Melvin Ingram expected to return to practice on Wednesday

AP

The Chargers staggered into the bye week as losers of three straight games as their season took a turn for the worse that was caused at least in part by the amount of injuries that have piled up this season.

One of the players that’s been missing has been linebacker Melvin Ingram, who has been on injured reserve with the designation to return because of a hip injury since playing in the first two games of the season. Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Ingram has been cleared to return to practice and is expected to be on the field on Wednesday, which will open a three-week window for him to practice before the Chargers have to make a call about adding him to the 53-man roster or shutting him down for good.

Ingram had eight quarterback hurries, a sack and a forced fumble in his brief playing time this season and his return would boost the pass rush as the team tries to get things moving back in the right direction.

Linebacker Manti Te’o and running back Ryan Mathews are a couple of the other injured players that the Chargers hope to get back in the lineup sooner rather than later and this week’s practices should tell us how close they are to making that happen.

Injuries mounting rapidly for Chargers defense

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The Chargers took a five-game winning streak into Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, but they weren’t able to extend their run any further.

Kansas City took a 23-20 decision, leaving the Chargers to make a quick turnaround to start preparing for Thursday night’s game against the Broncos. They’ll be doing it with a defense that’s been thinned out by injuries.

Linebackers Manti Te’o and Jerry Attaochu and cornerback Jason Verrett were all inactive, defensive tackle Kwame Geathers is on season-ending injured reserve and linebacker Melvin Ingram is on injured reserve with the designation to return, leaving the team shorthanded from the start. Cornerback Brandon Flowers left with a concussion during the game and the team saw several other players shuffle in and out with less severe aches and pains over the course of the afternoon.

Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego reports Verrett is expected to be out again on Thursday and Flowers is going to have a hard time getting cleared so quickly, which would leave the Chargers quite vulnerable to the Denver passing attack.

“Next man up” is a popular and sensible response to the injuries that impact every team, but at some point you run out of next guys. The Chargers are closer to that point than they’d like to be at the moment.

Chargers lose Melvin Ingram for at least eight weeks

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The injury woes that have plagued Melvin Ingram continue.

Ingram, the outside linebacker who was the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in 2012, has been placed on injured reserve with the return designation. That means he’ll miss at least the next eight weeks.

Ingram had started the first two games of this season but suffered a hip injury last week against the Seahawks. Ingram missed 12 games last year with a torn ACL.

The Chargers haven’t announced a corresponding move to fill Ingram’s spot on the 53-player roster.

Week Three injury report roundup

AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the first injury report roundup of the 2014 season.

Chargers at Bills

Running back Ryan Mathews (knee) and linebacker Melvin Ingram (hamstring) have been ruled out for the Chargers, who also may not have linebacker Jerry Attaochu (hamstring) after he missed practice all week. Attaochu is questionable, as are wide receiver Keenan Allen (groin) and safety Jahleel Addae (hamstring). The Bills will be shorthanded at linebacker as well. Randell Johnson (knee) has been ruled out and Keith Rivers (groin) is unlikely to play.

Titans at Bengals

The Titans don’t have many injury issues on the 53-man roster. Cornerback Jason McCourty (groin) is questionable after a week of limited practices, but the other three players on the report are probable. The Bengals listed linebacker Vontaze Burfict as doubtful, but two concussions in two weeks may make that a hopeful designation. Guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) is also doubtful, but things are looking good for wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) after a full practice on Friday.

Ravens at Browns

Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) is doubtful and running back Bernard Pierce is questionable after coming down with a thigh injury during the week. Guard Paul McQuistan (ankle) is questionable and the only player on the Browns injury report.

Packers at Lions

Linebacker Brad Jones (quad) is out again for Green Bay while tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) is questionable after missing last week’s game. Cornerback Casey Hayward (glute) is also questionable. Lions linebacker Travis Jones (quad), cornerback Cassius Vaughn (ankle) and tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf) are out. Safety James Ihedigbo (neck) is doubtful while defensive end Ziggy Ansah (knee) is questionable after a Friday return to practice.

