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Christine Michael bangs up shoulder

Seahawks AP

As the Marshawn Lynch holdout lingers, his leverage spikes if/when any of the team’s alternatives at tailback gets injured.

If became when on Sunday, when second-year running back Christine Michael left practice with a shoulder injury.

“He just banged his shoulder a little bit,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters after practice.  “They think he will be ready to go on Tuesday.”

The injury serves as a reminder that Plan B can quickly becomes Plan C and so on, unless and until Lynch returns to the fold.  There’s been no progress along those lines, with Lynch wanting a new contract and the Seahawks refusing to rip up the last two seasons of a four-year, $30 million deal.

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Ron Rivera: De’Quan Menzie is retiring

Arizona Cardinals v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Panthers waived defensive back De’Quan Menzie on Saturday.

And now, it appears the third-year pro could be electing to end his career.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera indicated Sunday that the 24-year-old Menzie was retiring.

Menzie’s verified Twitter account had the following post Sunday: “Officially done….”

An Alabama product, Menzie (5-11, 200) was a fifth-round selection of Kansas City in 2012. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve (hip flexor). After being waived by Kansas City in May 2013, Menzie had a brief stint with Detroit before being waived in August 2013. The Panthers signed Menzie to a futures contract in January 2014.

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McCoy, Cole downplay practice-field fracas

McCoy AP

On Sunday, during the second practice of camp and a day before the pads go on, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy took issue with a hit from defensive end Trent Cole, sparking the first fight of the year.  After the session ended, Cole and McCoy downplayed the exchange of pleasantries.

I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Cole said, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com.  “That’s my brother, man.  We were just playing around.  We’re competitors.  We’re very competitive.”

McCoy was a little less willing to let it all go.  But he seems to have moved on, too.

“The whole camp so far, it’s been touching a little too much,” McCoy said. “I’m trying to let them know, ‘It’s OK if you can’t cover me.’”

Defensive end Brandon Graham, who was in the middle of the melee but called himself a spectator, initially tried to describe the hit as a “nudge.”

“You know, it wasn’t really a nudge because it was 270 [pounds] against 200,” Graham said.  “I wasn’t taking it that seriously because it was just a regular catfight.”

But Graham admitted there’s no place for fighting or otherwise hurting teammates.

“You gotta draw the line,” Graham said.  “You gotta take care of each out out here.  Even when we get pads on you can’t just be out here trying to kill everybody, because we do got to have them for the season.  But [Monday] is gonna be a lot of aggression.”

Coach Chip Kelly isn’t a fan of aggression that results in fights — cat-style or otherwise — between guys who wear the same uniform.  Kelly may need to send a clear message to his players to keep things from getting out of control.

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Texans offensive line dedicates season to Quessenberry

Quessenberry Getty Images

As Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry prepares to endure his third round of chemotherapy, his teammates have found a way to honor him.

“Absolutely, we have dedicated this season to him as a line,” left tackle Duane Brown told FOX 26 and the Houston Chronicle.  “He’s in the ultimate battle right now.”

Center Chris Myers intends to take it a step farther, finding ways to raise money and awareness for lymphoma.

“With everything going on with David right now this season is obviously going to be dedicated to him,” Myers said.  “He’s on our minds 24-7, and that’s not going to stop. . . . It’s going to go throughout the whole season and for us to be able to do something special this season would be huge for him.”

“Hey, every night we go to bed, we say a prayer for the man,” guard Ben Jones said. “Every day we try to reach out to him because he means a lot  to us.  We want him to know we’re behind him.”

The support from his teammates has had a major impact on Quessenberry.

“It’s hard to put into words what it means to have the support of your brothers on the team,” Quessenberry said. “It’s humbling.  Truly it’s an honor.  I want to do them proud. I want to come back stronger and come back and help these guys when I do come back eventually.  “This year I got blind-sided getting diagnosed with cancer.  Just knowing that my teammates and my brothers got my back is truly something special.”

A sixth-round pick in 2013, Quessenberry was diagnosed with lymphoma in June.  We wish him the best as he continues the battle.

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DeMarcus Ware has a lower leg injury

Ware AP

During his time with the Cowboys, defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware played through plenty of injuries.  He’s already dealing with one in Denver.

Ware was held out for roughly half of Sunday’s practice due to what coach John Fox called a lower leg injury.  Fox told reporters it doesn’t appear to be serious.

Of course, “doesn’t appear” leaves the window slightly open for the possibility that it is.  And as Broncos fans learned four years ago with former Denver pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, a season-ending injury can happen out of nowhere in the early stages of training camp.

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Panthers sign running back Fozzy Whittaker

RB-Fozzy-Whittaker-AP-Photo-by-Cleveland-Browns AP

Though it sounds strange to see given their track record, the Panthers found themselves short at running back.

So they solved that problem for the moment by bringing in former Browns running back/return man Fozzy Whittaker. (Waka! Waka!).

