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Bears sign CB Alan Ball

Alan Ball, Justin Hunter AP

The Bears have added some depth in the secondary.

Alan Ball, a veteran cornerback who has been making the free agent rounds, signed with the Bears today.

Ball, who played his college football at Illinois, was a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 2007. He spent five years in Dallas, one in Houston and two in Jacksonville. Last year Ball started the first seven games of the season for the Jaguars before suffering a season-ending arm injury.

The Panthers showed a lot of interest in Ball — so much that there was an erroneous report that he had signed. Ultimately Ball left Carolina without a deal, and now he’s a Bear.

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Falcons G.M. bracing for losing a valuable draft pick

Dimitroff AP

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff knows something’s coming. But he says he just doesn’t know what it is yet.

Via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dimitroff said during a radio interview on 680 The Fan that he’s bracing for bad news, after the team admitted piping in artificial crowd noise.

“We are just so full of scenarios and that’s kind of how we approach the offseason as it is,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve been very detailed on how we are going to approach things if in fact we have availability at certain points in the draft.”

During the league meetings, the team was informed their penalty was likely to be announced next week, and that the team was privately told what it would be, but Dimitroff said he hadn’t heard yet.

“I do not know at this point, officially,” Dimitroff said. “I have not gotten word from the league. I believe that we’ll be expecting something. Usually, when you get indication from the league it is via print. . . .

“I’m reading the same things that you are. Obviously, it’s been a process for us.”

And for a team that’s still trying to rebuild a defense, losing what could be a second- or third-round pick would be a significant hit.

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NFL still not talking about Indiana law

2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Plenty of institutions that pump millions into Indiana by staging events there have expressed concern about the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing law that ostensibly protects religious freedom by giving business owners the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers.  The NFL inexplicably has not.

Last year, the NFL spoke out as Arizona closed in on passing a similar law.  Arizona eventually opted not to proceed with a plan to legalize the shunning of people who live their private lives in a way that others feel compelled to care about, and to condemn.

This time around, the NFL has said nothing.  The league office had no comment on Thursday when PFT specifically asked for a reaction to the new Indiana law, and in nearly 24 hours since then, nothing has emanated from P.R.-obsessed 345 Park Avenue regarding the passage of a law that provides a license to discriminate in a state where an NFL franchise is located, where the Super Bowl has been played and likely will return, and where the Scouting Combine is staged every February.

Others have opted for something other than silence.  The NCAA, which soon will hold one of its marquee events in Indianapolis, had this to say about the situation:  “The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events.  We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.  We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.  Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Likewise, the major gaming convention known as Gen Con threatened to take its business elsewhere if the law passes:  “Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds.  Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.”

So why has there been nothing from the NFL?  “Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the league said last year regarding the Arizona proposal.

The NFL’s failure to reiterate that position in relation to the Indiana law suggests that maybe the NFL’s position has changed.  If that’s not the case, the sooner the NFL says so, the better.

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Bears hoping to get more from Jared Allen this season

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Bears didn’t get much out of Jared Allen last year after a bout with pneumonia, and now they’re shifting to a defense he’s not really suited for.

But since they’re on the hook for an $11.5 million roster bonus anyway, they’re trying to figure out how to maximize his talents.

According to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears coach John Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace met with Allen this week, and they’re hoping to see a jump in production.

“It was good to touch base and share some ideas,” Fox said. “He’ll get that opportunity to compete, and he can be one of those guys who makes a big jump.”

Allen turns 33 next week, and he’ll be playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense new coordinator Vic Fangio will be installing. Allen has always said that’s something he’s not comfortable with, but they’ll also use enough four-man fronts in sub packages to allow him to rush the passer the way he’s comfortable.

But being sick last year kept him from showing it, and Fox said he thinks that explains the dip to a career-low 5.5 sacks.

“Physically, he had a rough year last year,” Fox said. “In particular for big guys or really any position, your weight, your strength level, all those things physically have a lot to do with how you perform on Sundays.

“In his case, he got pneumonia and lost 19, 20 pounds, and in the middle of a marathon, that is hard to recover from. That’s an analogy I use for a football season. So I don’t know if it was his best season. [But] there are reasons [for his struggles], not excuses.”

The Bears also brought in Pernell McPhee in free agency, and have Lamarr Houston to play outside linebacker. Allen’s obviously not playing as a base 3-4 end, so they’ll have to adjust on the fly, and see how much he has left.

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Marshawn Lynch to appear in “Beast Mode” music video

Lynch AP

It’s been a good year for Marshawn Lynch, even without getting the chance to become the face of the nation.

Lynch, who has received a $5 million raise for returning to the Seahawks, gone to Turkey to promote football, and has a movie about him (although pretty much everyone — including Lynch — thinks it’s not very good), will now appear in the video for Beast Mode, a new song from Ludacris.

