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NFL notebook: NFL legend Gifford dies at 84

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Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, who led the New York Giants to the 1956 NFL championship, died Sunday. He was 84.

The NFL legend went on to a successful second career as a broadcaster on “Monday Night Football,” teaming up with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith in the TV booth.

“It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved husband, father and friend, Frank Gifford,” the family said in a statement Sunday. “Frank died suddenly this beautiful Sunday morning of natural causes at his Connecticut home. We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being. We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time and we thank you for your prayers.”

Gifford was the husband of talk show personality Kathie Lee Gifford, who is a host for NBC’s “Today.”

“Frank Gifford was the ultimate Giant. He was the face of our franchise for so many years,” Giants president John Mara said in a statement. “More importantly, he was a treasured member of our family. My father loved him like a son and was proud to act as his presenter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a favor Frank returned years later by presenting my father in Canton. For my siblings and me, Frank was like a revered older brother whom we looked up to and admired. We loved him and will miss him terribly.”

Gifford, drafted No. 1 overall by the Giants in 1952 out of USC, played halfback, defensive back, flanker and on special teams during his NFL playing career. He played with the Giants his entire NFL career from 1952 to 1964.

Gifford was an eight-time Pro Bowler at the three different positions and was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1956, the year he led the Giants to the championship, beating the Chicago Bears in the title game.

A brutal hit from the late Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik in a 1960 game knocked Gifford out of football for 18 months. He retired in 1961, but returned in 1962 as a flanker — winning the league’s comeback player of the year award and becoming a Pro Bowler again.

“Frank Gifford was an icon of the game, both as a Hall of Fame player for the Giants and Hall of Fame broadcaster for CBS and ABC,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Frank’s talent and charisma on the field and on the air were important elements in the growth and popularity of the modern NFL.”

—Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said contract talks with Julio Jones are progressing and he wants to make the Pro Bowl wide receiver a “lifer for the Falcons.”

Jones has one year left on his rookie contract and will earn $10.176 million this season.

“We’re in the middle of those discussions,” Blank said Sunday. “We expect Julio to be a lifer for the Falcons. We’re moving forward and have every reason to be positive and be enthusiastic about it.”

Jones set a franchise record with 1,593 receiving yards last season on a career-high 104 receptions.

Jones’ agent, Jimmy Sexton, began contract talks with the Falcons before the start of training camp.

The recent wide receiver signings of Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant and Denver Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas to five-year, $70 million contracts give Sexton a specific starting point.

—Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito, who has been given a second chance this season after his bullying scandal, calls NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s “absolute power” part of the problem with the Deflategate investigation.

Incognito said the NFL punishment system is “bogus” and there was nothing “independent” about Ted Wells’ investigations of the Miami Dolphins when he played there and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s alleged role in using underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game in January.

The 32-year-old Incognito told Newsday that Goodell’s unchecked power makes it unfair for players who are the subject of league investigations.

“I just think it’s bogus, the whole system in how it’s set up with Roger and the complete, absolute power he has,” Incognito told the newspaper. “He has so much power and he hires independent investigators who come in and are obviously not independent. They come in with an agenda and they come in looking to find facts to back up their argument. All the facts are slanted in their favor.

“Ted Wells came in with a mission against me. Ted Wells came in slanted against me and everything in his report was slanted against me. There were some things in there that would have helped my cause that were left out.”

Wells’ investigation into the Dolphins bullying scandal found that Incognito and two other Miami offensive linemen — John Jerry and Mike Pouncey — harassed rookie Jonathan Martin. Incognito was suspended for his final eight games with the Dolphins in 2013.

Incognito was unsigned for the entire 2014 season and signed with the Bills in February.

—New York Jets quarterbacks Geno Smith, who has had an interception-free training camp, still heard booing from impatient fans attending a scrimmage at MetLife Stadium.

Smith heard the boo-birds from the more than 10,000 fans attending Saturday night’s scrimmage when, on his second series in 11-on-11 drills, he was sacked and fumbled the ball.

“The camera should’ve zoomed in on me; I had a big smile on my face,” said Smith, who is entering his third season with the Jets. “You’d think we were on the road today.”

After a slow start in the game-situation practice with no live tackling, Smith threw two touchdown passes, both to new wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

“In two years, I’ve developed some really thick skin,” Smith said. “I know how to handle it now.

“That’s when I thrive, man. That’s when I’m at my best. I’ve been through a lot in two years. Maybe my rookie year, I would’ve hung my head or it might have fazed me or it might have affected me negatively. But at this point, it rolls right off my back.”

—The Bills signed cornerback Nickell Robey to a contract extension. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Robey was eligible to sign an extension after two seasons because he entered the league as an undrafted college free agent.

Robey joined the Bills from USC in April 2013. Since joining the Bills, he has played in all 32 games and made eight starts. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Robey, 23, has totaled 84 tackles, 18 passes defensed, four sacks and one interception in his two years with the team.

—The Cleveland Browns signed tight end Manasseh Garner and defensive back Joe Rankin and waived linebacker Darius Eubanks and tight end Kevin Haplea.

—The Indianapolis Colts signed free agent cornerback Eric Patterson. The 5-10, 193-pound Patterson originally signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent on May 8 and was waived by the team on June 9.


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