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Marcell Dareus passes physical

Marcell Dareus AP

Bills defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Alan Branch passed physicals on Thursday, per the NFL’s transactions.

By passing their physicals, Dareus and Branch are now cleared to practice. The 24-year-old Dareus failed a conditioning test last week and had been placed on the non-football injury list, while Branch was placed on the non-football illness list.

ESPN’s Field Yates first reported Dareus and Branch had passed physicals.

Dareus and Branch are key members of the Bills’ defensive line, with Dareus (7.5 sacks in 2013) a potential standout. However, off-field issues have been a concern with Dareus, the Bills’ 2011 first-round pick.

In other Bills roster moves, the club waived/injured first-year cornerback Brandon Smith and was awarded undrafted rookie center Jared Wheeler on waivers from Carolina. Wheeler is a Miami (Fla.) product.

The Bills are at the 90-player roster limit.

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Knowshon Moreno on PUP list, but “won’t be too long”

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Dolphins made a couple of procedural moves on Thursday, placing running back Knowshon Moreno and center Mike Pouncey on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Pouncey is a good bet to remain on that list into the regular season after having hip surgery that will reportedly keep him out for half the year. Pouncey can go on the regular season version of the PUP list, which will require him to miss practice for at least six weeks but he won’t count against Miami’s 53-man roster.

Moreno’s stay shouldn’t be that long. The veteran back had knee surgery during the offseason and coach Joe Philbin said his conditioning needed some work, but Philbin doesn’t think it will be long before Moreno is in the mix with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.

“Not full throttle 100% reps yet but won’t be too long,” Philbin said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

Moreno signed with the Dolphins after running for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, his best production in any of his five NFL campaigns. Doing the same without Peyton Manning running a high-powered passing game may be difficult, especially if any other issues cut into his ability to compete for playing time this summer.

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Antonio Gates practices a day after his sister died of lupus

Antonio Gates AP

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates missed much of the team’s offseason program while dealing with a family situation that unfortunately had a sad ending.

Gates’ sister Pamela died at the age of 22 on Wednesday after a long battle with lupus. Gates also flew home after games last season to spend time with his sister, but was with the Chargers at practice on Thursday. Gates explained that he enjoyed being back on the field with his teammates while dealing with what he called the toughest thing he’s faced in his life.

“It puts me at ease, with all the things I’ve had to deal with from my family’s standpoint and a personal standpoint,” Gates said, via ESPN.com. “This is where I’m comfortable at — competing and doing the things I’m accustomed to doing playing football. And it takes a lot off of your mind.”

Everyone at PFT wishes Gates and his family well while dealing with Pamela’s loss.

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Raiders will cut Kevin Burnett

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Burnett AP

The Raiders won’t have cornerback D.J. Hayden in the lineup for a while after foot surgery and they won’t have linebacker Kevin Burnett in the lineup at all.

Multiple reports from Raiders beat writers have the team parting ways with the veteran linebacker. Burnett missed a portion of the team’s spring work because of an ankle injury and Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com reports that he was never medically cleared to participate in practices this summer.

The Raiders signed Burnett to a two-year, $5.25 million deal before last season and Burnett started all 16 games for the team last year. He didn’t play particularly well and the Raiders will go with either Sio Moore or Miles Burris across from rookie Khalil Mack this season.

Burnett was a second-round pick in Dallas in 2005 and has played for the Chargers and Dolphins in addition to the Cowboys and Raiders. If he’s healthy, he could get a look from a team in need of an experienced hand on defense later this summer or during the season.

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Low preseason ranking ruffles feathers in South Florida

Dolphins Getty Images

Some of you were surprised to see that the average vote of the PFT staff placed the Dolphins at No. 31 on the preseason power rankings.  That group included Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

As explained by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Ross was sufficiently concerned about the placement to pick up the phone and call coach Joe Philbin, who apparently said something along the lines of, “Those guys don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“I don’t think he knows the guys in our looker room or the guys that come to work in this building every single day from top to bottom,” Philbin said to Salguero, with the “he” actually being the “we” who voted on the best to worst franchises entering the 2014 season.