Colts at Jaguars

The Colts have ruled out linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) and defensive tackle Arthur Jones (ankle). Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (illness) is questionable, as is defensive tackle Ricky-Jean Francois (ankle). The Jags won’t have wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring) but wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) is set to make his 2014 regular season debut.

Raiders at Patriots

Raiders linebacker Sio Moore (ankle) won’t play and running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hand) is questionable after having surgery less than two weeks ago. Defensive end Antonio Smith (back) was added to the injury report on Friday and he’s listed as questionable as well. Running back Shane Vereen (shoulder) and linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh) are the biggest names among six questionable Patriots while tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (back) are probable.

Vikings at Saints

Linebacker Chad Greenway is questionable to play with a broken hand and the Vikings are also waiting to see if wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) and linebacker Brandon Watts (knee) will play. The Saints have ruled out running back Mark Ingram (hand), linebacker David Hawthorne (ankle), fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) and safety Marcus Ball (hamstring).

Texans at Giants

Texans running back Arian Foster (hamstring) was limited in practice on Friday and is questionable for Sunday. The same is true for safety D.J. Swearinger (elbow). The Giants ruled out linebackers Jon Beason (foot) and Devon Kennard (hamstring) while listing punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) as questionable.

Redskins at Eagles

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (shoulder) is questionable for his first return to Philadelphia since being released by the Eagles. If he doesn’t play, he’ll join tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) and cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) on the sideline. Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks (calf) won’t play and safety Earl Wolff (knee) is questionable after missing Friday’s practice.

Cowboys at Rams

Defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) returned to practice for the Cowboys this week, but he’s out for Sunday. So is linebacker Justin Durant (groin) and Rolando McClain (groin) may join him after getting a doubtful tag. Quarterback Shaun Hill (thigh) is questionable for the Rams, who will make their quarterback call over the weekend. Wide receiver Tavon Austin (knee) is questionable.

49ers at Cardinals

Tight end Vernon Davis (ankle, knee), cornerback Tramaine Brock (toe) and tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) are all questionable for the 49ers. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (shoulder) is questionable and won’t start if he does suit up. Defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) and tight end Rob Housler (hip) are both questionable.

Chiefs at Dolphins

Safety Eric Berry (ankle) and running back De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring) are out for the Chiefs and running back Jamaal Charles (ankle) is questionable after practicing the last two days. The Dolphins won’t have guard Shelley Smith (knee) or linebacker Koa Misi (ankle). Tight end Charles Clay (knee) is listed as questionable.

Broncos at Seahawks

Linebacker Danny Trevathan (knee) is questionable to make his first appearance of the 2014 season, which would be a quicker than expected return from injury for the 2013 starter.  Cornerback Tharold Simon (knee) remains out for Seattle while linebacker Bruce Irvin (rib) missed practice the last two days and is listed as questionable.

Steelers at Panthers

Running back Dri Archer (knee) is doubtful for Pittsburgh and guard Ramon Foster (ankle) is questionable. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (quad), wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (quad) and wide receiver Jason Avant (quad) are all questionable for the Panthers.

Week Two injury report roundup

AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the first injury report roundup of the 2014 season.

Dolphins at Bills

It looked like the Dolphins would be without linebackers Koa Misi (ankle) and Phillip Wheeler (thumb) earlier this week, but Wheeler is probable. Misi is doubtful, as is guard Billy Turner (foot). Defensive tackle Randy Starks (toe), wide receiver Mike Wallace (hamstring) and tight end Charles Clay (knee) are all probable. Bills linebacker Keith Rivers (groin) is out, while tight end Lee Smith (toe) and safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) are doubtful. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (groin) should be back after missing the opener.

Lions at Panthers

The Lions won’t have starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf) so either Garrett Reynolds or rookie Cornelius Lucas will start. Safety Don Carey (hamstring) is also out and safety James Ihedigbo (neck) is doubtful after missing the opener. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (thigh) is questionable after missing two practices, but Cam Newton (ribs) is expected to make his 2014 debut. Tackle Garry Williams (hip) and linebacker Jason Williams (thigh) are also questionable, which may leave the Panthers short on Williamses come Sunday.

