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NFL morning after: This is the Reggie Bush we’ve been waiting for

Reggie Bush, Major Wright AP

It’s been eight years now, so you can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten, but there was a time when Reggie Bush wasn’t just expected to be a good NFL player, wasn’t even expected to be a great NFL player, but was expected to be a transcendent NFL player. When Bush was running wild at USC in 2005, people talked about him like he was going to be some combination of Barry Sanders and Gale Sayers in the NFL, a player who had the talent to be the NFL’s best running back, the NFL’s best slot receiver and the NFL’s best kick returner, all in one package.

It didn’t happen, for a variety of reasons ranging from the fact that the team that drafted Bush, the Saints, really didn’t need him to be an every-down running back, to the fact that it was basically impossible for anyone to live up to the kinds of expectations that were on Bush coming out of college.

But what has happened in this, Bush’s eighth NFL season and first with the Lions, is that we’re finally getting the Reggie Bush we’ve been waiting for. The Lions have the right offense to take advantage of Bush’s skills, both as a runner and as a receiver, to get him the ball in space and to let him cut and spin and start and stop and hurdle and sprint to the end zone.

Bush did all of that and more on Sunday against the Bears, a game that might have been the best of his NFL career. Bush had 18 carries for 139 yards and added four catches for 34 yards, but those numbers don’t do justice to how electrifying he was. Bush’s 37-yard touchdown, on which he took a handoff up the middle, ran past defensive end Cornelius Washington before bouncing to the outside, hurdled safety Major Wright and then outraced cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman to the end zone was one of the most beautiful plays of this NFL season.

The Lions have made Bush their featured back in the running game and are giving him plenty of opportunities to carry the ball, and they’re also throwing him a lot of passes, not just out of the backfield but lined up as a slot receiver. Opposing defenses give so much respect to Lions receiver Calvin Johnson that Bush isn’t going to see many eight-man fronts, and he’s going to have a lot of room to make plays all season. Bush has only played two and a half games so far because he missed half of Week Two and all of Week Three with a knee injury, and durability will have to be a concern for Bush in Detroit, just as durability is a concern for any running back who gets the kind of workload the Lions are giving Bush. But if he can stay healthy the rest of the way, he has the potential to lead the league in yards from scrimmage, and lead the Lions to the playoffs.

Bush was my favorite player in any game on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts from Sunday’s games:

The Jets need to do more pushups. With all the Jets’ penalties last week, Rex Ryan implemented a new policy that whenever anyone committed a penalty in practice, everyone had to do pushups. It didn’t work. The Jets committed 10 more penalties on Sunday. Through four games this season, the Jets have committed 44 penalties, putting them on pace to commit 176 this year. The all-time NFL record is 163 penalties in a season, set by the Raiders two years ago.

Chip Kelly needs to be Chip Kelly. The reason I was so excited about Kelly leaving Oregon to coach the Eagles was that we had never seen a coach like Kelly in the NFL before. But while the Eagles’ fast-paced offense is fun to watch, for the most part I see Kelly coaching in Philadelphia like he did in college. At Oregon, Kelly wasn’t afraid to go for it on fourth down from anywhere on the field. But on Sunday in Denver, when the Eagles had a fourth-and-6 at Denver’s 37-yard line while trailing 21-13, Kelly took a delay of game penalty and then punted. Why not go for it? You’re playing the best team in the NFL on the road. You’re going to need to take some chances to pull the upset. I didn’t see the Eagles taking many chances on Sunday, when they punted four times, attempted three field goals and never went for it on fourth down despite trailing all game. Although the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-1 and got the first down on their first drive of the season, in the opening Monday night at Washington, Kelly has gone for it on fourth down just once since that very first drive. It’s disappointing to see Kelly turn into a conventional, risk-averse NFL coach.

Sean Lee is that rarest of creatures, an underrated Cowboy. Usually players on America’s Team are overhyped, but if anything Lee, a linebacker in his fourth year in Dallas, doesn’t get enough hype. Lee’s 2012 season was cut short by a toe injury after six games, but this year Lee is looking healthy and faster than ever, as he displayed on his 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. Lee did get beaten in coverage on a touchdown by Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, but that play aside he’s having a strong season, and if he stays healthy he’ll make his first Pro Bowl.