While Philbin can get plenty of mileage in the locker room out of the lack of perceived respect inherent to the ranking, he actually should be glad that expectations are so low.  The lower the expectations, the easier it is for a coach to exceed them and, in turn, to remain the coach.

While reasonable minds may differ on whether the Dolphins currently sit below every NFL team not located in Oakland, there’s plenty of reason to think the Dolphins won’t take a step forward from last year’s 8-8 finish, which was punctuated by a pair of losses in winnable games.  The organization showed serious signs of dysfunction in the early portion of the offseason, via multiple reports creating the impression that G.M. Jeff Ireland lost a power struggle with V.P. of football administration Dawn Aponte, who had reportedly aligned with Philbin after Ireland reportedly tried to get Aponte fired.  The perception that no one wanted to succeed Ireland as the team’s G.M. bolstered the sense that things aren’t going so well in South Florida.

Then there’s the aftermath of the Jonathan Martin situation, with Richie Incognito gone but Mike Pouncey still there, showing signs that he really hasn’t learned anything from the experience and that he blames the controversy on the media.  The Dolphins looked the other way on Pouncey because Pouncey is one of the best centers in the league.  And of course he’s now out through at least the middle of the season after hip surgery.

When the Dolphins finished 27th in yardage and 26th points and allowed 58 sacks, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman took the fall.  Which means that his former pupil at Texas A&M, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, has to learn and adapt to a new offense.  Which may or may not work out.

Receiver Mike Wallace was a malcontent last year, his first after signing a big-money deal to jump from Pittsburgh to South Florida.  The offensive line is a work in progress at best, especially with Pouncey out.  And the defense, which finished in the bottom quarter of the league in points allowed but near the top 10 for yardage surrendered, has a long way to go before it can win games without much support from the offense.

So with no teams other than the Raiders standing out as having deep and profound deficiencies, it made sense to put the Dolphins behind the likes of the Titans, Jaguars (who should have been higher than 29, in my own assessment), the Bills, the Vikings, and the Buccaneers.  Ultimately, that’s the task for anyone who disagrees with the Dolphins at No. 31:  Point out a team other than the Raiders that is currently in worse overall shape.

Again, that’s good news for Philbin.  It gives him a way to get his players to affix a chip to their shoulders, and it gives him cover in the event the Dolphins don’t make it to the playoffs this year.  If they do — or even if they get close but don’t qualify — Philbin will have overcome major talent and organizational challenges that hopefully the organization led ultimately by Ross will be able to appreciate and reward.

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Floyd Reese: Fearing Al Davis, Bud Adams wanted to trade up with New Orleans for Vince Young

2006 NFL Draft Getty Images

It’s long been known the late Bud Adams coveted Vince Young in the 2006 NFL Draft.

And the Titans’ owner was even willing to trade up to get his man.

Via ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky, ex-Titans G.M. Floyd Reese recalled Thursday how badly Adams wanted Young, who had led Texas to the national title months earlier.

“The night before he draft, [Adams] goes, ‘You gotta call New Orleans and trade up,’” Reese remembered Thursday in an interview with 104.5 FM “The Zone” in Nashville.

The Titans held the No. 3 pick, while the Saints had the second overall choice. And as Reese recalled, Adams believed Raiders owner Al Davis had designs on trading into New Orleans’ spot.

Reese, as the former Titans’ executive told “The Zone” on Thursday, couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.

“I said, ‘WHAT?’” Reese recalled.

Adams, Reese said, insisted he check in with New Orleans and make an offer. And so the Titans’ G.M. did as he was told.

Now it was the Saints’ turn to be surprised.

“So I called ‘em and I said — and trading one spot — I said, ‘I need to trade with you guys, and I will give you a ‘two,’” Reese said. “They said, ‘A TWO?’ I said, ‘Yep, a two.’ They go, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘We want that spot.’”

Reese continued: “And he goes, ‘You know something we don’t.’ He goes, ‘We’re not going to trade.’”

Said Reese, concluding his story: “I laughed about that forever.”

In the end, the Saints took Reggie Bush second overall, and the Titans selected Young with the next pick. The Titans got their quarterback, and they didn’t have to give up a second-rounder.

