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88 years ago Thursday, the NFL made a plan to get smaller

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Eighty-eight years ago Thursday, the NFL finalized a plan to get smaller.

A lot smaller.

The plan, which was led by Commissioner Joe Carr, was to contract some of the struggling clubs to improve the league’s financial health, as the NFL’s Record and Fact Book points out. “The Man Who Built The National Football League,” a biography of Carr, notes contraction discussions began earlier in the winter, were formalized on April 23, 1927 and executed in July.

When the 1927 season began, a leaner-and-meaner NFL was in place. The league, which fielded 22 teams the previous year, now had just 12 clubs — 10 holdovers and two teams that were not in the NFL in 1926.

Moreover, a dozen teams had exited stage left, never to play again in the NFL. Ultimately, the Akron Indians, Brooklyn Lions, Canton Bulldogs, Columbus Tigers, Detroit Panthers, Hammond Pros, Hartford Blues, Kansas City Cowboys, Los Angeles Buccaneers, Louisville Colonels, Milwaukee Badgers and Racine Tornadoes disappeared from the NFL for good.

For eight cities — Akron, Canton, Columbus, Hammond, Hartford, Louisville, Milwaukee and Racine — this was the end of having an NFL team within its boundaries.

So what happened to the 12 teams that remained in the NFL in 1927?

Within five years, eight of the clubs — the Buffalo Rangers, Cleveland Bulldogs, Dayton Triangles, Duluth Eskimos, Frankford Yellow Jackets, New York Yankees, Pottsville Maroons and Providence Steam Roller — were gone.

However, the Chicago Bears, Chicago Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants were still around, just as they are today, with only the Cardinals (now in Arizona) having changed markets.

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Bills may cap season tickets, for the first time ever

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It’s been a great year for the Bills, even without a game being played yet.

According to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, the Bills are considering placing a cap on season-ticket sales for the first time in team history.

Current sales have surpassed, per Graham, 55,000.  The record is 57,132, set back in 1992.  Graham adds that suites are nearly sold out.

A limit on season-tickets sales would protect fans who want to purchase single-game tickets.  Which likely will sell briskly, too.

To sustain this, the Bills eventually need to win.  The sales to date suggest that the fans believe they will.

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Will Hill signs tender with Ravens

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Friday is the deadline for restricted free agents to solicit offer sheets from new teams, which probably leaves most players with a pretty good idea at this point about whether they’re going to receive one.

We’re not sure what safety Will Hill might have heard from other clubs, but it seems nothing made him want to make the jump away from the Ravens. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Hill signed his tender with the team on Thursday. Hill was tendered at the lowest level, which leaves him with a $1.542 million salary for the 2015 season.

Hill played well for the Ravens over the final 10 games of the season, but he missed the first six games of the year while serving the third suspension of his short NFL career. The first two came while Hill was a member of the Giants and he also provided them with good efforts on the field when he was eligible to do so.

Those off-field issues likely kept other teams at bay this offseason and Hill’s chances of getting more than a one-year deal next year will be helped if he can make it through 2015 without suspension or other off-field incident.

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Rivers addresses his situation in San Diego, sort of

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On Wednesday, Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco said the it’s the team’s “plan and intent” to keep quarterback Philip Rivers.  On Thursday, Rivers essentially said it’s his plan and intent to stay.

Thanks to the magic that is Twitter, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report shared a message from Cameron Curran of The Classical Academies, who says that in a visit to the school Rivers told the assembled crowd “he’s playing in San Diego and not to believe the media.”

In this case, “the media” includes former Rivers teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, who has said that he believes Rivers wants out of San Diego.  “The media” also includes U-T San Diego, to which Rivers said last month that he’s not inclined:  (1) to extend his contract before it expires after the season; or (2) to move his family to Los Angeles.

It’s entirely possible that the chatter about a potential trade arises from posturing regarding the quarterback’s next contract.  But with Telesco not clearly and unequivocally dismissing the possibility of a trade and declaring that Rivers will remain with the Chargers for the rest of his career and acting as if even the mere question of a possible departure is an affront to Telesco’s intelligence, the door remains open for Rivers to walk out of town.

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Bruce Arians says return to Pittsburgh “just another game”

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Thursday that it is going to be tough to go back to Heinz Field in October, but insists that is only because they’ll have to face “a really good football team” and not because of the way his tenure on Pittsburgh’s coaching staff came to an end.

Arians spent eight years as an assistant with the Steelers, winning two Super Bowl rings and spending the last five years of his stint as the team’s offensive coordinator. His departure was originally announced as a retirement, but it wasn’t long before Arians admitted the team didn’t ask him back.

Arians has spent the last three years making clear his retirement would have been quite premature as he’s won Coach of the Year with both the Colts and Cardinals, which may be why he says there’s no extra motivation to do well on October 18 in Pittsburgh.

“It’s just another game,” Arians said, via “It really is. It’s been so long now.”

