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Packers grab ex-49ers QB Scott Tolzien just in time for Week 1

Scott Tolzien AP

As the Packers assemble their practice squad, one name stands out as a player who could be particularly valuable for their Week One practices: Scott Tolzien.

Tolzien, the quarterback who was cut by the 49ers last week after spending the last two years in San Francisco, has signed with the Packers’ practice squad.

The 49ers will be playing the Packers to open the season on Sunday, September 8, which means the Packers will likely be asking Tolzien to run the 49ers’ offense for the scout team to help the Packers’ defense prepare. Having Tolzien around can certainly help the Packers’ defense get ready to face the 49ers’ offense — and given the way the Packers’ defense played against the 49ers’ offense in the playoffs, Green Bay needs the help.

Tolzien, who played college football at Wisconsin, should enjoy his homecoming and be a valuable member of the Packers’ practice squad.

Also joining the Packers’ practice squad is receiver Charles Johnson, a seventh-round draft pick this year who didn’t make the 53-man roster but will remain in Green Bay. Other members of the Packers’ practice squad include receiver Myles White, tight end Jake Stoneburner and cornerback James Nixon.

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Blake Bortles impressing coaches with his progress

Jaguars Football AP

Unlike other first-round quarterbacks, Blake Bortles has been able to navigate through his rookie training camp without much notice.

But his Jaguars coaches have noticed his work, and say he’s progressing well toward the stated goal of being ready to play at some point after this year’s opener.

“I think that one of the things you always worry about is how does a guy handle something that he’s never done before,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “He’s had OTAs and minicamp and then now he’s got four weeks to figure out what is he going to do. I thought he really prepared so he came back ahead of where I thought he was going to be.”

Bortles has a comfort zone, in that the Jaguars built their plan around Chad Henne starting this year, so as not to rush the No. 3 overall pick in before he was ready, or the parts were around him to succeed.

But Fisch said Bortles has impressed with how he has developed within the offense, and the fact he’s able to grow comfortably might allow him to grow faster.

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Donald Thomas placed on injured reserve

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Colts have officially lost starting left guard Donald Thomas for the season.

The team placed the 28-year-old Thomas on injured reserve Thursday, the club said.

Thomas suffered a torn quadriceps on Wednesday. He sustained the same injury last September.

With Thomas out, second-round pick Jack Mewhort is among the options to fill in at left guard.

In a corresponding roster move Thursday, the Colts re-signed undrafted rookie offensive lineman Eric Pike, who had a short stint with the club in May. A Towson product, Pike (6-5, 298) was a left tackle on the college level.

The signing of Pike puts the Colts back at the 90-player limit.

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Johnny Manziel expects to be better in games than in practice

manziel AP

Johnny Manziel says Browns fans will see a difference between what he’s shown in training camp and what he’ll show when they start playing games.

Asked if he expects to perform better once the games start than he has so far in practice, Manziel said that’s always been his way.

“Always, for me, I’ve been better in a game situation than I feel I have in practice. But I have to come out here and get better with the reps that I’m getting. That’s the main thing, keep getting better, and then when it’s time to go out and play football, it’s time to play football,” Manziel said.

At Texas A&M, Manziel was often at his best improvising when plays broke down and using his feet to avoid the pass rush. But in practices, a quarterback doesn’t get that opportunity: Coaches want to see the play run in practice exactly the way it’s drawn up, and when the pass rush gets near the quarterback, the play is blown dead. Manziel thinks that makes him a better game-day player than practice player.

“There will be times in games, situations in games when things break down, and obviously it’s not practice, there are not coaches on the field, and it will be a little bit — it will be a lot different. But practice is what it is, and we have to get better,” Manziel said.

At the moment, Manziel is running the second-string offense, and Brian Hoyer is the starter. Manziel may have to play better in practice to show that he deserves to start when it’s game time.

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Ray Rice says his wife “can do no wrong” in first press conference

Ray Rice AP

Ravens running back Ray Rice walked to the podium Thursday, and came right out with  the kind of contrition he hadn’t previously shown.

Rice spoke to reporters for the first time since his no-questions-asked press conference during which his wife apologized for getting knocked out cold, and admitted what appears obvious.

