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NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks predict how Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, LSU running back Derrius Guice, Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne, Michigan DT Maurice Hurst, Georgia RB Sony Michel and USC RB Ronald Jones will fare in the NFL.

Bailey Davis had been a cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints football team for three years before she was fired in January. Her former team, the Saintsations, claims the 22-year-old violated their rules about social media usage.

The Dallas Cowboys’ decision to release Dez Bryant last week was expected by many, but it caught one franchise legend by surprise. Emmitt Smith said on Tuesday that he was a little surprised by Bryant’s release, via the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota. There was some thought that locker room issues were part of the reason for Bryant’s release. Jason Witten dismissed that talk and says there are no locker room issues. One Cowboys receiver hinted at a potential reason for Bryant’s release, implying that being outspoken was not a good thing.

Peeking over the tips of a full house in a draft class that features four coveted quarterbacks in addition to alleged can’t-miss prospects such as running back Saquon Barkley, guard Quenton Nelson and pass rusher Bradley Chubb, Gettleman is thrilled to keep the football world guessing.

With the second pick, Gettleman quipped, I’m sitting at Ben and Jerry’s and I have a lot of different flavors to look at.

A week before the draft, he’s perched in the proverbial catbird seat with plenty of intrigue but no firm idea of his intentions.

Like it? I love it, Gettleman beamed. You kidding me?

The Giants are this draft’s great mystery. Will they choose Barkley with the intention of breathing life into Manning’s stalled career? Will they opt for Chubb to rebuild a once-dominant defense? Or is Gettleman playing coy at quarterback, waiting to pounce if his man slips past Cleveland?

You can’t close your mind, Gettleman emphasized. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Listen, we’ll know when we know. I’m not making any decisions before that.

Who can quibble with that approach? So much can happen in the next seven days. The quarterback-needy Bills or another club could knock his socks off with an overwhelming trade offer, rendering his war-room plans obsolete.

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NFL schedule 2018: Steelers, 49ers lead six contenders with most favorable schedules More The 2018 NFL schedule was surprisingly kind to many of the best teams from 2017. Four of the league’s playoff powers don’t face anything that would suggest they won’t return to the tournament. In addition, the week-by-week setup played most favorably into the hands of two non-playoff teams who performed at a high level to close last season. Here are the six contenders with the least difficult schedules in 2018: The combined winning percentage of the Steelers’ opponents last season was.477, tied with the Jaguars (see below) for 25th in the league. That weakness is evident each month of this season’s schedule.

Bryant was a touchdown machine in the first half of his career with the Cowboys, hauling in 41 scoring passes in a three-season span, capped by a career-high 16 in 2014. He was named a First-Team All-Pro selection that year. During that spectacular run from 2012-14, Bryant also averaged 91 receptions and put up at least 1,233 receiving yards in each of those seasons. For his career, Bryant appeared in 113 games (99 starts) and amassed 7,459 total yards while registering a franchise-record 73 receiving touchdowns.

A versatile player who can return punts (and even play offense, like Jackson did in 2017), Alexander has great ball skills. Appearing last month on PFT Live, he addressed concerns about his size by saying, Turn on the tape.

I want to keep playing. But what was more important for me was I didn’t want to go back on the field and be a step too slow or miss a play. If I’m out on the field with Telvin and Myles (Jack) and they expect me to do something and I miss that play because I held on a year too long, I don’t know how I look at them.

The NFL for the first time is prohibiting certain helmets from being worn by players.

In notifying the 32 teams Monday, the league has sought to have players stop using 10 helmet varieties. Some, particularly those manufactured by Rawlings, no longer are being made and don’t have support from the company. Others were found to be inferior to many of the 34 helmets the NFL and the players’ union examined.

Previously, NFL players could choose any helmet as long as it passed certification standards. Six of the substandard helmets are prohibited immediately, while the other four may be worn by players who used them in 2017 but not by new players.

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NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday that the franchise quarterback is seeking a new contract before the upcoming season.

It’s not a pressing issue, Garafolo emphasized on Wednesday’s edition of NFL Up to the Minute . It’s not anything that is contentious right now. But Brady would absolutely be interested in revisiting this contract.

The Patriots have a history of extending Brady’s deal with two years remaining on the standing contract. In which case, it’s not unreasonable for Brady to expect a renegotiation with an annual average of $14 million due in the final two years of his current agreement.

They don’t get two wins, three wins for this. It’s one win, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game.

Redick says Philly crowd gave him ‘goosebumps’JJ Redick describes the impact the home crowd made in Philadelphia’s first game of the NBA playoffs.

Somehow the Heat have to find a way to get more out of center Hassan Whiteside, who played only 12 minutes and scored two points. Spoelstra explained it as a decision because of matchups. But as the highest-paid player on the team, it’s hard to see the Heat winning a series without a more significant contribution from him.

