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Report: Mathieu told NFL coaches he failed more than 10 drug tests

AP

Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was kicked off the team just months after becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, reportedly told at least one NFL team that he failed so many drug tests in college that he couldn’t even remember them all.

An assistant coach for an NFL team told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that when that team interviewed Mathieu, he was asked how many drug tests he had failed in college.

I quit counting at 10,” Mathieu answered. “I really don’t know.”

The assistant who passed along that story also told USA Today that Mathieu’s statement had him questioning LSU as much as he questions Mathieu.

“If he flunked 10 tests before they suspended him, it shows that he got no kind of help,” the coach said.

Mathieu has acknowledged that for much of his college football career he put his love of marijuana ahead of his love of football. But he now says he has not used marijuana or any other drugs since October, and that he’s done using marijuana for good. The NFL team that drafts Mathieu will need to be convinced that he’s telling the truth.

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Will someone roll the dice on Gareon Conley being cleared?

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Barring a clear and unequivocal public declaration in the next 24 hours or so from the alleged victim that she was not sexually assaulted on April 9 by Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Conley will enter the draft with a cloud hanging over his NFL future. But with plenty of evidence available and with teams having the resources to find out even more, it’s possible that someone will take a calculated risk on Conley, if the team develops a sense that he’s innocent, and/or that the alleged victim doesn’t intend to press the issue.

The police report indicates that the alleged victim declined to be interviewed by police at a local hospital, after previously telling them her version of the events. Whether and to what extent the authorities convince her to cooperate and, eventually, to testify in court will go a long way toward determining whether Conley will be prosecuted. If the allegation persists in her refusal to continue to assist the investigation, the criminal case will go nowhere.

If the case proceeds, Conley could have a serious problem. The police report cites a rape statute, which makes the alleged crime a first-degree felony. Under Ohio law, that would result in a sentence of three to 11 years.

Conley has witnesses who claim that he “never touched” the alleged victim, and that she became upset after she was kicked out of the room. The rape kit that was administered to the alleged victim will shed more light on whether contact occurred, but ultimately it will be impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without cooperation and testimony from the alleged victim.

The victim’s name isn’t publicly known, but the teams either have or can get access to it. As a result, teams have been to do research regarding the alleged victim. It’s also possible that one or more teams will try to contact her directly in order to explain the importance of knowing by Thursday night what will happen with the situation before making a multi-million-dollar investment in Conley.

Regardless of what happens, the teams have every incentive to ensure that they aren’t squandering one of their most important assets. The stakes are high for everyone involved, and the sooner the truth emerges the better off everyone will be.

For Conley, the biggest problem is that, if he’s innocent, irreversible damage likely is going to be done to his NFL career. If he’s guilty, he rightfully should have far bigger problems than sliding in the draft.

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Mike Williams worked out for Chargers, Titans

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Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams is among the players that will be watching the first round of the NFL Draft closely because he’s widely expected to find out where he’ll be starting his NFL career before Thursday night’s festivities in Philadelphia come to an end.

Williams made a late bid to sway minds with a couple of teams over the last week before the big night. Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL Media report that Williams had a pair of workouts with teams picking in the top 10.

Williams worked out for the Chargers last Thursday and then showed his stuff for the Titans on Saturday. He previously spent time with both teams during meetings at the combine in Indianapolis or at the team’s facilities.

The Chargers have the No. 7 pick on Thursday while the Titans are scheduled to pick fifth and 18th — which is where Mike Florio projected Williams to land — in the first round. They could be moving down, however, and there are sure to be some developments that could impact where Williams winds up coming off the board in a draft that is light on certainty with kickoff a little more than 24 hours away.

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Seahawks and Raiders flip 2018 fifth- and sixth-rounders for Lynch

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Because of the relationship between the General Managers involved in the soon-to-be-finished Marshawn Lynch deal and the urgencies each side felt, the compensation didn’t figure to be complicated or excessive.

And it’s not.

According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Seahawks will get Oakland’s 2018 fifth-round pick and the Raiders will acquire Seattle’s 2018 sixth-rounder and Lynch, once he’s completed his physical and the trade becomes real.

Seahawks G.M. John Schneider and Raiders boss Reggie McKenzie used to work together in Green Bay, and the familiarity made the trade part of the transaction easy.

Plus, with Schneider getting Lynch off the books and McKenzie getting the kind of human shield in Oakland that may help fans forget for a moment the team’s leaving soon, everybody wins whether Lynch is a productive runner again or not.

