Jimmy Johnson under consideration for Cowboys’ Ring of Honor

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The Cowboys have 21 members in their Ring of Honor, but Jerry Jones has elected not to add a name to the facade at AT&T Stadium since Darren Woodson in 2015. The former safety stands as the lone inductee over the past six years.

The team has several candidates to be next to enter the Ring of Honor, including Jones himself.

Jason Witten’s retirement this offseason allows for the possibility that the former tight end will go in with his best buddy, Tony Romo, who retired after the 2016 season. Jones also has talked openly about inducting DeMarcus Ware, though that now seems at least a bit awkward after Ware took a job as a pass-rush consultant for the Broncos.

Instead, Jimmy Johnson, Gil Brandt and Jay Novacek are under consideration for the next halftime Ring of Honor ceremony in Arlington, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Johnson and Brandt’s Hall of Fame candidacies would not be hurt by their addition to the team’s Ring of Honor. Brandt annually is a contributors’ candidate for the Hall, and Johnson has made the list of modern-era Hall finalists.

Jones’ sometimes icy relationship with Johnson has thawed to the point that the Cowboys owner has no problem acknowledging his former head coach’s contributions to the 1990s Cowboys.

Jones and Johnson, who parted ways in 1994 after back-to-back Super Bowl titles, both insisted during the 1992 team’s 25th reunion in 2017 that they have a good relationship. Johnson congratulated Jones on his Hall of Fame selection, and Jones credited Johnson for his part in the Cowboys’ dynasty.

Jones again praised Johnson at his Hall of Fame induction, where Johnson served as Jason Taylor’s presenter.

Novacek became a favorite target of Troy Aikman after signing as a Plan B free agent in 1990. In his six seasons with the Cowboys, Novacek caught 339 passes for 3,576 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Report: Jadeveon Clowney might not get extension before the season

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After the Texans signed Benardrick McKinney to a five-year, $50 million extension last week, it was presumed Jadeveon Clowney was next in line. The fifth-year linebacker still might be, but it might not be this season, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Clowney, the first overall pick in 2014, will make $12.3 million this year under the fifth-year option.

He still has to show he can stay healthy for the Texans to commit to him long term. Last season was the first that Clowney played all 16 games, but he spent the offseason program rehabbing a knee injury after arthroscopic surgery in January.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he expected Clowney to be on the field at the start of training camp July 26. That gives the Texans only a six-week window to get an extension completed, and the sides have had no substantive negotiations, per McClain.

Texans General Manager Brian Gaine’s philosophy is not to negotiate during the season.

That doesn’t mean Clowney will become a free agent in March. The Texans are expected to use the franchise tag on him if they can’t come to terms before that.

But Clowney’s price tag will go up with a big season. He had 9.5 sacks, 21 quarterback hits and 21 tackles for loss last season without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus over the final 11 games.

Bigger numbers this season will equal a bigger pay day for Clowney.

Eric Ebron turning heads in Indianapolis

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Colts tight end Eric Ebron was a draft bust in Detroit, but he might be ready to make his mark in Indianapolis.

That’s the word after the Colts wrapped up their offseason workouts, and coach Frank Reich said he loved what he saw of Ebron.

He’s really smart,” Reich said of Ebron, via the Indianapolis Star. “I knew that because we did our homework before he got here. We knew he was a smart player. But he’s like really a highly intelligent football player. And that’s really good because you want to use a guy with the versatility that he has and move him around and call all kinds of things with him. That helps. And he’s an explosive athlete.”

The Lions used the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft on Ebron and he was a huge disappointment — especially considering that the 11th pick was Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan, the 12th pick was Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham and the 13th pick was Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald. But there’s talent there, and Reich is hoping to get something out of that talent that Jim Caldwell never could.

Report: Baker Mayfield not ready to compete with Tyrod Taylor

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A year after the Browns thrust then-rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer into a Week One starting role, the Browns appear intent to do the opposite, keeping quarterback Baker Mayfield on ice for as long as possible.

If that’s the plan, Mayfield is making it easier to implement. Here’s an assessment of the competition, if there is one, between Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor, from Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “This is where I tell you that, based on the six practices of OTAs and minicamp that were open to the media, Mayfield did not look ready to compete with Taylor for the No. 1 quarterback job.”

Of course, Mayfield has a habit of taking over quickly, like he did as a walk on at Texas Tech and then as a transfer at Oklahoma. And if Mayfield somehow becomes the clear-cut best option in Cleveland, the Browns may have no choice but to play him.

