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New York Giants aware of Odell Beckham Jr. video

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The New York Giants and the NFL are aware of a potentially troubling video involving wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. that was leaked Friday while he was on a Nike-sponsored trip in Europe.

The seven-second clip posted on social media shows Beckham in a bed alongside a pizza holding what appears to be some sort of brown cigarette or cigar. There is a woman next to him with a credit card and what looks like a white powdery substance aligned in rows.

A second video shows what is believed to be the same woman kissing and taping Beckham while he was asleep.

It is not known where or when the videos were filmed. The Giants and the NFL acknowledged only that they know of their existence.

“We’re aware of the video, but we don’t have any comment beyond that,” a Giants team spokesman said via email Friday night.

The NFL, through a spokesman, also declined to comment further.

Beckham was in Spain on Friday visiting with soccer superstar and fellow Nike endorser Cristiano Ronaldo. Requests for comment from Beckham’s camp have not been returned as of Saturday afternoon.

The video comes at an inopportune time for Beckham, who is looking for a lucrative long-term contract this offseason. He is set to play on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal worth $8.5 million.

The Giants and owner John Mara have said on multiple occasions that Beckham would be a Giant for life and that it was only a matter of when he received a long-term deal. It’s unclear at this time whether the videos could factor into the equation.

Marijuana remains banned by the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Beckham is not known to have ever failed a test or to have at any point entered the league’s substance abuse program.

The Giants still want to see that Beckham has fully recovered from a broken ankle that ruined his 2017 season and were hoping he was past some of the incidents that marred the early part of his career. The enigmatic wide receiver was suspended for an on-field incident with cornerback Josh Norman in 2015 and has been fined numerous times by the league for his actions and behavior.

Mara said publicly that he was “unhappy” with Beckham after the wide receiver pretended to urinate on the field like a dog after scoring a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Beckham kept a low profile after that Week 3 incident and remained in New Jersey and rehabbed at the facility after the injury.

The new Giants brass — coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman — has been open-minded about the top playmaker since its arrival.

“It’s a clean slate,” Gettleman said last week at the NFL scouting combine. “I’m not worrying about what happened in the past. You want to know the why. You always have to get to the why. Eventually we’ll get to that. If you don’t get to the why, you can’t figure it out. You can’t fix it. So we’ll get to the why, and we’ll move forward.”

Beckham has spent most of the offseason rehabbing and working with his trainer in Los Angeles.

The Giants (3-13) badly missed their top receiver after he fractured his ankle during a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. They finished 31st in the NFL, averaging 15.4 points per game.

Beckham had reached the Pro Bowl and set numerous records in his first three professional seasons.

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Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones to be game-time call with hamstring strain

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Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team will take it “all the way up until our time on the day of the game” regarding star wide receiver Julio Jones’ availability for Sunday’s matchup with the Chicago Bears.

Jones, who injured his left hamstring before the season and then strained it again during last Sunday’s 40-39 loss at Dallas, was held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. Quinn said Jones would do work on the side Friday and that he has been involved in the game plan.

Quinn said Jones is one of the rare players who could be available without practicing.

“The only way we’ll do it is if he’s ready to do his thing,” Quinn said. “Take it all the way to the game with him.”

With Jones being a game-time decision, the Falcons might have to rely heavily on receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, as well as tight end Hayden Hurst. When Jones missed a game last season due to a shoulder injury, Christian Blake saw more action next to Ridley and Gage.

Jones had two catches for 24 yards against the Cowboys and said the hamstring affected his ability to run.

Quinn also ruled out safety Ricardo Allen (hyperextended elbow) and cornerback Kendall Sheffield (foot). The Falcons are expected to be without starting right tackle Kaleb McGary, who suffered an MCL injury last week. Matt Gono would replace McGary in the starting lineup.

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49ers to start Nick Mullens at QB for injured Jimmy Garoppolo

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed Friday what he’s hinted at all week: Nick Mullens will start at quarterback in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo on Sunday against the New York Giants.

Shanahan indicated Wednesday that it was “most likely” Mullens would start in place of Garoppolo, who is dealing with a high right ankle sprain, but he made it official Friday on KNBR radio in San Francisco. Shanahan told “The Murph and Mac Show” that Mullens will start for Garoppolo and that Garoppolo will not be active for the game, leaving C.J. Beathard as Mullens’ backup.

