Even though the NFL was scheduled to review Adrian Peterson's case and decide on his reinstatement in less than two months, the league would rather fight a federal judge's ruling than reinstate Peterson now.

The NFL doesn't like its power challenged, even if Judge David Doty's order to overturn Peterson's suspension read like a how-to manual on screwing up due process in player discipline. So the NFL announced, hours after Doty's ruling, that it will appeal in federal court. Peterson will be put on the commissioner's exempt list. That's the same list Peterson and the league agreed in writing he would not be kept on once his court case, involving him injuring his 4-year-old son disciplining him with a switch, was settled.

Here's the NFL's statement (via the Star-Tribune):

"Judge Doty’s order did not contain any determinations concerning the fairness of the appeals process under the CBA, including the commissioner’s longstanding authority to appoint a designee to act as hearing officer. Even so, we believe strongly that Judge Doty’s order is incorrect and fundamentally at odds with well-established legal precedent governing the district court’s role in reviewing arbitration decisions. As a result, we have filed a notice of appeal to have the ruling reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the interim, Adrian Peterson will be returned to the Commissioner Exempt List pending further proceedings by appeals officer Harold Henderson or a determination by the Eighth Circuit Court."

Peterson was suspended until at least April 15, and it was expected that his suspension would be lifted at that time by the NFL. But the NFL obviously didn't like the courts telling it that its decision to suspend Peterson was wrong. So it is fighting back, however counter-productive that really is. It is important for Peterson, because if the Minnesota Vikings decide to cut him and his large salary, he'd probably like to hit free agency as soon as possible. Most teams will have spent a majority of their salary-cap space by mid-April because free agency starts March 10.

Doty ruled on Thursday that arbitrator Harold Henderson overstepped his authority and applied the NFL's new conduct policy retroactively to Peterson's case, and overturned the suspension. It was up to the NFL to reinstate Peterson or appeal the ruling. The league decided it would rather fight than have its power over the players questioned. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 26, 2015, 10:37 pm

Brandon Bostick shouldn't be the name forever associated with the Green Bay Packers' NFC championship game collapse, but that will probably be the case.

Many, many other mistakes were made (still waiting to hear why Julius Peppers ordered Morgan Burnett to go down, and why Burnett did it, with five minutes to go), but Bostick is the easy target. Instead of blocking for Jordy Nelson on an onside kick, he tried to get the ball and fumbled it away. The Seattle Seahawks recovered and ended up winning in overtime. No one play determines an entire football game, but Bostick was easy to blame.

Earnest Byner knows.

If we're making a list of the most heartbreaking losses in NFL history, the Packers' loss to Seattle goes right alongside the Cleveland Browns' loss in the AFC championship game at the end of the 1987 season. Byner was running in for what would have been the game-tying touchdown with a little more than a minute to go, and he was stripped by Broncos defensive back Jeremiah Castille. The Broncos recovered and went to the Super Bowl. Everyone knew Byner's name.

According to a first-person column in The MMQB, Bostick said out of the blue he got a call from the one man who knew his pain: Earnest Byner.

"Byner called me out of the blue, and now we talk about once or twice a week," Bostick wrote. "His biggest advice: Face your mistake, don’t run from it."

It doesn't help when the Packers put a bit of public blame on him. Bostick was cut earlier this month. Bostick said he was told that the onside kick had something to do with the move but there was no further explanation.

"I feel as if there’s a little more to it than that," Bostick wrote. "With how close we were to reaching the Super Bowl, I think a lot of people in the organization couldn’t live with me being there. I think seeing me would remind them of losing the NFC championship. I think the Packers wanted a new start, so I got one, too."

Bostick ended up with the Vikings. He talked about making a mistake on the onside ("I forgot everything I was supposed to do," he wrote) and how he got death threats on Twitter. Hopefully Bostick can move on from what happened in Seattle, because he's far from the only reason the Packers lost and definitely doesn't deserve to be verbally abused on social media.

Maybe by not hiding Bostick can help change the narrative. Byner has probably told him this fact: After his infamous fumble against the Broncos, he went on to help Washington win Super Bowl XXVI. There's time for Bostick to redeem himself.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 26, 2015, 8:25 pm

This feels like a good time to talk about what we actually know and what we (safely) can speculate about Dez Bryant. We'll leave the baseless allegations, hints and rumors for others to handle.

Might the Dallas Cowboys be uneasy with the way Bryant sometimes carries himself off the field? Yes, and we suspect little has changed since Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin reported back in early November that the team has had its reservations about giving him a long-term deal because of that.

Here's what Getlin wrote then and what we believe to remain largely true:

The Cowboys have assisted Bryant in dealing with anger management and related issues, including setting up sessions with behavioral specialists and therapists, according to sources familiar with the team's efforts and thinking. According to multiple sources, the Cowboys have made a number of contract offers to the wide receiver that provided him with meaningful financial guarantees, while providing protections for themselves if any off-field issues came to affect his ability to perform on the field. 

There have been incidents in Bryant's past that have concerned the Cowboys, (including perhaps the 2011 incident that has come into recent speculation) which makes this report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport make a lot of sense:

With no new negotiations scheduled between Dallas and Bryant's agents, Tom Condon and Kim Miale of Roc Nation, the franchise tag is almost a certainty.

Why would it make sense? Well, the Cowboys can guarantee to lock down one of their premiere talents while assuring that they don't go in too deep long term without hamstringing themselves in case of Bryant stepping afoul of the law.

If you look at the Carolina Panthers letting Greg Hardy play under the franchise tag number of $13.1 million last season, and then paying him that money in its entirety while he appeared in only one game following domestic-violence charges (and being shielded, as it was, by landing safely on the commissioner's exempt list), it was far from ideal.

But the Panthers are able to walk away from Hardy, lesson learned, if they feel he's not worth the trouble of keeping as a free agent again this season. That's the way it appears the Panthers are leaning.

That could be the play for the Cowboys. They'd have Bryant for 2015, assuming there's nothing that pushes his season off track, and they can let him walk if things get murky. If not, they'll have to pony up — again — next year. And while the move might actually hinder the Cowboys in the short term and prevent them from keeping DeMarco Murray and perhaps aid a few other trouble spots, it's the right play.

Again, right now, knowing what we know, Bryant remains a prized asset. The Cowboys certainly could be privy to more information than what is public now. But they are comfortable enough with the concept of franchising him now, per this report, and we think this will end up being the play that gets made.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 26, 2015, 8:06 pm

Let's go ahead and chalk up the Adrian Peterson suspension as another mistake for the NFL as it tries to police its own league.

The NFL suspended Peterson after the completion of his court case involving him injuring his 4-year-old son with a switch. On Thursday a federal judge said the NFL arbitrator who made that suspension decision overstepped his authority and applied the NFL's new conduct policy retroactively to Peterson's case, so he overturned the suspension. The Star-Tribune said Judge David Doty sent "the case back for further arbitration proceedings 'consistent with' the players’ collective bargaining agreement." The NFL said it is reviewing the ruling, and hasn't yet said whether it will reinstate Peterson, appeal or arbitrate again.

(UPDATE: The NFL has decided to appeal the ruling in federal court.)

According to Doty's order (via the Star-Tribune), Peterson and the NFL agreed in writing on Sept. 18 that he would be put on the commissioner's exempt list until his court case was resolved. Peterson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault in November. The NFL called a disciplinary hearing for Peterson, keeping him on the exempt list in the interim, and Peterson didn't show up because the NFL Players Association was upset about the process and that the league wasn't honoring what the union said was an agreement to reinstate him.

Doty agreed with Peterson and the NFLPA, saying former NFL executive Harold Henderson was wrong to suspend Peterson without pay for the remainder of the season on Nov. 18. The NFLPA argued many points, including that Peterson wasn't allowed time to submit his position in writing to commissioner Roger Goodell, and that Peterson was being punished under a new policy, even though the incident took place before that was implemented in late August.

It's yet another misstep for the NFL that a judge ruled it wrongfully took away games and pay from Peterson last season. In the NFL's other high-profile case last year, Ray Rice's indefinite suspension stemming from his domestic violence case was overturned in late November. Rice still hasn't signed with a new team. In the order, the judge points out that the NFL said it couldn't apply the new policy retroactively in the Rice case, but then applied it retroactively in the Peterson case.

“This is a victory for the rule of law, due process and fairness," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement. "Our collective bargaining agreement has rules for implementation of the personal conduct policy and when those rules are violated, our union always stands up to protect our players' rights. This is yet another example why neutral arbitration is good for our players, good for the owners and good for our game.”

Peterson was supposed to be eligible for reinstatement on April 15. Having the suspension lifted now is important for Peterson because free agency starts on March 10, and there's no guarantee Peterson returns to the Vikings.

Between his $15.4 million cap hit and lingering feelings about how the Vikings handled the situation last year, Peterson is no sure thing to return. The Vikings have been able to stall because Peterson was suspended. Now the timetable for a decision will speed up.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 26, 2015, 5:55 pm

The Detroit Lions basically chose Theo Riddick over Reggie Bush on Wednesday.

The Lions cut Bush and his $3.5 million base salary for 2015, according to multiple reports, opting to go with the cheaper and younger Riddick in the role Bush had with the Lions.

And now what for Bush, who will turn 30 on March 2?

Running backs usually don't have much of a market into their 30s, and Bush had just 297 rushing yards in 2014. Bush had a 3.9-yard average, his lowest since 2008. Even assuming Bush finds another opportunity, it's unlikely he'll ever reach the NFL stardom he seemed destined for when he was dominating at USC. 

Bush was the No. 2 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, and it was a major controversy that he wasn't No. 1. Mario Williams surprisingly went first to the Houston Texans. A running back hasn't gone in the first round in two consecutive years, but most people figured Bush would go first overall nine years ago. He was a special talent.

He has been good in his nine NFL seasons, but not great. He never had more than 1,086 rushing yards or six rushing touchdowns in a season. He was, however, a very dangerous receiver out of the backfield and that's the role he settled into. That's not what you generally expect from the second pick. He was part of the Saints' first Super Bowl championship team at the end of the 2009 season but wasn't a big factor in the NFC championship game or the Super Bowl that season. In those two games combined he had 12 carries for 33 yards, and six catches for 71 yards. That sums up his NFL career in a way.

Bush will probably be better known for his college greatness (and there's no doubt about his legend on that level), although he had occasional NFL highlight plays that reminded you of him weaving through defenses when he was a Trojan.

Bush still has a chance to add to his NFL accomplishments, but it won't be in Detroit. It probably will be in a part-time role as a weapon in the passing game out of the backfield. That's what he has done best in his NFL career, and he has been good at it. Back in 2006, however, we expected a lot more out of his time in the pros.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 25, 2015, 10:35 pm

By the time it ended, linebacker A.J. Hawk had put together a pretty good career for the Green Bay Packers.

Hawk was never quite worth the No. 5 overall pick the Packers used to take him in 2006, having never made a Pro Bowl in nine seasons. But he played 142 games, starting 136, is the franchise's leader in tackles (since 1975) with 1,118 stops and was part of a Super Bowl champion.

Hawk's Packers career ended on Wednesday when the team released him. Maybe he wasn't the star you'd hope for with a top-five pick, but it wasn't a bad run.

“A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement.

At 31, Hawk should find another opportunity. He's durable and while not a playmaker from the inside, he's reliable and solid. Hawk expressed his thanks to the Packers in a classy statement as he was released.

“I spent nine great years in Green Bay. I had awesome teammates and coaches and a great medical staff and equipment staff. Many of them have become my closest friends. We won a ton of games, as well as a Super Bowl, and I loved everything about playing for one of the greatest franchises in all of sports,” Hawk said. “The fans in Green Bay are incredible. Between playing at Lambeau Field as well as seeing them on the road, they always supported us. I am looking forward to my next opportunity in the NFL, but I’ll always cherish my years as a Green Bay Packer.”

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 25, 2015, 10:09 pm

Now here's something to warm your heart during these chilly months.

Houston Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry, who announced last June he had been diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, said Wednesday that things are looking great in his battle.

Texans player David Quessenberry says he is in remission and finished radiation 2 wks ago. #abc13 https://t.co/cbhuclsowd

— David Nuño (@DavidNunoABC13) February 25, 2015

Quessenberry made an appearance at the Texas Children’s Hospital with some Texans teammates when he gave the update of his condition. He also reiterated it with a celebratory post on Twitter.

I'm officially in remission. Man I love saying that!

— David Quessenberry (@DavidQberry) February 25, 2015

God bless all of you who sent thoughts and prayers my way during my fight. Means more than you could ever know.

— David Quessenberry (@DavidQberry) February 25, 2015

After we read about the details of his struggle in this wonderfully written story from ESPN's Tania Ganguli right before Christmas, we've been keeping track of Quessenberry's fight.

And this was great word to hear on his amazing progress.

As for whether Quessenberry can return to the field, well, he says it remains his goal to do just that. His teammates have rallied around him and provided him the support he needs. But for now, he's already winning — no matter what happens with his career.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 25, 2015, 9:08 pm

They'll always remember Jacoby Jones in Baltimore.

Jones was cut on Wednesday, the team announced. He vanished from the offense and was used mostly as a returner, although he was good in that role. The Ravens didn't need the 30-year-old receiver anymore, less than a year after signing a four-year, $12 million deal.

He'll leave a special place in franchise history.

Jones was one of the Ravens' playoff heroes at the end of the 2012 season, making a trio of huge plays including one of the most famous catches in NFL history.

Jones and Joe Flacco hooked up for a 70-yard touchdown to tie a divisional round playoff game at Denver with just 31 seconds left. It was one of the greatest plays in NFL history, dubbed the "Mile High Miracle," and the Ravens went on to win in double-overtime. Against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII a few weeks later, Jones had a 56-yard touchdown catch and a 108-yard kickoff return for a score. Those plays were enormous in a 34-31 win over San Francisco.

Jones parlayed those plays (and his touchdown dances) into a spot on "Dancing With the Stars," but his football career never really took off into stardom. While he remained a good returner, he had just nine catches for 131 yards last year. And now he's looking for a new job.

Jones doesn't have a spot on the Ravens' roster anymore, but once he's done playing he'll always be welcomed back in Baltimore to celebrate what he did during a great Ravens Super Bowl run.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 25, 2015, 5:23 pm

With the news that the Cleveland Browns have created a "new" logo in the most Cleveland way possible, we decided to take a look at the best and worst of the NFL's current crop of logos. Do you prefer the classic style of the Green Bay Packers or the Chicago Bears, or are you a fan of the newer styles like the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars? We run down four of the best and five of the worst right here, and friend, we sure hope yours isn't among the worst.

This debate is part of Yahoo Sports' new ongoing Grandstanding series, in which Jay Busbee and Kevin Kaduk kick around every topic in sports. Check out the Grandstanding podcast, where we dive deeper into the day's big stories, and find us on Twitter (@kevinkaduk and @jaybusbee) Facebook (Kaduk here, Busbee here) or via the hashtag #grandstanding. Thanks for checking it out!

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 25, 2015, 5:04 pm

If you're an out-of-work quarterback, it behooves you to check in with the Cleveland Browns.

At various points this offseason, the Browns have been connected to QBs Josh McCown, Sam Bradford and now Mike Glennon. Cleveland reportedly has done more than its fair share of homework on draft-eligible prospects Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. The Browns still could, in theory, re-sign Brian Hoyer. On the roster, they have Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw.

It almost feels like the old Bob Dylan line: When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.Will Brian Hoyer re-sign with the Browns? (USA TODAY Sports)

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On the one hand, the Browns feel rudderless in their search for a franchise quarterback, or at least a temporary captain for their ship.

On the other, it's telling when the team is looking at every quarterback under the sun — all of different ages, sizes and skills — and there's no clear vision of what it wants.

Smart teams will build around the talent they have (or the talent they acquire) and not try to shoehorn a system onto ill-fitting parts. And if that's the case, and the Browns are willing to adjust based on which quarterback(s) they land, then good on them.

