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In Dallas, Dan Connor says he’s joined “an unbelievable team”

Kellen Winslow, Sherrod Martin, Chris Gamble, Dan Connor AP

After four seasons with the Panthers, linebacker Dan Connor signed a free agent contract with the Cowboys in March. And he believes he’s now on a team that’s going places.

It’s an unbelievable team,” Connor told Fox Sports Southwest. “This is a great group of guys. Great coaching staff. Everything’s been smooth. It’s something to be excited about. The fans should be real excited about the team they put together here.”

Connor started most of the games he played in Carolina the last two seasons, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll start in Dallas this year. Sean Lee will be one of the starting inside linebackers, and Connor is competing with Bruce Carter, last year’s second-round draft pick, for the other starting spot. Regardless of whether he wins the competition for the starting job or not, Connor said he believes he’ll play a lot.

“Any team I’ve been on, it’s hard to get through the season with just the starting linebackers,” Connor said. “You need guys who can come in and play, if injury happens or even just rotational, give a guy a break or give Sean a breather here and there. It’s never been a problem having too many good ‘backers.”

With DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer on the outside bracketing Connor, Lee and Carter on the inside, the Cowboys definitely think they have a lot of good ‘backers. Even if the Cowboys have a ways to go before they’ve proven they deserve to be called an unbelievable team.

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Minnesota judge “strongly suspects” NFLPA was forum shopping

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In the four-page ruling that punted the lawsuit filed Wednesday by the NFLPA to New York City, where the NFL had filed its own lawsuit a day earlier, Judge Richard H. Kyle pulled no punches.

“The Court strongly suspects the Union filed in Minnesota because it has obtained favorable rulings from this Court in the past on behalf of its members,” Judge Richard H. Kyle wrote. “Indeed, the Union makes only a fleeting attempt to justify venuing this action in Minnesota, noting in two sentences of its 160-paragraph Petition that legal issues raised in the underlying arbitration ‘were directly related to’ legal issues addressed in the action disposed of by Judge Doty in February (concerning Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson). . . . However, the Court fails to appreciate how legal issues resolved in Peterson justify bringing this action here when it enjoys no other connection to Minnesota. Indeed, carried to its logical conclusion, accepting the Union’s premise would mean that a court that had decided, for example, a large corporation had engaged in racial discrimination would be the appropriate venue for every future racial-discrimination case against that corporation, no matter where the employee was located or where the alleged discrimination had occurred. Venue simply cannot be predicated on such a thin reed.”

In English, this means that  a case involving an employee who works in Massachusetts shouldn’t be filed in Minnesota, absent some other connection between Minnesota and the lawsuit.

Of course, Minnesota likely would have been an acceptable location for the lawsuit but for the fact that the NFL won the race to the courthouse. Actually, the NFL at one point preferred Minnesota as the jurisdiction for such cases, because the federal appeals court the governs Minnesota (the Eight Circuit) once issued a favorable ruling for the NFL in an antitrust case. It was so favorable that the Freeman McNeil litigation challenging Plan B free agency was filed in New Jersey, but the case was transferred back to Minnesota at (you guessed it) the NFL’s behest.

Minnesota then became the default location for antitrust litigation, given the favorable outcomes that the NFLPA and the players obtained there. With Judge Doty finding earlier this year that the NFL tried to suspend Peterson without proper notice of a change in the applicable rules, and with the NFLPA believing similar notice principles apply to Brady, it makes sense for the NFLPA to choose Minnesota.

It also makes sense for the NFL to not choose Minnesota, taking full advantage of Roger Goodell’s dual role as Commissioner and Arbitrator to get a head start on getting the case filed anywhere other than Minnesota.

So, yes, the NFLPA was forum shopping. And, yes, the NFL was forum shopping. And, yes, any lawyer worth his or her license considers all potentially available forums for filing a lawsuit and tries to shop for the best possible one.

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With daughter Leah doing well, Devon Still’s mind is on football

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When you’re dealing with cancer, especially childhood cancer, there’s a ceiling on how secure you can ever feel.

But Devon Still still has a job to do, and he knows it’s time to focus on it.

The best news is his daughter Leah’s cancer is still in remission, but Still admitted how difficult it has been, knowing it was now time to go to work.

