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NFL morning after: Peyton’s place in history

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The list of players who have won at least five MVP awards in the major sports reads like a who’s who of the greatest athletes in history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan in the NBA. Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky in the NHL. Barry Bonds (perhaps with an asterisk) in Major League Baseball. And that’s it.

Peyton Manning, who almost certainly clinched the fifth Most Valuable Player award of his stellar NFL career, is about to join that list.

We could debate where Manning ranks among the all-time great quarterbacks in football history, but I almost think that’s too narrow a debate. Perhaps the discussion needs to be where Manning ranks among the great competitors in the history of sports.

Think about all Manning has accomplished. He’s already the only NFL player who has ever won four MVP awards. He already owns several NFL records and will most likely own every significant career passing record before he’s finished. In addition to his fifth MVP award this year, he’s also going to get his 13th Pro Bowl selection and his seventh first-team All-Pro selection and perhaps his eighth offensive player of the year award. Last year he added a comeback player of the year award to his trophy case. In college he was a first-team All-American and winner of the Sullivan Award as America’s greatest amateur athlete. In high school he was the national player of the year.

Manning broke the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season in Sunday’s win over the Texans, with his 51st touchdown pass of the year giving the Broncos their final score in an easy win. Next week he’s likely to break the NFL record for passing yards in a season, as the Broncos just need to beat the Raiders to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They’re one win away from heading into the postseason as the favorites to come out of the AFC and go to the Super Bowl. But as I was watching that unfold on Sunday, I was thinking two somewhat contradictory things.

First, I was thinking that it’s undeniable how great Peyton Manning is. He’s been an American sports star since he was a teenager, and he’s the best player in the NFL today at age 37. He’s about to get his fifth MVP, and there are another few seasons when he had a good case for the award (including last year, when he came in second). He’s just consistently amazing.

But the second thing I was thinking is that, no matter how much he does individually, he won’t be remembered as the greatest ever if he doesn’t get a second Super Bowl ring. That’s not right — football is the ultimate team sport, and no one wins or loses alone — but that’s the way it is. If any team other than the Broncos is hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday in February, this will be remembered as another year when Peyton Manning didn’t get it done.

To me, though, Manning’s place in history is secure. He’s the best quarterback who ever lived.

Manning was the player who impressed me most on Sunday. Below are some other thoughts:

Dallas has a badly coached defense. We’ve been talking all season about what a bad job Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is doing, and there are many examples of that, but I was particularly struck by how ill-prepared the Dallas defense was when Washington showed a new formation on Sunday. With Washington’s offense lining up four receivers to the left side early in the second half, the Dallas secondary didn’t know how to line up in coverage, and so they blew a timeout — and then Dallas gave up a touchdown pass two plays after that timeout. If your defense is wasting timeouts because you can’t figure out what the other team’s offense is doing, and if you can’t get your coverage straightened out even after you’ve called timeout, you’ve got serious problems. Firing Rob Ryan and hiring Kiffin was a huge mistake for the Cowboys.

Weird call that I liked: Longtime Jaguars center Brad Meester had never caught a pass in his NFL career, but because he was playing his last home game after announcing that he’ll retire at the end of the season, the Jags decided to call a trick play with Meester as an eligible receiver. Sure enough, Meester caught the pass and then made a nifty little move to run for a first down. The Jaguars have had a rough season, but they haven’t quit on coach Gus Bradley, and plays like that pass to Meester show why: Players enjoy playing for a coach who makes football fun, and what’s more fun than letting a 300-pound 36-year-old catch a pass?

Weird call that I disliked, Part 1: With the Broncos facing fourth-and-3 in Houston, the offense stayed on the field, and I liked that decision — Denver’s offense should be able to pick up three yards on Houston’s defense. But I hated the play they ran, with Peyton Manning throwing a short pass to tight end Julius Thomas, who was tackled for a two-yard gain. If you’re throwing on fourth down, throw past the line to gain.