But ... it's the Browns.

Who is running the ship? General manager Ray Farmer can't feel totally empowered given the way his first-round picks (Manziel and Justin Gilbert) went last year and how this texting situation has knocked him down a few pegs. Mike Pettine might have more say in the matter, but he's going into his second year of being a head coach. New offensive coordinator John DiFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell likely don't have a ton of pull yet.

The Browns are acting like they don't have a starting quarterback, with Manziel's status in rehab leaving him a complete unknown. Shaw can't be counted on, either, even if the team likes what he might one day become.

So do the Browns opt for a quick-fix/bridge option such as McCown just to buoy things for a bit? Do they acquire Glennon for nickels on the dollar and hope he develops? Is Bradford and his injury-torn body a real option? Or do the Browns try to go with the younger, more athletic type such as Mariota (which could cost them dearly) or Hundley (who almost certainly would be overdrafted) to pair with Manziel and Shaw to help streamline the quarterback skill sets and find more of an identity on offense? It makes a lot of sense to have your starter and backup — whomever they might end up being — have similar skills for continuity's sake.

Either way they go, the Browns are flying by the seats of their collective pants. Like usual, we'll just have to hold on for the ride until they pick a direction and go with it. Sound familiar?

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 25, 2015, 4:25 pm

Welcome to the latest Shutdown Corner podcast! On today's faster-than-a-40-yard-dash episode, we break down the combine with our men-on-the-scene Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm. Topics include:

• Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: who ya got? (0:40 mark)

• If a player screwed up at the combine, what are his options? (12:55 mark)

• Who, besides the two top QBs, came up big in their combine efforts? (15:46 mark)

• What's it like to cover the NFL Combine up close? (20:04 mark)

All this and more as part of the Shutdown Corner Podcast. Listen below, and while you're listening ...

Subscribe via iTunes right here.

Non-iTunes subscription link here.

Leave us a nice review here.

The Shutdown Corner podcast is the product of Kevin Kaduk (@KevinKaduk), Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) and Jay Busbee (@JayBusbee). New episodes every Tuesday and Friday, with bonus episodes when you least expect it. Enjoy!

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 24, 2015, 10:55 pm

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has become a somewhat mysterious figure, mostly because he doesn't say much to the media.

Well, a new movie is going to tell the story of his life. That an extended preview of it dropped on YouTube the week after the Academy Awards can't be a coincidence because (spoiler alert) this might be the next Best Picture nominee.

"Family First," a biopic about Marshawn Lynch's life, will be released this year. It was produced in June and July of 2014 and oh enough of the suspense let's get to this preview (WARNING: There is some swearing and strong language in this YouTube clip):

Eat your heart out, "Birdman."

The high school version of Lynch was played by his brother Davonte according to the IMDB page (and Delisa Lynch plays Marshawn's mother after his high school years), and it appears that Lynch plays himself from his college days at Cal on. It's hard to buy a 28-year-old fully grown Lynch as the Cal version of himself, but whatever.

Based on the preview this will be about what you'd expect from a movie like this, which is pure straight-to-DVD cheesy greatness.

Lynch is apparently considering retirement again, and now we know he has a future as an actor when he's done running in the NFL.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 24, 2015, 10:01 pm

New York Jets center Nick Mangold crushes defensive linemen during the NFL season and now, apparently, he also crushes the dreams of NFL fans as well during the offseason.

A couple days ago, a fan by the name of Jackie Nolan thought she had taken a photo with the Pro Bowl center, posing next to a smiling bearded man who holds a slight resemblance to Mangold. It seemed like the ultimate fan moment and one that had Nolan showing off her pearly whites:

S/o to @nickmangold for being one of the nicest NY Jets player and taking a picture with me tonight. 🏈 pic.twitter.com/jWPw0Es7J9

— Jackíe (@JackieNolann) February 21, 2015

But then Nolan had that moment rudely awakened when she tweeted the photo and tagged Mangold in it. Mangold, who can be quite the comedian on Twitter, wasn't joking when he responded back, putting a pancake block to what she thought was her recent celebrity sighting.

@JackieNolann thank you but thats not me

— Nick Mangold (@nickmangold) February 22, 2015

According to her Twitter page, shortly before she posted the photo Nolan followed Mangold on Twitter. Have to feel bad for Nolan in this instance as some man clearly sold her a story of false identity. But there's always hope — perhaps she'll run into Manti Teo's girlfriend next week at the same bar.

(h/t to Erik Manassy of JetsTwit.com)

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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

Author: Kristian Dyer
Posted: February 24, 2015, 8:06 pm

Not surprisingly, Adrian Peterson and the people around him were paying attention to how the Minnesota Vikings reacted as he was handling an incident in which he injured his 4-year-old son with a switch.

The story has been playing out this month, and it is complicated. The Vikings, at every turn lately, have expressed that they want Peterson back, but with careful words because he is still suspended by the NFL. It might not be that easy.

In the last week, Peterson has said he is "still uneasy" about returning to the Vikings and Peterson's agent reportedly had to be separated from a Vikings official during a heated confrontation in Indianapolis with the agent making it clear Peterson wouldn't play in Minnesota again. Peterson's father told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his son hasn't ruled out playing for the Vikings again, but in the same article mentioned people with the Vikings "kicking him when he was down."

If there's a reconciliation coming, it'll take some work.

Peterson had an interview with ESPN.com in which he seemed to waffle a bit. He said he loves the Vikings fans, his teammates and coach Mike Zimmer, but said he knew of some in the organization who didn't want him back and took exception with media reports that looked into his past, things that "weren't even relevant" to the incident with his son. This quote sounded ominous:

"I learned a lot through this process," Peterson told ESPN.com. "I'm still uneasy, to be honest with you. I'm still uneasy about a lot of things that took place within the organization."

Then in Indianapolis, a confrontation between Peterson's agent and Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski got a lot of attention. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported that former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik had to separate the men, and La Canfora quoted a source close to Peterson saying he'd never play another game in Minnesota.

Nelson Peterson, Adrian's father, said that's not the case. He hasn't demanded a trade or closed the door on playing for the Vikings, Nelson Peterson told the Pioneer Press. But there seems to be angst over chief operating officer Kevin Warren and his role in Peterson not playing last season.

"Kevin Warren was a major player in the push last year to not have Adrian reinstated," Nelson Peterson said according to the Pioneer Press. "We had our sources that we knew that Kevin wasn't working for Adrian to get him back on the field and was working to keep Adrian off the field."

A witness to the Dogra-Brzezinski argument told the Pioneer Press that the confrontation centered on Warren. Peterson's camp seems especially irked by Warren's promotion to COO earlier this year.

And not that the situation needed to get messier, but there's Peterson's contract. He has a $15.4 million cap hit this season, which is high for any running back in today's era, even one that won an NFL MVP award in 2012.

Money is usually the root of any disagreement between a player and team. Given the conflicting feelings between all parties, Peterson's salary seems well down the list. It appears a lot needs to be worked out if Peterson is going to return to his first and only NFL team.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 24, 2015, 6:12 pm

Connecting the dots on a mock draft three weeks before the start of free agency proves to be difficult, especially with more health and workout information needed on a few key injured draft prospects.

But we’ll take a crack with the NFL scouting combine in the rearview mirror and the bulk of the draft information in the tank. Here’s how we think the first two rounds looks as things stand now.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  — Florida State QB Jameis Winston

Head coach Lovie Smith says he’s OK with Winston’s character, which would be the only real roadblock to welcoming him in the building. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter won’t have to dig deep in his playbook to find a system that fits Winston’s skills, having coached similar physical types in Byron Leftwich and Matt Ryan in Jacksonville and Atlanta, respectively. The stars are starting to line up for this marriage.

[All Draft News, All The Time: Follow Shutdown Draft 365 on Tumblr]

2. Tennessee Titans — Oregon QB Marcus Mariota

Our best comp for Mariota since last fall has been Alex Smith, who has been a good but hardly transcendent quarterback. Mariota’s strong workouts this weekend only reinforce that. Titans OC Jason Michael spent two years as Smith’s QB coach in San Francisco and certainly can draw on that experience to find a way to get the best from Mariota. Are we certain Mariota will go second? No, but the Titans’ lukewarm defense of Zach Mettenberger in Indy makes us think this could happen. Otherwise, the Titans might be open for business at No. 2 if the right team blows them away with a trade offer.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars — USC DT Leonard Williams

The Daytona Beach native might be the perfect force player for Gus Bradley’s defense, even if an interior player isn’t the most pressing need. Who cares? Williams might be the cleanest prospect available and could give the Jaguars another horse up front to control the action. Kevin White (USA TODAY Sports)

4. Oakland Raiders — West Virginia WR Kevin White

Our first mini-shocker. We’ve had this pick in mind prior to White’s incredible workout at the combine that invoked memories of Julio Jones. White’s ascension from junior-college afterthought to possible top-five pick might have some evaluators uneasy, but his physical prowess and wheels project him to being a top target.

5. Washington Redskins — Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr.

In the Fowler-over-Randy Gregory argument, new defensive coordinator Joe Barry had more success with the forceful edge players such as Melvin Ingram (when he was healthy) in San Diego, even though the Chargers drafted more of a speed option in Jeremiah Attaochu, who had an uneventful rookie season last year. Fowler would add some life to a lifeless Redskins rush and give the defense a little more vinegar.

6. New York Jets — Nebraska OLB Randy Gregory

With Calvin Pace near the end and the jury out on Quentin Coples, the Jets could use someone to heat up the edges. Gregory’s combine weight of 235 pounds might be a concern, but with the Jets featuring such strength up front with Sheldon Richardson, Mo Wilkerson and Damon Harrison. They would allow Gregory to pin his ears back in passing situations.

7. Chicago Bears — Washington DT Danny Shelton 

With the Bears switching to a 3-4 alignment, they’ll need more bodies up front. A pass rusher might also fit the bill, but having Shelton over the nose will allow them to clog running lanes and get younger and stronger up front.

8. Atlanta Falcons — Missouri DE Shane Ray

The Columbia-to-Atlanta pipeline continues with this high-RPM pass rusher who is athletic enough to stand up, versatile enough to kick down inside in passing situations and line up with his hand on the turf and carve up the edge.

Amari Cooper (USA TODAY Sports) 9. New York Giants — Kentucky OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree

We could see an offensive tackle here (with the Giants rumored to be enamored with LSU’s La’el Collins), but Dupree’s remarkable physical skills and up-down versatility make him a natural edge force to pair with Jason Pierre-Paul, who is expected to be franchised.

10. St. Louis Rams — Alabama WR Amari Cooper

This would be a coup for the Rams, who know they need a difference maker out wide. Cooper can line up in a variety of spots and help take the top off of the tough defenses of the NFC West. The Rams know they need to get more stout up front, but seeing a playmaker of this caliber here would shock them and force them to shift gears.

11. Minnesota Vikings — Iowa OT Brandon Scherff

The guard-tackle versatility would allow Scherff to start inside as a rookie and kick out to tackle eventually if the Vikings don't re-sign Matt Kalil after 2015 or decide to part ways with Phil Loadholt. Scherff is already an established run blocker who fits what the Vikings want to do offensively.

12. Cleveland Browns — Oregon DE Arik Armstead

Surprised? Frankly, we are prepared for the Browns to forgo more obvious needs — say, a wide receiver — and take a player such as the talented, enigmatic Armstead, who doesn’t turn 21 until midseason but could be a monster in time. Browns general manager Ray Farmer doesn’t appear to value the receiver position the way Browns fans do.

13. New Orleans Saints — Clemson OLB Vic Beasley

After a banner workout in Indy, the Saints might consider themselves lucky to land Beasley here. He bulked up to 246 pounds and put on an athletic show, and Beasley would add a lot of burst to a Saints pass rush that got stale last season.

14. Miami Dolphins — Louisville WR Devante Parker

Parker has No. 1 receiver potential and would combine with Jarvis Landry — depending on what happens with Mike Wallace — to make a nice combo for QB Ryan Tannehill. The offense needs to add another receiving threat to the mix, and Parker would be a gift here. He’s not a burner but possesses great feel and body control for the position.

15. San Francisco 49ers — Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong

With Michael Crabtree set to hit free agency, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Lloyd reaching their mid-30s and Stevie Johnson dropping off in production, the Niners' receiving group needs some new blood. Bruce Ellington might surprise, but he’s a 5-foot-9 slot receiver. The 6-2 Strong has some basketball-like skills and can be a front-line producer without possessing great long speed.

16. Houston Texans — Michigan State CB Trae Waynes

There’s hardly a consensus on who the top cornerback prospect is in this class, and not every team is enamored with Waynes, even with his obvious athletic gifts. But the Texans stand to lose Kareem Jackson in free agency and seem to favor size-speed-strength prospects such as Waynes, who could pair well with Johnathan Joseph as a first-year starter on a team that plays a lot of bump-and-run coverage. If Waynes can improve his technique and stop being so grabby, he could be a frontline starter.

17. San Diego Chargers — Florida State DT Eddie Goldman

It’s rare to find pocket-moving, bull-rushing nose tackles, and that’s exactly what Goldman is. The Chargers have built the defense from the middle out, signing Eric Weddle and Donald Butler to extensions and trading up to draft Manti Te’o. But what they’ve lacked — badly — is that clogging force up the middle to help shield and free up those playmakers.

18. Kansas City Chiefs — Pitt OT T.J. Clemmings

Chiefs fans might be in the process of sending me dangerous viruses as they read this. NO WIDE RECIEVER?! Stick with me. Given who is off the board here, and speculating that hometown kid Dorial Green-Beckham won’t be their cup of tea, the Chiefs’ brass instead goes for another key need. Clemmings fits the mold of an Andy Reid lineman: powerful, ornery and athletic. Ryan Harris is a free agent, and Clemmings would figure to be a Day 1 starter in his place. Will Brett Hundley be the third QB taken in the draft? (USA TODAY Sports)

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) — UCLA QB Brett Hundley

From chatter around Indy, it seems that our 2014 midseason predictions will come true: Some team will fall in love with Hundley’s impressive tangibles and intangibles and want to work with him and clean up his faulty mechanics and pocket sense. Figure the Browns and Eagles, who own the next choice, to be the two teams most likely to draft Hundley if he goes this high.

20. Philadelphia Eagles — LSU CB Jalen Collins

Short of landing Nick Foles’ replacement, the Eagles have quite a few other concerns for a team that finished 10-6 last season. Chief among them is a glaring need at cornerback, where Bradley Fletcher was a whipping boy and Cary Williams might not be worth his contract despite playing fairly well at times. Collins’ length and speed fit the Eagles’ ideal at the position.

21. Cincinnati Bengals — Washington LB Shaq Thompson

Like with Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals are willing to overlook workout numbers to identify players. Thompson had been a candidate to go in the top 10 prior to the combine, although that was perhaps a bit rich for a weakside linebacker, even one as skilled as Thompson. Burfict’s health status is up in the air, and Rey Maualuga is a free agent. The linebacking crew needs some new life.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers — Washington CB Marcus Peters

The Steelers have gambled on players with character issues in the recent past, and they would be thrilled to get a player as confident and feisty a cornerback at this stage in the draft. Not everyone is in love with Peters, but he could allow new coordinator Keith Butler to play more press-man than the Steelers did last season.

23. Detroit Lions — LSU OT La’el Collins

This would be a steal, and frankly, we’re not convinced there aren’t teams in the top 10 who might be spying Collins and his ability to play either guard or tackle, making him a very safe prospect. We thought the Lions might be candidates to take Michigan’s Taylor Lewan a year ago, so they come back here and fill a need that remains.

24. Arizona Cardinals — Georgia RB Todd Gurley

This might surprise some people, especially after Bruce Arians said that Andre Ellington remains a focal point of the offense. It doubly might raise eyebrows considering that quarterback Carson Palmer, like Gurley, is recovering from an ACL injury. But if Ellington can buoy the Cards until Gurley is up to full speed, the team could find itself in great shape in a few years when Gurley is a front-line NFL starter.

