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Texans clinch top pick in 2014 NFL Draft, Titans win

Chris Johnson, Shiloh Keo AP

The Titans might have done a little something to make Mike Munchak’s seat a little cooler.

But the Texans did what they needed to do.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but a late interception by Matt Schaub led the Texans to a 16-10 loss. That was one of his three turnovers on the day, in what is likely his last game with the Texans after a swift fall from franchise-ness.

This one was the 14th straight loss for the Texans, and secures the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Titans came back from a halftime deficit, taking the lead on a Chris Johnson touchdown run.

Johnson finished with 127 yards on 27 carries, staking his claim to a job, even if it’s not in Tennessee next year.

But there’s a lot of that going around, even at 7-9.

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Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews haven’t talked to NFL yet about allegations

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 3: Outside linebacker Julius Peppers #56 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a sack during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 3, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

The two Packers players implicated in the Al Jazeera report about performance-enhancing drugs didn’t say too much Tuesday as they reported to camp, beyond the fact they haven’t talked to the NFL and didn’t think much of the allegations, to begin with.

(Then again, the fact they talked at all probably qualifies Green Bay’s media relations staff for an award.)

But Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews were short on specifics of the investigation, saying they were trusting the guidance of the NFL Players Association at the moment.

I’m letting the PA handle that,” Peppers said, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Probably will, but don’t really know the details of the process at this moment.”

Matthews was more expressive but followed the same path, saying he didn’t know what he could tell investigators beyond the fact the claims they were delivered banned substances from an anti-aging clinic weren’t true.

“I have no idea,” Matthews said when asked what information he could provide. “We asked the same questions [to them]. Maybe it’s to conduct a formal investigation. I don’t know.

“It’s annoying, there’s no doubt about that.”

The initial claims have been recanted by the guy who made them, and retired Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has already been cleared by the league — though the NFLPA pointed out that as a former union member, Manning didn’t fall under their auspices and was free to proceed with the NFL as he wished.

“It sets a dangerous precedent, but at the same time, I get it, they have a job to do,” Matthews said of the league’s investigation. “But now I’m — and some of these other guys — are in kind of in a whirlwind of controversy. If it was up to me this thing would be behind us a long time ago.”

The league still wants to interview players, but at a time when the NFL and NFLPA are agreeing at record pace, they don’t seem to have quite come to a compromise on this one.

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Colin Kaepernick cleared by doctors following shoulder surgery

Colin Kaepernick, Courtney Upshaw AP

Now that “heck of a competition” at quarterback can truly begin.

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been fully cleared to participate in practice after offseason shoulder surgery.

Kaepernick flew to Vail, Colo., yesterday to meet with Dr. Peter Millett, who performed the surgery. There, he went through a series of tests including some on-field work, and Kaepernick apparently passed. He also had work done on his right thumb and left knee this offseason, getting the bulk rate.

He’ll have his team physical Saturday when players report to training camp, with the first practice Sunday.

Then he’ll have a chance to compete for his old job with Blaine Gabbert, who had the head start in impressing new 49ers coach Chip Kelly.

“All I’ve heard is that Chip has told me it’s going to be a competition, . . . and to come in and be ready to compete,” Kaepernick said in June. “That’s my mindset, and I’m excited to do that.”

Of course, he wasn’t excited about everything this offseason, specifically when trade talks with Denver broke down because he wouldn’t take a pay cut.

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Jared Cook uncertain on timeline for return from foot surgery

Jared Cook, Rashad Johnson AP

Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp after having “preventative” surgery in June on his ailing foot.

According to Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Cook is still uncertain when he’ll be able to get back to practice with the Packers.

However, the surgery was minor and isn’t expected to hinder his availability for the start of the season.

No, it wasn’t anything serious,” Cook said. “It was just, they didn’t want it to prolong and something happen later on down the road in season….I’d just rather be safe than sorry.”

But in joining a new teams, Cook will be missing valuable time to build a relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Cook missed the end of the offseason program due to the surgery and will have fewer days to build chemistry with Rodgers before the start of the regular season.

“Whether we’re in a new system or not,” Cook said, “you want to be out there on the field. That’s where you have the most fun. That’s what you’re basically bred to do. It’s not fun being separated from everybody and doing special drills to get you back. You want to be out there having fun with your teammates, but it’s just something I have to endure now so later on it’ll be better.”

