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“Draft Day” descends on Cleveland this week

Costner Getty Images

Football season returns (sort of) to Cleveland this week, when shooting for the NFL-related movie Draft Day begins.

Via WKYC-TV, the bulk of the filming starts in and around Greater Cleveland on Wednesday.  Shaker Heights and Berea, where the Browns are headquartered, appear on the list of sites where scenes will be shot.  FirstEnergy Stadium will host some of the filming, too.  (The dude from the Factory of Sadness video deserves a cameo, in his Pontbriand jersey.)

On Saturday, a casting call was held for football players in the 18-25 age range.

Filming in Cleveland at the same time will be Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, with Cleveland playing the role of Washington, D.C.

Some scenes from Draft Day already have been shot at Radio City Music Hall, in conjunction with the actual NFL draft.  The films stars Kevin Costner (who plays the Browns G.M.), Jennifer Garner, and Denis Leary.  Several NFL players appear in the film, including Texans running back Arian Foster.

The movie originally was scheduled to be filmed in Buffalo, with a focus on the Bills.  Ohio ultimately offered a better tax deal than New York, so the Browns scored the victory.

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Thomas Rawls, Jimmy Graham won’t practice on first day of camp

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 13: Running back Thomas Rawls #34 of the Seattle Seahawks carries the ball against defensive back Shareece Wright #35 of the Baltimore Ravens and free safety Kendrick Lewis #23 of the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Earlier this month, Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls said that he would “most definitely” be ready to go for the start of training camp.

Rawls may feel ready to go, but the Seahawks aren’t going to turn him loose just yet. General Manager John Schneider said, via Curtis Crabtree of PFT, that Rawls will not take part in the team’s first practice of camp on Saturday.

Schneider added that it has not been determined yet whether Rawls, who broke his ankle last year, will be placed on the physically unable to perform list.

Schneider said the same of tight end Jimmy Graham, who tore his patellar tendon last season. It wouldn’t be a surprising destination coming off of that injury, if only to make sure that Graham isn’t trying to do too much too soon. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered a calf injury in his return from a patellar tendon tear last year and never saw the field during the regular season.

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Jimmy Garoppolo perfects Patriot way, at press conferences

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24:  Jimmy Garoppolo #10 and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots take the field prior to the AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s unclear whether Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will thrive in his upcoming role as starting quarterback for the first four games of the regular season. He’s already thriving when it comes to the team’s preferred approach at press conferences.

He said pretty much what would be expected, without really saying anything. He’s excited for the chance to play. He’s more comfortable in his third training camp. It’s awesome to throw to the team’s great receivers. It’s not his place to say how much he will or should play in the preseason with the starting offense.

Garoppolo got stumped a couple of times regarding advice he’s gotten from Brady, vowing to “get back to you.” Chances are he won’t, unless Brady specifically authorizes whatever Garoppolo would say.

It’s also possible Brady has given Garoppolo no advice. Why would the veteran try to help the guy who, if he’s anything like Brady was at that age, wants to send Brady to the bench and into retirement? Twice since 2011, the team has used a third-round pick and a second-round pick on a quarterback. Those selections could have been used on players that would actually be, you know, playing. At some level, that has to irritate Brady.

It’s impossible to know that or anything else about Brady at this point because, to date, he hasn’t been made available to the media. He likely won’t be until the weekly obligation to speak arises — which for him won’t happen until the days preceding his debut, in Week Five.

Until then, get used to Garoppolo perfecting the Patriot Way of saying something while saying nothing.

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Victor Cruz avoids the PUP list

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Getty Images

The long-awaited return of wide receiver Victor Cruz drew a little bit closer on Thursday.

According to multiple reports from Giants camp, Cruz went through the team’s conditioning test without any problems and he has avoided the physically unable to perform list for the start of training camp. That means he’ll be part of the active roster for Friday’s opening practice and should take part, although memories of last year mean that he will probably be taking things slowly for a while.

Cruz has not played in a game since tearing his patellar tendon against the Eagles in Week Six of the 2014 season. He avoided the PUP list last summer, but a calf injury suffered in camp and aggravated during another attempted return wound up keeping him off the field for the entire season.

