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Vikings unveiling new uniforms on April 25

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Thanks to a hard-to-notice change to the team’s bearded-and-braided logo, the Vikings definitely will have a different uniform in 2013.  But the changes apparently will sweep more broadly than the “evolution” of the Viking profile.

The Vikings have announced that new uniforms will be unveiled during the team’s 2013 draft party, on Thursday, April 25.

The team also has supplied 12 teasers that can be unlocked via various online activities.   (It would be a lot easier if someone from Nike would just leak the design, like Nike supposedly did with the new Dolphins logo.)

The Vikings last changed their uniforms in 2006, shading the helmet horns to make them appear three-dimensional and overhauling the jerseys and pants.

Last year, Nike took over the apparel contract from Reebok, and presumably launched an effort to persuade as many teams as possible to adopt new jerseys.

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Tim Tebow hits homer in fourth at-bat after promotion

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Well, that didn’t take long.

Tim Tebow lived up to the hype for one night, homering in his fourth at-bat with St. Lucie after the High Single-A affiliate promoted him. Tebow followed that two-run blast in the second inning with a single in the fourth. It came in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday.

Tebow’s debut for the St. Lucie Mets was scheduled for Tuesday but rain postponed it to Wednesday when the Mets and Palm Beach Cardinals played a doubleheader. The former Heisman Trophy winner singled up the middle in the fifth inning of Game 1, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a strike out as the Mets won 5-2.

Critics questioned why the Mets promoted Tebow when his.220 batting average with the low-A Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies was higher than only 10 other players in the entire league. Tebow also struck out 69 times in 64 games against low-A pitching.

Tebow, 29, homered in his first career minor league at-bat with the Fireflies in April.

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Victor Cruz tones down conspiracy theory

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A month later, Victor Cruz has toned down his conspiracy theory comments about his former team.

Cruz, back in New Jersey for his Victor Cruz Foundation Football Exhibition and Skills Challenge, backed down from earlier allegations the Giants purposely kept the ball from him to make it easier to cut him. The Giants have denied Cruz’s claims.

I don’t know what their plans [were],” Cruz said Wednesday, via Howie Kussoy of the New York Post. “I don’t know what they think about upstairs.

“I haven’t had any conversations with anyone. Everyone’s underway with their programs. . . . No one has time to handle issues and for me to call, and all those things. Just turn the page and move on.”

Cruz, 30, was scheduled to make $7.5 million in salary and bonuses this season and count $9.4 million against the Giants’ salary cap. He made only 39 receptions for 586 yards and one touchdown in 15 games last season and played only six games combined in 2014-15 because of injuries. He signed a one-year deal with the Bears worth up to $4 million.

“Even after a Super Bowl, or after an injury-riddled two years, I always feel like I’ve got something to prove because I do,” Cruz said. “You’re only as good as your last catch, your last game, your last year of production. That’s what they categorize you as, whatever you’ve last shown on that field.

“I’m excited for that opportunity.”

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Dak Prescott embraces expectation of Super Bowl titles

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Dak Prescott won 13 games and offensive rookie of the year honors last season. The Cowboys quarterback doesn’t consider that a victory, though.

The Cowboys, despite having home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, lost to the Packers in the divisional round. The franchise has not reached the NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season, when Prescott was only 2 years old.

“It wasn’t a win,” Prescott told Mike Florio on PFT Live on Wednesday. “To me, a season is only qualified as a win if you win that last game. That’s what the Patriots were. They were the one winners of this past season. For me, it was a good start. For the team, it was a good start with young guys coming in, but it’s not where we want to be. We want to be playing in that last game of the season. We know what it takes to get there, and that’s what we’ve done this offseason is work our tails off to try to put ourselves in that position.”

Tony Romo ended his 14-year career with most of the team’s all-time passing records, but the criticism that dogs him is his inability to get the Cowboys a Super Bowl title. Romo went 78-49 in the regular season but only 2-4 in the post season. A franchise with two Super Bowl-winning, Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks in Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman places great expectations on the shoulder of its signal caller.

