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  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
    Falcons host OT Jake Long
    By The Sports Xchange

    Jake Long visited the Atlanta Falcons and took what is likely a crucial physical with the team on Tuesday.

    • Long, the No. 1 overall pick in 2008 with the Miami Dolphins, was released by the St. Louis Rams and is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

      The Falcons have 2014 first-rounder Jake Matthews slated to start at left tackle.

      Long has only played left tackle in the NFL, with the Dolphins and Rams, but would be a fit on the right side if he proves healthy.

      Long was drafted out of Michigan by Bill Parcells, the father-in-law of current Falcons' personnel man Scott Pioli.

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
    Steelers RB Bell could have suspension reduced
    By The Sports Xchange

    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell could have his suspension reduced from three games if the NFL Players Union and NFL can reach a settlement agreement in ongoing talks.

    • ESPN reported the two sides were negotiating as the Steelers opened training camp in Latrobe, Pa.

      Bell was suspended three games for a DUI arrest during which he admitted to smoking marijuana. Bell told officers he smoked "two hours ago, I'm not high anymore."

      The NFL instituted a new policy on drunk driving arrests with suspensions starting at two games, with an additional game possible under "aggravating circumstances" such as drug use, possession or property damage.

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
    Cowboys not interested in RB Rice
    By The Sports Xchange

    If Ray Rice gets a second chance in the NFL this season, it will not be with the Dallas Cowboys.

    • According to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Rice is not being considered by the Cowboys to fill the roster spot and depth chart void created Tuesday when Ryan Williams was released following yet another knee procedure.

      The Cowboys signed former Stephen F. Austin running back Gus Johnson to fill the roster spot.

      The Cowboys have been in contact with representatives for free agent Chris Johnson, who is recovered from a gunshot wound, but are expected to evaluate their current stable of backs before making any additional moves.

      Still, Johnson could find his way onto a depth chart that includes Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle before the start of the regular season. A key question in training camp for the Cowboys is how to replace NFL Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray, who joined the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.

      Owner Jerry Jones said in May he thinks the Cowboys' running game can be even better without Murray, who had 518 total touches last season including the playoffs.

      McFadden is the presumed starter in 2015 but has only played 16 games in a regular season once (2014) and was sidelined most of the offseason with a balky hamstring.

      In May, the Cowboys said they were considering Johnson. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said at that time Johnson was "on the short list" of veteran backs they would consider. However, Jones said the position is not a priority.

      That could change if injuries or ineffectiveness pushes Garrett and his coaching staff to look in another direction.

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
    Irsay: 'Not true' he pressured Goodell
    By The Sports Xchange

    Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay denied reports claiming he and Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti were "pressuring" commissioner Roger Goodell to hold firm on a four-game suspension for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

    • Brady appealed a four-game suspension for his role, and non-compliance in the NFL's investigation, into the deflation of game balls in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots beat the Colts in that game, one week after dispatching the Ravens.

      "That's not true at all," Irsay told the Indianapolis Star. "I haven't talked to Roger Goodell about Deflategate since late January. Not true. That's not the way things work involving someone else's business and someone else's team. It's not something I've ever seen, and I've been around (NFL) ownership for half a century."

      Sal Paolantonio of ESPN named Irsay, Bisciotti "and others in the AFC" believe "the Patriots have gotten away with murder for years and have not been publicly punished properly."

      Goodell and the NFL issued a $1 million fine to the Patriots, who also forfeit two draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2016.

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
    Dolphins to bring back QB Freeman
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Miami Dolphins are bringing back quarterback Josh Freeman only days after releasing him.

    • Bleacher Report first reported Freeman would be back on the roster to compete with Matt Moore and McLeod Bethel-Thompson behind starter Ryan Tannehill.

      Freeman, 27, was a first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009 and started 59 games for them over his first five seasons.

      The Buccaneers released him in October 2013 after the relationship between the player and the team soured, and Freeman has bounced from the Minnesota Vikings to the New York Giants to Miami over the past two years. Since the Bucs released him, he has played in one game -- a start for the Vikings only days after he joined them in 2013.

      In 61 career games, he has completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 13,724 yards, 80 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. He has a career passer rating of 77.8.

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
    Attorney claims HOF misled Sydney Seau
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Pro Football Hall of Fame told the daughter of Junior Seau that she would be allowed to speak at his posthumous induction in Canton, Ohio, according to the family attorney.