I think we’re going to be multiple. I think we’re going to do what we have to do to win and get the best possible matchups.

Lazor replaced Ken Zampese after the Bengals were shut out in their first two games, so he inherited the offense. Now, he gets an opportunity to put his stamp on it.

The Bengals’ offense is expected to be aggressive.

I think you need to be aggressive, Dalton said. That’s offensive football. You want to be on the offense and make the defense react. I feel like that. I would think that would be part of what we do. We’ve been so similar for so long, it’s good to test yourself a little bit.

Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler thought the fan reaction was unwarranted.

I don’t like booing as a sign of displeasure for poor play, he said. The only time I ever think booing should be acceptable is when there’s a lack of effort.

Second baseman Starlin Castro, traded to Miami as part of the Stanton deal, was 0 for 3.

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Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche leaned on their speed to get off to another flying start.

For a third straight game in the series, Colorado scored first. But the Avs were able to make it stand in this one. MacKinnon and his teammates have been a different bunch at home this year. Their 28 home wins in the regular season was tied for the most in franchise history with the 2000-01 squad that hoisted the Stanley Cup.

They gained a lot of momentum, used their atmosphere to their advantage and we weren’t able to respond in that first period, Predators forward Ryan Johansen said. That can’t happen.

MacKinnon’s goal at 4:25 of the second period gave Colorado a 4-0 lead and prompted the Predators to pull Rinne in favor of backup Juuse Saros. Rinne allowed four goals on 15 shots.

We weren’t very good in front of him, Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. I didn’t think we were giving him the support he needed.

Advice: While coach Hue Jackson says the team is still eyeing four quarterbacks, Southern California’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen are commanding the most buzz for the first pick. Allen represents too much of a gamble, and his struggles with accuracy and touch seem to make him a poor fit with new wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who thrives in the short area. Darnold has to iron out his turnovers and footwork, but he brings the playmaking ability and poise that the Browns need from this position.

2. Cleveland owns five of the top 64 picks, including the No. 4 overall selection via a previous trade with the Texans. A potential early run on quarterbacks could leave them with their pick of the best non-passer in the class at that slot.

Advice: If Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is available, the Browns should take him to lock down their backfield of the future. Carlos Hyde was signed this offseason, but Barkley is the kind of transformative figure who can take on an Ezekiel Elliott or Leonard Fournette role as an offense’s centerpiece. If Barkley isn’t the choice, a Day 2 running back should be on the agenda. Georgia’s Sony Michel or Southern California’s Ronald Jones would be dynamic additions who could ease a rookie QB’s burden, though likely not to the degree that Barkley can.

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According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, multiple sources believe Brady will play. However, his status for 2018 isn’t yet certain.

Schefter’s report comes after Brady chose not to attend the opening of New England’s offseason program this week.

One source told Schefter, My money would be on him playing football for the foreseeable future, but what goes on away from the football field, I don’t know. I don’t know.

In an interview on Westwood One before the Super Bowl (h/t Tom Schad of USA Today), Brady was definitive in saying he would play in 2018.

New England will be in a difficult spot if Brady retires, since the only other quarterback on the roster is journeyman veteran Brian Hoyer.

The Patriots own the Nos. 23 and 31 overall picks in the 2018 NFL draft, meaning they may have enough capital to select an heir to Brady’s throne if a quarterback falls or they trade up.

Florida’s Taven Bryan (9.90) drew comparisons to J.J. Watt (10.0 at DT) at the combine, and with their similar athletic profiles, that’s understandable. Bryan isn’t quite the prospect Watt was coming out of Wisconsin, but Bryan’s similar upside is why he’s an option for the Lions in the opening round. Another possibility, Washington’s Vita Vea (9.49), has drawn comparisons to former Detroit anchor Haloti Ngata (8.42).

Another early-round option is Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (7.57 RAS). He may have fell short of measuring up to other elite, undersized tackles, Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins (9.46), but still posted numbers at his pro day better than similarly-sized Pro Bowlers Jurrell Casey (3.48) and Kawann Short (4.98).

If the Lions wait until Day 2, the team could target a prospect like North Carolina State’s B.J. Hill (8.64 RAS) or Stanford’s Harrison Phillips (8.00).

Joe Borland, one of Chris’ brothers, is a captain in the Army JAG Corps. Joe is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (2009-2010), Operation Enduring Freedom (2013) and Operation Inherent Resolve (2017-2018). John Borland, another of his brothers, is an Army major and currently serving as an instructor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The family is involved with After the Impact Fund. ATIF’s board of directors consists of former coaches Mike Ditka and Dan Reeves; Brigadier General Rich Gross, U.S. Army (ret.); Art Pue, former Army Special Forces Green Beret; and former player Matt Birk. It facilitates custom treatment plans for military veterans and former NFL players with traumatic injuries. The three Borland brothers will run in a race sponsored by the Pat Tillman Foundation. Tillman was a former NFL player turned Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan.

