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Julio Jones doesn’t expect to be full speed until camp

Julio Jones AP

The Falcons are waiting for wide receiver Julio Jones‘ foot to heal enough for him to make a full return to the practice field, but it doesn’t sound like that is going to happen until the team gathers for training camp this summer.

Atlanta has OTAs this week and their mandatory minicamp next week, which doesn’t leave Jones much time to take part in a full practice before the offseason program comes to an end and he told SI.com that he doesn’t expect that his recovery will come to an end before that point. Jones is confident that the extended rehab time isn’t putting anything at risk come the regular season.

“Week One, I’ll be ready to go,” Jones said.

Jones sounded some optimistic notes about his condition. He said that he’s been running routes and that his foot “feels really good” when he plants on it while going through his workouts. He’s working on getting his stamina back up after such a long spell out of action, which is good news for an Atlanta team that will likely lean heavily on the talented receiver they missed so much last season.

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Eagles first-rounder Nelson Agholor says he’ll “work like a peasant”

Draft Eagles Football AP

First-round pick Nelson Agholor wasn’t an Eagle long before he met Troy Robinson, a janitor at the Eagles training center. In fact, coach Chip Kelly had Robinson pose for photos with him, as a tribute to the background that got him to this place, at this time.

Agholor’s father, a Nigerian immigrant, works as a janitor at the University of South Florida. And the workmanlike traits were clearly passed down to his son.

“I think I understand the way life works,” Agholor said, via Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I don’t feel like I’m entitled to anything. . . .

Work like a peasant. That’s the mind-set.”

His father worked many jobs, sometimes riding a bike between them since he couldn’t afford a car. His mother worked at a nursing home. And Agholor and his four siblings saw every day how they worked to provide for the family.

“My parents have raised us to be very humble and to understand everything in life you have to earn,” Agholor said.

That’s a lesson coaches don’t mind hearing from their players, particularly first-round picks.

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Buccaneers to have up-tempo offense

Koetter AP

To those concerned about Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston possibly not being in shape, the pace of his new team’s offense could result in plenty of extra exercise.

Via JoeBucsFan.com, tackle Demar Dotson said Tuesday that the new system under coordinator Dirk Koetter (pictured) will move quickly.

“[He’s a] guy that just, you know, he loves, loves fast tempo, loves to get the ball up field,” Dotson said regarding the successor to Jeff Tedford.  “He loves to go a lot of no-huddle.  That’s going to be something that’s more different than what we’re used to.  So it’s going to be a lot of up-tempo stuff.  So that’s something he loves doing.  It’s got its ups and downs, but I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

Last year, the Bucs lost Jeff Tedford to health reasons not long before the start of the season, plunging the offense into disarray.  As former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown has previously told PFT Live, teams have backup quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers — but they don’t have backup offensive coordinators.

This year, the Bucs presumably will have Koetter for the entire season.  Which, regardless of personnel, should help the team be more competitive.

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Add Panthers guard to list of players making a pitch for La’el Collins

Trai Turner AP

The Dolphins aren’t the only team whose players are recruiting La’El Collins (even if the team technically can’t at the moment).

Panthers guard Trai Turner told fans on Twitter he was “doing my best” to talk his former college teammate into signing with the Panthers.

According to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers are “playing it safe until there’s a clear resolution” of the situation involving the double murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Police have questioned him, and said he’s still not a suspect, which is a step short of saying he’s cleared.

That seems to be the stance of most teams, though the Chargers have admitted they’re looking into it, and the Giants are reportedly in the mix as well.

The Bills and Dolphins were the first two names linked, and a group of former LSU players went to Baton Rouge to see him as well, ostensibly for recruiting purposes.

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Emmitt Smith says the Cowboys are fine at running back

McFadden Getty Images

When you hear Jerry Jones talk about the Cowboys family, and their great support system, maybe he means having his former players prop up his questionable decisions.

Just as Hall of Famer Charles Haley has defended the acquisitions of both their dubious pass-rushers, now Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith is taking his turn, saying the group of running backs they’ve assembled isn’t so bad.

