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Geno leading the Jets in July workouts

Geno Smith AP

Jets quarterback Geno Smith needs to do everything right if he’s going to keep his precarious hold on the team’s quarterback job. One thing he’s doing right this month is leading workouts with the team’s wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.

Yes, we will all be getting together,’’ Smith told the New York Post. “It’s about a month from us reporting for camp, so it’s very important for us to continue to build on what we ended with back in minicamp.’’

The workouts are reminiscent of the “Jets West” camp that Mark Sanchez had in California during each year of his tenure as the team’s starter. Except that these will be in Chicago, so that Jets receiver Brandon Marshall can be close to his family, making these workouts more like Jets Midwest.

Smith said backup quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty aren’t expected to attend, although they’re invited.

“I’ll probably be the only [quarterback] there,’’ Smith said. “It’s welcome to anyone who wants to come.It’s not like I’m barring them from coming. If they want to they can be there too.’’

Smith knows that there are no promises of him keeping the starting job, but he says he’s not nervous heading into the season.

“I don’t feel any pressure,’’ he said. “The key thing is going into camp, I’m going in with the right mind-set. I feel like we’ve got a lot of room for improvement, but I love the way we’re working and competing. To have guys around me that are so, so good, it takes all the pressure off of me. I’m in competition with myself to try and be perfect. I’m in competition with Ryan. I’m in competition with Bryce. All the guys out there, the defense. I’m in competition with the guys on offense. We all want to try to perfect our game and we’re all gonna set the standard high and try to hold each other accountable.’’

Whether Smith can keep his job remains to be seen, but he’s saying, and doing, the right things in the offseason.

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Russell Wilson’s agent cares about one stat: Wins

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In addition to the two reasons mentioned earlier on Wednesday for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to do a new deal by September, there’s a third potential benefit: Ending the potential distraction coming from his unsettled status.

It’s only July, and his situation has become a huge story, with multiple members of the media convinced that Wilson could be (not will be, could be) the first healthy franchise quarterback to change teams due to the inability to work out a new contract. Absent a contract that keeps Wilson from becoming a potential free agent in March, his status will continue to be a top story in the NFL and a constant source of reports and opinion and speculation about the Seahawks, threatening to turn upside down a locker room that already has more than a few players who resent Russell Wilson.

The guy guiding Wilson through the process is agent Mark Rodgers. A former football agent who focused on baseball and has now returned to football because one of his baseball clients is pretty damn good at the other game, Rodgers became the sole agent for Wilson after Wilson parted ways with Bus Cook last year. Some league insiders believe that, if Cook were still working for Wilson, a deal with the Seahawks already would be done. With Rodgers advising Wilson, it’s unclear when it will be resolved.

The Seahawks seem to be leery of Rodgers because there’s no broader working relationship with him, and because his approach to the negotiations has to date been unconventional, including that 16-page position statement sent to the Seahawks. That’s fitting because Wilson is an non-traditional franchise quarterback — a guy who wins without huge passing numbers.

“With Russell, he’s unique, so let the debate begin,” Rodgers told TCPalm.com. “He’s unconventional in size. People argue that he’s a game manager or say it’s the defense or Marshawn Lynch — or all of the above. I listen and take all that into account. At the end of the day, it’s about winning and what he’s asked to do and he does it very, very well.”

And that seems to be the focal point of the argument in favor of paying Wilson. Despite the absence of huge passing numbers, he wins football games.

“I don’t have to argue statistics with the Seattle Seahawks on the value of Russell Wilson,” Rodgers said. “In football, the most important stat to me has always been ‘Does he win?’ It’s hard to argue that Russell Wilson doesn’t win.”

He absolutely does win. But the question is whether he’ll still win if he accounts for a much larger piece of the total salary cap, which necessarily will leave less money behind for compensation other key players who also can answer the operative “does he win?” question in the affirmative.

At some point, Wilson will be making so much that it will be hard for him to win. The ability of the Seahawks and Rodgers to strike the right balance will directly influence their ability to keep Wilson in Seattle. If Wilson decides he simply wants to maximize his earning potential, the only way he’ll do that is by jumping to a team desperate for a franchise quarterback.

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A deal now helps Russell Wilson in two important ways

Russell Wilson

Despite the apparent willingness of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to play in 2015 for $1.5 million and to change teams if need be in 2016, signing a contract before the regular season begins carries a pair of significant benefits for Wilson.

