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Cowboys make release of Kyle Orton official

Kyle Orton AP

It’s official: Kyle Orton is no longer a Dallas Cowboy.

The Cowboys announced this morning that they have officially released Orton, the quarterback who started for them in Week 17 last year and had been under contract to back up Tony Romo again this year.

Orton has stayed away from the Cowboys throughout the offseason, and it was thought that he and the team were due for a standoff over whether he would retire and have to pay back $3 million from his signing bonus, or whether he would begrudgingly show up to training camp. Instead, the Cowboys gave Orton what he wanted and cut him.

The move frees up some cap space for the Cowboys, but it also leaves them with Brandon Weeden as their No. 2 quarterback. If Romo goes down, the Cowboys will have to hope Weeden can be a lot better than he looked in Cleveland the last two years.

The 31-year-old Orton is now a free agent who could sign with any team, but from all indications he has decided to call it quits.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Ed Reed AP

Bills assistant coach Ed Reed is developing a following.

A new defensive scheme should help the Dolphins create pass-rush.

The Patriots are hoping to build some continuity up front for whichever QB is on the field.

Jets QB Geno Smith was “this close” to being a starter again.

Ravens RB Justin Forsett isn’t interested in hearing about a committee.

The Bengals have some options in the return game.

The Browns latest QB competition can now begin.

Injuries could be the only thing keeping the Steelers from being Super Bowl favorites.

The Texans have some healthy CBs again.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s not looking back.

The Jaguars have former NFL RB Leon Washington among their summer coaching interns.

Titans DE Jurrell Casey is promising more Pro Bowls.

The Broncos are still in the process of determining which of owner Pat Bowlen’s children will take over the team.

Chiefs CB Phillip Gaines gets the first crack at replacing Sean Smith.

Raiders pass-rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin have become fast friends.

The Chargers are still waiting to see rookie Joey Bosa, one of the last two unsigned draft picks.

Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin says he’s been bitten by the coaching bug.

New Giants coach Ben McAdoo needs to establish his voice quickly.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson isn’t worried about how young his LB corps is.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins can focus on football now that the time for finances has passed.

The Bears are displaying a new attitude already.

The Lions have spent the offseason fixing their lines.

Packers rookie WR Trevor Davis could be their next underground sensation.

Vikings RG Brandon Fusco is ready for a bounceback season.

The Falcons want to keep both their big-play RBs fresh.

The Panthers’ most experienced CB is starting training camp on PUP.

Saints S Jairus Byrd will finally begin training camp healthy.

Buccaneers RB Doug Martin is excited to build on last year.

The Cardinals refined their playbook without adding pages.

The Rams are paying $10 million to have training camp at UC Irvine for three years.

The 49ers have Torrey Smith and a bunch of question marks at wide receiver.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is the star of a corny poster.

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Terrell Suggs trying to be smart, but wants to be back on field soon

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up before the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs rarely holds back — as people who have been given nicknames like T-Sizzle are wont to do.

But while he promised he’d be back on the practice field soon following last year’s torn Achilles, there wasn’t so much of a firm timetable.

We’re close to where we want to be,” Suggs said , via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “I’ll be honest with you: The Ravens side of me is like, ‘[F—] it, Sizz, let’s go. Let’s play some football.’ But I’ve got to be smart with it. I can’t be timid, but I’ve got to be smart.

“It won’t be long before I’ll be off of it and out there practicing with the guys.”

Suggs hadn’t talked to reporters there in nearly 11 months, after tearing his Achilles in the regular season opener. He’s on the physically unable to perform list now, but can be activated at any time.

And you can tell the 33-year-old Suggs is motivated to get going, to prove he can still play at a high level. But mostly he’s glad to be back with the team. He basically disappeared after the injury, but said it was for the best.

“It was just a sucky feeling. It was a sucky time for me,” Suggs said. “We didn’t start too good. It was just a really bad time. I didn’t want it to be about me that I was gone. It was kind of like, ‘Just let the smoke clear, and let everything happen.’ That’s what happened.”

