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NFL may see its first one-point safety

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A little-noticed aspect of the NFL’s new extra point rule is that we could see, for the first time in league history, a one-point safety.

If the defense gets the ball in the field of play on a conversion attemp, and then a defensive player takes the ball into his own end zone and is tackled, the result will be a one-point safety: The offensive team will get one point. That has never happened before in NFL history.

It had never happened before because it was virtually impossible: In the past, any time the defense took possession of the ball on a point-after attempt (either a one-point kick or a two-point conversion), the play was blown dead. A one-point safety was theoretically possible before, but it would have happened only if the defensive team had illegally batted a fumbled ball in the end zone.

One-point safeties have happened in college football, most notably in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, when Kansas State blocked an Oregon extra point and a Kansas State player picked up the ball and ran it into his own end zone. The college rule that gives the defense the opportunity to score two points by returning an interception, fumble or blocked kick to the opposite end zone means that defensive teams that take possession of the ball will try to run it back for a score, and sometimes those players end up getting tackled after backtracking into their own end zones.

With that rule now in place in the NFL, it will happen in the NFL eventually as well: Some defensive player is going to reverse field, get caught in his own end zone, and give up the first one-point safety in NFL history.

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Report: Goodell rejects NFLPA request to recuse himself from Brady appeal

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During an appearance on ESPN Friday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said that the union would “certainly increase the volume of the request” didn’t get a response from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to their request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady’s appeal by the end of next week.

According to multiple reports, the union has gotten their response and it is the one that most people were expecting after Goodell said at the league meeting this week that he wanted to hear from Brady himself. Goodell will not be turning the appeal over to a neutral arbitrator, which is a decision that’s sure to increase the volume from the union all by itself.

A date has not been set yet for the appeal and Smith said Friday that the union has not decided whether to file a lawsuit asking that Goodell be removed as the arbitrator before the appeal is heard. The NFLPA has said it intends to call Goodell as a witness, which is among the issues they feel demands that he recuse himself from the proceedings.

Goodell said that he looks forward “to hearing directly from Tom if there’s new information” that can help in “getting this right.” That’s raised speculation that the suspension could be reduced if Brady agrees to hand over the text messages that he was unwilling to provide Ted Wells during the investigation that preceded his report and Brady’s discipline.

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Union hasn’t heard from Commissioner on recusal request, yet

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In a wide-ranging interview with Bob Ley of ESPN’s Outside the Lines, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith addressed the status of the union’s request that Commissioner Roger Goodell recuse himself from the appeal hearing in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for being “at least generally aware” of a scheme to deflate footballs.

Smith told Ley that the union has yet to hear anything in response to the formal request that Goodell step aside, due both to his status as a witness in the case and his inability to be impartial. The request apparently will be reiterated if a response doesn’t come soon.

“If we don’t get a response by the end of next week, we’ll certainly increase the volume of the request,” Smith said.

Goodell’s comments from Wednesday indicate fairly clearly that he still intends to handle the appeal personally. Smith declined to divulge whether a lawsuit challenging Goodell’s intent to serve as the arbitrator will be filed before or after Goodell issues a ruling on the appeal.

Earlier on Friday, the league office told PFT that a date has not yet been set for the Brady appeal hearing.

As to the arguments in support of a reversal of the suspension, Smith opted not to share many details. Most significantly, he pointed to the decision to embrace the recollections of referee Walt Anderson on all points except the question of which of the two pressure gauges he used when setting air-pressure levels before the game. The gauge that Anderson recalled using generated halftime PSI readings that are almost entirely consistent with the operation of the Ideal Gas Law.

Smith also provided this general assessment of the 243-page document generated by independent investigator Ted Wells: “The Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.”  As to the independence of the Wells investigation, Smith added, “You can’t really have credibility just because you slap the word ‘independent’ on a piece of paper.”

Many still wonder why the NFL would have wanted to find the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady guilty. At one level, this was about re-establishing the Commissioner’s role as “The Enforcer,” proving to the world that he’ll never again go too easy on anyone suspected of wrongdoing. At another level, it created an opportunity for one or more league officials with a bias against the Patriots to initiate the launch sequence for full-blown investigation and punishment by, most significantly, leaking false PSI information to ESPN, which created the impression that someone must have messed with the air pressure and which placed the Patriots, who didn’t know the true readings until March, on their heels.

