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Greg Jennings isn’t crazy about home-field advantage

Greg Jennings, Isa Abdul-Quddus AP

Eli Manning and Michael Vick have done a lot to puncture the notion that Lambeau Field gives the Packers a home-field advantage that’s impossible to overcome in recent years and now a member of the Packers is saying that he’d just as soon play on the road than play at home in the playoffs.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings said that he loves playing in front of the home crowd, but that he would always choose to play indoors over outdoors. Jennings, who was on the Packers team that won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card as well as two that lost to the Giants at home, also said that he felt going on the road raises the focus of the team beyond where it gets at home. Jennings knows the party line is to say only good things about playing at home, but he wasn’t willing to go that route.

“No, no that’s a politically correct answer,” Jennings said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’m done with politically correct right now. I’m realistic.”

Eliminating the crowd aspect, it’s hard to imagine there are any wide receivers who would rather play outdoors than in a dome on turf. The good news for Jennings is that the Packers are unlikely to play at home again this postseason if they can beat the Vikings on Saturday night, although they wouldn’t get a trip to a dome until the NFC Championship Game.

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Chip Kelly makes another front office hire, adds to intrigue

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 17: Chip Kelly talks to the media after being introduced as the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles during a news conference at the team's NovaCare Complex on January 17, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The former Oregon coach surprised many after he initially turned down NFL clubs saying he would remain at Oregon. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The makeover of the Eagles front office didn’t end when Chip Kelly got Howie Roseman kicked upstairs (and out of his football building).

In fact, it was only beginning.

Kelly has made a series of moves since then to restructure and restock his football operation, with some of the moves subtle and unannounced.

According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles have hired former Dolphins executive Chris Shea as their director of scouting administration/strategic management.

The move wasn’t publicized, putting it in line with other hires Kelly has made this offseason since former General Manager Roseman was given a better title but stripped of authority over the roster (though Kelly swears he has no problem with him).

But with vice president of player personnel Ed Marynowitz working underneath/alongside him, Kelly has put his own imprint on things.

Shea has Kelly’s preferred diverse background, which includes scouting, coaching, contracts and analytics. He also has a law degree and worked for the league’s management council. That kind of broad-based experience sounds a lot like what a G.M. does, and that’s probably not an accident, as every hire Kelly makes increases the distance between him and Roseman.

Several Roseman loyalists were already fired this offseason, and Shea gives Kelly another voice which sings in the same key he does, and a guy who could ostensibly handle Roseman’s duties (cap and contracts specifically).

So if Kelly’s goal is to not only marginalize Roseman’s influence but to get rid of it, this could easily be construed as a next step in that direction.

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Lions now looking for high-character players

Lewand Getty Images

In 2012, the Lions suffered through a plague of arrests and off-field issues. With the arrival of coach Jim Caldwell in 2014, the Lions opted for a different approach.

“Jim has a great saying, a great thing that he lives by and that he espouses to the team,” CEO Tom Lewand said Wednesday at an event for the Kensington Community Church, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “It’s very simple. He doesn’t believe in a lot of rules, but he encapsulates it in a great way. He says, ‘Do right and fear no one.’ Do right and fear no one. You don’t have to worry about a whole lot else if you do right. You don’t have to worry about a lot of those things. And those are the kind of players that we look for.”

The Lions are now gravitating toward players who exude high character and/or who demonstrate maturity and stability. The team, as Birkett notes, has drafted five players in the last two years who were married or engaged.

“This group that we have that we drafted and signed as free agents is probably the best group of players as [far as] checking the three boxes of physical talent, emotional intelligence and maturity and work ethic that I’ve seen in maybe the 21 years I’ve been with the Lions,” Lewand said. “And we’ve got players coming in here who have a previous disposition to doing the right thing, whether that’s how they work off the field, whether that’s how they work on the field, how they prepare, their love of the game.”

In looking for players who “do right,” the Lions are tiptoeing through a potential minefield by incorporating Christianity into their business approach. Lewand mentioned that he, Caldwell, and G.M. Martin Mayhew gather for weekly Bible study, and that their shared values have “a lot” of influence over the construction of the roster.

“There’s not a test that we put guys through,” Lewand said. “Are you a Christian? What’s your religious background? Or anything like that. Far from it.”

Lewand is smart enough to know that no employer can make decisions based on religious beliefs and/or practices. But when all things are equal between two players and the Lions know one is a Christian and one isn’t, will that be a factor in the decision regarding which one has a job and which one doesn’t? If so, that could be a problem, from a legal perspective.

From the franchise’s perspective, however, that’s a much better problem to have than a locker room with more than a few guys who don’t know how to “do right.”

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Brian Hoyer takes first OTA snaps in Texans QB competition

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Texans got back to work on Wednesday after canceling Tuesday’s practice because of the flooding in Houston, which meant that the team got its first look at the competitors for the quarterback job in team drills.

