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Dwayne Bowe cleared to play, Eric Fisher questionable

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There’s good news and bad news on the injury front for the Chiefs.

The good news is that wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has been cleared to play in Saturday’s game against the Colts after suffering a concussion in Week 16. Bowe was trending in this direction after returning to practice on Tuesday and it’s good news for the Chiefs offense, especially with the Colts dealing with injuries to cornerbacks Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and Darius Butler.

The bad news is that right tackle Eric Fisher injured his groin in practice on Tuesday. Adam Teicher of ESPN.com reports that Fisher will not practice on Wednesday and that he may not be healthy in time to play on Sunday. With left tackle Branden Albert expected back from the knee injury that sidelined him for the last few games of the season, Donald Stephenson would likely shift to the right side if Fisher can’t go.

An update on linebacker Tamba Hali falls somewhere in the middle. Teicher reports that he may practice on Wednesday despite a knee injury that’s kept him off the field for the last week. If he does practice, he should stand a good chance of being in the lineup.

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Falcons G.M. bracing for losing a valuable draft pick

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Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff knows something’s coming. He just doesn’t know what it is yet.

Via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dimitroff said during a radio interview on 680 The Fan that he’s bracing for bad news, after the team admitted piping in artificial crowd noise.

“We are just so full of scenarios and that’s kind of how we approach the offseason as it is,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve been very detailed on how we are going to approach things if in fact we have availability at certain points in the draft.”

During the league meetings, the team was informed their penalty was likely to be announced next week, but Dimitroff said he hadn’t heard yet.

“I do not know at this point, officially,” Dimitroff said. “I have not gotten word from the league. I believe that we’ll be expecting something. Usually, when you get indication from the league it is via print. . . .

“I’m reading the same things that you are. Obviously, it’s been a process for us.”

And for a team that’s still trying to rebuild a defense, losing what could be a second- or third-round pick would be a significant hit.

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NFL still not talking about Indiana law

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Plenty of institutions that pump millions into Indiana by staging events there have expressed concern about the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing law that ostensibly protects religious freedom by giving business owners the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers.  The NFL inexplicably has not.

Last year, the NFL spoke out as Arizona closed in on passing a similar law.  Arizona eventually opted not to proceed with a plan to legalize the shunning of people who live their private lives in a way that others feel compelled to care about, and to condemn.

This time around, the NFL has said nothing.  The league office had no comment on Thursday when PFT specifically asked for a reaction to the new Indiana law, and in nearly 24 hours since then, nothing has emanated from P.R.-obsessed 345 Park Avenue regarding the passage of a law that provides a license to discriminate in a state where an NFL franchise is located, where the Super Bowl has been played and likely will return, and where the Scouting Combine is staged every February.

Others have opted for something other than silence.  The NCAA, which soon will hold one of its marquee events in Indianapolis, had this to say about the situation:  “The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events.  We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.  We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.  Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Likewise, the major gaming convention known as Gen Con threatened to take its business elsewhere if the law passes:  “Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds.  Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.”

So why has there been nothing from the NFL?  “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the league said last year regarding the Arizona proposal.

The NFL’s failure to reiterate that position in relation to the Indiana law suggests that maybe the NFL’s position has changed.  If that’s not the case, the sooner the NFL says so, the better.

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Bears hoping to get more from Jared Allen this season

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The Bears didn’t get much out of Jared Allen last year after a bout with pneumonia, and now they’re shifting to a defense he’s not really suited for.

But since they’re on the hook for an $11.5 million roster bonus anyway, they’re trying to figure out how to maximize his talents.

According to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears coach John Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace met with Allen this week, and they’re hoping to see a jump in production.

“It was good to touch base and share some ideas,” Fox said. “He’ll get that opportunity to compete, and he can be one of those guys who makes a big jump.”

