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Report: Josh McCown plans to return in 2014

McCown Getty Images

Late in the 2013 regular season, not long after Josh McCown had been benched despite being the reigning NFC offensive player of the week for a healthy Jay Cutler, McCown suggested he may call it quits after 2013.  Now, someone close to McCown says the veteran will be back next season.

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the 34-year-old McCown plans to return.

It’s unclear whether McCown will return to Chicago.  Because he signed a one-year deal under the minimum-salary benefit in 2013, the Bears can’t sign him until he actually becomes a free agent on March 11.  That now follows a three-day period during which McCown’s agent can engage in discussions with other teams.

With the Bears devoting $22.5 million in cap space to Cutler for the coming year, the Bears likely won’t have much in the budget for McCown.  Any team that views him as a potential starter would surely outbid the Bears.

For teams looking to acquire a veteran quarterback via free agency, the options aren’t plentiful.  Beyond McCown, the looming free agents include Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, Chad Henne, and Josh’s brother, Luke.  Other veteran quarterbacks (like Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden) could be available via trade, or could be released.

Perhaps the most intriguing option for Josh McCown would be the Vikings.  Barely a decade ago, McCown knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs with a last-gasp throw to the end zone in Arizona.  Under current rules, which no longer acknowledge the “force-out” call, the throw to Nate Poole would have been ruled incomplete.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, they know all too much about incomplete passes in recent years.

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Fourth-round safety signs with Browns

FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 06:  Safety Derrick Kindred #26 of the TCU Horned Frogs scores on a 44 yard touchdown interception during the third quarter of the Big 12 college football game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Amon G. Carter Stadium on December 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Horned Frongs defeated the Cyclones 55-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns announced the signing of fourth-round safety Derrick Kindred Friday.

Kindred was a 30-game starter and played in 50 games over four years at TCU. He had eight career interceptions and was an All-Big 12 pick last season.

With the Browns releasing veteran safety Donte Whitner and letting Tashaun Gipson leave for Jacksonville via free agency, Kindred should immediately compete for playing time with the Browns.

Kindred’s signing comes a day after the Browns signed second-round linebacker Emmanual Ogbah. The Browns have now signed eight of their record 14 draft picks.

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Roger Goodell encourages New Orleans to keep bidding for Super Bowls

nfl_g_benson-goodell01_576 Getty Images

NFL owners did not bestow upon New Orleans another Super Bowl, but commissioner Roger Goodell wants to make sure they keep trying to get one.

According to Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodell sent Saints owner Tom Benson a letter this week congratulating him on an impressive bid, one which fell to “strong and unique” competition.

“Thank you to you and your team for the hard work and impressive bid by New Orleans to host Super Bowl 53 in 2019,” the letter reads. “The vision for a ‘Big, Easy, Super Bowl’ was well articulated and presented. It is clear to all owners that New Orleans is a top-notch Super Bowl city with talented leadership representing the Saints and the community.

“Although you did not secure the 2019 game against unusually strong and unique competition, we would look forward to working closely with you and your community in bringing a Super Bowl back to New Orleans soon. There is a reason New Orleans has been the home of 10 Super Bowls, and we know that it is in a strong position to host more in the future.

“Thank you for your leadership and your many contributions to the success of the league. Our office and the Super Bowl Advisory Committee will continue to support your efforts.”

While New Orleans is one of the easiest places to have a good time at a Super Bowl (not to mention among the most logistically convenient), the city is falling behind in the stadium arms race.

While they poured $336 million into the Superdome beginning in 2011, it’s still among the league’s oldest stadiums. And the memory of the lights going out in the middle of Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 isn’t something people are going to forget.

So with new buildings or dramatically renovated ones being rewarded with Super Bowls, the Saints are faced with a long drought between games. They’re already promised out the next five games through 2021, and Dallas is already planning a bid for one of the games in the next wave. Tampa will possibly join them, having not hosted since 2009.

But there were people who liked the New Orleans bid — and love having competition to create better value — so making sure the Saints stay in the loop is clearly in the league’s best interest.

