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Titans’ O.J. Murdock dead at 25, police say he committed suicide

Tennessee Titans 2011 Headshots

Tennessee Titans wide receiver O.J. Murdock committed suicide this morning in front of the Tampa high school he graduated from, according to the Tampa Police Department. He was 25 years old.

According to a news release distributed by the Tampa police, Orenthal James Murdock was found in his car at approximately 8:30 a.m. in front of Middleton High School. He had suffered an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and was transported to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition.

Murdock was pronounced dead at 10:43 a.m.

After Murdock did not report to the Titans’ training camp last week, coach Mike Munchak said Murdock had been excused for “personal reasons.” No details have emerged of the issues that Murdock was dealing with.

An undrafted free agent who signed with the Titans out of Fort Hays State last year, Murdock missed the entire season with an Achilles injury. Murdock began his college career at South Carolina, where he played for two years and was a teammate of Kenny McKinley, a Denver Broncos wide receiver who committed suicide in 2010.

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Tom Coughlin reportedly joining NFL Competition Committee

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants looks on against the Washington Redskins at FedExField Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin is reportedly adding to his duties with the league.

Coughlin became a “senior advisor” to the league’s operations department this offseason, a role that has him working with NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent as well as the league’s game-related committees. One of those committees is the Competition Committee, which works on changes to the rules of the game.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Coughlin will be doing more than working with the committee in the future. Per Schefter, Coughlin has been added to the committee, which also includes his former boss John Mara, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome and others.

There’s no word on if the committee’s meetings will now be starting five minutes ahead of schedule.

Coughlin is the third reported addition to the committee, joining Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and Broncos General Manager John Elway. Arians said Wednesday that he wouldn’t comment on the report because nothing has “been announced yet.”

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Browns keep adding to pile of 2017 draft picks

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2016, file photo, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown addresses the media during a news conference in Berea, Ohio. The Browns are not in any rush to make a decision on quarterback Johnny Manziel’s future. Sashi Brown, the team’s newly appointed vice president of football operations, said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016,  the team is “not in any panic to make any decision one way or another on him.”  (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File) AP

The 2017 NFL Draft is shaping up to be a three-day Cleveland Browns infomercial.

Yes, there will be a Trent Richardson/Johnny Manziel montage. But the Browns are in line to be making plenty of picks as they try to move forward.

The Browns added another pick in Thursday’s Barkevious Mingo trade, a fifth-rounder from the Patriots. That means the Browns have acquired four additional picks in the 2017 draft: A first-rounder from the Eagles via the Carson Wentz trade from last April, a second-rounder from the Titans via a 2016 draft-day trade, the fifth from the Patriots acquired Thursday and the Colts’ seventh-round pick.

The Browns figure to be in line for compensatory picks, too. Per Field Yates of ESPN, the Browns are in line to be awarded compensatory picks in the fourth and fifth rounds.

Those picks are generally announced about a month before the draft.

It’s clear the Browns are going to be busy. We don’t yet know whether they’ll be devoting one of those early picks — or even a package of them — towards finding a quarterback, but we can guess they’ll be active. The Browns tied a record by drafting 14 players in 2016 and were also one of the busiest teams making trades during the draft.

The Browns also have the Eagles’ second-round pick in 2018.

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Victor Cruz: I’m ready

FILE - In tis July 30, 2016, file photo, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz runs a drill during NFL football training camp in East Rutherford, N.J. Cruz returned to practice Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, for the Giants and earned the Odell Beckham Jr. seal of approval.  It marked the first time in almost two weeks that the oft-injured 29-year-old wide receiver practiced with the team, and slightly increases the hope he will be able to resume his career after two frustrating seasons. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File) AP

It looks like the long-awaited return of Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz to the field is a go for Saturday.

Cruz missed time with a groin injury this summer that kept him from playing in either of the team’s first two preseason games and led to enough speculation about his future that General Manager Jerry Reese felt the need to tell the world the Giants aren’t giving up on Cruz, who hasn’t played in a game since Week Six of the 2014 season. Cruz was able to practice this week, however, and coach Ben McAdoo said Thursday that the wideout “showed a burst” that left him “very optimistic” about Saturday.

“I’m ready,” Cruz said. “Obviously it’s been a long time coming … This one is crossing so many hurdles, so many barriers… To me, this game is bigger than just a game.”

When asked about when Cruz would play against the Jets, McAdoo said he plans to “put him out there early in the game” and hopes to see him get the ball in his hands. Quarterback Eli Manning has the same hope, although he said he won’t pass up other receivers just to get the ball to Cruz. Given how long the road back has been, it seems like a good bet the Giants will find a way to make that happen on what’s shaping up to be a big night for the wideout.

