As it turns out, Richie Incognito has a job in the NFL, and Jonathan Martin now doesn't.
The two will forever be linked, as the main characters in the Miami Dolphins locker room bullying scandal of 2013. According to the reports, Incognito was the main agitator to Martin, who left the team as a result. Martin never returned to the Dolphins but got a second chance when the San Francisco 49ers, coached by Martin's old college coach Jim Harbaugh, traded a seventh-round pick for him.
After one year in San Francisco, Martin is looking for another team. Martin was cut by the 49ers, according to CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. Martin started nine games last year as an injury replacement, struggled, and the 49ers save his $1.042 million salary by cutting him according to Maiocco.
Without Harbaugh, who left for the University of Michigan this offseason, there apparently wasn't a lot of support to keep Martin around. His release comes a couple of months after Incognito, who was out of football all last season, was given another chance by Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills.
Martin, a second-round pick in 2012, will try to catch on elsewhere. He hasn't played that well in the NFL (although he did subdue a shoplifter in a mall early this year), but is just 25 years old and not that far removed from being a high draft pick.
Martin will always be attached to the bullying scandal, which was a huge story in the NFL through the 2013 season. If he wants to make a different NFL legacy, he'll need to find a new team to do it with.
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There's a template for making it to the NFL: Grow up in the United States watching and playing football, move on to play college football to get noticed, get drafted or signed by a pro team.
It's not often you hear about a story like Babatunde Aiyegbusi.
The Minnesota Vikings signed Aieygbusi, an offensive tackle who played in the German Football League last season, seven days after he got his travel visa to the United States. Aiyegbusi is – are you ready? – 6-foot-9 and 351 pounds. He's the fifth Polish-born player in NFL history. Three of the other four are kickers.
Aiyegbusi never played college football. In 2013 he was playing in the Polska Liga Futbolu Amerykanskiego (the Polish American Football League if you need the translation). But when you're the size of an airport hangar and can move, you're going to get noticed if you're playing football on the moon.
According to an ESPN.com story, agent Jeff Griffin heard about Aiyegbusi from Kevin Curtis, a Texas Tech assistant coach who played safety in the NFL and NFL Europe. Curtis got a YouTube video of Aiyegbusi from a former coach in Europe, but Aiyegbusi couldn't play in college because of his professional experience. So Curtis passed it along to Griffin, and that started Aiyegbusi's journey.
I'll give you all the caveats before you watch this highlight video, that the competition is not what he will see in the NFL and he might be overwhelmed by the speed and size of defensive ends at the highest level and on and on ... but man just look at Aiyegbusi absolutely freaking maul his opponents. Just watch and have a laugh at this guy who looks like he was made on "Madden" push around guys half his size:
Ahhhh, you want more Babatunde highlights, don't you? I know I do:
Can Aiyegbusi (the Vikings say his full name is pronounced bah-BUH-tune-day ah-YEG-boo-see if you're curious, but "Babs" for short) make it in the NFL? Who knows. He's obviously raw.But the 27-year-old obviously showed the Vikings enough in a pro day workout at the University of Texas-San Antonio and a private workout in Minnesota this week to sign him.
He came to the United States on a 22-hour flight, arriving in Sn Antonio at 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, according to the Vikings web site and ESPN.com. Judging by his highlight films, the defensive linemen in Poland and Germany are hoping he makes it in the NFL, just so they never have to deal with him again.
Babs: 6-9 351 pounds. pic.twitter.com/MUU2zdMlSt— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) March 26, 2015
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The ongoing Aaron Hernandez trial was interrupted Thursday when the Fall River Division of the Bristol County Superior Court received a bomb threat.
The courtroom was evacuated at around 12:08 p.m. ET.
Employees were allowed back into the courthouse a little less than an hour later. The trial will reconvene at 2 p.m. ET.
Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end, is on trial for the murder of semipro football player Odin Lloyd in 2013. Thursday was Day 35 of the trial, where the prosecution is still making their case.
Another bomb threat was called in to Superior Court in Taunton, which is less than 20 miles from Fall River, according to the Taunton Gazette.
According to the Twitter feeds of Bob McGovern of the Boston Herald and Brian Fraga of the Herald News of Fall River, jurors in the Hernandez trial went to the UMass Dartmouth building nearby, with the doors protected by two court officers, while Lloyd's family and Hernandez's lawyers waited out the bomb threat at coffee shops near the courthouse.
Judge E. Susan Garsh admonished the media for possibly taking pictures of the jurors, McGovern said.
Judge Garsh is admonishing the media for photos of jurors that may have been taken. pic.twitter.com/AzuCEJzBoK— Bob McGovern (@BobMcGovernJr) March 26, 2015
Law enforcement was brought in to investigate the threat and clear the area.
McGovern said in similar cases, defendants are put into the transport van in which they arrived to the courthouse.
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Nebraska DE-OLB Randy Gregory said not long ago that he was worthy of the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft. It's not clear what will happen to his stock now that the news has come down that Gregory failed a drug test at the NFL scouting combine in February.
Gregory told NFL Network's Kimberly Jones that the positive test was for marijuana, even though he said he hasn't used the drug since December. In a hurtful moment, Gregory received a letter from the NFL he believed to be his invitation to the draft, allowing his father to open it and share in the moment. Instead, the letter delivered a far different shock.
"It said I failed a drug test," he said.
What he also revealed is that he was self-medicating to cope with his disappointment over not qualifying academically at Purdue in 2011 and sitting out the 2012 season with a broken leg. After landing at Nebraska in 2013, following a stay at Arizona Western Community College, Gregory failed two tests for marijuana for the Huskers — once last January, one last April — and was told by the former coaching staff that a third strike would have meant he was off the team.
"I blame myself," Gregory told the NFL Network. "And I know it sounds cliché, but there's really no one else I can blame."
In two seasons in Lincoln, Gregory amassed 17.5 sacks but didn't play his best ball as a senior and weighed in at the combine at a disappointing 235 pounds for his 6-foot-5 frame, which raised issues in the scouting community over whether he could play defensive end in the NFL at that weight.
Gregory still could be a top-10 pick. A failed drug test for marijuana does not necessarily sink one's draft stock. In 2007, Calvin Johnson, Gaines Adams and Amobi Okoye all tested positive for marijuana at the combine yet all three remained top-10 picks. But last year, Timmy Jernigan and Zach Mettenberger produced diluted urine samples — not even positive drug tests — and were knocked down some teams' boards for it.
NFL teams want to see that it's not a habitual thing for players and that it won't affect their preparation for the league, which can be overwhelming for young players to cope with and manage. Some teams might view Gregory's get-out-in-front-of-the-story approach as mere damage control and wonder whether he really will change.
"Am I worried? Yeah, I'm worried," Gregory said. "At the same time, I'm confident. I know I'm going to be all right in the end."
Still, he's not hiding anything and said that in meeting, formally and informally, with 29 of the league's 32 teams, Gregory spoke openly about his past marijuana use — even bringing it up himself in the interviews in which the teams did not initially broach it.
"[Marijuana] could end my career," he said. "This incident right now is a step toward ending my career. The last thing I want to do is fail another drug test and be out of the league.
"I want it on the record. I want people to understand I know I messed up. I'm owning up to it. I realize it. But at the same time, I'm taking the right steps to get better and to fix it."
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The NFL coaches' breakfasts that are part of the recently wrapped-up owners meetings can be quite the bore without strong, almost amphetamine-grade coffee, as the 32 geniuses of the clipboards dance their way past questions about free agency, the draft and, well, each other.
So consider us blindsided that one of the funniest anecdotes from those breakfasts would come from New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, a man so remarkably unfunny that we sort of tend to forget he exists in a room full of Chip Kellys and Rex Ryans and the like.
Coughlin, it turns out, can relate to that lost feeling — even when he's close to home. He relayed a hilarious story about his newly acquired iPhone and the "lady" voice that inhabits it (that would be the seldom helpful Siri) and how she's not really doing her job. If Siri was a sixth-round pick, she'd be cut by now.
Newsday's Tom Rock takes it from here:
"Two weeks ago I'm trying to get to a roller hockey game that my grandson is playing in, so Marc Ross [the Giants' director of college scouting] had showed me how to talk to this phone," Coughlin said. "I don't trust the lady in GPS, I don't trust her, because they don't send you the right way. I hit the button and I go 'Park Ridge, New Jersey.' And she comes back on, she's giving me directions. So now I figure out where I am. I hit the thing and I said, 'Thank you very much, I know exactly where I am now.' And she comes back and says, 'You don't have to thank me.' I swear to God that's what she said. And then I couldn't get her to shut up. Every turn. 'Take a right here.' I know where I am. I know where I am. I'm a block away from my house, and she's telling me where to go. I said, 'I know where I'm going.' "
Picturing a scarlet-faced Coughlin steaming up his glasses while trying to get Siri to shut up is perhaps the most amazing image of the offseason. It's absolutely brilliant. Here's a soon-to-be 69-year-old man barking at a little black box, and all you can think about is what his conversations with Odell Beckham Jr. must be like.
For the record, Coughlin — who has admitted in the past to knowing how to text — said he prefers to hear the sound of OBJ's voice.
"I would call him so he hears my voice," Coughlin said. "He'll pick up."
This Luddite syndrome among coaches is not restricted to Coughlin. Remember the NFL Network piece on Bill Belichick a few years back in which he couldn't change the time in his new car after Daylight Savings? These two men were involved in several of the most historically significant Super Bowls in league annals, and neither one of them apparently can perform basic technological functions.
Sometimes genius has a way of masking other basic skills, sort of an inverse of the human phenomenon in people whose other senses are heightened to help pick up the slack. I once had a college professor who could quote Chaucer and Milton flawlessly from rote in front of a class of disaffected English grads. And yet she had no idea how to work the horizontal blinds. It easily was my favorite college class ever for that very reason.
Coughlin has a generational theory of why that is.
"When I was raised it was, 'Don't touch that,' 'Don't break that,' 'Don't you dare,'" he said. "These [kids], they have no fear of these things. They just go and they do it. They're probably reinforced by people saying, 'You can't hurt it.' I could hurt it. I defy all odds."
And that's the stuff of coaching genius, folks.
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Whenever Jim Harbaugh does the whole "Who's got it better than us?" thing, the proper reply really should be "Tom Brady!"
Nobody is on a better run. He just won a fourth Super Bowl to take the top spot in the greatest quarterback ever debate. His wife is a supermodel who happens to make way, way more money than him, if you can believe that. He has three children. And he's off in Costa Rica on vacation (via NESN), just riding horses on the beach with his family in that post-Super Bowl glow (from his wife Gisele Bundchen's Instagram):
He even had the kids bury him up to his neck on the beach, via his Facebook account:
Don't get your hopes up, AFC East rivals: The kids didn't leave him there. We know from the video of himself digging out and then running around with his kids on the beach at the top of the post. Click the photo on top to watch.
Who's got it better than Tom Brady?
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Leah Still, the 4-year-old daughter of Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still, became a mini-celebrity as everyone supported her battle with cancer.
On Wednesday, Devon Still announced that his daughter won. Leah Still's cancer is in remission, a wonderful development in what became an inspirational story.
Here's part of Devon Still's Instagram announcement (the full message can be seen here):
"June 2, 2014 and March 25, 2015 are days I will remember for the rest of my life. As everyone probably knows, June 2nd was the day doctors walked into the waiting room to tell me my daughter had cancer. It was the most devastating day of my life. March 25th , however, is feeling like the best day of my life. Today we received news from Leah's oncologist that her cancer, stage four neuroblastoma, is officially in REMISSION! After 296 days of day dreaming about what it would feel like to hear the doctors say my daughter is in remission, I finally know the feeling. Funny thing is there is really no way of describing it because I never knew this feeling existed."
Devon Still said that Leah still needs more treatments, to make sure the cancer doesn't return and to build up her immune system. He thanked everyone for their support, and there has been much of it. The NFL and its fans rallied around the story. Leah Still became a public face of pediatric cancer, including walking down a New York fashion show runway and appearing on "Today" as she waged her battle, and the Stills brought a lot of attention to the cause.
On Wednesday, the Still family had some great news to deliver to those who have followed their story.
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The New England Patriots took advantage of the rules to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the postseason. On Wednesday, the NFL changed the rules.
The Patriots ran some four-man lines where running back Shane Vereen was on the line but ineligible and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui eligible despite lined up at what looked like a left tackle position. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh cried foul, and the league listened — now, but not then. (Harbaugh was assessed a 15-yard penalty for delay of game at the time.)
"It's not something that anybody has ever done before," Harbaugh said after the game in January. "They're an illegal type of a thing and I'm sure that [the NFL will] make some adjustments and things like that."
The rule has been changed as such: A player with an eligible receiver’s number (Nos. 1-49 and 80-89) must line up within the tackle box; if they line up incorrectly, a 5-yard penalty for illegal substitution will be levied.
Patriots team owner Robert Kraft was asked about the plays on Monday and denied that the team did anything shady or illegal, saying merely that Bill Belichick was coaching within the rules of the time.
