Chargers will explore all tight end options after Hunter Henry injury

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The Chargers were looking for tight end Hunter Henry to have a big season in 2018, but it will be 2019 before he’s on the field again.

Henry tore his ACL during Tuesday’s practice on what General Manager Tom Telesco called “a very routine, non-contact play” and Telesco said the tight end is understandably “taking it tough.” Telesco said he assured Henry he hadn’t let the team down, but there’s still a need at tight end to consider.

The first name that pops to mind is Antonio Gates, who has spent his entire career with the Chargers and is currently  unemployed after the Chargers said he wasn’t in their plans this year. Telesco was asked if that’s changed in light of Henry’s contract.

“We’ll look at all the options that are out there. We’ve got time to do it right now,” Telesco said, via Greg Beachem of the Associated Press.

Marcedes Lewis (who is set to visit the Packers), Julius Thomas and Coby Fleener are other available veteran tight ends, although none have the history with the team and quarterback Philip Rivers that Gates can bring to the table. Virgil Green, Braedon Bowman and Sean Culkin are among the tight ends already on the roster.

Buccaneers bring back Bernard Reedy

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Wide receiver Bernard Reedy opened last season with the Buccaneers and he’ll try to do the same after closing out the 2017 campaign with the Patriots.

The Buccaneers announced that they have signed Reedy to their 90-man roster on Wednesday. They waived wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who joined the team last week, with an injury designation.

Reedy’s relationship with Bucs coach Dirk Koetter goes back even further than last season as he first played for Koetter while he was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator in 2015. He joined the Bucs the next year and made his first regular season appearance last year.

Reedy caught two passes for 21 yards and ran three times for 17 yards in nine games. He also returned kickoffs and punts before being released in November and went on to return four punts in two games with the Patriots.

Christopher Johnson pledges not to force players to stand for anthem

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On the anthem issue, Big Shield has a few cracks.

Apart from 49ers owner Jed York abstaining from the vote, Jets CEO Christopher Johnson has made it clear that he won’t punish players who violate the new mandate to “respect” the flag.

“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson said, via Bob Glauber of Newsday. “If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

Making Johnson’s stance on this intensely political issue even more intriguing is the fact that he’s running the team solely because President Donald Trump made Johnson’s brother, Woody, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Christopher’s stance, if it results in more protests, will eventually draw the ire of the New York native who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It remains to be seen whether the fines will increase with each violation, under the notion of progressive discipline that the NFL uses for violations of in-game safety rules. If so, it could get very expensive for Johnson and the Jets.

Lions sign Trevor Bates

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The Lions added another linebacker to the roster on Wednesday.

The team announced that they have signed Trevor Bates. Tight end DeAndre Goolsby was waived in a corresponding move.

Bates was a seventh-round pick by the Colts in 2016 after playing college football at the University of Maine. He spent a brief period on their active roster that year and played in one game before being released. He landed on the Patriots practice squad, which makes him a familiar face to Lions head coach Matt Patricia, and then spent most of last season on the Giants practice squad.

Goolsby signed with the Lions this month after going undrafted out of Florida. His departure leaves the Lions with five tight ends on the 90-man roster.

Jed York abstained from anthem policy vote

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During a short press conference that started after the NFL released a statement on its new national anthem policy, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the policy was adopted after a unanimous vote by the league’s 32 teams.

Not all of the teams voted, however. 49ers CEO Jed York said that he abstained from the vote because he believed it required further study that, per Steve Wyche of NFL Media, includes discussion with players. The 49ers employed Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when his decision to not stand for the anthem started us down the road to Tuesday’s vote.

York also suggested that the change in policy, which calls for all on the field to “stand and show respect” will also lead to a change in procedures at the concession stands at Levi’s Stadium.

“I don’t think we should be profiting if we’re going to put this type of attention and focus on the field and on the flag,” York said, via Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.

That would seem to be a reasonable approach for the teams that voted for a new policy emphasizing respect for the national anthem on Tuesday and it’s sure to be among the questions for other owners in the wake of the change.

Figuring out the awkward Brady-Belichick-Patriots dance

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Stunning as it may be, the decision of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to stay away from Organized Team Activities isn’t really surprising. But the specific reason for his absence still isn’t known. There could be several.

Regardless, he’s not present for the critical third phase of the offseason program, which as Brady himself said five years ago lays the foundation for training camp, which in turn lays the foundation for the regular season, and so on.

In an effort to understand the situation, we invited Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston to join Wednesday’s PFT Live. From Curran’s perspective, Brady’s concerns arise in part from Belichick fatigue, and possibly also from the fact that Brady is earning peanuts in relation to other quarterbacks.

Curran agreed with the notion that Brady likely believes he shouldn’t have to ask for a raise. But Curran also said it’s possible Belichick is reluctant to give a significant increase to Brady, given how close he may be to the end of the line. And he may be even closer; Belichick surely isn’t happy with Brady’s decision to boycott OTAs, which will only make Belichick more determined to find his next potential franchise quarterback.

