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Preseason Power Rankings No. 16: Vikings

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The Vikings start the 2013 season smack in the middle of the pack.  They likely won’t finish there.

The unlikely 2012 wild-card team will get either a lot better with the development of a strong passing game, or a lot worse without it.

And so the focal point of the entire franchise becomes the man who is the most important player on every NFL team:  the quarterback.

The Vikings will go as far as Christian Ponder will take them.  And before we go much farther with that point, let’s defer to the various categories we use for every team.

Strengths.

The Vikings’ biggest strength comes from an offense built around Adrian Peterson, the reigning league MVP.  If Peterson, who came within nine yards of the single-season rushing record despite tearing an ACL on Christmas Eve of 2011, runs in 2013 like he ran during the second half of 2012, he could put up 2,500 yards or more.

Helping him try again to topple Eric Dickerson’s record is an offensive line that returns all five starters, even though questions swirl around John Sullivan’s knee, which required microfracture surgery to simulate cartilage growth.  They stepped up to pay right tackle Phil Loadholt, and Matt Kalil had a solid rookie season at left tackle.

Elsewhere on offense, the tight end position features tight end Kyle Rudolph and fullback Jerome Felton.  Both made it to the Pro Bowl; Rudolph was the game’s MVP.

The defensive line continues to be a strong suit for the Vikings, but the winds of change are blowing like that big horn that blares whenever a touchdown is scored.  Defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams enter contract years.  The Vikings need rookie Sharrif Floyd to make a quick impact, and they need guys like Brian Robison and Everson Griffen to show that they can get it done if/when Allen is elsewhere in 2014.

The safety position went quickly from perennial weakness to strength with the arrival in 2012 of Harrison Smith.  If he can continue to develop, the Vikings could soon have one of the strongest last lines of defense in the league.

The Vikings have one of the best kickers in the league in 2012 rookie Blair Walsh, and they could have one of the best punters in 2013 rookie Jeff Locke, who was deemed to be good enough after one minicamp to justify jettisoning veteran Chris Kluwe.

Weaknesses.

The Vikings’ biggest weakness, like their biggest strength, comes from an offense built around Adrian Peterson, the reigning league MVP.  Similar to the pre-Favre years, the Vikings have been unable to take advantage of the attention paid to Peterson with a passing game that stretches the field, in turn making it easier for Peterson to pile up even more yards.

Despite all the bouquets being thrown to third-year quarterback Christian Ponder, he enters a distinct “prove it or lose it” campaign in Minnesota.  And the verdict could come even before the end of the coming season.  If Ponder, the 12th overall pick in 2011, stinks it up badly enough, Matt Cassel could get a chance to resurrect his own once-promising career.

It’s hard to label the receiver position as a strength or a weakness in isolation, but it doesn’t matter.  Together with Ponder, the unit will be viewed as a weakness until they prove otherwise, with Ponder reaching his potential, free-agent Greg Jennings staying healthy and playing effectively, raw rookie Cordarrelle Patterson making an impact more like Randy Moss and less like Troy Williamson, and veteran Jerome Simpson living up to the hype that made him a free-agent arrival in 2012.

On defense, middle linebacker isn’t a weakness as much as it’s unsettled, with Erin Henderson sliding in from the outside and newcomer Desmond Bishop hoping to get healthy and reacquainted with the 4-3 defense.

The cornerback position also has question marks with the departure of Antoine Winfield, but first-round rookie Xavier Rhodes bolsters a group that features quietly improving former second-rounder Chris Cook.

Changes.

The release of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield could be the first gust that will impact the defense in the coming years, with standouts like Jared Allen and Kevin Williams likely making way for cheaper, younger players.  Two of those guys came via round one, with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes joining a gradually improving defense.

With Jasper Brinkley gone for Arizona, the middle linebacker spot is wide open.  Former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop joins Erin Henderson as the primary candidates to fill the void.

On offense, two new receivers — veteran Greg Jennings and first-rounder Cordarrelle Patterson — make it harder for Christian Ponder to cite a lack of weapons if the passing game doesn’t improve.  They replace Percy Harvin, who was shipped to Seattle for more than the Vikings, who made their playoff push without him in 2012, should have gotten.

