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Shell casing from Hernandez rental car connected to crime scene

Walsh AP

It’s not getting much better for the defense at the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial.

Via the Associated Press, Sgt. Stephen Walsh testified Wednesday that a shell casing found in the rental car used by Hernandez matched the shell casings found at the scene of Odin Lloyd’s shooting.

An employee at the rental-car company found the shell casing under the driver’s seat in the Nissan Altima Hernandez had rented.  He returned the car the day after the shooting.  The casing was put in a dumpster, and police later found it there.

Walsh told jurors that that all six .45 caliber casings had been fired by the same gun.

So while the murder weapon hasn’t been found, the presence of a matching shell casing in the car that Hernandez was driving — and in which Lloyd was a passenger — becomes very strong circumstantial evidence of guilt.

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Mike Adams was too excited to notice anything wrong with Patriots footballs

Adams Getty Images

With Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson admitting last week that he alerted the NFL to the team’s concerns about the inflation (or lack thereof) of Patriots football before the AFC title game, it’s reasonable to conclude that the Colts became concerned in whole or in part by the inflation (or lack thereof) of the two Patriots footballs safety Mike Adams brought to the sideline after interception Tom Brady passes on November 16 in Indianapolis.

Appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Adams explained that he didn’t notice anything unusual about the footballs, because he was too excited and full of adrenaline after making the interceptions to pay attention.

Due to become a free agent, Adams said plenty of other things about his 11th NFL season, which culminated in his first Pro Bowl berth.  Regarding the divisional-round playoff game between the Colts and his most recent former team, the Broncos, Adams acknowledged that it seemed the Broncos were taking the Colts lightly.  (Last month, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. separately made that observation on PFT Live.)

We know we’ve already pasted the code for the full video into the Rumor Mill, but I’m going to do it again because:  (1) Adams was a really good interview; and (2) it doesn’t require much effort for me to do it.  It requires even less effort for you to listen to it.

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Report: Steelers to let Jason Worilds test market

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers’ top prospective unrestricted free agent looks likely to be able to shop around when the market opens on Tuesday, March 10.

The Steelers are willing to let outside linebacker Jason Worilds get a sense of his value in free agency before determining whether they can re-sign him, ESPN.com’s Scott Brown reported Wednesday.

The Steelers used the transition tag on Worilds last year but will not do so in 2015, ESPN.com reported.

The 27-year-old Worilds has recorded 122 tackles and 15.5 sacks in the last two seasons for Pittsburgh. He ranks 10th among PFT’s top 100 free agents.

The market for edge rushers bears monitoring. The Chiefs do not seem likely to let Justin Houston hit the market, and his removal from the mix would not hurt the bargaining power of rushers like Worilds, the Bills’ Jerry Hughes and the Eagles’ Brandon Graham.

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Money the most overlooked factor in Adrian Peterson drama

Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Much has been said in recent days and weeks regarding whether running back Adrian Peterson will continue to play for the Vikings if/when he’s reinstated.  Fueling the speculation that Peterson may not be back are comments from Peterson suggesting hesitation to return, quotes from his father regarding a perceived lack of support from the organization when Peterson tried to return to football after resolving his legal case, and an altercation between Peterson’s agent and a Vikings executive (which may have been overblown).

Lost in the what-will-Adrian-do drama is the one factor that routinely is the biggest factor in matters of this nature:  Money.

The Vikings owe Peterson $12.75 million in 2015, with his 30th birthday looming.  What other team would pay him that much, especially after giving up whatever the Vikings will want in picks or players?  The more he’s worth financially, the more he’s worth in trade.

And so in the same way Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch may be leveraging uncertainty to shake plenty of money from owner Paul Allen, the guy whose exploits are verbally chronicled by a different Paul Allen could parlay these odd circumstances into an assurance that he’ll get every penny he’s scheduled to earn, this year and maybe next year, when he’s due to make $14.75 million.

It’s easy for Peterson to muse about getting a fresh start.  It’s harder to seize on that fresh start if the fresh start entails a lot less cash.

What about Peterson’s perception that the Vikings, through recently-promoted COO Kevin Warren, worked with the league to keep him from playing in November or December?  It’s easy to understand Peterson’s frustration; in lieu of fighting the charges pending against him in court, he accepted a plea deal in the hopes that it would get him back on the field last season.  It’s entirely possible that someone in the league office decided in September that Peterson wouldn’t suit up again in 2014.  If that’s the case, the Vikings weren’t participating in the making of decisions about Peterson; they were simply (and wisely) going along with the wishes of the league.

Peterson eventually may see it that way.  Making it easier for him to do so could be the raw dollars-and-cents differences between what the Vikings would pay him to return, and what another team would pay him to leave.

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Report: Broncos and Peyton Manning working on restructuring

Broncos Chargers Football AP

We’ve known the Broncos want Peyton Manning back. And we know Manning wants to play some more.

