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Sammy Watkins wants to make impact, isn’t trying to be Superman

Watkins AP

Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins hasn’t made a Randy Moss-style vow to rip up the league.  But Watkins doesn’t need to.  The importance of ripping things up is implied in the all-in move the team made to get him — especially with a new owner coming.

After his first training-camp practice with the team that gave up a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick in 2015 to move up five spots in the top 10 to get Watkins, the fourth overall selection was asked whether he can make an instant impact right away.

“With our offense, weve got a lot of explosive guys, so for me its just about coming in right away and trying to make plays,” Watkins told reporters in comments distributed by the team.  “Dont try and be Superman, but play my role and everything will work out.”

He may not try to be Superman, but the fans may have already fitted him for a cape.  Watkins already is a favorite at practice.

“It means a lot,” Watkins said.  “I came from a big Division I school in Clemson so we need our fans.  Thats what moved me and its great to hear the fans calling my name out and being active while were practicing.”

They’ll be even more active during games if Watkins can quarterback EJ Manuel can connect.  Per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Manuel was four-for-four in passes thrown to Watkins during team drills on Sunday.

“It felt good,” Manuel told reporters regarding the throws to Watkins.  “You really just want to get it in a spot for him to catch it and get some yards after the catch.  That’s the biggest thing about a receiver like Sammy.”

Big things will be needed from Watkins and Manuel or big changes will be coming once the new owner is in place.

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Report: Chris Snee to announce retirement Monday

New York Giants v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Chris Snee’s career is reportedly at a close.

The Giants’ 11th-year right guard is expected to announce his retirement on Monday, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reported.

Snee, 32, has made 141 starts for the Giants since joining the club in 2004. He was a Pro Bowl starter in 2012, but hip and elbow injuries ended his 2013 campaign after just three starts, and his health reportedly looms an issue now as the Giants prepare to report to training camp on Monday.

A report indicating Snee would be retiring surfaced on Sunday on BigBlueInteractive.com, and various published reports since have only added to the sentiment that Snee’s long and productive stint in New York could be at an end.

Snee’s impending departure leaves wide receiver Victor Cruz, quarterback Eli Manning and fullback Henry Hynoski as the only offensive starters from the Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI-winning squad still with the club.

UPDATE 11:06 p.m. ET:  A league source tells PFT that it’s a 100-percent certainty that Snee will retire.

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Dareus fails Bills conditioning test

Dareus Getty Images

Apparently, Bills defensive lineman Marcell Dareus can’t run like he drives.

The Pro Bowler, who was arrested in the offseason both for possession of synthetic marijuana and drag racing, landed on the non-football injury list to start training camp because he failed the pre-camp conditioning test.

He needs to focus on getting himself ready,” coach Doug Marrone told reporters regarding Dareus.

While a technicality of sorts, it’s a bad sign for a guy who has faced serious questions about his commitment after the off-field incidents.  With the team in his corner following the arrests, common sense suggests that Dareus would have redoubled his efforts to show gratitude for the loyalty, and to prove that his off-field issues won’t affect his job performance.

Dareus presumably will remain on the NFI list until he can pass the conditioning test, a drama that four years ago marked the beginning of the end for Albert Haynesworth in Washington.

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New book blames Kosar’s slurred speech on oxycodone from Browns

Kosar Getty Images

The post-NFL deterioration of former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar has been startling at times, made most alarming by slurred and at times incoherent speech.  A new book contends that Kosar’s problems trace to the Browns giving him a potent pain-killing medication in order to keep playing.

Via Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Blood Sport — Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroids Era traces Kosar’s problems to the use of oxycodone while playing pro football.  Kosar presumably developed an addiction to the drug while playing and continued taking it, causing slurred speech.

According to the book, Kosar eventually relied on the Biogenesis “anti-aging” clinic for medications that may have included steroids, testosterone, and HGH.  The book contends that Kosar received at least one $600 shipment of medication from Biogenesis, and that former Kosar college teammate Julio Cortes explained, “We can either do this or get back on the oxy. You read the papers about Kosar, and he’s a mess. He’s slurring his words from the medication, from the oxy that the Browns gave him.”

