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Andre Johnson sighting at NRG Stadium sparks speculation he’ll report for camp

Miami Dolphins v Houston Texans Getty Images

As the Texans and receiver Andre Johnson remain at an impasse over whether he’ll be given a chance to earn back $1 million in a squandered roster bonus, a new development suggests he’ll show up for training camp.

Unless it doesn’t.

Per multiple reports, Johnson was spotted Monday at NRG Stadium, the building in which the Texans play and the location of the team’s facilities.  Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, however, Johnson’s visit to the building doesn’t mean he’ll be showing up for training camp.  It likewise doesn’t mean he won’t be showing up for camp.

After the offseason program ends and before the start of training camp, players are permitted to use the team facility to work out on their own, as long as no coach, trainer, or other club personnel participates in the process.  That’s possibly all that Johnson was doing — utilizing his free access to the weight room and other exercise equipment at the team facility.

So, yes, Johnson was there.  And, no, it doesn’t mean anything, one way or the other.

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Tony Dungy elaborates on his Michael Sam comments

Dungy Getty Images

On Monday, the Tampa Tribune published Tony Dungy’s answer to the question of whether he would have drafted Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly-gay player.  Dungy’s 38 words triggered a flood of debate and controversy, and plenty of pointed criticism.

On Tuesday, Dungy issued a statement elaborating on his comments.  The full text of it appears here.

Dungy explains that the quotes were obtained in the aftermath of the draft, following the news that Oprah Winfrey would turn Sam’s story into a reality show.  (The plug has since been pulled on the project.)

“I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team,” Dungy says.

“I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL.  He absolutely does.

“I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process.  It should not.

“I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team.  I would not.”

Dungy notes that he had been asked those questions in the preceding three months, and that he consistently said that playing in the NFL “is, and should be, about merit.”  The question posted by the Tampa Tribune focused much more narrowly than that.

“What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams,” the former Buccaneers and Colts head coach says.  “I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.  I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction.  Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.”

While not mentioned by Dungy, Sam’s status as a marginal prospect likely was a factor in that analysis.  Some players are good enough to justify the distractions that come along with employing them, from Lawrence Taylor to Michael Vick to Ben Roethlisberger to Johnny Manziel.  Sam, the 249th selection in a 256-man draft, may not be good enough to make it.  Thus, Dungy and plenty of other coaches would choose not put on the roster bubble a player whose mere presence could be the equivalent of signing up for Hard Knocks.

And then, if/when the player is cut, the scrutiny intensifies.  “Did his teammates not accept him?”  “Was there a power struggle in the front office?”  “Is the coaching staff split?”  “Did something happen?”

Dungy is expected to talk about the situation later this week, on The Dan Patrick Show.  Until then, his statement and the context of his original comments should be considered, regardless of whether Dungy’s position is being criticized or praised.

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Bengals want to pay Dalton like Kaepernick

Dalton AP

When the real numbers of the long-term contract signed by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became available, it became apparent that any team with a potential franchise quarterback should offer the same deal.  Now.

Not surprisingly, a team widely regarded as being extremely careful with money wants to pay its potential franchise quarterback like Kaepernick.

Via Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ official website, owner Mike Brown believes Dalton’s deal should be in the Kaepernick range.  Presumably, a deal already would be done if Dalton’s camp agreed with that sentiment.

And if there was/were/whatever any doubt that the Kaepernick deal is incredibly team friendly, the Bengals’ willingness to give the same contract to a guy who hasn’t won a playoff game proves it.  A mere $13 million fully guaranteed at signing on a seven-year commitment from the player.  A very late (relatively speaking) April 1 deadline each year for dumping the player before injury-only guarantees become full guarantees.  An annual average that pays the quarterback mid-level money now and, given spikes in the salary cap, mid-level money (or worse) in the out years.  And an obligation for the player to plunk down a ton of cash for a $20 million disability policy payable to the team in the event that he suffers a career-ending injury.

