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Early signs positive for Eddie Royal after Saturday incident

AP

Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal departed Saturday’s practice via ambulance after a post-catch fall.

The good news? A league source tells PFT’s Mike Florio that initial tests on Royal have all been negative.

The Chargers are awaiting more news on the sixth-year receiver from Virginia Tech.

After practice, coach Mike McCoy, in a transcript from the club, described Royal’s injury.

“Eddie (Royal) went up for a ball, caught the ball, landed on his back and felt shortness of breath,” McCoy said. “He had a little bit of a hard time breathing. We’re going to take him to the hospital and check him out. That’s all I’ve got right now. I can’t tell you anymore. I don’t know a whole lot about it.”

Royal, 27, is in his second season with San Diego. He spent his first four NFL seasons with Denver.

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Patriots add another receiver

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The New England Patriots have cornered the market on skill-position players in 2017. They’ve now added another. Sort of.

The team has announced signing of receiver DeAndrew White. But White isn’t a new arrival. After being cut by the 49ers last September, White spent most of the year on the New England practice squad.

White appeared in four game as an updraft rookie in 2015, catching two passes for 18 yards. White also returned six kicks for 142 yards and returned one punt for four yards.

He’s one of 11 receivers currently on the roster, with Brandin Cooks being the highest profile arrival in 2017, by far.

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Doug Whaley claims credit for “parting gift” of two first-round picks

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Former Bills G.M. Doug Whaley broke his silence after being fired three weeks ago. Some would say he shouldn’t have.

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com), Whaley made this claim regarding the trade that saw the Bills drop from No. 10 in round one to No. 27: “As a parting gift, we left them with two [first-round picks] next year.”

This implies that Whaley, who would be fired less than three days after the trade was made, actually had any say over the decision to swap the top-10 pick that the team’s subpar performance earned for the selection belonging to one of the final-eight franchises. That’s how the Bills picked up a second first-rounder in 2018.

Even if Whaley was involved, it wasn’t a “gift”; it was the result of a deliberate decision-making process fueled by a very strong desire on the part of the Chiefs to land quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Whaley likely was trying to be loose or funny or whatever. After his disastrous January press conference, however, his words will now be as scrutinized as his personnel decisions if/when he’s ever considered for other G.M. positions. On that point, Whaley said that if he ever gets another job of that kind in the future, he’ll have a clear objective from the get-go. “I would make sure I secured a franchise QB, quickly.”

If it were only that easy. As more than a few teams have proven more than a few times each, it’s not like ordering a new sweatshirt on Amazon.

Whaley surely thought he had found a franchise quarterback in 2013, when the team made EJ Manuel the first quarterback drafted. Whaley got it wrong, which could make it a lot harder for him to ever get another chance to find a franchise quarterback.

That doesn’t mean Whaley shouldn’t be gainfully employed in the NFL. He did very well in the Pittsburgh front office, well enough to become a G.M. He has a place in the league, just not one that requires speaking extemporaneously in public or securing franchise quarterbacks.

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Jets waive Devin Smith after torn ACL

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The Jets haven’t gotten much return on the second-round pick they used on wide receiver Devin Smith in the 2015 draft and that wasn’t going to change this season.

Smith tore his ACL in April and the team waived him with an injury designation on Monday. Should Smith pass through waivers unclaimed, he will revert to injured reserve. The Jets could also reach an injury settlement with Smith and cut him loose altogether, although that decision could wait until they see how his recovery progresses.

It’s the second time Smith has torn his ACL since joining the Jets. He suffered the first injury late in the 2015 season and missed 12 games last year while he was rehabbing. He caught one pass for 20 yards to go with nine catches for 115 yards and a touchdown during his rookie season.

The Jets signed wide receiver Deshon Foxx, who they signed in January and waived earlier this month to make room for undrafted free agent signings.

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Matt Elam arrested for grand theft, battery

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Former Ravens first-round pick and current free agent Matt Elam has landed in legal trouble for the second time this year.

