Le’Veon Bell not expected to report to Pittsburgh Steelers by Tuesday deadline, sources say

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is unlikely to report to the team by Tuesday’s deadline, which would make him ineligible to play the rest of this season, multiple league sources tell ESPN.

Even as the Steelers now brace to lose their marquee running back for the entire season, Bell’s camp continues to maintain its cone of silence and repeatedly has declined to address with reporters his plans for the coming week.

As the team and its fans await Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline, by which Bell must report or be ineligible to play for the remainder of the season, it is worth remembering what the Pro Bowl back said in January.

Ten months ago, Bell said he “definitely would consider” sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if the Steelers used the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season. The Steelers did use the tag, and there are no indications that Bell will report by the deadline.

By sitting out this season, the 26-year-old Bell ostensibly has been trying to preserve his value and body, allowing James Conner (771 yards on 164 carries and 10 touchdowns) to get the work in the Steelers’ backfield. Conner, who averages 4.7 yards per run, is on pace for close to 300 carries, similar to what Bell had last season. It is wear and tear that Bell seemingly did not want to absorb as he gets ready to become a free agent.

Despite Steelers owner Art Rooney telling Sirius XM Radio on Thursday that he expected Bell to report by Tuesday, the running back has skipped every chance he’s had to report, including during Pittsburgh’s recent bye week, when he could have collected $855,000 just for being on the roster.

Bell did not report hours before the Steelers’ Thursday night victory over Carolina, when he could have collected another $855,000 for playing in the game. He has bypassed the chance to make more than $8.5 million and could make only $6 million more if he were to report by Tuesday.

But the reason he has been willing to forgo all of this so far is the reason that multiple people do not expect to see Bell this week, or this season, either. And if Bell doesn’t report by Tuesday, which is now the belief, then his Steelers career would be over.

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Philadelphia Eagles’ running back Darren Sproles aggravates hamstring injury, according to sources

Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles aggravated his hamstring injury in practice Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Sproles’ latest setback comes after coach Doug Pederson said he expected the running back to play Sunday in his first game since Week 1.

Sources said Sproles was highly disappointed by the injury recurrence, as were the Eagles.

Sproles hurt the hamstring in practice leading into Week 2 and has missed the past seven games.

The Eagles had hoped Sproles could resume punt-return duties and rejoin a backfield currently being led by Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement. Philadelphia ranks 18th in rushing yards per game this season with 106.6.

DeAndre Carter had been returning punts in Sproles’ absence but was waived Tuesday and claimed by the Houston Texans on Wednesday.

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NFL owners discuss viability of Chargers in Los Angeles according to sources

NEW YORK — It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Chargers have struggled to gain a foothold with fans since moving from San Diego last year, and the problems are hitting them on the bottom line.

Sources told ESPN’s Seth Wickersham that the viability of the Chargers in Los Angeles was a topic of discussion at the owners meetings here Tuesday and Wednesday. Multiple owners, who requested anonymity, said Wednesday that the topic was not brought up formally in the meetings but that there has been a lot of discussion on the side about the extent to which the Chargers are struggling to build a fan base in Los Angeles.

The Chargers are currently playing in the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The venue seats about 30,000 people, which makes it about half as big as even the smallest NFL stadiums. Their plan is to move into the new stadium the Rams are building in Inglewood in 2020 and to function as a sort of “tenant” of the Rams rather than an equal partner in the venture.

Sources told Wickersham, however, that the Chargers are expected to revise their initial Inglewood revenue goal from $400 million down to $150 million.

Part of the lowered revenue projection could be tied to lower ticket prices in the new stadium. The Chargers on Wednesday announced prices for about 75 percent of their tickets for the new stadium when it opens in 2020, and they are advertising “more than 26,000 seats priced between $50 and $90 per seat, per game with an associated Stadium Seat License payment of only $100 for each seat.”

“Each decision throughout this process has been made with the fan in mind, and we think the pricing announced today reflects this fact,” A.G. Spanos, the team’s president of business operations, said in the news release.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, when asked about what the league could do to help the Chargers, opened his response by singing the praises of the still-under-construction Inglewood project and said he expected the excitement over the new stadium to build as its opening gets closer.

“Lots of football, lots of building still to do,” Goodell said. “And frankly, we were out of the market for a long time, and we have to earn our way back with our fans. We have to build that relationship back with our fans and make sure that we do it right. Both teams are committed to that.

“It will be something that we have to work at over a period of time. They both have very exciting young teams, and I think that will be helpful also. But I think all of those things will come together over the next two years. That’s the work that needs to be done.”

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Los Angeles Rams wanted to add Khalil Mack, then trade him at end of season, sources say

The Los Angeles Rams made a pitch to acquire premier pass rusher Khalil Mack with the intention of giving him a raise this season, then dealing him at the end of the year to recoup some if not all of the draft compensation they gave up, according to sources.

After signing defensive end Aaron Donald, their own holdout, to a then-record $135 million deal, the Rams offered the Oakland Raiders a first- and a third-round pick for Mack, sources said.

