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Arrest makes Tyrann Mathieu likely to enter the NFL draft

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Tyrann Mathieu, the highly talented LSU defensive back who was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year but kicked off the team this year after multiple failed drug tests, has been arrested for marijuana possession in Baton Rouge. Mathieu’s arrest makes it a near certainty that LSU will not let him back on the team next year, meaning he’s likely heading for the 2013 NFL draft.

And that means Mathieu will be one of the most intriguing prospects in next year’s draft. As our own Evan Silva wrote when Mathieu was kicked off the LSU team in August, Mathieu’s ability to change games from the “joker” defensive back position in LSU’s defense was extraordinary. Mathieu forced 11 fumbles, recovered eight fumbles, intercepted four passes recorded six sacks during his two seasons with the Tigers. He was also a tremendous special teams player who returned two punts for touchdowns last year. There’s a reason this guy was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

But there’s also a reason this guy was kicked off the team at LSU, and it’s because he’s a knucklehead at best and someone with a serious drug problem that will never allow him to realize his potential at worst. If he can’t stop getting in trouble now — when he has vowed to clean up his act and said publicly he wants to prove he deserves another shot at playing for LSU — why would any NFL team believe he can stop getting in trouble when he’s a professional?

There are also questions about whether Mathieu is good enough as a pure cover corner to match up with elite NFL receivers, and about whether a player who likes to deliver big hits but weighs just 175 pounds can hold up over the course of a 16-game NFL season. So Mathieu wouldn’t necessarily be a high first-round pick even if he were a choir boy off the field.

Mathieu made so many spectacular plays in two seasons at LSU, however, that some NFL team is bound to become enamored with him. If we’re going to compare him to talented but troubled draft prospects from this year, Mathieu is probably closer to Janoris Jenkins, who went in the second round to the Rams, than to Vontaze Burfict, who went undrafted before signing with the Bengals.

Then again, at the rate Mathieu is getting into off-field trouble, there’s still plenty of time for his draft stock to plummet.

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Mike Matthews approaching Steelers shot the right way

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Being part of one of the first families of football has given Mike Matthews the chance to learn plenty of lessons.

But the perspective he gained last year gave him a chance to teach one to his Hall of Fame father.

The son of legendary offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, Mike is fighting for a chance to make the Steelers roster this year. He spent last fall out of football and selling shoulder pads, after being released by the Browns.

And his father Bruce told Max Bultman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a recent conversation with his son that suggested that he’s in good shape, regardless.

“I still want to play, passionately, but I realize that this is a very small part of my life, even if it does go great,” Bruce said Mike told him. “It was kind of humbling to me, because I’m thinking, ‘Oh gosh. I should have said that to him instead of he to me.’ ”

If Mike is going to make it, it will be under the eye of someone the family knows well. Steelers line coach Mike Munchak played with Bruce on some great Oilers lines and hired him as an assistant when he was coaching the Titans, but won’t be cutting the kid of a friend any slack. Munchak has cut one of Matthews’ kids before (Kevin, in Tennessee), so that much is known.

“For me, it was weird to see that side of football,” Mike said. “Because my dad played 19 years, and it’s like, ‘You play until you don’t want to play any more,’ and that was what I thought.”

Mike has an outside shot to make the Steelers this year, working at guard as well as center. But whether he makes it or not, he’s learned that nothing is owed to him because of his family name, and that whatever happens will be a short chapter in his story.

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Corey Linsley learned his lesson about rushing back from injury

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Packers center Corey Linsley sat out the team’s offseason workouts in 2016 and then went on to miss training camp, preseason and the first eight weeks of the regular season because of a hamstring injury.

Linsley was a spectator again this spring after having ankle surgery early in the offseason, but he says that the lesson he learned last year will keep his absence from extending as long as it did last year. Linsley started working out on his own around this time last year in hopes of being healthy for camp and wound up with a setback that cost him half a season.

“I just have to continue to follow the plan, whereas last year I maybe didn’t,” Linsley said, via ESPN.com. “I was trying to go ahead of the plan because I thought I was ahead of it, instead of just trusting the process that the trainers and the strength coaches had given me. I was trying to beat it, like the tough guy I am. I was trying to get ahead of it. And I ended up behind. Now it’s a matter of knowing I’ll be OK as long as I follow this plan.”

