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Texans, Titans, Saints remember Bum Phillips

bum AP

Bum Phillips, the former NFL head coach who died on Friday, is being remembered today by the teams he coached and by a city where he was a beloved figure.

Phillips coached the Houston Oilers from 1975 to 1980, and Bud Adams, the owner who moved the Oilers to Tennessee and changed their name to the Titans, released a statement today memorializing Phillips.

“We are very sad to hear of the passing of Bum Phillips,” Adams said. “He meant a great deal to this franchise, the NFL and the city of Houston, and he was instrumental to the Oilers during the ‘Luv Ya Blue’ era. Growing up in Texas and working his way up through the Texas football ranks, he was a natural match for our team. Those were such magical years, and his leadership and personality helped our team rise to the top. He became an iconic figure on our sideline. Our thoughts are with his family, and we know he will be missed.”

Saints owner Tom Benson described Phillips as a great coach and a friend.

“We are saddened by the passing of Bum Phillips,” Benson said. “I had the opportunity to work with him when I first purchased the team in 1985 and also enjoyed our friendship following his coaching career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Debbie, Wade and the rest of his family.”

Although Phillips was out of coaching before the Houston Texans expansion franchise came into existence, he may be most fondly remembered in Houston, where his son Wade is now the Texans’ defensive coordinator.

This was a great man,” a story on the Texans’ website says. “A Marine, a football coach, a father. There will never be another like him. The standard he set in Houston sports history goes far beyond success on the field. Bum Phillips will forever be celebrated as a hard working, caring, successful American. He will forever be remembered as a true Texan.”

Phillips, whose coaching career spanned more than 30 years in high school, college and the NFL, will be remembered as a fine man and a fine coach.

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Caldwell hints that Jaguars are done with Blackmon

Blackmon Getty Images

Before the 2015 draft, the Jaguars didn’t close the door on receiver Justin Blackmon, the fifth overall pick three years ago.  After the 2015 draft, G.M. Dave Caldwell provided a more definitive assessment of Blackmon’s future with the franchise.

Via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union, Caldwell told Sirius XM NFL Radio on Monday that the team’s decision to draft two more receivers should provide an indication of the situation.

The Jaguars added Florida State receiver Rashad Greene in the fifth round, and Monmouth receiver Neal Sterling in the seventh.  There’s a chance that one, or both, won’t make the 53-man roster.  Regardless, the message via the selection of two receivers is that the Jaguars are no longer holding a spot for Blackmon.

And for good reason.  He last played in October 2013, and there’s no indication that he has remained clean long enough to get reinstated.  There’s no indication, as recently noted by Big Cat Country, that Blackmon even wants to be reinstated.

It’s another reminder that plenty of those 32 guys about whom draft experts have been raving for the past few months will end up washing out of the league, for one or more of many possible reasons.

Making Blackmon’s situation even more unfortunate is the fact that he doesn’t lack the talent.  His brief NFL tenure includes a 236-yard game in November 2012 and 326 total yards in his first two games from his most recent — and quite possibly final — NFL season.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

LB Preston Brown wants to step up as a leader for the Bills.

Breaking down the Dolphins’ offensive depth chart after the draft.

Said DE Geneo Grissom of getting drafted by the Patriots near the end of the third round, “I had family members that were calling it a night and everybody was about to go to bed, and I get a phone call and I saw that it was from Foxboro. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to cry, I wasn’t going to cry and I ended up crying like a baby.”

What will the Jets work out with DE Muhammad Wilkerson?

The Ravens are hosting an event for local youth football coaches.

Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard wasn’t surprised to see the team draft a cornerback.

A critique of the Browns’ approach to skill position players in the draft.

There will be 51 players taking part in the Steelers’ rookie minicamp.

Texans DT Vince Wilfork gave the commencement address at the New England Institute of Technology.

Plenty of competition is expected at wide receiver for the Colts.

Interest in the Jaguars draft appeared to be high for local television viewers.

S Da’Norris Searcy is settling into the Titans Defense.

Breaking down the Tulane twosome that the Broncos added at cornerback.

Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said the team’s draft “peeled off” like they hoped.

Former Raiders fullback Marv Hubbard died at 68.

RB Melvin Gordon and LB Melvin Ingram are popular guys in Chargers camp.

The Cowboys’ faith in their offensive line informed their draft decisions.

Nick Saban dismissed any critiques of Giants S Landon Collins’s play.

