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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hopes to avoid knee brace


GREEN BAY, Wis. — There’s good news and potentially bad news for Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback could have his top three receivers back together for Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, but he might be a little less mobile than he’d like.

Rodgers experienced what he called a setback with his ailing left knee during last Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, when he took a hit from linebacker Christian Jones on the game’s opening drive.

For the first time since he was injured in the season opener, Rodgers wore a smaller, lighter brace against the Lions. Now there’s a chance he may have to go back to the larger brace that he wore in the three games immediate following the injury.

“I hope not,” Rodgers said. “The goal would be to wear the same brace I wore last week, but I have a lot of faith in our training staff and we’re going to [use] the brace we feel is most safe and allowing me to do exactly what I’m able to do on Monday.”

Rodgers did not practice on Thursday, the Packers’ first of the week in advance of the 49ers game. That followed the same pattern as the last month. He said he hoped to practice on Friday; the past two weeks, he has taken part in that full-pads workout (which is normally on Thursday in advance of a Sunday game).

He did, however, call what happened against the Lions a setback. He threw for 442 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions but was done in by two first-half fumbles on strip sacks, marking only the third time in his career that he lost two fumbles in a game.

“Yeah, kind of a setback last week, the beginning of the week,” Rodgers said. “Got to be in the rehab group again today, got a lot of good work in with [assistant trainer] Nate [Weir] and just hoping I get back out there tomorrow and have a feel-good Friday and a practice [Sunday] and be good to go — hopefully back to where I was in Detroit.”

While Rodgers worked with the trainers, receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison were surprise participants at practice on Thursday after missing the Detroit game. Both had hamstring injuries; Allison also was diagnosed with a concussion. Coach Mike McCarthy said before Thursday’s practice that Allison had cleared the concussion protocol, but indications were both receivers would be in the rehab group.

Instead, they went through at least part of practice, meaning the trio of Cobb, Allison and No. 1 receiver Davante Adams are on the verge of a reunion. The trio hasn’t played together since Week 3 because Cobb missed the previous two games.

Against the Lions, it was Adams and three rookie receivers. Two of them, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (seven catches for 68 yards) and Equanimeous St. Brown (three for 89) made contributions, but Adams (nine for 140 and a touchdown) did the majority of the work.

“I think we can be one of the best in the league,” Adams said of the trio of himself, Cobb and Allison. “I honestly think that because obviously you know how I feel about myself and my game. Randall’s been doing this thing for a long time, longer than I have. I have the utmost respect for him, and G-Mo goes about his business as good as anybody else in the league. So the sky’s the limit for him. I feel like he has not even come close to reaching his potential. He’s shown flashes, but he can do a lot for us.”

Perhaps that will help the Packers get off to a faster start, something Rodgers has identified as a goal. Although they’re 10th in the NFL in total offense, they are tied for 18th in scoring and tied for 19th in red-zone touchdown percentage. They have been outscored 42-13 in first quarters this season and 76-43 in first halves, while averaging just 23 points per game.

“It’s definitely below, and we’ve kind of been stuck at that number,” Rodgers said. “Scored that a couple of times — 22, 24, way up to 29 in Week 2. Not quite the standard that we’ve set here over the years with the type of offense we think we can have and the type of offense we think we could have coming out of training camp.

“I told you guys Week 1 it’s going to be a work in progress; I don’t think we’re far off. I feel kind of like after Washington a couple of years ago [2016, Week 11]. We are very close to getting things going and like I said then and I’ll say again now, I feel like if we can get off to a better start on offense, it makes the entire squad play with a different type of confidence.

“We need to lead from the front as an offense and as a team and give our defense an opportunity to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback and make them a little more one-dimensional.”

A full complement of receivers and the smaller knee brace could help.



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Dak Prescott hopes a change in mechanics yields results – Dallas Cowboys Blog


OXNARD, California — On Thursday, Dak Prescott will jog onto the field for the Dallas Cowboys‘ first training camp practice of 2018 with optimism for what could happen over next five months.

But it is the work Prescott put in nearly five months ago that has him excited.

Before the official start of the Cowboys’ offseason program in April, Prescott worked out with 3DQB a few hours south of Oxnard, California, training with former NFL quarterback John Beck under the program designed by Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.

Prescott’s journey to 3DQB started out of necessity. In his first two NFL seasons, he worked with Tom Shaw, a noted trainer, but Shaw took a job with the Oakland Raiders and was no longer available.

