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Vermeil: I'd stake my reputation on Martz

Not all of the people he worked with in St. Louis have his back, but new Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz has a big-time supporter in former Rams Super Bowl head coach Dick Vermeil.

I would stake my entire reputation on their offense improving when he takes over,” Vermeil said after learning of Chicago’s hire.  “There’s nobody out there better.  Nobody in the history of the NFL has come in and did what he did as a coordinator.”
Vermeil is speaking of the 1999 season.  Martz moved from Redskins quarterbacks coach to Rams offensive coordinator that year, and he transformed St. Louis from the league’s No. 27 offense into No. 1 and the fourth-highest scoring unit in history.

Statistical improvements in Martz’s last two stops (Detroit, San Francisco) weren’t as dramatic, but were sizable nonetheless.  

“Martz is tough,” Vermeil acknowledged.  “The quarterback has to have some substance to him.  But he’ll make him the best he has ever been.”

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Report: Marshawn Lynch ending holdout

Marshawn Lynch AP

It looks like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has decided not to be all about that holdout, boss.

Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Lynch is expected to end his holdout in the next 24 hours and report to work with the Seahawks.

Per the report, Lynch will not be receiving a new deal from the Seahawks to replace the two years he has left on his current pact or any added money. He will be receiving “financial concessions” on his current deal, however. Those concessions are not spelled out, but could involve the Seahawks waiving the nearly $500,000 in fines that Lynch has accrued during his absence from training camp.

Lynch’s return should allow the Seahawks to return to business as usual on offense, although there’s a chance that Christine Michael will see more time in the backfield this season as Seattle begins to plan for a future without Beast Mode.

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Falcons DT Peria Jerry to retire

Atlanta Falcons v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, the club’s first-round pick in 2009, will retire, the team announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old Jerry recorded 67 tackles and 5.5 sacks in five seasons with Atlanta. The club re-signed him in March. Overall, Jerry played in 64 games, making 29 starts. He missed 14 games of his rookie season after suffering a knee injury that required surgery.

The Falcons invested heavily in their defensive line in the offseason, signing nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson and drafting defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman in Round Two. The club has transitioned to a 3-4 scheme after employing a base 4-3 defense in previous years.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict negotiations with Bengals hit impasse

Vontaze Burfict AP

There were optimistic signs about the state of negotiations on an extension for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, but it has been a while since the last one and the latest word isn’t as sunny.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that talks between the team and Burfict have hit an impasse. There’s no word on whether the talks will continue in hopes of finding a way around said impasse, but, for now, it appears things will be in a holding pattern.

Burfict is entering the final year of the three-year pact he signed as an undrafted free agent and will become a restricted free agent after the season as long as the Bengals tender him a qualifying offer. That seems like the very least they’ll do after striking gold with Burfict, who fell out of the draft because of character concerns and responded by leading the NFL in tackles during his second season.

Another year like that would only drive Burfict’s price up on a long-term deal, which may mean the issue now is that the Bengals haven’t come up with an offer big enough for Burfict to pass up on the chance for more money down the road. If that’s the case, the deal may have to wait a while because Burfict’s restricted free agent status means he won’t be leaving the team unless the Bengals don’t want him anymore.

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PFT on NBCSN invades Saints camp

Saints AP

Pro Football Talk on NBCSN has moved temporarily (and technically partially) to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for a two-day visit to Saints camp.  I’ve made the drive to The Greenbrier, toured the impressive practice facility (including a world-class weight room outfitted with Rogue equipment), watched practice, heard several Rob Ryan “F” bombs (but not nearly enough), rooted for fights, and interviewed six key figures from the organization.

From coach Sean Payton to quarterback Drew Brees to safety Kenny Vaccaro to defensive end Cam Jordan to running back Pierre Thomas to receiver Marques Colston, we obtained a good look at where the Saints are, and where they’re going.

Tune in tonight for portions of the Payton, Brees, and Vaccaro interviews.  The full Payton interview was included in Thursday’s PFT Live; the other five will be used in full on Friday.

Until the show begins at 5:30 p.m. ET, cast your vote in today’s poll question.  Which coincidentally relates to the Saints.

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Browns say Johnny Manizel will work with first team soon

Johnny Manziel AP

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel said Thursday that he’s a better player in games than he is in practice because of an increased freedom to improvise, something that won’t help him all that much if he can’t get on the field.

It sounds like Manziel will have a chance to grab that playing time soon. Head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan both said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that they plan to give Manziel reps with the first team soon. They also said that it would be wrong to read too much into Brian Hoyer getting the first shot with the first team, because, per Pettine, Manziel is further along mentally than the team thought he’d be and because neither quarterback has done anything to speed up the decision-making process..

