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Sean Payton says Vilma still has role in defense

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Linebacker Jonathan Vilma had a quick and positive reaction to the news that the Saints hired Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator and he’ll likely be pleased to hear what coach Sean Payton had to say about a role for Vilma in Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.

During an interview on Sirius/XM Radio on Tuesday, Payton said that he didn’t think Vilma would have a problem transitioning into Ryan’s defense. Payton talked about playing Vilma, long a middle linebacker in the 4-3, as a weakside linebacker alongside Curtis Lofton in a 3-4 with under principles to keep him from taking guards on by himself.

“Yeah, I don’t think anyone wants to place him over that guard bubble and have to take on that block. And I think he’s a guy that runs to the ball and has great vision, very instinctual football player. I think you take some of that away if all of a sudden he’s playing over an uncovered guard and now his size becomes an issue,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “A lot of things may concern you with a player change. So, he’ll play over on that weakside position and that will be very similar to what he did this past year. Curtis Lofton, who’s a little heavier, will play on that strong inside Mike position. So I think that part of it for those two guys transition pretty well.”

Vilma will probably have to swallow more than a position change. He’s got a cap hit of about $8.6 million for the coming season and it’s thought the team will approach him to renegotiate this offseason. Payton didn’t discuss Vilma’s contract specifically, but it’s a good bet his hypothetical role in the defense will remain just that without a price tag that’s a bit easier for the team to swallow.

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Odell Beckham weighs in on recent reporting

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has spent plenty of time in the news in recent days, between his absence from OTAs to his reported intention to show up on Thursday to his new shoe deal to his decision to work out with Johnny Football instead of Beckham’s football team.

He apparently didn’t like something about one of the things that someone has written or said, because Beckham has taken to Twitter by declaring, “‘If they don’t have a story these days they’ll make one…’ I might get that tatted.”

Images of Beckham and fellow 2014 first-rounder Johnny Manziel emerged on Wednesday, after Beckham missed two of 10 offseason OTA sessions with the Giants, with the New York Post headline explaining that “Odell Beckham chose Johnny Manziel over Giants practice.” Beckham reportedly intends to show up for voluntary drills on Thursday, at which time reporters will be present to ask him about any and all recent developments — and at which time he’ll be able vent as much as he wants about the nerve of some people to point out the comings and goings for a celebrity athlete who is, based on that Nike deal, enjoying the financial fruits of being a celebrity athlete.

Maybe he’ll also be sporting a new tattoo that could take up plenty of real estate on his torso, his limbs, or elsewhere.

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Dolphins sign Charles Harris

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The Dolphins have signed all their 2017 draft picks.

First-round defensive end Charles Harris became the final member of the draft class to agree to terms on a contract with the team on Wednesday. Like all first-round picks, Harris’ deal is for four years with a team option for a fifth season.

Harris was the 22nd overall pick last month after wrapping up a career at Missouri that saw him rack up 34.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. That pass rushing prowess made him a popular mock draft choice for the Dolphins before they made him their actual pick in Philadelphia.

Harris will join Cameron Wake, William Hayes and Andre Branch at defensive end for the Dolphins and seems like a good bet for a role as a rotational pass rusher at the very least during his rookie season.

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Patriots release Devin Street

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With receiver Andrew Hawkins joining the Patriots, the Patriots needed to make a corresponding roster move. Receiver Devin Street was moved off the roster.

The Patriots announced on Wednesday the release of Street, who had been claimed off waivers from the Colts on May 2.

A fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2014, Steelers previously spent time on the Patriots practice squad before joining Indy’s active roster last season, appearing in five games. For his career, he has 36 regular-season appearances and two starts.

Street will be subject to waivers. If unclaimed, he’ll become a free agent.

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Michael Floyd: I couldn’t be in a better position right now

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Wide receiver Michael Floyd is back in his hometown after signing with the Vikings and having the remainder of his house arrest sentence for last year’s DUI transferred to Minnesota so he can begin working with the team, something that coach Mike Zimmer said is a good thing because of the support system the team has in place for Floyd.