25. Carolina Panthers — Miami OT Ereck Flowers

The massive Flowers has some technique issues he needs to clean up to maximize his power and become a good pass blocker. But he’s a fiery competitor can bring a dose of nastiness back to the Panthers up front and improve upon failed starter Byron Bell. Flowers’ versatility, having played both tackle spots, makes him even more attractive on a team that needs help on both sides.

26. Baltimore Ravens — Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham      

If there’s a team that could tap into DGB’s rare skills and get the most out of him, it’s this one. GM Ozzie Newsome has an ability to figure immature kids out and determine whether there is something salvageable and hungry inside them. It would be fascinating to see if watching Steve Smith practice and prepare every day might instill a daily work ethic in DGB. In light of the Ray Rice situation last year, would the Ravens sign off on a player with domestic violence allegations in his past? That could raise a lot of questions. But if they sign off on Green-Beckham's character, it could be a fascinating pairing of rare talent and team, and he would fill a need for another red-zone playmaker, too.

Malcom Brown (AP) 27. Dallas Cowboys — Texas DT Malcom Brown

With Henry Melton’s return in real question, the Cowboys tab another former Longhorn here to fill his place. Brown’s penetrative ability would be a real asset on a defense that relies on its front four to supply pressure to help the back end. There’s no edge rusher here to reach for, so the Cowboys can come back to that spot later in the draft.

28. Denver Broncos — Stanford OT Andrus Peat

The Broncos have a way of sitting back and letting the draft come to them, as every year it seems a top-20 talent falls to them in this range. Peat would be the perfect developmental left tackle to one day replace Ryan Clady, who is set to hit the salary cap for more than $10 million each of the next three seasons and who is coming off a down year following his 2013 injury. Peat also can be an immediate upgrade at right tackle. This would be a winning pick.

29. Indianapolis Colts — Alabama S Landon Collins

This would be another steal, and frankly we’re assuming that he could go far earlier (Philadelphia? Cincinnati?) following a banner combine performance. Really, Collins is the only safety worth drafting before Round 3, but even with that we’re not sure he’ll be an instant hit in the NFL given the rash of bigger box safeties — even those with Collins’ great athleticism — who have struggled to become impact starters early in their careers in recent years. Still, this appears an upgrade over LaRon Landry, and potentially a big one.

30. Green Bay Packers — Oklahoma NT Jordan Phillips

What the Packers would love is a big, country-strong nose tackle to plug up the middle and help ease the load on whatever player(s) they settle on at inside linebacker. The ILBs have been a revolving door recently, and though the play there has been poor, it’s also partially to blame for having to stack and shed so many big blockers. Adding the massive Phillips and plugging him on the nose 40 snaps a game would make a huge difference.

31. Seattle Seahawks — Florida OT D.J. Humphries

Left tackle Russell Okung is entering his contract year at age 27 (and could outprice himself for the Seahawks), and Justin Britt was up and down at right tackle as a rookie starter. Humphries’ nasty demeanor and athleticism show up on tape and fit the kind of player the Seahawks seem to seek every year.

32. New England Patriots — Florida State OT-OG-C Cameron Erving

Former OL coach Dante Scarnecchia (who is helping advise the team through the draft) helped the team scout ex-Seminole Bryan Stork, who became an important rookie starter for the Super Bowl champs, and the Patriots could go back to Tallahassee for more OL help. Erving made himself some money when he flawlessly shifted midseason from left tackle to center, and he has guard potential that could make him too attractive to pass up.

ROUND 2

33. Tennessee Titans — Virginia OLB Eli Harold

Filling the quarterback need in Round 1, the Titans swing back and land a gifted, lengthy edge bender at the top of Round 2.

34. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa    

We love his momentum in the postseason, following up a strong Senior Bowl with a very good combine workout. The Bucs need rush help and they get it here.

35. Oakland Raiders — Ohio State DT Michael Bennett

Adding an edge player would be nice, but Antonio Smith turns 34 next season, so the Raiders would help themselves by adding another talented interior rusher.

36. Jacksonville Jaguars — Minnesota TE Maxx Williams

Some have the talented 20-year-old Williams landing in Round 1, but we think he’s a perfect fit here as a replacement for Marcedes Lewis, able to grow with a young, burgeoning offense with Blake Bortles. If the Jaguars land Julius Thomas, we'll readjust our projection.

37. New York Jets — Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi

Landing a player whom we pegged as a top-five possibility as recently as six months ago would be nice for the Jets, whose offensive line looked depleted last season.

38. Washington Redskins — South Carolina OG A.J. Cann

The Redskins could use a little more grit and force up front, and even if Cann is strictly a guard he could help anchor the run game with his experience and toughness.

39. Chicago Bears — Mississippi State LB Benardrick McKinney

McKinney looks like a three-down linebacker who could fit well in the Bears’ remade defense at a position that was a trouble spot a year ago.

40. New York Giants — Florida State OG Tre Jackson           

Passing up the OL need in Round 1, the Giants swing back and land a first-round interior talent who could give them an eight-year type of starter.

41. St. Louis Rams — Penn State OT-OG Donovan Smith

The Rams have shown a bent for rolling the dice on high-ceiling players with potential risk, and if the massive Smith pans out they could really have something.

42. Atlanta Falcons — Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon

Devonta Freeman might end up being a nice complementary back, but the Falcons will need multiple runners in Kyle Shanahan’s stretch-run offense. Gordon is too good to pass up here as a first- and second-down option, which plays to his strengths.

43. Cleveland Browns — USC WR Nelson Agholor                                                     

Shifty, smart slot receiver with return potential, Agholor might not be the dynamic game-changer fans want, but he’ll be productive.

44. New Orleans Saints — Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson 

Passing up on a corner in Round 1, the Saints know they have to address the position early on, and they land a good man corner who doesn’t back down from tough assignments.

45. Minnesota Vikings — Florida State CB P.J. Williams

Williams might not have front-line measurable or athleticism, but he’s a Mike Zimmer type of corner who could make a nice No. 2 starter on the outside.

46. San Francisco 49ers — Stanford CB Alex Carter

The Niners drafted Jimmie Ward, another physical DB, and come back here with a corner whose physicality could make him an Eric Mangini favorite in time.

47. Miami Dolphins — TCU LB Paul Dawson

The fact that he tested poorly is somewhat concerning, but GM Dennis Hickey put his Round 2 faith in Jarvis Landry — like Dawson a better football player than track tester — and was rewarded. The Dolphins’ linebackers need some reshuffling.

48. San Diego Chargers — Indiana RB Tevin Coleman

If the Chargers lose Ryan Mathews, Coleman could be the perfect replacement assuming his injured foot tests out well in April. Keep an eye on him, folks — Coleman is legit.

49. Kansas City Chiefs — Miami WR Phillip Dorsett

Aching for deep speed, Andy Reid lands a DeSean Jackson-like burner … without the headaches. Dorsett was woefully underused in Miami and could open things up for Alex Smith.

50. Buffalo Bills — Duke OG Laken Tomlinson

The Bills’ long wait without a pick finally is over, and they land a smart, savvy and tough guard here. If the Bills fill their OG need in free agency, you could see them go for a quarterback such as …

51. Houston Texans — Baylor QB Bryce Petty

If the Bills pass on Petty, the Texans could pounce. Both teams have met with multiple quarterbacks at the all-star games and combine, and the Texans could groom Petty to be a starter in 2016 or beyond, even though he is older than your typical prospect at 24.

52. Philadelphia Eagles — LSU OLB-DE Danielle Hunter

Needing another edge rusher with Trent Cole aging and Marcus Smith showing nothing so far, Hunter could be groomed as a future starter in time.

53. Cincinnati Bengals — Michigan WR-TE Devin Funchess                                    

The Bengals appear ready to walk from Jermaine Gresham and know they have three receivers entering their free-agent seasons in 2015. The Bengals can figure out exactly what Funchess is and how to tap into his mismatch abilities.

54. Detroit Lions — Iowa DT Carl Davis

The Lions will be hard-pressed to keep both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, so they could tab the gifted Davis and try to keep his fire alit on a talented D-line.

55. Arizona Cardinals — UCLA LB Eric Kendricks

Daryl Washington remains indefinitely suspended, and the feisty Kendricks would be a perfect fit inside for this defense.

56. Pittsburgh Steelers — Boise State RB Jay Ajayi    

It might be a semi-luxury to draft another running back in Round 2 again, with Le’Veon Bell clearly the bellcow. But his two-game suspension and no clear backup means the Steelers need to back up their most important player.

57. Carolina Panthers — Ohio State WR Devin Smith                        

Lacking any real perimeter speed, the Panthers would love Smith’s vertical presence to help open things up underneath for Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. Plus, Smith’s a quality gunner, and the Panthers’ special teams need major work.

58. Baltimore Ravens — Miami (Ohio) CB Quentin Rollins

Ravens scout Mark Azevedo is the one credited with convincing Rollins to switch from hoops to football, so it makes sense that Rollins — even with his slow 40 time — could help a trouble spot in Baltimore.

59. Denver Broncos — Miami (Fla.) Denzel Perryman

The Broncos are switching to a 3-4 and could use a strong force inside, even if Perryman’s ability to disengage and also play on third downs is in some question.

60. Dallas Cowboys — Florida State DE Mario Edwards                   

Edwards’ final season at FSU was disappointing, but the Cowboys are among the teams willing to rewind tape to find talent. Edwards could help replace Anthony Spencer on the strong side.

61. Indianapolis Colts — Oregon OT Jake Fisher

The nimble-footed Fisher might not be an ideal-framed right tackle, but he’s a better run blocker than he’s credited to be and can help add athleticism up front on a patchy line.

62. Green Bay Packers — Connecticut CB Byron Jones

Mr. Broad Jump is actually a pretty good football player, too. He played through a shoulder injury and was a team captain at a school that has been an NFL pipeline for decent CB talent.

63. Seattle Seahawks — Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman

A group of undrafted receivers could use a little help, especially with Paul Richardson likely to miss the early part of the season. Perriman’s intriguing skills could fit Seattle’s needs nicely.

64. New England Patriots — Mississippi State DE Preston Smith

The Patriots have a body type they like for their edge players, and Smith fits it. They also could consider Washington OLB Hau’oli Kikaha, whom they met with at the combine.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 24, 2015, 3:57 pm

 

First of all, I like the Cleveland Browns' helmets and I'm glad they didn't do a massive overhaul just because they felt they needed to.

Though, announcing it as a "new" helmet is kind of overselling.

It's the same. The orange color is a little brighter. Take a look, from the Browns' website:

(ClevelandBrowns.com)

I mean, maybe that looks a ton different on our television sets in the fall. But on a screen it just looks like someone spilled a little more paint (the new Dawg Pound logo is pretty good though). The new color is billed as "brighter and richer and matches the passion or our fans and city." Sure. The brown face mask is new, and a nice touch. They also changed the font on the wordmark, which I hadn't noticed before and won't notice moving forward.

Again, this wasn't exactly the Buccaneers overhauling their rosters to make it look like they were a digital clock:

Thoughts on the Browns new logo? http://t.co/bQxTuS4yFG pic.twitter.com/4kgMztheCx

— Darius Butler (@DariusJButler) February 24, 2015

The Browns have teased a new uniform unveiling for April 14. Maybe the brown color will be a little darker, who knows.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 24, 2015, 3:24 pm

So Adidas couldn't give out their leopard Porsches.

Instead, the three fastest men at the NFL scouting combine to wear the company's shoes — Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes, Miami (Fla.) wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and West Virginia receiver Kevin White — each will earn $100,000 for their blazing 40-yard dashes, Adidas announced.

They're better off, really, considering the cars were valued at less than $100K apiece.

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Waynes capped off the combine festivities on Monday with a defensive back-best time of 4.31. Dorsett and White turned in times of 4.33 and 4.35, respectively.

But here's the rub: They were not officially the three fastest players in Indy.

Diminutitve J.J. Nelson of UAB scorched a 4.28, and Georgia's Chris Conley turned in a shockingly good workout, tying White's number. Apparently, neither player were wearing the company's UNCAGED adizero 5-Star 40 kicks.

Nonetheless, Adidas has signed quite the impressive haul of 2015 draft prospects. Including some really fast ones.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 24, 2015, 12:30 am

Michael Sam reportedly has found work. It's just not in the NFL.

Sam will be participating on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," according to an announcement by the network on Tuesday morning. Sam, who announced to the world a little more than a year ago that he's gay, is not currently on an NFL roster.

The free-agent defensive end has been out of work since being released by the Dallas Cowboys from their practice squad last season. Before that, the Rams — who drafted Sam in Round 7 last year — cut him after a three-sack, 11-tackle preseason performance.

NFL players historically have fared well on the show, with Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward winning their respective seasons, and Jerry Rice, Jason Taylor and Warren Sapp finishing second. There was also a rumor that Russell Wilson would participate in this season if the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl, but the world will never know if that was true thanks to Malcolm Butler

Dancing With The Stars is set to start filming its 20th season on March 16.

Will this prevent Sam from getting another NFL shot? We're not sure it should, but teams might not be all that excited to sign him if he's taking part in non-football activities — even if they keep him in shape — with the offseason getting rolling.

In addition, Sam has said he'd like to participate in the NFL's first-ever veterans combine, which takes place on March 22. It's not clear if Sam's involvement in the show would interfere with this.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 23, 2015, 11:42 pm

The Carolina Panthers have released DeAngelo Williams, according to Molly Grantham of WBTV in Charlotte.

D'Angelo Williams has been released by the #Panthers, per @MollyGrantham. End of an era. pic.twitter.com/V9zkvosXRv

— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) February 23, 2015

When Williams later retweeted Grantham's report, that would appear to be a confirmation of the news.

It would mark the end of an era during which Williams became the franchise's all-time leading rusher with a career that started with the team as a first-round pick in 2006. Williams has rushed 1,432 times for 6,846 yards and 46 touchdowns — all franchise bests — and he's also the Panthers' fifth-leading receivers all time with 178 receptions, for 1,621 yards and seven more scores.

Williams' career, sadly, also has been known for injuries. He was limited to six games last season and  has played all 16 games only four times in his nine-year career, all of which has been in Carolina.

Williiams turns 32 in April and was set to hit against the salary cap for more than $6 million, so it's no surprise he was released. This is the second straight year the Panthers have released a former franchise cornerstone after Steve Smith was cut a little over a year ago. When asked about Williams' status at the NFL scouting combine last week, Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman — like he was with Smith in 2014 — was non-committal.

"I spoke to DeAngelo. We had a great conversation. It's private, it's confidential. It's between us," Gettleman said. "DeAngelo had a tough season. He lost his mom, who he was very close to. He dedicated the season to her, and he just couldn't stay healthy. And it was really hard for him. Then he broke his hand against Minnesota. That's hard, especially when you're 32. A 32-year-old running back in the NFL. It was extremely difficult.

"But he finished the season like a pro's pro, and like a man. And I really respect DeAngelo for the way he finished it. We had our conversation and we'll probably continue, and that's where I'm going to leave it."

Williams now will have to continue with another NFL team if he wants to keep playing. 

The Panthers are left with Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whittaker and fullback Richie Brockel in the backfield and could be candidates to add some youth and explosion to the position through the draft. The team had only one run longer than 28 yards during the entire regular season.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 23, 2015, 8:25 pm

The Arizona Cardinals believe that good times are here to stay. So are their head coach and general manager.

The team has signed head coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim to contract extensions that will last through the 2018 season, according to the Cardinals' official website.

“Two years ago we hired Steve and Bruce a few days apart and believed we had something really special,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said in a statement. “Every day since then they have validated that belief. The team’s performance over the last two seasons certainly reflects how talented they are in their respective roles and it was important that we reward them for their accomplishments.

“I speak not only for myself but all Cardinals fans when I say how thrilled we all are that Steve and Bruce are now under contract though 2018.”

