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Second round could see a run on quarterbacks

Blake Bortles AP

Four teams that have Top 5 picks are eager to find a new franchise quarterbacks, and so it’s been widely assumed that the top of this year’s NFL draft will see a few quarterbacks going off the board early. But that may not be the case.

As we get closer to the draft, we’re hearing more talk that the stock of the top quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles) is dropping. And Peter King of TheMMQB.com now reports that the four teams in the Top 5 with quarterback needs — Oakland, Houston, Cleveland and Jacksonville — are all strongly considering passing on quarterbacks in the first round and drafting one in the second or third round instead.

Right now it doesn’t look like Bridgewater, Manziel or Bortles will be available in the second round. But at this time last year it didn’t look like Geno Smith would be available in the second round, and that’s where the Jets got him. And if those teams at the top of the draft think quarterbacks like Derek Carr, A.J. McCarron and Jimmy Garoppolo are comparable to Bridgewater, Manziel and Bortles, then it would make sense to wait until the second round.

Of course, that strategy falls apart if it turns out that a few teams in the middle or late first round are interested in some of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft. But right now, it looks like the teams that need quarterbacks the most are willing to wait until the second day of the draft.

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49ers haven’t decided to pick up the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith AP

By all accounts and appearances, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith decided at the wrong time in the worst place to be a wiseacre.

And now the 49ers have to decide what to do.  It’s extremely unlikely they’d cut him, because he’d be gobbled up on waivers — possibly by another team in the division.  Because Smith arrived via the first round of the 2011 draft, the 49ers have to decide by May 3 whether to exercise the fifth-year option on Smith’s rookie contract.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the 49ers haven’t decided to exercise the option.  They’ll be discussing the question in the coming days and weeks, and they have less than three weeks to resolve the issue.  The analysis will entail further homework regarding Smith’s off-field issues, especially since the obvious question that arises from Smith’s decision (allegedly) to joke about a bomb with a TSA agent is whether Smith was under the influence of alcohol, or something else.

Smith spent an extended stretch in rehab last year, after being arrested behind the wheel of his car while allegedly intoxicated on a Friday, hours before practice and two days before a game.  And then there are pending felony gun charges, for which Smith will soon be back in court.

If the 49ers don’t use the option, it could wake Smith up.  But then the 49ers would have only one franchise tag to use in 2015, and possibly two guys who merit it:  Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick.

Either way, it’s been a challenging week for the 49ers. And it will get no easier as they try to figure out what to do with a player who has racked up 42 sacks in 43 regular-season games.

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49ers “disappointed to learn” of Aldon Smith incident at LAX

AldonSmith AP

The reports about linebacker Aldon Smith being detained at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday were correct.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that airport police detained Smith after he indicated he had a bomb while in the security line. Schefter also shared video of the incident while the airport police have released the following report, via the Sacramento Bee, about the incident.

“At approximately 1400 hrs, a 25-year-old male resident of San Jose, California, was going through Terminal 1 screening and was randomly selected for a secondary screening. The suspect then became belligerent and uncooperative with the process and with the TSA agent, making a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb before proceeding towards the gate area. Los Angeles Airport Police made contact with him at the gate and he was positively identified as the person in question. Once again the male subject became uncooperative and he was detained and taken into custody by Airport Police and is currently being transported to LAPD for booking.”

The 49ers have released a statement as well, the second time this week that they’ve confirmed their knowledge of reports concerning their players’ off-field behavior and the second time they’ve withheld further comment until warranted.

We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith,” General Manager Trent Baalke said in the statement. “As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment.”

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Aldon Smith reportedly detained by police at LAX

Aldon Smith AP

A police report from Miami landed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the news last week and now reports from Los Angeles International Airport are ending the week with another player in the news.

A witness named John Egan told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group that linebacker Aldon Smith was waiting for a Southwest flight when he was approached by several police officers who led him away from the gate. TMZ has a picture of the reported incident that shows police handcuffing the man identified as Smith.

“I heard him say, ‘I did nothing wrong,’” Egan said. “The whole thing ratcheted up from there. The cops were trying to calm him down. He wasn’t out of control; just agitated.”

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that Smith “became belligerent in a security line and said something about having a bomb.”

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed an arrest was made but said they would not identify him until he was booked. We’ll follow up with more one way or another once they do.

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Two Gronkowski brothers suffer injuries at regional combines

2nd Annual Style Icon VIP Luxury Lounge And Gifting Suite - Day 1 AP

The NFL’s regional combines serve as an opportunity for prospective players to show what they can do for NFL teams. But they also serve as an opportunity for players to get hurt, as two members of the Gronkowski family found out the hard way.

