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Niners fear “slight fracture” in hand for Patrick Willis

Willis AP

The good news for the 49ers is that, per a league source, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis feels fine after injuring his right hand during practice on Wednesday.  The bad news is that Willis nevertheless may have a “slight fracture” in his hand.

Willis will have an X-ray on Thursday, a development first reported by Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

As Maiocco explains, Willis has suffered two fractures in his hand during his NFL career.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman also missed a portion of Wednesday’s practice after sustaining a groin strain on Tuesday.

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“Bronco for life” Von Miller says everything is back to normal

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 13:  Outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos performs a "dab" pose as he is introduced during player introductions before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 13, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the dust settled on his record-setting six-year, $114.5 million contract, Broncos linebacker Von Miller met with reporters on Wednesday in conjunction with the opening of training camp. Less than two weeks after the protracted negotiations ended, Miller provided an assessment of the situation.

“It’s back to normal,” Miller said, via comments distributed by the team. “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go play football. I talked to John [Elway] this morning and I told him that I get to play with [receiver Demaryius Thomas] for about nine years. I get to play with [cornerback] Chris [Harris Jr.] for 9-10 years so that’s some of the stuff that I’m excited about. I’m aware of the expectations, but we have high expectations for all of us. I’m ready to get back to work and contribute to the locker room, the same stuff that I’ve been doing.”

On several occasions, Miller reiterated his sentiment from the day the contract was signed — that he’s a Bronco “for life.” But it’s really not a “for life” arrangement. Even under the interpretation of Miller’s deal from those who negotiated it, the commitment may be as little as four years. The Broncos think the minimum duration is only three years.

Miller has played five years; unless he plans to retire after only eight or nine seasons, there’s a chance he’ll eventually be playing somewhere else.

For now, though, all is well.

“Everything is great,” Miller said of his relationship with Elway, whose negotiating tactics at times privately angered Miller. “Everybody know the type of respect that I have for Mr. Elway. I was his first draft pick here. We’ve always had talks. Not only this year, but my first year, my third year, my fourth year; all of the way up until this point. I don’t expect anything to change.”

Will Miller be in shape after skipping the entire offseason program?

“I never got too far away from working out or grinding,” Miller said. “I worked the same as I would during the season or during the offseason. I just had a lot of stuff in between to do, but I feel that I’m in shape. We got a great strength and conditioning staff with Luke Richesson. I’m going to follow their lead. They got me to this point to where I am now. I feel totally confident in my ability to get back on the football field.”

Despite a contract that makes him the highest paid player on the team by far, Miller resisted the notion that he’s the face of the franchise.

“I feel like our locker room should be the face of this franchise,” Miller said. “We got a great locker room. There’s not a locker room like this in the National Football League. Talking to the guys in the locker room that have come from other teams, that’s the first thing they say, that, this locker room is ‘second-to-none’ type of camaraderie that we have in the locker room. The leadership that we have, you just don’t get in the National Football League so that will be the strength of our football team and I’m a part of that.”

Miller definitely will be part of that for at least the next three or four years. And the pressure will be on him more than any other player to chase down and secure about Lombardi Trophy or two.

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Report: No NFL interview scheduled with James Harrison

John Brown, James Harrison

The NFL has not scheduled an interview with Steelers linebacker James Harrison regarding the Al Jazeera report accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

Harrison had posted a letter on social media from the NFL last month that informed him an interview would take place July 28, the first day the Steelers report to training camp. But the Post-Gazette story quotes NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis as saying no interview is scheduled to take place.

Earlier this month Harrison provided a sworn affidavit in which he denied any wrongdoing and any charges brought about by the Al Jazeera report.

The NFL had said it still wanted to talk with Harrison and other players named in the report, and Harrison originally said he’d love to talk with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — if Goodell came to Harrison’s house for the interview.

Retired quarterback Peyton Manning, one of the players named in the report, cooperated with investigators and was recently cleared of any wrongdoing.

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Boykin, Daniels sign with Bears

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback B.J. Daniels #5 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears signed cornerback Brandon Boykin and wide receiver B.J. Daniels on Wednesday.

