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Trestman makes it official: Jay Cutler to start this week

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Don’t tell Brian Urlacher, but the Bears aren’t listening to him.

Bears coach Marc Trestman made it official Thursday, telling reporters that quarterback Jay Cutler would, in fact, start this week.

When asked about the risk of sitting a hot quarterback (backup Josh McCown), Trestman acted as if it wasn’t a decision at all.

“This decision was made a long time ago,” Trestman said, via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t look at it like that.”

As efficiently as McCown has played in his absence (13 touchdowns, one interception, a 109.8 rating this year), Cutler’s clearly the more talented quarterback of the pair. And he’s also the one they’re going to have to make an expensive decision on this offseason.

So even if it’s just to take one last look at him to decide whether to allow him to go to the market, or to sign him to a long-term deal or franchise him, the Bears are going to put him back in there.

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Joe Lombardi: Matthew Stafford will take more chances this year

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Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw 12 interceptions in 16 games during the 2014 regular season, the lowest full-season total during his NFL career.

Stafford also set a new career low in net yards per pass attempt during Joe Lombardi’s first year as the offensive coordinator in Detroit. The team’s offense also saw sharp drops in points and yards, which may be why Lombardi suggested Stafford was too risk-averse during their first season working together.

“Our biggest thing is in order to win football games, you got to first not lose them,” Lombardi said, via MLive.com “And I thought he played smart football — almost to a fault. We’ll look for him to take a few more chances this year with the football. He’s got the arm to do it, and the receivers to throw it to.”

Having a healthy Calvin Johnson would offer Stafford more opportunities to show off the arm that once threw for 5,000 yards in a season and more shots down the field could return some of those missing points. That said, avoiding risk on offense paid off for the team last season and it would be surprising to see them alter things too dramatically after winning 11 games for the first time since 1991 and the third time since the franchise has been in Detroit.

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Bruce Irvin’s April Fool’s gag is a false DUI confession

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Well, that escalated quickly.

Earlier in the morning, we pointed out that free-agent receiver Greg Jennings teased that he’d be announcing his next time on social media at 1:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday.  He ultimately announced nothing, making the entire exercise a not-so-funny April Fool’s Day joke.

Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin has gone next level, using the scourge of drunk driving as the basis for an April Fool’s Day joke of his own.

‘Before this hits the media I just wanna apologize to my fans and the @Seahawks organization once again,” Irvin said on Twitter.  “I made a terrible decision [by] driving after I had a few drinks.  I will do everything to get ur trust back and will become a better person after this.”

And then, 25 minutes later, Irvin added this:  “How many of yall thought I was serious ?! Haha April fools!!!

I thought he was serious, because I seriously wouldn’t expect anyone to admit to a specific type of criminal activity that has claimed many lives over the years as part of an April Fool’s Day prank.  Really, how is this any different than Irvin joking that he’d committed domestic violence?  While a run-of-the-mill DUI has no specific victim, the behavior of drunk driving has generated thousands of victims over the years.

So, congrats, Bruce.  You fooled us into thinking that you are among the many irresponsible adult males who get behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound steel missile after consuming too much alcohol, even though you have the resources as a result of your employment in the NFL to quickly and easily obtain another form of transportation.  Hooray?

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McClain received offer from Pats, opted to stay put

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Linebacker Rolando McClain, a former top-10 pick who retired twice before turning his career around in Dallas, will continue his career there.  As previously noted, it’s a one-year deal for McClain to remain with the Cowboys, with a value of up to $4 million.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, McClain’s visit with the Patriots resulted in an offer.  Which made the decision a very difficult one for McClain.  In the end, familiarity with teammates and coaches made the difference, along with the reality that Stephen and Jerry Jones gave McClain a chance to resurrect his career in 2014.

The short-term nature of the contract may have been influenced by a pair of off-field issues with which McClain is currently dealing.  He’s reportedly one failed drug test away from a four-game suspension, and authorities have determined that a fire that destroyed his Alabama mansion was the result of arson.  McClain has not been accused of having any involvement in or knowledge of the fire.

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Cowboys keep linebacker Rolando McClain after Pats interest

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The Cowboys brought Rolando McClain in as an injury replacement.

And he showed them enough to make them pony up to keep him when the other guy got well.

