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Brian Cushing “ahead of schedule” in rehab from ACL injury

Brian Cushing AP

The Houston Texans lost a significant piece to their defense in October when linebacker Brian Cushing tore his ACL in a game against the New York Jets. Though they still finished as the seventh-ranked defense in the league, the Texans lost some of their explosiveness with Cushing.

It appears as though Cushing is well on his way to getting back in time for next season.

According to the team’s official website, Texans owner Bob McNair is very pleased with the progress Cushing is making in rehabilitating his injured knee.

McNair said Cushing is “ahead of schedule” in his recovery.

Cushing had surgery a couple of weeks following the injury in late October. It will be a full nine months after the surgery when training camp opens for the Texans in late July and another six weeks before the regular season begins in September. If Cushing is on track, or even ahead of schedule as McNair suggests, it’s possible he’ll be ready to return to the field by the start of the season.

Cushing played in five games for Houston this season and recorded 30 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.

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Dolphins send former LSU teammates to recruit La’el Collins

La'El Collins AP

Three players on the Dolphins were teammates of La’El Collins at LSU, and they’re being pressed into service to try to recruit him to come to Miami.

Collins, a first-round talent who went undrafted after police said they wanted to question him in connection with the death of his ex-girlfriend, will be the most sought-after undrafted free agent in history if he is exonerated of the crime. Police have said he is not a suspect.

For the Dolphins, the effort to bring Collins into the fold has taken on the feel of a college recruiting visit. According to FOX 8 in New Orleans, not only is Dolphins coach Joe Philbin traveling to see Collins, but so are former LSU teammates Jarvis Landry, Anthony Johnson and Kelvin Sheppard.

NFL teams are limited in the financial offers they can make to undrafted rookies, which means there’s no way for Collins to make the kind of money on his rookie contract that he would have made as a first-round pick. But several teams are expected to offer Collins as much as the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows them to offer undrafted rookies, and so Collins will have multiple contracts to choose from, assuming he is exonerated.

As he chooses among those multiple offers, it may be a simple matter of Collins wanting to go to the team that feels the most like home. And the Dolphins are trying to make him feel like he’ll be comfortable in Miami.

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Veteran assistant Bruce DeHaven taking medical leave from Panthers

Buffalo Bills v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Panthers made a coaching change to help their special teams this offseason, and unfortunately, they’re going to have to make another one.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, veteran special teams coach Bruce DeHaven is “currently taking some time away from the team” to deal with an undisclosed medical issue. The team is expected to hire another special teams coach, though they’re hoping DeHaven is able to return later as an assistant.

The 66-year-old DeHaven, who has also coached the Bills, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks, was promoted to the top job this year after the Panthers re-assigned special teams coach Richard Rodgers.

The Panthers were the league’s second-worst special teams unit in the comprehensive Dallas Morning News rankings, and allowed four special teams touchdowns last season.

But in addition to making the coaching change, the Panthers also went out and signed a number of players to help bolster their coverage-and-return game, which should also help.

Hopefully, DeHaven is able to make a full recovery and get back to work, but that work is by far not the priority at the moment.

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Randy Gregory: “I don’t think it’s a weed problem”

NFL Draft Football AP

Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory admits he has problems.

He just doesn’t think marijuana is one of them.

That’s what Gregory said during an ESPN Radio interview, adding that it was his immaturity and stubbornness that were the bigger issues.

“That’s something I’ve definitely been working on and something I can definitely fix,” Gregory said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I’m 22 years old but I think I carry myself real well and I think I need to carry myself a little bit better as far as decision making goes. I think a lot of people are getting tied up in the weed and think it’s just a weed problem. I don’t think it’s a weed problem. I think it’s decision-making. I think I’m immature. I’m definitely working on that. I want to prove everyone wrong and I want to do it with this team. I think this is the best team I can do that with.”

Gregory failed a test for marijuana at the Scouting Combine, but said he hasn’t smoked since then.

“I haven’t touched it,” he said. “I’m feeling real good, too. This is a high in itself, to be honest. I’m high on life right now, and I don’t want to lose this high.”

What he lost was several million dollars, the difference between being a first-round pick (perhaps top 10) and a late second-rounder. And he lost it not necessarily because of marijuana, but because of his inability to recognize the fact he was about to take a marijuana test at a time when he had plenty of people around him who knew it was coming if he didn’t.

So maybe it wasn’t marijuana itself, it was his inability to recognize the priority he was placing on marijuana in relation to a job interview.

And that’s not immaturity, that’s irresponsibility. If not stupidity.

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Report: Bears part ways with college scouting director Marty Barrett

Chicago Bears Introduce John Fox Getty Images

When Ryan Pace took over as the Bears General Manager, the team made a couple of changes in their personnel department but Pace said they would be reviewing the rest of the holdovers from the Phil Emery regime and beyond after the draft.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that their review has led to a change at college scouting director. Biggs reports that Marty Barrett will not be back in that job for the 2015 season.

