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Christian Ponder starts on Sunday

Ponder AP

The Vikings have now had nearly a month with quarterback Josh Freeman.  And he’s not their starting quarterback.

Coach Leslie Frazier announced on Friday that Christian Ponder will start Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.  It’ll be Ponder’s second straight start after he was benched first for Matt Cassel and then for Freeman.

Last week, Ponder played because Freeman had a concussion.  This week, Freeman is healthy.

It’s hardly a ringing endorsement for Freeman as the long-term answer at quarterback, but that’s one of the reasons why the Vikings paid him $2 million for the balance of the season after he was cut by the Bucs.  They wanted the exclusive chance to assess whether he can become the franchise quarterback they haven’t had since the last two years of Brett Favre’s career.

So far, it’s safe to say that the Vikings don’t believe Freeman is the answer.

Of course, they’ve already concluded Ponder isn’t the answer.  But he’s now the coaching staff’s best chance at staving off a conclusion by ownership that they’re not the answer.

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LaMarr Woodley not a fan of defensive coordinators Bettcher and Tarver

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 27:  Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Arizona Cardinals on the sidelines during the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Carindals defeated the 49ers 47-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Maybe now we’re getting an idea why LaMarr Woodley has been on three teams the last three seasons, and remains a free agent.

Via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the veteran outside linebacker made a point on his podcast to rip Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher and former Raiders coordinator Jason Tarver (who is now coaching linebackers for the 49ers.

He didn’t mention either guy by name, but he didn’t have to.

“In Oakland, we had a dumb defensive coordinator and in Arizona, we had a dumb defensive coordinator,” Woodley said. “It was just two dumb guys. They thought we were like Madden players. They’d draw something up and on paper it looked good, but the players still have to go out there and run it. Those guys didn’t really listen to their players. They wanted to do it their way and their way only.”

Oh.

Woodley didn’t care for moving to defensive end in Oakland after spending his career as an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. And even though he was in a familiar spot in Arizona, he didn’t like the way he was utilized, and placed the blame for a 49-15 loss in the NFC Championship Game on Bettcher.

“In Arizona, we had one of the best defenses,” he said. “You look at the results that happened in the Carolina game. It wasn’t because we had bad players. No, our defensive coordinator he didn’t have the common sense to talk to his players to make the adjustments. Because he just wanted to do things his way those are the results we got, bottom line.”

Of course, the Cardinals did rank fifth in the league in defense last year, and Woodley hasn’t exactly been an impact player in some time. His production has steadily decreased since 2009 when he had 13.5 sacks, and he has 10.0 sacks in the last four seasons, none for the Raiders and a single for the Cardinals.

So maybe it’s him.

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Buccaneers sign sixth-rounder Devante Bond

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 22:   Linebacker Devante Bond #23 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a play against the Kansas Jayhawks November 22, 2014 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Jayhawks 44-7.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers got their first-round pick under contract on Friday and they moved closer to getting the entire class signed by agreeing to a deal with sixth-round linebacker Devante Bond as well.

Bond became the 183rd overall pick of the draft last Saturday after he took a winding path to a career in football. Bond didn’t play football until his senior year of high school and spent two years in junior college before finishing up his career at the University of Oklahoma.

Bond only made eight starts during his two years with the Sooners and missed four games with injury in 2015, but the Bucs saw enough to bring him to the team. His seven tackles for losses last season likely helped on that front, although his quickest route to playing time in Tampa is likely to come on special teams.

With Bond and first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves signed, the Bucs need to get deals done with second-round picks Noah Spence and Roberto Aguayo and sixth-rounder Dan Vitale to have the entire group under contract.

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Cardinals sign Nkemdiche, two other draft picks

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #29 overall by the Arizona Cardinalsduring the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals signed three draft picks Friday, including first-round defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

Regarded as one of the draft’s most talented but puzzling prospects, Nkemdiche was busy on the pre-draft circuit meeting with teams and answering questions. The Cardinals were comfortable enough with what they heard to draft him with the No. 29 pick.

Nkemdiche, who’s just 21, figures as an immediate contributor on an already talented Cardinals defensive line.

The Cardinals also signed fifth-round safety Marqui Christian and fifth-round offensive lineman Cole Toner.

