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Panthers G.M. admits contracts a factor to be considered on draft day

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Draftee Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech arrives at the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman can’t come right out and say he drafted defensive tackle Vernon Butler as insurance against the Kawann Short’s contract talks going south.

But he can’t deny it didn’t cross his mind, when he drafted to one of the deepest positions on his roster in the middle of  a negotiation that has become complicated.

Asked by Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review whether he considers the contract status of his current roster when weighing his draft board, Gettleman replied: “Sometimes. Yes and no.”

Gettleman insisted that Butler “was too good” to bypass with the 30th overall pick, comparing it to selecting linebacker Shaq Thompson last year as a bit player/eventual replacement for Thomas Davis despite other positional needs.

“Looking at the roster, did we need another defensive tackle? People can argue ‘no.’ But you know how much I believe in the front. You know how much I believe it’s a big man’s game and [coach] Ron [Rivera] is right there with me.”

So whether Short and the Panthers can agree on a long-term deal or not, in the short term, they’ve added a potential difference-maker inside, who will work with Short and Star Lotulelei and veteran Paul Soliai to give the Panthers one of the deepest interiors in the game.

“If you look at the Super Bowl teams, the fronts on both sides of the ball are pretty damn good. You aren’t getting there with a crappy front on either side of the ball. At some point in time, you’re going to get caught,” Gettleman said. “You can fool people for a while, but when you get into the playoffs, it’s a whole different game.

“If you can believe it — it’s faster, it’s quicker, it’s more violent, it’s all those things. And if you don’t have big, powerful men on both sides of the ball, you’re gonna go home. You’re gonna go home sad.”

But by drafting Butler, Gettleman also gave himself some cover in case his discussions about money with Short leaves someone disappointed — which is likely to be Short since Gettleman has dug in about his perception of value.

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Laremy Tunsil isn’t guaranteed a starting job (but it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t earn one)

laremy-tunsil-043016-getty-ftrjpg_eew1er5nb0st195g0tzwlft07 Getty Images

The Dolphins plan to use tackle Laremy Tunsil at guard this year, since they already have a pair of starting tackles. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Tunsil will be a starting guard.

Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post explains that Tunsil hasn’t been guaranteed a starting job.

“That’s how we’re rolling. You have to earn your spot,” coach Adam Gase said regarding Tunsil, via Abramson. “I don’t think you’ve really seen anybody get plugged in and get anointed anything. Everybody is battling. That’s what we want. We want competition and we want guys to earn their spots.”

It’s a good approach. Rookies who get handed things often struggle to justify themselves. Forcing a rookie to work his way up the depth chart removes the sense of entitlement, and also can give the player a sense of confidence — as long as he believes that the competition he won was genuine.

Tunsil should be able to win a genuine competition with Dallas Thomas, who wasn’t good last year. If Tunsil can’t fairly and squarely beat out Thomas, the Dolphins and Tunsil may have a real problem.

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Seahawks excited by their options in the running game this season

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 6:  Darrell Bevell congratulates Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter on December 6, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks got a glimpse of life without Marshawn Lynch last year, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell admitted it was going to be “different” without the enigmatic and retired running back.

But that’s not to say they’re not excited about the possibilities.

“He’s such a great player, but toward the end of the year last year we didn’t have him, as well,” Bevell said, via Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune. “But we have so many more pieces now.”

Thomas Rawls ran well in Lynch’s stead last year, and when he returns from a broken ankle he’ll likely resume the bell-cow role in the backfield. But Bevell was high on the fleet of newcomers, including the three draft picks at the position as the Seahawks reloaded.

Coach Pete Carroll said the team had “a big plan” for third-rounder C.J. Prosise, and the early returns on Alex Collins and Zac Brooks are positive as well.

“The running back thing, as young as it is, it’s going to be a great spot to watch,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of diversity there in the styles that the guys bring. I’m really excited about that one.”

Of course, the progress quarterback Russell Wilson made running a more well-rounded offense last year will probably be the biggest factor for the Seahawks this year, but they’ll still need to run, and they think they’ll be able to do it differently.

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Matt Ryan using mirror to brush up on his footwork

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 01:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts to a play during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Georgia Dome on November 1, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has room for improvement on his footwork before the fall?

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, for one.

