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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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Report: Jamaal Charles will hold out from Chiefs camp

Jamaal Charles AP

In a surprise move, one of the NFL’s best players has reportedly decided not to report to training camp.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles will not show up when the Chiefs report to camp on Thursday. Charles is holding out for more money, KCTV-5 reports.

Charles still has two more years left on his contract and is due $3.9 million this year. He’s correct if he thinks he’s a lot better than a lot of players who are making more money than him, but the Chiefs may feel that they have no reason to give more money to a player who is under contract through 2015.

If Charles is serious about making his holdout a long one, that would be very bad news for the Chiefs: Charles led the team last year not just in rushing with 259 carries for 1,287 yards, but also in receiving with 70 catches for 693 yards. There may not be any non-quarterback in the league who is more important to his team’s offense than Charles.

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Jaguars’ Ace Sanders says he’s facing a four-game suspension

Ace Sanders AP

Jaguars second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders disclosed Tuesday that he’s in line for a four-game NFL suspension under the league’s substance-abuse policy, according to multiple media outlets.

Sanders, whom the Jaguars placed on the non-football illness list Tuesday, said he will not participate in training camp and will seek counseling, according to The Associated Press.

“I made some mistakes I do regret. I’m still dealing with it and trying to be a better person,” Sanders said, according to the AP‘s Mark Long.

Sanders was second on the Jaguars in receptions (51) as a rookie.

The Jaguars drafted wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in May, and the club also returns leading receiver Cecil Shorts III (68 catches, 777 yards, three TDs in 2013). However, this is another setback for a receiving corps already without 2012 first-round pick Justin Blackmon, who’s serving a substance-abuse suspension handed down last fall.

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PFT’s preseason power rankings, sorted by division

Jeff Fisher, Bruce Arians AP

PFT wrapped up our 2014 preseason power rankings Tuesday by unveiling our top-ranked team, the defending-champion Seattle Seahawks.

Perhaps not surprisingly, our top two teams are out of the same division, with the San Francisco 49ers — NFC West and NFC runners-up a season ago — taking the No. 2 spot.

With the ultratough West in mind — what a challenging draw for the Cardinals and Rams — here’s a division-by-division look at the power rankings. Teams are ordered within their divisions by their overall ranking:

AFC East

4. New England Patriots. (AFC rank: 2.)

19. New York Jets. (AFC rank: 9.)

28. Buffalo Bills. (AFC rank: 12.)

31. Miami Dolphins. (AFC rank: 15.)

AFC North

7. Baltimore Ravens. (AFC rank: 3.)

9. Cincinnati Bengals. (AFC rank: 5.)

15. Pittsburgh Steelers. (AFC rank: 6.)

22. Cleveland Browns. (AFC rank: 10.)

AFC South

8. Indianapolis Colts. (AFC rank: 4.)

25. Houston Texans. (AFC rank: 11.)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars. (AFC rank: 13.)

30. Tennessee Titans. (AFC rank: 14.)

AFC West

3. Denver Broncos. (AFC rank: 1.)

16. San Diego Chargers. (AFC rank: 7.)

17. Kansas City Chiefs. (AFC rank: 8.)

32. Oakland Raiders. (AFC rank: 16.)

NFC East

13. Philadelphia Eagles. (NFC rank: 8.)

18. New York Giants. (NFC rank: 10.)

23. Washington Redskins. (NFC rank: 13.)

24. Dallas Cowboys. (NFC rank: 14.)

NFC North

5. Green Bay Packers. (NFC rank: 3.)

12. Chicago Bears. (NFC rank: 7.)

21. Detroit Lions. (NFC rank: 12.)

27. Minnesota Vikings. (NFC rank: 16.)

NFC South

6. New Orleans Saints. (NFC rank: 4.)

10. Carolina Panthers. (NFC rank: 5.)

14. Atlanta Falcons. (NFC rank: 9.)

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (NFC rank: 15.)

