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Craig James files religious discrimination complaint against FOX

craig-james Getty Images

Former Patriots running back Craig James has filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission, saying that FOX Sports discriminated against him on the basis of his religion when it took him off the air after one week as a college football commentator.

When James lost his job with FOX Sports Southwest, a network spokesman was quoted as saying James didn’t fit in with the company because of the anti-gay statements he had made when he ran for the United States Senate in 2012. James is now claiming that by firing him for his anti-gay statements, FOX discriminated against him for his religious beliefs. James’s representatives called FOX taking him off the air an “outrageous example of workplace bigotry against people of faith.”

During his campaign, James criticized another candidate for attending a gay pride parade and said homosexuals “are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.” James, who quit a previous job at ESPN to run for Senate, received just 4 percent of the vote in the Republican primary. He attempted to get back into broadcasting after his political defeat but has not been on the air other than that one week at FOX Sports Southwest.

FOX Sports has described James as “a polarizing figure” and says that’s the real reason it doesn’t want him on the air. This complaint will do nothing to change the perception that James is polarizing.

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Vikings won’t pick up the option on Adrian Peterson contract

Adrian Peterson AP

The Vikings have decided to let former MVP Adrian Peterson go.

The team announced they were not picking up the option on his contract for next year, making the veteran running back an unrestricted free agent next week.

“Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. “We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward.”

Not paying Peterson $18 million next season was an easy decision, as he’s 31, only played one full season in the last three and is coming off knee surgery.

But it’s still a big Band-aid to pull off for a guy who meant so much to the franchise. The statement alludes to some chance of a return, but he’s already been dropping hints about future destinations, or at least places he’d be interested in.

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Fred Jackson would like to play again

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 29:  Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills runs away from Will Allen #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of a preseason game on August 29, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Fred Jackson didn’t play at all during the 2016 season, but he’s not ready to officially declare himself retired from professional football.

Jackson said he spoke to a few teams last year and would revisit those conversations in hopes of getting a shot to show that there’s still something left in the 36-year-old’s tank.

“Playing-wise, I would love to play again,” Jackson said, via SiouxlandNews.com. “You know, I’m going to try and see if I could get on a roster again. I’m going to try and see if I can get on a roster this year, training camps and things like that. If I can get into one I’m going to try to spend the next two, three months trying to get on a roster. And you know, if it doesn’t happen I’m going to hang my hat on the ten years that I did play.”

Jackson played in 16 games for the Seahawks during the 2015 season, gaining 357 yards on offense and scoring two touchdowns after landing in Seattle following his release from the Bills. Jackson ran for 5,646 yards and scored 37 touchdowns over nine seasons in Buffalo. Whether he lands a job for this season or not, he said he’d like to sign a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bills after spending the bulk of his career in their uniform.

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Buccaneers tender Cameron Brate as exclusive rights free agent

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18:   Cameron Brate #84 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after catching a pass from Jameis Winston #3 during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers have tendered another one of their exclusive rights free agents.

Wide receiver Adam Humphries headlined a group of four exclusive rights free agents to get tenders from the team on Monday and Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports that tight end Cameron Brate has received one as well. Exclusive rights free agents are bound to their current teams once an offer has been tendered, so all should be back with the team unless they opt for a different line of work.

Brate stepped into the starting tight end job for the Bucs in 2016 and turned in 57 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns. Those scores illustrate the chemistry Brate has found as a red zone target for Jameis Winston and it’s a role he should continue to play even as the Bucs work to add other pass-catching options for their quarterback this offseason.

Defensive end Howard Jones is the sixth exclusive rights free agent for the Bucs this year. He’s played 20 games for the Bucs over the last two seasons.

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Bill Polian: Terrell Owens, Randy Moss don’t belong in the Hall of Fame

Bill Polian AP

Hall of Fame G.M. Bill Polian doesn’t want either Terrell Owens or Randy Moss to join him in Canton.

Asked by Talk of Fame Network whether he’d pick Owens or Moss when both are on the Hall of Fame ballot next year, Polian said he’d leave them both off.

