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Jim Harbaugh: Someone will emerge in Crabtree’s place

Jim Harbaugh, Michael Crabtree, A. J. Jenkins AP

With last year’s leading receiver, Michael Crabtree, out an estimated six months with a torn Achilles tendon, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh says he’s confident someone will step up to fill the void.

Harbaugh isn’t totally sure who that “someone” will be, though.

Harbaugh said on 95.7 The Game that he believes the most likely candidates to take Crabtree’s place in the offense are last year’s first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and this year’s fourth-round pick Quinton Patton as well as Ricardo Lockette, who has never played in a game for the 49ers but spent most of last year on the roster and has reportedly looked good in practices.

“We’ll put Jenkins, Patton, Ricardo Lockette at the same position and let them compete and emerge,” Harbaugh said. “The good news is that somebody will emerge because they have to.”

Harbaugh also said he believes the 49ers have a lot of depth at the receiver position.

“Then on the other side, Anquan Boldin, Chad Hall, Marlon Moore has been doing some really nice things in the offseason,” Harbaugh said. “Joe Hastings will compete on the other side. Kyle Williams eventually will come back from his injury. He’s doing real well, coming along very nicely. And Mario Manningham — probably a little bit later than Kyle, but he’s on track to be healed up and ready to go, as well. A real good chance for some young guys to emerge, get some reps and contribute. I very much anticipate that will happen.”

For the 49ers, it needs to happen. Crabtree was the 49ers’ best wide receiver and a big reason that Colin Kaepernick settled into the starting quarterback job so smoothly last year. He won’t be easy to replace, but the 49ers have no choice but to find someone who can do it.

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Friday morning one-liners

Jim Tomsula AP

Bills WR Sammy Watkins says his hip is fine after offseason surgery.

DT Ndamukong Suh is predicting great things from the Dolphins defensive line.

Patriots linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower are on track after rehabbing injuries this offseason.

Sheldon Richardson’s arrest may lead to even more playing time for Jets rookie DL Leonard Williams.

RB Justin Forsett says he’s still hungry after a breakout 2014 season for the Ravens.

Bengals CB Leon Hall has no interest in a permanent move to safety.

Said Browns CB Joe Haden of WR Terrelle Pryor, “As far as size-wise, he’s a little bigger than [Josh Gordon], but as far as fluid and being able to run effortless and coming up out of their routes, I haven’t really been able to check him to see what he’s got, but he’s fast, he’s huge, and it looks like it could work.”

The Steelers are stressing better conditioning as they try for a healthier team.

Expectations are higher in Texans coach Bill O’Brien’s second season.

A look back at Bill Polian’s work in the draft with the Colts.

The Jaguars are happy to have a healthy LB Paul Posluszny back in the lineup.

NT Sammie Hill will take some time on the PUP list before joining Titans practices.

WR Emmanuel Sanders is eager to serve as a leader for younger Broncos players.

Confidence isn’t a problem for Chiefs rookie CB Marcus Peters.

Raiders rookie WR Amari Cooper says he isn’t feeling any undue pressure to perform.

RB Melvin Gordon was popular with Chargers fans at training camp on Thursday.

Cowboys DE Greg Hardy shrugged off a left side strain.

Giants co-owner John Mara reiterated his disappointment in DE Jason Pierre-Paul’s plans for recovering from his fireworks accident.

WR Nelson Agholor says Eagles QB Sam Bradford has looked great in their workouts.

Coach Jay Gruden has tweaked his priorities in his second year with the Redskins.

Can Bears DL Jeremiah Ratliff stay healthy for an entire season?

Running through the Lions receiving corps.

Are the Packers cornerbacks tall enough?

The Vikings offensive line wants redemption this season.

Falcons WR Roddy White remains confident in his ability to beat cornerbacks in 1-on-1 situations.

The Panthers added P Matt Wile and WR Avius Capers while waiving CB Garry Peters and placing T Jonathan Martin on the reserve/retired list.

Drew Brees wasn’t reminded of his San Diego days when the Saints drafted QB Garrett Grayson.

Former NFL players Johnny Knox, Alshermond Singleton and Mark Anderson are coaching interns with the Buccaneers.

