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Steelers won’t suspend post-pot arrest, this time

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When it comes to applying and enforcing internal rules, the Steelers (like most sports teams) operate not with bright lines but a golf bag.  And they carefully select a club based on, ultimately, the overriding duty to win as many football games as possible.

That’s why it’s no surprise that the Steelers won’t be suspending running back Le’Veon Bell or LeGarrette Blount for last week’s Cheech and Chong meets Dumb and Dumber marijuana episode.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains that the Steelers won’t suspend either player.  He bases his conclusion on the plain language of the labor deal, which prohibits teams from taking matters into their own hands regarding alcohol and drug offenses.

While entirely accurate, that provision didn’t stop coach Mike Tomlin from sitting former Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes with pay in 2008, after a mid-week marijuana citation.  It also didn’t stop the Steelers from suspending former defensive lineman Alameda Ta’amu after a DUI incident.

In this case, a suspension of the two players involved would put the team in a tough spot for the regular-season opener against the Browns.  And so the discipline will be meted out in some other way, the team will defer (for a change) to the league office, and this specific incident of arguable compliance with the CBA will be forgotten the next time a guy who is less important to the cause gets in trouble and the team decides to make an example out of him.

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Sunday morning one-liners

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The Bills tried to leave themselves without much work to do in the draft.

Winning more games is the next step in Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill’s development.

Patriots QB Tom Brady put on his basketball shoes for a game with Michael Jordan.

Todd Bowles had several mentors on his way to becoming Jets head coach.

CB Lardarius Webb hopes to retire with the Ravens after restructuring his contract.

Tracing DE Michael Johnson’s path away from and back to the Bengals.

Two ways of looking at the best Browns of all time.

Plenty of coaches praised Steelers S Troy Polamalu during last week’s league meetings.

The Texans need G Xavier Su’a-Filo to step up in his second season.

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Coby Fleener are both a year away from possible free agency.

A call for the Jaguars to find space for WR Greg Jennings.

The five biggest developments of the Titans offseason.

Holdovers on the offensive coaching staff are helping the Broncos transition under head coach Gary Kubiak this offseason.

Former Chiefs TE Sean McGrath is part of the recent group of young players leaving the NFL.

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie is one of several linebackers to wear No. 54 as a player with the team.

A music video is part of the effort to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

Would Michigan DE Frank Clark be an option for the Cowboys in the draft?

The Giants were part of the contingent of teams at LSU’s pro day.

Is scheme or talent the most important thing for the Eagles?

A look at possibilities for the Redskins to trade back from the fifth pick.

West Virginia WR Mario Alford’s speed could make him attractive to the Bears.

Would Indiana RB Tevin Coleman be a good fit with the Lions?

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson isn’t likely to change his approach to the draft.

Captain Munnerlyn expects to retain a starting cornerback job with the Vikings.

G Mike Person likes what he’s seen of the Falcons blocking schemes.

Jarrett Boykin may have taken the Panthers out of the running for other free agent wideouts.

The least successful free agent signings in Saints history.

The Buccaneers signed free agents familiar with their defense.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald played the world’s longest par 3 in South Africa.

Coach Jeff Fisher broke down the Rams’ moves on defense.

What led the 49ers to hold onto QB Blaine Gabbert as Colin Kaepernick’s backup?

This weekend marked the anniversary of the trade that brought CB Shawn Springs to the Seahawks.

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Jay Gruden on Mariota visit: We have a lot of options at No. 5

Marcus Mariota AP

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is setting up visits and workouts with the teams at the top of the draft, including a stop in Virginia next month.

Mariota will be at the Redskins’ headquarters in April, a little more than a month after General Manager Scot McCloughan took in the Heisman Trophy winner’s pro day workout. The Redskins already have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, of course, although the team isn’t going farther than saying that Robert Griffin III is the starter “right now.” That suggests an open mind about using the fifth pick on Mariota and coach Jay Gruden didn’t suggest otherwise when asked about the quarterback’s visit on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of people that will be available with the fifth pick,” Gruden said, via CSNWashington.com. “We’re gonna look at ‘em all and make a good Redskins decision. Whoever that is will be a big help for us.”

Whether Washington is considering Mariota or not, it makes sense for them to make the rest of the league think he’s a consideration in order to keep open the possibility of a trade come draft day. As the Redskins well know, desire to land a quarterback in the first round can make teams offer handsome sums in trade compensation and they might be able to get on the receiving end this time around.

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Stevan Ridley close to medical clearance, lines up visits this week

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Free agent running back Stevan Ridley is healing from a torn ACL and looking for work.

