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Jets looking for help at running back

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Most of the focus on the problems with the Jets offense have focused on the play of quarterback Mark Sanchez, but Sanchez is hardly the only reason the unit has performed poorly this season.

The running game has been a non-factor as well. Shonn Greene’s been healthy but unproductive and backups Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight have both battled injuries over the course of the season. Powell is currently dealing with a concussion and McKnight missed the loss to the Seahawks because of an ankle injury, leaving the team shorthanded in the backfield.

According to Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com, they plan to rectify that situation on Tuesday. They will be working out several running backs and intend to sign one of them to the active roster. Among the backs coming in for a look are former Bear Khalil Bell and former Texan and Dolphin Steve Slaton.

Slaton played for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano in Miami, which could give him a slight edge in the competition. Whoever gets the job could wind up getting work right away thanks to the team’s injury issues at the position right now, although it is hard to imagine they’ll cause a significant change in production for the team’s ground game.

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Eagles sign Canadian rugby player Adam Zaruba

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The Eagles signed a tight end on Monday who will need to brush up on more than just his playbook in order to make the team this summer.

Adam Zaruba is trying to make the jump from a spot on Canada’s national rugby sevens team to a place in the NFL. Zaruba has not played football since he was in high school, but jumped at the chance to try for a switch when it was offered in May and spent the last couple of months working out ahead of a tryout with the Eagles over the weekend.

“It will be a really awesome thing for me as an athlete,” Zaruba said of his chance to try out, via The Province. “The window here is very small.”

At 6’5″ and 265 pounds, Zaruba has plenty of size and his rugby background speaks to his athletic ability. Those traits won’t make up for the lack of experience, but they should be Zaruba’s biggest pluses as he tries to make a big leap.

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PFT preseason power rankings No. 3: Green Bay Packers

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Seven years ago, the Packers barely made it to the playoffs. And then they went on the road for three straight playoff games, made it to the Super Bowl, and won the whole damn thing. Since then, the Packers rarely have had to struggle to get to the postseason, but they’ve been unable to get back to the Super Bowl.

In 2011, a franchise-best 15-1 record evaporated into a one-and-done Lambeau loss to the Giants. In 2012, another division title and a wild-card win led to a shredding in San Francisco by a quarterback now deemed to be unfit to play. The next year resulted in another division title (despite an 8-7-1) record and another home loss, this time to the same team, and the same currently-unemployed quarterback.

The Packers went 12-4 in 2014, culminating in a defeat-snatched-from-victory’s-jaws NFC title game loss in Seattle. The next year, a wild-card berth resulted in an overtime loss in a division-round game for the ages in Arizona. Last year, the Packers caught fire after a 4-6 start and made it to the NFC title game again, running out of steam in Atlanta.

This year, they again sit near the top of the stack as the season approaches. And their CEO believes that, after two NFC title-game appearances in the last three years, this time they’ll punch through, making the short trip across the border and playing for their fifth Super Bowl trophy in the Vikings’ living room. They’ll definitely get at least close. Whether they can finish the job is another issue entirely.

Biggest positive change: Ted Thompson hasn’t signed many free agents over the years, but when tight end Jared Cook made a cash grab, Thompson said sayonara and signed Martellus Bennett. While Bennett may not make a spectacular postseason catch that takes out the Cowboys in Dallas, Bennett likely will be an upgrade, especially since Bennett has had the better overall career. With Cook’s performance perhaps finally persuading Thompson of the value of having a competent pass-catching tight end (something they haven’t had since Jermichael Finley), Bennett becomes the guy who maybe can make the difference for an offense that is loaded at plenty of other positions, primarily the one responsible for throwing the football to guys like Bennett.

Biggest negative change: Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang jumped to the Lions in free agency, months after the Packers dumped guard Josh Sitton and he landed with the Bears. While some would say interior linemen are fungible, it’s not easy to let quality guys like Lang and Sitton (and center JC Tretter) leave and hope that the next man up will help keep the quarterback from being the next man down.

Coaching thermometer: Who the hell knows? The standard for Mike McCarthy doesn’t seem to be the same as it is elsewhere, where a single owner can decide in any given year (or on any given day) that the coach isn’t getting the most out of the roster. In Green Bay, it’s different. Which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether the individual owner would make good or bad decisions about keeping or changing coaches.

