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Alexander Bradley gets immunity in Hernandez double-murder case

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Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez already has been convicted of murder despite the absence of eyewitness testimony. In a separate double-murder case pending against Hernandez, the prosecution has an eyewitness.

And the eyewitness now has immunity.

Via the Boston Globe, Alexander Bradley will be able to testify in the case arising from the death of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado without fear of prosecution. It’s believed that Bradley will tell jurors that he witnessed the drive-by shooting, as the passenger in Hernandez’s vehicle.

Bradley claims that, several months later, Hernandez shot Bradley in the face and left him to die. A lawsuit was filed against Hernandez in Florida days before Hernandez shot and killed Odin Lloyd.

Bradley undoubtedly will face a withering cross-examination, with Hernandez’s lawyers suggesting that Bradley is telling the jury what the prosecutors want to hear in exchange for Bradley avoiding any criminal responsibility. Hernandez’s lawyers may even suggest (perhaps during closing argument) that Bradley was the real killer.

Regardless, if the jury accepts what Bradley has to say, it will be very difficult for Hernandez to avoid another life sentence.

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Browns add Devlin with Manziel out

Pat Devlin Getty Images

With Johnny Manziel unable to throw at least for now and Connor Shaw out possibly for the year with a thumb injury, the Browns signed journeyman quarterback Pat Devlin on Thursday after bringing him in for an emergency workout.

The Browns insist they’re just playing it safe with Manziel, but he’s twice been forced out of practice due to a sore elbow and now missing an important evaluation opportunity in Saturday night’s preseason game at Tampa Bay.

Devlin spent three years with the Dolphins, last year with the Vikings and part of the offseason with the Bears. The Browns need him to serve as the team’s third quarterback Saturday at Tampa Bay and possibly to play in next week’s preseason finale at Chicago if Manziel isn’t ready to return.

To make room for Devlin the team waived Ryan Seymour, a backup interior lineman who was recently suspended for the season’s first four games for a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy. Seymour started three games at center late last season.

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With teams desperate for QBs, Jason Campbell is still getting calls

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When the Jets signed veteran backup Matt Flynn last week, coach Todd Bowles showered him with praise by saying “he was the only one available, too.”

Since then, Michael Vick, Rex Grossman and Pat Devlin have found jobs, and the desperate reaches for quarterbacks with resumes continues to plumb new depths.

According to Peter Schrager of FOX Sports, “at least three teams have inquired” about former first-rounder Jason Campbell.

He hasn’t taken any of those jobs because the “situations weren’t right,” but it’s still amazing he’s getting calls.

Campbell planned on retiring in June, but there’s no use not answering the phone if it rings. Given the current state of quarterback play in some precincts, it probably will again, and the situation might be better next time.

And you could make a reasonable case that he’s been more acceptable more recently than some of the other guys getting jobs, so it makes some sense.

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In 2014, Jerry Jones told Dez Bryant about Wal-Mart video

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During a February 20, 2015 visit with Shan & RJ of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, co-host Shan Shariff said this to me: “RJ [Choppy] and I have heard from two different people that there’s some story or some info the Cowboys have on Dez [Bryant] that may eventually come out, and it’ll explain all their hesitation and it’s such a major deal that they know about.”

In response, I said that the Cowboys are concerned about the possible emergence of a videotape that possibly shows Bryant doing something he shouldn’t have been doing.

“There’s talk of a video,” I said. “I don’t know that it exists. I know that among the people in the business it has been a commonly-discussed reality for months now. I don’t know that it even exists. I’ve heard it from multiple different people multiple different times. I know people are looking for it. . . . This may be an urban legend like the Yeti or the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness Monster. It may not exist. But that’s churning around out there, and people think that’s what keeping the Cowboys from making the long-term major commitment. . . . If that thing pops the day after they give him $50 million guaranteed, that’s a problem.”

After plenty of months of plenty of people claiming I said something a lot stronger than what I actually said, Dez Bryant said something that confirms everything that I said.

In a new Rolling Stone profile, Bryant explained that owner Jerry Jones specifically told Bryant about the video during the 2014 football season.

“The first time I heard that was from Mr. Jones last season: He said there was a tape of me that might get out,” Bryant said, via the Dallas Morning News.

Consider those words carefully. Jones didn’t say there could be or may be or might be a tape. He told Dez that there is a tape — and that it “might get out.”

