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Adrian Peterson looks forward to catching more passes

Adrian Peterson AP

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has healed sufficiently from his groin surgery that he was able to participate in the Vikings’ minicamp this week.

Still, it’s three straight offseasons with surgery for Peterson and the Vikings have talked about cutting down on his carries in hopes of keeping Peterson healthier and fresher as the season moves into the final stages. One way they’ll be doing that is by using Peterson as a receiver more frequently in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense, something Peterson said he’s looking forward to putting into motion.

“It’s all about winning,” Peterson said, via the Pioneer Press. “I’m trying to win a championship. If that’s taking less of a pounding, and being more productive in the passing game, I’m all in for it. Any way we can get that done, I’m all in for it.”

Wide receiver Greg Jennings said his head was spinning earlier this week as a result of the diverse options Turner is installing in hopes of creating a more productive attack in 2014 and the change in orders for Peterson signals a more balanced approach will be a big part of what Turner has planned.

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Colts want to interview Ravens’ Eric DeCosta for G.M. job

John Harbaugh News Conference Getty Images

Eric DeCosta has been the right-hand man to Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome for two decades, and for most of that time other teams have viewed DeCosta as a strong candidate to become a G.M. himself. Unfortunately for those other teams, DeCosta has consistently declined opportunities to leave Baltimore.

The Colts hope to change that: Albert Breer of reports that the Colts have requested permission to interview DeCosta for their G.M. opening.

Would DeCosta have any interest in working for the Colts when he has shown little interest in leaving Baltimore for other teams? He might, for a couple reasons.

For one, he has a good relationship with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who was a Ravens assistant for four years before he went to Indianapolis. For another, the Colts have Andrew Luck, which would mean the hardest part of a G.M.’s job — finding a franchise quarterback — is already done in Indianapolis.

Still, getting DeCosta to Indianapolis seems like a long shot. DeCosta has indicated many times that he’s happy where he is, and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has indicated that DeCosta will get the top job in the Baltimore front office when Ozzie Newsome retires. Getting DeCosta to change course and move on to the Colts would be a big coup for Jim Irsay.

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Todd Gurley: 2016 a “nightmare” I don’t want to experience again

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, right, runs the ball while under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Eric Murray during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) AP

Shortly before the Rams fired Jeff Fisher as their head coach, running back Todd Gurley shared his feeling that the team was running a middle school offense and that some players on the team were just going through the motions as a losing season ran its course.

While Gurley’s comments about the offense would seem to be directed at the people in charge of installing it and calling the plays, he said on The Rich Eisen Show Tuesday that his frustration was with the players. There were “too many mental errors from everybody, including myself.”

It’s not anything that Gurley wants to experience again.

“Like a nightmare. I still can’t believe the season,” Gurley said. “It was definitely a tough year, a learning experience for me. To be 4-12 this year? I don’t want to feel that feeling again.”

The Rams have a new coach in Sean McVay and one of the first things he can do to help chart a winning course is find a way to get Gurley back to the kind of effectiveness he had as a rookie. Gurley ran for 1,106 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per carry in 2015, but dropped to 3.2 yards per attempt in 2016 while never hitting 100 yards in a game, leaving plenty of room for improvement for a player expected to be a building block of better Rams offenses.

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Mike Tomlin didn’t see Antonio Brown pouting, will “continue to challenge him”

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers congratulates wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 following the Steelers win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

After a week filled with plenty of discussion about his decision to post video from the team’s locker room on social media, wide receiver Antonio Brown had a quiet game in the Steelers’ season-ending loss to the Patriots.

The aftermath of that game hasn’t been without some drama where Brown is concerned, however. Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media reported that the Steelers are concerned that Brown puts too much focus on his personal statistics and not enough on what’s best for the team. The report went on to say Brown was pouting after a DeAngelo Williams touchdown against the Patriots and that coach Mike Tomlin spoke to Brown about the issue in 2015.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Tomlin said that he didn’t see Brown pouting during the game and was asked more generally about where things stood with Brown heading into the offseason.

“We all need to get better in all areas,” Tomlin said. “I am going to continue to challenge him in the way I have challenged him over the course of his career to continue to find new ways to be an impact player for us. To continue to grow within the role that is his role on this team. He is a dynamic player. There are responsibilities that come with being a dynamic player, I am going to ask him to continue to grow in those areas.”

Tomlin said those things were important for all players, but they seem particularly big for Brown as he enters the final year of his current contract. When discussing the locker room video, Tomlin said incidents like that are “often why you see great players move from team to team.”

