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Jim Thorpe’s sons win lawsuit over his remains

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Jim Thorpe, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who was remembered as “probably the greatest natural athlete the world had seen” when he died in 1953, has for decades been the subject of legal wrangling over what should be done with his remains. On Friday, his two surviving sons won a ruling that will likely result in his body being moved from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma.

Thorpe is currently buried in the town that took his name: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. That was the wish of his third wife, who was with him when he died.

But Thorpe’s only surviving children, Bill and Richard Thorpe, are both from his second wife. And they have always argued that Thorpe should have been buried on American Indian land in Oklahoma, where he was born and raised. A federal judge’s ruling could clear the way for that to happen.

U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo said in his ruling that the law gives special consideration to “the sanctity of the Native American culture’s treatment of the remains of those of Native American ancestry.”

Playing for coach Pop Warner, Thorpe was an All-American for the Carlisle Indian School in 1911 and 1912. He became a professional football player in 1913 and was chosen in 1920 as the first president of the American Professional Football Association, which would become the National Football League. Thorpe played a total of 52 NFL games as a member of the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Rock Island Independents, New York Giants and Chicago Cardinals from 1920 to 1928. In 1963 he was chosen as a member of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Rams agree to terms with center Tim Barnes

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The St. Louis Rams have agreed to terms on a new deal with center Tim Barnes.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Barnes is expected to sign the one-year, $1 million deal with the Rams on Tuesday.

Barnes was not tendered as a restricted free agent by the Rams and allowed to hit the market. After a visit with the Kansas City Chiefs, Barnes elected to stay in St. Louis.

Barnes started four games in place of an injured Scott Wells at center at the end of the 2013 season. Barnes has appeared in 45 games for the Rams over the last three seasons while serving primarily on special teams.

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Falcons penalty doesn’t seem to provide much deterrence

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The Falcons admittedly used artificial crowd noise throughout the 2013 season and into the 2014 season, until they were caught in November.  Ultimately, they were fined and stripped of a fifth-round pick in 2016.

The fine ($350,000) really isn’t all that much for a billion-dollar business.  The draft pick carries far more value, but since it was deferred until 2016 it’s roughly equivalent to a sixth-round pick in 2015.

Given that there’s a chance a team can use false crowd noise and manage to conceal their activities indefinitely, the punishment for getting caught doesn’t exactly operate as a major deterrent — especially since fake crowd noise can have a major benefit.

As former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker explained on Monday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, crowd noise removes the advantage of knowing when the ball will be snapped, giving the blockers a split-second head start over the defensive players.  So the punishment doesn’t really seem to fit the crime, which could tempt others to commit the same crime.

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Heart attack preceded Armond Armstead’s retirement from Patriots

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The Patriots announced last summer that defensive lineman Armond Armstead was retiring at the age of 23, and Armstead has kept a low profile since then, never explaining what led him to walk away.

But now Armstead has confirmed in court papers that he suffered a heart attack in 2014, before announcing his retirement. The Sacramento Bee details that heart attack and other issues in a long story about Armstead’s lawsuit against USC. Armstead also had a heart attack in 2011, while he was a player at USC.

Armstead now believes his heart problems were caused by USC doctors giving him the painkiller Toradol. His lawsuit against the school will be closely watched throughout the football world, as hundreds of players in college football and the NFL have been given Toradol. Few players have had health problems as serious as multiple heart attacks before the age of 24, but several have expressed concerns about potential side effects.

Neither Armstead nor USC has commented publicly about the lawsuit.

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Technically, Brady’s cliff jump may violate his contract


Unless the video was technologically enhanced, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently jumped off a cliff in Costa Rica.  Setting aside for now whether the national media would be reacting with a shrug if a quarterback perceived as being less committed to his craft were engaging in inherently risky behaviors, the conduct technically may violate Brady’s contract.

Paragraph 3 of the Standard Player Contract provides that the player cannot “engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”

No specific unsafe activities are listed in the standard player contract, but there’s some precedent.  In 2007, the Titans successfully kept cornerback Pacman Jones from taking up pro wrestling during his one-year suspension under the personal-conduct policy by flexing their legal muscles in court.  Likewise, Saints quarterback Drew Brees cited his contract during a 2014 marketing campaign for a three-wheeled motorcycle, the Can-Am Spyder.

“We knew the restrictions from the beginning, as did Can-Am,” Brees said at the time.  “Ultimately because I can’t ride it now doesn’t mean I won’t someday.  The first chance I have to ride it on a closed course, you can bet I’ll take advantage.”

If Brees really is prohibited from riding a motorcycle (and if it wasn’t just a marketing ploy), riding a motorcycle presumably is no more unsafe than jumping off a cliff.

Obviously, the Patriots won’t be doing anything about it.  But they’d surely prefer that Brady be a bit more careful with his body during those days of the year when large men in armor aren’t throwing themselves at his legs.

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Washington signs RB Michael Hill

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Michael Hill is back for a second stint with Washington.

