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Bubba Smith dies at 66

bubbasmith

Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1967 NFL draft who later found fame as an actor, has died at the age of 66.

After ending an All-American career at Michigan State in 1966, Smith was taken first in the draft by the Baltimore Colts. He played on Baltimore’s defensive line for five years, then was traded to the Oakland Raiders, where he played in 1973 and 1974, and finished his career with the Houston Oilers in 1975 and 1976.

The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Smith was one of the biggest players of his era. He won a ring at Super Bowl V and went to two Pro Bowls.

After retiring, Smith became an actor. He was best known for playing Moses Hightower in the first six Police Academy movies.

No cause of death has been determined, but officials said they believe Smith died of natural causes.

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Vikings officially place Teddy Bridgewater on injured reserve

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 12:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Vikings announced the extent of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury on Tuesday, they didn’t say that Bridgewater’s season was over even though his torn ACL and dislocated knee made it all but certain.

The Vikings have now gone ahead and made it official. The team announced on Wednesday afternoon that Bridgewater has been placed on injured reserve. While teams can hold off on designating a player to return thanks to a rule change this season, the player must be placed on IR after the cut to 53 players so Bridgewater will spend the foreseeable future rehabbing with 2017 in his sights.

Minnesota also formally announced the expected return of Brad Sorensen to the quarterback room. Sorensen was waived this week, but reports after Tuesday’s injury indicated he would come back if he cleared waivers.

Sorensen joins Shaun Hill and rookie Joel Stave on the active roster while Taylor Heinicke remains on the non-football injury list after hurting his foot while kicking a door.

The Vikings also placed defensive lineman Scott Crichton and defensive back Antone Exum on injured reserve after they passed through waivers unclaimed.

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Exclusive video of the Tim Tebow baseball showcase!

Former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow does a 60-yard run for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase on the campus of the University of Southern California, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 in Los Angeles. The Heisman Trophy winner works out for a big gathering of scouts on USC's campus in an attempt to start a career in a sport he hasn't played regularly since high school. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) AP

So with two hours of radio on NBCSN every day, we’ve got four break segments per hour that require a little filler. One of today’s segments was supposed to include highlights from the Tim Tebow baseball showcase a/k/a one-man fantasy camp.

And so when we came back to air the folks in the control room rolled the footage. But it wasn’t the footage that we’ve now seen ad nauseum of Tebow shagging flies like a non-alcholic-beer-league softball player or running 60 yards in a straight line with the form of the Oregon mascot or swinging a bat but never seeing where the ball goes.

No, they tricked me with something I didn’t expect. It made me laugh. It possibly will make you laugh, too.

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Justin Forsett is back to 100 percent

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 1: Running back Justin Forsett #29 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on prior to a game against the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens running back Justin Forsett became a late bloomer in NFL circles two years ago, when he rushed for 1,266 yards during his first season in Baltimore. Now approaching 31 and coming back from a broken arm that shortened his 2015 campaign, Forsett is ready to build on what he did in 2014.

Appearing Wednesday on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, Forsett said he’s 100 percent again. He also said that he’s feeling great and fresh because, for most of his early years, he didn’t have the same wear and tear that other running backs experience. He also has noticed something positive about being an experience (i.e., older) player in the NFL.

“The game is just so much slower than it was when I was 24,” Forsett said. “Coming into the league, your head’s kinda spinning and things are happening fast on and off the field. Now I kind of got a little more wisdom underneath me and the game has slowed down and I can anticipate things before they happen.”

He said that he noticed the change in his third or fourth year, “where you really start to understand not only what you do as a professional, as a running back, but you start understanding schemes [and] you start understanding what the guys around you are doing and it kind of makes your job easier.”

Forsett pays plenty of attention to what one guy around him (his quarterback) does, and Forsett thinks Joe Flacco looks the same following a torn ACL suffered last season.

“I haven’t noticed any difference as of late,” Forsett said. “I mean he’s been in the pocket, standing strong, getting the ball out, he’s been leading the same way. Joe is Joe, man, I mean there’s no high or low he’s even keeled in all situations. So even after the injury Joe’s remained the same.”

Steve Smith is still the same guy he’s always been. For a story from Justin Forsett about the intensity and competitive nature of Smith, check out the video accompanying this blurb.

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NFL to announce Philadelphia as 2017 draft host city

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  A detailed photo of the football on the tee prior to the start between the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 2017 NFL draft will be in Philadelphia.

The league announced today that Philadelphia and NFL officials will have a joint announcement at City Hall tomorrow. Although the league hasn’t officially announced that Philly is the draft host, it’s obvious that is what will be announced, after months of reports that Philadelphia was the front-runner for the 2017 draft.