PFT has confirmed that the Cowboys have agreed to a new one-year deal with McClain which has a base value of $3 million, with another $1 million in playing time incentives.  The news was first reported by Ed Werder of ESPN.

Now, they can use McClain in the middle again, giving them some flexibility to bring Sean Lee back to play on the weakside (which may keep him out of some traffic, and help his durability).

The Cowboys signed the twice-retired McClain last year after Lee tore his ACL in OTAs, and he played well for them. The Patriots had also showed interest, but the former top 10 overall pick decided to stay in Dallas.

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Navy long snapper to visit the Eagles

joecardona AP

Long snappers don’t make a lot of pre-draft visits because long snappers are rarely drafted. And players from service academies don’t make a lot of pre-draft visits because players from service academies have military commitments that often keep them from starting their NFL careers right away.

But Chip Kelly’s team does things differently.

Navy long snapper Joe Cardona will visit the Eagles next week, the Baltimore Sun reports. Cardona was the only long snapper at the Combine and performed well there, with 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press, a 33-inch vertical and a 4.91-second 40-yard dash.

That athleticism may appeal to Kelly, who has long been fascinated by Navy training methods. One of Kelly’s first moves after becoming the Eagles’ head coach was to hire a Navy SEALs trainer and give him the title of sports science coordinator.

If the Eagles draft Cardona, he’ll be the first player from Navy drafted in two decades, and one of only a handful of players in NFL history drafted specifically to be a long snapper.

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Greg Jennings teases team announcement, ultimately announces nothing

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April Fool’s Day got rolling with a foolish exercise from free-agent receiver Greg Jennings.

Jennings launched the ruse Tuesday on Twitter, explaining that he’s “Really glad to be wrapping this #FreeAgency process up! Glad it’s coming to an end.”  Three hours later he added, “Done deal!”

He then said the announcement of his new team would be made at 10:00 p.m. PT, which is 1:00 a.m. ET.  Which meant I wasn’t going to stay up and wait to hear where a 31-year-old receiver who’d been cut by the Vikings will be playing in 2015.

Apparently, I didn’t miss anything.  While it’s still unclear what Jennings announced at 1:00 a.m. ET because the link provided by Jennings on Twitter is dead, it’s clear he hasn’t signed a contract with a new team.

His exercise wasn’t entirely useless.  It provided an important reminder to be on the lookout for April Fool’s Day jokes, even if they’re not particularly funny.

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Report: Ravens, Rob Housler talking about deal

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The Ravens are short on tight ends at the moment and they may try to remedy that by signing a former member of the Cardinals.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Ravens and Rob Housler have mutual interest in working together during the 2015 season. That mutual interest hasn’t led to mutual agreement on a price for Housler’s services, though Wilson reports that the two sides continue to talk in hopes of finding a common ground.

Housler caught 84 passes for the Cardinals across the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but saw his role in the offense drop significantly last season. Housler caught just nine balls for 129 yards as Arizona’s passing game looked in other directions.

Signing with Baltimore could offer Housler a chance to rebound as the Ravens need to replace Owen Daniels’s 48 catches from last season with the veteran following Gary Kubiak to Denver. Crockett Gilmore returns from last year’s team, although he’s been more of a blocker thus far in his career.

Housler visited Atlanta earlier in the offseason before the Falcons signed Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki.

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Adorable 10-year-old defends hot take criticism of Cam Newton

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As with many modern media phenomenons, it all started with a tweet.

After one guy posted a photo of a Skip Bayless-level hot take in an elementary school newspaper ripping Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the 10-year-old has had a chance to explain himself.

And actually, he’s better than Bayless, because there’s at least an intellectual honesty to the kid’s claims.

The original column in Virginia’s Venable Elementary School’s Gazelle began by suggesting the Panthers should move Newton to running back, decried their inconsistency, but came around to the notion of “Now that I think about it, … Maybe he is not the only bad player.”

Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review caught up with the precocious tyke, who was surprised by the attention, but saw the chance at a greater good.

“I am very surprised and very glad because it means the Panthers might get a new quarterback,” 10-year-old Robert Romer said, when asked about the attention his words had gotten.

Romer grew up in Charlottesville, but his best friend in school has family in North Carolina, so they decided to be Panthers fans. But Robert said he’d prefer a more trustworthy quarterback.

