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Dolphins seal Randy Starks deal

65fb300b6fc4fbf45d856b5e3de03320 Getty Images

The Dolphins were reportedly close to a deal keeping defensive tackle Randy Starks in Miami on Wednesday morning.

Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that the deal is done on Wednesday afternoon. Per Garafolo, it’s a two-year, $12 million deal for the 10-year NFL veteran and six-year member of the Dolphins defensive line.

With Paul Soliai jumping to Atlanta, retaining Starks became an even bigger priority for the Dolphins. They’ve also signed former Texans defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and the duo should make up the interior of the defensive line in the 2014 season.

Starks, who ranked 29th on PFT’s Hot 100 list of free agents, has been a durable player for the Dolphins, never missing a game in his six years with the team, and has been productive against both the run and the pass. He’ll turn 31 in December, so the length of the pact should work well for the team as it will give them some time to identify and acquire a potential replacement before Starks moves on by either his choice or the team’s decision.

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Owners think NFL’s concussion message needs to be delivered better

New York Jets Introduce General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles Getty Images

The NFL obviously has a concussion problem.

But as the league’s owners meetings ended today in Charlotte, the guys who write the checks also made it clear they think their public relations problem is significant as well.

The common theme from owners discussing recent criticisms from Congress and elsewhere about the league’s funding of CTE studies or other safety issues was not that the NFL has a bad message, but that they’re not delivering their message well enough.

“You have to explain to mothers and people who watch football, they want to know that we’re doing our job and that we take this seriously,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said.

When asked if the league had convinced them of that, Johnson replied: “No we probably have done not a very good job. I think we can do better.”

Asked whether he thought people trust the league, Johnson shrugged and said: “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Owners voiced support for commissioner Roger Goodell, whose job is to be the face of such issues and take such heat. At the same time, they know there are certain segments of the population who simply don’t or won’t trust him. But they’ll also circle the wagons, as 49ers owner Jed York noted of yesterday’s news: “I don’t think it’s Congress, it’s one Congressional staffer. You have to put that into perspective.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insisted that his own background as a player made him want to shout the league’s message from the hilltops, but admitted he wasn’t always the best to do so.

 “I think where we are remiss, is making our case for what we are doing and our sensitivity regarding concussions and what we are doing,” Jones said. “We need to say that more often, and we need to say it louder, and we need to not hurt it with being the wrong messenger. It doesn’t need to be self-serving, when at the end of the day it really is to make the game safer, make kids safer who play the game and benefit from playing the game.

“I think we need to say it better, we need to articulate it better and say it more often.”

Their critics will suggest that the problem has grown beyond one of perception, and remains one of its real medical issues. But with the league making major changes at the PR level in recent months, it’s clear that they plan to attack the problem by talking about it themselves, and trying to frame the argument as they see it.

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Lions waive rookie offensive lineman

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions waived-injured rookie offensive lineman Darius Johnson Tuesday.

Johnson had attended the team’s post-draft rookie minicamp as a tryout player and then signed a contract on May 8, at which point the Lions cut offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson, a 2015 draft pick of the Vikings.

Johnson was a four-year starter at Middle Tennessee State. He played guard as a senior after starting his career as a tackle.

The waived-injured designation means Johnson will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list if he clears waivers on Wednesday.

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Gary Kubiak is “really excited” about Trevor Siemian

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback Trevor Siemian #3 of the Denver Broncos looks for a receiver against the Arizona Cardinals during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 3, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 22-20.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

With all the chatter regarding Denver quarterbacks focusing on the guys who left (Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler), the broken-glass emergency addition (Mark Sanchez), the flirtation gone nowhere (Colin Kaepernick), and the first-round rookie (Paxton Lynch), no one is talking about the guy who, in theory, could end up winning the job.

He’s Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015 from Northwestern who has a season in the system and a year of learning from Manning and Osweiler.

“Not many guys are asking about him, but I’m really excited about Trevor,” coach Gary Kubiak told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He basically took the first group today. With what you guys got to see, he’s practiced very well. I think Trevor has a lot of confidence in himself right now.”

If Siemian has plenty of confidence, he’s keeping his cards close to the vest.

“I tried to learn a lot last year,” Siemian told reporters. “I wasn’t playing a ton but I had 18 in the room and I had Brock, so I was learning from those guys. . . . I’m ready to get back to it and knock a little rust off but I feel good.”

It could be a good thing for Siemian to fly under the radar. There’s a chance he won’t be for long.

There’s a chance he’ll be the starter when the Panthers come to town to start the season.

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Roger Goodell makes NFL’s strongest statement yet on NC’s HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NBA has been quite forward with their criticism of North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law, going so far as to threaten pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

But the NFL has been more careful in its public relations efforts, though commissioner Roger Goodell offered the league’s firmest stance yet as he closed today’s owner’s meeting.

