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Haley will confirm but downplay hotel bar incident later today


Yes, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was in a hotel bar the night before the Steelers coordinated very little offense against the Titans.  Yes, the former Chiefs head coach signed a note that said, “Go STEELERS!  CHIEFS SUCK!!”

Per a league source, Haley will acknowledge those basic facts, which appeared Wednesday afternoon on Deadspin, during his weekly press conference with reporters.  Haley will meet with the media after Thursday’s practice.

The source says that Haley will explain that he and his family have been staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania while their house is being refurbished.  Haley will also explain that he and his wife went down to the bar after their five kids were asleep.

He’ll say that there were no incidents or problems, contrary to the information provided to Deadspin by a reader.  Per the source, Haley’s recollection of the exchange is that it was lighthearted, with no confrontation or arguments or improper comments.

It’s good that the Steelers aren’t hiding Haley from the media on this one, and we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his version of the events — even though it’s basically a he-said/she-said contradiction on the question of whether things got heated.

But heated exchanges could be coming if the Steelers continue to generate only garbage-time touchdowns.  And heated exchanges definitely will be coming the next time Haley sets foot in Arrowhead Stadium, either with the Steelers (who don’t play the Chiefs this year) or some other NFL team.

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Oddsmaker gives 49ers longest odds to win NFC West

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In the last three seasons, the 49ers have gone from first to second to third place in the four-team NFC West.

Perhaps, then, it is not a surprise to see San Francisco as the longest shot to win the NFC West in 2015 at one notable Nevada sports book.

As of Tuesday, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists the 49ers as 9-to-1 to capture the West. The Cardinals and Rams are given 13-2 chances to win the division behind Seattle, which is an overwhelming favorite at 2-to-7.

The 49ers’ odds seem to reflect the team’s sharp fade at the end of 2014. The club also took a perception hit after the departure of head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was 49-22-1 in four seasons in San Francisco.

While the 49ers are the biggest price to win the NFC West, they are the shortest-priced longest shots in any division, with the Browns (10-to-1), Bears (12-to-1), Jets (12-to-1), Buccaneers (12-to-1), Washington (15-to-1), Jaguars (20-to-1), Titans (25-to-1) and Raiders (25-to-1) all having higher odds.

Here are the SuperBook’s division-winning odds for all 32 teams:

AFC East: Patriots 4-to-9; Dolphins 4-to-1; Bills 5-to-1; Jets 12-to-1.

AFC North: Ravens 8-to-5; Steelers 2-to-1; Bengals 2-to-1; Browns 10-to-1.

AFC South: Colts 1-to-5; Texans 7-to-2; Jaguars 20-to-1; Titans 25-to-1.

AFC West: Broncos 5-to-12; Chiefs 7-to-2; Chargers 9-to-2; Raiders 25-to-1.

NFC East: Cowboys 13-to-10; Eagles 3-to-2; Giants 3-to-1; Washington 15-to-1.

NFC North: Packers 2-to-7; Lions 9-to-2; Vikings 8-to-1; Bears 12-to-1.

NFC South: Panthers 9-to-5; Saints 9-to-5; Falcons 9-to-5; Buccaneers 12-to-1.

NFC West: Seahawks 2-to-7; Cardinals 13-to-2; Rams 13-to-2; 49ers 9-to-1.

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Who will be the 2015 NFL offensive rookie of the year?


Now that the draft has ended, we can start focusing on which of the players will be any good.  Especially those players who will end up generating a lot of yards and scoring a lot of points.

The poll question for Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN focuses on which rookie will become the 2015 NFL offensive rookie of the year.

Cast a vote now, and then tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET to see the results.  Along with everything else we’ll be talking about, with the involvement of Paul Burmeister, Ross Tucker, and Jason Taylor.

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Cardinals sign 14 undrafted free agents

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The unexpected retirement of tight end John Carlson might have caught the Cardinals unaware on Tuesday, but they didn’t have to wait long to fill his roster spot.

The team announced the signing of 14 undrafted rookies to round out their roster for the rest of offseason and training camp. They also announced that cornerback Roc Carmichael and running back Zach Bauman have been released.

Among the new additions is wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, who followed in his brother Jordan’s footsteps as a productive wideout at the University of Texas. Like his brother, he’s also best suited for the slot on offense and has experience as a returner.