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USC’s Sam Darnold is viewed by many, including a current NFL offensive coordinator, as the premier quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft class, but that opinion is far from unanimous.

Both the Giants and Jets, along with the Cleveland Browns could be in the market for one of the top passers when the Draft gets underway on April 26, but one former scout had a harsh criticism of Darnold.

However, Darnold came unglued in a 24-7 defeat against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl when he finished just 26-of-45 passing for 356 yards and one interception.

Darnold’s struggles in the Cotton Bowl aside, Shonka is not impressed by this current crop of quarterbacks.

Absolutely not, Shonka said. Quantity doesn’t make quality. So tired of hearing this is a great quarterback group, like this is the Class of’83 or something.

Game 3 was another street fight, and Philadelphia didn’t back down.

There were 31 fouls and four technicals called in the first half, an opening 24 minutes where Wade and Justin Anderson got feisty, Winslow stepped on Embiid’s broken-off goggles and the teams took 45 free throws.

Some basketball was played on occasion as well. There were 14 lead changes and nine ties in the half, the Heat taking a 64-63 lead into the break.

Philadelphia landed the first blow, going on a 15-3 run in the first quarter to take a 32-21 lead. Miami got within four to end the opening quarter, and by then the physicality was already amped-up on both ends.

The NFL schedule for the 2018 season was set Thursday night, so you can start circling dates on your calendar. Potential playoff and Super Bowl previews, scintillating quarterback showdowns and reunion games are among the highlights. 

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The tag deadline arrives on Tuesday, in only two days. And only two guys have been tagged since the window opened 12 days ago.

On the first day, the Dolphins applied the franchise tag to receiver Jarvis Landry. More recently, the Lions used the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Here’s a list of the other hot spots as the final 48 hours of the process loom.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, whose fifth-year option wasn’t picked up by the team a year ago, could be franchise tagged after a strong 2017.

The Panthers reportedly are considering using the franchise tag on kicker Graham Gano.

The Seahawks reportedly won’t be tagging defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.

The Rams reportedly are more inclined to tag safety Lemarcus Joyner than receiver Sammy Watkins.

At the outset of the process, we set the over-under for tags at 5.5. At this point, Lawrence is the only sure thing, barring a long-term deal. Bell, Robinson, and Joyner are strong possibilities. Fuller and Gano could happen as well. Eight could be the ceiling, which means that up to six more tags could be coming in the next two days.

Of course, in the effort to by comprehensive, we’ve probably overlooked someone. Feel free to point out the omission in the comments. As if you ever need to be asked.

The market for top guards has skyrocketed, with the Browns setting the bar when they gave Kevin Zeitler a five-year, $60 million deal last offseason. Norwell would figure to be in the same neighborhood, and while Gettleman didn’t speak specifically about him, he was asked whether there was value in paying any guard $12 million a year.

There isn’t a quarterback alive that’s going to get in the huddle and say, &OK, boys, let them up the middle. I’ll deal with it,’ Gettleman said. You need to be firm in the middle. So at the end of the day if it’s keeping your quarterback upright and out of the hospital. . . .

There’s a bunch of guards now that are getting paid. And if you think about it, they’re closer to the quarterback. Listen, it’s the market. Is that car worth $150,000? If someone buys it, I guess it’s worth it, you know what I mean?

While short of a declaration, that’s a pretty good omen for Norwell, who Gettleman signed as an undrafted rookie in 2014.

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NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has a simple solution to the problem of teams asking players inappropriate questions at the Scouting Combine: Keep the teams that do it from participating.

Smith said on PFT Live that he thinks the team that asked running back Derrius Guice if he likes men should not be permitted to participate in the Scouting Combine going forward.

The Giants reportedly held a private workout for UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen at his campus on Tuesday, taking advantage of a 2-for-1 opportunity while across the country for USC’s Pro Day .

Denver Broncos eneral manager John Elway won’t be forced to select a quarterback with the fifth overall pick after the signing of Case Keenum in free agency and with Paxton Lynch, a 2016 first-round pick, still on the roster. However, the opportunity to select the most physically gifted quarterback prospect, whom the team already knows after coaching him at the Senior Bowl, will be too tempting.

Elway may see a little of himself in Josh Allen. He’s big, athletic, strong-armed and in need of long-term development. Allen won’t be thrust into the starting lineup, though. The Broncos coaching staff can slow-play his progression.

With the proper development, Allen could be the best quarterback in this class. But it will take time. Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen acknowledged his former protege is an unfinished product.

Watkins responded by writing you never know brother this business is crazy and Mixon followed up to say that the city is waiting on you.

