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Rex Ryan: I never said Sanchez won the competition

AP

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez says he won the quarterback competition with Geno Smith, and only a shoulder injury prevented him from remaining the team’s starting quarterback. But the man who had final say on who won the quarterback competition didn’t see it that way.

Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters today that he never declared Sanchez the winner.

“Well, I never said he won the competition. I didn’t say that,” Ryan said.

Ryan was asked if Sanchez’s comments run counter to the company line.

“That’s his opinion,” Ryan said. “And it’s not about a company line. Apparently if that’s what he said, that’s his opinion. Again, there is the ongoing competition if you will.”

Ryan said he still hopes Sanchez’s shoulder rehabilitation goes well enough for Sanchez to be cleared to play this year. Even if there’s no guarantee that Ryan will actually put Sanchez on the field.

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Dante Fowler on taking big jump this season: I think it will happen

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Defensive end Dante Fowler’s rookie season ended at Jaguars rookie minicamp when he tore his ACL and the 2016 season saw him record four sacks while finding his way in the NFL.

That’s not quite what the Jaguars were hoping for when they made Fowler a first-round pick in 2015, but it may have set the stage for bigger things this time around. Fowler said he has noticed “how strong I’m getting and the explosiveness coming from my knee” and is predicting similarly positive results when he gets on the field this fall.

“I think it will happen,” Fowler said, via GridironNow.com. “It was a big learning experience for me last year on and off the field. That was my first year on the field. I was like a freshman in college all over again, getting used to the guys at this level. It gave me an idea of how big and strong some of these guys are.”

Fowler said he has improved his conditioning and learned “what to do and what not to do” by reviewing film from last season. It all sounds like the right path to follow for better results on the field, but the path hasn’t been a direct one for the Jaguars for quite some time now.

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Sunday morning one-liners

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Said Bills coach Sean McDermott, “You look at all the different aspects of building a roster, it’s not just the guys that are on the team. You have to look at draft picks, and you know, what draft picks we have for next year. Do we have all of them? Are we one short?”

LB Lawrence Timmons is confident he can fit wherever the Dolphins need him.

The Hollister brothers are trying to make the Patriots as undrafted free agents.

Jets CB Morris Claiborne has remained confident despite numerous injuries.

Outside opinions don’t seem to be shaping the Ravens’ view of themselves.

How many receivers will the Bengals keep on the roster?

Assessing Browns QB DeShone Kizer’s chances of winning the starting job.

A look back at the last week for the Steelers.

Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel is off to a good start in his new job.

The Colts have high hopes for DT Johnathan Hankins.

Jaguars S James Sample hopes to remain healthy this year.

Six notes from the first week of Titans OTAs.

A look at the path WR Carlos Henderson took to the Broncos.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid did some sportswriting in college.

Raiders T Donald Penn has learned to listen to his body over the course of his career.

Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco is embracing the team’s move to Los Angeles.

LB Jaylon Smith and DE Charles Tapper forged a bond while rehabbing injuries as Cowboys rookies.

The tabloid takes on Giants WR Odell Beckham continue to roll in.

Breaking down the Eagles’ salary cap situation.

CB Kendall Fuller could have a bigger impact for the Redskins this season.

The Bears think DE Roy Robertson-Harris could break through this year.

What does Matt Asiata’s addition mean for the Lions running backs?

Packers TE Martellus Bennett likes the NFL’s new position on touchdown celebrations.

Said Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon on winning the starting job, “Don’t count me out. That’s always my goal. I’m competitive. I think it will be a good way to evaluate myself and see where I stack up against them.”

Looking ahead to the Falcons’ date with the Dolphins.

S Mike Adams offers the Panthers an experienced hand in the secondary.

Saints DE Trey Hendrickson wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school.

Buccaneers K Nick Folk is trying to focus on his own performance while competing with Roberto Aguayo.

S Tyrann Mathieu is among the Cardinals with the most to prove this season.

What can the Rams expect from rookie TE Gerald Everett?

Tracing the roots of the 49ers’ interest in LB Reuben Foster.

Will this season be Pete Carroll’s most challenging as the coach of the Seahawks?

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Marvin Jones hopes to start, and finish, at a high level in 2017

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Receiver Marvin Jones arrived in Detroit with a flourish, with 482 receiving yards in four games. Over the next 12 combined, he had 448.

