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Cooper getting a leave of absence from Eagles

Riley Cooper AP

After a wave of apologies for his racist remarks and press conferences and an attempt at a normal day’s work yesterday, the Eagles have decided to let wide receiver Riley Cooper take a break.

The team issued a statement staying he had been “excused him from all team activities” while he’s seeking counseling.

“The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me,” Cooper said in a statement provided by the team. “My actions were inexcusable. The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.

“Right now, I think it’s important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation. The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive, but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving me for what I’ve done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time.
“During this time I’m going to be speaking with a variety of professionals to help me better understand how I could have done something that was so offensive, and how I can start the healing process for everyone. As long as it takes, and whatever I have to do, I’m going to try to make this right.”
Allowing him to step away from the team also gives the Eagles a chance to sort out the best course of long-term action, while teammates decide amongst themselves whether he can be forgiven.
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Travis Kelce fine with higher expectations this season

Travis Kelce AP

There may not have been much to like about the Chiefs passing game last season, but tight end Travis Kelce certainly qualified as a positive.

Kelce caught 67 passes for 862 yards and five touchdowns in 2014, leading the team in all three categories a year after missing all but one game of his rookie season because of a knee injury. The Chiefs saw Anthony Fasano walk as a free agent this offseason and they didn’t make any big moves at tight end, leaving both the full-time job and increased expectations for productivity for Kelce.

“Nobody puts more expectation on me than myself,” Kelce said, via “That’s just the heart of the competitor. That’s how I was raised. My father taught me that you can buy a man’s back, but you can’t buy his heart. With that being said, I come out here and make sure I put all my effort and focus into being the best player I can be.”

Kelce played on about two-thirds of the Chiefs’ snaps last season and that number should go up given the lack of other options at the position in K.C. this time around. If the rise in playing time is joined by a similar rise in productivity, Kelce’s going to put up impressive numbers although the Chiefs are going to need the same kind of jump from their wideouts to see their offense reach a better place this time around.

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Bjoern Werner: If I’m healthy, I can be a baller

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The Colts drafted Bjoern Werner in the first round of the 2013 draft with the idea that he’d provide a boost to their pass rush, but those hopes have gone largely unfulfilled.

Werner has 6.5 sacks through his first two seasons with the Colts and didn’t have any after the seventh week of the 2014 season despite starting all but one game for the rest of the regular season. Werner was also shut out in the playoffs and missed the AFC Championship game with a shoulder injury that was the latest in a series of aches and pains that Werner says have kept him from reaching his full potential.

“I don’t want to sound cocky, but personally, I feel like when I’m out there and healthy, I can be a baller,” Werner said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I can do it all. You always have to get that mojo going of course. But I’m telling you, I’m confident I can be an NFL player and a starter in this league.”

Werner delivered this message after missing the team’s practice session as he continues to deal with the shoulder injury that limited him last season and that underscores the issue for Werner. Werner may well be a “baller” when he’s healthy, but he may also be an excellent flyer if wings sprout from his back. Both remain hypotheticals and the Colts can’t put all their eggs in that basket after two years of waiting for Werner to break through.

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J.J. Watt thinks bug-eating teammate will be “Hard Knocks” star

HOUSTON, TX- SEPTEMBER 28: Ben Jones #60 of the Houston Texans talks to teammates on the sidelines wile the Houston Texans play the Buffalo Bills in a NFL game on September 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

With HBO’S “Hard Knocks” choosing to document the Texans this year, it’s clear that defensive end J.J. Watt is going to get a lot of attention.

But Watt’s hoping for some more notoriety for center Ben Jones, who could also steal the show.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Jones “will eat or drink just about anything on a dare,” which makes him incredibly popular with teammates.

“I think Ben’s going to be a big winner,” Watt said. “I think there’ll be plenty of storylines following him because of his escapades – some of the things he eats, some of the things he does. Just Ben Jones being Ben Jones, so I think that’ll be great.”

Young players who exist on the fringes will often do what their elders ask, and all the spare time and spare money some of these guys have lead to some pretty unusual chances to supplement their income.

(Which reminds me of former Panthers backup offensive lineman Louis Williams, who was able to buy a motorcycle with the money he made eating mayonnaise and bugs and a lot of other stuff on dares from Todd Steussie and Kevin Donnalley.)