Ryan believes that the Falcons offense will be more effective in its second year under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan because they have a higher comfort level in the scheme, but he’s doing what he can to clean up his own game ahead of the 2016 season. One area he’s focused on is his footwork and he’s using a low-tech method to help him get his timing down.

“Simple things like getting in front of a mirror, trying to get your feet into position to be able to drive the ball the way we want to and the timing of the play,” Ryan said, via the team’s website.

The Falcons started 6-1 last season, but slumped to an 8-8 record with Ryan throwing 10 of his 16 interceptions over their nine-game slide to close the year. In addition to his work with his mirror, Ryan also organized workouts with his receivers early in the offseason and anything that leads to better results this time around will be time well spent.

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Journeyman Richard Gordon arrested for hitting girlfriend, had AR-15 in car

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Journeyman tight end Richard Gordon hasn’t stayed in any one place long, but he’s managed to keep finding work in the NFL.

That might get a little tougher now.

According to Brian Hamacher of NBCMiami.com, the veteran blocker was arrested on battery charges Tuesday after allegedly punching his girlfriend, amid concerns he was going to do much worse than that.

The former University of Miami tight end, who was most recently with the Broncos, was also charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, according to a police report. Gordon’s being held on $6,000 bond.

Police responded after a witness reported seeing a woman being punched and pushed out of a Mercedes SUV. The woman told police she lived with Gordon and had a 3-year-old child with him, but that he began acting crazy when she was taking him to pick up his car, which was at a strip club called Tootsie’s. She told police he punched her arm several times and slapped her in the face.  As he was being taken into custody, he yelled at an officer and kicked the car door, which hit her arm and shoulder.

That wasn’t the end of Gordon’s problems, as cops also found an AR-15 rifle visible in the back seat of Gordon’s car, along with two magazines of ammunition and a small amount of marijuana.

The report said he intended to shoot up the Office strip club after he had a confrontation there the night before. The girlfriend said he hadn’t slept in days.

He’s spent time with six different organizations, with stints with the Raiders, Steelers, Chiefs, Titans, Chiefs again, Broncos, Ravens and Broncos again. He has four career receptions, none since 2013.

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Raiders see DeAndre Washington as an every-down back

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 14: DeAndre Washington #21 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders carries the ball during the first quarter against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 14, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 59-44. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) Getty Images

As a fifth-round draft pick, Raiders rookie running back DeAndre Washington isn’t guaranteed a roster spot. But a month before training camp, the Raiders think Washington can make a big impact on their offense.

Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave says Washington, who ran for 1,492 yards and added 385 receiving yards last year at Texas Tech, can be an every-down back in the Raiders’ offense.

“He’s really worked well for us thus far,” Musgrave said, via the East Bay Times. “So we’re putting him in different situations to get a feel for he’s strengths and how we can tailor plays, tailor situations so he can really flash for us. He’s going to be good in first, second or third down.”

Washington said he isn’t sure what his role will be.

“Right now, I’m just working, just competing,” Washington said. “I think we’ll worry about that down the line, but right now we’re just working and working every day to get better.”

Latavius Murray is entrenched as the starter in Oakland, but Washington may get significant playing time as the No. 2 running back, and play a bigger role than usual for a fifth-round rookie.

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For the Cardinals, going back to 0-0 won’t be easy

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24:  Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts in the second half against the Carolina Panthers during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s one thing to forget about a devastating loss in a conference championship game. It’s another to reset the record to 0-0 and start the climb back to the latter stages of the postseason all over.

“Well, you know, that’s a very, very hard part, that’s very tough,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “But at the end of the day 31 other teams have to do it, too, and that’s the way I look at it. At the end of the day it wasn’t our time to be Super Bowl champs. Denver was the chosen team and they were the better team throughout the 2015 season. Now we have to find something within ourselves to make sure that we’re the better team coming into 2016, because like coach always says, talent’s not the issue.”

So what’s the issue?

“Now it’s all about staying healthy, it’s all about being accountable to the guy next to you, and that’s the toughest part,” Peterson said. “You know, staying healthy and being accountable for such a long season and I think that we have the guys here that had that taste of success and that they want it even more. I believe we definitely have what it takes to get back there. It’s just all about accountability, trust, loyalty and respect.”