And so a guy who was on pace for 1,928 yards (which would have been No. 2 all-time) finished with fewer than 1,000. Jones addressed the situation earlier this week at an OTA session.

I flushed it really after the playoff game,” Jones said, via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “After the playoff game I said, ‘It’s over.’

“Obviously I was pretty disappointed in everything that happened. But what can I say? All I can do is prepare and I know what I can do. Everybody sees what I can do and you’ll see it for a long time.”

Jones didn’t offer any concrete plans for both starting and finishing strong in 2017. However, it’s clear that he’s done talking about 2016.

“[O]bviously the start I had was a great start,” Jones said. “I was hoping to continue that. But it’s football and it didn’t [happen] and you guys know how I felt about that. So I don’t really have to talk about that anymore.”

He nevertheless believes he can play on a consistent basis like he did in the first 25 percent of his first year with the Lions.

“Any receiver you ask, they’re supposed to say that,” Jones said. “I want to be that guy that does that. We have a lot of talent on our team that can do that. So when you have a lot of people on your team and you look across, I look across at [Golden] Tate and [Eric] Ebron and stuff like that, we are all those guys. But me personally, I want to be the guy that you’ve seen the first five weeks. I want to be like that for 16, 17, 18 weeks. So yeah, that’s the goal.”

If he can reach that goal, perhaps the Lions can reach their goal of winning a playoff game for the first time since 1991.

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Tom Brady delivers video message to family of Navy SEAL killed in action

Memorial Day weekend has various forms of relevance and significance to American society, but it fundamentally remains a moment to remember and to honor those who have died, often under horrific circumstances, in the service of our country.

And so it’s appropriate to share the story of one of the most recent American soldiers killed in action.

On May 5, 38-year-old Kyle Milliken became the first American service member killed in Somalia since the early 1990s, dying in a firefight during a raid. The Maine native and former track athlete at UConn had a connection to the Patriots; in 2011, Milliken and other Navy SEALs took part in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium.

Milliken spent 15 years in the Navy, earning a spot on SEAL Team Six and securing four Bronze Stars for his efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bill Speros of the Boston Herald explains that, at Milliken’s funeral this week, quarterback Tom Brady delivered a video message to the family, thanking his wife and their two children for their sacrifice.

“It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement earlier this week, via Speros. “It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”

We extend our condolences to Kyle Milliken’s family and to all for whom Memorial Day serves as a tangible and painful reminder of the sacrifice made by a family member, loved one, colleague, or friend.

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The full Rich McKay PFT Live interview

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The Falcons went on an extended media tour this week in connection with the opening of their new stadium, and they gave PFT Live extended access to two of their key employees, via video interviews from 30 Rock in New York City.

In addition to having 70 minutes with G.M. Thomas Dimitroff, PFT Live had 25 minutes with President/CEO Rich McKay. McKay’s role as chairman of the Competition Committee made the conversation even more pertinent, given Tuesday’s changes to the celebration rules and the five-minute reduction to overtime in the preseason and regular season.

And so at the midpoint of a three-day weekend, here’s your chance to check out the interviews. The full Dimitroff interview can be seen here. The McKay interview appears below.

If you like what you hear and want more of it, subscribe now to the PFT Live podcast, which gives you every hour of every show along with special-edition podcasts (like the full Dimitroff and McKay interviews). The show is available at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and elsewhere.

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Zack Martin sees Tyron Smith as the perfect left tackle

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The Cowboys’ offensive line is probably the best in the NFL, but to hear guard Zack Martin tell it, one player stands above the rest.

Martin describes left tackle Tyron Smith as “an absolute monster” and thinks you couldn’t create a better left tackle if you tried.

“We always joke, if God had to make a left tackle he would make him like Tyron Smith,” Martin said on the HawkCast. “Just massive, long. He’s 320, he’s got a six-pack. It’s just not fair. He’s super durable and he just erases that defensive end from other teams every game. When he gets his hands on you, it’s pretty much over. The best thing about Tyron is he works harder than anyone.”

Smith was only 20 years old and still a little raw when Jerry Jones took him with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, but Jones saw the same things that Martin sees every day: Smith is a unique talent.

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Coby Fleener expecting better things in second Saints season

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The Saints signed tight end Coby Fleener to a five-year contract last offseason and spent the summer trying to find his place in the team’s offense.

