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Nate Burleson cleared to return from broken arm

AP

The pizzas are safe, and the Lions offense may be again too.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Burleson has been cleared for contact and will be in the lineup Sunday, barring any late setbacks.

“I don’t want to give away too much, but things are looking up for Nate Burleson,” Burleson said Thursday, showing his ability to use the third person has recovered as well. “Catching some balls, getting high fives. My friends are talking to me again. Things are finally looking up. That pizza set me back, man.”

Burleson broke his left forearm in a Sept. 24 car wreck, which happened when he tried to keep two pizzas from sliding off the passenger seat of his car.

He missed seven games since, though he’s still near the top of the stat sheet. He led the team with 19 catches for 239 yards at the time of the wreck, and other than Calvin Johnson, the only wide receiver to pass him in those categories was Kris Durham, despite the nearly two-month absence.

But they’re hoping for more than just stats when he returns.

“His leadership and his energy,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “Just being able to have that in that huddle brings confidence to the group. And not that they don’t have that, but he just has the creditability to go in and kind of get those guys going and be kind of like that, I don’t know if he’s the mascot for the receivers, but he certainly gets them going and brings a bunch of positive energy to our team.”

Johnson’s done OK in his absence, leading the league with 1,083 yards and 11 touchdowns. But the Lions have clearly been looking for someone else to help Megatron as they fight for the NFC North title, and Burleson’s return should help that process.

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Texans place Duane Brown on did not report list

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Left tackle Duane Brown is officially holding out from Texans training camp.

Brown is looking for a new contract, did not attend the team’s mandatory minicamp in June as part of his push for a new deal and word was he planned the same approach for camp. On Tuesday, the Texans placed Brown on the reserve/did not report list to confirm that’s the case.

Brown, who is due to make $9.4 million this year and $9.75 million in 2018, will be subject to fines of $40,000 a day as long as he stays away from the team.

The Texans also made a few other moves to set up their roster for the start of camp. They placed defensive end T.J. Daniel, an undrafted rookie, on the physically unable to perform list while defensive end Joel Heath and linebacker Dayon Pratt were placed on the non-football injury list.

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Marcus Mariota expects to be full go at start of camp

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Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was limited in work with his teammates this offseason as he rehabbed from a broken right leg. But when the Titans conduct their first training camp practice later this week, he expects to be full go.

I will be ready to go with everything,” Mariota said, via Jim Wyatt of the team website. “I will be full-go in practice, and I will be able to do everything with the guys. And I am excited about that because I wasn’t able to do it in OTAs. It should be a lot of fun.”

Mariota said he practiced with his new receivers a week and a half ago.

He reiterated his desire to play lighter this season, having dropped from 224 pounds to 218.

“Once the season was done it was a combination of the Titans staff and myself [deciding on my ideal playing weight],” Mariota said, “and we wanted to focus on what playing weight would help me be the best at. And I think right around 215-218 is what I played at in college, and I was able to run around and do some things. So that was the focus. If it doesn’t happen, if it doesn’t work out, I can always gain weight. But 218 is probably the best weight to play at and I’ll probably try and stick around there throughout the season.”

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Andrew Hawkins announces his retirement

AP

In a surprise move just before the start of training camp, Patriots receiver Andrew Hawkins has announced his retirement.

Hawkins never played for the Patriots, having just signed with them in free agency this offseason. In a video he posted on social media, he explained that he simply didn’t think he could handle another season at age 31.

“I just got off the phone with the New England Patriots and coach Belichick and I just had to inform them of my decision to retire,” he said. “After OTAs this summer, my body just didn’t respond and didn’t feel the way it should going into camp.”

Hawkins said he wanted to play for the Patriots and they wanted him, but it just wasn’t going to work out.

“They were disappointed,” he said. “I told them I was appreciative of the opportunity to work with an organization as storied as they are.”

Hawkins played three seasons with the Browns and three with the Bengals. He recently got a master’s degree from Columbia and said the next step in his life will be working on a Ph.D. in business and economics.