Ridley has his first free agent visits of the offseason scheduled this week, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports.

A 2011 third-round pick of the Patriots who has spent his entire career in New England, Ridley had 94 carries for 340 yards and two touchdowns in the first six games before a season-ending injury last year. He is now about six weeks away from being cleared medically.

Given the injury and the fact that Ridley has spent most of the last two years as a backup, it’s unlikely that Ridley can get much more than a minimum contract. But as a 26-year-old who’s a couple of years removed from a 1,263-yard season, Ridley will probably draw interest from a few teams. And if he’s fully healthy, he may turn out to be a bargain.

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Bob McNair thinks Vince Wilfork won’t be another Ed Reed

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Two years ago, the Texans gave $5 million in guaranteed money to an 11-year veteran defender who had just won a Super Bowl.  It didn’t work out.

This year, the Texans once again gave $5 million in guaranteed money to an 11-year veteran defender who had just won a Super Bowl.  Some wonder whether it will work out.

Obviously, owner Bob McNair believes Vince Wilfork won’t be another Ed Reed.  Otherwise, the Texans wouldn’t have taken a chance on a player that Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to not keep around.  So what’s the difference between Reed and Wilfork?

“I think the difference is when you have someone at a position where they have to be able to run, then age is more of a consideration,” McNair said at the league meetings, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com.  “We thought Ed was in good shape and was going to be able to come down and play and he was a big disappointment.  At nose tackle, you don’t have to run that much.  He’s got to be strong.  So there’s some positions you can play for more years and you aren’t taking as much risk.”

The notion that old guys are more likely to lose speed than strength seems a little simplistic.  Plenty of fast guys retain their speed well into their 30s.  Plenty of strong guys lose their strength well before turning 40.

The biggest difference between Reed and Wilfork is that Reed was damaged goods when he signed with the Texans.  The Texans didn’t notice that Reed needed hip surgery when giving him a passing grade on his physical.

So it’s less embarrassing for the Texans to distinguish Reed and Wilfork based on the speed vs. strength of older players, and not to remind everyone that whoever gave Reed a clean bill of health in 2013 made a major mistake.  Ultimately, Reed’s short stay in Houston had a lot more to do with the hip problem the team didn’t spot than an age-related reduction in his speed.

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Donald Stephenson gets a clean slate in Kansas City

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Last year, Donald Stephenson was expected to start at right tackle for the Chiefs.  A four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy derailed that plan.

Entering 2015, G.M. John Dorsey says Stephenson gets a fresh shot at becoming the starting right tackle.

“There’s some things that occurred last year, but it’s a clean slate,” Dorsey said at the league meetings, via Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star.  “So what he has to do is set the little things into motion that professionals do in terms of obtaining that starting position.

“So what you do is take little steps, ultimately building toward bigger goals that you set for yourself. And I think you go in and challenge yourself on a daily basis.  You go in and do the little things it takes to be truly professional — do not take this game for granted.”

The Chiefs have overhauled their line this offseason, adding guards Ben Grubbs and Paul Fanaika and letting center Rodney Hudson leave via free agency.  Stephenson ultimately started no games in 2014, but he appeared in each of the 12 that followed his suspension.

Stephenson and Jeff Allen most likely will be the primary competitors for the starting job at right tackle.

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Pete Carroll says Chip Kelly knows what he’s doing

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A rash of unpredictable offseason moves has caused many Eagles fans to question the acumen and/or sanity of coach Chip Kelly.  Seahawks coach Pete Carroll believes they shouldn’t worry.  Instead, Carroll thinks they should be the opposite of worried.

“I think the people in Philadelphia should be very excited about the changes that are coming,” Carroll said at the league meetings in Arizona, via CSNPhilly.com.  “Maybe they can’t see it — the vision is not clear to them.  Chip knows what he’s doing.  It’s going to be interesting to see.”

It’s definitely going to be interesting.  It could be interesting, however, and disastrous.  Carroll is far more optimistic.

“His record and his history has proven that he knows what he’s doing and that he has his act together,” Carroll said of Kelly.  “I know he’s really excited to have the opportunity to be in the position to mold the team.  I wouldn’t doubt for a second that he’s not on it.  He knows what he wants and what he needs.  He’s proven that.”

Kelly took the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season with the team, but failed to return in 2014 — despite finishing with a 10-6 record.  Another failure to qualify for the postseason will place even more pressure on Kelly for what could be a make-or-break season in 2016.