With Ben Roethlisberger talking about the possibility of not playing next season and issues involving Brown front and center, there will be plenty of attention on how things play out in Pittsburgh over the coming months.

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Brandon Spikes disputes lawsuit from The Fish Guy

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 28:  Brandon Spikes #51 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are two sides to every story, and soon-to-be-free agent linebacker Brandon Spikes disputes the claims of The Fish Guy who is carping about not getting paid.

Instead, Spikes is portraying Joshua Wolfson as a bit of a fish-killer.

Spikes’ agent David Canter said that Spikes hired Wolfson to service his tank in 2011, and that he moved his tank three times. The first resulted in a failure of the tank and the death of about half his fish, but fish die sometimes, so Spikes continued to employ him.

When it was time to move to Buffalo, Wolfson advised Spikes to buy a new tank and installed it, at which point more fish died. A local fish tank service in Buffalo said the filters were improperly set up and the tank was all wrong for the type of fish Spikes had, leading Spikes to buy another tank in an effort to save the remaining fish.

Since he lost a bunch of fish and had two buy two tanks, Spikes decided to not pay The Fish Guy, which led to a threat of countersuit. When Spikes rejoined the Bills and had paychecks again, The Fish Guy filed a motion to garnish his wages, and Spikes’ lawyers have filed a motion to vacate that judgement.

As you can tell, this is different from Wolfson’s story of the veteran linebacker being a piker, and not just something they’re doing for the halibut.

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Should any team trust Johnny Manziel?

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 27:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns watches from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Johnny Football is all about football.

That was the mantra three years ago, with Manziel focused solely and exclusively on football in the months preceding the draft. He was so obsessed with football and only football that a day trip to Nike headquarters in Oregon prompted a “Hey, I thought you were only focusing on football?” reaction.

Manziel was so obsessed with football that he wouldn’t even do radio interviews aimed at talking about (wait for it) football. He carefully crafted an image regarding a player who “gets it” and who has left childish ways behind and who was ready to be a productive NFL player and who, once he was drafted, immediately reverted to the immature, party-loving, not-hard-working player he had been.

After an offseason featuring money phones and inflatable swans and rolled-up dollar bills and a regular season that included stories of a non-franchise-quarterback’s work ethic, Manziel spent more than 10 weeks in rehab. The Browns stood by him as he made the changes necessary to get his life on track.

During the 2015 season, the wheels came off, with Manziel again embraced to his hardy partying ways, a trend that continued through the end of the campaign, prompting his father to muse that the end literally could be coming and sparking a firing by not one but two agents.

The problems continued, from a domestic violence incident to a wrecked car to a trashed rental home to a spindly build that looked like anything but a quarterback’s physique. He finally disappeared from view when he returned to Texas A&M, and now he’s back, openly campaigning for an NFL job a week before he’ll be selling autographs and selfies in conjunction with the Super Bowl in Houston.

If he’s not merely looking to stir up interest in next week’s money grab, Manziel will need to do a lot more than delete his Twitter account in order to get back to the NFL. He’ll need to win the trust of a team, and at this point who would trust him?

A fanboy trip to the AFC Championship hardly suggests the kind of transformation he’ll need in order to secure a spot on the most important aspect of any team’s depth chart. Every quarterback has a key role on an NFL team. Beyond the starter, the No. 2 and No. 3 players are there to support the No. 1 guy and help prepare the rest of the team, offensively and defensively.

It’s not a position for a charity case or redemption story. With multiple past instances of Manziel mimicking Eddie Haskell, there’s no reason to believe that he truly has changed or that he’ll remain changed.

If from a talent standpoint Manziel were potentially the next Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Russell Wilson, things would be different. Manziel isn’t.

Even if fully and completely engaged, he’s a limited NFL player with a limited NFL game who has squandered his opportunities and who simply doesn’t deserve another one at the expense of some other quarterback who has checked all the right boxes and done all the right things and who, above all else, can be trusted not to create a host of distractions in new and innovative ways.

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Report: Colts want to interview Chris Ballard for G.M. job

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: An Indianapolis Colts helmet sits on the sidelines during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 29, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts kicked off their search for a new General Manager by firing Ryan Grigson last weekend and the list of candidates they’re putting together will look familiar to anyone who has been keeping an eye on the 49ers’ search.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the team has requested permission to interview Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard. He joins Packers exec Eliot Wolf, Vikings exec George Paton, interim G.M. Jimmy Raye and Seahawks co-player personnel directors Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer on their list.

