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Thursday morning one-liners

Ryan Tannehill AP

The Bills were shut out in Pro Bowl voting, with S Jairus Byrd and RB C.J. Spiller their best chances.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said he and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have given QB Ryan Tannehill more responsibilities in recent weeks.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski didn’t shed much light on his condition, but said he was “definitely anxious,” to get back.

Jets QB Mark Sanchez called his recent benching “a great learning experience,” for his next shot at a starting job.

Ravens S Bernard Pollard, who returned to practice, said he couldn’t stand sitting and watching with a rib injury.

Bengals K Mike Nugent practiced fully Wednesday for the first time in nearly a month.

Browns RB Trent Richardson’s ankle injury isn’t as bad as feared, and he hopes to play this week.

NT Casey Hampton and T Max Starks said they’ll play elsewhere if the Steelers don’t want to bring them back as free agents.

The Texans are having a bit of an identity crisis after losing two of their last three.

The Colts will be without center Samson Satele and running back Delone Carter this week.

Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon is the only receiver on the team left standing from the Week One roster.

Titans WR Kendall Wright said last week’s game was the first time he’s missed a game in any sport.

During the Broncos’ 10-game win streak, only Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles reached 100 yards rushing.

Such that it matters, the Chiefs aren’t making a change at quarterback this week.

Raiders QB Carson Palmer wasn’t the only one missing practice, as DT Richard Seymour’s run with the Raiders appears to be coming to an anticlimactic close.

U-T San Diego’s Nick Canepa figures the Chargers will have no shortage of interested coaching candidates.

Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware didn’t practice Wednesday, but said “I’m going regardless,” of elbow and shoulder injuries.

Last week’s shift underscored the struggles of the Giants’ linebackers this season.

Eagles DT Antonio Dixon’s secret to his comeback: No more oatmeal pies (Is this a sign Nick Saban’s on their radar?).

The Cowboys were the butt of jokes yesterday, but the Redskins were forced to practice indoors too.

The Bears practiced without helmets Wednesday as they try to rest a banged-up roster.

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew missed practice again, and the team clearly misses him.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy on the quality of play in the Pro Bowl: “They have to do something about it.”

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield plans to play through the broken bone in his right hand.

Falcons S William Moore will miss his fourth straight game, but with a bye week secured, he has time to get ready for the playoffs.

The Panthers are clinging to whatever goals they can, and second place in the division is the latest.

Saints CB Jabari Greer is still out with the concussion he suffered last week.

Bucs DT Gerald McCoy vacationed in Hawaii last offseason, and said his fiance told him: “Baby, next time we come back, we’re coming for free.”

A number of Cardinals are convinced they’re playing their last games in the desert (and there’s a reason for that).

Rams CB Cortland Finnegan didn’t practice Wednesday, but is still expected to play as he did last week.

Seahawks rookie pass-rusher appreciates the critics who motivated him this year.

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E.J. Manuel says his knees feel fine, knows he has a lot of growing to do

EJ Manuel AP

It has been a year since the Bills drafted quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round of the 2013 draft and they approach his second season without a clear idea of what the future holds for him.

Injuries to both knees affected Manuel from training camp through the end of the regular season, leading to six missed games and lost time that would have helped him develop as a quarterback. Manuel said Tuesday that he’s participating in workouts without any limitations this spring, which means he can devote all of his attention to improving into the quarterback the Bills want him to be.

“I definitely agree there’s a lot out there for myself as a quarterback to get better. I had some success. And I had some bad games as well. It’s obvious,” Manuel said, via the Associated Press. “I’m eager about it. I’m excited. I know there is a lot of area for me to grow. That’s why I took these last four months to allow that growth.”

The Bills have built a solid defense over the last few years, but it won’t be enough to carry them if the offense isn’t able to be more productive in 2014. Manuel will have a big hand in determining that outcome and the future trajectory of his career along with it.

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Aldon Smith reports for offseason duty

Smith Getty Images

With plenty of unknowns surrounding 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, one fact has become clear:  He will participate in the team’s offseason program until he’s told not to.

Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported that Smith was present for the launch of offseason workouts.

Unless Smith is suspended by the team or the league or incarcerated, Smith has every right to report for voluntary workouts, which pay $175 per day.  The structure and support could be useful to him at a time when his career, and his life, could go in one of two different directions.

