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Donte Whitner: 49ers didn’t understand “magnitude of the moment” last year

AP

Last year’s trip to the NFC Championship Game was a new experience for many 49ers afters years of missing the playoffs in San Francisco.

The 49ers are back in the game again this year safety Donte Whitner says that last year’s experience was educational for the team. Whitner thinks that playing last year’s game against the Giants left the team with a better grasp of what they need to do to wind up winners.

“We didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment,” Whitner said, via Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “In a championship game like that, each and every play is going to be a roller coaster and we need to make plays.”

Last year’s game ended with the Giants moving onto the Super Bowl because Kyle Williams fumbled away a pair of punts and because their offense couldn’t generate enough points to keep the Giants from coming back to win the game in overtime. The offense has looked much different with Colin Kaepernick at the helm, which should give the 49ers a better chance of surviving any miscues like the ones Williams provided last season.

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Ricky McKay: Falcons stadium will be ready to go for August 26

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They can probably go ahead and tear down the Georgia Dome.

Falcons CEO and president Rich McKay tells PFT Live in an interview to be aired Thursday morning that the team’s new stadium will be ready to go for the preseason home opener, on August 26.

McKay also said there’s no truth to persistent rumors that the unique retractable roof will remain closed for the entirety of the first year of the stadium’s operation. McKay said that the unprecedented multi-piece roof, with an array of 500-ton segments that slide open and closed simultaneously, will function as planned in 2017.

The extended interview will McKay will be played in two parts, beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET and ending at 7:35 a.m. ET. In addition to discussion regarding the stadium, McKay answered a variety of questions regarding the rule changes passed earlier this week in Chicago, given that he also serves as the chairman of the Competition Committee.

Also joining Thursday’s show will be Bob Glauber of Newsday, who’ll have some things to say about the Giants, the Jets, and whatever else comes up.

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In response to Sheldon Richardson, Brandon Marshall takes the high road

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Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson took a shot at former teammate Brandon Marshall on Tuesday, saying that there were “15 reasons” for the team’s failures in 2016. Marshall responded by taking the high road.

“Last year was an extremely difficult season for all of us,” Marshall told Kimberly A. Martin of Newsday. “Players and coaches fought their tails off trying to get our season turned around and it didn’t happen for us. It was disappointing, but now it’s a fresh year for Sheldon, for myself, for the Jets, and now I’m a Giant and I’m so excited for this opportunity.”

Some would say it’s easy for Marshall to be positive, given that he now plays for a playoff team, and Richardson, who also called Marshall a “drama queen” and a “locker room cancer,” is still stuck with the Jets.

“I’m working my butt off to learn the plays,” Marshall said. “It’s like I’m starting all over again from scratch. I feel like a rookie, and I kind of like that feeling. And hopefully I can do my job this year to the best of my ability to bring that Lombardi Trophy back where it belongs. That’s my only focus right now and I’m excited to be a New York Football Giant.”

Bob Glauber of Newsday wasn’t as charitable as Marshall when it comes to Richardson.

“Richardson is hardly one to throw shade at a teammate, current or former, especially given his tenuous standing with the Jets,” Glauber writes. “He already has been suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, and was suspended for the first game of the 2016 season for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. Last year’s sanction was in response to a July 2015 arrest for driving his 2014 Bentley Flying Spur at speeds up to 143 miles per hour near his home in suburban St. Louis. Police found a loaded semi-automatic handgun under a floor mat.”

Glauber says Richardson “was the much bigger problem than Marshall” last year, and that the Jets viewed Marshall as part of the solution, not part of the problem. Richardson remains part of the problem, which could be why the Jets continue to try to make him not part of the Jets.

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Blake Bortles knows he has to stop the stupid turnovers

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Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw 16 interceptions and lost six fumbles last season. He knows that’s not going to cut it on a Tom Coughlin-led team.

Bortles said at Jacksonville’s Organized Team Activities that his top priority right now is being safe with the football.

“If you don’t turn the ball over, you’ll win football games,” Bortles said, via Mike Kaye of WTLV. “That’s our focus. Turnovers are going to happen. We get that. You have to make sure to minimize them as much as possible and stay away from the stupid ones.”