First, and as previously mentioned, signing a contract before the 2015 season shifts the injury risk away from Wilson. Absent a new deal, Wilson will be in jeopardy of not only a career-ending injury (for which he obviously has insurance) but also a career-altering injury, which would allow him to keep playing but make him far less desirable financially.

At some point between now and the first week of the regular season, the Seahawks undoubtedly will offer something to Wilson that will be lower than what he’d like to have, but that also would be dramatically more than anything he’s ever made playing football. And then he’ll have to decide whether to continue to assume the injury risk for only $1.5 million — or to accept the offer and the immense financial security that goes with it.

There’s a chance Wilson’s extreme confidence will cause him to bet on himself, refusing a great-but-not-top-of-the-market offer, believing that he won’t suffer a serious injury, and pushing the negotiations toward a potential February clusterfudge for the Seahawks, with Wilson’s price tag shooting through the roof and applying the exclusive version of the franchise tag and trading Wilson becoming a viable option for the Seahawks.

Second, and as mentioned on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio by Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, doing a deal now gives Wilson a large amount of money that otherwise will forever disappear.

A long-term deal averaging a legitimate $20 million per year gives Wilson $18.5 million more this year than he otherwise will make. On a five-year deal, for example, that approach simulates Wilson playing for $1.5 million in 2015 and $24.625 million per year in each of the next four.

That’s what a five-year, $100 million deal can do. And agent Mark Rodgers can sell it as a four-year, $98.5 million extension. The new-money average of $24.625 million would surpass Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his $22 million annually, making Russell Wilson the highest-paid player in the league by $2.4625 million per year.

It would be a win for both sides, and it would hinge entirely on Wilson ripping up the last year of his rookie deal instead of swapping it for the kind of leverage that would get him a lot more than $98.5 million from 2016 through 2019.

Bottom line? If Wilson doesn’t accept whatever the Seahawks put on the table before Week One, the stage will be set for Wilson getting much more than $25 million per year by next season, from the Seahawks or someone else.

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Emmitt Smith withdraws as Miss USA judge after Trump controversy

Emmitt Smith Visits FOX Business Getty Images

Emmitt Smith is the latest person to distance himself from Donald Trump.

Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, was scheduled to be a judge in this year’s Miss USA pageant. But that pageant is owned by Donald Trump, who has stirred controversy since making negative comments about Mexicans while announcing that he is running for president.

As a result, NBC has announced it will not televise the pageant, and Smith (whose wife was first runner-up at the 1994 Miss USA pageant) has decided not to participate.

“In light of Mr. Trump’s statements and the subsequent decisions made by NBC, I have decided not to participate as a judge in the 2015 Miss USA pageant,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “Knowing firsthand through my wife, Pat Smith, how much the women prepare for this event, I continue to send my support and best wishes to everyone competing this year.”

This year’s Miss USA, which is scheduled to take place on July 12, is without a TV home.

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Gloria Allred slams NFL for letting C.J. Spillman play in 2014

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With free-agent defensive back C.J. Spillman now officially charged with sexual assault, he’ll likely remain a free agent indefinitely. The lawyer for Spillman’s alleged victim believes he should have been taken off the field months ago.

“Despite this sexual assault allegation for which Mr. Spillman is now indicted and another allegation of sexual assault made to the police in California by another alleged victim prior to the Texas sexual assault allegation made to the police, the NFL continued to allow Mr. Spillman to play with the Dallas Cowboys,” attorney Gloria Allred said in a statement, via Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News.

In her statement, Allred says that the victim reported the alleged sexual assault the day after Commissioner Roger Goodell’s September 2014 press conference regarding the issue of domestic violence. Allred also says she notified the NFL of the allegation on September 26, 2014 and that she spent “countless hours” with NFL investigators who were exploring the allegations regarding Spillman.

“[T]he NFL appeared to do nothing and never informed me that they would take any action or impose any discipline at all against Mr. Spillman,” Allred said. “I am very happy that the criminal justice system will now try to move forward to prosecute Mr. Spillman but it is shameful that the NFL has taken no meaningful action in the interim.

“Their face-saving P.R. campaign which, in my opinion, was designed to make them appear to be sympathetic to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence is now revealed for what it really was, a sham and a slick P.R. trick, because their words did not match their deeds in this case.”

