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Gonzalez could have other suitors, in theory

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With Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff believing there’s a 50-50 chance tight end Tony Gonzalez will play notwithstanding his 95-percent certainty of retirement, there’s another angle that needs to be considered.

Gonzalez will be a free agent on March 12.  He could, if he wants, continue his career with any team.

That’s never happened for Gonzalez during his 16-year NFL career.  He was traded to the Falcons at his request in 2009, but he’s never had the chance to go wherever he wants to go.

And he had 93 catches in 2012, ninth most in the entire league.

Don’t be shocked, then, if other teams opt to try to entice Gonzalez to continue his Hall of Fame career as a member of their teams.

Gonzalez has said or done nothing to indicate he’d play elsewhere, but if he’s going to play for the Falcons in 2013, he’ll need a contract.  And if other teams are interested, the Falcons could become willing to pay more to get Gonzalez back.

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Doug Whaley cautious about “over-drafting” a quarterback

Doug Whaley, Matt Cassel AP

The Bills drafted EJ Manuel in the first round two years ago, but General Manager Doug Whaley made it clear that things haven’t worked out exactly as planned when he said Monday that it was “obvious” the Bills didn’t have a proven franchise quarterback.

Buffalo doesn’t have a first-round pick to use on another candidate for that quarterback job this year and Whaley isn’t planning on trading up, which leaves the team to scour the second tier of prospects for a possible addition to the depth chart. Whaley said that there was a chance of the Bills adding a player from that pile, but that he wants to be careful not to (again?) let the team’s need at the position lead him to draft a player higher than he should come off the board.

“You can make that argument,” Whaley said, via the Buffalo News. “But also our job is to put the right value on those quarterbacks and if we don’t feel that the value is that second-round pick then again we don’t want to do that because then it’s over-drafting a guy and our job, just for the Pegulas, the Bills and our fan base is to make sure we get the value out of every pick. And that’s not to say that it won’t happen but we’re always going to try to put the best value on these players, be it [Hofstra offensive lineman] Ali Marpet [or] be it a quarterback.”

Baylor’s Bryce Petty, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion are seen as the top quarterbacks expected to be available on the second and third days of the draft. With Manuel, Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel already on the roster, the Bills will also have to be sure they think a rookie can add something more than what’s already on hand regardless of where they’re drafted.

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Prostitutes say Warren Sapp “tackled” them as they tried to leave

Warren Sapp AP

Warren Sapp recorded 96.5 sacks in his Hall of Fame career.

But allegedly tackling two women he was paying to get into the sack with him has earned him new acclaim.

If you thought it couldn’t get uglier than the image of Sapp naked in your head, well it did. The prostitutes Sapp was charged with soliciting at the Super Bowl told police he “tackled” them when they tried to leave his room, according to another police video obtained by TMZ.

Sapp has denied laying hands on the women, but one of them told police that after the disagreement over their fee: “He tackled us together. That’s why my leg hurts.”

The former Buccaneers defensive tackle was charged with two counts of assault, along with the solicitation charges. He was summarily fired by the NFL Network.

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Larry Fitzgerald: I can still play at a high level

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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald posted 63 catches for 784 yards last season, which were his lowest numbers since his rookie season and the cause of some discussion about how much he might have left in the tank after 11 seasons in Arizona.

It looked for a few moments like his time in Arizona might be done as a big cap number called his future with the team into question. The two sides hammered out agreement on a two-year deal, however, that will pay Fitzgerald $22 million and give him a chance to prove that there’s still a lot in the tank after being slowed by injuries last year.

“I can still play the game at a high level, given the opportunity to go out there and thrive,” Fitzgerald said, via the Arizona Republic. “It was fluke stuff, too. You work so hard to get yourself physically ready to go and you see it happen just that fast. You see Andre Ellington making a cut, or Carson Palmer being hit on his knee. You take for granted your health, sometimes.”

Fitzgerald had his strongest outings of the season just before Palmer was lost to a torn ACL last year, so a healthy Palmer return could be just as important as Fitzgerald’s own return to health. With Michael Floyd and John Brown also on hand, though, playing at a high level probably won’t lead to the eye-popping numbers of Fitzgerald’s younger days.

