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Ryan Mathews: I’ve been just an average back

Ryan Mathews AP

There’s little argument to be made against the assertion that Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has been a disappointment in the three years since he was selected with the 12th overall pick.

Mathews has battled a variety of injuries in his first three seasons and showed an alarming inability to hold onto the ball while healthy, leading the team to give him a seat on the bench in favor of Jackie Battle last season and raising all sorts of questions about his long-term outlook in San Diego. Mathews knows that he has failed to live up to expectations and doesn’t do much to sugarcoat the shortcomings.

“So far, what I’ve done right now. I’ve been just an average back,” Mathews said, via Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego. “I got a lot of people just frustrated with my performance in the last few years. They expected me to come in and do big things. And I expect myself to.”

Mathews also admitted that he’s struggled with being the successor to LaDainian Tomlinson in the Chargers backfield. Tomlinson set a very high standard during his years in San Diego, one that has weighed on Mathews during his first three years with the team.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to fill LT’s shoes,” Mathews said. “I was trying to live up to those expectations — what he was doing in his prime, all the yards he’s getting, all the touchdowns he’s getting, just trying to live up to that. I knew I was the first-round pick, [the Chargers] moved up [16] spots and all that, and I was just trying to do more than what I should have been doing. I think I took all the fun out of it and stressed myself out over it.”

If that’s the case, Mathews must have been happy to hear that Tomlinson rebuffed a casual approach from the Chargers about returning for the 2013 season. It’s a reminder that as much as the new regime has expressed confidence in Mathews, they aren’t closed to exploring other avenues to find the kind of production in the running game that Mathews has failed to provide thus far.

That makes 2013 a big year for the former first-rounder and no explanations of ghosts over the shoulder or bad injury luck will carry much weight in the event Mathews remains just an average back.

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Eleven years later, Frank Gore remembers draft snub

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 02:  Frank Gore #23 of the Indianapolis Colts warms up before their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 2, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts running back Frank Gore, with only 700 rushing yards, will find himself as No. 8 on the all-time NFL rushing yardage list. That will provide plenty of motivation. His spot on another list still gives him motivation, more than a decade later.

“When I was coming out I had injuries,” Gore told reporters on Friday. “Me, I like people doubting me. I go even harder and I love proving people wrong. When I was the sixth [running] back taken, I made sure I told myself I would be the best one out of all of them.”

He clearly is. Gore’s accomplishments become even more impressive when considering that his draft year of 2005 had three running backs picked in the top five: Ronnie Brown (by the Dolphins), Cedric Benson (by the Bears), and Cadillac Williams (by the Buccaneers).

The other two running backs selected before Gore in round three had their names called in round two: J.J. Arrington of the Cardinals and Eric Shelton of the Panthers. (Although the question that sparked Gore’s response called him the “last guy standing” at his position from 2005, Darren Sproles also was taken that year, by the Chargers in round four. Sproles signed a contract extension with the Eagles earlier today.)

The five taken before Gore had combined career rushing yards of 16,123. Gore has 12,040 and counting — including more than twice the amount of the guy with the second most (Benson, who had 6,017).

Most glaringly, the last running back taken before Gore, Eric Shelton, had 23 total rushing yards in his career. Gore could beat that number by the end of the first quarter of his current team’s first game of 2016.

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Cowboys say Nick Foles isn’t an option for them

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 8: Quarterback Nick Foles #5 of the St. Louis Rams passes the ball under pressure from Brian Robison #96 of the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter of the game on November 8, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

When quarterback Nick Foles was released by the Rams, speculation about his next stop often included the Cowboys.

Kellen Moore is the No. 2 in Dallas, but the team talked about upgrading their options behind Tony Romo at points earlier in the offseason and Foles’ best days in the NFL looked a lot better than what Moore did in his appearances with the Cowboys last season.

Foles has had plenty of bad days as well and it seems that the sum total has left the Cowboys unconvinced that he would be a better choice to be a heartbeat (or broken collarbone) away from the starting quarterback job. Owner Jerry Jones said Friday that Foles “isn’t an option” and reiterated that they like Moore.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones added that the team has to develop their own quarterbacks to improve the overall depth at the position, something they’ll try to do with fourth-round pick Dak Prescott this year.

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Lions put DeAndre Levy on non-football injury list

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 19:  DeAndre Levy #54 of the Detroit Lions celebrates 24-23 win against the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field on October 19, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Greg Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

In 2014, Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy had an excellent season, and the team rewarded him with a four-year, $33 million contract. But it’s been all injuries since.

