The NFL on Thursday provided a federal judge with what it says is evidence Commissioner Roger Goodell did not improperly pre-judge the four players suspended in the bounty investigation.
The evidence includes a copy of a letter the NFL Players Association sent the league on March 7 asking Goodell to delay punishment of players implicated in the bounty probe.
It also includes a sworn declaration from Goodell in which he states he was prepared to hand down player discipline at the same time he announced suspensions for coaches and executives on March 21. Goodell's declaration states he held off after verbally agreeing to do so in a phone conversation with union head DeMaurice Smith.
Attorneys for linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has sued separately, and NFLPA lawyers representing the three other punished players have argued Goodell showed improper bias with comments he made before sending the players notice of their suspensions on May 2.
Attorneys for the players have been given until Friday to file their own evidence and briefs on the matter.
Manning to share spotlight with T.O.
Peyton Manning's debut in Denver won't hog all the attention. Terrell Owens will be taking some himself.
Owens will make his return to the NFL when the Seattle Seahawks play the Broncos on Saturday. Seattle coach Pete Carroll didn't give specifics on how many snaps Owens will get in the second preseason game for the Seahawks, but he did say it would be early in the game.
Owens joined the Seahawks (No. 22 in the AP Pro32) on Aug. 6 and had just a couple of days of practice before the preseason opener against Tennessee. Carroll said he didn't think it was fair to run Owens out there that quickly, but feels he's ready after two weeks of work..
Saturday against the Broncos will be his first NFL game action since Week 15 of the 2010 season with Cincinnati.
Around the league
Bears • Expect to see Brian Urlacher on the field for Chicago's season opener. None other than Urlacher says so. "I should be good to go now, hopefully," Urlacher said. The middle linebacker underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his left knee Tuesday morning. CSNChicago.com, citing sources, reported Thursday that it was actually his third procedure on his knee since the end of last season.
Chargers • The NFL says defensive tackle Garrett Brown has been suspended without pay for the team's first four regular-season games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Rams •Quarterback Sam Bradford says speculation he might need offseason ankle surgery is off-base. "That would be news to me," Bradford said Thursday night after practice. "To be honest, I'm tired of talking about the ankle." Bradford missed six games with a high left ankle sprain last season.
Titans • Jake Locker finally makes his first NFL start Friday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coach Mike Munchak opened the competition in January between Locker, the eighth pick overall in 2011 out of Washington, and veteran Matt Hasselbeck .