Elam was arrested and booked in Delray Beach, Florida on charges of grand theft and battery. TMZ Sports first reported news of the arrest and details beyond the $4,500 bond for Elam’s release aren’t known at the moment.

Elam was also arrested on charges of marijuana possession with the intent to sell or deliver and possession of hydrocodone in February.

Elam became a free agent a short time later as his rookie deal was up and the Ravens opted not to exercise their option on his contract for the 2017 season. The 2013 first-round pick had four tackles in nine games last year and there haven’t been any reports of interest in his services as a football player this offseason. That seems unlikely to change given Monday’s developments.

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Rams sign two ahead of OTAs

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The Rams will kick off their organized team activities this week with a couple of new players on the roster.

The team announced the moves on Monday along with a pair of deletions from the roster. They have signed defensive tackles Omarius Bryant and A.J. Jefferson while waiving offensive lineman Kwayde Miller. They also announced that defensive back Dravious Wright has left the team.

This will be Bryant’s second stint with an NFL team since going undrafted out of Western Kentucky. He was initially signed by the Ravens earlier this month, but was waived a few days later when the Ravens needed roster space for others.

Jefferson had 35 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks during his four years at Mississippi State.

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Reggie Bush still wants to play

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Reggie Bush had one of the worst seasons in NFL history last year, becoming the first running back ever to carry the ball more than 10 times and finish with negative rushing yardage. But he still thinks he has something to offer.

Bush, the free agent running back, told NFL Media he’s eager to sign with an NFL team and expects to be in the league in 2017.

“That’s my plan,” Bush said. “Going into year 12, I still feel like I have a lot left to prove, a lot left to give this game before I’m done. I don’t want to put a number on how many years I have left. I think once you get past year 10, you just gotta take it one year at a time and go from there. I’m still excited, still looking forward to playing football again this season, still staying in shape, still working out. I plan to be somewhere in September.”

Bush, who played in 13 games for the Bills last year and finished with 12 carries for negative three yards, said some teams are interested.

“I’ve spoken to a few teams, yes,” Bush said. “But I’m gonna be patient and make sure I make the right decision for me and for my family.”

The 32-year-old Bush was one of the most exciting players in college football history at USC and has had a solid if somewhat disappointing NFL career. It’s hard to believe he has much left, but he doesn’t want anyone else telling him he’s done.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick “excited” to join Buccaneers

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While it wasn’t quite the same 44-shot uzi-spray that a Jets quarterback once used on the way through the door, a former Jets quarterback has repeatedly uttered the E-word when talking about his new team.

New Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, in comments to the team’s official website (EXCLUSIVE!) used the term “excited” five times.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to come to a team that’s really on the rise, with a great young quarterback in Jameis [Winston], just to come and try to provide some of my experiences,” Fitzpatrick said. “I just met him for the first time today. He seems like a great kid, though, lots of energy. I’m very excited to work with him and I think he’s excited to have me here. We’ll get to work pretty soon. . . .

“I think both sides were excited because there are a lot of good pieces here. I just wanted to be a part of it and I’m happy they have me here. . . . I’m excited to be here, I’m excited to get to work.”

The Bucs will be excited if Fitzpatrick doesn’t actually have to play. He’s there to mentor Winston and to be ready to go if/when Winston’s physical style of play gets him injured. (Fitzpatrick also may be expected to coax Winston to play with a little less physicality.)

The fans will be excited if the Buccaneers, regardless of who the quarterback is, can get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. That would definitely have Fitzpatrick feeling excited, given that Fitzpatrick has yet to be on a playoff roster despite 12 prior NFL seasons and now seven different teams.

