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At memorial service, Chargers retire Junior Seau’s number

No.55 jersey seen on display at Qualcomm Stadium as part of "Celebration of Life" memorial, held in memory of Seau in San Dieg Reuters

Junior Seau was remembered on Friday night as a great football player and a fine man at a public memorial service at the stadium where he played most of the home games in his NFL career, and in a fitting finishing touch, the San Diego Chargers announced that they would retire his jersey number, 55.

The memorial at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego was attended by thousands, many in Seau 55 Chargers jerseys, and it served as a tribute to a man who inspired many during his 20-year NFL career, and whose suicide last week shocked the nation and led to increased scrutiny of the post-football lives of NFL players.

But as sad an occasion as it was, the ceremony was mostly a celebration of Seau’s life. Among those who addressed the fans to honor Seau were Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, the great former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Bobby Ross, the former Chargers coach who in 1994 got the team to its only Super Bowl, with Seau as the team’s star linebacker and locker room leader.

Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell opened the service by saying, “Junior, we don’t know if you can see this down here, but tonight’s your night.”

Seau’s 55 was painted on the Qualcomm Stadium field where he played so many great games, and it’s appropriate that no Charger will wear it again. There was no one else like Junior Seau.

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Browns sign Mitchell Schwartz

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The Schwartz definitely is with the Browns.

Rookie tackle Mitchell Schwartz, a second-round pick in the 2012 draft, has signed a four-year, $5.17 million contract, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Browns G.M. Tom Heckert hinted at the move earlier this week on PFT Live when discussing efforts to get the team’s draft picks signed.  “[W]e’ve talked to all of them and we’ve made a lot of progress on a lot of them,” Heckert said.  “So the first couple are probably going to take a little longer, but I think we’ll have the majority of them done by this weekend.”

Schwartz stepped right in at right tackle as the starter during minicamp, and if he can cut it he’ll stay there.  “Obviously Mitchell is the guy we targeted for that,” Heckert said.  “Now I guess the same thing holds true for anywhere, if he can’t get the job done we’ll move someone else in there. But we have full expectation that he’s going to be the guy.”

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Kendall Wright gets his first playbook, ever

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Titan receiver Kendall Wright, the 20th overall pick in the 2012 draft, has gotten a playbook.

It’s his first playbook.

Not just his first NFL playbook.  His first playbook ever.

Baylor didn’t use a playbook, and Wright’s high-school team didn’t have one, either.

“For me, it’s learning everything,” Wright said Friday, via the Associated Press.  “I was just out there.  We had a lot of different stuff we ran at Baylor.  But right now I have a playbook that I’m studying every night and going over with coaches in the meetings.  It’s a different learning process for me.”

Still, Wright had memorized 300 plays at Baylor, which were called in from the sidelines.  So he’s definitely got the brain power to pick up the plays that are reduced to writing in Tennessee.

“It’s a big book with a lot of plays in it, so I’m just looking at whatever position coach [Dave Ragone] wants me to look at,” Wright said.  “There’s a lot of different positions he’s got me looking at.  I’m just soaking it all in and going through it every day.”

So far, coach Mike Munchak likes what he sees.

“Kendall looks good,” Munchak said.  “He looks like we thought.  A lot of learning going on, a lot of teaching going on. . . .  It’s hard to get too excited over a rookie after a day or two, but I think all the guys look like we thought they would.”

For Wright, perhaps the biggest key to his impact will be the performance of receiver Kenny Britt, who is recovering from a torn ACL.  If Britt continues to command double coverage, Wright could find himself in favorable matchups — and he could end up catching a lot of passes, regardless of whether the plays are reduced to a playbook, communicated by hand signals, or drawn up in the dirt.

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All is well for Bengals, Orson Charles

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The Bengals continue to get their new players to apply their John Hancocks to the bottom of their rookie contracts.

The latest is fourth-round tight end Orson Charles.

Charles, the fifth of 10 draft picks signed by the Bengals, slid all the way to pick 116 despite a lack of high-end talent at the NFL’s new “it” position on offense.  A March DUI arrest may have fueled the drop.

In Cincinnati, the combination of Charles and Jermaine Gresham could give the Bengals a New England-style one-two tight-end punch.

