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Knox was under contract for 2013

Johnny Knox AP

When the Bears released receiver Johnny Knox earlier today, we checked NFLPA records regarding his contract status.  Those records revealed that Knox was under contract for 2013, at a salary of $1.26 million.

Elsewhere it’s been reported that Knox was due to become a free agent in March 2013, which would mean the Bears were simply doing him a favor by giving him an early ticket to the open market.

That’s not the case.  A Bears spokesman advises PFT that, because Knox spent all of the 2012 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, his contract tolled.

So while 2012 would have been the last season of his rookie deal, that moved to 2013.  And the Bears opted to move on.

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Phil Costa: I retired at 26 because football took a toll on my body

Phil Costa AP

Phil Costa, the 26-year-old center who abruptly announced his retirement just weeks after signing as a free agent with the Colts, says he did it because football wore him down.

“Unfortunately, the day-to-day physical rigor of the NFL season has taken a toll on my body and has been a driving force behind my decision,” Costa said in a statement, via the Dallas Morning News.

Costa missed most of the 2012 season with the Cowboys because of back and ankle injuries, and he struggled to return to form in 2013. But Costa doesn’t sound like he has hard feelings toward the NFL.

“As I look forward to the next chapter of my life, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have played in the league,” Costa said.

It wouldn’t be surprising if, after some time, Costa decides that he wants to give football another shot. If he really is finished playing, however, we wish him well in whatever he does in the next phase of his life.

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Terrelle Pryor to play a different position? Not so fast says John Schneider

Oakland Raiders v New York Jets Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks made a somewhat curious decision to trade for Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor on Monday.

Seattle sent their seventh-round draft pick, No. 247 overall, to the Raiders in exchange for Pryor. It’s the last tradable pick of the entire draft and the remaining selections are compensatory picks that cannot be dealt. It was a minimal investment for a player the Raiders intended to release before the start of their offseason workout program.

Seahawks general manger John Schneider joined Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on Sirius XM NFL Radio to discuss why the team elected to bring Pryor to Seattle.

We’re always trying to improve competition at every position and we saw this as an opportunity to do that,” Schneider said. “Rare athlete, size and speed. …We’re just excited about his upside and the type of athlete that he is. We knew that if he was released (by Oakland) there was no way we were going to have an opportunity to claim him.”

Basically, Seattle’s thought process was that they couldn’t get an athlete of Pryor’s caliber with the 247th pick anyway, so why not take a shot?

Seattle appeared to be mostly set at quarterback. Russell Wilson is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract and the team re-signed backup Tarvaris Jackson to a fully guaranteed one-year deal that will pay more than both Wilson and Pryor are set to make next season. It led to a thought that Pryor may be earmarked as a player that may be asked to play a position other than quarterback.

Schneider said that speculation may be a little premature.

“We haven’t had those conversations,” Schneider said. “But if there was ever an athlete that would be able to play a slash role, if you will, it would be this kind of player. That may a little bit fantasy football at this time of the year. He’s a quarterback. He’s been a quarterback, but no we haven’t gotten into that. This guy is a very talented athlete and we can’t wait to put our hands on him and have our staff spend some time with him.”

For now, Pryor will be of an experiment with Seattle. He’ll join B.J. Daniels as the quarterbacks behind Wilson and Jackson’s on Seattle’s roster.

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Doug Marrone recently had cancerous mole removed

Bills Patriots Football AP

Bills coach Doug Marrone has disclosed that he recently had a cancerous mole removed from his skin.

“During a recent doctor’s visit, it was discovered that I had a cancerous mole on my skin, which has since been removed,” Marrone said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “The only follow up required is to have my moles checked every three months and that basically is the end of the story. The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward.”

Marrone, 49, did not specify the location of the mole or the type of cancer, which was discovered during a recent doctor’s visit.  Some forms of skin cancer, like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are very treatable, if caught early.  Even the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma, can be cured if detected and treated before it spreads.

Jim Johnson, former Eagles defensive coordinator, died due to melanoma in 2009 at the age of 68.

Marrone’s situation serves as an important reminder to examine all skin at least once per month for any abnormal moles or growths.  Ask your doctor to do a skin examination during check-ups and physicals.  And be sure to get any suspicious areas checked as soon as possible by a dermatologist.

As my dermatologist said in January after slicing from my leg a small growth that turned out to be benign, “A little paranoia can save your patients’ lives.”

