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Former starting safety Robert Lester among Panthers cuts

Robert Lester, Kony Ealy AP

The Panthers cut a pair of former contributors to last year’s No. 2-ranked defense as part of final cuts.

Safety Robert Lester, who started last year after making the team as an undrafted rookie was waived, along with cornerback Josh Thomas.

In addition to the previously reported guard Chris Scott, the Panthers also waived linebacker Denicos Allen, cornerback Carrington Byndom, guard Derek Dennis, cornerback James Dockery, linebacker Adarius Glanton, wide receiver Tavarres King, wide receiver Marcus Lucas, tackle Andrew McDonald, safety Tom Nelson, defensive tackle Drake Nevis, running back Darrin Reaves, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, linebacker D.J. Smith, defensive tackle Casey Walker, and fullback Michael Zordich.

They also waived-injured tackle Kevin Hughes, and waived tight end Mike McNeill and safety Anderson Russell with injury settlements.

Defensive end Frank Alexander is on reserve/suspended, and will miss the first four games because of a violaltion of the league’s PED policy.

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Dwayne Allen knows it’ll be harder to get on the field

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With receivers Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett joining a depth chart that already features T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen may enter the final year of their rookie contracts without a full chance to lay the foundation for their next contracts.

Allen realizes that the number of receivers could make it harder to get on the field.

“I want to make sure that the two tight end sets stay a staple here in Indianapolis,” Allen told reporters on Wednesday. “Coach is going to do the best job, [offensive coordinator] Pep Hamilton that is, with putting the best group of guys out there that are going to allow us to score. If it’s three wide receivers and one tight, I’m working my tail off to make sure that I’m that one tight. Or hopefully it’s, again, three tights, one back, one wide receiver. But we’re putting a lot of money into that wide receiver room so I doubt that will happen.”

Allen may take some solace in separate comments on Wednesday from coach Chuck Pagano: “We’re not going to abandon the two tight end sets, three-tight-end stuff.”

While those formations may not be abandoned, it’s hard to imagine the Colts not getting as many of their wideouts out the field, as often as possible.

Meanwhile, Allen also may have to contend with feeling star struck while on the field this year.

“I sometimes have to catch myself because I do, I get like the fans and ogle over Andre Johnson or Frank Gore,” Allen said. “I’m just like, ‘Man, we’re going to kill it this year.’ Then I have to remember that there is a process and that process is we work on techniques and fundamentals this time of the year. We get to training camp, we put the pads on, see where the top guys are and then we build the team going from there. I have to respect the process this time of the year. I don’t have the privilege as the fans do of just jumping the gun and booking their tickets to Santa Clara.”

No Colts fans should be booking their tickets to Santa Clara just yet. Despite all the improvements made on offense, the Colts didn’t do much to upgrade their run defense, which means they could get pounded up the middle again by the Patriots. And, eventually, by other teams that figure out what the Patriots do, and do it themselves.

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On the field, Greg Hardy is impressing in Dallas

Greg Hardy

There’s a reason the Cowboys are willing to pay millions of dollars to Greg Hardy even though he missed 15 games last year and is suspended 10 games this year for domestic violence: On the field, Hardy is a great player.

Hardy’s work in Organized Team Activities has served as a reminder of that fact. Dallas tight end Jason Witten said Hardy has been excellent so far.

He’s explosive,” Witten told the Dallas Morning News. “He plays until the whistle blows. . . . To have a guy come in and play that way, I think, speaks volumes for what kind of character he is and what kind of individual he is.”

Although Hardy missed today’s practice with an illness, Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones called Hardy “one of the hardest workers out here.”

Hardy has a strong motivation to be a hard worker because he has a $1.3 million workout bonus, which represents about a quarter of the total pay he’s likely to earn from the Cowboys this season. The Cowboys will gladly pay that money because Hardy is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, even as he’s also one of the poster boys for the NFL’s domestic violence problem.

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Duce Staley calls DeMarco Murray a “perfect fit” for Eagles offense

Staley Getty Images

When Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley wasn’t sticking up for coach Chip Kelly on Wednesday, Staley was sticking up for running back DeMarco Murray.