The disclosure comes at a time when the DEA reportedly is investigating the distribution of prescription medication to NFL players.  Which, given the assumption by many that team doctors have been handing out strong narcotics and other medications for years without dotting all i’s and crossing all t’s, invites speculation as to why investigations, prosecutions, and/or incarcerations haven’t already happened.

It’s a strange disconnect between the long-suspected reality of prescription drug abuse in NFL locker rooms and the apparent absence of a response from law enforcement.  While that may be changing in the wake of the lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL for providing medications without explaining the side effects, if the allegations made by the players are true, prosecutors could have been shooting quacks in a barrel for the last several decades.

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Kluwe: NFL favors wife beaters, drunk drivers over gay rights supporters

Ray Rice AP

Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is continuing his campaign against the NFL for what he says is an attitude of intolerance both toward gays and to people like Kluwe who have advocated for gay rights.

In his latest comments, Kluwe told FOX Twin Cities that Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer should have been suspended for more than three games for making anti-gay remarks after Kluwe began speaking out for gay marriage. Kluwe contrasted Priefer’s suspension with the suspensions for other violations of league rules.

“Players who get caught smoking weed or DUI get four games, and you’re telling me the guy who made a comment like ‘let’s round up all the gays put them on an island nuke it till it glows’ — he’s only going to get a slap on the wrist?” Kluwe said.

Kluwe is a bit off on the suspensions that players get, as players who get DUIs usually aren’t suspended at all unless someone is injured or killed or it’s a repeat offense. Regardless, Kluwe thinks the NFL has misplaced priorities.

“The NFL is a league where you can get redemption for killing someone, for beating your wife in an elevator, for driving drunk, for a whole variety of things but when you speak out for civil rights, that’s the one thing you cannot get redeemed for,” Kluwe added.

When he mentions “beating your wife in an elevator,” Kluwe is clearly referring to Ravens running back Ray Rice, who assaulted his now-wife in an incident early this offseason. Kluwe seems to think the fact that Rice is still with the Ravens, while Kluwe was cut by the Vikings and then cut by the Raiders and is now out of the league, is evidence that the NFL is more forgiving of wife beaters than gay rights supporters.

The reality, however, is that Rice remaining in the NFL while Kluwe is out is not proof that the NFL thinks a player beating his wife is better than a player speaking out for gay rights. It’s proof that Rice is a better player than Kluwe. NFL teams will tolerate almost anything from a player who can help them win. That’s what the NFL really values.

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Preseason Power Rankings No. 5: Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers AP

Forget about Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or anyone else not named Aaron Rodgers.  The best quarterback in the NFL currently plays in Green Bay.  And that’s good enough to get the Packers in the top five as the 2014 season approaches.

They’d be even higher if Rodgers had the help that other franchise quarterbacks enjoy.  Specifically on defense.  And everyone knows it.  Maybe that’s why recent remarks from Rodgers that easily could have been interpreted as a slap at the front office and/or the locker room didn’t ruffle many feathers.

“We haven’t had the kind of physical talent as far as size here in a while,” Rodgers said last month.  “I think there’s been times — I think back to playing Jacksonville in ’08 in Jacksonville, some of the battles we’ve had with our division teams at times — where you walk on the field and feel like you’re kind of a JV team.”

Beyond Rodgers, the Packers have been a JV team, mainly on defense.  But the Packers may have improved just enough that they’ll be good enough to have a chance to get back to the Super Bowl.

Strengths.

On offense, it begins (and arguably ends) with Rodgers.  A high-precision passer who can run the ball, too, Rodgers knows how to gain yardage on the ground without putting himself at undue risk.  Last year’s broken collarbone happened not while he was being reckless but while trying to step up in the pocket.  Shea McLellin of the Bears shed a block and spotted Rodgers and closed ground and pulled him down before Rodgers knew what happened.  If he can stay healthy throughout 2014, the Packers will likely win the NFC North.  The real question becomes whether he’ll have enough help in the postseason to advance past the divisional round, or whether it’ll be another JV-level showing at single-elimination time, particularly from the defense.

