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NFL announces Hyundai deal

Hyundai Getty Images

America’s pastime no longer urges you to buy American. At least not when it comes to automobiles.

General Motors is out, and Hyundai is officially now in as the official automative sponsor of the NFL.

It’s a four-year arrangement announced Monday morning, and it will be launched in connection with the kickoff to the NFL regular season, on September 10.

“We are pleased to welcome Hyundai to our family of sponsors,” NFL senior vice president of sponsorship Renie Anderson said in a league-issued release. “We appreciate Hyundai’s enthusiasm as we work together to reach our fans with innovative programs during our season and with our major calendar events throughout the year.”

It’s likely no coincidence that the release also includes a quote from the CEO of “Hyundai Motor America,” and that the release points out that “Hyundai Motor America” is headquartered in California, and that “Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 830 dealerships nationwide.”

As the U.S. of A. prepares to celebrate the 239th anniversary of its independence, it’s important for the NFL to make a non-American automotive sponsor look as American as possible.

In fairness to Hyundai and the NFL, Hyundai North America undoubtedly employs thousands of Americans. But it’s still not an American car company, and the NFL surely is concerned that this could create some hiccups for the most popular American sport.

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Adrian Peterson still thinks he’s the best running back in the NFL

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Adrian Peterson doesn’t see any reason that missing 15 games last year should change the widespread view that he’s the NFL’s top running back.

Asked if there’s any chance he lost his title as the NFL’s best running back, Peterson told the Pioneer Press, “Come on now. No.”

The annual NFL Network ranking of the Top 100 players in the NFL has dropped Peterson all the way from No. 4 last year to No. 62 this year, and he’s now well behind running backs DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy. But Peterson thinks the fact that he’s on that list at all after missing last year because he abused his son shows that he still has respect in the NFL.

“There’s not too many players in general that miss a season and his peers vote him into the top 100,’’ Peterson said. “You tell me if McCoy and other running backs miss a season and you tell me if they would still be voted into the top 100?’’

The Vikings obviously think Peterson is still the best running back in the NFL, because they fought hard to keep him on their roster at the highest running back salary in the NFL. Now Peterson needs to back it up on the field.

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Report: Joe Delaney “30 for 30″ documentary coming in August

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Every June 29, we remember Joe Delaney, because we want as many football fans as possible to know his story.

Plenty more will know his story later this year.

Via Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star, ESPN is planning a 30 for 30 documentary regarding Delaney, with a planned premiere in August.

Delaney died 32 years ago today, while trying to save the lives of three drowning boys. Delaney couldn’t swim. That didn’t stop him from trying.

He managed to save one of the boys, but Delaney lost his life at the age of 24, leaving a wife and three young daughters behind. Less than two years earlier, Delaney arrived on the NFL scene with a flourish, rushing for 1,121 yards as a rookie with the Chiefs.

Until ESPN’s treatment of Joe Delaney’s life and death debuts, here’s a 20-minute documentary produced by the Chiefs’ official website in 2013.

The August debut of the 30 for 30 isn’t official. Delaney’s widow shared the information with Marvin Dearman, a police officer who responded to the accident. A request for comment has been submitted to ESPN.

UPDATE 10:38 a.m. 6/30/15: ESPN tells PFT that it won’t be a full-length documentary, but an online digital short only.

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Russell Wilson once again deflects question about contract

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With the contractual expectations of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson recently in the headlines, Wilson has chimed in. Once again, however, he has declined to address his contractual expectations.

In remarks to reporters at the Madison, Wisconsin version of his annual passing academy, Wilson deflected a question about his next contract.

That’s not where my focus is,” Wilson said. “The contract will work itself out. . . . I’m excited to hopefully be a Seattle Seahawk for a really, really long time.  So that’s the goal.”

There’s no reason to currently doubt that he wants to stay with the Seahawks. But there’s also no reason to currently doubt that he wants to be paid more than any other player in the NFL, or to currently doubt that he’s prepared to change teams if need be, since he recently has said just that.

Of course Wilson wants to be a Seahawk. But if he wants more money to do that than the Seahawks are willing to pay, Wilson eventually will have to ask himself which of the two he wants more.

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Could a deal be done in the Tom Brady case?

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In any case of player discipline, a negotiated compromise is possible at any time. So in what arguably is the highest-profile instance of player discipline in league history, could a deal be done?

To get there, both sides would have to find an acceptable middle ground. But with Commissioner Roger Goodell apparently intent on never again being accused of not going far enough when it comes to player discipline and with Brady apparently intent on fighting any suspension through every available legal channel, a middle ground may not exist.