So, yes, the Bengals should try to give Dalton that same contract.  And the Panthers should try to give it to Cam Newton.

And the Colts should try to give it to Andrew Luck.  And so on throughout the league as each young quarterback with franchise potential becomes eligible for a new deal.

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Norv Turner: Our three QBs are as good a group as I could ask for

vikingsqbs AP

If you were an NFL offensive coordinator and your quarterback depth chart consisted of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater, would you be optimistic? You would be if you were Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who says those three players give his team a strong group of passers.

“We’re sitting there with two quarterbacks who have taken teams to playoffs and won over 10 games, which is hard to do,” Turner told Vikings.com. “And we’ve got a young guy that’s exciting to be around. So our quarterback situation is as good as you could ask for and I think we’ll get a high level of play from those guys.”

It is true that Ponder and Cassel have both been the starting quarterback for teams that went 10-6 and got to the playoffs. Then again, Ponder and Cassel were both on the Vikings last year, and they went 5-10-1 and finished last in the NFC North. The reality is, if Bridgewater isn’t good enough to start ahead of Cassel and Ponder, Vikings fans will be disappointed.

The good news is that Turner said he sees “great upside” to Bridgewater and believes the Vikings got a steal with the 32nd overall pick in the draft. If Turner is right about that, Vikings fans can forget about Cassel and Ponder, because Bridgewater is both the present and the future of the team.

Turner also acknowledged that the Vikings’ strength on offense will likely be its running game, but Turner said he thinks the passing game will at least be good enough that Adrian Peterson doesn’t see many eight-man fronts.

“You play to the strength of your team,” Turner said. “I really believe that we have enough talent across the board, enough guys who can make plays, that we can do some things that will take some attention away from Adrian.”

Last year Cassel and Ponder weren’t able to take much attention away from Peterson. Maybe Bridgewater can do it.

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Kaufman provides context to Dungy remarks

Dungy AP

Hall of Fame coaching finalist and NBC Football Night in America analyst Tony Dungy made major waves on Monday with comments to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune regarding Rams defensive end Michael Sam.

I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy told Kaufman.  “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth . . . things will happen.’’

On Tuesday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show, Kaufman provided context and further insight regarding the remarks.

“I think what he was trying to say, and this is what’s going to make it very difficult in terms of an additional response, because it’s sensitive,” Kaufman said.  “Dan, this is not Sammy Watkins.  This is Michael Sam.  And by that I mean, by definition, a seventh-round draft pick is marginal.  The guy’s marginal.  May make the roster, may not make the roster.  Nobody’s gonna be surprised if any seventh-round pick doesn’t make the roster.

“So I think it’s almost like he’s not worth the trouble,” Kaufman said of Sam.  “Now, you can’t say that, that’s a very crude way to put it.  And Tony won’t put it like that.  But I think you’ve got to factor in the fact that [Sam] almost went undrafted, and there’s no question that the Oprah Network and TMZ, they’re gonna be at Rams Park, and they’re not gonna be there to check on Aaron Donald’s progress at nose tackle.  And you know that.  They’re gonna be there for a specific purpose . . . . He put his coaching hat on and not as an analyst for NBC in answering the question and as a coach, a marginal prospect weighed against the distraction, and that’s why he said what I said.  That’s what I think he meant.”

Eventually, we’ll hear more about what Dungy meant.  He’s scheduled to join Dan’s show later in the week.  Until then, the reaction to the comments will continue.

“I’m a little surprised about what he said,” Kaufman said of Dungy.  “I was surprised at the time.  I’m surprised now.  Just because of his reputation as a pioneer, outspoken about minority issues.  Keeping an open mind on hiring practices.  Don’t go in with stereotypes.  But, again, I don’t think he was being homophobic.”

Sam is indeed a marginal prospect.  Rams G.M. Les Snead told PFT Live two days after picking Sam that the Rams hoped to sign a pair of defensive ends as undrafted free agents, but that the team feared undrafted free agents wouldn’t choose to join a depth chart stacked with pass rushers.  That makes the uphill climb even more challenging for Sam.

