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Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Eddie Lacy, D.J. Fluker enter NFL draft

Dee Milliner, DaVaris Daniels AP

Three members of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide are leaving school early to enter the 2013 NFL draft.

Alabama confirmed today that cornerback Dee Milliner, running back Eddie Lacy and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker have all decided to turn pro.

The 6-foot-1, 199-pound Milliner looks like the best pro prospect of that bunch, and a likely Top 10 pick. Milliner was a first-team All-American and is likely to be the first defensive back to hear Roger Goodell call his name on April 25.

Lacy is coming off an excellent performance against Notre Dame in which he was named offensive MVP of the BCS National Championship Game. Alabama has had the first running back selected in each of the last two drafts (Trent Richardson in 2012 and Mark Ingram in 2011) and Lacy could make it three in a row in 2013.

The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Fluker looks like he’s ready to step onto an NFL field right now, and he’ll benefit from Taylor Lewan’s decision to return to Michigan — that could make Fluker the No. 2 tackle in the draft, after Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M.

Last year Alabama had five of the first 35 players drafted, and today’s news means Alabama will be shipping another talented group of players to the NFL again this year.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Wild Card Playoffs - Arizona Cardinals v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

So far, so good for Rex Ryan and Bills fans.

Minnesota S Curtis Thompson is slated for a visit with the Dolphins.

A look ahead to the Patriots’ road schedule.

This just in: The Jets need a quarterback.

WR Kamar Aiken is optimistic about his chances of landing playing time with the Ravens.

The Bengals have several players heading into their contract years.

Will S Tashaun Gipson join the Browns for workouts if Friday’s deadline passes without an offer from another team?

The Steelers continued meeting with cornerback prospects on Monday.

Texans T Duane Brown plans to step into a bigger leadership role.

Said Colts WR T.Y. Hilton of Reggie Wayne’s absence, “It’s very different. It still hurts me right now. I was still waiting for him to just walk in the meeting room. It’s different. It’s going to take me some time to get used to it, but I don’t think I will.”

What will the Jaguars do at running back in the draft?

The Titans struck a one-year deal with LB Kaelin Burnett, who played five games for them last season.

Broncos RB C.J. Anderson is trying to avoid a step back after last year’s rapid rise.

DE Mike DeVito and LB Derrick Johnson were back at work as the Chiefs opened workouts.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is ready to get to work on the field during the team’s voluntary minicamp.

Assessing the Chargers’ draft needs on the defensive line.

Jimmy Johnson once went from the Miami Hurricanes to the Dallas Cowboys and RB Duke Johnson wouldn’t mind making the same move.

Giants RB Shane Vereen will join his former Patriots teammates at the White House.

Criticism of the criticism that followed the Eagles’ decision to sign QB Tim Tebow.

The Redskins were happy with the attendance for Monday’s start of offseason workouts.

Doug Buffone’s teammates with the Bears remembered him fondly after his death on Monday.

Lions TE Joseph Fauria avoided surgery on his ankle.

Mike Daniels is happy to continue the Packers defensive line with B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion.

A list of the draft prospects the Vikings have spoken with this offseason.

The Falcons made stops at Missouri, UCLA and Washington as they continued pre-draft evaluations last week.

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly isn’t focused on contract issues at the moment.

Eliminating bad football tops the list of Saints goals for the 2015 season.

LB Bruce Carter is excited about getting to work with the Buccaneers.

CB Patrick Peterson was one of the Cardinals players reacting to S Adrian Wilson’s retirement on Monday.

Said Rams TE Jared Cook of the first day of offseason workouts, “You come in with a fresh new outfit, fresh new shoes, a new backpack. You got a Spiderman lunchbox. You’re showing off your new stuff. No, it’s just guys being acclimated again.”

49ers newcomer Jarryd Hayne explains why he settled on No. 38.

Seahawks General Manager John Schneider and his family are hosting a fourth annual fundraiser to help children with autism.

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Michael Oher seems to prefer Carolina to Tennessee

Michael Oher AP

The Titans didn’t like what they saw from Michael Oher, cutting him one year into a four-year contract.

But from Oher’s perspective, that’s fine, since he didn’t seem crazy about what he saw there either.

The now-Panthers tackle tried to be nice about it, but it was obvious he wasn’t a fan of his time in Tennessee.

I like things to be run the right way,” Oher said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “Doing things right. Just being on top of things. I’m just glad I’m in a good organization with guys that do it the right way.

“I’m trying to put that behind me and move forward.”

He also talked about the feeling of being wanted by the Panthers, with former left tackle Jordan Gross among the people who reached out to him this offseason.

