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Owners need to create downside for taking chances on problem players

Risk Getty Images

It’s an idea that has been percolating for years. With the latest arrest of Bears defensive lineman Ray McDonald, its time finally has come.

NFL teams will continue to give talented players second (and third . . . and fourth) chances because NFL teams want to win. Seven years ago, the NFL implemented a deterrent to the practice of harboring problem players by instituting a convoluted system of fines on teams with multiple players suspended in a given year.

It hasn’t worked the way it should, and for good reason. Fines are a cost of doing business, especially when the ultimate goal of business is to compete for championships.

The only way to get the attention of teams inclined to roll the dice on the Ray McDonalds of the world will be to attach the loss of future draft picks when a player with a propensity for getting into trouble gets into trouble.

Last October, owners discussed the possibility of removing draft picks from teams with players who have multiple incidents under the Personal Conduct Policy.

What level of accountability should be expected of clubs?” Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to owners before the October session, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reported at the time.  “Is the current Salary Remittance Program sufficient, or should additional measures be considered?”

They should be considered, and they should be implemented. It won’t be easy; the formula for taking away draft picks when players get into trouble needs to be clear, simple, and fair.

Ultimately, it’s the only thing that will cause a team that sees a first-round talent slide to round four to stop and think about the potential consequences for rolling the dice. If/when the worst-case scenario unfolds, the team won’t simply lose the lower pick invested in a player whose ability should have gotten him off the board much sooner. They’ll lose one or more picks in the future.

Given the weight teams attach to those draft picks, it’s the best (and probably only) way to get them either to do a better job of keeping out players who may find trouble — or to ensure that players with a checkered past won’t find trouble in their next place of employment.

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Dannell Ellerbe glad to be in a place “that knows how to win”

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 23:  Dannell Ellerbe #59 of the Miami Dolphins looks on during a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys at Sun Life Stadium on August 23, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe spent his holiday trying to jam the toothpaste back in the tube, after making some harsh remarks about his time with the Dolphins.

Ellerbe told his hometown paper, the Richmond County (N.C.) Daily Journal, that he was glad to be out of Miami.

“It’s guys that want to win. I can honestly say it’s a place that knows how to win,” Ellerbe said. “I’m glad I’m getting back to a place with a great fan base and sold-out games. I’m looking forward to it. It’s always awesome when you have a great backing, when you have sold-out games and the fans got your back and are 100 percent behind you.”

That played well in his new home, but obviously not his previous one, leading him to tweet out his clarification yesterday,

“I want to apologize for how the article reads, I was just trying to explain my excitement for playing back in the Dome,” he wrote, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I had fun in Miami and had some awesome fans on my side.”

Of course he did, though they might not have the same warm feelings toward him former Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland did, when he signed Ellerbe to a $35 million contract two seasons ago.

When Ireland took a job with the Saints this offseason, he was able to reel in Ellerbe as a throw-in to the Kenny Stills trade, with a substantial pay cut.

Now, Ellerbe again has a chance to be a significant part of a defense, to go along with an opportunity to make some new friends.

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Oakland mayor opposes spending tax dollars to keep the Raiders

New York Jets v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

If the Raiders are going to stay in Oakland, they’re going to have to find a way to do it without any money from the city taxpayers.

That’s the word from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who says she would not support spending any public funds on a new stadium.

Schaaf noted that taxpayers are already on the hook for millions of dollars a year in debt from previous renovations on the Oakland Coliseum. That debt won’t be paid off until 2026, and the city has no interest in spending more money on a new stadium while it’s still paying off the old stadium.

“That money we’re paying now is general-fund money we could spend on police, parks or libraries,” she said.

Whether the Raiders move to Los Angeles remains to be seen, but if they’re getting a new stadium somewhere, it won’t be in Oakland.

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Bears have to find a starter after cutting Ray McDonald

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 09:  Jeremiah Ratliff #90 of the Chicago Bears looks on from the bench in the second quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 9, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears had little choice but part ways with defensive lineman Ray McDonald yesterday, for reasons that had nothing to do with football.

But they also have a football problem to solve now.

