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Rodgers will know Friday or Saturday if he can play

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There won’t be a game-time decision to make about Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers quarterback, who has yet to be medically cleared or officially ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Falcons, said Wednesday that there would be a call on his status before Sunday.

“It wouldn’t be fair to Matt Flynn to make a decision on his status on the day of the game,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think that’s fair to Matt if we do that. I think by Friday or Saturday at the latest there will be a decision.”

Rodgers said that there were three tests he needed to pass to get cleared — strength, range of motion and the scan of the bone — and that he’s only passed two of them at the moment. The scan of the collarbone was taken on Tuesday and Rodgers said the results weren’t “the greatest news,” but declined to discuss specifics about the results or his expectations.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Rodgers said. “There’s enough people who are supposedly getting leaks from this organization that can make their own assumptions.”

The assumption that matters the most for the Packers right now is the negative one most people are probably making about Rodgers’ chances of playing in Week 14.

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No word on Wes Welker as March comes to a close

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Free agency dominates the month of March in the NFL, and by the end of the month, if a player hasn’t signed with anyone, that’s usually a pretty good indication that the player isn’t drawing much interest.

In the case of Wes Welker, there’s been no talk at all about any team trying to sign him. A recent Denver Post report saying it would be a surprise if the Broncos brought him back is just about the only thing anyone has said about him since free agency started.

It’s not hard to see why there’s not a lot of interest in Welker: He turns 34 years old this year and his production has steadily declined, from 1,569 receiving yards in 2011 to 1,354 yards in 2012 to 778 yards in 2013 to 464 yards in 2014. Last year he averaged a career-low 9.5 yards a catch.

Welker was once among the best receivers in the NFL. He led the league in catches three times and was a first-team All-Pro twice. In his six seasons with the Patriots, he topped 110 catches in five of them, falling short only in 2010, when he was recovering from a torn ACL.

But those days are long past. Now Welker is aging, and NFL teams aren’t showing interest. Perhaps he’ll sign with some team for a low-priced deal, or perhaps he’ll decide to take the lack of interest as a hint that it’s time to retire.

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Dorial Green-Beckham, Marcus Peters to visit Vikings

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The Minnesota Vikings are set to take a closer look at a pair of draft prospects with a record of troubling off-field issues.

According to Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV, Missouri/Oklahoma receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and Washington cornerback Marcus Peters are both scheduled to visit the Vikings during the draft process.

Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri after repeated violations due to marijuana and following an incident where he allegedly forced entry to an apartment and threw a woman down several stairs. Green-Beckham was never charged in regards to the incident.

Peters was also dismissed by Washington after multiple suspensions and violations of team rules.

Both players are immensely talented but carry significant baggage of NFL teams to vet. The Vikings are in need of help at both positions and could benefit from adding either player in the draft, if they are able to keep from making any further missteps as professionals.

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Shane Wynn shows off speed at Pro Day

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Shunned from the Scouting Combine, Indiana receiver Shane Wynn made up for it on Monday.

The undersized wideout, who stands a mere five feet, six inches, ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.29 seconds, according to David Woods of the Indianapolis Star.

Pro Day workouts often occur on a track faster than the turf at the Scouting Combine, prompting scouts to adjust the time. Regardless, Wynn’s official time shows that he can move.

The question becomes whether he’s big enough to make it at the next level.  Trindon Holliday, who is an inch shorter and ran at 4.34-second 40 at the Combine in 2010, became an effective kick returner for a few years.

As a senior with the Hoosiers, Wynn caught 56 passes for 708 yards, scoring three touchdowns through the air.  He aded two rushing touchdowns and 138 yards.  He also returned 11 kickoffs for 244 yards (a 22.2-yard average per return) and 13 punts for 69 yards (a 5.3-yard average per return).

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Guard Dan Connolly visiting Buccaneers

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Veteran guard Dan Connolly is drawing interest from a handful of teams in free agency.

The former New England Patriots lineman is set to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday, according to Ross Jones of FOXSports.com.

Connolly has also visited the Seattle Seahawks and continues to draw interest from the Patriots as well.

Connolly has started 67 games for New England over the past five seasons at both guard and center. If signed by Tampa Bay, Connolly would rejoin former Patriots lineman Logan Mankins.

 

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Jonathan Martin: I no longer think about the Dolphins bullying case

Jonathan Martin AP

Jonathan Martin may always be best known for leaving the Dolphins after he was bullied by teammates, but he says he no longer thinks about that.

“You know, honestly I haven’t given it much thought,” Martin said, via ESPN. “I’ve just been looking forward to each day. And now, getting here, I’m looking forward to being a member of the Panthers and to compete and play in this great game, and do whatever I can to help this team win.”

Asked about Richie Incognito and the situation in Miami, Martin said it’s behind him.

