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Polamalu’s return means the most for Steelers

Troy Polamalu AP

With three big-name Steelers players making their return to the lineup on Sunday, one name stands out above the other two.

With all due respect to linebacker James Harrison and running back Rashard Mendenhall, the guy the Steelers need the most is safety Troy Polamalu.

Since 2009, Polamalu has missed 15 games, winning seven and losing eight.  (In one other game, against the Bengals in 2009, Polamalu made a quick exit with an aggravated Achilles tendon injury, and the Steelers lost at home to Cincinnati.)

This year, the Steelers are 1-1 without Polamalu, who has missed the last two games with a calf injury.

In the Steelers’ 3-4 zone-blitzing defense, outside linebackers are, to a certain extent, interchangeable.  Running backs are plentiful.  But Polamalu’s skills and smarts create the kind of havoc that no “next man up” can duplicate.

Having him back will be the biggest difference between squaring things up at 2-2 or falling to 1-3.

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NFLPA demands “credible evidence” regarding James Harrison PED allegation

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks onto the field before the start of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field on November 8, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The dance continues between the NFL and the NFL Players Association regarding the Al Jazeera PED allegations, and at this point it’s becoming a mosh pit.

The NFL Players Association has sent a letter to the NFL on behalf of Steelers linebacker James Harrison, in which the union reiterates its request “that the NFL inform him and the NFLPA whether the NFL possesses any credible evidence (e.g., verified documents or verified testimony of witnesses) that warrants an interview of Mr. Harrison regarding a potential violation” of the PED policy.

Although the letter doesn’t expressly take the position that Harrison has no obligation to cooperate until the NFL disciplines him based on “credible evidence” of a violation, the message is clear: Harrison apparently won’t be doing anything unless and until the NFL produces “credible evidence” beyond the remarks contained in the Al Jazeera report.

“Especially in a business where the mere mention of a player-employee’s name can generate ratings for a broadcaster, the NFLPA and Mr. Harrison do not believe that unsupported, unsubstantiated verbal remarks provide ‘sufficient credible evidence’ to initiate an investigation of, and require an interview with, an employee.”

The letter, a copy of which PFT has obtained, mentions only Harrison. It’s unclear whether the other players implicated in the report will refuse to be interviewed absent the production of credible evidence that a violation occurred.

The PED policy seems to contemplate that the player accused of a PED violation won’t be required to provide information until discipline is imposed based on “credible documented evidence” that the rules were broken. The NFLPA apparently is willing to entertain the possibility of a pre-discipline interview if — and only if — the NFL puts the same cards on the table that would be placed on the table if discipline is imposed and the appeal process commences.

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Report: No significant improvement in Jaylon Smith’s injured nerve

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Linebacker Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish walks off the field after an injury during the first quarter of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys were able to get linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round of the draft because fears about lingering nerve damage resulting from the knee injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl.

Teams wondered if the issue would keep him from playing in 2016 and if it would limit his effectiveness beyond this year, but Smith’s surgery was done by the Cowboys’ team doctor and his confidence in Smith’s future carried over to the team.

Smith said there was “absolutely” a chance that he’d be on the field this season because “the nerve can come back tomorrow.” Smith’s knee surgery was done by the Cowboys doctor and owner Jerry Jones said he shares Smith’s hope that the knee will improve sooner rather than later.

As of now, though, it doesn’t look like there’s much positive movement. Ed Werder of ESPN reports that there’s been no “significant improvement” in the injured nerve at this point and, as a result, it remains unlikely that Smith will be on the field in 2016.

If that’s the case, the big question in Dallas will shift to whether or not Smith can return to being the kind of player that was projected to be a high first-round pick throughout his career at Notre Dame.

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Are Seahawks overpaying Doug Baldwin?

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 13: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a third quarter touchdown past cornerback Jimmy Smith #22 of the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

To the extent that Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin plays better when he’s angry, he needs a reason to be angry. My goal isn’t to give him one, but that could be the result of the words I’m about to type.

