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Mangino talks up Talib

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With the Patriots tepid on the topic of keeping cornerback Aqib Talib with a multi-year deal, his former college coach has offered a surprisingly strong assessment in response to the notion that Talib doesn’t work hard enough.

[H]e loves to play football,” Mark Mangino recently told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.  “He enjoyed practice time.  He hustled, made plays, did all of his drill work full speed, played hard in the games, did what was asked of him in the weight room, got bigger and stronger when he was with us.  I find that a little hard to believe.

“Things can change, obviously, but I stopped into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp [last summer]. I visited with several members of the staff, front office people, strength coaches, trainers, assistant coaches. To the person, they told me what a great job Aqib was doing. ‘He is showing leadership. He is working his tail off in the [OTAs].  He’s been a leader.  He is really busting his butt, and he is really working hard.’

“That doesn’t always happen. I have been to training camps in the past where I’ve had a former player that I’ve coached, and the coaches have come up to me and say, ‘This player doesn’t work hard. He’s not into it.’  They’ll tell you the truth. When you go to these NFL places, they don’t mince any words.”

The Bucs may not have minced words, but they eventually traded Talib.  And it’s no surprise.  As coach Greg Schiano tries to build a roster of players of high character, Talib was one of several who simply didn’t fit.

That said, Talib possibly was working hard; it could be that his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances prompted the trade.  And it could be that an Adderall-free Talib doesn’t work as hard as he does when taking the banned stimulant.

Still, it seems a little odd Mangino is singing Talib’s praises.  Throughout Talib’s various on-field and off-field struggles, Mangino has not been a particularly vocal defender.  Also, it was widely known during the weeks preceding the 2008 draft that Kansas coaches were not saying flattering things about Talib to scouts.

The question now for the Pats is whether they can strike a deal that will extend Talib’s stay beyond a handful of 2012 games.  If he leaves, they won’t have gotten much in return for the fourth-round pick they sent to Tampa.

But at least they got a seventh-round pick back in return.

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Stefen Wisniewski visited Jaguars on Wednesday

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Center Stefen Wisniewski may be recovering from shoulder surgery, but he’s still generating interest around the league.

Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports that Wisniewski visited the Jaguars on Wednesday, which was the same day that a report of the center’s visit with the Patriots surfaced. Wisniewski has also visited the Seahawks, Buccaneers and Bears since the start of free agency last month.

Wisniewski has started 61 games for the Raiders since they made him a second-round pick in 2011, but he won’t be back in Oakland after the Raiders signed Rodney Hudson as a free agent. Wisniewski would likely move into the starting lineup ahead of Luke Bowanko if he signed with the Jaguars after Bowanko struggled to protect Blake Bortles in his 14 starts as a rookie in 2014.

Landing in Jacksonville would also reunite Wisniewski with Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who held the same job with the Raiders for the last two seasons.

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Packers won’t look away from the mistakes that doomed season

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The easiest thing for the Packers to do with tapes of their playoff loss to the Seahawks would be to ignore them, or burn them.

But the Packers have poured themselves into them, poring over each of the mistakes that helped them blow a late lead and lose the NFC Championship Game in dramatic fashion.

Via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said all the plays that contributed to that loss have been gone over time and again, to catalog the disappointment and look for answers.

That’s part of your scheme evaluation,” McCarthy said. “We have done it as a staff. We cut up every situation, so we’ve seen those plays from that game a number of times from our scheme evaluation.”

In case you’ve forgotted (they haven’t), the Packers were up 19-7 with under five minutes to play, and ended up losing in overtime thanks to a fake field goal and a botched extra point.

There has also been accountability, with special teams coach Shawn Slocum fired and a number of the players involved in those mistakes released (Brandon Bostick, Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk).

The mistakes were the kind that grind away at coaches, who plan so meticulously and carefully for any situation, then watch a season unravel in an instant.

McCarthy said he’s even gone back and watched the television copies of the game to supplement the game film, apparently needing a reminder of how bad it looked to those who live outside the world of All-22.

That couldn’t have been easy, and frankly somebody should buy the poor guy a stiff drink or something for sitting through it again.

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Ravens owner: NFL was “stupid” not to have a domestic violence policy

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Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti says the NFL should have always had a policy specifically to deal with domestic violence, rather than lumping in domestic violence incidents with other personal-conduct policy violations.

“I think that we were pretty stupid not to recognize domestic violence as a category by itself,” Bisciotti told Ravens season-ticket holders, via ESPN. “No other infractions — failed drug tests, bar fights or DUIs — nothing to me should rise to that level. I’m embarrassed to say that they were lumped together. So, I’m happy that we found ourselves comfortable taking that categorically and putting it into at the top of the list as something that is just unacceptable.”

