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Mark Davis says Las Vegas will “unite the Raider nation”

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28:  Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis attends a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV on April 28, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Davis told the committee he is willing to spend USD 500 million as part of a deal to move the team to Las Vegas if a proposed USD 1.3 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium is built by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. and real estate agency Majestic Realty, possibly on a vacant 42-acre lot a few blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip recently purchased by UNLV.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell said little on Tuesday about a potential move of the Raiders to Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis said plenty.

“I’m excited about it,” Davis said in comments televised on NFL Network. “It’s a new market. It’s got the potential to be a really exciting market. . . . The Raider fan in Northern California get upset a little bit when we talk about going to Los Angeles, and the L.A. fans get a little ticked off at the fans in Northern California, so it seems like Las Vegas is a neutral site that everybody’s kind of bought into. It will unite the Raider nation more than divide it.”

Asked if this means he’s given up on staying Oakland, Davis said, “No.”

And then he said this: “I’ve given my commitment to Las Vegas, and if they can come through with what they’re talked about doing, then we’ll go to Las Vegas.”

So, yeah, it looks like Davis is ready to leave. And it looks like the only way he’ll stay is if Oakland wakes up and puts together a plan sufficiently viable to get at least nine owners to vote against approving a move to Las Vegas.

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New Los Angeles stadium gets Super Bowl LV in 2021

This undated rendering provided by HKS Sports & Entertainment shows a proposed NFL football stadium in Ingewood, Calif. During an NFL owners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Houston the owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to a new stadium just outside Los Angeles, and the San Diego Chargers will have an option to share the facility. The stadium would be at the site of the former Hollywood Park horse-racing track. (HKS Sports & Entertainment via AP)

The NFL is back in Los Angeles. The Super Bowl is coming back, too.

League owners voted Tuesday to award Los Angeles Super Bowl LV in 2021. It will be played in the shiny new stadium being built in Inglewood for the return of the Rams.

Also Tuesday, separate votes awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta in 2019 and to South Florida in 2020.

Super Bowl LV will be the eighth hosted by Los Angeles and the first since 1993, when the Cowboys routed the Bills at the Rose Bowl. The first Super Bowl was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Super Bowl LIII is heading to Atlanta

Roger Goodell, Arthur Blank AP

New buildings get Super Bowls, and Atlanta is the latest beneficiary.

NFL owners just voted at their meeting in Charlotte to award Super Bowl LIII to the new Falcons stadium, the latest example of new facility being rewarded with the biggest game of the year.

Atlanta and New Orleans were the finalists for the game, with Miami and Tampa eliminated from the process on earlier ballots.

New Orleans had limited its bid to just the 2019 game (other cities were also bidding for 2020 and 2021), meaning it will be at least 2022 before they’re back in the mix for the game.

Atlanta previously hosted Super Bowl XXXIII, which featured an incredible game between the Titans and Rams, but also an ice storm that crippled the area in advance.

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Doug Whaley doesn’t think humans should play football

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 14:  Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley addresses the media following a press conference announcing Rex Ryan's arrival as head coach of the Buffalo Bills on January 14, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

In many respects, the NFL has become its own worst enemy in the so-called War on Football. Typically, that happens when the league and people connected to it unreasonably downplay the risks associated with the sport. One team executive has potentially harmed the league’s interests by going to the other extreme.

Asked during an appearance on WGR 550 whether Bills G.M. Doug Whaley believes receiver Sammy Watkins is injury prone, Whaley painted with the broadest possible brush.

“This is the game of football,” Whaley said, via Harry Scull Jr. of the Buffalo News. “Injuries are part of it. It’s a violent game that I personally don’t think humans are supposed to play.”

That’s the kind of statement that could prompt plenty of humans to prevent their offspring from playing football. Making the words even more jarring is that Whaley drove directly into a ditch under the guise of trying to justify his faith in Watkins, for whom Whaley gave up the ninth overall pick in 2014, a first-round pick in 2015, and a fourth-round pick in 2015 to acquire.

Coach Rex Ryan was later asked about Whaley’s remarks, which apparently haven’t gathered much traction thanks to the brouhaha arising from the franchise’s goofy new media policy.

“I can say this, I love the game, I think it’s the greatest sports,” Ryan told reporters. “I know it’s the greatest sport, it’s the greatest game and we all know how I feel about it.”

Previously, it was believed that Whaley’s job may be riding on whether the team makes it to the playoffs this year. Tuesday’s gaffe may have sealed his fate, barring the team’s ability to perform what would be the superhuman task of winning a Super Bowl.

