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J.J. Watt still working on the side as Texans begin OTAs

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 04:  J.J. Watt attends the J.J. Watt At Mizzen+Main Pop-Up Shop In San Francisco on February 4, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Mizzen+Main) Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has a cool new logo, and also some free time on his hands.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Watt wasn’t among the Texans practicing at the start of OTAs, as he recovers from offseason groin surgery.

Watt, the defending NFL defensive player of the year after a 17 1/2-sack season which also included a broken hand, worked out on the side while his teammates got started on the field.

He wasn’t the only Texans star on the sidelines, as left tackle Duane Brown continues to recover from a torn quadriceps tendon. Brown has said he’ll be ready by the start of the regular season.

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Pete Morelli gets entirely new officiating crew after multiple errors last season

Morelli Getty Images

After a poor season for Pete Morelli and his officiating crew last season that featured two separate disciplinary measures from the league for mistakes, the league has given Morelli an entirely new crew for 2016.

According to Ben Austro of FootballZebras.com, Morelli’s crew has been entirely reassigned after errors with timing in the Pittsburgh Steelers-San Diego Chargers game and a Baltimore Ravens-Jacksonville Jaguars contest last season resulted in league discipline against the crew.

Side judge Rob Vernatchi was suspended for Week 6 games after failing to notice a clock error in the Steelers-Chargers game. Another mistake in the Jaguars-Ravens game gave Jacksonville the opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal when time should have expired. The result was Morelli’s crew getting yanked from working a Sunday Night Football game in Week 13 between the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.

The league is also set to add three new officials this season. Side judge Alan Eck and head linesman Jerod Phillips from the Big 12, and umpire Ramon George of Conference USA. Head linesman George Hayward is the only retirement from the on-field officiating roster.

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Chargers, Cardinals to practice together in training camp

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 18:  Head coach Mike McCoy of the San Diego Chargers calls a play in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 18, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers haven’t conducted joint practices with another team during training camp since 2012, a year before Mike McCoy arrived as head coach. They’ll do it this year.

Via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Cardinals and Chargers plan to practice together in advance of an August 19 preseason game between the two teams.

“You can count on us doing it,” McCoy said Monday, according to Gehlken. “I can’t tell you it’s going to be this day, it’s going to be that day. But we’re going to practice against Arizona.”

A couple of Chargers veterans with experience facing other teams during camp approve of the approach.

“I don’t want to say it breaks training camp up, but it’s not your teammates you’re going up against, so it’s kind of nice,” running back Danny Woodhead said, per Gehlken. “You get to compete against people who haven’t seen you every single day. It’s always fun to do that — not necessarily a measuring stick to where you’re at but just to go against a different team.”

“[Y]ou get tired of going up against your guys,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “At the end of the day, you start to pick up on all the tendencies. I’m not saying it’s not fun anymore, but you get used to it. Every day, you do the same thing. If a different team comes in here to practice, it amps up the intensity.”

The challenge is to ensure that the intensity doesn’t result in practices that get out of hand, with scuffles and fights and, ultimately, opportunities for guys to get injured beyond the scope of normal football activity.

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Jaguars’ Luke Bowanko suffers hip injury, will go on PUP

Jacksonville Jaguars Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

Yet another Jacksonville Jaguar is dealing with an injury.

This time it’s center Luke Bowanko, who has a torn labrum in his right hip and will need surgery. The Jaguars have announced that Bowanko will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

The 24-year-old Bowanko, a sixth-round pick in 2014, started 14 games at center as a rookie in 2014 but played in only six games, with no starts, in 2015.

Jacksonville has also seen first-round pick Jalen Ramsey suffer a torn meniscus and seventh-round pick Jonathan Woodard suffer a torn Achilles.

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Colts sign second-round safety T.J. Green

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  T.J. Green #15 of the Clemson Tigers reacts in the first half while taking on the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts continued the process of signing their 2016 draft picks to contracts on Monday by agreeing to terms with second-round safety T.J. Green.