“You know we were traveling down a good path for so long, and for that day to come right before I had to come out here for training camp is hard,” Still said, via Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s hard for any parent that’s dealing with cancer because that can change your whole world right back around from the result that you get. But luckily we were given positive results.”

Now he’s concentrating on keeping his job, and the work shows. He’s lost 27 pounds, down to a lean 295. Yet on a talented Bengals defense, he’s still not a sure thing to keep a roster spot.

But he wants you to know he’s not distracted in the least.

“My mind’s focused. Period. Point blank. Period. I’m focused,” he said. “I’m very inspired by what my daughter was able to accomplish over this past year and I’m looking forward to going out there and showing her what I can overcome.”

The Bengals have been patient with Still in the past, as he’s helped his daughter through a courageous fight. Now, he wants to make sure to hold up his end of the bargain, and let them know that his mind is on nothing but football.

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Brandon Graham: Tebow will make the team and play a lot

Tebow Getty Images

Quarterback Tim Tebow, after two years in NFL exile, has another chance, with the Eagles. However, few think he’ll make the climb from the 90-man training camp throng to the final 53-man roster.

Teammate Brandon Graham is in the minority.

Via CBS Philly, Graham recently said he expects Tebow to be on the team, and on the field.

“Tim Tebow is going to shock a lot of people, because he is going to make the team,” Graham recently told Lauren Beasley of Hot 107.5 in Detroit. “And I think he will play a lot.”

It’s unclear whether Tebow will contribute as a change-of-pace quarterback, as the signal-caller for two-point conversions, or at a different position. And despite Graham’s confidence in Tebow, he still needs to earn both a job and playing time.

Tebow nevertheless once took the Broncos to the divisional round of the playoffs, which should count for something. Whether that translates to a meaningful role for the Eagles in 2015 remains to be seen.

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Packers have no word on when Andrew Quarless will report to camp

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Packers tight end Andrew Quarless is not at training camp, and coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t know when he’ll report.

“Andrew Quarless is dealing with an extremely difficult family situation right now. He will be gone as long as he has to be,” McCarthy said today.

Quarless was arrested in Miami this month on charges of firing a gun during an argument outside a parking garage. That case is pending, and Quarless could face discipline under the league’s personal-conduct policy.

But he apparently is dealing with other personal issues at the moment, and so there’s no word on when he’ll be with the team.

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Keith Rivers retires, Rolando McClain placed on PUP list

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The Cowboys are going to be without two of their veteran linebackers to start training camp and only one of them will be coming back.

The team placed Keith Rivers on the reserve/retired list Thursday after Rivers decided that he didn’t want to continue his NFL career. The team signed Rivers as a free agent during the offseason, but they’ll need to look elsewhere for help at the position. Rivers was the ninth overall pick of the 2008 draft and played for the Bengals, Giants and Bills before his short stay in Dallas.

One place they eventually hope to find it is with Rolando McClain, who has been placed on the physically unable to perform list after having offseason knee surgery. McClain is eligible to be activated at any time, but will be serving a four-game suspension to open the season due to a violation of the substance abuse policy.

Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Jasper Brinkley, Kyle Wilber, Andrew Gachkar and rookie Damien Wilson are the healthy linebackers for the Cowboys right now.

Running back Darren McFadden is also on the PUP list after being bothered by a hamstring injury this spring. He’s not expected to spend extend time on the list, but McFadden’s injury history isn’t too encouraging. Offensive lineman Chaz Green and linebacker Mark Nzeocha are also on the PUP list to start camp.

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Lardarius Webb fails conditioning test, isn’t cleared to practice yet

Mike Wallace, Lardarius Webb AP

The Ravens were without Lardarius Webb for the first practice of training camp, after the veteran cornerback failed his conditioning test.

According to Clifton Brown of, Webb will have to pass the test before the team lets him practice, and coach John Harbaugh said the player was disappointed in himself.

“The conditioning test measures anaerobic conditioning. It measures the ability to recover, get your heart rate way up and recover,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Webby is in really good shape in a lot of different ways. You can see it in the way he moves. But he’s not in the kind of anaerobic shape he needs to be in to come out here and practice. The idea being that if I go play after play after play, and I begin to get fatigued, and I can’t move the way I need to move, I’m going to have a fatigue type of injury.

