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The Bills lose Spiller, but win game

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Things got a little bleak for a while after the Bills lost running back C.J. Spiller to a left shoulder injury, but the team was able to recover in time to take a 24-14 victory in Cleveland.

The Browns outscored the Bills 14-3 over the second and third quarters, closing a big early Buffalo lead to a slim 17-14 gap. The Bills were able to rebound with a 68-yard drive in the fourth that ended with a Stevie Johnson touchdown catch. Tashard Choice, who replaced Spiller, had a 22-yard run to set up that score and Choice provided strong work over the course of the game in place of Spiller. Choice finished with 91 yards on 20 carries for the day, an effective performance that helped the Bills hold on for the win that bumps them up to a 2-1 record.

It wasn’t a particularly pretty performance overall for the Bills offense, but they did put up 10 points in the second half after losing Spiller and the electricity he brings to the offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick could have been better, but he didn’t turn the ball over in the second half and hand the Browns an easier shot at winning than they could come up with on their own.

Cleveland’s comeback efforts would have been helped by a more consistent performance by their starting quarterback. Brandon Weeden had some strong moments, particularly while going 8-of-12 for 75 yards on the drive that brought the team back within a field goal. He wound up 27-of-43, though, and threw two late interceptions that killed any chance of the Browns making a second bid to move on top of the Bills.

Trent Richardson can only aspire to erratic, though. He picked up just 27 yards on 12 carries as he started very slowly and never really picked up as the game went along because of the score and the Buffalo defense. The Bills unit closed well with the picks and four sacks of Weeden to go with the strong work against the run. It’s two strong efforts in a row for that unit after a rough start against the Jets.

They survived without him today, but Spiller’s status will be a key for the Bills going forward. The offense needs a playmaker of his ability when matched with better opposition than they had on Sunday.

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Eagles signing Tebow on Monday

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

He’s back.

After a two-season exile, the man who took the Broncos to the divisional round in 2011 before being summarily dumped for Peyton Manning will have a new job in the NFL.

Per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, Tim Tebow will sign with the Eagles on Monday.  (Yes, Glazer has the scoop, even though Tebow works for ESPN.)

Traded to the Jets in March 2012, Tebow had a single, disastrous season in New York.  Cut by the Jets, the Patriots gave him a look in the 2013 offseason, training camp, and preseason.  Tebow didn’t make the 53-man roster, and he hasn’t been heard from again.

The Eagles gave Tebow a workout on March 16, and they reportedly would be inclined to sign him only if Matt Barkley were traded.  Barkley hasn’t been traded, and the connection never made sense; with 90 roster spots in the offseason and plenty of quarterbacks needed to distribute the ball during practice sessions.

Tebow arrives with the opening of the offseason program in Philadelphia, rejoining Mark Sanchez and a depth chart that also includes Sam Bradford, Barkley, and G.J. Kinne.  With Bradford still rehabbing a torn ACL suffered last August, Tebow becomes as a practical matter the fourth quarterback who is able to participate in practice session that will begin after a two-week lifting/conditioning period.

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Adrian Wilson is expected to retire Monday

Adrian Wilson, Fred Jackson AP

The Cardinals have announced a Monday press conference with long-time Arizona safety Adrian Wilson.  He most likely will be formally retiring.

Wilson joined the Cardinals in 2001, spending 12 seasons in Arizona.  He signed with the Patriots in 2013 but landed on IR.  In 2014, he was cut during camp by the Bears.

A five-time Pro Bowler, Wilson was named first-team All-Pro in 2009.  He started 162 career regular-season games, along with Super Bowl XLIII.

During a January visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Wilson said he still hopes to keep playing.

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Alex Boone dramatically changes his tune about 49ers dysfunction

Boone Getty Images

49ers guard Alex Boone now says that former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wore out his welcome in San Francisco.  Previously, when Harbaugh was still the head coach of the 49ers, Boone reacted aggressively to the suggestion that Harbaugh may have worn out his welcome in San Francisco.

