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Patriots talk new contract with Vince Wilfork

AP

Vince Wilfork has one more year with a $7.5 million salary on his current contract with the Patriots, but New England would like to change those terms.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports that the Patriots have had recent discussions with representatives for Wilfork about altering his contract. Presumably, the Patriots would like to reduce Wilfork’s number this year, either by getting him to accept a pay cut or getting him to take an extension that spreads some of this year’s $11.6 million cap hit into future years.

With Wilfork coming off a season in which he suffered a torn Achilles tendon, and heading into a season in which he’ll turn 33 years old, it’s possible that the Patriots could release Wilfork if he isn’t interested in altering his current deal.

Wilfork has been a great player in New England for his entire 10-year career, but even great players are often asked to take less money or shown the door, especially once they’ve suffered significant injuries and hit the wrong side of 30. Right now there’s no indication that the talks between Wilfork and the Patriots have grown acrimonious, but there’s no sign that they’re close to an agreement, either.

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Drew Brees admits Saints are dealing with “some tough circumstances”

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The Saints have Super Bowl aspirations. To get there, someone will have to step up at a couple of key positions.

“We’ve got some tough circumstances we’re dealing with right now,” Brees told Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Starting left tackle Terron Armstead will miss several months after injuring his shoulder during offseason workouts. Quarterback Drew Brees provided a blunt assessment of the situation on Tuesday.

“Listen, that’s a big blow. I’m not going to lie,” Brees told

Teammate Zach Strief recently pegged Ryan Ramczyk as the frontrunner to replace Armstead. Brees spoke in more guarded terms.

“Hey, everybody gets thrown into the fire at some point,” Brees said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be Week One with [Ramczyk]. But he has to be ready to play. No question.”

Brees also suggested that former tackle Andrus Peat could slide back outside from the guard position.

The franchise quarterback also lamented the loss of defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who’ll be out for the year after a heart condition prompted the team to place fairly on the non-football illness list.

“This is so unfortunate,” Brees said. “I know how hard he worked last year to put himself into a position to be one of the mainstays on our defense. To lose a guy like that on something that’s kind of just of a freak thing, I know he’s heartbroken. We are as well to not have him.”

Nearly every team must deal with injury issues at some point in the year. The Saints are facing multiple issues already, and the hitting hasn’t even begun yet.

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Vince Young expresses lingering bitterness toward Jeff Fisher

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The Titans made Vince Young the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, and he played five seasons in Tennessee, all for coach Jeff Fisher. Young doesn’t think Fisher did much to help him develop as a franchise quarterback.

Young detailed for Sports Illustrated all the ways he felt mistreated by Fisher, who declined to comment for the story.

“I’m going to expose his ass,” Young said of Fisher, detailing the following issues between them:

1. Fisher leaked private discussions the two of them had to the media.

2. Fisher told the pilot of the team plane to take off without Young the day before a road game during Young’s rookie year, even though Young told Fisher he would only be a couple minutes late to the airport and Fisher had held the plane for other players in the past.

3. Fisher falsely told people that Young was suicidal.

4. Fisher banned Young from team meetings the week after Young walked off the sideline after Fisher pulled him from what turned out to be the last game Young ever played for the Titans.

5. Fisher didn’t respond years later when Young sent him a letter apologizing for his role in their strained relationship.

None of those issues reflect well on Fisher, but on closer scrutiny it’s hard to justify putting all the blame on Fisher for those issues, either.

1. Young is now doing the same thing he criticizes Fisher for doing, telling the media about private conversations the two of them had.

2. Young was late for a team flight. That’s on Young.

3. If Fisher really told people that Young was suicidal to discredit Young, that’s a terrible thing to do. But context matters here: At the same time that Fisher was allegedly telling people Young was suicidal, early in the 2008 season, Young’s own mother was telling the media that Young was “hurting inside and out” to such an extent that he might not want to play football anymore. It’s entirely possible that Fisher was telling people Young was suicidal because Fisher was genuinely worried that Young could hurt himself and was trying to get him help.

