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Rex defers comment on Vick, but not on Brady

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Amid rumors and reports that the Jets will pursue quarterback Mike Vick if/when (when) he’s cut by the Eagles, it was understandable that coach Rex Ryan would be asked about the situation by the media.

Even though the tampering rules prevent him from commenting.”I think I’ll focus on the players we have on this roster instead of somebody else’s players,” Ryan said in response, wisely.

But Rex was a little looser with his comments when discussing (lamenting) the fact that the Jets don’t have a franchise quarterback.

“[I] realize that every team is not going to have Tom Brady,” Ryan said.  “I’ll be honest with you, if we had Tom Brady, I’d be happy with that.  We don’t, but there are only maybe one or two other guys that would be in that [group], whether it’s New Orleans [quarterback Drew Brees] or Peyton Manning.”

Though any public comment expressing interest in a player under contract with another team technically runs afoul of the plain language of the tampering policy, it’s unlikely that the league will do anything about it — primarily because the league rarely ever does anything about it.  Except in the most egregious of cases.

Bottom line?  Brady, Brees, and Manning will never play for the Jets.  But the one guy Ryan wouldn’t mention is the one who is the most likely to be the team’s next big-name, ticket-selling, attention-generating, false-hope-creating signal-caller.

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Mike Zimmer expects Teddy Bridgewater to start camp on PUP list

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The Vikings have been encouraged by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s return from last year’s traumatic knee injury. But they know he’s not quite ready for a full workload as camp opens.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he expected Bridgewater would open camp on the physically unable to perform list.

“I think so, but again I haven’t seen him,” Zimmer said.

Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL and a dislocated knee in practice last August. He’s done some work with teammates during spring drills, and recently posted a workout photo without a knee brace.

He’s expected into camp Wednesday, at which point Zimmer can make a more detailed assessment, but Bridgewater not being ready at this point was fairly #asexpected.

Players can be activated from the PUP at any point during camp. If they stay on the list through the start of the regular season, it would rule him out for at least the first six weeks.

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Browns may make Duke Johnson their No. 1 slot receiver

AP

Cleveland’s Duke Johnson is a running back, but he’s had more receiving yards than rushing yards in each of his first two NFL seasons. In his third season, he may not be a running back at all.

Johnson is the leading candidate to be the Browns’ No. 1 slot receiver, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Last year Andrew Hawkins was the No. 1 slot receiver in Cleveland, but he left for New England in free agency.

As one of the few bright spots in Cleveland’s offense last season, Johnson caught 53 passes for 514 yards and ran 73 times for 358 yards.

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Jerrell Freeman saves fellow airline passenger with Heimlich

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It’s a good thing Jerrell Freeman decided to have one last cheat meal before training camp.

The Bears linebacker made a last-minute call for some brisket at the airport in Austin Sunday, when he encountered a man who was choking, and saved him with the Heimlich maneuver.

According to Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune, Freeman said the man initially just looked disoriented, before he realize how serious the situation was.

“Like he had forgotten something and was about to go running for it,” Freeman said. “But then he went around the table and started to look a little frantic. I’m thinking, ‘Man, this is odd. Maybe one of his kids walked off and he can’t find his kid or something?’”

Instead, the man was choking on his own brisket, and an older woman initially tried to perform the Heimlich herself, before yielding to an NFL linebacker who could put a little more force behind the move. Freeman said he’s never performed the move previously, but was taught by his mother, a nurse, how to do it.

“I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him,” Freeman said. “You’ve got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like ‘No!’

“I grabbed him again and hit him again with it. And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, ‘Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!’ It was crazy.”

The choking victim, a man named Marcus Ryan, eventually introduced himself and mentioned his ribs were a little sore, when he realized an NFL player had dislodged his food in a rather forceful way.

Then both men were able to enjoy their brisket, chewing carefully.

“Crazy,” Freeman said. “Hey, I guess that was some good brisket. He wasn’t about to let that go to waste. You can’t get between a man and his brisket. I get it.”

Fortunately, Freeman was at the right place at the right time to help the victim, and the Bears can only hope he has the same kind of impact for them.