Last year Levy played in just one game because of a hip injury, and today the Lions announced that Levy will open training camp on the non-football injury list.

There is no immediate word on the nature of Levy’s injury or if it’s related to last year’s hip problems. Players sometimes end up on the NFI list for just a short time at the start of camp, so this designation isn’t a cause for panic in Detroit, but it’s not exactly a good thing, either.

Safety Don Carey was also placed on the non-football injury list.

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Injury news causes Washington G.M. to punch a wall

Scot McCloughan AP

It was bad enough when wide receiver Josh Doctson had to start camp on the physically unable to perform list.

But it quickly became a two-for-one injury.

According to Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan was on the practice field wearing a wrap on his left hand, and jokingly pointed at Doctson, and said: “It’s this guy’s fault.”

As it turns out, it was.

Later in the day, former tight end Chris Cooley said on ESPN 980 that it was a reaction to McCloughan hearing news of Doctson’s Achilles injury, which is keeping him from practicing.

“I said, ‘What happened to your hand?'” Cooley said. “He said, when I found out about Doctson — which they thought was going to be much worse, the Doctson injury, apparently it isn’t going to be as bad — I punched the wall.”

Cooley said that kind of reaction inspired respect for the longtime personnel man, showing how much he cared about his roster.

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Cowboys LB Damien Wilson on PUP after taking paintball to the eye

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 13:  Damien Wilson #57 of the Dallas Cowboys lines up for the opening kickoff against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on August 13, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys have seen three of their defensive players land NFL suspensions this offseason and others like linebacker Sean Lee missed time in the spring while recovering from surgeries common to players playing a physically taxing game.

They’ll be without one of their linebackers for the early portion of camp because of a more unusual malady. The team has placed linebacker Damien Wilson on the physically unable to perform list after he was shot in the eye with a paintball during the break between minicamp and training camp.

During a pre-camp press conference, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wilson would miss a few weeks while citing his injury as an example of the unpredictable things that can happen to make a player unavailable over the course of the season.

Jones was responding to questions about the spate of suspended Cowboys defenders and defending the vetting process that the team does before bringing them into the organization. He didn’t say whether ducking when faced with enemy fire would be part of the process in the future.

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Report: Aldon Smith checks into rehab

Aldon Smith, Gatorade AP

Suspeded Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith has checked himself into an undisclosed treatment center, TMZ reported Friday.

The report comes a few days after Smith denied he had posted a video of himself and another person smoking a hand-rolled substance.

Though the video showed no faces, a voice in the video said people watching wouldn’t know it was Aldon Smith.

Smith, who was in court last month on a probation violation, also went to a rehab center in 2013 after he was twice charged with DUI.

The NFL suspended Smith for at least a year last November for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Recent reinstatements of Josh Gordon and Dion Jordan should be encouraging signs for Smith potentially getting back into the NFL, but the NFL will want to review the video and Smith’s other matters before any decision is made.

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Cowboys confirm Rolando McClain didn’t report to camp

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Middle linebacker Rolando McClain #55 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a sack against quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys held a state of the team press conference to open up training camp on Friday afternoon and, after a lengthy opening statement from owner Jerry Jones, faced several questions about the suspended players on their defense.

Of particular interest was the status of linebacker Rolando McClain, who skipped the team’s flight to California for camp. Vice president Stephen Jones confirmed that neither McClain nor linebacker Randy Gregory, who is reportedly in a treatment facility and facing an extension of his four-game suspension, are not with the team.

“Rolando and Gregory are both on reserve/did not report,” Jones said. “There are some details about their situations that we cannot report.”

The younger Jones said that the team did not feel like flaws in their program or an organizational fondness for taking risks on players contributed to the suspensions of McClain, Gregory and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and said that the team will “continue to look at each individual on his own merits.” The elder Jones said that there are always things you can’t control with players, citing a paintball injury suffered by linebacker Damien Wilson that will keep him off the field for a few weeks.

Coach Jason Garrett called the culture of the team an “overwhelming strength” and said that they’ll move on from players who don’t fit that culture. As of now, that hasn’t been the case for McClain despite multiple suspensions.

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Cam Newton happy to be back in camp, and working on “the layups”

WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14:  NFL player Cam Newton (R) accepts an award onstage during the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2016 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. The Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2016 show airs on July 17, 2016 at 8pm on Nickelodeon.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers quarterback and reigning league MVP Cam Newton has had a busy offseason, filled with promotional appearances and filming a television show.