Hill, a second-year tailback from Missouri Western, re-signed with Washington on Monday, according to the NFL’s personnel notice.

Hill (5-10, 210) was on Washington’s practice squad toward the end of last season. He was last with the Colts, who waived him in March.

The 25-year-old Hill has also played for San Diego (2013), Green Bay (2013, 2014) and Tampa Bay (2013-2014). Overall, he’s rushed for 23 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 23 years in NFL regular season play, all in 2013 in stints with Green Bay and Tampa Bay.

Hill joins Silas Redd and exclusive-rights free agent Chris Thompson as reserve options behind starter Alfred Morris in Washington.

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Report: Miles Austin agrees to terms on deal with Eagles

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A visit to Philadelphia this week has resulted in a contract between receiver Miles Austin and the Eagles.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the former Dallas Cowboys wideout is set to return to the NFC East after agreeing on a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Eagles.

Austin spent last year with the Cleveland Browns after playing the first eight seasons of his career in Dallas. Austin caught 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games for Cleveland before landing on injured reserve with a kidney injury.

In his last fully healthy season, Austin caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns for the Cowboys in 2012. Austin has battled hamstring and kidney injuries the last two years.

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Doug Whaley: Marcell Dareus extension “priority No. 1″ after draft

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The Bills recently extended the contract of defensive tackle Kyle Williams and they have plans to make more tweaks to deals for their talented defensive linemen.

On the top of the docket is defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The Bills exercised their fifth-year option on Dareus’s contract for the 2015 season, which leaves him set to make $8.06 million in the coming year, and General Manager Doug Whaley says that an extension that will keep Dareus in Buffalo even longer will be a focus for the team as the offseason continues.

“In the near future,” Whaley said of extension talks with Dareus, via the Buffalo News. “He will be priority No. 1 once the dust settles post-draft, maybe even before then, just to get the ball rolling.”

Whaley also said that the “most logical” way for the team to free up more cap room in the immediate future would be to restructure or extend defensive end Mario Williams in a similar way to the deal they struck with Kyle Williams.

“We want to set a precedent that we retain our own and we have them retire as Buffalo Bills. I think that’s a sentiment we’re trying to show the players on our roster now,” Whaley said. “Not only are we getting good players, but we’re retaining our good players as long as possible. And everybody wins. Mario gets a couple of more years, he’s going to retire a Buffalo Bill, and we get some cap relief.”

The two moves would continue a busy offseason in Buffalo as the team tries to put together a team that will end the playoff drought that started after the team’s Wild Card loss to the Titans in a 2000 game that remains memorable because of the Music City Miracle that ended it.

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Report: Packers, B.J. Raji agree to deal

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Packers coach Mike McCarthy said recently that the team’s top priority during free agency is to re-sign their own players and they’re practicing what they preach at defensive tackle.

A reports out of Green Bay Monday morning indicated that the team had reached a deal to retain defensive tackle Letroy Guion after Guion started 16 games for them last season. There was also word that they were working to re-sign B.J. Raji, whose biceps injury knocked him out for the season and opened the door for Guion to enter the starting lineup.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media now reports that Raji has agreed to the deal. Per Rapoport, it is a one-year pact worth “roughly $3.5 million” with incentives that can push the total value of the deal to $4 million. Raji signed a one-year, $4 million deal before last season.

That’s more than they were initially reported to be offering for Raji’s return and more than Guion is reportedly making under the terms of his deal, which would suggest he’ll get a shot to reclaim his starting spot. Whoever starts, the two moves shore up Green Bay’s depth up front and leaves the Pack on their stated plan to keep their team together.

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Colts, Irsay issue statements on Indiana law

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Earlier today, the NBA and the Pacers addressed the controversial new Indiana law that potentially permits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the guise of religious freedom.  Coincidentally (or otherwise), the NFL and the Colts have now done so, too.

“The Colts have always embraced inclusiveness, tolerance, and a diverse fan base,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Twitter. “We welcome ALL fans to Colts Nation.  ONE FAMILY!”

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the NFL said in a statement.  “We are continuing to analyze the implications of the law.”

If that sounds familiar, it should.  It tracks the language of the statement issued last year as Arizona was considering the passage of a similar law.

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the NFL said at the time.

While both the Colts and the NFL have made it clear that they oppose discrimination of any kind, neither the team nor the league have indicated whether and to what extent they’ll push back against the Indiana law.  With the Scouting Combine an annual fixture in Indianapolis and the city handling the Super Bowl so well that it could return, the Colts and the league have leverage to force the kind of change that will honor the concepts articulated above.

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Philip Wheeler visiting with 49ers

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The 49ers’ search for inside linebacking help in the wake of the retirements of Chris Borland and Patrick Willis will include a visit with Philip Wheeler.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Wheeler is visiting with the team on Monday. Lance Briggs, Erin Henderson, Desmond Bishop and Mason Foster have also been on the radar, although Foster is now off the board after signing with the Bears.

