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Percy Harvin wants to be more than just a “gadget guy”

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Wide receiver Percy Harvin has seen action in a variety of roles over the last few years as teams have gotten him the ball out of the slot, out of the backfield and as a returner in order to let him loose on the opposition.

One thing Harvin hasn’t done much of is play on the outside as a wideout and he’d like to see that change this season. Harvin has been working with wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal, who was also with the Jets last season, on refining his technique so that he can be more effective in that more traditional role and calls the coach “just what I needed” to clean up his game.

“Aside from the first two years I got in the league I’ve been just a gadget guy,” Harvin said, via the team’s website. “I’ve been dying to just sit down with that one coach who will tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do. Every day coach Sanjay is coming to me with different techniques I can use. He’s texting me at night asking me to try this or that. I worked on them and they looked perfect. I was dying to get with that coach who would sit with me and want to bring the best out of me and since I’ve been with the Jets he’s been doing that. I think this year a lot of people are going to see the end result of it.”

The Bills also have Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins at receiver, which means that he might not get exactly what he wants. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said that Harvin’s ability to make plays behind the line and behind the defense lets “your imagination run wild” when it comes to devising ways to utilize his skills.

That sounds pretty similar to what other offensive coaches have thought when faced with integrating Harvin into their schemes, so we’ll see how things play out once the Bills get on the field and whether their quarterback play is strong enough for it to make much of a difference where Harvin is lined up from down to down.

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49ers send a simple, strong message in wake of gay marriage ruling

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On a landmark day for the rights of homosexuals in America, one player chose to make it a negative.

One team chose to make it a celebration.

The 49ers just tweeted out a simple message in the wake of today’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, their logo in white over a rainbow flag, with the message “#LoveWins.”

San Francisco might be the first market you’d expect to see such a message of diversity pop up, but it’s still stands out when a team in the money-driven corporate world of the NFL take any stand that could be considered controversial.

Of course, the idea that any humans should have the same rights regardless of sexual preference might be controversial is still somewhat odd, but the 49ers deserve credit for taking the stand.

Unlike the craven decision of Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson, who made his feed private after equating homosexuality to pedophilia and incest, the 49ers aren’t likely to delete this one later.

While they might represent a city more open to alternative lifestyles than most, not all of their fans are going to agree with it. They did it anyway. And like the Panthers calling for the removal of the Confederate flag in the wake of the Charleston church shootings, it’s a strong use of a strong platform.

And that’s something not enough players, and not enough teams in a sanitized-for-TV league are willing to risk.

Photo credit: 49ers official Twitter account

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Josh Cribbs still trying to land job for 2015

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We haven’t heard much about wide receiver/kick returner Josh Cribbs since the Colts released him in May, but he says he’s heard from a few teams about possibly coming on board for the 2015 season.

Cribbs told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com said that he’s received inquiries from the Jaguars, Patriots and Chiefs since hitting the open market and that he still wants to play an 11th NFL season. The fact that none of those inquiries has led to a job suggests that his return to the field isn’t a sure thing, however, and that’s left Cribbs “open to retirement” as well.

Cribbs didn’t do much on offense for Indianapolis last season, but did return 19 kickoffs for 608 yards and 19 punts for 125 yards in six games with the team. He also fumbled twice, however, and added a third against New England in the playoffs, which might give teams pause before they give Cribbs that role for the 2015 season.

If Cribbs does land a job, it’s not likely to come with anything guaranteed beyond a shot at making the team. That may have to be enough if Cribbs is more open to playing than retiring.

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Todd Gurley to meet with Dr. Andrews in a couple of weeks

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Rams running back Todd Gurley said recently that he thought it was “pretty realistic” that his torn ACL would be sufficiently healed to allow him to get on the field during training camp.

He should have a better idea of how realistic pretty soon. During an interview with Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Gurley said that he was scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews “in a couple weeks or so” to have his knee examined.