“Cam isn’t reliable like Peyton Manning is. Some days he’ll win, some days he’ll lose,” Robert said.

When it’s mentioned that Manning loses in the playoffs a lot, Robert replied: “Well, he’s old.”

“I think Cam throws too many interceptions,” Robert said. “But I’ll cheer for him because he’s on my favorite football team.”

Believe it or not, there are actually some thin-skinned fans who were offended by the kid’s work, but his journalism advisor said she was proud of it.

“I would be very, very disappointed in mankind if there would be backlash, that people would be critical of a child having an opinion,” teacher Maxine Baskfield-Spears said. “We should be encouraging young people to learn, to express their ideas in the right forum, and in such a way that it can be even debated a little it. . . .

“This is sort of the beginning. I hope by the time he’s in 8th or 9th grade, he’ll be writing articles he can defend and that other people can intellectually question.”

His teacher may be expecting a little much from some of the hot-take merchants, and their customers.

And in a few years, we all may be out of work.

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Should top prospects decline to participate in the pre-draft process?

Jameis Winston AP

The NFL has perfected the offseason art of shows about nothing.  From the Scouting Combine to the Veteran Combine to the schedule-release show to the Pro Day workouts of select incoming rookies, plenty of non-game action captures our attention, even at a time when other sports are racing toward (or are actively in) their postseasons.

While not as worthless as the upcoming multi-hour programs in which the “when” is applied to the “who” and “where” of the 256-game season as experts then predict outcomes of games to be played in September, October, November, and December, the Pro Day workout of the top prospect has little value — especially in comparison to the other available evidence of a player’s potential in the NFL.  Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, for example, spent two seasons as a starting quarterback with a major college program.  He has generated plenty of game film.  So how can 100 or so passes thrown against no defenders (except for brooms that never were going to actually make contact with Winston) even begin to compare to what he did on the field in live, game situations?

It can’t.  But with nearly four months from the end of college football season until the draft, the space must be filled with something.

The Pro Day workouts aren’t entirely useless, given that plenty of emerging college players aren’t invited to the Scouting Combine.  Even then, what a guy does in shorts and a T-shirt doesn’t really do much to supplant what he did in pads and a helmet.

Still, teams have hired armies of scouts, and those armies of scouts must justify their existences by actively scouting, even when there’s nothing to really scout.  While those scouts can surely rattle off a laundry list of reasons for conducting and attending Pro Day workouts, for the top prospects it’s ultimately an exercise in excess, inviting a potential paralysis by analysis.

Maybe one day a guy who clearly is among the very best of the prospects will take a stand, explaining that he’s ready and willing and able to play football at a high level, but that he chooses not to devote further time and effort to the process beyond his play-for-no-pay college football career.  He’s not going to the Scouting Combine, to be treated like livestock and forced to pee in a cup to determine whether he has been smoking a substance now legal in two of the 22 states where the NFL does business.  He’s not going to fly from city to city to be asked various obtuse and intrusive questions, or to be spied upon while he travels.  He’s not going to take a 50-question standardized intelligence test that reveals nothing about football intelligence.  He’s not going to play an extended, public game of catch with his former college teammates for the world to scrutinize his every movement.

Really, why should any of the top prospects do any of this?  And, please, spare us the “it shows that they love football” routine.  It’s more accurate to say that it shows that they’re lemmings, which is perhaps exactly what the NFL wants.

If a player who truly believes that his college career establishes him as the best prospect dares to opts out of the pre-draft nonsense, would he nevertheless be embraced by a team desperate to win — or would he be shunned by an industry that craves its shows about nothing?  If the game film demonstrates that the player can play at a high level, he surely won’t be waiting long to hear his name called while waiting somewhere other than backstage at the ultimate spring show about nothing.

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Chuck Pagano on Andre Johnson: You don’t see a huge dropoff

Andre Johnson AP

Wide receiver Andre Johnson posted his lowest average yards per catch since 2005 while playing for the Texans last season, a development which may have accelerated his departure from Houston in the offseason.

It’s not a problem for the Colts, though. Indianapolis was quick to snap Johnson up once he became a free agent and coach Chuck Pagano says that the team didn’t see a markedly different player on the field during the 2014 season.