4. Young threw his shoulder pads into the stands and stormed off during a game. Fisher is hardly the only coach who would tell a player not to come back after that.

5. Fisher could have been the bigger man and responded to Young’s letter, but Young’s own account of the letter suggests that he realizes he bears some of the blame for his strained relationship with Fisher.

Young sounds like he still blames Fisher for his failures in Tennessee. Perhaps Young should look in the mirror when he wonders who to blame for his subsequent failures in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Green Bay, Cleveland and Saskatchewan.

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Houston could renovate Astrodome

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The Oilers last played in Houston in 1996, and their stadium, the Astrodome, was declared unfit for occupancy in 2009. But the Astrodome, as dilapidated as it is, still stands in the parking lot of NRG Stadium.

And it might reopen in three years after a proposed Astrodome renovation took another step forward Tuesday. According to the Houston Chronicle, Harris County Commissioners Court voted to seek a construction manager at risk for the project. Commissioners Court will vote on the construction, which would cost roughly $95 million to raise the Dome’s floors and install two levels of parking underneath, next year.

The Astrodome has been a source of debate in the city and appeared on the verge of demolition in 2013 when voters rejected a $217 million bond proposal for renovations. A renovation would open the 550,000-square-foot building for festivals and conferences with potential commercial uses, per the Chronicle.

The Astrodome, opened in 1965 as the world’s first multipurpose, domed sports stadium, was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It was home to the Oilers and the Astros and hosted other major sporting events, including Muhammad Ali’s fights, the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973 and the “Game of the Century” basketball game between the University of Houston and UCLA in 1968.

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Eli Manning has no doubt Odell Beckham will be ready

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham skipped voluntary workouts this offseason, but quarterback Eli Manning isn’t concerned about the two of them being ready to go when the season starts.

“Odell and I, we talk constantly, and he’s up front with me about what his plans are, when he’s going to be there and what he needs to do to get better,” Manning told Jim Rome. “So hey, I promote him in doing whatever it takes for him to be at his best, and for that he thought he needed to be training on his own in California to get his workouts to make sure he’s healthy and ready to go for the upcoming season.”

Some players may skip voluntary workouts because they don’t enjoy putting in the work, but Manning said Beckham is definitely not one of those players.

“The guy’s a workhorse. He’s loves the training, he knows his body, he knows what he’s got to do to get ready and so he felt this was the best way for him to get prepared,” Manning said. “Sometimes as athletes, you know your body better than anyone else. You know what you need to do to get in the best shape and get the most work and that’s what he felt, and you have to support the guy, because he is working. He is doing the right things, and he is trying to get better.”

Beckham’s absence was the biggest story of the offseason for the Giants, but Manning sounds convinced that by the time training camp is open in a month, it will be a non-story.

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It’s still too early to come to any conclusions on Kirk Cousins

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The never ending news cycle abhors a vacuum. So when nothing is going on generally, specific situations in which nothing is going on get dusted off from time to time. Enter the Kirk Cousins situation, which periodically will become the focal point of #breakingnews as the true pay-or-get-off-the-pot moment arrives.

As noted last week, anything said about Cousins is “noise” for now, and nothing is going on between himself and the team. The question becomes whether breakthroughs happen as the July 17 deadline approaches.

The safer guess at this point is that a deal won’t get done, primarily because Washington has done nothing over the past two years to show a willingness to get a deal done on the player’s terms. With Cousins now having more leverage than ever, it’s unlikely that Washington will throw great money after good, given the annual missed opportunities to extend Cousins for much less than it would cost now.

In this regard, last week’s Derek Carr contract means nothing. The numbers for Cousins are and have been simple; he has $23.94 million in hand for 2017, and for 2018 he’ll have: (1) $34.47 million under the franchise tag; (2) $28.7 million under the transition tag; or (3) a clear shot at the open market. Coupled with the $19.95 million Cousins earned a year ago, he holds all the cards when it comes to cobbling together a long-term deal based on 2017 and 2018.