“I talked to so many guys that were here before I even signed, so that was another exciting thing for me,” he said. “I knew they wanted me here. I felt like I was coming out of college, . . . It means a lot just to know they really wanted me here in Charlotte.”

Whatever his problems with the Titans organization, he said he’s at least better able to compete for a job this year after dealing with toe problems which limited him to 11 games, and helped make him ineffective in the ones he played.

“During the game in my stance, I’d be thinking about that rather than thinking about the guy that I’m going against,” he said. “Last season it just flared up worse than it ever has, and I just needed to have it worked on. I got it done, and I feel a sense of relief already. It’s definitely improving. . . .

“I’m still chasing greatness and want to be great. I still have time, (and) I feel like I have the ability, the attitude and just want to be great and not let these guys down.”

The Panthers would love to get greatness out of him, as stability at the left tackle position would be something they haven’t had since Gross retired. But Oher even being acceptable would be an upgrade for them, as the try to rebuild a line that can protect a quarterback they’re trying to invest in.

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Lions offensive line looking to “whoop somebody’s ass” in 2015

Warford Getty Images

The Detroit Lions enter the offseason program with multiple spots on the starting offensive line unknown.  Their mission isn’t.

We have to be more aggressive,” guard Larry Warford said Monday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.  “We can’t be as technical as we [tried to be last year].  The biggest thing is we tried to break everything down, we tried to focus on a bunch of stuff at once, down to the smallest detail.  With offensive line play, that’s cool but at the end of the day you have to whoop somebody’s ass and we weren’t necessarily being the players that we were trained to be from the start.”

Warford added that the offensive line was “somewhat robotic” in 2014.  Two of the five starters from that “somewhat robotic” line, Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims, won’t be around in 2015.  But it sounds as if Raiola and Sims weren’t the “somewhat robotic” ones.

“It sucks that they’re gone. They’re huge, huge, huge personalities in the room,” Warford said. “That’s 14 years with Dom and what is it like [nine] for Sims? It sucks that they’re gone ’cause they come from a different era in football and that era was, mentally they were stupid tough. It sucks that we don’t have that type of leadership with us, but the biggest thing is carrying on what they taught us and the mentality that they brought in, take it upon ourselves to instill that mentality in the room.”

So how will they do that?

“[Offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn], first thing he said was, ‘We’re coming off the ball,'” Warford explained regarding the opening meeting of the year with his position coach.  “‘We’re running off the ball.’  There’s nothing else to that.  We’re going to set the pocket and run off the ball.  He said that today.  That’s what it has to be.  We’re not going to focus every little step.  You have to work that framework into what you can do personally.  Everybody has as different skill set and they have to make it work for them.  That’s the biggest thing.  It’s not going to be too chaotic or whatever, but we’re going to play.”

Travis Swanson takes over for Raiola at center and Warford plays right guard.  The other 60 percent of the starting offensive line spots are up in the air.  The guys most likely to win those jobs could be the guys who demonstrate the greatest ability to whoop some ass.

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Brian Orakpo looking forward to playing for Dick LeBeau

Washington Redskins v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Linebacker Brian Orakpo had his first day of work for a team other than the Redskins on Monday, although not everything about life with the Titans will prove to be a new experience.

One of the biggest parts of any transition to a new team is learning their scheme, but Orakpo said he’s got a head start on that front because of how much time he spent studying Dick LeBeau’s defenses while playing for coaches who learned at LeBeau’s knee while working in Washington’s 3-4 scheme. LeBeau made the move from Pittsburgh to Tennessee this offseason and Orakpo said that helped lead him to Nashville as well.

“When I knew [LeBeau] was on board, it made the transition a lot easier because I knew what he was all about,” Orakpo said, via the Tennessean. “When I was in Washington, all I did was study Pittsburgh’s stuff and what [LeBeau] brought to the table and how they ran their defense. I knew what James Harrison would do before James Harrison knew what he was going to do. That’s how much I studied it. Earlier this day when we were going over defenses, I knew it like the back of my hand. Obviously the terminology is a little different. But it’s very, very similar as far as the way the 3-4 should be run.”

Orakpo’s familiarity with the defense won’t matter much if he’s not healthy enough to stay on the field this season, something that torn pectoral muscles have kept him from doing in two of the last three seasons. Orakpo said he’s altered his workouts to increase flexibility and mobility in his upper body in hopes of avoiding an injury that keeps him from making the most of life under LeBeau.

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Willie Colon backs up claim Jets had lateness “issue”

New York Jets v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

It seems easy for Rex Ryan to take shots at former Jets tight end Jace Amaro for his raising of accountability questions.