Brian Hoyer was the first of those competitors to work with the first team at Wednesday’s practice, which may not wind up meaning much in August or September but is the kind of thing that people obsess over in May as they try to get some idea about what’s going on inside the heads of the coaching staff. Hoyer lived through the same kind of spotlight in Cleveland last year and, as a result, he says he won’t be thrown by the process.

“I’ve been through it before,” Hoyer said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I’m not going to let it affect me and I’ll just be myself and really focus on the things that I can control.”

The only big difference from last year will be the addition of cameras filming the action for Hard Knocks, although that rise in attention may be mitigated by the absence of Johnny Manziel. Ryan Mallett will be Hoyer’s competition this time around and the holdover from 2014 said he felt “ready to go” after recovering from surgery to repair an injured pectoral.

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Could Tyrod Taylor win the starting job in Buffalo?

Taylor Getty Images

On Tuesday, all four Bills quarterbacks got reps with the first-team offense. By Wednesday, the quartet of guys taking snaps with the starters had been cut to EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel.

But that doesn’t mean Tyrod Taylor is giving up on his chance to win the starting job.

I know what I’m capable of,” Taylor said, via Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News. “It’s my job to prove it to the coaches. I think that they are aware, but as long as I continue to work and continue to impress them each and every day. . . . It’s not my job to call it. I’ll let the coaches decide.”

At a minimum, the man who arrived via free agency after four years with the Ravens could be used in a specialty package. Forcing a defense to prepare for Taylor dilutes the amount of time that can be devoted to preparing to face the base offense under Manuel or Cassel or, in theory, Jeff Tuel.

Or maybe Taylor could win the job outright. Regardless, the sooner the Bills pick a starter and give him all of the first-team reps, the better off the Bills will be. Otherwise, the guy who wins the right to start Week One also will win the privilege of being the first guy benched.

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Travis Kelce fine with higher expectations this season

Travis Kelce AP

There may not have been much to like about the Chiefs passing game last season, but tight end Travis Kelce certainly qualified as a positive.

Kelce caught 67 passes for 862 yards and five touchdowns in 2014, leading the team in all three categories a year after missing all but one game of his rookie season because of a knee injury. The Chiefs saw Anthony Fasano walk as a free agent this offseason and they didn’t make any big moves at tight end, leaving both the full-time job and increased expectations for productivity for Kelce.

“Nobody puts more expectation on me than myself,” Kelce said, via ESPN.com. “That’s just the heart of the competitor. That’s how I was raised. My father taught me that you can buy a man’s back, but you can’t buy his heart. With that being said, I come out here and make sure I put all my effort and focus into being the best player I can be.”

Kelce played on about two-thirds of the Chiefs’ snaps last season and that number should go up given the lack of other options at the position in K.C. this time around. If the rise in playing time is joined by a similar rise in productivity, Kelce’s going to put up impressive numbers although the Chiefs are going to need the same kind of jump from their wideouts to see their offense reach a better place this time around.

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Bjoern Werner: If I’m healthy, I can be a baller

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The Colts drafted Bjoern Werner in the first round of the 2013 draft with the idea that he’d provide a boost to their pass rush, but those hopes have gone largely unfulfilled.

Werner has 6.5 sacks through his first two seasons with the Colts and didn’t have any after the seventh week of the 2014 season despite starting all but one game for the rest of the regular season. Werner was also shut out in the playoffs and missed the AFC Championship game with a shoulder injury that was the latest in a series of aches and pains that Werner says have kept him from reaching his full potential.

“I don’t want to sound cocky, but personally, I feel like when I’m out there and healthy, I can be a baller,” Werner said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I can do it all. You always have to get that mojo going of course. But I’m telling you, I’m confident I can be an NFL player and a starter in this league.”

Werner delivered this message after missing the team’s practice session as he continues to deal with the shoulder injury that limited him last season and that underscores the issue for Werner. Werner may well be a “baller” when he’s healthy, but he may also be an excellent flyer if wings sprout from his back. Both remain hypotheticals and the Colts can’t put all their eggs in that basket after two years of waiting for Werner to break through.

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J.J. Watt thinks bug-eating teammate will be “Hard Knocks” star

HOUSTON, TX- SEPTEMBER 28: Ben Jones #60 of the Houston Texans talks to teammates on the sidelines wile the Houston Texans play the Buffalo Bills in a NFL game on September 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

With HBO’S “Hard Knocks” choosing to document the Texans this year, it’s clear that defensive end J.J. Watt is going to get a lot of attention.

But Watt’s hoping for some more notoriety for center Ben Jones, who could also steal the show.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Jones “will eat or drink just about anything on a dare,” which makes him incredibly popular with teammates.

