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Steve Smith, Dave Gettleman have a sit-down

Steve Smith AP

Panthers G.M. Dave Gettleman risked bruising the ego of veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, when Gettleman wouldn’t commit to Smith’s future role with the team. Today came an opportunity to clear the air.

Smith met with Gettleman today, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. It was Smith who requested the meeting, as a result of Gettleman’s comments about Smith at the Scouting Combine.

“Steve’s had a great career. He really has,” Gettleman said last month. “None of us are here forever. But that’s not to say — he’s part of the evaluation process. That’s just the way it is.”

Smith would surely like to think there is no “evaluation” necessary, and that he’s still the Panthers’ No. 1 receiver. He would also surely like to think he has done enough in a Panthers uniform to earn the right to have the G.M. talk to him about his future privately before musing about it publicly.

On the other hand, Smith turns 35 in May, counts $7 million against the Panthers’ 2014 salary cap, and has seen his stats decline across the board two years in a row. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Panthers to think he doesn’t have much time left.

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Expect more defensive holding, illegal contact flags this year

hochuli-den Getty Images

NFL rules have already done plenty to favor the passing game, but this year may be the biggest passing season yet.

That’s because, as explained by veteran referee Ed Hochuli, NFL officials are planning to emphasize defensive holding and illegal contact this season. Hochuli said that early in the year, when defensive backs haven’t yet learned how strictly the officials are going to call the penalties, the flags will fly frequently.

“I would expect there may be more fouls called in the first preseason game and the first regular-season game,” Hochuli told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The big one is holding. We’ve also tightened up the rule on illegal contact. We’ve always given a little leeway on that.

Opposing offenses complained last season that the Super Bowl champion Seahawks were grabbing and holding and not getting flagged for it. This year the Seahawks may have to adjust their style. And offenses across the league may put up even bigger numbers than ever before.

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Report: Seahawks workout tight end Steve Maneri

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The Seattle Seahawks could be on the lookout for additional help at the tight end position after veteran Anthony McCoy suffered a torn left Achilles tendon on Tuesday.

While the team isn’t pursuing Jermichael Finley, the team did bring in another veteran tight end for a workout this week.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the Seahawks brought in Steve Maneri for a workout on Thursday.

Maneri is a former offensive tackle that was converted to a tight end by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012. In five years, Maneri has played for the Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Chiefs, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Maneri was released by the Buccaneers in May. With his former offensive line background, Maneri is a proficient blocker at the tight end position. Behind starter Zach Miller, the rest of Seattle’s current tight end group is far more proficient as pass catchers than blocking options.

Maneri has six receptions for 51 yards in 23 career games.

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Michael Vick wants to play until he’s 40 years old

Michael Vick AP

On the heels of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees saying he wants to play until he’s 45 years old, another veteran quarterback has expressed a desire to play into his 40’s.

According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick says he wants to play until he’s 40.

Vick, 34, signed a one-year deal with the Jets earlier this offseason to serve as a veteran backup to second-year starter Geno Smith.

While Vick doesn’t view his skills as being relegated to that of a backup quarterback, he has accepted his role as a backup and mentor to Smith for the Jets.

“You never envision yourself being in this role (when you’re younger),” Vick said. “But as you grow older, you start to (realize) it’s inevitable. You know it’s going to happen. At the same time, I just try to keep myself in shape and keep trying to be the best that I can be, because you never know what can happen.”

Vick threw for 1,215 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions in seven games for the Philadelphia Eagles last season before an injury handed the starting job to Nick Foles.

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Bears sign offensive tackle Dennis Roland

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bears added a right tackle with starting experience Thursday, announcing the signing of Dennis Roland to a one-year deal.

The 31-year-old Roland has played in 71 regular season games (30 starts). He has experience both as a tackle and an extra blocker. Roland appeared in five games for Cincinnati a season ago, all as a reserve.

Roland’s most extensive starting experience came in 2009 and 2010, when he made nine starts apiece at right tackle.

Roland’s signing comes one day after Bears reserve tackle Eben Britton suffered a hamstring injury.

In a corresponding roster move Thursday, the Bears waived undrafted rookie free agent tackle Cody Booth.

