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“Tragic” situation for Adrian Peterson

Peterson AP

Adrian Peterson is indeed dealing with a personal situation that a source close to Peterson describes as “tragic.”

The source declined to share any further details, explaining that it’s a subject Peterson will address at the appropriate time.

On Thursday, Stu Whitney of the Argus (S.D.) Leader reported that Peterson remains in Sioux Falls, “dealing with [a] medical issue involving [a] young family member that likely will be a police matter” and that it is a “very serious” health situation.

No further details are currently available.  Multiple tipsters have suggested a possible link to news of a Sioux Falls toddler being in critical condition, and a man named Robert Joseph Patterson charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery of an infant.

We continue to extend our best wishes to Adrian Peterson and his family.

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Daryl Washington sentenced to probation

Patrick Peterson,  Daryl Washington, Jeff Sadorus AP

Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington won’t be going to jail, but that doesn’t mean his chances of punishment are over.

According to Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website (how progressive of them), Washington was sentenced to one year of supervised probation from an aggravated assault charge. That will reduce the felony to a misdemeanor if he complies with the terms of his probation.

As we pointed out earlier today, now Washington has to wait for NFL justice, to see if he’ll face a fine and/or a suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.

Even the team website acknowledges that a suspension is likely, so the Cardinals will have to expect being without one of their defensive leaders for some time this season, and they don’t have Karlos Dansby to lean back on this time.

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Jets announce they’re going back to camp this summer

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While the trend league-wide has been to stay closer to home, the Jets are going camping again this summer.

The Jets announced they were returning to SUNY Cortland for training camp this summer, the fifth time in six years they’ve gone to the central New York school to get away from it all.

“I love the fact that we are going back to Cortland,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said in a release from the team. “Everyone knows how I feel about going away. I think it is a big part of building our team camaraderie. The community, the school and the people of Cortland have been outstanding and we are all excited to be going back this summer.“

Many teams elect the familiarity of their own facilities for training camp, along with not having to pack up and move.

But there’s something to be said for eliminating the distractions that go along with being at home, although the Jets never really seem to avoid them wherever they go.

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Josh Freeman: I still see myself as a starting-caliber quarterback

Josh Freeman

Josh Freeman rapidly declined from a franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay to a disappointment in Minnesota to a backup where he is now, with the Giants. But Freeman thinks he can be a franchise quarterback again.

Although Freeman knows he has no chance of beating out Eli Manning this season, he believes that a good year as a backup for the Giants can put him back into position to start somewhere else a year from now.

I still view myself as a starting-caliber quarterback,” Freeman said, via NJ.com. “I love the situation because I have the opportunity to be around a guy that really had a lot of success, year after year and continues to win and get his team to the playoffs consistently. It’s a really, really cool opportunity.”

Freeman admits that he played “an awful game” the last time he was in New Jersey, his lone start for the Vikings against the Giants. But Freeman says he didn’t have as much time to prepare for that game as he would have liked, and he thinks he’ll be better when he gets time to settle in to a place where he’s comfortable.

“Looking back, maybe not as prepared as I’d like to have been for the situation, or as much as I thought going into the situation,” Freeman said. “But like anything in your past, it’s an experience to learn from.”

At just 26 years old, Freeman still has time to gain more experience, and to become a starter again. It just won’t happen this year, as long as Manning is healthy.

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PFT Live: Bob Glauber, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Eli Manning,  Tom Coughlin AP

The Jets and Giants both opened up their offseason workouts this week after a couple of months spent trying to build themselves into teams capable of making it back to the playoffs.

The Jets added wide receiver Eric Decker, running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Michael Vick to a roster short on offensive playmakers while the Giants made major changes on offense and in the secondary after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Bob Glauber of Newsday will join Mike Florio on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss those changes and what the teams might do during the draft.

If you’ve got questions about either MetLife Stadium resident, we’d love to hear them as we again throw the door open to questions from PFT Planet. Send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to ask about those teams or any of the 30 others.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Bills hosting Sammy Watkins for visit, would need to deal

Sammy Watkins AP

The Lions might not be the only team thinking about making a move up for one of the top offensive players in the upcoming NFL Draft.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is visiting the Bills today.

The Bills pick ninth, which won’t be high enough to take the playmaking receiver. Like his recent trip to see the Lions, the visit will create some intrigue about the possibility of deals with teams in the top four or five spots.

Watkins said he grew up a Bills fan, and would make a nice pair of deep threats in Buffalo with former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller.

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No extension appears imminent, but Roethlisberger always wants to be a Steeler

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

At different points this offseason, Steelers owner Art Rooney II and General Manager Kevin Colbert have both said that the team wants quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to spend his entire career in Pittsburgh.

That suggested he’d be a candidate for a contract extension as he has two years left on his deal and cap numbers north of $18 million in each of the next two years that could come down for a team than annually has to make adjustments to fit under the cap. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, would secure his football future beyond 2015 while likely bumping his base salary over the $12.1 million he’s set to make during the 2014 season.