I take neither,” Polian said. “First of all, here’s my position: [I want players who] contribute both individually and to the team. T.O.’s situation, T.O.’s temperament, his ability to contribute to the team was well known up front. He was going to be a problem. We did not want to deal with problem children. Others may. We didn’t. That’s number one. Number two, every year in Indianapolis we said the following: ‘The price of admission is 100 percent effort all the time in everything we do.’ Well, how can we take Randy Moss when we make that statement? It’s that simple.”

Polian believes both Moss and Owens will end up with busts in Canton, even though Polian doesn’t think they belong.

“I think they will, unfortunately in my view,” said Polian, “because whether you like it or not. these ‘electoral campaigns’ have a way of swinging people. In my view, and I said this publicly last year, I think the Hall of Fames are for people who make their teams better, not who detract from them. Now, T.O. was a bigger detractor over his career than Moss, but you certainly wouldn’t call [Moss’ attitude] any harbinger or example of what you want in a football player other than when he decided to play. ‘I play when I play.’ I don’t buy it.”

Polian’s opinion of Owens is obviously shared by plenty of people on the Hall of Fame selection committee, which is why Owens has been voted down the last two years. We’ll find out next year whether Owens can overcome the opposition and get into Canton — and whether Moss, eligible for the first time, can get in as well.

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Browns use second-round tender on Isaiah Crowell

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01:  Isaiah Crowell #34 of the Cleveland Browns rushes against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half during the game at Heinz Field on January 1, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Teams with impending restricted free agents have a couple of decisions to make in the near future.

They have to decide whether to tender those players a contract for the current season and, if they do, they have to decide what level of tender to use. The Browns have made those calls on running back Isaiah Crowell.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Browns have extended a second-round tender to Crowell. That means he’s in line to make $2.81 million and that a team interested in signing him away would have to give up a second-round pick for the right to do so.

Crowell led the Browns with a career-high 952 rushing yards last season. Rapoport adds that the two sides plan to continue talking about a longer deal that would set Crowell up for an extended stay in Cleveland.

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Mark Ingram: Black Saints players turned away from London nightclub

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 17:  Mark Ingram #22 of the New Orleans Saints leaves the field due to an injury against the Carolina Panthers in the third quarter during the game at Bank of America Stadium on November 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints will play in London on October 1, and four Saints players are visiting the city now. But their trip hasn’t been entirely positive.

Saints running back Mark Ingram says he and teammates Vonn Bell, Sterling Moore and BW Webb had reservations for a table at the London nightclub Cirque Le Soir. But when they showed up, they were turned away and told they were “too urban.”

Ingram detailed the incident on Twitter and retweeted a follower who said that “too urban” means “too black,” as well as another follower who urged people to stop going to the “racist venue.” All four players are black, as are the two other men they were with.

Ingram added, however, that he has been treated well in London.

“Honestly everyone has been incredibly kind! This was the first and only incident! It’s not even close otherwise!” Ingram wrote.

Cirque Le Soir has not commented on the matter, which is receiving significant media attention in England.

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Eddie Lacy: Packers have been “very vocal” about wanting me back

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 16:  Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers looks to avoid the tackle attempt from Maliek Collins #96 of the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Eddie Lacy’s 2016 season came to an end after five games due to an ankle injury that required surgery and left him with limited recent results to use in a pitch to prospective suitors in free agency.

Lacy averaged 5.1 yards per carry in those five games, but the combination of his injury and concerns about his conditioning throughout the 2015 season don’t set him up for a major payday when the new league year gets underway. That may leave him in position to take a one-year deal in hopes of cashing in next year and staying in a familiar situation might work well on that front.

That appears to be a possibility based on what Lacy told Adam Schefter of ESPN on Schefter’s podcast.

“Talking to my agent, the Packers have been very vocal about having me back there,” Lacy said.

Lacy said his agent will have further talks with Green Bay during the Scouting Combine and that he’s focusing on getting healthy while those talks play out. Lacy said he “should be able to go out and do everything” when OTAs roll around later this year and we should have a good idea pretty soon where he’ll be reporting for work when that date comes.