That kind of color is what HBO and NFL Films are looking for, which could make the Texans surprisingly entertaining.

“You’re a little different between the lines than you are off the field,” Watt said. “That’s what makes great players great.

“I think you’ll see a little bit different side. You may have to choose your vocabulary a little more wisely, though.”

And your diet, apparently.

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Jets quarterback Geno Smith hopes his new roommate helps


There are lots of ways for quarterbacks to build chemistry with wide receivers, such as completing passes, or working out together during the offseason.

But Jets quarterback Geno Smith decided to take it a step further, by taking in a boarder.

According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall moved into Smith’s New Jersey home, and has been living with him for a month.

Smith’s apparently not the slob of the tandem, leaving his socks and cigar butts around the place.

“I was just blown away by his maturity and how much he knows,” Marshall said. “This kid is really smart. The sky is the limit for him.”

The two met a few years ago, and caught up in South Florida shortly after the trade that brought Marshall to New York.

And frankly, it’s in each of their best interest to develop a rapport, and this is Marshall’s fourth team, and Smith is actually going to have to compete for a job, though it’s probably his to lose.

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Thursday morning one-liners

The Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo (9) during an OTA practice at Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas, on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills RB Fred Jackson gets to stay a starter with LeSean McCoy on the sidelines.

The Dolphins have reasons for concern and optimism on their offensive line.

The cloud of #DeflateGate won’t be leaving the Patriots anytime soon.

Based on track records, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves a shot at the Jets starting job.

The Ravens have already released a rookie.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert learned a painful lesson in OTAs last year.

Browns S Donte Whitner thinks their secondary is one of the best in the league.

Steelers S Mike Mitchell is healthy and ready to make more of an impact this year.

Texans DT Louis Nix has a simple goal — get through a practice.

Colts WR Phillip Dorsett has already opened eyes in practice.

Jaguars G Zane Beadles is fighting for a job.

The Titans are expecting more from RB Bishop Sankey this year.

The Broncos will be using more play action this year.

Chiefs Hall of Famer Will Shields walks through team history.

The Raiders are already shuffling the roster.

The Chargers have the best offensive line in their division.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo isn’t used to having a healthy offseason.

Giants G Justin Pugh is embracing his new role.

Eagles QB Sam Bradford isn’t doing much during team workouts.

Washington OT Morgan Moses is ready to fight for a job this year.

Bears G.M. Ryan Pace got a vote of confidence from ownership over his handling of the Ray McDonald situation.

Lions LB Stephen Tulloch is “ready to roll.”

The Packers are looking for more from their return game.

Vikings G Brandon Fusco switching sides could have multiple benefits.

Falcons CB Dezmen Southward had minor knee surgery (which is the kind they perform on someone else’s knee).

Panthers WR Devin Funchess will be missing OTAs today, along with many other rookies on other teams.

A number of injured Saints are looking for a fresh start.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston will be missing OTAs also to attend an NFLPA event.

The Cardinals aren’t looking for immediate impact from their draft class.

Rams T Greg Robinson is drawing some high praise.

The 49ers still have plenty of questions to answer on the offensive line.

Seahawks S Kam Chancellor is feeling good after an injury free offseason.

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Lions met with Mike Patterson

New York Giants v New York Jets Getty Images

The Lions addressed the losses of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley this offseason by trading for Haloti Ngata, signing Tyrunn Walker as a free agent and drafting Gabe Walker, but they may still be looking for more veteran help at the position.

Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reports that the team visited with defensive tackle Mike Patterson. Patterson spent the last two seasons playing with the Giants, making appearances in all 32 regular season games and starting nine times for the NFC East club.

A move to Detroit would mark Patterson’s first trip outside that division as he spent his first eight seasons with the Eagles before moving up the turnpike. He’s thrived as a run stopper in both stops and added 16.5 sacks during his time in Philadelphia.

If Patterson does land in Detroit, he’ll be reunited with defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Washburn held the same job with the Eagles in 2011 and 2012.

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Chargers, San Diego finally will negotiate potential new stadium

chargers-helmet Getty Images

It’s been a long time coming. Probably too long. And it’s possibly too late.

Next week, the Chargers and San Diego finally will sit down and try to negotiate a deal to build a new football stadium in the town the team has called home since moving from L.A. after an inaugural season in 1960.

