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Falcons, Steven Jackson agree to terms

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When the Falcons released running back Michael Turner, Steven Jackson was believed to be their choice to replace him.

It took a couple days and some rumored interest from the Packers, but the Falcons got their man. Adam Schefter of ESPN broke the news that Jackson and the Falcons have agreed to terms on a contract that will bring the NFL’s leading active rusher to Atlanta.

Jackson’s a clear upgrade on Turner and he’s been a strong receiver throughout his career, something that could add another wrinkle to a Falcons offense that looks even better than the one that helped them to the NFC Championship Game last year. With Tony Gonzalez coming back, the Falcons appear to be loading up for a run at the Super Bowl.

They’ll need to do some work on defense to get there, namely a pass rusher to replace the departed John Abraham and some secondary help whether or not they bring back Brent Grimes. Jackson’s a big get for them, though, and should be a very good fit in an offense that could have used his skills last season.

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Ben McAdoo: Not accurate that Giants avoided throwing to Victor Cruz

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Wide receiver Victor Cruz got a new job on Thursday when he signed a deal with the Bears for the 2017 season, but he made headlines before that thanks to a radio interview in New York.

Cruz said that his response to a reduction in passes coming his way halfway through the year as “they don’t want me here anymore” and shared his belief that cutting his role made it easier to cut him this offseason because there would be fan backlash if they released a 1,000-yard receiver. A host on 105.1 pointed out that it was hard to believe Eli Manning would not throw to him if he was open and Cruz agreed, but added “that’s the only way” it made sense.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo was asked about Cruz’ comments on Thursday and initially said he wouldn’t answer before going ahead with a denial of Cruz’s suggestion.

“Do you believe it’s accurate? There’s no accuracy to it,” McAdoo said, via NJ.com.

Cruz tried to put some toothpaste back in the tube later in the day, saying that he is “forever grateful” to the Giants and that he never said he felt “sabotaged” by the team. He didn’t use that word, but he made it clear in the interview that he didn’t feel good about the way the team handled him last season.

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Eric Mangini would vouch for Colin Kaepernick, if a team asked

AP

Eric Mangini spent three years as an assistant coach on the 49ers and got to know Colin Kaepernick well, and he wishes some team would call him to ask for advice about Kaepernick. Because Mangini thinks Kaepernick is a player who deserves a chance.

“I haven’t personally talked to anybody about it, but what I will say about Colin is I had a really good experience with Colin,” Mangini said this morning on PFT Live. “I wasn’t there over the last season where the protest and the different off the field issues became more of a focal point. But as a player, his numbers last season weren’t that far off from the year he brought the team to the NFC Championship Game. And he should get an opportunity. I think he’s got to get an opportunity.”

Mangini still believes that at some point before the season, some team is going to realize it has a need at quarterback that Kaepernick can fill.

“I think as the market settles and people start looking at these young quarterbacks they brought in and start evaluating the quarterback situation, they might realize it may not look as good as they hoped it would be,” Mangini said. “I always thought he would be a good fit for the Browns. Hue [Jackson’s] system is multiple shifts and motions, and that’s what he did in San Francisco. Hue has an element of quarterback-driven runs, I think Colin is excellent as that. As a candidate, him vs. RGIII a year ago, I’d take Colin 10 times out of 10.”

The Browns apparently don’t agree, because they’ve shown no interest in Kaepernick. So far only the Seahawks have been identified as a team giving Kaepernick a look. Mangini thinks a lot of other teams are being foolish by ignoring a quarterback who could make a difference.

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Thomas Dimitroff reflects on trading up for Julio Jones

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When Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff gave up two first-round picks, a second-round pick and two fourth-round picks to get the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft, plenty of people thought he was crazy. Even Bill Belichick advised Dimitroff not to give up that kind of draft capital for one player.

So why did Dimitroff do it? He explained on PFT Live that he thought Jones was not just a talented receiver, but a game plan-changing receiver, the kind of player who forced opposing teams to completely change their defenses to account for him.

“We had a budding quarterback, we had a tight end at that time in Tony Gonzalez and we started to grow as an offense, we had Roddy White of course but we were lacking in a really explosive player that was going to have defenses on their heels,” Dimitroff said. “My feeling was, I want to somehow, with a player acquisition, turn teams upside down with their preparation and really cause a distraction, not only on the field on Sunday but through the whole week, of wondering how they’re going to deal with a guy like Julio Jones.”

Dimitroff said there were a handful of elite playmakers on other teams who gave the Falcons nightmares, and the Falcons wanted to start giving opposing teams those same nightmares.