Bortles said Coughlin, who became the Jaguars’ front office boss this offseason, is already making his presence felt.

“To have a guy like that in the building that you can talk to – I’m sure [Head Coach Doug Marrone], having another head coach in the building, a former head coach in the building who has been successful and has done some good thing – I think it’s good for everybody,” Bortles said. “It allows everybody to have somebody to talk to, to help out. He has a ton of good information.”

And atop that list of good information is that if you don’t take care of the football, you won’t be around for long.

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Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott did not suffer a concussion

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Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott sustained a head injury in an automobile accident on Sunday. The team insists that Elliott did not suffer a concussion.

Via the Associated Press, running backs coach Gary Brown said Wednesday that Elliott bumped his head during the accident, in which he was a passenger, but that Elliott did not sustain a brain injury.

Coach Jason Garrett said Elliott will miss Thursday’s OTA session due to lingering soreness and neck stiffness. He’s expected to practice with the team next week.

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Giants ink Devin Taylor

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Defensive end Devin Taylor started 16 games for the Lions last year, before becoming an unrestricted free agent. He lingered on the market longer than expected, but he now has landed with a new team.

Per a league source, the 27-year-old Taylor has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Giants.

Taylor had 4.5 sacks in 2016. A year earlier, with 15 games appearances and no starts, Taylor registered 7.0 sacks.

The Lions made Taylor, who played college football at South Carolina, a fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft. He’s perhaps best known for drawing a controversial facemask penalty that gave the Packers one last heave to the end zone on a Thursday night in Detroit. Aaron Rodgers delivered a game-winning touchdown pass with a Hail Mary throw that nearly scraped the rafters at Ford Field.

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Browns hire Ryan Grigson

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Former Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson has found his new NFL home, in Cleveland.

Grigson has been hired by the Browns, joining the team he once gave a first-round draft pick for Trent Richardson.

“Ryan brings valuable experience to our personnel group,” Browns G.M. Sashi Brown said in a statement. “He was raised as a road-scout and has been evaluating talent in this league for almost 20 years. We place a premium on that experience and on his passion for football. Ryan has much to offer to any personnel department and we are pleased that he chose to join our staff.”

Grigson’s title in Cleveland will be Senior Personnel Executive. It’s his first job since being fired after five years as the G.M. in Indianapolis.

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Kenny Stills on possible 2017 anthem protest: “We’ll see when the time comes”

AP

stillAlthough unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick continues to be the name and face most commonly attached to last year’s National Anthem protests, plenty of other players followed his lead. Those players included Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills.

And while Kaepernick reportedly will be standing in 2017 (if/when he’s on an NFL team), Stills has made no such commitment. Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether Stills plans to engage in anthem protests in the coming season, Stills said this: “I guess we’ll see when the time comes. I’m doing my best to continue to work and make an impact in the community, and I feel like that’s the most important part about what I’m doing right now.”

It’s obvious that Stills, who signed a four-year, $32 million contract in the offseason, will do whatever he thinks he needs to do in order to make a positive impact — and that he would have done what he did last year even without the support of the organization.

“It was a relief that we knew that Mr. [Stephen] Ross was going to be standing behind us; but no, it was something that the decision that we made it was going to be something we were doing regardless,” Stills said. “And that’s no disrespect to the organization or Mr. Ross, but it’s something that we felt strongly about and so we stood by that decision.”

For Stills, it’s much more than making a visible gesture aimed at raising awareness of societal problems. It’s about actions.

“I think here locally we’ve done everything that we can and we’re going to continue to do that,” Stills said. “The ride-along that we did last year with law enforcement is something that we’re going to try to do again this year and something that we’re trying to expand on throughout the league, and so I just try to focus on the positive things that we’ve done here and try and spread the message to other guys and other teams. . . .

“I mean I try to do my best to just do the right thing in all situations and that’s how I handle it. I’ve gotten more involved this past year and that’s something that I just . . . I can’t hold back on because it’s something that is true to my heart and so that’s kind of how I handle every situation I come across.”

