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Ravens brace for major story about mishandling of Rice case

Ray Rice AP

As the Commissioner was facing the music after 10 days of invisibility, the Ravens were bracing for a potential storm.

Multiple sources tell PFT that the Ravens expect a major investigative story to soon be published regarding the team’s mishandling of the Ray Rice case.

Some claim that the looming report has sparked an “emergency meeting” in the Ravens’ front office.  It’s our understanding that a meeting already had been scheduled, and that the emergence of concern regarding an upcoming report about the situation was coincidental.

Either way, it appears that more will soon be known about the Ravens’ role in whatever did and didn’t happen, and whatever anyone knew or didn’t know about the situation.

Which, depending on the specific contents of the report, could result in even more scrutiny of the team and the league.

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Roger Goodell insists he never considered quitting

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell News Conference Getty Images

There may be a lack of certainty coming from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell right now, but he’s absolutely clear on one thing.

He won’t be giving up his job.

Asked directly if he considered giving up his job, Goodell said no.

“I have not,” he replied. “I am focused on doing my job. We have work to do. That’s my focus.”

He again defended his willingness to admit wrongdoing, and promised bold action.

But the fact he has such support from owners made it a bit of a moot point, as there was very little indication anything would come from the numerous calls for him to step aside.

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Goodell: “Everything on the table” in terms of his role

Goodell AP

Among the most glaring errors of the NFL over the last two weeks has been the problem of unilateral power.

But during his press conference, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed willing to cede some ground.

“Everything is on the table,” Goodell replied when asked if he was willing to yield some of the decision-making power.

Announcing that he planned to remake the personal conduct policy in conjunction with the union (with a stated goal of having it done by the Super Bowl) is a solid first step.

But the idea that he has to include more voices in the process seems apparent.

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Goodell: I got it wrong, I’m sorry and now I will get it right

Roger Goodell AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged his own missteps and admitted that he needs assistance in overseeing the league’s personal conduct policy in a Friday press conference designed to stem the wave of criticism the NFL has faced over high-profile domestic violence cases involving players.

“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter and I’m sorry for that. I got it wrong on a number of levels, from the process that I led to the decision that I reached. But now I will get it right and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that,” Goodell said.

Goodell said that everyone affiliated with the NFL — both at the team level and the league level — will go through training to help reduce domestic violence. And Goodell said he hopes the NFL will become a leader in fighting against domestic violence throughout American society.

“These incidents demonstrate that we can use the NFL to help make change, not only in our league but in our society with respect to domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell said.

Goodell also acknowledged that the league office itself dropped the ball in investigating the Rice case, and he said the NFL will cooperate fully with former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation of the matter.

“We will get our house in order first,” Goodell said.

The NFL is now pledging to work with outside groups and to work with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The league has pledged to provide the resources the Hotline needs — resources that have been strained in recent days as domestic violence has become a topic of conversation around the league.

The arbitrary nature of the NFL’s personal conduct policy has also been criticized in recent weeks, and Goodell vowed to get that right.

“We will make it happen,” Goodell said. “We will implement new conduct policies. They will have a set of clear and transparent rules for league and club personnel, owners and players. My goal is to complete this by the Super Bowl.”

Goodell spoke forcefully and expressed confidence that the league can move forward.

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Falcons knew Devin Hester still had “gas in the tank”

Hester Getty Images

When free agency began in March, receiver Devin Hester wasn’t near the top of anyone’s list.  Anyone except the Falcons.

“We’d been talking for a number of years about what we’re going to do with our return specialist situation and what we’re going to do with our receiver group,” G.M. Thomas Dimitroff told PFT Live on Friday.  “We thought if we could land a legitimate return guy, both punt and kickoff return, and then mix him into that group of three or four [receivers], that was going to help our production on the offensive side of the ball as well.  Our feeling was that with Devin, he is an electric type of player as we all know, and that we truly felt that he still had gas in the tank, he still had the explosiveness, and we saw last night, when he gets in the open space how he creates is something that is unparalleled quite honestly, and it’s fun to watch him.”

So how did the Falcons evaluate a guy’s potential on offense when he hasn’t played much offense lately?  Last year with the Bears, Hester didn’t participate in a single snap from scrimmage.