“My actions that night were totally inexcusable,” he began. “That’s not me. That’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.”

Rice apologized to his wife, which he neglected to do during his press conference, and talked about how difficult it would be to explain to his young daughter.

He also said he and his wife wanted to talk about domestic violence “when the time is right.”

That’s apparently not until he continues his counseling, as he said he’s still in that process.

Rice didn’t want to re-live what he called “the incident,” but said he “owned it,” and it was the “biggest mistake of my life.”

“My wife can do no wrong,” he said, several times.

He also said he’s never been involved in any kind of domestic abuse situation, though he repeatedly declined to offer specifics on the night of “the incident.”

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Ravens fourth-round pick Brent Urban tears ACL

brenturban AP

Brent Urban’s rookie season is over before it started.

Urban, a defensive lineman chosen by the Ravens in the fourth round of the NFL draft, suffered a torn ACL in practice yesterday. Coach John Harbaugh confirmed the diagnosis today.

The Ravens hoped the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Urban would be able to join their defensive line rotation as a rookie, but now he’ll go on injured reserve.

Fellow rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who went down on the same play as Urban, is dealing with back spasms and is not expected to miss much time.

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PFT Live from Saints camp: Sean Payton, Larry Holder

Sean Payton AP

PFT Live hits the road on Thursday with Mike Florio making the trip to the Greenbrier in West Virginia to visit the Saints as they visit his home state.

Saints coach Sean Payton will join Florio to talk about how the team’s first camp in the state has been going and what differences he’s found from working at the current site as opposed to past camps. They’ll also discuss the new faces around the Saints this year, including rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and his overall feelings about the team as they prepare for the regular season.

Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune will also be on hand to share his own thoughts about how the Saints are coming together during camp. We’ll get his take on some players to watch in the coming season and areas of concern for New Orleans as well during his visit.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live right here.

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Report: David Wilson “needs a miracle” to come back

David Wilson

David Wilson has been upbeat throughout his comeback from spinal fusion surgery, even after his “burner” earlier this week.

The Giants apparently do not share that optimism.

According to Jordan Raanan and Conor Orr of NJ.com, the Giants consider him a long shot to return to the field and one source familiar with his condition said he “needs a miracle” to come back.

Wilson tweeted Wednesday night that “everything was fine,” which may be true in the global, not football-centric case.

He’ll see a spinal specialist Monday, but the Giants seem to be bracing themselves for the possibility that Wilson might not return at all.

You could argue they did already, signing workhorse back Rashad Jennings this offseason.

But at this point, the concern should be with Wilson’s well-being, and any football considerations should come well after that.

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Cary Williams: “No question” I’m in same class as the best corners in the league

Cary Williams AP

It has been a good offseason for cornerbacks.

Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden and Patrick Peterson have all gotten lucrative new contracts since the 2013 season came to a close. That race to the bank has also ramped up discussion among some members of the group about which of them is the best cornerback in football. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams’s name has never come up in those discussions, but Williams isn’t sure why that’s the case.

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com reports that Williams said there’s “no question” that he belongs in a group of cornerbacks that he calls “equally as talented” as himself.

“I look at my career. I’ve played in playoff games,” Williams said. “Most of those guys haven’t played in playoff games. It is what it is. Hopefully those guys could make it to the playoffs. Hopefully those guys could continue the success that they’ve had in their careers. Much respect to those guys, because I don’t see a much of a difference in any of them.”

Williams is a capable NFL cornerback and, as he mentions, he’s played on some good teams in Baltimore and Philadelphia, but he’s not going to find many people buying into his argument that he’s played at the same level as those cornerbacks. Revis and Sherman have both had great success in the playoffs during their careers and Haden and Peterson’s play has been all the more impressive given how little help, relative to Williams’s teammates anyway, their teammates have given them. And all four have been much more impactful and consistent than Williams, should one need more than the playoff argument to chip away at the Eagles corner’s claim.

One thing is for certain after reading Williams’s take, though. Cornerbacks have officially replaced wide receivers as the most voluble (and occasionally delusional) group of players in the league.

