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Officially, Julio Jones more than 0.1 seconds faster than A.J. Green in 40

Julio Jones

The official 40 times for the receivers have been released.  And what had appeared like a small gap between Julio Jones and A.J. Green has gotten ever larger.

Jones officially ran a blazing 4.39.  Green mustered a respectable 4.5.

Two of the wideouts finished the fastest of all with a 4.37 — Abilene Christian’s Edmond Gates and Fort Valley State’s Ricardo Lockette.

Meanwhile, former Maryland wideout Torrey Smith, who declined during last week’s visit to PFT Live to offer any prediction beyond “I’m fast, not slow,” was definitely fast, racking up a 4.43.

Though the 40 times mean a lot more when comparing wideouts than, say, offensive linemen, running in a straight line in a T-shirt and shorts has only a loose correlation to a guy’s speed while wearing gear and jockeying for position with a defensive back or two and trying to track down the ball.

For example, a guy from Mississippi Valley State ran a 4.6 in 1985.  And things worked out just fine at the next level for Jerry Rice.

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Report: Bengals to host Browns in Thursday night game in November

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals

As was the case a season ago, the Bengals and Browns will meet in Cincinnati on “Thursday Night Football” in November.

Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio reports the Bengals will host Cleveland on Thursday, November 5.

The teams split a pair of games a season ago, with the Browns winning 24-3 at Cincinnati on November 6 and the Bengals romping 30-0 in Cleveland on December 14.

The Bengals finished 10-5-1 last season, making the playoffs for the fourth straight year. However, they fell in Round One and have not won a postseason game since 1990. The Browns, meanwhile, haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, with their last playoff win in 1994.

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Report: Giants home in Weeks 2 and 3, close season in Philly

Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III AP

The Giants are going to open the season in Dallas on Sunday night and they’ll reportedly have another prime-time game in Week Three.

Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports that the Giants will host the Redskins at MetLife Stadium in a Thursday night game. It will be the first of two meetings between the NFC East rivals and will give the Giants a chance to grab a couple of divisional wins before the first month of the season is out.

Vacchiano also reports that the Falcons will visit the Giants in Week Two. We don’t know who the Falcons will face in their season opener at this point, but there’s a good chance that the game will mark Dan Quinn’s first road outing as Atlanta’s head coach. The Falcons lost to the Giants 30-20 in East Rutherford last season.

The Cowboys, Eagles, Patriots, Jets, Panthers and 49ers will round out the Giants’ home schedule.

UPDATE 5:07 p.m. ET: Vacchiano reports that the Giants will close the regular season against the Eagles in Philadelphia. There’s been a lot of Week 17 NFC East deciders in recent years and the Giants will likely add another national TV game if that game resumes the tradition.

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Chiefs waive 2014 Steelers fifth-rounder Shaquille Richardson

Shaquille Richardson AP

It’s not a great sign for a long NFL career when the team that drafts you in the fifth round in May drops you from the roster before the start of your rookie season.

That was cornerback Shaquille Richardson’s fate with the Steelers, however, and things aren’t looking up for him. Richardson signed with the Chiefs in February, but Kansas City has already decided to move in a different direction despite having 90 spots on the roster. The team announced Tuesday that they have waived Richardson.

The move leaves the Chiefs with Sean Smith, Phillip Gaines, Marcus Cooper, Sanders Commings and Jamell Fleming at corner. Smith’s recent guilty plea on DUI charges opens the door to league discipline that could leave him sidelined for the opening weeks of the regular season.

Richardson finished his college career at Arizona after being dismissed from UCLA along with his cousin and current Seahawks wide receiver Paul Richardson after they were arrested on theft charges that were later dropped.

