Report: Roger Goodell close to contract extension through 2024

AP

If labor unrest in the NFL’s future is a “virtual certainty,” we know who’s going to be presiding over it.

According to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Daily, the league is close to a deal with commissioner Roger Goodell to extend his contract.

Goodell’s current deal expires after the 2019 season, but this would take him through 2024.

And with the CBA set to expire after the 2020 season, that would mean Goodell will again be representing owners.

It’s unclear what the salary parameters will be for Goodell, since there seems to be a faction of owners who want to see him make less than he has in the past.

Monday morning one-liners

AP

Bills WR Jordan Matthews is confident about playing in Week One after returning to practice Sunday.

Sorting through some fact and fiction about the Dolphins.

The Patriots kept things simple on defense against the Texans.

Can Bryce Petty be the No. 2 quarterback for the Jets?

WR Mike Wallace isn’t worried about the Ravens offense.

Breaking down the Bengals’ offensive performance in their second preseason game.

Will DeShone Kizer make the Browns’ quarterback decision more difficult?

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant knocked off the rust in his first game action of the preseason.

WR Bruce Ellington made the most of his first opportunity with the Texans.

A call for Colts coach Chuck Pagano to shake things up.

Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin‘s long comeback from an ankle injury has progressed to practicing.

Turnovers are on Titans S Kevin Byard‘s mind.

Broncos running backs have been making plays in the preseason.

Will the Chiefs keep four running backs on their 53-man roster?

Breaking down the snap counts for the Raiders in Saturday’s game.

The Chargers got extended looks at quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Cardale Jones on Sunday.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott believes his connection with WR Dez Bryant is still growing.

A look at Giants players on the roster bubble heading into Monday night’s game.

The Eagles will see a couple of former teammates with the Dolphins coming to town for joint practices.

DT Phil Taylor is reviving his career with the Redskins.

Is it time for the Bears to give QB Mitch Trubisky game action with the first team?

Assessing RB Ameer Abdullah‘s impact on the Lions offense.

The Packers still hope drafting T Jason Spriggs pays off for them.

Ben Gedeon is making a bid to replace Chad Greenway at linebacker for the Vikings.

First-round pick Takk McKinley helped the Falcons pass rush in his first preseason game.

A 53-man roster projection for the Panthers.

Which Saints helped their roster chances in Sunday’s game?

The Buccaneers hope better health will lead to a better pass rush.

The Cardinals’ report card for their second preseason game shows room for improvement.

What have we learned about the Rams defense?

A review of the film left 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan less angry with his team than he was immediately after Saturday’s game.

Breaking down some left tackle options for the Seahawks.

Sean McVay experiments with assistant calling plays

AP

When you’ve been around the game as long as guys like Bruce Arians and Sean McVay, it’s good to delegate a little play-calling responsibility.

Oh, wait, that’s only half right, since Arians was the head coach at Temple when McVay was born.

Still, the Rams rookie head coach let offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur call plays during the second half of Saturday’s preseason game against the Raiders, according to Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Daily News.

The 31-year-old McVay is the youngest head coach in the league, and is showing that he’s at least considering adjusting. He called played the last two seasons in Washington, and his initial plan was to handle the duties himself this year with the Rams. But after the preseason opener, he said he struggled a bit managing the entire operation, so he wanted to tinker with letting LaFleur call plays.

He said “the anticipation” was that he’d hang onto the duties during the regular season, but stopped short of a firm declaration.

“I think the one thing that people should understand as well is [play-calling is] a collaborative effort,” McVay said. “Everybody’s on the headset, we’ve got a plan and ultimately somebody’s got to send it in to the quarterback.

“Ultimately, you’ve got to make the final decision, but I think it’s a representation of our staff as a whole when things go well, and that’s a credit to having good guys around you. But, I think right now, the plan is I am going to continue to [call plays]. Really it’s something that I enjoy, and I think it allows you to feel like you can be a lot more involved with the offense.”

The fact McVay wants to hang onto the responsibility is natural — it’s what he’s good at and the reason he got the job. But the fact he’s willing to consider alternatives can also be a good sign, because his new job is much more complicated than simple Xs and Os.

