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NFL “monitoring” situation in UK

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Everyone is trying make sense of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. That includes the NFL.

“We are monitoring and have been in contact with our UK office,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email. “We head into the 2016 season in strong shape with the 3 UK games already nearing sell outs again — a testament to the strong and passionate fan base there — and all key media, sponsorship and licensing partnerships locked in.”

For the NFL, the bigger question becomes the viability of the British experiment beyond 2016. With Prime Minister David Cameron already resigning, major changes seem to be coming to United Kingdom. At some point, those changes could make the league’s ongoing relationship with the nation not viable.

At a minimum, any talk of a team moving to England will surely subside until more is known about the future of the UK following the vote to leave the EU.

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Shaun Suisham calls Hall of Fame Game injury “catastrophic”

Shaun Suisham AP

When Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham suffered a knee injury in last year’s Hall of Fame Game, attention immediately turned to the turf at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Now that Suisham has been released by the Steelers, more questions should be raised about that turf.

Suisham released a statement after the Steelers cut him suggesting that the injury will prove to be career-ending.

“Unfortunately, the injury I sustained in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game last preseason was catastrophic and has proven to be critical to continuing to my career. My journey in the NFL has come to a crossroads,” Suisham wrote. “I will mis the challenge of game day and the preparation that is required. Change is hard, but I’m comfortable with where I am in life as a husband and father.”

Although Suisham did not actually say he’s retiring, the statement came across as a retirement announcement. Suisham did not say whether he plans to take legal action against the Steelers, the NFL or the Hall of Fame in order to recoup the millions of dollars of lost future income that a forced retirement will cost him.

Whether Suisham sues or not, it’s incumbent on the NFL to ensure that every stadium where football is played — the 31 home stadiums as well as stadiums that host preseason games, International Series games and the Pro Bowl — is safe. If the Hall of Fame Stadium can’t install turf that’s up to the standards that NFL players demand, then the Hall of Fame Stadium shouldn’t host NFL games.

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Muhammad Wilkerson is running as broken leg rehab continues

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 13: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets celebrates after sacking quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter during a game at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Steelers defeated the Jets 19-6. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson hasn’t signed his franchise tender or a long-term deal with the team, leaving him unwilling to say whether he’ll report to training camp on time next month.

If he does decide to show up, it doesn’t look like the broken leg that he suffered in the final week of the 2015 season will stop him from doing too much. Wilkerson posted a video of himself running on Instagram Friday that showed no signs of limitations as a result of the injury.

While the leg injury was a serious one, there hasn’t been a sense that questions about his ability to return from the injury have been the stumbling block in any contract talks with the Jets. The bigger issue appears to be the Jets’ feeling that the presence of Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams on the defensive line makes signing Wilkerson to a huge contract less of a necessity than it might be under other circumstances.

There’s still time before July 15 for the two sides to come together, but the way things have played out the last few months makes it seem like a better bet that Wilkerson is doing his running in a different uniform come 2017.

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No progress seen on the Kirk Cousins contract front

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins looks for an open receiver against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Expect Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to play this season on his one-year guaranteed salary of $19.95 million.

That’s the word from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, who reports that both sides assume they’re stuck on the one-year deal for 2016 and will have to reassess in 2017. Breer describes contract talks as “going nowhere.”

If Cousins were to get franchised again next season, he’d be guaranteed at least $23.94 million for 2017. And if he doesn’t get franchised again next season, he’s a free agent who can shop his services to any team. So unless the team is willing to guarantee him more than $44 million over the first two years of any long-term deal, there’s no reason for Cousins to sign.

And from all indications, Washington isn’t ready to commit that kind of money to Cousins, who played very well over the second half of last season but still isn’t very experienced.

If Cousins has a big season in 2016, Washington is going to have to pay him a fortune in 2017, either on the franchise tag or on a long-term deal. (And the quarterback market will only grow, as Andrew Luck and the Colts may agree on the biggest contract in NFL history within the next month.) So Cousins would be in a very good negotiating position if he plays in 2016 like he played over the second half of 2015.

But for Washington, that would be a good problem to have: If Cousins proves himself as a franchise quarterback this year, Dan Snyder will happily pay him a fortune. That just isn’t going to happen this year.

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Texans pouring resources into sports science department

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 03: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans warms up before playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 3, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Houston Texans are attempting to create an edge off the field with the addition of a sports science department, which General Manager Rick Smith started this offseason. But if you want to know exactly what a sports science department does, Smith won’t tell you.

“It is new and it’s emerging,” Smith told ESPN. “And the fact that we have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, energy and resources on it, yeah, some of it is proprietary. . . . I’m not interested necessarily in letting everybody know all the stuff that we’re doing. So beyond that I’m not going to get into real detail about what we’re doing.”

