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Charlotte, N.C. — The NFL made it clear Thursday it isn’t forcing Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to sell the team while he is under investigation for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said during a conference call that “there was no pressure from the league on Mr. Richardson” to sell his team. Lockhart said Richardson “came to the conclusion over that weekend that putting his team up for sale was what he wanted to do. We found out about it shortly before the announcement came out.”

The NFL plans to hire an outside counsel to conduct the Richardson investigation, but a final decision has not been made on which firm.

Lockhart said the league didn’t know about the allegations against Richardson until Friday, the same day the Panthers put out a stunning news release first announcing its own investigation of Richardson’s alleged workplace misconduct. That was followed on Sunday by a Sports Illustrated report that detailed Richardson’s alleged misconduct.

Lockhart said the NFL is expecting full cooperation from the Panthers. There is a huge concern among the fan base that new ownership might move the team from Charlotte.

“The league, as we have said in a number of different contexts, our first choice is always for franchise stability,” Lockhart said. “The franchise in Carolina has been successful both on the field and from a community impact.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he wants to see the team stay in Charlotte, and added he planned to call local Charlotte officials to discuss what he can do from a government perspective.

There already have been some potential buyers who have come forward to express interest in buying the Panthers.

Seahawks fined $100K

The Seahawks have been fined $100,000 for not properly following concussion protocol with quarterback Russell Wilson during a game in November.

The NFL and NFLPA announced their decision Thursday following an investigation that lasted more than a month. Along with the financial penalty, Seattle’s coaching and medical staffs will be required to attend remedial training regarding the concussion protocol.

The investigation determined Wilson was allowed back on the field before a required evaluation was performed on the sideline.

Wilson was hit in the chin by Arizona’s Karlos Dansby, who was flagged for roughing the passer. Referee Walt Anderson sent Wilson off the field. But Wilson was in Seattle’s injury tent for only a few moments and he missed one play before returning.

No more index cards

The NFL has told its officials not to use index cards or any other paper to aid in measurements.

In last Sunday night’s Cowboys-Raiders game, veteran referee Gene Steratore tried to slide what appeared to be an index card between the tip of the ball and the end of the chain while measuring for a first down. When the card didn’t slide through, Steratore signaled a first down for Dallas. He said he had decided it was a first down before the odd measurement.

NFL officiating chief Alberto Riveron on Thursday confirmed what Steratore said.

“Using a piece of paper, that’s very unusual,” Riveron said. “The last time I saw it done was four to five years ago. That is not the norm. Gene made the decision strictly on visual affirmation that the ball made the line to gain.”

Extra points

A person familiar with the situation tells AP Saints starting safety Kenny Vaccaro needs season-ending groin surgery and is being placed on injured reserve. Vaccaro has been with New Orleans since they made him a first-round draft choice in 2013. This season, Vaccaro has played through wrist and groin injuries. He’s made or assisted on 60 tackles.

... Titans cornerback LeShaun Sims will miss the game with the Rams on Sunday with a hamstring injury that likely will sideline him the rest of the year.

... Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff’s sprained ankle has improved, and the team has listed the ex-Lion as questionable.

... The Giants interviewed ESPN’s Louis Riddick for their general manager’s job. Riddick has 13 years of experience with Washington and Philadelphia.

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