After hosting the draft in New York City for decades, the NFL moved it to Chicago for the last two years. Now the league is looking to turn the draft into a traveling road show that will draw big crowds across the country. Several NFL teams have said they want to host the draft in their towns.

One drawback to Philadelphia as the 2017 host is that the Eagles don’t have a first-round pick, after sending their 2017 first-rounder to Cleveland in the Carson Wentz trade. That might dampen some local interest in the draft, but the NFL still thinks Philadelphia will be a good host.

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Report: Bills claim Patrick Lewis

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes as center Patrick Lewis (65) blocks Arizona Cardinals' Calais Campbell (93) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

The Bills have claimed center Patrick Lewis via waivers, NFL Network reported Wednesday.

The Seahawks waived Lewis Tuesday. He started nine games at center last season but this summer had fallen to second on the depth chart behind Justin Britt.

With the Bills, Lewis will presumably compete with Fernando Velasco for the backup center job behind Eric Wood.

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Pete Carroll: “Many scenarios” where Brandon Browner could return

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 08:  Brandon Browner #39 of the Seattle Seahawks lines up against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on August 8, 2013 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks ended Brandon Browner’s second stint with the team when they released him this week, but coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that there could be a third tour of duty at some point.

Seattle was working to convert Browner from cornerback to safety after bringing him back this offseason. Carroll said Wednesday that the team “ran out of time getting him ready” and that it was tough to keep him on the roster given the presence of other players who were ready to fill the safety jobs.

“He could play for us, which he did in games,” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “But I think there was still aways to go and I thought in respect to him, give him more time to find a place with somebody else. There are many scenarios where we would ask him to come back, so we left with that exchange. I love that guy and his competitiveness and toughness and all of that. But it was a big request. We weren’t making him play safety and faking it we needed him to play to be on the roster and help us and the other guys were just ahead of him.”

Browner didn’t look too good at cornerback in New Orleans last season, which is a stumbling block to finding work at that position with another team and, given where we are in the calendar, a continued transition to safety is going to be difficult. That may leave him available should the Seahawks’ needs change, although it seems clear they think they’re better off without Browner in the secondary this year.

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Steelers claim quarterback Zach Mettenberger off waivers

Zach Mettenberger AP

Despite a career record of 0-10, which may or may not be his fault, there is still a market for quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

And it’s not one of the teams that had been previously linked to the former Tennessee starter.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, the Steelers have claimed Mettenberger off waivers from the Chargers. The Bengals and Giants had put in claims for him when he was cut by Tennessee earlier this offseason.

The Steelers seemed previously content with Landry Jones as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup, and they may still be. But after veteran Bruce Gradkowski suffered a torn hamstring, they were perilously thin at the position, with just Bryn Renner on the roster.

Jones also hasn’t been very good in the preseason, beyond the four-interception game against the Eagles.

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Would Tony Romo have trade value?

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys lies on the turf after being injured in the first quarter during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

If, as the Cowboys possibly hope but won’t admit, quarterback Dak Prescott becomes the next Tom Brady and makes Tony Romo the next Drew Bledsoe, the next order of business will be to figure out how best to separate from Romo. In 2002, the Patriots finagled a first-round pick from the Bills for Bledsoe. So what trade value would Romo have?

I recently reached out to various league executives and coaches with the question of Romo’s worth on the market. More than a few of them quickly said that Romo, given his age and injury history, would have no trade value at all. A few suggested that he could fetch a mid-round pick, maybe a fourth-rounder that possibly would become a third-rounder based on playing time or other performance-based factors.

Any trade would hinge on Romo getting healthy. Still, even when he’s healthy, there’s a chance he quickly won’t be healthy again, once he re-enters a fray occupied by younger and stronger men who for the most part are far less frail than a 36-year-old quarterback with a collarbone that keeps breaking and a back that keeps getting injured.

Plenty of teams have far worse options at quarterback. The lure of a year or two with a late-career Romo, like Brett Favre with the Jets in 2008 or the Vikings in 2009-10, could prompt someone to make a move. The fact that Romo may have little or no value to another team on the trade market underscores the question of whether the Cowboys should be looking to move on, if Prescott ends up playing in the regular season like he has in the preseason.

It’s still a very big “if,” but it’s an eventuality for which the Cowboys should have a plan, in the event their unspoken wish to find their next franchise quarterback comes to fruition with Prescott.

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NFL apparently had no proof of PED use beyond the claims of Charles Sly

al-jazeera-america Getty Images

The statement clearing Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and James Harrison admits that the NFL found “no credible evidence” of a PED violation by the players. Which confirms that the NFL insisted that the three players submitted to interviews without “credible evidence” that they had done anything wrong.