Should Andrews like what he sees during the exam, Gurley could get cleared for some activity before training camp gets underway. While the Rams would still likely proceed cautiously with their first-round pick, any kind of work he can do early in camp is going to make it likelier that he’s ready to play in games in the early portion of the season.

Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham and Isaiah Pead are other options in the backfield for St. Louis, although coach Jeff Fisher said Gurley should be playing “sooner than you think” if he avoids the PUP list to start camp.

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Russell Wilson leaving Seattle in 2016 is a real possibility

Russell Wilson AP

Russell Wilson surely wants to be the highest paid player in the NFL. And he almost surely will be, at least until Andrew Luck or someone else sets the ever-rising bar even higher.

The real question becomes whether he’ll get that record-setting-until-the-next-record-setting deal from the Seahawks or someone else.

The Seahawks currently face the three options set forth earlier today: (1) sign Wilson to a long-term deal; (2) apply the non-exclusive franchise tag; or (3) apply the exclusive franchise tag. (There’s technically a fourth option that will be addressed in a later post — that’s called a tease, Jimmy.)

Those are the choices the Ravens faced in February 2013 with quarterback Joe Flacco, and the Ravens opted to make Flacco the highest-paid player in the league, a title he held for barely two months. The Ravens gave Flacco a contract $120.6 million over six years (which included $62 million over the first three) because the exclusive tag would have cost more than $19 million for 2013 (and nearly $75 million over three), and because the non-exclusive tag would have opened the door for the Browns or someone else to swoop in and offer the market-value deal the Ravens wouldn’t.

The possibility of the Seahawks opting not to pay a market-value deal and also opting not to use the exclusive franchise tag (which likely would result in a three-year payout to Wilson of more than $98 million) would leave the Seahawks with one choice: Apply the non-exclusive tag, assume the risk that someone else will sign him to an offer sheet reflecting a market-value deal, and either match the offer or accept two first-round picks as compensation from Wilson’s new team.

Apparently, Wilson already has accepted the possibility that he’ll eventually be moving from Seattle to a new NFL city, in the same way he moved from North Carolina State to Wisconsin. Per a league source, the Seahawks for now remain intent on working out a long-term deal with Wilson.

At some point, though, the possibility of using the non-exclusive tag and harvesting a pair of first-round picks will become more distinct — especially if the two sides can’t make real progress toward a long-term agreement.

There’s still plenty of time before the drop-dead point arrives. In a deadline-driven business, the real deadline for the Seahawks comes just as the annual window for applying the franchise tag arrives in 2016. But Seattle can create a practical deadline for Wilson by making a very large offer short of his market value before training camp opens, or at the latest before the season begins.

Although Wilson seems to be content to play in 2015 at a mere $1.5 million, there’s a number less than what he could get after his rookie deal expires that would change his mind now. In the coming days and weeks, an effort undoubtedly will be made to craft such an offer.

But if a long-term deal can’t be reached before the regular season begins, the wheels will be in motion on a train that could result in Wilson rolling to another NFL city for 2016.

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Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson wades into gay marriage debate

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While Friday’s ruling that gay marriage is legal and cannot be constrained by states created a national precedent, it’s also not going to stop the debate, or quiet those who don’t agree.

Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson apparently doesn’t see the Supreme Court ruling as a positive, and took to Twitter to say so.

And once the attention starts to hit and he eventually deletes it, here’s what it says:

“Love is love? So what will we say when the 30yr old loves YOUR 10 year old. When the dad loves HIS 6 year old? It’s different?? Yea okay!”

Most thinking adults can recognize the difference between a homosexual and a pedophile, but apparently the distinction is lost on Robinson, who continued his Twitter rant through a few more messages.

It’s an unfortunately backward stance, one which Robinson’s mentions are feeling the brunt of at the moment.

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No Greg Hardy ruling, nearly a month later

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For anyone trying to predict when a ruling will come on the appeal of Tom Brady’s suspension, the first piece of evidence could be the lack of a ruling on the appeal of Greg Hardy’s suspension.

