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Charles Woodson glad to see Marshawn Lynch wearing No. 24

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The No. 24 Raiders jersey worn by Charles Woodson wasn’t given to anyone last year after Woodson retired, but when Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to join the Raiders, he was given the number. And Woodson is pleased with that.

I’m excited about it for Marshawn to have a chance to come home and play in front of friends and family,” Woodson told ESPN. “That number 24, that’s something special with the Raiders. I don’t think there’s anybody more worthy than Marshawn to wear that number.”

Woodson sees signing Lynch, a hometown hero, as a “business decision” in Oakland. He also understands both the Raiders’ business decision to leave for Las Vegas and Oakland’s decision not to pour any more money into a stadium than they already had.

“They needed a stadium and it’s big business,” Woodson said. “It’s hard to hear, but you go where the financing is. The [Oakland] mayor wasn’t willing to give up money she didn’t have, so kudos to her, too. But I’m also happy for Mark Davis, getting the stadium — they need a stadium — and moving the franchise forward.”

It remains to be seen who will wear No. 24 for the Silver and Black in Las Vegas in three years, but for now, anyway, the number is going from Woodson to Lynch, and 24 jerseys will continue to be hot sellers in Oakland.

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Dirk Koetter: Bucs’ kicking competition is tense, and that’s good

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Buccaneers practice went silent last week as second-year kicker Roberto Aguayo continued to struggle, suggesting that the players and coaches in Tampa realize they’re watching a young kicker show he’s not up to the pressure of the NFL. But Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says he welcomes the tension.

Koetter said veteran Nick Folk was brought in to compete with Aguayo, and the Bucs like seeing that competition in May.

“The competition has definitely started. I know everybody feels it,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “There’s a little tension when we’re going through that. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. This is pro football, there’s supposed to be competition.”

The Bucs surprised almost everyone when they chose Aguayo in the second round of last year’s draft, and when they signed Folk this offseason it was an acknowledgement that Aguayo didn’t get the job done as a rookie. From all indications Aguayo won’t have a job anymore in three months, and that’s a tense situation. As kicking in the NFL usually is.

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John Mara says signing Colin Kaepernick would lead to fan backlash

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The NFL party line, as articulated by Commissioner Roger Goodell, is that Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment is football related, Giants owner John Mara has acknowledged off-field concerns contributing as well.

Mara told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that the Giants didn’t discuss signing Kaepernick this offseason, and that they’ve heard from many fans who would be angry if they did.

“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, moreso than any other issue I’ve run into.”

The Giants signed kicker Josh Brown to a new contract after he was arrested for domestic violence, and kept him on the team last year after he was suspended for domestic violence. It’s extraordinary that Mara says he heard from more fans about Kaepernick — a player on another team, who didn’t do anything illegal — than about Brown.

Mara’s comments say a lot about Kaepernick’s continuing unemployment: For many teams, the decision not to sign Kaepernick may go beyond whether the coach or G.M. think Kaepernick can help on the field. It may go up to the owner, who fears Kaepernick would hurt the franchise off the field.

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Despite impending move, Raiders sell out season tickets

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Oakland fans may not be happy that the Raiders are leaving, but the team remains popular enough that the fans will support the team while it’s still there.

That became clear with the news from the San Francisco Chronicle that the Raiders have sold out their season tickets.

That hasn’t always been the case in Oakland, but this year the Raiders are coming off a playoff season, they have plenty of young talent and they’ve added a popular hometown hero in Marshawn Lynch. It would be surprising if they’re not able to fill the Oakland Coliseum this year and next year.

The big remaining question is whether the Raiders will be gone after next year, or whether they’ll stay for 2019 as well. The Raiders’ lease in Oakland runs through 2018, and their new stadium in Las Vegas won’t be ready until 2020. That leaves them in limbo for 2019, but if they keep selling tickets, the most sensible decision would seem to be a one-year extension of the lease, and one last year in Oakland for the Silver and Black.

