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Bears make it official with Josh McCown

Josh McCown AP

As expected, the Bears have brought back quarterback Josh McCown to serve as a third quarterback on the team’s 53-man roster.

The team hasn’t made any determination about Jay Cutler’s status for this week’s game after he suffered a concussion against the Texans on Sunday night, but it’s safe to say that he’s questionable at the very least. Jason Campbell would start if Cutler is unavailable against the 49ers.

It’s the second straight November that McCown has turned up in Chicago after a Cutler injury. He joined the team after Cutler broke his hand last year and wound up starting a couple of games at the end of the year after Caleb Hanie lost the job. McCown got cut at the end of training camp when the Bears decided to go with two quarterbacks on the active roster and Matthew Blanchard on the practice squad.

McCown is familiar with the offense and did well enough to split the two games he started last season. The Bears obviously hope they don’t have to turn to him, but he makes it less scary if you find yourself in that spot.

The Bears waived tight end Brody Eldridge to make room for McCown on the roster.

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Kevin Williams leaves Giants visit without a contract

Kevin Williams AP

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams visited with the Giants on Monday night and Tuesday, but he’s still available for any other team that wants to talk to him about coming aboard for the 2014 season.

Williams flew out of New Jersey on Tuesday night after wrapping up the visit without agreeing to a deal to join a Giants defensive line that lost defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the Vikings in free agency. The Vikings were Williams’ former team, of course, but they have moved in other directions while Williams tries to find a new home. That’s not the Giants at the moment, but Williams wasn’t ruling anything out.

“Had a good visit and gonna see what happens,” Williams told Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Williams turns 34 in August and said he’d retire if he didn’t find the deal he was looking for this offseason, which suggests the Giants weren’t willing to meet his desired price. There hasn’t been much other buzz around the veteran, so it may take a change in fortune on the line for a team to pay up to that level.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

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The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle is bullish about the chances of keeping the Bills in Buffalo.

Said Dolphins G.M. Dennis Hickey of his draft philosophy, “You work according to best player available. There’s always variables when it comes to the draft, whether it’s the player evaluation part and there’s always the medical aspect. Then there’s evaluating the character and the makeup of the player. There’s so many variables. But we feel like it’s a good draft and we’re excited about it. We continue every day to try to build the best 53-man roster and of course the offensive line is part of that.”

Players on the Patriots joined other Boston athletes to commemorate the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

With three 30-year-old starters, don’t be surprised if the Jets draft an offensive lineman.

Former Ravens LB Ray Lewis sold his oceanfront mansion in Florida for $4.77 million, $500,000 less than he paid for it in 2004.

Lots of people think the Bengals will draft Ohio State CB Bradley Roby.

It’s been a year since the feds raided the headquarters of Pilot Flying J, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s family business, and no one knows where the investigation will end.

The Steelers drafted nine players in 2009, and none of them are still in Pittsburgh.

The Texans have now signed six unrestricted free agents: DT Ricardo Mathews, DT Jerrell Powe, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, FS Kendrick Lewis, SS Chris Clemons and RB Andre Brown.

The Colts, who already used their first-round pick on RB Trent Richardson, might try to trade down in the second round to acquire more picks.

Jaguars coach Gus Braadley is talking up Jadeveon Clowney’s passion for the game.

Titans WR Nate Washington embraces the “old man” role in the locker room.

Broncos LB Von Miller is working hard at rehabbing his image.

A receiver or safety would make sense for the Chiefs in the first round.

The Raiders are showing interest in former Oregon S Terrance Mitchell.

The Chargers are working out local prospects today.

Does Cowboys coach Jason Garrett concentrate on the wrong things?

The Giants remain in the market for a backup quarterback after one of their targets, Matt Flynn, signed with the Packers.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is accused by one writer of letting his ego get in the way of making the right personnel decisions.

Washington would like to draft a tall receiver, but that’s not the team’s top priority.

Notre Dame DT Louis Nix could be a draft target of the Bears.

Should the Lions trade up to draft Clemson WR Sammy Watkins?

Although he’s struggled elsewhere, Matt Flynn always seems to fit in Green Bay.

New Vikings strength coach Evan Marcus has the players working more with free weights and less with machines.

