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Falcons re-sign Mike Cox, waive Lousaka Polite

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The Atlanta Falcons swapped out fullbacks on Wednesday releasing veteran Lousaka Polite and re-signing Mike Cox.

Cox played in the final nine games of the 2011 season serving as the lead blocker for running back Michael Turner. Cox was released by the Falcons at the end of training camp in August.

Polite played in six games for the Falcons but has battled a hamstring injury that forced him to miss two games earlier this season. The injury forced backup center Joe Hawley to see time in the Falcons’ backfield blocking for Turner.

Turner has just two 100-yard games this year and is averaging 20 yards a game less than he did in 2011. While still on pace for a 1,000 yard season, Turner is on pace to finish with over 300 fewer rushing yards than last season.

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Marshawn Lynch ends his holdout, reports to Seahawks

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Reports on Thursday afternoon indicated that running back Marshawn Lynch was set to make his delayed arrival to Seahawks camp in the next 24 hours, but the team didn’t have to wait that long for Lynch’s return.

Lynch arrived at the Seahawks’ facility a bit later on Thursday, a moment broadcast on NFL Network and shared on Twitter by Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. Curtis Crabtree of PFT is at the team headquarters and passes along word that Lynch’s arrival at the building was met by loud cheering from an auditorium and that a Brinks truck pulled up to the facility a few minutes later.

If the earlier report from ESPN about Lynch not getting a new deal is correct, the truck is just a humorous coincidence. There are reportedly some “financial concessions” coming Lynch’s way, which could be the forgiveness of the fines that Lynch accumulated while staying away from the team.

Either way, Lynch is back now and should resume his place as a centerpiece of the team’s offensive attack. With a salary that could reach $7.5 million due next season, it will be interesting to see if this is Lynch’s final year in Seattle as the Seahawks will need to keep some money free for possible extensions for quarterback Russell Wilson and other younger players finishing up their rookie deals.

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Redskins rookie regrets letting teammates cut his hair

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Kicker Zach Hocker found himself in a position familiar to many NFL rookies at training camp on Wednesday.

Hocker was supposed to perform a skit to amuse his veteran teammates, but came up empty. As an alternative, he offered to cut his hair however his teammates decided and wound up with a shaved head except for a strap of hair across the middle of his head.

Kai Forbath, Hocker’s competition for the kicking job, did the shearing. The results, which you can see at right, don’t say much for his future as a hairdresser but make it easy to understand why Hocker probably wishes he had just done a five minute reading from Dr. Seuss instead of offering up his locks.

“I kind of regret it now,” Hocker said, via ESPN.com. “In the moment it was fun, but now I wish I had thought of something funny for the team … I didn’t anticipate this. I got up on the stage and they put up three pictures for the team to vote on. This was my look. They let me have it and there I went.”

Hocker said he wants to shave off the remaining hair before the team’s preseason opener next week, but his teammates have yet to give him the green light.

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Reggie Wayne feeling no pain in Colts camp

Reggie Wayne AP

There’s going to be concern with any player coming off an ACL.

When that player is a 35-year-old wide receiver such as Reggie Wayne, people are going to be watching his every move.

But so far, Wayne has cruised through camp as smoothly as since the day he pulled into camp in an Indy Car.

And the work he’s done on the field is just as fast.

“Like I’ve been saying, so far, so good,” Wayne said, via Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. “I haven’t had any problems, nothing out of the norm.

I haven’t had any pain. Nothing has set me back. Just go out there and be the Reggie of old.”

Wayne’s condition has been foremost on the Colts’ mind since he tore his right ACL last October, and the fact he’s coming along so well is a huge boost.

But because of the way Wayne has worked throughout his career, it’s also not a surprise.

“That’s the way it looked to me,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “When you go back, you watch it live and then you go back and watch it on film. It’s really incredible.

“But again, it probably doesn’t shock anybody here. It certainly doesn’t shock me. We all know his mindset, his work ethic and his determination, and how bad he wanted to get back.”

With so many other Colts going down in practice, there’s a bit of breath-holding with Wayne. But so far, the knee has held up, and he’s looked like his old self.

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Steve Gregory signs with Chiefs

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The Chiefs have a couple of safeties on the injured list right now, which may have helped them decide to add some depth at the position.

Agent David Canter announced on Thursday that his client Steve Gregory has signed with the Chiefs for the coming season.

Gregory was released by the Patriots in February after playing 26 games with the team over the last two seasons. Gregory started 23 of those games, recording 116 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Eric Berry left Chiefs practice early on Thursday with an ankle injury, although coach Andy Reid and others have downplayed the severity of the injury since Berry was removed from the field. Sanders Commings had ankle surgery on Thursday, however, and that absence could stretch a bit longer.

Even with everyone healthy, Gregory would be a viable competitor with Husain Abdullah for the starting spot next to Berry. He’ll get the chance to win that job over the next month or so.