Texans players wear a tracker around their chests while they practice, allowing the team to track data, although the team declines to say which data is tracked. The Texans are also taking a more scientific approach to monitoring players’ nutrition and sleep patterns.

Many coaches and teams across the NFL are leaning more on sports science departments to provide them with information. Some players, however, are skeptical.

“I think it helps for sure, but I’m from the country,” Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “Just go out there and play football.”

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Las Vegas stadium would cost taxpayers $750 million

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If Las Vegas hopes to lure the Raiders from Oakland, it’s going to require the biggest public contribution ever made for the construction of a football stadium.

Via multiple reports, a panel meeting on Thursday pegged the price for taxpayers at $750 million. That leaves roughly $650 million to be paid by private contributions, with any cost overruns the responsibility of the Raiders, the NFL, the Sands casino, and/or other non-governmental entities.

According to Bloomberg.com, that would be a record contribution by the people for a venue to be used by really rich people who otherwise can afford to pay for their oversized playgrounds, with Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy falling to No. 2, at $620 million. An economic adviser to Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval would like to reduce the public contribution to $500 million.

The proposal comes at a time when, nationally, public money has become harder and harder to obtain. In Oakland, the current proposal is, and has been, zero dollars and zero cents.

With Vegas trying to overcome the gambling stigma and become a major-league city, it’s easy to justify coughing up plenty of cash — especially since the money will come from taxes imposed on out-of-towners who visit the city’s hotels.

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Kyle Rudolph thinks people still underrate Kyle Rudolph

Jeff Heath, Kyle Rudolph AP

Two years ago, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said he’d put himself “up there with anyone” when it comes to ranking the league’s best tight ends.

Rudolph’s feelings haven’t changed.

When Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press asked Rudolph if he still considers himself the league’s best tight end, Rudolph not only had his answer ready but also had an explanation.

Absolutely,” Rudolph said. “Route running and catching balls, to many, is all that matters. But it’s also [about] being one of the best blockers, one of the best pass protectors.

“The world revolves around fantasy football. That’s just the nature of sports right now, and that’s just the way it is. But I know that when I come to work every Monday, and I [watch] the film, I may have only caught two balls, but if I did my job in the run game and pass protection, [Vikings coach Mike Zimmer] is going to be happy.”

Rudolph knows his 2015 numbers — 49 catches, a career-high 495 yards — aren’t in the same galaxy as those Rob Gronkowski and other tight ends put up around the pass-happy NFL. And at the same time he was essentially saying “watch the tape,” he was also dropping a hint that he’d like to surpass his career highs in receptions (53 in 2012) and touchdowns (nine, also in 2012) in 2016.

“I want to have the best season that I’ve had as a Viking,” Rudolph said. “It’s no secret we need to become more balanced, and I think I play a part in that.”

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Former Lions CB Stanley Wilson II shot while naked and intruding

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 22:  Koren Robinson #81 of the Green Bay Packers tries to get around the tackle of Stanley Wilson #31 of the Detroit Lions at Ford Field November 22, 2007 in Detroit, Michigan. Green Bay won the game 37-26.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Lions cornerback Stanley Wilson II might have finally done something more bizarre and ill-advised than his father.

According to KGW in Portland, Wilson was naked and trying to break into a home when he was shot by the homeowner.

The 33-year-old Wilson played for the Lions for three seasons, and was released in 2008.

Wilson has been charged with first- and second-degree attempted burglary, and first- and second-degree trespassing. More charges could be coming.

But before they could process the arrest, they had to take him to the hospital, and cover him up. Police found Wilson in a water fountain in the homeowner’s back yard, but said that his injuries were not life-threatening. The homeowner has cooperated with police.

Wilson’s father, Stanley Wilson Sr., became infamous when he missed Super Bowl XXIII, after being found in a hotel bathroom the night before the game with cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

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Andrew Luck admits he didn’t play well, even when healthy

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a pass in the first half an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) AP

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had an injury-plagued season in 2015, but injuries weren’t the only problem.

Luck admitted in an interview with ESPN that he did not play well last season, even when he was healthy.

“Injuries aside, I was not playing very good football — before they happened,” Luck said. “I’ve got to be better. Toward my last couple games I felt like I was playing much better, trending in the right direction.”

The game when Luck suffered his season-ending kidney injury was also his best game of the season: He completed 21 of 36 passes for 252 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, while adding 34 rushing yards against the best defense in the league in a win over the Broncos.

But other than that game, Luck’s season was a mess. He finished the year with a career-low 74.9 passer rating, and the Colts went just 2-5 in the games he started (a record that looks even worse when you remember that the Colts went 5-3 with Matt Hasselbeck and 1-0 with Josh Freeman).

In 2016, the Colts need Luck to be healthy. They also need him to be better.