But as glamorous as it might have been hanging out with Michelle Obama, Newton said Friday he was happy to be back in bucolic Spartanburg, S.C.

“Traveling and being here, being there, making family time, doing something I’ve never done with the TV show, from the partnerships that are already things that you have to do contractually,” Newton said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “I couldn’t wait knowing that I could actually have all my focus on Spartanburg and the Carolina Panthers.

I’ve been counting the days just to get back with the guys.”

Showing up at camp might allow Newton to narrow his focus, but he also made it clear there are plenty of things to work on. He recalled a conversation with owner Jerry Richardson about specific things he wanted to get better at this year — “the layups, the gimme throws,” he said.

“I always ask for brutal honesty from the superior forces that’s in my life, from coach [Ron] Rivera to Mr. Richardson, even to Mr. Gettleman [Dave, the Panthers G.M.]. And from my father, for that fact,” Newton said. “You hear it often: ‘Yeah, you can throw the comebacks and the digs, but what about the checkdowns, the slants?’ Just getting back to the small nuances of the game that make big differences.”

And now that he’s finally back to just working on his day job, he’s got time to do just that.

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Jake Long won’t be signing with Ravens after all

Jake Long AP

Tackle Jake Long appeared to be taking a job with the Ravens this week, but doubts about the health of his knee from the Ravens have led Long to pass on the chance to sign in Baltimore.

Long went to see Dr. James Andrews for an examination of his knee as part of the physical the Ravens gave him and told Adam Schefter of ESPN that he was “enthused” by the physician’s assessment and that he also passed an exit physical with the Falcons in January, which contributed to his decision to pass on signing an injury waiver that Baltimore wanted as part of the deal. As a result, Long remains a free agent.

Long told Schefter that his knee feels great and that he still looks forward to playing this season. He had a visit with the Bears earlier in the offseason and may have to wait until the first days of camp change plans for a team to land another shot at continuing his career.

The Ravens may have to do the same if they want to add a veteran tackle to the roster as one that interests them could become available as teams becoming surer of their plans on the offensive line.

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Sammy Watkins among 10 Bills not cleared for practice

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills attempts to catch a pass in the end zone under pressure from Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 12, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins wavered over the course of the offseason about how much time he expected to miss during Bills training camp after having surgery on his left foot in May and now we know that he won’t be on the active roster for the opening practice.

The Bills placed Watkins on the physically unable to perform list on Friday, leaving him ineligible to practice with the team as long as he still carries that designation. The latest update on his condition suggested it won’t be a long absence and there’s no apparent concern that he’ll be missing come the start of the regular season.

Wide receiver Marcus Easley, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and rookie defensive end/linebacker Shaq Lawson are also on the PUP list. Lawson is recovering from shoulder surgery that has clouded his availability for the season, although General Manager Doug Whaley said all signs from his rehab are positive at this point.

Linebacker Manny Lawson landed on the non-football injury list after injuring himself in a recent workout. Wide receiver Kolby Listenbee is on the same list while defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, defensive back Jonathan Dowling, tackle Seantrel Henderson and running back Karlos Williams are all on the non-football illness list.

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Geno Smith knows he’s auditioning for the rest of the league now

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets looks on from the sideline during the game against the Buffalo Bills on November 12, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Geno Smith lost his shot at the Jets starting job when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signed earlier this week.

But even if that opportunity goes by the wayside, there could be others.

Smith admitted that this preseason will also be a chance to polish his resume for what feels like an eventual return to the job market.

“It’s no disrespect to anyone, but I’m auditioning for this team and 31 other teams in the NFL,” Smith said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “The way you handle all of this says a lot about your character. I’ve got little kids back home [in South Florida] seeing how I react. Everyone will watch to see how I react.

“I’m not going to allow this situation — because it’s not the worst situation I’ve been in — to deter me from my ultimate goal.”

The Jets have said Smith will remain the backup to Fitzpatrick, who is established as their quarterback of the present. And the recent draft picks spent on Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg make it clear they no longer see Smith as the future.

But while other displaced quarterbacks have asked for releases and gotten them, Smith’s not banging for that now. That might be because he knows he doesn’t have enough recent or quality tape to convince someone else to give him an opportunity, but whatever the reason, he’s not making any waves.

With the state of the quarterback market being what it is, someone will likely offer a chance to a former second-round pick. And being a grown-up about things now won’t hurt that process.