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New Broncos quarterback debuts new throwing motion

Brock Osweiler, Ronnie Hillman AP

No, this isn’t an item that has been lost in Al Gore’s technological tubes-and-wires pasta since 2010.  Two years after the Broncos broke in a quarterback of the future who needed to reverse years of muscle memory by changing his throwing motion, they have another.

Hooray?

Quarterback Brock Osweiler, who arrives via a second-round pick that could have been devoted to a player that could help the Broncos win with Peyton Manning, is working to change the way he gets rid of the ball.

“[T]his is my first practice with this new throwing motion,” Osweiler said, via comments distributed by the team.  “I felt very comfortable with it.  I felt more consistent with my accuracy — where I was trying to put the ball, for the most part, the ball ended up there.  So, I was very happy with it and now I just have to keep building upon that.”

Osweiler explained that he’s “getting my elbow raised up” as he cranks his arm.  “A lot of times in college, my elbow would drop below my shoulder, if you will,” Osweiler said.  “When you do that, you lose velocity, you lose accuracy [and] you’re less consistent with your throws.  We basically made a huge point to bring that elbow up to a more traditional throwing motion and get it above my shoulder.”

That’s fine, and it may work well when the Broncos are practicing and/or Osweiler isn’t otherwise under duress of any kind.  But once Osweiler finds himself in a sea of bodies, going through his progressions while trying to find an open receiver and unload the ball before someone unloads on him, that new throwing motion may get thrown out the window — just like is does whenever the team’s former quarterback of the future doesn’t have a chance to remember to ditch instinctive body movements that he is trying so hard to unlearn.

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Not every first-round contract will be easy to negotiate

New England Patriots Minicamp Getty Images

With an unprecedented number of draft picks signing contracts early, thanks to a CBA that makes it more formulaic than ever to work out the details of deals, it would be easy to assume that the momentum will continue until all of the deals are done, perhaps by Memorial Day.

It would be easy, but it very well could be wrong.

Though there’s not all that much to negotiate when it comes to first-round contracts, one potential sticking point comes from the extent to which the money is fully guaranteed for all four years.  In 2011, the first 20 picks received four-year, fully-guaranteed contracts.  Three-year guarantees applied as of the 22nd pick, Colts lineman Anthony Castonzo.

At pick 21, the Browns and defensive lineman Phil Taylor worked out a compromise that would make his fourth-year income guaranteed or put him on the open market early in the league year, giving him an extended opportunity to make the money with a new team.

In 2012, picks in the range of 21 to 25 could take some extra time, as agents try to pull the four-year guarantee deeper into the round — or, at a minimum, to slide the formula that the Browns used when negotiating Taylor’s deal to lower selections.

Making things even more interesting is the fact that the Patriots, who have been known to drive a hard bargain with first-round picks (just ask Ben Watson), hold spot No. 21, for which they traded up used to select defensive end Chandler Jones.  Also, the Browns devoted pick No. 22 to a quarterback, Brandon Weeden, who may be able to get the same deal one spot lower that Taylor got last year with the 21st pick, especially by pointing to the loose notion that quarterbacks deserve a better deal that non-quarterbacks taken at the same spot.

Then the question becomes whether the players taken with picks 23 (Riley Reiff of the Lions), 24 (David DeCastro of the Steelers), and 25 (Dont’a Hightower of the Patriots) will be able to yank the Taylor/Weeden formula deeper into the round.

Chances are the Patriots won’t go for it at No. 25, which would set the floor on the three-year guarantee.  That leaves Reiff and DeCastro to possibly wait it out.  Possibly past the Fourth of July.

Possibly into training camp.

It’s a topic that was included within Friday’s PFT Live, so that gives me an opening to paste the code in the spot where we usually paste the code.

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Wilfs may add retractable roof to stadium

Vikings Stadium AP

MDS pointed out earlier that the new Vikings stadium may host a Super Bowl.

Given the loose, non-binding quid pro quo that the NFL applies when a city/state coughs up big money for a new stadium, it would be a surprise if it doesn’t happen.

