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Tavon Austin to visit the 49ers

Tavon Austin AP

The 49ers would like to add speed at wide receiver in next month’s NFL draft, so it’s not a big surprise that they’re planning to meet with one of the speediest playmakers available.

Tavon Austin of West Virginia, a receiver who could also line up at running back in some of the 49ers’ Pistol sets, has a visit planned with San Francisco, according to the Sacramento Bee.

It’s unlikely that Austin will still be available when the 49ers pick at No. 31 overall, but the 49ers have plenty of ammunition if they decide to move up in the first round: San Francisco owns two second-round picks, two third-round picks, two fourth-round picks, two fifth-round picks, one sixth-round pick and four seventh-round picks.

Austin also has visits scheduled with the Patriots, Bengals and Dolphins, and he’s widely viewed as a player who will go in the first half of the first round of the draft. If the 49ers like him, they’re going to have to go up to get him.

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J.J. Watt vows to return in social media statement

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans runs out with the American flag before playing against the New York Jets on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt didn’t shed much light on his injury or his timetable, but he made one thing clear Wednesday — going on injured reserve will not prevent him from being J.J. Watt.

Watt posted a statement to social media, vowing to return and saying the kind of stuff he says a lot.

Adversity sucks, your attitude toward it doesn’t have to. I will be back,” he wrote on Twitter, followed by a lengthier statement.

“I haven’t missed a game since my sophomore year of high school,” it read. “This won’t be fun, but it is necessary in order for me to return to 100 percent and play at the level that I am capable of playing at. Everybody deals with adversity in their lives, many much worse than what I’m going through.

“I have great people around me and I appreciate the thoughts and well wishes from all of you. I am looking forward to the fight back to the top and to the next time that I can step back on that field with my brothers to play the game that I love. You are the best fans in the world and I promise to continue to do everything in in my power to make you proud.”

Watt had played every game since entering the league, but that streak will end this week now that he’s been placed on I.R. It’s unclear at the moment whether he’ll be able to return this year, after the recurrence of back problems which precipitated surgery late in the offseason.

And while corny, his statement also speaks to the kind of work he’s put in to become one of the league’s top defensive players, with 76.0 sacks in 83 games (0.916 per game). To put his rate into context, all-time sack leader Bruce Smith averaged a sack every 0.716 games. Watt is already 69th on the all-time sack list.

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Cowboys place Charles Tapper on IR, add a tackle

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 21:  A helmet of the Dallas Cowboys during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys need some help on the offensive line this week, which means they ran out of time to wait for defensive end Charles Tapper to get healthy.

Tapper, a fourth-round pick this year, suffered a back injury this summer and made a brief return to practice last week before suffering a setback. He’ll now have at least eight weeks to continue healing after being placed on injured reserve.

The Cowboys signed tackle Emmett Cleary to take his spot on the active roster. Cleary has spent time with the Colts, Buccaneers, Raiders, Bengals and Giants without ever seeing action in a regular season game.

Cleary will provide some depth with left guard La’El Collins waiting to see if he’ll need surgery on his injured toe and left tackle Tyron Smith missing last Sunday’s game with back issues.

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Brissett says thumb feels fine, Garoppolo taking it day-by-day

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots reacts after defeating the Houston Texans 27-0 at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Starting quarterbacks playing on Sunday usually speak to the media on Wednesday, although that setup requires teams to have a starting quarterback in place on Wednesday.

The Patriots don’t, which led to word on Wednesday morning that neither Jacoby Brissett nor Jimmy Garoppolo would be available to chat. That changed at some point, however, because both of the quarterbacks who have started for the Patriots this season met with reporters.

Brissett said, via Ryan Hannable of WEEI, that his right thumb feels fine and that he threw in Tuesday’s practice without any issues. Garoppolo said he’s taking it day-by-day with the shoulder injury he suffered in Week Two and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play against the Bills.

“We’ll see on Sunday,” Garoppolo said.

None of that does much to clear up who will be quarterback for the Patriots this week, but there should be a lot less uncertainty next Wednesday with Tom Brady back in the building.

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Tim Tebow hits a home run in first professional at-bat, of course

Tim Tebow signs autographs for fans at the New York Mets' complex, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback got to the complex early Monday, and started his first workout as part of their instructional league team. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Tim Tebow’s attempt to play professional baseball.

But one thing that can’t be denied is the guy has an incredible amount of athletic talent.

