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Matt Forte ready to play

Reuters

After missing just one game with an ankle injury suffered in Week Two against the Packers, Bears running back Matt Forte is ready to play against the Cowboys tonight.

The only thing that could keep Forte out at this point is a “freak accident,” according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports.

Although a freak accident befell two Redskins players before Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay, freak accidents in the hours before a game are rare enough that Bears fans can probably count on seeing Forte on the field tonight.

It’s possible that the Bears will take it easy on Forte and give more carries than usual to backup running back Michael Bush, but it sounds like Forte is back to full speed, just 11 days after injuring his ankle. Forte has 23 carries for 111 yards and seven catches for 89 yards in two games this season.

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Ben McAdoo motivates Giants with tale of the Hugh Hefner of lions

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The NFL doesn’t need erectile dysfunction commercials this season.

They just need Giants coach Ben McAdoo to recount his version of what was apparently quite a “Wild Kingdom.”

According to Steve Serby of the New York Post, the Giants coach decided to motivate his veteran players yesterday by telling them the story of Frasier, a randy old lion who may have gotten into the Viagra.

Give it a second (and wipe the coffee off your screen), and it begins to make (a little, although twisted kind of) sense.

As the story goes, Frasier the Lion was something of a celebrity, once described by Life Magazine as the “reigning sex simba” after he fathered 33 cubs in 16 months at a time when he was expected to retire.

“A lion in a Mexican circus, I believe it was the ’70s — ’72 maybe — and he was a little long in the tooth, and it was showing, and they felt he was washed up and they sent him north to California [Lion Country Safari], and the next thing you know, he was eating vitamins,” McAdoo said. “The lionesses were bringing him meat and wouldn’t eat until he was done eating. And was a lion that showed that he still had value, he still had worth. It just took him a little more time and effort to get himself ready.”

Oh. Of course.

I mean, I guess if you’re really open-minded, you could see the parallel to the Giants, considering 36-year-old quarterback Eli Manning is going to be on a pitch count during training camp.

Manning should probably keep an eye on the team’s trainers this summer, especially if they start offering him rare steaks and vitamins. Especially if those vitamins happen to be blue.

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Jordan Matthews: Knee, not contract, kept me out of spring work

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The Eagles said wide receiver Jordan Matthews was going to be a limited participant in the early stages of training camp because of a knee injury, but reports from Thursday’s practice indicated that any limitations were minor ones as Matthews was one of the first on the field and one of the last to leave.

Matthews’ injury was described as tendinitis, but he said he didn’t want to put “a specific word on it” when he met with the media after practice. He was more willing to discuss a recent report that his absence from practices in the spring was about his desire for a new contract rather than any issue with his knee.

“I would literally never do that,” Matthews said, via ESPN.com. “If you guys know me any from the time I’ve been here, I go to work. This is a privilege to be able to play football regardless, whether it’s the Philadelphia Eagles or it’s anybody, to play in the NFL, I’ve always wanted to do this. So any day I can come out here and play, I’m going to do that. I believe that when you go to work, you’ll end up seeing the fruits of your labor get paid off. I would never sit out to try and force somebody’s hand. That’s just not me. I’m going to come out here and go to work. I wasn’t able to, that was the breaks, but I’m out here now ready to go.”

Matthews is in the fourth and final year of the rookie deal he signed as a second-round pick in 2014 and there hasn’t been any indication that the Eagles want to lock him up before the season. Given the other moves they made at receiver this offseason, they may not change course when the year is out.

If so, Matthews will be winding down his time with the Eagles and staying healthy will be essential to landing a deal anywhere when 2018 rolls around.

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O.J. won’t be welcome at USC

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame is willing to roll out the red carpet for Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson. The University of Southern California won’t be.

“Right now with USC, what the administration and the athletic department have said is, no, O.J. will not be a part of our functions,” Trojans coach Clay Helton said Thursday, via ESPN.com. “That’s been the statement.”

Simpson is due to be released from prison on October 1. As noted by Arash Markazi of ESPN.com, USC continue to display Simpson’s retired No. 32 at home games, along with a copy of his Heisman Trophy.

So why will the Pro Football Hall of Fame allow him to come to the annual enshrinement ceremony? It all goes back to the misguided notion that status as one of the all-time greats in football should be confined only to what happens on the football field, without regard to anything the player has done in any other setting. This approach, which routinely is defied by human nature when it’s time to cast secret ballots, leads to periodic awkwardness for the Hall of Fame and its voters.

