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Redskins kick tires on Shawn Morris, brother of Alfred

Last year, the Redskins finagled arguably the steal of the draft, selecting running back Alfred Morris in round six.  This year, another Morris faces even longer odds to stardom.

Shawn Morris, a Division III college running back at Birmingham Southern, is Alfred’s brother.  The younger Morris spent the weekend with his brother’s team on a tryout basis.

“Same personality, for sure,” coach Mike Shanahan told reporters on Sunday regarding Shawn Morris.  “I’m not sure they both run the same. But what a quality young man.”

Shawn Morris is among more than 40 players who have gotten a chance to get one of 90 offseason roster spots.

“What we do is have our scouts look at these players and if they think somebody has an attribute where it gives them a chance to make our football team, then we bring them in,” Shanahan said.  “We brought in, like I mentioned, I believe it was 47 guys and either a scout or a coach saw something that they thought they should be in our camp and have a chance to make our football team.”

The five-foot, eight-inch Shawn Morris talked about his NFL prospects while taking part in the UAB Pro Day workout in March.  “I’ve always been small and I’ve always excelled because I have the heart of a lion,” Morris said.

He may have the heart of a lion, but he’ll need to do a lot to have the uniform of a Redskin come September.

[Photo credit:  Birmingham Southern Athletics]

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Muhammad Wilkerson doesn’t like being called fat

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Muhammad Wilkerson has fired back, but so far, none of the people paid to write about him have followed suit.

After reports that he was out of shape while watching Temple’s pro day recently, Wilkerson posted on social media in response.

According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, Wilkerson posted a video from a gym, dripping in sweat and sending a clear message.

They say I’m fat and out of shape?” Wilkerson said in the video. “Haha. Keep sleeping on me. I’m telling you. I love it.”

Of course, the criticism of Wilkerson began when he signed a huge contract last summer, and failed to follow up on the work that earned it, with just 4.5 sacks last year (after 12.0 in the salary drive).

Of course, the criticism also came from one source, and led to an amusing media slap-fight.

So far, neither of the parties involved have chosen to make it personal this time. But it’s early yet. We have the popcorn ready just in case.

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Bernie Kosar on Dwight Clark ALS diagnosis: “I could make a joke”

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Dwight Clark, the legendary 49ers receiver who later served as general manager of the Browns, announced recently that he was diagnosed with ALS. Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar apparently thinks that’s something to joke about.

Kosar, who has a track record of making rambling and inappropriate statements on the radio, did so again on Wednesday, when he said on ESPN Radio in Cleveland that he suspected Clark may have already had ALS when he was the G.M. in Cleveland and that was why he didn’t succeed in that role.

“We had a bad weekend with Gale Sayers being diagnosed [with dementia] . . . Dwight Clark with ALS,” Kosar said. “I could make a joke about his struggles in picking players when he was here. It almost makes me wonder if maybe it started earlier.”

To joke about someone suffering ALS — as cruel a diagnosis as anyone can ever receive — is shockingly callous. It’s also extremely ignorant to suggest that ALS would affect a general manager’s decision making. ALS does horrific things to the body, but it doesn’t touch a sufferer’s mind. (Stephen Hawking has been making brilliant scientific discoveries for decades while suffering from ALS.)

After people on Twitter told Kosar he should apologize to Clark, Kosar answered by tweeting, “I absolutely Ment [sic] no Disrespect to Dwight!”

Kosar may not have meant disrespect, but his comment was certainly disrespectful. Perhaps it’s time that radio stations stop giving him a platform.

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Which proposed rule change do you most want to see?

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In a matter of days, the NFL will gather all teams, coaches, General Managers, owners, etc. in Arizona for the annual meeting. The sessions include an inevitable tweaking of the rules.

So which rule tweak do you most want to see?

It’s Thursday’s PFT Live question of the day. Cast a ballot below, drop a comment (or something else if your stomach is bubbling), and then tune in for the show.

