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Odell Beckham: I’ve never been as ready for a season as I am now

AP

Wide receiver Odell Beckham’s whereabouts were a lead storyline of the Giants offseason, but Beckham’s decision to spend the voluntary phases of the team’s workout program on his own isn’t likely to continue to be one come the season if Beckham produces on the field.

While at his football camp in New Jersey on Saturday, Beckham said he believes that he will do just that. Beckham has 288 catches for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Giants and said Saturday that he’s never headed into a season feeling as prepared as he feels right now.

“I’ve really been training, and to have these next six weeks and get another opportunity to train, it’s going to be great,” Beckham said, via NJ.com. “Mentally, physically, spiritually, everything, I just don’t think I’ve ever been as ready as I am now.”

Beckham knows that “words can only do so much” as he will ultimately be judged by what happens on the field this fall. That proving ground has worked out well for Beckham over his first three seasons and, despite all the offseason melodrama, there’s not much reason to think it won’t be the best place for him again.

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Dean Blandino: Celebration changes are about reaching millennials

AP

Why did the NFL decide this year to ease up on celebration penalties? The league’s former head of officiating says it’s about reaching a younger audience.

Dean Blandino, who left the league office to join FOX this month, told Colin Cowherd that the league wants to make sure it’s not too stuffy for millennials

“I think that part of it is trying to reach the millennial and this new age of fans and having more fun,” Blandino said. “And there was a committee, I was part of that committee with different people at the league office in looking at our game, looking at in-game downtime, looking at how our fans watch the game, looking at eye-tracking technology and where their eyes are going.”

Blandino said the league has been talking for some time about needing to change its image among younger fans, and the movement to revise the celebration penalties began before this offseason.

“It definitely has been something that’s ramped up,” Blandino said. “I would say it started even earlier than six to 12 months. This has probably been two to three years in the making.”

The early indications are that the NFL’s strategy worked. The feedback from fans to the relaxed celebration rule has been positive.

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Myles Garrett has foot sprain, will be ready for Browns camp

AP

The Browns dodged a bullet when the first overall pick in the draft suffered an injury at this week’s minicamp.

A statement from the team today indicated that Myles Garrett has a relatively minor injury and should be good to go when the team opens camp in July.

“After being evaluated by Browns head team physician Dr. James Voos of University Hospitals and foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina, Myles Garrett has been diagnosed with a lateral foot sprain,” the Browns’ statement said. “He is expected to be ready for training camp.”

A pass rusher from Texas A&M, Garrett is viewed as an immediate difference-maker in the Browns’ defense. This injury should just be a small bump in the road.

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Michael Bennett has higher priorities than voluntary workouts

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Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett makes no apologies for skipping voluntary offseason work.

Bennett, who’s married with three children, said he has other things to do in the offseason, things that are more important to him.

I like to be a parent,” Bennett told the News Tribune. “I’ve got daughters. I’m a coach. I’m a teacher at the school. I do things in the community. I try to balance my football life with my actual reality. So, to find that great balance as a human being. I think it’s important as athletes to find that.

“I think a lot of times athletes have a problem when they retire because they build an identity around sports. Then when the sport is gone you are lost. So along this way you’ve got to transition yourself to be able to life in civilization. So find different things you can be a part of. Find out who you are.

“That’s why I do that I do. I mean, I train harder than anyone in the NFL. So I’m not worried about being in shape or being the best player I can be. What I am worried about is how good of a parent I can be, and how much better a husband I can be.”

Players are sometimes criticized for skipping voluntary offseason work. But it’s hard to argue with Bennett’s priorities.

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A year after leaving Patriots for Bears, Akiem Hicks has no regrets

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When he became a free agent last year, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks had an offer to stay in New England. But he had a better offer to go to Chicago, and that’s the one he took.

As it turned out, he played for a three-win team in Chicago, whereas he would have a Super Bowl ring if he had stayed in New England. So does he regret it?

