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Fisher says Sam hasn’t been a distraction

Fisher AP

With Tony Dungy explaining that he wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam because of the distractions that go along with having him on the team, the coach who drafted Sam has addressed whether and to what extent Sam has been a distraction.

“Absolutely not,” Jeff Fisher told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning on Wednesday.   “Let’s define distraction.  There were a couple of extra cameras during early OTAs.  There may have been an extra camera yesterday as rookies reported and went on the field the first time.  Mike’s a very passionate athlete.  He’s very focused on trying to make this football team. . . . He worked really hard during the summer, and he’s doing a good job.”

Fisher, who said that there will be no limits placed on Sam’s media availability during training camp, nevertheless has no issue with Dungy’s view on the matter.

“I’m gonna assume some that maybe things were taken out of context,” Fisher said.  “But everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.  Coaches are going to have differences of opinion during the draft. . . .  I’m not concerned.  Tony’s entitled to his opinion as everybody is and so are and right now we think we have a pretty good thing going.”

The Rams may have such a good thing going that Sam won’t be good enough to make the roster.  Fisher has said in the past that cutting Sam would be as normal a part of the broader process as drafting him.  Fisher hinted during Wednesday’s interview that, even as Sam improves as a player, he ultimately may not be regarded as being good enough.

“Unfortunately, one part of this business is releasing players and upgrading the roster and so on and so forth,” Fisher said.  “We let three players go yesterday who really have only been here for probably a month.  They’re better football players than when we signed them, and that’s where Mike is right now.  He’s a better football player because he’s committed himself to making this football team.”

Even with no distractions to date, scrutiny will arise if Fisher ultimately cuts Sam — especially with all those Rams jerseys bearing his name already being purchased.  And that’s surely one of the distractions Dungy would have been concerned about, even if his initial comments on the matter were omitted from Ira Kaufman’s article in the Tampa Tribune or if Kaufman opted not to ask the follow-up questions that would have drawn a more complete explanation from Dungy.

Dungy will be able to give a more complete explanation soon.  He’s scheduled to join The Dan Patrick Show in the 9:00 a.m. ET hour.

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No date yet for Tom Brady appeal hearing

Fans Attend "Free Tom Brady" Rally Getty Images

Under Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL and the NFL Players Association must pick a date for the appeal of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension within 10 days after the filing of the appeal. The deadline is today. And it hasn’t happened yet, per a source with knowledge of the situation.

It could still happen today. If it doesn’t, the two sides can agree to postpone the deadline to selecting a date for the hearing.

The NFLPA hopes to get the hearing completed in June, with the goal of leaving enough time to challenge via legal action a decision by Commissioner Roger Goodell to uphold all or part of the suspension.

Look for a date to be selected fairly soon. Especially since the month of June begins fairly soon.

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Shane Ray sitting out, but Broncos think he’ll be ready soon

shaneray AP

Broncos first-round pick Shane Ray fell on some draft boards because of a toe injury that some teams thought would require surgery. And that injury is, in fact, keeping Ray sidelined at the start of Organized Team Activities.

That doesn’t mean the Broncos are worried. Head coach Gary Kubiak said today that he expects to see Ray doing pass-rush work soon.

He’s close,” Kubiak told the Denver Post. “I think next week you’ll see him do some individual (work) and those types of things. We fitted him with some orthotics. He’s feeling good. He’s done some work. He’s done a lot of treatment.”

Ray thinks he might take the field as soon as Thursday or Friday.

“But it’s a process and it’s not something we want to rush. We want to make sure that when I do come back, I can be me,” Ray said.

The Broncos will take it slow in May, in the hopes that Ray can be the player they drafted by September.

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Matt Forte: All I can do is play football

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Running back Matt Forte is back with the Bears after skipping the early phases of the team’s voluntary offseason work while working out on his own.

Those workouts, described as “rigorous speed training,” came as Forte enters the final year of his contract and that led to speculation that Forte’s absence was designed to get the Bears to extend his contract. Forte said he does want a new contract, but that he wasn’t staying away as leverage to get it and that he wouldn’t hold himself out of mandatory practices.

