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Report: Concerns raised about Ezekiel Elliott’s pattern of behavior

FILE - This Aug. 19, 2016 file photo shows Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott laughing as he talks with teammates on the sideline in the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins in Arlington, Texas. Elliott appears set for his preseason debut at Seattle after the running back taken fourth overall by the Cowboys missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, file) AP

Like many people on out-of-town visits to states where marijuana is legal, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott decided to check out a pot store while he was in Seattle for last night’s preseason game. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wasn’t happy about that.

But beyond that, the Cowboys organization is apparently concerned about the way Elliott handles himself off the field. Ed Werder of ESPN reported today that there are concerns about “a pattern of disturbing behavior” from Elliott.

Werder didn’t detail what behavior was involved in that pattern, but far more concerning than entering a legal marijuana store is that there’s an investigation in Columbus, Ohio, into an allegation of domestic violence. The Columbus city attorney’s office said a month ago that there’s an “open investigation” into that allegation. There has been no update to that story since.

Frankly, it feels a little ridiculous to even be talking about visiting a legal marijuana store when there’s also an investigation into a domestic violence allegation. The latter is a serious concern, while the former is something that shouldn’t even be the NFL’s business. After Werder’s report aired on ESPN, his colleague, former NFL running back Merril Hoge, said somebody should sit Elliott down and tell him, “Nobody’s ever played with drugs and won.” But that’s silly. Many people who have smoked marijuana have become Hall of Fame football players and had success in other fields, up to and including becoming president of the United States. (And it’s also worth noting that there’s not even any evidence that Elliott actually used marijuana. He may have simply been curious to see how a legal marijuana store operates.)

The domestic violence allegations against Elliott are, indeed, concerning. The marijuana issue is nothing.

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Report: Tyler Eifert hoping for Week Four return

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09:  Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert started jogging recently for the first time since having ankle surgery in May, which marks one of the first steps toward a return to the field this season.

The gap between jogging and the responsibilities of an NFL tight end leave several more steps for Eifert to take in that journey without much time to take them before the start of the regular season. It makes sense, then, that Week One doesn’t appear to be Eifert’s targeted return date.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Eifert is hopeful that he can play for the first time in Week Four of the regular season when the Bengals host the Dolphins on a Thursday night. He adds that Eifert could “push it” to return the previous week, although it will probably be a couple of weeks before Eifert and the Bengals will know if that’s a realistic possibility.

Should it look like Eifert will need more time before the cut to 53 players, a stay on the regular season version of the PUP list could be in the cards. He’d be ineligible to play for the first six weeks, but the Bengals would have a roster spot available for a player able to contribute right away.

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Josh Brown was cited for violating protective order two months after arrest

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 21:  Kicker Josh Brown #3 of the New York Giants looks on after an extra point against the Minnesota Vikings during a game at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Josh Brown, the Giants kicker whose one-game suspension has raised questions about how the NFL handles domestic violence cases, was cited last year for violating a protective order.

Brown was cited for violating the protective order on July 14, 2015, ESPN reports. Brown had been arrested on a domestic violence charge two months earlier.

According to the report, the protective order Brown’s ex-wife obtained required Brown not to come within 500 feet of her house. But she called police and said she saw Brown driving by her house.

It is unclear whether the NFL or the Giants knew about the violation of the protective order. The Giants have acknowledged that they knew about Brown’s domestic violence arrest when it happened but allowed him to play all last year anyway, and that arrest didn’t stop them from signing him to a two-year, $4 million contract this year.

Brown’s ex-wife told police he physically abused her more than 20 times. Despite that, Brown was only arrested once and charges were dropped just days after that arrest.

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Keanu Neal having knee surgery, expected to miss 3-4 weeks

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) is stopped by Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) and outside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, right, during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.) AP

Falcons rookie safety Keanu Neal said after Thursday’s game that he thought he would be ready to play in the regular season opener after hurting his knee against the Dolphins.

An MRI said otherwise, however. The Falcons announced that the test determined that Neal suffered damage to the knee that will require arthroscopic surgery. Neal is scheduled to have the surgery on Monday.

