Jets rookie Nathan Shepherd thanks Nate Burleson for believing in him

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Jets rookie Nathan Shepherd took a long and winding road to the NFL. He grew up in Canada, played college football at Simon Fraser University, and had to quit school and do odd jobs when he couldn’t afford the tuition. Eventually he found his way to Fort Hays State in Kansas, where he played so well that he got an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He impressed scouts so much at the Senior Bowl that the Jets took him in the third round of the draft.

One NFL player helped Shepherd along the way: Nate Burleson, the former Vikings, Seahawks and Lions receiver who happened to meet Shepherd while Shepherd was working as a doorman at a club. Burleson now works at NFL Network, and the two met again on set, where Shepherd thanked Burleson for his guidance.

“Nate, you were actually the first NFL player I ever met,” Shepherd said.

Burleson said he remembered meeting Shepherd, who approached him to ask for advice. Shepherd told Burleson that he wasn’t sure if he’d continue playing football, but Burleson said he could see Shepherd had a passion for the game and urged him not to give up. Burleson also gave Shepherd a big tip and told him a day would come when he was making big money playing football.

“Before the night was over you said I was gonna make it to the league. You gave me a $100 bill and said, ‘Here’s a little advance on your signing bonus.’ I’ve never forgotten that,” Shepherd told Burleson.

Shepherd then tried to give Burleson a $100 bill, but Burleson told him to keep it.

Cliff Avril: Seahawks started questioning Pete Carroll after Super Bowl interception

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Did one play call derail a potential Seahawks dynasty?

It may have, according to former Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, who says that the team began to doubt coach Pete Carroll and his staff after losing Super Bowl XLIX.

Avril said on Dave Dameshek’s podcast that “a lot of guys got turned off” to Carroll when the Super Bowl ended with Russell Wilson throwing a game-losing interception to New England’s Malcolm Butler, rather than the Seahawks calling a handoff to Marshawn Lynch, which Seattle players thought would have given them a game-winning touchdown. Avril said that if the Seahawks had won that Super Bowl, which would have been their second in a row, they probably would have won another one after that, too, because the team would have been more united.

“If we win that Super Bowl I think we would have won another one,” Avril said. “I do think the team would have bought in more to what Coach Carroll was saying, instead of going the opposite way.”

As it turned out, the Seahawks began to decline amid reports that key players were increasingly not on the same page. After losing that Super Bowl after the 2014 season, the Seahawks lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, then failed to make the playoffs in 2017. Avril attributes that decline directly to seeing players start to wonder whether Carroll’s coaching was still effective.

“Guys started kind of questioning him more instead of following his lead if we had won the Super Bowl,” Avril said.

This offseason the Seahawks have parted ways with several older veterans, perhaps in the hopes that they can move on from the players who were no longer buying in to Carroll’s way of doing things.

Adrian Peterson posting his workout videos, hoping teams notice

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Free agent running back Adrian Peterson is in shape, and he wants NFL teams to know it.

Peterson has been posting videos of himself doing grueling cardio workouts on the treadmill, jumping onto boxes with a barbell on his back, and so on. Peterson said this week on ESPN that he’s hoping teams will notice those workouts and give him a call.

There’s no question that Peterson is in the kind of shape most people could never fathom, and he says the neck injury that ended his 2017 season is totally healed. But whether any team thinks he can still contribute remains to be seen.

Peterson had a strange 2017 season. He signed with the Saints but was largely unused, and with good reason: He wasn’t nearly as effective as the Saints’ other running backs, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. But when Peterson was traded to the Cardinals, he had a couple of huge games, gaining 134 yards on 26 carries in one win and 159 yards on 37 carries in another win. Of course, Peterson also had some terrible games, being held under 2.0 yards a carry on three separate occasions.

Now 33 years old, Peterson doesn’t have much time left in him. But he wants teams to know that he’s ready to go.

Dennis Green finally gets justice from the UFL

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Nearly two years after his death, Dennis Green is getting paid for services rendered to a long-defunct football league.

Via Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee, Green’s widow has settled a claim for unpaid wages from the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions.

Green received $1 million for the 2010 season, and the team increased his pay to $1.5 million for 2011. But he received only $510,000.

Late in the 2011 season, Green sued the team for unpaid wages. He coached the final two games of the campaign despite not being paid.

So why keep coaching for free?

“Athletes and coaches don’t quit,” Green said in 2016.

Green and, subsequently, his estate didn’t quit pursuing justice. It took time and a variety of proceedings, but Green’s widow eventually forced team owner William Hambrecht to pay up.

The amount of the settlement was confidential. Here’s hoping that Green’s estate will receive as close to 100 cents on the dollar as possible for what he was owed.

Green, who died in July 2016, coached the Vikings and Cardinals. He took the Vikings to a pair of NFC championship games.

Two Steelers are happy with the new helmet rule

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Over the past several years, Steelers players have developed a habit of complaining about the league’s efforts to make the game safer. When it comes to the new rule that prohibits lowering the helmet to initiate contact, a pair of Steelers players welcome the change.