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Jim Schwartz: Eagles shouldn’t pre-determine QB competition

Quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass during the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie minicamp at the team's NFL football training facility, Friday, May 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) AP

As Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz doesn’t really have any say in who wins the Eagles’ quarterback competition. But as a former head coach who was once tasked with determining when a rookie first-round draft pick, Matthew Stafford, was ready to be his starting quarterback, Schwartz has some insight.

And Schwartz’s insight is this: first-round draft pick Carson Wentz should get the chance to earn the starting job.

“Don’t judge him on something else,” Schwartz said, via NJ.com. “And also don’t pre-determine the result of the race. Let him go play. Don’t put extra pressure on him. I can’t speak for Carson. We have enough worries on defense right now. I think when we drafted Stafford, we just let him play. Was he our best quarterback? Was he ready? Unfortunately, he got hurt both his first and second year by holding the ball too long. I think he had the command and he would have been ready to play had it not been for those injuries.”

Schwartz’s boss, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, has decided not to follow that path. Instead, Pederson has already declared that Sam Bradford will be the starter.

At least, that’s what Pederson is saying now. If Wentz looks good in Organized Team Activities, training camp and the preseason, Pederson may change his mind. Schwartz thinks Pederson should be open to that.

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NFL tables proposal on sideline video

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings looks at a microsoft tablet surface pro with coach Kirby Wilson during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 10, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Vikings 23-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL voted to tweak the rules governing the use of replay review on Tuesday, but they didn’t approve the use of video on the tablet computers used on sidelines.

The league tabled the issue for the 2016 season in order to devote further study to the issue. Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that coaches will be allowed to look at replays on the sideline during preseason games this summer as part of that ongoing examination of the issue.

It’s hard to imagine that there will be too many coaches who would be against the idea of reviewing film of the game as it unfolds, although it seems we’ll find out soon enough exactly how much technology there will be on the sideline in the future.

A proposal from the Redskins to eliminate the cut from 90 to 75 players during preseason and just have one cut from 90 to 53 players was voted down on Tuesday.

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Report: Tyler Eifert to have “minimal procedure” on ankle

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Generally speaking, not much of lasting impact happens at the Pro Bowl.

It looks like the ankle injury suffered by tight end Tyler Eifert is the exception to that rule. Eifert was in a walking boot after the Pro Bowl, but the issue wasn’t thought to be a particularly serious one.

Eifert wasn’t practicing with his teammates on Tuesday, however, and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that his ankle “not responded as quickly” as initially hoped. As a result, Eifert will have a “minimal procedure” on the ankle soon.

Minimal though it may be, Eifert’s recovery is expected to take three months. That would be sometime in August, which would leave the Bengals without Eifert for much of training camp and could leave Eifert on the sideline for the preseason schedule as well.

Eifert had 13 touchdowns last season, so the Bengals will trade some lost time now for having him healthy once the regular season is underway. Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt and C.J. Uzomah are in line for more time at tight end while Eifert is recovering.

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Jalen Ramsey had knee surgery Tuesday

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 6: Aaron Miller #12 of The Citadel Bulldogs stiff arms Jalen Ramsey #8 of the Florida State Seminoles during the first half at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jaguars first-round pick Jalen Ramsey solicited additional medical opinions this week after suffering a tear to the meniscus in his right knee and the result sent him to the operating room.

The Jaguars announced on Tuesday that Ramsey had surgery on his knee earlier in the day that they termed successful. The team added that the expectation is that Ramsey will be healthy enough to return “by training camp.”

Given the inability to travel back in time and keep Ramsey from getting injured at all, that outcome would represent as good a case for Ramsey and the Jaguars as they could hope for. According to multiple reports, the surgery, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews, involved trimming the meniscus rather than a full repair that would have kept Ramsey off the field for a longer period of time.

While he’ll miss some on-field time in the near future, he’ll get plenty of time to acclimate himself to playing cornerback in the Jacksonville defense.

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NFL passes minor expansion of replay rules

instant-replay-story Getty Images

As expected, NFL owners have made a change to the replay rules. As not expected, the NFL didn’t dramatically change the paradigm, with the list of reviewable plays scrapped in favor only of a list of non-reviewable plays.

Along the way, the owners expanded replay review, slightly, to include certain administrative matters. Items now subject to replay review that weren’t previously subject to replay review are as follows: (1) penalty enforcement; (2) proper down; (3) the spot of a foul; and (4) the status of the game clock.

The list of non-reviewable plays also has been revised to include the following situations: (1) the spot where an airborne ball crosses the sideline; (2) whether a player was blocked into a loose ball; (3) advance by a player after a valid or invalid fair catch signal; (4) whether a player created the impetus that put the ball into an end zone. The quarterback “spike” for the purposes of killing the clock, which previously was on the list of non-reviewable players, has been removed.

Apart from including these items within the formal replay-review system, the replay official and designated members of the league office may now consult with the on-field officials “to provide information on the correct application of playing rules, including appropriate assessment of penalty yardage, proper down, and status of the game clock.”