He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks, which will keep him from playing in the team’s Week One home game against the Buccaneers at the very least. The Falcons travel to Oakland and New Orleans for their next two games before returning home to host the Panthers.

Kemal Ishmael and Robenson Therezie are the second-string safeties on the Falcons depth chart behind Neal and Ricardo Allen.

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A.J. Green won’t play if his baby is born on game day

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23:   A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals waits for a play in the second half of their game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on November 23, 2014 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals receiver A.J. Green’s wife is pregnant, with a due date of September 30. If she goes into labor on a game day, Green will be in the hospital, not on the field.

I can’t play,” Green said, via Cincinnati.com. “First one, definitely. I want to be there.”

Green said he’s hoping his baby doesn’t arrive on a game day, but only time will tell.

“Just not a game day,” he said. “Anything before a game day would be ideal.”

Green missed yesterday’s practice for a doctor’s appointment and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told him he should. In fact, Green said he didn’t even have to ask, as Lewis just told Green to go as soon as Green told him about the appointment.

Some Bengals fans may not be so eager to see a player as important as Green make that choice on a game day during the season, but Green has already made his choice.

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Kam Chancellor “a little surprised” by Ezekiel Elliott’s physical play

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Running back Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys exchanges words with defensive end Cliff Avril #56 of the Seattle Seahawks after being stopped on a rushing play at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Cowboys 27-17.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might not like that running back Ezekiel Elliott was photographed at a legal marijuana dispensary in Seattle, but he probably likes that there wasn’t any sign of a mellow Elliott in his first game action of the preseason.

Elliott ran for 48 yards on seven carries against the Seahawks and showed no qualms about initiating contact with Seattle defenders in an effort to grind out a few more yards at the end of runs. Some of those collisions came with Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who said after the game that he was surprised by Elliott’s willingness to take on contact.

“I was, because there was no film on him,” Chancellor said, via the Seattle Times. “I didn’t know if he was going to juke me or not, so I was a little surprised. But not the second time. Second time you know I’m bringing that wood. I was a little surprised the first time, but he has a lot of courage for that. I’ll give it to him. But if it was a full game, it would have been a bloodbath.”

Chancellor picked up a personal foul for hitting Elliott late on an incomplete pass, something he said wasn’t meant as a “Welcome to the NFL” moment for a rookie who wasn’t showing any fear of getting hit. Chancellor might not have been sending a message with that hit, but Elliott was — “I had to let them know I belong here” — and it’s unlikely that any defenders will face him in the future without knowing that there’s going to be a lot of hitting.

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Andy Reid still expects Eric Berry to play Week One

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid yells from the sideline during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) AP

As the drama with Joey Bosa and the Chargers has dominated headlines, another unsigned player in the AFC West has received less attention: Chiefs safety Eric Berry.

Berry, the All-Pro safety who has still not signed his franchise tag, remains out of Chiefs camp. And yet with only 16 days before they kick off the season, Chiefs coach Andy Reid still thinks Berry will be there for Week One.

Reid said today on PFT Live that he trusts Berry to be taking good care of himself and ready to play when the Chiefs opened the season, even if he hasn’t practiced.

“Eric’s one of our good players and he’s in the business side of it right now,” Reid said. “This is all part of the profession, so I get it. But I also know when he comes in he’s going to be in great shape, he’ll be able to get himself back before the first game and be ready to go because that’s the way he trains in the offseason and the kind of shape he keeps himself in.”

Berry is so dedicated to fitness that he kept working out while he was undergoing chemotherapy. So Reid is surely correct to think that Berry isn’t just sitting on his couch and eating Twinkies while his teammates are sweating through August practices.

The only question, then, is whether the business side of it will get taken care of. If Berry doesn’t sign his $10.806 million franchise tender in time to play in Week One, he’ll lose $635,647 a week during the regular season. It seems unlikely Berry would leave that kind of money on the table, so it seems like a fair bet that Berry will be back in the fold within the next couple weeks. And Reid thinks he’ll be ready to play.