The Panthers had an immediate need with Jonathan Stewart on the shelf with a hamstring and sixth-round pick Tyler Gaffney going on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Whittaker has some return ability, but has been looking for work since the Browns cut him in May.

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Redskins cut the cord on 2013 draft pick Brandon Jenkins

Washington Redskins v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Players with value get chances. Players without value get made into examples.

The Redskins released 2013 fifth-round pick Brandon Jenkins Sunday, less than a week into his second training camp.

According to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com, Jenkins “had a particularly poor effort in Sunday morning’s one-on-one battle drills,” and was released hours later.

The former Florida State linebacker had one tackle in six games last season, and barely played in the second half of the season, since he didn’t contribute on special teams.

Draft picks usually get a longer leash, especially in their first two seasons. But he might be more useful to the Redskins as an object lesson than as a player.

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Jason Pinkston absent, and neither he nor Browns will say why

Pinkston Getty Images

Hard to believe as it may seem, the Browns currently employ football players not named Johnny Manziel.  As to one of them, a question has arisen regarding his employment.

Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, offensive lineman Jason Pinkston isn’t around.  And no one will say what’s going on.

“I can assure you I’m in no legal trouble and retiring hasn’t come up,” Pinkston said via Twitter.  “As far as my situation, I’ll leave it to them to explain.”

The only problem is that the Browns won’t explain.

“Pinkston’s unavailable to practice and due to his circumstances I cannot comment on it any further,” Pettine said.  “I want to give you more, but just given the circumstances, I can’t.  That’s where we are with Jason.”

Agent Neil Schwartz, who has a history of holding players out (including 49ers guard Alex Boone), couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Ryan Clark gets pragmatic, spiritual about illegal hits

Clark AP

Washington coach Jay Gruden has vowed to suspend safety Brandon Meriweather for two practices if he hits teammates higher than he should.  Could new teammate Ryan Clark help Meriweather stay on the right side of the rules?

“I don’t know if you have ever watched any film of me, you know what I mean?” Clark told reporters on Sunday regarding whether he has talked to Meriweather about his style of play.  “It would be like the pot calling the kettle black. You’re supposed to play this game with reckless abandon. I think when you don’t play it full speed, when you don’t play it as physical as you could possibly play it, you leave yourself at a disadvantage. You put yourself in harm’s way.”

Clark said he eventually plans to share some of the wisdom that comes from playing the game for a long time with Meriweather.

“What I will tell him is ‘Keep your money,’” Clark said.  “You want to keep your money.  You want to not hurt other guys.  We never want to go out there and injure people, but I’ve been a part of some of the biggest collisions in the last 10 years of football at some of the biggest times.  I’ve been laid out on the field with other guys.  I want him to stay healthy and I changed my game in that sense in order to not hurt the team.  You don’t want to give up 15 yards when you stop the team.  We’ve talked about it in the sense of him keeping his money and a sense of him staying on the field but some of us understand the risk we take when we play this game.”

It’s nevertheless a fine balance, especially with Clark now a member of the NFLPA Executive Commitee and former players now suing the NFLPA, using past public complaints from union leadership regarding the league office’s efforts to make the game safer against the NFLPA.

“I was asked, would I change the way I played or would I decide not to play it because of what I know now?” Clark said.  “And I wouldn’t.  It’s a dream and this is what we decide to do and if you love it, you do it.  The stuff you deal with in the end, you deal with, and that’s the way God planned it.  God gave us these talents and He put us in this position, and who I am to question where God has put me?”

If, as it seems, Clark believes that the injuries players suffer as a result of playing football are part of a broader, Divine plan, he shouldn’t argue (as he has in the past) about efforts from the league office to make the game safer.  Whether inspired by a Higher Power or the legal system (or both), the NFL has been trying to compel players to play the game more safely.  The notion that players play the game because God has given them the talent to play it and thus the injuries are simply a product of the talent God has given them overlooks the role that the players, the league office, and NFLPA leadership (of which Clark is now a member) can have in finding ways to allow an inherently dangerous game to be played as safely as it can be played.

It’s a delicate balance for any player to strike.  It becomes even more delicate when a player with a track record of criticizing the league’s efforts to make the game safer now serves on the body with a legal duty to protect the health and safety of all players.

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Greg Hardy hates that he’s been a “distraction”

Greg Hardy AP

Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy spoke for the first time since being convicted of assaulting his former girlfriend, but didn’t have much to say.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Hardy’s brief talk was arranged by the team’s PR staff, which told reporters he couldn’t talk about his legal situation, since he’s appealing his conviction.

Thus, Hardy offered several “I can’t answer that question” responses.

Asked if he had apologized to the team, he said: “I hate that I’ve been a distraction.”

There was then some attempt to market himself, which is as ridiculous as minimizing an arrest for hitting a woman and throwing her onto a bed full of guns to the catch-all category of “distractions.” Of course, Hardy also followed up his court appearance with a clumsy attempt at rapping in a Charlotte nightclub before camp, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. (The full transcript of the interview is here).

