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Contrary to reports, Wade Phillips did not insult Wes Welker


Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips did not say anything controversial or disrespectful when asked on Thursday about how Houston will cover Patriots receiver Wes Welker this weekend. But that didn’t stop Phillips’ comments from becoming a story.

It started with a completely innocuous report from in which writer Paul Kuharsky asked Phillips if Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph will have the same coverage responsibilities against Welker this week as he had against Bengals receiver A.J. Green last week. Phillips responded by noting that Welker and Green are different players.

“Ah, Welker’s not Green,” Phillips said. “He’s a good player, but he’s not that big or a real athletic guy. He’s a quick guy that gets open on option routes.”

No reasonable person would say that Phillips was providing bulletin board material for Welker with those comments. Phillips was simply stating two facts: The 5-foot-9 Welker is not as big as the 6-foot-4 Green, and Welker doesn’t have the same kind of deep speed that Green has (Green has more catches of 40 or more yards in his career than Welker does, even though Green has played two seasons and Welker has played nine seasons). Everyone who follows football knows that, right?

Apparently not. Although ESPN buried Phillips’ comments in the 13th paragraph of a long story about how the Texans’ defense was preparing for the Patriots, several outlets pulled that quote out and made it a headline, attempting to portray Phillips as having insulted Welker. The Boston Globe headline was, “Wade Phillips says Wes Welker is not ‘a real athletic guy.’” The Boston Herald headline was, “Wade Phillips: Wes Welker’s no Green.” Boston radio station WEEI posted a report headlined, “Wade Phillips’ comments on Wes Welker create a stir.”

If these comments created a stir, then we really need the games to start, because we’ve officially run out of things to talk about. But they did create enough of a stir that Phillips felt the need to go on Twitter and explain himself, writing, “Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time,” while also taking a shot at the media for twisting his words.

Obviously, Phillips knows that Welker is a great athlete — every NFL wide receiver is a great athlete — but when Phillips was asked a direct question about whether covering Welker will provide the same kind of challenge to the Texans as covering Green, he gave a direct answer and stated what should be obvious to anyone who has seen them play: Welker and Green are different kinds of receivers, different kinds of athletes, and playing defense against them is different. There’s nothing insulting about saying that.

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Rod Streater visiting Bills

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The Bills may not be done tweaking their wide receiver corps.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team is visiting with Rod Streater on Tuesday. The visit comes with Sammy Watkins continuing to rehab from foot surgery and a week after the team announced second-round pick Zay Jones is dealing with a knee injury.

Streater spent last season with the 49ers and saw action in all 16 games after playing in just four games for the Raiders over the previous two seasons. He had 18 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns for the Niners.

Those numbers aren’t anything that will bowl anyone over, but the Bills aren’t overloaded with strong options at receiver at the moment. Philly Brown, Andre Holmes, Walter Powell and Jeremy Butler make up the rungs on the depth chart below Watkins and Jones.

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Overtime shortened to 10 minutes


NFL owners did not take PFT’s generously offered advice.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, owners voted to shorten overtime from 15 minutes to 10.

The effort was presented as a player safety issue, as an extra five minutes of football after 70 can generally be considered to be too much.

If last year had been played under such rules, the playoffs would have looked different, as Tampa Bay’s late loss to the Raiders would have ended in a tie, and would have put the Bucs in the postseason instead of the Lions.

Three other games were won in the final five minutes of overtime, with the Steelers beating the Browns, the Dolphins beating the Bills, and the Chiefs overcoming the Broncos.

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Report: David Irving facing four-game PED suspension

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The Cowboys dealt with suspensions for a pair of defensive ends at the start of last season and another member of the position group may be in that position this year.

Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan in Dallas reports that Irving is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Fisher adds that Irving is expected to appeal a suspension that Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports was triggered by the use of a supplement made by a company that signed him to a marketing deal.

Irving joined the Cowboys in 2015 after breaking into the NFL with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. He played 12 games for the team that year and played 15 games last year, including a Week Six win over the Packers that saw Irving force three fumbles. He had four sacks and four forced fumbles overall on the year.