Cardinals players take their conditioning test on Friday.

Ten questions about the Rams to ponder during training camp.

Said 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, ““You want to talk proud? I’m proud to be a part of this. I’m proud to be a part of the entire organization. There are so many good people here and so many people who want things for the right reason. You can’t help but be proud of this organization.”

A look at the numbers for the Seahawks defense with and without S Kam Chancellor.

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Bills fullback Felton expects Shady to lead the NFL in rushing

Jerome Felton

Bills running back LeSean McCoy will be playing in a new offense this year, with a fullback in front of him more than he’s had in the past. That fullback has high expectations for McCoy.

Jerome Felton told the Buffalo News that McCoy should at minimum lead the NFL in rushing, and hopefully hit 2,000 yards or even break Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105.

I want him to break records,” Felton said. “I want him to get 2,000 yards. I want him to lead the league in rushing. Him and Adrian are cut from the same cloth. I would be very disappointed if he’s not the leading rusher in the league next year, that’s for sure.”

Felton was the Vikings’ fullback in 2012, when Adrian Peterson gained 2,097 yards, the second-most in NFL history. Felton doesn’t see why McCoy won’t have a similar season to that.

“Why not?” Felton said. “He has the ability that it takes. For a runner to get 2,000 yards, you have to be able to score from anywhere on the field. That’s my goal for him.”

A 2,000-yard season is farfetched, but McCoy will get a lot of carries on a Bills team that is trying to win with the ground game and defense. McCoy led the league in rushing in 2013, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he did it again in 2015.

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Taylor Lewan: Titans were soft on offensive line last year

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Titans will have a new quarterback in Marcus Mariota this year and they’d like to put the second overall pick of the 2015 draft in position to have as much success as possible.

Some of that will be done by bringing him along at the right pace during training camp and some will be done by making sure that Mariota doesn’t get overwhelmed by opposing defenses in the regular season. The offensive line will play a big part in the latter as they’ll be responsible for both protecting Mariota and opening holes in the run game so that the team doesn’t have to put too much on the rookie’s shoulders.

According to left tackle Taylor Lewan, doing that will require a big change from last year’s unit.

“To be brutally honest, I think we were soft,” Lewan said, via “And I think [offensive line coach] Bob Bostad would say the same thing. That’s one thing he’s definitely been preaching this offseason. We want to be tough, we want to road grade, we want to run that power like no one’s ever done it. … As an offensive line, it starts with us. We have to be the foundation of this offense, the foundation of the team. And if we work together, play a little dirty, a little over the line a little bit, a little crazy, and work together, then I think we’ll be real successful.”

With the exception of rookie tackle Jeremiah Poutasi and former Panther Byron Bell, the Titans will be trying to pull off the transformation with players that were on the roster last season. Everyone may not be up to making the changes needed for better results this season, but it seems Lewan will have them go down fighting one way or another.

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Mortensen pulls plug on WEEI appearance

Mort Getty Images

Apparently, only 11 of 12 reminders about his WEEI appearance to Chris Mortensen went through.

Mortensen was scheduled to appear on the Dennis & Callahan show at 7:45 a.m. ET, but he has canceled.

“You guys made a mistake by drumming up business for the show and how I would address my reporting for the first time,” Mortensen informed WEEI. “I will not allow WEEI, [Patriots owner Robert] Kraft or anybody to make me the centerpiece of a story that has been misreported far beyond anything I did in the first 48 hours. Maybe when the lawsuit is settled, in Brady’s favor, I hope, we can revisit. Don’t call.”

They tried to call him anyway. No answer.

I like and respect Mort. As Adam Schefter of ESPN said on WEEI on Thursday, Mortensen is a pioneer in this business. But his false report should be the centerpiece of the story. Because without that false report there is no story. More specifically, without that false report, there is no finding of cheating.

The false report instantly changed the narrative from “the NFL checked the Patriots footballs at halftime” to “someone deflated 11 of the 12 the Patriots footballs by two pounds each; what did Brady and Belichick know?” It made another Ted Wells investigation logical, it put the Patriots on the defensive, and it kept the Patriots from responding to the accurate PSI readings by pointing out that, on one of the two air-pressure gauges used, they fall squarely within the range expected by the Ideal Gas Law.

