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Pessimism swirls regarding Le’Veon Bell’s chances on appeal

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Yes, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has vowed to not miss any games after reportedly missing several drug tests. No, no one beyond a very small circle should have even known about the potential suspension until the appeal process had concluded.

Regardless, the cat has escaped from the bag — and based on information PFT has gathered there’s a strong sense Bell won’t be escaping the suspension.

Even with neutral arbitration now available in suspensions arising under the substance-abuse policy and the PED policy, none in the know believe Bell has a strong chance to win the appeal.

It’s been suggested that Bell changed phones and didn’t receive notice of the tests. If that’s his defense, it’s hard to imagine it flying. For a guy in the program, surely an obligation exists to notify all appropriate persons of a change in cell service. Otherwise, a guy could avoid testing simply by buying a new phone.

Bell’s appeal possibly will be finalized before Week One. For now, the smartest move for the Steelers will be to assume that DeAngelo Williams will once again carry the load early in the season after Bell makes his exit following the fourth preseason game.

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Jets sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to one-year, $12 million deal

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Jets and their starting quarterback finally have a deal.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has signed a one-year, $12 million deal to return to the Jets for the 2016 season, according to multiple reports.

This ends a long negotiation that spanned the entire offseason and got contentious at times, with Fitzpatrick seemingly upset that the Jets weren’t willing to give him the kind of money that quarterbacks who had lesser seasons last year — like Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford — received.

In the end, however, they’ve come to an agreement that will bring Fitzpatrick back, and put back together a passing game that was surprisingly effective in 2016. The Jets think they can compete for a playoff spot this season, and now they have their leader.

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Saints GM: “No progress” on talks with Brees

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to pass during the third quarter of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Saints arrived in West Virginia for training camp Wednesday, general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters that the sides “have not made any progress” an a potential contract extension for veteran quarterback Drew Brees.

Though Loomis going on the record with that means it’s news, it’s no surprise to those who have followed the story. Brees recently said he hasn’t heard from the team regarding a possible extension in three months.

Considering Brees set a deadline of the start of the regular season for cutting off talks, this thing could get sticky.

Loomis said he doesn’t think the situation will become a distraction for the team, and Brees has been a good soldier. But the Saints have been hurting for salary-cap space, and getting a deal done earlier could have lessened the $30 million cap number Brees is carrying and helped the team in areas besides goodwill with its most important player.

Because Brees has already been given the franchise tag twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. That’s not going to happen, so the Saints have to get a deal done in the next five weeks or risk losing Brees next March.

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Joe Flacco will wear knee brace, may not play much in preseason

Joe Flacco AP

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s recovery from last year’s torn ACL and MCL has gone well enough that Flacco avoided the PUP list to start training camp and all indications from the offseason are that he’s right on track for a return to the lineup in Week One.

It’s less clear whether he’ll be doing much in the team’s preseason games. Flacco met the media on Wednesday and said his focus is on the team’s September 11 opener against the Bills rather than on getting his feet wet during the exhibition season.

“The goal is to make sure I’m as healthy as possible, regular season, Game 1,” Flacco said. “I’m not ridiculously worried about playing a ton in the preseason.”

One plus to preseason action would be a chance to see how he responds to taking hits as that’s not something that will happen during Ravens practices this summer. The flip side of that is the risk of what taking the wrong hit could do to his health, so the Ravens will have to balance both before making a call. Whether his next game action comes in August or in the regular season, Flacco will take the field wearing a brace on his left knee.

“If it helps a little bit, that’s huge,” Flacco said. “I’m not going to leave it up to risk and then have something happen and say, ‘What if?’ I’m going to wear it. There’s no reason not to.”

Flacco said his knee has felt “really good” in the workouts he’s done with rookies and injured veterans over the last few days. Whatever he needs to do in regards to braces and preseason playing time to keep it that way will likely be just fine with the Ravens.

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John Elway: Quarterback competition is “wide open”

Mark Sanchez AP

Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch said this week that he thinks he has a chance to play right away and General Manager John Elway’s comments at a Wednesday press conference didn’t do anything to directly dispute that notion.

Elway said, via the team, that the quarterback competition featuring Lynch, Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian is “wide open” as training camp gets underway. That doesn’t come close to ruling out the possibility of Lynch climbing to the top of the depth chart and coach Gary Kubiak said that he’s already seen improvement from Lynch during a couple of days of rookie work.