The deck seems to be stacked in Taylor’s favor, however. And here’s another possible reason for it, one that won’t get mentioned during many/any press conferences: G.M. John Dorsey may be betting on someone other than Hue Jackson coaching the team next year, and Dorsey may want Mayfield to be handled not by Jackson but by his successor.

Regardless, Mayfield was picked to be the long-term starter. Whether that includes short-term remains to be seen.

Falcons said to be “uneasy” with Julio Jones-Terrell Owens relationship

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Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones skipped the entire offseason program and spent time with a wide receiver famous for letting his contracts get in the way of his relationships with his teams. The Falcons aren’t thrilled about that.

Jones has been working out with Terrell Owens, who during his own Hall of Fame career rapidly went from the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver to a contract dispute that saw him get sent home and shipped out for good. Longtime Falcons reporter D. Orlando Ledbetter said on ESPN Radio in Charlotte that the Falcons don’t feel good about the Jones-Owens relationship.

“The fact that he’s running around with Terrell Owens has the front office uneasy,” Ledbetter said.

According to Ledbetter, Jones wants “an adjustment” to his contract, and the relationship between Jones and the team is “in a bad place right now.”

“The coach was expecting him in here,” Ledbetter said. “Then a few weeks later Julio informed them he’s not going to be here.”

Jones is still expected to be there when training camp starts. But there’s a gulf between the team and its star receiver.

Mike McCarthy says Packers will go running back by committee

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Don’t expect any one running back to carry the load in Green Bay this season.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the demands of the position are such that running backs Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery, and Aaron Jones will all be better off if none of them get too many carries.

“The fact of the matter is we’re going to go running back by committee,” McCarthy told ESPN. “But if one of them would emerge as that full-time guy then you have to have that ability to . . . adjust to that. As far as planning and going into the season, that’s why we’re going about it that way. We feel like we’ve got three guys that have all done it, but they haven’t done it over a long period of time, so I think it’s just practical thinking from that position and realizing that it’s a very demanding position.”

Williams led the team with 556 rushing yards, Jones was next with 448 and Montgomery had 273. It sounds like McCarthy would be satisfied with that kind of split again this year, which means all of the Packers’ running backs will get plenty of playing time, but none will finish the season with big numbers.

Panthers tell Cam Newton it’s OK to check down and go to the next play

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When Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner said in May that he thinks quarterback Cam Newton can have a completion percentage in the “mid- to high-60s” this season, many people responded with skepticism thanks to Newton completing 58.5 percent of his passes over the course of his career.

One adjustment that could help push that number higher this season is related to the kinds of chances that the Panthers will ask Newton to take on the field. Quarterbacks coach Scott Turner told Albert Breer of SI.com that they want Newton to know that he doesn’t have to swing for the fences on every play.

“With him, on every play, we want to make sure he has a plan and he’s following that plan,” Turner said. “And to know checking down is OK. A lot of Cam’s issues have come because he’s so talented that he thinks he can make every play work. And sometimes, it’s just not there, so you check down and go to the next play. By holding the ball, sometimes he takes hits or falls into negative plays. Making decisions quick, getting the ball out of his hand, that’s where, when he improves, the consistency will come. We’re not trying to make him anything he’s not. We want him to be the best version of himself.”

Watching how this new approach takes form will be one of the leading storylines in the early part of the Panthers season. Newton has one MVP on his mantle and the Panthers went to the Super Bowl the year he won it, so the best version of him would be a major boost to Carolina’s hopes of success in 2018.

Robert Griffin III: I’m trying to help nurture Lamar Jackson

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When the Ravens drafted quarterback Lamar Jackson, it meant backup quarterback Robert Griffin III has a steeper path ahead of him to make the roster. But Griffin isn’t really competing with Jackson for a roster spot: Jackson’s spot behind Joe Flacco is assured, and the only real question is whether the Ravens keep Griffin as a third quarterback. So Griffin doesn’t see Jackson as competition.

Instead, Griffin sees Jackson as a talented young player not unlike himself six years ago, and as a player who could use some guidance from someone who’s been there.

I’m trying to help nurture him as much as I possibly can,” Griffin told SI.com, “so that when he flies away, he is ready to fly away. Because when you watch it fly away, at that point it’s up to that bird.”

Griffin was the 2012 rookie of the year but hasn’t been the same player since a knee injury in the playoffs after that rookie season. He hopes he can help teach Jackson to have lasting success.

“I try to take that and look at it in a positive way to try to help Lamar navigate a lot of the things that I had to navigate on my own,” Griffin said. “I feel like he really trusts me and believes what I’m telling him and I think that’s made him a better player already in a short amount of time.”

