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Lattimore overwhelmed by support of NFL stars

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A healthy Marcus Lattimore might have been the top running back in this year’s draft.

But while the South Carolina running back’s not healthy, he’s at least one of the most supported among this year’s rookie class.

In a detailed look at his comeback from back-to-back season-ending knee injuries, Lattimore told USA Today’s Robert Klemko he’s been overwhelmed by the calls offering encouragement from NFL players who have gone through similar rehabs.

Former college teammate Chris Culliver arranged a phone call from 49ers running back Frank Gore. Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady, who shares an agent with Lattimore, had teammate Willis McGahee give him a call.

Lattimore said he’s gotten around 15 calls from NFL players who have gone through similar injuries.

“That’s something that I’ll cherish,” Lattimore said.

Lattimore’s also working out alongside Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III at the facility of Dr. James Andrews, the knee doctor to the stars. Andrews said Lattimore’s work ethic compared to former patient Adrian Peterson, who had a nice comeback of his own last year.

“He’s twice as far along as we ever expected him to be. He’s so self motivated,” Andrews said. “This weight he’s put on has been all muscle, which is absolutely impossible in most cases. It remains to be seen if he can play this season.

“We’ve had to slow him down in certain activities because he’d get ahead of us. He’s one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the opportunity to help take care of.”

But Lattimore’s injury history makes him different from Peterson, and one of the more interesting players to watch in this year’s draft.

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Emmanuel Sanders: “I’m not trying to break the bank”

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Emmanuel Sanders #10 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on October 11, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Money isn’t always easy for Broncos players to come by.

But wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders — who is the next man up on the team’s extension list — said yesterday he’s not trying to take it all.

As history has shown, that’s a reasonable expectation when dealing with John Elway, and Sanders said he’s hoping the ongoing talks can reach an amicable conclusion.

“It’s not frustrating. It’s actually a blessing,” Sanders said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. “We’re talking millions and millions of dollars that I can earn just by the game that I love. At the end of the day, I’m looking forward to it, but I know you guys want to know the answers to that, where are we at.

“We’re trying to find that middle ground of saying, you know what, this is a fair deal for me and for the Denver Broncos. I said it from Day One — I’m not trying to break the bank. I want to be here. But I also want a fair deal, and I want a fair deal for the production I’ve been putting out, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Sanders is entering the final year of the deal he signed in 2014, and is scheduled to make $5.6 million this season. But with recent contracts signed by Doug Baldwin and Allen Hurns and Keenan Allen, a player of his production appears underpaid.

Of course, with the Broncos, that’s hardly reason to think a deal’s going to happen, though the two sides are still talking.

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Ron Rivera: Kelvin Benjamin in “pretty doggone good form”

Kelvin Benjamin AP

It’s been almost a year since Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL during a training camp practice and that was enough time filled with enough rehab that the team felt comfortable giving him the green light for the first practice of this year’s camp.

Benjamin only did individual work during OTAs, but made several catches during team drills on Thursday. While it’s early in the process and Benjamin has rust to knock off, Benjamin’s work made a good impression on head coach Ron Rivera.

“It could be a good harbinger in terms of seeing Kelvin — I don’t want to say in top form — but pretty doggone good form,” Rivera said, via the Charlotte Observer. “He’s still got a ways to go in terms of getting in game shape. But it’s really good to see him moving around.”

Benjamin’s loss seemed like a bad harbinger for the Panthers last summer, although things played out in a much better fashion for the eventual NFC champions. Their success in his absence may mean that Benjamin will be targeted less frequently than the 145 throws he saw as a rookie, but his return to health would be a boost to Carolina’s chances at repeating their success from last season.

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Friday morning one-liners

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The Bills have a couple of options for more speed on the outside of their offense.

Based on his experience at LSU, Dolphins coach Adam Gase thought it would be hotter in Miami for practices.

LB Jamie Collins was surprisingly absent from Patriots practice.

Said Jets coach Todd Bowles, “We didn’t have any offseason problems. So this camp is a little calmer than last year.”

A catch by TE Dennis Pitta was among the practice highlights for the Ravens on Thursday.

T Cedric Ogbuehi has stepped into the Bengals starting lineup.

There’s going to be a siren at Browns camp.

Steelers WR Markus Wheaton doesn’t know how his role will be impacted by Martavis Bryant’s suspension.

Health questions about another player helped DE J.J. Watt land with the Texans.

S Mike Adams says the Colts defense has a “different energy” this summer.