Finally, one of the most intriguing players on the roster isn’t a new arrival, but he has a new position.  Three years after switching Joe Webb from receiver to quarterback after his rookie minicamp, Webb has returned to the receiver position, where he’ll have to win a roster spot any way he can.

Position battles.

On offense, many of the jobs are set.  Christian Ponder enters the season as the unquestioned starter; questions will arise only if he stinks it up.

The depth chart at receiver starts with Greg Jennings and continues with a cluster of guys who’ll earn their playing time during training camp and the preseason.  Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jarius Wright will battle for playing time.

The biggest question comes at the bottom of the depth chart, where converted quarterback Joe Webb will have to earn his roster spot.  If he can contribute on special teams (he could be returning punts), it’ll help his cause.

First-round rookie Sharrif Floyd will have a chance to take reps from last year’s starters at defensive tackle, Kevin Williams and Letroy Guion, even if Floyd doesn’t get a starting job himself.  Generally speaking, the rotation on the defensive line needs to be determined, with the Vikings hoping to get defensive end Everson Griffen on the field.

At linebacker, Erin Henderson and Desmond Bishop will battle both in the middle and elsewhere, since the guy who loses out on the chance to replace Jasper Brinkley could end up starting on the strong side, across from Chad Greenway.  Don’t rule out Gerald Hodges for some playing time, since he had a very strong offseason.

In the secondary, Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson will fight for a starting spot across from Chris Cook.  A.J. Jefferson could have a chance, too. Robinson also will battle Jacob Lacey for the nickel position.

At safety, Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, and Robert Blanton will compete to start alongside Harrison Smith.

Prospects.

The Vikings won three games in 2011 before rebounding in unexpected fashion with a playoff berth in 2012.  The team currently lands somewhere in the middle, and it will skew toward good or bad based on Christian Ponder’s ability to develop into a consistent starting quarterback.

At a time when parity has allowed any team to get to the playoffs, only teams with franchise quarterbacks win Super Bowls.  Still, the Vikings have the ability if Ponder is merely competent to become an elite team, thanks to the skills and abilities of Adrian Peterson, an underrated defense, and a young kicker and punter who can contribute three-pointers and field position.

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Derek Carr taking snaps, but isn’t throwing

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was held out of last week’s practices because of a right ring finger injury that coach Jack Del Rio and Carr’s agent both suggested was a relatively minor concern.

Carr wasn’t a full participant in Tuesday’s practice, but he looks like he’s on the road to proving them correct. Carr didn’t throw the ball during the session, but handed it off while taking part in individual drills.

“Derek was able to take some snaps,” Del Rio said, via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. “We’ll bring him along. Things with him are progressing.”

Bair reports there’s “some hope” that Carr will resume throwing by next month’s minicamp and a stronger belief that all will be well for training camp, an outlook supported by the fact that the team is comfortable enough with Carr’s condition to have him on the field at all this week.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

NFL Draft Football AP

The Bills want to run as many plays as possible at OTAs.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wants to see how his players finish. (If they don’t finish in the playoffs, Philbin may be finished.)

Here’s a look at the Patriots’ rookie class.

The Jets hired seven new scouts.

Ex-Ravens DT Terrance Cody has an August court date on felony animal cruelty charges.

The Bengals demand versatility from their linebackers.

Browns coach Mike Pettine saw some sloppiness on the first day of OTAs.

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell says he has no one to blame but himself for his suspension at the start of the season.

After canceling yesterday’s OTA due to severe weather, the Texans’ OTA schedule now features practices today and tomorrow, plus June 1-2, 4, 8-9 and 11-12.

Colts DT Art Jones says last season was “frustrating as hell.”

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley isn’t thrilled that DE Chris Clemons has chosen to skip voluntary offseason work.

There’s really no quarterback competition in Tennessee, where the job is Marcus Mariota’s.

Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison loves the give and take with Peyton Manning.

Justin Houston is staying away from the Chiefs, but teammate Tamba Hali says they’re in touch.

Raiders rookie TE Clive Walford is standing out at OTAs.

In San Diego, Melvin Gordon is trying to get No. 25 from Darrell Stuckey.

Here’s a look at the top players on the Cowboys’ roster.

Tom Coughlin has shied away from joint practices in the past, but the Giants have agreed to hold one with the Bengals.

