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New York A.G. pushes NFL to clarify position on sexual orientation

Eric Schneiderman AP

When reports surfaced of inappropriate questions being asked of incoming rookies at the Scouting Combine, the NFL responded.  New York’s attorney general wants more.

According to CNN, Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell seeking a clear commitment that players won’t be subjected to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Equal protection under the law is an essential issue for employers, employees and prospective job applicants,” Schneiderman wrote.  “For that reason, I ask that the league clarify its position by issuing a public statement that any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation by league teams or their employees or agents against potential recruits or players constitutes a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractual law, and will not be tolerated.”

Schneiderman is on the right track, but anyone can issue a strongly-worded statement containing comments that are fairly obvious.  Real change will come only if, for example, the NFL discloses the results of the investigation into questions posed to Colorado tight end Nick Kasa (including “do you like girls?”), including any discipline imposed.

Beyond that, acceptance of gay players will occur only after the persons in positions of power with the teams, not the league, establish the appropriate tone.  The owners, coaches, and General Managers need to say, unequivocally, that gay players are welcome on their teams, and that any discrimination or hostility in the workplace will not be tolerated.

Likewise, the NFL and the NFLPA should agree promptly to an expansion of the labor deal that permits significant punishment to be imposed on players who subject teammates known or suspected to be gay to physical or verbal intimidation or harassment.

If the NFL and its teams choose to make the creation of an appropriate atmosphere of acceptance a priority, the appropriate atmosphere will be created.  Until that happens, the fact that no gay player has come out of the closet should surprise no one.

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Steelers decline fifth-year option on Jarvis Jones

New York Giants v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, per multiple reports.

The deadline for picking up the options on 2013 first-round picks is midnight Monday. If the Steelers were debating the option or potentially negotiating a long-term deal with Jones is unclear.

The option would have paid Jones $8.4 million in 2017, so the Steelers declining it makes financial sense.

The two sides can still negotiate a long-term deal. His rookie contract will now expire following the 2016 season.

Jones started 15 games in 2015 and had his best season, recording two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. He has started 26 of 36 career games and has just five sacks in three seasons.

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Vikings sign Moritz Boehringer

92632828 Getty Images

Moritz Boerhinger has another “first” to add to his list of accomplishments: He’s the first draft pick to sign a contract in 2016.

The Vikings have announced that the sixth-rounder from Germany who played no college football has agreed to terms on a four-year deal.

The man who made the pick, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, appeared on Monday’s PFT Live. I asked, “How can you evaluate someone who never played college football?”

Spielman laughed and said coach Mike Zimmer asked Spielman the exact same question.

It won’t be easy for Boehringer, because he’s never faced competition of the quality he’s about to see. We’ll all see whether he can meet the challenge.

He has the physical skills to do it, but the game is a lot more than that. With Zimmer’s guidance, maybe Boehringer can gradually become a real contributor.

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Dana Stubblefield faces rape allegation

dana-stubblefield-2 Getty Images

Former NFL defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield faces rape charges in California.

According to Jason Green of Bay Area News Group, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office formally accused Stubblefield, 45, of raping a “developmentally delayed” female.

“This was a crime of violence against a vulnerable victim,” Deputy District Attorney Tim McInerny said in a statement. “She was looking for a job and she was unconscionably assaulted.”

Stubblefield allegedly contacted the woman through an online service under the guise of looking for a nanny. He allegedly interviewed her on April 9, 2015, she left, and she soon received a text message from Stubblefield indicating he wanted to pay her for her time.

At that point, she allegedly returned to the house, where Stubblefield allegedly picked her up, carried her to a room, and raped her. He then allegedly gave her $80 and let her leave.

The alleged victim went directly to a police station and said she’d been raped by a man named Dana. Stubblefield’s DNA allegedly matched DNA obtained from the victim.

Stubblefield is accused of five felony counts and faces, according to prosecutors, a substantial prison sentence if convicted.

