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Too early to know if Harvin will be cleared to play

Harvin AP

Two days ago, the Saints applied multiple big hits to Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin, eventually knocking him out of the divisional-round game with a concussion.  For now, it’s too early to know whether Harvin will be cleared to play on Sunday against the 49ers.

Per a league source, Harvin engaged in baseline testing on Monday, which involves comparing his current cognitive abilities to prior measurements taken at a time when he was not concussed.  He’ll have to be cleared by an independent neurologist both to practice and then separately to play.

At one point, it was essentially presumed that a player who suffers a concussion would miss one game.  At some point, the presumption flipped, with players routinely returning from a concussion in a week.

Harvin has an extra day, given that the Seahawks played on Saturday.  While those who know him would be very surprised if Harvin doesn’t play, the decision is and will remain out of his control.

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Donald Penn: Derek Carr is “almost 100 percent”

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 02:  Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders is checked on by tackle Donald Penn #72 after being sacked against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 2, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Raiders 30-24.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Less than two months ago, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken leg. His rehab apparently is going well.

Teammate Donald Penn appeared Tuesday on NFL Network and passed along some important information regarding Carr’s health.

“I texted Derek two days ago and asked how he was doing, checking in, and he said ‘I’m almost 100 percent,'” Penn said, via NFL.com. Carr’s brother, David, removed the “almost.”

“He’s going to be great,” David Carr said. “He’s good. Walking around already, stretching it out. He can’t do a lot for the bone, but he’s going to be back. He’ll get a whole full offseason in, and that’s going to be the best part.”

That’s the best news for the Raiders; when the offseason program opens, Derek Carr should be good to go. And the better he is for the offseason, the better off the Raiders will be in 2017, as they try to get back to the postseason and advance beyond the opening round.

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Patrick Mahomes II received second-round grade from NFL’s College Advisory Committee

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 07:  Patrick Mahomes #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders drops back to pass under pressure in the first half during the game West Virginia Mountaineers on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II decided to give up his remaining eligibility at the college level, he gathered plenty of information. One relevant piece of data came from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee.

In an interview with PFT Live that will be broadcast on Thursday, Mahomes says he received a second-round grade from the panel that tries to help players with lingering eligibility decide whether to stay in college or go to the NFL.

Mahomes, whose father played Major League Baseball and who until a year ago played college baseball, threw for more than 5,000 yards last season — including 734 in a 66-59 loss to Oklahoma. He plans to throw at next week’s Scouting Combine.

For the full interview, tune in to Thursday’s PFT Live, which starts on NBC Sports Radio at 6:00 a.m. ET and moves to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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Bills’ clearance of Tyrod Taylor sets stage for possible grievance

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 11:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills looks to throw against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at New Era Field on December 11, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It was no accident that someone from the Bills (cough . . . Russ Brandon . . . cough) told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that quarterback Tyrod Taylor has received medical clearance following surgery to repair a groin/hernia/core muscle/whatever they’re calling it now. When the Bills benched Taylor late in the year, the team’s intention became clear: With $27.5 million guaranteed for injury until March 11, when it becomes fully guaranteed, the Bills wanted to be sure he could pass a physical before they pass on paying him ridiculous money.

Even though the Bills have now gotten the word out that Taylor is fine, the question becomes whether Taylor agrees. If he believes he’s not cleared now or, more importantly, on March 11, he can file a grievance challenging the assessment. It would set the stage for a battle of medical experts with a whole lot of money riding on the outcome.

This doesn’t change the fact that, without a major restructuring, the Bills will cut Taylor. And Taylor will surely find another team, with any money he makes elsewhere reducing Buffalo’s potential obligation. However, with Taylor highly unlikely to fully replace what Buffalo would have paid (or to even come close to it), there will be several million reasons for Taylor to take issue with the team’s assessment of his current health via the devices available under the CBA.

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Bears hire Brandon Staley to coach outside linebackers

Bears Lions Football AP

The Bears are hiring Brandon Staley as their new outside linebackers coach, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported.

Staley coached last season as defensive coordinator at Div. III John Carroll University in Cleveland, the alma mater of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Staley had been hired for the same role at Tennessee-Chattanooga when ex-John Carroll coach Tom Arth was hired there in December. Arth had a stint as a quarterback with the Colts in the early 2000s.