Forte stuck to that script Wednesday.

“All I can do is play football. I’ve come to the realization that any run or catch I have could be my last in a Bears uniform. If they don’t want to re-sign me, I’ll have to play football somewhere else,” Forte said, via CBS Chicago. “Nobody wants to play on a one-year deal, especially with the uncertainty of how football is. You just figure, a guy who’s been there since day one, has put in hard work and continues to produce, that guy should be rewarded. But it’s a business, and that doesn’t always happen.”

It rarely happens for running backs who have turned 30 and Forte will hit that milestone in December, which will likely make 2015 a season-long audition for Forte to show the Bears and the rest of the league his worth.

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Report: Michael Campanaro sustains quad injury

Michael Campanaro AP

One of the Ravens’ young wide receivers is reportedly on the mend.

Second-year pro Michael Campanaro sustained a quadriceps injury in Wednesday’s organized team practice activities, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports. The degree of the injury is not yet known, the Sun said.

The 24-year-old Campanaro caught seven passes for 102 yards and one touchdown in four games as a rookie in 2014 for Baltimore, which traded a 2015 sixth-round pick to Cleveland to take Campanaro in Round Seven. He’s likely to at least be one of the Ravens’ top five wide receivers in 2015.

The Ravens’ OTAs this week run through Thursday.

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Which NFL team is best poised to end its city’s championship drought?

Unknown

With the Cavaliers qualifying for the NBA Finals, the city of Cleveland could finally shed most of its Factory of Sadness sports vibe.

Which brings me to Wednesday’s PFT Planet poll question: Which NFL team is best positioned to end a drought of 20 years or more in its current city?

Pick an answer, and then tune in to Pro Football Talk on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET to see the answer. And to hear more about the latest NFL news, with Paul Burmeister, Ross Tucker, Jason Taylor, and yours truly.

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Marcell Dareus on contract: We’ll wait and see what Bills do

Marcell Dareus AP

Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said Wednesday that he is happy to be able to move forward after the announcement of his one-game suspension because he can prepare for the season without something that was “hanging over my head for a while.”

Dareus’s attention won’t be limited to on-field matters, however. He’s entering the final year of his contract and admitted that thoughts about his future in Buffalo or elsewhere are on his mind as a result.

“We’ll wait and see what the Bills do,” Dareus said, via the team’s website. “It weighs on me heavily. Heavily. I’ve got to go out there and really perform and do what I have to do, which I always do — really have fun with it. Whatever the outcome is, is the outcome. However they want to play it is how they play it. I’m excited. I’m excited for the upcoming year.”

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley has said that an extension for Dareus is the team’s top priority at this point in the offseason and he told the Associated Press that he planned to speak with senior vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf on Wednesday about talks with Dareus’ camp.

That should give Dareus a better idea of what the Bills will do, but he thinks the team already knows what it needs to know about him. He said his play “speaks for itself” and the message it’s sent in the last couple of years suggests that someone will be giving Dareus a lot of money at some point in the near future.

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Alex Mack mum on whether he plans to stay in Cleveland

Mack Getty Images

Last year, the Browns applied the transition tag to center Alex Mack, allowing the team to match any offer sheet signed with a new team. The Jaguars signed Mack to an offer sheet that gives Mack the right to void the contract after two years. Which means that Mack can get out of Cleveland after the 2015 season.

On Tuesday, Mack declined to say whether he’ll exercise his right to hit the open market.

I’m going to defer,” Mack said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “I’ll talk about that at the end of the season.”

But Mack was willing to say he hasn’t made up his mind.

“No, absolutely not,” Mack said. “Let’s play the games, let’s see how the season goes. I’m really not interested in talking about that until after the season.”

When he does, whether and to what extent the Browns can win games apparently will be a factor in the final analysis.

“I definitely want to win games,” Mack said. “It’s very important to me. No one likes losing. Across any job, anything, at all times. It’s tough, without a doubt. . . . What you always do, you just want to come out here, play games, play well and win games. That’s what every person in this building’s goal is.”