Wondering if their offseason maneuvering has left the Eagles with a better team.

The results of the Brandon Scherff pick will provide the ultimate judgment on the Redskins draft.

QB Jimmy Clausen explained why he wanted to return to the Bears.

Having a bowl game at Ford Field helped FB Michael Burton land with the Lions.

The Packers hope they landed a pair of playmaking cornerbacks in the draft.

Which Vikings draft picks are good bets to play early?

The Falcons signed fullback Colin Mooney to their 90-man roster.

Panthers RB Cameron Artis-Payne is looking forward to being known as Cam, although that didn’t work out for him at Auburn because of the shadow cast by his Carolina teammate Cam Newton.

Defense was the focus for the Saints during the draft.

The Buccaneers have decided to let RB Doug Martin play out his contract this year.

Former Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly will try out for the Cardinals.

A wish for more additions to the Rams offensive line.

The 49ers officially put LB Chris Borland on the reserve/retired list.

Which undrafted rookies might pan out for the Seahawks?

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Philip Rivers says trade talk didn’t come from his side

Philip Rivers AP

With the 2015 NFL Draft come and gone, any window that ever existed for the Chargers to move Philip Rivers has closed. And now that they’re talking about a contract extension again, Rivers insists he’s not the one who suggested the idea of a trade.

Of course, there are multiple sides to every story, but looking back at this saga, it does appear more and more like an elaborate way to spark contract talks with the Chargers.

Rivers texted back and forth with an apparently skeptical Jim Trotter of ESPN, and insisted he wasn’t the originator of reports that he wanted a trade, to Tennessee or anywhere else.

“I not once, nor did Jimmy [Sexton, his agent], ever say anything about [wanting to be] traded,” Rivers said. “I don’t know what the story is. I’m here. And glad that I am. … I’m willing to listen to an extension. I am willing to play it out. What’s so wrong about that approach? . . .

“I didn’t start anything. I’m under contract for 2015. How can I comment on my future beyond that?”

Of course, Rivers did comment about his future, fairly clearly. And he did start it.

He got the ball rolling on this saga by saying he didn’t plan to sign an extension with the Chargers, and that he was comfortable going into 2015 as the final year of his deal. The suggestion was clear that a possible move to Los Angeles was a factor, and that Rivers wasn’t wild about the idea of taking his family there.

But he told Trotter over the weekend that talk about his next contract was premature.

“It’s May 2nd,” Rivers texted. “It’s not the day before free agency starts next year. It’s business as usual for me around here. Not trying to be difficult. Just feel that it’s a dead story.”

Hardly.

Until Rivers either gets a new long-term contract or doesn’t, and until the Chargers move to L.A. or don’t, and until they sit on Rivers with the franchise tag or don’t, there are plenty of more stories to be written about this one.

Whether Rivers thinks it’s a story or not, or contributes further to them.

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Patriots converting another quarterback to wide receiver

Devin Gardner AP

The Patriots have had pretty good luck with converting college quarterbacks, as Julian Edelman has proven to be a valuable part for them.

So why not try it again, with someone bigger and stronger.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the Patriots have signed undrafted Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, with plans to make him a wide receiver.

Unlike Edelman, Gardner has legitimate NFL size, at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds. Of course, he’s also slow-ish, running a 4.65 40, which will make it harder.

But Gardner also has that leadership/work ethic vibe the Patriots dig on, so they might be able to find a role for him.

Michigan used Gardner as a receiver in 2012, but he settled in at quarterback for the Wolverines, the last two seasons.

Now he’ll get to catch passes from another Michigan man, while learning to convert from a Kent State quarterback who did pretty well with it.

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Winston will have “every opportunity” to start Week One

Buccaneers AP

As expected, the Buccaneers made quarterback Jameis Winston the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft. As assumed, it appears he’ll be installed right away as the starter.

“It’s pretty difficult to say with a straight face that we’re not going to give Jameis that opportunity to win it right away,” G.M. Jason Licht told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio on Friday. “He’s the first overall pick. We think he’s very advanced in terms of his ability to play and pick up schemes and concepts and learn the playbook relative to most rookies, or any rookie we’ve scouted in recent history. So he’s gonna have every opportunity.”

The team’s willingness to make him the Week One starter (against the Titans and, most likely, No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota) becomes even more obvious when considering the strong conviction Licht and coach Lovie Smith developed regarding Winston. Peter King of TheMMQB.com recently detailed the team’s thought processes regarding the former Florida State quarterback.