Absent a sudden decision by Cousins to make a concession against his leverage or an epiphany by Washington that causes the team to forget that it could have had Cousins for less a year ago and even less in 2015, stubbornness and pride will keep the clock ticking toward Washington having to spend even more to keep Cousins — or watching him walk away.

Either way, the answer won’t come until at least two weeks from now. And if a deal isn’t done, don’t be shocked if Washington leaks the last offer rejected by Cousins, since the magnitude of the number in comparison to the stature of Cousins will make the team seem reasonable and fair, and the player neither.

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Carson Palmer: You never know when your last year is going to be

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Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said recently that he doesn’t think his age is a reason to bet against him and the team this season and pointed to other quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl with more experience than Palmer’s 14 NFL seasons.

Tom Brady was one example cited by Palmer and he won the Super Bowl after both his 15th and 17th years in the league. Palmer will make it to his 15th year, but anything beyond that remains up in the air. While Palmer said he’s stopped telling his wife that he’s going to retire after the season, he’s not predicting what he’ll say when the year comes to an end.

“I love every facet of it,” Palmer said, via the team’s website. “I don’t want to stop. But I’ll have to wait and make that decision after the season. … There’s always urgency, especially as you get to the second half of your career. You just never know when your last year is going to be.”

The Cardinals gave Palmer less work than usual this offseason in hopes of keeping him as fresh as possible for the regular season. How fresh he feels come the end of the season and the Cardinals’ spot in the standings will likely have a lot to do with Palmer’s ultimate decision about his playing future.

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Offseason work should help Dez Bryant

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Dez Bryant’s last 1,000-yard season came in 2014, an All-Pro season he parlayed into a five-year, $70 million extension. Bryant’s last full offseason program with his teammates came before that 2014 season. The two are not unrelated.

Bryant missed the 2015 offseason in a contract holdout. He missed the 2016 offseason rehabbing from a second surgery on his right foot. This offseason, Bryant was a full participant, which receivers coach Derek Dooley anticipates will help Bryant get back to where he was.

“The first thing is, he was here,” Dooley said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “For the last two offseasons, he hasn’t had an offseason since 2014 because after 2014 he had the contract deal and then in 2015 he was hurt, so this was his first time to get out here and develop a level of consistency. I think he’s benefited from it. His route-running, his route detail, his inventory, all of those things are improving. And he’s got a lot to improve on. He knows it, but he’s getting better.”

Bryant missed three games with a knee injury last season, making 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. His best game came in the divisional-round playoff loss to the Packers when he made nine receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

“I would say the last half of the season he really played at a high level,” Dooley said. “Again, he comes in without an offseason, and then he gets dinged up a little bit early, and then once he kind of got back in that rhythm he really showed what he’s capable of doing. As long as he can stay in that consistent work mode, avoid the injuries (knock, knock), I think the sky is the limit for him.”

Staying healthy is key for Bryant, who missed 10 games with injuries the past two seasons. In the four seasons from 2011-14, Bryant averaged 84 catches for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns and established himself as one of the best receivers in the game.

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Bears upgrade tight end position, leaving Zach Miller competing for spot

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The Bears’ offseason moves indicate they play to use more multiple tight end formations this season. Chicago committed to the position by signing Dion Sims to a three-year, $18 million deal with $10 million guaranteed, and by drafting Adam Shaheen in the second round. Both are obvious locks to make the roster assuming they stay healthy.

That leaves veteran Zach Miller competing with Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker and MyCole Pruitt for potentially one spot.

Miller, 32, set career highs with 47 catches and 486 yards in 10 games last season. He broke his right foot in Week 11 last season, forcing him to miss the offseason program.

Since he joined the Bears in 2014, Miller has missed 23 games and played in 25. He has one year remaining on his contract with a base of $1.5 million. All of those factors could open the door for Brown, a converted receiver claimed off waivers from the Ravens in November.

“Basically me and Zach are the same players and obviously Zach can’t practice right now,” Brown said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “There is a lot of stuff they are putting in that Zach can do, and they want to see if I can do it. I guess they trust me enough to know if I can do it, Zach can do it. Let’s see what we can do with the skill sets we have.”