Weird call that I disliked, Part 2: With the Titans facing fourth-and-goal in Jacksonville, the offense stayed on the field, and I liked that decision — you’ve got nothing to lose, why not go for it? But I hated the play they ran, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing it out the back of the end zone. If you’re throwing on fourth down, don’t throw it away.

Terron Armstead wasn’t ready. Armstead, the rookie left tackle inserted into the Saints’ starting lineup for the first time on Sunday, looked pretty much the way you’d expect a rookie from a small school like Arkansas-Pine Bluff to look in his first NFL start. The Saints have had problems on their offensive line all year, and I understand why Sean Payton wanted to see if Armstead could help protect Drew Brees’s blind side, but Armstead simply wasn’t up to the task. The Panthers’ pass rush terrorized Brees all day.

Luke Kuechly is amazing. The flip side of the Saints’ offense struggling is that the Panthers’ defense was incredible in Sunday’s win over New Orleans. Kuechly, the second-year linebacker, had an unbelievable day: His 24 tackles were tied for the most the NFL has ever recorded by one player in a game, since tackles began being tracked as a statistic in 1994. Kuechly also became the first player since Derrick Brooks to record 20 tackles and an interception in the same game.

How can teams play so badly, with so much on the line? The Bears entered Sunday night knowing a win would clinch the NFC North. They lost 54-11. The Ravens entered Sunday knowing that if they won out they’d make the playoffs. They lost 41-7. The Lions entered Sunday knowing they needed to win to stay alive. They lost at home to the woeful Giants. The Dolphins entered Sunday knowing that if they won out they’d make the playoffs. They were destroyed by the hapless Bills.

We have an exciting Week 17 ahead of us. Some years all of the top teams are locked into their playoff spots before the season’s final Sunday. But not this year. Only one team, the Chiefs, knows its playoff seed (No. 5 in the AFC). Every other contender still has something to play for. We’re going to see some great football on Sunday. Including, I expect, Peyton Manning to set a new NFL record for passing yards in a season while leading the Broncos to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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Rams trying to keep the lid on ticket sales in 2017

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The Rams are trying to sell fewer tickets this year. And the plan does not include simply showing highlights of the 2016 Rams.

According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Orange County Register, the Rams are trying to cap ticket sales in the 70,000 per game range, to alleviate crowding at concession stands and in parking lots.

The Rams sold more than 70,000 season tickets last year, and made 80,000 or more tickets available to games last year. That’s far from capacity at the Coliseum (93,607), but the Rams heard from their customers that the “fan experience” was compromised by the sheer amount of people.

“The environment in the building was spectacular,”Rams vice president of ticket sales Jake Bye said. “But what we learned was that the tradeoff at times came in ways that sometimes compromised the fan experience. The ability to purchase concessions in a quick orderly manner. Or the challenge of parking around the building, which was strained by putting that many people in the building.

“Now that we have a year’s worth of research in that building and seeing how NFL fans behave and when they arrive and what gates they are going through and what items they are buying at concessions stands, we can really take all that information and be so much smarter in how we approach the building and delivering the best experience in year two compared to year one.”

The Rams drew more than 80,000 for five games, and more than 90,000 for the opener. And they’re keeping the option to sell more tickets for certain opponents (i.e. the ones people want to see).

But trying to rein in the number of tickets available should help keep the supply and demand in control, and also give them a chance to head off talk that a potentially bad product simply isn’t going to bring fans in the gate, since it’s not new and shiny anymore.

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Buccaneers looking forward to new indoor facility

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The Buccaneers will no longer be a slave to the elements.

According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are making progress on the construction of their new indoor facility, which is scheduled to open by the start of the regular season.

In recent years, they’ve had to use the nearby indoor baseball stadium, and they used to use a parking garage during their Super Bowl season. But through the years, the unpredictable Florida weather has long been an issue for them, which is why their owners decided to spend $20 million of their own money on the new facility.

“We want to give our team the best opportunity, with all of the resources possible, to put the best team on the field and it comes from the top, from the Glazer family,” Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford said. “We want every competitive advantage. Is it needed? No, we won a Super Bowl without it. But is it going to make us better? Absolutely.”