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Giants announce 14 undrafted rookie additions

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 17: KJ Maye #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers carries returns a punt against Jonathan Rose #14 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the first quarter of the game on October 17, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants are hoping for a return to form from wide receiver Victor Cruz after two seasons lost to injury and getting it would add to the improbable story that Cruz began writing as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

If he can’t, perhaps one of the wideouts that the Giants signed as an undrafted free agent this year will be able to bolster the Giants’ receiving corps. The team announced 14 signings on Friday afternoon and there were three receivers in the group.

At 6’3″, Darius Powe is the tallest wideout on the Giants’ 90-man roster outside of French import Anthony Dable and comes to the team after 47 catches for 560 yards and eight touchdowns while playing with Jared Goff at Cal last season. K.J. Maye comes in at the opposite end of the spectrum at 5’8″, but was productive at Minnesota while catching 73 passes for 1,190 yards and six touchdowns. The Giants also signed Roger Lewis from Bowling Green.

Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum, Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich, UTEP tight end Cedrick Lang, Virginia tight end Ryan Malleck, Notre Dame defensive end Romeo Okwara, North Carolina State defensive end Mike Rose, Kentucky defensive tackle Melvin Lewis, Campbell defensive tackle Greg Milhouse, UConn defensive back Andrew Adams, Boise State defensive back Donte Deayon and Oklahoma State defensive back Michael Hunter are the other new additions to the Giants roster.

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Cardale Jones: Rex Ryan might be my long-lost father

Buffalo Bills quarterback Cardale Jones has a laugh while speaking to the media during their NFL football rookie minicamp in Orchard Park, N.Y., Friday, May 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) AP

Bills quarterback Cardale Jones never had a problem speaking his mind during his time at Ohio State with one of the more notable comments coming when he wondered on social media why football players had to go to class when they weren’t in college to “play school.”

A willingness to shoot from the hip verbally is something the fourth-round pick shares with his new coach Rex Ryan and Jones said Friday that he appreciates that Ryan is “not here to B.S. you.” He also joked that the similarity in their personalities has him thinking there may be a deeper connection.

“He might be my long-lost dad,” Jones, who has said in the past that he’s never met his father, said. “I’ve been looking for that guy for 23 years. I found him.”

Ryan pointed out the physical differences between the two men that make that unlikely while discussing his early impressions of Jones on the field.

“You guys have seen me throw,” Ryan said, via Syracuse.com. “I can’t even throw it 30 yards I don’t think. OK, maybe 40. You know what, I’m excited about him. He’s a big, raw talent. Does he have to come a long way? There’s no question about that. But he’s almost in the perfect situation and we’ll see how he develops.”

Jones won’t be seeing the field much if it all in the regular season if all goes according to plan for the Bills, leaving him time to polish that raw talent for a time when the team may need to look in his direction.

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49ers announce 12 undrafted free agents

Unknown Getty Images

In addition to signing nine of 11 draft picks, the 49ers have persuaded a dozen undrafted free agents to join the team.

Signing three-year deals with the 49ers are Stanford linebacker Kevin Anderson, Oregon offensive lineman Alex Balducci, Colorado safety Jered Bell, Stanford receiver Devon Cajuste, Arizona State defensive lineman Demetrius Cherry, Utah linebacker Jason Fanaika, Nevada linebacker Lenny Jones, Alabama defensive lineman Darren Lake, Liberty kicker John Lunsford, Baylor offensive lineman Blake Muir, Southern Mississippi offensive lineman Norman Price, and California receiver Bryce Treggs.

All teams may have up to 90 players on the offseason roster.

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Elway says Lynch will be ready to start sooner than people think

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers warms up prior to the game against the Temple Owls on November 21, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos G.M. John Elway moved up in the first round of the draft to select quarterback Paxton Lynch, a developmental project who seems very unlikely to beat out Mark Sanchez for the starting job this season. But Lynch may not take as long to become the Broncos’ starter as most observers are expecting.

Elway said on Denver Sports 760 that Lynch may just prove himself ready to be an NFL starter this year.

“Is that going to happen tomorrow? Probably not, but you never know when it can happen,” Elway said. “We think he’s going to be ready quicker than a lot of people think.”

