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Aaron Rodgers is an optimist, but he hasn’t been cleared yet

AP

On Tuesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked if the chances of quarterback Aaron Rodgers playing against the Lions on Thursday were still somewhere between slim and none.

McCarthy said they were “closer to none,” something Rodgers said he hadn’t quite accepted later in the day. Rodgers called himself an “optimist” and hasn’t ruled himself out after returning to practice on Tuesday. Rodgers took snaps, threw the ball and did individual drills, none of which caused him any pain in his broken left collarbone. Having no pain isn’t the same as being cleared to return, though, and Rodgers explained why he’s still on the sideline.

“There’s obviously risk-management and then here’s the flexibility and the strength, which are two other components of this injury that have to be where I want them to be in order to play. The flexibility and the strength have been the last to come and we’ll go from there,” Rodgers said, via ESPNWisconsin.com “We’re 22 days out from the injury today. Expectations have been high, and I’ve obviously been trying to push it as much as has been reasonable, but it’s a waiting game with broken bones and obviously it doesn’t just affect the bone, it affects the muscles around it and range of motion and the strength you have on that left side and in that shoulder. Obviously I know I’m a right-handed quarterback, but I still need to be able to have strength in that arm.”

Rodgers said his timeline to return is unaffected by the performance of whoever is playing quarterback in his place, although he said he was “encouraged” by the way Matt Flynn played after replacing Scott Tolzien last Sunday. He’ll almost certainly need to be content with that until Week 14, when it looks like Rodgers will have a real chance to return to the lineup.

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Gareon Conley could still be charged, despite passing polygraph test

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The Raiders decided to take a risk by drafting cornerback Gareon Conley. But it definitely was a risk, given the uncertainty of his legal situation in Cleveland.

Yes, Conley passed a polygraph test, which per multiple reports was imposed by the Ravens. (And that creates a separate potential can of worms that will be addressed in a separate post.) So why didn’t the Ravens pick Conley at No. 16 if, as reported, he passed it?

Whether Conley can pass a polygraph test (which remains inadmissible in a court of law because it’s not a reliable indicator of truth telling) isn’t relevant to whether he gets charged. Indeed, whether Conley is telling the truth and whether the evidence would permit a zealous prosecutor in Cleveland to indict Conley are two different issues.

Conley could still be indicted; the Ravens realize that, and the Raiders surely do, too. As the saying goes, a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich. That’s because the process entails a one-sided introduction of evidence, with the defendant having no representation.  It’s also easy to indict because the legal standard for doing so is much lower than the standard required for a conviction.

To get an indictment, the prosecutor merely must convince the grand jury that probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed. Combining that with the fact that the defendant has no one arguing the opposite position makes its ridiculously easy to get an indictment.

People think that, in any community, a judge has the most power within the confines of the justice system. The truth is that the prosecutor does. The prosecutor decides who gets charged, who doesn’t get charged, and what they get charged with. If the prosecutor in Cleveland subjectively decides that the alleged victim is telling the truth and/or that the defendant isn’t — or if the prosecutor simply decides that the prosecutor wants to turn the defendant’s life upside down for any reason at all, an indictment can be obtained.

The prosecutor’s discretion is really broad. Really, really broad. In nearly any case where a prosecutor wants to get an indictment, an indictment will be gotten.

There are two key facts that could significantly influence that decision-making process. The alleged victim has had a rape kit administered, and Conley has agreed to provide a DNA sample. Given that Conley’s front-line defense (based on the information provided by the witnesses in the hotel room) is that nothing happened between Conley and the alleged victim, a match between the rape kit and the indictment could be the thing that prompts the prosecutor to seek an indictment, and in turn that results in the indictment being obtained.

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Mitchell Trubisky: Mike Glennon is still the Bears’ starter

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New Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky isn’t expecting to have the starting job handed to him.

Trubisky said today in Chicago that he knows the Bears signed Mike Glennon with the expectation that he’ll start this season, and Trubisky himself will develop on the bench.

“I haven’t talked to Mike yet but I’m very excited to work with him and the rest of the quarterbacks here. Mike is the starting quarterback and I’m very excited to learn from him and the rest of the veterans on the team and I can’t wait to help the Bears win,” Trubisky said.

That might be the case for now, but it will be a major disappointment if Trubisky isn’t good enough to beat out Glennon soon. The Bears didn’t trade up to No. 2 in the draft to select a backup. They want Trubisky to start, and the sooner the better.

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Deshaun Watson: I’m not Michael Jordan, but I’m ready to work

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When Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said quarterback Deshaun Watson would be the NFL’s version of Michael Jordan, even Watson himself thought that was a little crazy. But Watson is eager to do all he can to live up to his college coach’s confidence.