The Browns acquired some protection against Mack leaving by using a first-round pick on offensive lineman Cameron Erving, who played some center at Florida State.  If Erving lives up to his potential, however, the far better outcome would be to keep both guys on the team.

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Blake Sims joining Toronto Argonauts

Blake Sims AP

Alabama’s starting quarterback in 2014 is said to be heading to the Canadian Football League.

Blake Sims, who went undrafted in May, has signed with the Toronto Argonauts, Everett Sports Marketing said on Wednesday. (A nod to 247Sports.com for first pointing out the announcement.) Al.com also reported Sims’ contract with Toronto.

As a senior, Sims (5-11, 218) connected on 252-of-391 passes for 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the Crimson Tide. He will reportedly play quarterback in Toronto.

After the draft, Sims had tryouts with Washington and Green Bay, but he did not sign a contract with either club. In Washington, Sims worked at running back.

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Matt Cassel says Tom Brady’s ball preparation not unusual

cassel brady Getty Images

If Matt Cassel knows The Deflator, he’s not saying.

The Bills quarterback, who spent four years with the Patriots, three of them as Tom Brady’s backup, said he was just deferring to the league on its #DeflateGate punishment.

I’m really not going to get into that,” Cassel said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. “Obviously that was a league decision and it’s something that the league came down with a ruling and we’re going to go out there and play against whoever’s going to be out there on the field.”

Asked about Brady’s role in preparing game balls, Cassel chose his words carefully.

“I think it’s the same everywhere,” he said. “I think we all have a say in what balls we want and all that stuff and that’s about the extent that I’ll go into that.”

Of course, Cassel and Brady are still pals, hanging out at the Kentucky Derby despite the fact they’re division rivals now.

But as most players and coaches have, Cassel tried to hold his breath and get through this one without anybody noticing.

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Texans will debut on Hard Knocks on August 11

Bill O'Brien AP

All the signs were pointing toward the Texans being this year’s Hard Knocks participant and it became official on Wednesday.

The Texans, NFL and HBO announced that the team will be featured on the long-running series that puts NFL Films cameras all over training camp to capture everything that goes into getting ready for the season. It’s the first time that the Texans have appeared on the show, which will debut on Tuesday, August 11 at 10 p.m. ET.

“This is an opportunity to provide a behind-the-scenes look at our team as we prepare for the 2015 season,” Texans General Manager Rick Smith said in a statement. “Fans will get a chance to see the great competition that takes place day-in and day-out on the practice field, as well as get to know all the unique personalities on our roster.”

At a press conference Wednesday, owner Bob McNair said he saw the show as an opportunity to introduce the team to more people around the country. He also vowed that the show wouldn’t be a distraction to the team, particularly coach Bill O’Brien.

“We discussed it. We’re not going to give anyone a competitive advantage,” McNair said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

After working for Bill Belichick in New England, O’Brien may not be thrilled about life as a reality star but, as is always the case when the boss makes up his mind, he’ll need to make his peace with it.

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LeSean McCoy limited by neck injury

LeSean McCoy,John Conner AP

The Bills got to take a look at some of their backup running backs with the first team during team drills on Wednesday because running back LeSean McCoy was limited during practice.

A neck injury was the reason for McCoy’s abbreviated schedule during the workout. Coach Rex Ryan said after practice that the injury wasn’t anything the team was worried about, but that they decided to take it easy with a player they plan to be leaning on heavily come the fall.

“He’s got a little thing like in his neck or something like that, but it’s not serious but it’s one of those things where we don’t need him out there,” Ryan said, via ESPN.com. “I don’t even think he had a helmet — he might have had a helmet out there but I’m not sure.”

Anthony Dixon and Fred Jackson worked with the first team during the 11-on-11 portion of practice while Bryce Brown and rookie Karlos Williams got their reps with the backup units. With McCoy established as the No. 1 back, the competition between that quartet should provide the only intrigue in the backfield for Buffalo between now and September.

