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Report: Ryan Mathews played through high ankle sprain

Divisional Playoffs - San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Chargers running back Ryan Mathews was limited to just 23 snaps in two postseason games because of an ankle injury.

We now know a little more about the severity of Mathews’ injury.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mathews was dealing with a high ankle sprain.

The AFC’s second-leading rusher in the regular season, Mathews played just 18 snaps in San Diego’s January 5 wild-card win at Cincinnati, rushing for 52 yards on 13 carries and catching two passes for 12 yards.

In the week leading up to Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Denver, Mathews didn’t practice at all, and he played just five snaps in the loss to the Broncos, carrying the ball each time and gaining a combined 26 yards.

Mathews, 26, played in all 16 regular-season games for the first time in his pro career in 2013. He is entering the final year of his contract.

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Tebow as a two-point option makes no sense

Tebow Getty Images

In the six days since Tim Tebow’s 19-month NFL exile ended, a popular theory has emerged regarding Chip Kelly’s plan:  Tebow will be the team’s two-point quarterback.

With NFL owners potentially moving the two-point conversion closer next month in order to entice more teams to eschew the near-automatic one-point try, the thinking is that Kelly would use Tebow as his quarterback in that situations.

But here’s where the logic falls apart.  A two-point conversion from the one-yard line wouldn’t be a novel play for the NFL.  It would simply be another situation in which teams face short yardage.  So if Tebow is going to be the two-point quarterback, wouldn’t he also be the guy who takes the snaps on third-and-one or fourth-and-one or third- and fourth-and-goal from the one?

But Kelly may welcome the belief that he has signed Tebow as a two-point quarterback if that perception makes the league’s owners (who would benefit financially from Tebow having relevance to the NFL once again) more inclined to move the two-point conversion closer.  It’s no secret that Kelly likes the two-point try; he presumably would go for it more often if it were closer.  And if the owners think that would mean more Tebow, that could be the factor that pushes the change through.

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DeSean Jackson gets a reality show

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

There’s something about former Eagles receivers and reality TV.  Joining Terrell Owens and Hank Baskett, DeSean Jackson will be appearing on television in a capacity other than playing football.

Via Clinton Yates of the Washington Post, Jackson will appear on a new BET series dubbed Home Team, which will show that Jackson’s life is “run by a core group of women.”

Now in his second year with Washington, Jackson’s career is run by a core group of men who may not think it’s a good idea for the player to be distracted by being the star of a reality TV show.  Which means their reaction could make for a good reality TV show.

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Shaq Thompson getting a close look from the Panthers

Thompson Getty Images

One of the most intriguing prospects in the upcoming draft pool played multiple positions in college.  He intends to focus on only one in the NFL.

Washington safety/linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson won the 2014 Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the most versatile player in college football.  As he explained this week on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Thompson has made the “business decision” to play defense.

It couldn’t have been an easy decision; Thompson averaged 7.5 yards per carry in 2014, with 456 yards rushing on 61 carries.  Against Colorado, he generated 174 yards rushing on only 15 carries, an 11.6-yard average.

Thompson has nevertheless gotten plenty of attention as a defender.  But Thompson disclosed on PFT Live that only one team brought in him for a visit and also gave him an on-campus workout:  the Panthers.

Thompson’s ability to play safety and linebacker makes Carolina an obvious potential fit, given that the Panthers drafted Thomas Davis as a safety 10 years ago and made him into a linebacker.

That doesn’t mean Thompson will refuse to make a cameo appearance at running back.  He didn’t rule out the possibility when the topic came up on PFT Live.  Still, he regards himself as a defensive player, because he knows that defensive players can play a lot longer than running backs.

For the full interview, click here, select PFT Live, and select Hour Three of the April 22 show.

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Twenty-two years ago Saturday, the Giants found a Hall of Famer in Round Two

Michael Strahan #92 Getty Images

Twenty-two years ago Saturday, quarterbacks went 1-2 in the 1993 NFL Draft, and a club that gave up its first-rounder in search of a solution at quarterback ended up with a defensive end who helped the franchise win a Super Bowl.

The 1993 NFL Draft began on a Sunday, and it kicked off with Washington State’s Drew Bledsoe landing with New England and Notre Dame’s Rick Mirer going to Seattle. Bledsoe ended up having the stronger NFL career, leading New England to four playoff berths, including a spot in Super Bowl XXXI.

A pair of teams came away with future Hall of Famers in Round One, with the Saints selecting offensive tackle Willie Roaf eighth overall and the Rams taking tailback Jerome Bettis two spots later. However, Bettis would have his greatest success with Pittsburgh later in his career, and Roaf would finish his career by making four Pro Bowls as part of an outstanding Kansas City offensive line that featured another future Hall of Famer: offensive guard Will Shields, a third-round pick of Kansas City in that same ’93 draft.