And now, thanks to Reese, we have quite the footnote to add to the history of the 2006 NFL Draft.

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Raiders put D.J. Hayden on PUP list after foot surgery

D.J. Hayden AP

A number of teams might have been worried about D.J. Hayden’s heart scare prior to last year’s NFL Draft.

But Hayden’s biggest problem at the moment is all the other parts.

According to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, the Raiders cornerback suffered a stress fracture in his foot which had to be surgically repaired.

The surgery was done four weeks ago, and Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Hayden’s recovery was estimated at between four and eight weeks. For now, he’s on the active/physically unable to perform list.

That could well take him out of training camp altogether, which would be a blow for the team and last year’s 12th overall pick.

It’s a big setback,” veteran defensive back Charles Woodson said Wednesday, before it was known Hayden had surgery. “As I’ve said many times, the most important thing in this game is being out on the field. There’s only so much being in the film room and studying plays can do for you. It can only take you so far. You need to be out there. . . .

“Hopefully it’s not anything that’s going to hold him out the whole camp. Hopefully he doesn’t have to worry about being on a [physically unable to perform list] or anything like that. He’s a guy we feel can help us out around here. It has the potential to be a setback. Hopefully it’s not.”

After fighting through the heart injury which nearly killed him, and complications from an abdominal surgery last season, Hayden hardly needs any more hurdles.

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Charles gets $8.3 million guaranteed

Charles Getty Images

Omitted from the news regarding the new contract obtained by running back Jamaal Charles from the Chiefs was the amount of the four-year, $28 million contract that is guaranteed.

It was possibly omitted because it wasn’t an eye-popping number.

Per a league source, only the first year of the deal is guaranteed, which it would have been as of Week One of the regular season anyway.  The total amount is $8.3 million, a dramatic increase in the $3.9 million Charles was due to earn in 2014.

Nothing beyond 2014 is guaranteed.  So if the Chiefs were to cut Charles after this season, he’d hit the market with $8.3 million in his pocket from the upcoming season.

Charles probably could have given up some of the total dollars in exchange for getting some injury-only guarantees in future years.  But why bother?  The money only gets paid in the event of a serious injury.  For what the player would have to sacrifice by way of salary, it makes more sense in some situations to simply buy a disability policy.

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Griffin takes another shot at the Shanahans

Griffin AP

Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has made little effort to conceal something that should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the team — Griffin and former coach Mike Shanahan and former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan didn’t see eye to eye.

Last month, Griffin applauded the absence of “ulterior motives” in the organization this year.  On Thursday, Griffin took a more direct, but still passive-aggressive, dig at the Shanahans, when asked by reporters about Griffin’s supposed inability to read defenses.

“You don’t go from the ability to read defenses one year and not have that ability the next, so I don’t believe that one bit,” Griffin said.  “And it’s really just a good thing to have two coaches that believe in you.  Sean and Jay have done a great job.  They’ve given me a lot on my shoulders in that quarterback room and I cherish that.  You want to be asked to do more or just to do the bare minimum.”

The comments imply that the Shanahan didn’t “believe” in Griffin, and that they wanted him to do “the bare minimum” when running the offense.

Then again, the latter observation could be a reflection of Kyle Shanahan’s approach to the quarterback position, given that past pupils like Rex Grossman have described Kyle as wanting the quarterback to run the offense precisely the way Shanahan wants it to be run, with limited discretion or thought on the part of the quarterback.  It’ll be interesting to see whether Kyle Shanahan insists on that kind of structure from his latest pupil, the man named Johnny Football who plays some of his best football when the predetermined plan has landed in the johnny.

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Pierre-Paul says he’s “110 percent,” thinks he’ll remain with Giants past 2014

Jasn Pierre-Paul AP

After going 7-9 last season, there are several Giants veterans on the spot heading into the 2014 season.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is right at the top of that list. Pierre-Paul battled injuries early and late while putting forth performances far below the standard he set on the way to a Super Bowl title in 2011, leading him to call it a “lost year” on Thursday. Getting Pierre-Paul back to form is big for a team that doesn’t have many proven pass rushers and it’s big for Pierre-Paul as well.