Their may be annual awkwardness in Canton if Simpson decides to dust off his gold (tan) jacket and start showing up at the enshrinement ceremony.

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Cowboys say Ronnie Hillman signing not related to Ezekiel Elliott status

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Yes, the Cowboys are anticipating hearing word on Ezekiel Elliott’s possible suspension soon. And yes, they signed running back Ronnie Hillman.

But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said those two facts weren’t necessarily related.

Via Todd Archer of ESPN.com, Garrett said it had more to do with a hamstring injury to Jahad Thomas than anything else.

“It really has everything to do with Jahad [Thomas’] situation,” Garrett said. “Jahad, we thought he was going to be healthy and ready to go for training camp, and he was one day into it [and unable to stay healthy], and so we had to get another running back in here.”

With veteran Darren McFadden getting some time off and Thomas not able to practice, the Cowboys were forced to use Rod Smith and Alfred Morris more than planned. The Cowboys worked Hillman and former Jaguars fifth-rounder Denard Robinson last week.

Hillman was good in 2015 (rushing for 863 yards and seven touchdowns), but couldn’t find a home last year. The Cowboys think he could fit some of the niche created when Lance Dunbar left in free agency.

“I remember watching him in playoff games and playing with the Denver offense that was so prolific,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of Hillman. “He’s still young. He’s going to bring some really good experience in this league. He’s a different style back, size and style. So he’s going to be able to add a dimension for us and we’ll see. We’re going to let him absorb our offense a little bit before we get him right in the fire, but we’re excited what he brings to us.”

But for the record, he’s not here because they’re afraid Elliott’s about to be suspended. Of course.

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Which former NFL coach do you most want to see return?

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Former NFL coach Jon Gruden apparently may be coming back. If, you know, anyone wants him.

So here’s the PFT Live question of the day: Which former NFL coach do you want to see return to the sidelines?

Name one (or as many as you want in the comments), provide a detail or two as to why, and then tune in for three hours of football-only chatter on NBC Sports Radio from 6:00 a.m. ET to 9:00 a.m. ET.

We’re preempted today on NBCSN by Formula One racing. But we’ll be back Monday, with Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.

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Chargers say there’s good news on Mike Williams’ back injury

AP

Despite a report last week that Chargers first-round wide receiver Mike Williams would need season-ending back surgery, the team is optimistic about his prognosis.

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said the doctors who have examined Williams believe he can recover from his back injury through rehabilitation, not surgery.

“He’s been responding well,” Telesco said. “The path, right now, is rehab and strengthening. That’s good news, obviously.”

The seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, Williams has a herniated disc that will likely prevent him from practicing at the start of training camp.

“He’ll see our doctors this weekend and will get more of a timetable of where he is,” Telesco said. “I think he’s more trending towards not working early in camp, which is not a surprise. But we’ll kind of take it from there.”

After the previous report that Williams could miss the entire year, Chargers fans will gladly take Telesco’s optimistic talk that all he’ll miss is the start of training camp.

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Austin Howard says a goodbye to the Raiders

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Austin Howard’s tenure as right tackle of the Oakland Raiders appears to be coming to an end.

Howard said a goodbye to Oakland in an instagram post delivered in the early morning hours on Friday.

“OAKLAND!!! A lifetime of memories have been made these past three years, and I am grateful for every single one of them. Unfortunately my time with the #Raiders has come to an end,” Howard wrote in a lengthy post.

Howard had started 39 of 40 games played with the Raiders over the last three seasons. He had two years remaining on the five-year, $30 million contract he signed with the team in March, 2014. He was scheduled to earn $4.9 million in base salary this season and $5.4 million in 2018.

Howard was coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum following the conclusion of last season. He had suffered the injury in training camp and played the 2016 with the issue before having it addressed after the year.

He signed with Oakland after starting all 16 games in consecutive seasons for the New York Jets in 2012-13.

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Saints place Damian Swann, John Phillips on non-football injury/illness lists

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The New Orleans Saints placed cornerback Damian Swann on the non-football injury list and tight end John Phillips on the non-football illness list as veterans reported for the start of training camp on Thursday.

According to Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Swann landed on the injury list after failing to pass a conditioning test on Thursday.

Phillips went on the illness list due to continued recovery from appendicitis.

The non-football injury lists is for injuries sustained away from the NFL working environment. The illness list works exactly the same way, but for sicknesses that impair the ability to perform.

The players still count against the 90-man roster limit in preseason and can be activated any time before the start of the regular season upon completion of a physical. Players must be on the NFI or PUP lists from the start of training camp in order to be eligible for the in-season versions of the lists, which would require the players to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before being eligible to return.

