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Adrian Peterson remains on track to play

AP

As Vikings running back Adrian Peterson continues to deal with a tragic personal situation, he continues to remain on track to play Sunday against the Panthers.

A source close to Peterson told PFT on Friday night that Peterson has not yet altered the intentions he expressed earlier in the day, before news emerged that his young son had died, the result of an alleged beating at the hands of the boy’s mother’s boyfriend.

Even better evidence that Peterson will play comes from the fact that the Vikings have not adjusted their injury report to list Peterson as questionable or doubtful or out.  He is listed as probable, which technically means there’s a virtual certainty Peterson will be available for normal duty.

In other words, he’s playing.

The decision is intensely personal, and it’s for Adrian Peterson and only Adrian Peterson to make.  It’s our understanding that the Vikings and Peterson have had the conversation regarding whether it’s in his best interests to assume the physical risks of football while dealing with the intense mental and emotional burdens of the past few days.

“I’m able to release a lot of stress through sports,” Peterson said on Friday afternoon.

It’s clear he has plenty of support among his teammates, and throughout the NFL.

“As an organization you really become a family,” linebacker Chad Greenway told Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt of SiriusXM NFL Radio.  “You become a group of men that [is] fighting for a common cause but obviously it goes over and above that.  We have family, we have people that they’re near and dear to us, and when something like that happens with a family member you tend to hold them close and protect them, and that’s what we’re trying to do with Adrian, and just be there for him in any way that we can.

“I’ve played with the man for seven years, and I’ve seen so many great things from him in different ways and different fields and different aspects of life.  And this is gonna be probably the most challenging thing he’s gonna deal with.  And we all know how he hits challenges head on, and he’s just gonna do it his way, and we’ll be there for support.”

Peterson has taken to Twitter to express appreciation for all the support he has received, and he’ll surely be receiving even more of it in the days to come.

We continue to wish Adrian Peterson and his family the best at this incredibly difficult time.

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John Fox sees a Bears team in “striking distance”

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It is easy to be skeptical of the Bears’ outlook for 2017.

Of their current quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez attempted the most passes last year; he threw 18 as a backup in Dallas. They finished in last place in the NFC North for a third straight year. Their 3-13 record was the franchise’s worst, in the terms of loss total, since 1969.

But John Fox expressed optimism in December. He’s expressing it still.

Near the end of last season, the Bears coach said his club was “closer than people think” and in “striking distance.” He dug himself deeper into that position Wednesday, again telling reporters he believes the Bears are in “striking distance.”

He cited the amount of roster turnover since he and GM Ryan Pace arrived in 2015.

“Going back to a lot of the changes, we’ve had a lot of change,” Fox said, via CSN Chicago. “I think we’re better for it. Unfortunately, you can’t walk around with your chest out about that because of our record the last two years. But I have total confidence, and (Pace) has done an outstanding job and will continue to.

“I understand you have to win. And I finally feel like we’re in striking distance.”

Fox is entering the third season of a four-year contract.

The Bears have proven to be a project. He owns a 9-23 record compared to a 46-18 ledger across his four regular seasons in Denver.

“I would have thought that we would have done better to this point,” Fox said, via the Chicago Tribune. “But I kind of still feel really positive and encouraged for where we’re headed. I just saw it happening a little bit faster.”

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Reports: Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement a matter of time

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It was around this time last year Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said Martavis Bryant stood at a “crossroads of his professional life.”

Soon, it appears Bryant will resume that life.

The Steelers wide receiver, who was suspended for all of 2016 after repeated violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, is headed for reinstatement. There were multiple Wednesday reports to that effect anyway, as the Beaver County Times cited a source who called his NFL return “imminent.”

The Houston Chronicle‘s Aaron Wilson later reported that, while Bryant has yet to be reinstated, the result is expected “eventually.”

So, it’s a matter of time.

This had been the expectation. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin addressed his status Tuesday when meeting with reporters at an NFL owner meeting in Phoenix.

“We’re hopeful,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Martavis is a good guy. We wish him nothing but the best. But the train moves on and we’ve been on it for 12 months. Hopefully, he’ll get on.”

Despite a four-game suspension, Bryant caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns in 2015 .He averaged 21.1 yards on 26 receptions, including eight touchdowns, in 2014 as a rookie fourth-round pick from Clemson.

In January, while his application for reinstatement was being prepared, Bryant’s agent characterized him as “clean” and “a new person.”

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NFL suspends free agent T.J. McDonald eight games

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T.J. McDonald is a good enough safety that he’s the No. 67 player in our Free Agent Hot 100. But he hasn’t found a team yet, and he won’t play until midway through the season.

McDonald has been suspended by the NFL for the first eight games of the season.