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Report: Richard Gordon had been evaluated for mental illness three times

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 09: Tight-end Richard Gordon #82 of the Oakland Raiders catches a pass near the sideline against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

When an NFL player is arrested for domestic violence and has an assault rifle in the back of his car, it’s easy to miss details which can cast the story in an entirely different light.

And in the case of former NFL journeyman tight end Richard Gordon, it also raises more questions about why he had an assault rifle in the back of his car to begin with.

According to the woman accusing Gordon of punching her, the former NFL tight end had been “Baker Acted” three times recently.

The Baker Act, as it’s commonly referred to, was originally known as the Florida Mental Health Act and provides authorities the power to admit those showing signs of mental illness for up to 72 hours.

Coupled with the portion of the report that includes her saying he hadn’t slept in several days, and snapped on her to the point of assault, the report paints a picture of a 29-year-old with some serious issues.

And that person had an AR-15 and two magazines in the back seat of his car, with the apparent intent of going to a strip club at which he had been involved in a previous altercation.

Regardless your political beliefs, that’s a chilling thought.

Gordon spent time with six teams in five years, most recently the Broncos, who cut him earlier this offseason. He was originally a sixth-round pick of the Raiders from the University of Miami.

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Eric Decker wants resolution on Ryan Fitzpatrick before camp

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets celebrates his touchdown with  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 in the third quarter against the Miami Dolphins on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets coach Todd Bowles said last week that there’s no “drop-dead deadline” for the team to come to an agreement with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but one of Fitzpatrick’s top targets from last season feels like there should be one.

Wide receiver Eric Decker has made it clear this offseason that he’d like to see Fitzpatrick back for a second season leading the Jets offense and said Thursday on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Ovie Mughelli that he believes a deal bringing the quarterback will get done. If he’s wrong, though, Decker said that he thinks the Jets have to move on once training camp gets underway.

“I hope something gets worked out, one way or the other, so we cannot have distractions going into training camp,” Decker said. “I think for any team to have success, you have to have some kind of direction. And, with training camp, that’s where you get the timing, that’s where where you kind of build the team and build your identity. And if it’s still in question marks and you don’t know what’s going on, you’re going to create some kind of issues that we don’t need to have.”

Geno Smith has been working as the No. 1 quarterback this offseason with Fitzpatrick unsigned and would remain in that role if the status quo remains in place, so there isn’t much uncertainty about the Jets’ direction under center without Fitzpatrick on the roster. There is uncertainty about when the Jets would fully commit to going that route, however, and Decker would like to see it disappear sooner rather than later.

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Key #Deflategate ruling could come at any time

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 20: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) Actor Ben Affleck attends the "Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice" New York Premiere at Radio City Music Hall on March 20, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images) Getty Images

At the outset of draft week, we suggested that, if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had a sense of flair, it would issue a ruling in the case arising from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, necessarily overshadowing the final days before the rookie selection process. And not long after pressing the “publish” button, the Second Circuit’s decision upholding the suspension arrived.

Now, a full month after Brady filed a petition for a rehearing of the case, another decision could come at any time. If the request for a rehearing is denied, Brady will have to decide whether to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the request for a rehearing is granted, the suspension will be delayed indefinitely as the full Second Circuit court receives written briefs, schedules an oral argument, conducts oral argument, reaches a decision, and writes it up.

Regardless of the outcome of the litigation, strong feelings regarding the case remain, particularly among Patriots fans. Coincidentally (or not), the debut episode of Patriots fan Bill Simmons’ new HBO show, Any Given Wednesday, included a visit from actor and fellow Patriots fan Ben Affleck. But the substance of the current Batman’s arguments were overshadowed by the delivery. Apart from the continuous profanity (amazingly, the only time Affleck chose his words carefully came when he paused before questioning the “integrity” of the Commissioner), Affleck seemed off. Many believe that he slurred throughout the interview.

It’s an odd way for the first episode of the Simmons show to create buzz. The good news for Simmons is that, unlike Artie Lange on Joe Buck’s former HBO show, Affleck didn’t attack the host. The bad news for Simmons is that the only buzz created by the show came from nothing Simmons or his guests said but how one of his guests said what he said.

But for Affleck’s demeanor and speech, the headline could have been that Affleck, who has a friendship with Brady, possibly dropped a strong hint regarding Brady’s real reason for refusing to surrender his cell phone: “Maybe Tom Brady’s so f–king classy and such a f–king gentleman that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion of some of his coworkers. You know, like guys he plays with, guys he plays against. His real feelings. I wouldn’t want guys who I didn’t think were very good to know I didn’t think they were very good. I wouldn’t want guys who I thought were great to know I thought they were great.”

Simmons addressed the situation indirectly on Twitter, pointing out that the interview was taped in the late morning (which cuts against the notion that Affleck had been drinking, supposedly) and that “Ben got fired up about DeflateGate during the convo, that’s it.”