The Steelers moved in other directions to do their cap maintenance, however, and Roethlisberger’s $18.895 million cap figure looks like it will be remaining in place for this season. Roethlisberger’s agent Ryan Tollner said that discussions are ongoing with the team about a new contract, but said he wouldn’t offer any predictions about when it might be completed. The expectation is that it will be completed, though, because his client doesn’t want to play anywhere else.

“It’s always been critical to him,” Tollner said, via Scott Brown of ESPN.com. “From Day 1 he’s always admired players that could play with one organization and retire with that organization. That’s an underlying goal that always drives him, that he would always be a Steeler.”

Tollner said there was “mutual respect” on both sides regarding the talks about an extension and there’s every reason to think one will eventually get done as long as that remains in place.

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Daryl Washington faces sentencing on Wednesday

Washington Getty Images

Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington wasn’t available to start the 2013 regular season, due to a suspension imposed under the substance-abuse policy.  He could be unavailable for the start of the 2014 regular season, for different reasons.

Per the Associated Press, Washington faces sentencing on Wednesday after pleading guilty to aggravated assault.

Police contend that Washington choked the mother of Washington’s daughter, and that Washington caused the woman to fall and break a collarbone.

He faces probation to up to 18 months behind bars.  The lawyers have agreed to recommend probation.

The recommendation won’t be binding on the presiding judge, and it definitely won’t be binding on Commissioner Roger Goodell.  Once the matter has concluded, Washington will be subject to discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy.

Four years ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended after two allegations of sexual assault; he was never arrested or charged with any crime.  So what happens to a guy who was arrested for aggravated assault of a female, who pleaded guilty to an assault charge, and received some type of criminal penalty for it?

It probably won’t be a fine.  And it shouldn’t be a fine.  Tonight, the Cardinal will know how their schedule unfolds.  Eventually, they’ll know how many of those games they’ll have to play without Washington.

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PFT takes a look at the Raiders’ biggest draft needs

Justin Tuck AP

In studying the Raiders’ personnel entering the 2014 draft, something became quite clear: the club’s off-season additions have done well to bolster some areas of the roster.

On paper, the Raiders have a decent starting lineup, one that could very well allow Oakland to improve upon its 4-12 record from a season ago. After all, the Raiders did suffer three four-point losses in 2013; with a stronger roster, perhaps they close out a couple more games in 2014.

The performance of the Raiders’ veteran additions will likely define Oakland’s 2014 season. For instance, if quarterback Matt Schaub returns to top form, the club will be materially better than a season ago. Defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley have each been standouts on their best; so has running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Wide receiver James Jones and left tackle Donald Penn have been good starters for other clubs. They can help Oakland.

Still, there’s no doubting the importance of the 2014 draft to the Raiders’ future. A strong class of rookies will help the Raiders skillfully retool their starting lineup on the fly — and those sort of changes will be coming soon. The Raiders’ free agent haul surely helps them in 2014, but which of the veterans will be left to contribute a few years down the road?

In short, the Raiders’ draft needs are a consideration of both their present and future roster, which explains why quarterback, even with Schaub likely to hold down the position for 2014, is atop the list.

Which brings us to the poll question: should the Raiders take a quarterback at No. 5? Cast your votes and share your comments below.

 

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E.J. Manuel says his knees feel fine, knows he has a lot of growing to do

EJ Manuel AP

It has been a year since the Bills drafted quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round of the 2013 draft and they approach his second season without a clear idea of what the future holds for him.

Injuries to both knees affected Manuel from training camp through the end of the regular season, leading to six missed games and lost time that would have helped him develop as a quarterback. Manuel said Tuesday that he’s participating in workouts without any limitations this spring, which means he can devote all of his attention to improving into the quarterback the Bills want him to be.

“I definitely agree there’s a lot out there for myself as a quarterback to get better. I had some success. And I had some bad games as well. It’s obvious,” Manuel said, via the Associated Press. “I’m eager about it. I’m excited. I know there is a lot of area for me to grow. That’s why I took these last four months to allow that growth.”

The Bills have built a solid defense over the last few years, but it won’t be enough to carry them if the offense isn’t able to be more productive in 2014. Manuel will have a big hand in determining that outcome and the future trajectory of his career along with it.

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Aldon Smith reports for offseason duty

Smith Getty Images

With plenty of unknowns surrounding 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, one fact has become clear:  He will participate in the team’s offseason program until he’s told not to.

Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported that Smith was present for the launch of offseason workouts.

Unless Smith is suspended by the team or the league or incarcerated, Smith has every right to report for voluntary workouts, which pay $175 per day.  The structure and support could be useful to him at a time when his career, and his life, could go in one of two different directions.

Having Smith in the building also gives coaches (initially, strength and conditioning coaches only) and teammates an opportunity to get a close look at him, to see how he’s doing.  And to assess whether he’s possibly having ongoing struggles with alcohol, which placed him in rehab for more than a month last season.

His recent arrest at LAX resulted in an observation from police that it appeared Smith had been drinking earlier in the day.  If the 49ers decide Smith needs further intervention, he could be placed on the non-football illness list at some point.

