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Arians had surgery due to Christmas Eve hug from Fitzgerald

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Near the end of an otherwise lost season for Arizona, the Cardinals pulled off a memorable road win in Seattle on Christmas Eve. The victory triggered an overly enthusiastic reaction from receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

As explained by Kent Somers of azcentral.com, Fitzgerald hugged coach Bruce Arians hard enough to tear a rotator cuff in his shoulder.

“It’s all Fitz’s fault, he caused the whole thing,” Arians said, via Somers. “It’s going to cost him.”

The question came up of Fitzgerald getting Arians a get-well card.

“It’s going to be a get-well convertible,” Arians said. “I’m still deciding what kind.”

Arians remains in a sling. Which probably means that the convertible should be an automatic, not a standard.

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NFLPA opens inquiry of Jaguars after Tom Coughlin email

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The Jaguars hired Tom Coughlin to be their executive vice president of football operations on Jan. 9.

Since then, the NFL Players Association is known to have begun at least two separate inquiries related to the club’s front-office activity, the latest of which reportedly involves an email Coughlin sent to several players.

According to the Florida Times-Union’s Ryan O’Halloran, Coughlin requested via email for certain players under contract to report for a physical earlier this month. The union is looking into the off-season request, specifically in regard to its allowance under the collective bargaining agreement.

A Jaguars and NFL spokesman both declined comment when reached by Pro Football Talk.

This grievance from the NFL Players Association is not a total surprise, having been foreshadowed earlier this month. The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on March 2 there was discontent among agents and the union at the NFL Scouting Combine over the Jaguars requiring players without medical clearance to rehab at the facility four days a week.

Coughlin’s email similarly involves a request of injured players.  Per O’Halloran, player agents advised their clients to take the team’s physical as the union continued to explore the matter.

Earlier this off-season, former Jaguars defensive end Jared Odrick filed a $5.5 million grievance against the club, seeking to recoup guaranteed money. Per USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, the Jaguars contend Odrick “voided (the) guarantees by refusing checkups during injury rehab.” Odrick’s grievance has yet to be resolved, a source said Friday.

Any fallout related to Odrick’s situation is expected to be contained within the two parties.

If the Jaguars’ activity related to injured players is deemed a CBA violation, however, possible punishment could involve the forfeiture of a designated number of practices this spring.

 

 

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Cowboys bolster O-line, sign Byron Bell

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The Cowboys’ offensive line absorbed a couple departures this offseason, losing right tackle Doug Free to retirement and parting with left guard Ronald Leary in free agency.

On Friday, the unit welcomed an addition.

Veteran lineman Byron Bell signed with the team following a Friday visit, ESPN’s Todd Archer first reported. Bell missed all of the 2016 season after dislocating his ankle on the first day of organized team activities.

Dallas had a ready-made option to replace Leary, turning to La’El Collins after Leary signed with the Broncos.

Bell now becomes an option to replace the retired Free at right tackle. The ex-Titan offers versatility between the guard and tackle positions. He has started 72 of 78 career games, including 16 during his lone healthy season with the Titans in 2015.

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Suspended Josh Gordon trains with ex-Olympian

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There is little sense in speculating as to whether or not this will be it, whether this comeback attempt from Josh Gordon will be the one that returns the uber-talented deep threat to the field.

That will come down to Gordon, if the NFL allows it.

But before potential reinstatement, it seems he’s putting in the work.

The suspended Browns wide receiver, who hasn’t played an NFL down the past two seasons, reportedly is training with speed coach Tim Montgomery, a former Olympian, in Florida as part of his effort to resurrect his career. Violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy have cost the 2012 supplemental second-round pick 44 games the past four years. He was suspended a 45th game in 2012 for a violation of team rules.

Gordon caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.

That came despite missing two games to a league suspension.

There is some off-the field relevancy in Gordon’s partnership with Montgomery. The latter is in position to mentor Gordon, having overcome his own pitfalls.

As cataloged by ESPN’s Dan Graziano,  Montgomery “served prison time after pleading guilty to possession and distribution of more than 100 grams of heroin in 2008 and was stripped of his medals and suspended in 2005 for using performance-enhancing drugs based on evidence gathered in the criminal investigation of the BALCO steroid scandal.”