2014 was Barrett’s third year in that job and he’d been with the Bears organization since 1997 as a scout. Teams often hold onto members of their scouting staff through the draft when they make a change at the top of the hierarchy and then make changes after their work on the year’s rookie class is complete. The Jets and Eagles made similar changes this week and there could be more to come as organizations set their rolls for the coming year.

The Bears previously parted ways with pro personnel director Kevin Turks and released Rex Hogan from his contract to become the college scouting director for the Jets. That could be a landing spot for Barrett now that they’ve opened some spots in Jersey.

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PFT Live: Landon Collins, Kevin Colbert

Landon Collins AP

Safety Landon Collins was projected to be a first-round pick by many people heading into the draft, but he wound up lasting until the Giants traded up to take him at the start of the second round.

Collins will join Mike Florio on Tuesday’s PFT Live to talk about the experience of waiting to hear his name called. We’ll also get his early thoughts on his new team during his visit.

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert will also be on the show to discuss his team’s draft, which slanted heavily toward the defense. Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union will be on hand to review the new additions in Jacksonville as well.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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PFT Planet hits 3-of-5 draft props, beats the house

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra smile in front of a table with bottles of spirit Getty Images

The results are in, and PFT Planet was dialed in when it came to the 2015 NFL Draft.

Of the five draft proposition “bets” set by PFT, the readers were correct on three of them. Here were the winners:

Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5. Ultimately, 92 percent of the more than 5,500 voters selected UNDER 2.5. And indeed, only two backs — Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon — were taken in Round One.

Over-Under on draft spot of first cornerback taken: 12.5. About 61 percent of the nearly 2,700 voters sided with UNDER 12.5, which cashed when Minnesota took Michigan State’s Trae Waynes at No. 11.

Over-Under on Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5. Winner, winner. Out of about 6,300 votes, 55 percent projected Mariota to be chosen first or second. And indeed, he was the No. 2 overall pick of Tennessee.

While PFT Planet correctly handicapped those props, they struggled on two of the gambles:

— A majority of readers believed the first, second or third pick of the draft would be traded. Alas, no trades came until the Chargers moved up for the No. 15 pick.

— About 60 percent of voters projected Alabama wideout Amari Cooper to be selected no earlier than No. 5 in Round One. However, he was Oakland’s pick at No. 4.

Despite those losses, PFT Planet ended up a collective winner on the five draft props. Assuming the normal house edge, where bettors have to bet $11 to win $10, PFT Planet ended up $2,732 in mythical commenter dollars.

So congratulations, readers. You beat the house this time. Here, have some buffet passes. How about some show tickets? Can we freshen your drinks?

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Cowboys give undrafted George Farmer a $55,000 guarantee

georgefarmer AP

Former USC wide receiver George Farmer went undrafted last week, but he made out OK anyway.

Farmer is signing with the Cowboys and will get $55,000 guaranteed, according to Field Yates of ESPN. That’s a very rare, and very hefty, guarantee for an undrafted rookie.

Presumably, the Cowboys had to guarantee Farmer that much money because he had several suitors as an undrafted free agent. Although the Collective Bargaining Agreement limits how much money undrafted rookies can make, teams do have some leeway in offering signing bonuses and guaranteed money to the most coveted undrafted free agents, and Farmer may turn out to do the best of any of them, other than La’El Collins, who will surely generate the best contract of any undrafted free agent if he’s exonerated in the death of his ex-girlfriend.

Farmer was considered one of the best recruits in the country coming out of high school but had a largely disappointing career at USC. Still, there’s no doubting that he’s a talented player, and the Cowboys think he’s got the potential to be worth the money, and then some.

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Rolando McClain has charges from 2013 arrest dismissed

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain was convicted on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct in Decatur, Alabama last year, but appealed to have another trial in state court.

That trial was set for a May 18 start, but it won’t take place. The Associated Press reports that court records showed that prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss the charges on Monday.

There was no specific reason given for the dismissal request. McClain was accused of cursing at police officers while they were trying to clear a crowd away from a softball game in April 2013 and McClain’s lawyer argued that it isn’t clearly McClain using the offending language in a tape of the incident that has been used as evidence.

McClain signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Cowboys this offseason after turning in a strong first year in Dallas that rescued his career from the scrap heap that his 2013 arrest helped to create.

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Jimmy Clausen’s excited about reunion with John Fox

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The last time John Fox and Jimmy Clausen worked together, it didn’t work out well for either of them.

Both are hoping their reunion goes better.