The Steelers game will come a week after the Cardinals play in Detroit, a setup Arians confirms the Cardinals asked for so that they could stay in the Eastern Time Zone for both games rather than make extra flights across the country. Making sure all runs smoothly away from team headquarters should keep Arians busy enough to avoid adding any extra significance to the Pittsburgh trip down the line.

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Titans picking up Kendall Wright’s fifth-year option

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The Titans have checked out a number of draft-eligible wide receivers, but they’re taking a step to hang onto one of their own for another year.

Via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean, the Titans are going to pick up the fifth-year option on wide receiver Kendall Wright’s contract.

Teams have until May 3 to make the decision, but Wright’s shown enough to make them think he’s worth the $7.3 million he’ll make in 2016. He caught 57 passes for 715 yards in six touchdowns last season, in a setting not conducive to offensive excellence. He was much better the year before, with 94 catches for 1,079 yards.

The decision to pick up the option isn’t an automatic one for the Titans, who elected not to do the same with quarterback Jake Locker a year ago.

The Titans have a decent group of wideouts on hand, and they’ve brought in a number of draft prospects for visits, including the top two — Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White.

If they elect to keep the second pick in 2015 NFL Draft, and are truly committed to Zach Mettenberger as their quarterback, adding a player of that caliber will at least give Mettenberger a chance.

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Bengals are getting targets healthier, with Marvin Jones back

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The Bengals struggled with injuries throughout their receiving corps last year, but at the moment, things are looking good.

Via FOX 19 in Cincinnati, wideout Marvin Jones said he had “no limitations” when the team began voluntary workouts this week.

“It’s just important for me to get out there and do everything consistently,” Jones said. “And, I have been doing that, but it’s different being here and running routes every day. . . .

“I’m definitely glad that I’m back with my brothers. It gives me a great sense of wanting to hurry up and get out there and be with them and work hard with them.”

Jones missed all of 2014 because of foot and ankle injuries, keeping him from building on his 2013 season in which he caught 10 touchdowns. Coupled with the persistent toe problems of star wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert lost for the season with an elbow injury in the opener, and it’s surprising the Bengals made it as far as they did.

“It’s good to have Marvin and Tyler and all of these guys back,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “I know they’re ready to get back going again and so I’m excited to get those guys back.”

With more weapons available in the passing game, however, there will also be more pressure on Dalton to make something of them.

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Dolphins defender A.J. Francis applied to be an Uber driver in the offseason

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NFL players who get arrested for DUI are often asked why they didn’t just get a taxi or car service to take them home given the fact that they make enough money to afford a ride home.

Dolphins players may get the chance to avoid potential legal trouble by catching a ride with one of their teammates. Defensive tackle A.J. Francis said on Twitter that he applied to become an Uber driver this offseason.

“It would be a cool way to get some extra cash,” Francis said, via the New York Daily News. “I always worked odd jobs. I mowed lawns in summer and shoveled snow in the winter. I got a job in a deli cutting meat. I was a bouncer at a night club in college.”

Francis, who spent last offseason on injured reserve with a knee injury, said he would expect to work up to four hours a day in the offseason if he gets the green light. He wouldn’t be the first athlete to moonlight for the company as Xavier University basketball player Matt Stainbrook has also gotten behind the wheel to make some money.

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Obama praises Patriots, makes a Deflategate joke

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President Obama welcomed the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots to the White House today and praised them as America’s finest sports franchise — but also cracked a joke about Deflategate.

“The Patriots organization is as good an organization as there’s ever been in professional sports. To be able to maintain that kind of consistent excellence is a rare thing in any field, including on the football field. And that’s a testament to outstanding ownership. It’s a testament to a Hall of Fame coach,” Obama said.

Obama then moved on to a joke about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs in the AFC Championship Game.

“I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat,” Obama said, to mostly groans from the audience.

“That whole story got blown a little out of proportion,” Obama said.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did not attend, citing a scheduling conflict, but Obama named Brady first when running down the accomplishments of the Patriots’ players. Obama called Brady and Bill Belichick the best coach and quarterback combination in football history.

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Dick Butkus, Jim Kelly among former players scheduled to announce picks in second round

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The NFL will be holding the draft in Chicago this year and one of the city’s most-loved football players is scheduled to announce the Bears’s second-round pick.

Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus is one of the 32 retired players that the NFL announced will be taking part in the draft by announcing picks by their former teams. It’s the fifth year that the NFL has involved former players in the event and Butkus will be joined by five other Hall of Famers, including former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

Kelly, who was declared cancer-free last year, will be announcing the first pick of the Rex Ryan era in Buffalo since the Bills don’t have a pick in the first round. Former Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson, former Raiders cornerback Willie Brown, former Steelers cornerback Mel Blount and former 49ers defensive end/pass rusher Charles Haley, who will be inducted this summer, round out the Hall of Famers taking part.

The full list, which includes another appearance for the resurgent Ickey Woods, can be found right here.

