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8/29/2014
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NFL Enacts Much Tougher Domestic Violence Policy (8/28 2:46 PT)

The Facts: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday apologized for his decision in the Ray Rice domestic abuse case in a letter to NFL owners and announced sweeping changes to the league's Personal Conduct Policy. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: In the detailed letter, Goodell announced that violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force "will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense." A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL for at least one year. An individual can petition for reinstatement after one year, but "there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted." The policy applies to all personnel, not just players. In the open of his letter, Goodell admitted he fell short in prior situations of domestic violence. Now all involved are on notice. No more free passes.

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Cam Newton Has No Doubt He'll Be Ready Week 1 (8/27 12:43 PT)

The Facts: Newton, who cracked his ribs last week against New England, left little question about his Week 1 status while talking with reporters Wednesday for the first time since he was injured. "There's no doubt in my mind," Newton said. "I'm just going to worry about things that I can control. I'm going to continue to come in and get as much treatment as possible so my body will be 100 percent."  Reported by the Charlotte Observer

Diehards Line: The Panthers play their final exhibition Thursday night at Pittsburgh. Newton will make the trip with the team so he can continue working with head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion. ... For what it's worth, Newton put on his shoulder pads for the first time during Wednesday's practice -- "a superstitious thing more than anything." Panthers coach Ron Rivera did not say when he thought Newton would return to practice, but shared Newton's confidence that he will be ready to play against Tampa Bay on Sept. 7.

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Josh Gordon's Suspension Upheld; WR Will Miss 2014 Season (8/27 11:48 PT)

The Facts: According to multiple reports, Gordon's one-year suspension upheld on appeal. Gordon will miss the entire 2014 NFL season. Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: Due to the lengthy process leading up to the decision, Gordon will miss all of next year's training camp in addition. He will be eligible for reinstatement on Aug. 27, 2015. It's clearly not a great scenario for the 2015 season as well. But now the mystery has been removed. The Browns and fantasy owners can move into the season with some -- but not total -- clarity. There's no shortage of questions as to who will step up to become the team's top threat on the outside. Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, Nate Burleson, Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson are all candidates to help fill the void. None are sure things.

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Tomlin Says Bell, Blount Could Be Suspended By Team (8/25 5:27 PT)

The Facts: The Steelers could be without one or both of their top running backs when they open the regular season two weeks against the visiting Browns. HC Mike Tomlin reiterated on Monday that Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will be punished after getting arrested for marijuana possession last Wednesday. Tomlin said that the Steelers have not ruled out suspending Bell, who was also charged with driving under the influence, and Blount. "Everything's on the table," Tomlin said. Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: Bell and Blount are the only running backs on the Steelers' roster who have any NFL carries, and losing one or both of them would be a significant blow to an offense that wants to establish the run this season. The two players are also subject to NFL discipline, though a league suspension probably wouldn't be levied until next season. Tomlin said Bell and Blount will be "dealt with swiftly" though the punishment won't be disclosed unless the Steelers suspend one or both of the players. ... Stay tuned.

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Vikings Told Matt Cassel Is Their Week 1 Starter (8/25 9:31 PT)

The Facts: HC Mike Zimmer informed his team at a meeting that Cassel beat out rookie Teddy Bridgewater for starting QB job, FOXSport's Jay Glazer reported. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Cassel picked up OC Norv Turner's system quickly, and averaged 9.4 yards-per-attempt and completed 66.7 percent of his passes in three preseason games. Bridgewater, who impressed so often during practices, struggled in his first preseason outing. But the rookie bounced back with two nice efforts in a row, including a game-winning two minute drill in the second preseason week. Still, as NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal notes: "Cassel is just keeping the seat warm. The minute the Vikings fall a couple of games under .500, we will probably see Bridgewater take over."

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Hairline Fracture To Rib Won't Keep Cam Newton From Playing Week 1 (8/24 7:06 PT)

The Facts: HC Ron Rivera intended to play Newton in the preseason finale to knock the rust off of the Panthers' first-team offense. That plan went awry on Sunday when it was discovered that Newton has a hairline fracture in one of his ribs.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: X-rays following Friday night's game came back negative. An injury originally thought to be a contusion in Newton's back has now been identified as the fractured rib. Rivera announced, via the team's official Twitter feed, that Newton will not play next week. The Panthers are confident that their franchise quarterback will be leading the offense in Week 1 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offseason maneuvers left most football analysts worried about Carolina's wide receiver corps and offensive line. After watching Newton go scoreless on five drives versus the Patriots Friday night, there has to be early-season concern about his quarterback play as well. Whatever the case, we'll continue to follow up on this.