    • A policy established in 2010 by the Hall of Fame limits the ceremony for deceased inductees to a video tribute. All living inductees are introduced by a friend, family member, teammate or associate.

      Steve Strauss, the Seau family attorney, told Sports Business Journal that the Hall of Fame reversed field on having Sydney Seau, the daughter of the late Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker, speak at the induction ceremony.

      "Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame is unwilling to reverse its decision despite communicating to the family earlier this year that Sydney would be able to speak at the ceremony," Strauss said in a statement. "Contrary to the most recent statement by the Hall of Fame, the family does not support the current policy that prevents family members from delivering live remarks on behalf of deceased inductees. However, the Seau family does not want this issue to become a distraction to Junior's accomplishments and legacy or those of the other inductees. The Seau family never intended to use the Hall of Fame as a platform to discuss the serious mental health issues facing the NFL today which are most appropriately addressed in a legal forum. The Seau family looks forward to celebrating Junior's extraordinary accomplishments at the Hall of Fame.”

      The Hall of Fame said Friday, in response to the New York Times story tracing the decision to not allow Sydney Seau a platform alongside other 2015 inductees, the mission remains to honor the heroes of the game.

      "Junior is a hero of the game," said David Baker, executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "We're going to celebrate his life, not the death and other issues."

      Sydney Seau told the Times she intended only to give the speech her father would have, not delve into the issues and circumstances surrounding his suicide and subsequent study of his brain to determine the extent of damage from head injuries.

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
    AFC North camp preview: Ravens restart playoff chase
    By The Sports Xchange

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When the Baltimore Ravens trudged out of the locker room at Gillette Stadium in January following a narrow AFC divisional-round playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, veteran wide receiver Steve Smith vowed they would be back and that the result would be different the next time.

    • Seven months later, the Ravens launch their training camp hoping that they had the kind of offseason that propels them to take a step forward in the playoffs instead of regressing. Baltimore has reached the playoffs in six of coach John Harbaugh's seven seasons.

      That includes a Super Bowl XLVII win over the San Francisco 49ers, and they are 72-40 in the regular season during that span and 10-5 in the postseason.

      Following an offseason where the roster absorbed some losses, including wide receiver Torrey Smith and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee leaving as free agents and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being traded to the Detroit Lions after a contract dispute, the Ravens are nonetheless confident about where they stand.

      "Happy with where we're at and looking forward to where we're going," Harbaugh said during the final day of the Ravens' minicamp in June.

      As the Ravens launch their camp, they will have several competitions to monitor at strong safety, tight end and wide receiver. There is a strong likelihood they will have a younger, revamped depth chart with as many as five new starters this season. The goals for training camp are to identify the best possible starting lineup, continue to install the playbooks and build timing and chemistry.

      "The training camp is built, so we have the reps built and all the practices built," Harbaugh said. "All the situations are built in, every football formation look that we want to work on. You learn a lot in the OTAs in terms of what you're going to be good at, you think, so you start steering in that direction a little bit more. And we'll try to keep evolving from that, because we're going to learn more as we go, and we'll adjust as we go.

      "But I'm looking for the young guys to step up. Our young guys probably get more reps than I can imagine anybody else getting, so we put our young guys in positions to compete for jobs. These rookies are going to have a chance to compete for jobs."

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 25: Rookies reported

      July 29: Veterans report

      July 30: First practice

      Aug 19-21: Joint practices at the Philadelphia Eagles

      Aug. 24: Camp ends

      --Team strength: Linebacker.

      Between outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw and Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and middle linebacker Daryl Smith, the position is a huge asset to the defense.

      --Breakout player: Cornerback Jimmy Smith.

      Smith is emerging as a shutdown cover guy. He was signed to a $48 million contract and has recovered from a Lisfranc foot sprain.

      --Work in progress: Tight end.

      The Ravens remain in flux at tight end where second-year pro Crockett Gillmore hasn't established himself yet as a receiver and rookie Maxx Williams is unproven in terms of durability and blocking.

      The Ravens hope the two young players develop into proven pros this fall.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    AFC East camp preview: Bills about to start three-man weave at QB
    By The Sports Xchange

    PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- It's all about the quarterback at St. John Fisher College. What else is new for the Bills, right?

