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Ayanbadejo: Coming out to team made Sam a better player

AP

Prior to Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announcing he was gay last night, he spent the weekend with a number of supporters.

Former Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo was among them, and he thinks Sam will be a better NFL player for yesterday’s announcement.

In a first-person column written for FOXSports.com, Ayanbadejo compared Sam to Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks from a social standpoint, but also cited the  football component.

Ayanbadejo pointed to the fact Sam had 3.5 sacks as a junior, but 11.5 as a senior after telling his teammates he was gay last August.

“I could go on campus and go around local gay bars in Columbia and not worry about anybody judging me,” Sam told Ayanbadejo. “Prior to coming out, I would be in a local restaurant with my boyfriend and coaches would come in and I would feel insecure and want to sneak out.”

Ayanbadejo said he told Sam to worry about football, and let others be the activists. That’s probably an unreasonable expectation, as so much attention will be paid to him wherever he lands.

But if he continues to play well, it will help make his sexual orientation matter less and less.

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Deshaun Watson is getting a late boost up the board

AP

Many have pegged quarterback Deshaun Watson as the second quarterback off the board on Thursday night, behind Mitchell Trubisky and likely just beyond the top 10. (This year’s PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever has Watson going to the Cardinals at No. 13.) But something is happening as the draft approaches. Unless it isn’t.

Chatter has emerged in recent days that could push Watson as high as No. 3 to the Bears. More recently, talk has emerged that the Jaguars could take Watson at No. 4.

While it’s possible that some are speculating accurately, it’s difficult to envision either team leaking their true intentions. The Bears have become notoriously secretive in recent years, and the Jaguars managed without Tom Coughlin running the show to keep quiet their interest three years ago in Blake Bortles.

Could Watson go that high? Sure. Some would say he should, given his dominance of the Alabama defense in back-to-back national championship games.

For the bad teams at the top of the draft, there’s a greater chance than ever that one or more of the good teams toward the bottom of the draft will squat on quarterbacks who otherwise would squirt through to round two, Derek Carr style. So if a team without a franchise quarterback hopes to find one in the draft, they’ll either have to jump at the top of round one or swoop back in at the bottom.

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Brian Hoyer won’t worry about 49ers drafting a quarterback

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The 49ers have the second pick in the draft and the team has done its best to convince the football world that they could use that pick on a quarterback.

That may turn out to be a smokescreen when they are on the clock Thursday night, but no one would be too surprised if the 49ers add a quarterback even though they signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as free agents. Hoyer was the first of those players to sign and said Wednesday that he views himself as the starter without worries about who else might be joining the team.

“Yeah for sure. I think that’s what I was brought in to do at this point,” Hoyer said on KNBR 680, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “And the thing that I’ve learned in this profession, and really in life, is not worry about things you can’t control. I can’t control who they draft with the second pick tomorrow and I’m not gonna live my life worrying about it.”

Hoyer has been around the league for almost a decade and he’s been in enough different situations to know that situations can change in a heartbeat in the NFL. That might not do much for job security, but it does teach you that there’s little reason to focus on things beyond your own play because those outside concerns aren’t going to do much to keep you in the lineup.

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Report: Myles Garrett still the “likely” No. 1 pick

AP

The clock is ticking toward the time for the Browns to go on the clock, and the three options for the first overall pick seem to be as follows: (1) take Myles Garrett; (2) take Mitchell Trubisky; or (3) trade down.

Amid increasing chatter that the Browns could go with Trubisky, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Garrett remains the “likely” No. 1 pick in Cleveland.

The Browns claim that they settled on the top pick two weeks ago. But Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel raises the one dynamic that could upset the (road) apple cart. Owner Jimmy Haslam could intervene at the last minute and insist (either directly or behalf of the homeless guy) on Trubisky.

But here’s the thing about taking Trubisky or any other unproven quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. The smarter move would be to offer that pick to Washington for Kirk Cousins, a proven commodity who would be running a similar offense. And it would be stupid for Washington, which is looking at one more year with Cousins, to say no to the ability to pay Garrett over four years only a few million more than what they’ll pay Cousins in 2017.

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DeShone Kizer explains his Tom Brady/Cam Newton comments

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Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer created a stir with recent comments that created the impression he views himself as a combination of Tom Brady’s mind and Cam Newton’s body. Kizer has owned the comments, but on PFT Live he shed a little more light on what he was trying to say.