The Cowboys let the league’s leading rusher walk out the door in free agency, as DeMarco Murray landed in Philadelphia. Then they failed to draft one.

That leaves them with the enigma that is Darren McFadden, along with Joseph Randle to keep their running game going.

“Darren McFadden, that is a running back you have to respect. You have to remember he played out in Oakland. Oakland doesn’t have what the Cowboys have,” Smith said during an interview on 105.3 FM, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Having an offensive line, and a quarterback like Tony Romo, and some receivers, and a system that makes some doggone sense, he can become a better running back in this system.

“And [with backup running back Joseph] Randle, you can have a nice one-two punch. The one thing with McFadden, if he gets some of those running lanes that I saw DeMarco have last year, and it’s on — he can take it to the house.”

Last year was the first time McFadden played all 16 games, and he managed 534 yards, at a Richardsonian 3.4-yards per carry clip.

Smith may be right. McFadden might finally stay healthy, and he might finally deliver on the promise that caused the Raiders to take him fourth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

And Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory might stop making bad decisions long enough to make a prophet of Charles Haley, too.

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Titus Young sentenced to five years probation, inpatient treatment

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Former Lions wide receiver Titus Young pleaded no contest to a felony battery charge last month, which opened up the possibility of three years in jail for someone who has spent the last few years in and out of custody.

Young was sentenced on Tuesday and avoided that time behind bars. Young was sentenced to five years probation and a year of inpatient treatment and therapy. Young has been at the Crosby Center in California receiving that treatment for the last three months and the center’s director and one of his psychologists testified on his behalf at the sentencing hearing.

They testified that Young had been misdiagnosed and mistreated as schizophrenic and bipolar and that they’ve seen better results since he’s come to be under their care.

“We’re not seeing the irritability, the anger, the acting out, the violence,” Dr. Robert Knol said, via the Detroit Free Press. “We have seen cooperation. We have seen a genuine investment in all forms of his treatment, both in individual sessions and group sessions. We’re very optimistic. I predict we’ll all celebrate the restructure of a fine young man.”

Young’s restructure would come to late to salvage an NFL career, but not too late to stop him from doing harm to himself or others. We hope that his continued treatment leads to that result.

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Chargers staying in touch with La’el Collins

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We found out on Tuesday that tackle La’El Collins isn’t meeting with any teams right now because NFL rules prohibit teams from official visits with him at LSU’s campus until the school year wraps up on May 9.

We also found out about one of the teams that might be interested in having a conversation with Collins once that restriction is lifted. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco was on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Bill Polian and said that the team was doing what it could to research Collins while staying in touch with his team.

“We were working on this before the draft, we worked on it through the draft and we’ll continue to work through it right now even today,” Telesco said. “Compiling information, talking to a lot of different people, seeing where it goes and staying in contact with his representatives. We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The Chargers aren’t the only team staying in communication with Collins and we’ll likely get more of an idea of who’s making a serious market for his services once the visiting restrictions are lifted this weekend.

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Chip Kelly: If we’re ever in position to draft a top QB, I’ll be fired

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Eagles coach Chip Kelly tried to trade up to draft quarterback Marcus Mariota, but it didn’t work out. And he doubts he’ll ever get to draft a top quarterback.

Kelly said he’d love to be able to draft a quarterback first and second overall, but he thinks if the Eagles ever have the first or second pick, he’ll get fired. So Kelly hopes that Sam Bradford, who was once a first overall pick, can prove to be the Eagles’ franchise quarterback.

“When you look at all the winning organizations,” Kelly said, via CSNPhilly.com, “if you want to play with the odds as we want to play, it’s got to be with a quarterback situation and then the only way you’re going to get a quarterback is you got to be really not very good so you finish in the top 1-2 in the draft. If we’re not very good and we finish with the top 1-2 in the draft, I don’t think I’m going to be here, so we better find another way to find a quarterback. And that’s what we did with Sam.”