Though most coaching openings across the league have been filled, the Bears have been busy this week filling out their staff. Zach Azzanni will be the team’s new wide receivers coach, and Derius Swinton will return as assistant special teams coach after he was the 49ers’ special teams coach last season.

Staley replaces Clint Hurtt, who is now the Seahawks’ defensive line coach.

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Mike Zimmer: Maybe I didn’t do enough last offseason

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 1: Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on field before the game against the Chicago Bears on January 1, 2017 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings slipped from a division title in 2015 and 5-0 start to the 2016 season to an 8-8 finish that left them outside of the postseason.

That’s left coach Mike Zimmer and the rest of his staff with a clear goal for the 2017 season and the coach said in an interview with the team’s website that they are already “grinding” to put together a team that can achieve better results this time around. Zimmer also said that he’s wondered if “maybe I didn’t do enough” at this time last year when pondering the disappointing record.

One way he’s working to combat that feeling is by spending more time in offensive meetings than he has in the past to learn about what the team’s offensive coaches think about both their unit and the defenses that are trying to stop them from putting points on the board. Zimmer said his meetings with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and company left him with the feeling that “the heart of the problem” was a poor running game.

The team has already made one move related to that shortcoming by releasing guard Brandon Fusco and there are pending decisions on left tackle Matt Kalil and running back Adrian Peterson that will further shape the look of next season’s Vikings offense.

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After Cooley questioned McCloughan’s drinking, team’s silence speaks volumes

Chris Cooley AP

Last week, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley, who works for the team and for a Dan Snyder-owned radio station, questioned on the air whether General Manager Scot McCloughan has been drinking. The team declined to comment.

But declining to comment doesn’t make a story go away, and a column today in the Washington Post suggests that the team’s silence speaks volumes. Columnist Jerry Brewer suggests that Cooley’s speculation about McCloughan’s drinking may have been planted by the team in an effort to reduce McCloughan’s popularity.

McCloughan has been open about his problems with alcohol in the past. For his employer to use that in an attempt to discredit him would be disturbing.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, however, and the Washington Post column features that possibility in a broader picture of a power struggle in Washington in which President Bruce Allen is really calling the shots, and McCloughan is being put in his place. It can’t be a comfortable position for McCloughan to be in, but he’s been muzzled by the team, and we apparently won’t hear his side of it any time soon.

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Bears hire Zach Azzanni as wide receivers coach

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31:  Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Chicago Bears celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on October 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Curtis Johnson left the Bears to return for a second stint on Sean Payton’s coaching staff in New Orleans, which means that the Bears were in the market for their third wide receivers coach in the last three seasons.

They found one in the college ranks. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that the team hired Zach Azzanni to fill the opening on John Fox’s staff. Azzanni is the third new offensive position coach in Chicago this year.

Azzanni spent the last four seasons at the University of Tennessee and coached the wideouts at Wisconsin in 2012 before moving to the Volunteers. He also worked at Central Michigan from 2007-09 and helped Steelers star Antonio Brown develop into a player who would be selected in the sixth round of the draft before rising to the top of the position.

The Bears would love to see Azzanni have the same kind of impact on their receiving corps, which could move on without Alshon Jeffery as he’s set for free agency next month.

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Garoppolo has some say in his immediate future, too

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots come out on to the field prior to the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo shrugs at questions about his future by saying “your guess is good as mine,” the truth is that he has slightly more say than the rest of us regarding what will happen. No matter how things play out, what Garoppolo wants will be a major factor.

What’s that, you say? The Patriots can trade him whenever and wherever they want? That’s true, but if Garoppolo supposedly will be fetching a first-round selection plus more for the Patriots, it’s unlikely that the team giving up the picks will do so without Garoppolo agreeing to extend a contract that expires after the coming season. Otherwise, that team could end up playing the Kirk Cousins-style franchise tag game with Garoppolo in 2018 and 2019, coughing up a lot more money then than it would take to get him under contract for the next several years now.

But Garoppolo can flatly refuse to do a new contract with another team, which would make him far less attractive in trade. Let’s say the Browns want him, and that he doesn’t want to be the next name on back of the Shirt of Slapd–ks. If he says (through his agent), “I’m not interested in playing for you and I will never sign a long-term contract,” why would the Browns do the deal?

So, yes, Garoppolo has plenty of say. The fact that he’s not saying that shows he’s currently committed to the Patriot Way — and that it ultimately could be the Patriots with whom he signs a second contract, waiting patiently for Tom Brady to retire.