The Cowboys handled the Spillman case by pointing to the fact that he hadn’t been charged. Of course, that didn’t stop the NFL from conducting its own investigation and coming to its own conclusion. While the Spillman situation arose before the NFL finalized a new Personal Conduct Policy that contemplates an investigative process that will unfold regardless of the justice system, it also happened in the immediate aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle.

With separate situations involving Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy in full boil at the time, the NFL likely glossed over Spillman’s case because of the player’s low profile. If Spillman had been a star, the league would have been forced to deal with the situation.

Which underscores the notion that the league’s entire strategy regarding off-field misconduct arises not necessarily from doing the right thing but from doing the thing that keeps the NFL from absorbing widespread criticism and alienating customers. Otherwise, the NFL and the Cowboys would have moved much more swiftly to deal with Spillman regarding an incident that allegedly occurred at the team’s hotel.

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ESPN denies telling Olbermann to quit ripping Goodell

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It didn’t take long for ESPN to deny the report that it wants Keith Olbermann to tone down his criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Responding to a report from the Hollywood Reporter that ESPN wants to put a clause in Olbermann’s next contract prohibiting him from commentaries critical of the league or its commissioner, ESPN released a statement saying that simply isn’t the case.

“Keith Olbermann has never been told any topic is off limits for his commentary nor has continuation of it been part of any conversation about his future at the company,” ESPN’s statement said.

Olbermann, who returned to ESPN two years ago with a daily show on ESPN2, has been highly critical of Goodell, saying that he should have lost his job in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

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Report: ESPN wants Olbermann to stop ripping Goodell

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There’s long been a perception in sports media circles that when the NFL tells ESPN to jump, ESPN asks, How high? Whether it’s the cancellation of Playmakers, the shunning of League of Denial or the suspension of Bill Simmons, ESPN seems eager to please the NFL, which provides ESPN with its most popular programming.

So today’s story from the Hollywood Reporter about ESPN’s negotiations with Keith Olbermann will be closely scrutinized within the sports media. According to the report, ESPN has told Olbermann that if his contract is going to be extended, the network wants Olbermann to stop engaging in commentary.

And that request is the result of the fact that Olbermann’s commentaries regularly rip the NFL in general and Commissioner Roger Goodell in particular. Olbermann called for Goodell to lose his job over his handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case, and Olbermann has regularly been a thorn in Goodell’s side.

The report says that ESPN remains sensitive about its relationship with the NFL, and that multiple sources within ESPN believe that the NFL gave ESPN a weak slate of Monday Night Football games this year as “payback for Simmons and Olbermann.” It seems unlikely that the NFL would cut off its nose to spite its face like that, but some folks at ESPN apparently believe that’s exactly what happened.

Olbermann’s contract with ESPN expires next month. With his longtime interest in politics, he may be looking to leave for a news channel where he can comment freely on next year’s presidential election. Especially if ESPN is telling him that he needs to muzzle his critiques of Goodell.

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Pittsburgh readying bid for 2023 Super Bowl

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers have won the Super Bowl six times, but they’ve never hosted the game.

Team chairman Dan Rooney said earlier this year that he’d like to see that change and the team is moving forward with an attempt to land the 57th edition of the game in 2023. The team submitted an application to be considered as a host for the game at the league meetings in May and met with officials from Pittsburgh, including Mayor Bill Peduto, to work on the bid Wednesday.

“We met this morning with local community leaders to provide an update on formally submitting our application to the NFL to bid for Super Bowl LVII in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania,” Steelers president Art Rooney II in a statement. “The application is an early step in the bidding process, and we will continue to meet with representatives of the Mayor’s Office, County Executive’s Office, VisitPittsburgh, Allegheny Conference as well as other community leaders to review the requirements with the hopes of submitting our bid to host Super Bowl LVII in 2023.”

Peduto said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that the region will have enough hotel rooms to host the game and that he believes Pittsburgh has “an opportunity to be competitive” with their bid.

The league will select the bidders in 2018 and pick a site in 2019, which leaves the team and city with plenty of time to research other regions. The team says that process will include “sending representatives to Northern cities that have already hosted the game.

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DeSean Jackson accuses Eagles of “smear campaign”

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The NFL is the nation’s ultimate reality show. Which perhaps makes NFL players inclined to try to have their own reality shows.

