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Ravens website says Rice will be suspended two games, based on “reports”

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

As more and more sports leagues and more and more teams try to get into the media business, unusual developments occur from time to time.

Most recently, the Ravens have posted an item on their website acknowledging “multiple reports” that running back Ray Rice will be suspended two games for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.  Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that an announcement of the suspension will come later today.

On one hand, it’s smart that the Ravens didn’t avoid the topic.  On the other hand, it would have been stupid to post the item without running the issue by folks higher on the organizational chart who may know which way the wind is or isn’t blowing.  So if the folks who run the team’s website are smart, the mere posting of the story should be regarded as a very strong hint that, indeed, Rice will be suspended two games.

The backlash already has begun, on two fronts.  Some have argued that the suspension of Rice without a suspension of Colts owner Jim Irsay shows favorable treatment of the folks who sign the checks.  Others have argued that Rice didn’t get suspended long enough.

Both sentiments have a considerable degree of merit.  Even though players are almost never suspended for a first-offense DUI and despite the fact that no discipline comes for a first-time DUI offender until the case is resolved, a strong expectation has emerged that Irsay should be and will be held to a higher standard.  As to Rice, the fact that the NFL will throw a guy out of the game for a year due to the disease of addiction to marijuana or other non-PEDs but will ban a guy who knocked out his future wife in a public place for only two games seems more than a bit inconsistent.

The common thread between those two angles comes from the league’s ongoing desire to police what players do on their own time with substances that don’t enhance performance.  Regardless of whether Irsay is suspended sooner than later, the league likely won’t subject him to the same rigorous testing that would throw a player who has an uncured disease out of the league for a year or longer, for fear of ultimately having to throw an owner out of the league for a year or longer.  Or permanently.

So maybe the discussion eventually needs to focus squarely on the substance-abuse policy that applies to players.  With coaches constantly policing performance by playing and/or keeping only the best players, that should be the ultimate litmus test for determining whether a guy should remain in the league notwithstanding the use of recreational drugs.  If/when the use of street drugs affects his performance, he won’t have a job.  If the use of street drugs doesn’t affect his performance, why should the NFL or anyone other than the appropriate law-enforcement agencies care?

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HGH use up among high school students

HGH AP

Nearly three years ago, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to implement HGH testing.  And they’ve yet to actually implement it, due to a series of roadblocks and hurdles that currently has the two sides squabbling not over HGH testing but the Commissioner’s power when it comes to players disciplined for PED violations unrelated to positive drug tests.

Meanwhile, more and more kids are using HGH.  As mentioned earlier in the morning on The Dan Patrick Show, a new survey featured at Time.com shows that 11 percent of 3,705 high-school students admitted to using HGH without a prescription.  That’s an increase from five percent in 2012 and 2011.

It’s entirely possible that the ongoing discussion of HGH arising from the inability of the NFL and NFLPA to actually implement testing has increased national awareness of HGH, introducing more kids to the product.  And with the NFL still not testing for it, kids looking for a reason to justify the use of HGH could easily twist the lack of testing into a belief that the NFL doesn’t really think it’s a big deal.

The NFL acts like HGH is a big deal, but the NFL won’t do what needs to be done to get HGH testing rolling.  While it’s understandable that the league doesn’t want to set a bad precedent by yielding to the union a little-used slice of Roger Goodell’s authority, the league office is full of very smart people who should be able to find a way to craft a win-win.

As a result, the impression lingers that the league is trying to avoid a lose-lose, in which HGH testing would expose a major PED problem and sideline many of the men fans pay to watch play football.  Some even wonder whether the unspoken goal of the protracted delay is to allow players who require some sort of pharmaceutical enhancement to find a comparable product that isn’t detected via current testing or easily masked.

Regardless, in the three years since the league and union agreed to adopt something other than the honor system for HGH, more kids are using it.  Which makes it even more important for the NFL and NFLPA to make a strong statement by finally testing for HGH and suspending those caught using it.

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Justin Blackmon arrested for marijuana possession

Justin Blackmon AP

Justin Blackmon, the talented but troubled Jaguars receiver who is currently serving an indefinite suspension for substance-abuse violations, has been arrested again.

Blackmon was arrested for possession of marijuana Wednesday night in Edmond, Oklahoma, according to Channel 6 News in Tulsa.

