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Jags unveil new video boards before crowd of more than 52,000


Jacksonville ain’t Oxnard.

With the Cowboys struggling — and ultimately unable — to get 5,000 fans to show up for training camp in California, the Jaguars lured 52,961 to EverBank Field for the unveiling of video screens even larger than the Close Encounters mother ship that hovers over the surface where Jerry Jones’ team plays.

It wasn’t just about the video boards.  Fulham F.C., the English soccer team owned by Jaguars owner Shad Khan, thumped D.C. United 3-0 in an exhibition match, followed by a free concert from Carrie Underwood.

But the real star of the night was the gigantic new screens, one at each end of the venue and both larger than a football field.  (The picture accompanying this blurb shows an image that filled the prior video screen inside its much larger successor.)

It’s the latest one-up move in an era featuring NFL teams trying to outdo each other in the hopes of enticing fans to choose attendance in person over watching games at home.  Eventually, look for the top of an entire stadium to be capped and wrapped with a 360-degree drive-in theater screen.

Other amenities that wouldn’t be practical in northern climates include the pools that have been installed at EverBank Field, giving fans an experience that definitely would be difficult to duplicate at home.  Especially if they don’t have a pool.

Ultimately, the way to keep a stadium packed is to develop a team that contends for postseason berths on a consistent basis.  Quietly, the Jaguars are working on that project, too.

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Bill Belichick scoffs at evaluating players before the pads are on


Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters on Day 2 of training camp that asking him to evaluate players right now is a waste of time.

“You know, you guys are asking a lot of questions about what have we seen from ‘this’ guy, what are we seeing from ‘that’ guy. We’ve yet to put on pads, alright?” Belichick told reporters, before adding sarcastically, “I understand that this is a pretty talented group of evaluators in this room, but in all honesty our evaluations come more in training camp when we actually practice and we can fully execute the techniques and the plays that we’re trying to do.”

Belichick said that when the pads are on, that’s when camp begins.

“I would say real training camp starts tomorrow, we’ll continue for quite a while after that, including the preseason games, is when the real evaluations start,” Belichick said. “So I know everybody’s all excited when a guy catches a pass, but when the defense doesn’t jam him or they’re not allowed to really, because we don’t want heavy contact out there, aren’t competing for contact at the end of the play then it’s not quite the same as when all of that’s going on. I’m not taking anything away from the receivers. I’m not taking anything away from anybody. I’m just saying it is what it is. The competitive level out there is not what it’s going to be starting tomorrow, so to evaluate players competitively when they’re not on a competitive level, I have a hard time with. But I know a lot of the people are real good at that and they can make a lot more out of it than I can, but due to my personal limitations and my personal inability to make those evaluations, I don’t make them. We can keep asking about how everybody does on ‘this’ and how everybody does on ‘that’. The main thing for me is to see if they’re doing the right thing, doing it properly, how we can correct that, and then there will be a point in time where everybody will be able to go out and do it to the best of their ability against very competitive players on the other side of the ball and we’ll see what happens. That’s when the evaluations really start, other than if a person can’t take the instruction and do what you’re asking them to do or can’t do it properly, you can evaluate that. But in some cases it’s hard to evaluate how they’re doing competitively against somebody else when it’s really not a competitive situation.”

Belichick said evaluating players’ on-field work without pads is about seeing if they know the playbook and can execute it on the field.

“I think you can evaluate what you’re teaching them to do,” Belichick said. “Do they understand the plays? Do they understand their assignments? Are they using the proper technique in their assignment? Can you evaluate whether a guy can power rush, or whether you can stop a power rush, or whether you can stop the physical play or block physical players in there? No, and we don’t want to evaluate that. That’s not what this is for. So yeah, I mean in terms of evaluation it’s definitely limited. What we do want is so that the players understand their assignments, their techniques, adjustments that they’re going to have to make so when we can evaluate it, they already know what to do and there’s not a lot of ‘Do I do this? Do I do that’ hesitation, which then nobody looks good doing that, and it’s hard to evaluate a player when he’s not confident or sure of what he’s doing. If he knows what to do and he’s sure how to do it and he goes out there and does it the best that he can and the guy on the other side of the ball does the same thing, then you can see what you have. But we’re not really at that stage yet. We just aren’t. We’re doing what we can do, which is productive. We’re making progress and soon we’ll be able to get into a different type of evaluation practice.”

Ultimately, Belichick said, the Patriots haven’t done any real football yet in camp.

“We’re not in pads,” he said. “We’re not tackling guys. We’re not jamming the receivers. We’re not blocking each other in the running game, or very infrequently. We’re not defeating run blocks. We’re not doing any of those things, so we don’t evaluate them.”

