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Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald continue working on chemistry

Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer AP

Many players use the weeks between the end of OTAs and the start of training camp to grab their last bit of rest and relaxation before the start of a long season. 

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has long taken a different approach. Fitzgerald hires trainers and invites players — teammates and those from other teams — to work out with him in Minnesota before camp. The workouts are in full swing right now and there’s a special focus on developing chemistry with new Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer so that the duo can continue building the chemistry they’ll need to thrive. 

“Look, this is a big year for me, coming off my worst season as a pro,” Fitzgerald said, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “I know Carson wants to play well this year. This is a huge year, and we’re leaning on each other. It’s simple as that. I need him as bad as anybody, and I’m going to go out there and give everything I can for him.”

The Cardinals contingent includes the team’s other receivers and they have spent a lot of time working on routes, formations and reads from the team’s offense. Palmer explained that the players hope that the extra work allows them to remain in rhythm before the resumption of official team activities. 

“That’s the goal … come into training camp and be ready, not have a day or two where you’re kind of getting back into the swing of things and try to get rhythm and timing down,” Palmer said. “It’s just a good chance to work some of the kinks out and talk about plays, talk about angles of routes and clean some of those things up.”

Last season was a rough one for both Fitzgerald and Palmer and it’s hard to imagine that one of them rebounds if the other one doesn’t. That makes these workouts as important as any other work they’ve done this offseason since the padless nature of offseason work means that things aren’t that different for them in Minnesota. 

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Concussed last week or not, Robert Griffin III is cleared to play

Robert Griffin III, Tyrunn Walker, Ezekiel Ansah AP

A week ago tonight, there was confusion regarding the question of whether Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III had been cleared to return to a preseason game against the Lions following a possible concussion. Earlier on Thursday, Griffin danced around the question of whether he actually was concussed.

Concussion or not, the team has announced that Griffin has been cleared to play in the Week Three preseason game against the Ravens.

“[A]n independent neurologist has cleared quarterback Robert Griffin III to play for Saturday’s game at Baltimore,” the team said in a release issued earlier Thursday evening.

The declaration comes after Griffin opted to defer to “the people who report that stuff,” adding that “I don’t report that stuff.”

On the surface, it seems a little goofy that Griffin didn’t know whether he had a concussion. But goofy could be the right approach for Griffin; Rodney Harrison praised the player for taking a page out of the Bill Belichick “say nothing” playbook during Thursday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN.

Click below to hear Rodney say a lot more than nothing about the situation.

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Ryan Mallett missed practice because he overslept

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Maybe Ryan Mallett hit the snooze alarm for an extra five and it never came back. Or maybe he messed up the AM/PM. Or maybe there was a separate knob for the radio alarm.

Whatever the reason, Mallett overslept today and missed practice, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Texans had previously confirmed that Mallett missed practice but refused to say why.

That doesn’t reflect well on Mallett, who lost the Texans’ quarterback competition to Brian Hoyer this week and took it hard. If Mallett ever wants to convince coach Bill O’Brien that he deserves to start, missing practice isn’t the way to do it.

There have been reports about Mallett lacking maturity going back to his college days, and his failure to get to work on time today won’t do anything to change the perception that he’s just not ready to lead an NFL team.

In the future, perhaps Mallett should arrange for a wakeup call. And try not to offend the wakeup guy.

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Josh Johnson joins Jets, Jake Heaps jettisoned

Josh Johnson Pic Getty Images

The Jets have made a change at the bottom of the quarterback depth chart.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed with the Jets today, while rookie Jake Heaps was cut.

Johnson, who was cut by the Bengals this week, is one of the NFL’s most athletic quarterbacks, but has struggled as a passer. He has played in 29 games and thrown five touchdown passes and 10 interceptions while rushing for 274 yards. Heaps is an undrafted free agent from the University of Miami who threw one pass, an incompletion, for the Jets this preseason.

It’s unlikely that Johnson will make the Jets’ roster, but he’ll provide depth for now. While Geno Smith continues to recover from a broken jaw, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter and the backups are rookie Bryce Petty and the recently signed veteran Matt Flynn.

