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Gronkowski surgery not inevitable, but probable

Gronkowski AP

The prospect of another arm surgery for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski isn’t as inevitable as otherwise believed.

While it’s indeed probable at this point that Gronkowski will need another procedure on his twice-broken forearm, there’s still a chance that the fracture will heal and the infection will resolve itself without a scalpel.

The loose timetable is six more weeks.  If the fracture isn’t healing well enough by then (and if the infection hasn’t cleared up), the last resort of one more operation will be pursued.

For now, the last resort is regarded as probable, but not definite.

Unfortunately for Gronkowski, his fun-loving, slam-dancing ways will cause some to believe that his current predicament comes from his lifestyle.  But infections happen to anyone; quarterback Tom Brady developed an infection after his ACL/MCL surgery in 2008, and plenty of other athletes and non-athletes don’t ultimately have a fully successful outcome.

That said, all NFL surgeries will continue to be called a success, and all players will be deemed to be ahead of schedule in their recovery — unless and until reality gets in the way.

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Monday morning one-liners

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

Bills DL Corbin Bryant is spending three weeks working for Under Armour this offseason.

DT Jared Odrick ran into Dolphins exec Mike Tannenbaum at the airport, which may have given them a chance to talk contract.

The time for the Patriots to make a call on using the franchise tag on S Devin McCourty has arrived.

Will the Jets bring back LB David Harris?

The Ravens are aiming for better results in the AFC North race in coming seasons.

A look at the Bengals wide receivers with free agency a little more than a week away.

John Hughes thinks better days are ahead on the Browns defensive line.

Previewing the activity on the Steelers defensive line this offseason.

Cornerback is a popular choice for the Texans in mock drafts.

Colts WR Reggie Wayne got a mention in one of the final episodes of Parks & Recreation.

The Jaguars won’t be shopping in the quarterback aisle this offseason.

The Titans’ plans for the No. 2 pick remain under wraps.

Some potential free agent targets for the Broncos.

C Eric Kush may wind up in a bigger role for the Chiefs in 2015.

John Clayton of ESPN writes that the Raiders need to spend in free agency.

Trying to figure out the best stadium plan for San Diego.

How long a deal makes sense for Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray?

Giants WR Odell Beckham thinks he could have gone pro in soccer as well.

Will the Eagles use their franchise tag to ensure WR Jeremy Maclin doesn’t leave?

Should the Redskins want to add a center, here’s a look at who’s available.

Will the Bears target coach John Fox’s former Broncos charges in free agency?

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press predicts the Lions will do the wrong thing and use their franchise tag on DT Ndamukong Suh.

What’s the best route for the Packers to take at backup quarterback?

Some of the best second-round picks in Vikings history.

The Falcons have started shaping the 2015 roster.

The Panthers website puts the spotlight on Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson.

How will a deep running back market affect Mark Ingram and the Saints?

Three offensive players who could fit for the Buccaneers in the draft.

The best free agent signings in Cardinals history.

Relocation talk has taken some attention away from the Rams’ personnel needs.

The pros and cons of the 49ers re-signing RB Frank Gore.

Can the Seahawks make a luxury pick in the first round?

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Odell Beckham thinks he could have been a pro soccer player

Odell Beckham, Darrell Stuckey AP

For a guy who can do such amazing things with his hands, Odell Beckham Jr. thinks he could have made a living with his feet as well.

The Giants wide receiver said during appearance on the English talk show “Soccer AM” (via NJ.com) that he had to make a tough decision as a teenager.

“I started when I was three years old and played until I was about 14,” Beckham said. “My coach was pushing to try and get me on the national team and tryout. At that age, you’re 13, 14 years old you know that to make it big in soccer you are probably going to have to go overseas. Obviously that would be a goal and that would be the dream. At that age it would have been hard for me to leave my family and just go.

“I played every other sport, soccer, basketball, baseball, football. And I just said, ‘I don’t think I can leave my family.’ So that’s when I kind of put the soccer dreams aside and stuck close to home with the other sports.”

Beckham described himself as a “Neymar, Messi type of guy” as a soccer player, which would be like some South American teenager declaring that he had “hands like Odell Beckham” while playing a sport that doesn’t require them.

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Vikings want to keep Chad Greenway, but maybe not at $7 million

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Chad Greenway was the Vikings’ first-round draft pick in 2006 and has played his entire career in Minnesota, and the Vikings want to keep him in town this year. But maybe not at his current contract.

Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman told the Star Tribune that there’s no doubt on the team’s side that Greenway is still a valuable part of the franchise.

“We have a lot of things that we’ll be working through between now and before March 10 [when free agents can be signed], but we’d love to have Chad Greenway back and finish [his career] as a Minnesota Viking,” Spielman said.