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Vikings are suddenly in play for a quarterback in the draft

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Technically, the Vikings already have selected a quarterback in the 2017 draft. They did it by sending their first-round pick (and more) to Philadelphia last year for Sam Bradford, whose contract expires after the coming season.

With the news that 2014 first-round selection Teddy Bridgewater likely won’t have his fifth-year option exercised, the Vikings will now be in play to use another 2017 pick on another quarterback.

The Vikings currently have eight selections in the 2017 draft, including three in the top 90. Their first selection comes at No. 48 in round two.

In 2014, the Vikings vaulted back into the bottom of round one to get Bridgewater. Six years ago, they used the 12th overall pick on Christian Ponder.

The fact that the Bridgewater decision, which doesn’t have to be made until May 3, already has been leaked (with the qualifier of “likely”) invites speculation as to whether the Vikings are trying to create the impression that they may go for a quarterback in one of the early rounds, in order to maximize the overall unpredictability and confusion regarding their plans.

Ultimately, that’s the smartest move for any team — conceal your actual plans for as long as possible, and embrace anything that will naturally make those plans seem even less certain. This Bridgewater news adds a position to the various ones the Vikings could target, and it definitely makes the drafting of a quarterback more likely if a quarterback is deemed to be their best player available when they pick at No. 48.

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Joey Bosa has a specific plan for his offseason work, and it seems to work

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Joey Bosa takes preparation seriously. Last year when he was getting ready for the draft, he even practiced for the Wonderlic, before logging the kind of score that would make people who care about such scores nod approvingly.

“I’m not as dumb as I may sound or look,” Bosa said.

Along those lines, the Chargers defensive end has a concrete plan about his offseason, which he has taken pains to keep team officials abreast of. It was noted that he wasn’t around for the start of voluntary workouts last week, but he has since returned.

I’ve been over-communicating with everybody for months now,” Bosa said of his plan, via Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News. “It’s no secret to anybody.”

Bosa told all his coaches well in advance that he was going to continue the conditioning work offsite with his own trainer (who didn’t want to be named, in a rare lack of self-promotion in that industry). Bosa worked with the same trainer last year and emerged from a long contract standoff to win defensive rookie of the year honors, with 10.5 sacks despite missing the first four games.

“I just found a guy who really knows what he’s talking about, and my body changed in ways I could never have imagined last year,” he said. “Pain in certain parts of my body that I’ve had chronically for years and years was suddenly gone after going through this process and this program.

“After that and after the year I had last year, I saw no reason why I would ever change what I’m doing.”

Considering his production, the Chargers ought to be fine with it, and appear to be. And considering the lengths he’s gone to to explain his participation in a process that’s supposed to be voluntary, everyone else should be as well.

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Report: Vikings unlikely to exercise Teddy Bridgewater’s 2018 option

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Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman met the media on Tuesday and one of the topics of conversation was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s attempt to come back from last season’s severe knee injury.

Spielman said that there is still no timeline for Bridgewater to resume a full workload of football activities after last August’s injury. That injury was serious enough that it has created doubt about Bridgewater’s ability to return at all and that uncertainty will play into the team’s decision about their option on Bridgewater’s contract for the 2018 season.

That decision needs to be made by the middle of next week and Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Vikings are unlikely to pick up the option. The option is guaranteed against injury and, as you’d likely imagine, that’s a sticking point for the Vikings as they’d prefer not to be on the hook for more than $11 million in salary for a player who isn’t able to play.

Sam Bradford is in the final year of his contract as well, which may lead the Vikings to consider a quarterback addition in the draft this week as they plan for all eventualities at the most important position on offense.

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Longtime NFL reporter Ed Werder laid off by ESPN

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One of ESPN’s most experienced NFL reporters is out, effective immediately.

Ed Werder, who has a strong reputation for covering football and particularly the Cowboys, has been let go, he said on Twitter this morning.

“After 17 years reporting on NFL, I’ve been informed that I’m being laid off by ESPN effective immediately. I have no plans to retire,” Werder wrote.

ESPN is expected to lay off around 100 employees this week, as the network tries to reduce costs as it deals with declining revenues thanks to cord cutting. At least one other NFL reporter, longtime Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky, has also been let go, and it’s likely that several notable names in the NFL media world will be without jobs soon.

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No update yet on Marshawn Lynch from Marshawn Lynch

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The last time NFL Media told us a deal was in place between the Raiders and Marshawn Lynch, it wasn’t. And Lynch himself made things clear with this tweet: “If u kno me you kno my business is my business and if u don’t kno me that’s a fun fact for ya… when sh-t get REAL I’ll let you kno!!!!

