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Week 11 injury report roundup

Broncos Chargers Football AP

It’s late Friday afternoon and that can mean only one thing.

The weekly look at the injury reports submitted by all of the teams playing on Sunday. If I said it was something like waking up on Christmas morning to see what was under the tree, I’d be lying. It’s important business for this week’s games, though, and now you’ve got it all in one handy place for your perusal.

Just one more thing to say thanks for next Thursday when you aren’t shoveling stuffing in your mouth between plays.

Cardinals at Falcons

Defensive end Calais Campbell’s a 50/50 shot for the Cardinals, who are making non-injury related changes to the lineup as well. Cornerbacks Jamell Fleming and Greg Toler are also questionable. The Falcons won’t know until Sunday whether they’ll have wide receiver Julio Jones or linebacker Sean Weatherspoon in the lineup. Both are questionable, as are running back Michael Turner and defensive end John Abraham.

Buccaneers at Panthers

The Bucs have a slim injury report with guard Jamon Meredith as the only player listed as anything more than probable. He’s questionable for the NFC South tilt. Defensive end Antwan Applewhite is out for the Panthers, who also have eight players listed as probable. Wide receiver Steve Smith and left tackle Jordan Gross are both on that list.

Browns at Cowboys

Browns cornerback Joe Haden will be a game-time decision after injuring his oblique muscle in practice on Wednesday. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, who has missed three of the last four games, is also questionable. If both are out, it won’t look good for the Browns defense. Running back DeMarco Murray is doubtful, so the Cowboys will likely be without him again this week. Defensive end Sean Lissemore, safety Matt Johnson and center Phil Costa are all out and cornerback Mike Jenkins is doubtful.

Jets at Rams

Wide receiver Jeremy Kelley didn’t practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for the game in St. Louis. Running backs Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, defensive tackle Sione Po’uha and linebacker Bart Scott are also questionable. Coach Rex Ryan said he expects all of them to play. The Rams are looking pretty healthy, with wide receiver Austin Pettis standing as the biggest name among four questionable players.

Eagles at Redskins

You’ve likely heard that quarterback Michael Vick is out for this one. Wide receiver Jason Avant has also been ruled out, which means the Eagles’ emergency quarterback for Sunday is reportedly DeSean Jackson. Wide receiver Pierre Garçon and safety Brandon Meriweather are both likely to play for the otherwise healthy Redskins.

Packers at Lions

The Packers have known for some time that they are going to be without linebacker Clay Matthews, cornerback Charles Woodson and wide receiver Greg Jennings. Cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Terrell Manning are both questionable for Green Bay. The Lions have ruled out defensive tackle Corey Williams and safety Amari Spievey. Louis Delmas is also doubtful, which would leave the Lions short in the secondary against a team that you’d rather not face when you’re short in the secondary. Cornerback Chris Houston and wide receiver Calvin Johnson are both questionable after practicing on Thursday and Friday.

Jaguars at Texans

The Jaguars started off the week by ruling out running back Maurice Jones-Drew and ended it by doing the same with cornerback Rashean Mathis, defensive back Dwight Lowery and linebacker Greg Jones. Tight end Owen Daniels will be a game-time decision again this week after not being able to play in the win over the Bears. Running back Ben Tate’s been ruled out, while linebacker Tim Dobbins and defensive tackle Shaun Cody are both questionable.

Bengals at Chiefs

It doesn’t look like Bengals will have wide receiver Marvin Jones or safety Reggie Nelson as both are doubtful, but there’s still a chance for center Jeff Faine and wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. Guard Jon Asamoah and wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin are both out for this week’s game. Center Ryan Lilja and quarterback Brady Quinn are both questionable, although it looks like Matt Cassel will start again this week.

Saints at Raiders

The Saints have a chance at getting running back Darren Sproles back in the lineup, but they won’t have tackle Zach Strief again this week. The Raiders will be without defensive tackle Richard Seymour and running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson again this week. They’ll make a determination about safety Tyvon Branch and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey before the start of the game.

Chargers at Broncos

Chargers tackle Jared Gaither hasn’t been ruled out, he’s doubtful to play, but defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin won’t play. Running back Ryan Mathews returned to practice Friday after missing two days with a neck injury and is listed as questionable. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil is also questionable while cornerback Tracy Porter is out and guard Chris Kuper probably will be.

Colts at Patriots

The Colts ruled out cornerback Vontae Davis and tight end Coby Fleener were ruled out earlier in the week and the rest of the players on their injury report are probable. The Patriots’ injury report is, as always, filled with questionable players everywhere you look. Tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of them, although reports are that he will not play, and guard Logan Mankins breaks the mold by earning a doubtful designation.