The catch is that Greenway is due to make $7 million this season, and at age 32, coming off a season in which he missed time because of a broken hand and broken ribs, he may not be worth that kind of money anymore. When Spielman references “things that we’ll be working through,” he’s presumably talking about asking Greenway to take less than $7 million.

Greenway may be willing to do that, as he’s always been happy in Minnesota. But if he’s not willing to do that, he may have to finish his career elsewhere.

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Report: Eagles working to lower Trent Cole’s cap hit

Tennessee Titans v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles parted ways with guard Todd Herremans last week after deciding his $5.2 million cap hit was too high a price to pay for an older player who missed half of last season with an injury.

They’d like to create some more cap room by addressing linebacker Trent Cole’s contract, but they’d like to do it without having him follow Herremans out the door. Elliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com reports that the two sides have been discussing a reworked contract that would slash Cole’s current cap figure of $11.6 million.

It’s something that Cole, who has had 14.5 sacks over the last two seasons, said he was open to doing earlier this offseason.

“I want to do whatever we can to make things work,” Cole said. “Hopefully that results in me being here … I want to be here. I’ve been here ten years, going on my 11th year and want my next stop to be here with the Eagles next year. Time will tell. Things will get done and everyone will be happy.”

Releasing Cole would save the team $8.4 million, but some portion of that would likely be earmarked for another pass rusher off the edge to go with Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. Keeping Cole at a lower number would make that a less acute need while avoiding dead money under the cap that can’t be used to help the team at all.

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NFL to do market research in San Diego, Oakland, St. Louis

Magnifying-Glass-Latest-Version

We noted a week ago that the NFL had sent out surveys to 185,000 fans in St. Louis.

As it turns out, that’s just the tip of their market research iceberg.

NFL senior vice president Eric Grubman told Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King that the league is commissioning detailed market studies in San Diego and Oakland as well, as they prepare the game of musical chairs involving the Los Angeles market.

The studies are important as they give the league a chance to take the temperature of the locals on a number of topics — primarily how much money they’re willing to fork over in exchange for football. There’s obviously more to it than that — such as the viability of PSLs, ticket price points, luxury suite demand — but giving the tree a shake and seeing how much money falls out seems the central issue.

The studies should be wrapped up in May, giving the league plenty of information as they try to gerrymander someone or several someones into L.A. while still proclaiming the viability of current markets.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Super Bowl that the goal was to keep all 32 teams in their current spots, but it’s more clear than ever someone’s finally grabbing the brass ring that is L.A.

Asked how many teams would be playing there by 2020, Grubman made the league’s intentions clear.

“I don’t know the number,” Grubman said. “But the least probable of those numbers is zero. I would say we’ve gone above the 50 percent probability that we’ll have at least one team there. . . .

“You have to have some stomach to let the thing play out. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Right now, I don’t think anyone does. I do know this: Los Angeles has real momentum for the first time in 20 years.”

And with the league checking out the other markets, it seems the primary goal is to see who the better bridesmaid will be for anyone who isn’t able to get to L.A.

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Wintry weather causes Hernandez trial to start a little later on Monday

Aaron Hernandez AP

Yet another wave of wintry weather in Massachusetts has reportedly caused Aaron Hernandez’s trial to reconvene a little later than planned on Monday morning.

According to the Associated Press, court will not restart until 10:15 a.m. Eastern on Monday.

The 25-year-old Hernandez, a former Patriots tight end, faces a first-degree murder charge in the June 2013 death of Odin Lloyd.

According to the AP, weather issues have led to more than five days of delays for the trial, which is being held in Fall River, Mass. The trial is entering its fifth full week.

The National Weather Service forecasts up to seven inches of snow overnight in the area.

Updates on the trial, as well as a recap of past developments in the case, can be found by bookmarking our link to Hernandez court coverage.

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Richard Dent among 2015 Black College Football Hall of Fame inductees

Richard Dent AP

A Super Bowl MVP who went on to gain enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is among seven members of the Black College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

Former Bears, 49ers, Colts and Eagles defensive end Richard Dent, a Tennessee State product who captured game MVP honors as Chicago rolled to victory in Super Bowl XX, was one of six former NFL players in the Hall’s sixth class of inductees.

Also inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame were former Rams and Lions defensive tackle Roger Brown (Maryland Eastern Shore), former Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas at Pine Bluff), former Chargers, Oilers and Chiefs defensive tackle Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd (Grambling), former Bengals defensive back Ken Riley (Florida A&M), former Steelers safety Donnie Shell (South Carolina State) and former Jackson State head coach W.C. Gorden.

The inductees were recognized in a ceremony Saturday night in Atlanta.

