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Chad admits to two prior butt slaps, says he deserves second chance in NFL

Johnson AP

On Monday, former NFL receiver Chad Johnson was released from jail after serving seven days of a 30-day term.

On Tuesday, Johnson appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the incident, and his football future.  Because appearing on a network morning show is always the best way to get the attention of a General Manager.

First, Johnson explained to Robin Roberts the butt-slap of lawyer Adam Swickle, a gesture that came after Judge Kathleen McHugh praised Swickle’s work on Johnson’s behalf.

“That’s the way I’ve always interacted throughout life, just in general,” Johnson said.  “I know there’s a certain thing called courtroom etiquette, which I’ve never really been part of the court system.  It was a light tap.  It wasn’t in any way to disrespect the courtroom.  And really I didn’t think anyone would see it, because it was actually my third time doing so.”

Johnson, who remains on probation through October, wisely praised the judge supervising the process for her decisions, including the one that put him behind bars.

“I supported her in her decision to give me the sentence that she did, basically after me not meeting the criteria and the guidelines that I was supposed to meet in a certain amount of time,” Johnson said.  “With them not being done within that time, I felt that it was right of her to sentence me to 30 days.  She had given me a gift before and there was no reason to treat me any different than anyone else.  Because if anyone else was in that situation, they would have had to do 30 days as well. . . .

“Judge McHugh was able to do something many people have tried to get me to do for a long time.  Slow down.  Just at life in general.  Slow down, think about what you’re gonna do.  She was able to do that, maybe not in the best circumstances to those on the outside but I see being able to sit down and think about life and where I’m going from this point on being one of the best things that could happen to me right now.”

An even better thing that could happen, in Johnson’s view, would be to get back to the NFL.

“I think everyone deserves a second chance,” Johnson said.  “Many would say I might not deserve it.  I would like to finish my career off the right way.  I don’t want the last thing to be remembered, you know, well Chad was cut from the Dolphins for an incident he had with his wife.  I would love to grace the football field one more time and to help some team.  I’m not injured, there’s nothing wrong with me.  I’ve learned my lesson, especially after those past seven days.  And that’s about it.  If it doesn’t happen, life goes on.  There are many opportunities and doors that will continue to open.”

He needs those doors to open.  Or he needs to close his wallet.  With a reported monthly deficit of $45,000, Johnson must generate more income or reduce dramatically his expenses before his football money evaporates for good.

It remains unlikely that he’ll be earning more football money.  Even before he was cut by the Dolphins last year, his performance on the field (as captured by NFL Films and HBO) seemed to be more like the guy who was forgotten during the 2011 season in New England and less like the player who once had the audacity to don a homemade Hall of Fame blazer after scoring a touchdown in a Monday night game.

Regardless, he shouldn’t have been put in jail.  Now that he’s out, here’s hoping he finds a way to be productive (and solvent) in his post-football life.

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49ers waive CB Cameron Fuller

San Diego Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers will have a different look at cornerback entering 2015.

This extends even to the reserve ranks.

San Francisco announced Friday it had waived second-year corner Cameron Fuller. The 24-yar-old Fuller joined the 49ers’s practice squad in mid-December and was on the active roster for the regular season finale vs. Arizona.

Two of the 49ers’s key cornerbacks of a season ago — Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver — have departed in free agency. While the club did add Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright in free agency, the position’s depth looms a concern as the 2015 NFL Draft nears.

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Bears owner at first said no to Ray McDonald, then changed his mind

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Bears owner George McCaskey says that when General Manager Ryan Pace first approached him about signing Ray McDonald, McCaskey said no. Then McDonald changed McCaskey’s mind.

McCaskey said that he initially thought McDonald, who was accused of both domestic violence and sexual assault last year, should not be brought to Chicago. But McDonald, who was not charged in connection with either accusation, reached out to McCaskey personally and convinced him that the Bears should take a chance on him.

“Ryan had asked me for permission to pursue him, and we had a file on him with the information that we had gathered,” McCaskey said. “I looked at the file and came back and said no. So Ryan said, ‘Fine, we’ll move onto the next guy.’ And then Ray . . . asked if I would be willing to meet with him and I said yes. The fact that he proposed that idea, I gave him a lot of credit for. He was very candid, very forthright. It was a difficult conversation. It was long. It took a lot out of me and I think it took a lot out of him. After that conversation, I told Ryan that he had our permission.”

So what did McDonald say to McCaskey to change his mind?