The Bills coach has painted Amaro as young and perhaps immature, but now a veteran teammate has chimed in, saying there were issues last year.

Via the Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, guard Willie Colon acknowledged that lateness was an “issue” for the team.

“It’s the little things like that, the little things you just don’t talk about,” Colon said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “You be on time; you be accountable for your actions. . . .

“It’s one of those things where as a pro ballplayer it’s not hard to be there on time.”

Ryan has taken numerous shots at Amaro since the original remarks, far more attention than Amaro has gotten for much of anything else. But having a longtime pro like Colon backing his story helps establish some credibility, especially after Geno Smith missed a meeting the night before a game and still played, while Calvin Pryor missed a meeting and was benched for a week.

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A.J. Green on extension: I’m not hurting for money

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

One of the AFC North’s top wideouts was a no-show at the start of offseason workouts on Monday because Antonio Brown wants a new deal from the Steelers three years after signing an extension.

Things are playing out differently elsewhere in the division. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has never signed an extension since being drafted and is in the fifth and final year of his rookie deal, but he reported for voluntary work on Monday. Green, who will play for just over $10 million this year, said his agent has spoken to the Bengals about a new contract and that he’ll let negotiations work themselves out while he’s working out with the team.

“I handle the part of playing. I’m not hurting for money,” Green said, via the team’s website. “I got my option. That’s enough for now. I’m just focused on football. Next year will take care of itself.”

With Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas both looking for long-term deals while under the franchise tag this offseason, the top of the market for wideouts could look quite different in a couple of months. That could help Green and the Bengals find common ground, although a tag next year will also remain a possibility.

Either way, Green, who said he feels 100 percent after a variety of injuries slowed him last year, is in line to make a lot of money in 2016 as long as his fifth year resembles the first four.

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Rams talking to Cowboys about a joint practice in Oxnard

Jerry Jones AP

The Rams may end up in Southern California sooner than expected.

For practice, anyway.

Via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, the Rams are discussing a joint practice session with the Cowboys this summer in Oxnard, Calif.

Of course, that’s about 65 yards from Los Angeles, where the Rams could be doing more than practicing soon, if owner Stan Kroenke gets his way.

In the practice scenario, logistics make it possible, as the Rams play the Raiders in the preseason opener, so will be on the West Coast already, allowing a few days to work with the Cowboys.

The Cowboys have lined up such workouts with the Chargers and Raiders in recent years, so it’s nothing new for them. For the Rams, it might be a sneak preview of a coming attraction.

The Rams have also talked to the Colts about a joint session back in the Midwest. Maybe if that happens, Kroenke can get some moving van advice from Colts owner Jim Irsay.

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ESPN says Tebow will be welcome back after playing career ends

Tim Tebow AP

Tim Tebow raised some eyebrows at ESPN by leaving his job as a commentator and signing with the Eagles — and not telling anyone until after a competitor had broken the news.

But ESPN has released a statement saying there are only warm feelings toward Tebow, and he will be welcome to resume his broadcasting career after his football career is over.

“We appreciate Tim’s contributions to the launch of SEC Network and wish him all the best as he pursues his NFL dream. Tim quickly established a tremendous rapport with everyone he worked with in front of and behind the camera. He has a tireless work ethic and a unique passion for football. Tim developed quickly into an excellent analyst. He has a home at ESPN when his playing career is done,” ESPN said in a statement from V.P. of Programming and Production John Wildhack.

It’s easy to see why ESPN would want to maintain a good relationship with Tebow, who still has a large fan base and can draw viewers with his presence. If you don’t see him in an Eagles uniform this season, you’ll see him in an ESPN studio.

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Bucs are keeping door open for a trade down

Winston Getty Images

The Buccaneers opened their offseason program on Monday.  General Manager Jason Licht met with the media in conjunction with the launch of the offseason program.  And he understandably was asked plenty of questions about the team’s plans for the first overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Licht’s comments continue to point to Jameis Winston being the first overall pick.

“Going back all the way to [the Scouting Combine], we said we had a leader in the clubhouse, we still do,” Licht said, via a transcript prepared by the team.   “If we had to pick today, we would feel very comfortable making the pick.  With that said, we’ll wait.  We’ll use the majority of our allotted time.  There is always something that could pop up that you wish you would’ve waited, talking about a scenario where somebody offers you something you can’t refuse.  We’ll use the allotted time, but everyone in the organization feels very comfortable right now with where we are at.”

What would it take to get the top pick?

“It’s fair to assume someone is going to have to make a really good offer, yeah,” Licht said. “And this time of year you get a lot of calls every day.  Not making offers, but just throwing, gauging your interest of if you would be open to it or not.  And that will continue.  But it would have to be an offer that makes this franchise, that sets this franchise even further ahead than what you thought you were going to with the decision you made.”

