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49ers, Harbaugh pull plug on contract talks until after the season

Jim Harbaugh AP

Whatever 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wants on a new contract, whatever the 49ers have offered isn’t good enough.  And so Harbaugh and the team have agreed to table any discussions on a new deal until after the season.

“We actually just had this conversation [Wednesday],” owner Jed York said on CSN Bay Area’s Yahoo! SportsTalk Live.  “Lots of people were talking to him about it.  We just said, ‘You know what, let’s not do anything during the season.  Let’s sit down a week or so after the season is over and let everybody know we’re not focused on anything that’s off the field right now.’

“Jim and I will sit down a week or so after the season is over and we’ll figure out where we go.”

Where they go after the season will depend in large part on where they go during the season.  If Harbaugh wins the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 20 years, his leverage and price go up.  If he has another season that entails knocking on the door but not kicking it in, he may still want more than the 49ers want to pay.

And if that’s the case, the 49ers will have to decide whether to let Harbaugh coach out his contract and become a free agent, allow him to leave if a college program offers him the money he wants, or trade him to another NFL team — as they came a lot closer to doing with the Browns than anyone will admit.

If the 49ers make it to the playoffs, the potential universe of NFL openings will be known before York and Harbaugh have their chat.  And with most owners inclined to fire coaches of bad teams making up their minds to make a change well before the end of the season, there’s a good chance that the 49ers will have a good idea what they could get for Harbaugh, if they decide to swap the final year of his deal for draft picks.

So this could indeed be Harbaugh’s last year with the 49ers.  And now any potentially interested college or NFL program can decide whether to include him on their wish list.

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Seahawks bumped up Marshawn Lynch’s 2014 salary

Marshawn Lynch, CJ Spiller AP

The Seahawks got their starting running back in camp today, and Marshawn Lynch got something out of his brief holdout.

A league source tells PFT that the Seahawks agreed to bump up Lynch’s base salary to persuade Lynch to report.

Under Lynch’s previous contract, he was due to make a $5 million base salary this year, plus $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and he could have earned another $500,000 in incentives if he had rushed for 1,500 yards. Now Lynch gets a base salary of $6 million (meaning the Seahawks effectively guaranteed the $1 million he previously would have had to earn), plus they’re taking $500,000 that he had been scheduled to get paid in 2015 and giving it to him now instead. In all, Lynch will make $6.5 million this year.

The Seahawks also agreed not to enforce the fines that they were entitled to dock him from the work he has already missed. We’re also hearing that the league office was pressuring the Seahawks to go after some of Lynch’s signing bonus money if he refused to report, as teams are permitted to do under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But the Seahawks resisted that.

Instead, the Seahawks and Lynch reached a deal amenable to both sides, and Lynch is in camp, making more money in 2014 than he was scheduled to make under his old deal.

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Marshawn Lynch ends his holdout, reports to Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch AP

Reports on Thursday afternoon indicated that running back Marshawn Lynch was set to make his delayed arrival to Seahawks camp in the next 24 hours, but the team didn’t have to wait that long for Lynch’s return.

Lynch arrived at the Seahawks’ facility a bit later on Thursday, a moment broadcast on NFL Network and shared on Twitter by Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. Curtis Crabtree of PFT is at the team headquarters and passes along word that Lynch’s arrival at the building was met by loud cheering from an auditorium and that a Brinks truck pulled up to the facility a few minutes later.

If the earlier report from ESPN about Lynch not getting a new deal is correct, the truck is just a humorous coincidence. There are reportedly some “financial concessions” coming Lynch’s way, which could be the forgiveness of the fines that Lynch accumulated while staying away from the team.

Either way, Lynch is back now and should resume his place as a centerpiece of the team’s offensive attack. With a salary that could reach $7.5 million due next season, it will be interesting to see if this is Lynch’s final year in Seattle as the Seahawks will need to keep some money free for possible extensions for quarterback Russell Wilson and other younger players finishing up their rookie deals.

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Fred Jackson is old, but he doesn’t feel old

fredjakcson AP

Fred Jackson is 33 years old. Which is ancient for an NFL running back. Jackson was the oldest running back to carry the ball in the NFL last year and will be again this year, and when Jackson agreed to a contract extension with the Bills yesterday, there were questions about why on earth a team would extend the contract of a player who’s already long in the tooth.

