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Ditka on painkillers: “If you don’t want to take them, don’t take them”

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Several members of the ’85 Bears have sued the NFL for, among other things, giving them painkillers without warning them of the risks and side effects.  Their old-school coach has commented on the topic, applying a predictably old-school attitude.

“If you don’t want to take them, don’t take them,” Mike Ditka told the Chicago Sun-Times.  “I don’t think anybody ever forces anyone to do anything.  If you don’t want to take it, don’t take it. If you wanted it, they were available.  There’s no question about that.  Is that right?  I don’t know.”

It’s only right if they knew the risks when making the decision to take the drugs.  Without knowing the risks, they could take anything if they think it would help them get back onto the field, from steroids to strychnine.

The NFL has a right to defend itself against the new suit, but it’s wrong for anyone to attack players who chose to take medications without being given — by the doctors who were obligated to care for them — information about the risks and side effects.

Would some of the players have taken the medication anyway?  Sure.  Would some of the coaches (like Ditka) have pressured them to take the medication so that they’d be able to play?  Do I even need to answer that?

None of it matters if the doctors didn’t bother to share the risks with the players.  If that’s the case, the players bear no blame because they never had the chance to consciously assume the risk.

Would we have it any other way for our family members or for ourselves?  Don’t we expect doctors to tell us the potential risks of taking prescription medication?  For some of the drugs advertised on TV, some of the items on the list of possible side effects sound a lot worse than the condition the medication is supposed to treat.

Everyone is entitled to know that information, regardless of the impact of the information on their decision to take the medication.

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Jets double down on SEC safeties with Marcus Maye at No. 39

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The Jets took a safety from the SEC in the first round and they did the same thing in the second round.

Florida safety Marcus Maye was the choice with the 39th overall pick. LSU’s Jamal Adams was the sixth overall pick.

Doubling down on safeties probably doesn’t bode well for Calvin Pryor’s future with the team. Tom Pelissero of USA Today reported Friday that the Jets are looking to trade him and you’d imagine there’s little to no chance they exercise Pryor’s option before this week’s deadline. Their other veteran safety Marcus Gilchrist could also be on shaky ground if the Jets decide to go with both rookies.

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Bills trade up with Rams, pick Zay Jones

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The Rams waited more than a full round to take a pick in the 2017 draft. They decided to keep waiting.

The Rams have traded out of the 37th pick in the draft, and the Bills sprung up to get East Carolina receiver Zay Jones.

Jones, the nephew of former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake, bolsters a depth chart led by Sammy Watkins. The arrival of Jones could be a factor in the decision, due May 3, on whether the Bills will pick up the fifth-year option on Watkins’ rookie deal.

Buffalo sent the 44th pick and pick No. 91 to the Rams, in exchange for the 37th selection and pick No. 149.

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Seahawks finally make a pick, add Malik McDowell

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The Seahawks took their time, but they’ve finally taken their first player of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Seattle traded down for the third time since the start of the first round when they were on the clock with the 34th pick, but only dropped one spot in the process. They took Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell with that selection.

McDowell’s best game film from his days with the Spartans makes him look like a surefire Top 10 pick, but it is intermixed with several less impressive performances that led teams to take a dim view of taking McDowell that high. The Seahawks will hope that playing alongside Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril helps him take the next step at the professional level.

Thanks to all those trades, they have 10 picks left to fill out their draft class before things wind up on Saturday.

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Cardinals trade up to take safety Budda Baker

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Arizona lost five starters on defense to free agency, and they’re beginning to reload in the draft.

Instead of taking a quarterback to eventually replace Carson Palmer, they’ve used their first two picks on defense.

In the second round, they took Washington safety Budda Baker to go with last night’s first-rounder, linebacker Haason Reddick.

Baker’s the kind of rangy safety they needed after losing Tony Jefferson to the Ravens. They added veteran Antoine Bethea in free agency, but needed some young legs as they begin to backfill.

The Cardinals traded up nine spots to get him, giving up a fourth- and sixth-rounder to move from the 45th overall spot to the 36th.