The Packers rolled the dice last season on a pair of tailbacks, stopping Eddie Lacy’s round-two free-fall and snagging Johnathan Franklin, who appeared to be a perfect fit for the Green Bay offense.  A neck injury ended Franklin’s career before it could get started, but the gamble on Lacy ended up being a good one — especially since he eventually was able to pound out some strong performances even when the Packers were forced to implement a crappy backup plan for Rodgers.  If Lacy can match the quarterback when it comes to avoiding injury, the Packers could have the best one-two offensive punch in the NFL.

A bad defense would be a lot worse without linebacker Clay Matthews, who continues to be one of the better pass rushers in the NFL, but who has missed nine games over the past two seasons combined.  The arrival of Julius Peppers could make Matthews even better, even though the jury is still out on whether Peppers still has it like he used to.

The secondary has the potential to be very good, with highly-paid cornerback Sam Shields and first-round rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix potentially leading the way.  As a unit, however, the defense doesn’t belong in the “strength” category.

Weaknesses.

The tight end position holds little promise after the departure of Jermichael Finley.  He seems to want to return to Green Bay after neck surgery, but it seems highly unlikely that that Packers will clear him to play — or pay him what it would take to get him to walk away from his probably-too-good-to-be-true $10 million tax-free insurance policy.  The depth chart is so uncertain that the Packers have taken a chance on undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla, whose talent has been overshadowed by a litany of off-field concerns.

The offensive line continues to shuffle and rotate and generally underperform.  Bryan Bulaga moves back to the right side after a short-lived experiment at left tackle, which ended when his ACL gave out during an intrasquad scrimmage.  David Bakhtiari played well enough as a fourth-round rookie to keep the job, holding former Viking (new Bear) Jared Allen without a sack in two games and generally not being nearly as bad as some feared Bakhtiari would be.  Center Evan Dietrich-Smith bolted for Tampa Bay (to the chagrin of Rodgers), leaving the Packers to hope JC Tretter is ready.  Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang provide quality at guard, but the five-man operation as a whole allowed 45 sacks, ninth worst in the league.

Despite a few bright spots, the defense continues to be a liability, finishing in the bottom fourth of the league last year in yards allowed (372.2 per game) and points (26.8 per game).  Most of the blame lands on the poorly-toupeed head of coordinator Dom Capers, who should have been given a ticket out of Titletown after a playoff meltdown against the 49ers in January 2013.  Coach Mike McCarthy has opted for loyalty to a fault; that could end after the coming campaign.

Changes.

G.M. Ted Thompson stepped out of character in free agency, adding veteran pass rusher Julius Peppers.  Whether he plays linebacker or defensive end (he’s listed as both), Peppers could wreak havoc, if his play in 2012 was more about not being in the right frame of mind and less about diminishing physical skills.

Offensively, Matt Flynn officially is back as the Week One backup to Aaron Rodgers, which is a much better plan that to have no plan for fear of jinxing Rodgers.  While not able to lead an offense, Flynn has shown that he can get it done when pressed into service.  The Packers wisely have decided to make sure he’s available to do what needs to be done, if Rodgers gets banged up again.

The receiving corps continues to be in a state of transition.  A year after losing Greg Jennings to the Vikings, James Jones signed with the Raiders.  Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb could be joining them a year from now, which perhaps suggests that the Packers realize a quarterback like Rodgers can make most receivers look good.

The biggest free-agency defection occurred when safety M.D. Jennings left for the Bears.  Rookie Clinton-Dix will be expected to fill the void right away, if he can.

Position battles.

Barring the unlikely return of Jermichael Finley, it’s time to find a new tight end.  Andrew Quarless is expected to get the first crack at the starting job, with others in place (like Richard Rodgers) to challenge Quarless for the top spot on the depth chart and playing time.  Colt Lyerla provides the most intriguing option.  If he can stay out of trouble and get the most out of his skills, Lyerla could be the next Finley.