Clausen said he was encouraged about coming back to the Bears this offseason, even though the coach and General Manager who resurrected his career are gone. He sat down with new G.M. Ryan Pace, Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, and felt good about re-signing with the Bears after Phil Emery and Marc Trestman were fired.

“Obviously, if I didn’t like what they envisioned for me and the offense, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Clausen said, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I like what they have planned for us moving forward, and I’m really excited about this upcoming season.

“I just felt comfortable with them and just wanted to come back.”

Comfort was something neither Clausen nor Fox had last time through.

Clausen was drafted prior to Fox’s lame-duck season with the Panthers, a kid the coach didn’t have a vested interest in developing since he wasn’t going to be there for the finished product. The rookie-averse Fox only played Clausen because of an injury to Matt Moore, and Clausen was pounded into the ground during a 2-14 season, a record which he wasn’t responsible for or able to prevent.

That led to the Panthers drafting Cam Newton and Clausen not throwing another pass until last season.

“I’ve seen him develop,” Fox said. “You know I’ve seen him grow, even personally and, you know, that’s what we do. Hopefully as we age we grow up some.

“So I’ve seen him grow as a football player and as a man — and I’m excited to work with him.”

Clausen’s role is important, given the way the Bears tried to get out from under Jay Cutler’s contract this offseason, including attempts to trade him on draft day. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are second-year David Fales and undrafted rookie Shane Carden, so there’s a burden on Clausen to be stable and trustworthy.

He wasn’t ready for that in 2010 with Fox, but for both their sakes, he better be now.

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Report: Patriots to release Alfonzo Dennard

Alfonzo Dennard AP

The Patriots didn’t draft a cornerback until the seventh round of the draft, which seemed to indicate they were content with the group of corners they already had on hand to compete for roles this season.

That may be the case in general, but that group is reportedly about to get a little bit smaller. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team will release cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Dennard joined the team as a seventh-round pick in 2012 — he was projected to go earlier before a pre-draft arrest –and played in six games for the team last season. Four of those games were starts, but his playing time was infrequent over the second half of the season and he ended the year on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

With Dennard sliding out of the depth chart, the Patriots have Malcolm Butler, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan back from last year with rookie Darryl Roberts joining Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain and Chimdi Chekwa as new arrivals.

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Winston’s no-baseball clause isn’t rare

Winston AP

Yes, the Buccaneers have added a no-baseball clause to quarterback Jameis Winston’s contract.  No, the presence of a no-baseball clause in NFL contracts isn’t rare.

Per a league source, the contract signed last year by Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel has similar language. And it’s believed that more than 100 current contracts have a term specifically restricting a football player’s ability to play baseball.

According to another source, the contract signed in 2012 by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson does not include such language.  Whether his next deal will have that language remains to be seen.

The Standard Player Contract already contains language that prohibits a player from engaging “in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.” Baseball isn’t specifically listed, and a straight-faced argument could be made that baseball doesn’t entail a “significant” risk of personal injury.

More importantly, the Standard Player Contract merely allows a player’s team to block such activities via legal action.  Winston’s expressly links baseball to his guaranteed money, nullifying any remaining guarantees if he violates the term.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the term can be violated in a wide range of ways, from playing in a game to attending training-camp practices to working out with players to doing anything baseball related short of throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game.

This doesn’t mean he can never play baseball. He just can’t play both. He can give up football, pay back any unearned signing bonus money, and then take up baseball.

For now, that’s extremely unlikely. But if Winston somehow ends up being the Ryan Leaf of 2015’s one-two quarterback draft class, Winston could decide in a couple of years that he really misses baseball now that he’s been away from it, that he realizes it’s his true passion, and that he’s going back.

This assumes he’s good enough to play baseball at the Major League level. If he were, that would have been the better career choice from an earnings, longevity, and long-term health and well-being standpoint.

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Seahawks scrutinized for drafting Frank Clark despite domestic violence accusation

frankclark

The Seahawks used their first pick in this year’s draft on Frank Clark, a defensive end who was kicked off the team at Michigan after he was accused of domestic violence. Now they’re facing some scrutiny in Seattle.

The Seattle Times has a report out today noting that while the Seahawks claim they conducted a thorough investigation before deciding to pick Clark, the two witnesses who called police to report the incident say they never heard from the Seahawks.

Kristie Colie, who was staying in the hotel room next to one being used by Clark and his then-girlfriend, says she saw a woman who “was definitely beat up.”

“She looked unconscious,’’ Colie said. “She looked like she was knocked out, and then she started to move slowly.’’

The police report describes the victim as saying Clark punched her in the face. It also quotes the victim’s brothers as saying they witnessed Clark punch her. According to the brothers, when the victim tried to defend herself, Clark “grabbed her by the throat, picked her up off the ground and slammed her to the ground while also landing on top of her.’’