We get rolling on the radio side at 6:00 a.m. ET, with NBCSN joining the party at 7:00 a.m. ET. Guests include Hall of Fame defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene and PFT’s Darin Gantt.

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Martellus Bennett scoffs at NFL’s training video for celebrations

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The NFL is preparing a training video that will show players which types of celebrations are allowed, and which ones will draw 15-yard penalties. Packers tight end Martellus Bennett does not plan to watch.

In a series of messages on Twitter, Bennett took aim at the NFL and executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, who announced that the league is preparing the video.

“An educational training video on celebrations? Spend that money on something else like a video on investments or something that will help the players,” Bennett wrote. “Who gives a s–t what guys do when they celebrate. Do something impactful. Y’all wasting guys time with this s-t. Let the players express their individuality and creativity. Y’all gonna make an educational video on how we should talk next?”

Bennett said the NFL wants players to be robots, not individuals.

“An educational video on appropriate celebrations. Not signing up for that class,” Bennett wrote. “See the NFL promotes the logos not the players. The NBA promotes its players. Big difference. NFL knows players wont be around long so they invest all resources into the building team logos for longevity. That’s the constant variable. Except for the QB position. That’s why they’re the Face of the franchise. NBA on the other hand they can invest in the players being the face of the entire league. Look at the advertising of both.”

When that video is shown at Packers training camp, Bennett says, he’ll excuse himself to use the restroom.

“I’m going to be taking a 15 minute dump whenever we’re supposed to watch this ‘educational’ video,” Bennett wrote. “I can feel my stomach bubbling now.”

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Seahawks sign kicker John Lunsford

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The Seahawks had expressed their intentions to add a kicker to their roster to compete with Blair Walsh.

The team announced Wednesday evening that they signed John Lunsford to do just that.

Lunsford was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this week after signing a futures contract with the team in January. Lunsford spent time with the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason last year, appearing in three games. He converted both extra point attempts tried and had five kickoffs with two going for touchbacks.

Lunsford will provide offseason competition with Walsh. Steven Hauschka – Seattle’s kicker for the last six seasons – signed with Buffalo and was not expected to return following the Seahawks’ signing of Walsh last month.

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Clay Helton has no concerns about sharing a stadium or a market

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USC coach Clay Helton joined Wednesday’s PFT Live, primarily to talk a bit about some of his prospects entering the draft. In addition to addressing the NFL future of defensive back Adoree’ Jackson and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and the challenges associated with keeping quarterback Sam Darnold focused on the present, Helton addressed the reality of sharing his stadium with one NFL team — and his market with two of them.

Helton has no complaints about having an NFL tenant in the Coliseum. It definitely didn’t hurt the product; the Trojans were undefeated last year at home. They’ll have the Rams in the same building for two more seasons.

After that, the Rams and Chargers will share space in Inglewood. But that’s not giving Helton any concern about the ability of the Trojans to continue to draw plenty of interest in a market that is crowded with options — but also with people.

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Dolphins add tackle Avery Young

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The Miami Dolphins signed tackle Avery Young and waived cornerback Daniel Davie on Thursday with a non-football injury designation.

Young himself spent all of the 2016 season on the non-football injury list with the New Orleans Saints with an undisclosed issue after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent from Auburn.

He returned to practice with the Saints at midseason but was never activated from the NFI list.

Young played both guard positions and right tackle at Auburn.

Davie was signed by the Dolphins in January to a futures contract. Davie spent brief periods with the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season after going undrafted from Nebraska.

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Vikings running back Latavius Murray has ankle surgery

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The Minnesota Vikings announced Wednesday that newly signed running back Latavius Murray had ankle surgery in North Carolina.

The surgery, performed by Dr. Bob Anderson in Charlotte, was said to be successful in a team statement.

“We were aware of the required surgery prior to signing Latavius on March 16,” the team said in a statement. “Latavius is expected to fully recover and be available for training camp.”