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Brandon Jacobs vows to get Jim Harbaugh fired

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Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs recently reopened his five-year-old feud with Jim Harbaugh, telling CBS Sports Radio that the former 49ers coach “didn’t know what he was doing.” Harbaugh took the high road in response, advising Jacobs via Twitter to “[l]et all bitterness & wrath & anger & clamor & slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Jacobs apparently sought a second opinion.

“I will expose him, Michigan will fire him when I am done,” Jacobs declared Saturday on Twitter regarding Harbaugh.

Before Jacobs convinces himself that he’ll do to Harbaugh what Eric Dickerson did to Jeff Fisher, it’s important to understand more about the history between the two men. Jacobs joined the 49ers in 2012, and a knee injury delayed his regular-season contributions into October. Once October came, however, Jacobs still didn’t do much of anything.

He vented about his lack of game reps, before saying, “I’ve learned over the years when you open your mouth and say certain things, it hurts you, so I’m just going to shut up and keep working.” The next day, Jacobs backtracked, saying he had “ironed it out” with Harbaugh.

Jacobs nevertheless wasn’t activated for the next game, which happened to be against his former team, the Giants. Jacobs finally dressed in Week Seven, against the Seahawks. He nevertheless didn’t play — and wouldn’t play until Week 12 against the Saints.

In November, Jacobs tweeted this general advice: “Never work in a place where you hate your boss so much, you should always be happy at work.” He insisted (perhaps even with a straight face) it had nothing to do with his employment with the 49ers.

Next, he vented again, on Instagram: “I am on this team rotting away so why would I wanna put any pics up of anything that say niners this is by far the worst year I ever had, I’ll tell you like I told plenty others.”

Two days later, Harbaugh declined multiple times to comment on Jacobs during a press conference. Later that same day, the 49ers suspended Jacobs for the final three games of the regular season. He reportedly planned to file a grievance, but there never were any reports of the grievance actually being filed or resolved.

Two days later, Jacobs’ locker had been reassigned and there was no evidence Jacobs had even been employed by the team.

“From the coaching standpoint, they don’t want any distractions on the team. He was being a distraction, they felt he was being a distraction, so they felt they needed to do something about it,” defensive lineman Ray McDonald, who’d go on to create some distractions of his own, said at the time. “I guess, if he’s not about the team. And the coaches feel that he’s not trying to help the team. They made the right decision.”

Jacobs would later say that he was told the team didn’t release him for fear that he’d resurface with an opponent.

So that’s the background, which helps explain Jacobs’ animosity toward Harbaugh. And this isn’t even the first time Jacobs had expressed hostility toward Harbaugh; in early 2014 Jacobs offered up a simple explanation for Harbaugh’s failure to win a championship.

He is a bitch, and that’s why he’s never won anything,” Jacobs said. “It is what it is. I’ve got two rings. Harbaugh, though, he’s a bitch. So it doesn’t matter.”

It apparently matters now, with Jacobs pointing to the fence and calling his shot: He will expose Harbaugh and get him fired.

That’s fine, Brandon. Now let’s see if you can swing the bat.

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Zack Martin sees Tyron Smith as the perfect left tackle

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The Cowboys’ offensive line is probably the best in the NFL, but to hear guard Zack Martin tell it, one player stands above the rest.

Martin describes left tackle Tyron Smith as “an absolute monster” and thinks you couldn’t create a better left tackle if you tried.

“We always joke, if God had to make a left tackle he would make him like Tyron Smith,” Martin said on the HawkCast. “Just massive, long. He’s 320, he’s got a six-pack. It’s just not fair. He’s super durable and he just erases that defensive end from other teams every game. When he gets his hands on you, it’s pretty much over. The best thing about Tyron is he works harder than anyone.”

Smith was only 20 years old and still a little raw when Jerry Jones took him with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, but Jones saw the same things that Martin sees every day: Smith is a unique talent.