Did the Cowboys’ line make DeMarco Murray, and if so, what kind of player will he be in Philadelphia?

DeSean Jackson skipped OTAs to watch basketball.

Ex-Bear Marcus Spears is ripping his former team.

Lions backup QB Dan Orlovsky says RB Theo Riddick is too good not to put on the field.

Here are some of the questions facing the Packers at the start of OTAs.

What can the Vikings expect from rookie LB Eric Kendricks?

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is taking a hands-on approach to the team’s pass rush.

The Panthers want to see what they have from rookie WR Devin Funchess.

Saints rookie Hau’oli Kikaha was one of the best pass rushers in college football history.

Will the Glazers pony up to get Tampa a Super Bowl?

The Cardinals need their running game to take a step forward.

Former Rams G Davin Joseph and LB Will Herring remain unrestricted free agents, the only two players from the Rams’ free agent pool who haven’t signed contracts yet.

After 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick made a mess on social media on Tuesday, former Packers TE Tom Crabtree called him “#7tupid.”

There’s still no progress on a new contract for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

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Steelers putting an early emphasis on two-point conversions

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It might not be the biggest play they run this season, but it’s the first, and that might mean something.

When the Steelers opened the offensive team drill portions of yesterday’s OTAs, they didn’t start at the 20 as they normally do. They moved to the 2-yard line, where they practiced two-point conversions to begin the day’s work.

“Coach told me we were going to do it, and I was a little prepared for it,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It was a little surprising knowing that we haven’t put in red zone yet and they haven’t put in red-zone defense yet. That’s going to be a big part of the game now: teams consciously going for two or at least debating it.”

Tomlin talked to his players about it before the drill, but didn’t expound afterward, saying: “We are not going to talk about it. We are just going to do it.”

With extra point attempts moved back to the 15, there will be more incentive for teams to go for two. But while many coaches will stick with the routines that they’re used to, some coaches will be more daring.

Tomlin’s 10-of-13 on two-pointers as Steelers coach, making all four of their attempts last year. Since 2001, the Steelers have a league-best 72.7 percent conversion rate on two-pointers.

And with an offense that’s so prolific in every area of the field, getting some early work on the new plays only makes sense.

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DeVante Parker draws rave reviews for early OTA work

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With most of the NFL conducting OTA sessions on Tuesday, it was hard for any one player to stand out. Dolphins rookie receiver DeVante Parker did.

Praise popped up for Parker on Twitter throughout the team’s practice session. Afterward, quarterback Ryan Tannehill added his two cents.

DeVante was great today,” Tannehill said, via the team’s official website. “We’ve been seeing [it] for the past few weeks just working on air, but today against the defense you got to see him make some tough catches with defenders on his back in traffic, and that’s what you want to see. You’ve got a guy with a big body who’s able to make strong catches with his hands in traffic. That’s when you’re able to cut it loose.”

Via Omar Kelly and Chris Perkings of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Parker was “catching everything thrown his way,” and he was “impressive” against veteran defenders like cornerback Brent Grimes.

Parker still has a long way to go before he’s making those plays in pads against full contact, and an even longer way to go before getting it done in games against guys like Darrelle Revis. But at a time when this is the closest thing to football we’ve seen since football season ended, it’s encouraging for Dolphins fans that they may have used the 14th overall pick in the draft on a player who is poised to become a difference maker — especially since they got him for a lot less than what they paid to get Ndamukong Suh.

It was also smart of the Dolphins to unload disgruntled wideout Mike Wallace onto the Vikings. If Minnesota hadn’t acquired him before the draft, the Vikings may have used pick No. 11 to reunite Parker with fellow former Louisville standout Teddy Bridgewater.

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Blake Bortles sees “big difference” after offseason work

Blake Bortles AP

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles set out to refine his game this offseason by working with quarterback guru Tom House and others in California.

His tutors were pleased with the results of Bortles’s labor and the reviews from Jacksonville are positive as well. Tight end Marcedes Lewis said he noticed a positive change in Bortles’s footwork, coach Gus Bradley said “we’ve seen really good improvement” and Bortles is pleased with where his mechanics are after the offseason attention.