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Ron Rivera on immigration discussion: “We can’t lock people out”

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers watches on against the Kansas City Chiefs during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers coach Ron Rivera is by no means a crusader, actively working to keep the politics and the football separate in his locker room to avoid divisions.

But as one of the Hispanic pioneers in the NFL, he also understands he has a responsibility to serve as an example.

In a video interview with CNN, the two-time NFL coach of the year said he does feel a certain burden to lead, though his military background and career as a player has also instilled in him a certain sense of meritocracy as well. He said he sees the same struggle within quarterback Cam Newton, who has alternately embraced and shied away from his role as an example for the African American community, but certainly feels a pressure to succeed.

“I struggle with that because at the end of the day it should be about your merit,” Rivera said. “I feel that I have to succeed at the highest level I can, and I have done that. . . .

“What I take from this, and what I hope people take from this is you can be whatever you want, it’s up to you. You have to put in the work and do the things you’re supposed do, but at the end of the day all you need is an opportunity.”

Of course, the comments come at a time when immigration is a national discussion, and while Rivera has taken care to not take controversial stands, the suggestion of walls by President Donald Trump is something that strikes him as antithetical to the American experience.

“I think people have to understand, whatever the President is trying to do, whatever he’s trying to get across, it’s really not about what he’s saying, it’s about how we react and how we do things,” Rivera said. “There’s a group of people that are trying to make better lives for their families and that’s what it really should be about.

“I think what everybody have to understand, is that’s what America’s foundation is built on. We can’t lock people out because of that.”

Rivera was one of the first players of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent to play in the NFL, but he said he never felt any racism when he was playing professionally. He recalled the anger of being called a “wetback” by a college teammate at Cal, but said that wasn’t a factor when he was drafted by the Chicago Bears.

And while he walks a fine rhetorical line, he clearly isn’t comfortable with some of the policies being discussed today.

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Geno Smith: I’ve gotten better behind the scenes

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:  Brandon Williams #98 of the Baltimore Ravens sacks Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

Quarterback Geno Smith got a chance to return to the Jets starting lineup during the 2016 season, but there wouldn’t be a storybook ending to his trip back up the depth chart.

Smith tore his ACL in the first half of an October start against the Ravens that marked his first turn with the first team since the 2014 season. That injury came after the broken jaw that opened the door for Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015 and Smith says the extended time on the bench due to the injuries has served to obscure the progress he’s made as a player.

“Being injured for two years has kind of taken that away from me,” Smith said to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. “My mistakes were shown on the field the first two years, and then me getting better has kind of been behind the scenes. The next time I step onto the field, it’ll be what they expect. People want to see you get better, they want to see you move past your mistakes. I’ve done that, just behind the scenes.”

Smith will be a free agent when the curtain rises on the new league year opens next week and said that his goal isn’t to be a backup. He added that he’s open to filling that role, which is probably a good thing for his employment chances as it’s unlikely any team will be guaranteeing a starting job to a player who has barely played over the last two seasons.

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Bucs tender Adam Humphries, three other exclusive rights free agents

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18:  Adam Humphries #11 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after catching a touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The only thing teams need to do to hold onto players designated as exclusive rights free agents is tender them a one-year contract offer and Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports the Buccaneers did that with four players on Monday.

Wide receiver Adam Humphries is a notable contributor on the list. He caught 55 passes for 622 yards in 2016 as one of the more prominent members of the passing game not named Mike Evans. Humphries caught 27 passes as an undrafted rookie in 2015 and has more catches than 27 of the wideouts that were drafted that year.

Nickel back Jude Adjei-Barimah was also a 2015 undrafted free agent signing and he’s another player who was tendered on Monday. Adjei-Barimeh played a regular role through the first 12 games of the season before a suspension brought his year to an early end.

Linebacker Adarius Glanton and wide receiver Freddie Martino were also tendered. Tight end Cameron Brate and defensive end Howard Jones are also set to be exclusive rights free agents, but have not been tendered at this point.