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John Harbaugh lobbied for loosening the celebration rules

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh deserves some of the credit for the NFL’s decision to ease up on celebration penalties.

Harbaugh confirmed that he’s been stating his case within the league for calling fewer penalties on celebrations, saying the game of football ought to be fun.

“Let’s have some fun. Let’s enjoy it,” Harbaugh said. “I really like it when our guys celebrate. I like it when our guys score touchdowns. I want to score a lot of touchdowns. I want to see a lot of celebrations. I want our guys to have fun, and I want our fans to have fun.”

Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is a vocal critic of the NFL’s new, more relaxed celebration rules, Harbaugh says he doesn’t think there was much opposition to the rule change.

“Some of these decisions are really tough that the decision-makers in the NFL have to make, and they are close calls,” he said. “This was not one of them. This was an easy one, and I think they did the right thing.”

Most fans seem to agree.

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Jim Caldwell isn’t interested in Kaepernick, but believes in him

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The Lions don’t have a veteran backup to quarterback Matthew Stafford. They’re nevertheless not interested in adding Colin Kaepernick.

Via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, coach Jim Caldwell recently said that Kaepernick won’t be pursued by the team.

“[W]e have the guys that we want at this point in time,” Caldwell said.

Who they have other than Stafford is 2016 sixth-rounder Jake Rudock and 2017 sixth-rounder Brad Kaaya. That doesn’t mean Caldwell believes Kaepernick to be unable to play well.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’s capable,” Caldwell said. “I was on the other side of the field [with the Ravens]. Actually, I was in the press box, but nevertheless when he was playing for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. That was only a couple years ago. So, I don’t think that his skill level has diminished to the point where he would be completely ineffective in this league, so we’ll see.”

If Stafford gets injured, Caldwell will be facing more pointed questions about why the team doesn’t have a quarterback with playing experience, whether it’s Kaepernick or someone else. For now, the “someone else” list is down to the likes of Robert Griffin III, Christian Ponder, Shaun Hill, Luke McCown, and Dan Orlovsky.

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Spike Lee is 0-for-1 as NFL reporter

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Spike Lee, Rob Lowe. Rob, Spike. (It’s not quite as poetic as the time David Letterman introduced Oprah and Uma.)

Five years after Rob Lowe incorrectly “reported” that Peyton Manning would retire, Spike Lee has “incorrectly” reported that the Seahawks have signed Colin Kaepernick.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Seahawks have not signed Kaepernick.

Lee has deleted the Instagram post that makes the claim. The tweet is still up.

Just as Lowe eventually was right (four years later), Lee could eventually be right, too. Kaepernick recently visited the Seahawks, and the Seahawks are the only team that has brought him to town in more than two months since he became a free agent.

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Michael Vick plans to sign a one-day contract, retire as a Falcon

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It’s been a decade since Michael Vick went from a Falcons superstar to a convicted felon, and after his release from prison he’s been an Eagle, a Jet and a Steeler. But he’ll be remembered for his greatness in Atlanta, and that’s where he wants his career to come to an official end.

Vick told CBS Radio in Atlanta that he has talked with the Falcons about signing a one-day contract and officially retiring with the team that chose him first overall in the 2001 NFL draft.

Hopefully soon,” said Vick.

Vick hasn’t actually officially retired yet, but he said he has now turned his attention to working with young people. He regularly makes appearances at schools and youth organizations to urge children not to make the kinds of decisions that he made, which landed him in prison.

“I think I got my fill,” said Vick. “Working with the kids allows me to decompress.”

Although Vick’s exit from Atlanta was ugly, 10 years later a one-day return to Atlanta would be a day that many Falcons fans would celebrate.