The Cowboys defensive end, suspended 10 games for violating the Personal Conduct Policy, had an appeal hearing before arbitrator Harold Henderson on May 28, four weeks and one day ago. To date, no decision has been issued.

Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement requires a decision “as soon as practicable,” a vague, open-ended deadline that has no real deadline. That allows 29 days to pass with neither side seeming to be concerned about the delay.

The ruling on Hardy’s suspension could come at any time. Possibly at around 5:00 p.m. ET today.

The real question for Hardy becomes how quickly he and the NFL Players Association will head to court if Hardy’s suspension suggests that he was punished under the new Personal Conduct Policy, instead of the version that was in effect at the time Hardy violated its terms. As PFT previously reported, the NFL didn’t say which version of the policy it used during the hearing, and Henderson didn’t force the league to say so.

A federal court undoubtedly will, unless a deal is reached between Hardy and the league that makes it all go away.

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Inspired by daughter, Charles Mann goes back to school

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It’s always nice to hear that NFL players who left college early return to get their degrees, as a source of family pride.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton did this offseason, and said he did it for his mother.

For former Washington defensive end Charles Mann, it was seeing his daughter graduate that sparked his return to school.

According to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, Mann has finally finished his college degree, 32 years after he left the University of Nevada to go onto a long and productive NFL career. He’ll walk through his graduation ceremony from Strayer University Saturday, and give the commencement address.

Mann said seeing his daughter Camille graduate from Southern Cal in 2010 was the spark he needed, and helped get him back on track to complete that business degree he started in the early 1980s.

“As happy as I was for her that day, I was sad for me,” Mann said. “I said, ‘Wow, she completed something that her dad never completed.’ And it just stuck in my craw, and I wanted to do something about it.”

There were some night classes at George Mason during his playing days, but they never amounted to anything. But in the fall of 2011, he started taking classes again, one on line and one on Strayer’s Virginia campus. Because he left Nevada 24 classes short of his degree, he needed three years of night school to get caught up. But now, he’s graduating cum laude, and hopes to serve as an example to others.

The only thing that could make it better is if, before he leaves campus, he nails a Triple Lindy.

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Marquise Goodwin finishes fourth in long jump at U.S. championships

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Bills wide receiver and 2012 Olympic long jumper Marquise Goodwin returned to track and field for this week’s U.S. championships, which gave him an opportunity to qualify for the world championships if he finished in the top three.

That event is in August and conflicts with Bills training camp, but Goodwin isn’t going to have to choose. His best effort of 27 feet, 5.5 inches left him in fourth place and happy with what he accomplished during his first meet since the Olympics.

“Back to football,” Goodwin said, via the Associated Press. “But words can’t even explain how happy I am right now. I was like, ‘I still have a little juice in the tank. I think I can make some noise.’ I believed.”

The Olympics are in Rio next year and Goodwin would only say that football is his “main deal right now” when talking about the possibility of trying to qualify for the second straight time. The likelihood of Goodwin making a more permanent return to track will likely be connected to how things play out for him in Buffalo this season. He caught just one pass last year and another limited role might make the prospect of a trip to Brazil a lot more appealing.

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Friday morning one-liners

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Said Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman, “You want to build a system that’s comprehensive enough that you can change personalities week to week if need be and that’s certainly something we’re going to do.”

Former Dolphins CB Robert Sowell died at the age of 53.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a donation to Hiram College in honor of his parents, who met there as students.

The Jets need more from TE Jeff Cumberland this season.

Ravens LB Terrell Suggs will be playing Family Feud on Sunday.

A by-the-numbers look at the Bengals.

Browns DB Micah Pellerin hopes to build confidence through his Mississippi football camp.

The Steelers like punters from Australia.

Texans QB Tom Savage doesn’t want any more outings like his NFL debut.

You’ll be able to buy stock in Colts OL Jack Mewhort soon.

Former Jaguars DL John Henderson thinks the team is heading in the right direction.