Licht had his eyes on Winston a year ago, when the draft-day quarterback debate focused on Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. By the Rose Bowl, even though Oregon blew out Florida State and Winston had a Garo Yepremian moment, Licht and Smith knew Winston was their guy.

And so they embarked on doing their homework regarding Winston’s off-field issues, a process that potentially was skewed by the joint desire of Licht and Smith to select Winston with the first overall pick that was secured over Tennessee in part by the decision to bench key players during the second half of a Week 17 game against the Saints.

King raised the question of potential confirmation bias with Licht, who denied that the team found what it wanted to find and ultimately concluded what it wanted to conclude with Winston

“This was a thorough investigation,” Licht said. “We were not going to mistake charisma for character.”

While most of Winston’s incidents that can be attributed to being young and rambunctious (at best) or entitled (at worst), the sexual assault allegation carries the greatest concern.  But the Bucs didn’t interview his accuser, Erica Kinsman.  Last month, she filed a civil lawsuit against Winston.

“That was investigated three times,” Smith told King. “No charges were filed. I understand something happened. But when do you get to the point where you say, ‘We have to let the courts decide, and we abide by their ruling?’ They did not charge Jameis with anything. And at that point, I am going to make the judgment that I am not going to hold this incident against him.”

There’s another ruling to be made, however. And this one will turn on a much lower standard of proof. Ultimately, if a jury accepts Kinsman’s story over Winston’s, her version will prevail.

Regarding the question of getting the facts/allegations directly from Kinsman before the draft, the Bucs were in a no-win situation. If they’d interviewed her and drafted Winston anyway, her lawyers undoubtedly would have issued a press release on Friday morning expressing confusion and outrage at the team’s decision to disregard her explanation.

Either way, that portion of Winston’s off-field portfolio has a long way to go, with Kinsman and Winston inevitably giving depositions with starkly conflicting versions of the events and — barring a settlement — both of them testifying in open court at a trial.

Absent a settlement that Winston’s camp vows won’t happen, the process will be at times a distraction for Winston and the Buccaneers. The outcome could potentially end up being a major distraction for the player and the team, especially if Winston loses and is required to pay a seven-figure judgment to Kinsman.

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Broncos waive Paul Cornick

St. Louis Rams v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Broncos were busy when it came to acquiring offensive linemen in the last few days with two draft picks and four undrafted rookies joining the roster.

It’s not a big surprise that the Broncos would be adding new blockers with head coach Gary Kubiak installing a different style of offense than the team ran under John Fox and Adam Gase over the last three seasons. It’s also not surprising that all the new arrivals will lead to some departures from players who no longer fit the bill.

On Monday, the Broncos announced that they waived tackle Paul Cornick. Cornick spent two years on the Denver practice squad before landing a spot on the active roster for the 2014 season. Cornick played 12 games last year and made six starts on the right side of the offensive line in the middle of the season as the team shuffled their options in hopes of finding an effective unit.

Fox and Gase are now in Chicago, which could offer Cornick a landing spot as a free agent if the team is looking to increase their depth options up front on offense. The Broncos also waived wide receiver Jeremy Kelley on Monday.

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Carson Palmer was on field with Cardinals on Monday

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Cardinals started the second phase of their offseason workouts on Monday, which means that they are permitted to start running plays on the field without helmets or pads.

Among the Cardinals doing that with the first team was quarterback Carson Palmer, who took part in all of the team’s drills in his first practice work since tearing his ACL last season. Palmer said it was hard to remain patient during his rehab, especially since he feels like he has to “start over from scratch” mechanically as a result of the injury.

“I’m always competing against other quarterbacks in the league in my head, and there are a lot of guys not coming off injuries,” Palmer said, via the team’s website. “I have to work that much harder, spend that much more time on it. But that part’s easy for me. I like the work. I like the feeling I have when I go home, just knowing, ‘Man, I’m done. I couldn’t have done any more reps today. I don’t even want my kids to tackle me when I walk in the door today because I’m so tired.’ I enjoy that feeling. That part’s not an issue for me.”

Palmer will have some limitations when the team starts their OTA work, but all signs point to a full return for training camp that puts Palmer on track for a long-awaited return to the starting lineup.

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Steelers line coach admits he was “spoiled” by his stability

Ravens quarterback Flacco  throws despite pass pressure by the Steelers Cameron Heyward during their NFL football game in Baltimore Reuters

The Steelers have needed to get younger on defense for some time.

