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Geno Smith will attend the draft tonight after all

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After he was passed over in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said he was heading home. But now he has reconsidered.

Smith will, in fact, be in attendance on Friday night when the second round begins, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

We don’t know what changed Smith’s mind, but it may be that he got a strong indication from some team that he won’t be sitting around for long. A team with a high second-round pick may have already reached out to Smith and told him he’s going to be the guy, and that he shouldn’t go anywhere. (If that team is the Jets, it would especially make sense for Smith to stay in New York.)

Another day in New York City wasn’t the plan for Smith, who hoped he would be spending Friday at the facility of his new team. But at least he can be confident that he won’t still be at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday.

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Raiders, Gareon Conley “making progress”

AP

As the Oakland Raiders prepare to conduct their first training-camp practice on Saturday, there’s still a chance that their first-round pick will be present and accounted for.

Per a league source, the Raiders and cornerback Gareon Conley are “making progress” on a contract, but they’ve not yet struck a deal.

Conley, one of only three unsigned draft picks, has had his status complicated by a lingering rape investigation in Ohio. The Raiders may be looking for protections in the event Conley is charged, and Conley may be (should be) saying, essentially, “You should have thought of that before picking me.”

As recently explained, if the Raiders made no verbal requests before making the selection for specific terms that would be inserted if Conley wasn’t cleared before camp begins, he’s entitled to the same contract he would have gotten without the pending legal entanglement. Of course, that’s easier said than done in sensitive matters of this nature; it’s entirely possible the Raiders (potentially at the behest of the league office) are seeking advance permission to place Conley on paid leave if he’s charged for something that he allegedly did before he was drafted.

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Mychal Kendricks asked for a trade early this year

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There were reports over the course of the offseason that the Eagles might trade linebacker Mychal Kendricks, but nothing ever came of it and Kendricks is in camp with the team this summer.

On Friday, Kendricks said that the initial push to look into a trade came from him. Kendricks asked the team to move him or, failing that, release him after seeing his playing time drop after the change in coaches from Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson. Kendricks said the team had a different plan, however.

“I asked for a trade, for sure,” Kendricks said, via Philly.com. “Their response was, ‘You’re young and you’re talented and we’re not into that.’ I took it like that. … It’s as simple as that. It’s cut and dry. That’s the business. It’s just like that you that. You tell them what you want, they either do it or they don’t, and you’re in the contract you signed. And that’s it.”

Kendricks signed a five-year deal with the team in 2015 and said he’d “plead the fifth” when asked if he regrets doing that given what’s happened to his role after the change of coaches and defensive schemes. He added that he’s not unhappy to be in Philadelphia because he respects “these guys and the guys I work with every day.”

Still, it sounds like Kendricks wouldn’t mind if the Eagles changed their mind or if someone made them an offer that convinced them to ship the linebacker out of town.

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Seahawks, Chiefs swap linebackers

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The Seahawks and Chiefs made a trade on Friday involving a pair of linebackers.

The Seahawks are sending Kevin Pierre-Louis to Kansas City and they will receive D.J. Alexander in return.

Pierre-Louis was a fourth-round pick in 2014 and has played 34 games while making one start over his first three seasons. He’s played sparingly on defense in those appearances, but has been a regular on special teams in Seattle.

When Pierre-Louis has played on defense, he has played on the outside for the Seahawks. Alexander, a 2015 fifth-round pick, has been on the inside with the Chiefs, but otherwise has a similar profile to the player coming back to Kansas City.

Alexander played nine defensive snaps as a rookie and 48 during his second season while appearing regularly on special teams in every game the Chiefs played over the last two years. His work on those units was good enough to get him a spot in the Pro Bowl last year.

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Tyler Eifert, John Ross have been cleared to practice

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Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert said in April that he wasn’t sure he would be cleared to practice at the start of training camp due to the back surgery he had last December, but he got good news when he met with doctors to find out if he’d be able to join his teammates on the field this week.