Prescott did some research and saw the results 3DQB had not just with quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, but younger quarterbacks like Jared Goff and Blake Bortles.

“The reason Tom can play until he’s 45 or whenever he wants is that he uses all of his body in his throws,” Prescott said. “It’s not just his arm. Me being young, I can use my arm and get away with it. If you use the rest of your body, like the greats do, then you’ll see the benefits.”

During the organized team activities and minicamp, Prescott’s mechanics did not look too different to the naked eye, but he could feel a difference.

“If you’re a quarterback and you study the position and you study the way the body moves, it’s putting force into the ground to get the ball the way you want to,” Prescott said. “It’s different for me than it is for Goff. We work different parts of it. To the naked eye, not so much is different but guys that do study that, they can see it and I can see it.”

House, a former Texas Rangers pitching coach, has been a mechanical guru for decades. The program focuses on biomechanics, functional strength, mental and emotional fitness, nutrition and sleep. Prescott dropped about 10 pounds in the offseason, looking leaner than he had his first two seasons.

“He’s a big guy. You really don’t realize it unless you stand by him and look at him,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He’s naturally a big guy anyway. [The loss of weight] probably helps him, helps his mobility a little. … He’s always been a pocket guy, a pass-first quarterback. I think he just feels like there is no downside to being in the best shape you can [be in].”

When Prescott has gotten off kilter in his first two seasons, he has looked mostly at his footwork. His completion percentage dropped from 67.8 percent as a rookie to 62.9 percent in 2017. This offseason, he has studied Brady’s ability to keep his feet calm and keep the ball in position to release quickly. By remaining in a more ready position, the passes should be more accurate.

“Dak has a real confidence in his ability to just pull the ball and deliver it,” Linehan said. “The anticipation, getting the ball out, it’s just doing it a little quicker. We had a play in practice where the snap was low but he got the ball and got it loaded and thrown way quicker than he would’ve last year. He just got his feet in good position.”

At times, Prescott thought his feet got him into more trouble, especially last season when he was under more duress. But he wasn’t blaming the offensive line.

“Being an athlete I guess when I take a move sometimes it’s bigger than I necessarily need to,” Prescott said. “You watch guys that have been in this league a while, Brady is the best example. Sometimes he barely moves, and the defensive end or somebody flies by him. Being the athlete I am, sometimes it’s just toning that down and not necessarily moving a full yard, or it’s just barely scooting up here and there but keeping my feet in the same position. Footwork is definitely something I’m trying to get better at.”

Another focus was on the depth of his drops from center, which were too long and put his tackles in difficult spots because they were not expecting him to be so deep on his five- or seven-step drops. The goal is to have the same landmarks on each drop on each play.

“He’s got a long stride, so he’s really working at getting back there,” Linehan said. “So sometimes it’s perfect, but sometimes it may be a little deep. Maybe sometimes we’re overemphasizing it. Maybe he’s not deep enough. It’s things like that that you look at and work on and you kind of break yourself down and I think he’s really done a great job of doing that as well as focusing on his overall game.”

Linehan spoke with Beck on occasion in the offseason about Prescott’s work. Prescott made sure what he worked on was in line with what Linehan and quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore wanted. Linehan liked so much of what he heard and saw, his son, Matt, who played at Idaho, worked out at 3DQB.

“It really complements what we do,” Linehan said. “This kind of stuff works when you’re working together. We can’t work with our players like these guys. We aren’t allowed to work with them until we get into Phase 2 and Phase 3 and it’s really limited by time. These guys can spend eight hours with the guys and just work on his craft. We think it’s a benefit.”



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Ben Roethlisberger not sweating contract, hopes other Pittsburgh Steelers ‘get taken care of’


PITTSBURGH — Two years from free agency in a robust quarterback market, Ben Roethlisberger isn’t concerned with landing a record-breaking contract.

“I care about record-breaking Super Bowl wins and things like that — that’s more important to me,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback told ESPN from his football pro camp Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger taught youth players teamwork for about four hours on Father’s Day, and he didn’t sway from that message when discussing his future.

Entering a 15th season together, Roethlisberger, 36, and the Steelers are poised for one last extension with the franchise he has helped win two Super Bowls. But Roethlisberger is content discussing those matters after the 2018 season.

