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Josh Hill sees “just subtle changes” with Jimmy Graham gone

Josh Hill AP

There are going to be several players on the Saints Defense impacted by the departure of tight end Jimmy Graham in a trade this offseason and Josh Hill would seem to be at the top of the list.

Hill played 293 snaps at tight end for New Orleans last season and caught 14 passes for 176 yards, numbers that seem destined for a sharp rise with Graham plying his trade in Seattle and coach Sean Payton complimenting Hill’s ability to “run and stretch the defense” as a receiver. Hill’s doing a good job of keeping things on an even keel in spite of the changes, however.

Hill said he’s approaching this season the same way that he’s approached any other year and that he wants to “do whatever I can do” to help the team. Hill’s also downplaying any major changes at tight end in the post-Graham offense.

“They ask us to do a lot of things,” Hill said, via the New Orleans Advocate. “They always have. I haven’t seen anything stand out to being really different, just subtle changes here and there.”

The Saints went out to more than subtly change the makeup of their offense this offseason by dealing Graham and wide receiver Kenny Stills while acquiring center Max Unger and running back C.J. Spiller. That will likely mean a diminished role for tight ends even as Hill’s role grows in his third season in New Orleans.

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Bears rookie Kevin White can’t get his hands on a dinner tab

Kevin White AP

Being a first-round pick in the NFL draft means you’re rich.

And Bears wide receiver Kevin White is finding out that can save him some money.

The eighth overall pick said during an NFL Network interview that there were benefits he didn’t expect with his new status and $16.5 million contract.

“The most surprising thing that’s happen to me this far is going out to eat for free,” White said. “I didn’t expect this restaurant to give it to me for free. I gave them my card, and they said ‘it’s on us.’ So that was a good feeling.”

We’re also guessing the service he got at Chez Quis was better than Abe Froman received, though you have to wonder whether Jay Cutler’s still picking up tabs there.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

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Bills S Aaron Williams is giving back with a football camp in his hometown.

The Dolphins have announced their training camp schedule.

Former Patriot Joe Andruzzi, a cancer survivor himself, is raising money for cancer patients.

The new Jets coaching staff hopes that moving Jace Amaro will help to unlock his potential.

The Ravens don’t expect to sneak up on anyone this year.

Bengals DE Michael Johnson feels refreshed after a year away from Cincinnati.

Terrelle Pryor’s high school coach says he has all the tools to be a wide receiver for the Browns.

Here’s a look at the Steelers’ cornerback depth chart.

The Houston Chronicle has news for people who care about J.J. Watt’s love life (or lack thereof).

Are the Colts Super Bowl contenders?

The Jaguars are searching for a new mascot.

The Titans lobbied for legislation in Tennessee to ban the flying of drones over football games and other large gatherings.

Broncos S David Bruton is staying in shape with some offseason mountain biking.

Chiefs QB Alex Smith says WR Jeremy Maclin can do everything.

The battle continues over financing a new stadium for the Raiders in Oakland.

New Chargers OT Chris Hairston is reunited with offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, and it feels so good.

In 1989, Stephen Jones urged his dad not to buy the Cowboys.

Is Damontre Moore ready for a breakout season for the Giants?

Here’s an Eagles history lesson inspired by the signing of John Moffitt.

Will WR DeSean Jackson’s reality show turn into a distraction in Washington?

Bears WR Kevin White is finding out that being the first-round pick in Chicago has its perks.

Golden Tate thinks it’s the Lions’ time.

Aaron Rodgers can’t swing a sword like his girlfriend.

The Vikings think rookie DE Danielle Hunter has a lot of raw talent.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan throws the NFL’s best deep ball.

The key to improving the Panthers’ pass rush may be improvement in the secondary.

The Saints like what they’re seeing from rookie LB Stephone Anthony.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston gave a surprise to a young fan.

Cardinals LB Markus Golden says he got a lot out of the rookie symposium.

Will Nick Foles be a disappointment in St. Louis?

Retired 49ers LB Chris Borland hopes he can become a spokesman for the importance of avoiding head injuries.

The Seahawks like what they’re seeing from Drew Nowak, a third-year player who spent last season on the practice squad.

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Jim Kelly loving the chance to work his football camp again

Jim Kelly, Kim Pegula AP

For many current and former players, summer football camps are a marketing tool or a revenue stream.

For Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, his has always meant something more, and now more than ever.

This is what I look forward to every year, even last year when I wasn’t feeling good at all,” Kelly said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News.

He wasn’t able to do as much during his battle with cancer last summer, but this week, he’s been out with the kids, throwing passes, teaching fundamentals, and enjoying being able to be out among Bills fans young and old.

“Some even have told me that their dad has broken out the VHS [tapes] and put them on,” Kelly said of his campers knowledge of his game. “I said, ‘You still have a VHS?’ But all these kids here were not here then. They weren’t even born yet.