“I think Paxton’s struggles in the offseason were verbiage, huddle, those types of things, and we’ve seen improvement,” Kubiak said.

Kubiak added that there’s no timeline to determine a starter at this point and said that he wants the three quarterbacks to get equal reps. During Thursday’s first practice, Sanchez will go first with Siemian and Lynch in that order behind him although that order will change from day to day. That suggests the pecking order could change along with it if the rookie continues to show Kubiak that he’s growing into the job.

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Report: Foles will be cut, become free agent

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 15: Nick Foles #5 of the St. Louis Rams throws a pass in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome on November 15, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams will release quarterback Nick Foles, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday.

The team had been seeking a trade partner for Foles but was unable to find one. Foles is not subject to the NFL’s waiver system and will become a free agent.

The Rams had traded for Foles before the 2015 season, but he threw 10 interceptions in 11 games and completed just 56 percent of his passes. The Rams ended up making another trade, giving up a bunch of future picks to move up to No. 1 in the 2016 draft and select quarterback Jared Goff.

Foles went to the Pro Bowl in 2013 with the Eagles. He had a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio that season and completed a career-best 64 percent of his passes.

There will probably eventually be suitors for Foles, who’s just 27, but with teams across the league reporting to camp he may have to wait for an injury or change of circumstances before garnering serious interest.

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CFL G.M. says league told him not to pursue Greg Hardy

NORTON, VT - MARCH 22:  U.S. Border Patrol Agent Andrew Mayer walks onto a frozen lake during a patrol on the lake that is split between Canadian territory to the right and the U.S. March 22, 2006 near Norton, Vermont. As American politicians continue to debate immigration reform, Border Patrol agents work the northern border to prevent illegal entry.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Getty Images

Greg Hardy seems to be struggling to find a next stop on his redemption tour, and he can apparently cross Canada off the list.

According to CBC News, Saskatchewan Roughriders General Manager/coach Chris Jones said there was some suggestion of bringing Hardy in during the spring, but the CFL ruled against it.

“Greg Hardy inquired to us back during camp and it was about a six-hour discussion,” Jones said. “The league made their ruling on it and we moved on. . . .

“He was interested in coming up. I inquired with the league. The league made their ruling, and you can talk to [CFL commissioner] Jeffrey Orridge and those guys if you need to have more info on it.”

A CFL spokesman said the league did have discussions with the Roughriders, but that the call was made by the team.

“The decision whether to pursue a player rests with the organization,” the league said. “And in this case, while the league did discuss the matter with the Riders, it was ultimately the organization’s decision to not place Hardy on the Riders’ negotiation list in May.”

While there have been some trial balloons floated in Washington and Jacksonville, there’s no indication anyone’s interested in signing the former Panthers and Cowboys defensive end based on his previous domestic violence charges (which were eventually thrown out following a reported settlement with his accuser).

Of course, the Roughriders can try to take the high ground on this issue too, but they have a player on their roster now with allegations of domestic violence in the past. But their coach was also honest about the league’s place in the talent-acquisition heirarchy.

“Quite honestly, you wouldn’t have a league if all the guys who had some type of past transgression in high school or junior college or college [weren’t allowed to play],” Jones said. “You wouldn’t have a CFL.”

Of course, the abilities to play football and simultaneously stay out of police cars are ones shared by many players on both sides of the border.

But the Roughriders and/or CFL backing away also shines some light on how damaged Hardy’s stock is. While his transgressions as a member of the Panthers were enough for some teams, it was creating a distraction and not offering enough bang for the buck in Dallas that has made him radioactive in NFL circles.

And now if the CFL won’t touch you, it’s reasonable to wonder who will.

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Jerry Jones on Randy Gregory: No question he needs help

Randy Gregory AP

Tuesday brought word that Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has checked himself into a treatment facility and that he faces an additional suspension from the league on top of the four-game ban he’s set to serve at the start of this season.

A second suspension could keep Gregory out for an additional 10 games, which would make 2016 essentially a lost season and leave the Cowboys with little to show for the 2015 second-round pick they used to select Gregory. On Wednesday, however, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the team’s disappointment in the turn of events is of less concern than Gregory finding a better path in life.

“There’s no question he needs the kind of help and care he’s getting right now,” Jones said, via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. “We have no official notification from league. We are first and foremost interested in how he can address his addiction and get to where he can function in society first and look to be a football player second.”

