Ryan Fitzpatrick set to start at least three games for the 11th straight year

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Buccaneers backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is no one’s idea of a star quarterback. But with his longevity and consistency, he’s putting himself in some fairly rare company.

Fitzpatrick is slated to start the first three games of this season while Jameis Winston is suspended. Fitzpatrick also started three games last year while Winston was injured. And Fitzpatrick has started at least three games every year since 2008.

If Fitzpatrick does start three games this year, and all the other quarterbacks who are expected to be starters do as well, then Fitzpatrick will be one of just eight quarterbacks to start at least three games every year from 2008 to 2018. The other seven are Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

Fitzpatrick is the least-accomplished of the quarterbacks on that list, but he deserves credit for how long he’s managed to last in the league.

Eli Manning on Odell Beckham: He looks great; he looks healthy

AP

Eli Manning threw to Odell Beckham Jr. after a Giants’ minicamp practice last week. The quarterback revealed the news Friday during the annual Manning Passing Academy.

Beckham, according to Manning, looked like himself again in the few routes he ran.

He looks great,” Manning told Rhett Lewis of NFL Media. “He looks healthy.”

The Giants have taken a deliberate approach to Beckham’s rehab as the star receiver works his way back from a fractured ankle that ended his 2017 season after only four games.

Although he was cleared to practice during the mandatory minicamp, Beckham participated only in individual drills.

“I think last year, it was tough on him being injured and going through those things,” Manning said. “He wants to come out and have a big year, play well and get to scoring touchdowns and celebrating and having fun again. I think he misses that part of his life — the excitement of playing football and winning games, and enjoying that part of it.”

Beckham ranked eighth in NFL Network’s Top 100 players list in 2017 after his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and third Pro Bowl in a row. He was 77th this year.

But Beckham has proved himself as one of the top receivers in the game, with 313 catches for 4,424 and 38 touchdowns in his career. He has outplayed his contract, which pays him a base salary of $8.4 million this season, but has said he will attend training camp anyway.

Kareem Jackson will play safety full time

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The Texans began experimenting with Kareem Jackson at safety during the offseason program as the team explored all options in trying to replace Andre Hal. Jackson performed so well at the position that he will play the position full time at training camp, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Jackson, 30, has practiced at safety in the past, but his 108 career starts were at cornerback.

Coach Bill O’Brien said Friday that Jackson still can play corner when needed but will work only at safety for now. Jackson is more needed at safety after Hal was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Hal started all 16 games at free safety last season, and Houston signed Tyrann Mathieu to man the strong safety spot.

Jackson will compete with Justin Reid, the team’s third-round pick, for the starting job.

Peyton Manning prepared for Drew Brees to breaks his passing records

AP

Peyton Manning owns NFL records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. He knows he won’t hold either for much longer.

Drew Brees trails Manning by only 1,495 yards and by 51 touchdowns.

“He’s just been the ultimate pro, taking care of himself, being in great shape,” Manning said Friday, via video from the Times-Picayune. “It’s a credit to him for playing as long as he has, at such a high level. He changed teams, which I know what that’s like. That is not easy going from San Diego to New Orleans, and he’s just been a great model of consistently obviously [with what] he and Sean [Peyton] have been able to do in 12 years together now.

“Yeah, I don’t think it’s a matter of if. It’s just a matter of when. He deserves it. He’s been a great player for a long time.”

Brees ranks second in completions (6,222) behind Brett Favre (6,300). He trails Favre (10,169) and Manning (9,380) in attempts with 9,294. Brees’ 70,445 passing yards are closing in on Manning (71,940) and Favre (71,838). Brees is tied with Tom Brady in touchdown passes (488), with only Manning (539) and Favre (508) having more.

“Obviously, you never play for individual records of any sort, and I know Drew feels the same way,” Manning said. “I think touchdowns probably has a little more meaning to a quarterback, because it means that you got six points, and it means you were doing something good for your team. Yards, as you all know, [doesn’t] necessarily mean winning games. I think Drew’s had a couple of big yardage seasons, and maybe they haven’t been winning games, so I think that can be a little bit misleading.

“But being a fan of the history of game, when I was a Brett Favre fan and the guys who held the touchdown record before Favre — Fran Tarkenton, Johnny Unitas — I really enjoyed kind of being a part of the quarterbacks that my dad grew up watching and loved. I’m a believer in the history of the game. I’m sure Drew will feel the same way when he breaks the touchdown record, which I think he’s got to throw a lot this year to break it, but he will get it next year if not this year. I think touchdowns means you’re helping win games. When I broke the touchdown record several years ago, it was in a game that we won, and it was helping our team win. Drew has been the ultimate team player. It’s all about helping your team win. I know when he breaks any of these records, it’s not going to mean as much to him if the Saints don’t win the game that day. . . . But he certainly deserves it.”

Third man with Jameis Winston and Ronald Darby is now in prison for rape

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Since word first surfaced that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had been accused of groping a female Uber driver, it was known that Winston was with his former Florida State roommate, Ronald Darby, on the night in question. It was also reported at the time that a third man was with Winston and Darby, and today comes news that the third man was Brandon Banks, a former Vanderbilt football player who is now in prison for rape.

