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Vikings start signing draft picks

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Some NFL teams have already signed all of their 2017 draft picks while there are others who have taken a more leisurely approach to getting their rookies under contract.

The Vikings fall into the latter group, but they got the ball rolling on signings on Thursday. The team announced that fifth-round wide receiver Rodney Adams has agreed to a four-year deal with the team.

Adams holds the South Florida record for receptions and receiving yards in a single season and ranks second in school history for career catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. He’s also fourth in all-purpose yards thanks to handling 46 kickoff returns over his time in school. Adams returned one of those kickoffs for a touchdown.

With Cordarrelle Patterson gone, Adams could be in the mix for the kickoff return job in Minnesota while also vying for offensive snaps with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Jarius Wright and seventh-round pick Stacy Coley.

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Bears agree to terms with Victor Cruz

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Victor Cruz will be doing his salsa dancing in Chicago this year.

Cruz, the veteran wide receiver who has spent his entire career with the Giants, has agreed to terms with the Bears, according to multiple reports.

The 30-year-old Cruz was once among the NFL’s elite receivers, but he was plagued by injuries in 2014 and 2015, and although he made it through 2016 healthy, his production slipped significantly. The Bears, however, apparently think he has something left.

In Chicago, Cruz joins a receiver depth chart that also includes Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Cameron Meredith, Kendall Wright and Rueben Randle.

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Vikings “really pleased” with Laquon Treadwell’s progress

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In February, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said that the team expected wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to make a big jump after a quiet rookie season.

Shurmur revisited Treadwell’s status during OTAs this week. Treadwell has been working with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in three-receiver sets and Shurmur said that is a sign of how much the team has liked what they’ve seen from the 2016 first-round pick this offseason.

“He’s had a great, in my opinion, five-and-a-half weeks,” Shurmur said, via ESPN.com. “He came back and he was really on point with what he’s supposed to be doing mentally. He’s been out here competing and doing a nice job running routes and catching the ball. Understanding where he fits in the running game and who to block. To this point, we’ve been really pleased with his progress based on a year ago.”

The Vikings aren’t putting all of their eggs in Treadwell’s basket. They signed Michael Floyd this month as another option at receiver and he should get opportunities once he’s had more time in the system. He’s likely to be suspended early in the season for last year’s DUI arrest, however, and continued progress for Treadwell could close the door on further chances come the regular season.

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Bills announce Gerald Hodges signing

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Thursday started with word that linebacker Gerald Hodges was on his way back for a second visit with the Bills that coach Sean McDermott said had a “good chance” of ending with a contract for the former 49er.

McDermott’s prediction turned out to be right on the money. The team announced that he has signed a contract and been added to the 90-man roster.

Hodges, who played for Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in Minnesota, played inside linebacker while making 12 starts for the 49ers last season and appears to be ticketed for the weak side in the 4-3 alignment that McDermott has installed in Buffalo. Ramon Humber has been working with the first team this offseason.

The Bills released cornerback Charles Gaines to make room for Hodges. Gaines wore No. 40 for the Bills and Hodges will take over that number as well as Gaines’ roster spot.

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Luke Kuechly says he’s done talking about concussions

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Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly has missed nine games over the last two seasons because of concussions with the last few of those came after he was cleared to return last year.

The Panthers chose to hold Kuechly out as a precaution with the playoffs out of reach in a decision that didn’t do much to lessen concern about the potential for more serious issues at some point down the line. Kuechly isn’t interested in discussing those concerns or anything else about his concussion history anymore, however.

“Everybody knows I want to play,” Kuechly said, via David Newton of ESPN.com. “Everybody knows the decision was made by the coaches so hopefully we can move on from that and not ask any more questions about concussions because I’m done with that.”

As long as Kuechly remains out of the concussion protocol, he should be able to avoid talking about head injuries. Should he find himself back there at any point this year, though, he’ll be facing more questions about his health and future than he has in the past.