Ravens at Steelers

Cornerback Jimmy Smith’s been knocked out by sports hernia surgery and the Ravens could also be without a pair of defensive linemen. Defensive end Pernell McPhee is doubtful and defensive tackle Terrance Cody is questionable. The Steelers will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, tackle Marcus Gilbert and safety Troy Polamalu. Safety Ryan Clark is probable after suffering a concussion on Monday night, as is running back Rashard Mendenhall.

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Arizona neurologist praises NFL’s new injury timeout rule

Craig Ochoa AP

Any time a doctor who works for or near the NFL praises an NFL initiative, there’s a reasonable cause for skepticism.

But in the case of the league’s recently adopted injury timeout rule, it’s hard to find much room for argument.

Via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, one of the league’s independent sideline neurologists had nothing but good to say about the policy.

“In my opinion, this is the biggest thing for sports medicine that has come out,” said Dr. Javier Cardenas, who is on the NFL head, neck and spine committee. “Where else do you have a medical provider that actually is calling a timeout in any other sport? None. None. Huge for sports medicine.”

Cardenas works the sidelines at Cardinals games, so he has ringside seats for what’s happening on the field. But under the new rule, it’s a certified athletic trainer (ATC spotter) upstairs) who can make the call to stop the game if a player appears disoriented (such as Julian Edelman late in the Super Bowl).

That’s when doctors such as Cardenas can step in.

Other than a natural curiosity as to whether the spotter will be as quick on the trigger when a star player or a quarterback is hurt, there’s a bright line distinction here. Unlike when one of the league’s own concussion specialists said reports of CTE in football players was “over-exaggerated,” Cardenas’ point was clear.

The only result of this new rule is positive.

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Winston first, Williams second, and then the draft is wide open

Jameis Winston AP

Everyone thinks the Buccaneers will take Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the draft. Most people think the Titans will take Leonard Williams with the second pick. And after that? No one knows.

Taking a look at a total of 10 mock drafts at Rotoworld, NFL.com and CBS, the general consensus is that there is no consensus beyond the Top 2 picks. Here are a few observations:

1. Everyone thinks Jameis Winston is going first. It’s not exactly breaking news at this point that the Buccaneers are expected to take Winston with the first overall pick in the draft. All 10 mock drafts had Winston going first.

2. Almost everyone thinks Leonard Williams is going second. One mock draft has Marcus Mariota going to Tennessee with the second overall pick. Eight of the other nine mock drafts had Williams, the USC defensive lineman, going No. 2. And the other mock draft that didn’t have Williams going second had Nebraska’s Randy Gregory going second — and that comes with an asterisk, because that mock draft came out before the news broke that Gregory had failed a marijuana test at the Combine, which may hurt his draft stock.

3. If Mariota doesn’t go second, no one knows where he’s going. Various mock drafts have him going third, sixth, seventh, 10th, 12th and 13th. Predicting where Mariota will land this year may prove as hard as predicting where Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater would land last year.

4. Dante Fowler looks like a very high pick. Most mock drafts have Fowler, the Florida outside linebacker, going third overall to Jacksonville. Everyone has Fowler going in the Top 8.

5. The Raiders will draft Kevin White or Amari Cooper. The biggest debate in this year’s draft may be about whether the best wide receiver is West Virginia’s White or Alabama’s Cooper. There seems to be little doubt that Oakland will draft one of them. Seven mock drafts have White going fourth overall to the Raiders, and the other three have Cooper going fourth overall to the Raiders.

6. Vic Beasley is all over the map. Beasley, the Clemson pass rusher, could go No. 3 to Jacksonville, No. 22 to Pittsburgh, or anywhere in between, depending on whom you believe.

7. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is probably the top offensive lineman. Six of the mock drafts have Scherff as the first lineman off the board, but there’s widespread disagreement about how high he’ll go: Perhaps as high as No. 5, but there may also not be any offensive linemen in the Top 10.

8. At least one running back is going in the first round. The first-round running back once looked like an endangered species, but this year everyone agrees that either Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or Georgia’s Todd Gurley, or both, will be a first-round pick.

9. No one really knows anything. A month away is still far too early to predict the draft with any degree of accuracy. All it takes is one team early in the draft to surprise us, and the domino effect will completely reshape the rest of the first round. And if that surprise early on is the Buccaneers taking someone other than Winston, you can tear up every mock draft right then and there.