Banks’ attorney, Mark Scruggs, told ESPN that Banks was with Winston and Darby in a different Uber earlier in the evening, but that Winston went into the car alone with the driver who accused him of grabbing her crotch later in the night. Darby claimed the three of them were all in the Uber together and Winston was never alone with the woman. Scruggs said Banks doesn’t know what happened between Winston and the driver because Winston and the driver were the only people in the car.

“What happened after that, they cannot say,” Scruggs said of Banks and Darby.

The Uber incident took place in March of 2016, after Banks had been accused of raping a woman in a Vanderbilt dorm room but before he had gone on trial. Banks would later be convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Winston himself was accused of raping a woman when he played at Florida State, and Winston’s decision to associate with another man who was awaiting trial on a rape charge will fuel questions about Winston’s judgment.

Scruggs said that the NFL tried to interview Banks in prison in the league’s investigation of Winston, but that Banks refused to talk to anyone without his lawyer present, and that the NFL never contacted Scruggs.

Friday’s #PFTPM has a special guest

PFTPM

Friday’s #PFTPM featured the debut of someone with whom you may be getting acquainted, sooner or later.

My son, Alex, joined me for the afternoon podcast. So get to know him.

He’s 21. He’s a very good kid. He’s funny. And he eventually will have the keys to this operation. Hopefully later than sooner.

His contributions will be limited for now. But he’ll be making periodic visits to #PFTPM, if he wants to keep doing it.

Hopefully, he’ll want to keep doing it. Hopefully, you’ll want to keep listening to it. Start by listening now.

Don Majkowski has Packers Hall of Fame ring stolen over weekend

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Don Majkowski is asking for help.

His Packers Hall of Fame ring was stolen from his Baltimore hotel room over the weekend. Majkowski, who played for the Packers from 1987-92, tweeted that he “forgot to put it on one morning and left it on the dresser. Realized it was gone the next day.”

“If anyone sees it out there, let me know!” Majkowski wrote.

The Packers inducted Majkowski into their Hall of Fame in 2005.

He went 22-26-1 in his six seasons in Green Bay, with Brett Favre replacing him in 1992. Majkowski’s only Pro Bowl came in 1989 when he led the league in attempts (599), completions (353) and yards (4,318).

The Packers’ 10-6 record that season was the franchise’s best in 17 years.

Majkowski finished his career with two seasons in Indianapolis and two in Detroit.

Chaz Green owns up to poor performance, doesn’t want it to define him

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The last time we heard from Chaz Green, the Cowboys offensive lineman was turning Adrian Clayborn into a household name while getting Dak Prescott killed. Clayborn made 9.5 sacks last season, with four coming in Week 11 against Green and two others against Green’s replacement, Byron Bell.

Green took blame for the Cowboys’ 27-7 loss to the Falcons immediately after the game, and he has continued to be a stand-up guy since.

“It’s been real tough to get over, man,” Green said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’d by lying if I’d sit here and said it wasn’t. As a competitor, it’s tough, but it’s something that I feel like I go off on. I always keep it in the back of my head when I go out to work each and every day.

“I want to put that behind me and not have it happen again.”

He has watched the film over and over again, hoping to learn from what he calls “self-inflicted” mistakes. Green doesn’t want the performance, which came with Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith inactive with an injury, to define him.

“That’s life. You’re always judged against your last performance,” Green said. “I don’t need sympathy, man. This game isn’t based on sympathy, so that’s the last thing I’m looking for. I own up to that. You know what I mean? I’m trying to move past that and grow.

“But the last thing I’m looking for is sympathy because my parents and how my dad raised me is much more tougher than that.”

Green, 26, faces a make-or-break season. In the final year of his rookie contract after the Cowboys spent a third-round pick on him, he has played only 18 games with six starts.

Green opened last season as the starter at left guard but lost his job to Jonathan Cooper. The Cowboys drafted Connor Williams in the second round to man the left guard spot this season.

Green worked at right guard and right tackle during the offseason program.

Report: Gene Steratore to join CBS as rules analyst

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Gene Steratore is reportedly joining other recently retired referees in making the move from the field to the broadcasting world.

The NFL announced Steratore’s retirement on Friday, making him the fourth referee to retire since the end of the 2017 season, and Cameron Filipe of Football Zebras reports that he will join CBS Sports as a rules analyst.

Two other referees who retired this offseason are also reportedly set for jobs with networks broadcasting NFL games. Jeff Triplette is set to join the Monday Night Football team on ESPN while Terry McAulay has been linked to a job with NBC that the network has not confirmed. Former NFL officiating heads Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira both work for FOX Sports.

CBS employed former NFL referee Mike Carey in an analyst role during the 2015 season, but did not bring him back after his penchant for being wrong about what call on-field officials would make made him an object of derision around the league.

Joseph Randle expected to be released from jail Friday

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Joseph Randle won’t ever get another chance in the NFL, but he does have another chance to turn around his life.