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Brady declined to give Griffin pointers

Brady Getty Images

Last year, as Washington and New England prepared to engage in joint practices, quarterback Robert Griffin III expressed a strong interest in talking to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“If I get a chance to sit down and talk to him, I’d love to, just to pick his brain,” Griffin said at the time.

But Griffin learned that Brady has no interest in allowing his brain to be picked.  Griffin tells Jeff Darlington of NFL Media that Brady declined.

Not until my career is done, Rob,” Brady told Griffin.  (Of course, there’s a chance Griffin’s will be done first.)

Griffin still learned plenty from watching Brady and the Patriots.

“What you do learn from watching [Brady] — and then watching the Patriots organization — you get a big-picture look at it,” Griffin told Darlington.  “Man, honestly, they operate like a high school football team,” Griffin told Darlington.  “You remember in high school, how the coach calls everybody up, everybody runs up, gets on a knee and looks at the coach like what he is saying is the most important thing in the world?  That’s how the Patriots are.

“They’re attentive.  They run on and off the field.  They run after practice.  They do what they have to do — and everyone understands, whether they like it or not, this is what it takes to win championships.  And they won the championship.

“We can’t ignore that.  We don’t need to mimic them or try to be like them.  We need to create our own culture — but we can learn from some of those things.”

Yes, they can.  But why didn’t they learn from those things last August?  Even though the Patriots had yet to win the 2014 championship, they’d become one of the elite franchise in the NFL.  Griffin surely didn’t want to pick Brady’s brain for the purposes of incorporating those changes in 2015; why didn’t Griffin and his teammates instantly implement the things they saw from the Patriots?

At a deeper level, Griffin’s comments could be viewed as (another) passive-aggressive dig at the coaching staff, since they’re the ones who need to create an environment in which players acts as if what the coach is saying “is the most important thing in the world.”

So Griffin was either subtly calling out his teammates or the coaching staff, or both.  Either way, the effort to become like the Patriots probably includes adopting a media strategy that doesn’t entail the quarterback subtly criticizing the other players or the coaches.

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Lions cut Rodney Austin after arrest


Good players can keep their jobs in the NFL after getting arrested. Bad players cannot. Former Lions guard Rodney Austin is the latest player to learn that the hard way.

Austin was released by the Lions this morning after news surfaced that he was arrested last week.

According to the sheriff’s office in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Austin was arrested and faces misdemeanor charges of assault on a child under 12, assault on a female, interference with emergency communications and misdemeanor larceny.

Austin has been with the Lions since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but he has only played in one regular-season game. A bench warmer is easily expendable, and so Austin is now out of the NFL, and unlikely to return.

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Dennis Pitta working out with Ravens

Dennis Pitta, Ryan Shazier AP

The Ravens have had tight end Dennis Pitta in the lineup for just seven games in the last two seasons as a result of hip injuries that are threatening to bring his career to an early end.

Pitta dislocated and fractured his hip before the 2013 season and missed most of the year before making a late season cameo and then suffered the same injuries three weeks into last season. Pitta has recovered, but coach John Harbaugh said last month that the team is waiting to hear if Pitta “wants or is able” to resume his playing career.

It certainly looks like Pitta wants to at least keep the door open for a possible return. In a video posted to the team’s website from Monday’s kickoff to the offseason workout program, Pitta is seen working out alongside his teammates in the weight room.

Pitta’s presence may keep the door ajar, but it probably doesn’t change the Ravens’ feelings about needing to add a tight end in the draft. With Owen Daniels gone, the team’s thin on players they know will be there in September.

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Titans visiting with Breshad Perriman

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The Breshad Perriman tour continues.

A day after visiting with the Jets, the former Central Florida receiver will visit with the Titans.

Yes, the Titans.  The team that hold the second overall pick in the draft.  The team that could trade down to, say, No. 17 with the Chargers, who’d spring up to get quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Perriman also has worked out for or met with the Panthers, Bears, Lions, Steelers, Eagles, and Ravens, among others.  Mike Mayock of NFL Network has suggested that Perriman could go in the first 20 picks.