Watkins had 39 catches for 593 yards and eight touchdowns after joining the Rams in an August trade with the Bills. They’re reportedly interested in re-signing him, but could get some competition from Cincinnati if the Bengals share their running back’s desire to see Watkins in orange and black next season.

On the heels of a disappointing 2017 season, Bryant plans to train with personal wide receivers coach David Robinson next month, NFL Network’s Jane Slater recently reported.

The regimen is the wideout’s equivalent to the offseason tweaks and tune-ups that quarterbacks undergo with noted passing gurus such as Tom House, Adam Dedeaux, George Whitfield and Jordan Palmer. Among the players benefitting from Robinson’s tutelage to date: Antonio Brown , Emmanuel Sanders , Jordan Reed and Cowboys teammate Brice Butler .

Asked for details on the upcoming workouts, Robinson told Slater that he would concentrate on expansion of Bryant’s route tree, shaking defenders at the line of scrimmage and improving footwork technique to compensate for natural loss of speed due to the aging process.

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Bills receiver Jordan Matthews is confident some team will see him as a No. 1 receiver.

He hits free agency coming off a season when he made only 25 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown. Matthews points to his injuries as a reason for the decline in production, which limited him to 10 games, including seven starts.

Thomas reportedly has auditioned for TV jobs with both ESPN and FOX. Silent for most of his career, Thomas has begun making his voice heard over the past year or so, presenting a funny and engaging side that will serve him well if he indeed chooses to move on from football.

If he calls it quits after 11 seasons, Thomas will have never made it to the playoffs, and he will have been on only one team with a winning record during his rookie year, the Browns were 10-6.

Early on Wednesday, an ESPN report indicated that the Eagles had restructured defensive end Chris Long’s contract,?giving him more guaranteed salary for the 2018 season.

As it turns out, that was not entirely accurate.

In fact, Long might not return to the Eagles at all.

White was a first-round pick in 2015, but a pair of fractured legs and a broken shoulder blade have limited him to just five appearances and 21 catches at the professional level. That makes it all but impossible for the team to count on him in 2018, but White is still working on a way to finally do some good for the Bears offense.

White has been working out with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in California over the last week and Trubisky gave an optimistic update on his teammate.

Kevin is working really hard to get back, and I’ve got a lot of faith in what he’s going to be able to bring to the table this year, Trubisky said on WSCR, via the Chicago Tribune. He’s looking good while we’re throwing together out here. And we’ve just got to continue to put in that work, and I know he’s busting his tail to really do big things this year.

There’s nothing White can do at this point to stop the Bears from addressing a receiving corps that would need help even if he were a surer thing for the coming season. Finding a way to stay on the field and add some positives to the offense would do wonders for extending a career that’s short on chances to get on track.

Could a freshmen QB start for Rutgers?

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For the third time in five years, an incoming rookie has disclosed that he was asked a question about his sexuality at the Scouting Combine. For the third time in five years, the NFL has publicly denounced that practice.

I spoke to Dan Quinn and I actually spoke to the coach who was involved in this matter, Commissioner Roger Goodell said in March 2016. I think the Falcons, as an organization, and Dan Quinn as a head coach, and the coach who was involved, have all taken ownership of this issue, recognized the mistake that was made, have been very forthcoming and have taken the appropriate steps to educate everyone. The coach [Marquand Manuel] and I spent probably 20 minutes on the phone talking about his learning experiences, how he can use this for a positive step and I was impressed with the way he was handling it. The team has taken on training programs within the organization which I think are all very satisfactory. So I don’t see any further steps at the league level at this point.

While that may have kept the Falcons from repeating the infraction, it’s not keeping other teams from doing the same thing. That’s likely because the consequences aren’t sufficient to deter teams from asking improper questions.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith believes teams that ask questions like this should be banned from the next Scouting Combine. While it’s an extreme example of discipline, it would be a lot more effective at deterring this type of thing than a seminar and a talking-to from the Commissioner.

Clearly, that outcome isn’t keeping other teams from asking questions that no employer should be posing to any employee.

There’s one way for that to be avoided. The Saints can sign Brees to a new contract before he has a chance to hear from other teams. Given that it’s taken this long, Brees should wait to see what a team like the Vikings or Broncos would put on the table.

If either team is thinking about offering top-of-market value to Kirk Cousins, they should at least consider a similar package for a more accomplished player like Brees, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who has missed only one game due to injury during only 12 seasons with the Saints.

If the Saints want to get a 13th season out of Brees, they may need to close the gap between whatever they’re willing to pay and whatever Brees can get elsewhere.

Bridgewater wants to show people he still has it, and that he can still be the player he once was. (He made the Pro Bowl in 2015, his second NFL season.)

I’m very eager [to get back on the field full-time], he said. But at the same time, August and September are a long way from now. It isn’t about proving to the people who counted you out or doubted you. It’s about proving to the people who believed in you.

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