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Lovie Smith, Brandon Marshall support any decision Charles Tillman makes

Charles Tillman AP

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is hoping that his wife doesn’t go into labor until Monday, but he said in a radio interview on Wednesday that he would miss the Bears’ Sunday night game against the Texans if he needed to be at the hospital with his wife.

Tillman said that family was his first priority, something driven home when one of his other daughters was born with a rare heart condition. Mike Florio of PFT and others have taken issue with Tillman’s stance, but that group does not include Tillman’s coach or one of his teammates.

“It’s family first,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said, via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. “If there is something you feel like you need to do for your family always do that. How we look at it is like an injury. If a player can’t go, it’s next guy up. We’ll keep going.”

“It’s take care of your family. We understand how things are run around here,” wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. “This is a special group. Coach Smith is a special guy, definitely in how he runs things, and … you take on the character of your leader. That’s what he preaches — family comes first.”

You can’t really preach the importance of family and then say that Sundays are a different story. If the Bears are okay with Tillman missing the game and Tillman is okay with missing the game, it’s hard to imagine there’s much more of a story here regardless of the decision that Tillman makes.

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Report: Cardinals will release Alfonzo Dennard

Jimmy Legree, Alfonzo Dennard AP

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard landed in Arizona after the Patriots cut him this offseason, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be making it to training camp with the team.

Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that the Cardinals, who open camp in a couple of days, will release Dennard. Dennard joined the team in May, which wasn’t all that long ago but apparently it was enough time for Arizona to know he wasn’t the right fit for their secondary.

Dennard was a 2012 seventh-round pick of the Patriots and many thought he was a potential steal at that point in the draft because he was projected to go much higher before a pre-draft arrest hurt his stock. He played just 29 games for the Pats over three seasons, however, and the team dropped him this year despite losing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner as free agents.

Dennard doesn’t turn 26 until September, so there’s a good chance he’ll find another team that wants to take a look at him this offseason. The Cardinals, meanwhile, will roll on with Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel and others at corner.

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Eric Berry on fighting cancer: Fear nothing, attack everything

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Chiefs safety Eric Berry met the media after his return to practice on Wednesday and sent a message of determination that explains why he’s back to work less than a year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Berry was flanked by his parents, who he thanked along with the Chiefs, his teammates and many others for supporting him during his fight, and said that keeping a positive mindset was crucial to dealing with the disease. Part of that positive mindset became a motto of sorts for Berry over the last eight months.

“Fear nothing, attack everything,” Berry said.

It wasn’t always easy to do that. Berry talked about the fear he had that he would die in his sleep and how he had to set a goal of getting out of bed some days because of the toll that the treatment was taking on him. He also talked about the difficulties of working out and staying in shape while going through chemotherapy.

“There would be times I would work out and just end up crying after the workout because, first of all, I couldn’t believe that I made it through the workout, I couldn’t believe it was that hard,” Berry said. “I was trying to push myself to the limit, I couldn’t push myself how I wanted to. I had to break it down to really embracing the process and understand that everything wasn’t going to come back overnight. When you add chemo into something like this, that’s a whole different monster because it literally feels like you’re dying.”

Berry said the last eight months were a “battle every day” to get back to the spot he found himself in on Wednesday. Berry fought that battle very well and we wish him continued health and success for years and years to come.

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Cowboys won’t negotiate with Jeremy Mincey, will fine him

Jeremy Mincey AP

If Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey wants a new deal, he’s not going to get it by staying away.

And he’s actually going to lose money if that’s the route he takes.

Via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cowboys executive Stephen Jones said the team will fine Mincey for every day he’s not present, and they won’t negotiate as long as he’s not there.

Teams can fine players $30,000 per day for missing training camp.

Mincey’s scheduled to make $1.5 million in base salary this year, after signing a two-year deal with the Cowboys last offseason.

He has a history of erratic/costly behavior from his time with the Jaguars. They once signed him to a four-year, $20 million contract, but cut him after a series of missed meetings and other issues.

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Jake Long expected to visit Broncos next

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The Giants had Jake Long in for a second visit on Wednesday as they consider their options in the wake of left tackle Will Beatty’s torn pectoral, but the Giants aren’t the only team that lost a player at that spot to injury this offseason.