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“Slight chance” of a Josh Gordon settlement

Gordon

With the hearing officer assigned to the appeal of Browns receiver Josh Gordon’s suspension facing an all-or-nothing mandate, the player and the league have extra incentive to try to control the outcome via a negotiated compromise.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, a “slight chance” of a resolution exists.  Any deal presumably would entail a suspension for Gordon that lasts less than a year.

If one side is less inclined to negotiate than the other, it’s possible that the hearing officer will send signals, indirect or explicit, that it would be wise for that party to be more open-minded.  Which could get a deal done during the hearing or after it.

A ruling is expected fairly soon.  The substance-abuse policy requires only that the decision be issued with a “reasonable time.”

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49ers, Harbaugh pull plug on contract talks until after the season

Jim Harbaugh AP

Whatever 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wants on a new contract, whatever the 49ers have offered isn’t good enough.  And so Harbaugh and the team have agreed to table any discussions on a new deal until after the season.

“We actually just had this conversation [Wednesday],” owner Jed York said on CSN Bay Area’s Yahoo! SportsTalk Live.  “Lots of people were talking to him about it.  We just said, ‘You know what, let’s not do anything during the season.  Let’s sit down a week or so after the season is over and let everybody know we’re not focused on anything that’s off the field right now.’

“Jim and I will sit down a week or so after the season is over and we’ll figure out where we go.”

Where they go after the season will depend in large part on where they go during the season.  If Harbaugh wins the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 20 years, his leverage and price go up.  If he has another season that entails knocking on the door but not kicking it in, he may still want more than the 49ers want to pay.

And if that’s the case, the 49ers will have to decide whether to let Harbaugh coach out his contract and become a free agent, allow him to leave if a college program offers him the money he wants, or trade him to another NFL team — as they came a lot closer to doing with the Browns than anyone will admit.

If the 49ers make it to the playoffs, the potential universe of NFL openings will be known before York and Harbaugh have their chat.  And with most owners inclined to fire coaches of bad teams making up their minds to make a change well before the end of the season, there’s a good chance that the 49ers will have a good idea what they could get for Harbaugh, if they decide to swap the final year of his deal for draft picks.

So this could indeed be Harbaugh’s last year with the 49ers.  And now any potentially interested college or NFL program can decide whether to include him on their wish list.

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LeSean McCoy gets quicker by cutting out junk food

LeSean McCoy AP

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing and yards from scrimmage last season, but McCoy says he’s faster now than he was last year.

After making a concerted effort to cut out junk food (particularly late-night snacking on Doritos), McCoy says that he’s down about five pounds from the 215 he weighed last season, and he can feel the difference.

“At a lighter [weight], I feel like I’m so much more effective,” McCoy said, via CSNPhilly.com. “I looked at all my old film and saw how much quicker I was when I was 210 [pounds], 209. It’s a big difference. And I’m feeling like that again.”

McCoy says a five-pound weight loss might not mean anything to a back who makes plays by running through tackles, but McCoy says that with his running style, every extra pound counts.

“I play with leverage,” McCoy said. “Certain guys are different. A guy like Marshawn Lynch, he’s more of a running through a guy. Mine is to get a guy off balance and going through an arm tackle, go through a shoulder, those types of things. Get them going one way and try to hit the other side.”

McCoy will hit the other side just a little bit more quickly this season. That’s well worth resisting a late-night craving for Doritos.

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Johnny Manziel admits he’s having growing pains

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer AP

For all the attention he’s gotten thus far, Johnny Manziel is still the Browns backup quarterback.

He admitted Thursday it’s going to take him a minute to push through that, but the Browns appear willing to let him ease into it a little at a time.

It’s a process for me,” Manziel said, via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. “It’s not something that I should just come in here naturally because I played well in college and just know how to run this offense.

“It’s a complete 180 from everything that I’ve been used to. And it’s going to take time. It’s a process coming from a spread, air raid system in college to a pro style system that’s very unfamiliar [to] me as far as terminology and routes.”

Now, for a player of his — for lack of a better word — swagger, that sounds almost like humility. But Manziel said he thinks he will be able to make the adjustment with time.

“I think I’ll play whenever these coaches decide that I’m ready,” Manziel said. “I don’t think there’s any rush. For me, it’s whenever coach [Mike] Pettine, coach [Kyle] Shanahan and the staff here decide that. I don’t think they want to throw me into a situation I’m not ready for or something I can’t handle. I don’t know if they drafted me necessarily thinking that I should come in and start Week 1. I think they wanted to see where I’m at and how I progress.”