Prescott embraces those expectations, seconding the notion that quarterbacks should be judged by titles.

“Winning games and winning those playoff games and winning championship games,” Prescott said. “. . . At the end of the day, you can break as many records as you want; you win a lot of games at the quarterback position, throw for a lot of yards. It honestly means nothing if you don’t have a championship, if you don’t bring home a championship. It’s tough. It’s nothing easy about that. It’s not easy to do that by any means, but at the end of the day, I feel like that’s what the quarterback is judged on is how many championships did he win and how many times did he give his team chances to win those big-time games.”

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Packers excited about the possibilities their tight ends give them

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The Packers have gone back to 1996 when they ranked first in points per game with tight ends Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura a big part of their offense. Jackson and Chmura combined for 68 receptions for 875 yards and 10 touchdowns that season.

This season, the Packers plan on the same after signing Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, who combined for 160 targets, 105 receptions and nine touchdowns last season. The newcomers join veteran tight end Richard Rodgers, giving the Packers all kinds of options at the position.

“I think what it does is it gives us some more flexibility to run two tight end sets,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, via Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Both guys can put their hand on the ground and go and block guys really well but also add that dimension in the passing game.”

Bennett has averaged 63.6 receptions, 5.2 touchdowns and 728.2 yards per season the past five seasons. Kendricks made 50 catches last season, and Rodgers had 30.

With Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, the Packers’ biggest problem might come in keeping all their weapons involved.

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David Irving becomes third Cowboys DE suspended in past year

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What do David Irving, Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have in common? They are Cowboys defensive ends who have faced NFL suspensions the past year.

A team in need of pass rushers can’t keep its pass rushers on the field.

The three defensive ends will miss a minimum of 38 combined games because of suspension, with Gregory serving 30 games of that.

The NFL first suspended Gregory for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy during the 2015 season. Before Gregory even could serve the four-game suspension to start the 2016 season, he earned another 10 games for missing a test. Gregory played the final two games of last season while appealing at least a year-long suspension, but his appeal was denied, and he isn’t eligible to return until at least January.

On June 30, 2016, the league suspended Lawrence for the first four games of the 2016 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Now, it’s Irving, who will miss four games for an over-the-counter performance enhancing drug banned by the NFL.

The Cowboys, who had 36 sacks last season, could use all three. They haven’t ranked in the top 10 in sacks since 2011. They haven’t had a double-digit sack leader since defensive tackle Jason Hatcher made 11 in 2013.

The Cowboys took chances on Lawrence and Gregory with second-round picks in back-to-back drafts despite both having red flags. Lawrence showed promise in 2015 with eight sacks but took a step back last season with only one in nine games. Between Gregory’s injuries and suspensions, the Cowboys still don’t know what they have in him and may never know.

The Cowboys signed Irving, who also had red flags after being dismissed from Iowa State, off Kansas City’s practice squad in 2015. He was their best pass-rusher last season, with four sacks, a team-best 26 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. Now, he will have his progress interrupted.

With a revolving door at the position, and a lack of a war daddy pass-rusher since DeMarcus Ware left, it’s no wonder the Cowboys haven’t had a consistent pass rush. Giving Aaron Rodgers too much time cost them in their last two playoff losses over the past three seasons, so the Cowboys’ chances of getting where they want to go hinge on getting to the quarterback.

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The Wednesday PFT Live podcast is up

At the risk of being more immodest than usual (if that’s even possible), there’s only one place where your NFL news and information is periodically augmented with a dash of legal education. And as it relates to the Supreme Court’s decision to explore whether federal law banning the expansion of sports wagering by the various states violates the U.S. Constitution, there’s one specific area of that one place where you can get a length explanation of what it all means, and where it’s all going.

It’s in the Wednesday PFT Live non-vacation vacation edition podcast, which devotes more than 10 minutes to explaining and exploring every angle of the situation.

But there’s also plenty more, along with a review of the news of the day relating to among other things three fairly recent No. 1 overall picks in the draft.