According to Albert Breer of NFL Network, free agent tight end Dan Gronkowski ruptured a pectoral muscle during the bench press on Saturday at the regional combine in Detroit and had to withdraw before finishing workouts for the scouts in attendance.

Dan’s injury comes three weeks after another member of the family, Chris Gronkowski, suffered a hamstring injury and couldn’t finish a regional combine in Miami. Chris referred to his hamstring injury as just “tweaking it a little bit.” Dan’s pectoral injury sounds more serious than that.

The regional combines are different from the annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which is just for draft-eligible players. Regional combines attract free agents, many of whom already have NFL experience. Dan Gronkowski has played in 21 NFL games and Chris Gronkowski has played in 35 NFL games, but neither is currently under contract to an NFL team.

The best player of the Gronkowski brothers, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, is on schedule in his recovery from surgery to repair a torn ACL. The three NFL Gronkowskis also have an older brother who is a former minor league baseball player and a younger brother who is a fullback at Kansas State.

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Unnamed personnel exec calls Clowney “spoiled” and “lazy”

Clowney AP

Every year at this time, scouts and personnel executives slide behind the cover of anonymity and take low blows at top prospects.

Some of the scouts and personnel executives are doing it for one reason:  To get the player to slide down the board so that the team whose employee is saying bad things privately about said player can draft him.

It’s one of the few certainties about the NFL’s talent acquisition process.  Teams that like a player will say bad things about him in order to have a crack at him.  Teams that don’t like a player will say good things, in the hopes that a team drafting higher will take him, pushing more desirable prospects down the board.

Without knowing the team, it’s impossible to know whether that agenda applies here.  But that doesn’t stop plenty of media outlets from taking the quotes and using them, since they inject sizzle into the process.

The latest comes from Mark Eckel of NJ.com, who quotes an unnamed NFC personnel exec who doesn’t like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

He’s spoiled, and he’s lazy,’’ the unnamed executive said.  “He’s never worked hard a day in his life, now all of a sudden you’re going to give him a bunch of money and expect him to work hard.  I don’t see it.’’

For good measure (perhaps), the unnamed executive expressed a belief that Clowney won’t slide.  But maybe that’s just the genius of it.

“Oh, he’s going to be a high pick,’’ the unnamed executive said.  “Some team will fall in love with him.  But wait and see, just wait and see.  I just don’t think you can count on him.  I’m betting the under on him.’’

Lies get told all the time in the NFL, and the pre-draft process contains the highest concentration of them.  The audience needs to understand that when trying to assess the value of such observations.

Here’s the answer, in a nutshell:  There is none.

For that reason, we hope the media will think twice before serving as the conduit for unnamed scouts dumping on kids who are finally in line to get paid for the risks they assume and the efforts they contribute.

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Jake Locker was surprised Chris Johnson was cut

Jake Locker, Chris Johnson AP

Titans quarterback Jake Locker wasn’t expecting to play without running back Chris Johnson this year.

Locker said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was surprised to find out that the Titans were releasing Johnson, their starting running back for the last six seasons.

“He’s obviously been a huge part of this organization in past years and been a big contributor to what we’ve done on offense,” Locker said. “I don’t think anybody really had an idea how that was going to go, how that was going to work. Unfortunately he ended up somewhere else and and we wish him the best, where ever he does end up landing. But he gave a lot to this organization, this team, and I think everybody who had the opportunity to play with him is thankful for that.”

Locker may have been surprised, but for the rest of us, it’s surprising that he was surprised. Johnson averaged a career-low 3.9 yards a carry last year and was due to make $8 million this year. It’s been clear for months that the Titans were done with Johnson, even if Locker wasn’t ready for it.

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If Bills go before 2020, owner could go to jail

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The monopoly that is the NFL has something very tangible in common with the game of the same name.

In Buffalo, the Bills lease contains a provision that could result in a future owner going to jail.  In theory.

As explained by the Buffalo News, the team’s lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium includes a non-relocation agreement that allows the county or the state to obtain a court order blocking a move before the narrow window to relocate opens after the 2019 season.  If a court order blocking a move is granted and if the team’s owner tries to move despite the order, the owner could be jailed for contempt of court.

It would never get to that.  The NFL wouldn’t approve a move of the franchise if doing so would violate the team’s lease.

As the Buffalo News points out, a $28.4 million escape clause still applies in 2020.  It means the team definitely will remain in Buffalo for at least six more years.

Which buys the powers-that-be well over 2,020 days to come up with a way to persuade the next owner to choose to not to, come 2020, make like a tree and get out of Western New York.

