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Fitzgerald limited with hamstring, but insists he’s fine

Larry Fitzgerald AP

He insists it’s not a problem, but when one offensive player means as much to his team as wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald does to the Cardinals, it’s an obvious concern.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Fitzgerald has been limited in practice the last two days with a hamstring, and did no full-speed work during the portion of practice open to the media.

I’m fine,” Fitzgerald said, adding that it wouldn’t keep him out of this week’s game with the Lions.

Asked if he’d tell reporters if he wasn’t fine, Fitzgerald smiled and replied: “No, I wouldn’t.”

“You never like to be on there but everything is good,” he said.

The veteran wideout hasn’t missed a game since 2007, and has missed just four in his career. The Cardinals also are carrying just four wideouts at the moment, so any time off would stretch them in terms of quantity and quality.

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Lurie: Bradford is absolutely the right guy to quarterback our team

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 22:  Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, looks on before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field on November 22, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie says he believes in quarterback Sam Bradford, but also believes trading up to get Carson Wentz was a wise investment in the team’s future.

Lurie told TheMMQB.com that the Eagles think Bradford is the quarterback of the present while Wentz is the quarterback of the future, and the team had to make bold offseason moves to have both in the fold.

“We see it differently than I guess some other people may,” Lurie said. “We see Sam as absolutely the right guy to quarterback the team. We are so rarely able to draft in the Top 5 in the draft. It’s only been twice in about 15-20 years. So we saw the opportunity, and we liked two quarterbacks. We had to make the move to secure having a potential franchise quarterback for many, many years. Having a lot of assets at the most important position in the NFL is a good strategic move for now. And it can only benefit us. Because in the NFL, it’s the one position you can’t just go get. And so when you have an opportunity, you’ve gotta take your shot, and you’ve gotta be bold. Otherwise, if you say to yourself, you know, it is probably a 50-50 shot that maybe the quarterback will be really good, you can’t let that deter you. So that’s how I look at it: You either have a really good QB and you compete for the Super Bowl, or you don’t and you are probably not competing for the Super Bowl. And that’s simple.”

As much as Lurie wants to justify the Eagles’ moves this offseason, however, it seems unlikely that the Eagles would have signed Bradford to an $18 million a year contract if they had realized they’d be able to move up in the draft and get Wentz. Bradford might be the guy this season, but the decision to trade up for Wentz shows that Bradford is not the right guy beyond this season.

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Senquez Golson says “soft tissue” injury, not shoulder, reason he went for MRI

Senquez Golson AP

The good news for the Steelers is that 2015 second-round cornerback Senquez Golson says that his shoulder is “100 percent ready to go” after an injury forced him to miss his entire rookie season.

The bad news is that Golson still spent some time in an MRI tube last week. Golson didn’t take part in Tuesday’s OTA session in Pittsburgh and explained, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that a “soft tissue” injury is the reason why he’s on the sideline.

Golson only expects to miss “just a couple days” and wasn’t worried that he’ll miss too much as a result of this injury.

If Golson can keep up, he will try to add to the number of new faces in prominent roles in the team’s secondary. They drafted cornerback Artie Burns in the first round and safety Sean Davis in the second round as they try to shore up a group that finished 30th in the league in passing yards allowed.

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Vikings shuffle defensive linemen after B.J. Dubose tears ACL

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 22:   Bruce Gaston #76 of the Chicago Bears waits with teammates to run out to the field during pre-game ceremonies prior to the start of the NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field on November 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings suffered a loss on the defensive line last week when B.J. Dubose tore his ACL during one of the team’s OTAs.

The injury will force Dubose to miss the season and the Vikings announced a move on Tuesday to fill the 2015 sixth-round pick’s spot on the roster. The Vikings waived Dubose with an injury designation, setting him up for a spot on injured reserve if he goes through waivers unclaimed, and signed defensive tackle Bruce Gaston.

Gaston got some exposure to life in the NFC North last season by playing in two games for the Packers and then seeing time in seven games for the Bears after they signed him off of Green Bay’s practice squad. Gaston had 12 tackles and a sack across his two stops and has also spent time with the Cardinals, Patriots and Dolphins since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2014.

Gaston will be trying for a reserve role behind Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph in Minnesota.

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Ben Roethlisberger hopes young receivers “take the next step”

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09:  Markus Wheaton #11 of the Pittsburg Steelers celebrates after catching a pass against the Cincinnati Benglas at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s a safe bet that Antonio Brown is going to see plenty of action in the Steelers offense during the 2016 season whether it amounts to enough to set a new single-season record for receiving yards or not.

Less certain is how big an impact the team’s other wide receivers will have. With Martavis Bryant suspended for the entire season, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is looking to the younger members of the group.

