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Mike Shula interviews for Panthers OC job


The Panthers interviewed quarterbacks coach Mike Shula for their offensive coordinator job, as they try to replace new Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski.

According to the Associated Press, Shula interviewed Wednesday, after the team already interviewed Bengals assistant Hue Jackson and fired Browns head coach Pat Shurmur.

Shula’s only other stint as a coordinator didn’t go well, as his late-90s Buccaneers were perpetually near the bottom of the league.

Shurmur seems like an odd pairing as well, having always run a West Coast offense that’s a 180 from what the Panthers have been running. Whether than sends them Jackson’s way, or they try to interview someone such as Ken Whisenhunt, finding the right fit is crucial.

Head coach Ron Rivera’s in a win-or-else year with the Panthers, but the progression of quarterback Cam Newton is more important to the direction of the franchise than any individual coach they might hire, so they need to get this one right.

UPDATE 12:53 p.m. ET: According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, they won’t interview any more candidates, and the job will go to one of the group of Jackson, Shurmur or Shula.

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Ezekiel Elliott practicing as if he has no worry

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Ezekiel Elliott’s moves so far have impressed. He’s looked good on the field in three days of practices and has dodged reporters afterward.

While Elliott isn’t talking, teammates are. They say the Cowboys running back hasn’t let an NFL investigation distract him.

“That’s something we always talk about when we always come out here — all your personal problems, you have to leave them at the door,” veteran running back Darren McFadden said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I feel like he does a great job with that. Once you come out here playing football, you’re playing football and everything else going on off the field, you have to worry about that later.”

The NFL’s investigation into a domestic abuse allegation against Elliott has lasted more than a year. ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported the league could give Elliott a short suspension to start the season despite the fact that the incident lacked enough evidence for the Columbus (Ohio) city prosecutor’s office to pursue charges.

“We don’t even talk about it,” veteran running back Alfred Morris said. “It’s not that it’s not happening or not pending or whatever, it’s just that we have a job to do. You have to leave the off the field off the field.”

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Multiple teams will be using multiple planes to travel this year

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It’s a new era in the NFL for travel, and changes to plane availability have resulted in multiple teams switching from one plane to two for road trips.

PFT has learned that at least three teams will be using two planes this year: The Steelers, Bills, and Dolphins. (We became aware of the issue via a report from Andy Slater of  WINZ regarding the Dolphins using two planes.)

The Bills will be using two planes for most trips, but not of all of them.

Earlier this year, several teams had to scramble to find air service when American restricted access. As one league source recently explained it to PFT, the airlines simply have realized that they can make more money by using planes in more traditional ways.

It’s odd to see the NFL at the mercy of the airline industry, because usually it’s pretty much everyone else who’s at the mercy of the NFL. This has sparked some speculation that perhaps the best play for the league would be to maintain its own fleet of planes that would transport teams each and every weekend, when up to 16 teams travel. The planes then would be leased for use in the offseason to corporate groups and muckety-mucks who want to travel in a bird bedazzled with NFL logos.

If/when a non-mainstream outfit like Miami Air (all due respect) fails to get the Dolphins or Steelers to a game on time, that could be the trigger for change. Until then, the new normal will include lesser availability, greater expense, and in some cities multiple aircraft.

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Bears G.M. makes it clear: Mike Glennon’s the starting quarterback


There are plenty of questions about the Bears as they enter training camp. The identity of their starting quarterback is not among them, as General Manager Ryan Pace has already declared.

It’s not Mitchell Trubisky, the guy Pace traded up to No. 2 overall to take in this year’s draft. It’s Mike Glennon, the free agent he dropped a three-year, $45 million contract on.

“Glennon’s here for a reason,” Pace said, via J.J. Stankevitz of “We evaluated him over the years. We’re very confident in him. Glennon’s our starter and we’re confident with that.

“This thing is going to have to play out. But Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback and I don’t think now is the time to deal in hypotheticals going forward.”

With that settled, the Bears can go on to figuring out who the starters around him will be, as Trubisky interns. Of course, with coach John Fox in a prove-it year anyway (and with a long-held preference for veteran quarterbacks instead of rookies), that might have been a moot point.

Whether Trubisky eventually wins the backup job from Mark Sanchez remains to be seen, but at the moment, No. 2 is as high on the depth chart as he’ll go.

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Coach, quarterback have little to say about Duane Brown

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Texans left tackle Duane Brown is holding out of training camp. The man who coaches him and the guy he primarily protects both tiptoed around the situation when talking to reporters on Wednesday.

“I’m just coaching the guys that are here,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien told reporters. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Duane. He’s been a captain for us my first three years here and he means a lot to me, but I’m going to really concentrate on the guys that are here and I’ll let [G.M.] Rick [Smith] handle that side of things.”

Smith is handling the contract dispute by claiming there’s no contract dispute. Which will do little to get the contract dispute resolved.

Quarterback Tom Savage took a similar approach to O’Brien’s.

“I guess all that stuff’s between him and the coach and the G.M. and all that,” Savage said. “I can’t really say much on that. He’s a good guy, though.”