“But we know about the Bills fans. The fathers are going to tell their kids about the days the Bills were going to the Super Bowl and how much fun it was. When they left on Sunday from here, they knew their Mondays were going to be sunny whether it was raining or snowing. They were going to be happy.”

That’s what the 55-year-old Kelly apparently was this week, as he worked with kids during his 28th annual camp.

“The bottom line is you don’t want to let the kids down,” Kelly said. “I was going to be here no matter what. I feel so much better. Last year, I was doing it because I wanted to do it, but really couldn’t do it. This year, I want to do it and I can do it.

“My arm is really sore today, but I feel good. I finally gained some weight, I’m feeling better, and thank the good Lord, I’m still here.”

And as his health improves, the hope is that he’s around for many more of these.

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Even with L.A. questions lingering, Jared Cook working to help St. Louis

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Rams tight end Jared Cook knows there’s a good chance his employer won’t be in St. Louis this time next year.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop working there.

Via Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, Cook said the talk about a pending move to Los Angeles takes a toll on players, but he’s still trying to help his community while he’s there. During an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Cook described the work he’s doing with the Van Duzer Foundation’s Restoring the Village initiative, with whom he has helped start seven Boy Scout troops in Ferguson, Mo.

It is tough because you invest so much in the community and the areas you’re in while you’re there,” Cook said. “You become a voice for the people that do not have a voice.

“There’s so many people here we’ve been trying to help — Boys and Girls Clubs, the homeless people — that if we were uprooted and moved, the only thing you can do is establish something as well in the next city you go to and pray that your voice was heard and you changed lives while you were here.”

Cook was one of the most active Rams in Ferguson after last summer’s police shooting of Michael Brown, and the subsequent weeks of violence and racial tensions.

So the persistent questions about Los Angeles might hit him differently than others.

“It’s something you can never escape or get away from,” Cook said. “Somewhere, somebody is always talking about it or there’s always a question that pops up no matter if they’re Rams fans or [New York] Giants fans. Somebody always wants to know.

“The best thing you can do is not even focus on it. You can kind of detour the question because at the end of the day it’s out of our hands as players and coaches. There’s only one man who can make that decision. The best thing we can do is go to work every day and do your job, control the things you can control, and focus on the season one week at a time like you’re used to.”

And for Cook, that means continuing the work in the community he’s already in.

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Derek Carr says Amari Cooper looks so good, it’s ridiculous

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper is even better than advertised.

Carr said on 95.7 The Game that Cooper, whom the Raiders drafted out of Alabama with the fourth overall pick, has looked even better than expected through two months of offseason work.

“He is ridiculous in and out of his breaks,” said Carr. “His style of play is perfect for this league. He’s good at getting on toes and creating separation. He’s good at when the ball is in his hands making those fast-twitch movements to make a guy go one way so he can take it to the house. It’s just little things that honestly people don’t even notice.”

Although Carr and Cooper have only been teammates since late April, they’ve already spent a lot of time working together. Carr said he and Cooper are developing a rapport through extra work beyond the team’s minicamp and Organized Team Activities.

“His work ethic is second to none,” Carr said. “I was throwing with him as soon as mini-camp was over so we can get more reps in, and our plan was to throw a couple more times, but he texted me that night. He said, ‘hey, let’s throw at least three more times. I need to get this one route right.’ Just him telling me that kind of stuff, it blew my mind.”

In Carr and Cooper, the Raiders may have a couple of big pieces in place, for years to come.

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Chargers, Raiders meet with L.A. officials

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The Chargers aren’t talking to San Diego, and the Raiders don’t currently have much to say to Oakland. But both teams are talking a blue streak to Los Angeles.

Via Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times, Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis spent Tuesday in L.A. for meetings with multiple political figures who hope to lure the two teams to Carson.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is treading lightly for now, given that the Chargers, Raiders, and Rams each hope to come to L.A. — and given that the NFL ultimately will decide which one or two teams will get the green light to make the move. Regardless of how it plays out, it now seems certain that Los Angeles will have one or two teams back in town.

“While Mayor Garcetti frequently meets with companies looking to do business in Los Angeles, we are mindful that the Chargers, Raiders and Rams are still actively discussing stadium deals in their current cities and the NFL has not yet approved a team moving,” Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said.

Farmer reports that the timing of the meeting wasn’t coincidental, given that just last week businessman Floyd Kephart submitted a plan for keeping the Raiders in Oakland. The Raiders have not commented, but Kephart’s proposal (which includes Kephart’s company buying 20 percent of the team for $200 million) has received widespread criticism.

Although the Chargers and Raiders currently hope to partner up in Carson, if Inglewood wins the race to build a new NFL stadium, the would-be associates could be competing for the second seat at the table with the Rams.

