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No elbow surgery scheduled for DeMarcus Ware

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When the 2013 season came to an end for the Cowboys, defensive end DeMarcus Ware said that he would likely have arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in hopes of avoiding the bothersome pain caused by bone fragments over the last two seasons.

Ware put off surgery last offseason as he chose to get his shoulder repaired surgically instead and chose to rest the elbow. While that didn’t take care of the issue once and for all, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports that no surgery has been scheduled at this point either. Ware’s expected to have the elbow examined later this month and a decision will be made on how to proceed at that point.

The elbow injury is one of several aches and pains that have nagged Ware over the last couple of years, including a quad injury that forced him to miss games for the first time in his career last season. All of those injuries have limited Ware’s practice time, something coach Jason Garrett wants to see change in 2014 whether or not Ware winds up having an operation on his elbow.

Another change could be coming to Ware’s contract. He’s due to make $26 million over the next two years and the combination of Ware’s diminished production in 2013 and the team’s overall cap condition make it something that may be revisited this offseason. Ware’s not thought to be open to a pay cut, though, which would mean pushing more money into either 2015 or future seasons if the two sides agreed on an extension.

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Steve Slaton joins the Toronto Argonauts

Charles Clay, Steve Slaton, Jamaal Westerman, Shelly Lyons AP

The CFL has popped up on our radar a few times in recent weeks.

Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is trying to keep his professional football career going in Montreal and he may be catching passes from former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, who is trying to get his own pro career going after being ignored by the NFL last year. The Alouettes aren’t the only team adding familiar names to their roster, though.

The Edmonton Eskimos signed former West Virginia and Dolphins quarterback Pat White last month and now one of his former college teammates has also decided to try his luck in the land of poutine and Labatt’s.

The Toronto Argonauts have announced the signing of former Texans and Dolphins running back Steve Slaton. Slaton’s career started with a bang — 1,282 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns as a rookie for the Texans in 2008, but lost his starting job the next year and it has been a while since we’ve seen Slaton on the field. He was let go by the Dolphins before the start of the 2012 season and wasn’t part of a team in 2013 either, leaving the 28-year-old with few options that didn’t include using his passport.

Slaton joins former Falcon Jerious Norwood in the backfield for the Argonauts.

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Colts get the bye-week short straw this year

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One of the many areas for potential pissing and moaning about the perceived unfairness of the schedule comes from the bye weeks.  Specifically, from the teams that have to play multiple other teams who had two weeks to prepare for the game.

This year, the bye week short straw goes to the Colts, who face three different teams after those teams had bye weeks.

Specifically, the Colts face the Giants after their Week Eight bye, the Patriots after their Week 10 bye, and the Jaguars after their Week 11 bye.  The good news/bad news for the Colts is that they also have a Week 10 bye, which means that the Pats won’t have an advantage when it comes to preparation.  Of course, this means that the Colts won’t get two weeks to prepare for a team that has only one week to get ready to face the Colts.

The Colts have a fourth situation in which an opponent has extra time to get ready.  Ten days before their Week 17 game at Tennessee, the Titans play on a Thursday night.

Other teams with multiple post-bye opponents include the Patriots (Bengals and Colts), the Chargers (Chiefs and Raiders in consecutive weeks), the Packers (Dolphins and Bears), the Bears (Packers and Vikings in consecutive weeks), the Vikings (Panthers and Buccaneers), the Buccaneers (Redskins and Falcons), the Saints (Ravens and Steelers), and the Cardinals (Broncos and Eagles).

With eight teams facing two teams each after byes and the Colts facing three, that leaves 10 teams who’ll play the full season without facing a team that had two weeks to get ready.  They are the Jets, Bengals, Steelers, Jaguars, Texans, Cowboys, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, and 49ers.

Yes, the Seahawks and the 49ers, regarded by many as the best two teams in the NFL, won’t have to face a team that had a week to prepare until, at the earliest, the divisional round of the playoffs.  If/when (when) they both make it that far.

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Lions bring in Jason Hanson as a kicking consultant

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After 21 seasons as the Lions’ kicker, Jason Hanson retired in 2013. Now he’s back. Sort of.