Roethlisberger’s five-year contract, signed in 2015, averages about $20 million per year, which was the market for top quarterbacks at the time. But several quarterbacks have dwarfed that number, with Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hitting the $30 million mark and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to follow.

“I have two years on my contract. I’m not going to be one to sit here and worry about my contract,” said Roethlisberger, who ranks eighth in NFL history with 51,065 passing yards. “That’s not my job. My job is to play football. I’ll let my representation, the Steelers worry about all that stuff. To me, it’s all about going out and playing now. I think there are a lot more, maybe a lot more important people who need to get their deals done now. For me to do it two years out, if it doesn’t make sense for the team, I’m not going to sit here and worry about it.”

And Roethlisberger wants to leave room for teammates to get paid, too.

Asked about the challenges for NFL teams to pay several stars while facing salary-cap hurdles, Roethlisberger said he understands teams are limited and seems willing to help.

“It’s important, too, to understand as quarterback of this team, sometimes you almost have to leave a little bit of money behind for other guys,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s not my job, that’s not my thing to worry about. That’s why I have agents.”

The Steelers currently have around $5 million in cap space while carrying Le’Veon Bell‘s $14.5 million franchise tag. His situation must be resolved this summer.

Roethlisberger does have a few ideas for how the Steelers can spend after 2018, though: on his coveted line, which has helped cut Roethlisberger’s sacks in half from his late-2000s pace. Roethlisberger once took 50 sacks in a season but has 58 over the past three seasons.

“I know in two years, [Maurkice] Pouncey, [Marcus] Gilbert, there are other very important guys up that I hope get taken care of,” Roethlisberger said. “Because if they aren’t here, I’m not here. That’s the way it is; they are that good.”

Roethlisberger has credited offensive line continuity for what he calls a three-to-five-year outlook on his career.

His message to campers was about valuing everyone in the huddle.

“I want them to know that football is important, but it’s about being a team,” he said.



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Kevin White hopes to stay on field for last stand with Chicago Bears – Chicago Bears Blog


LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The career of Kevin White hasn’t gone as anyone planned since the Chicago Bears selected the wide receiver with the seventh pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

Here is really all anyone needs to know: White has only 21 career receptions because he has missed 43 of 48 games.

Beset by injuries even before his rookie season, 2018 could be White’s last chance in Chicago. Because of his inability to stay on the field, the Bears predictably declined White’s fifth-year option — worth $13.9 million — in early May, but White’s base salary ($2,693,597) for the upcoming season is fully guaranteed.

“I’m motivated every single day, with or without the option,” White said.

Here’s the strange part: At least through offseason work to date, there seems to be some cautious optimism from new coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky that White can redeem himself.

“He’s committed,” Nagy said. “He’s dedicated. He wants to be a really good wide receiver. When you have somebody that has that want, we as coaches need to give him every opportunity to succeed.”

White’s lone offseason session with reporters was brief and devoid of much real insight. He appeared as tired of questions about his injury history as everyone who follows the Bears.

He called the new offense “exciting” with “explosive routes.” He said he could build coaches’ confidence in him by “being available.”

When asked what he has learned after dealing with so much adversity in a relatively short period, White responded that he’s “built Ford tough.”

Advertising slogans aside, White has had a rough go of it in Chicago. As a rookie, he developed an offseason stress fracture in his left shin that the Bears initially attempted to let heal on its own. When White continued to feel discomfort during training camp, however, the club opted to shut down their first-round pick for the season. Doctors inserted a steel rod into White’s tibia to stabilize the injury.

White was healthy to begin the following season, but he landed on injured reserve in Week 5 due to a high ankle sprain that resulted in a fractured fibula in the same leg.

White, 25, then suffered a fractured scapula in last year’s season opener.

Upon accepting the Bears’ head-coaching job, Nagy made no public promises to White in terms of playing time. But as Chicago’s offseason program has progressed, it’s clear the Bears are giving White every opportunity to carve out a sizable role on offense.

Whether White stays healthy long enough for Nagy’s plan to come to fruition is another matter entirely.

Experience matters

White’s injury problems are twofold.

The first obstacle White must overcome is the lack of quality reps he has received at the NFL level.

“When you’re missing games and not getting game reps, you’re also missing practice reps, you’re not competing, and when you don’t compete over long periods of time, your development starts to plateau,” ESPN NFL Insider Matt Bowen said. “He hasn’t even had the opportunity to come close to reaching that perceived ceiling.

