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John Fox released from hospital

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Broncos coach John Fox has been released from the hospital in North Carolina where he’s spent most of the last week after having heart surgery.

Fox released a statement through the team thanking the doctors and nurses that have been caring for him since he fell ill last weekend as well as Broncos personnel and fans for their support. Fox said he is “feeling well and getting stronger” and he will do the next phase in his recovery in Charlotte until he is cleared to return to Denver.

“Although I’m eager to return to coaching, my No. 1 focus is my health. I believe in our players and have full confidence in Jack Del Rio and our staff,” Fox said in the statement. “While it’s extremely difficult to be away from the team on Sunday in San Diego, I’ll be cheering them on from home just like the many Broncos fans who have supported me throughout this process.”

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will serve as interim head coach until Fox is able to make his way back to work. The firmest timetable for when that might happen has been the team’s statement that Fox will miss “at least the next several weeks” while recuperating from his surgery.

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Jets G.M. not saying if Josh McCown is the starting quarterback

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Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan signed quarterback Josh McCown to a contract that guarantees him $6 million this year, but he’s not ready to declare McCown the starting quarterback.

On a conference call today, Maccagnan declined to talk about who will be the starting quarterback for the Jets this year, other than to say the call will be made by head coach Todd Bowles. Maccagnan did say, however, that the Jets are unlikely to add another veteran quarterback.

McCown certainly seems like the favorite to be the starter. Neither of the other two quarterbacks on the roster, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, has shown himself ready to start in the NFL. McCown has at least been a competent starter for a long time in the NFL, and that gives him a leg up.

It’s still possible, of course, that the Jets will acquire their starting quarterback in the draft. But at the moment McCown looks like the most likely Week One starter, even if the Jets aren’t ready to say so just yet.

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Michael Oher “working his fanny off” in comeback effort

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Techincally, Michael Oher remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

But the Panthers tackle is apparently working like a man who intends to play next season.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said Oher “has been working his fanny off.”

Oher suffered a concussion in Week Three and didn’t play again last season, with the team eventually putting him on IR. They then signed free agent left tackle Matt Kalil, which would return Oher to right tackle if he returns.

And apparently, they’re thinking that’s a when rather than an if.

“He’s doing NFL workouts. He’s fully engaged in that weight room sweating his butt off,” Gettleman said. “He looks great, he sounds great. . . .

“Like I told you, he’s doing NFL workouts right now. His workouts right now are not for the faint of heart. He’s down there grunting like everybody else.”

If he doesn’t return, the Panthers would have a pretty glaring hole at right tackle. Previous starter Mike Remmers went to Minnesota in free agency, and though they have former fourth-rounder Daryl Williams on the roster, it’s still thin if Oher is unable to play.

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Cowboys kick the tires on veteran tackle Byron Bell

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The Cowboys have enjoyed depth and stability on their offensive line, but now have to look around for options.

Friday, they brought in a guy with some decent starting experience.

According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys had former Panthers and Titans offensive lineman Byron Bell in for a visit. He has also met with the Packers this week.

Bell didn’t play last year after an ankle injury suffered in OTAs, but started 72 games over his first five seasons. He was a solid-to-good right tackle for the Panthers, but was in over his head when they moved him to left tackle, and they brought in Michael Oher as an upgrade. He played both guard and tackle for the Titans, starting all 16 games in 2015.

The Cowboys are looking at their options after losing Ronald Leary in free agency and Doug Free to retirement.

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Bob Brown was the one player who intimidated Mean Joe Greene

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Mean Joe Greene is known as perhaps the toughest player in NFL history, but he admits there was one guy who could get the best of him on the field.

Greene, the Hall of Fame Steelers defensive lineman, appeared on PFT Live and, when first asked whether he was ever intimidated during his playing days, answered, “That’s not something I experienced when I was on the football field.”

But after giving it some thought, Greene mentioned a fellow Hall of Famer, offensive lineman Bob Brown, whom Greene made the mistake of taking on just once.

