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Broncos cruise to victory over Raiders

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

It’s been a difficult proposition this season for teams to win on the road on Thursday nights. Then again, most of those teams didn’t have to play the Oakland Raiders either.

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning posted the 70th 300-yard game of his career throwing for 310 yards, a touchdown and an interception and Matt Prater kicked four field goals as the Broncos knocked off their division rival 26-13 on Thursday night.

The Raiders played a decent first half and trailed just 13-7 heading into halftime after Darren McFadden scored from six yards out on a touchdown pass from Carson Palmer with 2:06 left in the second quarter.

The porous Raiders defense actually held strong in holding Denver to just a field goal early in the third quarter despite three snaps from inside the Raiders 2-yard line.

Then Oakland fell apart.

Linebacker Von Miller sacked Palmer and forced a fumble that was recovered by Mitch Unrein at the Raiders 2-yard line. Two plays later, Knowshon Moreno scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Broncos a 23-7 lead. The Raiders went three-and-out on the following possession and Prater kicked his fourth field goal of the night, a 33-yard attempt, to give Denver a 26-7 lead.

Palmer connected with Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 56-yard touchdown with just under six minutes to play, but Denarius Moore was ruled out of bounds on the two-point conversion attempt to preserve a 26-13 cushion for the Broncos.

The Broncos then rode Moreno in piecing together a 12-play, 38-yard drive to keep the sticks moving and run out the final five minutes off the clock. In his third start for the injured Willis McGahee, Moreno carried 32 times for 119 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos.

Palmer completed 19 of 30 passes for 273 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. McFadden carried just 11 times for 52 yards for the Raiders in his first game back after missing four games with a high ankle sprain.

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Rams take tight end facing assault charges

HUNTINGTON, WV - NOVEMBER 28: Tyler Higbee #82 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers makes an 11-yard touchdown reception in the first half of the game against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on November 28, 2014 in Huntington, West Virginia. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams got quarterback Jared Goff a tight end early in the fourth round, and the Rams apparently don’t mind that Tyler Higbee is facing assault charges.

Higbee was arrested earlier this month near the Western Kentucky campus and charged with second degree assault, second degree evading police and alcohol intoxication in a public place. His lawyer contends that Higbee acted in self defense and has said he will plead not guilty.

On NFL Network’s draft coverage, analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he believes Higbee is more explosive than Hunter Henry, the first tight end taken in this draft early in the second round, but Jeremiah said he thought Higbee would be drafted in the sixth or seventh round.

Higbee caught 48 passes for 563 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior at Western Kentucky despite missing five games due to injury.

The Rams cut veteran tight end Jared Cook before the start of free agency.

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Raiders jump Cowboys to take quarterback Connor Cook

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 31:  Connor Cook #18 of the Michigan State Spartans warms up prior to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders didn’t really need another quarterback, but they made an aggressive move to get one Saturday.

Oakland traded in front of Dallas to take Michigan State’s Connor Cook with the 100th overall pick.

The Cowboys obviously wanted to find a guy this weekend, after a deal to acquire Paxton Lynch in the late first round fell through. Whether they’d have taken Cook or not at 101 is unclear (though we’re sure they’ll say they weren’t), but the Raiders prevented it.

The Raiders are solid with starter Derek Carr and put a second-round tender on backup Matt McGloin to hang onto him. Adding Cook gives them someone to replace McGloin a year from now or someone to flip for future picks.

General Manager Reggie McKenzie comes from a tradition in Green Bay of stockpiling quarterbacks, and he is beginning to get his Raiders roster to the point where he can afford such a luxury.

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Report: Sean Lee had a “minor” knee scope

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Middle linebacker Sean Lee #50 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on September 29, 2013 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys made one of the most notable picks on the second day of the draft when they picked linebacker Jaylon Smith with the 34th overall selection despite a knee injury that most believe will keep him out for the 2016 season.

One of the people in that group is Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed surgery on Smith’s knee after he injured it in the Fiesta Bowl. Cooper is also the Cowboys’ head team physician, something Smith said Friday “definitely helped” get him to Dallas. It may have also helped that the Cowboys have some recent experience dealing with a talented linebacker who has dealt with injuries.

That would be Sean Lee and Saturday brings another reminder of his injury history. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Lee had a knee scope on Friday. It was termed a “minor” procedure and is only expected to keep Lee out for a couple of weeks, so it shouldn’t have bearing on his availability for the coming season.

Rolando McClain has also had injury issues during his career, so the Cowboys have no shortage of things for Cooper and the rest of the medical staff to stay on top of in hopes of giving the team a full crew at the position in the coming years.

