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LeBron’s return could be good for Browns

The week began with an image of Johnny Manziel with a rolled up dollar bill.  It ended with LeBron James rolling back into town.

The immediate impact on the Browns after the return of King James to Cleveland is that local fans suddenly won’t care quite as much about the NFL franchise that plays in the so-called Factory of Sadness.  Over the long haul, it could be good for the Browns to have LeBron back.

For starters, James’ presence will dilute some of the Manziel mania, at least in Northeast Ohio. Which in turn will put less pressure on the team to play him right away, and less emphasis on everything Manziel does or doesn’t do.

Also, at a time when Manziel has made it clear that he’ll do what he wants, Manziel may be inclined to listen to LeBron’s advice, especially since Manziel’s off-field interests are handled by the marketing company owned by LeBron and Maverick Carter.  Of course, the potentially impetuous Manziel could react to LeBron crowding Johnny Football’s Cleveland spotlight by parting ways with LeBron’s marketing company. Manziel’s tweet welcoming LeBrown back to town suggests that won’t happen.

So LeBron could help Cleveland win an NBA title and improve the prospects of the Browns by getting Manziel to tone it down and/or at a minimum to stop being photographed in compromising situations and/or ideally to focus only on being the best football player he can be.

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First college games at new Falcons stadium will have roof closed

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Atlanta’s new stadium has a roof that is supposed to open and close with the flip of a switch. Until further notice, the switch will be in the “off” position.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the college football games due to be played on Labor Day weekend at the new venue will proceed with the roof closed. The stated reason for the decision is to “eliminate the variable of weather.”

Of course, the main purpose for having a roof that opens and closes on demand is to allow it to open when the weather is going to be favorable and to close when the weather will be inclement. The advance decision to go with a closed roof underscores the lingering challenges arising from the complex roof of the futuristic structure.

Gary Stokan, president and CEO of the company responsible for the Chik-fil-A Kickoff claimed that the Alabama-Florida State and Georgia Tech-Tennessee games will have a closed roof for reasons unrelated to construction delays that are currently pushing the stadium’s opening right up against the preseason games the Falcons will be hosting in late August. Stokan says he didn’t even ask whether the roof could have been open.

“I had concluded we were going to keep it closed, anyway, so I never even asked if we would be able to open it,” Stokan said. “I know when it’s closed everything is going to go well. The air conditioning will be fine. . . . I think whenever you put on an event the less things you need to be concerned about, the better. And I know with the roof closed it’ll be a great atmosphere and experience.”

It would be an even better atmosphere if the roof were open, and having the flexibility to make that decision as close to kickoff as possible is one of the benefits of having a roof that opens and closes. With plenty of rumors swirling that the roof isn’t working the way it should (and there are some concerns it may not work the way it should during the 2017 season, or ever), this development justifies curiosity that the new stadium will be like that convertible with the top that won’t swing open, no matter how warm or sunny it may be.

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Report: NFL teams holding missed bowl game against Jabrill Peppers

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Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers was one of a handful of draft prospects who didn’t play in his team’s bowl game. And now that may be costing him in the eyes of NFL teams.

Adam Schefter reported today on ESPN that there are teams with concerns that Peppers didn’t play in his bowl game. Those teams apparently worry that by sitting out Michigan’s Orange Bowl contest against Florida State, he showed a lack of commitment to his team.

Why should that affect Peppers’ draft stock when it hasn’t seemed to affect the stock of LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, both of whom also sat out their teams’ bowl games? Apparently because Peppers didn’t reveal he wasn’t playing until the day of the Orange Bowl, whereas both Fournette and McCaffrey addressed their decisions with their coaches and teammates well in advance of their bowl games.

However, it’s a little odd that this report is coming from Schefter today, because on the day of the bowl game, Schefter reported that Peppers had legitimately suffered a hamstring injury and wanted to play but physically couldn’t.

A few NFL decision-makers, including Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, have said they would be concerned about a player who sat out his bowl game. But this is the first report we’ve heard a report that a specific player is actually dropping on draft boards for that decision.

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Albert Wilson signs RFA tender with Chiefs

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The deadline for restricted free agents to sign with other teams has come and gone, which leaves players yet to sign their tenders with little reason not to do so.

Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson is among the latest to come to that conclusion. The NFL’s transaction wire brings word that Wilson has signed his tender, which leaves him set to make $1.797 million in Kansas City this season.

