Johnny Manziel glad the wait to play football again is over

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Johnny Manziel says signing with the Canadian Football League was all about wanting to get back on a football field as soon as possible.

Manziel said on PFT Live that he didn’t want to wait any longer, and that’s why he’s now in a CFL training camp, rather than hoping to end up in an NFL training camp or playing in the Alliance of American Football next year.

“It was really the wait,” he said. “I didn’t want to get into something down the road where I’m waiting until August, waiting until training camps open, and then if something doesn’t transpire I’m getting here late.”

Manziel does believe some NFL teams were considering him, but the offer to return to the NFL didn’t come and he had to make the decision to sign with the CFL.

“I think it was close,” Manziel said. “I did reach out and talk to multiple teams and coaches I had met in my first couple years in the league.”

Now Manziel has a competition in camp, where he’ll try to earn the starting job in Hamilton. He signed a two-year contract with Hamilton, so he won’t be returning to the NFL any time soon, if ever. But he’s glad the wait is over.

Jerry Richardson to make one last appearance as owner today

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Panthers owner-for-a-few-more-hours Jerry Richardson is expected to make an appearance today.

Disgraced by recent allegations of workplace misconduct, Richardson hasn’t been spotted during the sale of his team to David Tepper, but he’s kept a low profile in recent years anyway.

Accoording to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, he’s scheduled to address the owners one final time before they vote to approve the sale at their meeting in Atlanta.

The 81-year-old Richardson was once one of the most powerful owners in the league, a close confidante (if not patron) of commissioner Roger Goodell. But he was on the wrong side of the league’s efforts to get back to Los Angeles.

He was pushing for a joint stadium in Carson for the Chargers and Raiders, a very old-NFL move which fell by the wayside for bigger new-money deals in Inglewood by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and eventually the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas.

Losing that power struggle to a new guard of owners was part of the reason, along with his health, that he backed away from most league business in recent years. He stepped aside from all his committee assignments, and only showed up at the May meeting in 2016 because it was in Charlotte, as he had skipped league business for most of the last five years.

Richardson had a heart transplant in February 2009. He’s about to pocket $2.2 billion in cash as part of Tepper’s bid. At some point after that, the league will likely wrap up its investigation into the activity that triggered the sale, which included allegations of sexual and racial harassment.

Vegas, L.A. to become cornerstones of new Super Bowl rotation

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What happens in Vegas really will stay in Vegas.

Although the NFL’s newest city somewhat surprisingly won’t receive either of the two Super Bowls that owners are expected to award this week (LVII and LVIII will go to Arizona and New Orleans, respectively), Las Vegas is expected to get one of the next Super Bowls awarded after that.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the new Raiders stadium in Las Vegas likely will be hosting Super Bowl LIX or LX (those may or may not be the right Roman numerals for numbers 59 and 60). Whenever the Super Bowl makes its way to Nevada, it’s expected to instantly become one of the cornerstones of the new Super Bowl rotation.

As the source explained it, the anticipated reaction to the first Super Bowl in Las Vegas will be something like this, “Why don’t we have it here every year?” And while that’s not practical, the Super Bowl likely will be returning to Las Vegas every four or five years.

One problem with Las Vegas arises from its overall popularity for hosting big events. More advance notice will be required to secure the city’s convention center and hotels for use by the NFL. But with Super Bowls currently committed nearly six years out, that isn’t expected to be a problem.

The problem will be finishing out the rotation, with Vegas and Los Angeles as the anchor tenants at the Mall of America’s Real Pastime. Beyond that, it gets a little more cloudy.

Miami also is expected to be in the new rotation. Arizona and New Orleans are expected to be vying for the fourth spot, with New Orleans getting the edge if/when stadium renovations are finalized. The four prongs of the rotation will then be supplemented by the periodic wild card, with cities like Atlanta and Dallas ending up being the fifth destination every half decade or so. Likewise, non-rotation cities with new stadiums could end up in the mix.

The absence of a formal bidding process will make it much easier for the league to engineer a preferred rotation of the game, as long as the cities in the rotation accept the invitation to host it. And surely they will, because if/when a city otherwise in the rotation declines, the opportunity to do it again may not return any time soon.