The new rule otherwise streamlines the replay rules, eliminating plenty of verbiage that arguably was unnecessary to the process of determining what could and couldn’t be reviewed. Also, the order of the relevant rule has been modified, with the list of non-reviewable plays now preceding the list of reviewable plays. (Previously, the reviewable plays came first.)

It’s hardly a major revision to the process. However, there’s one specific facet of the new rule that justifies further attention, in a separate post.

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If Brady deserves punishment, why not the same as for Stickum?

Tom Brady AP

Remember when Buccaneers running back Errict Rhett was caught violating league rules by tampering with equipment in an effort to give himself a better grip on the football? You probably don’t, because in that case the NFL didn’t launch a months-long, multimillion-dollar investigation that concluded with Rhett being suspended and the Buccaneers being stripped of draft picks. No, when Rhett was caught putting Stickum on his jersey, the NFL responded by fining him $5,000.

With that decision, the NFL established a clear precedent that when a player commits an equipment violation, there’s a policy in place: He gets fined, and that’s the end of it. So why, when the NFL found that Tom Brady was caught violating the rules by tampering with equipment in an effort to give himself a better grip on the football, did the league have such a drastically different reaction?

That’s a question Ted Olson, the former United States Solicitor General who’s now part of Brady’s legal team, would like to have answered. Olson appeared this morning on PFT Live and pointed out that the Collective Bargaining Agreement already provides for players to get fined if they break a rule related to equipment. If the NFL thinks Brady broke an equipment rule, the punishment should have been a fine, not a four-game suspension.

“There’s a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with respect to equipment violations, and that’s what Brady is accused of,” Olson said. “We feel — and the evidence is very strong — that Tom Brady did not do anything wrong with respect to that. But if he did, and that’s what he’s accused of, those provisions are the appropriate provisions to apply. They call for a fine. . . . Instead, this very draconian punishment of a four-game suspension was imposed, instead of referring to the very provisions in the Agreement for people accused of violating the rules with respect to equipment. And the commissioner did not even discuss why he was not turning to that provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

It’s a strong argument on Brady’s side, one that the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit finds persuasive. And although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wouldn’t say so, it’s easy to wonder whether, in hindsight, he had just put this whole thing behind him a year and a half ago by fining Brady and moving on.

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Head of NFL’s head, neck and spine committee slams Congressional report

Capitol Getty Images

The NFL’s lead concussion doctor feels like he’s been blindsided.

In an interview with Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, who co-chairs the league’s head, neck and spine committee, denies he tried to direct funds for a research grant on the NFL’s behalf and said he wasn’t contacted before the Congressional report critical of the league’s role was released.

Ellenbogen said his two phone calls with National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke director Dr. Walter Koroshetz were related to the research protocols, and not to influence whether a $16 million grant went to researchers at Boston University instead.

“We know there are long-term risks of traumatic brain injury, and we need to know the incidence and prevalence,” Ellenbogen said. “Is it one in a million or is it 100 in a million? That was the entire thing that got blown up.

“I never talked to Congress. No one ever asked me my opinion. I had two private conversations with Walter, and this is a lesson I guess: Big Government can crush you if you disagree with them. I’m trying to protect the kids.”

The Democratic staff report of the House Energy and Commerce Committee criticized the NFL, saying they tried to influence the direction of research funding.

The league has denied the allegations in the report, saying they were “deeply committed to continuing to accelerate scientific research and advancements in this critical area, and we stand ready to support additional independent research to that end.”

Ellenbogen, who said he isn’t paid by the NFL, defended his work studying concussions in youth players, and said he hoped for longitudinal studies to provide more information. He’s taken up the cause after a patient of his (Zackery Lystedt) nearly died because of a brain hemorrhage after he re-entered a game following a concussion. He’s advocated for a law that requires youth athletes who suffer concussions to receive written approval from a doctor before returning to play.

“Why would I go and lobby 50 states to pass the Zack Lystedt law if I wanted to hide the [issue]?” Ellenbogen said. “We put protection in place for kids. That’s what I do. I’m there to make sports safer. Sports are good for kids. I want to make it safer. That’s my role. Period.

“I had no delusions [about influencing the grant selection]. But as long as it’s America, I get to express my opinion. And Congress never asked me. That’s pretty interesting – guilty until proven innocent, huh?”

While the report may have been partisan, it’s certainly an embarrassing visual for the league, and something owners will certainly want to learn more about from commissioner Roger Goodell at today’s league meetings in Charlotte.

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Pete Morelli gets entirely new officiating crew after multiple errors last season

Morelli Getty Images

After a poor season for Pete Morelli and his officiating crew last season that featured two separate disciplinary measures from the league for mistakes, the league has given Morelli an entirely new crew for 2016.