The 43-year-old Hanson would probably be a better option than either of the two kickers currently under contract to the Lions, John Potter and Giorgio Tavecchio. But when the Lions brought Hanson to their minicamp this week, it wasn’t to lure him out of retirement. It was because special teams coordinator John Bonamego wanted to get Hanson’s perspective on how the Lions’ two young kickers looked.

He just wanted another set of eyes for the guys they want to kick,” Hanson told the Lions’ website. “He wanted my opinion – somebody else to give feedback to him. They have a short time to look at the guys, to see if they feel they have the guys they want or if they want to look at other people. . . . I appreciate that he wants another set of eyes. While I’m out there, they’re asking me stuff. I’m glad to help them any way I can.”

Hanson added, however, that there’s only so much you can tell from watching a kicker at a minicamp. After all, there are lots of guys who can boot 50-plus-yard field goals in practice. The key is finding a kicker who can do it consistently, when a game is on the line.

“Here’s the problem: everybody’s good,” Hanson said. “If you brought them in, they’re good.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, it’s unlikely they’ll find any kicker as good as Hanson, one of the best in NFL history.

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Sean Weatherspoon still recovering from late-season knee injury

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Vick spins away from Atlanta Falcons defender Weatherspoon during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Philadelphia Reuters

The Falcons’ dismal 2013 season was marked by injuries to several of their key players, including linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

Weatherspoon missed seven games with a foot injury that put him on injured reserve for half the season and then he missed the final two weeks of the season after hurting his right knee. Weatherspoon didn’t need surgery, but he had platelet rich plasma therapy and said that the team is easing him back into the mix because he hasn’t fully recovered from the knee injury at this point.

“I’m feeling good. It’s been a process,” Weatherspoon said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “The season was rough. I’ve been feeling pretty good, though. I’ve been working with the training staff non-stop, about four or five days a week. Just been getting after it, doing whatever I can do to get my body feeling good so I can, you know, get back to where I’m feeling where I’m at my top [form]. … I feel, I would say, probably 80 percent. I’m working hard and just looking forward to getting back to 100 [percent].”

The Falcons are taking a similarly restrained approach with wide receiver Julio Jones‘ return from last year’s foot injury and getting both players back to full speed in time for next season will be vital to their chances of bouncing back into the playoff mix.

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We roll on with the draft previews with a look at the Bucs

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There are overhauls, and then there’s what the Buccaneers did to the roster this offseason.

The Bucs hired a new General Manager (Jason Licht) and a new coach (Lovie Smith), dumped their most expensive player (Darrelle Revis) and a talented-but-troubled wide receiver (Mike Williams).

They also brought in free agents in droves, giving the team a new look to go with their new uniforms.

With Josh McCown in place at quarterback, the Bucs might use their top pick to fill other needs, but franchise passers are hard to pass, if they think this class contains one.

They do have sufficient needs that trusting McCown for a year might be the prudent call. You can read the full preview by clicking right here, and tell us in the poll below which direction they should lean.

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Cowboys-Bears consecutive Thursday games not unprecedented

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The 2014 schedule taps the Cowboys and the Bears to play on consecutive Thursdays, against other foes on Thanksgiving and each other seven days later.

As it turns out, it’s not unprecedented.

In 2007, the Packers and Cowboys got together in Dallas on a Thursday night, seven days after the Packers played in Detroit and the Cowboys hosted the Jets on Thanksgiving.

The Cowboys won the battle of 10-1 teams, which created a ton of interest in the then-two-year-old NFL Network Thursday night package but also resulted in criticism of the relegation of a great game to cable TV.

It’s likely the Packers-Cowboys game has become largely forgotten because of another NFL Network game from later in the year that was sufficiently significant to prompt the league to simulcast it on NBC and CBS.

On the final weekend of the regular season, the Patriots faced the Giants for a game that had zero playoff ramifications but extreme historical implications.  The undefeated Patriots edged the Giants, 38-35, becoming the first team in league history to complete the regular season with a 16-0 record.