"We didn’t take advantage of anything,” Kraft said. “We played by the rules. If you read the rulebook, you’d see that. We didn’t take advantage. We executed according to the rules, and we’ve always tried to do that.
“However you can get an edge within the rules, I compliment that.”
Now those rules have been changed. This often happens after the Patriots win big football games. They have kept winning games in the past, and we suspect they'll adjust accordingly and be fine going forward.
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We received a text message via a trusted NFL scout that, frankly, we had to check twice: He wrote that UCF wide receiver Breshad Perriman just ran a 4.15-second 40-yard dash at his pro day on Wednesday.
Not a misprint. Four-one-five. That's Bo Jackson/Deion Sanders speed if true.
And those are the key words: if true. We suspect that the time was not accurate, that his finger clicked the stopwatch a tenth of a second slow, with UCF not apparently having electronic timing at their facility.
But when you see the school's official video — and their report of times ranging in the 4.22- to 4.27-second range — you know this much: Perriman ran fast.
Mind you, the young man Perriman stands 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, which makes this time range all the more impressive. I just watched it several times and timed it right around the 4.2 range. It's no joke. The staff at 120 Sports then used the video to break down and time the run electronically — and yes, it was indeed fast.
The results are in: If you go off the Breshad Perriman video, and time it electronically, it's a 4.22-second 40-yard dash.— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) March 25, 2015
Is Perriman a sure-fire first-round pick now? Well, some have said he was the third-most reliable receiver on his team last year behind J.J. Worton and Speedy Hall, and Perriman too often dropped key passes. His routes need work, and some coach might pull his hair out trying to squeeze the best out of Perriman in the NFL.
But we know that the first- and second-round buzz that has surrounded Perriman has been legitimate from a physical standpoint. And after he was held out of running at the Indianapolis scouting combine, we now have evidence of why that buzz is out there.
That look after you've just clocked a 4.22 40... pic.twitter.com/UaZmXWkW9M— Eric DeSalvo (@EricDeSalvo) March 25, 2015
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Last year there was intrigue at the top of the draft. The Houston Texans, keeping their trade options open with the first overall pick, never divulged publicly who they'd take until handing in the card on draft day.
There's no such intrigue this year.
It became obvious at the NFL scouting combine, when Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said he was comfortable with Jameis Winston's off-field past, that Winston would be the top pick. And at the NFL owners' meetings this week, Smith basically confirmed that Winston will be the pick, even though he left himself some outs.
Smith was asked if it would be an erroneous assumption to think the Buccaneers will choose Winston, and Smith shook his head, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"No, I wouldn't say it's an erroneous assumption," Smith said. "I would say when people make that assumption, we haven't had the pro workout [for Winston] yet. But we've done a lot of research, have watched a lot of video and had both of them in and talked with them individually and had them on the board. But the process, the game isn't over yet. I think you can have a leader, but you have to let the game play out and we're doing that."
While it's not a shocking revelation, it eliminates all of the other possibilities, at least for the moment. Barring an unforeseen change (or a phenomenal smoke screen by Tampa Bay), Winston will go first.
That leaves the pre-draft games to start at No. 2. Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt strangely said this week that if the Titans pick Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, he'd be the team's opening-day starter. That seems like an awkward way to drive trade value, enticing some team who might want Mariota but can't be sure if the Titans are serious about taking him.
Expect plenty of similar comments from Tennessee before the draft as the Titans try to put themselves in position to maximize the value of the second pick, if they want to go that route.
But there's no use for the Buccaneers trying to throw anyone off the scent. The first pick is obvious.
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There are still a few quality players remaining on the free-agent market, but for the most part the shopping has been done.
There were big-name signings, under-the-radar additions and even some blockbuster trades. At this point teams might search for a bargain or two and look to the draft to fill any other remaining holes.
How did each team do in free agency? Here are the grades, though there are still chances to help the grade a bit with a smart late signing (and for the purposes of this exercise, trades were included):
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Rex Ryan has hit the ground in Buffalo running, bringing attitude and (deep breath) SWAG to a team in desperate need of both.
At the owners' meetings this week, Ryan has been in typical form, which is to say outspoken and not particularly caring whether you agree with him. He announced his intention to "come after" New England, which is what you'd expect him to say. (What, he's supposed to concede the division in March?)
Ryan also had some brotherly advice for his twin Rob, the defensive mastermind for the New Orleans Saints. Rob is head coaching material, Rex believes, except for one tiny issue: his appearance.
"[H]e believes in himself so much he won’t get a haircut and keeps that belly the way it is,” Rex said, according to The Advocate. “He’s darned determined to show the league that ‘I’m going to be a head coach and do it my way.’ No you’re not. It’s unfortunate. I’m still trying to get that message across to him.”
Rex isn't wrong. NFL executives, apparently still thinking that the world was so much better when every man had a Johnny Unitas buzz cut, have said that Rob needs to cut his hair in order to look more professional. Because, as we all know, a coach's looks on the sideline are worth an extra 10 points on the field.
Ryan also touted his brand-new all-Bills truck:
Rex on @espn: "My truck is about as subtle as a punch in the nose. It shows how excited I am to be a part of this community."— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) March 24, 2015
Between the truck and the all-new Bills-blue tattoo, Rex is clearly all in on Buffalo. This is going to be fun.
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
Well, here's one way to get a boy's attention to ask him to prom, if he's a New York Jets fan.
Sarah Kardonsky of Division Avenue High School at Levittown, N.Y., decided to go all out with her #promposal. She asked her friend, Michael Pagano, to prom by getting multiple Jets players, including cornerback Antonio Cromartie, to film a video, with every one of them asking Michael to go to prom with Sarah.
(UPDATE: The story gets even better. Kardonsky told NJ.com that Pagano has autism, and asked her to prom first. Kardonsky had a date, she told NJ.com, but "I talked to my other date who was okay with me doing this and i wanted to make it special for him!")
Here's guessing a simple note would have worked too, but this is a pretty impressive effort. Here's the video she posted on Facebook, which was played in her class.
The Jets retweeted the reaction shot to the video, which had to add to what must have been a pretty surreal day for Michael and Sarah.
So there are two truths following Sarah's gesture: It created a memory both students will remember forever, and nobody at Division Avenue High School is ever, ever beating Sarah's #promposal. And also, nice job by the Jets to make it happen.
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As you read the following report below, keep one thing in mind: Tampering in the NFL is rampant and stupid.
Now, the news from Pro Football Talk is that the New York Jets are filing tampering charges against the New England Patriots over comments made by Robert Kraft about Darrelle Revis because, well, the Patriots had filed charges previously against the Jets regarding the same player and the other owner (Woody Johnson), and I'm rubber and you're glue and anything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.
This is embarrassing.
The Jets absolutely tampered when Johnson said he would want Revis, then under contract to the Patriots, back on his team. And for this, their wrists should be slapped firmly for this. Like maybe losing a timeout in the first meeting at Foxborough. Or Johnson being forced to join the Patriots at the White House for the Super Bowl ceremony. For those drunk-on-victory-champagne Patriots fans who expect the Jets' first-round (or second- or third-round) pick, feel free to — Aerosmith style — dream on.
Likewise, the Jets coming back and nah-na-nah-na-nah-na filing charges back, it just comes off as petty and stupid. Something befitting of the Jets, who often find themselves on the little-brother end of this relationship.
For the record, here's what Kraft had to say Monday, which drew the Jets' tampering charges:
“I speak as a fan of the New England Patriots,” Kraft said, according to CSN New England's Tom Curran. "We wanted to keep him, we wanted him in our system. We have certain disciplines and we had hoped it would work out. It didn’t. We just don’t think about the short-term decisions. For example, next year we have three very good young defensive players coming up [for contracts] and we have to factor that we just don’t look at this year, we look out at the next few years. We’ve done OK doing that.
[The Jets] are the team that drafted him. I think he feels a great commitment there, so we understand his going back, and we’re sorry he didn’t stay with us.”
As a reminder, here's what Johnson said about Revis back in December:
"Darrelle is a great player and if I thought I could have gotten Darrelle for that [amount], I probably would've taken him. And it was our best judgment to do what we did. Darrelle's a great player — I'd love for Darrelle to come back."
Not to say that the Patriots aren't guilty of being small, too. The irony is that they likely decided — title or not — that keeping Revis for 2015 wasn't terribly likely well before Johnson ever opened his naive mouth about his favorite cornerback that he regretted seeing go to the rivals up the coast. So when Johnson expressed interest in bringing Revis back in December, the Patriots figured — hey, why not try to kick the Jets a little more while we're up and they're down?
Again, the whole thing is dumb, dumb, dumb. We understand the rules are in place for a certain reason, but teams can't even protect themselves by saying a hypothetical situation even if they qualify it by saying that player belongs to another team. Really, no one outside the league cares about this stuff.
Rivalries are great, and this one has taken on several lifeforms, but this chapter should be burned by the publisher.
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When last we saw Pete Carroll, he was slinking off the field after Super Bowl XLIX, having made perhaps the most boneheaded decision in football history. Well, it's seven weeks later, and guess who's back, photobombing ESPN's John Clayton during a Sportscenter hit:
Was he lost or deliberately skulking? With Carroll, you're never quite sure, but afterward, he noted his motive:
The reference, of course, is to whether or not Clayton actually has a hidden ponytail, an urban legend best given life by a classic Sportscenter commercial:
The offseason is just the best, ain't it?
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
With free agency 2015 on life support and the majority of the top talents off the board, NFL teams’ needs have been reshuffled. Now the draft has come squarely into focus, with only a few major veteran options — hello, Adrian Peterson — likely to seismically alter the course from this point on.
Here’s a look (without any projected trades, mind you) of how the first two rounds could go with about five weeks until the draft:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Florida State QB Jameis Winston
Lovie Smith is playing coy with his team’s draft board, and though a team source told Shutdown Corner no final decision has been made on the pick, it’s believed to be Winston. Maybe the Bucs get blown away with a trade offer, but that’s not likely to happen. Instead, they’ll roll the dice on greatness and find ways to protect Winston and shield him from the distractions of being in the NFL spotlight.
2. Tennessee Titans — USC DT-DE Leonard Williams
Our gut feeling right now is that the Titans are not enamored with Marcus Mariota. Short of finding a long-term solution at QB, they’ll instead continue to upgrade a front seven that should be markedly better with Williams, Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo and Co. on the attack. The Titans don’t have the most daunting opposing quarterbacks on their schedule this season and should hope to win close games with defense.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr.
Finding an edge rusher will be one of the primary goals for Gus Bradley, David Caldwell and crew after a fruitful free-agency period. They are seeking to add depth across the board, but they need someone to come rip off the front side and live in the backfield. Even if he plays only 40-50 snaps a game, Fowler and his hot motor will be a huge upgrade.
4. Oakland Raiders — West Virginia WR Kevin White
The Raiders didn't land a front-line receiver in free agency and will need to find someone who can help Derek Carr grow. White has been the prospect who has ascended the most in the past calendar year and he fits the old-school Raiders mold of the height-weight-speed prospect who also plays angry. A perfect fit, just edging out the smoother, less explosive Amari Cooper.
5. Washington Redskins — Clemson OLB Vic Beasley
New Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan surprised many when he took Aldon Smith with the seventh pick in the draft in 2011 and he could open eyes again by taking Beasley here over a few more hyped pass-rush prospects. Beasley might not have Smith’s length, but he has the rare burst to give the Redskins its first pair of 10-sack players (with Ryan Kerrigan coming off the other side) since 2009.
6. New York Jets — Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Shocked? Don’t be. Oh, the Jets are not likely to take Gurley, coming off ACL surgery, this high in the draft. But the Jets brass — which are working out Mariota at week’s end up in Oregon — won’t take a quarterback high if they are not blown away. Instead, they’ll select the player who could be the quarterback’s best friend in time if Gurley's knee looks good at the Indianapolis medical re-test next month. Although I am not projecting trades, the Cleveland Browns could be a team interested in moving into this spot for Mariota, and Gurley still could be on the board when the Jets swing back around. There's also a rumble that the Miami Dolphins are high on Gurley.
7. Chicago Bears — Washington DT Danny Shelton
Jay Ratliff, who turns 34 at the end of the preseason, technically could play the nose. But why pass on a three-down defensive lineman who never came off the field for the Huskies and who could help solidify a position that has been a sore spot? Shelton is a two-gap hydrant, and flanked by Lamarr Houston, Ray McDonald, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and Jarvis Jenkins, the Bears might actually — gasp — not be a wreck against the run.
8. Atlanta Falcons — Nebraska OLB-DE Randy Gregory
The Falcons' free-agent edge signings have been anything but edgy. Brooks Reed? Please. Give us Gregory, the mantis-like rusher who doesn’t play as fast as you’d think a 235-pounder would, and his tape can be inconsistent, but his upside is undeniable. Gregory also has a little dog in him, which is more than you can say for half this Falcons defense, which is seeking a transplant. Dan Quinn could use more hombres, just like he had in Seattle.