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Compelling games aplenty on 2015 NFL slate

Richard Sherman AP

As we ready for the 2015 NFL schedule to be released Tuesday night at 8 p.m., here are 12 games that could be marquee matchups wherever they land on the schedule, whether it’s Week One or Week 17:

GAMES SCHEDULED TO BE PLAYED (DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED TUESDAY)

New England at Indianapolis — Can the Colts’ defense offer a little more resistance this year?

Pittsburgh at Baltimore — Still one of the NFL’s top rivalries, even as some of the stars who shined in these battle royales exit stage left.

New England at Buffalo — For years, the Patriots have dominated this matchup. Can the Bills begin to close the gap?

Denver at Indianapolis — Will this be Peyton Manning’s final game at Lucas Oil Stadium?

Seattle at Baltimore — It seems like these guys should play more often. Let’s work on this.

Philadelphia at Dallas — The NFC East’s last two champions square off as DeMarco Murray returns to Texas.

Green Bay at Denver — Can the retooling Broncos make one more run with their future Hall of Fame quarterback? This is the sort of game an AFC-title contender should be able to gut out at home, even against top-caliber Green Bay.

Philadelphia at New England — Two innovative clubs so effective when it comes to dialing up the pace meet in this intriguing non-conference matchup.

Arizona at Seattle — The Cardinals didn’t have quarterback Carson Palmer in either matchup with Seattle a season ago.

Seattle at San Francisco — This rivalry will lose its punch if the 49ers are meek and middling.

GAMES WITH DATE ALREADY REPORTED

Pittsburgh at New England (reportedly set for Week One) — The Steelers are 17-8 since losing 55-31 in Foxborough in 2013. (It looks like this game will open the regular season.)

Seattle at Green Bay (reportedly set for Week Two) — The Seahawks can’t break the Packers’ hearts again  . . . can they?

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Giants to visit Cowboys in the Sunday Night Football opener

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

Football Night in America is going to focus on America’s Team.

According to Nick Powell of NJ.com, the Giants will open the season at the Cowboys, on the first Sunday Night Football appearance of the year.

Considering the last SNF appearance between the two gave us Odell Beckham Jr.’s incredible one-handed catch, having that one kick off the NBC slate is a pretty good way to start the prime time festivities.

And with every passing leak, we get closer to Florio’s over-under of 9.5 games to become public knowledge before the league announces the full slate at 8 p.m.

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Jay Ajayi knee concerns overblown, if not fabricated

Ajayi

On Monday, CBS Sports reported that concerns emerged regarding the knee of Boise State running back Jay Ajayi at the Scouting Combine medical re-check in Indianapolis.  The only problem?  Ajayi wasn’t there.

Agent Erik Burkhardt said on Twitter than Ajayi didn’t attend, and wasn’t asked to attend, the medical re-check.  Which implies strongly that there were no concerns about Ajayi’s knee at the original Scouting Combine in February.

And for good reason.  Ajayi’s knee injury happened four years ago.  In 2014, he became the first player in FBS history to rush for more than 1,800 yards and to generate more than 500 receiving yards in one season.

If those reports originate from team visits, keep in mind that very few teams engage in extensive medical examinations during those sessions.  Besides, Ajayi checked out at the Scouting Combine, where the poking and prodding nearly rises to the level of the nuances of an alien abduction.  (I think I’ve used that one before.  I’m too lazy to check.)

So why are reports emerging of concerns with Ajayi’s knee?  Because one or more teams love Ajayi enough to trash him privately, in the hopes he’ll be available when they hope to land him in the draft.

That’s the most accurate rule of thumb about the pre-draft lying season.  Teams that love a player will spread bad information about him so that he’ll fall to them.  Teams that hate a player will pump him up, in the hopes that some sucker out there burns a pick on a player, pushing more viable candidates down the board.

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Report: Seahawks to visit Packers in Week Two

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

We won’t have to wait long to see if the Packers can finally break through against Seattle.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Seahawks will visit Green Bay in Week Two.

The game will be played on Sunday night, the Journal Sentinel reports, which means it will air on NBC.