Offensive lineman Ramon Foster (pictured) likes the new rule, in part because each of his four concussions occurred when a defender used his helmet to hit Foster in the helmet.

Every time has been a D-lineman or a linebacker head first,” Foster said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Last year when we played the Patriots, 52 [linebacker Elandon Roberts], the same thing, head first. He’s a heady guy. I hate heady guys.”

So Foster welcomes the new rule with open arms, and non-lowered helmet.

“I’m not opposed, not even a little bit,” Foster said. “It’s because I know what the safety of the game is, and if I can pull my head out of the situation — meaning my helmet — then I will do that. If they’re trying to protect it, I’m not going to fight that.”

Safety Morgan Burnett also likes the rule change, even though past Steelers safeties like Ryan Clark and Mike Mitchell were at the forefront of complaining about safety rules.

“You can tell that the league is taking control of player safety, and that’s really big for players,” Burnett said. “You don’t want to see any guy get hurt or have any effects from this game once they leave the game. So I think that’s real big and very important, to make player safety first.”

While it’s possible other Steelers don’t feel quite that way, the fact that any Steelers are willing to speak out so clearly and strongly in support of safety is both encouraging and surprising. And as long as the new helmet rule doesn’t fundamentally change the game, that’s a good thing for everyone.

Cassius Marsh: Garoppolo “would shred [New England’s] defense every day”

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As the Patriots continue to work their way through the offseason program without starting quarterback Tom Brady, the guy who at one point seemed destined to replace him is working toward his first season as a full-time starter. And all indications are that Jimmy Garoppolo will become a true franchise quarterback for the 49ers.

Take it from current teammate Cassius Marsh, who at one point was a teammate of Garoppolo’s in New England.

“I was with the Patriots and he would shred our defense every day,” Marsh said recently, via Eric Branch of SFGate.com. “He’d shred the first team every day, and it looked no different than when Tom was on the field. He’s a much better athlete than Tom. He’s super disciplined and works hard. I’m very happy to have him as my quarterback.”

Some Patriots fans possibly wish Garoppolo was still New England’s quarterback. Especially since their current quarterback is the only starting quarterback boycotting his team’s offseason workouts.

Aaron Rodgers encouraged Thomas Dimitroff to get Matt Ryan deal done

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ran into Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff at the Minneapolis airport during Super Bowl week. Rodgers had a request of Dimitroff.

“He just said to me, ‘We don’t know each other that well, but just get this deal done with Matt [Ryan] first so I can get on with my life,'” Dimitroff said during a guest appearance on Andrew Brandt’s The Business of Sports podcast, via Herbie Teope of NFL Media.

Ryan signed a five-year, $150 million deal with $100 million guaranteed on May 3. The Packers hope soon to sign Rodgers to a long-term deal.

Both sides hope to accomplish that before training camp begins.

Rodgers is scheduled to make base salaries of $19.8 million in 2018 and $20 million in 2020 in the final two years of his deal.

Will Lewis will serve as G.M. of Memphis AAF team

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The Tennessee franchise of the Alliance of American Football has a city, a coach, and now a G.M.

Via Meagan Nichols of the Memphis Business Journal, Will Lewis will serve as the team’s General Manager.

The former NFL and USFL defensive back has 20 years of experience as a coach, scout, and executive.

Most recently, Lewis spent five years as the director of pro scouting with the Chiefs. Before that, he was the V.P. of football operations in Seattle.

Former 49ers coach Mike Singletary will coach the Memphis team. The league, which will begin playing its games in February, has announced the locations and coaches of five of eight franchises.

Cody Kessler’s time in Cleveland prepared him for a second chance in Jacksonville

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The Jaguars’ quarterbacks room has changed since last season. Blake Bortles remains, but Chad Henne is gone.

Cody Kessler and rookie Tanner Lee now back up Bortles.

The Browns traded Kessler to the Jaguars on March 28, and while ready for the move, Kessler believes his time in Cleveland will help him in Jacksonville.

“The time in Cleveland was ups and down, frustrating, but being able to start eight or nine games my rookie year really prepared me,” Kessler said, via the team website. “Last year didn’t go the way I wanted it to or I had planned, but it’s part of it. You take it and run with it. I took that time to work on myself saying, ‘What do I want to work today?’ It really did help me.

“It’s the same thing here. Obviously, Blake is the starter and a great guy to learn from, but you always prepare as the starter and prepare as if you’re playing on Sunday. That’s helped me and made my life easier as a backup.”

Kessler started eight games as a rookie in 2016. He started none last season, watching DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan pass him on the depth chart.

Kessler, 25, is starting over in Jacksonville.

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone calls Kessler’s progress “fine.”

“He’s still trying to learn the footwork and where we want to go with the ball,” Marrone said. “You’re going to see players that right now are going to make mistakes for not being in this type of environment before — as long as you see what you see, which is players learning from those mistakes and getting better as you go.”

NFL, other leagues getting sued for blocking New Jersey gambling

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The Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports gambling, allowing sports books in New Jersey and other states to open. But one major player in the New Jersey gambling world is suing the NFL and other sports leagues for their actions in trying to prevent gambling from spreading.