McDonald was penciled into the starting lineup of the 3-4 defense which new coordinator Vic Fangio’s installing, and now with the draft over and the bulk of free agency finished, they have to find another.

According to John Mullin of CSNChicago.com, the two most likely on-roster options are veteran Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson.

The 33-year-old Ratliff doesn’t have the size of a traditional 3-4 nose tackle anyway, and he has the experience to fill multiple roles.

Ferguson, last year’s second-round pick, is also a player they think they can shift outside.

“We’ve talked about that a lot,” General Manager Ryan Pace said earlier this year. “We project [Ferguson] as really nose and end. He can be both for us. So we don’t have him set at one position right now. He can be a nose or an end. He has position flexibility there, too.”

The Bears signed former Washington lineman Jarvis Jenkins this offseason, but need to add depth there, which they should have done anyway when they signed a player standing at the plate with two strikes.

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Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram drops 20 pounds

Melvin Ingram Getty Images

San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram is in the best shape of his NFL career.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Ingram has lost 20 pounds this offseason after committing to a change in diet.

Ingram now weighs 246 pounds – down from 266 last season – and has just 8 percent body fat.

“Being at 260 or 265, 266, wasn’t working, really,” Ingram said. “I felt quick but I kept getting injured. You’ve got to nitpick at your own body, your own self, your own game. … I felt like playing lighter would be a better thing for me. The lighter you are, the less stress it is on your body, the less stress it is on your knees, your hips, your joints or your ankles, your toes — everything.”

Injuries have hampered Ingram in his ability to live up to his status as a first-round pick. Ingram missed most of the 2013 season after suffering a torn ACL in the offseason and then missed eight weeks last season with a hamstring injury.

Ingram had his most productive season as a pass rusher last season for the Chargers despite the hamstring injury. He had four sacks in nine games played and also forced two fumbles.

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Sports book installs Seahawks-Colts as the most likely matchup for Super Bowl 50

Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson AP

We used to approach pro football odds posts with the tack of “Gee whiz, can you believe those wacky oddsmakers are accepting bets on (insert topic here)?”

Well, let’s cut it out. The surprise now is if something isn’t available to bet. We know it and you know it.

With this in mind, we check in to inform you that an online sports book is offering odds on a wide range of matchups — and we mean wide — for Super Bowl 50.

Sportsbook.ag has installed a Seahawks-Colts NFL title game as the favorite at 15-1, with Seahawks-Patriots and Colts-Packers next at 18-1. Packers-Patriots is 20-1, with Seahawks-Broncos 22-1.

What are the longest-priced Super Bowl 50 matchups? Glad you asked. Here they are:

Bears-Titans: 3,000-1.

Washington-Oakland: 3,000-1.

Buccaneers-Jaguars: 3,300-1.

Washington-Jaguars: 4,000-1.

Buccaneers-Titans: 5,000-1.

Washington-Titans: 6,000-1.

Sports books rarely offer odds in quadruple digits, which would suggest there isn’t a lot of fear about any of the real long shot matchups cashing. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see them on the board, right there for the gamblers, the dreamers and the diehards to take their shots.

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CBA doesn’t require Brady hearing to start within 10 days after appeal

Brady Getty Images

Some are reporting that the appeal of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension won’t be heard before Wednesday. That is correct.

Some are suggesting that Wednesday is the deadline for starting the appeal hearing. That is not correct.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL Players Association interprets the operative language of Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to require only that a date for the appeal hearing be set within 10 days after the appeal is filed.

The rule is a bit clunky. “Appeal hearings under Section 1(a) will be scheduled to commence within ten (10) days following receipt of the notice of appeal,” Article 46, Section 2(f)(i) provides. A fair reading of the awkward terms of the standard could be that the hearing itself must commence within 10 days after the appeal is filed. But if the union doesn’t interpret it that way, it’s not an issue.

And in this case the fact that the hearing won’t start by Wednesday isn’t an issue.

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Report: Eric Weddle won’t attend OTAs

Denver Broncos vs the San Diego Chargers Getty Images

One of the NFL’s most highly regarded safeties will reportedly not be present for his club’s organized team practice activities this week.

San Diego’s Eric Weddle will not take part in the voluntary workouts, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Monday.