Bidwell had promised for months that something would get done on the Arians and Keim fronts, and now it has come to fruition. This appears to be a team on strong footing coming off an 11-5 season that — despite all kind of quarterback health issues — earned Arians the Coach of the Year award for his strong work buoying the ship.

Keim, too, earns high praise for the way the Cardinals have built their roster up from one of the league's worst to one that could sustain major setbacks on both sides of the ball to make the playoffs a season ago.

The Cardinals have drafted well and now have two franchise cornerstones, quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, signed up to contract extensions in the past several months. With a healthy Palmer, a few savvy free-agent moves and another strong draft, the Cardinals could be back in contention again in the tough NFC West.

Both Keim and Arians are pleased with where they are at, but their work isn't done.

“I’m living out my dream,” Keim said last week on the subject of his impending contract extension. “Here I am, the son of a machinist, running a football team in the NFL. I’m humbled by it and appreciative of the opportunity. What makes it special is seeing where this organization started and what it has become.”

Added Arians, “You have to get better, you have to work every single day. You can’t relax in this business. Like I’ve always said, it’s a real short elevator ride back down. Enjoy [the accolades], but don’t ever believe it.”

Even with that, the Cardinals clearly believe in their team's leaders for the next several seasons.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 23, 2015, 7:42 pm

Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones is a good football player, but his Monday workout at the NFL scouting combine was historic.

Jones smashed the combine broad-jump record by leaping 12 feet, three inches and might actually have set a world record in the process, too. Take it for what it's worth, but Wikipedia has Jones as the highest recorded broad jump ever — 0.02 meters longer than a Norwegian track athlete named Arne Tvervaag, who jumped 3.71 metres in 1968.

Hello.

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The 6-foot-1, 199-pound Jones also high-jumped 44.5 inches, which was half an inch off on the best mark at this year's combine. That's how you help yourself, even if former combine superstars such as Donald Washington come to mind.

Jones' mark is eight inches better than any broad jump at the combine since 2006, and it's believed to be 10 inchest better than any cornerback dating back to 1999, which had been held by Wisconsin's Scott Starks back in 2005. Starks was a third-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Does this suddenly vault Jones into the first two rounds of the draft? That's unclear, but folks we talked to think he already rated fairly high in what appears to be a middling but hardly great group at the cornerback position.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 23, 2015, 4:55 pm

Maybe we should have included the ball boy in our NFL scouting combine winners list.

Check out the grip he has when Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton, a mountain of a man at 339 pounds, sneaks up behind him and tries to rip the ball out. Shelton did 34 reps of the 225-pound bench press but wasn't able to get the pigskin loose from a less-developed kid.

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Denied! Ball security!

It was an underwhelming weekend for the running backs, so maybe this kid has a chance to make it.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 23, 2015, 2:47 am

Some of the most important developments at the NFL scouting combine happen behind closed doors — the medical and character evaluations of most of the 323 players attending — but the on-field product matters to a certain degree, too.

We’ve collected our data, sent out a barrage of text messages and calls to NFL evaluators and put it all together to determine who has helped themselves in Indianapolis and who has not.

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(Note: This was written prior to some of the linebackers and defensive backs working out, so we’ll update you on their performances later.)

Here are the winners and losers:

WINNERS

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota

They’re not guaranteed to be the first two picks in the draft, but their decision to throw at the combine did not hurt them at all. In fact, it might have solidified that the on-field products for both — while far different from each other — are good to very good.

Winston won over the media with his easy charm, and there were anonymous media reports that he was killing it behind closed doors. One offensive coordinator told Shutdown Corner that Winston “still comes off as immature, even if he can be likeable. He needs to stop smiling when we’re asking him tough questions. But he swatted back every [football question] we had for him easily. It was impressive. The kid knows the game ... has a feel for it, a real gift.”

In addition, a different NFL evaluator told us that Mariota was quiet and introverted in their interview session, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they felt he was mature and grounded and had a foundation to work with as a player, both mentally and physically. He also led all quarterbacks in the running times, displaying his excellent athleticism.

The bottom line is that these are two unique talents, and there is a noticeable dropoff to the other quarterbacks in this class, even if Baylor’s Bryce Petty had a strong throwing session. Winston and Mariota won’t get out of the top 10, and someone could move up to draft the second QB whomever that will be.

Wide receivers

The cream rose to the top.

The consensus top three — Kevin White, Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker, whatever order you have them in — all performed exceptionally well in almost every way.

White especially blew away teams by running a 4.35 40, with strong performances in almost every other physical drill. He also ran the gauntlet drill well, looking confident and polished.

Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong pushed his way into the first-round discussion, and ex-Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham had an impressive day on the field, even if one NFL evaluator told SDC that he worried about DGB’s maturity and football IQ after meeting with him.

Other off-the-radar prospects such as Georgia’s Chris Conley, Nebraska’s Kenny Bell, William & Mary’s Tre McBride and Georgia Tech’s Darren Waller all raised their stock with strong weekends on the field.

Yes, 2014 was the year of the wide receiver in the draft — one of the all-time great classes at the position. But 2015 appears to be an excellent sequel worth catching.

Hobart OT Ali Marpet

Who? Yes, one of the big postseason winners has been an offensive tackle from a school with an enrollment of 2,200, one that is better known for its lacrosse program and a football team that hasn’t landed a player on an NFL roster since before World War II.

Marpet shined at the Senior Bowl, showing he can play up to the better level of competition, and he tested out as one of the more athletic offensive linemen in Indy this weekend. Throw in his positional versatility (playing tackle in college, and could project to guard or center in the NFL) and the intelligent, grounded Marpet might end up a top-75 pick.

One scout joked with SDC that he was probably breaking NFL rules by asking Marpet, an economics major at the liberal-arts school, for advice about his financial profile after their 15-minute interview session was over.

OTs Jake Fisher and La’El Collins

Oregon’s Fisher and LSU’s Collins both were some of the cleanest performers in the offensive line positional drills, and Fisher’s athletic prowess — clearly in great shape playing in the Ducks’ revved-up offense — jumped off the field.

Fisher might project as a left tackle, and Collins has positional versa

tility at both guard and tackle, making him a safer pick. Both men helped themselves in scouts’ eyes.

Don’t get blinded by Collins’ pedestrian 40-yard dash or his subpar bench number. He was plenty impressive in the foot drills to make us believe he could be a Day 1 starter in the NFL on the right team.

Clemson OLB-DE Vic Beasley

Eyes were opened when Beasley, whom NFL people estimated played last season in the 220-to-225-pound range this past fall, arrived in Indy weighing 246 pounds. Would he still be able to run and move in the drills? Uh, yes.

Beasley smoked his 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds, tops among all edge rushers along with Virginia’s Eli Harold), pumped out a stunning 35 reps on the bench, notched a 41-inch vertical and a 10’10” vertical jump and looked more than capable of being a 3-4 outside linebacker at this weight and perhaps even a pass-rush specialist in a 4-3 scheme.

At this point, he’s looking more and more like a first-round pick who could end up in the top 20 when it’s all said and done.

LOSERS

Running backs

In what is perceived to be a deep class, the cream didn’t rise to the top the way it could have.

Georgia's Todd Gurley remains injured, and he reportedly would not let doctors inspect his torn ACL, although he is expected to return to the medical recheck in Indy next month for that. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon ran two solid but hardly blazing 40-yard dash times, which could keep him out of Round 1. Indiana's Tevin Coleman broke his foot in training prior to the combine and could not work out.

The fastest 40 was turned in by a player, Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford, whose game is not based on long speed and who projects as a late Day 2 or Day 3 pick. David Cobb, who shined at the Senior Bowl, stumbled to 4.81-second 40, pulling up lame with a quad injury.

It wasn’t a total loss. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah helped himself with strong all-around workouts and showed up at a respectable 205 pounds. Northern Iowa’s David Johnson certainly helped continuing to help himself after a nice Senior Bowl week.

But if we’re expecting multiple players in Round 1, that might not happen now and some other good players at the position such as Alabama's T.J. Yeldon could leak into Round 3. As a group, the backs created little upward push this weekend.

East Carolina QB Shane Carden

Carden struggled at the Senior Bowl and did little to stand out in Indy. He has good character and was productive in college, but — as many scouts suspected — a lot of that production was manufactured by the Pirates’ offense. Carden’s physical skills just are not impressive, and he doesn’t appear to be a draftable prospect at this point.

Tight ends

Minnesota’s Maxx Williams picked things up after a slow start, and Florida State’s Nick O’Leary and Notre Dame’s Bay Koyack looked respectable in positional drills. But overall this is not a sexy or particularly deep group.

We were not blown away by anyone’s workouts this weekend, and it’s very possible that Williams could slip from the top 20 talk that everyone wanted to bestow on him pre-combine. The depth just isn't here in this class.

Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

Auburn WR Sammie Coates

There was talk of Coates being one of the fastest players in Indy, but his 4.43 40 was the 12th-fastest among wideouts. That means that Coates’ other shortcomings, including the consistency of his hands and his route running, are magnified.

As expected, Coates shined in the other track drills with top numbers in the 20-yard shuttle, the broad and vertical jumps and the bench press, where he benged out an eye-popping 23 reps at 225 pounds.

Those are all great things. But Coates has some unrefined talent and will require some patience to groom. Of course, many observers said similar things about former Clemson WR Martavis Bryant coming out of Indy a year ago, and though he slid to the fourth round, Bryant exploded on the field as a deep threat once he got on the field as a rookie for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Florida DT Leon Orr and Norfolk State edge rusher Lynden Trail

His frame might make him a physical fit as a 5-technique in a 3-4 defense, and they’re hard to find. But his athleticism might have been oversold coming into the combine, and he did not win over some evaluators in his interview sessions, after we spoke to a few teams about him, following his dismissal from the Gators’ team after appearing to quit on Will Muschamp there.

Muschamp also had enough of Trail at Florida to excuse him from the program, too. He became a big fish in a small pond at Norfolk, and Trail displayed some intriguing skills at the Senior Bowl. But it was in Mobile that Trail told us definitively he was a 3-4 linebacker (he also wants to give tight end a try), and his pair of 40-yard dashes — 4.96 and 5.09, with uninspiring 10-yard splits — might dash those hopes.

Trail also came across as overly confident in one team’s interview session.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 22, 2015, 6:40 pm

UAB football is dead. Long live UAB football.

Mere months after the University of Alabama-Birmingham shut down its football program, one of its wide receivers made a little noise Saturday at the NFL scouting combine.

Diminutive J.J. Nelson might only stand 5-10 and weigh a paltry 156 pounds, but he can flat out fly. Nelson ran a combine-best (through Saturday) 4.28-second 40-yard dash.

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Now that's representing your school — nicknamed the Blazers, fittingly — well.

Nelson led UAB in receptions (42), receiving yards (846) and receiving touchdowns (8) this past season, despite missing two games, and averaged a whopping 38.7 yards per kick return average with four more touchdowns.

At 156 pounds, his chances of getting drafted and making a life in the NFL remain slim. Other undersized burners such as Trindon Holliday, Aaron Lockett, Brandon Banks and Onterrio McCalebb have had limited NFL success, with most of it coming as a return specialist.

Still, it was fun to watch the former track star Nelson put on a show, reaching a 40-yard dash time that only a handful of players have ever touched in Indianapolis.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 22, 2015, 2:35 am

INDIANAPOLIS Chris Conley had a nice career at Georgia. Not anything that would make you think he'd be one of the buzzy names in the NFL draft, but nice.

He had 36 catches for 657 yards as a senior. One 100-yard game, with 128 against Arkansas. He was SEC scholar-athlete of the year, but that was the extent of his senior year awards. He wasn't even honorable mention all-SEC.

But every year we have a player or two who blow away the combine, and this year it's Conley. He won the week.

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Conley basically did the Vernon Davis at the combine, wrecking the field in just about every test. He ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, only .02 off of what Miami speedster Phillip Dorsett ran. His 45-inch vertical was three inches better than any receiver, and probably about as good as most NBA dunk contest winners (this year's winner, Zach LaVine, has a reported 46-inch vertical). Conley's 11-7 broad jump beat the rest of the receivers by seven inches.

He set combine records for the vertical jump and the broad jump. And that, friends, is how you go from a good, solid SEC receiver to someone every NFL team will be reviewing his film on in coming weeks.

Conley's big pre-draft push started at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, when he felt comfortable against the competition.

"I learned that I can compete with pretty much anyone," Conley said, according to Rivals. "You have people come around from across the country, guys who were the best in their respective schools, at their respective conferences, and it's a time to see what peer competition is like. At that point I was able to have some confidence, build some confidence and show some people who aren't from the Southeast what I'm all about."

Before this week, Conley might have been best known for releasing a great Star Wars fan film.

So he's creative and an absolute freak of nature athletically too. Of course, teams are wary of over-drafting someone after putting too much into workout numbers instead of the game film. Call it the Mike Mamula effect. But Conley will be remembered for winning the 2015 combine. His will be the combine that future workout warriors will be compared to.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 21, 2015, 9:27 pm

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota both threw at the NFL scouting combine, and for good reason: Neither have much, if anything, to hide.

Both men threw the ball very well on Saturday. 

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It's rare for top quarterbacks to throw in Indianapolis, with Cam Newton in 2011 the last No. 1 overall pick to do so. But Blake Bortles opted to throw last year, and it certainly didn't hurt him in ending up the third pick in the 2014 draft.

#Bucs GM Jason Licht on the passing drills performance of Winston and Mariota: "They both showcased their strengths. They both looked...

— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) February 21, 2015

Licht: "...very impressive. I love the fact they both laid it all out there for everyone to see along with all the others.''

— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) February 21, 2015

For Mariota, who faced questions of making NFL-caliber throws, and Winston, with rumors of a balky throwing shoulder during medical evaluations, it was a chance to dispel the doubters. Consider those questions more muted after their performances, both of which were strong.  

Of the two, Winston appeared to throw with a little more ease and confidence. Upon receiving the ball for his final attempt of the day, the charismatic Winston said, smiling, "They always save the best for last!" Then he ripped a perfect out route.

Mariota threw fluidly and accurately, only missing a few attempts, and he looked comfortable with the five- and seven-step drops that were few and far between in his standout career as a spread-option QB at Oregon. And Mariota was the athletic winner of the day, blazing a QB-best 4.52 40-yard dash (to Winston's pair of 4.9s).

Also looking good was Baylor's Bryce Petty. After a so-so Senior Bowl week, Petty helped himself in Indy with a nice throwing session alongside Winston and Mariota. Petty can continue to gain steam in a draft class where the third quarterback spot is up for grabs right now.

But of the top two, Winston was the slightly better performer. With buzz circulating around NFL circles that he also has done a good job in his interviews behind closed doors with teams, the feeling is that Winston — even with his spotty background off the field — is the more polished NFL thrower of the two at this point.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 21, 2015, 7:47 pm

The Tennessee Titans own the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft and are doing their due dilligence on the top two quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

One would expect that, even with a promising but ultimately unproven asset in 2014 sixth-round quarterback Zach Mettenberger on the roster.

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But Mettenberger, speaking with 104.5 The Zone’s SportsFest in Nashville (via ESPN.com), said he believes he could beat either prospective rookie out in a head-to-head battle if it came down to that.

“They are obviously very talented guys,” Mettenberger said. “… If they were here, I think they would say the same thing: If we had to compete out there, I think I’d beat them out.”  

In seven games as a rookie, Mettenberger completed 107-of-179 passes (59.8 percent) for 1,412 yards (a healthy 7.9-yard average) with eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and four fumbles.

There were some strong moments. There were some less-than-strong moments. But it was an encouraging start to his career prior to a shoulder injury that ended his first season. Mettenberger said he's 100 percent healthy now and has been throwing well this offseason.

Also appearing on the show was fellow 2014 rookie, tackle Taylor Lewan, who said he loved the rookie's confidence in his Winston-Mariota claim.

“I think any person that doesn’t say that is not going to be successful,” Lewan said. “There are only so many positions in the NFL you can be a part of. If another guy comes in that’s a first-round pick or a second-round pick or a higher pick than you were, you either fold it up or you can take that adversity and thrive with it.”