Kiko Alonso leads the league in interceptions. Alonso, the Bills’ second-round draft pick out of Oregon this year, came into Sunday’s game with two interceptions on the season and added two more of Joe Flacco in Sunday’s win over the Ravens. He now has four, tied with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib and Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner for the most of any player in the NFL through four weeks. In addition to his interceptions, Alonso has been a tackling machine. The Bills look like they got a keeper. Alonso’s college coach Chip Kelly should have drafted Alonso in Philadelphia — the Eagles need all the help on defense they can get.

As usual, the Super Bowl hosts stink. The Super Bowl will be played in New Jersey at the end of this season, and we won’t be having any talk about a team playing a Super Bowl on its home field, as the Giants are 0-4 and the Jets are an ugly 2-2. This is probably more a coincidence than anything else, but the Super Bowl host team almost always has a lousy season. No Super Bowl host team has even made the playoffs since Tampa Bay in 2000, and not only has no team ever played in the Super Bowl on its own home field, but no team has ever even reached the conference championship in a postseason when the Super Bowl was on that team’s home field. The Cardinals host next season’s Super Bowl, the 49ers the year after that and the Texans the year after that. Sorry to fans in Arizona, San Francisco and Houston, but you can probably pencil in a disappointing season for your teams when the Super Bowl is coming to town.

Adrian Peterson breaks long runs like no one else, ever. Peterson’s 60-yard touchdown on Sunday was his 12th touchdown of 60 yards or more. No one else in NFL history has had even 10 touchdown runs of 60 or more yards. Jim Brown, who had nine 60-yard touchdown runs, is second in NFL history.

Peyton Manning is amazing. I know I said earlier that Bush was my favorite player in the NFL on Sunday, but I should probably add that I could say that about Manning every Sunday. Manning completed 28 of 34 passes for 327 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles, and he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. His 16 touchdown passes are the most ever for any quarterback four weeks into the season. The Broncos have scored 179 points through four games, putting them on pace for 716 points this season, which would obliterate the 2007 Patriots’ NFL record of 589. This may be Manning’s best year yet — an amazing thing to say about a guy who has four league MVP awards.

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LeSean McCoy throws some shade Chris Johnson’s way

LeSean McCoy AP

Maybe Eagles running back LeSean McCoy’s feelings were a little hurt, that former teammate Michael Vick was willing to race him last year, but won’t run against new Jets teammate Chris Johnson.

So the man called Shady threw some shade in the direction of the artist formerly known as CJ2K.

“That’s Mike for you,” McCoy said, via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. “Ask him who the best back is, he’ll tell you me.”

While few would argue that McCoy is the better back at the moment, the insecurity is a bit troubling. And Vick might not want to dump on his new teammate just to spare the feelings of a former, slower one.

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Jerry Jones was “that close” to taking Johnny Manziel

Romo AP

Yes, the Cowboys were close to drafting Johnny Manziel.  How close?

Very close.

“I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in. It was that close,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday on NFL Network, via Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  “I looked over to my son, Stephen . . . and I said, ‘I took the right pick.  [Zack Martin] was the top player by three players on our board at the time that we were sitting there looking at [Manziel]. . . .  The question was, ‘Could we make it work with Tony Romo during the period of time that we are going to have Tony?’  And by the way, my expectations are that Tony will be our quarterback several years to come as we move along.”

It’s easy for Jones to say that now.  In fact, it’s necessary, given that the Cowboys didn’t pick Manziel.  But if Manziel had been the pick, how many years could the Cowboys have parked him on the bench behind Romo?  And how relentless would the questions have been regarding Manziel’s elevation to starter?

“Manziel is special,” Jones said.  “I know him personally. I know that he is going to be a success in the National Football League, and it was a hard decision. And it is one that I will probably have for the rest of my career think about.”

