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Owners discussing timing change for coaching hires

AP

If some owners have their way, future Dan Quinns and Kyle Shanahans might not have to spend a Super Bowl week lying (or at least awkwardly hedging) about their plans for the following week.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, owners will discuss a change to the timing of head-coaching hires, which would allow teams to agree to terms with a new coach after a second interview but not announce the hiring.

It’s actually a box of leftovers from the March meeting, when the needed rules change was proposed by the competition committee but not voted on. Atlanta has also sponsored the rule, having been on both sides of it.

Ostensibly, that would give teams more of a chance to rebuild coaching staffs in the wake of late departures caused by their own success. In recent years, the Seahawks and Falcons have had to wait before replacing Dan Quinn (to Atlanta) and Kyle Shanahan (to San Francisco) until their teams were finished with the Super Bowl.

But if it’s as simple agree-don’t-announce, that doesn’t really seem to change much, since both hirings were the worst-kept secrets of the Super Bowl weeks in question, and both hirings were foregone conclusions.

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CBS producer believes Tony Romo will be the next John Madden

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CBS is obviously quite excited about the addition of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to their broadcast booth.

The network is so happy to have him that Romo is going to get his first appearance in the booth during this weekend’s PGA Tour stop at the Dean and DeLuca Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, CBS producer Lance Barrow announced at a gala for the tournament Monday night that Romo would make his CBS debut this week in the booth at the 18th hole.

In addition to announcing Romo’s foray on the network’s golf broadcast this weekend, Barrow made a lofty comparison in likening Romo to an NFL broadcasting legend.

I think he is going to be great,” Barrow said. “I think we have the next John Madden on your hands.”

Romo has yet to work a single NFL game, but in comparing Romo to Madden he’s setting an incredibly high standard for the newest member of the network’s announcing team.

After his coaching career was complete, Madden became the most recognizable NFL analyst on TV. Madden paired with Pat Summerall to form the No. 1 crew in NFL broadcasting, first working for CBS before moving to FOX in the mid-1990’s. His popularity continued to grow with the introduction of the Madden NFL game franchise.

Whether Romo could potentially ever reach Madden territory as a broadcaster is yet to be seen, but clearly CBS is incredibly bullish on their addition to their staff.

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Michael Bennett, columnist, appear to bury hatchet after apology

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Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett threatened to boycott the Seattle Times after a column critical of Bennett appeared in the paper on Sunday.

While the column from writer Matt Calkins largely praised Bennett for his on-field performance, numerous charity endeavors and engaging personality, the piece primarily took issue with an incident that occurred in the locker room following Seattle’s playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons in January.

Bennett lashed out at a local TV reporter for asking a question about the team’s pass rush in the game and questioned what adversity had the reporter faced. What Bennett didn’t know at the time was that the reporter – Bill Wixey – had survived cancer. That incident, and Calkins’ belief that no apology had been given from Bennett to Wixey, was the prime point of contention for Calkins’ criticism.

But in a follow-up column on Monday, Calkins notes that he found out that Bennett had apologized to Wixey privately and he didn’t do the legwork on that before writing the story. Since the linchpin of the argument was incorrect, the rest of the premise the criticism was predicated upon wasn’t supported any longer. He apologized to Bennett for getting it wrong.

Part of my duty is to hold people accountable. That includes myself,” Calkins wrote.

Bennett appears to have accepted the apology from Calkins as well.

Although I was offended by your attacks on my character, I admire and respect your willingness to admit you were wrong about me,” Bennett wrote in a Twitter message directed at Calkins and the Times’ twitter accounts Monday night. “I care deeply for social causes, for our fans and I’m not afraid to make a stand even if it makes me unpopular at time I will continue to lead organically n staying true to what I feel is right I love this city n I love the people.”

While Bennett didn’t expressly say his plan to boycott the paper is off, it seems as though he’s willing to move beyond the issue.