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 21, 2015, 7:11 pm

If we're judging 40-yard dash times for quarterbacks, we're entering some dangerous territory.

All hail Reggie McNeil, who blazed a sub-4.4 time but never made it as a quarterback and was switched to wide receiver in a nada NFL career. (Other fast 40 times in the same range delivered by more notable quarterbacks include Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III.)

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And on the other end of the spectrum, there are the painfully slow times of yore from Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, who have found ways to work around their foot-speed limitations to have excellent NFL careers.

So take the following 40 times for Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston — and any other QB, for that matter — with a serious grain of salt.

But it was impressive to watch Mariota, bulked up to 222 pounds, run a 4.52 — best among all QBs — and a 1.57-second 10-yard split that was better than some fast-running wide receivers. That's impressive, in a vacuum.

As for Winston, he ran two 40 times of 4.97 and 4.99, which coaxed Twitter to start digging up those photos of the Florida State quarterback's distended belly a week or so ago. But really, what did we expect him to run? Certainly not markedly faster; that's not his deal.

Tim Tebow, after all, was smack dab right in the middle of both Mariota and Winston — in the mid-4.7s — and what did that mean for his NFL career?

Now, does it raise a corner of an eyebrow that Winston's times were in the same range as 307-pound Hobart offensive lineman Ali Marpet? Perhaps. But it shouldn't take away the perspective of quarterbacks we regard as being respectably athletic for their builds — Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mark Sanchez and Blake Bortles — all turning in times that are in that Winston neighborhood when they were at the NFL scouting combine in years past.

Like any combine metric, perspective is what's most important. Foot speed is far more important to Mariota's game than it is to how Winston plays.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 21, 2015, 6:38 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – If no running backs are drafted in the first round for the third straight year, that streak might last for a while.

Between Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, and maybe even Indiana’s Tevin Coleman if teams aren’t scared off by his foot injury, there are backs talented enough to be taken in the first round. But that would buck a trend.

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The last backs to be selected in the first round were Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson in 2012 (and looking at those names, you get an idea why they were the last ones). From 1964 to 2012 a running back was taken in the first round every year. In that span, more than one running back was taken in the first round every year except 1984 and 2011, when only one back went each year.

Now players like Gurley and Gordon are entering a league in which NFL offensive player of the year DeMarco Murray might struggle to get a huge contract in free agency because he’s a running back. Nobody is investing in that market anymore.

“People have had success getting running backs late," Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. "Teams are in need of a quarterback and a left tackle. Those positions are premium to everybody.

"Those other positions take precedence. You can't play without a quarterback. You can't play without a left tackle. You can't play without pass rushers."

That’s why all of the top running backs were asked about the two-year streak of no running backs being taken into the first round, after nearly 50 years passed without that happening.

Maybe they didn’t feel the running backs the last couple of years were first-round talent, I don’t know,” Gordon said. “Le’Veon Bell and Gio (Bernard) were pretty good. I can’t answer that. We just have to change that this year and show people that we’re capable of going in the first round.”

Gurley and Gordon are considered the top two in the class. Gurley is a more complete back than Gordon, but he is coming off ACL surgery. He won’t work out at the combine and likely won’t work out at his pro day next month, and that might cause some uncertainty which could hurt his draft stock. Still, it’s hard to imagine someone with his talent level falling out of the first round.

Gordon’s production at Wisconsin will draw attention. He rushed for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was just short of Barry Sanders’ season record of 2,628 yards set in 1988. He also set a FBS record with 408 yards against Nebraska, although that record was broken a week later.

His ability to consistently get into the open field and break a big run has drawn comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs’ back Jamaal Charles, but Gordon wasn’t putting himself in that class.

“Jamaal Charles is his own man. He’s a phenomenal player in the NFL,” Gordon said. “We are similar, but he’s got that little burst. I don’t think I have that. But I try to take different things from each and every player that’s in the league that’s successful and just try to mix in my own game."

Coleman is a tough evaluation because he has a toe injury, one that he played through last season when he rushed for 2,036 yards. The injury will prevent him from working out at the combine.

A few years ago Coleman would probably have had a pretty good chance at being a first-round pick, based on his talent and production. But the same could be said for players like Eddie Lacy and Bell, who became second-round picks. 

There’s a lot of great guys in this 2015 draft, a lot of great backs out here,” Coleman said. “I’m just out here working hard, trying to be that guy drafted in the first round.”

This class is good, and there is a lot of talent to be mined in later rounds. There's legitimate first-round talent too. Whether any of them will actually go in the first round isn't as clear.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 20, 2015, 9:53 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – The buzz was that interviews with teams would be the most important part of the NFL scouting combine for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

Based on how he handled his news conference on Friday, he’ll do just fine in that arena.

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Winston was remarkably confident and at ease during his nearly 12 minutes with the media. From his opening words about understanding the mistakes he has made off the field, he kept hammering home the same theme: That he will earn his next team’s trust by his actions moving forward.

“When I do get to a city, with a team, I plan on getting involved in the community and creating an image – a positive image – and put everything else behind me,” Winston said.

“My job as a quarterback is to be the face of a franchise. My job is to win games, hopefully win Super Bowls, and that’s a big responsibility. That’s a job up here. Whatever is behind me is behind me, so this is a new face.”

It won’t be so easy to put his past behind him. There was the silly allegation of stealing soda from the machine at a fast-food restaurant, the civil citation for stealing crab legs from a supermarket, and a very troubling sexual assault allegation at Florida State. No charges were brought in the latter case because there wasn’t sufficient evidence, and he was cleared in an FSU code of conduct hearing.

Winston talked about visiting an elementary school in Tallahassee and his 7-year-old brother, and how he realized that the bad headlines affected the children looking up to him. He didn’t mind laying it on a little thick.

“I’ve got so many people to inspire and I’ve got so many little kids looking up to me, not only as a quarterback but as a person,” Winston said. “I want to be that role model for them.”

Do you buy it?

Winston sold himself incredibly well, and if teams aren’t put off by the allegations and incidents in his past, it’s easy to see them being smitten by how he can own a room. That’s a big intangible for any quarterback. He showed off a lot of charisma (he brought up a photo of him from weeks ago looking overweight and joked, “I look good and I know it,” to laughter from the media) and either confidence or arrogance, depending on how you viewed it. He was aware he's riding that fine line.

“I’m a confident person. People may buy that as arrogance,” Winston said. “But I’m just out there confident because when my team looks at me, they’re going to see a smile on my face because I’m going to tell them, 'You know what we’re capable of doing and we’re not going down with a loss.'"

His confidence isn’t lacking at all. He and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota have been discussed as possibilities for the top pick, but Winston seemed to dismiss that competition a bit because he has bigger things in mind.

“This is not no competition just between me and Mariota. Because one thing about me, I plan on winning a Super Bowl in the next year,” Winston said. “So it’s going to be Jameis vs. Peyton Mannings and Jameis vs. Tom Bradys. I want to be viewed like that. After all this combine stuff, you’re not going to hear any more about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. But I want my name to remain relevant for the next 15, 20 years of my career.”

People talk about winning the media conference, and Winston did that on Friday. He laughed off concerns about weakness in his shoulder, saying he had an MRI like everyone else did and his shoulder feels great. He said he'll throw on Saturday at the combine because he's a competitor. Winston talked about what a privilege it would be for the Glazer family that owns the Buccaneers to make him the first pick – and as long as his shoulder issues are as much of a non-factor as he claims, that seems to be a logical outcome when the NFL draft starts.

Everyone wondered how Winston would react to answering questions about his past and his future at the combine, but he was as comfortable as could be when the moment came.

“This is what I dream of,” Winston said. “I dream of being a Hall of Famer some day. And I dream of being the face of someone’s franchise.”

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 20, 2015, 8:40 pm

The 2014 NFL scouting combine was a fast-running big man's dream, with eventual first-round offensive tackles Greg Robinson and Taylor Lewan blazing 40-yard dash times of 4.92 and 4.87, respectively.

This year's combine was paced by a big man, yes, but one from a very small school.

As in Division-III Hobart College, far more known for its lacrosse than its football.

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Yes, the Statesmen have not had one of their players land in the NFL since the 1930s, but offensive lineman Ali Marpet is almost assured to end that streak after performing well at the Senior Bowl and following Friday's impressive combine performance.

Marpet led all offensive linemen with an official 4.98-second 40 time (unofficially, the initial timing was 5.10), and the fastest 10-yard split among all the offensive linemen of 1.74 seconds. Speed is not going to be an automatic ticket to the NFL, but his athleticism pops, as does his competitiveness. Notable from his Senior Bowl week was locking horns — and holding his own — against possible top-10 pick, Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

Also, Marpet (hence the Hobart degree) is smart, with the school producing far more hedge-fund managers than athletes, but that intelligence is considered a plus. He could project to center or guard, and he played in college (and for one day at the Senior Bowl) at left tackle, so Marpet ranks high in the versatility category, too.

The 6-3, 307-pound Marpet isn't going to be a first-round pick, but it wouldn't be completely stunning to see him drafted on the draft's second day — either Round 2 or 3 — as a multi-positional prospect.

His 40 on Friday helped make this young man some money, which is a good thing considering Hobart's tuition (no scholarships there) of $57,000 per year. Ouch!

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 20, 2015, 7:53 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – It seemed this week that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had moved into pole position to be the No. 1 pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a report about his shoulder might put that plan on hold.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Winston is having tests to determine why he is experiencing weakness in his throwing shoulder. Mortensen reported that Winston had a electromyography, a test that checks the health of muscles and the nerve cells that control them.

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George Whitfield, a quarterbacks coach who has been working with Winston to prepare for the combine, said he was surprised by the news and thought it was just precautionary, and part of the combine process in which all prospects have a number of medical tests done. He said Winston threw for 90 minutes on Tuesday and had no issues, never complained about his shoulder and was doing fine physically in the entire lead-up to the combine. 

"It's a little bit of a shock," Whitfield said about hearing the news. "We threw hard and long like he always does. He looked good. He's only been getting stronger."

Whitfield's lack of knowledge of anything wrong with Winston's shoulder should lessen the concern, considering he has worked closely with Winston since the college season was done and Winston never said anything about a shoulder issue. But if Winston has something wrong with his shoulder, the Buccaneers could easily switch course and look at Oregon's Marcus Mariota with the top pick. For now everyone will just wait and see if there's anything that would cause a change in Winston's draft stock.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 20, 2015, 6:33 pm

The San Diego Chargers' threat to move to Los Angeles has moved into the all-important phase of politicians being publicly angered.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city and fans were deceived by the team when it suddenly announced plans to build a stadium with the Oakland Raiders near Los Angeles if it doesn't get its own stadium deal done in San Diego.

We've all heard this song and dance before in other cities, but let's run it back for San Diego and Faulconer.

"The Chargers weren't being up front with San Diegans, they weren't being up front with their fans...That's not how you get things done," Faulconer said to the Union-Tribune. "We deserve an honest dialogue. What we saw speaks volumes about the true intentions and about what's been happening over the last few weeks."

Sounds bad, right? The Chargers are goners for sure now that they've deceived the mayor and the fans, no?

No.

"I'm more committed than ever to get this done" in San Diego, Faulconer told the Union-Tribune. "San Diegans deserve for the team to stay here."

The NFL's Los Angeles bluff, which it has been running at a 100 percent success rate for 20 years, is really aggressive this time. The joint statement between two teams with the stadium renderings for Carson, Calif., was a unique touch. Now they have two cities feeling pressure to get taxpayer money to fund a new stadium for incredibly rich owners. The people of San Diego HAVE to pay for a stadium now ... the Chargers showed actual stadium renderings, so they're serious folks!!!

Again, if the NFL wanted a team in Los Angeles, there would have been a team in Los Angeles long ago. The league prints money; it can afford to get that done. Now three teams are playing the L.A. card, because the Rams have their own separate bluff going on to get a new stadium in St. Louis.

Whether there's actually a team in Los Angeles anytime soon is another thing because it wouldn't surprise anyone if there are magically new plans in these cities to keep the teams there and keep the Los Angeles market open for the next time an NFL team needs leverage to extort tax dollars from its city for a new stadium.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 20, 2015, 6:03 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Dorial Green-Beckham is a wild card in this draft, particularly in the receiver class.

On talent alone, he might be a top-five pick. He’s 6-foot-5, 237 pounds. Calvin Johnson was 6-5, 239 at his scouting combine, for comparison. Green-Beckham showed flashes of his immense talent at Missouri. He also carries enough red flags for everyone to see from miles away.

He was kicked out of Missouri for multiple off-field incidents for marijuana and a domestic violence incident, although he was not charged for the latter after the alleged victim declined to press charges. He sat out all of last season at the University of Oklahoma after transferring.

The former No. 1 recruit out of high school said he has matured (Dr. Saturday's Graham Watson discusssed Green-Beckham's past and him trying to move on from it here) and insisted he won’t be a problem anymore.

Because I know what’s at stake,” Green-Beckham said. “I know what type of person I am and I understand what the NFL is looking for me as a person and I just want them to know I’m going to go out there and give them my all and focus on being the best player I can be.

The character concerns are there, but they were there with players like Randy Moss and Dez Bryant, and how many teams would like a do-over on them?

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The thing about Green-Beckham is that if teams don’t want to take a big risk and use an early pick on him, there are plenty of other talented (and safer) receivers to pick from.

This might not be the 2014 rookie receiver class, a group that class looks like it will go down in history as one of the best of any unit in NFL history. But this one is really good, too.

Amari Cooper of Alabama and Kevin White of West Virginia will battle to be the top wideout, and either could go as high as No. 4 to the Oakland Raiders. DeVante Parker of Louisville is probably a first-round lock. Green-Beckham, Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Michigan’s Devin Funchess, Auburn’s Sammie Coates, UCF’s Breshad Perriman, Miami’s Phillip Dorsett and Ohio State’s Devin Smith are among the others who could be drafted in the top two rounds.

“It's pretty darn deep, the wide receiver group,” said Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, whose team drafted Kelvin Benjamin in the first round last year and could be in the market for another receiver early in this year’s draft. “All shapes and sizes, whatever you're looking for you should find be able to find and you're going to get value.”

It’s a passing league, and between this rookie receiver class and last year’s class, there will be a lot of talented guys to pass to for years to come. And seeing the rookies last year produce right away should give NFL teams confidence that more immediate contributors are available, and it helps the 2015 rookie receivers too.

“I think it gave me a lot of confidence because a lot of those guys who were making those plays as rookie receivers were in my class, graduated the same year of high school,” Smith said. “It gave me a lot of confidence to know that if they can do it, I can do it as well.”

There’s a diversity in the receiver class, with super-sized wideouts like Green-Beckham and Funchess, long and lanky ones like White and Parker, an extremely productive college player like Cooper who should be an immediate NFL starter, speedsters like Dorsett and Coates and deep threats like Smith, who averaged 28.2 yards last season for Ohio State.

“That’s what teams need. They need guys who can go and get it,” Smith said. “I think I have that ability." 

Any team with a receiver need shouldn't have any problems finding one in this draft. There are plenty of good ones to choose from once again.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 20, 2015, 3:48 pm

This picture is worth a thousand whats.

Here's Rex Ryan in the Super Bowl 25 @buffalobills Thurman Thomas jersey, entering Combine with, yes, Bill Belichick pic.twitter.com/gp0vDKTF3w

— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) February 20, 2015

Where to start? First, rivals Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan appear to be fairly cordial — even sharing a few yucks — while walking to the NFL scouting combine festivities together, but that's about the fifth-most interesting thing going on here.

How about Belichick in the "Bill Belichick"-branded hoodie, with the headset logo on it. Tell me he's not selling about 20,000 of those today. That's 50 bones well spent, but you'd have to cut the sleeves off yourself if you so choose.