Part of that support system is the presence of college teammates Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph, who is hosting Floyd at his house while he re-acclimates himself to life in the Twin Cities. While Floyd isn’t crazy about the idea of helping out with diaper changes for Rudolph’s twin daughters, he’s otherwise happy to be home after bouncing from being released by the Cardinals to a stint with the Patriots last season.

“Everything I’ve been through was eye-opening,” Floyd said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The stuff that you go through, positive or negative, grows you as a person. I couldn’t be in a better position right now.”

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said that Floyd is behind his teammates after signing late in the offseason, but called the wideout a fast learner “that can make plays.” If that proves to be true on the field, Floyd should find plenty of playing time on an offense that’s looking to take a step forward from last year’s output.

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Cowboys anticipate Ezekiel Elliott will practice next week

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Running back Ezekiel Elliott has not participated in the Cowboys’ first two Organized Team Activities this week after he was a passenger in a car involved in an accident last weekend, although the team doesn’t sound overly concerned about his condition.

Coach Jason Garrett met with the media on Wednesday and said that he anticipates Elliott will be back on the field when the second week of OTAs gets underway next Tuesday. Garrett said that Elliott had some soreness and stiffness after the accident, but is otherwise OK.

Given Elliott’s importance to the offense, the cautious approach is an unsurprising one and it wouldn’t come as a great shock if the Cowboys gave him even more time off if he isn’t feeling all the way back to normal come Tuesday.

Garrett also updated a couple of other injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Wide receivers Cole Beasley and Lucky Whitehead are both dealing with hamstring injuries, which gave rookie Ryan Switzer a chance to play with the first team during Wednesday’s workout.

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Shane Vereen’s reaction to Richardson’s slap at Marshall: “Why?”

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On Tuesday, Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson took at public swipe at former Jets receiver/current Giants receiver Brandon Marshall. On Wednesday, current Giants running back Shane Vereen reacted to the comments.

“I guess my question is, ‘Why?'” Vereen said during a one-hour in-studio visit to PFT Live. “I mean, what’s gone is gone.  Obviously, there’s no love lost between the two.  It’s tough because he’s in my locker room and he’s a good guy.  He’s played with my brother [Brock Vereen] before.  My brother was in Chicago, they spent some time there together, there’s good things.

“If you really dug and dug on every player, you could find some negative things on them and how they carry themselves, or how they treat others.  I try to stay optimistic as possible and I’m just happy that Brandon Marshall is on our team this year.”

Marshall joins the Giants after two years with the Jets, three with the Bears, two with the Dolphins, and four with the Broncos. Traded by the first three and cut by the last one, Marshall has been one of the best receivers of the past decade, generating 941 receptions (18th all time), 12,061 receiving yards (24th all time), and an outside shot at eventual Hall of Fame consideration if he can perform over the next couple of years like he did throughout most of his career — and if he can finally get to the playoffs once, or twice.

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NFL hopeful Jalen Robinette removed from Air Force graduation

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Jalen Robinette’s unusual final month as an Air Force Academy cadet has taken another strange turn.

Robinette, a wide receiver who found out just before the NFL draft that a policy change would force him into active duty after graduating rather than letting him play in the NFL, has been removed from the Academy’s graduation ceremony today.

“Cadet Robinette was removed from the graduation lineup after academy leadership became aware of information that called into question Cadet Robinette’s eligibility/qualification to graduate and commission,” the Air Force Academy said in a statement. “Cadet Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be placed on hold while we further evaluate. Due to privacy-related concerns, we are unable to comment on the circumstances. We can say that the circumstances do not involve any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and are unrelated to Cadet Robinette’s professional football pursuits.”

Robinette had been viewed as a late-round prospect but went undrafted after the Air Force announced that he would not be allowed out of active duty until 2019. He went to the Bills’ rookie minicamp as a tryout player two weeks ago.

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Julius Thomas needs time to develop chemistry with Ryan Tannehill

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As tight end Julius Thomas gets ensconced with his third NFL team and, in turn, his third starting quarterback, he knows that there’s one key ingredient to getting the most out of his relationship with Ryan Tannehill.

Time.

“There’s no other way,” Thomas told reporters on Wednesday. “Sometimes we have some of the smartest football people in the world in the NFL, but there’s no way to get around hard work and time. It’s not going to happen this week. It’s not going to happen by the end of OTAs. It’s going to take rep after rep after rep and we’ll get there.”