The podcast is available at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and/or wherever else you can get the PFT Live podcast. Subscribe at  Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and/or wherever else you can get the PFT Live podcast.

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Chip Kelly: Colin Kaepernick worked hard, never a distraction

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Former 49ers coach Chip Kelly says Colin Kaepernick was everything he wanted in a franchise quarterback last season.

Kelly said on Adam Schefter’s podcast that Kaepernick was as hard a worker as he could have asked for in their one season together.

“He came to work every day, extremely diligent in terms of his preparation, in terms of his work ethic,” Kelly said, via All22.com. “I really enjoyed Kap. I’ve talked to Kap three or four times since. I think he’s a really good player and a really good person, and I really enjoyed coaching him.

As for talk that Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem serving as a distraction in San Francisco, Kelly said that was never the case.

“He explained to all the players his thought process and mindset of what he was doing,” Kelly said. “And there were some players that agreed with him and some players that didn’t agree with him. But after that point, we heard from the outside about what a distraction it is, except those people weren’t in our locker room and it never was a distraction. [Kaepernick] never turned it into a circus or whatever people think.”

Kelly and former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh have both spoken out vocally in favor of some team giving Kaepernick a chance. So far, no team has.

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Report: Karlos Williams suspended at least a year

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The NFL has suspended free agent running back Karlos Williams for at least one year, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

Williams played for the Bills in 2015, rushing for 517 yards and seven touchdowns. The league suspended Williams for the first four games of the 2016 season for a substance-abuse policy violation, and the Bills released him Aug. 21.

Williams joined the Steelers’ practice squad Oct. 12, but in November, the NFL suspended Williams for 10 games.

He had served all but two games of his 10-game suspension, and remains a free agent after the Steelers waived him in March.

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Dak Prescott stops by for special edition of PFT Live

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The regular radio version and NBCSN simulcast of PFT Live are on hiatus for the next few weeks, but we’re still doing regular podcasts to fill the time before everything gets back to normal next month.

Wednesday’s edition of the podcast is a good one thanks to a visit from Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott joined Mike Florio to discuss what was missing from his rookie season, his relationship with Ezekiel Elliott, his expectations for the coming year and his work with the “Ready. Raise. Rise.” campaign to raise awareness of Immuno-Oncology research and support those battling cancer.

The full video of Prescott’s visit appears here. The interview also will be included in Thursday’s PFT Live podcast, which will be available for free at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else you can get the PFT Live podcast.

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NFL makes David Irving’s suspension official

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In May, there was a report that the Cowboys will be without defensive end David Irving for the first four games of the regular season because of a suspension but there was no official word from the team about the ban.

That word came on Wednesday. The league has announced that Irving has been suspended for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Irving will be eligible to return to the team after they play the Rams on October 1. He can participate in practices and preseason games before his suspension starts during the week leading up to their season opener.

Irving had four sacks and four forced fumbles while coming off the bench in 13 of his 15 appearances for the team last season. The Cowboys will roll with Demarcus Lawrence, Charles Tapper, Tyrone Crawford and first-round pick Taco Charlton at end until Irving is eligible to return to the team.

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Darius Slay looking for more interceptions

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Darius Slay was an alternate for the Pro Bowl last season. The four players selected ahead of the Lions cornerback — Janoris Jenkins, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman and Xavier Rhodes — all had more interceptions.

Slay had only two interceptions, just as he had the year before and the year before that. His rookie season, when he had no picks, was the only season Slay didn’t have two interceptions.

“When the opportunity presents itself, if it presents itself only five times a year, make those five,” Lions cornerbacks coach Tony Oden said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s doing a good job out here catching extra balls, so he’s doing his part. So those things will come. Those things will come.”

Slay’s forced turnovers did come at opportune times last season: He forced a Ryan Mathews fourth-quarter fumble that led to Matt Prater’s go-ahead field goal against the Eagles, and then intercepted Carson Wentz to ice it on the next series; he intercepted Sam Bradford with 30 seconds left on Thanksgiving to set up Prater’s game-winner against the Vikings.