Elway said the Broncos did their homework on Lynch and also researched which other teams were interested in Lynch. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has acknowledged he tried to trade up to get Lynch before the Broncos beat him to it, and Elway said the Broncos were aware that other teams wanted to move up an get him. Elway also said the Broncos were confident that — contrary to some mock drafts — the Jets weren’t going to draft Lynch, saying Denver had “pretty good intel that they were going to pass on him.”

So what did the Broncos like so much about Lynch?

“He’s a young guy with tremendous athletic ability, he’s got the strong arm, can make all the throws, he’s smart, and he’s a guy that can fit into this offense real well,” Elway said.

If Sanchez struggles, Lynch may show what he can do in the Broncos’ offense early in the 2016 season.

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49ers sign DeForest Buckner, eight other draft picks

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It’s becoming more and more clear that the days of delayed draft-pick contract negotiations and possible holdouts are over.

The 49ers have announced that defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft, has agreed to terms. It’s a slotted four-year deal, with a fifth-year option.

Also under contract are fourth-round cornerback Rashard Robinson, fifth-round defensive end Ronald Blair, fifth-round tackle John Theus, fifth-round tackle Fahn Cooper, sixth-round quarterback Jeff Driskel, sixth-round running back Kelvin Taylor, sixth-round receiver Aaron Burbridge, and seventh-round cornerback Prince Charles Iworah. All non-first-round deals cover four years.

Unsigned are first-round guard Joshua Garnett and third-round cornerback Will Redmond.

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Steelers sign another pick, sixth-rounder Travis Feeney

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 14:  Linebacker Travis Feeney #41 of the Washington Huskies during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Huskies 27-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Some teams are carpet-bombing their draft pick signings, getting most of them done at once. The Steelers are picking theirs off Sgt. Alvin York-style, one at a time from the back to the front.

The Steelers announced today that sixth-rounder Travis Feeney had signed his rookie deal.

He’s their third pick to sign, after they got their seventh-rounders taken care of yesterday.

Feeney, an outside linebacker from Washington, had 8.0 sacks last season. He figures to add depth and a special teams presence this year.

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Texans sign three draft picks, 15 undrafted rookies

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 19:  Tyler Ervin #7 of the San Jose State Spartans rushes for yardage during the AutoNation Cure Bowl against the Georgia State Panthers at Florida Citrus Bowl on December 19, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans have joined the draft pick signing fun to close out the week.

The team announced the first three agreements with members of their 2016 draft class. The Texans started from the back, signing fourth-round running back Tyler Ervin, fifth-round safety K.J. Dillon and fifth-round nose tackle D.J. Reader, leaving their first three picks, including first-round wideout Will Fuller, unsigned.

Ervin was a productive kickoff returner at San Jose State and could earn early playing time in that role while vying for snaps behind Lamar Miller in the backfield.

The Texans also announced the signing of 15 undrafted free agents. They are Cal tight end Stephen Anderson, UCLA Ka’imi Fairbairn, Michigan State defensive end Joel Heath, Memphis wide receiver Tevin Jones, Miami defensive end Ufomba Kamalu, South Florida linebacker Eric Lee, Florida International cornerback Richard Leonard, Alabama wide receiver Richard Mullaney, North Carolina linebacker Shakeel Rashad, Stanford linebacker Brennan Scarlett, Texas cornerback Duke Thomas, Tulane tackle Arturo Uzdavinis, USC fullback Soma Vainuku, San Jose State cornerback Cleveland Wallace III and Cumberlands wide receiver Wendall Williams.

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Redskins add 14 undrafted rookie free agents

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 14:  Maurice Harris #3 of the California Golden Bears scores a touchdown against the Oregon State Beavers in the third quarter of their NCAA football game at California Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Redskins made wide receiver Josh Doctson their first-round pick last Thursday and they added three more rookie wide receivers to the roster with the announcement of their group of undrafted free agent signings on Friday.

Reggie Diggs joins the team after playing his college ball a short distance away at Richmond. He had 66 catches for 901 yards and five touchdowns during his final year at the school while Maurice Harris had 40 catches, 558 yards and six touchdowns to wrap up his career playing with first overall pick Jared Goff at Cal. The third wideout is Valdez Showers, who moved from defensive back to wideout while at Florida.

The Redskins also added a pair of players — guard Dominick Jackson and safety Geno Matias-Smith — from Alabama’s national championship team.

