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Union disputes NFL’s stance on banning taping of drug tests

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After Steelers linebacker James Harrison complained that he wasn’t allowed to tape his recent drug test, the NFL explained that it bans players from taping tests in order to maintain the integrity of the testing process. But the players’ union says it agreed to no such ban.

In response to the story, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith distributed a memo to the players, which Harrison posted on Instagram. That memo took issue with the NFL’s stance on the matter.

“Despite what the player was told, and what has been reported, our drug policy regarding specimen collection rules does not specifically prohibit the video taping of a drug test,” Smith wrote. “There are rules in place, however, that prohibit a player from carrying any item other than his collection cup into the restroom when providing a specimen. Additionally, some states may have rules limiting a person’s ability to videotape another person without their consent. If drug collectors desire to change the collection rules, they may not do so on their own as happened in this case. They need to obtain approval from both the NFL and the NFLPA before making any such changes. They do not get to make up the rules on their own. We plan on sending a letter to the Drug Free Sport and the NFL this week reminding them of their obligations to bargain over any changes to the Policy.”

So to the long list of things about which the NFL and NFLPA disagree, we can now add whether or not a player is allowed to tape himself taking a drug test.

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Rex Ryan claims Jets tried to trade for Odell Beckham when he was dealing with hamstring issue

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It’s been a bad week for the Buffalo Bills, bad enough to get SI.com to send Don Banks to Western New York with questions about the rash of adversity.

Along the way, Bills coach Rex Ryan blurted out something that seems a little far-fetched on its face — and could be a borderline violation of the tampering rules.

“Has he missed a little time?” Ryan said regarding the notion that 2014 first-round wideout Sammy Watkins is injury prone. “Yeah. Big deal. He and everyone else. [Odell] Beckham kid came out the same year, and he missed how many games with a hamstring issue? Believe me, I was trying to trade for him [with the Jets] when he had the hamstring. I was reading the [New York] papers, and I was like, ‘Well, hell, we’ll take him.'”

Beckham missed four regular-season games to start his career, but then racked up 1,305 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games. Still, Beckham’s lack of availability prompted comments of concern from former Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Those remarks likely caught Ryan’s ear.

By 2014, however, Ryan’s wings had been clipped, with G.M. John Idzik firmly in charge of the roster and Rex coaching whomever Idzik gave him. Moreover, the fact that no word of a potential trade of Beckham was leaked to the ever-swarming New York media suggests that there was no effort to pull off a cross-town swap — especially since news of a desire by the Jets to trade into the top 10 to select Beckham made its way to the media before the draft.

Meanwhile, it’s hard not to wonder whether Ryan’s comments about Beckham are aimed at pointing out that, while Ryan was still with the Jets, Bills G.M. Doug Whaley screwed the pooch by trading up from No. 9 to No. 4 to get Watkins when Whaley and the Bills could have stayed where they were and gotten Beckham, who to date has performed better than Watkins. With both Whaley and Ryan reportedly on an playoffs-or-step-off mandate for 2016, it makes sense to always be looking for any proof of one guy trying to pin the blame for the team’s struggles on the other guy.

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Mike Shanahan apparently has given up on coaching again

Mike Shanahan AP

The headlines that came from former Washington coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to go on the record — in exhaustive detail — regarding the misadventures of the franchise that traded up to get Robert Griffin III raise eyebrows. But there’s one important body-language reaction from Shanahan’s remarks that largely have been missed: A shoulder shrug.

Shanahan’s decision to speak so openly and candidly — and critically — regarding one of his former NFL bosses reflects an acknowledgment that the two-time Super Bowl winners chances of getting another NFL head-coaching job are slim and none. Whatever they were before his comments were published, his prospects are dimmer now, because owners don’t want to have to worry about a former coach putting the organization on blast after walking out the door, voluntarily or otherwise.

It’s clear from Jason Reid’s item at TheUndefeated.com that Shanahan took strong issue with owner Daniel Snyder. While plenty of other owners may not be surprised to learn that the D.C. dysfunction traced to the man who scrawled a signature on the checks, most if not all other owners will be reluctant to embrace a coach who has shown a willingness to share chapter-and-verse details about private team business.