Jones won’t have to personally confront the decision until 2016, when the Cowboys are due to visit Cleveland.  If Romo’s back problems have forced him to retire by then and if Manziel has become a quality starter, Jones will be thinking about it a lot.

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Colts cut Chris Rainey

rainey AP

So much for Chris Rainey doing “anything and everything” for the Colts this year.

Rainey, the running back and return man who appeared to be ready to compete for a big role in the offense after the injury to Vick Ballard, has instead been released. The Colts announced the move in a brief statement today.

No reason for Rainey’s release was given, but the timing is odd, both because the Ballard injury has the Colts thin at running back and because just days ago coach Chuck Pagano spoke glowingly about Rainey in practice.

Rainey was drafted by the Steelers in 2012 and had just 26 carries for 102 yards as a rookie, and the Steelers cut him when he was arrested shortly after his rookie year ended. Rainey signed with the Colts late last season and played only sparingly as a return man in two games. Now he’ll be placed on waivers, and we’ll see whether any other team wants to put in a claim for a player who says he can do “anything and everything” with the ball in his hands.

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Coughlin beyond disappointed that Odell Beckham can’t practice

Odell Beckham AP

The Giants are looking forward to first-round wide receiver Odell Beckham having a big impact this year.

But so far, they haven’t seen him do much, and that has Giants coach Tom Coughlin moving beyond simple disappointment.

“It’s more than that,” Coughlin said, via Jordan Raanan of NJ.com. “Sure it is. You’re trying to put a team together. We saw too much of that in the spring.”

The “that” Coughlin was referring to was the hamstring strain that kept him out of minicamp, and came back the first day of camp. Beckham was in full pads like everybody else Sunday, but he was limited, catching punts but not running with them.

It would be nice to get him back practicing,” Coughlin said. “He actually looks pretty good out there. He’s moving around, catching the ball, he doesn’t favor anything. I’m just hoping it’s a real short amount of time. . . .

“They’re not going to let him go if he’s in danger of hurting himself. That’s all there is to it. I can stand there all I want, but it’s not going to happen. When they think he can go and not risk recurring injury, they’ll let him go.”

You can practically see Coughlin steaming as he says it, wishing Beckham could rub some dirt on it and get back out there, but helpless against the forces of modern medicine.

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Randall Cobb doesn’t believe he’s done enough for a big deal

Randall Cobb AP

Jordy Nelson got paid over the weekend, leaving Randall Cobb as the next Packers wide receiver likely to sign a contract extension with the team.

Cobb says his heart is in Green Bay and that he’d like to stay with the team, but that he isn’t aware of any contract talks between the team and his agent at the moment. That suits Cobb, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, just fine as he says he’s content to focus on doing enough on the field this season to earn an extended deal.

“I don’t believe I’ve done enough and I think that’s on me,” Cobb said, via ESPN.com.

Cobb broke his leg last season, missing 10 games and it would be harder to say that there was still more to do in order to be worthy of an extension. Cobb caught 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and was on pace for even bigger numbers when he got hurt. Should Cobb and Aaron Rodgers both remain healthy this season, the wideout’s numbers probably won’t leave much doubt about his value to the offense or whether he’s earned an extension.

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Suspension looming, Lane Johnson slides to second team

Lane AP

Lost in last week’s news of the Ray Rice suspension was the news of the Lane Johnson suspension.  The fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft will miss twice as many games for Rice because, according to the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, he took a prescription medication that he didn’t realize appears on the NFL’s list of banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Based on those facts — accidentally taking a prescription medication versus knocking out a female in a casino elevator — it seems like an unfair result.  But Johnson can say whatever he wants about how the violation arose, and there’s nothing the league can do about it under the current drug policies.

“As a professional, you’re supposed to be aware of what you put in your body and take precautions,” Johnson said upon arriving at camp, via Zach Berman of the Philadelphia News. “That’s something I didn’t do, and now I pay the price.”