JC Tretter stepped in at center in place of Linsley last year, but he’s gone to Cleveland as a free agent. Guard T.J. Lang also left this offseason, so the Packers have enough to deal with on the offensive line without worrying about replacing their starting center and Linsley has plenty to gain from staying healthy as he’ll be playing out the final year of his contract.

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Bradley Roby: Bengals were going to pick me in 2014

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The Broncos have an embarrassment of riches at the cornerback position. They nearly didn’t.

In a recent profile from Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, cornerback Bradley Roby said that the Bengals had told him he’d be their pick with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2014 draft.

“Don’t worry about it,” Roby said the Bengals told him. “We’re going to pick you.”

They didn’t, possibly due to the OVI charge that came after the Bengals made that vow. Yes, the team that routinely is accused of giving too many second chances to athletes who get into trouble away from the field chose not to give one to Roby, drafting cornerback Darqueze Dennard instead.

And while neither Roby nor Dennard have become full-time starters with their respective teams, Roby is stuck behind Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr. (The Bengals apparently expect Dennard to become a full-time starter sooner than later, given the decision to pick up his fifth-year option at $8.5 million for 2018.)

Adding to the intrigue is that Broncos coach Vance Joseph served as the defensive backs coach in Cincinnati three years ago. It would be interesting to know whether and to what extent Joseph lobbied for Roby or, alternatively, took the position that he shouldn’t be drafted after the arrest. For now, it sounds as if Joseph believes in Roby.

“Roby is a young corner that could be really, really special. He’s playing behind two Pro Bowl guys,” Joseph told Jhabvala. “From time to time, he has to push himself to continue to become what they are. That’s tough because on most teams, he would be a starter.”

Roby believes that, eventually, he’ll be a starter in Denver.

“My time is coming,” Roby said. “I’m not really worried about that. I just want them to know that I’m a baller and when I get on that field I’m going to ball.”

When he’s had chances during his first three NFL seasons, he has done well. And, at some point, the Broncos will have to choose whether to keep paying big money to Talib and Harris or to give some of that money to Roby and backfill with a younger player — unless Denver can justify devoting significant cap dollars to three cornerbacks.

If Denver can’t, Roby can always sign as a free agent with the Bengals.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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Will uncertainty about his future affect Bills QB Tyrod Taylor this season?

Dolphins rookie WR Isaiah Ford got some advice from Steve Smith.

LB David Harris will wear No. 51 with the Patriots.

QB Christian Hackenberg remains a big unknown for the Jets.

The Ravens want to get the run game going.

A look back at the early days of the Bengals franchise.

Cameron Erving feels he’s in a better place on the Browns offensive line.

Steelers C Mike Matthewsoffensive line coach is his father Bruce’s former teammate Mike Munchak.

WR Braxton Miller’s size and speed hold appeal for the Texans.

The Colts have employed several good receivers over the years.

Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin graded well in pass coverage last year.

The Titans hope OL Corey Levin can play as well as he can spell.

Broncos LB Von Miller was the highest-rated defensive player in the NFL’s player poll.

The Chiefs maintain an optimistic view about their young receivers.

Raiders P Marquette King had an issue with Southwest Airlines.

Breaking down the Chargers defensive backs with their position coach.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ visit with the Pope inspired a song.

Former Giants RB Brandon Jacobs thinks his old team can win the Super Bowl.

An attempt to name the top Eagles offensive players of the last 17 years.

Things appear to be trending down for LB Will Compton with the Redskins.

The Bears may be taking on a different look at tight end.

Running through the Lions’ left tackle options with Taylor Decker injured.

Packers DL Dean Lowry hopes to build on a good finish to last season.

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook threw out the first pitch at a Marlins game.

Falcons LB Vic Beasley has a Clemson-themed Camaro.

Dwight Howard now plays basketball in Charlotte and hopes to connect with QB Cam Newton.

Assessing LB Alex Okafor’s fit in the Saints defense.

Will former Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber make the Hall of Fame?

Undrafted rookie CB Sojourn Shelton got a feel for the Cardinals by watching their Amazon show from last year.

The Rams want a better experience for fans at home games this year.

Do the Falcons provide a hint about how the 49ers’ defensive line will look this year?

A guide to checking out Seahawks training camp this summer.

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Terrell Owens, Michael Vick to debut flag football venture

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Basketball fans looking for a fix this summer can take in the Big 3, a three-on-three competition full of retired players headed by rapper Ice Cube and former Raiders executive Amy Trask.