That process didn’t play out exactly as hoped for Fleener, who finished his first year in New Orleans with 50 catches for 631 yards and three touchdowns. That’s hardly terrible production, but it was a drop from what they got from Benjamin Watson in 2015 and Fleener said last week that it “absolutely could have been better.”

He expects it will be better now that he’s immersed in the system.

“I think anytime you’re trying to learn a new offense, trying to learn a language, trying to learn something of that nature, going through it under pressure, going through it for a year really helps,” Fleener said, via the New Orleans Advocate.

Brandin Cooks was targeted 117 times last season, which means that there should be plenty of passes heading in different directions during the 2017 season. Some will go to new arrival Ted Ginn, but a more comfortable Fleener should be in position to see more balls than he did last year and do more with them.

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Doug Pederson: Competition has sharpened Nelson Agholor

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The Eagles signed a pair of wide receivers this offseason in Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery and drafted two more, something they probably wouldn’t have felt the need to do if Nelson Agholor had thrived after they made him the 20th pick of the 2015 draft.

Agholor has caught 59 passes for 648 yards and three touchdowns over two seasons and went through a crisis of confidence last season that led to time on the bench along with the offseason moves to shore up the receiving corps. Those moves lessen the need to rely on Agholor, but coach Doug Pederson said this week that he thinks they’ve also pushed the wideout to be better.

“As I’ve said all along, competition, man, sharpens you,” Pederson said, via ESPN.com. “And that’s what I’ve seen from Nelson. He’s done a great job already this spring.”

Agholor switched jersey numbers since the end of last season, which makes for a nice bit of symbolism for a player who could use a fresh start in his third year. He said that he’s learned the need for “a process and continuous progression” rather than making a giant leap all at once, although a modest-sized jump would help ensure he continues the process in Philly.

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John Harbaugh lobbied for loosening the celebration rules

AP

Ravens coach John Harbaugh deserves some of the credit for the NFL’s decision to ease up on celebration penalties.

Harbaugh confirmed that he’s been stating his case within the league for calling fewer penalties on celebrations, saying the game of football ought to be fun.

“Let’s have some fun. Let’s enjoy it,” Harbaugh said. “I really like it when our guys celebrate. I like it when our guys score touchdowns. I want to score a lot of touchdowns. I want to see a lot of celebrations. I want our guys to have fun, and I want our fans to have fun.”

Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is a vocal critic of the NFL’s new, more relaxed celebration rules, Harbaugh says he doesn’t think there was much opposition to the rule change.

“Some of these decisions are really tough that the decision-makers in the NFL have to make, and they are close calls,” he said. “This was not one of them. This was an easy one, and I think they did the right thing.”

Most fans seem to agree.

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Robert Woods reiterates his plan to be Rams’ No. 1 receiver

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The new-look Rams need a game-changing receiver. Free-agent arrival Robert Woods recently reiterated his belief that he can be that guy.

After saying in March, “I feel like I definitely am a No. 1,” Woods explained this week that “I always come in attacked the season trying to be the No. 1 receiver,” via Gary Klein of the L.A. Times.

The former Bills (and USC) receiver became the Rams’ top priority in free agency after Pierre Garςon picked the 49ers. Now, Woods has a chance to make a major impact in the stadium where he played college football, given the departures of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick.

Woods will likely be one of the top options on a depth chart that includes Tavon Austin, Pharoh CooperMike ThomasCooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds.

Woods has been clicking with quarterback Jared Goff, working out together on their own and developing chemistry during OTAs.

In four seasons with the Bills, Woods caught a total of 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best performance came in 2014, with 65 catches for 699 yards and five scores.

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Tom Brady files for a host of TB12 trademarks

AP

It’s not clear when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will retire from football. When he does, it is clear what he’ll be doing: Making a ton of money by selling products and services that carry the TB12 brand.

Via Mark Shanahan of the Boston Globe, Brady has filed for a wide variety of trademark protections for potential products carrying his TB12 brand, from foam exercise rollers, to athletic bags, shirts, sleepwear, and meal kits. Applications also have been filed for TB12 resistance bands, medicine balls, kettle bells, and jump ropes.