While it’s highly unlikely that NFL Media would allow itself to go 0-for-2 on this specific story, Lynch still has yet to let anyone know whether “sh-t” has gotten real. Besides, NFL Media wisely has applied this caveat to its report: “As is nearly always the case with Lynch, nothing is done until it’s done. All parties involved were wary of celebrating a deal until Lynch sets foot on the mainland and meets with those necessary to complete a deal. But at this point, sources directly involved in the situation are confident it’ll get done.”

Lynch is scheduled to return to the Bay Area on Wednesday from a trip to Haiti. Some have pointed to his travels as the reason for his failure to let us know whether “sh-t” has gotten real. That said, it is indeed possible to tweet from the road (and from the air). The fact that, as of this posting, he has said nothing means there’s still a chance that he will say pretty much anything.

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Report: Buccaneers talking about trading back

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There was a report early this week that many of the teams drafting at the top of the first round are open to trading down and that feeling apparently extends to the later sections of the round as well.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Buccaneers have spoken to “at least three teams” about trading back from the No. 19 overall pick. Schefter adds that the Buccaneers could trade out of the first round altogether, which suggests that at least one of those teams is looking to trade back into the first round or doesn’t currently have a first-round selection.

The Rams, Vikings and Patriots are currently without a first-round pick and the Patriots are without a second-round pick as well.

One team that could be a potential trade partner for the Bucs is the Giants. Their General Manager Jerry Reese said the team would do that if the opportunity presents itself, although they and any other teams will almost certainly be waiting to see how the first 18 picks fall before making a move into Tampa’s spot.

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Mark Ingram says he’s fine with addition of Adrian Peterson

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Mark Ingram got some high-profile company in the backfield Tuesday, but the Saints starting running back said he’s fine with the addition of Adrian Peterson.

I’m all about winning, man,” Ingram said, via Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “If this will help us win, I’m all about winning. I’m all for it.”

Ingram’s coming off his first 1,000-yard rushing season, and he’s always had some degree of help in the backfield, rather than being the kind of bell cow back he was at Alabama. Last year it was Tim Hightower, but it has been several others in his time in New Orleans.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Peterson would have a “very clear and defined” role on the team, but Ingram didn’t seem worried about it cutting into his carries.

“Listen, man, it’s nothing new,” Ingram said. “I’ve been sharing the ball with one or two, maybe three guys since I got here.

“I figured we were going to draft somebody or get somebody in free agency, still might, I figured that was going to happen, so it’s not surprising to me. I don’t care who comes in, where I’m at, who I’m playing with. I’m always going to compete, I’m always going to do the best I can do and that’s just me, that’s how I’m built.”

Of course, none of the backs Ingram’s been sharing time with have an MVP trophy, or 11,747 rushing yards, but that’s an adjustment he’s willing to make.

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Marshawn Lynch deal to Oakland is done, pending physical

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The Raiders had a deadline, and Marshawn Lynch has apparently met it.

According to the NFL Network, the deal between the veteran running back, the Raiders and the Seahawks will be finished by the end of the day.

Lynch has agreed to a new one-year deal with Oakland, and the teams have already agreed on the details of a trade, which will involve a swap of late-round draft picks in 2018.

The deal will pay Lynch a base of $3 million, with the chance to make $2 million more if he gains 1,000 yards, with a maxed-out value of $8.5 million.

That sends Lynch out of retirement and back to his hometown team, in time to do some PR work and perhaps run the ball from time to time for a team that needed a back after Latavius Murray left in free agency. General Manager Reggie McKenzie said he needed to know what Lynch was going to do before the draft, so he could make other plans this week if he wasn’t coming home.

Lynch will still need to pass a physical, and he’s heading to the Bay Area to do that after returning from a trip to Haiti.

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Cowboys think they’re OK “staying put” at 28

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The dearth of quarterbacks may make other teams desperate to trade up. But for one guy who loves a good deal, the depth at cornerback makes him more likely to sit tight.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he was willing to to sit tight at No. 28 overall and see what comes to them.

This is a real good year for staying put,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s because we need so many good football players or because there are some good football players there, especially in those early rounds. But in my experience, it’s wasting your time to talk about what you might do trading in the later rounds.

“As far as value, what opportunities we might have there, you don’t ever want to predetermine what you’re going to do. But certainly if you stay there we will have an opportunity to really help our team, in my view.”

The Cowboys have been willing, if not downright eager, to make deals in either direction in the past. From trading up for Morris Claiborne and Demarcus Lawrence to moving back for players such as Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams, to failed bids for quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook last year (before they settled for Dak Prescott), he’s always up for some action.

