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Jets announce Geno Smith to start opener

AP

The Jets did what they had to do this week, and what they probably needed to do all along.

The team announced that rookie quarterback Geno Smith would start this week, which was kind of obvious given the condition of Mark Sanchez’s shoulder — unless Brady Quinn was going to make a late run at the job.

The anticlimactic nature of the announcement doesn’t hide the fact this is a major shift for the team, as it seems going away from their former first-round pick was the intent of an awkward offseason.

But if Smith can play acceptably well against the Buccaneers, and in Week Two against the Patriots, he’ll probably have a long chance to make the job his own, and grow into it, regardless Sanchez’s condition.

Whether that’s a fair chance, given their scarcity of offensive playmakers, remains to be seen.

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Carson Palmer believes he has more zip, velocity than a year ago

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians believes quarterback Carson Palmer wore out his arm during offseason workouts in 2016. This year, Palmer did a lot less — and he consequently has a lot more in the tank as preparations commence for the season to come.

You feel like you have more zip, more velocity,” Palmer said before Saturday’s initial training-camp practice, via the Associated Press. “I feel like I can go out and throw 150 balls in practice. I don’t think I felt that way coming into camp last year.”

That’s good news, especially in light of Palmer’s advanced age. Which he refuses to regard as advanced age.

“In football years, I think it’s perceived once you get to 35 you’re old,” Palmer said. “But if you can still put it on every day and play and work out and train and prepare mentally, I look at is as being experienced and mature.”

But the end is obviously coming for the 37-year-old Palmer, who entered the league in 2003 as the first overall pick in the draft. And the question is whether the Cardinals can reverse what was a disappointing 2016 season, which Arians believes came off the rails with a Week One loss to the Patriots.

Don’t assume they can’t. Even with a tired arm entering camp last year, Palmer threw for 4,233 yards — the third highest total of his career.

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Josh McCown respects Brandon Marshall’s dim view of the Jets

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Former Jets receiver Brandon Marshall recently said he wouldn’t have made it through another season with the team “knowing that we didn’t have a chance.” The man who likely will be the Week One starting quarterback, and who played with Marshall in Chicago, has reacted to that assessment of his new team.

That’s Brandon’s opinion and Brandon is a friend of mine,” Josh McCown said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “I love him and he’s entitled to his opinion. I wish him the best at the Giants. We’ve got a direction we’re headed and excited about. I really don’t pay too much attention to it just because guys have different opinions about things, and that’s his. I don’t agree with it, but as a friend, hey, I respect it.”

That’s a fairly mild, and sort of boring, assessment of the situation from McCown. The real question is whether the Jets will be privately reacting to the external criticism and dismissals differently, and whether comments from people like Marshall and most of the media will become motivation for a team that many view as the worst in the league.

Whether ownership secretly wants them to be at the bottom of the NFL, and in turn the top of the draft order, is one thing. Whether the players will go along with that is another. They may not have the talent that they need, but they definitely will have plenty of reason to try to prove plenty of people wrong.

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Bucs soon to begin effort to be “badass”

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Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter declared after the draft that he wants his team to be “badass.” The effort begins this week, with the NFL Films/HBO cameras rolling and microphones engaged.

But first the players need to be on the same page as to what it means to be badass.

“A badass team means someone is going to go out there and fight,” left tackle Donovan Smith recently said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “Grit. Down to the nitty gritty and go after it. Lean on teams. Get after them. Make them feel us all four quarters. When I hear that, that’s what it means to me.”

G.M. Jason Licht sees it another way, and he compares Koetter’s ability to push buttons to some of the best coaches in the game.

“We’re doing this together,” Licht said. “We need everybody to stay together and stay focused on the plan. I think that that message has really taken in from what Dirk is telling the team. We want, obviously, very competitive guys that want to win and want to win at all costs. That’s the identity that I want every player to have and Dirk as the head coach wants every player to have on this roster.