The league’s strict-liability, no-questions-asked PED policy creates an environment in which innocent, unintended violations trigger automatic suspensions.  Which has created a P.R. safe harbor for cheaters.  Apparently, the policy never actually ensnares a deliberate cheat; everyone popped for a four-game ban has an excuse that looks good on the surface — especially if the players refuses to go beneath the surface with his explanation.

In Johnson’s case, he declined to discuss the prescription medication he took, or the condition for which it was prescribed.  Which causes some to think there wasn’t one.

Regardless, coach Chip Kelly has moved Johnson to the second team for the start of training camp, since the team has to prepare Allen Barbre to handle the job while Johnson is away.

“We still have to develop Lane,” Kelly told reporters on Saturday.  “So he’ll get reps, but they won’t be with the first team right now.”

Some of that may be punitive, based on Kelly’s views regarding the manner in which the violation arose.

“There’s also some individual responsibility that goes with the player,” Kelly said regarding the question of whether the Eagles failed to properly oversee Johnson’s activities.  “So, you know, if the answer is, I didn’t know.  They know.  They get tested at the Combine.  They get tested anywhere.  Any one of these guys that comes from an NCAA institution knows they get tested.  They’re also their own men.  It’s no different than if you got pulled over for a DUI, you’re going to turn around and tell your employers, I didn’t know I couldn’t do that.  They’re adults.  They’re going to make mistakes.  They’re going to pay a hefty price for those mistakes.  They’re going to miss four games, four game checks.  Hopefully that works.”

For Johnson, who coincidentally (or not) gained nine pounds in the offseason, the message apparently has been sent from the league.  If Barbre plays well during Johnson’s four game absence, Kelly may decide to keep sending the message beyond Week Four to the guy who started 16 games as a rookie.

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Monday morning one-liners

Aqib Talib AP

G Kraig Urbik caught a touchdown pass during Bills practice.

Rishard Matthews is making a strong bid for a roster spot.

Patriots RB Stevan Ridley is trying to be a leader this season.

G Willie Colon is off the PUP list and practicing for the Jets.

Some Ravens veterans got Sunday off from practice.

Bengals DL Devon Still’s daughter is fighting a battle against cancer.

WR Nate Burleson thinks the Browns will be fine regardless of who plays quarterback.

There are high hopes for Steelers rookie WR Martavis Bryant.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien wasn’t singling out anyone positively or negatively after practice this weekend.

Colts DE Cory Redding knows his career is winding down.

Sunday brought a few scuffles to Jaguars camp.

Titans RB Dexter McCluster is eager to show that he can take a hit.

CB Aqib Talib got a warm welcome at Broncos practice.

TE Demetrius Harris thinks he can win a job with the Chiefs.

WR Greg Little is enjoying a second chance with the Raiders.

The Chargers gave rookie CB Jason Verrett a look as a returner.

WR Dez Bryant’s credibility has grown in the Cowboys locker room.

Giants RB Andre Williams will try anything to improve as a pass catcher.

Said Eagles DE Fletcher Cox, “Basically, it’s got to be one of my better years this year, my third year going in. I’ve got two years under my belt. Hey, I’m ready to take off.”

LB Keenan Robinson draws on memories of London Fletcher as he helps set the Redskins defense.

Bears P Pat O’Donnell has been dubbed “Mega-Punt” by camp observers.

QB Matthew Stafford has been picking up the Lions’ offense.

Micah Hyde is doing his best to win a starting safety job with the Packers.

The Vikings would like a physical presence at fullback.

Dwight Lowery has made a quick impression at safety for the Falcons.

Panthers RB Mike Tolbert has lost weight, but hopefully not his toughness.

WR Brandin Cooks is learning fast at his first Saints training camp.

Buccaneers S Mark Barron is working to get his knee 100 percent before the start of the season.

Cardinals DT Dan Williams left practice with a knee injury.

Catching up with some long shots for the Rams roster.

Do the 49ers have reason to worry about their backup cornerbacks?

Dropped passes were prevalent at Sunday’s Seahawks practice.