“Anything that discriminates, we oppose,” Goodell said when asked about North Carolina’s House Bill 2. “We will continue to fight that. We have a franchise here. The Carolina Panthers play here, they operate here, and we want to work with the community. We’re not going to threaten a community.

“We’re going to work with the community to make the effective changes necessary long term.”

So far, the league hasn’t done all that much, beyond the normal proclamations of inclusiveness.

Earlier Tuesday, 49ers owner Jed York made a $75,000 donation to Equality NC, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. He also called for North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial measure that requires people to go to the bathroom of their birth gender rather than as they identify.

While Panthers owner Jerry Richardson didn’t talk to reporters at these meetings, team spokesman Steven Drummond said the team’s position was clear: “Our organization is against discrimination and has a long history of treating all of our patrons at Bank of America Stadium with dignity and respect. The Panthers have and will continue to engage key stakeholders on this important issue.”

Other owners, however, are more careful. Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s city just won a Super Bowl bid, in part because Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “religious liberty” bill, which opponents claimed was discriminatory. But when asked Tuesday if the league was comfortable doing business in North Carolina because of their law, Blank replied: “You’d have to ask the commissioner that.”

Goodell said he talked to Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts Monday, saying he supports her efforts as the league tries to walk a political line which some find more fine than others.

But Tuesday’s statement was as much as they’ve said so far.

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Maurkice Pouncey “doing everything” in return from broken leg

Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert AP

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey missed all of last season after breaking his leg in the preseason and coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this offseason that he wasn’t sure if Pouncey would participate in OTAs as a result.

Pouncey’s rehab appears to have gone well because he took every snap with the first-team offense as the Steelers kicked off the final segment of their offseason work on Tuesday. Pouncey said his leg feels 100 percent healthy and he isn’t planning to hold anything back in practices after his long stay on the shelf.

“I’m 26 years old, man,” Pouncey said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m doing everything. I don’t need time off. I’m [ticked] off I missed a lot. I’m ready to go.”

Pouncey also confirmed that he required multiple surgeries to repair the leg, adding that he’s “happy to be out here now.” Happy will likely be a fitting description of the Steelers’ mindset if Pouncey remains on the field for the entire 2016 season.

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Goodell: Standard practice to have dialogue back and forth with NIH

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gestures during a press conference at the NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez) AP

Monday’s release of a Congressional report critical of the NFL for allegedly trying to influence the direction of a National Institutes of Health study about detecting Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living brains has led to a variety of responses from the league and its medical advisors.

Commissioner Roger Goodell echoed many of those previous responses during a Tuesday press conference when he was asked about the report.

“I take a much different position to that on several fronts,” Goodell said. “One is our commitment to medical research is well documented. We made a commitment to the NIH. It is normal practice to have discussions back and forth with the NIH. We have several members that are advisors on our committees — Betsy Nagel, Rich Ellenbogen —who have had experience with NIH or worked with NIH. It is very important to continue to have that kind of dialogue through appropriate channels, which our advisors have. That’s a standard practice. We have our commitment of $30 million to the NIH. We’re not pulling that back one bit. We continue to focus on things our advisors believe are important to study. Ultimately it is the NIH’s decision.”

Goodell went on to say that he did not think it was “appropriate” for the report to be released without speaking to those aforementioned medical advisors and took issue with the report referencing Ellenbogen and others as reaching out on behalf of the NFL.

In a follow-up question about NFL players not trusting the league on concussion issues, Goodell said that it was something the league has to do better at and pledged to “continue to find ways to make our game safer.” He also said that the league has to “make sure people understand the facts” about the effects of head trauma, something that’s been difficult given how often the league and outside groups find themselves on opposite sides of the issues raised by research.

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Mark Davis says Las Vegas will “unite the Raider nation”

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28:  Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis attends a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV on April 28, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Davis told the committee he is willing to spend USD 500 million as part of a deal to move the team to Las Vegas if a proposed USD 1.3 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium is built by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. and real estate agency Majestic Realty, possibly on a vacant 42-acre lot a few blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip recently purchased by UNLV.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell said little on Tuesday about a potential move of the Raiders to Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis said plenty.

“I’m excited about it,” Davis said in comments televised on NFL Network. “It’s a new market. It’s got the potential to be a really exciting market. . . . The Raider fan in Northern California get upset a little bit when we talk about going to Los Angeles, and the L.A. fans get a little ticked off at the fans in Northern California, so it seems like Las Vegas is a neutral site that everybody’s kind of bought into. It will unite the Raider nation more than divide it.”

Asked if this means he’s given up on staying Oakland, Davis said, “No.”

And then he said this: “I’ve given my commitment to Las Vegas, and if they can come through with what they’re talked about doing, then we’ll go to Las Vegas.”