For Vegas and L.A., the opportunities will be consistent.

Myles Garrett wants more playing time in his second season

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As the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett had a promising rookie season. But he got off to a slow start, missing the first four games, coming in off the bench in the next two, and playing just under 50 percent of the Browns’ defensive snaps for the season.

This year, Garrett wants things to be different.

Garrett says he’s working on his conditioning with the specific goal of being able to remain fresh into the fourth quarter even if he plays every snap on defense.

“I wanted to get in better shape, so I can be out there and make plays, create turnovers,” Garrett told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Garrett played 52 of 59 snaps in Week 17, and he said he’s hoping to play about that much every week this season.

“The last game of the season, I was going most of the game,” Garrett said. “I think I took five, maybe 10 plays off. That’s my goal — to be on the field as much as possible, so I can make as big of an impact as possible.”

Garrett said he felt relieved when the Browns didn’t draft defensive end Bradley Chubb, because he saw that as evidence that the team is ready for him to get a big workload. If Garrett stays healthy, he should have a very big second season.

Report: Le’Veon Bell won’t show up for Steelers’ OTAs

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It would have created a bigger headline had Le'Veon Bell decided to show up for the Steelers’ organized team activities, but as expected, the Steelers running back won’t attend, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports.

Bell remains unsigned after the team placed the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive year. Tom Brady, Julio Jones, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Donald are other big names around the league who are absent for voluntary offseason work.

A year ago, Bell reported to the Steelers a week before the season opener, holding out until the last minute. He played under the $12.12 million tag last year, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

Bell said in March he likely would follow what he did last year, softening on his original threat to miss games or retire in the absence of an extension.

The Steelers have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal with Bell. Otherwise, he will play under the one-year, $14.54 million franchise tender.

Dan Snyder sells his radio station

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Washington owner Dan Snyder’s ownership of the radio station that broadcasts his team’s games has sometimes raised eyebrows. Most notably, when Chris Cooley speculated on the air that then-G.M. Scot McCloughan’s drinking was affecting his job performance.

Now Snyder is getting out of the radio business.

Snyder announced today that he sold The Team 980 to Urban One. Snyder had previously sold smaller stations he owns and now does not own any radio stations.

The Team 980 will continue to broadcast Washington’s games, so the team and the radio station will remain business partners. But according to Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, Snyder wasn’t turning a profit in the radio business, so he wanted to get out and focus his time on his team.

Whether Snyder spending more time on his team translates to more wins remains to be seen. But he’s now out of the radio business.

Alvin Kamara fine with whatever role Saints give him during Mark Ingram’s absence

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Sean Payton said last week the Saints won’t ask Alvin Kamara to carry more of a load while Mark Ingram is out. Kamara, speaking publicly for the first time since news of Ingram’s four-game suspension broke, said he won’t ask for a bigger role.

Whatever happens” is Kamara’s philosophy.

“From the beginning, I’ve said, ‘Whatever I have to do,'” Kamara said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN. “I trust Sean, and I trust our coaches. So however it unfolds, we’ll just handle it like that.”

Kamara opened last season as the team’s No. 3 running back behind Ingram and Adrian Peterson. By the end of the season, Kamara and Ingram made NFL history in becoming the first backfield teammates both to surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

The third-round pick finished with 120 carries for 728 rushing yards, 81 catches for 826 yards and 14 total touchdowns, including a 106-yard kickoff return. He won offensive rookie of the year honors.

“I’m cool,” Kamara said. “I was just talking to somebody the other day [about how] I was watching my highlights for the first time like last week. So I keep moving forward, I’m always looking for what I can accomplish next.

“[That’s] my mentality. Year 2, I’m trying to do more than I did in Year 1. So I’m just ready to play.”

Bills release Richie Incognito

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It took a little more than a month, but Richie Incognito got what he wanted from the Bills.

A few days after announcing his intention to retire in April, Incognito was placed on the reserve/retired list in Buffalo. Incognito then reversed course and asked the Bills to release him so that he would be free to continue his career with another team.

