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Bengals sign Mike Pollak

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The Bengals and right tackle Andre Smith haven’t been able to reach agreement on a deal that will keep Smith in Cincinnati, but the team has been able to land a different free agent offensive lineman.

Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reports that the Bengals have signed guard/center Mike Pollak to a contract for the 2013 season. Pollak played just one game with the Panthers in 2012 because of a shoulder injury, but he was a regular starter during his first four years in the NFL.

Pollak played for the Colts in all of those years and started 41 games at guard after the team made him a second-round pick in 2008. Pollak is likely ticketed to a reserve role thanks to his injury and the Bengals’ holdovers at both guard and center, but his experience makes him a nice insurance policy for Cincinnati to have all the same.

The Bengals have spent most of the offseason signing their own free agents, leaving Pollak to join quarterback Josh Johnson and linebacker Aaron Maybin as the rare veteran addition to the roster.

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LeSean McCoy gets quicker by cutting out junk food

LeSean McCoy AP

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing and yards from scrimmage last season, but McCoy says he’s faster now than he was last year.

After making a concerted effort to cut out junk food (particularly late-night snacking on Doritos), McCoy says that he’s down about five pounds from the 215 he weighed last season, and he can feel the difference.

“At a lighter [weight], I feel like I’m so much more effective,” McCoy said, via CSNPhilly.com. “I looked at all my old film and saw how much quicker I was when I was 210 [pounds], 209. It’s a big difference. And I’m feeling like that again.”

McCoy says a five-pound weight loss might not mean anything to a back who makes plays by running through tackles, but McCoy says that with his running style, every extra pound counts.

“I play with leverage,” McCoy said. “Certain guys are different. A guy like Marshawn Lynch, he’s more of a running through a guy. Mine is to get a guy off balance and going through an arm tackle, go through a shoulder, those types of things. Get them going one way and try to hit the other side.”

McCoy will hit the other side just a little bit more quickly this season. That’s well worth resisting a late-night craving for Doritos.

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Johnny Manziel admits he’s having growing pains

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer AP

For all the attention he’s gotten thus far, Johnny Manziel is still the Browns backup quarterback.

He admitted Thursday it’s going to take him a minute to push through that, but the Browns appear willing to let him ease into it a little at a time.

It’s a process for me,” Manziel said, via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. “It’s not something that I should just come in here naturally because I played well in college and just know how to run this offense.

“It’s a complete 180 from everything that I’ve been used to. And it’s going to take time. It’s a process coming from a spread, air raid system in college to a pro style system that’s very unfamiliar [to] me as far as terminology and routes.”

Now, for a player of his — for lack of a better word — swagger, that sounds almost like humility. But Manziel said he thinks he will be able to make the adjustment with time.

“I think I’ll play whenever these coaches decide that I’m ready,” Manziel said. “I don’t think there’s any rush. For me, it’s whenever coach [Mike] Pettine, coach [Kyle] Shanahan and the staff here decide that. I don’t think they want to throw me into a situation I’m not ready for or something I can’t handle. I don’t know if they drafted me necessarily thinking that I should come in and start Week 1. I think they wanted to see where I’m at and how I progress.”

Using Manziel as part of specific packages is an option, as he brings and athleticism to the position Brian Hoyer doesn’t have. But the acknowledgement he has some ground to cover is probably a good one for the rookie, who will end up with the job eventually.

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Seahawks bumped up Marshawn Lynch’s 2014 salary

Marshawn Lynch, CJ Spiller AP

The Seahawks got their starting running back in camp today, and Marshawn Lynch got something out of his brief holdout.

A league source tells PFT that the Seahawks agreed to bump up Lynch’s base salary to persuade Lynch to report.

Under Lynch’s previous contract, he was due to make a $5 million base salary this year, plus $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and he could have earned another $500,000 in incentives if he had rushed for 1,500 yards. Now Lynch gets a base salary of $6 million (meaning the Seahawks effectively guaranteed the $1 million he previously would have had to earn), plus they’re taking $500,000 that he had been scheduled to get paid in 2015 and giving it to him now instead. In all, Lynch will make $6.5 million this year.