Mullens will be making his first start since Dec. 30, 2018, which was the final appearance in an eight-game stretch for him as the starter after Garoppolo tore his left ACL in Week 3 of that season. He threw for 2,277 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a passer rating of 90.8 as the Niners went 3-5 in his starts.

Early in the week, the Niners had expressed some optimism that Garoppolo could play this week but it became apparent by Wednesday that it was unlikely. Garoppolo suffered the ankle injury in the first quarter of last week’s win against the New York Jets and played through it before being removed from the game at halftime.

Mullens finished the game, going 8-of-11 for 71 yards with an interception as the 49ers rolled to a 31-13 win.

As the Niners have trained at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V, this week, Mullens has taken on the role of starter in practice with Beathard as the backup. Garoppolo did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not expected to on Friday.

“He’s locked in,” tight end George Kittle said Thursday. “He’s got the game plan down, he’s got a rocket for an arm, he’s slinging it, he’s confident. And I know he’s just excited to get the opportunity to play. If he gets to play, I know he’s going to take advantage of that situation because that dude loves football. He’s going to give it his all, so we’re definitely in good hands if Jimmy can’t go.”

Whether Mullens will have Kittle at his disposal remains up in the air, Shanahan told KNBR. Kittle, who is working his way back from a sprained left knee, has practiced on a limited basis the past two days and Shanahan said Friday’s practice would be important in gauging his availability for Sunday. Which means a decision is likely to be made closer to game time.

Like quarterback, the running back situation has crystallized as Shanahan also confirmed that Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert would not be available Sunday, as he’d suggested earlier in the week. Coleman and Mostert are each battling sprained knees, though Mostert is expected back before Coleman.

That means Jerick McKinnon is likely to make his first start as a Niner since signing with the team in 2018. He missed the past two seasons with a knee injury.

“I’m very confident in Jet,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “He’s done a great job in all the reps that he’s gotten in these two weeks. Every time he’s gotten opportunities, he came through for us. Obviously, with those two guys being out, he should get more opportunities this week and he deserves it. I know he’s excited for it and we’re excited to see him.”

Jeff Wilson Jr. is expected to serve as the backup to McKinnon with undrafted rookie JaMycal Hasty likely to get called up from the practice squad for additional depth.

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Why haven’t Hall of Fame locks Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers won more Super Bowls?

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Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers secured their legacies long ago.

They were Super Bowl MVPs in back-to-back years after the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Then they followed up with two of the most epic statistical seasons in NFL history in 2011.

Brees ranks first all time in passing yards (77,888), passing touchdowns (550) and completion percentage (67.6), while Rodgers ranks first in passer rating (102.6). The point being, these two could choose to retire at halftime of Sunday night’s marquee matchup between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC) in the Superdome — and someone in Canton, Ohio, would immediately get to work on sculpting their Hall of Fame busts.

Still, it has to rank as one of the decade’s biggest sports upsets that neither has made it back to appear in a second Super Bowl.

And the 41-year-old Brees has been especially candid about how driven he is to change that.

“That’s why I came back,” Brees said bluntly at the start of training camp after he strongly considered retiring before his 20th NFL season.

When asked if he thinks it’s fair that quarterbacks are judged so much by Super Bowls, Brees didn’t shy away from that, either. “Here’s the thing, whether it’s fair or not, I think we all agree that quarterbacks and head coaches in large part are evaluated on wins, losses, championships. And so we acknowledge that, and we take on that responsibility,” Brees said.

Rodgers, five years younger at 36, will probably get a few more cracks at it — especially since he is off to one of his best starts for the 2-0 Packers. But he, too, has grown weary of falling short after three NFC Championship Game losses in the past six years.

“The window’s open, and I think we’re going to be on the right side of one of these real soon,” Rodgers said after the Packers’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers in last season’s NFC title game.

Brees and the 1-1 Saints have more pressing concerns heading into this Week 3 showdown. New Orleans’ offense has been disturbingly out of sync — leading to the spin cycle of questions about whether we might be seeing the start of a steep decline in Brees’ performance.

“I feel good. Borderline great,” insisted Brees, who rejected the notion of a sudden physical dropoff — while acknowledging the results have been disappointing so far.

Assuming Brees and coach Sean Payton can manage their way through these early struggles, we should be looking at two of the NFC’s top contenders once again after both teams finished 13-3 last season.

Since their Super Bowl victories, Rodgers and the Packers are 6-7 in the postseason with the three NFC Championship Game appearances, while Brees and the Saints are 4-6 with one trip to the NFC title game.