Washington receiver DeSean Jackson now does, and in the first episode of his new BET series Jackson unloaded on his former team, the Eagles.

Via John Keim of ESPN.com, Jackson accused the Eagles of launching a “smear campaign” against him in 2014, the year the team decided to move on from the player who arrived as a second-round pick in 2008.

“I was at the top of the top. And then I got released,” Jackson said early in the debut of DeSean Jackson Home Team. “It was a smear campaign. Things media said about me, I bet you could say that about the majority of people in the NFL. I got a second chance to play in the NFL and I’m proving I’m one of the best receivers in the game.”

He may have a point. On the very same day the Eagles cut Jackson, NJ.com published a story that suggested gang connections and claimed, citing unnamed sources, that the Eagles also are concerned about his “bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with head coach Chip Kelly.”

Last April, the NFLPA said it was looking into whether the Eagles smeared Jackson, but there never was a specific finding that the Eagles did. Jackson continued to be convinced that they did.

“When I was released by the Eagles, I feel they tried to paint a picture that definitely wasn’t true,” Jackson said during the show. “It was a slap in the face, coming off one of my best seasons in the NFL. . . . The Eagles tried to blow me up. That’s cold how they did it. . . . Have I went to jail? . . . I ain’t done none of that.”

The Eagles consistently have said that Jackson was released for football reasons only. Though his numbers were down from 2013 to 2014, Jackson still had 1,169 receiving yards — and his highest yard-per-catch average (20.9) since 2010 in his first season with Washington.

 

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Derek Carr says Amari Cooper looks so good, it’s ridiculous

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper is even better than advertised.

Carr said on 95.7 The Game that Cooper, whom the Raiders drafted out of Alabama with the fourth overall pick, has looked even better than expected through two months of offseason work.

“He is ridiculous in and out of his breaks,” said Carr. “His style of play is perfect for this league. He’s good at getting on toes and creating separation. He’s good at when the ball is in his hands making those fast-twitch movements to make a guy go one way so he can take it to the house. It’s just little things that honestly people don’t even notice.”

Although Carr and Cooper have only been teammates since late April, they’ve already spent a lot of time working together. Carr said he and Cooper are developing a rapport through extra work beyond the team’s minicamp and Organized Team Activities.

“His work ethic is second to none,” Carr said. “I was throwing with him as soon as mini-camp was over so we can get more reps in, and our plan was to throw a couple more times, but he texted me that night. He said, ‘hey, let’s throw at least three more times. I need to get this one route right.’ Just him telling me that kind of stuff, it blew my mind.”

In Carr and Cooper, the Raiders may have a couple of big pieces in place, for years to come.

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Chargers, Raiders meet with L.A. officials

Garcetti Getty Images

The Chargers aren’t talking to San Diego, and the Raiders don’t currently have much to say to Oakland. But both teams are talking a blue streak to Los Angeles.

Via Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times, Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis spent Tuesday in L.A. for meetings with multiple political figures who hope to lure the two teams to Carson.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is treading lightly for now, given that the Chargers, Raiders, and Rams each hope to come to L.A. — and given that the NFL ultimately will decide which one or two teams will get the green light to make the move. Regardless of how it plays out, it now seems certain that Los Angeles will have one or two teams back in town.

“While Mayor Garcetti frequently meets with companies looking to do business in Los Angeles, we are mindful that the Chargers, Raiders and Rams are still actively discussing stadium deals in their current cities and the NFL has not yet approved a team moving,” Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said.

Farmer reports that the timing of the meeting wasn’t coincidental, given that just last week businessman Floyd Kephart submitted a plan for keeping the Raiders in Oakland. The Raiders have not commented, but Kephart’s proposal (which includes Kephart’s company buying 20 percent of the team for $200 million) has received widespread criticism.

Although the Chargers and Raiders currently hope to partner up in Carson, if Inglewood wins the race to build a new NFL stadium, the would-be associates could be competing for the second seat at the table with the Rams.

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Cowboys unsure who their starting running back will be

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Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has said he’s very comfortable with the group of running backs he has on his roster. But what the Cowboys don’t know is which one of those running backs will be primarily responsible for replacing the departed DeMarco Murray.

Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown says he isn’t sure if Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden or Lance Dunbar will be the starter, but he’s confident that some combination of the three of them will add up to a good running game.

“We’re very confident in what we have,” Brown said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We got some very good football players. With the addition of Darren it’s going to be a nice group. I can’t say who is going to be the lead dog right now, but those guys are going to compete and we’re going to do what’s necessary to win games. I think we have three capable guys who can go out and do what we need to do. I’m not concerned about it at all.”

As great as Murray was last season, Randle was also very good in limited action as his backup: Randle gained 343 yards on 51 carries, a whopping 6.7 yards a carry. He would seem to be the likely choice as the starter.

The addition of McFadden to go with Randle and Dunbar gives the Cowboys some depth in the backfield, and those running backs will be running behind the best offensive line in the NFL. Despite the loss of Murray, Brown’s optimism is justified: The Cowboys’ running game should be just fine, even if there’s not a clear-cut starting running back just yet.

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Brett Favre: “I think I could play”

Favre Getty Images

Herschel Walker isn’t the only middle-aged former NFL player who thinks he could still play in the NFL. Brett Favre says he could, too.

“I think I could play,” Favre tells Sports Illustrated in a “Where Are They Now?” double issue. “As far as throwing, of course. I could make all the throws I made before. . . . We’re not trying to start some he’s-coming-out-of-retirement deal. . . . But I could play.”

Plenty of former NFL players probably feel the same way, because they still feel like the guys they were when they played in the NFL. They won’t realize that they can’t until they try, and very few ever return after a multi-year absence from the game.

Regardless of whether Favre could play now, he could have played longer in Green Bay, if he hadn’t made such a hasty decision seven years ago to retire.

“Had I [taken my time deciding], I would have come back and played,” Favre said. “The drama would have been avoided.”

That response overlooks the fact that the Packers pushed him for an early decision, possibly because the Packers knew that by pushing Favre for an early decision, Favre would decide to retire — and the Packers could start the Aaron Rodgers era. If that was the plan, the performance of Aaron Rodgers since Favre retired has vindicated it.

This year, Favre finally returns to Green Bay. And the Packers can be confident that Favre won’t be unretiring one final time before his number 4 is finally retired.

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NFL sets July 9 date for supplemental draft

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The date is set for the NFL supplemental draft.

The supplemental draft will take place on July 9, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

No team has made a supplemental selection since the Browns used a second-round pick on Josh Gordon in 2012, so the supplemental draft has become a non-event the last couple years. But this year there’s a good chance that a supplemental pick will be used: Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle, who declared for the supplemental draft last week, is an NFL talent who has a real shot of helping some team this season.

West Georgia defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey, West Georgia defensive end Darrius Caldwell and North Carolina Central wide receiver/kick returner Adrian Wilkins are also available in the supplemental draft.

If a team uses a supplemental pick on a player, that team loses the corresponding pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Players who are not selected in the supplemental draft become free agents.

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Jim Brown “encouraged” Johnny Manziel isn’t “still in denial”

Johnny Manziel, Jim Dray AP

Last summer, Browns icon Jim Brown said that he didn’t mind the amount of attention that quarterback Johnny Manziel received for his off-field social life because he remembered what life was like as a player.

Brown has a different opinion about enjoying the nightlife after the way Manziel’s rookie season with the Browns played out. Manziel went to alcohol rehab after an underwhelming rookie season and has talked about wanting to “close that chapter in my life” as he tries for better results in 2015, something that Brown finds encouraging.

“I’m encouraged, because Johnny is addressing his situation, and that’s speaking to the world,” Brown said, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “That message is encouraging. He’s going to give himself the best chance to succeed. Now if he were still in denial, we’d have a different conversation. If he didn’t go to rehab, this would be totally different. … What I would have said to Johnny, or would have hoped he’d do, he’s doing. So I’d say to him, ‘Your commitment to allow the world to know you want to work to change your life, I encourage and support you.’ It would be that simple. I wouldn’t try to impart any great wisdom on him, because it’s a day-to-day process that he’s got to live with.”

Brown doesn’t think the change in Manziel’s off-field habits will necessarily boost him to better things on the field. Brown said last year that he thought Manziel had “something going on” as a player and said this year that Manziel “creates action,” but added that Manziel is going to be a star or a bust without laying a bet on which side of the line the 2014 first-round pick would wind up on.

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