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Jaguars land Marqise Lee at No. 39

marqiselee AP

The Jaguars, who are prepared to not have star wideout Justin Blackmon for the 2014 season, have brought in some more help at the position, selecting USC’s Marqise Lee No. 39 overall on Friday.

There were multiple reports regarding potential concerns about Lee’s knee, but there is no doubting Lee’s production at Southern Cal. In three seasons, he hauled in 248 passes for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Lee (5-11, 192) could be an immediate contributor in a Jaguars receiving corps that has some intriguing young talent even if Blackmon is not reinstated from an NFL suspension, with Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders and Mike Brown among Jacksonville’s veteran options at the position.

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Bernard Pierce cleared to practice without restrictions

Bernard Pierce AP

The Ravens are expecting the league to be fair when it comes to discipline for running back Ray Rice in the wake of his offseason arrest for assaulting his wife in Atlantic City, but there aren’t many people who expect that Rice will be available for use in the opening weeks of the season.

Assuming that’s the case, there’s a big job waiting for Bernard Pierce if he’s healthy enough to take it after offseason shoulder surgery. Pierce made good progress during the offseason and that has continued into the summer with Pierce announcing that he’s been cleared to take part in practice without any restrictions.

“My shoulder definitely got a lot better,” Pierce said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I know that this is when the real grind starts. It was strenuous today, but overall it was definitely helpful.”

Pierce’s 2013 season was a nightmare of injuries and ineffectiveness, but he sounded optimistic that the change in offensive coordinators will pay off with better results this time around. Pierce said he has “a knack” for the “simpler” zone scheme that Gary Kubiak prefers to run. After the Ravens offense failed to catch fire last season, the team will be hoping that Pierce’s knack for the offense translates to the kind of results they’ll need to return to the playoffs.

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Falcons place Corey Peters, Zeke Motta on PUP list

Cam Newton, Corey Peters AP

Wide receiver Julio Jones has been cleared to practice in at least a limited fashion, but the Falcons will wait a little longer before giving two defensive players returning from injuries the green light to hit the practice field.

The Falcons announced that defensive tackle Corey Peters and safety Zeke Motta have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start training camp.

Peters re-signed with the Falcons this offseason on a one-year deal after an Achilles injury ended his 2013 season after 15 games. Peters said this offseason that he expects to be healthy in time for the start of the regular season, but putting him on the PUP list gives the Falcons the option of giving him more time to get ready in the event that things develop more slowly.

Motta suffered a cervical fracture in his neck in December and his status for the coming season is in doubt as a result. The Falcons announced earlier this month that wide receiver Drew Davis will also start camp on the PUP list after having foot surgery.

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Fisher says Sam hasn’t been a distraction

Fisher AP

With Tony Dungy explaining that he wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam because of the distractions that go along with having him on the team, the coach who drafted Sam has addressed whether and to what extent Sam has been a distraction.

“Absolutely not,” Jeff Fisher told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning on Wednesday.   “Let’s define distraction.  There were a couple of extra cameras during early OTAs.  There may have been an extra camera yesterday as rookies reported and went on the field the first time.  Mike’s a very passionate athlete.  He’s very focused on trying to make this football team. . . . He worked really hard during the summer, and he’s doing a good job.”

Fisher, who said that there will be no limits placed on Sam’s media availability during training camp, nevertheless has no issue with Dungy’s view on the matter.

“I’m gonna assume some that maybe things were taken out of context,” Fisher said.  “But everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.  Coaches are going to have differences of opinion during the draft. . . .  I’m not concerned.  Tony’s entitled to his opinion as everybody is and so are and right now we think we have a pretty good thing going.”

The Rams may have such a good thing going that Sam won’t be good enough to make the roster.  Fisher has said in the past that cutting Sam would be as normal a part of the broader process as drafting him.  Fisher hinted during Wednesday’s interview that, even as Sam improves as a player, he ultimately may not be regarded as being good enough.

“Unfortunately, one part of this business is releasing players and upgrading the roster and so on and so forth,” Fisher said.  “We let three players go yesterday who really have only been here for probably a month.  They’re better football players than when we signed them, and that’s where Mike is right now.  He’s a better football player because he’s committed himself to making this football team.”

Even with no distractions to date, scrutiny will arise if Fisher ultimately cuts Sam — especially with all those Rams jerseys bearing his name already being purchased.  And that’s surely one of the distractions Dungy would have been concerned about, even if his initial comments on the matter were omitted from Ira Kaufman’s article in the Tampa Tribune or if Kaufman opted not to ask the follow-up questions that would have drawn a more complete explanation from Dungy.