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Gronk is “full-go” at OTAs

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With so much time spent this week focusing on players not participating in OTAs, one of the best players in the NFL quietly made a major impact in his return to offseason workouts.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, fresh from signing a new deal that gives him the chance to make up to $5.5 million in extra cash for 2017 with no quo for the quid and less than six months removed from back surgery, was “full-go” during a Thursday workout in the rain, via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.

“He looks like Gronk,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, via Guregian.

Coach Bill Belichick was more circumspect (shocker). “I mean, we’ll see how it goes,” Belichick told reporters regarding Gronkowski. “We’ve only practiced a couple days. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Gronkowski also took no drills off, participating in everything the team did. So he’s currently healthy. The real question is whether he can stay healthy.

Gronk has up to $5.5 million riding on it, along with a desire to have a direct hand in achieving what would be the third large ring he places on it.

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Despite disappointing rookie year, Cardinals high on Robert Nkemdiche

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Robert Nkemdiche, the defensive tackle who was the Cardinals’ 2016 first-round draft pick, had a disappointing rookie season: He played in just five games and recorded just one tackle as coach Bruce Arians questioned his work ethic and maturity.

But 2017 is looking different. Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said Nkemdiche is looking good in offseason workouts and seems ready to bounce back and show the talent that made him a first-round pick.

I’ve been happy with him,” Buckner added. “I never got down on him. I didn’t expect him to come in and do all that dominating, because I knew the position. It takes time. It takes some guys even longer. He is starting to come around. He’s in great shape. He’s fully back from the ankle. You see the natural ability take over. Now it’s all about Robert.”

Nkemdiche says he didn’t grow frustrated by the coaches’ criticism last year.

“Frustrated means that you’re not aware of the lesson you are being taught,” Nkemdiche said. “I wasn’t frustrated. Of course I think things could have gone differently, but they didn’t. That’s what this world set up for me. Last year wasn’t my year to be ready. So I took a step back, learned from it, and got a better understanding about how to be a professional football player.”

This year, Nkemdiche sounds ready to have the kind of season that won’t leave anyone questioning his work ethic or maturity.

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Saints taking it slow with Hau’oli Kikaha’s third ACL tear

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Saints linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha is a talented pass rusher who showed promise as a rookie when the Saints drafted him in the second round in 2015. But he has bad knees, and for now getting his knees healthy is his highest offseason priority.

Kikaha tore his ACL during offseason workouts a year ago, and he also tore his ACL twice in college at Washington. Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said they’re holding him out of team drills because they want to make sure he’ll be completely healthy when the season starts.

“He’s doing really well. He’s going through some individual drills, he’s taking part in the walk-through,” Allen said. “I think the training staff, I think we’re going to be smart with him.”

Allen said Kikaha, who had four sacks and four forced fumbles in 2015, was off to a good start in the 2016 offseason when he tore his ACL.

“The key is to make sure he’s healthy and ready to go,” Allen said. “Whatever we have to do to have him full go and ready to go through training camp and the season, I think that’s what the plan will be.”

With Kikaha’s history, it’s fair to wonder how long the Saints can expect him to stay healthy. They at least want him to be healthy when the regular season begins.

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Superdome renovations could be coming

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With more and more NFL teams getting bigger and better and fancier stadiums, the Saints could end up renovating their current home of 42 years.

Via Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a $422,000 study has been commissioned to determine potential upgrades to the Superdome. The six-month project will result in a master plan/wish list for ways to make the venue better.

“The whole idea of this was not to wait until the last minute,” Saints president Dennis Lauscha told Duncan. “If we’re going to do this, let’s start now. This project is about trying to get the stadium to the next generation of fans and make it fun for them, as well.”

Possible changes include a “re-imagined front door,” removal of parking garages on the east side of the stadium, installation of field-level boxes, improved terrace seating, incorporation of virtual-reality technology, expansion of the visiting team’s locker room, and renovation of the press box.

The overriding goal will be to extend the useful life of the structure for 15 to 20 years at roughly $1 billion less than it would cost to replace the Superdome. It’s also believed that the changes will help the Superdome get another Super Bowl after swinging and missing in the last two tries to bring the game to New Orleans for the 11th time.