Before we assume that Eddie Lacy will become the unquestioned workhorse, consider these words from coach Mike McCarthy about the tailback position:  “My depth chart looks nothing like your depth chart.”  James Starks and DuJuan Harris provide plenty of talent, when healthy.  If Lacy stumbles or gets injured, one or both of them could step up.

JC Tretter gets the first crack at replacing center Evan Dietrich-Smith.  Corey Linsley provides Plan B.  Plan C could be a lot of shotgun formation and plenty of roll-out passes.

At safety, converted cornerback Micah Hyde could delay the ascension of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the starting lineup, if the rookie struggles to make the transition to the next level.

Prospects.

Since winning Super Bowl XLV, the Packers have had three straight playoff appearances that resulted in disappointment, with a home loss to the Giants, a road loss to the 49ers, and a home loss to the 49ers.  The defense has primarily been responsible for the inability to progress beyond the divisional round, and if that happens again in 2014, it’ll be time for a new coordinator, at a minimum.

Chances are the Packers will be good enough on both sides of the ball to let Rodgers carry them back to the round of eight again.  It’ll take more than a mild improvement to get to the NFC title game, or beyond.  The Packers could be poised to do just that, and they’ll get a chance to show where they are when traveling to Seattle for the first game of the regular season.

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Rams linebacker arrested in South Beach

Dunbar

Soon, all NFL training camps will be open.  For many of the league’s coaches, that can’t come soon enough.

Players left to their own devices sometimes end up in trouble.  It happened early Sunday to Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar during a visit to South Beach.

According to CBS Miami, Dunbar was arrested for battery and disorderly conduct following an altercation outside the Dream Nightclub.  Also arrested was Donte Green, a free agent who was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the 2008 NBA draft.

Dunbar provides the latest off-field complication for a Rams team that has had its share of arrests and suspensions in recent years.  Second-year receiver Stedman Bailey will miss the first four games of the 2014 regular season after testing positive for PEDs.

Dunbar missed the first four games of the 2013 season due to a violation of the PED policy.  A 16-game starter in 2012 and 10-game starter a year ago, Dunbar is due to earn a base salary of $751,157 in 2014.

[Photo credit:  Miami-Dade Police Department]

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Rex on Patriots: “They need to worry about us”

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

Rex Ryan really is back.  And while he has yet to talk about not kissing Bill Belichick’s rings or guaranteeing that Rex will be wearing one of his own, Ryan has found a way to get back to being the guy he was early in his career as a head coach.

During a June interview with Brian Costello of the New York Post that was published Saturday night, Ryan made it clear that:  (1) the Jets aren’t worried about the Patriots; and (2) the Patriots should worry about the Jets.

“Somebody asked me if we focus on New England. Bullsh-t,” Ryan said.  “We’re focused on us.  We’re focused on us and how are we going to be better.  I have to be honest, I don’t worry about them.  They need to worry about us.  I think that’s really where we’re at now.”

I’m a little worried Rex hasn’t looked at the standings from the 2013 season.  Or 2012.  Or 2011.  Each year, the Patriots won the AFC East.  The Jets didn’t.

And while a strong argument can be made that the Jets are moving in the right direction, the Jets have a long way to go to catch New England.

Ryan knows, regardless of whether the Jets catch the Patriots, that the Jets need to do more than finish at .500.

“8-8 is not going to be good enough for us, for anybody in this organization,” Ryan said. “Am I going to get fired if we’re 8-8 or whatever?  I don’t know.  But I can tell you one thing — our goals are set a hell of a lot higher than that.  I don’t care where they rank us or whatever.  I know what we’ve got.  That’s why I just can’t wait.  I can’t wait to get to prove it.  Not by me.  I’m going to prove it.  I am going to prove it.  But so is my team.  That’s the mission that we have.”

Last year, Ryan’s mission seemed to include saying a little as possible and, when doing so, to not be like the guy he previously was.  Maybe he’s more comfortable in his second year of working with G.M. John Idzik.  Maybe Rex believes that, if he’d been a little louder last year, the team would have finished better than 8-8.  Or maybe Rex just could no longer suppress his nature.