What Jones told Bryant meshes with rumors that were circulating among members of the NFL media regarding the possible existence of a video from a Wal-Mart parking lot that may or may not show Bryant engaging in behavior that would subject him to scrutiny under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. It was the worst-kept secret among members of the national NFL media; it was the best-kept secret from the perspective of the fans.

Once I admitted on the air what Jones previously had acknowledged to Bryant, other national reporters (like ESPN’s Adam Schefter) admitted that they were aware of and/or had been trying to find the video. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media later obtained a police report from July 2011 showing that an incident indeed occurred in the early-morning hours, with an eyewitness who called police claiming that a woman was dragged from a car registered to Bryant to another vehicle.

The responding officer ultimately concluded that no crime had been committed after Bryant arrived at the scene with a woman who claimed to be the woman who had been dragged between cars, and who claimed to be not injured in any way. However, the officer inexplicably didn’t request an immediate opportunity to review any Wal-Mart surveillance videos of the parking lot, the officer didn’t interview the man who supposedly had merely an argument with the woman, and the officer apparently did nothing to confirm that the woman who returned to the parking lot with Bryant was the same woman the eyewitness saw being dragged from one car to another and taken from the lot.

The fact that no video ever surfaced caused many to regard the rumor as blatantly false, ignoring the possibility that a video once existed and had been destroyed — or that a video still exists and whoever has it continues to keep it under wraps. The fact that the Dallas media considered the case to be closed when the local authorities and Wal-Mart claimed that they had no video of any incident took the steam out of a situation that still has plenty of unanswered questions. (To date, there has been no apparent local effort to track down the witnesses named in the police report in order to find out what they know.)

Bryant suspected that his former adviser, David Wells, leaked what he knew about the situation to the media. So Rolling Stone tracked Wells down. While Wells predictably denied it (Wells wasn’t my source, by the way), Wells added this: “But have you seen the police report? Have you heard the 911 call? Something happened in that parking lot, and I didn’t drum it up!”

A 911 call? That’s news to me. And it may be news to folks in Dallas who haven’t previously been inclined to gather much news about this story.

Whatever the truth ultimately is, Bryant’s own words to Rolling Stone prove that the Cowboys were indeed concerned about a video involving Dez being released to the media, which is exactly how this whole thing got started back in February. Since then, something apparently happened to address the owner’s concerns that “there was a tape of me that might get out.”

It doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a tape, or that it won’t get out. Especially if someone like Wells has a copy of it, and if he ever becomes sufficiently upset to do something with it.

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Marshawn Lynch settles fine for failing to talk to media

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Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch famously said during Super Bowl week, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.” But it was only this week that we learned that Lynch had been fined $75,000 for failing to talk to the media after the Seahawks punched their ticket to the Super Bowl by beating the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Lynch had an appeal hearing for that fine scheduled for this week.

But now that appeal hearing has been canceled. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Lynch and the NFL have reached a settlement, so no hearing will be necessary.

There’s no word on the financial end of that settlement — whether Lynch’s fine was reduced or rescinded entirely — but Rapoport reports that the league expects Lynch to comply with its media policy in the future.

We’ll find out soon enough if that is the case. The NFL requires all players to talk to the media regularly, and Lynch has bristled at that requirement repeatedly. If he doesn’t comply going forward, it’s a safe bet that the NFL will fine him again.

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Josh Johnson scheduled for workout with Jets

Josh Johnson AP

The Jets signed Matt Flynn last week to increase their quarterback depth with Geno Smith out of the lineup with a broken jaw, but Flynn’s been dealing with an injured hamstring that contributed to his departure from New England and has kept him from practicing with the Jets.

That may be why the team is kicking the tires on another option. Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that Josh Johnson will work out for the Jets on Thursday.

Johnson was released by the Bengals this week after they decided to go with A.J. McCarron as the backup to Andy Dalton. He was 11-of-21 for 175 yards and ran for 37 yards in his lone preseason appearance this summer. Garafolo also reports that Johnson has drawn some interest from the Browns, who are looking for a quarterback to fill in while Johnny Manziel rests his aching elbow but Cleveland is expected to go with Pat Devlin for that role.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty have been handling quarterback duties for the Jets since Smith’s run-in with IK Enemkpali’s fist.

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Arthur Blank to hire a CEO to run businesses, including Falcons

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Arthur Blank has always been a hands-on owner, from his days pushing then-quarterback Michael Vick’s wheelchair around.