The length of Cruz’s layoff and severity of his injuries create some uncertainty about what kind of player he’ll be for the Giants this season. Odell Beckham is the clear No. 1 and rookie Sterling Shepard has gotten positive reviews for his early work with the team, so things should be looking good for the Giants passing game if Cruz can be anything close to the player he was before his career was interrupted.

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Browns shut Desmond Bryant down for the season

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 11: Defensive end Desmond Bryant #92 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates with outside linebacker Paul Kruger #99 of the Cleveland Browns after making a tackle in the first quarter of a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns defensive lineman Desmond Bryant was holding out hope, though there never really was that much to begin with.

The team announced Thursday that he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, officially ending his season. They signed tight end David Reaves to fill his roster spot.

Bryant initially said he hoped to return by the end of the season, saying he was “absolutely hopeful” even after tearing his pectoral muscle while lifting weights.

But the reality of a four- to six-month rehab meant that was never likely, and now the Browns will have to adjust without their 2015 sack leader.

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Bengals place Burfict on NFI list, sign Jimmy Wilson

Vontaze Burfict AP

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said this week that linebacker Vontaze Burfict won’t be playing in any of the team’s preseason games, explaining that there’s “no reason for us to expose him to injury” because of how important he is to the defense.

Burfict is also suspended for the first three games of the season, so the Bengals will need to get other linebackers ready to play this summer. Those other linebackers could be seeing some more reps in early training camp practices as well.

The Bengals announced Thursday that Burfict has been placed on the non-football injury list, which leaves him ineligible to practice until he’s activated. The Bengals didn’t specify the injury, although Burfict has a history of knee trouble, and Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports it’s not believed to be a serious issue.

The Bengals also announced that they have signed veteran safety Jimmy Wilson as a free agent. Wilson spent last year with the Chargers after playing in Miami for the first four years of his career. He signed with the Chiefs in April, but was released in May.

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Kyle Long in boot after hurting calf

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 06:   Kyle Long #75 of the Chicago Bears blocks  Aaron Lynch #59 of the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at Soldier Field on December 6, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Linebacker Leonard Floyd wasn’t the only Bears player who created an injury concern during Thursday’s opening practice of training camp.

Right guard Kyle Long got hurt near the end of practice and there were multiple reports that he was in a walking boot after practice. The team is calling it a left calf injury.

The general consensus among Bears reporters is that the injury is not a serious one, although Long will likely miss some practice time to help ensure that it doesn’t become a bigger issue at this early point in the schedule.

The Bears have moved Long back to guard this year after he kicked outside to tackle in 2015. That move didn’t stop him from making his third Pro Bowl in as many professional seasons, but Long’s preference was to be on the interior. The Bears need him healthy at any position to get the most out of their offensive line, which will make it wise to be sure all is well with the calf before he returns to action.

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Jason Pierre-Paul: My right hand feels like my left hand

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 20:  Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants in action against  Mike Remmers #74 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul saw the additions that the team made to the defense in free agency and he’s heard the predictions of better results this season, but he said Thursday that he’s aware “we don’t know” what the unit will be at this point in time.

One thing that would help the unit achieve their goals would be a return to form from Pierre-Paul after he missed half of last season while recovering from the fireworks accident that mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul had some good moments, but wearing a club on his right hand limited his ability to make plays when he got to the quarterback. He’s not wearing the club this year and says everything feels like it is back to normal on the field.

“My hand feels great,” Pierre-Paul said, via ESPN.com. “No complaining, no nothing. I’ve been training hard, been getting after it and getting ready to play some football. The club isn’t going to be an issue or anything. My right hand feels like my left hand. I don’t have to prove anything. It’s free will. I know I don’t need nothing to go out there to protect myself. I feel comfortable in using my hand and striking with it and hitting with it. I’m very excited to show people, ‘Hey, nothing has changed.'”

The Giants will be thrilled if that turns out to be the case because the pre-fireworks Pierre-Paul was an integral part of their defense for most of his first five seasons with the team.