Then there's Ryan in the throwback Bills jersey while drinking some kind of kale smoothie. What in the what is going on here? It appears that Ryan is wearing a Thurman Thomas Super Bowl XXV jersey, and yes, that would be the offense that Belichick and the New York Giants shut down that day. #awkward

Naturally, Rob Ryan is on Rex's hip, but he's the most toned-down member of this coaching entourage. Except for ...

Lurking in the background is Greg Schiano, which is funny in its own right.

If an "Odd Couple" SNL skit doesn't come out of this chance stroll, someone should lose their job.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 20, 2015, 3:09 pm

The Minnesota Vikings have sent strong signals that they want Adrian Peterson back in 2015. But what about Peterson? He doesn't sound so sure he wants to be there.

Telling ESPN.com he's "still uneasy" about coming back, Peterson didn't like the way the team worked with the NFL to place him on the commissioner's exempt list last September and felt the Vikings didn't support him at the time before the recent about face.

Peterson called that initial decision from the Vikings an "ambush" after his domestic-violence issues last year, noting that "there were people [in the organization] that I trusted, who knew exactly what was said, that weren't heard from" when that decision was made to deactivate him. 

"They weren't able to do anything about it," Peterson said.

Ultimately, Peterson is not nearly as bullish on his return right now as the team is.

"It's hard to say. I love Minnesota," he said. "There are people that have had my back, and supported me. Last year, with the things that took place, had a lot of fans that supported me through everything. For the fans, I would definitely love to come back, but then again, it's a business, when it comes down to business, you can't get caught up in the loyalty to fans or to a team or anything like that.

"You know how it is in the NFL. I learned a lot through this process. I'm still uneasy, to be honest with you. I'm still uneasy about a lot of things that took place within the organization. Of course those guys ultimately supported me, and I'm grateful for that. But ultimately, with me being able to be on the inside and see how cards were dealt, how things were worded, this, that and the other, it's about protecting your brand, your organization, what you have built. In the [grand] scheme of things, not one person counts over that. I get that."

Peterson, 29, was the 2012 MVP and has three years remaining on a six-year, $86 million deal he signed in 2011. He's scheduled to make a base salary of $12.75 million this coming season, with a salary-cap hit of $15.4 million.

Per the discipline handed down by the NFL, Peterson can't be reinstated until April 15 by commissioner Roger Goodell — unless a judge rules in Peterson's favor in the NFLPA's lawsuit against the league seeking the player's immediate reinstatement. Peterson appeared in court for a hearing in the case on Feb. 6 and said he was pleased to have his voice heard.

Peterson pleaded no contest to charges of reckless injury in the abuse of his 4-year-old son and must meet requirements in Texas and continue in a counseling and treatment plan. Although Peterson said a few weeks ago that "of course" he'd love to return to the Vikings, that take has softened a bit it appears. Regardless, Peterson said he plans to play somewhere in 2015, whether or not that includes a return to Minnesota.

"It shows you can have all the loyalty toward someone and toward an organization, a fanbase, but when things really shift and it's you or the empire, they're gonna put you out on a leash," he said. "I said, 'Of course [I would love to come back to the Vikings].' I said it.

"But my emotions, as far as those things I feel, those are for players like [linebacker] Chad Greenway — those guys that play the game just like me — that have the same passion I have, the same goal I have, to win a championship. That's where it comes from. It don't come from the organization. I'm not in a good place when it comes to that."

Although Peterson played only one game last season for new head coach Mike Zimmer before the deactivation and subsequent suspension, the running back had good things to say about ZImmer.

"I love that guy, even though I only played one game for him," he said.

So could things work out if Peterson were to sit down with members of the Vikings brass to bridge their differences?

"It's way deeper than that. It's definitely not that easy,' he said. "In any situation, people will say what they need to say to make things better. I discovered that a long time ago."

This complicated relationship still appears to have some mending that needs to be done before Peterson's return to the Vikings is ensured.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 20, 2015, 2:06 pm

AFC West rivals, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, both frustrated with their home-city stadium situations, have decided to join forces on a Los Angeles stadium bid in case things don't work out in their current digs, according to an incredible report from the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer.

The Chargers and Raiders are working together to develop a proposal for a privately financed Los Angeles-area venue and plan to immediately seek a ballot initiative to get the voter support needed for it to be built.

The two teams issued a joint statement to The Times:

“We are pursuing this stadium option in Carson for one straightforward reason: If we cannot find a permanent solution in our home markets, we have no alternative but to preserve other options to guarantee the future economic viability of our franchises.”

The $1.7 billion NFL stadium in Carson, Calif. would break ground on a 168-acre site near the intersection of the 405 Freeway and Del Amo Boulevard. The tandem-team effort is joining forces with “Carson2gether,” a group of local business and labor leaders.

What prompted the move? In December, when St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced plans to build an 80,000-seat stadium near the old Hollywood Park — land Kroenke owns — the Chargers and Raiders knew they had to act fast. The Chargers have a strong fan base in Los Angeles, and the cash-strapped Raiders would not have the funding to build their own stadium.

The New York Jets and New York Giants are the only two NFL teams that currently share a stadium — MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

All three teams — the Chargers, Raiders and Rams — are facing dire stadium situations in their local markets, with year-to-year leases for their current stadiums and facing the strong likelihood that no new stadiums will be built for them using public funding.

The NFL has stringent relocation rules in place, and green-lighting such a move would require voting support from 24 of the 32 teams' owners. The Chargers and Raiders say they have informed the league's relocation committee of all of their movements throughout the process and will continue doing so. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced at the Super Bowl that no team would relocate this year.

If approved, the valuation of an NFL franchise could increase significantly, although the relocation fees also would be steep.

Los Angeles hasn't had an NFL team since 1994, when both the Raiders and Rams left town. Now there exists the possibility that the city could land two franchises — and rivals that would share the same stadium to boot.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 20, 2015, 3:17 am

It's almost Oscar time, and while we could bore you with talk of best picture nominees, we figured we'd cut out the fluff and focus on what's really important: the greatest sports movies of all time. In the video above, Kevin Kaduk and Jay Busbee kick around two of the greatest sports movies ever.

Plus, as a bonus: We argue the greatest coach in sports movie history ... :

... and the greatest athletes ...

 

Like our arguments on sports movies? We delve deeper right here in the Grandstanding podcast:

Play the podcast above to hear us covering all aspects of the sports movie experience, from great quotes to a dramatic reading, but you won't want to miss these categories:

• Best movie (3:33 mark)

• Best portrayal of an athlete (6:16)

• Best moment in a sports movie (28:10 mark)

• Best athlete cameo in a movie (39:03 mark)

Thanks for checking it all out! See you next week with more NFL-related goodness.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: February 19, 2015, 11:53 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty had a blast at the Senior Bowl.

He enjoyed getting out and competing, being around fellow draft prospects, and it was a real treat getting to call a play for the first time.

Yep, even with 845 passing attempts over four years at Baylor, he hadn’t called a play. And you wonder why it’s harder for teams to evaluate quarterbacks coming out of college, with so many teams running the no-huddle spread attack.

“We were a signal system at Baylor,” Petty said. “I love Baylor. I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d do it the same exact way.

“It’s a learning curve a little bit going from what we were doing at Baylor to where we are now. But it’s all part of the process, so you’ve got to enjoy it.”

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are the top two quarterbacks in this class (and Mariota has his own spread offense stigmas; he said he hasn’t called a play since high school and when asked what his biggest NFL challenge will be his serious answer was, “For us, it’s going to be huddling”). Then there’s a significant drop to No. 3.

[All Draft News, All The Time: Follow Shutdown Draft 365 on Tumblr]

UCLA’s Brett Hundley is considered the third best quarterback in the class. Petty is in the mix for No. 4, along with Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson, but neither looked great at the Senior Bowl. Maybe Hundley sneaks into the end of the first round, but that would be a bit of a surprise.

So it’s not a good class, but there’s another thing that has been clear during the combine: There are a lot of teams with quarterback issues.

Many of the general managers and coaches who have spoken at the combine have fielded questions about their unsettled quarterback situations. The Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and many other teams came to the combine with varying levels of uncertainty at quarterback. Even if teams aren’t in love with this quarterback draft class, they need someone to play and there won’t be much available in free agency.

The quarterbacks outside of the top two, predictably, don’t share the assessment that this is not a strong quarterback class.

“We’re going to have to prove them wrong, too,” Hundley said. “I think not only myself, but we’re all ready to show the nation that we’re better than maybe people think.”

There’s no sure thing, though. Petty has talent but played in an offense that won’t resemble what he’ll do in the pros, and it took him a couple days at the Senior Bowl to get comfortable taking snaps from under center because he didn't do that at Baylor either. Hundley had to answer questions about being a quarterback who makes one read and runs.

If … I need (to be) in the pocket and make all the throws, then I will do that,” Hundley said. “In our offense, sometimes the situation dictated if I didn’t see something, I’m taking off running.”

This might not be the best year to be in the market to draft a quarterback, but there are plenty of teams who will be shopping out of necessity. Maybe Hundley, Petty, Grayson or someone else will be a good find for a team who takes a shot on them, but it seems like there will be some patience required as the quarterbacks get used to the pro game.

That will be a recurring theme for years to come as more college teams use spread, no-huddle offenses. It'll get harder and harder to find a quarterback who can run a pro-style offense.

"You’re evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count," Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball. That ain't playing quarterback. There’s no leadership involved there. Now, there might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them now and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and use a snap count and change the snap count, they are light years behind. Light years behind."

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 19, 2015, 10:19 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Georgia running back Todd Gurley had a surprising draft goal: He wants to be first pick overall.

"I want to be the No. 1 pick," Gurley said.

Never mind that a running back hasn’t gone in the first round in either of the last two drafts. That doesn’t bother him.

“I’m not here to be No. 5 overall or a second-round pick,” Gurley said. “I want to be the best.

“I know what I can do. I can come in and help a team. That might sound ridiculous, but that’s the confidence I have in myself.”

You have to respect his confidence, although his goal is obviously not realistic, even if he was healthy.

And it's Gurley's health that makes him a question going into the draft. An ACL injury suffered last November makes him a tougher evaluation.

[All Draft News, All The Time: Follow Shutdown Draft 365 on Tumblr]

If he was healthy he’d be the first back off the board, no matter how great Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon was last season. Gurley is 6-foot-1, 222 pounds and runs with tremendous power and agility. If he came along 10 years earlier, in an era in which teams still used high picks on running backs, a healthy Gurley would probably be a top-five pick. He's everything you want in a back.

After the ACL surgery? It’s tougher to predict. He is just starting light jogging and he said there was likely no chance he’d be working out at Georgia’s pro day on March 18. Teams might not get a chance before the draft to see how Gurley is moving after his surgery. The uncertainty might be one reason Gurley has a whopping 24 interviews scheduled at the combine. Teams have more questions for him now than before Nov. 15, when he tore his ACL.

“I’m just trying to get back safe, but as quick as possible,” Gurley said.

Gurley said he has a six-to-nine month recovery period, and if he’s on the fast side of that recovery he should be fine for training camp. He'll need all the time he can get to acclimate himself to the NFL game and contribute as a rookie, but he'll need to be healthy first.

Many players have returned with no issues from ACL surgery, and Gurley didn’t seem worried about returning strong. He was asked about Adrian Peterson, who rushed for nearly 2,100 yards the season after coming back from ACL surgery.

“Adrian Peterson, I mean, that guy is a freak of nature,” Gurley said. “But my goal is to be a freak of nature as well.”

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 19, 2015, 9:37 pm

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is used to running a speed attack on offense. He didn't, however, appear to be prepared for the barrage of questions from media on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, asking several times to have the hard-to-hear questions repeated.

Mariota is soft-spoken and polite. The highly touted NFL prospect said little that was jarring. That fits in line with the image he forged in a standout career with the Ducks. He did his best to slow down speculation about his future when asked about where he might end up in the league.

His most interesting comments came when he was asked about the two NFL teams with which he's connected through coaching. Mariota has been working closely with quarterback guru Kevin O'Connell, a former third-round pick of the New England Patriots who never really made it in the league but was regarded for his athleticism and intelligence. So much so, in fact, that O'Connell was hired by the Cleveland Browns to coach their QBs under head coach Mike Pettine.

How does Mariota feel about possibly playing for the Browns?

"That would an awesome opportunity," he said. "I'd love to play for the Browns. For right now, you can't really control those things, so I try not to worry about them."

Now before you start erasing your mock drafts and crafting trades involving the Browns moving up, pump the brakes. Yes, they own the 12th and 19th overall picks, and have additional picks later in the draft. And yes, Johnny Manziel is in rehab and Brian Hoyer is a free agent. But it's far from a guarantee that the newly hired O'Connell was brought on solely for the hope that the team can land Mariota.

Asked if the Browns having O'Connell would give them special insight into drafting him, Mariota said, "I don't know. That's up to them."

Mariota did say that O'Connell, who along with George Whitfield has helped prep Mariota through the pre-draft process, was a "smart football guy that's going to make the best decisions for the team." Mariota also revealed he has spent time talking to and working with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who implored Mariota "to be myself" and not try to be something he's not.

Another coach with even more insight into Mariota's body of work is Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who recruited and coached him before jumping to the NFL. It was in Kelly's spread offense that Mariota started to bloom in college, which has led to speculation that the Eagles could try to find a way to move up (from No. 20 — a long, long way) to land Chip's former pet project.

Mariota said he hadn't yet spoken to Kelly at the combine, that he spoke only to quarterback coach Ryan Day (who played QB for Kelly at New Hampshire) from the Eagles. But if there's an offense into which Mariota could be ahead of the curve, it's Kelly's — the offense he was steeped in.

Would Mariota want to play for Kelly again?

"Yeah, why not? That would be a fun opportunity," he said. "But again, this process is out of our control and we'll see what happens."

There are questions about that system helping perhaps manufacture a lot of Mariota's impressive production in college, and there remain some doubters who say he can't make all the NFL route tree of throws. Mariota believes he can, and he's banking on it by throwing at the combine, which he confirmed he'll do on Saturday.

Mariota ended his college career with a loss in the national championship game to Ohio State, suffering an AC joint injury to his throwing shoulder in the game. 

Clearly, Mariota's shoulder wasn't serious to keep him from trying to make all the throws at the combine.

Mariota knows that teams will have their doubts. He also knows that for whichever team drafts him, Mariota has a lot of work and adjustment in front of him.

"For any rookie quarterback, it’s going to be an adjustment stepping up to this level," he said. "I am going to do my best in whatever situation I’m in."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 19, 2015, 8:12 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – John Elway is still waiting on Peyton Manning’s decision.

All signs are that Manning will return. Elway reiterated at the start of his news conference at the NFL scouting combine that he and the Denver Broncos want Manning back. The organization has said that at every opportunity.

But Elway waits.

“He has not given me a definitive answer of exactly what he wants to do,” Elway said. “But we’re hopeful he will come back.”

Elway said Manning went through a physical in New Orleans and between that and about six weeks off from the season, he feels good. If Manning’s $19 million base salary for 2015, and any possible restructure, is holding things up, Elway wouldn’t say.

“The bottom line is, I don’t like to get into anybody’s contract or discuss anything with contracts,” Elway said. “But I believe he’ll be back and I believe he’ll be our quarterback next [season].”

Elway, like Manning, is one of the legendary quarterbacks in NFL history. And he knows what might work in persuading Manning to return.

“There’s not much he can add to his legacy,” Elway said. “But the one thing he can add is another Super Bowl championship.”

Like Manning, Elway heard a lot about his lack of championships during his career. Manning has one, but  many playoff failures. Elway finished his career with two Super Bowl victories his final two seasons, which tremendously benefited his legacy. He knows the same can happen for Manning and he thinks the Broncos are well positioned for a title run, as long as Manning is back.

 “I told him in our meeting, you don't need to throw for another yard and you don't need to throw for another touchdown pass because your legacy is going to be as one of the all-time greats,” Elway said. "But where he can really add to his legacy is to win a Super Bowl. That’s our goal – as it is for 31 other teams – but we feel like we have a really good football team, and Peyton Manning is the best player for us. That’s why we’re hopeful he comes back."