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Colts sign Phillip Dorsett

Phillip Dorsett AP

Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett is the latest first-round pick to sign his rookie contract.

The Colts announced Wednesday that Dorsett has agreed to the standard four-year deal with the team. As a first-round pick, Dorsett’s contract also comes with a team option for a fifth season at a salary equal to the 3rd-25th best-paid players at the position.

Dorsett’s selection raised some eyebrows since the Colts’ biggest needs were perceived to be on defense and the offensive line, but General Manager Ryan Grigson said the selection was made because the team wanted to take the best available player on their board. He has a good chance to contribute immediately as a returner in the kicking game and will compete with Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter for snaps behind T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson on offense.

With Dorsett signed, the Colts have now agreed to deals with six of their eight draft picks. Their two third-round picks — cornerback D’Joun Smith and defensive end Henry Anderson — remain unsigned.

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Cowboys filming practice with drones

images Getty Images

At some point, the term “drone” became inherently sinister. At some point, the term “drone” became attached to all remotely-controlled devices that fly.

Which has caused plenty of people to assume that any and all drones are evil and capable of mass mayhem. Which likely has delayed many reasonable innovations relating to the use of drones.

In the NFL, one team is embracing the use of drones. Via Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys are using drones to film practice during OTAs.

“We pride ourselves on coaching and teaching our players as well as we can and film has been a big part of the game for a long time,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Typically you have an end zone shot and a sideline shot. We use a lot of hand-held cameras on the ground. . . . One of our coaches went down to SMU for their spring practices and saw they were using it. They liked the angle. We got a chance to see it, so we decided to take a look at it.”

Last year, NFL Media considered using drones as part of the Inside Training Camp series. It’s unclear why the technology wasn’t used. Maybe it’s just the stigma of equating an innocent RC helicopter to an anonymous death machine.

Then again, maybe they are.

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George McCaskey admits second-guessing signing of Ray McDonald

George McCaskey AP

Bears owner George McCaskey said the decision to sign Ray McDonald this offseason was his.

So when he says he’s second-guessing that decision, he means he’s second-guessing his own process.

Via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, McCaskey told reporters that even though he initially said no and was talked into adding the troubled defensive lineman, that the decision to bring him aboard was “my decision, ultimately, alone.”

So it follows that he didn’t blame General Manager Ryan Pace for the embarrassing addition.

“Not at all. We have complete confidence in Ryan,” McCaskey said.

At the same time, he said he didn’t have any input on Monday’s decision to cut him when McDonald was again arrested for a domestic violence charge.

“I wasn’t involved because I didn’t need to be,” he said. “They knew what needed to be done and did it.”

McCaskey talked to McDonald prior to agreeing to sign him, warning him that his behavior had to improve. When it did not, McCaskey’s doubts crept in.

When asked why he didn’t talk to any of McDonald’s accusers prior to signing him, McCaskey said: “One of my concerns was the bias anybody has in that situation.”

Yet he didn’t consider that McDonald or his family might carry a bias themselves, which put him in the uncomfortable spot of answering questions today.

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Zimmer on Peterson: He can play for us or not play at all

Adrian Peterson, Rusty Hardin AP

If the Vikings are wavering from their plan to have Adrian Peterson in their backfield in 2015, they are doing a very good job of keeping it under wraps.

Peterson isn’t with the Vikings for their organized team activities this week, something that was expected as Peterson has yet to report for any work with the team since having his suspension lifted in April. Coach Mike Zimmer made it clear on Wednesday that his decision not to take part in practice hasn’t changed the team’s position, however.

“He’s got two choices. He can play for us or not play,” Zimmer said, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com.

Not playing would keep Peterson from earning the $12.75 million that the Vikings are set to pay him this season. There have been reports that Peterson still wants to be traded and suggestions from his camp that his willingness to rejoin the team might improve with some adjustments to the amount of guaranteed money in the remaining years of his contract, but the former appears to be off the table and the latter may be unless Peterson decides to come to work.

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