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NFL reinstates Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson AP

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been reinstated after his suspension for abusing his son.

Peterson, who played in only one game last year after he was indicted for beating his 4-year-old son with a switch, is back in the NFL as of tomorrow. That will make him free to return to the Vikings — or to some other team, if the Vikings trade him.

“Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was advised today that effective tomorrow he is reinstated as an active NFL player and may participate in all scheduled activities with the Vikings,” the NFL said in a statement.

“In a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell, Peterson was informed that he is expected to fulfill his remaining obligations to the authorities in Minnesota and Texas, as well as the additional commitments Peterson made during his April 7 meeting with the commissioner regarding maintaining an ongoing program of counseling and treatment as recommended by medical advisors.

“Beyond the requirement to comply with his court obligations and plan of counseling, Peterson was reminded that his continuing participation in the NFL depends on his avoidance of any further conduct that violates the Personal Conduct Policy or other NFL policies. Any further violation of the Personal Conduct Policy by Peterson would result in additional discipline, which could include suspension without pay or banishment from the NFL.

“Peterson was suspended without pay last November 18 for the remainder of the 2014 NFL season for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son last May. Peterson pled no contest on November 4 in state court in Montgomery County, Texas to reckless assault of the child.”

It remains unclear whether Peterson will return to the Vikings, as he has indicated that he would like a fresh start elsewhere. But the NFL has now made clear that Peterson is welcome to return to the league.

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Vikings’ giant Polish lineman plans to “put J.J. Watt to the ground”

BabatundeAiyegbusi

We at PFT continue to be fans of Babatunde Aiyegbusi, the 6-foot-9, 351-pound offensive tackle signed by the Vikings last month.

Granted, we don’t know much about Aiyegbusi, whose football career consists of playing for the Wroclaw Giants of the Polish American Football League. But we like Aiyegbusi’s spirit.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today caught up with Aiyegbusi and found that he’s not satisfied with just signing an NFL contract. Instead, Aiyegbusi is focused on taking on the best defensive lineman in the NFL, and winning. Aiyegbusi told Vikings director of pro scouting Ryan Monnens that he’s not celebrating just being in the NFL. He’ll save his celebration for when he kicks Texans defensive end J.J. Watt’s butt on the field.

“What surprised Ryan – I wasn’t jumping around, like big, happy of signing it,” Aiyegbusi said. “He was like, ‘Are you not happy?’ I said, ‘I will be happy when I put J.J. Watt to the ground.'”

That’s unlikely, and not just because the Vikings don’t play the Texans this year. If Aiyegbusi sticks with the Vikings at all, it’s more likely to be on the practice squad than the 53-player roster. But this is a young man who has the self-confidence to match his size. That’s hard not to like.

Photo via Aiyegbusi on Facebook.

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Schneider says Seahawks will be cautious in Russell Wilson negotiations

Seattle Seahawks v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson are talking about a new contract but getting nowhere.  If/when they get anywhere, the Seahawks will get there carefully.

“Every negotiation is unique in and of itself and this is no different,” G.M. John Schneider told KIRO radio on Wednesday, via Terry Blount of ESPN.com.  “He’s our quarterback.  We’d love him to be our quarterback.  But the thing is we need to keep as many of these guys together as we possibly can.  What I can tell you is that this is the ultimate team sport.  We have a track record of rewarding our players that we recognize as core players.”

Wilson is one of their core players.  But how much will they reward him, specifically in relation to the top of the quarterback market?  A contract a the top of the quarterback market may conflict with the team’s broader philosophies.

“We want to be a consistent championship-caliber football team, one that the community and the Northwest is extremely proud of every year and has high expectations and hopes for,” Schneider said.  “We have to be able to protect ourselves as we go and make smart decisions in trying to keep this whole thing together as long as we possibly can.

“I think you’ve seen over the last several years now a philosophy of competition at every position and trying to acquire as many players as you possibly can and to make it fit.  We’ve done this since Day One.”

The emphasis on team could require the guy who plays the most important position to put team ahead of the quest to get paid as much as possible.  If Wilson isn’t willing to do that (and, really, why should he be?), the answer could be that the Seahawks will have to find another young quarterback who can perform for three or four years at a level far higher than his compensation reflects.

For now, the Seahawks have begun the process of framing the question Wilson eventually will have to face.  Do I grab every dollar, or do I get fair compensation and allow the team to put other great players around me?