A three-time Pro Bowler, the 30-year-old Weddle is in the final year of his contract. He is seeking a new deal.

The Chargers’ OTAs run from Tuesday through Thursday this week as well as June 1-3 and June 8-11. The club’s mandatory offseason minicamp is June 16-June 18. Weddle would be subject to fines if he did not attend the minicamp, but there are no penalties for skipping OTAs.

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Bears release Ray McDonald

McDonald Getty Images

Holiday, schmoliday.

With the NFL taking a rare day off to celebrate Memorial Day, the Chicago Bears opted to transact some swift business in the immediate aftermath of the latest arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald.

The team has announced that McDonald has been released.

“We believe in second chances, but when we signed Ray we were very clear what our expectations were if he was to remain a Bear,” General Manager Ryan Pace said in team-issued release. “He was not able to meet the standard and the decision was made to release him.”

On one hand, McDonald is innocent until proven guilty, and it’s possible he didn’t do anything wrong. On the other hand, how many time can a guy be falsely accused before the question becomes why does he keep putting himself in the position to be accused falsely? With McDonald fully aware of the consequences of any misstep, he needed to do everything in his power to avoid any type of claim. He failed.

McDonald once again becomes a free agent, but it’s unlikely that anyone will take a chance on him unless and until he’s exonerated from the latest accusation of domestic violence and child endangerment. Even then, it’s possible that McDonald won’t get another second chance.

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McDonald is accused of assaulting woman who was holding a baby

McDonald Getty Images

More and more details are emerging regarding the Monday morning arrest of Bears defensive lineman Ray McDonald. And more and more time is passing with his current employer saying nothing.

Via NBC Bay Area, McDonald specifically is accused of “physically assault[ing] the victim while she was holding a baby.” The alleged victim apparently is McDonald’s ex-fiancée, who reportedly had been residing with the child in an apartment paid for by McDonald.

McDonald reportedly asked his ex-fiancée to leave the apartment. He then left the premises and, when he returned, the police had been called. McDonald was arrested at the home of former 49ers teammate Justin Smith.

McDonald’s ex-fiancée also was involved in the August 2014 incident for which McDonald was arrested but ultimately not charged. The 49ers were criticized heavily for taking no action against McDonald. The team then cut him after a separate accusation of sexual assault was made against McDonald later in the year. (McDonald contends that the claim of sexual assault is false.)

The Bears, meanwhile, have said nothing — not even the perfunctory “we’re looking into it” non-statement statement. They’ll be expected by many to say, and to do, something strong in response to this latest incident involving McDonald.

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How many wins will it take to take the NFC South?

Murray Getty Images

Yes, it’s Memorial Day. But since what we do isn’t really working, we’ll be working while not really working through a 60-minute edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN.

It will require even less work for you to answer Monday’s PFT Planet poll question. Since Monday’s show focuses on the offseasons of the teams of the NFC South, it’s your task to select the number of wins it will take to take the division.

Last year, seven were enough. I thought about making six an option for 2015, but surely that won’t happen — especially with each of the four franchises showing signs of improvement.

Cast a ballot below and then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET. Despite the various alcohol-based temptations at the looming cookout at PFT headquarters, I intend to not pay homage to Bill Murray visiting MSNBC last week.

Key word: intend.

Many NFC South fans surely wish they’d paid homage to Bill Murray visiting MSNBC all season long last year.

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McCaskey warned McDonald his behavior had to improve

mccaskey AP

When the Bears signed Ray McDonald in March, he was specifically warned by owner George McCaskey that his off-field behavior had to improve, or else he wouldn’t be a Bear for long.

After getting that warning, McDonald managed to stay out of trouble for two months.

McDonald, who was arrested today on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment, was cut by the 49ers last year after two separate accusations of violence against women. At the time that the Bears signed McDonald, McCaskey said that he had personally talked to McDonald and told him the Bears wouldn’t tolerate continued off-field issues.

“I told him that my assessment was bad decision-making; allowing himself to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or not withdrawing from a situation at the appropriate time. And I told him if he’s to remain a Bear that needs to improve and he pledged to me that it would,” McCaskey said.

