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Tiki Barber: Running backs have to overcome fear of blocking

Reuters

Former Giants running back Tiki Barber offered up some thoughts this week about how current Giants running back David Wilson can develop into a great player, and he said that overcoming a fear of blocking is a key part of it.

Barber admitted to ESPNNewYork.com that he was “horrible” at pass protection as a rookie and said that developing as a pass blocker is crucial for Wilson or any other young running back who wants to make it in the NFL.

“There’s two reasons why,” Barber said. “You don’t know how to do it and you are scared to do it. Unlike in college where you have smaller linebackers who are really designed to drop in the zone and cover wide receivers in the slot, in the NFL you get these linebackers who are 250 pounds and can do those things, as well. It is intimidating when you give up 50 pounds to a guy.”

Wilson showed a lot of promise with the ball in his hands last year, but the Giants hesitated to use him as their No. 1 running back in part because he hadn’t proven he could protect Eli Manning. Barber said that Wilson can become a “fantastic” all-around player if he figures out how to put it all together.

“He is as dynamic a player at that position that the Giants have ever had,” Barber said. “So it is just a matter of him learning those little intricacies of what it takes to be great.”

If Wilson can be as great on the field as Barber was, the Giants will be very pleased.

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Report: Rams to hire Brian Xanders to front office role

AP

The Los Angeles Rams are set to add former Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos executive Brian Xanders to their front office, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.

The Lions decided to part ways with Xanders in May. He had been a holdover from prior general manager Martin Mayhew and the Lions’ new G.M., Bob Quinn, elected to move on without him.

Xanders could be filling the post vacated by the departure of Ran Carthon in April. Carthon had served as the Rams’ director of pro personnel for the last five seasons.

Xanders spent the last four years in Detroit as a senior personnel executive. He had previously served five years in Denver – first as an assistant general manager in 2008 and then four years as the general manager with the Broncos through the 2012 season. He spent 14 years with the Atlanta Falcons in various roles before heading to Denver.

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Packers assistant Darren Perry convicted, fined for drunk driving arrest

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Green Bay Packers safeties coach Darren Perry pleaded no contest and was fined for a December arrest for drunk driving, according to Paul Srubas of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Perry was fined $225 with an eight-month suspension of his license for the first-time offense, which is deemed an ordinance violation in Brown County. Additional fees and costs bring the total to $956. The plea agreement led to other charges being dropped against Perry, including unsafe lane deviation and refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

Perry has spent eight seasons with the Packers and 15 years in the NFL as a coach. He spent time as an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders before joining Mike McCarthy’s staff in Green Bay in 2009.

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Jaguars place Marquez Williams on PUP list

As training camp gets set to open for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team placed fullback Marquez Williams on the physically unable to perform list on Thursday.

Williams was a seventh-round pick of the Jaguars in May’s NFL Draft out of the University of Miami.

Williams will continue to count against the 90-man roster limit in the preseason and be activated any time before the start of the regular season upon passing a physical. Players must be on the PUP list from the start of training camp in order to be eligible for the in-season version of the list, which would require the players to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before being eligible to return.

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Gregg Williams can’t wait to utilize Jamie Collins’ versatility

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Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wants every player on his unit to learn two positions. Linebacker Jamie Collins reminds Williams that he played safety at Southern Mississippi.

He’s begging me to play safety,” Williams said, via Patrick Maks of the team website. “And I’m not saying he couldn’t be the best one out there right now. If he wanted to play defensive end, he could play defensive end.”

Collins, who arrived in Cleveland after a midseason trade with the Patriots, is versatile, athletic and intelligent, Williams said. Collins played quarterback in high school, and, at an offseason skills challenge, he drained a 30-yard throw into the kicking net on the first try.

“There’s lots of things about his versatility,” Williams said, “that it’s going to be fun and challenging to find spots to cut him loose.”

In eight games with Cleveland last season, Collins made 69 tackles and two sacks and forced a fumble.