What’s that, you say? No one knows when Tom Brady will retire. His agent likely has an idea, and Garoppolo is represented by the same firm. So, yes, Garoppolo not only has plenty of say but also has an idea when the job will become available in New England.

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New Jersey man sentenced to five years in prison for Giants ticket scam

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 26:  A general view of the exterior of MetLife Stadium is seen before the New York Jets take on the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on October 26, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

A scheme to scam 16 people out of money they thought was going toward personal seat licenses for Giants season tickets has led to a five-year prison sentence for the man who was running the con.

NJ.com reports that John Gorman has been sentenced to that jail term by Ocean County Superior Court Judge Patricia B. Roe and has also been ordered to repay $116,550 to his victims. Gorman, who was once a Giants season ticket holder, advertised the fraudulent PSLs on Craigslist starting in 2008 but never delivered when MetLife Stadium opened for business in 2010.

Gorman’s scam was helped by the fact that he shares the same name as the Giants’ director of ticketing, which bolstered his online claims to be an employee of the team when convincing his victims to part with their money. An employee of the team claiming to sell PSLs out the back door apparently didn’t tip anyone off until Gorman failed to produce PSLs, but should probably be a red flag to anyone who might find themselves being pitched in the future.

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Bills say Tyrod Taylor is medically cleared

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills is tackled by Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills say quarterback Tyrod Taylor is healthy enough to play — and potentially healthy enough to get cut.

A team source told Adam Schefter that Taylor has been medically cleared from his January groin surgery.

It’s significant that this is coming from a team source, rather than directly from Taylor. The Bills can cut Taylor by March 11 and not have to pay his $27.5 million guarantee, but only if he can pass a physical. If the Bills choose not to pick up Taylor’s guarantee, it’s still possible that Taylor could file a grievance and claim he isn’t yet healthy.

If the Bills cut Taylor, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If he’s still on the team after March 11, that means the Bills are committed to him as their quarterback.

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Report: Julius Thomas gets thumbs up on physical

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes against  Dwight Lowery #33 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The proposed trade that would send tight end Julius Thomas from Jacksonville to Miami requires Thomas to pass a physical with the Dolphins before it can go forward and Thomas was in South Florida to take that exam on Tuesday.

It was something more than a formality for Thomas as he has missed 16 games with a variety of ailments over the last four seasons. Thomas has never played a full 16-game slate as a result of those injuries.

Those past issues reportedly won’t get in the way of the trade moving forward, however. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Thomas “got the thumbs up” from the team after the exam and that his visit with the team will wrap up on Wednesday.

The trade can’t get an official thumbs up from the two teams until the new league year starts on March 9 and the fact that it is a non-binding agreement means there could still be a change of heart, although there’s little reason to think that will happen with all moving forward without issue thus far.

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Martellus Bennett not expected to re-sign before free agency

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots attempts to catch the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during the second quarter during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Patriots won the Super Bowl, tight end Martellus Bennett noted that free agents from championship teams often receive a premium on the open market.

It appears Bennett will get the chance to see if he gets that treatment next month. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Bennett will not sign a new deal with the Patriots ahead of the start of the new league year. That doesn’t preclude a return to the Patriots and Bennett fit well with the team, but the chances that someone on the open market will bowl him over are great enough that Rapoport believes it will be hard to keep him in New England.

Bennett isn’t giving any sign of what path he may be taking on social media. He took a break from recounting meetings with celebrities ranging from Sinbad to Magic Johnson to say that he’ll “figure it out when it’s time to figure it out.”

That time will be here fairly soon and Bennett’s market should come into clearer sight pretty quickly in the free agency process.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at New Era Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The debate rages about whether the Bills will keep QB Tyrod Taylor.

Can the Dolphins find two new starting guards?

Patriots assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski or coaching assistants Nick Caley, Mike Pellegrino or Cole Popovich are among the in-house candidates to replace departed tight ends coach Brian Daboll.

A look back at Jets RB Matt Forte during the 2016 season.

Recently retired Ravens WR Steve Smith will let himself get out of shape so he’s not tempted to make a comeback.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis spoke at a Cincinnati school on Tuesday.

K’Waun Williams’ injury grievance against the Browns will be heard on May 16.

The Steelers have added depth at punter and long snapper.

Here’s a breakdown of the Texans’ offensive line.

Could the Colts draft Florida State RB Dalvin Cook?