McCaskey also said he wants to make sure the Bears are attracting the right kinds of people.

“That’s extremely important to us,” McCaskey said. “We have a 96-year tradition of doing things a certain way, of bringing a certain player into our team and those were my concerns going into the conversation with Ray. But I think you look at every situation individually. You try to find out as much information as you can that’s reliable to make the best decision you can about whether to offer a player the privilege of becoming a Chicago Bear.”

Given those comments, it’s hard to imagine that the Bears won’t cut McDonald. Perhaps by the end of the day today.

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Broncos CB Tevrin Brandon released from hospital after being hit by car

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We’ve reported on several cases of NFL players getting into accidents or arrested for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel of a car, but Broncos cornerback Tevrin Brandon’s involvement in a traffic altercation on Sunday morning was a little bit different.

NJ.com reports that Brandon had to be taken to a hospital in New Jersey after he was hit by a car at 2:24 a.m. while crossing an intersection between Highways 71 and 35 in Belmar. Brandon, who went to college at nearby Monmouth, was released from the Jersey Shore Medical Center later on Sunday.

A black Ford F-150 pickup is suspected of hitting Brandon and then leaving the scene before authorities arrived. Captain Andrew Huisman of the Belmar police said Sunday that the truck had yet to be located.

Brandon went undrafted last year and spent time in the Fall Experimental Football League before signing a future contract with the Broncos in January.

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Cam Newton says the kind of thing Cam Newton says sometimes

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) directs the team's offense against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter in NFC Divisional Playoff action at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

By all accounts, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton works hard, has played hurt and played well, helping his team to the first back-to-back playoff seasons in franchise history.

But sometimes when he talks, he makes it easy to misconstrue him.

During an interview with Morgan Fogarty of WCCB in Charlotte, Newton said another one of those things — like “entertainer and icon” — which will be latched onto by his critics as evidence of something he may not actually be.

When asked if he was still one of the league’s “greatest unknowns,” Newton started talking and the words just fell together in the following perhaps-unfortunate order.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I say this with the most humility, but I don’t think nobody has ever been who I’m trying to be. Nobody has the size, nobody has the speed, nobody has the arm strength, nobody had the intangibles that I’ve had.

“I’m not saying I’m the one-on-one type of person that this league will never see again. No, I’m not saying that, hear me out. I’m just saying that so much of my talents have not been seen in one person.”

To be honest, he’s probably right. He has the mobility of a Russell Wilson, with the size and arm of a Ben Roethlisberger. But for all Newton’s grace — not everybody can wear white pants in the mud and save damsels in distress — sometimes he stumbles over his own words and ends up sounding more arrogant than he could possibly be.

And when he does, it makes him an easy target.

On the other hand, Newton can also sound incredibly gracious and self-aware.

For example, he said he still wears the hospital bracelet from last year’s car wreck, as a reminder of the temporal nature of his existence and the need to appreciate each moment.

And he was open about learning not to demand “instant gratification,” from his career, as he learns from his elders on the Panthers roster.

“So much of leadership is being a good follower as well,” Newton said. “And I look forward to hearing Thomas Davis speak. Watching how Ryan Kalil approaches the game. As well as Greg Olsen, [who] gets after it every day at practice.

“When I see those type of things each and every day, it makes me a better person [and say to myself] ‘Man, let me stop feeling sorry for myself and my nagging injuries and say you know what, I gotta do better. I gotta become that leader that I’m supposed to be.'”

Of course, that’s not as dramatic a sound bite, or as easy to use to pigeonhole him. Which is probably why you won’t hear it as often.

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Police confirm arrest of Ray McDonald

McDonald Getty Images

The Bears have yet to say anything about the arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald. The authorities are saying plenty.

Via NBC Bay Area, Santa Clara police have confirmed that McDonald was arrested Monday on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment. More information could be released within the hour.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes that the arrest occurred at an address belonging to retired 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith.  Smith has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The Bears surely will face pressure to sever ties with McDonald, especially since owner George McCaskey has said that he initially didn’t want to sign the player who was cut by the 49ers after a pair of accusations in 2014.

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