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Bears bringing in former fourth-rounder Tyler Wilson

Tyler Wilson AP

The Bears are already pretty well-stocked with quarterbacks other people didn’t want, so what’s the problem with bringing another one in?

Via Matt Jones of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, former Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson will be attending next week’s Bears minicamp, ostensibly on a tryout basis. Jones mentioned it during a radio show he co-hosts in Arkansas.

Wilson was a fourth-round pick of the Raiders in 2013, but was cut before the end of his rookie season. He picked up with the Titans near the end of that year, and went to camp with the Bengals last summer, but was cut in the preseason.

The Bears quarterbacks coach is Dowell Loggains, another former Razorback who was in Tennessee when the Titans offered him a look in December 2013.

Chicago realized it was stuck with Jay Cutler this offseason, and he’s backed up by Jimmy Clausen, whom new coach John Fox has a higher opinion of now than when he had him in Carolina in 2010.

The only other quarterback on the roster at the moment is David Fales, a sixth-rounder from last year, when there was a different coach and General Manager in place.

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Oregon coach declares “Chip Kelly is not insane”


Good news, Eagles fans.  The man who succeeded Philly coach Chip Kelly at Oregon has proclaimed that Kelly possesses all necessary mental faculties.

When news of Kelly signing Tim Tebow made it to Eugene on Monday, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich was asked about the situation.

“I think it’s unfortunate I’ve had to answer this question more than once:  Chip Kelly is not insane,” Helfrich said, via  “He’s got a plan.  He’s got a method.”

At times, it seems that plan is there is no plan.  But even that is a plan, technically.

As to Tebow, it’s unclear what the plan really is.  Some think he’ll be the specialty quarterback if/when the two-point conversion attempt moves to the one.  Which frankly makes no sense; teams routinely face short-yardage situations, and they typically don’t remove their starting quarterback for those plays.

Regardless, Kelly knows what he’s doing.  Even if no one else does.

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Dorial Green-Beckham visiting the Chiefs today

green-beckham AP

While many pre-draft visits are for the sake of smokescreen, or to firm up medical information, many of them are for teams to look a player in the eye.

Likely along those lines, the Chiefs are bringing in one of the most talented players in the 2015 NFL Draft today, who comes with considerable baggage.

Via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Chiefs are hosting former Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham today.

Green-Beckham has also visited the Bengals and 49ers, and the Vikings and Ravens have also met with him. Plenty of other teams probably have as well, to see if they are willing to gamble on a player with explosive ability and a checkered past.

Green-Beckham was kicked off the team at Missouri after a pair of drug arrests, and a domestic violence accusation (though no charges were filed). He transferred to Oklahoma, but never played a down there.

If you trust him, he’s the kind of game-breaking talent which any team can use, and getting him with the 18th pick might be a steal. Weighing whether they can take such a chance is the kind of thing most evaluators can’t decide before meeting someone face-to-face, which the Chiefs will do today.

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Nate Solder played last year after testicular cancer diagnosis

Nate Solder AP

The Patriots have made keeping injuries secret a point of institutional pride.

But Nate Solder’s willing to talk now about a problem he dealt with last season that could have been much bigger than fudging an injury report submitted to the league.

Via Mike Reiss of, Solder was diagnosed with testicular cancer a year ago, was treated, and went on to play a key role for the Super Bowl champions.

He was initially diagnosed after his standard physical at the beginning of offseason conditioning work. He mentioned feeling some pain, Patriots doctors ordered up an ultrasound, and three days later, he had surgery to remove the testicle. He only missed a few days of OTAs while recovering, and started every game last year, so there was no suggestion that anything was wrong with him at all.

I knew nothing about it. It was a complete surprise,” Solder said. “You Google something like that and it kind of scares you, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to freak out about this.’ Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn’t have checked it, saying, ‘Oh, it’s just in my head, I’m going to be fine.'”

April is National Testicular Cancer Awareness month, so the 27-year-old Solder was moved to reveal the disease now for the sake of awareness. According to the American Cancer Society, almost half of all cases of testicular cancer are in men between the ages of 20 and 34.