Did the Seahawks give Baldwin too much money in his new contract?

The most important numbers — signing bonus, full guarantee at signing, cash flow over the next three years — still aren’t known. But the big-picture numbers suggest top-10 money for a guy who, while above average and for a stretch of last season flat-out dominant, may not be a top-10 option.

It’s easy to call a guy “top 10” in the abstract. When actually listing the players, however, the 10 seats fill up, quickly.

In no particular order, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Allen Robinson, Brandon Marshall, and Jarvis Landry would make up the top nine receivers in the league. So who would be the 10th?

Amari Cooper? Alshon Jeffery? Jordy Nelson? Jeremy Maclin? Keenan Allen? Brandin Cooks? Larry Fitzgerald? Emmanuel Sanders? Demaryius Thomas? T.Y. Hilton? Mike Evans? Sammy Watkins? Baldwin?

Apart from where Baldwin fits in the league-wide receiver pecking order is the question of how the investment in a receiver (along with the $9 million per year devoted to tight end Jimmy Graham) meshes with the team’s supposed commitment to the running game. Of course, the $21 million per year paid to quarterback Russell Wilson already doesn’t mesh with a cloud-of-dust-or-at-least-those-little-rubber-pellets approach to offense.

Still, with the passing game now consisting of three highly-paid players, the tailback depth chart currently a smattering of minimum-contract guys, and the offensive line a perpetual work in progress, it’s getting harder and harder to reconcile the team’s desired attack to the picture painted by the money.

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Doug Baldwin recalls humbling start to career after signing extension

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 27:  Wide receiver Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field on December 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 23-17.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tuesday’s announcement that the Seahawks and wide receiver Doug Baldwin have agreed to a four-year contract extension didn’t come as much of a surprise given how often both sides talked this offseason about wanting to get a deal done.

Telling someone in 2011 that Baldwin would one day ink a deal with $24 million in guaranteed money and a total value of $46 million would have come as more of a surprise. That’s when Baldwin went undrafted after completing his career at Stanford, something that Baldwin reminisced about in a Facebook post after signing his contract.

“It was 2011,” Baldwin wrote. “I was sitting by myself at a small Mexican restaurant across the street from the Stanford campus. The draft had just ended and my name wasn’t called. I sat in my chair unable to move as if my heart had just been ripped out of my chest. I’ve been playing football since I was 7 years old and, in that moment, it seemed like it was all coming to an end. I humbled myself and waited out the lockout for one last shot at my dream. Then … Seattle called and they wanted me. That was almost 5 years ago. This is now. I’m thankful and blessed to formally announce my 4 year extension with the Seattle Seahawks.”

Baldwin’s production hit a new level in the second half of last season as the Seahawks passing offense took off, but he’d been an efficient and reliable target for Russell Wilson throughout his time with the team. Those traits matter more than how he entered the league or the fact that he doesn’t have the ideal size teams look for at receiver and explain why he has a shiny new contract that will keep him in a prime role on the Seahawks offense for the next few years.

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Eli Manning expects to score more points this season

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Ben McAdoo arrived as the Giants’ offensive coordinator in 2014, the Giants were coming off a season that saw them rank 28th in points scored.

McAdoo has overseen a steady rise over the last two seasons, with the Giants jumping from just over 18 to 26.3 points a game by the end of the 2015 season. That work helped McAdoo bump Tom Coughlin out of the head coaching job this offseason in a move that brought some change to the team without throwing out something that’s worked well the last two years.

Quarterback Eli Manning is happy that the offense has remained in place and sees room for improvement. Manning believes that adding rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard to the offense while also getting wideout Victor Cruz and tight end Larry Donnell back from injury will lead the team to put up even more points in 2016.

“We expect to be able score the ball,” Manning said, via Rhett Lewis of NFL Media. “We feel like we can score over 28 points a game. That’s what we want to do. We were close to hitting that last year.”