“We all need to step up anyway, but we have a lot of guys who carry a lot on their shoulders already, so we’ll all need to step up,” Roethlisberger said. “I’d like to see some of the young guys really take the next step, especially the young receiving guys.”

Markus Wheaton closed the 2015 regular season with a flourish, catching 28 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns in the final six weeks of the year after making just 16 catches up to that point in the season. All of that production took place with both Brown and Bryant in the lineup, however, and Wheaton’s production hasn’t been as impressive over the rest of his three NFL seasons.

Sammie Coates had a couple of big plays against the Broncos in Pittsburgh’s playoff loss, which puts the 2015 third-rounder into the group of young wideouts with a chance to do more. Coats had only one catch in six regular season appearances, so there’s a lot of work to do to show he can be a consistent threat for Roethlisberger this season.

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Las Vegas mayor: Stadium, not gambling, is the issue

Las Vegas Strip Exteriors Getty Images

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman doesn’t think gambling is going to be a problem for the NFL as her city tries to attract a team.

Goodman said this morning on ESPN that in her quest to get an NFL team in her city, she hasn’t even discussed gambling regulations, such as whether there would be restrictions on sports books taking bets on games played in Las Vegas. What Goodman thinks will matter is whether the city and the state legislature can work out a deal to build a first-class NFL stadium.

“We’ve had years and years of experience in how to set regulations and enforce them. But I really don’t believe it’s going to be an issue for us at all,” she said. “At this point, the first step is to work through those numbers to make sure we can get a stadium built, do it high quality and most importantly in the right location.”

Goodman noted that there’s plenty of legal gambling in London, another market where the NFL is trying to expand, and there are plenty of casinos near NFL stadiums. Goodman thinks that if the Nevada legislature approves spending $750 million on building a stadium in Las Vegas, that will be enough to lure an NFL team, most likely the Raiders.

And she’s probably right about that. If NFL owners had a problem with playing in America’s gambling capital, they’d be speaking out against it. Instead, they’re raising no objections. If Nevada is going to give the NFL a new stadium, the NFL is going to stop caring that Nevada has legal sports gambling.

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Walter Thurmond decides to retire after six NFL seasons

Walter Thurmond Getty Images

At this time of year, any NFL free agent with a sufficient resume who wants another job can usually find one.

But another player has chosen to not pursue one.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, veteran defensive back Walter Thurmond has chosen to retire.

The 28-year-old Thurmond spent six years in the league with the Eagles, Giants, and Seahawks. All signs this offseason were that he was leaning toward retirement, despite chances to continue his career.

Thurmond was converted to safety last season, after spending his first five years as a cornerback.

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Bill O’Brien on Baylor’s problems: Issues are bigger than just football

Bill O'Brien AP

Very few coaches have any kind of perspective on rebuilding a program, the way Baylor now has to.

But Texans coach Bill O’Brien saw it first hand during his days at Penn State, and said the most important thing for Baylor to remember moving forward is that it’s just football.

What appears to be a house-cleaning of the football, athletic department and administration is in process after allegations that rape and sexual assault were covered up for football players at Baylor, with coach Art Briles fired and interim coach Jim Grobe brought in.

O’Brien’s situation at Penn State was comparable, taking over the storied program after longtime assistant Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse scandal.

“We didn’t try to distance ourselves from child sexual abuse,” O’Brien told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “I think, most importantly, in any situation that involves some things that are hard to talk about, you have to face it and think about the victims. The first thing you have to do – in addition to putting your staff together and connecting with your players – is to make sure people know there are things a lot more important than football.

“Whenever I spoke to our team, especially that first year, you couldn’t forget about what had happened. You have to express how important and how much bigger sexual violence is than football. That was an educational experience for me. Whether it was a media session or what, we never tried to distance ourselves from that.

“To me, it’s a big thing to say, ‘This is football, but at the end of the day, we’re talking about victims. We have to understand how to solve that problem before we get back to winning football games.'”

In addition to the legal and image problems Penn State was hit with as O’Brien took over, they also penalized the football program with a bowl ban, and taking away scholarships and allowing players to transfer freely without the normal year’s wait. Those penalties were eventually reduced after the school showed compliance.

O’Brien’s on-field success was significant, going 8-4 and 7-5 before leaving for the NFL, but his job repairing the school’s tarnished reputation might have been harder.

“In recruiting, we answered questions to the best of our ability, but we also said, ‘Look, here’s what we have to offer you: a brand new coaching staff, a great education – Penn State is a fantastic academic school with a great campus and student body.'” O’Brien said. “We ran a disciplined program at Penn State. We were going to recruit the right kids. You can’t be perfect, but we put a lot of emphasis on character and academics as well as good players.”

That’s a message that clearly needs to be delivered in Waco, and making sure those priorities are placed in the correct order is the biggest challenge moving forward.