“He talked about these incidents which have become public knowledge and walked me through each one,” McCaskey said. “I don’t want to get too much into the particulars. I just want to give you a sense of the conversation. I was impressed with how sincere he was and how he motivated he is. He understands I think that he could have well been facing the end of his football career, and he loves football and he wants that career to continue. So I was impressed with his motivation.”

Now the question is whether McDonald can stay out of trouble in Chicago, or whether the Bears will have egg on their faces for giving McDonald another chance.

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Jets sending six to work out Mariota

Playoff Championship Ohio St Oregon Football AP

Back from Arizona after the league meetings, the Jets will now be heading west for a workout with quarterback Marcus Mariota.  And they may need a bigger plane to get there.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that six key decision makers will be heading to Oregon to work out Mariota, including G.M. Mike Maccagnan, coach Todd Bowles, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, quarterbacks coach Kevin Patullo, director of college scouting Rex Hogan, and director of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger.

The Jets currently sit at No. 6 in round one, and there’s a chance Mariota will slide to them.  There’s also a chance the Jets will become sufficiently enthralled with Mariota to trade up with the team bearing the nickname the Jets once had:  The Titans.

Three years ago, Washington gave up the No. 6 pick, two additional first-round picks, and a second round pick to jump to No. 2, where they selected quarterback Robert Griffin III.

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Titans bring back CB Brandon Harris

Brandon Harris, T.Y. Hilton AP

The Titans have re-signed a secondary reserve, reaching a one-year deal with cornerback Brandon Harris, the club said Friday.

Harris (5-10, 189) made 11 tackles in 11 games with Tennessee in 2014. A Miami (Fla.) product, Harris had played the previous three seasons with Houston, which took him in Round Two in 2011. Overall, Harris has recorded 48 tackles and 10 passes defensed in regular season play.

Harris will again vie for a backup role with the Titans, who are likely to start Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty at the cornerback spots next season. One factor working in Harris’s favor in the near future? He is just 25 years old, and his combination of experience and relative youth would enhance his value were he to have a breakout season at some point.

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Caldwell says things “didn’t work out” with Reggie Bush

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Reggie Bush led the Lions in rushing in 2013, but they cut Bush before free agency.  At the league meetings in Arizona, coach Jim Caldwell didn’t have much to say about why Bush is no longer in Detroit.

“I think oftentimes you’ll find that there are going to be some adjustments here and there that you make that when you look at your team and make a determination on your personnel, what you think is best,” Caldwell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.  “Sometimes you got to let some guys go, and sometimes you try to make certain you keep certain guys if you can.  But it’s not always the case, and in that particular case it didn’t work out.  So we look to do other things.”

Those “other things” don’t mean finding another running back.  Instead, Bush’s absence will mean more opportunities for Joique Bell and Theo Riddick.

“I think [Riddick is] going to be one of those guys that’s going to force us to get him that ball a little bit more because I think you’re really going to see him come,” Caldwell said.

While the Lions decided to move on from Bush, the 49ers stepped in with a bottom-of-the-market contract but major expectations that he’ll be an every down back, as they search for a Frank Gore replacement.

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Panthers claim Jonathan Martin off waivers from 49ers

Jonathan Martin AP

The Panthers just added some more offensive line depth, and have now employed both players offended by Richie Incognito.

The Panthers announced they claimed tackle Jonathan Martin off waivers from the 49ers, a day after he was cut loose there.

Martin has shown at times to have NFL talent, though the abuse he took in Miami made some question how he’d fit into a locker room in the future. The 49ers, with his old college coach Jim Harbaugh, were a good place for him to reestablish himself.

The Panthers could use all the tackle depth they can get their hands on, so Martin has an opportunity for playing time. For a team that opened last year with Byron Bell and a converted defensive tackle (Nate Chandler) as their starting tackles, they’ve now added two cheap upgrades in Michael Oher and Martin.

“Our goal is to build the strongest roster possible and add competition at every position,” Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said in a statement from the team. “Jonathan brings quality experience to our offensive line, having started 32 games in his career at both tackle spots.”

The Panthers had “Player A” from the Ted Wells report, guard Andrew McDonaldin camp last summer.

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Pagano, Grigson could have a hard time staying on same page this year

Pagano AP

2015 began as the year of the mutual parting, with a pair of successful coaches who were unable to achieve ultimate success leaving their teams.  That trend could continue in 2016, if the Colts don’t extend the contract of coach Chuck Pagano, and if he moves on after the season ends.

Complicating matters is the identical status of G.M. Ryan Grigson.  Both he and Pagano will be commencing contract years, which means that either Grigson or Pagano may bear the ultimate blame for the failure of the Colts to get beyond (or at least stay within 38 points of) the Patriots.