The smoke never cleared for the Ravens last year after that injury (or the ones that followed which decimated the roster). And any bounce they get this year is going to be partly determined by whether they get the consistent pass-rush they’ve come to expect from Suggs.

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Packers applying pressure to Matthews, Peppers to submit to PED interviews

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 13: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears passes under pressure from Julius Peppers #56 and Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 31-23. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The impasse between the NFL and the NFL Players Association over the investigation regarding the Al Jazeera documentary containing allegations against four active NFL players lingers, with the league wanting to interview them, the union declining to make them available, and the league not yet saying, “The interview will occur at this specific time. Show up and cooperate or be punished for failure to do so.”

It’s unclear whether the league will make such an ultimatum. Behind the scenes, however, efforts are ongoing to persuade the players to comply. In Green Bay, for example, a league source tells PFT that some pressure is being applied by the Packers to linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers to submit to the requested interviews.

There’s not much the team can do other than appeal to their desire to be exonerated, to avoid negative P.R., to get the matter behind them, and to minimize the possibility of a potential distraction. If the players are clean, it’s easy to argue that they should want to submit to the interviews so that the league eventually could issue a press release exonerating them, like the one issued earlier this week to exonerate Peyton Manning.

The NFLPA, which still harbors some lingering ill will toward Packers president and former player Mark Murphy from the CBA talks of 2011, nevertheless believes that allowing players to be interviewed based only on the recanted allegations of Charles Sly creates a bad precedent. The fact that the league ultimately regarded Sly’s allegations against Manning to be not credible makes it even more important to insist on something more than Sly’s shaky word before allowing the league to launch a fishing expedition aimed at getting them to say something that could be used against them.

For now, the active players have held firm. Even free-agent Mike Neal, who has linked his ongoing unemployment to the lingering cloud of PED suspicion, has not yielded. As long as they do, the ball will be in the NFL’s court — and the question will be whether the league wants to draw a line in the sand based on allegations from someone whom the league already has determined to be, as it related to Peyton Manning, not believable.

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Jarryd Hayne: If the NFL had a minor league I’d still be playing

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Rugby star Jarryd Hayne had never played American football when he left his Australian team in 2014 to try to make it in the NFL. Although he made it on the 49ers’ roster last year, he didn’t get a lot of playing time and quit football to go back to rugby this year.

Now Hayne is telling the NFL that if it wants to attract international talent like him, it needs a minor league.

“If there was a second division team where I could get those mental reps of being on the field, 100 per cent I’d go back to the NFL,” Hayne told the New Zealand Herald. “I’m at the end of my career where I really (have) just got to get on the field. I just want to be on the field. I’ve played eight games in two years. If I went back there to the NFL it’d be one of those things where I’d be a second or third string guy helping out but not really getting a lot of game time.”

The NFL tried, with NFL Europe, to have a minor league that would attract international attention. That experiment failed. And the NFL doesn’t really need a minor league because the NCAA does that for the NFL, without the NFL having to pay for it.

But the NFL might some day try some type of developmental league. It could be a way to get international talent like Hayne on the field.

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Dan Snyder pays for funeral of Redskins’ super fan “Chief Zee”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stepped up to cover the funeral expenses of one of the team’s biggest supporters.

According to Carol Maloney of NBC 4 in Washington D.C., Snyder was the anonymous donor that paid for the funeral of Zema Williams, a.k.a. “Chief Zee.”

Williams, who passed away earlier this month, would attend games in full Native American-style headdresses while decked out in team colors.

Snyder isn’t exactly the most revered figure in the D.C. sports scene. The Redskins have won just one playoff games since Snyder assumed ownership of the franchise in 1999. He’s meddled with personnel decisions, had eight different head coaches in 17 years and been involved in several questionable lawsuits during his ownership of the team.

However, the gesture to cover the funeral costs of one of the team’s most visible fans is a nice one to make.