“Dirk has a rare blend of being direct and calculated and genuine in the message he delivers. It’s got a theme and every week. The guys I thought are the best at it is Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and Bruce Arians. They have a fresh message every week. Dirk is right there with them.”

He’s not yet right there with them yet regarding postseason accomplishments; the Bucs haven’t made it to the postseason since 2007. But Koetter has been the coach for only one season, and the Bucs nearly got there in 2016.

Although plenty assume it will happen for the Bucs in the 10th anniversary of the last time it did, the NFC South features the last two NFC champions in Carolina and Atlanta and a New Orleans franchise that hopes it will be able to get back to where it was in 2009, when it made it to the Super Bowl and won it.

Arguably the most wide open division in the NFC, the Buccaneers will continue to reside on the fringe of playoff contention until they find a way to bust through to the final 12. If they manage to get there while constantly competing with the likes of the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints, maybe the Buccaneers will be able to do some badass things if they get there.

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Chargers’ Mike Williams denies he needs season-ending back surgery

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Chargers first-round receiver Mike Williams is denying a report that he’ll need season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Appearing at Alshon Jeffery’s football camp, Williams told reporters that his back is going to be fine.

“I’m good. Everything’s good,” Williams said. “The back situation, that was some false information being released. I don’t know who released it, but everything is good.”

Williams suffered the injury at rookie minicamp and hasn’t been able to do much in the Chargers’ offseason program since, but he apparently believes he’ll be healthy enough to play this season, without surgery.

The Chargers took Williams out of Clemson with the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft.

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Deshaun Watson will take “open mind” and “open book” to training camp

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Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson embarks on his first NFL training camp next week, and he’s bringing the right attitude with him.

I just listen to all the veteran guys,” Watson said Saturday after an appearance in South Carolina, via Scott Keepfer of the Greenville (S.C.) News. “I’ll keep an open mind and an open book. . . .

“I’ve been wishing I could do this for a long time, and now it’s finally here, So I’ll be enjoying every moment, cherishing every moment and taking it one thing at a time.”

Watson also expressed appreciation for the praise he recently received from Texans assistant coach Wes Welker, who raved on PFT Live about Watson’s demeanor and work ethic.

“That’s pretty cool right there,” Watson said regarding Welker’s remarks. “Wes is a great guy, great mentor, especially for the receivers, but also for me. He’s seen a lot, played a lot of football, experienced a lot.”

Watson has experience a lot at the college level, where he played very well in consecutive NCAA championship games for Clemson against Alabama. Which is one of the reasons why Watson has had the highest-selling NFL jersey since the draft in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

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Does Belichick think Garoppolo will be the next Brady?

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Tom Brady supposedly hopes to play for another five or six seasons. Jimmy Garoppolo has only one more season of a commitment to the Patriots. So how will this one play out?

Coach Bill Belichick may eventually have to make a choice between the two. Underscoring the stakes of that decision is the possibility that Garoppolo could become the next Brady.

“Bill thinks he’s got the next great one,” an unnamed scout told Mike Giardi of CSN New England. “I watched his snaps. I think he can be that. [Garoppolo] has a great base, and his mechanics are close enough to [Brady] that you appreciate his willingness to learn and the coaching he’s gotten there.”

If Belichick truly has the next great one, so does agent Don Yee, whose firm represents both Brady and Garoppolo. Given that Brady consistently has done below-market deals with the Patriots, many assume that Garoppolo will behave the same way, especially in light of the Yee connection.

But what if Yee intends to make back from Garoppolo some of what Yee didn’t make from Brady? What if Garoppolo, buoyed by the Kirk Cousins situation and an emerging sense among players that they individually should be making more than they do, decides to play the same kind of hardball with Belichick that Belichick consistently plays with all of his players?

Garoppolo is 16 regular-season games and up to four postseason games away from becoming a free agent. And those games likely will involve little or no risk, since Plan A will be for QB1 to take all the snaps. Indeed, Garoppolo’s biggest injury risk will come over the next month, when he’s taking snaps behind the second-string offense line.