Having Smith in the building also gives coaches (initially, strength and conditioning coaches only) and teammates an opportunity to get a close look at him, to see how he’s doing.  And to assess whether he’s possibly having ongoing struggles with alcohol, which placed him in rehab for more than a month last season.

His recent arrest at LAX resulted in an observation from police that it appeared Smith had been drinking earlier in the day.  If the 49ers decide Smith needs further intervention, he could be placed on the non-football illness list at some point.

Smith’s presence at offseason workouts comes at a time when the team is still deciding whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Smith’s rookie contract.  The deadline for exercising the option arrives on May 3.

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Eli Manning wants to reinvent himself this season

Eli Manning AP

Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions last season, the most in his career and the most any NFL player had thrown in any season in the last eight years. But Manning thinks things will change this year.

At the first day of the Giants’ offseason workouts, Manning said this season will provide himself and his teammates with an opportunity to show that last year’s 7-9 record doesn’t define who they are.

“This is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and to come back and change what occurred last year, some of the difficulties, and bounce back and have a clean slate, prove yourself again and play at a high level,” Manning said.

Manning is recovering from ankle surgery and not able to work out with his teammates, so he’ll get a late start on reinventing himself. The Giants need him to get healthy, and to play a whole lot better than he did last year.

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John Mara: Not expecting playoff expansion vote this year

John Mara AP

While expanding the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 seems inevitable, it won’t be happening this year.

Though such a sudden change hasn’t been ruled out by commissioner Roger Goodell, Giants president John Mara, a member of the competition committee, said a change this year would be unlikely.

I don’t think it’s going to happen this year,” Mara told Bob Glauber of Newsday. “I think it’s kind of late. We have a May [20th owners] meeting [in Atlanta], but I sense that we’ll wait a year before we do that. It hasn’t been voted on yet. . . .

“[The league] would notify us in advance, but I’m thinking it’s probably not going to happen for another year or so. My guess is that it’s going to pass at some point.”

Since the topic didn’t come up in recent meetings between the NFL and the NFLPA, it seems everyone’s content to let this one slide for a year, though a larger playoff field is coming.

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As schedule approaches, all eyes on September 4

Seahawks Getty Images

The 2014 schedule consists of 256 regular-season games.  The first one will be played on the Thursday after Labor Day in Seattle.

Later today, we’ll know which of the eight teams to visit CenturyLink Field this season will be there on the night they raise the championship banner.  The options are the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys, Giants, Broncos, Raiders, and Packers.

If it’s the 49ers, then the 49ers won’t be opening that swanky new stadium in Santa Clara until Week Two.  And the NFL would be giving up one of the truly marquee games of the season right out of the gates.

Typically, the defending champion doesn’t open the season against a division rival.  A Super Bowl rematch makes sense, but given the outcome of the Super Bowl maybe it doesn’t.  The Cowboys always draw a crowd on TV, but the Cowboys have taken a step backward this offseason.

That’s why I continue to think it’ll be a rematch of 2012′s Fail Mary game, with the Packers coming to town for a playoff game that has seemed inevitable the last two years, but that hasn’t happened.  It’ll happen this season — and it could happen on the first Thursday of the season.

Here’s where you say what you think, as we re-post the poll that first appeared while the confetti was still in the air at MetLife Stadium.

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MJD: No reason Darren McFadden and I can’t be one of the best duos in league

Maurice Jones-Drew AP

When Maurice Jones-Drew was making the free agent rounds this offseason, he found teams that wanted him to serve as a mentor for younger backs on their roster.

Jones-Drew told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle that he was almost sold on that role by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin before changing his mind and signing with the Raiders in hopes of playing a larger on-field role. How big his role will be in Oakland will be somewhat dependent on Darren McFadden as the two players will likely be splitting carries. However that split works out, Jones-Drew thinks it has the potential to be a fruitful partnership.

“But first, we’re going to compete,” Jones-Drew said. “Let’s see if someone can win the job. I expect us both to be better coming out of training camp because of that competition. It’s going to be fun. There’s no reason we can’t be one of the best 1-2 punches in the league.”