The Seahawks also agreed not to enforce the fines that they were entitled to dock him from the work he has already missed. We’re also hearing that the league office was pressuring the Seahawks to go after some of Lynch’s signing bonus money if he refused to report, as teams are permitted to do under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But the Seahawks resisted that.

Instead, the Seahawks and Lynch reached a deal amenable to both sides, and Lynch is in camp, making more money in 2014 than he was scheduled to make under his old deal.

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Peterson, Sherman, Haden contracts all comparable

Haden AP

Lost in the u-mad-bro back-and-forth between Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman regarding their one-up contracts is the fact that Browns cornerback Joe Haden got a pretty good deal, too.

All three deals were strong; whether one guy or another got the “best” deal resides in the eye of the beholder, as influenced by the specific factors considered.

Peterson got the most in “new money,” thanks to another $50,000 added to the final-year base salary that pushes the average from $14 million (which Sherman got) to $14.01 million.  Haden’s deal averages $13.5 million in new money.

But Haden has the highest “true” guarantee at signing, with $22.678 million, more than $6 million more than Peterson’s $16.25 million.  At signing, Sherman received $12.431 million fully guaranteed.  Haden also pockets the most total cash in each year through 2018.  Starting with $20.878 million in 2014.

Then again, Haden started with a higher base salary for 2014 than Peterson and Sherman.  Haden, due to make $6.678 million, had the bulk of that money shifted to a signing bonus, dropping the base salary to the minimum.  Which allowed Haden to craft a higher guarantee out of the gates.

When it comes to the conversion of injury-only guarantee to fully-guaranteed money through the February 2016 waiver period (which comes days after Super Bowl 50), Peterson leads the way with $42.6 million.  Haden through the same point will have $41.078 million guaranteed.  Sherman will see $35 million become fully guaranteed by then.

All three deals are very good.  Peterson got his with two years left under contract, a point that shouldn’t be overlooked given the injury risk he managed to push to the team.  With Sherman and Haden, even a Brewster’s Millions effort to spend every penny would make it hard for the trio to run out of cash in their lifetimes.

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Don Jones says he learned after discipline for Michael Sam tweet

Don Jones AP

Dolphins cornerback Don Jones says he has learned a lot in the last couple months, after his reaction to Michael Sam becoming the NFL’s first openly gay player got him suspended from the team.

When TV cameras captured Sam kissing his boyfriend, Jones reacted by calling it “horrible.” The Dolphins’ response was to send Jones home from offseason work and say he couldn’t return until he completed sensitivity training. Now Jones says he realizes his choice of words was poor.

“I didn’t intend [any] harm,” Jones told the Miami Herald. “I just made a bad mistake. I had to learn from it.”

Jones said that he has no animosity toward gays, despite what his tweet suggested.

“I don’t have [a] problem with gay [people],” Jones said. “Shoot, I do have a bunch of family members that are gay. My brother, my cousins. I never really had a problem.”

On some teams, Jones’s tweet probably would have resulted in nothing more than a stern talking-to, but the Dolphins are particularly sensitive about the need for players to treat each other with respect after the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin fiasco last year. Jones put something stupid on Twitter, but he deserves credit for dealing with it forthrightly and moving on.

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Marshawn Lynch ends his holdout, reports to Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch AP

Reports on Thursday afternoon indicated that running back Marshawn Lynch was set to make his delayed arrival to Seahawks camp in the next 24 hours, but the team didn’t have to wait that long for Lynch’s return.

Lynch arrived at the Seahawks’ facility a bit later on Thursday, a moment broadcast on NFL Network and shared on Twitter by Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. Curtis Crabtree of PFT is at the team headquarters and passes along word that Lynch’s arrival at the building was met by loud cheering from an auditorium and that a Brinks truck pulled up to the facility a few minutes later.

If the earlier report from ESPN about Lynch not getting a new deal is correct, the truck is just a humorous coincidence. There are reportedly some “financial concessions” coming Lynch’s way, which could be the forgiveness of the fines that Lynch accumulated while staying away from the team.

Either way, Lynch is back now and should resume his place as a centerpiece of the team’s offensive attack. With a salary that could reach $7.5 million due next season, it will be interesting to see if this is Lynch’s final year in Seattle as the Seahawks will need to keep some money free for possible extensions for quarterback Russell Wilson and other younger players finishing up their rookie deals.