He had a quick and uncomplicated recovery, so he was hesitant to be portrayed as overcoming cancer and going on to be a football hero, knowing his story’s not always typical.

“I was completely healthy, I’m a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody,” he said. “Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that’s who it’s really targeted toward. . . .

“The biggest thing is letting people know and giving them the information. And maybe giving people some courage that if they are in a situation like I was, maybe they would go and say something, and that could make a difference. It’s more common than people realize. A lot of people are either afraid to do it, or they don’t think it’s important enough to get it checked. It’s a simple check. Six months, a year, and then it starts spreading and then you start to feel symptoms and it’s a more serious situation. So that’s a big thing; you can save lives with early detection.”

If his story gets one person to get a check-up, then telling it was worthwhile.


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No Michael Bennett at Seahawks workouts

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Earlier this month, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett denied reports that he requested a trade away from Seattle this offseason because he was unhappy about the contract he signed before last season.

Bennett didn’t go on to throw cold water on the idea that he’s feeling less than thrilled about his contract, however.

“I can’t really say that. But I mean I don’t know anybody that is happy with the amount of money that they’re making. But at this point, I’m just trying to be a good Seahawk,” Bennett said on KIRO.

Should Bennett sit for another interview, his feelings about his contract are likely to be revisited after he didn’t show up for the first day of the team’s voluntary offseason work on Monday. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reports that the desire to renegotiate his deal was behind the absence.

Seahawks General Manager John Schneider has espoused a policy of not extending deals with more than a year left and Bennett’s heading into the second year of the four-year pact he signed in 2014. The team did move some money around to placate running back Marshawn Lynch and bring his holdout to an end last year, however, and Bennett may be angling for the same consideration this time around.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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So far, so good for Rex Ryan and Bills fans.

Minnesota S Cedric Thompson is slated for a visit with the Dolphins.

A look ahead to the Patriots’ road schedule.

This just in: The Jets need a quarterback.

WR Kamar Aiken is optimistic about his chances of landing playing time with the Ravens.

The Bengals have several players heading into their contract years.

Will S Tashaun Gipson join the Browns for workouts if Friday’s deadline passes without an offer from another team?

The Steelers continued meeting with cornerback prospects on Monday.

Texans T Duane Brown plans to step into a bigger leadership role.

Said Colts WR T.Y. Hilton of Reggie Wayne’s absence, “It’s very different. It still hurts me right now. I was still waiting for him to just walk in the meeting room. It’s different. It’s going to take me some time to get used to it, but I don’t think I will.”

What will the Jaguars do at running back in the draft?

The Titans struck a one-year deal with LB Kaelin Burnett, who played five games for them last season.

Broncos RB C.J. Anderson is trying to avoid a step back after last year’s rapid rise.

DE Mike DeVito and LB Derrick Johnson were back at work as the Chiefs opened workouts.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is ready to get to work on the field during the team’s voluntary minicamp.

Assessing the Chargers’ draft needs on the defensive line.

Jimmy Johnson once went from the Miami Hurricanes to the Dallas Cowboys and RB Duke Johnson wouldn’t mind making the same move.

Giants RB Shane Vereen will join his former Patriots teammates at the White House.

Criticism of the criticism that followed the Eagles’ decision to sign QB Tim Tebow.

The Redskins were happy with the attendance for Monday’s start of offseason workouts.

Doug Buffone’s teammates with the Bears remembered him fondly after his death on Monday.

Lions TE Joseph Fauria avoided surgery on his ankle.

Mike Daniels is happy to continue the Packers defensive line with B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion.

A list of the draft prospects the Vikings have spoken with this offseason.

The Falcons made stops at Missouri, UCLA and Washington as they continued pre-draft evaluations last week.

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly isn’t focused on contract issues at the moment.

Eliminating bad football tops the list of Saints goals for the 2015 season.

LB Bruce Carter is excited about getting to work with the Buccaneers.

CB Patrick Peterson was one of the Cardinals players reacting to S Adrian Wilson’s retirement on Monday.