There’s that three-word T-shirt slogan again, which on the surface is nearly as hokey as Buffalo’s “All In” but which can help a team of sufficiently talented players come together and achieve greatness.

The full interview with Peterson, including plenty of stuff that didn’t make it to the radio broadcast due to time constraints appears below. You also can hear (and see) plenty more from Peterson and the rest of the Cardinals on July 1, when all eight episodes of All or Nothing debut on Amazon.com.

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Khairi Fortt hoping to take advantage of chance with Seahawks

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 8: Khairi Fortt #54 of the New Orleans Saints warms up prior to a pre-season game against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on August 8, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

A fourth-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2014, linebacker Khairi Fortt bounced between three different teams and played in just three regular season games before finding himself out of a job last season.

Fortt is now trying to take advantage of another opportunity to play NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.

According to John Nash of the Stamford Advocate, Fortt isn’t taking this chance for granted.

I’m forever grateful to get this opportunity,” Fortt said. “It’s going to be great to be out there with a great group of guys and a coach who cares about his players more than the sport itself. That’s really what I love about the team and the environment around it.”

Seattle signed Fortt in May after undrafted free agent linebacker Christian French suffered an injury in practice and landed on injured reserve. Fortt has been limited in practice as well throughout OTAs and mini-camp due to a sore Achilles.

Fortt was placed on the reserve/designated to return injured list by the Saints at the conclusion of training camp in 2014. However, the Saints dumped him due to missing multiple team meetings and he never suited up in a regular season game for the franchise. After a stint on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad, Fortt was signed the Jacksonville Jaguars active roster and appeared in three games.

Fortt believes he can still live up to the potential the Saints saw in him when they selected him in the second round out of California in 2014.

“I envision myself becoming a Pro Bowler and I have to take the necessary steps to do that,” Fortt said. “One step is getting back on the football field, not feeling sorry for myself and just going out there and putting in the effort to reach those milestones.”

Fortt has an uphill climb to make Seattle’s roster but few teams are as open to long shots making their roster and contributing as the Seahawks.

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“Hacked” Twitter account falsely reports death of Joe Flacco

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens winces in pain on the final drive of the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Ravens won, 16-13. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Another week, another Twitter hack proclaiming that a prominent NFL figure has died.

The last time, it was the NFL’s official Twitter account that was genuinely hacked with the false notion that Commissioner Roger Goodell had died. This time, a Ravens news account not affiliated with the team or the league was supposedly “hacked,” with the culprit posting that quarterback Joe Flacco had died.

Our guess (and it’s just a guess) is that the account wasn’t actually hacked, but that someone pulled the prank as a publicity stunt during a slow spot in the news cycle. That’s why we’re not giving the account any extra publicity by naming it here.

All that needs to be said here, given that his name has been trending on Twitter for a while now, is that Joe Flacco remains among the living. As does Roger Goodell. As does Terry Bradshaw.

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Howard Mudd says coaches, CBA rules are at fault for poor OL play, not college spread offenses

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 26:  Offensive line coach Howard Mudd of the Seattle Seahawks looks on during the exhibition game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on August 26, 1994 in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 13-9. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) Getty Images

Howard Mudd spent 38 years as an offensive line coach in the NFL after a seven-year playing career that saw him named an All-Pro twice and a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Mudd is as well-versed in offensive line play as anyone and he believes the quality of line play in the NFL is lacking for two reasons: lack of practice time and poor coaching.

In a wide-ranging chat with Tony Grossi of ESPN 850 in Cleveland, Mudd said the reduced practice time in the NFL and poor coaching is hurting line play the most.

They can’t go on the field and do anything. You can’t even talk to them,” Mudd said of the rules of the new CBA. “So these offensive linemen are wandering around, and it’s not an instinctive position. This is truly a skilled position. Skill is something that you learn to do. It isn’t something instinctive like the other guys that catch passes and stuff like that.

“So the offensive lineman, he’s not perfecting his skills in the offseason. So he shows up June 1 and he’s been working out in the weight room, but he’s not perfecting those body movements that you need to do to pass protect.”

However, Mudd isn’t critical of the talent entering the league from college like others have been. For instance, Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable has blamed the proliferation of spread offenses in college for not being able to prepare collegiate offensive linemen for the pro game.