He’s a perfect fit for us, exactly what we want to do,” Staley said, via CSNPhilly.com. “Downhill, full-steam ahead. That’s what we’re preaching every day: one, two, three, four yards and a cloud of dust. And all the backs we have, they’re able to do that.”

In other words, they’re not jingle-footed.

And that’s ultimately why LeSean McCoy is gone. He was making too much money, and he wasn’t doing enough of what Kelly wants out of a running back. And now Murray andthe rest of the running backs will get a chance — and a decent amount of cash — to do what Kelly wants out of a running game.

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Raiders sign Trindon Holliday, waive/injured seventh-rounder Andre Debose

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It’s only been a month since the NFL draft, but there’s already been a draft pick placed on waivers.

The Raiders announced Wednesday that seventh-round wide receiver Andre Debose has been waived/injured because of an Achilles injury. Any team can pick up Debose via a waiver claim and can revert to injured reserve with the Raiders if he goes unclaimed.

Debose was expected to challenge for kick and punt return duties with the Raiders this season, so the team turned to a veteran option in his place. They announced that they have signed the well-travelled Trindon Holliday as a free agent.

Holliday has played for the Texans, Broncos, Giants, Buccaneers and 49ers since entering the league in 2010. He’s had his bright moments — he’s the only player in NFL history to return a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the same postseason game — but issues with fumbles and injuries over the years have kept him moving around the league.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick on QB job: Todd Bowles is going to play the best guy

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

Last week brought one of our annual doses of Jets quarterback confusion when head coach Todd Bowles responded to offensive coordinator Chan Gailey putting an end to the idea of a competition at the position by saying that putting Geno Smith at the top of the depth chart in May doesn’t mean he’ll remain there through the summer.

Bowles did say that it is Smith’s job to lose and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is practicing after recovering from a broken leg, thinks he’ll have his chance to help make Smith a loser as things play out over the next few months.

“For me, I’m always going to be ready, no matter what is said or what is not said,” Fitzpatrick said, via NJ.com. “That’s kind of my approach and how I take it. I think with coach Bowles, the thing that he’s made clear to everybody in this locker room is you’re going to have to earn your spot. I think there’s a ton of respect for him.  If you look at the kind of coach that he’s been, and the successes he’s had with his defenses, he’s always played the best guys. We’re all in here trying to win, and so I think that’s certainly going to be the case, that he’s going to put the best guys out there.”

Smith is 24 and Fitzpatrick is a 32-year-old who has bounced around the league, which makes it easy to pick which player the Jets would like to see prove himself as the right pick for the 2015 season. That desire can’t get in the way of an honest assessment of the best man for the job in 2015 if the Jets want to improve their spot in the standings, however, and Fitzpatrick is operating under the assumption that it won’t play out that way.

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Seahawks moving B.J. Daniels to receiver, only have two QBs on roster

BJ Daniels Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks are moving former quarterback B.J. Daniels to wide receiver, leaving just two quarterbacks currently on their 90-man offseason roster.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell confirmed on Tuesday that the team now considers Daniels as a receiver and kick returner instead of a quarterback.

That leaves just Russell Wilson and R.J. Archer as the only two quarterbacks under contract.

Tarvaris Jackson has served as the backup to Wilson in each of the last two seasons and currently remains unsigned. Pete Carroll has expressed a desire to bring Jackson back on multiple occasions this offseason, but no deal has yet been struck between the two sides.

“We’d like to get more arms in here but we have so many guys at so many spots right now that it’s tight at those positions. But for what we’re doing here, we’re OK,” Bevell said.

Archer spent time with Bevell in Minnesota in 2010 and also spent the 2012 offseason with the Detroit Lions. He’s mainly played in the Arena League since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of William & Mary.

The Seahawks are thin at the position now with the conversion of Daniels to a receiver. They’ve carried at least three quarterbacks into training camp the last several seasons and will likely need to add someone else before the end of July.

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Jared Allen “having fun” with move to linebacker

Jared Allen AP

When Jared Allen was with the Vikings, he balked at the idea of moving from defensive end to outside linebacker.

On Wednesday, Allen chalked that up to “ignorance” while discussing the very same transition that he’s making with the Bears this offseason. Allen said that he thinks he’ll be doing the same kinds of things at his new spot, but that playing linebacker will be “easier on my body.”