“To me, it’s a big difference,” Bortles said, via ESPN.com. “To the guys that I worked with it’s a big difference. It’s just more efficient. It’s better. It’s something when I was able to talk to [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] a while back, there were things we wanted to work on to fix. It was good because we were on the same page with things I was trying to fix anyways.”

Bradley also said that he “appreciates” the work Bortles put in on his own this offseason and it’s certainly a good development for the team that their 2014 first-rounder is doing what he can to improve his game. As always, though, the effort will have to be matched with execution for Bortles and the Jacksonville offense to take the strides necessary for a climb toward a winning record.

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Adrian Peterson set to show up, for Adrian Peterson Day

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Some things are just bigger than OTAs.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who is staying away from the team’s practices, will make his first extended public appearance next month.

What’s the occasion? Well, none other than Adrian Peterson Day in his hometown of Palestine, Texas.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Peterson is expected to attend the June 13 shindig, which has been held each year since 2007.

Adrian will be there; that’s the plan,” family friend Kenneth Abrams said. “It will be business as usual. We’re a small town [of about 18,000] and everybody supports him, but I think it will be bigger this year.”

Peterson’s not busy with OTAs, as he’s still exerting whatever leverage he has (not much) to get loose from the Vikings. But they’ve got no real reason to let him go, and don’t seem particularly interested in doing so.

So it might be worth checking out the parade at Adrian Peterson Day, just to see who sponsors a float.

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Bills giving all their quarterbacks chances with the ones

mattcassel AP

As the Bills begin installing their revolutionary offense-without-a-quarterback, they’re going to let all the guys on the roster have some degree of a shot at running it.

According to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, the Bills split reps evenly among the four passers in OTAS Tuesday.

Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel each took snaps with the starters, while Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel worked with the backups.

The Bills are working on two fields at the same time, a plan designed to create maximum repetitions during the preseason work. And they plan to rotate, with Manuel and Taylor working with the starters today, with Cassel and Tuel with the reserves.

“You just keep rotating your guys like that,” Ryan said. “So they’re all going to get to work with each other. It’s not that big a deal right now. But the big thing is you want to evaluate all your players, not just the first team or second team. You want everybody and to give guys fair chances and a lot of times, the cream will rise to the top and you’ll see something.

“Some guy will pop off the tape that maybe you weren’t so sure of, and now you feel pretty good about him. And then, likewise, you might have somebody that you think you were counting on that really isn’t showing up.”

Ryan, as is his custom, praised a lot of guys, and said Manuel showed flashes that belie the idea that he might be on the bubble.

“The thing that stands out to me, it appears that EJ is getting a pretty good grasp of this system,” Ryan said. “He’s believing in what he’s seeing and he’s letting it rip. And that’s kind of what you want from the guy.

“Know what you’re seeing, believe in it, be right and pull the trigger. Let it fly. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do with all of these quarterbacks. It seems like it was pretty sharp.”

The Bills already have a good defense, and they’ve collected a bunch of impressive parts on offense. But until or unless they can get baseline competent play from any of their quarterbacks, it might not matter.

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Raiders sign seventh-rounder Dexter McDonald

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The Raiders waited until the seventh round to add a cornerback in this year’s draft, but they won’t have to wait any longer to get Dexter McDonald under contract.

The team announced that they have agreed to a four-year deal with McDonald. McDonald is the eighth member of the team’s draft class to agree to a contract, leaving second-round defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. and third-round tight end Clive Walford as the only members of the group without deals.

At 6-1, McDonald looks the part at corner and he has 4.42 speed in the 40 to go with that size, but, as you could probably guess from his spot in the draft, the play he put on tape at Kansas wasn’t quite as appealing as his physical traits. There’s other examples of that in Oakland’s draft history, although taking a flier in the seventh round is far better than banking on athletic ability alone in the early rounds.

D.J. Hayden is going to be at one cornerback spot for the Raiders, but things are pretty open as you move down a depth chart that skews young.

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Dolphins like what they’re seeing from Ndamukong Suh

DAVIE, FL - MAY 26: Ndamukong Suh #93 of the Miami Dolphins takes a break between drills during the teams first OTA's on May 26, 2015 at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins haven’t seen much of Ndamukong Suh so far, as he skipped offseason conditioning work.

But after their first day with him on the field for OTAs, they’re feeling better about their $114 million investment.