The former Broncos first-rounder started his baseball career in just about the Tebow-est way possible today, hitting a home run to the opposite field in his first at-bat, via ESPN.

Tebow was signed by the Mets, and sent to their instructional league team in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Today’s game was against a bunch of Cardinals prospects, and from the video, it looks like the smallest crowd he’s ever played in front of.

It’s going to take more than one home run to forge a career, just as one playoff run with the Broncos wasn’t enough to cement his status as an NFL quarterback.

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Gronk: You have to take it slow with hamstring injuries

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots waits near the bench during their game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been severely limited by a hamstring injury this season, with no catches through three games. So when will we see the old Gronk back?

He says he’s getting better, but he’s also being smart about it, as a hamstring injury could easily be aggravated if he tries to do too much, too soon.

“You’ve got to be careful with any injury, but if you research hamstrings, if you know about hamstrings, you definitely have got to be careful,” Gronkowski said. “You have to progress. You can’t just hop right back in and be full-go, 100 percent. I wish it was like that. I can’t wait until I’m freakin’ going crazy out there again. I’m just progressing in it and just feeling better every single day.”

Few people would have guessed the Patriots could start 3-0 without Gronkowski or Tom Brady, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. It has to be scary for the rest of the league to think what the Patriots will look like with a reinstated Brady and a healthy Gronk.

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Ha Ha Clinton-Dix finishing criminal justice degree so he can make a difference

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 18:  Julius Peppers #56 and  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after defeating the San Diego Chargers 27 - 20 at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

A lot of people are talking about inequality and peace and healing.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intends to do something about it.

Via Jason Wilde of ESPN.com, the Packers safety said he’s finishing his degree in criminal justice, in part so he can be part of the solution to our country’s ongoing divide between law enforcement and the African-American community.

“I understand what’s going on in this world,” Clinton-Dix said. “But cops have to go home at the end of the day. They have a family. They have to go home, too.

“Growing up where I’m from, some people are afraid of cops. They don’t really like cops. And what a lot of people don’t realize is, they’re really not the bad guys. They’re really on our side, they’re really trying to help us out. And sometimes, we don’t understand that.”

He re-enrolled at Alabama in January, and took classes online beginning in the playoffs and throughout the offseason, finishing up one class while the Packers were in training camp. He’s taking the fall semester off from school to concentrate on his day job, but plans to graduate in 2017.

Clinton-Dix grew up in Eatonville, Florida (a small town near Orlando), and wasn’t singularly focused on football. He dreamed of a career in law enforcement, so he could help communities like his own.

“I went into criminal justice because I want to learn more about the law, about what’s going on in this world, and be a mentor to kids from where I’m from,” Clinton-Dix said. “To [help them] understand that the law isn’t against you, it’s actually for you.

“You have to put yourself in people’s shoes in certain situations because you don’t know what people really think or what they’re really going through. I feel for the cops, I feel for us as a society as a whole, period. I just hope we can find peace and justice and get back to getting better in this world. That’s how it was going. We were getting better. And I just hope it goes back to that way.”

For that to happen, it’s going to take work from both sides to come together. And Clinton-Dix deserves credit for trying to do what he can to find a solution.

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No practice for Dez Bryant, knee still being evaluated

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys is assisted by team personel after taking a hit from the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are several things we don’t know about Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant’s knee injury, but we do know that it is bothering him enough that he won’t be taking part in Wednesday’s practice.

That was the word from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett at his press conference as he said the wideout doesn’t feel “good enough” to take part in the first session of the week. Bryant briefly left last Sunday night’s victory over the Bears because of the injury, but was well enough to return and catch a touchdown pass later in the proceedings.

It was thought Bryant would have an MRI on the knee on Monday, but that didn’t happen and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the test might get done on Tuesday. Bryant seemed to indicate that it was done, tweeting that the results would come on Wednesday, but Garrett said only that the receiver’s injury was still being evaluated.

There will surely be more on Bryant as the week unfolds, but, for now, there’s not much more to say about his chances of playing this week than there was after the Bears game.

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Texans place J.J. Watt on injured reserve

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans looks on before playing against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

J.J. Watt is done for at least half the season.

The Texans announced today that Watt, their superstar defensive lineman, has been placed on injured reserve. Under NFL rules, the Texans could either put him back on the active roster in eight weeks or shut him down for the entire season.