“I don’t know if I’ve been public about this, and this wasn’t the only player, but I remember pulling my hair out when we’d play DeSean Jackson, who would just run roughshod with his speed and his athleticism, and I remember thinking, ‘We need our version of that.’ We need our version, whether Julio Jones catches 14 balls or four balls, we need that. We need teams to be game planning for a person because it takes away their focus on other elements of the game. That’s basically the genesis of the decision,” Dimitroff said.

In Jones, the Falcons got such a player — and probably more production than they could have had from the five players they would have drafted if they hadn’t traded up.

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Ron Rivera: “Unfair” to make too much out of Kelvin Benjamin’s weight

AP

When wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin arrived at the Panthers’ offseason workouts this year, coach Ron Rivera thought he was carrying too much weight and went public with his desire to see the wideout slim down.

Rivera has since said that Benjamin has been working hard as he tries to comply with the coach’s wishes, but that hasn’t stopped photos of Benjamin from becoming fodder for jokes online and across social media. Rivera might have made the issue one for public consumption in the first place, but he took issue with the way others have run with it on Thursday.

“A lot was made out of it that was unfair to be made out of it,” Rivera said, via the Charlotte Observer. “Especially in a voluntary situation. But he’s worked very hard. He’s focused in on what he needs to do and he’s done that. Now we as coaches need to stay on him to make sure he’s doing the right things.”

There’s a lot of time between now and training camp (and even more before the regular season) for Benjamin to shore things up on the conditioning end of things. Assuming he does and, even more importantly, he produces once the games are underway, the weight issue should slip away.

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Breshad Perriman “not thinking about anything but football”

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In his first two seasons, Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman had no shortage of things keeping his mind from being singularly focused on the field.

He hurt his knee on the first day of his first training camp after being the team’s first-round pick in 2015 and missed the entire season and then returned to suffer another knee injury during OTAs last year. His father, former NFL wideout Brett Perriman, suffered a stroke and teammate Tray Walker died in between those injuries to add to the things taking up space in his mind.

Perriman is healthy now and his father is on the mend, leaving him with a chance to turn all his attention toward the game.

“I feel like my concentration level is at a pretty high level right now — an all-time high,” Perriman said, via the Baltimore Sun. “Right now, I’m just going out there, and when I’m on the field, I’m not thinking about anything but football.”

Coach John Harbaugh said that Perriman has “had a really good five weeks” and the Ravens didn’t make any big moves at receiver during the offseason, which leaves them little choice other than having confidence in Perriman’s ability to handle a starring role.

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Andy Reid knew defensive stars would miss OTAs

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Most of the Chiefs are back to work, but coach Andy Reid mostly shrugged when asked about a trio of defensive stars who chose to not volunteer.

Safety Eric Berry, outside linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Marcus Peters are all absent from Organized Team Activities, but Reid said he had spoken to them and knew what was going on.

“I just coach the guys that are here — that’s what I do,” Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “So the guys that are here are hungry for reps, and that will do nothing but help us. . . .

“It’s voluntary, so they can be here or not be here, it’s up to them. I knew about all of them.”

Absences this time of year aren’t necessarily anything new for two of them.

Berry missed the last two year’s worth of OTAs while dealing with contract issues and cancer. Houston’s absences were merely contract and knee-related.

But Peters hasn’t missed this kind of time yet. He’s not in position for an extension yet (he’s entering the third year of his rookie deal so he can’t extend until after this season), and there have been no stated reasons for his absence.

The Chiefs have a mandatory minicamp June 14-16, at which point they’re all obligated to show up or face fines.

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Friday morning one-liners

AP

Bills C Eric Wood feels close to 100 percent after last year’s broken leg.

Laremy Tunsil is happy to be back at left tackle for the Dolphins.

The Patriots want rookie DT Josh Augusta to lose some weight.

The Jets waived/injured WR Brisly Estime after he tore his Achilles tendon.

TE Dennis Pitta is happy to still be with the Ravens.

CB KeiVarae Russell hopes for more playing time on the Bengals defense this time around.

A look at how Ryan Grigson fits into the Browns front office.

Steelers S Sean Davis isn’t lacking confidence.

WR DeAndre Hopkins is looking forward to learning from new Texans assistant Wes Welker.

The Colts defense has gotten a lot younger.

Jaguars LB Myles Jack continues to be mentored by Paul Posluszny.

Titans T Taylor Lewan has thrown his support behind the Predators’ push for a Stanley Cup.

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas is feeling healthy this offseason.

Tyler Bray has been working as the No. 2 quarterback for the Chiefs.

