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Rex Ryan: I’m a lot better coach than I’m given credit for

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Jets coach Rex Ryan has taken a lot of criticism as his team has missed the playoffs in the last two years, but he doesn’t believe that criticism is justified.

In fact, Ryan believes that he should be viewed more as the coach who took the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games in his first two seasons than as the coach who had the Jets out of the playoffs in his next two seasons.

I’m a hell of a lot better football coach than I’m given credit for,” Ryan told Newsday.

That quote may sound defensive, but Ryan insists that it doesn’t bother him if people don’t give him the credit for being the great football coach he is.

“I don’t care,” Ryan said. “I don’t need the credit. But I can tell you one thing, when it’s said and done, they’ll look back and say, ‘Oh man, this dude can coach his butt off.’ And you know what? It’s true. And I’ll let the people that know best talk on my behalf about the kind of coach I am. I don’t have to brag, even though statistically, I can brag about anything I’ve ever done defensively.”

Ryan is surely right that he can brag about what he’s done defensively: The Jets have played well on defense for all four of his seasons in New York. But Ryan is the head coach, not the defensive coordinator. And head coaches are judged by wins and losses.

So if Ryan is going to get credit for being a good coach, he just needs to win. If he does, he won’t have to talk about what a good coach he is because other people will say it for him.

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Jason Kelce: Missing the playoffs “almost a good thing” in hindsight

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The roster turnover of the Eagles (and the opinions about the reasons for it) have been a major topic of the NFL offseason and another member of the team has weighed in with his opinion.

Center Jason Kelce didn’t cite race, egos or anything other than the simple fact that the Eagles weren’t talented enough last year. Kelce said that he thought the team’s locker room was strong last year, but that “we were lacking in talent at a couple positions” and that failing to make the playoffs could almost be spun as a positive because it made the team address those needs.

“This might [tick] off a few people, but when we started off 9-3 … [but] we got lucky quite a few times to win games that we probably shouldn’t have been in,” Kelce said, via the Philadelphia Daily News. “I think that ending the season the way we did — didn’t make the playoffs — in hindsight is almost a good thing because it forced the coaches and the organization to reevaluate what we had. Guys all of the sudden that were on the bubble, [coaches now knew] that we need to make an upgrade there. We need to do this. We need to do that to improve the team as a whole.”

Kelce didn’t specify the areas, but the list of positions that the Eagles addressed this offseason is pretty much the list of positions on their roster as well as Chip Kelly’s move to the top of the personnel hierarchy. For a team that’s won 10 games in each of the last two seasons, it’s a major overhaul and one that’s going to be placed on Kelly’s shoulders however it plays out.

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Falcons linebacker accused of killing very small dog

dead-dog

Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo didn’t just allegedy kick a dog and kill it, he allegedly found one of the smallest dogs possible to kick and kill.

According to Alexis Stevens of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, police documents say Shembo killed his then-girlfriend’s pet Yorkie named Dior.

Yorkshire terriers, which top out around 7 pounds, are no match for 254-pound linebackers, it seems.

The Gwinnett County Police Cpl. Michele Pihera said Shembo was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, following an April 15 incident.

According to the report, his then-girlfriend Denicia Williams told police she had taken Dior to Shembo’s apartment, and left the dog there. When she returned, the dog was unresponsive, and died a short time later at an animal hospital.

She said the next day, Shembo told her he killed the dog, at which point she broke up with him.

A necropsy was performed at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma.

According to the report, Dior had “a fractured rib, fractured liver, abdominal hemorrhage, thoracic hemorrhage, extensive bruising and hemorrhage in the muscles in her front leg and shoulders, head trauma, hemorrhage and edema in lungs, hemorrhage between the esophagus and trachea, and hemorrhage in the left eye with internal injuries.”

The Falcons drafted Shembo in the fourth round last year from Notre Dame.

Photo credit: Gwinnett Police.

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Trey Watts suspended four games by NFL

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Rams running back Trey Watts, an undrafted free agent who made the team in 2014 and who appeared in 14 games last season, has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

The NFL announced the suspension on Friday.

Watts, the son of former Oklahoma quarterback and Congressman J.C. Watts, played college football at Tulsa. He gained 30 yards on seven carries as a rookie.

