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Quartet of coaches will head to the Persian Gulf for USO tour

The NFL-USO Coaches Tour reconvenes this summer with four men who head up NFL franchises heading to the Persian Gulf for a visit with our troops.

This year, Vikings coach Brad Childress, Eagles coach Andy Reid, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, and Panthers coach John Fox will make the trip.

Childress has a child in the military, and Fox’s father served in the Navy Seals.

“Since my son has enlisted in the Marine Corps, I have learned a new appreciation for the freedoms we all enjoy and take for granted,” Childress said in a release issued by the league.  “Our armed forces are the most highly-skilled, best-trained men and women in the world.  Their character is on display on a daily basis because they’re an all-volunteer force.  We all owe them a debt of gratitude and this trip is a small way of saying thank you.”

The NFL has sent players and coaches to boost troop morale for more than 40 years.  In 2008, Commissioner Roger Goodell joined players on a USO trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For some reason, the thought of any of the other Commissioners doing the same thing brings to mind visions of Mike Dukakis driving a tank.

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Charles Godfrey retires, Falcons sign two

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03: Charles Godfrey #30 of the Atlanta Faltcons ackles  Josh Hill #89 of the New Orleans Saints during the first half at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons re-signed safety Charles Godfrey to a one-year deal in March, but Godfrey won’t be with the team once they start the regular season.

Or the preseason. The team announced Wednesday that Godfrey has retired from the NFL.

Godfrey entered the league as a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2008 and spent the next six full seasons with Carolina. He opened the 2014 season with the team, but ended it with the Falcons after being released in October. He returned to Atlanta and played eight games last season. He played 95 games in total and had 384 tackles, three sacks, 11 interceptions and eight forced fumbles.

The Falcons also announced that they have signed tight end Arthur Lynch and wide receiver Corey Washington.

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Kevin Williams signing one-day contract to retire with Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Kevin Williams #93 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before the game against the Chicago Bears on December 1, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Bear 23-20 in overtime. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is headed back to the Vikings, but he won’t be part of their defensive line rotation in 2016.

The Vikings announced Wednesday that Williams will sign a one-day contract with the team in order to retire as a member of the club that drafted him in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Williams spent 11 years with the Vikings and started all 171 games he played with the team. He was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press five times during his years in Minnesota and went to six Pro Bowls, which ties him with John Randle for second in Vikings history behind Alan Page.

“Kevin was one of the most respected players in Vikings history by his teammates and by opponents,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said in a statement. “He set a high standard for himself and led by example instead of words. We thank him for everything he gave the Vikings and the legacy he leaves.”

Williams spent the 2014 season with the Seahawks and made 14 starts for the Saints last season. He ends his 13-year career with 525 tackles, 63 sacks, five interceptions and nine forced fumbles.

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Kuechly, Benjamin cleared to practice

Ryan Tannehill, Luke Kuechly AP

The Panthers announced Wednesday that All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin have been cleared to practice when the team opens training camp.

Kuechly had shoulder surgery after last season. Benjamin missed all of last season after suffering a non-contact knee injury during training camp.

The Panthers knew Kuechly would be sidelined for the team’s spring workouts but hoped to have him back in time for camp. Kuechly has been a first-team All-Pro for three straight seasons.

The 6-foot-5 Benjamin had 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2014, and his return should make an offense led by last year’s MVP, Cam Newton, even stronger.

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Ravens: Jake Long still needs to pass physical, will see Dr. Andrews

Packers Rams Football AP

More than 24 hours after reports surfaced that offensive tackle Jake Long would sign with the Ravens, he hasn’t signed. And he still may not sign, if he can’t prove that his knee is healthy.

The Ravens announced today that Long still needs to pass a physical before a contract can be completed, and that hasn’t happened yet. Long will see Dr. James Andrews for an examination of his knee, and only if Dr. Andrews gives Long a clean bill of health will Long sign.

Injuries have had a major impact on Long’s career since the Dolphins chose him with the first overall pick in the 2008 draft. Although he started all 16 games in each of his first three seasons, since then he has struggled to stay healthy, and last year he played in just four games, starting none, with the Falcons.

If the 31-year-old Long is medically cleared, he could provide good veteran depth on the Ravens’ line. If not, he may be at the end of his NFL run.

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John Elway: Quarterback competition is “wide open”

Mark Sanchez AP

Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch said this week that he thinks he has a chance to play right away and General Manager John Elway’s comments at a Wednesday press conference didn’t do anything to directly dispute that notion.

Elway said, via the team, that the quarterback competition featuring Lynch, Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian is “wide open” as training camp gets underway. That doesn’t come close to ruling out the possibility of Lynch climbing to the top of the depth chart and coach Gary Kubiak said that he’s already seen improvement from Lynch during a couple of days of rookie work.