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Kony Ealy says he is the best defensive end in the draft

Kony Ealy AP

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is widely considered the top defensive line prospect in the NFL Draft. Clowney could even be selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

However, another pass rusher from the SEC believes he is the best defensive end in this year’s draft class.

According to Tom Pelissero of the USA Today, Missouri defensive end Kony Early says that he believes he is the best at the position in this year’s draft class.

“I feel like I’m the best guy in this draft, period,” Ealy said. “And that’s not a cocky thing — that’s just a confidence thing. It’s not just talk. It’s been proven. My numbers show for it. My size and speed and agility show for it. What else can you want?”

Ealy is also considered to be a first round selection and did produce more statistically than Clowney did last season. Ealy had 9.5 sacks for the Tigers while Clowney posted just three sacks for South Carolina. However, college production doesn’t necessarily equate to the highest projection when it comes to the NFL.

Nevertheless, Ealy is still extremely confident in his own abilities.

“There’s no knocking [Clowney],” Ealy said. “But I’m the best defensive end in this draft. I may not have a whole lot of hype, but I don’t [need] anybody to acknowledge me.”

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Gil Brandt suggests draft-and-trade scenario for Texans at No. 1

Manziel Getty Images

Ten years after the Chargers made Eli Manning the first pick in the draft and then shipped him to the Giants for Philip Rivers plus more, a similar strategy could be unfolding in 16 nights at Radio City Music Hall.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com suggests that the Texans could take defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall selection, and then trade him to a team that takes a predetermined player with its own first-round pick.

The approach makes much more sense than the Texans trading down to a specific spot before the draft, since that would invite speculation from other teams regarding the player the Texans would target, along with a possible leapfrogging of the Texans.  By taking then trading Clowney, the Texans would more likely to get the guy they want later, since the team that takes the player the Texans would pick may not be expected to pick that player.

Appearing on Tuesday’s PFT Live, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle explained that, in his view, the Texans will take Clowney or quarterback Johnny Manziel with the first overall pick.  If they decide on Manziel and if Manziel remains in play until the team to which Clowney would be traded can get him, the Texans would emerge with Manziel plus more.

And if the team that would trade for Clowney can’t get the other player the Texans want, the Texans presumably would keep Clowney — or possibly trade him to someone else for a different package.

For the full appearance and insight from McClain, click the box below.

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Bills website posts, then deletes, article announcing that coach Doug Marrone has cancer

Marrone Getty Images

In an unusual development that the team has not yet explained, the Bills website posted on Tuesday an article with the following headline:  “Coach Marrone announces he has cancer.”

The article, which consisted of two sentences and then a spot for a quote from Marrone, said that the unspecific cancer is “not aggrive [sic]” and “highly treatable.”

Attributed to Anna Stolzenburg in a screen shot posted by Deadspin, the link that previously contained the article currently is blank.

Media publications routinely prepare content in advance of an event that is expected or likely.  While it’s possible someone was simply playing an extremely unfunny prank, it’s also possible that the team was preparing to disclose that Marrone is fighting a highly treatable form of cancer.

One way or the other, the Bills need to address the situation, sooner than later.

UPDATE 11:13 p.m. ET:  Marrone has disclosed that he recently had a cancerous mole removed.

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Woodley declares Raiders to be a playoff team

Woodley Getty Images

It’s still 0-0 time in the NFL, with every fan of every team able to conjure hope for the coming season, plausible or otherwise.  Raiders fans, already buoyed by an aggressive pursuit of veteran free agents, got more reason for hope on Tuesday from one of the new arrivals.

“I can definitely see [us] as a playoff team,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley told 95.7 The Game on Tuesday.  “Last year going back and watching some film on the Raiders, there were a lot of opportunities here where they just didn’t close it out.  Some games good in the first half; they just didn’t close it out at the end of the game.  So now we just have to learn how to close out games and it’ll be more wins than losses.”

The Raiders closed it out against Woodley’s old team, the Steelers.  Otherwise, the Raiders had plenty of struggles.

This year’s potential struggles become a lot more tangible on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.  Though the Raiders’ opponents for 2014 have been known since the moment the 2013 regular season ended, the specific list of weeks and dates and times comes soon.

Perhaps that’s when Raiders players and fans will realize that, in 2014, the Raiders play three games against last year’s Super Bowl teams.  Five games against the four conference finalists.  Nine games against teams that made the playoffs in 2013.

And 12 games against teams with non-losing records a season ago.

That’s the end result of facing the Broncos twice, the Chiefs twice, the Chargers twice, the Seahawks, the 49ers, the Patriots, the Cardinals, the Rams, the Jets, the Bills, the Rams, the Dolphins, and the Browns.