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Browns announce more personnel department promotions

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Browns announced a bunch of changes and promotions within their personnel department on Tuesday.

Kevin Kovash, who’s been with the team since 2013 and has an extensive analytics background, was promoted to vice president of player personnel. Kovash spent the last three seasons as director of football research.

The Browns promoted Sashi Brown to executive vice president of football operations in January after firing general manager Ray Farmer. Shortly thereafter, Paul DePodesta was hired as chief strategy officer, then Andrew Berry was hired from the Colts as vice president of player personnel.

There is no general manager in this new setup; all football employees answer to Brown. As happens when regimes are cleaned out, the Browns had previously made a couple rounds of cuts with scouts and other personnel men tied to Farmer.

In addition to Kovash being given the same title Berry has, the team announced that Chisom Opara has been promoted to director of player personnel and that Kevin Meers has been promoted to director of research and strategy, a job in which he’ll work closely with DePodesta. The Browns also announced three men — Bobby Vega, Dan Saganey and Mike Cetta — have been promoted to scouting director.

Opara and Vega have seen a lot. Both have been with the organization since 2005. Saganey has been with the organization since 2009.

The Browns also announced one outside addition to their personnel department. Glenn Cook, who worked the last four years in personnel with the Packers, has been hired as assistant director of scouting.

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Jets should call Fitzpatrick’s bluff

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On one hand, the Jets were wrong to leak incomplete, self-serving details regarding the team’s pending offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. On the other hand, Fitzpatrick is wrong to grandstand regarding the team’s unwillingness to pay him more than $12 million in 2016 as part of a three-year, $24 million deal.

Now that the situation has melted into a full-blown back and forth, the next move for the Jets should be to do nothing.

If Fitzpatrick is indeed willing to take less than what the Jets are offering with another team, the Jets should sit back and let him do it. Because he won’t. Possibly since there’s no one else who would offer him anything of significance in late May.

Consider the options. Take $8 million per year and play or take less and not play. Fitzpatrick’s Harvard education isn’t needed to resolve that one.

But ego is getting in the way of wisdom on this one, with both sides bearing the blame. While the Jets haven’t put enough on the table to get Fitzpatrick to sign, they’ve accurately read the market for his services because no one else has even come close.

And for good reason. It’s one thing to throw a ball from Point A to Point B accurately. It’s another thing to be the kind of player who becomes the face of the franchise, selling tickets and jerseys and emptying out the inventory of unsold PSLs. Right or wrong, Fitzpatrick isn’t regarded throughout the league as that kind of quarterback.

A journeyman who has played for four teams in five years, Fitzpatrick wants more than what the market will bear for him. Forget where the broader quarterback market is or should be. The Jets are north of what anyone else is willing to pay Fitzpatrick. At some point, he needs to decide whether to play or not to play for what the Jets are offering.

Rather than making noise about going elsewhere (as if even there’s an elsewhere where he can go at this point), Fitzpatrick’s better play is to say, “I’m not playing until the offer is acceptable.” He then can wait for someone to break Geno Smith’s jaw and/or a starter with another team to get injured, hopeful that the other team will opt to sign Fitzpatrick over going next-man-up with a man under contract.

It’s unfortunate that the situation is turning ugly. But ugly was inevitable after the two sides dug in their heels and refused to budge.

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Report: “Near certainty” Alshon Jeffery plays out season on franchise tag

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Chicago Bears is tackled by Steve Williams #23 of the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The July 15 deadline for players with franchise tags to sign multi-year contracts with their current teams is drawing nearer and the word out of Chicago isn’t filled with optimism that the Bears and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will get a deal done.

Jeffery has already signed the franchise tender, setting himself up to make $14.6 million during the 2016 season, and has been working out on his own during the voluntary stages of the team’s offseason workout program. If that absence is designed to get him a long-term contract, it doesn’t appear to be having the desired effect.

While Bears General Manager Ryan Pace has talked about productive talks about a contract, Dan Wierderer of the Chicago Tribune reports that it is “a near certainty” that Jeffery plays out the year on the tag. One of the biggest reasons why things will likely play out that way is the injury-plagued season that Jeffery had in 2015.

Wierderer and colleague Rich Campbell both believe Jeffery needs to show the Bears he can stay healthy before they’ll enter into a long-term relationship with the wideout. If Jeffery can pull that off, it should also prove more lucrative for him as he’ll hit the negotiating table on the back of a more successful season.

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Report: Fitzpatrick might take less from another team on principle

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s friends and co-workers have registered their protests and returned to work, in what has seemed just another chapter toward an inevitable conclusion.

But it might be more evitable than many are willing to consider.

According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, several Jets sources, including players, now think Fitzpatrick would be willing to take less somewhere else on principle rather than sign the Jets’ low-ball offer.