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Desmond Bishop to visit 49ers on Monday

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The 49ers need linebackers.  The next one they add may be one that was on the team at the end of the 2014 season.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that Desmond Bishop will visit the 49ers on Monday.  He appeared the final two games of the season.

Bishop spent time with the Cardinals in 2014 after one season with the Vikings and five with the Packers.

A member of Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV championship team, the 29-year-old Bishop has 27 career regular-season starts.

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Jadeveon Clowney: I’m making progress, and I’m very encouraged

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Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft whose rookie season was cut short by a serious knee injury, says he’s doing well in his recovery.

Clowney declined to say how soon he might be back to 100 percent after microfrature surgery, but he is trending in the right direction.

“I’m not going to speak on that, but I’m making progress, and I’m very encouraged,” Clowney told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m working hard, but we’re not going to rush it.”

Clowney says he’s working harder now than he did when he was practicing last season.

“Rehab is tough, tougher than playing. You have to get there earlier than everybody and leave later than everybody,” he said.

Microfracture surgery is serious business, and some athletes never come all the way back from it. The Texans have to hope all of Clowney’s hard work pays off, and that his health allows him to live up to his enormous talent.

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Russell Wilson hits HR in cameo appearance in Rangers camp

Russell Wilson AP

Russell Wilson was a mediocre pro baseball player before he became an outstanding pro quarterback.

But Saturday, he showed a flash in the batting cage similar to his early run in the NFL.

According to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, Wilson sent one over the fence during his batting practice with the Texas Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., surprising even himself.

I haven’t swung a bat in about two years,” he said.

Wilson also took ground balls, during his second annual cameo in Rangers camp. Texas chose Wilson in the Rule 5 Draft giving them the right to have the Seahawks quarterback hang around.

Wilson was drafted by the Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 draft as a second baseman, when he was also playing football at N.C. State.

He hit .229 in 93 games, giving no indication there was much of a future in it. Saturday’s swing notwithstanding, it seems he made the right call.

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Jared Allen wants to prove he belongs: “I’m good still. Really”

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The Bears are still figuring out how best to use Jared Allen, since they’re kind of contractually stuck with him.

But after a disappointing first year in Chicago, Allen vows to show everyone this year that he still has plenty left in the tank, and he started that campaign when he met with General Manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox last week.

“I was less anxious and so much more eager to talk to them,” Allen said, via Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. “Just to say, ‘Hey guys. I know the film from last year only shows 5.5 sacks. But don’t believe that’s all I have left.

I’m good still. Really.”

Of course, Allen’s going to have to prove it in a foreign defense, as the Bears are shifting to a 3-4 system that will require him to play outside linebacker if he’s going to see the field on anything other than passing downs.

But as he comes to the twilight of a brilliant career (he turns 33 next week), Allen feels compelled to go out on his terms, to prove he’s still an impact pass-rusher even if he didn’t look like one last year.

“There are three reasons guys hang on,” Allen said. “Some need the money. Some need the identity the NFL gives them. So they stick around for that. Some guys genuinely think they still have it. . . . I’m selfish enough that if I didn’t truly think I still had it, I’d walk away. I’m in the top 10 all time [in sacks]. I have a 12-sack per-year average. I don’t want to end to end my career with an eight-sack per-year average, right?

“I can’t let last season be my lasting impression, the image of a guy who was hurt and sick and pissed off,” he says. “That’s not me. … This is not about making the best of a bad situation. It’s about being the best again in an environment where I can be.”

If he can adapt late in his caerer, he’ll have that opportunity.

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Lance Briggs to visit the 49ers on Monday

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With a big hole to fill at inside linebacker, the 49ers identified Mason Foster and Lance Briggs as two potential targets in free agency this week. Foster signed with the Bears instead, but Briggs is heading to San Francisco for a visit.

Briggs told Vaughn McClure of ESPNChicago.com that he will visit with the 49ers on Monday. Briggs is from the area and grew up a 49ers fan.

The 34-year-old Briggs was informed by the Bears this year that he won’t be back in Chicago, but he says he can “still perform at an elite level.” That’s debatable, but if Briggs can be anything close to the player he once was, he’d represent a major upgrade for the 49ers. With the retirements of Chris Borland and Patrick Willis, San Francisco desperately needs help at the position.

If Briggs doesn’t sign with the 49ers, other options include the Buccaneers (where he’d be reunited with former Bears coach Lovie Smith) and Cowboys (where he’d be reunited with Rod Marinelli, an assistant on Smith’s staff who is now the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator). Even at his advanced age, there are probably a few defenses that Briggs can help, and he’ll likely sign with one soon.