Wheeler was released by the Dolphins along with several other veterans as they cleared out room under their salary cap earlier this month. He spent two years with the team after signing a five-year, $26 million contract before the 2013 season and failed to impress as a starter in 2013. Wheeler played in a reserve role for most of the 2014 season.

Whoever the 49ers wind up adding to the mix at inside linebacker will join Navorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite in the mix for playing time in 2015. Given the resumes of the players up for consideration, it would be surprising if the team doesn’t address the position during the draft as well.

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Jameis Winston to work out for Titans after pro day

Jameis Winston, Al-Quadin Muhammad AP

The Buccaneers are expected to make Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston the first pick of the 2015 draft, but nothing has been set in stone at this point.

As a result, the Titans, who own the second overall selection, will be doing their due diligence when it comes to evaluating the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.

General Manager Ruston Webster said during an appearance on The Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone Monday that the team will put through Winston through his paces in a private workout after he goes through drills as part of his pro day on Tuesday. Webster, coach Ken Whisenhunt and other members of the offensive staff are expected to make the trip to see Winston.

Even if the chances of Winston being available with the second pick are infinitesimal, it is in the team’s best interests to know everything about him ahead of the draft. They’ve already worked out Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota as they potentially move toward picking a rookie quarterback to join Zach Mettenberger and Charlie Whitehurst on the team’s depth chart.

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Mike McCarthy: Packers’ approach to free agency is like Groundhog Day

Mike McCarthy AP

Much like Bill Murray in Punxsutawney, Packers coach Mike McCarthy feels like he keeps having the same conversations at the annual NFL meetings, over and over again.

McCarthy said that every year at the league meeting he gets asked why the Packers aren’t more active in free agency, and every year he says the same thing.

“We obviously have a philosophy,” McCarthy said, via “It’s kind of like Groundhog Day. I feel like I answer this every year, so I’ll try to be creative and answer it differently this year. But it’s just the way we operate. We do the evaluations. We just stick to our plan. Our number one priority always has been to sign our own free agents. We go into every offseason—if we have 10 conversations, nine-and-a-half of them are about our own guys.”

All the Packers have done this year is sign their own guys: Green Bay is the only team in the NFL that hasn’t signed away a free agent from another team this offseason.

But that approach works well for the Packers, who have made the playoffs five years in a row. If you draft well, you can focus on re-signing your own players and not worry about breaking the bank to attract free agents from other teams. That’s what the Packers do, over and over again.

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Not only is there interest in Matt Schaub, he has a visit lined up

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Much like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected the Matt Schaub market to heat up quite as it has.

Now, there may even be a leader in the clubhouse.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Schaub is expected to visit the Ravens early this week.

The Jets and Falcons have also shown some interest in the 33-year-old quarterback, along with the Cowboys and Titans.

There was once a time when Schaub was actually a good quarterback, but after losing his mojo in Houston, he floundered through a stint in Oakland, but was cut after the Raiders signed Christian Ponder (roll that around in your head for a moment).

The Ravens could use a veteran backup, as Keith Wenning’s their only other option at the moment, after losing Tyrod Taylor to the Bills.

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Eagles extend DeMeco Ryans through 2016 season

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There may be questions about how effective linebacker DeMeco Ryans will be upon his return from the torn Achilles that ruined his 2014 season, but there’s no doubt that the Eagles want to keep him around.

The Eagles haven’t wavered from their public statements that they want to hold onto the veteran inside linebacker and they went a bit further on Monday by announcing a contract extension that extends Ryans’s pact with the team through the 2016 season. No financial terms were part of the announcement, but Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the deal is designed to give the team more cap space this season by lowering Ryans’s salary from the $6.9 million he was set to receive.

Ryans joins Kiko Alonso as inside linebackers in Philly recovering from season-ending injuries. If both are healthy in time for the season, the team will have a bit of a logjam at the position with Mychal Kendricks, Emmanuel Acho, Najee Goode and new addition Brad Jones also on hand. Geoff Mosher of suggested recently that Kendricks could be a trade chip with the draft approaching, although there’s been no sign that a deal is something the team is actively pursuing.

Ryans had 45 tackles and an interception in eight starts for the Eagles in 2014 and had started every game of the previous three seasons for Philadelphia and Houston.

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Chiefs meeting with free agent center Tim Barnes

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The Chiefs are in need of some help at center with Rodney Hudson making the move to Oakland as a free agent and they’re meeting with a candidate on Monday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Tim Barnes is visiting with the team after playing in 45 games for Missouri’s other NFL outfit over the last three years.

Barnes didn’t see much action on offense for the Rams in 2014 as he played just a handful of snaps with Scott Wells remaining healthy. The Rams didn’t tender him as a restricted free agent despite parting ways with Wells in the offseason, which suggests they didn’t see much they liked in the four starts he made during the 2013 season.

That’s not really the pedigree of a surefire starting option, which would likely leave Barnes to compete with Eric Kush and/or others if he does sign with the Chiefs. Florida State product Cameron Erving could be a consideration for the Chiefs if they opt to add a center with the 18th pick in the first round.

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