Rob Gronkowski: “I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats”

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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has removed any doubt: He’s playing this season.

Gronk, who said after the Super Bowl that he needed some time to consider whether he wanted to keep playing, wrote today on Instagram that he spoke with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and confirmed that he is playing this season.

“I met with coach today and informed him I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats. I have been working out, staying in shape and feel great. Looking forward to another championship run,” Gronkowski wrote.

Gronkowski did not say whether he received any assurance that he won’t be traded, but he specifically referred to playing “with the Pats,” which suggests that he believes he’s staying in New England.

When healthy, Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL. Although there have been reports that Gronkowski and Belichick don’t see eye to eye over Gronk training with Tom Brady‘s guru Alex Guerrero, Belichick has to be thrilled to have the best tight end in the game back.

Shaquem Griffin vows to continue silencing doubters

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Shaquem Griffin expects to be drafted. Of course, the University of Central Florida linebacker always has expected to be drafted.

It’s others who doubted, some of whom have come around after seeing his Scouting Combine and Pro Day workouts.

“What I did so far is only the beginning,” Griffin said Tuesday during a promotional appearance at The Star, the Cowboys’ training complex. “I knew what I was going to do, and I did it. But that’s just the beginning of everything I want to show and what I want to showcase. The doubters are not gone. They’re just a little quiet right now. They’re trying to see how everything is going to go. But doubters are never going to stop. They’re going to be doubting the rest of my life. Once they come back out from being silent, I’m just going to make sure I give them a reason to be silent again, and that’s what I plan on doing.”

Griffin was born with a condition that resulted in amputation of his left hand when he was 4. He never has let it stop him, making 195 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, three interceptions and four forced fumbles in his career at UCF.

Griffin improved his draft stock with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and 20 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press in Indianapolis.

“I’m hoping to be drafted and whatever team gives me an opportunity to be drafted and gives me an opportunity to play with them, that’s going to be a team that’s going to get a good caliber guy who’s going to give everything I’ve got,” Griffin said. “Whatever team does give me an opportunity, they’re going to see what Shaq Griffin is all about.”

Jerry Jones hopes for positive reaction for Roger Goodell at draft

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Boos for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have become as much of a staple of the NFL Draft as pundits raving about a prospect’s pad level or explosiveness.

Given his recent battles with the league, one might assume that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wouldn’t mind if this week’s crowd at AT&T Stadium kept the trend alive. Jones said otherwise during a press conference on Tuesday, however.

Jones said he appreciates “having this draft here in Dallas” and that he hopes fans show they feel the same way by giving Goodell a positive reception. Jones was then asked if he’d be willing to bet paychecks on a warm reaction from the crowd.

“May be a pretty good bet, but seriously we all know it’s a convenient place to be,” Jones said. “I don’t know of anybody maybe other than me that’s had more boos than Roger has. I know about how that works. I do hope we can be positive in our reception. We are going to do something pretty special and he did have a final say in that.”

We’ll find out on Thursday night, but there may not be too many people joining Jones in a bet on a big hug for Goodell.

Josh Allen wants pressure of being No. 1 overall pick, going to Browns

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If the Browns want Josh Allen, Josh Allen wants the Browns to know he wants them.

The Wyoming quarterback made it clear he wants to be the No. 1 overall draft choice.

“Yeah, it would mean that I’m going to Cleveland,” Allen said Tuesday. “My biggest interest of being the No. 1 pick, obviously the pressure that comes along with that, I would love to have that pressure on my shoulders because I’ve always thrived in those situations, and I feel like Cleveland would be a great spot to be. But if I’m not, I’m not, and I’m going to do whatever I can to the team that actually picks me and actually wants me so we’ll go from there.”

Allen, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shaquem Griffin and Mason Rudolph joined Jason Witten at The Star, the Cowboys’ training facility, for a Day of Mentorship for young men from Witten’s Score Foundation sponsored by the Collection by Michael Strahan at JCPenney.