Scoring points is only half the battle, of course, and the Giants’ 420 points scored last season still left them with a -22 point differential thanks to the abysmal defense put together by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The Giants went with continuity by keeping him on the staff for this season, but tried to overhaul the personnel in free agency by spending big money on defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

Assuming the offense continues humming, it will be that side of the ball that again determines the Giants’ fate in the standings.

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Cardinals president says digital distribution of NFL games is the future

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16: Inside linebacker Dwight Freeney #54 of the Arizona Cardinals (left) celebrates with team president Michael Bidwill (right) after the Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers 26-20 in overtime of the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL’s major media partners remain the traditional television networks of NBC, CBS and FOX, the cable network ESPN and the satellite provider DirecTV. But it’s only a matter of time before an online distributor also becomes a major media partner of the NFL.

That’s the word from Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, who said today on PFT Live that he expects an online video distributor like Amazon, Netflix or YouTube will some day out-bid the traditional television companies to broadcast NFL games.

“There’s no doubt it’s coming,” Bidwill said. “The question is how we transition into it. What we need to do is do a great job of listening to our fans about how they want to consume NFL content. Our fans are switching to digital, they’re switching to handheld and mobile devices, and we want to respond to that.”

The Cardinals teamed with Amazon for the new documentary series All or Nothing, which debuts July 1 on Amazon Prime. Bidwill is excited about the way that series can help the team draw fans from outside Arizona.

“This was a great way for us to tell our story across the country,” he said. “We want to expand our footprint, expand our fan base.”

Eventually, the NFL hopes to expand the fan base around the world, and the path to doing that will be broadcasting games online.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Former NFL Head Coach Buddy Ryan watches the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts warm up before the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Joe Namath says all the Jets on the Super Bowl III-winning team loved their defensive line coach, Buddy Ryan.

Bills WR Sammy Watkins might be better off not talking about his injury.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick says it was Buddy Ryan’s 46 that drove the two-back offense out of the NFL.

The Dolphins like their depth on the offensive line.

Buddy Ryan may deserve a bit of credit for the great 2000 Ravens defense.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says Buddy Ryan had a huge impact on him.

Jim Brown says suspended Browns WR Josh Gordon has been to rehab and is taking his recovery seriously.

Steelers LB James Harrison plays a version of volleyball with a heavy medicine ball.

The Texans like the versatility of TE Ryan Griffin.

Former Colts RB Zurlon Tipton, who died on Tuesday in an accidental shooting, is remembered as one of the loudest and funniest players in the locker room.

Jaguars OT Josh Wells is trying to learn the little things about playing on the offensive line in the NFL.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey talks about the lengths fans will go to to get him to give the ball to the players on their fantasy teams.

Former Broncos QB Peyton Manning says he was honored to call the late coach Pat Summitt a friend.

Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin is taking young receivers under his wing.

Here’s a look at some of the best videos on the Raiders’ website.

Ex-Chargers QB Moses Moreno is now a high school ref.

Does Cowboys QB Tony Romo have one of the worst contracts in the NFL?

Ex-Giants WR Preston Parker will avoid jail time in a plea deal on cocaine charges.

In Philadelphia, they still debate whether Buddy Ryan was good for the franchise.

Washington CB Josh Norman was name-dropped by Jay Z.

Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and other 1985 Bears loved Buddy Ryan.

The Lions are choosing their first cheerleading squad.

The Packers’ shareholders are considering a new director.

Former Vikings coach Bud Grant has fond memories of Buddy Ryan.

The Falcons think they have an improved offense.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera considered Buddy Ryan a great mentor.

Saints TE Coby Fleener is a self-proclaimed nerd.

Former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden says Pat Summitt made an impression on him.

When Buddy Ryan became coach of the Cardinals, he memorably said, “You’ve got a winner in town.”

New Rams assistant coach Mike Singletary was a teammate of head coach Jeff Fisher on the 1980s Bears.

Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin promises his new contract won’t turn him soft.

49ers DL Glenn Dorsey bought a home for $2.7 million.

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NFLPA agrees: NFL needs “credible evidence” before players must respond to PED charges

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13:  The logo for Al Jazeera America is displayed outside of the cable news channel's offices on January 13, 2016 in New York City. Al Jazeera America, which debuted in August 2013,  announced today that they are shutting down. Employees of the struggling news network known as AJAM were informed of the decision during an all-hands staff meeting on Wednesday afternoon.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The plain language of the NFL’s PED policy indicates that, before a player ever talks to the league or otherwise provides information regarding a potential violation arising from anything other than a positive test, the league must have “credible documented evidence” that a violation happened. Per a source with knowledge of the union’s thinking on the issue, the NFL Players Association agrees with that assessment and procedure.

Put as simply as possible, if the league believes that it has “credible documented evidence” of a violation arising from something other than a positive PED test, the league should impose discipline, which then triggers the obligation of the players to provide information via the appeal process.

Although NFLPA spokesman George Atallah didn’t put it that bluntly during a Tuesday appearance on PFT Live, that was the clear gist of his remarks.

“The interpretation has been there for many, many years that we need, from our perspective, we need some sort of credible evidence beyond just eight lines in a dialogue where the main source recanted everything he said in order to trigger a full-blown investigation the way the league has positioned it,” Atallah said. “So I think from our point of view, we are where we are because in the report from December they had one source, that one source recanted everything. You know, for a guy like James Harrison, I mean we pulled all of the documentary. Our attorneys watched the whole thing over and over again to see what exactly was alleged during that report and all we came up with for a guy like James was literally eight lines of a dialogue in a piece where Charlie Sly, the source, recanted all of his statements. So we certainly don’t think that that’s enough to merit an investigation. You and I both know that people say a bunch of crazy things on media and social media and if were in a world where the league wanted to investigate every time somebody tweeted something about a player they’d have a whole heck of a lot of staff they’d need to hire to do that.”

Thus, even though the NFL has said that the interviews of the players implicated in the Al Jazeera report will happen at the opening of training camp, the NFLPA does not yet believe the time has come for the players to speak.

“We’re at the point now where the process, we believe, dictates that we need specific credible evidence to make a determination and recommendation for how the players are going to move forward,” Atallah said. “The league has not provided that evidence yet beyond, again, the initial report that was there. They have said to us that the MLB is looking into it and USADA is looking into it. That frankly so far is not enough.”

The league apparently thinks it is enough, to the point where the NFL apparently will take action against players who fail to submit to an interview.

“If you take the league at their word from the letter that they leaked on Friday, they are threatening to impose some sort of discipline if the players don’t cooperate so I would assume that that would trigger some sort of mechanism by which an arbitrator would have to resolve this,” Atallah said. “Our position [is] pretty clear. They have not provided anything beyond the report to substantiate doing a full-blown investigation and the dance goes on.”

It could be, as suggested in our Tuesday item, that the league doesn’t want to impose discipline based simply on the Al Jazeera report, and that the NFL hopes the players will say something during interviews that will in some way conflict with whatever objective evidence the NFL has gathered, justifying the finding of a violation. The NFLPA strongly objects to this approach, if that’s what the NFL is doing.

“That’s not a fair due process and I think that is a concern that has been highlighted in the way that they have done other investigations in the past,” Atallah said. “If this was a league office that had a shred of integrity left then there would not be this issue at the moment and we would have figured out a way already to resolve this. If we had a group of players and a group of fans and media who had a shred of confidence in the way that they proceed with these issues we would not be having this discussion about whether or not they have the right to investigate or not because we would have resolved this thing already. They’re not in the business of resolving issues quietly, amicably, and in a way that’s best for business. They just are interested in imposing their will any which way they want, and we’re always going to stand up for our players rights.”

If that means the players will refuse to be interviewed, this one could get a lot more interesting once training camps open.