Eifert said, via Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, that he’s been fully cleared to practice. Eifert missed eight games last season to continue a career-long trend of time spent in the trainer’s room rather than on the field, where Eifert has been a potent part of the Cincinnati offense.

Eifert has missed 27 games over his first four seasons, something that the Bengals would obviously like to see change as he heads into his fifth NFL campaign.

Eifert wasn’t the only member of the receiving corps with some good medical news to report. First-round pick John Ross said, via Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com, that he’s been cleared to practice, although he’s going to be limited as he makes his way back from shoulder surgery.

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Joe Flacco hopes he just misses a week

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Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is on the sideline with a back injury right now, but he said Friday that he hopes it won’t be long before he’s back under center.

Flacco said that he’s dealing with stiffness in his back and did not attribute the problem to the disc issue that was reported earlier this week. That report also pegged his timeline to return to action at 3-6 weeks, but Flacco said that he hopes to be back on the field in a week and that he doesn’t feel there’s any chance he’ll miss the start of the regular season.

“Hopefully it calms down pretty quickly,” Flacco said during a session with reporters at Ravens camp.

Flacco said he isn’t doing any throwing at all and that the plan for now is to just rest, adding that doctors have told him that course of action should keep the issue from being one that bothers him during the regular season.

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Jacquies Smith needs another knee surgery

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Jacquies Smith’s 2016 season got off to a bad start, and his 2017 isn’t going well either.

Smith, the Buccaneers defensive end who suffered a torn ACL in Week One of last year, opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list and will now need another surgery on his knee.

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter described the injury as only a little setback and the surgery as only a procedure, but it appears that Smith won’t be back on the field any time soon.

Smith was a little-known player who bounced around the league with the Dolphins, Jets and Bills without ever appearing in a regular-season game until 2014, when he burst onto the scene with 6.5 sacks over the second half of the season. In 2015 he had another strong season, and the Bucs were expecting big things from him last year. Now the question is when they’ll be able to get anything out of him at all.

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Titans waive Sebastian Tretola less than a week after he was shot in leg

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Guard Sebastian Tretola avoided serious injury when he was shot in Arkansas last weekend, but that didn’t help him stick on the Titans roster.

The Titans announced on Friday that they have waived Tretola. The move comes with a non-football injury designation.

Tretola, who was shot in the leg, was a sixth-round pick in 2016 and saw action in one game for the Titans during his rookie season. They signed guard Jake Simonich, an undrafted rookie who spent time with the Texans earlier in the offseason.

The Titans also waived linebacker Johnny Ragin III as they made room to formally add Erik Walden to the roster. The former Colts linebacker was signed earlier this week after recording 11 sacks in Indianapolis last season.

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Report: Mike Tomlin extension announcement coming soon

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Mike Tomlin has been the head coach of the Steelers since the 2007 season and it doesn’t look like there’s a change coming anytime soon.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that an announcement about a contract extension for Tomlin is expected from the team soon. Tomlin’s current deal runs through the 2018 season, although Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that it has already been stretched to 2019.

Rapoport reports that an option for that season vested due to Tomlin’s win total over the life of his current contract. It’s not clear if that is the announcement that is expected from the Steelers as Rapoport adds that there has been talk about a longer deal that runs beyond the 2019 season.

Tomlin is 103-57 in the regular season with the Steelers with one Super Bowl title and another AFC championship on his resume. He got to 100 wins faster than any other coach in Steelers history, which hasn’t stopped him from hearing criticism as the Steelers have fallen short of Super Bowl trips the last six years.

That criticism doesn’t appear to be shared inside the organization, however, and it doesn’t look like the team will be looking for their fourth head coach since hiring Chuck Noll in 1969.

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Seahawks to sign Marcus Smith

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Things never worked out for Marcus Smith with the Eagles after they made him a first-round pick in 2014, but the Seahawks hope they can have more luck.

According to multiple reports, the Seahawks will sign Smith as a free agent. Smith, who had a roster bonus of just under $600,000 due under his rookie deal, cleared waivers after being cut by the Eagles earlier this week.