While many may disagree with some of the methods aimed at raising awareness, it’s hard to take issue with the idea of devoting time and effort to solving problems in communities and improving communication among groups that have a history of friction that has at times bubbled over into hostility and violence. For that, Stills should be praised. As to Kaepernick’s role in addressing similar issues, here’s hoping that those who take issue with what he did during the playing of the national anthem can at some point recognize other less controversial steps he has taken to address some of the very real challenges society is confronting.

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DeShone Kizer sees an accelerated learning curve

AP

Regarded as the quarterback with the highest ceiling in the 2017 draft, Browns rookie DeShone Kizer now embarks on an effort to get to his maximum abilities as quickly as he can. He believes that playing in Cleveland will get him there even faster.

“It is exactly what I expected when I got brought over to this club,” Kizer told reporters on Wednesday. “Coach Jackson, during the . . . pre-draft process, that is exactly how he goes about his quarterbacks and he has held up to it and he has gone even further. With that, it allows me to start my learning curve a little faster. When you have the guy who is calling the plays, the guy who has created this offense and he knows the language inside and out, teaching your everyday fundamentals, it definitely pushes you a little quicker than if it was someone else who has to then go through him. I’m at the top of the command in terms of the guys who are coaching me so it is going to allow me to get out there and compete little faster than otherwise.”

It’s no accident that Jackson is spending plenty of time with Kizer.

“I will continue to do so,” Jackson told reporters on Wednesday. “I have to find out probably more about him than I do any of the guys. He is not going to get too far away from me, I know that. He has done a good job. He just has to keep getting better. He has improved from day to day. . . . There is a lot thrown at him now, but he is doing a good job. He has been better than some guys I have been around – in two days of competing against our defense and all of the different things our defense does, which is only going to make our guys better, with all of the things we get to see every day.”

It feels like only a matter of time before Kizer ends up getting a chance to show what he can do on the field, which will be the best way for him to get to his ceiling, wherever and whatever it may be.

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Odell Beckham weighs in on recent reporting

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has spent plenty of time in the news in recent days, between his absence from OTAs to his reported intention to show up on Thursday to his new shoe deal to his decision to work out with Johnny Football instead of Beckham’s football team.

He apparently didn’t like something about one of the things that someone has written or said, because Beckham has taken to Twitter by declaring, “‘If they don’t have a story these days they’ll make one…’ I might get that tatted.”

Images of Beckham and fellow 2014 first-rounder Johnny Manziel emerged on Wednesday, after Beckham missed two of 10 offseason OTA sessions with the Giants, with the New York Post headline explaining that “Odell Beckham chose Johnny Manziel over Giants practice.” Beckham reportedly intends to show up for voluntary drills on Thursday, at which time reporters will be present to ask him about any and all recent developments — and at which time he’ll be able vent as much as he wants about the nerve of some people to point out the comings and goings for a celebrity athlete who is, based on that Nike deal, enjoying the financial fruits of being a celebrity athlete.

Maybe he’ll also be sporting a new tattoo that could take up plenty of real estate on his torso, his limbs, or elsewhere.

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Dolphins sign Charles Harris

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The Dolphins have signed all their 2017 draft picks.

First-round defensive end Charles Harris became the final member of the draft class to agree to terms on a contract with the team on Wednesday. Like all first-round picks, Harris’ deal is for four years with a team option for a fifth season.

Harris was the 22nd overall pick last month after wrapping up a career at Missouri that saw him rack up 34.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. That pass rushing prowess made him a popular mock draft choice for the Dolphins before they made him their actual pick in Philadelphia.

Harris will join Cameron Wake, William Hayes and Andre Branch at defensive end for the Dolphins and seems like a good bet for a role as a rotational pass rusher at the very least during his rookie season.

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Patriots release Devin Street

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With receiver Andrew Hawkins joining the Patriots, the Patriots needed to make a corresponding roster move. Receiver Devin Street was moved off the roster.

The Patriots announced on Wednesday the release of Street, who had been claimed off waivers from the Colts on May 2.

A fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2014, Steelers previously spent time on the Patriots practice squad before joining Indy’s active roster last season, appearing in five games. For his career, he has 36 regular-season appearances and two starts.

Street will be subject to waivers. If unclaimed, he’ll become a free agent.