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Denard Robinson “blessed” to be alive after his car crashed into a pond

Denard Robinson, Malliciah Goodman AP

Jaguars running back Denard Robinson told reporters Thursday that he’s lucky to be alive after falling asleep at the wheel and ending up having to be pulled by police officers out of his car after it crashed into a pond.

Traffic cam video released by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department showed Robinson’s car go through a red light and across traffic before landing in the pond around 4 a.m. on July 3.

I feel blessed, because it could have been a situation where I wasn’t talking to you right now,” Robinson said. “The situation could have been way worse. I could’ve hurt somebody or killed somebody, so I’m truly blessed that nothing happened to nobody. I came out with no scratches and my passenger was the same way.”

Robinson was cited for careless driving. Robinson told reporters Thursday he fell asleep at the light after “a long day” and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The police report said both Robinson and his passenger were asleep even as officers tried to help them out of the car.

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Brandon Marshall challenges Antonio Brown to a luxury car bet

Antonio Brown AP

Brandon Marshall proved last season he still has some wheels. But he may not when the season ends.

Via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, the Jets wide receiver has engaged in some playful banter with Steelers counterpart Antonio Brown, offering to bet their respective luxury cars on which one has the better season.

Marshall started it off with an Instagram post he’d bet a Porsche (a Jets sponsor) that he’d have more receiving yards than Brown, suggesting the Steelers wideout put his Rolls Royce on the line.

Brown had 1,834 yards last season to Marshall’s 1,502.

But Brown seemed up to it, telling TMZ Sports that Marshall must have been looking for some attention.

“He don’t really wanna do that. He just wants some PR. He too old to be doing that,” Brown said. “The RR is about $100k up [from the value of the Porsche]. . . .

“If he really serious, CALL ME . . . I’ll gladly accept. Don’t Internet it.”

Marshall scored 14 touchdowns to Brown’s 10 last year. And his best pal Ryan Fitzpatrick is back, so Marshall’s clearly feeling good about things.

Of course, he may need a ride from his quarterback, if Brown does take the challenge seriously.

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Muhammad Wilkerson hits Jets PUP list

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Muhammad Wilkerson #96 and Damon Harrison #94 of the New York Jets celebrate after defeating the New York Giants by a score of 23-20 at MetLife Stadium on December 6, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets beat the clock to sign defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to a five-year deal on July 15 in a move that came as a bit of a surprise given the general pessimism over the course of the offseason about a deal getting done.

While they had to rush to get Wilkerson signed, there will be no such hurry to get him back to a full practice schedule. Wilkerson suffered a broken leg in Week 17 and didn’t work out with the team in the spring while playing franchise tag tango, both of which likely contributed to the team’s decision to put him on the physically unable to perform list Thursday.

Wilkerson’s stay on the PUP list may not be long as he can be activated at any point this summer, but the Jets will likely exercise caution to ensure that he’s on the field to earn his money come September.

Left guard James Carpenter, right tackle Breno Giacomini, wide receiver Devin Smith (coming off a torn ACL), running back Khiry Robinson and defensive back Kendall James also landed on the PUP list.

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Jets cut punter to make room for Fitzpatrick

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets looks on from the bench in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants during preseason action at MetLife Stadium on August 29, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets officially signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick Thursday, meaning the team needed to clear a spot on its 90-man preseason roster.

Rookie punter Tom Hackett was the player waived to make room for Fitzpatrick.

That means, at least for now, rookie Lachlan Edwards is the lone punter on the Jets’ roster. The Jets drafted Edwards in the seventh round last April.

At 6-foot-4, 209, Edwards is big for a punter and still learning the game. A former Australian Rules Football player, Edwards never picked up a football until 2012.

The Jets drafted Edwards after losing Ryan Quigley, their punter for the last three seasons, to the Eagles via free agency.

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49ers’ Kaleb Ramsey retires

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 23:  Kaleb Ramsey #60 of the San Francisco 49ers participates in drills during 49ers Rookie Minicamp on May 23, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

After two years and zero games, 49ers defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey has announced his retirement.

Ramsey, a seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2014, spent his rookie year on injured reserve and his second year on the practice squad.