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Cowboys won’t spend a lot to bring back Rolando McClain

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Free agent linebacker Rolando McClain remains unsigned, and from all indications, if he’s going to return to Dallas it will be for a low-cost, low-risk contract.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Cowboys and McClain have “a drastically different” number in mind when it comes to how much McClain should be paid. In other words, the Cowboys are willing to McClain back only if he’s willing to play for something close to the $700,000 they paid him last year.

McClain, however, surely thinks he’s worth a lot more than that. He started 12 games last year and was a big part of the reason the Cowboys’ defense significantly improved.

There have long been questions about McClain’s off-field activities. He’s been arrested multiple times, walked away from football for a year in 2013, and will be playing for free for the first four games of this season because of league discipline for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. So it’s easy to see why the Cowboys don’t want to devote a lot of money to him.

It’s also easy to see why no other team would want to devote a lot of money to him. Unless McClain is willing to reduce his contract demands, he may be out of work a while.

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Jones thinks a team or two is headed to L.A.

George Straight 2014 The Cowboy Rides Away Tour Press Conference Getty Images

Collectively, the NFL’s owners have yet to decide whether a franchise will relocate to Los Angeles.  Individually, more and more of them have expressed a belief that it’s going to happen.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently has joined the growing chorus of owners that see the NFL back in L.A.

“It does,” Jones said on PFT Live regarding the notion that it looks like a team or two will be returning to Los Angeles in 2016.  “[Chargers owner] Dean Spanos is outstanding, [Raiders owner] Mark Davis has got a legacy associated with Los Angeles, the Raiders, and of course [Rams owner] Stan Kroenke is one of the top owners we have in the room.  They’re doers, their teams are in a position that can do it.

“It’s going to mean a huge risk and a huge commitment of dollars to whoever does it,” Jones added.  “That will assure us that they’ll kill themselves making this a success.  Los Angeles is big to the NFL, it’s bigger than your normal consideration.  Los Angeles just has a ‘wow’ factor that we’ve got to do it right.  And that’s my biggest concern.  All of these guys are capable, they’ve got teams that the fans of Los Angeles are familiar with in all cases; two that have been in Los Angeles and one that’s been right down the road. So this is a good situation I think.”

What about the looming possibility that a team like the Raiders will end up right down the road from the Cowboys, in San Antonio?

“Well if they go there, we have a plain suburb called Plano, Texas right outside of Dallas. There’s a higher percentage of Cowboy fans in San Antonio than there is in Plano; 97 percent.  So it’s a great hotbed for us down there, we do a lot of things down there, we train down there.  So if they go down there they’ll be surrounded with a lot of Cowboy fans and that’s good, that’s good.  The main things I’m interested in is the fans in San Antonio getting all the football they deserve to get.”

Regardless, fans in L.A. will be getting plenty of football.  Whether they deserve it depends on how many of them show up to experience it.

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Pagano plans to coach Colts for “many years to come”

Pagano Getty Images

Colts coach Chuck Pagano reportedly won’t be getting a new contract before the final season of his initial four-year deal.  But that doesn’t have Pagano thinking about working for any other team.

Be where your feet are,” Pagano said in a statement issued Friday night, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star.  “What do I mean?  Cancer taught me to be thankful for today.  All I’m concentrating on is today.  Then tomorrow.  My focus right now is on the draft, bringing in players that can help us continue to grow, get better, and continue to ‘Build the Monster.’  I look forward to coaching the Colts this season and for many years to come.”

To summarize, Pagano isn’t thinking about the future but he plans to remain with the Colts well into the future.  Whether owner Jim Irsay feels that way after the next football season ends remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen whether Irsay issues a statement of his own.  Or says something about the situation on Twitter.  Using what may or may not be song lyrics.

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NFL found 25 failures to remove players from 2012 through 2014

Edelman Getty Images

Earlier this week, the NFL gave the ATC spotter the power to stop the game action and insist on the removal of a player in distress.  It gives the spotter unprecedented authority, but it definitely was needed.

According to the league office, film study revealed 25 occasions in the last three seasons during which players in distress were not immediately removed from play.  (In a recent appearance on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent inadvertently said that the 25 plays came entirely from 2014.)

Vincent specifically confirmed that Patriots receiver Julian Edelman should have been removed from play for further evaluation after taking a blow to the head in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX.  It nevertheless remains to be seen whether the ATC spotter will stop the action and remove a key player during crunch time of a postseason game.

NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan, a long-time NFL athletic trainer, explained during Friday’s PFT Live that it shouldn’t be an issue, because the spotter should at all times have player health and safety as the paramount concern.  Still, if the spotter removes, for example, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at a critical moment of the Super Bowl and Brady ends up being fine, the spotter will need to be ready to withstand the criticism that necessarily will come from the decision to send Brady to the sideline for at least one snap.