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C.J. Spillman officially charged with sexual assault

C.J. Spillman Getty Images

C.J Spillman has been officially charged with sexual assault stemming from an incident at the Dallas Cowboys team hotel last September.

According to Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News, a grand jury indicted Spillman on sexual assault charges on Monday.

The incident allegedly occurred at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas on Sept. 20, 2014.

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett said they would wait for charges to be handed down before deciding on a course of action. With no charges being handed down last season, Spillman ultimately appeared in all 16 games for the Cowboys last season and recorded 16 tackles.

Spillman is now a free agent and that burden is no longer on the Cowboys to deal with.

Spillman has spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers.

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Mark Brunell doesn’t think RG3 is good enough

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Mark Brunell spent four years playing quarterback in Washington. And he thinks this should be the fourth and final year that Robert Griffin III plays quarterback in Washington.

Asked on ESPN if he thinks RG3 is good enough to succeed in the NFL, Brunell answered, “I do not.”

He has gone backwards,” Brunell continued, via the Washington Post. “It’s not just his decision-making, it’s his fundamentals. He’s taking too many hits, he’s quick to get out of the pocket. Last year was difficult to watch. Does he have the skill set? Yes, but we haven’t seen it in some time.”

Washington picked up Griffin’s fifth-year option for 2016, which suggests that the team still thinks he can be its franchise quarterback. But Brunell thinks Griffin may be gone before the 2016 season.

“This is a make or break season for RGIII, without a doubt,” Brunell said. “If he doesn’t fix those inconsistencies, this could be it for him.”

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NFLPA has short, simple response to Troy Vincent

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After inflammatory comments emerged from NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent regarding NFL Players Association spending on legal fees in cases arising from discipline imposed by the league, PFT extended separate invitations to the NFL and NFLPA to provide guests for Tuesday’s PFT Live to flesh out the issue.

Both requests were declined, but the NFLPA opted to issue a short response to Vincent, via Twitter.

“You consider infinite number of ways to respond to something like this,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said, linking the original item from ESPN.com, “and simple is best: ‘small.'”

The public reaction to Vincent’s comments has been as universal as any red state/blue state sports issue ever can be. The union is fighting on behalf of players whose rights were violated by the league. If the league didn’t impose more discipline than it should under the relevant policies, a fight wouldn’t be necessary.

The problem for both sides is that the NFL will continue to be inclined to overdiscipline players. Despite the public rebukes that necessarily occur when the Commissioner’s decisions are struck down, the P.R. fallout for 345 Park Avenue is minimal. Conversely, the perceived failure of the Commissioner to go far enough with misbehaving players nearly brought down his empire last year, in the Ray Rice case.

Apart from the legal fees that justifiably arise when the union is required to fight the league after the league goes too far with discipline is the question of actual waste. And many of you have noted that true waste arose from the NFL making #DeflateGate into a much bigger deal than it should have been, with millions spent on an investigation aimed perhaps not at getting to the truth, but at justifying a knee-jerk result selected early in the process, when no one from the league office realized that the PSI numbers generated by New England’s footballs were both below the 12.5 minimum and also in line with the normal operation of the Ideal Gas Law.

As to the issue of NFLPA legal fees, the smarter (but not necessarily better) approach by the league may have been to cajole one or more members of the media into making the argument. Between the reporters on the league’s payroll and the reporters who have a track record of open disdain for current NFLPA leadership (or both), it shouldn’t have been hard to make the point without forcing a senior member of NFL leadership to connect his name to the remarks.

Some would say it’s admirable for Vincent to express his views directly. The only problem in this case is that his views are substantively incorrect and ultimately not helpful to building the kind of relationship needed to avoid unnecessary fighting.

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Cowboys unsure who their starting running back will be

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Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has said he’s very comfortable with the group of running backs he has on his roster. But what the Cowboys don’t know is which one of those running backs will be primarily responsible for replacing the departed DeMarco Murray.

Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown says he isn’t sure if Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden or Lance Dunbar will be the starter, but he’s confident that some combination of the three of them will add up to a good running game.

“We’re very confident in what we have,” Brown said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We got some very good football players. With the addition of Darren it’s going to be a nice group. I can’t say who is going to be the lead dog right now, but those guys are going to compete and we’re going to do what’s necessary to win games. I think we have three capable guys who can go out and do what we need to do. I’m not concerned about it at all.”

As great as Murray was last season, Randle was also very good in limited action as his backup: Randle gained 343 yards on 51 carries, a whopping 6.7 yards a carry. He would seem to be the likely choice as the starter.

The addition of McFadden to go with Randle and Dunbar gives the Cowboys some depth in the backfield, and those running backs will be running behind the best offensive line in the NFL. Despite the loss of Murray, Brown’s optimism is justified: The Cowboys’ running game should be just fine, even if there’s not a clear-cut starting running back just yet.