But here’s one thing that’s hard to dispute. A traditional owner likely would have pushed Thompson to push McCarthy to push defensive coordinator Dom Capers out the door. And many would say that the consistent failure of the defense to properly complement Rodgers and the offense justifies a new approach during however many years Rodgers has left.

We’d like to have a beer with . . . Mike Daniels. The underrated and outspoken interior defensive lineman would hopefully loosen up and share his insights on what’s going right and what’s going wrong with a Packers team that always gets close but can’t get over the top. Is Rodgers a good leader? Where could he do better?

When Rodgers said last year that the team lacked energy on the sideline and then said there needs to be a healthy fear of getting cut, did the players see that as a shot at McCarthy?

Who isn’t carrying his weight? Is Capers the problem?

It may take more than a few beers to get to the bottom of this one. But we’d sure love to try. Even if I’d be passed out before Daniels begins baring his soul.

How they could prove us wrong: If Bennett and Rodgers simply don’t mix (and their personalities are clearly different), that could create a layer of dysfunction that could make it hard to get through what has been an annual stretch of underachievement and adversity. And if running back Ty Montgomery can’t take the week-in, week-out   pounding now that he has made the full-time switch from receiver, they may regret letting Eddie Lacy walk — and not making a run at Adrian Peterson. Chances are, though, that they’ll still find a way to still be standing when the field is cut to eight or four. The question remains whether they can keep it together when the field gets cut to two.

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Chiefs DL Chris Jones will start on PUP after knee surgery

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Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, according to Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star.

Jones, who made 11 starts and had 28 tackles and two sacks last season, had arthroscopic knee surgery July 12.

Tight end Travis Kelce, who had offseason shoulder surgery, and linebacker Derrick Johnson, who ruptured his left Achilles tendon last December, will not have to go on the PUP list. Burkholder said Johnson can do a “good bit” already.

Offensive guard Parker Ehinger, who tore an ACL last November, and linebacker Dadi Nicolas, who ruptured his patellar tendon in January, both will start camp on PUP.

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Bills visit with Roy Miller, Devon Still and Leger Douzable

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The Bills had wide receiver Anquan Boldin in for a visit on Monday and he wasn’t the only veteran free agent meeting with the team.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive linemen Roy Miller, Devon Still and Leger Douzable were also in for visits to kick off the week.

It’s the second AFC East visit for Miller this month as the former Jaguar also spent time with the Dolphins recently. He’s coming off a torn Achilles last season. Still, a 2012 second-round pick of the Bengals, played three games for the Texans last season before ending the year on injured reserve.

Douzable is a familiar face to many players in Buffalo after playing in all 16 games and making five starts for the Bills last year. The changes at head coach and General Manager mean that the guys making the call on the roster makeup aren’t as familiar with his work, however.

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Veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers visiting Cardinals

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There are still a few free agents on the market who can be of service to teams, but time is drawing short to get them into camp.

One of them appears to be closer to finding a home.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, former Chargers and Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is visiting the Cardinals Wednesday.

He has also received some interest for the Patriots, and had contact with the Steelers early in free agency.

The 31-year-old Flowers finished last year on injured reserve with the latest in a series of concussions, which led to some concerns about his future.

The Cardinals are looking for answers at their number two corner spot, and coach Bruce Arians has declared the competition “wide open.” They apparently are opening it up beyond the options on the current roster.

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Eagles will “continue to look” for cornerbacks during camp

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The Eagles made some roster moves on Sunday to set up their roster for training camp and two of them included cornerbacks.

They cut Dwayne Gratz and placed second-round pick Sidney Jones on the non-football injury list. The Jones move was expected after he tore his Achilles in a pre-draft workout while Gratz’ departure left the team without much in the way of experienced depth.

That could change as camp unfolds. During a Monday press conference, head coach Doug Pederson suggested the team isn’t done making moves at corner.

“Well, again, it’s a position that we continue to look even outside, as we do every position, and as you know, we’re going to continue to look and try to bring in guys if we can and just create as much competition at that spot,” Pederson said in comments distributed by the team. “You know, it’s obviously a spot that we’re going to keep our eye on throughout camp. But now it gives a couple of our younger guys, you know, Jalen Mills, and guys like that, a chance to really get in here and get valuable reps.”