“Rookie wide receivers struggle all the time in the NFL. They do, because they get beat, they get handled, and they get locked down. But if I’m a young receiver, I need that to happen so I can learn from it and use the experience to allow me to get better. But White just hasn’t had as many experiences where he can go back and look at tapes from his first or second season. There’s not enough tape there, really. It’s almost like he continues to start over every year. That’s really hard to do mentally. And it’s hard to do physically.”

The Bears’ next order of business is determining whether White still possesses the freakish physical skills that made him a top-10 pick.

White ran a blistering 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2015. White’s outrageous test scores, coupled with the 109 balls he caught for West Virginia the previous fall, convinced Bears general manager Ryan Pace that the 6-foot-3 wideout was too talented to pass up with the seventh overall selection.

But what toll have three surgeries in three years taken on White’s body?

“I don’t know,” White said. “Watch the film, I guess.”

At least for White’s sake, last year’s season-ending injury wasn’t to a leg.

“I don’t have to learn how to run, walk and jump again,” White said last week at OTAs. “It’s a lot easier to come back.”

‘We’re all starting from the same point’

White arrived in the NFL with limited route-running knowledge based on the offense he ran in college.

“At West Virginia, they had a limited route tree,” Bowen said. “Don’t get me wrong, it was an ideal route tree for that system, but limited in terms of transitioning to the NFL. You see slant routes, shallow routes, bubble screens, tunnel screens and fade routes at West Virginia. That’s more of a spread look. The thinking is, ‘Let’s get our best athlete the football in his hands and let him play.’”

Again, White’s inability to stay on the field stunted his growth as a route runner under the old John Fox regime. It’s impossible to become a better route runner without the benefit of game experience or practice reps.

“Availability is so important in this league,” Bowen said. “To get better you have to play. You have to get beat up a little bit as a young player in this league. You have to get knocked down as a wide receiver and go up against the likes of Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey and learn how to win those matchups.

“You have to learn how to make contested catches, learn how to adjust your body with a pro quarterback, win on double moves and catch the 50-50 balls.”

The good news, for White, is that Nagy brought a different route tree with him from Kansas City.

In essence, White and the rest of Chicago’s receivers — minus tight end Trey Burton, who played in a similar scheme in Philadelphia — began the offseason on equal footing.

“Reps are the key to everything,” Trubisky said. “With this new offense, we all started from the same point, moving on, so Kevin has done really well in this offense. The more reps he can get, the better, and it’s definitely nice to see. We’ve got to keep improving that chemistry and groove this offense.”

While NFL offseason programs are noncontact affairs, White appears to have performed well in voluntary workouts. With No. 1 wide receiver Allen Robinson slowly working back from a torn ACL, White spent much of OTAs lining up outside and catching passes from Trubisky.

“Kevin has worked hard at [his route running],” Nagy said. “He’s somebody that you’ll see stay after practice and take those extra reps if it’s a route he didn’t have the correct footwork on. Maybe he was two steps off on a seven-step route and he took five steps, so he’s going to go back out there and run the route with seven steps the right way … or maybe he dropped the football.”

‘Built Ford tough’

Another serious injury to White — whether in the preseason or regular season — would derail any hope of a comeback. But since it’s impossible to forecast injuries, the Bears have taken a wait-and-see approach with him.

“I come out here every day and work,” White said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

On the field, White looks as enthusiastic as ever. There is definitely a new vibe on offense at Halas Hall, and White has been among the skill-position players to stand out against the Bears’ seasoned defense in 7-on-7 and full-team 11-on-11 drills.

“Kevin, he’s coming out really hungry, which is great to see — lot of passion. He looks great out there, and he’s just coming in every day with an open mind ready to work,” Trubisky said. “He wants to be coached, he wants me to just communicate with him every play, what I see, what he sees, and we’re talking on the field, off the field, what he can do to get better.”



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Richie Incognito back home, hopes to return to NFL


BUFFALO, N.Y. — Richie Incognito tells The Associated Press he’s back home training in Arizona and feeling great, two weeks after the former Buffalo Bills offensive lineman spent three days in a mental hospital following an alleged outburst at a South Florida gym.

Without discussing the outburst, Incognito wrote in a text message to the AP on Wednesday that he is still pursuing continuing his NFL career for a 12th season. He focused a majority of his message on thanking friends and fans for their support, and specifically singled out former teammate Eric Wood.