Allen turns 33 next week, and he’ll be playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense new coordinator Vic Fangio will be installing. Allen has always said that’s something he’s not comfortable with, but they’ll also use enough four-man fronts in sub packages to allow him to rush the passer the way he’s comfortable.

But being sick last year kept him from showing it, and Fox said he thinks that explains the dip to a career-low 5.5 sacks.

“Physically, he had a rough year last year,” Fox said. “In particular for big guys or really any position, your weight, your strength level, all those things physically have a lot to do with how you perform on Sundays.

“In his case, he got pneumonia and lost 19, 20 pounds, and in the middle of a marathon, that is hard to recover from. That’s an analogy I use for a football season. So I don’t know if it was his best season. [But] there are reasons [for his struggles], not excuses.”

The Bears also brought in Pernell McPhee in free agency, and have Lamarr Houston to play outside linebacker. Allen’s obviously not playing as a base 3-4 end, so they’ll have to adjust on the fly, and see how much he has left.

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Marshawn Lynch to appear in “Beast Mode” music video

Lynch AP

It’s been a good year for Marshawn Lynch, even without getting the chance to become the face of the nation.

Lynch, who has received a $5 million raise for returning to the Seahawks, gone to Turkey to promote football, and has a movie about him (although pretty much everyone — including Lynch — thinks it’s not very good), will now appear in the video for Beast Mode, a new song from Ludacris.

“I met him and literally within like two minutes I felt like we were family,” Ludacris a/k/a Chris Bridges told ESPN earlier this week.  “I don’t know what it is.  He’s real cool, real laid back guy.  He was a fan.  He was talking about how much his mom was a fan, so I told him I’m a fan of his.

“We inspire each other.  That’s why it was great for us to get together.  When everybody sees the video you’ll think it’s a great, great concept to put these two things together — music and football.”

The song isn’t the only thing that carries Lynch’s nickname.  In Seattle, the “Beast Mode O.G.” marijuana strain has been followed up with “Beast Mode 2.0″ (or “Beast Mode Blue Fire”).  But even though Lynch lives in one of the two states in which marijuana is legal, noted marijuana aficionado Snoop Dogg says Lynch doesn’t partake.

My homeboy got a career to play,” Snoop Dogg recently told TMZ, via seattlepi.com.  “He’s still in the NFL.  He’s got a Commissioner to deal with.  Somebody named it after him.”

So Marshawn doesn’t smoke at all?

“No, he does not. I do it for him,” Snoop Dogg said.

For any player not in the drug-testing program, the reality is that he can smoke at will after taking his annual test for street drugs.  But with the window for testing opening on April 20, any player inclined to sample the Beast Mode blend should have stopped last week, since it takes 30 days for the metabolites to exit the system.

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Michael Sam: “I am not the only gay person in the NFL”

Michael Sam AP

Michael Sam was going to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, when he was drafted by the Rams last year.

But he said he quickly found out he’d have been far from the only gay player in the league.

During an appearance at an event in Dallas last night, Sam declined to offer a number, but said there were many players who reached out to him last offseason to thank him.

I am not the only gay person in the NFL,” Sam said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.

“Was it a risky move? Yes. But at that moment, the reason why I came out is I thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal. Maybe I was naive. Maybe I thought it was 2014, and people will understand that there’s gay NFL players. There’s gay athletes everywhere. But I was clearly wrong. It was a huge deal.

“The players who have reached out to me and told me about their sexual orientation, it just means a lot. But I will never say anything about who they are, what teams they are [on]. I’m just saying there’s some famous people, and I’m not the only one.”

Of course, Sam’s not an NFL player at the moment, and after his subpar showing at last week’s veteran combine, he might not be one anytime soon. But he said he was confident he’d play this season, indicating a stint in the CFL might be in his future.

Sam had a stint on the Cowboys practice squad after the Rams cut him, and doesn’t have anything pending this season. He said he didn’t think the reason was his sexual orientation, but thinks his unemployment could be the reason others haven’t made the decision to come out.