Here’s perhaps the only thing that could work: The conversion of Brady’s four-game suspension to a four-game fine.

He’d be punished significantly, with a financial loss of $1.88 million. Which means the league could claim it didn’t go easy on Brady. And Brady would be able to play, so the player could claim that he took the deal not because he’s guilty, but because the NFL gave him the chance to play, even if it means playing 25 percent of the season for free.

That still may not be enough, for either side. The league necessarily would be casting doubt on the multi-million-dollar efforts of Ted Wells, and Brady necessarily would be giving tangible ammunition to those who believe that he’s guilty of cheating.

The bigger problem is the lingering impact of the Ray Rice debacle on Goodell. After nearly losing his job for going too light on Rice and hearing barely a peep of criticism when Goodell gets his knuckles rapped by someone truly independent who reduces or scuttles his suspensions, Goodell arguably has nothing to gain and everything to lose by voluntarily allowing Brady to play in every game of the 2015 season.

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A trade is also possible for Russell Wilson

USA - 2014 300 dpi Chris Ware caricature of Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. (MCT via Getty Images) Getty Images

It remains too early to know how quarterback Russell Wilson’s long-term future will play out in Seattle. It’s not too early to identify the potential outcomes.

On the surface, there are three options for the Seahawks and Wilson beyond 2015: (1) new multi-year contract with Seattle; (2) exclusive franchise tag, which prevents him for entertaining offers elsewhere; and (3) non-exclusive franchise tag, which allows another team to sign Wilson to an offer sheet, and to give up two first-round picks if the offer sheet isn’t matched.

There’s also a fourth option. The Seahawks could trade Wilson.

A trade on or before the 2015 deadline for doing so is highly unlikely; with the offseason programs concluded, it would be too hard for Wilson’s new team to get the most out of him. It also would be too hard for the Seahawks to prepare another quarterback, whether it’s a quarterback on the roster or someone who would be signed or, in theory, acquired via a Wilson trade.

Making a trade before October even less likely is the reality that, before the two sides would divorce, they’d have to want that outcome. They’re not there yet, and there’s no reason to think they’ll be there before the trade deadline.

But they could be there by February. If ongoing discussions (discussions that could be continuing as soon as this week) fail to result in a long-term deal, the Seahawks could opt for a trade of Wilson over mere placement of the non-exclusive tender and acceptance of a pair of first-round picks from whichever team convinces Wilson to sign.

Here’s how it likely would unfold. The Seahawks would apply the exclusive franchise tag, preventing another team (like the Rams, a division rival) from pursuing Wilson. The Seahawks then could shop Wilson, simultaneously controlling his next destination and seeking compensation other than a pair of first-round picks.

They could seek more than two first-round picks. (If Robert Griffin III was worth three ones and a two, what is Wilson worth?) The Seahawks could seek the first overall pick from whichever team earns it, if there’s a clear-cut franchise quarterback emerging in the 2016 draft. They could try to get a veteran quarterback as part of the package.

And that’s where it gets very intriguing. Three and a half decades after the Raiders and Oilers swapped Ken Stabler and Dan Pastorini, the Seahawks could send Wilson to another team for its starting quarterback.

Plenty of teams would consider that. From Seattle’s perspective, the challenge would become finding the right fit for the offense — and for the short-term and long-term interests of the franchise.

In the end, Wilson would get what he wants, a contract making him the highest-paid player in the game. And the Seahawks actually could end up with an arguably “better” quarterback who is willing to accept less money in order to pursue championships and to cement his own NFL legacy.

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Talk commences of a possible one-year L.A. delay


At a time when it’s become a foregone conclusion that the NFL will return to Los Angeles in 2016, a possible caveat has emerged

The return might come in 2017.

According to an item from the Editorial board of U-T San Diego, “There is speculation that the owners at the August meeting [to discuss Los Angeles] may delay the entire process for a year to let everything percolate in [Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis] to see what develops.”

The paper calls it the “best possible outcome” for San Diego, since it would give the local politicians more time to properly pursue a vote regarding the use of taxpayer funds. It also would give both the city and the team cover, if the voters decide to reject the use of public money — necessarily paving the way for the Chargers to return to the city where the team spent its first season in 1960, the inaugural year of the AFL.

