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NFLPA files grievance over Toradol waivers

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As expected, the NFLPA has launched an effort to block teams from requiring players to sign legal waivers before receiving the medical benefits of Toradol.

The union has announced that a grievance has been filed against the NFL Management Council and the 32 teams in response to the requirement that players sign away their rights before receiving a potent pain-killing injection that may have long-term health consequences.

The announcement points out that NFL has complied with an agreement that the teams refrain from requiring players to sign waivers.  However, the doctors are instead presenting the players with the documents, which exonerate not only the doctors but also the teams from liability.  (We ordinarily would say “allegedly” here, but we have obtained a copy of one of the waivers.)

The union contends, basically, that the doctors are trying to foist the ultimate medical decision regarding Toradol use onto the player.  “The position of the NFLPA is NFL Club physicians have a duty to inform Players of the risk and side-effects of prescribed medications and may obtain informed consent from the Player,” the union says in a statement regarding the grievance.  “However, if an NFL Club physician believes a player would be placed at an unacceptable medical risk by using Toradol as part of the care and treatment of an injury, or if the Club physician is concerned about the long-term effects of such use, the team’s medical staff should inform the player of that opinion and refuse to administer Toradol. The NFL Club physician should not administer Toradol and require that a player sign a waiver of liability before doing so. If, on the other hand, there is no such concern on the part of the Club’s medical staff, it should advise the player that the use of Toradol is appropriate.”

The union is entering delicate territory by suggesting that team physicians should refuse to administer Toradol.  The players want it, because many of them need it in order to be able to play.

Of course, the NFLPA also realizes that the teams want the players to be able to play, which means that the doctors will be less inclined to refuse to administer a drug that in plenty of cases will provide the difference between playing or not playing — or playing and not playing very well.  So if the team doctors won’t be naturally inclined to refuse to provide a drug that allows players to play, it’s only fair for players to be able to retain any legal rights they may have if a doctor fails to shut off  the Toradol supply for a player/patient who shouldn’t be taking it.

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Jaguars cut their last fullback, unless they already have one in mind

Toby Gerhart AP

It wouldn’t necessarily be big news that the Jaguars waived fullback Bradie Ewing.

But it is reasonably interesting that they don’t have any now, as Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union points out.

The Jaguars made a run at DeMarco Murray, which tells you they wanted to upgrade there. And claiming Bernard Pierce off waivers shows you they’re going to look high and low for more bodies at running back,

And with Denard Robinson showing some flashes there, it makes you wonder what their intentions are for last year’s free agent pickup, Toby Gerhart. To call his debut season with the Jaguars a disappointment would be kind, averaging 3.2 yards per carry after an early foot injury he couldn’t seem to shake.

Whether he could return to his form if healthy remains to be seen. Now, it’s worth watching to see if they simply turn him into a fullback, and try to get something for that three-year, $10.5 million contract they gave him a year ago.

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Jacquizz Rodgers visiting Bears

Jacquizz Rodgers ,Kevin Minter AP

The Bears have Matt Forte and Ka’Deem Carey on the top two rungs of their running back depth chart and it appears they’re open to adding a little veteran depth to go with that duo.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Jacquizz Rodgers is visiting with the Bears. Rodgers spent four years with the Falcons after Atlanta drafted him in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

Rodgers was of most use in the passing game during his tenure with the Falcons, catching 155 passes for 1,104 yards and five touchdowns while also playing the role of pass blocker when the situation called for it. He didn’t add nearly as much as a runner, but that’s probably not the chief concern in Chicago with Forte and Carey already on hand.

The Falcons parted ways with Steven Jackson, leaving Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith in Atlanta’s backfield at the moment.

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PFT Live: Kevin White, PFT Planet calls and tweets

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Kevin White is expected to be one of the first two wide receivers off the board in the first round on April 30 and we heard his thoughts on why he should go before Amari Cooper during a visit with PFT on NBCSN on Monday evening.

During Tuesday’s PFT Live, they’ll be an opportunity to hear even more from White. He’ll talk to Mike Florio about his preparations from the draft and what he’s heard from teams as we move closer to finding out where this year’s top prospects will land.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Patriots security chief confirms Hernandez’s alibi attempt

Hernandez AP

At the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was followed to the witness stand by Patriots security director Mark Briggs.  And Briggs confirmed the most important aspect of Kraft’s testimony.

Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Briggs (like Kraft) testified that Hernandez said he didn’t kill Lloyd, and that Hernandez was at a “club.”

He swore on his baby’s life he was telling the truth,” Briggs said of Hernandez.

Hernandez definitely wasn’t telling the truth about his whereabouts.  The prosecution will now hope that this will help the jury conclude he also wasn’t telling the truth about his innocence.

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Mark Ingram “looking forward” to splitting time with C.J. Spiller

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Mark Ingram got the most work of his NFL career during the 2014 season and responded with 964 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in the final year of his rookie contract.

Ingram parleyed that success into a new four-year, $16 million deal with the Saints, but not into a role as an offensive workhorse. The Saints gave a similar deal to C.J. Spiller a couple of days after signing Ingram, all but ensuring that the two backs will be shuffled in and out of the lineup over the course of the season.

Ingram’s been in that position with the Saints before and says he’s not bothered about being in the same spot after his successful 2014 campaign.

“He’s a special player,” Ingram said, via ESPN.com. “He’s a game-breaker, can take it to the house no matter where he is on the field, punt return, kick return, pass, run. So I’m looking forward to it. … So it wasn’t anything strange or anything when we signed him. I talked to him before it even got announced.”

Ingram and Spiller bring different things to the offense, which should provide plenty of room for both of them to thrive without being asked to do things outside their skill set. Given Spiller’s receiving ability, they could even share time on an offense that figures to take on a different shape with Jimmy Graham now plying his trade in Seattle.

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Kraft tells jury Hernandez said he was in “club” during shooting

Hernandez AP

Testifying on Tuesday in the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft provided a piece of evidence that could be very useful for the prosecution.

Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Kraft told jurors that Hernandez denied involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd, explaining that he was in a “club” at the time of the shooting.

As Wetzel notes, the evidence introduced to date makes it clear that Hernandez wasn’t in a “club” at the time of the shooting.  Which indicates Hernandez lied to Kraft.

Hernandez may dispute that he gave a false explanation to the man who at the time of the shooting was Hernandez’s ultimate boss.  But Hernandez has only one way to rebut the testimony from Robert Kraft — by taking the witness stand.

That’s where the right to remain silent creates a huge dilemma for a criminal defendant.  While the accused isn’t compelled to testify in court, anything he has said out of court can be used against him.  Since it’s a statement from a party to the lawsuit, it’s not hearsay.  And as it relates to one-on-one communications, it’s unchallenged unless the defendant chooses to waive the right against self-incrimination and testify.

Hernandez most likely won’t be testifying at all.  To do so would expose him to cross-examination. Which could quickly erase any chance his lawyers have of identifying “reasonable doubt” during closing arguments.

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Golden Tate: Losing Suh doesn’t add to pressure on the offense

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The Lions Offense struggled at times in 2014, but the team was able to advance to the postseason thanks to one of the best defenses in the league.

That unit won’t have Ndamukong Suh back in the middle of the defensive line in 2015, something that wide receiver Golden Tate reasonably considers “a big hit” to the team as they prepare for the coming season. Tate doesn’t think that the loss of Suh is going to put extra pressure on the offense to carry the load, however.

“No, I don’t think it adds any pressure,” Tate said, via ESPN.com. “We just need to be who we are. We know that we have a lot of weapons all over the field. We just need to reach our potential each and every week. We just need to go out there and play fundamentally sound football and I have no doubt our defense is going to be really good again this year and we just got to do our jobs. There’s no pressure on anyone but to be ourselves and to play good football.”

Suh wasn’t the only reason why Detroit’s defense thrived last season. He was a big one, though, and some slippage is a reasonable expectation now that he’s gone. That might not put any more pressure on the offense to improve than there would be if he was still in Detroit, but the need to improve exists either way.

Having a healthy Calvin Johnson would help on that front as would progress from tight end Eric Ebron in his second season. Throw in a running game that underwhelmed last year and there’s three places where the Lions offense could show growth that can help offset their big offseason loss.

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Robert Kraft takes the stand at Aaron Hernandez murder trial

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The Patriots had largely been able to keep themselves at arms length from the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, until today.

Via multiple reports, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is in the Fall River Justice Center today, and has been called to the stand.

Trainer Brian McDonough was called to the stand in late February to testify about a series of text messages he exchanged with Hernandez. McDonough doesn’t work for the team, but worked with a number of players at Gillette Stadium.

Coach Bill Belichick and linebacker Brandon Spikes are also on the witness list, though it’s unclear if they’ll actually be asked to testify.