Jaguars T Kelvin Beachum is happy to be working on the field again.

Ten questions to ponder as Titans camp gets going.

Said Broncos RB C.J. Anderson of the team’s offense, “It can’t be worse. That’s how I look at it. You have no choice but to get better.”

CB KeiVarae Russell is trying to sponge up all the information he can about the Chiefs defense.

Tickets to the Raiders’ game in Mexico City went quickly.

The Chargers are waiting to see what happens with unsigned DE Joey Bosa.

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick wants to be better than before as he returns from a torn ACL.

Ben McAdoo will keep some of Tom Coughlin’s traditions as he starts his first training camp as Giants coach.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz is drawing a lot of attention in North Dakota.

The Redskins will evaluate what they have at linebacker after Junior Galette’s injury before seeing if they need any additions.

WR Kevin White hit the field running at Bears camp.

Punt returner is a job that Lions WR Golden Tate would like to fill.

Rookie LB Blake Martinez is seeing practice time in sub packages for the Packers.

Vikings T Alex Boone shared a cautionary tale about underestimating DT Kevin Williams on the field.

The Falcons added former London Warriors DE Efe Obada to their 90-man roster.

Panthers WR Stephen Hill is back to work after last year’s torn ACL.

The possibility of becoming a free agent after the season isn’t weighing on Saints C Max Unger’s mind.

Buccaneers DE Jacquies Smith “feels good” after missing the entire offseason program following shoulder surgery.

CB Patrick Peterson arrived at Cardinals camp in a helicopter.

A look at what to expect from the Rams running backs.

Sifting through the tight end options for the 49ers.

Seahawks G.M. John Schneider said having organizational continuity is a big part of success.

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Eagles sign Darren Sproles to one-year extension

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Darren Sproles #43 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after he returned a punt in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Buffalo Bills 23-20.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

There was a point this offseason when people wondered if the Eagles might trade running back Darren Sproles as he stayed away from the team’s offseason work, but coach Doug Pederson said during the team’s minicamp that Sproles’ “role will be extensive” this season.

It might be extensive next season as well because Sproles isn’t going to be a free agent come March. The Eagles announced on Friday morning that they have signed Sproles to a contract extension that runs through the 2017 season. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Sproles will make $4.5 million in 2017.

“Being one of the oldest guys, to know you’re going to be here a little bit longer, that’s a good feeling,” Sproles said, via the team.

Sproles leads all NFL players in all-purpose yards since 2007 and has continued to be a jack of all trades since coming to the Eagles in a 2014 trade. Pederson’s words suggest he’ll be a runner, receiver and returner again this year as the Eagles move forward with a backfield that also includes Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood.

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Arian Foster to open Dolphins camp on the PUP list

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Arian Foster’s Dolphins debut is going to be a little later than expected.

The veteran running back was among a group of five players who will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, the team announced.

Cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain, running back Damien Williams and linebacker Zach Vigil joined him on that list.

Foster was signed last week, after visiting a taking a physical. The fact they signed him suggested he was sufficiently recovered from last year’s torn Achilles, and he said he was healthy and wanted to prove he was still a “pro Bowl-caliber player.”

He may do that, but it’s not going to be this weekend, apparently.

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Isaiah Crowell: “I’m being accountable for my mistakes and I apologize”

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 13: Running back Isaiah Crowell #34 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns have made it clear Isaiah Crowell is not going to be able to just apologize his way out of trouble.

But after posting and deleting an inflammatory image of a masked man stabbing a police officer in the neck (which came between police officers killing two men in Louisiana and Minnesota, but before the killings of five police officers in Dallas), Crowell continues to emphasize to whoever will listen that he’s not going to be defined by his terrible social media mistake.

According to Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns running back used at least five versions of “that’s not who I am” during his press conference at the start of camp.

He’s also issued a video apology, promised to donate his first game check to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation and attended the funeral of Patrick Zamarripa, one of the police officers who was killed in Dallas. He’s also met with local police, trying to soothe feelings that are understandably raw.

“I feel like I have to prove [that’s not who I am] every day,” Crowell said. “I feel like I can shake it off and move on. My main focus is football and trying to be the best I can be for my teammates and coaches. I understand what’s going on.

I understand what’s going on. I’m being accountable for my mistakes and I apologize.”

Crowell has admitted at every juncture that the grisly image was wrong, but he also comes from a background which makes a certain distrust of police understandable. He said he’s had friends and family members have  “situations with police,” but wasn’t trying to justify his mistake either.