None of this is really new or surprising, beyond Shanahan’s willingness to attach his name to his quotes. It became obvious in December 2013 that things had gone poorly for Shanahan, Griffin, and Snyder when ESPN reported that Shanahan had cleaned out his office a week before the NFC wild-card game that capped Griffin’s rookie season in 2012.

Based on Reid’s article, the gesture apparently didn’t help Shanahan in his effort to ensure that the owner would not undermine the coach. If it’s true that Shanahan was ready to walk before the 2012 season ended, it’s amazing that he didn’t quit roughly a month later, when Griffin (according to Shanahan) aired a variety of grievances and demanded changes to the offense in a manner that caused Shanahan to conclude the messages had originated with Snyder. (Reid’s article doesn’t mention the ESPN report that Shanahan was ready to walk away weeks before that meeting.)

Regardless of what did and didn’t happen prior to and after the drafting of Griffin, Shanahan’s words make it clear that what won’t be happening in the future is the hiring of Shanahan to coach an NFL team. Then again, it’s possible Shanahan already knows that his time in the NFL has ended, and that he’s simply trying to give his son (and former Washington offensive coordinator) Kyle’s slower-than-expected rise to a head-coaching job a boost by absolving him of responsibility for the many things that went wrong in Washington.

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93-year-old World War II veteran miffed with Second Circuit’s ruling in Brady case

Tom Brady AP

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has two days to file a petition for rehearing regarding the decision of three judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reinstate Brady’s suspension. In anticipation of that likely development, a 93-year-old veteran of World War II has given the Second Circuit a kick in the pants.

Via Boston.com, Warren B. Lessing of DeLand, Florida has typed (with a typewriter) a letter to the Second Circuit expressing disagreement with the court’s handling of the case.

“While I did not expect a reply, I wrote a letter to Roger Goodell regarding [Brady’s suspension], as I am sure thousands of football fans did the same,” Mr. Lessing writes, “stating that I thought it was a stupid, asinine ruling. In the meantime you overrule the judge who rightfully, and sensibly, tried to put an end to it, so I am telling you the same thing.”

Mr. Lessing then concludes the three-paragraph, one-page letter with a flourish.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” he writes, “but isn’t this still the United States where a person is innocent until proven guilty? Tom Brady was never proven guilty. Don’t you have anything more important to do?”

Of course, Brady and Lessing are likely hoping that the full Second Circuit will consider the matter sufficiently important to justify a rehearing before the full court.

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Saturday one-liners

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New Patriots CB E.J. Biggers says the organization is at the “top of the food chain.” (The Broncos may disagree.)

Look for more production from Bills TE Charles Clay in 2016.

Dolphins C Mike Pouncey says the team’s offensive line “better be” the best that QB Ryan Tannehill has ever had in front of him.

NJ.com has a click-harvest look at the offensive and defensive depth charts of the Jets.

Former Ravens S Ed Reed is working with Terra’s Kitchen to benefit Baltimore City Public Schools.

For new Bengals like OL Trip Thurman, parlaying a tryout into a 90-man roster spot is just the beginning.

High-energy 69-year-old Browns assistant Al Saunders could be coach Hue Jackson’s secret weapon.

Steelers rookie paid a visit to UPMC’s Children’s Hospital.

The Texans still hope to host the Pro Bowl, despite reports it’s heading to Orlando.

Get to know Jaguars sixth-round DE Tyrone Holmes.

The Titans will start selling single-game tickets on Tuesday.

Colts LB Robert Mathis says that the “reset button” is being pressed in 2016.

Broncos CB Bradley Roby aspires to be a “turnover machine.” (Some would say Broncos QB Mark Sanchez already holds that title.)

Did the Chargers exhale after hearing about the Jalen Ramsey knee injury?

Raiders CB David Amerson allegedly lost $400,000 due to agent fraud.

Chiefs teammates rushed to support Eric Berry on Twitter as the best free safety in football.