The NFL and the Ravens were initially caught flatfooted by the Ray Rice case, with the league suspending Rice only two games and the Ravens standing by him. Only after the infamous elevator video emerged did the Ravens release Rice and the NFL reacted to the public outcry by creating new rules about dealing with domestic violence arrests.

“We did the best we can,” Bisciotti said. “I can’t say I don’t have regrets. I said back then, my regret was not cutting him. My regret was not demanding to see the video. I believe we could’ve gotten it. If we had seen the video back in the spring, I think we would have a different circumstance. We would’ve released him. We should have seen the video in May and not in September.”

Bisciotti says the Ravens now take players with domestic violence incidents in their past off their draft board, and avoid signing such players in free agency.

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Titans restructure contract of tight end Craig Stevens

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The Tennessee Titans and tight end Craig Stevens have agreed to a restructured contract for the 2015 season.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Stevens agreed to re-do the final year of his deal that was set to be worth $3.5 million.

The new deal will drop his salary closer to the $1.6 million he made with the team in 2014. Without a new deal, Stevens could have become a salary cap casualty.

Stevens has spent seven seasons with the Titans. He appeared in just five games last season before a thigh injury sent him to injured reserve and ended his season.

Stevens has appeared in 93 games with 48 catches for 603 yards and four touchdowns for Tennessee.

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Carson stadium would generate millions of dollars, create thousands of jobs

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The teams that hope to build an NFL stadium in Carson, California have commissioned an economic impact analysis of the project.  As expected, it would generate plenty of money — and plenty of jobs.

The Los Angeles County Development Corporation estimates that a venue shared by the Chargers and Raiders would create more than 16,000 jobs for the construction, and more than 13,000 jobs for all ongoing stadium-related activity.

The study also estimates that construction would generate $1.1 billion in local labor income and $118 million in state and local taxes.  The study estimates that, with two teams playing there, the stadium would generate $609 million per year in local labor income, and $60 million in state and local taxes.

The numbers aren’t surprising; the NFL has become a gigantic business operation, and a two-team stadium undoubtedly would churn out the cash.  The simple reality is that the proposed stadium in Inglewood, California likely would have a similar impact, if two NFL teams play there.

And so the question remains which stadium can win the race to get the appropriate clearances to break ground?  While the economic impact study doesn’t answer that question, it makes it even more clear that a return to L.A. by the NFL is closer than it’s ever been.

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Eddie LeBaron dies at 85

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Quarterback Eddie LeBaron, who made it to the NFL despite a five-foot, seven-inch, and 160-pound frame, died Wednesday at the age of 85, according to the Sacramento Bee.

A tenth-round pick in 1950, LeBaron played for Washington in 1952 and 1953, and from 1955 through 1959.  He went to Canada in 1954, and he finished his career with the Cowboys from 1960 through 1963.

Between being drafted and debuting in the NFL, LeBaron earned a Bronze Star in the Korean War.  He also was wounded twice in battle.

A member of the Washington Ring of Fame, LeBaron made it to three Pro Bowls in D.C., and another in Dallas.   He was the league’s rookie of the year in 1952.

After his playing career, LeBaron worked as a broadcaster with CBS.  He later became the G.M. of the Atlanta Falcons, and later and executive vice president with the franchise.  He was named the NFL’s executive of the year in 1980.

LeBaron also worked as a lawyer, obtaining his law degree in 1959.

He’s survived by his wife, Doralee.  Married 61 years, they have three sons and five grandchildren.

We extend our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

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Top tight end Maxx Williams won’t attend the draft

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The top two quarterbacks in this year’s draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, have both said they don’t plan to attend the festivities in Chicago. Now the top tight end is opting out as well.

Maxx Williams, regarded by many as the best tight end in the 2015 draft class, told KARE 11 that he intends to spend the weekend with his family instead of going to the draft.

Not every top prospect is skipping the event. West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, a likely Top 10 pick, confirmed that he will be there. But in recent years, all the top picks have been there in person. That won’t be the case this year.

Officially, the NFL says each player can decide for himself whether to attend the draft. But the league might quietly ask players who say they’re not going to reconsider. The draft is the NFL’s biggest offseason event, and the league wants to use it to market its new stars. That’s harder to do when those new stars choose to stay home.

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Steve Bisciotti possibly commits tampering by saying Haloti Ngata could return in 2016

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Nose tackle Haloti Ngata spent nine seasons playing for the Baltimore Ravens and owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday that he doesn’t rule out the possibility of Ngata returning to Baltimore in 2016.

However, there’s a problem with that statement because Ngata is now a member of the Detroit Lions.

Bisciotti commenting on having interest in another team’s player is the definition of tampering.

The Lions elected not to pursue tampering charges against the Miami Dolphins for their pursuit of Ndamukong Suh at the start of free agency and they may elect not to pursue it again in this instance. It is a difficult matter to police anyway.