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Cowboys continue to work out quarterbacks

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The Cowboys insist they’re happy with Kellen Moore. If that’s the case, then it appears they’re not happy with what they have behind Dak Prescott and Moore.

The Cowboys worked out former Baylor quarterback Seth Russell this week.

“The workout went really, really well,” Russell told David Smoak of ESPN-Central Texas. “Scouts said they were going to send the film to the coaches and then they would let me know in 2-4 weeks, maybe sooner. They said I looked a lot stronger and had more zip on the ball. Legs looked really good and athletic.”

Russell went undrafted and unsigned, though he earned a tryout at the Raiders rookie minicamp last month.

The Cowboys didn’t draft a quarterback, though they kept an eye on University of Miami’s Brad Kaaya, who was selected by the Lions in the sixth round. Dallas signed rookie free agents Cooper Rush and Austin Appleby. Rush remains on the roster, but the Cowboys waived Appleby to claim Zac Dysert.

After getting Dysert, the Cowboys worked out Ryan Nassib. Now, it’s Russell.

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Jaguars TE: Leonard Fournette can be like Fred Taylor

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Because he’s a back of a certain size, there’s a temptation to turn Leonard Fournette into just a power back. And he is one of those.

But Jaguars veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said that Fournette made an immediate impression during the unpadded work so far, and put his name next to a Jaguars legend (they’re old enough to have legends, right?).

Originally, when we drafted [Fournette], I thought he was going to be one of those guys that really would show up when we put pads on, but this guy is fast,” Lewis said, via NFL.com. “He’s big, has good footwork and great vision, and he’s doing all of that without even having pads on. And you know what type of runner he is when he does have pads on.

“I think we have a great scheme in place for him to come in and just plug and play. And I think he’s going to fit great with our offense. He brings back that old-school feel, like back when we had Fred Taylor, and we were able to run the ball, possess the ball, play-action pass, take shots down the field. It’s going to help Blake [Bortles], so I’m looking forward to that.”

If Fournette can have a Taylor-like effect, he should look forward to it.

Taylor’s probably one of the more underrated runners of the last 20 years. In his 11 seasons with the Jaguars, Taylor finished with 11,271 yards, topped 1,000 yards in seven seasons, and he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He also was the main cog in an offense which featured a good-not-great quarterback (Mark Brunell) but had very good receivers (Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith).

Bortles has some work to do before he reaches the level of good-not-great, but the Jaguars have the other offensive skill pieces in place. And if Fournette can indeed contribute the way Taylor did for more than a decade, they might finally deliver on the potential they’ve teased with for the last few years.

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Koetter: Bucs used silent count at home in 2015

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So why did Bucs coach Dirk Koetter urge fans not to sell tickets to Raiders fans as Tampa Bay prepared to host Oakland last year? Koetter knows what can go wrong when too many fans of the road team invade a stadium.

“The first year I was here, and we played a couple of those teams from the northeast, the traditional teams that travel well,” Koetter said on The Ira Kaufman Podcast, via JoeBucsFan.com. “I mean, we had to go to [the] silent count in our own home stadium, and that’s just not right.”

Koetter typically treads lightly when talking about his belief that fans should support the team, possibly because he knows that the response will be, “Give us something worthy of support.”

“The organization, the fans and the team has to play better, OK?” Koetter said. “Any time I start talking too much about my role with the fans, they’re going to slap me right back down to earth. And there’s always going to be a bunch of people [saying], ‘Hey, Dirk, worry about coaching the team.’ And I get that; that’s my ultimate job. But I’m always looking to give us every advantage we can get because it’s all about winning. I’m worrying about motivating my team, but I want the fans’ help. Because we need the home field advantage.”

This year, it shouldn’t be an issue, as long as the team delivers. Optimism is running high, but that means so are expectations. With the Bucs in one of the widest-open divisions in football, they’ll need to win early. Otherwise, there will be plenty of fans of the visiting team visiting Raymond James Stadium as the season unfolds.