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has coached in plenty of hot places (Arizona State, Atlanta, Jacksonville), and believes the new building should help his team last.

“And one thing that’s become very apparent, I’ve heard other coaches who coach in the south and the Southeast talk about it, is over the course of a season, the heat does take a toll on your players,” Koetter said. “It takes the elements out. Also, it can help you manage the heat. It gives you a sterile environment when you bring guys in to work out. It gives you a turf field. It’s something that I’ve pushed for. I thank the Glazer family for making it happen.”

The facility will also include 3,500 bleacher seats, which they’ll use during training camp.

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Michael Floyd prosecutor isn’t buying the kombucha tea defense

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More will be known about the fate of Vikings receiver Michael Floyd when we returns to court at 4:30 p.m. ET regarding allegations that he violated the terms of his house arrest. For now, it’s clear that the prosecution is not inclined to cut him any slack.

“He’s in violation and should serve the rest of his jail time,” Caron Close told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Floyd received a 120-day jail term after pleading guilty to extreme DUI in Arizona. He served 24 days in custody, and he then was permitted to finish the time on house arrest. Presumably, the prosecutor will be taking the position that the full 96 days that Floyd was due to serve on house arrest should now be spent behind bars.

If that happens, Floyd would unavailable for all of training camp, the preseason, and into the regular season. Though he currently faces a minimum suspension of two games for the DUI guilty plea, he otherwise would be permitted to participate in practices and preseason games.

Floyd admits that he tested positive for alcohol; he claims that he had been drinking kombucha tea, and that he didn’t know it contains alcohol. His BAC was measured at 0.055 percent, which means that it contained a lot of alcohol or that he drank a lot of it.

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Eagles WR coach: Alshon Jeffery had his best offseason in years

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The Eagles hired Mike Groh as their wide receivers coach this offseason, which set Groh up for a reunion when the Eagles signed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to a one-year contract as a free agent in March.

Groh was Jeffery’s position coach with the Bears from 2013-15 and Jeffery turned in his two best NFL seasons in the first two years of Groh’s tenure in Chicago. During a recent discussion of Jeffery’s work this offseason, Groh said that the wideout looked the best he has since their first season working together.

“He and I have a history together, so he knows what I think, and I understand the way that he works and goes about his business,” Groh said, via ESPN.com. “I think the spring that he’s had is as good as he’s had since maybe 2013. Pleased with where he is physically, mentally I think he is in a good place. He’s coming in here and learning a new system and working on the chemistry with Carson [Wentz] and everything like that, but it’s been a good spring for him.”

Jeffery had 89 catches for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013 and followed that up with 85 catches, 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns the next year. Injuries have limited him to 21 games and 106 catches over the last two seasons and surely played a role in his signing a one-year deal with Philly this offseason.

If getting back together with Groh and a productive offseason lead to a rebound on the field this fall, Jeffery will likely be looking at longer deals if he’s back on the open market in 2018.

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Ahman Green arrested on child abuse charge

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Former Packers running back Ahman Green has been arrested in Wisconsin after an allegation of child abuse.

Paul Srubas of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that the Brown County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Green was arrested and taken to the county jail. Per the website for the jail, Green is charged with Child Abuse-Intentionally Cause Harm/Cruelty toward Child.

The authorities also said they are doing further investigation into the matter and did not provide any other details concerning the reasons for Green’s arrest.

Green played for the Packers from 2000-06 and returned to the team in 2009, which was also his final season in the NFL. Green, who also played for the Seahawks and Texans, remains the leading rusher in franchise history.

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Ryan Cowden, Scott Fitterer the latest names in Chiefs G.M. search

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Two outside candidates are part of the Chiefs General Manager search.

Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer are both on the Chiefs’ radar, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

Cowden is a former Panthers scout who left Carolina last year for a better job in Tennessee. Fitterer has previously interviewed for G.M. openings in San Francisco and Indianapolis.