9. New York Giants — Stanford OT Andrus Peat
Hardest pick I had to make. Could I see them going Peat or La’el Collins, whose guard flexibility might be a tipping point? Of course. Would a rush end or linebacker make sense? Indeed. What about a safety, given the enormous need there? Sure, but general manager Jerry Reese doesn’t tend to reach for players such as Landon Collins. In the end I settled on Peat, who could be some teams’ fourth-rated tackle but might appeal to the Giants for his right-left tackle capability, his maturity and readiness to play now and for the team’s need to give better sanctuary for Eli Manning.
10. St. Louis Rams — Alabama WR Amari Cooper
They almost can’t screw this up. Jeff Fisher’s love for SEC players combined with the Rams’ annual need for a receiver who can make a play on his own come together in a no-brainer pick. You want to trade for an occasionally inaccurate quarterback in Nick Foles? Well, it certainly looks a lot better with Cooper running down his passes. He can run the full route tree, line up all over the lot and has No. 1 “X” receiver potential.
11. Minnesota Vikings — Iowa OT-OG Brandon Scherff
The vogue thing to do is project them a running back, in lieu of some future Adrian Peterson trade. Well, that’s not us. Instead, we’ll project the Vikings to seek a major upgrade elsewhere: at guard, where Charlie Johnson and Vlad Ducasse were bad a year ago and where Joe Berger is best served as a first man off the bench. Brandon Fusco’s return helps, and perhaps 2014 draft pick David Yankey can play eventually. But the bull-strong Scherff could be a Day 1 starter inside or at right tackle once Phil Loadholt is dumped (his contract is up after 2016, but he could be cut after this season without a major hit).
12. Cleveland Browns — Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
We admit it’s not likely Mariota will float softly to the Browns here, but we’ll say that they are the most likely ones to end up with him should he get by the Jets at No. 6. The Browns appear to feel as safe about Johnny Manziel at quarterback as they do about Justin Gilbert at cornerback, which is to say not very much. If it means trading up to secure a player they know and respect (QB coach Kevin O’Connell has worked with Mariota closely), then so be it.
13. New Orleans Saints — Missouri OLB-DE Shane Ray
Ray probably would have come off the board sooner had he not been hurt and unable to participate in the scouting combine, where fellow rushers Beasley and Bud Dupree put on a show. The Saints would have to be thrilled to land a pass rusher with the kind of energy and aggressiveness as Ray here. In time, he could be a high-impact defender and a perfect match for what Sean Payton and Rob Ryan want in their rebuilt defense.
14. Miami Dolphins — Louisville WR Devante Parker
Parker fills the need of the bigger, outside-the-numbers receiver the Dolphins still lack and a great intermediate complement to Jarvis Landry working underneath and Kenny Stills going deep. That allows the passing game to cover all three levels and give emerging quarterback Ryan Tannehill a game-changing talent in what will be his most important season to date.
15. San Francisco 49ers — Oregon DL Arik Armstead
With the possible retirement of Justin Smith, the release of Ray McDonald and the incomplete returns of Tank Carradine, the 49ers’ bulwark could use reinforcement. They signed Darnell Dockett as a stopgap improvement, and he could help the still-emerging Armstead learn what it takes to be a pro.
16. Houston Texans — LSU OT La’el Collins
Collins can play tackle or guard and likely would be a Day 1 starter inside at guard for this team. He’s tough, quiet, businesslike and packs a big wallop for a player who is not massive. Collins is especially tough in the run game and can assist an offense that likely will remain ground-heavy as it seeks to establish an identity in the passing game.
17. San Diego Chargers — UCLA QB Brett Hundley
This is a stunner. But start the talk about Philip Rivers leaving after this season. Coincidence, eh? Rivers was drafted in Round 1 when Drew Brees was the Chargers’ entrenched starter prior to his contract ending, and history could be playing out again. Interestingly, Hundley reached out to Rivers for advice on how to be a pro and break down film. Chargers head coach Mike McCoy can hit up his former NFC South rival, Bruins head coach Jim Mora for info on Hundley. Hundley must get faster and more decisive in his reads to be a successful rhythm quarterback in the NFL, but he’ll have a year to learn from two good quarterback minds in McCoy and Frank Reich. Is this a reach? It looks that way, but the Chargers might not have much of a choice.
18. Kansas City Chiefs — Miami OT Ereck Flowers
With Jeremy Maclin on board for Andy Reid’s offense, it is not imperative that the Chiefs reach for a receiver here if they don’t want to. Instead, we’ll project them to take a dancing-bear type in Flowers, who fits the Reid mold for linemen and can factor in at guard and tackle. Flowers can be grabby and needs to work on his pass protection, but this could be an excellent player in time with one of the best groomers of OL talent.
19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills) — Florida State OL Cameron Erving
The former defensive tackle turned offensive tackle turned center in college has unique versatility and appears pegged to be an NFL starter on the inside. Although the team has Alex Mack, fresh off a huge extension a year ago, at center, the Browns can walk away after the 2015 season and not owe him a dime in dead money. Erving can project to either guard position, too, and could help make a great group up front with emerging star Joel Bitonio.
20. Philadelphia Eagles — Michigan State CB Trae Waynes
Size, speed and man-coverage ability make Waynes very appealing to Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis, who played a lot of Cover 1 a year ago but didn’t have the cover guys to pull it off. Waynes was put on an island in Pat Narduzzi’s demanding scheme a year ago and was mostly great, seeming to struggle only in off coverage against quicker receivers on short stuff. Clean that up and Waynes could be an All-Pro.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — Alabama S Landon Collins
What do you get for the team that has everything (except a quarterback)? A quarterback! OK, short of that, the Bengals take a top-tier talent and athlete who fits the mold of recent college safeties who have seen their limitations come to light in the NFL. Collins, though, has good playmaking traits and could be a good starter in time. Starting Bengals safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson both are heading into the final years of their deals, and the depth behind them is barren with Taylor Mays likely gone.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers — Kentucky OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree
The Steelers’ brass was at Dupree’s pro day, when he put on a show. (Including head coach Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert, who wined and dined Dupree at dinner that night.) With Jason Worilds retired and Jarvis Jones not yet fulfilling his potential, the Steelers need an edge disruptor. Dupree has the traits to be a read-and-react playmaker on the outside, even if he might never be a 12-sack player.
23. Detroit Lions — Texas DT Malcom Brown
This would be a nice fit alongside Haloti Ngata in the Lions’ remade line. Brown can penetrate and rush the passer from the “under” slot while Ngata occupies multiple blockers and holds the fort. With Ngata drawing double teams, Brown can do his best work against single blocking. There are quality guards on each of the NFC North opponents, and the Lions try to counter that with Browns’ penetrative skills.
24. Arizona Cardinals — Virginia OLB Eli Harold
The Cardinals have been looking for a power runner to complement Andre Ellington this offseason and provide a nice play-action generator for Carson Palmer, but not here — not unless Gurley were to fall. Instead, we’ll project the angular rusher Harold who can fill an edge-rushing void and find a role almost immediately.
25. Carolina Panthers — Florida OT D.J. Humphries
The Charlotte native grew up a short car ride from Bank of America Stadium and could be a perfect positional and mentality fit for what the Panthers need and seek in their players. The coaches and scouts got to know him at a dinner recently and can plug him in at either tackle spot as a fiery and athletic competitor.
26. Baltimore Ravens — ex-Washington CB Marcus Peters
The Ravens will gamble on a good-talent/questionable-character player when Ozzie Newsome can peel back skin and look into their heart. What Newsome might see is a competitor who made mistakes with the Huskies because of immaturity and arrogance but one who has tried to atone for those during the pre-draft process with his hat-in-hand approach to NFL teams.
27. Dallas Cowboys — Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson
Mo Claiborne might be a lost cause, Brandon Carr is a financial albatross and Orlando Scandrick, the Cowboys’ best corner, is best-suited to play inside. That means the Cowboys will have to eschew the big splash and attack a need with a player who shows some fire and vinegar that hearkens back to the Cowboys of yore. Johnson plays bigger than his size and could be a fine NFL corner.
28. Denver Broncos — Florida State NT Eddie Goldman
The loss of Terrance Knighton leaves nose tackle as a big void, one that Sylvester Williams isn’t best-suited to fill. New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will run his preferred 3-4 system, and he tends to favor more one-gapping, gap-shooting nose tackles to play over the center. That’s why the edge here goes to Goldman over Phillips’ namesake …
29. Indianapolis Colts — Oklahoma NT Jordan Phillips
The Colts have sought more big bodies up front to help stop the run, which has loomed as the defensive Achilles heel. Josh Chapman might turn out to be a good rotational player, but that should not stop GM Ryan Grigson from pulling the trigger on Phillips, who has passed teams’ medical checks. That means the physically blessed nose — even with inconsistent tape — should be off the board by this point.
30. Green Bay Packers — Florida State CB P.J. Williams
GM Ted Thompson is able to sync need and talent here with a competitive corner who is capable of playing inside or out and has good No. 2 potential. He has swagger and make-up speed and fill multiple roles. Like Tramon Williams, one of the men he’d be helping replace in Green Bay, P.J. Williams can be a bit handsy and will need to learn proper NFL technique, but he’s a fiery football player who is a nice fit.
31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle Seahawks) — ex-Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham
The Saints have been sniffing around the draft’s bigger receivers, and they could hit a home run here with DGB if they’re convinced that he has matured and will be able to handle a city with a lot of distractions. Retaining Marques Colston would help provide Green-Beckham a good mentor; Ray, his former Mizzou teammate, can give him some familiarity, too. The Saints could help replace the Jimmy Graham route tree in a creative way, splitting up his role in the offense with DBG and Josh Hill and still stay dangerous.
32. New England Patriots — Washington LB Shaq Thompson
The Patriots could use help on the offensive and defensive lines, but Bill Belichick can’t help pulling the trigger here on a versatile, intriguing piece capable of filling a variety of roles. For years, he has been seeking a bigger safety type of player — a hybrid linebacker-safety — to cover backs and tight ends and use as a mismatch player. Thompson might be it, and his slow 40-yard dash puts him in the position for the Patriots to snag a top-20 talent who might one day replace Jerod Mayo (whose contract might need to be addressed). And hey, Thompson is also a dynamite special-teamer and might also factor in as a running back. No one squeezes more from the 53-man roster than Belichick.
33. Tennessee Titans — Pitt OT T.J. Clemmings
First-round talent could be a Day 1 starter for a team wanting to re-establish a ground game.
34. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa
The Bucs went after Greg Hardy but end up finding a cheaper, less concerning alternative as a rusher.
35. Oakland Raiders — Mississippi State DE Preston Smith
Like the Derek Carr pick a year ago, this could end up being one of the best values of the draft early in Round 2.
36. Jacksonville Jaguars — Florida State CB Ronald Darby
Some believe they could look at a running back here, but we’ll project them a gifted corner in need of polish.
37. New York Jets — Washington OLB Hau’oli Kikaha
If they pass on an edge rusher in Round 1, they might not be able to resist one here.
38. Washington Redskins — South Carolina OG A.J. Cann
A blue-collar guard who fits what Jay Gruden wants in a run blocker. Day 1 starter.
39. Chicago Bears — Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong
We were this close to projecting them Amari Cooper in Round 1, so we’ll come back with a receiver here.
40. New York Giants — Utah CB Eric Rowe
Could also project to safety, which he played previously.
41. St. Louis Rams — Oregon OT Jake Fisher
First-round type of talent fits the athletic mold the Rams seek up front.
42. Atlanta Falcons — Minnesota TE Maxx Williams
Defensive help still needed, but Williams fills the Tony Gonzalez void nicely.
43. Cleveland Browns — Michigan WR-TE Devin Funchess
Losing Jordan Cameron, the Browns need another big athlete on the outside to throw to.
44. New Orleans Saints — UCLA ILB Eric Kendricks
An absolute steal at this point, Kendricks would be an upgrade over Curtis Lofton.
45. Minnesota Vikings — Mississippi State LB Benadrick McKinney
The Vikings get a versatile, instinctive
46. San Francisco 49ers — TCU LB Paul Dawson
The run on inside linebackers continue with this feisty, athletically limited playmaker.
47. Miami Dolphins — Connecticut CB Byron Jones
The Dolphins never shy away from combine stars, but Jones can play ball, too.
48. San Diego Chargers — Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Prediction: The Chargers will draft a running back in the first or second round. This works well.
49. Kansas City Chiefs — Miami WR Phillip Dorsett
Think of him as DeSean Jackson without the head case.
50. Buffalo Bills — Baylor QB Bryce Petty
If Rex Ryan is coming to Waco to scout you, he’s interested. A good talent, personality fit.
51. Houston Texans — USC WR Nelson Agholor
Could be a surprisingly productive receiver in Bill O’Brien’s offense.
52. Philadelphia Eagles — Central Florida WR Breshard Perriman
Big, physical receiver who can run — just have to work on those drops.
53. Cincinnati Bengals — Stanford CB Alex Carter
Nearly the entire secondary is up for free agency after this season, so depth needed.
54. Detroit Lions — Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
The Lions have been mining through the RB class to find a starting-caliber talent.
55. Arizona Cardinals — Boise State RB Jay Ajayi
A perfect, physical fit in Bruce Arians’ offense to complement Andre Ellington.
