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Packers impressed by “genetic freak” Julius Peppers

NFC Championship Football

The Packers are used to seeing Julius Peppers twice a year.

Their first workout with him on their side had them excited about the possibility of 16.

Teammates were impressed by Peppers’ first OTA workout, and are already thinking about what he’s capable of.

“You obviously notice his athletic ability right off the bat,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said, via Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He’s 34 and runs like he’s 18. If ever there was a genetic freak put on this planet, it is Julius. He’s just a specimen. I have a ton of respect for how he works, too. What a great teammate just from Day 1. He’s a quiet guy that already knows what he is doing, so it is fun to be around a guy like him.

“Him being in Chicago all these years, and getting to see him up close and personal two games a year, is always something I’ve been impressed by. Now, to have him on our side, to see how good of a guy he is, how good of a teammate he is, he’s already lived up to — and exceeded — my expectations.”

Peppers has created a high bar for himself because of his natural gifts. While it’s easy for someone so large and so graceful to appear effortless and thus draw criticism, he’s compiled 118.5 sacks and ranks in the top 20 all-time in that category.

They’ve all come from a 4-3 defensive end spot with the Bears and Panthers, and the Packers are using him as a hybrid outside linebacker (hence the unfamiliar number 56).

But so far, they’re excited about what they’ve seen, and what he might add as a pass-rusher opposite Clay Matthews.


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Oakland has fallback plans for keeping Raiders

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  McAfee Coliseum is shown during the Oakland Raiders game against the Denver Broncos at McAfee Coliseum on November 12, 2006 in Oakland, California. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 17-13. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) Getty Images

June 21 remains a key date for the effort to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Unless it isn’t.

Only days after Raiders owner Mark Davis made it clear that Floyd Kephart is expected to come up with a financing plan to bridge a $400 million gap in funding for a new Oakland stadium by June 21, the executive director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority said that other avenues exist to keeping the Raiders from securing a one-way ticket out of town.

“If a deal with Floyd Kephart doesn’t happen, we are open to other options,” Scott McKibben said, via Bill Williamson of “And we are prepared to do quickly if that occurs.”

McKibben wouldn’t discuss any potential fallback plans or identify the available options. But McKibben realizes that time is of the essence.

“We need to get something done sooner than later,” McKibben said.

Yes they do. Because if they don’t Davis and the Raiders may get something done in L.A.

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Darrius Caldwell, Adrian Wilkins enter supplemental draft

Draft Getty Images

A pair of college players have declared themselves eligible for the NFL’s supplemental draft.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, West Georgia defensive end Darrius Caldwell and North Carolina Central wide receiver/kick returner Adrian Wilkins have both applied for inclusion in the supplemental draft.

Caldwell led the Gulf South Conference (Division II) with 12 sacks. He recorded 69 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss last season.

Wilkins averaged 21.6 yards per kick return last season and hauled in 50 catches for 541 yards.

The supplemental draft is held in July and is open to players who were not eligible for the main NFL Draft in May, for one reason or another. If a player is selected, the team making the choice has to forfeit a selection from the corresponding round in next year’s draft.

If Caldwell and Wilkins aren’t selected, they will become unrestricted free agents.

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Hernandez claims juror was exposed to “extraneous matters”

Hernandez Getty Images

The attack on the conviction of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez includes an argument focused on whether one of the jurors broke the rules regarding what could and couldn’t be considered in the case.

According to Ted Daniel of FOX25 in Boston, Hernandez’s lawyers have filed with the trial court a motion for “post verdict inquiry respecting a juror’s exposure to extraneous matters.”

In English, it means that Hernandez’s lawyers believe that one of the jurors became aware of evidence other than the evidence properly admitted by Judge E. Susan Garsh. With Hernandez accused of two other murders and of shooting one of the witnesses who testified against him in the face (Alexander Bradley), there were plenty of “extraneous matters” for the jurors to consider.

It also means that Hernandez’s lawyers want to be able to question one or more jurors about the situation.

Given that the jury wasn’t sequestered, it would have been easy for any of them to yield to the temptation during a long trial of exploring media reports regarding other allegations against Hernandez.

The specifics of the argument aren’t known, because Hernandez’s lawyers wanted the documents to be sealed and not available to the public.

It could be a Hail Mary pass aimed at fishing for proof that someone had Googled “Aaron Hernandez” and found a laundry list of the allegatons against him. It could be that the lawyers have been tipped off by one of the other jurors. At some point, more will be known about the argument. For now, it’s way too early to know whether the conviction of Hernandez for the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd is in jeopardy.

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More seats removed from FedEx Field

FedExField Getty Images

Not long ago, more than 200,000 people were waiting to purchase season tickets at FedEx Field. Now, the team is waiting for them to come back.

In the interim, Washington has reduced the capacity of its home stadium three times in five years. According to Dan Steinberg and Scott Allen of the Washington Post, “thousands” have seats once again have been ripped out of the venue that once was the biggest in the league.

Via Steinberg and Allen, the team said in a statement that the changes are “part of an overall plan based on season ticket holder feedback,” and that details will be unveiled shortly. Steinberg and Allen estimate that another 6,000 seats have been removed. For 2014, capacity at FedEx Field was listed at 85,000.