Allen was the top draw of the media crowd since he has a chance to go first.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield also could be in play for the Browns. Some have USC’s Sam Darnold as the top-rated quarterback.

“It doesn’t bother me one way or another,” Allen said when asked who the top-rated quarterback is. “Everybody’s got their own opinion and their own say. In today’s age, everybody wants to be right, so there’s people that hate you; there’s people that love you. I’m going to go out there and play my game, and whatever team is fortunate to pick me, or I’m fortunate to be picked by, is going to be a team I’m going to give everything to. Hopefully I’ll be there for the next 15 years. It’s an exciting time, but at this moment, right now, I’m content with whatever happens. My job is done, and now it’s just sitting back and hearing my name being called.”

Allen said he had seven visits and named the Browns, Giants, Jets, Broncos, Bills and Cardinals as showing the most interest.

“Whatever happens,” Allen said. “I visited seven teams for a reason, just because of the uncertainty. Whatever happens happens, and I guess we’ll find out come Thursday.”

Tuesday’s #PFTPM has a trio of first-round prospects

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Here it is. You’ve waited patiently. (Mostly.)

Tuesday’s edition of the #PFTPM podcast has interviews with three of the top draft prospects. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb, and Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley.

It’s all part of a 90-minute edition of the afternoon, drive-home podcast, which has plenty of other content beyond the three interviews — including questions from the @PFTPMPosse.

Those interviews and more (including a visit with Peter King) will be included in Wednesday’s PFT Live. But if you want to hear the interviews now, there’s only one place to get them.

 

Who secretly taped Jeffrey Lurie’s comments about the President?

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Monday’s item in the New York Times regarding the Eagles’ negotiations with the White House regarding the traditional visit by the Super Bowl champions buried the story’s most interesting fact: Someone secretly taped Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie during last October’s ownership meeting regarding the anthem issue and provided the recording to the Times.

“Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump,” Lurie said. “Yes, there are some. There are some players who do, too. But this is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one f–king disastrous presidency. Don’t quote me.”

Lurie wasn’t quoted. He was taped, saying inflammatory things about the president. Obviously without Lurie’s knowledge. And that wasn’t the headline.

It should have been, and Lurie should be upset. Who taped it? Was it another owner? Was it someone from the league office? Was it one of the players who attended the meeting at the invitation of ownership?

While it’s not a legal issue (New York is a one-party state), the notion that someone secretly recorded Lurie and gave it to the Times raises significant trust issues between Lurie and whoever it was that recorded his words and handed it to the media.

Jerry Jones says no truth to “Garrett’s Guys” playing role in Dez decision

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Jerry Jones made it clear that Dez Bryant won’t be returning to Dallas. He also made it clear that the decision was his.

The Cowboys owner refuted the receiver’s claim that “Garrett’s Guys” played a part in his departure.

“I don’t [have any feelings] at all. I just don’t because it was not the case,” Jones said. “Dez is a loved player on this team. Everybody had the right perspective in their respect for him. So that’s as I know it and the sentiment that that might imply was not a factor in my decision — at all.”

Bryant has not found much interest on the open market, with even the Ravens now out of the market for his services. He would have found more interest earlier in free agency, but the Cowboys had no reason to move on earlier.

“I have no thoughts about the timing about when we decided to move on,” Jones said. “For everyone concerned, that was as a good a time as any. Having said that I think that the … I don’t want to in any way diminish what how we feel about Dez as a person, how proud we are of him as a person and what he has contributed in the past. And because he has really been so notable relative to our team, I think a nice crisp time to call it a day is a way to do this. I thought it was the case when we discussed his future with the Cowboys.”

In other words, Jones said the Cowboys have made their decision and moved on, and moved on not just because of the $12.5 million base salary Bryant carried. Bryant will not return at a reduce rate.

“I think that would pertain to your question about if the doors is still open,” Jones said. “I think we need to keep this real crisp and the lines real bright. We need to move to move on knowing we don’t have Dez. That sounds a little intangible, but it’s got a little more than that.”