“I think Paxton’s struggles in the offseason were verbiage, huddle, those types of things, and we’ve seen improvement,” Kubiak said.

Kubiak added that there’s no timeline to determine a starter at this point and said that he wants the three quarterbacks to get equal reps. During Thursday’s first practice, Sanchez will go first with Siemian and Lynch in that order behind him although that order will change from day to day. That suggests the pecking order could change along with it if the rookie continues to show Kubiak that he’s growing into the job.

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Eagles put Ryan Mathews on non-football injury list

Ryan Mathews, Kurt Coleman AP

Eagles running back Ryan Mathews is starting training camp on the non-football injury list.

Mathews suffered an ankle injury while working out on his own last week.

There’s been no immediate word on the severity of the injury, but players who start camp on the non-football injury list often return to action quickly. The designation is in itself not a cause for concern.

In his first year in Philadelphia last season, Mathews generally played well in former coach Chip Kelly’s offense, averaging 5.1 yards a carry and eventually supplanting DeMarco Murray as the starting running back. Now he’ll try to show he can play the same way in Doug Pederson’s offense, once he’s healthy.

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Report: Foles will be cut, become free agent

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 15: Nick Foles #5 of the St. Louis Rams throws a pass in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome on November 15, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams will release quarterback Nick Foles, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday.

The team had been seeking a trade partner for Foles but was unable to find one. Foles is not subject to the NFL’s waiver system and will become a free agent.

The Rams had traded for Foles before the 2015 season, but he threw 10 interceptions in 11 games and completed just 56 percent of his passes. The Rams ended up making another trade, giving up a bunch of future picks to move up to No. 1 in the 2016 draft and select quarterback Jared Goff.

Foles went to the Pro Bowl in 2013 with the Eagles. He had a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio that season and completed a career-best 64 percent of his passes.

There will probably eventually be suitors for Foles, who’s just 27, but with teams across the league reporting to camp he may have to wait for an injury or change of circumstances before garnering serious interest.

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Pernell McPhee among three Bears on PUP list

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01:  Pernell McPhee #92 of the Chicago Bears rushes Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Vikings defeated the Bears 23-20.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in February, reports were that he’d be healthy in time to take the field when training camp got underway.

The Bears announced on Wednesday that it will be a little longer before McPhee gets the green light. McPhee was one of three Bears players placed on the physically unable to perform list, leaving him ineligible to practice until he’s activated by the team.

McPhee played in 14 games and made 12 starts for the Bears in 2015, which was his first year with the team after he spent his first four NFL seasons as a member of the Ravens. McPhee had four sacks in the team’s first six games, but posted only two more the rest of the way as his knee injury kept him from playing at full speed.

Bears General Manager Ryan Pace said, via Jeff Dickerson of, that it is too early to know if McPhee will play in any preseason games this summer.

The Bears also placed wide receiver Marquess Wilson and recently signed guard Amini Silatolu on the PUP list as they got their roster in order for the start of camp.

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Jets sign first-rounder Darron Lee, only two unsigned picks left

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Darron Lee of Ohio State holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #20 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets don’t have a quarterback, but they do have their first-round pick under contract.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jets have reached a deal with Darron Lee, the 20th overall pick.

The linebacker from Ohio State has already made a positive impression on his coaches, and has the opportunity to learn from some veterans including David Harris and Erin Henderson.

That also keeps him from having to make an immediate impact on defense, but his speed is likely going to make them find a way to work him in.

His contract leaves just two unsigned picks from this year’s draft: Third-overall pick Joey Bosa (Chargers) and 28th pick Joshua Garnett (49ers).

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Greg Olsen on avoiding Super Bowl hangover: “We take this very seriously”

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers looks on from the sideline after an inury during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers reported for training camp today, and their veterans are clearly sending a message that last year’s over.

Though the bulk of a 15-1 team which went to the Super Bowl is back (and they might actually be better on offense), the Panthers want to emphasize they’re back to 0-0 like everyone else.

We have a lot of work to do, we take this very seriously,” tight end Greg Olsen said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “This is too hard to come out and just half-assed and find ourselves 1-4 asking, ‘What’s going on?’ We’re not going to allow that to be the problem and that all starts with our preparation here at camp.”

We’re certain that backup quarterback Derek Anderson agrees with Olsen about the gravity of the situation, but the reality is that while no one’s laughing, no one’s crying for a team which had so much success a year ago.

For Olsen it’s a familiar feeling, as he joined the Bears in 2007, the year after their Super Bowl loss. But he was younger then, and now has a better understanding of how a hangover happens.