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Scott Frost rips dumb questions about Mariota’s competitiveness

frostmariota AP

Questions have been raised about whether former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is competitive enough. Some observers don’t like his demeanor on the sideline, saying he doesn’t look like he’s the leader of the team. Some have questioned whether he cares enough about being the first overall pick.

Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost thinks that’s ridiculous.

Frost, who quarterbacked Nebraska to a national championship and then had a seven-year NFL career as a defensive back, says that he has heard a lot of questions about Mariota in the run-up to the draft. Frost says the questions about Mariota’s leadership and competitive fire are downright silly.

“Some of them were great questions and some of them were some of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard,” Frost told the Oregonian. “I think it’s ridiculous to think Marcus is too nice to play football. If that was the case, he wouldn’t have won so many games around here.”

Mariota will have a significant adjustment going from Oregon’s offense to the NFL (unless Chip Kelly’s Eagles draft him), but Frost thinks it’s an adjustment that Mariota will have no trouble making.

“The kid can do anything you ask of him on a football field,” he said. “To say he can’t be a pocket quarterback, someone who says that just doesn’t know him. I have so much confidence in him, there’s nothing he can’t do.”

A coach talking up his own players isn’t exactly breaking news, but Frost knows better than anyone how Mariota runs an offense. And Frost is enthusiastically vouching for Mariota’s ability to do it at the next level.

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No Peterson developments, yet

Peterson Getty Images

On Wednesday, the window opened for the reinstatement of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  And nothing happened.

Many believed that Peterson would be reinstated as of April 15.  Most assumed he’d at least be considered for reinstatement on April 15.  As far as anyone knows, nothing has happened yet.

Time is of the essence.  If a trade will involve 2015 draft picks, the trade needs to happen before those picks are used.  In that regard, time remains on the side of the Vikings, if the Vikings hope to keep Peterson around.

The Vikings claim they hope to keep Peterson around.  It’s hard to know exactly what Peterson wants; a new contract from the Vikings could go a long way toward making him want to stay.

None of it matters until he’s reinstated.  Amid concerns that the NFL will drag its feet to send a message to Peterson and other players about the consequences of challenging suspensions in court, those close to Peterson believe/hope the NFL is simply taking its time and reinforcing the notion that it controls the process.

Clearly, the NFL does control the process.  And the NFL ultimately will do whatever it wants to do.  And eventually we’ll find out whether the Vikings and Peterson will get to do what they want to do.

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Sean Payton: We need to draft defenders who play right away

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Saints own a pair of first-round picks after trading tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks and they have five picks overall in the first three rounds, which puts them in position to add some talent to the roster after a 7-9 season.

During an interview with WWL on Wednesday, coach Sean Payton gave some hints about what kind of talent the team was hoping to acquire. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone who watched the Saints in 2014 that Payton thinks the team needs immediate help on the defensive side of the ball.

“It’s going to be important for us defensively in this draft to bring in some guys that we feel like can help us play right away,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “And I think if you’re looking closely to when we’ve been real good, there’s been that element defensively, there’s been that element in the running game.”

The Saints made some moves to bolster that running game by acquiring center Max Unger in the Graham trade and signing C.J. Spiller, although Payton said that he wouldn’t call it a philosophical change in what the team is doing offensively. It doesn’t appear the defensive philosophy is undergoing a significant change either, which means that they’ll need better players and better execution if they want better results in 2015.

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Fred Jackson: I won’t make it easy for LeSean McCoy to take my job

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills didn’t trade for LeSean McCoy and give him a huge new contract to be a backup. But Buffalo’s incumbent starter at running back says he’s not just going to step aside quietly and watch McCoy take his job.

Fred Jackson, who started for the Bills most of last season and led the team with 141 carries for 525 yards, says he’s going to try to prove that he still deserves to be the primary ball carrier.

“They want him to take the majority of the load,” Jackson told the Buffalo News. “But I’m not going to make it easy for him. I’m not going to just hand it to him and say, ‘Here’s the job.’”

At 34, Jackson is the NFL’s oldest running back. But he hopes he’s not going to be phased out.

“I don’t know what my role is going to be yet,” he said. “I’m going to push him. Every time I get a chance to touch the ball, I’m going to make every play that I can when I’m out there. So, hopefully, by me doing that, I’ll make him take his game to the next level.”