Graziano cited sources who expect the NFL to determine Gordon’s status for 2017 “by late April or early May.” Gordon will turn 26 on April 13.

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Panthers sign quarterback Garrett Gilbert

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The Panthers needed another arm for OTAs, since Cam Newton’s isn’t available.

And boy they found one.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Panthers signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

Gilbert was most recently on the Raiders’ practice squad, and has also spent time with the Lions, Patriots and Rams.

He hasn’t thrown a regular season pass, but he did earn a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots in 2015.

The Panthers needed someone other than Derek Anderson and Joe Webb for practice since Newton’s about to have shoulder surgery next week, which will keep him out until at least the start of training camp.

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MVP to finding Brady’s jerseys? Houston mayor says Houston PD

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The FBI Boston Division called it “truly a collaborative effort.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said it was “another example of the importance of teamwork and what can be accomplished when everyone works together.”

The Houston mayor is saying, well, something else.

Sylvester Turner expressed pride in his local police force Friday for the department’s role in two stolen Tom Brady Super Bowl jerseys being recovered this week in Mexico. And he took it a step further, saying that Houston police was the real MVP to an international joint operation.

“I’m very proud of the Houston Police Department,” Turner said via Fox 26 Houston Sports Director Mark Berman. “And to be honest with you, it was the Houston Police Department that did the legwork, that found that jersey. A lot of other people are taking credit for it, but the reality is it was the Houston Police Department, the law enforcement community right here, that … found the jerseys and made that happen.”

It is unclear where, along the way, Turner felt his local authorities were slighted.

In his Thursday statement, Kraft mentioned “many different local agencies” being involved in the process along with skepticism that any one of the involved agencies could’ve accomplished the feat alone. The Houston Police Department was included by name when the FBI Boston Division released a statement earlier this week.

“We want to thank our FBI field offices in Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston; the United States Attorney’s Offices in the District of Connecticut, the Southern District of Texas, and the District of Arizona; and our FBI Mexico City Legal Attaché,” the statement read. “We would also like to thank our law enforcement partners in Mexico, in particular, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, for their invaluable assistance in resolving this matter. Assistance was also provided by the security teams from the NFL and the New England Patriots, the Massachusetts State Police, and Houston Police Department.”

Apparently, the best was saved for last.

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Blandino acknowledges 10-minute overtime will lead to more ties, Ty

When it comes to whether Rich McKay and Dean Blandino believe that a reduced overtime period will result in more ties, Ty, we have a tie.

On Thursday, the Competition Committee chairman downplayed the risk of more teams having win-lose-draw records. Sort of.

“We don’t think it will lead to more ties,” McKay said. “Could it? It could.”

On Friday’s PFT Live, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino admitted the obvious.

‘There’s no question that when you shorten that overtime period, the potential for ties does increase,” Blandino said. “And I don’t think we feel that ties are necessarily a bad thing. They’re certainly great for tiebreakers when it comes to postseason. But ultimately you want to have a winner in the game. But it’s about player safety. And it’s about the number of snaps that our players have to take part in in overtime games.

“We had two ties last year. One game that went down to the final second. And we really can’t control in the regular season when that team is playing again. And sometimes a team plays five quarters and then has to go back out on Thursday night. So it’s about player safety. We understand the potential for more ties, but the safety risks outweigh the potential for tie games.”

First, while the NFL may not think ties are “necessarily a bad thing,” pretty much everyone else does.

Second, more ties won’t make it “great” for tiebreakers. As ties pile up they’ll no longer be a curiosity that avoids exercises like comparing winning percentage against common opponents because more teams will have records like 9-6-1, 10-5-1, and even 7-7-2.

Third, there’s no guarantee that a shorter overtime will correlate to reduced game action. The Week Seven tie between the Seahawks and Cardinals had 36 extra snaps. The Week Eight tie between Washington and the Bengals included 41 extra snaps. Shortening overtime by five minutes doesn’t automatically mean ties will have two thirds of the snaps, since teams will try to jam in as many snaps as possible in order to break the tie.