He spent 11 years in the NFL, playing for the 49ers from 1993 through 1997, Washington from 1998 through 2000, the 49ers again in 2001 and 2002, and the Raiders in 2003. A three-time Pro Bowler, Stubblefield was the 1993 NFL defensive rookie of the year and the 1997 NFL defensive player of the year.

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Saints add 19 undrafted free agents

New Orleans Saints line up hemet-to-helmet for play  against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers January 1, 2006 in Tampa. The Bucs defeated the Saints 27 - 13 to win the NFL South Championship and a playoff spot. Getty Images

The Saints have supplemented their draft class by adding 19 undrafted free agents. The team announced the full slate of rookies who chose the Saints, and not vice-versa, on Monday.

The new Saints are Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Allen, Wisconsin defensive back Mike Caputo, Texas A&M offensive lineman Joseph Cheek, Colorado defensive back Ken Crawley, Western Kentucky wide receiver Jared Dangerfield, Mississippi defensive back Trae Elston, Texas A&M defensive back De’Vante Harris, Boise State offensive lineman Marcus Henry, Michigan running back Sione Houma, Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee, Northern Illinois receiver Tommylee Lewis, Arkansas defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen, BYU offensive lineman Ryker Mathews, Alabama defensive lineman D.J. Pettway, North Carolina linebacker Jeff Schoettmer, Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Dominique Tovell, North Carolina offensive lineman Landon Turner, Ball State receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert, and Auburn offensive lineman Avery Young.

Coupled with the team’s five draft picks, that’s 24 new players and not a single new quarterback. So much for the chatter that they were considering Paxton Lynch.

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Bills decline fifth-year option on EJ Manuel

EJ Manuel AP

The Bills officially have two quarterbacks entering contract years.

Starter Tyrod Taylor, who signed a two-year deal in 2015, already was on the front end of the final season of his stay, pending an extension. Joining him is 2013 first-rounder EJ Manuel.

Per multiple reports, the Bills opted not to pick up the fifth-year option on Manuel.

It’s the latest confusing signal from the club regarding a quarterback who has moved up and down the depth chart, repeatedly, in three NFL seasons. And it’s the clearest sign yet that the Bills admit the decision to select him three years ago with the 15th overall pick was a mistake.

Manuel started 10 games at a rookie, four in 2014, and two last year. His 2015 starts came when Taylor was injured.

For his career, Manuel has a 59.1-percent completion percentage, 3,371 passing yards, 19 touchdown passes, and 15 interceptions. He also has lost four fumbles.

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Patriots won’t pick up Jonathan Cooper’s option

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Wide receiver Michael Floyd #15 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with teammates John Brown #12 and Jonathan Cooper #61 after scoring a three-yard touchdown against linebacker Zach Orr #54 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter of the NFL game at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t make a first-round pick in 2013, but they did have a decision to make about a 2017 option for a player who did go on the first day of the draft that year.

New England acquired guard Jonathan Cooper in a trade with the Cardinals this offseason that sent defensive end Chandler Jones to the desert, leaving them with the chance to secure the rights to Cooper beyond this season. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is passing on that chance, which sets Cooper up for free agency after the 2016 campaign.

Cooper missed his entire rookie season with a broken leg and made 11 starts over the last two seasons for Arizona while playing in 24 games. That’s not the kind of track record that leads teams to pick up $11.9 million options that are guaranteed against injury only.

There were five offensive linemen selected in the first 10 picks of the 2013 draft. Cooper, Jaguars tackle Luke Joeckel and Titans guard Chance Warmack have all had their options declined while tackle Lane Johnson signed an extension with the Eagles, making Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher the only member of that group to have his option exercised.

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Sanchez sees decision to draft quarterback as vote of confidence

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In Philadelphia, the incumbent veteran quarterback reacted poorly to the team’s decision to use a first-round pick on a quarterback. In Denver, the opposite has occurred.

Veteran Mark Sanchez said Monday that he regards the decision to draft a quarterback instead of acquiring a more experience passer as a positive.

“Absolutely,” Sanchez told reporters as to whether he views the move as a vote of confidence. “That’s been the message that I’ve received. I’m thrilled about this opportunity.”