Police say Blackmon was initially pulled over for a traffic violation and officers could smell marijuana coming from his car. They searched, found marijuana and took Blackmon into custody.

Blackmon has previously been arrested twice for drunk driving.

The Jaguars spent the fifth overall pick on Blackmon in the 2012 NFL draft. He showed promise as a rookie but was suspended indefinitely after playing just four games in 2013. Even before this arrest the Jaguars were not counting on him to play for them at all this year, and his inability to stay out of trouble raises questions about whether he’ll ever play in the NFL again.

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Rice hasn’t been informed of suspension, yet

Rice AP

There’s apparently a rumor floating around that the NFL will suspend Ravens running back Ray Rice two games under the personal-conduct policy for his offseason assault on the woman who later became his wife.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Rice has not yet been informed of a suspension, or of the expected duration of a suspension.

For now, it appears that some loose chatter in league circles has bubbled up to the surface.  In the end, Rice very well may get two games.  Some would say he should get more — especially since Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got four games in 2010 without ever being arrested or charged.

The wild card in Rice’s case comes from the contents of the surveillance video showing the punch that rendered Janay Rice unconscious.  While Ray has defended himself (through a lawyer speaking in hypotheticals) by pointing to the notion that the one-punch knockout came after Ray absorbed several less potent blows, it’s safe to say the Commissioner won’t care — especially if that video contains images as troubling or worse than the video that has emerged of Rice dragging Janay out of an elevator after the incident.

Whatever the suspension, the sooner the Ravens know, the sooner they can plan for filling out the tailback depth chart in his absence.

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Falcons, Roddy White agree on extension

Roddy White AP

The Falcons and wide receiver Roddy White were talking contract extension earlier in the offseason, but tabled things for a while after White’s brother was killed.

They have both resumed and completed those talks. On Thursday morning, the Falcons announced that they have agreed to terms with White on a four-year contract extension that will keep him tied to the Falcons through 2018.

There are no financial terms to pick through yet, but if White sees it to the end there’s a good chance it will be the last contract he’ll ever sign as he’ll turn 37 in the final year of the deal. It would also mean that he spent his entire career in a Falcons uniform and that he’d further cement himself as the best receiver in Falcons history.

White battled injuries last year and caught 63 passes for 711 yards, his lowest season totals since the 2006 season. Better health for him and for the rest of the Falcons offense should lead to a better season all around.

UPDATE 9:28 a.m. ET: According to multiple reports, it is actually a three-year extension and the announcement from the Falcons rolled the existing year on his deal into the extension. That means White is signed through 2017 rather than 2018.

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Zimmer will see all three QBs in the preseason before picking one

Teddy Bridgewater AP

The Vikings have, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner, a great group of quarterbacks in Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater. So how will head coach Mike Zimmer pick one starter?

Zimmer says he wants to see how all three of them perform in the preseason, which he views as a better indication than what they’ve done in the offseason, or what they will do in training camp.

“We’re not going to forget what they did in the spring. But we’re going to continue to evaluate them each day as we get going. The preseason games will probably be a little bit more of a judge, when we’re going against other people,” Zimmer told the Star-Tribune.

Asked about his time frame for picking a starter, Zimmer answered, “I have an idea in mind, but I’m going to keep that to myself right now.”

Cassel is generally viewed as the safe pick, while Bridgewater is the quarterback of the future. But if Bridgewater plays well in the preseason, he’ll also be the quarterback of the present.

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Jerry Jones: No one has a better feel for me than Jason Garrett

jonesgarrett AP

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has one very important thing going for him: His boss loves him.

That was confirmed by Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones, who when asked about Garrett’s job security insisted that the two of them are joined at the hip.

“I know first hand that we’ve got a relationship, that I have a relationship — there’s nobody that has a better feel for me than Jason in terms of a relationship,” Jones said.

Asked if the 2014 season is a make-or-break year for Garrett, and if Garrett has to make the playoffs or else he’ll be fired, Jones insisted that’s not the case. Jones also said he wouldn’t even use the word “playoffs” because he doesn’t want to jinx anything.

“This is not make or break. I’m not going to use that word you just used just because of superstitions,” Jones said. “But I’ll be serious with you: No, this is not. In terms of the record of this team, this is not a make-or-break situation for Jason and members of this staff.”