“I don’t think one is ahead of the other,” Shanahan said. “I hope one will make the decision easy on us.”

If Manziel doesn’t do that, Shanahan said that he’ll have a package of plays ready for the rookie quarterback to run in the opening week of the season in the event the team decides to use both quarterbacks in that week’s game plan. The chances of that happening will be higher if Manziel performs well once his chance with the starters does come.

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NFLPA monitoring evidence of collusion in light of cap increases

wbbm-1018-cash Getty Images

In recent years, the salary cap hasn’t been going up by much.  Which means spending hasn’t been going up much.  With the cap going up, spending should go up, too.  And the NFLPA is making sure that other forces, such as collusion, won’t be holding spending down.

Per a league source, the union conducted an informal conference call with a group of agents on Thursday to explore the question of whether any agents believe collusion is occurring.  During the call, no agent came forward with any specific proof or allegation about collusive behavior in the marketplace.  And for good reason; this year saw a record number of free-agent signings and total spending.

Still, with the cap going up $10 million per team this year and expected to continue to spike annually, the NFLPA will continue to monitor the situation, with specific attention being paid to veteran players who are cut with the excuse that the team needs salary-cap space.

Some have suspected collusion regarding the absence of long-term extensions for 2011 first-round picks.  With cornerback Patrick Peterson receiving a five-year extension from the Cardinals and tackle Tyron Smith getting an eight-year extension from the Cowboys, the hope is that other teams will reward 2011 first-round picks who were underpaid by a system that guards against busts.

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Seahawks place Anthony McCoy on I.R., sign WR Ronald Johnson

San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Getty Images

Anthony McCoy will miss yet another season because of an Achilles injury.

According to PFT’s Curtis Crabtree, the Seahawks have announced they have placed McCoy on injured reserve and signed wide receiver Ronald Johnson to fill the roster spot.

Johnson, like McCoy, played for now-Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. Johnson has had stints with San Francisco (2011) and Philadelphia (2012-2013). Johnson missed the 2012 season with a broken and discloated left ankle. He was waived by the Eagles in April 2013.

Johnson was a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2011. He turns 26 on Sunday.

The Seahawks have just four tight ends on their roster: Zach Miller, Luke Willson, RaShaun Allen and Cooper Heifet.

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Eric Berry forced from Chiefs practice with ankle injury

Eric Berry AP

Injuries are starting to mount in the Chiefs secondary.

Three defensive backs are dealing with injuries at the moment, including safety Eric Berry. Berry had to leave Thursday morning’s practice after suffering an injury to his lower right leg during the session and was eventually carted back for further evaluation. A full diagnosis hasn’t been revealed, but coach Andy Reid said that it appears Berry has avoided a catastrophic injury.

“Berry had a sore ankle. It’s not an Achilles tear or any of that, but they’re evaluating him. They’re just seeing what it is,” Reid said, via Herbie Teope of the Associated Press.

Berry was joined on the sideline by cornerback Marcus Cooper, who left practice with a hamstring injury that Reid called “slight.” Cooper was replaced on the first team by Sean Smith, reversing a switch that took place earlier in camp.

Reid also revealed that safety Sanders Commings is having surgery on his ankle after being injured earlier in the week. The second-year player only played a few snaps during his rookie season because of a broken collarbone and he may be hard-pressed to win playing time this year as a result of this injury.

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Blake Bortles impressing coaches with his progress

Jaguars Football AP

Unlike other first-round quarterbacks, Blake Bortles has been able to navigate through his rookie training camp without much notice.

But his Jaguars coaches have noticed his work, and say he’s progressing well toward the stated goal of being ready to play at some point after this year’s opener.

“I think that one of the things you always worry about is how does a guy handle something that he’s never done before,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “He’s had OTAs and minicamp and then now he’s got four weeks to figure out what is he going to do. I thought he really prepared so he came back ahead of where I thought he was going to be.”

Bortles has a comfort zone, in that the Jaguars built their plan around Chad Henne starting this year, so as not to rush the No. 3 overall pick in before he was ready, or the parts were around him to succeed.

But Fisch said Bortles has impressed with how he has developed within the offense, and the fact he’s able to grow comfortably might allow him to grow faster.

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Donald Thomas placed on injured reserve

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Colts have officially lost starting left guard Donald Thomas for the season.

The team placed the 28-year-old Thomas on injured reserve Thursday, the club said.