Then again, it sounds as if Sanchez was going to view the glass as half full regardless of how much of the milkshake another quarterback drank out of it.

“Whether it was a veteran that came in, any of the names that were out there, any of these guys in the draft that are becoming pros this year, my focus wouldn’t change,” Sanchez said. “The most important thing for me was getting involved with the players here, meeting these guys, develop a relationship, learn this playbook as fast as I can and then get involved in the community and establish myself as a leader on this team. That’s going to take time and that’s going to take reps, no matter who was here. It happens to be Paxton [Lynch]. We’re happy. He’s a great talent. He’s going to add to our quarterback room. That’s going to make it fun.”

Sanchez said he texted a note of congratulations to Lynch and all of the rookies.

“It’s a special day for all of those guys,” Sanchez said. “Drafted or undrafted, they’re realizing their NFL dreams. That was the first thing I said. ‘Congratulations on that, welcome to the team, holler if you need anything.’”

Sanchez also had no expectation that he’d heat from coach Gary Kubiak or G.M. John Elway before the team acquired a quarterback.

“They don’t owe me that,” Sanchez said. “They don’t owe me anything like that [or] any of the players. This is their team. They’re going to do exactly what they want to do. I think the message is clear. We’ll roll with that. I’m excited to be a part of it. We’re just getting rolling. It’s Phase Two [of the offseason program]. It was fun today, so it was nice to get on the field with these guys.”

Eventually, Sanchez and Lynch will be competing for the starting job. Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015, also will be in the mix. The former Northwestern quarterback told reporters on Monday that he “absolutely” believes he has a chance to win the starting job.

Siemian has a built-in advantage, because he knows the offense and learned last year from Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. With, as Siemian said, an expectation that reps will be divided evenly in the offseason, Siemian has a chance.

“I think I don’t try and do anything crazy,” Siemian said. “I think [if I] play my best football, I’ve got a chance. I’m going to take it one day at a time and go from there.”

One thing we know about the Broncos is that whoever is playing the best will get to play on Sundays. The team that pulled the plug on Tebowmania, benched Peyton Manning, and then benched Brock Osweiler has proven that, when it comes to the quarterback position, there’s no sacred cow or anointed one. The best player plays, and that attitude coaches all players to play their best.

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Jake Coker among 16 undrafted free agent signings by Cardinals

during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. Getty Images

Heading into the draft, there was some thought that the Cardinals would take a young quarterback to develop behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.

The seven rounds of the draft came and went without Arizona taking a quarterback, but the team added an undrafted rookie with a winning pedigree to the mix on Monday. The Cardinals announced that they have signed former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker, who piloted the Crimson Tide offense on their way to a national title in his final college season.

Coker’s play wasn’t the biggest reason why Alabama did so well in 2015 and the fact that he was both not invited to the Combine and undrafted speaks to the general feeling that an NFL career is an iffy bet. If he shows promise, the Cardinals could keep him ahead of Matt Barkley as their No. 3, however.

The Cardinals also signed a pair of long snappers. Daniel Dillon, who went to Campbell, and Kameron Canaday, who went to Portland State, will be in the mix to replace the retired Mike Leach.

The rest of the Cardinals signings are Arizona running back Jared Baker, Appalachian State wide receiver Jeff Bethard, Calgary cornerback Eli Bouka, Notre Dame wide receiver Amir Carlisle, Eastern Washington tackle Clay DeBord, Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley, SW Oklahoma State cornerback Trevon Hartfield, Duquesne wide receiver Chris King, LSU linebacker Lamar Louis, Nebraska tackle Givens Price, Fresno State punter Garrett Swanson, Monmouth tight end Hakeem Valles and Western Michigan cornerback Ronald Zamort.

 

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Long snapper “very surprised” Lions drafted him

jimmylandes AP

If you were surprised when you saw the Lions draft Baylor long snapper Jimmy Landes on Saturday, you’re not alone. Landes was surprised too.