Dungy will be able to give a more complete explanation soon.  He’s scheduled to join The Dan Patrick Show in the 9:00 a.m. ET hour.

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Pat Bowlen’s wife says plan is to keep team in the family

Pat Bowlen AP

Even though Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is stepping away from the day-to-day operations of his team because of his Alzheimer’s disease, his wife said Wednesday the goal is to keep the team in the family.
“As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years,” said his wife Annabel Bowlen. “He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, ‘It’s not about me.’

“Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat’s health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition.
“Alzheimer’s has taken so much from Pat, but it will never take away his love for the Denver Broncos and his sincere appreciation for the fans.

His wife said that a plan was put in place years ago to keep the team in the family, a plan that is being implemented by team president Joe Ellis.

“My family will stand strong with Pat as he continues his courageous fight against a disease that is unfortunately all too common. One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s, and my family is experiencing the same difficult emotions that so many have felt when someone they love and respect is afflicted with this condition.”

Our thoughts are with the Bowlen family as they fight through the terrible disease.

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Rob Gronkowski good to go at Patriots camp

Rob Gronkowski AP

Less than eight months after suffering a torn ACL, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is ready to go.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed this morning that Gronkowski has been cleared by the team’s medical staff and will not be placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp.

That’s great news for the Patriots and Gronkowski, who has been plagued by injuries the last two years. Gronkowski played just seven games last year, but he recently said he expects to play 16 games this year.

The Patriots may take it easy on Gronkowski during training camp and the preseason in order to ensure that he’s 100 percent when Week One rolls around. But taking it easy on him is a choice, not a necessity. Gronkowski is ready to play.

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Buccaneers cut veteran corner D.J. Moore

D.J. Moore AP

Veteran cornerback D.J. Moore signed with the Buccaneers this offseason hoping to win their nickel job.

As it turns out, he won’t be winning any job.

The Bucs announced they cut Moore, and signed journeyman tackle J.B. Shugarts and undrafted linebacker Jeremy Grable.

Moore was a fourth-rounder by the Bears under coach Lovie Smith’s watch, and that was thought to give him an edge with Smith’s new team. But they also added free agents Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins to go with last year’s second-rounder Johnthan Banks, and think Leonard Johnson can play there as well.

This at least gives Moore a chance to catch on elsewhere. He had a cup of coffee with the Panthers last year, playing in two games.

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Henry Melton ready to go for Cowboys camp

Henry Melton AP

The Cowboys weren’t able to make wholesale changes to a bad defense, but they are getting one key piece back just in time.

According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, Melton will be cleared to take part in the first practice of training camp.

Melton hasn’t done any of the on-field OTAs after last year’s torn ACL, but he hasn’t missed any of his rehab sessions or suffered any setbacks. He has to pass his physical first, but that appears to be a non-issue.

Melton should be a significant part of any rebounding the Cowboys do. The former Bears franchise player fills the hole left by Jason Hatcher, and his back, and will need to anchor a young group under new coordinator Rod Marinelli.

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Brian Orakpo: Throw contract talk out the window

Brian Orakpo AP

Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo did not reach agreement on a multiyear contract with the team before July 15, which means that he’ll be playing out the 2014 season under the terms of the franchise tag.

That will pay Orakpo $11.45 million and make him a free agent again at the end of the season, leaving him well-paid for now but without much security over the long term. Orakpo said that the uncertainty about the future won’t be an issue this season.

“You can talk about contracts and this and that. Throw all that out the window, man,” Orakpo said, via the Washington Times. “I’m signed for the 2014 season. I need to go out there and make plays. I need to go out there and be a force. That’s what I’ve been working extremely hard at because this defense relies on myself to go out there and make big plays so we can get off the field. I’m not really a pressure guy.”

Orakpo doesn’t have much choice other than getting out there and being a force for the Redskins on defense this season. If he turns in a strong season coming off the edge, someone will be willing to pay him well to do it again in 2015. It may or may not be the Redskins, but that’s not worth worrying about now since nothing that can happen in terms of a contract until after the year comes to an end anyway.

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Dareus returns to Bills with renewed focus, he claims

Dareus AP

He appeared in court on Monday and then was unable (due to the weather) to get back to the team on Tuesday. Now, Bills defensive lineman Marcell Dareus returned.  And he celebrated not by drag racing a teammate but issuing a statement.

“After dealing with a personal matter in Alabama, I am excited to return to training camp to rejoin my teammates in our preparations for the 2014 season,” Dareus said in a quote issued by the team. “Right now, my focus is on earning the trust of my teammates, coaches and the fans while continuing to improve as a football player. I have a passion for this game and I want to be here to help this organization achieve its goals. There are things I need to work on professionally and personally to make sure I can be accountable to myself, my family, this team and this community. My focus will remain on achieving that goal one day at a time. I want to thank the Bills organization, Coach Marrone and the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support.”