Like every other quarterback due to become a free agent, the analysis of his value is simple. The franchise tag will exceed $22 million for 2018. And that number will become at least $26.4 million for Garoppolo in 2019 and at least $38 million for 2020. That’s a minimum of $86.4 million that Garoppolo would make on a year-to-year basis over three years, if the Patriots keep using the franchise tag to keep him in place.

If they don’t tag him in any given year, Garoppolo would hit the open market — and possibly hit the jackpot. Ultimately, then, the question will be whether he’s not only the “next great one” but also the next great one to accept less-than-great contracts in a sport where the stars seem to be waking up to the leverage they possess.

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Darren McFadden misses Cowboys’ team charter

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Cowboys running back Darren McFadden will have to pay his own way to California.

McFadden missed the team charter Saturday afternoon, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. He called team officials to tell them he was running late and won’t face a fine as long as he arrives by 2 p.m. PT Sunday when players are required to arrive.

McFadden, though, will have to buy a commercial flight to Southern California.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, defensive lineman David Irving and rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis also weren’t on the team charter.

Scandrick, who lives in L.A. in the offseason, flew back to California on a commercial flight Friday after flying into DFW for a physical and a conditioning test earlier in the day.

Irving failed to report to The Star and faces a $40,000 fine for an unexcused absence, but he is in California.

Lewis returned to Michigan on Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. Jury selection begins Monday morning after a Thursday hearing ended without a settlement. Lewis, 21, pleaded not guilty to the charge on March 16. Under Michigan law, he faces a maximum of 93 days in jail and a fine of $500 if convicted.

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Lions hope to “ultimately” work out rift with Calvin Johnson

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With the Lions and Barry Sanders renewing their relationship a generation after Sanders abruptly quit and the team made him pay back millions, the Lions now have only one former superstar player who retired under less than ideal circumstances. And team president Rod Wood has now spoken publicly twice about the situation in less than a week, more recently expressing optimism that the situation “ultimately” will work itself out.

Wood’s remarks make it clear that there’s a problem; otherwise, there would be nothing to ultimately work out. The question becomes what it will take to work things out.

As recently suggested, the Lions could either release Johnson from the reserve/retired list or give him back the bonus money he paid upon retirement — or both.

The Lions are required to do nothing, but if they truly want to work things out, they should do something. An invitation to hang out at training camp or to stand on the sidelines during games likely won’t do much, if anything, to change the mind of a guy who has been consistently becoming more candid about his concerns with the organization.

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Cardinals sign LB Tevin Floyd, release C Lucas Crowley

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The Cardinals signed linebacker Tevin Floyd, releasing center Lucas Crowley to make room.
 
Floyd, a rookie free agent, started all 12 games last season at The Citadel, earning first-team All-Southern Conference with 86 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He finished his college career with 295 tackles, the third most in school history, while playing in 49 games as a three-year starter.  
 
Floyd participated in the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis in May.

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Darron Lee changes numbers

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It’s a new year for former Jets first-round linebacker Darron Lee. And he’ll start it with a new number.

Via the team’s official website, Lee will switch from 50 to 58.

“It’s just all of my numbers in my lifetime added up,” Lee said. He wore No. 8 as a youth, No. 2, No. 5, and No. 8 in high school, and No. 43 at Ohio State. So 8 plus 2 plus 5 plus 43 is 58.

Erin Henderson wore No. 58 for the Jets a year ago, and Spencer Paysinger wore No. 58 during the offseason, after arriving in June. Paysinger will switch to No. 49, a number that also will be worn by tight end Jordan Leggett.

The league at one point required any player who switched numbers to pay for any unsold jerseys bearing the prior number. It’s possible that there aren’t all that many Darron Lee jerseys floating around, since he doesn’t play the kind of position that is conducive to major sales numbers, and he didn’t have the kind of rookie season that would make people want to buy it.