Watt had offseason back surgery and injured his back again on Thursday against the Patriots. The Texans have not said how severe his latest injury is, but the fact that he’s on injured reserve indicates that it’s serious.

The three-time winner of the NFL’s defensive player of the year award, Watt has never missed a game in his NFL career, but will miss his first game on Sunday.

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Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright bide their time

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 12:  Laquon Treadwell #11 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the football upfield during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Vikings defeated Bengals 17-16.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Receiver Laquon Treadwell, a first-round pick of the Vikings, hasn’t played very much as a rookie. Veteran Jarius Wright, the former No. 1 slot receiver, isn’t playing very much in his fifth NFL season. Both hope things will change.

“It’s just motivation to keep working harder, to keep getting better,” Treadwell said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m taking it a day at a time and continuing to learn. I’m still waiting for my time, that’s the biggest thing. Guys put in their time, and the coaches have a feel for what they can do to help the team. I think that relationship will grow.”

Treadwell was active in Week One at Tennessee, but he didn’t play. In Week Two, Treadwell dressed against the Packers, and he made it onto the field for two plays. In Week Three, Treadwell was a healthy scratch.

Coach Mike Zimmer compared Treadwell’s situation to the delayed emergence of Stefon Diggs as a rookie in 2015. Diggs did not play in the Vikings’ first three games of his rookie year.

Zimmer explained that Treadwell needs to work on running pass routes, and that he’s thinking too much when he does.

Wright has been relegated to a single snap through three games, thanks in part to the team’s decision to go with five receivers instead of six.

“My mindset, I’m not going to change who I am just because of the situation,” Wright said, via Tomasson. “I’m going to be Jarius Wright, continue to lead the receivers whether it’s on the field or off the field. I’m a team player first.”

Adam Thielen is the player the team has been using in the slot. Wright’s status sparked speculation that he could be traded or cut before the season began. It likely will take an injury to Thielen or another receiver to get Wright back on the field in Minnesota.

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Chargers sign Korey Toomer to fill Manti Te’o’s roster spot

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Linebacker Korey Toomer #54 of the Oakland Raiders warms up before a game on December 20, 2015 at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Packers won 30-20. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers have had to sign far too many injury replacements this year, and they found their latest one inside the division.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers have signed linebacker Korey Toomer, formerly of the Raiders practice squad.

He’ll fill the roster spot vacated when Manti Te’o suffered a torn Achilles last week, making him the latest high-end talent the Chargers have lost this year after Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, among others.

Toomer was a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2012, and has also played for the Cowboys and Rams. He has appeared in 18 career games, 10 last year with the Raiders.

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Patriots won’t make Garoppolo or Brissett available to the media on Wednesday

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 look on during pre game drills before a pre season game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

For teams that play on Sunday, the starting quarterback usually is made available to the media on Wednesday. But there’s nothing usual this week about the starting quarterback position in New England.

Via Mike Giardi of CSN New England, the Patriots will make neither Jimmy Garoppolo nor Jacoby Brissett available to reporters on Wednesday.

Both are injured. Garoppolo suffered an AC joint sprain in his shoulder 10 days ago, against the Dolphins. Six days ago, Brissett sustained a thumb injury against the Texans.

As explained on Sunday’s edition of Football Night in America, the team remains focused on getting them healthy enough to play on Sunday. Adding another quarterback was regarded as a “last resort”; three days later, with no quarterback added, either the Patriots believe one or both will be ready to go — or the Patriots will be getting receiver Julian Edelman ready to go.

Edelman has intimate knowledge of the offense. The team would rather use him than a stranger to the system who would be given a crash course on a limited collection of plays.

Regardless, the Patriots won’t be participating in a Wednesday ritual that could shed light on who will be taking the snaps in the last game before Tom Brady’s suspension ends.

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Brandon Marshall on Seferian-Jenkins: Fresh starts can be good

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 23:  Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs after a catch during the NFL game against the Chicago Bears on November 23, 2014 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Buccaneers 21-13. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets claimed tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins off of waivers from the Buccaneers this week, offering him a chance to continue his career after the 2014 second-round pick’s run in Tampa came to an end after a DUI last Friday.

Seferian-Jenkins isn’t the first player to see his career get sidetracked by off-field decisions. His new teammate Brandon Marshall had an DUI arrest while he was with the Broncos in 2007 and had other off-field issues earlier in his career. Those experiences led him to reach out to Seferian-Jenkins, who also had a DUI in college, even before the tight end joined the Jets.