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Chiefs see Andy Reid and Alex Smith as a Super Bowl combination

Andy Reid, Alex Smith (11) AP

The Chiefs are confident that they have the two most important pieces in place to win a Super Bowl.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said that in head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith, Kansas City has exactly what it needs to get a title.

“We’ve got a coach and a quarterback who can take us to the Super Bowl,” Hunt said, via the Kansas City Star. “And if we keep building the team the right way — and I will go back and mention again, I feel a big part of that is drafting right, [because] you have to do that every year — we’ve got a real shot of getting to the game we all want to get in.”

Hunt made clear that the expectations are high for his franchise, which hasn’t won a playoff game since Joe Montana led a victory over the Houston Oilers in 1993.

“The expectation is that we have a team that can compete for a championship every year, and to have that, you have to be building every year,” Hunt said. “I don’t want to see us get in a position where we’re mortgaging the future trying to win it all this year. We always want to be in a building mode.”

The hardest part about building a champion is finding the coach and the quarterback. Hunt thinks that job is done.

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Jay Gruden says the door is open for Santana Moss to return

Santana Moss AP

Santana Moss will turn 36 this offseason, caught just 10 passes last season and is not currently under contract to any NFL team. But that doesn’t necessarily mean his NFL career is over.

Jay Gruden, who coached Moss in Washington last year, says the team would be open to bringing Moss back for another season.

“You know what? I could always play with Santana,” Gruden said, via the Washington Post. “Santana’s a great person. He’s great in the locker room for us. He knows all the positions. I know he’s going to be in great shape, and I would not hesitate one bit to call him.”

Washington seems fairly set at receiver with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Ryan Grant and Andre Roberts, but if the team decides it needs another player at the position — and that player is not added in the draft — Moss could return.

“We’ve talked about everybody. It’s just about when, how. We don’t want — we’ll wait until the draft to see what we have as far as numbers at every position and go from there. You know, that’s something that we know where Santana is, and he knows where we are, and something may work out down the road,” Gruden said.

No one has any illusions that a 36-year-old Moss is going to be like the 26-year-old Moss who set the franchise record for receiving yards in a season and was an All-Pro. But if the team wants to add some veteran depth, Moss may be back for one more year.

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Washington plans to host Marcus Mariota

Playoff Championship Ohio St Oregon Football AP

The Jets are sending some key decision-makers to work out Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. But the team drafting ahead of them may take Mariota before the Jets, at No. 6, get the chance.

Washington, which has the fifth overall pick, plans bring Mariota to the team’s headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, Albert Breer of NFL Network reports. Tampa Bay and Tennessee have also scheduled visits with Mariota, so four of the teams with the top six picks will work him out.

It’s anyone’s guess where Mariota might land. The interest in him is high enough that there seems to be a good chance that he’ll go in the Top 6, but there are also mock drafts that see him sliding quite a bit further than that.

If Washington drafts him, that would be a very strong sign that the team is preparing to move on from quarterback Robert Griffin III. So far, the team hasn’t decided whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Griffin’s contract, which means he could be a free agent next March.

In addition to the teams high in the draft that may take Mariota, the Chargers have shown interest and are expected to work him out on April 15. It seems unlikely that Mariota would still be available to the Chargers with the 17th overall pick, but with only one more season left on Philip Rivers’s contract, San Diego could trade Rivers to move up and get Mariota.

Almost everyone thinks Jameis Winston will go first overall to Tampa Bay. Plenty of teams are interested in Mariota as well, but it’s still anyone’s guess which of those teams will end up with him.

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Packers may use pistol formation on a regular basis

Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers AP

Last year, a late-season calf injury to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers forced coach Mike McCarthy to rely at times on the pistol formation, given the limitations on Rodgers’ mobility.  McCarthy plans to use it more in 2015.

I like the pistol,” McCarthy said in Arizona this week at the league meetings, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  “I think there’s a lot of value regardless of the injury to Aaron.  I know he likes it.  There’s a place for it year-round in your offense.”

The Packers wouldn’t use it as a tool for allowing Rodgers to run the read-option, but as a way to introduce more variables into the defensive effort to crack the code of the team’s tendencies.

“I liked it from a self-scout standpoint,” McCarthy said.  “It gives you another self-scout variable when you’re in the gun, but you also have the tailback behind you.  [There are a] lot of benefits to it.”

With a quarterback like Rodgers, it’s hard to imagine the Green Bay offense struggling in any formation.  Still, look for the pistol to be a more prevalent formation for the Packers.

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