Ryan Tannehill: I have to “go out and perform” to stick around

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Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is working on the field at OTAs this week and said Wednesday that he was fully cleared for football last week after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

Tannehill said he feels blessed to be able to be back on the field after such a long layoff and doing more than the mental reps he was limited to last season. Tannehill also said he doesn’t have any regrets about opting not to have surgery after initially hurting his knee late in the 2016 season because every medical opinion he got was that he should not have an operation at that point.

While there was unanimity with his doctors, there hasn’t been the same unanimity in opinion about Tannehill’s future as the starter with the Dolphins. There was a lot of discussion about the Dolphins taking a quarterback early in the draft, but Tannehill said such talk wasn’t a concern for him.

“I wasn’t worried,” Tannehill said at a press conference. “Every team has to evaluate positions and make the best decisions for the organization, but it never changed my course of action or my plan. I knew I have to go out and perform whether they drafted somebody or not. That’s the case this year, that’s the case every year. You have to go out and perform or you won’t be around.”

The Dolphins didn’t take a quarterback early and Tannehill is headed into the 2018 season as a starter. Anything beyond that will hinge on how he goes out and performs this year.

Sean Taylor’s killer seeks a reduced sentence

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The man who shot and killed Sean Taylor more than a decade ago hopes to get out of prison at some point before 2060.

Eric Rivera, who was 17 at the time, received a 57-year sentence in 2013 after being convicted of second-degree murder. Via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald, Rivera seeks a reduced sentence for two reasons: (1) sentencing laws for juveniles have changed; and (2) several other defendants in the case received much shorter sentences.

“I don’t think he should behind bars for the rest of his life for something that was a mistake and an accident,” Rivera’s mother testified on Wednesday.

Said Rivera, now 28, in court:  “I believe I deserve a second chance because I’ve grown. I know I can be a productive citizen.”

Rivera and four other youths robbed Taylor’s South Florida home in November 2007, at a time when they believed he was out of town. Rivera shot Taylor as he rushed them with a machete that he kept in his bedroom for protection. The bullet severed Taylor’s femoral artery, and he later died at a local hospital.

The mastermind of the plot, Jason Mitchell, received a life sentence. Venjah Hunte, Timmy Lee Brown, and Charles Wardlow are serving 29 years, 18 years, and 30 years, respectively.

Report: Richie Incognito held by police after incident at gym

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Richie Incognito is an NFL free agent after being released by the Bills this week, but he’s reportedly been held by police after an incident in Florida on Wednesday.

TMZ reports that law enforcement sources confirmed Incognito has been placed in an involuntary hold for a mental evaluation after police were called to a gym to intervene during an altercation between Incognito and another man.

The alleged victim told TMZ Incognito threw a tennis ball for no reason and followed up by throwing a dumbbell at him as well. Incognito was allegedly “rambling about the government and screaming at the man to ‘get off my f*cking playground'” while this was going on.

Incognito sought treatment for mental health issues in Arizona in 2014 after he smashed his own car with a baseball bat.

Baker Mayfield working with the threes at Browns OTAs

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Even though the Browns took Baker Mayfield first overall, he’s not working with the first team.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mayfield was the third quarterback in drills during Browns OTAs Wednesday, behind both Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton.

That’s not surprising, in and of itself.

As much as they obviously like Mayfield, it’s generally better for any rookie to not be hit with the burden of expectations that comes with being ordained as the day one starter.

And it’s not as if Taylor’s not a perfectly capable NFL quarterback. He just led the Bills to a season in which they snapped a 17-year playoff drought (despite his coaches nearly torpedoing the effort by benching him and watching his replacement throw five picks).

Art Rooney thinks standing with a raised fist constitutes disrespect of the anthem

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The NFL’s new policy says that every player on the field “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” But what constitutes showing respect? That is unclear.

Several NFL players have chosen to stand for the anthem but raise a fist. Does that constitute respect?

Not according to Steelers owner Art Rooney, who told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that he thinks raising a fist would constitute disrespect of the anthem. Rooney also said linking arms during the anthem would constitute disrespect, which is surprising given that several NFL owners chose to link arms during the anthem last season.

“I think any form of protest is a form of protest. We didn’t define exactly what you have to be doing to be out there, but I think everybody understands what it means to be respectful during the anthem,” Rooney told Birkett when approached at the league meeting.

However, Rooney was sharing only his own personal belief, and he said there is not (yet) a written policy defining what constitutes “respect” and what constitutes “disrespect.” Which means the NFL is far from finished figuring out exactly how to navigate these waters.

With “respect” for flag now mandatory, there’s no reason to shun Kaepernick, Reid

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So if Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid can’t get hired because they won’t commit to standing for the anthem, Wednesday’s uncompromising compromise fashioned by owners who fear a tweet or an base-inspiring rally remark removes the last impediment to their unemployment, right?