Boykin played for the Steelers last season after being traded by the Eagles. The Panthers signed Boykin in March but cut him in May. He’s since worked out for several teams and has denied that injury issues have threatened his career.

Daniels has been both a quarterback and a wide receiver in his NFL career. A seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2013, Daniels played in eight games last year — two with the Texans and six with the Seahawks — as a backup wide receiver, gadget player and special teamer. The Texans waived him in April, and the Giants waived him in June.

The moves bring the Bears’ roster to the preseason max of 90 players.

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Pessimism swirls regarding Le’Veon Bell’s chances on appeal

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Yes, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has vowed to not miss any games after reportedly missing several drug tests. No, no one beyond a very small circle should have even known about the potential suspension until the appeal process had concluded.

Regardless, the cat has escaped from the bag — and based on information PFT has gathered there’s a strong sense Bell won’t be escaping the suspension.

Even with neutral arbitration now available in suspensions arising under the substance-abuse policy and the PED policy, none in the know believe Bell has a strong chance to win the appeal.

It’s been suggested that Bell changed phones and didn’t receive notice of the tests. If that’s his defense, it’s hard to imagine it flying. For a guy in the program, surely an obligation exists to notify all appropriate persons of a change in cell service. Otherwise, a guy could avoid testing simply by buying a new phone.

Bell’s appeal possibly will be finalized before Week One. For now, the smartest move for the Steelers will be to assume that DeAngelo Williams will once again carry the load early in the season after Bell makes his exit following the fourth preseason game.

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Jets, Fitzpatrick finally stop the madness

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets jumps on the back of  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets during a television interview after their 26-20 overtime win against the New England Patriots  at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

At times, the drama reminded me of George Costanza’s house in the Hamptons. He knew it was fake. The parents of his dead fiancée knew it was fake. He knew they knew it was fake. They knew he knew it was fake. But they continued the ruse as George drove two hours toward the place with two solariums and horses named Snoopy and Prickly Pete because neither side was willing to say what both knew each other knew.

The Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally realized that, even in the absence of a hard deadline to get a deal done, the practical deadline had arrived. If Fitzpatrick was going to start for the team in 2016, he needed to be ready. With Fitzpatrick already missing the offseason program, the two sides needed to do what they could have done weeks ago — compromise toward a deal.

The Jets definitely compromised. They were willing to pay Fitzpatrick $12 million in 2016, but as part of a three-year deal with lower salaries on the back end and a much lower cap number in 2016. Instead, the Jets are paying $12 million, carrying the full amount on the cap (unless there’s a phony second or third year that automatically voids, which is entirely possible), including incentives that could bump the value to $15 million, and not retaining the ability to keep him around beyond this season.

Fitzpatrick compromised, too, perhaps realizing that his market value as to the other 31 teams was a lot lower than what the Jets were willing to pay him. So even if he had much more value to the Jets than to any other team, his options were to take the money from the Jets or to sit.

In the end, the Jets needed Fitzpatrick and Fitzpatrick needed the Jets and with camp opening they needed to get it done to part ways. They finally got it done.

Maybe it was my “pinch-or-get-off-the-pot” line that did it. Probably not, but as I’ve learned during the current political season that doesn’t prevent me from believing it did.

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Jets sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to one-year, $12 million deal

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Jets and their starting quarterback finally have a deal.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has signed a one-year, $12 million deal to return to the Jets for the 2016 season, according to multiple reports.

This ends a long negotiation that spanned the entire offseason and got contentious at times, with Fitzpatrick seemingly upset that the Jets weren’t willing to give him the kind of money that quarterbacks who had lesser seasons last year — like Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford — received.

In the end, however, they’ve come to an agreement that will bring Fitzpatrick back, and put back together a passing game that was surprisingly effective in 2016. The Jets think they can compete for a playoff spot this season, and now they have their leader.