Not coincidentally, they also aren’t the only team kicking the tires on the former first overall draft pick. Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports that Long is planning to leave New Jersey on Wednesday night to visit with the Broncos.

The Broncos lost Ryan Clady to a torn ACL this spring and have Ryan Harris and rookie Ty Sambrailo on the roster as contenders for the spot.

Per Vacchiano, the door hasn’t been closed on the Giants signing Long but the tackle isn’t in a rush to pick a team while he considers his options. Long visited with the Falcons this week as well and other teams could also be interested in seeing how Long has responded after a second torn ACL before cementing their plans on the offensive line.

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Kevin White to start Bears camp on PUP list

Kevin White AP

A shin injury suffered in offseason workouts has landed Bears first-round pick Kevin White on the physically unable to perform list as training camp gets underway.

General Manager Ryan Pace said Wednesday that the team wants to take it easy with White given how much time remains before the start of the season and that they want him to focus on building up his cardiovascular strength before letting him loose on the field. Pace also said that White isn’t thrilled by the decision.

“He’s fired up,” Pace said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “We kind have to put handcuffs on him.”

Quarterback David Fales also wound up on the PUP list because of an illness, but outside linebackers Willie Young and Lamarr Houston have both been cleared to practice after suffering a torn Achilles and ACL, respectively, last season.

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NFLPA must respond to NFL lawsuit by August 13

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The #DeflateGate saga is sufficiently compelling to spawn not one but two federal lawsuits. The second one will be filed soon in Minnesota. The first was filed Tuesday in New York.

Via a lawyer with both a Twitter and PACER account, the New York case has been assigned to Judge Richard M. Berman. Berman has directed the NFLPA to respond to the initial filing by August 13, with this note: “Court will set a conference following receipt of defendant’s response.”

Judge Berman, a senior-status jurist who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton, has been characterized as a “liberal judge.” That’s good news for the NFLPA, since the NFLPA is a union and liberal judges tend to be more favorable to the interests of labor than management.

Of course, the NFLPA views Judge David Doty as an even better option, and Judge Bergman’s initial order gives the union an opening to push the Minnesota case forward until August 13. So there’s a chance the NFLPA will try to push things very aggressively in Judge Doty’s courtroom, with the “liberal judge” in New York possibly inclined to stand down and let Judge Doty run with this one.

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Gosder Cherilus plans to visit more teams after leaving Buffalo

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Former Colts tackle Gosder Cherilus visited the Bills today, but he’s apparently not in a hurry to get into a camp.

According to Mike Rodak of, the veteran tackle’s visit went well, but “he will be taking visits to other teams.”

It will be interesting to see when those visits come, and whether he’s physically ready to take part in training camp for anyone in the immediate future.

He dealt with numerous injury issues last year, and a knee procedure kept him from participating in the Colts offseason program.

A number of teams are looking for tackle help, so if he’s well, there should be a market. The Giants and Falcons have checked out Jake Long, while the Panthers just signed a pair of tackles after Jonathan Martin’s retirement.

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When Deflatgate subsides, focus will turn to Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

For now, all the talk in New England is about Tom Brady and his four-game suspension to start the season. Eventually, the focus will begin to shift to Jimmy Garoppolo, who is expected to start in Brady’s absence.

Garoppolo, whom the Patriots chose in the second round of last year’s draft, appears to be the Week One starter by default. The only other quarterback on the Patriots’ roster, Matt Flynn, opened camp on the non-football injury list, so at the moment Garoppolo doesn’t even have any competition for the role of Brady’s replacement.

So far we haven’t seen enough of Garoppolo to know what kind of quarterback he’ll be. The best-case scenario for the Patriots is that Garoppolo is that he’s grown a lot during his first full NFL offseason, just as Brady did in 2011: Brady was lauded by teammates for improving significantly during the offseason after his rookie year, and he ended up leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl when he was called upon to fill in for Drew Bledsoe.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked today about whether Garoppolo has shown improvement during minicamps, but Belichick was characteristically tight-lipped.