So, yeah, it looks like Davis is ready to leave. And it looks like the only way he’ll stay is if Oakland wakes up and puts together a plan sufficiently viable to get at least nine owners to vote against approving a move to Las Vegas.

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Jameis Winston is glad to have Roberto Aguayo in Tampa

roberto-aguayo-tampa-bay-buccaneers Getty Images

Last year, the Buccaneers not surprisingly made a former Florida State quarterback the first overall pick in the draft. This year, the Bucs surprisingly used a second-round pick to acquire kicker Roberto Aguayo.

“It’s special to have another Seminole on the roster,” quarterback Jameis Winston told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of Gators on this roster so I’m glad we’ve got Roberto with me.”

So why is Aguayo such an attractive option?

“Other than he’s automatic, he’s competitive as well,” Winston said. “He’s always having fun out there. He has a different swagger for a kicker. He’s always focused but he likes to have fun doing it.”

This doesn’t change the fact that the Bucs are bring criticized for taking Aguayo so high in the process.

“Opinions are always going to be out there,” Winston said. “I’m just happy to have Roberto on this team. Just like a lot of people had opinions about me when I first came out and first started the season, like Roberto’s going to do, he’s going to shut them up. . . . We came in together at Florida State so we always were close. I always knew he was good because we always used to say that Florida State 2012 class was the best class to ever come through Florida State, so we always stood by that. We always were good buddies.”

Winston’s comments come a day after the man who put that recruiting class together once again said “never say never” about making the leap to the NFL. With team ownership showing increasing impatience with the team’s inability to contend on a regular basis, there may eventually be one more addition to the Tallahassee reunion.

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Mike McCarthy on Eddie Lacy’s progress: So far, so good

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Running back Eddie Lacy #27 and defensive end outside linebacker Mike Neal #96 of the Green Bay Packers walk off the field after losing in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals 26-20  in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers coach Mike McCarthy ensured that running back Eddie Lacy’s physical condition would be a running storyline this offseason when he said shortly after the team’s playoff loss to the Cardinals that Lacy “cannot play at the weight he did” in 2016.

There were varying reports and responses from the Packers about how much of that weight the team wanted Lacy to lose, but the mandate for the third-year back was a clear one. On Tuesday, McCarthy was asked about how the process has gone.

“So far, so good,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I don’t know [how much work Lacy has left to do]. Eddie will be fine. I believe he’ll hit the target that we’re looking for when the lights come on.”

One of the ways that Lacy worked to drop weight was by hooking up with P90X founder Tony Horton. Horton told the newspaper that Lacy reached out to him early in the offseason and that he agreed to it despite having “never done anything quite like that before.”

“But I knew I could help him, and I knew what he was struggling from, and I think we both agreed in our meeting that he needed sort of a new perspective and a new approach,” Horton said. “And we got along really great. We just met each other up in San Francisco the week before the Super Bowl. And we said hey, let’s give this thing a try. Come hangout with me in Jackson Hole and then after that stint is done we’ll come back to LA and continue it there. We just got along, you know what I mean? We laughed a lot and we worked hard and we ate clean food and just took care of business, you know?”

Horton said Lacy made dietary changes and started taking supplements for the first time. Should Lacy bounce back with a big 2016 season after that offseason work, Horton will probably be getting more calls from NFL players in offseasons to come.

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Leary absent from OTAs, wants Cowboys to trade him

Ronald Leary AP

Cowboys guard Ronald Leary is staying away from the team’s organized team activity (OTA) practices because he wants to be traded, per multiple reports.

Leary signed his restricted free-agent tender worth $2.553 million in hopes of facilitating a trade, possibly during the draft, and the Cowboys took some calls from interested teams. But no deal got done, and Leary has remained away from the team’s offseason program.

Leary was the team’s starting left guard in 2013 and 2014 but made just four starts last season. He was inactive for the 12 games he didn’t start.

If no trade is made, Leary would have to show up for the team’s mandatory June minicamp or risk being fined because he signed his tender in April. Leary, 27, broke into the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and became a starter after spending his rookie season on the practice squad. Maybe the Titans losing starting guard Byron Bell to an injury at the start of their OTA workouts will eventually give him the trade he’s seeking.

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Dolphins sign a pair of draft picks

PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 10:  Leonte Carroo #4 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights celebrates his touchdown in the second quarter against the Michigan State Spartans on October 10, 2015 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Super Bowl will be coming back to Miami in 2020 and the Dolphins would love to play in it on their home field.

If they do, a pair of players who signed contracts with the team on Tuesday could be part of making it happen. The Dolphins announced that third-round wide receiver Leonte Carroo and seventh-round tight end Thomas Duarte have agreed to four-year deals with the team.