Smith’s presence at offseason workouts comes at a time when the team is still deciding whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Smith’s rookie contract.  The deadline for exercising the option arrives on May 3.

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Eli Manning wants to reinvent himself this season

Eli Manning AP

Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions last season, the most in his career and the most any NFL player had thrown in any season in the last eight years. But Manning thinks things will change this year.

At the first day of the Giants’ offseason workouts, Manning said this season will provide himself and his teammates with an opportunity to show that last year’s 7-9 record doesn’t define who they are.

“This is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and to come back and change what occurred last year, some of the difficulties, and bounce back and have a clean slate, prove yourself again and play at a high level,” Manning said.

Manning is recovering from ankle surgery and not able to work out with his teammates, so he’ll get a late start on reinventing himself. The Giants need him to get healthy, and to play a whole lot better than he did last year.

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John Mara: Not expecting playoff expansion vote this year

John Mara AP

While expanding the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 seems inevitable, it won’t be happening this year.

Though such a sudden change hasn’t been ruled out by commissioner Roger Goodell, Giants president John Mara, a member of the competition committee, said a change this year would be unlikely.

I don’t think it’s going to happen this year,” Mara told Bob Glauber of Newsday. “I think it’s kind of late. We have a May [20th owners] meeting [in Atlanta], but I sense that we’ll wait a year before we do that. It hasn’t been voted on yet. . . .

“[The league] would notify us in advance, but I’m thinking it’s probably not going to happen for another year or so. My guess is that it’s going to pass at some point.”

Since the topic didn’t come up in recent meetings between the NFL and the NFLPA, it seems everyone’s content to let this one slide for a year, though a larger playoff field is coming.

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As schedule approaches, all eyes on September 4

Seahawks Getty Images

The 2014 schedule consists of 256 regular-season games.  The first one will be played on the Thursday after Labor Day in Seattle.

Later today, we’ll know which of the eight teams to visit CenturyLink Field this season will be there on the night they raise the championship banner.  The options are the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys, Giants, Broncos, Raiders, and Packers.

If it’s the 49ers, then the 49ers won’t be opening that swanky new stadium in Santa Clara until Week Two.  And the NFL would be giving up one of the truly marquee games of the season right out of the gates.

Typically, the defending champion doesn’t open the season against a division rival.  A Super Bowl rematch makes sense, but given the outcome of the Super Bowl maybe it doesn’t.  The Cowboys always draw a crowd on TV, but the Cowboys have taken a step backward this offseason.

That’s why I continue to think it’ll be a rematch of 2012′s Fail Mary game, with the Packers coming to town for a playoff game that has seemed inevitable the last two years, but that hasn’t happened.  It’ll happen this season — and it could happen on the first Thursday of the season.

Here’s where you say what you think, as we re-post the poll that first appeared while the confetti was still in the air at MetLife Stadium.

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MJD: No reason Darren McFadden and I can’t be one of the best duos in league

Maurice Jones-Drew AP

When Maurice Jones-Drew was making the free agent rounds this offseason, he found teams that wanted him to serve as a mentor for younger backs on their roster.

Jones-Drew told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle that he was almost sold on that role by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin before changing his mind and signing with the Raiders in hopes of playing a larger on-field role. How big his role will be in Oakland will be somewhat dependent on Darren McFadden as the two players will likely be splitting carries. However that split works out, Jones-Drew thinks it has the potential to be a fruitful partnership.

“But first, we’re going to compete,” Jones-Drew said. “Let’s see if someone can win the job. I expect us both to be better coming out of training camp because of that competition. It’s going to be fun. There’s no reason we can’t be one of the best 1-2 punches in the league.”

He said that his foot feels “phenomenal” one year after surgery and that his goal for 2014 is to show that he’s still the explosive runner he was earlier in his career. If he realizes that goal and McFadden is healthy, it would be quite a 1-2 punch. Two big ifs, to be sure, but vital ones for the Raiders offense.

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First Lions minicamp has a “calm feeling” even without stars

Jim Caldwell AP

The Lions opened their first minicamp under new coach Jim Caldwell Tuesday, without their best player on either side of the ball on the field.

But while Ndamukong Suh was away while a contract gets sorted out and Calvin Johnson is still rehabbing from finger and knee surgeries, the Lions are far from panicked.

There’s a calm feeling around the building,” 14-year-veteran center Dominic Raiola said, via the Detroit Free Press. “You just get a sense that this guy’s been there, done that. And he has. I mean, look at his track record; but more so being around him, not just hearing about it. It’s fun to be around him and be back in here.”

Caldwell was brought in, in part because of his steadying influence. After the frenetic years of not-much-happening of the Jim Schwartz era, that’s probably welcome to many.

But several players noted the pace of actual work, even without the high-profile stars.

“The energy today was good, man,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “I’ve never been a part of fast-tempo day like this on a first day. Guys are receptive of it and did a good job.”

Caldwell getting the extra minicamp to implement systems and instilling his calmness will help, but keeping those stars happy and healthy will be more important to his success in Detroit.

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