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Brandon Marshall thinks Jay Cutler will win NFL MVP

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall AP

Peyton Manning is the betting favorite to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award this season. But Brandon Marshall’s money is on Jay Cutler.

Actually, Marshall can’t put any money on it because that would violate NFL rules. But Marshall does believe that Cutler is going to show this year that he’s the best player in football.

“League MVP,” Marshall said of Cutler on NFL Network. “He’s the first one in the building, last one to leave, his leadership is through the roof. He’s correcting the coaches. I mean, this is his offense. This is his organization. He’s running it, and I love it.”

Cutler missed five games with injuries last year, but he played well when healthy, with a career-high 89.2 passer rating. But Cutler will probably both need to be healthy for all 16 games and have an even higher passer rating this year if anyone is going to consider him seriously for the MVP.

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Chris Johnson: I’m going to do great things this year

Chris Johnson AP

There haven’t been many situations in the last few years when the Jets offense was compared favorably to that of any other team, but running back Chris Johnson doesn’t seem that interested in the past.

That goes for his own results as well. Johnson’s production the last couple of seasons has raised a lot of questions about whether or not Johnson has passed the point where he can be a top-flight runner in the NFL. Johnson has been adamant that there’s plenty left in his tank and thinks “it’s not hard to be the top guy” in a league where most of the top backs are running for 1,100 or 1,200 yards. He also thinks that moving from the Titans’ offense to the Jets’ scheme represents a big step forward.

“I went through a lot of situations last year. You look at [LeSean] McCoy. He got put in a great situation: great offense and great schemes. So he’s doing what he’s supposed to do,” Johnson said, via the New York Daily News. “I went through three different offensive coordinators [with the Titans]. I feel like I now have a great offensive coordinator in Marty [Mornhinweg]. And I’m going to do great things this year.”

There have been plenty of players who have seen their play take a positive turn after a change of scenery and Johnson has run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his six NFL seasons, so it’s not like he fell completely off the radar after 2009. We’ve also seen plenty of players who are unable to recapture their old magic and the answer to which camp Johnson belongs in will go a long way toward determining both the Jets’ fortunes in 2014 and his own future in the NFL.

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Ray Rice will take questions from reporters for first time today

Ray Rice, Janay Rice AP

Ray Rice has stood in front of his bosses, judges and the commissioner.

But for the first time since video showed him dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator, he’ll stand in front of reporters asking questions today.

The Ravens running back is scheduled to talk to reporters today about his two-game suspension, and the incident that led to it.

The organization has protected him carefully, from a press conference with no questions to passionate defenses on the team’s official website, but today he’ll be on his own.

You’ll see his heart, just like you saw it last time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “He’s not going to give you some polished press conference. That’s not Ray. Ray’s going to speak from the heart.”

Harbaugh said yesterday that he was proud of the way Rice has handled the situation (not the assault, the reaction to the assault), but Rice could make some headway this afternoon.

Of course, that would take acknowledging a mistake and doing something about it, rather than just referring to domestic violence as another one of the catch-all “distractions,” which plague NFL teams.

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Mike Zimmer: Cordarrelle Patterson is confident, but not cocky “like a couple of guys” in Cincinnati

Cordarrelle Patterson AP

There are plenty of people who expect Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to have a breakout season in 2014.

That group includes the decision makers at Sports Illustrated, who have named Patterson as one of this year’s rising stars across all sports. Patterson has weighed in on the topic as well, saying that he plans to be a “top-five playmaker” among other things, but coach Mike Zimmer isn’t worried about Patterson’s confidence turning him into the kind of diva receiver he saw when he was the defensive coordinator with the Bengals.

“Honestly, it’s great,” Zimmer said, via the Pioneer Press. “He’s confident, but he’s not like a couple of guys we had in Cincinnati. He’s pretty respectful about it. He works hard, and he’s a young evolving player still. So I like it.”

Zimmer doesn’t name names, but it’s hard not to think of Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson as guys who weren’t respectful about expressing their self-confidence. Both played for the Bengals when Zimmer was there and were players who saw their difficult personalities tolerated and indulged because of how productive they were on the football field.

Patterson may be lacking the character traits that Zimmer didn’t like in whatever wideouts he might be referring to, but he also hasn’t performed at the same level and will need to in order for anyone to pay this much attention to him again in the future.