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QB coach Terry Shea on RGIII: He reminded me of player I saw coming out of Baylor

Robert Griffin III AP

Before the 2012 draft, former NFL quarterbacks coach Terry Shea tutored Robert Griffin III to get him ready for the NFL game.

The results were strong during Griffin’s rookie year, but a serious knee injury in the playoffs and a rough 2013 season have raised doubts about Griffin’s long-term outlook. Shea is not one of those doubters. He spent a week with Griffin in March working on fundamentals and mechanics and came away feeling like the old Griffin was back.

“He looked 100% healthy,” Shea said, via USA Today. “I didn’t let up on him and, boy, he kept coming — and he reminded me of the old Robert Griffin that I knew coming out of Baylor for those eight-10 weeks we worked together in 2012. He could have very easily lost it given the year he had. I put him through a gantlet of drills. And Robert made all the throws, showing great skills. It sure appeared to me that he took that next step as a pocket passer.”

Shea stressed footwork after watching Griffin throw too many passes with improper technique last season and felt that Griffin cleaned up much of what was wrong during their time together. Shea also feels the addition of coach Jay Gruden and wide receiver DeSean Jackson will be a big boost to a player that needs one after a rocky second year in the NFL.

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Native American groups distance themselves from the Redskins

US-AMFOOT-NFL-REDSKINS-INDIGENOUS-RACISM

Dan Snyder’s effort to curry favor with Native Americans through his Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation may be backfiring.

The Native Indian Gaming Association, a nonprofit with 184 Indian nations as members pulled its sponsorship from a charity golf tournament this weekend because the Redskins’ Foundation was involved in the same event. The organization said it questioned whether Snyder was sincere about wanting to aid Native Americans and didn’t want to be involved in a charade.

It’s a blatant attempt to try to buy out the issue,” Ernest Stevens, chairman of the Native Indian Gaming Association, told USA Today.

The Native Indian Gaming Association is not alone in wanting to distance itself from the Redskins. The Navajo Nation Council voted to oppose the use of the Washington Redskins name last week, and James Anaya, a United Nations expert on indigenous people’s rights, urged Snyder to “consider that the term ‘redskin’ for many is inextricably linked to a history of suffering and dispossession.”

There may be nothing Snyder can do to convince anyone that he’s sincerely listening to Native Americans. Nothing other than changing the Redskins’ name.

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Steve Smith isn’t upset that he’s not a Panther

Smith Getty Images

Last month, when the Panthers cut receiver Steve Smith, Steve Smith wasn’t happy.

“[P]ut your goggles on cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere,” Smith said at the time regarding the prospect of facing the Panthers.

Now that he’s had some time to process the turn of events, Smith has become ambivalent.  Or so he says.

What’s in the past is in the past,” Smith said during a Friday appearance in Charlotte, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.  “At the end of the day, you go to the kitchen, you get a washcloth, you pick up the spilled milk and you move on.  That’s what I’m doing.  I’m moving on.”

He’s moving on, without hard feelings.  Or so he says.

“I have nothing bad to say about Mr. Richardson or the organization,” Smith said.  “And I won’t.  And I refuse to because they deserve nothing but my respect.  At the end of the day, they’ve done great things for me, given me an opportunity to bless my family.”

We buy it.  While it’s understandable to be disappointed and to have that disappointment flash initially as anger, Smith has matured.  It doesn’t mean he won’t be ready to spill some blood and guts when his new team, the Ravens, face his old team.  But Smith seems to be ready in any given game to do that, which is the way football at its highest level must be played.

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Gronkowski is on schedule in his ACL rehab

Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots Getty Images

As Rams coach Jeff Fisher observed at the Scouting Combine, every player who has surgery has a successful surgery, and his rehab is always ahead of schedule.

We’ve found an exception to the rule.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski reportedly isn’t ahead of schedule after tearing an ACL late in the 2013 regular season.  According to Albert Breer of NFL Media, Gronkowski is merely on schedule.

Per Breer, Gronkowski is “right where he should be,” and he soon will start jogging.

Of course, with Gronkowski “right where he should be” could yield to a reality of protracted delays and reports of coaching-staff and/or teammate frustration.  But it’s hard to blame Gronkowski for waiting until he’s truly 100 percent.  In recent years, he’s become the NFL’s version of Cavity Sam, with ankle surgery, back surgery, and multiple forearm surgeries to go with a major knee surgery.

Gronk Watch surely will be one of the main story lines of 2014, especially if the Pats decide to activate him from the Physically Unable to Perform list before Week One, sparking an every-given-Sunday flurry of reports on whether this Sunday will be the Sunday in which he plays.