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Jalen Ramsey opens camp on PUP list

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Second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey, a top-five pick who faces high expectations in 2017, will start training camp with no practice.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Ramsey will be placed on the physically unable to perform list at the outset of formal preseason preparations. He had core muscle surgery in June.

Joining Ramsey on PUP will be cornerback Aaron Colvin.

Players on the active/PUP list can be activated once they pass a physical. They can’t participate in practices until activated.

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PFT preseason power rankings No. 7: Seattle Seahawks

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The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are the only two teams in the NFL to have won at least one playoff game in each of the last five seasons. The Seahawks had few departures from last year’s roster that lost in the Divisional Round to the Atlanta Falcons. They’ve added an 11-man draft class and augmented the roster with a few free agent signings that addressed a few areas of concern over the offseason.

Seattle’s roster remains the most talented in the NFC West. However, an offseason dominated by trade discussions involving star cornerback Richard Sherman has left an uncertainty regarding the cohesion of the locker room after Sherman’s multiple tirades and criticism of coaches last season. And for all the downplaying of the trade discussions Seattle wants to espouse now, NFL teams don’t look to trade All-Pro cornerbacks in their prime, with a reasonable contract and depth issues at the position for no reason at all. And the Seahawks practically hung a “For Sale” sign on Sherman in letting teams know publicly they were taking calls regarding Sherman’s availability.

Can the Seahawks still win the division and make a deep playoff run despite any potential lingering issues? Of course. They managed to win the division again last year in the midst of all the happenings with Sherman. But if the gremlins of last season carry over into 2017, there is potential for a crash landing.

Even if they do, the Seahawks may be talented enough to win the division again anyway.

Biggest positive change: With the selection of four defensive backs among their 11 draft picks in the NFL Draft, the Seahawks infused youth into their secondary depth. The additions of Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill and Mike Tyson give the Seahawks young depth that can contribute immediately on special teams and push starters Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor for playing time in the coming years. Griffin could earn a starting role opposite Sherman as Deshawn Shead is likely to start the year on PUP and Jeremy Lane has been better served as a slot cornerback during his tenure in Seattle. The rest of the group provides potentially more stable options as backups should a player of Thomas’ caliber be lost for the season again as he was last December. The drop in ability from Thomas to back up Steven Terrell was substantial and significantly lessened Seattle’s defensive might.

Biggest negative change: While Steven Hauschka had some issues in Seattle last year, the Seahawks now seem destined to be relying upon a career resurgence from Blair Walsh. Walsh, who helped the Seahawks win a playoff game in Minnesota two years ago by missing a 27-yard field goal at the end of regulation for the Vikings, now joins the Seahawks in an effort to get his career back on track. Walsh was released by the Vikings last year nine games into the season after missing eight (four field goals, four extra points) of his 35 kicks on the year. Hauschka had a problem with low kicks as five of his 10 missed kicks last season were blocked. Walsh has a big leg and earned a Pro Bowl trip as a rookie. However, what he can bring to the table now is uncertain.

Coaching thermometer: Pete Carroll has a job in Seattle as long as he wants it given the run of success the team has had during his tenure as head coach. The Seahawks have made two Super Bowl trips and brought home their first Lombardi Trophy in 2013, have won at least one playoff game in each of the last five seasons and have missed the postseason just once in Carroll’s seven seasons at the helm. Carroll has given no indication he sees the end of his coaching road coming any time soon. He and general manager John Schneider are seemingly joined at the hip and Carroll’s contract was extended through 2019 last summer.

We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Jon Ryan. The Seahawks’ punter is one of the more engaging personalities on the team. He’s thrown a touchdown pass in an NFC Championship game, broke his face in frigid conditions during a playoff game in Minnesota and fumbled without being touched on a fake punt. He’s also caught a 109-yard touchdown pass as a receiver playing college football at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. Ryan is now the longest-tenured member of the Seahawks and the only player on the team to predate Pete Carroll in Seattle. Honorable mention to Doug Baldwin.