“That’s why we don’t allow guys to practice until they’re aerobically in conditioning. He’s a little behind that way, certainly, and he’s going to have to make up the ground.”

Webb had to take a pay cut to hang around this season, as he wondered aloud if he was the next veteran out the door. He’s still valuable to them, provided he’s in shape.

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Terry Pegula: No hurry to get a new stadium

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Before the Bills were sold last year after Ralph Wilson’s death, there was a lot of discussion about the team getting a new stadium to replace the one that bears Wilson’s name.

That conversation will continue at some point, but Bills owner Terry Pegula said Thursday that there’s “nothing urgent” that needs to be discussed at the moment. Pegula cited the $130 million in renovations that were recently completed and a lease running through 2022 as two reasons why there’s no pressure at present.

“The only answer to that question is the state and county, there’s been a lot of money put into Ralph Wilson Stadium,” Pegula said, via the Buffalo News. “We’re in no hurry. We realize that if that work was just done, how foolish would you look if you start looking around for a new stadium when we’ve just renovated the one we have? We have time. We have an existing lease on the current stadium.”

Pegula also said that there were no plans to sell the naming rights to the stadium and that having Wilson’s name on the building was “a special thing.” It sounds like business as usual in Buffalo, although Pegula would surely like to see that change when it comes to the team’s on-field results.

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Jimmy Garoppolo says he’s not thinking about starting Week One

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to be the Patriots’ starting quarterback while Tom Brady serves a suspension for the first four games of the season, but Garoppolo says he isn’t thinking about that.

Asked if he’s ready to start Week One, Garoppolo answered, “We’re not really looking that far ahead. I don’t think anyone is. It’s the first day of training camp, got with the guys and it felt good to get out here with all of them.”

Garoppolo has clearly learned from coach Bill Belichick that the Patriot Way when dealing with the media is to avoid saying anything substantive and to spout cliches whenever possible. At one point during his conversation with reporters, he was able to work both “take it one day at a time” and “take it day by day” into the same answer

Garoppolo did allow, however, that he’s in a different position this year than he was as a rookie last year, when no one expected him to get on the field outside garbage time.

“This year it’s completely different and I’ve got different goals,” Garoppolo said.

The Patriots’ goal will be to win four games with Garoppolo as the starter. Even if no one in Patriots camp is talking about those games yet.

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Stephen Ross expects a winner this year

NY Times Cities For Tomorrow Conference Getty Images

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said recently that he didn’t come to Miami to coach an average team.

Owner Stephen Ross made it clear on Thursday that he didn’t want Philbin to deliver an average team this season. The Dolphins haven’t had a winning team since 2008 and Ross said “goddamn right” to a question from a reporter who asked if he was antsy to see that change this season. Ross said the team’s goal for this season was “winning” and replied “all of the above” if he meant a winning record, a playoff berth or a trip to the Super Bowl.

“We’ve done an awful lot,” Ross said, via the Dolphins website. “You can look around. In every single area, we’ve made changes. We’ve thought outside the box. We’re looking to be the best in class. You can see the players that we’ve attracted, what they expect and you put it all together, that’s what makes winning teams. We’re all looking to win.”

Left unspoken were the implications for Philbin should the Dolphins fail to deliver, but that might not need to be stated in explicit terms. Coaches who don’t win in four years on the job generally don’t get a fifth chance and Ross’s antsiness would seem to eliminate the status quo as an option in the wake of another disappointing finish.

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Chris Clemons doesn’t report to Jaguars camp for personal reasons

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The Jaguars aren’t having very good luck this offseason with pass-rushers.

First-rounder Dante Fowler Jr. tore his ACL on his first day of OTAs, and now Chris Clemons is a no-show for camp.

According to Mark Long of the Associated Press, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley says Clemons didn’t report for personal reasons, and that has absence was “a little concerning.”

Clemons stayed away from the voluntary portion of the offseason but returned for mandatory minicamp.

Regardless the reason for his absence, they can ill-afford it, as they have few other sources of pressure on the roster. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks led them in sacks last year with 8.5, and he’s on the PUP list at the moment.