As long, however, as it’s fewer than 36 or 41 snaps, then it will be safer than a 15-minute overtime. And that seems to be what the league wants, primarily as it relates to avoiding one of the primary criticisms of short-week football. There’s no way to know without trying it out, and that’s why the change in overtime should be adopted on a one-year basis, requiring only nine votes to end it next year instead of 24 to wipe it from the books if the reduced snaps don’t outweigh the increased ties.

Or they could adopt the PFT overtime idea, which is explained in detail in the video attached to this post, after the quote from Blandino.

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49ers bring RFA pass-rusher Jacquies Smith in for a visit

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Trent Baalke’s gone, but the 49ers still have a thing for guys with torn ACLs.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the 49ers are having restricted free agent defensive end Jacquies Smith in for a visit.

The Buccaneers put the low tender of $1.797 million on Smith, after he tore his ACL in Week One last year. But since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent, he can be obtained without compensation (though the Bucs can match any offer sheet the 49ers might offer).

Smith has shown some pass-rush ability, with 13.5 sacks the last two healthy seasons. And since it would only cost money, it’s worth a shot for the 49ers if Smith is able to come back healthy.

Baalke, their former G.M., tried to buy low on talented players coming off ACLs in the draft, even if he missed more often than he hit with that strategy.

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Cardinals aren’t panicking about all the free agency defections

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If you’re the General Manager of a team that just lost five defensive starters in free agency, it would probably be bad for morale to run down the halls screaming “We’re all gonna die!”

So if you’re Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim, you look for the half-full glass and proceed, after losing defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger, cornerback Marcus Cooper, and linebacker Kevin Minter.

“You can see we’ve obviously done a good job of identifying players,” Keim said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “When guys like Marcus Cooper get five-plus million dollars [from the Bears] or D.J. Swearinger are getting big contracts, these are guys we took off the street that nobody else wanted. Our personnel department does a fantastic job and our coaches do a good job of developing these guys and getting them ready.”

Well, I guess if that’s your perspective, he has a point. They acquired Cooper for a seventh-round pick and got a good year out of him. Swearinger had bounced around. Jefferson was an undrafted rookie who grew into a starter. They drafted Campbell and Minter.

And if you really want to be Mr. Silver Lining, they ought to be on the right side of the margin when it comes time for compensatory picks next year.

But there’s still the matter of replacing the production, and signing old guys like Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea also comes with some risks as well, and the Cardinals still need to draft some difference-makers to replace the talent other people paid for.

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Jets G.M. not saying if Josh McCown is the starting quarterback

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Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan signed quarterback Josh McCown to a contract that guarantees him $6 million this year, but he’s not ready to declare McCown the starting quarterback.

On a conference call today, Maccagnan declined to talk about who will be the starting quarterback for the Jets this year, other than to say the call will be made by head coach Todd Bowles. Maccagnan did say, however, that the Jets are unlikely to add another veteran quarterback.

McCown certainly seems like the favorite to be the starter. Neither of the other two quarterbacks on the roster, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, has shown himself ready to start in the NFL. McCown has at least been a competent starter for a long time in the NFL, and that gives him a leg up.

It’s still possible, of course, that the Jets will acquire their starting quarterback in the draft. But at the moment McCown looks like the most likely Week One starter, even if the Jets aren’t ready to say so just yet.

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Michael Oher “working his fanny off” in comeback effort

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Techincally, Michael Oher remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

But the Panthers tackle is apparently working like a man who intends to play next season.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman said Oher “has been working his fanny off.”

Oher suffered a concussion in Week Three and didn’t play again last season, with the team eventually putting him on IR. They then signed free agent left tackle Matt Kalil, which would return Oher to right tackle if he returns.

And apparently, they’re thinking that’s a when rather than an if.

“He’s doing NFL workouts. He’s fully engaged in that weight room sweating his butt off,” Gettleman said. “He looks great, he sounds great. . . .

“Like I told you, he’s doing NFL workouts right now. His workouts right now are not for the faint of heart. He’s down there grunting like everybody else.”