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Undercover visit with Bears helped Mitchell Trubisky land in Chicago

AP

One of the biggest curveballs in the first round of the draft came when the Bears traded up to the second overall pick in order to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

49ers General Manager John Lynch traded the pick to the Bears and wondered whether the Bears would take defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (who ultimately went third to the Niners), which made sense because there weren’t too many people linking the Bears with Trubisky. It helped that the team’s trip to Chapel Hill to work out Trubisky went down with plenty of cloak and dagger employed.

Dan Wiederer of Chicago Tribune got the details of the trip, including a note that Trubisky made a dinner reservation for the group under the name James McMahon. That reference to Bears history struck General Manager Ryan Pace as a “cool” move and Pace also used some misdirection during a workout on an intramural field on the North Carolina campus.

Someone asked if Pace and company were from the Cowboys and Pace said they were and then didn’t dispute the questioner’s guess that head coach John Fox was Paul Pasqualoni. It’s good luck for Pace and company that the man wasn’t aware Pasqualoni hasn’t coached for the Cowboys since 2010. Pace’s biggest worry was that fans who spotted Fox, who used to coach the Panthers, at the airport might put pictures on social media that spilled the beans on their visit.

That doesn’t seem to have happened and the Bears obviously liked what they saw and learned from Trubisky, even if Wiederer’s consistently entertaining and engaging story makes it clear he had to combat with a talkative Fox over steaks and red wine at that aforementioned dinner. If he can do as well against NFL defenses, the Bears will have the quarterback spot locked down for a while.

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Michael Oher’s absence not just concussion-related

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Panthers left tackle Michael Oher, whose career resurgence was derailed by an early-season concussion that caused him to miss 13 games and counting, continues to be absent from the team. But it’s more than the concussion keeping him away, reportedly.

Via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers aren’t expecting Oher to show up on Tuesday for the launch of OTAs. Person reports that the absence isn’t solely related to the concussion.

Oher also is dealing with personal issues. Those included an April altercation with an Uber driver in Nashville. As Person notes, Oher also seemed to be out of shape in the mugshot arising from the Uber incident.

The Panthers haven’t written Oher off, but between the signing of Matt Kalil and the drafting in round two of Taylor Moton, Carolina seems to be preparing to move on without Oher.

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Calvin Johnson easily could have avoided bonus reimbursement

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Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who never said much during his playing career, lately has been saying plenty. Over the weekend, he said plenty about his current disillusionment with the team.

Though he opted not to spell it out, the discontent comes from the fact that Johnson had to write out a check for $320,000 to the team, representing 10 percent of the $3.2 million in unearned signing bonus money remaining on his contract when he retired.

As noted by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the team’s squeezing of Calvin for $320,000 doesn’t mesh with the decision of teams like the Cowboys and Seahawks to not recover $5 million in signing-bonus money from Tony Romo and Marshawn Lynch, respectively. So why did the Lions want 10 cents on the dollar from Johnson?

The Lions may have wanted to collect something in order to avoid setting a precedent that other players could cite if retiring before earning all of their signing-bonus money. (In 1999, they pursued every unearned penny from Hall of Fame tailback Barry Sanders.) The easy way to avoid any untoward precedent would have been to cut Johnson, severing any right to bonus reimbursement.

And that’s ultimately what Johnson should have pushed them to do. With a salary of $15.95 million and a cap number of $24 million hitting the books in March 2016, the Lions likely could have cut Johnson if he’d refused to accept a restructured deal. So he should have held firm before choosing to retire.

In February 2016, Johnson was dragging his feet about his retirement decision, prompting speculation that he hoping to be released instead, both to avoid the repayment obligation and to have the ability sign with any other team he chooses, if he ultimately were to unretire.

So while Johnson has every right to be miffed at the Lions, Johnson also should be miffed at himself. Or at whoever advised him to retire instead of biding his time until the Lions would have released him.

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Derek Carr has “complete faith” contract will be done by camp

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is heading into the final year of the deal he signed after being drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft and that’s made an extension a major topic of conversation around the team this offseason.

