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First 2013 “Tryout Tuesday” gives 64 players a chance to shine

Willis McGahee AP

During the season, most teams give the players Tuesday off.  And so it’s on Tuesdays that most teams bring in other players to possibly replace guys who may get more than Tuesday off.

The first Tryout Tuesday happened (duh) on Tuesday, with 64 guys getting look-sees.

Here’s the full list, per a league source.

Cardinals:  tight end Brett Brackett, tight end Ryan Otten, receiver Raymond Radway.

Falcons:  receiver Lavelle Hawkins, receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, receiver Courtney Roby.

Bills:  defensive back Brandon Smith.

Panthers:  tight end Les Brown, tight end Colin Cochart, receiver Dominique Croom, guard Derek Dennis, guard Michael Jasper, quarterback G.J. Kinne, quarterback Nick Stephens, guard Jeremiah Warren.

Bengals:  linebacker Michael Boley, linebacker Maalik Bomar, linebacker Etienne Sabino.

Packers:  guard Bryant Browning, center Tyler Horn, guard Michael Huey.

Colts:  defensive back Jalil Brown, defensive back Mike Edwards, receiver Brandon Kaufman, running back Miguel Maysonet, running back William Powell.

Chiefs:  defensive tackle Marvin Austin, linebacker Alonzo Highsmith, guard Lance Louis, guard John Malecki, defensive tackle Jordan Miller, linebacker D.J. Smith, defensive tackle Christian Tupou.

Vikings:  defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, center Kevin Kowalski.

Giants:  linebacker Emmanuel Acho, linebacker Tavares Gooden, quarterback Mike Hermann, running back Brandon Jacobs, linebacker Aaron Maybin, running back Willis McGahee (pictured), running back George Winn.

Eagles:  Center David Molk.

Seahawks:  defensive back Akeem Auguste, linebacker Justin Cole, defensive end Hall Davis, tight end Kellen Davis, running back Dorin Dickerson, tight end Daniel Fells, receiver Ronald Johnson, defensive tackle Frank Okam, tight end Isaiah Stanback.

Buccaneers:  defensive back Crezdon Butler, defensive back Marshay Green, defensive back Tysyn Hartman, defensive back Tyrell Johnson, defensive back Tyler Sash, defensive back Justin Tryon, defensive back DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Titans:  tackle Jeff Adams, linebacker Jamar Chaney, linebacker LeRoy Hill, linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, tackle J.B. Shugarts.

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Blake Bortles worked to remake himself this offseason

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 28: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to pass in the pocket against the Houston Texans in the first quarter in a NFL game on December 28, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The reward for going 3-13 was the third pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but the Jaguars can’t even enjoy that after losing Dante Fowler to a torn ACL in his first minicamp practice.

So if they’re going to improve, they’re going to need more from last year’s third pick, quarterback Blake Bortles.

While it’s hard to tell if the cast around him has improved enough to make them better, Bortles himself is putting in the time to help himself.

Via Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union, Bortles is like many quarterbacks honing his craft with an off-site quarterback tutor. He’s working with a group in California including former Major League pitcher Tom House, who has worked with everybody from Tom Brady to Tim Tebow, to many in between.

This offseason, Blake did everything he could to improve his craft,” said Adam Dedeaux of 3DQB. “It’s not just about working hard, but smart, making sure everything you do has a purpose.

“Blake really worked smart this offseason. He now has a process that’s going to work for him to be successful, which is the main goal. His attention to detail, wanting to get better, his expectations of himself, are right there with the best. I know he’s taking that into training camp. The dude got after it.”

The group, which includes House, Dedeaux and former NFL quarterback John Beck spent two months working with Bortles on bio-mechanics, conditioning, nutrition and the mental game.

But Bortles is also physically different now, down from 250 pounds to 238, hopefully in better shape for his second season.

And while his offseason focus is no guarantee of success, for Jaguars fans, it’s what they have to cling onto at this point.

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No major changes expected in Steelers defensive scheme

Keith Butler AP

The Steelers kick off organized team activities this week and they’ll be getting to work without Dick LeBeau for the first time since 2003.

The longtime defensive coordinator is in Tennessee now, leaving longtime Steelers assistant Keith Butler in charge of the defense. This week’s work will be the first chance the Steelers have had to run team drills under Butler, but defensive end Cam Heyward said that no one should expect any radical differences from what the team ran with LeBeau calling the shots.

