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Report: James Starks on the trade block

James Starks Pic Getty Images

The Packers have added a pair of running backs in the draft and that may mean that it is time for one of their current backs to find a new place to play.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that the Packers “have made it known” that they would like to trade James Starks. The team sent Brandon Saine a pink slip before the draft and also have DuJuan Harris and Alex Green on their current roster. They also checked in with veteran Cedric Benson this week before drafting Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the second and fourth rounds respectively.

Starks was a sixth-round draft pick in 2010 and got a slow start to his NFL career thanks to a training camp injury, but played a key role in the postseason as the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl. Injuries have continued to be a problem with Starks, limiting him to 19 games over the last two seasons and forcing the Packers to look elsewhere for help in the backfield.

We’ll see if the Packers can get anything for Starks or if the rest of the league sees the writing on the wall and just waits for the Packers to send another running back packing.

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Report: Eric Weddle won’t attend OTAs

Denver Broncos vs the San Diego Chargers Getty Images

One of the NFL’s most highly regarded safeties will reportedly not be present for his club’s organized team practice activities this week.

San Diego’s Eric Weddle will not take part in the voluntary workouts, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Monday.

A three-time Pro Bowler, the 30-year-old Weddle is in the final year of his contract. He is seeking a new deal.

The Chargers’ OTAs run from Tuesday through Thursday this week as well as June 1-3 and June 8-11. The club’s mandatory offseason minicamp is June 16-June 18. Weddle would be subject to fines if he did not attend the minicamp, but there are no penalties for skipping OTAs.

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Bears release Ray McDonald

McDonald Getty Images

Holiday, schmoliday.

With the NFL taking a rare day off to celebrate Memorial Day, the Chicago Bears opted to transact some swift business in the immediate aftermath of the latest arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald.

The team has announced that McDonald has been released.

“We believe in second chances, but when we signed Ray we were very clear what our expectations were if he was to remain a Bear,” General Manager Ryan Pace said in team-issued release. “He was not able to meet the standard and the decision was made to release him.”

On one hand, McDonald is innocent until proven guilty, and it’s possible he didn’t do anything wrong. On the other hand, how many time can a guy be falsely accused before the question becomes why does he keep putting himself in the position to be accused falsely? With McDonald fully aware of the consequences of any misstep, he needed to do everything in his power to avoid any type of claim. He failed.

McDonald once again becomes a free agent, but it’s unlikely that anyone will take a chance on him unless and until he’s exonerated from the latest accusation of domestic violence and child endangerment. Even then, it’s possible that McDonald won’t get another second chance.

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McDonald is accused of assaulting woman who was holding a baby

McDonald Getty Images

More and more details are emerging regarding the Monday morning arrest of Bears defensive lineman Ray McDonald. And more and more time is passing with his current employer saying nothing.

Via NBC Bay Area, McDonald specifically is accused of “physically assault[ing] the victim while she was holding a baby.” The alleged victim apparently is McDonald’s ex-fiancée, who reportedly had been residing with the child in an apartment paid for by McDonald.

McDonald reportedly asked his ex-fiancée to leave the apartment. He then left the premises and, when he returned, the police had been called. McDonald was arrested at the home of former 49ers teammate Justin Smith.

McDonald’s ex-fiancée also was involved in the August 2014 incident for which McDonald was arrested but ultimately not charged. The 49ers were criticized heavily for taking no action against McDonald. The team then cut him after a separate accusation of sexual assault was made against McDonald later in the year. (McDonald contends that the claim of sexual assault is false.)

The Bears, meanwhile, have said nothing — not even the perfunctory “we’re looking into it” non-statement statement. They’ll be expected by many to say, and to do, something strong in response to this latest incident involving McDonald.

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How many wins will it take to take the NFC South?

Murray Getty Images

Yes, it’s Memorial Day. But since what we do isn’t really working, we’ll be working while not really working through a 60-minute edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN.

It will require even less work for you to answer Monday’s PFT Planet poll question. Since Monday’s show focuses on the offseasons of the teams of the NFC South, it’s your task to select the number of wins it will take to take the division.

Last year, seven were enough. I thought about making six an option for 2015, but surely that won’t happen — especially with each of the four franchises showing signs of improvement.

Cast a ballot below and then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET. Despite the various alcohol-based temptations at the looming cookout at PFT headquarters, I intend to not pay homage to Bill Murray visiting MSNBC last week.

Key word: intend.

Many NFC South fans surely wish they’d paid homage to Bill Murray visiting MSNBC all season long last year.

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McCaskey warned McDonald his behavior had to improve

mccaskey AP

When the Bears signed Ray McDonald in March, he was specifically warned by owner George McCaskey that his off-field behavior had to improve, or else he wouldn’t be a Bear for long.