But having such a veteran core also has obvious benefits, though Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell admits he was “spoiled.”

Having the trio of Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel for so long was the foundation of a very good defense for a very long time, which isn’t lost on them as they rebuild.

You are talking about fans and other people — I was spoiled,” Mitchell said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “How often do you get a Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, and Aaron Smith who play for you for 10 or more years? I was spoiled.

“It made my job very easy. I was spoiled. That doesn’t happen. You guys write about sports. How many teams can you write about that had three guys that played that well for that long of a period of time year in and year out? It made my job easy.”

The end of that era was final in March, when Keisel was released. They continued on the rebuild by using a sixth-rounder on Leterrius Walton from Central Michigan, to go with 2014 draft picks Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers, along with Cam Heyward and Steve McLendon.

“I’m looking for that. I think we are going to have that here again,” Mitchell said. “We are still a little young. Cam Heyward is going to be a heck of a football player. I think Tuitt’s best football is ahead of him. I think Steven McLendon is a guy that stayed in here, worked hard day in and day out. We cut him about four times. He had a never-say-never attitude.

“I think the same thing with Dan McCullers. . . . He’s in great shape right now, he understands what we are going to do and he’s here. I’m excited about this football team. I’m excited about the defensive line.”

It might not be a group that spoils him the way his old group did, but it had become clear the time for change had come.

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Joe Barksdale works out for Falcons

Dallas Cowboys v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

The Falcons added one tackle to the roster in the draft and it looks like they have thoughts of adding some more experienced help to their offensive line as well.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that the team had veteran tackle Joe Barksdale in for a workout. Barksdale has started 29 games as a right tackle for the Rams over the last two years and represents a potential upgrade over Atlanta’s incumbent at the position Ryan Schraeder.

Barksdale has drawn interest from the Titans and he’s also been linked to a return to the Rams, something St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said remained a possibility when he spoke to the media during the draft. That hasn’t led to a deal, though, and the trip to Atlanta could result in an improved offer from the Rams if they think the Falcons will wind up signing him away in the coming days.

The Falcons drafted tackle Jake Rodgers in the seventh round last Saturday and signed Mike Person as a free agent, but things have otherwise been quiet on the acquisition front on Atlanta’s offensive line.

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Zach Mettenberger not giving up easily (though he will eventually)

Zach Mettenberger AP

Yes, the Titans stuck to their pick and drafted Marcus Mariota. Yes, they plan to start him.

Someone should probably mention those two facts to incumbent quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who believes he still has a shot at the starting job there.

Titans tackle Taylor Lewan, who is Mettenberger’s closest friend on the team, said the second-year passer is determined to hang onto the job which was bestowed upon him midway through last season when all the Titans’ other options were either hurt or useless.

“That is the mentality that Zach has. He thinks of himself as a starter, and the guys in the locker room do also. I don’t think he is going to give it up easily,” Lewan told Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “Mariota, I don’t know the guy and I am sure he is a great worker and from everything I hear about him he’s a great guy. But Zach is not the kind of guy who in conflict is going to flee. He’s going to fight it out.”

Lewan said he went by Mettenberger’s house after Mariota was drafted, and was with him at workouts at the team facility Friday and Monday. Lewan also said Mettenberger never asked to be traded, blaming that report on his agent.

“Obviously being 23 years old, you don’t ever want to see that happen. It’s hard man, that stuff is tough. If I was in that situation I’d have a tougher time than he did,” Lewan said. “But the kind of guy Mettenberger is, he, . . . doesn’t care what round someone is drafted in or what pick necessarily. He is there to be successful and he is going to work his butt off.”

The Titans were talking up Mettenberger all offseason (while they were fishing for trade offers for the No. 2 pick), so it stands to reason he should have confidence. But he should also realize that he’s a backup again, with Mariota in town, the offense is likely going to skew away from his strengths and toward those of the guy they picked in the first round.

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Mychal Kendricks joins Eagles workouts

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks opted not to take part in the first phase of the Eagles’ offseason workout program and found his way into the swirl of trade rumors that enveloped the team leading up to the draft.

The Eagles never wound up making the big jump up the draft board in the first round with a package including Kendricks, though, and coach Chip Kelly said after the first round ended that he expected Kendricks to be with the team as they move forward toward the 2015 season.

The next step forward was the start of the second phase of workouts, which include on-field work, on Monday and Kendricks decided to make an appearance. According to multiple reports, Kendricks was at the team’s facility and taking part in the session with his teammates for the first time this offseason.

