Al Riveron: Contracts for full-time officials expired but “that could change”

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It was revealed last week that the NFL has shelved full-time officiating as part of ongoing labor discussions with the NFL Referees Association. Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, confirmed the move during the league’s annual officiating clinic last weekend.

“Well, again, as you know, we’re now in negotiations as it pertains to a new CBA, and that’s all part of the negotiation process,” Riveron said. “At this time, yes, the contract expired for the full-time game officials. But we’re still in the process of negotiations, so that could change.”

Riveron said plenty of off-field work remains for the former full-time officials who now are part time.

“Well, the way you look at it is we still have the opportunity in season to use certain officials to do certain things – communicate with clubs, club visits, special meetings that we have, mechanics meetings, video work,” Riveron said. “That part hasn’t changed, and we still have the ability under the current contract to bring the officials in.”

The current labor deal between the NFL and its officials runs through March 2020. No one wants a repeat of 2012 when the league locked out its officials, hiring temporary replacements whose three weekends of work was summed up in the “Fail Mary.”

Vic Fangio: Phillip Lindsay “looked good” on Thursday

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Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said on Wednesday that the team would “obviously” ease running back Phillip Lindsay back to a full workload in training camp after Lindsay spent the offseason recovering from wrist surgery.

Easing Lindsay in didn’t wind up looking too different from what the running back might have done without any recent injury history. He took the first rep of team drills and media members on hand for the session reported that he didn’t appear to have any limitations on the field.

“He looked good,” Fangio said, via the team’s website. “He looked about like I thought he would — or about what I hoped he would, is probably a better phrase. He had a wrist injury — an unusual wrist injury — so he had his legs. [I] probably shouldn’t be surprised. He was champing at the bit to get out there.”

The Broncos have Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker at running back as well, but they’ll be working for backup roles as long as Lindsay remains healthy.

Raiders’ Las Vegas stadium is mostly done

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Construction on the Raiders’ new stadium in Las Vegas is moving forward on schedule.

The stadium is now more than 50 percent done, according to Don Webb, chief operating officer of the stadium development project.

According to Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review Journal, $944.7 million has been spent so far, which is just over half the budget for the stadium. The Raiders have announced that they are kicking in an additional $40 million to pay for additional suites and amenities for field-level seats. That money will come from fans paying for additional personal seat licenses.

There are 1,500 workers on the site, and weekend double shifts have been added to make sure the stadium is done by the scheduled date of July 31, 2020.

Teenager who announced Colts’ picks dies; players help with burial

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Madison Moore announced the Colts’ fourth- and fifth-round choices during the NFL Draft. The 17-year-old died this week after a battle with leukemia, and two Colts players quickly stepped in to help defray burial costs.

Defensive backs Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir topped off a Go Fund Me account for Madi Moore. Kenny Moore donated $3,298 and Desir $3,297.

The Go Fund Me goal was $10,500, and the account raised $11,500.

Madi Moore was a standout volleyball player at Linton-Stockton High School, 90 miles southwest of Indianapolis. She learned of her acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis in January 2018, according to the Indianapolis Star.

She had rallied her community as she fought the disease.

Desir and Kenny Moore were with her in the hospital this spring when she announced two of the team’s third-day selections. Madi Moore told the newspaper then that she hoped she “might help inspire other kids to keep pushing.”

The family has not announced funeral arrangements yet.

Drew Lock: “No chance” contract dispute would keep me from practice

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There was some concern this week that Broncos second-round pick Drew Lock would miss Thursday’s first training camp practice because of ongoing negotiations with the team over his contract.

That concern evaporated on Wednesday afternoon when the quarterback agreed to terms on a four-year deal. Lock’s deal calls for him to receive workout bonuses in the final two years of the deal, which is unusual for second-round picks but offensive lineman Dalton Risner, who was selected by Denver one pick before Lock, also got them in his contract.

Lock did not receive the so-called quarterback premium that reports this week indicated he was looking for and Lock said on Thursday that he wasn’t entirely sure what that means, but that he told his agents to get the deal done before he missed the first practice of camp.

“I was anxious to get out on the field, but I knew we were trying to get things worked out,” Lock said, via Nicki Jhabvala of TheAthletic.com. “The Broncos and my agency were working together, but I told my agency beforehand, if it got to the point where I was missing practice then there was no chance we were going to go on with it. I was going to sign a deal and I was going to get here, because the most important thing to me was getting out here.”

Lock did miss a conditioning test on Wednesday, but made it up after Thursday’s practice and that leaves him caught up with everything a day into Broncos camp.

Josh Norman downplays risks of bull-jumping

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Washington cornerback Josh Norman recently took bullfighting to a new level, literally.

Norman went to Pamplona to run with the bulls and he ended up jumping over them. Predictably, he recently downplayed the inherently risky behavior during a visit with Rich Eisen.