Now, they’re working on the numbers to make that happen.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the Broncos and Manning are working on revising his contract, to move around some of the $19 million he’s scheduled to make this year.

With the two sides agreeing on the basics, the structure of the deal will be the key — the how and when Manning gets his money, while maximizing the Broncos’ cap room.

He also has to pass the team’s physical by next Thursday, but he said before the Super Bowl he didn’t think passing it would be an issue.

Creating cap space is key for the Broncos, especially considering the cost of using the franchise tag on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (around $13 million).

There is some degree of deadline pressure, as Manning’s $19 million becomes guaranteed on March 9. So between now and then, the work to figure out how to do the accounting tricks will help shape the Broncos’ offseason plan.

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Bears sign CB Demontre Hurst through 2016

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Bears have inked one of their defensive backs to a contract extension.

Chicago has signed cornerback Demontre Hurst to a two-year deal, the club said this evening. Hurst is now under contract through 2016.

The 23-year-old Hurst played 15 games for Chicago in 2014, recording his first career interception in the season finale at Minnesota. The Bears credited him with 35 tackles on defense and eight on special teams. Per Pro Football Focus, Hurst played 373 defensive snaps in the regular season.

An Oklahoma product, Hurst (5-10, 183) was on the Bears’ practice squad in 2013. He was slated to be an exclusive-rights free agent.

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Brian Hoyer, Ray Farmer due to meet

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Browns have spent the last two days meeting with veteran quarterback Josh McCown.  Eventually, they’ll meet with the quarterback who has had plenty of success for the franchise the past two years.

Per a league source, Brian Hoyer eventually will be meeting with G.M. Ray Farmer regarding Hoyer’s potential future with the team.  Thereafter, negotiations between Hoyer’s agent and the Browns will resume.

It’s unclear whether the Browns have genuine interest in bringing back Hoyer, or whether Hoyer has genuine interest in returning.  A Cleveland native, he was one of the best things about the team in 2014, but he was marginalized by the decision to take Johnny Manziel in the first round.

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On this day in 1933, the NFL’s passing rules underwent a key change

Don Majkowski Getty Images

Imagine an NFL where passers had to release the ball at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Well, as late as 1932, that was the rule. However, on February 25, 1933, the NFL moved to allow passers to throw the ball anywhere behind the line.

The modified gives offenses some added flexibility, and it allows quarterbacks the ability to improvise when needed. One memorable example came in 1989, when Green Bay’s Don Majkowski connected with Sterling Sharpe on a game-winning 14-yard TD pass vs. Chicago (see 2:45 mark). Majkowski was originally ruled to have crossed the line, but the play was overturned on review, and the Packers secured the win.

Coincidentally, today is Majkowski’s 51st birthday. The rule that helped him author perhaps his most famous play, meanwhile, turns 82, and it’s hard to fathom an NFL without it.

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Bryant video, if it exists, comes from a Wal-Mart surveillance camera

Camera Getty Images

The best-kept secret among NFL media members no longer is, and the rumor regarding a Dez Bryant video that may or may not exist have finally come to light.

That rumor has spawned plenty of other rumors regarding the video, including unsubstantiated rumors regarding the dissemination of screen shots to media companies that may purchase the video and rumors that the video was shot on a cell phone.

In the interests of clarity regarding a still-unclear situation, the rumor as it has existed for several months is that the incident (if there was one) happened in the parking lot of a Dallas-area Wal-Mart, and that the footage (if there is any) was created by a surveillance camera owned and operated by Wal-Mart.

Despite being a publicly-traded corporation, Wal-Mart has no obligation to share the contents of its surveillance videos publicly.  But if there never was an incident involving Bryant that resulted in videotape being preserved and transferred to the relevant law-enforcement agency, nothing stops Wal-Mart from saying so.

For Bryant’s sake, that’s what ultimately needs to happen, if there’s no video.  Someone in position to rule it out needs to do so, or the rumor will continue to linger.

Again, there’s currently no evidence that a video exists.  But it’s true that multiple members of the media have been chasing the story.  In the case of ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the effort has been underway since September.  However this ends, the time has come for a clear answer.

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Now you can own Rob Ford’s crack-smoking NFL tie

ford Reuters

I guess since the Bills aren’t going to visit Toronto any longer, Rob Ford no longer feels the need to dress up.

The former mayor of Toronto appears to be selling a bunch of his stuff on eBay, including his sharp NFL-logo tie.

You might remember that as the tie Ford was wearing when he admitted to smoking crack, a proud moment for Canadian politics as well as the league.

At the moment, this beauty is going for $81.00 Canadian, which I think is either $65 in American dollars or five beaver pelts, give or take a pint of maple syrup.

If you look closely, you’ll notice the tie is circa 1995 or 1996, since it has a Houston Oilers logo (they split for Tennessee in 1997), along with the explansion-era marks for the Jaguars and Panthers.