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NFL slated to start the season with more than 30 players suspended

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The NFL has suspended more than 30 players this offseason.

Our NFL 2015 suspension tracker currently has the names of 34 players on it, with the possibility that more suspensions could still be coming.

It’s still possible that some suspensions could be overturned. Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant is still appealing his four-game substance-abuse suspension, while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still going through the courts to battle his four-game Deflategate suspension.

The two longest suspensions handed down this offseason were the 16-game bans given to Browns receiver Josh Gordon and Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan. Some of the suspended players are little-known free agents who likely wouldn’t play in Week One anyway, but some of the noteworthy suspensions include six games for 49ers receiver Jerome Simpson, four games for Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, four games for Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, four games for Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain, four games for Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, two games for Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, one game for Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and one game for Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

In all, players have been suspended for a cumulative 159 games for the 2015 season.

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Russell Wilson has more to say about Recovery Water

Seattle Seahawks v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Over the past two days, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has said plenty of stuff about Recovery Water, a company in which he has invested. And most of what he has said indicates a belief by him that the product helps prevent or treat concussions.

Wilson was back at it on Thursday, extolling the virtues of a beverage with nanobubbles, which he claims helped him not get a concussion when he took a blow to the head against the Packers in January.

“I didn’t have a concussion,” Wilson told reporters, via comments distributed by the team. “I guess it was perceived wrong, but I did not have a concussion. I was saying that I had consistently been drinking the water for about a month, month and a half, you know, five to seven times a day and maybe this stuff is helping me out. It’s one of those things that I truly do believe it helps with recovery, it’s one of those things that the science behind it, all that help that they’re trying to do.”

Via Twitter on Wednesday, Wilson said that Recovery Water helped prevent him from getting a concussion, which meshes with what he said today. But what he said today conflicts with the message sent by his quotes to Rolling Stone, when he said, “I banged my head during the Packers game in the playoffs, and the next day I was fine. It was the water.”

Saying “the next day I was fine” implies that the prior day he wasn’t. Wilson said today that he was.

“I didn’t have any head injuries, but I was trying to say I think it helped prevent it,” Wilson said. “I think your brain consists of like 75 to 80 percent water so I think that just being hydrated and drinking the Recovery Water really does help.”

Under that theory, drinking any type water would help. As, possibly, would playing football while wearing not a helmet but a fishbowl.

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It sounds like Aaron Rodgers won’t play on Saturday

Packers Camp Football AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday that the Packers offense is right where it needs to be for the start of the regular season before saying he wasn’t sure how much playing time he’d get in Saturday’s game against the Eagles.

Based on what one of his backups had to say on Thursday, it sounds like he won’t get any playing time at all. The Packers have three starting offensive linemen battling injuries heading into the game, which isn’t the kind of situation you want to put Rodgers in if you can avoid it. Quarterback Matt Blanchard says that they won’t when discussing his own plans for the game.

“I know the starters aren’t going to be playing but for us, it’s our first time out on Lambeau this season,” Blanchard said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “The backups don’t normally get these type of reps. We have a lot of respect for Philly and their defense. Their starters are going to be playing a lot of time. It’s a good opportunity for Brett [Hundley] and I to get in there and see where we’re at and take advantage of it.”

Given the usual operating procedure for the final week of the preseason, it seems likely that Rodgers’s next game action will come in Week One against the Bears. Demovsky reports the team’s defensive starters are expected to play in Saturday’s game.

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Thursday’s PFT on NBCSN poll question looks at Colts, Rams

NBCSN

Week Three of the preseason includes a game between a pair of franchises that were once swapped by Robert Irsay and Carroll Rosenbloom. The Colts visit the Rams in a matchup of teams that were in Baltimore and L.A. when their pink slips were swapped.

Thursday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN bases a poll question on these two teams, asking whether it’s more likely that the Colts will make the Super Bowl or the Rams will make the playoffs.