“Probably my biggest example of being intimidated was a ball game we played in 1972, we played the Oakland Raiders and Bob Brown was the right offensive tackle and I was the left defensive tackle — I played one player removed from him. L.C. Greenwood lined up opposite Bob Brown.”

Greene recalled that Greenwood, his longtime teammate who was also a very tough player, was complaining during the game that Brown was whipping his butt. Greene, convinced that he could handle Brown one-on-one, told Greenwood to switch places with him for a play. As it turned out, Brown hit him so hard that Greene didn’t even know what happened except that he was on the ground and his helmet had been knocked sideways.

“I said ‘What’s happening?’ he said, ‘Oh man the guy is killing me.’ I said, ‘Let me have him. I’ll line up over him.’ And when I lined up across from Bob Brown, and I looked in that helmet, he’s a couple shades darker than me and all I could see was his eyes, just the look in that helmet, I was very fearful,” Greene recalled. “When the ball was snapped, all I remember was looking through the ear hole of my helmet, one shoe was off, and the play was gone.”

Younger fans may not know the name Bob Brown, but that story from Greene speaks volumes. Brown was one of the all-time tough guys.

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Packers reportedly considered Adrian Peterson visit

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The first free agency in the 10-year career of running back Adrian Peterson continues, for good reason. He still wants to be paid more than anyone wants to pay him.

One team that would be a logical fit for Peterson considered bringing him in for a visit. Via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, the Packers thought about it before deciding against it.

If the Packers said “no thanks” because they believe Peterson would have had the same response to any offer from the Packers, there’s possibly a chance they jump in, if/when Peterson realizes that the money simply won’t be close to where he thought it would be.

Still, the smartest play for Peterson could be to wait. Wait for teams to not emerge from the draft with the running back they hope to get. Wait for teams to become discontented with the running backs on their roster during offseason workouts. Wait for the inevitable torn ACL, broken leg, etc. suffered by a starting running back with a contending team.

Meanwhile the Packers will potentially wait for Peterson to decide that he wants to play for whatever he can get.

However it plays out, Peterson likely will play this year. The only questions are where and, perhaps more importantly, when.

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Panthers will pick up option on Kelvin Benjamin

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The Panthers still can’t be sure what they have in Kelvin Benjamin.

But they’re going to commit to him anyway.

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer the team plans to pick up the fifth-year option on the wide receiver, who has alternated between good and injured and confusing.

The option will pay Benjamin $8 million for the 2018 season.

The 2014 first-rounder was excellent as a rookie, with 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. But he followed a torn ACL in 2015 (the Panthers went to the Super Bowl without a legitimate starting receiver) with a less-productive 2016 (63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns).

He also he also had moments of inconsistency last year that were bothersome, including the way he gave up pursuit of an interception on the play that resulted in Cam Newton’s shoulder injury (which led to Newton needing surgery next week).

That said, he’s still just 26 and gives Newton a large target, and he remains their best option at the position.

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2013 quarterback draft class was a disaster

AP

Four years ago, only one quarterback was drafted in the first round, and only two were taken through the first 72 selections. Most teams knew what they were doing in passing on available passers.

In hindsight, the 2013 draft class was a disaster.

Former Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, the 16th overall pick in the draft that year, started 10 games as a rookie and a total of seven since then. He has 19 career touchdown passes, 20 turnovers, and a passer rating of 77.5.

Geno Smith (pictured), picked 39th overall by the Jets, started all 16 games as a rookie and 13 in 2014. A broken jaw resulting from a locker-room punch in August 2015 ended his time with the Jets as a starter; he has 28 touchdown passes, 36 interceptions, seven lost fumbles, and a passer rating of 72.4.

The next guy off the board was Mike Glennon, in round three. He played well enough in two seasons to position the Buccaneers to earn the first overall pick in the draft, which they used to pick Glennon’s replacement, Jameis Winston. Glennon started 18 total games before taking a seat behind Winston.

With 30 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions, and a passer rating of 84.6, he’s clearly the best of a bad bunch. Which partially explains his $15 million per year deal in Chicago. (It’s still not clear who the Bears were bidding against.)