The Raiders are looking for a full season from DE Mario Edwards this year.

G Donavon Clark wants to be a healthy contributor for the Chargers in his second season.

The signs continue to point to LB Jaylon Smith returning to the field for the Cowboys.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo fielded a lot of questions about Odell Beckham on Thursday.

QB Nick Foles had an eventful tour of the league before returning to the Eagles.

QB Kirk Cousins is getting used to a new set of Redskins receivers.

How much can WR Victor Cruz help the Bears?

Lions G T.J. Lang will hit the racetrack for the Detroit Grand Prix.

Ty Montgomery will remain a running back with a wideout’s number for the Packers.

Said Vikings rookie C Pat Elflein, “Yeah, that first meeting, going over the plays, that was my welcome to the NFL moment, especially being a center, you have to be able to use your brain and use it quickly and be decisive.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank likes the relaxation of celebration penalties.

LB Luke Kuechly likes the veteran additions to the Panthers defense.

The Saints paid tribute to the late Cortez Kennedy at practice.

Watch Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick solve a Rubik’s Cube.

Said Cardinals DL coach Brenston Buckner, “I’m not going to chew their food up and then give it to them. I’m going to teach you how to chew it yourself, because when you chew it yourself, you’ll be more satisfied.”

Outlining reasons for optimism about Rams QB Jared Goff.

Kyle Shanahan is growing more comfortable in his role as 49ers head coach.

How long until the Seahawks have all their rookies signed?

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Brandin Cooks would like some clarity on bow and arrow celebration

AP

The NFL eased the rules on celebrations this week, but shooting a bow and arrow may still be forbidden.

Last year the NFL fined and flagged players who mimed shooting a bow and arrow, saying there’s no place for pretending to have a weapon on the field. This year’s relaxed celebration rules still don’t allow anything relating to weapons, so it appears the bow and arrow is still outlawed.

Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks, who along with Josh Norman was among the players who employed the bow and arrow in celebrations, would like some clarity on whether or not it’s allowed.

It’s for God, so if that’s threatening, then I think we’ve got a problem, but I’m going to be respectful,” Cooks said. “If it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty. I’m not going to do anything to hurt the team.”

The NFL has specifically carved out an exception to the penalty against going to the ground for players who are going to the ground in prayer, so if Cooks says his celebration is religious in nature, perhaps the NFL will make an exception for him as well.

Regardless, even with the newly relaxed rules, players aren’t clear on exactly where the lines are drawn. There will be fewer celebration penalties this year, but the controversy isn’t going away entirely.

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Saints see “same old” Adrian Peterson

AP

Fullback John Kuhn saw a lot of Adrian Peterson while Kuhn was with the Packers watching Peterson run against the Green Bay defense as a member of the Vikings.

The two players are now part of the same backfield in New Orleans, something Kuhn said on Thursday that he dreamed about while standing on the opposite sideline. Kuhn also said that Peterson looks like that player despite the passage of time and accumulation of injuries over the years.

“He looks the same way he looked when I was watching him from the other sideline for all those years,” Kuhn said, via ESPN.com. “He looks like the same old AP, and I’m just excited to see him in the same team colors.”

One difference from the “same old AP” in Thursday’s practice was the way he factored into the offense as a receiver, something he didn’t do much in Minnesota. Coach Sean Payton said he looked comfortable and was “on top of the protections,” which are important traits for Peterson to have if he’s going to play a lot in an offense with Drew Brees at quarterback.

Peterson’s presence at the workouts also represented a different approach from the one he usually took with the Vikings as Peterson would often work out on his own during the voluntary stages of the offseason program. That’s likely part of the reason why Payton says the veteran has “picked things up well” and the Saints will hope that all continues to run smoothly once they’re doing more than running plays against air.

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Ryan Tannehill says ACL is fully healed and “totally normal”

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Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill chose to not have surgery on his partially torn ACL, and said that the ligament is healed thanks to stem cell treatments.

“Yeah, it’s really strong and ready to go,” Tannehill said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “I feel good. I’m feeling back to 100 percent.

Everything feels totally normal. I’m going to keep pushing to get better next year.”

Tannehill said he’d continue to wear a knee brace, and that he started feeling strong enough to rehab every day by January. Now, he said there are “no more checkpoints,” and he’s confident about going out in Organized Team Activities.

“I feel like I can make any cut,” he said. “I trust it. That’s the biggest thing, do you trust it? Are you able to move without thinking about whether something’s going to happen. Once it got to that point I felt great about it.”