“I feel like that did have part of my emotions that day,” he admitted. “But I feel like there’s still no excuse for what happened and I apologize for it. . . .

“I want to be part of the solution and not the problem, and posting that picture I was part of the problem. I don’t want to be that.”

Those are the right words to say. More importantly, his actions since making his mistake indicate a genuine contrition, and will be the only way for Crowell to remain in the team’s good graces.

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Le’Veon Bell admits he has known since March of missed tests

Le'Veon Bell AP

When word first surfaced that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was facing a suspension for a missed drug test, Bell denied knowing anything about it. He was lying.

On Thursday, Bell admitted that the NFL notified him in March that he was facing discipline for a missed test. That contradicts what he said in June, when he claimed he had absolutely no knowledge of such discipline.

I don’t know what you are talking about,” Bell said, two months after the NFL had informed him. “People are going to say what they want to say on the Internet. It is people who really have nothing to do. I don’t get upset or let it bother me.”

Mark Madden, the Pittsburgh radio host who tweeted in June that there was a “pretty strong rumor” Bell was facing a suspension for a missed test, writes today, “Le’Veon Bell lied.”

That’s exactly what Bell did, and it was foolish. He could have simply said, “The NFL’s drug-testing policy is confidential, so I won’t talk about it.” Instead, he lied.

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Shhhh, don’t tell anybody, Julio Jones seems to be OK after practice injury

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 22:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons is introduced prior to the game against the Indianapolis Colts at the Georgia Dome on November 22, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones wasn’t able to finish the first practice of training camp with some degree of injury, but coach Dan Quinn said to trust him, everything was just fine.

According to Vaughn McClure of, Jones suffered a minor injury, and was seen on the sidelines stretching both legs to deal with the pain.

Quinn said it wasn’t cramps, but wouldn’t give any other information, saying: “I’m not going to disclose that. He’ll be back in there tomorrow.”

“We just held him out,” Quinn said. “He had a little tweak, so we just decided to hold [him]. He’ll likely be back in there for tomorrow. He could have gone back in today and was asking me to, but I decided not to.”

The good news is that their best player is OK, but it’s disappointing that another coach is already playing coy with information so early in camp. It’s not a full-on John Fox/Kremlin approach, but it seems more difficult that it needs to be, considering the information is of major interest to his entire fanbase.

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Koetter tells Bucs “the outside world doesn’t know how good this team is going to be”

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As the Buccaneers prepared to open camp, they received the perfunctory introductory speech from their first-year head coach. And while Dirk Koetter opted not to share publicly the remarks he privately delivered to his players, one of his players opted not to be quite as discreet.

“Dirk basically said we’re striving for a championship around here and we’ve got some good, good players,” tackle Demar Dotson said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ve got a young group of good players and the outside world doesn’t know how good this team is going to be. He stressed that we know it. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know it right now. We’ve got to keep building because we’re not where we’re supposed to be yet. But he said we’re going to come out of that tunnel, Lord willing, when we play Atlanta [on September 11] and then we’re going to show the world.’’

The early reviews on Koetter’s methods have been positive, at least as far as Dotson is concerned.

“Dirk has that player-coach feel, but you’ve got to respect him because he tells you what he wants and he demands it out of you,” Dotson said. “But also he keeps it loose around here. Nobody is tight. You’re not walking around here scared to do something. He lets you be a man, he lets you be a pro but he demands that respect from you.”

The Buccaneers could be demanding respect from everyone, if in the first year with Koetter as coach and the second year with Jameis Winston as quarterback and the first year with Mike Smith as defensive coordinator it all comes together for a team that has struggled to be relevant for most of the current decade — and that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2007.

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John Schneider: Seahawks will look at veteran backup QB options

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 7:  Quarterback Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks to throw against the Oklahoma State Cowboys November 7, 2015 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Horned Frogs 49-29. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) Getty Images

Backup quarterback may be the biggest uncertainty for the Seattle Seahawks as training camp gets set to begin on Saturday.

For the first time since Russell Wilson won the starting job in 2012 over Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn, the Seahawks don’t have a veteran option sitting behind Wilson on the sidelines.

Undrafted rookie free agent Trevone Boykin and 2015 undrafted free agent Jake Heaps are the only two quarterbacks on the roster outside of Wilson. Jackson, who handled the duties for the last three years, likely won’t be back after allegedly pulling a gun on his wife and being charged with aggravated assault.