Manning’s salary for 2015 becomes guaranteed on March 9, so the Broncos can’t wait much longer for the official word. But Elway said there was no rush for Manning to give him a decision, and said “he’s got all the time he wants.” He was asked specifically about the March 9 deadline and he repeated his simple answer.

“He’s got all the time he wants,” Elway said. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 19, 2015, 7:43 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – A year ago at the NFL scouting combine, Jadeveon Clowney was cementing his status as the No. 1 overall pick.

Now the Houston Texans, who took Clowney with the first pick of last year’s draft, are just hoping he can be healthy and contribute in his second season.

Clowney is on a scary path. He did next to nothing as a rookie because of a knee injury suffered in the season opener, and eventually had microfracture surgery in December.

As the Texans watched other highly drafted players prosper (seeing Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack in particular has to make them wonder what might have been), Clowney had just seven tackles and no sacks in four games. At this moment, it’s easy to worry that Clowney – whose explosion and speed was the foundation for his success at South Carolina and was the main reason he went first overall – will lose a step and never be the star he was projected to be. The surgery he had is a difficult one to come back from.

“It’s an arduous process, and we talked with him about that, how he’d have to be diligent throughout that process,” Texans general manager Rick Smith said. “He’s doing well, and we expect that hopefully make a full recovery and be able to help us next year.”

The recovery from microfracture isn’t easy. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Clowney couldn’t put any weight on his knee for the first six weeks after surgery. He had to be disciplined during that time, O’Brien said, but has done well in his rehabilitation to this point.

“I think he’s on the right track,” O’Brien said. “Eventually, obviously you have to go out there and play and do it. But we feel good about his ability and his talent.”

Even if Clowney overcomes his serious knee surgery and has a phenomenal career, his rookie year was a total loss as far as helping the Texans. O’Brien didn’t view it as a complete lost year though, because he thought Clowney learned some things. 

“I would say he learned a lot about being a pro,” O’Brien said. “He learned a lot about how to deal with injuries. He learned about the fact that when you play in this league, especially at that position, you’re never going to be 100 percent.

“I’m sure it’s a disappointing year for him, and for us, that he couldn’t play. But it wasn’t his fault, and now he has to rehab and come back strong and ready to go.”

Still, the Texans wanted more from Clowney than just him learning from the veterans around him about leadership and how to be a pro. They want him to rush the quarterback and disrupt opponents’ offenses. The Texans can’t know for sure what kind of player Clowney will be going forward, but they’re optimistic. They have no choice given what they’ve invested him.

“I do think he can be a very impactful player and reach his potential,” Smith said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 19, 2015, 5:12 pm

Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider is like the rest of us. He, like many, has no clue what Marshawn Lynch's plans are for the coming season.

Asked about Lynch and reports he could retire, Schneider said he and the team are in a sort of cooling-off period after the Super Bowl disappointment.

"Everyone needs some time away," Schneider said, "a little time for reset."

That said, time's a-wasting on the start of the league year, and Schneider said he has reached out to Lynch's people and hopes to have an answer on the running back's future "soon."

Lynch rushed for 1,306 yards, with 13 rushing touchdowns (17 total scores) and totaled 367 yards receiving last season. He's owed a base salary of $5 million in 2015.

"I’ve talked to his people a bunch," Schneider said. "He knows we want him to play."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 19, 2015, 4:59 pm

Ok, all you weekend warriors, the bar has been raised.

Yes, the NFL combine is in full swing, and the 40-yard dash is the marquee event in this week's action in Indianapolis. But it's not just the draft prospects who are getting timed for the sprint.

[All Draft News, All The Time: Follow Shutdown Draft 365 on Tumblr]

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried his hand — or his feet, as it were — at the 40 for the #RunRichRun campaign, the 11th year that NFL Network's Rich Eisen will run at the combine. It's for a great cause — with help from DirecTV and Under Armour, NFL Network is pledging $75,000 to help support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Goodell, who is known to be in great shape (especially for a man who turned 56 on Thursday), turned in a terrific time of 5.53 seconds. Doing so barefoot in a hallway makes the achievement all the more impressive.

For the record, Eisen broke six seconds for the first time last year, and there was one player — Alabama offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio — who ran a slower 40 than Goodell.

Time to make your own video, folks. Let's see how fast you run.

 

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 19, 2015, 4:13 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – The Cleveland Browns are in a bad place.

Teams miss on draft picks all the time, or go through multiple losing seasons, but nothing screams to the Browns’ apparent dysfunction more than the general manager apologizing at the NFL scouting combine for sending texts to the sideline during games.

Browns general manager Ray Farmer said it was his mistake to send texts from the press box to the sideline during games last season. That’s against NFL rules. The texts reportedly questioned play calling and personnel decisions. That’s against common football decorum.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left for the Atlanta Falcons after the season, and it has been widely speculated that the texts played a part in that. Quarterback Brian Hoyer, who is a free agent, said the controversy might affect his decision whether or not to return to the Browns.

The NFL is investigating what happened. Farmer said he has apologized. Only in Cleveland.

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“It was me," Farmer said. "To that degree, I have apologized to the people in the building, coach (Mike) Pettine, (Browns owner) Jimmy Haslam, the rest of the football staff.

“I take full responsibility for myself and my actions.”

It’s fairly amazing that any number of Browns stories that would usually be a big topic of conversation at the scouting combine – Josh Gordon’s year-long suspension, Johnny Manziel entering a treatment facility, the Browns’ lack of an obvious option to start at quarterback, 2014 first-round pick Justin Gilbert’s immense struggles as a rookie – were not even the main topic with the general manager. The NFL might end up fining the Browns or even taking away a draft pick over the rule violation.

“It’s not an excuse, but sometimes your emotions get the best of you,” Farmer said.

The Browns supported Farmer through the texting controversy. On Wednesday, Pettine said he was upset with Farmer initially but they have worked it out. Farmer said he and Pettine have and will work well together.

“No relationship mending (is needed),” Farmer said. “Coach Pettine and I work very well together. We’ve had our conversations, we’ve gone through what that was.”

There were football questions around him discussing text messages. He was asked in multiple ways if Manziel could be the team’s starting quarterback in 2015, and he refused to give that vote of confidence, speaking only in platitudes about everyone on the roster competing for spots. Farmer said the team does have a plan at quarterback, although he wouldn’t divulge it.

Browns fans deserve better than seeing their team become a laughingstock. There’s a lot of corrections that need to be made with the Browns, and it was summed up by the general manager standing at a podium trying to explain himself and why he was undermining the coaching staff with text messages to the sideline during games.

“Anytime you make mistakes, it is humbling,” Farmer said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 19, 2015, 4:04 pm

Terrance Knighton might be one of the most sought-after free agents on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, but he's not feeling exactly beloved by the team he's still technically a part of.

The defensive tackle has been a standout for the Denver Broncos the past two seasons, establishing himself as one of the better interior players in the NFL, even if he still hasn't received the national praise he deserves. But Knighton also told ESPN's Josina Anderson that he wishes his own team would show him a little more love less than a month away from the free-agency period hitting.

"To be quite honest with you, it's frustrating and it's somewhat disrespectful just knowing how important I was to the team and what the defense could've been without somebody like me," Knighton said. "It's almost like, the longer they wait, the worse it is going to be."

Knighton will have suitors, and maybe several. It's not a stretch to suggest that the Oakland Raiders, who are flush with salary-cap space and have a need on the defensive line, could be one of the teams making the biggest push to sign Knighton if he reaches the open market.

A man who knows him well is new Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, who was the Broncos' defensive coordinator the past three seasons and who coached Knighton with the Jacksonville Jaguars as well. Del Rio spoke with strong support for his former player when asked about him at the NFL combine on Tuesday.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously, we drafted him," Del Rio said of Knighton, careful not to commit tampering by talking too much about another team's player. "We thought at that time he was kind of a dancing bear type. Kind of a big powerful man that can stay on his feet and run down the line. This game is about big, powerful men, so that the guys that have the skill level can do their things.

"So this big, powerful man played well in Jacksonville. We got back together, he played well in Denver and so I appreciate that. I respect that. We have to have those kinds of people in our trenches on the offensive and defensive line in order to play the kind of football we expect to play.”

Knighton told Anderson he might be willing to take "somewhat of a hometown discount" to stay in Denver but clearly wants to receive market value commensurate with his talent. There's also the factor that he'd be a nose tackle in the Broncos' new 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips, which would be a change.

In Oakland, he could play the nose or the three-technique spot, and his familiarity with Del Rio could be a strong selling point.

"There's been a lot of talk about me going to Oakland because of coach Del Rio," Knighton told Anderson. "He and I have a great relationship. I know his defense. I know exactly how he wants his nose tackles to play, and I am a very loyal person. He stuck with me ... and he is a big part of me being in Denver. So if things don't work out, he is definitely the first person I would like to talk to."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 19, 2015, 2:32 pm

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So Colin Kaepernick has been hard at work at EXOS outside Phoenix, trying to get in even better shape for next season. On Wednesday, he tweeted about his hard work.

1000 abs.... arm workout..... 10 min straight on the jump rope.... 2 hour study session in February..... that's what we call a recovery day!

— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) February 18, 2015

That's a lot of ... working out. But one fan wasn't too impressed. He, like many, watched Kaepernick struggle for the 8-8 San Francisco 49ers last season, appearing to regress as a passer. So he let Kaepernick know his feelings on it.

Although Kaepernick deleted the tweet eventually, you know how that screengrab goes.

Colin Kaepernick's first now-deleted tweet.

Then he threw another fastball at @battman_returns, going all Vic Fangio on him.

Kaepernick's second now-deleted tweet.

Then it got personal.

And his third now-deleted tweet.

For the record, Kaepernick has more than 719,000 followers. Battman ... has more than 8 now.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 18, 2015, 11:26 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – The question for the Dallas Cowboys isn’t whether they like DeMarco Murray or appreciate what he has done for them.

Clearly they do. Murray had a tremendous 2014 season, making the All-Pro team. His 1,845 rushing yards were almost 500 more than any other back. The Cowboys built their team around Murray and a tremendous offensive line, and they won the NFC East. That's the identity of their team right now.

“The value of being able to hand the ball to someone 25 times a game week in and week out is significant,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

That’s not the question though. It’s a math issue. Does Murray’s value to the team, versus what a replacement back would provide, match what the Cowboys would have to pay him? Murray can become a free agent on March 10. The Cowboys have to figure it out before then, or potentially lose a player who was arguably their MVP this season. Murray got two of 50 NFL MVP votes. He was named NFL offensive player of the year.

Murray just plays the wrong position. Running backs have shorter careers and in a predominantly passing league, they don’t have the impact they once did. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant can also become a free agent on March 10, but that won't happen. It would be a huge surprise if the Cowboys didn’t slap the franchise tag on Bryant to prevent him from hitting the market. But Murray? Well, that’s complicated.

“Certainly Dez and DeMarco are cornerstone players for our football team,” They’ve been great players for us up to this point in their careers. They had great years last year.”

But ….

“The business of the NFL is real though,” Garrett said. “And we have to work through that. But both of those guys know very strongly how much we care for them, how much we appreciate what they’ve done for us and how much we want them on our football team going forward.”

Remembering that Bryant is almost a lock to return to the Cowboys, whether it’s by the franchise tag or a long-term extension (if Bryant signs before the franchise tag deadline, the tag for Murray would be about $10.9 million, if your were curious), it seemed like a thank you note to Murray in case he doesn’t return. Murray might be the NFL offensive player of the year, but his monetary value in the current market doesn’t match that status.

Garrett didn’t say that. He talked about business and finances but made sure he pointed out how valuable Murray was to the Cowboys, especially last year when the Cowboys handed him the ball 392 times in the regular season and 44 more times in two playoff games. 

"His impact was huge for our team," Garrett said.

But …

“Again, there’s a business of the NFL that we all understand,” Garrett said. “I know both sides are talking, we’re trying to get it done, and understand every decision we make is in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We feel like DeMarco Murray has done a great job for our football team and we’d love to have him back.”

Something could get done between Murray and the Cowboys, maybe even after free agency starts. Unlike if Bryant or a defensive standout like Darrelle Revis or Ndamukong Suh hit the open market, it seems unlikely any team is going to give Murray a fortune. That's just not what happens with running backs anymore. His best option might be to return to the Cowboys even if it’s not for a contract that you’d expect for an NFL All-Pro.

Murray is a great player, he just plays the wrong position at the wrong point in time. And the Cowboys have decisions to make.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 9:52 pm

You can't make this stuff up.

The deflate-gate madness — a story seemingly with no conclusion — has taken another bizarre turn. It was reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter that an NFL official might have sold one of the New England Patriots' footballs from the AFC championship game and lost his job because of it.

Report from @AdamSchefter includes new info about League Official #1 losing his job over mishandling of balls postgame (selling balls)

— David Scott (@ESPNprDScott) February 18, 2015

It appears that the footballs are not allowed to end up in officials' hands. They're meant to be donated to charitable organizations. It appears a second official saw this and reported it, according to Schefter.

Indication from @AdamSchefter is balls are supposed to go to charitable endeavor, but League Official #1 used for personal gain of some sort

— David Scott (@ESPNprDScott) February 18, 2015

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" reported on Tuesday that Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally was being investigated for "trying to introduce an unapproved football" — a K-ball, for what it's worth — to an official.

But Schefter flipped his own organization's reporting on its head by offering this wild nugget: the ball (or balls?) in question was/were provided by two NFL employees, one of whom was fired.

Are you following us here with this insanity? Basically, what's being suggested is that an official swiped out a real ball for a fake one and that the fake was handed to the Patriots attendant, who clearly was none the wiser. And why would the attendant suspect that?

How in the world can the NFL save face and issue any kind of guilt to the Patriots following this news? The answer: It can't. We might as well say "case closed" if the reports are valid.

The officials for the AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts, for what it's worth, were head referee Walt Anderson, umpire Carl Paganelli, head linesman Tony Veteri, line judge Jeff Bergman, side judge Greg Meyer, field judge Gary Cavaletto and back judge Keith Ferguson.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 18, 2015, 8:53 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – There wasn’t much Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine could say about visiting quarterback Johnny Manziel in a treatment facility last week.

Pettine didn’t want to violate Manziel’s privacy. But he said he supported Manziel, who a year ago was one of the most-watched players at this NFL scouting combine.

“I wanted to go see him and let him know we are proud of him for the decision he made to go in and he has our full support,” Pettine said.

Pettine said he didn’t know when Manziel would return to the Browns. Manziel’s future with the team is cloudy, not just because of what he's going through off the field but also because he failed to impress on the field when given the chance late in the season. But the Browns are hopeful Manziel is helped by going to the treatment facility.

“He’s in a much better place now than before he went in,” Pettine said. “He’s very determined to come out of it in a much better way.”

On the business side of it, the Browns have as much uncertainty at quarterback as anyone in the league.

Manziel is an unknown at this point. Brian Hoyer is a free agent, although Pettine said he hasn’t closed the door on him coming back (Hoyer obviously has a say in that, too). This season’s free-agent crop at quarterback is weak. After Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the QB draft class has a steep drop, and the Browns would need to pay an incredible price to get in position to draft one of them.

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“I’d be a lot more concerned if we had a game this Sunday,” Pettine said about the quarterback situation. “It’s a position we’ll look to address. All options are on the table.”

The Browns’ issues go deeper than quarterback, of course. Receiver Josh Gordon is suspended for at least a year. Cornerback Justin Gilbert, Cleveland’s first first-round pick last year, has been widely criticized for his attitude. Browns general manager Ray Farmer is being investigated for sending text messages to the sideline during games, which is illegal in the NFL.

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about it,” Pettine said of the text messaging. “But Ray and I have had clear and open conversations about it.

“This game is very emotional, so I’m not going to go into my initial reaction. But I’m comfortable with my relationship with Ray, that hasn’t changed.”