Kelly is wrong when he says the only way the winning organizations get a quarterback is to draft at the top. Only one of the last seven Super Bowls was won by a team whose quarterback was a Top 10 draft pick. Super Bowls can be won by sixth-round picks like Tom Brady, third-round picks like Russell Wilson as well as quarterbacks acquired in free agency like Drew Brees.

But Kelly is surely right that if the Eagles collapse and get the first or second pick in the draft, someone else will be making that pick.

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Jermaine Kearse signs restricted free agent tender with Seahawks

Jermaine Kearse Getty Images

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse is back under contract with the Seattle Seahawks after signing his restricted free agent tender with the team.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Kearse signed the tender worth $2.356 million on Tuesday. The signing was confirmed by a team spokesman.

Kearse took over as the No.2 wide receiver in Seattle’s offense following the trade of Percy Harvin to the New York Jets last October. He started 14 of 15 games with 38 catches for 537 yards and one touchdown during the regular season.

However, Kearse has been most productive in the playoffs each of the last two years. He caught seven passes for 209 yards in the postseason, including the 35-yard game-winning touchdowns in overtime of the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

His 33-yard juggling reception in the Super Bowl helped Seattle to the doorstep of their second straight championship before the ill-fated Malcolm Butler interception at the goal line.

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Missouri Supreme Court invalidates Commissioner as arbitrator

Goodell AP

When it comes to employment disputes involving individuals teams, the NFL traditionally stacks the deck in its favor, forcing disgruntled employees to agree to arbitration — with the Commissioner of the league presiding. Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court delivered what could become a fatal blow to the league’s obsession with allowing a non-lawyer to make legal decisions that could be influenced by business interests unrelated to what the law requires.

In a lawsuit filed more than four years ago by former Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt, the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated the requirement of submitting all claims to arbitration resolved by the Commissioner. The Missouri Supreme Court based its conclusion in part on a fairly simply analysis of three provisions of the league’s Constitution and Bylaws.

First, the Court pointed out that Section 8.3 gives the Commissioner “full, complete, and final jurisdiction and authority to arbitrate . . . [a]ny dispute between any player, coach, and/or other employee of any member of the League and any member club or clubs.” Next, the Court pointed out that Section 8.1 requires the NFL to “select and employ a person of unquestioned integrity to serve as Commissioner of the League and shall determine the period and fix the compensation of his employment.” Then, the Court pointed out that Section 8.2 states that the “Commissioner shall have no financial interest, direct or indirect, in any professional sport.”

The provisions are clearly inconsistent; it’s impossible for the Commissioner to have “no financial interest” in “any professional sport” when he is paid by the league — and when the bulk of his compensation often comes from bonuses tied to the financial success of the league. More importantly, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded that the conflicting provisions and obvious bias of the Commissioner when “required to arbitrate claims against his employers” makes the requirement that employees submit claims to arbitration resolved by the Commissioner unenforceable.

While narrow in application to the State of Missouri (which serves as the home of two NFL teams, the Rams and Chiefs), the ruling provides a blueprint for employees who hope to avoid Commissioner-resolved arbitration in the other 21 states in which the NFL does business. It also gives the NFL Players Association and the NFL Referees Association a potential hammer for challenging in court the ability of the Commissioner to continue to serve as the arbitrator over claims brought by players and game officials, respectively.

While those provisions likely will have greater teeth because they appear in Collective Bargaining Agreements, the three provisions quoted by the Missouri Supreme Court from the NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws lay the foundation for a case-by-case attack on arbitration submitted to the Commissioner based on the inherent bias of the Commissioner.

It’s an obvious problem that has been hiding in plain sight for decades. At some point, the unions, the courts, and/or the NFL itself need to acknowledge that the Commissioner necessarily is incapable of being objective when resolving disputes involving the very teams that hire and pay him, and to come up with a more fair and unbiased procedure for resolving disputes.

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Patriots waive LB Deontae Skinner

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The Patriots waived a defensive contributor from early in the 2014 regular season, parting ways with second-year inside linebacker Deontae Skinner on Tuesday.