56. Pittsburgh Steelers — Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi
Breno Giacomini was a free-agent miss and might have only 2015 to change that.
57. Carolina Panthers — Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Deep speed and special-teams prowess (Smith’s a fine gunner) make this a slam-dunk selection.
58. Baltimore Ravens — Auburn WR Sammie Coates
The Ravens need a deep threat to replace Torrey Smith, and that’s all Coates does. For now.
59. Denver Broncos — Florida State OG Tre Jackson
A quality plug-and-play pick here with a fairly high floor and lower ceiling.
60. Dallas Cowboys — Miami (Fla.) RB Duke Johnson
The Darren McFadden signing was far from enough. Johnson gives them more juice.
61. Indianapolis Colts — Miami (Ohio) CB Quentin Rollins
Grigson loves finding players with unique backgrounds; former point guard Rollins can develop over time.
62. Green Bay Packers — Miami (Fla.) Denzel Perryman
Concerning that he came off field in passing situations, but he's a possible rookie starter inside.
63. Seattle Seahawks — Oregon C Hroniss Grasu
GM John Schneider was on hand at Oregon’s pro day to witness Max Unger’s potential replacement.
64. New England Patriots — Ohio State DT Michael Bennett
Great value here, but Bennett has seen his buzz cool a bit since the national title because of a hamstring injury.
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The Chicago Bears apparently care less about defensive lineman Ray McDonald's off-field issues than the San Francisco 49ers did.
The Bears signed McDonald to a contract, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, after the 49ers released him in December. He was investigated on suspicion of sexual assault in a case last year that remains open. McDonald hasn't been charged in relation to the case and has sued the woman who brought up the charges against him.
But the Niners saw a "pattern of poor decision-making" as justification for his release, which they termed a "termination." That pattern included a prior incident in which McDonald was implicated in a domestic abuse case involving his fiancée last August, but the team had stood by him through that and McDonald was cleared in the case by November.
The connection to Chicago is new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who is running John Fox's defense with the Bears and expected to implement a similar 3-4 scheme to what Fangio ran as the 49ers' coordinator the past several years.
You have to wonder if the Bears protected themselves in the language of the contract against any potential legal trouble should land on McDonald, who turns 31 next season, again. Terms and length of the deal were not reported yet.
McDonald has been a starter the past four seasons for the Niners and had collected 19.5 sacks and four forced fumbles over his eight-year career.
The Bears also signed former Washington Redskins defensive end Jarvis Jenkins to help fortify the defense.
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The Adrian Peterson-Minnesota Vikings saga is probably going to get worse before it gets better.
The battle ramped up this week when his agent, Ben Dogra, plainly said the star running back doesn't want to be with the Vikings anymore.
"We want out of Minnesota," Dogra said, according to USA Today.
That has been the speculation for many weeks, but now there's no ambiguity remaining. The relationship is over, at least in the mind of one side. Dogra had told ESPN.com previously: "I don't think it's in Adrian's best interest to play in Minnesota. Why would it be?"
Ah, but Peterson doesn't have the control to determine where he plays next season. That would be the Vikings, with whom he is under contract through 2017. Coach Mike Zimmer, general manager Rick Spielman and team co-owner Mark Wilf have said clearly they want Peterson on the Vikings in 2015. They won't cut him and they won't trade him, they say, and that's not going over well. Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported last week that Dogra refused an invitation to have a dinner meeting with Spielman during the owners' meetings this week.
"Adrian is a member of our football team. He is under contract," Spielman said to ESPN.com in a statement that's consistent with everything the Vikings have said about the situation. "We are focused on the 2015 season and expect Adrian to be a part of that. Our whole focus is getting ready for the season with Adrian."
And away we go.
The Vikings probably could get out of the situation easily (Robinson reported the Arizona Cardinals would entertain trading a second-round pick for Peterson, for instance), but why would they? The Vikings have all the leverage.
Minnesota should have a good team in 2015. They finished very well, with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater making strides, and that was without Peterson, who missed all but one game due to the court case regarding him injuring his son while disciplining him with a switch, and then the NFL suspension that followed. From the Vikings' perspective, the second-round pick or whatever they'd get for trading Peterson wouldn't be nearly as valuable as having the former NFL MVP back in the lineup. It's not like Dogra's public comments are helping Minnesota's trade leverage either. And cutting him is out of the question because it's not like his $12.75 million base salary could be re-invested this late in free agency.
So it becomes pretty simple. Peterson plays for the Vikings at age 30 (and we know he's 30 because you don't ride a camel into your party for birthday No. 28 or 29), or he passes on $12.75 million in salary this year. After sitting out almost all of last year, that doesn't seem like a realistic option for Peterson.
So Peterson can ask for a divorce all he wants, but the Vikings would have to choose to downgrade their football team to accomodate his wish. There's no upside for them to get rid of their best player. So, good luck with the Vikings this year, Adrian.
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The NFL can claim the veterans combine is a success.
The first player who participated in Sunday's event now has found an NFL home, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Ex-Jaguars & West Texas A&M WR Nathan Slaughter has agreed to terms with #Cardinals, source said. 1st veteran combine player to get a job.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 23, 2015
The 5-foot-9, 184-pound Slaughter was a four-year starter at West Texas A&M who posted a 44 1/2-inch vertical jump after college and returned three kickoffs for TDs as a senior. He went undrafted last year and spent time with the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars before being cut by both teams.
Slaughter ran the fastest 40-yard dash Sunday — outshining higher-profile players such as Brady Quinn and Michael Sam — and was signed by the local Cardinals.
And speaking of which, fastest unofficial WR 40 time was Nathan Slaughter (West Texas A&M) with a 4.55.— Eric Adelson (@eric_adelson) March 22, 2015
So far he's the only one signed from the 105-player event, which included past first-rounders such as Quinn, Adam Carriker and Jamaal Anderson. Interesting that a little known receiver would be the one to get a new contract first. We'll see if the veterans combine is a one-and-done event or if teams have interest in bringing it back next year.
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The NFL's television blackout rule was outdated, and now we'll have a chance to see if it made any difference.
The NFL teams approved a suspension of its blackout rule, which stated that a team must sell out its stadium 72 hours before kickoff or else the game could not be broadcast in the home market, for the 2015 preseason and regular season. The NFL has had its blackout rule since 1973.
As NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said on Twitter, there were no blackouts in the 2014 regular season. Without the threat of a television blackout, the league will be able to see if it affects attendance figures. In the playoffs at the end of the 2013 season, three of the four games on wild-card weekend were in danger of not selling out with the local broadcast being blacked out, but all three games beat the blackout deadline. The teams scrambled to sell out, getting help from corporate partners.
There has been criticism of the rule for years. Last year the FCC voted to stop government approval of blackout rules, though the NFL could still enforce blackouts through its television partners. Now that there's no local television blackout threat, for this season at least, the NFL can see if there's any threat to its ticket sales at the stadium.
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The NFL's experiment of having an early start for one of its London games worked out so well, now it's doubling down with another experiment for one of those early London games this season. And this one could be pretty big.
For the first time the NFL will have a regular-season game on a digital platform to be streamed worldwide, when the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars face off in London on Oct. 25 at 9:30 a.m. ET. The game will still be available on television in the Buffalo and Jacksonville markets, the Florida Times-Union said. But most of the world will be watching it online.
Details such as which Internet site the game will be streamed on haven't been determined yet, but it's an interesting move for the NFL. The Wall Street Journal said the game will not be on DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket, like its other out-of-market games. If the live stream is met with positive reviews, like the early start time in London was last year, it could open up another medium for the NFL to broadcast its games. And with so many people watching shows and games via mobile devices, it would seem that an online option will be widely accepted by many fans. It would also open up another revenue stream for the NFL. With so many sports broadcasts available live online, it makes sense for the NFL to follow that plan too, or at least test the waters.
There would likely be a lot to work out before the NFL could make a more aggressive move to digital platforms. One would imagine the television partners that prop up the NFL financially would be leery and DirecTV, which just agreed to an eight-year, $12 billion deal with the NFL last year, could have a lot to lose. But it's an intriguing one-game experiment by the NFL, then the league can see where it goes from there.
Depending on the NFL's long-term plan, a fairly nondescript Bills-Jaguars game could end up being historic.
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Former NFL safety Darren Sharper pleaded guilty to sexual assault and attempted sexual assault in Arizona and was sentenced to nine years in federal prison and lifetime probation as part of a "global resolution" to his case that includes at least nine women in four states accusing him of sexual assault.
The Los Angeles Times said he was also to enter a new plea in Los Angeles on Monday morning as part of his "global resolution" to his cases in which his sentences will run concurrently, the Times said. Sharper pleaded guilty in the Arizona case via video teleconference. Sharper has been in jail in Los Angeles since Feb. 27, 2014. The disgraced former All-Pro also has hearings in Las Vegas this week and New Orleans next month, the Associated Press said.
Sharper, who played with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and was part of a New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl championship team, made five Pro Bowls and then worked with the NFL Network after he retired following the 2010 season. Sharper was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women when they were unconscious.
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As the retirement of 24-year-old San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland over concussion fears signaled a step toward players making long-term health a priority over short-term football fame, raising concerns about the sport's future, the NFL remains steadfast "the game has never been safer or better."
In a wide-ranging interview with Peter King for The MMQB, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell echoed the statement issued by his senior vice president of health and safety policy, Jeff Miller, who in the aftermath of Borland's announcement last week declared, "By any measure, football has never been safer."
The MMQB: You had a surprising event last week with a 24-year-old linebacker for the 49ers, Chris Borland, retiring. What was your initial impression when you heard it?
Goodell: You have to respect his decision. It’s his judgment. As you point out, players retire all of the time. They make those determinations. They balance a lot of issues that are sometimes personal to them.
The MMQB: Do you view it as a singular issue? Are you in any way concerned that moms and dads of America will look at this and be concerned about the future of football?
Goodell: This isn’t something that came up yesterday for us. We’ve been working on the safety of our game throughout our history — with an incredible focus on it in my personal time as commissioner ... We’ve seen a reduction of concussions by 25 percent just last year. That’s continuing a three-year trend on that issue. We saw a lot of those techniques in the reduction of those penalties, and it hasn’t impacted the quality of the game. You’d have to admit that the quality of the game is outstanding. There was a lot of criticism several years ago that we were changing the game. We are changing the game, for the better. The game has never been better or safer. And I think that the statistics bear that out.
Goodell's reaction to Borland's retirement is almost word-for-word identical to Miller's full statement, suggesting the league had a high-level internal discussion about maintaining a unified front in reacting to news of a 2014 NFL draft third-round pick hanging up his cleats after just one successful season.
Of course, it comes as no surprise a billion-dollar company has discussed its approach to national news as potentially harmful to its future business as Borland's story, whether the threat is real or perceived.
In his MMQB interview, Goodell pointed to increased participation in football at the high school level, the NFL's hiring of Brigham and Women's Hospital president Dr. Elizabeth Nabel as its first chief health and medical adviser and a 2012 NIOSH study's revelation that NFL players live longer than the average American male as three reasons the game is making strides toward a greater tomorrow.
What we want are facts to be out there. ... When they hear the facts, they’ll realize that the game has an awful lot to offer. While there’s risk of injury, there’s risk in any physical activity. The way the game is being taught is making it a safer game and a better game.
As the NIOSH study itself acknowledges, NFL players should live longer than the average American male, since for the most part they are physically fit. Whether they are mentally fit is a different story. It's impossible to ignore the recent string of suicides tied to concussions involving retired players. Yet, in some ways, Goodell's statement falls just shy of saying Borland made an uninformed decision.
For the record, Borland told ESPN's "Outside the Lines," "I just honestly want to do what's best for my health. From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk."
Obviously, Borland's announcement is a personal choice, and it's one the league also must recognize is a difficult decision for most players to make from a socioeconomic standpoint. Not every NFL player's father owns a financial advisory firm bearing his name, so others may not be as quick to return a $463,077 portion of their signing bonus, as Borland suggested he would on CBS' "Face the Nation."
In theory, this allows Goodell to brush Borland's retirement aside while maintaining "the game has never been safer," even as others argue you could just as easily remove the "r" from the end of that statement.
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Perhaps football fans in the Southern Hemisphere will be unaware what a farce the NFL's Pro Bowl is.
The NFL is reportedly considering moving its 2017 all-star game to Brazil, Fox Sports' Alex Marvez reported. That will be a topic of conversation at the NFL's owners' meetings in Phoenix.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has a longstanding goal of hitting $25 billion in annual revenue and thinks that growing the game internationally would help with that. That's why the NFL has cheapened the competitive balance of its regular season by moving selected games to London. It appears that push will continue, even after a successful Pro Bowl in the contiguous United States this past season.
The Pro Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. was a sellout. When the Pro Bowl was in Miami at the end of the 2009 season, more than 70,000 people attended. In both cases, the NFL moved the game from its usual location in Hawaii to the Super Bowl city. You'd figure momentum from that, and giving hometown fans access to the league's stars on a rotating basis, would be a draw. But Brazil is apparently an option.
