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Chris Johnson is at the Jets’ facility

Chris Johnson AP

The Jets’ interest in free agent running back Chris Johnson wasn’t just talk.

Johnson is actually at the Jets’ facility this morning for a visit with team officials, Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported and PFT has confirmed.

If the Jets were to sign Johnson this week, they’d have him in the fold for the start of their offseason conditioning program, which begins on Monday.

In the week since Johnson officially became a free agent when the Titans cut him, the Jets have been the team most frequently discussed as a potential destination for him. Although Johnson averaged a career-low 3.9 yards a carry last season, he still has big-play ability and could be a good fit in the offense, paired with fellow running back Chris Ivory. It wouldn’t be surprising to see something happen quickly.

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Sanchez: We need another guy to throw, that’s why we signed Tebow

Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez AP

Mark Sanchez thinks Tim Tebow is a camp arm.

Sanchez told CSNPhilly.com that he’s been told Tebow was signed as another quarterback to give the receivers some work because Sam Bradford is still not 100 percent.

“He’s obviously a great guy, he works hard. And we needed another guy to throw while Sam’s still recovering,” Sanchez said. “So that’s the reason [for the signing], at least as explained to me. We’re excited about the upcoming year and I think we have a great group.”

But that reason makes no sense. If the Eagles just wanted another guy to throw, there are dozens of quarterbacks with better arms than Tebow who could do that job.

Where Tebow potentially has value to a team is in the things he can do beyond throwing the football: Tebow is good at escaping the pocket under pressure, good at making something happen when a play breaks down and good at managing the clock when his team is trailing in the fourth quarter. There’s value in those skills, which is why Tebow had some success as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

But as a passer, Tebow is limited, which is why he has completed only 47.9 percent of his passes in his NFL career.

So while Sanchez may have been told that Tebow is just a camp arm, Chip Kelly must have other plans. If the Eagles wanted a camp arm, they would’ve signed someone with a better arm than Tebow.

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Dan Marino wouldn’t trade the Hall of Fame for a Super Bowl ring

Marino Getty Images

Dan Marino is on the short list of the greatest players never to win a championship, and he’s just fine with that.

Appearing at a Pro Football Hall of Fame function on Friday, Marino was asked whether he would trade the gold jacket that comes with Hall of Fame induction for a Super Bowl ring. Marino’s one-word answer: “No.”

Enshrinement in Canton represents the greatest individual achievement a pro football player can aspire to, and Marino isn’t just in Canton, but he’s even among the elite in the Hall of Fame, an easy choice as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

And yet a Super Bowl ring is what every player is playing for every year, and although this is probably unfair, virtually every story about Marino’s career mentions the absence of a ring.

Marino’s comments are reminiscent of a story from a couple years ago, when LaDainian Tomlinson said he’d take the Hall of Fame over a Super Bowl ring, while Tedy Bruschi shot back that a ring is the greater accomplishment. Tomlinson, of course, never got a ring but will likely get to the Hall of Fame, while Bruschi isn’t going to Canton but does have three Super Bowl rings.

Marino’s comments may be an accurate representation of the status of enshrinement in Canton as the greatest achievement for a football player. Or they may just be an attempt to look on the bright side on the one count where Marino’s career fell short.

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Report: LSU’s Jalen Collins has multiple failed drug tests

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

Timing is everything in life.

And if you’re a fringe first-round prospect, having bad news emerge in the week before the 2015 NFL Draft is particularly poorly timed.

Via Albert Breer of the NFL Network, citing sources with four teams, LSU cornerback Jalen Collins had “multiple failed tests” for drugs during his college days.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily have to ruin his prospects, as a former teammate with a similar rap sheet has gone on to have a productive and positive start to his career.

But teams will also have to weigh his ability at a coveted position against the possibility that he might not be able to keep himself eligible.

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Greg Hardy has to abandon his Bentley on a flooded street

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When it rains, it pours.

Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy capped off a memorable first full week of work in Dallas by having to abandon his Bentley when flood-waters rose around it.

According to WFAA, the Bentley was ditched near the intersection of Interstate 35 and Continental Avenue. Hardy returned to take some personal items from the car, but declined comment on anything to the news crew, before leaving in a white Ferrari while the Bentley was being pulled from the water.

Of course, this was the same day he was involved in a verbal altercation with a teammate while working out, an incident that escalated when defensive tackle Davon Coleman made reference to the domestic violence which led to his 10-game suspension.

So yeah, he’s had better weeks.

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Roger Goodell says both Los Angeles stadium projects look good

Roger Goodell AP

St. Louis officials might have felt good about what they told the NFL this week.