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Bills concerned with Charles Clay’s “knee situation”

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The Bills signed a tight end on Wednesday with Wes Saxton joining the team as part of a series of roster moves and coach Sean McDermott said Thursday that the move was not made because of the team’s concerns about Charles Clay’s knee.

That’s not to say that the team has no concerns about Clay’s knee, however. Clay has dealt with chronic knee problems since joining the team as a restricted free agent in 2015 and McDermott acknowledged that the issue is one the team will be keeping an eye on as the year unfolds.

“We are concerned with Charles’ knee situation,” McDermott said, via the Buffalo News. “It’s something we have to manage moving forward in order to have him on the field for us, which is important moving forward. He’s a weapon for us.”

The knee didn’t keep Clay off the field much last season as he played nearly 82 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Top backup Nick O’Leary was at 35 percent and they are short on other experienced players at the position, which provides plenty of reason to take it easy with Clay whenever possible.

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Buccaneers, Jaguars to hold joint practices in August

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The Jaguars and Buccaneers will be spending some practice time together for the second straight year.

The teams announced on Thursday that they will spend two days practicing together in Jacksonville this summer. They will practice on August 14 and 15 before facing off in a preseason game at EverBank Field on August 17.

The announcement comes a couple of days after the Jaguars announced that they will be practicing with the Patriots for two days during the previous week.

“We look forward to hosting Coach Koetter and the Buccaneers for two practices during training camp,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “Having the opportunity to practice with the Patriots and the Buccaneers during training camp will allow us to see a lot of different looks, matchups and scenarios and we believe these joint sessions will make us a better football team.”

Both of the sessions will be open to the public and the media.

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“Good chance” Gerald Hodges signs with Bills

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The Bills expect to add another player to their linebacking corps.

Gerald Hodges visited the Bills earlier this week before moving on to meet with the Giants and Bills coach Sean McDermott said Thursday that Hodges is on his way back to Buffalo for another meeting with the team. McDermott said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, that there is a “good chance” that this meeting ends with Hodges signing a contract with the team.

If that’s the case, one of the few unsigned players left of PFT’s Hot 100 list of the top free agents will finally find a home for the 2017 season. He’s coming off a strong season for the 49ers that saw him record 83 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions while starting 12 games.

He’d join Ramon Humber, Lorenzo Alexander, Reggie Ragland, Preston Brown, fifth-round pick Matt Milano and sixth-round pick Tanner Vallejo at linebacker in Buffalo.

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Kaepernick’s Seattle trip was a visit only, not a workout

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Some confusing lingers regarding precisely what it is that happened in Seattle when quarterback Colin Kaepernick came to town. Despite a suggestion in at least one corner of the NFL universe that Kaepernick would be working out for the Seahawks, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Kaepernick merely visited the team.

Significant because it was the first free-agency visit of Kaepernick’s first free-agency tour, it was still only a visit, with no eyeballing of Kaepernick’s current running or throwing abilities. Some would say that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows as well as anyone what Kaepernick can do, but it would make sense before signing him to a contract to be the understudy to Russell Wilson to kick the tires a bit.

It’s still unclear what the Seahawks will do, or whether any other team will bring Kaepernick to town for a visit or a workout or, ultimately, an indefinite stay as an employee of the team.

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Four teams get to carry extra international practice squaders

AP

The four teams in the NFC South get to carry an extra practice-squader this year, as the league continues to promote its product internationally.

The catch is the 11th player is picked for them, as part of the NFL’s international player pathway program. The players can’t be activated to the regular roster, but get to hang around for the year.

The Falcons get English rugby player/tight end Alex Gray, the Panthers get defensive end Efe Obada, the Saints get defensive end Alex Jenkins while the Buccaneers drew German linebacker Eric Nzeocha.

The players have been training in Florida alongside some other hopefuls, under the tutelage of former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Aden Durde, the head of football development for NFLUK (who was in camp with the Panthers in 2005 as a linebacker).