It’s a smart play by Savage. Of course the quarterback wants Brown there. But he won’t be helping his own cause if he pressures Brown to show up or otherwise abandon his desire to improve his financial situation.

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Jets waive WR Devin Street

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The Jets claimed a former Cowboys receiver, cutting another ex-Cowboys receiver to make room. The Jets waived Devin Street on Wednesday after claiming Lucky Whitehead.

The Cowboys drafted Street in the fifth round in 2014. He spent two seasons in Dallas, playing in 30 games, mostly on special teams. He made nine catches for 132 yards and a touchdown with the Cowboys.

Dallas waived Street last year coming out of the preseason, and the Patriots signed him to their practice squad. He didn’t last long in New England, and the Colts added him to their active roster. Indianapolis released him before this year’s draft.

The Patriots claimed Street and then released him, and he signed with the Jets early last month.

Street, 26, played in five games with the Colts last season, making one catch for 20 yards.

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Bengals rookie John Ross still weeks away from debut


John Ross broke the NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash record this spring, laying down a blazing 4.22-second time.

But he hasn’t done anything since, and won’t when the Bengals open training camp.

According to Geoff Hobson of the team’s official website, Ross “isn’t expected to make his Bengals practice debut for a couple of weeks.”

The first-rounder is coming off shoulder surgery, and hasn’t taken part in any of their offseason workouts or OTAs.

The Bengals were hoping he’d add a deep speed element to complement A.J. Green, but for the moment they’ll rely on veteran Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd in practice, until Ross gets back on the field.

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Jordan Reed to open camp on PUP list

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Injuries have proven to be the most effective method of slowing down tight end Jordan Reed over the course of his career and he’s apparently dealing with something physical again as camp gets underway.

The Redskins announced on Wednesday that Reed has been placed on the physically unable to perform list, which leaves him ineligible to practice with the team until he’s activated.

The team did not identify a particular ailment for Reed and he was a participant in the team’s offseason work, so it’s not clear what led to their decision. Given Reed’s lengthy injury history, including several concussions, it may just be a case of playing it safe until they feel comfortable ramping up his workload.

As previously reported, safety DeAngelo Hall and linebacker Houston Bates will also open camp on the PUP list. Wide receiver Kendal Thompson rounds out the group of players that aren’t ready to get on the field at the moment.

UPDATE 5:58 p.m. ET: A team spokesman announced, via Mike Jones of the Washington Post, that Reed has a big toe sprain. Some might say that the team’s offense without Reed is like an army without a leader or a foot without a big toe, so their caution is understandable given the point in the calendar.

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D’Onta Foreman’s lawyer is working to get charges dropped

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Another day, another arrested NFL player in Texas professing his innocence.

Texans running back D’Onta Foreman, who technically is in West Virginia, told reporters that his lawyer is working to resolve marijuana and weapons charges quickly.

“I definitely feel good about it,” Foreman said. “My lawyer is great. He’s doing everything possible to get everything dropped, and like I said, I’m innocent and I feel like — it’s the truth, I am innocent — so we’re looking forward to getting everything dropped and everything will take care of itself.”

Foreman nevertheless learned a valuable lesson from the experience.

“I just learned that it’s certain things and certain people that I can’t always involve myself with,” Foreman said. “Those guys that I was with are my friends but we understand now, with that happening, that there’s certain ways that we have to move and certain ways that we have to go about doing things. I think, my friend, he understands that and I understand that and we’ll definitely be better.”

The stakes are high for Foreman. Anything other than abandonment of the marijuana charges will result in a one-game suspension. If the weapons charges aren’t dropped, he could face other discipline.

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John Elway promoted to president of football operations/GM

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The Broncos gave John Elway a new five-year contract this week. Then, they gave him a promotion.

Elway received a bump from executive vice president of football operations/General Manager to president of football operations/GM. He retains full autonomy over the team’s football decisions.

“We’re football first here at the Broncos and obviously John is our leader of the team,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a press release. “I think he is definitely deserving of this title elevation. It’s really a recognition that he deserves for all that he does and all that he has done for this team over the years since he arrived here in 1984.”

Elway has guided the Broncos to the second-most overall wins (73) in the NFL since 2011 when he became the team’s top football executive. The Broncos also have won AFC West titles in five of the past six years while winning Super Bowl 50 to end the 2015 season.


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Titans sign Dennis Kelly to contract extension

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The Titans traded wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to the Eagles last year for offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, but Green-Beckham’s stay in Philadelphia came to an end when the Eagles waived him in late June.

Kelly is set for a much longer stay in Tennessee. The Titans announced on Wednesday that they have signed Kelly to a multi-year contract extension. They did not announce any of the terms of the deal.

Kelly played in all 16 games for the Titans last year and made six starts as an extra offensive lineman during his first year in Nashville. Kelly also played most of a seventh game after left tackle Taylor Lewan was ejected in the first quarter of what turned out to be a 47-25 rout of the Packers.

He also made starts at right tackle, right guard and left guard during his time in Philadelphia and Wednesday’s extension makes it clear that the Titans value that versatility up front.