Ryan Pace on letting Cameron Meredith go: We lean on our medical staff

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After his two-year deal with the Saints became official, wide receiver Cameron Meredith said he saw no reason why he wouldn’t be able to play at the start of the 2018 season after tearing his ACL and partially tearing his MCL last summer.

It seems the Bears aren’t so sure about that. There was word at the time the Bears passed on matching the offer to Meredith, who was a restricted free agent, that the team was unsure if Meredith’s knee was sound and General Manager Ryan Pace confirmed as much on Tuesday.

“Without getting into specifics, obviously he was coming off an injury,” Pace said at a press conference, via ESPN.com. “We lean on our training staff and our docs. Hey, I got a lot of respect for Cam and a lot of respect for the organization he went to. We wish him luck.”

Pace went on to say that every team “comes to different assessments” when it comes to medical evaluations. The Bears medical staff didn’t have an issue signing off on wide receiver Allen Robinson‘s signing despite the torn ACL he suffered in September, so Robinson and Taylor Gabriel will be fronting the wide receiver group in Chicago while Meredith gets back to work in New Orleans.

Dolphins to pick up DeVante Parker’s fifth-year option

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The Dolphins are among the teams with decisions to make about 2019 options for their 2015 first-round picks before May 3 and they’ve made their call.

According to multiple reports, the Dolphins have decided to exercise their option on wide receiver DeVante Parker‘s contract. The option, which is guaranteed against injury only, will come with a salary somewhere north of $9 million.

If Parker plays out the year under the option, it will set the Dolphins up to make another call on the long-term future of one of their wide receivers. They used the franchise tag on Jarvis Landry this offseason, but wound up trading him to the Browns rather than keep him in Miami. Landry later signed a five-year extension worth up to $75 million in Cleveland.

Parker hasn’t matched the kind of production that Landry had during his time in Miami. Annual doses of offseason optimism about what Parker can do haven’t stopped him from missing time with injuries and his 139 catches for 1,908 yards and eight touchdowns had him firmly in a complementary role for Landry the last few years.

There should be more opportunities available for Parker this season and making good on them would go a long way toward making Parker’s stay in Miami a longer one.

UPDATE 4:11 p.m. ET: The Dolphins officially announced the move on Tuesday afternoon.

Stephen Jones wants to keep kickoffs by finding way to reduce injuries

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Stephen Jones wants to see the NFL keep kickoffs. The Cowboys executive vice president concedes that means making the play safer but is hopeful that the league will find a way to do that, beginning next week with a player safety summit.

“I think what we’re doing is really calling upon our special teams coaches, our head coaches and our management and ownership to see if there’s some creative ways to do some things that we can do with that play to make is safer to make it where we don’t have to do away with it, which is where I would hope we would end up,” said Jones, a member of the league’s competition committee.

Packers president Mark Murphy, also a member of the competition committee, has said the kickoff is headed toward elimination without a reduction in injuries on the play.

Although the NFL has moved touchbacks to the 25-yard line, it did little to mitigate the safety risk last season.

“We want to make the play safer,” Jones said. “I think sometimes we get into data that can be misinterpreted. I know Mark feels strongly, and I certainly respect that. We certainly want to look out for our football players first and foremost. At the same time, you want to make sure you’re looking at it through the proper lens.

“My goal and I think the goal of the group that’s probably up there next week is to see what we can with the play to make even safer without not having it, if you will. There’s no question I think everybody’s on board that it’s more dangerous than our other football plays that we have in our game today. But at the same time, I do think we’ve done a lot of good things with it that have helped it. Obviously, with what college football is going to do with the fair catch, so you get rid of the pooch kick and that ball comes out to the 25-yard line, there’s a lot of ways to look at it.”

College football introduced a rule change for 2018 that allows the receiving team to fair catch the ball anywhere inside the 25-yard line and have the play count as a touchback.

Cardinals reportedly serious about moving up for QB

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If you look at it from a need standpoint, the Cardinals should be high on the list of teams pursuing a quarterback. But picking 15th makes it harder.