Wilson has spent the last three years with the Chiefs and made five starts last season. He caught 31 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns and also had a 55-yard touchdown run while playing the third-most snaps at wideout behind Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley.

The Chiefs didn’t add any free agents to the group, which also includes 2016 rookie standout Tyreek Hill. An addition in the draft this week and a bigger role for Hill could lead to a different one for Wilson come September.

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John Elway mum on Joe Mixon’s status

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Pre-draft press conferences usually don’t result in much useful draft information, given the competitive and secretive nature of the process. On Monday, Broncos executive V.P. of football operations and General Manager John Elway was extra secretive about the team’s assessment of one of the most controversial prospects in the draft class.

After declining to say whether running back Joe Mixon is or isn’t on the team’s draft board, Elway provided this vague assessment of the team’s evaluation of the former Oklahoma running back’s character: “We’re still evaluating that. Obviously, that’s an issue and it’s something that we’re continuing to look at while getting as much background as we can on Joe to see where he may fall for us.”

Elway also provided a general, and generally positive, assessment of the team’s meeting with Mixon.

“We had a good meeting with him,” Elway said. “There’s no question. I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with him, but I had a meeting with him. We went through the whole process and what happened. I’m sure he had been through it several times. But for us to be able to hear it from him, and what happened — we went through all that.”

Whether any of that makes the Broncos more or less likely to pick Mixon remains to be unseen. Unlike other teams, however, the current ownership situation in Denver gives Elway more leeway than other football executives may have. The Broncos currently don’t have a single owner in the classic sense, with a small committee running the franchise until one of the children of Pat Bowlen emerges as ready and able to take over.

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Mike Maccagnan: Interest in QBs isn’t referendum on Christian Hackenberg

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The Jets used a second-round pick on quarterback Christian Hackenberg last year, but that decision doesn’t appear to have taken quarterbacks off the table for an early pick in this year’s draft.

The Jets have spent time with the top prospects in this year’s class and the sixth pick in the draft leaves them in prime position to add one of them to the roster on Thursday night. General Manager Mike Maccagnan wasn’t tipping his hand in any direction during a press conference on Monday, but he did say that the time the Jets were spending with quarterbacks over the last month was not a sign that they were writing off Hackenberg.

“I know it’s like: If this happens, then this must be the case,” Maccagnan said, via “I don’t think it’s a referendum on one or another player. I think it’s: Until you’re in a position where you feel [good] with where you’re at — and we’re not at that position yet. But we may be. Time will tell.”

Maccagnan’s hardly the first to espouse that philosophy and, as he shared Monday, former Packers G.M. Ron Wolf shared his belief in drafting a quarterback every year while interviewing Maccagnan as a Jets consultant in 2015.

Time will also tell whether the Jets are making the sixth pick or not, of course. They’re reportedly interested in trading down and their spot could move as they try to stockpile picks to reseed a roster that’s in need of help in several spots this offseason.

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Adrian Peterson to Saints doesn’t make much sense, for Peterson

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It’s obvious why the Saints would want Adrian Peterson. It’s not obvious why Adrian Peterson would want the Saints. Unless, of course, no one else wants Peterson.

But even if no other team currently is offering Peterson $3 million or so per year, his likely role (Mark Ingram reportedly would still be the lead back) and the perceived ability of the team to help Peterson finish his career with a Super Bowl win (the Saints have three straight 7-9 seasons in a division that produced the last two NFC champions) suggests that Peterson’s better move would be to watch and to wait. Injuries are inevitable, especially at the tailback position. If a short-list contender loses its starting running back for an extended stretch (like the Vikings did last year in Week Two when Peterson tore a meniscus), Peterson instantly has leverage along with an opportunity to become a key contributor for a team that could be playing in February.

But it’s possible that the Saints have put the hard sell on Peterson, with coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees persuading Peterson that the Saints may be ready to party like it’s 2009, the season that saw New Orleans take down Peterson and the Vikings en route to a Super Bowl victory.

Regardless, the decision seems a little hasty from Peterson’s perspective. While that could be end up being very good for the Saints, it could end up being a mistake for the player.

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Time of testing a factor in assessing credibility of diluted sample excuse

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Every player who attends the Scouting Combine must submit to drug testing. With two of the players who were tested at the Scouting Combine in 2017 generating positive tests via diluted samples, there’s an important point to keep in mind when deciding whether the explanation for the failed drug test passes the smell test.