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Turner considers trying to get back into the NFL business

The NFL television landscape could change in plenty of ways come 2023. At at time when the ability of ESPN to continue to pay more than $2 billion per year to keep Monday Night Football has fallen into uncertainty, one of the league’s former broadcast partners could be trying to get back in.

Via Michael McCarthy of SportingNews.com, Turner Sports currently is exploring the possibility of making a bid on a piece of the TV rights. Of course, there’s a big difference between thinking about it and scraping together the cash necessary to make it happen.

Turner’s status as a cable channel limits its options, as a practical matter. The NFL realizes the value of placing prime-time games on broadcast TV, given that the three-letter networks still draw the maximum audience. Even with the proliferation of cable and Internet, millions still rely on the free signals broadcast through the public airwaves by NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX.

The Monday Night Football package would make the most sense for Turner, and the NFL may need to find a deep-pocketed partner to bid on the games, if ESPN ultimately won’t have the cash to continue to pay such a premium for the premier American sporting content.

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Ameer Abdullah could be headed for a featured role in Detroit

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The running back the Cardinals wanted to draft before drafting David Johnson may soon get a chance to have an impact similar to Arizona’s 2015 Plan B option.

Lions running back Ameer Abdullah recently said he’d be better than any other option the team may bring in. They didn’t bring anyone in via free agency or the draft, which per the team’s official website has created the impression that Abdullah will have a featured role in 2017, his third NFL season.

The question is whether he can stay healthy. Abdullah finished his rookie season (with 16 appearances and 597 rushing yards) needing shoulder surgery. Last year, a Week Two foot injury knocked him out for the rest of the season.

Other options are Theo Riddick (who had 357 yards rushing in 2016), Zach Zenner (334 yards), and Dwayne Washington (265 yards). Collectively, the Lions generated 1,310 rushing yards (30th in the league), with an average of 3.7 yards per carry.

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Chiefs sign Tourek Williams

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The Chiefs got a look at linebacker Tourek Williams when he played for the Chargers and now they’ll be getting a closer view.

The NFL’s transaction wire brought word on Monday that the Chiefs have signed Williams to their 90-man roster. Linebacker Victor Ochi was waived in a corresponding move.

Williams was a sixth-round pick of the Chargers in 2013 and saw action in 44 games over the last three seasons, although a broken foot kept him off the field for the entire 2015 season. He played in every game last year and had 14 tackles and a sack while seeing more time on special teams than on defense.

Ochi played two games for the Jets last year and had two tackles.

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Patriots add another receiver

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The New England Patriots have cornered the market on skill-position players in 2017. They’ve now added another. Sort of.

The team has announced signing of receiver DeAndrew White. But White isn’t a new arrival. After being cut by the 49ers last September, White spent most of the year on the New England practice squad.

White appeared in four game as an updraft rookie in 2015, catching two passes for 18 yards. White also returned six kicks for 142 yards and returned one punt for four yards.

He’s one of 11 receivers currently on the roster, with Brandin Cooks being the highest profile arrival in 2017, by far.

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Doug Whaley claims credit for “parting gift” of two first-round picks

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Former Bills G.M. Doug Whaley broke his silence after being fired three weeks ago. Some would say he shouldn’t have.

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com), Whaley made this claim regarding the trade that saw the Bills drop from No. 10 in round one to No. 27: “As a parting gift, we left them with two [first-round picks] next year.”

This implies that Whaley, who would be fired less than three days after the trade was made, actually had any say over the decision to swap the top-10 pick that the team’s subpar performance earned for the selection belonging to one of the final-eight franchises. That’s how the Bills picked up a second first-rounder in 2018.

Even if Whaley was involved, it wasn’t a “gift”; it was the result of a deliberate decision-making process fueled by a very strong desire on the part of the Chiefs to land quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Whaley likely was trying to be loose or funny or whatever. After his disastrous January press conference, however, his words will now be as scrutinized as his personnel decisions if/when he’s ever considered for other G.M. positions. On that point, Whaley said that if he ever gets another job of that kind in the future, he’ll have a clear objective from the get-go. “I would make sure I secured a franchise QB, quickly.”