“Hopefully I’m not being discriminated [against] because I’m gay,” Sam said. “I don’t believe that I’m being discriminated [against] because I’m gay. I just want to know if I’m truly not in the NFL, it’s because of talent. Let it be because of my talents. But you’ve got to prove that I can’t play this game. If you look at the film, clearly I can. So, I’ll leave it at that. . . .

“Dancing with the Stars is my employer. That’s my main source of income. … I’m unemployed, and I don’t believe I’m out of the NFL because I’m gay. But if it was a reason, it can hurt their livelihood, and you don’t want to take that chance.”

Regardless his personal life, Sam’s lack of prototype size and speed is the primary reason he doesn’t have a spot on an NFL roster at the moment. He was a good college pass-rusher (11.5 sacks and the SEC defensive player of the year), and a stint in Canada might help him put together enough game tape to get another shot at the NFL.

And if he does, perhaps others will join him in his openness.

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John Fox: Cutler will have to earn the job in an open competition

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The Bears are on the hook to pay Jay Cutler a guaranteed $15 million this year and $10 million next year. But that doesn’t mean Cutler is their long-term starter. It doesn’t even mean Cutler is the Bears’ Week One starter.

Bears coach John Fox says Cutler will have to beat out Jimmy Clausen and David Fales if he’s going to be the starter because everyone on the roster will get an equal chance to earn the starting job.

It’s all an open competition,” Fox said, via CSNChicago.com. “Obviously you’ve got to start somewhere and my experience in football, really in anything, it’s not where you start a competition; it’s where you finish it. But we’ve got to start the race with some kind of lineup. We have not discussed that in depth. We have not presented it to our players yet. I kind of have it in my brain and then they compete.”

Cutler was benched for Clausen late last season, but it’s awfully hard to believe that Clausen could win the starting job this year. Fox may say he wants everyone to compete in training camp, but the Bears aren’t paying Cutler all that money to hold a clipboard.

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Jeremy Maclin’s gone, but says “I still believe in Chip”

Maclin AP

When LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole and Todd Herremans made plans to attend a fundraiser last night, they were Eagles. Since then, they became former Eagles, part of a flurry of offseason activity that sent them all packing, along with quarterback Nick Foles.

That means their starting quarterback and leading receiver and rusher have all departed in a short time.

“If you would have told me two years ago that that would be the case, I would have laughed,” Maclin said, via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is a business, man. Things like that happen.”

Of course, Maclin made his own business decision, taking a $55 million deal from the Chiefs, of which he said: “It wasn’t really about money.”

As much as anything, it was about coach Chip Kelly’s vision for the team, which Maclin said he still had confidence in.

“I still believe in Chip,” Maclin said. “I think Chip’s going to do great things here. I have the utmost respect for him. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get something worked out. But at the end of the day I’m very excited about playing for Kansas City and playing for Big Red [Andy Reid].”

Having a comfortable place to land was a help, because Kelly’s showing there are few sacred cows in his herd, which will lead to many more Eagles becoming former Eagles.

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Dont’a Hightower to miss 6-7 months after shoulder surgery

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

When the Patriots open their offseason program in a few weeks, they’re going to be without a few key players after their Super Bowl run.

But one important part of their defense is up in the air for the start of the regular season.

According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who will miss around six or seven months after surgery to repair a torn right labrum on Feb. 10.

That puts the opener in doubt  for Hightower, who played nearly every snap down the stretch for the Patriots. He sat out the finale against the Bills since there was nothing on the line, but played 321 of a possible 327 over the final five games he played, including a touchdown-saving tackle of Marshawn Lynch near the goal-line.

Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer also had surgery to repair a torn labrum, though he’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

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Chiefs owner: We’re going to get Justin Houston signed

Justin Houston AP

Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston would love to leave Kansas City in free agency, but the franchise tag makes that a long shot. Which might be why Chiefs owner Clark Hunt is confident that in the end, Houston will stay where he is.