But when asked if he is surprised by their Super Bowl droughts, NBC analyst and Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said, “Not really.” “Because people think it’s easy. But so many things have to go right for you.”

Dungy and Peyton Manning reached only one Super Bowl in their seven years together with the Indianapolis Colts, winning it in the 2006 season. And Dungy said that team probably ranked “No. 4 or No. 5” when it came to talent among all their years together.

“Every year on the first show on NBC, ‘Who are you picking to win the Super Bowl and can the previous team repeat?’ And I always say no. I don’t care who it is,” Dungy said.

Should titles be the barometer for Rodgers’ success?

Shortly after Brett Favre and the Packers lost Super Bowl XXXII to the Denver Broncos — and their chance to repeat as champions — the architect of those teams offered a memorable line about their place in history.

“We’re a one-year wonder, just a fart in the wind,” then-Packers general manager Ron Wolf said.

It might have taken a couple of decades to come to grips with it, but he realizes now he was unfairly harsh — especially as it pertained to Favre and his legacy.

“Is that the barometer?” Wolf asked ESPN.com recently. “Is that the only barometer of success in the National Football League, whether you won a Super Bowl, two Super Bowls or not? Does that make you a great player, whether you won a Super Bowl or not? If you’re a really good player, that should not matter.”

Rodgers’ résumé includes four NFC title games — all on the road. He won his first, in 2010, at Chicago, on the way to Super Bowl XLV but lost the 2014, 2016 and 2019 conference championships.

Wolf said later in his career that he regretted not getting more weapons for Favre to make a stronger run, and the Packers of today could be criticized for doing the same. Ted Thompson, the GM who drafted Rodgers in 2005, mostly shied away from free agency, and his replacement, Brian Gutekunst, hasn’t drafted a wide receiver higher than the fifth round in any of his three years running the show.

Coaching deserves a share of the blame, too. Former coach Mike McCarthy might have stuck with defensive coordinator Dom Capers longer than he should have before firing him after the 2017 season.

If Rodgers never gets to a second Super Bowl, the loss at Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game likely will hurt the most. While McCarthy took much of the blame for the defeat — blowing a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter — Rodgers got off mostly scot-free.

When Morgan Burnett intercepted Russell Wilson to give the ball back to the Packers with 5:04 left in a 19-7 game, the Packers ran the ball three consecutive times (the first two for losses), and McCarthy got crushed for taking his foot off the gas.

But the Packers had a rule going into that game — never run at Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. On the first play after Burnett’s interception, Rodgers made a pre-snap adjustment to move fullback John Kuhn to his left, which meant running back Eddie Lacy was to follow Kuhn — right into Bennett’s gap. The play lost 4 yards. The next play was a run-pass option. The Seahawks stuffed the box, yet Lacy got the ball again and ran right into Bennett for a 2-yard loss. The Packers ran again on third down before punting. Just a little over a minute ran off the clock before the Seahawks got the ball back.

The Packers lost in overtime, when Rodgers never touched the ball.

Last year’s surprising 13-3 season and improbable run to the NFC title game in coach Matt LaFleur’s first year didn’t leave Rodgers bitter after another near miss. It was in the moments immediately after the blowout loss to the 49ers that Rodgers proclaimed that the Packers’ Super Bowl window remains open.

“It’s on my mind every day,” Rodgers said during the playoffs last season when asked about winning another Super Bowl. “That’s why we play the game. That’s why you put in the time in the offseason, that’s why you do the little things. It’s to put yourself in this position, where we’re two games away from being able to compete for that. I’m 36, I know what this is all about. This is an important opportunity for us. I feel like I’ve got a lot of really good years left, but you never know.”

And if he doesn’t and he has to settle for one Super Bowl (including being MVP) and four appearances in the NFC championship?

“That’s still damn good,” Wolf said. “To me, that has always been the one huge factor. Wins and losses. That’s the only thing that matters, is if you win. You guys are going to have a real interesting thing here because there’s going to become a time here when Eli Manning and [Philip] Rivers come up for the Hall of Fame, and they’re going to say, ‘Well, Manning won two Super Bowls, but he’s a .500 quarterback.’ Now is that a Hall of Famer? I think there’s too much emphasis on that Super Bowl. I don’t think that’s a barometer. It shouldn’t be. But some people have certainly determined that is.”