“I’m really kind of sick of everybody talking about my coach, especially because he’s like a brother to me,” Boone told reporters after a game in October 2014.  “So if I were everybody I’d just keep their mouth shut because they don’t want me coming after them. Especially Jay Glazer, Deion, all these guys. I’m kind of sick of it. Leave my coach alone.”

Asked why reporters were questioning Harbaugh’s future at the time, Boone said, “Because they’re losers.”

Boone’s comments to Andrea Kremer of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel become somewhat stunning in light of his past remarks.

“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom,” Boone explains.  “But after a while, you just want to kick his ass. . . .  He just keeps pushing you, and you’re like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain.  Stop.  Let go.’  He kind of wore out his welcome. . . .

“I think he just pushed guys too far.  He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much.  You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this.  We gotta go out and do this.  We gotta go out and do this.’  And you’d be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane.  He’s crazy.’ . . .  I think that if you’re stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just going to say, ‘Listen, we just can’t work with this.’”

Still, Boone’s comments from October are understandable; Boone and the rest of the 49ers wanted to get through the season without distraction or disruption.  So Boone zealously dismissed reports regarding tension between the team and Harbaugh, even though they were accurate.

And that’s the message going forward.  Those predictable, perfunctory denials of reports that could undermine a team’s ability to focus on the task hand may be far more false than the reports under attack.

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As a rookie, Cody Latimer couldn’t keep pace with Peyton

Cody Latimer AP

The Broncos spent a second-round draft pick on wide receiver Cody Latimer last season, and they had little to show for it: Latimer ended his rookie season with two catches for 23 yards. Latimer now says he wasn’t ready for the mental side of the NFL game.

Latimer tells the Denver Post that he struggled with learning the offense, and particularly learning to adjust on the fly when Peyton Manning would change plays at the line of scrimmage.

It took me too long to actually catch on,” Latimer said. “I was in the playbook, but I could have done even more. When I actually got it, it was too late. It was just way different [than college]. I would know the play, then Peyton would change it. Then I’d get to thinking too much and play slower.”

Latimer has been working out with Manning this offseason, and he says he’s getting a better feel of what’s expected from him.

“I am pounding it into my head. I have to make sure I get it especially by the time of minicamp,” Latimer said. “You don’t want to be out there looking like a fool.”

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Steelers add a long snapper

Pittsburgh Steelers helmets AP

The Steelers signed Jordan Berry last week in a move that gave them three punters on their present roster.

It would be hard for Berry and Richie Leone to get enough work to know if they are viable alternatives to Brad Wing without enough people on hand to snap the ball to them, though. The Steelers remedied that this weekend.

Pittsburgh claimed long snapper Brandon Hartson off of waivers from the Chiefs and added him to the club. He joins Greg Warren as long snappers on the team’s offseason roster.

If Hartson were to unseat Warren, it would be the first change at the position since Mike Tomlin became head coach. Warren joined the Steelers in 2005, two years before Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher, and has played in all but 11 regular season games since then. Warren, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, linebacker James Harrison (who once replaced an injured Warren as a snapper with bad results for the Steelers) and tight end Heath Miller are the only players currently on the Steelers who were present for the team’s three Super Bowl appearances from 2005-2010.

Hartson has gone to training camp with the Bears the last two years and signed a future contract with the Chiefs in January. He’s never played a regular season game.

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“Wearing out welcome” isn’t new for Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh Getty Images

Tuesday’s new episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel includes a look not only at Seattle’s quarterback but also at the former San Francisco head coach who no longer has to deal with Russell Wilson.  Andrea Kremer profiles new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has returned to Ann Arbor decades after he once patrolled the sidelines as a boy — and actually once ran into the end zone to celebrate a touchdown.

Kremer looks at Jim Harbaugh’s legendary intensity and competitiveness, which he admits has undermined plenty of relationships.

“You didn’t always play well with others, necessarily,” Kremer says to Harbaugh.

“Yeah, people say that,” Harbaugh responds.

“Well, what do you say?” Kremer asks.