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Tyrann Mathieu: I want to let everyone know I’m back

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Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu was able to return to the lineup in Week Two last season, which marked a relatively quick turnaround after he tore his ACL late in his rookie season.

Mathieu didn’t immediately return to a prominent place in the lineup and then missed a couple of games late in the season when he broke his thumb just as he was finding his stride on the field. Coach Bruce Arians said it “was very frustrating” for Mathieu to not be the player he was used to being last year and Mathieu said he felt he didn’t make enough plays to help the team, but things are looking up.

Arians said he sees “a gleam” in Mathieu’s eyes that was missing in 2014 as the safety prepares to restore what was missing.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy,” Mathieu said, via the team’s website. “Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn’t there. This [year] is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I’m back and I can still make some plays.”

How Mathieu will fit into the lineup isn’t entirely clear since the Cardinals have Tony Jefferson, Deone Buccannon and Rashad Johnson at safety in a defense that’s been creative about utilizing all of them. If he’s back to his old playmaking ways, though, he’ll be filling a major role one way or another.

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Jameis Winston will be on center stage again at pro day today

Jameis AP

For a moment today, Jameis Winston won’t have to answer questions about his past or his maturity or his ability to be the face of a franchise.

For a moment today, he’s going to get to do the thing he’s very good at — throw a football.

Winston will be on center stage today for Florida State’s pro day, and that might come as a reprieve for him after all the digging and poking that teams have done at him since the process began.

Now, as soon as the workout’s over, that will begin again for another month. But today might serve as a reminder for the teams at the top of the draft of what he can offer.

He’s big and strong. Can make all the throws. Has shown good football IQ and led his team to a 26-1 record and a national championship in two years as the starter at Florida State.

So in the tightly scripted world of quarterback auditions, the chance he’ll look bad during this workout seems slim.

But the entire league will be watching, and monitoring his every move, just to see how he responds to the pressure of it all.

Again.

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Stevan Ridley visiting Dolphins on Tuesday

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We heard over the weekend that running back Stevan Ridley had lined up his first visit of the free agency season and Tuesday brings word that it will be with a team he faced quite often while he was a member of the Patriots.

James Walker of ESPN.com reports that Ridley will be in Miami to visit with the Dolphins.

Ridley is recovering from a torn ACL that ended his 2014 season after six games. Ridley ran for 340 yards and two touchdowns before his injury as a lead part of the backfield rotation in New England. The Patriots moved on to LeGarrette Blount after Ridley’s injury and there hasn’t been much sign that the Pats are interested in bringing him back for a fifth season.

Lamar Miller ran for 1,099 yards last season, but the Dolphins didn’t have a good complement for him in the backfield once Knowshon Moreno was lost for the season to a torn ACL of his own. Ridley could provide that complement for 2015 at an attractive price while he tries to show he’s healthy enough to earn a bigger commitment heading into the 2016 season.

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Browns may make a move for Mariota, or try again for Bradford

Mariota AP

In yet another sign that those around the Browns do not see Johnny Manziel as the franchise quarterback, a recent report out of Cleveland suggests that the Browns may try to move up in the draft for Marcus Mariota, or try again to acquire Sam Bradford.

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes that the Browns are fully prepared to start Josh McCown this year, but they’re also not done trying to get better at the quarterback position. In fact, Cabot thinks the Browns will try to trade up in the draft for Mariota, and may also make another run at Bradford.

The Browns offered the Rams a first-round draft pick for Bradford and the Rams declined, deciding instead to take the Eagles’ offer of Nick Foles. But the Browns could see if the Eagles would trade Bradford. There’s been talk that what Chip Kelly really wants is to move up and draft Mariota, his old Oregon quarterback. If the Browns, who own two first-round picks, could help give Kelly the ammunition to move up and get his guy, Kelly might be willing to part with Bradford.

But if the Browns have the ammunition to move up for Mariota, they might just do that themselves. Bradford comes with an expensive 2015 salary and becomes a free agent next year. If the Browns can get Mariota, they’ve got their franchise quarterback for years to come.

Of course, that’s what they thought last year when they drafted Manziel. Instead, Cabot writes that the Browns are down on him and may not even be able to get much for Manziel in a trade. Cabot speculates that maybe Jerry Jones is interested in Manziel.

Or maybe Chip Kelly is interested in Manziel.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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What will an extension for DT Marcell Dareus cost the Bills?