Green was the 57th overall pick of the NFL draft and is the seventh of eight Colts selections to sign a contract with the team. It’s a four-year deal for Green, as it will be for third-round tackle Le’Raven Clark when the time comes for him to sign his name on the dotted line.

Green started his career at Clemson as a wide receiver before moving to safety for his final two seasons. He was only a starter for one full season (alongside Vikings seventh-rounder Jayron Kearse), but caught the eye of NFL teams because of the possibilities they saw in his mix of size (Green is 6’3″) and speed.

Mike Adams and Clayton Geathers are back at safety for the Colts, which should allow Green time to continue honing the finer points of playing the position without being on the front line of defense.

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Broncos don’t expect Mark Sanchez on field for start of OTAs

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez attends the 142nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 07, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Churchill Downs) Getty Images

Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez had surgery on his left, non-throwing thumb a little more than a week ago, but expressed hope last week that he’d be on the field with the rest of the team for the start of organized team activities this week.

It doesn’t look like things are going to play out that way, however. According to Andrew Mason of the Broncos website, Sanchez is expected to miss the start of OTAs while recovering from the operation. That was the initial report when Sanchez’s injury went public.

It’s not clear when the team expects Sanchez will get the green light to resume football work, but his absence to kick off the final phase of offseason work will provide Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian with additional reps running the first team.

Those reps could conceivably lead to a rethinking of the pecking order at quarterback heading into training camp and the preseason, although it would stand to reason that those latter stages of the offseason will still provide the final determination of who leads the Broncos offense come September.

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Hopkins praises Osweiler, who praises O’Brien

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 16: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans looks over practice during rookie minicamp on May 16, 2014 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Football teams never get along better than they do when the record is 0-0. And the 0-0 Texans are currently getting along great.

On the first day of OTAs, receiver DeAndre Hopkins praised his new quarterback, who in turn praised his new coach.

“He operates like a pro’s pro,” Hopkins said regarding Brock Osweiler. “He comes out and he demands the best out of everybody, offensive line, fullbacks, even the guys that aren’t even in the huddle. He’s a natural leader.”

Osweiler, in turn, gushed about the man he didn’t even meet before committing to a four-year, $72 million contract.

“Today was my first experience in a practice environment with Coach O’Brien and I loved it,” Osweiler said. “I loved his energy, I loved his fire. He kept us on task and he expects a lot out of us which as a player you love. Sometimes he’s going to get on you, which he should. I had a couple turnovers today. I’m going to [chalk] those up as learning experiences. I’m going to make sure they don’t happen again, but I want him to be on me. I don’t want that to be acceptable. It’s a lot of fun being out there with Coach O’Brien. He’s a phenomenal football coach. He’s very smart and he’s a lot of fun to be around.”

Of course, not everything said on Monday was flowery. In response to a comment from a reporter regarding the value of entering the season knowing who the quarterback is, Hopkins said,  “[W]e thought we knew who our quarterback was going into last year.”

That’s a reference to the fact that Brian Hoyer was the starter for Week One but got a quick hook for Ryan Mallett, sparking a revolving door fueled by injuries and ineffectiveness. This year, it’s unclear what will happen with Osweiler and the Texans. It’s safe to say, however, that Osweiler won’t be benched during the first game of the regular season.

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Tyrann Mathieu just wants to get paid as a “top defender”

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 27:  Free safety Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up before the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The state of his knee five months after a torn ACL isn’t the only topic of interest concerning Tyrann Mathieu these days.

While Mathieu said that he hasn’t spent much time talking about numbers with agent Tom Condon, he’s entering the final year of his contract and extension talks with the Cardinals have already gotten underway. One potential complication in those talks is the question of Mathieu’s position.

Mathieu is listed as a safety, but lines up as a cornerback more often and, at the top level, cornerbacks are compensated at a higher rate than safeties. General Manager Steve Keim said on PFT Live that he views Mathieu as “a football player regardless of position” and that two torn ACLs in the last three years are more of an issue on the team’s end. Mathieu acknowledged that it’s “tough” because of the injuries and outlined his own hopes for how the position question gets handled.