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Jets reach agreement with first-round pick Jamal Adams

AP

The New York Jets have reached a deal with first-round pick Jamal Adams, according to his agency Universal Sports Management.

The No. 6 overall selection in the draft, Adams was one of just six draft picks without contract following Patrick Mahomes signing with the Kansas City Chiefs earlier on Thursday.

Adams’ deal will be a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year.

Adams was the top defensive back selected in the draft in a class considered deep in secondary talent. He appeared in 36 games at LSU over the last three seasons with 209 total tackles, 18 for loss with two sacks, five interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Just five draft picks now remain unsigned: 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall), Titans receiver Corey Davis (No. 5 overall), Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley (No. 24 overall) and safety Jabrill Peppers (No. 25 overall). The Raiders’ second-rounder, Obi Melifonwu, also remains unsigned.

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Rob Ninkovich on Matt Patricia’s choice of T-shirt: Everyone has to wear clothes

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Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported earlier this week that Roger Goodell remains miffed about Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s choice to wear a T-shirt mocking the Commissioner upon the team’s return from Super Bowl LI. Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich says get over it.

Everyone has the right to wear whatever shirt they want,” Ninkovich said on Boston Herald Radio’s “The Rundown.” “Everyone has to wear a shirt, right? You can’t just wear no shirt. I think someone threw it at [Patricia], and he said, ‘All right, nice shirt, it’s cool, it’s blue, so I’ll put it on.’ I thought it was a funny shirt.”

Goodell hasn’t returned to Foxboro since the Deflategate controversy began but is expected for the regular-season opener there Sept. 7. He could bump into Patricia, who wore Barstool Sports Goodell-with-a-clown-nose T-shirt as he deplaned after the return from Houston in February.

Ninkovich doesn’t expect Patricia’s choice of T-shirt to hinder the defensive coordinator’s chances of getting a head coaching job.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Ninkovich said. “People want to take it how they want to take it. If you really think about it, everyone has to wear clothes, so you just put a shirt on, and you know, it is what it is. I think it’s a nice shirt. It’s blue. I love blue. My favorite color is blue.”

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Dak Prescott works with Tom Shaw in readying for season

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While his teammates were vacationing, Dak Prescott was hard at work in Orlando. He has spent his off time training with renowned athletic performance trainer Tom Shaw at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

The quarterback finished up his extra work with Shaw on Thursday and headed home as the Cowboys report for physicals Friday.

“He is serious about improving all aspects of his game – and I mean all of it,” Shaw said, via Walt Disney World Sports Public Relations. “He works on the non-football stuff – the conditioning, the core strength work, the weight room strength work, and he attacks the on-field work that’s necessary to become a great player in the NFL. This guy is a worker.”

Prescott began working with Shaw, a former strength and conditioning coach for the Patriots and Saints, before the 2016 draft. The Cowboys made Prescott a fourth-round draft pick, and he won offensive rookie of the year honors after posting a 13-3 record.

“I think he’s the best,” Prescott said of Shaw. “He’s my guy. He tells you exactly what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear. He is honest with all the guys which I greatly appreciate. I came here to Disney to train because I wanted to be in the best possible condition when I go back to my team. I wanted to get that good sweat in down here in Florida to make sure that from a conditioning standpoint, I’m ready to go when my team heads to training camp in California.”

Prescott didn’t show many weaknesses last season after passing for 23 touchdowns and four interceptions, but according to him, he has some. So this offseason, as defensive coordinators worked to take way Prescott’s strengths, Prescott worked to improve his weaknesses.

“Coach Shaw talks to us all the time about turning your weaknesses into strengths, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on during the majority of the spring,” Prescott said. “As an NFL quarterback, there is always some aspect of your game — accuracy, footwork, strength — something you can always work on to improve, so that’s been my focus.”

Shaw raved about Prescott’s work ethic, believing that is what will separate the former Mississippi State star in the NFL.