“I’m not wanting to offend anybody, but college football, offensively, has gotten to be really, really bad fundamentally,” Cable said last May on 710 ESPN in Seattle. “Unfortunately, I think we’re doing a huge disservice to offensive football players, other than a receiver, that come out of these spread systems. “The runners aren’t as good. They aren’t taught how to run. The blockers aren’t as good. The quarterbacks aren’t as good. They don’t know how to read coverage and throw progressions. They have no idea.”

Mudd puts the onus back on the coaches to do a better job.

“People in the NFL, they say these guys don’t know how to play, it takes us two years to coach them,” Mudd said. “We’ve been doing that for 40 years, coaching an offensive lineman who didn’t know how to play when they got here. Go coach them. My brow is furrowed because it pisses me off to say it’s their fault. It ain’t their fault. It’s your fault. Go coach them.”

Mudd coached for seven different teams during his NFL career from 1974-2012. He worked for the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles. He also played for the 49ers from 1964-69 and the Chicago Bears from 1969-70.

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Dez Bryant says Ezekiel Elliott won’t be hazed

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott during the team's rookie camp at Happy Valley in Irving, Texas, on Saturday, May 7, 2016. (Brandon Wade/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS) Getty Images

NFL teams have a habit of hazing rookies. In Dallas, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott won’t have to worry about that.

“We need him,” Bryant told TMZ. “We need his mind to be right.”

Indeed they do. Elliott was taken fourth overall not to become a star running back in 2017, 2018, or 2019 but right away, as a rookie.

Bryant also said that the Cowboys have ended the practice of forcing first-year players to pick up gigantic dinner tabs. Six years ago, Bryant forked over $55,000 for a dinner at a high-end steakhouse, and he didn’t like it.

The Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin brouhaha of 2013 likely had an impact on the cessation of the practice in Dallas and elsewhere. Regardless of how it happened, it’s good new for Elliott and the rest of the Dallas rookies.

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Rams rookies get somber reminder to make good off-field decisions

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Philip Lutzenkirchen #43 of the Auburn Tigers reacts after pulling in a touchdown reception against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Per the Los Angeles Times, part of the Rams’ rookie orientation program this week involved a lecture from Mike Lutzenkirchen that turned the room silent.

Lutzenkirchen’s son, Philip, tried out for the Rams in 2013 as a tight end following a standout career at Auburn. The following summer, Philip Lutzenkirchen and one other man were killed in an automobile accident. Both had blood-alcohol levels above the legal limit according to toxicology reports.

Mike Lutzenkirchen now speaks to various groups across the country about his son’s accident and his memory.

“I’m just hoping…I can get one player that’s doing something they shouldn’t be doing, in any facet, to step back and evaluate,” Mike Lutzenkirchen said. “But more importantly, if I can get that teammate to step back there with you, because I’m not doing that and I’m not going to continue to let you do it, now you’ve got two people thinking about one bad error in life.”

The NFL replaced the annual rookie symposium this year with a mandatory two-day orientation for drafted and undrafted rookies at each team’s facility.

Every team’s rookies hang around at least an extra week following mandatory minicamp, and included in that time are various educational programs that include speeches from former players, lessons on money management and even etiquette classes.

Ex-player La’Roi Glover oversees such events for the Rams rookies as the team’s director of player engagement.

“We’re just trying to educate them,” Glover told the newspaper. “If I can put one extra tool in that toolbox, then it’s a mission accomplished for the group.”

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Dansby would like to see old friend Donte Whitner join him in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 6:  Karlos Dansby #56 of the Cleveland Browns and Donte Whitner #31 of the Cleveland Browns combine to tackle Jeremy Hill #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on November 6, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Bengals linebacker Karlos Dansby told SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday that he’d like to see his former Browns teammate, safety Donte Whitner, join him in Cincinnati and said he’s tried to recruit Whitner to the Bengals.

At 34, Dansby knew he was too old and too expensive to stick around during the latest Browns revamp, and he picked the Bengals for a chance to play for a contender. Dansby spoke up for Whitner when the Browns released him in April and said Wednesday he’s not sure where Whitner will land.

Whitner turns 31 next month. He almost signed with the Bengals in 2011 before ultimately choosing the 49ers.

The Bengals knew their starting lineup was going to get hit hard by unrestricted free agency. Safety Reggie Nelson eventually departed for the Raiders, but the Bengals re-signed George Iloka before he could hit the open market and believe they’re set at safety with Iloka and Shawn Williams as their starters.