The team’s thinking, according to sources, was to go all in this season, then — because of financial constraints — deal Mack away after the season and recoup what they had dealt for him. The idea was to match Mack with Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers, and bolster their chances even more this season.

Rams executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff said last week that the team had made an aggressive offer for Mack that was ultimately rejected.

“We offered a pretty aggressive package and (the Raiders) came back and said, ‘We just think you’re going to pick too low,'” Demoff said.

The Raiders dealt Mack to the Chicago Bears for a package that included two first-round picks. Chicago then signed Mack to a record six-year, $141 million deal.

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Atlanta Falcons won’t give receiver Julio Jones a new contract according to sources

The Atlanta Falcons informed wide receiver Julio Jones last month that they would not give him a contract extension this season, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The communication doesn’t mean that the Falcons can’t modify his contract this season in the form of incentives, but his deal will not be extended in 2018, sources said.

The fact that someone in the Falcons organization publicly commented does not sit well with Jones, sources told Schefter, and Jones now will have to decide whether or not to attend training camp next week.

If Jones does not report to training camp, he is subject to a $40,000 fine per day missed.

The team’s decision not to renegotiate a deal with Jones was first reported by The Athletic.

Jones, who did not join the team for mandatory minicamp or offseason workouts, was seeking a raise with three years and $34.426 million left on his contract. He signed a five-year, $71.25 million extension in August of 2015 that included $47 million guaranteed. Jones is due $10.5 million for the ’18 season.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff made it clear that the top priorities right now are extensions for left tackle Jake Matthews, nose tackle Grady Jarrett, and free safety Ricardo Allen. The team typically addresses contract extensions when a player is entering the final year of a contract and apparently doesn’t want to set a new precedent by addressing Jones’ deal with three years left.

The Falcons report to training camp next Thursday, and the hope is Jones will report. The first practice is next Friday at 9:20 a.m.

Coach Dan Quinn expected Jones to report to mandatory minicamp, but such didn’t occur. Quinn said he wasn’t disappointed in Jones because the two had communication through the process. Quinn would not confirm if the team fined Jones the standard $84,435 for missing the three-day mini-camp.

Jones joined Matt Ryan and a host of other Falcons for workouts in California this week. Following minicamp, Ryan promised to conduct such sessions with Jones as a participant.

Jones’ average of $14.25 million per year, based on the five-year extension, stands ninth among wide receivers. He was pushed down a slot when Brandin Cooks of the Los Angeles Rams signed a five-year extension worth $16 million per year this week. Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers leads all receivers at $17 million per year.

In terms of guaranteed money, Mike Evans of Tampa Bay tops all receivers at more than $55 million per year, followed by Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins with $49 million and Jones and Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry at $47 million.

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Eagles defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan has surgery for a herniated disc in his back according to sources

Eagles starting defensive tackle Tim Jernigan underwent surgery on a herniated disc in his back last week and is expected to be out four months, league sources told ESPN.

SportsRadio 94WIP first reported Jernigan’s surgery.

The Eagles are hopeful to have Jernigan back for the team’s Thursday night regular-season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, sources said. Dr. Robert Watkins performed the surgery, according to a source.

The injury easily could have ended Jernigan’s time in Philadelphia, with the Eagles releasing him and declining to pay him, since he suffered the injury during an offseason workout in March. Instead, the Eagles reworked his contract. They will still pay him the $3 million that’s guaranteed for this season, under the original terms of the four-year, $48 million extension he signed in November. But they will no longer be liable for the $11 million guaranteed that was due in 2019 as part of the deal.

Under the terms of the new contract, the final three years are now option years, with Jernigan scheduled to make $11 million in 2019, $12 million in 2020 and $12 million in 2021, as was the case under the previous terms. However, none of the salary in those final three years is guaranteed.

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Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy according to league sources

Cincinnati Bengals‘ LB Vontaze Burfict is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, pending appeal, per league sources.

Burfict’s appeal will center around the fact that he was on prescribed medication for the concussion he suffered on a hit from Steelers’ wide receiver Ju-Ju Smith Schuster on Dec. 4 and that he suffered a Grade 3 shoulder AC sprain during the Detroit Lions game on Dec. 24 and was on prescribed medications for this injury as well, per another source.

The disputed test occurred Dec. 27, when Burfict already had been ruled out for the season, and he is expected to argue that he could not be using any drug to gain an advantage when he wasn’t even playing.

No appeal date has been set yet, but Burfict soon will be fighting to be able to play the first four games of next season.

Burfict has been suspended in the past, but for on-field transgressions. He was suspended for the first three games of the 2017 season for an illegal hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in the preseason. He initially was suspended five games but had the penalty reduced on appeal.

Burfict was also suspended the first three games of the 2016 season for numerous violations of player safety rules, including an illegal hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown during the 2015 playoffs.

Separate from those suspensions, Burfict has been fined $303,637 for 11 on-field incidents in his NFL career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

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