Dropped passes mar James Conner’s preseason debut

AP

The Steelers remain without Le'Veon Bell for the time being, which leaves plenty of work for the team’s other running backs to do in practice and in the team’s preseason games.

On Sunday against the Falcons, rookie James Conner got almost all of that work. Coach Mike Tomlin said that the team had seen a lot of their other backs to explain why Conner, who didn’t play in the preseason opener due to a shoulder injury, got 20 of the 22 carries by backs in the game and the third-round pick was productive on the ground.

He had 98 rushing yards, but his work in the passing game offered a reminder of what the Steelers miss without Bell. Conner was targeted four times, but wound up with one catch and a couple of drops that stuck in his mind after the game.

“It was nice to finish running the ball hard and that helps me be at ease a little bit more, but still that’s unacceptable for those passes I was dropping,” Conner said, via PennLive.com. “Well I just know — I trust my hands, so those were catchable balls. All of them.”

Conner held up well to a big workload on the ground and showed ability there that can make him a useful complement to Bell once he’s back with the team. The overall package also showed how much Bell means to the Pittsburgh offense and why they likely hope the third-round pick isn’t pushed to be more than that during his rookie season.

Michael Bennett: It was “emotional” to get support from Justin Britt

AP

When Michael Bennett said the national anthem protests of certain players would only gain traction if white players were with them, he couldn’t have known it would trigger a bit of a movement of its own.

First, Eagles defensive end Chris Long put his arm around the shoulder of teammate Malcolm Jenkins, while Jenkins held his fist in the air. Then, Seahawks center Justin Britt put a hand on Bennett’s shoulder as he sat for the anthem, and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Khalil Mack stood with arms around each other to display their unity.

A very emotional moment to have that kind of solidarity from someone like Justin Britt, who’s a known leader in our locker room, who’s from a different part of America than me,” Bennett said, via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. “But to be able to have that solidarity and to be able to have somebody who is behind me and know that it’s someone that I really trust, and to see him put everything on the line to support one of his teammates, I thought that was a very special moment.”

Britt said Bennett’s words last week struck a chord with him, and he wanted to set an example for his children and others.

“I want to support him,” Britt said. “I want to support what he stands for and his beliefs. I’m not foolish. I’m from Missouri. I get that things are different in that area than they are in some other areas. I’m not against what the flag means and veterans. My dad was in the Army. So I’m not putting any disrespect to them. I’m just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself more in that regard and showing support.

“And I’m going to continue to understand what’s going on in the world and why it’s happening. Because none of it’s right. None of it’s what should be happening. I’m going to continue talking with Mike and exploring and just helping myself understand things. I wanted to take a first step tonight. And that’s what I felt like I did.”

Last year during the early stages of the Colin Kaepernick protests, the Seahawks stood with arms linked on the sidelines during the anthem, and coach Pete Carroll said he appreciated the gesture.

“I think in this time that we’re facing, this is more important than ever,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of growth that needs to take place for us to accomplish the change that needs to be dealt with. It’s absolutely imperative that guys from both sides of the fence come together and learn and be open and support. And these guys are going to show you that. They’re working at it. They understand that there’s issues and concerns that we have difficulty talking about. But I know our team is working at it, and they’re determined to try and make things better by the way they all share their own connection and learn how to make statements and understand and be respectful towards one another.

“I particularly like that that was the illustration. It warmed my heart to hear that that’s what happened. Those guys got some brains. They’re thinking about it. They’re thinking about it very seriously. This is not just some frivolous thing where somebody made a mistake and sat down. This is guys working at it and guys trying to figure out how to help and how to make some sense for other people too. We’re just a football team, but our guys care, and I’m really proud of them.”

And it appears other players are following Bennett’s lead, which could lead to something even greater.

Alvin Kamara shines for the Saints, who have some other running backs

AP

That running back the Saints added this offseason to complement Mark Ingram had a great night.

Not Adrian Peterson, the other one.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Saints rookie Alvin Kamara continues to show flashes and is giving plenty of reason to expect he’ll have a significant role in the offense this year.