“It must be true, yeah,” Harbaugh replies.  “Sometimes I’d wear out my welcome.”

“What does that mean you wear out your welcome?”

“They just don’t want to be around you after a while,” Harbaugh admits.

It happened not only when Jim Harbaugh was a youth, but also as an adult.  And that may have contributed to his departure from the 49ers.

“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom,” 49ers guard Alex Boone tells Kremer.  “But after a while, you just want to kick his ass. . . .  He just keeps pushing you, and you’re like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain.  Stop.  Let go.’  He kind of wore out his welcome.”

“What does that mean?” Kremer asks.

“I think he just pushed guys too far.  He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much.  You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this.  We gotta go out and do this.  We gotta go out and do this.’  And you’d be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane.  He’s crazy.’ . . .  I think that if you’re stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just going to say, ‘Listen, we just can’t work with this.'”

Boone also said something that shed’s light on the perspective of the locker room.  “The players had nothing to do with him getting fired,” Boone says, which suggests that the players aren’t buying the whole “mutual parting” thing.

Brother John Harbaugh, the Ravens head coach who beat Jim’s 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, recalls a strong obsession with winning when they were youths.

“He always wanted to win everything, and if he wasn’t winning — and the few times in our history growing up when I was bigger or better — it really ticked him off,” John Harbaugh said.  “We have some pictures where you can see the look on his face in the picture. . . .  He’s just mad that he’s shorter or he’s smaller or that he lost a basketball game or he lost a card game.  He would carry it around with him for a while.”

Jim Harbaugh even competed with genetics.  Obsessed with getting to six-feet, two inches, Harbaugh found a magic elixir for growth.

“I heard that if you drink milk that builds strong bones, and convinced myself that I’ll drink as much milk as I possibly can drink,” him Harbaugh said.

So as a third grader, Jim Harbaugh said he got a job at his elementary school distributing milk to the students.  The pay was a free milk every day, plus the ability to drink the milk of the kids who weren’t there or who didn’t want their milk.

“I drank a lot of milk, Andrea,” he says.  “A lot of milk.  Whole milk, though.  Not the candy ass two-percent or skim milk.”

It worked.  He made it not to six-two, but to six-feet, three inches.

The competition with anyone and with anything continues.  The press copy of the HBO profile has video and audio of Harbaugh shouting generally at Michigan players in spring practice to “huddle the f–k up” and telling one specific player, “I’m just telling you the right way to do it.  If you want to look at me with that look, go f–king someplace else.”

“Go f–king someplace else” is what the 49ers essentially told Harbaugh in December.  Moving forward, the question becomes whether he’ll hear that phrase or something similar to it from the folks running the show in Ann Arbor.

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Peterson isn’t expected to show up for start of offseason workouts

Peterson Getty Images

Recently asked if he’ll be present for voluntary offseason workouts in Minnesota, running back Adrian Peterson said, “We’ll see.  I haven’t even been reinstated yet.”

He has since been reinstated, but Peterson isn’t expected to show.  That’s the word from Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Peterson’s $13 million compensation package for 2015 includes a $250,000 workout bonus.  Most workout bonuses contain a fairly high threshold for participation, often 80 or 90 percent.

For Peterson, the money is a drop in the bucket, if he’s looking for a new deal and/or a new team.

Notwithstanding recent interest (or whatever it can be called) from the Cowboys and a report that the Raiders have interest, the top candidates for a trade continue to be the Cardinals, Jaguars, and Buccaneers.  While some have construed a report that the Vikings want a first-round pick and a starting corner for Peterson as proof that the Vikings are willing to trade Peterson, the truth could be that the Vikings have applied a high price tag to scare off anyone who thinks they can steal Peterson for peanuts.

Regardless, many wonder whether the Vikings eventually will blink, given that they insisted in 2013 that the Vikings have “no intent” to trade Percy Harvin — and then traded him.  So no one believes that the Vikings will insist on keeping Peterson, even though the continue to say they do.

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Todd Gurley scheduled for visit with Patriots

Auburn v Georgia Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t shy away from taking a player coming off a knee injury in the first round of the draft last year and they’re reportedly set to visit with another player in the same situation for this year’s draft.

