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Daryl Washington thanks Commissioner for reinstatement

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Suspended three years ago, linebacker Daryl Washington has been conditionally reinstated to the NFL generally, and to the Cardinals specifically.

“I’m honored and humbled to be back in the National Football League,” Washington said in a statement provided to PFT. “These last three years have been the most difficult of my life without the game I love so much. That said, I’ve used this time to make tremendous strides as a man and have grown into a proud husband, father, and contributing member of my community.”

Washington returns at the game at the age of 30. He has played only four seasons, two of which resulted in Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition. So he has less wear and tear, and more tear on the tires.

“Physically I’m in the best shape of my life and have maintained a strenuous six-day per week workout plan for over a year in anticipation of this day and next season,” Washington said. “I understand the physical and mental demands that it takes to be an All-Pro linebacker in this League, and I fully intend to play at that level this season.

“I’d like to thank Commissioner Goodell and his staff who I’ve met with multiple times, my attorney Daniel Moskowitz for all of his work on my journey back, my amazing teammates who I’ve stayed in contact with, and most importantly, my family for all of their unconditional support. As I told Mr. Goodell, I will use this opportunity to help lead and mentor younger guys in the locker room and in my community to learn from my mistakes and understand it’s an honor to be in the NFL.”

The Cardinals have been circumspect so far regarding whether they want Washington. That’s the next question that needs to be answered before Washington suits up for the team again. It’s expected he’ll get the chance to show the Cardinals what he can still do; few franchises are in the business of sending away quality contributors who can make the team better.

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Deshaun Watson likes how he looks in a Cardinals uniform in Madden

For free agents and incoming draft picks, the Madden game provides a way to get a look at how the player will look in a variety of NFL uniforms. For quarterback Deshaun Watson, he particularly liked how he looked in one specific uniform.

Appearing on PFT Live, Watson said he likes how he looks in Cardinals attire, specifically with the black jerseys. (The photo accompanying this post is an image of virtual Larry Fitzgerald wearing the 2016 Color Rush uniforms.)

The Cardinals are in the market for a successor to Carson Palmer, and Palmer has embraced the possibility of mentoring a youngster. Watson likewise said he’d welcome the chance to learn from a veteran, even if it means sitting for a year or two. He’s also fine with being drafted later than earlier, if it means landing in the right spot.

Watson visited thr Cardinals, Browns, Jaguars, 49ers, Texans, and Chiefs in the weeks preceding the draft. The 2017 PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever has Watson going to the Cardinals at No. 13.

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Martavis Bryant conditionally reinstated after drug suspension

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Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant has been conditionally reinstated to the NFL after he spent the entire 2016 season suspended for violation’s of the league’s substance abuse policy.

The NFL informed the Steelers today that Bryant may re-join the team, according to General Manager Kevin Colbert.

“We appreciate that he has taken the necessary steps in an effort to get his personal life in order. We also understand this is just the beginning as he works to return to the team and meet all of the conditions of his reinstatement,” Colbert said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Martavis to ensure that he is mentally and physically prepared to contribute to our efforts on the field, while also maintaining the proper balance to keep his life in order off the field.”

Bryant can participate in team meetings and offseason workouts effective immediately. He will be allowed to participate in training camp practices and preseason games provided that he demonstrates before camp that he has made arrangements to continue drug treatment in Pittsburgh.

Before the regular season the NFL will review his progress, and if he has complied with drug treatment he will be fully reinstated for Week One.

Bryant is a big-play wide receiver who showed great promise before failed drug tests cost him the 2016 season. If he’s fully committed to football, he could be a big part of the Steelers’ offense in 2017.

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Report: Gareon Conley won’t attend draft

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Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley was among the players the NFL announced as draft attendees this year, but a report that he’s named in a police report regarding an allegation of sexual assault appears to have changed his plans.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Conley will not be in Philadelphia for this week’s event.

Conley has been widely projected to be a first-round pick over the last couple of months, but the allegation reported by TMZ is likely to have an impact on where he winds up going. Conley’s lawyer has called the allegations “ludicrous and ridiculous” and Conley has not been charged with any crime, but there’s a recent example that doesn’t bode well for Conley.

Offensive lineman La’El Collins was expected to be a high pick a couple of years ago, but went undrafted after he was not cleared of involvement in the murder of an ex-girlfriend. Collins signed with the Cowboys after eventually being cleared.

Conley could be cleared of any wrongdoing between now and Thursday, but anything short of that could lead to a drop that Conley apparently wants to avoid reacting to in front of cameras.