And that makes this situation far different from Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball.  Robinson’s talent was undeniable.  Branch Rickey wouldn’t have stuck his neck out for a player who would have been struggling to stay on the roster.  The Rams have willingly embraced a slew of potential distractions with no obvious strategic upside.

That’s possibly what Tony was saying.  We’ll know much more when Tony addresses the comments later this week.

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Preseason Power Rankings No. 2: San Francisco 49ers

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers have arguably been the best team in the NFL over the last three seasons with a Super Bowl appearance and two NFC Championship game appearances on their resume. But any trip to the postseason that doesn’t end with that final victory leaves a team ultimately unfulfilled.

Despite some changes to the roster and some off-field incidents this offseason, the 49ers are once again primed to push for a sixth Super Bowl title this season.

San Francisco should be more dynamic offensively with a healthy Michael Crabtree and the addition of Steve Johnson to provide targets for Colin Kaepernick. However, the 49ers may have lost a little strength on the defensive side of the ball. NaVorro Bowman could miss a significant portion of the season while returning from injury and Aldon Smith could be suspended for transgressions off the field. In addition, all four members of the 49ers starting secondary in Super Bowl XLVII have now moved on with some question marks remaining.

Strengths.

The 49ers running game should continue to be among the most explosive in the league. Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick are a daunting threats to carry the ball. In addition, Kendall Hunter, Carlos Hyde and possibly even Marcus Lattimore provide capable depth for an aging  (but somehow still not diminishing) Frank Gore. San Francisco will need to hope Daniel Kilgore can be an adequate replacement at center for the departed Jonathan Goodwin.

When healthy and able to play, the 49ers linebackers remain as strong as any unit in football. Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith are dynamic threats at outside linebacker with NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis as two of the best inside linebackers in the game. However, Bowman could miss several games while recovering from a knee injury in the NFC Championship game and Smith’s off-field issues could likely lead to a suspension this fall.

Weaknesses.

San Francisco is noticeably weaker at cornerback than they were during their run to the NFC title in 2012. Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown are now gone, leaving Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver as the penciled starters with journeymen Perrish Cox and Chris Cook as depth options. Brock has proven to be a solid player. However, Culliver could ultimately be suspended as well for a felony charge of possession of brass knuckles stemming from a hit-and-run arrest this offeseason.

Colin Kaepernick’s play against the division rival Seattle Seahawks is also an area of concern. In four career starts against Seattle, Kaepernick has struggled mightily in the passing game. He’s completed just 52 percent of his passes for an average of 175 yards per game with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. Against all other opponents, Kaepernick has thrown 34 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. San Francisco is just 1-3 in those games and has been outscored by a margin of 111-52. Considering the road to the top of the division likely goes through Seattle, this an area that the 49ers have to hope Kaepernick can improve in.

Changes.

Daniel Kilgore is penciled in to replace Jonathan Goodwin as the starting center for the 49ers. It’s the first shake up to an offensive line that has been among the league’s elite units over the past few seasons.

Antoine Bethea was signed to replace the departed Donte Whitner at strong safety.

Meanwhile, the addition of Steve Johnson and the return of Brandon Lloyd to the 49ers could stabilize a receiving corps that was underwhelming last season.

Camp battles.

While Kilgore may have the jump-start, rookie Marcus Martin could also challenge for the starting center job once he comes off the non-football injury list.

The 49ers will need to find an interim replacement for NaVorro Bowman at inside linebacker. Michael Wilhoite, Nick Moody and rookies Chris Borland and Shayne Skov will likely be called upon to challenge for the job.

Prospects.

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL. The problem for San Francisco right now is that until they can prove otherwise, the Seahawks are better.