The clearest indication of Brady’s plan to take his methods for staying fit and healthy to the public comes from his effort to obtain trademark protection for TB12 educational services, described (per the Globe) as “seminars for certification of instructors, personal and athletic trainers, consultants, therapists, and medical professionals in the fields of diagnostic medical testing, physical therapy, physical rehabilitation, sports medicine, health, nutrition, cognitive training and development, and concussion awareness.”

Brady has said he plans to play at least until he’s 45. It’s possible that the widespread rollout of products bearing the TB12 trademark will happen before he has stopped playing.

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Jim Caldwell isn’t interested in Kaepernick, but believes in him

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The Lions don’t have a veteran backup to quarterback Matthew Stafford. They’re nevertheless not interested in adding Colin Kaepernick.

Via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, coach Jim Caldwell recently said that Kaepernick won’t be pursued by the team.

“[W]e have the guys that we want at this point in time,” Caldwell said.

Who they have other than Stafford is 2016 sixth-rounder Jake Rudock and 2017 sixth-rounder Brad Kaaya. That doesn’t mean Caldwell believes Kaepernick to be unable to play well.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’s capable,” Caldwell said. “I was on the other side of the field [with the Ravens]. Actually, I was in the press box, but nevertheless when he was playing for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. That was only a couple years ago. So, I don’t think that his skill level has diminished to the point where he would be completely ineffective in this league, so we’ll see.”

If Stafford gets injured, Caldwell will be facing more pointed questions about why the team doesn’t have a quarterback with playing experience, whether it’s Kaepernick or someone else. For now, the “someone else” list is down to the likes of Robert Griffin III, Christian Ponder, Shaun Hill, Luke McCown, and Dan Orlovsky.

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Former Packers president dies at 98

Judge Robert J. Parins, a former Packers president credited with transforming the franchise after 20 years of struggles, has died. He was 98.

Upon his retirement, Judge Parins pushed for the hiring of Bob Harlan to take over the team. It marked a dramatic shift in the 66-year practice of entrusting the publicly-owned company to a local civic leader. Under Harlan, the franchise became a perennial contender, winning a pair of Super Bowls and appearing in another.

That was one of the great things he did,” Jack Koeppler, a deceased member of the Packers’ board of directors, said in 2006, via Cliff Christl of Packers.com. “It’s too big a business.”

Judge Parins also was responsible for removing full authority over the football operations from the head coach, instituting the current strong-G.M. arrangement.

Judge Parins is survived by his wife of 76 years, five children, 11 grandchildren, and 27 great-grandchildren. We extend our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Judge Parins, and to the Packers organization.

[Photo credit: Packers.com]

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Jalen Robinette faces “non-criminal disciplinary proceeding” at Air Force Academy

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The mystery regarding NFL hopeful Jalen Robinette’s omission from graduation at Air Force Academy is a bit closer to being resolved. But not by much.

Via the Denver Post, Robinette’s football agency has disclosed that Robinette “is currently awaiting a determination on a non-criminal disciplinary proceeding.”

“Due to privacy-related concerns, we are unable to comment on the circumstances,” the Air Force Academy said in a statement issued to the Post. “We can say that the circumstances do not involve any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and are unrelated to cadet Robinette’s professional football pursuits.”

Since the NFL draft, the unselected Robinette participated in rookie minicamps with the Bills and Patriots. He did not receive a job offer from either team.

The resolution to his status with the Air Force potentially could allow him to pursue professional football unfettered by the new requirement that at least two years of active duty be served. If Robinette is deemed ineligible to graduate or be commissioned as an officer in the Air Force, he could be given the option to reimburse the government for his education (valued at more than $400,000) and exit the military or enlist as a non-officer.

Ultimately, the final decision on Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be made by the Air Force. After that, more will be known about whether Robinette will be permitted to play pro football.

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Spike Lee is 0-for-1 as NFL reporter

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Spike Lee, Rob Lowe. Rob, Spike. (It’s not quite as poetic as the time David Letterman introduced Oprah and Uma.)

Five years after Rob Lowe incorrectly “reported” that Peyton Manning would retire, Spike Lee has “incorrectly” reported that the Seahawks have signed Colin Kaepernick.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Seahawks have not signed Kaepernick.

Lee has deleted the Instagram post that makes the claim. The tweet is still up.

Just as Lowe eventually was right (four years later), Lee could eventually be right, too. Kaepernick recently visited the Seahawks, and the Seahawks are the only team that has brought him to town in more than two months since he became a free agent.

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