Considering some of the other deals quarterbacks have signed this offseason, it’s obvious the three-year, $24 million offer the Jets have on the table is sub-par. But they’ve made it because the other inescapable conclusion is that there’s not exactly a land rush for the  33-year-old Fitzpatrick.

Until another team suffers a quarterback injury, or gets to camp and realizes all their guys stink, there might not be a market for Fitzpatrick, despite a 31-touchdown, 10-win season.

But until then, all Fitzpatrick’s side can do is wait or make threats, and let the Jets ponder a future with Geno Smith and Christian Hackenberg.

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Bucs try to rectify Doug Martin’s fumbling problem

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 06: Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in action during the second half of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

Sure, the Buccaneers gave running back Doug Martin a giant pile of money to keep him on the team. That doesn’t mean they won’t be trying to help him improve his overall performance.

One area where performance is being addressed: Fumbles.

We have talked about it. And we’ve studied it,” Tampa Bay running backs coach Tim Spencer recently said, via JoeBucsFan.com. “So we know what the issue is, what the problem is. We just gotta work on them. I’m not going to dwell on it. We do work on it consistently. He’s well aware of [the fumbles]. Trust me.”

After having a total of three fumbles in the first three years of his career, Martin fumbled five times in 2015 alone. On average, he lost the football once every 64.2 touches. As a rookie in 2012, he fumbled only once in 368 touches.

It’s not clear what the Bucs are doing, but it is clear that Martin’s struggles are recent. Which means that they definitely can be fixed.

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Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall back at Jets practice

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets is congratulated by his teammate Brandon Marshall after scoring a fourth quarter touchdown against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on November 12, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Buffalo Bills defeated the New York Jets 22-17.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets haven’t come to an agreement on a deal that would end their offseason-long standoff, so Fitzpatrick continues to be absent from the team as they kick off this week’s OTAs on Tuesday.

His top two receivers are at the team’s facility, however.

Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall didn’t attend the team’s practices last week amid reports that they were not happy with the fact that Fitzpatrick hasn’t been re-signed yet. According to multiple reports from beat reporters, however, both wideouts are returning to work out with the rest of the team.

Jets players will speak to the media after Wednesday’s session, so we may get some further details from the wideouts about their decision to stay away last week.

As for Fitzpatrick, the deal currently on the table from the Jets would pay him $12 million in the first year of a three-year deal with a base salary of $24 million. There’s no sign that Fitzpatrick is in a rush to accept that deal, which means the status quo will likely remain in place around the Jets a little while longer.

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Where are the “no” votes for a Raiders move to Vegas?

LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 12:  Tourists are silhouetted as they watch the Bellagio fountain show on the Las Vegas Strip October 12, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

No NFL owners have publicly said they’ll oppose a potential move of the Raiders to Las Vegas due to gambling. While that could be part of a broader effort to keep maximum pressure on Oakland by not ruling out any and all alternative destinations, owners who have strong feelings on certain topics have a hard time not expressing them, on or off the record.

As it relates to this specific issue, the current thinking in league circles is that there aren’t and won’t be enough “no” votes to keep the Raiders out of Las Vegas for gambling reasons. Other factors, such as Oakland waking up with a viable offer or Las Vegas not coming up with enough free money to get the deal done, could complicate the situation. Based solely on gambling, however, the ayes apparently will have it — even though it would take only nine nays to kill it.

One source with knowledge of ownership dynamics recently predicted that Giants co-owner John Mara, Bears chairman George McCaskey, and Bengals owner Mike Brown would vote no on a Las Vegas move, due to gambling. It’s also possible that Steelers owner Art Rooney would do the same, despite the fact that the Rooney family has had extensive gambling interests over the years.

Still, folks who are in position to count votes are having a hard time coming up with nine that would oppose Las Vegas based solely on gambling. That’s a far cry from just a few years ago, when the NFL refused to even consider the possibility of playing a preseason game in Sin City.

But with free money for stadiums harder and harder to come by, the league has no choice but to “evolve” on a topic that became full evolved in the American consciousness years ago.

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Texans waive David Quessenberry with non-football injury designation

David Quessenberry AP

Earlier this month, offensive lineman David Quessenberry said that he felt strong as he worked to make it back on the field after his football career was halted by a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in June 2014.

Quessenberry’s comeback effort has now been put on hold, however. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Texans are waiving Quessenberry with a non-football injury designation on Tuesday.

If Quessenberry, a 2013 sixth-round pick who has never played in a regular season game, clears waivers, he would revert to the Texans’ non-football injury list or could reach an injury settlement with the team that makes him a free agent. Those are not the only options, however.

Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com reports that the Texans would like Quessenberry back in “some capacity” that could include a job in the organization that doesn’t include playing for the team.

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