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Bills great George Saimes dies at 71

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George Saimes, a defensive back who helped the Bills win two American Football League titles and was a five-time AFL All-Star, has died at the age of 71.

Saimes’ daughter told the Associated Press her father died Friday night at a hospital in his hometown of Canton, Ohio. He had been suffering from leukemia.

As a rookie in 1963, Saimes made an immediate impact with four interceptions, and in 1964 he had six interceptions and was chosen to the first of his five AFL All-Star teams, helping the Bills win the first of two consecutive AFL titles.

Saimes played for the Bills until 1969, then played three more seasons with the Broncos. At the time of the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Pro Football Hall of Fame picked an All-Time All-AFL Team, and Saimes was one of the team’s two safeties. In 2000 Saimes was added to the Bills’ Wall of Fame.

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Stevie Brown drawing interest, expected to sign soon

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Safety Stevie Brown is one of the members of PFT’s All-Unemployed team, which is the rare team that players are happy to get released from in the spring.

Brown may be getting his walking papers sooner rather than later. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Brown is mulling a handful of offers and that he’s expected to select one of them in the near future.

Schefter reports the Giants are interested in re-signing Brown, who has spent the last three years with the team and would fill a need they’ve been unable to fill elsewhere in free agency. The Cowboys, Falcons, Raiders and Titans are the other teams that Schefter lists as being in the mix for Brown’s services.

Brown played in every game for the Giants last season and started eight games, but definitely looked like he was shaking off the rust that accumulated while he was missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL. He had eight interceptions in a more effective 2012 campaign, which is likely what any team picking him up will be looking for once he gets rolling in 2015.

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Gary Kubiak, Broncos having no issues crossing schemes

Gary Kubiak AP

The Broncos have their first week of offseason work in the books and they spent some of their time in the classroom working on installing new coach Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme.

There’s been much discussion since Kubiak’s hiring about how his offensive approach will mesh with quarterback Peyton Manning. Kubiak called tailoring the things he likes to do with the things that Manning does well “a big challenge to me right now” earlier in the offseason, but he sounded pleased with the early results.

“Crossing the schemes, so to speak, was very, very easy. It was really more about verbiage than anything else. What I tried to do is the things that were very close, I tried to hang on to the verbiage that they had been talking here in the past, because I think that made it easier for the players,” Kubiak said, via the team’s website.

There were examples of how the two sides would come together in one offense. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said the team would line up Manning under center more often than he has in the last couple of seasons while Kubiak offered assurances that the no-huddle would still be a frequent part of the mix next season. Another shift is expected to be a larger role for the run game, something that could help keep Manning fresher later in a season that the Broncos have defined in simple and stark terms.

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Texans RB Alfred Blue has a famous workout partner

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Texans running back Alfred Blue had a solid rookie season in 2014, racking up 528 yards as Arian Foster’s top backup.

As Blue tries to hold his spot and earn a bigger role in his second NFL campaign, he is working with a personal trainer, as the Houston Chronicle noted Saturday. That’s not uncommon, but this is: One of Blue’s workout partners happens to be Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. And as Blue sees it, Peterson is primed for a strong return to NFL play this season.

“You see it in his eyes: ‘I’m going to show the world. When I get back out there, I’m going to break it this time,’ ” Blue said, according to Brian T. Smith of the Chronicle.

For his part, Blue, who turns 24 the week of the 2015 NFL Draft, told the Chronicle he does not want the Texans to “overlook me.”

With that in mind, Blue is not taking anything for granted.

“They tell you every year that nobody’s set, nobody’s safe,” Blue told the Chronicle. “You’ve got to come in every year like you just got drafted or like you’re an undrafted free agent trying to make the team.”

That Blue knows he cannot rest on his laurels is a good sign. He flashed his readiness for a bigger workload as a rookie, when he racked up 156 yards on 36 carries in his first career start. His willingness to work on his own to stay sharp suggests he’ll be ready the next time his number is called.

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Buccaneers spoke to district attorney as part of Winston research

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During Friday’s Outside the Lines on ESPN, Bob Ley said that William Meggs, the local district attorney in Tallahassee, claimed that he has not been contacted by the NFL or any team.  According to a Buccaneers source, however, that information isn’t accurate.

Per the source, the Buccaneers have spoken to the district attorney’s office as part of an extensive due diligence process in which the team has engaged regarding Winston.

The communication occurred well in advance of Friday’s report, the source explained.  And it makes sense; having the first overall pick imposes an obligation to spend plenty of time and resources to research the players who potentially may be selected.  With Winston, that time and resources have been devoted, both as to the allegations made by Erica Kinsman and all other incidents that relate to him in any way.

UPDATE 10:03 p.m. ET:  Per the source, the Buccaneers communicated directly with assistant district attorney Georgia Cappleman, who did the bulk of the work on Kinsman’s claims.

