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Julio Jones returns to practice for Falcons

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A day after practicing without both their star wide receivers, the Falcons got half of them back Thursday.

Roddy White was again held out of practice because of his high ankle sprain, but Julio Jones returned to work after being added to the injury report with a knee injury, according to the injury report submitted by the team.

Jones was listed as being limited in practice Thursday, but if he’s back at all after a day off it’s a good sign he’s pointed in the right direction.

Left tackle Sam Baker and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux were also held out of practice for the second straight day.

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Sean Payton: Joe Morgan “deserved” another chance with team

Joe Morgan AP

Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan had issues on and off the field before he was released last season, but Saints coach Sean Payton said he thought Morgan “deserved” a chance to come back.

Since the post-draft press conference was the first chance for Payton to address it since Morgan was re-signed in April, the Saints coach said Morgan “took a number of initiatives to do some things to work on getting an opportunity to come back.”

It was a handful of things that were really just between us and the player,” Payton added, via Mike Triplett of

Morgan flashed talent, but had just five touches last year (including a 67-yard rush). But he  was also a headache, as he was suspended two games early last year for undisclosed reasons, and then cut late in the season. He was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving in 2013 as well.

“We had a long visit with him, sat down and spent some time with him,” Payton said. “He’s someone that I feel like I know real well, and I know Mickey [Loomis] feels the same way. And we felt comfortable with bringing him back on the roster. He’s someone that’s really developed.

“We’ve got a lot of time on task with Joe as a receiver, and I feel like we’ve got a lot of time on task with him as a person.”

You’d think he’d have a better opportunity to hang around this year, after the Saints got rid of Kenny Stills, and didn’t make any significant adds in free agency or the draft.

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Bucs don’t pick up Doug Martin option

Martin Getty Images

Three years ago, the man dubbed the Muscle Hamster became one of the hot young players in the NFL.  Now, running back Doug Martin is just another guy.

The Buccaneers have confirmed that notion by not picking up Martin’s fifth-year option, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

Martin rushed for 1,454 yards in 16 starts as a rookie, but he has been under 500 yards in each of his two seasons since then.  His average also has plunged from 4.6 yards per attempt in 2012 to 3.6 and 3.7 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Martin was the subject of trade rumors last year, before an ankle injury right before the trade deadline.

The Buccaneers drafted no running backs in 2015, but that they also have Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey, and Mike James under contract.

With Martin now in a contract year, maybe he’ll become the Muscle Hamster again.  That approach definitely worked in 2014 for the Saints and Mark Ingram.

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As expected, Charles Haley endorses Cowboys pick Randy Gregory

Charles Haley AP

The Cowboys keep signing or picking talented-but-troubled pass-rushers, using Charles Haley as justification.

So it stands to reason that Haley himself would endorse the moves.

As he did when the Cowboys signed free agent Greg Hardy, the Hall of Fame defensive end said he thought using a second-rounder on Nebraska’s Randy Gregory was a good move.

Haley was in Chicago for the draft, and said he’s already met Gregory, and told him he’d be there for support and counsel.

“He’s got an owner that’s not only going to stand with him, but stand in front of him and take some of the blows,” Haley said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “And Jerry [Jones] is not alone. He has a family of ex-players that love the Dallas Cowboys and are willing to come back and help.”

Haley, who struggled with his own demons as a player, said getting a player of Gregory’s caliber at that point in the draft was incredible value.

“The film that I saw, hey, the guy can get it done,” Haley said. “I just can’t believe that they got him in the second round. The Cowboys got a steal. You can’t have enough pass rushers.

“The guy should come in with a chip on his shoulder from being a second-rounder. Just like a lot of those guys that got drafted later, you come here with an attitude ready to work, because most guys come in as a first rounder and they think they already got it. He’s got something to prove. . . .

“The best pass rushers are those that don’t have fear. When I watched this kid play, he’s not afraid to stick his nose in there. He’s not afraid to be great.”

The playing part isn’t what they’re worried about, however. Keeping him eligible, and keeping him focused on football is the job, and that’s something Haley could certainly teach the kid if he’s willing to listen.

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Washington takes a flier on Connor Halliday

Halliday AP

Good news, Robert Griffin III — your team didn’t draft a quarterback.  Bad news (possibly), Robert Griffin III — your team may have nevertheless added your eventual replacement.

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, whose final college season was marred by a broken ankle, has agreed to terms with Washington after going undrafted, PFT has confirmed.