Incognito referred to Wood as a pillar of the community and added: “When I would have a dark day, he was a bright shining light that helped me through. I owe him a lot.”

Incognito also thanked the Bills and team owners Terry and Kim Pegula for providing him an opportunity to resurrect his career. The Bills signed Incognito in January 2015 after he spent 18 months out of football following his role in the Miami Dolphins‘ bullying scandal.

He referred to his three seasons in Buffalo as being some of his fondest memories.

Incognito closed his message by saying he hopes to sign with another team so that he can come back to Buffalo to beat the Bills, before adding a smiling-face emoji wearing sunglasses.

Incognito, 34, has had a tumultuous offseason.

Two weeks ago, police placed Incognito in a mental hospital after he allegedly threw weights and tennis balls at gym employees and another patron, and told officers the government is spying on him.

In April, Incognito abruptly fired his agent and then retired by posting a note on Twitter before having a change of heart. On May 21, the Bills granted his request to be released to potentially sign with another team.





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As Le’Veon sits, Jaylen Samuels hopes to wow Pittsburgh Steelers – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog


PITTSBURGH — Jaylen Samuels has an edge that’s obvious within the first few minutes of speaking to him. Ask the running back about his fifth-round status in the NFL draft and his answer is blunt.

“I’ve felt disrespected. That’s just a little bit of motivation for me,” said Samuels, who caught 201 passes at North Carolina State along with scoring 47 touchdowns in 383 overall touches. “I’ve always been underestimated all my life.”

Yeah, those seven scholarship offers and three-star high school recruiting rankings still bother Samuels, a fullback out of Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek High School.

Late-round picks are hardly slam dunks to crack the rotation, but at 225 pounds with a 4.54 40 time, Samuels plans to make things interesting at running back for the Steelers.

With Le’Veon Bell poised to sit out workouts and possibly training camp, depending now what happens with his franchise tag this summer, Samuels will have every chance to do just that.

James Conner will get a sizable spotlight during OTAs and minicamp as a former third-round pick who rushed for 144 yards on 32 carries last season before suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in Week 15. Conner should be all healed up and ready to fight for a primary role behind Bell. But veteran Stevan Ridley is eyeing a career reinvention in Pittsburgh, and Fitz Toussaint has been in and out of the Steelers’ backfield the past three seasons.

Competition won’t be lacking in this spot.

What the Steelers hope to see from Samuels, though, is a little bit of N.C. State flare. Running backs coach James Saxon couldn’t keep his eyes off Samuels when watching Wolfpack tape during draft prep. Samuels is a magnet for the end zone, scoring on nearly every eighth offensive touch in college.

“The kid answers the bell in a lot of different ways,” Saxon said. “You can just tell as you watch games and you evaluate tape that certain situations where they need a big play, they stick him back there and hand him the ball.”

One pre-draft concern for Samuels was identity. He served as an H-back of sorts in college — part fullback, part tight end, part ball carrier. What was he, exactly?

But Samuiels feels at home as a receiver out of the backfield. The Steelers offense loves the running back-receiver role. Ben Roethlisberger is at his best when Bell — who has 312 catches in five seasons — is adding an extra 60 yards on easy throws and after-the-catch playmaking.

“That’s what I’ve been doing all my life,” said Samuels about a receiver role.

The Steelers would have sent ripples through the offense by selecting a running back in the first two rounds of last month’s draft. They liked LSU’s Derrius Guice and followed him closely in the process. But the three-day draft took many twists and turns for a franchise that needed defensive help and a wide receiver upgrade thanks to the Martavis Bryant trade. Those needs resulted in safety Terrell Edmunds and James Washington. Then, quarterback Mason Rudolph was still available in the early third, so the Steelers went for a luxury item.

But the good franchises find success with late-round picks. Three years ago, the Steelers selected tight end Jesse James, who’s a key part of the rotation.

Perhaps Samuels is the next impact piece, finding the respect he craves.



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Sheldon Richardson further boosts Minnesota Vikings’ Super Bowl hopes – Minnesota Vikings Blog


EAGAN, Minn. — As the Minnesota Vikings aligned their offseason priorities after their 2017 run ended in the NFC Championship Game, three things stood at the top of the list. In order: Hire an offensive coordinator, address the quarterback position and add depth on the defensive line.