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NFL’s investigation found Greg Hardy’s explanations not credible

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Greg Hardy managed to avoid any criminal penalties in connection with the domestic violence accusations leveled against him last year. But the NFL’s own investigation concluded that Hardy did commit an act of investigation and was dishonest when asked directly about it.

Jeff Pash, the NFL’s executive vice president and general counsel, said on Outside the Lines that the NFL (which was burned by the Ray Rice case) will no longer rely on the legal system. Instead, the NFL conducts its own investigations, and Pash said the league’s investigation found that Hardy committed “a significant act of violence.”

“This suspension was imposed after a lengthy and detailed independent investigation of the kind we really hadn’t done before,” Pash said. “We did an independent investigation, we didn’t rely simply on the record here.”

Pash also said Hardy and his representatives were given ample opportunity to give his side of the story, and that the NFL found Hardy had engaged in “a failure to be candid in the context of the investigation.”

“His explanations of the events that happened last May simply could not be reconciled with the testimony of other witnesses, with other objective evidence, or with, frankly, some of the variations in testimony over time from Mr. Hardy,” Pash said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the final call on the decision to suspend Hardy without pay for the first 10 games of the 2015 season. That’s a decision that Hardy will appeal, but that the NFL insists was made after the kind of thorough investigation that wasn’t conducted with Ray Rice.

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32 former players scheduled to announce second-round picks

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For the fifth straight year, the NFL will have former NFL players announce second-round picks during the draft and they announced the list of participants on Thursday.

All 32 teams are currently scheduled to make a selection in the second round, but it seems inevitable that some of these players will be delayed until the third round by trades once the draft is underway.

Arizona Cardinals: Safety Adrian Wilson

Atlanta Falcons: Center Todd McClure

Baltimore Ravens: Cornerback Duane Starks

Buffalo Bills: Quarterback Jim Kelly

Carolina Panthers: Safety Pat Terrell

Chicago Bears: Linebacker Dick Butkus

Cincinnati Bengals: Running back Ickey Woods

Cleveland Browns: Cornerback Hanford Dixon

Dallas Cowboys: Safety Darren Woodson

Denver Broncos: Wide receiver Rick Upchurch

Detroit Lions: Linebacker Chris Spielman

Green Bay Packers: Wide receiver Donald Driver

Houston Texans: Safety Eric Brown

Indianapolis Colts: Wide receiver Bill Brooks

Jacksonville Jaguars: Fullback Greg Jones

Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback Gary Green

Miami Dolphins: Center Dwight Stephenson

Minnesota Vikings: Linebacker E.J. Henderson

New England Patriots: Cornerback Ty Law

New Orleans Saints: Tackle Jon Stinchcomb

New York Giants: Safety Shaun Williams

New York Jets: Running back Emerson Boozer

Oakland Raiders: Cornerback Willie Brown

Philadelphia Eagles: Tackle Jon Runyan

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cornerback Mel Blount

St. Louis Rams: Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa

San Diego Chargers: Wide receiver Anthony Miller

San Francisco 49ers: Defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley

Seattle Seahawks: Safety Kenny Easley

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Fullback Mike Alstott

Tennessee Titans: Tackle Michael Roos

Washington Redskins: Safety Brig Owens

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PFT Live: Is there really no intent to trade Philip Rivers?

Mike Florio takes a look at the Philip Rivers trade rumors, which Chargers’ GM Tom Telesco addressed at a press conference by saying that there is no intent to trade Rivers.

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Victor Cruz has “zero doubts” he’ll be player he was before knee injury

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Giants coach Tom Coughlin said last month that he’d be “careful” about assuming that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be on the field for the team when they face the Cowboys in their 2015 opener.

Cruz tore the patellar tendon in his knee last season and Coughlin said that the wideout has been making progress in his recovery, but an ounce of precaution makes sense before anyone starts scheduling any two-man touchdown celebrations in the fall. Cruz offered no such precaution about when he’ll be ready during a meeting with the media on Thursday and threw in some confidence about the kind of player he’ll be come September 13.

“There’s zero doubts in my mind I’ll be playing in that first game and will be playing at the level I’ve played,” Cruz said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.

Cruz still has some steps to take in his rehab, which has progressed to running in a straight line but hasn’t yet involved making any cuts. If he makes it through that step without issue, his chances for Week One will look even better. Any conclusions about the type of player he is post-injury will have to wait a little longer, though.

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Report: Justin Tucker signs RFA tender

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One of the NFL’s top kickers has signed his restricted free agent tender.

Baltimore’s Justin Tucker has inked his one-year, $2.356 million contract offer, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported.

Tucker, 25, connected on 29-of-34 field goals in 2014 (.853), forcing touchbacks on 60-of-88 kickoffs. All five misses were from 50 yards or more. Overall, he has hit 97-of-108 field goals in three NFL seasons (.898), including 59-of-60 from inside of 40 yards.

Given his age, accuracy and leg strength, Tucker figures to be paid at or near the top of the market when it comes time to sign a new deal in 2016, assuming he remains in good form.

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