A report last week described Carr as growing frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations for a new deal, which General Manager Reggie McKenzie responded to by saying the team will do everything they can in order to reach an agreement with their quarterback. For his part, Carr sounds like he’s OK with where things stand.

“I have an agent who is in charge of that and I am confident that he and Mr. McKenzie will work it out,” Carr said, via Anthony Galaviz of the Fresno Bee. “I am only focused on becoming a better football player and helping my teammates become better players. I have complete faith it will get done before training camp. These things take time. The Raiders know I want to be here; this is my family, and I know they want me to be their quarterback.”

There’s no deadline to getting a deal done until it becomes time to hand out franchise tags next year and even that would only leave the Raiders with the option of using it to buy even more time to talk about a long-term extension. That doesn’t mean it will take that long, but we’re well off from any point to worry about Carr moving on from Oakland.

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Seahawks, Falcons enter OTA season with fewer OTAs than others

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Organized Team Activities, a fancy, word-wasting synonym for “football practice,” begin Monday throughout the NFL. For two of the final eight teams from a year ago, however, three of the 10 practices won’t be happening.

Both the Seahawks and the Falcons lost a week of OTA sessions — three each — due to excessive contact during 2016 offseason workouts. While the extra aggression apparently worked, with both teams making it to the divisional round in the year the rules violations occurred, it’s now time to pay the fiddler via the forfeiture of important 2017 practice time.

For the Seahawks, the loss of OTAs included a forfeited fifth-round draft pick, a $400,000 fine for the team, and a $200,000 fine for coach Pete Carroll, given that it was their third violation of the offseason rules. The Falcons apparently lost only the practice time, with the league office opting not to fine the franchise or the head coach.

Contact is inevitable when 22 football players are put on a football field in football helmets with a football introduced into the mix. As the bottom of the 90-man roster constantly churns, players who don’t get the job done end up out of a job long before the total jobs get cut from 90 down to 53.

And so football coaches are expected to get football players to operate against every football instinct they possess. It’s amazing that more violations don’t occur, and it’s likely that the NFL and the NFLPA tolerate a certain amount of contact during offseason workouts because a certain amount of contact is unavoidable.

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Bucs release Sean Renfree to make room for Ryan Fitzpatrick

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The Buccaneers made some paperwork official Monday, and parted ways with a quarterback after adding Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The team announced that the veteran quarterback officially signed his contract. To make room for him on the 90-man roster, they waived quarterback Sean Renfree.

The Bucs signed the former Falcons backup earlier this offseason. Renfree played two games for the Falcons in 2015, but was released last year in the preseason and wasn’t with a team in 2016.

The Bucs also have Ryan Griffin and undrafted rookie Sefo Liufau on the roster behind starting quarterback Jameis Winston and Fitzpatrick.

They also announced the signings of first-rounder O.J. Howard, and that restricted free agent Jacquies Smith had signed his tender.

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Jaguars sign Tyler Patmon

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The Jaguars have been spending time with several free agents of late, but the one they signed one on Monday wasn’t in any reports of visitors to Jacksonville.

The team announced that they have signed cornerback Tyler Patmon to their 90-man roster.

Patmon didn’t see any action in the regular season last year and spent the season on the practice squads of the Chiefs and Panthers after being waived by the Titans at the end of the preseason. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys in 2014, played 22 games with them over his first two seasons and returned his only interception 58 yards for a touchdown against the Cardinals.

The Jaguars have O.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey at the top of the depth chart at corner with Aaron Colvin and seventh-rounder Jalen Myrick joining Patmon among those contending for other spots in the secondary.

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Saints bring back tackle Bryce Harris

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The Saints had three years to look at Bryce Harris, but apparently another few days convinced them.

According to Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints are signing the veteran tackle, who recently attended their rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.

Harris spent his first three years with the Saints (2012-14), but was claimed off waivers by the Falcons in 2015.

He was among final cuts in Atlanta last year, and was out of football, but the Saints apparently saw enough to bring him back for another stint.

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