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Carson Wentz will limit throws “to some extent” this summer

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Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz set a team record by throwing 607 passes last summer and then took a chunk of time off after the season to deal with what he called “general soreness” in his elbow.

Wentz may not hit the same number of passes this season, but he’ll definitely be throwing the ball a lot once the regular season gets underway in September. In an effort to make sure those throws are as sharp as possible, Wentz said that he won’t be firing the ball as often during the team’s work this summer when asked if he’ll be on a pitch count.

“To some extent, yeah,” Wentz said, via Philly.com. “I’m not too worried about it. I’ve been through a number of camps before. Obviously, this is a little different. It’s kind of built into the practice plan in general. But to some extent, yeah.”

The Eagles added Dane Evans to the roster this week and now have three backups behind Wentz to take some of the throws off of the starter’s plate.

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Jets bring Orlando Franklin in for a visit

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The Jets got rid of most of the expensive veterans this offseason, but brought in a guy who was at one point both of those things today.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jets brought guard Orlando Franklin in for a visit.

The 29-year-old Franklin was released by the Chargers in May, right after they drafted guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the second and third rounds.

They had signed Franklin to a five-year, $36.5 million contract in 2015.

The Jets could probably use some depth on the offensive line, though it’s hard to imagine them spending much more than the minimum for any vet, regardless of position since they’re fairly obviously thinking about the future beyond 2017.

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Panthers center Ryan Kalil sees “Game of Thrones” come to life

AP

In the days leading up to training camp, the Panthers ran a series of promos declaring “Wofford is Coming,” a play on the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

Also in the days leading up to camp, the Panthers fired General Manager Dave Gettleman, brought back former G.M. Marty Hurney, who then let director of player personnel Mark Koncz go.

“We’ve obviously taken it too literal with the offing of major characters,” center Ryan Kalil joked, via Bill Voth of the team’s official website.

(Full disclosure: I’ve never seen the show. But I’m told by people who have that this joke by Kalil was appropriate, topical, and clever.)

While the last week and a half have been a bit of a whirlwind for the Panthers, the roster is largely the same, and thus very familiar to Hurney, who put big chunks of it together.

And give Kalil credit for cracking a joke (even if we don’t get it) at a time which might otherwise be tense. Most players were hesitant to say too much, knowing the organizational decisions are well beyond their pay-grade.

“I think at this juncture, when it happened, is not as disruptive as if it would’ve happened right before the draft. The roster’s pretty much set for the most part,” Kalil said. “Obviously, I think it was a surprise to a lot of players having your G.M. be let go a week before camp. But it’s the NFL — things happen. It happens to players all the time. Fortunately for us, I think it was a smart move to bring Marty back and have that familiarity in a guy who I thought was a competent G.M. to begin with.”

Of course, Kalil also knows enough about self-preservation to stay on Hurney’s good side, lest he get invited to the next Red Wedding. (Or something. Again, I don’t watch dragon shows so I don’t know if that’s appropriate, topical, clever, or not.)

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Lucky Whitehead didn’t hit waivers on Monday

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The strange tale of Lucky Whitehead could have another twist left in it.

While the Cowboys announced Whitehead’s release on Monday after word that he failed to appear in court after a June arrest for shoplifting, the move did not come in time for Monday’s waiver deadline and Whitehead was therefore not eligible to be claimed by the league’s other 31 teams. With word coming Tuesday that Whitehead has been exonerated of any wrongdoing due to the police arresting a man who wasn’t Whitehead but gave Whitehead’s information, the team could rescind the move an keep Whitehead.

It does not appear that they are going to do that. Whitehead’s agent David Rich told Katie Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News that the two sides had an “unpleasant conversation” and that he does not expect them to give it another go. Josina Anderson of ESPN spoke to a Cowboys source who told her that the team has moved on.

The Cowboys said Monday that Whitehead’s release was due to “a culmination of things over a period of time” and the addition of Ryan Switzer in the draft left him with longer odds of making the roster, although the fact that they had not cut him before the arrest report that we now know was untrue makes for a strong suggestion that they wouldn’t have made the move now without it.