“I met him and literally within like two minutes I felt like we were family,” Ludacris a/k/a Chris Bridges told ESPN earlier this week.  “I don’t know what it is.  He’s real cool, real laid back guy.  He was a fan.  He was talking about how much his mom was a fan, so I told him I’m a fan of his.

“We inspire each other.  That’s why it was great for us to get together.  When everybody sees the video you’ll think it’s a great, great concept to put these two things together — music and football.”

The song isn’t the only thing that carries Lynch’s nickname.  In Seattle, the “Beast Mode O.G.” marijuana strain has been followed up with “Beast Mode 2.0″ (or “Beast Mode Blue Fire”).  But even though Lynch lives in one of the two states in which marijuana is legal, noted marijuana aficionado Snoop Dogg says Lynch doesn’t partake.

My homeboy got a career to play,” Snoop Dogg recently told TMZ, via seattlepi.com.  “He’s still in the NFL.  He’s got a Commissioner to deal with.  Somebody named it after him.”

So Marshawn doesn’t smoke at all?

“No, he does not. I do it for him,” Snoop Dogg said.

For any player not in the drug-testing program, the reality is that he can smoke at will after taking his annual test for street drugs.  But with the window for testing opening on April 20, any player inclined to sample the Beast Mode blend should have stopped last week, since it takes 30 days for the metabolites to exit the system.

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Jeremy Maclin’s gone, but says “I still believe in Chip”

Maclin AP

When LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole and Todd Herremans made plans to attend a fundraiser last night, they were Eagles. Since then, they became former Eagles, part of a flurry of offseason activity that sent them all packing, along with quarterback Nick Foles.

That means their starting quarterback and leading receiver and rusher have all departed in a short time.

“If you would have told me two years ago that that would be the case, I would have laughed,” Maclin said, via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is a business, man. Things like that happen.”

Of course, Maclin made his own business decision, taking a $55 million deal from the Chiefs, of which he said: “It wasn’t really about money.”

As much as anything, it was about coach Chip Kelly’s vision for the team, which Maclin said he still had confidence in.

“I still believe in Chip,” Maclin said. “I think Chip’s going to do great things here. I have the utmost respect for him. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get something worked out. But at the end of the day I’m very excited about playing for Kansas City and playing for Big Red [Andy Reid].”

Having a comfortable place to land was a help, because Kelly’s showing there are few sacred cows in his herd, which will lead to many more Eagles becoming former Eagles.

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Dont’a Hightower to miss 6-7 months after shoulder surgery

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

When the Patriots open their offseason program in a few weeks, they’re going to be without a few key players after their Super Bowl run.

But one important part of their defense is up in the air for the start of the regular season.

According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who will miss around six or seven months after surgery to repair a torn right labrum on Feb. 10.

That puts the opener in doubt  for Hightower, who played nearly every snap down the stretch for the Patriots. He sat out the finale against the Bills since there was nothing on the line, but played 321 of a possible 327 over the final five games he played, including a touchdown-saving tackle of Marshawn Lynch near the goal-line.

Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer also had surgery to repair a torn labrum, though he’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

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Wilf family pledges additional $19.5 million for new Vikings stadium

Vikings AP

The Wilf family, owners of the Minneosta Vikings, has pledged an additional $19.5 million toward the construction of the new Vikings stadium.

According to the Associated Press, the additional funds will go toward enhancements in the plaza, food service equipment, entertainment areas in the stadium, upgrades to retractable seating and a deck that will overlook downtown Minneapolis.

The extra money brings the total contribution from the Vikings to $551 million, which is approximately 52 percent of the total cost of the project.

The team announced the extra contribution Thursday night.

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City, county uniting in effort to keep Chargers

la_g_qualcomm_stadium_b1_300 Getty Images

In the Bay Area, the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda have come together in an effort to keep the Raiders in town.  In the southern end of the state, the city and county of San Diego likewise are joining forces to try to retain the Chargers.

Via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Thursday that the two governmental entities will work together in an effort to device a solution to the stadium situation.

“This partnership helps make it official, that the entire San Diego region is united,” Faulconer said.  “We are coming together, and there is real progress that is being made.”

But making progress and reaching the goal are two different things.  With Faulconer determined to put any proposal to a public vote (a simple majority is necessary if the project requires no public money; if taxpayer funds are involved, two thirds of the voters must approve the measure), the project necessarily will take time — perhaps more time than the Chargers currently have to make a decision on whether they’ll leave San Diego.

And the buzz at the league meetings was clear and unmistakable.  The Chargers believe San Diego has had more than enough time to fix this problem, and that any effort now is simply too little and too late.

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Buccaneers LB Danny Lansanah signs ERFA tender

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers’ second-leading tackler in 2014 has signed his contract offer from the club.