So the Buccaneers are keeping the door open for a possible trade down, and if no one makes them an offer they can’t refuse, they’ll take the guy they’ve been planning to take all along.  And the widespread belief continues to be that Winston will be the pick.

Not surprisingly, Licht also was asked about the research the team has done regarding Winston’s off-field issued, specifically relating to the sexual-assault lawsuit filed against him last week by Erica Kinsman.

“It didn’t surprise us,” Licht said regarding the civil complaint.  “The information that came out with it was not a surprise to us.  We’re very confident in the amount of work we have done.  Maybe 25 years from now I’ll write a book, but we feel very confident in the amount of work we’ve done internally.  We have had work done externally, third parties, on and on and on.  So there have been no surprises.”

Licht sidestepped the question of whether he has spoken to prosecutors or to Kinsman’s lawyers.

“Well, I’ll answer that this way:  We’ve talked to a lot of people,” Licht said. “‘A lot’ is probably not a big enough word.  But, we’re not going to publicly talk about who we talked to.  That’s just what we decided internally.  We are not going to talk about the process.  All I’ll tell you is that the Glazer family, the head coach, the General Manager, our staffs, we all couldn’t feel more confident about the process we have gone through so far.”

There’s no reason to think the Buccaneers haven’t done everything they need to do, given the stakes of the decision they’ll be making.  It’s the fifth time in franchise history that they’ve been in this spot, and the goal will be to get another Lee Roy Selmon, who made it to the Hall of Fame — and not another Bo Jackson, who never played for the team.

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Mychal Kendricks absent from start of Eagles offseason program

Mychal Kendricks Getty Images

Offensive lineman Evan Mathis wasn’t the only player absent from the start of the Philadelphia Eagles offseason program on Monday.

According to CSNPhilly.com, linebacker Mychal Kendricks was also a no-show at the Eagles facility.

Per Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Kendricks had a scheduled trip planned and will join the offseason program soon. Kendricks’ instagram account appears to show him on vacation in Costa Rica.

The offseason workouts are voluntary and there is no penalty for missing the start of conditioning season.

With the addition of Kiko Alonso this offseason, just how the Eagles will work their linebackers onto the field remains to be seen. Alonso, Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans all are capable inside linebackers. Kendricks appeared in 12 games with 11 starts last year for Philadelphia. He recorded 83 tackles with four sacks and three forced fumbles.

 

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Tomlinson thinks Rivers wants out of San Diego

Rivers Getty Images

The star running back who once had to leave San Diego believes the star quarterback that used to be his teammate wants to move on, too.

Via Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego, former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said on NFL Network that he thinks current Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers won’t be back with the team in 2015.

I personally don’t think so,” Tomlinson said.  “I really think this is a situation where Philip Rivers wants to move on.  The reason why I think that and the reason why I feel like that is the Chargers have already approached Philip about doing another contract and he declined it.  He doesn’t want anything to do with it; he didn’t even want to talk about another contract with the San Diego Chargers.  That tells me that he’s thinking about moving on.”

Tomlinson didn’t say that Rivers actually told Tomlinson that; instead, Tomlinson surmises Rivers is thinking about moving on because he rebuffed the team’s desire to extend his deal.

So should the Chargers trade Rivers, if he doesn’t want to be there?

“You never want to trade your franchise quarterback,” Tomlinson said, “that’s never the case.  However, in this situation they might have no choice but to do so because I don’t know if Philip [Rivers] wants to be there anymore.  I think he’s lost confidence in the organization.   He’s seeing a lot of changes going on and the L.A. thing is valid; him not wanting to go to L.A., that is very valid, I can see that.  So no, it doesn’t make sense to move on from Philip because he’s a franchise quarterback and he still has three to four very good years left.”

Why he has lost confidence in the team?

“The receiving corps keeps on changing; Eddie Royal is now gone,” Tomlinson said.  “We talked about this before with Vincent Jackson leaving years ago.  There are so many parts that are leaving where Philip is looking around that locker room and he doesn’t see anyone he’s familiar with other than Antonio Gates.  Now to that point, Antonio Gates next year is a free agent.  Eric Weddle is going to be up.  Next year the Chargers have a lot of decisions to make with a lot of key guys, so Philip could be looking at the situation and thinking we’re not close to winning a championship anytime soon.”

Rivers hasn’t addressed his situation since going on the record about his reluctance to extend a contract that runs through the coming season, comments which coincidentally emerged only four days after the Steelers gave quarterback Roethlisberger a gigantic new deal.