Pettine came to the combine last year right after getting hired by the Browns and was optimistic and energetic about the franchise. That hadn’t changed despite a season that was very tough at times.

Pettine went out of his way to defend team owner Jimmy Haslam. He said it is unfair that Haslam is depicted as meddlesome because he hasn’t made a decision in regards to draft picks or playing time. It has been widely speculated he did both when it came to Manziel last year. Pettine said Haslam is inquisitive and wants to know what’s going on with the team, but he’s not meddlesome.

“For us as a coaching staff in year one, he was outstanding,” Pettine said.

Despite all that’s going on with the Browns, and the cloud that seems to hang over the franchise since it re-entered the NFL in 1999, Pettine was upbeat.

“You’d be surprised how positive the feelings are not just in the coaching area but around the building about the Browns moving forward,” Pettine said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 8:24 pm

After the St. Louis Rams allowed quarterback Sam Bradford to have his say on who the next team's offensive coordinator would be in 2015, it seemed odd that there would be a report that Bradford was on the trading block.

But that's just what CBS' Jason La Canfora reported, saying that Bradford and his camp had permission to seek a trade with another club. Asked about that report during his media session at the NFL scouting combine, Rams general manager Les Snead dismissed it — with almost a mocking response.

Les Snead makes light of report of Sam Bradford being given permission to seek trade. "Deleting him is not the answer."

— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) February 18, 2015

Nice word choice, almost as if La Canfora was reporting that the Rams had hired a hit man to take the quarterback out. All kidding aside, Snead pretty much stopped those rumors in their tracks with his answer.

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Of course, you could understand how such a story could be floated, with Bradford coming off a second torn ACL that cost him the entire 2014 season and with an unwieldy salary-cap hit of nearly $16.6 million and with a base salary of just shy of $13 million in the final year of his rookie contract.

In the course of negotiations, could Snead or some other Rams official tell Bradford's camp to seek a trade if they were not happy with the talks? Perhaps — and that kind of thing happens more often than is reported. The point being: Few teams would seek a trade for Bradford on a hefty, one-year deal coming off a major injury, and all parties know that.

If the Rams are not convinced that Bradford can rehab and be healthy enough this offseason, they might not have a ton of avenues — outside the 10th overall selection in the draft — to improve at the position. But they also know they likely have to do something to alleviate Bradford's contract hit if they do believe he'll be their starter this coming season, and it might require the team to add a year or two to his current deal or tear that contract up and sign him to a new one.

Either way, if we're to take Snead at face value, it appears Bradford is most likely to stick around with the Rams.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 18, 2015, 8:11 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew brought up pending free agent Ndamukong Suh before any questions were asked during his news conference at the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday. 

There was good reason Mayhew invited the conversation. He expressed confidence about the Lions' chances of signing Suh to a new contract before he hits free agency. 

"It’s not done," Mayhew said. "Still very optimistic we’ll be able to get it done."

If Suh reached free agency he might be the most coveted free agent in many years. He's one of the best interior defensive linemen in football, and players of his caliber don't reach free agency in their prime too often.

It's a tricky situation. Suh will command an enormous contract. The Lions have other high-priced stars. The franchise tag is massive for Suh at $26.9 million, and while Mayhew said the Lions would consider the option of tagging him, it would be difficult in terms of the salary cap. Mayhew made it clear that there's a scenario in which the team can't get the deal done and Suh leaves. But he sounded like a man who felt good about the direction of negotiations.

"Very optimistic we’ll get something done," Mayhew said. "I don’t have a timetable on when something will get done, but I feel good about it."

Mayhew said the Lions are appealing to Suh because he likes head coach Jim Caldwell, likes his teammates and fits the defensive scheme well. That's all well and good, but it's about money and Suh will need a ton of it to sign. The Lions are well aware what the market will be for him, and Mayhew said the team is prepared to pay what it will take to retain its best defensive player.

"We’re willing to make that commitment to Ndamukong," Mayhew said. 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 6:40 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Jay Gruden left no doubt that Robert Griffin III is the Washington Redskins’ starting quarterback heading into the 2015 season.

There were a lot of questions about Griffin's future with the team last season, when Gruden went through three quarterbacks – Griffin, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. But at the NFL scouting combine on Wednesday he anointed Griffin the starter.

“Robert ended the season as the starter,” Gruden said. “We anticipate that going forward.”

Asked to clarify, he reiterated that Griffin is Washington's starter until further notice.

"We will go into the season with Robert as the No. 1 guy," Gruden said. "It's up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and as a person. Then moving forward, just want to see some improvement. It’s up to us as a staff to get more out of him." 

The Redskins didn't have many options. McCoy is a free agent, and Gruden wouldn’t talk about whether the team wants to re-sign him. Cousins was not very good in his audition last season, and got benched. That leaves Griffin to get another chance.

Griffin won the 2012 NFL offensive rookie of the year award, but it has been tough since then. He tore his ACL in the playoffs at the end of his rookie season, rushed back for the 2013 regular-season opener and never looked right. He didn’t take a big leap forward in 2014 either, and missed a lot of time with a dislocated ankle, but he had a few promising starts at the end of the season. It seemed for a while like the Redskins might explore a trade in the offseason, but Gruden said Griffin is in Washington’s plans as a starter moving forward.

Griffin will have to get better, but Gruden took on some responsibility for getting that done.

"Obviously there’s a lot of improvement to do across the board, coaching included," Gruden said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 6:14 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – There isn’t a ton of intrigue with the first pick of the draft.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are picking a quarterback, and even though there are two good ones, Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the team has a favorite (and there’s almost no doubt his name rhymes with “Nameis”).

You want intrigue at the top of the draft? It starts at No. 2 and the Tennessee Titans.

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The Titans might not be married to taking a quarterback at No. 2, even though Heisman Trophy winners Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon are the clear top two quarterbacks in this draft. They liked some of the things they saw from Zach Mettenberger last season as a rookie.

“We like Zach, but I’m not ready to commit to anything, including who we’re going to pick at No. 2,” Titans general manager Ruston Webster said.

The Titans could trade the pick, especially to a quarterback needy team, and restock a thin roster with some extra picks. They could take an elite non-quarterback; there are a few intriguing defensive linemen at the top of the draft.

But the first priority has to be quarterback, whoever it is. Webster made that clear.

“Until you get that quarterback position settled, you’re swimming upstream,” Webster said.

If the Titans are sold on the quarterback who falls to them being a future star – and let’s be clear, we’re likely talking about Mariota, unless the Buccaneers shock everyone and draft him – then it becomes easy. But there are a few questions about Mariota, who ran a spread shotgun offense at Oregon. No matter how important the quarterback position is, it would be a mistake to overdraft a QB out of desperation. The Titans did that themselves with Jake Locker a few years ago, and that didn’t work favorably.

When the Buccaneers say all options are open for them, that’s empty. For the Titans, it’s much more accurate. If Tennessee isn’t sold on Mariota being a franchise quarterback or feel he isn’t an enormous upgrade over Mettenberger, who has a big arm and is a prototype pocket quarterback, then they have choices.

But the Titans don’t want to find themselves in this position often, picking second, so they can’t afford to make a mistake. They need to make sure that one way or another they feel good about their quarterback coming out of the draft.

“Zach did a lot of good things for us last year, but with the way the year went last year and where we are in the draft and the guys coming out, you have to put your time in and figure that out,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 5:15 pm

After it once appeared that Adrian Peterson might move on from the Minnesota Vikings, there are more signs by the day that he's going nowhere.

The latest sign comes from Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who told a small group of media at the NFL combine (including USA Today's Tom Pelissero) that he believes Peterson will remain with the team, despite his 2014 domestic violence incident.

#Vikings GM Rick Spielman more definitive than in past today: "We expect Adrian Peterson to be a part of our football team."

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 18, 2015

Peterson was scorned publicly for his involvement in a child abuse case in Texas and the ugly photos from the case that were released in the aftermath of the police report. At that point, Peterson's future with the Vikings appeared murky at best, with team officials not appearing to stand in his corner.

But as the entire situation is wrapping up and Peterson reportedly has sought to make right of the situation and develop more of a relationship with his son, there appears to be a lot more support from within the organization that clearly values him as a football player and likely feels better about him as a man now, too.

Last week Vikings COO Kevin Warren, after previously saying otherwise, said he felt Peterson was a part of the Vikings' family. And now with Spielman's further endorsement and support, it's becoming more likely that the All-Pro back will continue his career with the only NFL franchise he's ever been a part of.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 18, 2015, 4:19 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – The Chicago Bears' meeting with recently released quarterback Josh McCown is subject to some interpretation. Maybe the Bears are just kicking the tires on a potential veteran backup.

"I think there’s obviously interest or we wouldn’t have met with him,” Fox said.

But pair that with Fox’s lukewarm comments on quarterback Jay Cutler, and it gets more interesting.

Fox had many chances to say he definitely wanted Cutler to be his quarterback in 2015. Many chances.

“So we’re going to ask this about eight different ways?” Fox said to one of the final questions about Cutler at the NFL scouting combine.

And his answers were lukewarm on Cutler.

“I don’t think there’s any question there’s ability and talent there,” Fox said to one Cutler question. “There’s a lot more that goes into that. We’re evaluating that as we speak.”

The evaluation clearly centers on what is best for the franchise, sticking it out with Cutler and his contract that is way beyond what he has produced as an NFL quarterback, or rebooting at the most important position. The Bears could trade Cutler and get out most of his deal. They can probably find a desperate team that would trade for him, too. But it's tough to restart at quarterback. Maybe McCown could be a bridge to a new quarterback, but he's clearly not more than that, especially since McCown will be 36 and is coming off a bad season in Tampa Bay.

Fox generally doesn’t say many definitive things in the media, so perhaps there’s nothing to be made of him not excitedly supporting Cutler. He gives bland answers to many questions. He said he hasn’t gotten to really know Cutler and fully evaluate him either.

“I don’t want to stand up here and give you a final evaluation when I’m maybe a fourth through the test,” Fox said.

Fox said he has met with Cutler, but was non-committal about Cutler being the Bears quarterback in 2015.

“We’re not up against a deadline,” Fox said. “We’ll keep you posted."

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 4:18 pm

INDIANAPOLIS Peyton Manning sounds positive about coming back. The Denver Broncos have made it clear they want Manning back.

What is holding up an official announcement that Manning will play again in 2015? It’s the undefined “process” that new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak kept talking about.

Manning is taking his time. General manager John Elway has been busy with a lot of things, Kubiak pointed out. So apparently there hasn’t been a huge rush to find out if one of the greatest quarterbacks ever will return for 2015.

“I think it’s Peyton needing time to assess his situation, his health,” Kubiak said. “It’s just the NFL offseason, I guess.”

Could the holdup be about Manning’s base salary, which is slated to be $19 million (and is guaranteed on March 9)? Perhaps. A restructuring could help the Broncos retain key free agents like receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas. Kubiak said that “the process” is between Manning and general manager John Elway, which made it sound like Manning’s fit in Kubiak’s offense isn’t an issue. Kubiak seemed amused by the notion Manning couldn’t fit in his offense. He said Joe Flacco maybe ran 25 bootleg plays all last season when Kubiak was the Ravens' offensive coordinator. That number would probably be about zero with Manning, and that's fine.

“You do what your players do best,” Kubiak said.

So whatever the process is that Kubiak kept mentioning, it goes on. Part of it will be Manning passing a physical because of the neck surgeries in his medical history, but that hasn’t been a problem before. Everything at this point indicates Manning will return.

“He’s been positive in talking to me, he’s been very positive with John when he came to town last week, so we continue to move forward,” said Kubiak, who has spoken to Manning but added that he didn't talk football with the quarterback. “I’ll let he and John work that out.”

Even though Manning struggled a bit late last season and will turn 38 in March, Kubiak left no doubt that the Broncos want him to be their quarterback.

“No doubt I want him to be,” Kubiak said. “I think all indications are that, everything he has said and through his conversations with John, he feels good and he has had his self assessment, or however you want to label that, and he feels good about moving forward. So we’ll continue with the process.”

An announcement will probably come sometime soon. Whenever "the process" is completed.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 3:50 pm

Trent Richardson has twice been a flop to date in the NFL — first as the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 of the Cleveland Browns, then after the Indianapolis Colts traded a first-round pick for him the following year. He simply hasn't panned out as a football player.

But some fascinating details are emerging from Richardson's two-game suspension (without pay) in the playoffs that clearly show a divide between the team and the player.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Richardson missed the morning walkthrough and the chartered flight the morning the Colts left to play the New England Patriots in the AFC championship because of concerns over his girlfriend's pregnancy with the child's life potentially hanging in the balance.

Sources told the Star that the mother of the baby, who was a mere 28 weeks pregnant, was experiencing what she believed to be contractions and appeared headed toward premature labor. Richardson reportedly rushed her to the hospital early on Jan. 17 right before the team was leaving for New England.

Did Richardson fail to alert the team of his actions? Did he handle things properly? Is the team being overly harsh? Are the Colts trying to find a way to rid themselves of a player they no longer want? We don't know that yet.

This raises a big debate here. The Colts can release Richardson, per the terms of his contract, because of what they deem to be conduct detrimental to the team, which led to the suspension. That would allow the team to void the $3.184 million in guaranteed money that's left on his deal.

But the Colts could face a public-relations nightmare, though. People will hear "pregnant girlfriend" and "premature labor" and lose their minds if that's deemed the reason the Colts will try to get out of the bad contract they took on.

Richardson's camp, and perhaps the NFLPA, could file a grievance on his behalf, and there could be a lot of public support on Richardson's behalf because of the sensitive nature of the case. The fact that Richardson has failed as a player and even reportedly ballooned up 15 or more pounds during the season are facts the Colts can use against him, but it still might not play well in the public eye.

This is an interesting case with a lot of layers to it, and it's far from over.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: February 18, 2015, 3:18 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – There might not be a ton of suspense at the top of the NFL draft.

The biggest question surrounding Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, at least when compared to fellow top quarterback prospect Marcus Mariota of Oregon, is regarding Winston’s character issues. But Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, whose team has the first pick, said he would be comfortable making Winston the face of the franchise.

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Smith, in speaking to the Buccaneers beat writers before he went to the podium at the NFL scouting combine, specifically talked about the sexual assault allegation against Winston. He was never criminally charged due to lack of evidence and was cleared in an FSU code of conduct hearing last December. Here’s what Smith said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:

"He’s been accused of a crime. There’s an allegation. He went through our court system. I have faith in our court system. He went through the school justice system. He was cleared. He went through our court system and he was cleared. Exonerated. What else can you do?"

On the podium, Smith reiterated that Winston wasn't found guilty of anything in the sexual assault case. He said the Buccaneers haven't taken Winston off their board.

"Right now, with the information we have right now – I understand there were allegations against him, I understand that he went through the justice system, the court system, to be exonerated on some allegations against him," Smith said. "I understand some of the college things some guys do you wish you wouldn't later on. I understand some of the things that are on his record. You take all of the information you can get at this point – it's early, we have research to do and we'll do that."

With those strong statements making it clear that Smith (and presumably he was speaking for the franchise) has no issue with Winston off the field, it becomes an on-field evaluation. Winston seems to have an edge over Mariota there, considering he was successful at Florida State and his skils are considered more NFL-ready.

Smith said the Buccaneers haven't made a decision to take a quarterback first overall, although their move to cut last year's starter Josh McCown says otherwise.

"We like having options," Smith said. "All options are on the table for us."

Smith said he looks forward to getting to know Winston and Mariota at the combine, keeping the Mariota option in play publicly, too. He praised Winston and Mariota, citing how successful they were in college ("You have two very good quarterbacks who will have a lot of success in the league," Smith said). But if the Buccaneers are comfortable with Winston's character, that makes the evaluation easier.

"The fans can know we'll cross every 'T' and dot every 'I' before we make a decision," Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said to a question about Winston's character. "We will make sure the decision we make is best for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We have a favorite. But we want to let the process play out."

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: February 18, 2015, 3:09 pm

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