“I’ve been talking to Austin for a week now, even before this even happened,” Marshall said, via Newsday. “When I saw what he was going through I reached out to him. We’ve been talking for a while. He is a great talent. When I heard yesterday we claimed him I was like ‘This is God sent. If he needs me, I am there. I’ve already connected him with the right people in the city if he needs them. Guys need second chances. When you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. You need people to believe in you, and sometimes a fresh start is a good start.”

Marshall has had several fresh starts in the NFL, largely because he has produced everywhere he’s played while eventually turning his off-field time toward mental health causes. Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t been on the field enough to produce in his first two seasons and that will need to change as well if he’s going to remain in the league long enough to be a turnaround story.

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Perfect day earns Dustin Hopkins player of the week award

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:   Dustin Hopkins #3 of the Washington Redskins kicks the game winning field goal against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Washington Redskins defeated the New York Giants 29-27.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins went 5-for-5 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points in Sunday’s win over the Giants, and he’s been recognized for it.

Hopkins was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week today.

It’s the first player of the week award for Hopkins, who tied a franchise record with his five field goals.

Hopkins is 11-for-11 on field goals on the season and has made 15 field goals in a row dating back to last season.

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Spygate, Favre are two of Mangini’s Jets regrets

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Eric Mangini, head coach of the Cleveland Browns stands over injured Browns player David Bowens #86 during a timeout against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ten years ago, Eric Mangini arrived in New York as coach of the Jets and spiced up the rivalry between his new employer and his former one, the Patriots.

The rivalry reached new heights in Mangini’s second season on the job, when Week One of the 2007 season sparked Spygate.

In a nutshell, Mangini knew that Patriots coach Bill Belichick recorded defensive coaching signals in violation of league rules, and Mangini wanted Belichick to not do it when playing the Jets. That morphed into the Jets catching the Patriots in the act, and the Jets reporting the situation to the league office.

Spygate is a big regret,” Mangini tells Brian Costello of the New York Post. “It wasn’t supposed to go down the way it went down. . . . There was no great value in what they were doing. It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it to me personally. It wasn’t worth it to the relationship.”

It’s been long believed that Mangini didn’t want to blow the whistle on the Patriots, but that others in the organization (presumably, G.M. Mike Tannenbaum) pulled the pin on the Spygate grenade.

“I cared about [Belichick],” Mangini said. “I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to hurt the Patriots. They were a huge part of my life, too, and the Kraft family. The Krafts were always great to me. It wasn’t like I was thinking I really want to get these guys. My thought was I don’t want to put my team at a competitive disadvantage, no matter how small.”

The following year, Mangini was put at a competitive disadvantage via the arrival of Brett Favre at quarterback. Mangini didn’t want to add the veteran, who had retired in February and then unretired for a Packers team that didn’t want him.

“We weren’t going to be a team that was going to be built on one guy,” Mangini said. “We were a team. I preached that and I preached that. When we had the opportunity to bring Brett in, it didn’t fit with the vision, the idea of bringing someone in who was really bigger than the team.”

Mangini eventually agreed to do it because he was told by owner Woody Johnson that it was a one-year experiment.

“I was told no matter what happens if we bring in Brett Favre, you’re absolutely safe,” Mangini said. “I probably should have gotten that in writing.”

Mangini was fired after the failed one-year experiment with Brett Favre.

The former Jets coach landed quickly in Cleveland, where he spent a couple of seasons before working for ESPN and then serving in various roles with the 49ers. He told Costello that Mangini hopes to coach again, or maybe to work in a front office.

Still only 45, Mangini surely has plenty of football left in him. The only question is whether and when someone else will give him another chance to show what he can do.

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Bills sign Michael Ola off of Giants practice squad

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 21:  Joique Bell #35 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a touchdown with Michael Ola #74 during the fourth quarter of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 21, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills opened a roster spot on Tuesday by parting ways with kicker Jordan Gay and they filled it on Wednesday.

The team announced that they have signed tackle Michael Ola off of the Giants practice squad. Ola had joined the Giants last week.

Ola knows Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer from their days in Chicago. Ola started 12 games as a tackle and guard for the Bears in 2014 when Kromer was the offensive coordinator. He was released at the cut to 53 players last year and moved on to start seven games for the Lions.

His arrival comes at a time when the Bills are still waiting for left tackle Cordy Glenn to return from an ankle injury and for tackle Seantrel Henderson to wrap up his four-game suspension.

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