That apparently breeds a certain urgency.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Cardinals are “making a lot of noise about moving up” in the first round.

If they are, the logical landing spots would be the Broncos (fifth overall) and Colts (sixth), unless they’re prepared to swing a major deal. The Cardinals have an extra third-rounder, but lack the stockpile of draft picks that also-desperate Buffalo has at hand (two picks in each of the first three rounds this year). That could lead General Manager Steve Keim to consider dealing future picks if he’s hell-bent on getting one this year.

After the retirement of Carson Palmer (who coupled with Drew Stanton won just enough games to keep them from easily finding replacements), the Cards went out and signed Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. That’s practically begging for help, to the extent that waiting until 15th and seeing what’s left might not be practical.

On Jason Garrett’s use of F-bombs, Jerry Jones drops one

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The All or Nothing series featuring the Dallas Cowboys debuts on Friday. When it does, plenty of football fans will be in for a surprise, given the casual and persistent extent to which seemingly goody-two-shoes head coach Jason Garrett dabbles in the “F” word.

When a question from PFT’s Charean Williams regarding Garrett’s decision to consistently and constantly work blue came up during a pre-draft press conference featuring Garrett, owner Jerry Jones, and COO Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones brought down the house by interjecting: “What the f–k are y’all gettin’ to?”

It’s not quite on the level of Jerry’s notorious “gloryhole” gaffe, but it was a memorable moment. And it underscores the reality that (as the members of the @PFTPMPosse know), real life is rated R.

Nick Foles: New deal benefits both sides

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Eagles quarterback Nick Foles spoke to the media on Tuesday for the first time since agreeing to a new deal for the 2018 season.

Foles received a $2 million bonus and incentives that would kick in if he is again called on to replace Carson Wentz in the starting lineup. There is also a mutual option for the 2019 season rather than the three voidable years that were originally included on the back end of the deal. Foles would make $20 million in 2019 under the terms of the revised deal if both sides exercise the option and would give back the $2 million signing bonus if he opts to become a free agent.

“It benefits both sides,” Foles said. “We have a unique situation here. It really does make a lot of sense for this situation.”

Foles also reiterated that he never pushed to leave Philadelphia this offseason because his experience in the NFL has shown him that the grass isn’t always “greener on the other side.” That feeling may change if he has another successful run in the starting lineup this year, but continues to appear to be just fine at the moment.

Giants running back Paul Perkins sidelined with pectoral injury

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The Giants may be in the market for a certain very good young running back with the No. 2 overall pick Thursday night.

But one of their existing backs appears to be on the shelf for a bit.

According to Art Stapleton of the Bergen Record, Giants running back Paul Perkins was a bystander during today’s minicamp because of a pectoral injury suffered while training, and his left arm was in a sling.

There was no word about the extent of the injury, or whether it happened during the Giants program or when he was working on his own beforehand.

In his absence, Wayne Gallman and free agent pickup Jonathan Stewart alternated with the starters in practice.

The Giants appear to be considering running back Saquon Barkley with the second pick, which would make a lot of the running back issues there moot. But Perkins was plagued by injuries last year and managed just 41 carries for 90 yards in 11 games.

Jerry Jones makes it clear that Dez won’t be returning

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The Cowboys cut receiver Dez Bryant in order to avoid his $12.5 million base salary. The Cowboys won’t be bringing him back at a reduced rate.

During a pre-draft press conference on Tuesday, Jones made it clear that the ship has sailed.

“We need to keep this crisp and the lines real bright,” Jones said in response to a question from Charean Williams.

As to the notion that the Cowboys waited too long to cut Dez, making it harder for him to find his next team, Jones (for a change) had nothing to say.

“I have no thoughts about the timing when we decided to move on,” Jones said.

It also became clear from the content of Jones’ comments that the Cowboys will be drafting a receiver early in the process. Of course, they run the risk of being jumped in line by a team that wants the guy the Cowboys plan to take.

So even if they don’t get the guy they want in the draft and even if Dez is willing to play for the ninth-year veteran minimum, Bryant apparently won’t be back.