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Fred Jackson is old, but he doesn’t feel old

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Fred Jackson is 33 years old. Which is ancient for an NFL running back. Jackson was the oldest running back to carry the ball in the NFL last year and will be again this year, and when Jackson agreed to a contract extension with the Bills yesterday, there were questions about why on earth a team would extend the contract of a player who’s already long in the tooth.

Except that Jackson is still playing well: Last year he ran 206 times for 890 yards, added 47 catches for 387 yards, and scored 10 touchdowns. And Jackson says he feels like he’s in great shape and ready to turn in another good year this year.

“I had a tremendous offseason with our strength and conditioning coaches, I think they did a great job getting me to where I am today, so I’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit,” he said. “I’m hungry and motivated. I think a renewed sense of getting this thing turned around, with some of the moves we made in the offseason putting the pieces around us I think that’s got to have a lot of guys excited, and I’m one of them.”

If Jackson can top 800 yards again this year, he’ll join some truly elite company. Only seven players in NFL history have rushed for 800 yards at age 33 or later, and they’re all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Walter Payton, John Riggins, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka and John Henry Johnson. Jackson isn’t an all-time great like those players, but he’s had a long and impressive career in Buffalo. And he’s not done yet.

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Michael Crabtree sits out Thursday’s practice

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Earlier this week, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said that he thought wide receiver Michael Crabtree is “a step or two quicker” than he was last season.

Crabtree has had more than a year to recover from the offseason Achilles tear that cost him 11 games during last year’s regular season, so it stands to reason that he’d be moving better this year than he was after his return to the team in 2013. The 49ers would surely like things to stay that way, which may explain why he wasn’t participating in practice on Thursday.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that Crabtree did not take part in Thursday’s session after leaving the field before the end of practice on Wednesday. Maiocco said Crabtree didn’t suffer any obvious injury during the session, but that he did receive some attention from a trainer during the session.

Absent any further information about an injury, it would seem to be a precautionary move to give Crabtree some rest now in hopes that it keeps him on the field for the more important business to come this season.

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Jace Amaro says going from Texas Tech to Jets like going from Chinese to English

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Jets tight end Jace Amaro is back at practice after missing a little time with a knee injury, but feeling better physically is only part of the battle for the second-round pick.

The more significant part is trying to adjust from Texas Tech’s wide-open offense to the one that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is running with the Jets, a task that Amaro likens to going from Chinese to English. Amaro spent Wednesday getting razzed after dropping a pass and getting chewed out by Mornhinweg for running incorrect routes before ending the day with a one-on-one chat with General Manager John Idzik.

“A lot of people have high expectations for me. Right now, I’m trying to figure it all out,” Amaro said, via ESPN.com. “I have high expectations for myself, I know what I can do. I’m making a lot of things a lot more difficult than they should be, just because I’m not completely comfortable with the entire organization yet, from the playbook to not knowing how the coaches coach, little things like that.”

There’s still more than a month to go before the start of the regular season, but the current rate of Amaro’s transition to the NFL suggests that the Jets will have to scale back some of their early plans for him heading into his rookie year.

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Report: Marshawn Lynch ending holdout

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It looks like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has decided not to be all about that holdout, boss.

Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Lynch is expected to end his holdout in the next 24 hours and report to work with the Seahawks.

Per the report, Lynch will not be receiving a new deal from the Seahawks to replace the two years he has left on his current pact or any added money. He will be receiving “financial concessions” on his current deal, however. Those concessions are not spelled out, but could involve the Seahawks waiving the nearly $500,000 in fines that Lynch has accrued during his absence from the team.

Lynch’s return should allow the Seahawks to return to business as usual on offense, although there’s a chance that Christine Michael will see more time in the backfield this season as Seattle begins to plan for a future without Beast Mode.

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Falcons DT Peria Jerry to retire

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Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, the club’s first-round pick in 2009, will retire, the team announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old Jerry recorded 67 tackles and 5.5 sacks in five seasons with Atlanta. The club re-signed him in March. Overall, Jerry played in 64 games, making 29 starts. He missed 14 games of his rookie season after suffering a knee injury that required surgery.

The Falcons invested heavily in their defensive line in the offseason, signing nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson and drafting defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman in Round Two. The club has transitioned to a 3-4 scheme after employing a base 4-3 defense in previous years.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict negotiations with Bengals hit impasse

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There were optimistic signs about the state of negotiations on an extension for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, but it has been a while since the last one and the latest word isn’t as sunny.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that talks between the team and Burfict have hit an impasse. There’s no word on whether the talks will continue in hopes of finding a way around said impasse, but, for now, it appears things will be in a holding pattern.

Burfict is entering the final year of the three-year pact he signed as an undrafted free agent and will become a restricted free agent after the season as long as the Bengals tender him a qualifying offer. That seems like the very least they’ll do after striking gold with Burfict, who fell out of the draft because of character concerns and responded by leading the NFL in tackles during his second season.

