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49ers expect Kendall Hunter, Kyle Williams to be ready for camp

Kendall Hunter AP

On one disastrous play against the Saints in November, the 49ers lost both running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Kyle Williams to season-ending injuries. Four months later, both players have made enough progress that the 49ers are confident they’ll be ready to go for the start of training camp.

Hunter, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon, has resumed running, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Hunter had played very well in limited action behind Frank Gore, carrying 72 times for 371 yards, an average of 5.2 yards a carry. Having a healthy Hunter along with Gore and LaMichael James will give the 49ers a deep backfield in 2013.

Williams, who suffered a torn ACL, wrote on Twitter that he has started running, too. Williams had 14 catches for 212 yards last season. This year he may also take over from Ted Ginn as the 49ers’ primary punt returner.

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Knowshon Moreno wants to play in 2016

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 28:  Knowshon Moreno #28 of the Miami Dolphins looks on in the fourth quarter during action against the St. Louis Rams at Sun Life Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) Getty Images

A recent report from Mike Klis of KUSA said that running back Knowshon Moreno was “80 percent done” mentally when it came to making a decision to retire, but a source very close to Moreno is taking issue with that.

That source would be Moreno himself. Moreno responded on Twitter to an article describing him as “likely done with football” by writing that the opposite was true.

“This is not true,” Moreno wrote. “I plan on being back on the field in 2016.”

For that plan to come to fruition, Moreno is going to need to find a team that wants to facilitate the continuation of his playing career. Moreno last played in 2014 with the Dolphins, but tore his ACL shortly after returning from a dislocated elbow and has had a long history of knee problems over the course of his career.

That’s not a great selling point for a running back, although it’s certainly possible that a team or two would take a look at Moreno to see if there’s anything left in the tank.

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Tyler Eifert could miss the start of the regular season

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 13:  Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball after catching a pass during the first quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert is probably wishing he had never been a Pro Bowler right now.

Eifert suffered an ankle injury in the Pro Bowl that was slow to heal and will now require surgery, which he is scheduled to undergo today. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Eifert could miss the first couple of games of the regular season.

That’s a big blow to the Bengals, and it may be a big blow to the Pro Bowl. Players are already increasingly declining invitations to play in the game. In seven months, you can bet that many NFL players will be thinking about Eifert when they consider whether it’s really worth it to accept the “honor” of playing in a meaningless exhibition game.

Eifert has already missed 19 games in his three-year career. Last year Eifert played in 13 games and caught 52 passes for 615 yards, with 13 touchdowns.

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Rueben Randle out after gallbladder surgery

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:  Rueben Randle #82 of the New York Giants scores a 45 yard touchdown in the third quarter to take the lead in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Rueben Randle has spent the last couple of months getting used to life with the Eagles, but that’s going to be on hold for a bit after his offseason took a turn to the operating room.

Randle is recovering after having surgery to remove his gallbladder earlier this week. The procedure typically doesn’t lead to a long recovery period, although the demands of playing professional football are different than those of most other jobs when it comes to returning to work after a surgical procedure.

The Eagles website suggests Randle may not return to the field until training camp, when he would resume a push to earn snaps alongside Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor in the Eagles offense. Josh Huff and Chris Givens will likely see more reps in practice until Randle gets the green light to pick up where he left off.

Randle signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in March after spending the first four years of his career with the Giants.

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Ron Rivera on Cam Newton comments: “I’m not putting anybody on blast”

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24:  Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers celebrates with Cam Newton #1 after defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

It seemed fairly benign last week, when Panthers coach Ron Rivera said quarterback Cam Newton had “an awful lot of room to grow.”

But when some interpreted that as Rivera somehow criticizing Newton, the Panthers coach felt compelled to clarify himself.

I’m not putting anybody on blast, I’m just challenging him that he can become a better football player,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “I think he’s such a dynamic football player athletically and mentally, that every time he gets out there, he can improve and become better.”

Rivera can get a little sensitive when it comes to any perceived criticism of his quarterback, but it’s at least good to know that the 54-year-old Rivera has stayed in touch with the current slang.