Murray has over four months to recover before training camp opens for the Vikings in late July.

The need for ankle surgery was likely apparent to each of the teams Murray met with in free agency. He had visited the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars as well before reaching a deal with the Vikings. Ultimately, the issue didn’t concern the Vikings enough to dissuade them from signing him last week.

Murray scored a career-high 12 touchdowns last year with the Oakland Raiders and rushed for 788 yards in 14 games.

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Goodell suggests enhanced use of play clocks

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The NFL often routinely uses a play clock throughout each game. However, it’s not as universal as it soon could be.

In a Wednesday letter to fans, Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested expanded use of a play clock in order to keep games moving along.

“Regarding game timing, we’re going to institute a play clock following the extra point when television does not take a break, and we’re considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown,” Goodell wrote. “We’re also going to standardize the starting of the clock after a runner goes out-of-bounds, and standardize halftime lengths in all games, so we return to the action as quickly as possible. Those are just a few of the elements we are working on to improve the pace of our game.”

Goodell also emphasized a point that is coming up too often to not happen — an effort to eliminate the kind of lulls that can get folks in this short-attention span society to change the channel or to otherwise find some other shiny object on their phones, tablets, or wherver else distractions currently come from.

“Together with our broadcast partners, we will be working to meaningfully reduce down time and the frequency of commercial breaks in our game,” Goodell wrote. “We will also be giving our broadcast partners increased flexibility to avoid untimely breaks in the action. For example, we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off, and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it.”

It’s smart, and to the extent that it came from last year’s ratings panic (which seemed to have subsided by the end of the year), the short-term dip in viewership could help make the game much more watchable in the future.

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Packers re-sign Christine Michael

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After arriving in Green Bay midway through the 2016 season, running back Christine Michael will stick around for 2017.

Michael has re-signed with the Packers, Field Yates of ESPN reports.

The Packers, who said goodbye to Eddie Lacy this offseason, expect to start Ty Montgomery at running back, and Michael can back him up.

Last season Michael played six games for the Packers, carrying 31 times for 114 yards and a touchdown. He had previously played for the Seahawks, who cut him in November even though he was their leading rusher. Michael originally entered the NFL as a second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2013 and has had two stints in Seattle as well as time in Dallas and Washington.

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Goodell hints at substantive changes to game broadcasts

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Apart from an effort to speed up the pace of the game, the NFL apparently plans to explore strategies for altering the manner in which the game is presented to its fans.

“We . . . know that you feel there are too many elements in the broadcast that aren’t relevant to the play on the field,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in his Wednesday letter to fans. “With our partners, we will be looking to instead focus on content that is most complementary and compelling to you — whether that is analysis, highlights or stories about our players. All of these changes are meant to give you more of what you want: a competitive game with fewer interruptions and distractions from the action.”

That’s a broad statement, and it suggests that the league will be mandating changes to the manner in which games are televised. It’s unclear where or how an enhanced focus on “analysis, highlights or stories about our players” will fit into the presentation of a football game, since there currently aren’t many spots for doing anything other than reacting one play at a time to the things happening on the field.

It’s also unclear what Goodell means when he says there are “too many elements in the broadcast that aren’t relevant to the play on the field.”

A cynic could view that statement as part of a broader effort to ensure that the broadcasts will focus only on positive storylines, with negative aspects that may nevertheless be newsworthy or compelling receiving less emphasis in the name of taking even greater advantage of the three-hour infomercial for which the league gets paid billions every year. This particular cynic will withhold judgment on that point until more details emerge regarding the changes that will be made.

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Former Patriots center Bryan Stork calls it a career

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Once a very promising young offensive lineman, former Patriots center Bryan Stork has decided to call it a career.

“I can’t say I’m retiring because I’m only 26 but I have decided to officially step away from playing the game of football which I will always love dearly,” Stork wrote on Twitter. “While chasing a childhood dream I was very blessed I had family, friends, and coaches on my side to help me get to where I wanted to go.”