If he doesn’t return, the Panthers would have a pretty glaring hole at right tackle. Previous starter Mike Remmers went to Minnesota in free agency, and though they have former fourth-rounder Daryl Williams on the roster, it’s still thin if Oher is unable to play.

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Cowboys kick the tires on veteran tackle Byron Bell

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The Cowboys have enjoyed depth and stability on their offensive line, but now have to look around for options.

Friday, they brought in a guy with some decent starting experience.

According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys had former Panthers and Titans offensive lineman Byron Bell in for a visit. He has also met with the Packers this week.

Bell didn’t play last year after an ankle injury suffered in OTAs, but started 72 games over his first five seasons. He was a solid-to-good right tackle for the Panthers, but was in over his head when they moved him to left tackle, and they brought in Michael Oher as an upgrade. He played both guard and tackle for the Titans, starting all 16 games in 2015.

The Cowboys are looking at their options after losing Ronald Leary in free agency and Doug Free to retirement.

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Bob Brown was the one player who intimidated Mean Joe Greene

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Mean Joe Greene is known as perhaps the toughest player in NFL history, but he admits there was one guy who could get the best of him on the field.

Greene, the Hall of Fame Steelers defensive lineman, appeared on PFT Live and, when first asked whether he was ever intimidated during his playing days, answered, “That’s not something I experienced when I was on the football field.”

But after giving it some thought, Greene mentioned a fellow Hall of Famer, offensive lineman Bob Brown, whom Greene made the mistake of taking on just once.

“Probably my biggest example of being intimidated was a ball game we played in 1972, we played the Oakland Raiders and Bob Brown was the right offensive tackle and I was the left defensive tackle — I played one player removed from him. L.C. Greenwood lined up opposite Bob Brown,” Greene said.

Greene recalled that Greenwood, his longtime teammate who was also a very tough player, was complaining during the game that Brown was whipping his butt. Greene, convinced that he could handle Brown one-on-one, told Greenwood to switch places with him for a play. As it turned out, on that one play Brown hit Greene so hard that Greene didn’t even know what happened except that he was on the ground and his helmet had been knocked sideways.

“I said ‘What’s happening?’ he said, ‘Oh man the guy is killing me.’ I said, ‘Let me have him. I’ll line up over him.’ And when I lined up across from Bob Brown, and I looked in that helmet, he’s a couple shades darker than me and all I could see was his eyes, just the look in that helmet, I was very fearful,” Greene recalled. “When the ball was snapped, all I remember was looking through the ear hole of my helmet, one shoe was off, and the play was gone.”

Younger fans may not know the name Bob Brown, but that story from Greene speaks volumes. Brown was one of the all-time tough guys.

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Panthers will pick up option on Kelvin Benjamin

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The Panthers still can’t be sure what they have in Kelvin Benjamin.

But they’re going to commit to him anyway.

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer the team plans to pick up the fifth-year option on the wide receiver, who has alternated between good and injured and confusing.

The option will pay Benjamin $8 million for the 2018 season.

The 2014 first-rounder was excellent as a rookie, with 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. But he followed a torn ACL in 2015 (the Panthers went to the Super Bowl without a legitimate starting receiver) with a less-productive 2016 (63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns).

He also he also had moments of inconsistency last year that were bothersome, including the way he gave up pursuit of an interception on the play that resulted in Cam Newton’s shoulder injury (which led to Newton needing surgery next week).

That said, he’s still just 26 and gives Newton a large target, and he remains their best option at the position.

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Colts cut Arthur Jones

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The Arthur Jones era in Indianapolis has come to an end.

The Colts announced this morning that they have released Jones, a defensive tackle who has spent the last three seasons with the team.

When the Colts signed Jones to a five-year, $33 million contract in 2014, they thought he’d make a huge impact in the defense run by coach Chuck Pagano, who had previously coached Jones in Baltimore. But Jones played in just 17 games in three seasons, missing time with injuries in all three years and also serving a four-game PED suspension.

The 30-year-old Jones probably still has some football left in him. But he’s going to have to sign with a team that’s offering him a lot less money than he made in Indianapolis.

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