The rest of the new Cardinals are Adams State cornerback Cariel Brooks, N.C. State tackle Rob Crisp, BYU linebacker Alani Fua, Shippensburg wide receiver Trevor Harman, Georgia Southern linebacker Edwin Jackson, Florida Atlantic linebacker Andrae Kirk, BYU running back Paul Lasike, Bowling Green linebacker Gabe Martin, Iowa wide receiver Damond Powell, Colorado State-Pueblo cornerback C.J. Roberts, Missouri State tight end Gannon Sinclair, Montana linebacker Zack Wagenmann and Northern Iowa nose tackle Xavier Williams.

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Mike Wallace: Nobody in the NFL can run with me

Mike Wallace, Harrison Smith AP

Speed has long been Vikings wide receiver Mike Wallace’s calling card, although it was hard to tell at times in Miami.

Whether because of scheme, chemistry with Ryan Tannehill or something else, Wallace wasn’t the deep threat for the Dolphins that he was earlier in his career with the Steelers. On Tuesday, Wallace made it clear that he doesn’t think it was because the league has caught up to his fleet feet.

“Without a doubt, I’m the fastest player in the NFL,’’ Wallace said, via the Pioneer Press. “If somebody feels foggy about that, we can (race). I’m never going to back down from competition. “I’ve run a lot of routes and I’ve got a lot of miles on my legs, but I still feel that there’s nobody (in the NFL) who can run with me. I might have slowed down a little but I could still run 4.25.”

Wallace didn’t point the finger at Tannehill, saying that there were things that both he and his Dolphins teammates could have done better over the last two years. He also said that “when you separate, you still have to connect” and that he’s “positive” he’ll be able to “showcase” his ability to get free of defenders in Minnesota.

The Vikings likely have the same optimism after trading for Wallace and planting him at the top of their receiver depth chart this offseason. If they’re right, the offense in Minnesota should be more explosive this time around.

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Panthers hire Russ Purnell to fill in for Bruce DeHaven during leave

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The Panthers suffered a football and a personal blow Tuesday, with the news that special teams coach Bruce DeHaven was taking a medical leave of absence.

But they’ve also lined up someone to fill his role until he’s ready to return.

The team confirmed the news of DeHaven’s undisclosed illness, but offered no other details.

“Our thoughts are with Bruce and his family, and we wish him a quick recovery,” coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “Out of respect for Bruce and his family’s privacy, no additional information will be disclosed.”

They also announced that Russ Purnell would coach their special teams while DeHaven was out.

Purnell has 26 years of NFL experience, with the Seahawks, Oilers, Ravens, Colts and Jaguars, with a pair of Super Bowl rings with Indianapolis in 2006 and Baltimore in 2000.

He’s been out of coaching since working in the UFL in 2012.

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Quarterback, five WRs among 49ers’ undrafted free agents

Dylan Thompson AP

Though the 49ers did not draft a quarterback, they have added a rookie free agent at the position.

San Francisco has signed South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson, the team said Tuesday. Thompson is the lone quarterback among the 49ers’ nine undrafted free agent signees.

Thompson (6-3, 218) connected on about 60 percent of his pass attempts in 2014, throwing for 3,564 yards with 26 TDs and 11 interceptions. Thompson and Blaine Gabbert are the lone backups to Colin Kaepernick on the San Francisco roster.

Of the 49ers’ other eight undrafted free agents, five are wide receivers: Dres Anderson (Utah), Isaac Blakeney (Duke), DiAndre Campbell (Washington), Darius Davis (Henderson State) and DeAndrew White (Alabama).

Other undrafted free agents signed were Auburn offensive lineman Patrick Miller and Michigan State defensive lineman Marcus Rush.

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Nate Solder keeping focus on football after cancer treatment

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Patriots left tackle Nate Solder didn’t go public with a diagnosis of testicular cancer last season, choosing to have surgery before returning to the field to help the Patriots to a Super Bowl title.

Solder has since revealed how he dealt with the disease and urged men to be vigilant about their health, a message he repeated while talking to the media at the Patriots’ facility on Tuesday. Solder offered thanks for the support he got from team officials, his teammates and his doctors during an experience that he said “changes your perspective a little bit.”

Solder was able to concentrate on football last year and he said he’ll be able to do the same this year despite an expiring contract. Solder said he wants to remain in New England, but said he won’t be stressing about his deal.