Kizer said he doesn’t view himself currently as a Brady/Newton combination. Kizer aspires to become that, at some point. He knows he’s not there yet, and he realizes he may never be. But that’s the goal.

That message didn’t come through clearly enough in the USA Today interview that generated the quotes. Regardless of how that happened, Kizer said that he said what he said, and he has moved on. To his credit, he hasn’t pushed back as hard as perhaps he could have to demonstrate that he didn’t mean he’s currently a Brady/Newton hybrid.

One thing that became clear in talking to Kizer: He gets it. And given his physical talents and intelligence, he could indeed end up becoming the best quarterback in the class.

Possibly adding to his motivation is the prospect of spending all of Thursday night backstage at the draft without being picked. Most think that, indeed, he won’t hear his name called in round one. But all it takes is one team to conclude that he could eventually become a true franchise quarterback; if that happens, don’t be shocked if he ends up exiting the green room before the time comes to go home for the night.

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Eric Reid says awareness has been raised, anthem protests are over

AP

Colin Kaepernick has said he’d stand for future national anthems, and as soon as someone gives him a job he probably will.

But his former 49ers teammates say their days of kneeling for the anthem are over.

According to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, 49ers safety Eric Reid said he and linebacker Eli Harold achieved their goal by raising awareness of the racial inequality which Kaepernick began protesting last year.

“When we started doing that, our goal was to open up the floor to conversation. I believe we’ve achieved that goal,” Reid said. “So now we just want to move forward and just partner with people that’s trying to make a change.

“We accomplished that goal. People talked about it. I think we raised a lot of awareness about issues in this country. And now it’s time to move on to just affecting change.”

Kaepernick has continued his charitable efforts while looking for work, though it’s hard to imagine his high-profile stance last year is helping in that regard. Reid said he’s stayed in touch with Kaepernick, and is surprised his former teammate is still without a team, and he sees a direct correlation.

“It’s surprising. You see some of the other quarterbacks that have been signed around the league and why he hasn’t been, it’s just unfortunate, . . .” Reid said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media, PR reasons.

“You’re doing something to better the world. I mean, the guy got a plane sent to Somalia to help with the famine there. He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation without the anthem [protest], they’d be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

So far that hasn’t happened for Kaepernick, though tonight’s quarterback land rush will clear up a few jobs and trigger the market for the remaining free agents.

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Arik Armstead limited at 49ers minicamp after shoulder surgery

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The 49ers are holding their first minicamp under coach Kyle Shanahan this week and one member of the defensive line isn’t able to be a full participant.

Arik Armstead ended last season on injured reserve due to a torn labrum in his shoulder that he’d been dealing with for some time. Armstead had the injury addressed surgically a short time later and he’s been held out of team drills this week as part of the rehab process.

“There comes a time when you’re trying to play through an injury, but your shoulder keeps popping out in the middle of a game,” Armstead said, via the Sacramento Bee. “It’s like, ‘What are you going to do?’ You’ve got to fix it.”

Armstead is able to take part in walkthroughs as the 49ers install a new defense under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Armstead has been lining up most often as the “Leo” defensive end that is generally asked to rush the passer from the right side of the line. That would be a new role for Armstead, who some believe will be joined on the defensive front by Stanford’s Solomon Thomas when the 49ers make the second overall pick on Thursday night.

That would make three straight defensive linemen in the first round for the 49ers after taking DeForest Buckner in 2016 and Armstead in 2015, although there’s plenty of other ways for things to play out when the team is on the board.

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Mitchell Trubisky says he has more experience than 13 starts suggests

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North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was only a starter for one of his four years in college, but he doesn’t think that should be held against him.

Trubisky pointed out on PFT Live that he got a lot of playing time when he was a backup in 2014 and 2015, that he was in the quarterback meeting rooms for four years and that he’s a quick study.

“It’s pretty obvious I only started 13 games, but I played in 30,” Trubisky said. “I think there’s a lot of things you can look at besides playing experience. I do have a lot of experience around the game, being at North Carolina for four years. I guarantee I’ve watched as much tape if not more than all the other quarterbacks going through this process. I’ve seen a lot of ball. I’m a student of the game. I’m a quick learner. The experience thing does hold some weight but I’ve been around the game long enough, I know enough and I definitely know enough, and I’ve shown what I can do last year and I will be successful at the next level.”