But the soon-t0-turn 73-year-old told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was ready to take a step back from his day-to-day responsibilities, and hire a CEO to oversee all his business, including the Falcons.

My role will be different going forward,” Blank said. “… I think it’s a healthy time for somebody else to take the reins in terms of certain responsibilities in our organization.”

Blank said he wanted to spend more time with his family and philanthropic efforts, and hiring a CEO will help his schedule for “my own goals at this stage of my life.”

He insisted the decision was not health-related, and that he was not looking to sell the Falcons.

“Our plan is to keep all of our businesses, to keep all of our franchises, and it’s part of our estate plan,” Blank said.

The new hire will oversee Falcons president Rich McKay, but General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn will continue to report to Blank.

“If I was disengaging from the businesses, I think it would be [difficult], because I’m not the kind of person who would do well sitting under a tree reading books all day,” Blank said.

He’s already interviewed several candidates, and hopes to have his hire in place by the end of the year.

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Jimmy Garoppolo adjusting to life in the spotlight

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

The NFL season kicks off two weeks from tonight and neither the Patriots nor anyone else knows who they will be starting at quarterback against the Steelers.

While the wait for a settlement or ruling on Tom Brady’s suspension goes on, the team continues to prepare both Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo for the possible start. For Garoppolo, the preparation for being a starter in the NFL goes beyond practice work. He’s also getting used to life in the eye of the media storm as the number of reporters looking to him for comments has grown exponentially from anything he’s experienced before.

“At Eastern Illinois, we had the same amount of media,” Garoppolo said, via the Boston Herald. “It’s been a little bit of an adjustment. I’m getting more and more used to it as we go, but it comes with the job I guess. You have to get used to it. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t really know about until you’re in the spotlight, I guess, but you have to have fun with it, right?”

Garoppolo showed that his adaptation to dealing with the media is working according to Patriots plan by evading questions about the opener with a reminder that “you can’t look past” the team’s two remaining preseason games. Those games will give Garoppolo further opportunities to adjust to his possible new life as a starting quarterback, if not the spotlight that will shine on him if he does get the nod on September 10.

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Aaron Rodgers: We’re right where we need to be

Aaron Rodgers AP

After Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson tore his ACL last Sunday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers lamented that his top target from last season had been injured in a “meaningless” game.

Nelson’s absence will force some players into new roles and cause some changes with the way things flow on the offense, but the man who told the world to relax after the Packers started 1-2 last season doesn’t seem overly concerned about working on them in two meaningless games this summer. Rodgers said Wednesday that he feels he’s had enough work already this summer to prepare for the start of the regular season.

“We’re right where we need to be,” Rodgers said, via ESPN.com. “We’ve had some productive drives when we’ve been out there. I’m happy where we’re at. We have some guys banged up right now, so not sure what the playing time will be, but whatever Mike [McCarthy] decides, I’m confident we’ll be ready when the season starts.”

One thing that should factor into McCarthy’s decision is injuries to left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Josh Sitton and right guard T.J. Lang. None of those need to risk further issues by playing in a preseason game and playing Rodgers behind backups ups the risk to his health to a level that might be more than the Packers need to take at this point in the schedule.

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League reminds teams of rule against artificial crowd noise

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As the low hum of #DeflateGate continues to permeate the NFL, the league office has issued a reminder to all teams that relates to another of the 2015 offseason controversies: The Falcons’ use of artificial crowd noise in 2013 and 2014.

The connection between the two incidents coincidentally comes from the fact that NFL V.P. of game operations Mike Kensil’s name appears at the bottom of the email sent Wednesday to all teams regarding the 2015 Video Board and Crowd Noise Policies.

Per a source with knowledge of the pre-existing rules, the email reflects no new provisions or procedures. But the reminder regarding the policies regarding the use of sound and video during a game carry a little more weight this year given that the Falcons deliberately defied the rules — and were caught doing it.

The Falcons ultimately lost a fifth-round draft pick in 2016 and paid a fine of $350,000 for the infraction, a penalty that doesn’t really seem to provide much of a deterrent given the potential benefits of disrupting the opposing offense with a level of noise that removes its inherent advantage of hearing the snap count.

Owner Arthur Blank has explained that the Patriots faced a much greater punishment for what arguably was a lesser infraction because they “failed to acknowledge” what they had done. Of course, the difference is that the Patriots denied deflating footballs — and the evidence of their guilt is far less compelling than the evidence against the Falcons, which was sufficiently clear that they didn’t even try to deny it.