While general manager John Schneider said that Boykin has done some nice things over the offseason since being signed in May, he also said the team would keep looking for quarterback options elsewhere as well.

“Yep, absolutely. And we do that with every position. We’ll have one, two, three guys like on standby,” Schneider said.

“I like all our players, I’m just never really one of those guys that’s like, ‘Yeah, we got this. We got this.’ You know what I mean?” he added. “Pete’s job is to instill confidence in people and he does a great job; it’s one of his best attributes, making everybody feel great about themselves and instilling confidence in their abilities. My job is to be forward thinking and our staff – Dan (Morgan), Trent (Kirchner), Scott (Fitterer) – to be ready for what’s coming next if it doesn’t work out.”

Schneider said he believes Boykin would have been a third- to a fifth-round pick if not for his legal troubles prior to the Alamo Bowl with TCU in December. He also said that he believes Boykin has handled the transition to becoming a professional well so far.

“Great athlete, tons of arm strength,” Schneider said of Boykin. “I like the way he dialed himself in as a pro in that short period of time he was here, kind of studying and watching Russell and learning as much as he possible can. He started putting together some practices that were consistent all the way through instead of – he’s a rookie, so that’s why that’s impressive.”

However, that won’t keep Seattle from seeing what else is available. The Seahawks reportedly put in a waiver claim on Connor Shaw earlier this month. As teams release veterans – like the Rams did by cutting Nick Foles on Wednesday – Seattle will likely be inquiring about potential fits as Wilson’s backup.

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Paul Posluszny believes Jaguars are most talented team he’s been on

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Paul Posluszny has been on a lot of bad football teams.

He’s never experienced a winning season in nine years in the NFL. A pair of 7-9 teams in Buffalo are the best he’s been a part of during his career.

Posluszny knows bad rosters when he sees them. That’s why he’s hopeful this year is different with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

According to Mike DiRocco of, Posluszny believes the 2016 Jaguars are the most talented team he’s been a part of during his NFL career.

“I would definitely say so,” Posluszny said Wednesday. “Especially with depth, the group that we have here is the most talented since I’ve been in Jacksonville, for sure. It’s exciting because you say, ‘Hey, we have guys that can be elite players at multiple positions.’ It’s been a long time since we’ve had that.”

That bar isn’t exactly a high one to clear. Jacksonville has won just 19 games in five seasons since Posluszny joined the team in 2011.

However, this iteration of the Jaguars seems far less anemic than in previous years. The offense showed it can move the football and score points with consistency last season and the defense has been bolstered by the additions of Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Amukamara, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack.

Potential doesn’t mean anything though unless it translates to wins and losses, but the Jaguars seem positioned to be much more capable of finding victories than they’ve been in nearly a decade.

Maybe even good enough for Posluszny to be a part of a winning team for the first time in his career.

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Case Keenum not looking over his shoulder

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Case Keenum #17 of the St. Louis Rams sits on the turf during a game against the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

On what coincidentally was the first day of the NFL draft in 1999, I ran a half marathon roughly 30 miles outside of Columbus, Ohio. Several hundred people showed up to trudge through neighborhoods and back roads. Five or six miles in to the 13.1-mile race, I came to a spot where it wasn’t clear whether to turn right or keep going straight. Based on the markings on the road, it looked like I should turn right, but the lead pack(s) had gone straight.

So I decided to turn. And it quickly became obvious that roughly 50 people who had been in front of me had gone the wrong way. Which meant that, halfway through a half marathon, I was in first place.

I knew it wouldn’t last. But I enjoyed it while it did. And I didn’t bother to check behind me, because I knew that ultimately there was nothing I could do to hold off the guy who was going to win. (Along with plenty of others.)

I thought of that day for the first time in a long time after I saw this headline at “Arriving at camp above Rams’ depth chart, Case Keenum not looking over his shoulder.”

There’s no reason for Keenum to look over his shoulder. It’s just a matter of time before he’ll be passed by rookie first-rounder Jared Goff.

Sure, the Rams may try to make it look like Keenum has a chance to play most or all of the season, for the same reason they toyed with everyone for two-plus weeks before making it known that Goff would be the first overall pick. They also may want to give Goff a chance to build confidence by creating the impression that he actually accomplished something instead of having the starting job handed to him.

So enjoy the lead while you can, Case. Eventually, you’ll be looking at the back of a blue jersey with “GOFF” in gold letters.