After getting that warning, McDonald managed to stay out of trouble for two months.

McDonald, who was arrested today on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment, was cut by the 49ers last year after two separate accusations of violence against women. At the time that the Bears signed McDonald, McCaskey said that he had personally talked to McDonald and told him the Bears wouldn’t tolerate continued off-field issues.

“I told him that my assessment was bad decision-making; allowing himself to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or not withdrawing from a situation at the appropriate time. And I told him if he’s to remain a Bear that needs to improve and he pledged to me that it would,” McCaskey said.

McCaskey also said he wants to make sure the Bears are attracting the right kinds of people.

“That’s extremely important to us,” McCaskey said. “We have a 96-year tradition of doing things a certain way, of bringing a certain player into our team and those were my concerns going into the conversation with Ray. But I think you look at every situation individually. You try to find out as much information as you can that’s reliable to make the best decision you can about whether to offer a player the privilege of becoming a Chicago Bear.”

Given those comments, it’s hard to imagine that the Bears won’t cut McDonald. Perhaps by the end of the day today.

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Broncos CB Tevrin Brandon released from hospital after being hit by car

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We’ve reported on several cases of NFL players getting into accidents or arrested for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel of a car, but Broncos cornerback Tevrin Brandon’s involvement in a traffic altercation on Sunday morning was a little bit different. reports that Brandon had to be taken to a hospital in New Jersey after he was hit by a car at 2:24 a.m. while crossing an intersection between Highways 71 and 35 in Belmar. Brandon, who went to college at nearby Monmouth, was released from the Jersey Shore Medical Center later on Sunday.

A black Ford F-150 pickup is suspected of hitting Brandon and then leaving the scene before authorities arrived. Captain Andrew Huisman of the Belmar police said Sunday that the truck had yet to be located.

Brandon went undrafted last year and spent time in the Fall Experimental Football League before signing a future contract with the Broncos in January.

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Cam Newton says the kind of thing Cam Newton says sometimes

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) directs the team's offense against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter in NFC Divisional Playoff action at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

By all accounts, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton works hard, has played hurt and played well, helping his team to the first back-to-back playoff seasons in franchise history.

But sometimes when he talks, he makes it easy to misconstrue him.

During an interview with Morgan Fogarty of WCCB in Charlotte, Newton said another one of those things — like “entertainer and icon” — which will be latched onto by his critics as evidence of something he may not actually be.

When asked if he was still one of the league’s “greatest unknowns,” Newton started talking and the words just fell together in the following perhaps-unfortunate order.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I say this with the most humility, but I don’t think nobody has ever been who I’m trying to be. Nobody has the size, nobody has the speed, nobody has the arm strength, nobody had the intangibles that I’ve had.

“I’m not saying I’m the one-on-one type of person that this league will never see again. No, I’m not saying that, hear me out. I’m just saying that so much of my talents have not been seen in one person.”

To be honest, he’s probably right. He has the mobility of a Russell Wilson, with the size and arm of a Ben Roethlisberger. But for all Newton’s grace — not everybody can wear white pants in the mud and save damsels in distress — sometimes he stumbles over his own words and ends up sounding more arrogant than he could possibly be.

And when he does, it makes him an easy target.

On the other hand, Newton can also sound incredibly gracious and self-aware.

For example, he said he still wears the hospital bracelet from last year’s car wreck, as a reminder of the temporal nature of his existence and the need to appreciate each moment.

And he was open about learning not to demand “instant gratification,” from his career, as he learns from his elders on the Panthers roster.

“So much of leadership is being a good follower as well,” Newton said. “And I look forward to hearing Thomas Davis speak. Watching how Ryan Kalil approaches the game. As well as Greg Olsen, [who] gets after it every day at practice.

“When I see those type of things each and every day, it makes me a better person [and say to myself] ‘Man, let me stop feeling sorry for myself and my nagging injuries and say you know what, I gotta do better. I gotta become that leader that I’m supposed to be.'”

Of course, that’s not as dramatic a sound bite, or as easy to use to pigeonhole him. Which is probably why you won’t hear it as often.

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Police confirm arrest of Ray McDonald

McDonald Getty Images

The Bears have yet to say anything about the arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald. The authorities are saying plenty.

Via NBC Bay Area, Santa Clara police have confirmed that McDonald was arrested Monday on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment. More information could be released within the hour.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes that the arrest occurred at an address belonging to retired 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith.  Smith has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The Bears surely will face pressure to sever ties with McDonald, especially since owner George McCaskey has said that he initially didn’t want to sign the player who was cut by the 49ers after a pair of accusations in 2014.