According to Ben Austro of FootballZebras.com, Morelli’s crew has been entirely reassigned after errors with timing in the Pittsburgh Steelers-San Diego Chargers game and a Baltimore Ravens-Jacksonville Jaguars contest last season resulted in league discipline against the crew.

Side judge Rob Vernatchi was suspended for Week 6 games after failing to notice a clock error in the Steelers-Chargers game. Another mistake in the Jaguars-Ravens game gave Jacksonville the opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal when time should have expired. The result was Morelli’s crew getting yanked from working a Sunday Night Football game in Week 13 between the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.

The league is also set to add three new officials this season. Side judge Alan Eck and head linesman Jerod Phillips from the Big 12, and umpire Ramon George of Conference USA. Head linesman George Hayward is the only retirement from the on-field officiating roster.

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Jimbo Fisher would never say never about an NFL job

Image: Jimbo Fisher AP

More than a year ago, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said on PFT Live that he had recently heard from an NFL team that was interested in interviewing him for a head coaching job. Fisher wasn’t interested in leaving Florida State then, and he isn’t now either, but he wouldn’t rule it out some day.

You can’t ever say never in this business,” Fisher told the Palm Beach Post.

So what would make Fisher make the leap? The right offer.

“I love college and I had opportunities to go to pro football as an assistant coach and as a coordinator and I’ve had inquiries as a head coach,” Fisher said. “It’s got to be the right organization at the right time and the right situation if you’re ever interested. We have a great situation where I’m at. It’s not something that drives me.”

Fisher is one of the most successful coaches in college football, and he has a knack for working with quarterbacks. No one should be surprised if some NFL owner decides to make Fisher the right offer.

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Dante Fowler feels good in return to practice

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Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler had a long wait before he got to take part in his second NFL practice.

His first time on the field as a professional ended with a torn ACL in Jacksonville’s first practice of rookie minicamp last year and Fowler missed the entire 2015 season as a result. Fowler was back at practice on Monday for the first day of OTAs, an event that had him feeling antsy enough on Sunday night that it was difficult to get to sleep.

Fowler got his rest, though, and said after Monday’s practice that everything went well physically.

“I can turn it loose,” Fowler said, via the team’s website. “I felt pretty good, especially bending the corner and turning my torque and things like that. That was my biggest concern. That’s what I wanted to see, and I felt pretty good. … I’m just now soaking it all in like, ‘Man, I made it through a practice. I felt good. This didn’t hurt. That didn’t hurt.'”

Fowler knows the Jaguars need someone to provide a boost to their pass rush and said “that’s what I’m going to do” when discussing his plans for the coming season. If Fowler can pull that off, Jacksonville should be better on defense even if this year’s rookies have fallen victim to the same bad injury luck he experienced in 2015.

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Brady files petition for rehearing of federal appeal

FOXBORO, MA - MAY 24: A New Englad Patriots fan shows his support for quarterback Tom Brady during the "Free Tom Brady" rally at Gillette Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The rally was held in protest of Brady's four game suspension for his role in the "deflategate" scandal.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

As expected, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has decided to continue to fight his four-game suspension arising from the #Deflategate controversy.

On Monday, Brady and the NFL Players Association filed a 15-page petition for a rehearing before the original three-judge panel or a rehearing before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The assault against Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision begins quickly in the documents filed by the lawyers, accusing Goodell of “falsely portray[ing]” the Ted Wells investigation as independent and calling Goodell’s internal appeal ruling “biased, agenda-driven, and self-approving.” The petition also claims that the ruling from a divided three-judge panel “will fuel unpredictability in labor arbitrations everywhere and make labor arbitration increasingly capricious and undesirable for employers and employees alike.”

Tracking the dissenting opinion in the underlying ruling from Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, the petition points to the fact that Goodell’s conclusion on appeal was based on “new grounds that were not part of the disciplinary decision” and that Goodell “completely ignored the collectively bargained schedule of penalties for equipment-related violations.” The petition specifically emphasizes Judge Katzmann’s comparison of football deflation to the use of Stickum, which triggers only a four-figure fine for a first offense, not a suspension.

The problem, as argued by the petition, isn’t that Goodell considered the Stickum comparison and rejected it but that Goodell never even mentioned it, relying instead only on the purported comparison between deflation of football and the use of PEDs, which triggers a four-game suspension for a first offense.

“Under the panel majority’s misguided approach,” the petition argues, “an arbitrator is now free to ignore critical provisions a CBA reflecting collectively bargained penalties.”

It remains to be seen whether that’s enough to trigger a rehearing. For a rehearing before the full Second Circuit, at least seven of the 13 active judges must agree to do it. Presumably, the Chief Judge counts as Vote No. 1.

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