One of those one-days-at-a-time presumably will include Dareus passing the pre-camp conditioning test, which he failed when he initially arrived at camp, drawing deserved criticism for failing to keep himself in a basic level of fitness at a time when football players find a way to stay in excellent shape throughout the year.

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Mike Brown says Marvin Lewis, Katie Blackburn now run the team

Marvin Lewis AP

Bengals owner Mike Brown, the son of team founder Paul Brown, has been so heavily involved in running the team that Mike Brown paid himself a $1 million General Manager bonus from 1991 through at least 2009. In the future, any such bonus could be going to someone else.

Brown tells Joe Danneman of FOX 19 that Brown no longer runs the show.

“They’re doing it now,” Brown said of his daughter, Katie Blackburn, and coach Marvin Lewis. “The ball’s been essentially handed off.”

Lewis told Danneman that Brown remains heavily involved, with Brown at the team facility “seven days a week.”

Even if Brown has handed off the ball, he deserves some of the praise for the team’s three consecutive playoff appearances. On that point, Brown opted for humility and self-deprecation.

“Do I take credit for that?” Brown said of the team’s success. “I wasn’t out there taking credit when it wasn’t going well, so maybe I ought to shut up and not take credit when it’s gone a little better.”

Even though things have improved, the Bengals still haven’t won a playoff game since the week before the January 1991 loss to the Raiders in a game far better known for a career-ending hip injury to one of the best running backs the game briefly saw.  This year, the Bengals hope to finally shed what very well could be the curse of Bo Jackson.

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Report: Chiefs, Charles have had talks on new deal

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Linebacker Justin Houston didn’t join the Chiefs for offseason work as he tried to leverage himself into a contract extension and the question of whether or not he’d report to training camp on time has been a big one in Kansas City.

It now has to make room for the question of whether or not running back Jamaal Charles will be there. Reports on Tuesday indicated that Charles will not report to camp on time in a holdout for a new deal that will pay him more money. Not everyone is convinced that Charles will be a no-show, however.

Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports that the Chiefs have had discussions about a new contract for Charles, who is set to make $3.9 million this year and $6 million next year under the terms of his current deal. Paylor also reports that the Chiefs “believe” Charles will report to camp with the other veterans on Wednesday whether or not they have agreed on a revised deal.

Charles’ desire for a new deal is a fairly strong one, given his importance to the Chiefs and the fact that his compensation ranks him below less effective backs as well as other members of the Chiefs offense. He’ll also be 29 when his current deal expires and that’s not a great age for a running back to sell himself on the open market.

It’s a headache the Chiefs don’t need with contract decisions to make on Houston and quarterback Alex Smith before they become free agents after the 2014 season, but one they appear to be willing to deal with if it means ensuring Charles is leading the offense again this season.

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Michael Sam pragmatic about Dungy comments

Sam AP

Former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy has said that he wouldn’t draft defensive end Michael Sam.  On Tuesday, Sam addressed the situation in a very pragmatic way.

“Thank God he wasn’t a St. Louis Rams coach,” Sam told reporters on Tuesday.  “But I have great respect for Tony Dungy. Like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” Sam said.

Dungy will join The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday to discuss his remarks in further detail, supplementing Tuesday’s statement explaining his remarks to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.  Also on the show will be the St. Louis Rams coach who welcomed the distractions that go with having an openly-gay player on the roster bubble and who may eventually conclude Sam hasn’t earned a roster spot, Jeff Fisher.

Sam already has shown he’s serious about getting one of the 53 jobs, dropping 13 pounds since the end of the offseason program in an effort to increase his speed so that he’ll be able to contribute on special teams.

“My job is to make this team, that’s my number one priority,” Sam said. ”Everything is faster and you want to make sure you are at a good weight and at good speed to compete at this level. It’s not college anymore, that’s child’s play compared to this.”

And “this” includes a high level of intensity both on the field and off the field. Especially as he continues his journey as the first openly-gay NFL player.

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Chargers, Danny Woodhead agree to two-year extension

San Diego Chargers running back Woodhead catches a first half touchdown pass against Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Carter during their NFL football game in San Diego Reuters

Chargers running back Danny Woodhead plans to stay in San Diego for at least three more years.

Woodhead and the Chargers have agreed on a two-year contract extension, which keeps him under contract through the 2016 season.

“Danny is an integral part of our offense,” said General Manager Tom Telesco. “His work ethic and on-field production were key elements last year. We look forward to having him be a part of the Chargers organization into the future.”