It’s unclear where the speculation came from. It could be something that the Editorial board of U-T San Diego conjured (“yes, there is speculation, started by us”) as a Hail Mary pass to keep an NFL team in town for U-T San Diego to cover. If, of course, a public vote regarding the use of taxpayer money would go against the current national trend against subsidizing billionaires’ ballparks.

Tapping the brakes could have unintended consequences. For example, if one of the three teams linked to L.A. gets too antsy about the situation, it could in theory decide to go rogue, moving without NFL approval and bracing to argue that a group of independent businesses ultimately can’t tell one of those businesses where it should conduct its business without violating the antitrust laws.

It’s also possible (“yes, there is speculation, started by us”) that the owners could decide to green light a return by the Rams to L.A. for 2016, with the question of whether the team’s new stadium in Inglewood would be shared with the Chargers or Raiders unresolved.

No amount of delay will change the fact that L.A. has quickly morphed from luxury to necessity for the NFL, with three teams having unsettled stadium situations and each circling the City of Angels. But if the eventual goal is to put two teams in L.A. and to ensure that the third has a new stadium in its current market, it could be that one more year will allow one of the teams to work out a deal locally, allowing the other two to move.

Under that scenario, it’s unlikely that the Chargers would accept an outcome that puts them in a new San Diego stadium and the Rams and Raiders back up the road in L.A. Delaying the process that would allow the Chargers to grab one of the two seats in Los Angeles increases the likelihood that, when the music stops, three franchises will be clustered into territory in which the Chargers currently enjoy their status as the only NFL show in town.

For that reason alone (and the fact that they’ve been trying for 14 years to bring this situation to a head), the Chargers probably aren’t inclined to wait any longer.

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Michael Bennett on possible holdout: I don’t mind staying home for a while

New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Quarterback Russell Wilson’s contract remains a hot topic in Seattle, but there’s no worries about Wilson reporting for the start of training camp next month.

The same may not be true of defensive end Michael Bennett. Bennett skipped voluntary work this offseason as he tries to get a contract more to his liking from the Seahawks and wasn’t willing to rule out the possibility of being absent again when the team gets back to work this summer. During an interview with KHON in Honolulu, Bennett suggested that he might not be saying “Aloha” to the team on Day One if his contract remains the same.

“Hawaii’s weather is great, so I’ll just keep it at that,” Bennett said. “When the weather’s not as nice as it is here, it’s harder to make that decision, so it just keeps it in my mind like hopefully something great comes out of it, but I don’t mind staying home for a little while.”

Bennett will face fines of $30,000 a day if he skips camp, so the weather probably shouldn’t be the only consideration he has in mind when making his call about how to proceed in his drive for a new contract a little more than a year after signing his four-year pact with the team.

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Condon is confident Giants will extend Eli Manning’s contract

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When it comes to a long-term contract that expires after the coming season, Giants quarterback Eli Manning doesn’t seem to care very much. Then again, he’s always that way.

In this specific case, Eli’s default demeanor serves him well. He’s not desperate to do a deal, which could help him get a better deal than if he were.

He’s possibly not desperate because he knows it’s just a matter of time before the deal is done. Because that’s apparently what his agent is telling him.

The quarterbacks always get done,” Tom Condon said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. “And the Giants are not a skittish team. So it’s not one of those things where they get nervous or they jump around or anything like that. You know you’re going to go in and it’s going to get done. I’m sure at the appropriate time it’ll happen.”

The Giants have a little extra leverage if they make an offer before the start of the regular season, since that would shift the injury risk away from Eli and back to the team. If the Giants wait until the 2015 campaign ends, and if Eli emerges unscathed, the pendulum swings to Peyton’s kid brother.

Then the question will become where Eli fits on the spectrum that has Peyton and his take-every-dollar tendency (with which I have no problem) at one end and Colin Kaepernick and his grossly-team-friendly deal at the other. At that point, the question won’t be about whether Eli has led the Giants back to the postseason for only the second time since 2008 or whether he has pulled another fourth-quarter rabbit from his hat (or some other orifice) to win a Super Bowl. At that point, the Giants would be facing the same three-door range of options that the Seahawks would be encountering with Russell Wilson, and that the Ravens faced two years ago with Joe Flacco.

“It’s an extraordinarily hard position to fill,” Condon said. “You actually have some leverage with the quarterbacks. The only problem is there’s a salary cap.”

But the salary cap has gone up by $10 million in each of the last two years, which drives up the franchise tag number. Which drives up the starting point for talks on a long-term deal. Which makes more money available for a franchise quarterback.

For Eli, then, the challenge isn’t to make it to the playoffs or to become the Super Bowl MVP but to stay healthy.