As the first wave of free agency wraps up, all of those boxes have been checked. Adding two Pro Bowlers in two days between quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson not only fulfilled position needs, it solidified Minnesota as a Super Bowl contender.

As pivotal as it was for the Vikings to land the top free agent at arguably the most important position in all of sports, it was equally crucial to fill the missing piece on the league’s No. 1 defense.

Coach Mike Zimmer pointed to a breakdown in the Vikings’ pass rush in “maybe the last four or five ballgames” as the reason his vaunted defense came up short. Not being able to pressure the quarterback as well as they had earlier in the season came down to injuries and a weakened rotation on the defensive line. At the combine, Zimmer went over the possibilities of where these struggles started. Maybe he had played veteran DT Tom Johnson too much (the 33-year-old played 70 percent of defensive snaps)? Maybe he didn’t play Linval Joseph enough? Zimmer then stressed the importance of bolstering depth along the defensive line, particularly via an upgrade at the 3-technique spot.

Minnesota got more than an upgrade Friday. It got a potential game-changer in Richardson.

Entering his sixth year in the NFL after one season in Seattle and the first four years with the Jets, the 2013 first-round pick was the top free-agent defensive tackle on the open market.

Richardson said he’d made it difficult for his agent, Ben Dogra, to find him the best deal because he “didn’t finish enough at the quarterback.” Zimmer didn’t necessarily see it that way.

“Sheldon was a guy that has been, and even was this last past season, one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the NFL in order to get the quarterback off the spot,” Zimmer said. “He didn’t have a lot of sacks, but as I’ve said before, sacks are not our No. 1 goal. It’s about disrupting the quarterback and getting him off his spot and getting him off timing.”

Richardson had one sack in 2017 but totaled 44 tackles, 28 hurries and seven quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus. The numbers don’t always tell the story of how effective a player can be. What the defensive tackle provides for a line that is expected to feature a front four of Danielle Hunter, Joseph, Richardson and Everson Griffen is not measured by stats alone.

Minnesota got better immediately when Richardson came on board on a one-year deal (his doing, as a “prove it” type of contract) worth $8 million, per the NFL Network. The Vikings will be in the conversation among the best defensive lines in the NFL with Philadelphia and Jacksonville because Richardson provides them with something they didn’t have before: a lineman who can hold down the 3-technique spot every down.

Richardson can’t fix the pass rush or stop the run all on his own, but as the Vikings flesh out the beginnings of their 90-man offseason roster, the team has confidence in its younger defensive linemen (Jaleel Johnson, Stephen Weatherly and Tashawn Bower) to provide the depth that went missing late last season.

“I’d give Philadelphia a lot of credit,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “They used an eight-man rotation last year and you can see the results of that. I think if we can keep building the depth on the defensive line, that’ll just pay dividends for us down the road.”

The Vikings’ aggressive approach to free agency was quickly apparent to the 27-year-old Richardson, who ate lunch with Cousins during his visit. Seeing how much Minnesota was willing to load up its roster to contend for a title played a big role in his decision to sign with the Vikings, on top of the fact that Richardson said Minnesota offered him a better deal than Seattle did.

“I wanted the best opportunity to win the Super Bowl and I feel like this is it,” Richardson said. “With them acquiring Kirk, talking to him, pluck his brain a little bit … done deal.”

The Vikings did more than get better in free agency. They backed their commitment to fight tooth and nail for the franchise’s first championship with two huge additions. Chalk that up as a successful week.



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Aaron Rodgers can name his price, but at what cost to Packers’ hopes? – Green Bay Packers Blog


INDIANAPOLIS — The way one NFL team executive sees it, Aaron Rodgers can name his price when it comes to his next contract. Especially with the kind of money the San Francisco 49ers just gave Jimmy Garoppolo and what some team will surely pay Kirk Cousins.

“The quarterbacks who are more established and much better than a Garoppolo, much better than some of these guys, they could literally say, ‘Redo it right now,’” Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.

There’s no doubt Rodgers’ next contract will set a new bar, just like his five-year, $110 million extension did when he signed it in 2013. Rodgers’ $22 million average per season made him the NFL’s highest-paid player, let alone the richest quarterback. Now, he ranks sixth and still has two more seasons left on that deal.

No wonder the Green Bay Packers have already opened the lines of communication with Rodgers and his agent about a new contract, team president Mark Murphy told ESPN.com at the combine.