If the last explanation is the right one, good for Rex.  Life is hard enough without trying to be someone other than who a guy really is.  For 2014, it looks and sounds like Rex is going to be Rex again — for better, worse, or otherwise.

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Chip Kelly expects to improve on last year’s “just OK” season

Chip Kelly AP

In his first year as an NFL coach, Chip Kelly led the Eagles to an NFC East title. That wasn’t good enough.

We were just OK,” Kelly told the Delaware County Daily Times.

Kelly said he’d be disappointed if any of his players are satisfied with what they accomplished last season.

“You’ve got to make sure that they’re not content being where they are,” Kelly said. “I think if you’re content with 10 wins and winning the division you’re probably shortchanging yourself and the team. We did that. What’s the next step? How can we improve upon that? We’re trying to get a bunch of guys that are never complacent in terms of, ‘All right, we’ve arrived.’ We haven’t arrived. We’re looking to work and strive to get better and better and better. That’s part of the deal. So I think that’s the thing we’re always trying to emphasize with these guys.”

Kelly is doing things differently in Philadelphia, not only with his much-discussed fast-paced offense, but also with everything from practice schedules to his strong emphasis on sleep and nutrition to cutting one of his most talented players in DeSean Jackson. He’s shaking things up, and he expects his players to buy into everything he does.

Kelly didn’t leave Oregon to win a division in the NFL. He wants to win a Super Bowl. Anything less than that is just OK.

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Preseason Power Rankings No. 6: New Orleans Saints

drew-brees-sean-payton-saints-7b0eb0f96d81cbae_large Getty Images

The Saints are in an interesting position.

There might not be a team in the NFL as good as the thing they do than the Saints are at throwing the football.

The combination of Sean Payton and Drew Brees continue to be one of the best coach-quarterback pairings, and now that the contract unpleasantness with tight end* Jimmy Graham is over, their offensive weapons are in place, mostly intact from last year.

But where does that get them?

When the top teams in the NFC are playing power football, can the Saints push beyond big fantasy stats with finesse?

They benefit by being different from the teams that topped the conference last year (the Panthers likewise want to play physically), but this year will be a test to see if that difference is meaningful.

Brees is still at the top of his game, but that might not be enough any more.

Strengths.

Did we mention Drew Brees was good at throwing the ball?

He threw for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions last year.

And with Graham paid, they still have an impressive array of targets.

Marques Colston is still producing at a high level, and even with a change in the backfield (more on that in a moment), they’re going to be able to move the ball.

Payton is tremendous at the chess match of offense, and incorporating some new guys into the scheme will allow them to develop that capability.

Adding first-round speedster Brandin Cooks should more than make up for the departure of Lance Moore, especially with Kenny Stills developing into a more dependable target.

Weaknesses.

Last year, the Saints’ defense might have been better than their offense, or perhaps it was just by contrast to the year before.

Rob Ryan transformed a group that set a league record for yards allowed in 2012, and it’s not as if they had a gigantic personnel upgrade.

Ryan was patching together parts, and injuries didn’t help.

But Junior Galette emerged as a legitimate outside linebacker option, and defensive end Cameron Jordan had a breakout year with 12.5 sacks.

The offseason’s big acquisition, safety Jairus Byrd, ought to be able to make a big impact, paired alongside Kenny Vaccaro. That enthusiasm was dampened a bit when Byrd needed back surgery, knocking him out of most of the offseason work.

The only problem is, the Saints still might not have sufficient personnel on that side of the ball, so regression is a real possibility.

They finally pared away some of the old parts on defense (cutting Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Roman Harper and Jabari Greer), which might have been necessary.

But other than bringing in last-legs cornerback Champ Bailey, there wasn’t the kind of influx of talent they might have needed.

They improved last year based largely on energy and emotion, and we’ll see how long that lasts in the face of a talent discrepancy.

Changes.

The Saints traded a complementary running back, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a headline move.

But that back was Darren Sproles, who was such an integral part of their offense, catching 71 passes last year.