With the blackout policy suspended for 2015 (and presumably gone forever), it’s no longer as important to shrink stadium size to intersect with demand. But if the demand has taken a permanent dip given the gap between the experience of watching the game at home and venturing to a venue that looks and feels a lot older than 18, it makes sense to shrink capacity, in advance of imploding the whole thing.

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Shane Ray agrees to terms with Broncos

Ray Getty Images

On Monday, linebacker Shane Ray practiced for the first time with the Broncos. He also signed his first NFL contract.

Via the Associated Press, Ray has agreed to a four-year deal worth approximately $9 million, with a $5 million signing bonus.

Ray slid to No. 23 in round one due to a marijuana citation the week of the draft and concerns regarding a toe injury that some teams believed would require surgery. The Broncos believe the situation will improve with rehab.

“I hate watching,” Ray told reporters regarding his inactivity since being drafted 32 days ago. “I hate watching, so being out there and actually being able to get some work in feels great and I just want to continue get better, do whatever rehab I’ve got to continue to do to make sure my foot continues to heal and I don’t take any steps back. Then I’ll be ready to be out here on this field.”

Once he gets to 100 percent, opposing quarterbacks may not want to venture out onto the field with Ray, Von Miller, and DeMarcus Ware rushing the passer.

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Allen says Washington didn’t believe PAT needed to change

Mike Shanahan AP

Two weeks ago, 30 of 32 teams voted to move the single-point PAT try from the two to the 15, converting a 19-yard kick into a 32-yard attempt. Two teams opposed the move: Oakland and Washington.

On Monday, Washington executive V.P. of football operations Bruce Allen explained that his team simply didn’t think a change was needed.

“One, we didn’t like the proposal,” Allen said before the team’s inaugural charity golf outing, via Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Two, for 95 years we’ve kicked the extra point from where we did. I don’t know if it needed to be moved.”

Because the change wasn’t made on a permanent basis, 24 owners will have to vote in favor of the move in 2016. Some of them may have opted to give it a try for 2015, reserving the right to align with Allen when it’s time to cast the votes next season.

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Titans hosting former Rams center Scott Wells for visit

Scott Wells Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans are looking for potential veteran depth along their offensive line.

According to Adam Caplan of, the Titans are hosting former St. Louis Rams center Scott Wells for a free agent visit on Monday.

Wells, a University of Tennessee graduate, started all 16 games for the Rams last season and 35 games in total over his three years in St. Louis.

Wells could provide some veteran depth on the line. Brian Schwenke has been the team’s starting center the last two seasons, but has also missed 12 games due to injury.

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Whisenhunt warns Justin Hunter, “get it or you won’t be in the NFL”

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Through two NFL seasons, Titans receiver Justin Hunter has shown flashes of the talent that made Tennessee take him in the second round of the 2013 draft. But he has also showed an inconsistent work ethic and inconsistent play.

And so Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt says he has told Hunter that he needs to show he gets it, or he’s going to be doing something other than being a professional football player.

“At some point, you either get it or you won’t be in this league anymore. That’s the natural order of the NFL,” Whisenhunt said of Hunter, via the Tennessean.

Hunter says he gets it.

“I’ve got to get it going,” Hunter said. “Going into my third year, I’ve got to improve. I can’t falter in any part of my game.”

If Hunter doesn’t get it going, he’ll be going somewhere other than Tennessee. Whisenhunt is making clear that Hunter is nearing his last chance.

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87.5 percent of all draft picks are signed

Cash Getty Images

On month ago today, the second and third rounds of the 2015 NFL draft unfolded. In that time, 87.5 percent of all 256 draft picks have signed their contract.

That’s 224 total picks signed, sealed, and delivered.

Of the 32 unsigned picks, 10 were taken in round one, with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota being the highest pick not yet signed. Nine of the 32 unsigned picks were selected by the Rams; they’ll sign the whole class in one fell swoop at the end of the offseason program, after coach Jeff Fisher explains to them what happens to their money.

In past years, Fisher has had an armored car deliver $1 million in cash, so that he could demonstrate how much of the money gets siphoned away by the taxes and agent fees, and so that they’ll understand that those 17 game checks issued during football season must last for all 52 weeks of the year.

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Jaguars claim quarterback Jeff Tuel off waivers


Follow the bouncing quarterback.

When the Jets released Matt Simms last week, it triggered a series of moves, which has led another guy to Jacksonville.

According to the league’s personnel notice, the Jaguars have claimed quarterback Jeff Tuel off waivers from the Bills. Tuel had been made expendable and was released when the Bills reunited coach Rex Ryan with Simms via a waiver claim.

To make room for Tuel on the 90-man roster, the Jaguars waived quarterback Jake Waters (a rookie free agent who might not trigger a series of moves).

Tuel could push current No. 3 Stephen Morris out of a job behind Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, provided the Jaguars keep three.

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Cardinals wrap up draft class by signing D.J. Humphries

D.J. Humphries AP

Signing draft picks is a far easier process than it was before the current CBA came into effect, but it’s still a process that teams have to go through before moving their full attention to thornier matters.