“I think Ben’s going to be a big winner,” Watt said. “I think there’ll be plenty of storylines following him because of his escapades – some of the things he eats, some of the things he does. Just Ben Jones being Ben Jones, so I think that’ll be great.”

Young players who exist on the fringes will often do what their elders ask, and all the spare time and spare money some of these guys have lead to some pretty unusual chances to supplement their income.

(Which reminds me of former Panthers backup offensive lineman Louis Williams, who was able to buy a motorcycle with the money he made eating mayonnaise and bugs and a lot of other stuff on dares from Todd Steussie and Kevin Donnalley.)

That kind of color is what HBO and NFL Films are looking for, which could make the Texans surprisingly entertaining.

“You’re a little different between the lines than you are off the field,” Watt said. “That’s what makes great players great.

“I think you’ll see a little bit different side. You may have to choose your vocabulary a little more wisely, though.”

And your diet, apparently.

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Jets quarterback Geno Smith hopes his new roommate helps

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There are lots of ways for quarterbacks to build chemistry with wide receivers, such as completing passes, or working out together during the offseason.

But Jets quarterback Geno Smith decided to take it a step further, by taking in a boarder.

According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall moved into Smith’s New Jersey home, and has been living with him for a month.

Smith’s apparently not the slob of the tandem, leaving his socks and cigar butts around the place.

“I was just blown away by his maturity and how much he knows,” Marshall said. “This kid is really smart. The sky is the limit for him.”

The two met a few years ago, and caught up in South Florida shortly after the trade that brought Marshall to New York.

And frankly, it’s in each of their best interest to develop a rapport, and this is Marshall’s fourth team, and Smith is actually going to have to compete for a job, though it’s probably his to lose.

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Thursday morning one-liners

The Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo (9) during an OTA practice at Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas, on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills RB Fred Jackson gets to stay a starter with LeSean McCoy on the sidelines.

The Dolphins have reasons for concern and optimism on their offensive line.

The cloud of #DeflateGate won’t be leaving the Patriots anytime soon.

Based on track records, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves a shot at the Jets starting job.

The Ravens have already released a rookie.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert learned a painful lesson in OTAs last year.

Browns S Donte Whitner thinks their secondary is one of the best in the league.

Steelers S Mike Mitchell is healthy and ready to make more of an impact this year.

Texans DT Louis Nix has a simple goal — get through a practice.

Colts WR Phillip Dorsett has already opened eyes in practice.

Jaguars G Zane Beadles is fighting for a job.

The Titans are expecting more from RB Bishop Sankey this year.

The Broncos will be using more play action this year.

Chiefs Hall of Famer Will Shields walks through team history.

The Raiders are already shuffling the roster.

The Chargers have the best offensive line in their division.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo isn’t used to having a healthy offseason.

Giants G Justin Pugh is embracing his new role.

Eagles QB Sam Bradford isn’t doing much during team workouts.

Washington OT Morgan Moses is ready to fight for a job this year.

Bears G.M. Ryan Pace got a vote of confidence from ownership over his handling of the Ray McDonald situation.

Lions LB Stephen Tulloch is “ready to roll.”

The Packers are looking for more from their return game.

Vikings G Brandon Fusco switching sides could have multiple benefits.

Falcons CB Dezmen Southward had minor knee surgery (which is the kind they perform on someone else’s knee).

Panthers WR Devin Funchess will be missing OTAs today, along with many other rookies on other teams.

A number of injured Saints are looking for a fresh start.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston will be missing OTAs also to attend an NFLPA event.

The Cardinals aren’t looking for immediate impact from their draft class.

Rams T Greg Robinson is drawing some high praise.

The 49ers still have plenty of questions to answer on the offensive line.

Seahawks S Kam Chancellor is feeling good after an injury free offseason.

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Lions met with Mike Patterson

New York Giants v New York Jets Getty Images

The Lions addressed the losses of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley this offseason by trading for Haloti Ngata, signing Tyrunn Walker as a free agent and drafting Gabe Walker, but they may still be looking for more veteran help at the position.

Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reports that the team visited with defensive tackle Mike Patterson. Patterson spent the last two seasons playing with the Giants, making appearances in all 32 regular season games and starting nine times for the NFC East club.

A move to Detroit would mark Patterson’s first trip outside that division as he spent his first eight seasons with the Eagles before moving up the turnpike. He’s thrived as a run stopper in both stops and added 16.5 sacks during his time in Philadelphia.

If Patterson does land in Detroit, he’ll be reunited with defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Washburn held the same job with the Eagles in 2011 and 2012.

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Chargers, San Diego finally will negotiate potential new stadium

chargers-helmet Getty Images

It’s been a long time coming. Probably too long. And it’s possibly too late.

Next week, the Chargers and San Diego finally will sit down and try to negotiate a deal to build a new football stadium in the town the team has called home since moving from L.A. after an inaugural season in 1960.