“I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” Heyward said, via the team’s website. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.”

Without any major schematic shifts to figure out, the Steelers should have plenty of time to focus on integrating young players into key roles on a defense that’s changed a lot of personnel of late. The team has drafted 10 defensive players over the last two years to replace departing veterans and they’ll need several of them to step up this year if the defense is going to make any meaningful rebound from last season.

 

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Report: Adrian Peterson still wants out of Minnesota

Peterson Getty Images

The agitation through his agent ended when the draft came and went without the Vikings trading running back Adrian Peterson. The motivation to no longer play for the team reportedly lingers.

According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, Peterson still wants out of Minnesota.

Per Robinson, Peterson will skip the entire offseason program, not just the first week of Organized Team Activities. Which means that Peterson will forfeit a $250,000 workout bonus.

The next question becomes whether he’ll skip a mandatory minicamp, which runs from June 16-18. If he doesn’t show, Peterson can be fined $12,155 for missing the first day, $24,300 for missing the second day, and $36,465 for missing the third day — a total of $72,920.

Given that he’ll already lose $250,000 by skipping voluntary workouts, what’s another $72,920? However, Peterson has been careful not to say or do anything that would directly indicate to the public that there’s a real problem, relying instead on the words of his agent and/or Peterson’s father, along with a stream of leaks to the media, with the latest coming from a “longtime Peterson confidant.” Failing to show up for mandatory minicamp would become the first tangible action from Peterson himself that a significant problem exists.

The news that Peterson still wants out is a bit of a surprise. The leaks regarding his desire to leave had ended with the draft. And agent Ben Dogra had openly accepted that the Vikings want to keep Peterson.

But Dogra also said he wants a “commitment to make him retire as a Viking.” Appearing earlier this month on PFT Live, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman declined to comment on any talks or efforts to upgrade Peterson’s contract, which currently carries no guaranteed money over the final three years. (As a practical matter, though, he’ll get his full salary of $12.75 million for 2015 if he’s on the roster as of Week One.)

It’s hard to reconcile Peterson’s desire to leave Minnesota with his desire to get more guaranteed money to stay. If he truly wants out, more guaranteed money shouldn’t matter. Robinson reports that it is a “far more personal issue” between player and team, and that it “has never been about the money.”

Which likely means it’s always been about the money.

Whether it’s about the money or not (it is), the Vikings aren’t about to trade him — absent an offer that would give them no choice but to do it. With the 2015 draft over, it will be harder for an interested team to pull it off.

Recently, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones mused that his desire to win now could induce him to give up a 2016 first-round pick to get the right player. While Jones wisely didn’t mention Peterson, who else would they need at this point? Still, it’s unlikely the Vikings would take only a 2016 first-round pick at this point.

And so the impasse about money or something other than money (money) will continue, until mandatory minicamp arrives and either Peterson accepts that the Vikings won’t be trading him or he calls the Vikings on their not-so-subtle “play for us or play for no one” stance and fails to show up.

The stakes are fairly high. With $12.75 million in base salary due for 2015 and $2.4 million in unearned signing bonus payable back to the Vikings, the $322,920 he’ll lose by not showing up for the offseason program or minicamp is the tip of a $15,472,920 iceberg.

So look for Peterson to eventually show up. At some point, he’ll work through the anger-denial-bargaining-depression and accept that he has no leverage here. The harder his agent, family, and/or unnamed confidants try to paint Peterson as a victim, the worse he’ll look.

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Monday morning one-liners

Emmanuel Sanders, Jason Verrett AP

A look at the Bills safeties heading into OTAs.

Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin of the team’s new wide receivers, “So the biggest thing from a coach’s seat is let’s get these guys out on the field, let’s get them as many reps as we possibly can, as many looks and as many different coverages as we can so we can prepare them to play fast and decisive.”

Patriots QB Tom Brady has a new dog.

Where does LB Lorenzo Mauldin fit on the Jets Defense?

Some questions for the Ravens to answer as OTAs get underway.

The Bengals have gone for two after touchdowns three times in the last four years.

Breaking down some storylines for the next phase of the Browns offseason.

C Maurkice Pouncey is becoming more of a leader for the younger Steelers.

Texans DE J.J. Watt took in what much of the world calls football during a visit to London.

Colts QB Andrew Luck was in attendance for the Indy 500.

Will RB Toby Gerhart make the Jaguars this season?

Titans CB Tre McBride comes from a military family.