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Ron Jaworski can’t get the fans to stop booing Roger Goodell


When it comes to helping the Commissioner avoid the inevitable in-draft boo birds, the NFL tried a half-measure on Friday night. And it didn’t work.

Roger Goodell brought former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski to the podium in Philadelphia to start round two. The crowd, which seems to be nearly as large as it was on Thursday night, didn’t pull back in the face of the bespectacled human shield. Instead, they continued to relentlessly boo Goodell.

Things changed dramatically when Goodell turned the floor over to Jaworski, who was cheered loudly and who had the kind of presence and energy that gets a crowd going. He said that people of Philadelphia will eventually embrace those who do the right thing, and he expressed confidence that the City of Brotherly Love will eventually show something other than hatred for Goodell.

And then Goodell came back to the podium, and the booing instantly became as loud as ever.

Goodell can ignore the noise as much as he wants, but the owners surely don’t like it. Efforts to laugh it off or playfully welcome more booing have legitimized it. The only way to end it is to keep the Commissioner out of sight, and to have people who will be embraced by the locals call out the picks.

I’ve previously suggested that folks like Morgan Freeman or Sam Elliott get the assignment. With the draft going on the road, the folks calling the picks should be local, starting with a well-known favorite son (like, for the first round in Philly, Sylvester Stallone) and then incorporating others, like Jaworski, Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook, etc., etc.

It won’t be cheap, because unlike the players these folks will want to be compensated to be part of the reality show. Still, as the draft grows and the crowd grows and the booing becomes sport, the smart move would be the keep the Commissioner backstage and to use people who will spark the kind of reaction Jaworski did. Insisting on trotting out Goodell to an ocean of boos isn’t a good look for Big Shield, and isn’t Big Shield supposedly what it’s all about?

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Jaguars jump up to draft Cam Robinson

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The Seahawks were on the clock for the third time in the first two nights early on Friday night, but they remain without a new addition to their roster after the announcement of the 34th pick.

Seattle traded down for the third time in three opportunities and the Jaguars moved into the spot to select Alabama tackle Cam Robinson. The Jaguars sent a sixth-round pick to the Seahawks in order to move on one spot, so the Seahawks are on the clock once again.

Robinson will be blocking for a former SEC rival after the Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette in the first round on Friday night and both players signal a clear sign that Tom Coughlin wants to build a more physical football team in his return to Jacksonville. Robinson will also play a role in protecting Blake Bortles, something Coughlin said was essential for the quarterback to improve on last year’s results.

Where he’ll be doing those things might be up in the air. The Jaguars traded for left tackle Branden Albert, but he hasn’t been at offseason work out of reported unhappiness with his contract, but Robinson could also wind up at right tackle ahead of Jermey Parnell or the Jaguars could push someone inside to guard.

Former Jaguar tackle Tony Boselli announced the arrival of the new tackle from the stage in Philadelphia. However they line up, Coughlin will hope the pick works out somewhere close to as well as the one that brought Boselli to Jacksonville.

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Bengals pick up fifth-year option on Darqueze Dennard


Darqueze Dennard hasn’t developed into the kind of player the Bengals hoped he’d be when they chose him in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. But the Bengals still think he has promise.

Cincinnati showed faith in Dennard today by announcing that his fifth-year option has been picked up. That gives him a 2018 salary of $8.5 million, although that salary isn’t guaranteed, and the Bengals could cut him last year, unless he’s injured.

So far in his three-year career, Dennard has only started four games. He would likely have to emerge as a starter this season for the Bengals to pay him that $8.5 million in 2018.

The Bengals took Dennard with the 24th overall pick in 2014.

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Packers keep the 33rd pick, take cornerback Kevin King

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The Packers tried to trade the first pick of the second round, but were unable to.

So they decided to take a guy who could help them immediately instead.

With the 33rd overall choice, the Packers took Washington cornerback Kevin King.

The 6-foot-3 King helps fill an immediate need for the Packers, who were running out of bodies in the secondary late in the season and the playoffs. While he’s taller than most at his position, the Packers clearly thought he was a value that wasn’t worth adding a few more mid-round picks.