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Ping-pong, not Madden, is the hot game for the Saints


The new Madden game came out on Tuesday (it’s excellent, and I say that even though I’ve never gotten a free copy of it), so I asked Saints quarterback Drew Brees during a Wednesday visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio how much time he spends telling younger players to quit spending so much time playing the popular NFL video game.

“Plenty,” Brees said. “Listen, they get into it. I mean it’s about as realistic as you get.”

But Madden apparently isn’t the only source of healthy competition in the down time.

“We’ve got a ping-pong table now in our locker room that I think has kind of taken over the video game stuff,” Brees said. “That’s become like the new competitive thing that guys are doing in between meetings and such is getting in there on the ping-pong table. I’m actually impressed with some of the hand-eye coordination of some of these big guys on our team.”

So who’s the best player?

“Good question,” Brees said. “Cam Jordan on our d-line is pretty stout. Kasim Edebali is pretty stout. I saw Brandin Cooks on there the other day. That’s the first time I’ve seen him and he kind of controlled the table there for about thirty minutes. About three or four guys came through and he beat them all, so I don’t know jury is still out. I’d imagine there’s about five guys that would argue they’re the best.”

Is Brees, who like most successful quarterbacks is competitive about everything, one of the five?

“Well, see,” he said with a laugh,” that’s where I’m just kind of sitting back studying how these other guys play and then I’ll step in when it’s appropriate.”

It would be appropriate for these ping-pong games to be televised. It could be better than Hard Knocks. Then again, that bar is lower than the net on a ping-pong table.

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Browns get Patriots’ fifth-round pick for Barkevious Mingo

Barkevious Mingo AP

For the sixth pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, the Browns have received what will likely be a late pick in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL draft.

The Patriots have sent their fifth-round pick to Cleveland in exchange for Barkevious Mingo, according to multiple reports.

As much as that shows what a bust Mingo is, it’s actually not a bad deal for the Browns, considering there was talk out of Cleveland that Mingo wasn’t even going to make the 53-man roster this year. It also means Mingo is sure to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, as New England wouldn’t give up a fifth-round pick and then turn around and cut Mingo before the start of the season.

The Browns have a huge haul of picks in the 2017 draft: They have two picks in the first round (their own and Philadelphia’s thanks to the Carson Wentz trade) and two picks in the second round (their own and Tennessee’s thanks to a 2016 draft-day trade), they are expected to get multiple compensatory picks, and they’ve now added a Patriots fifth-rounder to the mix.

The Patriots had already lost their fourth-round pick as a Deflategate penalty, so they’re now without their own picks in back-to-back rounds, although they have traded for Seattle’s fourth-round pick.

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Report: J.J. Watt expects to practice next week

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 03: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans celebrates after sacking Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars (not pictured) in the first quarter on January 3, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt sent out a tweet featuring a picture of himself on the field captioned “Soon” on Wednesday, a few days after coach Bill O’Brien said that he thought Watt would be back “sooner than later” from the back surgery that has kept him out of action this summer.

O’Brien’s answer was a more optimistic one than his previous one, which indicated that there was a chance that Watt would miss the first two weeks of the regular season while continuing to recover from the surgery. Things are continuing to look up on the Watt return front.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Watt expects to return to practice next week, which would seem to make the odds that he’ll play in the first two weeks of the regular season more likely. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle quotes a source that says “it wouldn’t be a surprise” if Watt is able to play in Week One.

Watt could still be held to a limited number of plays if he’s back for the first weeks of the season, but a little Watt is far better than no Watt for a team that counts him as their best overall player.

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NFL, James Harrison quiet after PED interview

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 6: Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Indianapolis Colts scrambles as James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers applies pressure during the second half of the game at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

As expected, Steelers linebacker James Harrison submitted for his Al Jazeera-sparked PED interview on Thursday morning. Via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, both sides kept quiet after the meeting ended.

That’s likely good news for Harrison, because if he saw or heard anything in the room that made him think that the league wasn’t accepting his denial of knowing Charles Sly of the Guyer Institute or using PEDs, Harrison surely would have said something about it on the way out of the room, if not sooner.

It fits with the theory making the rounds that the league made it known to Harrison and/or his agent that, if he simply shows up and answers the questions, exoneration will be perfunctory.

Harrison likely assumes that the next step will be the issuance of a press release from the NFL that clears him. If not, he’ll then have plenty to say.

At some point, if he’s not exonerated, everyone will get a chance to see what Harrison said in Thursday’s meeting.