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Mike Wallace out for second straight day with a sore hamstring

Miami Dolphins Minicamp Getty Images

The Dolphins hope to get more out of wide receiver Mike Wallace in Wallace’s second season in Miami, but things haven’t gotten off to the best of starts.

Wallace is out of practice on Thursday because of a sore hamstring, which also kept him out of practice on Wednesday. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that the injury is expected to keep Wallace off the field through the weekend.

That means Wallace will miss a scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday and Salguero reports he’ll be evaluated again at the start of next week. If Wallace’s absence extends deeper into the week, he’ll be at risk of missing the team’s first preseason game on August 8 against the Falcons.

It doesn’t sound like it is a major injury, although anything that keeps Wallace from working with quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the team’s new offense is less than ideal for the chances of getting that improved second season from the centerpiece of their 2013 offseason moves.

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Robert Mathis balancing professional guilt and personal joy

Colts Camp Football AP

Robert Mathis is sorry that he’s going to miss four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.

But when he balances that against the joy of his new daughter, he’s able to sleep at night.

Mathis said the suspension stemmed from his use of Clomid, which he took because of “fertility challenges.” But they overcame those, and his daughter Brielle was born July 19.

The timing was wrong,” Mathis said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com. “I cost my team on the professional level. Personal level, I have a lifetime worth of smiles and kisses. I try to learn from it and move forward.”

But beyond the family issues, there was skepticism about Mathis going from 8.0 sacks to 19.5 last year, and Mathis said he doesn’t shy away from those questions. But with a baby girl in his arms, they matter less.

“I apologized for the professional side of it, the personal side of it. I have no regrets at all,” he said. “I look at my baby’s face in my phone every day and I have no regrets. . . . I know how people are going to react, know what people are going to say coming off a season like last year. That’s human nature. . . .

“(Brielle) looks at me and sees no wrong. She don’t know how she got here, she doesn’t care how she got here. She knows she’s here and feed me. That’s my job and that’s going to be my job for the next 18 years or however long it takes, football will be long gone. She’ll be here.”

And after the first four games, Mathis will be back with the Colts.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Captain Munnerlyn AP

Bills LB Nigel Bradham’s suspension stemmed from a dropped charge of marijuana possession.

The Dolphins are apparently moving on from the Shelley Smith experiment at C.

The Patriots like being able to go to the bullpen for FB James Develin.

Jets rookie TE Jace Amaro is struggling early in camp.

The Ravens are running a little thin at LB.

The Bengals have had their share of scuffles in camp.

The Browns added some offensive line depth.

The Steelers are letting QB Ben Roethlisberger run a little more no-huddle.

New Texans coach Bill O’Brien is taking a hands-on approach.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano says his team can “decide” to go to the Super Bowl.

Jaguars TE Clay Harbor could miss a month with a calf injury.

Titans DT Jurrell Casey is ready to earn some big money.

Broncos fans finally got to see camp, and they got soaked (as opposed to every other time they enter the stadium).

Chiefs T Donald Stephenson returned to practice after an ankle injury.

The Raiders are excited about their pass-rush options.

The Chargers WRs are having a good camp so far.

The Cowboys are going to have to use a committee to replace their latest injured DE.

Giants QB Ryan Nassib is showing progress.

The Eagles’ secondary is showing some growth.

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is ready for zone-read plays, but not too many of them.

Bears G Kyle Long has been cleared to return to practice.

The Lions still have plenty of concerns with their kicking game.

The Packers want to lock up coach Mike McCarthy to a contract extension next.

The Vikings activated CB Captain Munnerlyn from the PUP list.

Falcons RB Steven Jackson is out with a hamstring injury.

Panthers rookie G Trai Turner has impressed early in camp.

Saints OLB Victor Butler hopes to have a role this season, after coming back from injury.

The Buccaneers aren’t worried about practice scuffles.

The Cardinals have moved CB-WR Teddy Williams back to defense.

Rams DT Aaron Donald has made an early impression.

WR Brandon Lloyd has made a connection with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman has kept his Twitter beef with Patrick Peterson going.

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