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Sam Bradford's Season Is Over Due To Torn ACL (8/24 2:47 PT)

The Facts: According to ESPN insider Chris Mortensen, Bradford is out for season after MRI shows he did tear left knee ACL, per sources.  Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: The Rams will make an official announcement later. Shaun Hill, who has proven to be a capable starter during his stint with the Lions, replaced Bradford until further notice. It's a major setback for the Rams and Bradford, who missed most of last season with the same injury.

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Matt Prater Suspended Four Games; Will Return After Week 5 (8/24 2:24 PT)

The Facts: Prater has been notified by the NFL he will be suspended through the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The violation was alcohol-related. Prater has been in the league's alcohol program since soon after he was charged with driving under the influence Aug. 12, 2011. The four-game suspension, which is expected to be announced Monday, was part of an agreement reached between Prater's attorney, Harvey Steinberg, and the league, so an appeal is not expected. The NFL had initially threatened a one-year suspension.  Reported by the Denver Post

Diehards Line: This is potentially a major blow to the Broncos because Prater by nearly any measure is the league's best kicker. He topped the NFL last season with a 96.2 field-goal percentage by making 25-of-26 — including a 64-yarder in a December win against the Tennessee Titans that broke a 43-year league record. It's unclear how the Broncos will replace Prater. The team's backup kicker, Mitch Ewald, is a rookie from Indiana University. Ewald has been getting his share of field-goal attempts during training camp and converted all four of his 33-yard extra points during the Broncos' first two preseason wins against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. Then again, the Broncos may also consider an NFL kicker with regular-season experience. Prater's suspension covers five weeks of the 17-week season because of a Week 4 bye.

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Wes Welker Suffers Third Concussion In Less Than A Year (8/24 1:22 PT)

The Facts: Welker popped back up after taking a hit to the head in Saturday night's loss to Houston. Considering his history, though, trainers immediately escorted him to the locker room for concussion tests. Welker did not return, and John Fox announced after the game that Welker indeed suffered a concussion. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Welker missed three games last season after sustaining a pair of concussions in a two-month span. Now the star slot receiver must deal with yet another. ... The Broncos already had concerns about Welker's ability to make it through the entire season unscathed, so this is obviously a serious concern. We'll be following up as needed but at this point Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer need to move up on your rankings.

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Geno Smith Officially Named The Jets' Starting QB (8/23 12:21 PT)

The Facts: Rex Ryan saw enough to finally reveal the New York Jets' worst-kept secret. Yes, Smith - and not Michael Vick - will be the team's starting quarterback this season. 'He's done everything that we've asked,' Ryan said after Smith threw a touchdown pass in the Jets' 35-24 preseason loss to the Giants on Friday night.  Reported by the Associated Press

Diehards Line: Smith had a solid preseason and took about 80 percent of the snaps with the starters over Vick during training camp, making the announcement a mere formality. 'This is no slight to Mike Vick, believe me,' Ryan said. 'I wanted to come out of this knowing we had two really good quarterbacks that we can win games with, and I know, in my heart, that we have two we can win with.' Smith was given every opportunity this summer to show he has progressed from a shaky rookie season that ended with three wins in the last four games. Smith, who threw 12 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions last year, was happy to get the official nod from Ryan. 'It's a big deal,' he said. 'But nothing's going to change for me. ... I think I did some good things, but I've got work to do.'

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Chad Henne Named Jaguars Week 1 Starter (8/23 12:13 PT)

The Facts: Henne will start the Jaguars season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 7. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Rookie Blake Bortles was 10-of-16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the Lions. That pushes his preseason totals to 28-of-44 for 435 yards and a touchdown, or a passer rating of 103.9. Nevertheless, head coach Gus Bradley said after the game that Henne will start the opener, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Henne was 9-of-14 passing for 70 yards against the Lions. For the preseason, Henne is 25-of-38 for 230 yards and one touchdown, good for a 90.9 passer rating. The Jaguars had committed to Henne playing all season with Bortles being a spectator from the bench. But with Bortles’ performances this preseason, there will be a loud contingent wanting to turn to the rookie if Henne struggles out of the gate this year.