The ’93 draft also featured a pair of star defenders selected after Round One. The Giants struck it big in Round Two, taking Texas Southern’s Michael Strahan, who would go on to break the single-season sack record with New York in 2001. He finished his career on a high note, playing a key role in the Giants’ historic upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Strahan was the Giants’ first pick in the ’93 draft; their first-round pick was surrendered in the previous supplemental draft to take Duke quarterback Dave Brown.

The Buccaneers had their first-round pick, using it to take Alabama defensive end Eric Curry. But their biggest score came at the end of Round Three, when they selected safety John Lynch, a standout through thick-and-thin for the Buccaneers and an important part of the club’s lone Super Bowl winning team in 2002. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Lynch one day joined Roaf, Strahan and 2015 inductees Bettis and Shields in Canton, too.

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Reggie McKenzie: Raiders have taken some calls about No. 4 pick

Reggie McKenzie AP

The Raiders have a young quarterback they like at the moment (and haven’t ruined yet), so they have some options when Thursday rolls around, when they’re on the clock with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

One of those options is not using the fourth pick at all.

Via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie said he has taken some calls about the availability of his choice.

“My phone line is always open,” McKenzie said. “You hear everybody out. If it makes sense and it’s going to help the Raiders, we’ll do a deal.”

Again, the Raiders have multiple needs, though getting one of the top wide receivers makes a lot of sense, giving second-year quarterback Derek Carr a better chance to progress.

But if they decide they can find help deeper in the first round, and add assets, it might be the prudent play to buy in bulk.

Or at least create the impression that’s what you want to do, in an effort to make the phone ring more often.

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PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5

Melvin Gordon AP

After two consecutive years without a running back being selected in Round One, it’s likely the 2015 NFL Draft will have at least one first-round tailback, with Georgia’s Todd Gurley seemingly the favorite to be the first back off the board some time Thursday.

The question is, what other backs will be selected in Round One? Will Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon hear his name called among the first 32 picks? Rotoworld draft expert Josh Norris sees Gurley, then Gordon, getting picked in the first round next week.

And if Gordon goes second, who will be the third back off the board? Could a back like Boise State’s Jay Ajayi be a late first-rounder? How about Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah or Indiana’s Tevin Coleman? Will some team trade back into Round One to secure the runner of its choice before Thursday ends, a la Detroit five years ago for Jahvid Best?

The first-round running back question, then, is a perfect way to start PFT’s Draft Props series. Here’s the idea: We set a number and the odds on each side of the props, and we put it to PFT Planet to vote on which side they would prefer. Each vote will count as one unit of measure. When the draft ends, we’ll tally the results.

With this in mind, here is our Over-Under on first-round tailbacks: 2.5.

And here are the odds we’ve set:

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: How many running backs will be selected in Round One of the 2015 NFL Draft?

OVER 2.5 running backs — +200

UNDER 2.5 running backs — -240

As always, go ahead and give us your take in the comments and via the poll below.

UPDATE: After 131 of the first 138 votes were for UNDER, we’ve adjusted the odds to OVER +150 and UNDER -170. We’ll score the first votes under the old odds (+125/-145) accordingly.

UPDATE No. 2: With 1,229-of-1,323 votes for UNDER, we’ll move to +200/-240.

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Peyton Manning gives $3 million to University of Tennessee

UT Getty Images

Peyton Manning gave up $4 million in salary to the Broncos in March.  He’s now giving up $3 million more to his alma mater.

Manning has donated $3 million to the school in honor of university employees Gus Manning and Carmen and Deborah Tegano.  Gus Manning has served the UT athletic program for 64 years, Carmen Tegano has spent 31 seasons at the school, and Deborah Tegano was one of Manning’s professors.

The donation will create the Gus Manning Gate at Neyland Stadium, and it will place the names of the Teganos on a dining hall to be added to a dorm currently under construction.

At a time when more and more people are noticing the gross imbalance between the value generated by highly successful college athletes and the compensation they receive, it’s admirable any time any of them give anything beyond what they’ve already given.

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Panthers pick up fifth-year option on Luke Kuechly

Luke Kuechly AP

Some decisions on whether to pick up the fifth-year option on a first-round pick can be agonizing ones.

The call to extend Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly’s contract through 2016 was not likely one of them.

Carolina has officially picked up the option of Kuechly, its star middle linebacker, the team announced Saturday afternoon.

The 24-year-old Kuechly has played and started every regular season game for the Panthers since entering the NFL in 2012, notching 473 tackles, defending 27 passes, recording seven interceptions and racking up six sacks.

Kuechly will now be due $11.1 million for 2016. The Panthers are likely to work to sign him to a longer extension at some point.