With the notable exception of Cam Newton, who only started one year at Auburn, college quarterbacks who only spent one year as a starter have generally not had great NFL careers. Trubisky hopes to change that.

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Jamal Adams expects to go in the Top 5, pledges to be “outstanding”

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LSU safety Jamal Adams will be at the draft tonight, but he doesn’t expect to be in the green room for long.

Adams said on PFT Live that he expects to go somewhere between the second and fifth overall picks, although he hasn’t been given any assurances.

“I really don’t know what to expect. I’m just going to be outstanding wherever I land. I’m just going to wait on that call,” Adams said.

Adams said he visited two teams with Top 5 picks, the 49ers and Jaguars, as well as the Jets, Panthers and Bengals among teams not in the Top 5 that could hope he falls to them. Expect to hear his name called within the first hour of the draft tonight.

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Bridgewater “tolling” issue likely will be moot

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In response to the ESPN report that the Vikings likely won’t pick up quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s fifth-year option before the May 3 deadline, NFL Media reported that it won’t matter, if Bridgewater spends the full season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, that’s currently a very, very big if. Bridgewater is currently not expected to spend the entire season on the PUP list. Which means that his contract would definitely expire after the 2017 season, if the Vikings don’t pick up the option.

Even if Bridgewater doesn’t exit the PUP list in 2017, it’s still not entirely clear that Bridgewater’s four-year contract automatically would extend to five years. If it does, a disagreement could emerge between team and player as to whether Bridgewater should exit the PUP list during the midseason window that allows players first to practice and then, if healthy, to join the active roster.

Also, if the Vikings can indeed toll the contract by not activating Bridgewater from the PUP list in 2017, why not pick up the fifth-year option and extend the deal through 2019? If they think he’ll stay on PUP in 2017 and that he won’t be ready to play by 2019, that would be the most ominous news yet regarding his knee injury from nearly eight months ago.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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The Bills seem to be in the market for a QB. Again.

The Dolphins may have a chance to move back, if they want to.

Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo has no nerves today (though until it’s over, perhaps he should).

This could be an “all-in” draft for Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan.

The Ravens haven’t drafted as well as we’re accustomed to lately.

Adding to the defensive line makes some sense for the Bengals.

Indians fans want the Browns to take DE Myles Garrett (which makes as much sense as asking the homeless guy).

The Steelers should be looking for CBs if the pass-rushers are gone.

The Texans will be watching Patrick Mahomes closely tonight.

The Colts should take the best player available, as long as he plays defense.

We’ll find out tonight how urgent new Jaguars boss Tom Coughlin is.

A look at five Titans options if they keep the fifth pick.

It’s time for former Broncos first-rounder Shane Ray to step up.

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson signed his RFA tender.

Are the Chargers prepared to surprise everyone again?

Yesterday’s acquisition of RB Marshawn Lynch was all about “town bizness” for the Raiders.

Tonight’s the night for the Cowboys to restock on defense.

If the Giants draft a QB, it comes with a risk.

Here’s something for Eagles fans to boo while they’re warming up tonight.

Washington’s Bruce Allen has been willing to look past red flags in the past.

The Bears could go either direction tonight.

The Lions can’t afford to just play it safe.

Washington CB Kevin King could be the answer for the Packers.

The Vikings history in years without a first-rounder hasn’t been good.

The Falcons could be looking to trade with some old friends.

The Panthers have some intriguing in-state options.

The Saints usually have 100-130 players on their draft board.

The Buccaneers have plenty of options at No. 19.

The Cardinals are staying quiet on reinstated LB Daryl Washington.

The Rams could stand to focus on fixing their offense.

49ers LB Navorro Bowman is back to full speed.

The Seahawks are shorter on picks than they’d like to be.

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Keenan Reynolds signs Ravens tender

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The Ravens couldn’t find a spot for Keenan Reynolds on their 53-man roster until the end of the 2016 season and didn’t find a spot for him in the lineup for the final game of the season, but he’ll get another shot at breaking through this year.

Reynolds signed his exclusive rights free agent tender with the team on Wednesday. Reynolds set a record for touchdowns while playing quarterback at Navy, but made the move to wide receiver upon moving up to the professional ranks with the Ravens.

He also got a look as a kick returner last year and special teams play will likely be an essential part of any formula that lands Reynolds in the lineup on Sundays this time around.