Oden expects Slay to earn recognition among the best in the league at his position this season, but Slay likely needs more than two interceptions to get Pro Bowl honors.

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Tom Brady’s selling more jerseys in Florida than Florida teams

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Tom Brady already owned the Dolphins.

So throwing the Buccaneers and Jaguars in the mix only seems reasonable.

According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, the Patriots quarterback has the highest-selling jersey in the state of Florida, which has three NFL teams not the Patriots.

The numbers from NFLShop.com say that Brady’s the top-seller in 16 other states as well, so it isn’t just the fans nearest the Dolphins ordering them.

Brady is 20-9 all-time against the Dolphins, so at least they’ve beaten him occasionally. He’s 7-0 against the Jaguars (including playoffs), and 3-0 against the Buccaneers.

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Justin Pugh: Giants are “ready to win tomorrow”

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The Giants returned to the playoffs last season after making major changes to their defense during the offseason and reaping the benefits of those moves during the regular season.

They didn’t go on the same kind of spending spree this offseason, but they did make a couple of tweaks to an offense that fell short of reaching the desired results last year. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Rhett Ellison are both new to the unit and guard Justin Pugh cited them when asked if the Giants are set to win tomorrow or if it will take longer than that.

“We’re ready to win tomorrow,” Pugh said on NFL Network, via the Giants’ website. “I think that you look at the NFC, we’ve brought some guys in, bringing in Brandon Marshall, a guy who’s my size, we brought in Rhett Ellison, a tight end. His numbers aren’t going to jump off the board, but he comes in and blocks. If you look at our personnel last year, we were, 95 percent of the time, three wide receiver sets [with] one tight end, one running back. Now we can switch up personnel. We can get in multiple formations. I think our offense is going to be better, and our defense returned everybody besides Johnathan Hankins. So I think we’re going to be a pretty good team to play.”

A more versatile scheme should be a good thing for the Giants, but questions remain about how well Pugh and his fellow offensive linemen will fare after the Giants left the group alone this offseason. Pugh said left tackle Ereck Flowers is “light years” ahead of where he was last season and similar growth for the entire unit would provide even more reason to believe in the Giants’ chances in 2017.

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Rob Gronkowski gets in his workout at “random high school” in Texas

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It is not often that Rob Gronkowski goes unnoticed, but he managed to sneak into a Dallas-Fort Worth high school for his workout Tuesday. He documented his workout with two friends.

“We snuck onto some random high school, baby . . . Because we gotta get that work in … No days off, baby . . . Let’s go,” the Patriots tight end said in a video.

He thanked the school, Southlake Carroll, “for a great workout” as he exited the field through a gate.

Southlake, an affluent Fort Worth suburb, might take issue with “random high school.” It has created a football powerhouse at its only high school, annually competing for a state championship. Quarterbacks Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Kenny Hill played there.

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Chip Kelly: Titans wanted Marcus Mariota, not interested in trade

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Chip Kelly disputes reports from 2015 that the Eagles offered the Titans a package of picks and players to trade up and select Marcus Mariota. Kelly, who coached Mariota at Oregon, said the Titans made it clear all along that they were holding on to the No. 2 choice.

That question didn’t come up very often,” Kelly told the Know Them From Adam podcast, via Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media. “With Tennessee, they weren’t moving off the pick. Rightly so. They were looking for the same thing we were, to get themselves a really top-quality quarterback. It really wasn’t like…. We didn’t really get into a conversation of what we can offer or what we can’t offer, because they made it known that they really weren’t looking to trade the pick.

“That’s all speculation that’s out there, you hear stories that ‘we offered this; we offered that.’ We didn’t offer anything because they weren’t taking any offers for it.”

The Titans ended up selecting Mariota, who has shown promise as a potential franchise quarterback. The Eagles traded Nick Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford in March 2015, which didn’t work out for either Bradford or Kelly.

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