As noted by Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego, the process had never previously gotten to this point in 14-plus years of trying, with a detailed proposal developed and presented for discussion.

But it also could soon be the point of no return for the Chargers and San Diego, if a deal can’t be finalized based on the $1.1 billion stadium plan as a starting point for talks.

The Chargers would contribute $300 million to the new stadium, but rent ($1 million per game; $173 million over 30 years) and other expenses could eventually reach $1 billion. The NFL would separately contribute $200 million to the project.

The deal as structured would, in theory, avoid a public vote for any public money needed to pay for the project.

Next week’s negotiations should reveal fairly quickly whether the Chargers truly want to do a deal in San Diego, or whether they’re intent on moving back to L.A. At the March league meetings in Arizona, an unmistakable sense emerged that the Chargers want out — in part because the team believes it would be a mistake to stay put and watch one or two teams move to Los Angeles.

Maybe the end game for the Chargers entails a two-front negotiation aimed at getting a new stadium in San Diego and limiting the number of teams moving to L.A. to one. If that’s the case, the team’s partner on a proposed stadium in Carson, California could still be the odd man out in L.A., even if the Chargers don’t move there.

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Joseph Randle: DeMarco Murray left a lot of meat on the bone last year

Joseph Randle AP

The makeup of the Cowboys backfield has been a frequent topic of conversation this offseason with many wondering if the Cowboys’ current mix of backs will be able to replace the league-leading 1,845 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray.

Not everyone was left totally impressed by Murray’s performance, however. Joseph Randle, who backed up Murray last year and hopes for a more prominent role this year, said on Wednesday that he thinks Murray could have had an even bigger year running behind a talented Cowboys offensive line.

“He had a good year last year, and I got to sit back and watch a lot, and I felt like there was a lot of meat left on the bone,” Randle said, via the Dallas Morning News.

Randle has been getting the majority of the first team work at the early OTA practices so he may get a chance to show that he’s more efficient when it comes to removing meat from bone.

That Cowboys line deserves much credit for paving the way for Murray, but Murray was hardly running in space all season. He gained a lot of yards after contact and by making defenders miss tackles, traits that any 2015 Cowboys back are going to have to bring to the table for the Dallas offense to remain as effective as it was last season. We haven’t seen enough of Randle to know how he’d fare on those fronts, but the bar is high.

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Missouri legislators file suit against potential Rams stadium

78426475_XS Getty Images

Well, not everyone wants to keep the Rams in St. Louis. At least not with public money.

Via the Associated Press, six legislators have filed a lawsuit challenging the plan of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to replace the Edward Jones Dome with a new venue. They contend that the proposal would violate state law and improperly rely upon taxpayer funding.

Nixon intends to extend public payments on bonds for the team’s current facility without approval of the legislature.

“I want nothing more than for the Rams to stay,” Missouri Rep. Rob Vescovo told the AP. “But I don’t think the governor has the authority to bury us under the additional debt without proper vetting.”

A separate lawsuit filed last month by the body that runs the Edward Jones Dome challenges state law requiring a public vote before city funds can be used. So now there are two legal hurdles that must be cleared before St. Louis can keep the Rams — or before St. Louis can attract another team to play there, like the city did after the Cardinals left for Arizona in the 1980s.

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Jason Garrett: Absentee Dez Bryant’s in “great shape”

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys embraces Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys before the start of their NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett would obviously love to have wide receiver Dez Bryant at OTAs.

But he’s also not worried about what kind of shape Bryant might be in when he gets there.

The franchise-tagged wideout hasn’t been around for offseason workouts or OTAs, working out on his own.

“He’s working on the business part of his contract, working through this franchise player tag,” Garrett said, via Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. “We’ve been in communication with him. He’s been in communication with his teammates. He seems to be in great shape whenever we’ve seen him but he’s not been here.”

There’s no real progress — or even movement — toward a new long-term deal for Bryant, and he hasn’t signed his $12.823 million tender yet.

So while he’s dropped by the team facility a few times, he’s not taking part in the offseason program per se, and since he’s not under contract he isn’t even obliged to make the June 16-18 mandatory minicamp.

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Martellus Bennett continues to stay away, now skipping OTAs

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

For all the other headlines coming out of Chicago, the absence of one of their most visible players was easy to miss.

But tight end Martellus Bennett is still staying away from the team, skipping OTAs as he looks for a new contract, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com.

Bennett has stayed away through all the spring work so far, so it’s no real surprise. But coach John Fox said he expected the tight end to remain on the roster after the draft, when there was ostensibly a window to deal him.

Bennett has two years left on his existing contract, which pays him $4.9 million this year and $5.085 million next year. While Bennett posted career-best numbers and made the Pro Bowl last year, it’s far from a given they want to throw more money his way.

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