The injury to Bowman and potential suspension of Smith, along with the changes in the secondary could cause some initial struggles defensively for the 49ers as well. However, the 49ers are still plenty talented enough to compete for the divisional title in the NFC West.

Another year of experience from Colin Kaepernick and improved quality at the receiver position should make the passing game more efficient this season. With a rock solid rushing attack, the 49ers offense could be the best it has been with Kaepernick under center.

The Seahawks and 49ers don’t meet until Thanksgiving night in Santa Clara before playing twice in three weeks. Those two meetings will likely go a long way toward determining the champion of a loaded NFC West and a favorite in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl.

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Eli Manning admits he’s “a little nervous” in Giants’ new offense

New York Giants quarterback Manning reacts on the sideline against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at their NFL football game in Atlanta Getty Images

Giants quarterback Eli Manning is coming off a miserable season, with a career-high 27 interceptions to go with just 18 touchdowns, his fewest since his rookie year. So the good news about the Giants’ new offense is that Manning could hardly get worse.

But Manning admits that learning the system of new coordinator Ben McAdoo could make things tough as he enters training camp.

“Yeah, it is different. You come into the season a little nervous; you just don’t have [the same comfort],’’ Manning said, via the New York Post. “You have a good feel for it, but not to where I want it to be. That’s with repetition and more plays. It’s a different feeling this time of year than in previous years. We’ve still got a lot of work to do and a lot to improve on to get comfortable, myself with my teammates and everything that goes on with being successful in an offense. I know we’ve got a lot of work to do. But we’re excited about that challenge.’’

Manning says his surgically repaired ankle is completely healed and won’t be an issue. Now he just needs to learn the offense well enough that he throws a lot fewer than 27 interceptions, and a lot more than 18 touchdown passes, this year.

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No 2011 draft picks expected to hold out from training camp

Watt Getty Images

When the rookie wage scale grossly restricted the money earned by players taken at the top of the 2011 draft, a theory emerged that once players became eligible for new contracts after their third NFL seasons, plenty of the men who became quality players would hold out until receiving the money they didn’t get upon entering the league in order to prevent busts from being unduly overpaid.

So far, that theory has busted.  No members of the 2011 draft class are poised to hold out, even though none of the first-round picks has received a second contract.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, a fifth-round pick that year, has gotten a massive payday.  But he’s the rare exception.  First-rounders like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, and J.J. Watt (pictured) are waiting — and they’re waiting very patiently.

In fact, only one 2011 draft pick has taken a stand this offseason.  Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston boycotted the offseason program and a mandatory minicamp.  He’s still expected to report this week for Chiefs’ training camp, especially since he is only a season away from free agency, unlike the first-rounders whose hands are tied by the fifth-year option.

The situation will further bolster the idea that the NFL won big in the last CBA, even though the truth remains that the NFLPA got the best deal it could given a rank-and-file that didn’t want to miss a paycheck.  As a result, the paychecks will continue to smaller for for all rookies drafted from 2011 through the end of the decade, whether superstar or half-a-star.

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Pettine: Browns to name starting QB by third preseason game

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer?

According to coach Mike Pettine, we’ll have a winner of the Browns’ QB derby in about a month.

In a Q&A published Monday, Pettine told the Akron Beacon Journal the club will pick a starting quarterback by Cleveland’s August 23 preseason game vs. St. Louis.

“I don’t know if I’ll set a date and kind of paint ourselves into a date, but it will be sooner than the third preseason game,” Pettine told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal.

Teams typically play their starters more in the third exhibition game than in any of the other preseason contests, so if the Browns stick to the plan, the No. 1 quarterback will get an extended stint with the first-team offense in an important dress rehearsal for Cleveland.

Hoyer, a sixth-year pro who attended high school in Cleveland, will try to hold off the rookie Manziel, a first-round pick and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

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Sammy Watkins gives Bills a mild scare

Watkins AP

Teams that play in the Hall of Fame game get to open camp a week or so earlier than most other teams.  Which gives the teams that play in the Hall of Fame game extra practice time.