Linebacker Danny Lansanah, an exclusive-rights free agent, has officially signed his one-year tender from Tampa Bay. The transaction was listed in the NFL’s Thursday personnel notice.

The 29-year-old Lansanah comes off the best season of his career. The fourth-year pro from Connecticut notched 82 tackles (61 solo), starting 11-of-16 games. He could compete for a starting role at strong-side linebacker next season, with Orie Lemon potentially also in the mix.

Lansanah was one of the success stories of the United Football League, playing a three-year UFL stint (2010-2012) after five regular season games with the Green Bay Packers in 2008. He has been with the Buccaneers since December 2013.

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Reports: Vikings reach deal with Terence Newman, who’s likely to sign Friday

Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Vikings will reportedly soon finalize a contract with a cornerback whom head coach Mike Zimmer knows well.

According to Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV in St. Paul, Minnesota is likely to sign Bengals corner Terence Newman on Friday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Newman has agreed to a deal worth $2.5 million ($750,000 guaranteed).

Newman, 36, played in Zimmer-led defenses in Dallas (2002-2006) and Cincinnati (2012-2013). He notched 72 tackles, 14 passes defensed and one interception in 2014 for the Bengals. The Cowboys’ No. 1 pick in 2003, Newman has started at least 10 games in all 12 of his NFL seasons.

Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson are the primary holdover options at cornerback in Minnesota, and Newman’s experience in Zimmer’s scheme would figure to give him a solid shot at a contributing role.

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Derrick Shelby signs restricted free agent tender with Dolphins

Derrick Shelby AP

Defensive lineman Derrick Shelby has signed his restricted free agent tender with the Miami Dolphins.

The team announced the signing on Thursday.

Miami placed a second round tender on Shelby prior to the start of free agency that is worth $2.4 million. The tender is non-guaranteed. Shelby can no longer negotiate with other teams.

Shelby has missed just one game in three seasons with the Dolphins. For his career, he’s appeared in 47 games with 68 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

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Vikings waive Justin Anderson, Jordan McCray

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Vikings have parted ways with two second-year pros signed to reserve-future contracts after the 2014 season, waiving linebacker Justin Anderson and offensive guard Jordan McCray on Thursday.

The roster moves were disclosed in the NFL’s Thursday personnel notice.

Anderson and McCray were originally signed to Minnesota’s practice squad in December. Anderson (6-2, 232) played colleglately at Louisiana-Lafayette, while McCray (6-3, 322) is a Central Florida product. Both entered the NFL as an undrafted free agents in 2014. Anderson also played for the Giants last year, with McCray seeing time with the Packers in 2014.

The Vikings currently have 71 players on the roster. This does not include tailback Adrian Peterson, who is on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Also on Thursday, the Vikings signed offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi, who has quite the unique back story.

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Hernandez’s fiancée due to testify on Friday

Jenkins AP

Apart from Thursday’s bomb threat, the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial hasn’t generated much news in recent weeks.  The circumstantial evidence points to Hernandez as the killer (or at least present during the killing) of Odin Lloyd, but there’s still no clear motive apart from Hernandez being generally reckless, completely unpredictable, and randomly violent.

Things could get far more interesting soon, when Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, shows up to testify.  Per multiple reports, Jenkins is due to take the stand on Friday.

Jenkins has received immunity, which gives the prosecution the power to compel her to testify — or to put her behind bars for contempt of court.  The question becomes whether she goes out of her way to be helpful, or whether she has truly flipped on the father of her child.

One factor that could make Jenkins flip?  A babysitter testified earlier this month that Hernandez once hit on her.  Coincidentally (or not), Jenkins hasn’t been seen in court since March 6.

If Jenkins has indeed flipped, she could testify that she disposed of a box that contained the murder weapon that still has not been found.  Prosecutors believe that’s exactly what she did.

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Brandon Magee still committed to football despite trip to spring training

Brandon Magee Getty Images

While Brandon Magee is joining the Boston Red Sox for the next few weeks to participate in spring training, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker is still fully committed to pursuing his football career.

Magee was waived by the Buccaneers this week and once again elected to join the Red Sox in spring training. Magee did the same a year ago while he was a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Blake Baratz, Magee’s agent, says Magee is healthy and ready to sign with another NFL team as soon as possible with his commitment being to his NFL career.

“There have been rumors circulating that Brandon Magee, who was recently released by Tampa Bay, has given up football with the intention of playing professional baseball. This could not be further from the truth,” Baratz wrote in an email to PFT. “While he does attend spring training for a few weeks up until the beginning of the NFL off-season program, he is 100% fully committed to playing in the NFL.”

Magee appeared in nine games for the Buccaneers last year while primarily serving on special teams duty. Magee recorded seven tackles before landing on injured reserve in December. Magee also appeared in eight games for the Cleveland Browns in 2013, recording five tackles.

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