But Bisciotti surely appears to have committed tampering in this instance. He can certainly have a desire to reunite with Ngata in the future. He just can’t express that thought publicly with Ngata in a Lions uniform.

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Bisciotti: Ravens working on extension with Marshal Yanda

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Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Wednesday the team is currently working on a contract extension for guard Marshal Yanda.

Yanda has been one of the best guards in the leagues over the last few seasons. He was made the Pro Bowl in four straight seasons and was name a first-team All-Pro for the first time in 2014.

Yanda is about to enter the final year of his contract with the Ravens with $5.5 million due in base salary.

Yanda has started 78 of a possible 80 games for the Ravens over the past five seasons. Yanda even started the final three games of the regular season and Baltimore’s playoff victory over Cincinnati at right tackle.

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Fourth defendant pleads guilty in Sean Taylor murder case

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The fourth of five defendants charged in the 2007 murder of Sean Taylor has pleaded guilty.

Charles Wardlow entered his guilty plea in a courtroom in Miami today and was immediately sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Four down, one to go,” Taylor’s father, Pedro Taylor, told the Miami Herald after the sentencing.

Eric Rivera, who pulled the trigger on the shot that fatally wounded Taylor, was convicted last year. Rivera, who was 17 at the time he killed Taylor, was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Jason Mitchell, whom prosecutors say organized the planned burglary of Taylor’s home, was also convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison. Venjah Hunte pleaded guilty years ago and agreed to testify against the others. He got 29 years in prison.

The fifth defendant, Timmy Brown, is still awaiting trial.

Taylor was a star player for the Miami Hurricanes and Washington’s first-round draft pick in 2004, becoming a Pro Bowl safety in his third season. Today would have been Taylor’s 32nd birthday.

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Vikings sign Mike Kafka, Caesar Rayford

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The Minnesota Vikings have signed quarterback Mike Kafka and defensive end Caesar Rayford.

Kafka’s agent, Mike McCartney, announced his signing with Minnesota while Rayford made his own announcement via his facebook page.

Both players took part in the NFL veteran combine in Arizona.

Kafka spent the 2014 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the third-string quarterback behind Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. Kafka has not appeared in a regular season game since 2011 when he played sparingly in four games for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Rayford was traded from Indianapolis to Dallas in 2013 after a standout preseason with the Colts. Rayford appeared in seven games for the Cowboys and recorded five tackles. He spent the 2014 split between playing in the CFL and the Arena League.

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Seahawks re-sign Will Tukuafu, Jesse Williams

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The Seattle Seahawks re-signed fullback Will Tukuafu and defensive tackle Jesse Williams on Wednesday.

Tukuafu was an unrestricted free agent following last season while Williams had been released in a salary related move in March.

Tukuafu was signed by Seattle during the season after Derrick Coleman broke a bone in his foot in pre-game warmups in St. Louis in October. He appeared in nine games for Seattle while playing both fullback and some defensive tackle as well.

Williams was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2013 but has missed the last two seasons due to knee injuries. Williams has only appeared in two preseason games in his two years with the team.

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Bengals unveil April Fool’s gag that takes shot at Browns

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Sam Wyche probably got a kick out of this one.

On April Fool’s Day, the Cincinnati Bengals introduced a new logo and helmet. And the new logo and helmet are no different than the old logo.

Making the non-change change even more brilliant is the strong likelihood that the Bengals were taking a shot at the Browns, who recently pulled the sheet off a new helmet and logo that looked not much different than their prior helmet and logo.

So well played, Bengals. Well played.

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Dwight Lowery visited with Colts

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The Colts re-signed safety Mike Adams, but they’re still in the market for more help at the position and had a veteran option in for a visit.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that veteran safety Dwight Lowery met with the team. Lowery played for the Falcons last year, but should be familiar to several members of the Colts organization after playing for the Jets and Jaguars during the first six years of his career.

Lowery made 15 starts while playing in every game for the Falcons last season and finished the year with 79 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a sack. He was also a starter during his three years with Jacksonville, although injuries limited him to 12 games during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

With Adams back in the fold, Lowery would likely compete to take over next to him with LaRon Landry and Sergio Brown both moving on from Indianapolis.

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Jamari Lattimore signs with Jets

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The Jets have added another player to their linebacking corps.

They announced the signing of former Packer Jamari Lattimore on Wednesday. Lattimore visited with the team last month.

Lattimore made the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent the last four years playing mostly on special teams and as a reserve in Green Bay. He did make five starts at inside linebacker last season, although the Jets will likely keep him as a depth option as long as David Harris and Demario Davis, their starters on the inside, are healthy.

Lattimore is the third Packers inside linebacker from last season to wind up with a new team this offseason. A.J. Hawk signed with the Bengals and Brad Jones landed in Philly after getting released by Green Bay.

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