Football fans may have a similar option next summer, if tonight’s test goes well.

According to Sal Pizarro of the Bay Area News Group, former stars including Terrell Owens and Michael Vick will be among the players involved in tonight’s game of the American Flag Football League in San Jose.

The group plans to play a full schedule next year, but tonight’s game is their version of a preseason game, to work out the kinks of the game and the broadcasting.

“When I think about football in the future for guys who want to further their career, this could be an opportunity for them,” Vick said in a video posted on the AFFL’s Facebook page. “They could get enjoyment and fulfillment out of the flag league. I just wanted to be one of the first pioneers being involved.”

Former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia will be there as well, providing color commentary.

If nothing else, it’s an outlet for former players, and something to fill time during the slowest month of the calendar in sports. And hopefully, no one gets hurt, as a couple of guys did during the Big 3 debut Saturday night.

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Connor Barwin feeling right at home with new team, in old spot

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Connor Barwin had proven himself in one defense, and felt like he was beginning to in another.

But even if he wasn’t hoping to be released by the Eagles after they transitioned him to a 4-3 defensive end, he fell into a comfortable spot, where he can again rush as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense of coordinator Wade Phillips with the Rams.

It was a big adjustment for me,” Barwin said of playing in a 4-3, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “I thought the last month of the season was probably my best four games. And I was excited to be back there and continue to adjust in that new role because it takes time.

“But that didn’t work out and this couldn’t be a better situation for me.”

It works, primarily, because it already has. Barwin played for Phillips during his most productive stretch in the league with the Texans, and the 30-year-old doesn’t appear to have lost a step to his old coach.

“He’s bigger and stronger than he was,” Phillips said. “He ran a 4.5-something at the [NFL scouting] combine when he came out, so he can run.

“But he’s a big, strong fast guy now.”

Barwin’s going to be counted on for more than just pass-rush with the Rams, as he was one of a number of veterans brought in this offseason to lend some ballast to a young team. And with the talent they already had on that side of the ball, it’s the kind of move that could pay big dividends for both the player and the team.

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Tom Brady finishes first in Top 100 players poll

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NFL Network likes to fill the slowest part of the offseason with a list of the Top 100 players in the league, and this year, for the first time, a player has repeated as No. 1.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ranked as the best player in the league in this year’s poll of players, the second time he has been so honored. Brady also finished first the first time NFL Network did the poll, in 2011. Other players to finish first are Aaron Rodgers in 2012, Adrian Peterson in 2013, Peyton Manning in 2014, J.J. Watt in 2015 and Cam Newton in 2016.

The value of the Top 100 players list has been questioned, as many players say that they and their fellow players don’t really take the voting — which asks players to list their Top 20 players — seriously. And every year there are some rankings that are head scratchers. This year Watt called his own ranking “a joke.”

After Brady, this year’s Top 5 consisted of No. 2 Von Miller, No. 3 Julio Jones, No. 4 Antonio Brown, No. 5 Khalil Mack, No. 6 Aaron Rodgers, No. 7 Ezekiel Elliott, No. 8 Odell Beckham, No. 9 Le’Veon Bell and No. 10 Matt Ryan.

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Former Dolphins step up to replace Jim Kiick’s lost Super Bowl ring

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Former Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick has been without his championship ring from Super Bowl VIII for a long time.

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins and some of his former teammates stepped up in an attempt to rectify the issue.

The Dolphins presented Kiick with a new ring a few weeks ago. However, the new ring is actually a replica of the ring for Super Bowl VII, which capped the Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 season.

It was nice to get it,” Kiick said. “Now I have two. The ring was more important than the money.”

Kiick spent the majority of his seven-year career with the Dolphins. He made two Pro Bowls in 1968 and 1969 and led the AFL with nine rushing touchdowns in 1969.

Kiick has been dealing with some mental impairment and is staying in an assisted living facility, according to a recent Sports Illustrated piece by S.L. Price. However, Kiick disputed the severity of his situation as asserted in the piece.

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Seahawks’ third-round pick Shaquill Griffin to be in mix for starting role

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Until Deshawn Shead can return from his torn ACL, the Seattle Seahawks will need to find at least a temporary option to start opposite Richard Sherman to begin the regular season.