‘‘Not in the slightest,’’ he said. ‘‘Because one of the reasons I came here was . . . a chance to rebuild. I had a chance to be a part of something growing. Being a prominent player [on the Patriots], I enjoyed that aspect of it. I think it’s going to benefit me going forward.’’

Hicks did acknowledge, however, that he thinks playing on a bad team cost him a trip to the Pro Bowl.

‘‘I will say this: I know there’s a couple of guys that went to the Pro Bowl last year at the defensive end/defensive interior position that I’ve made way more plays and played better than. That’s just part of the game,” he said. “There’s going to be guys that get in if they have the right city, the right time, the right things going on. And team wins play a big part in that. The more success for your team, the more spotlight gets put on you. [But] I do compare myself as one of the better defensive interior guys in the league.’’

The Patriots have managed to convince some players to take less money to play for the best-run team in the league. Hicks was not one of those players. If he has any second thoughts, he’s not admitting it.

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Patriots boost the incentives in Patrick Chung’s contract

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The Patriots are giving Patrick Chung 800,000 reasons to have a good season.

New England gave Chung additional incentives in his contract that allow him to earn up to $1.7 million in bonuses, according to Field Yates‏ of ESPN. Chung’s previous contract had up to $900,000 in incentives.

Chung has two years left on his contract. It appears that the Patriots didn’t get anything in exchange for giving Chung those incentives; they just want to motivate and reward a player who has played well for them.

The Patriots previously added incentives to Rob Gronkowski’s contract. Although they’re often considered one of the more frugal teams in the league, being frugal means the Patriots are in good cap shape, and that allows them to spend money on bonuses for players who earn them.

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Osweiler comes a long way (unless the Browns still hope to trade him)

AP

In little more than three months, the attitude of the Cleveland Browns regarding quarterback Brock Osweiler has changed dramatically. Unless it hasn’t.

After the Browns traded for Osweiler on March 9, making him a footnote to the press release that focused on the second-round pick they acquired from the Texans, the reports emerged quickly and unanimously: The Browns would try to trade him to another team and, if that failed, they would cut him.

Surprisingly (or not), the Browns found no takers for all or a portion of his $16 million fully-guaranteed salary. But then they didn’t cut him, a prudent move given that someone else could have signed him for the veteran minimum, putting the Browns on the hook for more than $15 million in 2017.

So the Browns apparently decided that, if they’re going to pay him more than $15 million, they may as well keep him on the books for $16 million and use him as a camp arm throughout the offseason program. The question now becomes whether they truly and honestly view him as a factor in the supposedly open competition for the starting quarterback job — or whether they’re holding out hope that if they pump him up enough between now and Week One someone will trade for him, especially if one of the other 31 teams endures a Bridgewater-style break-glass emergency.

And so in an industry where prevarication has become standard operating procedure, there are two possible explanations: The Browns decided they were wrong about Osweiler when they traded for him or the Browns are simply setting up a potential eventual trade.

“I will tell you something, and I think coach [Hue] Jackson would back me up on this, Brock has been a pleasant surprise,” quarterbacks coach David Lee told reporters on Thursday. “Say what you want, but the guy in the last two years has taken two different teams to the playoffs and there is no one else in that room that can say that. Plus, he’s got six years of experience, whereas others have no years of experience. [DeShone] Kizer is fresh. He has been here four months, like me, and the other two were rookies last year. He’s the senior citizen, that is for sure. He does a good job with these other guys. DeShone and he have built a good rapport and they communicate a lot.”

But Lee seemed to echo Osweiler’s recent comments about his challenges with quarterbacking fundamentals, lumping the senior citizen in with the rookie by saying that “we have a long way to go with the lower body of Brock and DeShone.”

The praise hasn’t been reserved to Osweiler. Lee threw it around to all four throwers of the football.

“We have got a great room,” Lee said. “All four of those guys are smart, they study, they work and they ask great questions. . . . Cody [Kessler] has really improved here in the end of OTAs just on his distance and his velocity with a few things we have done in the lower body, and Kevin [Hogan] looked good today and went 3-for-3 and a couple touchdowns here in the red zone. They are progressing and getting better.”