Tyrone Crawford, Demarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa and first-round pick Taco Charlton are other options at defensive end for the Cowboys whether or not Irving is available for the start of the season.

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Owners approve measure to add another return from IR spot

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Teams hit by injuries (which would be all of them) now have a little more flexibility.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, owners approved a measure which would add a second player per team to return from injured reserve.

The designated-for-return device gives teams options for guys who could miss a few months, but not the entire year.

And now, they’ll be able to double their use of it. Last year, for instance, the Cardinals had to decide whether to bring back safety Tyvon Branch or running back Chris Johnson after both went on IR the same day with hernias, ultimately bringing Branch back and shelving Johnson for the rest of the season.

Likewise, any shot the Patriots might have thought they had of getting Rob Gronkowski back late in the season went away when they activated Jacoby Brissett.

Now, teams won’t have to choose.

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Jaguars, Patriots to practice together in preseason

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The stakes won’t be the same as the two times they met in the Super Bowl, but Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick will have their teams on the same field again this summer.

Discussions about joint practices leading up to the preseason game between the Jaguars and Patriots on August 10 have resulted in an agreement. The two teams will practice together on August 7 and 8 in Foxborough before facing off at Gillette Stadium.

“Having the opportunity to practice with the defending world champions to begin our preseason schedule will be beneficial for our football team,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “We appreciate Coach Belichick extending the invitation to our organization.”

The Jaguars announced that both practices will be open to the public. The Patriots have also talked to the Texans about joint practices, but nothing has been made official at this point.

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Report: Owners vote to abolish 75-man roster cuts

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There are about to be more bodies available for those all-important fourth preseason games.

According to Albert Breer of, owners have just voted to abolish the roster cuts to 75.

Those cuts, a step between the 90-man offseason roster and the 53-man regular season roster, came between the third and fourth exhibition games.

And since most teams won’t use starters in the final tune-up, that left a handful of players to play the majority of the most meaningless of the meaningless games. That gives the guys on the fringe one more game of tape to show prospective employers.

It will also make the week before the start of the regular season rather more chaotic.

Now, 1,184 players will enter the workforce at the same moment, creating a land rush for waiver claims and practice squad signings in the days leading up to the opener.

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Bruce Allen doesn’t rule out 2018 franchise tag for Kirk Cousins

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The rules of the franchise tag create a strong disincentive against using it for a third time. It may not be enough to keep Washington from doing that in order to hold quarterback Kirk Cousins in place.

Vis, team president Bruce Allen acknowledged on Monday that Cousins could end up being on the wrong end of the franchise tag for three straight years: 2016, 2017, and 2018.

“In the Collective Bargaining Agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract,” Allen said.

There are two problems with this approach. First, the CBA guarantees Cousins a 44-percent raise over his 2017 salary of $23.94 million. That’s $34.47 million. Which is way too much for Cousins to count against the salary cap for a single season.

Second, the comment from Allen will make it even harder to get a long-term deal done before the looming July 15 deadline. It’s currently believed that the Cousins camp calculates his long-term deal based on the player making $23.94 million in 2017 and getting only a 20-percent raise under the transition tag in 2018 (i.e., $28.72 million). That’s $52.66 million fully guaranteed at signing, over the first two years. With Allen treating the franchise tag as a real possibility, that changes the value of the long-term deal to $58.41 million fully guaranteed at signing over the first two years.

The difference may not matter, given that Washington doesn’t seem to be inclined to offer even the lower amount. So it’s likely that Cousins will, for the second straight year, operate on a one-year deal.

A third franchise tag, while highly unlikely, isn’t an impossibility. If Cousins plays well and Washington goes deep into the postseason, Washington may have no choice but to pay the $34.47 million for one more year with Cousins.

Regardless, Cousins can’t lose. He will have made nearly $44 million over two years, and he’ll get $34.47 million or $28.78 million for 2018, or a long-term deal from Washington or someone else.