It also means that Grigson and Pagano could be tempted to blame each other, in the event that the 2015 season at any point unravels.  If, for example, the team’s run defense — its “Achilles heel,” per Pagano — continues to fail to slow down New England, Pagano could be tempted to blame it on the personnel, and Grigson could be tempted to blame it on the coaching.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR.com suspects, as he explained during Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, that a disconnect already exists between Pagano and Grigson.  The leak that Pagano (but not Grigson) won’t be getting a new contract before the season at a minimum raises a question about whether Pagano already is being set up to take the fall.

Regardless of their current relationship, it becomes critical for Pagano and Grigson to band together, setting aside a desire to survive something less than a full-blown purge and accepting the notion that both will stay or both will go.  Three years ago, owner Jim Irsay opted to press the reset button, firing both coach Jim Caldwell and G.M. Bill Polian.  This time around, Irsay may be inclined to fire only one or the other; after the 2001 season, Polian stayed and coach Jim Mora was let go.

To be as successful as they possible can be, Pagano and Grigson need to commit to cooperation and mutual support.  That’s definitely easier said than done, especially since one of them sits in a box with the owner during games and the other one is down on the sidelines, wondering what they may be talking about up there.

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Mike Westhoff thinks kickers are so good, special teams are boring

Jets coaches Ryan and Westhoff react while they played the 49ers in NFL game in East Rutherford Reuters

There was a time when kickers missed extra points regularly, went whole seasons without hitting a 50-yard field goal and struggled to boot kickoffs into the end zone. But that time is in the distant past.

That’s why Mike Westhoff, long one of the NFL’s most colorful special teams coaches, now thinks the kicking game is downright boring.

“The job I did doesn’t exist today,” Westhoff told ESPN. “What do you want me to coach, touchbacks? Not interested.”

Westhoff thinks the NFL needs to move extra points back, narrow the goal posts and make the hashmarks closer to the sidelines so that there are more field goals from difficult angles.

“Kicking has become easier today,” Westhoff said. “The kickers are bigger, stronger and better athletes than before.”

So much better that special teams just aren’t as fun as they used to be.

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Panthers add former Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin

Green Bay Packers v St Louis Rams Getty Images

On a day when another of their targets spurned them, the Panthers signed a guy they had in for a recent visit.

The team announced they had signed former Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin to a one-year contract.

Boykin spent three years with the Packers, but became a free agent when they didn’t tender him an offer this offseason.

He caught 49 passes in 2013, but fell down the pecking order when the regulars got well and caught just three passes last year.

Boykin grew up in Charlotte, attending Butler High, and has a chance to latch on in a much shallower depth chart than the one he was stuck on in Green Bay.

Earlier this afternoon, cornerback Alan Ball signed with the Bears after his visit to the Panthers.

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Foles may just be a stopgap in St. Louis

folesfisher AP

The Rams like Nick Foles enough that they turned down at least one offer of a first-round draft pick for Sam Bradford, and traded for Foles instead. But the Rams may not like Foles enough to keep him around beyond this year.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher says the Rams plan to draft a quarterback this year, and the presence of Foles doesn’t change that.

It’s our intention to draft one,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The Nick trade has no bearing over what we do in the draft.”

But which quarterback will they draft? Florida State’s Jameis Winston seems to be going to Tampa Bay with the first overall pick, and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota will almost certainly be off the board when the Rams pick at No. 10. Would the Rams move up for Mariota? To hear Fisher talk about Winston and Mariota, they’re two players who are worth trading up to draft.

“They’re unique; they’re rare,” Fisher said. “They’ve clearly proven they can win games. Marcus obviously is a little bit more mobile than Winston is. But Winston makes all of the throws. They’re both very impressive to watch.”

Realistically, the Rams probably aren’t going to be able to draft either Winston or Mariota. But a quarterback like Baylor’s Bryce Petty, UCLA’s Brett Hundley or Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson could make sense in the second round. And Foles could make sense as a one-year starter who holds onto the job just until a second-round quarterback is ready to take over.

Which means Foles, who is heading into the final season of his contract, may be changing teams again at this time next year.

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This might be the year the Cowboys actually draft a quarterback

Sports Day AP

Every year around this time, people wonder if the Cowboys are going to draft a quarterback to groom for the future.

And every year, it keeps not happening.

But at least this time, owner Jerry Jones is acknowledging that the time to pick one to learn from Tony Romo might have finally come.

We do have to look to the future relative to quarterback,’’ Jones said, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “It’s starting a time frame where a guy could come in and be a good backup.

“Look at how Romo evolved into the guy he is today. He did a little time with the clip board.”