And that leaves an important question unresolved about the circumstances that allow the NFL to compel players to provide evidence that could be used against them under the PED policy — apart from the agreement that they periodically will provide a urine sample. How much evidence is needed to require a player to show up and sit down and answer questions? Can it be a tweet from someone who makes the claim of PED use? A Facebook post? A tip provided to the league office, either anonymously or with a name attached to it?

Like so many other things the NFL does (and doesn’t) do, this one seems to be driven by P.R. Because the Al Jazeera report implicated Peyton Manning and in turn became a national sensation, the NFL felt compelled to explore the rabbit hole even after determining that the person making the accusations, former Guyer Institute intern/employee/whatever Charles Sly, was not credible as to Peyton Manning.

For the league, which justified its four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady by comparing an arguable equipment violation (for which there would have been only a fine) to a PED violation, failing to interview the players would have given those who think the Patriots were railroaded a large helping of raw meat for making persuasive claims of inconsistent treatment. If the Al Jazeera report hadn’t become such a big deal, the NFL could have looked the other way, regarding Sly’s claims as hollow and unsupported. But because everyone knew about the allegations made against Matthews, Peppers, and Harrison due to the attention given to the allegations made against Manning, the league felt compelled to check the boxes before closing the books in order to sidestep a claim that they weren’t investigating potential cheating with the same zeal they did when the Patriots were accused of it.

In this case, it all worked out for the players. But what about in future cases? What if the league has no credible evidence of guilt, but the player actually has violated the policy is forced to incriminate himself based on a whisper or a whim? That’s why the NFL Players Association resisted the interviews for so long, and it’s why at some point the question of whether the PED policy allows the league to mandate player interviews without hard evidence of a PED violation eventually needs to be resolved by an arbitrator, a special master, or a judge.

Without a standard being established, the NFL can bring a guy in for a PED interview pretty much whenever it chooses to do so. And one of these times, a fishing expedition may end up catching a fish.

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Report: K’Waun Williams fails physical with Bears

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 11:  Defensive back K'Waun Williams #36 of the Cleveland Browns looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears claimed cornerback K’Waun Williams off of waivers on Tuesday, although his addition to the roster was contingent on passing a physical.

That wasn’t a sure thing given the ankle injury that led to Williams’ suspension and eventual departure from the Browns. The same issue appears to have put the kibosh on his chance with the Bears.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that Williams failed his physical with the team on Wednesday and the waiver claim will not be going forward. That doesn’t come as a major surprise since Williams’ agent said that his client needs to have surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle before he’ll be ready to play. The Browns felt otherwise, leading to the suspension for violating team rules by not participating in practice or the team’s first preseason game.

The Bears will now have to look elsewhere for help at cornerback, which is a particular need right now with Kyle Fuller out after knee surgery, Tracy Porter sidelined by a concussion and Bryce Callahan fighting a hamstring problem.

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Chris Mortensen getting better, expects to work this season

Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Getty Images

The NFL preseason is typically full of bad news on the health front, so we’re pleased to pass along some good news today.

Chris Mortensen, who took a leave from his job as an ESPN NFL reporter to battle cancer, announced today that he is doing well and expects to get back to work this season.

“The Stage IV throat (oropharyngel) cancer that was diagnosed in early January and treated with intensive chemotherapy and radiation has been virtually reduced to zero detection of the disease through the latest scans and exams,” Mortensen wrote.

Mortensen hasn’t been given a completely clean bill of health, but he thinks he’ll be healthy enough to be back at ESPN this year.

“My return-to-work status has variables with no definitive target date but I anticipate being able to participate in NFL coverage on a limited basis as the 2016 season gets underway,” he wrote.

We look forward to seeing Mortensen back on the job soon.

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Report: Browns would only trade Josh McCown for a high draft pick

Josh McCown AP

Quarterback-needy teams interested in Cleveland’s Josh McCown should probably look elsewhere.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cowboys were interested in McCown until they found out how high the Browns’ asking price was, and the Vikings shouldn’t even bother to ask unless they’re willing to part with a high pick.

It seems extremely unlikely that anyone will offer a high pick for the 37-year-old McCown, who is under contract for two more years at $4.375 million this year and $3.625 million next year. McCown is a solid veteran backup, but teams typically want more than “solid backup” if they’re going to trade away a high draft pick.

So the Browns are likely to hold on to McCown as the backup to Robert Griffin III.