Tannehill showed progress as a passer last year, and the injury late in the regular season left the Dolphins listless in the playoffs. And as long as he holds up, they should have a chance to build on that this year.

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Former NFL running back Michael Bennett gets five years in prison

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Former NFL running back Michael Bennett will spend the next five years in prison, after pleading no contest to felony charges of burglary and identity theft.

According to Filipa Ioannou of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 38-year-old Bennett took out $225,000 in loans in the name of his girlfriend’s parents. He broke into their home to steal paperwork he used to steal their identities and apply for the loans.

At the time of the incident, he was on probation in Florida for a wire fraud incident.

“The defendant used a position of trust within this victim’s family to exploit and take advantage of them,” district attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement.

Bennett, the 27th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Vikings, was a former Pro Bowler. He also played for the Saints, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Chargers, and Raiders. He made the Pro Bowl after the 2002 season, when he ran for 1,296 yards. But injuries derailed his career after that, and he never rushed for more than 500 yards in any other season.

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It’s huge, jam-packed Friday PFT Live

The unofficial start of summer begins with, unofficially, one of the biggest PFT Live episodes we’ve had since the last time we had a really big episode of PFT Live.

As most of us embark on a three-day Memorial Day weekend (programming note: not us), a three-guest show gets you the football fix you need before you spend your time fixing up all sorts of grilled meats. We’ll speak live with former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini, along with Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine, whose article about the Seahawks drew sharp reactions both from Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett.

The show also includes a two-part interview taped earlier this week with Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff. The segments come from a 70-minute, no-break sit-down from earlier in the week; the full audio has been posted as a PFT Live podcast, and the full video will be posted later today right here.

For right now, get to NBC Sports Radio at 6:00 a.m. ET, and then slide over to NBCSN for the two-hour simulcast.

For now, here’s a quick slice of the Dimitroff interview.

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Victor Cruz just wanted to be loved, feels it in Chicago

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It was clear from Victor Cruz’s recent remarks about his departure from the Giants that he wasn’t feeling loved by his old team.

His new one made sure he got the message.

During an appearance on ESPN Radio’s Waddle & Silvy show, the veteran wide receiver said he was greeted with open arms by the Bears.

“I just wanted to hear that I can have an opportunity to play,” Cruz said of the free-agent process. “To come and be a direct impact to a football team. And Chicago showed me a lot of love. . . . Everyone was adamant about how they felt I could contribute to the football team and be a factor immediately coming right in. And not just as a player but as someone who’s been around football a long time and can come in and provide an insight to different teams and different nuances of the game.

“And I think Chicago presented the best opportunity for me.”

The Bears certainly present that, as they lack proven options in the passing game after losing Alshon Jeffery to the Eagles in free agency. With former first-rounder Kevin White yet to make an impact, they needed targets for Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky.

“I looked at that receiver room and I saw a lot of young guys and a lot of talent in there as well,” Cruz said. “A lot of guys that can benefit from just having someone like me in the room, to pick my brain and for me to tell them how I think we can get better.”

The 30-year-old Cruz said he has “a lot left in the tank” after seven seasons in New York, two of which were lost to knee and calf injuries. The Giants cut him in a cap-saving move this offseason, and he said yesterday that the team was trying to hold him down last year to make it easier to release him.

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Ravens holding Terrell Suggs out of OTAs

AP

The Baltimore Ravens fully understand its May and they don’t need to see anything from Terrell Suggs on the field at this stage of the offseason.

According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, the Ravens are holding the 34-year old linebacker out of the early stages of OTAs.

He probably could practice but I’m holding him out,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s in here training every single day and doing a great job on the conditioning part of it.”

Suggs sustained a torn biceps last October. Despite the injury, he missed just one game before returning the field and playing the rest of the season for the Ravens. He finished the year with 35 tackles and a team-high eight sacks.

The Ravens will need Suggs ready to go in September. They don’t need to see him on the field in May.

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Falcons visited league office to determine limits of OTA contact

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Last year, excessive contact during offseason workouts resulted in the Falcons losing a week of Organized Team Activities. This year, the Falcons left nothing to chance.

G.M. Thomas Dimitroff, appearing on a special 70-minute special edition of PFT Live, explained that he and coach Dan Quinn traveled to the league office to obtain specific guidance regarding the things that can and can’t be done during non-contact practices. The Falcons engaged in a comprehensive review of their offseason workouts with the NFL in order to determine the limits of the process.

For full details, check out the video. For the full, 70-minute interview with Dimitroff download and subscribe to PFT Live in Apple podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else podcasts are sold. For free.

Money back guarantee.

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