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Le'Veon Bell, Teammate Blount Arrested For Marijuana Possession (8/20 7:02 PT)

The Facts: The Steelers’ top two running backs were arrested together today. Bell and LeGarrette Blount, Pittsburgh’s first- and second-string running backs, were in a car together and stopped by Ross Township Police this afternoon. According to Will Graves of the Associated Press, the traffic officer detected smoke coming from the car, and police found about 20 grams of marijuana in the car. Both Bell and Blount were charged with possession of marijuana.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: Bell was also charged with driving under the influence. The Steelers took Bell in the second round of last year’s draft, and he won the starting job as a rookie. He carried 244 times for 860 yards and eight touchdowns last year.Blount signed with the Steelers this offseason after spending last year in New England, where he had 772 yards and seven touchdowns on 153 carries. Bell and Blount could both now be subject to league discipline, but likely not until the case is resolved. We'll be following up as needed; for now, have the handcuff jokes ready for draft day.

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Brian Hoyer Named The Browns Starting QB (8/20 8:03 PT)

The Facts: Hoyer has been named the Browns’ starting quarterback, coach Mike Pettine announced this morning. Reported by ClevelandBrowns.com

Diehards Line: Hoyer, who started in both of the Browns’ preseason games, won the competition against rookie Johnny Manziel. Ultimately, Hoyer’s biggest advantages are that he has played in the NFL for five years and the leadership qualities he has displayed. “He was the clear leader from the beginning,” Pettine said. “We’ve maintained all along that if it was close, I would prefer to go with the more experienced player. Brian has done a great job in the meeting rooms and with his teammates on the practice field and in the locker room.” The coach said it was important to name the starter this week, leading up to Saturday’s preseason game against St. Louis at FirstEnergy Stadium, to maximize the amount of time Hoyer and the rest of the offense have to prepare for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh. “I think it’s especially good, as an offensive unit, to go out and play and gain cohesion and chemistry,” Pettine said. “That was one of the reasons I wanted to go ahead and make the decision before this third preseason game so that (Hoyer and the rest of the starting offense) could play as a unit for a good chunk of it. ..." We'll see how long Hoyer can hold onto the job.

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Le'Veon Bell Won't Mind Giving Up Goal-Line Carries... But Will He? (8/20 12:32 PT)

The Facts: In a quick chat with CBSSports.com after Saturday's game against the Bills, Bell said he's looking forward to learning from and sharing with Blount. "He's going to keep me fresh, I'm going to keep him fresh," Bell said of Blount. "It's definitely important to stay fresh. Last year there were some runs I wasn't as fresh as I could have been. I could have maybe got more yards. LeGarrette, Dri [Archer], those guys are definitely going to help me out and I'm going to help them out as best as I can." So does that mean Bell would be upset if the coaches gave Blount goal-line snaps? "They probably will do that, that's probably what will happen," Bell said. Reported by CBSSports.com

Diehards Line: Bell added: "He's a big, strong guy, so when they put him in, he's in. We hopefully get that touchdown and I'm glad. I don't care. ... " We'll go ahead and note that of Blount's 20 career touchdowns, only five have come from insider the three-yard line. Six of them have been 30 yards or longer. ... That doesn't mean Blount can't fit the role, of course. He's the bigger back of the two. Bell's versatility should put him ahead of Blount in terms of playing time, however. As CBSSports.com suggets, he's still rock solid as the kind of Fantasy running back you can confidently draft in Round 2.

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Rob Gronkowski Picks Up The Pace; Gets In First 11-On-11 Work (8/18 3:43 PT)

The Facts: Gronkowski participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since training camp opened last month. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports that a lot of balls were thrown Gronkowski’s way during that period of practice. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: As PFT's Josh Alper reminded readers, recent reports out of New England are that Gronkowski is anything but a lock to play in the team’s first regular season game. Given the amount of time Gronkowski missed the last two seasons and the impact his absence had on the team, it would be no surprise to see them exercise plenty of caution before signing off on a spot on the gameday roster. Still, as Alper summed up, 11-on-11 work is as close to game action as Gronkowski will get this offseason so it’s an important step closer to to his and the Patriots’ goal.