Suh made a quick impression, showing his burst and spending plenty of time in the backfield, but also a few false starts in his first day of work with his teammates.

That’s what he does, right?” center Mike Pouncey said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “That’s why they gave him all that money. … He’s coming off that ball full speed every play. He’s a guy who really uses the snap count to his advantage. He gets off the ball really fast, and that’s part of his game.”

Of course, he’s doing it all without the workouts within the team structure. He’s always chosen to work out on his own, and coach Joe Philbin said his new star “seems to be in pretty good shape.”

Suh wouldn’t talk about why he stayed away this spring, saying OTA attendance: “was automatic. I never miss practice.”

And when he got there, they were able to line him up next to Cameron Wake, giving the Dolphins a pair of explosive players to build a defense around.

“Whoever I line up next to, we always want to be somebody’s nightmare,” Suh said. “I’m a guy who’s always going to react, play off instincts. I think the best football players do that. I study the terminology in the classroom and when I’m at home. And, obviously, when I’m on the football field, if I hear something, I go with it. . . . Once I put my hand in the ground, it’s over.

“I was just going out there and playing as hard and as fast as I can. If I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to do it full speed. Especially being in the backfield, if I make mistakes. That’s what I was brought here for. That’s the way I know how to play, that’s the way I’ve been playing the last five years.”

And now that they’ve finally gotten a chance to see it, the Dolphins are OK with that, too.

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Bryce Brown joins Bills practice

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Last week, Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn said that he was concerned about running back Bryce Brown’s ability to catch up after missing the first weeks of the team’s offseason program while taking time to deal with family matters.

The message seems to have reached its target. Brown joined the Bills for Tuesday’s practice, which will give him a chance to jump into the scrum for spots behind LeSean McCoy on the team’s depth chart. With Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and rookie Karlos Williams all in the mix as well, it should be a spirited competition in Buffalo.

One player who hasn’t been swayed to get back to work with the team is guard Chris Williams. Williams, who started three games last year before hitting injured reserve with a back injury, hasn’t made a positive impression on coach Rex Ryan with his absence.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be planning on coming back or what; I haven’t seen him,” Ryan said. “I haven’t talked to him, I haven’t seen him. I don’t even know what he looks like. I know these are voluntary type things, so that’s fine. I don’t know if he’s better than all of the rest of these guys, because all the rest of them are here.”

The Bills aren’t settled on starters at guard, but Williams won’t be moving to the front of the class if he refuses to show up.

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LeBron’s guy Maverick Carter mentoring Johnny Manziel now

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Maverick Carter watch a game between the Miami Heat against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on February 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) Getty Images

LeBron James gave Cleveland a chance to celebrate last night, leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals with a cruise-control win over the Hawks.

But he’s providing another assist for the city’s football team as well.

As Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel tries to re-establish his career and life after a disastrous rookie year and stint in rehab, he’s enlisted the help of James’ consigliere, Maverick Carter.

He’s taken a big responsibility in making sure that Johnny’s doing all the right things,” Browns safety Donte Whitner said of Carter, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “[Manziel] has a mentor, somebody to talk to, certain things that he really didn’t have the ability [to do] or somebody to talk to before. It looks like it’s working out so far.”

Carter has been James’ longtime business partner/right-hand man, and given the close relationship between the two Cleveland celebrities, the link makes sense. Carter’s marketing firm LRMR represents Manziel, but the relationship runs deeper than that..

The two have been seen sitting court-side at Cavaliers playoff games, and spending time off the court with James, who has managed to become a global superstar without hitting the same potholes Manziel has.

Between Carter and Browns teammates Whitner and Joe Haden, there’s a support structure around Manziel now.

“We don’t really have to say anything,” Whitner said. “He’s been doing that any way. I remember last [year] they made a big fuss about Johnny being in Vegas for Memorial Day Weekend. Johnny was here in Cleveland for Memorial day weekend this year. So that’s another step that he’s taken.

“He understands that you can’t be in Vegas or Miami or any of these other places, you have to be here. If you have to come in a day or two extra for an hour or two per day, that’s what quarterbacks do. And no matter if you like it, you have to be here.”

Time and actions are what will fix things for Manziel now, but the fact he has a network in place to help him’s a solid step in that direction.