The Seahawks won both matchups with the Packers a season ago, coming back to defeat Green Bay 28-22 in the NFC title game. Overall, Seattle has won the last three games in the series dating back to 2012.

However, the Packers have won the last five matchups with Seattle at Lambeau Field. The teams most recently played in Green Bay in 2009, with the Packers rolling to a 48-10 victory.

The full 2015 schedule will be released by the NFL at 8 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday night.

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Report: Jets to visit Rex Ryan in Week 17

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

When Rex Ryan was hired as the coach of the Bills, it guaranteed that he’d face his former employers twice in his first season in Buffalo.

It looks like one of those matchups with the Jets will close out the year. Darryl Slater of NJ.com reports that the Jets will visit the Bills in Week 17, although we may have to wait until the NFL officially unveils the schedule on Tuesday night to find out when Ryan will return to MetLife Stadium.

Opening the year with the return engagement would have made for good television, but the league has reportedly opted for a different reunion in the opener.

Slater reports that the Jets will open their season on Sunday, September 13 with a home game against the Browns, who are coached by former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. That game will also mark Darrelle Revis’s first game back with the Jets and could be the first Jets start for Ryan Fitzpatrick, although guessing about either team’s starting quarterback at this point is best done with little money riding on the result.

The Jets will also travel to London for a game against the Dolphins in Week Four. That makes a Week Five bye a good bet in Todd Bowles’s first year on the team’s sideline.

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Joe Haden: Browns players didn’t know Josh Gordon couldn’t drink

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

After news of his one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy broke early this year, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon wrote that his positive test resulted from having several drinks on a flight to Las Vegas.

Gordon also said that he was unaware that he was barred from drinking alcohol during the offseason under the terms of his agreement with the league and the test occurred shortly after he and several teammates landed. Cornerback Joe Haden was one of the players with Gordon on the trip and said Tuesday that none of the other players were aware either and suggested Gordon wouldn’t have had the drinks if they had known.

“Listen, everybody is 21 years old,” Haden said, via ESPN.com. “We’re going to Vegas on a vacation. We know we can’t do certain things, but we had no idea [Gordon] couldn’t have a drink. If I knew he couldn’t have a drink, everybody would have tried to … you know what I’m saying … it wouldn’t have been that. Josh Gordon, he’s a grown man and sometimes you got to know what decisions you make.”

There’s no way Haden or anyone else would know what Gordon could or couldn’t do if Gordon wasn’t aware, which makes the cornerback’s closing point the most significant one moving forward. If Gordon is going to continue his playing career, he can’t afford any more missteps involving drugs or alcohol.

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Report: Steelers-Patriots will launch the season

Patriots AP

We’re not quite sure where LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell will be on the evening of September 10.  But we know where they won’t be.

They won’t be at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts with the Steelers and the Patriots.

The Patriots running back and Steelers running back both are facing suspensions a Cheech-and-Chong incident from last summer, when they were pulled over with marijuana not long before the team was due to fly to Philadelphia for a preseason game.  And the Steelers and Patriots will square off for the first game of the regular season, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

Blount was cut by the Steelers in November due to unhappiness with his role.  He cleared waivers, joined the Patriots, and won a Super Bowl ring.

The Steelers always seemed to be the best option, given that the Patriots’ home slate otherwise features the Eagles, Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Titans, Jaguars, and Washington — none of which made it to the postseason in 2014.

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Jimmy Smith gets $21 million fully guaranteed on four-year extension

Smith AP

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, despite suffering a season-ending foot injury in 2014, remains a major part of the team’s plans.  They’ve proven it by giving Smith a four-year extension that includes $21 million fully guaranteed, per a source with knowledge of the deal.

Smith will make $48 million over five seasons, with a new-money average of $10.275 million.  A first-round pick in 2011, Smith was due to earn $6.898 million in 2015 under the fifth-year option.