Mike Giardi of reports that Georgia running back Todd Gurley is scheduled for a visit with the Patriots this week. Gurley tore his ACL last November and the Pats took defensive tackle Dominique Easley after he suffer the same injury in his final college season.

Gurley got good news during his medical review at the NFL’s combine re-check in Indianapolis this weekend, though, and there’s optimism about his chances of being ready for training camp. That makes it less likely that he’ll still be on the board when the Patriots and the 32nd pick come up on April 30.

New England saw two running backs — Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley — sign elsewhere as free agents, leaving LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet and James White in the mix for backfield roles. The Patriots will likely add to that group before camp, but the need doesn’t feel big enough for them to make the move up it appears it will take to secure Gurley’s services.

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Danny Woodhead: Injury made me even hungrier

San Diego Chargers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

As an undrafted player out of Chadron State, running back Danny Woodhead had to beat long odds to have an NFL career.

Woodhead beat those odds, carving out a role with the Patriots after the Jets released him and then moving on to help the Chargers to the playoffs in 2013 in his first season in San Diego. Woodhead’s second season ended with a broken leg in the third game of the season, leaving Woodhead with an extended rehab period that he says left him even hungrier to succeed on the field than he was when he was trying to get his foot in the door.

“It’s been a long process,” Woodhead said, via the team’s website. “But definitely it makes you hungrier when the game is taken away. It makes you realize how blessed you are to play it. Not that I didn’t understand that before, but when it is taken away for such a long amount of time, it makes you even hungrier. You miss being out there with your brothers. I’m excited for this season. I’m always excited, but my mentality might even be younger and hungrier than ever before.”

With Ryan Mathews now in Philly, the depth chart at running back in San Diego features Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown. An addition in the draft seems likely, but Woodhead’s pass catching ability should lead to regular feedings on offense whether Philip Rivers or someone else is the quarterback come September.

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La’el Collins scheduled for visit with Dolphins

Kentucky v LSU Getty Images

The Dolphins have visited with some of the top cornerback, running back and wide receiver prospects during the pre-draft process, but they haven’t been ignoring their need for offensive line help.

Several of the top blockers in this year’s draft class have spent time with the Dolphins and another one is slated to meet with the team next week. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, LSU tackle La’El Collins will visit with the team in the coming days.

Collins started at left tackle in Baton Rouge the last two years, but that’s not a spot where the Dolphins are in need of immediate help with Branden Albert back from last year’s knee injury. They’re also in good hands on the right side with 2014 first-rounder Ja’Wuan James, but they need help at guard and Collins opened his college career playing on the interior.

If the Dolphins do take an offensive lineman in the first round, it would be the fourth time in the last eight drafts that they’ve taken a blocker to open their draft.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Baltimore Ravens v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

How have the Bills fared in past drafts without a first round pick?

The Dolphins have dates and times for their preseason schedule.

An argument in favor of the Patriots extending LB Dont’a Hightower now.

Will the Jets face the Bills and former coach Rex Ryan in Week One?

South Florida CB/KR Chris Dunkley will visit the Ravens.

Said Bengals CB Leon Hall of the start of offseason work, ““I think that will be good for everybody. It will be nice to see guys at some of the other positions. You can go for a while without seeing an offensive or defensive lineman.”

Akron WR Zach D’Orazio will work out for the Browns.

Assessing the likelihood that the Steelers pick a cornerback in the first round.

Texans TE Garrett Graham caught the team’s website up on his offseason activities.

Saturday was the anniversary of the Colts picking QB Peyton Manning first overall.

The Jaguars are in the market for a safety.

Would a trade for QB Philip Rivers cost the Titans too much?

WR Cody Latimer likes what the Broncos have in mind for him this season.

Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star has the Chiefs taking Texas DT Malcom Brown in the first round.

Raiders strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes has done work with the United States military.

Todd McShay of ESPN believes Oregon QB Marcus Mariota would be a good fit with the Chargers.