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Jim Kelly getting stronger as he goes through cancer battle: “I feel awesome”

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly walks off the field before the Buffalo Bills play the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly didn’t want to dive back into his recent controversial comments about the future of coach Rex Ryan, but said something that was even more important to Bills fans.

Via Jack Woods of the Buffalo News, Kelly said he was feeling much stronger than he has during his battle with cancer, enough so that he can get back to throwing the football around with the kids at his annual camp.

I feel awesome,” Kelly said. “I’m at playing weight. I’m at 230, which is cool. I gained a little over 30 pounds back, which is good. I got the green light to work out now, which is good. I just started back. Hopefully I’ll get a bit stronger.”

“I’ve been through so much. I just live each day, and whatever happens, happens. I’ve lived a very good life. My life has definitely changed, but the attitude is still the same.”

He joked that he’s starting with the youngest players at his camp, and working his way up the ranks to gauge his progress.

“The more I get loose, the more I’ll start going up, maybe with the seniors,” Kelly said. “I will do it with the seniors because they’re already talking their crap. I’ll have to go out and show them what an old man can do.”

The fact he’s able to get out there and throw — and talk a little trash — is an excellent sign for one of Buffalo’s true icons.

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Troy Williamson says it wasn’t his eyes, it was his head

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 5:  Troy Williamson #82 of the Minnesota Vikings drops the ball during the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Monster Park on November 5, 2006 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings tried everything to tap into the potential they saw in wide receiver Troy Williamson.

When you draft a guy seventh overall in 2005, that’s what you do.

But after watching him struggle to catch the ball, the Vikings decided he had depth-perception problems, and he had special exercises prescribed to try to fix it.

That didn’t have anything to do with it,” Williamson said, via Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I had every physical attribute to be an elite or even a good receiver in the NFL. I always go back to my mental game, as far as reading too much into things people were saying in the papers. When I was in college or high school I never read the papers, I never looked at what anyone said. That took a big mental toll on me. I’d say that was the biggest thing. Any player I talk to now that’s going.

“Any player I talk to now that’s going into the NFL, I tell them football of course is physical but it’s more mental than anything. When I look now at prospects who don’t pan out, I go back to my own situation as far as having all the tools but not having it there mentally when it came down to it.”

Of course, the dastardly newspapers might not have been the reason (he caught just 79 passes in three seasons for the Vikings), who traded him to Jacksonville for a sixth-round pick. Williamson was out of the league by 2010, but he was definitely glad to be out from under former Vikings coach Brad Childress, who once withheld a game check when Williamson went to South Carolina when his grandmother died.

“For me, it was about not understanding the importance of family and some of the things I had going on back home,” Williamson said. “And I never really got a true apology for that. He went back and gave me the game check back — which I donated to charity to show it wasn’t even about the money — but that was because the veterans like Antoine Winfield and Bryant McKinnie went back at it. They know the importance of family and other things bigger than football.

“So that was the time that I lost all respect [for Childress]. After that, it was tough playing for him, and I was kind of glad I got to leave Minnesota and get out from under him.”

He’s probably not the only one to share that sentiment, but hearing it out loud also underscores the business realities many players encounter, when they realize just playing the game well is no longer enough.

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Darren McFadden says elbow injury came from slipping on wet cement

Darren McFadden AP

Turns out Darren McFadden didn’t injure his elbow diving for a dropped phone after all.

According to Pete Perkins in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, McFadden said the injury actually came from slipping on wet cement next to a swimming pool.

“I just slipped down and landed on my elbow,” McFadden said. “My phone was in my hand, and so people kind of put that story out.”

It came as a surprise when McFadden suddenly had to have elbow surgery prior to the team’s veteran mini-camp earlier this month. The Cowboys initially said McFadden suffered the injury while trying to catch his cell phone and keep it from hitting the ground.

McFadden said he has a few more weeks in his arm brace but feels great otherwise. He had 1,089 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games with Dallas last season.