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J.J. Watt says Twitter shots at Big Baller were to promote his shoes

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J.J. Watt now is a part-time shoe salesman, which explains why the Texans defensive end recently took a shot at LaVar Ball’s Big Baller brand.

Watt’s Reebok shoes cost $99. Ball sells his brand for $495.

While he was promoting the shoes before their release, Watt tweeted “400 dollars less than some shoes on the market and 100% more effective.”

On Wednesday, Watt said taking on Big Baller on social media provided free marketing.

“I was just promoting my shoe,” he said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “They look great. I was just trying to sell some shoes. It worked. You guys [media] blew it up. I appreciate it. You guys marketed it way more than I did, so thank you. It worked really well.”

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Raiders sign Obi Melifonwu

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Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said this week that he thought unsigned first-round cornerback Gareon Conley and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu would have their contracts “resolved shortly.”

One down, one to go.

Melifonwu’s agent Sean Stellato passed along word on Wednesday that his client has agreed to terms with the Raiders on a four-year contract and the Raiders announced it a short time later. Melifonwu was the only player drafted after the first round without a contract and his signing leaves Conley and two other first-rounders — 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and Titans wide receiver Corey Davis — as the only 2017 picks without deals.

Melifonwu started 47 games at the University of Connecticut and, like Cowboys safety and fellow Huskie Byron Jones, turned in a stellar performance at the combine. He’ll join Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson at safety in Oakland and his athleticism could lead to early playing time as a rookie.

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Plenty of teams were interested in Lucky Whitehead

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The Jets won waivers dibs for former Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead. It’s not yet known which teams lower in the priority made a claim for him. However, multiple other teams showed interest in the 24 hours or so between when it became clear that Whitehead was innocent and when the window closed on trying to get him.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Colts, Chiefs, and Saints showed interest. The Bears likewise demonstrated a little interest in Whitehead.

The Chiefs stand out among that group because they already have a dynamic return specialist in Tyreek Hill. But with the team apparently planning to use Hill, who averaged only 5.3 offensive touches per game, more this year, they could be thinking about taking him out of harm’s way from time to time and relying on someone else to return kicks and punts.

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Eagles trade Allen Barbre to Broncos

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The Eagles announced today that they released offensive lineman Allen Barbre. But not so fast.

Barbre has instead been traded to the Broncos, the team announced.

The Eagles didn’t get much for Barbre — just a conditional draft pick in 2019 — but getting anything at all for a player the team already announced it would cut is a plus. Apparently after the Eagles put out the announcement of the decision to release Barbre, they decided to see if there were any offers for him, and it turned out that the Broncos were willing to make an offer.

The Broncos had been looking to add some depth to their offensive line, and now they’ve got it. Barbre is no lock to make the roster, but he’s got a shot, and if he does contribute in Denver, Philadelphia will get something for him. It’s a move that has the potential to work for both teams.

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Hue Jackson will determine QB competition by “feel”


Browns coach Hue Jackson indeed said Wednesday that Cody Kessler will be the first quarterback to get first-team reps in camp. Jackson also said the other three contenders for the job will get reps, too.

So how will it all play out?

“You have to kind of do that by feel,” Jackson told reporters. “Like I said, Cody is going to walk out there first, DeShone [Kizer] is going to get reps, Brock [Osweiler] is going to get reps, and Kevin [Hogan] is going to get reps, and then as we go through the process, we will evaluate and see where we are. There will be markers as we go. There will be data that we will look at to make very important decisions as we move forward. It could change. It could not change. That is all going to play out as we go through training camp.”

This implies that it may take a while to narrow it from four to one. Which necessarily could make the guy who finishes No. 1 less prepared to start than he could be, or maybe should be. Unless the winner makes himself obvious early.

“As you start to see guys start to distance themselves, you start to move into a different direction,” Jackson said. “I think that is what was asked earlier: How will it all turn out? I can’t tell you exactly how fast it is going to happen, but I think we all know that old saying, ‘The cream kind of rises to the top.’ They will start to separate themselves as we go. As that happens, we will make that decision and make sure that guy gets enough reps to be ready to play.”

Kessler shouldn’t read much in to the fact that he’s the first one to get a chance to take the reps.

“Somebody has to walk out there first,” Jackson said. “We have made a decision that it will be Cody and we will kind of go from there. . . . He is still the guy who demonstrates knowing the offense the best. He is the guy that has played the most football for us in that group, and I think he deserves a chance to walk out there first.”

Jackson emphasized that all four players will have a chance, even though rookie DeShone Kizer gets plenty of attention.

“I know we talk about DeShone more than we do Brock [Osweiler] and more than we do Kevin [Hogan], but all four of those guys are going to have to have an opportunity to walk out there and compete because that is the right way to run this.”

Does even Osweiler, the footnote on a trade for a second-round pick, have a chance to win the job?

“Yes, he does,” Jackson said. “He is here competing. Brock did a good job in OTAs and our offseason program. He is going to walk out there and compete just like the other guys.”

In the recent PFT Live draft of quarterbacks on the hot seat, Barstool Big Cat selected the Browns quarterbacks generally. And he has a point; the guy who eventually wins the job likely also wins the right to be the first guy to lose the job, inevitably.

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