Gut-wrenching playoff exits the norm for Brees

Despite the growing predictions this week of Brees’ demise, he has actually done an outstanding job of keeping the Saints in contention beyond his 40th birthday.

Although the deep ball has become a decreasing part of Brees’ arsenal, he has adjusted by becoming even more efficient over the past two seasons. He posted the two best passer ratings of his career (116.3 in 2019 and 115.7 in 2018) and the two best completion percentages in NFL history (74.4 in 2019 and 74.3 in 2018).

Unfortunately, the Saints might actually have the Packers beaten when it comes to gut-wrenching playoff exits. Last season it was an overtime playoff loss at home to the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round. The season before that it was the missed pass interference call against the Los Angeles Rams when the Saints were minutes away from winning the NFC Championship Game in the Superdome. And the season before that it was the “Minneapolis Miracle” in the divisional round at Minnesota.

And yet many Saints players and fans will still tell you that 2011 season was the “one that got away.” That team led by Brees, tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Marques Colston and running back Darren Sproles still holds the record for most yards gained in a season. But New Orleans was stuck as the No. 3 seed despite its 13-3 record and lost in the final seconds at San Francisco in the divisional round.

There were also two playoff losses at Seattle, after the 2010 and 2013 seasons — including Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Quake” run. New Orleans can obviously also point to the severe “Bountygate” penalties that led to Payton being suspended for the entire 2012 season and stripped the franchise of two second-round draft picks.

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Drew Brees discusses the Saints’ performance through the first two weeks of the NFL season and shares his confidence in New Orleans’ ability to get back on track offensively.

The Saints can blame some poor free-agent spending decisions that flopped (like safety Jairus Byrd in 2014, cornerback Brandon Browner in 2015 and tight end Coby Fleener in 2016). And they can blame a lot of bad defensive performances while burning through four different coordinators in the decade.

In 2012, the Saints set the NFL record for most yards allowed in a season (7,042). In 2015, they set NFL records for most TD passes allowed in a season (45) and highest opponents’ passer rating (116.1).

When asked if he and Rodgers are two prime examples of how hard it is to reach a Super Bowl, Brees said, “Maybe so.”

“We’ve each been to one and we’ve each won one. And we’ve had probably some heartbreaking moments in the playoffs — both teams,” Brees said. “But regardless, each season is a new season and each team is a new team. And you’re gonna face your fair share of challenges that we’ve all faced in order to try to get to the ultimate prize.”

What Super Bowl rings mean to legacy

While Brees and Rodgers have secured their place in history, it is also completely fair to wonder how much differently they would be viewed with just one more ring.

For example, both were left off of the recent “NFL 100 All-Time Team” made up of 100 players and 10 quarterbacks, as chosen by an all-star panel of the game’s coaches, players, executives and media members.

“When you’re on a committee like that, the people you’re leaving off are great players,” said Ernie Accorsi, a longtime general manager of the Giants, Browns and Colts. “But there is no question [how Brees and Rodgers are viewed]. I’ve heard people talk about both of them in independent conversations as the greatest of all time.”

Dungy, who was also on that panel and who was recently added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, said he isn’t swayed by Super Bowl appearances when it comes to such decisions.

“Maybe in some people’s mind. But in my mind, Dan Marino and Dan Fouts are two of the toughest guys I ever had to play against, and I’m putting them in that ‘great’ category, and I don’t care that they didn’t win Super Bowls,” Dungy said.

Dungy readily admitted winning Super Bowls is every competitor’s mission.

“Whether it’s Tom Brady and you want seven or anybody trying to get their first one, that’s the goal every year,” Dungy said. “Now, I’ll tell you that first one, there’s a lot of pressure to win one. You think, ‘Gosh, boy, I’m Aaron Rodgers, I’m Drew Brees, I don’t want to play 15, 16, 17 years and not win one.’ So then you win one, that takes some pressure off.

“But then you also realize, ‘Now, how many guys have won two?'”

The answer is 12: Brady with six; Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana with four each; Troy Aikman with three; John Elway, Bob Griese, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Jim Plunkett, Ben Roethlisberger, Bart Starr and Roger Staubach with two each.

“It’s not fair [QBs are judged by Super Bowls]. But we don’t live in a fair world, and playing quarterback in the NFL is not for people who want that,” said ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky. “Listen, this a very black and white and easy statement for me: Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are two of the greatest players and quarterbacks that have ever played the position.

“Do you wish that they won more Super Bowls? As fans, as course. But that will never change the way I look at them.”

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