G.M. Scot McCloughan attended Halliday’s Pro Day workout last month, making clear the team’s interest in the man who threw a whopping 714 in 13 games during the 2013 season.  That’s an average of more than 54 passes per game.

Often described as a “system” quarterback, Halliday now has a chance to learn coach Jay Gruden’s system.  If Robert Griffin III doesn’t, maybe Halliday eventually gets a chance to throw something less than 54 passes per game in the NFL.

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Monday morning one-liners

John Fox AP

Former Bills P Brian Moorman has built a foundation that helps families grieving after the loss of a child.

The Dolphins got younger during the draft, but did they get better?

What position battles loom for the Patriots after the draft?

A good review of Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan’s first draft.

Cornerback remains an area of need for the Ravens.

Running through the best and worst of the Bengals draft.

Did the Browns draft decisions show commitment to QB Johnny Manziel?

The Steelers are looking to linebacker for the foundation of their defense.

WR Jaelen Strong will wear No. 11 with the Texans to remind him that 10 receivers were drafted before he came off the board.

There should be a lot of competition at receiver with the Colts.

A dive inside the Jaguars’ draft process.

Titans QB Marcus Mariota isn’t too nice, according to Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost.

The Broncos addressed their offensive line needs over the weekend.

Mitch Morse could be the starting center for the Chiefs as a rookie.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio called third-round pick Clive Walford “a complete tight end.”

CB Craig Mager had to deal with a lot of loss on his way to becoming a Chargers third-round pick.

The Cowboys passed on quarterbacks for another draft.

Giants S Landon Collins is primed to prove doubters wrong after dropping to the second round.

The Eagles opted not to draft any offensive linemen.

Five veteran Redskins who will be pushed by rookie arrivals.

Bears coach John Fox was fine with a draft class that focused on offensive help.

The Lions are showing they’re serious about boosting their run game.

LB Jake Ryan hopes to make an immediate impression on the Packers.

One of T T.J. Clemmings’s coaches from Pitt thinks the Vikings got a steal when they took him in the fourth round.

The Falcons waived TE Kyle Miller, who was on their practice squad last year.

A Panthers fan group is expanding nationwide.

A review of the reviews of the Saints’ work in the draft.

The new members of the Buccaneers will get their first work with the team during minicamp.

Said Cardinals T D.J. Humphries, “My pride won’t let me be a bust. I’m a pretty prideful guy and I want to be the best. And that’s all I ever wanted to be.”

The Rams appear set to have a callow offensive line group in 2015.

It looks like size mattered to the 49ers in the draft.

The Seahawks will be trying sixth-round pick Kristjan Sokoli at center during their rookie minicamp.

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Patriots long snapper unsure if Navy will let him join team

Reese's Senior Bowl Getty Images

If there was a perfectly Bill Belichick pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, it was when he used a fifth-rounder on Navy long snapper Joe Cardona.

Now, they just have to see when he’s able to join them.

Picking a specialist with ties to his father’s old school (who also plays lacrosse) checks off a lot of Belichick boxes, but Cardona said he’s not sure when he’ll be cleared to join the team because of the service commitment that comes with his degree.

The decision is out of my hands,” Cardona said, via Adam Kurkjian of the Boston Herald. “Right now I’m prepared to be the best football player I can be for the New England Patriots and the best naval officer I can be. Whatever duty I’m doing at the time, I’m doing it. I’m just prepared to do my best.”

Cardona’s the first Navy graduate to be drafted since the Packers took Bob Kuberski in the seventh round of the 1993 draft. Three others, tackle Max Lane (sixth round, 1994), tight end Kevin Hickman (Detroit Lions, sixth round, 1995) and offensive lineman Mike Wahle (Packers, second round of supplemental draft, 1998) did not graduate from the Academy.

Kuberski served two years in the Navy before joining the Packers. The Patriots also signed former Navy running back Eric Kettani as an undrafted rookie in 2009. He made their practice squad in 2011, but was recalled by the Navy, before bouncing through stops in Washington, Kansas City and Jacksonville.

Of course, Roger Staubach served a five-year commitment after being chosen by the Cowboys in the 1964 draft, eventually joining the team in 1969.

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Bruce Irvin vents over non-exercise of fifth-year option

Bruce Irvin AP

The Seahawks “expect” to have linebacker Bruce Irvin on the team for a long time, but they won’t be ensuring a fifth year at this point via the exercise of the automatic option that would extend his rookie deal.  And while coach Pete Carroll said over the weekend that he met with Irvin to explain the situation and it “went very well,” it didn’t go as well last night on Twitter.