The Cardinals are now free to do that. The team announced that they have signed first-round pick D.J. Humphries, which means that all seven of their picks are now under contract.

Humphries is competing with Bobby Massie and others to start at right tackle this year and coach Bruce Arians said Monday that his inexperience is something that he’ll need to overcome this summer in order to wind up on top of the heap.

“You’d like to see steady improvement,” Arians said, via the team’s website. “He’s only 20, 21 years old. He’s a college kid still and this is a professional league. But he’s figuring it out fast.”

The Cardinals may make Humphries earn the job, but he’s a good bet to do so based on both his draft slot and the fact that Massie’s play last season kept tackle high on the team’s list of needs heading into the draft.

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Chargers won’t discuss new contract with Eric Weddle

Eric Weddle Getty Images

The San Diego Chargers have no intentions of discussing a new contract for safety Eric Weddle prior to the start of the upcoming season.

According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Weddle’s agent, David Canter, said the team informed him there would be no discussions on a new deal with the team this year.

“He’ll be excited about playing this year and then hit free agency,” Canter said.

Weddle has been absent from Chargers offseason activities in hopes of leveraging a new contract as he enters the final year of the five-year, $40 million contract he signed in July 2011. Weddle has spent his entire eight-year career with the Chargers. He was selected to three Pro Bowl teams and twice named a first-team All-Pro selection during his tenure in San Diego.

While his interception total was down a season ago, Weddle is still playing at a high level. Weddle started all 16 games for the Chargers and racked up 114 tackles on the year with two forced fumbles and an interception.

Weddle is set to make $7.5 million in the final year of his deal in San Diego.

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Gronk: People act like dancing is breaking the law

Rob Gronkowski Birthday Celebration Getty Images

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is healthy this offseason for the first time in several years, something he called, via, an “amazing feeling” while at his football camp over the weekend.

The lack of rehab leaves Gronkowski free to pursue other amazing feelings in this year’s edition of the Summer of Gronk, something that he tells Lindsay Silberman of DuJour Magazine will be partially fueled by his preferred beverage of vodka and water. Gronkowski likes the drink “because it gets you hydrated and drunk at the same time,” which is a good mix for someone who has approached the party circuit with the same zeal as a collision with a defensive back over the middle.

That approach has drawn criticism at times, but Gronkowski doesn’t think it’s a big deal as long as it doesn’t get in the way of work.

“There’s definitely a time to party and a time to focus on work, but you need to let loose a little bit so that you can go back on Monday feeling refreshed and motivated to work hard again,” Gronkowski said. “People act like dancing is breaking the law and partying is a crime. Everyone thinks I’m in trouble 24/7, but what have I really done besides dance?”

The profile covers ground familiar to anyone who has followed Gronkowski’s career, but those that have will still find the piece worth a look for an accompanying video. At various points, Gronkowski is seen shirtless chatting with a reporter in a pool while holding a dog; dressed like a gladiator; reading a book with a look on his face that suggests he’s not actually reading the book; and floating in the ocean on a raft with a slew of bikini-clad models.

In other words, it’s exactly the sort of thing worth three minutes of your time in the middle of the offseason.

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Chargers bring back cornerback Lowell Rose

Lowell Rose Getty Images

The San Diego Chargers have re-signed cornerback Lowell Rose and waived tackle Cameron Clemmons.

Rose spent training camp with the Chargers in 2014 and appeared in three preseason games with the team before being released during cuts.

Rose then signed with the Miami Dolphins practice squad and was signed to the team’s 53-man roster in October. He appeared in five games for the Dolphins – recording one tackle – before being released and re-signed to the team’s practice squad.

The Chargers signed Clemmons as an undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky in May.

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Allen still sees RGIII as a starting quarterback

Griffin Getty Images

So why did Washington pick up the fifth-year option on quarterback Robert Griffin III’s contract? For executive V.P. of football operations Bruce Allen, it wasn’t even a question.

“We think Robert is a starting quarterback,” Allen said before the team’s inaugural charity golf classic, via Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We’ve seen him win. We’ve seen him win big games. We know his talent. It really was a no-brainer. I think if you asked us six months before it would have been the same decision.”

But what about the risk of Griffin suffering an injury that would keep him from playing in 2016, but that would nevertheless entitle him to more than $16 million next year?

“There’s a cost to everyone who gets hurt,” Allen said. “I don’t see that as an individual player thing, as much as any injury is going to cost you on the salary cap.”

He’s right, but if Griffin goes down in 2015 and can’t play in 2016, the organization will be criticized for accepting an unnecessary risk. But accepting the injury risk eliminates the risk of Griffin turning his career around and forcing the team to use the franchise tag to keep him around beyond the coming season.

So they rolled the dice with $16 million for 2016 in order to avoid having to pay roughly $20 million or more, if Griffin becomes the guy in 2015 that he was in 2012. And if he stinks, the smart move will be to yank him from the field, ensconce him in bubble wrap, and then cut him in the offseason before that $16 million becomes fully guaranteed next March.

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