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Report: Jim Schwartz to consult with NFL officials in 2015

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Former Lions head coach and Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz didn’t land a job on a coaching staff for the 2015 season and said that he’d reached a point in his career where he “can be selective about opportunities.”

Schwartz also said that he was confident that an appealing opportunity will present itself to him at some point in the future and it appears he’s found a way to stay busy and around the game until that happens. Alex Marvez of reports that Schwartz will serve as a consultant for the league’s officiating department.

It would be the first time that Schwartz will work directly with the league’s officials, although he’s had an impact on that office in the past. During a Thanksgiving game in 2012, Schwartz threw a red flag to assert that Texans running back Justin Forsett was down a short way into what was ruled an 81-yard touchdown. League rules at the time were that throwing the challenge flag negated the automatic review of a scoring play, but the rule was changed during the next offseason to ensure the play would still be reviewed even if a coach was overzealous with his challenge.

Per Marvez, Schwartz’s main role will be “to help provide a coach’s perspective with some of the decisions made by the officiating office” and the aforementioned rule change probably takes care of one big suggestion that Schwartz would have made from a coach’s point of view.

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Report: Ray McDonald arrested, again

McDonald Getty Images

Bears defensive lineman Ray McDonald is about to have his character assassinated all over again.

McDonald, who became a lightning rod for controversy following a domestic violence accusation last year and later was abruptly cut following a separate accusation of sexual assault, has been arrested, according to Damian Trujillo of NBC Bay Area.

Per Trujillo, the new allegation is domestic violence and “possible child endangerment.”

The NFL previously has cleared McDonald of potential Personal Conduct Policy violations arising from the first 2014 incident. McDonald has said he will sue his accuser from the second incident, claiming that footage from his home surveillance system shows that their sexual encounter was “clearly consensual.”

“I had two incidents [in which] I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong, but still it’s in the spotlight,” McDonald said last month. “It was in the national spotlight for quite some time. I’m just trying to move forward from it.”

The 49ers absorbed plenty of criticism for not suspending McDonald pending the resolution of the initial incident from August 2014; this time around, the allegation could result in placement of McDonald on the Commissioner Exempt list, given the NFL’s new approach to accusations of violent crime. McDonald would be paid his base salary, but he’d be prevented from practicing or playing.

The suspension won’t matter if the Bears decide to sever ties with McDonald. Owner George McCaskey has said he initially didn’t want to sign McDonald based on his history. but McCaskey deferred to G.M. Ryan Pace.

For Pace, the incident becomes the first blemish on his record as the architect of the team’s football operation. What Pace does next will likely be a factor in whether the blemish becomes a scar.

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Glenn Dorsey: There shouldn’t be a big letdown because of Justin Smith’s retirement

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Glenn Dorsey didn’t try to undersell what defensive end Justin Smith meant to the 49ers defense when asked about Smith’s retirement last week.

Dorsey said you can’t replace “the baddest dude I’ve played with” and that the team’s plan moving forward is going to be for several players to pick up the slack. Dorsey is part of that group along with Darnell Dockett and younger players like Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial and first-round pick Arik Armstead. He thinks the injection of new blood will do good things for the defensive front.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can play,” Dorsey said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are a lot of young guys that are hungry, so there’s a lot of good competition and guys are working hard. There shouldn’t be too much of a letdown.”

Dorsey may see more time at defensive end in the coming season as the 49ers recalibrate with Smith and Ray McDonald out of the picture and he said he’s close to being fully healed from the torn biceps that ended his 2014 campaign. Dockett is returning from a torn ACL and the 49ers will need the veterans to be a big part of the mix even with the hungry youngsters trying to fill their plates.

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Rashean Mathis thinks Lions’ defense can be better this year

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Can the Lions’ defense get better despite the loss of its best player, Ndamukong Suh? Cornerback Rashean Mathis thinks so.

“That’s definitely the plan,” Mathis told the Detroit Free Press. “Anything other than that wouldn’t be us. It wouldn’t be what we’re building for. Like I said, we started something but we know that consistency has to carry on. That’s what the off-season is for: trying to fill in those gaps or even places that we were good at, getting better and those things as well. That’s what our scouts are for, that’s what the coaches coach for and that’s what we train for, to be better than we were last year.”

It’s easy to see why that’s the approach the Lions are taking, but it’s hard to believe they can actually do it. In addition to losing Suh, the Lions have lost their second- and third-best defensive tackles, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley. Even with the arrivals of Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, they’ve taken a step backward at that position. Detroit also lost defensive end George Johnson, who was third on the team in sacks last season. And none of the Lions’ draft picks are expected to start as rookies.