“Who knows what will happen? My approach with that too is just to do the best that I can while I’€™m here. You have to [live in the present] there’€™s too many unknowns,” Solder said, via

Solder has been a fixture up front for the Patriots since arriving in the first round of the 2012 draft so you’d expect the team to have interest in an extension that allows him to continue in that role for a few more years.

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Teams can’t meet with La’el Collins, yet

Collins Getty Images

As the pursuit of LSU tackle La’El Collins commences, there’s a problem. The pursuit of him can’t commence yet, and least not in certain ways.

“Clubs are prohibited from visiting a player who was eligible for the 2015 Draft at his campus or residence if the player has withdrawn from school and final exams have yet to conclude at the school,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email. “This includes drafted players, any undrafted players that have signed as free agents, and any undrafted players that have yet to sign.”

Collins has withdrawn from LSU, and final exams have not concluded there yet. (Finals are happening this week.)  So teams can’t visit a player at his campus or residence.

There’s possibly a loophole in the rule, if for example Bills coach Rex Ryan met with Collins not on campus or at his residence but at a local Applebee’s. But that seems to be too easy of a fix to be permitted.

Regardless, LSU finals are scheduled to last until May 9. Until then, restrictions apply to the direct efforts to recruit Collins.  Which would explain his agent’s recent statement that Collins won’t be meeting with any teams at this time.

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Agent: La’el Collins not meeting with teams at this time

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La’El Collins met with the Baton Rouge police department on Monday regarding their investigation into the shooting deaths of his former girlfriend and her newborn child and the police said he cooperated fully and is not a suspect in the case.

That has been the case since the first reports of police interest in speaking to Collins regarding the murders, although Collins went undrafted last week because of the uncertainty about the situation. Collins is therefore free to sign with any team and there appears to be interest, but Collins’s agent Deryk Gilmore told the Associated Press that he’s not taking any meetings with teams “at this time.”

Gilmore’s statement seems to refer to official meetings with teams because Collins has had contact with a couple of clubs. Collins met with Bills coach Rex Ryan on Monday night and LSU alums that played for the Dolphins are doing some recruiting of their fellow Tiger, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the team is “not ready to send any team officials” at this point.

With limitations about the deal teams can offer Collins as a free agent, fit and comfort will likely be important to Collins’s ultimate decision about where to sign. Assuming, of course, that things progress to a point that he is cleared and signs with one of the teams considering the move.

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Dolphins giving cancer survivor Arthur Ray Jr. a tryout

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In other news, the Dolphins are giving a chance to a player everyone can feel good about.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, the Dolphins have extended an offer for a cancer survivor to try out at their rookie minicamp.

Fort Lewis College offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr., who nearly lost his left leg to bone cancer, will be on the field when the Dolphins convene this weekend.

Ray was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, shortly after committing to Michigan State. After a three-year treatment and multiple surgeries, he returned to football in 2011. He ultimately transferred to the Division II school in Colorado to get more playing time. He worked out for scouts at Northwestern’s pro day, and drew enough attention to merit a look.

“First and foremost, I want to thank the Miami Dolphins organization for believing in me, and allowing me this opportunity,” Ray said. “Words can’t express how this feels to have this shot. I want to thank my agent Paul [Sheehy] and everyone who has supported and been in my corner.

“Since Day 1 I prayed for an opportunity like this and God blessed it to me. I’m just ecstatic for me and my family. I’m ready to work, prove my abilities on the football field and show everyone anything is possible.”

Ray is still very much a longshot, as he’d have to stand out in a crowded field just for a chance to be one of the 90 guys the team takes to training camp.

But at a time when there are so many other less-comforting stories about guys getting second chances, having one like Ray’s is a welcome relief.

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Cardinals TE John Carlson retires

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One of the Cardinals’ primary tight ends has decided to call it a career.

John Carlson, who started 12 games for Arizona last season, has announced his retirement, Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ website reports.

A Notre Dame product, the 30-year-old Carlson has caught 210 passes for 2,256 yards and 15 touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2008 with Seattle. After four seasons with the Seahawks, Carlson played two years with Minnesota (2012-2013) before moving on to Arizona.

Carlson’s retirement leaves second-year pro Troy Niklas as Arizona’s No. 1 option at tight end, with veterans Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and rookie Gerald Christian also in the mix.

Jermaine Gresham is the top unsigned tight end, but he is coming off back surgery. Ex-Seahawks tight end Zach Miller is also a free agent.