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Michael Floyd: I couldn’t be in a better position right now

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Wide receiver Michael Floyd is back in his hometown after signing with the Vikings and having the remainder of his house arrest sentence for last year’s DUI transferred to Minnesota so he can begin working with the team, something that coach Mike Zimmer said is a good thing because of the support system the team has in place for Floyd.

Part of that support system is the presence of college teammates Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph, who is hosting Floyd at his house while he re-acclimates himself to life in the Twin Cities. While Floyd isn’t crazy about the idea of helping out with diaper changes for Rudolph’s twin daughters, he’s otherwise happy to be home after bouncing from being released by the Cardinals to a stint with the Patriots last season.

“Everything I’ve been through was eye-opening,” Floyd said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The stuff that you go through, positive or negative, grows you as a person. I couldn’t be in a better position right now.”

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said that Floyd is behind his teammates after signing late in the offseason, but called the wideout a fast learner “that can make plays.” If that proves to be true on the field, Floyd should find plenty of playing time on an offense that’s looking to take a step forward from last year’s output.

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Cowboys anticipate Ezekiel Elliott will practice next week

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Running back Ezekiel Elliott has not participated in the Cowboys’ first two Organized Team Activities this week after he was a passenger in a car involved in an accident last weekend, although the team doesn’t sound overly concerned about his condition.

Coach Jason Garrett met with the media on Wednesday and said that he anticipates Elliott will be back on the field when the second week of OTAs gets underway next Tuesday. Garrett said that Elliott had some soreness and stiffness after the accident, but is otherwise OK.

Given Elliott’s importance to the offense, the cautious approach is an unsurprising one and it wouldn’t come as a great shock if the Cowboys gave him even more time off if he isn’t feeling all the way back to normal come Tuesday.

Garrett also updated a couple of other injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Wide receivers Cole Beasley and Lucky Whitehead are both dealing with hamstring injuries, which gave rookie Ryan Switzer a chance to play with the first team during Wednesday’s workout.

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Shane Vereen’s reaction to Richardson’s slap at Marshall: “Why?”

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On Tuesday, Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson took at public swipe at former Jets receiver/current Giants receiver Brandon Marshall. On Wednesday, current Giants running back Shane Vereen reacted to the comments.

“I guess my question is, ‘Why?'” Vereen said during a one-hour in-studio visit to PFT Live. “I mean, what’s gone is gone.  Obviously, there’s no love lost between the two.  It’s tough because he’s in my locker room and he’s a good guy.  He’s played with my brother [Brock Vereen] before.  My brother was in Chicago, they spent some time there together, there’s good things.

“If you really dug and dug on every player, you could find some negative things on them and how they carry themselves, or how they treat others.  I try to stay optimistic as possible and I’m just happy that Brandon Marshall is on our team this year.”

Marshall joins the Giants after two years with the Jets, three with the Bears, two with the Dolphins, and four with the Broncos. Traded by the first three and cut by the last one, Marshall has been one of the best receivers of the past decade, generating 941 receptions (18th all time), 12,061 receiving yards (24th all time), and an outside shot at eventual Hall of Fame consideration if he can perform over the next couple of years like he did throughout most of his career — and if he can finally get to the playoffs once, or twice.

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NFL hopeful Jalen Robinette removed from Air Force graduation

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Jalen Robinette’s unusual final month as an Air Force Academy cadet has taken another strange turn.

Robinette, a wide receiver who found out just before the NFL draft that a policy change would force him into active duty after graduating rather than letting him play in the NFL, has been removed from the Academy’s graduation ceremony today.

“Cadet Robinette was removed from the graduation lineup after academy leadership became aware of information that called into question Cadet Robinette’s eligibility/qualification to graduate and commission,” the Air Force Academy said in a statement. “Cadet Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be placed on hold while we further evaluate. Due to privacy-related concerns, we are unable to comment on the circumstances. We can say that the circumstances do not involve any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and are unrelated to Cadet Robinette’s professional football pursuits.”

Robinette had been viewed as a late-round prospect but went undrafted after the Air Force announced that he would not be allowed out of active duty until 2019. He went to the Bills’ rookie minicamp as a tryout player two weeks ago.

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