Using Manziel as part of specific packages is an option, as he brings and athleticism to the position Brian Hoyer doesn’t have. But the acknowledgement he has some ground to cover is probably a good one for the rookie, who will end up with the job eventually.

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Seahawks bumped up Marshawn Lynch’s 2014 salary

Marshawn Lynch, CJ Spiller AP

The Seahawks got their starting running back in camp today, and Marshawn Lynch got something out of his brief holdout.

A league source tells PFT that the Seahawks agreed to bump up Lynch’s base salary to persuade Lynch to report.

Under Lynch’s previous contract, he was due to make a $5 million base salary this year, plus $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and he could have earned another $500,000 in incentives if he had rushed for 1,500 yards. Now Lynch gets a base salary of $6 million (meaning the Seahawks effectively guaranteed the $1 million he previously would have had to earn), plus they’re taking $500,000 that he had been scheduled to get paid in 2015 and giving it to him now instead. In all, Lynch will make $6.5 million this year.

The Seahawks also agreed not to enforce the fines that they were entitled to dock him from the work he has already missed. We’re also hearing that the league office was pressuring the Seahawks to go after some of Lynch’s signing bonus money if he refused to report, as teams are permitted to do under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But the Seahawks resisted that.

Instead, the Seahawks and Lynch reached a deal amenable to both sides, and Lynch is in camp, making more money in 2014 than he was scheduled to make under his old deal.

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Peterson, Sherman, Haden contracts all comparable

Haden AP

Lost in the u-mad-bro back-and-forth between Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman regarding their one-up contracts is the fact that Browns cornerback Joe Haden got a pretty good deal, too.

All three deals were strong; whether one guy or another got the “best” deal resides in the eye of the beholder, as influenced by the specific factors considered.

Peterson got the most in “new money,” thanks to another $50,000 added to the final-year base salary that pushes the average from $14 million (which Sherman got) to $14.01 million.  Haden’s deal averages $13.5 million in new money.

But Haden has the highest “true” guarantee at signing, with $22.678 million, more than $6 million more than Peterson’s $16.25 million.  At signing, Sherman received $12.431 million fully guaranteed.  Haden also pockets the most total cash in each year through 2018.  Starting with $20.878 million in 2014.

Then again, Haden started with a higher base salary for 2014 than Peterson and Sherman.  Haden, due to make $6.678 million, had the bulk of that money shifted to a signing bonus, dropping the base salary to the minimum.  Which allowed Haden to craft a higher guarantee out of the gates.

When it comes to the conversion of injury-only guarantee to fully-guaranteed money through the February 2016 waiver period (which comes days after Super Bowl 50), Peterson leads the way with $42.6 million.  Haden through the same point will have $41.078 million guaranteed.  Sherman will see $35 million become fully guaranteed by then.

All three deals are very good.  Peterson got his with two years left under contract, a point that shouldn’t be overlooked given the injury risk he managed to push to the team.  With Sherman and Haden, even a Brewster’s Millions effort to spend every penny would make it hard for the trio to run out of cash in their lifetimes.

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Don Jones says he learned after discipline for Michael Sam tweet

Don Jones AP

Dolphins cornerback Don Jones says he has learned a lot in the last couple months, after his reaction to Michael Sam becoming the NFL’s first openly gay player got him suspended from the team.

When TV cameras captured Sam kissing his boyfriend, Jones reacted by calling it “horrible.” The Dolphins’ response was to send Jones home from offseason work and say he couldn’t return until he completed sensitivity training. Now Jones says he realizes his choice of words was poor.

“I didn’t intend [any] harm,” Jones told the Miami Herald. “I just made a bad mistake. I had to learn from it.”

Jones said that he has no animosity toward gays, despite what his tweet suggested.

“I don’t have [a] problem with gay [people],” Jones said. “Shoot, I do have a bunch of family members that are gay. My brother, my cousins. I never really had a problem.”

On some teams, Jones’s tweet probably would have resulted in nothing more than a stern talking-to, but the Dolphins are particularly sensitive about the need for players to treat each other with respect after the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin fiasco last year. Jones put something stupid on Twitter, but he deserves credit for dealing with it forthrightly and moving on.