The Bills didn’t act on it at the time, but they announced on Monday that Incognito has been released. He immediately becomes a free agent and is eligible to sign with any team that might want to employ him.

Incognito said last month that issues with his liver and kidneys were behind his decision to retire, although the later twists and turns suggest that it may have been more about a lack of desire to play on the reduced salary he agreed to take earlier in the year. We’ll see if he finds a bigger offer somewhere else or if his willingness to play for less increases outside of Buffalo.

Eli Apple embarrassed about 2017, happy for fresh start

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As the 2017 season wound down, there were plenty of people who thought that the team might move on without cornerback Eli Apple after a year marked by poor play on the field and a series of incidents off of it.

General Manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur each said that Apple would get a clean slate, however, and he’s set for a prominent spot in the secondary in his third NFL season. On Monday, Apple spoke to the media at Giants OTAs and said “of course” he is embarrassed about how things went last year while discussing his attempt to make the most of his chance this year.

“It’s about just putting things behind me, trying to continue to move forward, and go out here and have great energy on the field,” Apple said, via NJ.com. “I definitely feel it. The coaches have told me. I’m trying to be a better person, better player, and better teammate this year. Obviously, with the stuff that happened last year, I want to continue to work on myself. I want to communicate better, and not let certain stuff get to me. I want to continue to strive to be better every day.”

Apple said he thought he “got a little too confident” last year and said he’ll be more patient as he works to “fine-tune everything” over the next few months. If that goes well, the Giants’ own patience with their 2016 first-round pick could pay dividends as they try to recover from their own miserable season.

Bengals sign Billy Price

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The Bengals have signed their first-round pick from this year’s draft.

Center Billy Price came off the board with the 21st overall pick and the Bengals announced his signing on Monday. Price signed a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season, which is the standard contract for first-round picks under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Price was projected to be an early selection during the 2017 season, but the Ohio State product’s stock was shaken a bit when he injured his pectoral at the Scouting Combine. Initial fears were assuaged when doctors said Price should be ready for camp and he wound up as the Bengals’ choice last month.

With Price under contract, the Bengals have now signed nine of their 11 picks. Third-round defensive end Sam Hubbard, a college teammate of Price’s, and third-round linebacker Malik Jefferson remain unsigned.

Goodell: Congress should enact uniform gambling standards for states

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Last week’s Supreme Court decision opening the door for states to sanction sports betting has been met with much speculation about how it will impact all sports in the United States.

The NFL’s initial response was to ask Congress for “a core regulatory framework” that would govern legalized betting on sports. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expanded on that in a statement on Monday that asks Congress to act and outlines four areas that the league believes need to be addressed in any legislation.

“As it was for my predecessors, there is no greater priority for me as the Commissioner of the National Football League than protecting the integrity of our sport.  Our fans, our players and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field. This week’s ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment.

We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees and partners. These efforts include supporting commonsense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games. We are asking Congress to enact uniform standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting that include, at a minimum, four core principles:

  1. There must be substantial consumer protections;
  2. Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it;
  3. Fans will have access to official, reliable league data; and
  4. Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.”

It’s easy to understand why the NFL and other leagues would want to have one framework for gambling rather than as many as 50 different sets of rules in place. It’s also easy to understand why the league wants to find a way to take in money for their “intellectual property” and “reliable league data” in the form of integrity fees or some other avenue.

Whether Congress will act to give them what they want after a court ruling that placed gambling decisions squarely into the hands of states remains to be seen, however.

Arizona, New Orleans will host the next two Super Bowls

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The next four Super Bowls will be played in Atlanta, Miami, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles, respectively. The next two hosts will be announced this week.

Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that Arizona and New Orleans will be awarded Super Bowls LVII and LVIII during this week’s ownership meetings.

It’s the culmination of a process first reported during the 2017 season on NBC’s Football Night in America, with the NFL ditching the traditional bidding process and giving selected cities dibs. If the city that gets the opportunity to host the game declines, a traditional bidding process will ensue.