As Krasovic notes, Rivers and coach Mike McCoy were shielded from the media on Monday, the first day of offseason workouts.  At some point Rivers needs to say whether he wants to stay or whether he wants to go.  Unless and until he does, the perception will linger that he wants to move on.

Tennessee continues to be the most likely destination, primarily because only the Titans are in position to give the Chargers a potential franchise quarterback to replace Rivers, via the second overall pick in the draft.  If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen in less than 10 days or not at all.

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Lions WR Jeremy Ross, six other ERFAs re-sign on Monday

Jaiquawn Jarrett, Jeremy Ross AP

Lions returner Jeremy Ross was among seven exclusive rights free agents re-signing with clubs on Monday.

The 27-year-old Ross returned 23 kickoffs for 584 yards (25.4 yards per attempt) and 32 punts for 284 yards (8.9 yards per attempt) in 2014. A wide receiver, Ross also added 24 catches for 314 yards and a touchdown, with four catches of 20 yards or more.

Other exclusive-rights free agents re-signing Monday were Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken, Giants defensive back Chandler Fenner, Chiefs wide receivers Frankie Hammond and Junior Hemingway, Ravens defensive back Tramain Jacobs and Rams offensive guard Brandon Washington. Hammond (four catches, 45 yards) started three games for the Chiefs a season ago, while Hemingway (12-108) made one start.

All re-signings were disclosed in the NFL’s Monday personnel notice.

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Seahawks re-sign center Lemuel Jeanpierre

Lemuel Jeanpierre AP

In need of additional depth along the offensive line, the Seattle Seahawks re-signed center Lemuel Jeanpierre on Monday.

Jeanpierre has spent each of the last four seasons as a backup to Max Unger for Seattle. He’s appeared in 53 games for the Seahawks and made 11 starts split between center and guard over that span.

Jeanpierre was placed on injured reserve at the end of training camp last year and released with an injury settlement. With Stephen Schilling going on injured reserve mid-season, Seattle re-signed Jeanpierre and he appeared in six games with three starts.

The Seahawks may have elected to move on from Jeanpierre this offseason but Schilling elected to retire rather than accept an offer from Seattle. With Unger in New Orleans, former left guard James Carpenter now with the New York Jets and Patrick Lewis as the only veteran center on the roster, a reunion with Jeanpierre once again became a viable option.

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Six RFAs re-sign with clubs on Monday

Austin Davis AP

The restricted free agent market continues to thin.

Six restricted free agents re-signed with their clubs on Monday, per the NFL’s personnel notice, which announces transactions.

Three Rams RFAs signed their tenders: safety Rodney McLeod, quarterback Austin Davis and tight end Cory Harkey. McLeod has been a two-season starter in the secondary, while Davis started eight games in place of the injured Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford a season ago.

Other RFAs signing their tenders were Browns linebacker Craig Robertson, Browns defensive back Johnson Bademosi and Steelers fullback Will Johnson. Robertson started 11-of-16 games for Cleveland in 2014, notching 99 tackles.

Teams have until Friday to sign other clubs’ restricted free agents to offer sheets. Thirty-four players were tendered as RFAs earlier in the offseason, with the majority already re-signing with their clubs.

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Hall of Famer Bob St. Clair dies at 84

St. Clair AP

Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bob St. Clair, who spent 11 seasons with the 49ers from 1953 through 1963, has died after a brief illness.  He was 84.

A third-round draft pick (32nd overall) from Tulsa, St. Clair served for three years as a team captain and made it to five Pro Bowls.

He blocked for the team’s “Million Dollar Backfield.”  In 1956, St. Clair used his height to block a whopping 10 field goals.  Those efforts helped qualify him for the All-Decade team of the 1950s.

St. Clair also was once kicked in the face while trying to block a punt by Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin.  St. Clair made the play, but he lost five teeth.

“I went over to the sideline and they shoved cotton in my mouth and until it got so bad I had to take Novocain in my mouth, but I kept playing,” St. Clair said in 2010.

Via his biography at the Hall of Fame website, St. Clair was an unusual character, with habits that included eating raw meat.  Late in his playing career, St. Clair served as the mayor of Daly City, California.

The San Francisco native entered Canton in 1990, as part of the class that included Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Tom Landry, Ted Hendricks, Bob Griese, and Buck Buchanan.

The last line of St. Clair’s enshrinement speech often pops up in NFL Films productions with this simple message:  “I want to thank you very much for making my day in the sun so memorable.”

Condolences to the family and friends of Bob St. Clair, whose contributions to football at the dawn of the TV era helped make the game what it has become.

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