Even though he was the league’s MVP, and led the NFL with 45 total touchdowns last season, there’s still clearly room for Newton to grow as a passer. Maybe that’s why some thought last week’s Rivera comments were more critical than the coach ever intended.

But Newton may never be the high-percentage passer some want, primarily because the Panthers have tailored the offense to suit him, which includes going for chunk plays downfield rather than a bunch of safer, easier-to-complete-a-lot-of passes.

“Last year we talked about developing certain throws and he did that. Can he develop and get better physically? Yes. I think it’s his skill set. I know they constantly work on his technique, his footwork, his delivery. You work on the mental aspect as well,” Rivera said. “The one thing I’m hoping for, too, is that he continues to develop that rapport. He’s got a great feel with Greg Olsen; he’s got a great feel with Teddy Ginn. He’s developing that with Devin Funchess, and again with Kelvin [Benjamin] back here, it will be great to see him work with Kelvin.”

Newton wasn’t able to throw to Benjamin yesterday, as the wideout coming back from an ACL tear was excused from practice. But their continued growth ought to keep the Panthers improving offensively, even if there’s little margin for improvement on a team that went 15-1 last year.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

rex-ryan2-111215-getty-ftrjpg_11tbl9jse1kuv18guwxcyknz9e Getty Images

Despite Bills DE Shaq Lawson’s shoulder injury, coach Rex Ryan says every Bills fan will be glad they drafted him.

Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh showed up for the first day of OTAs.

Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich is eager to get back on the field.

Ryan Fitzpatrick wants to sign a new contract with the Jets, but he won’t put odds on how likely that is.

Ravens OT Eugene Monroe says players line up for painkillers before games.

It seemed like old times when Bengals QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green got back on the field together Tuesday.

Browns DE Desmond Bryant is still on the job at age 30, despite the Browns trying to get younger.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is disappointed in suspended WR Martavis Bryant.

Texans DE Whitney Mercilus is excited to play for assistant coach Mike Vrabel again.

Are Colts DT Art Jones’ days numbered in Indianapolis?

Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin, who will be suspended for the first four games of the season, says he’s shocked that he tested positive for a banned PED.

Titans QB Marcus Mariota is bigger and more vocal this year.

Broncos QB Paxton Lynch is feeling more confident at OTAs.

Tyler Bray is now the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback.

The Raiders have raised expectations heading into OTAs.

The Chargers’ cornerback rotation is worth watching at OTAs.

Cowboys fourth-round DE Charles Tapper could be a big part of the defense this season.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo is naming practice drills after former Giants like Lawrence Taylor and Chris Snee.

The Eagles won’t rush rookie QB Carson Wentz.

Former Washington players have high hopes for this year’s team.

Said Bears WR Marc Mariani of OTAs, “We’ve been out there seeing nothing but offensive guys for the last few weeks and competing is really what we all live for. So getting out there with the ‘D’ and being able to go at each other is really the name of the game this time of year.”

Lions S Glover Quin says the chemistry in the secondary will be fine.

Former Packer Leroy Glover is active in anti-bullying efforts.

The Vikings and Wells Fargo are battling over Wells Fargo displaying its logo prominently around the team’s new stadium, which is named for a rival bank.

Atlanta officials say the city has been transformed since the last time it hosted a Super Bowl.

The Panthers are looking to shake off rust at OTAs.

Saints owner Tom Benson is confident the Superdome will host another Super Bowl.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston is confident in his old college teammate, second-round K Roberto Aguayo.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is trying to help offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin get a head-coaching job.

Southern California, long the most popular Super Bowl host, will have gone 23 years without a Super Bowl before the Rams’ new stadium hosts the game in 2021.

49ers owner Jed York is getting recognition in San Francisco for publicly opposing North Carolina’s bathroom law.

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett says healthy eating is bolstering his career.

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Mark Davis on opposition to Las Vegas: “I haven’t heard no”

Mark Davis AP

While the topic of a possible Raiders move to Las Vegas was dubbed “very premature” by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at yesterday’s owners meetings in Charlotte, it’s also becoming clear that there’s an evolving sense of the city, and that the specter of gambling isn’t as intimidating as it used to be.