According to the CBC, Ford is donating 10 percent of the proceeds of the auction to cancer research, which is nice. He was diagnosed with cancer last year and dropped out of a bid for re-election to the mayor’s office, though he won his old city council seat.

So now, if you want to look like a crack-smoking Canadian football fan (and who among us does not?), here’s your chance.

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Steelers keep restructuring contracts

Torrey Smith, Mike Mitchell AP

Tackle Marcus Gilbert isn’t the only Steelers player reworking his contract this offseason.

Per multiple reports, safety Mike Mitchell has also agreed to restructure his deal as the Steelers try to create more cap room for the 2015 season. Mitchell was due a $2 million roster bonus that will be converted into a signing bonus along with a portion of his salary in order to spread his cap hit out over the life of the five-year deal he signed last season.

Center Maurkice Pouncey is also expected to finalize a restructuring of his deal. He’s due a $3.75 million roster bonus and was set to count $8.1 million against the cap. Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Steelers are expected to clear a little less than $10 million from their 2015 cap as a result of the three moves.

That money could go toward a new deal for impending free agent linebacker Jason Worilds and the Steelers may make more moves, including a possible extension for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, that would free up further money.

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Falcons sign PK Matt Bryant to new contract

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

One of the top prospective free agent kickers will not hit the market.

The Falcons have signed Matt Bryant to a new contract, the club said on its website Wednesday.

Bryant, 39, connected on 29-of-32 field goals in 2014 for Atlanta, with all three of his misses from 50 yards and beyond. Overall, he is 148-of-167 on field goals since joining Atlanta in 2009 (.886), and he has not missed an extra point.

Bryant is one of many examples of kickers who needed time to find a foothold in the NFL, and his best work has come in his mid- and late-30s.

And now, Bryant will get to show what he’s capable of at age 40. The Falcons’ incumbent kicker celebrates that milestone birthday in late May.

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Report: John Idzik expected to take job in Jacksonville

John Idzik, Woody Johnson AP

Players cut by their former teams aren’t the only people looking for jobs right now.

There are also front office executives looking for new offices to call their own after things went the wrong way for them in their last jobs. Former Jets General Manager John Idzik is on that list, but he reportedly won’t be on it much longer.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Idzik is expected to take a job as a consultant in Jacksonville. Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union follows up with word that Idzik will work with director of football administration Tim Walsh and “focus on cap, cash spending, etc.”

That was the area that Idzik spent much of his time before taking on the General Manager job with the Jets. He worked through the team’s cap problems to provide them with ample space, but his inability/unwillingness to add players with that space helped seal his fate with the Jets after just two seasons.

A move to Jacksonville would reunite Idzik with Jags coach Gus Bradley, who was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks when Idzik was in Seattle’s front office.

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Lions release Reggie Bush

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Lions are moving on from tailback Reggie Bush.

Detroit released Bush on Wednesday, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com reported.

PFT’s Mike Florio has confirmed the Lions have parted ways with Bush, a 10th-year back from USC.

The 29-year-old Bush was slated to make $3.25 million in 2015 and $3.75 million in 2016, per NFLPA figures.

According to Twentyman, the Lions will earn salary-cap savings of more than $1.7 million by releasing Bush.

Bush was limited to 11 games in 2014, rushing for 297 yards on 76 carries and catching 40 passes for 253 yards. He turns 30 in March.

Bush could appeal to clubs looking for a pass-catching back. He could also have a market with teams seeking to add to their RB rotation.

With Bush departing, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick are the Lions’ top two backs, with George Winn in reserve.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Bush has rushed for 5,465 yards and 35 touchdowns and has caught 466 passes for 3,489 yards and 18 TDs. He played his first five seasons with New Orleans (2006-2010) before moving on to Miami (2011-2012). Bush signed with Detroit as a free agent in 2013.

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Packers cut A.J. Hawk

Super Bowl XLV Getty Images

A.J. Hawk has been let go by the Packers.

The team announced today that Hawk, who has spent his entire career in Green Bay, will not return. Hawk released a statement thanking the team for his time in Green Bay.

I spent nine great years in Green Bay. I had awesome teammates and coaches and a great medical staff and equipment staff. Many of them have become my closest friends. We won a ton of games, as well as a Super Bowl, and I loved everything about playing for one of the greatest franchises in all of sports,” Hawk said. “The fans in Green Bay are incredible. Between playing at Lambeau Field as well as seeing them on the road, they always supported us. I am looking forward to my next opportunity in the NFL, but I’ll always cherish my years as a Green Bay Packer.”

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson likewise thanked Hawk for his service to the team.

“A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons,” Thompson said. “He was a durable and consistent contributor to our success, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. The Packers are grateful for all that he has done on the field and in the community. We wish A.J., his wife Laura, and the rest of their family all the best.”

Hawk, who is recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs in his ankle, now becomes a free agent.

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