“That is a situation for the past,” Martin said. “I don’t think about it. I try not to catch the headlines, positive or negative. I’m focused on what I can do for my career moving forward.”

Martin, who was waived by the 49ers and claimed by the Panthers last week, said he’s expecting a much better experience in Carolina.

“I’ve only heard good things about the organization,” Martin said. “They’ve had success these past two years. There’s some things they want to do on the O-line, so it’s a good opportunity for me.”

It may be Martin’s last opportunity to show he can make it in the NFL. He wants all of his focus to be on the field.

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Rams agree to terms with center Tim Barnes

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The St. Louis Rams have agreed to terms on a new deal with center Tim Barnes.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Barnes is expected to sign the one-year, $1 million deal with the Rams on Tuesday.

Barnes was not tendered as a restricted free agent by the Rams and allowed to hit the market. After a visit with the Kansas City Chiefs, Barnes elected to stay in St. Louis.

Barnes started four games in place of an injured Scott Wells at center at the end of the 2013 season. Barnes has appeared in 45 games for the Rams over the last three seasons while serving primarily on special teams.

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Falcons penalty doesn’t seem to provide much deterrence

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The Falcons admittedly used artificial crowd noise throughout the 2013 season and into the 2014 season, until they were caught in November.  Ultimately, they were fined and stripped of a fifth-round pick in 2016.

The fine ($350,000) really isn’t all that much for a billion-dollar business.  The draft pick carries far more value, but since it was deferred until 2016 it’s roughly equivalent to a sixth-round pick in 2015.

Given that there’s a chance a team can use false crowd noise and manage to conceal their activities indefinitely, the punishment for getting caught doesn’t exactly operate as a major deterrent — especially since fake crowd noise can have a major benefit.

As former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker explained on Monday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, crowd noise removes the advantage of knowing when the ball will be snapped, giving the blockers a split-second head start over the defensive players.  So the punishment doesn’t really seem to fit the crime, which could tempt others to commit the same crime.

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Heart attack preceded Armond Armstead’s retirement from Patriots

armondarmstead AP

The Patriots announced last summer that defensive lineman Armond Armstead was retiring at the age of 23, and Armstead has kept a low profile since then, never explaining what led him to walk away.

But now Armstead has confirmed in court papers that he suffered a heart attack in 2014, before announcing his retirement. The Sacramento Bee details that heart attack and other issues in a long story about Armstead’s lawsuit against USC. Armstead also had a heart attack in 2011, while he was a player at USC.

Armstead now believes his heart problems were caused by USC doctors giving him the painkiller Toradol. His lawsuit against the school will be closely watched throughout the football world, as hundreds of players in college football and the NFL have been given Toradol. Few players have had health problems as serious as multiple heart attacks before the age of 24, but several have expressed concerns about potential side effects.

Neither Armstead nor USC has commented publicly about the lawsuit.

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Technically, Brady’s cliff jump may violate his contract

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Unless the video was technologically enhanced, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently jumped off a cliff in Costa Rica.  Setting aside for now whether the national media would be reacting with a shrug if a quarterback perceived as being less committed to his craft were engaging in inherently risky behaviors, the conduct technically may violate Brady’s contract.

Paragraph 3 of the Standard Player Contract provides that the player cannot “engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”

No specific unsafe activities are listed in the standard player contract, but there’s some precedent.  In 2007, the Titans successfully kept cornerback Pacman Jones from taking up pro wrestling during his one-year suspension under the personal-conduct policy by flexing their legal muscles in court.  Likewise, Saints quarterback Drew Brees cited his contract during a 2014 marketing campaign for a three-wheeled motorcycle, the Can-Am Spyder.

“We knew the restrictions from the beginning, as did Can-Am,” Brees said at the time.  “Ultimately because I can’t ride it now doesn’t mean I won’t someday.  The first chance I have to ride it on a closed course, you can bet I’ll take advantage.”

If Brees really is prohibited from riding a motorcycle (and if it wasn’t just a marketing ploy), riding a motorcycle presumably is no more unsafe than jumping off a cliff.

Obviously, the Patriots won’t be doing anything about it.  But they’d surely prefer that Brady be a bit more careful with his body during those days of the year when large men in armor aren’t throwing themselves at his legs.

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Washington signs RB Michael Hill

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Michael Hill is back for a second stint with Washington.

Hill, a second-year tailback from Missouri Western, re-signed with Washington on Monday, according to the NFL’s personnel notice.

Hill (5-10, 210) was on Washington’s practice squad toward the end of last season. He was last with the Colts, who waived him in March.

The 25-year-old Hill has also played for San Diego (2013), Green Bay (2013, 2014) and Tampa Bay (2013-2014). Overall, he’s rushed for 23 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 23 years in NFL regular season play, all in 2013 in stints with Green Bay and Tampa Bay.

Hill joins Silas Redd and exclusive-rights free agent Chris Thompson as reserve options behind starter Alfred Morris in Washington.