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Antonio Brown talked to Le’Veon Bell, declares: “We need him”

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While some close to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell are pointing out that he may not show up for training camp without a new contract, others are making sure the Steelers know how important he is to the process.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown said he spoke to Bell on the phone for two hours Saturday night, and though the conversation was “top secret,” Brown emphasized how necessary Bell was to their offense.

We need him. I need him,” Brown said. “If we’re going to do what we desire to do, we need every guy a part of the organization in a helmet to be there committed to the cause. He’s a special piece. Obviously, we know what he brings to the team, his dimension playing football, but he’s a special individual. I pray that we have him there.”

Bell hasn’t signed his $12.12 million franchise tender, which means he’s not subject to fines if he doesn’t show up for camp.

That’s not the only open question surrounding Brown. His receiving partner Martavis Bryant is back, after missing 20 games the last two seasons because of drug-related suspensions. Brown said that Bryant was “hopefully” their missing piece.

“I just encourage him, support him, push him to be the best,” Brown said.

He’s also pushing the Steelers, in his own way, to pay Bell and keep him happy.

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Who’s most responsible for Packers underachieving with Aaron Rodgers?

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PFT Live returns at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio (7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN), and with camps opening throughout the week we have a question regarding a team that last won a Super Bowl seven seasons ago.

Who’s the most responsible for the Packers underachieving with quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

It’s a poll question this time around, with several choices below (including the opportunity to say they haven’t underachieved at all). It’s a topic Chicago-centric Barstool Big Cat will surely enjoy when he joins the show for the final two hours, although he probably wishes the Bears had underachieved as much as the Packers have over the past seven years.

Make your pick in the poll, make your case in the comments, and join us for our first show back in one month and one day.

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Cowboys hope to have extension for Zack Martin before camp ends

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The Cowboys hope to have a contract extension with Zack Martin completed during training camp. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said he expects to meet with Martin’s agent, Tom Condon, while in Southern California.

“We’d love to get Zack Martin done,” Jones said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We’ve made that real clear, and we’ll be going to work on him. I think he’s an important part of our future. He represents everything we want our players to be about. He’s not only a great player on the field, he’s a great person off the field. We’ll be hard at it, trying to do it.

“At the same time, it’s important. It’s going to be a big number, as we all know, and it has to be right in terms of not only for us, but for him. I feel confident that we’ll get something worked out.”

The Cowboys signed their other two All-Pro offensive linemen — left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick — to contract extensions during recent training camps. So it’s a good bet the Cowboys will get Martin locked up before they head home Aug. 18.

Martin likely becomes the highest-paid guard in the NFL, topping Cleveland’s Kevin Zeitler, who has a five-year, $60 million deal.

Martin enters the fourth year of his four-year, $8.968 million rookie deal due to make $1.643 million in base salary this season. The Cowboys exercised their fifth-year club option on Martin, putting him in line to make $9.3 million in 2018 if the sides can’t agree on an extension.

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NFLPA message: “Save now. Fight later”

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At a time when NFL players seem to be realizing that better pay will come only through labor strife, the NFL Players Association has a message for its membership: “Save now. Fight later.

The union recently posted a video on Twitter with that message. The message to save money is a sensible one even without a potential work stoppage in four years.

But the fundamental problem continues to be this — many of the players who may be expected to go without pay in 2021 have none to save now because they’re currently playing in college or high school. So they will have saved little or nothing, or otherwise may have nothing, if/when a strike happens. Still, plenty of guys presently in the NFL will still be in the NFL in four years, and if as many of them as possible have enough money to go a year without playing, the players have a chance of winning.

It’s nevertheless a small chance, in part because the league would likely hire replacement players and continue to stage games, like the league did in 1987. And as the games go on and players who want to play are tempted to return and get paid to play football, it can all fall apart. Like 1987.

Then there’s the “fight later” aspect of the message. Frankly, players can fight now. (Or, more accurately, in about nine months.) None of them are required to show up for the voluntary portion of the annual offseason program, which is essentially a license to legally strike from every April through June. If they can’t muster the will to collectively boycott the offseason program at some point over the next three offseasons, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to launch and maintain a work stoppage after the next four football seasons.

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Browns sign first-round pick Jabrill Peppers

AP

With rookies arriving in Cleveland for the start of training camp on Sunday, the Browns have finally reached an agreement with first-round pick Jabrill Peppers.