“It’s not just the players — the team, the community, the fans — it’s human nature,” Olsen said. “I think everyone just assumes, ‘Hey, you’ve got the same guys back. Why would it be any different?’ I think the answer is every game is different; every season is different. Every season has its own kind of history, its own storyline. . . .

“I think from a human instinct perspective, you kind of rest on your laurels. We’ve identified that from Day 1. That can’t be the case with us. We’re going to start from one, and we’re going to build that platform starting with OTAs to minicamp and now to training camp. If we’re not willing to do those things, and if we think we’re just going to show up Week 1 and rattle off 14 wins in a row like we did last year just because we’re the same guys in the same uniforms, you’re going to find yourself in a bad spot. That’s just not the way this league works.”

Of course, that kind of talk is going to crop up in every camp this week, but the Panthers have clearly emphasized it this offseason. Coach Ron Rivera has been harping on it since the spring, and his players have clearly heard the message.

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Cardinals sign Donald Butler

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Donald Butler #56 of the San Diego Chargers looks on during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals will travel to San Diego next month to practice with the Chargers for a couple of days before their August 19 preseason game.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the newest member of the Cardinals roster. The Cardinals announced on Wednesday that they have signed former Chargers linebacker Donald Butler to their 90-man roster.

Butler was a third-round pick in 2010 and played well enough in his first years with the Chargers that he signed a seven-year extension with the team in 2014. Things went downhill from there, however, and Butler was released in March after spending the second half of last season on the bench.

He’ll try to get back on track in Arizona, likely as a depth option behind projected inside linebackers Kevin Minter and Deone Bucannon. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy was waived to make room for Butler on the roster.

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Broncos put Aqib Talib on non-football injury list

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 17:  Aqib Talib #21 of the Denver Broncos dances as he is introduced before a game against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib avoided severe injury when he was shot in the leg in early June, but he won’t avoid the non-football injury list to start training camp.

Mike Klis of KUSA in Denver reports that Talib will open camp on the NFI list to give his leg more time to heal. Players with that designation in the summer may be activated at any time, but aren’t allowed to practice or play in the interim.

According to Klis, Talib is likely to miss the first week or two of training camp as well as the team’s preseason opener, although history says it is unlikely that any of the team’s starters will be seeing extensive playing time when the Broncos face the Bears on September 11. Talib is expected to be ready to go when the Broncos open the regular season on September 8 against the Panthers.

Talib said last week that he’s “back running and everything” after the shooting, which police in Dallas are still investigating after Talib told them he didn’t know who pulled the trigger.

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Report: Marlon Brown lands with Broncos

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marlon Brown (14) jumps over Miami Dolphins free safety Louis Delmas (25) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) AP

The Broncos plan to sign wide receiver Marlon Brown, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday.

The one-year deal reunites Brown with Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, who coached Brown in 2014 when Kubiak was offensive coordinator of the Ravens.

Brown made the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2013 and immediately became a regular contributor. He played in 38 games, starting 15, over three seasons for the Ravens before finishing last season on injured reserve. Brown has 87 career catches for 891 yards and seven touchdowns; all seven touchdowns came in his rookie season.

He was released by the Ravens in May after re-signing with the team in March.

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Tom Coughlin hired by league office

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants talks with referee John Parry #13 during a game against the San Francisco 49ers on October 14, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  The Giants won 26-3. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Out of coaching after he was pushed out by the Giants, Tom Coughlin is staying in football and staying in New York.

Coughlin will work for the NFL’s football operations department, Jim Trotter of ESPN reports.

The football operations department works on officiating, rules, and communicating with coaches and players about the game on the field. The department is headed up by Troy Vincent.

Coughlin said in May that he still wants to coach. Another NFL head-coaching job is probably a long shot, but the league office apparently thinks Coughlin still has something to contribute.

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Matt Forte says he was told to refer Ryan Fitzpatrick questions to Todd Bowles

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - JANUARY 21: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets addresses the media during a press conference on January 21, 2015 in Florham Park, New Jersey. Bowles and General Manager Mike Maccagnan were both introduced. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets coach Todd Bowles said in June he’s tired of answering Ryan Fitzpatrick questions.

But he’s apparently the only one being allowed to address them.

Via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, new running back Matt Forte fielded a question about the unsigned free agent quarterback, and quickly deflected.

“All questions about Ryan is for coach Bowles,” Forte said. “They told me to tell you all that.”

Asked who “they” included, Forte motioned toward the team facility: “They. Everybody knows who they are.”

Of course, that’s not going to make the issue go away. But advising players to leave the topic alone makes it easier for them in the long run, since their team will either be quarterbacked by Fitzpatrick or someone not Fitzpatrick, and none of them have any control over that.

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