Watts is eligible to continue to participate in all offseason activities, training camp, and the preseason. The suspension begins after the fourth preseason game.

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Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo charged with killing dog

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 16:  Rookie linebacker Prince Shembo #53 of the Atlanta Falcons runs drills during rookie minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility on May 16, 2014 in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons fans didn’t need this kind of deja vu.

According to Tony Thomas of WSB in Atlanta, Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo has been accused of killing his girlfriend’s dog.

Gwinnett Police have filed animal cruelty charges, alleging that Shembo kicked and killed the animal.

Shembo was last year’s fourth-round pick from Notre Dame, and this isn’t the first time his name has been linked to an unseemly situation.

When he was at Notre Dame, he was accused of sexually assaulting a female student at nearby St. Mary’s College, who committed suicide. No charges were ever filed in the case, and Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said last spring he was “very comfortable” with Shembo after their pre-draft research.

Of course, the Falcons own history with animal abuse dates back to former quarterback Michael Vick, who was imprisoned on felony charges for his role in a dog-fighting ring.

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Brandon Spikes on Belichick: We kissed and made up

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Linebacker Brandon Spikes’s first stint with the Patriots didn’t come to a happy end.

Spikes finished the 2013 season on injured reserve after he missed a practice and Spikes later said that the Patriots filed false injury reports while he was a member of the team. Spikes also referred to his time with the Patriots as “4 years a slave,” which only added to the surprise when Spikes wound up re-signing with the Patriots this month after spending last season with the Bills.

It’s less surprising that Spikes had nothing bad to say about coach Bill Belichick or the Patriots on Friday. Spikes referred to Belichick as a “genius” and described himself as “honestly in awe to be standing here talking” to the media as a member of the Patriots while sticking to the company line that the past will remain in the past.

“I don’t want to talk about that. You can clearly see me and The Hoodie kissed and made up. I’m here, that’s in the past. I’m moving on,” Spikes said, via WEEI.com.

Spikes said his only focus now is on making the team and his chances will be greatly improved if Belichick decides the team needs to shore up their run defense in 2015.

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Belichick doesn’t say much about #DeflateGate

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick met with the media on Friday, an unexpected press conference during an OTA session. And Belichick didn’t have much to say about the #DeflateGate situation. Which isn’t much of a surprise, because he usually doesn’t have much to say about pretty much anything.

Asked whether the football-inflation controversy takes away from the joy of winning the Super Bowl, Belichick said this, via a transcript distributed by the team: “That was a long time ago. We’re on to next year. It’s 2015. You can forget about last year; that was last year.”

But last year spills into this year as it relates to the availability of quarterback Tom Brady to play in the first four games of the season. Asked whether Belichick is preparing Jimmy Garoppolo to be the starter as of Week One, Belichick said, “We’re just going day by day right now. Everybody’s working hard trying to get better. That’s what we’re all doing.”

Asked whether it’s been tough to watch the events of the past few months, Belichick said this: “We’re just working hard every day to come out here and get better. Coaches, players, everybody in the organization, each day we’re trying to make it a little bit better than the day before. That’s where we’re at. That’s what we’re going to keep doing.”

Asked whether he agrees with owner Robert Kraft’s decision to accept the punishment imposed on the team, Belichick said this:  “He made a statement on it last week.”

But Belichick wasn’t only characteristically mum about the #DeflateGate situation. He also didn’t have much to say about the use of a drone to film practice.

Q: “What does that do for you?”

A: “Oh, I don’t know.”

I personally don’t know why Belichick would talk to the media and say nothing. He wasn’t required to speak today. So why even do it?

Maybe the goal was to present Belichick on short notice was to give the local media a chance to grill him about the Ted Wells report and the team’s reaction to it with minimum time to put together the best possible questions.

Or maybe it’s just Belichick being Belichick, and he wouldn’t have said anything of value or interest, no matter what the questions were or how much time the reporters had to formulate them.

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Jimmy Garoppolo says he’s not changing his approach

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

As it stands now, the first month of the season will be quite different for Jimmy Garoppolo.

But that doesn’t mean this month has to be.

The Patriots backup quarterback, who would be the starter for the first four games if Tom Brady’s suspension is upheld following his appeal, said today he wasn’t changing much.

Asked if he followed the #DeflateGate saga more closely because of the immediate impact it would have on him, Garoppolo gave as perfect a Patriots answer as he could.