“You can just go outside your front door and get in the car and something happens to you, an accident happens,” Norman said, via the Washington Post. “You were safe. You can even go out there and be in practice, and be on the football field and tear an ACL. You were safe. I can go out there and run with the bulls and I do something exciting, and something that brings out the best in me in my life, in my world, and I win at that, I become victorious at that, and it’s an issue. I don’t understand it. Because it’s something I feel like I’m doing, that’s bringing peace and bringing joy to me, and I’m excited. [Did I] weigh the risks? Of course. I never would’ve done it if I didn’t.”

That’s a flawed assessment, obviously. Yes, freak accidents happen during the course of a low-risk lifestyle. But if Norman would have taken a bullhorn to the ballsack, that wouldn’t have been a freak accident; it would have been a reasonably foreseeable product of a very specific risk he willingly assumed by putting his manhood in the direct vicinity of the business end of a creature with sharp objects growing out of its skull.

And there’s nothing wrong with being a risk taker. But Norman’s risk included $10.8 million in 2019 salary he could have lost, along with $6 million in unearned signing bonus money he could have owed the team.

Norman said he hasn’t heard anything from the team about his foray into bull-jumping, but the reality is that the team has the absolute right under the Standard Player Contract to seek a court order prohibiting him from engaging in such conduct. The fact that Norman apparently did it spontaneously (and the fact that it happened in Spain) made it difficult for the team to take action that would have kept Norman from doing it.

Next year, if Norman is still a member of the organization as the final year of his five-year contract approaches, he may get a cease-and-desist letter long before he gets on a plane and returns to Pamplona.

Hue Jackson on Baker Mayfield: He has to do what he feels he needs to do

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Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield revisited his criticism of former head coach Hue Jackson in a recent interview and said that he hasn’t changed his view since the end of the 2018 season.

Jackson took a job with the Bengals after being fired by Cleveland during the season and Mayfield called Jackson “fake” after a game between the teams later in the year. Mayfield said recently that he “said what I meant” and said he enjoyed getting “revenge” by winning that game.

During an appearance with Colin Cowherd of FOX Sports Radio, Jackson was asked if he was bothered by Mayfield’s stance.

“It doesn’t bother me personally,” Jackson said. “I’ve been in the NFL for a long time and seen a lot of different ways of people handling things. He has to do what he feels he needed to do and that’s how he’s handled it. Everyone is going to handle things differently and that’s how he chooses to make sure he’s ready to go and ready to play. The Browns weren’t playing Hue Jackson, the Browns were playing the Bengals.”

Jackson has expressed a desire to be a head coach again, but he’s currently out of football altogether so there won’t be any on-field run-ins with Mayfield this season.

Todd Davis leaves Broncos practice on a cart

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The Broncos became the first NFL team to hold a training camp practice this year when they hit the field on Thursday and one of their players needed a cart to help him off the field after being injured during the session.

Multiple reporters at the practice reported that linebacker Todd Davis had to be carted off after suffering an apparent leg injury. Those reports noted that Davis was limping as he made his way from the cart to the locker room door.

There’s no word on the severity of the injury at this point.

Davis started every game for the Broncos last year and has started 45 games over the last three seasons. He had 114 tackles, a half-sack and an interception in 2019.

UPDATE 1:40 p.m. ET: James Palmer of NFL Media reports that Davis injured his calf. He will have an MRI, but the initial feeling is that he avoided a serious injury.

Report: Vikings seventh-rounder Austin Cutting cleared to play in NFL

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Long snapper Austin Cutting is the lone 2019 seventh-round pick without a contract, but the delay in signing with the team hasn’t been due to a dispute over the size of the deal.

Cutting attended the Air Force Academy and associate athletic director for communications Troy Garnhart said in May that there were ongoing discussions about allowing Cutting to play while serving his two-year service commitment. That decision has reportedly been made.

Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reports that Cutting has been given the green light to play. There are no further details about the Air Force commitment.

Tomasson adds that Cutting is expected to sign his four-year rookie deal with the team on Monday, which is the day that all Vikings rookies will be reporting to training camp.

Jalen Thompson expects to be up to speed with Cardinals quickly

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All rookies have to adjust to the differences between playing in college and playing in the NFL once they enter the league, but Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson’s experience will be a different one than players drafted in April went through.

Thompson was a fifth-round pick in last week’s supplemental draft and he will hit training camp without having gone through rookie minicamp, OTAs or any of the other offseason work his peers were able to do. Thompson signed his rookie deal with the team on Wednesday and said that he expects to handle the “mental change” without much difficulty.

“I know I can compete with these guys, hang with them at a high level,” Thompson said, via the team’s website. “But for the most part, it’s getting the plays down and once I see it on the field and get through a couple of walkthroughs, I’m going to be fine. I know I will.”

The Cardinals also drafted Deionte Thompson in the fifth round in April and the two rookies will start their careers playing behind Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger in the Cardinals secondary.

Kendrick Norton out of the hospital today

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Dolphins defensive tackle Kendrick Norton will be released from the hospital today.

Norton’s agent, Malki Kawa, wrote on Twitter that Norton is being released.

Two weeks ago, Norton was in a car accident and suffered multiple injuries, including the loss of his arm. Norton said afterward that he was grateful to be alive.