The samples are collected very early in the morning, with the players often getting the “wakey wakey” business before doing their business into a cup. So the diluted samples either resulted from a player drinking huge amounts of water before going to be and then: (1) failing asleep with a rapidly-filling bladder; and (2) sleeping through the night with a very full bladder, or from a guy waking up early and drinking copious amounts of water in order to ensure that certain substances won’t be detected in the sample.

The statement issued on behalf of former Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers accounts for this dynamic by pointing out that the player “was being pumped with fluids, drinking 8-10 bottles of water before he went to bed, because he was the first guy to work out two days for the LBs and DBs.”

Is it possible he actually drank that much water before going to sleep, fell asleep with that much water in his system, and slept through the night without having to get up to unload most of the 8-10 bottles of water before proving a sample that wasn’t dilute? Sure. But it’s also possible that Foster, Peppers, and anyone else who generated a test sufficiently dilute to be regarded as an effort to beat the test deliberately ingested extra water to ensure that any banned substances would be undetectable in a sample of urine that had been overloaded with water.

Either way, teams that pick either guy will have to assume the risk that the players failed their first major football-or-banned-substance test, and that they’ll fail enough of the various future football-or-banned-substance tests to come to result in their inability to play football.

Should it be this way, with teams testing player urine to determine what they’re doing on their own personal time? Nope. But until the rule changes, the players need to be able to pass the test.

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Bills won’t match Mike Gillislee offer sheet from Patriots

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The Patriots have done it to the Bills again, but at least this time Buffalo gets something for it.

The Bills announced they won’t match the restricted free agent offer sheet the Patriots gave running back Mike Gillislee, the second year in a row the Pats have snagged one of their RFAs.

While wide receiver Chris Hogan netted them no compensation, the Bills will get New England’s fifth-round pick (163rd overall) for Gillislee.

The Patriots signed him to a two-year deal with $6.4 million, but the deal was front-loaded to make it harder to match. The Bills could have kept a productive back for the difference of about $1 million with a higher tender offer.

Gillislee averaged 5.7 yards per carry last year and scored eight touchdowns, and he could be the replacement for veteran free agent LeGarrette Blount, who hasn’t signed.

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Steelers pick up the 2018 option for Ryan Shazier

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The Steelers lost one linebacker this offseason, so they’re making sure to hang onto another key part.

According to Albert Breer of, Pittsburgh’s picking up the fifth-year option on linebacker Ryan Shazier’s contract.

Shazier has become a key part of their defense, so it was #asexpected that they’d hang onto him.

But after losing Lawrence Timmons to the Dolphins in free agency, having another year of cost-certainty at the position was even more important.

Shazier had 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions last season. He also played in a career-high 13 games last season, missing three with a knee problem.

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Report: Adrian Peterson, Saints closing in on deal

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Word came Monday that the Saints and running back Adrian Peterson are still talking about a contract and they reportedly are moving toward doing more than that.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the two sides are “closing in” on a deal that would put Peterson in a Saints uniform for the 2017 season. Per the report, the deal would be for $3 million-plus.

There’s no word on when things may move from closing in to closed, although the draft may provide some impetus to get things done sooner rather than later. The Saints would likely want to know if they need to add a running back at some point this week as they are thin at the spot beyond Mark Ingram and signing a deal now would keep Peterson from losing out on possible landing spots due to how the draft unfolds.

If the Saints do sign Peterson, he’ll see some familiar faces in his first regular season game with his new team as last week’s schedule announcement revealed the Saints and Vikings will square off on the first Monday night of the year.

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Scott Campbell admits Scot McCloughan’s influence on draft board

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At some point after the Senior Bowl and before the Scouting Combine, Washington decided to get rid of G.M. Scot McCloughan. The team didn’t get rid of his work.

“Well, he certainly had influence on it because we all met as we always did the last couple of years and every team does,” Washington director of college scouting Scott Campbell told reporters on Monday. “You meet right after the all-star games before you go to the Combine and kind of get an initial ranking of how you like the guys. Of course, Scot hadn’t been here since, so just like when he was here before, there’s adjustments being made to the board with the new information. We did that with Scot also, so it’s not just like we use that information then we’re done and we’re just sitting around waiting for the draft. There’s still information being done, information added and guys are being moved up and down with the information. Certainly his influence is there from the initial boards.”