After ESPN reported that 11 of 12 New England footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum, the NFL never corrected the record. The real numbers ultimately appeared in May, as part of a lengthy report that never even acknowledged the false leak that ultimately allowed Ted Wells and company to milk millions from the league’s coffers in an investigation that, if the real numbers had been released at the outset, probably would have never happened.

This didn’t start as a grand conspiracy. It started based on halftime readings below 12.5 PSI and ignorance to the application of science to football air pressure, and it grew into an occasion to re-establish the potency of the Commissioner.

At a time when many believe the Commissioner’s strings are manipulated from above, this case may have been sparked by his strings being manipulated from below. And now the NFLPA is hoping to get the case resolved by someone who has no strings attached to the league or any of its teams.

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Patriots keep Wells report website active

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Yes, the Patriots decided not to appeal the punishment imposed against them by the NFL. No, the Patriots haven’t changed their minds about the outcome of the Ted Wells investigation.

The strongly-worded, 20,000-word rebuttal to the Wells report remains active with a link from the front page of the team’s official website, three days after owner Robert Kraft explained that the Patriots won’t be exercising the right to appeal the $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. The response to the Wells report likely will remain active indefinitely.

If it remains active indefinitely, it also could be updated and supplemented based on additional information and analysis of the 243-page report that failed, in the opinion of many, to adequately prove that tampering occurred prior to the AFC title game.

So while the Patriots have dropped their appeal rights, they haven’t dropped their concerns about the process, the investigation, or the conclusions.  Those concerns presumably will continue to be on display, during quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal and beyond.

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Mike Shanahan: Injuries aren’t why RGIII has struggled last two years

Robert Griffin III,

When Robert Griffin III landed in the NFL in 2012, the Redskins closed the regular season with seven straight wins to take the NFC East and advance to the playoffs.

Griffin missed one of those games with a knee injury, which served as a preview of the more serious knee injury he’d suffer in the playoff loss to the Seahawks. Griffin rehabbed through the next offseason and then struggled in 2013 in an offense that was designed to limit Griffin’s runs in hopes of having him develop into a more traditional quarterback.

It didn’t happen, which led to squabbling with Mike Shanahan before Shanahan was fired as the team’s head coach. Griffin had another serious injury last year and continued to struggle in Jay Gruden’s offense, but Shanahan doesn’t think the injuries have been the quarterback’s problem.

“I don’t think getting hurt has anything to do with it,” Shanahan said of RG3 on the Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan, via CSNWashington.com. “In college he didn’t have a route tree, didn’t have a playbook. That does take some time. … If you take a QB like that you must run the kind of system that allows them to be successful … I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop back quarterback. He hasn’t done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out.”

No one who has watched Griffin the last two years would argue that he looks as comfortable in the offense as he did as a rookie, although you have to wonder why the Redskins made such a big play for Griffin if they weren’t willing to give him that time or run an offense more suited to his needs. The answer to the latter is largely because of the injury risk involved with running a smaller quarterback repeatedly against NFL defenses, but the failure to do the former may lead to the end of Griffin’s time in Washington without much to show for the investment they made in him.

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Montreal Alouettes sign Michael Sam

Michael Sam AP

Michael Sam is bound for the Canadian Football League.

Sam, the former Rams and Cowboys defensive end, has signed a two-year contract with the Montreal Alouettes, the club announced Friday.

“With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today,” Alouettes General Manager Jim Popp said in a team issued-statement Friday. “Not only have we added an outstanding football player, we have added even a better person that brings dignity, character, and heart to our team.”

Joining Montreal gives the 25-year-old Sam a chance to jump-start his career in a professional league that occasionally serves as a launching pad back to the United States, with Miami’s Cameron Wake and Cleveland’s Andrew Hawkins among the CFL alumni currently in the NFL. Sam’s pass rush ability — he notched three sacks in four preseason games in 2014 — should serve him well in a fast-paced league.