In May McDonald crashed into a parked car and was charged with driving under the influence of drugs. He resolved the case in January by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of reckless driving involving drugs or alcohol.

The Rams drafted McDonald in the third round in 2013. Last year he started all 16 games.

If a team signs McDonald, he’ll be eligible to go through offseason work, training camp and the preseason, but he will have to leave the team for the first eight games of the regular season.

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Greg Hardy to play indoor football if fans approve

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It’s been difficult to keep up with Greg Hardy.

Long ago, NFL teams stopped trying.

The guilty verdict for domestic violence and issuing threats. The absence of his accuser, leading to the case’s dismissal. The personal pleas of innocence — “I’ve never put my hand on any woman” — amid graphic evidence to the contrary. An arrest for cocaine possession. His apparent blacklisting from the CFL. An announced new career in mixed-martial arts. A commitment to the non-NFL affiliated Spring League. Somewhere along the way, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called him a “real leader.”

Hardy is now up for a new opportunity.

The former Cowboys and Panthers defensive end could be headed to Utah to play for the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the Indoor Football League. A fan vote will help determine if he will. The results so far, as of the publishing of this article, are 64 percent in favor of Hardy’s signing.

Before any vote is cast, the team’s prompts users to read a statement from the club’s ownership group.

Some of Hardy’s background is addressed in that.

“He has expressed a strong desire to join the Screaming Eagles as a way for him to showcase his football skills and prove worthy of another chance,” the statement reads in part. “As a football player, Hardy is a physically gifted pass-rusher who could make an immediate impact on our defensive line. As an off-the-field member of the community, there are past allegations and arrests that he carries.

“We have spent the past week speaking with Greg directly and with many of his former teammates and coaches. After hours of deliberation and debate, Screaming Eagles ownership, management, and coaches are in unanimous agreement that we will support Greg joining the team under one condition — that our fans vote to allow him.”

It is unclear what a shot with the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles stint would mean for Hardy’s MMA career.

Indications are Hardy is more interested in a return to the NFL.

“He is not doing this for the money; he just wants to play football and show the type of person he is both on and off the field,” the statement reads. “If all goes well, he hopes to have a chance to play again on Sundays.”

Fan voting ends Wednesday at 10 p.m. PT.

The club allows fans to vote, its site says, on “key team decisions.”

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Lions want it both ways on Thanksgiving, early-season home games

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The Lions have talked to the NFL about getting themselves a more favorable early-season schedule after playing three of their first four games on the road the last two years. But given that the NFL’s schedule-makers already give the Lions a home game on Thanksgiving every year, there’s only so much flexibility the Lions can get.

Laying out the NFL schedule is an enormous task that requires some give and take from every club. The Florida teams prefer not to play in the early Sunday afternoon time slot in September because of the heat. The New York teams prefer not to play at night on Jewish holidays. Every team prefers not to have road trips during short weeks.

The issue with short weeks is part of the problem facing the schedule-makers for accommodating the Lions: In five of the last six seasons, the Lions have played at home on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, in addition to playing on Thanksgiving. That’s an accommodation the NFL tries to give to all the teams playing on Thanksgiving so they won’t have too much travel during a short work week.

But there’s a problem with blocking out two straight home games in late November when putting together a team’s schedule: That leaves just six home games for the other 15 weeks of the season. Obviously, that means there are going to be some stretches earlier in the season when that team is going to be on the road more than at home.

Taken by itself, it wouldn’t seem that hard for the NFL to accommodate the Lions’ request not to play three road games in the first four weeks of the season this year. But the NFL needs to consider the scheduling requests of 31 other teams, and not all of those teams are automatically given a prime home game on a national holiday like the Lions are. So by asking the league to accommodate them both on Thanksgiving and early in the season, the Lions may be asking more than it’s fair for the schedule makers to grant any one team.

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McCarthy: Martellus Bennett “potentially” NFL’s best TE

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Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski shared a depth chart in New England last season.

Based on Wednesday comments, Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes there’s a chance he got the better of the two in free agency.

McCarthy spoke glowingly about Bennett at the annual head-coach media breakfast in Phoenix. Specifically, he said the 30-year-old may “potentially be” the NFL’s best tight end.

“We had him in our cutups this year, so I got to see him play a lot of football,” McCarthy said, via the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe. “To me, he is one of the best or potentially be the best tight end in the National Football League. It’s my responsibility to make sure I create those opportunities for him to succeed.”

This won’t hurt Bennett’s jersey sales in Green Bay.

McCarthy, it’s worth noting, never made a direct comparison between Bennett or Gronkowski, so he wasn’t searching for the “hot take” that could be deducted from his regard for Bennett’s standing among his peers.

But clearly, McCarthy has done his homework.