Falcons at Bengals

The Falcons have a short injury report, but there will be one painful absence. Left tackle Jake Matthews (ankle) won’t play on Sunday. There are more players on the Bengals report, but the only big question mark is linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion). Wide receiver A.J. Green (foot) and defensive tackle Geno Atkins (feet) are both probable.

Saints at Browns

Safety Marcus Ball (hamstring) and fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) remain out for the Saints, but wide receiver Kenny Stills is probable to return from a quad injury. Browns tight end Jordan Cameron and linebacker Barkevious Mingo are both questionable with shoulder injuries. Running back Ben Tate (knee) won’t play. Defensive end Desmond Bryant (wrist) is also questionable for Cleveland.

Patriots at Vikings

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) is probable, an upgrade from last week that could mean an uptick in playing time. Linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh), defensive end Michael Buchanan (ankle), center Ryan Wendell (knee), defensive tackle Chris Jones (ankle) and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga (hand) are all questionable for New England. Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (groin) are both questionable after being injured last weekend. Running back Adrian Peterson (non-injury related) was listed as probable, but that was before word of his indictment in Texas came down and his status is likely questionable at best.

Cardinals at Giants

Defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) and linebacker Alex Okafor (thigh) are out for the Cardinals, while quarterback Carson Palmer (shoulder) is questionable. Running back Andre Ellington (foot) and punter Dave Zastudil (groin) are also questionable, but safety Tyrann Mathieu (knee) has been bumped up to probable. Wide receiver Odell Beckham (hamstring) remains out for the Giants, who will have to make a decision about punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) before Sunday.

Cowboys at Titans

Linebacker Justin Durant (groin), defensive end Lavar Edwards (knee), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee) and tackle Darrion Weems (shoulder) will all miss the game for the Cowboys. Safety C.J. Spillman (groin) missed two days of practice and is questionable. Titans defensive tackle Mike Martin (hamstring) is questionable, but wide receiver Justin Hunter (knee) is good to go.

Jaguars at Redskins

Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) is likely to miss his second straight game, but running back Toby Gerhart (ankle) is probable. Safety Johnathan Cyprien (concussion), tight end Clay Harbor (calf), running back Storm Johnson (ankle) and tackle Austin Pasztor (hand) have all been ruled out. Washington will be without linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee), cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) and tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), with defensive lineman Kedric Gholston (groin) listed as doubtful. The Redskins also listed kicker Kai Forbath (groin), safety Duke Ihenacho (ankle), linebacker Brian Orakpo (ankle) and tackle Tyler Polumbus (ankle).

Seahawks at Chargers

Running back Christine Michael (hamstring), linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (hamstring) and cornerback Tharold Simon (knee) are out for the Seahawks. Safety Jahleel Addae (hamstring) and cornerback Chris Davis (ankle) are out for the home team while cornerback Brandon Flowers (groin) and linebacker Melvin Ingram (hamstring) are listed as questionable.

Rams at Buccaneers

Quarterback Shaun Hill’s status remains up in the air after the Rams listed him as questionable because of a thigh injury. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee) and center Barrett Jones (back) won’t play. Defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (ankle) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) are all out for Tampa. Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (abdomen), defensive end William Gholston (shoulder), guard Logan Mankins (knee), running back Doug Martin (knee) and safety Bradley McDougald (knee) are all questionable.

Chiefs at Broncos

The Chiefs placed three players on injured reserve this week, so they are short on serious injuries on the injury report. Running back De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring) is out and the only player listed as anything but probable. Denver listed guard Ben Garland (ankle) as doubtful and safety David Bruton (shoulder) as questionable on their own light injury report.

Jets at Packers

The Jets should have cornerback Dee Milliner (ankle) back after listing him as probable. Guard Willie Colon (calf) got the same tag while linebacker A.J. Edds (hamstring) is out. Tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) is a question mark for the Packers, but it looks like running back Eddie Lacy (concussion) and tight end Brandon Bostick (leg) are good to go.

Texans at Raiders

The Texans won’t have linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee), tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot) or safety Shiloh Keo (calf). Sixteen other Texans are probable, which makes two weeks of signs that Bill O’Brien’s injury reports will be of the voluminous variety. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hand), linebacker Kaluka Maiava (illness), tackle Matt McCants (knee) and linebacker Nick Roach (concussion) are all questionable for the Raiders.