    • Isn't it always about the never-ending search for a competent player at the game's most important position for this franchise that has missed the playoffs 15 years in a row?

      What's different about 2015? Unlike past years, when one quarterback was trying to prove himself as the undeniable starter or two guys battling to win the job, new coach Rex Ryan has opened the competition three-fold as EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor will take turns with the first string in an effort to determine who will start opening day against the Indianapolis Colts.

      With so much talent at the skill positions -- newcomers LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Charles Clay and Jerome Felton join Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan and Fred Jackson -- the Bills could make some serious noise this year if their quarterback can simply not screw things up and just distribute the ball to everyone with some consistency.

      However, Manuel, Cassel and Taylor aren't exactly creating much of a buzz because none of them is particularly accomplished. Manuel, the team's first-round pick in 2013, has started just 14 games in two years. He lost much of his rookie year to injury, then was benched after four games in 2014 and never saw the field again as he watched Kyle Orton lead the Bills to a 9-7 record.

      "It doesn't fire me up," Manuel said of his many doubters. "If I continue to focus on what I need to do to get better, I think that's what matters for me. I really don't buy into the extra stuff being said. I just focus on what I need to focus on."

      Cassel, who came to Buffalo in a trade from Minnesota, has started for the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Vikings -- in other words, he is really nothing more than a journeyman. During his first 10 NFL seasons, he has a starting record of 33-38.

      "There's always going to be critics out there, but I think my best football is ahead of me and I'm excited about the opportunity," the 33-year-old said. "Everybody is going to have an opinion; I have to go out there and earn it and prove to the coaches and everybody else that I deserve the opportunity to play."

      Taylor, acquired via free agency from Baltimore, is the great unknown. He has thrown 35 NFL passes, all in mop-up duty behind Joe Flacco, but he flashes remarkable athleticism and a strong arm, so the Bills aren't quite sure what they have.

      "I know what I'm capable of; it's my job to prove it to the coaches," Taylor said. "I think they're aware; but, as long as I continue to keep working and impress them every day, at the end of the day the coaches will decide."

      Ryan has remained as neutral as Switzerland on the quarterback dilemma because he doesn't want to have a bias heading into camp.

      "The No. 1 thing is to pick the right guy," Ryan said after minicamp in June. "Is time on our side a little bit? Yes, it is. In an ideal world, would you already have your quarterback named by now? Yeah, that's an ideal situation. But, you know what? We're not there. We're in an ideal situation to have competition at that spot and I welcome it."

      Ryan, of course, knows all too well what it's like to have an unsettled situation at quarterback. He just spent the last two years with Geno Smith and Michael Vick in New York; and, before that, Mark Sanchez spent four years under Ryan going up and down like a yo-yo.

      "I think they all have something to prove," Ryan said of his new quarterbacks. "How they're going to be in this system, we're going to find out. Some quarterbacks flourish in certain systems, and I believe all three guys will have a chance to be successful. I hope that's the case. And hopefully that decision is going to be tough, on a good note, not that this guy wins it by default."

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 29: Rookies and veterans report

      July 31: First practice

      Aug. 17-18: Joint practices with the Browns at St. John Fisher College.

      Aug. 25: Camp ends

      --Team strength: Defensive line.

      The Bills have three Pro Bowlers up front in Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, and the fourth man, Jerry Hughes, is coming off a 14-sack season. The Bills can generate pressure with these four, but they will be augmented by the blitz packages that Rex Ryan likes to use, so this group could be even more effective.

      --Breakout player: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

      The 2012 first-round draft choice has been a solid performer in his first three seasons, but he could really blossom in Ryan's defense. There's a lot of pressure put on the cornerbacks in this scheme, and Gilmore will be expected to be a lockdown cover man in the mold of Darrelle Revis. He probably won't be that good, but he has the size and skillset to approach Revis' effectiveness.

      --Work in progress: Offensive line.

      Last year, Buffalo's offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL. Right guard Erik Pears and the left guard merry-go-round of Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson and Kraig Urbik was simply woeful, and that brought down center Eric Wood as well. Left tackle Cordy Glenn regressed in his third year, and rookie right tackle Seantrel Henderson was barely average. The Bills signed Richie Incognito to play left guard, drafted John Miller in the third round and immediately plugged him in at right guard, and 2014 second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio put together a solid offseason and will go to training camp ahead of Henderson at right tackle. If this group comes through and can excel in Ryan's well-advertised power running game, the quarterbacks should find a new level of comfort in the passing game.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFC North camp preview: Cutler isn't the only one learning for Bears this year
    By The Sports Xchange

    BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Jay Cutler has company.