The competition for the starting job in Buffalo won’t be much of a competition at all: McCoy is going to get the job. But Jackson viewing it as a competition will be good for both of them.

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Schedule is ready, could be released before next Thursday

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The NFL currently plans to release the schedule on Thursday, April 23.  Per multiple sources, however, that could be accelerated.

The schedule is ready to be unveiled.  And there’s a chance it will be rolled out earlier than next Thursday.  Wednesday could become the new target.

Regardless, it’s coming next week, no later than Thursday.

And it will be the biggest story in all of sports, even though no games that count will be played until three days after Labor Day.

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Carson stadium moves toward city council vote

Chargers Getty Images

With the powers-that-be in San Diego possibly not moving quickly enough to get build a stadium that would keep the Chargers in town, the folks in Carson are moving like grease through the proverbial goose. (#Pulitzer.)

Via the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles County Registrar’s office has certified the signatures obtained in support of the Carson project. The Carson City Council will vote on the measure next Tuesday.

Carson and Inglewood currently are racing toward securing formal approval to build a stadium that would host one or two NFL teams. But there won’t be two stadiums; it’s one or the other.

The move comes a day after NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman visited San Diego. Per U-T San Diego, Grubman explained that San Diego already is lagging behind the L.A. proposals, pointing out that the San Diego project lacks a stadium design, specific funding sources, or support from the Chargers.

Far more ominous for San Diego is the fact that it trails the other two cities hoping to keep franchises in place: Oakland and St. Louis.

“They have a specific site and they have at least the outline of a funding plan in terms of where the different pieces of financing would come from,” Grubman said. “They have a design of a stadium which has months of work behind it.”

There’s a sense that the Chargers and the NFL are going through the motions with San Diego, hopeful that San Diego eventually will give up.  Even if San Diego doesn’t cry uncle, it looks like uncle eventually will be declared.

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Football writer Jim Dent gets 10 years in prison for 10 DWIs

jimdent

Jim Dent, the author of several books about football, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after his 10th conviction for driving while intoxicated.

Dent, who jumped bail and fled to Mexico last year, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in which he will be allowed to serve a 10-year sentence for bail jumping and a 10-year sentence for the DWIs simultaneously.

The Dallas Morning News reports that this will be the longest of three jail terms Dent has served. Dent has served a three-month term and a 22-month term for previous drunk driving convictions and probation violations.

Dent is the author of well-regarded football books including The Junction Boys, King of the Cowboys: The Life and Times of Jerry Jones and Manziel Mania. Last year he garnered a great deal of attention for an account in Manziel Mania of disarray in the Cowboys’ draft room when Stephen Jones had to convince his father, Jerry Jones, not to take Johnny Manziel in the first round of the draft. While Dent was promoting that book, he was conducting interviews using untraceable phones while on the run in Mexico.

Now Dent won’t be free for a decade.

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Jurors were shocked by concession that Hernandez witnessed the murder

Jurors AP

The jurors who determined that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd conducted a joint press conference on Wednesday, making plenty of interesting observations about the process that ended with Hernandez being convicted.

Most significantly, the jurors expressed surprise that defense lawyer James Sultan admitted during closing arguments that Hernandez witnessed the murder.

We were all shocked by that,” one of the jurors said, via the Boston Globe.  The others expressed agreement with that sentiment.

It was shocking for multiple reasons. First, there was no testimony or other evidence introduced at trial placing Hernandez at the scene of the shooting.  Second, the notion that Hernandez saw someone kill his future brother-in-law (as Sultan also suggested during closing arguments) and then brought the murderer back to Hernandez’s home, where his infant daughter was sleeping, made no sense.

The effort to sneak in evidence that hadn’t been introduced at trial arose from a desire to supply an alternative explanation to the theory that Hernandez killed Lloyd.  In hindsight, it would have been better to stick with the “it wasn’t me” defense, and to poke repeatedly at holes in the government’s failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was.

That tactic could result in an eventual effort by Hernandez to prove that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, one of the common post-trial strategies for attacking a verdict — and for getting a new trial.  For now, it’s one of the reasons the jury rejected the idea that Hernandez  should be acquitted.

The jurors also said they were surprised to learn that Hernandez faces multiple other allegations, including the 2012 double murder in Boston and the 2013 shooting of Alexander Bradley, who testified in connection with the Lloyd murder.  They said that the news made them feel vindicated about their decision.