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Mike Williams, Brad Smith added to PFT’s All-Unemployed Team

Mike Williams AP

Since published last week, PFT’s All-Unemployed Team has undergone a little turnover, with center Stefen Wisniewski (Jacksonville) and Michael Crabtree (Oakland) among those departing for the ranks of the job-holding.

With Crabtree gone, we had one spot open at wide receiver. However, we decided to add two receivers to the squad.

And both receivers, as it turns out, were one-time Bills.

However, Mike Williams and Brad Smith are different propositions for NFL clubs. The 27-year-old Williams has three 60-catch seasons to his credit. The 31-year-old Smith, on the other hand, has never caught more than 32 passes in a season.

Williams might have more upside. However, Smith can be used multiple ways. Smith has 134 career carries; Williams has one. Moreover, Smith is a former collegiate quarterback, and he has more special teams experience than Williams.

Williams might be a player who can still be developed. Smith, though, can do several things.

Whom do you prefer?

The answer probably depends on the club.

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Twenty years ago Saturday, Joe Montana called it a career

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As the 49ers’ Twitter feed points out, Saturday is the 20th anniversary of quarterback Joe Montana’s retirement from the NFL.

Montana’s departure came after two seasons with Kansas City, which traded a first-round pick for him in April 1993.

While Montana wasn’t able to finish his career with the franchise with whom he won four Super Bowls, the trade worked out well for him, the Niners and the Chiefs.

Let’s review.

The Chiefs made the postseason in both of Montana’s seasons as a starter. He led the club to a pair of playoff wins in ’93 — the franchise’s last two postseason victories to date. His Kansas City seasons were a bookend to a spectacular career that landed him in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

The 49ers, meanwhile, ended up trading the Chiefs’ first-round pick (No. 18, 1993) to Phoenix, as ProSportsTransactions.com notes. The 49ers then traded down again, landing at No. 26 in Round One, where they selected defensive Dana Stubblefield, who was a starter on their dominant Super Bowl XXIX-winning club of 1994.

But the 49ers’ draft haul from the Montana trade didn’t stop there.

In trading down for Stubblefield, the 49ers landed the No. 81 overall pick, a third-rounder. They packaged a second-round pick (No. 56) and the 81st pick to the Los Angeles Raiders for a second-round pick (No. 41).

It gets better. The 49ers then moved that 1993 second-round pick to the Chargers for San Diego’s first-round pick in the 1994 NFL Draft (No. 15 overall). The Chargers, for the record, took tailback Natrone Means, who helped that franchise get to Super Bowl XXIX.

So what did the 49ers do with the Chargers’ first-round pick? According to ProSportsTransactions.com, the 49ers traded it to the Los Angeles Rams for the No. 7 pick to take defensive tackle Bryant Young — who, like Stubblefield, was a starter at defensive tackle right off the bat. And when the Chargers and 49ers met in Super Bowl XXIX, Means rushed for just 33 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

To review: Joe Montana helped the 49ers win four Super Bowls, and when the franchise moved on from him, it picked up a couple of key pieces needed to win a fifth Super Bowl.

There’s a reason why the 49ers were as good as they were for as long as they were. Did they ever know talent, and did they ever know how to work the draft.

The words “Joe Montana, third-round pick” ought to ring a bell, too.

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Gates says he’s not looking to play less

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Chargers tight end Antonio Gates recently said that, instead of playing “the whole game” in 2015, he’s more likely to play only in those situation where he’s likely to get the ball.  He now says he didn’t say what it sounded like he said.

“For me, to put in all this work in all these years and have the opportunity to play and say I don’t want to play, I don’t know where people got that from,” Gates told Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.

They got it from his own words:  “With injuries and whatnot, I played a little bit more than they expected me to play last season,” Gates told TheMMQB.com.  “I was playing the whole game.  How I feel next year, it depends on how much volume they have me doing.  I’d like to come in on third-and-7s, red zones, those situations.  That’s what my contribution is at anyway.”

“It was probably a misquote or a misunderstanding,” Gates explained to Gehlken.  “I ain’t asking to play less.  Every time I’m in a game, I feel like I have the opportunity to make a play.  Why would I want to be on the sideline?  That defeats the purpose.  The only way you can contribute is by being in the game.”

So Gates doesn’t want to play less in 2015.  Regardless of whether he said he does.

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Marcedes Lewis takes pay cut to stay in Jacksonville

Marcus Gilchrist, Marcedes Lewis AP

Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis was on the trade block, but not anymore.

Lewis has agreed to a new deal and will stay in Jacksonville.

“I’m pumped to be a part of something exciting and be a big part of it,” Lewis told the Florida Times-Union.