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Marqise Lee held out of practice with knee injury

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Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee had a hard time staying healthy during his rookie season and his second year isn’t getting off to a much better start.

Lee did not take part in the Jaguars’ first OTA session on Tuesday because of a knee injury he suffered during one of the team’s earlier workouts. After watching nagging injuries limit Lee last year, coach Gus Bradley said that the team would take a cautious route with the 2014 second-round pick.

“Marqise banged up his knee a little bit right in the middle of Phase Two,” Bradley said, via the Florida Times-Union. “He’s more day-to-day or week-to-week. I know he wants to get back here, but we’re being smart with him. We’ll see if he makes it back before the minicamp or not.”

In addition to injuries, Jaguars wide receiver coach Jerry Sullivan said recently that the team gave Lee too much too soon as a rookie. The knee injury will ensure that no one’s overloading Lee right now, although there’s not much substitute for the on-field work that Lee needs to do to grow as a player.

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Philip Rivers: It would be awesome to stay with Chargers

Tamba Hali, Philip Rivers AP

At various points this offseason it seemed like there was a chance that Philip Rivers wouldn’t be with the Chargers for the 2015 season with the years beyond that looking even murkier.

Rivers’s stated desire to let the season (and the final year of his contract) play out without discussing an extension, his apprehensiveness about potentially moving to Los Angeles with the team and trade rumors involving the Titans were the major fuel for that belief, but Rivers remains on the team and his tune about an extension has changed. Rivers reiterated Tuesday that he’s willing to talk about a new deal before the season gets underway and said he wants to remain with the team.

“You put in 11 years here, and we haven’t accomplished the ultimate goal,” Rivers said, via ESPN.com. “There’s been a lot of great memories, and a lot of awesome games, seasons, friendships, training camps and on and on. So that would be awesome [to stay]. Obviously, as players none of can choose how we all want it to work out. But if that’s how it works out, I’d be fired up.”

Rivers didn’t have an update on talks with the team, but things definitely seem to be moving in the direction of extending their working relationship after the more pessimistic outlook from earlier this year.

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Kam Chancellor: Seahawks working harder than ever after Super Bowl loss

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A year ago, the Seattle Seahawks were trying to overcome the hangover of winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

This offseason they have to battle the hangover of losing a Super Bowl in epic fashion.

However, strong safety Kam Chancellor said that he believes the members of the team are working harder than ever this offseason as they attempt to become the first team to appear in three straight Super Bowls since the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills.

“I told a lot of people it feels like this offseason everybody is working their hardest,” Chancellor said after the team’s first OTA on Tuesday. “I’ve seen guys out here busting their tails. The whole offseason has just been going fast tempo. Guys are lifting like crazy. It’s just like the mindset is just sharper. It’s just sharpened even more. We know we’re more focused, more driven and just ready for the first game of the year.”

Head coach Pete Carroll agreed with Chancellor’s assessment.

“I feel it too,”he said. “I felt it right since the first days that the guys came back. … We’ve had great work and their attitude has been on it and it’s all we can ask for.”

Despite the MCL tear he suffered in practice the Friday before the Super Bowl, Chancellor is in the best offseason shape of his career. The knee injury did not require surgery and he fully participated in Tuesday’s workouts. Surgeries over the last several offseasons and lingering injuries had limited Chancellor over the past few years.

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Christian Ponder accepting of backup role with Raiders

Christian Ponder Getty Images

While Christian Ponder may be taking first-team reps right now, Ponder has no illusions of his role with the Oakland Raiders.

He’s the backup quarterback to Derek Carr and he’s accepted that role.

“My job, I understand, is the backup and I’m here to help Derek and help this team out,” Ponder said, via the team’s official website. “It is exciting for me to be out there right now taking first-team reps, but I know that this is Derek’s team right now. But I am bringing a competitive nature to it. I know Derek is a very competitive guy, and so is Matt McGloin. Bringing some competition in the room only helps all of us.”

Ponder signed with the Raiders this offseason after spending his first four years with the Minnesota Vikings. He is getting the first-team reps in OTAs due to Derek Carr being sidelined with a finger injury on his throwing hand.

Ponder is learning a new offense and the additional reps should help him pick up the system that much quicker. But Carr had a strong rookie season and established himself as the Raiders’ starter going forward. Carr passed for 3,270 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year.

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