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NFL clears Harrison, Peppers and Matthews

FILE - From left are file photos showing Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison, in 2015, Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews, in 2016, Packers' Julius Peppers, in 2015, and then-Packers player Mike Neal, in 2014. Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison doesn’t want to face a suspension. He is also not interested in talking to NFL representatives right now, either. The NFL has threatened Harrison and three other players with an indefinite suspension if they don’t cooperate in its investigation of alleged use of performance-enhancing substances. The others are Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Julius Peppers. Harrison spoke Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016,  a day after the NFL’s threat became public.(AP Photo/File) AP

Earlier this month, Steelers linebacker James Harrison said the NFL had no credible evidence against him even as the league continued to investigate claims made in Al-Jazeera America report that Harrison and others had acquired and used performance-enhancing substances.

After interviewing Harrison — along with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers of the Packers — the league agrees with Harrison’s initial thought.

The NFL announced Wednesday that it has cleared Harrison, Matthews and Peppers after “a comprehensive investigation” found “no credible evidence” that those players were provided with or consumed any banned substances.

Free agent linebacker Mike Neal, a former Packer who also interviewed with league investigators last week, was not named in the release that cleared the other three.

The league’s release said the NFL’s investigation involved witness interviews, a review of relevant records and laboratory analysis.

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Tom Brady to be honorary captain at Michigan game during suspension

ANN ARBOR, MI - FEBRUARY  3:  Tom Brady, former Michigan Wolverine and current NFL quarterback talks with Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines during the Michigan Signing of the Stars event at Hill Auditorium on February 3, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tom Brady won’t be allowed to attend practices, have contact with Patriots personnel or go to Patriots games during his four-game suspension to open the 2016 season, but the quarterback won’t be totally away from the game of football during his time off.

During an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show Wednesday, University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said that Brady will be the team’s honorary captain for their September 17 game against the University of Colorado in Ann Arbor. Brady played for Michigan from 1995-1999 and made a trip to talk to players when Brady Hoke was still head coach as well as taking part in the signing day extravaganza that Harbaugh put together earlier this year.

Brady is expected to lead the team onto the field at the start of the game and speak with the players at some point before Saturday’s kickoff.

He’s not the only big name slated to serve as an honorary captain this year. Michael Jordan, whose Jordan Brand now makes Michigan’s uniforms, will do the duties this Saturday against Hawaii and Hank Aaron is scheduled for the team’s game against Illinois later in the year.

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Harry Edwards: Kaepernick “a man suddenly becoming aware his house is on fire”

AUSTIN, TX - APRIL 9:  (L - R) Jim Brown and Bill Russell, take questions from Dr. Harry Edwards on the second day of the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library April 9, 2014 in Austin, Texas. The summit is marking the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act legislation, with U.S. President Barack Obama making the keynote speech on April 10.  (Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell-Pool/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the people Colin Kaepernick talked to before (and after) his decision to sit through the national anthem was known sociologist and activist Dr. Harry Edwards.

Edwards, who has served as a consultant to the 49ers for more than 30 years, said in the San Francisco Chronicle that he wholeheartedly supported Kaepernick’s decision to become a national lightning rod.

“Colin Kaepernick absolutely has a constitutional right to express his opinion on the politics of diversity in America,” Edwards wrote. “He is courageous, well-informed and steadfast in his position. He is evolving through an awakening and (perhaps) really understanding for the first time (given his background) the true depth and scope of the history of anti-black racial hatred and injustice in America.

“And because it appears to have come to him through self-education as a jarring awareness and stark reality, his response seems more akin to that of a man suddenly becoming aware his house is on fire than the result of a deliberately crafted articulation of a considered political position.”

Edwards has served as a mentor to Kaepernick for some time, and Kaepernick said Sunday that he had discussed issues of race with Edwards many times over the years.

But the professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley saved his harshest criticisms for players such as Victor Cruz and Alex Boone, who have taken Kaepernick to task for his method. He specifically asked where they stood on the deaths of Eric Gardner and Philando Castile, black men who were killed by police in areas that just happen to be close to where the Giants and Vikings practice and play, along with a laundry list of other concerns.

“I would be very interested in their records of protest about these circumstances, because they are so dedicated to “honoring our soldiers” that they would heap caustic criticism upon Kaepernick for sitting during the national anthem,” Edwards wrote. “If they have no such record of vehement protest no less critical than what they have waged against Kaep — well, perhaps then it’s time for them to sit down.

“Talk is cheap, especially when it is expediently wrapped in patriotism and the flag.”

Edwards has long been a proponent for the rights and responsibilities of black athletes, going back to his days at San Jose State, when he worked with Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos before their famous protest at the 1968 Olympics. And while the 49ers football operation might be wavering on Kaepernick as a quarterback, he clearly has the full backing of Edwards as an activist.

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