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Dolphins send former LSU teammates to recruit La’el Collins

La'El Collins AP

Three players on the Dolphins were teammates of La’El Collins at LSU, and they’re being pressed into service to try to recruit him to come to Miami.

Collins, a first-round talent who went undrafted after police said they wanted to question him in connection with the death of his ex-girlfriend, will be the most sought-after undrafted free agent in history if he is exonerated of the crime. Police have said he is not a suspect.

For the Dolphins, the effort to bring Collins into the fold has taken on the feel of a college recruiting visit. According to FOX 8 in New Orleans, not only is Dolphins coach Joe Philbin traveling to see Collins, but so are former LSU teammates Jarvis Landry, Anthony Johnson and Kelvin Sheppard.

NFL teams are limited in the financial offers they can make to undrafted rookies, which means there’s no way for Collins to make the kind of money on his rookie contract that he would have made as a first-round pick. But several teams are expected to offer Collins as much as the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows them to offer undrafted rookies, and so Collins will have multiple contracts to choose from, assuming he is exonerated.

As he chooses among those multiple offers, it may be a simple matter of Collins wanting to go to the team that feels the most like home. And the Dolphins are trying to make him feel like he’ll be comfortable in Miami.

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Veteran assistant Bruce DeHaven taking medical leave from Panthers

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The Panthers made a coaching change to help their special teams this offseason, and unfortunately, they’re going to have to make another one.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, veteran special teams coach Bruce DeHaven is “currently taking some time away from the team” to deal with an undisclosed medical issue. The team is expected to hire another special teams coach, though they’re hoping DeHaven is able to return later as an assistant.

The 66-year-old DeHaven, who has also coached the Bills, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks, was promoted to the top job this year after the Panthers re-assigned special teams coach Richard Rodgers.

The Panthers were the league’s second-worst special teams unit in the comprehensive Dallas Morning News rankings, and allowed four special teams touchdowns last season.

But in addition to making the coaching change, the Panthers also went out and signed a number of players to help bolster their coverage-and-return game, which should also help.

Hopefully, DeHaven is able to make a full recovery and get back to work, but that work is by far not the priority at the moment.

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Randy Gregory: “I don’t think it’s a weed problem”

NFL Draft Football AP

Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory admits he has problems.

He just doesn’t think marijuana is one of them.

That’s what Gregory said during an ESPN Radio interview, adding that it was his immaturity and stubbornness that were the bigger issues.

“That’s something I’ve definitely been working on and something I can definitely fix,” Gregory said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I’m 22 years old but I think I carry myself real well and I think I need to carry myself a little bit better as far as decision making goes. I think a lot of people are getting tied up in the weed and think it’s just a weed problem. I don’t think it’s a weed problem. I think it’s decision-making. I think I’m immature. I’m definitely working on that. I want to prove everyone wrong and I want to do it with this team. I think this is the best team I can do that with.”

Gregory failed a test for marijuana at the Scouting Combine, but said he hasn’t smoked since then.

“I haven’t touched it,” he said. “I’m feeling real good, too. This is a high in itself, to be honest. I’m high on life right now, and I don’t want to lose this high.”

What he lost was several million dollars, the difference between being a first-round pick (perhaps top 10) and a late second-rounder. And he lost it not necessarily because of marijuana, but because of his inability to recognize the fact he was about to take a marijuana test at a time when he had plenty of people around him who knew it was coming if he didn’t.

So maybe it wasn’t marijuana itself, it was his inability to recognize the priority he was placing on marijuana in relation to a job interview.

And that’s not immaturity, that’s irresponsibility. If not stupidity.

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Report: Bears part ways with college scouting director Marty Barrett

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When Ryan Pace took over as the Bears General Manager, the team made a couple of changes in their personnel department but Pace said they would be reviewing the rest of the holdovers from the Phil Emery regime and beyond after the draft.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that their review has led to a change at college scouting director. Biggs reports that Marty Barrett will not be back in that job for the 2015 season.

2014 was Barrett’s third year in that job and he’d been with the Bears organization since 1997 as a scout. Teams often hold onto members of their scouting staff through the draft when they make a change at the top of the hierarchy and then make changes after their work on the year’s rookie class is complete. The Jets and Eagles made similar changes this week and there could be more to come as organizations set their rolls for the coming year.

The Bears previously parted ways with pro personnel director Kevin Turks and released Rex Hogan from his contract to become the college scouting director for the Jets. That could be a landing spot for Barrett now that they’ve opened some spots in Jersey.

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