Woodhead initially entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Chadron State, where he was twice named the best player in Division II football. He played for the Jets from 2008 to 2010 before he was released and signed with the Patriots. In 2013 he left the Patriots to sign a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Chargers.

In his first year in San Diego last year, Woodhead caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns and carried 106 times for 429 yards and two touchdowns.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Khan AP

Bills WR Sammy Watkins is drawing comparisons to Randy Moss.

The Dolphins face long odds of getting to the Super Bowl.

Here’s the Patriots’ website on what to watch for at training camp.

The Jets plan to reward good fan behavior.

Ravens rookie C.J. Mosley says he’s grown a lot during his first couple months of work as a pro.

Browns LB Paul Kruger thinks Cleveland could win 10 or 11 games this season.

The Bengals have honored a local high school football coach.

Said Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler of rookie LB Ryan Shazier, “I don’t like to play rookies because defensive football there’s two things that can get you beat. One of them is missed tackles. The other one is mental mistakes. Normally when you try to learn this defense it’s going to take you a little while to do it. He understands concepts and picks things up a little bit easier than most rookies. I think Lawrence Timmons will help him and some of the other guys will help him learn to run this defense. We don’t have a choice whether we can play him or not. We’ve got to play him and we’ve got to be faster and we’ve got to win.”

The Texans waived FB Brad Smelley on Tuesday, leaving Jay Prosch as the only fullback on the roster.

Here’s a look at some of the Colts’ top newcomers.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan is showing off what life is like for a billionaire.

The Titans signed several free agents, but coach Ken Whisenhunt is this offseason’s most important addition.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning has a 98 rating in the Madden game.

Chiefs OT Eric Fisher has gained five pounds of lower body muscle.

Raiders rookie QB Derek Carr has been named the Mountain West Conference Male Athlete of the Year.

The Chargers career of OLB Larry English ended with a torn biceps while sacking Peyton Manning.

Said Cowboys C Travis Frederick of players voluntarily taking a conditioning test, “When the coaches said we weren’t going to have a conditioning test this year, a couple of the older guys wanted to make sure we had everybody in the right shape. Sometimes if you don’t do it, you’re not in the right shape and you’re not ready to practice.”

With Chris Snee retired, the Giants’ offensive line is a work in progress.

One broadcaster describes Eagles coach Chip Kelly as “brilliant.”

Washington coach Jay Gruden still wonders if he could have made it as an NFL quarterback.

The competition to replace Devin Hester as the Bears’ return man is wide open.

There’s a lot of hype in Detroit about Lions RB Theo Riddick.

Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt says Aaron Rodgers runs the offense as well as any quarterback runs any offense.

Said Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner of QB Teddy Bridgewater, “I think he probably should’ve gone in the first 10 picks. He probably should’ve gone at least in the first half of the first round, and then we’re sitting there with an opportunity to get him when we did, it was a bonus to me.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith wants his team to be bigger and stronger this year.

Panthers QB Cam Newton is embracing his role as a leader.

The Saints have signed NT Tyrone Ezell and LB Marcus Thompson.

The career of Bucs DE Da’Quan Bowers is at a crossroads as he enters training camp.

Antoine Bethea may be the biggest addition to the 49ers’ roster.

The Cardinals know that protecting QB Carson Palmer is paramount if they’re going to make it to the playoffs this year.

Said Rams OL Demetrius Rhaney, who was taken the pick after Michael Sam, of whether his high-profile teammate is a distraction, “He’s a football player, he’s not a bother. He’s laid-back, funny, jokes a lot. Pretty good.”

The Seahawks are at the top of PFT’s preseason power rankings, as well as some less important power rankings.

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Pat Bowlen stepping down from Broncos due to Alzheimer’s

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is stepping away from the organization to deal with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the 70-year-old Bowlen is relinquishing control of the Broncos to team president Joe Ellis so he can focus on his health.

It’s a really, really sad day,” Ellis told the Denver Post. “It’s sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It’s sad for everyone in the organization. And it’s sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It’s a day nobody wanted to see happen.”

Bowlen took a step back from the daily aspects of running the franchise in 2011 with Ellis taking over much of the workload. Per Klis, Bowlen said he was having issues with short-term memory loss as early as May 2009. The issues progressed with Bowlen revealing it had developed into Alzheimer’s on Tuesday.

Bowlen has owned the Broncos for the past 30 years and guided the franchise to six Super Bowl appearances and two titles during his tenure. The team will not be for sale and control of the franchise now belongs to the Pat Bowlen Trust. Bowlen’s intention is to keep ownership in the family.

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