A Kansas judge accepted the recommendation of attorneys Friday, handing the former Cowboys running back five years of probation stemming from an argument during a housewarming party two years ago, the Wichita Eagle reported. Sedgwick County District Judge Kevin O’Connor also agreed to consider reducing Randle’s probation by two years if he follows the rules of his probation and pays more than $3,000 in restitution to one of his victims plus other costs.

A jury convicted Randle of aggravated burglary, aggravated battery, criminal threat and marijuana possession after he allegedly hit three people with a car after being asked to leave the party.

Randle, who has spent most of the past two years in jail, was expected to be released Friday afternoon.

His sentence came a week after he was found competent for a fourth time following a mental evaluation at Kansas’ state-run psychiatric hospital in Larned, per the Wichita Eagle. Questions about his mental state had prevented a resolution to the case for more than a year.

Randle also resolved four other criminal charges Friday, per the newspaper. He pleaded no contest to two felonies — interference with a law enforcement officer and aggravated battery — and guilty to two misdemeanors — disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.

Randle already has served the six months in jail he received for each of the misdemeanors, so he will remain out of jail on bond until he faces sentencing for the felonies in August.

The Cowboys made Randle a fifth-round pick in 2013. They waived him November 4, 2015, as his legal problems began. He gained 992 yards from scrimmage in his three seasons and scored nine total touchdowns.

Raiders add fullback Ryan Yuracheck

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The Raiders signed someone, and for a change, he’s young.

The team announced the signing of fullback Ryan Yurachek.

He’s an undrafted rookie from Marshall, who was in Saints camp briefly. He was a tight end in college, and caught 143 passes for 1,354 yards and 26 touchdowns.

To make room for him on the roster, the waived one of their previous undrafted rookies, fullback Henry Poggi.

Patriots sign first-round pick Isaiah Wynn

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The Patriots drafted two Georgia players in the first round of this year’s draft and they have one of them under contract.

Field Yates of ESPN reports that the team has signed offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn to a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth season. Wynn was drafted 23rd overall, leaving 31st overall pick Sony Michel as the only member of New England’s draft class without a deal.

Wynn played left guard and left tackle in college and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said during the offseason that Wynn would get a look at left tackle as the team works to find a replacement for Nate Solder. He saw time at left guard alongside Trent Brown at tackle during minicamp with Joe Thuney missing practice time after having foot surgery.

With Wynn under contract, there are now 17 unsigned 2018 draft picks around the league.

Tre Boston says he got “very, very disrespectful” offer from Cardinals

AP

Tre Boston is one of several free agent safeties still looking for work this offseason, although Boston did get at least one offer from a team.

Boston visited with the Colts and Cardinals this offseason, but told Sirius XM NFL Radio that his visit with the Colts didn’t include any time with General Manager Chris Ballard, head coach Frank Reich or defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Boston said he spent two hours in the lunch room and played basketball during his visit.

Boston also visited the Cardinals, who he said “rolled out the red carpet” for him in contrast. Boston termed the offer that the Cardinals made him “very, very disrespectful,” however, and he did not sign with the team. Boston also talked about the overall state of the market for him, Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid and other safeties.

“It’s kinda rough man, they got us where they think they want us,” Boston said. “For us, we have to communicate with each other so we don’t take this minimum wage.”

Given the experience these players have, it’s easy to understand why Boston feels that way. Given the way the market has failed to develop for these players, however, they may be faced with a choice of taking minimum salaries or something close to it if they are going to play during the 2018 season.

Referee Gene Steratore retires

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Gene Steratore, the referee who worked the Super Bowl in February, is calling it a career.

NFL V.P. of officiating Al Riveron announced today that Steratore has decided to retire from the NFL.

Steratore has been an NFL official since 2003 and worked 12 playoff games, including Super Bowl LII. He may be best remembered for an odd moment last season when he pulled out an index card to determine whether a spotted football had reached the first down stick in a game between the Cowboys and Raiders. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio objected to Steratore’s demeanor, and the NFL said afterward that Steratore should have used his eyes, not an index card.

The NFL has seen a lot of turnover among its referees this offseason, with Jeff Triplette, Ed Hochuli and Terry McAulay also retiring. Last year the NFL retained all 17 of its referees from the year before, but this year there will be a major change in the refereeing ranks.

Will Tom Brady hold off Aaron Rodgers atop NFL Network’s Top 100?

AP

Six players who made NFL Network’s Top 100 players of 2017 remain on the list for 2018. The network will announce the order of the final 10 on Monday night at 8 ET, but Tom Brady stands a good chance to stay atop the list.

Only Aaron Rodgers should stand a chance to unseat him.

The final 10 players, in alphabetical order, are:

Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Donald, Gurley, Wentz and Brees replaced Khalil Mack, Ezekiel Elliott, Odell Beckham and Matt Ryan on the list from last year. Beckham played only four games because of his injury, and Elliott missed six because of a suspension.

The final order last year was: 1. Brady; 2. Miller; 3. Jones; 4. Brown; 5. Mack; 6. Rodgers; 7. Elliott; 8. Beckham; 9. Bell; and 10. Ryan.

In this year’s list, Mack was 16th, Ryan 29th, Elliott 54th and Beckham 77th.