On Thursday, Schefter suggested that Mort was given false information by one or more high-level NFL officials. On Tuesday, the circumstances suggested that Stephen A. Smith of ESPN was given true information by one or more high-level NFL officials to introduce to the public the notion that “Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.”

This would be a perfect topic for an ESPN Outside the Lines investigation as to how the NFL manipulated the media on multiple occasions for P.R. purposes. If only a couple of prominent ESPN employees hadn’t been pulled into this mess.

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Chris Clemons reports to Jaguars camp before first practice

Gus Bradley, Chris Clemons AP

Whatever personal issue that kept pass-rusher Chris Clemons from reporting to Jaguars camp on time has apparently been resolved.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Clemons showed up at EverBank Field this morning.

The Jaguars practice for the first time at 9:55 a.m., and it’s unclear if Clemons will take part since he hasn’t taken the conditioning test yet. But by showing up, he should avoid the $30,000 a day fine for players who miss camp.

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said yesterday that Clemons’ absence was “clearly personal, all personal,” but admitted some concern, since Clemons had skipped all the voluntary OTA work this offseason.

“If you would ask me if it’s concerning, I would say, ‘Yeah,’” Bradley said. “This one is a little concerning. My hope is we can work through this. I talked to him last night and again this morning. Hopefully we can come up with a decision to speed this up a little quicker. I don’t see this as a situation that’s extended.

“We’re sensitive toward [it being a personal issue], but we also need some urgency.”

The Jaguars need more than that, particularly after losing No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler to a torn ACL in OTAs. Clemons is their most likely source of pressure from the outside, so they clearly need him present and engaged.

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Titans want to be careful not to overload Marcus Mariota in camp

Marcus Mariota AP

It’s impossible to know what the Titans have in quarterback Marcus Mariota at the moment.

But what we do know is that they don’t have a controversy.

Via John Glennon of the Tennesseean, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked if he had a pecking order at quarterback, when he smiled and replied: “[You mean] after Marcus?

Of course, that was taken care of when they used the second pick in the draft on the former Oregon star, regardless any feelings they had for incumbent Zach Mettenberger.

But Whisenhunt was also careful to point out that he didn’t want to overwhelm Mariota with information during his first camp.

“Just like any other team, we’ve got millions of great plays you think are going to work,” Whisenhunt said. “But it doesn’t do you any good if you’ve got too many. You’ve got to find that balance of giving him enough, yet being diverse enough that it keeps teams off balance a little bit. . . .

“I think the element of him being able to extend the play and move adds a lot, so that’s what we have to work through. You just don’t want to get to a point where you’re not allowing him to play fast because that’s certainly one of his best assets.”

How Mariota progresses will largely determine the success the Titans have this year, so being careful with him in the early stages is the smart play.

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Antonio Gates continues to claim ignorance about failed PED test

Antonio Gates AP

When Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was suspended for four games earlier this month as a result of violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, he released a statement with the familiar explanation that he’d never “knowingly ingested” a banned substance.

Like many others, Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe was dubious of that well-worn excuse for a suspension and accused Gates of cheating the game during a radio interview a short time later. Gates didn’t publicly comment on the suspension until he met the media at Chargers camp on Thursday and didn’t step away from his initial explanation.

Gates said he was surprised that his appeal was unsuccessful because he thought he’d show the league what he was taking — “the medicine, the natural way I’ve been doing it” — and that the failed test would be explained away by a “chemical imbalance” or something else. Eventually, Gates accepted the suspension but insists he was taking the same things when he passed many tests before the one that led to his suspension.

“I’m not really sure how it got into my system,” Gates said, via U-T San Diego. “I’ve been doing the same things over and over after the season taking care of my body … It’s something where it showed up in a test. I’ve taken multiple tests since then and it didn’t show up; I took multiple tests before then and it didn’t show up. Out of the [many] tests I took in the NFL, one is positive. Who’s to say how it got in my system?”