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is suing the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA, saying that when they sought a restraining order in 2014 to block Monmouth Park Racetrack from taking bets on the leagues’ games, Monmouth Park lost out on gaining some $139 million in revenue.

“During the intervening years the Leagues’ actions nearly put Monmouth Park out of business, inflicted significant financial and emotional hardship on hundreds of innocent Monmouth Park workers, and jeopardized the continued viability of New Jersey’s entire equine industry,” the lawsuit says.

The leagues lost the fight to prevent the spread of sports betting. Now they’ll have another fight over the actions they took to try to prevent the spread of sports betting.

Friday’s #PFTPM has a full hour with Mike Pereira

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Few understand the NFL rulebook better than Mike Pereira. So at a time when the NFL rulebook will be changing like never before, it makes sense to talk to him.

Talk to him I did on Friday, for a full hour.

The topics ranged from the important to the amusing, including the story behind my favorite photo of Pereira, who is seen on the wrong end of the Wrath of Tuna.

Every minutes of the interview is worth your time. You’ll be entertained, you’ll learn some things, and you’ll emerge with a better understanding of the challenges that officials face.

You’ll also learn about Battlefields2Ballfields, a foundation started by Mike and his wife to help veterans transition from the military to civilian life by getting them involved in officiating. You can (should) make a contribution here, and you also can help the effort by thinking of a veteran you know who may benefit from the program.

Eric Berry’s return provides a boost to the Chiefs

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The Chiefs need a healthy Eric Berry.

Kansas City is 38-16 since 2013 when it has Berry in the lineup and only 15-11 without him. The safety missed 15 games last season after tearing his Achilles in Week 1 against the Patriots.

“It’s great to have him out here [for OTAs],” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, via B.J. Kissel of the team website. “He’s one of our leaders. It’s great to have him healthy. He’s flying around doing a great job.”

Berry reports he’s healthy and feeling good after spending 2017 trying to help the Chiefs in other ways than making tackles and intercepting passes.

“You can make an impact even when you’re not playing,” Berry said. “You can still be in-tune to the game plan and in-tune to the situations that are happening. I have a lot of experience now, this is my ninth year. There are a lot of guys that are younger than me that can learn from what I know.

“So, even with the young guys, I just keep spilling in knowledge to them because I know it’s going to help us as a team.”

Berry has made the Pro Bowl every healthy year of his career.

CBS to promote AAF during Super Bowl

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CBS will televise the next Super Bowl. Starting a week later, CBS will televise games of the Alliance of American Football. So, during the broadcast of the Super Bowl, CBS will promote the AAF.

And the NFL is OK with it.

“It shouldn’t surprise you that we informed the NFL about we were doing this and they are pretty agnostic,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus recently said, via Terry Lefton of SportsBusiness Journal. “They don’t look at it as a threat to what they are doing. They look at it more as a developmental league.”

McManus didn’t confirm that the AAF will be promoted during the Super Bowl programming. Per Lefton, multiple industry sources said that the AAF will air a spot within the Super Bowl itself.

Some think that the AAF hopes to become a full-blown developmental league for the NFL. If the AAF becomes profitable (and gambling will help), the NFL could potentially buy it, eventually.

Jaguars sign second-round pick D.J. Chark

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The Jaguars announced the signing of second-round pick D.J. Chark to his rookie contract Friday.

“This is amazing,” Chark Jr. said, via quotes distributed by the team. “It is something you dream about your whole life and to finally put your name on that piece of paper to solidify that you are indeed a player here is a surreal moment. I can’t even put it in words right now.”

The Jaguars now have six of their 2018 draft selections under contract: Chark Jr., third-round safet Ronnie Harrison (Alabama), fourth-round offensive lineman Will Richardson (North Carolina State), sixth-round quarterback Tanner Lee (Nebraska), seventh-round linebacker Leon Jacobs (Wisconsin) and seventh-round punt Logan Cooke (Mississippi State). Only first-round defensive lineman Taven Bryan (Florida) remains unsigned.

The Jaguars selected Chark with the 61st overall choice.

The LSU receiver appeared in 36 games with 15 starts in his four years with the Tigers, making 66 receptions for 1,351 yards and six touchdowns. He had a career-high 40 receptions and 874 receiving yards after he took over as a No. 1 receiver in 2017.

Saints still hoping special teams coach Mike Westhoff returns

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Special teams coach Mike Westhoff has yet to rejoin the Saints, while still recovering from surgery, Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune reports.

Sean Payton said in March he hoped Westhoff would return after surgery, which the head coach described as an issue from Westhoff’s hip down his leg. Payton said this week that Westhoff still could return but not before training camp.

Westhoff, 70, retired after the 2012 season with the Jets. But Payton enticed him to unretire last November before the Saints’ Week 11 game against Washington.

Westhoff, who spent 20 seasons in the NFL coaching for the Colts, Dolphins and Jets, improved the Saints’ special teams units. His changes included adding backup quarterback Taysom Hill to the coverage and return units.