The final board won’t be determined with the benefit of McCloughan’s input. But plenty of other people will have their fingerprints on the final configuration of rankings.

“Bruce [Allen] will be involved, definitely, and Jay [Gruden], of course,” Campbell said. “Everyone will be involved in the final Redskin grade at the end of the day. And the goal is to not have panic on draft day. You want to have all that stuff. . . . You don’t want to have a brand new argument break out right there before you’re picking. That’s ridiculous. I’ve never seen that happen in any team I’ve been with. It’s all been worked out, hashed out. The argument’s already been had, because really by then it’s too late.”

It’s definitely too late to erase McCloughan’s influence on the draft class, or to keep him from sharing that influence with other teams, if he so chooses. The smarter move would have been to find a way to keep McCloughan around through the draft, but there isn’t much about how the team handled McCloughan’s situation that objectively could be referred to as “smart.”

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Chargers plan to exercise Jason Verrett’s 2018 option

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Four years from now, we’ll be talking about whether or not teams will exercise their fifth-year options on this year’s first-round picks.

If the Chargers hit on their top pick, they likely won’t be spending much time mulling that question. They feel they hit in the first round in 2014 when they drafted cornerback Jason Verrett and General Manager Tom Telesco said on Monday that the team plans to exercise the 2018 option on his contract.

Any doubt the Chargers might have about exercising the option likely comes from his injury history. Verrett has played at a high level, but has missed 24 games because of injuries. The most recent was a torn ACL in the fourth week of last season and Verrett also missed 10 games as a rookie due to a torn labrum.

His option for 2018 is guaranteed against injury and the Chargers certainly hope that won’t wind up being an issue when the 2017 season comes to an end.

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Joey Bosa at Chargers workouts Monday

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Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco held his pre-draft press conference on Monday and most of the time was spent painting the same broad strokes about the team’s plans for later this week that you hear from every team at this point in the year.

Telesco did provide one newsworthy item about the team’s top pick from last year during the session, however. Telesco said that defensive end Joey Bosa was at the team’s workout on Monday after missing the first few weeks of the voluntary offseason program.

“He was in this morning so I think we’re all good there,” Telesco said.

Bosa was working out on his own the last few weeks and his play last year after missing a much larger period of time while negotiating his contract showed that being away from the team didn’t hold him back too much. That should make his temporary absence this year a distant memory by the time the start of the 2017 season arrives.

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Joe Montana wants street named in his honor to bear Dwight Clark’s name, too

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San Francisco announced on Sunday that 49ers Hall of Famer Joe Montana will have a street named in his honor. But Montana doesn’t want to be alone.

Montana said he wants his receiver Dwight Clark, who caught The Catch from Montana in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, to be honored as well. So at a ceremony recognizing Montana, he asked that “Joe Montana Drive” be named “Montana-Clark Drive” as well.

Clark was recently diagnosed with ALS, but Montana said he knew he wanted to do something to honor Clark before the diagnosis. Montana said that his wife has been telling him that he needs to do something to show how special Clark has been to him.

“She has a great feel and a great sense for these things,” Montana said, via the San Jose Mercury News. “She’s been through my life and through my career. . . . and she knows Dwight was a special guy for me from Day One.”

Still, Montana isn’t above giving his teammate some ribbing.

“When his name goes up on here, they could lower the speed limit,” Montana said. “Because we know Dwight wasn’t very fast.”

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Jerry Jones: Tony Romo situation worked out as well as possible


The Cowboys took their time after the end of the 2016 season before releasing Tony Romo earlier this month and he’ll be moving on to a job in the CBS broadcast booth alongside Jim Nantz.

There was some criticism directed toward Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for the amount of time they took as the process played out, but Romo expressed no animosity toward Jones when he moved on to his new career. Jones is also feeling good about how things wound up.

During a press conference on Monday, Jones said the situation “worked out as well as it possibly could.” Some of that feeling likely comes from Romo moving into a job he could fill for a long time if he proves to be a strong commentator, but Jones also made it clear that he’s happy not to have to play against Romo.

“Yes. I think if he were [playing for someone else] they would be real competition for us this year,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News.

The Cowboys will have plenty of competition as they try to build on last year’s success, but it seems that the only threat Romo will pose to them is well-delivered barbs during a couple of their regular season games.

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