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Redskins rookie regrets letting teammates cut his hair

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Kicker Zach Hocker found himself in a position familiar to many NFL rookies at training camp on Wednesday.

Hocker was supposed to perform a skit to amuse his veteran teammates, but came up empty. As an alternative, he offered to cut his hair however his teammates decided and wound up with a shaved head except for a strap of hair across the middle of his head.

Kai Forbath, Hocker’s competition for the kicking job, did the shearing. The results, which you can see at right, don’t say much for his future as a hairdresser but make it easy to understand why Hocker probably wishes he had just done a five minute reading from Dr. Seuss instead of offering up his locks.

“I kind of regret it now,” Hocker said, via ESPN.com. “In the moment it was fun, but now I wish I had thought of something funny for the team … I didn’t anticipate this. I got up on the stage and they put up three pictures for the team to vote on. This was my look. They let me have it and there I went.”

Hocker said he wants to shave off the remaining hair before the team’s preseason opener next week, but his teammates have yet to give him the green light.

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Reggie Wayne feeling no pain in Colts camp

Reggie Wayne AP

There’s going to be concern with any player coming off an ACL.

When that player is a 35-year-old wide receiver such as Reggie Wayne, people are going to be watching his every move.

But so far, Wayne has cruised through camp as smoothly as since the day he pulled into camp in an Indy Car.

And the work he’s done on the field is just as fast.

“Like I’ve been saying, so far, so good,” Wayne said, via Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. “I haven’t had any problems, nothing out of the norm.

I haven’t had any pain. Nothing has set me back. Just go out there and be the Reggie of old.”

Wayne’s condition has been foremost on the Colts’ mind since he tore his right ACL last October, and the fact he’s coming along so well is a huge boost.

But because of the way Wayne has worked throughout his career, it’s also not a surprise.

“That’s the way it looked to me,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “When you go back, you watch it live and then you go back and watch it on film. It’s really incredible.

“But again, it probably doesn’t shock anybody here. It certainly doesn’t shock me. We all know his mindset, his work ethic and his determination, and how bad he wanted to get back.”

With so many other Colts going down in practice, there’s a bit of breath-holding with Wayne. But so far, the knee has held up, and he’s looked like his old self.

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Steve Gregory signs with Chiefs

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The Chiefs have a couple of safeties on the injured list right now, which may have helped them decide to add some depth at the position.

Agent David Canter announced on Thursday that his client Steve Gregory has signed with the Chiefs for the coming season.

Gregory was released by the Patriots in February after playing 26 games with the team over the last two seasons. Gregory started 23 of those games, recording 116 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Eric Berry left Chiefs practice early on Thursday with an ankle injury, although coach Andy Reid and others have downplayed the severity of the injury since Berry was removed from the field. Sanders Commings had ankle surgery on Thursday, however, and that absence could stretch a bit longer.

Even with everyone healthy, Gregory would be a viable competitor with Husain Abdullah for the starting spot next to Berry. He’ll get the chance to win that job over the next month or so.

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Fred Jackson is old, but he doesn’t feel old

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Fred Jackson is 33 years old. Which is ancient for an NFL running back. Jackson was the oldest running back to carry the ball in the NFL last year and will be again this year, and when Jackson agreed to a contract extension with the Bills yesterday, there were questions about why on earth a team would extend the contract of a player who’s already long in the tooth.

Except that Jackson is still playing well: Last year he ran 206 times for 890 yards, added 47 catches for 387 yards, and scored 10 touchdowns. And Jackson says he feels like he’s in great shape and ready to turn in another good year this year.

“I had a tremendous offseason with our strength and conditioning coaches, I think they did a great job getting me to where I am today, so I’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit,” he said. “I’m hungry and motivated. I think a renewed sense of getting this thing turned around, with some of the moves we made in the offseason putting the pieces around us I think that’s got to have a lot of guys excited, and I’m one of them.”

If Jackson can top 800 yards again this year, he’ll join some truly elite company. Only seven players in NFL history have rushed for 800 yards at age 33 or later, and they’re all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Walter Payton, John Riggins, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka and John Henry Johnson. Jackson isn’t an all-time great like those players, but he’s had a long and impressive career in Buffalo. And he’s not done yet.