“He knows, and his agent knows, how much we want him back,” Hunt said. “We just all have to be patient, and eventually, we’re going to get him signed to a long-term deal.”

If Houston doesn’t want to play for the Chiefs, he can try to work something out with another team, although that would be hard to do because the Chiefs would have the right to match any offer, and would receive two first-round draft picks from Houston’s new team if they don’t match the offer. Houston could also sit out all of training camp and the preseason and then sign the franchise tender just before Week One and still make his full $13.1 million salary. And if Houston really doesn’t want to play for the Chiefs, he could wait until Week 10 to sign the franchise tag and play just six games while still accruing enough service to become a free agent again next year.

But Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said the team thinks things will work out with some patience, and Hunt echoed that.

“I’ve been very consistent in saying that we not only value Justin as a football player, that we not only value Justin as a person and leader, and we want him to be a Chief for life,” Hunt said. “And the negotiating process in these type of situations, as John has said, takes some patience. You just have to have patience. It will work out.”

The only question is whether Houston agrees. It takes two to sign a contract.

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Wilf family pledges additional $19.5 million for new Vikings stadium

Vikings AP

The Wilf family, owners of the Minneosta Vikings, has pledged an additional $19.5 million toward the construction of the new Vikings stadium.

According to the Associated Press, the additional funds will go toward enhancements in the plaza, food service equipment, entertainment areas in the stadium, upgrades to retractable seating and a deck that will overlook downtown Minneapolis.

The extra money brings the total contribution from the Vikings to $551 million, which is approximately 52 percent of the total cost of the project.

The team announced the extra contribution Thursday night.

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Hearing over Hardy exhibits is postponed

Hardy AP

Next Tuesday, the dispute between the NFL and North Carolina prosecutors over documents introduced into last July’s trial in Greg Hardy’s criminal case had been scheduled to go to court.  That now won’t happen.

Via David Newton of ESPN.com, the two sides agreed to delay the effort.

“The hearing was postponed so that we could discuss an amicable resolution of our request for documents,” said Monroe Whitesides, Jr., a Charlotte lawyer hired to handle the case for the NFL.

The NFL wants to review the documents (possibly including photographs of the alleged victim’s possible injuries) before reaching a conclusion regarding Hardy’s punishment, if any, under the personal conduct policy.

Hardy spent 15 games last season on the Commissioner’s-Exempt list, receiving his full base salary while not playing.  The criminal charges against him were dismissed after the alleged victim failed to show up for a February jury trial; Hardy reportedly reached a civil settlement with her.

He signed last week with the Cowboys.  Owner Jerry Jones told PFT Live on Wednesday that the team received no indication regarding Hardy’s fate before adding him to the roster.

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City, county uniting in effort to keep Chargers

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In the Bay Area, the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda have come together in an effort to keep the Raiders in town.  In the southern end of the state, the city and county of San Diego likewise are joining forces to try to retain the Chargers.

Via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Thursday that the two governmental entities will work together in an effort to device a solution to the stadium situation.

“This partnership helps make it official, that the entire San Diego region is united,” Faulconer said.  “We are coming together, and there is real progress that is being made.”

But making progress and reaching the goal are two different things.  With Faulconer determined to put any proposal to a public vote (a simple majority is necessary if the project requires no public money; if taxpayer funds are involved, two thirds of the voters must approve the measure), the project necessarily will take time — perhaps more time than the Chargers currently have to make a decision on whether they’ll leave San Diego.

And the buzz at the league meetings was clear and unmistakable.  The Chargers believe San Diego has had more than enough time to fix this problem, and that any effort now is simply too little and too late.

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More countries could be hosting regular-season games

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The NFL’s international series has focused in recent years on building a presence in London.  But that’s not the only foreign country in which the league is willing to ignore that “N” is for “National.”