A 2018 seventh-round draft pick of the Panthers, Norton spent most of last season on Carolina’s practice squad and was then signed to the Dolphins. Until his injury he was expected to compete for a roster spot this season.

Broncos sign WR Steven Dunbar Jr.

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The Broncos learned that wide receiver Aaron Burbridge would not be joining them for training camp on Wednesday and waived him off of their roster a short time later.

They filled that roster spot on Thursday. The team announced the signing of wide receiver Steven Dunbar Jr. ahead of their first practice of camp.

Dunbar was undrafted out of the University of Houston last year and signed with the 49ers. He landed on the practice squad after being waived in early September and joined the active roster for the final game of the regular season. He played in that game, but did not have any catches.

Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders front a receiving group in Denver that also includes DaeSean Hamilton, River Cracraft, Tim Patrick and fifth-rounder Juwann Winfree.

Broncos’ expectations are “to take it one day at a time”

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The Broncos have had consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72. They also had a losing season in 1970, which means that they’re currently one losing season away from matching that three straight years of sub-.500 football.

But the days of zero-and-zero are a time for optimism and hope, even if it’s unreasonable and/or implausible. It’s the time for puffing out the chest and calling a shot. Broncos G.M. John Elway declined to do that on Wednesday.

“I’ll let you guys set that,” Elway told reporters on the question of expectations. “We know what our goals are. The bottom line is I never went into a season saying, ‘We’re going to be 10-6.’ I think we walk into every game with the idea that we can win it. The bottom line is we’ve got to go out and execute and play well. Obviously, you’ve got to get a little bit lucky and stay healthy, but our expectations are to take it a day at a time. Get through preseason, see what we have and then look forward to the opener in Oakland. Really take it one week at a time. Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns because it’s a new staff and a lot of new players. We put that all together. We’re hopeful to have a good year.”

Hope really is the key word. All teams have hope that they can secure a spot in the playoffs. And all playoff teams eventually have hope that they can climb the playoff tree.

“I think this is always the exciting time of year because you get to see what you have,” Elway said regarding the degree of hope in Denver. “Once we get the pads on, we get a better feel for everybody. Then we get into the preseason, get a feel for the young guys and the players that we haven’t seen play. It’s an exciting time of year, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. I think that we always have high expectations of ourselves, but we just know that the position that we’re in, and the last two seasons that we’ve had, we’ve got to take it one day at a time. That’s what we’re going to do. I think we’re in good shape, too. I think being in early, having the extra week playing in the Hall of Fame Game, I think is going to help us with a new staff. I think that’s a positive for us being in early.”

That’s an underrated aspect of playing a fifth preseason game. This year, the Broncos and Falcons get that advantage of extra work in practices and in practice games. The key for the Broncos could be new coach Vic Fangio, an old-school, defensive specialist who for whatever reason previously didn’t get a shot to run a team of his own.

If he can do for the Broncos what he’s done for multiple defenses, the Broncos could make things very interesting in the AFC West, where the Chiefs and Chargers are believed to have separated from the Broncos and Raiders.

Eagles, Cowboys land the highest team ratings in Madden 20

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More motivation for the 2019 season has emerged, in the form of the Madden 20 ratings for all 32 NFL teams.

The Eagles have the highest team rating, with an 89. They’re followed closely by their division rivals in Dallas, who landed an 88. (Maybe Cowboys fans shouldn’t boycott the game, after all.)

Next comes a trio of teams with an 87 rating: the Patriots, Saints, and Packers. The Falcons and Colts have an 86 each, and the defending NFC champions slide to 85, tied with the other L.A. team.

Four teams have an 84 — the Steelers, Panthers, Chiefs, and Bears. Five, the Vikings, Texans, Washington, 49ers, Browns, get an 83.

Another quartet of teams start with an 81: the Titans, Seahawks, Ravens, and Broncos. The Raiders, Lions, and Bengals each got an 80, the Jaguars fall to 79, the Jets, Cardinals, Bucs, and Bills are 78, the Giants shrink to 77, and the Dolphins bring up the rear with 74.

So who should be the most miffed? The Jaguars at 79 stand out the most, as do the Seahawks and Ravens at 81.

Lions expected to meet with agent for Darius Slay, Damon Harrison this week

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Agent Drew Rosenhaus was in Atlanta on Wednesday and his visit ended with a contract extension for linebacker Deion Jones.

Rosenhaus is now set to move on to Detroit for discussions about two other clients. Cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Damon Harrison both skipped voluntary and mandatory work during the offseason program as they look for new deals with the team.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Rosenhaus will meet with the Lions this week about both players. Slay said in June that “time will tell” if he will report to training camp without a new deal while Harrison has not sent any signals about his plans. Lions veterans are due to report to camp on July 24.

Both players have two years left on their current contracts and that’s earlier than teams generally like to entertain thoughts of redoing deals. Slay and Harrison may be banking on their importance to the team’s defense leading to a different outcome and this week’s meeting should shed more light on how things will play out.