Sam, who became internationally known after announcing he was gay in February 2014, has not been with an NFL club since being released from the Cowboys’ practice squad in October.

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Cowboys, Orlando Scandrick agree to new contract

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The Cowboys and cornerback Orlando Scandrick have come to terms on a new deal.

Scandrick had skipped the early part of offseason work because he was unhappy with his contract, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Scandrick will sign his new contract today.

The 28-year-old Scandrick still had four years left on his old contract, so the Cowboys had plenty of leverage if they wanted to tell him he wasn’t going to get more money. But the team has apparently decided that it’s important to keep its best cornerback happy.

Scandrick has played his entire eight-year career in Dallas, and now there’s a good chance that he’ll retire a Cowboy.

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Chargers’ Nick Novak thinks new rule makes kickers more valuable

Nick Novak AP

NFL kickers have been split on the league’s new rule moving extra points back 13 yards, with some saying it’s an unnecessary attempt to make them less relevant, while others say it will reward the league’s better kickers.

Count Chargers kicker Nick Novak in the latter camp.

“I think it makes my job that much more exciting,” Novak told U-T San Diego. “There could be games where I may not get any work, just lighting up the scoreboard and scoring touchdowns, which is a good thing. Now, I have the privilege of kicking 33-yard field goals, maybe four of five a game — I call them field goals because they’re from 33 yards. And I may kick four or five field goals. My workload is going to go up. It’s exciting to showcase what I can do. I think it increases the value of a kicker, too.”

Novak may be right, although the reality is that a 33-yard extra point is still an easy kick for every NFL kicker. A kicker who would struggle with the longer extra point wouldn’t be in the NFL in the first place, and so this new rule won’t change kickers’ jobs much one way or the other.

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Zimmer says he has an idea when Peterson will show up

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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson still hasn’t participated in any offseason work, but coach Mike Zimmer thinks he has an idea when Peterson will show up.

Zimmer declined to give a specific date he’s expecting to see Peterson, but he told 1500 ESPN that he does have a sense for when Peterson will get to work.

“I think I do have an indication,” Zimmer said. “It’s up to Adrian, really. He’s the guy you should ask. . . . We’d like all our players here. It’s the voluntary time of year right now and it’s his decision in what he wants to do.”

Offseason work stops being voluntary on June 16, when the Vikings open their mandatory minicamp. If Peterson skips that, the Vikings can fine him $70,000. Which might mean June 16 is when Zimmer expects to see Peterson.

And if Peterson doesn’t show up to the mandatory minicamp, there’s no telling when Zimmer might see Peterson. If Peterson is so disgruntled that he’s willing to cost himself money to stay away, this already uncomfortable situation could get really ugly.

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NFL suspends Marcell Dareus for Week 1

Marcell Dareus AP

Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will miss the season opener against the Colts.

The NFL announced today that Dareus has been suspended without pay for the first game of the regular season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Dareus can participate in the offseason and preseason, but he won’t be able to practice or play during Week One.

Dareus, who was arrested last year on charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, acknowledged that the suspension was warranted.

“Last year, I made a mistake involving possession of a banned substance,” Dareus said in a statement. “The NFL’s discipline for this conduct is part of the drug policy, and I apologize to my family, my teammates, the entire Bills organization and Bills fans that I will miss one game as a result of my mistake. I will work intensely that week and will be extremely happy to contribute to a win in week two for the Bills.”

Dareus has been to the Pro Bowl the last two years. He’ll be missed by the Bills in the first game of the season.

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Saints sign Andrus Peat

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The Saints aren’t sure where Andrus Peat will fit on their offensive line, but they do have him under contract.

The team announced Thursday that they have agreed to terms with the first of their two first-round picks. Peat, like all first-rounders, signed a four-year deal that comes with a team option for a fifth year that must be exercised in the offseason after his third professional season.

Peat was the 13th pick in the draft after a career at Stanford that saw him make 27 starts over the last two seasons. He was the left tackle in Palo Alto last season, but has been talked about as a right tackle in the NFL often enough that current Saints right tackle Zach Strief thinks Peat will eventually replace him in the starting lineup.

