Ricky Ray remains in hospital after scary injury in CFL game

AP

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray has feeling in his extremities and no concussion symptoms a day after a scary hit during a Canadian Football League game.

The team announced in a statement Sunday that Ray was kept in the hospital overnight after he was carted off with a neck injury in the third quarter of a loss to Calgary. It did not say when doctors might release Ray.

“Ray is resting comfortably and remains in the hospital for further evaluation. Ray did undergo concussion protocol testing and reported no current symptoms,” the Argos said.

Ray, 38, was sandwiched between Stampeders defensive linemen Ja’Gared Davis and Cordarro Law after faking a handoff, the Canadian Press reports. The game was stopped for 20 minutes before Ray was carted off.

A lot of people were scared,” Argos General Manager Jim Popp said, via the Toronto Sun. “You never want to see this.”

The extent of Ray’s injury is unknown, but even if he never plays again, Ray will go down as one of the best ever in the CFL. He has won four Grey Cups and considered retirement after winning last season.

Ray has thrown for 60,736 yards with 324 touchdowns and 177 interceptions in his career with Edmonton and Toronto.

Mike Vrabel: I don’t know as a coach if I’ll ever be truly confident

AP

Mike Vrabel has a presence about him, some would call it “swagger.” Appearances, though, can be deceiving.

The Titans head coach was asked about his confidence level and admitted “confident” is not a word he’s comfortable using.

“I don’t know as a coach if I’ll ever be truly confident,” Vrabel said, via Paul Kuharsky of paulkuharsky.com. “I have confidence in all our players on our roster right now, but I don’t know if that’s something you would always say as a head coach, that you’re just going to be confident that we’re going to roll out and win a game.”

It’s probably a good thing and likely something he learned from Bill Belichick: Never take anything for granted. Cover all your bases. Be prepared for everything.

The first-time head coach appears ready for the job ahead of him.

A.J. Green not looking for a new contract

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Bengals receiver A.J. Green supports the effort of Falcons receiver Julio Jones to get a new deal. Green won’t be needing the support of Jones or anyone else in an effort to do the same.

“I think the biggest thing for me, I’m always comfortable with stuff I’m doing – I signed a deal and I’m comfortable with the deal and I just live with it,” Green told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “After that’s up, we go back to the board. I don’t really get caught up in what’s the money like because I signed my deal and it was the highest paid at that point. It’s going to always go up. So you can’t keep up with that.”

Green was indeed the highest paid receiver at the time he signed his contract. Now, he’s not. Steelers receiver Antonio Brown has the top deal at $17 million per year, followed by Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins, and Browns receiver Jarvis Landry.

Green currently makes $15 million per year, more than Jones’ average of $14.25 million. And Green has only two years left on his current contract, putting him in position to get a new deal sooner than Jones, who is signed through 2020.

None of that has landed on Green’s radar.

“For me, I just keep everything simple,” Green said. “I really don’t try to get into all that other stuff. At the end of the day I just want to play football. I got my contract. I’m set for life. Now I can just go out there and play.”

So it’s $10.55 million for 2018 and $11.976 million for 2019, and then either the franchise tag or a shot at free agency — unless the Bengals extend Green before his current deal runs out.

Jameis Winston’s fifth-year option creates a dilemma for Bucs

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It remains to be seen whether the looming suspension of Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston compels the team to release him. While that’s still an unlikely outcome (the NFL’s specific findings against Winston will become a major factor, along with the possibility of further unexpected developments), it’s safe to say that the suspension will become relevant to whether the Bucs make Winston the first quarterback ever drafted by the team to get a second contract.

Which means that the Bucs could decide to move on from Winston after the 2018 season, especially if the Bucs move on from G.M. Jason Licht and/or coach Dirk Koetter. Indeed, a new regime would be untethered to Winston, and it would be much easier for someone with no ties to him to make a detached, unbiased decision about Winston’s future than Licht and Koetter.

But here’s the risk for the Bucs, if they choose to kick the can until after the 2018 season and to decide on whether to keep Winston before his $20.9 million base salary for 2019 becomes fully guaranteed in March. Because the money is guaranteed for injury in 2018, and because the guarantees applicable to the fifth-year option don’t evaporate due to a suspension, the Bucs will be on the hook for the full $20.9 million if Winston suffers an injury during the 2018 season that keeps him from passing a physical before the amount becomes fully guaranteed in March.

The Jaguars welcomed that risk in 2017 with Blake Bortles. Washington refused to do so in 2015 with Robert Griffin III, putting him on ice for the entire season. While the risk of owing Winston $20.9 million next year likely won’t be a deciding factor on the question of whether to cut him, it could become relevant to the analysis if the specific findings the NFL makes against Winston create enough of an outcry to make it a close question.