He said that his foot feels “phenomenal” one year after surgery and that his goal for 2014 is to show that he’s still the explosive runner he was earlier in his career. If he realizes that goal and McFadden is healthy, it would be quite a 1-2 punch. Two big ifs, to be sure, but vital ones for the Raiders offense.

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First Lions minicamp has a “calm feeling” even without stars

Jim Caldwell AP

The Lions opened their first minicamp under new coach Jim Caldwell Tuesday, without their best player on either side of the ball on the field.

But while Ndamukong Suh was away while a contract gets sorted out and Calvin Johnson is still rehabbing from finger and knee surgeries, the Lions are far from panicked.

There’s a calm feeling around the building,” 14-year-veteran center Dominic Raiola said, via the Detroit Free Press. “You just get a sense that this guy’s been there, done that. And he has. I mean, look at his track record; but more so being around him, not just hearing about it. It’s fun to be around him and be back in here.”

Caldwell was brought in, in part because of his steadying influence. After the frenetic years of not-much-happening of the Jim Schwartz era, that’s probably welcome to many.

But several players noted the pace of actual work, even without the high-profile stars.

“The energy today was good, man,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “I’ve never been a part of fast-tempo day like this on a first day. Guys are receptive of it and did a good job.”

Caldwell getting the extra minicamp to implement systems and instilling his calmness will help, but keeping those stars happy and healthy will be more important to his success in Detroit.

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Call in the hogs: NFL schedule up against NBA playoff game

Jerry Jones AP

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban might not be happy that the NFL is hogging all the attention tonight.

The NFL’s schedule release has become a thing, tonight at 8 p.m.

As noted by David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, in a delightful coincident, Cuban’s Mavericks play the San Antonio Spurs in a playoff game at 8 p.m.

Wonder which will create more buzz?

Of course, tonight’s unveiling of the order of a list we already know the contents of is pretty much Cuban’s point, that the porcine NFL is risking overexposure.

But Cowboys owner and Arkansas alumnus Jerry Jones replied good-naturedly that he thinks everything’s going to be fine with his business.

“I respect Mark,’’ Jones said. But with all due respect, I know more about pigs than Mark does.

“I was taught as a Razorback to be lean and mean, not a little fat pig.’’

Of course, it’s easy for Jones to bring home the bacon, when his schedule release will draw more attention than Cuban’s playoff game.

 

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Mike Wallace: New offense is “my style”

Mike Wallace AP

Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace joined his Dolphins teammates for offseason workouts on Tuesday for his first official day of work in the offense put together by offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

While coach Joe Philbin downplayed any major changes to the offense, Wallace sang a slightly different tune. After a 2013 season that saw him frustrated at times about the lack of big plays relative to what he pulled off in Pittsburgh, Wallace said he thought this offense fit his abilities well and sounded optimistic about what he and quarterback Ryan Tannehill could do in the system.

“My style: Big-play offense,” Wallace said, via the Miami Herald. “I see Ryan’s excited about it. He’s called me about eight, nine times. I just want to make some plays for my team. Go out and make some plays for my team and have a much better year than last year. We can’t have the kind of year we had last year. We need to be on the same page.”

Tannehill has talked about the offense’s focus on being more consistent on deep balls during the 2014 season, something that would work out well for Wallace and the offense overall. It might also help if Lazor moves Wallace around the field more than Mike Sherman did in 2013, when Wallace lined up outside on the right almost all the time.

If Lazor’s tweaks lead to bigger things for Wallace, it might bring an end to the talk of Wallace’s departure from Miami after two seasons.

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Doug Baldwin hasn’t signed RFA tender, but still working out with Seahawks

Doug Baldwin AP

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin was tendered at the second round level by the Seahawks this offseason, giving him the right to negotiate and sign an offer sheet with any other team in the league as long as he doesn’t sign the tender.

Baldwin hasn’t signed it, but there doesn’t seem to be much interest in leaving Seattle. Baldwin has signed a waiver allowing him to participate in voluntary offseason workouts with the team even though he isn’t yet under contract for the 2014 season. During an appearance on 710 ESPN in Seattle, Baldwin confirmed that staying in Seattle was the end result he wanted.