The Jaguars re-signed backup OL Tyler Shatley.

The Titans could use both of their first-round draft picks on cornerbacks.

Could Jay Cutler return to Denver?

The Chiefs led the league in interceptions in 2016. Here’s a look at their five best.

Raiders OT Donald Penn has high hopes for 2017.

Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco likes to bring in his scouts and have them make their case for their favorite players.

Some former Cowboys are heading into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Here’s a look at some defensive linemen the Giants could target in the draft.

Would a return of DeSean Jackson be too expensive for the Eagles?

Washington QB Kirk Cousins has Jordan Rodgers on his side.

Could the Bears find a trade partner who wants Jay Cutler?

The Lions want to improve their running game, and Christian McCaffrey could be an option.

Here’s a look back at some of the players who were part of the Packers’ late-season run.

Will the Vikings draft a replacement for Adrian Peterson?

Here’s a look back at Falcons WR Julio Jones‘ Combine performance.

Panthers FB Mike Tolbert respects the way the Panthers handled his release.

The Saints need to add a pass rusher and a cornerback.

It’s the offseason, so here’s a list of Buccaneers players who share names with presidents.

The Cardinals face a tricky salary cap situation.

New 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh worked with head coach Kyle Shanahan for four years in Houston.

The roots of Pete Carroll’s coaching tree are continuing to spread.

Rams RB Todd Gurley is playing some offseason basketball, and the headline the Rams put on a story about it could scare some fans.

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Jay Cutler would have plenty of leverage over trade discussions

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 28: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears speaks to the media after the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 28, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Bears 13-9. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Once it became clear that coach John Fox would return for a third season with the Bears, it became even more clear that quarterback Jay Cutler would not be back for a ninth. Now that the word is out regarding the team’s effort to find a trade partner for Cutler, the first question becomes whether the Bears will find one.

The second question becomes whether Cutler will accept it.

Yes, if he wants to earn a $12.5 million salary and up to $2.5 million in per-game roster bonuses, he will. But if he chooses not to show up at his next destination, Cutler won’t have to return a penny of the $54 million he received over the last three years. With no signing bonus on the deal he signed three years ago, there’s no obligation to return any of the compensation paid to Cutler under the terms of the contract.

It gives Cutler plenty of leverage, preventing the Bears from simply dumping him onto any team that will take him, regardless of whether Cutler has any desire to play there.

Ten years ago, the player Cutler supplanted in Denver — Jake Plummer — was traded to the Buccaneers against his wishes. Plummer retired, he didn’t earn a salary of $5.3 million, and he eventually paid back $3.5 million of $7 million in bonus money as part of a settlement with Tampa Bay. With no such complication for Cutler, he can slam the brakes on any trade by simply saying, “I’m not going there.”

It’s always better for a player to be a free agent, and that could be the end result of his time with the Bears. Then the question becomes whether anyone wants Cutler at all.

The team that makes the most sense continues to be the 49ers, where former teammate John Lynch is now the G.M. and the son of the man who drafted Cutler 11 years ago is now the head coach.

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Philip Rivers gets emotional in return to San Diego

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers waves to the fans after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 30-21 at Qualcomm Stadium on September 14, 2014 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

Even if he hasn’t been gone long, Philip Rivers was back home for a night, so you’ll have to pardon him if that hit him.

The quarterback of the Los Angeles Chargers was back in San Diego Tuesday night, to see teammate Nick Hardwick honored at the San Diego Hall of Champions dinner. And though he has a new professional address, it’s clear the bonds he created at the old one run deep with him, as he got emotional as he spoke.

“I hope you’ll always see me as a [San Diego Charger],” Rivers said, via Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “My time here and my love for San Diego will always be great. I’ll be forever grateful for my time there.”

“But,” he went on, “at the same time, I hope the people understand here, too, that I do have to move forward and get excited about where we’re headed.”

Rivers told the crowd how grateful he was for his 13 years there, about how people would come up to him in grocery stores to thank him.

“I certainly appreciated San Diego’s passion for us on the field and just in general the people in the community, and their support,” he said. “And, I’d like to think that they appreciated the passion I played with.

“I feel like the people here see the real me.”

It will probably be harder for him to create the same kind of bond in Los Angeles, as the Chargers try to establish themselves as the second football team while playing in a half-scale soccer stadium. But they will at least have the benefit of a guy who appears to put his entire personality into wherever he is.

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