    • For six training camps, the move to get the quarterback in sync with a new offense -- or even an old one -- took priority for the Chicago Bears. With the start of training camp this week, a complete team-wide reconstruction project moves into the critical phase for new coach John Fox and his staff, and Cutler is only a part of it.

      In fact, this time the challenge on the defensive side of the ball looks every bit as difficult for coaches considering the drastic departure in scheme and type of talent necessary to run the 3-4.

      When the defense lines up in practice on Thursday, there could be six or seven different players with the starting unit, with only cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Tim Jennings and safety Ryan Mundy at the same positions as last year.

      Just 43 players on the 90-man roster worked at Halas Hall last year, but at least Cutler will have the advantage of working with a familiar wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett, who has promised to be present even though he stayed away from all offseason workouts until June minicamp.

      "I feel great about the offense we're in right now," Cutler said. "I know the guys like it. I'm comfortable with these guys. I've known some of these coaches throughout my career. They've had a lot of success in this league, and they're trying to bring it here."

      While the offense could have only two new players -- first-round wide receiver Kevin White and center Will Montgomery -- not everything went according to plan in the offseason. As a result, they'll start off fighting from behind to some extent, particularly on the line.

      Aside from Bennett's absence, White missed minicamp due to an unspecified injury. And the offensive line was a work in progress throughout the offseason. Injuries kept tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills from taking the field for much of the spring.

      In fact, no one would be surprised if Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long lined up at right tackle to start camp -- he finished minicamp there due to Mills' injury situation.

      Cutler pointed out the obvious, but with a bit of humor, when he said of Long: "I think it's safe to say he'll be on the field at one of those five positions when we open up."

      All of the offseason movement means it's necessary to keep the group together as much as possible in training camp to build a cohesive unit. But Long thinks the group possesses high football IQs, which will help.

      "I think the higher your football IQ, the slower the game is," he said. "From a reaction standpoint, you see things before they happen. You can communicate certain things to teammates pre-snap. And I think it helps everybody.

      "If there's five guys up there with a high football IQ, there tends to be less chaos in the backfield."

      Building running back depth behind Matt Forte and solidifying backup tight end spots are two other goals for the offense during camp, but the real task falls on defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and his assistants as they try to fit round square 4-3 talent pegs into round 3-4 holes.

      "Football is football: 3-4, 4-3," Fangio said. "It's still seven guys up front; it's just how you organize it and the mechanics of it. So I don't think the experience is a big thing.

      "A defensive lineman playing the 3-technique in our defense is very similar to what they do in a 4-3. So, experience helps, but it's not the ultimate."

      If that is true, it wouldn't matter that defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton haven't played the nose or end spots in a 3-4 as they'll be asked to do, or that Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young will be pass rush linebackers from standing positions rather than putting hands on the ground.

      Having former 3-4 players such as linebackers Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho outside and linemen Jeremiah Ratliff and Jarvis Jenkins helps in the teaching, but eventually the Bears' front will need rapid and drastic improvement to avoid another season like the last two, when Chicago ranked 30th on defense.

      The inside linebackers could be only slightly less experienced. Christian Jones played outide in college and in his first Bears season. Jonathan Bostic never practiced this offseason due to injury.

      Beyond these questions, there simply hasn't been enough time to prepare. Fox, however, said he isn't worried.

      "This is the first time as a new staff that we got the extra minicamp," Fox said. "Four years ago when I went to Denver, it was the lockout. So we were a new staff and didn't get that opportunity and were still able to have some success."

      Repeating the type of first-year playoff run Denver made in 2011 under Fox will be a formidable challenge considering all the movement and generally unsettled nature of this team.

      CAMP SCHEDULE

      July 30: First practice

      Aug. 16: Camp ends

      --Team strength: Offensive line.