Last year Stork became the subject of an odd story in training camp, as the Patriots were reportedly poised to cut him, then traded him to Washington, before reports surfaced that he was contemplating retirement. Stork decided not to retire at that time, but he then failed his physical in Washington, nullifying the trade, and he was released. Stork tried to sign on with a couple of other teams but that never materialized, and he didn’t play last season.

Stork has had several injuries, including concussions and a neck injury. He will be remembered for starting for Florida State’s 2013 national championship team, then starting for the Patriots when they won Super Bowl XLIX a year later. He is one of only a handful of players in the history of football to start for the college national champions and the NFL champions in back-to-back seasons.

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Jaguars sign former Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera

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The Jacksonville Jaguars announced on Wednesday they have signed former Oakland Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera.

It’s a one-year deal with a team option for a second year according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network.

Rivera has played in 61 games for the Raiders over the past four seasons with 15 starts. Last year was his least productive year in Oakland, recording just 18 catches for 192 yards and one touchdown as Clive Walford assumed the primary pass receiving role from the position. Rivera’s career-highs came in 2014 with 58 catches for 534 yards and four touchdowns.

Rivera had visited the New York Jets earlier this week before agreeing to a deal with Jacksonville.

Rivera gives the Jaguars another veteran option at tight end to pair with Marcedes Lewis following the trade of Julius Thomas to Miami this offseason.

Rivera was high school (Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, Calif.) and college teammates (Tennessee) with Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

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Jim Mora misses the relationships with other his fellow coaches

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In an extended interview with PFT Live, former Falcons and Seahawks coach (and current UCLA coach) Jim Mora addressed a wide variety of interesting topics. At one point, I asked him what he misses about coaching in the NFL.

He said he misses the relationships with his peers. While NFL coaches fiercely compete, the competition ends, for the most part, on the field. Sure, there’s often some competition when it comes to free agents. But not nearly the kind of neverending fight for talent that happens among college coaches.

Constantly, they’re trying to get players to choose their school over another one. Constantly, they’re relying upon their ability to essentially swipe a talented player from another coach. As a result, Mora said he doesn’t have the kind of relationship with his fellow coaches that he had when he coached in the NFL.

That’s just one example of the things Mora discussed. The full video is worth a listen.

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Roger Goodell explains to fans how new replay system will work

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In a move that feels a lot like a President making his case for legistlative change to the people before the House or the Senate cast a vote, Commissioner Roger Goodell has sent a letter to fans outlining various changes that will be considered by the owners next week in Arizona.

The letter from Goodell with the salutation “Dear Fans” presents the proposals in a way that suggests the changes are a done deal, even though the changes won’t be finalized until at least 24 owners vote in favor of them. This means either that Goodell has polled enough owners to conclude that at least 24 votes are coming — or that he has concluded that enough owners are on the fence to justify an effort to work the public in advance of the vote. Why else, frankly, would he feel compelled to tell the fans about the changes only one week before the changes become actual changes?

As it relates to the centralization of replay review, a topic that has been a sore point for multiple coaches and team executives who worry that this will allow the league office to make decisions aimed at reaching outcomes desired by 345 Park Avenue, Goodell outlined the new procedure that would be adopted: “Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.”

It also should allow Microsoft to get even more bang for its product-placement buck, with the peep-show approach replaced by an official using the official tablet of the National Football League, complete with that distinctive electric blue case.

Apart from the obvious change to the appearance of the replay review process, the new approach would result in the referee losing final say over the outcome, with the league office having the power to overrule the ruling on the field.

So why involve the referee at all? Doing so eliminates the sense that the decision is being made remotely (and possibly arbitrarily). In fairness to the league, it also allows for an extra set of eyes, which is never a bad thing. And, as mentioned above, it provides for greater integration of the Microsoft tablet into the presentation of the game. Which makes that partnership even more valuable to the league.

Especially when the time comes to put the official tablet sponsorship out for bidding.

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