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Eric Berry may skip all of training camp, preseason

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 27:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs enters the field at Arrowhead Stadium during pre game against the Cleveland Browns on December 27, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the Chiefs not signing safety Eric Berry to a long-term deal before July 15, the franchise-tagged player remains without a contract. Under the terms of the tender, he can show up just a few days before the start of the regular season and still get the full amount of his $10.8 million salary.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Berry may do just that, skipping most if not all of training camp and the preseason, losing no money to fines but still getting the full $10.8 million salary.

The sole risk comes from the team’s ability to rescind the tag — something Chiefs coach Andy Reid did not once but twice during his time with the Eagles. Doing so would make Berry a free agent, and he would be hard pressed to get a deal on the open market that averages $10.8 million per year.

Under prior Collective Bargaining Agreements, the franchise tag for a given position was driven by the average of the five highest cap numbers in the prior year. Under the 2011 CBA, the tag is determined by the five-year average percentage of the overall cap that the franchise tag has consumed. With the growth of the cap outpacing in recent years the growth of the market at most positions, some franchise-tagged players — like Berry — instantly become the highest paid player at his position, albeit for only one year.

If the Chiefs would remove the tender, would another team pay Berry $10.8 million for 2016, or a multi-year deal averaging that much? Probably not.

It would be an unpopular move, to be sure. Berry has become a national inspiration given his recovery from cancer and his performance last season. But with Berry due to make more than any other safety and with the prospect of Berry showing up not fully prepared for Week One while still making $10.8 million, the Chiefs have to at least consider doing what Reid previously did with linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive tackle Corey Simon.

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Browns OLB Armonty Bryant pleads guilty to drug charge

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Armonty Bryant pleaded guilty on Wednesday to lesser charges stemming from an arrest last December.

According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Bryant pleaded guilty to attempted drug possession – a first-degree misdemeanor – after being initially indicted on two charges of felony drug possession.

Bryant had pleaded not guilty to the prior two charges back in February.

Bryant has already been suspended for the first four games of the season due to violations of the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Further discipline could be levied from the league for his guilty plea in this case. Per Ulrich, a league spokesman said the incident “will be reviewed under our policies.”

Bryant appeared in 14 games for Cleveland last season and finished the year with 5.5 sacks.

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“Bronco for life” Von Miller says everything is back to normal

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 13:  Outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos performs a "dab" pose as he is introduced during player introductions before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 13, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the dust settled on his record-setting six-year, $114.5 million contract, Broncos linebacker Von Miller met with reporters on Wednesday in conjunction with the opening of training camp. Less than two weeks after the protracted negotiations ended, Miller provided an assessment of the situation.

“It’s back to normal,” Miller said, via comments distributed by the team. “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go play football. I talked to John [Elway] this morning and I told him that I get to play with [receiver Demaryius Thomas] for about nine years. I get to play with [cornerback] Chris [Harris Jr.] for 9-10 years so that’s some of the stuff that I’m excited about. I’m aware of the expectations, but we have high expectations for all of us. I’m ready to get back to work and contribute to the locker room, the same stuff that I’ve been doing.”

On several occasions, Miller reiterated his sentiment from the day the contract was signed — that he’s a Bronco “for life.” But it’s really not a “for life” arrangement. Even under the interpretation of Miller’s deal from those who negotiated it, the commitment may be as little as four years. The Broncos think the minimum duration is only three years.

Miller has played five years; unless he plans to retire after only eight or nine seasons, there’s a chance he’ll eventually be playing somewhere else.

For now, though, all is well.

“Everything is great,” Miller said of his relationship with Elway, whose negotiating tactics at times privately angered Miller. “Everybody know the type of respect that I have for Mr. Elway. I was his first draft pick here. We’ve always had talks. Not only this year, but my first year, my third year, my fourth year; all of the way up until this point. I don’t expect anything to change.”

Will Miller be in shape after skipping the entire offseason program?