If it were only that easy. As more than a few teams have proven more than a few times each, it’s not like ordering a new sweatshirt on Amazon.

Whaley surely thought he had found a franchise quarterback in 2013, when the team made EJ Manuel the first quarterback drafted. Whaley got it wrong, which could make it a lot harder for him to ever get another chance to find a franchise quarterback.

That doesn’t mean Whaley shouldn’t be gainfully employed in the NFL. He did very well in the Pittsburgh front office, well enough to become a G.M. He has a place in the league, just not one that requires speaking extemporaneously in public or securing franchise quarterbacks.

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Jets waive Devin Smith after torn ACL

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The Jets haven’t gotten much return on the second-round pick they used on wide receiver Devin Smith in the 2015 draft and that wasn’t going to change this season.

Smith tore his ACL in April and the team waived him with an injury designation on Monday. Should Smith pass through waivers unclaimed, he will revert to injured reserve. The Jets could also reach an injury settlement with Smith and cut him loose altogether, although that decision could wait until they see how his recovery progresses.

It’s the second time Smith has torn his ACL since joining the Jets. He suffered the first injury late in the 2015 season and missed 12 games last year while he was rehabbing. He caught one pass for 20 yards to go with nine catches for 115 yards and a touchdown during his rookie season.

The Jets signed wide receiver Deshon Foxx, who they signed in January and waived earlier this month to make room for undrafted free agent signings.

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Matt Elam arrested for grand theft, battery

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Former Ravens first-round pick and current free agent Matt Elam has landed in legal trouble for the second time this year.

Elam was arrested and booked in Delray Beach, Florida on charges of grand theft and battery. TMZ Sports first reported news of the arrest and details beyond the $4,500 bond for Elam’s release aren’t known at the moment.

Elam was also arrested on charges of marijuana possession with the intent to sell or deliver and possession of hydrocodone in February.

Elam became a free agent a short time later as his rookie deal was up and the Ravens opted not to exercise their option on his contract for the 2017 season. The 2013 first-round pick had four tackles in nine games last year and there haven’t been any reports of interest in his services as a football player this offseason. That seems unlikely to change given Monday’s developments.

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Rams sign two ahead of OTAs

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The Rams will kick off their organized team activities this week with a couple of new players on the roster.

The team announced the moves on Monday along with a pair of deletions from the roster. They have signed defensive tackles Omarius Bryant and A.J. Jefferson while waiving offensive lineman Kwayde Miller. They also announced that defensive back Dravious Wright has left the team.

This will be Bryant’s second stint with an NFL team since going undrafted out of Western Kentucky. He was initially signed by the Ravens earlier this month, but was waived a few days later when the Ravens needed roster space for others.

Jefferson had 35 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks during his four years at Mississippi State.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick “excited” to join Buccaneers

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While it wasn’t quite the same 44-shot uzi-spray that a Jets quarterback once used on the way through the door, a former Jets quarterback has repeatedly uttered the E-word when talking about his new team.

New Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, in comments to the team’s official website (EXCLUSIVE!) used the term “excited” five times.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to come to a team that’s really on the rise, with a great young quarterback in Jameis [Winston], just to come and try to provide some of my experiences,” Fitzpatrick said. “I just met him for the first time today. He seems like a great kid, though, lots of energy. I’m very excited to work with him and I think he’s excited to have me here. We’ll get to work pretty soon. . . .

“I think both sides were excited because there are a lot of good pieces here. I just wanted to be a part of it and I’m happy they have me here. . . . I’m excited to be here, I’m excited to get to work.”

The Bucs will be excited if Fitzpatrick doesn’t actually have to play. He’s there to mentor Winston and to be ready to go if/when Winston’s physical style of play gets him injured. (Fitzpatrick also may be expected to coax Winston to play with a little less physicality.)

The fans will be excited if the Buccaneers, regardless of who the quarterback is, can get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. That would definitely have Fitzpatrick feeling excited, given that Fitzpatrick has yet to be on a playoff roster despite 12 prior NFL seasons and now seven different teams.

