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High ankle sprains for Raiders backs, but coach won’t rule out

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Here’s why many coaches, pressed on injuries, will begin answers with “I’m not a doctor, . . .”

Raiders coach Dennis Allen said running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson suffered high ankle sprains in Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers. But while most consider that something that takes four-t0-six weeks to heal, Allen said he’s not ruling either player out for Sunday’s game at Baltimore.

According to CSNBayArea.com, Allen said X-rays and an MRI on McFadden came back negative, and he could still play this week. If you’re confused, get in line.

Allen also said that defensive lineman Desmond Bryant was out of the hospital and resting, after leaving the game with an irregular heartbeat.

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Broncos waive Paul Cornick

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The Broncos were busy when it came to acquiring offensive linemen in the last few days with two draft picks and four undrafted rookies joining the roster.

It’s not a big surprise that the Broncos would be adding new blockers with head coach Gary Kubiak installing a different style of offense than the team ran under John Fox and Adam Gase over the last three seasons. It’s also not surprising that all the new arrivals will lead to some departures from players who no longer fit the bill.

On Monday, the Broncos announced that they waived tackle Paul Cornick. Cornick spent two years on the Denver practice squad before landing a spot on the active roster for the 2014 season. Cornick played 12 games last year and made six starts on the right side of the offensive line in the middle of the season as the team shuffled their options in hopes of finding an effective unit.

Fox and Gase are now in Chicago, which could offer Cornick a landing spot as a free agent if the team is looking to increase their depth options up front on offense. The Broncos also waived wide receiver Jeremy Kelley on Monday.

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Carson Palmer was on field with Cardinals on Monday

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The Cardinals started the second phase of their offseason workouts on Monday, which means that they are permitted to start running plays on the field without helmets or pads.

Among the Cardinals doing that with the first team was quarterback Carson Palmer, who took part in all of the team’s drills in his first practice work since tearing his ACL last season. Palmer said it was hard to remain patient during his rehab, especially since he feels like he has to “start over from scratch” mechanically as a result of the injury.

“I’m always competing against other quarterbacks in the league in my head, and there are a lot of guys not coming off injuries,” Palmer said, via the team’s website. “I have to work that much harder, spend that much more time on it. But that part’s easy for me. I like the work. I like the feeling I have when I go home, just knowing, ‘Man, I’m done. I couldn’t have done any more reps today. I don’t even want my kids to tackle me when I walk in the door today because I’m so tired.’ I enjoy that feeling. That part’s not an issue for me.”

Palmer will have some limitations when the team starts their OTA work, but all signs point to a full return for training camp that puts Palmer on track for a long-awaited return to the starting lineup.

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Steelers line coach admits he was “spoiled” by his stability

Ravens quarterback Flacco  throws despite pass pressure by the Steelers Cameron Heyward during their NFL football game in Baltimore Reuters

The Steelers have needed to get younger on defense for some time.

But having such a veteran core also has obvious benefits, though Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell admits he was “spoiled.”

Having the trio of Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel for so long was the foundation of a very good defense for a very long time, which isn’t lost on them as they rebuild.

You are talking about fans and other people — I was spoiled,” Mitchell said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “How often do you get a Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, and Aaron Smith who play for you for 10 or more years? I was spoiled.

“It made my job very easy. I was spoiled. That doesn’t happen. You guys write about sports. How many teams can you write about that had three guys that played that well for that long of a period of time year in and year out? It made my job easy.”

The end of that era was final in March, when Keisel was released. They continued on the rebuild by using a sixth-rounder on Leterrius Walton from Central Michigan, to go with 2014 draft picks Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers, along with Cam Heyward and Steve McLendon.

“I’m looking for that. I think we are going to have that here again,” Mitchell said. “We are still a little young. Cam Heyward is going to be a heck of a football player. I think Tuitt’s best football is ahead of him. I think Steven McLendon is a guy that stayed in here, worked hard day in and day out. We cut him about four times. He had a never-say-never attitude.

“I think the same thing with Dan McCullers. . . . He’s in great shape right now, he understands what we are going to do and he’s here. I’m excited about this football team. I’m excited about the defensive line.”

It might not be a group that spoils him the way his old group did, but it had become clear the time for change had come.