Few who saw or heard the interview will believe that, but Simmons surely felt compelled to defend his guest. Doing so sends a strong message to any and all future guests on the show.

The fact that the show was taped so long before it aired invites another question. Did anyone notice that Affleck was off and in turn consider the possibility of delaying the interview by a few hours, or at least otherwise raising the question of whether it was in Affleck’s best interests to proceed in the condition he was in, whatever the reason for it was?

The question of what happened to Affleck and whether it was temporary or part of some new, Charlie Sheen-style persona have, at least for now, eclipsed #Deflategate. That could change at any moment, if the Second Circuit bangs the gavel on Brady’s request — especially if the answer is that Brady’s request for another chance to win the appeal has been denied.

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54-year-old Herschel Walker says he’ll fight MMA again

Herschel Walker AP

At the age of 54, former NFL running back Herschel Walker still says he’s doing his longtime routine of hundreds or even thousands of pushups and situps a day. And that’s not even the most impressive thing Walker says he’ll do.

In an interview with Fox 2 in St. Louis, Walker said he plans to compete in another mixed martial arts fight.

When asked directly, “You’ll fight again?” Walker answered, “Oh, yes. I do it for fun. I love this sport.”

Walker has had two pro MMA fights, one in 2010 and one in 2011. He won both by technical knockout, although he was facing hand-picked opponents who didn’t offer much of a challenge.

In addition to winning a Heisman Trophy and playing in two Pro Bowls, Walker ran track at Georgia and was an Olympic bobsledder. He was late to start MMA, but he says he’s not done fighting yet.

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Derrick Morgan joins Eugene Monroe’s marijuana cause

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Tackle Eugene Monroe isn’t alone in his advocacy for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the NFL. Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan has joined Monroe.

In an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo News, Morgan and Monroe explained their position regarding the value of marijuana for football players — and regarding the NFL’s reluctance to consider it.

“I feel like the NFL has a responsibility to look into it, to delegate time and money to research this for its players,” Morgan said. “Given how much influence that the NFL has on society, I think it would help the greater good.  There’s a lot of people suffering and a lot of people that can benefit from cannabis as a medical treatment.”

The league nevertheless has resisted the question of whether marijuana would benefit players, clinging to the reality that marijuana is banned under the substance abuse policy.

“I think for the NFL to say that cannabis does not benefit the long-term health of its players without actually having gone and done the research,” Morgan said. “I don’t think that’s an accurate statement.”

Still, the league seems to be willing to learn more about the issue, and maybe what they learn will result in a change in the NFL’s attitude toward marijuana.

The biggest impediment to change could be the concept of collective bargaining. The league will want a concession in return for modifying the longstanding marijuana ban. The NFL Players Association may take the position that it’s in the mutual interests of labor and management to make changes.

Hopefully, both sides will set the back-and-forth of labor negotiations aside and do the right thing for all players, if the right thing is allowing them to use marijuana as a way to treat pain and other football-related afflictions.

The good news is that, under the current policy, most players can (and many players do) use marijuana. Every player not already in the program takes one substance abuse test per year, at some point from April to August. This means that players not in the program can use marijuana throughout most of training camp, the preseason, the regular season, and the postseason.

Still, players shouldn’t have to shut it down for a month (or more) in the offseason, and players in the substance abuse program shouldn’t have to avoid it completely until they exit from the program. The sooner the NFL gets to that point, the better off the NFL’s players (and in turn the NFL) will be.

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NFL, Cirque du Soleil teaming up in Times Square

ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 18:     Cirque du Soleil New Acts: Aerial Bamboo and B-Boys attends the Walt Disney World Awaken Summer - Media Preview on April 18, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL may have a team in Las Vegas in the near future and they’ll be able to ask one of their new marketing partners about life in Sin City.

Cirque du Soleil has been putting on shows in Vegas for a long time, although that won’t be the location of their new venture with the league. The NFL and the theatrical group are coming together to build an interactive exhibit in Times Square that’s expected to open in November 2017.

The New York Times reports that the exhibit will be housed on four floors of a building currently in construction. Cirque du Soleil is paying to build out the space and giving a licensing fee to the league, which will provide access to NFL Films and memorabilia while sharing in the profits. The 40,000 square foot space is expected to feature digital displays and a theatrical show that aims to “recreate what it is like to be on the sideline.”

“This attraction is both a simulation of what it’s like to go to a live game for 20 minutes and an exhibition,” NFL chief marketing officer Dawn Hudson said. “There will be something for everyone.”

What any of this will actually look like is a matter for the future, but the intent of the arrangement is less difficult to suss out. The partnership gives the league a way to reach people from across the world who might not be football fans, but who may be interested in seeing a Cirque du Soleil show during their visit to New York City. It fits with the league’s ongoing push for a larger international footprint and, based on the reported financing, doesn’t offer much financial downside for the league should it fail to catch fire.

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