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Patriots fans wanted to see Ravens lose a draft pick

1New-England-Patriots Getty Images

For committing a blatant violation of the offseason workout rules, the NFL imposed more than $480,000 in fines against the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh and stripped the team of a week of Organized Team Activities. For some fans (i.e., Patriots fans), that wasn’t enough.

Patriots fans, for good reason, wanted to see the Ravens lose a draft pick or two for putting putting players in pads during rookie minicamp, in blatant violation of the rules regarding offseason workouts.

Here’s why it didn’t happen. Under Article 21, Section 8(d)(ii), a second violation in the same league year results in the forfeiture of a fourth-round draft pick. For the first violation in a given league year, no draft picks are taken.

Still, some Patriots fans would point out that the NFL could ignore the offseason workout rules and impose whatever penalty the league wants to impose in the interests of promoting and preserving the integrity of the game. Some would say that’s precisely what the NFL did in the #Deflategate case, ignoring the rules regarding equipment violations and imposing far stricter penalties.

It wouldn’t have been that difficult, if the league had decided to hammer the Ravens. The argument would have been that the use of pads during offseason workouts is so grossly beyond the scope of what is and isn’t permitted that the blatant use of pads justifies much more serious penalties.

The fact that the league didn’t do it doesn’t mean the league couldn’t have done it, if the league had wanted to do it. Which continues to be the basis for Patriots’ fans loudest complaints in the aftermath of #Deflategate.

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Jace Amaro plans a lot of involvement in Jets offense

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 09:  Tight end Jace Amaro #88 of the New York Jets celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at MetLife Stadium on November 9, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Jets drafted tight end Jace Amaro in the second round of the 2014 draft, the hope was that he’d fill the receiving role that Dustin Keller had played for the team from 2008 to 2012.

Things haven’t worked out that way thus far. Amaro had 38 catches as a rookie, he would have had more if he’d been more consistent when it came to catching the ball, and then missed all of last year after having shoulder surgery. He’s healthy and working with the team this spring ahead of a year that he expects will bring better things.

“I’ve really only played one year,” Amaro said, via the Associated Press. “This is a big year for me. Especially with the way we played last year as a collective group, it’s a big year for all of us. I know that we plan on getting more involved this season. I plan on getting involved a lot this season.”

Jets tight ends had just eight catches last season and the team hasn’t brought in anyone that’s sure to play ahead of Amaro, so he should get opportunities to show he should be in a big role this season. For now, though, coach Todd Bowles says that Amaro is competing for a roster spot and that it will be “interesting to see what he does” with the chance to impress the coaches.

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This offseason seems to be giving the Broncos the finger

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24:   Brandon Marshall #54 of the Denver Broncos rushes in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now that they’ve gotten the rings, the Broncos are suddenly getting the finger.

According to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall was limited this week in OTAs because of offseason finger surgery, the third player on the team to need a digital fix this offseason.

Marshall’s work was on his right index finger, and he’s going to be re-examined next week by Dr. Randy Viola (who also operated on quarterback Mark Sanchez’s left thumb).

“Right now I’m just rehabbing and focusing on getting my range of motion and my strength back,” Marshall said. “So they’re just holding me out so I don’t do any more damage — because I don’t want to get another procedure on it.”

Marshall was bothered by a 2014 Lisfranc injury throughout last season, and one of the screws inserted into his foot to stabilize the injury snapped. He injured his right index finger in Week Two of the regular season, but started all 16 games.

Tight end Virgil Green also had finger surgery and will miss part of OTAs.

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Warren Sapp not thrilled Timmy Jernigan wearing No. 99 as a tribute to him

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 11:  NFL television commentator Warren Sapp is on the sidelines before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play  against the Miami Dolphins November 11, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan wore No. 97 during his first two years in the NFL, but is sporting No. 99 this season after it became free following Chris Canty’s departure from the team.

Jernigan explained that he made the switch because he admired Hall of Famer Warren Sapp when he was growing up and “definitely wanted to model my game after him.”

“Nasty, ferocious, he came every play,” Jernigan said, via ESPN.com. “You definitely knew he was there and when he made a play. Another thing, he played down in Florida, too, so he was definitely one of the greats from our state.”