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Day 3 of the NFL draft starts with Joe Schobert

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 19:  Linebacker Joe Schobert #58 of the Wisconsin Badgers during the college football game against the Troy Trojans at Camp Randall Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s Day 3 of the 2016 NFL draft, the draft for hard-core football fans and people without anything better to do on a spring Saturday. And the first player off the board is Joe Schobert, a linebacker from Wisconsin

The Browns took Schobert with the 99th overall pick, keeping the pick even though they surely had trade offers. Although the Browns’ first-day strategy was to trade back and accumulate picks for the future, today they’ve got a bounty of picks that they’re likely to use to build roster depth.

Schobert was a good every-down linebacker at Wisconsin and probably translates fairly well to the Browns’ defense under coordinator Ray Horton.

Cleveland still has three more fourth-round picks, four fifth-round picks and a seventh-round pick, so we’re far from done hearing about the Browns today.

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Goodell to crowd booing him at draft: “C’mon, bring it on”

Sevilla-vs-Manchester-City-Champions-League-group-stage Getty Images

Fans attending the draft in Chicago have been continuously exercising their First Amendment right to boo the face of Big Shield, pretty much every time he goes to the podium.

On Saturday, Commissioner Roger Goodell returned to the podium at the start of the fourth round of the draft. Once again, he was greeted with boos. This time, Goodell supplied his most conspicuous reaction yet.

“C’mon, bring it on,” Goodell said, using the universally-recognized “bring it on” gesture with both hands. “There you go, there you go.”

It’s confounding that Goodell willingly subjects himself to this treatment, and it’s confusing that the owners would choose to allow such open hostility to tarnish the crown jewel of the offseason.

Then again, maybe the owners think that’s all part of what makes the draft so exciting.

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Dave Caldwell on Myles Jack: We have to take risks to be great

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 08:  Linebacker  Myles Jack #30 of the UCLA Bruins defends as James Atoe #70 of the Washington Huskies blocks on November 8, 2014 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

There were plenty of people that thought linebacker Myles Jack would hear his name called early on Thursday night, but uncertainty about the health of his knee and Jack’s own admission that microfracture surgery might be in his future conspired to keep him on the board into the second round.

The Jaguars ended Jack’s slide after trading the 38th and 146th picks to the Ravens for the 36th overall pick in a move that General Manager Dave Caldwell knows carries a lot of risk. Caldwell also knows that the Jaguars need to take the occasional risk in order to get where they want to go.

“We want to be great, and we have to take chances,” Caldwell said. “We’ve been pretty conservative in our time here with our philosophy in the draft and some of our free-agent acquisitions. There comes a point in time where we have to close the talent gap. You’re not going to do that without taking risks. This is a calculated risk. … Hopefully he’s here for 10-to-12 years.”

Jacksonville is trying to take the same kind of strides on defense that they made on offense last season and they went a safer route with the fifth overall pick by drafting cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They added pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue in the third round and will get 2015 first-rounder Dante Fowler back from a knee injury to go with free agent acquisitions Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara.

Jack’s own knee issue creates uncertainty about how long he’ll be able to play, but there’s less doubt in the short term and that should help the Jaguars’ overall effort to move up in the standings right away.

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Pats knew they’d add a third quarterback, opted for a third-round rookie


For the second time in three years, the Patriots have added a rookie quarterback through one of the first 100 picks in the draft. And yet Tom Brady has not yet demanded to be traded.

The latest rookie comes via round three, pick 91. Jacoby Brissett, from N.C. State. After Friday night’s session, V.P. of player personnel Nick Caserio explained the reasoning.

“The whole quarterback position, we only had two on the team, so we were definitely going to add a third quarterback, no question about it at some point, whether it was in the draft or however we did it,” Caserio said. “Jacoby was a guy we spent a lot of time with. We brought him in, kind of went through exercises with him. He started his career at Florida then transferred to North Carolina State. Two-year starter in the ACC, big guy, good size, athletic, strong, did a better job of taking care of the football this year, decent touchdown to interception ratio. He played in a couple quality programs.”

Asked whether and to what extent Brady’s four-game suspension factored into the decision, Caserio tiptoed.

“Like I said, we have two quarterbacks on our roster so we knew we were going to add a third quarterback, regardless of whatever the situation was,” Caserio said. “So very rarely have we gone through a spring with two quarterbacks. Sometimes we’ve had three, sometimes we’ve had four. So we knew we were going to have a third quarterback on the team regardless. That’s always an important position on your team. We felt that it was important for us to have a player that we felt comfortable with. So that’s why we picked Brissett.”