I mean, Kaepernick and Reid now know the rules. They have to “respect” the flag. If they refuse, there will be consequences.

So problem solved, right? The burning desire to win! should result in a land rush for their services. And when they sign, there will be no confusion or misunderstanding: No kneeling, no sitting, no fists in the air, no disrespect of any kind for the flag.

By solving one problem, the owners potentially have exacerbated another, because with the primary impediment to the unemployment of Kaepernick and Reid — the fear that they’ll still kneel — gone, there’s no reason to avoid them.

And of course we know that won’t be happening. Ultimately, this entire issue is not about patriotism or race or revenue but control. The owners, in crafting the anthem policy, had left a thermal exhaust port in the Death Star, and Kaepernick jammed a couple of photon torpedoes right into it. The owners resent that Kaepernick discovered the loophole, exploited it, and taught his peers to do the same.

Kaepernick, and to a lesser extent Reid, are the lingering reminders of the fact that the players outsmarted the owners on this one, and that when the owners tried to assert control by keeping them out of the league, they took action to advance their rights.

Keeping them out based on their refusal to commit to standing was convenient, because no one expected them to bow to the league’s will. No one expects the league to bow to the will of Kaepernick and Reid, which means that the owners would much rather write them a fat check than let them ever set foot on the stage that the owners own and, once again, control.

Marcedes Lewis expected to visit Packers this week

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The Packers landed a veteran tight end early in free agency when they signed Jimmy Graham and they may be adding another experienced player to the mix before the offseason comes to an end.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the team is expected to meet with former Jaguar Marcedes Lewis this week. Lewis was released by Jacksonville in March after they added free agent tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul.

That move ended a 12-year run in Jacksonville for the 2006 first-round pick, who caught 24 passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns while starting every game last year.

Lewis has been a better blocker than Graham and Lance Kendricks over the course of his career, which likely explains the Packers’ interest in him and foreshadows the role Lewis would play if he signs in Green Bay.

Nick Foles’ new deal with Eagles pays big if he plays big

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Not only did the Eagles not send Nick Foles to the Browns, they set up his new deal to pay him if he ends up playing a significant amount for them.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the restructured deal pays Foles more based on the number of snaps he plays and the team’s success.

He’ll earn $250,000 for every game in which he plays at least a third of the snaps, and another $250,000 if the Eagles win. So, theoretically, if Carson Wentz doesn’t play this year and Foles leads the Eagles to an undefeated season, he’d pocket an extra $8 million on top of his base and bonus.

The per-game bonuses were first reported by Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network.

The Eagles are hoping that Wentz will be back from last December’s ACL/LCL injury, but there’s reasonable doubt as to whether he’ll be ready for the opener.

Since Foles stepped in for them last year and led them to a Super Bowl title, they’re happy to have that kind of insurance policy.

The new Foles deal also includes bumps if he leads them to another playoff run. The incentive for playing a third of the snaps in playoff games goes to $500,000, and another $500,000 for a playoff win he plays a third of the snaps in. That’s another potential $4 million if they came through the wild card round and won another Super Bowl.

There’s also another $1 million if he plays a third of the snaps for the total season and the Eagles make the playoffs, or $1.5 million if he plays 50 percent of the snaps and they advance. There’s also another $500,000 if he’s voted to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot (as opposed to being one of the dozens of replacements).

They gave him a $2 million signing bonus and a $4 million base salary when he restructured, so he’s well taken-care-of even if Wentz heals perfectly and stays well.

But if he does something unprecedented (again), he’ll be paid like a guy who does historic things instead of a backup.

Zack Martin not participating in Cowboys’ OTAs

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Cowboys offensive guard Zack Martin showed up at the team’s training complex Tuesday and went through his regular workout, but he did not participate in organized team activities with his teammates.

He is not at The Star today as Martin’s representation and the Cowboys continue discussions on a contract extension for the All-Pro.

“Obviously, there’s a contract situation going on there — the business of the NFL,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday. “We’ll see how that gets resolved here. But that’s really the reason he hasn’t practiced up to this point.”

Martin is under contract for $9.3 million for 2018 after the Cowboys picked up his fifth-year option. The Cowboys expect to make him the highest-paid guard in football surpassing the five-year, $66.5 million deal that Jacksonville gave Andrew Norwell earlier this offseason.

But they are not there yet, and Martin was asked about the slow pace of negotiations last week.

“I really don’t think about it now because I’m with [teammates] working out,” Martin said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We’ll see. Hopefully it gets done. We’ll see where it goes.”

Garrett said he has talked to Martin and understands his position.

“I know there’s ongoing dialogue between his representatives and the Jones about getting his contract done,” Garrett said. “He’s one of the best players we have. He represents everything we want. But there is a business side to this that both sides are working through.”