So despite Mathis’s high hopes, the Lions’ defense is likely to take a step backward this season. Last year it was the defense that carried Detroit to the playoffs, but if the Lions are going to remain a playoff team, they need the offense and special teams to pick up some of the slack.

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Dee Milliner competing for roster spot “like everyone else”

New York Jets v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

If you want a primer on how quickly things can change in the NFL, the career arc of Jets cornerback Dee Milliner isn’t a bad place to start.

When the Jets took Milliner with the ninth overall pick of the 2013 draft, he was seen as a replacement for the newly departed Darrelle Revis in the starting lineup and the foundation of new General Manager John Idzik’s first draft in charge of the team’s personnel. Fast forward two years and Revis is back with the Jets while Idzik has been ousted from his job in favor of Mike Maccagnan.

As for Milliner? He’s not a starter after two years plagued by injuries, including a torn Achilles last year, and ineffectiveness. If those trends don’t come to an end, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers suggests a roster spot might be hard to come by in 2015.

“When you look at Dee coming in, you see a guy still kind of working off of an injury, trying to get himself to 100 percent,” Rodgers said, via Rich Cimini of “But as we looked at him, we expect Dee to compete for a position on the roster like everyone else. This was a top-10 pick, and we think he has a lot of ability and we expect him to compete.”

Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine joined Revis as free agent acquisitions with the Jets and none of them will be fighting for roster spots. The Jets also have 2014 third-rounder Dexter McDougle returning from a torn ACL to go with Darrin Walls, Marcus Williams and Milliner at corner.

Cimini suggests Milliner could start the year on the PUP list as he continues to return from the Achilles injury and that his $3.7 million in guaranteed money will help him hold onto a roster spot one way or another, but it’s clear that the paths of both Milliner and the Jets have veered significantly from where they were pointed in the first round of the 2013 draft.

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Blake Bortles worked to remake himself this offseason

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 28: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to pass in the pocket against the Houston Texans in the first quarter in a NFL game on December 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The reward for going 3-13 was the third pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but the Jaguars can’t even enjoy that after losing Dante Fowler to a torn ACL in his first minicamp practice.

So if they’re going to improve, they’re going to need more from last year’s third pick, quarterback Blake Bortles.

While it’s hard to tell if the cast around him has improved enough to make them better, Bortles himself is putting in the time to help himself.

Via Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union, Bortles is like many quarterbacks honing his craft with an off-site quarterback tutor. He’s working with a group in California including former Major League pitcher Tom House, who has worked with everybody from Tom Brady to Tim Tebow, to many in between.

This offseason, Blake did everything he could to improve his craft,” said Adam Dedeaux of 3DQB. “It’s not just about working hard, but smart, making sure everything you do has a purpose.

“Blake really worked smart this offseason. He now has a process that’s going to work for him to be successful, which is the main goal. His attention to detail, wanting to get better, his expectations of himself, are right there with the best. I know he’s taking that into training camp. The dude got after it.”

The group, which includes House, Dedeaux and former NFL quarterback John Beck spent two months working with Bortles on bio-mechanics, conditioning, nutrition and the mental game.

But Bortles is also physically different now, down from 250 pounds to 238, hopefully in better shape for his second season.

And while his offseason focus is no guarantee of success, for Jaguars fans, it’s what they have to cling onto at this point.

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Cam Heyward: We’ll find out how high Stephon Tuitt’s ceiling is this year

Keith Butler AP

The Steelers kick off organized team activities this week and they’ll be getting to work without Dick LeBeau for the first time since 2003.

The longtime defensive coordinator is in Tennessee now, leaving longtime Steelers assistant Keith Butler in charge of the defense. This week’s work will be the first chance the Steelers have had to run team drills under Butler, but defensive end Cam Heyward said that no one should expect any radical differences from what the team ran with LeBeau calling the shots.

“I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” Heyward said, via the team’s website. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.”

Without any major schematic shifts to figure out, the Steelers should have plenty of time to focus on integrating young players into key roles on a defense that’s changed a lot of personnel of late. The team has drafted 10 defensive players over the last two years to replace departing veterans and they’ll need several of them to step up this year. Heyward thinks fellow defensive end Stephon Tuitt is ready.

“He has been in certain situations most rookies don’t get to be in. He has been in dog fights,” Heyward said. “For me, I was behind Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel and they were going through the dog fights. If they weren’t playing I would get my opportunity. We expect Tuitt to be ready to go game one. Tuitt has a high ceiling and we are going to see how high it is.”

If the likes of Tuitt, Ryan Shazier, Senquez Golson and Bud Dupree can make strides in 2015, the Steelers should be on better footing defensively. If they don’t, expect more shootouts in Pittsburgh again this season.

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