Thomas suffered a torn quadriceps on Wednesday. He sustained the same injury last September.

With Thomas out, second-round pick Jack Mewhort is among the options to fill in at left guard.

In a corresponding roster move Thursday, the Colts re-signed undrafted rookie offensive lineman Eric Pike, who had a short stint with the club in May. A Towson product, Pike (6-5, 298) was a left tackle on the college level.

The signing of Pike puts the Colts back at the 90-player limit.

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Johnny Manziel expects to be better in games than in practice

manziel AP

Johnny Manziel says Browns fans will see a difference between what he’s shown in training camp and what he’ll show when they start playing games.

Asked if he expects to perform better once the games start than he has so far in practice, Manziel said that’s always been his way.

“Always, for me, I’ve been better in a game situation than I feel I have in practice. But I have to come out here and get better with the reps that I’m getting. That’s the main thing, keep getting better, and then when it’s time to go out and play football, it’s time to play football,” Manziel said.

At Texas A&M, Manziel was often at his best improvising when plays broke down and using his feet to avoid the pass rush. But in practices, a quarterback doesn’t get that opportunity: Coaches want to see the play run in practice exactly the way it’s drawn up, and when the pass rush gets near the quarterback, the play is blown dead. Manziel thinks that makes him a better game-day player than practice player.

“There will be times in games, situations in games when things break down, and obviously it’s not practice, there are not coaches on the field, and it will be a little bit — it will be a lot different. But practice is what it is, and we have to get better,” Manziel said.

At the moment, Manziel is running the second-string offense, and Brian Hoyer is the starter. Manziel may have to play better in practice to show that he deserves to start when it’s game time.

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Ray Rice says his wife “can do no wrong” in first press conference

Ray Rice AP

Ravens running back Ray Rice walked to the podium Thursday, and came right out with  the kind of contrition he hadn’t previously shown.

Rice spoke to reporters for the first time since his no-questions-asked press conference during which his wife apologized for getting knocked out cold, and admitted what appears obvious.

“My actions that night were totally inexcusable,” he began. “That’s not me. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.”

Rice apologized to his wife, which he neglected to do during his press conference, and talked about how difficult it would be to explain to his young daughter.

He also said he and his wife wanted to talk about domestic violence “when the time is right.”

That’s apparently not until he continues his counseling, as he said he’s still in that process.

Rice didn’t want to re-live what he called “the incident,” but said he “owned it,” and it was the “biggest mistake of my life.”

“My wife can do no wrong,” he said, several times.

He also said he’s never been involved in any kind of domestic abuse situation, though he repeatedly declined to offer specifics on the night of “the incident.”

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Ravens fourth-round pick Brent Urban tears ACL

brenturban AP

Brent Urban’s rookie season is over before it started.

Urban, a defensive lineman chosen by the Ravens in the fourth round of the NFL draft, suffered a torn ACL in practice yesterday. Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the diagnosis today.

The Ravens hoped the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Urban would be able to join their defensive line rotation as a rookie, but now he’ll go on injured reserve.

Fellow rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who went down on the same play as Urban, is dealing with back spasms and is not expected to miss much time.

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PFT Live from Saints camp: Sean Payton, Larry Holder

Sean Payton AP

PFT Live hits the road on Thursday with Mike Florio making the trip to the Greenbrier in West Virginia to visit the Saints as they visit his home state.

Saints coach Sean Payton will join Florio to talk about how the team’s first camp in the state has been going and what differences he’s found from working at the current site as opposed to past camps. They’ll also discuss the new faces around the Saints this year, including rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and his overall feelings about the team as they prepare for the regular season.

Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune will also be on hand to share his own thoughts about how the Saints are coming together during camp. We’ll get his take on some players to watch in the coming season and areas of concern for New Orleans as well during his visit.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live right here.

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Report: David Wilson “needs a miracle” to come back

David Wilson

David Wilson has been upbeat throughout his comeback from spinal fusion surgery, even after his “burner” earlier this week.

The Giants apparently do not share that optimism.

According to Jordan Raanan and Conor Orr of NJ.com, the Giants consider him a long shot to return to the field and one source familiar with his condition said he “needs a miracle” to come back.

Wilson tweeted Wednesday night that “everything was fine,” which may be true in the global, not football-centric case.

He’ll see a spinal specialist Monday, but the Giants seem to be bracing themselves for the possibility that Wilson might not return at all.

You could argue they did already, signing workhorse back Rashad Jennings this offseason.

But at this point, the concern should be with Wilson’s well-being, and any football considerations should come well after that.

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