Carroo is the latest addition to a receiving corps that has been remade since the end of the 2013 season. Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills have all joined the team since then and Miami drafted Carroo and Jakeem Grant this season.

Duarte could factor into the receiving mix as well at some point after playing as something of a wide receiver/tight end hybrid at UCLA. With Carroo and Duarte under contract, the Dolphins only have third-round running back Kenyan Drake left to sign from their draft class.

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New Los Angeles stadium gets Super Bowl LV in 2021

This undated rendering provided by HKS Sports & Entertainment shows a proposed NFL football stadium in Ingewood, Calif. During an NFL owners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Houston the owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to a new stadium just outside Los Angeles, and the San Diego Chargers will have an option to share the facility. The stadium would be at the site of the former Hollywood Park horse-racing track. (HKS Sports & Entertainment via AP)

The NFL is back in Los Angeles. The Super Bowl is coming back, too.

League owners voted Tuesday to award Los Angeles Super Bowl LV in 2021. It will be played in the shiny new stadium being built in Inglewood for the return of the Rams.

Also Tuesday, separate votes awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta in 2019 and to South Florida in 2020.

Super Bowl LV will be the eighth hosted by Los Angeles and the first since 1993, when the Cowboys routed the Bills at the Rose Bowl. The first Super Bowl was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Super Bowl heads back to Miami in 2020

Stephen Ross AP

With stadium renovations underway, Miami is getting another Super Bowl.

The NFL’s owners voted today to award Super Bowl LIV in 2020 to South Florida, which edged out the other finalist for that year’s game, Tampa.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has spent significant money to renovate New Miami Stadium, which has previously hosted Super Bowls XXIII, XXIX, XXXIII, XLI and XLIV (under various other names). Miami is a popular destination for the Super Bowl, but the stadium had become dilapidated in recent years and wasn’t up to the standards that the NFL looks for in a Super Bowl venue.

Now the stadium is in the process of major renovations, and the Super Bowl is on the way back. This will be the 11th Super Bowl to be played in the Miami metropolitan area, the most Super Bowls of any host city.

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NFL ramps up its response to Congressional report

nfl-logo_1400603306311_4966139_ver1-0_640_480 Getty Images

It hasn’t quite reached the scorched Earth response of the NFL after the New York Times article in March, but the league is taking an aggressive stance after a Congressional report suggested they were trying to steer concussion research.

In a letter sent to Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen (who co-chair’s the league’s head, neck and spine committee) continued to defend his research, and disputes the notion that the league steered research funds to get the result they wanted.

“Dear Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Pallone,” the letter read. “Yesterday a report from the minority staff of your committee was released to the media alleging that I and others participated in an effort to influence an NIH grant selection process. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, I was not afforded the simple opportunity to make this plain to your staff members, despite the fact that my contact information was provided to them and my willingness to engage with them on any question was made clear to them. I find this basic lack of fairness, combined with the disregard for the opinions and reputations of the medical professionals named in this report, to be unworthy of the important committee that you lead. At a minimum, I hope you can understand my profound objection to this maligning without so much as the courtesy of a direct question to me by your staff.

“To be clear, I am not and never have been paid by the NFL nor have I ever received funding through the research grant dollars in question. I am a physician on the front lines of this issue, treating kids and counseling parents every day on understanding concussions and repetitive head injury. I feel passionately that there is urgent work ahead to fill the tremendous gap in funding and support on this issue.

“Medical professionals can and always will discuss priorities and debate protocols; that is healthy and appropriate. I believe strongly that there is a vital need for a longitudinal study that tracks the impact concussions have over many years. We need to better understand the long-term risks of traumatic brain injury. I made clear to the NIH that this should be a priority. The advancement of science and research in this field is of critical importance – and we must work to together to understand what it is telling us and how we must adapt accordingly.

“I regret that your minority staff report did nothing to further momentum on these goals and the understanding of these important scientific questions.”

The league’s response had previously been measured, but it’s clear they’re beginning to take the offensive again, at the suggestion they’re trying to achieve the result they want by virtue of money.

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Patriots will have Dion Lewis back before Week One

Dion Lewis, Tre Jackson AP

A torn ACL ended the season of Patriots running back Dion Lewis in November, but it’s not expected to affect him this year.

Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that people close to Lewis say he’s about a month away from being able to play in a game, which means that he should be ready for training camp and the preseason, and certainly before the start of the regular season.

Lewis suffered the torn ACL on November 8 and had surgery on November 18, so he has been rehabbing for about six months. The Patriots will likely take it slow with him in Organized Team Activities and training camp, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get some preseason carries, and he looks like a lock to play in the Sunday Night Football opener against the Cardinals.

Lewis was playing well before he got hurt last season, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and catching 36 passes. He and LeGarrette Blount will likely split first-team reps in the Patriots’ backfield this season.

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