The Chiefs blocked Ballard from interviewing for the opening with the 49ers, but their ability to do that ended once their season ended with a loss to the Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs. There was also a report that Ballard was not interested in interviewing with other teams, so we’ll have to see if the new opening in Indianapolis leads to a different outcome.

All of the candidates identified in Indianapolis were in the mix for the 49ers opening, although Paton is the only one still in the running. He’s expected to interview with the 49ers a second time on Saturday.

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Terry McDonough to get second interview with 49ers


While many have pulled out, the 49ers do still have candidates for their General Manager opening.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Cardinals executive Terry McDonough is expected to have his second interview with the 49ers Saturday.

And since Saturday is the day Falcons offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Kyle Shanahan can talk to the 49ers, that meeting will presumably take place in Atlanta.

McDonough, the Cardinals vice president of player personnel, has gotten an endorsement from former 49ers coach Mike Nolan, and is one of few known remaining candidates.

Minnesota’s George Paton is also still apparently in the mix, though the Colts want to talk to him as well.

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Johnny Manziel is done with Twitter “distraction”

johnny-manziel.vresize.1200.675.high.90 Getty Images

Not long after former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel sent the President of the United States some advice about social media via social media, he deleted his social media account.

Now, he says he got out of the Twitter business because it was a “distraction” for him as he tries to get back to the NFL.

“Twitter has been nothing but a distraction for me. I’ve said all I can say,” Manziel told TMZ Sports. “Now I need to shut the hell up and work on bettering myself and my situation.”

This came after tweeting at President Donald Trump with the suggestion to forego the notifications, saying it “will drive you crazy.”

Manziel has said he’s sober and wants another chance to get back into the league. And while getting rid of Twitter doesn’t necessarily move him closer to that goal, it could at least reduce one factor which could might slow that progress.

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Bill Belichick: Falcons look faster than almost every team they play

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Vic Beasley Jr. #44 celebrates a sack with Grady Jarrett #97 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots haven’t faced the Falcons since the 2013 season and Atlanta’s team has changed considerably since they lost to the Patriots 30-23 on their way to a 4-12 season.

Belichick outlined one of the biggest differences he sees in this year’s Falcons team when he fielded a question about the stamp Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has put on the team. After noting that he worked with Dimitroff’s father when both men were with the Browns and with Dimitroff when he was in charge of college scouting in New England, Belichick noted Atlanta is “explosive offensively” and pointed to how fast the Falcons are playing on defense.

“I’d say the stamp on the team, the thing that I would notice the most is just the speed, the team speed that the Falcons have,” Belichick said during a conference call. “They have a lot of fast guys. Defensively they close up space very quickly. Their linebackers run well. Their defensive line, although they have a couple of big, strong, physical guys in there, overall they have usually nine or 10 players on the field that I would say are fast. They’re either as fast or faster than probably what the average speed of their position is in the league. I’d say that’s a big stamp that he has put on the team.”

Later in the call, Belichick said that he saw similarities between the Falcons defense and the one Dan Quinn ran when he was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks. That unit hasn’t posted the same kind of results as the Seattle one did on their way to a 28-24 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago, but they’ll get a chance at gaining a better result in Houston.

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Colts ask for permission to talk to Eliot Wolf about G.M. job

Mike McCarthy, Eliot Wolf AP

Eliot Wolf got another raise out of the Packers after pulling out of the running for the 49ers job. He may be about to parlay a surprise opening into another one.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the Colts have asked for permission to interview Wolf for the job formerly held by Ryan Grigson.

The Packers blocked the 34-year-old Wolf from interviewing with the Lions last offseason, but that’s reasonable considering their presence in the same division.

It’s also reasonable to wonder if they’ll be talking to Wolf’s co-worker Brian Gutekunst as well, since he also interviewed with the 49ers.

The Colts are also expected to interview the Seattle tandem of Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, along with Minnesota’s George Paton and internal candidate Jimmy Raye III.

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Saints angering teams by taking Senior Bowl players off site for interviews


We have our first mildly interesting story to emerge from Senior Bowl week.

Per multiple sources, the Saints have been taking Senior Bowl players off site for interviews. This has been rubbing other teams the wrong way because it takes time to get the players off site, interview them, and bring them back. With limited total time for the interviews, that makes it hard for every team to interview every player it wants to interview.

As one source explained it, many of the players become confused when they are driven away, but they don’t know to say no.