The reports about Lewis’s new contract are calling it a “restructuring” and not a “pay cut,” but a pay cut is what it is. Lewis will turn 31 next month, was scheduled to cost $8.2 million against the Jaguars’ salary cap this season, and caught just 18 passes last year. Obviously, the Jaguars wouldn’t have kept him at his previous cap number.

Now Lewis will stick around another year, and although he’s no longer the top tight end in town after the arrival of Julius Thomas, he’ll get a chance to be a part of turning the Jaguars around.

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Bryant, Wells dispute lingers

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The sending in February of a cease-and-desist letter to the former adviser of Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant hasn’t resolved the situation.

Per multiple sources, Wells still has not complied with specific requests made at the end of the February 20 letter, a copy of which PFT has obtained.

“You have until 5 p.m. EST, Monday, February 23, 2015 to provide us with the requested money and materials, as well as written confirmation of your compliance with the demands set forth in this letter,” the communication from Jordan W. Siev to Wells states.  “Absent your full and immediate compliance with these demands, we will take all appropriate actions to enforce our client’s rights, which may include commencing litigation against you to assert claims of conversion, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, among other claims, seeking a preliminary injunction, and seeking an award of compensatory and punitive damages, and reimbursement of all of our costs and attorneys’ fees resulting from your actions.”

The letter specifically refers to a payment received by Wells on Bryant’s behalf from BioSteel Sports Supplements.  Bryant’s representatives contend that Wells kept the money.

It’s unclear at this point whether any legal action will be taken by Bryant against Wells.  According to one source, the primary purpose of the letter was to terminate the power of attorney Wells previously held on behalf of Bryant.

Ultimately, Bryant has the right to change agents and advisers, whenever he wants and for whatever reason.  Bryant made a comment Friday indicating he realizes his agents and advisers work for him, not the other way around.

“I’m the one making the decisions on who to trust and who to be surrounded by,” Bryant said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.  “I’ve surrounded myself with people who I think deserve to be trusted.”

This implies that Bryant believes Wells and other former representatives/advisors didn’t deserve to be trusted.  Which could further alienate Wells, who had been Bryant’s closest confidant and adviser during the early days of his NFL career.

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Wisniewski lands in Jacksonville

Wis AP

Center Stefen Wisniewski has a new home.  Finally.

The free-agent lineman, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Jaguars, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.  The decision came after visits and/or discussions with the Titans, Jaguars, Patriots, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Bears, and Washington.

The short duration of the deal isn’t surprising; at this stage of the free-agency process, the big money is long gone.  So he’ll try to have a big year in Jacksonville and hit the market again in 2016.

A Pittsburgh native, Wisniewski played from the moment he arrived as a second-round pick in 2011, with 61 appearances and 61 starts.  As a rookie, Wisniewski played left guard; he shifted to center in 2012.  Wisniewski became displaced in Oakland when the Raiders signed Rodney Hudson last month.

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Rex Ryan goes after Jace Amaro again

Rex AP

Former Jets coach Rex Ryan continues to hold Jets tight end Jace Amaro accountable for his contention that the Jets weren’t held accountable in 2014, Ryan’s last one with the team.

It’s not the truth,” Ryan said Saturday morning on WFAN radio, via Dom Cosentino of NJ.com.

Rex then became more circumspect in his remarks about Amaro:  “That kid’s a little . . . he’s going to get . . . we’ll see what happens,” Rex told Kimberly Jones..

“I just know it’s not the truth, and for him or anybody else to pop off like that, I think is absolutely a joke,” Ryan said.  “Now, look, if David Harris would have said something, or D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, or someone, I would be hurt by it.  I would be absolutely devastated by it.  But a kid like that?  Nah.  I know him, and that doesn’t bother me one bit.”

If it did bother Rex, his comments presumably would be even stronger.  If that’s even possible.

He’s full of sh-t,” Rex recently told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com, “and I’ll remind him of that when we play him.  Look, we weren’t perfect, and I never said we were going to be perfect.  But that’s a f–king b.s. comment.”

So, basically, I don’t know whether I’d rather see the Bills face the Patriots on the first Thursday night of the season, or the Bills against the Jets on Sunday night.

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Medical re-check provides good news on Todd Gurley

Gurley AP

Former Georgia running back Todd Gurley appears poised to be the first running back selected in the first round of the draft in three years.

Gurley, who looked like a sure-thing first-round pick before suffering a torn ACL in November, had his surgically reconstructed knee inspected by doctors as part of the NFL’s medical-recheck today in Indianapolis. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Gurley’s knee checked out fine and there’s optimism that he’ll be good to go in time for training camp.

That likely means Gurley will go in the first round of the draft, something that we haven’t seen since 2012. In 2013 the first running back selected was Giovani Bernard with the fifth pick in the second round, and in 2014 the first running back selected was Bishop Sankey with the 22nd pick in the second round.