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Marshawn Lynch ends his holdout, reports to Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch AP

Reports on Thursday afternoon indicated that running back Marshawn Lynch was set to make his delayed arrival to Seahawks camp in the next 24 hours, but the team didn’t have to wait that long for Lynch’s return.

Lynch arrived at the Seahawks’ facility a bit later on Thursday, a moment broadcast on NFL Network and shared on Twitter by Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. Curtis Crabtree of PFT is at the team headquarters and passes along word that Lynch’s arrival at the building was met by loud cheering from an auditorium and that a Brinks truck pulled up to the facility a few minutes later.

If the earlier report from ESPN about Lynch not getting a new deal is correct, the truck is just a humorous coincidence. There are reportedly some “financial concessions” coming Lynch’s way, which could be the forgiveness of the fines that Lynch accumulated while staying away from the team.

Either way, Lynch is back now and should resume his place as a centerpiece of the team’s offensive attack. With a salary that could reach $7.5 million due next season, it will be interesting to see if this is Lynch’s final year in Seattle as the Seahawks will need to keep some money free for possible extensions for quarterback Russell Wilson and other younger players finishing up their rookie deals.

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Redskins rookie regrets letting teammates cut his hair

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzlmdq5n2fhzdayzdhmnme0nty4mmewmdi4zjmzn2q2 AP

Kicker Zach Hocker found himself in a position familiar to many NFL rookies at training camp on Wednesday.

Hocker was supposed to perform a skit to amuse his veteran teammates, but came up empty. As an alternative, he offered to cut his hair however his teammates decided and wound up with a shaved head except for a strap of hair across the middle of his head.

Kai Forbath, Hocker’s competition for the kicking job, did the shearing. The results, which you can see at right, don’t say much for his future as a hairdresser but make it easy to understand why Hocker probably wishes he had just done a five minute reading from Dr. Seuss instead of offering up his locks.

“I kind of regret it now,” Hocker said, via ESPN.com. “In the moment it was fun, but now I wish I had thought of something funny for the team … I didn’t anticipate this. I got up on the stage and they put up three pictures for the team to vote on. This was my look. They let me have it and there I went.”

Hocker said he wants to shave off the remaining hair before the team’s preseason opener next week, but his teammates have yet to give him the green light.

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Reggie Wayne feeling no pain in Colts camp

Reggie Wayne AP

There’s going to be concern with any player coming off an ACL.

When that player is a 35-year-old wide receiver such as Reggie Wayne, people are going to be watching his every move.

But so far, Wayne has cruised through camp as smoothly as since the day he pulled into camp in an Indy Car.

And the work he’s done on the field is just as fast.

“Like I’ve been saying, so far, so good,” Wayne said, via Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. “I haven’t had any problems, nothing out of the norm.

I haven’t had any pain. Nothing has set me back. Just go out there and be the Reggie of old.”

Wayne’s condition has been foremost on the Colts’ mind since he tore his right ACL last October, and the fact he’s coming along so well is a huge boost.

But because of the way Wayne has worked throughout his career, it’s also not a surprise.

“That’s the way it looked to me,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “When you go back, you watch it live and then you go back and watch it on film. It’s really incredible.

“But again, it probably doesn’t shock anybody here. It certainly doesn’t shock me. We all know his mindset, his work ethic and his determination, and how bad he wanted to get back.”

With so many other Colts going down in practice, there’s a bit of breath-holding with Wayne. But so far, the knee has held up, and he’s looked like his old self.

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Steve Gregory signs with Chiefs

Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Chiefs have a couple of safeties on the injured list right now, which may have helped them decide to add some depth at the position.

Agent David Canter announced on Thursday that his client Steve Gregory has signed with the Chiefs for the coming season.

Gregory was released by the Patriots in February after playing 26 games with the team over the last two seasons. Gregory started 23 of those games, recording 116 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Eric Berry left Chiefs practice early on Thursday with an ankle injury, although coach Andy Reid and others have downplayed the severity of the injury since Berry was removed from the field. Sanders Commings had ankle surgery on Thursday, however, and that absence could stretch a bit longer.

Even with everyone healthy, Gregory would be a viable competitor with Husain Abdullah for the starting spot next to Berry. He’ll get the chance to win that job over the next month or so.

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