LB J.R. Tavai is looking forward to continuing his push for a Titans roster spot.

The Broncos have announced their training camp schedule.

Breaking down the entire Chiefs salary cap picture.

Bill Williamson of ESPN.com believes there’s reason for excitement at running back with the Raiders.

Debating the outlook for Chargers QB Philip Rivers in 2015.

Is Brandon Weeden secure as the No. 2 quarterback for the Cowboys?

OL Weston Richburg expects his second season with Giants to be much better than his first.

Mike Quick sees some similarities between this year’s group of Eagles receivers and the one he was part of in 1990.

What’s the cure for the Redskins’ problems in the red zone?

An early look at this year’s Bears-Raiders matchup.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell calls Darryl Tapp a “force multiplier” on the defensive line.

Jayrone Elliot hopes to represent the Packers as a special teamer in the Pro Bowl.

Vikings WR Stefon Diggs shared some thoughts from the Rookie Symposium.

What will the Falcons get out of TE Tony Moeaki this year?

Former Panthers QB Jake Delhomme is spending a lot of time at the race track.

Saints LB Dannell Ellerbe recalls his decision to attend the University of Georgia.

What will Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy be focused on between now and training camp?

Matt Shaughnessy feels he’s adjusting well to defensive end with the Cardinals.

Rams S Christian Bryant and RB Benny Cunningham paid a visit to Camp Rainbow, which gives kids with cancer and other illnesses a chance to attend camp for free.

Undrafted WR DeAndrew White feels like he belongs with the 49ers.

Tickets to Seahawks training camp proved to be quite popular.

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Randy Gregory studying Simeon Rice tape ahead of training camp

Randy Gregory AP

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was on the staff in Tampa when Simeon Rice came aboard as a free agent and used his pass rushing skills to help the team win a Super Bowl title.

Marinelli would surely like to see Dallas accomplish the same thing in the coming years and Rice’s pass rushing skills are again playing a role in that effort. Second-round defensive end Randy Gregory has been watching film of Rice’s 122 career sacks in order to pick up some hints on how to rack up some of his own once the regular season gets underway.

“I watch a lot of Simeon,” Gregory said, via NFL.com. “His length is probably the biggest thing I’ve taken notice of. He uses it very well and that’s something I’ve really been trying to do. My long arm I think is getting better in camp and it’s only going to get better the more I play, and Jason Taylor, he’s real athletic, tall guy, long, kind of myself. So they’re real athletic. They do a lot of good things and I’m gonna take the things that Coach Marinelli preaches and get off the ball. I’m trying to get off the ball as much as I can.”

If Gregory’s anything like Rice or Taylor, thrilled will be too mild a word for how the Cowboys feel about ending his long slide on draft day.

One of the reasons for that slide was concerns about Gregory’s weight, which he says is up to 242 pounds with 245 as his goal for the start of camp. The other concerns had to do with Gregory’s makeup and those questions will only be answered over time.

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Longtime NFL offensive lineman, coach Dick Stanfel dies at 87

Detroit Lions guard Dick Stanfel circa 1953.  Detroit Lions - 1950's File Photos  (AP Photo/NFL Photos) AP

Long before he was an assistant coach on one of the best teams in NFL history, Dick Stanfel was one of the best offensive linemen the game had known.

Via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Stanfel died this week at his home in Illinois at the age of 87.

Stanfel was an All-Decade offensive lineman for the Lions in the 1950s, helping them to two championships. He was also the team’s MVP in 1953, a rare achieve for any guard, especially one who played with players such as Bobby Layne and Doak Walker. He was traded to Washington in 1956.

More recently, he served as the offensive line coach for the 1985 Bears team which rolled to a Super Bowl XX win, cementing his reputation as not just a great player, but a great coach as well. The Bears led the league in rushing for four straight seasons from 1983-86, a league record.