The Ravens would love to see Jackson play the way Griffin did before his knee injury — as long as Jackson’s success lasts longer.

Rod Woodson: T.O. should use Hall speech to thank those who helped him get there

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Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson says the real reason that Hall of Famers give speeches when they’re inducted is to thank the people who helped them reach that point — something Terrell Owens doesn’t seem to grasp.

Woodson said on NFL Network that the most important part of his own Hall of Fame speech was acknowledging the people who had supported him along the way. Woodson thinks Owens owes it to those people — family members, teachers, high school coaches — to show up in Canton. Instead, Owens will skip the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.

“I really don’t care if he comes or not,” Woodson said. “But what bothers me more than anything is that in T.O.’s life, he’s had different things that happened to him in his life, but there’s people who helped him come along through his childhood, high school, college, to get to the point where he’s at to be one of the better players to ever play in the National Football League . . . you can be there to acknowledge them. And they lose out, because he’s thinking, It’s all about T.O. For all those people who helped him, for him not to acknowledge them to the public, it’s a shame.”

Owens is the first Hall of Famer ever to decline to attend the enshrinement ceremony.

NFL-only field going in at London soccer stadium

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In the most tangible piece of evidence yet that the NFL wants to keep playing games in London, the league has paid for an NFL-only field to be on the grounds of the new soccer stadium for Tottenham Hotspur.

New pictures of the stadium, which is still being built, show the FieldTurf field that the NFL will play on. The stadium will be able to switch between that field for NFL games and a grass field for soccer games.

One of the complaints about American football in London has been that the type of grass pitch that soccer teams use does not have the proper footing for American football. That results in players slipping and sliding, and the middle of the pitch getting torn up. Nobody is happy with that.

So the NFL is investing in a field that is specifically designed for American football. That field will be used for the first time on October 14, when the Seahawks face the Raiders.

Paxton Lynch vows to be “ready” if called upon to play

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The Broncos’ plan is for Paxton Lynch to sit all season.

For the first time in his three seasons, Lynch is not competing for the starting job. That belongs to newcomer Case Keenum, signed by the Broncos as a free agent in March.

“There is always room for improvement, [but] I obviously believe I can go out and play right now,” Lynch said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. “But that’s not my job right now. Case is the guy, and I’m doing everything I can to make the team better and make myself better. I’m obviously confident in my abilities and what I can do. I’m hanging my hat on that, and I’ll be ready.”

Lynch will have to beat out Chad Kelly to keep the backup job. He wasn’t able to unseat Trevor Siemian the past two training camps. But Kelly spent his rookie season on injured reserve so Lynch has the edge in experience, even though Lynch has started only four career games.

Until last week, Lynch had not talked publicly about the Broncos’ acquisition of Keenum. Lynch, 24, said he is excited to learn from Keenum, who started for the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game last season.

“I was really excited, actually, when we got Case for the fact he’s a veteran guy who’s been through it a little bit and had his ups and downs,” said Lynch, the 26th overall pick in 2016. “The way he carries himself and handles himself — he’s a pro and that only benefits me and the other guys in the locker room and the other guys in the quarterback room.”

Dak Prescott: Cowboys will be an exciting team and surprise a lot of people

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Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has lost two of his favorite receivers, but he’s excited about the prospects for a big-play offense in Dallas this season.

Prescott said on Saturday that despite the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, who were first and second in catches on the Cowboys last year, he expects to put on a show in 2018.

“We’re going to be an exciting team this year,” Prescott said on Showtime. “A lot of new faces. I think you’re going to find we have a lot of new guys on this team, within this organization, that can make plays. We plan on surprising a lot of people.”

Those new faces will include veterans Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin and draft picks Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson. Prescott will have to grow accustomed to playing with a very different receiving corps in 2018. He believes he’s up to the task.

Seferian-Jenkins: I can be best “run-blocking, pass-catching” TE

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The Jaguars signed tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to a two-year contract as a free agent this offseason and Seferian-Jenkins is confident that the team will be happy with that choice.

Seferian-Jenkins said during last week’s minicamp that 2018 will be his best year as both a receiver and a blocker. He caught 50 passes with the Jets last year and came into the league with high marks as a receiver, but the latter area hasn’t been seen as a particular strong suit in the past.

The Jaguars could use good play in that area after releasing Marcedes Lewis and Seferian-Jenkins acknowledges that “we’ll find out if I can run block or not” thanks to the Jaguars’ run-heavy attack. He’s confident that he’ll prove himself capable in that area.