If there’s any remorse, there was no apparent sign of it. Frankly, the Panthers won’t have to worry about anything other than his ability to play, since they’re leaving any potential suspension to the league, and the league’s unlikely to act until he goes to a jury trial which will drag out beyond this season.

Thus, they get to pay him $13.1 million for the season, and then he’ll hit free agency again.

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Jace Amaro joins Calvin Pryor on Jets sideline

Jace Amaro AP

It has not been a banner weekend for the Jets’ 2014 draft class.

The Jets saw their first-round pick leave Saturday’s practice with a head injury after safety Calvin Pryor was involved in a collision during special teams drills and their second-round pick joined Pryor on the sideline during Sunday’s session.

Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports that Amaro hurt his right knee during 7-on-7 drills and received attention from the team’s trainers. He had the knee wrapped with ice and, per Cimini, “struggled to put weight” on the knee when trying to jog and attempt a few cuts after leaving practice.

The team hopes Amaro can add a reliable target in the passing game, but Amaro has a lot of work to do after playing almost entirely as a receiver in Texas Tech’s offense. Any absence during camp would make that transition more difficult, even if the team could use every boost in can get in the passing game.

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Panthers sign safety Tom Nelson

San Diego Chargers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Panthers added some veteran safety depth on Sunday, signing third-year pro Tom Nelson, the club said.

The move gives the Panthers six healthy safeties. A seventh safety, rookie Tre Boston, is on the active/physically unable to perform list.

The 27-year-old Nelson has played in 24 regular season games, with the bulk of his experience coming in 2009 and 2010 with Cincinnati, with whom he signed as an undrafted free agent five years ago. Nelson’s most extensive work came in 2009, when he recorded 25 tackles in 12 games (three starts) for the AFC North-winning Bengals.

In addition to his time with the Bengals (2009-2011), Nelson has had stints with the Eagles (2011-2012) and Bears (2013). Chicago released him at the end of the 2013 preseason.

The Panthers are at the 90-player roster limit.

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Tim Hightower looking for another chance

Tim Hightower AP

It has been a long time since we’ve seen running back Tim Hightower in an NFL game.

Hightower tore his ACL during the 2011 season and failed to make the Redskins roster out of camp in 2012 while still struggling with issues in his surgically-repaired knee. Hightower later discovered that he had an infection that was standing in the way of a full recovery.

The pace of his recovery picked up from there and Hightower was fully cleared to make a return to action a couple of months ago. Now he’s just looking for a team willing to take a shot on him.

“There’s curiosity [by teams]. ‘It’s been two years, if he’s healthy we’ll give him a physical and give him a workout and see where he is,’” Hightower said, via John Keim of ESPN.com. “That’s all I ask.”

Hightower was at Redskins camp on Saturday and said that there have been informal discussions with the team about a return. Hightower will wait until he gets something more formal from Washington or elsewhere as he tries to jumpstart his career this summer.

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Teammate says Matt Schaub is “getting his mojo back”

Matt Schaub, James Jones AP

Once upon a time, Matt Schaub was a perfectly functional quarterback, good even.

But after last year’s confidence-shattering pick-six-a-thon for the Texans, getting a fresh start in Oakland is apparently good for him.

Defensive tackle Antonio Smith, who came from Houston to Oakland alongside Schaub  this offseason, said he can tell his quarterback looks like a new man.

Schaubby’s getting his mojo back,” Smith said, via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s getting his confidence back. He’s starting to believe in himself again. He is starting to throw with confidence. You would be surprised just how much your mind-set is important in this league.”

Last year was such an abject disaster for Schaub that it’s easy to forget he made two Pro Bowls, and was better than average for an extended stretch of time.

At 33, he won’t get many more chances, but the Raiders are fully behind him, and if that mojo is indeed back, they might have a shot to improve this year.

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Cordarrelle Patterson’s foot injury “improving every day”

Cordarrelle Patterson AP

Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright considers teammate Cordarrelle Patterson a “talker,” but Patterson didn’t have much to say on Saturday about the foot injury that’s kept him off the field during the first two days of the team’s training camp.

Patterson hurt the foot last week, although he’s offering up no details about how he injured it or what the exact diagnosis might be. The Vikings aren’t saying much, either, but coach Mike Zimmer is willing to say that he doesn’t expect Patterson, who didn’t take the team’s conditioning test on Thursday, to miss much more time as a result.

“He’s improving every day,” Zimmer said, via the Pioneer Press. “I saw him do some stuff [Saturday]. … I’ll be surprised if it’s long.”

The hope for Patterson this summer is that he can further polish his skills so that the team can make even more use of his ample athletic abilities on offense this season. That makes any injury less than ideal, but a quick return to the field should leave Patterson with plenty of time to refine his skills before the start of the regular season.

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