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McCarthy: Rodgers is “slim to none” to play Thursday


Aaron Rodgers might want to play this week.

But it sounds like he’s going to have a hard time convincing his boss that’s the right thing to do.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Rodgers might try, but it would be a “huge stretch” to think he’d be sufficiently recovered from a broken collarbone to play Thursday against the Lions. He also said that if Rodgers didn’t practice Wednesday, he wouldn’t play.

“He would like to go,” McCarthy said, via Jason Wilde of “I would say he’s slim to none. That’s what I’m thinking.”

McCarthy said he’d prepare both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien, though he said Flynn “deserves to start” after some solid relief work leading them back for a tie Sunday against the Vikings.

As important as this week’s game might be, letting Rodgers push himself is unwise. So while McCarthy might feel pressure to win, taking care of the franchise quarterback is a greater responsibility.

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Joe Thomas not worried about memory loss “right now”

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Joe Thomas, who has admitted some memory loss, acknowledged a concussion study released Tuesday but called it a “multi-faceted” issue.

The Browns left tackle told Graham Bensigner in an interview with In Depth in April that he was sure “the damage has already been done” to his brain from a lifetime playing football. Thomas said Wednesday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that doctors have assured him that some of his small memory lapses are normal.

I’m not worried about it right now,” Thomas said.

He declined to say whether he has undergone additional testing since noticing some forgetfulness, such as where he put his keys.

“But for me, personally, I do monitor those things very closely,” Thomas said.

Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee revealed to The New York Times that 110 of 111 NFL players who donated their brains to research had C.T.E. or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the neurocognitive disease thought to be linked to repeated blows to the head. That prompted the questions to Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler.

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Eagles cut 2014 first-round pick Marcus Smith

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Another disappointing recent acquisition is out in Philadelphia.

Marcus Smith, the Eagles’ 2014 first-round draft pick, has been cut.

The Eagles tried at times to use Smith as both a defensive end and an outside linebacker, but he just never fit in and managed just four sacks in three NFL seasons. Former Eagles coach Chip Kelly liked Smith’s talent, but the current regime in Philadelphia has had no use for him.

The Eagles declined to pick up Smith’s fifth-year option this offseason, and Smith did not participate in voluntary offseason work. So both sides seemed to understand that they wouldn’t be together much longer.

Still, the decision to cut Smith now, rather than give him one last chance to prove himself in training camp, is a surprise. The Eagles will move on and Smith will now see if some other team believes in his talent.

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Packers announce moves in player personnel department

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The Packers announced more changes to their player personnel staff.

The Packers expanded the role of Charles Walls, who is entering his fifth season with the Packers and third as a college scout, to area scout. He began as a scouting intern with Green Bay in 2013 and served as a scouting assistant in 2014. Walls also previously served as the team’s National Football Scouting representative to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Brandian Ross joins the Packers as a scouting intern. The former safety originally signed with Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent some time on the Packers’ practice squad during the 2011-12 seasons. From 2012-15, Ross played in 45 games with 24 starts for the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.

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Trevor Siemian gets first reps with starters at Broncos camp

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Trevor Siemian was the starting quarterback for the Broncos last season and he’ll be the first quarterback on the field with the starting offense at the first practice of training camp on Thursday.

Broncos coach Vance Joseph made that announcement on Wednesday, via Mike Klis of KUSA. Paxton Lynch, who is competing with Siemian for the starting job, will be the first man up on Friday in a rotation that’s following the same pattern that the team employed during their offseason program.

Joseph reiterated what he said at the end of the team’s spring work about the lack of a timeline to make a decision about which of the two will be in the starting lineup come the first week of the regular season. At the time, Joseph also downplayed the impact of spring work by saying the “true evaluation” of the two quarterbacks would come during the summer.

Lynch’s play picked up near the end of the offseason program and continued progress could lead that evaluation to go the 2016 first-round pick’s way, but, for now at the very least, Siemian remains the first man up in Denver.

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Sam Bradford: “Nothing has changed” regarding his contract

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Matthew Stafford may not be the only NFC North quarterback headed for the franchise tag in 2018.

Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford also enters the last year of his contract. He told reporters on Wednesday that “nothing has changed” regarding the deal, via Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Vikings could extend Bradford at any time before March. The question becomes whether he’d pull the plug on negotiations at some point before then.

The bigger question, looming for 2018, is whether the Vikings would use the franchise tag to keep him from leaving. If so, Bradford would make more than $22 million in 2018, with a 20-percent raise in 2019 and then a 44-percent raise looming for 2020.

Bradford will make $18 million this year, the second season of a two-year, $36 million deal. Last year, the Vikings paid only $7 million to Bradford, with the Eagles forking over the other $11 million before trading him.