Cowboys WR Cole Beasley didn’t know what to do with his signing bonus.

A look at how the Giants’ equipment staff prepares for the offseason program.

The Eagles could take an offensive lineman with the 20th pick.

Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker and Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday have visited the Redskins recently.

S Antrel Rolle likes the Bears’ chemistry.

Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s first year in Detroit got a good review from his former boss/Saints coach Sean Payton.

DE Mike Daniels has been working out hard in advance of the Packers’ offseason workouts.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman shared his belief that long-term success comes through good drafting.

Alabama QB Blake Sims says that he’s met with the Falcons.

Should the Panthers take Georgia RB Todd Gurley or address the offensive line?

The Saints’ roster stands at 70 players.

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy has stepped up his offseason workouts.

Cardinals WR Jaron Brown has healed from his late-season shoulder injury.

Will the Rams pull the trigger on adding a quarterback in the draft?

A few dispatches from the 49ers’ pro day for local draft prospects.

The Seahawks players who went to Hawaii together last week seemed to be having fun while working out.

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Anonymous ESPN employees reportedly want McHenry out

ESPN Getty Images

The notorious tow-lot video featuring ESPN reporter Britt McHenry has sparked plenty of strong reactions among media and fans.  According to TMZ (via, strong reactions have occurred within ESPN, too.

Multiple employees of the four-letter network reportedly think McHenry should be and/or will be fired in the aftermath of her four-letter, mean-spirited, I’m-better-than-you rant caught on video — and on audio — at an undisclosed location at an unknown date and time.

Suspended for a week by ESPN, some unnamed co-workers think McHenry eventually will be suspended for good.  Regardless of how this plays out, let’s take an opportunity on a somewhat slow Sunday to take a closer look at some of the risks raised by taking employment action against someone for an incident occurring beyond the boundaries of his or her employment.

There’s a saying in the legal profession that bad facts make bad law.  In other words, when something happens that cries out for a specific outcome, the rules can get twisted to lead to that outcome without regard to the precedent it sets.  In this specific case, the precedent possibly becomes that anything an on-air employee at ESPN says or does while off the clock can be the basis for discipline or discharge, even without behavior that would result in an arrest.

Should that be the standard for any employee?  I’ve argued for years that the NFL shouldn’t reach into the urine of a player to determine whether he is or isn’t smoking marijuana or using other recreational drugs that don’t enhance performance.  Why should ESPN be able to impose discipline based whether an on-air employee treats another person rudely while not at work?

And what amounts to rude behavior?  Refusing to sign an autograph?  Not leaving enough of a tip at a restaurant?  Bumping into someone without saying, “Excuse me”?

Yes, McHenry played the “I’m in the news” card, but she never said she works for ESPN and there’s no reason to believe she was working for ESPN at the time she made those remarks.  Does every ESPN on-air employee now have to worry about anything and everything they say in any setting, even when they’re not working?

On one hand, if ESPN employees don’t treat other people the way McHenry treated the person behind the counter at the tow lot, it won’t be a problem.  On the other hand, why does any employer have the right to take action against someone for something they did on their own time when that behavior has no relevance to the person’s job performance?

There’s also the question of whether McHenry knew her words were being recorded.  While it doesn’t excuse the behavior, surveillance cameras typically capture only video and not audio because the recording of audio amounts to a potential wiretapping violation.  Even in a jurisdiction where only one party must consent to the conversation being record (in this case, the tow-lot employee), a private conversation between two people at the counter while the tow-lot employee was away from the window would potentially violate the law.  In McHenry’s case, the original video was presented in a way that suggests she saw the camera before saying some of the worst things she said; if she had no reason to believe the camera also had a microphone, her decision to continue with the tirade after spotting the camera becomes a bit less confusing.

Again, none of this makes her conduct acceptable.  The real question becomes whether the disclosure of the audio and the ensuing embarrassment is punishment enough, or whether ESPN has the ability to take action against her for something that happened away from work.  The audience can choose not to like or respect her; is that sufficient (absent evidence of widespread channel-changing when she appears on screen) to justify taking her off the air?