Rodgers’ current deal — negotiated by Russ Ball, the team’s executive vice president/director of football operations, and signed off on by then-general manager Ted Thompson — has remained salary cap friendly throughout. The figures ranged from $12 million the first year to $21.1 million in the final season (2019), and won’t hit the $20 million mark until this coming season, when it’s $20,562,500.

Garoppolo’s five-year, $137.5 million deal took advantage of the 49ers’ salary-cap situation — they had more than $100 million in space under the projected cap. It contained a $28.8 million roster bonus, all of which will count on the 2018 cap. After a $37 million cap change this season, the figures range between $20 million and $27 million.

“It’s whatever your team is comfortable with,” said John Elway, the Denver Broncos‘ president of football operations and general manager. “It’s whatever fits into your team. It’s got to fit into the puzzle.”

For Rodgers, it might be about the cash, especially guaranteed money. But for the Packers, it will be about the structure and the cap to ensure new GM Brian Gutekunst has the ability to rebuild the roster how he sees fit.

“We want to create a win-win [situation],” Murphy said of Rodgers’ next contract.

The Packers have remained in good salary-cap shape despite having to pay a top-tier quarterback, and Murphy said their cap should be able to absorb another blockbuster deal for Rodgers without having to cut corners at other positions.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “although obviously there’s only so much money.”

The Packers carried over $3,934,518 in cap space from last season, according to the NFL Players Association. It puts the Packers at $15.9 million under the projected 2018 cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“At some point the quarterbacks, it’s like with [Tom] Brady — you have to decide how much of the cap you want to take,” Jones said. “These quarterbacks want to win football games, too, at some point. I know [Tony] Romo was that way. I don’t know Aaron, but I’m sure these other quarterbacks are that way, if they feel like they take up too much room. … You want to have a good football team around you.”

As long as the cap grows each season, there’s not likely to be a ceiling for quarterback contracts.

“That’s how our business works,” Jones said. “The bigger surprise probably for everybody has just been the guys who haven’t really done a lot that are getting paid these types of numbers, and of course that’s risky business. But obviously these teams make decisions that they feel is in their best interests.

“Your quarterback is your partner. At some point when we sat down with Tony we told him, ‘You just need to decide how much of this you want, what you think is fair.’ The rest of it, they know us, we’re going to spend it on teammates. So I think that’s probably what every team with a top quarterback faces. It’s up to them. It’s, ‘How much of this do you want?’”



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Tom Brady of New England Patriots hopes Chris Long of Philadelphia Eagles goes easy on him Sunday


BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a playful message for former teammate and current Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long leading up to Super Bowl LII on Sunday.

“I hope he doesn’t hit me too hard if he gets a shot. Hopefully he respects his elders a little bit out there,” Brady said with a smile Tuesday.

Brady is the first 40-year-old quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl. Before this year, Peyton Manning (2015; 39 years, 320 days) and John Elway (1998; 38 years, 217 days) were the oldest quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl.

Brady will also pass one of the players he rooted for as a youngster in the Bay Area, wide receiver Jerry Rice, as the oldest non-kicker to play in a Super Bowl. When Rice played for the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, he was 40 years old and 105 days. On Sunday, Brady will be 40 years old and 185 days.

Brady is the oldest non-kicker/punter in the NFL and has embraced his senior citizen status, which has continued over the past two days upon the team’s arrival in Minnesota for the Super Bowl. For the first time, Brady has answered questions on why he has put together a documentary, “Tom vs. Time,” with filmmaker Gotham Chopra.

“I just thought it would be fun, a great opportunity,” he said. “It was just good timing, I think.”

Brady completed about 80 percent of the documentary in the offseason.

Brady, meanwhile, said his right hand — injured during the week leading up to the AFC Championship Game — is “getting better.”

“It’s not quite where I want to be. So I’m just trying to protect it the best way I can. It’s obviously a very important part of my body, for a quarterback, so I just want it to be as healthy as possible for the game on Sunday,” he said.

Of the glove he is wearing on his hand, he said: “Under Armour just made it for me. It’s a great glove. It’s got a lot of recovery in it and that’s what I need at this time.”

As for Long, Brady said, “I really enjoyed my time with Chris. He’s a helluva player and he made huge plays for us last year. He’s made some great plays for the Eagles this year. They have a dominant pass rush — on both edges, right up the middle, and he’s a big part of that. He’s a great leader, practices his butt off, great enthusiasm. I have a ton of respect for him.”



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