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Jim Caldwell thinks a deal with Ndamukong Suh will get done

Ndamukong Suh AP

Lions coach Jim Caldwell doesn’t agree with the recent report that the Lions aren’t optimistic about a long-term contract with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Asked if he thinks the Lions can keep Suh long term, Caldwell said he believes they can, noting that the team views Suh as a building block and saying that Suh showed up to training camp in phenomenal shape.

“Absolutely,” Caldwell said, via the Detroit News. “I’m always optimistic . . . and I think without question [Lions management and Suh’s agent] are working at it. And I think something will be done at the appropriate time.”

Suh’s enormous cap number of $22.4 million this year — and the fact that franchising him next year would cost a whopping $26.9 million — makes it easy to see why the Lions would love to work out a long-term deal that provides them with some immediate cap relief. But it also makes it easy to see why Suh is tempted to simply play out his deal. The Lions probably wouldn’t franchise him because they wouldn’t want to eat that cap hit, which means Suh would hit the open market after this season.

Caldwell may have reasons to be optimistic about getting a deal done with Suh, but Suh has even more reasons to be optimistic that he’s going to get paid a fortune over the coming years, from the Lions or some other team.

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LaMichael James likely to miss preseason with dislocated elbow

LaMichael James, Colin Kaepernick AP

The good news for 49ers running back LaMichael James is that he is expected to be ready to go by Week One after suffering a practice injury on Sunday. The bad news is that the inexperienced James won’t benefit from any preseason experience.

James suffered a dislocated left elbow that will take about a month to heal, meaning he’s likely out for the entire preseason, ESPN reports. The 24-year-old James has just 39 carries for 184 yards so far in his NFL career, and the 49ers would have liked to see him get more action in the preseason, especially after they already lost running back Kendall Hunter for the entire season when he suffered a torn ACL on Friday.

The 49ers suddenly find themselves thin at running back, a position where they expected to be deep. In addition to the Hunter and James injuries, 2013 fourth-round pick Marcus Lattimore is still not practicing because he’s still not 100 percent recovered from the serious knee injury he suffered at South Carolina in 2012.

After starter Frank Gore, the only 49ers running backs able to practice right now are second-round pick Carlos Hyde and former practice-squad player Jewel Hampton.

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Rudolph gets $6.5 million to sign on deal with maximum value of $40 million

Rudolph AP

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has a new five-year extension, announced tonight by the team and reportedly carrying a base value of $36.5 million.  A source with knowledge of the terms has shared some additional details with PFT.

Rudolph gets a $6.5 million signing bonus.  Along with a technically non-guaranteed but as a practical matter fully guaranteed base salary of $956,343 for 2014, Rudolph definitely will earn $7.456 million in the next five months.

Per the source, the deal has another $12 million in injury-only guarantees that eventually convert to full guarantees on the third day of a given league year.  (The number of years over which the guaranteed money is spread isn’t currently known.  Until the relevant dates pass and the money becomes fully guaranteed, it’s not actually or practically guaranteed.)

On the back end, Rudolph earns an extra $750,000 for each year in which he catches 80 passes, and $500,000 for each year he makes it to the Pro Bowl.  Over five years, that’s a total of $6.25 million in available incentives, but the total he can earn through these accomplishments is capped at a total of $3.5 million.

The base new-money value of $7.3 million puts him behind only Jimmy Graham ($10 million in new money), Rob Gronkowski ($9 million), Jason Witten ($7.4 million), and Vernon Davis ($7.35 million).  A single 80-catch season will throw another $0.25 million on the annual average, vaulting Rudolph ahead of Witten and Davis.

Eighty catches won’t be a breeze, but in Norv Turner’s offense it’s a distinct possibility.

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Vikings strike five-year deal with Kyle Rudolph

Kyle Rudolph AP

The Vikings have signed one of their core offensive players to a contract extension.

The club confirmed Sunday night it had reached a new deal with 24-year-old tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was entering the final year of his contract.

According to FOX’s Jay Glazer — who first reported news of the extension — Rudolph received a five-year, $36.5 million contract from Minnesota.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reports the new deal makes Rudolph the game’s fifth highest-paid tight end.