Cast a ballot below and then tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET for 30 minutes of new and analysis with Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly. It’s guaranteed to get you ready for the all-important third week of the preseason. Assuming any week of the preseason is important.

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Patriots waive/injured 2012 third-rounder Jake Bequette

Jake Bequette AP

The Patriots waived 2012 third-round pick Jake Bequette last year, but brought him back to the practice squad and then moved him from defensive end to tight end this year in an attempt to find a place for him on the roster.

That effort has come to an end. The NFL’s daily transactions report brings word that Bequette, who had been absent from practice of late, has been waived with the injured designation. If he’s not claimed, he can go on Patriots injured reserve or become a free agent after an injury settlement with the team.

Bequette was one of four players dropped from the roster on Thursday. The team announced that offensive lineman Mark Asper and linebacker Cameron Gordon have been waived and that veteran defensive tackle Antonio Johnson has been released. The team also waived defensive back Jimmy Jean on Wednesday.

All the moves leave the Patriots with several open roster spots, but they may remain unfilled with the deadline to cut rosters to 75 players coming next week.

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Terrelle Pryor not sure if he’s playing Saturday

Terrelle Pryor AP

Terrelle Pryor practiced for the Browns again on Thursday, but he’s not sure whether he’ll be in the lineup for the team’s third preseason game on Saturday.

Pryor said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that how his hamstring feels on Friday will determine whether or not he can make his first appearance of the preseason and his first game appearance since making the move to wide receiver upon joining the Browns this offseason.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said recently that Pryor’s extended absence this summer has hurt his chances of making the team, something Pryor is aware of but says won’t stop him from following the injury protocol laid out by the team.

Given the lack of potential playmakers on Cleveland’s offense, Pryor may stand a better chance than most players who have had as little to do on the field as he’s had during camp. Still, a good showing on Saturday that ends with Pryor healthy would go a long way toward extending his stay with the team.

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Eagles waive/injured Emmanuel Acho after thumb surgery

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Eagles are down one inside linebacker in the competition to make the 53-man roster.

According to multiple reports, Emmanuel Acho has been waived/injured because of a thumb injury. Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Acho’s injury required surgery.

Every team in the league will have an opportunity to claim Acho off of waivers. If no one does, he can revert to injured reserve with the Eagles or reach an injury settlement with the team that makes him a free agent.

Acho played 20 games for the Eagles the last two seasons and made two starts last year. He was competing for a backup inside linebacker job this year.

His departure leaves Brad Jones and Najee Goode in the mix for spots along with Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and third-round pick Jordan Hicks. Jones has been getting some work at outside linebacker as well, which could boost his chances of surviving the cut to 53 players.

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RG3 declines to say if he had a concussion

Robert Griffin III AP

If you were inclined to believe that Robert Griffin III didn’t really suffer a concussion in last week’s preseason game, nothing he said today would change your mind.

Griffin met with the media today for the first time since the team announced last Thursday that he had a concussion, and when he was asked directly if he actually had a concussion, Griffin wouldn’t answer.

“You’ve got to talk to the people who report that stuff. I don’t report that stuff. I was in the locker room, taking a shower, getting ready to watch the rest of the game, so I don’t know,” Griffin said.

Questions have been raised about whether the team used a concussion diagnosis as a convenient way to let Griffin dodge the media. The NFL’s media policy says that all players are required to talk to reporters after games — with the exception of players who suffered concussions.

Asked today if he suffered a concussion when he got hit on his final play, Griffin answered, “I have no idea. I just know I was in some pain, the trainers came out and that was it.”

The team couldn’t get its story straight on the night of the game about whether Griffin had a concussion, and Griffin sounded today like he wanted to wash his hands of the team’s official concussion diagnosis, without coming right out and contradicting it.

What Griffin did say is that he’s been cleared to return, and he’s planning to play Saturday. He’ll have to address the media again after that game. Unless the team says he has another concussion.

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Still no timetable for Breshad Perriman’s return

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When Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman injured his knee in late July, the Ravens said they didn’t think it was a serious injury and that Perriman should be back without missing much time.