I was very surprised,” Landes said, via MLive.com. “I was expecting free agency, just because I know how rare long snappers get drafted. I wasn’t expecting anything in the draft.”

If you enjoy a good, old-fashioned long snapper training camp competition, you’ll want to keep an eye on the Lions’ camp. Landes will compete for a roster spot with Don Muhlbach, the team’s longest-tenured player. Muhlbach re-signed with the Lions this offseason and got $80,000 guaranteed, and Landes knows he’ll have to out-perform Muhlbach in camp to get the job.

“I’m getting ready to meet him and just compete,” Landes said. “That’s what I was expecting to do, just whatever team I went to I was expecting to compete, so that’s what I’m ready to come in and work hard.”

The Lions wouldn’t use a draft pick on Landes if they weren’t confident he could beat out Muhlbach. Landes was a surprise draft pick, but now it would be a surprise if he doesn’t make the roster.

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Report: Dre Kirkpatrick had shoulder surgery

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28:  Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos looks for room to run against cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick #27 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 28, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals took a cornerback in the first round of the draft for the third time in the last five years when they took William Jackson with the 24th overall pick, a move that gives them an option in place in the event Dre Kirkpatrick leaves as a free agent after this season.

It also gives them an option in the event Kirkpatrick’s health is a problem again during the 2016 season. Kirkpatrick dealt with a shoulder injury for much of last season — he was initially injured in Week Three — and Coley Harvey of ESPN.com reports that he had surgery earlier this offseason to repair the problem.

Kirkpatrick, who also appeared on the injury report with a variety of lower body injuries, is still rehabbing after the procedure and is expected to be healthy enough to participate in OTAs when they begin later this month. He didn’t miss any games last season, but his play — which featured 70 tackles and 16 passes defensed — came in for some criticism over the season.

The Bengals re-signed Adam Jones this offseason and have 2014 first-round pick Darqueze Dennard on the roster at cornerback as well.

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Jaguars won’t pick up Luke Joeckel’s 2017 option

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 08:   Luke Joeckel #76 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 8, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Offensive tackles went with the first two picks of the 2013 draft, but only one of them had the fifth year of their contracts exercised for the 2017 season.

According to multiple reports, the Jaguars will decline to exercise their option on Luke Joeckel. Joeckel, the first draft pick of the General Manager Dave Caldwell/coach Gus Bradley era, went second in the 2013 draft behind Eric Fisher, whose $11.9 million option was exercised by the Chiefs on Monday.

If there’s any surprise about the news, it’s only because Joeckel was drafted at such a lofty position.

His play hasn’t been good enough for the Jaguars to justify keeping him at that salary and the team may not even have him in the starting lineup this season. They signed former Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum as a free agent and Joeckel may be shuffled inside to guard if Beachum wins the job this offseason.

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Colts announce 21 UDFA signings

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: An Indianapolis Colts helmet sits on the sidelines during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 29, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts on Monday announced that they’ve agreed to terms with 21 undrafted free agents.

The Colts didn’t draft a wide receiver, so it’s no surprise to see five wide receivers among the group of 21 undrafted players who will vie for roster spots. Those five are Daniel Anthrop, Chester Rogers, MeKale McKay, Marcus Leak and Tevaun Smith.

The 6-foot-5 McKay started his college career at Arkansas and finished it at Cincinnati, where he had 17 career touchdown catches.

The rest of the undrafted group includes defensive end Sterling Bailey, guard Isiah Cage, cornerback Daniel Davie, running back Josh Ferguson, tight end Darion Griswold, tackle Davante Harris, linebacker Curt Maggitt, safety Stefan McClure, tight end Mike Miller, cornerback Christopher Milton, guard Adam Redmond, linebacker Anthony Sarao, defensive end Delvon Simmons,linebacker Ronald Thompson, cornerback Darius White and safety Andrew Williamson.

Ferguson finished his Illinois career second in school history with 4,474 all-purpose yards. He was a third-team All-Big Ten pick last fall.