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NFL forms Chairman’s Committee to work with Roger Goodell

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has various committees that oversee different areas of league business and the chairmen of those committees have long worked closely with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Now they’ll do it in a formal committee of their own. According to multiple reports, Goodell sent a memo to NFL teams announcing the formation of the Chairman’s Committee made up of some of the most prominent members of the group that employs Goodell. Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Giants owner John Mara, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Texans owner Bob McNair and Steelers president Art Rooney II will serve on the committee.

The name that likely jumps out from that list is Kraft, who has had plenty of negative things to say about the way the league handled Deflategate over the last couple of years. He has remained an influential part of league operations as the chairman of the broadcast committee and member of the finance committee, however, and that keeps him in a prime spot at the table even if he’s been critical of Goodell.

The group isn’t expected to take any votes while serving as advisors for Goodell on the league’s internal priorities and strategies.

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Las Vegas investors: $750 million in public money for Raiders, or else

briefcase-cash Getty Images

Las Vegas is fairly new to the business of being a potential host for professional football, but the group that’s trying to bring the Raiders there is already employing a good old-fashioned NFL shakedown.

According to the Associated Press, the group headed by Sheldon Adelson told a local oversight committee last night that they needed no less than $750 million of public money for the project, and would walk away from their project if they don’t get it.

“Not to be difficult, but we’re not negotiable,” said Sands president Rob Goldstein, who spoke on behalf of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his family. “If we can’t get 750, we respectfully thank you but we’re going to move on.”

Of course, there are critics of the plan, as there are every place when NFL business is built on the back of public money.

“There’s been a lot of conversation on why are we giving money to billionaires,” said Steve Hill, chairman of the oversight committee and head of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “The public is not making a contribution to a privately owned stadium.”

Goldstein said the total cost of the project was going to be $1.9 billion, and he said the list of proposed sites was down to two. They also showed off renderings of a proposed 65,000-seat domed stadium.

The Raiders haven’t been able to get their current hometown to come up with $500 million toward keeping them in Oakland, and have been working on Las Vegas in earnest, even applying to trademark “Las Vegas Raiders.”

Adelson and his company are also trying to rush the project through a September special legislative session, so they can secure the funding before the next NFL owners meeting in January.

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Jerry Jones doesn’t approve of Ezekiel Elliott’s visit to pot shop

look-but-dont

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in two of the 22 states in which the NFL does business. It’s legal, that is, for everyone except the NFL players who live in, work in, or visit those states.

The Cowboys visited the Seahawks on Thursday in Washington, one of the two states were marijuana legally can be purchased. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was photographed in a store that sells marijuana. There’s no evidence he bought any or that he smoked any. Regardless, his boss doesn’t approve of Zeke’s weed window shopping.

“Well, I think that, in and of itself, the reason we are talking about is in a way part of the learning process,” Jones said after Thursday’s game, via Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But it’s not good. It’s just not good. It’s just not good.”

Setting aside the fact that Jones has been photographed in compromising situations that weren’t illegal but that were at least ill-advised, why is it not good that Elliott was looking at marijuana that was legally for sale if there’s no evidence he bought it or smoked it? While behavior can get a player evaluated for placement in the substance-abuse program, behaving like a tourist is a far cry from behaving like a pothead, Focker.

It still doesn’t look good, but only because of the NFL’s Big-Shield-Knows-Best mandate regarding things a player can and can’t do on his own time. (And because the Cowboys have more than a few guys who consistently choose consuming banned substances over football.) The mere fact that a guy walking down the street and passing a store can’t even go in the store and look but don’t touch underscores the folly of the league’s lingering finger wagging over marijuana.

But the marijuana ban is here to stay, in part because the issue has become part of the broader push-and-pull of collective bargaining — and in part because the NFL Players Association knows that it’s relatively easy for players not in the program to smoke, if they want to. Regardless of whether they do, they should be able to walk into a store that sells it without being called out by their coach, owner, or anyone else.

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Tony Romo says he’s OK after leaving game with back injury

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is tended to by a trainer after he went down on a play against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left Thursday night’s preseason game with a back injury, but he said afterward that he’s fine.