“This guy has a chance to be an elite quarterback in the NFL,” Shaw said. “The game is important to him. He wants to improve, and he works at it. That’s the way you improve in the NFL: You have to work at it, and that’s what Dak does.”

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Tony Romo on Ezekiel Elliott: He’s going to figure it out and be fine

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Ezekiel Elliott has made the headlines several times for the wrong reasons in his brief career. But former teammate Tony Romo said adjusting to the spotlight that comes with playing in the NFL takes time, and insists the star running back will “figure it out and be fine.”

“Zeke, he’s a friend,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I know that he’s a good kid. He’s just trying to find his way. He’s in a position that he’s always going to be in a spot where people are going to take a photo, they’re going to talk about him. We all get these little times in our career where you can go two different directions. He’s figuring it out. He’s obviously made some choices he’ll reflect back and wish he done a little different. But at the same time, just not a whole lot of people are really thrust into this spotlight, this soon, at that age. Really, even in the National Football League there’s only a few of them. I always want to give people a little grace period and a little time. The fact the I know him and I know his personality and how much good he does off the field, how good he is with people, I think he’s going to figure it out and be fine. But like we say, you always got to take responsibility and try to improve in all facets of life.”

Dallas police suspended an investigation into a Sunday night altercation involving Elliott after the alleged victim failed to respond to multiple attempts to contact him and no witnesses came forward. But Elliott also remains under investigation by the NFL for allegations of domestic violence made against him by a former girlfriend a year ago; he is appealing a misdemeanor conviction for speeding after a state trooper clocked his 2016 Dodge Charger traveling 100 mph; he exposed a woman’s breasts during a St. Patrick’s Day parade; and he visited a marijuana dispensary in Seattle last preseason.

Coach Jason Garrett offered support to Elliott on Wednesday, saying, “Zeke’s someone we believe very strongly in as a person and as a football player, and we’re going to continue to believe in him and try to put a structure around him and all of our players to help them make great decisions and grow – grow on and off the field.”

The Cowboys’ veterans report to The Star for physicals on Friday. The team leaves for Oxnard, Calif., on Saturday.

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Ravens make several roster moves

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The Ravens made several moves Thursday.

They waived defensive back Daniel Henry with an injury designation, and placed offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor on the non-football injury list.

The Ravens also placed receiver Aaron Bailey and defensive end Patrick Ricard on the physically unable to perform list.

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Chiefs sign Patrick Mahomes

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Quarterback Patrick Mahomes won’t be missing any of his first NFL training camp due to a contract dispute.

Mahomes was one of the few unsigned 2017 draft picks left in the league until the Chiefs announced on Thursday afternoon that he has agreed to a contract with the team. Like all first-round picks, Mahomes’ contract runs four years with a team option for a fifth season.

Mahomes went to Kansas City with the 10th overall pick after the Chiefs made a trade with the Bills to move into the spot. They gave up a third-round pick and next year’s first-round selection for a player who is expected to serve as a backup to Alex Smith for at least one season before taking over as the team’s starter.

With Mahomes under contract, there are six unsigned picks left around the league. Five of them are first-round selections, including three of the top six picks, but things could start to move with Mahomes and second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky agreeing to deals in the last two days.

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Patriots release OL Chase Farris

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The Patriots released offensive lineman Chase Farris on Thursday.

Farris, 24, spent the majority of last season on the New England practice squad after first being signed to the squad on Oct. 5, 2016.

The Lions originally signed Farris as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State. Detroit released him before the start of the season, though the Lions re-signed him to the practice squad before releasing him Sept. 21, 2016.

Farris began his college career as a defensive lineman and transitioned to the offensive line following his sophomore season. He was a starter at right tackle during his senior season at Ohio State in 2015.
 