A reporter tried a different approach to the ady-Bra uspension-say, asking Caserio how comfortable he is with the quarterback depth chart for the first four games.

“Well, we’ll go through the spring,” Caserio said. “We’ll kind of go through the process and see what happens. The only thing we can control really is tomorrow and the draft and then we’ll go through OTAs. The rest of it is really out of our hands. We’ll control the things that we can control and go through and try to prepare our team the best we can.”

Even with Brissett, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots embarking on Brady’s four-game suspension without a veteran presence behind 2014 second-rounder Jimmy Garoppolo. If anything, Brissett is poised to become the next potential in-house successor to Brady, if/when the Patriots trade Garoppolo before he becomes a free agent, like they did with Ryan Mallett.

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Connor Cook, Cardale Jones among the quarterbacks still available

Cardale AP

At times in their college careers, Connor Cook and Cardale Jones were labeled potential first-round draft picks. Now they sit and wait on the morning of Day 3 of the NFL draft, just hoping to hear their names called.

Cook had a very good career at Michigan State and looks the part of a pro-ready quarterback, but questions have emerged about whether he’s the kind of leader an NFL team wants at the quarterback position. During the pre-draft process, Cook scoffed at questions about why he was never elected the Spartans’ team captain, but those questions — and other questions about what kind of presence he’d be in an NFL locker room — seem to be taking hold among the decision-makers in draft rooms.

Jones had a far different college career: He burst onto the scene as a third-string quarterback who led Ohio State to the national championship after the two players above him on the depth chart were injured at the end of the 2014 season. So well did he play in the Buckeyes’ wins in the Big Ten Championship Game and the two college football playoff games that there was plenty of talk that he’d be a high pick if he turned pro after just three starts. But in 2015 he struggled, got benched, and exposed his flaws as a passer to NFL scouts.

Other quarterbacks whose names may be called today include:

Vernon Adams from Oregon, who showed flashes of greatness as a college player but lacks the size NFL teams are looking for.

Brandon Allen from Arkansas, who was a three-year starter and improved over the course of his college career but doesn’t have great size or athletic talent.

Brandon Doughty from Western Kentucky, who had huge numbers in college but may struggle to transition to an NFL offense.

Kevin Hogan from Stanford, who was a four-year starter in an offense that translates well to the NFL but doesn’t have a great arm.

Matt Johnson from Bowling Green, whose impressive 46-touchdown, eight-interception senior season is overshadowed by his 5-foot-10 frame.

Dak Prescott from Mississippi State, who was excellent in college but didn’t play in a pro offense and surely raised some eyebrows in the NFL with a recent DUI arrest.

Nate Sudfeld from Indiana, who has a 6-foot-6 prototypical pocket passer look, but a bit of an awkward delivery.

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Tom Brady legal team adds Ted Olson for next round

ted-olson AP

Tom Brady and the NFL Players have not yet filed a further appeal of the recent ruling reinstating his four-game suspension. Clearly, however, it’s coming.

Via, Brady’s legal team has added former United States Solicitor General Ted Olson. The move definitely means that Brady and the NFL Players Association will be filing a petition for rehearing before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Given Olson’s extensive U.S. Supreme Court experience, it also suggests that trying to persuade the Second Circuit to change its mind won’t be the last step in the litigation.

Before the litigation continues, Brady and the NFLPA must file a formal petition for rehearing within 14 days after the Second Circuit’s ruling. The NFLPA has requested a 14-day extension of that deadline, citing the need to confer with the union representatives from each team before making a final decision.

Frankly, there’s no need for any further consultation or deliberation. The NFLPA should go full speed ahead with any and all appeals. Otherwise, Commissioner Roger Goodell will emerge with more power and greater discretion to decide all future cases however the league wants them to be decided, based on business interests that may or may not cry out for the blind administration of justice and the fair implementation of procedures.

And if the bottom line is that Goodell has more power, it will be even harder to get the league to relinquish that power at the bargaining table.

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Seahawks got the other guy they were considering at No. 31


On Thursday night, the Seahawks were torn between taking Texas A&M guard Germain Ifedi and Alabama defensive lineman Jarran Reed with the 31st pick in the draft. They ended up with both.

Ifedi became the last pick of round one on Thursday. On Friday, the Seahawks traded up from No. 56 to No. 49 to pounce on Reed.

“Didn’t see him making it that long,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters regarding Reed. “Somebody asked me [Thursday] night if you had considered taking an offensive player, or an offensive lineman, or a defensive lineman, was it going to be an offensive lineman for sure? Quite honestly, it was between those two players. That’s why we made that move to go get [Reed].”