In fact, it was hard to find an owner willing to say it was a deal-breaker at all.

“I haven’t heard no,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said when asked about the sense he was getting from fellow owners.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. The Raiders obviously reside in one of the two worst stadiums in the NFL, but that particular dump sits in one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing markets. With the 49ers pushing south to Santa Clara, the entire North Bay region along with Oakland’s East Bay sits like an attractive destination full of available money if the NFL can get someone to share enough of it to build a stadium.

Trading that for a market which would be the fifth-smallest in the league — ahead of Green Bay, Buffalo, New Orleans and Jacksonville — is the bigger hang-up at this point, as there’s a sense the obvious tourist economy advantages might not overshadow the lack of year-round residents willing to pay.

“We’re not looking to make this something where the fans fly in on weekends for games,” Davis said. “For the first year, it would probably be like that, but we want to have a local fan base. That’s important to us.”

And finding out whether that will work is something Davis said the Raiders were studying now, while owners wonder whether it’s worth to leave a larger market for a much smaller one.

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Ted Olson is encouraged by Chief Judge’s dissenting opinion in Brady case

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26:  Plaintiff attorney Ted Olson talks to the media after oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, on March 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. Today the high court heard arguments in California's Proposition 8, the controversial ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Although Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the NFL Players Association lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, triggering the reinstatement of his suspension, one of the three judges randomly assigned to the case voted for Brady’s side. That judge, Robert A. Katzmann, is also the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit.

Appearing on Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, former U.S. Solicitor General and lead Brady appeal counsel Ted Olson explained that he is encouraged by the fact that Judge Katzmann saw fit to write an opinion that disagreed with the reasoning and result of his colleagues.

“The Chief Judge wrote a very convincing dissent,” Olson said. “He’s a highly respected individual. He’s been a member of that Court for many, many, many years. He very rarely dissents from an opinion by his colleagues. Over the years, just a few times out of thousands of cases in which he’s participated. So here’s an individual who is highly respected, who’s the Chief Judge of the court, who wrote a very cogent, persuasive, dissenting opinion pointing out important principles that he felt — and we feel — the majority got wrong. So we do think that that gives us an extra impetus in seeking rehearing.”

The real question is whether Judge Katzmann has the ability to persuade enough of his colleagues to see things his way and agree to a rehearing. He needs to sell his position to at least six of the other 12 active judges assigned to the Second Circuit.

Wisely, Olson and his colleagues tracked the arguments raised by Judge Katzmann in his dissenting opinion. First, that Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension for reasons other than the reasons articulated by NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, who originally imposed the suspension. Second, that Goodell failed to even mention the Collective Bargaining Agreement provision regarding equipment violations, which calls for a fine of only $8,268 as the punishment for a first offense — and which expressly encompasses the use of Stickum, a compound that enhances the ability to grip a football.

We’ll find out soon enough whether those arguments will help Olson make Brady’s petition for rehearing, you guessed it, stick in the Second Circuit.

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Eddie Lacy pleased with his progress, still has weight to lose

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Running back Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers runs as he is hit by nose tackle Josh Mauro #97 of the Arizona Cardinals in the first half in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers running back Eddie Lacy has been working on losing his weight this offseason, after coach Mike McCarthy called him out and said he was out of shape last season. So far, McCarthy thinks he’s getting the job done.

However, Lacy appears to have a few more pounds to lose before the Packers are fully satisfied.

Reporters from ESPN and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel both pegged Lacy’s weight at about 240 pounds or a little higher at the Packers’ first Organized Team Activities on Tuesday. Last season he was believed to weigh almost 260.

“I think I look good,” Lacy said.

Lacy said McCarthy asked him to lose weight, and he did.

“At the end of the day, we’re all grown men,” Lacy said. “Whether he calls me out, I just have to take care of that responsibility. You don’t get mad or [lash] out or anything like that. You just take it as it is what it is and make it go away. I feel like I handled it well, and I held up my end of the bargain. It’s a process. I’ve got to keep going and just keep hoping for the best.”