Dansby actually getting his wish of Whitner joining the Bengals seems like a longshot. The Bengals extended Williams last Month and the team likes what it’s seen from Williams in his first three seasons.

Even if the Bengals think Whitner has another solid season left in his legs, they might be hesitant to take reps away from Iloka, 26, and Williams, 25. The Bengals already brought back Taylor Mays to compete for a role as a backup safety and special teams player.

The Browns paid Whitner and Dansby a bunch of money in free agency before the 2014 season — each got around $14 million for two seasons — to serve as leaders for their defense. The Browns went 7-9 in 2014, their best season since 2007, before just about everything went wrong in a 3-13 season last season.

In what was neither a new nor a surprising statement, Dansby also told SiriusXM that Browns players “just shut down” amidst last year’s struggles and that “there was a lot of mess going on” in the organization.

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Broncos reiterate there are no plans to sell team

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In response to Tuesday’s item from the Denver Post explaining that three of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s seven children have exited the employment of the team, we pointed out that the development invites speculation that the team eventually will be sold. In response to that response, Broncos V.P. of communications Patrick Smyth reiterated that the Pat Bowlen Trust doesn’t plan to sell the team.

No plans for the sale of the team,” Smyth said on Twitter. “The hope remains to keep the Broncos in the Bowlen family.”

“Hope” is the key word here. There’s a chance that none of the seven Bowlen children ever will develop and demonstrate the skills and abilities necessary to “earn the right to sit in his seat and run the team,” as team president Joe Ellis said in 2014.

Taking a broader look at the situation, and comparing it to a dynamic with which my limited cognitive powers can relate, the seven Bowlen children are in a Willie Wonka-style competition for the privilege of securing the keys to the chocolate factory. At some point, one of them will be deemed to be worthy of becoming the controlling owner of the franchise.

Until then, the team is being held in trust, with Ellis serving as the de facto owner, for the purposes of casting votes and otherwise representing the team at league meetings. Given the ownership issues in Tennessee, where team founder Bud Adams didn’t arrange for a clear transfer of control to one of his children before his passing, it’s critical that one person at all times be in charge of the Broncos and every other NFL franchise. In Denver, Pat Bowlen has decided that one of his children eventually will be selected as being worthy of having that power.

There’s no guarantee, however, that any of them will qualify. There’s no specific timetable or deadline for one of the Bowlen children to earn the right to succeed their father. At a minimum, it will take several years. In theory, it could take many years.

For now, there’s no urgency to resolve the situation. The franchise is thriving, both financially and on the field. Unless and until the organization stumbles badly (since 1982, the Broncos have had only five total sub.-500 seasons, and they haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972), no one from outside the organization will clamor for a new leader to be named from inside the Bowlen family — or for the family to sell the team to someone else who will be able to do the job.

Regardless, ownership of the team has been and will remain in a state of limbo until Ellis and his fellow trustees determine that one of the Bowlen children is ready to run a football with primary colors that include the shade of the Oompa Loompa.

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DeMarco Murray glad he’ll get to run downhill in Tennessee

DeMarco Murray AP

Last year the Eagles spent a fortune to sign running back DeMarco Murray. Then they proceeded to put him in an offense that didn’t fit his skill set. This year, Murray says, that won’t be the case.

Murray said on the Jim Rome Show that in Titans coach Mike Mularkey’s offense, he’s being asked to do what he does best: Take the handoff and run straight ahead.

“It’s strictly downhill and that’s what I’ve been accustomed to my entire life. Nothing against last year or what happened, it just didn’t work out, but I’m very excited about this upcoming season and looking forward to it,” Murray said.

Murray had a great season in 2014 in Dallas and a miserable season in 2015 in Philadelphia. He thinks in Tennessee in 2016 he’ll be back on track.

“It’s hard to look back, but it was a great season two years ago and it definitely was a tough one last year,” Murray said. “But I think from both seasons, I took some positives things from it and learned and appreciated the game more and appreciated the time you have to play the sport. Obviously it was tough last year, and I’m just looking for a huge back bounce year this year.”

Murray was a bad fit in Chip Kelly’s offense, but that doesn’t make him a bad player. He plans to show what kind of player he is in Tennessee.

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