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Report: Gareon Conley accused of sexual assault in Cleveland

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The unnamed player facing an accusation of sexual assault in Cleveland has been named. According to TMZ, the first-round prospect is Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.

Conley strongly denies the accusations.

Per TMZ, a police report explains that a 23-year-old woman said Conley raped her in the bathroom of a suite at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland. The police report reportedly explains that the alleged victim claims she met Conley in an elevator, and that he asked her to have a “foursome.” The alleged victim claims she declined to participate but agreed to watch as others had group sex.

In the initial report regarding the incident, which didn’t name Conley, lawyer Kevin Spellacy called the accusation “ludicrous and ridiculous,” and argued that “this young lady is an opportunist and it’s actually despicable.”

According to TMZ, two of Conley’s friends told police nothing happened between him and the woman.

Conley supposedly is willing to be interviewed after the draft. If, however, he’s not cleared by police before the draft, his stock could plummet. At least one team that was considering taking Conley in the first round has told PFT that, if this cloud remains as of Thursday night, the team won’t be able to select him.

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PFT’s one and only money-back-guaranteed mock draft

I’m not a big fan of mock drafts, for a variety of reasons. First, everyone has one — and most have enough versions that, statistically, one of them is destined to seem prescient. Second, it makes no sense to project the picks before free agency, when some needs are addressed and other needs may arise. Third, every mock draft is immediately dubbed the “worst mock draft ever” regardless of how it’s configured.

With all that said, we now do one per year. I get the bulk of the input directly from folks who make their living evaluating players, and I only make a handful of revisions.

We’ve projected only one trade, but for the most part that’s even more of a crapshoot than picking players. (I’ll be watching to see whether the Bengals trade down and still get their projected pick, whether the Titans trade the No. 18 pick to the Seahawks for Richard Sherman, whether any of the teams with aging franchise quarterbacks move up to get a rookie at the position, and whether the Saints eventually send the No. 32 pick back to the Patriots for cornerback Malcolm Butler.)

So here it is. Dismiss it, demean it, disregarded it. It doesn’t matter to me; I can now check the box and move back to real news instead of fake draft boards.

1. Browns: Myles Garrett, defensive end, Texas A&M.

2. 49ers: Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford.

3. Bears: Jamal Adams, safety, LSU.

4. Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, running back, LSU.

5. Titans (from Rams): Jonathan Allen, defensive lineman, Alabama.

6. Browns (projected trade from Jets): Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina.

7. Chargers: O.J. Howard, tight end, Alabama.

8. Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford.

9. Bengals: Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama.

10. Bills: Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State.

11. Saints: Haason Reddick, linebacker, Temple.

12. Jets (projected trade with Browns via Eagles): Marlon Humphrey, cornerback, Alabama.

13. Cardinals: Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson.

14. Eagles (from Vikings): Derek Barnett, defensive end, Tennessee.

15. Colts: Charles Harris, linebacker/defensive end, Missouri.

16. Ravens: Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State.

17. Washington: Jarrad Davis, linebacker, Florida.

18. Titans: Mike Williams, receiver, Clemson.

19. Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, running back, Florida State.

20. Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, tackle, Wisconsin.

21. Lions: Corey Davis, receiver, Western Michigan.

22. Dolphins: Cam Robinson, tackle, Alabama.

23. Giants: David Njoku, tight end, Miami.

24. Raiders: John Ross, receiver, Washington.

25. Texans: Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech.

26. Seahawks: Garrett Bolles, tackle, Utah

27. Chiefs: Davis Webb, quarterback, Cal.

28. Cowboys: Takkarist McKinley, linebacker, UCLA.

29. Packers: Tim Williams, linebacker, Alabama.

30. Steelers: Jabrill Peppers, safety, Michigan.

31. Falcons: Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan.

32. Saints: Adoree Jackson, cornerback, USC.

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Brian Robison: Opening night against Adrian Peterson will be “electric”

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When running back Adrian Peterson was on the Vikings, the defense didn’t tackle him during practices which means defensive end Brian Robison has to reach way back in the memory bank to recall a time when he brought Peterson down.

That came when Robison was playing for the University of Texas against Peterson’s Oklahoma Sooners, but Robison and the rest of the Vikings defenders will get their chance to try their luck against Peterson soon enough. Peterson is joining the Saints and will open the season in Minnesota on a Monday night, which Robison predicts, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, will be an “electric atmosphere.”

It will also be an opportunity to answer a question that was debated while Peterson still played for the Vikings.