“It caught me off guard when Coach Sweeney said that,” Watson said today in his first press conference in Houston. “I’m not Michael Jordan, but I guess he sees greatness in me and hopefully in 10 to 15 years people can talk about my name like they do Michael Jordan.”

Watson said he’s eager to get to work for the Texans and learn from the team’s two veteran quarterbacks.

“It’s going to be a challenge, which is what I’m up for. I have a lot to learn so I’m just anxious to get here, get to work and learn from Brandon Weeden and Tom Savage, two guys I’m a huge fan of, who I’ve watched while they were in college,” Watson said.

Although he’s currently slated to be Savage’s backup, Watson said he’ll be a student of the Texans’ offense as he tries to earn playing time.

“Film study is the key to being a great quarterback,” he said. “To be detailed with that is key. I still have a lot to learn. I’m going to be a sponge when I get here and go to work.”

That’s what the Texans want to hear from their new franchise quarterback.

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Browns parting ways with Gary Barnidge

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The Browns traded back into the first round on Thursday night to take tight end David Njoku and that move had immediate repercussions for a veteran member of the team.

Tight end Gary Barnidge posted a welcome to Cleveland message to Njoku on his Twitter account Thursday night. He was back on Twitter Friday afternoon amid multiple reports that the Browns are releasing him from their 90-man roster.

Barnidge had a huge 2015 season — 79 catches for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns — and signed a contract extension through the 2018 season before the year was out. His production dropped in 2016 and the team will get over $2.1 million in cap space as a result of parting ways with him now.

That 2015 season wasn’t too long ago, obviously, and it’s no secret that any pass catcher’s production was going to be hurt by the quarterback play the Browns got last year. Those two things should help Barnidge as he tries to latch on with another team in the near future.

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Philip Rivers: I’m glad we made a move that helps right now

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In the weeks leading up to the draft, there was a lot of chatter about the Chargers drafting a quarterback and perhaps even taking one in the first round as they looked ahead to a time without Philip Rivers leading their offense.

Rivers said that any rookie quarterback the team adds would have to be prepared to sit for a while, but he made it clear on Friday that he’s happier about the route the Chargers actually took on Thursday night. They drafted wide receiver Mike Williams, who provides Rivers with another target for his passes and sends a message that they are focused on the here and now more than what might happen a few years from now.

“I’m glad we made a move that I think helps us right now,” Rivers said on XTRA 1360 with Nick Hardwick and Judson Richards.

The Chargers may still take a quarterback at some point in the draft and Rivers said he expects it, but doing it after the first round will mean a lot less talk about the end date for Rivers.

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Report: Bears G.M. didn’t tell his coach about plans to draft Mitch Trubisky

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If you thought you were surprised by the Bears trading up to take Mitch Trubisky, imagine how coach John Fox felt.

According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, Bears General Manager Ryan Pace kept the plan to move up to select the North Carolina quarterback to himself until hours before the draft.

While that’s one way to prevent leaks, it might not be the best thing to foster trust between a young G.M. and a veteran coach.

And considering Fox’s previous shenanigans with rookie quarterbacks (he once signed journeyman Brian St. Pierre off the street and started him that week rather than play rookie Tony Pike), not keeping him in the loop on the decision to make a bold move might be the best for everyone.

For the moment, Fox has a veteran in Mike Glennon he can play while Trubisky develops for the future.

And now it’s reasonable to wonder whether Fox will be in that future, if he wasn’t involved in the decision to draft Trubisky at all.

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Report: Browns called the Patriots about Jimmy Garoppolo

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The Browns were quick to declare #fakenews last night when the network they own a portion of reported they were trying to trade for Kirk Cousins.

Now comes another report from another network saying they’re still beating the bushes.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Browns called the Patriots last night to inquire about the availability of Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots said no thanks.

They seem to realize they don’t have an answer at the position at the moment, but they continue to not make anything happen to fix it.

The Patriots have held firm on wanting to keep Tom Brady’s backup, and so the Browns are apparently left to continue the search.

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Browns invite even more quarterback questions in 2017

AP

Remember when the Browns were repeatedly grilled about their decision not to sit tight at No. 2 and take Carson Wentz last year? The Browns soon may be longing for those days.

Their first-round strategy in 2017 will invite questions regarding even more quarterbacks, depending on how many of the quarterbacks on whom the Browns passed thrive in the coming season. Especially since three other teams thought enough of the top quarterbacks to trade up to get them.