Then there are the notorious Chris Berman on-set but off-air videos.  From a profanity-laced rant against the crew for moving around while he was on the air to an extended explanation of how to smuggle codeine from Canada to creepy flirtations with a female colleague, Berman never faced any scrutiny or discipline when comments he made appeared online.  While he never singled out any one person for demeaning comments, Berman’s behavior happened while he was on the clock for ESPN.  McHenry’s didn’t.

There’s no easy answer to this one.  Regardless of whether McHenry deserves to be heavily criticized for her comments to the tow-lot employee (and the court of public opinion has concluded that she does), the question of whether she deserves to be suspended or eventually fired by ESPN becomes far more complicated when considering how the precedent will apply going forward — and when contemplating how this standard would have or should have applied in past cases of recorded comments made by other ESPN employees under circumstances far more closely connected to the employment relationship.

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Denard Robinson: I should be the Jaguars’ No. 1 running back

Denard Robinson, Malliciah Goodman AP

After starting his first season as an “offensive weapon” and his second season as a backup, Denard Robinson has a new idea for what his role should be this year: Starting running back for the Jaguars.

Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback who has had a number of roles in Jacksonville in his first two NFL seasons, scoffs at the idea that the Jaguars should use a high draft pick on a running back.

I think I should be a No. 1 guy,” Robinson told the Florida Times-Union. “That’s how I have to look at it. But I have to show them that. Words don’t mean anything. It’s all about showing them.”

Although Toby Gerhart was signed to be the starter, Robinson was by far the Jaguars’ best running back last year: Robinson ended up leading the team in yards and touchdowns and averaged 4.3 yards a carry, while Gerhart averaged 3.2 and rookie Storm Johnson averaged 3.0.

“I want to show the team they can count on me. Last year, I showed growth so people could say, ‘That’s not the same Denard. It’s night and day.’ This year, I want them to say, ‘Man, Denard has grown even more,'” Robinson said.

Right now, it looks like Robinson will get his wish, and will grow into the role of a full-time No. 1 running back.

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Rivers, Chargers continue to do an apparent contract mating dance

Rivers AP

One month and two days ago, jarring news emerged from San Diego:  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he has no plans to extend his contract before it expires after the current season — and that he has real concerns about moving his family to Los Angeles.  Coupled with the team’s decision to take a closer look at Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the facts quickly and naturally led to speculation that the Chargers could trade Rivers to Tennessee for the second overall pick in the draft.

While the story and its potential implications failed to quickly resonate on a widespread basis, the media gradually has recognized the significance of the story.  Left unexplored, however, is the notion that the story is more about laying the foundation for a new contract than it is about Rivers ending his career with a team other than the Chargers.

As one well-connected source explained it to PFT within the past two weeks, far more likely than an imminent divorce between Rivers and the Chargers is the likelihood that player and team have launched a mating dance aimed at getting him signed beyond 2015.  Rivers knows, if the Chargers move to L.A., that he’ll instantly have more value to a team that will be trying to win hearts, minds, and wallets in the nation’s No. 2 market — possibly in direct competition with the Rams or the Raiders.  The Chargers know it, too, but they also know that they won’t be getting extra salary-cap space to accommodate a player’s belief that he has more value to a team in L.A. than he does in San Diego, no matter how accurate that belief is.

Let’s consider one of the first quotes from Rivers, assuming that he’s not thinking about leaving but about leverage.

“I guess things could change, but with all the uncertainty in many aspects, I don’t see it changing before camp gets here, and when camp gets here I’m even more certain to play it out,” Rivers told Acee only four days after the Steelers gave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a massive, market-value contract.

“Things could change,” Rivers conceded.  But if things don’t change before camp opens, he’s not negotiating a new contract.  In other words (possibly), if the Chargers give Rivers what he wants on a new deal before training camp, he’ll sign on the dotted line.

In more than a month, not much has developed in the way of potential suitors for Rivers.  Some have suggested that he’d be worth two first-round draft picks, a package that a franchise desperate for a franchise quarterback should be willing to instantly sacrifice.