It doesn’t appear they’ll be changing course, which should mean Whitehead hits the waiver wire on Tuesday and will try to continue his career in a different uniform.

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Adam Gase doesn’t need to see Mike Pouncey in preseason

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The Dolphins haven’t made a call about whether center Mike Pouncey will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list or how he might be limited in practices as a result of a left hip injury, but coach Adam Gase said they will have a better idea once Pouncey goes for a check with doctors.

During a Tuesday press conference, Gase said there were “a whole bunch of different scenarios” based on what doctors say later in the day but that Pouncey has been able to run and has shown progress over where he’s been earlier in the process. Gase said that Pouncey is an “elite player” and not one that he needs to see anything from in the coming weeks in order to feel good about putting Pouncey in the lineup for the start of the regular season.

“Nothing, but that’s me,” Gase said. “I know he doesn’t feel that way. I know he wants to practice and go through his routine for training camp.”

Pouncey has not played in all 16 games during the regular season since 2012, so there may not be a perfect way of handling things to ensure that he’ll be healthy for the long run. Given how important Pouncey is to the offensive line, they’ll likely settle for the path that gets him as close to 100 percent of their snaps as possible.

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Matthew Slater: Patriots don’t talk about a 19-0 season

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The Patriots have had such a good offseason following their Super Bowl LI victory that talk is already surfacing about New England going 19-0.

But that talk is not coming from the Patriots’ locker room.

Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater says he and his teammates laugh when reporters or fans broach the idea that they could win every game from Week One through Super Bowl LII.

“When it comes to a perfect season, when you hear something like that, I guess all you can do is chuckle,” Slater told Bostonsportsjournal.com. “I mean, it’s just so hard to even go out and just being competitive in this league. It’s so difficult. Any talk of us doing something like that, it’s not something I’d align myself with or something our team would think or talk about. Right now, we’re just thinking about going out there and stringing some good practices together. It’s tough — I would say it’s something we don’t really talk about or focus any of our energy on, because we understand that at this time of the year, it’s about getting prepared to play. We’re a long way away from even competing in a game.”

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman made similar comments, calling talk of the Patriots going 19-0 “stupid.” But that talk will probably continue until the Patriots lose a game.

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Police: Lucky Whitehead’s identity was “falsely provided” during arrest

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Police in Prince William County, Virginia recently arrested a man named Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr. The only problem is that it wasn’t the Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr. who used to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

In a lengthy statement, the authorities have admitted that Lucky Whitehead’s identity was “falsely provided” after an arrest for petit larceny. Amazingly, the man didn’t have a fake ID (or any ID at all); however, the man “verbally provide[d] identifying information to officers, which included a name, date of birth, and social security number matching that of Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.”

To be sure, police compared the man to the photo on file with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. And they concluded that it was a match.

“Officers acted in good faith that, at the time, the man in custody was the same man matching the information provided,” the statement reads.

It’s impossible for any of us to compare the photo of the man to a photo of Lucky Whitehead because, apparently, no mug shot was taken. Which could make it even harder for the authorities to catch the real criminal.

As to Whitehead, the case still isn’t officially closed. “[T]he police department is working with the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to clear Mr. Whitehead from this investigation,” the statement explains.

Hopefully, it’ll become official ASAP.

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Statement from police exonerating Lucky Whitehead

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[Editor’s note: The Prince William County, Virginia police have issued a statement regarding former Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead. The full statement appears below.]

“Upon reviewing the June 22, 2017 arrest of an individual named ‘Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.’, the police department is confident that the man charged with petit larceny, and who is subsequently being sought on an active warrant for failure to appear in court, is not Lucky Whitehead of the Dallas Cowboys. The man charged on the morning of June 22 was not in possession of identification at the time of the encounter; however, did verbally provide identifying information to officers, which included a name, date of birth, and social security number matching that of Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.

“Officers then checked this information through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database. The DMV photo on file was then used to compare to the man who was in custody. Officers acted in good faith that, at the time, the man in custody was the same man matching the information provided. At this point, the police department is also confident in confirming that Mr. Whitehead’s identity was falsely provided to police during the investigation. The police department is currently seeking the identity of the man involved in the incident. Since the identifying information provided by the arrestee during the investigation was apparently false, the police department is working with the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to clear Mr. Whitehead from this investigation. The police department regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family.”