If those reps don’t yield the desired results, calls to other teams about trades and close perusal of the waiver wire will likely be in the Eagles’ future.

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Lucky Whitehead on shoplifting charge: I didn’t even know about that

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Lucy Whitehead said he was unaware he had a warrant issued for his arrest after failing to appear in court on a shoplifting charge.

I didn’t even know about that,” the Cowboys receiver said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Whitehead’s initial arrest occurred June 22 in Virginia, according to TMZ. At that time, he was accused of taking less than $200 worth of items from a convenience store.

On July 6, Whitehead failed to show up at Prince William County Court for an appearance related to the June 22 arrest, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He will now also face a charge of failure to appear in court.

The court date has been rescheduled for Aug. 10, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which will force Whitehead to leave training camp.

Cowboys officials first learned of the incident Monday, per Hill.

Whitehead has had an unusual offseason, saying last week that a dognapper was demanding ransom for his dog before the dog was returned a day later.

The Cowboys’ selection of Ryan Switzer in the fourth round made Whitehead a long shot to return to the Cowboys for a third season. Now, Whitehead might find his spot with the Cowboys even more precarious.

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Gareon Conley remains under investigation for rape

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As the Raiders’ rookies report to training camp, a legal cloud hangs over first-round draft pick Gareon Conley.

Just days before the draft, a woman told police that Conley raped her in a Cleveland hotel. Cleveland Police say they are still investigating.

“Detectives have had meetings with the prosecutor’s office,” Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia told Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “They would still classify it as being under investigation. No official charges have been filed. . . . They haven’t ruled it closed. The official statement is it still remains under investigation.”

The Raiders made the surprising decision to draft Conley in the first round despite the rape allegation, and at the time they expressed confidence that he would be exonerated. Three months later, he hasn’t been.

Conley has not yet signed his rookie contract and it is unclear whether the Raiders will sign him without some clarity about his legal status.

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Cowboys featured in ad opposing Bathroom Bill

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The Cowboys are working behind the scenes, opposing the passage of the so-called “Bathroom Bill,” according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. A special legislative session is considering a bill that would have people use the restroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate.

Passage of the bill could derail the Cowboys’ bid for the 2018 NFL Draft, among other future events they hope to host.

Per Moore, the Cowboys are featured in a $1 million ad buy by the Texas Association of Business that begins play on radio stations Tuesday. In the ad, a lifelong Cowboys fan describes her excitement that the 2018 draft could be in North Texas. She then says the NFL could reject the club’s bid to host the festivities, costing Texas “millions of dollars in lost revenue and leaving a lot of Cowboys fans angry” if the bathroom bill passes.

Cowboys officials are taking a diplomatic approach, trying not to alienate Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill’s primary proponent. Owner Jerry Jones carefully chose his words when asked about the bill, showing no interest in entering the debate publicly.

“There are different bills being discussed,” Jones said, via Moore. “They are fluid and change by the day.”

The Cowboys long have played the role of favorite for the 2018 draft, but the NFL has yet to announce the site for the event. NFL officials have not commented publicly, but a league spokesman addressed the bathroom bill in the wake of Super Bowl LI in Houston in February, saying, “If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events.”

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Packers apparently will have to beat out every other NFL team to host draft

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Every team apparently has a desire to host the NFL Draft, according to Packers CEO Mark Murphy. Murphy told shareholders Monday that every NFL city, plus Canton, Ohio, has bid to host the draft.

The Packers have bid for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

“What I’ve heard is they’re gong to announce soon the ‘18 draft [location], so it would probably around this time a year from now that they’re looking at ’19,” Murphy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

The Packers’ Titletown District would play host to the event, with the 10,000-seat Resch Center, which sits across Oneida Street from Lambeau, mentioned as a possibility for the draft itself.

The 2014 draft was the last one in New York City, with Chicago hosting in 2015 and 2016. Philadelphia hosted this year.

The Cowboys are viewed as the favorites for 2018, although a so-called “Bathroom Bill” in the works for the state’s special legislative session could send the event elsewhere. Kansas City has expressed strong interest in hosting the event in the next few years.

