.

Roethlisberger disagrees with that take, although his optimism about that unit isn’t changing his goals for the offense.

“I feel they’re going to take what happened last year to heart,” Roethlisberger said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I know there’s some change there with [new defensive coordinator Keith] Butler and coach [Dick] LeBeau being gone and some new guys. But they’re really starting to come along. They’re a fast, physical group. It’ll be neat to see what they do this year. But we still want to score 30 points a game because that is our goal.”

Plenty of players set goals heading into the season and this is one of the more attainable ones we’ve heard heading into the 2015 campaign. If they do, Roethlisberger’s still going to have to be right about the defense coming along for it to equal an improvement on last year’s one-and-done trip to the playoffs.

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After Deflategate, NFL instructs refs to inspect footballs more closely

Broncos Panthers Football AP

NFL referees have been given detailed instructions for closely inspecting footballs in response to Deflategate.

In what former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira terms “an overreaction” to the controversy, the NFL told officials this weekend that they will have to change the way they go about getting footballs ready for play.

Under the new rules, the referee will designate two members of his staff to inspect every football submitted by each team to make sure they’re inflated to between 12.5 PSI and 13.5 PSI. Any footballs that fall outside the prescribed specifications will be inflated or deflated to 13.0 PSI. The officials will also number each football submitted and keep a log of the level of inflation of each football.

The league is also giving additional responsibilities to the kicking ball coordinator and an onsite league security representative to make sure no one tampers with the game balls. At some randomly selected games, the league will also test the PSI levels of footballs at halftime and after the game.

That last part is important: Some defenders of the Patriots and Tom Brady have suggested that footballs could become partially deflated over the course of a game, and that the Patriots’ footballs in the AFC Championship Game were measured at under 12.5 PSI not because the Patriots deflated them but because they were measured after they had already been used in the game. Now the NFL’s halftime and post-game testing will determine to what extend footballs lose their pressure over the course of an NFL game.

It would really be something if these new procedures reveal that footballs routinely lose some air pressure during games, and that the whole Deflategate “scandal” was the result of nothing more than footballs losing a little air because they were used in a game.

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Signing bonus, guarantees an impediment for Russell Wilson deal

Russell Getty Images

Regardless of how much the Seahawks are offering quarterback Russell Wilson on an annual basis, the question of how it will be paid out continues to be a major impediment.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, confirming Saturday’s PFT item pointing out that the Seahawks had moved to $21 million per year, reports that the biggest issue at this point is “cash up front and guarantees.”

It’s believed that Wilson, whose agent has in recent years has exclusively represented baseball players, wants a significant portion of the contract to be fully guaranteed. Because the NFL requires all future fully-guaranteed payments to be funded at the initiation of the deal by putting the money into escrow, the Seahawks are expected to push back.

Not because owner Paul Allen can’t afford to set the money aside. He definitely can. But the thinking is that he doesn’t want to, either because he disagrees with the funding concept or because the league wants teams to resist making greater percentages of player contracts fully guaranteed.

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Vikings sign Blair Walsh to contract extension

Blair Walsh AP

The Vikings took care of a fairly important piece of business last week, restructuring running back Adrian Peterson’s contract. They’ve now locked up the guy who picks up the seventh point after Peterson gets “loooooose!

The Vikings have announced a four-year contract extension with kicker Blair Walsh. Per a league source, the deal is worth up to $14 million, with $5.25 million guaranteed. Of that amount, $3.75 million is guaranteed on signing.

The deal puts Walsh among the five highest-paid kickers in the game.

A sixth-round draft pick in 2012, Walsh set an NFL record by making 10 straight field goals of 50 yards or more, including three in one game.

“I’m extremely excited to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings moving forward,” Walsh said in a statement released by the team. “I’d like to thank Rick Spielman, the Wilf family, Coach Zimmer, Coach Priefer and Rob Brzezinski for giving me this opportunity. I’m proud to be able to stay with the team that drafted me coming out of college and I look forward to what is in store for the future of this organization.”

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