Time also has been important to Thomas in two other ways. As in having enough time in the league to understand the game, and also having enough of it left physically to take advantage of how well he understands the game.

“When I was younger, somebody told me that the hardest part about playing when you get older is getting your body right and the game slows down,” Thomas said. “I’m kind of in that sweet spot where the body still feels good and the game is slowing down. So I’m really looking forward to this year — year seven — so that’s going to be an exciting time for me.”

It wasn’t an exciting time in Jacksonville for Thomas, but he’s not bitter.

“Sometimes things just don’t work out,” Thomas said. “I don’t have any ill will towards anybody in Jacksonville. I like everybody there. We all got along great. But not everything always fits. It just wasn’t a fit for me. It’s definitely appreciated, the opportunity they gave me, and the people that I met and the things that I learned in Jacksonville, and I’ll take that on to still become a better player every year. . . . I became a much better person the last two years. To have some struggles on the field really helped me grow as a person, mentally and in my own personal life. I’m not upset by the way things happened. Sometimes the best way to learn is when you’re going through things and I definitely took advantage of that in my own life.”

Regardless of what happened in Jacksonville, it sounds like that won’t be happening in Miami, now that Thomas has reunited with former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

“Not only is he a guy that I think is one of the best football minds — he’s really good at teaching and instructing — but he’s also somebody that I consider a friend and somebody that I trust in this game,” Thomas said. “To have that marriage is pretty good.”

If Thomas can perform like he did in Denver with Gase now that he’s in Miami with Gase, it could be better than pretty good for the Dolphins.

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Myles Garrett expects to return to practice next week

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Browns defensive end Myles Garrett isn’t practicing this week, but he doesn’t expect to be out of action for too long.

While Garrett didn’t specify the injury that’s keeping him on the side when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday, he didn’t do anything to cast doubt on word that it is a minor issue. Per multiple reports, the first overall pick in this year’s draft said that the team was being cautious and that he expects to be back on the field next week.

Garrett isn’t the only Browns first-round pick working on the side. Safety Jabrill Peppers was also held out of practice and, as with Garrett, the team isn’t showing any great concern. While discussing both players, coach Hue Jackson talked about a “little soreness” and “slips and bumps and bruises” as the reason why they weren’t on the field while saying he expected all would be well sooner rather than later. 

Wide receiver Corey Coleman also produced a brief scare in Wednesday’s practice when he stayed down after making a catch, but Jackson said that he simply landed wrong on the ball and would be fine.

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Brock Osweiler thinks he has proven he’s good enough to start

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When the Browns traded for Brock Osweiler, he was a throw-in on a deal that allowed the Texans to dump his expensive contract and allowed Cleveland to gain a second-round draft pick. But now that he’s at the Browns’ Organized Team Activities, he thinks he can win the starting job.

Asked today if he thinks he’s good enough to start, Osweiler answered, “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

“I think the proof is in the film from the past two years,” Osweiler said.

Osweiler added that he thinks he’s going to win the starting job.

“My expectation is always to start,” Osweiler said. “But once again that is not my decision to make. Now if I came out here and told you guys I wanted to be the backup then I’m in the wrong business. Absolutely I want to play and I want to help this team win games, but I know there’s a lot of work that needs to go into that, and ultimately I need to earn that on the practice field. And I have a lot of work ahead of me to do that.”

Realistically, if Osweiler is the Browns’ starter that probably means that both second-year quarterback Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer have disappointed in training camp and the preseason. The reality is that after what Osweiler put on film in the past two years, no NFL team wants him as its starting quarterback.

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Antonio Brown ready to take advantage of new celebration rules

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The NFL might not let Antonio Brown twerk (or hump the goalpost), but he’s hoping to take advantage of the league’s new relaxed celebration rules.

Specifically, he’s ready to get more people involved, now that group celebrations are allowed.

“It’s amazing,” Brown said of the changes, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “I’m sure the guys are looking forward to it, the O-line, some of the guys who don’t get to celebrate with the guys who are getting in the end zone. I think it will be fun.”