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Saints GM: “No progress” on talks with Brees

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to pass during the third quarter of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Saints arrived in West Virginia for training camp Wednesday, general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters that the sides “have not made any progress” an a potential contract extension for veteran quarterback Drew Brees.

Though Loomis going on the record with that means it’s news, it’s no surprise to those who have followed the story. Brees recently said he hasn’t heard from the team regarding a possible extension in three months.

Considering Brees set a deadline of the start of the regular season for cutting off talks, this thing could get sticky.

Loomis said he doesn’t think the situation will become a distraction for the team, and Brees has been a good soldier. But the Saints have been hurting for salary-cap space, and getting a deal done earlier could have lessened the $30 million cap number Brees is carrying and helped the team in areas besides goodwill with its most important player.

Because Brees has already been given the franchise tag twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. That’s not going to happen, so the Saints have to get a deal done in the next five weeks or risk losing Brees next March.

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Shark bites Warren Sapp (then presumably spits and gargles)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 25:  The teeth and jaw of a Great White Shark are displayed after research into the biological mechanics of the predator July 25, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) including Dan Huber from the the University of Tampa, Florida in the USA, plan to remove muscles from the head of several sharks in order to create a digital shark, to help determine it's bio mechanics and potential "bite force".  (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images) Getty Images

Warren Sapp is now even for biting his ex-girlfriend.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle was bitten by a shark Wednesday.

Sapp was lobstering on a charter boat off the Florida Keys, when the shark reached out and did what Timmy Jernigan, his creditors and a pair of Phoenix prostitutes would probably like to do.

“It’s simple,” charter captain Jack Carlson said via text. “He was lobstering with me and a shark bit Sapp while he was grabbing the lobster. He’s OK.”

Carlson posted a photo of the bite on Instagram, writing: “Warren Sapp attacked by a shark while lobstering. #epicbattle. . . .

“The shark wanted the lobster just as bad as Sapp. Sapp got the lobster and the Shark got his lick in too.”

Sapp apparently hung up when Auman tried to ask about the incident.

The shark was unavailable for comment, though he’s probably considering going vegan.

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Ravens add a wide receiver, linebacker

Cedric Benson,  Kavell Conner AP

The Ravens handled some pre-camp business as players reported for training camp Wednesday, and in the process they signed wide receiver Dobson Collins and linebacker Kavell Conner.

Collins, 29, has played the last five years in the Canadian Football League. He previously spent time with the 49ers and Eagles.

The Ravens had previously announced that wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman would start camp on the physically unable to perform list, and Mike Wallace did not pass his conditioning test Wednesday, so Collins should be in line for reps at the start of camp.

Conner, also 29, played the last two seasons with the Chargers and previously played four seasons with the Colts. He’s played in 78 career games, starting 46, and has three career fumble recoveries and two sacks.

Conner was a seventh-round pick of the Colts in 2010.

Their signings put the team’s roster at the preseason max of 90 players.

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Joe Flacco will wear knee brace, may not play much in preseason

Joe Flacco AP

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s recovery from last year’s torn ACL and MCL has gone well enough that Flacco avoided the PUP list to start training camp and all indications from the offseason are that he’s right on track for a return to the lineup in Week One.

It’s less clear whether he’ll be doing much in the team’s preseason games. Flacco met the media on Wednesday and said his focus is on the team’s September 11 opener against the Bills rather than on getting his feet wet during the exhibition season.

“The goal is to make sure I’m as healthy as possible, regular season, Game 1,” Flacco said. “I’m not ridiculously worried about playing a ton in the preseason.”

One plus to preseason action would be a chance to see how he responds to taking hits as that’s not something that will happen during Ravens practices this summer. The flip side of that is the risk of what taking the wrong hit could do to his health, so the Ravens will have to balance both before making a call. Whether his next game action comes in August or in the regular season, Flacco will take the field wearing a brace on his left knee.

“If it helps a little bit, that’s huge,” Flacco said. “I’m not going to leave it up to risk and then have something happen and say, ‘What if?’ I’m going to wear it. There’s no reason not to.”