The Saints haven’t said when or if that will happen and even offered the possibility that Peat could kick inside to guard, where they are looking to replace the traded Ben Grubbs. Peat will have to wait a bit to continue working with the team because of Stanford’s schedule, but should compete for a job on a line that needs to improve this year once he returns to the team.

With Peat signed, the Saints have now agreed to contracts with their entire 2015 draft class.

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Kraft says refusing to fight the NFL was best for the Patriots

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft says that in refusing to fight the league’s punishment for Deflategate, he wasn’t just doing what was best for the NFL. He was also doing what’s best for his own team.

Responding to criticism from some in New England that Kraft quit when he should have fought, Kraft said he firmly believes that he did the best thing for his franchise.

I only care about our fans,” said Kraft, via CSNNE.com. “I did my part to be a good partner, I think. The most important thing to me is that the fans of the New England Patriots know that I’m always trying to look out for our team’s best interests now. I think this was in the best long-term interest of the team.”

It may be tough for Patriots fans to swallow that they have to give up next year’s first-round draft pick and their 2017 fourth-round pick, and somehow accepting that is the best thing for the team. But Kraft is looking to play the long game and get in the good graces of the league, including perhaps doing what will aid Tom Brady in the appeal of his four-game suspension.

From that perspective, Kraft decided that he’d rather take his medicine than battle the league.

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Antonio Smith under investigation for child abuse

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Veteran defensive lineman Antonio Smith, who signed with the Broncos earlier this year after being released by the Raiders, is under investigation for child abuse, according to TMZ.

The Fort Bend County, Texas district attorney, John Healey, tells TMZ that the child abuse division is handling the case. No charges have been filed against Smith, yet.

“We’re trying to discern the truth from the untruthfulness of the claim to decide what charges, if any, will be filed,” Healy told TMZ.

“Last night, we became aware for the first time of an allegation involving Antonio Smith,” the Broncos said in a statement issued to Mike Klis of 9News.com. “We are now in the process of gathering more information.”

Smith also has played with the Cardinals and Texans, in a career that began in 2004. His career may now be interrupted, at a minimum.

“Our Sheriff’s Office has received some information, they’re working with our office to try and find out as much information as we can about the allegation,” Healey told Klis. “At this particular point anything in reference to Mr. Smith is just that — an allegation.”

Under the NFL’s new Personal Conduct Policy, an allegation likely is enough to trigger an investigation. And if Smith ever is officially charged, he’ll likely land on the Commissioner-Exempt list, where he’ll remain suspended with pay until the case is resolved and any league discipline against him is processed.

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Ray Rice’s domestic violence charges to be dropped today

Ray Rice AP

Ray Rice doesn’t have an NFL job.

But soon, he won’t have a criminal record, either.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the former Ravens running back has completed his pretrial intervention program, and his domestic violence charges could be dismissed by a judge in New Jersey today.

Rice has complied with all the requirements set forth from his felony aggravated assault case, stemming from the now-famous elevator fight with his now-wife Janay Rice. He avoided jail time by agreeing to the intervention as a first-time offender.

Of course, it might not help him get a job, as most teams are carrying 90 on the rosters, and Rice wasn’t playing the kind of football to merit a second chance when we last saw him.

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New extra point rule criticized over player safety concerns

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Most rules changes the NFL has adopted in recent years have been part of a broader effort to make the game safer. But some say the league’s new extra point rule will increase injuries.

Now that extra point kicks will be 13 yards longer, and blocked kicks can be returned by the defense for two points, there have been questions raised about whether we’ll see an increase in injuries suffered on extra points.

“Being on field goal protection is probably the worst job in football. I know that and all my linemen know that,” Bills kicker Dan Carpenter said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Well now they just went from a play that there weren’t too many collisions to a play now where not only is the defense coming to take that one point off, but also to add a chance to add two more to their score. For a sport that was trying to cut back on collisions, I think that you’re probably just going to add a few more on those situations.”

It is true that a blocked extra point returned the other way is a play that has the potential to cause an injury. But those plays will be so infrequent that it seems unlikely that injuries will increase significantly. Carpenter’s concern sounds like a reach.

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