But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that not one but two Los Angeles projects are also appealing to the league, based on what he’s seen of both stadium plans.

Speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors Friday, Goodell said both the Inglewood site being planned by Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the Carson location being proposed for the Chargers and Raiders were both “viable” and have a “great deal of potential to be successful.”

We had presentations earlier this week that are very exciting,” Goodell said, via Barry Wilner of the Associated Press. “Not just for a return but to continue being successful going forward.”

He also suggested the timetable is accelerating, with the currently January 2016 window for applying for relocation could be moving up.

Goodell said he thought the St. Louis group was making progress, though it’s unclear if it’s too late to keep the Rams, as Kroenke has practically placed shovels next to the ground ready to move dirt in Inglewood.

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NFL moves on from ATC spotters with team affiliations

Spotter Getty Images

The ATC spotter charged with scanning the field for evidence of players in distress now has unprecedented power:  The ability to stop the game and direct the officials to remove a player for further evaluation.

Given the potential for that power to be abused through, for example, the erroneous perception that a quarterback needs to be removed from the game for evaluation on a key play late in the game, the NFL has decided to ensure that the ATC spotters have the appearance of independence.

According to the league office, any ATC spotter who has worked as an athletic trainer at any time for a team or who has been employed by any NFL team within the prior 20 years was relieved of their duties on Friday.

“It was done to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with the new safety rule change regarding the medical timeout that was passed last month,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarth told PFT by email.

While that amounted to only 12 of the 64 spotters, the 12 presumably aren’t happy.  One of the 12, who requested anonymity, expressed strong disagreement with the move.

“It’s sad to me that the NFL overreacts in this way, so as to put people who are much less able to know what’s going on down on the field (since they’ve never been there, as an Athletic Training Intern, ATC, or otherwise) and are going to be calling and stopping play for things that are not necessary,” the now-former ATC spotter said.

The move underscores the unprecedented authority that the ATC spotter will have, along with the league’s ongoing responsibility to ensure that it’s exercised properly.  It also arguably underscores the need for ensuring that potential conflicts of interest be avoided for other league employees with influence on the game — an issue with which Patriots fans have become acutely familiar in the wake of the #DeflateGate scandal.

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Norv Turner tells Bridgewater doubters where to stick their brooms

New York Jets v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

A year ago, when the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the NFL draft, there were plenty of doubts. After Bridgewater’s lousy Pro Day workout, some around the NFL believed he simply lacked the physical tools to become a franchise quarterback.

A year later, after Bridgewater showed a lot of promise as a rookie, the Vikings are feeling pretty good about their pick, and Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is taking shots at those who doubted Bridgewater. Noting that one of the drills Bridgewater struggled with at his Pro Day involved throwing passes over upraised brooms, Turner said anyone who downgraded Bridgewater over that is a fool.

“Someone should take those brooms and shove them up someone’s backside,” Turner told ESPN.

Turner’s son Scott Turner, the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach, said Bridgewater made up for his poor Pro Day with a good private workout with the Vikings, and that alleviated any concerns.

“We didn’t think he put forth his best effort on his Pro Day, but we weren’t sounding alarms like the whole world was at the time,” Scott Turner said. “That [private] workout answered those questions for us, positively.”

A whole lot of teams are now wishing they hadn’t dropped Bridgewater on their boards just because he couldn’t throw over a broom.

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Unnamed scout on Kevin White: “He’s like Larry Fitzgerald”

TCU West Virginia Football AP

West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White is just about a lock to hear his name called in the first round of next week’s draft, with all but the matter of whether he’ll be the first player at his position to be taken to be decided.

In his latest mock draft, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris projected the Mountaineers star to come off the board at No. 7 to Chicago, calling White one of “a handful of foundation pieces in this draft.”

As a senior at West Virginia, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound White hauled in 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. He then proceeded to run an impressive 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

White also received some high praise in Nolan Nawrocki’s 2015 NFL Draft Preview. In White’s scouting report, Nawrocki quoted an unnamed scout who called the West Virginia receiver “the top player in the East hands down.”

Said the unnamed scout: “He is the reason they are in every game. He’s like Larry Fitzgerald.”

On PFT Live in March, White said Fitzgerald, the Cardinals’ star receiver, had given him good advice about competing in the NFL.

“He’s kind of like my mentor, somebody that I look up to that’s in the NFL,” White said.

The No. 3 overall pick 11 years ago, Fitzgerald has had a stellar career, one that figures to garner him serious Hall of Fame consideration. If White is in the same ballpark as Fitzgerald in terms of impact, some club is going to be very happy to have turned in a card with his name on it next Thursday in Chicago.