Brown was flagged three times last year for his celebrations, and while the league didn’t add a three-pump limit which would have made some of his dances legal, he said he’s excited to be able to dance with center Maurkice Pouncey for a change.

But he’s not willing to share too much now, showing he can still be a bit of a tease.

“Man, you’ve got to look forward to it,” Brown said.

Of course, the Steelers are looking for more than dances moves from Brown, after giving him a four-year, $68 million extension this offseason. But this way, if he gets fined for going overboard, he can afford it.

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Bills wrap up draft class by signing Nathan Peterman

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The Bills have all of their draft picks under contract.

The final piece of the puzzle came on Wednesday when they signed quarterback Nathan Peterman. The fifth-round pick signed a four-year deal.

Peterman started 24 games at Pittsburgh after transferring from Tennessee during his college career. He threw 47 touchdowns while completing 60 percent of his passes, which led to high marks from some draft evaluators that obviously didn’t match up with the way teams viewed him as he dropped to the third day.

He joins Tyrod Taylor, Cardale Jones and T.J. Yates on the quarterback depth chart in Buffalo. Taylor may be gone after this season, which should earn Peterman some looks in the preseason as the team plots its course at the position.

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Stephon Tuitt recovering from hand surgery

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The Steelers are down a defensive lineman at their Organized Team Activities.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that defensive end Stephon Tuitt is not practicing after having surgery on his hand. Bouchette adds that the team does not expect the surgery will impact him for the regular season.

That’s good news for the Steelers as Tuitt has developed into a crucial part of their defense since joining the team as a second-round pick in 2014. He’s produced 10.5 sacks over the last two years while also proving strong play against the run.

Tuitt’s entering the final year of his contract and his performance makes him an extension candidate at some point this year. Given the outlook for a return in time for the regular season, his surgery shouldn’t get in the way of that.

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Odell Beckham cashes in with shoe deal

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A football team has yet to give receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a massive contract. A shoe company has.

Beckham has a new deal with Nike. According to NiceKicks.com (via SportsBusiness Daily), Beckham will make more than $29 million over five years and up to $48 million over eight years. In contrast, he’ll make only (only?) $1.839 million in 2017 from the Giants.

That said, Beckham eventually will be making a lot more from football. In 2018, his salary spikes to $8.459 million. An extension would push his compensation even higher.

While Beckham is making more than any other NFL player on a shoe deal, basketball players do much, much better. LeBron James, for example, is believed to have a lifetime Nike deal worth more than $1 billion. Michael Jordan, retired for years, still made more than $100 million from Nike in 2016. (He made $94 million in salary during 15 years as a player.)

While those are extreme examples, Beckham now holds the NFL high-water mark for shoe deals. Which ultimately provides even more proof of the reality that athletes should play basketball or baseball instead of football, if they can.

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Jim Caldwell hopes to fix “family” issue with Calvin Johnson

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Very seldom do breakups go seamlessly, but Lions coach Jim Caldwell was surprised when Calvin Johnson’s split with the team turned ugly with recent comments.

But as a guy who tries to keep things as steady as possible, Caldwell hopes the rift can eventually be healed.

“Playing in the National Football League for a team, it’s like a family. Families sometimes have disagreements,” Caldwell said, via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. “They look at things a little differently. I have grown children. Sometimes we look at things a little differently. We hash them out, talk them out. There’s dialogue, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love them. But we get the differences worked out.

“I think the same thing will happen in this situation. Maybe there’s a disagreement, a little different viewpoint, but the most important thing, I think, is perhaps this whole thing will bring about a little bit more dialogue.”

Johnson didn’t get into specifics, but the team’s decision to pursue $320,000 in prorated signing bonus from him upon retirement (which he could have easily avoided) seems to have been the most likely point of contention.

And while Caldwell said he hasn’t talked to Johnson, he said he texts with him regularly and hopes to get the franchise’s all-time leading receiver back in the fold someday.

“One of the things that I think you’ve noticed since I’ve been here, our practices are open to all our alumni,” Caldwell said. “They can come any time, any day. There’s no restrictions against them in terms of watching our practices and being involved.”

Of course, at the moment Johnson has been hanging out at Raiders practices, the kind of distance that’s both physical and metaphorical between the team and the latest star to have hurt feelings on the way out the door.

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