G.M. John Schneider called Reed “clearly the best run defender in this draft,” and Schneider expressed optimism that the coaching staff can help Reed improve as a pass rusher.

Carroll called Reed “the alpha dog” in the Alabama program (don’t tell Nick Saban that).

“They all talk about, ‘He is the guy,'” Carroll said. “Terrific leader in a great program, a very physical, tough program as well. He’s a guy that’s in the front of the line. We love all that about him. He brings a real mentality that we love. He has versatility to play both the one technique and the three technique, which is great. We’ll see how that works for us, in the matchups that we want to create. For us to continue to play like we’ve been playing, where we really build our defense from the inside out, this is a great spot for us to add a terrific player.”

The Seahawks have plenty of terrific players, so they don’t need to add many in order to continue to contend at a high level. While not glamorous picks, guys like Ifedi and Reed (who were among the 26 players on which the Seahawks applied first-round grades this year) will help the glamor players continue to bask in the spotlight.

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Robert Kraft: We will always have Tom Brady’s back

Robert Kraft, Tom Brady AP

Patriots owner Robert Kraft didn’t wear a Tom Brady jersey to the podium at the team’s draft party at Gillette Stadium on Friday night, but he did wear his heart on his sleeve while talking about the quarterback.

Brady had his suspension reinstated by an appeals court ruling last week, setting up another round of legal squabbling. While Kraft didn’t fight the penalties levied on his team as a result of Deflategate, he made it clear that the team will continue to support the quarterback’s fight to get his four-game suspension overturned.

“Number one, there is no finer ambassador for the game of football, and the New England Patriots, than Tom Brady,” Kraft said. “We always have had, and will continue to have, Tom’s back. Especially when he’s being treated unfairly. He knows that. All the decisions that this organization and I personally have made throughout this ordeal have been focused on putting Tom in the best possible position for success.”

“Number two, I have been in constant communication with Tom over the past 16 months and we’ve had numerous conversations this past week. We are both on the same page and he knows exactly where my allegiances, and the total team’s [allegiances] are, relative to the extremely unfair discipline that he has been subjected to.”

“I share in our fans’ anger and frustration with the penalties the league has levied, and the entire process and how it was conducted. But please trust that I am always trying to do what I believe is best for this franchise, and pledge that I will always continue to do that.”

While the Patriots support Brady, they also need to make sure they are prepared in the event they have to open the season without him. They took a step toward doing that by selecting Jacoby Brissett in the third round, assuring themselves of another quarterback behind Jimmy Garoppolo on the depth chart.

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Hue Jackson on Cody Kessler: You’ve got to trust me on this

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Cody Kessler #6 of the USC Trojans warms up before the Pac-12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal at Levi's Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Everyone expected the Browns to take a quarterback during the draft this year, but they still raised some eyebrows when they picked Cody Kessler at the end of the third round on Friday night.

Kessler was generally ranked below several quarterbacks still on the board and neither his physical tools nor his college performances left many people predicting life as an NFL starter in his future. The Browns hired coach Hue Jackson because of his success putting offenses together, however, and Jackson said he sees things differently.

“He almost completed 68 percent of his passes. The guy has had a tremendous career,” Jackson said. “I understand where everybody is coming from, but you’ve got to trust me on this one. This is a guy that we feel very comfortable with, and we think he’s going to have an opportunity to ascend.”

In addition to accuracy, Jackson pointed to Kessler’s experience in a pro-style offense and pocket presence as things to like. He also feels Kessler, who had an 88-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, was negatively impacted by the constant coaching upheaval at USC.

That’s something Jackson is hoping to put an end to in Cleveland and hitting on the Kessler pick would certainly help on that front. In the short term, it probably helps Robert Griffin III’s chances of being the starter in Week One, but it’s clear Jackson thinks he’s found a player he can mold in the years to come.

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Todd Bowles: Right now, Geno Smith is our starter

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets looks on from the sideline during the game against the Buffalo Bills on November 12, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets picked quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the second round of last night’s draft and the team says they still want to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it is their 2013 second-round pick who currently sits atop the depth chart at the position.

As long as Fitzpatrick remains out of the picture, coach Todd Bowles said Friday that Geno Smith is will occupy the No. 1 spot in the pecking order.

“Without Fitz being on the team right now, Geno’s first-team and then we’ll go from there,” Bowles said. “Obviously we’re still working on a deal if we can get Fitzpatrick back. So until that’s addressed and we take care of that situation right now, Geno will go into OTAs as a starter.”

General Manager Mike Maccagnan confirmed that Hackenberg’s selection does nothing to change the team’s interest in bringing Fitzpatrick back. He also explained some of what the team saw in Hackenberg to make them pick him with the 51st overall selection despite two uninspiring years at Penn State.