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Joe Barksdale works out for Falcons

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The Falcons added one tackle to the roster in the draft and it looks like they have thoughts of adding some more experienced help to their offensive line as well.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that the team had veteran tackle Joe Barksdale in for a workout. Barksdale has started 29 games as a right tackle for the Rams over the last two years and represents a potential upgrade over Atlanta’s incumbent at the position Ryan Schraeder.

Barksdale has drawn interest from the Titans and he’s also been linked to a return to the Rams, something St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said remained a possibility when he spoke to the media during the draft. That hasn’t led to a deal, though, and the trip to Atlanta could result in an improved offer from the Rams if they think the Falcons will wind up signing him away in the coming days.

The Falcons drafted tackle Jake Rodgers in the seventh round last Saturday and signed Mike Person as a free agent, but things have otherwise been quiet on the acquisition front on Atlanta’s offensive line.

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Zach Mettenberger not giving up easily (though he will eventually)

Zach Mettenberger AP

Yes, the Titans stuck to their pick and drafted Marcus Mariota. Yes, they plan to start him.

Someone should probably mention those two facts to incumbent quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who believes he still has a shot at the starting job there.

Titans tackle Taylor Lewan, who is Mettenberger’s closest friend on the team, said the second-year passer is determined to hang onto the job which was bestowed upon him midway through last season when all the Titans’ other options were either hurt or useless.

“That is the mentality that Zach has. He thinks of himself as a starter, and the guys in the locker room do also. I don’t think he is going to give it up easily,” Lewan told Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “Mariota, I don’t know the guy and I am sure he is a great worker and from everything I hear about him he’s a great guy. But Zach is not the kind of guy who in conflict is going to flee. He’s going to fight it out.”

Lewan said he went by Mettenberger’s house after Mariota was drafted, and was with him at workouts at the team facility Friday and Monday. Lewan also said Mettenberger never asked to be traded, blaming that report on his agent.

“Obviously being 23 years old, you don’t ever want to see that happen. It’s hard man, that stuff is tough. If I was in that situation I’d have a tougher time than he did,” Lewan said. “But the kind of guy Mettenberger is, he, . . . doesn’t care what round someone is drafted in or what pick necessarily. He is there to be successful and he is going to work his butt off.”

The Titans were talking up Mettenberger all offseason (while they were fishing for trade offers for the No. 2 pick), so it stands to reason he should have confidence. But he should also realize that he’s a backup again, with Mariota in town, the offense is likely going to skew away from his strengths and toward those of the guy they picked in the first round.

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Mychal Kendricks joins Eagles workouts

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Linebacker Mychal Kendricks opted not to take part in the first phase of the Eagles’ offseason workout program and found his way into the swirl of trade rumors that enveloped the team leading up to the draft.

The Eagles never wound up making the big jump up the draft board in the first round with a package including Kendricks, though, and coach Chip Kelly said after the first round ended that he expected Kendricks to be with the team as they move forward toward the 2015 season.

The next step forward was the start of the second phase of workouts, which include on-field work, on Monday and Kendricks decided to make an appearance. According to multiple reports, Kendricks was at the team’s facility and taking part in the session with his teammates for the first time this offseason.

Kendricks joins Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans at inside linebacker for the Eagles and that depth is part of the reason why Kendricks’s name came up in trade chatter in the first place. It’s also why there’s probably still a chance for a deal if someone should make Chip Kelly an appealing offer down the road before Kendricks starts the final year of his contract with Philly.

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Lawrence Taylor Jr. gets 10 years in prison for sex crimes

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Lawrence Taylor Jr., son of Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, will spend the next 10 years in prison after a plea deal on statutory rape and child molestation charges.

Taylor took the plea just before his trial was set to start on Monday in Cobb County, Georgia.

The 33-year-old Taylor was accused of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old girls in 2012 and 2013.

Lawrence Taylor Sr., who played for the Giants from 1981 to 1993, has had his own legal issues, including a guilty plea to charges of patronizing a prostitute and sexual misconduct in connection with an encounter with an underage sex worker.

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Bills, Dolphins courting La’el Collins

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The always-intriguing AFC East currently has gotten even more interesting.

With former LSU offensive lineman La’El Collins undrafted in the wake of a double-murder investigation for which he isn’t a suspect but hasn’t been fully exonerated, two teams in the AFC East are actively pursuing Collins.