The Chiefs made the surprising decision to fire G.M. John Dorsey last week and are now looking for someone to replace him.

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Justin Pugh: I’m “good with” Odell Beckham’s offseason absence

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Giants co-owner John Mara said last week that he wishes his club had a dozen players like wide receiver Odell Beckham, which is a pretty good sign that Mara’s not harboring bad feelings about the wideout’s decision to skip the voluntary portion of the team’s offseason program.

That feeling extends to one of Beckham’s fellow starters on the Giants offense. Left guard Justin Pugh said he’s “good with” Beckham’s approach to the offseason after Beckham returned “in great shape” for mandatory minicamp this month. Pugh also said that he thought too much was made of Beckham’s absence.

“Odell, I’ve been with him for three, four years now. I know how he is,” Pugh said on NFL Network. “It’s gotta be tough being him though. I always try to look at things from his perspective and see what he goes through. I see that, and I’m like, ‘Come in, get ready to work,’ he’s in great shape. I wonder if we could get a list of all the guys that didn’t go to OTAs. I guarantee, put them all together and they didn’t get as much publicity as Odell.”

Pugh doesn’t have to look far for a player who fits exactly what he was saying about the reaction to Beckham’s absence. Defensive end Olivier Vernon didn’t attend the Giants’ voluntary workouts either and it was noted with a sliver of the attention paid to his teammate.

Both were back for mandatory work and both will be there for the Giants in the regular season, which is the time of year when true judgments will be rendered for all the members of the team.

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Cam Newton throwing again, vows “100 percent” by training camp

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It wasn’t on the practice field during minicamp as coach Ron Rivera suggested was a possibility, and it wasn’t even on a field at all.

But Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is throwing again.

Last week, Newton did some throwing inside the stadium with head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion, his first since undergoing surgery on March 30 on his throwing shoulder.

Newton described the process to Bill Voth of the team’s official website in an exclusive interview/staff meeting.

“Cool, a lot of anticipation,” Newton said. “Obviously, it’s still not 100 percent, but seeing the ball come out of my hand in a throwing motion was good. . . .

“When I say it’s not 100 percent, I’m noting the range of motion part. Like if you sleep with your legs hanging off your bed the whole night, you’re going to wake up and be super stiff. Or like sitting on your hands, or sitting in an awkward position and finally getting up and moving – that’s how I feel.”

Newton acknowledged that waiting so long to have surgery was a difficult decision, since he played the last meaningless month of the season with the injury. But he insisted he stayed on the field at something less than full power because of his commitment to the team.

“I knew something was wrong,” Newton said. “I knew it was going to hurt, continuously hurt. No matter what the treatment was, it takes just one hit or fall and it’s going to inflame again. And it did. Some of it was stubbornness, but I wanted people to know what I’m willing to do for this franchise. At the end of the day, no one could say I quit. . . .

“I figured it would heal on its own. I was trying to get the proper treatment, overtreatment. Get it stretched, get a massage, get the ice, stem, everything. Over time I was like, ‘You know what? It’s just not getting better.’  So when I came back to Charlotte, I got another MRI, and by that time, everything had pretty much cleared up. It wasn’t as swollen as it was during the season so they could see and it showed up as a partially torn rotator cuff.”

Newton said “There’s no doubt” he’d be ready for training camp in a month, saying he should have the kinks worked out in two weeks. It’s an important time for him and the team, as they’re tweaking the offense to make things easier on him, and he’s done little more than watch through the entire offseason.

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Chiefs to interview in-house Brett Veach for G.M. job

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The Chiefs have been turned down at least once, but they have one known candidate for their vacant General Manager job.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, they’ll interview internal candidate Brett Veach to replace fired G.M. John Dorsey.

Veach has background with coach Andy Reid, which can’t hurt since there’s at least the perception that Reid emerges from the recent upheaval with more power. Their structure has been to have a coach and a G.M. who each report to owner Clark Hunt.