“Spring camps are teaching camps, so we got a lot of reps for everybody,” Belichick said. “I think we taught a lot of football and now we have to go out and practice it on an individual basis and then eventually we get to pads, on a padded level, where the timing and execution is a little bit different and start to build into the things that are situationally that we didn’t do as much of in the spring.”

Asked again about whether Garoppolo specifically improved in the spring, Belichick again answered only about the team generally.

“I think everybody learned a lot in the spring,” Belichick said. “I think the rookies learned a lot. I think the veterans learned a lot. It’s the start of a season. It’s a preparation for training camp. Now is when we really get to go out there and execute and work on it at a higher tempo and higher level.”

The Patriots need Garoppolo to show he can play at a high level for the four games when he takes over for Brady on September 10 against the Steelers.

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NFLPA plans to request a ruling by September 4

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As #DeflateGate finally heads to the place we always knew it would end, the NFL Players Association has a specific plan in mind for dealing with the fact that time is of the essence.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA plans to ask for a ruling on Brady’s challenge to the suspension by Friday, September 4. Alternatively, the NFLPA will ask for an order allowing Brady to play while the litigation proceeds.

The fact that the parties initially will be squabbling over whether the case should proceed in New York (where the NFL already has filed a lawsuit) or in Minnesota (where the NFLPA is expected to file) could inject an initial delay, making it harder to wrap up the lawsuit quickly. Even so, the NFLPA believes that the case can be resolved simply with written submissions from the parties, with no need for evidence to be presented in court — or even for oral arguments on the parties’ respective positions.

Even if a ruling comes by September 4, the NFLPA will need to decide whether to seek an order allowing Brady to play if Brady loses and the NFLPA intends to appeal the decision. If that happens, Brady could play the entire NFL season without the case being resolved.

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Geno Smith “laughed” at poll calling him worst QB in league

Geno Smith AP

ESPN recently took their annual poll of NFL coaches and talent evaluators to determine a ranking of the league’s quarterbacks and the result at the bottom of the list was the same as it was in 2014.

Jets quarterback Geno Smith brings up the rear again after a 4-12 season that saw him briefly benched in favor of Michael Vick. Smith said he “laughed” when he saw the results of the “hilarious” poll, which was also a repeat from last year.

“It was hilarious last year, too,” Smith said, via the New York Post. “It doesn’t matter at this point. We’ve got to work on us as a team. That’s why I hate to talk about individual stuff because it’s a team game. No matter what they rate me, wherever we finish at the end of the year is most important.”

Smith’s not wrong about the poll not amounting to a hill of beans when it comes to what happens on the field, but it’s not like he was ranked out of thin air. Smith has completed 57.5 percent of his passes and turned the ball over 41 times over two years in the NFL, which is why coach Todd Bowles isn’t shy about talking about potentially pulling him from the lineup during the 2015 season. Should that happen, Smith won’t be ranked at all in a list of starting quarterbacks in 2016 and probably won’t be laughing about it either.

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Dolphins first-rounder DeVante Parker to open camp on PUP list

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The Dolphins got good news on left tackle Branden Albert, but they do have some guys who won’t be ready for the start of camp.

Specifically, first-round wide receiver DeVante Parker will open camp on the active/physically unable to perform list.

Parker had foot surgery in early June, and there was optimism at that point that he’d be ready for the start of the regular season.

He can be activated from the PUP list at any point in the preseason, so there’s no indicator of his prognosis in the designation alone.

The team also announced that safety Don Jones was also on PUP, and tight end Gerell Robinson would be placed on the active/non-football injury list.

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Ryan Kerrigan signs five-year extension

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Brian Orakpo signed with the Titans as a free agent this offseason, but his former partner at outside linebacker won’t be leaving Washington anytime soon.

The Redskins announced Wednesday that they have agreed on a contract extension with Ryan Kerrigan, who was heading into the final year of his contract. Terms weren’t disclosed, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that it is a five-year deal worth a total of $57.5 million and a $16 million signing bonus. That makes him the third-highest paid player at the position behind Justin Houston and Clay Matthews.