For the Giants, the shot of confidence that came from giving the Patriots all they could handle helped fuel a postseason run that included wins at Dallas, at Green Bay, and in the Super Bowl over the Patriots, stopping them from a 19-0 finish to the season.

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Seahawks narrowly avoided 11,010 miles of travel in 15 days

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At a time when Seahawks fans may be rightfully grousing about the lack of prime-time home games beyond Week One (that’s what happens when Oliver Reed’s advice from Gladiator is ignored), it could be worse.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com explains that the runner-up to the final schedule had the defending champions playing three road games in a row, with trips to St. Louis, Washington, and Kansas City.

The game at FedEx Field would have occurred on a Monday night, requiring the Seahawks to play only six days later at Arrowhead Stadium.

Per King, that’s 11,010 air miles over a 15-day stretch.  It’s quite possible, if not likely, that the Seahawks would have dipped into owner Paul Allen’s vast resources and set up shop somewhere east of the Mississippi for all or part of the fortnight plus a day away from the Pacific Northwest.

Still, extra days away from home would have been an extra burden for a team that already has plenty of schedule disruptions, thanks to its status as the defending NFL champions.

NFL senior V.P./broadcasting Howard Katz admitted that, absent a better schedule, the league quite possibly would have gone with that one.

“I think so,” Katz told King.  “We didn’t want to.  We were hopeful that we’d find a better one.  I think we would have, and we did.  If we had to play it, I think we would have had an interesting discussion with Roger [Goodell] about it.  We had many interesting discussions in this room about it — whether it was a fatal flaw or not.  I didn’t deem it fatal, but we were hoping we could find a way out of it.”

They ultimately did, balancing the various conflicts and other factors and sifting through more than 500,000 possible schedules and coming up with a winner after Katz and three others (NFL V.P./broadcating Onnie Bose, NFL senior manager of broadcasting Jonathan Payne, and NFL senior director of broadcasting Michael North) spent 70 days working hard to come up with a winner.

It’s in many ways a thankless job, with inevitable criticism no matter how much time and effort is spent to make the process as fair as possible for all 32 teams.  And the criticism will come from fans or players or front offices that don’t like one thing or another about a given team’s schedule.  Last year, the Bills complained about facing too many teams coming off of bye weeks; it’s likely only a matter of time before someone gripes about that this year.

Actually, since the draft should be today but have been moved back two weeks, that will be our next schedule-related project.

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Richard Sherman: Seahawks deal will be sign of respect

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The Seahawks and cornerback Richard Sherman are talking about a contract that will keep Sherman in Seattle for the long term.

Mike Florio of PFT reported earlier this week that the goal is to get a deal done before the draft gets underway in two weeks, but that the two sides have yet to reach a consensus on any terms at this point in the negotiations. Albert Breer of NFL Network spoke to Sherman on Wednesday and asked him if his goal was to become the highest paid cornerback in football and the man who has loudly proclaimed his superiority to other corners in the league said the value of the deal would be a sign of respect.

“Whatever they feel I am due. I will take it as respect,” Sherman said. “It’s all about respect in this game and the only way people show respect is the dollars. We’ll see what happens.”

Darrelle Revis got $12 million for this season from the Patriots and Aqib Talib got $26 million in guaranteed money (although some is guaranteed for injury only), which sets the bar Sherman would need to clear to become the best-paid corner in football. Franchising Sherman for the 2015 season would lead to a salary close to what Revis got in New England, which raises the likelihood that he’ll wind up being very well respected if he and the Seahawks can agree on a deal this offseason.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Stevie Johnson AP

Bills WR Stevie Johnson could be at a crossroads.

The Dolphins are turning over every stone for CB help.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski wouldn’t talk to reporters, but he seemed in good spirits yesterday.

The Jets were the only New York team to host TE Eric Ebron on a visit.

The Ravens open the season with three division games, including two in a five-day span.

The Bengals are apparently ready for prime time.

Browns NT Phil Taylor is still in the dark as to whether the team will use the fifth-year option on him.

The Steelers are still a prime time fixture, with five night games.

The Texans will get a chance to see former QB Matt Schaub on Sept. 14.