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Tre Mason’s mother thinks football caused his bizarre behavior

St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason (27) celebrates after scoring on a touchdown run next to San Francisco 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson (36) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) AP

The Rams haven’t seen Tre Mason since last season, but his bigger problem is that his mother doesn’t recognize him.

After the latest of Mason’s bizarre adventures, which involved leading police on an ATV chase, his mother told Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies last month her son has “10-year-old’s mindset” as the result of head trauma related to football.

Via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post, the dashcam video of the latest incident showed his mother pleading with cops, an openly questioning whether his football career is to blame.

Tre is not himself at all,” Tina Mason said during the July 27 stop. “He’s not making good decisions.”

Of course, the bigger issue is his own well-being. Four days earlier, he was admitted to a hospital for an evaluation, after his mother called the police to her home saying he was behaving erratically. But the exchange during the ATV shows how deep the despair of his mother is.

The officer reporting to the scene pointed out to his partner that Mason should have been in training camp at that point, saying: “His career is going down the tubes.”

“No, actually he shouldn’t. … ,” Tina Mason says. “There’s CTE and this head-injury thing. You can say he should be playing football, but this is not what it is.”

She said her son’s behavior was clearly different after the 2015 season: “Clearly, we could see the change. Like, completely. . . .

“As much as he’s accomplished, as hard as he’s worked, as much as he’s built his character, in record-breaking time it’s going downhill because of what’s going on. He doesn’t even know. He’s not conscious enough.”

Of course, there’s no way to know whether there has been a diagnosed head injury which would cause Mason to behave the way he has this offseason, or whether there are other factors. But what’s obvious is those closest to him are deeply troubled by how quickly things have changed.

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Browns trade Barkevious Mingo to Patriots

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

For the second day in a row, the Patriots are involved in an unexpected trade.

The Browns have agreed to ship pass rusher Barkevious Mingo to New England, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Mingo was the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds he had the look of an excellent pass rushing outside linebacker. But through three NFL seasons he has been largely disappointing: He had five sacks as a rookie, two in 2014 and none last year.

The Patriots have been looking to bolster their pass rush since trading Chandler Jones to Arizona, especially after Rob Ninkovich suffered a triceps injury. While Mingo isn’t on the same level as Jones or Ninkovich, he may be able to add some depth to the Patriots’ front seven.

Bill Belichick doesn’t hesitate to make moves, having just traded center Bryan Stork to Washington yesterday. Now he makes another move, and hopes he can get more out of Mingo than the Browns did.

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Dungy would tell Aguayo, “You’re our guy”

51494838 Getty Images

Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy previously coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Currently, the Buccaneers have a second-round rookie kicker, who is struggling to make kicks. So what would Dungy say to Roberto Aguayo, if Dungy were the coach?

“We drafted Martin Gramatica [pictured] in the third round when I was here and people thought that was high for a kicker,” Dungy said on Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN. “We just told Martin, ‘You’re gonna be our guy’ and this is what I’d tell Roberto: ‘I don’t care if you miss a hundred kicks in a row. You’re our kicker and we got you because we know you’re talented, we know you’re good, and we expect you to make big kicks for us down the stretch and over the course of your career.

”’So don’t worry about one kick, don’t worry about five kicks, you are our kicker. Do what we know you can do, don’t worry about anything else.’ I would just reassure him that he’s their guy.”

Hopefully, Aguayo is ignoring Jay Feely’s advice to not read PFT, at least on this issue.

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Duane Brown may start regular season on PUP list

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Texans rookie center Nick Martin recently had ankle surgery that could keep him out for the entire season and he may not be the only prospective starter missing from the offensive line when Houston starts the regular season.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that left tackle Duane Brown is not expected to be ready to play in Week One because of the torn quadriceps he suffered in the team’s final regular season game last year. Brown is on the physically unable to perform list and the Texans may leave him there when it comes time to make the cut to 53 players in a little more than a week.

That would leave Brown ineligible to play or practice with the team during the first six weeks of the season. The Texans play games in each of those weeks, so Brown’s absence would be a significant one. Chris Clark is listed as the next man up at left tackle on Houston’s depth chart.

If Brown does miss the start of the regular season, the Texans will be left with just a few returning starters from last year’s offense as they try to make another playoff push.

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Report: Bryan Stork reporting this weekend

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Bryan Stork #66 of the New England Patriots warms up before the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wednesday was a busy day for reports involving center Bryan Stork.