Smith became a full-time starter in 2013, starting every game of the season.  He previously had five regular-season starts in two years.  He suffered a Lisfranc injury in the eighth game of his fourth season, against the Bengals.

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Jerrell Freeman skipping Colts workouts

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Getty Images

Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman hasn’t signed his restricted free agent tender and the Colts’ offseason workouts are voluntary, so there’s nothing compelling him to be taking part in the program that started Monday.

As is often the case when a player opts not to take part in the workouts, it looks like there’s more to Freeman’s decision to stay away than just a desire to work out on his own. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star reports that Freeman’s choice “appears connected to a desire for a new contract.”

Freeman is entering his third NFL season after joining the Colts from the CFL and has started all but four of the Colts’ games over that span. He can sign an offer sheet with another team until Friday, but it would cost another team a second-round pick to sign him away from Indianapolis after the team issued a $2.35 million tender before free agency opened.

The Colts signed Nate Irving, who ended last season on injured reserve with a knee injury, to a three-year contract as a free agent this offseason. Assuming they see him as a potential upgrade on Freeman, the chances of a multi-year deal for the incumbent starter don’t look too good.

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Ravens, Jimmy Smith agree to extension

Baltimore Ravens v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith won’t have an expiring contract to worry about this season.

The Ravens announced Tuesday afternoon that they have agreed to terms on a contract extension with Smith, who was their first-round pick in 2011. Smith was set to play for $6.898 million this season after the Ravens exercised their fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

There aren’t any details about the length or terms of the extension, but there’s a press conference scheduled for later in the day on Tuesday. Whatever the term, it’s not a big surprise that the Ravens wanted to lock Smith up for the near future. He’s their top cornerback and the team missed him down the stretch and in the playoffs last season after a Lisfranc injury ended Smith’s season.

Smith became a full-time starter in his third season in Baltimore and has started every game he’s played over the last two seasons. He has five interceptions and two forced fumbles over all four years of what will likely be a long stay with the team.

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Sheriff says Aaron Hernandez views jail “more like training camp”

Aaron Hernandez AP

The man who was in charge of Aaron Hernandez’s last 18 months in jail said the former Patriots tight end should fit right in now that he’s been sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder.

He doesn’t really look at it as jail,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told the Associated Press. “It’s more like training camp.”

Hodgson described Hernandez as a prisoner who got by on his charm, though one who reacted poorly to perceived “disrespect” (which might explain why he was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd).

Hodgson said not even the guilty verdict changed Hernandez’s demeanor, recalling him saying: “I’ll miss you guys, but they got it wrong. . . .

“He didn’t really have much of a change in his demeanor. He pretty much still had a swagger in his step.”

Hodgson also said Hernandez tried to trade on his charisma and status as a former football player to his advantage.

“He would make every effort to get extra sandwiches,” Hodgson said. “He would just try to convince the officers to give him more than what they otherwise could get.”

While Hodgson said Hernandez was generally polite, he did get into a fight with another inmate, and was “accused of threatening to kill a prison guard and his family.”

It’s almost like he’s a bad guy, or something.

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Report: Packers to retire Favre’s jersey on Thanksgiving

NFC Championship: New York Giants v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Packers fans may be spending Thanksgiving night giving thanks to Brett Favre.

Reports ahead of Tuesday night’s release of the 2015 schedule have the Packers playing host to the Bears on Thanksgiving night and it seems the Packers have more than just a turkey dinner at the stadium planned for the occasion.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Packers are planning to retire Brett Favre’s jersey that night as well. Favre will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in July and it’s been expected for some time that Favre’s jersey retirement would also take place at Lambeau Field during the 2015 season.

The drama and sharp words that accompanied Favre’s departure from Green Bay in 2008 made for an unhappy end to a great career with the Packers and his two years with the Vikings helped push the happy memories even further into the past, but all wounds should be healed on what’s setting up to be a memorable night in Green Bay.

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