Rudolph has hauled in 109 passes for 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns in three NFL seasons, all with Minnesota. The Vikings selected Rudolph in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He played collegiately at Notre Dame.

“I’m extremely excited to get this extension completed and continue my career with the Minnesota Vikings,” Rudolph said in a statement issued by the club Sunday night. “I’ve said all along I wanted to stay in Minnesota. I love the fans, the community and, most importantly, I’m excited about where this team is going. I’m looking forward to the 2014 season and helping this organization reach our ultimate goal.”

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Christine Michael bangs up shoulder

Seahawks AP

As the Marshawn Lynch holdout lingers, his leverage spikes if/when any of the team’s alternatives at tailback gets injured.

If became when on Sunday, when second-year running back Christine Michael left practice with a shoulder injury.

“He just banged his shoulder a little bit,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters after practice.  “They think he will be ready to go on Tuesday.”

The injury serves as a reminder that Plan B can quickly becomes Plan C and so on, unless and until Lynch returns to the fold.  There’s been no progress along those lines, with Lynch wanting a new contract and the Seahawks refusing to rip up the last two seasons of a four-year, $30 million deal.

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Ron Rivera: De’Quan Menzie is retiring

Arizona Cardinals v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Panthers waived defensive back De’Quan Menzie on Saturday.

And now, it appears the third-year pro could be electing to end his career.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera indicated Sunday that the 24-year-old Menzie was retiring.

Menzie’s verified Twitter account had the following post Sunday: “Officially done….”

An Alabama product, Menzie (5-11, 200) was a fifth-round selection of Kansas City in 2012. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve (hip flexor). After being waived by Kansas City in May 2013, Menzie had a brief stint with Detroit before being waived in August 2013. The Panthers signed Menzie to a futures contract in January 2014.

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LaMichael James carted off during 49ers practice

James Getty Images

Another day, another injured tailback in San Francisco.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, third-year running back LaMichael James was carted off during practice with an apparent wrist/arm injury.

James, who has appeared in only 14 regular-season games in two NFL seasons, has a chance to show that he can contribute to the base offense following the season-ending ACL injury suffered on Friday by Kendall Hunter.  While the specific nature and severity of the injury isn’t known, guys usually don’t get carted off with arm/wrist injuries.

Before practice, coach Jim Harbaugh said that the team has “complete and total confidence” in James, who along with Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde will be counted on to make an impact, especially with Hunter done for the year.

In two seasons, James has only 39 regular-season rushing attempts for 184 yards.  He has caught five passes for 45 yards.  His primary contributions have come as a kickoff and punt returner, with 49 total returns in two season.

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McCoy, Cole downplay practice-field fracas

McCoy AP

On Sunday, during the second practice of camp and a day before the pads go on, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy took issue with a hit from defensive end Trent Cole, sparking the first fight of the year.  After the session ended, Cole and McCoy downplayed the exchange of pleasantries.

I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Cole said, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com.  “That’s my brother, man.  We were just playing around.  We’re competitors.  We’re very competitive.”

McCoy was a little less willing to let it all go.  But he seems to have moved on, too.

“The whole camp so far, it’s been touching a little too much,” McCoy said. “I’m trying to let them know, ‘It’s OK if you can’t cover me.’”

Defensive end Brandon Graham, who was in the middle of the melee but called himself a spectator, initially tried to describe the hit as a “nudge.”

“You know, it wasn’t really a nudge because it was 270 [pounds] against 200,” Graham said.  “I wasn’t taking it that seriously because it was just a regular catfight.”

But Graham admitted there’s no place for fighting or otherwise hurting teammates.

“You gotta draw the line,” Graham said.  “You gotta take care of each out out here.  Even when we get pads on you can’t just be out here trying to kill everybody, because we do got to have them for the season.  But [Monday] is gonna be a lot of aggression.”

Coach Chip Kelly isn’t a fan of aggression that results in fights — cat-style or otherwise — between guys who wear the same uniform.  Kelly may need to send a clear message to his players to keep things from getting out of control.

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