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Rams G.M. Les Snead calls Aaron Donald contract “a priority”

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The Rams’ best player is holding out of training camp, and General Manager Les Snead knows he needs to do something about that.

Snead and Rams head coach Sean McVay called a press conference specifically to talk about holdout defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and they both stressed that they want to get a new contract with him done.

“Aaron is a priority,” Snead said. “The goal is still the same, make Aaron a Ram for a long, long time, so that didn’t change at all. I definitely respect Aaron as a human, respect the process.”

But while the Rams are saying they want to give Donald a new deal, they have leverage because Donald is still a long way from free agency: Donald is under contract for $1.8 million this year and $6.9 million next year. The Rams could then franchise tag him in 2019 and 2020. It will be a long time before Donald can negotiate with any other team.

Which is why Donald wants the one team he can negotiate with now to know that he means business. Holding out of camp is the way to get that message across.

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Report: Fans rising up against possible Kaepernick signing in Baltimore

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If recent comments by Ravens coach John Harbaugh regarding the potential signing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick were meant to be a trial balloon, it apparently is made of lead.

Mike Silver of NFL Media reports that the Ravens “have heard from numerous fans regarding Kaepernick in the last couple of days, many staunchly opposed to his signing.”

It’s hardly a surprise, given that Giants co-owner John Mara already has provided all anti-Kaepernick fans with the blueprint for shouting down a potential Kaepernick signing.

“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said in May. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, moreso than any other issue I’ve run into.”

It’s impossible to know whether the fans from whom the Ravens have heard are only Ravens fans, or whether they are fans of other teams who simply want to see Kaepernick remain unemployed. Regardless, it’s no surprise that those who don’t want to see Kaepernick on an NFL team are trying to block it from happening at a time when it appears that it could.

Maybe those who support the employment of Kaepernick — you know, those who made his 49ers jersey the 17th highest-selling jersey in May — should start contacting the Ravens as well, regardless of whether they are Ravens fans.

Ultimately, the question becomes whether Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti will ignore the noise, positive and/or negative, and make a decision based solely on the objective of winning football games. After all, that’s what the Commissioner claims all teams do.

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Report: Grand jury could resolve Gareon Conley case “in days”


This Friday, cornerback Gareon Conley received a new contract. By next Friday, he could be indicted for sexual assault.

Ed Gallek of FOX8 News in Cleveland reports that the rape investigation involving the Raiders’ first-round pick is “wrapping up,” and that a grand jury could decide whether to charge Conley “in days.”

If a grand jury does indeed take up the case, and if the prosecutor (who presents evidence without Conley’s lawyer having the benefit of rebutting it) applies any amount of effort, an indictment will be likely, given the low “probable cause” standard for returning what the law calls a “true bill” of charges. And that will plunge Conley, the Raiders, and the NFL into a mess, with the team and the league sure to face relentless public pressure to not allow a player facing formal rape charges to play until the charges are resolved.

It’s currently unknown whether Conley agreed in his rookie contract to, for example, a term that would allow the Raiders to place him on paid leave if charged, or that would allow them to recoup bonus money or stop future payments if convicted.

Regardless, the fact that a grand jury will be resolving the issue enhances significantly the possibility that Conley won’t be quickly and cleanly exonerated.

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Jets sign TE Chris Gragg, waive KD Cannon

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The Jets signed veteran tight end Chris Gragg, waiving rookie receiver KD Cannon to make room.

Gragg missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He was hurt on a low hit by Washington safety DeAngelo Hall in the preseason, going on injured reserve.

The Bills drafted Gragg in the seventh round in 2013. He played 32 games in three years, with 10 starts, making 24 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns.

Cannon signed with the 49ers as a priority free agent, one of the league’s highest-paid undrafted free agents with a $5,000 bonus and $40,000 guaranteed. But he lasted only a weekend of non-contact practices with other rookies and tryout players before the 49ers released him.

The Jets had claimed him off waivers from the 49ers.

Cannon had a successful college career at Baylor, leaving as the third-leading receiver in school history. He made 195 catches for 3,113 yards and 27 touchdowns.

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The full Everson Griffen details

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The Vikings recently signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a new contract, with two years left on his prior deal. The details are now in, per a source with knowledge of the contract.

Here they are:

1. Signing bonus of $2 million.

2. Fully-guaranteed roster bonus due July 29, 2017 of $5 million.

3. $1.9 million fully-guaranteed base salary for 2017.

4. Fully-guaranteed roster bonus due May 15, 2018 of $6 million.

5. $3.9 million base salary for 2018, guaranteed for injury only at signing, but fully-guaranteed on the third day of the 2018 league year.