      It's not often a line can lose a 14-year NFL center such as Roberto Garza and continue to march in step. The Bears could. Having center Will Montgomery come over from Denver after playing in the same offense was a huge plus. Kyle Long has been in the Pro Bowl in his first two years and left guard Matt Slauson appears to be over a torn pectoral muscle. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod sat out organized team activities as more of a precaution than due to injury. Tackle Jordan Mills often has been a target for critics, and his injury status is a question heading into camp. But this could be the deepest line the Bears have had in several years. Vlad Ducasse showed an ability to fill in at either guard spot, and rookie center Hroniss Grasu should challenge Montgomery.

      --Breakout player: Cornerback Kyle Fuller.

      When coaches watched film of last year's team, Fuller jumped out at them as an impact player. Only a few minor injuries slowed him down, and he lost some confidence then. However, the physical ability and reaction time Fuller showed early in the year and then very late made it obvious he has the skills to be a standout. Moving to a defensive scheme using more man-to-man may not be the ideal fit, since he was drafted partly because of his zone coverage skills. So, it could be a few games in the new scheme before his full potential becomes apparent.

      --Work in progress: Defensive line.

      The defensive line needs plenty of attention still -- and possibly by more than coaches. The talent may be insufficient because of the loss that Ray McDonald represented. General manager Ryan Pace will keep looking for five-technique end types. When Phil Emery was the Bears' general manager, he lamented not getting coach Marc Trestman more defensive linemen for his first season (2013). It looks like Pace has done the same for this year. The linebacker crew looks unsettled as well, but the numbers are much greater there than on the D-line, where 4-3, one-gap linemen have suddenly become two-gap plugs and, in some cases, seem unsuited for the roles.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    Cardinals add female coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFL continues to remove its glass ceiling, and the Arizona Cardinals continue to help lead the way.

    • Just a few months after the league hired Sarah Thomas as its first female referee, the Cardinals -- long advocates for African-American executives -- have brought in a female coach.

      Coach Bruce Arians on Monday hired Jen Welter, a 37-year-old former pro football player, to be a coaching intern during training camp this year. She will help coach inside linebackers.

      "Coaching is nothing more than teaching," Arians said, per the team's website. "One thing I have learned from players is: 'How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, man, I'll listen.' I really believe she'll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her."

      Arians, a two-time NFL coach of the year, said he talked to the veterans on his team about his decision to hire a female coach, and "they were all very cool with it."

      "It's not going to be a distraction in any way," said Arians, who added that he wants to create opportunities for Welter and other women.

      "She came for an OTA and I met her, and I thought she was the type of person that could handle this in a very positive way for women and open that door," Arians said. "I believe very strongly in it."

      In a Twitter message, Welter said, "I am honored to be a part of this amazing team. Special thanks to @BruceArians & the @AZCardinals."

      The hiring of Welter continues a tradition of workplace diversity by Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, who was honored by the Fritz Pollard Alliance in 2010. According to AZCardinals.com, Bidwill was the first owner to hire an African-American female executive (Adele Harris became director of community relations in 1978), an African-American contract negotiator (Bob Wallace in 1981) and an African-American tandem at general manager and coach (Rod Graves and Dennis Green in 2004).

      Welter comes to Arizona from the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League. Welter, who has a PhD in psychology, was the first female non-kicker to play in a men's pro league when she played running back for the Revolution in 2014.

      She also played on the gold-medal squads for Team USA in the Women's World Championship in 2010 and 2013.

      The Cardinals also have hired former Pro Bowl linebacker Levon Kirkland, who will coach outside linebackers for the next two seasons under the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship.

      Kirkland, who played 11 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles, was a coaching intern with the Cardinals this offseason.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    AFC North camp preview: Browns want to get McCown back on track
    By The Sports Xchange

    BEREA, Ohio -- Quarterback once again will be a focus for the Cleveland Browns in training camp; but, instead of searching for a starter, August will be dedicated to putting the designated starter back on the right track.

    • Josh McCown was 3-2 as a starter with the Chicago Bears in 2013. He threw 13 touchdown passes and one interception.

      Then came the disaster of 2014. McCown was 1-10 as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while throwing 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

      McCown will have to show his new teammates he can play like he did two years ago. The good news is he left his coaches with a good impression through OTAs and minicamp.

      "To be honest, I did not know very much about (McCown), but researched him heading into free agency," coach Mike Pettine said recently. "Then (I) talked to a lot of people that had worked with him or knew him. Then just the experience when he was in here, you could tell this guy loves football. He's all about team.