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Report: Kirk Cousins would accept a trade only to the 49ers

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins celebrates after teammate running back Rob Kelley #32 (not pictured) scores a fourth quarter touchdown against the Green Bay Packers at FedExField on November 20, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

As Washington closes in on the deadline for deciding whether to apply the franchise tag for a second straight year to quarterback Kirk Cousins, the tag-and-trade option continues to percolate. If Washington goes that route, however, it won’t have many options.

John Keim of ESPN.com reports that Cousins would accept a trade only to the 49ers. It’s a match that flows clearly and obviously from the dot-connecting process sparked by former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s emergence as the presumed successor to Chip Kelly in San Francisco.

So why would Cousins be able to block a trade to any other team? While, in theory, any player under contract can be traded anywhere (absent a no-trade clause), no team is going to give Washington significant compensation for a one-year, $23.94 million deal that has no security for the new team beyond 2017. It therefore becomes critical for any trade talks to include contract negotiations, so that the team that acquires Cousins from Washington will have him under contract for multiple years.

The real question, as posed here last week, is whether Cousins would take less than $53 million fully guaranteed over the first two years as part of a long-term deal with the 49ers. That amount, which reflects the 2017 tag and a 20-percent transition-tag raid for 2018, is what he’s believed to want in Washington in order to do a long-term deal. It’s unknown whether he’d give the 49ers a new-hometown discount in order to facilitate a trade.

If Cousins won’t take less, would the 49ers plunk down that much plus send one or more draft picks to Washington to get a quarterback who will be able to run the Shanahan offense? It’s an issue that will be resolved, if anywhere, this week in Indianapolis as all teams gather there for the Scouting Combine.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns' Joe Thomas (73) looks to block New England Patriots' Jamie Collins (91) during the first half of an NFL football game in Cleveland. Thomas, a nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle, expressed his strong desire to remain with the team, rather than be traded to a contender. Thomas' name has been floated around the league in advance of the trade deadline on Nov. 1. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File) AP

CB Corey White is one of the Bills heading for free agency.

Would the Dolphins make a play for LB Dont’a Hightower in free agency?

The Patriots found their new tight ends coach.

Does Nick Mangold’s departure from the Jets set the stage for further veteran cuts?

S Matt Elam was a busted first-round pick, but probably not the one that hurt the Ravens the most on the field.

Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons likes the idea of sticking with K Randy Bullock.

Browns T Joe Thomas doesn’t have the most pleasant memories of the Scouting Combine.

The Steelers invested in a pair of offensive stars on Monday.

Texans DT D.J. Reader is easing into his first NFL offseason.

Which free agents will the Colts retain this offseason?

Mike Mayock of NFL Media thinks the Jaguars will get a difference-maker with the fourth pick.

Will the Titans draft more offensive line help?

Some caution about the Broncos drafting an offensive lineman in the first round.

A look at how the draft shapes up for the Chiefs.

Reviewing the work of the Raiders’ 2016 rookie class.

The Chargers didn’t want to go to Los Angeles without LB Melvin Ingram.

Any move for a backup quarterback will have to wait until the Cowboys deal with Tony Romo.

Former Giants RB Rashad Jennings may be wearing dancing shoes in the near future.

Considering the possibility of an Eagles run at WR Alshon Jeffery.

Will the Redskins find themselves without an option other than trading QB Kirk Cousins?

The way they use the third overall pick will reveal what kind of team the Bears want to be.

Is Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey a potential Lions draft pick?

It’s not easy to predict the free agent market for Packers DB Micah Hyde.

Vikings WR Adam Thielen is a frequent visitor to the gym as well as a part-owner.

A call for the Falcons to draft for help on the offensive and defensive lines.

There’s no expectation that the Panthers will be rescinding DT Kawann Short’s franchise tag.

Will S Jairus Byrd remain with the Saints?

Buccaneers CB Brent Grimes hit playing time incentives.

David Johnson could have new company in the Cardinals backfield.

Getting to know a bit about Rams tight ends coach Shane Waldron.