When healthy, Gurley is a powerful runner and kickoff returner with breakaway speed. If NFL teams are convinced he’ll be healthy in time to play a full rookie season, then he should be a high pick.

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Steelers’ doctors clear Jaelen Strong’s wrist

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We noted yesterday that former Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong would miss Saturday’s medical re-check in Indianapolis, and that he had a visit with the Steelers. As it turned out, Strong’s visit allowed the Steelers’ doctors to give Strong’s injured wrist a thorough check.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Strong went through a battery of tests on his wrist during his visit to Pittsburgh. According to Schefter, the Steelers’ doctors cleared Strong and are sending the results of his checkup to other teams.

It’s odd that Strong is getting the re-check from the Steelers’ doctors rather than going through the process that most players recovering from injuries go through in Indianapolis. It’s unclear whether every other team will be satisfied with getting a report from the Steelers’ staff.

Despite a report that Strong would need surgery to repair the broken bone in his wrist, Strong says he played five games through the injury and is fine.

Strong will attend the draft and is viewed as a late-first or early-second-round pick.

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Russell Wilson says Rangers want him to play baseball

Wilson AP

When some of the quotes first emerged from Russell Wilson’s interview with HBO’s Bryant Gumbel regarding Wilson playing baseball, it sounded like the musings of an elite, 25-year-old athlete who thinks he can do anything — but who surely would never undermine his football career by playing professional baseball.  Based on the full interview, it sounds like a stronger possibility.

After Wilson suggests that he may “push the envelope a little bit” and play football and baseball, Gumbel pounces.

“Let’s be blunt,” Gumbel says in an interview that debuts Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. ET.  “You played minor league ball for a while.  Correct me if I’m wrong.  Numbers were .227 average, five homers, 26 RBI.  If the numbers were better, would you [play baseball and football]?”

“I wouldn’t be worried about the statistics of it,” Wilson replies.  “I know I can play in the big leagues.  With the work ethic and all that, I think I definitely could for sure.  And that’s why the Texas Rangers got my rights.  And they want me to play.  Jon Daniels, the G.M., wants me to play.  We were talking about it the other day.”

The Seahawks G.M., John Schneider, was talking about it the other day, too.  And Schneider isn’t ready to assume Wilson would fail.

“I think one of the primary things that really attracted Russell to us — I know me in particular — was the confidence he has in himself and the goals, dreams, aspirations,” Schneider told KIRO radio.  “He’s off the charts in terms of his confidence level and the way he views himself, so it doesn’t surprise me that he would think that way.  Quite frankly, I haven’t thought much about the baseball aspect of it.  Based on the position that he plays in football, I think it would be difficult.  But the way he attacks everything, I don’t think you could put anything past him.”

Schneider also declined to say whether the Seahawks would try to stop Wilson from playing baseball.  It was smart to sidestep the question, because a football-only ultimatum from N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien sparked Wilson to transfer to Wisconsin.

“I’ll never forget it,” Wilson says.  “I’ll never forget the times that people have told me that I couldn’t do something.”

That’s ultimately good news for Schneider and the Seahawks, because Wilson believes the interception at the end of Super Bowl XLIX won’t define him.

“Even if you don’t get back [to the Super Bowl]?” Gumbel says.

“I’ll get back.”

“You’re sure of that.”

“I’ll get back.”

Whether and how often he gets back could depend on how much of the team’s salary cap is devoted to him.  That wasn’t a topic that came up in the interview with Gumbel.  Soon, it’ll be an issue far more important than his lingering baseball dream and Super Bowl nightmare.

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Trent Baalke thinks Aldon Smith is primed for a big year

Aldon Smith AP

Aldon Smith has had so much off-field trouble during his time with the 49ers that there’s been talk that General Manager Trent Baalke should have just cut him. But not only is Baalke not getting rid of Smith, Baalke says Smith is primed for a big 2015 season.

He’s got a great look in his eye. He’s doing well,” Baalke told ESPN. “For anybody that’s been in a situation like Aldon’s been in, every day is a process. But he’s doing exceptionally well and he’s probably in as good a shape as he’s been in a long time.”

Smith missed nine games last season because of an NFL suspension, and when he did play he didn’t play particularly well, with just two sacks in seven games — a sharp decline from his 42 sacks in 43 games in his first three seasons. But Baalke said that Smith has had perfect attendance during offseason workouts and is even taking the lead with his teammates.

“[He’s] starting to develop into a leader out there, which is great to see and been a pleasure to watch,” Baalke said.

For the 49ers, who have experienced plenty of losses elsewhere on the roster, a return to form for Smith would go a long way toward getting their defense back on track. Baalke likes Smith’s chances of making it happen.

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