He’s entering the final year of his contract and what was once assumed to be a big extension is less certain after Pierre-Paul’s poor 2013. The defensive end says he’s “110 percent” now, though, and expects to remain with the team.

“I’m not gonna lie,” Pierre-Paul said, via the New York Post. “Seeing Tuck gone, it’s on my mind a little bit. I think I’m going to be here next year. Honest. Because I know how I play and I know what kind of game I bring.”

Listing the players who are 110 percent or in the best shape of their lives heading into training camp would take most of the month, so such statements should always be taken with an oversize grain of salt. Pierre-Paul has to produce once the whistle blows or his future, Giants or otherwise, is going to be a lot dimmer than it was 12 months ago.

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Report: Jordy Nelson’s looking for $10 million a year

Jordy Nelson Charity Softball AP

Jordy Nelson is definitely a wide receiver.

And he wants to get paid like one of the best.

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, a source familiar with the negotiations said Nelson wants a deal “worth at least $10 million per season.”

Nelson’s currently working on the final year of the three-year, $12.6 million deal he signed in 2011, and his $4.2 million per season average is 34th among all receivers.

And since he signed that deal early during the 2011 season, he’s averaged 67 catches, 1,107 yards and 10 touchdowns per season.

With Roddy White cashing in with the Falcons today, the bar was raised again for Nelson, who just turned 29 years old.

The Packers would like to keep Nelson and Randall Cobb (who is also up for free agency after this season), but they might find themselves in a spot where they can afford one or the other, but not both.

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Titans agree with first-round pick Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan AP

The final unsigned 2014 draft pick has reached a deal.

The Titans announced Thursday they had agreed to a contract with first-round selection Taylor Lewan, an offensive tackle from Michigan.

The No. 11 overall pick, Lewan (6-7, 309) has played both left and right tackle in the offseason. It’s possible he could challenge veteran Michael Oher at right tackle.

Lewan made 48 starts at left tackle for the Wolverines, earning a variety of All-American honors as a junior and as a senior. He was the third offensive lineman selected in May.

Lewan faces an October trial on assault and battery and aggravated assault charges related to a December incident in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Newsome calls Rice suspension “fair,” Rice doesn’t say whether he’ll appeal

Ray Rice AP

The suspension of Ray Rice has become official, which means that more statements will be issued from folks directly affected by the outcome.

“We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice,” Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome said in a statement issued by the team.  “The time the Commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues. While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league’s decision and believe it is fair.

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Rice stopped short of calling the suspension “fair,” which possibly means he’ll exercise his right to an appeal.  He nevertheless continues to accept responsibility for his behavior.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement issued by the team (which is the paper equivalent of a press conference with no questions allowed from the press, which Rice did in May).  “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways.  But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night.  The counseling has helped tremendously.

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident.  I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously.  My actions going forward will show that.”

Neither statement addresses the broader issue of domestic violence, and neither the Ravens nor Rice have said or done anything use this incident as a way to help reduce situations where men strike their wives, fianceés, girlfriends, or any other people (male or female) they regularly encounter in their day-to-day lives.

Maybe the $705,000 that the Ravens won’t be paying to Rice should be donated to one or more groups that support the victims of domestic violence, and maybe Rice should match the amount of his financial penalty with an equal donation.  Some would call the gesture transparent or hollow, but it would have far more tangible impact than generating a page of quotes that avoid acknowledging what happened — Rice threw a punch at the woman he supposedly loves, and he knocked her out cold.

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Jaguars owner says they won’t cut Justin Blackmon

Shad Khan

The Jaguars have every pragmatic reason to distance themselves from Justin Blackmon.

But owner Shad Khan said he’s not about to release his former first round pick, who has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL and was arrested for marijuana possession last night.

We want him to get help he needs,” Khan said, via John Oehser of the team’s official website.

That sentiment seems to be consistent through the organization, as linebacker Paul Posluszny said: “This is no longer a football issue…We want the best for him. He’s a good kid at heart.”

It’s good to hear the Jaguars embrace a kid (it’s hard to call him a player, since he’s barely played for them since his rookie year) who obviously has some problems.