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Winston initially kept crab leg incident from Harbaugh, Fisch

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The primary headline this week regarding quarterback Jameis Winston arose from his about-face regarding the notion that he shoplifted crab legs from a grocery store in 2014.  Setting aside for now the question of whether Winston’s latest version of the events is accurate (Deadspin has made a persuasive case that it isn’t), there’s more to the story.

Specifically, there’s more to the story of how the story emerged.  Specifically, Winston initially omitted the story about the crab legs when generally asked about getting in trouble in the past.

In the episode of ESPN’s Draft Academy during which Winston provided an alternative version of the crab-leg caper, Winston and quarterback Bryce Petty met with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch as part of the preparation process for interviews at the Scouting Combine.

Harbaugh at one point asked Winston, “Any discipline when you were in high school?”

“Yes sir,” Winston said.  “I was disciplined for one game against John Carroll for laughing at my coach ’cause he cried, and he felt that I disrespected him.”

“What about in college?” Harbaugh said.

“In college, I got disciplined for a game against Clemson for standing up on a table and saying something wrong,” Winston said.  “That’s the only time I got disciplined in college.”

“Any encounters with the police?” Harbaugh said.

Winston then explained the incident involving a BB gun fight while hunting squirrels.

“The police had rolled up on us and thought I had an assault rifle,” Winston said.

Winston said nothing about the crab legs, for which he was cited for shoplifting and suspended from the Florida State baseball team.  Fisch pointed out the failure to mention the crab legs, and Winston reacted as if he’d forgotten about it.

“That’s like the elephant in the room for you,” Fisch said.  “I mean, everyone’s going to want to know what happened.  So don’t like by accident only talk about the BB gun and your high school coach crying and forget about the fact that everybody on SportsCenter read about that incident.  Because then it looks like you’re covering it up or you’re hiding it.”

“I screwed up, I f–ked up,” Harbaugh suggested as a quick way to deal with the situation.  “I f–ked up, learned from it.  You know, be serious as a heart attack.”

Then the alternative story emerged.

“How am I supposed to handle like if I just got them for free?” Winston said.

And that’s when Winston offered up the same version that he undoubtedly later gave to anyone from the NFL who asked him the question at the Scouting Combine or elsewhere.

For teams that already have decided that they’re comfortable with Winston, this surely won’t change their minds.  For teams that already have decided they’re not, it definitely won’t.  But for anyone still on the fence, maybe it will have an impact.

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Ray Rice tells Rutgers football players to “not make the mistakes that I made”

Navy v Rutgers Getty Images

Before Rutgers held its spring football game Friday night, a prominent former Scarlet Knights star addressed the team:

Ray Rice.

Rice, the former Ravens running back who has been out of the NFL since being released by the Ravens in September, told Steve Politi of New Jersey Advance Media he wanted to give the current Rutgers players some life advice.

“I just shot them straight. I’m sure if you speak to them, they’ll give you a lot better explanation of what I told them, but I gave them the message to go out there and not make the mistakes that I made,” Rice told Politi. “If I can help them understand, then I’ve made an impact. It costs no money to give them a good message like that.”

Rice was released by Baltimore after video surfaced of him striking his now-wife in an Atlantic City elevator. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who asked Rice to talk to his players, told New Jersey Advance Media the former star running back had some valuable knowledge to share.

” . . . Ray made the wrong decision, and he’s held himself accountable to it, and he’s paid the price for it, and I thought today was an opportunity for him to deliver a message to try to prevent one of our young people doing that in the future,” Flood told Politi.

Rice rushed for nearly 5,000 yards in just three seasons at Rutgers and is the school’s all-time leading rusher.

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Irsay says it’s not “Super Bowl or bust” for Pagano

Irsay Getty Images

Last month, a report emerged that the Colts and coach Chuck Pagano aren’t expected to strike a new deal before the final year of his contract expires.  Owner Jim Irsay has remained silent, fueling speculation that Pagano could be on the outs if the team doesn’t get to the Super Bowl.

Irsay has finally addressed the situation, opting to downplay the situation.

“These things are ongoing a lot of times behind the scenes,” Irsay said Friday night at a charity gala to support Pagano’s efforts to raise funds to fight cancer, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star.  “We’re working on contracts, whether it’s management, coaches, players.  We had discussions and it doesn’t mean that they won’t continue.  It’s not a Super Bowl-or-bust season or anything like that.”

Irsay’s comments leave the door open for a new deal before the season begins.

“Really, it’s only been two years, kind of, that he’s been coaching,” Irsay said, referring to the fact that Pagano missed most of his first year with the team while fighting cancer.  “So, he’s done a very good job and nothing rules out that we couldn’t have an extension done before the season.  And if not, we can still, I’m sure, work things out.”