Washington lost two years ago, by not putting good-but-not-great money on the table in 2015, while Cousins still carried injury risk under his rookie deal and had never gotten a big-money contract. They could have had him for considerably less than $43.89 million over two years — and definitely a lot less than $72.67 million or $78.36 million over three years.

They’re now locked in to the former, and they may eventually pay out at much as $78.36 million over three years, an average of $26.12 million per year.

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Calvin Pryor absent from Jets OTAs

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After the Jets selected safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye with their first two picks in the draft, many people wondered if their arrival would mean the end of Calvin Pryor’s time with the team.

They didn’t pick up Pryor’s fifth-year option, but coach Todd Bowles said that there was a place for Pryor in packages that feature three safeties on the field at the same time. Bowles also said that if Pryor is afraid of competing for playing time, he didn’t “need to be here.”

Pryor may have taken that to heart. According to multiple reports from the Jets’ beat, Pryor is not at the start of the team’s Organized Team Activities on Tuesday.

If the Jets are going to cut Pryor, he’d probably prefer it happen sooner rather than later so he has more time to spend with a new team before the start of the regular season. That may account for his approach to OTAs, but there’s not much pressure for the Jets to make that call at this point and Pryor extending his absence through mandatory minicamp next month would put him at risk of fines.

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Celebration rules could relax, to an extent

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NFL owners tabled a vote on relaxing celebration penalties during their March meeting, in part because they were listening to feedback from players.

It appears at least one person is listening.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to propose a major loosening of the celebration rules, which would allow using the ball as a prop, group celebrations, and going to the ground along with making snow angels.

Certain acts, such as those mimicking weapons, offensive gestures and sexually suggestive dances are still expected to be banned.

While there’s no word as to whether there’s a pump limit standard for those suggestive dances, it’s obvious that meetings with players has caused the league to change its stance.

Now the interesting part will be whether owners — a group which skews rather older than players — are willing to go along.

Either way, there’s a clear recognition that the perception of the “No Fun League” wasn’t popular among the workforce. And if that means fewer flags, it will likely prove popular with the paying customers as well.

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No Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters at Eagles OTAs

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Eagles coach Doug Pederson held his first press conference of the Organized Team Activities portion of the offseason on Tuesday and announced that three veteran members of the team were not in attendance.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, left tackle Jason Peters and punter Donnie Jones are not at the voluntary workouts and Pederson said that the team has been in touch with all of their players about why they aren’t there. He didn’t share those reasons and noted that the players aren’t required to be there, but did share a bit more about Cox’s absence.

“The reason’s satisfactory,” Pederson said, via Matt Lombardo of “It’s voluntary program. I’d love for everyone to be here. That’s just me personally. I know it’s not always going to work out that way. Fletcher’s one of the leaders on the football team, guys like that you do expect to be here. I get the rules. We abide by the rules. He’s one of the guys at the end of the day that I’m going to hang my hat on and go to war with.”

Cox also skipped OTAs last year while he was working on a new deal that he ultimately signed in June. He was back for mandatory minicamp and a reprise this year seems likely with no contract squabbles to sort out.

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Eric Decker participating in OTAs

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Many questions have emerged regarding the health and future of receiver Eric Decker in New York. At least one question has been answered on Tuesday.

Via Brian Costello of the New York Post, Decker is on the field and in uniform for the team’s first OTA session. He’s wearing a red no-contact jersey, which seems odd given that OTA sessions are not supposed to entail contact. (Eye roll.)

Decker had both hip and shoulder surgery last year, and an expectation has been swirling that he may not be with the team when the 2017 season begins.

The former Bronco signed a five-year, $36.5 million deal in 2015. Decker is due to earn $7.25 million in 2017. Cutting him would trigger a cap charge of $3 million, with that number likely being split over two seasons.

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Jared Goff learning new offense, trying to become a leader

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The Rams have a new coach and a new offense and a still-kind-of-new quarterback who’s still trying to figure out how to play in the NFL. On Monday, Jared Goff addressed his adjustment to Sean McVay’s system.