He showed flashes of talent in 2012, when his play might have justified their investment in him. If he had torn an ACL, they’d have gone to great lengths to get him well, so they could benefit from his labor in the future.

But Blackmon’s problem now is not a physical one, and we hope the Jaguars are sincere in getting him the help he needs, even if he never plays another down for them.

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Five questions: Kansas City Chiefs

Reid Getty Images

The Chiefs followed a disastrous 2-14 season with an unlikely trip to the playoffs, followed by an even less likely 38-10 lead at Indy, capped by an even less likely second-half collapse.

For Year Two of the Andy Reid/John Dorsey regime much higher than a year ago, the bar moves higher.  Possibly, too high.

Here are five questions we (or at least I) have about the 2014 edition of the Kansas City Chiefs.

1.  Did they take too many hits in free agency?

A whopping 60 percent of the team’s offensive line bolted for bigger dollars in free agency, led by left tackle Branden Albert.  The team now hopes that Eric Fisher, the first overall pick a year ago, will be able to play better on the left side of the line than the right, where he struggled as a rookie.

Also gone is Dexter McCluster, a versatile weapon who may or may not be replaced effectively by rookie De’Anthony Thomas.

On defense, lineman Tyson Jackson and safety Kendrick Lewis signed elsewhere, and cornerback Brandon Flowers was cut late in the offseason.

The departures, which weren’t offset by many free-agent arrivals, will make it harder to run the streak of playoff appearances to two.

2.  Can they put the playoff collapse behind them?

Maybe it’s good that so many of the old players are gone.  It’ll make it a little easier to get past the playoff collapse if guys who weren’t part of it aren’t still around.

But plenty are still there, and they’ll need to learn from what happened against the Colts without having a wedge arise between the offense and the defense.  Otherwise, whenever the offense builds a lead in 2014 and the defense starts to blow it, “Here we go again” will be the refrain (spoken or otherwise) up and down the Kansas City sideline.

The offense will likely follow the lead of quarterback Alex Smith on this point, especially since his stellar day (378 passing yards, 57 rushing yards, four passing touchdowns, no interceptions) was barely noticed in the aftermath of one of the most deflating losses in franchise history.  If he stays positive when the defense starts to show signs of falling apart, others will be inclined to do the same.

3.  Is Alex Smith the answer at quarterback?

There’s a chance Smith eventually won’t be the guy leading, or cutting off, resentment of defensive failures.  Andy Reid has shown over the last 15 years a knack for getting great performances out of any and every quarterback he coaches, and rookie Aaron Murray could easily become Big Red’s next star pupil.

Smith has one year left on his contract, with the two sides still far apart.  If Smith won’t do a deal on the team’s terms, the team could turn to Murray.

And if the 2014 season goes south quickly, Murray may get a chance at some point to show what he can do before the Chiefs have to essentially choose between Smith and Murray.

4.  How good will Dee Ford be right away?

Before the draft, Dee Ford declared he’s better than Jadeveon Clowney.  Chiefs owner Clark Hunt cautiously has compared Ford to the late Derrick Thomas.

If Ford lives up to either of those assessments, the Chiefs will be able to let Justin Houston walk in free agency and install Ford as the four-letter complement to Tamba Hali.

Or maybe it’s Hali who’ll become expandable after the 2014 season, with the Chiefs opting for the two youngest options at pass rusher.  If we’ve learned nothing else in the past few years, it’s that no high-priced veteran on any team is safe.

5.  Are they nearly done with Dwayne Bowe?

Speaking of high-priced veterans who may be in danger of not being with the team, receiver Dwayne Bowe could be on the outs.  With $11 million in cash due come 2015, Bowe may be on the verge of being a former Chief if he doesn’t increase the production in 2014.

His first season under a five-year, $56 million contract resulted in only 57 catches for 673 yards.  That’s 13 fewer catches and 20 yards less than running back Jamaal Charles, who also ran the ball for 1,287 yards.

Bowe knows that his time is running short if he can’t produce a better return on the investment the Chiefs made not long after Reid and Dorsey arrived.  Otherwise, that cash and cap space will go to someone else.

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