What would be a surprise — and a major one — is if the new stadium has a retractable roof.  Approved via the Minnesota legislative process as a venue with a fixed lid, brothers Zygi and Mark Wilf suggested in a Friday session with reporters that the finished product may have the ability with the press of a button to go topless.

“Well if it’s snowing very, very hard we’ll open up the roof,” Zygi Wilf said, jokingly.

Asked if that means the new building will have a retractable roof, Zygi Wilf said, “Well, I don’t know.”

Mark Wilf was more candid.  “We’re going to try to get the maximum number of features within the budgets. . . .  We’re going to want to make it something special.  And to the extent retractability can get there, we’re going to try to do it.”

And here’s where a cynic (I don’t know any) would say, “Sure, now that you’ve finagled more than $500 million in public money, you can justify spending the extra money that you didn’t have to devote to the project on a retractable roof.”

Then again, how cynical is it to think that the Wilfs didn’t make any serious noise about paying for a retractable roof before the stadium bill was approved because, if they had, plenty of lawmakers would have said, “Why not just spend the money it would take to add a retractable roof on the stadium itself and reduce the burden on the public?”

OK, it’s fairly cynical.  There’s also a chance it’s fairly accurate.

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Vontaze Burfict: “I have a big chip on my shoulder”

Vontaze Burfict AP

The opening of rookie minicamp in Cincinnati today meant the first opportunity to see undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict in a Bengals uniform. It also meant an opportunity to hear Burfict, and he said getting passed over in the NFL draft made him more motivated than ever.

“Not being picked, going undrafted I have a big chip on my shoulder and I’m ready to hit somebody,” Burfict told Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Bengals have Burfict playing middle linebacker, and he said he has a lot of learning to do before he’s ready to make the defensive calls usually expected of a middle linebacker.

“The blitzes are complicated and way different from what we ran,” Burfict said. “I’ve just got to learn the defense, be a leader out there. Mike linebacker is like the quarterback on the defense. So it’s just being a leader and just knowing what’s going on around me — every position around me, what they’re doing.”

Burfict weighed in at 248 pounds, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Burfict is in significantly better shape than he was during his disastrous Scouting Combine and Pro Day performances. Maybe even good enough shape that when it’s time to hit somebody in another team’s uniform, he’ll look like he belongs in the NFL, despite the consensus that emerged about him before the draft.

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Family, friends gather for private Junior Seau burial

Former San Diego Charger RUnning back LaDainian Tomlinson and his wife LaTorsha arrive for theFuneral services for former  NFL linebacker Junior Seau in Oceanside, California Reuters

Junior Seau was buried at a private ceremony with family and friends today, hours before some 60,000 people are expected to attend a public memorial service for the former Chargers great at Qualcomm Stadium.

Seau is buried at Eternal Hills cemetery in Oceanside. His burial was attended by family members including his children, as well as close friends including LaDainian Tomlinson. He was buried nine days after he committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest.

The Seau family declined to tell reporters whether Seau’s brain has been preserved to be studied for signs of traumatic injury suffered on the football field.

Speakers at tonight’s memorial service will include Tomlinson, Dan Fouts, Billy Ray Smith, Bobby Ross, John Lynch and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. The public memorial service will begin at 9:30 p.m. Eastern and will be shown on Chargers.com.

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Vikings’ stadium may get Minnesota another Super Bowl

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The Vikings’ big plans for their new stadium include hosting a Super Bowl there.

Vikings President Mark Wilf says he thinks the team and the Twin Cities will be ready to bid on a Super Bowl as soon as a year from now, which is when Super Bowl LI, scheduled for February of 2017, will likely be awarded.

“I know the Super Bowl process typically happens in the spring,” Wilf said, via ESPN.com “So potentially as soon as a year from now we could be a bidder. We haven’t talked to officials about it yet, but we see no reason why we wouldn’t be ripe to put in a bid for a Super Bowl, and we’re hopeful and we’ll do everything we can as owners to persuade our partners that it’s a great community, and have a Super Bowl here hopefully as early as 2017.”

The Metrodome hosted Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. A 25-year wait may be enough before Minnesota gets the game again.

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Packers sign Nick Perry to wrap up their draft class

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Nick Perry was the first player picked by the Packers in last month’s draft, but he was the last one to sign a contract with the team.