If you thought Sapp would appreciate a young player offering a reminder of how good Sapp was on the field rather than the less impressive headlines Sapp has made away from the field, it appears you would be wrong.

Sapp didn’t elaborate as to why he’s bothered by Jernigan’s gesture. Jernigan went to Florida State and Sapp went to Miami, so that could have something to do with a less than gracious response to Jernigan’s nod in his direction.

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Steelers players think Antonio Brown can top 2,000 receiving yards

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown finished the 2015 season with 1,834 receiving yards, which was good for second in the league behind Julio Jones and the fourth-best total in the history of the NFL.

Brown put up those numbers despite playing in an offense that was missing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for four full games and parts of others, leaving many with the opinion that he would have become the first player with 2,000 receiving yards in a season if Roethlisberger had been healthy. It’s also left some of his teammates feeling like Brown could hit that milestone this season.

Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski called it “realistic” and guard Roman Foster said he’s “going to bet on” Brown if the wideout makes a push for the magic number.

“I think it is possible,” wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Just think: Calvin Johnson had [1,964 yards in 2012], so you know you can get close to it. Everybody knows what he is capable of. I don’t want to put that pressure on him, but it is definitely possible.”

Brown wouldn’t make any predictions, saying that it “is a lot of yards” and noting that it remains to be seen how teams will defend the Steelers with Martavis Bryant out of the picture. His chances are also going to be tied closely to Roethlisberger’s health, but Brown’s track record makes his chances as good or better than anyone’s to set a new single-season record for receiving yards.

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NFL communications executive will rent his mansion to Obama

WASHINGTON - JULY 17:  Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart arrives for the funeral for former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow at the Basillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception July 17, 2008 in Washington, DC. U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush attended the funeral for Snow, who died Saturday after a long battle with colon cancer.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL hired Joe Lockhart as its new V.P. of communications because he’s well-connected with power in Washington. Here’s an illustration of just how well-connected Lockhart is: When the Obama family moves out of the White House in January, they’re going to move into a house owned by Lockhart.

The New York Times reports that President Obama and his wife and daughters will move into an 8,200-square-foot home in Washington, D.C., which Lockhart owns.

There’s no word on how much rent Obama will pay Lockhart, but estimates are that the house is worth $6 million and the going rate on a place like that is $22,000 a month.

Lockhart was previously the press secretary and senior adviser to Bill Clinton, and the managing director of communications for the Glover Park Group. And now, as the NFL dispatches Lockhart to speak to the wealthy and powerful in Washington, he has another title: President Obama’s landlord.

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Sean Payton: Rob Ryan saying it wasn’t his defense is “silly”

Sean Payton, Rob Ryan AP

In a new interview, former Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hinted that he wasn’t allowed to coach the defense the way he wanted to because head coach Sean Payton took some authority away from him. Payton says that isn’t so.

Payton said this morning on PFT Live that the defense in New Orleans — which set an NFL record for the most touchdown passes allowed in a season — was Rob Ryan’s defense.

“The idea that it wasn’t his defense, or he wasn’t in charge of it, is silly,” Payton said.

Payton said the Saints’ defense repeatedly struggled with fundamentals like getting the right calls and the right players on the field.

“When you’re struggling as bad as we’re struggling for two years, and some of the same problems keep coming up — you know, 10 guys on the field — those are things that just are hard to live with,” Payton said.

Whoever you believe, there’s no doubt that Ryan and Payton didn’t see eye to eye. Now Ryan works in Buffalo for the one coach he’s sure he can see eye to eye with, his brother Rex.

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Former Duke QB still hospitalized after car wreck with Panthers linebacker

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 20:  Anthony Boone #7 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 20, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson was back on the practice field for OTAs this week, running around with his teammates and hanging out at a charity golf tournament.

The guy he hit in a head-on collision last weekend, however, is still in the hospital recovering from multiple surgeries.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, former Duke quarterback Anthony Boone remains at Carolinas Medical Center after procedures to repair hip and hand injuries, following the Sunday morning head-on collision with Thompson’s car.