Auburn DE Dee Ford could make sense for the Falcons.

The Panthers need a receiver, and one mock draft has them getting USC WR Marqise Lee.

The Saints are looking at bolstering the secondary in the draft.

Buccaneers RB Mike James says he’s recovering from a broken ankle and, “I’ve got a good opportunity to do what I need to do to get back in the swing of things and get acclimated with everything.”

After just missing the playoffs last year, expectations are high in Arizona for the upcoming Cardinals season.

The 49ers’ signing of WR Brandon Lloyd represents his career coming full circle.

The Rams have honored a local middle school for its students’ commitment to physical activity.

The Seahawks are showing a lot of interest in wide receivers during the pre-draft process.

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Houston schools stop using “Redskins” and other insensitive names

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

As the NFL team in Washington continues to defend its use of the name Redskins, the franchise often points out that many high schools use the name. What the team doesn’t point out is that many schools are dropping the name, too.

Despite the team’s claim that “70 different high schools” use the name Redskins, several reports have indicated that the number is actually lower than that, and the Redskins are counting high schools that have already stopped using the name. The latest school to drop the name is Lamar High School in Houston, which announced this week that it will stop going by the name Redskins and start calling its teams the Texans.

That decision was part of a new policy announced by the Houston school district, preventing schools from using team names that are viewed as insensitive. Teams called the Indians, Warriors and Rebels are also changing their names.

The Washington Redskins, however, say they will never change.

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Blake Bortles in Houston for meeting with Texans

Blake Bortles AP

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles has long been connected as a possibly fit for the Houston Texans with the No.1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Texans need a quarterback. Bortles is a quarterback. It kind of makes sense, right?

After meeting with the Oakland Raiders on Monday, Bortles arrived in Houston Tuesday night for a meeting with the Texans on Wednesday.

Bortles met with Texans’ brass at the combine and general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien were both on hand for Bortles’ pro day workout as well.

They’ve been great,” Bortles said from the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, via James Palmer of CSNHouston.com “He’s a great guy and a great coach. I’m just excited to get here, meet everybody and sit down and talk with everybody again. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Bortles, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater are the three likely selections the Texans have to choose between if they want to take a quarterback with their top selection in the draft. Houston also has scheduled a pre-draft visit with Manziel set for next week.

The Texans know they are taking a quarterback at some point in the draft. If it will be at No. 1, Bortles and Manziel seem to have become the two options Houston is focusing on the most.

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Report: Pair of South Carolina prospects wanted for police questioning

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A pair of prospects from the University of South Carolina is apparently wanted for questioning by police in relation to an incident at a New York City nightclub last week.

According to TMZ, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton are “wanted for questioning at the very least” stemming from an alleged attack at Greenhouse nightclub.

A club promoter allegedly suffered “extensive facial injuries” after being allegedly attacked by three men. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

With less than four weeks to go until the NFL Draft, college prospects are still directly under the spotlight of teams as they continue to adjust and tweak their draft boards. While the investigation is still in its preliminary stages, it likely won’t benefit Quarles and Hampton to have their names tied to a police investigation.

Both players are expected to be drafted based on projections. However, if they are found to be involved in this incident it could affect just when teams decided to take a chance on the,.

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Chris Johnson says Jets visit went well but no decision yet

Cory Redding, Chris Johnson AP

Free agent running back Chris Johnson visited with the New York Jets on Tuesday. It was his first visit since being released by the Tennessee Titans earlier this month.

After visiting with the Jets, Johnson decided to take in Tuesday night’s game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. While at the game, he spoke with multiple reporters regarding his visit.

Per Josina Anderson of ESPN, Johnson said “I had a great visit with the Jets. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

Johnson reiterated those thoughts to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News but added he’s “not ready to make my decision.

Johnson had a down year in 2013 for Tennessee but still posted his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. However, the 3.9 yards per carry were the lowest mark of his career.

The Jets ranked sixth in the league in rushing last season with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory as the primary options out of the backfield. Johnson would likely work in as part of a rotation alongside Powell and Ivory should he elect to sign with the Jets. But, Johnson is also a home run threat whose speed could be a real addition to the lineup.