“Faced way tougher adversity getting outta them streets coming up!” Irvin said on Twitter, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.  “That’s sh-t is nothing!  F–K THAT OPTION!”

He also declared, “I am a Seahawk!”  And he expressed a desire to prove his worth.

“Worked for everything I got in my life this sh-t will b no different!” Irvin said.  “I earns my keeps!”

Irvin later apologized, sort of.

“I’m a very blunt person and that won’t ever change sorry if u dislike it,” he said.

Players prefer (or at least should prefer) not to have their fifth-year option exercised, since it means they’ll have a shot at free agency a year sooner — and a chance to gauge their value on the open market.  The Seahawks apparently believe that, come 2016, Irvin won’t be worth the $7.8 million he was due to earn under the option.

On the other hand, the decision not to pick up a player’s option represents a commentary on the player’s perceived worth, which will tend to create some ruffled feathers in the short term.

The Seahawks have not formally announced that Irvin’s option won’t be exercised.  Based on Irvin’s tweets following his meeting with Carroll, it apparently hasn’t been.

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Garrett on Hardy: Distinguish yourself with play, not what you say

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

When someone on Twitter referred to Panthers receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess as the Twin Towers, Cowboys defensive end and former Panther Greg Hardy angered some people when he responded by saying “didn’t the twin towers get blown up lol.”

Hardy apologized the next day for mentioning “an event where no reference 2humor is ever ok” and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also weighed in over the weekend when asked about Hardy’s comment. Garrett said that social media use is something that the team talks to players about and that they try to illustrate how to use it the right way.

“We try to emphasize that to our guys. ‘Distinguish yourself with your play, not with what you say,’ is something we talk about all the time,” Garrett said, via “That’s just another medium that we have to address. Some guys just need reinforcement one way or the other when they reach out and do some of those things. It’s all a learning process. None of us are perfect so we’re just trying to address it as these things come up. I think in general we have a policy of just use good restraint when you’re involved in all that kind of stuff. Think about the implication of your words.”

It looks like the Cowboys may not need to worry about Hardy on Twitter any longer as he tweeted an apparent farewell to his followers on Sunday night.

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Brandon Carr: I’m here until I’m told otherwise

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers AP

The Cowboys took cornerback Byron Jones with their first round pick last Thursday, a move that came after several weeks of speculation about whether the team would try to get veteran corner Brandon Carr to take a pay cut from his scheduled $8 million salary.

Carr’s agent has said that his client won’t take a pay cut to remain in Dallas, but the cornerback himself was less forthcoming over the weekend. Carr said that his contract falls into the category of things he won’t discuss in public, adding that he is looking forward to working with Jones and that he doesn’t relate the rookie’s arrival to his contract situation.

“I say we’ve got a young guy, drafted a guy, a defensive back and they thought highly of him,” Carr said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I’m looking forward to having him in the room with us and grooming him to get ready to play. I’m still here. I’m here until told otherwise. That’s my philosophy. At the end of the day, if I’m playing football then I’m going to give my all for whoever I’m playing for.”

Ultimately, any decision about a pay cut is going to come down to whether Carr and his camp believe that they can sign elsewhere for more money than the Cowboys are offering him for the coming season. At this point in the offseason, there aren’t a lot of teams looking to splash cash on veteran free agents and that may wind up playing into Dallas’s hands if things come to a head in the coming days or weeks.

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Browns to DeVante Parker’s mom: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah

DeVante Parker AP

New Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker was relieved that the Browns decided to pass on him at No. 12.

Or at least his mother was.

We didn’t want him going to Cleveland,” Raneca Parker told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, after the Dolphins took him with the 14th pick. “They don’t have a team, really, or a quarterback. I knew I didn’t want the Cleveland Browns.

“I know the teams the teams he could go to and the teams he couldn’t go to. We were happy with the Miami Dolphins. He was very ecstatic. We’re happy, we love the weather.”

As much as that might sting, the Browns replied, albeit indirectly, that they didn’t like Parker either.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns passed on him because “they felt he wasn’t tough enough and didn’t love the game enough.”

At least DeVante knows his mother loves him and — since he’s a receiver who might need a quarterback some day — has his best interests at heart.

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Raiders will release James Jones

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The Raiders took a late dip into free agency to sign Michael Crabtree and then they added Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick of the draft, a pair of moves that appear to have convinced the team to move on from James Jones.

Jones told Fallon Smith of CSN Bay Area that Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie informed him that the Raiders were going to release him after one year with the team.