That’s fine, but the Browns most likely won’t be keeping four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. So at some point they’ll have to decide whether to keep Osweiler on the final roster or dump Kessler or Hogan instead. If, along the way, someone offers a 2018 draft pick for Osweiler (and is likewise willing to eat all or most of his salary), they never have to make that decision.

The overriding point is this. If the Browns are smart (and they currently seem to be), they’d be praising Osweiler regardless of whether they truly deem him worthy of praise. With Tony Romo and Jay Cutler retired and Colin Kaepernick de facto blackballed, the guy who was benched for Peyton Manning one year and Tom Savage the next could still have value if/when another team suddenly becomes sufficiently desperate at some point between now and September.

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Jared Goff sorry to see Greg Robinson go

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The only player on the Rams who was a higher draft pick than Greg Robinson was sorry to lose Robinson as a teammate.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, said he always enjoyed playing with Robinson, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft who was traded to the Lions this week.

“When I woke up and saw that at first it was a little shocking,” Goff said. “But part of the business, man. It sucks. But Greg was a good teammate, a good friend and wish him the best.”

Protecting their investment in Goff is perhaps the Rams’ highest priority in building their roster, and so if they thought Robinson was ever going to become the kind of offensive lineman they thought he’d be when he was chosen second overall, they would have kept him.

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Goodell reiterates belief Kaepernick isn’t being shunned

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The offseason programs have ended, and the NFL has entered the dead zone before the opening of training camp. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick’s career remains lifeless.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has previously said on multiple occasions that he believes Kaepernick’s unemployment arises from football considerations only, reiterated that position during a Rams event in L.A. on Thursday.

Via Aiden Gonzalez of ESPN.com, Goodell said, “[A]ll [teams] want to get better. And if they see an opportunity to get better as a football team, they’re going to do it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to make their football team better. So those are football decisions. They’re made all the time. I believe that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to do it.”

Setting aside the reality that teams like the Jets apparently aren’t trying to get better now in the hopes of getting better via better draft positioning later, the notion that Kaepernick doesn’t have a job for football reasons has been widely rejected. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has called Kaepernick a “starter,” which apparently makes him overqualified to be a backup in Seattle but underqualified to be a starter in a league where players like Mike Glennon, Josh McCown, Tom Savage, Cody Kessler, and Brian Hoyer currently sit atop depth charts.

Whether the truth is that: (1) teams fear alienation of fans;  (2) teams don’t want to provide a platform for players whose politics differ from those of ownership; (3) owners want to discourage future players from leading a movement like the one Kaepernick sparked last year; (4) coaches believe the baggage outweighs the abilities; or (5) some combination of those four reasons, it’s clearly not a football issue. Not with former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh repeatedly gushing about Kaepernick, and not with former coaches like Eric Mangini, who worked with Kaepernick for several years in San Francisco, receiving not a single inquiry about him.

Goodell tried to dismiss the notion that teams have shunned Kaepernick to avoid upsetting fans, in direct response to questions about the comments from Giants co-owner John Mara regarding letters he received on the issue of national anthem protests from fans.

“I don’t think that’s going to affect people from saying, ‘I’m going to do what’s in the best interest of my football team and give my team the best chance to win,’ because that’s what every team wants to do,” Goodell said.

Again, giving a team the best chance to win isn’t what every team wants to do. While they periodically pontificate about pursuing Super Bowls, teams primarily want to maximize profits.

There’s a very good chance Goodell isn’t simply wrong but willfully wrong. After all, he’s paid in large part to take the heat for owners who remain behind the curtain, pushing buttons and pulling levers. If cashing those enormous checks means periodically saying with a straight face something he doesn’t fully and firmly believe, it’s a small price to pay — especially in an age where plenty of people are saying with straight faces plenty of things they don’t fully and firmly believe for far less than $40 million per year.

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Adrian Peterson declares, “I’ve lost nothing”

AP

Plenty of his new teammates think highly of his abilities. Saints running back Adrian Peterson still thinks highly of his abilities, too.