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Cris Carter mentors OBJ

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has opted to skip voluntary offseason workouts with the team. Arguably, he’s getting even better preparation for what he’ll be facing in the fall from Josh Norman and others.

As explained by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, Beckham spent Thursday not at OTAs but working out with Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who is using tough love in an effort to help Beckham better deal with the verbal abuse he gets from opponents.

“I told him, ‘It’s the first time you’re the second best wide receiver in the building. I know you don’t like that, but get used to it. I’m the one with the [gold] jacket,” Carter told Myers. “His mind is in a great place. He knows what’s at stake. He wants to work out to get better. Sometimes a personal trainer is better than the strength coach for the team.”

Carter realizes that Beckham faces extra agitation because of who he is and how he has reacted in the past.

“With Odell, they go to extremes because it is him,” Carter said. “In 108 days, he will be ready to play against the Dallas Cowboys. Is he with the Giants at OTAs? I don’t care. It’s not my job. My job as a former player is to help young players understand about the business. I’m committed to helping Odell get better. So as far as OTAs, that’s somebody else’s responsibility.”

Still, with Beckham’s effort to work with people like Johnny Manziel (“Odell needed someone to throw him the ball,” Carter explained) and Carter coming one some of the same 10 days when the Giants have full-squad offseason practices aimed at preparing for the season, some are wondering whether he still doesn’t get it, whether he still hasn’t matured the way the team wants.

“Odell is going to grow up,” Carter said. “That why’s he is bringing other people in his life so he can grow up. If he wasn’t trying to grow up, he wouldn’t be calling Cris Carter. He’s getting people to tell him all the right stuff. He wants to be better. Not only as a player, but emotionally, as a son, friend and teammate. He’s in the process of doing that.”

Some would say Carter also has some growing up to do as a mentor, given that past stints have included a too-outlandish-to-be-true effort to advise incoming rookies to avoid criminal scrutiny by pre-arranging for a designated-driver-style “fall guy.”

“Being a mentor, that was one of the worst moments I’ve had,” Carter said. “You never want it to affect your ability to get access to young kids. I deeply regret the word choice. What I was trying to get across was these guys have crews. Stop driving the car. Stop having drugs in the car. Smart people realized what I was trying to say. The choice of words was bad and I would never, never give anyone advice about breaking the law.”

The “smart people” who realized what Carter was trying to say apparently didn’t include Carter himself, given that he seemed to realize what he said and what it meant when he profusely apologized for the remarks after they came to light.

“It’s really hard to go through my thought process,” Carter said in August 2015. “I can’t make an excuse for what my mindset was. My heart was in the right place. I didn’t use words that I was very proud of. It’s not the kind of advice I would offer young people. I would never tell young people to break the law or avoid prosecution. It was bad advice. I really, really regret my words when I heard them come back to me. And more importantly it hurt young people and it hurt them in their approach to the National Football League. So I take it very, very seriously. I do regret that day. I hope moving forward that the NFL still has enough trust in me and has me connected to their young people.”

Here are the comments that caused the kerfuffle: “If you all got a crew, you got to have a fall guy in the crew. If you all have a crew, one of those fools got to know, he’s the one going to jail. We’ll get him out.”

So while Carter likely won’t urge Beckham to get a “fall guy,” he’s also not urging Beckham to show up for OTAs.”

“I recommend he should do what he wants to do,” Carter said.

Beckham doing what he wants to do is one of the reasons he’s in a position where everyone watches what he chooses to do, because he’s done too many things that have caused problems for the team and for him. His latest choice — to work out away from team property — could become problematic more for him than the team, because a serious injury suffered while working out with Manziel or Carter or anyone else would jeopardize both Beckham’s $1.839 million salary for 2017 and his injury-guaranteed fifth-year option of $8.459 million.

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