“He always said he could run on us, we say he could never run on us … something has to break,” Robison said, via Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The first game of the season is always one that generates a lot of interest and nationally televised games get an extra boost, but Peterson’s decision will push his first game with the Saints well beyond the usual levels of anticipation.

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Unnamed first-round prospect faces sexual assault allegation in Cleveland

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A bizarre story has emerged in Cleveland only two days before the draft.

Via WOIO-TV, a woman has accused an unnamed NFL prospect of sexual assault. The player is expected to be selected in round one. WOIO-TV has decided not to name the prospect, pending the issuance of a police report. WOIO-TV also has emphasized that the player has not yet been charged with a crime.

Here’s where it gets weirder. The story quotes the lawyer for the unnamed player, but still doesn’t name the player. Kevin Spellacy represents the unnamed player, and Spellacy calls the allegation “ludicrous and ridiculous.”

“In my opinion this young lady is an opportunist and it’s actually despicable,” Spellacy said.

Spellacy told WOIO that the unnamed player was never alone with the alleged victim at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland, the site of the alleged incident. Spellacy also said that the unnamed player has three witnesses who claim the unnamed player did nothing wrong. Spellacy said he’s willing to make the player available for an interview with police immediately after the draft.

Why not do it before the draft? Because if the player is interviewed — and if the news get out as to who the player is — a potential La’El Collins situation could emerge. Two years ago, Collins was questioned in connection with a murder. Because he wasn’t cleared from involvement before the draft, he tumbled completely out of the draft, even though he was never accused, arrested, or charged with any crime.

If the unnamed player in this case isn’t cleared before Thursday night, he could tumble even if he’s not guilty.

This makes it incumbent on every agent of every player who isn’t the subject of the investigation to say clearly and loudly and in no uncertain terms that their guy isn’t the guy who is facing this investigation. As to agent who represents a player who was in or around Cleveland on April 9, the date of the alleged incident, there should be a shouting of the player’s non-involvement even more loudly, along with a demand that WOIO disclose the accused player’s name ASAP. With a small, defined universe of players who may be the player facing the accusation, failure to identify the player indirectly defames the other players who it could be, but who it isn’t.

As to the 32 teams, someone unwittingly will be picking a player who brings negative publicity and, potentially, a prosecution and a guilty verdict to town. Thus, they each should be seeking clear assurances from each player they are considering that the player they are considering isn’t the guy who is accused of sexual assault.

Although WOIO has taken steps to keep the player’s name out of it, the mere existence of the story necessarily will pull the player’s name into it. With more than 48 hours to go until the draft begins, it’s inescapable.

Even if the name isn’t leaked to the media (and chances are it will be), the teams definitely will know who it is, When that player slides, so will everyone else.

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Leonard Fournette says football saved his life

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NFL teams look for players with a passion for the game of football, and worry about players who don’t consider the game their top priority. On that score, teams should like LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

Fournette said today on PFT Live that he loves football so much he considers it a literal life-saver. Fournette said that it wasn’t until he got to ninth grade and was good enough to start on the varsity that he started to realize he had a future that many others in his New Orleans neighborhood didn’t have.

“I could have been like any knucklehead out here selling drugs, a criminal or doing whatever. But no, I was on the football field 24/7,” Fournette said.

Fournette certainly sounds like the kind of player NFL teams will love. Asked what it is he wants to do in the NFL, Fournette didn’t hesitate to answer, “Win a Super Bowl.”

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Report: Adrian Peterson agrees to two-year, $7 million deal with Saints

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Adrian Peterson will be playing in the Minnesota Vikings season opener this September. He’ll just be doing so for the team on the opposite sidelines.

Peterson reportedly told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com that he has agreed to a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints worth a total of $7 million.

Peterson also gave the full details of the contract as well. The deal is a one-year contract to start with an option for a second year for New Orleans. Peterson will earn $3.5 million in fully guaranteed money this season with a $2.5 million signing bonus and $1 million in guaranteed base salary.

His 2018 option would carry $3.5 million in non-guaranteed money with $2.4 million in roster bonuses. The $3.5 million comes from $1.05 million in base salary, $1.65 million in per game roster bonuses, a $750,000 roster bonus that triggers on the third day of the league year and a $50,000 workout bonus.

Incentives also exist that could raise the total value of the contract.

With those parameters in place, Peterson would carry a salary cap charge of $2.25 million this year for the Saints and a $4.75 million total charge in 2018.

The Saints currently have $8.5 million in salary cap space according to the NFLPA database.

New Orleans is set to visit Peterson’s former team on Monday Night Football to open the 2017 season.