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Adolphus Washington pleads not guilty on concealed firearm charge

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With the Bills set to start training camp this week, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington took care of some legal business on Monday.

Washing was arrested in Cincinnati earlier this month and charged with improperly carrying a concealed firearm. A police report from the incident says Washington “reached for and displayed a gun while sitting inside his vehicle, just feet away from officers” and a video of the incident features an officer telling Washington he was lucky that things didn’t escalate after showing the firearm.

Washington pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge on Monday and a pre-trial hearing was set for August 1. His attorney Clyde Bennett told Mike Rodak of ESPN.com that he hopes to have the case dismissed.

“I believe the charges are factually and legally inappropriate,” Bennett said. “I don’t believe that Mr. Washington committed any crimes. That is why we have filed a motion to dismiss. Our intent and plan is to have the charges against him dismissed.”

Washington, a 2016 fourth-round pick, is due at the Bills’ first practice of training camp on Thursday.

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Cowboys’ Lucky Whitehead arrested, warrant issued for shoplifting

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Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead was reportedly arrested for shoplifting last month, then had a warrant issued for his arrest after he failed to appear in court to answer for the charge.

Whitehead’s initial arrest took place on June 22 in Virginia, according to TMZ. At that time, he was accused of taking less than $200 worth of items from a convenience store.

On July 6, Whitehead failed to show up at Prince William County Court for an appearance related to the June 22 arrest, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He will now also face a charge of failure to appear in court.

It’s been an odd offseason for Whitehead, who said last week that his dog had been taken and was being held for ransom, then said a day later that his dog had been returned.

Whitehead has an uphill battle to make the Cowboys’ roster, and off-field distractions won’t help.

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Clayton Geathers will be on PUP list to start regular season

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The Colts won’t have safety Clayton Geathers in the lineup for the first six weeks of the regular season.

General Manager Chris Ballard said Monday that Geathers will go on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and will remain on that list when the team makes the cut to 53 players. That means he will be ineligible to play or practice for at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

The word from Ballard doesn’t come as a surprise as the possibility of Geathers missing regular season time has been on the table since he had neck surgery in March.

In better health news at safety, Ballard also said, via George Bremer of the Anderson Herald Bulletin, that first-round pick Malik Hooker is good to go for the start of camp. Hooker had shoulder and sports hernia surgeries after his final season at Ohio State, but has recovered and should be a strong candidate for a starting spot right out of the gate.

Quarterback Andrew Luck will open camp on the PUP list, but is expected to come off before the start of the season. The same is true of defensive lineman Kendall Langford and offensive lineman Brian Schwenke.

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Willie Snead says he’ll be at camp on Thursday

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Saints wide receiver Willie Snead has not signed the exclusive rights free agent offer that the team tendered early this offseason and made no bones about his desire for a different deal than the one-year, $615,000 one that’s on the table, but that won’t stop him from being at training camp on Thursday.

Snead wrote in a text message to Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he will report to camp with the rest of the team’s veterans.

“No holdout,” Snead wrote. “I’ll be on the practice field Thursday.”

Because Snead hasn’t signed his tender, he would not be a holdout if he did decide to stay home but the wideout participated in all of the team’s offseason activities so it’s no surprise that he’ll continue to get his work in.

Snead has 141 catches for 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns over the last two seasons and is set for a big role in the offense again this year. If he doesn’t sign a multi-year deal with the team this season, Snead will be a restricted free agent in 2018.

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Linebacker Zach Orr visiting Texans today

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Zach Orr’s quest to get back into the league after initially announcing his retirement earlier this offseason has taken him to Houston.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the former Ravens linebacker is visiting the Texans Monday.

Orr was a second-team All-Pro selection last year and led the team in tackles, but the Ravens didn’t tender him as a restricted free agent. That wasn’t negligence on their part, it came after he announced his retirement because of a neck issue which was deemed career-ending.

But Orr has found doctors willing to clear him, and now he’s looking for a team for follow suit.

He had some interest earlier this summer after announcing his comeback plans, talking to the Lions, Colts and Jets.

The Texans could use some linebacker depth after losing John Simon to the Colts in free agency.

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