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Andy Reid sticking with Michael Vick at QB

AP

With the Philadelphia Eagles losing streak extending to four games and another costly turnover from quarterback Michael Vick, head coach Andy Reid was asked again if he will consider a quarterback change for when the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday.

Reid was blunt in his response.

“Michael Vick will be the quarterback,” Reid said.

Reid said it wasn’t an issue of one player not getting the job done. It’s everyone that needs to improve their level of play.

“It’s the team. It’s all of us. There’s not one particular person or one side of the ball or anything else. We’re all in this together,” Reid said.

The Eagles had a chance to take a lead late in the first quarter. Bryce Brown broke a 40-yard run that set up a first-and-goal from the Saints 5-yard line. On second down, Vick threw a pass that deflected off the hands of tight end Brent Celek into the waiting arms of Saints’ cornerback Patrick Robinson. Robinson raced 99 yards the other way for a touchdown to give the Saints a 7-0 lead. The Saints took a 21-3 lead into halftime and managed to hold off a Philadelphia rally in the third quarter en route to a 28-13 win.

Vick completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception on the night.

But the Eagles had bigger problems Monday night than just the quarterback. Vick was sacked seven times by the Saints as the Philadelphia offensive line was overwhelmed all night. The Eagles then failed to capitalize on the opportunities they had. They had five drives reach the Saints’ red zone and came away with just 10 points, an interception, a fumble and a turnover on downs.

“I’m pretty frustrated,” Vick said. “These are games that we certainly have an opportunity to win or get back into the game at some point. At that point everything has to be dead on. It has to be dead on. You can’t miss. You got to capitalize and you’ve always got to be perfect on every drive. It’s very frustrating but we just have to keep pushing forward. I don’t know what else to say.”

The match up with the Cowboys next Sunday could be a make-or-break game for both teams. Both the Eagles and Cowboys sit at 3-5 for the year and would face an incredibly difficult climb to snag a playoff berth if they lose next week. It’s a difficult enough road as it is.

With Reid’s job status tied to the team’s final record this season, Reid apparently continues to feel Vick is the best option for the Eagles under center.

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Lions want it both ways on Thanksgiving, early-season home games

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The Lions have talked to the NFL about getting themselves a more favorable early-season schedule after playing three of their first four games on the road the last two years. But given that the NFL’s schedule-makers already give the Lions a home game on Thanksgiving every year, there’s only so much flexibility the Lions can get.

Laying out the NFL schedule is an enormous task that requires some give and take from every club. The Florida teams prefer not to play in the early Sunday afternoon time slot in September because of the heat. The New York teams prefer not to play at night on Jewish holidays. Every team prefers not to have road trips during short weeks.

The issue with short weeks is part of the problem facing the schedule-makers for accommodating the Lions: In five of the last six seasons, the Lions have played at home on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, in addition to playing on Thanksgiving. That’s an accommodation the NFL tries to give to all the teams playing on Thanksgiving so they won’t have too much travel during a short work week.

But there’s a problem with blocking out two straight home games in late November when putting together a team’s schedule: That leaves just six home games for the other 15 weeks of the season. Obviously, that means there are going to be some stretches earlier in the season when that team is going to be on the road more than at home.

Taken by itself, it wouldn’t seem that hard for the NFL to accommodate the Lions’ request not to play three road games in the first four weeks of the season this year. But the NFL needs to consider the scheduling requests of 31 other teams, and not all of those teams are automatically given a prime home game on a national holiday like the Lions are. So by asking the league to accommodate them both on Thanksgiving and early in the season, the Lions may be asking more than it’s fair for the schedule makers to grant any one team.

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McCarthy: Martellus Bennett “potentially” NFL’s best TE

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Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski shared a depth chart in New England last season.

Based on Wednesday comments, Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes there’s a chance he got the better of the two in free agency.

McCarthy spoke glowingly about Bennett at the annual head-coach media breakfast in Phoenix. Specifically, he said the 30-year-old may “potentially be” the NFL’s best tight end.

“We had him in our cutups this year, so I got to see him play a lot of football,” McCarthy said, via the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe. “To me, he is one of the best or potentially be the best tight end in the National Football League. It’s my responsibility to make sure I create those opportunities for him to succeed.”

This won’t hurt Bennett’s jersey sales in Green Bay.

McCarthy, it’s worth noting, never made a direct comparison between Bennett or Gronkowski, so he wasn’t searching for the “hot taek” that could be deducted from his regard for Bennett’s standing among his peers.

But clearly, McCarthy has done his homework.