Teams have until May 3 to exercise fifth-year options on first-round picks in the Class of 2012.

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Former NFL defender secures deal on Shark Tank

Scott Getty Images

Only recently have I discovered Shark Tank, the fascinating, American Dream reality show in which fledgling entrepreneurs pitch investment opportunities to established investors for partnership opportunities.

After stumbling over reruns on CNBC, I set the DVR to record the new episodes of the show on ABC.  Last night’s new episode coincidentally included former NFL defensive back (and linebacker) Bryan Scott.

Scott appeared individually, on behalf of four total owners of Noene, the distributor of a thin shoe insole that absorbs and disperses high-frequency shock.  Scott sold 30 percent of the company to Mark Cuban and Daymond John for $200,000 — even though the company has no sales yet.

A second-round pick of the Falcons in 2003, Scott spent three seasons in Atlanta before being traded to the Saints in 2006.  He finished his career with six years in Buffalo, from 2007 to 2012.

At a time when far too many former NFL players find themselves out of money at some point after retiring, Scott could be one of the few who makes much more after his career ended than he ever made during it.

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Cosell would put Perriman with Cooper and White

Breshad Perriman, Jhavon Williams AP

The first round of the draft unfolds in five days.  And it has been assumed for months that two receivers stand alone at the top of the class.

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell thinks another player deserves to be mentioned with Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin WhiteBreshad Perriman of Central Florida.

“I think Cooper is the top receiver prospect this year,” Cosell writes in an item for Yahoo! Sports.  “But if you asked me who is No. 2 among White and Perriman, that’s a tougher question.  I really like Perriman.  I heard an interesting comparison on Perriman from a scout the other day:  Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas.  I can see that. Perriman is a big powerful, explosive, fast guy.  Although he and White are about the same size, on film Perriman looks like the bigger guy.  I could see ranking Perriman even with or ahead of White, although I’m in the minority on that.”

So Cosell actually puts Perriman ahead of White.  When it comes to the draft, all it takes is one team planning to take a receiver to agree with Cosell.

We’ll find out Thursday night whether Perriman goes before White.  Or whether White before Cooper.  The only safe bet based on Cosell’s evaluation is that Perriman won’t go before Cooper.

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Dominik chafes at Jameis-JaMarcus comparison

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

It’s spring, when a middle-aged man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of figuring out how to get a coveted prospect to slide down the board.

As the draft approaches, some teams love a player enough to spread negative information and/or opinions about him in the hopes that he’ll be on the board when they are making their pick.

The highest-profile example (so far) for 2015 comes from the recent article featuring an unnamed executive comparing quarterback Jameis Winston to quarterback JaMarcus Russell.  The former G.M. of the team that is expected to select Winston has gone on the record to strongly disagree with the comparison.

I think it’s rude,” former Buccaneers G.M. Mark Dominik told Jorge Sedano of ESPN Radio, via JoeBucsFan.com.  “I think it’s completely off base to call him JaMarcus Russell.  I just don’t see the comparison.  Look, if you want to say one thing about Jameis [as a football player], the only thing I’d sit there and say is at the end of the season, he lost 17 pounds to go to the [Scouting] Combine.  I didn’t like that.  You now, because I’d like to think he’s playing as well as he can all the way through the bowl series and then getting himself ready for the Combine, instead of having to get himself in shape.  But from a football standpoint, from a football intelligence, from a competitor, from a leader, it ain’t close.  It’s embarrassing.  For my personal opinion, whatever G.M. said that, probably should not be a G.M., quite frankly.”

While that G.M. would likely respond by saying, “Well, I’m a G.M. and Dominik isn’t,” that G.M. can’t say anything because that G.M. hasn’t gone on the record with the Jameis-JaMarcus comparison.

Yes, the anonymous sourcing of information fuels the journalism industry in many ways.  But the anonymous sourcing of opinion can be harder to handle, since the anonymous source of the opinion may be hoping to get the Buccaneers to waver on Winston, ultimately passing on him or trading the pick for less than the Bucs would otherwise want.

Without knowing who the anonymous source of the opinion is, it’s impossible to know whether that source secretly hopes the opinion will prompt the Buccaneers and other teams to get out of the way, so that the team for which the anonymous source works can draft Jameis Winston.

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NFLRA takes issue with perception (reality) that some officials were let go

Officials Getty Images

The NFL has seen 18.5-percent turnover in its game officials over the last two years.  And for good reason; as V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said earlier this month, the league won’t keep officials who aren’t getting the job done.

“If an official isn’t performing up to the standards then they won’t be in the NFL,” Blandino said, confirming that the league “moved on from” some officials.