Thompson was cited for driving left of center, and while alcohol was detected, he was under North Carolina’s legal limit according to police. Thompson said his cell phone fell under his feet, causing him to swerve into Boone’s lane, triggering the crash.

Boone, who was in camp with the Lions last summer, had just gone through a workout for a CFL team. But any thoughts of football are on hold while he recovers. His mother said he still hasn’t heard from Thompson or the Panthers (probably because they’re anticipating a lawsuit).

“He’s doing good. He’s got a long road back, but he’s getting better,” Jenice Boone said. “Praying every day, praying for strength.”

Boone left Duke as the winningest quarterback in school history (19, hey, it’s Duke), and threw for 5,789 yards and 38 touchdowns. He appeared in nine games with the Montreal Alouettes last year. But with a broken hip and ligament and tendon damage to his hand, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be playing anywhere soon.

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Ryan brothers say working together has caused both to gain weight

Rob Ryan, Rex Ryan AP

Bills head coach Rex Ryan and his twin brother Rob have long talked openly about their weight struggles. When Rex hired Rob this year, working together did not help them take the pounds off.

Rex told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that he’s gained 30 pounds since hiring Rob, and Rob added that he had his lap band surgically removed and has gained 24 pounds. Rex said he hoped the two of them could work together on losing weight, but it didn’t work out that way.

“I was going to get his weight down to mine. No, no, my weight started going up to his. So that’s really what happened there,” Rex said.

Rob said that he started to get his weight under control while working from the Cowboys, going from 320 pounds to 260. But he gained 30 pounds in a month after he was fired by the Cowboys and hired by the Saints, and his weight has been a struggle since.

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Cowboys won’t just give Ronald Leary away

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 23:   Ronald Leary #65 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts in the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 23, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys are happy to explore the possibility of trading guard Ronald Leary, but they’re not going to just give him away.

The former starting guard, whose place was taken by La’El Collins last year, has been staying away from OTAs in hopes of finding someone who wants him to start.

“We told Ron that he could certainly look around, but we’re not in the business of letting go of good football players for little or nothing,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News. “We got calls during the draft asking to trade for some of our running backs. We just don’t have that interest. Ron’s a big part of this football team.

“We know it’s disappointing when you’ve been starting and you’re not. We’d hoped that he would look at it as ‘let’s come in here and compete.’ . . . We expect him to come in here at some point. And we want to welcome him with open arms, and hopefully he’s getting in shape wherever he is right now.”

Leary proved to be a perfectly capable starter on good lines in 2013 and 2014, before Collins fell into their laps. There are plenty of places he could probably be starting, but the Cowboys know that too, and have no reason to make a hasty decision.

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Marcus Smith thinks things are different for him under Jim Schwartz

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 21: Pierre Garcon #88 of the Washington Redskins scores a touchdown against  Marcus Smith #90 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on September 21, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the two year since he became an Eagles first-round pick, Marcus Smith hasn’t done much to make people feel the team made the right choice in 2014.

Smith played sparingly at linebacker under former defensive coordinator Bill Davis and the bust word has been thrown around quite a bit. Smith’s chance to erase that label will come as a defensive end in Jim Schwartz’s defense and he believes that it will be a departure from his first two seasons.

“I understand it,” Smith said, via Philly.com. “I wanted to be on the field, but I wasn’t. I learned a lot of things from my first to second year. I think I’ve grown and matured a lot that this third year. You’ll see a different Marcus.”

Smith said he and Schwartz have talked about Jerry Hughes, who went from a disappointing linebacker with the Colts to 10 sacks off the edge as a defensive end under Schwartz in Buffalo. That led to a five-year, $45 million deal for Hughes and the loss of any bust tag that might have been placed on him when he was with the Colts.

Can lightning strike twice? Smith and the Eagles certainly hope so.

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Rex-Rob Ryan go for broke in Buffalo

speaks onstage during the 5th Annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Getty Images

Over the past two weeks in Buffalo, it felt like the season already was slipping out of coach Rex Ryan’s control. With a up-or-out ultimatum reportedly in place for Ryan and G.M. Doug Whaley, it’s now clear that Rex and Rob Ryan are taking over.