But this draft is perceived as being deep at one of the positions the Cowboys need most. After losing cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Claiborne in free agency (along with safety Barry Church and others), they need to infuse some young talent into the secondary. They also need pass rushers, but it appears they think they’ll be able to find what they need later.

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Chad Kelly says NFL teams know he’s moved past “dumb mistakes”

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Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly wasn’t at the Scouting Combine as a result of the NFL’s new policy banning players who have been involved in acts of violence off the field. But Kelly said he believes NFL teams know what kind of person he is.

Kelly pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct two years ago as part of a case in which he was initially accused of punching two people, threatening to shoot up a bar with an AK-47 and resisting arrest. He said this morning on PFT Live that he has told NFL teams that he’s grown up since then, and he thinks those teams believe him.

“I’ve made it clear that I just had my 23rd birthday, if I don’t get it now I’ll never get it. I think they understand my sincere apologies for making those dumb mistakes,” Kelly said.

A bigger problem for Kelly right now may be that he’s rehabbing both knee and wrist injuries, and he hasn’t been able to work out for teams the way he would have liked. So there are some significant questions about him, but he’s hoping he has answered those questions as well as possible, and will hear his name called this week by some team that’s satisfied with the kind of player and person he is.

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Latavius Murray plans on being ready for training camp

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Adrian Peterson earned a prominent spot in the headlines on Tuesday by signing with the Saints in a move that sets him up for an early return to Minnesota because the two teams will square off in Week One.

The plan for the Vikings is for Latavius Murray to be in Peterson’s old spot as the team’s starting running back, although the Vikings will have to wait a little while before they have a chance to see exactly how Murray fits into their offense. He had ankle surgery shortly after signing with the team as a free agent and said Tuesday that he’s still going through the rehab process with designs on being ready to go when training camp starts.

“That’s the plan,” Murray said. “That’s my goal, obviously. I don’t want to miss any more time than I have to, but, at the same time, I have to continue to trust the plan [the medical staff] has in place for me. I want to be out there when it’s time to lock and load.”

When that time arrives, Murray says that he knows the Vikings want him on the field as much as possible as an every-down back and said he’s confident that his receiving skills will allow that to happen. It will be a spell before there’s on-field evidence to support those feelings, but little doubt that the Vikings will need Murray to hit the ground running upon his return to action.

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Mixed signals from Rams on Trumaine Johnson

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The Rams opted to apply the franchise tag to cornerback Trumaine Johnson for a second time, despite the 20-percent raise over last year’s eight-figure salary. Since then, mixed signals have emerged as to whether the Rams will keep him under the one-year, $16.74 million tender (which he has signed), trade him, or sign him to a long-term deal.

As the first minicamp of the Sean McVay era began on Tuesday, the mixed signals continued.

“Today he’s a Ram,” G.M. Les Snead told reporters regarding Johnson. “First walk-through [practice on Tuesday], and then we’ll get this minicamp going and it’ll go through OTAs, and the plan I mentioned is still the same. It’s not necessarily going to affect the draft at all. We’ll try to rank the corners from top to bottom. You can always use more than one or two or three good corners. His situation won’t affect it, but right now he’s a Ram, and we plan to go from there.”

The “today he’s a Ram” line prompted an obvious follow-up — is there a chance he’s traded from the Rams tomorrow or one of the next days?

“No, right now, I think we’re more into OTAs and let’s see if we can get something done by the end of this thing,” Snead said. “That’s where we’re at right now.”

Johnson separately spoke to reporters about his situation.

“I’m glad to be a Ram, point blank,” Johnson said. “Coming out here, it’s a privilege to play football. I’m glad I’m on the team, and I’m with the Rams.”

Does he wants a long-term deal?

“Of course,” Johnson said. “We’ve got time right now. That’s not my main focus, I’m going to let my agent handle that. In the meantime, get to know the new guys, be back with the old guys and get all of these new defenses in with the coaches.”

Either way, Johnson is saying he’d like to stay.

“Of course, I love these guys,” Johnson said. “I’m here because I love my teammates. I don’t want to leave and hopefully we get a long-term deal.”

It still seems as if all options are on the table, especially since Johnson has plenty of leverage when it comes to long-term talks. With $16.74 million already guaranteed for 2017 and quarterback money looming if he’s tagged again in 2018, Johnson can (and should) ask for a huge deal in order to commit beyond this season. The Rams also have options; they can draft a replacement, and/or they can use Johnson as bait to replenish draft picks after sending their 2017 first-rounder (No. 5 overall) to Tennessee as part of the Jared Goff trade.

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