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Fournette aims to bring championships to Jacksonville

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No NFL player will ever be successful without supreme confidence. Which means that pretty much every NFL player is supremely confident. Which means that not every player is going to fulfill the promise of that supreme confidence.

Regardless, it’s noteworthy when new NFL players full of supreme confidence arrive at the next level and begin to issue over-the-top proclamations. Sometimes, like when Randy Moss promised to “rip up” the NFL, it happens. Other times, it doesn’t.

In Jacksonville, fourth overall pick Leonard Fournette showed up on Friday with a big proclamation: He wants to deliver championships, plural, for a team that has never even been to the Super Bowl in 20-plus years in the NFL.

“Any player wants that for themselves and their team,” Fournette told reporters. “I didn’t mean to stir anything up, but that is my goal. My whole life, I came from a winning program at LSU. In high school, [too]. I come from a winning foundation. I think it is time to get back on that track. I think that is what Jacksonville needs — championships. I think I am the guy for the job.”

The fact that Fournette has been chosen to do the job could be bad news for some of the other running backs on the roster. But with Chris Ivory, a 2016 free-agent addition, having a guaranteed salary of $4.5 million in 2017 and with T.J. Yeldon in the third year of a wage-scale deal, they could be keeping all of them — or maybe trying to trade one of them.

Regardless, the future is Fournette. And the future is now.

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Reuben Foster hung up on the Saints when the 49ers picked him

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New 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was so close to becoming new Saints linebacker Reuben Foster that he was on the phone with Saints officials making plans to go to New Orleans when he got the call informing him he was heading to San Francisco.

“I clicked over for the San Francisco 49ers and I think I said, ‘Hello?’ while the New Orleans Saints were still on the line. But I wanted to be a 49er so bad,” Foster said today.

Foster said that while the Seahawks were on the clock with the 31st pick, the Saints informed him that they were taking him 32nd. When 49ers General Manager John Lynch called, Foster initially thought Lynch was calling to tell him that the 49ers would take him in the second round, and Foster started to tell Lynch that the Saints were taking him with the last pick in the first round.

“They wanted to pick me but it was too late,” Foster said. “I told John Lynch it was too late.”

That’s when Lynch explained to Foster that the 49ers had traded up with the Seahawks. Foster said he was excited and thought the 49ers were the best team for him.

Foster said the Saints were so sure that they would pick Foster that not only were the Saints’ football people talking to him about the role he was going to play on their defense, but a Saints official called Foster’s girlfriend to talk to her about making a home in New Orleans.

Asked if he had to have an awkward conversation with the Saints after Lynch got through to tell him he wouldn’t be going to New Orleans after all, Foster answered, “No. I hung up.”

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Ravens exercise 2018 option on C.J. Mosley’s contract


The Ravens took an Alabama player in the first round on Thursday night when they made cornerback Marlon Humphrey the 16th overall pick of the NFL draft.

The last time the Ravens took a member of the Crimson Tide in the first round was in 2014 when they selected linebacker C.J. Mosley with the 17th pick and they are in no hurry to part ways with him. Field Yates of reports that the team has exercised their option on Mosley’s contract for the 2018 season.

Mosley has started every game he’s played since arriving in Baltimore and has been voted to two All-Pro second teams in addition to being selected for two Pro Bowls. That makes it easy to understand why the Ravens have gone ahead and picked up the option for a player who would seem to be a good bet for a long-term extension at some point in the not-too-distant future.

If Humphrey works out as well, the Ravens will have a couple of pieces to build their defense around for several years to come.

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Cowboys expect Jaylon Smith to take part in rookie minicamp

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The Cowboys will get first-round pass rusher Taco Charlton and the rest of their 2017 draft class on the field at a rookie minicamp in a couple of weeks, but they won’t be the only players getting their first taste of on-field work during the session.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, that 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith will also participate. The linebacker did not play at all as a rookie because of a severe knee injury that also caused nerve damage and created doubt about his ability to play again, but this is the latest in a series of signs that he may be in the mix for Dallas this year.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said last week that Smith is making “great improvements” and said this week that there’s hope Smith’s nerve will “really start to have full regeneration as we close in on the season.”