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Marshawn Lynch seems to think someone didn’t want him to be the “face of the nation”

Lynch AP

One month to the day since the Seahawks opted not to give the football to running back Marshawn Lynch on the doorstep of the New England end zone in Super Bowl XLIX, a video has surfaced showing Lynch explaining his position on the most scrutinized play call in league history.  Under a frustratingly loud translation of his comments into Turkish.

The video mentioned earlier by MDS includes Lynch’s reaction to the decision to throw the ball and to not let him run it with the NFL title on the line.

“To be honest with you, I would be a liar if I didn’t tell you that I was expecting the ball,” Lynch said.  “I think it was more of a — how do I say this?  When you look at me, and you let me run that ball in, I’m the face of the nation.  You know, the MVP of the Super Bowl, that’s pretty much the face of the nation at that point in time.  I don’t know what went into that call.  Maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get the ball.  I mean, you know, it cost us the Super Bowl.”

Not too far between the lines of Lynch’s response lurks the notion that he buys in to the popular conspiracy theory (misguided as it may be) that the team wanted quarterback Russell Wilson and not Lynch to be the Super Bowl MVP and, in turn, the “face of the nation.”

But here’s the thing about conspiracy theories.  It doesn’t matter if they’re true; if only matters if people believe them to be true.  If Lynch and other Seahawks players believe that the team chose to throw and not to run in order to prevent Lynch from becoming the MVP of the Super Bowl and in turn the “face of the nation,” coach Pete Carroll will have plenty of additional work to do to get the players to turn the page on the 2014 season and to try to climb back out of the valley of 0-0 in 2015 for a shot at a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

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Report: Raiders to part ways with LaMarr Woodley

LaMarr Woodley AP

The Raiders will be cutting one of their free-agent signees of 2014.

Oakland is set to release defensive end LaMarr Woodley, Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area reported Sunday.

Woodley, 30, notched just five tackles in six games in 2014 before a torn biceps ended his season. Last March, he signed a two-year deal reportedly worth up to $12 million.

Woodley was set to make $3.8 million in salary in 2015, per NFLPA data. Also, he was due a $1 million roster bonus on March 14, according to CSN Bay Area.

Woodley rose to stardom with Pittsburgh, notching double-digit sacks in 2008, 2009 and 2010. However, he has just nine sacks in his last 30 games, and he has not played all 16 regular-season contests since 2010.

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Le’Veon Bell faces a maximum suspension of four games

Le'Veon Bell AP

The new substance-abuse policy imposes a two-game suspension for a first-offense DUI.  By landing on probation for a July 2014 DUI arrest arising from marijuana use, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to be suspended for two games.

But there’s a catch that could result in a doubling of Bell’s expected punishment.  The new substance-abuse policy makes a two-game suspension the standard penalty for a DUI arising from alcohol use.  For violations of the law involving other substances of abuse, a first offense exposes the player to a suspension of “up to four” games.

It’s unclear whether the NFL will give Bell, who becomes the test case for the new substance-abuse policy, four games, three, two, or fewer.  The prior substance-abuse policy also exposed players to a suspension without pay of “up to four” games for violations of the law for substances other than alcohol.  Still, it would be a surprise if Bell gets less for DUI-marijuana under the new policy than he would get for DUI-alcohol under the new policy.

But don’t be surprised if he gets more, especially since alcohol is legal in Pennsylvania and marijuana currently isn’t.

Either way, the Steelers need to have a solid plan in place for replacing the team’s workhorse tailback for at least two and as many as four regular-season games in 2015.

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Key free agency date could move up a month

DarylSmith Getty Images

In addition to conversations about tinkering with roster size and getting rid of inactive lists for Thursday games, the NFL’s Competition Committee is considering the acceleration of a key date on the free-agency calendar.

Currently, players who become unrestricted free agents on the first day of the league year and who are not signed by June 1 (and not tendered a one-year contract by their prior teams) aren’t included in the formula for determining compensatory draft picks.  As a result, any signing after June 1 won’t make the prior team eligible for greater compensation or the new team eligible for less.

Per a league source, the June 1 line of demarcation could move to May 1.  The goal would be to give players who otherwise won’t be employed until June 1 a chance to participate in the bulk of the offseason practices.  By signing after June 1, the players get limited opportunities for offseason reps.

Over the years, teams like the Ravens have become experts at finagling this technique, waiting patiently until June 1 comes and goes before going bargain shopping.  That’s how they acquired linebacker Daryl Smith, who started 16 games in 2013, re-signed last year, and started 16 games in 2014.

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Ravens defensive back arrested for DWI

Bengals AP

Last month, the Ravens signed defensive back Victor Hampton, an undrafted free agent in 2014.  He likely will be cut before he ever shows up for an offseason training session.