“I’m a big believer in assessing the athleticism, the movement, the ability to start, stop, the body control,” Dimitroff said.  “That’s something that there’s no question he has.  The fact that he can catch the ball naturally is another big point.  And you have an assistant head coach in Terry Robiskie here and [offensive coordinator] Dirk Koetter, who are creative minds.  It’s putting him in the right spot to be successful.  We all know how important that is and some of the best coaches in this league are able to do that.  Know the talent, know their strengths, and accentuate their strengths. . . .

“We’re getting out of him what we wanted and more, no question about it.”

There’s also no question that the 2014 Falcons look to be much better than their 2013 counterparts.  For more from Dimitroff, click the box below.

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DeSean Jackson “very limited” in practice, questionable for Sunday

DeSean Jackson AP

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson may play when the Redskins roll into Philadelphia on Sunday, but he isn’t going to be 100 percent.

Jackson was listed as questionable on Washington’s final injury report of the week. Jackson, who injured his shoulder against the Jaguars last Sunday, was able to practice for the first time this week on Friday, although coach Jay Gruden said he was “very limited” during the workout.

“He did good today, but we’ll see,” Gruden said, via CSNWashington.com. “He was very limited, as you well know. But I think it was a step in a positive direction. We’ll get another look at him tomorrow with the trainers, then we’ll gauge him on Sunday morning and see where he’s at.”

Jackson has vowed to play in the game, which is his first opportunity to play against the Eagles since they released him in the offseason.

Tight end Jordan Reed remains sidelined with a hamstring injury for Washington, who will also be without quarterback Robert Griffin III, linebacker Akeem Jordan and cornerback Tracy Porter. Neither Jordan nor Porter has played in a regular season game this year.

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Vikings won’t be doing an Adrian Peterson jersey exchange “at this time”

Peterson AP

Given that the Ravens have offered to exchange Ray Rice jerseys for those bearing the names and numbers of other players, some Vikings fans want to do the same thing with their Adrian Peterson jerseys.

One fan forwarded to PFT earlier today his request to exchange five Adrian Peterson jerseys that he purchased for himself, and for his wife and three children.  The fan was informed that the Peterson jerseys will not be exchanged.

“First, we want to be clear that we have a strong stance on the protection and welfare of children, which is why we needed to get this decision right,” VikingsLockerRoom.com customer service supervisor Lane Lewis told the fan.  “We understand and appreciate the range of emotions our fans have expressed throughout the process, and we hope they can respect our decision.  At this time we do not have a jersey exchange program in place.  Adrian remains a member of the Vikings organization, and we will continue to support him through this legal and personal process.”

The Vikings confirmed the validity of the email, and separately provided this statement to PFT:  “No, we are not contemplating a jersey exchange program.  Adrian remains a member of this organization and we will support him through the legal and personal process.”

Eventually, that could change.  If Peterson eventually is convicted of or pleads guilty to child abuse, the Vikings could opt to accept the thousands of jerseys that have been sold with his name and number on them.

Either way, some fans want to unload their Peterson jerseys now.  That group could grow.  And if the voices are loud enough, the Vikings could end up deciding to include a jersey exchange within their ad nauseum effort to “get this right.”

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Roger Goodell holding press conference on Friday afternoon

Roger Goodell AP

There have been calls from all corners of the football world for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to come out from behind the curtain and address the myriad issues that have been plaguing the NFL over the last two weeks and Goodell will finally do it on Friday afternoon.

Goodell will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. ET in New York City, which will mark the first time that he’s spoken to any media member since doing a pair of one-on-one interviews last week.

Friday’s press conference comes after Goodell sent a memo to the 32 NFL teams outlining some of the initiatives that the league will undertake to help organizations devoted to assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Those initiatives fit with Goodell’s promise to have the league act to make positive change in the future and the future is sure to be a major talking point on Friday.

It’s a safe bet, though, that there will be plenty of questions about the way Goodell and the league behaved in the past when it comes to these issues as well as questions about the concrete ways the league will deal with those that commit these kinds of criminal acts in the future after two weeks of constantly shifting reactions as public opinion came down strongly against the way the NFL handled the cases of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and others.

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“Thousands” line up to exchange Ray Rice jerseys

Rice AP

The two-day Ray Rice jersey exchange started today.  And so far it’s a success.