Peppers signed his contract with the Browns Sunday evening. It was first reported by the NFL Network.

The Michigan defensive back was the 25th overall pick in the NFL Draft back in April. While the Browns managed to get N0. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett and No. 29 overall pick David Njoku under contract earlier this offseason, Peppers’ deal took a bit longer to get worked out.

PFT’s Mike Florio reported that disagreement regarding guarantees in the contract were the reason for the hold up on Peppers deal. But with veterans not due to report until Wednesday, the Browns still got the contract done in plenty of time.

Only four draft picks now remain unsigned: 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall), Titans receiver Corey Davis (No. 5 overall) and Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley (No. 24 overall). The Raiders’ second-rounder, Obi Melifonwu, also remains unsigned.

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Larry Fitzgerald not thinking 2017 is his last, while acknowledging it could be

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Larry Fitzgerald turns 34 next month. The Cardinals receiver reported to his 14th training camp still going strong, having caught 107 passes for 1,023 yards and six touchdowns last season.

I can still play at a high level,” Fitzgerald said Sunday, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN. “If my number is called, I can still make a play.”

Fitzgerald made it clear he isn’t going into this season thinking it’s his last, but he acknowledged it could be. He wants to decide on his own terms when he walks away, pointing to Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and NBA player Tim Duncan as examples.

“The end is never really pretty for elite athletes,” Fitzgerald said. “It never looks good for the most time. You watch Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform or see Tony Dorsett playing for the Denver Broncos or Shaquille O’Neal playing for the Boston Celtics. It’s weird because you’re used to seeing them play at their most dominant stage, or Willie Mays running around with bad knees 20 years in. It’s not pretty. But for me, I really want to be able to play and do things at a high level and be able to walk away and still be someone who can play at a high level.”

With 1,125 receptions for 14,389 yards and 104 touchdowns, Fitzgerald already has Canton numbers. What he lacks is a championship. He played in Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.

“That’s huge,” Fitzgerald said of winning a title. “That’s the only reason I’m playing at this point. From a personal standpoint and the things I’ve accomplished, they’re fine. But the thing that you will say is out of you control because you’re in a team sport, is a championship.”

Coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer’s futures after this season are uncertain, too, but Fitzgerald said that won’t play a part in whether he returns in 2018.

“I don’t really make any decisions based on anybody else,” Fitzgerald said. “I never really have. I don’t know what the future holds. That’s why this year is so much more important because we don’t have to think about what we’re doing after Feb. 4. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the day until then and how we can improve and get better and do what we need to do to give ourselves an opportunity to just get into the playoffs and possibly win the division and try to win the NFC championship game and get to the Super Bowl.

“That’s really what’s important. The long term doesn’t mean anything at this point.”

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Jerry Jones dismisses allegations from Ezekiel Elliott’s accuser

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The initial quotes that emerged from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ Sunday remarks to the media suggested that he attached no credibility to the accusations made against running back Ezekiel Elliott. Other quotes make it obvious that Jones has decided that the alleged victim simply isn’t telling the truth.

“My opinion is there’s not even an issue over he said/she said,” Jones said, via Todd Archer of ESPN.com. “There’s not even an issue there.”

Given that the alleged victim clearly believes something happened, it’s clear Jones doesn’t believe her. More accurately, it’s clear Jones believes Elliott.

And that’s the way this one will go, truth be damned. Those who want to see Elliott on the field for the Cowboys will be inclined to believe him, those who don’t like the Cowboys will be inclined to believe the alleged victim, and whatever actually happened doesn’t matter because there’s only two people who know for sure and they’re locked in to their versions of the events.

A full-blown he said/she said hasn’t really emerged yet, because the “she” in that equation has yet to go public with specific claims and contentions against Elliott. Jones’ decision to publicly dismiss her story could potentially prompt her to react by telling her story, fully and completely.

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Titans’ Sebastian Tretola suffers minor injury in shooting

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Titans guard Sebastian Tretola suffered a minor injury early this morning when he was shot in the leg.

The Titans released a statement saying Tretola was grazed by a bullet.

“We are aware of the reports that [Tretola] received treatment for a wound when he was grazed by a bullet,” the statement said, via Paul Kuharsky. “He has been released from the hospital and is thankful for only a minor injury.”