Vance Walker brings versatility to the Broncos defensive line.

95-year-old Edward Burnham took part in a 5K run sponsored by the Chiefs.

DE Justin Tuck likes what he’s seen from Raiders rookie Mario Edwards Jr. thus far.

A closer look at Chargers CB Jason Verrett.

A scouting report on the Cowboys Offense.

Measuring the offseason improvement of the Giants.

WR Nelson Agholor says he feels comfortable doing anything the Eagles ask of him on offense.

What work do the Redskins need to do at cornerback?

The Bears need production from Jared Allen and Shea McClellin at linebacker.

Grading the Lions’ offseason moves.

Vonnie Holliday reminisces about playing next to Reggie White on the Packers defensive line.

Previewing the start of Vikings organized team activities.

The Falcons’ running back competition should be heating up.

Do the new PAT rules give the Panthers an edge?

A look at the Saints’ kicking competition.

The Buccaneers defensive coaches are more comfortable in their second season with Lovie Smith.

Cardinals CB Jerraud Powers thinks Justin Bethel will step into a bigger defensive role this season.

The Rams website takes a look at QB Sean Mannion.

Is LB Lance Briggs still a possibility for the 49ers?

The Seahawks expect more from CB Tharold Simon in 2015.

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Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl hopes could hinge on renovation deal

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 29:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer talks with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before Goodell announces a $1 million donation to the Tampa Bay YET Centers during a presss conference at Mort Park on January 29, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images) Getty Images

Technically speaking, Tampa is in the running for Super Bowls in 2019 and 2020.

But unless the Glazer family comes up with a plan (i.e. money) to upgrade Raymond James Stadium, those bids might not go anywhere in the face of new and renovated buildings elsewhere.

Via Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune,  the Buccaneers are “currently negotiating” with the Tampa Sports Authority and Hillsborough County officials on plans to refurbish the 17-year-old stadium. Team COO Brian Ford is described as “confident” those plans will materialize soon.

Without them, the Bucs may have a hard time landing the big game.

The NFL has long used Super Bowls as both carrot and stick to leverage new stadiums and upgrades to existing ones.

Atlanta figures to be a shoe-in for building a brand new retractable roof facility next to the Georgia Dome, and with Los Angeles entering the mix for a title game soon, competition is going to be tough. That’s why Dolphins owner Stephen Ross just poured in $400 million to improve Sun Life Stadium.

“We got invited this time because basically Mr. Ross committed to make all the renovations,’’ Rodney Barreto, the chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee said.

So unless the Glazers are willing to make (or find someone to make) a similar investment, it might be some time before the Super Bowl returns to Central Florida.

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Gary Kubiak sees NFL teams signing two-point specialists

Denver Broncos Introduce Gary Kubiak Getty Images

Does the NFL’s new rule moving extra point kicks back 13 yards make much of a difference to how teams assemble their rosters?

It does according to Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who sees NFL teams signing players specifically for their ability to score on two-point conversions.

“I think there [are] going to be two-point specialists from the standpoint of how you go about doing it. Coaching, those are things that you work on,” Kubiak said, via Lindsay Jones of USA Today. “You probably practice those things during camp. It’s not very much and, all of a sudden, it becomes part of the game. That’s a big part of practice. It’s going to change the way you go about doing things. I know that.”

The player most often named as a potential two-point specialist is Tim Tebow, whose presence on the Eagles’ roster has some thinking that Chip Kelly must have some two-point conversion tricks up his sleeve. But if Tebow had some great ability to score consistently from the 2-yard line, why was he out of the NFL for the last two years? The ability to score on two-point conversions and goal line plays has always been valuable in football. Moving the extra point back doesn’t make it much more valuable than it already was.

If the Eagles’ proposal to move two-point conversions up to the 1-yard line had passed, that would have caused a significant change: Some teams would have started to go for two as the “default” position, and those teams would have assembled their rosters with that plan in mind. But the reality is, a 33-yard extra point kick isn’t much harder for an NFL kicker than a 20-yard kick, and so teams aren’t going to go for two much more this year than they did last year. Those two-point conversion specialists may be coming to the NFL eventually, but only if the extra point rules change more in the future.

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Report: Adrian Peterson skipping start of Vikings OTAs

Peterson Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he had an idea when running back Adrian Peterson was going to show up for work.