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Gore, others reflect on Zurlon Tipton’s death

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 28:  Zurlon Tipton #37 of the Indianapolis Colts carries the ball during the second half of a game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 28, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

The death of ex-Colts running back Zurlon Tipton hit Frank Gore hard.

Teammates for much of last season, Gore and Tipton spent plenty of time together in the running back meeting room and in practices.

“This really messed me up,” Colts running back Frank Gore told the Indy Star. “He was a good dude. He really wanted football to work out. He was always great with the playbook but most of all, he was a great person. He loved to have fun. He was always loud and acting crazy in the locker room. That’s just who he was.”

The Colts retweeted a series of tweets on Tipton from current Colts players on the team’s official Twitter account.

Tipton played in 16 games for the Colts over the last two seasons. He was killed Tuesday when a gun he was carrying in a duffel bag accidentally discharged and Tipton was hit. He died after being transported to a Detroit hospital.

“Rest in peace, Zurlon,” Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Tipton family.”

Tipton was a four-year contributor at Central Michigan and had 19 rushing touchdowns in 2012, his junior season.

“This is shocking and tragic news, and our condolences go out to Zurlon’s family and friends,” a statement from the Central Michigan athletic department said. “We knew Zurlon as a good guy, a captain and a student who grew as a person and a player on his way to getting his degree at CMU. What he did on the field in his career established him as one of the top running backs in CMU history.”

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Seahawks, Baldwin agree on four-year extension

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks and wide receiver Doug Baldwin have agreed to a four-year contract extension, per multiple reports.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the new deal is worth “north of $11 million per year,” and Mike Garafolo of FS1 reported that it averages $11.5 million per season.

Baldwin had been set to make $4 million in 2016, the final year of the contract he was playing under prior to the extension. Baldwin, 27, has been a key part of the Seahawks offense since making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2011.

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said earlier this month that team intended to get Baldwin signed “for a good while” and that extending him was “a big deal.”

Baldwin’s 78 catches, 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 were all career highs.

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Cowboys could see Ezekiel Elliott get 300 carries

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott during the team's rookie camp at Happy Valley in Irving, Texas, on Saturday, May 7, 2016. (Brandon Wade/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS) Getty Images

The Cowboys plan to make rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott a workhorse.

That’s the word from David Helman of DallasCowboys.com, who writes that Elliott will have somewhere in the range of 280 to 300 carries, or around 18 a game, in 2016.

That would suggest that the Cowboys plan to use Elliott about as much as any NFL team uses any running back. Last year Adrian Peterson led the NFL with 327 carries, while Doug Martin was second with 288 carries. If Elliott really carries the ball 18 times a game, he could compete for the league lead in carries.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to the way Cowboys coach Jason Garrett used running back DeMarco Murray in 2014, when Murray had 392 carries, the most for anyone in any season in the NFL in the last 10 years. Garrett has proven he won’t hesitate to give a running back a heavy workload.

Elliott won’t have that heavy a workload. But he’s going to get the ball a lot this year.

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Seahawks rookie QB facing one assault charge from bowl game incident

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 29:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs carries the ball against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 29, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks rookie quarterback Trevone Boykin faces one count of misdemeanor assault for his role in a Dec. 31 fight in San Antonio that resulted in Boykin being sent home before his final college game, TMZ reported Tuesday.

Boykin was initially charged with a felony count of assualting a public servant, public intoxication and resisting arrest. Court documents say Boykin struck an officer trying to take him into custody after he was removed by staff members from a bar. He didn’t play in the Alamo Bowl for TCU after the charges.

The report said Boykin faces up to a year in a jail on the assault charge he’s facing and is due to be arraigned in August.

Boykin signed with the Seahawks after the draft. The Seahawks went through the spring with only Boykin and Jake Heaps in their quarterback room behind Tarvaris Jackson, and with Jackson still unsigned and now facing gun charges after an incident last weekend, Boykin could end up being the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

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