Smith saw time at both outside linebacker and defensive end for the Eagles, but will likely be ticketed for a spot on the defensive line in Seattle. Smith played 37 games without making a start in Philly and recorded 4.5 sacks.

Smith will join another first-round flop in trying to turn his career around with the Seahawks as Seattle signed former Dolphin Dion Jordan, the third overall pick in 2013, earlier in the offseason.

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Lane Johnson on PEDs: I’m not Steve Lattimer from ‘The Program’

In the classic 1993 college football movie The Program, lineman Steve Lattimer pumps himself up with steroids and earns a place on the starting defense. But when his coach warns him about drug tests and he goes off the juice, Lattimer’s play declines and he’s run over on the goal line for a game-deciding touchdown.

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson wants you to know he’s no Steve Lattimer.

Johnson, who has twice been suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy, says he doesn’t need PEDs to fuel his performance and is in great shape, weighing in at around 320 pounds.

“Everybody expects me to be like the Steve Lattimer from ‘The Program’ and come back and weigh 180 and all my skills and talents were going to leave me,” Johnson said, via Philly.com. “That’s what people think but hey, look where I am now.”

Johnson claims his two suspensions were the result of consuming supplements that he didn’t realize had banned substances in them. He says he now takes no supplements at all.

“I’m just going to go out and worry about playing football and trying to wow people anytime I’m on the field. But as far as supplements, I don’t take anything. I just eat food, and that’s it. I’m really cautious. I try to not make any more dumb decisions. That’s hard to do,” Johnson said.

Johnson had better not be taking anything. If he violates the NFL’s PED policy a third time, it will result in a suspension of at least two years.

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Ezekiel Elliott absence would be particularly problematic in September

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If, as some assume, the NFL imposes a short suspension as soon as today on Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will be livid. For obvious reasons. But Elliott’s absence creates a somewhat non-obvious problem for the Cowboys.

In the first month of each regular season, defenses are routinely ahead of offenses — especially for teams where the offensive lines underwent change. In Dallas, 40 percent of that line is being shuffled around, with La’El Collins sliding to the outside to replace Doug Free at right tackle and guard Ron Leary gone.

So it will take time for the Cowboys to get the offensive line where it eventually will be. And they’ll be facing the Giants and Broncos right out of the gates, teams with potent defenses whose coordinators have had seven months to pick apart quarterback Dak Prescott’s rookie season in search of strategies for stopping him.

Adding to that the potential absence of Ezekiel Elliott, and Prescott could have a mess on his hands to begin his second season, with a work-in-progress wall of blockers and a less-than-optimal running game. Given the way things unfolded for Prescott a year ago, it could be a big deal. As former NFL coach Kevin Gilbride said recently on PFT Live, the dominance of the line allowed Prescott to go through his progressions slowly last year, permitting him to gradually build confidence.

This year, carefully-crafted blitzes and coverages aimed at exploiting flaws in Prescott’s game could change that quickly, with Prescott’s confidence potentially shattering before Elliott gets back on the field.

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Steelers’ Marcus Gilbert sued by man he allegedly body slammed

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A 54-year-old man has sued Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, saying that Gilbert body slammed him and broke his leg in a confrontation at Gilbert’s home.

The man, Larry Parker, says in the lawsuit that he knows many Steelers players and staffers, said the confrontation began at the parking lot of the Steelers’ facility on January 11, when Parker was dropping off a Steelers staffer’s car. Parker says he “voiced a jesting greeting” to Gilbert and then drove off.

According to the lawsuit, Gilbert apparently took offense to that “jesting greeting” and began sending hostile text messages to Parker. Eventually Parker went to Gilbert’s house to discuss the matter, and according to Parker, Gilbert picked him up and slammed him onto the bricks outside Gilbert’s home.

Parker says he suffered a broken leg, a back injury and needed surgery. He is seeking more than $35,000 in damages. Gilbert has had nothing to say about the matter.