“My body feels fresher because I’m not banging every single day and putting my hands on a 300-plus pounder and banging heads and that kind of stuff,” Allen said, via ESPN.com. “I like it because it is testing my football IQ. I’ve always loved the game and have always been a student of the game. Sometimes it can get monotonous and you play the same thing over and over and see the same blocks over and over. You have to work really hard at not getting complacent with your technique. This is a totally different thought process for me and it’s really forcing me to study. I’m having fun with it. I know it’s just OTAs, but being out there and seeing the one-on-one matchups that I’ve been able to create and the rush angles I’ve been able to create, so it’s kind of broadening my perspective on football. For me it’s been a blast and I’m just excited to keep going.”

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has shared his opinion that the move will serve as a “rebirth” after a career-low 5.5 sacks in 2014 and it certainly seems to have sparked something in Allen this offseason. As Allen, who also battle pneumonia last season, pointed out, though, it’s just OTAs and he’ll have to prove that a break from monotony is enough to refill a tank that looked empty too often last season.

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Duce Staley sticks up for Chip Kelly

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

It seems that everyone in Philadelphia has an opinion about the LeSean McCoy-Chip Kelly feud. Duce Staley’s opinion is that McCoy is wrong.

McCoy suggested that racism is behind Kelly’s roster moves, but Staley says that’s nonsense. Staley, who was a running back for the Eagles for seven years and is now the team’s running backs coach, says McCoy’s accusation is false.

Chip is not a racist at all,” Staley said, via CSNPhilly.com. “Chip and I work well together. Everybody has their own opinion. I’m not here to talk about [former assistant Tra Thomas criticizing Kelly] or talk about what McCoy’s talking about. I know from my relationship with Chip, that’s definitely far-fetched.”

Staley thinks it’s unfair to Kelly that the issue keeps coming up.

“We’re all here to do a job, and that’s what it’s about, it’s about football,” Staley said. “So don’t take something that’s a chapter and make it a book, if you understand what I’m saying.”

By this point we could have written a book about all the back-and-forth between McCoy and Kelly. Even if Staley thinks it’s a non-story.

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It’s Texas vs. Oklahoma on Wednesday’s PFT on NBCSN

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The Pro Football U. series continues with the Red River Rivalry. Wednesday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN takes a look at NFL players who came from Oklahoma and Texas.

And the poll question focuses on which all-star team of NFL players from those schools would win, in a hypothetical game between the school’s respective alumni.

So answer the question and tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET for a show that also will take a look at the news of the day and the best Ivy League players who made it to the NFL, with Paul Burmeister, Ivy Leaguer Ross Tucker, Brian Westbrook, and yours truly.

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Teddy Bridgewater says too soon to declare Vikings contenders

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Having Adrian Peterson back automatically and obviously makes the Vikings better.

But Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, either.

Via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Bridgewater said it’s too soon to declare the Vikings contenders.

“It’s easy to sit here and say how good we can be, but it’s still early June and it’s too early to tell,’’ Bridgewater said. “We have to just continue to get better each day right now. We know that we can’t win the championship in June, so we just have to continue to build chemistry and then take advantage of these [OTAs] and come back in training camp and then we’ll be able to tell how good we’ll be.’’

That said, Bridgewater admitted he was “excited” to get Peterson back, as he should be.

“He’s probably one of the best running backs to ever play in the NFL,” Bridgewater said. “I’m pretty excited that he’s back and we just got to continue to get better.’’

Between Peterson coming back and the addition of Mike Wallace, it’s reasonable to think the Vikings should improve. But a lot of that is also on Bridgewater, who showed remarkable maturity last year once he got on the field, and is a big part of the reason for that optimism.

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Hoyer hopes Hard Knocks won’t give away any strategic information

Hoyer Getty Images

Three years ago, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk that he picked up the Miami snap count by watching the Dolphins on Hard Knocks. And now Watt’s Texans will be on Hard Knocks.

As a result, quarterback Brian Hoyer said on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio that he hopes the editing process will ensure that no similar secrets make their way onto TV screens from coast to coast.

Hoyer said plenty more about the ongoing quarterback competition in Houston, his adjustment to a new team, and his thoughts on the ongoing controversy regarding one of his former teams — the Patriots.