Via Ben Wallace of the New Orleans Advocate, the Bills and Dolphins have scheduled meetings with Collins.  A league source tells PFT that Bills coach Rex Ryan has traveled to Baton Rouge to visit Collins.  Ryan is particularly interested in converting Collins to guard.

Other teams remain on the fence about Collins, erring on the side of shying away from him until he receives unequivocal clearance.  But as with any other player, 31 teams can shout “no”; it only takes one to whisper “yes.”  With two teams in the AFC East interested, that “yes” could be a lot louder than that.

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Kam Chancellor’s half-brother Keenan Lambert among Seahawks undrafted free agents

Keenan Lambert AP

In addition to reaching an agreement with 34-year-old long snapper and former Green Beret Nate Boyer, the Seattle Seahawks have brought in Kam Chancellor’s half-brother as a part of their undrafted free agent class.

Keenan Lambert, a safety from Norfolk State, is among the 12 undrafted free agents to reach deals with the Seahawks following the conclusion of the draft on Saturday. Lambert and Chancellor share the same mother, Karen Lambert.

Lambert recently joined many members of the Seahawks for their unofficial offseason workouts in Hawaii in April.

In addition to Boyer and Lambert, the Seahawks agreed to terms with Idaho tackle Jesse Davis, Arizona wide receiver Austin Hill, LSU safety Ronald Martin, Georgia Tech linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, Central Michigan running back Thomas Rawls, Auburn cornerback Trovon Reed, West Georgia defensive end Tory Slater, dismissed former Ohio State running back Rod Smith and UT-San Antonio safety Triston Wade.

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Spielman won’t say whether “commitment” will be made to Peterson

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Contrary to whatever it was that Cris Carter was hinting about last week, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t traded. And Peterson’s agent has acknowledged that a trade won’t happen — but that the Vikings should extend “a commitment to make him retire as a Viking.”

Appearing recently on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman declined to comment on whether that commitment will be made.

“He is a player under contract,” Spielman said. “We never discuss with any of our players any financial consequences or anything financial with players’ contracts. We never discuss them publicly. That is kept internally, hopefully between the agent, the player, and ourselves, regardless of what the player is. There’s nothing I can tell you. All I can tell you at this point he is under contract with the Vikings. We intend to honor his contract in the ’15 season as we look forward to having him rejoin our team.”

Apart from whether a “commitment” will be made to Peterson, Spielman made it clear that he wants Peterson to remain with the team indefinitely.

“I think Adrian has done a lot for this organization,” Spielman said. “He made a mistake. He’s done a lot for this community. If we didn’t believe in Adrian Peterson, he wouldn’t be here. . . . He paid his consequences for that mistake and I think it’s time for everybody to just move on.”

The only remaining question is whether Peterson will show up for any portion of the offseason program, and whether he’ll appear for training camp. If he chooses not to play in 2015, he’ll owe the Vikings $2.4 million in previously-paid bonus money. If he plays, he’ll get $12.75 million.

If he shows up for the upcoming Organized Team Activities, he’ll get another $250,000 — making it an even $13 million for 2015.

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Pettine confirms McCown is the favorite to start over Manziel

Mike Pettine, Johnny Manziel AP

Browns coach Mike Pettine says Josh McCown looks like he’ll open training camp as the starting quarterback, ahead of Johnny Manziel.

Asked on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland if McCown is the favorite to be the starting quarterback going into training camp, Pettine said, “I think it’s fair to say that.”

According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, a Browns spokesman said Pettine’s answer referred to McCown being the favorite to begin camp as the starter, but not necessarily to begin the season as the starter. Still, the quarterback who enters training camp as the starter is usually the quarterback who enters the season as the starter.

And in Cleveland, that’s McCown. Manziel did nothing as a rookie to make Pettine think he deserves to be the starting quarterback, and will have to do something in training camp to unseat McCown for the job.

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NFL explains “Los Angeles Rams” web page

St. Louis Rams v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

As a trio of NFL franchises slowly circle Los Angeles, a now-removed quirk in the league’s official website suggested that at least one of them will eventually land there. The NFL claims there’s nothing to it.

Via Joe Holleman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the NFL says that a “Los Angeles Rams” page arises from a glitch in the website that assigns teams to cities that used to have teams.