In other words, if the NFL paints an ugly picture about Winston’s interactions with the Uber driver and/or if other unsavory witnesses have unflattering things to say about Winston, the ability to sidestep a $20.9 million gamble could be enough to get the Bucs to make a decision driven by principle, not by winning.

Alex Smith: Jamison Crowder “so easy to read as a quarterback”

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Alex Smith spent the last few months getting to know the receivers he’ll be working with in Washington this season and he came away with good feelings about what Jamison Crowder brings to the offense.

Smith praised Crowder’s instincts and vision on the field, which have helped him to 192 catches over his first three seasons in the league and should lead to quite a few more this season based on Smith’s read of the wideout.

“He’s so easy to read as a quarterback,” Smith said, via John Keim of ESPN.com. “Such great body control, body language. He sees defenses well and it’s hardest to do that in between the hashes. You get so many looks and leverages and you have to handle all those things. He’s decisive and he’s so friendly. He’s always coming back to the ball, always working for you. Those are things you know as a quarterback come crunch time that here’s a guy who will constantly work his tail off to get open. He wants the ball. You love that as a quarterback.”

The feeling is mutual — Crowder said Smith “knows how to see defenses, see different coverages” — and Crowder said he’s over a “frustrating” hamstring injury that limited him at times last season. If all of that continues through the summer, Crowder should be a busy man come the regular season.

Blake Bortles is feeling more comfortable this year

AP

The 2017 season in Jacksonville featured a new coach, a new offense, and almost a new quarterback. But Blake Bortles rallied after a preseason benching, and he’s now ready to take his game to a new level in 2018.

“When we started last year, it was kind of an elementary level, in terms of ‘I’m hearing the play, I’m thinking about the footwork I have to take, the identification, trying to remember what routes guys are running and all that,'” Bortles told George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel. “Now, I think I’m kind of owning the offense and having a better understanding of it. Obviously, it is a continuous study and a continuous grind to continue to master it and stay on top of it, but I definitely feel more comfortable with it.”

That’s what the Jaguars wanted when choosing to sign Bortles to a three-year contract, opting for the devil they know over the potential free-agency and/or draft busts they don’t. In a league where continuity often is overrated, Bortles could be a key factor in the Jaguars getting back to the heights they achieved in 2018, and possibly beyond.

Given the high quality around him, it won’t take much from the quarterback position to make a huge difference. And if there’s a huge difference in Bortles’ play this year, who knows what the Jags will do?

But Bortles knows that, no matter what, he won’t have huge numbers. Asked whether he’d take himself on his fantasy football team, Bortles was candid.

“Probably not,” Bortles said. “Maybe Leonard Fournette.”

Josh Rosen: Sam Bradford “helping me out a ton”

AP

Word from Arizona at the end of the team’s offseason program was that rookie Josh Rosen has done well, but that Sam Bradford remains the likely choice to start at quarterback for the Cardinals come September.

Trying to keep that spot on the depth chart hasn’t gotten in the way of Bradford aiding Rosen’s transition to the professional level, however. Bradford told Rosen after the draft that he would be an “open book” for the first-round pick and Rosen said Bradford’s been true to his word.

Rosen said during minicamp that Bradford has been “helping me out a ton” and that he’ll return the favor any way he can during his rookie season.

“I think it speaks to him as a person and how he’s willing to embrace the competition and the team aspect,” Rosen said, via AZCentral.com. “And I’m the same way. Regardless of starter-backup, I want the Arizona Cardinals to do the best possible because I want to be in a Super Bowl. If at least for this year the best way to do that is have Sam starting, then so be it, and I’m going to push him every single day.”

Between Bradford’s injury history and Rosen’s draft status, the chances that the rookie will wind up in the lineup this year seem pretty good. If Bradford’s tutelage helps him thrive when that chance comes, the change will likely be a permanent one.

Pat Shurmur unshuns Tiki Barber

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Former Giants running back Tiki Barber made himself into a pariah of sorts after his one-year-too-early-retirement, taking shots at the team as his playing career devolved into a media misadventure. Now, more than a decade after leaving the Giants, Tiki is back in the fold.

As explained by Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur contacted Tiki not long after getting the job.

I reached out to him,’’ Shurmur said, via Schwartz. “I wasn’t here for all that. I’m walking into this thing with fresh eyes. He was an outstanding player. I remember he found a way, he kind of had the fumbling thing going and he found a way to fix it, which I was impressed by.’’

“All that” included, most recently, a public call from Tiki to fire former head coach Tom Coughlin, which prompted a dry, sarcastic response from quarterback Eli Manning. (Along the way, Tiki wrote a column bemoaning the collapse of the Giants. It was published in late November 2011; little more than two months later, the Giants were putting their fingerprints all over a Lombardi Trophy.)