Replacing him will be a huge challenge, and they’re going to be relying on a deep group of backs.

Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram will likely get most of the carries, but Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet will need to make a big step to pick up the slack from Sproles’ departure.

Cooks might be the biggest beneficiary of the change, as they want to take advantage of his 4.3 speed. While it’s not a like-for-like replacement, he does have the same kind of game-changing ability as Sproles.

Camp Battles.

The Saints offensive line was a work in progress last year, but rookie Terron Armstead settled into a spot where they’re comfortable with him at left tackle. They were also able to hang onto right tackle Zach Strief and guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans return.

That leaves a hole in the middle, after Brian de la Puente left in free agency for Chicago.

Tim Lelito will get the first crack, but they brought veteran Jonathan Goodwin back for cover, giving them a reasonable competition.

It would also help if a young cornerback would step up opposite Keenan Lewis. They brought in Bailey, but all parties are probably best served if he’s able to limit his snaps a bit. Second-rounder Stanley Jean-Baptiste gives them some new size at the position, which will enable them to match up better with the big wideouts in their division.

Prospects.

They’re going to be pretty good.

If the defense continues at last year’s pace, they can be very good.

But the Saints have problems local and national.

They play in perhaps the league’s deepest division, with the Falcons healthy and re-tooled and the Buccaneers on the upswing with Lovie Smith along with the defensively stout Panthers.

Then comes the matter of whether they can stand toe-to-toe with the Seahawks and 49ers to make a push for another title.

That makes the regular season of extreme importance. They’re a different team in their own building, so getting home field advantage might mean more to them than any team in the NFC.

If they can get it, the Saints could easily be a Super Bowl team.

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Rex: I’m not saying I’m the best of all time, but I’m a great coach

Rex Ryan AP

Three straight seasons out of the playoffs has done nothing to diminish Jets coach Rex Ryan’s confidence.

Ryan continues to believe that he’s a great coach — and in his view, that’s not just a belief but a statement of fact.

“Do I think that I’m a great coach? I absolutely know I’m a great coach,” Ryan told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “But it’s not just about me. What makes a great coach is the people that surround you, the people that are with you every day. There’s guys that help me be a great coach. My players help me be a great coach.”

Ryan clarified that he’s not claiming he’s Vince Lombardi.

“I’m not saying that I’m the best or whatever . . . or the best of all time,” Ryan said. “I just know that I’m the best that I can be. I know that I’m willing to do the work. I may have limitations. I get that. But nobody’s going to convince me that they’re more passionate about their job than I am . . . and that they’re more passionate about their organization than me.”

Now this great coach needs his team to play like a great team — or at least a good team. If the Jets miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year, Ryan is going to be a great coach without a job.

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Tribe refuses “bribe money” from Washington foundation

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

It’s a story that has been percolating for a few days.  Now that the Associated Press has picked it up, the latest P.R. embarrassment regarding the Washington team name has become official.

A Native American tribe on the Arizona-California border trying to raise $250,000 for a skate park has refused funding from the Original Americans Foundation, a group started earlier this year by owner Daniel Snyder in response to ongoing opposition to a name regarded by many as a slur.

“No, we’re not going to accept any kind of monetary offer to side with allowing them to utilize the inappropriate name for this NFL team,” Quechan tribal president Keeny Escalanti Sr. told the AP.

“The sacrifice we took to say no wasn’t an easy one,” Escalanti added.  “We wish we could help the kids today by taking the partnership. We’re trying to teach our community and the youth that we can do things the right way.  We don’t have to accept this type of money from these people.”

Previously, the Arizona Republic explained that the tribe turned down a “blank check” from the foundation at a council meeting attended by Original Americans Foundation executive director Gary Edwards and director Karl Schreiber.

“He said he was a proud Redskin and had been a proud Redskin since he was a child,” Escalanti told the Republic regarding Edwards.  And it apparently got even more uncomfortable than that.