The domestic violence incident wasn’t Clark’s first run-in with the law. In 2012 he was convicted of a felony charge of second-degree home invasion. On the domestic violence charge, prosecutors allowed Clark to plead guilty to a reduced charge of persistent disorderly conduct and get off with a $250 fine.

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Texans and Saints will work out together this offseason

2014 Pro Bowl Getty Images

The Texans and Saints are scheduled to play a preseason game at the Superdome on August 30, but the two teams will have plenty of time to get familiar with one another before it kicks off.

According to multiple reports, there will be two days of joint practices between the teams before they face off in their third exhibition contest of the year. It’s the first time the Saints have practiced with another team since 2012, but it looks like it is going to be a tradition for the Texans under Bill O’Brien.

They practiced with both the Broncos and Falcons before preseason games last summer in O’Brien’s first year as the team’s head coach. O’Brien worked for Bill Belichick with the Patriots and Belichick has also been fond of the summer work with other teams over the course of his tenure.

The two teams have held joint practices several times in the past and had a memorable session in 2009 that featured a fight between former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey and former Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

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Caldwell hints that Jaguars are done with Blackmon

Blackmon Getty Images

Before the 2015 draft, the Jaguars didn’t close the door on receiver Justin Blackmon, the fifth overall pick three years ago.  After the 2015 draft, G.M. Dave Caldwell provided a more definitive assessment of Blackmon’s future with the franchise.

Via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union, Caldwell told Sirius XM NFL Radio on Monday that the team’s decision to draft two more receivers should provide an indication of the situation.

The Jaguars added Florida State receiver Rashad Greene in the fifth round, and Monmouth receiver Neal Sterling in the seventh.  There’s a chance that one, or both, won’t make the 53-man roster.  Regardless, the message via the selection of two receivers is that the Jaguars are no longer holding a spot for Blackmon.

And for good reason.  He last played in October 2013, and there’s no indication that he has remained clean long enough to get reinstated.  There’s no indication, as recently noted by Big Cat Country, that Blackmon even wants to be reinstated.

It’s another reminder that plenty of those 32 guys about whom draft experts have been raving for the past few months will end up washing out of the league, for one or more of many possible reasons.

Making Blackmon’s situation even more unfortunate is the fact that he doesn’t lack the talent.  His brief NFL tenure includes a 236-yard game in November 2012 and 326 total yards in his first two games from his most recent — and quite possibly final — NFL season.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

LB Preston Brown wants to step up as a leader for the Bills.

Breaking down the Dolphins’ offensive depth chart after the draft.

Said DE Geneo Grissom of getting drafted by the Patriots near the end of the third round, “I had family members that were calling it a night and everybody was about to go to bed, and I get a phone call and I saw that it was from Foxboro. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to cry, I wasn’t going to cry and I ended up crying like a baby.”

What will the Jets work out with DE Muhammad Wilkerson?

The Ravens are hosting an event for local youth football coaches.

Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard wasn’t surprised to see the team draft a cornerback.

A critique of the Browns’ approach to skill position players in the draft.

There will be 51 players taking part in the Steelers’ rookie minicamp.

Texans DT Vince Wilfork gave the commencement address at the New England Institute of Technology.

Plenty of competition is expected at wide receiver for the Colts.

Interest in the Jaguars draft appeared to be high for local television viewers.

S Da’Norris Searcy is settling into the Titans Defense.

Breaking down the Tulane twosome that the Broncos added at cornerback.

Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said the team’s draft “peeled off” like they hoped.

Former Raiders fullback Marv Hubbard died at 68.

RB Melvin Gordon and LB Melvin Ingram are popular guys in Chargers camp.

The Cowboys’ faith in their offensive line informed their draft decisions.

Nick Saban dismissed any critiques of Giants S Landon Collins’s play.

Wondering if their offseason maneuvering has left the Eagles with a better team.

The results of the Brandon Scherff pick will provide the ultimate judgment on the Redskins draft.

QB Jimmy Clausen explained why he wanted to return to the Bears.

Having a bowl game at Ford Field helped FB Michael Burton land with the Lions.

The Packers hope they landed a pair of playmaking cornerbacks in the draft.

Which Vikings draft picks are good bets to play early?

The Falcons signed fullback Colin Mooney to their 90-man roster.

Panthers RB Cameron Artis-Payne is looking forward to being known as Cam, although that didn’t work out for him at Auburn because of the shadow cast by his Carolina teammate Cam Newton.

Defense was the focus for the Saints during the draft.

The Buccaneers have decided to let RB Doug Martin play out his contract this year.

Former Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly will try out for the Cardinals.

A wish for more additions to the Rams offensive line.

The 49ers officially put LB Chris Borland on the reserve/retired list.

Which undrafted rookies might pan out for the Seahawks?

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