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Chris Clemons tells Seahawks he’s retiring

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Defensive Chris Clemons #91 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up before a game against the San Francisco 49ers on October 18, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 13-6.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Veteran defensive end Chris Clemons has told the Seattle Seahawks he is retiring and will not be reporting to training camp on Friday.

Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network was the first to report that Clemons second tenure with Seattle was over before it really ever got started. The team confirmed Clemons had informed them of his retirement on Thursday night.

Seattle acquired Clemons from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 along with a fourth-round draft pick in exchange for defensive end Darryl Tapp. Clemons quickly became Seattle’s most dominant pass rusher, recording 33.5 sacks over the next three seasons. Clemons became a salary cap casualty following the Seahawks win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.

Clemons had 11 sacks in two seasons with the Jaguars before being released and re-signing with Seattle in April.

Clemons, 34, would have been fighting for a spot on the back-end of Seattle’s roster. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark are the top three edge rushers for the Seahawks. Clemons would have been competing with younger players such as Cassius Marsh, Ryan Robinson and undrafted free agent signings David Perkins and Montese Overton.

Instead, Clemons has elected to call it a career. Despite not earning a starting role in the first six years of his career, Clemons still compiled 69 sacks in his 12-year career.

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Jason Peters questions Chip Kelly’s methods

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Tackle Jason Peters #71 of the Philadelphia Eagles on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Eagles prepare for their first season without Chip Kelly as head coach, a key member of the offense has opted to point out some of the factors that undermined the team’s performance under the man who preceded Doug Pederson.

“We practiced on Tuesdays when Chip was here, and you felt it on Sundays,” tackle Jason Peters said Thursday, via “I did anyway.”

Regardless of the days on which practice happens, Peters questioned Kelly’s emphasis on constant uptempo workouts.

“If you run 100 times in a row, back to back to back, don’t you think your 50th time you’re going to be a little slower?” Peters said. “But if you get a little bit of a rest, you’re going to be a little bit faster. . . . It’s give and take. When you go back to the huddle and you get that wind, you’re just a little stronger when you go back to the line, so I think it will help.”

Beyond wearing out the players, Peters thinks the Eagles had a hard time out thinking opposing defenses.

“I mean, this is the National Football League, and if the running back is to the left and you’re running the zone read, where do you think the ball is going?” Peters said. “To the right. . . . They caught up to us. . . . We just needed to change a little bit up, especially with [quarterback Sam Bradford] back there. They know he’s not gonna run it, so it kind of put our hands behind our back. . . .

“[The coaches] call the play, and we execute it. But when the [opponents] know, and they’re professionals too, and they know what the play is, it’s tough.”

There’s no guarantee the Eagles will be any better with Kelly out, but fans of the team that has inherited should be concerned about the possibility that they’ll eventually be yearning for Jim Tomsula.

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DeMarcus Ware says he could play tomorrow

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 17:  DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos comes out of the tunnel during player introductions before the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos have placed linebacker DeMarcus Ware on the non-football injury list. But it sure sounds like he still is dealing with a football injury.

“It’s just a lingering back issue and everything,” Ware told reporters on Thursday. “Now, they are just being a lot more precautious. Are you going to beat him through training camp or are you going to really take care of the veteran and make sure he is ready for the season?”

Still, Ware doesn’t seem to be concerned by the team’s decision to characterize his football injury as a non-football injury.

“I don’t know what to categorize it — if it’s PUP or NFI — but you can’t do any of the field activities,” Ware said. “You have to sit back, watch the walk through and go through your treatment until they feel like you are ready for football activities.”

Whatever the label, Ware downplayed the condition.

“If I had the choice if the game was tomorrow, I’d be out there playing,” Ware said. “The timeline is what the trainers think and what [John] Elway and all those guys think, what they want to do right now and just going from there with their plan. . . . It’s just soreness and working through the soreness. I wouldn’t say there is any discomfort. Now it’s strengthening and making sure it’s strengthened through the whole season instead of just saying, ‘OK, you’re just ready to play the first preseason game.’ Let’s get it all the way to the point where it’s iron clad and it can withstand the whole season.”

The whole season includes the postseason. Last postseason, Ware was far from 100 percent.

“I was around 70 percent in the playoffs. Now, knowing everything is right and having some time off in the preseason to get everything stronger and a lot more stable, I’ll be at 94 percent when all said and done,” Ware said, referring to his number.

Along the way, Ware has a clear incentive to play as much as he can, and to get as many sacks as possible. After reducing his $10 million salary to $6.5 million, he can earn the $3.5 million back by racking up 13 sacks.

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