Part of the reason why Gregory dropped to the Cowboys in 2014 was because teams were concerned that off-field issues would keep him from realizing his on-field potential. That’s certainly the way things have played out to this point and it’s impossible to predict another outcome until Gregory finds another way to live his life away from the football field.

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Josh McDaniels likes the way Jimmy Garoppolo is working

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 29:  Jimmy Garoppolo #11 of the New England Patriots hands the ball off during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the season, the Patriots will turn to the inexperienced backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Fortunately for New England, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels says Garoppolo isn’t as inexperienced as he seems.

McDaniels says that as Garoppolo heads into his third season since the Patriots chose him in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, the team is confident that Garoppolo has learned a lot through working on the practice field and the meeting room.

“He’s worked extremely hard,” McDaniels said. “He’s had a lot of opportunities in his first two-plus years here, in practice and in spring football. This will be his third opportunity at training camp. He’s got a great work ethic, a great approach, he tries to get better and improve every day, and he’s made progress. We’re a long way from where we want to be in terms of the finished product with him and a lot of guys on our team. There’s nobody that’s as good as we can make them. We’re excited to work with all those guys and try to improve every way we can.”

Garoppolo has thrown just 31 regular-season passes in his NFL career, most of them in a meaningless Week 17 loss to the Bills in 2014. He hasn’t shown much so far — except in the Patriots’ facility, where McDaniels likes what he sees.

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Report: Antonio Brown confident contract will be addressed before season

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 09:  Wide receiver Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers attends Game Five of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center on June 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has a base salary of $6.25 million for the 2016 season, which puts him below receivers like Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd and others who have been less productive over recent years.

Brown’s desire for a bump in pay led to a brief absence from Steelers offseason work in 2015, but there was no replay this year as Brown worked with the team following his time on “Dancing With the Stars.” That fits with the Steelers’ expectation that he’ll honor his contract without issue, but doesn’t mean Brown has given up hope of a sweetened deal.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Brown is “hopeful and confident” that the team will address his contract before the start of the regular season. That could come by way of an extension, although Brown’s deal won’t be up until after the 2017 season, or it could come by some other arrangement that boosts Brown’s pay in 2016. That’s something the Steelers did last year by taking $2 million of his 2016 salary and moving it forward, so they could take a similar approach while leaving full extension talks for the future.

With his deal running another season, that may be the likeliest outcome but the good news for the Steelers is that Brown will be on the field while things work themselves out on the contract front.

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Report: NFL set to announce Philadelphia as 2017 draft host

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Carson Wentz of the North Dakota State Bison holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Philadelphia will reportedly host the 2017 NFL draft.

The NFL has already chosen Philadelphia and is set to make the announcement soon, NJ.com reports. The only issue remaining is when and where the announcement will be made, according to the report. The league wouldn’t want to make the announcement this week because all of the attention in Philadelphia is on the Democratic National Convention.

Three weeks ago a Philadelphia congressman said the city had been chosen, but city officials said no final decision had been made.

After having the draft in New York City for decades, the league has decided to move it around from city to city. Chicago hosted the last two drafts, and several other NFL cities have expressed interest.

Philly fans have always been vocal about expressing their opinions of the Eagles’ first-round picks, but that won’t be the case next year: The Eagles sent their first-round pick to Cleveland in the trade that allowed Philadelphia to move up in this year’s draft to select Carson Wentz.

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Jets, Fitzpatrick still not close

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets looks to throw a pass to Brandon Marshall (not shown) which resulted in a touchdown during the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on October 18, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Jets swooped in at the eleventh hour and signed franchise-tagged defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson to a long-term deal just before the deadline for doing so, many interpreted the move as a sign that, eventually, the Jets would do the same thing with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The only problem? There’s no clear, obvious, pinch-or-get-off-the-pot deadline when it comes to Fitzpatrick.

And so the two sides remain hunkered down, not disengaging completely but not attempting in earnest to bridge the gap between their differences. Via Ed Werder of ESPN.com, the two sides haven’t talked recently, they remain far apart, and no resolution is expected soon.

Clearly, the Jets remain interested in signing Fitzpatrick. They recently leaked to the media the notion that several different options have been presented to Fitzpatrick, in an obvious effort to make the Jets look reasonable and Fitzpatrick to look unreasonable. Still, it’s extremely unreasonable for the Jets to continue to let the situation linger; either they want him or they don’t. If they want him, they need to sign him. If they don’t want him, they need to cut the cord.