The Packers hope the addition of Cook can add a second option at tight end to pair with Richard Rodgers.

Cook appeared in all 16 games with the St. Louis Rams last season. He caught 39 passes for 481 yards but did not find the end zone for the first time since his rookie season with Tennessee.

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Titans sign OL Will Campbell

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 2:  A Tennessee Titans helmet displays the Futbol Americano logo during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at The Coliseum on October 2, 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Colts defeated the Titans 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans signed offensive lineman Will Campbell Tuesday.

A sixth-round pick of the Jets in 2013, Campbell, 25, has never played in a regular season NFL game. A four-year contributor as a defensive lineman at the University of Michigan, Campbell made the Jets’ roster in 2013 but spent the year transitioning from defensive line to offensive line.

He spent much of 2014 on the Bills’ practice squad and has also spent time with the Packers.

The signing of Campbell puts the Titans’ roster at 89, one short of the preseason max of 90. The Titans open full training camp on Saturday.

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Andrew Luck declares himself to be 100 percent, sets sights on Super Bowl

andrew-luck-beard-shot Getty Images

For the Colts, the 2015 season was a mess. For quarterback Andrew Luck, it was even more of a mess.

With camp opening, Luck told reporters that he’s 100 percent after multiple injuries last year, included a lacerated kidney. Entering 2016, Luck made it clear that he and the rest of the team have a chip on their shoulder.

“Yeah, I think so,” Luck said regarding whether the team has an edge this year. “I think so.”

Like every team, Indy’s goal is to get to the Super Bowl. “And win that game,” Luck added.

That’s a long way away, but the foundation for a successful season is put in place during training camp. Luck embraces that.

“Camp is awesome,” Luck told reporters. “I had a coach once explain camp is like second Christmas and it certainly feels that way. There’s an energy. There’s a buzz in the air. It’s great to see all the guys. There are some new faces absolutely. That’s sort of the nature of the NFL and there’s also some consistent faces like T.Y. Hilton, Chuck Pagano, Dwayne Allen, Anthony Castonzo, so there’s a great core group of guys on this team and integrating the new guys is always a big deal for the offseason and training camp.”

What about camp makes it so awesome?

“That it’s ball all day,” Luck said. “You don’t really have to think about anything. You can wear the same clothes, you know, two weeks in a row and no one is going to judge you unless you start smelling and then someone tells you, ‘You smell.'”

Last year, the Colts smelled bad. This year, the goal is to turn that stink into something that smells a lot more like napalm in the morning.

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Jimmy Smith to be inducted into the “Pride of the Jaguars”

i Getty Images

As the Jaguars begin their 22nd NFL season, they will be adding a sixth person to the “Pride of the Jaguars.” The next name on the list will be receiver Jimmy Smith. It’s an honor reserved to those who have made the biggest contributions to the franchise.

I’m definitely proud and emotional right now,” Smith said Tuesday morning, via Jaguars.com, who got the call informing him of the decision from owner Shad Khan. “It was a 217 area code. I started not to pick up the phone because I usually don’t answer numbers I don’t know. It was Shad Khan, and I knew right then. My heart started beating fast and I couldn’t catch my breath. He said, ‘Jimmy, this is Shad Khan with the Jacksonville Jaguars . . . .”

Smith joins Tony Boselli, Fred Taylor, Mark Brunell, and former owners Wayne and Delores Weaver as the members of the team’s most exclusive group of honorees.

The 1992 second-round pick of the Cowboys became an original Jaguar in 1995, spending 11 seasons with the team. He caught 862 passes for 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns.

Smith won’t be insisting on the exclusive club remaining small. He already is lobbying for former Jaguars receiver Keenan McCardell and former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin to be added to the group.

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Report: Seahawks extend Pete Carroll through 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks on prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

General Manager John Schneider signed an extension with the Seahawks over the weekend and, as expected, his partnership with coach Pete Carroll won’t be ending any time soon.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Seahawks and Carroll have agreed to an extension that puts Carroll under contract in Seattle through 2019. Carroll and Schneider both joined the Seahawks in 2010 and their record leaves little reason to wonder why the Seahawks will keep everything in place.

The team has gone 60-36 under Carroll in the regular season and 8-4 in the playoffs. The latter record includes their Super Bowl XLVIII title, their run back to the game the next year and at least one playoff win in each of the last four seasons.