East Central tackle Kevin Bowen, Utah safety Tevin Carter, Indiana tight end Michael Cooper, Texas linebacker Shiro Davis, Fresno State Ejiro Ederaine, Clemson tackle Joe Gore, Tulane running back Robert Kelley, Michigan fullback Joe Kerridge and Alabama A&M defensive end Anthony Lanier fill out the group.

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Lions sign Taylor Decker and eight other draft picks

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Taylor Decker of Ohio State holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #16 overall by the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Gone are the days of long contract negotiations for NFL rookies, and we can add the Lions to the list of teams who are getting their draft picks’ contracts done in a hurry.

The Lions announced today that first-round pick Taylor Decker and eight other drafted rookies have signed. The only rookie who hasn’t signed yet is A’Shawn Robinson, a second-round defensive tackle out of Alabama. There’s no word on why Robinson hasn’t signed yet, but it’s unlikely that there will be any significant holdup for Robinson, or for any NFL rookie.

Decker is a 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive lineman from Ohio State who is expected to earn the starting right tackle spot on the Lions.

Detroit’s other draft picks are Washington State offensive lineman Joe Dahl, Michigan center Graham Glasgow, Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew, Baylor long snapper Jimmy Landes, Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock, Washington running back Dwayne Washington, Georgia Southern linebacker Antwione Williams and Penn State defensive lineman Anthony Zettel.

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Christian Hackenberg: College struggles made me better

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 25: Quarterback Christian Hackenberg #9 of Penn State speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Heading into the draft, there were plenty of opinions offered about quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

They broke down into two general camps. One was that Hackenberg turned in two poor years at Penn State that provided little reason to believe he’d be a good NFL quarterback and the other was that Hackenberg’s poor play was a byproduct of bad teammates and a coaching change that left him in a system that didn’t fit his skills.

The Jets fell into the latter camp and picked Hackenberg with the 51st overall selection last Friday, something that Hackenberg called a “fresh start” this Friday. Hackenberg said he “kind of buried” criticism of his college performance, which he believes will help him be a better player in the NFL.

“I think you’re defined by how you react to adversity and how you’re able to get back up,” Hackenberg said, via NJ.com. “So I think ultimately, having to go through that at a young age and doing it through college is only going to help me in the long run. That’s how I’ve compartmentalized that, and that’s how it’s really been a stepping stone for me moving forward. I think it’s only going to help.”

Hackenberg did have plenty of experience getting back up while at Penn State after being sacked more than 100 times and the pounding he took joined his inaccuracy as concerns from the less enthusiastic observers of his play. Those observations helped Hackenberg wind up with the Jets rather than any of the league’s other teams, but they won’t matter if Hackenberg is correct about how the future will play out.

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Colts ink Antonio Morrison, have six of eight picks signed

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 28:  Antonio Morrison #3 of the Florida Gators chses down Kermit Whitfield #8 of the Florida State Seminoles during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts continued to check off boxes, signing yet another of their draft picks.

The team announced they had signed fourth-round linebacker Antonio Morrison.

Morrison was a four-year starter at Florida, and has a chance to lend some depth to a defense that certainly needs the help.

The Colts have already signed first-rounder Ryan Kelly, and have six of their eight picks under contract already.

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Panthers see playing Thursday opener as competitive disadvantage

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers is tackled by  DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

For the Super Bowl winner, the right to host the first regular game of the season on the Thursday night of Week One is viewed as an honor. But for the team that has to go on the road to play the Super Bowl winner, it’s not necessarily a good thing.

That’s the word from Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman, whose team will travel to Denver for a Super Bowl 50 rematch in Week One. Gettleman said this morning on PFT Live that he’d rather have a full week of work after final roster cuts, like the other 30 teams get.

“To me, playing in the opening game, on that Thursday night, is a little bit of a competitive disadvantage to those teams, compared to the other 30, because of the way the 53 cut is set up. You’ve got to have a practice and you don’t have your practice squad players,” Gettleman said. “It’s kind of a competitive disadvantage. We’ve got to play them at some point and I’m sure that when the ball’s teed up we’ll both be ready to go.”

Gettleman is right that he and John Elway will have less time to finish their 53-player rosters than the NFL’s other 32 GMs. On the other hand, starting Week One early means they’ll have extra rest before Week Two. In the end, the competitive disadvantage is a fairly small one.

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