How they can prove us wrong: In the positive, the Sherman issues don’t linger into the season. Wilson returns to 2015 form, now healthy, behind a significantly improved output from Seattle’s offensive line. Lacy gives the team the power back presence they’ve missed and Seattle’s defense remains along the league’s best. In the negative, the Seahawks are slow out of the gate as Wilson struggles behind continued poor offensive line play. Fissures within the team resurface as blame gets tossed around. The running game isn’t consistent. Wilson is forced to throw 30-35 times a game. Age begins to catch up to key pieces of Seattle’s defense as they slide back from the top of the league. Blair Walsh’s inconsistencies follow him to Seattle.

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Tamba Hali angry at lack of playing time in the playoffs

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In the Chiefs’ playoff loss to the Steelers, defensive end Tamba Hali barely played: His seven snaps against Pittsburgh were by far his fewest in any game of the 2016 season.

Anger at that lack of playing time has apparently been simmering all offseason, and today Hali went off. In a series of tweets, Hali questioned why he didn’t play more and asked if the Chiefs even want him anymore.

“Fans should know this. Only played 7 snaps last year 2017 playoff game against the Steelers,” Hali wrote. “Am I needed in KC anymore?”

Hali said he always wants to give it all for his team and is frustrated that the team wouldn’t let him.

“I’ve played through all my injuries I’ve acquire throughout my careers not sitting out because I did not feel I wouldn’t be at my best,” Hali said. “I play because I love the game and did it under some of the worst conditions.”

The 33-year-old Hali said he was ready to play in the playoffs, comes to work ready every day, and wants to be a valuable member of the team.

“I was healthy last year and the year before. I had a scope not a major procedure. The result of playing for a long time,” Hali wrote. “I haven’t missed any off-season workouts in 11 years w/the Chiefs. I’ve played in every game except four in my 11 year career with Chiefs.”

Hali wasn’t pleased with the playoff loss, wasn’t pleased when the Chiefs fired General Manager John Dorsey last month, and isn’t pleased now. With training camp about to open, the Chiefs have some issues with a star player.

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Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald won’t play in Hall of Fame Game

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The preseason is often a letdown, as fans get excited for the return of football only to watch a game featuring a bunch of third-string scrubs who will be bagging groceries by September. At least Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is warning you in advance.

Arians said today that he has decided not to play quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the Hall of Fame Game.

Although Arians said he does want to give his starters more preseason reps to have them up to speed for the start of the regular season, he doesn’t want to put too much on two of his most important players.

So when the Cardinals take the field against the Cowboys, Drew Stanton will get the start at quarterback. No word yet on whether Dak Prescott will suit up for Dallas, but suffice to say that if he does, he won’t play long. Nor will fans’ excitement for the return of football, once they remember what the preseason is all about.

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UNLV hires high-priced lawyer to assist with Raiders negotiation

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UNLV sees “no hurdles” in their negotiations with the Raiders for the new football stadium they’ll share, and they’ve hired a lawyer who charges $745  per hour to assist with the no hurdles that will be experienced.

Via the Las Vegas Sun, the school has hired Daniel Etna of Herrick Feinstein LLP to advise it through the process of working out a fair deal with the Raiders.

“Getting the best possible use agreement for UNLV will dictate its future in athletics,” University Regent Trevor Hayes said, via the Sun. “I support spending money to hire the best experts. Even if it costs $100,000, that equates to $3,333 per year for the 30-year life of the [lease]. A poor use agreement will put UNLV out of the Division I athletics business.”

The Raiders and UNLV are legally required to share the venue, which will be built with $750 million in taxpayer money. But it’s up to the Raiders and UNLV to negotiate the agreement, and the first draft proposed by the Raiders likely was slanted in favor of the side that wrote it. So they’ll go back and forth in order to work out a final deal, and UNLV can either do it by the seat of their pants or the school can rely on someone with the knowledge, experience, and skill to get the best possible deal.

Which the Raiders surely are already doing.

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