“It’s a bug in the system that, when you manipulate the URL, will pull up a legacy team from that city if no current one exists,” NFL spokesman Alex Riethmiller told Holleman.

So by putting in “LA” as the search term, a page emerged for the Los Angeles Rams. That page has since been removed.

“The same error occurs if you change the URL to ‘BOS.’ In that case, a Boston Patriots page will show up with New England Patriots content,” Riethmiller said.

The St. Louis task force charged with solving the team’s stadium problem locally accepts the NFL’s version of the events.

‘We’re perfectly satisfied with the explanation and appreciate that they reached out to us,” said a statement from the task force.

The explanation appears to be legitimate. Using the code “PHO” returns a page for the Phoenix Cardinals.

But the glitch has its limits. Inserting “POT” unfortunately does not return a page for the Pottsville Maroons.

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Texans give Whitney Mercilus four-year, $26 million extension

Nick Foles, Whitney Mercilus AP

The Texans didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of 2012 first-round pick Whitney Mercilus, but now that’s moot. Mercilus and the Texans have agreed on a four-year contract extension.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that Mercilus will get a $5.25 million signing bonus, $10.8 million guaranteed and $26 million over the life of the contract, which keeps him tied to Houston through the 2019 season.

In three seasons with the Texans, Mercilus has played in every game but one and recorded 18 sacks. He’s part of a front sevent that Houston has spent a lot of resources building, with players including J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing and this year’s second-round pick, Benardrick McKinney.

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Mariota: Goodell called to apologize for mispronouncing name

Mariota AP

Quarterback Marcus Mariota’s name routinely is mispronounced, with the first syllable of his last name being spoken like the “A” in Mary and not the “A” in, well, Marcus. On Thursday night, Commissioner Roger Goodell got the first syllable right — but he got the last one wrong.

“Marioto” is what Goodell said. Not long after that, Goodell called Mariota to say, “Sorry.”

Via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com, Mariota told 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Monday that Goodell phoned the No. 2 overall pick later that night to acknowledge the error.

“Everyone was cheering so loud that I wasn’t able to actually hear it,” Mariota said. “He gave me a call probably half an hour later. He apologized, and I’m like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ But he was really apologetic and I truly respect that for sure.”

It’s good that Goodell apologized. It would have been better if he hadn’t gotten it wrong. While we all make mistakes when speaking (and I make plenty of them during three hours of extemporaneous radio every day), the practice of delivering one name at a time roughly 10 minutes apart should entail a success rate much closer to 100 percent — especially when any tricky pronunciations are pre-printed on the cards containing the players’ names.

Which leads to another point.  Now that the first round of the NFL draft has become a prime-time TV spectacle, why is the Commissioner still the one who announces the picks?  Whether they hire James Earl Jones or Michael Buffer or Jeremy Irons or Sam Elliott or Morgan Freeman, the draft has become big enough that the NFL should consider getting a professional speaker with a memorable voice to call out the names — especially if the Commissioner isn’t going to nail each and every name, each and every year.

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Buccaneers claim Reid Fragel off waivers, sign 13 rookie free agents

Cleveland Browns v Washington Redskins 8-18-2014 Getty Images

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter moved from the Falcons to the Buccaneers to the offseason and now one of his former charges in Atlanta will be making the same trip.

The Buccaneers announced that they have claimed tackle Reid Fragel off of waivers. Fragel was one of five Falcons players cut loose during the draft as they cleared roster space for new arrivals.

Fragel was a seventh-round pick of the Bengals in 2013 and spent time with the Browns later in his rookie season, so he’s already done quite a bit of traveling in his short NFL career. He should have some familiarity with what Koetter wants to do on offense after spending time with Atlanta last year, which could help him compete for a roster spot in the coming months.

Tampa signed 13 other players that will be competing for roster spots along with Fragel after going undrafted. They are Iowa linebacker Quinton Alston, Louisville running back Dominique Brown, Idaho defensive tackle Quayshawne Buckley, Brown long snapper Courtland Clavette, Towson defensive end Ryan Delaire, Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett, TCU safety Chris Hackett, UCF wide receiver Rannell Hall, Boston College linebacker Josh Keyes, Tusculum defensive tackle Caushaud Lyons, UCF wide receiver Josh Reese, Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds and Jones County Junior College defensive end Jamal Young

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