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Report: Miles Austin agrees to terms on deal with Eagles

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A visit to Philadelphia this week has resulted in a contract between receiver Miles Austin and the Eagles.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the former Dallas Cowboys wideout is set to return to the NFC East after agreeing on a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Eagles.

Austin spent last year with the Cleveland Browns after playing the first eight seasons of his career in Dallas. Austin caught 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games for Cleveland before landing on injured reserve with a kidney injury.

In his last fully healthy season, Austin caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns for the Cowboys in 2012. Austin has battled hamstring and kidney injuries the last two years.

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Doug Whaley: Marcell Dareus extension “priority No. 1″ after draft

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The Bills recently extended the contract of defensive tackle Kyle Williams and they have plans to make more tweaks to deals for their talented defensive linemen.

On the top of the docket is defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The Bills exercised their fifth-year option on Dareus’s contract for the 2015 season, which leaves him set to make $8.06 million in the coming year, and General Manager Doug Whaley says that an extension that will keep Dareus in Buffalo even longer will be a focus for the team as the offseason continues.

“In the near future,” Whaley said of extension talks with Dareus, via the Buffalo News. “He will be priority No. 1 once the dust settles post-draft, maybe even before then, just to get the ball rolling.”

Whaley also said that the “most logical” way for the team to free up more cap room in the immediate future would be to restructure or extend defensive end Mario Williams in a similar way to the deal they struck with Kyle Williams.

“We want to set a precedent that we retain our own and we have them retire as Buffalo Bills. I think that’s a sentiment we’re trying to show the players on our roster now,” Whaley said. “Not only are we getting good players, but we’re retaining our good players as long as possible. And everybody wins. Mario gets a couple of more years, he’s going to retire a Buffalo Bill, and we get some cap relief.”

The two moves would continue a busy offseason in Buffalo as the team tries to put together a team that will end the playoff drought that started after the team’s Wild Card loss to the Titans in a 2000 game that remains memorable because of the Music City Miracle that ended it.

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Report: Packers, B.J. Raji agree to deal

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Packers coach Mike McCarthy said recently that the team’s top priority during free agency is to re-sign their own players and they’re practicing what they preach at defensive tackle.

A reports out of Green Bay Monday morning indicated that the team had reached a deal to retain defensive tackle Letroy Guion after Guion started 16 games for them last season. There was also word that they were working to re-sign B.J. Raji, whose biceps injury knocked him out for the season and opened the door for Guion to enter the starting lineup.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media now reports that Raji has agreed to the deal. Per Rapoport, it is a one-year pact worth “roughly $3.5 million” with incentives that can push the total value of the deal to $4 million. Raji signed a one-year, $4 million deal before last season.

That’s more than they were initially reported to be offering for Raji’s return and more than Guion is reportedly making under the terms of his deal, which would suggest he’ll get a shot to reclaim his starting spot. Whoever starts, the two moves shore up Green Bay’s depth up front and leaves the Pack on their stated plan to keep their team together.

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Colts, Irsay issue statements on Indiana law

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Earlier today, the NBA and the Pacers addressed the controversial new Indiana law that potentially permits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the guise of religious freedom.  Coincidentally (or otherwise), the NFL and the Colts have now done so, too.

“The Colts have always embraced inclusiveness, tolerance, and a diverse fan base,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Twitter. “We welcome ALL fans to Colts Nation.  ONE FAMILY!”

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the NFL said in a statement.  “We are continuing to analyze the implications of the law.”

If that sounds familiar, it should.  It tracks the language of the statement issued last year as Arizona was considering the passage of a similar law.

“Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the NFL said at the time.

While both the Colts and the NFL have made it clear that they oppose discrimination of any kind, neither the team nor the league have indicated whether and to what extent they’ll push back against the Indiana law.  With the Scouting Combine an annual fixture in Indianapolis and the city handling the Super Bowl so well that it could return, the Colts and the league have leverage to force the kind of change that will honor the concepts articulated above.

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Philip Wheeler visiting with 49ers

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The 49ers’ search for inside linebacking help in the wake of the retirements of Chris Borland and Patrick Willis will include a visit with Philip Wheeler.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Wheeler is visiting with the team on Monday. Lance Briggs, Erin Henderson, Desmond Bishop and Mason Foster have also been on the radar, although Foster is now off the board after signing with the Bears.

Wheeler was released by the Dolphins along with several other veterans as they cleared out room under their salary cap earlier this month. He spent two years with the team after signing a five-year, $26 million contract before the 2013 season and failed to impress as a starter in 2013. Wheeler played in a reserve role for most of the 2014 season.

Whoever the 49ers wind up adding to the mix at inside linebacker will join Navorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite in the mix for playing time in 2015. Given the resumes of the players up for consideration, it would be surprising if the team doesn’t address the position during the draft as well.

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