Or, from the perspective of the organization taking back Rice jerseys and giving out new ones at no charge, a catastrophe.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “thousands” of fans lined up outside M&T Bank Stadium to trade a Ray Rice jersey for an “available jersey” of another Ravens player.  If the team runs out, vouchers will be provided.

The program runs from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Last year, the Patriots offered a jersey exchange after tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder.

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John Harbaugh: Just looking at Suggs’ sacks? You don’t know football

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Getty Images

Sacking the quarterback is what Terrell Suggs is best known for, and that’s something Suggs hasn’t done much of lately: Suggs doesn’t have any sacks this season, and he only had one over the last eight games of last season.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, however, says people who are only looking at Suggs’ sack totals aren’t looking at a complete picture of his impact on Baltimore’s defense.

“Anybody who knows anything about football who watches the tape will tell you he’s playing really, really well,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN. “He was very disruptive in his pass rush. Not just that, he’s playing great in the run game. I’d say all around his game is an A-plus.”

Harbaugh is right. We only have one commonly used statistic for pass rushers, and that statistic is sacks, and so people tend to focus only on how many sacks a defensive end or outside linebacker records, without bothering to look at how many times he pressures the passer, how he plays the run, and so on. In reality, Suggs has made plenty of plays that aren’t reflected in his sack total, including a hit on Ben Roethlisberger in Week Two and a tackle on Andy Dalton after a short scramble in Week One. Opposing quarterbacks have felt Suggs’ presence, even if he hasn’t sacked anyone. Yet.

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Goodell advises teams of domestic violence initiatives

NDVH

While absent from public view for 10 days, Commissioner Roger Goodell and his administration have been working on specific efforts to address the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault beyond the boundaries of the NFL.

In a memo sent Thursday night to all teams, a copy of which PFT has obtained, Goodell outlined the league’s plans to support organizations aimed at preventing domestic violence and sexual assault and helping those impacted by it.

“In my letter of August 28, I said we would ensure that everyone in the NFL has knowledge of and access to resources — both through and independent of the clubs — relating to issues of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell wrote.  “I also said that we recognize that these issues affect our entire society, and that we would work to make a genuine and positive difference in a broader context.  Today, I write to update you on some significant steps we are taking as part of our long-term commitment to help people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It was brought to our attention that recent events caused The National Domestic Violence Hotline to receive 84 percent more calls during the week of September 8-15. According to the organization, more than 50 percent of those calls went unanswered due to lack of staff. That must not continue.

“To help address this and other critical and immediate needs, we are entering into long-term partnerships to provide financial, operational and promotional support to two of the leading domestic violence and sexual assault resources: The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). These commitments will enable both The Hotline and NSVRC to help more people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.”

As a result of the NFL’s support, The Hotline will add 25 full-time advocates in the coming weeks, which will allow for an additional 750 calls per day to be answered.  The league’s support of the NSVRC will bolster state and local sexual assault hotlines.

“The NFL’s support also will enable Loveisrespect to service 24-hour-a-day text chats with young adults affected by dating abuse,” Goodell wrote.  “Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, is a resource to engage, educate and empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships.”

Goodell also explained that, within the next 30 days, all league and team personnel will participate in educational sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault.

“These initial sessions will begin to provide the men and women of the NFL with information and tools to understand and recognize domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell wrote.  “We will work with the NFL Players Association to develop and present this training in the most effective way.”

The league also will dedicate “significant resources” to raising awareness on the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“These are by no means final steps,” Goodell wrote.  “We will continue to work with experts to expand and develop long-term programs that raise awareness, educate, and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault both within the NFL and in our society in general.”

It’s a good start, and it goes a long way toward Goodell’s plan to convert recent events into positive change, for the NFL and beyond.

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So there’s one: Michael Vick says Roger Goodell “doing a great job”

goodell_vick AP

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for the last two weeks, from his initial bungling of the Ray Rice case to his disappearing act at a time when the league needs leadership.

But he’s now got more than a few influential owners in his corner.

I think he’s doing a great job,” Jets quarterback Michael Vick said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “I think some situations are more complicated than others. You’re not going to get it right all the time the first time. These situations that [have arisen] are situations that we never dealt with before. I feel from a PR standpoint, just from a situational standpoint, it’s kind of new to everybody.”