For now, Johnson isn’t ready to make a decision as he’s possibly holding out for a better offer from the Jets or another team. However, if he doesn’t make a decision soon, teams may elect to wait until after the draft to re-evaluate their needs and Johnson may have to wait to find a new home.

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Lions intend to split the running back role between Bush and Bell

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The Lions have a pair of potent tailbacks.  And they plan to use both of them.  Perhaps equally.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday that Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will share the load.

“[T]his game is a violent game anymore and it’s hard for one running back to get all the carries,” Lombardi said.  “So much like they did last year, I see these guys kind of having a split role and both being very productive.”

Last year, Bush and Bell became the first teammates in league history to rack up both 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.

Based on salaries, Bush likely is in line to be the starter.  But Bell will get plenty of opportunities, and the shared role will help both guys stay healthy deeper into the season — and to play deeper into the decade.

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Derek Carr isn’t lacking in confidence

DerekCarr Getty Images

When it comes to the 2014 crop of rookie quarterbacks, most consider three of them to be at the top of the heap:  Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Johnny Manziel.

There’s a fourth guy who believes he’s better than all of them.

Appearing on NFL Network on Tuesday, Fresno State’s Derek Carr was asked whether he’s the best quarterback in the draft.

Absolutely,” Carr said.  “And I say that with respect to all of the other guys because they are great competitors and all of those good things.  Of course it’s not easy for me to answer a question like that but I absolutely think so.  There is no doubt in my mind and we can turn the film on, sit down and watch it, and we’ll talk about it and I’ll convince you.”

Plenty of franchises are interested in having that conversation with a potential franchise quarterback.  In a separate appearance on the league-owned broadcast channel, Carr rattled off a list of teams with which he has met.

“Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa, Minnesota – just the first that come off the top of my head,” Carr said.  “Tennessee.  I’ve been with them, working out with them, visiting with them, talking to them, the whole process.  Those have been the initial ones so far.”

Carr’s brother, David, was the first pick in the 2002 draft.  After five years as the starter in Houston, Carr has served as a backup with the Panthers, Giants, 49ers, and Giants again.

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Trump has realistic shot of being approved

Trump AP

Despite the bluster, the bravado, and the convenient revisions to the history of his antagonism of the NFL, billionaire Donald Trump would have a good chance of being approved as owner of the Bills, if the family of Ralph Wilson decides to sell the team to him.

“I don’t see why not,” a source with direct knowledge of the dynamics of team ownership told PFT on Tuesday.  “He’s the only one saying it will stay in Buffalo.”

But what of Trump’s thirst for attention, his potential inability to put the greater good above his own interests, his tendency to be belligerent and combative with real or imagined enemies?

“I don’t think there are nine people to stop him,” the source said, in reference to the fact that nine “no” votes from other owners can block the sale.

Of course, a vote of the owners won’t matter unless the Wilson family chooses to sell the team to Trump.  It’s one thing for Trump to talk publicly about buying the franchise.  It’s quite another to put the cash and financing together to make the purchase.

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Anthony Barr intrigued by playing in Dallas

Barr AP

The Cowboys need defensive linemen.  And multiple defensive linemen in the draft pool would like to play for the Cowboys.  The question is whether they’ll be there when the Cowboys are on the clock.

And whether the Cowboys will move up the board to get them.

A day after Pitt’s Aaron Donald visited Big D, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr arrived.  And he talked about his interest in the Cowboys.

“There’s pros and cons to every team and everywhere you go, but if I were a Cowboy, that would be really a blessing, truly a dream come true – a team I watched growing up,” Barr said, via the team’s official website.  “It would just be surreal.  I would be really appreciative to be here.”

During his visit, Barr spent time with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

“He showed me a lot of tape of [Julius] Peppers and Simeon Rice and [Warren] Sapp, so I think he wants me playing that defensive right end position to go after the quarterback, and that’s something I’m all for,” Barr said.

Barr also was a little star struck by the folks from the team with the blue star.

“I met Jerry Jones last night, and I couldn’t believe it,” Barr said.  “I couldn’t even talk at first, like, ‘This is Jerry Jones.’  It was a pretty cool experience, so these guys get my respect right off the bat.”