Kendricks joins Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans at inside linebacker for the Eagles and that depth is part of the reason why Kendricks’s name came up in trade chatter in the first place. It’s also why there’s probably still a chance for a deal if someone should make Chip Kelly an appealing offer down the road before Kendricks starts the final year of his contract with Philly.

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Lawrence Taylor Jr. gets 10 years in prison for sex crimes

ltjr

Lawrence Taylor Jr., son of Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, will spend the next 10 years in prison after a plea deal on statutory rape and child molestation charges.

Taylor took the plea just before his trial was set to start on Monday in Cobb County, Georgia.

The 33-year-old Taylor was accused of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old girls in 2012 and 2013.

Lawrence Taylor Sr., who played for the Giants from 1981 to 1993, has had his own legal issues, including a guilty plea to charges of patronizing a prostitute and sexual misconduct in connection with an encounter with an underage sex worker.

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Bills, Dolphins courting La’el Collins

Louisiana Monroe v LSU Getty Images

The always-intriguing AFC East currently has gotten even more interesting.

With former LSU offensive lineman La’El Collins undrafted in the wake of a double-murder investigation for which he isn’t a suspect but hasn’t been fully exonerated, two teams in the AFC East are actively pursuing Collins.

Via Ben Wallace of the New Orleans Advocate, the Bills and Dolphins have scheduled meetings with Collins.  A league source tells PFT that Bills coach Rex Ryan has traveled to Baton Rouge to visit Collins.  Ryan is particularly interested in converting Collins to guard.

Other teams remain on the fence about Collins, erring on the side of shying away from him until he receives unequivocal clearance.  But as with any other player, 31 teams can shout “no”; it only takes one to whisper “yes.”  With two teams in the AFC East interested, that “yes” could be a lot louder than that.

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Kam Chancellor’s half-brother Keenan Lambert among Seahawks undrafted free agents

Keenan Lambert AP

In addition to reaching an agreement with 34-year-old long snapper and former Green Beret Nate Boyer, the Seattle Seahawks have brought in Kam Chancellor’s half-brother as a part of their undrafted free agent class.

Keenan Lambert, a safety from Norfolk State, is among the 12 undrafted free agents to reach deals with the Seahawks following the conclusion of the draft on Saturday. Lambert and Chancellor share the same mother, Karen Lambert.

Lambert recently joined many members of the Seahawks for their unofficial offseason workouts in Hawaii in April.

In addition to Boyer and Lambert, the Seahawks agreed to terms with Idaho tackle Jesse Davis, Arizona wide receiver Austin Hill, LSU safety Ronald Martin, Georgia Tech linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, Central Michigan running back Thomas Rawls, Auburn cornerback Trovon Reed, West Georgia defensive end Tory Slater, dismissed former Ohio State running back Rod Smith and UT-San Antonio safety Triston Wade.

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Spielman won’t say whether “commitment” will be made to Peterson

Adrian Getty Images

Contrary to whatever it was that Cris Carter was hinting about last week, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t traded. And Peterson’s agent has acknowledged that a trade won’t happen — but that the Vikings should extend “a commitment to make him retire as a Viking.”

Appearing recently on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman declined to comment on whether that commitment will be made.

“He is a player under contract,” Spielman said. “We never discuss with any of our players any financial consequences or anything financial with players’ contracts. We never discuss them publicly. That is kept internally, hopefully between the agent, the player, and ourselves, regardless of what the player is. There’s nothing I can tell you. All I can tell you at this point he is under contract with the Vikings. We intend to honor his contract in the ’15 season as we look forward to having him rejoin our team.”

Apart from whether a “commitment” will be made to Peterson, Spielman made it clear that he wants Peterson to remain with the team indefinitely.

“I think Adrian has done a lot for this organization,” Spielman said. “He made a mistake. He’s done a lot for this community. If we didn’t believe in Adrian Peterson, he wouldn’t be here. . . . He paid his consequences for that mistake and I think it’s time for everybody to just move on.”

The only remaining question is whether Peterson will show up for any portion of the offseason program, and whether he’ll appear for training camp. If he chooses not to play in 2015, he’ll owe the Vikings $2.4 million in previously-paid bonus money. If he plays, he’ll get $12.75 million.

If he shows up for the upcoming Organized Team Activities, he’ll get another $250,000 — making it an even $13 million for 2015.

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