“I just want to get paid as a top defender,” Mathieu said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “I don’t want to be slotted as a corner or a safety, because I’m not Patrick Peterson and I’m not Earl Thomas. I’m kind of different than both of those guys, but I still have the same type of impact on the game as those guys do. I just want to be paid as a top defender, and however that looks on paper, that’s what I want. … I don’t see myself as a safety. I don’t see myself as a cornerback. I see myself as a chess piece, a guy that can move around and can play seven different positions. I don’t necessarily want to be slotted as either or.”

A deal for Mathieu would provide some framework about how to handle the increasing number of players who play hybrid roles in the NFL. A failure to reach an agreement, on the other hand, could set the table for franchise tag fights about how to designate the position for a player who plays more than one of them.

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Eagles cut Ryan Quigley

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 21:  Ryan Quigley #4 of the New York Jets in action against the Atlanta Falcons  during their pre season game at MetLife Stadium on August 21, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Punter Ryan Quigley joined the Eagles in April, but he didn’t stick on the roster through the end of May.

The team announced on Monday that they have released Quigley. Quigley spent the last three seasons punting for the Jets and posted a net average of 38.9 yards during his time in Jersey.

Donnie Jones remains on the roster and currently has no challengers on the roster who would keep him from a fourth season handling punting duties for the Eagles. Jones has also played for the Dolphins, Seahawks, Rams and Texans and ranks third among all active players in both punts and gross punting yards.

The Eagles also announced that they have signed defensive Derrick Lott. Lott has previously spent time with the Titans and Buccaneers without playing in a regular season game.

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Giants S Cooper Taylor out until camp after sports hernia surgery

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 20:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass in the second quarter against  Cooper Taylor #30 of the New York Giants during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants dealt with a slew of injuries at safety last year, leaving them without a consistent pair in the back end of their defense on their way to a third straight losing season.

They head into this season with Landon Collins set as the starter at one spot and a group of players vying for the other starting position. According to multiple reports, that group will be missing Cooper Taylor until training camp.

Taylor is not practicing as the Giants start OTAs this week because of recent surgery to repair a sports hernia. The recovery time after such an operation is typically around 4-6 weeks and the Giants open up training camp in late July.

With Taylor out of the mix, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson and third-round pick Darian Thompson are among those who will see more time in the competition for playing time in 2016.

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Jadeveon Clowney says he’s 100 percent healthy

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13: Brandon Bolden #38 of the New England Patriots is tackled by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans in the second quarter on December 13, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time we saw Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney on the field was in Week 16 of the regular season when he had a tackle in the team’s 34-6 victory over the Titans.

Clowney missed Week 17 and the team’s playoff loss to the Chiefs while dealing with a foot injury. He said after the Chiefs game that he was “frustrated” that he didn’t get on the field for those contests and said he planned to “come back and dominate the league” in 2016.

On Monday, per multiple reporters, Clowney said he didn’t need to have surgery to repair what he said was a Lisfranc injury and declared himself 100 percent healthy for the 2016 season.

History says that Clowney may have issues remaining that way. The first overall pick of the 2014 draft has missed 15 regular season games and that playoff loss to the Chiefs since joining the Texans, which has kept him from fulfilling the expectations that came with his lofty draft position.

That makes this season a big one for Clowney as the Texans will have decisions to make about his fifth-year option and a possible contract extension once the 2016 season comes to a close. Neither will feel like a particularly likely outcome if this year plays out like the last two.

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Drew Brees won’t skip OTAs despite lack of contract extension

Drew Brees AP

Drew Brees hasn’t gotten a contract extension this offseason, and there’s no sign one is imminent.

But the Saints quarterback said that wasn’t going to keep him from going to work.

Brees told Mike Triplett of ESPN.com that he will be on hand when the Saints begin OTAs Tuesday.

I’m not missing any offseason,” Brees said.

Brees is still under contract through the 2016 season, and counting $30 million toward the cap this year. But he’s maintained he’s fine playing out his contract, and his agent has suggested the Saints seem comfortable with that as well.