It's not like Brazil, which hosted the most recent World Cup, doesn't have the stadiums or isn't an enticing destination for players. But it won't help the Pro Bowl's key problem, which is that the game doesn't look much like football. Players don't want to get injured in an end-of-the-season exhibition game, and it's hard to play football if you don't want to hit. There's no way to fix that, either. That, and the failed idea to have team captains pick rosters instead of the traditional AFC vs. NFC format, has finally resulted in big television ratings drops.
A move to Brazil won't fix those issues. But perhaps the fans in South America would be less discerning when it comes to the quality of the Pro Bowl.
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Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson put part of his recently received playing-time bonus to good use.
Anderson, who broke out with 849 yards rushing last season, decided to surprise his grandmother with a brand new Honda CRV EX outside of her home in Vallejo, Calif.
Lucky for us, the moment was caught on film. Grandma was thrilled.
“I always told her that when I got to the NFL that I was going to buy her a new car and new house,” Anderson told the Denver Post. “She’s done so much for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her.”
Anderson wasn’t selected in the 2013 draft but made the Broncos’ roster out of training camp as an undrafted free agent. He had only seven rushes for 38 yards as a rookie but took advantage of added playing time in 2014 with 849 yards and eight touchdowns.
Now that he’s carved out a spot in the league, Anderson is giving back to those who helped get him there.
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In the where-were-you-a-year-ago news category, there's this dispatch from Buffalo News NFL writer Vic Carucci:
Hearing the #Browns are front-runners for next featured team on HBO Hard Knocks series.— Vic Carucci (@viccarucci) March 23, 2015
Oh. So yeah, there might be one or two storylines with this year's program. It would almost be a major disappointment — short of the madball Philadelphia Eagles or Rex Ryan's Buffalo Bills circus landing the show — if HBO didn't come to Berea, Ohio this summer.
Here's a random sampling of what we could be in store for this August:
• Is Johnny Manziel healthy, (still) wealthy and wise?
• Will Josh Gordon be selling used cars outside the team facility in a Terrell Owens-esque bird to the team and league?
• Can Josh McCown use his powers of motivation and extreme mediocrity for good?
• How many times will team owner Jimmy Haslam speak, and of those times, how many will his foot stay out of his mouth?
• Can a Browns receiver score a touchdown? (This is no farce.)
• Will all of head coach Mike Pettine's hair fall out?
OK, so that last one might be a bit anticlimactic. But this is a team that is made for this sort of spectacle, and things could go horribly wrong, as many people believe, or things could turn upside down and this could be the start of the feel-good story of the fall.
Either way, we're watching it. You know, if it happens.
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They say the worst thing you can tell a cop is that you had "one or two" after he pulls you over and asks how many drinks you had. It implies you've had many more.
By this metric, there will be roughly 12-15 NFL teams in Los Angeles in the next calendar year.
OK, perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves on that estimation. But judging from the words of New York Giants owner John Mara on the eve of the NFL owners' meetings, it appears that the league is fast-tracking a return to L.A. after 20-plus years of dormancy there without an NFL franchise. Or two, for that matter.
"I think there's going to be one or two teams playing in L.A. next year — 2016," Mara told Newsday's Bob Glauber. "Maybe a temporary stadium [next year], but I think — and this is just my opinion — that one or two teams will be playing somewhere in L.A. next year. But we'll see."
Which teams? Mara, not shockingly, declines to say. But we have the usual suspects: the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and, by most accounts the most likely and motivated candidates, the St. Louis Rams, whose owner, Stan Kroenke, happens to own a tract of land near the old Hollywood Park that, oh, might just make for a nice stadium for football. Kroenke, per reports, has submitted a report that includes stadiums plans for two teams to co-habitate.
Mara said the owners would not vote on the L.A. situation at this week's meetings but will be updated on the progress of the market, an indication that the league is doing advance work on the country's second-biggest TV market and whether it can successfully house two teams.
It appears that it's reaching foregone conclusion status quickly, even if this week might not provide more than rampant speculation.
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One of the toughest players of the NFL's generation of yore, Chuck Bednarik, has died. He was 89.
The former Philadelphia Eagles great and Pro Football Hall of Famer died Saturday morning following a brief illness at an assisted living facility in Richland, Pa., according to the team's official website.
The iconic two-way player, who played both center and linebacker at 233 pounds for the Eagles from 1949-62, helped define a generation.
"With the passing of Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles and our fans have lost a legend," Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. "Philadelphia fans grow up expecting toughness, all-out effort and a workmanlike attitude from this team and so much of that image has its roots in the way Chuck played the game.
"He was a Hall of Famer, a champion and an all-time Eagle. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this time."
One of the league's last true iron men, often playing all 60 minutes of a game, Bednarik came from humble roots — the son of a Slovakian immigrant steelworker — and served a tour in World War II that helped forge a toughness in his game. He helped make an instant impact to his team by leading the Eagles to a championship as a rookie in 1949.
"Concrete Charlie," as he was known, split time over the next several years between the two positions as two-way players became more of a dying breed in the NFL. But when injuries forced Bednarik, then 35 years old, back into a dual role in 1960, it might have been his finest hour.
One of the most indelible images of that generation came from the 1960 season when in November of that year, Bednarik delivered one of the hardest hits the game had ever seen — a blow that almost ended the career of fellow Hall of Famer Frank Gifford. Bednarik standing over Gifford, who was lying in a heap, came to be known simply as "The Tackle" or "The Hit" to some.
To cap off that season, Bednarik led his Eagles to another title in 1960 in one of the greatest finishes in championship game history. Playing 58.5 of the 60 minutes, Bednarik ended the game by tackling Green Bay Packers fullback Jim Taylor at the 10-yard line and screaming "This [expletive] game is over!"
It was the last time the Eagles won a championship.
Bednarik played another two seasons for the team and holds franchise records for most Pro Bowl appearances (eight) and seasons with the team (14). He played in 169 regular-season games, was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and had his No. 60 retired by the team in 1987. Bednarik also was a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and the 1950s All-Decade Team.
There will never be another Chuck Bednarik in the NFL.
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Update: 3/20 4:15 p.m. ET
One of Darren Sharper's attorney's told a Los Angeles judge that she is "planning a resolution of the rape charges" against Sharper in four different states, according to the Associated Press.
From the AP:
Attorney Blair Berk said Sharper would enter a plea Monday in two jurisdictions, including California, that would resolve sexual assault allegations also pending in New Orleans, Las Vegas and the Phoenix area.
Sharper is facing charges for allegedly drugging and raping women in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Tempe, Ariz.
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Longtime NFL safety Darren Sharper has been charged with rape in Las Vegas, according to the Associated Press.
Already facing sexual assault charges in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Arizona, Sharper is facing two more sexual assault charges in Las Vegas stemming from allegations from January 2014. Those allegations state that Sharper “forced sex on two women while they were incapable of resisting.” Each charge carries a potential sentence of 10 years to life.
The 39-year-old Sharper has been in jail in Los Angeles since Feb. 27 after pleading not guilty to drugging and raping two women in 2013. Additionally, Sharper been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting three other women in New Orleans in 2013 and indicted on charges of drugging three women and sexually assaulting two of them in 2013 in Tempe, Ariz.
Sharper played in the NFL for 14 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints before retiring in 2010. Sharper played in six Pro Bowls and was a six-time All Pro selection. He won a Super Bowl with the Saints in 2010.
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While the 2015 NFL free-agent class was once considered a deep one — before franchise tags, re-signings and hefty contracts took most top players off the market — New York Giants co-owner John Mara has a different take.
Speaking at length with members of the New York media, including the Post's Paul Schwartz, during a charity function, Mara defended his team's lack of a big splash by dubbing this year's class "mediocre."
“There were obviously some star players out there, but for the most part I thought it was a mediocre free-agent class,’’ Giants co-owner John Mara told reporters Thursday at the PAL’s William J. Duncan Center in Manhattan.
“And I think a lot of guys got paid more money than maybe they would have in other years because there was a lot of cap room out there. I think the guys who we got will help us, but we still have a long way to go.”
Mara told reporters his Giants pursued New England Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty and even put in a call to All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh before he signed with the Miami Dolphins, but came away empty-handed on big-name free agents while the crosstown rival Jets brought Pro Bowl cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie back into the fold for a combined $59 million guaranteed.
Meanwhile, the G-Men hold out hope the $21.275 million guaranteed they shelled out to a handful of under-the-radar free agents — Cowboys wideout/kick returner Dwayne Harris, Patriots running back Shane Vereen, Jaguars linebacker J.T. Thomas, Patriots linebacker Jonathan Casillas, Bengals right tackle Marshall Newhouse and Jets defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis — will help turn around a team that finished 6-10 last season.
Whether the Giants truly believe this free-agent class was a "mediocre" and overvalued one or they're selling that to their fanbase, Mara understands they "still have a long way to go" to regain control of the NFC East.
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St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald signed a four-year, $10 million deal after being picked in the first round of last year's NFL draft. He’s putting that money to good use.
Donald, last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, bought his dad a new truck earlier this week and made sure he captured the moment on camera.
He shared the video on Instagram. To say his dad was excited would be an understatement.
What a fantastic reaction.
Donald had 47 tackles and nine sacks in his first year in the league, earning a Pro Bowl selection. If he keeps producing like that he’ll probably be able to buy his dad whatever he wants in the coming years.
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The New England Patriots have been bracing for the rival New York Jets to re-acquire Darrelle Revis for a while, likely even before Jets owner Woody Johnson likely stepped over the line with his “love for Darrelle to come back” statement on Dec. 29.
When that happened, the Patriots cried foul over what they deemed to be clear tampering evidence and immediately filed charges with the league office. Prior to the start of free agency, they took that a step further. According to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta, the NFL sent an investigator— likely at the Patriots' request — to the Jets' facility as the free-agency machinations began.
It's not clear if the league's garrison, if you will, remained at the facility for the duration of the NFL's three-day negotiating window that began March 8, but the report says the official spoke with new Jets genral manager Mike Maccagnan and other front-office personnel about the team's pursuit of Revis.
The Jets, of course, signed Revis away from the Patriots. The teams' dislike for each other has yet another terrific chapter. The Patriots signed Revis last offseason and used his prowess to help them win a Super Bowl. Now he has left them for the Jets, his original team, who were willing to outspend the Patriots to get him back in a move of perfect poetic symmetry and drama.
Critics will laugh at the Patriots' sudden interest in other teams following the letter of the law stringently. After all, this is the franchise that has been cloaked in controversy and strife with the league office over Spygate and deflated balls and such, along with several other rule-bending or rule-skirting incidents over the years in which their guilt was roundly suspected but not proven.
For the rest of neutral masses, we sit back with our popcorn and watch this never-ending soap play out. Will the league find fault in the Jets' chess moves? We're not sure, but we are certain that this rivalry still has some great legs to it.
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The San Francisco 49ers are cursed. That's got to be it at this point.
After the firing of head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have undergone a series of dramatic changes, including a slew of free-agent departures and the retirement of linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.
Now they can add injury to insult with the news that reserve linebacker Chase Thomas has torn his ACL while working out at Stanford, according to sfgate.com. Thomas played for the Cardinal and made the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and added depth at outside linebacker, where the team is a bit thin beyond Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch.
Was Levi's Stadium built on a fault line? At this point, we'd expect no less. Things appear to be crumbling a bit in San Fran.
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One team's trash is another's treasure.
The Baltimore Ravens swiftly released running back Bernard Pierce after his arrest for a DUI this week (yet dragged their feet for months on Ray Rice hitting his wife), and it didn't take long for him to find a new team.
The Jacksonville Jaguars confirmed that they put in a successful waiver claim on Pierce, who joins a muddled running back group. Denard Robinson showed signs of life last season, but is he a lead runner? The same question could be asked of Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman, Storm Johnson and Pierce, who also are in the mix. Together, it might not be a bad group, but there certainly is no clear-cut starter identified yet.
Pierce first must find out how his legal situation plays out and is subject to a two-game league suspension because of his arrest, based on new personal conduct rules.
After a strong rookie season as Rice's backup on the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning 2012 team, Pierce has struggled. For his career, he has rushed 353 times for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns but only has averaged 3.3 yards per carry with a long run of 28 yards and was unable to keep the Ravens' starting job last season as Justin Forsett took it and flourished.
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The NFL's Twitter account could have done a more sterling job on this one.
When NFL.com's Ian Rapoport broke the news of former Dallas Cowboys defensive back Sterling Moore's one-year, $1.5 million agreement to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the league made a dramatic attempt to announce the deal -- except the social media folks had the 25-year-old headed to the San Diego Chargers.
It was a simple mistake, really, especially since the buccaneers were chargers of a sort when they attacked Spanish shipping vessels in the Caribbean Sea during the 17th century, but that didn't prevent Tampa Bay's own social media team from taking a rather humorous jab at the league for its mistake. All in good fun.
Rather than respond to the Bucs' shot, the NFL — normally known for its hilarious antics, particularly those disseminating from the commissioner's office — has since deleted its original tweet. Carry on.