Except that Jackson is still playing well: Last year he ran 206 times for 890 yards, added 47 catches for 387 yards, and scored 10 touchdowns. And Jackson says he feels like he’s in great shape and ready to turn in another good year this year.

“I had a tremendous offseason with our strength and conditioning coaches, I think they did a great job getting me to where I am today, so I’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit,” he said. “I’m hungry and motivated. I think a renewed sense of getting this thing turned around, with some of the moves we made in the offseason putting the pieces around us I think that’s got to have a lot of guys excited, and I’m one of them.”

If Jackson can top 800 yards again this year, he’ll join some truly elite company. Only seven players in NFL history have rushed for 800 yards at age 33 or later, and they’re all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Walter Payton, John Riggins, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka and John Henry Johnson. Jackson isn’t an all-time great like those players, but he’s had a long and impressive career in Buffalo. And he’s not done yet.

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Report: Marshawn Lynch ending holdout

Marshawn Lynch AP

It looks like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has decided not to be all about that holdout, boss.

Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Lynch is expected to end his holdout in the next 24 hours and report to work with the Seahawks.

Per the report, Lynch will not be receiving a new deal from the Seahawks to replace the two years he has left on his current pact or any added money. He will be receiving “financial concessions” on his current deal, however. Those concessions are not spelled out, but could involve the Seahawks waiving the nearly $500,000 in fines that Lynch has accrued during his absence from the team.

Lynch’s return should allow the Seahawks to return to business as usual on offense, although there’s a chance that Christine Michael will see more time in the backfield this season as Seattle begins to plan for a future without Beast Mode.

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Browns say Johnny Manizel will work with first team soon

Johnny Manziel AP

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel said Thursday that he’s a better player in games than he is in practice because of an increased freedom to improvise, something that won’t help him all that much if he can’t get on the field.

It sounds like Manziel will have a chance to grab that playing time soon. Head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan both said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that they plan to give Manziel reps with the first team soon. They also said that it would be wrong to read too much into Brian Hoyer getting the first shot with the first team, because, per Pettine, Manziel is further along mentally than the team thought he’d be and because neither quarterback has done anything to speed up the decision-making process..

“I don’t think one is ahead of the other,” Shanahan said. “I hope one will make the decision easy on us.”

If Manziel doesn’t do that, Shanahan said that he’ll have a package of plays ready for the rookie quarterback to run in the opening week of the season in the event the team decides to use both quarterbacks in that week’s game plan. The chances of that happening will be higher if Manziel performs well once his chance with the starters does come.

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Johnny Manziel expects to be better in games than in practice

manziel AP

Johnny Manziel says Browns fans will see a difference between what he’s shown in training camp and what he’ll show when they start playing games.

Asked if he expects to perform better once the games start than he has so far in practice, Manziel said that’s always been his way.

“Always, for me, I’ve been better in a game situation than I feel I have in practice. But I have to come out here and get better with the reps that I’m getting. That’s the main thing, keep getting better, and then when it’s time to go out and play football, it’s time to play football,” Manziel said.

At Texas A&M, Manziel was often at his best improvising when plays broke down and using his feet to avoid the pass rush. But in practices, a quarterback doesn’t get that opportunity: Coaches want to see the play run in practice exactly the way it’s drawn up, and when the pass rush gets near the quarterback, the play is blown dead. Manziel thinks that makes him a better game-day player than practice player.

“There will be times in games, situations in games when things break down, and obviously it’s not practice, there are not coaches on the field, and it will be a little bit — it will be a lot different. But practice is what it is, and we have to get better,” Manziel said.

At the moment, Manziel is running the second-string offense, and Brian Hoyer is the starter. Manziel may have to play better in practice to show that he deserves to start when it’s game time.

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Ray Rice says his wife “can do no wrong” in first press conference

Ray Rice AP

Ravens running back Ray Rice walked to the podium Thursday, and came right out with  the kind of contrition he hadn’t previously shown.