Right now, Jones is saying nothing but supportive things about Garrett. Five months from now, if Garrett is concluding a fourth straight 8-8 season (or if the Cowboys’ record is even worse), Jones may feel it’s time for a new head coach.

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Charles deal is worth $28 million over four years

Kansas City Chiefs v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was planning to hold out from training camp unless he wasn’t.  In the end, it didn’t matter; Charles signed a new contract that will pay him, per a league source, $28 million over four years.

“Jamaal is an elite player in the National Football League,” Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said in announcing the deal. “It was important for us to keep him here in Kansas City long-term.”

Multiple reports have characterized Charles as moving to No. 2 on the running back compensation list, behind only Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  The truth, according to one source, is that Charles has finagled the second highest new-money average, with the two extra years adding another $18.1 million to the existing two-year deal.

That’s a new-money average of $9.05 million.

That 0.05 become critical to the analysis and was hardly a coincidence, given that Eagles running back LeSean McCoy averages $9 million per year on a five-year, $45 million deal.  Likewise, Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams received $27 million over three years under a five-year, $43 million contract he signed in 2011.

Without knowing the money fully guaranteed at signing — because it hasn’t been leaked yet it’s likely not near the top of any league-wide lists — it’s impossible to know how much Charles actually will get.  His 2014 pay moves from $3.9 million to $8.3 million, a raise of $4.4 million.  Instead of making $6 million in 2015, he’ll make $6.7 million.

That’s $15 million over two.  Over three, it’s $21 million.  Play all four and he gets $28 million.

The full structure of the deal will shed more light on how much more money Charles actually is getting, beyond his $4.4 million raise for 2014.  But he’s not currently the second highest-paid running back in the NFL, not with an annual average on his full contract of $7 million.

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Jerry Jones: Kyle Orton doesn’t intend to retire

Kyle Orton AP

When the Cowboys released quarterback Kyle Orton in July, it was widely believed Orton was weighing stepping away from the game for good.

Well, not so fast.

On Wednesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated Orton still has designs on playing in 2014, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

However, Orton won’t be playing for Dallas, which will move on with Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan as Tony Romo’s backups.

According to the Star-Telegram, Jones said the release of Orton was financially motivated, with the club now able to use some of the savings from Orton’s departure to address other areas, including potential contract extensions for wide receiver Dez Bryant and left tackle Tyron Smith.

By releasing Orton, the Cowboys got out from under his $3.25 million salary in 2014, but he gets to keep his signing bonus from Dallas.

Weeden, one of the Browns’ first-round picks just two years ago, got something of a vote of confidence from Jones on Wednesday, with the club’s owner saying his play helped the Cowboys feel comfortable parting ways with Orton, according to Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com.

If Orton indeed wants to play this season, he would rank as one of the top unsigned reserve quarterbacks on the market. A injury to a club’s starter could be a catalyst for interest in the 31-year-old Orton, who’s appeared in 75 regular season games.

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Suggs wants Flacco to drop more “F” bombs

Joe Flacco AP

Yes, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has the hardware and the cold-hard-straight-cash-homey.  But is he ready to become a true franchise quarterback?  The kind of guy who acts like an unofficial member of the coaching staff, getting in guys’ faces when they screw up and/or periodically firing off a primal scream, Tom Brady-style, in order to keep his head from exploding, Scanners-style.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs wants to see Flacco act more like Brady and Peyton Manning, pissing and moaning and generally having tantrums when guys don’t show the same abilities and smarts as their on-field leaders do.

“Joe is just ‘Cool Joe,’” Suggs said upon arrival at training camp, via the team’s official website.  “Most of the time he’s not the most vocal.  But sometimes we may need that.   He may have to cuss somebody out.  He may have to cuss me out.  It’s good to hear your quarterback get after somebody sometimes.  I think it will be a good thing.”

Suggs suggested that Flacco has in the past been more passive-aggressive when it comes to making his points.  Suggs wants Flacco to be aggressive-aggressive.

“He has cussed me out before, but Joe knows how to do his little subliminal slick shots,” Suggs said.  “We’re looking for a little bit more direct. . . .  I’ve said it from the jump: We have a lot of leaders on this team.  I’m really looking forward to seeing Joe Flacco come into his own.  Be one of those premier, elite quarterbacks and talk to his team.  We’re definitely going to stand behind Joe, stand behind Haloti [Ngata] and hopefully they all stand behind me.”