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Agent: All charges dropped against Lucky Whitehead

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The Cowboys finally held someone (hard gulp) accountable. Even if there was no reason to.

Agent Dave Rich tells PFT that all charges have been dropped against former Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead, and that the warrant has been rescinded.

It’s still not clear how it all happened. Possibly, someone in Whitehead’s home county in Virginia decided to give the authorities Whitehead’s name when arrested for shoplifting. PFT has attempted to obtain more information regarding whether a mug shot or other identifying factors were obtained, but the call has not been returned by the powers-that-be in Prince William County.

However the situation happened, Whitehead has suffered the consequences. “They cost this guy his job,” Rich told PFT.

The good news is that the truth is coming out while Whitehead remains eligible to be claimed on waivers. Now that he has been cleared, maybe someone will.

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Report: Broncos hiring Gary Kubiak in scouting role

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Gary Kubiak stepped down as the head coach of the Broncos at the end of the 2016 season, but he’s reportedly back in the organization.

Mike Klis of KUSA reports that the Broncos are hiring Kubiak as a senior personnel executive. Kubiak’s role will be a scouting one.

Kubiak experienced health problems while coaching the Broncos last year and missed a game after being taken to the hospital with what was called a complex migraine. He also suffered a mini-stroke when he was the Texans coach in 2013 and avoiding further issues caused by the stress of coaching led to his decision to step down.

He’ll be based in Houston and work on evaluating college players for the draft, which likely means he’ll be interacting with his son and Broncos southwest area scout Klein. Another of his sons, Klint, is an offensive assistant on Vance Joseph’s staff.

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Mike McCarthy trying to keep the BS away from him

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Packers coach Mike McCarthy isn’t exactly the most talkative coach in the NFL.

But his latest efforts to avoid BS are taking a different turn.

According to Doug Schneider of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, McCarthy and his neighbors are trying to prevent a dairy farm from building a manure-storage facility near their subdivision.

As you might imagine, McCarthy lives in a nice neighborhood, full of houses valued from $440,000 to more than $600,000. In rural Brown County, Wisconsin, that’s a high-end neighborhood. But being in rural Brown County, Wisconsin, there are also a lot of cows, who produce something brown of their own that has to go somewhere.

So a nearby dairy farm owned by a gentleman named Jake Pansier wants to be able to store millions of gallons of manure and manure by-products (Hey everybody, what’s for lunch?).

Naturally the neighbors aren’t wild about it, with concerns ranging from water quality, the safety of children (won’t somebody think of them?) and property values.

It’s a complicated story of zoning and farm regulations, but not everybody sees it that way.

“I don’t think this is an agricultural-residential issue,” McCarthy said. “I’m not sure Mr. Pansier is acting in the best interest of being a good neighbor.”

Of course, this story is clearly very serious and has environmental and legal implications which will be felt (and smelt, even by those who have not dealt) in the neighborhood for years to come.

But it’s also about the coach of the Packers and a giant pile of cow poop. You’re welcome.

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Urban Meyer: Greg Schiano was offered two “significant” head-coaching jobs

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The former head coach at Rutgers in the NCAA and Tampa Bay in the NFL seems destined to become a head coach again.

Via ElevenWarriors.com, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Monday that defensive coordinator Greg Schiano turned down a pair of “significant” head-coaching jobs earlier this year. Meyer didn’t specify the jobs, including whether they were at the college or pro level.

Although Schiano’s name bubbled up a time or two in the weeks preceding the annual coaching carousel, he never publicly was identified as a candidate for any NFL jobs.

“He will be a head coach [again],” Meyer said. “I’m going to keep him as long as I can. He’s one of the best I’ve ever been around.”

Schiano apparently stayed put because he has twin sons who will be seniors in high school. Come 2018, he’ll be able to relocate more easily.

Schiano spent two years with the Buccaneers, generating a record of 11-21.

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