“The interesting part about it is, since 1993, the inception of free agency, has there ever been an elite quarterback hit the open market?” Condon said. “Peyton, but he had four neck surgeries and no idea if he would ever be well enough to play. Drew Brees, when he went to New Orleans, he had 15 studs in his shoulder, in his throwing arm.”

Like Russell Wilson, Eli wouldn’t hit the open market, if he’s healthy. If Eli were to leave, it would come with significant compensation to the Giants — and a gigantic new deal from a new team for Eli. But even the two first-round picks that come from a player changing teams via the non-exclusive franchise tag doesn’t guarantee that a franchise quarterback’s former team will emerge with a new franchise quarterback.

And it’s that fear of a team not having a franchise quarterback has gotten a lot of franchise and close-to-franchise quarterbacks paid a lot of money in the past two decades. That same fear will get plenty more quarterbacks paid — either by their current team or by someone else.

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Pouncey brothers say they’re trying to bolster their reputations

Court of Dreams Celebrity Basketball Game

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Dolphins center Mike Pouncey are identical twin brothers who have a reputation as good players on the field, but not quite as great a reputation off the field.

There was their support for Aaron Hernandez, their college teammate-turned-murderer. There was the time they were accused of beating someone up at their birthday party, although no charges were filed. There was Mike’s involvement in the Dolphins bullying scandal.

But the Pounceys say they’ve learned from past mistakes and are working on improving their public images.

“The world has changed so much that the public eye is everything,” Mike Pouncey told the Ledger. “It’s perception over reality. We know that you’ve got to do the things right on and off the football field, and we learned over the course of our careers to do that now. We’re just glad to be positive role models in our community.”

Added Maurkice Pouncey, “We made some mistakes in the past and we learned from them,. I’m glad they happened because you always got to learn in life. We were young … then, but we’re grown up and trying to be the positive role models — something for these kids back in Lakeland to look up to — and it means a lot to us. Anytime we did get in trouble in the past, it hit us in the heart. We learned the hard way.”

The criticism the Pounceys have received is legitimate: They have, at times, acted like jerks. But they seem sincere in wanting to change not just their images but their actions. Good for them.

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Adrian Peterson leading teammates in summer workouts

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Despite being suspended and unhappy for much of the offseason, running back Adrian Peterson has assumed a leadership role with the Vikings in recent weeks.

With the team off until the start of training camp, Peterson has brought teammates including wide receiver Mike Wallace and running back Jerick McKinnon with him to Houston for workouts with his longtime personal trainer. Peterson has always shown up to camp in top shape, and he says the intense offseason workouts are the reason.

“[It’s] a lot of strength work as well,” Peterson told ESPN. “I do so much different stuff, whether it’s track workouts, on the field, hill workouts, running three miles, exercise with the full-body workout. Whatever the trainer throws out there in front of us, it’s a challenge. I’m always trying to accomplish that challenge.”

Returning to form at the age of 30, after missing all but one game last year, will be a very big challenge. Peterson is working hard to show he’s up to it.

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Report: Dez Bryant’s agent recently met with Cowboys

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The Cowboys and receiver Dez Bryant have 19 days to translate his one-year franchise tender into a long-term contract. After months of not trying to get something done, the team and Bryant’s agent now are.

Todd Archer of reports that the Cowboys and Tom Condon had their first face-to-face meeting in months at some point within the last week.

In a deadline-driven business, this development is no surprise. But it doesn’t mean a deal will be finalized between the Cowboys and Bryant. They’ve been trying to get something done for a long time, to no avail.

Bryant wants market value, and the Cowboys hope that he’ll sign something more team friendly, like the long-term contract signed last year by cornerstone left tackle Tyron Smith.

After July 15, Bryant and the Cowboys can agree to only a one-year deal until after the 2015 regular-season ends. At that point, the Cowboys could offer Bryant more than his $12.8 million tender — or the Cowboys can offer to not apply the franchise tag or transition tag to Bryant in 2016, guaranteeing that he’ll hit the open market.

Bryant reportedly is willing to miss regular-season games if he doesn’t get a long-term deal. The problem for Bryant is that the games would be missed after the time has come and gone for the Cowboys to give him a long-term deal. That said, Bryant missing games in 2015 could make the Cowboys take more seriously a threat to miss games in 2016, if they decide to do the franchise-tag dance again with Dez.