He detailed the degree to which he’s studied the Patriots over the years. And Bennett’s three-year, $21 million contract, which includes a $6.3 million signing bonus, adds weight to his words.

“He has very good tape,” McCarthy told reporters. “He was a very productive player in an outstanding offense. I have great respect for the Patriots and especially what they do on offense. We like a lot of things that they do. We keep an eye on what they do up there, particularly with some of the route progressions and more importantly how you use each player throughout the passing game.”

Bennett, predominantly used as a blocker to begin his career, caught 55 of 73 passes last season for 701 yards and seven scores. He is one of two tight ends the Packers signed this month in free agency; former Rams tight end Lance Kendricks is the other.

If nothing else, McCarthy’s praise of Bennett further explains Green Bay’s willingness to let Jared Cook walk this month.

He signed a two-year, $10.6 million contract with the Raiders.

 

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Saints to sign Chase Daniel

AP

Chase Daniel is returning to his roots as a backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans.

Daniel, a free agent quarterback who spent his first four seasons as a backup with the Saints, will sign a one-year contract with the team, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.

Daniel originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in Washington in 2009, but he was cut at the end of the preseason and signed with the Saints, where he stayed through the 2012 season. He then spent three years backing up Alex Smith in Kansas City before signing last year in Philadelphia, where he backed up Carson Wentz.

There were reports that Daniel was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to start in Philadelphia last year, but he has now decided to sign with a team that will give him no chance to start. The other backups in New Orleans are Luke McCown and Garrett Grayson; McCown’s job would appear to be in jeopardy with Daniel now as the veteran backup.

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“Egregious” hits more likely to result in suspensions than ejections

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Introduced as a measure that will result in more ejections or suspensions, the reality is that the NFL’s new emphasis on eliminating certain “egregious” hits from the game will lead to enhanced suspensions.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the point of emphasis will apply to suspending the player who commits an egregious hit, even if it’s only a first offense. Game officials retain the ability to eject players for flagrant hits, but the Competition Committee prefers that suspensions be used instead, since mistakes will be less likely if the decision is made after a given game. A split-second decision by an official during a game is more likely to be wrong.

Also, the source said replay review will not be available to determine whether a hit was or wasn’t egregious. This will make officials even less likely to throw a player out for a hit that can be addressed by the league office after the game.

It’s a smart approach, given that officials already prefer not to eject players, for fear of impacting the outcome of the game. Focusing on suspensions permits for a more deliberate approach by everyone involved — and it also gives the player who is suspended a fair chance to appeal the process.

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Bruce Arians: David Johnson is “too young to overuse”

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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians confirmed on Wednesday that the recently re-signed Andre Ellington will be used as a wide receiver this season, which means that the team is still without a clear No. 2 running back behind David Johnson.

That doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for Arians. Johnson had 293 carries and 80 catches last season, which added up to the most touches of any offensive player in the league at an average of 23.3 per game. Arians said Wednesday that he’d like to see that number go up during the 2017 season because Johnson is “too young to overuse.”

“I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that’s going to be a lot of offense,” Arians said, via ESPN.com. “When he has his hand on the ball, either as a wide receiver, coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that’s a lot of potential offense for us.”

Johnson’s age doesn’t preclude the kind of injury that would knock him out of the Cardinals’ lineup completely, although there’s just as much risk of that happening in the first week of the season as any other so it probably won’t dissuade the Cardinals from building on his role as the centerpiece of the offense. If he can stay healthy and Arians is able to get him the ball that often, Johnson may realize his goal of 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

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Pete Carroll “anxious” to see Richard Sherman bounce back in 2017

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A day after General Manager John Schneider said the team listens to everything in response to questions about outside interest in trading for cornerback Richard Sherman, coach Pete Carroll did the same before adding that he doesn’t “see anything happening at all.”

While Carroll expects to have Sherman back in his familiar spot in the Seattle secondary, he also made it clear that he doesn’t want to see a replay of what happened during the 2016 season. Sherman had multiple sideline blowups at assistants during games, criticized offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and sparred with the media in what Carroll called “self-inflicted” issues that he hopes won’t stretch into next season.

“I’m anxious to see him come back,” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “I know there have been some issues and stuff. I’m anxious to see him handle everything and do really well and represent himself and his teammates in great fashion. … He’s a fantastic battler. The only thing that happened is that he didn’t come back, he didn’t re-set as he has. He always found his way to reset [in the past] and he kind of stayed on the edge throughout the season, which was very challenging for him. … So I’m hoping that things balance out moreso for him so that he doesn’t have to carry an additional burden of just trying to be one of the best players in the NFL that he is. So I’m expecting him to do a really good job. He always has. Sometimes the turnaround time just takes a little bit longer than others.”