Bowe, who spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, agreed to a two-year deal with the Browns, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Despite being second on the Chiefs with 60 catches in 2014, the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Bowe (and his $14 million cap hit) was released last week after the team signed Jeremy Maclin to a huge deal.
Bowe, along with the recently signed Brian Hartline, immediately becomes one of the go-to targets for Cleveland. The Browns return slot man Andrew Hawkins, but Josh Gordon is again facing a year-long suspension from the league for violating the substance abuse policy.
Overall in eight seasons in Kansas City, Bowe, a 2007 first-round pick, registered 532 catches for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns. He passed the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards in three different seasons and led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches in 2010.
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Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, told Fox Sports that general manager Rick Spielman informed him of the Vikings’ decision on Wednesday.
“It was important for me to relay the position the Vikings are taking to Adrian,” Dogra said. “I want to make sure there is absolutely no confusion whatsoever.”
Peterson, the 2012 NFL MVP, met with team owners Mark and Zygi Wolf and Spielman earlier this week and has voiced concerns about returning to the team for the 2015 season.
Peterson said last month that he is “uneasy” about rejoining Minnesota (the team wants to keep him) after the team put him on the commissioner’s exempt list in September. That decision from the Vikings stemmed from a grand jury indicting Peterson on child abuse charges.
Peterson later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor reckless injury charge in November for using a switch to discipline his four-year-old son. The NFL then suspended Peterson for the rest of the season. Peterson was later reinstated to the league on Feb. 26 when a federal judge ruled that his suspension should be vacated. When the suspension was vacated, the league put Peterson back on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Peterson still has three years remaining on his six-year, $96 million contract with the Vikings and is owed $12.75 million for the 2015 season. Since the Vikings won’t release him, the possibility of a trade could emerge if Peterson does not agree to return to the team.
Peterson, who will turn 30 on Saturday, has spent his entire career in Minnesota since the team drafted him seventh overall in 2007. In parts of eight seasons, Peterson has accumulated 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns rushing. He also has 208 catches for 1,715 yards and five scores in his career.
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The Miami Dolphins are not using their full allotment of five days. They have opted not to match the offer sheet signed by the Buffalo Bills and tight end Charles Clay.
Clay now will be a member of the Bills and yet another key addition to an offense that has imported several new projected starters as new head coach Rex Ryan and his staff continue to overhaul the team.
You'd have to expect that Clay — who signed for five years and $38 million ($20 million of it guaranteed) — will be a key contributor in a Bills' passing game that too often was dormant a year ago. But factor in Clay, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin, and the Bills' pass-catching options are quite interesting, even if Matt Cassel might be the one throwing them passes.
In an injury-plagued 2014 season, Clay was somewhat limited in catching 58 passes for 603 yards and three touchdowns. Even in his best season in 2013, though, Clay caught 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns. What Ryan might like best about Clay is that he showed toughness last season in playing 14 games through pain, improved as a run blocker and is still ascending at age 26.
The Dolphins clearly didn't feel the need to match that massive offer for Clay, a player they liked but likely didn't love at that price. They also have free-agent signing Jordan Cameron, who will replace Clay's pass-catching role; Dion Sims, a young No. 2 tight end with upside; and Arthur Lynch, who has some promise as the No. 3. The Dolphins also could draft another tight end.
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Once the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bowed out of the Greg Hardy sweepstakes, the Dallas Cowboys were negotiating against themselves.
And they won.
Pro Football Talk first reported the news, which was later confirmed on the Cowboys' official website.
The Cowboys' prize: A 26-year-old pass rusher, aka "Kraken," who has 27 sacks in his past 32 NFL games. The caveat: Hardy comes with baggage, including a possible suspension from the NFL for his involvement in a domestic abuse case that sidelined him all but the opening game of the 2014 season, which led to the Carolina Panthers not attempting to re-sign their former franchise-tagged player.
It also could cost the Cowboys a dear price — the same one-year value Hardy earned last season after he signed a one-year franchise tender.
It's a one-year deal for Greg Hardy in Dallas, that can be worth up to $13.1 million but that has a minimum base salary.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 18, 2015
That means Hardy will be a free agent for the third straight year in 2016. Per reports of the contract details he cannot be franchised or given the transition tag next year. But the Cowboys have inserted protections into the deal in the form of a 53-man per-game roster bonus, which protects the team against a possible suspension, plus other incentives.
For those who asked, "MPGARB" in Greg Hardy's one-year deal with Dallas is a 53-man per game roster bonus.... pic.twitter.com/pE9ZtXOfcw— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 18, 2015
The deal also falls in line with the Cowboys' recent run of fiscal (salary cap) responsibility, as Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson tweeted:
Greg Hardy signing = #Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones balancing 2015 cap between offense and defense. This will be part of the new fundamentals.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 18, 2015
If Hardy can avoid a lengthy league suspension — it could be up to six games — and keep out of trouble in Dallas, he could be a star again. Hardy doesn't turn 27 until the start of training camp and is the type of pass rusher the Cowboys need to make Rod Marinelli's defense effective. The Buccaneers had interest in Hardy, and he was set to choose between the two teams, but that was before the Bucs backed off, leaving Dallas alone in its pursuit of the troubled but talented player.
Hardy was charged with assaulting and communicating threats to his then-girlfriend last summer, and he landed on the commissioner’s exempt list — with the Panthers paying the entire $13.1 million tender — for the duration of last season while the case went to trial. Although he was initially convicted on both counts in a bench trial, the charges against Hardy eventually were dropped last month in the jury trial after the accuser failed to show in court, work with prosecutors and, ultimately, testify.
Still, the NFL is expected to suspend Hardy for a minimum of four games, and perhaps up to six, given the new punishment for domestic violence that commissioner Roger Goodell handed down last season in the wake of the slew of high-profile cases around the league. Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list and will need to be reinstated. The Associated Press reported:
The NFL has filed another lawsuit in North Carolina trying to gain access to info from Greg Hardy's first trial.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) March 18, 2015
In the complaint filed by the NFL, they argue they have the right to "examine and inspect exhibits admitted into evidence in a public..."— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) March 18, 2015
"...trial and currently held by the District Attorney."— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) March 18, 2015
The Cowboys could have a nice defensive front with Hardy, Demarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and decent depth at a position that one year ago appeared to be a weakness.
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The NFL's competition committee sets forth each March to better the game by considering proposed rule changes. What it usually ends up doing is adding more rules and confusing more people, including two important groups — fans and referees. Players and coaches, too.
Nonetheless, the beat goes on, and the league has issued its proposed rule changes, bylaw changes and resolution changes that will be discussed by the committee and eventually brought to the owners at the league meetings next week in Phoenix.
What's not on the list might is noteworthy.
The NFL will not bring to the committee a a specific proposal over two hot-button issues — the catch/no catch discussion that was spurred from the Dez Bryant play in the Dallas Cowboys' loss at the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs; and playoff expansion, an owner-driven agenda that at one point appeared to be on the front burner.
Also not on the list: no talk about removing kickoffs from the game, which was tossed around, and no discussion of narrower goal posts — two ideas that were implemented in January's Pro Bowl.
Among the key items that will be discussed for possible change:
• Timeout/coaches challenge: Under the proposal, coaches could initiate a challenge by calling a timeout after the play in question, which would eliminate everyone's favorite red flag and the coaches' socks in which they are so often sheathed. (We're sorry for this part, if it passes.) Teams would earn the timeout back if the challenge is successful.
• Reviewable penalties: The Detroit Lions asked that all penalties be subject to proposal. Good luck getting that one passed. We'd love to see it, but it's a long shot.
• Fixed cameras: The New England Patriots want them on sidelines, end lines in the back of the end zone and along goal lines to give replay officials another view of those key in-or-out calls that continue to occasionally befuddle officials.
• Longer extra points: The Patriots also proposed to move back extra-point attempts to the 15-yard line, but two-point attempts would remain at the standard 2-yard line. This could gain traction. This might be the Patriots trying to stick it to Adam Vinatieri, who missed a few longer XP attempts in the Pro Bowl. We're kidding. We think.
• Overtime adjustment: The Chicago Bears are submitting a proposal to give both teams one possession in overtime, which is different from the current setup. Now, if the opening-possession team goes down and scores a TD, it's ballgame. A field goal or a punt/turnover, and the other team gains possession.
• Roster size: One bylaw proposal would have teams needing to slim down their rosters — from 90 to 75 players in the offseason. So as the NFLPA has sought to expand the 53-man roster, this proposal goes the opposite direction.
• What the?! And in the strangest proposal we saw on the docket this season, the Indianapolis Colts are asking to allow a "bonus field goal attempt" after a successful two-point conversion. Yeah, we're very confused with this one that has, um, a bit of an XFL-ish feel to it.
Did Jim Irsay slip this one in?
Here goes the wording of the proposal: "If a kick results in a field goal by the offense, one point is awarded. An artificial or manufactured tee shall not be permitted to assist in the execution of a Try kick. ... The ball is dead as soon as it becomes evident that the kick has failed. If a Try results in a touchdown by the offense, two points are awarded, and the offense may elect to attempt a bonus field goal. If a touchdown is not scored, the Try is over at the end of the play. The mechanics and scoring rules of the bonus field goal are identical to the Try kick in Article 2(a), with the exception that the snap for the bonus field goal will be made from the 32-yard line (50-yard field goal). If the result of the bonus field goal ends in the offensive team scoring a touchdown (e.g., via fake field goal), it will be awarded one point."
Ugh, that last one just makes our head hurt. No thanks.
So bonus field-goal attempts make it, but not the Bryant issue or the playoff expansion. Frankly, we're surprised.
Long before San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland publicly revealed his retirement from the NFL after just one season, his family was aware that his professional football career could be a short one.
In fact, Borland told his parents following the 49ers final preseason game on Aug. 28 that he was leaning toward retiring after the 2014 season. Still, he planned on making an impact on the field – even if it was for only one season.
“He passed a note to his mom and I after the last preseason game, thinking this would be his last year,” Jeff Borland, Chris’ father, told the San Jose Mercury News. “At the same time, and this is very important, he also expressed he planned to go all out and not hold back whatsoever. He set the loftiest of goals, and he maybe came within an ankle injury of achieving them.”
Jeff Borland said even though he knew he would play only a year, Chris still wanted to prove that he could perform at the highest level.
“We kept it to ourselves. It wasn’t a farewell tour. It was, ‘Let’s go see what we can do and see if we can do it at this level.” Jeff Borland said. “The 49ers gave him a chance. An injury [to Patrick Willis] gave him an opportunity, and he got to prove to himself, if not others, he’s not too short, not too slow and whether his arms are not long enough.”
He certainly did prove himself, too. After replacing the injured Willis (who also retired last week) in the starting lineup, Borland quickly established himself as a playmaker at middle linebacker and ended up leading the team in tackles.
Even after that success, Borland decided the risk associated with playing football was too much.
“For the team and organization and the sport and his teammates, he gave it everything he had,” Jeff Borland said. “He didn’t hold back. When the season was over, he revisited this thought and didn’t see any reason to change his decision.”
Chris told ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" that he researched the long-term effects of head injuries and brain trauma and didn’t want to face that possibility down the line.
"I just thought to myself, 'What am I doing?'" Borland said. "Is this how I'm going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I've learned and knew about the dangers?"
Jeff said the family supported Chris’ decision “100 percent” and that he is already “looking for work.”
“He’s got to get on with his life,” Jeff said.
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Here's the NFL playbook: Whenever there is negative talk about concussions, brain damage and the endangered lives of football players, the league responds with statements about how it takes these matters seriously and that steps are being taken every day to improve the safety of the game.
Shampoo, rinse, repeat.
It happened in the wake of the stunning Chris Borland retirement news, too, when the NFL issued a swift and predictable statement from senior vice president of health and safety policy Jeff Miller, saying that "football has never been safer."
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again.
An aside: Even if that's true, it doesn't mean that it's safe. You know what I mean?
But this verbal tap-dancing took another two-step on Wednesday when Dr. Joseph Maroon, a board-certified clinical professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Pittsburgh Steelers' team neurosurgeon, joined NFL Network and said some pretty idiotic things.
Here's a sampler platter of his statement:
"There are more injuries to kids from falling off bikes, scooters, falling in playgrounds than there are in youth football. It’s never been safer. Can we improve? Yes, we have to do better all the time to make it safer, but I think if a kid is physically able to do it and wants to do it, our job is to continue to make it safer. But it’s much more dangerous riding a bike or a skateboard than playing youth football."
And we're quite sure that if Dr. Maroon, who is also a consultant to the NFL's head, neck and spine committee, did even more research on the matter, he'd find evidence to suggest that football is safer than manta ray hunting and naked hang gliding. But again, it's word parsing; to even suggest it might be safe to play football is offensive.
Naturally, Twitter — seldom a safe place for these kinds of topics — had a field day with this assertion.