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Tuesday’s special-edition PFT Live podcast is up

With no three-hour editions of PFT Live until July 24 and yours truly sitting around doing nothing, I’ve decided to sit around doing nothing while talking about football.

Tuesday’s NFL news and analysis roundup, in the form of the PFT Live podcast, is available for your listening pleasure.

Join me as I rip through a dozen topics or so. Later this week, we’ll be joined by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who apparently is working during his vacation, too.

Download and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, audioBoom, and wherever else they have podcasts.

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Taco Charlton finally gets his taco endorsement deal

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The day after the Cowboys drafted defensive end Taco Charlton in the first round, the Dallas Morning News‘ headline read “Taco Bueno.”

Given how well his name would work for purposes other than headlines, it was only a matter of time before Charlton landed an endorsement deal related to his first name. That time has come.

The news comes, appropriately enough, on a Taco Tuesday. Even appropriately, it is the Tex-Mex chain Taco Bueno that announced Charlton has signed on to promote their restaurants.

“At the heart of any good partnership is authenticity and genuine respect,” CEO Mike Roper said in a statement, via the News. “Taco is serious about football, and we are serious about Tex-Mex, and that is a winning combination. We couldn’t be more excited to bring some fun to all our fans this upcoming football season.”

Charlton has also signed on to promote Big Red soda, so he’ll have something to wash down all the tacos that will be coming his way in Dallas.

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Jim Kelly: Sean McDermott gives Bills discipline they haven’t had in a while

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Among the things that Sean McDermott did after being named the head coach of the Bills was remove a pool table and video games from the team’s locker room.

McDermott explained the move by saying “this is a business” and that having those diversions on hand weren’t going to help him build “a focused, disciplined and accountable football team.” Bills great Jim Kelly cited one of those traits as a reason why he’s excited about this year’s team.

“I’m excited about the 2017 Buffalo Bills. Coach McDermott brings discipline to the table that we haven’t had in a while,” Kelly said, via the team’s Twitter account.

It’s hard to read Kelly’s comment and not think about McDermott’s immediate predecessor. Disciplined wasn’t frequently used to describe Rex Ryan’s teams and it’s not surprising that a clear difference from Ryan’s style would be appealing given the way the last two years played out.

There was a time, of course, when Ryan’s style suited many people just fine. Kelly was one of them, which probably just serves to underscore that the Bills have tried a lot of different approaches since Kelly’s heyday without hitting on one that’s brought them much success.

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New Gatorade ad champions losing, showcases Matt Ryan

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This isn’t based on an item from The Onion. But I checked several times to be completely sure.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a new Gatorade commercial sells sugar water (with electrolytes) by championing losing, and by reveling in the motivation that comes from failure.

“Make Defeat Your Fuel” is the slogan that drives the ad — and it makes sense, from a market-share standpoint. In every game, there’s both a winner and a loser,  and in every league or conference, most teams end up losing. With so many losers out there, why not market to them directly?

The commercial starts with a closeup of Michael Jordan, a dry-faced mirror-image of the meme that has become synonymous with athletic failure. Jordan, who was cut from his high-school basketball team, is followed by J.J. Watt, who points out that he “started his career a walk-on” (at Wisconsin; he had a scholarship at Central Michigan). Next come the Manning brothers, with Peyton pointing out that went 3-13 as a rookie (the all-time rookie interception record he still holds isn’t mentioned), and with Eli saying he once led the league in interceptions.

Eventually comes Matt Ryan, with a recreation of his walk through confetti that wasn’t falling for the Falcons after Super Bowl LI, followed by a slickly-edited training montage.

It remains to be seen whether the effort to attach the leading sports drink to losing will continue to prompt athletes to buy Gatorade. If the goal was to inspire by latching on to the story of a loser who becomes a winner, the far more effective tactic would have been to digitally add some Gatorade swigging to the unforgettable training montage that came after Adrian emerged from the coma and gave her husband a one-word mandate.

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