At some point this week, someone can ask him if he knew it wasn’t going to be soon.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the less-than-gruntled running back won’t be on hand when the Vikings begin OTAs Tuesday.

The Vikings have said they weren’t interested in dealing Peterson, and with the draft come and gone, any realistic window for moving him is closed.

But now, the absences become costly for Peterson, who has a $250,000 workout bonus that hinges on his appearance at 90 percent of the team’s OTAs and minicamps.

Whether he shows up this week and in time to collect remains to be seen, but the current plan is for him to not be there Tuesday.

Of course, losing a quarter of a million is one thing for most of us, but Peterson’s set to make $13 million this year. So whether this is just posturing, it’s at least the latest sign he’s not happy in Minnesota.

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Rally to support Tom Brady draws about 150 people outside Gillette Stadium

Fans Attend "Free Tom Brady" Rally Getty Images

On Sunday, we learned something: if you hold a rally supporting a star quarterback suspended due to allegations of deflated footballs, they will come.

Approximately 150 people attended Sunday’s “Free Tom Brady” rally outside of Gillette Stadium, the Boston Globe reported, citing Foxborough, Mass. police for the crowd estimate.

Brady, the Patriots’ four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, has been banned for the first four regular season games of 2015 by the NFL. He is appealing.

The demonstration, per a Facebook page advertising the event, was intended to “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

According to media reports, the demonstration included a recently married couple that is not honeymooning in Bermuda in solidarity with with the Patriots after Brady’s four-game suspension.

“We want to be here to support our Patriots, and until that ban is lifted we’re not going on our honeymoon,” said Paul Goodrow of Watertown, Mass., according to the Boston Herald. “Our whole house is like a man cave.

“The NFL debacled this so-called Deflategate. It’s just ridiculous. It’s all because of fans from other states who hate us because they ain’t us. I believe that he is innocent. This is just a smear campaign against the Patriots.”

There was no indication any Patriots staff were present for the rally.

New England begins its organized team practice activities on Tuesday.

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All but one team will hold OTAs this week

The New England Patriots Workout In Foxborough, Mass. Getty Images

In less than four weeks, all NFL clubs will have wrapped up their organized offseason workouts.

Not surprisingly, then, the upcoming week will be a working one around the league.

Thirty-one of 32 NFL clubs will hold organized team practice activities (OTAs) between Tuesday, May 26 and Friday, May 29. Only the Rams will not be holding any club-overseen workouts this week.

OTAs are non-padded, non-hitting practices in which coaches can instruct players. Players can wear helmets, and full team drills are allowed, per the CBA between NFL teams and players.

The majority of clubs will have OTAs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before calling it a week. However, others will mix in a day off. The Patriots, for instance, are set to work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Here are the days in which teams will hold OTAs this week:

Arizona: Tuesday-Thursday.

Atlanta: Tuesday-Friday.

Baltimore: Tuesday-Thursday.

Buffalo: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Carolina: Tuesday-Thursday.

Chicago: Wednesday-Friday.

Cincinnati: Tuesday-Thursday.

Cleveland: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Dallas: Tuesday-Thursday.

Denver: Wednesday-Friday.

Detroit: Tuesday-Thursday.

Green Bay: Wednesday-Friday.

Houston: Tuesday-Thursday.

Indianapolis: Tuesday-Thursday.

Jacksonville: Tuesday-Thursday.

Kansas City: Tuesday-Thursday.

Miami: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Minnesota: Tuesday-Thursday.

New England: Tuesday; Thursday-Friday.

New Orleans: Tuesday-Thursday.

N.Y. Giants: Wednesday-Friday.

N.Y. Jets: Tuesday-Thursday.

Oakland: Tuesday-Thursday.

Philadelphia: Tuesday-Thursday.

Pittsburgh: Tuesday-Thursday.

St. Louis: None.

San Diego: Tuesday-Thursday.

San Francisco: Wednesday-Friday.

Seattle: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Tampa Bay: Tuesday-Thursday.

Tennessee: Tuesday-Thursday.

Washington: Tuesday-Thursday.

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Kris Durham worked out for Saints and Cowboys

Kris Durham, Dwayne Gratz AP

Veteran free agents trying to catch on with a team before the end of offseason work are running short on time, but they can be heartened by the fact that teams are still taking a look at who’s available on the open market.

Wide receiver Kris Durham was a guest on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi and said that he’s had workouts with both the Saints and Cowboys recently. Durham played for the Titans last season.

