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.”

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.

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.

Ravens hope they have found “the guy” at receiver after years of looking

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The Ravens have had only two players who played wideout make the Pro Bowl, and both Jermaine Lewis and Jacoby Jones doubled as elite returners, which got them to the all-star game. Neither ever had a 1,000-yard receiving season.

The Ravens have searched for a standout wideout their entire history.

Derrick Mason came the closest to filling that role with four 1,000-yard seasons with the Ravens. Although he didn’t make a Pro Bowl in his six seasons in Baltimore, he did finish with 471 catches for 5,777 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Welcome to Baltimore, Michael Crabtree.

Crabtree, 30, has never made a Pro Bowl either, but now in his 10th season, he does have two 1,000-yard seasons and another season with 922 yards.

The Ravens are ready to feature him as “the guy.”

Crabtree is the guy, because he’s got a little different way that he runs the routes,” quarterback Joe Flacco said, via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. “He’s really crafty with it, and he knows when to break away from guys and how to get open. He’s really good at doing that, but I would say it’s a little different than your normal guy.”

The Ravens also added receivers John Brown, who had one 1,000-yard season in four seasons in Arizona, and Willie Snead, who had seasons with 984 and 895 yards in New Orleans. The three upgrade the Ravens’ receiving corps.

“They’re veteran players,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve been in games. So what you see is what you get, and we’re seeing it.”

Have the Ravens finally found the answer at the position? Stay tuned.

Jon Gruden can even praise Christian Hackenberg

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New Raiders coach Jon Gruden has never met a player he couldn’t praise.

That even extends to Christian Hackenberg, who hasn’t thrown a pass in the NFL.

During a call with season-ticket holders, Gruden offered some positive words about his newest quarterback, who was acquired from the Jets for a seventh-round pick.

We’re looking for players,” Gruden said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’re looking to get better every day, and Christian Hackenberg was available. He was a second-round pick. He did some really encouraging things at Penn State. He had some ups and downs. We’re going to look at him, and we’re going to make it very competitive to see who Derek Carr‘s backup is.”

At the moment, Hackenberg is competing for that honor with Connor Cook and E.J. Manuel for that privilege. They’ve at least thrown NFL passes, so they may ostensibly have an edge.

DeShone Kizer learning by watching after last year’s trial by fire

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Normally the move from starting quarterback to backup is one that represents a step backward for a player, but that might not be the case for DeShone Kizer.

Kizer got thrown into the lineup by the Browns after being drafted in the second round last year and predictably struggled as part of a team that went 0-16. Kizer threw 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions while being sacked 38 times and generally looking like a player that needed more seasoning before taking on a starting role.

Kizer will get a chance to obtain some of that seasoning in Green Bay after the March trade that sent him to the Packers. Kizer is now backing up Aaron Rodgers and he talked about the benefits that he sees from being able to watch an established star go about his business.

“This is an opportunity now to see it from a player’s perspective, a guy who’s been in here and experienced success within this league, and do whatever I can to find the intricacies within the game that I can develop myself,” Kizer said, via the Packers website. “… Discipline is everything. I mean, every time the guy takes a rep, every time he takes his drop, it’s the exact same way. If you go back and watch my film, you can see that I was adjusting things throughout the year. Obviously that comes with time.”

Kizer will take what he’s learned from both his trial by fire and observation and try to beat out Brett Hundley as the No. 2 in Green Bay. If he can do that, he may get a regular season chance to see if this approach has bettered his chances of getting another spin in the top job.

Dak Prescott: I don’t know if any team in league necessarily needs a No. 1 WR

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Dez Bryant produced three 1,000-yard seasons in his eight seasons in Dallas. He has caught 531 passes for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns in his career.

His departure leaves the Cowboys without a true No. 1 receiver.

That suits quarterback Dak Prescott just fine.

“I don’t know if any team in the league necessarily needs a No. 1 receiver,” Prescott said. “It’s about getting the ball out, spreading the ball around, keeping the defense on its toes.”

The Cowboys’ projected top-five receivers have one 1,000-yard season among them. Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams and third-round pick Michael Gallup have combined for 750 receptions for 9,659 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Beasley and Williams are the only returning receivers among those five, leaving Prescott needing time and repetitions to get to know Hurns, Thompson and Gallup.

“I mean the only thing you can do is just get out there with routes on air, things like that,” Prescott said. “We did a bunch together. Me and these young guys have been here before we even started OTAs, getting that timing down so we can get in OTAs and have good feel for each other and now with the defense in front of us, grow off of that and grow from what we’ve already accomplished. That’s the best thing I can do.”