“It’s way different,” Goff told reporters. “It’s a way different offense. Personally, from my brief experience with it. I’ve had a quicker time learning it, easier time learning it. I don’t know whether that’s scheme or the way it’s taught or whatnot, but I’ve enjoyed spending time with the coaches and picking it up pretty quickly.”

Goff agrees that McVay is trying to make the quarterback position the easiest to play on the field.

“[Y]ou can definitely tell,” Goff said. “There’s a lot of things that may have been on our plate before aren’t now. But there’s also some things that are. It goes back and forth. . . . He’s taken a lot off of our plate.”

As he learns how to play quarterback, he also needs to learn how to lead. Goff understands the importance of that aspect of his role.

“The quarterback is the leader of the team, and again, that’s something that’s always evolving,” Goff said. “It’s just like you work on your passes, you work on being a leader. It’s something that you try to be the best teammate and everything you can be every day. Just trying to be the best you can be.”

McVay separately offered up a more pragmatic look at the situation.

“It’s a one day at a time approach,” McVay said of Goff’s leadership skills. “I think it’s really just him getting comfortable with whatever is true to his personality. I think there’s different types of ways that guys lead, but what resonates with players is if you’re genuine and authentic about it. I think he’s got a nice way of just being himself and guys naturally gravitate towards him from what I’ve seen so far.”

It’s an important facet of the overall quarterback experience; as former NFL offensive coordinator and college head coach Charlie Weis said after the draft on PFT Live, leadership is the primary quality that determines whether a college quarterback will succeed at the next level. For Goff, then, learning how to run the offense is equally important to learning how to lead the team.

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Report: Branden Albert not expected to be at Jags OTAs

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It looks like the wait for tackle Branden Albert to report for work with the Jaguars will continue.

There was word last week that the Jaguars and Albert have reopened communications after coach Doug Marrone said earlier in the offseason that the veteran acquired in a trade with the Dolphins had not been in touch with the team. Albert has not been at any of the team’s voluntary workouts as he pushes for a new contract.

While the lines of communication may be open, it doesn’t appear that will change this week. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Albert is not expected to report for the start of the team’s Organized Team Activities on Tuesday.

Second-round pick Cam Robinson has been working at left tackle since being drafted in April and will presumably continue to be in that spot for this phase of the offseason schedule. If Robinson does well, the Jaguars will have much cause to consider a revised deal with Albert before the start of the season.

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Odell Beckham expected to report to OTAs on Thursday

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was a no-show for the first day of voluntary Organized Team Activities, but he’s not boycotting OTAs entirely.

Beckham is likely to be at OTAs on Thursday, Jordan Raanan of ESPN reports.

There’s been no word from Beckham about why he is absent from the start of OTAs. It may be a matter of wanting a new contract, which is the reason Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald didn’t participate in his team’s OTAs yesterday.

Beckham also didn’t join Eli Manning and other teammates for their annual workouts at Duke last month, which he said was because he was having oral surgery.

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Look for overtime rule change to be a one-year experiment

I hate the idea of reducing preseason and regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10. I hate it because: (1) it likely will lead to unintended consequences; (2) it definitely will lead to more ties; and (3) it seems to be motivated primarily if not solely by a desire to eliminate one of the potential complaints about short-week football.

But, apparently, the powers-that-be who hope to fix something that isn’t broken in order to polish up the thing that Richard Sherman publicly dubbed a “poopfest” have finagled the 24 votes necessary to reduce overtime to 10 minutes. (For any of the 24 inclined to relent, there’s still time to stand up and say, “This is a dumb idea.”) If the rule is passed, look for it to be adopted on a one-year experimental basis.

Adopting the rule for one year only means that 24 votes would be required in 2018 to keep it. Making it a permanent change means that 24 votes would be needed to get rid of it.

Still, one year alone may not be enough of a sample size to bring all of the potentially unintended consequences to fruition. That’s why it will be smart to keep it on a one-year basis for two years or more before making it a permanent change. Eventually, the experiment will go the way of Peter Brady’s volcano, which will allow the league easily, and somewhat gracefully, move on from it.

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