First, it was Mitchell Trubisky. By passing on him and taking Myles Garrett — and with the Bears moving from No. 3 to No. 2 to get Trubisky — the Browns have invited a comparison between players on opposite sides of the ball like the one the Texans walked into when taking Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush. Neither became truly great, which helped the Texans avoid “I told you so” criticism. If Trubisky becomes a franchise quarterback before Myles Garrett becomes Von Miller or Khalil Mack, the Browns will be hearing it, loudly.

Next, it was Patrick Mahomes. Chiefs coach Andy Reid thought enough of Mahomes to move seventeen spots to get him, from No. 27 to No. 10. If the Browns wanted Mahomes, they could have easily moved to No. 9, with Hue Jackson working his relationship with Marvin Lewis in a way that would have allowed the Browns to get Mahomes at No. 9 and Lewis to likely still get John Ross at No. 12.

Then came Deshaun Watson. There he was, on a platter at No. 12. The Browns simply had to put his name on the card. Instead, they opted for pick No. 25, along with a first-round pick in 2018 from the Texans that likely won’t be a high one.

Finally, after swinging back into the bottom of round one, the Browns could have had DeShone Kizer or Davis Webb. They opted for a tight end, David Njoku.

So, basically, the Browns could have had Trubisky instead of Garrett, or they could have had Garrett plus Mahomes or Watson or Kizer or Webb. And if the story will be similar to last year’s leak that the Browns didn’t think Wentz will become a top-20 quarterback, the Browns are quickly running out of spots in the bottom 12.

Especially when at least one of those spots belongs to whoever their current starter would be.

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Chiefs think Patrick Mahomes can be “truly great”

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Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said he traded up to pick quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick in the draft for a simple reason: He thinks Mahomes is a franchise-changing player.

He has got unbelievable talent,” Dorsey said. “He’s got the skill set to be one of those truly great players. When you make an aggressive move like that, that’s why you do it. Because players like that, they don’t come around too often.”

Dorsey gave up his first-round pick this year, his third-round pick this year and his first-round pick next year for Mahomes, but he said he doesn’t think that’s a lot to give up, compared to what Mahomes had to offer.

“I don’t think it was a lot because I think he’s going to be a really good player, he’s in a perfect situation, he can sit back, he can learn, he can develop, he’s got the tutelage of some really good coaches and I couldn’t be more excited,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey is confident he just changed the Chiefs’ fortunes. Given all they gave up, Dorsey better be right.

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T.J. Watt: Playing Texans on Christmas will be “really cool and a weird day”

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The Steelers made linebacker T.J. Watt a first-round pick on Thursday night and that means Christmas will be a family reunion for some members of the Watt family.

The Texans will be hosting the Steelers on Christmas Day, which will provide T.J. and his older brother J.J. a chance to play in the same game for the first time. J.J. Watt sent out a tweet saying he’s looking forward to a fun holiday shortly after the Steelers announced their pick and his younger brother used a couple of different adjectives to describe the prospect of facing his brother’s team.

“I played with him in the backyard a bunch, I’ve seen him play a bunch, we’ve never been on the same field in full uniforms competitively before,” T.J. said, via ESPN.com. “I think that will be really cool and a weird day for me.”

Both of the brothers play defense, so there won’t be an opportunity for them to actually match up unless the Texans decide to give J.J. one of his infrequent spins on the offensive side of the ball. The Watt brother who does play offense regularly is Chargers fullback Derek, but he’ll be on the field against the Jets on Christmas Eve and isn’t scheduled to face either of his brothers during the 2017 season.

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Final cost of Brock Osweiler mistake: two first-round picks, second-round pick, $21 million

AP

The Houston Texans made a huge mistake last year by signing quarterback Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract. The final cost of that blunder can now be calculated.

In addition to the $21 million that was paid to Osweiler last year, the Texans previously gave up a second-round pick in 2018 (along with a sixth-round pick in 2017 in exchange for a 2017 fourth-round pick) to get Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary for 2017 off the books. They’ve now secured Osweiler’s replacement in exchange for a pair of first-round draft picks.

And, yes, at a time when few teams will consider giving up two first-round draft picks for a veteran player, the Texans gave up two first-round picks — the 25th overall selection in 2017 and next year’s first-rounder — to get Deshaun Watson. That’s no different than trading two first-round picks for Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, or any other available (and proven) signal-caller.

It’s a huge price to pay, and a definite risk to take, for screwing the pooch on Osweiler, an outcome that possibly was cemented by the inability of the Texans to bring Osweiler in for an extended visit before signing him. And it’s a lesson to any team considering the addition of a quarterback on the first day of free agency; if you’re considering a proverbial pig in a poke, you’re possibly going to be spending a lot on the lipstick that eventually will be applied to a sweaty, nasty, stinky swine.