Without a long-term deal, however, it would be a one-year rental with the availability of the franchise tag thereafter.  Besides, while a team like the Browns could be gung-ho about the possibility of adding Rivers to the very long list of starting quarterbacks since 1999, Rivers may have no interest in playing for the Browns or any other team that resides a long way from the land of contention.

Some have suggested Rivers wants out because of the quality of the team around him.  But what other team out there is a high-end quarterback away from instantly contending for a Super Bowl?  Maybe the Texans, possibly the Bills.  Neither team’s name has come up — at all — in the past 33 days. For the most part, the teams that would be most interested in Rivers don’t have the kind of supporting cast that would help him get to where he never has been.

Which brings us back to the Titans.  Apart from Nashville’s proximity to his hometown, why would Rivers want to play for Tennessee?  Arguably, they’re improving on defense with the arrival of Dick LeBeau and several free agents, but they’ve got a long way to go on both sides of the ball to become competitive in the AFC South, and in the AFC generally.

From the Chargers’ perspective, how can they trade Rivers without getting a potential franchise quarterback in return?  That’s possibly why the Chargers have created the impression that they would be interested in trading Rivers to the Titans.  With the second overall pick, the Titans would be guaranteed to get a possible Rivers replacement.

Some wonder whether the end game for the Titans isn’t Mariota but Jameis Winston, with a Rivers deal getting them to No. 2 and then another deal getting them to No. 1.

Moving up to one of the first two picks becomes dangerous territory for the Chargers, who know a thing or two about using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback.  In 1998, they climbed up one spot to get in striking distance for Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf.  The Colts took Manning, the Chargers took Leaf, and the rest is a very ugly period in San Diego history.

Still, if the Chargers were intent on trading up to No. 2, it could have been accomplished by now. Rivers would need a new contract in Tennessee, but his agent represents Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt and Titans G.M. Ruston Webster.  Which means that getting Rivers signed over the long haul in Tennessee arguably would be the easiest part of this process.  The real question is whether the Chargers truly want to move Rivers, and whether Rivers truly wants to move to a new team.

The fact that more than a month has passed since the story first hit the NFL’s radar screen without anything tangible happening suggests that contract leverage remains the major part of the equation.  Why else would writers in San Diego now be talking about Rivers retiring in lieu of moving to Los Angeles?  With no serious trade discussions happening (yet) and the Chargers not throwing a huge pile of money at Rivers, his other potential ammunition for getting the team’s attention comes from the School of Favre.

Whether it’s Rivers, Mariota, or someone else, the Chargers can’t go to Los Angeles in 2016 without a franchise quarterback.  The team knows it, Rivers knows it.  But there’s currently no reason to credibly believe the Chargers plan to roll the dice on an unproven rookie and there’s currently no reason to credibly believe Rivers wants to roll the dice on an unproven team.

If both sides were willing to do that, the dice would have been rolling by now.

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Morris Claiborne aiming for training camp return

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Back in January, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shared his view that cornerback Morris Claiborne has done enough in his oft-criticized and injury-riddled career for the team to exercise their fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

The Cowboys haven’t actually followed through on picking up that option, which they can do until May 3, and they aren’t going to have a chance to see Claiborne doing much in their offseason program before making that call. That program opens on Monday, but Claiborne has only recently started running after last year’s torn patellar tendon and doesn’t expect to be cleared for a full workload until training camp.

It’s the third time in four years that Claiborne will miss the team’s other offseason work because of injuries, something he intimated hasn’t been easy while discussing this return to action.

“I was at a point where people thought I wasn’t going to walk again,” Claiborne said, via FOX Sports Southwest. “I’m in a better place now in my life and in coping with my injuries and coming back from them.”

Claiborne’s $2.6 million salary for this year is guaranteed, so the Cowboys will hope that the better place leads to better play. Claiborne’s first three seasons haven’t offered much reason to hope that it will, but being the sixth overall pick of the draft gives you more rope than a lot of players.

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