Another year like that would only drive Burfict’s price up on a long-term deal, which may mean the issue now is that the Bengals haven’t come up with an offer big enough for Burfict to pass up on the chance for more money down the road. If that’s the case, the deal may have to wait a while because Burfict’s restricted free agent status means he won’t be leaving the team unless the Bengals don’t want him anymore.

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PFT on NBCSN invades Saints camp

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Pro Football Talk on NBCSN has moved temporarily (and technically partially) to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for a two-day visit to Saints camp.  I’ve made the drive to The Greenbrier, toured the impressive practice facility (including a world-class weight room outfitted with Rogue equipment), watched practice, heard several Rob Ryan “F” bombs (but not nearly enough), rooted for fights, and interviewed six key figures from the organization.

From coach Sean Payton to quarterback Drew Brees to safety Kenny Vaccaro to defensive end Cam Jordan to running back Pierre Thomas to receiver Marques Colston, we obtained a good look at where the Saints are, and where they’re going.

Tune in tonight for portions of the Payton, Brees, and Vaccaro interviews.  The full Payton interview was included in Thursday’s PFT Live; the other five will be used in full on Friday.

Until the show begins at 5:30 p.m. ET, cast your vote in today’s poll question.  Which coincidentally relates to the Saints.

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Browns say Johnny Manizel will work with first team soon

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Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel said Thursday that he’s a better player in games than he is in practice because of an increased freedom to improvise, something that won’t help him all that much if he can’t get on the field.

It sounds like Manziel will have a chance to grab that playing time soon. Head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan both said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that they plan to give Manziel reps with the first team soon. They also said that it would be wrong to read too much into Brian Hoyer getting the first shot with the first team, because, per Pettine, Manziel is further along mentally than the team thought he’d be and because neither quarterback has done anything to speed up the decision-making process..

“I don’t think one is ahead of the other,” Shanahan said. “I hope one will make the decision easy on us.”

If Manziel doesn’t do that, Shanahan said that he’ll have a package of plays ready for the rookie quarterback to run in the opening week of the season in the event the team decides to use both quarterbacks in that week’s game plan. The chances of that happening will be higher if Manziel performs well once his chance with the starters does come.

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NFLPA monitoring evidence of collusion in light of cap increases

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In recent years, the salary cap hasn’t been going up by much.  Which means spending hasn’t been going up much.  With the cap going up, spending should go up, too.  And the NFLPA is making sure that other forces, such as collusion, won’t be holding spending down.

Per a league source, the union conducted an informal conference call with a group of agents on Thursday to explore the question of whether any agents believe collusion is occurring.  During the call, no agent came forward with any specific proof or allegation about collusive behavior in the marketplace.  And for good reason; this year saw a record number of free-agent signings and total spending.

Still, with the cap going up $10 million per team this year and expected to continue to spike annually, the NFLPA will continue to monitor the situation, with specific attention being paid to veteran players who are cut with the excuse that the team needs salary-cap space.

Some have suspected collusion regarding the absence of long-term extensions for 2011 first-round picks.  With cornerback Patrick Peterson receiving a five-year extension from the Cardinals and tackle Tyron Smith getting an eight-year extension from the Cowboys, the hope is that other teams will reward 2011 first-round picks who were underpaid by a system that guards against busts.

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Seahawks place Anthony McCoy on I.R., sign WR Ronald Johnson

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Anthony McCoy will miss yet another season because of an Achilles injury.

According to PFT’s Curtis Crabtree, the Seahawks have announced they have placed McCoy on injured reserve and signed wide receiver Ronald Johnson to fill the roster spot.

Johnson, like McCoy, played for now-Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. Johnson has had stints with San Francisco (2011) and Philadelphia (2012-2013). Johnson missed the 2012 season with a broken and discloated left ankle. He was waived by the Eagles in April 2013.

Johnson was a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2011. He turns 26 on Sunday.

The Seahawks have just four tight ends on their roster: Zach Miller, Luke Willson, RaShaun Allen and Cooper Heifet.

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Eric Berry forced from Chiefs practice with ankle injury

Eric Berry AP

Injuries are starting to mount in the Chiefs secondary.

Three defensive backs are dealing with injuries at the moment, including safety Eric Berry. Berry had to leave Thursday morning’s practice after suffering an injury to his lower right leg during the session and was eventually carted back for further evaluation. A full diagnosis hasn’t been revealed, but coach Andy Reid said that it appears Berry has avoided a catastrophic injury.

“Berry had a sore ankle. It’s not an Achilles tear or any of that, but they’re evaluating him. They’re just seeing what it is,” Reid said, via Herbie Teope of the Associated Press.

Berry was joined on the sideline by cornerback Marcus Cooper, who left practice with a hamstring injury that Reid called “slight.” Cooper was replaced on the first team by Sean Smith, reversing a switch that took place earlier in camp.

Reid also revealed that safety Sanders Commings is having surgery on his ankle after being injured earlier in the week. The second-year player only played a few snaps during his rookie season because of a broken collarbone and he may be hard-pressed to win playing time this year as a result of this injury.

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