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LeSean McCoy on bar fight: Things like that can’t happen

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 06:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball past Quintin Demps #27 of the Houston Texans during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy said earlier this month that he didn’t really care about anyone whose opinion of him may have changed as a result of his involvement in a bar fight with off-duty Philadelphia police officers in February, but he sounded a bit different while speaking to reporters at Bills camp on Friday.

McCoy wasn’t charged with a crime and won’t be disciplined by the NFL as a result of the fight, but said that a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell helped him realize that “as a leader, the guy that I want to be for this team, things like that just can’t happen.”

“You don’t hear about other guys like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady getting into incidents like that,” McCoy said, via ESPN.com. “So I think sometimes you get so lackadaisical about being successful as a football player, and then you let all the minor, small things go. In a situation like that, [if] you got security or you got even off-duty officers working for me at the time, and this thing never even gets out of hand.”

With that out of the way, McCoy can turn his full attention toward football. He said he’s at his lightest weight since his second season and has “lots to prove” on the field in his second season with the Bills.

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Adam Gase noncommittal on Dion Jordan

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 20:  Thad Lewis #9 of the Buffalo Bills throws the ball under pressure from  Dion Jordan #95 of the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL has reinstated Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan. The team has not yet embraced him.

Asked for a reaction to the news, coach Adam Gase said of Jordan, “I’ve never met him so . . . I mean it’s hard for me to answer.”

Gase separately explained to reporters the team’s overall approach to Jordan, the third overall pick in the 2013 draft.

“Well, obviously [we are] still getting all the details of kind of what’s going on,” Gase said. “I know at some point this afternoon, I’ll get with Mike [Tannenbaum] and [General Manager] Chris [Grier] and we’ll be able to go through every little thing that the league’s informed us on. So we’re still at the beginning stages of this. I know that’s the boring answer but that’s what it is right now. Obviously [we are] just coming off the field and you get the quick update, ‘Hey, here’s what little we know,’ and then the good thing is, we’ll have a plan. We’ll have an understanding of what we need to do and the steps we need to take moving forward.”

The phrase “we’ll have a plan” implies that a plan possibly doesn’t already exist. Which means decisions will need to be made quickly, especially with Jordan owed a $1.7 million roster bonus on Monday.

It sounds as if Gase is inclined (for now) to give Jordan a chance to earn the money.

“Like I said, I don’t know him,” Gase said. “I just know when he gets here, like I said, [it’s a] fresh start with me. So I guess that’s really all that matters.”

Jordan played in 16 games as a rookie, with no starts. In 2014, he appeared in 10 games with one start. He has three career sacks.

Ultimately, the most immediate question is whether they’ll keep him or cut him before the $1.7 million is due. Before answering that, the Dolphins need to know the exact moment on which the $1.7 million becomes due.

 

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Andre Johnson signing with Titans

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 03:  Andre Johnson #81 of the Indianapolis Colts makes a catch against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Andre Johnson is down to the Jaguars on the list of AFC South teams that he’s never played for during his NFL career.

According to multiple reports, the Titans have signed Johnson to their 90-man roster. Johnson visited the Titans earlier this week.

Johnson spent the first 12 years of his career with the Texans, catching more than 100 passes five times and crossing 1,000 receiving yards seven times while being named a first-team All-Pro twice. He slowed down a bit in 2014, leading to his departure from the Texans and a move to the Colts that preceded the least productive season of his career.

The Titans hope there’s a little bit more left in Johnson’s tank so he can help quarterback Marcus Mariota continue to develop in his second season. If some of his knowledge were to rub off on wideout Dorial Green-Beckham as well, they’d be even happier.

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Tom Coughlin will be a “senior advisor” to NFL football operations

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 20:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants looks on in the first half against the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

Yes, former Jaguars and Giants coach Tom Coughlin has joined the league office. More details regarding his role have emerged.

He’ll be a “senior advisor” to the league’s football operations department. In that capacity, the two-time Super Bowl winner will work closely with executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent and all game-related committees, from the Competition Committee to the Health and Safety Committee, the Coaches Subcommittee, the General Managers Advisory Committee, the Combine Review Committee, and the NCAA Rules and Oversight Committee.

Coughlin, per a source with knowledge of the situation, also will provide strategic guidance on matters like the draft, the Pro Bowl, playing rules, coaching techniques, and football personnel development.

It’s a great way for Coughlin to stay in the game, and teams that may soon be hiring new coaches should consider adding Coughlin to the list of candidates.

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