In fact, Romo said after the game that he was glad to take a hard hit, which he said has him mentally ready for the 2016 season after an injury-plagued 2015.

“In a weird way I feel good about the fact that – that was probably as tough a hit I took on the back as I have in the last five years,” Romo said. “From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and you can keep going.”

Romo said the hit he took from Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril hurt at first, but he felt fine within a few minutes and wanted to go back in the game.

“At the moment when you go down – you crunch. And so your back gets squished,” he said. “You kind of feel the, almost like a sensation of if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder or something – where it just feels hot for a second and then that just dissipates after a minute.”

With Romo out, Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott continued his strong preseason, completing 17 of 23 passes for 116 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. Prescott’s preseason play has many in Dallas thinking they can withstand a Romo injury this year. But they’d prefer not to find out.

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Report: Keanu Neal tells teammates he’s OK

Atlanta Falcons rookie strong safety Keanu Neal (22) catches a ball during an NFL football practice Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

Falcons first-round safety Keanu Neal had a short night Thursday due to a knee issue, but signs point to Neal having avoided major injury.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported late Thursday night that Neal was telling teammates he believes he’ll be OK and ready to play in the season opener vs. the Buccaneers.

Neal was slow getting up after trying to make a tackle in the first quarter of Thursday night’s preseason game vs. the Dolphins. He ended up walking gingerly to the sideline after talking with trainers, then later was taken to the locker room.

Neal will undoubtedly continue to be evaluated and receive treatment as the Falcons return to Atlanta. He has more than two weeks until the Sept. 11 season opener, and being able to play in that game will be his focus.

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Tony Romo leaves game after just three plays with apparent back injury

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, left, is tackled by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left Thursday night’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks after just three plays after being sacked from behind by defensive end Cliff Avril.

Romo stepped forward in the pocket and escaped pressure to his left while Avril closed from Romo’s backside. Romo began to slide as Avril chased him down and was caught in an awkward position as the two players went to the ground.

Romo immediately reached for his lower back area and was tended to be the Cowboys’ training staff being walking off the field under his own power.

Dak Prescott replaced Romo at quarterback upon his exit from the game.

Romo has not left the Cowboys sideline and is throwing passes during Seattle’s opening possession.

Romo completed his only pass – an 11-yard slant to Terrence Williams – before being hurt on the third snap of the game.

UPDATE 10:40 p.m. ET: Romo has not returned to the game and multiple on-field reporters have said it’s a coach’s decision to keep him on the sidelines.

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Ndamukong Suh injures ankle

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) and Chris Jones (52) pressure Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

The Falcons aren’t the only team sweating out an injury to a starting defensive player on Thursday night in Orlando. Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh suffered an ankle injury, too.

Suh is being evaluated in the locker room. Like Neal, Suh is questionable to return. Since it’s a preseason game, “questionable” is a lot closer to “no freaking way.”

The Falcons lead the Dolphins, 7-0. I felt compelled to list the score, even though the score doesn’t matter. The injuries do.

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Falcons first-round safety Keanu Neal suffers leg injury

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal (22) is shown during their annual Friday Night Lights NFL football practice at Grayson High School, in Loganville, Ga. Free-agent signee Dwight Freeney and rookie safety Keanu Neal are expected to make their preseason debuts for the Falcons on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016,  at Cleveland, bringing Atlanta's defense closer to its projected regular-season status. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) AP

The top priority for every team in the preseason is to emerge from it with as many players healthy as possible. The Falcons currently are holding their breath regarding first-round safety Keanu Neal.

The rookie seemed to tweak his right knee while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Dolphins in Orlando. Plenty of rubber pellets went flying, which could result in criticism of the footing on an artificial turf surface in a building that hasn’t hosted NFL teams since 1997.

He walked off with mild assistance, and he has been taken to the locker room for further evaluation.

The Falcons hope Neal will become a Kam Chancellor-type presence for the Falcons. The more important question at this point is whether he’ll be ready to play in 17 days when the Falcons open the regular season at home against the Buccaneers.

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