Smith’s play at Notre Dame led to top of the first round projections before his injury. It won’t be clear for some time if Smith is still that kind of player, but even a somewhat diminished version could be a boost to the Dallas defense.

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Report: Chargers, Jets, Bucs among teams calling about No. 33

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The Packers said they are open for business when it came to trade discussions involving the No. 33 pick and their baiting of the hook appears to be getting some nibbles.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Chargers, Jets and Buccaneers are among the teams calling the Packers about making a deal for that pick.

There’s no word on which players those teams may be interested in acquiring if they did move up. There was a report earlier on Friday that the Packers were considering taking Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer if they stay put, which doesn’t feel particularly likely but both the Chargers and Jets spent time with Kizer during the pre-draft process.

Alabama tackle Cam Robinson, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, Washington cornerback Kevin King and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon are other players that may be of interest at the top of the second round.

The Chargers have the 38th overall pick with the Jets one spot behind them and the Buccaneers currently scheduled to pick 50th overall. Should they miss out on a deal with the Packers, the Seahawks are set to pick 34th with the Jaguars and Bears following them in the draft order.

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How did the Gareon Conley polygraph test come to be?


A game of hot potato possibly could emerge regarding the lie detector test taken by Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley before the draft. Per multiple reports, the Ravens requested it. A source with knowledge of the situation insists the Ravens did not request it. Conley’s representatives, however, contend generally that a team requested it.

It’s a potentially important distinction because of a law known as the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988. The law says that non-governmental employers may not “directly or indirectly . . . require, request, suggest, or cause any employee or prospective employee to take or submit to any lie detector test.”

As explained by Peter King of, the Ravens decided to administer the test on Thursday, and they found a firm in northeast Ohio to conduct the test late Thursday afternoon. But other aspects of King’s report cut against the notion that the Ravens requested it or otherwise crossed the line created by federal law.

According to King, one of Conley’s agents sent an email from the person who conducted the test to all 32 teams. If the Ravens had requested it, why would the Ravens have allowed the results to be given to all 32 teams? The goal would have been to conceal the information, in the hopes that other teams would pass on Conley.

Our guess is that the Ravens simply suggested the test or maybe raised the possibility, and that Conley’s camp took it from there. While merely suggesting it could be regarded as a violation of the law, it’s unlikely that federal authorities will be descending on the team’s facility and launching a perp-walk parade any time soon. But it’s definitely the kind of thing that the league office should be advising teams to not do, and the advice extends beyond merely not “requesting” a polygraph.

Teams also shouldn’t suggest, directly or indirectly, that a player submit to a polygraph. In this case, the available evidence suggests that the spark came from the Ravens. And that should provide the league office with the spark to remind all teams about what the law does and doesn’t permit.

When it comes to polygraph testing and private employers, the law basically prohibits anything and everything relating to polygraph testing.

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Report: Jets making calls about Sheldon Richardson trade

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Heading into the offseason, there was talk about the Jets trading defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson but nothing materialized over the last couple of months.

It appears they are giving it another try ahead of the start of the second round of the draft. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is making calls about a Richardson trade on Friday afternoon.

Rapoport adds that the Jets “won’t give him away,” which seems like both a sensible approach and a guide to what they may be looking for in return. Richardson is entering the final year of his contract and the Jets, who also shopped Richardson before last year’s trade deadline, would likely be in position for a mid-round compensatory pick down the road if he leaves as a free agent so an offer would have to be as good as that.

Their chances of getting one probably won’t be helped by Richardson’s 2016 season. He struggled on the field, served his second suspension in as many years and spent some time on the bench after missing team meetings. When Richardson’s been right, he’s been a very effective player but he’s close to free agency and any team will have to consider how much they’re willing to give up with the possibility that things won’t get straightened out in a new city.

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