He detailed the degree to which he’s studied the Patriots over the years. And Bennett’s three-year, $21 million contract, which includes a $6.3 million signing bonus, adds weight to his words.

“He has very good tape,” McCarthy told reporters. “He was a very productive player in an outstanding offense. I have great respect for the Patriots and especially what they do on offense. We like a lot of things that they do. We keep an eye on what they do up there, particularly with some of the route progressions and more importantly how you use each player throughout the passing game.”

Bennett, predominantly used as a blocker to begin his career, caught 55 of 73 passes last season for 701 yards and seven scores. He is one of two tight ends the Packers signed this month in free agency; former Rams tight end Lance Kendricks is the other.

If nothing else, McCarthy’s praise of Bennett further explains Green Bay’s willingness to let Jared Cook walk this month.

He signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract with the Raiders.

 

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Saints to sign Chase Daniel

AP

Chase Daniel is returning to his roots as a backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans.

Daniel, a free agent quarterback who spent his first four seasons as a backup with the Saints, will sign a one-year contract with the team, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.

Daniel originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in Washington in 2009, but he was cut at the end of the preseason and signed with the Saints, where he stayed through the 2012 season. He then spent three years backing up Alex Smith in Kansas City before signing last year in Philadelphia, where he backed up Carson Wentz.

There were reports that Daniel was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to start in Philadelphia last year, but he has now decided to sign with a team that will give him no chance to start. The other backups in New Orleans are Luke McCown and Garrett Grayson; McCown’s job would appear to be in jeopardy with Daniel now as the veteran backup.

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“Egregious” hits more likely to result in suspensions than ejections

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Introduced as a measure that will result in more ejections or suspensions, the reality is that the NFL’s new emphasis on eliminating certain “egregious” hits from the game will lead to enhanced suspensions.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the point of emphasis will apply to suspending the player who commits an egregious hit, even if it’s only a first offense. Game officials retain the ability to eject players for flagrant hits, but the Competition Committee prefers that suspensions be used instead, since mistakes will be less likely if the decision is made after a given game. A split-second decision by an official during a game is more likely to be wrong.

Also, the source said replay review will not be available to determine whether a hit was or wasn’t egregious. This will make officials even less likely to throw a player out for a hit that can be addressed by the league office after the game.

It’s a smart approach, given that officials already prefer not to eject players, for fear of impacting the outcome of the game. Focusing on suspensions permits for a more deliberate approach by everyone involved — and it also gives the player who is suspended a fair chance to appeal the process.

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Bruce Arians: David Johnson is “too young to overuse”

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians confirmed on Wednesday that the recently re-signed Andre Ellington will be used as a wide receiver this season, which means that the team is still without a clear No. 2 running back behind David Johnson.

That doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for Arians. Johnson had 293 carries and 80 catches last season, which added up to the most touches of any offensive player in the league at an average of 23.3 per game. Arians said Wednesday that he’d like to see that number go up during the 2017 season because Johnson is “too young to overuse.”

“I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that’s going to be a lot of offense,” Arians said, via ESPN.com. “When he has his hand on the ball, either as a wide receiver, coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that’s a lot of potential offense for us.”

Johnson’s age doesn’t preclude the kind of injury that would knock him out of the Cardinals’ lineup completely, although there’s just as much risk of that happening in the first week of the season as any other so it probably won’t dissuade the Cardinals from building on his role as the centerpiece of the offense. If he can stay healthy and Arians is able to get him the ball that often, Johnson may realize his goal of 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

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Pete Carroll “anxious” to see Richard Sherman bounce back in 2017

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A day after General Manager John Schneider said the team listens to everything in response to questions about outside interest in trading for cornerback Richard Sherman, coach Pete Carroll did the same before adding that he doesn’t “see anything happening at all.”

While Carroll expects to have Sherman back in his familiar spot in the Seattle secondary, he also made it clear that he doesn’t want to see a replay of what happened during the 2016 season. Sherman had multiple sideline blowups at assistants during games, criticized offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and sparred with the media in what Carroll called “self-inflicted” issues that he hopes won’t stretch into next season.

“I’m anxious to see him come back,” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “I know there have been some issues and stuff. I’m anxious to see him handle everything and do really well and represent himself and his teammates in great fashion. … He’s a fantastic battler. The only thing that happened is that he didn’t come back, he didn’t re-set as he has. He always found his way to reset [in the past] and he kind of stayed on the edge throughout the season, which was very challenging for him. … So I’m hoping that things balance out moreso for him so that he doesn’t have to carry an additional burden of just trying to be one of the best players in the NFL that he is. So I’m expecting him to do a really good job. He always has. Sometimes the turnaround time just takes a little bit longer than others.”