Also drafted that year were a flurry of fourth-rounders: Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, and Landry Jones. Of them, Barkley (six starts) and Jones (four starts) have played the most. Somewhat surprisingly, both ended up with better second contracts than Manuel or Smith.

Barkley signed a two-year, $4 million deal with a $500,000 signing bonus in San Francisco. Jones has a two-year, $4.4 million contract in Pittsburgh, with $600,000 to sign. In contrast, Manuel has a one-year, $800,000 contract in Oakland and Smith has a one-year deal with a base value of $775,000 and a maximum value of $2 million.

Also drafted that year were a quartet of seventh rounders: Brad Sorensen, Zac Dysert, B.J. Daniels, and Sean Renfree.

So it was a very bad year for quarterbacks in the draft. Kudos to (most) of the teams for realizing this and not over-drafting signal-callers. And condolences to Manuel and Smith for somehow sliding behind Barkley and Jones when the time came to sign a second deal.

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Colts cut Arthur Jones

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The Arthur Jones era in Indianapolis has come to an end.

The Colts announced this morning that they have released Jones, a defensive tackle who has spent the last three seasons with the team.

When the Colts signed Jones to a five-year, $33 million contract in 2014, they thought he’d make a huge impact in the defense run by coach Chuck Pagano, who had previously coached Jones in Baltimore. But Jones played in just 17 games in three seasons, missing time with injuries in all three years and also serving a four-game PED suspension.

The 30-year-old Jones probably still has some football left in him. But he’s going to have to sign with a team that’s offering him a lot less money than he made in Indianapolis.

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Four tech giants bidding for online streaming of Thursday games

AP

When owners meet in Phoenix next week, they’re expected to get an update on the bidding for the online streaming package for Thursday Night Football, and it’s apparently a competitive process.

According to Kurt Wagner of Recode, four tech giants are bidding for the package, with Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and YouTube expressing interest.

Twitter paid $10 million for the rights to 10 games last year, chosen from offers from the other three. This year, others could join the mix, and the added interest could drive that higher, which will be sweeter music to the ears of owners than any birds chirping.

The deal is more interesting for its potential for growth and worldwide reach than current value, because $10 million is bar tab money compared to what the league is getting from broadcast networks.

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All halftimes will be 13 minutes, 30 seconds

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As the NFL looks to tighten the belt regarding the amount of time it takes to play a game, the league will be adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to halftime.

The duration of intermission will expand from 12 minutes to 13 minutes and 30 seconds. While on the surface that could make some games longer, the 12-minute intermission currently has some play in the joints. Moving forward, all halftimes will last precisely 13 minutes and 30 seconds.

“Halftime currently is 12 minutes, but there is built-in delay time that involves teams getting to the locker room and the infrastructure of our stadiums and how they’re configured,” Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said during a Thursday conference call. “So we’re going to eliminate all of those discretionary periods of time and just have a clock, 13 minutes and 30 seconds, and at the end of that period, the ball will be made ready for play for the second half kickoff.”

The change doesn’t appear on a lengthy list of proposed rule changes for 2017. Apparently, this is the type of administrative matter that the league office can handle without a vote of the owners.

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Brian Quick goes to Washington

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Sean McVay made the move from the Redskins to the Rams this offseason and wide receiver Brian Quick will be making the opposite jump.

Quick’s agents announced on Friday that their client has signed a deal with the Redskins. Quick joins Terrelle Pryor as new additions to a receiving corps that lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon as free agents this month.

Quick was the 33rd pick of the 2012 draft and is coming off his most productive NFL season. Quick caught 41 passes for 564 yards and three touchdowns last season while playing with Case Keenum and Jared Goff.

A move to playing with Kirk Cousins would seem to bode well for Quick’s chances of building on those numbers, although Quick’s playing time may be dependent on how ready 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson is after missing almost all of his rookie season with an Achilles injury.