The more immediate problem for Dez as it relates to the threat to miss games is that the Cowboys don’t believe he’ll give up game checks in excess of $750,000 each. So maybe the meeting between Condon and the Cowboys included a separate agenda item from the agent’s perspective: Convincing the Cowboys that Bryant will miss games if he doesn’t get a long-term deal by July 15.

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Floyd Kephart’s proposal ripped as a very bad deal for Raiders


Officially, the proposal made by Floyd Kephart for bridging the gap between the private contributions toward the cost of a new Raiders stadium and the total price tag for the building has not been released. Unofficially, the media has obtained a copy of it — and the early reviews aren’t good.

Matthew Artz of the Bay Area News Group reports that proposal includes a suggestion that the team sell a 20-percent stake to Kephart’s company, New City Development, for $200 million. That reflects an assessment that the franchise is worth $1 billion, which seems pretty light.

Marc Ganis, a long-time league consultant on stadium matters describes the overall proposal as a very bad one.

“This is not just the worst stadium proposal I’ve seen,” Ganis said. “It’s the worst by far.”

The proposal is so bad that Ganis views it as an invitation by the local government for the Raiders to leave. And with a much more viable proposal in the L.A. area to share a stadium with the Chargers in Carson, the Raiders may be ready to accept.

Assuming that Raiders owner Mark Davis agrees with Ganis and gives the project a thumb’s down.

Then question then would be whether Carson can beat Inglewood in the race to build a new L.A.-area stadium. And if Inglewood wins, the current partners in Carson could suddenly be racing for the second seat at the table with the Rams.

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Funding rule hovers over Russell Wilson talks

Wilson Getty Images

Apart from the significant gap in the raw dollars between what Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson currently wants and what the team currently is willing to pay, another major issue looms over the negotiations.

Per multiple sources, Wilson is looking for a considerable portion of the contract to be fully guaranteed. While he’s not asking for the entire deal to be fully guaranteed, it’s a larger portion than traditional veteran contracts.

It’s become a stumbling block not because of the guarantee itself but because of the league’s funding rule, which requires almost every penny of any future payments guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap to be paid into escrow upon signing. While Seahawks owner Paul Allen, the richest of the very rich men who control NFL franchises, can afford to put the money aside ahead of time, multiple sources tell PFT he doesn’t want to.

It’s unclear why he doesn’t want to do it, since he can do it with the stroke of a pen. And it invites further speculation that the funding rule, which was created to protect players from owners who lack the future cash to honor guaranteed payments, has become a tool for collusion among NFL teams.

Former NFL player Sean Gilbert made the case while running for the position of NFLPA Executive Director that the funding rule as written and applied results in collusion. The NFLPA apparently has decided not to pursue the issue.

But maybe it should. During the NFLPA campaign, Gilbert made a big deal about keeping the specifics of the collusion claim top secret due to concerns regarding the 90-day limit for filing such claims. The truth may be that he wanted to give incumbent DeMaurice Smith and other candidates less time to debunk Gilbert’s theory; if the violations are continuing, a collusion case arguably could be made within the 90 days after any specific instance of it, past, present, or future.

For any team owned by someone worth billions, there’s no legitimate reason to refuse to fund fully guaranteed veteran contracts, other than to avoid the widespread adoption of fully guaranteed veteran contracts across the NFL. That may be a legitimate business reason on a team-by-team basis, but it also amounts to collusion if multiple independent NFL franchises agree to do it in order to avoid fully-guaranteed contracts becoming the norm in pro football, like it has become the norm in baseball and basketball.

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Jahri Evans feels OK about his pay cut

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Saints guard Jahri Evans took a pay cut this offseason, but he’s not angry about it.

Evans told ESPN that he understands that it’s just the reality of being a 31-year-old NFL player with a fairly hefty salary that the team may come to you and tell you that if you’re not willing to give back some money, you’re not going to keep your job.

“It worked out in the end. You know, it’s part of the business, obviously. And I’m glad to be here,” said Evans.

It’s a part of the business that a lot of NFL veterans bristle at: Some say the players’ contracts should be guaranteed, as they are in Major League Baseball. But Evans said he just appreciated that Saints coach Sean Payton was upfront and honest with him about the team’s desire to keep him on the roster, but at a reduced salary.

“So that was very great, and I was pleased with that,” Evans said. “I still had two years under contract, so I never saw myself not being here.”

The Saints entered this offseason in precarious salary cap shape, and it was well known that major changes would be needed. With Evans, it turned out to be only a minor change: He’ll be making about $500,000 less this year, but he’s still in place on the offensive line in New Orleans.

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