Kamara, their third-rounder from Tennessee, popped a 50-yard touchdown run on his first carry last night against the Chargers. He finished with 83 yards from scrimmage on just six touches, and gives the Saints a different kind of running back that what they’re otherwise carrying.

Starter Mark Ingram and some guy named Adrian Peterson didn’t play last night (and neither did quarterback Drew Brees), and the carries will be diluted when they get back and take their rightful roles. But Kamara has always shown big-play ability in college, and you can envision coach Sean Payton being very intentional about working him into the game plan.

Who wins the NFC East?

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With the regular season approaching quickly, it’s time to eat the low-hanging fruit when it comes to fashioning the PFT Live question of the day.

We’ll be asking which team will win each division, beginning with one of the more competitive divisions in football: The NFC East, a division captured by the Cowboys in 2016.

Pick a winner below (none of the above isn’t an option), arguing about it in the comments, and then join us for the show. The radio broadcast begins at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio. Then, when the simulcast launches at 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN, former NFL quarterback Chris Simms will make his official debut on the show.

Clarence E. Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram will give us a phone call at 8:15 a.m. ET or so to discuss the Ezekiel Elliott situation and the team’s faith (or lack thereof) in Kellen Moore as the backup to Dak Prescott. We’ll also discuss the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each NFC East team and the teams most in need of an upgrade at backup quarterback.

Bill O’Brien thinks J.J. Watt will be better than before

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Texans defensive tackle J.J. Watt was, before missing 13 games with a back injury last season, the best defensive player in the NFL. So will Watt be as good a player this year as he was before?

No. According to Texans coach Bill O’Brien, he’ll be better.

“I can tell you right now the guy’s going to be at the top of his game,” O’Brien told Peter King of TheMMQB.com. “He’s had a great training camp. I think he’ll be better than he was.”

Watt, who won his third career defensive player of the year award in 2015 while playing through the back injury that eventually caused him to miss most of 2016, said he can’t guarantee that O’Brien is right about that.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I’m sure the doctors don’t know the answer. That’s the goal. But all I know is I can be as smart as I can possibly be, and that’s with practice reps, that’s with workouts, that’s with doing everything I can to make sure that for those 16 games-plus a year, I am ready to roll. I feel great and as long as we stick to the plan that we’ve got—a day off here and there, some practice reps off here and there—I think we are going to be in good shape.”

The Texans were already a playoff team without Watt last year. If Watt comes back better than ever, Houston is in very good shape.

Report: Le’Veon Bell showing up shortly after third preseason game

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As if on cue with the regular season drawing near, we’re starting to hear about Le'Veon Bell‘s “love of football.”

Granted, he doesn’t love it enough to show up to play in the preseason, but he loves it enough to cash those checks toward his $12.1 million franchise tender (around $712,000 a week).

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, the Steelers running back is not expected to show up in time to play in this week’s third preseason game, but is expected shortly after that. At least one teammate said he should be back before Labor Day, and Bell has been texting teammates lately to stay in the loop.

Bell has skipped all of training camp (after skipping all the OTAs and minicamps), but he can’t be fined since he hasn’t signed his contract yet. He’s been working out on his own in South Florida instead.

Perhaps enhancing his love is seeing rookie James Conner play well. The third-rounder had 20 carries for 98 yards against the Falcons, if not a Bell-like performance then one which would certainly suffice.

Corey Davis closing in on a return for Titans

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Titans rookie receiver Corey Davis has been week-to-week with a hamstring injury. His return could be a week or two away.

Coach Mike Mularkey said Sunday that Davis could play in the preseason finale against the Chiefs.

“On track to do that if he continues to progress like he is,” Mularkey said, via Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website. “I think he is ahead of schedule with that. . . . Obviously it would be really good for him to get into [a preseason game] but we want him for the season.”

Davis, the fifth pick in the draft, is just one of four Tennessee receivers with question marks. Tajae Sharpe remains on the PUP list; he’ll be evaluated Monday. Eric Decker missed the preseason game against Carolina with an ankle injury, and he may miss the Week Three game against the Bears. Rishard Matthews was excused from Saturday’s game for personal reasons.