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49ers waive CB Cameron Fuller

San Diego Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers will have a different look at cornerback entering 2015.

This extends even to the reserve ranks.

San Francisco announced Friday it had waived second-year corner Cameron Fuller. The 24-yar-old Fuller joined the 49ers’s practice squad in mid-December and was on the active roster for the regular season finale vs. Arizona.

Two of the 49ers’s key cornerbacks of a season ago — Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver — have departed in free agency. While the club did add Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright in free agency, the position’s depth looms a concern as the 2015 NFL Draft nears.

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Bears owner at first said no to Ray McDonald, then changed his mind

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Bears owner George McCaskey says that when General Manager Ryan Pace first approached him about signing Ray McDonald, McCaskey said no. Then McDonald changed McCaskey’s mind.

McCaskey said that he initially thought McDonald, who was accused of both domestic violence and sexual assault last year, should not be brought to Chicago. But McDonald, who was not charged in connection with either accusation, reached out to McCaskey personally and convinced him that the Bears should take a chance on him.

“Ryan had asked me for permission to pursue him, and we had a file on him with the information that we had gathered,” McCaskey said. “I looked at the file and came back and said no. So Ryan said, ‘Fine, we’ll move onto the next guy.’ And then Ray . . . asked if I would be willing to meet with him and I said yes. The fact that he proposed that idea, I gave him a lot of credit for. He was very candid, very forthright. It was a difficult conversation. It was long. It took a lot out of me and I think it took a lot out of him. After that conversation, I told Ryan that he had our permission.”

So what did McDonald say to McCaskey to change his mind?

“He talked about these incidents which have become public knowledge and walked me through each one,” McCaskey said. “I don’t want to get too much into the particulars. I just want to give you a sense of the conversation. I was impressed with how sincere he was and how he motivated he is. He understands I think that he could have well been facing the end of his football career, and he loves football and he wants that career to continue. So I was impressed with his motivation.”

Now the question is whether McDonald can stay out of trouble in Chicago, or whether the Bears will have egg on their faces for giving McDonald another chance.

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Jets sending six to work out Mariota

Playoff Championship Ohio St Oregon Football AP

Back from Arizona after the league meetings, the Jets will now be heading west for a workout with quarterback Marcus Mariota.  And they may need a bigger plane to get there.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that six key decision makers will be heading to Oregon to work out Mariota, including G.M. Mike Maccagnan, coach Todd Bowles, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, quarterbacks coach Kevin Patullo, director of college scouting Rex Hogan, and director of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger.

The Jets currently sit at No. 6 in round one, and there’s a chance Mariota will slide to them.  There’s also a chance the Jets will become sufficiently enthralled with Mariota to trade up with the team bearing the nickname the Jets once had:  The Titans.

Three years ago, Washington gave up the No. 6 pick, two additional first-round picks, and a second round pick to jump to No. 2, where they selected quarterback Robert Griffin III.

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Titans bring back CB Brandon Harris

Brandon Harris, T.Y. Hilton AP

The Titans have re-signed a secondary reserve, reaching a one-year deal with cornerback Brandon Harris, the club said Friday.

Harris (5-10, 189) made 11 tackles in 11 games with Tennessee in 2014. A Miami (Fla.) product, Harris had played the previous three seasons with Houston, which took him in Round Two in 2011. Overall, Harris has recorded 48 tackles and 10 passes defensed in regular season play.

Harris will again vie for a backup role with the Titans, who are likely to start Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty at the cornerback spots next season. One factor working in Harris’s favor in the near future? He is just 25 years old, and his combination of experience and relative youth would enhance his value were he to have a breakout season at some point.

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Caldwell says things “didn’t work out” with Reggie Bush

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Reggie Bush led the Lions in rushing in 2013, but they cut Bush before free agency.  At the league meetings in Arizona, coach Jim Caldwell didn’t have much to say about why Bush is no longer in Detroit.

“I think oftentimes you’ll find that there are going to be some adjustments here and there that you make that when you look at your team and make a determination on your personnel, what you think is best,” Caldwell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.  “Sometimes you got to let some guys go, and sometimes you try to make certain you keep certain guys if you can.  But it’s not always the case, and in that particular case it didn’t work out.  So we look to do other things.”

Those “other things” don’t mean finding another running back.  Instead, Bush’s absence will mean more opportunities for Joique Bell and Theo Riddick.

“I think [Riddick is] going to be one of those guys that’s going to force us to get him that ball a little bit more because I think you’re really going to see him come,” Caldwell said.