Yes, every year is different.  For the Raiders, every year since 2003 has been the same.  This year’s schedule suggests it won’t be easy to break the cycle.

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Snyder says team name isn’t an issue, Halbritter disagrees

Snyder AP

When it comes to the Redskins name, the two sides have become as entrenched as they can be.  The question becomes whether enough folks who don’t have an opinion — and enough of those who have an opinion but not a strong one — will ever swing one way or the other.

Until then, the team will continue to defend the name, and the opponents of the name will continue to challenge it.

On Tuesday, owner Daniel Snyder revisited the topic, from the perspective of the foundation that recently was created to assist Native American tribes.

“We understand the issues out there, and we’re not an issue,” Snyder said in rare public remarks, via the Associated Press.  “The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it’s time that people focus on reality.”

Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter has responded to the remarks.

“If Dan Snyder thinks it is acceptable for a billionaire to market, promote, and profit off of a dictionary defined racial slur, then he’s living in an alternate universe,” Halbritter said in a press release.  “If he wants to focus on reality, here’s a reality check:  The longer he insists on slurring Native Americans, the more damage he will keep doing to Native American communities, and the more he will become synonymous with infamous segregationist George Preston Marshall, who originally gave the team this offensive name.”

The opposition to the team’s name, which has lingered for more than 20 years, gained momentum in 2013, fueled in part by Snyder’s aggressive “all caps NEVER” position on when the name will change.  A high-stakes P.R. game has followed, with the Redskins spending plenty of money and effort to shape their message, and the opponents of the name spending plenty of money and effort to fight the name.

The issue will continue to percolate until the name changes, or until the opponents grow weary of the effort.  It doesn’t appear that either will happen any time soon.

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NFL announces 30 players will attend the draft

NFL logo and set are seen at New York's Radio City Music Hall before the start of the 2013 NFL Draft Reuters

More players than ever before will attend this year’s NFL draft.

The league announced today that 30 prospects have confirmed they will attend, the most ever. That includes four quarterbacks — Blake Bortles (Central Florida), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) — as well as top prospects like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Auburn tackle Greg Robinson and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. (It’s a sign of the times that no running backs were among the 30 players invited.)

The other players confirmed to attend this year’s NFL Draft: LSU receiver Odell Beckham, Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, Indiana receiver Cody Latimer, USC receiver Marqise Lee, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews, Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews, Virginia tackle Morgan Moses, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Texas Christian cornerback Jason Verrett.

Bringing more players to the draft gives the NFL more opportunities to promote its stars of the future, but it also makes it more likely that several players will go through the awkward experience of remaining in the “green room” throughout the first round and into the second or third round. It’s even possible that a player among the 30 invited could drop all the way to Day Three of the draft.

But most of the players invited will hear Roger Goodell call their names during the first round. And as the NFL continues to grow the draft into not just the league’s biggest offseason event but one of the major parts of the sports year, more players than ever before will be there.

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Kurt Coleman says he turned down better deals to sign with Vikings

Kurt Coleman

Kurt Coleman thought Minnesota was the best place for him, even if the Vikings’ offer wasn’t the best one he received in free agency.

Coleman, a safety who signed with the Vikings last week, accepted a deal in Minnesota that pays a salary this year of $900,000, with nothing guaranteed. Coleman said both the Colts and the Jets offered him some guaranteed money, and that he got one offer with a higher base salary as well.

“But for me it was more important about finding the right opportunity and the right staff and an organization that believes in you,” Coleman told the Pioneer Press. “And I think in the long term I’m betting on myself to succeed, and I think I will. The money wasn’t there that I wanted, but that’s OK because I know that it will come around. . . . It’s about reasserting myself as a starter in this league and being a top performer as a safety.”

Even though the Vikings’ starting safeties from last season, Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford, are still in Minnesota this year, Coleman believes there’s a better opportunity for him to have an impact in the Vikings’ defense than there would have been anywhere else.

“Of course, I want to start,” Coleman said. “I’m a competitor. I want to get out there and I want to start and I want to be the best player that I can be, and I think I have plenty more room to grow.”

If Coleman grows into a player who can contribute to the Vikings’ defense, then Minnesota got a great deal.

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Lovie Smith praises his players for choosing to show up for voluntary work

Smith AP

NFL rules prohibit coaches from chastising players who choose not to show up for voluntary work.  But the rules say nothing about praising those who do.