The knock from some on Flacco is that he doesn’t seem to care enough.  Basically, Suggs is trying to get Flacco to care more.  Or to at least act like he does.

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Chiefs, Jamaal Charles agree to new contract

Jamaal Charles AP

So much for the Jamaal Charles holdout.

Just as Chiefs players were reporting to training camp on Wednesday afternoon — and just as reports were coming in that Charles was officially a holdout — Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Charles and the Chiefs have agreed on a new contract.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that it’s a two-year extension that makes Charles the second-highest paid running back in the NFL, behind Adrian Peterson. Charles is now under contract to Kansas City through 2017. Charles was due to make $3.9 million this year, which is a fairly low salary considering that Charles plays a huge role in Kansas City’s offense — so huge that he is arguably the most important non-quarterback in the NFL.

Charles led the Chiefs last year not just in rushing with 259 carries for 1,287 yards, but also in receiving with 70 catches for 693 yards.

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Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice is retiring

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks will enter the 2014 season with one less player than they expected to have.

Per a league source, receiver Sidney Rice has decided to retire from football.  The source says that the 27-year-old Rice’s decision arises from his history of concussions.

More recently, Rice has been unable to play due to a knee injury suffered during the 2013 season.  A torn ACL caused him to miss eight games in the regular season and the playoffs.

Signed in 2011 after four seasons in Minnesota, Rice never came close to matching a breakout season third season in the league.  With Brett Favre arriving in Minnesota, Rice generated 1,312 receiving yards in 2009.  Since then, he has appeared in 16 regular-season games only once.

Cut after the 2013 season by the Seahawks, Rice rejoined Seattle in April after getting clearance from Dr. James Andrews.  Rice was due to earn a base salary of $1 million this year.

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NFL announces Lane Johnson suspended four games for PEDs

Lane Johnson AP

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has been suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Johnson blamed the suspension, which had previously been reported but only today officially announced, on a medication that he says he took without realizing it was on the list of banned substances. He did not name the medication.

“In April while training, I mistakenly and foolishly put a prescribed medication in my body to help with a medical issue. I mistakenly failed to clear it with Eagles trainers and check the NFL list of banned substances. I am extremely sorry for this mistake and I will learn from it and be smarter in the future,” Johnson said. “This will be very hard on me to not be battling with my teammates for four games – but I will be ready and better than ever when I return.”

With Johnson and Miami’s Dion Jordan both suspended from Week One through Week Four, two of the NFL’s Top 4 picks in the 2013 NFL draft will be serving PED suspensions to start the season.

Johnson can participate in training camp and the preseason but will have to be away from the team’s facility from the start of the regular season through Monday, September 29.

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Alex Boone will hold out from 49ers camp

Alex Boone AP

Vernon Davis reported to 49ers training camp. Teammate Alex Boone will not.

Boone is holding out from 49ers camp, as expected. The 27-year-old Boone has two years left on his contract, with base salaries of $2 million in 2014 and $1.2 million in 2015, and he believes he deserves significantly more than that.

The question is whether the 49ers are willing to give him more than that. They may think they have the leverage because Boone has two years left in his deal and they can fine him $30,000 a day for every day he misses, and they may also think that giving him a pay raise would be rewarding a holdout.

Boone has started all 16 games in each of the last two seasons, and he’s an important part of the 49ers’ offense. By holding out, he’s betting that the 49ers will decide he’s too important to be without, and will give him a raise to get him back in the fold.

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Vernon Davis still wants a new deal

Vernon Davis AP

After skipping the offseason program, losing a $200,00 workout bonus and subjecting himself to up to $70,000 in fines for skipping a mandatory minicamp, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis decided to stop the financial bleeding by showing up for training camp.

Per a league source, his decision to show up for training camp was influenced by multiple factors, including but not limited to $30,000 per day in fines and, after five days, partial signing bonus forfeiture.

The source says Davis still wants a new contract, and he’s “definitely” not OK with proceeding absent a raise.  The team reportedly won’t negotiate with players who are holding out.

It’s possible one specific type of negotiation already has occurred.  It’s common for teams to waive fines when a holdout ends, and it’s just as common for no one to talk about it.  It’s a point Hines Ward recently made on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk, regarding his own 2005 holdout, which lasted until the middle of August.

As to Davis, no one is saying anything.  And perhaps all that that implies.

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