The transaction was listed in the NFL’s personnel notice.

The 24-year-old Skinner appeared in seven games (one start) for New England last season, making 16 tackles. The Patriots waived him in late October, and he would finish the season on the practice squad. He was signed to the offseason roster after the Super Bowl.

The Patriots also waived long snapper Tyler Ott on Tuesday, leaving rookie Joe Cardona as the lone snapper on the roster.

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Dolphins waive CB Lowell Rose, two others

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The Dolphins waived a pair of second-year reserve cornerbacks who saw action for Miami last season on Tuesday, letting go of Lowell Rose and T.J. Heath, the club said. The Dolphins also waived second-year kicker Zach Hocker.

Rose, 25, played in five games in 2014, with the 27-year-old Heath appearing in two games. The Dolphins drafted a pair of cornerbacks in last week’s draft, selecting Bobby McCain (Memphis) and Tony Lippett (Michigan State) in Round Five. The club also added veteran corner Zack Bowman in April.

The 23-year-old Hocker was a seventh-round pick of Washington in 2014, but he was waived at the end of the preseason.

Including drafted rookies, the Dolphins have 74 players on the roster.

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Chargers awarded TE Kyle Miller on waivers

Tyrell Johnson, Tay Glover-Wright , Kyle Miller AP

The Chargers have added yet another tight end to their roster, successfully claiming Kyle Miller off waivers from Atlanta, the team said Tuesday.

In a corresponding roster move, the club waived second-year defensive lineman Damik Scafe, who was on San Diego’s injured reserve list last season.

The 27-year-old Miller spent the 2014 campaign on the Falcons’ practice squad. He has also had stints with the Jaguars, Colts and Dolphins. He has played in one regular season game in four NFL seasons, suiting up for Indianapolis in 2012 at New England.

The addition of Miller gives the Chargers eight tight ends, with Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green atop the depth chart.

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Seahawks waive five players

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The Seahawks waived five veteran backups on Tuesday, including fullback/linebacker Mike Zimmer, defensive end Julius Warmsley and offensive tackle Justin Renfrow, each of whom had stints on the Seattle practice squad last season.

The transactions were announced in the NFL personnel notice.

Zimmer (6-2, 239) has played offense and defense in his NFL career, with Seattle employing him as a practice squad fullback in the latter stages of the 2014 season. Zimmer is not related to Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.

Warmsley (6-2, 269) was on the Seahawks’ practice squad from September through November 11, when he was placed on practice squad injured reserve.

Renfrow (6-6, 310) was a defensive lineman at Miami (Fla.).

The Seahawks also waived linebacker Mike Taylor (failed physical) and center Jared Wheeler.

The Seahawks’ online roster currently lists 91 players, which could mean more transactions may have to occur.

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Bears sign RB Jeremy Langford

Langford Getty Images

And now they’re up to three.

Not long after announcing deals with fifth-round safety Adrian Amos and sixth-round tackle Tayo Fabuluje, the Bears announced a four-year contract with fourth-round running back Jeremy Langford.

It could be that the Bears already have struck deals with most of their draft picks, and that they’ll be bleeding out the announcements every 30 to 60 minutes, throughout the evening.

Langford was the 106th overall choice in the draft.  He scored 22 rushing touchdowns in 2014, and added 1,522 rushing yards.

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Second Hernandez murder case returns to court on May 21

Hernandez AP

Last month, a jury in Bristol County, Massachusetts convicted former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez of murdering Odin Lloyd.  Later this month, a court in Suffolk County, Massachusetts will move closer toward setting a trial date in connection with the allegation that Hernandez killed two men in Boston, 11 months earlier.

Per multiple reports, a status hearing will be held on May 21 for the murder case arising from the shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu.  Hernandez will not be present for the hearing.

Presumably, a trial date will be set at that time.  The trial at one point was scheduled to begin in late May.  An indefinite postponement occurred, in deference to the trial arising from the Lloyd murder.

Hernandez currently is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, subject to appeal of the verdict.  In multiple respects, the second case against him is even stronger.

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