When Shurmur called, Tiki initially didn’t recognize the number, so he didn’t answer. When he realized who it was, Tiki quickly responded.

“When he called me out of the blue, it was shocking in a sense but it was welcome,’’ Barber told Schwartz. “We had a great conversation. I was taken by how calm he is and how measured and thoughtful he is, which resonates really well with me, because that’s how I am.”

And there’s the Tiki we’ve come to know; it’s always eventually about him. That’s what Shurmur will eventually realize, leading inevitably to the moment this unshun becomes a re-shun.

And to Manning making another dry, sarcastic remark with an inescapable “I told you so” message embedded at the bottom of it.

Spurrier wants Tebow in AAF, Tebow plans to keep playing baseball

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AAF Orlando coach Steve Spurrier previously has said publicly that he’d love to get Tim Tebow on the team. Spurrier has since communicated that message privately to Tebow.

And Tebow declined.

Via SaturdayDownSouth.com, Spurrier recently told Paul Finebaum that Spurrier reached out to Tebow regarding an AAF gig.

“He said coach, I’m gonna keep swinging the bat and see what happens,” Spurrier said. “I told him we’d have a No. 15 down in Orlando waiting for him.”

Tebow has been swinging the bat fairly well in Double-A ball this season, batting .256 through 63 games. That’s arguably good enough to justify an eventual promotion to the Triple-A level and, if he performs plausibly well there, to the Mets.

So it makes sense that, with no realistic path to the NFL no matter what he’d do in the AAF, would be more interested in a minor-league operation that could still vault him to the big leagues.

Jabar Gaffney denies vandalizing Lito Sheppard’s car

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Former NFL players Jabar Gaffney and Lito Sheppard played together in high school and at the University of Florida, but any friendship that may have existed between the two men has soured over the years.

Sheppard was at dinner at a restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, Florida last week and left to find that his car had been vandalized while he was eating. Sheppard watched surveillance video taken by the restaurant and, per a police report, found that he recognized Gaffney and his girlfriend as the vandals.

“Gaffney retrieved some type of tool and a container from the suspect’s vehicle, walked over to the passenger’s side of the victim’s vehicle near the gas tank, and pried it open,” the report said, via First Coast News. “Gaffney then poured an unknown substance from the container into the gas tank … The unknown female walked around the vehicle and stabbed all of the tires with a sharp object.”

Gaffney has not been arrested and his attorney said, via Jacksonville.com, that his client is not involved.

“He said he hasn’t even seen Lito in three years and he’s very aggravated that his name is coming up in this,” attorney Seth Adam Schwartz said. “He doesn’t know why this is happening.”

Sheppard said that he and Gaffney, who was arrested for domestic battery in 2017 and on a drug charge in 2016, had a falling out in 2012 and that his car sustained some $14,000 in damage during the incident.

Malcolm Mitchell: “We’ll see” if I’m ready for camp

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Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell missed all of last season with a knee problem and his work during the offseason program was limited to conditioning, so his status for training camp was left an open question when that program came to an end earlier this month.

That remains the case after Mitchell briefly addressed his condition during an appearance to promote literacy to young football players this weekend. Mitchell said “I’m good” when asked about his knee, but offered no certainty in response to a question about being ready for training camp.

We’ll see,” Mitchell said, via the Boston Herald.

Mitchell didn’t elaborate about his condition, so we’ll likely have to wait a few weeks to see if Mitchell is ready to take on a fuller workload. With Julian Edelman facing a four-game suspension, that would be a welcome development for the receiving corps in New England.

Former Texans cheerleader says she was forced to use duct tape on her body

AP

The alleged mistreatment of cheerleaders by NFL teams continues to generate contentions far more unusual than the notion that they didn’t receive fair pay for the time spent on the job.

Via the Houston Chronicle, Angelina Rosa has joined the pending lawsuits against the Texans, and she specifically claims that the director of the squad placed duct tape on Roas’s body because she was “skinny fat.”

“My skin was being torn because of the movements,” Rosa said at a Friday press conference. “I stand here today to try to make sure no other girl or woman has to endure this same humiliation.”

The Texans previously have called the lawsuits filed by former cheerleaders “frivolous” (that’s the favorite term of anyone who has been sued), and the team is trying to get the cases dismissed in lieu of arbitration before Commissioner Roger Goodell. Which means that the Texans likely required the cheerleaders to sign paperwork, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, to submit any legal claims to arbitration before Goodell, a far more favorable forum than allowing a jury of neutral citizens to determine whether a team violated employee legal rights.