The Colts’ first-round draft pick is already on the roster, and hoping to prove himself worthy.

The Jaguars open with four of their first six games on the road.

The Titans need CB help, according to one expert.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning would make a good gym teacher.

The TE crop in this year’s draft could yield some benefits for the Chiefs.

The Raiders have the league’s toughest schedule by the numbers.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers knows his team will have a tough December.

The Cowboys have one easy option decision to make, and one tougher one.

The Giants are working to develop a Green Bay vibe with their offense.

The Eagles hosted Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The Redskins are still a prime time draw, with three national appearances.

The Bears figure to draft competition for their third WR spot.

New Lions WR Golden Tate is learning to communicate with QB Matthew Stafford.

The Packers come out of their bye week with four home games in five weeks.

The Vikings will play five open-air games in the final two months of the season.

The Falcons are putting an increased emphasis on run defense.

Former Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn took a friendly shot at his old teammate DeAngelo Williams.

Saints C Tim Lelito hopes to take the next step this season.

The Buccaneers need more from their defensive line.

The Cardinals got stuck with the early bye week.

Sometimes it’s hard to see a plan with the way the Rams have handled WRs.

The schedule gives 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman a chance to make most of the division games.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman was part of a discussion on race at Harvard.

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Herschel Walker says he could still play in the NFL, doesn’t rule out teaming up with Trump

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Herschel Walker is 52.  The trade that sent him to Minnesota for a truckload of players and draft picks turns 25 this year.  And Walker says he can still play in the NFL.

That’s what he told Jarrett Bell of USA Today.  But at least Herschel’s delusions of grandeur are, well, somewhat reasonable.

I couldn’t take every snap,” Walker told Bell.  “But running backs nowadays don’t play every down.  Now they send in the choir section. . . .  Physically, I can still do it.”

Walker may have learned how to talk big from the man who once owned his rights with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.  And Walker said that Donald Trump would be good for the Buffalo Bills and the NFL.

“He would be a great owner, and a credible owner,” Walker said of Trump.  “He may rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t argue with his success as a businessman,” Walker said. “You want an owner with some flair. He knows how to promote.”

Walker’s connection to Trump extends to The Celebrity Apprentice, where Walker was a contestant in 2009.  Walker could end up being Trump’s NFL apprentice; Walker didn’t rule out joining Trump, if Trump buys the Bills.

First, Trump needs to buy the Bills.  Before Trump can buy the Bills, Trump needs to make an offer for the Bills.  Before Trump makes an offer for the Bills, Trump needs to quit talking about making an offer for the Bills and, you know, make an offer for the Bills.

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Ryan Clady: We should be able to make it back to the Super Bowl

Ryan Clady AP

The Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl last season, but left tackle Ryan Clady didn’t get much of a chance to share in the fun.

Clady missed the final 14 regular season games and all of the playoffs with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, leaving him to serve as spectator and cheerleader as Denver advanced through the AFC. Clady’s expected to be back at speed in time for the regular season and he’s balancing his regret for missing last year with the belief that there’s a pretty good chance that the Broncos can repeat as AFC champs.

“It was definitely tough, not being able to control what was going on out there. It was probably one of the hardest games I have ever watched,” Clady said, via the Denver Post. “It’s part of the game. Injuries happen. … But barring injuries we should have an awesome team, and we should be able to make it back to the Super Bowl.”

Clady joins John Fox, John Elway and other Broncos who have set the bar for the 2014 season at a high level after losing to the Seahawks and grabbing big names in free agency to spruce up the defense. Anything less than a title will be seen as a major disappointment in Denver and there’s plenty of time for them to keep hearing that before the games even start.

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Jacobs family says they’re doing “everything we can” to keep Bills in Buffalo

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There are several reasons why Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs has risen to the top of the list of potential buyers of the Buffalo Bills, running from his Buffalo roots through his current involvement in the sports world and his company Delaware North’s involvement in concessions at several NFL stadiums.

Jacobs released a statement saying that he wouldn’t sell the Bruins to bid on the Bills, an issue raised by the NFL’s ban on owning teams in different sports that play in different cities. It is a rule that Rams owner Stan Kroenke got around by transferring Denver NBA and NHL teams to family members and Jacobs’ son is a principal at Delaware North that could play a similar role if there’s a desire to make a bid.