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Report: DeShone Kizer in play for Packers at No. 33

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Packers General Manager Ted Thompson traded out of the first round last night, landing the No. 33 pick in a deal with the Browns and then let the football world he was open to trading back again to kick off the second round.

According to a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, that’s not the only option the Packers are considering. Rapoport reports that Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer is in play to be picked by Green Bay when the draft resumes on Friday night.

There would seem to be a link between that report and Thompson’s comments. If you were trying to build a trade market for a pick, there are worse ways to do it than trying to get people to believe that you’re going to take one of the highest-rated quarterbacks still available.

Getting teams to believe you’re serious is another issue and that’s one that might be tough for a Packers team that has more immediate concerns than developing a quarterback who may well be out of contract before Aaron Rodgers is thinking about moving on. It’s not unheard of — see Jimmy Garoppolo — but a team moving up to secure Kizer would likely be doing it to jump ahead of teams other than the Packers.

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Hue Jackson: We’ll find a role on offense for Jabrill Peppers

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In the final weeks before the draft, there was some speculation that Jabrill Peppers would fall out of the first round because of concerns about a diluted urine sample at the Scouting Combine and uncertainty about what position he’ll play in the NFL.

The Browns weren’t concerned enough to pass up Peppers at No. 25 and they made it clear that they see Peppers’ versatility as an asset when discussing the pick. While they plan to play him primarily at strong safety, coach Hue Jackson also said he sees Peppers playing a role in the return game and that they plan to figure out a way for him to contribute on offense as well.

“He is a football player, a very dynamic player,” Jackson said, via the Detroit Free Press. “Obviously, he’s going to play defense for us, but we’ll find a role for him over there on offense. No question. … Again, when you have guys that have ability to make plays, you do anything and everything you can to put them in an environment so they can showcase their talent and ability. We will do that, but first we are bringing him in here to play defense and play special teams.”

Peppers had 45 carries and 10 catches over the last two years at Michigan, but the vast majority of his work came on the defensive side of the ball. That should be the case in Cleveland and his play in the secondary will decide whether this pick goes down as a success or not.

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Sean McDermott tiptoes around question about scouting staff

AP

As the draft continues to unfold, a potentially bigger drama percolates in Buffalo: After the draft ends, who stays and who goes?

PFT reported recently that Bills scouts fear a mass termination next week. The team issued a statement to PFT that didn’t deny that notion. On Thursday night, coach Sean McDermott faced a similar question during a press conference. He likewise didn’t deny it.

Here’s the question: “Sean, as excited as you are about what you got today and what you got accomplished today, there seems to be a cloud hanging over part of this team with reports about your scouting staff, and possibly Doug Whaley’s job, being in jeopardy. Do you foresee changes happening next week, immediately after this draft?”

“I am absolutely, 110 percent focused on what is going on right now upstairs with the rest of the first round, and then the second and third round,” McDermott said. “That’s what’s in front of us right now. If we were focused on anything else, we’d be making a mistake. That’s where our focus is.”

For any team where sweeping changes definitely weren’t coming after the draft, the denials would be loud and sweeping. The absence of a denial in this case says all that anyone needs to know. More changes are coming for a team that hopes to make enough improvements to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

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Packers G.M. on tonight’s first pick: Come and get it

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Packers General Manager Ted Thompson bailed out of the first round last night, and he wants to make sure everyone knows the top pick of the second round is available.

Via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Thompson made it clear tonight’s first choice (the 33rd overall) is very much for sale.

“Oh yeah, you can put that down,” Thompson said. “That will save us a couple of phone calls. We’re taking calls.”

The Packers bypassed the chance to pick 29th last night when the Browns had to have tight end David Njoku. For their troubles, they got the 33rd and 108th picks, giving Thompson the first picks tonight and tomorrow (when the fourth round begins).

What he’s hoping for is a bidding war to develop today. Whether quarterback DeShone Kizer, running back Dalvin Cook, left tackle Cam Robinson or others could trigger one remains to be seen.

“I think it’s very good strategy-wise,” Thompson said. “We know where we’re at and what we’re going to do. There’s a couple of different ways of looking at it in terms of being helpful to us. It could be that we highlight a player that we know we can get, and they can’t take him away from us, so we sit there and pick him. It could be that a team sees an opportunity to maybe trade up and get a player they didn’t think they could get and maybe it’s again a trade that works well for us. There’s a couple of different ways to look at it. . . .

“We wanted to add a little meat to shoring up the roster.”

If they don’t trade it, they could still address their need at cornerback, with Sidney Jones, Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie, and others still available there.

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