“I want to thank Jed York, the York family, Trent Baalke and all the coaches and staff I have had the pleasure of working with over the last two years,” Ramsey said in a statement released by the team. “The 49ers took a chance on drafting me and made my NFL dreams come true. Unfortunately, my career has been cut short, as I have made the decision to step away from the game to concentrate on other priorities in my life. During my time in the Bay Area, I have seen how special the 49ers organization and its fans truly are, and that is something I will take with me as I move on.”

The 27-year-old Ramsey has a long history of injuries dating back to his college career at Boston College, where the NCAA granted him a very rare fifth and sixth year of eligibility because he was sidelined for so long. He was working on a master’s degree while on the practice squad last year and appears to be ready to embark on a new career.

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Jimmy Garoppolo “very excited” about chance to start

Green Bay Packers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Patriots held their first practice of training camp on Thursday, which means we got our first chance to see how the team will be divvying up the reps at quarterback between Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports that it was an even split between the two quarterbacks during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills as the team begins the process of getting Garoppolo ready to start the first four games of the season. That will have to be balanced with getting Brady enough work to be sharp when he returns to the lineup after his suspension, something that coach Bill Belichick confirmed will happen on Wednesday.

That was a fairly obvious declaration and hasn’t stopped Garoppolo from being “very excited” about the chance to start.

“Yeah, it’s a great opportunity just like you said,” Garoppolo said in comments distributed by the team. “You have to go out there and take advantage of it. You don’t get many opportunities in this league, you might only get one, so you’ve got to make the best of it.”

If Garoppolo makes the best of his cameo in the starting lineup, it’s hard to believe that it will be the last of his opportunities to start in the NFL. Those future chances probably wouldn’t come in New England, but a strong showing in the first quarter of the season should make Garoppolo a hot commodity on the trade market come the offseason.

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Ravens rookie RB Kenneth Dixon tweaks knee at practice

HUNTINGTON, WV - DECEMBER 06: Kenneth Dixon #28 of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs carries the ball during the 2nd quarter against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium during the Conference USA championship game on December 6, 2014 in Huntington, West Virginia. The Thundering Herd defeated the Bulldogs 26-23. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens got a brief scare from rookie running back Kenneth Dixon at Thursday’s practice, but his knee injury doesn’t appear to be one that will keep him out of action for long.

Coach John Harbaugh said that Dixon, a fourth-round pick in April who is competing to be part of the backfield mix along with Justin Forsett, will be back very soon from what Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports is a Grade 1 MCL sprain. Rapoport expects the Ravens to proceed with caution, which isn’t a surprise after wide receiver Breshad Perriman missed all of last season with a knee injury that was initially described as being on the minor side.

Dixon, Buck Allen, Terrence West, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Trent Richardson are on the roster as options behind Forsett, although the latter two are on the PUP list and Forsett says he plans to do what he can to make it a one-man show.

“I’m going to put myself in a position where they can’t take me off the field,” Forsett said, via CSNMidAtlantic.com. “That’s my mentality. At the end of the day, everybody has their role. I’ll let coach decide that.”

Dixon ran for 4,480 yards, caught 88 passes and scored 87 touchdowns overall at Louisiana Tech and could position himself to take some of Forsett’s snaps if those all-purpose skills translate to the professional level.

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New Triplets dominate NFL merchandise sales

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 11:  Quarterback  Tony Romo #9 and  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys react during the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) Getty Images

For a team that hasn’t played in an NFC title game since 1995, the Cowboys continue to be extremely popular.

More than a generation after the trio of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin ruled the league as “the Triplets,” a new threesome of Cowboys skill-position players has emerged as marketing superstars. Regardless of the relative lack of on-field success.

From the NFLPA, via Gil Brandt of NFL.com, receiver Dez Bryant, quarterback Tony Romo, and running back Ezekiel Elliott are No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 on the top 50 list of total player sales from March 1 through May 31.

With Cowboys tight end Jason Witten just behind Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at No. 4, Dallas owns 80 percent of the top five spots on the list.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is No. 6, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has the No. 7 spot, and the rest of the top 10 (respectively) are Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, and Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The highest-ranking member of the defending NFL champions is linebacker Von Miller, at No. 24. He’s behind Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who didn’t play at all last year.

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