Bears at 49ers

Wide receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) are both questionable for the Bears while Josh Morgan (groin) is doubtful. The offensive line will be missing guard Matt Slauson and center Roberto Garza with both men out after suffering ankle injuries. The 49ers listed cornerbacks Tramaine Brock (toe) and Chris Culliver (concussion, stinger) as questionable. Tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) has the same designation while center Marcus Martin (knee) is out for opening night at Levi’s Stadium.

Dwight Freeney, Jason Verrett among reserves on San Diego’s depth chart

AP

The Chargers’ first-round pick is among their second-stringers on their latest depth chart.

Rookie Jason Verrett is listed as the top backup to Shareece Wright at one of the cornerback spots on the depth chart, which was updated Friday, per the club’s website. The other starting cornerback is ex-Chief Brandon Flowers, a late-offseason pickup. Verrett has dealt with a shoulder injury in camp, while Flowers has also been ailing a little of late.

Another notable second-teamer is 34-year-old Dwight Freeney, who’s listed as the top backup to Melvin Ingram at outside linebacker.

It’s not a bad sign when a player with Freeney’s résumé is a backup. The same can be said about the Chargers having Donald Brown as the third-string back behind Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead.

At wide receiver, Seyi Ajirotutu and Eddie Royal are the second-teamers behind Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen. This leaves Vincent Brown – a 12-game starter a season ago — as one of the third-stringers. A calf injury has kept Brown out of much of camp.

The Chargers’ preseason opener is Thursday night vs. Dallas.

Preseason Power Rankings No. 16: San Diego Chargers

AP

The 2013 Chargers earned the AFC’s final wild card berth on the final day of the regular season, and were they ever the definition of a wild card.

Of the Chargers’ seven losses a season ago, six were by one score or less. They were 5-2 against playoff clubs but a mere 4-5 against also-rans, including defeats to Oakland, Washington and Houston.

But in the end, San Diego got hot at the right time, winning four in a row to end the regular season. Then, in the postseason, the Chargers proved they belonged, upsetting the favored Bengals in Cincinnati and putting up a fight in a loss at Denver in the divisional round.

In all, it was a successful first season for Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, who oversaw a club that always seemed to give itself a chance to win. And was it ever a splendid return to top form for quarterback Philip Rivers, who again looked like one of the best in his profession.

In some ways, the Chargers might have been ahead of schedule a season ago. The question is, what growth are they capable of this time around?

Strengths.

The Chargers’ offense is formidable. Rivers was fun to watch in 2013, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and ranking near the top of the NFL in passing yards gained per attempt (8.2). He was sacked 19 fewer times in 2013 than in the previous campaign (30 vs. 49), which speaks well of McCoy’s scheme and the work of the offensive line, which stepped up its play.

No team was better on third downs than the Chargers, and no quarterback may have been better than Rivers in such situations. Per STATS LLC, Rivers converted first downs on a league-high 49.4 percent of his passing attempts (77-of-156).

Rivers has multiple capable targets. Second-year wide receiver Keenan Allen starred as a rookie, hauling in 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Tight end Antonio Gates (77 catches, 872 yards, four TDs) is a key security blanket for Rivers, as is tailback Danny Woodhead (76 catches, 605 yards, six TDs). Wide receivers Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal and tight end Ladarius Green will also get their shots to contribute, too.

The Chargers’ running game is no slouch, either. Lead back Ryan Mathews racked up 1,255 yards a season ago in a career-best campaign. Ex-Colt Donald Brown gives San Diego another starter-caliber rusher behind Mathews. In addition to his pass catching, Woodhead can chip in a few carries per game.

Finally, the Chargers’ defense appears stronger than a season ago. Free safety Eric Weedle is a standout, while ex-Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers could be just what the secondary needs. Defensive end Corey Liguet (12.5 combined sacks in the last two seasons), inside linebacker Donald Butler and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram are nice defensive foundation pieces for now and the future.

Weaknesses.

The Chargers allowed more yards per rush and per pass than any other AFC a team a season ago. Even if San Diego’s defense is better — and it should be, with Flowers arriving and Ingram and Dwight Freeney returning from injury-shortened campaigns — this isn’t a shutdown group by any stretch.