That opinion puts Vick at odds with many, who think the commissioner has screwed things up at every turn lately.

But Vick’s view is colored by his personal experience, as Goodell was helpful to his comeback from federal dogfighting charges.

“Nobody’s perfect,” Vick said. “Nobody can make the correct decisions right then and there on the spot when faced with all forms of adversity. So, you got to give the man a chance. You got to give him a chance. You got to give everybody a chance to get it right. And you see that the other teams that are dealing with it now are making the right decisions based on what’s happened in weeks prior. So you got to give people a chance, man. You’re not going to get it right on the first time.”

That much is evident. And Goodell can only hope he handles his next chance as well as Vick has his.

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Falcons hammer hapless Buccaneers in 56-14 victory

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons completely dominated the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of a massive 56-14 blowout victory on Thursday night.

It was the second highest point total in Atlanta franchise history. The Falcons improved to 2-1 on the year while Tampa Bay fell to 0-3.

Devin Hester scored the 20th return touchdown of his career to take sole possession of the NFL record for most kick returns for scores in a career. Hester also had a 20-yard touchdown run on an endaround in the second quarter.

Matt Ryan set a franchise record for completion percentage (87.5 percent) in a game going 21 of 24 for 286 yards and three touchdowns before being replaced by T.J. Yates in the third quarter. Harry Douglas caught one touchdown pass from Ryan with Julio Jones added two scores. Steven Jackson scored. Antone Smith scored. Safety Kemal Ishmael scored on an interception return.

The Buccaneers couldn’t do anything right. Tampa Bay fumbled five times, losing four to Atlanta. Josh McCown was intercepted once before leaving the game in the second quarter with a thumb injury. Add in snap issues as well and it was a total cluster for the Bucs.

Despite having 56 points through three quarters, the Falcons were unable to become the 23rd team to score 60 points in an NFL game. The New Orleans Saints were the most recent team to do so with a 62-7 victory over Indianapolis in October 2011.

The Buccaneers were outgained by a 344-153 margin with five turnovers. Bobby Rainey – playing for an injured Doug Martin – had just 41 yards on 11 carries and two of their five fumbles.

Tampa Bay recorded their only offensive score of the game with 8:46 left to go when Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson for a 3-yard touchdown. Linebacker Danny Lansanah intercepted Yates on Atlanta’s next possession and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to bring the score to 56-14.

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Devin Hester passes Deion Sanders for all-time TD return mark

Hester Getty Images

During his first season with the Falcons, Devin Hester has shown that he can do a thing or two on offense.  But he also still has the skills that could eventually put him in Canton.

With a 62-yard punt return that hit paydirt, Hester broke a tie with Deion Sanders at 19 career touchdown returns.  Hester now has the record all to himself with 20.  He paid tribute to Sanders with an extended high step into the end zone, drawing a flag for taunting in the process.

Hester also has added a 20-yard touchdown run as part of Atlanta’s 35-0 first-half lead.

And while it’s easier to criticize the Bears both for letting Hester go and for never finding a way to unleash his broken-field skills on offense, keep in mind that every team has a crack at Hester on the open market.  The Falcons made the move to get him, and he could end up being a major difference maker as Atlanta tries to get back to the postseason.

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Falcons taking it to the Bucs in Atlanta

stevenjackson AP

It’s been an ugly start for the Buccaneers tonight in Atlanta.

The Falcons’ first two offensive possessions ended with Matt Ryan touchdown passes, the first to Harry Douglas and the second to Julio Jones, and Atlanta got a pick-six on defense from safety Kemal Ishmael making the score 21-0.

In the early going the game has been notable mostly for how easy the Falcons have made it look: They’ve simply marched down the field with the Bucs providing little to no resistance. Only once did it look like the Bucs had made a big play on defense, when safety Mark Barron took the ball away from Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo and began racing downfield. But Falcons receiver Devin Hester made a great play, running Barron down, stripping the ball from him and recovering Barron’s fumble.

The Bucs caught a break when they fumbled the ensuing kickoff, only to have the officials rule that forward progress had stopped. That break didn’t amount to much, as Ishmael’s interception return for a touchdown happened right after. The Bucs are going to have to catch a whole lot more breaks if they’re going to make this game competitive.

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