Jeremy Jacobs Jr. wouldn’t say whether or not there would be a bid, but did say they have spoken with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others about their interest in keeping the team in Buffalo.

“We are using our resources, our contacts, our relationships to do everything we can to ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo,” Jacobs Jr. said, via the Buffalo News.

There are also gaming interests shunned by the NFL held by the Jacobs family that would need to be dealt with, but, like the cross-sport ownership, they probably can be if the Jacobs’ are motivated to do more than use their contacts and relationships to keep the team where it is.

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Congratulations, your team is going to the Super Bowl

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OK, so you’ve had a night to sleep on your favorite team’s NFL schedule.

And no matter how you feel about it, you probably don’t feel as good as the fine folks who cover your team for ESPN.

The worldwide leader asked its fleet of beat writers to count up wins and losses for each team after last night’s schedule release.

And they came up with a record of 290-222. Which is neat, except mathematically impossible by 34 games, unless they’ve figured out how to let both teams win on Monday Night Football.

No division was more optimistic than the NFC West, which will apparently feature three 12-4 teams (the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals).

Granted, the writers operated independently of one another, and it’s an assignment which was given to them by someone else.

But it just goes to show how pointless it is to try to predict wins and losses in April, before the NFL Draft, before injuries hit, before rosters are picked.

Besides, when I picked them, the league went 222-290.

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Stevie Johnson: The goal is the playoffs, and that’s it

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The Bills still haven’t made the postseason in the 21st Century, having last reached the playoffs at the end of the 1999 season, when they lost in the Music City Miracle. But Bills receiver Stevie Johnson thinks this is the season it can happen.

Johnson told the Buffalo News that he doesn’t have any personal goals for 2014, but he does want to do everything he can to help his team play into January of 2015.

“Playoffs,” Johnson said. “Playoffs and that’s it. All those personal goals, they don’t really mean nothing. Last year was kind of frustrating, but when I look back on it, it was a good thing. The whole individual stats and stuff is out the window. It’s just playoffs now. It’s winning.”

Winning has been an elusive goal for the Bills, who have finished 6-10 three years in a row. Johnson bouncing back from his disappointing 2013 season would go a long way toward getting the Bills where they want to go.

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NFL wary of putting Seahawks home games in prime-time due to recent blowouts

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The Seattle Seahawks will host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, Sept. 4 for the kickoff of the 2014 NFL season. However, it’s the only time this year the defending Super Bowl champions will be at home for a nationally televised prime-time game.

The Seahawks have four prime-time games on their schedule this season. But after the season opener against the Packers, Seattle has to play on the road for their remaining three nationally televised games. The Washington Redskins host the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week 5. The Seahawks play in San Francisco against the 49ers on Thanksgiving night in Week 13, and will travel to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football in Week 16. The latter two games will be televised on NBC.

According to a league source, the NFL was wary of putting Seahawks home games on in prime-time due to their track record of blowouts in nationally televised games played in Seattle the last several seasons.

The last three times Seattle has hosted a prime-time match-up, the games have been extremely uncompetitive. The Seahawks hammered the divisional-rival 49ers 42-13 and 29-3 in Sunday night games the last two seasons. They also beat the New Orleans Saints 34-7 on Monday night in December.

In addition, Seattle beat the Philadelphia Eagles 31-14 at home on Thursday night in 2011. The only close game played against the Seahawks in prime-time in Seattle the last three seasons was the 14-12 loss by the Packers in September 2012 that ended on a somewhat memorable play.

While Seattle fans surely enjoyed those outcomes, games that appeared to be highly competitive prior to kickoff quickly turned into duds to a national audience.

The Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles all host three prime-time games in 2014. Fifteen more teams host two prime-time games. The defending champion Seahawks only get one at home.

The Seahawks will still get plenty of national exposure, as defending champions should, with four scheduled nationally televised games. However, beyond the first game of the entire 2014 NFL schedule, they won’t get a chance to host one inside the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.

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