RB Ezekiel Elliott says Cowboys fans are “even more crazy” than Ohio State fans.

A click-harvest look at 10 players to watch during Giants OTAs.

Washington CB Josh Norman’s arrival in D.C. has become official with his placement in an Eastern Motors ad.

Allen Barbe will start at left guard for the Eagles.

The Bears offense is changing in three ways.

For Hall of Fame Vikings coach Bud Grant, retirement is all about hunting, fishing, and selling stuff on his front lawn.

Lions S Glover Quin doesn’t know who will be joining him as a starter at the position.

Packers CB Robertson Daniel, who made it to the 53-man roster for the divisional playoff loss but didn’t play, is hoping for more.

Falcons coaches persuaded 2015 first-rounder Vic Beasley to move from DE to LB this year.

The daughter of Saints owner Tom Benson says his contention that estranged heirs “tried to kill” him is proof of his mental decline.

Buccaneers QB coach Mike Bajakian is thrilled to have QB Mike Glennon back for another year.

Panthers QB Cam Newton has a customized 1970 Oldsmobile 442 Cutlass.

Cardinals 2015 first-round OT D.J. Humphries was humbled by being a healthy scratch for every game last year.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke is the most powerful man in Southern California sports.

49ers OT Joe Staley is supporting the San Jose Sharks in their quest for a Stanley Cup.

Soon-to-be-65-year-old Pete Carroll will be the coach of the Seahawks “as long as he wants to be.”

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One bettor really believes in the Bucs

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03:  Josh Keyes #57 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after a play against the Carolina Panthers in the 1st quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Long shots are in fashion, thanks to Leicester City’s 5,000-to-one upset by winning the English Premier League title. At least one bettor has plunked down a nice chunk of money on a far more plausible proposition for the upcoming NFL season.

Our friend and former colleague Mike Wilkening (who was the de facto in-house gambling guru) passes along this item from the potential future home of the Raiders.

Two days ago, someone placed a $9,000 bet at the William Hill Sports Book in the Tuscany Casino. The bettor took the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl, at 60-1 odds.

If the Bucs win it all, the payout will be $540,000.

Tampa Bay improved from 2-14 in 2014 to 6-10 in 2015. Despite the firing of coach Lovie Smith, the Bucs seems to be moving in the right direction, with budding franchise quarterback Jameis Winston. And while a Super Bowl run seems like it’s a couple of years away, someone out there is willing to plunk down $9,000 on the proposition.

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Nearly 75 percent of all draft picks have signed contracts

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The 2016 NFL draft concluded three weeks ago. Since then, nearly three of every four picks have been signed to contracts.

Based on NFLPA records through May 18 and four other signings announced since then, 188 of 253 draft picks have agreed to their rookie deals. That’s almost 75 percent.

All fifth-round picks have signed, and 18 of 31 first-rounders are under contract.

It’s a far cry from the way things were under the pre-2011 labor deal, when few if any draft picks signed before Memorial Day — and first-round selections didn’t begin to agree to terms until Independence Day. It also shows that there’s no reason for any rookie to be unsigned before reporting for rookie minicamp and offseason workouts — and every reason for agents to refuse to let their clients step onto the practice field until pen has been put to paper.

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Emaciated Manziel moves even farther away from an NFL return

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In addition to the off-field issues that are keeping quarterback Johnny Manziel unemployed, there’s a more tangible reason that currently disqualifies him from competing with the best football players in the world.

Based on photos that emerged this week, Manziel has lost a lot of weight, putting him well below his official NFL.com weight of 210.

The images make it even more clear that Manziel currently has no interest in playing pro football. There’s no reason to think he’ll ever be interest in playing again.

Even if he has an epiphany, he’ll have an even longer way to go to convince would-be employers to give him a chance.