The play of the outside linebackers will be key for the Chargers. Liguet (5.5 sacks) paced the club in sacks in 2013, with fellow end Kendall Reyes finishing second with five sacks. For a club employing a 3-4 base scheme like San Diego, the outside ‘backers must generate some pressure off the edges.

On offense, the play of the Chargers’ line still bears some monitoring, even after the improvements made a season ago.

Changes.

The Chargers’ most important changes could come in the secondary, where Flowers and first-round pick Jason Verrett should bolster the cornerback corps. Those additions came after the club cut ties with corner Derek Cox, who struggled in his lone season in San Diego.

The Chargers have a new offensive coordinator, with Frank Reich replacing Ken Whisenhunt, who became the Titans’ head coach. San Diego has also made a change at backup quarterback, with Kellen Clemens (ex-St. Louis) signing on to replace Charlie Whitehurst, who followed Whisenhunt to Tennessee.

The Chargers’ RB depth chart is a little more crowded with the addition of Donald Brown, who led the Colts in rushing a season ago. He effectively replaces Ronnie Brown as one of the club’s top three backs.

Camp battles.

Several positions bear watching:

—   Right guard: Incumbent Jeromey Clary comes off shoulder and hip surgery; can third-round pick Chris Watt push him for the job?

—   Cornerback: Flowers, Verrett and holdovers Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall are the top four options at the position. Flowers seems likely to garner a major role, but how quickly will Verrett adjust to the NFL game?

—   Running back: How will the reps be split between Mathews, Woodhead and Brown?

—   Nose tackle: Sean Lissemore, Ryan Carrethers and Kwame Geathers are among the options. Cam Thomas, one of the regulars at the position a season ago, signed with Pittsburgh.

—   Outside linebacker: There could be some healthy competition here, with Ingram, Freeney, Larry English, Jarret Johnson, Thomas Keiser and rookie Jeremiah Attaochu all in the mix for work.

Prospects.

The Chargers’ schedule is both inviting and challenging, with the biggest tests right out of the gate and down the stretch.

The Chargers begin with a pair of challenging out-of-conference games at Arizona and vs. Seattle. A 0-2 start is quite possible, given the degree of difficulty of those matchups.

Then comes a five-game run that could ultimately make or break the Chargers’ season. The next five opponents — the Bills (away), Jets (home), Jaguars (home), Raiders (away) and Chiefs (home) — are all conference opponents ranked behind San Diego in PFT’s preseason power rankings. Here’s a chance for the Chargers to stack up some important AFC wins — and they must do so.

Similarly, the Chargers need to make hay in the early part of November. They begin the month at Miami (Nov. 2), then take their bye. Then comes home games vs. Oakland (Nov. 16) and St. Louis (Nov. 23). The Chargers may have to sweep this three-game stretch, considering their next five games — their final of the campaign — are at Baltimore, home vs. New England, home vs. Denver, at San Francisco and at Kansas City.

In all, the schedule seems a perfect test for the Chargers. If their offense remains potent and efficient, and if their defense has improved, the Chargers could get rolling, and they could prove a challenging matchup for anyone, even those strong outfits they face in the final weeks.

The Chargers didn’t blink in tough situations a season ago, which makes them all the more intriguing in 2014. But can they move forward? It probably comes down to whether they can get a few more stops on “D.” They are going to score their share of points.

Saturday morning one-liners

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The Bills have announced information regarding complimentary tickets for night practices at training camp.

Patriots DB Kyle Arrington will host the Triple A Football Camp on Saturday in Brandywine, Maryland.

Underprivileged kids in Rochester, New York will have backpacks full of supplies when school starts, thanks in part to Dolphins LT (and Rochester native) Branden Albert.

Dawan Landry and rookie Calvin Pryor are projected to start at safety for the Jets.

Browns S Donte Whitner says the team’s offense will rely heavily on the running game.

His quarterbacking skills remain the subject of debate, but Bengals QB Andy Dalton is undeniably stellar at pop-a-shot.

Former Steelers first-round tailback Rashard Mendenhall will start his retirement with a $1.4 million house in Santa Monica.