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Brian Robison takes 2017 pay cut, adds year to contract

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Vikings defensive end Brian Robison has agreed to an extension through the 2018 season that comes with a pay cut for this season.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that the veteran will cut his base salary from $5.3 million to a fully-guaranteed $3.9 million for the coming year while also giving up $300,000 in workout and per-game roster bonuses. He will have those bonuses in his contract for the 2018 season along with a $3.2 million base salary that includes $1.25 million in guaranteed money.

Robison is heading into his 11th season with the Vikings and has started all but one of the regular season games the team has played over the last six seasons. He had 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles last season, but saw Danielle Hunter, who finished the year with 12.5 sacks, eat into his playing time as the year progressed.

With linebacker Chad Greenway retiring and running back Adrian Peterson released, Robison has now spent more time with the Vikings than any other player on the current roster.

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Philip Rivers: Any rookie QB will have to sit for a while

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The Chargers have talked about the possibility of adding a quarterback in the draft and they’re doing their due diligence on this year’s prospects.

They had workouts with Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs and are set to work out Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer on Friday. If they do draft a quarterback, they’ll be playing behind Philip Rivers and Rivers said during an interview with Nick Hardwick and Judson Richards on KLSD that he’d be willing to act as a mentor. He also said that the learning process would be an extended one for any new arrival.

“You expect at some point they’re going to get a younger guy in the room to try to start to develop him and groom him,” Rivers said. “It doesn’t by any means really affect me. I think it’s healthy for me to know this thing doesn’t last forever. I have to get to playing better and keep this thing going as long as you can. I think as long as I do that, then whoever it is they bring in here, they’re going to sit for a while.”

Rivers is signed through 2019, so any rookie addition would be sitting for at least three years if he plays out his current pact with the team that didn’t let Drew Brees‘ presence stop them from adding a quarterback in the first round of the 2004 draft.

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NFL has no specific proposal for automatic ejections/suspensions, yet

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The long list of proposed rule changes does not include a proposal regarding ejections or immediate suspensions based on certain types of hits. Apparently, that’s because the league has yet to formulate an actual proposal.

“On the suspensions, for certain types of hits we will cover it with the NFLPA, we’ll cover it with the membership this next week,” Competition Committee chairperson Rich McKay said during a Thursday conference call. “We just want to show some plays that we think have no place in our game and therefore should result in suspension and/or ejection if it’s seen on the field and can be called. As opposed to I think sometimes people get caught up in the idea that a player should be warned and then there should be progressive enforcement. In this case these are plays we just don’t want in our game and our feeling is if suspension is an option and you show those plays to players, we’ve seen them really conform to rule changes and we think this will help us even more conform to not having these types of plays in our game. So, that’s the purpose of that.”

There’s apparently no proposal yet because a fundamental change to the procedures for suspending players would require agreement with the union. Also, because game officials already are reluctant to eject players for fear of impacting competitive balance, any new rule would require clarity, specificity, and a procedure (possibly supervised in real time by the league office) that would ensure consistency.

In other words, don’t expect anything to happen next week. In the absence of a written proposal and an agreement with the union, this one is going to take more time — especially if the NFLPA insists on a significant concession to expand the league’s ability to suspend players.

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Dean Blandino: Officials can issue warning before penalty for 12 men in huddle

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During the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Packers in January, Dallas was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct when wide receiver Brice Butler was judged to have entered the huddle and then left without participating in a play.

The penalty wiped out a 15-yard gain that put the Cowboys on the edge of the red zone and was followed by a punt a couple of plays later in a turn of events that loomed large in a three-point loss. If the same thing were to happen in the playoffs next season, the Cowboys might not find themselves penalized.

During a conference call on Thursday, NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said that the league will give officials the right to issue a warning before heading straight to a 15-yard penalty.

“We did discuss it,” Blandino said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Obviously that’s a penalty you don’t see very frequently. We looked at some of the language in the book, and we’re going to give our officials more latitude to warn the team if they feel it is a potential issue and then penalize after a warning.”

Given how rarely the call is made — referee Tony Corrente made both the January call and the previous one in 2014 — it’s not likely to come up all that often, but the shift laid out by Blandino seems like a more appropriate response when and if it does.

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