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Mike Tomlin says there are “consequences” for Le’Veon Bell’s absence

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Unlike players who are under contract, the Steelers can’t fine running back Le’Veon Bell $40,000 a day.

But coach Mike Tomlin suggested there’s still some price to pay.

Via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers coach used the words “consequences” when talking about his star running back’s contract-related absence.

“There is no question we are a group that values the team-building process,” Tomlin said. “And doing it in this setting, so yes, there is value, and yes, there are consequences for not being here. That’s the reality of it.”

Asked to specify what those consequences might be, Tomlin said: “They’re untold as we sit here.”

If the Steelers wanted to take the nuclear option, they could always pull the $12.1 million franchise tag. But that would make the central component of their offense a free agent immediately, so they obviously would be hesitant to do that.

But since he’s not signed, he can’t be fined. He also skipped all the voluntary work throughout the spring, and they didn’t necessarily expect him.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want him sooner rather than later.

“Obviously I would like for him to be here,” Tomlin said. “He is not. I am going to focus my energies on the guys who are. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, one that we’ll deal with, one that he’ll deal with. I’ve had good clean communication with him. I’ll keep the nature of that conversation between us. Rest assured he’ll be ready to play football. When he gets here, he gets here.”

Other players have also begun to prod Bell, but if the Steelers want him there, they can always prove their feelings toward Bell financially.

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ESPN distorts analysis of poll question regarding NFL viewing habits

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The effort to make ESPN not seem like a left-wing media establishment continues, apparently.

At a time when constant (and largely inaccurate) criticism has been registered against ESPN for having a liberal agenda, ESPN has decided to summarize a new poll in a way the definitely isn’t left of center.

Here’s the second paragraph of the article from in-house ESPN sports money man Darren Rovell regarding a recent poll from J.D. Power:  “The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.”

Here’s the far more significant seventh paragraph: “J.D. Power noted that only 12 percent of the fans it surveyed said they watched fewer NFL games last season, with 27 percent of people saying they watched more and 62 percent saying they watched just as much as they had the season before.”

So the more accurate characterization is that 26 percent of 12 percent watched fewer football games in 2016 due to national anthem protests. Or, in other words, 3.12 percent of the 9,200 people who “attended either one football, basketball or hockey game” (an oddly specific parameter) watched fewer football games on TV last year.

There’s another important factor that Rovell’s analysis completely ignored: Market.

As noted by SBNation.com, 22 percent of fans in Chicago watched less football in 2016. Only six percent watched less football last year in Boston.

And that’s where the poll, and the interpretation of it, become worthless. It appears that there wasn’t a “my team stunk last year” option for explaining the lack of interest.

Indeed, it appears that the options were pre-determined and provided in a multiple-choice format. So if “my team stunk last year” wasn’t one of the pre-selected choices, the influence of, for example, the Bears being 3-13 wouldn’t be reflected at all by the 22 percent of Chicagoans who watched less football in 2016.

But, hey, ESPN at least has something else to point to the next time someone from FOX shouts “liberal bias!”

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After trading Cardale Jones, Bills think they’re set at quarterback

AP

The Buffalo Bills think they have all the quarterbacks they need.

After trading Cardale Jones to the Chargers, Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said he’s set with Tyrod Taylor as the starter, T.J. Yates as the veteran backup and Nathan Peterman as the rookie who will learn on the job.

“Right now we’re planning to go with these three,” Beane said, via the Buffalo News. “You never rule anything out. Anything that can help our roster, we’re always looking at, but right now we’re good with three.”

Asked about Colin Kaepernick, Beane said he’s not a consideration.

“Obviously Colin, he’s had great success in the past,” Beane said. “I’ve not looked into him or anything like that. We’ve had plenty of quarterbacks here. I like the mesh of the three that we have. We liked Cardale, but our our goal right now is just to let these three go and see how it goes at camp.”

Whether the Bills have their long-term starter remains to be seen, but they have their 2017 quarterbacks in place, and they’re not expecting that to change.

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