Flacco said his knee has felt “really good” in the workouts he’s done with rookies and injured veterans over the last few days. Whatever he needs to do in regards to braces and preseason playing time to keep it that way will likely be just fine with the Ravens.

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Saints sign Hakeem Nicks

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:   Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants is tackled by  Chris Maragos #42 of the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 35-30.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Hakeem Nicks is heading to New Orleans.

The veteran receiver is signing with the Saints, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Nicks worked out for the Saints in May, but there’s been little talk about him since then.

New Orleans has a very young and inexperienced receiving corps, so Nicks may provide some veteran leadership. But it’s fair to wonder whether the 28-year-old has much left: Last year he managed just seven catches for 54 yards in six games.

Overall, Nicks has played seven NFL seasons and caught 356 passes for 5,081 yards and 31 touchdowns.

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Mike Wallace didn’t pass Ravens conditioning test

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 25: Mike Wallace #11 of the Minnesota Vikings looks down field after a play during an NFL game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 25, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Vikings defeated the Lions 28-19. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens haven’t officially signed tackle Jake Long yet because he wasn’t able to pass a physical and he’s not the only member of the team whose fitness was found to be lacking as the team gets set for training camp.

The team announced Wednesday that wide receiver Mike Wallace, who signed with the team as a free agent following his departure from the Vikings, failed to pass his conditioning test. Wallace will need to pass that test before he’ll be permitted to practice with the team.

There doesn’t appear to be a major issue keeping Wallace from passing the test. The Ravens’ tweet announcing his failure said that they expect him to pass it in the next few days and coach John Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun, that Wallace passed five of the six benchmarks required by the team.

It’s not the best first step, but it should be forgotten fairly soon if Wallace is on the field soon and making plays down the field once games start.

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Charles Godfrey retires, Falcons sign two

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03: Charles Godfrey #30 of the Atlanta Faltcons ackles  Josh Hill #89 of the New Orleans Saints during the first half at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons re-signed safety Charles Godfrey to a one-year deal in March, but Godfrey won’t be with the team once they start the regular season.

Or the preseason. The team announced Wednesday that Godfrey has retired from the NFL.

Godfrey entered the league as a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2008 and spent the next six full seasons with Carolina. He opened the 2014 season with the team, but ended it with the Falcons after being released in October. He returned to Atlanta and played eight games last season. He played 95 games in total and had 384 tackles, three sacks, 11 interceptions and eight forced fumbles.

The Falcons also announced that they have signed tight end Arthur Lynch and wide receiver Corey Washington.

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Kevin Williams signing one-day contract to retire with Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 1: Kevin Williams #93 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before the game against the Chicago Bears on December 1, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Bear 23-20 in overtime. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is headed back to the Vikings, but he won’t be part of their defensive line rotation in 2016.

The Vikings announced Wednesday that Williams will sign a one-day contract with the team in order to retire as a member of the club that drafted him in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Williams spent 11 years with the Vikings and started all 171 games he played with the team. He was named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press five times during his years in Minnesota and went to six Pro Bowls, which ties him with John Randle for second in Vikings history behind Alan Page.

“Kevin was one of the most respected players in Vikings history by his teammates and by opponents,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman said in a statement. “He set a high standard for himself and led by example instead of words. We thank him for everything he gave the Vikings and the legacy he leaves.”

Williams spent the 2014 season with the Seahawks and made 14 starts for the Saints last season. He ends his 13-year career with 525 tackles, 63 sacks, five interceptions and nine forced fumbles.

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Kuechly, Benjamin cleared to practice

Ryan Tannehill, Luke Kuechly AP

The Panthers announced Wednesday that All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin have been cleared to practice when the team opens training camp.

Kuechly had shoulder surgery after last season. Benjamin missed all of last season after suffering a non-contact knee injury during training camp.

The Panthers knew Kuechly would be sidelined for the team’s spring workouts but hoped to have him back in time for camp. Kuechly has been a first-team All-Pro for three straight seasons.

The 6-foot-5 Benjamin had 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2014, and his return should make an offense led by last year’s MVP, Cam Newton, even stronger.

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