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Aaron Rodgers’ brother to appear on The Bachelorette

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 16:  Singer/Songwriter Cowboy Troy and former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers attend, On Deck With The Deckers Hosted By The Eric And Jessie Decker Foundation, The Eric And Jessie Decker Foundation, positively impact the lives of United States military service members and veterans as well as animals. EJDF serves those who have served us via Decker's Dogs, helps fund the rescue, care and training of service dogs for military veterans returning home with disabilities. Event held at Rosewall on June 16, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images) Getty Images

When last we heard from Jordan Rodgers, failed NFL quarterback and brother of Packers all-time great Aaron, Jordan was choosing sides between his brother and Russell Wilson regarding the whole God-gives-a-crap-about-football debate. When we next hear from Jordan Rodgers, he’ll be the subject of the choosing.

Jordan Rodgers will be appearing as a contestant on ABC’s The Bachelorette. Not as the main person, but as a member of the herd of wannabe reality-show stars vying for the affection of the star of this specific reality show.

You can read Jordan’s profile for the show here, if you’re curious about his favorite movies, biggest fear, and the craziest thing he’s ever done in the bedroom (his answer wasn’t that bad).

A simple Google search reveals that Jordan Rodgers had a prior relationship with the woman who’ll be whittling down the field of male contenders, which apparently gives him an edge. And that’s the most I hope I ever know about the next season of The Bachelorette.

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Vernon Adams is a hot commodity in Canada

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 02:  Vernon Adams Jr. #3 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates a touchdown in the first quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs during the Valero Alamo Bowl at Alamodome on January 2, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams thinks he’s as good or better than former Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Adams now has something in common with the first overall pick in the draft, sort of.

The Montreal Alouettes have traded their 2017 first-round draft pick to the British Columbia Lions for the rights to Adams. This year, Goff was the subject of a round-one NFL trade in 2016. (I said, “Sort of.”)

The difference is that Goff was the first pick in the NFL draft, but Adams was undrafted by any NFL team, unsigned as a free agent, and 0-2 in a pair of rookie minicamp tryouts.

“I could be like a Warren Moon or Doug Flutie,” Adams recently said. “All I need is a chance. . . . If they can stop looking at my height and give me a chance they’d get a teammate with a lot of energy and a great leader.”

I love the kid’s confidence. But at some point he needs to do more than talk big.

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Michael Bennett envisions a Defensive Player of the Year season

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Running back David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals carries the football in front of defensive end Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Seahawks defeated the Cardinals 36-6. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett took a step forward with a career-high 10 sacks last season. He’s planning a bigger step forward this year.

Bennett told Sheil Kapadia of ESPN that he thinks he can be the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year for 2016.

“I’m feeling really defensive MVP-ish right now, the way I’ve been training, the way that my body feels,” Bennett said. “I think I’ve definitely got a chance to be up there with the top guys, to be one of the top defensive players in the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was defensive MVP. I think the only difference between me and the top guys is that they made a couple more plays than me. I missed a couple sacks. Those sacks could ultimately put me over the top. If I get 14, 15 sacks, we’re talking about a top player in the league. So statistically, quarterback hits, [tackles for loss], everything behind the line of scrimmage, that’s what I do. I’m the king of that. So I just want to improve that every year.”

Last year J.J. Watt easily won Defensive Player of the Year with 37 votes, with Aaron Donald coming in second, Luke Kuechly third and Josh Norman fourth. Bennett didn’t receive any votes.

Watt is Watt, which means he heads into the season the favorite to win the award for a fourth time. Bennett — or any other defensive end — would probably need to lead the league in sacks to dethrone Watt. He sounds confident that he can do it.

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NFL testing officials’ physical fitness

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It’s Ed Hochuli’s favorite day of the year: Physical fitness testing for NFL officials.

Dean Blandino, the league’s V.P. of Officiating, posted on Twitter that the league is putting its officials through a variety of physical tests today. All officials must pass the tests before they can officiate a game in 2016.

Among the tests is a functional movement screening, a test of flexibility and a test of strength, in which Hochuli undoubtedly puts his fellow officials to shame. The officials also get information about proper nutrition and take an endurance test in which they have to run 13 40-yard dashes, with 35 seconds between each sprint.