Via Albert Breer of NFL Media, the league is considering the staging of regular-season games in Mexico and Germany, in addition to the recent suggestion that the 2017 Pro Bowl could be played in Brazil and ongoing efforts to play in Canada and China.

“The work we’re doing now is to ask, ‘How do we accelerate the agenda in Mexico, Canada and China?'” NFL executive V.P. of international Mark Waller told Breer.  “Those would be our next stage, and we have offices in those three countries.  And then, after those, where should be our focus?  I think we’ve concluded that Brazil and Germany are the next two frontier markets, which is where the Pro Bowl idea comes from.”

Ten years ago, more than 103,000 fans showed up for a Cardinals-49ers game in Mexico City, but the league has not yet played another game there.  Security concerns often have been cited as one of the reasons for no sequel, yet.

If the league decides to play games that count while playing three games per year (and possibly more) in London, the league will need more teams to give up home games.  Apart from the fairly new rule that teams hosting a Super Bowl must give up a home game, Breer points out that teams relocating to a new market must sacrifice one home game per year while playing in a temporary venue pending the construction of their new stadium.

This could give the NFL up to two extra exportable games per year for several seasons, if two teams move to L.A. in 2016.

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Jerry Jones believes Darren McFadden can be a difference maker

Raiders running back McFadden is tackled behind the line of scrimmage by Texans linebacker Reed during NFL game in Houston Reuters

The Cowboys let running back DeMarco Murray, a third-round pick in 2011, walk away via free agency.  They replaced him with running back Darren McFadden, the fourth overall selection in 2008.  Murray led the NFL in rushing last season, with a franchise-record 1,845 yards.  McFadden, in contrast, sputtered to a mere 534 yards in 2014.

So why do the Cowboys regard McFadden as a competent replacement?

“[Y]ou’ve got a good chance to not live up to expectations,” Cowboys owner and G.M. Jerry Jones told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio regarding the lackluster career of McFadden, who has only one 1,000-yard campaign in seven seasons.  “Because when you are drafted that high, people think that you are going to be the next Jimmy Brown.  So, yes he would have liked to have had a more productive career.  But the kinds of skills that got him drafted with the fourth pick in the draft, he still has.

“You worry about injury, but we were worried about injury with Murray.  In eight seasons, four in Oklahoma and four with the Cowboys, Murray only had two injury free seasons.  And so the position is one you have to take into consideration no matter what the skill level is, they take a lot of hits, lot of punishment, and you got a good chance to have an injury issue.  And that’s why we couldn’t make that kind of commitment of dollars to that position.”

The team’s position on not investing a lot of cash in an injury-prone position would also suggest that the Cowboys won’t make a play for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  But Jones wouldn’t confirm that Peterson won’t be a Cowboy.

“I get in enough trouble in a lot of areas anyway with this mouth but I’m not going to talk about that,” Jones said.

He doesn’t need to say it.  There’s no way the Cowboys will make a major financial investment in the tailback position with Adrian Peterson or anyone, hoping instead to get the most out of underpriced talent running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Regardless of how it works, it will be one of the great experiments of the 2015 season.

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Buccaneers LB Danny Lansanah signs ERFA tender

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers’ second-leading tackler in 2014 has signed his contract offer from the club.

Linebacker Danny Lansanah, an exclusive-rights free agent, has officially signed his one-year tender from Tampa Bay. The transaction was listed in the NFL’s Thursday personnel notice.

The 29-year-old Lansanah comes off the best season of his career. The fourth-year pro from Connecticut notched 82 tackles (61 solo), starting 11-of-16 games. He could compete for a starting role at strong-side linebacker next season, with Orie Lemon potentially also in the mix.

Lansanah was one of the success stories of the United Football League, playing a three-year UFL stint (2010-2012) after five regular season games with the Green Bay Packers in 2008. He has been with the Buccaneers since December 2013.

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