“This is going to change people’s lives,” Umenyiora said in a release. “They have a great opportunity. They are going to be seen not only by their new teams but by everyone who might imagine they can be NFL players. They will inspire people around the globe; people who never thought they had a chance to make it to the NFL. Now they see they have a viable pathway. These guys have worked very hard for this chance and I am confident they will make a great contribution to their teams while improving their skills and understanding of the game.”

The only downside to the program is the time spent by coaches with players who aren’t yet NFL caliber (and some coaches will gripe about wasting time because coaches gripe). But if that’s the biggest thing coaches gripe about, the league is willing to bear it for the larger goal of growing the game beyond our borders.

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Danny Woodhead back with “no restrictions” after torn ACL

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There’s no good time for an NFL player to tear an ACL, but if you’re hoping to be ready to play in time for the next season it is always better for it to happen earlier rather than later in the season.

That’s particularly true for a player who is headed for free agency like running back Danny Woodhead was after tearing his ACL in the second game of the 2016 season. The Ravens weren’t put off of signing Woodhead because of the injury and they won’t have to wait for him to get back to practicing without restrictions either.

“Yes, I’m back. No restrictions,” Woodhead said, via the team’s website. “I’m just playing football now. I haven’t been thinking about needing to do stuff to rehab it because I’m healthy now. It’s exciting to get football going.”

Woodhead said he feels “there’s some rust” as a result of the injury, but is otherwise “pretty similar” to how he was before getting hurt. That should bode well for his chances of taking on a big role out of the backfield in Baltimore, especially with Kenneth Dixon set to miss the first four games while serving a suspension.

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Cody Kessler kept a strict workout and diet regimen this offseason

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Cody Kessler is hungry to win the Browns’ starting quarterback job.

He’s also probably just hungry.

Kessler said he’s added a few pounds this offseason from his listed 215, but he’s leaner and more muscular thanks to a strict offseason regimen.

“My biggest focus was losing body fat weight and being a healthier weight than I was. Muscle was my main focus,” Kessler said, via Scott Patsko of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It was tough eating the same thing every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, snacks in between. The same thing over and over and over.”

And it wasn’t exactly an inspiring set of meals. Between snacks of power bars and almonds and pretzels with peanut butter, Kessler at some nutrient-rich yet bland meals.

Breakfast was two scrambled eggs, plain oatmeal made with water, two pieces of fruit, and milk and water. Lunch brought turkey sandwiches (provolone cheese but no condiments), 15 baby carrots, a banana, water and milk. Dinner was cooked chicken breast, spinach without dressing, whole wheat pasta with no sauce, and more milk and water.

“It was tough,” he admitted. “But [team dietician Katy Meassick] is great with that and helped me out. I switched it up here and there maybe a couple days, different things. But it worked for me. I really stuck with it.

“As boring as it may sound, it’s something I was committed to and excited to do in this off-season. I really never committed myself to a meal plan that strict. It was tough but it was worth it.”

Of course, the only thing leaner than his meal plan at the moment is the Browns depth chart at quarterback, so perhaps his spare existence will pay some benefits for him.

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Bruce Arians: OT change will affect calling of plays

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The Cardinals played one of the two tie games in the NFL last season, a 6-6 spellbinder against the Seahawks that saw both teams miss field goals that could have ended the game during a 15-minute overtime period.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said that the effort left him with a “tired football team” that had to limit their practice time leading into a loss to the Panthers the next week. This week’s rule change that cuts overtime to 10 minutes, which could leave more in the tank if teams find themselves in a similar situation.

It may not lead to a different result on the scoreboard, but Arians thinks it will lead coaches to call plays differently than they would with 15 minutes to play. It isn’t one that involves 10-minute drives that eat up all the clock, however.

“I think it’ll affect the calling of the game a little bit,” Arians said, via ESPN.com. “People are worried about a 10-minute drive. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a 10-minute drive. I guess there have been a couple but if you get the ball run on you for 10 minutes, you deserve to lose anyway.”