“There’s no doubt in my mind I can be the best run-blocking, pass-catching tight end in the league,” Seferian-Jenkins said, via First Coast News. “I’m not worried about it. I’ve got a good opportunity to come in here and do what I can to help this team win as many games as possible and everyone else will decide how the blocking is, but I’m going to block as hard as I can for my teammates.”

Seferian-Jenkins may not wind up as the best tight end in the league, but showing well as a run blocker along with giving the Jaguars more of a presence as a receiver than they got last year should be enough to deem the deal a success in Jacksonville.

Why don’t fans support players who want more?

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Plenty of players skipped mandatory minicamps this year in an effort to get more money. And plenty of fans don’t like it.

Why, given all that is now known about the risks of a career in professional football, do fans continue to complain when a player hopes to receive greater compensation for the risks he assumes and the sacrifices he makes? When the billionaire owners make shrewd business moves, they receive the perfunctory slow-clap from admiring fans. When players (many of whom aren’t millionaires in the sense that they don’t have a net worth of more than $1 million — and they definitely don’t have liquid assets to that degree) try to use the system to their advantage, they’re described as selfish, not team-oriented, and worried about the wrong things.

Hyperbolic curmudgeon Bill Polian recently ranted on ESPN’s NFL Live about the disingenuous notion that players have an obligation to honor their contracts. That’s easy for folks on the league’s side of the ledger to say, since teams can rip up the contracts whenever they want. Players can’t just walk away, so at times they must take advantage of the tools available to them under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Despite Polian’s position that players have no real alternatives, they do. The system allows them to not show up, as long as they’re willing to risk incurring the associated fines. For mandatory minicamp, the potential price is $84,435. For training camp, it’s $40,000 per day.

And if the players choose to push it even farther, they can give up game checks and show up as late as Week 10, getting credit for the contract year and moving another step closer to free agency.

The notion that a player who consciously takes advantage of these options is “violating his contract” ignores the broader contract that dictates the team-player relationship. The overriding document is the CBA, and the CBA allows players to withhold services (at a price), if they choose to do so.

Even then, fans still routinely side with the billionaires over the mostly-not-millionaires. It likely happens for a variety of reasons.

First, fans just want the players to play. During a holdout, it’s the player who is the one directly responsible for keeping the player from playing. So the fans pressure the player to “honor his contract,” not the team to give him a new one.

Second, the fans don’t care about the massive wealth differential between owners and players. From the perspective of the fans, they’re all rich. However, the owners are dramatically richer, earning billions collectively every year while also holding 100 percent of the equity in the teams. And the owners can do it indefinitely. The players have a limited window to make what they can before the exit the game with bodies and brains that may eventually betray them.

Third, it’s would be foolish to not consider the racial component, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing anthem debate. Some (many) white fans surely resent (consciously or not) the fact that African-American men parlay God-given physical skills into the kind of money and fame that the average white person never will enjoy, no matter how hard he or she works. So when African-American players try to get more money that some (many) white fans think they don’t really deserve, those fans get even more upset, reasoning that the players who already have more than they should should simply be happy with what they’re getting.

Regardless of the reason(s), fans are playing right into the hands of the billionaires, making it even harder for players who have one or two chances in their football lifetimes to maximize their earnings. Meanwhile, the billionaires continue to sit back and watch the money roll in, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, without ever taking a single physical risk.

That will continue even if fans change their perspective, but it will at least be a little harder for the billionaires to consistently get their way if fans are willing to rise up and demand that the revenue generated by the sport be more fairly distributed to those who make the sport what it is.

Orlando Brown Jr. motivated by carrying on his father’s legacy

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Father’s Day is a happy day for many people, but it’s also a bittersweet or sad one for those who are without their fathers.

Ravens rookie tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is in the latter camp as his father, who also played tackle for the Ravens, died of diabetic ketoacidosis in 2011. Brown said he’ll reminisce about the man known as “Zeus” during his playing days with his mother and siblings, but he has another way of remembering his father every time he takes the field.

Brown, who was drafted in the third round this year, recalls finding a white bandana in a bag of football gear after his father died and his father telling him that offensive linemen “have to have your own swag” because they otherwise go unnoticed. The younger Brown wears a bandana under his helmet during practices and games as part of an effort to carry his memory with him every time he takes the field.

“My biggest wish right now is I wish he could see it,” Brown said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “At the end of the day, that’s my motivation for getting to this point and continuing to make sure I carry on his legacy.”

Orlando Brown Sr. started 119 games for the Browns and Ravens in a career that stretched from 1993-2005. His son finished minicamp as the first-team right tackle in Baltimore, which is a good stepping off point for the continuation of that family legacy.