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks (NFC rank: 1.)

2. San Francisco 49ers. (NFC rank: 2.)

11. Arizona Cardinals. (NFC rank: 6.)

20. St. Louis Rams. (NFC rank: 11.)

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Jameel McClain OK after injury scare at training camp

mcclain AP

There’s good news on Giants linebacker Jameel McClain, who was carted off the field on Tuesday at training camp.

According to multiple reporters on the scene, X-rays were negative and McClain is believed to have nothing more serious than soreness in his foot. If McClain is still in pain tomorrow he’ll get an MRI on the foot, but it appears that the Giants’ starting weak side linebacker will be fine.

It wasn’t all good news on a hot and humid day at Giants camp, as coach Tom Coughlin said he was disappointed that multiple players had to step off the practice field for heat-related reasons. But in the case of McClain, things have turned out OK.

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Ravens expect NFL to be “fair” and “judicious” to Ray Rice

John Harbaugh AP

The Ravens are bracing themselves for being without running back Ray Rice.

But they’re not worried about how long, at least not yet.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he didn’t think the timing of Rice’s punishment (for assaulting his now-wife) would be a problem for the team, as long as they knew by the middle of the preseason.

“It’s not my decision to make or any of us here,” Harbaugh said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “It’s in other people’s hands. I’m sure there’s a lot of complications making those kind of decisions. There are many sides to every story, and there are a lot of factors. There are other people involved.

“There are other disciplinary situations involved around the league. That has to be weighed and taken into context They’re going to have to sort through that to be fair about the whole thing. I know the league is really judicious about that. I think they work really hard to do the right thing. I don’t think they worry about public opinion too much. I think they want to do the right thing by the people involved and see where it goes.”

Of course, if the Ravens were concerned about public opinion, they might not have live-tweeted Rice’s wife apologizing for getting knocked out.

But that’s just one of the issues they’ve faced this offseason, as they led the league with five arrests.

Asked how he addressed that surge in off-field activity, Harbaugh replied: “I think the point has been made.”

Now we get to sit back and see if it is heeded.

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Coughlin thinks Giants will be rejuvenated under new offense

coughlin AP

The oldest coach in the NFL wanted some fresh blood in his offense.

That’s why, Giants coach Tom Coughlin told Josina Anderson on ESPN, he decided to hire Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator. Coughlin said he thinks McAdoo’s playbook will go a long way toward making Eli Manning look more like he looked in the Giants’ two Super Bowl seasons, and less like he looked during his 27-interception 2013 season.

“I felt like this would be an opportunity for us to rejuvenate those veteran players who were here, Eli for one, to force all of us to learn, again, a new system, a new communication process,” Coughlin said. “For 10 years we had used the same system — we got two Super Bowls and accomplished an awful lot of things offensively — but last year wasn’t one of those years. We turned it over way too much.”

Coughlin was careful not to make it sound like he was taking shots at former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. But it’s clear that Coughlin believed a change was in order.

“I just felt like after Kevin retired that this might be the time to make a wholesale change and in so doing reinvigorate the entire system, the coaches that were kept, the veteran players who have been here, to put new energy into their preparation,” Coughlin said.

Rejuvenating the Giants’ offense this year may be Coughlin’s last hope of making a run at his third Super Bowl ring.

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Texans, Andre Johnson’s agent are communicating

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On Monday, Texans receiver Andre Johnson reportedly was back in the building.  On Tuesday, agent Kennard McGuire declined to address those reports.

“I am not refuting, confirming or denying any reports or stories,” McGuire told Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston.  “Per the collective bargaining agreement there’s a period in which veteran players are not allowed to participate or be in their team’s facilities.”

As explained earlier in the day, veteran players currently may work out on their own at team facilities.  Which is all that Johnson could have been doing, under the CBA.

While not addressing whether Johnson visited the team’s facility, McGuire admitted that he has been talking to the Texans on Johnson’s behalf.