No different than I usually would,” he said, via Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. I just went about my business, tried to get prepared for this season, got in the playbook a lot, got out there with some of the guys and threw it around, so it was a good offseason.”

He took a few more reps than normal, splitting them close to 50-50 with Brady. And while said he spent some time training in California with some of his receivers, he otherwise seemed unmoved by the attention coming his way.

“It’s nice to be back out here, I missed the guys and missed the team,” he said. “I just have the mindset I’m trying to get better. That’s all you can control at the end of the day.”

I’m not sure what the OTA rules are for brainwashing, but that’s about as Belichickian as it gets, without saying he’s “on to Cincinnati.”

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Teddy Bridgewater getting more comfortable as a leader

<> at Barnstable Brown House on May 1, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Getty Images

Once the pre-draft hype subsided and he got on the field, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made plenty of noise last year.

But this year, he may make even more, of a different kind.

The second-year quarterback seems ready to assert himself as the Vikings’ leader even more, as teammates are expecting him to take a larger and louder role.

Guys kind of push you into that leadership role,” Bridgewater said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m a young guy still on the team, but guys are pushing me forward to say something in the huddle, or break the team down, or break the offense down.

“That just gives you that confidence in yourself, confidence in your leadership — and I’ve been extremely comfortable doing that.”

Bridgewater is a soft-spoken kid, who showed impressive poise once he took over the starting job four games into last season. But with an offseason under his belt to grow, he’s apparently more comfortable in a forward role.

“[He’s] becoming more of a leader, and you can tell that this is more of his team as we continue to go,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s a lot more vocal with the guys, as far as telling them where to go and what routes they should be running. He obviously has a better command of the offense, as well.”

While the Vikings are in the midst of a mess with running back Adrian Peterson, it helps having someone else on the offense who has enough credibility to lead the group. And having that player be your quarterback is better yet.

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Chris Chester scheduled to visit Eagles, Falcons

The St. Louis Rams play the Washington Redskins Getty Images

Guard Chris Chester lost his job in Washington earlier this week, but he may not be unemployed for long.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Chester has lined up visits with the Eagles and Falcons.

The Eagles know Chester well after facing the Redskins eight times in Chester’s four seasons with his old team. They released Todd Herremans early in the offseason and gave Evan Mathis the chance to shop himself in a trade, so they’re clearly open to making some changes on the interior of their offensive line. Mathis remains on the roster, but isn’t taking part in the team’s offseason work.

There’s familiarity with Chester in Atlanta as well. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan held the same job in Washington during Chester’s first three years with the Redskins and Chester could provide an upgrade on some of the current players vying for spots on the depth chart with the Falcons.

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Andre Johnson rejuvenated after frustrating final years in Houston

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans AP

Wide receiver Andre Johnson was released by the Texans in March, but he felt the end coming a few months before that.

Johnson said that he knew “deep down inside” that he wouldn’t be back with the Texans after the final game of the 2014 season even though he told reporters the opposite and those feelings became fact when he asked Houston to move him after coach Bill O’Brien laid out a limited role in the offense for the 2015 season. It was the last beat in a frustrating end to Johnson’s long and successful run with the team that took him third overall in the 2003 draft.

“Everyone saw the frustration the last few years,” Johnson said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “Not only in me, but in my play on the field.”

It didn’t take long for Johnson to focus on the Colts as his next destination. He knew coach Chuck Pagano from the University of Miami and he spoke to running back Frank Gore about their shared belief that they could win a Super Bowl with Andrew Luck at quarterback.

Nothing’s changed since then other than Johnson’s renewed zest for the game. His mother and uncle both told Keefer that Johnson is happier now that he’s with the Colts and the hope in Indy is that the restoration of Johnson’s passion for football helps them make it to Santa Clara next February.

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Healthy scratch made Lance Moore want out of Pittsburgh

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Veteran receiver Lance Moore spent plenty of years — and caught plenty of passes — with the Saints. He spent one year in Pittsburgh. And it didn’t end well.

“I knew the day after the playoff loss that we had, I knew that I didn’t want to be there anymore,” Moore said recently, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “They made me inactive. And I knew at that point that the writing is on the wall. I could see what their future plans were for me; it was the first time in my career that I was a healthy inactive.”