“Edwards just brought up key words that you just don’t bring up in Indian country, like assimilation, annihilation,” Escalanti said.  “And he tried to talk down about White people, saying they’re the oppressor. . . .  I don’t know what he thought he was doing in talking like that to us — impress us?  Like he thought he could talk like that among his ­fellow Natives?  It was so awkward.”

Thus, the tribe rejected an offer from the Original Americans Foundation to pay for the entire park, issuing the following statement to the Republic:  “We will not align ourselves with an organization to ­simply become a statistic in their fight for name acceptance in ­Native communities. . . .  We know bribe money when we see it.”

The debate regarding the name has simmered in recent weeks, with most of the news coming from failed efforts by the team to defend it.  While the controversy has reached a stage where it’s likely to not go away until the name changes, there wouldn’t be as much to say about the situation if the team could manage to stay out of its own way for a week or two.

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Bon Jovi’s group vows to keep team in Buffalo

BonJovi Getty Images

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi has indeed joined a Toronto-based group that hopes to buy the Buffalo Bills.  And Bon Jovi and company indeed are claiming that they intend to keep the team in Buffalo.

Via the Associated Press, Bon Jovi’s group has retained a banking firm and submitted paperwork expressing interest in buying the franchise from the estate of Ralph Wilson.  Via John Kryk of the Toronto Sun, Bon Jovi’s group has told others, and will inform the trust that will sell the team, that the Bills won’t leave Buffalo.

The first hint that Bon Jovi’s intentions had changed came when his former partner in the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul, Ron Jaworski, told Buffalo radio that Bon Jovi never intended and doesn’t intend to move the team.

It remains to be seen whether they mean it.  There’s a chance they mean it for now, and that they’ll mean it for as long as it takes to buy the franchise.  Then, after the 2019 season (when a window opens to buy out the rest of the lease) or after the 2022 season (when the lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium expires), they can have an unexpected change of heart.

That’s why it’s important for Bon Jovi to align with key former members of the team and to sell to them that he’s telling the truth, hopeful that they in turn will send that message to the fan base.  There’s a special connection between the all-time great Bills players and the fan base, and the fan base will be far more likely to believe the likes of Thurman Thomas than a guy who clearly wants to own the team not because it’s in Buffalo but because it’s in the NFL.

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McKelvin good to go for Bills, Dareus on non-football injury list

Dareus Getty Images

There’s good news and bad news out of Bills camp on a couple of defensive starters.

The good news is that the team announced cornerback Leodis McKelvin has been placed on the active roster. McKelvin had been placed on the physically unable to perform list because he’s recovering from hip surgery, but the Bills had their pre-camp conditioning test today, and McKelvin was apparently in good enough shape to pass the test and therefore start practicing with his teammates.

The bad news is that defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has been placed on the non-football injury list. The Bills did not explain the nature of Dareus’s injury, but it’s another piece of bad news in what has been a bad offseason. Dareus has been dealing with off-field trouble and was sent home from Organized Team Activities last month. Although Dareus has enormous talent, his act appears to be wearing thin in Buffalo.

The Bills also placed guard J.J. Unga on the non-football injury list.

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Gronk expects to play a 16-game season

Gronkowski AP

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has missed almost as many games as he’s played in the last two seasons, and he’s entered two straight offseasons with significant injuries. But Gronk thinks this year will be different.

Gronkowski told Mike Reiss of ESPN that his recovery from a torn ACL is going well enough that he expects to play in Week One. And Gronkowski expects to play in Week 17, and every week in between.

“I’m planning on playing the whole season this year,” Gronkowski said. “I just want to play football. I love playing the game.”

Gronkowski said, however, that he’s not sure if he’ll be good to go when training camp opens, and he understands if the team’s medical staff wants him to ease into things.

“I don’t know yet until I report, so I’ll sit down with the coaches and training staff and we’ll see,” he said. “I’m just working with the trainers right now, improving every single day and whenever it starts up, whatever the trainers have, whatever the coaches have for me, whatever we feel comfortable with [we'll be] doing as much as possible every day that I can do.”

Having Gronkowski on the field every Sunday would be a big boost to the Patriots.

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