“While I am personally in contact with the Texans organization, those conversations will remain between myself, the organization and Andre Johnson,” McGuire told Berman.

Johnson reportedly was willing to report for OTAs, but the Texans refused to give him a chance to earn back a $1 million roster bonus that Johnson forfeited by missing the first two phases of the offseason workout program.  That impasse caused Johnson to skip all remaining offseason activities, including a mandatory minicamp.  The question now becomes whether Johnson will show up for training camp.

Veterans are due to report in Houston on Friday.

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Saints sign two undrafted rookies

Tyrone Ezell AP

The Saints have added two undrafted rookies who had previous short stints with other NFL clubs, signing linebacker Marcus Thompson (ex-Dolphins) and nose tackle Tyrone Ezell (ex-Texans) on Tuesday, the club said.

A Rutgers product, Thompson (6-1, 250) recorded 5.5 sacks in 2013 and was one of the team’s defensive MVPs. The Dolphins waived him on July 1.

Ezell (6-4, 305) had a three-day stint with Houston in May. He was a 12-game starter for the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 and was a team captain.

In corresponding roster moves, the Saints waived/injured third-year outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu and undrafted rookie nose tackle Moses McCray.

The Saints have all 90 roster spots filled.

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Pat Angerer signs with Falcons

Miami Dolphins v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

When the Falcons lost linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for the season, there were several veteran free agents mentioned as possible signings to shore up the team’s inside linebacker group.

Former Colt Pat Angerer was on that list and he worked out for the team on Tuesday. The workout apparently went well because Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Angerer is the newest member of Atlanta’s roster.

Angerer ended the 2013 season on injured reserve after hurting his knee and required microfracture surgery to repair the injury. That kept him from shopping himself as a free agent this spring, but things have obviously progressed well enough to satisfy the Falcons.

Angerer, a second-round pick in 2010, played 54 games and made 39 starts during his time with the Colts. The Falcons have Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu and rookie Prince Shembo among the in-house options who will compete with Angerer to fill the starting linebacker jobs come the regular season.

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Shoulder healed, Eric Fisher gets back to left tackle

Fisher AP

When the Chiefs made Eric Fisher the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, they didn’t intend for Fisher to be the team’s long-term right tackle.  Now that Branden Albert has exited via free agency, Fisher can flip back to his natural position.

“It’s like riding a bike,” Fisher told reporters on Tuesday regarding the change.  “I felt good out there today. It’s a lot more natural for me. I’m really excited about it.”

Fisher has been permitted to show up early for camp because of the shoulder injury that resulted in surgery.  His weight is at 315 pounds, he’s been lifting again since before OTAs, and he’s ready for his second NFL season.

“I’ve been working my butt of and am just glad to be out here,” Fisher said.  “I never really lost strength.  I’ve been in there working and when you can’t bench there’s other things you can do and that’s what I was doing.”

Fisher said his shoulder is healed and he’s “ready to go.”  Fisher believes he’ll take part in the first padded practice of the year, on Saturday.

Apart from the injury, Fisher struggled at times as a rookie, creating real concerns as to whether he’s ready to play left tackle for the Chiefs.

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Doug Marrone indicates there’s competition to back up EJ Manuel

Jeff Tuel,EJ Manuel,Thad Lewis AP

The Bills’ backup quarterback situation is one to watch, even if only for the events of a season ago.

Starter EJ Manuel missed six games because of injury in 2013, and key veteran Kevin Kolb suffered a career-ending concussion in the preseason, leaving Thaddeus Lewis (five starts) and then-rookie Jeff Tuel (one start) to carry the load at times.

An undrafted free agent from Washington State, Tuel struggled in his first NFL season, completing just 26-of-59 passes (44.1 percent) with three interceptions and just one score. Lewis, who had prior NFL stints in Cleveland, St. Louis and Detroit, fared somewhat better after taking over as the top backup. He was far more accurate, completing 59.5 percent of his attempts (93-of-157). However, he had more turnovers (six) than touchdowns (five).