6. $10.9 million base salary for 2019, guaranteed for injury only at signing, but fully-guaranteed on the third day of the 2019 league year.

7. $12.9 million base salary for 2020, $4.3 million base salary of which is guaranteed for injury only at signing. The $4.3 million becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2020 league year.

8. Non-guaranteed base salary of $13.4 million for 2021.

9. Non-guaranteed base salary of $14.9 million for 2022.

10. $100,000 workout bonuses for 2018 through 2022.

11. $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses for 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

As a practical matter, it’s a two-year deal that pays out $3.5 million more than Griffen would have made over the next two seasons, with most of the money fully guaranteed at signing. After 2018, it’s a year-to-year deal with injury guarantees for 2019 and 2020.

So he traded a shot at the open market in two years for an extra $3.5 million, another $15.2 million in injury protection beyond 2018, and two non-guaranteed years that tie him to the Vikings for a total of six years.

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Cowboys sign QB Luke McCown, WR Javontee Herndon

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The Cowboys signed quarterback Luke McCown to a one-year deal, McCown’s agent, Mike McCartney tweeted Friday night.

McCown, 36, has been in the league since 2004 when he was a fourth-round pick of the Browns. He has played in 62 games, with 10 starts, for five different teams. McCown lasted played in a game in 2015.

The Saints re-signed McCown to a two-year, $3 million contract a year ago, but they released him this offseason after signing Chase Daniel.

He has a 2-8 record, completing 216 of 356 passes for 2,370 yards with nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

The Cowboys need a camp arm after losing Zac Dysert to a herniated disc in his back. They have Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore and undrafted rookie Cooper Rush on their roster.

The Cowboys also signed receiver Javontee Herndon, who worked out for the team Friday morning. Herndon did not play last season because of a knee injury but had 24 catches for 195 yards for the Chargers in 2015 when he played in eight games, with two starts.

They waived running back Jahad Thomas with an injury designation. Thomas was an undrafted rookie free agent. He will go on injured reserve if he clears waivers.

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Mike Zimmer admits it will be hard giving up defensive play-calling

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Mike Zimmer already has said he probably will allow defensive coordinator George Edwards to call plays during a preseason game. But the Vikings head coach admits that after 17 consecutive seasons of calling the defensive plays, it will be hard to relinquish those duties.

Zimmer didn’t elaborate on his comments Friday, but his players did.

“If he does it, it will be tough for him to do,” safety Harrison Smith said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “He loves running the [defensive] film session, he loves calling the plays. That’s his thing. That’s what he’s been great at for how many years? But he’s always going to do his thing as a head coach, so whatever he does we’ll adapt to it.”

Edwards called the defensive plays last year against the Cowboys when Zimmer missed the game because of emergency eye surgery. The Vikings held the Cowboys to 17 points, though they lost by two.

Edwards, entering his fourth season with the Vikings, previously served as a defensive coordinator with Washington in 2003 and Buffalo in 2010-11.

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Falcons WR Devin Fuller injures knee

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Falcons receiver Devin Fuller has had nothing but bad luck since entering the league.

Fuller, who missed all of last season, injured a knee in Friday’s practice.

I know it was a knee, but I don’t know what [the injury was specifically],” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’ll have an update for you on Fuller tomorrow. [Trainer] Marty [Lauzon] said he was going to go and the [doctors] were going to be here today to evaluate him. I don’t know the severity of it yet.”

The Falcons made Fuller a seventh-round pick out of UCLA a year ago. But he was injured in the exhibition season and missed all of last season with a shoulder injury that landed him on injured reserve.

Fuller made 146 receptions for 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns during his four seasons at UCLA.

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Raiders agree to terms with rookie Gareon Conley


Rookie cornerback Gareon Conley has agreed to terms with the Raiders, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported.

The Raiders now have signed all nine players in their draft class. They opened training camp Friday.

Conley, the 24th overall pick, becomes the next-to-last first-rounder to agree to terms. Titans receiver Corey Davis now stands as the lone unsigned first-round pick.

Conley’s signing was complicated by a Cleveland police investigation that continues into a rape accusation made against Conley in April. Conley has denied the allegation.

The Raiders have said all along they felt comfortable in their choice of Conley, believing he will be cleared. Jack Del Rio said earlier this week, in an appearance on 95.7 The Game, that the team remains “confident about the decision we made and the person we have.”

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Shane Ray out 6-8 weeks with torn ligament in his wrist

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A day after Von Miller predicted a big year for Shane Ray, Broncos coach Vance Joseph announced Ray will miss the next 6-8 weeks.