“Obviously, Christian has a lot of physical ability in terms of arm strength, athletic ability, size — he’s sort of prototypical from that standpoint,” Maccagnan said. “We worked him out, had a private workout with him, we spent time with him, we had him in for a visit. We think he has a lot of potential, from a mental and aptitude standpoint. We think there’s a lot of ability to work with there.”

Hackenberg had a strong freshman year at Penn State under Bill O’Brien, but did not play well after James Franklin took over in Happy Valley. On Friday night, Hackenberg said he believes a player is defined by “how you react to not success but failure and adversity” and that his experiences in college have set him up to succeed in the NFL.

The Jets would seem to agree, although that does little to settle the situation under center at the moment.

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Cardinals aren’t tiptoeing around Robert Nkemdiche’s past

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Draftee Robert Nkemdiche of Mississippi arrives with mother Beverly and father Sunday at the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not every team was prepared to take a chance on Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, no matter how talented.

But the Cardinals have a certain attitude about them which not only allows them to take Nkemdiche in the first round, but to embrace his, um, colorful backstory of defenestration and exotic pets.

“I made a kind of joke about it, you get a guy who falls out of a second-story building and walks away from it, that’s my kind of guy,” defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website. “Because he’s not afraid of a double-team anymore, know what I mean?

Between that and coach Bruce Arians and owner Michael Bidwill making jokes about Nkemdiche’s dream to buy a pet panther, the eccentric Ole Miss defensive tackle may have found his perfect spiritual home.

Buckner, the longtime NFL defensive tackle, said he’s talked to plenty of people about Nkemdiche and not heard negative reviews of the player, and wasn’t worried about his reputation for taking plays off. Buckner said the fact college stars rarely come off the field instead of rotating through should solve most of the problem.

“You show me any player in the country, especially D-linemen, that plays every snap full speed, I’ll give you a million dollars,” Buckner said. “It depends on what your eyes see.. . . In the NFL you’re not going to play 90 plays. With our [roster], he’ll play 30 plays. You take that energy and condense it to 30 plays, you tell me who wouldn’t want that type of player?”

The Cardinals clearly do, and their experience with a player such as Darnell Dockett will make it an easier transition for Nkemdiche, as they’ve handled big personalties with big talent before.

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Panthers go beyond due diligence on third-round cornerback

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 30:  Daryl Worley #7 of the West Virginia Mountaineers breaks up a touchdown reception intended for Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Georgia Dome on August 30, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not every team puts a potential third-round pick in front of the owner for a pre-draft interview. But not every team flushed $13.1 million down the drain on a player who didn’t play for a year because of a domestic violence arrest.

The Panthers went above and beyond the normal vetting with third-round cornerback Daryl Worley of West Virginia, specifically because he was involved in a battery charge involving a woman at a bar near campus in 2014.

That’s obviously a sensitive issue for the Panthers after enduring the fallout from franchise-tagged defensive end Greg Hardy, who only played one game in 2014 and was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list after an incident with his then-girlfriend.

“Do you guys think that for one moment, after what happened in 2014, I’m going to do something stupid? I mean, come on,” General Manager Dave Gettleman said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “We’re going to thoroughly investigate every kid that gets involved in situations like this. And again, I want to say for the 15th time, he was not charged with domestic violence. He was not.

“Obviously we don’t take it lightly. Listen, I’m married and I’ve got a daughter. Anybody lays a glove on them, they’re going to have one fat, cranky, old man running down the street.”

Worley was charged with misdemeanor battery in 2014, after a woman accused him of of grabbing her around the neck and pushing her to the ground. But he contended he was trying to protect his girlfriend from the woman who wanted to fight. He eventually pleaded no contest and received a six-month suspended sentence, and was suspended two games by the football team.

“It was a simple situation where it was wrong place at the wrong time. There were nothing malicious about the incident,” Worley said. “All 32 teams have seen the videotape. They have the official court documents which I gave to them where there was nothing malicious about it.

“I did my due diligence as far as the court required me, and honestly, it is just behind me in the past. It is expunged from my record, and I am looking to move forward. Nothing like that is ever going to be a problem heading forward.”

But because of their background with Hardy, the Panthers weren’t going to stop at taking his word for it. In addition to viewing the surveillance tape, they brought Worley in for a pre-draft visit and had him meet with owner Jerry Richardson.

If they were even going to take anything resembling a chance on a player who would stir those disturbing echoes, it wouldn’t be on a third-round pick. And if that third-rounder would have had any other kind of charges, they probably wouldn’t have bothered the owner with it.

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