Moore added that it “never quite clicked” for him and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With younger guys playing well, Moore ended up averaging one catch per game played — 14.

In Detroit, Moore returns to an offense similar to the one used by the Saints, given the presence of former Saints assistant Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator. Moore will be competing with Ryan Broyles and Jeremy Ross for the slot-receiver role, but Moore has new motivation after a failed year in Pittsburgh.

“I would say that I’ve never been so excited to go to practice, I’ve never been so excited to really just have another chance,” Moore said. “I’ve been in the league 11 years. I’ve been cut five times. You never really know when it’s going to be over, and I knew, in the back of my mind, that it wasn’t quite over, but I wasn’t sure whether I’d get an opportunity or get the right opportunity. I feel like things couldn’t have worked out any better for me, so I’m going to make the most of this opportunity.”

He’s only 31, and it’s possible Moore simply got lost in the shuffle last year. In Detroit, with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and Eric Ebron as the primary options in the passing game, Moore could find a way to fill an important role as an underneath option making clutch catches that help move the chains.

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Bills meeting with Michael Buchanan

Michael Buchanan AP

The Bills are huddling with a player who has spent the last two seasons with a division rival.

Outside linebacker/defensive lineman Michael Buchanan, whom the Patriots waived earlier in May, is meeting with Buffalo on Friday, the club announced.

The 24-year-old Buchanan has recorded 11 tackles and two sacks in 18 regular season games since 2013, all with the Patriots, who drafted him in Round Seven two years ago. He spent the majority of the 2014 season on injured reserve. Buchanan (6-6, 255) played collegiately at Illinois.

If added to the Bills’ roster, Buchanan would likely vie for a reserve role at outside linebacker in the Bills’ 3-4 scheme.

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Broncos place Ryan Clady on injured reserve

Ryan Clady AP

Ryan Clady’s season is over.

The Broncos placed Clady on injured reserve on Friday, ruling him out for 2015. The Pro Bowl left tackle suffered a torn ACL on Wednesday. He will now have missed 30 of the last 48 regular season games because of injury.

Clady’s roster spot will be taken by veteran tackle Ryan Harris, who has signed with Denver, the club said Friday. The 30-year-old Harris began his career with Denver and played two seasons with Houston under now-Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak.

However, Harris has played right tackle throughout his career, which leaves rookie Ty Sambrailo and veteran Chris Clark among the in-house replacements for Clady.

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Riley Cooper: Suggestion that Chip Kelly’s racist is “upsetting”

Eagles Cooper Football AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly didn’t have much to say about being accused of being racist by LeSean McCoy, other than that McCoy wouldn’t return his calls.

But a number of Eagles players said they thought their former teammate was wrong to go there, and that his assertions were baseless.

It’s definitely difficult and upsetting for sure,” Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper said, via Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Times. “I know [Kelly is] not like that.”

Of course, Cooper was the beneficiary of a pretty big second chance for his own unfortunate choice of words two years ago, but the Eagles have apparently embraced Cooper in the aftermath of it, or at least allowed him to move on.

But several of McCoy’s other former teammates said they didn’t understand why the running back chose to go that route.

“I think everything around here is equal,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “Everything around here is equal. Chip treats everybody the same. I don’t think there’s a difference. . . .

“I really don’t know what he said. I haven’t read it. I know LeSean. I mean, he’s a good friend. I still text him now and again and see from time to time. I just don’t want to get caught up in that. And I continue to see LeSean as a friend.”

But he and his friend do not see eye-to-eye on McCoy’s suggestion that Kelly had ulterior motives for the moves Kelly made.

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Report: Darren Sharper enters guilty plea on drug rape conspiracy charges

Darren Sharper AP

According to a published report, former NFL player and broadcaster Darren Sharper pled guilty in federal court in New Orleans on Friday to charges he schemed to drug and sexually assault three women.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Sharper will be sentenced on August 20. Also, he is to plead guilty to three rape charges in Louisiana state court in June, per the report.

In March, Sharper agreed to plea deals to resolve charges against him in Arizona, California, Louisiana and Nevada.

All told, Sharper might serve as little as nine more years in prison in connection with a variety of rape and drug charges, but his plea agreement comes with a variety of strict conditions. Also, he is required to cooperate with authorities in other investigations, the Advocate notes.

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