And for good reason. If a failed season is going to get Rex fired, then Rex wants to be the one responsible for it, with his fraternal twin and other trusted lieutenants at his side.

We never lost a fight in our life,” Rex Ryan said of his brother Rob in a joint interview with TheMMQB.com. “Ever. And we ain’t losing this one. And that’s a true statement. Not just because we are badasses — because we are, individually — but collectively, it’s a lot different. To this day, no man is going to whip me. Why? Because I’ve got my brother with me. And I’ve got my brother, [defensive coordinator] Dennis Thurman, with me. Ed Reed is here for a reason. These players are going to be like that, too. We want to fight like brothers. I don’t know if we have 100 percent buy-in from even the entire building. I don’t know yet. But the people directly with me, my coaching staff and the players, that’s where it starts. I don’t know all the business people yet; they should be ‘all in,’ but I don’t know. There’s times when the doubt part, that can be driven through the media. But I’m going to surround myself with the very best, and I’m going to win.”

It’s unclear who isn’t buying in, but the reference to business people would apply most naturally to team president Russ Brandon. There’s also Whaley, who may have already sealed his own fate with that goofy “humans shouldn’t play football” remark from earlier in the week. For him, the outcome very well could be: (1) get fired if the team doesn’t make the playoffs; or (2) get pushed out in a Rex Ryan power play if Rex-Rob manages to get the team to the playoffs.

Rex-Rob are surely aiming higher, due in large part to the failing health of their father, Buddy. Asked for Buddy Ryan’s thoughts on the Rex-Rob coaching reunion, Rob said, “He’s struggling. That’s another reason –”

And then Rex finished the thought: “We’re going for broke, man.”

However it plays out, the Bills have immediately have become one of the most compelling teams in the NFL. They’ll be even more compelling when the games begin, especially if in the process of going for broke everything breaks bad.

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Friday morning one-liners

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 16:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals talks with teammate A.J. Green #18 prior to the start of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 16, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

A look at how the Bills’ receivers are faring in OTAs without Sammy Watkins.

The Dolphins expect WR DeVante Parker to create fear in opposing defenses.

DE Chris Long is learning from Rob Ninkovich in his first year with the Patriots.

By staying away from OTAs, Jets WR Eric Decker is showing uncommon loyalty to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Lardarius Webb is adjusting to life as a safety with the Ravens.

QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green remain in place while the Bengals offense changes around them.

Hopes for Browns RB Duke Johnson are high this season.

Steelers quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones welcomed children to their families this week.

The Texans defense is shooting for a faster start this season.

Colts LB D’Qwell Jackson still enjoys playing the “chess game” with opposing offenses.

DT Malik Jackson is growing comfortable in his role on the Jaguars defense.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is the only hand guiding the Titans defense in 2016.

How can the Broncos defense be better this year?

Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin left Thursday’s practice early with what the team calls a minor ankle injury.

Sean Smith thinks fellow Raiders CB D.J. Hayden can still realize his potential.

A case for the Chargers using DE Joey Bosa in a variety of ways.

The Cowboys won’t be giving G Ronald Leary away.

Delving into concerns about the Giants offensive line.

Tracing the roots of Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme.

Redskins WR Rashad Ross‘ cousin is trying to land a spot on an NFL roster.

The Bears hope a bigger C Hroniss Grasu is a better one.

Lions LB DeAndre Levy is excited about a “fresh start” after missing last year with a hip injury.

Packers WR Ty Montgomery shrugged off concerns about his ankle.

S Michael Griffin has enjoyed his first weeks as a member of the Vikings.

The Falcons are trying several things to jolt their pass rush.

Where does Panthers coach Ron Rivera rank in relation to his peers?

The Saints have moved Kaleb Eulls to the offensive line.

The Buccaneers took their rookies golfing.

Cardinals RB Chris Johnson shares the stories behind some of his tweets.

The Rams will be looking for some new leaders after this offseason’s roster moves.

Ray-Ray Armstrong is competing for a starting linebacker job with the 49ers.

Brandon Browner likes being back with the Seahawks.

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