It’s almost a month since the injury and Perriman has yet to resume practicing, however. Coach John Harbaugh said last week that an MRI came back “normal,” but said Thursday that there still isn’t a timetable for Perriman to get back on the field.

“I’m asking too,” Harbaugh said, via the team’s website. “It’s just slower healing than [the doctors] expected. They really don’t have a timetable right now. That’s all I really have to say on that.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco called Perriman’s absence “disappointing” and said that Perriman will likely have work to do to get himself back into shape once he does get the green light to resume football activities. There will also be a lot of making up for lost practice time, all of which could lead to less of an impact from Perriman than the Ravens hoped to receive during the 2015 season.

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Pettine: Manziel likely done for preseason

Johnny Manziel AP

The mystery surrounding the elbow and arm soreness plaguing Browns second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel continues to grow with Thursday’s announcement by Browns coach Mike Pettine that Manziel is definitely going to miss Saturday’s preseason game at Tampa Bay and probably won’t be able to play in the Sept. 3 preseason finale at Chicago, either.

Pettine said Wednesday that an MRI on Manziel had shown no structural damage and that he was dealing with “a little bit of soreness.”

A day before announcing Manziel was likely done for the preseason, Pettine said Manziel “could play [if he had to]” in Saturday’s preseason game, but the team saw no reason to risk it. Thursday, Pettine said basically said the same, which adds to the mystery.

Earlier this week, new Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo told reporters Manziel’s injury was a function of his delivery.

Is it just soreness? Or is it something more — and potentially more serious — that’s likely to keep a player trying to rebound from a lost rookie season to miss basically two weeks of practice and two preseason games?

Pettine said Thursday the Browns had planned to give Manziel his first reps of the preseason with the starting offense at Tampa Bay. He led one touchdown drive in each of the first two preseason games with the No. 2 offense.

Manziel’s injury all but assures that Josh McCown will be the team’s starting quarterback for the Sept. 13 preseason opener at the Jets. Pettine had been firm that McCown was the No. 1 quarterback, but unless McCown can win a bunch of games the Browns need to see Manziel at some point to get a further evaluation on whether he can end the team’s ongoing quest for a franchise quarterback, and having arm problems makes things even more difficult on Manziel.

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Letroy Guion’s three-game suspension is upheld

Letroy Guion AP

Packers defensive lineman Letroy Guion was suspended three games by the NFL under the substance-abuse policy. He had appeal rights under a procedure that, as of September 2014, removed final say from the league office and exported it to an external panel.

The panel has now spoken, and the appeal has been upheld — only three days after a hearing on the situation.

The league has announced that Guion will miss the first three games without pay of the 2015 regular season. He’ll be eligible to return after the September 28 game against the Chiefs. The suspension begins following the preseason finale.

Guion was arrested in February on marijuana charges. He eventually reached a plea deal in the case.

Packers linebacker Datone Jones also has been suspended for the first game of the 2015 season for violation of the substance-abuse policy.

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IK Enemkpali goes the “no comment” route, which is probably best

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

While it’s hard to imagine what he could say to make this better, IK Enemkpali chose to play it safe this time.

According to Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News, the Bills linebacker declined comment through a team spokesman about the bizarre catfishing story which has landed his name in the headlines again.

As we noted this morning, Enemkpali was named in a 2011 report saying he — maybe you should catch your breath here — punched a man he thought was a woman he had arranged to have sex with who now happens to be a pastor in Louisiana, allegedly breaking out two of his teeth before the imposter named “Missy Lee” tried to extort him out of $1,000.

Yeah, that’s what we thought too.

So yes, this story is lewd, lascivious, salacious, and outrageous. And it’s embarrassing for a kid who has enough to worry about without it.

At the same time, it’s at least the third time he is documented to have punched someone (along with an off-duty cop and former Jets teammate Geno Smith), which ought to be a concern for the league and perhaps the Bills beyond the prurient details of this particular story.

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