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Undercover visit with Bears helped Mitchell Trubisky land in Chicago

AP

One of the biggest curveballs in the first round of the draft came when the Bears traded up to the second overall pick in order to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

49ers General Manager John Lynch traded the pick to the Bears and wondered whether the Bears would take defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (who ultimately went third to the Niners), which made sense because there weren’t too many people linking the Bears with Trubisky. It helped that the team’s trip to Chapel Hill to work out Trubisky went down with plenty of cloak and dagger employed.

Dan Wiederer of Chicago Tribune got the details of the trip, including a note that Trubisky made a dinner reservation for the group under the name James McMahon. That reference to Bears history struck General Manager Ryan Pace as a “cool” move and Pace also used some misdirection during a workout on an intramural field on the North Carolina campus.

Someone asked if Pace and company were from the Cowboys and Pace said they were and then didn’t dispute the questioner’s guess that head coach John Fox was Paul Pasqualoni. It’s good luck for Pace and company that the man wasn’t aware Pasqualoni hasn’t coached for the Cowboys since 2010. Pace’s biggest worry was that fans who spotted Fox, who used to coach the Panthers, at the airport might put pictures on social media that spilled the beans on their visit.

That doesn’t seem to have happened and the Bears obviously liked what they saw and learned from Trubisky, even if Wiederer’s consistently entertaining and engaging story makes it clear he had to combat with a talkative Fox over steaks and red wine at that aforementioned dinner. If he can do as well against NFL defenses, the Bears will have the quarterback spot locked down for a while.

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Michael Oher’s absence not just concussion-related

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Panthers left tackle Michael Oher, whose career resurgence was derailed by an early-season concussion that caused him to miss 13 games and counting, continues to be absent from the team. But it’s more than the concussion keeping him away, reportedly.

Via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers aren’t expecting Oher to show up on Tuesday for the launch of OTAs. Person reports that the absence isn’t solely related to the concussion.

Oher also is dealing with personal issues. Those included an April altercation with an Uber driver in Nashville. As Person notes, Oher also seemed to be out of shape in the mugshot arising from the Uber incident.

The Panthers haven’t written Oher off, but between the signing of Matt Kalil and the drafting in round two of Taylor Moton, Carolina seems to be preparing to move on without Oher.

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Calvin Johnson easily could have avoided bonus reimbursement

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Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who never said much during his playing career, lately has been saying plenty. Over the weekend, he said plenty about his current disillusionment with the team.

Though he opted not to spell it out, the discontent comes from the fact that Johnson had to write out a check for $320,000 to the team, representing 10 percent of the $3.2 million in unearned signing bonus money remaining on his contract when he retired.

As noted by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the team’s squeezing of Calvin for $320,000 doesn’t mesh with the decision of teams like the Cowboys and Seahawks to not recover $5 million in signing-bonus money from Tony Romo and Marshawn Lynch, respectively. So why did the Lions want 10 cents on the dollar from Johnson?

The Lions may have wanted to collect something in order to avoid setting a precedent that other players could cite if retiring before earning all of their signing-bonus money. (In 1999, they pursued every unearned penny from Hall of Fame tailback Barry Sanders.) The easy way to avoid any untoward precedent would have been to cut Johnson, severing any right to bonus reimbursement.

And that’s ultimately what Johnson should have pushed them to do. With a salary of $15.95 million and a cap number of $24 million hitting the books in March 2016, the Lions likely could have cut Johnson if he’d refused to accept a restructured deal. So he should have held firm before choosing to retire.

In February 2016, Johnson was dragging his feet about his retirement decision, prompting speculation that he hoping to be released instead, both to avoid the repayment obligation and to have the ability sign with any other team he chooses, if he ultimately were to unretire.

So while Johnson has every right to be miffed at the Lions, Johnson also should be miffed at himself. Or at whoever advised him to retire instead of biding his time until the Lions would have released him.

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