The shooting took place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where Tretola played his college football for the Razorbacks. Tretola was a 2016 sixth-round pick of the Titans who played in one game as a rookie.

Tretola has recently been in the news because he and Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe were accused of assaulting a man outside a Nashville bar. Tretola and Sharpe say they defended themselves after the man attacked them, and they have filed a lawsuit against the man alleging that he falsely accused them.

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Eagles make moves as camp opens

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The Eagles commence the process of digging out of the NFC East basement, where they landed with a respectable 7-9 record, by making some moves before the opening of camp.

Gone is cornerback Dwayne Gratz, who joined the team last December. His roster spot was taken by quarterback Dane Evans, who has now officially signed with the team, several weeks after agreeing to terms.

Also, the Eagles have placed cornerback Sidney Jones and defensive tackle Beau Allen on the active/non-football injury list. Jones was drafted in April while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered at his Pro Day workout. Allen suffered a torn pectoral muscle while working out on his own in April.

The overriding question for both players will be whether they move to the active roster before Week One. If not, they’ll be required to spend at least six weeks of the regular season on the NFI list.

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DeAndre Hopkins expected to report to Texans camp unlike Duane Brown

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While the impasse between the Texans and left tackle Duane Brown likely will continue into training camp, receiver DeAndre Hopkins will report, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Hopkins held out one day last year as he seeks a new contract.

Negotiations on a long-term deal for the Pro Bowl receiver have been quiet as the Texans head to camp, according to Wilson, but both sides are highly motivated to reach an agreement.

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown signed a four-year, $68 million deal that included a $19 million signing bonus in the offseason. Brown’s $17 million average tops all NFL receivers, with A.J. Green making $15 million a year, Julio Jones $14.3 million a year and Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas both at $14 million a year.

Brown, though, is expected to continue to stay away after skipping the voluntary offseason program. The collective bargaining agreement allows for fines of $40,000 for each day missed.

Brown’s deal has two years remaining, including a non-guaranteed base salary of $9.65 million this season. The Texans have an unofficial policy not to renegotiate deals with two years left, with J.J. Watt and Andre Johnson being the exceptions.

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Eagles still expected to cut Ryan Mathews, but not at this moment

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The Eagles are still expected to cut Ryan Mathews, but just not yet, as they attempt to save some cash.

According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, the veteran running back is expected to hang around the roster for another few weeks, even though he isn’t expected to take the field.

Rookies, quarterbacks and veterans coming off injuries reported to Eagles camp Sunday. Since Mathews is coming off neck disk surgery, he’s not going to be on the field for practice Monday, or probably not ever.

If the Eagles cut him with a failed physical designation now, they’d be on the hook for $1.1 million. If they cut him later when he’s ready to pass a physical, they’d still eat the $1 million in dead money against the cap, but wouldn’t have to pay him if he passes a physical. His doctors apparently want to reevaluate him in August, so the Eagles seem inclined to wait.

They’ve moved on already, in terms of the depth chart. They signed veteran running back LeGarrette Blount, and drafted Donnell Pumphrey in the fourth round.

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Jerry Jones reiterates support for Ezekiel Elliott

AP

At a time when Ezekiel Elliott is reportedly bracing for a suspension, his boss may be bracing for a fight.

Cowboys owner and G.M. Jerry Jones addressed with reporters on the first day of camp the one-year-old allegations of domestic violence against Elliott. And Jones has not wavered from his belief that Elliott is innocent.

“I have reviewed everything and there is absolutely nothing — not one thing — that had anything to do with domestic violence,” Jones said, via Todd Archer of ESPN.com.

This statement implies that Jones hasn’t truly reviewed everything, because the alleged victim’s version of the events undoubtedly has something to do with domestic violence. Otherwise, there would be nothing to investigate.

While Jones technically has no control over what happens, that won’t keep him from trying to push the outcome in a given direction. Or, more accurately, to continue to pressure the league office to exonerate Elliott.

It’s believed that he’s already made it clear that he won’t be as compliant as Patriots owner Robert Kraft was when the league suspended Tom Brady four games, and Jones’ comments from earlier this afternoon make it clear that the passage of time has put Jones in the mood for a compromise or any other outcome that entails not having Elliott available to play football for the Dallas Cowboys.

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