Which, when coming before other teams have opened camp, makes those teams the center of media attention.  Which, when one of their hottest young players gets injured, sets Twitter ablaze.

On Monday, Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, based on simultaneous tweets from roughly a dozen or more media accounts, caught a ball in traffic and emerged with an injury.  Some said he was dazed.  Others said he appeared to have a cut on his forehead or eye.

After practice, coach Doug Marrone told reporters that Watkins had been poked in the eye.  It’s one of the risks of football practice, especially when a guy is willing to go over the middle.

“He shows that,” Marrone said regarding Watkins’ fearlessness.  “He’s made a very good career for himself, in college, being able to go over the middle. That’s always a big test when you get to this level to make sure you can come over the middle.  He’s a fearless player and, again, at the same time you have to be smart when you do that.”

Luck is also a factor.  On Monday, Watkins and the Bills got lucky.

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Favre denies he’s worried about getting booed at Lambeau Field

Favre Getty Images

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said recently that Brett Favre has not committed to a jersey retirement ceremony at Lambeau Field in part because “He wouldn’t want to come back to be booed.” But Favre says that’s not the case.

“I’ve heard that was a concern of mine, and I’m here to tell you I’m not,” Favre said on ESPN 1000. “I’m not worried about that. I’m well aware that you can’t please everyone. Not everyone’s going to like you regardless, and you know what, so be it. But I think the 16 years that I had in Green Bay speaks for itself.”

Favre was booed off the field the last time he played at Lambeau with the Vikings, but he thinks he’d be cheered if he returned to have his green and gold No. 4 jersey retired.

“I have played with other teams, but I will be remembered as a Packer,” Favre said. “I feel that. I think the true Packer backers, which there are tons out there, feel the same way. I’m not the first player to play for other teams or rivals. . . . As time goes by, that’s how I will be remembered, as a Packer, and that’s how I want to be remembered.”

Favre believes that most Packers fans remember him fondly, even if they didn’t much like the way he left.

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Bengals have crowded house on PUP, NFI

Marvin Getty Images

Maybe it would have been easier for the Bengals to list the players they haven’t put on the Physically Unable to Perform or Non-Football Injury lists.

As the team that has gone to the playoffs three straight times prepares to defend its AFC North crown, the Bengals will not have the services of 12 players who have been placed on the PUP or NFI list.

On PUP, which means they can’t pass a physical because of a past football injury while in the NFL, are defensive tackle Geno Atkins (knee), guard Clint Boling (knee), linebacker Marquis Flowers (hamstring), cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles), punter Kevin Huber (neck), receiver Colin Lockett (hamstring), defensive tackle Zach Minter (back), defensive tackle Devon Still (back), and receiver Ryan Whalen (hamstring).

On NFI, which means something happened away from the team facility, are receiver Marvin Jones (ankle), cornerback Onterio McCalebb (knee), and quarterback AJ McCarron (shoulder).

Jones, who participated in the offseason program, apparently injured the ankle during the down time after OTAs.  It’s unclear how long any of the 12 players will be unavailable to practice in advance of the 2014 season.

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Preseason power rankings No. 3: Denver Broncos

John Elway, John Fox AP

Can Peyton Manning win another Super Bowl?

That is the question people ask when they talk about these Denver Broncos. John Elway, John Fox and the rest of the decision makers in Denver answer that question with an emphatic yes, and they’ve made it clear that they’re putting all their chips on the table and trying to win a championship now: Not only have the Broncos given Manning a good corps of receivers, but the Broncos also invested heavily in veteran free agents on defense this offseason, most notably DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. The plan in Denver is try to win another title while Manning is still on top, and worry about the potential consequences of having a lot of expensive aging veterans on the roster later.

That’s a strategy that makes a lot of sense, but it’s also a strategy that has the potential to blow up in the Broncos’ faces, if Manning and some of the other veterans on the roster begin to show their age more quickly than the Broncos are expecting. Still, the Broncos enter this season looking like the best team in the AFC.