The Saints aren’t breaking any rules, and some of the blame should go to the folks running the Senior Bowl for letting it happen. Regardless, teams aren’t happy about it, and if that’s the biggest problem to emerge from the week in Mobile, Alabama, it’s not a bad week.

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It’s time for the Steelers to get their next starting quarterback under contract

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with his teammates on the sideline during the second half against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when it’s fair to explore the message being sent by the Steelers via the leaks regarding Antonio Brown, it’s more than appropriate for the Steelers to explore the message being sent by the comments from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s regarding his future.

In not committing automatically to a return in 2017, the soon-to-be-35-year-old quarterback said, given his age, “that’s the smart and prudent thing to do every year.”

Signed through 2019, Roethlisberger would be walking away from $12 million in 2017, $17 million in 2018, and $17 million in 2019. Perhaps most importantly, he’d owe the team $18.6 million if he quits now, $12.4 million a year from now, and $6.2 million in 2019 in signing bonus money that previously was paid to him.

For that reason alone, it’s unlikely that he’ll be leaving. Nevertheless, the Steelers need to start thinking immediately about a replacement.

For 20 years, the Steelers had a revolving door at quarterback between the careers of Terry Bradshaw and Roethlisberger. They went to only one Super Bowl during that window.

Franchise quarterbacks are very hard to find, especially when a team typically drafts in the bottom half of round one. Still, it’s time for the Steelers to fully evaluate all quarterbacks in each and every draft and decide whether and when to pull the trigger on a Roethlisberger replacement.

Roethlisberger may not like the decision to use a first- or second-round pick on a quarterback. Based on his comments from Tuesday, however, he has no basis for complaining.

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Steelers bring Karlos Williams back for another chance

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Karlos Williams #29 of the Buffalo Bills avoids Demario Davis #56 of the New York Jets to score a third quarter touchdown at MetLife Stadium on November 12, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now that there’s some mystery about whether the Steelers will have a Big Ben in their future, they can at least take comfort in having a Big Karlos under contract.

The team announced that they signed 11 players to future contracts Tuesday, including large running back Karlos Williams.

Williams was cut by the Bills last summer after showing up for camp out of shape, blaming his condition on sympathy pounds gained with his pregnant fiancee. But he lost weight and gained it back, and they cut him and went on to lead the league in rushing.

When he’s been in shape Williams has been productive, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring seven touchdowns in 2015. Williams was also suspended 10 games by the league in November for a second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but the Steelers apparently saw fit to give him another chance anyway. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the remainder of his suspension has been lifted by the league.

The Steelers also signed nine other players who spent time on their practice squad this season, including running backs Gus Johnson, Brandon Brown-Dukes, and Dreamius Smith, cornerbacks Brandon Dixon and Mike Hilton, offensive linemen Keavon Milton and Matt Feiler, safety Jacob Hagen, and wide receiver Marcus Tucker. They also added former Packers practice squad wide receiver Dez Stewart.

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Mike Tomlin not surprised Ben Roethlisberger is thinking of retiring

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Head coach Mike Tomlin speaks with Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New England Patriots during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s comment today that he is considering retirement came as a surprise to some people, but not to coach Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin told reporters today that he wants to keep coaching Roethlisberger but will understand if the soon-to-be 35-year-old Roethlisberger decides to walk away.

“Ben said it so you do take it seriously. I’m not alarmed by it, that’s football. Obviously, I’m hopeful he returns,” Tomlin said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Not surprised by that thought process by Ben. We’ll react and plan accordingly. We haven’t met yet. He’s one of last I meet with.”

Although Roethlisberger is still a good starting quarterback, given his age it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him quit this offseason. Tomlin said the Steelers will plan accordingly for the possibility that they’ll be building a new offense with a new quarterback in 2017.

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Philip Rivers ends search for AFC’s final Pro Bowl quarterback

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 01:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers runs off the field after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 37-27 in a game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL had a hard time finding a quarterback to join the AFC team at this week’s Pro Bowl, but their search has come to an end.

Philip Rivers of the Chargers will take the spot vacated by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this week. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian were previously invited, but recent surgeries meant they had to turn down the opportunity to go to Orlando.

Rivers was the one turning down an invitation the last two years as injuries and personal reasons led him to pass on a chance to play in the annual exhibition. He has played in three other Pro Bowls.

He will join Andy Dalton and Alex Smith in an all-replacement quarterback group for the AFC. Tom Brady and Derek Carr joined Roethlisberger as those initially named for the contest.

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