There are easy ways for players to check whether supplements or medications contain banned substances, although Gates says he didn’t do much diligence because “doesn’t dawn on you to turn the box over and see the 166 things on the box.” Given the consequences for a failed test and the frequency with which we hear explanations like Gates’s, you’d think it would start dawning on players who are concerned about whether or not they aren’t violating the policy.

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Ron Rivera will miss some practice time to attend brother’s funeral

Ron Rivera AP

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was there when his team reported to training camp, even if his heart was elsewhere.

After leading their first practice tonight, Rivera will fly to Reno for the funeral of his brother Mickey, who died this week after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

It’s been a series of ups and downs,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. We got back off vacation and we were moving back into our home, and then we got the word about my brother.

“For the most part he’s in a better place now. In Mickey’s mind he didn’t want to be a distraction, but the timing was not good.”

Rivera was also just moving back into his home, which was damaged in a fire during last year’s playoff run, when he got the news.

“Ron’s a pro and we’re going to support him every which way we can,” General Manager Dave Gettleman said. “We’re a family and we’ll get through it as a family.”

Assistant head coach Steve Wilks will run practices and meetings Saturday and Sunday in Rivera’s absence.

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John Elway: Running game will be Peyton’s best friend

Denver Broncos versus the Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

In the last few years of his playing career, John Elway was joined by running back Terrell Davis in an offense run by coordinator Gary Kubiak and saw the team win 39 regular season games and two Super Bowls between 1996 and Elway’s retirement after the 1998 season.

Elway was 38 when he walked away, which is a bit younger than Peyton Manning is now, and there’s no one producing at quite the level Davis was in those days, but Elway is expecting a similar kind of relationship between quarterback and running game with Kubiak back in the fold as head coach. There’s been a lot of talk about increased offensive balance and a larger role for the running game this season and Elway drew on his own experience Thursday while discussing why it would benefit Manning.

“Late in my career, that was my best friend, the running game. And I think that running game will be Peyton’s best friend, also,” Elway said, via the Denver Post. “It’s obviously going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but you got two smart, bright offensive football minds that are competitive and want to win. There was never, ever a thought in my mind that this wasn’t going to work.”

Finding ways to keep Manning fresh deeper into the season is a priority for the Broncos and cutting down on the workload for an arm that has thrown 1,839 passes over the last three years would certainly help. That’s more than 500 more throws than Elway made in his final three NFL seasons and something closer to Elway’s totals could lead to the sharper and stronger Manning that the Broncos were in need of down the stretch last year.

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Dez Bryant: New contract won’t change the way he plays, acts

Dez Bryant AP

The Cowboys gave wide receiver Dez Bryant life-changing money.

But Bryant said the deal won’t change him.

It’s no pressure, man,” Bryant said after his first day of practice, via Todd Archer of “It’s no pressure. That deal don’t make me. It don’t make me. I play this game because I love this game. I don’t give a damn about none of that. It’s not going to change the way I play. It’s not going to change the way I act. I’m here. Like, thank you, I can go buy me a home and now I’m able to take care of my family. Yeah, I love that, but as far as me performing on the field, like, I take full pride in that.”

The $70 million deal included $45 million in guarantees, and it took the requisite amount of posturing and tough talk from both sides. Bryant reiterated that he’d have been willing to skip regular season games if a deal wasn’t done.

“Oh man, it was extremely hard, but at the same time, I was forced to be in a situation that I knew one day that would eventually come,” Bryant said. “I never experienced it. I’m glad that we got it done and I’m here. . . .

“I see myself always [as] a Cowboy at heart.”

Of course, he’ll be 31 when this contract expires, which means there could be another chance to prove it.

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Martellus Bennett no longer worrying about contract

Martellus Bennett, Jay Cutler AP

The Bears didn’t have tight end Martellus Bennett in the building for the voluntary portions of the offseason program because the veteran was trying to leverage his way into a new contract with the team.

No deal was struck and Bennett, who is set to make $4.9 million this year and just over $5 million next year, avoided one seat of fines by reporting to minicamp in June. He avoided another by reporting to training camp on time as well and said Thursday that there are no lingering resentments as a result of his failed gambit.