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Rams Lose Isaiah Pead To Torn ACL (8/17 11:52 PT)

The Facts: It looks like the Rams have lost Pead for the season with a knee injury. Pead suffered what is believed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee returning a first quarter kickoff after a Packers touchdown. “It’s very tough for him,” coach Jeff Fisher said. Reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Diehards Line: Pead missed the preseason opener against New Orleans with what was thought to be a bruised hand. Turns out it was a fractured finger, Fisher revealed after the Rams’ 21-7 loss to Green Bay.“He was fighting back — he had surgery on his finger,” Fisher said. “We pinned it. He was excited about getting an opportunity (vs. Green Bay). It’s unfortunate that that happened. So we’ll just hope for the best as far as that’s concerned.” It appeared that Pead’s foot got caught in the turf as he made a jump-cut on a 33-yard return. There was no contact on the play. The Rams kept five running backs last season and still have five healthy backs on the roster in Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham, Tre Mason, Chase Reynolds and Trey Watts.

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Bears Add Santonio Holmes To Receiving Corps (8/16 11:01 PT)

The Facts: The Bears reportedly are turning to Santonio Holmes to try to fill their No. 3 receiver role. The former New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers pass-catcher agreed to terms on a contract with the Bears, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Saturday.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Chicago has been searching for a third-wheel to add to the Brandon Marshall-Alshon Jeffery duo ever since Marquess Wilson suffered a fractured clavicle earlier this month. ... Eric Weems, better known as a return man, worked in that spot during Thursday's 20-19 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Weems, however, quickly proved he was not the answer. The Bears worked out Holmes earlier this month but then chose to sign little-known Greg Herd instead. Now that they see what they have at the No. 3 receiver spot, the team decided Homes was worth the risk. If he is mentally and physically healthy, Holmes can be a dynamic add to an already potent offense and should win the No. 3 job over Weems and Josh Morgan. That is one big "if," however.

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Rookie RB Charles Sims To Miss 12-14 Weeks After Ankle Surgery (8/15 2:09 PT)

The Facts: The team has announced that Sims will undergo ankle surgery and miss 12-14 weeks. The injury occurred on Tuesday, and the surgery will happen on Friday. “I think you can tell, especially at skill positions, does a guy have it?” HC Lovie Smith recently said about the former West Virginia tailback. “Charles Sims, I would say, has it. He hasn’t played a game and right now we’re not live an awful lot. But you can see enough in him to like his future with us.” Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: As PFT's Mike Florio suggests, the good news is that the Buccaneers still have 2012 first-rounder Doug Martin and backups Mike James and Bobby Rainey. But Sims could have been a difference-maker this year. He still could be. The Bucs could choose to put Sims on injured reserve with the designation to return. It’s a roster tweak available to each team, once per year.

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Dwayne Bowe Suspended For Week 1 (8/15 11:23 PT)

The Facts: According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Bowe is being suspended one week for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: He was arrested for possession of marijuana last fall, and had previously been suspended four games for violating the PED policy in 2009. He’ll miss the opener against the Titans, but can continue to practice and play in the preseason. As Profootballtalk.com notes, if nothing else, that will give him time to rest his finger, which according to Andy Reid is “shot.” But it also puts the Chiefs offense in a difficult spot in the opener.

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Police: Lynch Fully Cleared In Assault Allegation (8/14 12:53 PT)

The Facts: The Seattle Seahawks called claims that Lynch was involved in an alleged assault an incident of personal property damage “bogus.” The Bellevue Police Department now completely agree with that assessment. Public Information Officer Seth Tyler released a statement Wednesday night clearing Lynch of any wrongdoing in the matter.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: “The Bellevue Police Department has determined that Marshawn Lynch was not involved in this incident in any way," the statement read. "This case remains an open and active investigation. We appreciate the cooperation we have received from Mr. Lynch and the Seahawks organization during this investigation. ...” Now, as Profootballtalk.com's Curtis Crabtree suggests, the Seahawks and Lynch can focus their full attention back to the field, where Lynch could see his first action this preseason Friday night against the San Diego Chargers.

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