I’ve lost nothing,” Peterson told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com.

Many disagree, pointing to his age and a 2016 season derailed by injury and, when healthy, ineffectiveness. That kind of chatter continues to motivate Peterson.

“Outside sources that doubt because of age?” he said. “I led the league when I was 30, and it was the same thing then. ‘He’s going downhill.’ I played with a mediocre offensive line and still led the league at 30. I just look at things different. If I started buying into what everyone was saying, I probably would’ve retired three or four years ago.”

Some thought he’d necessarily retire this year, due to a lack of interest. The Vikings opted not to keep him for 2017 at a salary of $18 million, and he eventually took a fraction of that amount along with a fraction of his prior role to join the Saints.

“[I]t was different,” Peterson told Breer. “But I knew coming off the meniscus tear [in Week Two that caused him to miss all but one further game], it could happen. If I came out and led the league in rushing, I’d have been off the market. That wasn’t the situation I was in. So in my mind — this is the situation, this is the position you’re in, it’s not what you envisioned going into the off-season, but this is where you’re at, so how are you gonna handle it?”

He handled it in a way that surprised many, taking less money for a lesser role with a team regarded as less than a contender. While the money won’t change (but for the reaching of incentives), the role could grow and the team, with Peterson on board, could thrive.

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Lawyer expects governmental entities to join potential lawsuit against Raiders

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The lawyer plotting possible litigation against the NFL and the Raiders arising from the team’s plan to leave Oakland could be getting a few key partners for the effort.

Via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Daily, lawyer Jim Quinn said that the “fully expects” Oakland and other local governmental entities to take part in the effort to block the move to Las Vegas or otherwise obtain legal relief arising from the team’s decision to move. Quinn explained, per Kaplan, that if Oakland agrees to participate, a decision then can be made regarding whether litigation is the proper approach.

It’s still unclear whether a lawsuit would rely on an actual or implied contract, a federal or state statute, or some principle of the so-called common law, which potentially would create legal duties based on precedent from past cases resolved by the court system. It’s likewise not known whether a lawsuit would try to keep the team from leaving or target compensation for financial losses resulting from the move.

One potential goal of the litigation could be to leverage guarantees regarding a replacement franchise, and possibly an agreement to keep the Raiders name, logos, colors, and records in Oakland. Though Art Modell agreed to that approach in 1995 when moving the Browns (which became the Ravens) to Baltimore, it’s hard to imagine Raiders owner Mark Davis abandoning the identity of the franchise.

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Doug Williams hopes Kirk Cousins “looks at the big picture” and signs

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Doug Williams has just been promoted to oversee the personnel department in Washington, but he realizes that the biggest move the team can make is one that Williams can’t necessarily do a lot about.

That move is signing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term contract, and Williams indicated that the ball is in Cousins’ court on that front.

“All I can do is hope and pray that Kirk looks at the big picture and looks at this football team and realizes we do have a solid football team, solid offensive line. He’s got something to work with,” Williams said on NFL Network.

Williams said he won’t be heavily involved in negotiations with Cousins, as it’s V.P. of Football Operations Eric Schaffer who has been involved in contract discussions with Cousins and his agent. Williams did say, however, that Washington wants to sign Cousins “in the worst way.”

“The last two years, Kirk Cousins has had tremendous years,” Williams said. “And one thing in this league that’s hard to find is that guy to run the football team and Kirk does a tremendous job doing that. And with the weapons that he has and the offensive line that he has and I think our defense is a little better than what we were last year, quite naturally you want Kirk Cousins at quarterback.”

Williams did indicate that if Cousins leaves in free agency next year, it would be up to Williams to identify the next quarterback.

“We’ve got a capable backup here in Colt McCoy,” Williams said. “At the end of the day you’ve got to look for that guy if Kirk doesn’t sign long-[term] but I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

If it does come to that, it would be because Cousins decided to chase greener pastures elsewhere. Williams thinks that if Cousins looks at the big picture, he’ll see that he’s already in the best place for himself.