“I’m not even worried about a contract right now,” Bennett said, via “It’s just business. I have no hard feelings against anybody. Some business deals go the way you want. Some — I have several business deals this offseason that worked and didn’t work out. For me it’s just another business deal, and then that’s just the way it is. Some deals get done, some don’t. Still got to come to work and do my job.”

Bennett acknowledged that he may be a “leg behind” after the time he missed because the team has a new offensive coordinator in Adam Gase, but called himself a “quick learner” while expressing confidence that he’d have it all down by the start of the season. Bennett had 90 catches for 916 yards last season and repeating that kind of production in this offense will strengthen his case for a new deal when it is next time to talk business.

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Steven Jackson tweets he’d like to sign with the Cowboys

Bradley McDougald, Steven Jackson AP

With 11,388 career yards, Steven Jackson is the NFL’s active rushing leader. Or at least he would be, if he were currently on a team. Unfortunately for Jackson, training camps are opening and he doesn’t have a team.

In an effort to change that, Jackson is tweeting at the Cowboys.

Jackson took to Twitter on Thursday with an image of his number 39 being projected above the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.

A player who has to ask teams on Twitter if they’re interested probably isn’t drawing much attention, and in Jackson’s case it’s easy to see why. He’s 32 years old and isn’t the same explosive player he was in his best seasons with the Rams.

Perhaps some team that loses a running back to injury will give Jackson a call, but there’s a good chance we’ve seen the last of him in the NFL. Jackson has had a great career, but it’s a career that may be over.

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Jaguars don’t want to give up Packers game to London in 2016

Packers fans watch their team play the Seahawks during their Monday night NFL football game at Centurylink Field Reuters

The Jaguars want to continue to take games to London.

They just don’t want to give up one of their best home games next year.

Jaguars president Mark Lamping said their game against the Packers in 2016 would not be going overseas, contrary to previous reports.

“We get the Packers here in Jacksonville so infrequently,” Lamping said, via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union. “They have such a national following. We have a lot of people here in Jacksonville that are Jaguars fans but also fans of the traditional NFL teams. So, we look forward to that game being played here in Jacksonville.”

Translated: We can sell that one here.

The Jaguars are expected to extend their deal to take a game a year to England beyond 2016 as well, and they may take a division game at some point. Their 2016 home schedule also includes the Broncos, Raiders Vikings and an AFC North foe to be determined.

“For our London initiative to have the desired result, which is a more stable financially strong franchise in Jacksonville, we have to make sure the game in London is successful,” Lamping said. “As the game develops over there, hopefully, the fan base for the Jaguars grows. Just having the Jaguars over there at the right time may well be enough to sell out Wembley Stadium. We’re not there now. So, we’re sensitive to making an interesting matchup for our U.K. fans.”

That’s led them to play some high-profile opponents there, as the 49ers and Cowboys were their first two opponents there, with the Bills going to play them this year.

While the appetite for football overseas has been strong, we’re not sure our friends across the pond are ready to stomach a Titans-Jaguars game.

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William “Refrigerator” Perry auctioning off his SB XX ring

Fridge Getty Images

William Perry helped lead the Chicago Bears to their only Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 1985.

Now “The Fridge” is auctioning off his Super Bowl ring.

Perry’s Super Bowl ring has been listed by The auction was supposed to go live on Thursday and is noted as having concluded. The starting bid for the size 25 ring was noted to begin at $16,000. The ring is being offered with a letter of authentication by Perry.

Perry famously scored a touchdown in the 46-10 victory over the Patriots while Walter Payton did not score in the Bears’ rout. Perry appeared in 138 games over 10 seasons with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

Perry had the ring returned to him in 2011 after a 10-year old purchased the ring for $8,500 from a bar that owned it as part of a sports memorabilia display. Perry has been dealing with Guillain-Barre syndrome since being diagnosed in 2008.

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James Jones to sign with Giants

James Jones Getty Images

The New York Giants are expected to have a new receiver when they take to the practice fields for the first time on Friday.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Jones will sign a one-year deal with the Giants, pending a physical, when he arrives in New York.

Jones had interest from the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals before choosing the Giants.

Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns in his only season with the Oakland Raiders last season. The nine-year veteran spent his first eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers and has caught 383 passes for 4,971 yards and 43 touchdowns in his career.

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