According to WSOC-TV, Hampton has been arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in Charlotte.  He reportedly was driving 100 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone on Interstate 77.  Hampton’s blood-alcohol content was determined to be 0.10 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08.

Under the revised substance-abuse policy, Hampton, who initially was signed by the Bengals and who spent time on the Giants’ practice squad last year, faces a two-game suspension, if ultimately found to be responsible for driving while intoxicated.  To be suspended, however, he first has to be on a regular-season roster.  Given the new charges, that may never happen.

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Josh McCown: I get people thinking I’m not good enough to start

Josh McCown AP

New Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown says that if some people doubt he’s the man to turn the Browns around, he understands that.

The Buccaneers went 1-10 in games McCown started in 2014, and McCown realizes that some people think that means the Browns are going to suffer a similar fate if he’s their starter in 2015. But McCown points out that he played well the year before in Chicago, and he thinks he can play well in Cleveland.

I get it,” McCown told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “I understand people’s perceptions of me. I don’t back off it or shy away from [the 1-10 record in 2014]. I understand people’s frustration. But my mindset is to come in here, grow and improve as a football player, and help this team win football games. When I’ve been able to operate in a system that’s organized and been around for awhile like I did in 2013 with the Bears, I’ve been able to play at a high level.”

McCown did operate at a high level in 2013 with the Bears, throwing 13 touchdown passes and just one interception. But in the rest of McCown’s career, he has totaled 48 touchdowns and 58 interceptions. The Browns have to hope they get a quarterback who looks like the Josh McCown of 2013.

McCown will have more to say on Monday, when he is scheduled to join PFT Live.

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Roger Goodell’s absolute power over players is a myth

Goodell AP

There’s a popular view among some in the media that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell enjoys complete and total power over the league’s players, especially on matters of discipline.  That popular view also is not accurate.

Apart from the reality that all discipline for on-field infractions falls under the jurisdiction of Ted Cottrell or Derrick Brooks, who were jointly appointed and are jointly paid by the NFL and NFLPA, the recently-revised PED and substance-abuse policies feature unprecedented use of third-party arbitration for most offenses.

Of course, the Commissioner retains full authority over the personal-conduct policy, a power that has had for years.  But while many (including us) routinely have characterized Roger Goodell’s authority as reflecting “judge, jury, and executioner” status, it’s important to remember one key point:  In three recent high-profile executions, the guy swinging the axe has missed the mark.

In 2012, Goodell yielded his authority over the discipline imposed on players in the Saints bounty scandal following an aggressive legal challenge.  Faced with compelling arguments that Goodell should be recused from handling the appeal of the punishments because he had prejudged the case, Goodell handed the baton to former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.  And Tagliabue overturned the punishments with a subtle rebuke that apparently has destroyed whatever relationship the former Batman-and-Robin-style partners once enjoyed.

In 2014, Goodell agreed preemptively to designate a neutral party to handle the appeal of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension, given Goodell’s status as a witness in the case.  (A witness who fought hard not to testify in the case.)  Former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones overturned the punishment by finding that the main justification for it — that Rice had lied to the Commissioner in June 2014 regarding Rice’s assault on his then-fiancée — was not factually accurate.

Last week, current U.S. Judge David Doty found that Goodell and his hand-picked arbitrator, Harold Henderson, incorrectly determined that the unilaterally-revised personal-conduct policy could be applied retroactively to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  Pending appeal and/or further proceedings before Henderson, Goodell’s suspension of Peterson could end up being thrown out.

So while the emperor may have clothing, it’s covering far less muscle that most realize.  With the Saints players, with Rice, and with Peterson, Goodell believed he had the ability to impose whatever ruling he wanted to impose.  In each of those cases, Goodell and the rest of us learned that Goodell’s powers has real limits.

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Howie Roseman doesn’t like trading up (but it’s not up to him)

mariotakelly AP

Amid talk that Eagles coach Chip Kelly would like to trade up in the draft and select his former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Eagles Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman is saying that trading up isn’t a good idea.

Roseman said at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that when two teams make a draft trade, it’s usually the team trading down that gets the better end of the deal.

“When you’re looking at trading up, at some point, your board drops off so dramatically in terms of how you evaluate that player,” Roseman said, via Philly.com. “But the history of trading up for one player, when you look at those trades, isn’t good for the team trading up and putting a lot of resources into it.”

Unfortunately for Roseman, it isn’t up to him. When he and Kelly had a power struggle at the start of this offseason, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie gave Kelly the final say over personnel, which means that if Kelly thinks Mariota is worth a boatload of draft picks, then Kelly will trade a boatload of draft picks to move up and acquire Mariota whether Roseman likes it or not.

So if that trade does happen, it will be one more sign that Roseman doesn’t have much influence in the Eagles’ front office. That doesn’t sound like a trade that Roseman would make.

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