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Jerry Jones donates $1 million to cancer initiative started by Bob McNair

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When an NFL owner is trying to raise money for charitable causes, they have 31 places around the league where they know they’ll find people with deep pockets who could help.

Texans owner Bob McNair wasn’t looking specifically to NFL owners to help provide the financing for Hope Lodge Houston, which the American Cancer Society would operate as a place for people battling cancer to receive free lodging and support services while in Houston to receive treatment. He and his wife Janice announced that their foundation will donate $1 for every $2 raised through December 31, up to $4 million, to help break ground on the lodge before the end of the year.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is helping to push them closer to their goal. The Jerry and Gene Jones Foundation has donated $1 million to the cause.

“Cancer is already daunting enough, but worrying about travel, lodging, and other necessities while enduring treatment can be a huge burden,” Jones said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Gene and I are proud we can help by joining Bob and Janice McNair and President George and Barbara Bush as they work to bring a Hope Lodge to Houston.”

McNair received a clean bill of health last year after a 10-month fight with two forms of cancer and announced the fundraising challenge a short time later.

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Kevin Coyle: Ndamukong Suh “everything as advertised”

Miami Dolphins OTA's Getty Images

There was some uncertainty about whether defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh would take part in OTAs with the Dolphins this offseason because he’d routinely missed them when he was a member of the Lions, but any fears of his absence went unrealized.

Suh was more than just present at the offseason workouts as well. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said that Suh went through the workouts with so much energy that the team had to have him dial it down, which Coyle saw as a positive for a player who has lived up to his expectations thus far.

“Quite honestly, yeah, we had to tone him down there a little bit,” Coyle said on the Joe Rose Show on WQAM. “That was a good thing. We had to back him off because he’s really something. First of all he’s an extremely intelligent player. I’ve been totally impressed with his football knowledge and he comes out to the practice field. He’s extremely hardworking. He’s the first guy in line showing the younger guys how to do it. And I’ve never been around a more explosive, powerful man of his size and his athleticism. He’s been everything as advertised. Quite frankly, you can only do so many things in OTAs when you just have shorts and helmets on. I can’t wait to get going here at the end of July when we start training camp and get the pads on and get ready to go because he’s a rare talent and great addition for us.”

It’s a good bet that OTAs will be the only time that the Dolphins ask Suh to go at anything less than full speed and that the Dolphins will continue to avoid buyer’s remorse as long as he’s pushing it to the limit every Sunday.

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Golden Tate: We’re trying to become elite now

Golden Tate AP

The Lions won 11 games last season for the first time since 1991, which was good enough for a playoff berth in Jim Caldwell’s first season as the team’s head coach.

There haven’t been consecutive playoff appearances for Detroit since the 1995 team capped a three-year run of trips to the postseason with a loss in the Wild Card round. Wide receiver Golden Tate says that the team is shooting for the same kind of sustained run of regular season success right now while trying to establish themselves as the team to beat in the NFC North.

“I think it’s time for us to consistently, year in and year out, win ballgames,” Tate said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I think we have the personnel. I think we have the coach, the coaching staff. I think we have a heck of a fan base. It’s time. We’re trying to shake ‘the same old Lions.’ We’re trying to become — I thought we were good — I think we’re trying to become elite now. I think we’re trying to compete with the Packers and give them a run for their money and take over our division year in and year out.”

The Lions won’t be able to lean on Ndamukong Suh up front on defense this year, which means they’ll have to plot a different course to the playoffs in 2015. One hope is that the offense will be more effective in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s second year at the reins, something Tate and other Lions receivers will work on with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta before training camp.

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Brett Favre: “I think I could play”

Favre Getty Images

Herschel Walker isn’t the only middle-aged former NFL player who thinks he could still play in the NFL. Brett Favre says he could, too.

“I think I could play,” Favre tells Sports Illustrated in a “Where Are They Now?” double issue. “As far as throwing, of course. I could make all the throws I made before. . . . We’re not trying to start some he’s-coming-out-of-retirement deal. . . . But I could play.”

Plenty of former NFL players probably feel the same way, because they still feel like the guys they were when they played in the NFL. They won’t realize that they can’t until they try, and very few ever return after a multi-year absence from the game.

Regardless of whether Favre could play now, he could have played longer in Green Bay, if he hadn’t made such a hasty decision seven years ago to retire.

“Had I [taken my time deciding], I would have come back and played,” Favre said. “The drama would have been avoided.”

That response overlooks the fact that the Packers pushed him for an early decision, possibly because the Packers knew that by pushing Favre for an early decision, Favre would decide to retire — and the Packers could start the Aaron Rodgers era. If that was the plan, the performance of Aaron Rodgers since Favre retired has vindicated it.

This year, Favre finally returns to Green Bay. And the Packers can be confident that Favre won’t be unretiring one final time before his number 4 is finally retired.

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