However, if Lewis is going to win the top reserve role once again, he may have to hold off a challenge from Tuel, who reportedly got some work with the second-team offense on Tuesday. Afterwards, Bills coach Doug Marrone told reporters there was competition for the primary backup job behind Manuel.

“Sure, we have a battle for the second team quarterback,” Marrone said, according to a transcript of his post-practice remarks from the club. “We’re trying to find out who it’s going to be, and Jeff did a nice job in OTAs, and he’s earned himself some more reps.”

The Bills carried just two quarterbacks to begin the 2013 season. And that means Tuel, Lewis and fourth-stringer Dennis Dixon could potentially be fighting for just one spot.

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Broncos make Joel Dreessen an even lower-paid ($0) tight end

Joel Dreessen AP

If Joel Dreesen thought tight end pay was unfairly low before, he’s in for a shock this summer, with no pay whatsoever.

The Broncos announced they had released the veteran tight end with a failed physical designation Tuesday.

He caught 41 passes for the Broncos two years ago, but only caught seven passes last year as Julius Thomas flourished as a target for more catches (and ostensibly, more money).

He had three operations on his left knee in the span of a year, and battled through problems with that joint this offseason.

So now the Broncos get to take his $2.5 million in base salary and give it to another tight end.

Or not.

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Chargers part ways with Larry English

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The Chargers haven’t opened up training camp yet, but they’ve already decided that linebacker Larry English won’t be a member of their 53-man roster.

The team announced Tuesday that they have released English. The Chargers also announced that they have signed center Khalil Wilkes.

English was a first-round pick in 2009, but never developed into the player they hoped to get when they selected him out of Northern Illinois. English made just nine starts in his 52 appearances with the Chargers and produced 11 sacks and one forced fumble over that stretch. Injuries contributed to keeping him off the field, including a pec injury that sent him to injured reserve last season, but English wasn’t much of a factor when he was healthy.

English is not subject to waivers, so he is free to sign with any team once now that he’s been officially dropped by the Chargers.

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Dispute over Patriots’ Hernandez records resolved

Paperwork Getty Images

The lawyers representing former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez wanted to get a wide variety of documents from the team.  The team didn’t want to surrender certain things. A middle ground has been identified.

According to the Associated Press, attorney Michael Fee said in court on Tuesday that the dispute has been resolved.  Lawyers for both Hernandez and the Patriots declined comment.

The Patriots previously had agreed to surrender 317 pages of personnel records, but the team refused to produce a scouting report and a one-page summary of Hernandez’s pre-draft psychological assessment.

Hernandez’s lawyers have argued that the documents may contain critical information about Hernandez’s state of mind, which could be a hint that the lawyers are exploring the possibility of using some type of insanity-based defense as an alternative to arguing that Hernandez didn’t kill Odin Lloyd.

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Judge denies Rolando McClain’s request to delay trial starting Friday

Rolando McClain AP

The Cowboys traded for linebacker Rolando McClain earlier this month as they try to find options to step in for the injured Sean Lee, but it looks like he’s going to miss a little bit of his first training camp with the team.

The Associated Press reports that Judge Bill Cook Jr. ruled that McClain’s trial in Alabama on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct will not be moved from a scheduled Friday start. McClain’s attorney had requested a delay because of the conflict with Cowboys camp, but the linebacker will now either have to settle the case before Friday or miss some practice time while the case is heard.

McClain pleaded not guilty to the charges, which resulted from an April 2013 incident in Decatur, Alabama, last year.

It’s certainly not an ideal situation for McClain, who is trying to resume the football career he put on hold last season to deal with mounting legal issues stemming from his off-field behavior. Even with Lee out of the lineup, McClain faces an uphill battle in a short amount of time to show that he’s both fit enough and committed enough for the Cowboys to keep around.

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