As noted by Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego, the process had never previously gotten to this point in 14-plus years of trying, with a detailed proposal developed and presented for discussion.

But it also could soon be the point of no return for the Chargers and San Diego, if a deal can’t be finalized based on the $1.1 billion stadium plan as a starting point for talks.

The Chargers would contribute $300 million to the new stadium, but rent ($1 million per game; $173 million over 30 years) and other expenses could eventually reach $1 billion. The NFL would separately contribute $200 million to the project.

The deal as structured would, in theory, avoid a public vote for any public money needed to pay for the project.

Next week’s negotiations should reveal fairly quickly whether the Chargers truly want to do a deal in San Diego, or whether they’re intent on moving back to L.A. At the March league meetings in Arizona, an unmistakable sense emerged that the Chargers want out — in part because the team believes it would be a mistake to stay put and watch one or two teams move to Los Angeles.

Maybe the end game for the Chargers entails a two-front negotiation aimed at getting a new stadium in San Diego and limiting the number of teams moving to L.A. to one. If that’s the case, the team’s partner on a proposed stadium in Carson, California could still be the odd man out in L.A., even if the Chargers don’t move there.

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Joseph Randle: DeMarco Murray left a lot of meat on the bone last year

Joseph Randle AP

The makeup of the Cowboys backfield has been a frequent topic of conversation this offseason with many wondering if the Cowboys’ current mix of backs will be able to replace the league-leading 1,845 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray.

Not everyone was left totally impressed by Murray’s performance, however. Joseph Randle, who backed up Murray last year and hopes for a more prominent role this year, said on Wednesday that he thinks Murray could have had an even bigger year running behind a talented Cowboys offensive line.

“He had a good year last year, and I got to sit back and watch a lot, and I felt like there was a lot of meat left on the bone,” Randle said, via the Dallas Morning News.

Randle has been getting the majority of the first team work at the early OTA practices so he may get a chance to show that he’s more efficient when it comes to removing meat from bone.

That Cowboys line deserves much credit for paving the way for Murray, but Murray was hardly running in space all season. He gained a lot of yards after contact and by making defenders miss tackles, traits that any 2015 Cowboys back are going to have to bring to the table for the Dallas offense to remain as effective as it was last season. We haven’t seen enough of Randle to know how he’d fare on those fronts, but the bar is high.

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Missouri legislators file suit against potential Rams stadium

78426475_XS Getty Images

Well, not everyone wants to keep the Rams in St. Louis. At least not with public money.

Via the Associated Press, six legislators have filed a lawsuit challenging the plan of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to replace the Edward Jones Dome with a new venue. They contend that the proposal would violate state law and improperly rely upon taxpayer funding.

Nixon intends to extend public payments on bonds for the team’s current facility without approval of the legislature.

“I want nothing more than for the Rams to stay,” Missouri Rep. Rob Vescovo told the AP. “But I don’t think the governor has the authority to bury us under the additional debt without proper vetting.”

A separate lawsuit filed last month by the body that runs the Edward Jones Dome challenges state law requiring a public vote before city funds can be used. So now there are two legal hurdles that must be cleared before St. Louis can keep the Rams — or before St. Louis can attract another team to play there, like the city did after the Cardinals left for Arizona in the 1980s.

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Jason Garrett: Absentee Dez Bryant’s in “great shape”

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys embraces Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys before the start of their NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett would obviously love to have wide receiver Dez Bryant at OTAs.

But he’s also not worried about what kind of shape Bryant might be in when he gets there.

The franchise-tagged wideout hasn’t been around for offseason workouts or OTAs, working out on his own.

“He’s working on the business part of his contract, working through this franchise player tag,” Garrett said, via Todd Archer of “We’ve been in communication with him. He’s been in communication with his teammates. He seems to be in great shape whenever we’ve seen him but he’s not been here.”

There’s no real progress — or even movement — toward a new long-term deal for Bryant, and he hasn’t signed his $12.823 million tender yet.

So while he’s dropped by the team facility a few times, he’s not taking part in the offseason program per se, and since he’s not under contract he isn’t even obliged to make the June 16-18 mandatory minicamp.

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Martellus Bennett continues to stay away, now skipping OTAs

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

For all the other headlines coming out of Chicago, the absence of one of their most visible players was easy to miss.