It’s hard to argue with the notion that a different overtime length will lead to a different approach from coaches, but we won’t know exactly how they change until we get a few extended games to use as evidence.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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Releasing OT Cyrus Kouandjio is another strike on the Bills’ draft record of recent years.

Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell is willing to mentor his young competition.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski’s new music video is the most Gronk thing we’ve ever seen.

Jets S Calvin Pryor returned to OTAs.

Ravens TE Dennis Pitta’s film study is a little different.

Bengals Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz was visiting the Browns this week.

Browns WR Corey Coleman left practice after falling on a ball, but seems fine.

Steelers CB Senquez Golson is finally healthy and ready to compete for a job.

Texans C Nick Martin is recovered after last year’s ankle injury.

#asexpected, there were jokes about the Browns hiring former Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson.

The Jaguars are trying to ease their high picks into things.

The Titans might get in on the catfish-tossing.

Broncos OLB Von Miller is looking for professional help for his dances.

With contract extension in hand, Chiefs OLB Dee Ford is looking for consistency.

Some think the Chargers have a shot to beat the Rams to the title of L.A.’s team.

The Raiders are making first-round CB Gareon Conley work his way up the depth chart.

Cowboys rookie WR Ryan Switzer is making a good first impression with the starters.

Mark Herzlich’s versatility will help the Giants at two spots.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz is building rapport with his new WRs.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins has thoughts on another, more important deadline as well.

Bears coordinator Dowell Loggains is bringing the energy to his QB competition.

The Lions are taking a look at CB Alex Carter at another position.

Will a lack of additions to the pass-rush come back to haunt the Packers?

Vikings rookie RB Dalvin Cook is earning high marks already.

The Falcons are still among the most talented teams in the league.

With uncertainty at RT, the Panthers are hoping Daryl Williams can be an answer.

The Saints are getting their first look at their rookies alongside the veterans.

The Buccaneers took a savage shot at the Falcons on Twittter.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says this group of WRs is his best yet.

Rams S Lamarcus Joyner is glad he asked to move from CB.

The 49ers think pass-rusher Aaron Lynch is heading in the right direction.

A look at the local reaction to the Seahawks working out QB Colin Kaepernick.

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Kirk Cousins on contract: “Deadlines do deals”

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Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has been around long enough to know that, when it comes to NFL contracts, procrastination is a way of life.

“As one person has told me, deadlines do deals,” Cousins told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s just kind of a rule in negotiating, so why would something happen way before a deadline? It just doesn’t make sense. I’m not in a hurry, they’re not in a hurry, so we’ll just see how things go. I’m being patient.”

Cousins has experience when it comes to the key deadline for signing a franchise-tagged player to a long-term deal; last year, July 15 came and went without a contract. That could be the case this year, too.

“I feel like when it comes to the contract, I have gotten reps now. I am getting used to answering questions and going through this now the second time through so I am not a rookie anymore when it comes to this stuff,” Cousins said. “It is a similar deal here too. It has been very positive. I have had really positive conversations with everybody involved throughout the process this offseason. I feel like everybody is on the same page and I really have nothing further to add to what has already been said. So I feel good about where I am at, where this team is at, where my teammates are at. And so it is just a matter of trying to move forward and we will see what happens come July 15. It will be a telling date as it was last summer.”

Asked about the stress of the contract situation, Cousins explained that he understands, from high school to college to now, he can only “go and play and see where the chips will land and try not to let it get to you.”

That’s a lot easier to do after having made $19.95 million last year and being due to make $23.94 million this year, along with $28-plus million or $34-plus million or a long-term deal from Washington or another team on the open market in 2018. The specific outcome will depend largely on how Cousins and the team perform in 2017; it will take a strong performance from both to get Washington to seriously consider pushing Cousins’ three-year haul from $44 million to more than $78 million.

If that’s what happen, Cousins will have done a lot better than he ever would have done if he’d signed a long-term deal during or after the expiration of his fourth-round rookie contract.

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