Tackle De’Ondre Wesley also signed his tender with the Ravens, who are set to add to their roster with the No. 16 pick on Thursday night.

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Bears have three players in mind for No. 3

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The Bears may not have to make much of a choice at all on Thursday night.

During a pre-draft press conference on Wednesday, Bears General Manager Ryan Pace said that the team has identified three players worthy of being picked with the third overall pick in this year’s draft. That means that they will have one of those players available when they are on the board regardless of what happens with the top two selections, assuming, of course, that the Bears don’t trade down.

If they do, Pace says they have “a cloud of names” that would fit for a lower spot in the first round but said that the team’s general approach to making the pick will remain the same at any spot.

“You get yourself into trouble if you’re not sticking with our philosophy of best player available,” Pace said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “When you start trying to manufacture things or create things, that’s when teams get into dangerous water. I think, if we just stay with the guys we have a consensus on and best player available, we’ll be in good shape.”

Pace didn’t offer any hints about which players would qualify for that description or about what positions they might play, but the wait to find out won’t extend too much longer.

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Titans G.M.: Chances of a trade are “50-50,” with QB market driving it

The reports that the Titans are willing if not eager to make a trade appear to be true. Unless they’re not.

Because even Titans General Manager Jon Robinson said the odds are even that they will make a move, saying there was a “50-50” chance.

“We’ve had a few calls,” Robinson said, via Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean. “I think there’s some that are just investigative, just trying to see if anything is going on around us. And we’ve had a couple a little more serious in nature about potentially moving.”

The Titans pick fifth and 18th in the first round, but lack a second rounder following last year’s flurry of deals.

And betting on the Titans to make a move seems safe, since Robinson has made three trades involving draft position in his one year in charge. That included trading out of the top spot last year to earn a bounty from the Rams, and trading back up to take tackle Jack Conklin.

If they make a move this year, it will likely be driven again by someone wanting a quarterback, and wanting to be one spot ahead of the Jets.

“Over the last week or so the quarterback market has maybe heated up a little bit,” Robinson said, “at least from what I can see on the internet. I don’t know how legit it is. But again I think we’re in a good position at five and 18 to get two good football players if we stay there.”

Jon, if it’s on the internet, it has to be true. Happy hunting.

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Broncos feel renewed energy this offseason

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There is sometimes talk of a “Super Bowl hangover” in the aftermath of a title win as teams find it harder to summon the same energy level in a shortened offseason that finds more demands on a player’s time because of their success in the previous season.

The Broncos aren’t using that exact phrase, but it sounds like they feel things weren’t as dialed in as they could have been in the wake of Super Bowl 50 last season. Chris Harris said Wednesday that the team was “a little bit lax” coming off the win, which is an observation that his fellow cornerback Aqib Talib agrees with while also agreeing that the team has found better footing this year.

“I feel our urgency is there,” Talib said, via ESPN.com. “I don’t think our urgency was there last year. We were kind of in recovering mode the whole offseason. Our urgency is there. That’s where it starts.”

Falling from the top of the mountain to out of the playoffs is humbling enough to create a sharper edge, but may not be the only reason for a new attitude in Denver. The change in head coaches from Gary Kubiak to Vance Joseph likely has some impact on the changed atmosphere as the unfamiliar leads players to react differently than they would under the same tutelage.

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NFL creating another officiating job, replacing Dean Blandino with two

AP

Almost-former NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino is leaving just as the league was about to give final say on real-time replay from every game.

And after a moment of surprise, perhaps they’ve realized it might take more than one man to do the job.

According to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, the NFL has posted a new job which sounds like the guy who will be the eyes and face of replay, in addition to the vacancy Blandino’s creating by going to FOX.

The posting for the newly created vice president of replay and administration says that person will be responsible for “accuracy and consistency in all areas concerning in-game reviews and communication with [the] on-field officiating crew,” and said the job would require the “ability to make decisions in situations that are time sensitive and potentially public facing.”

That new title will report to the senior vice president of officiating, meaning they’re effectively splitting Blandino’s job in half.

Creating a new position does nothing to change the perception that centralizing replay was done with Blandino in particular in mind, and that his leaving left them in a state of pants somewhere other than up. And it also suggests that the lure of more money for less work was something Blandino was interested in, unless the league was offering to double his salary and we just haven’t heard about it.

It also sounds vaguely familiar, like a suggestion some wise person made recently. Who could that have been?

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