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Reports: Ravens sign quarterback David Olson

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The Baltimore Ravens have added a quarterback.

No, it’s not Colin Kaepernick.

According to multiple reports, the Ravens are signing former Clemons and Stanford quarterback David Olson, who most recently placed with the Kansas City Phantoms of the Champions Indoor Football League. It was first reported by Damond Talbot of DraftDiamonds.com.

The Ravens found themselves in need of another quarterback with Joe Flacco expected to miss time with a disc issue in his back.

There is obviously a connection to Olson as he played for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, at Stanford. However, Olson did not see any playing time at Stanford behind Andrew Luck, Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan, and he threw just three passes with one completion for a one-yard loss after transferring to Clemson as Deshaun Watson was the starter.

If Flacco’s issue is short-term – PFT’s Mike Florio reported that Flacco is only going to miss a week or so – the Ravens will need little more than a camp arm to get through a handful of practices in the interim. Nevertheless, Olson will have one of the least impressive backgrounds, statistically, of any quarterback on a roster in the league.

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Rams place five on non-football injury/physically unable to perform lists

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As players begin to report for training camp with the Los Angeles Rams, the team placed five players on injury lists to open camp.

Defensive tackle Omarius Bryant, defensive backs Dominique Hatfield and Aarion Penton, and guard Alex Kozan were placed on the non-football injury list on Thursday. Tight end Johnny Mundt was placed on the physically unable to perform list.

The NFI list works similarly to the PUP list in which players still count against the 90-man roster limit in preseason and can be activated any time before the start of the regular season upon completion of a physical. Players must be on the NFI or PUP lists from the start of training camp in order to be eligible for the in-season versions of the lists, which would require the players to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before being eligible to return.

The non-football injury lists is for ailments sustained away from the NFL working environment while the PUP list serves injuries suffered while doing football activities in team facilities – practices, games, training, etc.

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Jerry Jones: Decision on Ezekiel Elliott imminent

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Jerry Jones expects a decision from the league soon on Ezekiel Elliott. Though Jones said he doesn’t know what the NFL will rule, the Cowboys owner reiterated his belief that Elliott did nothing that deserves a suspension.

“I think we’ll have a decision imminently,” Jones told Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt on SiriusXM. “Of course, I don’t know what that will be and wouldn’t want to have conjecture in any way involving that.

“What I have seen, though, is the presentation of Zeke and his people, and I’ve seen the league’s presentation. There’s no domestic violence involved here.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported that Elliott is bracing for a suspension to start the season. With Jones entering the Hall of Fame Aug. 5, it’s unlikely the NFL would announce a suspension next week. But it’s obvious Jones doesn’t expect a suspension for Elliott.

Jones has stood by the running back even as the NFL’s investigation has extended more than a year.

The Cowboys drafted Elliott fourth overall in 2016, and he led the league in rushing as a rookie.

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Ryan Switzer injures hamstring, though it doesn’t appear serious

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The only way Lucky Whitehead was going to make the Cowboys’ roster was if Ryan Switzer was injured. Two days after the Cowboys parted ways with Whitehead, Switzer was injured.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, it doesn’t appear the receiver’s hamstring injury is serious.

I know my body well,” Switzer said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Hopefully it is day to day.”

Switzer was injured after making a reception during practice.

“I just kind of got jerked in the wrong direction when I was trying to accelerate,” Switzer said. “That’s all. Nothing big.”

The Cowboys’ other slot receiver, Cole Beasley, who led the team in receiving last season, has battled hamstring tendinitis since Week 10 of last season. The team was cautious with him during the offseason program, but he has been a full participant in training camp.

Switzer said he never previously had a hamstring injury.

The Cowboys have an off day Friday.

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Sammy Watkins tired of hearing about foot

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Bills receiver Sammy Watkins pronounced his surgically repaired left foot fully healed. Thanks for asking.

“My job is really to get back in shape and be out there with the guys,” Watkins said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN. “I don’t want to hear no more about the foot. The foot is fine. I’m healed.”

Watkins, who has undergone two surgeries on his foot in 15 months, was limited in the team’s first practice Thursday. The Bills have him on a “rep count” during training camp.

Watkins, the fourth overall pick in 2014, has only one 1,000-yard season as injuries have limited him. He had broken ribs as a rookie, hip surgery in the 2015 offseason and missed three games that season with shin and ankle injuries. Watkins’ foot injury kept him out of eight games last season.