“To get to a moment like this where you get a chance to play out the rest of your NFL career with the team that drafted you, the team that you love, the city that you love, it hasn’t really hit me yet, but it’s an awesome feeling,” Kerrigan said in a statement. “Now it’s my job to go reward the Redskins for the faith they put in me by playing well this year, and for the rest of my career.”

Kerrigan has started every game since the Redskins made him a first-round pick in 2011 and set a career-high with 13.5 sacks last season. He had a knee scope this offseason, but there’s no sign that it will impact him heading into the season.

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Mike McCarthy on off-field issues: “The tolerance level isn’t very high”

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The Packers made their share of off-field headlines this offseason, and coach Mike McCarthy has had his patience tried.

So far, the three players involved in run-ins with the law, suspensions or both remain on the roster, but McCarthy said Wednesday they all know their situations have changed.

“I think you have to look at every case individually, which we do,” McCarthy said, via Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Tolerance level — I would say in life and particularly in football it’s obviously a lot tougher today than it was five years ago, let alone 10, 15 years ago. The tolerance level isn’t very high. You look at every case. There’s two sides to every story. Obviously there are mistakes that have been made. You learn from them and try to move forward, whatever direction you decide to go.”

Letroy Guion was suspended three games after being arrested in Florida on gun and drug charges, and pleading down to lesser charges. Datone Jones was suspended one game for a possession of marijuana arrest.

Quarless was arrested in Miami in July on charges of firing a gun during a dispute outside a parking garage, and his case is still pending.

The suspensions of Guion and Jones could leave the Packers short on defensive linemen early in the season, and McCarthy said they’d have to adjust repetitions in camp as a result. He had fewer particulars in regards to Quarless, as the league hasn’t doled out any sanctions to the tight end.

“He has a personal situation he is with right now,” McCarthy said. “We had a long conversation after his incident down there in Florida. It’s in the legal process right now. He made a mistake. Frankly, I’m disappointed. He’s disappointed.

“But all of our players know that our program is about protecting the brand and the tradition of the Green Bay Packers. Those were the first things that came out of his mouth in the phone call. He made a mistake, so we’re working forward.”

Of course, if players expected to have lesser roles with the Packers had made some of those mistakes, they might already be gone.

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Eric Berry kept working out, gained weight during chemo

Eric Berry AP

The Chiefs delivered some great news on Tuesday night when they announced that safety Eric Berry has been cleared to practice with the team less than a year after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and his approach to chemotherapy appears to have helped him make such a quick return to football activities.

On Wednesday, Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said that Berry opted to have IVs during each chemotherapy session so that he could continue to work out while receiving treatment and that he emerged from his final round in May weighing a pound more than when he went into the grueling process. Burkholder said that Berry “sailed” through all of the tests that the team gave him and coach Andy Reid said all went well for Berry on the field.

“He looked pretty good out here,” Reid said, via B.J. Kissel of the team’s website.

Even though he kept in good shape while undergoing treatment, Berry will probably need some time before he’s back to full speed on the field given the length of his layoff. Assuming that process goes smoothly, it seems like a good bet that we’ll see Berry back on the field when the season gets underway and it will be hard to imagine a fan of any team will be rooting against that outcome.

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NFL asks police to keep an eye out for Patriots fans at Goodell’s house

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The NFL is reportedly concerned about Commissioner Roger Goodell’s personal safety as a result of his decision to suspend Tom Brady for the first four games of the season.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Goodell owns a $6.5 million house in Scarborough, Maine, an area where most fans’ allegiance is to the Patriots. As a result, the NFL contacted Scarborough police just before Goodell announced his decision to uphold Brady’s suspension.

They did reach out and let us know about the decision and that it might not be popular,” said Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton.

Moulton added that there have been no problems or threats, but the police department is aware of the possibility of fans expressing their displeasure if Goodell makes an unpopular decision.

“We’re aware of the situation and will be patrolling the area certainly,” Moulton said. “In the past, when there have been unpopular decisions, there have been emails and things. I wouldn’t say it rose to the level of threats, but certainly expressing unhappiness.”

It should go without saying that Goodell and his family should be free of threats and harassment in their own home. If Goodell is concerned about the reactions of Patriots fans around his home, however, it will probably be a long time before he takes in a game at Gillette Stadium.

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