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Dolphins cut Damontre Moore

New York Giants defensive end Damontre Moore, left, walks off the field after being ejected during the first half of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) AP

Defensive end Damontre Moore lost his job with the Giants last season after a fight with teammate Cullen Jenkins, ending a run with the team that featured flashes of pass rushing ability mixed in with a penchant for personal fouls that made it hard to consider his contributions to the team a net positive.

Moore landed with the Dolphins on waivers and saw action in three games before the year was out, but he won’t be building on those outings this offseason. The Dolphins announced Monday that they have waived Moore as they make room for rookie additions to the roster.

Moore has 9.5 sacks as a rotation player in 45 career games since entering the league as a 2013 third-round pick of the Giants. The pass rushing ability may earn him another look, but the total package that Moore has brought to the table doesn’t do much to create optimism that it will all come together for a long and productive NFL career.

The Dolphins also waived wide receiver Christon Jones and running back Jahwan Edwards.

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Broncos decline option on Sylvester Williams

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17:  Sylvester Williams #92 of the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on September 17, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos defensive tackle Sylvester Williams is on track to become a free agent after the 2016 season.

According to multiple reports, the Broncos have declined to exercise their team option on Williams’ contract for the 2017 season. The option would have had Williams in line to make over $6.75 million and would have only been guaranteed against injury, but the Broncos opted not to go that route.

Williams, the 28th overall pick of the 2013 draft, started 15 games for the Broncos last season and finished the year with 25 tackles and three sacks. He should remain in the starting lineup this season and told Troy Renck of the Denver Post that he expects to have his best season yet.

Declining the option hardly closes the door on Williams’ return to Denver. Running back Doug Martin and safety/linebacker Mark Barron re-signed with the Buccaneers and Rams respectively this offseason after failing to get their options exercised. If Williams is right about how his 2016 season unfolds, that might make him more expensive than that option price although that’s a risk the Broncos are obviously willing to take.

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Antrel Rolle wants to play Bears, “bust their a–“

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 04:   Antrel Rolle #26 of the Chicago Bears is helped off of the field after being injured against the Oakland Raiders in the second half at Soldier Field on October 4, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bears defeat the Oakland Raiders 22-20.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

After being cut by the Bears, longtime NFL safety Antrel Rolle said he wanted to return to the Giants.

But the more he talks, it sounds like he’d like to play with anyone who plays the Bears next season.

“Like I said, I like the Chicago franchise and the organization,” Rolle said, via Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. “I had a great relationship with all the coaches and players and the general manager. So there’s no hard feelings. I don’t take anything personally. This is a business. This is a performance-based business. And due to my injury, I wasn’t really able to perform that year and really show what I can bring to the table. So I wasn’t shocked by anything.

“But at the end of the day, I am who I am. I’m still a human being. And I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. And like I said, whatever team I go to, I hope Chicago’s on the schedule. Because I’m coming to bust their ass. And that’s that.”

Of course, part of Rolle’s grudge may stem from some dissatisfaction with the playing surfaces there, saying his knee injury was a result of the poor practice field conditions.

While coming back from a high ankle sprain, he suffered a torn MCL on the final play of a practice, and would finish the season on injured reserve.

“Obviously my ankle was taped up to the max,” he said. “There was so much tape on my ankle where it could barely move. There were a lot of restrictions. I was just pretty much shuffling. I wasn’t even running. I was just shuffling. And I just tried to change direction and I slipped on the surfaces. . . .

“Yeah, I think the surface had a whole lot to do with it. Ya know, it happens man. … The facilities are good in Chicago. The fields are just not as good. I don’t know the reason behind it. I’m a down south guy. I don’t know the soil level or how the maintenance and the upkeep works in the Chicago area. But, yeah, it’s really hard to maintain and just be stable under those conditions. I’m sure that they’ll try to work and fix it.

“I always knew that Soldier Field was bad. I just never knew that the facilities were just as bad.”

Rolle had a reputation for durability before getting to Chicago, so it’s understandable that he’d be upset about missing so much time. And complaints about Soldier Field are nothing new, but it’s surprising to hear such a direct complaint about the practice field.

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