The Bills declined Watkins’ $13.3 million fifth-year contract option for the 2018 season. Thus, he is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the offseason.

“I’m not concerned about that,” Watkins said. “That’s the coaches and the owner. My job is go out there and earn it, and play, and stay healthy. That’s my goal this year.”

In 37 games, he has 153 receptions for 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns.

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Giants’ best move could be to give OBJ what he wants, right now

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The aspirations of Odell Beckham Jr. to be the highest-paid player in the NFL will trigger this reaction: That’s nice, but it’s not realistic.

But after considering how Beckham could, on a year-to-year basis, become the highest paid player in the league, maybe the best move would be to make him the league’s highest paid player now.

Currently signed for two more years under his rookie deal, Beckham is on the books for $1.839 million in 2017 and $8.459 million in 2018. Come 2019, he’d be eligible for the franchise tag. For receivers, the 2017 tag landed at $15.682 million. Assuming eight-percent increases for the next two years, the receiver franchise would be $18.28 million in 2019.

By rule (20 percent raise), the amount would move to $21.93 million in 2020. Come 2021, Beckham would get a 44-percent raise ($31.58 million) or the quarterback franchise tag, whichever is greater.

Depending on where the market at the quarterback position goes over the next four years (and whether other stars opt to go year-to-year under the franchise tag), $31.58 million could make Beckham the highest paid player in football. His better chance would come in 2022, when he’d either hit the open market unfettered or, if a fourth franchise tag is even available, receiver $45.48 million for 2022.

Let’s assume the Giants decide come 2022 not to invest that much money in a non-quarterback. If he’s on the open market, does a 29-year-old Beckham get the biggest deal any player ever has?

Maybe. While some owners will evaluate Beckham based only on football abilities, there surely will be some who throw money at Beckham for the value he brings, both in dollars and cents and by instantly making the team name and logo into national brands.

Given how expensive it could become for the Giants on a year-to-year basis over the next six seasons, the best move for the Giants could be to give Beckham a four-year extension right now, with a new-money average of $25.1 million. That would allow him to call himself the highest-paid player in the league, and it would require a total payout of only (only?) $110.698 million over six years.

On a year-to-year basis, the Giants would pay Beckham at least $127.568 million over the next six years. So they could save $17 million, give the player significant security, and buy the peace that comes from having a key player be happy and satisfied by moving quickly, before the high-water mark in new money moves above $25 million per year.

They also could structure the long-term offer to be guaranteed for three years, with the team having the option to cut him or squeeze him to take less on the back end. If his motivation is to be the highest-paid player in football, maybe he’d agree to terms of that type — like most other players routinely do — since he would still be able to say he’s the highest paid player in football.

Until, of course, someone else is making more than $25.1 million per year. Which will happen, sooner than later.

Which is why the Giants should maybe move now to give Beckham what he wants in a way that gives the team what it needs, especially in light of the pitfalls of letting Beckham play on a year-to-year basis.

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Calais Campbell almost as confident as Malik Jackson in Jaguars’ prospects

AP

Laugh all you want, but you can’t deny the Jaguars’ confidence. Calais Campbell repeated Malik Jackson’s declaration that the Jaguars will win Super Bowl LII.

Never mind the odds, which, by the way, are 80-1.

It’s a tough task,” Campbell said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN. “You have to have a lot of pieces to the puzzle in place. I feel like we have those pieces. Now it comes down to execution. It’s a long road.

“This is the start and we have a lot to prove, and it comes down to just getting better every day, executing and winning the day, and that’s all we can control right now. So we go through camp the best way we can and try to put ourselves in position.”

The Jaguars have won a combined 11 games the past three seasons and have not made the playoffs since 2007 despite several high draft picks and high-profile free agent signings in recent seasons.

Campbell was another of those high-profile signings, leaving Arizona after nine seasons for the Jaguars four-year, $60 million offer this offseason.

“I know history doesn’t say a lot of good things, but from what I see, all the pieces are in place, and I’m going to go out there and do everything that I can to make sure I put myself and motivate my teammates to put themselves in position to get the job done,” said Campbell, who played in Super Bowl XLIII with the Cardinals. “The biggest thing is just winning the division so you can get your opportunity. Like Malik knows — he’s won a Super Bowl, I’ve played in one — it’s really just getting to the playoffs, winning your division and getting that home game and then from there, anything is possible.

“We have some division games early, so the whole training camp is about focusing so we can start fast. If we can start fast, anything is possible.”

As DiRocco pointed out, the Jaguars are only 5-24 in the month of September since the 2007 season.

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