Neither McCarthy nor Lacy would talk about specific numbers, but the Packers are believed to want Lacy to get down close to the 231 he weighed at the 2013 Combine before the Packers drafted him. If Lacy loses another 10 pounds in the next few months, the Packers will feel very good about his weight this season, something no one could have said last season.

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Report: Ryan Mundy suing Schutt for injury suffered from helmet

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 08:  Ryan Mundy #21 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on August 8, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Eagles 34-28.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Chicago Bears safety Ryan Mundy is suing helmet manufacturer Schutt due to a head wound suffered in a 2014 preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks left him with permanent scarring.

According to TMZ, Mundy is alleging that the helmet he used sliced open a five-and-a-half inch gash in his forehead that required 17 stitches to close. The wound has left a permanent scar above his right eye that is visible on a recent instagram photo. The lawsuit claims Mundy has suffered physical and mental pain, and a lessened capacity for the enjoyment of life due to the injury.

After starting all 16 games for the Bears in 2014, Mundy missed all of last season while on injured reserve. For his career, Mundy has appeared in 96 games with the Bears, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers with 30 starts. He’s recorded 310 tackles, six interceptions and two sacks in six seasons.

Mundy is currently an unrestricted free agent.

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Broncos playing it safe with Ware’s back issues

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 04:  Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos rushes the line of scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Vikings 23-20.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is sitting out the start of the Broncos organized team activity (OTA) practices with a back issue, and given his history that’s probably both a smart move and something worth keeping an eye on.

Back issues sidelined Ware twice last season, and he missed a total of five games. The Broncos figure to be counting on their loaded defense as much as they ever have at the start of the 2016 season given their quarterback situation, so having Ware healthy and available will be a priority.

“I would tell you it’s probably more preventative than anything,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told reporters Tuesday. “He’s going to be a day-to-day participant. I’m going to have about 10 guys that are going to go every other day. We’ll probably make decisions on DeMarcus day to day based on how he is feeling.”

Ware had 7.5 sacks last season, 4.5 in the first four games before the back flared up. He’ll be 34 this summer, so the idea of limited practices and selected days off may extend into training camp as well.

Ware took a pay cut to stay with the Broncos but is still seen as an important part of what could be the league’s best defense. He recovered well enough last year to have two sacks in the Super Bowl.

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Owners think NFL’s concussion message needs to be delivered better

New York Jets Introduce General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles Getty Images

The NFL obviously has a concussion problem.

But as the league’s owners meetings ended today in Charlotte, the guys who write the checks also made it clear they think their public relations problem is significant as well.

The common theme from owners discussing recent criticisms from Congress and elsewhere about the league’s funding of CTE studies or other safety issues was not that the NFL has a bad message, but that they’re not delivering their message well enough.

“You have to explain to mothers and people who watch football, they want to know that we’re doing our job and that we take this seriously,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said.

When asked if the league had convinced them of that, Johnson replied: “No we probably have done not a very good job. I think we can do better.”

Asked whether he thought people trust the league, Johnson shrugged and said: “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Owners voiced support for commissioner Roger Goodell, whose job is to be the face of such issues and take such heat. At the same time, they know there are certain segments of the population who simply don’t or won’t trust him. But they’ll also circle the wagons, as 49ers owner Jed York noted of yesterday’s news: “I don’t think it’s Congress, it’s one Congressional staffer. You have to put that into perspective.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insisted that his own background as a player made him want to shout the league’s message from the hilltops, but admitted he wasn’t always the best to do so.

 “I think where we are remiss, is making our case for what we are doing and our sensitivity regarding concussions and what we are doing,” Jones said. “We need to say that more often, and we need to say it louder, and we need to not hurt it with being the wrong messenger. It doesn’t need to be self-serving, when at the end of the day it really is to make the game safer, make kids safer who play the game and benefit from playing the game.

“I think we need to say it better, we need to articulate it better and say it more often.”

Their critics will suggest that the problem has grown beyond one of perception, and remains one of its real medical issues. But with the league making major changes at the PR level in recent months, it’s clear that they plan to attack the problem by talking about it themselves, and trying to frame the argument as they see it.

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Lions waive rookie offensive lineman

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions waived-injured rookie offensive lineman Darius Johnson Tuesday.