Said Rams TE Jared Cook of the first day of offseason workouts, “You come in with a fresh new outfit, fresh new shoes, a new backpack. You got a Spiderman lunchbox. You’re showing off your new stuff. No, it’s just guys being acclimated again.”

49ers newcomer Jarryd Hayne explains why he settled on No. 38.

Seahawks General Manager John Schneider and his family are hosting a fourth annual fundraiser to help children with autism.

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Michael Oher seems to prefer Carolina to Tennessee

Michael Oher AP

The Titans didn’t like what they saw from Michael Oher, cutting him one year into a four-year contract.

But from Oher’s perspective, that’s fine, since he didn’t seem crazy about what he saw there either.

The now-Panthers tackle tried to be nice about it, but it was obvious he wasn’t a fan of his time in Tennessee.

I like things to be run the right way,” Oher said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “Doing things right. Just being on top of things. I’m just glad I’m in a good organization with guys that do it the right way.

“I’m trying to put that behind me and move forward.”

He also talked about the feeling of being wanted by the Panthers, with former left tackle Jordan Gross among the people who reached out to him this offseason.

“I talked to so many guys that were here before I even signed, so that was another exciting thing for me,” he said. “I knew they wanted me here. I felt like I was coming out of college, . . . It means a lot just to know they really wanted me here in Charlotte.”

Whatever his problems with the Titans organization, he said he’s at least better able to compete for a job this year after dealing with toe problems which limited him to 11 games, and helped make him ineffective in the ones he played.

“During the game in my stance, I’d be thinking about that rather than thinking about the guy that I’m going against,” he said. “Last season it just flared up worse than it ever has, and I just needed to have it worked on. I got it done, and I feel a sense of relief already. It’s definitely improving. . . .

“I’m still chasing greatness and want to be great. I still have time, (and) I feel like I have the ability, the attitude and just want to be great and not let these guys down.”

The Panthers would love to get greatness out of him, as stability at the left tackle position would be something they haven’t had since Gross retired. But Oher even being acceptable would be an upgrade for them, as the try to rebuild a line that can protect a quarterback they’re trying to invest in.

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Lions offensive line looking to “whoop somebody’s ass” in 2015

Warford Getty Images

The Detroit Lions enter the offseason program with multiple spots on the starting offensive line unknown.  Their mission isn’t.

We have to be more aggressive,” guard Larry Warford said Monday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.  “We can’t be as technical as we [tried to be last year].  The biggest thing is we tried to break everything down, we tried to focus on a bunch of stuff at once, down to the smallest detail.  With offensive line play, that’s cool but at the end of the day you have to whoop somebody’s ass and we weren’t necessarily being the players that we were trained to be from the start.”

Warford added that the offensive line was “somewhat robotic” in 2014.  Two of the five starters from that “somewhat robotic” line, Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims, won’t be around in 2015.  But it sounds as if Raiola and Sims weren’t the “somewhat robotic” ones.

“It sucks that they’re gone. They’re huge, huge, huge personalities in the room,” Warford said. “That’s 14 years with Dom and what is it like [nine] for Sims? It sucks that they’re gone ’cause they come from a different era in football and that era was, mentally they were stupid tough. It sucks that we don’t have that type of leadership with us, but the biggest thing is carrying on what they taught us and the mentality that they brought in, take it upon ourselves to instill that mentality in the room.”

So how will they do that?

“[Offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn], first thing he said was, ‘We’re coming off the ball,'” Warford explained regarding the opening meeting of the year with his position coach.  “‘We’re running off the ball.’  There’s nothing else to that.  We’re going to set the pocket and run off the ball.  He said that today.  That’s what it has to be.  We’re not going to focus every little step.  You have to work that framework into what you can do personally.  Everybody has as different skill set and they have to make it work for them.  That’s the biggest thing.  It’s not going to be too chaotic or whatever, but we’re going to play.”

Travis Swanson takes over for Raiola at center and Warford plays right guard.  The other 60 percent of the starting offensive line spots are up in the air.  The guys most likely to win those jobs could be the guys who demonstrate the greatest ability to whoop some ass.

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