Before that came a six-year, $78 million contract, pushing Bradford’s career earnings to $114 million through 2017. The money he has made will make it easier for Bradford to dig in and refuse subpar offers and hit the open market next year, or take the franchise tag.

From Minnesota’s perspective, committing to Bradford would mean de-committing to Teddy Bridgewater. So the Vikings will be kicking the can in 2017, and possibly in 2018.

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Belichick faces his first questions about going undefeated in 2017


Get used to it, NFL fans, Patriots fans, Patriots players, and Patriots coaches. With the defending Super Bowl champions mashing the gas in the offseason, the Pats will be picked to win the Super Bowl by most — and pegged to go 19-0 by many.

Multiple players already have faced those questions. On Wednesday, coach Bill Belichick did for the first time.

The reporter who asked it came up with a plan for avoiding the Wrath of Bill. Instead of asking the question directly, the reporter asked Belichick how he’d react if asked the question.

“I was reading a national publication earlier that had me wondering,” the question went, “would you opt for a piercing death stare or just utter disgust if somebody asked you about your team being hyped to go undefeated this season?”

Belichick didn’t take the bait. As if he ever does.

 “Yeah, right now, we’re just trying to have a good day here today, get off to a good start in training camp,” Belichick said. “We’re not really worried about all that’s in the future. That will come when it comes.”

Next came the next try to be cute.

“Do you think I would have been better off reading the July issue of Nantucket Magazine, in which you were featured on the cover?” the reporter asked.

 “For what?”

“For reading instead of talking about you guys going undefeated.”

 “Yeah, I don’t know.”

Here’s what I know: Until the Patriots lose a game, the questions will continue. And maybe we’ll eventually find out whether Belichick would respond with a “piercing death stare” or “just utter disgust.”

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Eagles release offensive lineman Allen Barbre

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The Eagles announced that Isaac Seumalo would open camp as their starter at left guard. That left Allen Barbre without a job, and looking for another one.

The team announced they had released the veteran lineman.

The versatile Barbre started 28 games over the past two years, able to fill in at right tackle (for the suspended Lane Johnson) as well.

“Allen Barbre is a pro’s pro,” Eagles executive Howie Roseman said in a statement. “Not only did he help the team with his solid play as a starter at left guard, but his ability to step up and play multiple positions helped us battle through some difficult situations. We had a conversation yesterday and agreed it made sense to allow him to pursue some other opportunities, but the door is open for him to return here as well.”

The 33-year-old Barbre was slated to make $1.25 million this year, and Roseman’s statement suggest a pay cut could be in order if he comes back. But Barbre has also played well enough it’s reasonable to think he could find a starting job elsewhere.

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Vikings announce contract extension for Everson Griffen

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Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen won’t leave Minnesota any time soon.

Griffen has signed a contract extension, the Vikings announced today.

The full details of the deal aren’t available yet. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network pegs it at four years and $58 million.

The Vikings chose Griffen in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. After playing out his rookie deal, he signed a five-year contract with the Vikings in 2013, and is now getting another new deal just three years into that contract.

The 29-year-old Griffen has been chosen to the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons.

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Devonta Freeman’s agent leaves Atlanta without a deal

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Devonta Freeman’s been talking about a new contract since before the Super Bowl.

The Falcons have been talking about giving their leading rusher one before training camp.

It doesn’t appear to be going well.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Freeman’s agent was in Atlanta negotiating with the team, but has left town without a deal.

The team’s apparently not putting a deadline on the negotiations, but they also thought it would go much more smoothly than this.

Of course, Freeman’s agent has a cell phone and so does Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, so they don’t have to be in the same room to negotiate. But with the team taking the field tomorrow, it looks like Freeman will be working under the terms of his rookie deal, which expires after this season.

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Myles Garrett “totally healthy” after foot sprain in minicamp

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The Browns got a scare when first overall pick Myles Garrett had to limp off the field during one of their minicamp practices last month, although the worst fears subsided when the defensive end was diagnosed with a sprain.

Garrett provided a positive update on his status a couple of weeks ago and coach Hue Jackson gave an even rosier one when he spoke to the media on Wednesday. Jackson said they’ll be watching to make sure that Garrett doesn’t suffer any setbacks, but that there’s no immediate concern about his ability to get on the field.

“We will definitely monitor him, but I think he’s totally healthy,” Jackson said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “Maybe hasn’t done all the conditioning that you would like to see right before training camp, but I think he’s up to speed and ready to go, and he’s looking forward to it.”

Garrett was added to give the Browns a disruptive player up front and he should be seeing plenty of playing time right off the bat as long as his health cooperates in the coming weeks.