The Texans’ effort to involve the league office in the case should make it harder for the NFL itself to continue to keep its head low and its mouth shut when it comes to alleged financial and other abuses of team cheerleaders. But the NFL somehow has managed to avoid scrutiny, criticism, or accountability for the alleged and/or actual behavior of its teams when it comes to a group of employees who many teams seem to treat as second- or third-class citizens, presumably because the supply of willing participants far exceeds the demand — and because the cheerleaders have yet to unionize, like they probably should.

Sunday morning one-liners

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Breaking down the Bills tight ends.

WR Albert Wilson brings some intrigue to the Dolphins offense.

An upcoming book may provide some peeks behind the Patriots curtain.

Will Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates get the most out of QB Sam Darnold?

Which Ravens quarterback will play the most snaps in 2018?

Bengals C Billy Price threw out the first pitch at a Reds game.

Browns WR Jarvis Landry hosted a football camp for kids.

Karl Dunbar has gone from Steelers defensive lineman to Steelers defensive line coach.

Measuring the Texans’ expectations for the coming season.

The numbers from 2017 make it easy to see why the Colts built up their offensive line this offseason.

Competition is fierce in the Jaguars defensive line group.

Titans radio announcer Mike Keith lost a mentor and friend when longtime University of Tennessee announcer John Ward died.

When will the Broncos find a permanent naming rights deal for their stadium?

The Chiefs brought in some of their past stars for a youth football camp.

A late-season game against the Steelers could have major implications for the Chargers.

Rookie T Kolton Miller stood out during Raiders workouts.

Retired NFL referee Gene Steratore had some memorable moments in Cowboys games.

Giants QB Eli Manning joined the rest of his family at the Manning Passing Academy.

Is there reason to worry about Eagles CB Sidney Jones‘ health again this year?

Washington defensive line coach Jim Tomsula said his unit is confident without being arrogant.

LB Roquan Smith will headline a web series devoted to meeting the Bears rookies.

Grading the Lions’ receiving corps heading into training camp.

Packers DL Mike Daniels made NFL Media’s Top 100 players list for the third year in a row.

Walking down memory lane with the help of Vikings ticket stubs.

At least one person thinks Falcons TE Austin Hooper will make the Pro Bowl this year.

Panthers DT Kawann Short is well paid, but is he underrated?

The Saints are hosting a 7-on-7 football tournament.

Buccaneers WR Justin Watson draws inspiration from the way his brother deals with cerebral palsy.

Cardinals DE Chandler Jones isn’t resting on his laurels.

DT Michael Brockers has enjoyed being around new Rams teammate Ndamukong Suh.

A contract extension leaves little doubt about G Laken Tomlinson‘s spot in the 49ers starting lineup.

A healthy offseason for WR Tyler Lockett is a good thing for the Seahawks.

Coby Fleener: Concussion symptoms “still there, unfortunately”

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When the Saints released tight end Coby Fleener early in May, head coach Sean Payton said that Fleener was still dealing with symptoms from the concussion that ended his 2017 season and nothing has changed over the last month.

Fleener spoke to Don Banks of The Athletic about where things stand and said that he’d still like to play during the 2018 season, but that the symptoms are “still there, unfortunately.” There’s no timetable for that to change and that leaves Fleener, who has been diagnosed with five concussions over the course of his career, unable to say he’ll be back on the field with confidence.

“Ummm. I don’t know,” Fleener said. “That’s a really hard question to answer, because, like I said, if you’d asked me a day or two after it happened, I would have said of course. But now I’m kind of taking it as the cliche’ goes, one day at a time. Tomorrow if I wake up and there are no symptoms, then we approach things differently.”

Fleener’s agent said he’s heard some interest in Fleener’s services pending clearance from the concussion protocol, although it remains anyone’s guess if that’s going to come in time for the 2018 season.

Report: NFL tells Laurent Duvernay-Tardif he can’t have “M.D.” on his jersey

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The No Fun League strikes again.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the Chiefs offensive lineman who has accomplished the impressive feat of graduating from medical school after years of taking classes in the offseason, has reportedly been told that he will not be allowed to put “Duvernay-Tardif, M.D.” on the back of his jersey.

Montreal-based sports reporter Andy Mailly-Pressoir reported that Duvernay-Tardif (who grew up in Montreal) was rejected in his attempt to get M.D. on his jersey.

“I want to put Duvernay-Tardif M.D. on my jersey,” he said in February. “I’ve already started a conversation with the league office and they say that anything is possible.”

But apparently the league has decided against it. And that’s a shame. The NFL should celebrate players like Duvernay-Tardif, who exemplify the hard work and dedication that is central to the sport of football. The NFL allows players to put “Jr.” and “Sr.” and “III” on jerseys, and allowing the one player who has earned an “M.D.” to put it on his jersey as well would be a minor accommodation for a player who has achieved a great accomplishment.