NFL officiating has come in for plenty of criticism recently, but the fitness of the officials themselves isn’t the issue. Officials generally do a good job of getting themselves into position to see the play. A bigger problem is that the NFL’s rules are so byzantine that even the best officials can’t enforce them consistently. No amount of physical fitness testing will fix that.

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Atlanta, L.A., Miami likely to host 2019-2021 Super Bowls

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The NFL owners will decide on Tuesday which three cities will host the Super Bowls in 2019, 2020 and 2021, and that decision is expected to show that building a new stadium or rehabbing an old one is the path to hosting America’s biggest sporting event.

Atlanta, Los Angeles and Miami are likely to host Super Bowls LIII, LIV and LV (that’s 53, 54 and 55), in some order.

Atlanta is in the process of building a new stadium for the Falcons, with plenty of help from taxpayers. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross paid for renovations to his stadium, and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is largely building his new stadium with private money.

New Orleans and Tampa are also bidding to host future Super Bowls, but they are considered underdogs. New Orleans is only bidding on the 2019 game because the city is hosting other events in 2020 and 2021, and is highly likely to lose out to Atlanta. The Buccaneers are currently in the process of renovating.

Next year’s Super Bowl will be played in Houston, and the 2018 game will be played in the Vikings’ new stadium in Minnesota.

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Aaron Rodgers hits back at fan who questions his hard counts

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the business at drawing the defense offside with a hard count and taking advantage of the free play. It’s a tactic that every quarterback employs, but Rodgers has it down to a science.

You’d think Packers fans would love that (and most surely do), but one Packers fan thinks it’s poor sportsmanship. And so that fan wrote a letter to the editor that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel printed under the headline, “Packers’ hard counts are ruining the game.”

“I hope that this season the Packers can refrain from their unprofessional play-calling,” the letter from Richard Klatt of Big Bend, Wisconsin, began. “It strikes me almost childish. What I call the ‘stutter-count’ is so out of place in professional football.

“It’s third down and the Packers need 5 yards, so instead of digging in what does quarterback Aaron Rogers [sic] do? He does his hard or stutter count and gets an opponent to jump offside. And there is your first down. Wow, how great was that? Or better yet Rogers [sic] notices an opposing defensive player trying to get off the field and does a quick snap. Another 5 yards! Great play-calling!

“Come on Packers, I think you’re above this kind of play. Are you? Can you get those 5 yards without the tricks? You’re ruining the game of football. Are our young athletes to be coached to play the game this way? I for one hope not, but then again, they’re only kids.”

Rodgers saw the letter and took to Twitter, writing, “I read some dumb things on here from time to time but wow, Dick Klatt from Big Bend.” Rodgers included a GIF featuring the line from The Hangover, “You are literally too stupid to insult.”

Perhaps next time the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel receives a letter that stupid, the letter should go into the circular file, and not the pages of the newspaper.

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Robert Kraft joins the growing chorus on Las Vegas

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NFL owners are increasingly speaking out in favor of moving a team to Las Vegas, and one of the league’s most influential owners has just lent his voice to the many saying it could work.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft told USA Today that he thinks Las Vegas would make sense for the Raiders if they can’t get a deal done for a new stadium in Oakland.

I think it would be good for the NFL,” Kraft said. “I know Mark Davis has tried so hard in Oakland. If they won’t do it . . . I want to support him.”

Kraft pointed out that the NFL’s historical objection to having any ties to the gambling industry is no longer relevant in a world where people gamble online everywhere.

“I came into the league in ’94,” said Kraft. “Back then, any exploration of that market was dismissed out of hand. I’m looking where we are today and thinking of the last 10 to 15 years, and the emergence of new media, with Google and Facebook and the like. We’re just living in a different world, technology wise. The risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas.”

Ultimately, the NFL is going to put teams in markets where taxpayers or private investors are willing to foot the bill for a stadium. In Las Vegas, there’s a plan in place for the Sands Corporation to put $150 million into a new domed stadium and tax revenues to pay for $750 million. With that kind of skin in the game, Las Vegas is going to be a major player in the NFL’s future.

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