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No Falcons on PUP list, but Julio Jones and others will be limited

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With training camps opening around the league this week, teams have been placing players who aren’t ready to practice on the physically unable to perform list.

The Falcons aren’t one of the teams making those moves. Coach Dan Quinn said at a Wednesday press conference that the team will not be putting anyone from their 90-man roster on the list, which means that everyone will be available to practice.

Not everyone will be practicing in full, however. Quinn said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, that wide receiver Julio Jones will be among the players limited in practice. Jones had foot surgery and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said recently that the wideout has “healed up very, very well.”

First-round pick Takkarist McKinley will also be limited after shoulder surgery and those two will be joined in taking on a reduced workload by wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

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Thomas Davis says contract talks are ongoing

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Panthers tight end Greg Olsen talked about a potential training camp holdout as part of his push for a new deal with the team, but reported on time Tuesday and said that he made the call because he “didn’t feel like it was right to add fuel to the fire and be a distraction” after the team’s recent General Manager change.

Olsen also said that he is prepared to play out his contract after failing to get a new deal done before camp. Linebacker Thomas Davis also expressed his desire to sign a new deal with the team this offseason and said Wednesday that his own situation is continuing to play out.

Davis said recently that talks got underway while Dave Gettleman was still with the team and took issue with suggestions that the nature of those talks had something to do with why Gettleman was fired. On Wednesday, Davis told reporters at Panthers camp that the talks have continued with Marty Hurney taking over interim duties in Gettleman’s absence.

Davis is in the final season of a three-year deal and turned in strong play during each of the first two years of the pact.

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Cody Kessler will open camp as Browns “starter” at quarterback

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The Browns aren’t making a quarterback decision yet. But when they start training camp, someone has to work with the starters.

That person, according to Browns coach Hue Jackson, will be Cody Kessler.

He deserves a chance to walk out there first,” Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

That seems traditional, if not eventual.

After drafting DeShone Kizer in the second round and accepting Brock Osweiler as part of Houston’s salary dump, they have what could be an interesting, if not exceptional competition.

And with Kessler having the most background with Jackson and the system (dating all the way back to last year when he was a third-round pick), he gets the ceremonial duty of the first reps of the competition.

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If Texans dig in, Duane Brown holdout could last a while

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The Texans reacted to the Duane Brown holdout for a new contract by pretending that he’s not holding out for a new contract. If they continue that posture, Duane Brown may be holding out for a while.

There is no contract dispute,” G.M. Rick Smith said Tuesday. “Duane is under contract for two more years. That’s our position.”

Brown is a vested veteran, so he won’t lose a year toward free agency by failing to show up within 30 days of the regular-season opener. Also, and as we explained a couple of years ago in the context of first-round picks in the fifth year of their contracts, the Joey Galloway ruling from a generation ago allows a player under contract to miss up to eight regular-season games without having his contract tolled.

Thus, Brown can skip all of training camp, all of the preseason, pay the fines, give up eight game checks, return for the back half of the 2017 season, repeat the process in 2018, and become a free agent in 2019.

“But he signed a contract!” you may say. Sure he did. And the same system that allows a team to rip up a contract whenever it wants allows the player to incur fines, miss up to eight game checks, and get credit for the year under that contract.

It will be easy for the pundits to claim that Brown eventually will cave. That may be the case. But he’s skipped the full offseason program, he remains dug in, and if the team is going to act like it’s not a contract issue because he has a contract, it may still be a while before Brown shows up.

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Jim Schwartz expects Timmy Jernigan to have big impact on pass rush

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The Eagles drafted defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round and signed defensive end Chris Long as a free agent in a clear attempt to increase the effectiveness of their pass rush off the edge.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sees another offseason acquisition helping the pass rush as well, although it won’t be from the edge. The Eagles traded for defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and Schwartz believes that putting Jernigan alongside Fletcher Cox will turn out to be a big plus to the team’s efforts.

“I do like the guys we have up front,” Schwartz said in comments distributed by the team. “It’s not just drafting a guy like Derek or bringing a guy like Chris in. I think Tim Jernigan is really going to be a big addition for us. He was hard to handle inside. Last year when Fletch had such a good start, that first month, teams adjusted. They started taking him away, and we didn’t win enough one on ones away from him because that other tackle got the one on ones. Well, that happened in OTAs, and Timmy’s able to get good pressure. So I think that was — I don’t know if it flew under the radar, but it was an important acquisition for us. I think that will affect our pass-rush as much as bringing a first-round draft pick or veteran player into the mix.”

Cox had four sacks in the first four games, but only picked up 2.5 the rest of the way. If he’s able to up that total, it will be a good sign for the Eagles defense whether Jernigan or someone else picks up the credit for creating more opportunities up front.

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