The 49ers will be looking for plenty of help at the Scouting Combine.

Offensive tackle remains a position of need for the Seahawks.

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Dolphins owner putting 16 players through “business combine” this week

MIAMI - DECEMBER 19:  Stephen Ross owner of the Miami Dolphins poses for a photo before his team plays against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 17-14.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to help his players succeed in the future. But he also thinks his latest venture could help the team in the present.

Via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Ross is hosting 16 of his players for a “business combine” this week in New York to give them some insight into future opportunities beyond their playing days.

The players ranged from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive end Cameron Wake to fringe players and free agents. Ross connected the players with area business leaders, put them in meetings and took them out of the office to explore real estate and other opportunities. Six players signed up for last year’s version.

“This is really to give them an insight into what business is about,” Ross said. “I mean, don’t forget, these guys have concentrated their college and their professional football careers into becoming better football players and have been kind of shielded a little bit from the business world.

“This is really to create them and develop them so that when they do make the transition out of football they’re better prepared. I think every owner should have the responsibility of developing them not only as football players but also after their careers and as people. That way it’s better for them, it’s better for the team, it’s great to see these guys that are so passionate for what they do and the capabilities they have, how they use it to start the next level.”

Ross said he thought getting a group of players together outside the football function could help with camaraderie and relationships, and having his quarterback and defensive leader on board will help in that regard. Players are paying their own way, since Ross picking up the bill would circumvent the salary cap.

“Well, I mean, and with what the team is doing, it kind of brings them together,” Ross said. “And, you know, I think they experience these type of things together, they become closer together and they realize what the organization does and they’re more committed to the Miami Dolphins.

“And certainly, I think, when other players outside when they’re looking to see what teams they’d like to play for, it doesn’t hurt. Because the word spreads. When I was speaking yesterday [at a business conference for NFL players in Ann Arbor] and the amount of players that came up to me and we spoke. Because I was there speaking, I think they really appreciate it.”

More players should take advantage of such opportunities to parlay their football money into a future beyond their playing days. And Ross is right, there should be a responsibility for owners to put them in such positions, after profiting handsomely from their athletic gifts during the short time players can trade on those.

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Jason Pierre-Paul “nowhere near a deal” with Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 06:  Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants reacts after a play against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of the game at MetLife Stadium on November 6, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants announced on Monday that they’ve used the franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for the second time in three years, something that sets Pierre-Paul up to make around $17 million for the 2017 season.

That would be a big chunk of the Giants’ cap and it’s thought the team would like to get a longer deal done in order to lower Pierre-Paul’s cap number and have more flexibility to make other moves. Pierre-Paul has expressed his displeasure with the notion of playing out the year on a one-year deal, so he’s on board with a longer contract but his agent Doug Hendrickson said a lot of work is needed to get to that point.

“Obviously we’re talking, but nowhere near a deal,” Hendrickson said, via the New York Post.

Hendrickson didn’t delve into where the differences lie in negotiations and said that the two sides will be talking again in Indianapolis in the coming days. If things move quickly in those conversations, the Giants may be able to start free agency without Pierre-Paul eating up a healthy chunk of the money they have available for this year.

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Jaguars sign former CFL offensive lineman

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 07:  Guard Greg Van Roten #62 of the Seattle Seahawks blocks against the Denver Broncos during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 7, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars are clearly reworking their offensive line this offseason, and they’re willing to look beyond our borders to do it.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars signed journeyman offensive lineman Greg Van Roten.

Van Roten played in 10 NFL games with the Packers in 2012 and 2013 and was with the Seahawks during the preseason in 2014. He was out of football after being cut there, but spent the last two seasons in Canada

He was named the Toronto Argonauts’ most outstanding lineman during both his seasons there, and former Argos head coach Scott Milanovich is coaching quarterbacks in Jacksonville now, so he must have put a good word in for him.

The Jaguars declined a contract option on left tackle Kelvin Beachum, and are allowing former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel to become a free agent. They’ve set up a trade with Miami for left tackle Branden Albert, which can’t become official until March 9.

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