There’s no word on the financial terms of the deal, but Carroll was already among the best-paid coaches in the league. His new deal will keep him there and keep him in Seattle through at least his 68th birthday if all goes according to plan.

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Report: Kurt Coleman set to sign extension

Kurt Coleman AP

The Panthers and safety Kurt Coleman have agreed on a three-year extension that Coleman will sign Wednesday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.

Coleman had a career-best seven interceptions last season, and the new deal rewards Coleman for the work he did last season as under the radar signing who became a productive player on one of the league’s best defenses.

Coleman, 28, was a seventh-round pick of the Eagles in 2010. He played four years with the Eagles and one with the Chiefs before joining the Panthers last season.

After starting just three games in 2013-14, Coleman started all 15 games he played for the Panthers last season. He was a full-time starter in 2011-12 for the Eagles but started just thee of 15 games he played for the Chiefs before signing a two-year deal with the Panthers in March 2015.

Coleman has 17 career interceptions and had his first career sack last season.

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As expected, Joe Haden starts camp on PUP

Marcus Mariota, Joe Haden, Craig Robertson AP

Browns cornerback Joe Haden was placed on active/physically unable to perform Tuesday, an expected move before the team opens full training camp on Friday.

Haden, a two-time Pro Bowler, had offseason ankle surgery and was mostly a spectator for the team’s spring workouts.

Various injuries limited Haden to five games last season, and he had ankle surgery in March. Haden, 27, has started 68 of 77 career games and has 16 career interceptions.

The Browns also announced that rookie tight end Seth DeValve would be placed on active/PUP and that first-year offensive lineman Conor Boffelli would be placed on the active/non-football injury list. Reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon was also placed on active/NFI.

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NHL Commissioner declines to admit link between concussions and CTE

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during the 2016 NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Football has become synonymous with concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. However, other sports have found themselves embroiled in political and legal fights regarding head injuries and long-term health consequences.

In hockey, the Commissioner of the NHL has declined to admit a link between concussions and CTE. In response to written questions from Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Gary Bettman stressed that the medical research remains in an early phase and argued that lawyers and the media have presumed a connection and other medical facts without sufficient scientific support.

“The science regarding CTE, including on the asserted ‘link’ to concussions that you reference, remains nascent, particularly with respect to what causes CTE and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms,” Bettman wrote, via the New York Times. “The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.”

As explained by John Branch of the Times, Bettman “repeatedly blamed the media for spreading the fear of CTE, and accused the plaintiffs in the concussion case for a public relations assault on the topic.” Bettman pointed out that the brain of former NHL player Todd Ewen, who committed suicide in 2015 at the age of 49, did not show signs of CTE.

“Ultimately, the most concerning aspect of the current public dialogue about concussions in professional sports (as well as youth sports) is the implicit premise that hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of individuals who have participated in contact sports at the high school, collegiate and/or professional levels are not only at a high level of risk for, but actually more than likely to develop, a degenerative, irreversible brain disease (i.e., CTE), and that they should be informed as such,” Bettman wrote. “The NHL chooses to be guided on this very serious subject by the medical consensus of experts examining the science, not the media hype driven in part by plaintiffs’ counsel.”

Regardless of the science, it’s obviously not beneficial for the human brain to absorb repeated injuries. Bettman’s letter, which if written by the Commissioner of the NFL would surely result in much greater attention and criticism, echoes a point that many have made: The scientific research still has a long way to go regarding questions like the prevalence of CTE, the causes of CTE, the symptoms of CTE, and the consequences of CTE.

Plenty of former pro football and hockey players believe that serious cognitive problems for them are not simply possible but inevitable; the medical evidence has yet to reach that point. Regardless of the specific nature and degree of the risk and the specific nature and extent of the potential harm, it’s known that head injuries should be taken seriously, and it’s assumed that too many of them can lay the foundation for long-term health problems.

Even with that knowledge, people are still choosing to engage in sports and other activities that entail a risk of head trauma. At some point, the medical evidence will provide much greater information about the long-term health risks. For now, the vague-but-generally-accepted (and by all appearances accurate) notion that concussions can cause cognitive problems later in life is not deterring many adults with the physical gifts necessary to play professional sports from doing so.