With Arthur Jones gone from the Ravens, DL DeAngelo Tyson knows he needs to step up.

Colts owner Jim Irsay has donated $100,000 to a program for at-risk youth.

Titans teammates give CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson a hard time because he listens to audio books.

The Texans have announced the themes for their 2014 home games.  (What’s wrong with, “Hey, let’s try to actually win this week”?)

How many undrafted rookies will make it to the Jaguars’ 53-man roster?

Deceased Chiefs RB Joe Delaney will get a long-overdue look at his life in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning is proud of the manner in which the Manning Passing Academy has grown.

Get to know Chargers LB Melvin Ingram.

The situation regarding the stadium shared by the Raiders and A’s continues to be a bit of a mess.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten sold more merchandise last year than any other player on the team.

Giants RB Rashad Jennings is giving back this weekend to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia.

Washington DL Chris Baker has started a foundation to help kids in Windsor, Connecticut.

If Eagles RT Lane Johnson ends up missing the first four games of the season, the offensive line should be fine.

So who will start at tight end for the Packers this year?

The man accused of killing the 2-year-old son of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson claims the boy choked on fruit snacks.

The Lions love the enthusiasm and professionalism of DL Darryl Tapp.

Bears rookie S Brock Vereen is working on his on-field communication skills.

Buccaneers K Connor Barth will co-host a kicking camp on Sunday at Hoggard High School in North Carolina.

Panthers QB Cam Newton’s youngest brother is competing in Newton’s 7-on-7 tournament.

Saints NT John Jenkins celebrated his 25th birthday by hosting a youth football camp in Connecticut.

Actor Michael Kelly from House of Cards is a big Falcons fan.

Cardinals OT Jared Veldheer is a big believer in spending lots of time in the weight room.

49ers WR Bruce Ellington hosted a youth football camp in South Carolina on Friday with his cousin, Arizona RB Andre Ellington.

Former Rams LB Will Witherspoon thinks WR Kenny Britt will finally become a star in St. Louis.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman claims he’s “done talking” about San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree.  (Many would prefer that Sherman generally be “done talking.”)

Surgery Thursday for Sean Lee, Cowboys hope for best

AP

Even though he tore his ACL in OTAs, the Cowboys aren’t ready to declare Sean Lee’s season DOA.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Lee will have surgery Thursday on his torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, in hopes of a possible return late this season.

“We’ll see what the surgery indicates and we’ll make our decisions from there,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

At the moment, unless they just need that 90th roster body, there’s no point in putting him on IR. They could use the physically unable to perform list as a short-term stash to give him the chance to return.

While Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram came back from a torn ACL to play six games last year (including the playoffs), he’s also younger than Lee and doesn’t have the same lengthy injury record.

“I just think we want to go in there and do the surgery, get it done right, get him well and then make those kinds of decisions,” Garrett said. “Typically doctors will give you a timetable and you see what’s reasonable and you make your best roster move.”

It’s worth waiting, if only to add psychological incentive for Lee in his latest rehab.

Corey Liuget had surgery to repair torn labrum in shoulder

AP

Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget missed some time in the preseason because of a shoulder injury, but it didn’t stop him from playing in all 18 games the Chargers played in the regular season and playoffs.

That doesn’t mean that all was right with the shoulder. Liuget had surgery after the year came to an end to repair the labrum he tore in the team’s second preseason game. The injury likely limited Liuget during the season, although he wouldn’t use it as an excuse for what he felt was a disappointing performance. Liuget finished the year with 5.5 sacks and 42 tackle.

Liuget’s out of his sling now and has resumed working out with plans to be 100 percent by the time training camp rolls around. He’s also planning a major comeback, something that could be in vogue in San Diego with linebackers Melvin Ingram, Dwight Freeney, Jarret Johnson and Larry English also coming off injury-marred seasons.

“It’s going to be ugly,” Liuget said, via Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. “And the things that we did — we weren’t one of the best defenses, but we played pretty good football. With those guys even down, we played pretty good football. I can only imagine once we’re playing with each other and keep practicing with each other, we’re going to be better and better and uglier and uglier. People aren’t going to want to play us. It’s just going to be scary. It’s going to be very scary.”