While the leader in the clubhouse to earn the job is veteran Jeremy Lane, third-round pick Shaquill Griffin will likely factor into the discussion during training camp as well.

“The competition is wide open, these guys understand that,” defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. “I’ve said it for years, and I know people kind of look at me like I’m crazy, but Richard Sherman’s job is up for grabs. The competition is open, the best players are going to be out there and they’re going to play for us. The best guys are going to be out there, and if he shows he is more than able and more that capable of being out there and helping this football team, then he will play.”

Lane has played five seasons for Seattle and started a career-high nine games for the team last season. With Seattle shifting to utilize nickel defensive looks more frequently, Lane was a regular on the field. While he can play outside, the Seahawks have previously used him mostly in the slot. But with Shead not expected back until after the start of the season, Seattle needs another starter in the interim.

Griffin left a good impression during the limited activity of the offseason for Seattle’s coaches to envision how he could factor into the discussion as well.

“He’s got probably one of the best corner minds that we’ve had for a young guy around here,” Richard said. “That’s just in regards to leverage, positioning, the understanding of our coverages and where we need him to be. He has picked it up fairly quickly. We’re going to be really excited to see him strap it up and get out there and actually be able to compete for the football while it’s in the air. That’s going to be the next phase, but his technique has been improving day after day, and he has real strength. He has strength in his hands, you can tell he’s a powerful guy, and obviously his speed is there.”

Added head coach Pete Carroll: “He looks good. He looks really good. If you look at our draft class, I think I told you the other day, the guys look like they fit. They fit the expectations. He’s really diligent. He’s real fast. Technique-wise, it’s not hard for him to make it look right. Camp will be huge for him,” Carroll said.

Neiko Thorpe, sixth-round pick Mike Tyson, DeAndre Elliott and Pierre Desir will all factor in to the battle as well, but Lane and Griffin will head into camp as the favorites to win the job.

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Tamba Hali laments departure of John Dorsey in Kansas City

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Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali has seen good, and bad, front office management during his 11-year tenure in Kansas City.

He played through the final three years of Carl Peterson’s tenure in Kansas City and the rocky four years of Scott Pioli’s run before John Dorsey and Andy Reid took over in 2013. Dorsey and Reid have combined to lead the Chiefs to three playoff appearances in four seasons. So Hali is understandably a little caught off guard by Dorsey’s sudden departure from the Chiefs last week.

From a subjective opinion, I wasn’t too pleased,” Chiefs veteran linebacker Tamba Hali said Monday on Good Morning Football on the NFL Network. “I’m really fond of John. Mr. Dorsey, he’s done a tremendous job since he’s been with the organization so everything that happened the past week really caught a lot of us off guard. But I’m sure the Hunt family knows exactly what they’re doing with the re-signing of our coach Andy Reid. I think everything will be fine but Mr. Dorsey will be missed with the Chiefs.”

Dorsey signed Hali to a three-year extension with the Chiefs last year after Hali was named to a fifth straight Pro Bowl in 2015. The Chiefs compiled a 43-21 record in Dorsey’s four years as general manager.

Ryan Crowden, Scott Fitterer, Louis Riddick and Brent Veech are among the candidates to replace Dorsey.

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Adam Gase gives Ryan Tannehill vote of confidence

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Adam Gase wouldn’t make a prediction on Ryan Tannehill’s future a year ago after being hired by Miami. But after the Dolphins quarterback established career highs in completion percentage, touchdown percentage and passer rating in going 8-5, Gase gushes about Tannehill.

“We were put in a lot of tough positions last year,” Gase said, via Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network. “And I felt like — especially in our fourth-quarter games, which we had quite a few of them, he did a great job of leading our team [and] finding ways to win.

“Sometimes they weren’t pretty as far as how we had to win them, but I love the fact that he’s the same guy from start to finish. You see him get excited every once and awhile, but it’s probably one of those plays where he makes a good throw, and he gets crushed. But he’s the same guy all the time. And when you can find a guy like that there’s a lot there for us to just keep working on and find ways to get better.”

Gase wants Tannehill to become more aggressive this season, letting it rip, but Gase likes how far the former Texas A&M star has come in the past year.

“I think he’s really made a lot of strides from when I got here,” Gase said. “A lot of it has been his own development through experience.”

Tannehill, 29-35 in his first four seasons, has quieted critics for at least the moment.