He’ll get their respect if he becomes a Cowboy, and if he helps lead the team back to the days of glory.

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Report: 49ers “very unlikely” to pick up option on Aldon Smith

AldonSmith AP

The 49ers have until May 3 to decide whether to extend the contract of linebacker Aldon Smith from four years to five.  In the wake of his latest off-field incident, we reported that the 49ers haven’t made a decision on whether to pick up the option.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the team is “very unlikely” to extend the deal.

Kawakami also believes that Smith “probably” won’t play for the 49ers in 2014.  The mechanism for Smith’s unavailability is unclear.  He could be suspended by the league under multiple policies and/or he could be placed on the non-football injury/illness list by the team if he has had a relapse of his alcohol issues.

The decision not to exercise the option reinforces the notion that the 49ers may indeed be done with Smith, at least for now.  Exercising the option would guarantee his 2015 salary of $9.75 million for injury only.  As of next March, it would be fully guaranteed.

For now, Smith’s 2014 salary also is guaranteed.  A suspension would wipe out the guarantee, however.  Likewise, if the 49ers were to place Smith on the NFI list, they wouldn’t have to pay him.

The risk of owing him $9.75 million in 2015 remains small.  Which would make a decision not to pick up the option confusing.  If the 49ers are done with Smith, why not trade him?  He’d be more attractive in trade if his new team would control his rights for two years.

Regardless of how the situation plays out, the 49ers clearly are exploring their options.  And those options include Smith never suiting up for the 49ers again.

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Report: Rolando McClain’s workout with Ravens “not a roaring success”

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

In a recent interview with the Carroll County Times, linebacker Rolando McClain indicated he wanted to restart his NFL career with the Ravens, who hold his rights after his retirement last spring.

Well, McClain reportedly had a workout with the Ravens, and the first accounts of that meeting are not flattering for the 2010 first-round pick.

According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network, McClain’s workout, from what she was told, “was NOT [her emphasis] a roaring success,” with the linebacker not completing the conditioning part of the exercise.

According to Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times, the workout was conducted Tuesday, and it “did not go well.”

Speaking at the NFL meetings in March, Ravens coach John Harbaugh made it clear the club would welcome back McClain, but only if he were diligent about his craft.

“If he’s working his rear end off, then I’m kind of excited about him,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “If he’s not, then I’ve got no interest in him being on our team.”

The 24-year-old McClain last appeared in an NFL game in 2012 with Oakland.

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Falcons waive Saeed Lee, Adam Nissley

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Falcons waived defensive back Saeed Lee and tight end Adam Nissley on Tuesday, the club said.

Lee and Nissley spent the 2013 season on injured reserve.

The 23-year-old Lee signed with the Falcons last May after going undrafted out of Alabama State. He reportedly suffered a leg injury in training camp.

Nissley, 25, also spent the 2012 season on injured reserve. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nissley suffered two ACL tears in his time with the Falcons. A UCF product, Nissley signed with Atlanta in April 2012.

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Source: Schedule release planned for April 22

NFL Getty Images

When it comes to the 2014 schedule, the NFL has said that the target for the release is mid-April, but that the schedule won’t be released this week.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL currently plans to release the schedule on Tuesday, April 22.

The unveiling of the schedule could be shifted to Wednesday, April 23 or Thursday, April 24.  For now, though, the plan is to pull the sheet off the 256-game slate on Tuesday.

Look for the schedule to be announced in prime-time, with a multi-hour event on NFL Network and something similar to that on ESPN, complete with (if last year’s trend holds) an effort to make preliminary picks for games to be played in December.

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NCAA begins circling the wagons, starting with food

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The NCAA has done plenty of huffing and puffing in the wake of the effort of Northwestern’s football team to unionize.  The NCAA will now try to blow their house down.

With food.

On Tuesday, the NCAA’s Legislative Council determined that student-athletes “can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation.”

So now college football coaches can punctuate meetings by saying, “Let’s go eat a goddamn snack.”

The move won’t become official until April 24, if/when the NCAA Board of Directors approves the move.  It would be a shock if they nix it, since preventing something that many assumed already was available to student-athletes could be the moment that the push to secure significantly better treatment for them fully crystallizes.

Then again, that may have already happened.

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