“You don’t see a huge dropoff numbers-wise,” Pagano said, via ESPN.com. “Maybe in touchdowns. But you still see a guy who is more than capable of stretching the defense. Certainly somebody who an opponent can’t just line up and say, ‘Don’t worry about Andre Johnson.’ They’re still going to have to tend to him if you will. If they choose to double [T.Y. Hilton] and take him out of the game, you have another guy on the other side, along with the rest of the guys on the roster who can still stretch the defense. He’s a big, possession type guy. He makes contested catches in traffic. He’s got a big catch radius. A big body. Those guys are hard to defend.”

The Colts are likely to get more out of Johnson as a “big, possession type guy” than as someone stretching defenses at this point in his career, but that shouldn’t be a problem at all. With Hilton and Donte Moncrief on hand, the team needs someone to make plays underneath the defense and give Andrew Luck a reliable target to extend drives down the field.

Johnson’s 85 catches while playing with the motley crew of 2014 Texans quarterbacks suggests he’ll be able to do that just fine.

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Dwight Freeney suing Bank of America for $20 million

Dwight Freeney AP

Longtime NFL linebacker Dwight Freeney hasn’t found any action in free agency, but he’s working on a bigger score.

According to Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star, Freeney is suing Bank of America, saying they bilked him out of more than $20 million and forced him to close his restaurant business.

The lawsuit claims Freeney was taken advantage of after he trusted the bank’s wealth management division with his assets.

“Although we sympathize with Mr. Freeney as the victim of a crime, the bank had nothing to do with the criminal scheme,” said Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Bank of America.

The bank spokesman said two people who had been part of a previous scheme had been convicted in criminal court and ordered to pay restitution. One former Bank of America Merrill Lynch adviser and an associate were arrested in 2012 after fraudulently removing $2.2 million from Freeney’s account.

And in his lawsuit, Freeney said the bank “participated in and aided and abetted” a scheme that began in 2010 to separate him from his money.

If he wins, it’ll be bigger than anything he’s going to make playing football anytime soon, after the Chargers let him walk.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Rod Woodson Steelers Getty Images

Bills RBs Fred Jackson and LeSean McCoy may end up splitting the third down work.

Free agent RB Stevan Ridley visited the Dolphins but didn’t reach a deal.

The Boston Globe has a detailed look at Robert Kraft’s testimony in the Aaron Hernandez trial.

Jets great Joe Namath visited the birthday party of 100-year-old twins.

Steelers great Rod Woodson is auctioning off some memorabilia.

The departure of QB Tyrod Taylor left the Ravens with a hole on the depth chart behind Joe Flacco, which led to the signing of Matt Schaub.

The Bengals would like to add a receiver in the draft.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s truck stop company has settled four rebate fraud cases.

The Houston Chronicle thought it would be funny to run an April Fools article about J.J. Watt running for mayor.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano says of WR Andre Johnson: “He’s a big body guy that can still separate, create separation.”

Here’s a look at players the Jaguars might draft.

The Titans may be better off passing on Marcus Mariota.

The Broncos are expecting Bradley Roby to take a step forward this season.

Some possible options for the Chiefs in the draft.

Raiders DB Charles Woodson is promoting his line of wine.

Former Chargers LB Dwight Freeney says he was ripped off by Bank of America, to the tune of $20 million.

Here’s a scenario in which the Eagles could draft Marcus Mariota.

Giants QB Eli Manning is avoiding questions about his contract.

Cliff Harris, a great Cowboy of the 1970s, says when he thinks about today’s game, “I’m trying not to think about the eight to 10 million a year I would be making if I were playing today.”

Washington may try to draft the replacement for Brian Orakpo, who left for Tennessee in free agency.

New Bears RB Jacquizz Rodgers is an equally dangerous threat as a runner and receiver, with 1,116 career yards rushing and 1,104 receiving.

The Lions’ defense was good in coordinator Teryl Austin’s first season, but he expects it to be better this year.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is defending himself from people who think he shouldn’t be cheering for Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament.

A year later, the Vikings say QB Teddy Bridgewater’s bad showing at his Pro Day didn’t matter at all.

The Falcons seem relieved that they got off easy for Noisegate.

A young Panthers fan who wants Cam Newton moved to running back has become an Internet sensation.