The Saints recently added Josh Morgan to their receiving corps and Drew Brees has talked up the chance to see Nick Toon and Seantavius Jones get more looks behind Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks during the 2015 season. Throw in Joe Morgan and Durham would likely have a tough route to playing time in New Orleans.

Dallas has a bit less depth with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley backed up by a group of players short on experience and Durham played for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in Detroit. Mickey Spagnola of the Cowboys website adds that the team also worked out former 49ers first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and reports there’s a good chance the team adds a “somewhat veteran” wideout in the coming weeks.

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Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman likely to split reps in Atlanta

devontafreeman AP

Steven Jackson is out after two years as the Falcons’ top running back. At the moment, the plan is for last year’s fourth-round pick and this year’s third-round pick to split the job of taking Jackson’s place.

Devonta Freeman, who had 65 carries for 248 yards as a rookie last year, and Tevin Coleman, a rookie from Indiana, will be in a two-back system with equal reps, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

Whether Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sticks with a two-back system throughout the season remains to be seen. Both Freeman and Coleman will get the opportunity to separate himself during training camp. But it will be an equal opportunity for both players.

It also remains to be seen what the Falcons will get out of Antone Smith, who played very well in limited action last season before breaking his leg. Smith has played very sparingly so far in his career, but when he has had the ball in his hands, he’s been fantastic: He has averaged 9.9 yards on 29 carries and 15.5 yards on 15 catches. A trio of Freeman, Coleman and Smith may make the Falcons better at running back without Jackson than they were with him.

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ESPN says NFL lawyers “recommend” Goodell handle Brady appeal

Lawyers

There’s apparently a little-known principle of journalism that goes like this: Fool me once, shame on me. Now fool me again!

Four months after allowing itself to provide the primary catalyst for #DeflateGate via a false report that sparked a frenzy, ESPN is currently helping to boost artificially the perception that there are no problems at all with the decision of Commissioner Roger Goodell to personally handle the appeal of the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Appearing as of this posting on the front page of ESPN’s NFL page is this headline: “Lawyers endorse Goodell hearing Brady appeal.” With no explanation of which lawyers to which the headline refers, it isn’t clear who exactly is endorsing the decision. Which prompted me to click on the story. Which made the link pretty good click bait.

So I clicked. And I was greeted with this headline: “Lawyers recommend Roger Goodell hear Tom Brady appeal.” Which is actually a little stronger than “endorse.” Which prompted me to read more than the headline, in order to find out who was doing the recommending.

Here are the first two sentences of the article: “Attorneys for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have recommended that Goodell reject the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension. While Goodell still could step aside as arbitrator, he would be doing so against the advice of his lawyers.”

Which apparently makes it all OK.

The article then says nothing more about who made the recommendation or why the recommendation was made or whether Goodell relied on the recommendation in making the decision to handle the appeal. It cites no sources, named or unnamed, for the report that Goodell’s lawyers made the recommendation, and it credits no reporter until the very end of the story, where it adds in italics, “ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In all, it looks and feels like an effort to artificially legitimize Goodell’s decision to handle the appeal to a potentially skeptical public. The clear takeaway isn’t that Goodell is intent on handling the appeal personally; it’s that the lawyers advised him to do it. So he’s not doing what he wants to do in order to ensure that he decides the matter in light of the broader business interests of the league or because he simply wants to control everything, he’s simply doing what the lawyers have told him to do.

Which apparently makes it all OK.

It’s a distinction without a difference, since: (1) the lawyers work for him and will be inclined to tell him what he wants to hear; and (2) the lawyers presumably are moving in lock step with Goodell on his intent to make the decision without deferring to anyone truly neutral and independent, who would then have the power to scuttle the findings and conclusions that Ted Wells charged the league millions of dollars to reach, possibly at the direct or indirect behest of the league.

As NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “The Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.” And that’s a common dynamic in American business. Lawyers routinely provide an “independent analysis” that gives credence and credibility to the thing the client wants to have credence and credibility when judged by someone else.

It’s still unclear whether that’s exactly what happened as to the findings of the Wells report. It’s very clear that’s what happened as to the “recommendation” that Goodell personally handle the Wells report. And it’s abundantly clear that ESPN has gone out of its way to help sell to the public the notion that the decision has a degree of credence and credibility that ultimately is meaningless — even though it was ESPN that undermined its own brand by passing along blatantly false information in the early days of #DeflateGate that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs measured at two full pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.