But tight end Martellus Bennett is still staying away from the team, skipping OTAs as he looks for a new contract, according to Jeff Dickerson of

Bennett has stayed away through all the spring work so far, so it’s no real surprise. But coach John Fox said he expected the tight end to remain on the roster after the draft, when there was ostensibly a window to deal him.

Bennett has two years left on his existing contract, which pays him $4.9 million this year and $5.085 million next year. While Bennett posted career-best numbers and made the Pro Bowl last year, it’s far from a given they want to throw more money his way.

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Emmanuel Sanders says the Broncos’ passing numbers will decline

Divisional Playoffs - Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders says Denver won’t have the same kind of passing offense it has had the last three seasons. And not because Peyton Manning is getting old.

Last year Sanders caught 101 passes for 1,404 yards as the Broncos’ No. 2 receiver, while No. 1 receiver Demaryius Thomas had 111 catches for 1,619 yards. Sanders says new coach Gary Kubiak will run a slower, ball-control style of offense in 2015, and as a result those numbers will decline.

“Of course obviously it’s not going to be one of those offenses, well I’m praying that it is, but obviously it’s not going to be one of those offenses where you catch it and you’re going to have two receivers catching over 100 passes,” said Sanders. “Hopefully, my goal is really to try to get 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games.”

While Manning, Sanders and Thomas will see their numbers decline, running backs C.J. Anderson, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman will get a lot of carries.

“It’s definitely different,” Sanders said. “You talk about going from a no-huddle offense to an offense that’s huddling up, to an offense that is predicated off running a football and then throwing it. It’s different.”

In the regular season, the Broncos’ offense may look like a disappointment compared to the last three years. But the Broncos are hoping they’re installing an offense that will do something they haven’t done enough of in the last three years: win in the playoffs.

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John Siegal, oldest former Bears player, dies at 97

Bears Getty Images

John Siegal, an end that was selected to three Pro Bowls and helped the Chicago Bears win three NFL titles in the 1940s, died this week at the age of 97.

He was the Bears’ oldest former player, per the team’s announcement.

Siegal played just five years in the NFL from 1939-43. However, it was plenty of time for Siegal to be named a Pro Bowler in three straight years from 1940-42 and win three championships in 1940, 1941 and 1943.

Siegal caught 31 passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns while appearing in 43 games with 16 starts.

Siegal then went on to serve in the Navy during World War II.

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Pete Carroll: Time is now for Christine Michael to show his ability

Christine Michael Getty Images

Christine Michael has played very sparingly over his first two seasons after being selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Michael was frequently inactive as a rookie and appeared in just 10 games for the team last season. He has just 52 carries for 254 yards in two years with the team. While playing behind Marshawn Lynch can make it difficult to get on the field, Michael has struggled to force the issue as well.

With Lynch expected to receive his traditionally light preseason workload and backup Robert Turbin recovering from offseason hip surgery, Michael has a chance to show what he can do with more opportunities.

“This is a fantastic time for him. This is his time,” head coach Pete Carroll said on Tuesday. “We’re going to push him in that regard and just match up with his expectations. He wants to be a front-line, first-line back and he’s got tremendous talent and we’re just going to see how it goes.”

Michael is a very talented player when he has the ball in space. However, he has struggled with some of the finer points of learning the running back position. Some immaturity has factored in as well. Michael will get the majority of the work this preseason and Carroll hopes Michael will show he can be more consistent.

“Have a good game and come on back and have another one,” Carroll said. “Stay with the workload, and handle the bumps and the bruises.”

“You can see his assignments and his consistency here but until we start playing (real) football, at that position, you can’t evaluate.”

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Victor Cruz says he’s at 80 percent in his recovery from knee injury

Victor Cruz Getty Images

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz recently began cutting and running routes in recent weeks on his road to recovery from a torn patellar tendon last season.

According to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, Cruz estimates he’s at 80 percent now as he continues to progress toward full strength.

“I’m about 80 percent there. I think it’s just a matter of continuing to build the strength for the last leg of it,” Cruz said. “I’ve been running some routes for about two weeks now, and there’s been no pain, no swelling or anything like that, which are all good signs.”

Cruz injured his right knee against the Philadelphia Eagles last October. Cruz had 23 catches for 337 yards and a touchdown in six games before the injury ended his season.

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