Renovations at the Dolphins’ stadium are rolling right along.

Assessing Ole Miss S Cody Prewitt’s fit with the Patriots.

Todd McShay of ESPN has the Jets taking LB/DE Randy Gregory in his latest mock draft.

The Ravens are still looking for help at tight end.

The Bengals have received good reviews for their offseason moves.

An argument that the Browns should be thankful for a light penalty for General Manager Ray Farmer’s in-game texting.

Former Steelers RB Baron Batch has transitioned to a business career in Pittsburgh.

What areas does Texans coach Bill O’Brien want to see improve in 2015?

The Colts looks set for a competition for the starting center job.

There are still some intriguing free agents available for the Jaguars.

Titans General Manager Ruston Webster doesn’t think the team’s draft board will change much in the next month.

T Michael Schofield has added weight as part of his push for playing time with the Broncos.

Chiefs LB Tamba Hali and WR Jeremy Maclin met up with the Mexican national soccer team.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio thinks his staff can boost the play of the team’s cornerbacks.

Chargers DE Corey Liuget showed off a new part of his offseason workout routine.

The Cowboys website touts RB Darren McFadden’s affordability as a replacement for DeMarco Murray.

Giants WR Odell Beckham’s basketball skills have caught the notice of others in the NFL.

Analyzing the impact of LB DeMeco Ryans’s extension with the Eagles.

Redskins DT Stephen Paea once downed a 52-ounce steak in one sitting.

Bears QB Jimmy Clausen has shared some of his wedding video with the masses.

Texas A&M T Cedric Ogbuehi visited with the Lions.

Some thoughts on the Packers bringing back defensive tackles Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji.

Waffle fries are one of the new things Vikings T and Poland native Babatunde Aiyegbusi is experiencing after signing with the team.

LB Brooks Reed likes the defensive mindset of the Falcons coaching staff.

A look at Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart’s contract situation.

UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa is scheduled for a visit with the Saints.

The Buccaneers will get another look at Florida State QB Jameis Winston at his pro day.

An early projection of the Cardinals starting lineup on offense.

The Rams are making things simpler on defense.

Will the 49ers take a cornerback in the first round?

A look at center options for the Seahawks.

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Browns, Falcons penalties likely won’t be relevant to #DeflateGate

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The punishments imposed Monday on the Browns and Falcons for their violations of game-integrity provisions suggested a surprising degree of lenience from the league.  Sure, the teams will pay a combined $600,000 into the NFL’s coffers (fine money typically is used for charitable endeavors), but between them only one draft pick was lost — a fifth-round selection in 2016.

So this is good news for the Patriots, who still face potential punishment for allegedly tampering with the air pressure in footballs during the AFC championship, right?

Maybe not.  The Browns and Falcons admitted guilt quickly, allowing the situations to be resolved without further fattening Ted Wells’ fees.  The Patriots, in contrast, have strongly and vehemently denied wrongdoing.

And the Patriots very well may face no punishment at all, if Wells concludes they did nothing wrong.  But if Wells eventually finds a smoking gun or concludes based on the circumstantial evidence that the infraction occurred, the league may go harder on the Patriots, relatively speaking, since the Patriots failed to acknowledge their misconduct.

Regardless of how it plays out, the Patriots aren’t likely to get a slap on the wrist.  Either they’re innocent and there will be no punishment, or they’re guilty (which would make their strong denials hollow at best, false at worst) and there will be a significant punishment.

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Chiefs visit with Brandon Tate

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The Chiefs didn’t get any touchdown catches from their wide receivers in 2014, which left the position as an obvious area to look for help this offseason.

Kansas City signed Jeremy Maclin away from the Eagles and re-signed Jason Avant to continue the veteran’s long relationship with Andy Reid, but that doesn’t appear to have quenched their thirst for other options at the position. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports the team visited with Brandon Tate recently.

Tate caught 17 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown in 16 appearances for the Bengals last season, modest totals that represented a big jump over the 14 catches he mustered while playing every game in the three previous seasons. Speed has been his calling card in the NFL, but those catch totals illustrate how rarely it has led to big plays on offense.

Tate’s main role in Cincinnati came as a punt and kickoff returner, but the Chiefs are well stocked at those spots with De’Antony Thomas and Knile Davis. Tate would give them some depth to go with an option in the passing game if he signs, but his addition would hardly erase the need for receiver help in Kansas City.

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