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NFL Shop gets very confused about location of Washington’s team

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Apparently, the reluctance of some (I’m looking at me) to use the nickname of the Washington NFL franchise has created some confusion for the fine folks at NFLShop.com.

Via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, a line of “State Pride” license plates offered by the league has the Washington team logo over the outline of the state of Washington.

Of course, Washington is in D.C., with the name technically being the team’s only connection to the area. Home games currently are played in Maryland, and training camp currently is held in Virginia.

The link to the item is now dead. Hopefully, someone managed to order the thing before the item was yanked.

And, even more hopefully, the man for whom both the state and the capital were named is currently making the same face he was making in the portrait accompanying this article regarding the blunder, somewhere.

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Riddick is a candidate in Kansas City, but he hasn’t directly been contacted yet

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A strange situation emerged on Sunday morning, when the league-owned media conglomerate (i.e., partially owned by the Chiefs) reported that the Chiefs had reached out to ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive back Louis Riddick about interviewing for the unanticipated G.M. vacancy in Kanas City. Riddick, who presumably would be interested in interviewing for the job given his interest in the 49ers G.M. position earlier this year, took to Twitter to declare that he hasn’t been contacted by the Chiefs.

So what’s going on? One theory, as offered earlier today on the non-vacation vacation edition of the PFT Live podcast (and in the video attached to this post) is that Riddick simply hadn’t been contacted yet, but that he will be. In that case, his more prudent move arguably would have been: (1) to appreciate having his name in circulation for another G.M. job; and (2) to wait for what may have been inevitable.

As one media source explains it to PFT, the truth is that, technically, the Chiefs hadn’t directly contacted Riddick, but that the team had contacted his representation. Which allowed Riddick to technically claim that he hadn’t been contacted by the Chiefs.

So why did Riddick, who definitely is a candidate for the job, shout down the report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media on social media? It likely has something to do with what he said, or more accurately didn’t say, about the situation to ESPN. Another factor quite likely may be the fact that ESPN’s NFL information machinery ended up being scooped by a competitor — a dynamic that one specific reporter at ESPN is reputed to be very sensitive about, even if said reporter pretends publicly to not be.

For now, Riddick is continuing to pretend to not be a candidate for the Chiefs job, even though he is. It likely is a matter of time for him to interview, unless he withdraws his name or the team decides based on the clunky public denial to move on to another candidate.

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Teez Tabor’s mental makeup impresses Lions

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Some scouts questioned Teez Tabor’s lack of top-end speed after he ran a 4.62 at the combine, but Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has downplayed concerns by mentioning the cornerback’s instincts and “reactionary athleticism.”

Tabor has impressed Lions cornerbacks coach Tony Oden with his mental makeup.

“I consider him a balcony thinker as opposed to a ground-level floor thinker,” Oden said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “So he wants to know what the guy next to him is doing. Before I go over it he starts to think about, ‘OK, what if this route happens? What’s our adjustment vs. that?’ But it’s in a positive way. Sometimes you get guys doing it, trying to just kind of get on your good side. He’s doing it because it’s a legit question.”

While Oden cautions that Tabor has much to learn, the second-round pick has impressed thus far. Tabor will compete with Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden for time opposite Darius Slay.

A three-year starter at Florida, Tabor made 104 tackles, nine interceptions and 37 pass breakups.

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Ezekiel Elliott relies on hurdling to avoid getting hit in the knees

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Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will appear on the cover of a magazine while wearing no covering on his body. He’s the featured athlete in this year’s edition of the ESPN The Magazine “body issue,” which features “all nude, tastefully done” photos of various athletes.

In the press release announcing the placement of Elliott on the cover of the issue, ESPN included some quotes from Elliott, the most interesting of which relates to his habit of hurdling. Though he doesn’t say it directly, the clear message is that he’s trying to avoid taking low hits to the knee.

“One of my signature things is to hurdle people,” Elliott says. “I think it’s one of the most impressive physical feats I’m able to do, being a bigger, physical running back. I don’t have the highest vertical, but I think it’s more of a mental thing. Being a bigger running back, defensive backs will go lower on you — they tend to cut-tackle you. I just kind of gives them the aspect where they have to worry about me jumping over them and right through them; it adds an aspect to my game. I ran hurdles in high school. I was a really good hurdler.”

To continue to be a really good running back, Elliott needs to be durable. Which means it will be important for him to avoid taking the kind of hits that could make mincemeat of his knees.

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