ESPN’s ongoing willingness to carry water for the league on this topic is surprising in light of the lie it was told. Then again, with hardly anyone wagging a finger at ESPN for allowing itself to be so grossly manipulated, it’s easy for ESPN to react to the situation like Kevin Bacon taking a paddle to the ass in Animal House.

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Lane Johnson puked his way through brutal offseason workouts

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson wasn’t interested in rest and relaxation this offseason.

Johnson spent five weeks early in the offseason doing a workout routine based around mixed martial arts principles and devised by Jay Glazer and former UFC champion Randy Couture. Johnson said it was the most brutal thing he has ever been through, but when it was time for Organized Team Activities to start, he surprised himself with how much he had improved.

“The first couple days, I was puking non-stop,” Johnson said. “It was terrible. Going into OTAs now, I’m in the best shape of my life. I notice now I’m a lot quicker with my hands and a lot stronger with my hands. I don’t have to really think about it. It comes naturally.”

Johnson thinks these workouts are going to take him to the next step in his career.

“I want to be elite at my position in the NFL, and I felt that this would help me get there,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of confidence about what’s ahead of me. I think I’m getting close to being elite. Last year was a big stepping stone from my rookie year and I just have to be more aggressive and more violent going into Year 3.”

If Johnson can develop into an elite offensive tackle, all that puke will be worth it.

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49ers want to “cause confusion” on defense this season

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Among the many changes to the 49ers this offseason is the decision to hand the reins of the defense to coordinator Eric Mangini after they parted ways with Vic Fangio.

Fangio has been followed out the door by linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Justin Smith and others from last year’s defense and the holdovers will be utilized in a different fashion by Mangini. Safety Antoine Bethea said that the defense is moving away from Fangio’s fairly straightforward approach as Mangini, whose move from tight ends coach back to defense may have confused some during the 49ers’ offseason upheaval, tries to keep offenses guessing about what the 49ers will do.

“Coach Mangini, his thing is we’re going to cause confusion,” Bethea said, via CSNBayArea.com. “The opposing offense isn’t going to know what we’re going to be able to do each down. It could be bringing the pressure. It could be dropping eight into coverage. But it’s just keeping the offense on their heels. However, you want to look at it, I think it’s going to be a good deal for our defense.”

Bethea said that “everybody has to know what everybody else is doing” in the defense, something that could cause some confusion for the 49ers if a team with shifting personnel doesn’t have things nailed down come the regular season. Bethea and coach Jim Tomsula both said that the team would use OTAs to see what new wrinkles work and which should be discarded when the team gets to training camp, but the end philosophical change offers more proof that 2015 is going to be about new directions for the 49ers.

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Army vet Daniel Rodriguez trying to make most of chance with Rams

Daniel Rodriguez AP

Memorial Day weekend has its fair share of gatherings around the grill, swimming in sunny weather and other fun, but none of that should get in the way of remembering that the holiday honors those who have given their lives in service to the country around the world.

Rams wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez doesn’t need that reminder. Rodriguez did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was wounded during the Battle of Kamdesh, while in the Army and his football career began with a promise to a friend who was killed in combat. Rodriguez went to community college, worked on his game and landed as a walk-on at Clemson.

“It was just one of those things where I felt that if I had any purpose in life, I needed to make sure that I kept my word to a friend, and live my life in a way that honored those who had died,” Rodriguez said, via the Rams website. “I needed to make sure that I represented myself well on behalf of my friends who were killed. And that was just trying to live through a promise.”

Rodriguez, who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for his service in Afghanistan, wasn’t drafted, but met with Rams personnel at the postseason Medal of Honor Bowl and his pro day and got an invite to try out at the rookie minicamp.

“When they invited me, I was like, ‘Heck yeah, I would love to try out. I’ve got nothing to lose,'” Rodriguez said. “They flew me out here and I thought I was only going to be here for a two-day trial. And they said I had a pretty good workout, made some plays, and they offered to have me stay. It was one of those things that I couldn’t really believe happened, and it was all a whirlwind. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had invitations to other minicamps down the road, and I was just trying to take advantage of every one. And this one was the first one and it stuck. Honestly, it was a blessing in disguise.”

Rodriguez has a long way to go to make the Rams’ 53-man roster, but he overcame long odds to get this far and it’s a safe bet that he’ll have plenty of people rooting for him to continue his stay in St. Louis well past this summer’s cutdown day.

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