Rice spoke to reporters for the first time since his no-questions-asked press conference during which his wife apologized for getting knocked out cold, and admitted what appears obvious.

“My actions that night were totally inexcusable,” he began. “That’s not me. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.”

Rice apologized to his wife, which he neglected to do during his press conference, and talked about how difficult it would be to explain to his young daughter.

He also said he and his wife wanted to talk about domestic violence “when the time is right.”

That’s apparently not until he continues his counseling, as he said he’s still in that process.

Rice didn’t want to re-live what he called “the incident,” but said he “owned it,” and it was the “biggest mistake of my life.”

“My wife can do no wrong,” he said, several times.

He also said he’s never been involved in any kind of domestic abuse situation, though he repeatedly declined to offer specifics on the night of “the incident.”

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Ravens fourth-round pick Brent Urban tears ACL

brenturban AP

Brent Urban’s rookie season is over before it started.

Urban, a defensive lineman chosen by the Ravens in the fourth round of the NFL draft, suffered a torn ACL in practice yesterday. Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the diagnosis today.

The Ravens hoped the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Urban would be able to join their defensive line rotation as a rookie, but now he’ll go on injured reserve.

Fellow rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who went down on the same play as Urban, is dealing with back spasms and is not expected to miss much time.

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Cary Williams: “No question” I’m in same class as the best corners in the league

Cary Williams AP

It has been a good offseason for cornerbacks.

Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden and Patrick Peterson have all gotten lucrative new contracts since the 2013 season came to a close. That race to the bank has also ramped up discussion among some members of the group about which of them is the best cornerback in football. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams’s name has never come up in those discussions, but Williams isn’t sure why that’s the case.

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reports that Williams said there’s “no question” that he belongs in a group of cornerbacks that he calls “equally as talented” as himself.

“I look at my career. I’ve played in playoff games,” Williams said. “Most of those guys haven’t played in playoff games. It is what it is. Hopefully those guys could make it to the playoffs. Hopefully those guys could continue the success that they’ve had in their careers. Much respect to those guys, because I don’t see a much of a difference in any of them.”

Williams is a capable NFL cornerback and, as he mentions, he’s played on some good teams in Baltimore and Philadelphia, but he’s not going to find many people buying into his argument that he’s played at the same level as those cornerbacks. Revis and Sherman have both had great success in the playoffs during their careers and Haden and Peterson’s play has been all the more impressive given how little help, relative to Williams’s teammates anyway, their teammates have given them. And all four have been much more impactful and consistent than Williams, should one need more than the playoff argument to chip away at the Eagles corner’s claim.

One thing is for certain after reading Williams’s take, though. Cornerbacks have officially replaced wide receivers as the most voluble (and occasionally delusional) group of players in the league.

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Brandon Marshall thinks Jay Cutler will win NFL MVP

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall AP

Peyton Manning is the betting favorite to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award this season. But Brandon Marshall’s money is on Jay Cutler.

Actually, Marshall can’t put any money on it because that would violate NFL rules. But Marshall does believe that Cutler is going to show this year that he’s the best player in football.

“League MVP,” Marshall said of Cutler on NFL Network. “He’s the first one in the building, last one to leave, his leadership is through the roof. He’s correcting the coaches. I mean, this is his offense. This is his organization. He’s running it, and I love it.”

Cutler missed five games with injuries last year, but he played well when healthy, with a career-high 89.2 passer rating. But Cutler will probably both need to be healthy for all 16 games and have an even higher passer rating this year if anyone is going to consider him seriously for the MVP.

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Report: Aldon Smith to meet with Goodell on August 8

Aldon Smith AP

49ers linebacker Aldon Smith took a trip to Los Angeles on Wednesday for a hearing wrapping up the case stemming from his ill-advised fake bomb threat at LAX earlier this year.

Smith avoided charges in that incident, but he was sentenced to 12 days in jail on gun and DUI charges that could also lead to discipline from the league. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Smith will be in New York on Friday, August 8 to discuss that possibility with NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will likely be asked about the report at some point, but we wouldn’t expect him to offer up a confirmation.