A trade looks unlikely right now, but Sherman has two years left on the deal he signed before the 2015 season. That means there will be a decision coming about his future in Seattle before too much more time passes and the issues Carroll discussed on Wednesday will likely play a big role in it.

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Scott Crichton fails physical with Bills

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Scott Crichton will not wake up with the rising sun in Buffalo after a disclosure on his physical nixed his contract with the Bills.

The Bills announced today that Crichton, a defensive end who was claimed this week, will go back on waivers because he failed his physical.

A 2014 third-round pick of the Vikings, Crichton spent last season on injured reserve in Minnesota.

Crichton would have been no lock to make the Bills’ roster, and it’s unclear what his future holds. But for now he’s free for any team to claim, if there’s a team that thinks he can get healthy enough to make use of the talent that made him a third-round pick.

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Raiders expect Derek Carr extension talks to ramp up after draft

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The Raiders gained approval to move to Las Vegas in time for the 2020 season this week and they expect to step up efforts to make sure key members of the lineup are there for the move later this offseason.

It’s been no secret that the team is looking to extend the contracts of quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack as they head into their fourth NFL seasons. General Manager Reggie McKenzie added fellow 2014 draft pick and starting right guard Gabe Jackson to the group while discussing why the team allotted less money to free agency this year and said talks with Carr should get more serious once the draft is out of the way.

“He knows what we’re trying to do in free agency, and he’s never saying, ‘I need to know now. It’s not like that,” McKenzie said, via CSNBayArea.com. “More likely, the serious talks will happen after the draft. The communication has been ongoing, just talking about the philosophy of a contract and the thought process around it. Hopefully when the serious talks start going, then it’s going to be easier.”

The Raiders have more time to work things out with Mack as the 2014 first-round pick’s contract contains a team option for the 2018 season that they don’t have with either Carr or Jackson. Keeping all three for the long term should be well within the team’s reach, however, and there’s little reason to think they won’t be in the lineup the first time the Raiders play a home game in Nevada.

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Report: Harrison Smith had ankle surgery

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Vikings safety Harrison Smith missed some time at the tail end of the 2016 season with a high ankle sprain, but was able to return to play in the final two games of the season.

That return to the field apparently didn’t mean that everything was hunky dory with the ankle, however. Adam Caplan and Ben Goessling of ESPN report that Smith underwent surgery on the ankle this offseason.

According to the reports, the procedure was designed to “clean up” the ankle and make sure that Smith didn’t experience any lingering issues with it heading into the 2017 season.

Recently signed running back Latavius Murray also had ankle surgery recently and both players are expected to be ready to go in time to take part in training camp this summer.

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Marvin Lewis on Adam Jones: Other than his language, what did he do?

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When Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin addressed cornerback Adam Jones‘ January arrest earlier this month, he said the team was “very disappointed” with Jones’ actions but that they weren’t going to make any “rash, harsh, fast decisions” about his future with the team.

A felony charge against Jones has since been dropped, leaving him with misdemeanor charges of assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business as a result of his altercation with a security guard at a Cincinnati hotel. The Bengals didn’t immediately revisit Tobin’s comments in light of that development, but coach Marvin Lewis did discuss Jones at the league meetings in Arizona this week.

Lewis didn’t shed any definitive light on Jones’ status with the team, but he doesn’t sound like the plan is to part ways with the veteran corner.

“As time has come out, other than his language what did he do?” Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.  “But that’s up to whatever happens. The case is still under review, we’ll see how it plays out.”

A video of the arrest showed Jones using profane language toward police officers and telling them he wished they would die. His lawyers released a statement saying Jones apologized for what he said and seeking counseling on anger management as a result of the incident.

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Pete Carroll unsure if Marshawn Lynch wants to play or not

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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he talked to Marshawn Lynch when reports about the enigmatic running back returning came up.

But he’s no more clear now on Lynch’s intentions than he was before they spoke.

“I know that he is somewhat entertaining the thought of it,’’ Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “I can’t tell you how strong it is.’’

Carroll said Lynch did not ask to be taken off the reserve/retired list when they met 10 days ago, and didn’t know what he’d do if he did.

At one point Carroll said “there’s not much to it,” and when asked if Lynch might ever play for the Seahawks again, Carroll replied: “He’s retired.”

Of course, the fact Lynch would count $9 million against their salary cap and they’re not going to absorb that after signing Eddie Lacy means they’d move him along if he did.  And when asked if he thought the 30-year-old Lynch could still help a team, Carroll said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know,’’ Carroll said. “Depends on how he has approached this off-season. He looked OK. The mentality that it takes to play this game the way he plays the game, he has to really be invested and ready because he goes deep when he plays. And whether or not that is still in him and the burn is still there, I couldn’t tell that from talking to him.’’

So now we wait to see how Marshawn turns, and whether the interest in coming back to play is serious.

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