While the Lions decided to move on from Bush, the 49ers stepped in with a bottom-of-the-market contract but major expectations that he’ll be an every down back, as they search for a Frank Gore replacement.

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Panthers claim Jonathan Martin off waivers from 49ers

Jonathan Martin AP

The Panthers just added some more offensive line depth, and have now employed both players offended by Richie Incognito.

The Panthers announced they claimed tackle Jonathan Martin off waivers from the 49ers, a day after he was cut loose there.

Martin has shown at times to have NFL talent, though the abuse he took in Miami made some question how he’d fit into a locker room in the future. The 49ers, with his old college coach Jim Harbaugh, were a good place for him to reestablish himself.

The Panthers could use all the tackle depth they can get their hands on, so Martin has an opportunity for playing time. For a team that opened last year with Byron Bell and a converted defensive tackle (Nate Chandler) as their starting tackles, they’ve now added two cheap upgrades in Michael Oher and Martin.

“Our goal is to build the strongest roster possible and add competition at every position,” Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement from the team. “Jonathan brings quality experience to our offensive line, having started 32 games in his career at both tackle spots.”

The Panthers had “Player A” from the Ted Wells report, guard Andrew McDonaldin camp last summer.

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Pagano, Grigson could have a hard time staying on same page this year

Pagano AP

2015 began as the year of the mutual parting, with a pair of successful coaches who were unable to achieve ultimate success leaving their teams.  That trend could continue in 2016, if the Colts don’t extend the contract of coach Chuck Pagano, and if he moves on after the season ends.

Complicating matters is the identical status of G.M. Ryan Grigson.  Both he and Pagano will be commencing contract years, which means that either Grigson or Pagano may bear the ultimate blame for the failure of the Colts to get beyond (or at least stay within 38 points of) the Patriots.

It also means that Grigson and Pagano could be tempted to blame each other, in the event that the 2015 season at any point unravels.  If, for example, the team’s run defense — its “Achilles heel,” per Pagano — continues to fail to slow down New England, Pagano could be tempted to blame it on the personnel, and Grigson could be tempted to blame it on the coaching.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR.com suspects, as he explained during Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, that a disconnect already exists between Pagano and Grigson.  The leak that Pagano (but not Grigson) won’t be getting a new contract before the season at a minimum raises a question about whether Pagano already is being set up to take the fall.

Regardless of their current relationship, it becomes critical for Pagano and Grigson to band together, setting aside a desire to survive something less than a full-blown purge and accepting the notion that both will stay or both will go.  Three years ago, owner Jim Irsay opted to press the reset button, firing both coach Jim Caldwell and G.M. Bill Polian.  This time around, Irsay may be inclined to fire only one or the other; after the 2001 season, Polian stayed and coach Jim Mora was let go.

To be as successful as they possible can be, Pagano and Grigson need to commit to cooperation and mutual support.  That’s definitely easier said than done, especially since one of them sits in a box with the owner during games and the other one is down on the sidelines, wondering what they may be talking about up there.

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Mike Westhoff thinks kickers are so good, special teams are boring

Jets coaches Ryan and Westhoff react while they played the 49ers in NFL game in East Rutherford Reuters

There was a time when kickers missed extra points regularly, went whole seasons without hitting a 50-yard field goal and struggled to boot kickoffs into the end zone. But that time is in the distant past.

That’s why Mike Westhoff, long one of the NFL’s most colorful special teams coaches, now thinks the kicking game is downright boring.

“The job I did doesn’t exist today,” Westhoff told ESPN. “What do you want me to coach, touchbacks? Not interested.”

Westhoff thinks the NFL needs to move extra points back, narrow the goal posts and make the hashmarks closer to the sidelines so that there are more field goals from difficult angles.

“Kicking has become easier today,” Westhoff said. “The kickers are bigger, stronger and better athletes than before.”

So much better that special teams just aren’t as fun as they used to be.

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Panthers add former Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin

Green Bay Packers v St Louis Rams Getty Images

On a day when another of their targets spurned them, the Panthers signed a guy they had in for a recent visit.

The team announced they had signed former Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin to a one-year contract.

Boykin spent three years with the Packers, but became a free agent when they didn’t tender him an offer this offseason.

He caught 49 passes in 2013, but fell down the pecking order when the regulars got well and caught just three passes last year.

Boykin grew up in Charlotte, attending Butler High, and has a chance to latch on in a much shallower depth chart than the one he was stuck on in Green Bay.

Earlier this afternoon, cornerback Alan Ball signed with the Bears after his visit to the Panthers.

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