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Potential No. 1 pick Joey Bosa suspended for Ohio State’s opener

Joey Bosa AP

Joey Bosa, a defensive end viewed as a potential first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, has been suspended for Ohio State’s season opener.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Bosa is among four Ohio State players who have been suspended for an unspecified violation of athletic department policy.

The All-American Bosa had 13.5 sacks as a true sophomore last season and could have been a high first-round pick this year if he had been draft eligible. The NFL’s rule requiring players to be at least three years out of high school means 2016 is the earliest Bosa could play in the NFL.

Ohio State opens its season at Virginia Tech on Labor Day, in a highly anticipated rematch between the reigning national champions and the only team to defeat them last season. Bosa will be watching from the sidelines in street clothes.

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Tim Jennings pleads guilty to reckless driving to resolve DWI case

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When Bears cornerback Tim Jennings was arrested early this year on a drunk driving charge, he admitted he was driving too fast but denied he was drunk. The authorities are apparently willing to accept that.

Jennings has pleaded guilty to reckless driving to resolve the DWI case, TMZ reports.

Police said Jennings was driving almost 100 miles an hour on a Georgia interstate. After the arrest, Jennings explained that he had been speeding because he was running late to a parent-teacher conference at his kid’s school.

Jennings will serve 12 months of probation, pay a fine, do 40 hours of community service and participate in a drunk driving program as part of his sentence.

A projected starter this year, Jennings was not at the first day of practice of Bears camp, presumably because he was dealing with his legal matters. There is no word yet on whether he will face league discipline as a result of the incident.

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PFT Live: Training camp updates from Chicago and Washington

Jay Cutler AP

Training camps are opening around the league and we’ll be checking in with a pair of NFC teams on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live.

Mike Florio will talk to Rich Tandler of CSN Washington about the leading storylines from Redskins camp and it’s a pretty good bet that the name Robert Griffin III will come up at some point in the discussion. They’ll also talk about linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s contract extension during the visit.

John Mullin of CSN Chicago will also drop by to fill us in on the latest from the Bears, who placed first-round wide receiver Kevin White on the PUP list because of a shin injury on Wednesday. We’ll also have the latest on the Tom Brady saga and much more from around the league during the show.

We also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app.

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Luke Kuechly: Contract will get done when it gets done

Luke Kuechly AP

The Panthers were busy on the contract extension front this offseason as they struck deals with quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen.

General Manager Dave Gettleman said that the window will close at the end of training camp because he will not negotiate new deals during the regular season. That gives linebacker Luke Kuechly a bit more than a month to sign a new deal, although he said Thursday that he’s not sweating the deadline while he’s sweating on the practice field.

“I’m the same way I was in OTAs. I’m not concerned about it,” Kuechly said, via the Charlotte Observer. “This stuff gets done when it gets done. We trust the guys in the building. So it’ll get done when it needs to get done. … For right now, I know I’ve got a room. I know hopefully I’ve got a locker down there. And that’s all I really need right now.”

Kuechly is set to make $2.1 million this year and the Panthers exercised their $11.1 million option on his contract for next season, which gives them a lot of time to work something out if they don’t get a deal done before September. That may be more costly given how well Kuechly has played in his first three NFL seasons, but, barring a catastrophic injury this season, a deal for Kuechly’s going to be a big one whenever it’s signed.

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Gerald McCoy slimmed down before camp

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy didn’t wait for the Buccaneers to start offseason workouts to start his preparation for the 2015 season.

McCoy worked out 10 times a week on his own before Tampa’s program got underway and explained that his goal was to remain strong throughout games after seeing the Bucs fade in the second half of contests last season.

“[The objective] is to find out how tired you can be and still go hard, because last year we lost a lot of close games. And so I need to still be at my best in the fourth quarter when those close games are decided,” McCoy said, via the Tampa Tribune.

It doesn’t sound like McCoy took any time off between the end of that program and the start of training camp either. McCoy announced the results of his pre-camp work on Twitter Thursday.

“Down 12lbs and 2% body fat since leaving in June!! It’s go time!! No more talking!!”

McCoy was listed at 300 pounds last season and if there’s a concern about dropping weight it would likely be how well he’ll hold up against the run with less girth to throw against blockers. An increase in quickness from an already quick player would mitigate that, however, and it will be interesting to see how McCoy plays now that there’s less of him to love.

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