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Philip Rivers: Keenan Allen looks as good as before ACL tear

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Chargers first-round pick Mike Williams is dealing with a back injury that could leave him unavailable to the team during his rookie season and having a wideout dealing with an injury is something quarterback Philip Rivers has become overly accustomed to over the years.

In 2016, for example, Rivers played 15-plus games without having Keenan Allen in the lineup. Allen tore his ACL in the first game of the season, leaving him with just six catches for 63 yards to show for the year.

Allen, who also missed eight games with a lacerated kidney in 2015, was working on the field with the team during OTAs this spring and Rivers said he doesn’t think anyone will notice a difference in the wideout’s play.

“I really think he looks as good as he did before he got hurt,” Rivers said on The Rich Eisen Show.

A healthy Allen is a vital piece of the Chargers offensive puzzle whether Williams is healthy enough to contribute this year or not, so Rivers’ words are encouraging even if history provides reason to be skeptical that the rookie’s injury is the last one the Chargers will deal with this year.

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Jerry Jones on buying the Cowboys: It was not a pretty investment

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The Cowboys were losing $1 million a month when Jerry Jones bought them for $140 million in 1989. They now rank atop Forbes’ annual team value rankings at $4.2 billion.

Every owner these days is trying to keep up with Jones, who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month.

“The NFL was always a dream of mine, an ambition of mine, and I must say that almost within months of the time that I actually could afford to basically be involved — 29 years ago — to be involved in an ownership position, I immediately exchanged the financial security and basically put our future, put practically everything in terms of the Dallas Cowboys in buying the team,” Jones said on a Hall of Fame press conference Thursday. “It was not a pretty investment. It wasn’t one that you or anybody else would admire at the time. That was not the point. The point was what it could do. It really does show that in spite of some of the physical aspects of challenges that if you just have enough passion about things [you can be successful]. My most important thing is I don’t think I’ve worked a day since I bought the Dallas Cowboys. It has absolutely been a labor of love every morning, and I’ve [never] been more excited about the future, the future of the league, the future of the Cowboys, my future. I’m more excited today than I was maybe in ’89 when I became involved.”

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Rams sign Dan Orlovsky

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With training camp opening soon and just two quarterbacks under contract, the Rams have added a third.

Veteran backup Dan Orlovsky told SportsSpectrum.com today that he is signing with the Rams.

Orlovsky has stuck around in the NFL since the Lions took him in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. He’s had two stints in Detroit as well as stints in Houston, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. He has 12 career starts.

In Los Angeles, Orlovsky will serve as a veteran mentor to Jared Goff, last year’s first overall pick who will be the starter, and Sean Mannion, the 2015 third-round pick who will back Goff up.

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Panthers release Michael Oher

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The Panthers released offensive tackle Michael Oher with a failed physical designation Thursday.

Oher has been in concussion protocol since September. He missed the final 13 games last season. The move was not unexpected but came only days after he defended former Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman while ripping teammates.

In an Instagram post, Oher said that other than head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion and team doctor Robert Heyer, Gettleman was the only other person “who has constantly checked on my well being, my condition and state of mind in the time I’ve been suffering from my injury.”

“Guy really cares about you as a person just not the player also his [sic] always interested in how your family is as well,” Oher wrote. “Hated to hear that news but I know he’ll be fine. And for the people downstairs who are happy and had something to do with it downstairs, Karma’s a MF!!”

Oher joined the Panthers in 2015 and started all 16 regular-season games and three postseason games for a team that won an NFC Championship and made an appearance in Super Bowl 50. He signed a three-year extension with the Panthers last summer and was due to make $2.25 million this season.

The Panthers signed Matt Kalil to play left tackle this offseason and have Daryl Williams and 2017 second-round pick Taylor Moten as options on the other side of the line.

In eight NFL seasons split between Baltimore (2009-13), Tennessee (2014) and Carolina (2015-16), Oher started 110 regular-season games. He was a member of the Baltimore’s Super Bowl XLVII championship team following the 2012 season.

 

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