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Steelers have no information on Martavis Bryant reinstatement

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Despite several reports that Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant would soon be reinstated from his league-imposed suspension, the team knows nothing about it.

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said the team hasn’t heard anything from the league about Bryant’s status.

We have not gotten word on Martavis Bryant,” Colbert said. “We have no information. We have no idea if we’ll get information [before the draft] or not. We have to operate under the assumption that, until he is here, he is not here.”

Bryant has shown a lot of promise as a big-play threat, but he was suspended for the entire 2016 season because of multiple failed drug tests. If the Steelers aren’t going to find out until after the draft whether they’ll get Bryant back this year, they may feel they need to draft a receiver, just in case they don’t get Bryant back.

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Report: NFL teams holding missed bowl game against Jabrill Peppers

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Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers was one of a handful of draft prospects who didn’t play in his team’s bowl game. And now that may be costing him in the eyes of NFL teams.

Adam Schefter reported today on ESPN that there are teams with concerns that Peppers didn’t play in his bowl game. Those teams apparently worry that by sitting out Michigan’s Orange Bowl contest against Florida State, he showed a lack of commitment to his team.

Why should that affect Peppers’ draft stock when it hasn’t seemed to affect the stock of LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, both of whom also sat out their teams’ bowl games? Apparently because Peppers didn’t reveal he wasn’t playing until the day of the Orange Bowl, whereas both Fournette and McCaffrey addressed their decisions with their coaches and teammates well in advance of their bowl games.

However, it’s a little odd that this report is coming from Schefter today, because on the day of the bowl game, Schefter reported that Peppers had legitimately suffered a hamstring injury and wanted to play but physically couldn’t.

A few NFL decision-makers, including Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, have said they would be concerned about a player who sat out his bowl game. But this is the first report we’ve heard a report that a specific player is actually dropping on draft boards for that decision.

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Report: Adrian Peterson, Saints closing in on deal

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Word came Monday that the Saints and running back Adrian Peterson are still talking about a contract and they reportedly are moving toward doing more than that.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the two sides are “closing in” on a deal that would put Peterson in a Saints uniform for the 2017 season. Per the report, the deal would be for $3 million-plus.

There’s no word on when things may move from closing in to closed, although the draft may provide some impetus to get things done sooner rather than later. The Saints would likely want to know if they need to add a running back at some point this week as they are thin at the spot beyond Mark Ingram and signing a deal now would keep Peterson from losing out on possible landing spots due to how the draft unfolds.

If the Saints do sign Peterson, he’ll see some familiar faces in his first regular season game with his new team as last week’s schedule announcement revealed the Saints and Vikings will square off on the first Monday night of the year.

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Jabrill Peppers tests positive for a dilute sample

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NFL teams now have more questions about Jabrill Peppers than what position he’ll play.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Michigan hybrid safety tested positive for a dilute sample at the Scouting Combine.

And just like Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, Peppers got out in front of the news by claiming he was overly hydrated in a statement sent out by his agency CAA.

“Peppers went to the combine, the statement read. “He was sick after flying there from San Diego. He has a history of cramping. Peppers was being pumped with fluids, drinking 8-10 bottles of water before he went to bed, because he was the first guy to work out two days for the LBs and DBs. He had to go through that first day, come back on second day, and that was the fear. So Peppers was pounding water and under the weather. He never failed a drug test in his life, nor tested positive before for any substance.”

While that’s very possibly true, it’s also irrelevant in the context of the NFL’s testing program, which treats dilute samples as failed tests.

To what degree it impacts his draft stock remains to be seen.

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Giants picking up Odell Beckham’s 2018 option

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Odell Beckham has caught 288 passes for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns over his first three seasons with the Giants, which likely meant that the team’s decision-makers spend more time on the average workday figuring out what to have for lunch than they did figuring out whether to pick up their option for 2018 on Beckham’s contract.

Kimberly Jones of NFL Media reports that the Giants are picking up that option, which will be guaranteed against injury only for the 2014 first-round pick. Beckham joins Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin as wideouts from that year’s first round to have their options picked up with word still pending on plans for Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks.

The future for the Giants and Beckham will likely involve discussions about a long-term deal that would keep Beckham on the team for a long while.

Those statistics listed above make the case for why the Giants would be interested in doing that while some would use his outbursts on the field, on the sidelines and in Lambeau Field hallways to argue that Beckham’s volatility works against a long-term investment. The Giants have occasionally complained about those outbursts, but co-owner John Mara said earlier this year that Beckham is the “last guy” he worries about and that would seem to suggest that his play will carry the day.

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