“I want to be a Seattle Seahawk and I want to be a Seattle Seahawk for a long time,” Baldwin said. “I love it here, I love the organization and I’m focused on doing what I can to improve and get ready for this upcoming season, whether that’s with a tender or whether that’s with something else that we work out. Hopefully is with a long-term deal, that’s what I’m hoping for, whether that’s this year or next year.”

Baldwin indicated that there haven’t been talks about a long-term deal and the possibility of signing with another team disappears on May 2, so playing out the year on the $2.187 million tender seems like a likely option.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning leaves the field after being defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game in East Rutherford Reuters

The Bills have settled a class-action lawsuit brought by fans who said the team inundated them with text messages; the team will give the fans vouchers to buy items at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin of starting offseason work, “It’s kind of like the first day of school. Everybody loves seeing their old buddies and getting re-acclimated to football.”

Said Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater, “There’s a lot to be excited about. There’s some extremely talented players that we’ve added to the roster along with some extremely talented players that we’ve had here for a while. All that is on paper. It really doesn’t mean anything right now. We haven’t even had one practice together. We have a long ways to go.”

Will the Jets consider a tight end in the first two rounds of the draft?

It might make sense for the Ravens to trade down.

Will Cleveland have to choose between street repairs and refurbishing the Browns’ stadium?

Says Cincinnati’s Wallace Gilberry of former teammate Michael Johnson signing with the Bucs, “He’s still our guy, he’s just wearing different colors. When we play Tampa, he’s not our guy. He knows that. That’s no secret. But he’s our guy.”

Expect the Steelers to draft a linebacker or two no matter regardless of whether Jason Worilds gets a contract extension.

Another mock draft says the Texans will take Jadeveon Clowney.

Will the Colts bolster the secondary in the draft?

Should the Jaguars pass on a quarterback this year and look to the 2015 draft?

Don’t expect the Titans to find a replacement for RB Chris Johnson in this year’s draft.

Said new Broncos DE DeMarcus Ware of Peyton Manning, “Peyton’s one of those guys who puts in the effort, not just on the field, but off the field, trying to figure it out. He has a bad taste in his mouth from last season and doesn’t want it to happen again.”

Chiefs DE Mike DeVito is still not over the playoff loss to the Colts.

The Raiders have begun their offseason work.

Chargers LB Donald Butler calls it “a huge disappointment” that he has only played 12 games a year the past couple seasons.

Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar says he’s good to go.

Giants QB Eli Manning says his ankle injury was not basketball-related.

Former Eagles LB Garry Cobb, who now works as a radio analyst and is running for Congress, has made contradictory comments about whether he suffers from memory loss stemming from his football career.

Golfer Notah Begay says Dan Snyder’s support for Native American causes is nothing more than “a gimmick.”

Bears DE Shea McClellin is “a different man” after tough offseason workouts.

One local columnist says the Lions are “scared” to tell Ndamukong Suh he needs to show up to voluntary offseason workouts.

The Packers would like to get more offseason work done, but the NFL limits what they can do.

Will the Vikings pick up Christian Ponder’s fifth-year option?

Here are some pictures of the Falcons’ workouts.

Panthers QB Cam Newton views fellow Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson like a big brother.

Shayne Graham is ready to compete to be the Saints’ kicker.

Bucs CB Johnthan Banks is adjusting to the changes with new coach Lovie Smith’s defense.

The Cardinals may use a high pick on a quarterback.

Will Richard Sherman get more than $12 million a year, which the Patriots and Darrelle Revis have established as the going rate for a top cornerback?

Rams WR Chris Givens says he was cocky as a rookie but is now humbled.

Everyone will watch the schedule announcement to find out when the 49ers’ two games with the Seahawks will take place.

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Phil Costa: I retired at 26 because football took a toll on my body

Phil Costa AP

Phil Costa, the 26-year-old center who abruptly announced his retirement just weeks after signing as a free agent with the Colts, says he did it because football wore him down.

“Unfortunately, the day-to-day physical rigor of the NFL season has taken a toll on my body and has been a driving force behind my decision,” Costa said in a statement, via the Dallas Morning News.

Costa missed most of the 2012 season with the Cowboys because of back and ankle injuries, and he struggled to return to form in 2013. But Costa doesn’t sound like he has hard feelings toward the NFL.

“As I look forward to the next chapter of my life, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have played in the league,” Costa said.