Veach’s name came up in Buffalo, primarily because LeSean McCoy was pumping his candidacy.

But having him around could help the Chiefs navigate what has been a tumultuous time for a team with a good roster and what had been perceived as some stability, at least until this offseason.

Minnesota’s George Paton has turned down a chance to interview, and ESPN’s Louis Riddick disputed reports he was on the list.

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Report: George Paton turns down Chiefs G.M. interview

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After being considered for a couple other G.M. jobs, Vikings Assistant General Manager George Paton has decided not to interview for another.

Paton declined an interview for the Chiefs G.M. vacancy, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports.

The Colts and 49ers both considered Paton for their G.M. vacancies in January, so his name has been bandied about a lot in the NFL this offseason. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a G.M. job next year.

But this year, he’ll remain in Minnesota, and the Chiefs will keep looking, with no word yet on who the strongest candidates are.

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Michael Floyd heads back to court on Monday

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As soon as today, Vikings receiver Michael Floyd will find out whether he’ll be sent back to jail and/or otherwise punished for testing positive for alcohol while on house arrest due to, Floyd claims, drinking apparently copious amounts of kombucha tea.

The court hearing, scheduled for Monday in Arizona, has been enhanced by the Vikings’ decision to send a letter supporting Floyd’s belief that kombucha tea doesn’t contain alcohol. It’s not all that implausible to think Floyd truly wasn’t aware that the beverage contains a certain amount of booze, given that he was subject to periodic, unannounced dates with an in-home breath-testing machine.

Arizona doesn’t screw around with DUI offenses; Floyd admitted to extreme DUI, which included a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.217 percent, well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Many jurisdictions view house arrest as a privilege. For Floyd, that privilege was extended to a decision to let him complete the sentence in Minnesota, so that he could attend offseason workouts with the Vikings.

Much of the outcome will depend on the judge’s attitude toward deviations from the terms of house arrest in DUI cases, along with an assessment of whether Floyd is telling the truth. The magnitude of his BAC — 0.055 percent — will make it easier for the judge to conclude that Floyd was simply rolling the dice and hoping he wouldn’t be tested, perhaps with the kombucha tea defense tucked into his back pocket.

Regardless, an answer as to whether Floyd will get a pass or a trip back to prison could come by the time Tuesday arrives.

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Le’Veon Bell looks healthy on basketball court

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Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell had core muscle surgery in March and it looks like his recovery is moving along well.

Bell shared a video (the language in the video isn’t safe for most workplaces) of his participations in a basketball game on Sunday and it shows him moving well as he knifes through the lane for a couple of layups. Two snippets of action on video don’t make for a sound medical analysis, obviously, but it would seem that Bell is well on his way to a full recovery.

That could come at the start of training camp, although Bell’s health wasn’t the only thing keeping him off the field during the Steelers’ offseason workouts this year. Bell has not signed his franchise tender and has not agreed to a long-term contract, so he did not join the team for that work.

Bell and the Steelers have until July 17 to work out a longer deal and it will be up to Bell to decide about making an on-time arrival to camp if one doesn’t come to fruition. If he does decide to show up, the glimpse of his basketball moves suggests he’ll be ready for football action as well.

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OTT may not be the future of the NFL, for much of the country

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‘Member when getting online consisted of hearing the dial tone, the rapid succession of the numbers being punched up by the modem, and the inevitable screeching and squawking until silence returned and the slow wait commenced for the images to gradually appear and the speakers to proclaim, “You’ve got mail”? For many, it’s not a memory.

So as the NFL plots a future of game-content delivery that consists of OTT services that rely on the high-speed Internet connections that many have taken for granted, it’s important to keep in mind the reality that millions are still living in AOLworld. Consider this June 15 article from the Wall Street Journal, dubbed “Rural America is Stranded in the Dial-Up Age.”

“Delivering up-to-date broadband service to distant reaches of the U.S. would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, experts estimate, an expense government, industry and consumers haven’t been willing to pay,” explains the item from Jennifer Levitz and Valerie Bauerlein. As a result, high-speed Internet access is either not available or ridiculously expensive in much of the country.