The pass-rusher tore a ligament in his left wrist and will undergo surgery Saturday.

Ray was hurt in Thursday’s practice, but he practiced Friday with a brace. Further testing revealed the bad news on Ray.

“Right now, he’ll be counting weeks,” Joseph said. “Hopefully he’s back [soon]. We’re hopeful he’ll be back by Buffalo [in Week 3]. It’s really weird because it’s the same area as [RB Devontae] Booker. Booker had the bone that was fractured. [Ray] has the ligament torn that’s attached to the same bone that Booker fractured. That’s where we are.

“It happens. I’m disappointed again for the player more than us. He’s worked so hard, and he’s making strides to have a great year. It happens. Injuries happen. In my opinion, they’re going to happen. Right now, I think we’re in great shape. They’re happening early so we can get these guys back for the full season. Obviously, I’m disappointed for him.”

Joseph said he will meet with General Manager John Elway to discuss the team’s options, with a roster move possible.

The Broncos already are without Shaq Barrett, whom Denver placed on the non-football injury list after he hurt his hip working out away from the facility. Joseph has said Barrett could miss the start of the regular season.

“Shaq’s timetable has not changed,” Joseph said. “We’re hoping to get Shaq back in the same area as those guys, hopefully Week 2 or 3.”

The Broncos had hoped for a breakout year for Ray, a first-round pick in 2015, after the retirement of DeMarcus Ware. Ray has 12 career sacks, including eight last season. He saw his first action as a starter last season when Ware was injured.

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Celebrity chef Guy Fieri breaks news of Marcel Reece’s return to Seattle

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The Seahawks have yet to confirm Marcel Reece’s return, but Russell Wilson confirmed what celebrity chef Guy Fieri first reported. Yes, Guy Fieri.

Fieri became friends with Reece in the past year, producing Reece’s cooking video. Fieri tweeted about Reece’s return: “I’m no @jayglazer but I’m happy to break the news that my brutha @celreece45 is reportin to @seahawks camp!”

Wilson later tweeted, “Homie is coming back!!! @CelReece45”

There has been speculation in Seattle that the Seahawks would bring back the fullback before training camp starts Sunday.

Reece became a favorite in the state while playing receiver at the University of Washington in 2006-07. He made the move to fullback while with the Raiders from 2008-15.

The Raiders released Reece last September, and he signed with the Seahawks on Dec. 6 after they had injuries a the position.

Reece, 32, played the final four regular-season games and both playoff games. He became a free agent in the offseason.

The Seahawks have two other fullbacks on the roster in undrafted rookie free agent Algernon Brown and second-year player Kyle Coleman.

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49ers say Reuben Foster is looking good


Despite concerns before the draft about his surgically repaired shoulder, 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster is at full speed in training camp, and looking good.

Foster had a pick-six in 7-on-7 drills today, and afterward head coach Kyle Shanahan said he loved what he saw from Foster.

“I was excited,” Shanahan said. “It was good to get him out there, get him on the field. I know he’s been chomping at the bit for a while now. It was good to see him go through it full speed, deal with getting aligned right and stuff. I think he got an interception out there today, which was good for him. It was a good first day.”

Foster only got one rep with the first-string defense in 11-on-11 work today, so the team may be easing him in. But with the limited work he has received, the 49ers are liking what they’re seeing from a player who’s healthy and ready to go.

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Seahawks add former player Lemuel Jeanpierre to coaching staff

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The Seahawks brought back a former player, adding Lemuel Jeanpierre to their coaching staff for this season.

Jeanpierre, 30, will serve as an offensive assistant, the team announced Friday.

He spent part of six seasons as a center and guard with the Seahawks. Jeanpierre originally joined Seattle’s practice squad in 2010 before being promoted to the 53-man roster for the postseason that year.

Jeanpierre made 11 starts during his Seahawks career and appeared in 63 regular-season games and nine postseason games, helping the team win Super Bowl XLVIII in 2013.

His last season was 2015.

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Tamba Hali to open camp on PUP list

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Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali aired some grievances about his lack of playing time in last season’s playoff loss to the Steelers on social media this week, saying he was healthy enough to give the team more than seven snaps in that game.

It appears that his current condition isn’t quite good enough to allow him to begin practicing with the team at training camp, however.

Hali was not on the field for Friday’s practice and coach Andy Reid announced after practice that Hali is on the physically unable to perform list. Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports that Hali was training inside the team’s facility while the rest of the team is on the field.

Hali opened camp last year on the PUP list as well and returned to action in the latter part of August after recovering from a knee scope. He went on to play in all 16 regular season games, picking up 3.5 sacks and a chip on his shoulder about how he was used in the process.

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