This assumes one or more of them didn’t already know about the other allegations.  At least one surely did, and he or she is surely smart enough not to admit it.

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Greg Cosell: Zach Mettenberger “very, very similar” to Jameis Winston

Zach Mettenberger AP

During an appearance on PFT Live last week, Greg Cosell of NFL Films said that he’d put Florida State’s Jameis Winston ahead of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota on his list of the best quarterback prospects in this year’s draft.

That seems to be the feeling of the Buccaneers as well, which would leave the Titans to make a decision about what to do with the second pick. Part of that decision would likely come down to whether they want to take Mariota or make another move that leaves 2013 sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger as the presumptive starter in 2015.

If the Titans would have taken Winston given the opportunity, sticking with Mettenberger might work out for them. Cosell appeared on The Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Wednesday and made a favorable comparison between Mettenberger and Winston.

“Mettenberger and Winston are very, very similar in style of play,” Cosell said, via ESPN.com. “I’d argue Mettenberger is more advanced as an anticipatory thrower and has a little bit better arm.”

On PFT Live, Cosell spoke highly of Winston’s own ability to anticipate throws and said it’s a big question mark about Mariota as he transitions to the NFL. It’s hard to say if that means we should anticipate the Titans going in a different direction, but it would probably help explain why they’d choose a door other than Mariota come April 30.

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Jurors call Kraft’s testimony compelling evidence against Hernandez

Robert Kraft AP

Aaron Hernandez’s claim of innocence to Robert Kraft helped jurors decide to convict Hernandez of first-degree murder today.

After Hernandez, the former Patriots tight end, was found guilty today of murdering Odin Lloyd, jurors told reporters that the testimony of Kraft, the Patriots’ owner, was compelling. Kraft testified under oath that he spoke with Hernandez when reports first surfaced of Lloyd’s death, and that Hernandez had given Kraft an assurance that he was not involved. Hernandez claimed to Kraft that he had been inside a club at the time that Lloyd was killed, which sounds like a good alibi — except that it raised questions in the minds of jurors as to how, exactly, Hernandez could have known what time Lloyd was killed.

“One part, for me, was Aaron’s alleged statement that . . . he was at a club at that time,” one juror said. “We still don’t know the exact time of Odin’s murder, specifically. So I don’t know how Aaron would have had that information two years ago. Even today, after medical examiners’ review, we still don’t have that information.”

Jurors believe that Hernandez knew what time Lloyd was killed because Hernandez was the one who killed him. Hernandez proclaiming his innocence to Kraft helped the jurors reach that conclusion.

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Jury convicts Aaron Hernandez of first-degree murder

The words "blood" and "sweat" are seen tattooed on the hands of former NFL player Hernandez, as he appears in court for a motion hearing in Attleborough Reuters

The first Aaron Hernandez murder case has made the next Aaron Hernandez murder case largely moot.

A jury in Bristol County, Massachusetts has convicted the former Patriots tight end on all counts, including most importantly the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd. The jury also found that the killing occurred with “extreme atrocity or cruelty,” but not with premeditation.

The verdict means Hernandez will spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole.

Hernandez has appeal rights, which surely will be pursued aggressively. Until then Hernandez will remain in custody, and the case involving allegations that Hernandez killed Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012 will proceed.

The verdict came after 135 witnesses, 439 exhibits, and more than a week of deliberations.

Hernandez had no obvious reaction to the verdict, but there was an audible gasp from those seated in the courtroom, with Hernandez’s mother and fiancée sobbing throughout the rest of the proceedings. As Judge E. Susan Garsh thanked the jury for their service, a law-enforcement officer applied handcuffs and shackles to Hernandez, who seemed to be on the edge of a breaking down.

Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace will be separately tried for their role in the killing. In closing arguments, lawyer James Sultan suggested that Hernandez merely witnessed a murder committed by one of the other two men.

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Hernandez verdict reached

Aaron Hernandez AP

Earlier this morning, I fired a spitball at the possibility that a verdict in the first Aaron Hernandez case could come early in any given day of deliberations, if the jury reaches a tentative verdict at the end of an afternoon of deliberations, decides to sleep on it, and then finalizes it the next morning.

That’s apparently what has happened in Bristol County, Massachusetts, where a verdict has been reached after more than a week of deliberations.

Hernandez is accused of killing Odin Lloyd. He also faces firearms and weapons charges.

It will be announced soon. Stay tuned for full reaction and analysis here.

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