The Chargers will bring in more help via the draft this week and an improved performance from the defense would go a long way toward making the Chargers a repeat visitor to the postseason.

Draft needs: San Diego Chargers

AP

The Chargers’ first three draft picks of 2013 — offensive tackle D.J. Fluker (Round One), inside linebacker Manti Te’o (Round Two) and wide receiver Keenan Allen (Round Three) — all started for a San Diego team that won a playoff game last season. 

Fluker, Te’o and Allen are key parts of the Chargers’ changing core. As detailed below, the Chargers enter the 2014 draft with some positions in need of youth. Cornerback especially looks to be a spot where a rookie could come in and start right off the bat.

Longer-term, an offensive lineman or outside linebacker selected next week could perhaps vie for a starting role in 2015. 

Here are the Chargers’ biggest needs entering the draft:

Cornerback: After sitting out the cornerback market in free agency, the club seems likely to bolster the position in the draft, especially after parting ways with Derek Cox and Johnny Patrick, who combined to play more than 1,000 snaps a season ago, according to Pro Football Focus statistics. Also, starting cornerback Shareece Wright can test unrestricted free agency after the season. The Chargers need more depth and talent here.

Offensive line: The Chargers did well to add Fluker with the No. 11 overall pick last April. One year later, the Chargers again may have to consider adding O-line help early in the draft. The club has three starters (center Nick Hardwick, right guard Jeromey Clary, left tackle King Dunlap) entering the final year of their deals.

Outside linebacker: The Chargers figure to have some significant turnover at this position in the years ahead. Dwight Freeney, 34, is in the final year of his contract. Jarret Johnson, 33 in August, had his deal restructured in the offseason. The Chargers have one potential building block at outside linebacker in 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram, who will be more than a year removed from an ACL injury at the start of the season.

Wide receiver:  Last year, the Chargers found a top-caliber wideout on the second day of the draft in Allen, who hauled in 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. And in this draft, the Chargers probably need to bring in at least one more pass catcher, especially with Malcom Floyd’s playing future murky because of a neck injury suffered a season ago. Also, key receivers Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown are both in the final year of their contracts.

Nose tackle: After Cam Thomas’ departure in free agency, the Chargers could look to add some more bulk in the middle to compete with Sean Lissemore and Kwame Geathers. Thomas played 547 snaps last season, per PFF, so bringing another lineman capable of taking some reps would help.

Monday morning one-liners

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The latest mock draft in the Buffalo News has the Bills landing North Carolina TE Eric Ebron.

April 13 was a big day in Dolphins history because it is when they completed a trade for coach Don Shula.

Defensive tackle options for the Patriots beyond the first round.

Could the Jets trade up if UCLA LB Anthony Barr starts to slip?

Notre Dame TE Troy Niklas has met with the Ravens.

Bengals FB/TE Orson Charles has pleaded not guilty to charges of wanton endangerment; he’ll be back in court on April 23.

Browns CB Buster Skrine is using this offseason as an opportunity to sharpen his skills.

A look at how the Steelers put together their 1974 draft class.

Texans WR Andre Johnson was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.

CB Vontae Davis’ new contract with the Colts ranks among the highest handed out in free agency this year.

If Jaguars S Jonathan Cyprien really thinks he met President George W. Bush, he’s going to be disappointed.

The Titans website previewed the draft by looking at running backs Carlos Hyde and Bishop Sankey.

The Broncos still have needs at middle linebacker, cornerback and on the interior of the offensive line.

Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt was honored by the Kansas City Sports Commission.

Desmond Howard was not one of the best free agent signings the Raiders have ever made.

The Chargers hope LB Melvin Ingram’s return to full health leads to good things in 2014.

Alabama LB C.J. Mosley could be a fit for the Cowboys on draft day.

An analysis of Giants G.M. Jerry Reese’s past draft tendencies.

Additional linebacker depth may be on the Eagles’ draft wish list.

TE Jordan Reed is one of the Redskins who could benefit most from coach Jay Gruden’s arrival.

Penn State DT DaQuan Jones could help restock the interior of the Bears’ defensive line.