The Saints are taking a look at Miami Hurricanes LB Denzel Perryman.

The Bucs liked what they saw at Jameis Winston’s Pro Day.

Kentucky pass rusher Alvin Dupree could be a fit for the Cardinals in the first round.

Akeem Ayers and Jo-Lonn Dunbar will compete for a starting linebacker spot in St. Louis.

Here’s how the Seahawks’ starting lineup on defense looks right now.

Michael Wilhoite and Navorro Bowman look like the 49ers’ starting inside linebackers.

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Lions fine with DeAndre Levy walking on wings of airplanes

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Earlier this week, video of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady jumping off a cliff in Costa Rica made the internet rounds but he isn’t the only player to spend some portion of their offseason finding thrills off of the football field.

As mentioned in one-liners on Monday, Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy shared some pictures and video of his experience walking on the wings of a biplane. There’s a standard clause in player contracts that says players cannot “engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury,” but the team doesn’t have any problem with Levy’s new pursuit.

Lions president Tom Lewand said on Tuesday that the team’s official position was “don’t fall” and coach Jim Caldwell remained unfazed by the linebacker taking a mid-flight stroll.

“I think he was strapped in pretty well,” Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. “As a matter of fact, I just saw the photo for the first time. He’s that kind of individual. He’s afraid of nothing. He takes some pretty exotic trips in the offseason and as long as he’s coming back healthy, we’re going to pray for him. He’s an integral part of our team.”

Despite their accepting attitude, we imagine the Lions will ask Levy to fly inside the plane on road trips during the 2015 season.

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Miles Austin was finally healthy, right up until he wasn’t

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Miles Austin’s career has almost been defined by his injuries as much as his potential

But after changing his stretching routine and making some other changes, the new Eagles wide receiver finally seemed past a litany of hamstring and other soft-tissue problems.

Then he got shivved, for all practical purposes, suffering a lacerated kidney which landed him on the Browns injured reserve list.

“I felt healthy last year,” Austin said, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com. “I don’t even know how you lacerate a kidney without stabbing yourself. I fell on my side really hard. I don’t know what happened. . . .

“I felt healthy last year with the routine I was going through before practice. I’m going to incorporate it into whatever is going on here. I know what helped me last year and that’s something I’m going to regardless always incorporate.”

Of course, Eagles coach Chip Kelly has a thing for damaged goods, and his magic sports science smoothies seem to be just the thing for players who come to him broken so he can make them whole.

If Austin can stay on the field, he has a chance to help the Eagles in some capacity. He said he didn’t know what his role would be, and hopes his experience makes up for the lack of pure speed he once had.

“I’m 30 now so I’m sure I’ve probably lost some bit of explosiveness from being 22 years old,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s that much. I feel good. I feel healthy.

“I feel like with a slight loss — maybe, potentially, I don’t know … even with slight loss of burst or whatever we were talking about — I think the fact that I know the game more I can still do what needs to be done, if that makes sense. I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything because I’ve gained things mentally.”

And as long as he can avoid any oddball injuries, hopefully he’s figured out how to keep his legs underneath him.

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Tony Romo would have taken a pay cut for DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray AP

The Cowboys weren’t going to pay DeMarco Murray what he thought he was worth.

But Murray’s friend Tony Romo said he was willing to take less than he was worth to keep him.

DeMarco ended up asking me, ‘Why don’t you take a pay cut?‘” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, via Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. “I was like, ‘I will. I will take a pay cut to go do this.’ I was like, ‘They’re going to restructure me and the whole thing,’ that’s the same thing in some ways just for salary-cap purposes. He was like, ‘OK, now we’re back to being friends.’ ‘You’re really worried about me? I would take $5 million less if it meant getting you back’. He knew that.”

If one of the conditions of friendship is sacrificing your own salary so someone else can get more, it might explain why I don’t have so many (OK, maybe that’s not the only reason).

But the Cowboys never asked Romo to move off the $17 million he’s due this year in any effort to keep the league’s leading rusher.

Instead, they stood on a four-year, $24 million offer to Murray, who eventually signed a five-year, $42 million deal with the Eagles.

That principle and fiscal responsibility is admirable, but it’ll be interesting to see if they value the running back position thus if, say, an Adrian Peterson became available.

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