Is the bike on fire? Because then yea, I would concur. RT @LndsPatterson: NFL doc says riding a bike more dangerous than football.— Andrew Hawkins (@Hawk) March 18, 2015
Bikes are more dangerous than football for kids in that if you throw a bike at a kid, it will hurt more than if you throw a football at him.— Derek Wetmore (@DerekWetmore) March 18, 2015
Even the league's statistics on concussions and the like come out sounding like fuzzy math, so you have to take anything it says with a grain of salt. But when a purported expert on football injuries starts pulling out bikes and skateboards, feel free to start throwing rotten vegetables at your television.
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Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce was released from the team following his DUI arrest early Wednesday morning.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the 23-year-old Pierce was pulled over for speeding “just before 2 a.m.” and was subjected to field sobriety tests after the officer suspected that he was under the influence. Baltimore County police told the Sun that Pierce failed the field sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested and taken to jail.
The Ravens said in a statement on Wednesday morning that they are “aware of the situation and learning more about it.”
“We take these matters seriously,” the team said.
The team then announced Pierce's release Wednesday afternoon.
Bernard Pierce has been released by the Ravens.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) March 18, 2015
Per Baltimore County police, Pierce is facing the following charges: driving while under the influence of alcohol, driving while impaired by alcohol, exceeding maximum speed: 55 mph in a posted 30 mph zone, and driving a vehicle in excess of reasonable and prudent speed on highway.
Pierce reportedly predicted his fate shortly after his arrest.
Pierce was with the Ravens since the team selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Temple. In those three seasons, Pierce combined for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns on 3.8 yards per carry. Pierce also registered 29 career catches for 164 yards.
Pierce had the chance to take hold of the team’s starting role last season after the release of Ray Rice, but was passed on the depth chart by Justin Forsett and was inactive three times in favor of rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro.
Pierce is the third Ravens player to be arrested and released this offseason. Defensive back Victor Hampton was charged with DWI on March 1 and released the next day. Additionally, defensive tackle Terrence Cody was cut by the team after being indicted by a grand jury for animal cruelty.
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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams put his awesome athletic ability on display several times last year, but we didn’t see anything quite like this.
Adams, who caught 38 passes for 446 yards and three scores as a rookie, apparently is quite the basketball player, too. Check out this insane dunk he posted on his Instagram page on Tuesday.
What prompted Adams to show off his dunking skills (besides the thousands of Instagram likes)? It appears he was inspired by this cool (but less-impressive) dunk posted by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Monday.
We’ll see if this becomes a reoccurring thing for NFL players throughout the offseason.
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The ball is now in the Miami Dolphins’ court when it comes to tight end Charles Clay.
According to the Buffalo News, Clay, a restricted free agent, signed a five-year, $38 million offer sheet with the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday, giving the Dolphins five days to match the offer.
(The Bills later confirmed that Clay signed the offer sheet, but the terms of the offer were not disclosed.)
The offer is quite lucrative and reportedly includes $20 million in guaranteed money. In fact, the News is reporting that the deal’s structure – with a reported $24.5 million coming in the first two years – is “designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, for Miami to match.”
Additionally, based on those numbers, Clay’s deal ($7.6 million per year) would make him the fourth-highest paid tight end in the league behind Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski. That’s quite the investment for a player who was 12th in receptions (58) and 14th in receiving yards (605) among tight ends last season. Clay also dealt with knee and hamstring injuries in 2014.
His best season came when he became a full-time starter in 2013 and put up 69 catches for 759 yards and six touchdowns.
Clay, who has also proven to be a solid blocker, combined for 34 catches for 445 yards and five scores in his first two seasons as a pro after the Dolphins picked him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft out of Tulsa.
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It appeared that the Philadelphia Eagles were just doing a little tire kicking and hood lifting when they brought in Tim Tebow for a workout the other day and then let him leave town without signing him to a contract.
But NBC 4 sports anchor Dianna Marie Russini of Washington D.C. is reporting that there's actually a good chance of Tebow becoming an Eagle if the team can find a trade partner to ship out No. 3 QB Matt Barkley.
Sources with the Eagles say they are trying to trade Matt Barkley. If he is traded, I'm told there's an "80% chance" they'll sign Tim Tebow— Dianna Marie Russini (@NBCdianna) March 17, 2015
Right now, Sam Bradford is the Eagles' starter, Mark Sanchez is the backup and his old friend Tebow could be the very intriguing No. 3. Barkley has not flourished in a limited sample size in Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's offense, so it appears that they are trying to find a new home for the quarterback they spent a fourth-round pick on two years ago.
Eagles have let teams in need of a quarterback know that Barkley is available. It helps that both Barkley and Chip Kelly have the same agent— Dianna Marie Russini (@NBCdianna) March 18, 2015
We admit, we're a bit skeptical about the 80 percent likelihood thing (what does it hinge on?), and also this: Why wouldn't they just sign Tebow now? NFL teams frequently carry four or five quarterbacks on an offseason roster prior to training camp. It's not like that would hurt their leverage in trading Barkley, a one-time top prospect who fell suddenly after a mediocre senior season.
We're certainly keeping an eye on this report and this possibility, of course, that Tebow could be back in the NFL again. If there's a coach who goes against the grain and perhaps could take advantage of Tebow's unique skill set, it's Kelly.
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Fans of the New Orleans Saints were understandably upset when All Pro tight end Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks last week. One Saints fan, seven-year-old Lexia Woods, took the trade especially hard.
“Wherever Jimmy Graham goes is where I go, no matter what team,” Lexia said. “He’s going to the Seahawks. It’s just not smart of them to let Jimmy Graham over there. He’s a really good player and I like him and I want him to stay on the Saints.”
Her mother, Ashley-Ann Woods, captured Lexia’s tearful moment on camera and the video went viral. The video caught the attention of Graham, who reached out to Lexia's mom on Facebook and invited them to his first game in Seattle.
Lexia and Ashley-Ann then appeared on SportsCenter on Tuesday and were surprised when Graham himself joined them on the phone. He told Lexia how much he appreciated her being his number one fan and reiterated his offer to fly them out to Seattle for his first game with his new team.
What a cool moment.
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So what team, other than the Eagles, was after Bradford, we wondered? According to Charley Casserly of NFL Media, it was the Cleveland Browns. ESPN’s Adam Caplan took the report a step further by tweeting that the Browns offered the 19th overall pick.
While we don’t know if the Browns made this offer to the Rams or the Eagles (or both), it does tell us a few things. For one, obviously, the Rams preferred the package Philly put together including Foles compared to simply getting a pick for Bradford. The Browns, who also hold the No. 12 pick, don't seem to be too comfortable with Johnny Manziel and 35-year-old Josh McCown on their quarterback depth chart. Maybe they consider Bradford an upgrade, even though he is coming off two ACL surgeries.
The reported offer also has a bit of relevance in the never-ending stream of talk about the Eagles potentially trading up in the draft to pick quarterback Marcus Mariota, who Kelly coached at Oregon. If Kelly was hell-bent on making Mariota his quarterback, wouldn’t he want to acquire another first-round pick that could be packaged to possibly trade up in the draft?
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The Trent Richardson experience continues.
After three disappointing seasons split between the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, Richardson, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, signed a deal with the Oakland Raiders, the team announced Tuesday.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Rand Getlin, Richardson signed a two-year contract with the Raiders worth roughly $8 million.
It's a two-year deal worth $3.9M for Trent Richardson and the #Raiders. Max value of roughly $8M, based on incentives.— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) March 17, 2015
After Richardson rushed for 1,010 yards and 11 touchdowns in 17 games for Cleveland, the Colts famously dealt a first-round pick for Richardson early in the 2013 season but he gained only 977 yards on 3.1 yards per carry in 29 games for the team. Richardson started the 2014 season as the Colts’ starter, but his workload continually decreased as the season progressed and he was eventually suspended during the playoffs. The Colts then released him last week.
In Oakland, Richardson joins a squad that was last in the league in rushing yards per game last season. With Darren McFadden signing with the Dallas Cowboys and the retirement of Maurice Jones-Drew, Latavius Murray is the favorite to see the majority of the team’s carries. Still, it’s a good situation for Richardson to get a solid opportunity to earn carries on a young, rebuilding team.
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"Football has never been safer."
That’s the sentiment the NFL shared Tuesday morning in a statement from Jeff Miller, the league's senior vice president of health and safety policy, after San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland announced his surprising retirement on Monday night.
Borland, 24, is coming off a great rookie year in San Francisco, but decided to step away from the game due to fears for his long-term health.
Here is Miller’s statement, in full:
“We respect Chris Borland’s decision and wish him all the best. Playing any sport is a personal decision. By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend. We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority.”
While the NFL has made significant improvements and paid closer attention to player safety in recent years, more and more is being discovered about the long-term impact associated with head injuries.
Borland told ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" that he has done his research on the issues at hand.
"I just honestly want to do what's best for my health," Borland said. "From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk.
“I just thought to myself, 'What am I doing?' Is this how I'm going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I've learned and knew about the dangers?"
Borland is the fourth player in the last week to retire at age 30 or younger
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With Eddie Royal moving on to the Chicago Bears, the San Diego Chargers filled a void at wide receiver on Tuesday by agreeing to a three-year deal with Stevie Johnson.
The 28-year-old Johnson will stay in California after spending one season with the San Francisco 49ers, who released him last week after the signing of Torrey Smith. In his lone season with the 49ers, Johnson hauled in 35 passes for 435 yards and three touchdowns. He arrived in San Francisco via a trade with the Buffalo Bills, where Johnson spent the first six seasons of his career.
He caught only 12 passes combined in his first two seasons in Buffalo before breaking out with 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 scores in 2010. He followed that season with two more 1,000-yard campaigns in 2011 and 2012. He also caught 52 passes for 597 yards and three scores in an injury-filled 2013 season.
Royal caught 62 passes for nearly 800 yards as San Diego’s third receiver last year alongside Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen, so Johnson figures to have a good opportunity to see plenty of balls thrown his way by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers.
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Chris Borland shocked the NFL world Monday night when he announced his retirement from the game at age 24. Borland, a very productive middle linebacker, played just one year in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers, but decided to walk away due to fears about his long-term health.
Many NFL players took to Twitter in response to the news. Some were understandably surprised, but most were supportive and respected Borland’s tough decision.
San Francisco teammates Alfonso Smith, Tramaine Brock and Chase Thomas were stunned to see another teammate retire a week after Patrick Willis announced his retirement.
Oh wow I didn't see that coming! Praying my bro #ChrisBorland— Alfonso Smith † (@FonzoRB29) March 17, 2015
I understand but still shocked ((Chris Borland)) #49ers— Tramaine Brock (@T26Brock) March 17, 2015
shocked to hear the news about my dude Borland, but i totally understand his decision to retire #muchrespect— Chase Thomas (@CTcard44) March 17, 2015
Tim Ryan, the 49ers radio color analyst, wasn't as understanding.
49ers analyst Tim Ryan says he's pissed off about Borland's decision.— Ann Killion (@annkillion) March 17, 2015
Tim Ryan said "Patrick Willis retired. Chris Borland quit."— Ann Killion (@annkillion) March 17, 2015
Tim Ryan is also using the term "go out on your shield" about leaving football. That kind of stuff needs to stop.— Ann Killion (@annkillion) March 17, 2015
Other players from across the league were quick to offer words of support.
Took a lot of guts to do what he did, much respect to Chris Borland! Best of luck in his next career!— Devon Kennard (@DevonKennard) March 17, 2015
Got to respect Borland for clearly putting thought into his decision. If you're not 100% committed to this game, better to walk away.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) March 17, 2015
WOW. I loved Chris Borland's game but I can't fault him for calling it quits. His concerns are real. Still it takes a man to do the logical.— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) March 17, 2015
I don't feel bad for Borland. I feel happy for him. He's made a tough choice.— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) March 17, 2015
Additionally, several of Borland's college teammates from Wisconsin let him know that they have his back.
Nothing but luv @ChrisDec26 !— Marcus Cromartie (@Cromartie_M) March 17, 2015
@ChrisDec26 bro honored to play with you and also you being a man by making the decision a lot of people wouldn't. Congrats 2 a gr8 career— Chris Maragos (@ChrisMaragos) March 17, 2015
Got so much respect for you @ChrisDec26 and wish you the best in future endeavors! One of the best players I've been able to play with!— Jared Abbrederis (@abbrecadabra) March 17, 2015
Happy and proud for @ChrisDec26,& thankful I got the opportunity to call him a teammate. Special athlete, but yet the best is yet to come...— Bradie Ewing (@bewing34) March 17, 2015
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall looked at Borland's decision from a different perspective.
No offense to anyone but I'm playing until I can't anymore. I love this game to much.— Bobby Wagner (@Bwagz54) March 17, 2015
So P. Willis and Chris Borland? They know something that we don’t?— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshh54) March 17, 2015
Many players probably feel the way Wagner does, but can respect Borland's decision to step away at the same time. There's no way it was an easy decision for Borland to walk away from a lucrative career after just one season. He made 108 tackles in only eight starts. His career was on the rise, but he decided the long-term health risks were just not worth it.
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Despite the two sides parting ways, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick released a statement lauding Wilfork and calling him “the best defensive lineman (he) ever coached.” That’s high praise from Belichick, who has coached in the NFL for 40 years.