S James Ihedigbo doesn’t think the Lions are lacking for leadership.

Colorado State C Weston Richburg could be an option for the Packers.

Vikings LB Chad Greenway’s foundation helps chronically-ill kids and their families.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan reminisced about his high school days as an option quarterback.

The Panthers have met with Tennessee State OL Kadeem Edwards.

Said Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis of the offseason, “I feel like we’ve executed our plan well. Whether that’s a good plan or not remains to be seen. But we feel like it is.”

Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer is selling his 11,873-square foot house in Maryland.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic preview the Cardinals’ draft plans.

Looking back at the Rams’ 2012 draft.

Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group compares the 49ers to the Kardashians when it comes to attracting bad attention.

Seahawks RB Christine Michael escorted an autistic girl to her prom over the weekend.

Donald Butler announces he’s staying with Chargers

AP

Teams looking for help at linebacker can cross another potential free agent off the list.

Donald Butler took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to announce that he has re-signed with the Chargers.

“Feeling blessed! Y’all heard it here first! Deal is done!! SD I aint going no where!! Too excited!!” Butler wrote.

Butler didn’t share any terms of the deal, but the Chargers followed up Butler’s tweet with an announcement that it is a multi-year deal.

Butler was set to be the top inside linebacker to become available on March 11, which makes it no surprise at all that the Chargers opted to hold onto him. He’s proven his ability to play all three downs and has been an asset to the Chargers defense against both the run and the pass. With Butler remaining in the fold, the Chargers appear set at linebacker with Manti Te’o, Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram rounding out the lineup.

Spurrier on Clowney: Amazing talent, OK work ethic

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The scouting report on former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has long been that his athletic talent is second to none, but he doesn’t always work as hard as he should. Clowney’s college coach, Steve Spurrier, is doing nothing to dispel that notion.

Asked on NFL AM to assess Clowney, Spurrier gushed about his greatness as a player and downplayed talk that his production was down in 2013. But Spurrier also acknowledged that Clowney wasn’t the hardest worker on the team.

“Even though his production this year wasn’t near what it was last year, he had two or three guys waiting on him just about every play,” Spurrier said. “His run defense was very good, though, and he chased down a bunch of guys and made tackles. His sacks — he had to run around two or three guys just about every game. I don’t think teams will quite do that in the NFL, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Asked about Clowney’s work ethic, Spurrier didn’t sound as enthused, suggesting that Clowney didn’t work as hard as some of the other star players Spurrier coached at South Carolina.

“He was OK. It wasn’t like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different,” Spurrier said. “His work habits are pretty good, they’re not quite like Lattimore, maybe Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he’s got something no one else has.”

Clowney’s talent will make him a Top 10 pick. An NFL team getting him to improve that work ethic may be what it takes for Clowney to become not a good player, but a great player.

Will Smith prefers to return to defensive end

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As former Saints linebacker Will Smith gets a head start on free agency, via the recent release by the team that made him a first-round draft pick a decade ago, he has a preference for his next NFL gig.

He would like to move back to the position he played before 2013.

“I think I’m at heart a 4-3 defensive end,” Smith told NFL Network, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “That’s something I would like to play.  But if I go to a team that requires me to play outside linebacker, I’m cool with that too.”

It’s smart for Smith to be flexible, since it’s possible that the highest bidder will want him to stay at the position he didn’t get to play very much at all until tearing an ACL in August.  Last year, former Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney preferred to return to defensive end in a 4-3 front — and then Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram tore an ACL and the Chargers closed the deal for Freeney.

Smith’s flexibility extends to former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who’s now running the defense in St. Louis.

“I never really had a problem with Gregg with the whole situation, so I wouldn’t really mind playing with him. I always thought he was a great coach and a great person,” Smith said.

That’s a far cry from the perception that Williams “snitched” on Jonathan Vilma by signing a sworn document confirming Vilma had offered $10,000 to anyone who knocked former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the January 2010 NFC title game.

But Smith knows there are only 31 potential suitors for his services.  That’s far too few doors to justify slamming any of them shut.

Even for Vilma, who’d likely be inclined to bury the hatchet with Williams if there’s no other locker room in which Vilma can hang his cleats.