As explained in October, the NFL realizes that cities expend time and money in an effort to win the bidding process, and that they become disappointed when their bid isn’t selected. When Minnesota received Super Bowl LII, for example, cities like New Orleans resolved (we were told at the time) never to waste the time, effort, money, and emotion to bid on the game when competing with a new stadium.

This time around, New Orleans didn’t have to do that. The NFL offered New Orleans the chance to host the game again, and New Orleans accepted.

Gronkowski will be at OTAs, at some point

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With Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, it’s fairly clear that something is bothering him. It’s still not clear what it is, or how it will affect his preparations for 2018.

With Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, there’s less mystery. And while he may not be present for Organized Team Activities as of Monday, a source with knowledge of the situation says that Gronkowski will be present at some point.

Gronkowski made it clear that last month, after weeks of uncertainty, that he’s committed for 2018. And a revised contract could soon be coming.

Possibly, Gronkowski will show up for OTAs once he gets that adjusted deal.

As to Brady, it’s unclear what it would take to make him happy and to get him to show up for OTAs. And if you hope to plug your fingers in your ears and cry “not listening” or simply shout “fake news!,” the truth is that Organized Team Activities have become the centerpiece of the offseason program, where important work gets done in advance of the work to be done in training camp. If Brady’s not there, he will be behind when he reports.

Whether he’s sufficiently skilled to overcome that isn’t the issue. His teammates (especially the new ones) need to commence the process of working with him. And the coaching staff will surely be less stressed about that adjustment if/when Brady is there.

Yes, the workouts are voluntary. But quarterbacks occupy a different position as a practical matter, making them part player, part coach. If the quarterback isn’t all in, it becomes harder to get the most out of the team.

But this blurb is about Gronkowski. He’ll be there at some point, regardless of whether Brady joins him.

Tom Brady not attending Patriots’ OTAs

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The next phase of the Patriots’ Organized Team Activities begin today, and Tom Brady is not present.

Brady, who has been working out on his own all offseason, remains away as on-field football activities begin at OTAs today, according to multiple reports.

That’s not a great sign of harmony in New England. Although OTAs are voluntary and Brady is free to show up, stay home, or be anywhere else he wants to be, he has said in the past that he considers this on-field work to be valuable. The Patriots have added wide receivers Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson and Braxton Berrios this offseason, and it couldn’t hurt for Brady to get some on-field work in with them.

But if Brady thinks time spent with his own trainer, Alex Guerrero, is more valuable than time spent at the Patriots’ facility, then Brady will stay home. There’s no worry about Brady showing up to camp out of shape, as he has always taken his physical conditioning seriously. But there is reason to wonder whether Brady and Bill Belichick are on the same page.

Pending Panthers owner recalls overcoming childhood abuse

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David Tepper had to do more than accumulate great wealth in order to get to the point he could buy a football team.

The soon-to-be-owner of the Panthers also had to move past some childhood experiences which were traumatic for him, and provided a great motivator for his future.

Via Sharon Eberson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tepper delivered a moving speech during his appearance at Carnegie Mellon University’s commencement Sunday.

Tepper told the crowd of graduates at his alma mater of the way his father taught him about work ethic, but was also physically abusive, something he vowed to never be with his own three children.

“In what is the proudest accomplishment of my life, I broke that cycle,” Tepper said, choking back tears.

Tepper has donated $125 million to the university, whose school of business is named for him. But he also spoke about his humble upbringing, working his way through undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and that he was turned down on his first job application (at McDonald’s).

He’s paying Jerry Richardson $2.2 billion in cash for the team, and will be approved by other NFL owners this week, with the sale closing in July. Tepper will have to sell his 5 percent stake in the Steelers which he bought in 2009 to complete the transaction.

But he also spoke about the days when he didn’t have that kind of money, recalling “a kid who couldn’t afford to go to an NFL game until he was 20 was on the verge of becoming the owner of the Carolina Panthers.”

He also spoke of leaving Goldman Sachs after he refused an order which he didn’t believe was ethical.

“In life, do what’s right,” he said. “You have many lives and opportunities ahead of you, and don’t let anyone tell you different.”

He closed by telling the graduates of their other responsibility: “When all of you become successful. Remember,” he said, “give back. Give back!”