Strengths.

Obviously, it begins with Peyton Manning, the reigning MVP of the NFL, who’s coming off perhaps the greatest season any NFL player has ever had. As long as Manning is healthy, the Broncos will have a great passing offense.

But it goes beyond Manning. If left tackle Ryan Clady is back to form and healthy for 16 games, the offensive line should be better than it was last year, when Clady was lost for the season in Week Two. And the receiving corps, featuring Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker along with new arrivals Emmanuel Sanders and second-round draft pick Cody Latimer, could be better too. And don’t forget that tight end Julius Thomas, who burst onto the scene last year, is still relatively inexperienced and may keep getting better this year.

The Broncos’ run defense was solid last year (stopping Seattle’s running backs was about the only thing the Broncos did well in the Super Bowl), and it could be better this year as well. The Broncos liked the way 2013 first-round draft pick Sylvester Williams played late last year at defensive tackle, and this year there’s every reason to expect a strong second season.

Weaknesses.

Last year the Broncos’ most significant weakness was their pass defense, which is why the pass defense was the top priority in free agency. Can DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward turn that pass defense into a strength? If so, the 2014 Broncos may be even better than the 2013 Broncos. If not, they’re going to need the offense to win a lot of shootouts. The wild card is the return of Von Miller, who was suspended for the first six games of last season and then missed the playoffs with a torn ACL. If Miller is healthy for 16 games and as good a pass rusher as he was in 2012, then maybe we’ll need to list the Broncos’ pass defense under “strengths.”

Middle linebacker Nate Irving could turn out to be a weakness in the Broncos’ defense if he can’t prove he’s ready to handle the starting job on a full-time basis. Wesley Woodyard departed in free agency, and Denver needs Irving to be ready to handle the responsibilities that Woodyard handled last year.

Special teams may turn out to be a weakness for the Broncos as well. Last year they struggled covering kicks (although that was partially masked by the fact that it’s easy to boot the ball into the end zone for a touchback in Denver), and the Broncos still have no idea who will return punts and kickoffs for them.

Changes.

Champ Bailey has meant a lot to this franchise for the last 10 seasons, and it will look a little strange to watch the Broncos’ defense and not see Bailey. But adding both veteran Aqib Talib and rookie Bradley Roby should change the cornerback position for the better.

Eric Decker is also a significant loss at wide receiver, but that may again be a position where the net result of the changes is an improvement. Emmanuel Sanders is an accomplished veteran, and Cody Latimer is a talented rookie. Denver’s front office did a good job of compensating for the departure of Decker.

Position battles.

The No. 1 cornerback is Aqib Talib, but after that there’s plenty of competition at the cornerback position. First-round draft pick Bradley Roby has a good shot at being the No. 2 cornerback, but if Chris Harris is completely healthy (he said in June that he’s 85 percent recovered from a torn ACL), then Harris may beat out Roby to start opposite Talib. Kayvon Webster, a 2013 third-round pick, is also in the mix and will compete to be the Broncos’ nickel corner.

Another interesting competition will take place at right tackle, where Chris Clark currently looks like the favorite. Clark stepped in for injured left tackle Ryan Clady last year and performed well enough that it would seem likely that Clark will remain a starter now that Clady is back on the left side. However, veteran Winston Justice will get a shot at beating out Clark in training camp, and so will rookie third-round pick Michael Schofield.

The backup running back position behind starter Montee Ball appears to be Ronnie Hillman’s to lose, but it wouldn’t be a shock if Hillman does, in fact, lose that battle. C.J. Anderson looked good in limited work last year, and the Broncos really like a couple of undrafted rookies, Juwan Thompson and Brennan Clay. Ultimately, the second-string running back in Denver will probably the running back who proves himself the best pass protector in training camp and the preseason, as protecting Peyton Manning is the most important priority in Denver’s offense.