A trade looks unlikely right now, but Sherman has two years left on the deal he signed before the 2015 season. That means there will be a decision coming about his future in Seattle before too much more time passes and the issues Carroll discussed on Wednesday will likely play a big role in it.

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Scott Crichton fails physical with Bills

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Scott Crichton will not wake up with the rising sun in Buffalo after a disclosure on his physical nixed his contract with the Bills.

The Bills announced today that Crichton, a defensive end who was claimed this week, will go back on waivers because he failed his physical.

A 2014 third-round pick of the Vikings, Crichton spent last season on injured reserve in Minnesota.

Crichton would have been no lock to make the Bills’ roster, and it’s unclear what his future holds. But for now he’s free for any team to claim, if there’s a team that thinks he can get healthy enough to make use of the talent that made him a third-round pick.

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Raiders expect Derek Carr extension talks to ramp up after draft

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The Raiders gained approval to move to Las Vegas in time for the 2020 season this week and they expect to step up efforts to make sure key members of the lineup are there for the move later this offseason.

It’s been no secret that the team is looking to extend the contracts of quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack as they head into their fourth NFL seasons. General Manager Reggie McKenzie added fellow 2014 draft pick and starting right guard Gabe Jackson to the group while discussing why the team allotted less money to free agency this year and said talks with Carr should get more serious once the draft is out of the way.

“He knows what we’re trying to do in free agency, and he’s never saying, ‘I need to know now. It’s not like that,” McKenzie said, via CSNBayArea.com. “More likely, the serious talks will happen after the draft. The communication has been ongoing, just talking about the philosophy of a contract and the thought process around it. Hopefully when the serious talks start going, then it’s going to be easier.”

The Raiders have more time to work things out with Mack as the 2014 first-round pick’s contract contains a team option for the 2018 season that they don’t have with either Carr or Jackson. Keeping all three for the long term should be well within the team’s reach, however, and there’s little reason to think they won’t be in the lineup the first time the Raiders play a home game in Nevada.

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Report: Harrison Smith had ankle surgery

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Vikings safety Harrison Smith missed some time at the tail end of the 2016 season with a high ankle sprain, but was able to return to play in the final two games of the season.

That return to the field apparently didn’t mean that everything was hunky dory with the ankle, however. Adam Caplan and Ben Goessling of ESPN report that Smith underwent surgery on the ankle this offseason.

According to the reports, the procedure was designed to “clean up” the ankle and make sure that Smith didn’t experience any lingering issues with it heading into the 2017 season.

Recently signed running back Latavius Murray also had ankle surgery recently and both players are expected to be ready to go in time to take part in training camp this summer.

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Marvin Lewis on Adam Jones: Other than his language, what did he do?

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When Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin addressed cornerback Adam Jones‘ January arrest earlier this month, he said the team was “very disappointed” with Jones’ actions but that they weren’t going to make any “rash, harsh, fast decisions” about his future with the team.

A felony charge against Jones has since been dropped, leaving him with misdemeanor charges of assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business as a result of his altercation with a security guard at a Cincinnati hotel. The Bengals didn’t immediately revisit Tobin’s comments in light of that development, but coach Marvin Lewis did discuss Jones at the league meetings in Arizona this week.

Lewis didn’t shed any definitive light on Jones’ status with the team, but he doesn’t sound like the plan is to part ways with the veteran corner.

“As time has come out, other than his language what did he do?” Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.  “But that’s up to whatever happens. The case is still under review, we’ll see how it plays out.”

A video of the arrest showed Jones using profane language toward police officers and telling them he wished they would die. His lawyers released a statement saying Jones apologized for what he said and seeking counseling on anger management as a result of the incident.

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Pete Carroll unsure if Marshawn Lynch wants to play or not

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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he talked to Marshawn Lynch when reports about the enigmatic running back returning came up.

But he’s no more clear now on Lynch’s intentions than he was before they spoke.

“I know that he is somewhat entertaining the thought of it,’’ Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “I can’t tell you how strong it is.’’

Carroll said Lynch did not ask to be taken off the reserve/retired list when they met 10 days ago, and didn’t know what he’d do if he did.

At one point Carroll said “there’s not much to it,” and when asked if Lynch might ever play for the Seahawks again, Carroll replied: “He’s retired.”