It wouldn’t be surprising if, after some time, Costa decides that he wants to give football another shot. If he really is finished playing, however, we wish him well in whatever he does in the next phase of his life.

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Terrelle Pryor to play a different position? Not so fast says John Schneider

Oakland Raiders v New York Jets Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks made a somewhat curious decision to trade for Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor on Monday.

Seattle sent their seventh-round draft pick, No. 247 overall, to the Raiders in exchange for Pryor. It’s the last pick of the draft that can be traded, and the remaining selections are compensatory picks that cannot be dealt. It was a minimal investment for a player the Raiders intended to release before the start of their offseason workout program.

Seahawks general manger John Schneider joined Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio to discuss why the team elected to bring Pryor to Seattle.

We’re always trying to improve competition at every position and we saw this as an opportunity to do that,” Schneider said. “Rare athlete, size and speed. . . .  We’re just excited about his upside and the type of athlete that he is. We knew that if he was released [by Oakland] there was no way we were going to have an opportunity to claim him.”

Basically, Seattle’s thought process was that they couldn’t get an athlete of Pryor’s caliber with the 247th pick anyway, so why not take a shot?

Seattle appeared to be mostly set at quarterback. Russell Wilson is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract and the team re-signed backup Tarvaris Jackson to a fully guaranteed one-year deal that will pay more than both Wilson and Pryor are set to make next season. It led to a thought that Pryor may be earmarked as a player that may be asked to play a position other than quarterback.

Schneider said that speculation may be a little premature.

“We haven’t had those conversations,” Schneider said. “But if there was ever an athlete that would be able to play a slash role, if you will, it would be this kind of player. That may a little bit fantasy football at this time of the year. He’s a quarterback. He’s been a quarterback, but no we haven’t gotten into that. This guy is a very talented athlete and we can’t wait to put our hands on him and have our staff spend some time with him.”

For now, Pryor will be of an experiment with Seattle. He’ll join B.J. Daniels as the quarterbacks behind Wilson and Jackson’s on Seattle’s roster.

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Doug Marrone recently had cancerous mole removed

Bills Patriots Football AP

Bills coach Doug Marrone has disclosed that he recently had a cancerous mole removed from his skin.

“During a recent doctor’s visit, it was discovered that I had a cancerous mole on my skin, which has since been removed,” Marrone said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “The only follow up required is to have my moles checked every three months and that basically is the end of the story. The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward.”

Marrone, 49, did not specify the location of the mole or the type of cancer, which was discovered during a recent doctor’s visit.  Some forms of skin cancer, like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are very treatable, if caught early.  Even the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma, can be cured if detected and treated before it spreads.

Jim Johnson, former Eagles defensive coordinator, died due to melanoma in 2009 at the age of 68.

Marrone’s situation serves as an important reminder to examine all skin at least once per month for any abnormal moles or growths.  Ask your doctor to do a skin examination during check-ups and physicals.  And be sure to get any suspicious areas checked as soon as possible by a dermatologist.

As my dermatologist said in January after slicing from my leg a small growth that turned out to be benign, “A little paranoia can save your patients’ lives.”

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Kony Ealy says he is the best defensive end in the draft

Kony Ealy AP

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is widely considered the top defensive line prospect in the NFL Draft. Clowney could even be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

However, another pass rusher from the SEC believes he is the best defensive end in this year’s draft class.

According to Tom Pelissero of the USA Today, Missouri defensive end Kony Early says that he believes he is the best at the position in this year’s draft class.

“I feel like I’m the best guy in this draft, period,” Ealy said. “And that’s not a cocky thing — that’s just a confidence thing. It’s not just talk. It’s been proven. My numbers show for it. My size and speed and agility show for it. What else can you want?”

Ealy is also considered to be a first round selection and did produce more statistically than Clowney did last season. Ealy had 9.5 sacks for the Tigers while Clowney posted just three sacks for South Carolina. However, college production doesn’t necessarily equate to the highest projection when it comes to the NFL.

Nevertheless, Ealy is still extremely confident in his own abilities.

“There’s no knocking [Clowney],” Ealy said. “But I’m the best defensive end in this draft. I may not have a whole lot of hype, but I don’t [need] anybody to acknowledge me.”

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