“He was a great, great coach and a great man too,” former Bears center Jay Hilgenberg said. “A motivator? A technician? He was all of the above. He pulled for you personally too. All of his stories and his toughness and what the game meant to him, he was so great. He’d always tell you, ‘You make sure after this game that guy knows your name.’ He was a classic.”

Stanfel took to coaching after his brilliant playing career ended, first at Notre Dame, and with stops in Philadelphia and San Francisco. He was also the interim head coach for the Saints in 1980, closing out the final four games of the season in charge.

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Michael Sam is back in Montreal, expected to practice next week

Michael Sam AP

There’s still been no explanation for why Michael Sam abruptly left his Canadian Football League team two weeks ago. But now he’s back.

Sam was in Montreal last night as his team, the Montreal Alouettes, opened the season with a loss to the Ottawa Redblacks. Sam still has a locker in the team’s locker room and is expected at team meetings on Sunday and at practice the following day, the Montreal Gazette reports.

When Sam left the team, there was some talk that he simply wasn’t good enough. But Alouettes General Manager Jim Popp has said Sam will be welcome back, suggesting that the team thinks he can help them win.

Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL when the Rams took him in the seventh round last year. Although he played well in the preseason, he did not make the Rams’ regular-season roster. If he plays for the Alouettes, he’ll become the first openly gay player in a CFL game.

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La’el Collins glad NFL made exception so he could attend symposium

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The NFL typically reserves the rookie symposium for players who were actually drafted.

But since Cowboys offensive lineman La’El Collins is kind of an exception anyway, they let him in.

Collins told Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was grateful to be included in the program.

“My agent and [the Cowboys’] PR guys did a great job of communicating with the league and giving me the opportunity to be here,” Collins said. “They accepted me with open arms. I’m excited to be here. It’s been a great experience.”

Collins would have certainly been a first-rounder if his name hadn’t come up in a murder investigation of a former girlfriend in Baton Rouge, La. But even though he’s never been listed as a suspect, no team was willing to take the potential P.R. hit to use a draft pick on him. Assuming there’s nothing untoward, the Cowboys could benefit, getting a top talent at reduced rates.

And now Collins gets to hear the same message he’d have likely heard anyway, without the incident just before the draft.

“A lot of things about choices — the choices you make and dealing with the consequences — are the biggest things,” Collins said of the symposium. “We all make choices in life. Whether they’re good or bad, you have to be ready for the consequences.”

“You could tell he’s soaking it all in,” Cowboys first-rounder Byron Jones said of his teammate. “We have a chance to ask questions or talk, he’s the first one to raise his hand. It’s awesome to see him here so he has the opportunity to absorb what we have.”

Of course, all rookies, drafted or otherwise, would certainly benefit from the program. But the league’s not going to buy enough hotel rooms for all the undrafteds to show up, which is why one of the top players like Collins had to get special permission.

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New tests could make it tougher for HGH users to hide

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Since the league finally implemented HGH testing, they’ve caught a grand total of zero players.

But a new test could help the league catch someone, since doctors still believe there are guys coming into the system who use the drug.

Dr. John Lombardo, the independent administrator for the league’s PED policy believes that clean record of negative tests can’t go on forever.

“I think the difficulty with the HGH test is the sensitivity of the test and the window that you can detect it,” Lomardo told Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “The test we have now is a very short window. There is another test that is being developed now that has a much longer window – it could be five to eight days. You get that test and it’s going to be a different situation. The short window is a tough one to deal with. And it’s the same in every sport.

“I’m sure at some point in time somebody will test positive if they’re using it.”

Getting an HGH deal took forever, long after the NFL and the NFLPA actually agreed to do it. Testing finally began last October. And so far, it’s either working, they’re unlucky or the test they’re using isn’t good enough to catch the players who are.

About 40 players league-wide are tested each week during the regular season.

Lombardo talked to players coming into the league at this week’s rookie symposium, and said he thinks education of the issue at the college level is likely lowering the numbers of players using, but that “I don’t think the problem ever goes away.”

If he gets the new test he’s looking for, that could change.

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