Which means that, while plenty have ditched cable or satellite TV for devices that deliver the images and sound just as quickly and reliably, plenty of people continue to be limited to the traditional means of receiving and digesting TV programming. And that doesn’t even include the millions who live in areas that have high-speed Internet available, but who due to economic limitations rely only on the free, over-the-air signals captured by rabbit-ear antennas.

Thus, while it’s a major part of the NFL’s future when it comes to Internet users who opt out of cable and satellite, OTT can’t be a replacement for those who don’t have that luxury.

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Jamal Adams draws “unbelievable” review for offseason work

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The offseason has not been filled with positive stories about the Jets, but there’s at least one exception to the overall tone around the team heading into the 2017 season.

Safety Jamal Adams was the team’s first-round pick in April and he was ticketed for the starting lineup even before Calvin Pryor was dealt to the Browns for linebacker Demario Davis. Coach Todd Bowles has called Adams “very instinctive” while mostly sticking to coachspeak about the rookie, but cornerback Morris Claiborne has been more effusive about what he’s seen from Adams in his first practices as a pro.

“The things he has done so far? He’s unbelievable,” Claiborne said, via NJ.com. “He’s been out here playing lights out. Picking up the defense, checking to different things, knowing what he wants to check to. He’s having fun doing it, too. His spirit is awesome. He’s having fun doing what he knows how to do, and that’s football. I can’t be more impressed with a young guy coming into the league, and, especially playing on that backend, doing the things he’s done so far.”

It will take more than hitting on one safety for the Jets’ rebuild to be a success, but every journey has to start somewhere. Adams making good on the hype he generated at LSU would be as good a departure point for the Jets as any.

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Monday morning one-liners

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Bills S Jordan Poyer is happy to be able to play after last year’s kidney injury.

Special teams work was a big reason why DB Michael Thomas got a new contract with the Dolphins.

A look at some of the rookies the Patriots will play against this season.

Jets CB Juston Burris has his eyes on a starting job.

The biggest competitions for roster spots at Ravens training camp.

Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick was on the same side as Antonio Brown when Brown turned out for Kirkpatrick’s football camp.

The Browns have high hopes for TE Seth DeValve.

Steelers DL Javon Hargrave talked about what he learned during his rookie season.

The start to Wes Welker’s coaching career with the Texans has gone well.

Former Colts LB Robert Mathis shared his thoughts on Pacers star Paul George’s possible departure.

Can Cam Robinson handle playing guard for the Jaguars during his rookie season?

Titans WR Harry Douglas likes what he’s seen from the team’s rookie wideouts.

The Broncos’ chefs are sharing the recipes they whip up for the team.

Zach Fulton is trying to hold onto his starting guard spot with the Chiefs.

Raiders T Marshall Newhouse took in a NASCAR race at Sonoma.

The Chargers hope CB Jason Verrett is ready to go at training camp.

A look at the competition for backup tight end spots with the Cowboys.

The Giants’ only kicker isn’t a well-known player at this point.

Who will return kickoffs for the Eagles?

What is quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell working on with Redskins QB Kirk Cousins?

Markus Wheaton believes people underrate the Bears wide receivers.

The Lions are expecting contributions from several running backs.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers made a winning visit to the “$100,000 Pyramid.”

LB Eric Kendricks expects the Vikings will be more successful this season.

Falcons LB Duke Riley plans to work out with Odell Beckham Jr. in the near future.

How does Panthers coach Ron Rivera measure up to his peers?

A call for the Saints to leave the door open for Peyton Manning to have a role in the organization.

Until they get on-field results, the Buccaneers won’t get much national respect.

Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu hopes his football camp inspires constructive work from the campers.

An optimistic prediction for Rams QB Jared Goff’s second season.

Is Mike Shanahan’s presence around the 49ers a good thing for the team?

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett and his brother/Packers TE Martellus Bennett were recognized for their philanthropic work.

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