Here is Belichick’s full statement, via Patriots.com:
"Few players reached or will ever reach the special level of Vince Wilfork. He is a great champion and one of the classiest people I have ever been around – just a kind, genuine and giving person who was all about our team, football, winning and bringing joy to others. There may have never been anyone at his position with as much strength, toughness, intelligence, instinctiveness and athleticism. He is the best defensive linemen I ever coached, an all-time great Patriot whose place on our team will be missed but whose remarkable career as a Patriot will be remembered forever."
The Patriots picked Wilfork in the first round of the 2004 draft and he spent 11 productive seasons with the franchise. He won two Super Bowls with the team and also was named to five Pro Bowls. In 158 games, Wilfork registered 516 tackles.
Now the 33-year-old Wilfork heads to Houston where he will reunite with Romeo Crennel, the current Texans’ defensive coordinator who held the same position in New England when Wilfork was drafted. He’ll likely set up in the middle at nose tackle between All Pro J.J. Watt and 2014 top pick Jadeveon Clowney.
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Wilfork, who spent the first 11 seasons of this career and won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, agreed to a two-year deal according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.
Wilfork announced the move on Twitter.
Thank you everyone for everything your support has been tremendous pic.twitter.com/Kej0MsI6yB— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) March 16, 2015
To win a Super Bowl my rookie year as a Pat and win another 1 my last year as a Patriot is such a blessing I couldn't write a better ending— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) March 16, 2015
The veteran nose tackle will reunite with former teammate Mike Vrabel, now the Texans’ linebackers coach, and former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who was New England’s defensive coordinator when Wilfork was drafted in 2004.
Wilfork, 33, provides a steady presence in the middle of the Texans’ defensive line between All Pro J.J. Watt and 2014 top overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.
Like Wilfork, Shorts also agreed to a two-year deal with Houston. According to McClain, Shorts’ deal is worth $6 million.
Shorts, 27, joins the Texans after four seasons and 176 catches with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Shorts didn’t see much action as a rookie in 2011, but he caught at least 50 passes in each of the last three seasons. Shorts caught 55 passes and set career highs with 979 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. He also added 66 catches for 777 yards and three scores in 2013 and 53 catches for 557 yards and one touchdown last year.
The 6-foot, 202-pound Shorts can play both inside and outside and provides another pass-catching threat opposite DeAndre Hopkins for whoever will be throwing the passes (Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett) for the Texans when the season rolls around.
The Texans released Andre Johnson, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, last week. Johnson signed with the Indianapolis Colts last Wednesday.
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Maybe the Dallas Cowboys are the “mystery team” Drew Rosenhaus, the agent of free-agent defensive end Greg Hardy, was referring to.
According to Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, the Cowboys are currently “negotiating to sign” Greg Hardy, who played in only one game for the Carolina Panthers in 2014. Hardy was convicted of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend last year in a bench trial, but the case was dismissed on Feb. 9 after Hardy asked for a jury trial and his accuser refused to cooperate and failed to show for court.
Hardy played in Week 1 for the Panthers last year, but was deactivated the following week as his legal issues played out and heat surrounding domestic violence in the NFL intensified. On Sept. 17, Hardy agreed to be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and he did not play for the rest of the season.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Hardy was extremely productive for the Panthers before his legal issues popped up in 2014. He combined for 18 sacks in his first three seasons before breaking out with 59 tackles and 15 sacks in 2013.
He would certainly provide a boost for Dallas, but is his production worth all of the baggage? That’s a question the folks in the Cowboys’ front office will have to ask themselves.
On top of that, Peter King of The MMQB is reporting that there’s a “good chance” Hardy will be suspended for the first six games of the 2015 season. That’s another thing the Cowboys will have to look into.
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AUSTIN, Texas – Victor Cruz is hitting the ground running Monday – literally, the New York Giants wide receiver will be running on a field for the first time since tearing his patellar tendon on Oct. 12. It’s the latest step (no pun intended) in a grueling recovery.
"[My knee] is alright, it's alright. It's going pretty well," he told Shutdown Corner over lunch at the Fast Company Grill at the SXSW music and film festival.
"When it happens, there's a piece of you that says I don't know if I'm going to walk again, let alone run," he added. "Now it's really feeling a lot better, I'm doing drills and stuff like that that they didn't want me do before."
He remains confident he'll make it back to the level of play that earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl and helped him lead the Giants to a Super Bowl title.
"As it's starting to heal up, I'm starting to feel myself getting back to form and I'm starting to feel my strength coming back and my quickness, so I think I'll be back."
Cruz addressed reports that Giants general manager Jerry Reese is considering drafting another wide receiver this year.
"Sometimes, you think about that, but you can't worry about that," he said. "You have to think about yourself," he said. "The Giants are a class-act organization."
Cruz was at SXSW to lead a panel discussing how the Giants are using data from wearable devices, such as heart rate and sleep monitors, to avoid the types of injuries that decimated the team last season. The team had 18 players on injured reserve last year, Cruz added, one of the highest in the league.
“I’d walk through the locker room literally every day and be like who are you?” he joked, before adding, “Coach [Tom] Coughlin is very old school, pedal to the medal, balls to the walls each week." That type of schedule has often been associated with injuries, as most players aren't back in full form until Thursday after a game.
"People [Coughlin trusts] started telling him listen, this is a new way, maybe this will keep guys around longer and longer.”
The Giants now have a full-time data analyst, and players receive a booklet breaking down the findings each week.
When Cruz ended up on the injured list – the first time he suffered a serious injury in his four-year career – he started relying more heavily on data and what his doctors could glean from it. One of the main things they noticed was how heavily he favored his healthy leg, even after his surgery. He's also been working on getting more sleep.
As for his trip to Austin, it's the fourth time he has attended SXSW, and he definitely wasn't there just for work.
"I'm checking out the sights and sounds. I love music," he added. He was looking forward to hearing a few small bands out of Austin, as well as marquee acts like Nas and Lil Wayne.
Before heading out, he answered a question on many Giants fans' mind: Can he still salsa?
"Yes, yes, that's the big question," he said, laughing. "Yes, yes, I'm able to salsa now, which has to be the most important thing."
Could Tim Tebow be making his long-awaited return to the NFL?
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Tebow is working out for the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. Tebow, who has been working as a college football commentator for ESPN, hasn’t been in the league since he was cut by the New England Patriots in August 2013.
Before his short stint in New England, Tebow was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Denver Broncos. He played in nine games and made three starts as a rookie, throwing for 654 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions while also running for 227 yards and six scores.
Tebow began the 2011 season as Denver’s backup behind Kyle Orton, but was inserted into the starting lineup after the team’s 1-4 start. Though he completed only 46.5 percent of his passes, Tebow threw for 1,729 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions and added 660 yards and six scores on the ground and led the Broncos to a division title (with an 8-8 record).
Tebow then led the Broncos to a playoff win over the Steelers in the wild-card round by throwing for a career-high 316 yards and hitting Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in overtime.
The Broncos were blown out by New England 45-10 the following week.
Following the season, Tebow was traded to the New York Jets after the Broncos signed Peyton Manning. The Jets mainly used Tebow in a wildcat role and released him after the season. New England then signed him a few months later, but he was released during the team’s final cuts.
Now, nearly two years later, Tebow may get another shot with Philadelphia. This is only a workout of course, so nothing may come from this. Still, it’s always intriguing to see Tebow’s name back in the news. He’s a unique athlete. Maybe Chip Kelly has a plan to put Tebow’s skills to good use.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Tebow is working out at quarterback.
Update: The workout is done.
Tim Tebow has come and gone from Philadelphia. Team is not planning to sign him at this time. We'll see if anything changes.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2015
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Former 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald wants to clear his name.
McDonald, now a free agent, was cut by the 49ers due to “a pattern of poor decision-making” after he was accused of rape in December. The accusation came three months after McDonald was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence against his pregnant fiancée.
No charges have emerged in either case (his fiancée refused to cooperate with investigators) and now McDonald, according to the San Jose Mercury News, is suing the woman who accused him of rape, “claiming she defamed him and intentionally interfered with his livelihood.”
The lawsuit was filed Monday morning and McDonald’s attorney Steve M. DeFilippis said in a news release that he “expects prosecutors to eventually announce they are not pressing charges.” Until prosecutors do so, DeFilippis says McDonald will not be able to play professional football this year.
"In the eyes of the NFL teams, the unresolved threat of charges being filed against him, even though factually unfounded, continues to present a roadblock to this remarkable athlete being able to move forward in his career," the release says. "This lawsuit is intended to vindicate him ... and return his good name."
According to DeFilippis, video surveillance in McDonald’s home shows the woman and McDonald having “clearly consensual” sex in his hot tub. Additionally, the Mercury News is reporting that “sources close to the investigation” have told the paper that “McDonald will not face charges.”
According to a court affidavit, the woman told police that the alleged assault took place after “she fell and hit her head on the ground near the pool at (McDonald’s) house.”
The woman told police the alleged attack occurred after she fell and hit her head on the ground near the pool at his house, leaving her with no memory of the rest of the evening, according to a search warrant affidavit. She contends she woke up the next morning naked in bed with McDonald at his Silver Creek home, and McDonald initially told her he let her sleep in his bed because she was tired. But she said she kept asking him what happened, and the former defensive lineman eventually told her they had sex.
McDonald’s lawsuit tells a different version. From the Mercury News:
“It claims the woman is lying to cover up that she had sex "several times" with McDonald, whom she had just met at the Willow Den bar in Willow Glen. It also contends the woman is seeking to exploit a national wave of similar incidents involving NFL players.”
“In the lawsuit, however, McDonald claims the woman was alert at all times and had no difficulty remembering the next day what had occurred that night. He noted, as does the affidavit, that she went to the store with him the next day to get more alcohol. McDonald also claims she had sex with him "several times" more that day, which was captured on his home video security system. Yet the woman refused to tell police whether or not they had sex that day, according to the lawsuit.”
“The lawsuit also claims that he left her alone at his house at one point, prompting her to call him several times. Those calls occurred in the presence of several witnesses, and "at no time" during the conversations did she seem upset, scared or accuse McDonald of any wrongdoing.”
McDonald was picked in the third round of the 2007 draft by the 49ers and played in 210 games – including 153 starts – for the franchise before being released. Overall, McDonald registered 153 total tackles and 19.5 sacks.
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According to Peter King of The MMQB, Winston, the former Florida State quarterback who won the 2013 Heisman Trophy, “plans to spend the draft with his family and friends” at home in Alabama.
The draft is still over a month away and King notes that Winston’s plans may change. Winston is projected by many to be selected first overall by the Tampa Bay Bucs.
The projected top picks for the draft are always invited to attend the event and shake hands with the commissioner on stage when their name is called. Winston has had his share of controversies over the past few years, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the crowd on hand had a mixed reaction when Winston walked across the stage. It certainly wouldn’t be the best look for the NFL if the top pick was met with a chorus of boos.
Winston, who is doing everything he can to improve his image following his controversial career at Florida State, reportedly met with commissioner Roger Goodell in New York City last week and made a good impression on the commish. Whether or not that meeting impacted his decision to stay home for the draft is anybody's guess.
Winston could change his mind between now and April 30’s draft, of course. Still, it’s pretty unprecedented for a potential top choice not to be in attendance. The most recent example to come to mind is offensive tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas was picked third overall out of Wisconsin by the Browns in 2007, but went on a fishing trip instead of making the trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
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Maybe former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston being picked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 1 in the 2015 draft isn’t such a lock after all.
Much like Winston a few weeks ago, the Bucs hosted Oregon’s Marcus Mariota for a visit at their facility on Monday morning.
Like Winston's visit, Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, sat down with many of the team’s top executives. According to the Bucs team website, the visit began with a tour of the team facility led by general manager Jason Licht. Mariota then sat down for a one-on-one conversation with the GM in Licht's office before watching film with members of the team's offensive staff.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Licht, director of player personnel Jon Robinson and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian all attended Mariota’s pro day workout in Oregon on March 12. After seeing him throw at his pro day and the NFL scouting combine, the team is certainly familiar with his physical capabilities. His visit to Tampa gave him another chance to make a good impression on the team’s brass.
"This is an opportunity to show how much [I can do] mentally," said Mariota, shortly after meeting with Licht. "It's going to be one of those times when you get to talk about football. I've been looking forward to it. It's going to be fun. That's going to be huge. It's an opportunity to market yourself and show how much you know. Again, I'm just looking forward to it."
Mariota, who threw for 105 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in three seasons as Oregon's starter, received high marks at the combine, but many were underwhelmed with his performance at Oregon’s pro day. Mariota himself admitted that the workout was just “OK.”
“There were some misthrows here and there,” Mariota said following the workout. “I think it’s a little different than a game. To have the entire focus be on you, especially for me, it’s a little different. I think coming out, I think there were a little bit of butterflies, but that’s OK, that’s natural.”
The Bucs have the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1987 and upgrading at the quarterback position appears to be the team’s priority after last year’s disastrous 2-14 campaign. Winston is widely viewed as the better and more pro-ready prospect of the two. Still, the Bucs will do their due diligence to ensure they make the right choice.
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