“Any official, in any competitive arena, could have a poor season, so one season may not necessarily cause us to terminate an official,” Blandino said.  “But if it becomes a trend, multiple seasons, we have a tier-based ranking system, the third tier being the lowest performers.  Once they enter Tier 3 we put them in an enhanced training regimen and put them in that program, and if we still don’t see improvement, that’s when we move on.”

The NFL Referees Association has taken issue with the characterization that five officials have been fired, via a Saturday morning press release.

“It is a totally inaccurate and disrespectful to these outstanding retiring game officials for anyone to give the impression or infer they were fired,” NFLRA executive director Jim Quirk said.  “After the reports surfaced, we immediately reached out to the League with our concerns.  We were pleased that during this conversation, management admitted that their public statements were misinterpreted, and they did not mean to give the impression the five retiring officials were fired.”

So who are the five officials who retired?  The NFLRA won’t say.

“Medical privacy laws do not permit me to publicly name the 20-plus-year veteran game officials who retired due to medical conditions,” Quirk said.

For 2015, the NFL has hired nine new officials, with five replacing those who aren’t returning and four new positions.

A league source confirmed that the NFLRA privately objected to the characterization the NFL has fired “some of its worst officials.”  But the source also acknowledged that some of the officials who “retired” had no intention of retiring, and thus were let go.

Which means that the league moved on from them.  Which means they were some of the league’s worst officials.

Before anyone takes up the cause of the officials who were involuntarily retired, keep in mind the broader goal of getting as many calls right as possible.  If people aren’t able to do that on a consistent basis, failure of the NFL to move on from “some of its worst officials” would justify far more criticism than whatever criticism has arisen from the league’s effort to improve the pool of game officials.

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Sanchez: We need another guy to throw, that’s why we signed Tebow

Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez AP

Mark Sanchez thinks Tim Tebow is a camp arm.

Sanchez told CSNPhilly.com that he’s been told Tebow was signed as another quarterback to give the receivers some work because Sam Bradford is still not 100 percent.

“He’s obviously a great guy, he works hard. And we needed another guy to throw while Sam’s still recovering,” Sanchez said. “So that’s the reason [for the signing], at least as explained to me. We’re excited about the upcoming year and I think we have a great group.”

But that reason makes no sense. If the Eagles just wanted another guy to throw, there are dozens of quarterbacks with better arms than Tebow who could do that job.

Where Tebow potentially has value to a team is in the things he can do beyond throwing the football: Tebow is good at escaping the pocket under pressure, good at making something happen when a play breaks down and good at managing the clock when his team is trailing in the fourth quarter. There’s value in those skills, which is why Tebow had some success as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

But as a passer, Tebow is limited, which is why he has completed only 47.9 percent of his passes in his NFL career.

So while Sanchez may have been told that Tebow is just a camp arm, Chip Kelly must have other plans. If the Eagles wanted a camp arm, they would’ve signed someone with a better arm than Tebow.

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Dan Marino wouldn’t trade the Hall of Fame for a Super Bowl ring

Marino Getty Images

Dan Marino is on the short list of the greatest players never to win a championship, and he’s just fine with that.

Appearing at a Pro Football Hall of Fame function on Friday, Marino was asked whether he would trade the gold jacket that comes with Hall of Fame induction for a Super Bowl ring. Marino’s one-word answer: “No.”

Enshrinement in Canton represents the greatest individual achievement a pro football player can aspire to, and Marino isn’t just in Canton, but he’s even among the elite in the Hall of Fame, an easy choice as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

And yet a Super Bowl ring is what every player is playing for every year, and although this is probably unfair, virtually every story about Marino’s career mentions the absence of a ring.

Marino’s comments are reminiscent of a story from a couple years ago, when LaDainian Tomlinson said he’d take the Hall of Fame over a Super Bowl ring, while Tedy Bruschi shot back that a ring is the greater accomplishment. Tomlinson, of course, never got a ring but will likely get to the Hall of Fame, while Bruschi isn’t going to Canton but does have three Super Bowl rings.

Marino’s comments may be an accurate representation of the status of enshrinement in Canton as the greatest achievement for a football player. Or they may just be an attempt to look on the bright side on the one count where Marino’s career fell short.

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Report: LSU’s Jalen Collins has multiple failed drug tests

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

Timing is everything in life.

And if you’re a fringe first-round prospect, having bad news emerge in the week before the 2015 NFL Draft is particularly poorly timed.

Via Albert Breer of the NFL Network, citing sources with four teams, LSU cornerback Jalen Collins had “multiple failed tests” for drugs during his college days.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily have to ruin his prospects, as a former teammate with a similar rap sheet has gone on to have a productive and positive start to his career.

But teams will also have to weigh his ability at a coveted position against the possibility that he might not be able to keep himself eligible.

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