Of course, the fact Lynch would count $9 million against their salary cap and they’re not going to absorb that after signing Eddie Lacy means they’d move him along if he did.  And when asked if he thought the 30-year-old Lynch could still help a team, Carroll said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know,’’ Carroll said. “Depends on how he has approached this off-season. He looked OK. The mentality that it takes to play this game the way he plays the game, he has to really be invested and ready because he goes deep when he plays. And whether or not that is still in him and the burn is still there, I couldn’t tell that from talking to him.’’

So now we wait to see how Marshawn turns, and whether the interest in coming back to play is serious.

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Sashi Brown says door isn’t shut on Josh Gordon in Cleveland

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When wide receiver Josh Gordon checked into rehab last September, Browns coach Hue Jackson said that the team was moving on after waiting a long time for Gordon to be reinstated by the league after multiple suspensions for violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

That was many months ago, however, and Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown suggested that the team may circle back on a receiver who has played five games since the end of the 2013 season.

“Listen, assuming he would play at the level we started to see glimpses of last preseason and certainly in the league before, [Gordon] would be a talent I think no team in the NFL would turn down if he got back in,” Brown said, via Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland. “Our decision with Josh is just understanding where he is in this process and being able to have him. We’re not in position at wide receiver to turn down a guy like Josh if we feel he’s settled himself. Josh is going to have an opportunity to reapply to the NFL and at that time we’ll make a decision when we know what’s going on.”

Gordon has been working out with former Olympic track athlete Tim Montgomery and pictures on his Instagram account show him in what appears to be good physical condition, which has fueled some speculation about his possible reinstatement in time for the 2017 season. That’s a road the Browns have been down plenty of times before, however, and Brown’s comments may be at least partially directed to other teams who might trade for the talented and troubled wideout instead of hoping that the Browns release his rights upon a possible return to active status.

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Chris Ballard expresses full confidence in Chuck Pagano

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If new Colts G.M. Chris Ballard would prefer to have his own guy coaching the team, he’s not letting on.

Ballard said on PFT Live that he’s confident in head coach Chuck Pagano, who is heading into his sixth year in Indianapolis as Ballard heads into his first.

“Chuck has won a lot of games. I think we lose perspective because of two 8-8 seasons, but chuck had three 11-win seasons, they were in the AFC Championship Game, Chuck has done a lot of good things,” Ballard said. “I would disagree with that statement that we’re planning on doing anything else.”

Pagano has been on the hot seat in each of the last two seasons, and there was widespread talk in both 2015 and 2016 that he could be on the way out. In the end, he saved his own job, even as former G.M. Ryan Grigson got the boot. Pagano may have to go better than 8-8 in 2017 if he wants to return in 2018, but for now, Ballard says he’s hoping they work together for years to come.

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Report: San Antonio could emerge as temporary home for Raiders

Immediately upon being approved to move to Las Vegas, Raiders owner Mark Davis said his team could still stay in Oakland for up to three seasons.

But if things get weird next year in Oakland, they figure to have options.

According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News, the possibility of the Raiders playing a year or so in San Antonio before their new stadium in Las Vegas is built in 2020 shouldn’t be ruled out.

San Antonio has been perfectly willing to be a host (or a stalking horse) in the past, and their flirtations with the Raiders have been overt. They have a ready made stadium in the Alamodome which  has hosted the Saints after Hurricane Katrina and Cowboys training camp often.

The Raiders have team options to play in Oakland’s existing coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and 2019 is to be determined. But if the reaction is bad this season — and there’s at least some early political grandstanding to suggest it might — Davis might not want to hang around for another year of being ignored or worse.

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John Fox confident in Kevin White’s resiliency

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The Bears said farewell to quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery this offseason, which means they’re set to have a very different looking passing game than they have had for the last few seasons.

Mike Glennon is in at quarterback and the team signed free agent wideouts Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton to catch his passes, but they remain hopeful that a holdover in the receiving corps can finally break out. Kevin White is that receiver and the 2015 first-round pick remains an unknown commodity after missing 28 of 32 games with leg injuries during his first two seasons.

White will be back for another try in 2017 and coach John Fox said on Tuesday that he remains confident that White will be able to bounce back.

“Obviously it’s not a great start to his career,” Fox said, via the Chicago Tribune. “I think he understands that greater than anybody. Because he’s been the one who’s had to deal with it. … I’m sure it has been frustrating. Anytime somebody is injured it’s frustrating for everybody — whether it’s fans, coaches, the player himself. But I think he’s a very resilient guy. That’s one of the biggest reasons why we drafted him. I think his makeup will prevail.”

Wright, Wheaton and Cameron Meredith (a team-high 66 catches last year) give the Bears some cover in the event that things go wrong for White again this year, but it would certainly be a positive development for Chicago if they started to get some return on a former first-round pick.

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