Johnson had attended the team’s post-draft rookie minicamp as a tryout player and then signed a contract on May 8, at which point the Lions cut offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson, a 2015 draft pick of the Vikings.

Johnson was a four-year starter at Middle Tennessee State. He played guard as a senior after starting his career as a tackle.

The waived-injured designation means Johnson will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list if he clears waivers on Wednesday.

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Gary Kubiak is “really excited” about Trevor Siemian

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback Trevor Siemian #3 of the Denver Broncos looks for a receiver against the Arizona Cardinals during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 3, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 22-20.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

With all the chatter regarding Denver quarterbacks focusing on the guys who left (Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler), the broken-glass emergency addition (Mark Sanchez), the flirtation gone nowhere (Colin Kaepernick), and the first-round rookie (Paxton Lynch), no one is talking about the guy who, in theory, could end up winning the job.

He’s Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015 from Northwestern who has a season in the system and a year of learning from Manning and Osweiler.

“Not many guys are asking about him, but I’m really excited about Trevor,” coach Gary Kubiak told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He basically took the first group today. With what you guys got to see, he’s practiced very well. I think Trevor has a lot of confidence in himself right now.”

If Siemian has plenty of confidence, he’s keeping his cards close to the vest.

“I tried to learn a lot last year,” Siemian told reporters. “I wasn’t playing a ton but I had 18 in the room and I had Brock, so I was learning from those guys. . . . I’m ready to get back to it and knock a little rust off but I feel good.”

It could be a good thing for Siemian to fly under the radar. There’s a chance he won’t be for long.

There’s a chance he’ll be the starter when the Panthers come to town to start the season.

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Roger Goodell makes NFL’s strongest statement yet on NC’s HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NBA has been quite forward with their criticism of North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law, going so far as to threaten pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

But the NFL has been more careful in its public relations efforts, though commissioner Roger Goodell offered the league’s firmest stance yet as he closed today’s owner’s meeting.

“Anything that discriminates, we oppose,” Goodell said when asked about North Carolina’s House Bill 2. “We will continue to fight that. We have a franchise here. The Carolina Panthers play here, they operate here, and we want to work with the community. We’re not going to threaten a community.

“We’re going to work with the community to make the effective changes necessary long term.”

So far, the league hasn’t done all that much, beyond the normal proclamations of inclusiveness.

Earlier Tuesday, 49ers owner Jed York made a $75,000 donation to Equality NC, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. He also called for North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial measure that requires people to go to the bathroom of their birth gender rather than as they identify.

While Panthers owner Jerry Richardson didn’t talk to reporters at these meetings, team spokesman Steven Drummond said the team’s position was clear: “Our organization is against discrimination and has a long history of treating all of our patrons at Bank of America Stadium with dignity and respect. The Panthers have and will continue to engage key stakeholders on this important issue.”

Other owners, however, are more careful. Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s city just won a Super Bowl bid, in part because Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “religious liberty” bill, which opponents claimed was discriminatory. But when asked Tuesday if the league was comfortable doing business in North Carolina because of their law, Blank replied: “You’d have to ask the commissioner that.”

Goodell said he talked to Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts Monday, saying he supports her efforts as the league tries to walk a political line which some find more fine than others.

But Tuesday’s statement was as much as they’ve said so far.

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Maurkice Pouncey “doing everything” in return from broken leg

Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert AP

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey missed all of last season after breaking his leg in the preseason and coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this offseason that he wasn’t sure if Pouncey would participate in OTAs as a result.

Pouncey’s rehab appears to have gone well because he took every snap with the first-team offense as the Steelers kicked off the final segment of their offseason work on Tuesday. Pouncey said his leg feels 100 percent healthy and he isn’t planning to hold anything back in practices after his long stay on the shelf.

“I’m 26 years old, man,” Pouncey said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m doing everything. I don’t need time off. I’m [ticked] off I missed a lot. I’m ready to go.”

Pouncey also confirmed that he required multiple surgeries to repair the leg, adding that he’s “happy to be out here now.” Happy will likely be a fitting description of the Steelers’ mindset if Pouncey remains on the field for the entire 2016 season.

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