That one year was the first year of a three-year deal and Jones caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns during his season in Oakland. That paltry average yards per catch speaks to Jones’s difficulty creating separation from opposing defenses last season and the two new arrivals plus the expected return of Rod Streater didn’t promise much playing time in 2015.

Jones was due to make $3.4 million in 2015 and his departure leaves no dead money on the cap. He’s the latest 2014 acquisition to leave the team after one season, joining Antonio Smith, Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Schaub and LaMarr Woodley as short-term members of the organization.

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Jameis Winston’s contract precludes him playing baseball

Jameis AP

The Buccaneers went ahead and took one potential distraction out of the way, signing top pick Jameis Winston to his rookie contract before the rest of the draft was over.

And in doing so, they eliminated another potential distraction.

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the contract contains a clause prohibiting Winston from playing professional baseball during the length of the deal.

While that should be an easy call, Winston created some concern in Bucs officials by expressing his desire to at least consider playing baseball at some point, saying “It has always been my dream, but I’m just playing football right now.”

That could easily be read as a lack of focus, and it was a concern to Bucs officials. They texted Winston and spoke to him after the comments became public, telling him that wasn’t OK with them if they were making him the top pick in the draft. Winston told them he understood, but was just speaking honestly and loved baseball.

But as with so many other things, the Buccaneers worked to eliminate distractions, so their No. 1 overall pick can do what he does best.

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Browns confident Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will get healthy

ifoekpreolomu AP

Heading into his senior season at Oregon, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was viewed as a likely first-round draft pick. But Ekpre-Olomu suffered a torn ACL in December, and his draft stock plummeted.

The Browns selected Ekpre-Olomu in the seventh round, and they think they got a steal. General Manager Ray Farmer said the Browns’ medical staff believes Ekpre-Olomu’s injury, while severe, is one that he can fully recover from.

“We felt like we were getting the right kind of guy that we knew had talent,” Farmer said. “He suffered an unfortunate injury. We are confident he will get healthy.”

The Browns will take it slow with Ekpre-Olomu, and it’s possible that he won’t play at all as a rookie. But if things go well, the Browns may add a first-round talent to their defense in 2016, at the minor cost of a seventh-round pick in 2015.

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Irsay increases the pressure on his employees


Colts owner Jim Irsay recently said that it’s not “Super Bowl or bust” for coach Chuck Pagano.

More recent remarks from Irsay suggest that it eventually will be, for Pagano and everyone else.

“In the Andrew Luck era, we would like to win at least two World Championships,” Irsay said Saturday.

He’d also like to win two titles consecutively.

“When you look at that, we look at how do we build this roster over the next three years to really be able to go on a run where you can win two Super Bowls in a row, when you can really be dominant,” Irsay said.  “Again, that’s working on all phases of the ball.”

It’s hard enough to win one Super Bowl; it’s significantly harder to win two in a row.  But it’s no surprise that Irsay is reminding his employees of the high bar that has been set for the franchise.  Irsay declared in 2013 that, in parting ways with Peyton Manning, Irsay chose championships over stats.

At some point the championships need to show up.  If they don’t, pretty much everyone on the payroll but Andrew Luck will be at risk.

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Carroll says ball currently is in Wilson’s court

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Here’s an item that was largely overlooked in the aftermath of the 2015 NFL draft — the player selected with the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL draft is no closer to a new deal.

In an interview with ESPN, Carroll said that talks with quarterback Russell Wilson are “going a little slow,” but that the process is “ongoing,” via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

As it relates to the formal exchange of offers and counteroffers, it won’t be going anywhere until Wilson’s camp responds to whatever Seattle most recently put on the table.  Carroll specifically said that the team is “waiting to hear from their side.”

Condotta notes that, shortly after Carroll’s interview, Wilson responded with this message on Twitter:  “I’d rather patiently wait & see what God has in store than do something that isn’t best for my life.”

That sounds like Wilson may not be responding any time soon, if at all.  It possibly means Wilson will decide to play out his contract, forcing the Seahawks to decide whether to apply the exclusive or non-exclusive version of the franchise tag.  The exclusive version would cost upwards of $25 million for 2016 (and nearly $100 million on a year-to-year basis over three years).  The non-exclusive version would allow another team to swoop in with a major offer that, if not matched by the Seahawks, would result in Wilson changing teams — and in Seattle receiving a pair of first-round draft picks.

For now, it appears that Wilson plans to drive a hard bargain, as passively as possible.  And he has every right to drive a hard bargain, passively or aggressively.  At some point, however, it will become difficult to reconcile posturing for top dollar with the ubiquitous cry of “Go ‘Hawks!

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