Still, with the punishment being a future late-round pick, a mid-six-figure fine, and a three-month suspension for the team CEO from a voluntary committee but not from his job, other teams may be tempted to roll the dice on cranking up the decibels in the hopes of getting an advantage. Then again, without a well-connected CEO who possibly lobbied the league office to go easy on the Falcons, the next team to be caught using artificial crowd noise could end up facing the kind of punishment that would serve as a much stronger deterrent moving forward.

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Terrell Suggs, used to being the bad guy, offers tips on rules

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At this point in his career, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs is used to being called dirty, and hated. To be honest, he revels in it.

After being the center of controversy over his low hit on Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (playing his first game since his second straight ACL tear), Suggs said he didn’t anticipate anything other than the reaction he got from Philadelphia, but offered some advice.

What do you expect? Nobody wants to see their quarterback get hit,” Suggs said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “But I think if people had a firm understanding of the read-option, it wouldn’t be as frustrating. Like I said before, if you’re going to run the read-option, you’ve got to be keen on the rules.”

(It’s also important to be keen on substitution and formation rules, but that’s a different story.)

Suggs said he’s had “plenty” of conversations with Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome about where to draw the line on hitting quarterbacks, and said he understands why it’s such a sensitive topic.

“Those guys gets a lot of sponsors. A lot of those guys are good-looking guys,” Suggs said. “We don’t want to damage them too much. It’s the most valuable position on the field. You got to protect them. If we have anybody to blame, it’s our own Ozzie Newsome. He’s on the competition committee. He helps put the rules in. . . .

“He said, ‘The quarterback keeps a lot of people employed. So we got to protect them.’ I understand. I wouldn’t want my guy getting mistreated.”

The good news for the Ravens is, there’s little chance of Joe Flacco running the read option, so opponents won’t be faced with the same dilemma Suggs was against the elusive Bradford.

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Andy Dalton: Criticism comes down to “the whole playoff thing”

George Johnson, Andy Dalton AP

There are plenty of teams that are entering the 2015 season with quarterback situations worse than the Bengals, who will be riding a four-year string of playoff appearances with Andy Dalton into Dalton’s fifth professional season.

That record doesn’t protect Dalton from criticism, though. In fact, it might draw criticism his way because those playoff appearances have all been one and done as the Bengals have faded from view with a whimper once the postseason started. Dalton doesn’t pretend that he’s ignorant of the negativity.

“As much as I want to say I don’t look at it and I don’t see it, with the world today, it’s hard not to see stuff,” Dalton said, via ESPN.com. “And a lot of stuff that’s said, you can look at it and it could be an eighth grader or something. People can hide behind a computer screen and it’s the same person that’s coming up wanting my autograph. So it is what it is.”

Dalton also isn’t playing ignorant about the reason why he draws vitriolic comments on Instagram posts that have nothing to do with football. Dalton says that there was plenty of positivity when he took the Bengals to the playoffs as a rookie, but “the whole playoff thing” has gone the other way over the last three seasons.

There’s no doubt that the inability to win in the playoffs overshadows everything else Dalton has done in the NFL. It’s not personal to him since postseason success has become a defining factor in the profile of every starting quarterback, but it can feel bigger for Dalton than for some of his peers. Because he’s neither in the upper echelon nor the bottom of the barrel, Dalton’s only path out of the middle of the road is postseason success and anything else feels like a talented team is being let down by their quarterback.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Belichick Getty Images

The Bills have some tough decisions ahead at WR.

Dolphins LT Branden Albert is getting closer to a return.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick can’t coach forever, can he?

Jets S Calvin Pryor remains confident after a rough rookie season.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s parties are not elite.

Bengals T Jake Fisher is ready to get back on the field.

Browns QB Thad Lewis gets another chance.

The Steelers punting competition is sure to leave someone heading down under.

Texans DE J.J. Watt admits he wasn’t very good as a rookie (which isn’t really true).

The Colts are still evaluating their NT position.

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart is probably finished for the preseason.

Titans G Chance Warmack is bouncing back from toe problems.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning is looking for progress on offense.

Chiefs OLB Dee Ford’s rib is just bruised, not broken.

Raiders LB Sio Moore has missed so much time he’s probably not getting his starting job back.

Chargers rookie Nick Dzubnar has drawn some high praise.

Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne is back in the spotlight.

The Giants may have the next version of Osi Umenyiora on the roster already.

The Eagles are going to use three guys at ILB.

Washington has lost five players for the season in two weeks.

The Bears are running thin at WR in practice.

Lions rookie G Laken Tomlinson is expected to make his first start Friday night.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers expects their young WRs to respond after Jordy Nelson’s injury.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson missed practice for a court appearance.

Falcons DT Ra’Shede Hageman was cleared to return to practice after his concussion.

Panthers TE Brandon Williams returns eight months after groin injury (write your own punch lines)

There were signs of pass rush at Saints practice.

Buccaneers C Evan Smith hopes to be able to play Saturday.

Cardinals S Deone Bucannon is helping to make up for the loss of LB Daryl Washington.

Rams DT Ethan Westbrooks is trying to write his own story this year.

49ers FB Bruce Miller’s case with the NFL remains under review after disturbing the peace charges.

Veteran DT Ahtyba Rubin thinks he found “heaven” with the Seahawks.

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Vick says he’s ready to embrace role as backup

Michael Vick AP

The Steelers have signed Mike Vick to be the backup to Ben Roethlisberger. Vick claims that, a year after he failed to accept that role behind Geno Smith with the Jets, Vick is ready to embrace his new football reality.

“I admit that I didn’t do it as well as I wanted to, because in my mind the position I was in was supposed to be different,” Vick said Wednesday, via Will Graves of the Associated Press. “But I think you’ve got to accept it first. I think I’ve been able to do that and come to grips with it, and my role is clear.”

Last year, when Vick apparently believed he should have been playing instead of Smith, Vick didn’t commit himself to preparing for the possibility that he’d be playing in any given week. And it showed when he played against the Chargers.

“Maybe I didn’t prepare or I wasn’t prepared, but I’ll tell you what, it won’t happen again,” Vick said after replacing Smith in a 31-0 loss to the Chargers. “I learned a lesson last week: always stay ready, always be prepared. That left a bitter taste in my mouth that I wasn’t able to go out and put points on the board or even help this team in any fashion. So this week has been a different work week from me [and] throughout the rest of the year, it’s going to be totally different for me as far as my preparation.”

Many would be more inclined to accept that Vick has changed his ways if his ways didn’t exist prior to 2014. But Vick has admitted that he had a poor work ethic while he was the starter in Atlanta. While he apparently snapped out of it during his time in Philly as the starter, the Steelers by signing Vick and installing him as the understudy to Ben Roethlisberger are accepting the possibility that Vick won’t be ready to go if/when they need him.

It may not matter. On Wednesday night’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, Rodney Harrison made an excellent point: Given the nature of Pittsburgh’s offense, Vick perhaps doesn’t need to be prepared to execute the offense as designed. Roethlisberger routinely makes things happen by extending plays with his legs and improvising; Vick does the same thing.

While Vick, 35, may not be able to run like he used to, his arm remains strong.

“He can still throw. He can still wow you with that arm,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Receiver Antonio Brown agreed: “Man, he calmly flicked his wrist, and the ball was on you.”

Throw in the fact that running back Le’Veon Bell was “starstruck” by Vick, and it’s more clear why he wasn’t signed to be the backup on a team with a quarterback not firmly entrenched as the starter. With players in the locker room who grew up idolizing Vick, it takes a $20 million-per-year quarterback to avoid a possible schism arising from guys wanting to play with a boyhood hero.

Vick’s task moving forward will be to play like that boyhood hero, if/when his new number is called.

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DeVante Parker expected to start practicing next week

Miami Dolphins OTA's Getty Images

The Dolphins activated wide receiver DeVante Parker from the physically unable to perform list a week ago, which meant the first-round pick became eligible to begin practicing with the team for the first time since offseason foot surgery.

Parker hasn’t actually started practicing, though. While Parker dressed for Wednesday’s practice and has resumed running, rehab continued to be the only work on his plate. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that is expected to change next week.

Parker is expected to join practice on at least a limited basis with an eye on being in the lineup when the regular season gets underway. Being in the lineup is one thing, but will Parker be able to contribute after so little time on the field since being drafted?

“That’s the plan, but you never know,” Parker said, via the Herald.

It’s an ambitious plan given Parker’s injury and inactivity, but a growing role in the offense over the first weeks of the season seems like a realistic trajectory for Parker to take as he acclimates himself after the layoff.

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