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DeSean Jackson: “Personal business” kept me away last week

DeSean Jackson AP

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s absence from organized team activities last week didn’t elicit much of a reaction from Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen, who said that attendance at voluntary practices was “up to each player” and that he was confident Jackson would be “ready to go” once he did report for work.

That didn’t stop some from criticizing Jackson after he was spotted at an NBA playoff game while the team was practicing, but Jackson doesn’t have much concern about such criticism.

“I don’t play for them and I don’t hear about them. I live my life to do what I need to do,” Jackson said Wednesday, via Brian McNally of 106.7 The Fan.

Jackson said that he had “personal business” to take care of and that the team was aware that he wouldn’t be joining them. He also added that there was still ample time for him to work with Robert Griffin III and the other quarterbacks on the team before the start of the season.

Coach Jay Gruden echoed Allen’s comments about the low level of concern about Jackson’s absence and said that Jackson looked good on the field upon his arrival for work, which should put a pin in this offseason conversation point.

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Trent Williams out of OTAs because of ankle injury

Washington Redskins v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

It’s been a long time since Week 17 of the 2014 season, but not enough for Redskins left tackle Trent Williams’s ankle to feel well enough for him to take part in organized team activities.

Williams has been on the sideline while his teammates work because he was experiencing soreness in his left ankle during the first phase of offseason work. A visit to doctors turned up a torn deltoid ligament that led to the decision to have Williams sit out now so that he’ll be ready to go when the team gets to training camp.

“Nothing major at all. We wanted to get it under control right now. I didn’t want to have to deal with it all season,” Williams said, via Chris Russell of ESPN 980. “If I treat it the right way, right now [then] I wouldn’t have to go under the knife of any kind.”

Williams, who has also dropped weight since the end of last season, is entering the final year of his contract and there’s been discussion about an extension. The ankle issue shouldn’t get in the way of that as long as all is well in a couple of months.

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Jason Garrett wants Joseph Randle to do more and say less

Joseph Randle AP

Cowboys running back Joseph Randle created some headlines when he suggested last week that DeMarco Murrayleft some meat on the bone” despite running for a league-leading 1,845 yards in 2014.

Murray responded by wishing Randle, who joins Darren McFadden, Ryan Williams and Lance Dunbar in the Dallas backfield, the best in his effort to taste some of that meat this year and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also weighed in. Garrett spoke to Randle directly about the comment and shared the gist of that conversation with reporters on Wednesday.

“We addressed that with Joe really immediately,” Garrett said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I think sometimes comments like that get taken out of context or they are not really intended the way they come out. I think Joe has great respect for DeMarco as we all do. Joe did a good job with his opportunities. Joe and everyone else on our football team, we have to focus on what we do, not with what we say and I think he understands that. But the biggest thing is you need to focus on doing, not talking.”

After last year’s arrests for marijuana possession and shoplifting underwear, any advice that points Randle toward concentrating on football first and foremost is good advice as he tries to carve out a bigger role on offense in Dallas.

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Malcom Floyd thinks 2015 could be his final NFL season

Eddie Royal, Malcom Floyd AP

It was right about this time last year that Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd received full clearance to resume his NFL career after a severe neck injury ended his 2013 season in Week Two and called his ability to return to the field into question.

Floyd showed few ill effects from the injury once the season got underway as he started all 16 games and caught 52 passes for 856 yards and six touchdowns. The yardage and touchdowns tied his career highs and Floyd should play a prominent role in San Diego’s offense again in 2015, but that may be the end of the line.

Floyd, who turns 34 in September, is entering the final year of his contract and said that missing time with his four kids has him “thinking about shutting it down at the end of this season.”

“It’s a demanding sport,” Floyd said, via ESPN.com. “I dodged a bullet like two years ago. The injuries and what you go through off the field, as soon as I get home I can’t really do anything with my kids. But I don’t like to get too personal with that. I’m just happy and it’s a privilege to be out here. I’ve played 12 years and I’m happy with where I’m out now.”

With quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates also in the final year of their deals, there’s a chance that the Chargers Offense could look very different come 2016. If this is the last hurrah, Floyd says it’s “important” to go out at a high level and added that he thinks the Chargers “have all the pieces to win a championship” this year.

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