The most interesting camp competition of all may be for the return job, where the departure of Trindon Holliday in free agency leaves things wide open. On punt returns, Wes Welker is the most experienced man for the job, but given Welker’s age and concerns about whether he’ll stay healthy for 16 games, it seems unlikely that Welker will be the regular punt returner this season. Instead, the Broncos will likely give a number of young and athletic players a shot at earning a roster spot by returning punts. Isaiah Burse, an undrafted free agent receiver, was a good return man at Fresno State and may be the best bet to end up winning the punt return job. Burse can also return kickoffs, and he’ll likely compete with veterans Andre Caldwell and Omar Bolden for that job.

Prospects.

The bottom line for the Broncos? First of all, they still look like the best team in the AFC. And secondly, no one in Denver will be satisfied with just being the best team in the AFC.

It’s a “Super Bowl or bust” year for the Broncos, and that means winning the Super Bowl, not just getting there. If the offense is as good as last year and the defense is better, the Broncos have a real chance of hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But with the Super Bowl debacle fresh in our minds, it’s hard to argue that the Broncos are the best team in the NFL.

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Griffin believes his receivers will be fine with limited touches

Griffin AP

Washington has plenty of offensive weapons.  But with only one ball being used at a time and a strong-to-quite-strong complement of receivers, running backs, and tight ends, the team will have to find a way to keep everyone happy.  Quarterback Robert Griffin III doesn’t see that being a problem.

“These guys know that there are some weapons around them on the field, so they don’t have all that pressure on them,” Griffin told 106.7 The Fan in D.C., via CSNWashington.com.  “But they also know when they get the ball, they are going to have to do something with it because there’s no guarantee that the ball is going to come to them 10, 15 times a game.  They might only get three or four of five shots a game, and they have to make the most it.”

It sounds good, but it won’t be easy to persuade DeSean Jackson to be happy with three or four or five shots per game, especially when he’s trying to prove the Eagles got it wrong by matching or exceeding his numbers from last year (82 catches, 1,332 yards).

“The great thing about having so many weapons is all these guys have great attitudes about them,” Griffin said.  “They are great character guys. At the end of the day, when you win everybody’s happy.”

That assumes plenty.  Specifically, that the team will win.  If the team doesn’t, and if DeSean is getting three or four or five looks each week after averaging 5.125 catches per game (not targets but completions), it will take more than a radio interview from Griffin to keep Jackson from becoming a problem.  And that’s where it will be on Griffin to adopt a willingness to say things that Jackson won’t want to hear, a general sentiment former teammate London Fletcher shared on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk in April.

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Lawyer says Kluwe lawsuit is coming Wednesday

SeinfeldTrial

If you missed the Friday night skirmish between the Vikings and former punter Chris Kluwe, you’re in luck.  Or perhaps not in luck.

The fight will continue during the current work week, with Kluwe filing a lawsuit in Minnesota state court.  Lawyer Clayton Halunen tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the suit will be filed in Hennepin County Circuit Court on Wednesday.

According to Halunen, Kluwe will seek damages for wrongful discharge and defamation of character.  Kluwe has said that all money awarded by a jury will be awarded to LGBT groups.  (That may or may not apply to Halunen’s fee — especially if he took the case on a 33-percent contingency.)

While the basis for a claim of defamation isn’t apparent at this point, the wrongful discharge claim will arise from allegations that the Vikings cut Kluwe because of his advocacy for gay rights.  A 29-page memo analyzing an independent investigation regarding Kluwe’s allegations concludes that he was fired at least in part for the distraction caused by his advocacy, a very fine line that, when coupled with the contents of hundreds of pages of raw materials generated by the investigation, could make it easier for Kluwe to prevail.

At a minimum, the hair-splitting defense to the decision to fire Kluwe opens the door for a Seinfeld-trial parade of evidence of all the distractions players and coaches have created over the years (Love Boat, anyone?) without being fired.

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