He was going to be released by the Patriots when the day started, but the leak of that news apparently spurred Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan to give New England a call to offer them a conditional seventh-round pick for Stork before they officially waived him off the roster. That deal became official, but not before other reports surfaced that Stork was considering retiring rather than reporting to Washington.

Retiring would mean repaying $238,500 in a signing bonus as well as giving up $600,000 in salary for the coming season, which may have helped Stork make up his mind. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Stork is expected to report to the Redskins “ready to go” this weekend.

Assuming he does, he’ll become part of a mix at center for a team that has been using Kory Lichtensteiger as their starter since 2010. Lichtensteiger missed 11 games last year, however, and Stork could provide an upgrade if he avoids the concussions that have plagued him during his career.

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JPP vs. ESPN is set for trial next August

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Advantage, JPP.

A Florida judge has set a trial date in Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s lawsuit against ESPN and Adam Schefter. Pierre-Paul claims that the network and its top NFL insider committed invasion of privacy by posting on Twitter one of Pierre-Paul’s medical records in July 2015.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the trial will commence in August 2017. The judge also set a schedule for pre-trial discovery, during which time Schefter, Pierre-Paul, and others will give sworn testimony during depositions. Among other things, Pierre-Paul will attempt to ascertain how Schefter obtained the medical record.

Via the New York Post, the judge denied from the bench a motion filed by ESPN and Schefter both to dismiss the case and to compel Pierre-Paul to pay sanctions for filing it. The decision came after the two sides spent an hour arguing their respective positions in court.

ESPN and Schefter believed that the document ordering Pierre-Paul’s finger amputation constitutes a matter of “legitimate public concern.” Pierre-Paul’s lawyers argued that, while the information reflects a legitimate public concern, the actual medical documentation does not.

That’s the crux of the case. Even if the contents of the medical records become known, are the medical records protected against disclosure — especially if they were obtained in a manner that violates state law?

Bottom line? Next August, Schefter may be going without shaving or sleeping for reasons other than a hokey ESPN fantasy football marathon.

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Sashi Brown: We’re not looking to trade Josh Gordon

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 30:   Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Nigel Bradham #53 of the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Josh Gordon is expected to play his first game for the Browns since 2014 on Friday night and his return to the field comes during a week that’s seen his name mentioned in reports of trade inquiries from other clubs.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said it was a “mischaracterization” to say that the team has heard “multiple” offers from other clubs about acquiring Gordon. He also said it was “speculation I’m not going to entertain” that the Browns floated word of those offers because they would like to deal Gordon rather than run the risk of losing him to another suspension.

“We’re not looking to trade Josh,” Brown said, via

Not looking to trade isn’t quite the same as not being willing to listen should the right offer come down the pike and Brown said Gordon fits into “the same category every other player does” in terms of having a price that could sway Cleveland.

“I’m just not going to enter into any of the speculation,” Brown said. “I understand what the interest is in Josh. There are literally hundreds of conversations going around the league about players all the time, and if we got into speculating about all the reports, about what could be going on and what conversations could be going on, we’d be here for a much longer time than we have.”

Gordon will be a restricted free agent after this season, which makes him a more appealing trade target than he would be with unrestricted free agency looming, but, for now, Brown is viewing him as “a great weapon for our offense” rather than one for someone else.

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Kirk Cousins eager to prove his worth with another strong season

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks to throw the ball during practice at the team's NFL football training facility at Redskins Park, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) AP

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins signed the one-year, $19.9 million franchise tag this year, putting himself in what he views as a no-lose situation in 2017: He’ll either get the franchise tag again with a minimum salary of $23.9 million, or he’ll get to test his worth in free agency.

“Here I am again,” Cousins told Albert Breer of “The team says they want to see another year. That’s fine. I’ve been in this same spot twice with a lot on the line—my college decision and my career decision. I’m getting paid a good amount this year, and it’s not like I’m stressing and losing sleep over it each night, over what’s going to happen. I played last year making a lot less in the same situation. I had to prove it.”

If Cousins struggles this season or gets hurt and isn’t able to command a big contract in free agency in seven months, that would be a worst-case scenario. Still, making nearly $20 million this year would be a pretty big consolation prize. And Cousins isn’t expecting the worst-case scenario.

“Both sides understand it’s a business. I’m not going to take things personally, and I know that if I play football well, the ball’s in my court,” Cousins said. “And really, in this league, that’s all you can ask for. If you don’t play well, you have to live with it. Then you went out and you didn’t earn it. It takes patience. That’s fine. I’ve taken the long road a few other times in my career. The long road is fine.”

Cousins sounds confident that he’ll play well this year, and the contract will take care of itself next year.

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