The Packers announced Friday afternoon that Perry has agreed to a contract with the team. As with all first round picks, Perry’s contract will run for four years with a team option for a fifth year. The Packers had signed their other seven draft picks over the last few days.

Perry will compete for the starting job opposite Clay Matthews at outside linebacker after leading the Pac-12 in sacks for USC last season. There were some scouts who questioned Perry’s effort level in college, but his results on the field were impressive as is his combination of size and speed. The Packers badly need some help for Matthews in the pass rush which should give Perry an edge over holdovers like Erik Walden and Frank Zombo.

The Packers will be holding their rookie minicamp through Sunday.

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Brandon Weeden in Cleveland to win starting job, Super Bowl

Brandon Weeden, Darron Thomas AP

Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was on the practice field today for the team’s rookie minicamp, and he wasn’t shy about his goals in Cleveland: He wants to win, and he wants to win big.

We’re coming [here] with a goal to win games,” Weeden said, via the Akron Beacon-Journal. “Obviously our first goal is to get to the playoffs and go as far as we can and ultimately before it’s all said and done, win a Super Bowl. That’s my goal as a player. Before I’m done playing, I want to win a Super Bowl.”

Before Weeden can win any games, however, he needs to win a competition with Colt McCoy in training camp. Weeden sounds confident that he can do that.

“Obviously I hope I’m the guy,” Weeden said. “I’m gonna do everything in my power to be that guy.”

In what may be a sign that Weeden and McCoy won’t have the friendliest of competitions, Weeden told reporters that he has neither met nor spoken to McCoy — even though they were both at the team facility today.

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Eagles ink three more draft picks

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The Philadelphia Eagles continue to get their incoming draft class under contract.

Three more have been signed, the team announced on Friday afternoon.

They are fourth-round cornerback Brandon Boykin, sixth-round guard Brandon Washington, and seventh-round running back Bryce Brown.

The contracts each cover four years.  Then again, all contracts for all draft picks have a mandatory duration of four years.  But we’ll keep mentioning it in order to be complete.  It’s an OCD thing.

I’ll be back after I make sure I put the garage door down.

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Texans will rest Matt Schaub during OTAs

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The backup quarterbacks in Houston are going to get plenty of reps during the team’s organized team activities this month.

Nick Scurfield of the team’s website reports that Matt Schaub won’t participate in the team portions of the OTAs so that he can continue to rehab the injured foot that forced an early end to the season. It’s a smart approach by the Texans. Schaub already knows the offense and will have plenty of time in camp to get his legs back under him. Resting Schaub will give his Lisfranc even more time to heal while also giving a lot of work to the guys that will have to step in if Schaub misses time again this season.

T.J. Yates, Case Keenum and John Beck will be doing the quarterbacking during the OTAs. Yates started the final five games of the regular season and both of the team’s playoff games after Schaub and Matt Leinart went down last season.

According to Scurfield, Yates isn’t guaranteed the backup job but it would be surprising to see either of the other guys beat him out for the spot given Yates’ experience running the team last season.

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Limas Sweed, Jamaal Jackson trying out for Giants

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A pair of NFL veterans are at the Giants’ rookie minicamp this weekend in hopes of continuing their careers.

Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News reports that wide receiver Limas Sweed and center Jamaal Jackson are both trying to catch on with the Super Bowl champions after seeing their careers derailed in recent years. Sweed was a major disappointment in Pittsburgh, catching just seven passes in 20 games for the team after they made him a second-round pick in 2008. Sweed hasn’t played since 2009 after Achilles and shoulder injuries helped ease his way out of Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been playing football all my life,” Sweed said. “And when you’ve lost something like football, you don’t let it go. You do what you have to do. That’s putting the work in, overtime, being here at a rookie minicamp and just having fun and starting all over again. By whatever means it takes to get back, I’m willing to do it.”

Sweed’s a definite longshot to get a contract, let alone make the roster. The Giants have Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle, Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan and Ramses Barden looking for spots on the depth chart and all but Randle already have experience in the offense.

Jackson might have a better shot, if only because the Giants have some flux on their offensive line. He was the Eagles’ starting center for five years before tearing his triceps in the 2010 opener. The Eagles released him after he spent last season as a backup with the team.

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