“I never got too far away from working out or grinding,” Miller said. “I worked the same as I would during the season or during the offseason. I just had a lot of stuff in between to do, but I feel that I’m in shape. We got a great strength and conditioning staff with Luke Richesson. I’m going to follow their lead. They got me to this point to where I am now. I feel totally confident in my ability to get back on the football field.”

Despite a contract that makes him the highest paid player on the team by far, Miller resisted the notion that he’s the face of the franchise.

“I feel like our locker room should be the face of this franchise,” Miller said. “We got a great locker room. There’s not a locker room like this in the National Football League. Talking to the guys in the locker room that have come from other teams, that’s the first thing they say, that, this locker room is ‘second-to-none’ type of camaraderie that we have in the locker room. The leadership that we have, you just don’t get in the National Football League so that will be the strength of our football team and I’m a part of that.”

Miller definitely will be part of that for at least the next three or four years. And the pressure will be on him more than any other player to chase down and secure about Lombardi Trophy or two.

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Report: No NFL interview scheduled with James Harrison

John Brown, James Harrison

The NFL has not scheduled an interview with Steelers linebacker James Harrison regarding the Al Jazeera report accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

Harrison had posted a letter on social media from the NFL last month that informed him an interview would take place July 28, the first day the Steelers report to training camp. But the Post-Gazette story quotes NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis as saying no interview is scheduled to take place.

Earlier this month Harrison provided a sworn affidavit in which he denied any wrongdoing and any charges brought about by the Al Jazeera report.

The NFL had said it still wanted to talk with Harrison and other players named in the report, and Harrison originally said he’d love to talk with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — if Goodell came to Harrison’s house for the interview.

Retired quarterback Peyton Manning, one of the players named in the report, cooperated with investigators and was recently cleared of any wrongdoing.

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Boykin, Daniels sign with Bears

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback B.J. Daniels #5 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears signed cornerback Brandon Boykin and wide receiver B.J. Daniels on Wednesday.

Boykin played for the Steelers last season after being traded by the Eagles. The Panthers signed Boykin in March but cut him in May. He’s since worked out for several teams and has denied that injury issues have threatened his career.

Daniels has been both a quarterback and a wide receiver in his NFL career. A seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2013, Daniels played in eight games last year — two with the Texans and six with the Seahawks — as a backup wide receiver, gadget player and special teamer. The Texans waived him in April, and the Giants waived him in June.

The moves bring the Bears’ roster to the preseason max of 90 players.

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Pessimism swirls regarding Le’Veon Bell’s chances on appeal

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Yes, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has vowed to not miss any games after reportedly missing several drug tests. No, no one beyond a very small circle should have even known about the potential suspension until the appeal process had concluded.

Regardless, the cat has escaped from the bag — and based on information PFT has gathered there’s a strong sense Bell won’t be escaping the suspension.

Even with neutral arbitration now available in suspensions arising under the substance-abuse policy and the PED policy, none in the know believe Bell has a strong chance to win the appeal.

It’s been suggested that Bell changed phones and didn’t receive notice of the tests. If that’s his defense, it’s hard to imagine it flying. For a guy in the program, surely an obligation exists to notify all appropriate persons of a change in cell service. Otherwise, a guy could avoid testing simply by buying a new phone.

Bell’s appeal possibly will be finalized before Week One. For now, the smartest move for the Steelers will be to assume that DeAngelo Williams will once again carry the load early in the season after Bell makes his exit following the fourth preseason game.

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Jets, Fitzpatrick finally stop the madness

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets jumps on the back of  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets during a television interview after their 26-20 overtime win against the New England Patriots  at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

At times, the drama reminded me of George Costanza’s house in the Hamptons. He knew it was fake. The parents of his dead fiancée knew it was fake. He knew they knew it was fake. They knew he knew it was fake. But they continued the ruse as George drove two hours toward the place with two solariums and horses named Snoopy and Prickly Pete because neither side was willing to say what both knew each other knew.

The Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally realized that, even in the absence of a hard deadline to get a deal done, the practical deadline had arrived. If Fitzpatrick was going to start for the team in 2016, he needed to be ready. With Fitzpatrick already missing the offseason program, the two sides needed to do what they could have done weeks ago — compromise toward a deal.

The Jets definitely compromised. They were willing to pay Fitzpatrick $12 million in 2016, but as part of a three-year deal with lower salaries on the back end and a much lower cap number in 2016. Instead, the Jets are paying $12 million, carrying the full amount on the cap (unless there’s a phony second or third year that automatically voids, which is entirely possible), including incentives that could bump the value to $15 million, and not retaining the ability to keep him around beyond this season.

Fitzpatrick compromised, too, perhaps realizing that his market value as to the other 31 teams was a lot lower than what the Jets were willing to pay him. So even if he had much more value to the Jets than to any other team, his options were to take the money from the Jets or to sit.

In the end, the Jets needed Fitzpatrick and Fitzpatrick needed the Jets and with camp opening they needed to get it done to part ways. They finally got it done.

Maybe it was my “pinch-or-get-off-the-pot” line that did it. Probably not, but as I’ve learned during the current political season that doesn’t prevent me from believing it did.

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Jets sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to one-year, $12 million deal

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Jets and their starting quarterback finally have a deal.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has signed a one-year, $12 million deal to return to the Jets for the 2016 season, according to multiple reports.

This ends a long negotiation that spanned the entire offseason and got contentious at times, with Fitzpatrick seemingly upset that the Jets weren’t willing to give him the kind of money that quarterbacks who had lesser seasons last year — like Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford — received.

In the end, however, they’ve come to an agreement that will bring Fitzpatrick back, and put back together a passing game that was surprisingly effective in 2016. The Jets think they can compete for a playoff spot this season, and now they have their leader.

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Saints GM: “No progress” on talks with Brees

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to pass during the third quarter of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Saints arrived in West Virginia for training camp Wednesday, general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters that the sides “have not made any progress” an a potential contract extension for veteran quarterback Drew Brees.

Though Loomis going on the record with that means it’s news, it’s no surprise to those who have followed the story. Brees recently said he hasn’t heard from the team regarding a possible extension in three months.

Considering Brees set a deadline of the start of the regular season for cutting off talks, this thing could get sticky.

Loomis said he doesn’t think the situation will become a distraction for the team, and Brees has been a good soldier. But the Saints have been hurting for salary-cap space, and getting a deal done earlier could have lessened the $30 million cap number Brees is carrying and helped the team in areas besides goodwill with its most important player.

Because Brees has already been given the franchise tag twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. That’s not going to happen, so the Saints have to get a deal done in the next five weeks or risk losing Brees next March.

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Shark bites Warren Sapp (then presumably spits and gargles)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 25:  The teeth and jaw of a Great White Shark are displayed after research into the biological mechanics of the predator July 25, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) including Dan Huber from the the University of Tampa, Florida in the USA, plan to remove muscles from the head of several sharks in order to create a digital shark, to help determine it's bio mechanics and potential "bite force".  (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images) Getty Images

Warren Sapp is now even for biting his ex-girlfriend.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle was bitten by a shark Wednesday.

Sapp was lobstering on a charter boat off the Florida Keys, when the shark reached out and did what Timmy Jernigan, his creditors and a pair of Phoenix prostitutes would probably like to do.

“It’s simple,” charter captain Jack Carlson said via text. “He was lobstering with me and a shark bit Sapp while he was grabbing the lobster. He’s OK.”

Carlson posted a photo of the bite on Instagram, writing: “Warren Sapp attacked by a shark while lobstering. #epicbattle. . . .

“The shark wanted the lobster just as bad as Sapp. Sapp got the lobster and the Shark got his lick in too.”

Sapp apparently hung up when Auman tried to ask about the incident.

The shark was unavailable for comment, though he’s probably considering going vegan.

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