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Michael Crabtree sits out Thursday’s practice

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Earlier this week, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said that he thought wide receiver Michael Crabtree is “a step or two quicker” than he was last season.

Crabtree has had more than a year to recover from the offseason Achilles tear that cost him 11 games during last year’s regular season, so it stands to reason that he’d be moving better this year than he was after his return to the team in 2013. The 49ers would surely like things to stay that way, which may explain why he wasn’t participating in practice on Thursday.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that Crabtree did not take part in Thursday’s session after leaving the field before the end of practice on Wednesday. Maiocco said Crabtree didn’t suffer any obvious injury during the session, but that he did receive some attention from a trainer during the session.

Absent any further information about an injury, it would seem to be a precautionary move to give Crabtree some rest now in hopes that it keeps him on the field for the more important business to come this season.

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Jace Amaro says going from Texas Tech to Jets like going from Chinese to English

New York Jets Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

Jets tight end Jace Amaro is back at practice after missing a little time with a knee injury, but feeling better physically is only part of the battle for the second-round pick.

The more significant part is trying to adjust from Texas Tech’s wide-open offense to the one that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is running with the Jets, a task that Amaro likens to going from Chinese to English. Amaro spent Wednesday getting razzed after dropping a pass and getting chewed out by Mornhinweg for running incorrect routes before ending the day with a one-on-one chat with General Manager John Idzik.

“A lot of people have high expectations for me. Right now, I’m trying to figure it all out,” Amaro said, via ESPN.com. “I have high expectations for myself, I know what I can do. I’m making a lot of things a lot more difficult than they should be, just because I’m not completely comfortable with the entire organization yet, from the playbook to not knowing how the coaches coach, little things like that.”

There’s still more than a month to go before the start of the regular season, but the current rate of Amaro’s transition to the NFL suggests that the Jets will have to scale back some of their early plans for him heading into his rookie year.

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Report: Marshawn Lynch ending holdout

Marshawn Lynch AP

It looks like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has decided not to be all about that holdout, boss.

Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Lynch is expected to end his holdout in the next 24 hours and report to work with the Seahawks.

Per the report, Lynch will not be receiving a new deal from the Seahawks to replace the two years he has left on his current pact or any added money. He will be receiving “financial concessions” on his current deal, however. Those concessions are not spelled out, but could involve the Seahawks waiving the nearly $500,000 in fines that Lynch has accrued during his absence from the team.

Lynch’s return should allow the Seahawks to return to business as usual on offense, although there’s a chance that Christine Michael will see more time in the backfield this season as Seattle begins to plan for a future without Beast Mode.

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Falcons DT Peria Jerry to retire

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Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, the club’s first-round pick in 2009, will retire, the team announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old Jerry recorded 67 tackles and 5.5 sacks in five seasons with Atlanta. The club re-signed him in March. Overall, Jerry played in 64 games, making 29 starts. He missed 14 games of his rookie season after suffering a knee injury that required surgery.

The Falcons invested heavily in their defensive line in the offseason, signing nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson and drafting defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman in Round Two. The club has transitioned to a 3-4 scheme after employing a base 4-3 defense in previous years.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict negotiations with Bengals hit impasse

Vontaze Burfict AP

There were optimistic signs about the state of negotiations on an extension for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, but it has been a while since the last one and the latest word isn’t as sunny.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that talks between the team and Burfict have hit an impasse. There’s no word on whether the talks will continue in hopes of finding a way around said impasse, but, for now, it appears things will be in a holding pattern.

Burfict is entering the final year of the three-year pact he signed as an undrafted free agent and will become a restricted free agent after the season as long as the Bengals tender him a qualifying offer. That seems like the very least they’ll do after striking gold with Burfict, who fell out of the draft because of character concerns and responded by leading the NFL in tackles during his second season.

Another year like that would only drive Burfict’s price up on a long-term deal, which may mean the issue now is that the Bengals haven’t come up with an offer big enough for Burfict to pass up on the chance for more money down the road. If that’s the case, the deal may have to wait a while because Burfict’s restricted free agent status means he won’t be leaving the team unless the Bengals don’t want him anymore.

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