Schefter writes that Smith is facing a “significant suspension” as a result of multiple infractions, an opinion that’s held by many others as well. That was also the case when Ravens running back Ray Rice was facing a suspension, though, and it appears that he and his wife were able to convince Goodell to go a different direction during their meeting. Smith will likely try to do the same by focusing on the trip to rehab that kept him out of five games last season and the fact that he’s been sober since then.

If the meeting does go down on the 8th, it will come at the end of a busy stretch for Goodell. He’s scheduled to meet with Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, former Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent and a media contingent looking for answers on the Rice suspension between now and the reported meeting with Smith.

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NFL extra point experiment begins at the Hall of Fame Game

San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Extra points will be a little bit harder at the start of the preseason, as the NFL is experimenting with moving the spot of the ball back for point after attempts.

Starting with Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game and through the second week of the preseason, teams will line up at the 15-yard line when kicking extra points. (Two-point conversion attempts will remain at the 2-yard line, and extra points will move back to the 2 for the third week of the preseason and throughout the regular season.)

The NFL decided to try that after a groundswell during last season to do something — anything — to make extra points more interesting. Right now, NFL kickers make more than 99 percent of extra point attempts, making the extra point the most boring play in football. NFL owners voted down a proposal to move extra points back to the 25-yard line, but they agreed to experiment with moving them to the 15 in the preseason and reconsider the idea next offseason.

An extra point spotted at the 15 is the equivalent of a 33-yard field goal, which is still a chip shot for NFL kickers. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if every single longer extra point attempt is good this preseason. If the NFL wants to see how the game is changed by more challenging extra points, it should have moved them back to the 25, or farther.

The NFL could also consider moving two-point conversion attempts from the 2-yard line to the 1, making them easier and therefore giving coaches a greater incentive to go for two. The two-point conversion is one of the most exciting plays in football, and replacing those boring chip-shot kicks with exciting two-point conversion attempts would make the game better for the fans.

But the NFL’s owners are a conservative bunch, and they’re hesitant to make significant changes. Moving back the extra point kick by 13 yards is a very small step in the right direction, and that’s all we’re going to get this year.

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Report: Josh Brent seeks reinstatement, will meet Goodell

Dallas Cowboys v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Former Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent is reportedly attempting to resume his NFL career.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to meet with Brent by the conclusion of next week, Brent’s agent, Peter Schaffer, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter in a story published Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Brent served a 180-day prison sentence earlier this year after being convicted of intoxication manslaughter in a December 2012 accident that took the life of Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown.

According to ESPN, Brent officially petitioned for reinstatement on Tuesday, the same day he concluded a stay in rehabilitation. Schaffer told ESPN that Brent reached out to Brown’s family for their permission to seek a return to the game, and the family consented.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated Wednesday that the club would weigh bringing back Brent, who retired in July 2013. However, Jones also expressed uncertainty about the reinstatement outcome.

“Well, I will look at that, but I don’t want to get ahead of our self in any way to look presumptuous relative to the commissioner or anybody else in the National Football League,” Jones said. “I don’t want to do that, because I don’t know that he can be reinstated.”

According to Jones, Brent is “contrite” about the accident and “has a lot of resolve” to resume his NFL career, the Cowboys’ owner said Wednesday. The question now is whether Brent will be granted that opportunity.

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Antonio Brown unhappy after Emmanuel Sanders critiques Big Ben

Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown AP

Former Steelers and current Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders said recently that his current quarterback is a better leader than his former quarterback. One of his former teammates isn’t happy about that.

Responding to Sanders saying that Peyton Manning is “a far better leader” than Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown lashed out at Sanders.

That was terrible,” Brown said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You don’t throw the quarterback under the bus, the guy who makes you what you are.”

After realizing he had stirred up a controversy, Sanders took to Twitter to try to clarify.

“I never said Ben wasn’t a leader,” Sanders wrote. “I just said Peyton is a better one. I have nothing but respect for Ben as a man and as a player.”

But when a fan asked Sanders about Brown’s comments, Sanders seemed to take umbrage.

They throw dirt on my name-that means they still dig me,” Sanders wrote.

The folks in Pittsburgh won’t dig Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger, but Sanders was just giving his honest assessment: He’s in a position to know, and he says Manning is a better leader than Roethlisberger.

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