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Brees: Peterson signing “puts a little added responsibility on all of us”

AP

There’s been a steady stream of positive reviews from members of the Saints when it comes to how running back Adrian Peterson has looked in his work with the team since signing with them earlier this year, including quarterback Drew Breesobservation that the veteran back is still a “stud” on the field.

That’s not the only thought that Peterson’s arrival has put into the quarterback’s head. Brees told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com that Peterson’s decision to sign on to share backfield duties with Mark Ingram has made him feel an increased level of urgency heading into the 2017 season.

“It’s still just such a surprise that it actually happened,” Brees said. “We really signed Adrian Peterson? Mark is such a great player, and so it was amazing he came to us, and I think it says a lot about how he views our organization. . . . Knowing that he wants this to be his last stop. And here we go. That puts a little added responsibility on all of us — ‘OK, this is our window, let’s go do it.'”

Breer spoke to several other members of the organization who continued to offer glowing reviews of what they’ve seen from Peterson thus far. Peterson can only do so much, though, and the torn labrum suffered by left tackle Terron Armstead has been added to the list of things that could help slam the window shut in New Orleans this season.

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Myles Garrett wearing walking boot on his left foot

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Myles Garrett has a walking boot on his left foot.

The Browns have not provided an update on his injury, but the No. 1 overall pick was photographed wearing the boot at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Friday. The team excused him from a youth clinic the other rookies attended at FirstEnergy Stadium.

It sucks, especially when he’s one of your good friends,” rookie defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’ve known Myles for just a short period of time, but we’ve connected and you know how good of a person he is because he’s humble and he’s hungry and really wants to be great. So you know it sucks, but it’s part of the game. It’s part of the process and you know he’s going to bounce back.”

Garrett fell to his knees and grabbed his foot after a would-be sack of Brock Osweiler on Wednesday. The former Texas A&M star had the foot evaluated Thursday.

Garrett had a high-ankle sprain on the same foot last season, limiting him to 10 games and 81/2 sacks.

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Report: Michael Floyd blamed positive alcohol test on Kombucha tea

TMZ supplied it, Michael Floyd denied it, and now Floyd’s representatives are leaking some other version of it.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, conveying without comment or scrutiny leaks from Floyd’s lawyers and/or agents, reports that Floyd’s “flagged” alcohol test occurred between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. ET on June 11, and that Floyd told court officials that the positive result arose from drinking Kombucha tea.

Kombucha tea is fermented and indeed contains alcohol. Which means that Floyd, who under the terms of his house arrest for extreme DUI can’t drink alcohol, shouldn’t have been drinking Kombucha tea.

In further proselytization of the Gospel According To Michael Floyd’s Lawyers And/Or Agents, Rapoport reporting/declaring that, as of June 11, “Michael Floyd had completed 91 of 96 days of home arrest. He is forbidden from alcohol. All tests were under the .08 legal limit.”

The fact that all tests were under the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent BAC is irrelevant. Floyd was prohibited from drinking any alcohol under the terms of his house arrest. He drank a form of alcohol, which means he violated the terms of his house arrest.

The fact that it happened on Day 91 of his house arrest doesn’t matter either, especially since Floyd presumably will continue to be on probation for some period of time after the conclusion of his house arrest, during which time he also will be banned from drinking alcohol.

Whether the court in Arizona gives him the benefit of the doubt is a separate issue. Prosecutors and judges routinely hear every size and shape of excuse from people who have violated the terms of house arrest or probation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; for Floyd, nothing leaked by his lawyers and/or agents will affect whether a prosecutor or a judge decides to give him another chance — or to put him behind bars for failing to stay on the right side of a clear, bright line for someone who was allowed to serve out a large portion of his extreme DUI sentence in the privacy and comfort of his own home.

The violation also potentially complicates Floyd’s still-looming suspension from the league office. He’ll miss at least two regular-season games because of the violation. Today’s developments could, in theory, push that number even higher — especially if the Kombucha defense is less effective than the Chewbacca defense.

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