When Brees was franchise-tagged in 2012 he skipped offseason workouts, but there’s no outward sign this negotiation is anything but amicable.

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Eli Apple’s mom joining ESPN as contributor

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Draftee Eli Apple of Ohio State and his mother Annie arrive to the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants cornerback Eli Apple won’t be the only rookie in his family this season.

Apple’s mother Annie has become a popular follow on Twitter since the first round of the draft because of her commentary on topics like refusing to let her son wear a Rolex to the draft, women who might want to chase Eli because he’s an NFL player and her complaints about the lack of dessert in the draft green room in Chicago. That last one got Mrs. Apple a batch of brownies from the NFL and she’ll have another platform to share her thoughts this fall.

ESPN announced on Monday that Annie Apple will be a contributor to Sunday NFL Countdown this season. Per the network’s release, she will do player profiles and other stories.

“Annie caught our attention during the NFL Draft and when we met with her in-person at ESPN we were blown away by her relatability, her sense of humor and just how unafraid she is to speak her mind,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman said in a statement. “Annie brings a very unique perspective as the mother of a current NFL player and as a fan, and we look forward to exploring a variety of different story ideas with her on Sunday NFL Countdown.”

Apple says she looks forward to sharing a sports mom’s “perspectives, energy, contributions and fantastic awkwardness” during her appearances on the show. It’s certainly a departure from the kind of content we’re used to getting on the Sunday morning pregame shows and it’s one that could make Annie Apple a household name ahead of her son if it goes well.

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Understanding the Tom Brady “en banc” petition process

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So after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the NFL Players Association file the petition for rehearing before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the fancy, lawyer term is “en banc”), what happens next? Glad you asked.

From the relevant Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the internal operating procedures of the Second Circuit, the decision as to whether a rehearing before the full Second Circuit will be made by a majority of the active judges on the court. Currently, there are 13: Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann (who participated in the three-judge panel and sided with Brady), Judge Dennis Jacobs, Judge José A. Carbines, Judge Rosemary S. Pooler, Judge Reena Raggi, Judge Richard C. Wesley, Judge Peter W. Hall, Judge Debra Ann Livingston, Judge Gerard E. Lynch, Judge Denny Chin (who participated in the three-judge panel and sided with the NFL), Jude Raymond J. Lohler, Jr., Judge Susan L. Carney, and Judge Christopher S. Droney.

Seven of the 13 judges will be required to vote in favor of a rehearing. Presumably, Judge Katzmann will vote in favor of the rehearing and Judge Chin will be opposed to it. The question ultimately becomes whether at least six of the other 11 are willing to consider the case with the full court.

The fact that Judge Katzmann is the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit could help Brady’s cause, if Judge Katzmann’s title gives him an extra influence with his colleagues.

The process starts with Brady’s petition. The NFL won’t be permitted to respond unless requested to do so. A request by the Second Circuit for a response would be the first sign that at least seven judges are seriously considering granting the rehearing.

It’s expected that a decision on whether to grant the petition will be made well in advance of the launch of the regular season. If the petition is granted, it’s believed that a decision from the full Second Circuit will come after the 2016 season has concluded — which means that, if the petition is granted, Brady likely will not be suspended this year.

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Giants keeping reins on Victor Cruz until training camp

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20: Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants looks on before a game against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium on September 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz declared himself 100 percent weeks ago, but it’ll be another couple of months before he’s actually able to prove it.

According to James Kratch of NJ.com, Cruz was on the field during OTAs Monday, but didn’t take part in any team drills. And new coach Ben McAdoo said he probably won’t for the next few weeks.

“He’s working to get back for training camp,” McAdoo said. “Small steps.”

Cruz hasn’t played since October 2014 because of knee and calf problems, but has been running and is willing to go along with the team’s conservative plan with him.

The Giants used a second-round pick on wide receiver Sterling Shepard to give themselves cover if Cruz can’t return to his previous form, and now we’ll have to wait until the end of July to see if Cruz is ready to withstand that challenge.

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