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Tyler Varga retires

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:   Tyler Varga #38 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball as Nickell Robey #37 of the Buffalo Bills defends during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

After recovering from a serious concussion suffered in his rookie season, Colts running back Tyler Varga has decided not to risk another one.

The Colts have placed Varga on the reserve/retired list. His roster spot was filled via the signing of running back Abou Toure.

In May, Varga went public with his experiences from 2015, which resulted in his placement on the retired list after he declined to take medication aimed at helping his recovery due to concerns about potential side effects.

Toure, who like Varga was signed as an undrafted free agent a year ago, spent the offseason and training camp with the Colts, before being released. He later joined the Steelers and Cardinals practice squads.

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Paxton Lynch: I think I have a chance to play right away

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Quarterbacks Paxton Lynch (right) of Memphis and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State look on during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said recently that coach Gary Kubiak “kind of let us know he’s going to go with” Mark Sanchez at quarterback.

That likely fits with what most people believed the Broncos would do at the start of the year as Sanchez worked with the first team most often in the spring and has more experience than Trevor Siemian and first-round pick Paxton Lynch. Siemian has appeared to be the likelier alternative of the two, but Lynch said Tuesday that he hasn’t gotten that impression from Kubiak or anyone else despite his perceived place in the pecking order.

“I definitely think I have the opportunity to better myself and put myself up in that position to play right away or sooner than I had thought,” Lynch said, via ESPN.com. “I knew those guys were going to be ahead of me just because of experience — Trevor his experience in the offense and Mark his experience in the league and me being a rookie, and this is the first time I’ve seen a playbook like that.”

Lynch acknowledges that his competitive side makes it hard to “take the backseat in this” even if signs are pointing elsewhere for the team’s starting quarterback, but he wouldn’t be the first rookie to make an unexpected leap up the depth chart once a team saw everyone in action during training camp and the preseason. The veterans report for Denver on Wednesday, so it won’t be long before everyone starts to get a clearer idea of where everyone will stand come September.

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Report: Andre Johnson visits Titans

Andre Johnson AP

Veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson visited the Titans Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Johnson, 35, caught 41 passes with the Colts last season before being released. He starred for 12 seasons with the Texans, making six Pro Bowls and twice being named an All Pro.

Johnson recently said he’d like to catch on with a team and prove he can still play.

The Titans would be an interesting fit because they believe second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota is ready to make a leap and because Johnson could serve as a tutor of sorts for another big receiver, second-year man Dorial Green-Beckham.

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Bengals will play it safe, keep Burfict out of preseason games

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts after a play during their NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told reporters Tuesday that he plans to keep linebacker Vontaze Burfict out of the team’s four preseason games this summer.

Though the NFL has suspended Burfict for the first three regular season games for repeated on-field misconduct incidents, the decision to also keep Burfict out of preseason games was made by Lewis.

Lewis wants to keep Burfict out of trouble, and more importantly wants to make sure that he stays healthy a year off microfracture surgery.

“I kept him on the sideline as often as I could during this offseason,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I did everything I could during this offseason and I’m going to do the same thing this training camp. There’s no reason for us to risk him getting hurt. It’s hard because he’s so competitive [that] we have to continue to hold him back. One day he gets it the next day he wants to fight me on it. That’s it.

“There’s just no reason for us to expose him to injury because he’s too valuable.”

Burfict, 25, went to the Pro Bowl in 2013, his second season after signing with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent. He’s been held to 15 games over the last two seasons but has remained a productive and important player.

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Chiefs don’t expect Justin Houston to work at training camp

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 15:  Linebacker Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs beats the block of Michael Schofield #79 of the Denver Broncos to get to quarterback Brock Osweiler #17 of the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 15, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 29-13.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Safety Eric Berry isn’t expected to join his Chiefs teammates on the field for the start of training camp and he won’t be the only high-profile member of the defense missing from the field.

Linebacker Justin Houston had surgery to repair his ACL in February and the team initially gave a 6-12 month timetable for his recovery. General Manager John Dorsey later said that the expectation is that Houston will be able to play this season, but coach Andy Reid said Tuesday that he doesn’t expect Houston to be ready during training camp.

“I don’t think that will happen,” Reid said, via the team.

That would seem to make Houston a candidate for the regular season version of the physically unable to perform list, which would leave him ineligible to play during the first six weeks of the season. Tamba Hali and Dee Ford should lead the group of outside linebackers until Houston’s ready to go.

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