Having Fitzpatrick’s situation unresolved as camp opens is good for no one. It will be a distraction for the team, an annoyance for those who are repeatedly asked about it, and a constant source of uncertainty for Geno Smith, who will be the starter unless and until Fitzpatrick returns.

Could Fitzpatrick return and not be the starter? In theory, yes. But if they pay him the kind of money they’ve offered him, it would be ludicrous to not play him.

It’s even more ludicrous to allow this situation to hover over the franchise. Unless the Jets think a thickly-bearded cloud will help it in some way when the regular season begins (if they do, I’d love to know why), they should get the deal done or tell Fitzpatrick that they’re moving on without him. Whatever money they’re trying to save by waiting him out simply isn’t worth it.

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NFL, NFLPA establish a Field Surface and Performance Committee

501238444 Getty Images

Buried at the bottom of Monday’s joint league-union press release announcing a new procedure for enforcing the concussion protocol was a list of other agreements reached by the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com noticed one that otherwise has gone unnoticed. Here’s the key language from the release: “This offseason the NFL and NFLPA established the Field Surface & Performance Committee, a joint committee to provide advice and guidance regarding the safety, performance and testing of non-NFL game day and practice surfaces. The new committee will perform research and advise the parties on injury prevention, improved testing methods, and the adoption of tools and techniques to evaluate and improve field surface performance and playability.”

King notes that, as part of the agreement, the NFLPA’s designated field consultant “will be granted equal access to all NFL playing fields and field test results,” which expressly includes “non-traditional venues (e.g., London, Mexico City, Hall of Fame Game).”

The union has been concerned for several years about the quality of the playing surfaces, but the union hasn’t had an equal seat at the table. It now does.

The agreement extends beyond the actual playing surface, which as Reggie Bush learned the hard way in St. Louis last year can create separate problems. By the eighth game of the 2016 season (and ideally sooner), all stadiums hosting NFL games must have “standard safety wall padding and a surface surrounding the field that is safe for players.”

It’s unclear why Monday’s press release didn’t make a bigger deal of this agreement, which arguably is as significant as the development of a joint procedure for enforcing the concussion protocol. At a time when a perception exists that the league and the union can’t get along, any evidence that they are putting their differences aside and working together for the best interest of players should be trumpeted loudly, so that the media, fans, and especially the players know what’s happening.

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Colin Kaepernick cleared by doctors following shoulder surgery

Colin Kaepernick, Courtney Upshaw AP

Now that “heck of a competition” at quarterback can truly begin.

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been fully cleared to participate in practice after offseason shoulder surgery.

Kaepernick flew to Vail, Colo., yesterday to meet with Dr. Peter Millett, who performed the surgery. There, he went through a series of tests including some on-field work, and Kaepernick apparently passed. He also had work done on his right thumb and left knee this offseason, getting the bulk rate.

He’ll have his team physical Saturday when players report to training camp, with the first practice Sunday.

Then he’ll have a chance to compete for his old job with Blaine Gabbert, who had the head start in impressing new 49ers coach Chip Kelly.

“All I’ve heard is that Chip has told me it’s going to be a competition, . . . and to come in and be ready to compete,” Kaepernick said in June. “That’s my mindset, and I’m excited to do that.”

Of course, he wasn’t excited about everything this offseason, specifically when trade talks with Denver broke down because he wouldn’t take a pay cut.

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Report: Seahawks extend Pete Carroll through 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks on prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

General Manager John Schneider signed an extension with the Seahawks over the weekend and, as expected, his partnership with coach Pete Carroll won’t be ending any time soon.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Seahawks and Carroll have agreed to an extension that puts Carroll under contract in Seattle through 2019. Carroll and Schneider both joined the Seahawks in 2010 and their record leaves little reason to wonder why the Seahawks will keep everything in place.

The team has gone 60-36 under Carroll in the regular season and 8-4 in the playoffs. The latter record includes their Super Bowl XLVIII title, their run back to the game the next year and at least one playoff win in each of the last four seasons.

There’s no word on the financial terms of the deal, but Carroll was already among the best-paid coaches in the league. His new deal will keep him there and keep him in Seattle through at least his 68th birthday if all goes according to plan.

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