Romo’s turning 35 next month, and some developmental lead time for the next guy might be nice. But the Cowboys have never bothered trying to draft and develop (which might not work anyway).

Since Jones bought the team and used the first pick in the 1989 NFL Draft on Troy Aikman, they’ve only drafted three other quarterbacks: 1991 fourth-rounder Bill Musgrave, 2011 second-rounder Quincy Carter and 2009 fourth-rounder Stephen McGee.

And we know Jones was eyeballing Johnny Manziel last year, before his better angels (or son Stephen) took the keys from him.

So, after looking at that list, it’s reasonable to think that maybe they shouldn’t waste any more picks. But the latest mention points to the fact that the Cowboys know the clock’s ticking on Romo, and they’ll need a plan.

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Bears sign CB Alan Ball

Alan Ball, Justin Hunter AP

The Bears have added some depth in the secondary.

Alan Ball, a veteran cornerback who has been making the free agent rounds, signed with the Bears today.

Ball, who played his college football at Illinois, was a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 2007. He spent five years in Dallas, one in Houston and two in Jacksonville. Last year Ball started the first seven games of the season for the Jaguars before suffering a season-ending arm injury.

The Panthers showed a lot of interest in Ball — so much that there was an erroneous report that he had signed. Ultimately Ball left Carolina without a deal, and now he’s a Bear.

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Giants have high hopes for a “dominant” offense

Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants had a mediocre offense last season, the first year with Ben McAdoo as the coordinator. This year, they expect much bigger things.

That’s the word from Giants running back Rashad Jennings, who said quarterback Eli Manning is going to take a big step forward in his second season playing in McAdoo’s system.

I think we’re going to have a dominant offense,” Jennings said, via NJ.com. “Eli is really comfortable in the offense now — being able to control a lot from the line of scrimmage.”

The Giants’ decision to sign running back Shane Vereen could be bad news for Jennings, who may get fewer opportunities this season with Vereen in town. But Jennings sees Vereen’s presence as a plus.

“It’s going to be big,” Jennings said. “Any time you can add depth at any position, any room, it’s valuable. He’s a guy that’s been on a team that knows the recipe of winning. We extract from that. We’ll be able to add. Also, he’s a great catcher from the backfield. So that’s going to entice the coordinator to throw to the running backs more. So I’m happy with that. He’s a good player and from everything I understand he’s a good teammate. I’m glad to have him aboard.”

The Giants’ offense did take a step forward last year — even mediocre in 2014 is better than what they were in 2013 — but they need to take another step this year. Jennings sounds very confident they’ll do just that.

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Hernandez fiancee: I asked him if he killed Odin, he said no, that was it

shayanna AP

Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee testified in court today that he told her he did not murder their friend Odin Lloyd.

Shayanna Jenkins, who prosecutors say helped Hernandez get rid of evidence after Lloyd was shot and killed, testified in front of a judge — but not in front of the jurors — and said that Hernandez said that she asked her fiance directly whether he murdered Lloyd. He told her that he didn’t, and she didn’t press the matter.

“When Aaron got back from the police station, when I had found out that Odin was murdered, I asked him if he did it and he said no. That was the extent of our conversation,” she said.

Jenkins was also asked about a text message from Hernandez in which he wrote, “Go in back of the screen in movie room when u get home an there is the box.” Prosecutors allege that was Hernandez telling Jenkins where he had hidden the murder weapon and that she should get rid of it before police searched the house. Jenkins admits that she took a box from the home and threw it in a dumpster after that, but she says that was just a coincidence and that the text wasn’t an instruction for her to do so.

According to Michele Steele of ESPN, Jenkins mouthed “I love you” to Hernandez as she walked out of the courtroom.

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Jason Garrett: Catch rule robbed the NFL of a classic finish

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett believes that a better-written NFL rule would have given Dez Bryant a catch at the end of the playoff game in Green Bay — and would have given the NFL an all-time playoff classic.

Garrett pointed out that the Cowboys would have had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, setting up, potentially, a game as memorable as another Cowboys-Packers battle, the Ice Bowl.

“To have the Cowboys inside the 1-yard line at Lambeau Field with 4:45 to go 47 years after Bart Starr had a quarterback sneak is great for our game,” Garrett said, via the Star-Telegram. “To have Aaron Rodgers standing on the other sideline waiting for his opportunity to come back, that’s what we want. And Dez Bryant getting three feet and a forearm down I think should be a catch in in our league. I think we should find ways to make sure it is going forward. It has nothing to do with our game, our team, its about how to right the rule going forward.”

As it is, that game will be remembered more for a great play that didn’t count than for a great ending.

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