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LeSean McCoy defends DeSean Jackson

McCoy AP

When it comes to the Eagles’ decision to dump receiver DeSean Jackson, no members of the team have publicly supported their former teammate.

One very important member of the team has bucked the trend.

It’s a surprise for sure,” running back LeSean McCoy said Saturday, via Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com. “I think anybody that tells you that they’re happy about it, I don’t know how honest that would be. It was a surprise.  You heard so much, you didn’t really know.  Not playing with him this year is gonna definitely be different. And playing against him is really gonna be different. I just imagine all the times we used to . . . knowing defensive teams are gonna try to defend us and different things like that, and now we’ve gotta defend against him, so it’s gonna be a little different.”

McCoy also undermined reports of friction between Jackson and coach Chip Kelly.

“I’ve never seen that,” McCoy said. “I’ve never seen them two really get into it. Coach Kelly, the good thing I will say about him is he’s understanding.  So if there’s ever an issue or problem, he seems to always work it out.”

And McCoy disputed the idea that Jackson didn’t connect with teammates.

“I’m his teammate, or I was his teammate, and we connected very well off the field,” McCoy said.  “I think this game, everybody’s professionals.  There’s guys that have kids, there’s guys that are a little older.  DeSean doesn’t have any kids so small things on a team that you really notice.  And off the field, I’ve bonded with DeSean.”

McCoy nevertheless has adjusted to the move, and he assumes Jackson has, too.

“We gotta live on, we gotta play them guys,” McCoy said. “As much as I’m a friend, I can’t wait to go out there and beat on the Redskins, so it’s a mutual feeling.  And I’m sure when he comes up to Philly, he wants to have a great game.  So we’ll still be friends.  We’ll still text and talk all the time — after the game, probably not before the game.  But we’ll still be friends.  Plus he got $16 million guaranteed. He’s not happy?”

McCoy seems to be happy with the Eagles, and the Eagles seem to be happy with him.  But Jackson’s experience shows everyone in the locker room that things can change.

“You know that nobody’s safe in this game as far as being here forever,” McCoy said.  “But then you feel like alright well I’ve established myself so much, I did so much.  [But] anybody can go.  So I think it just makes you straighten up a little bit more.  Maybe things that you think that you can get away with, you can’t.  And that’s how it is.”

Here’s how it is for McCoy.  He plays running back, a position that continues to have less and less value to NFL teams, with each passing year.  He’s due to earn a base salary of $7.65 million in 2014.  It spikes to $9.75 million, with a cap number of $11.95 million, in 2015.

For a running back.  Where the top of the veteran market generated $3.5 million per year in 2014.  Where Chris Johnson struggles to get half of the $8 million he was due to earn in Tennessee this season.

In other words, LeSean could be next year’s DeSean.

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Ex-NFL player charged with attempting to murder NFL hopeful

LSU v Mississippi State Getty Images

Former NFL player Brandon Winey has been arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder in the Friday shooting of former LSU linebacker Tahj Jones.

The New Orleans Times Picayune reports that police say the 36-year-old Winey got into a fight with Jones and then pulled a gun late on Friday night.

Winey produced a handgun and shot Jones in the abdomen,” police said.

Winey also played at LSU. He was a sixth-round draft pick of the Dolphins in 2001 and bounced around the league for a few years, playing a total of 24 regular-season games.

Jones is a senior at LSU who recently worked out at LSU’s Pro Day. He is not expected to be drafted, but could catch on with some team as an undrafted free agent. He had emergency surgery overnight and is currently in serious condition.

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Police: Too early to say what evidence shows in Kaepernick case

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Miami police say it’s simply too soon to say what the evidence shows in the investigation of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette.

“We have to examine evidence and wait for some tests to come back, including toxicology reports,” Police Chief Manuel Orosa told the Miami Herald. “We can present it to the state attorney and they can decide whether to continue. . . . It’s too early to determine what the evidence indicates.”

A Miami police spokesman previously said there is “no evidence of a crime or a sexual assault.” Orosa’s statement indicates that it would be more accurate to say the police don’t yet know if there is evidence of a crime or a sexual assault because they haven’t yet processed all of the evidence.

According to the Herald, the woman who filed the incident report with police underwent a rape test. The results of that test have not been made public.

The woman said she was drinking with the three players at Lockette’s apartment, went to bed after feeling lightheaded and then woke up in the hospital, not knowing how she got there. According to the Herald, it was someone in the apartment who called police, and it was Miami firefighters who took the woman to the hospital.

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