On the first day of a voluntary minicamp, two weeks after the offseason program launched, new Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said that his new team has had perfect attendance in the offseason program, so far.

“Yes, everyone is here,” Smith said.  “Everyone has been here all offseason really and that’s what you expect.  It’s voluntary work, but if you want to get better, why would you pass up an opportunity?  I appreciate that from the team — again they want to do something.  All you can do at this time in April is just show up each day and get better and they’ve done that.”

The Bucs have a minicamp now because teams with new coaches are permitted to have an extra voluntary camp.  Smith recognizes the value of that.

“I think it’s a must,” Smith said. “That’s the good part about being a new staff, when you get this extra minicamp in.  It’s one thing to watch guys on video, but you want to see them on the football field to know in a lot of ways.  Of course, we want to see our roster but, too, with the draft coming up, to see exactly what we need.  Maybe we’re not as strong or maybe we’re a little scrawny at some of the positions.  And that’s what they’ll tell us during these next two days.

“So I can’t tell you how much it helps.  And, for the team, they’re wondering, ‘What is it like?  What’s the practice routine?  How are these guys going to coach?’  And they know that now.  So we’ve gotten a lot of those questions answered quickly.”

We won’t get answers about whether the Buccaneers are any better until September, when the real games start.

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Rolando McClain added to reserve/retired list

Rolando McClain AP

Ravens linebacker Rolando McClain has been placed on the reserve/retired list, according to the NFL’s Tuesday transaction log.

McClain told ESPN on Monday that he was ending his comeback attempt after a season away from football.

The Ravens signed the 24-year-old McClain last April, but the former Alabama star retired a little more than a month later. The Raiders’ first-round pick in 2010, McClain started 38 games in three seasons with Oakland, but off-field issues and a dispute with coach Dennis Allen marred his tenure.

For the time being, the Ravens retain McClain’s rights should he decide to return again to football.

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Alex Smith talks going slowly, could pick up after the draft

Alex Smith, Cortez Allen AP

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith acknowledged on Tuesday that talks aimed at extending a contract that expires after the coming season are underway.  And indeed they are.

But a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the discussions are moving very, very slowly.

The discussions could, and likely will, pick up after the draft.  If/when an agreement is reached, look for the deal to have a value in the neighborhood of $14 million to $17 million per year.  Which would be a very good contract for a guy who was the first pick in the 2005 draft and who was at times regarded as being a borderline bust.

Smith has busted out in a big way the last few years.  While it feels like he’s been around forever, Smith still isn’t 30 years old.

That’s true.  I checked.  Twice.  He turns 30 on May 7.

And he’s made plenty of money in the NFL over the last nine years.  He could be making a lot more, soon.

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Mark Ingram doesn’t know if Saints will exercise 2015 option

New Orleans Saints' Ingram celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during their NFL football game in New Orleans Reuters

The Saints had two first-round picks in 2011, leaving them with a pair of decisions to make about fifth-year contract options for the 2015 season.

They’ve already exercised defensive end Cam Jordan’s option, guaranteeing that he’ll be on the team for at least two more seasons. There’s been no action in regard to running back Mark Ingram’s contract and the back said Tuesday that he has no idea whether the team will do anything before the May 3 deadline to pick up the option.

“I’m not sure if they will pick up the fifth-year option,” Ingram said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I’m just working one day at a time and I’m just glad I’m on a team that’s a championship contender.”

The base salary for Ingram in 2015 if his option is exercised would be just over $5.2 million, which is a hefty sum for a player who had just 85 touches last season while battling a toe injury and failed to run for four yards a carry in his first two seasons. Ingram should be in line for more with Darren Sproles out of the picture, but he’ll still likely split time with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson and that could mean that Ingram’s 2015 fate will be determined by his performance on the field in 2014.

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NFL will release schedule on Wednesday night

Goodell AP

The long-awaited release of the NFL schedule will take place on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The schedule release will, of course, be accompanied by a special on NFL Network.

And, of course, NFL fans will obsess over it, because obsessing over the NFL during the offseason is America’s second-most popular activity after obsessing over the NFL during the season. Even though we’ve known since the end of the 2013 season which teams are playing each other, we’ll all talk about which games are on national television and which teams got their bye weeks at good times and when the big rivalry games are taking place.

At the same time that the schedule is being announced, an NBA playoff game between Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs will tip off. Cuban will not be happy if the NFL schedule gets more media attention than his team’s playoff game. But given the status of the NFL as the fattest hog in sports, that wouldn’t be surprising.

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