Irsay said talks already have occurred regarding a new contract.  And Irsay seemed to blame the lack of a new contract on Pagano’s agent.

“There were some efforts to talk about it,” Irsay said.  “We just didn’t get there.  Sometimes that happens.  If you go back to the old days, there were no agents involved, either.  Now General Managers and coaches sometimes have agents. In fact, oftentimes. . . .  We’re real positive about Chuck Pagano and the things that he’s done.  It’s not a sign of anything extremely negative.  We just haven’t gotten anything done in terms of a long-term contract.”

Irsay’s words suggest that the absence of a contract doesn’t result from his reluctance to commit to Pagano, but from Pagano’s reluctance to commit to the terms the team has offered.  Which could set the stage not for Irsay to fire Pagano but for Pagano to walk away.

If he does, the vacancy in Indianapolis, with the presence of quarterback Andrew Luck, would become the most attractive job in the 2016 hiring cycle.

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Jets safety Jaiquawn Jarrett signs RFA tender

Jaiquawn Jarrett AP

A former second-round pick of the Eagles who’s rebuilt his career with the Jets has officially re-signed with New York.

Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, a restricted free agent, inked his one-year tender with the Jets on Friday, the club said.

The 25-year-old Jarrett started 5-of-14 games for the Jets in 2014, recording 40 tackles and intercepting two passes. Overall, he’s played 30-of-32 games with New York over the last two seasons. Jarrett will vie for playing time in a safety corps that includes 2014 first-round pick Calvin Pryor and ex-Charger Marcus Gilchrist.

A Temple product, Jarrett was the No. 54 overall selection in 2011. However, he lasted just 13 games with Philadelphia, which waived him early in the 2012 campaign. Nevertheless, Jarrett overcame that setback and earned his way back into the NFL, and he will be able to test unrestricted free agency after this season.

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Buccaneers re-sign RB Bobby Rainey

Bobby Rainey, Will Sutton AP

Running back Bobby Rainey has signed his one-year contract offer from the Buccaneers, the club said Friday afternoon.

A restricted free agent, Rainey was tendered a one-year, $1.542 million contract.

The 27-year-old Rainey has been one of the Buccaneers’ reserve tailbacks over the last two seasons. He rushed for 406 yards and racked up 315 yards receiving for Tampa Bay in 2014, appearing in 15 games (five starts). Rainey previously had stints with Baltimore and Cleveland.

Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Mike James and Rainey are the top veteran options in the backfield for Tampa Bay. A three-year starter, Martin has struggled to regain top form after a promising rookie season.

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Eagles withdraw restricted free agent offer to Chris Polk

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

Friday is the final day for restricted free agents to solicit offers from other teams, but that won’t stop running back Chris Polk from talking to teams other than the Eagles.

Polk was tendered at the original round level by the Eagles, which gave them the right to match any outside bid for Polk’s services. Polk didn’t sign his tender and didn’t sign an offer sheet with anyone else, but the league’s daily transaction report for Friday shows that the Eagles have withdrawn their $1.54 million tender offer for Polk’s services.

That makes Polk, who ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns last season, an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any other team at any point. That should give him an opportunity to find a home with fewer players in front of him on the depth chart as playing time in Philly figured to be sparse with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles on the depth chart.

Whether he’ll find that spot on a depth chart before the draft is unclear. The general consensus is that it is a deep draft for running backs and teams may opt for younger backs before considering adding Polk to the mix.

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St. Louis stadium leaders optimistic about their efforts

Dave Peacock, Bob Blitz AP

The group trying to build a new stadium in St. Louis had a chance to pitch their plan to the NFL this week, and they apparently think it went well.

Stadium task force leader David Peacock said he was encouraged by the feedback he got from the league, as they try to build something that will either keep the Rams or attract another team if Stan Kroenke takes his to California.

We’re going to continue down the path we’re on,” Peacock told the Associated Press. “There was nothing coming out of this meeting to make us change course.”

Peacock and Robert Blitz didn’t get into many of the specifics of their 40-minute presentation, saying they showed league officials revised stadium plans and a video presentation about the $1 billion project.

Of course, there’s also the small matter of coming up with that money, as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon believes they can extend the bonds funding the Edward Jones Dome (i.e. public money) to pay up to $400 million, with seat licenses representing another $150 million. That leaves around $450 million for the league and Kroenke to come up with.

Of course, Kroenke seems intent on spending his money in Inglewood instead, so the civic effort in St. Louis might be pitching that plan to someone else.

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