Bills wish Anquan Boldin the best

AP

Anquan Boldin played for several NFL teams. He retired on Sunday from the team with which he spent the least amount of time.

“We respect Anquan’s decision to retire from the NFL,” Bills G.M. Brandon Beane said in a release. “We appreciate the time he gave us over the past two weeks. He is one of the best receivers to play this game and we wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”

Boldin’s own statement suggests he has a higher calling than adding to a potential Hall of Fame career.

“Football in its purest form is what we all strive for as a nation,” he said. “People from all different races, religions and backgrounds working together for one shared goal. The core values taught in football are some of the most important you can learn in life. To always be there for the guy next to you and not let your fellow man down. You do whatever it takes to make sure your brother is OK.

“Football has afforded me a platform throughout my career to have a greater impact on my humanitarian work. At this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority. My life’s purpose is bigger than football.”

If Boldin has had the impact in his future pursuits that he had in football, he’ll be a tremendous success. We wish him well.

Chargers OT Tyreek Burwell injures hand

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Chargers offensive tackle Tyreek Burwell left in the first half of Sunday night’s game against the Saints. When he returned to the sideline, his right hand was heavily wrapped in a club.

Burwell started in place of left tackle Russell Okung, who returned to practice on a limited basis last week as he works his way back from a sore leg.

Burwell is attempting to make the team as a swing tackle. He signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and played in 11 games his rookie season and five last season.

He and the rest of the Chargers offensive line struggled mightily against the Saints. Los Angeles allowed four sacks and six quarterback hits in the first half.

Takkarist McKinley has one QB hit in debut

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The Falcons, who had 34 sacks last season, used the 26th overall pick on Takk McKinley to help their pass rush opposite Vic Beasley. In his preseason debut, McKinley showed he plans to do just that.

McKinley entered Sunday’s game in the third quarter and got a quarterback hit in limited action as the Falcons defense had a sack and three quarterback hits.

He was very excited to get going,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He played a little bit at right end in our nickel package and a little bit on the punt return game. For him, getting his first NFL action was exciting for him.” 

McKinley missed the first preseason game as he continues to work his way back from right shoulder surgery.

“I think he had a couple of pressures,” Beasley said of McKinley. “He’s starting to get acclimated with the game. Come soon, he’ll be good to go.” 

In addition to drafting McKinley, the Falcons added defensive linemen Jack Crawford and Dontari Poe in free agency.

Anquan Boldin leaves Bills camp, says he’s retiring

AP

The Bills were hoping they could get away with a wide receivers room lacking “divas” by virtue of having at least one veteran presence among them.

But that guy walked out the door Sunday.

According to Jim Trotter of ESPN, wide receiver Anquan Boldin has left Bills camp today, and has informed the team he’s retiring.

The 36-year-old Boldin had signed with the Bills earlier this month, just before they traded Sammy Watkins to the Rams, and they were hoping he’d lend stability to a depth chart lacking firepower.

They’ll now have to rely on trade acquisition Jordan Matthews (once he’s healthy), rookie Zay Jones and former Raider Andre Holmes, among the inevitable newcomers.

If Boldin is indeed finished, he’s walking away from the NFL with an incredible resume already. He has 1,076 receptions (ninth on the league’s all-time list) for 13,779 yards (14th) and 82 touchdowns (23rd).

Bucs claim Marquis Lucas off waivers from Falcons

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The Buccaneers claimed first-year offensive tackle Marquis Lucas off waivers from the Falcons as the team continues to churn the roster at that position.

Tampa Bay waived rookie tackle Austin Albrecht, who signed Saturday. Rookie tackle Cole Gardner was waived Saturday with an injury designation.

The Bucs are without linemen Demar Dotson and Kevin Pamphile, who are rehabbing minor injuries.

Lucas, 24, played at West Virginia, entering he league as an undrafted free agent with the Bills in 2016. Buffalo released him in the final roster cutdown, and he later joined the Vikings practice squad.

The Vikings re-signed Lucas after the season but waived him in May. He joined the Falcons in June, and Atlanta waived him Saturday.

Lucas played both tackle positions for the Mountaineers, starting 30 games in his career.