      "All he wants to do is win; (he's) ultra-competitive. He's been rock solid in the meetings, very on point with his preparation. We didn't bring him here to be a mentor, but that's just who he is. He doesn't know any different. He's been as advertised."

      McCown had Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson among his wide receivers last year. The Browns do not have players of their caliber, but they have a better offensive line than the one McCown played behind last year and the Browns are deep at running back with Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell and rookie Duke Johnson.

      "I think he sees that as potentially a way to win football games," Pettine said. "I think virtually any quarterback in the league, if we said, 'Hey, we want to get you in second-and-5 and not second-and-11. We want to get you in third-and-2 and not third-and-8,' I think they'd all be appreciative of that."

      If the Browns are going to surprise teams this season, they will have to stick to a strong ground game. They scored 14 rushing touchdowns and were 7-4 after 11 games in 2014. They scored only three touchdowns on the ground during a five-game skid to end the season, and one of those was on a 10-yard scramble by Johnny Manziel.

      The coaches are confident the run defense will improve over last year, when it ranked dead last, because of the addition of nose tackle Danny Shelton, the first-round draft pick from Washington, and the healthy return of Phil Taylor from a knee injury. Nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin was lost in free agency, but Shelton should be an upgrade at that position.

      The Browns are still waiting for outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo to produce. He is coming off shoulder surgery and will be challenged by rookie Nate Orchard.

      "When we came out of training camp last year, we thought Mingo was one of our best outside 'backers," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said. "We all know about the injury he suffered in Play 2 of the season. He's going to have to compete for playing time on early downs. He's going to have a role in our sub packages. No one is guaranteed anything on the defense."

      Mingo totaled three sacks in the first three games and four sacks in his next 27 games.

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 22: Rookies reported

      July 29: Veterans report

      July 30: First practice

      Aug. 17-18: Join practice with the Buffalo Bills, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y.

      Aug. 25: Training camp ends

      --Team strength: Secondary.

      The secondary is solid and deep despite losing cornerback Buster Skrine to the New York Jets in free agency. Joe Haden is a two-time Pro Bowl player, and safeties Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson were selected to the Pro Bowl last year. The Browns expect second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert to make a big leap. K'Waun Williams excels as a nickel back. Tramon Williams can start at right corner if Gilbert falters.

      --Breakout player: Linebacker Scott Solomon.

      Solomon made just seven tackles after being promoted from the practice squad late in 2014, but he has the potential to earn plenty of playing time this season backing up Paul Kruger as the strong-side linebacker. He is a solid tackler and quick to the ball. Solomon was with the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before being signed to the Browns' practice squad on Nov. 18. He says the Browns defensive scheme is a good fit for him.

      --Work in progress: Cornerback.

      The Browns still are not sure who their starting right cornerback is. Buster Skrine signed a four-year, $25 million contract with the New York Jets, so the Browns brought in longtime Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams to battle second-year player Justin Gilbert. Gilbert has improved since a disappointing rookie season and has shown an ability to break up passes, but coach Mike Pettine wants to see more consistency from him. This position battle probably will not be decided until preseason games are played. Either player could be the nickel back, a job that currently belongs to K'Waun Williams.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFC North camp preview: Packers use final loss as motivation
    By The Sports Xchange

    DE PERE, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have made no secret the last few months about what their long-range intentions are for this season.

    • Consider what Randall Cobb had to say after Green Bay re-signed the Pro Bowl receiver to a hefty four-year, $40 million contract in early March to keep him from hitting free agency: "I've said it multiple times, I think (quarterback) Aaron (Rodgers) is going to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. And, to be able to play with him and be a part of his legacy and hopefully be able to get him more (championship) rings, just to have a hand in that is a blessing, and I look forward to that."

      Then, fast forward to late July and what team president/CEO Mark Murphy had to say with regard to expectations for the team after its 2014 season ended with a crushing overtime loss at the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game: "A great year last year, just a disappointing ending. I think our players are going to really use that as motivation and come back and learn from that experience and benefit from it, and hopefully go beyond it and win another Super Bowl."

      Make no mistake, Green Bay has its sights squarely on playing in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7 and winning its first league title in five years.

      The favorable opinions of oddsmakers notwithstanding, the Packers have the team to do just that.

      A mostly quiet offseason of activity with personnel underscored how Green Bay is without only one player from the starting lineups it used in the unforgettable 28-22, season-ending setback to the Seahawks on Jan. 18.

      Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams left as a free agent, signing with the Cleveland Browns.

      The Packers kick off training camp with their first practice Thursday morning, and identifying a suitable replacement for the talented Williams is one of a few compelling storylines the next five weeks.

      Rather than make one notable acquisition in free agency, particularly at cornerback, general manager Ted Thompson stayed true to his draft-and-develop process. He used his first two draft picks on potential fill-ins for Williams by taking converted safety Damarious Randall and former basketball standout Quinten Rollins, though fourth-year player Casey Hayward will have first dibs on trying to win the spot.

      Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt spoke to the uncertainty that is permeating the starting spot opposite Sam Shields, a first-time Pro Bowl participant last winter.

      "There's only two guys (Shields and Hayward) in that cornerback room who have played any snaps in the NFL," Whitt said. "I think that's being lost in a lot of this. There's only two guys! I played just as many snaps (zero) as everybody else (in that room) in the NFL. We have to teach them how to play."

      Moving parts also will be in play at linebacker this preseason, but the learning curve won't be as profound.

      After the team jettisoned underwhelming veteran starters A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones shortly after last season ended, head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers seem ready to showcase All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews on the inside. Matthews made such a transition the second half of last season, a boon for a then-sputtering defense.

      "I think Clay likes the challenge and he knows the importance of him being able to play both places," Capers said. "From one week to the next, he could be lined up outside, he could be lined up inside. What we've got to do is see how some of the guys go around him."

      The likes of longtime star Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal and a few young prospects as pass rushers on the outside should give Capers the luxury to liberally move around Matthews. Capers is hoping to further patch up the middle of his linebacker group with young starting incumbent Sam Barrington and rookie Jake Ryan, a fourth-round draft pick.

      Green Bay's defense also will have to brace for the possibility of not having two returning line starters available for the Sept. 13 season opener at the Chicago Bears. Former first-round pick Datone Jones, an end, received a one-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Veteran Letroy Guion, who performed well as the replacement for an injured B.J. Raji at nose tackle last season, may be facing a three-game suspension, pending an appeal for his drug-related arrest in February.

      As for Green Bay's vaunted offense, it's all systems go.

      Rodgers, who collected his second league MVP award in February, has his full arsenal of pass catchers (led by Cobb and Jordy Nelson) as well as his complementary heavy lifter at halfback with Eddie Lacy back this season.

      The only notable change on that side of the ball is that McCarthy relinquished the play-calling duties for the first time in his 10 seasons as coach. Those duties belong to associate head coach Tom Clements.

      Yet, as he heads into his eighth season as a starter, Rodgers has essentially the last word at the line of scrimmage -- and expects to be more vocal with an eye on getting the Packers back to the Super Bowl that incredibly eluded them six months ago.

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 29: Entire team reports

      July 30: First practice

      Aug. 31: Camp ends

      --Team strength: Offensive line.

      While few will dispute Aaron Rodgers has ascended to No. 1 among all current NFL players, the preservation of the reigning two-time MVP hinges greatly on the beefy guys in front of him. Rodgers hasn't made it through a full season healthy the last two years. At 31 years old and going on season No. 8 as the indispensable leader of the Packers' offense, Rodgers doesn't downplay the importance of the team's offensive line. He calls it the best he's played behind, and that's high praise for a group of five that's been together in full only one season. Corey Linsley emerged as a pleasant surprise at center as a rookie last season. Pressed into duty late in the preseason because of an injury to JC Tretter, Linsley solidified a predominantly young line that jelled and flourished throughout the season.

      Rodgers didn't absorb many hits, though he was slowed by a calf injury late in the season, and the line paved the way for Eddie Lacy to rush for more than 1,100 yards for the second time in as many pro seasons. What's more, the line of, from left to right, David Bakhtiari, All-Pro Josh Sitton, Linsley, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga accounted for only one missed start. The re-signing of Bulaga to a whopping five-year contract worth almost $35 million before he reached the free-agent market in March should give Rodgers many more games with his vital line of protectors.

      --Breakout player: Wide receiver Davante Adams.

      It's easy to be forgotten when all-stars Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are ahead of you on the depth chart and were on the receiving end of most of Aaron Rodgers' throws in his MVP-earning 2014 season. In respective career-best fashion, Nelson had 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Cobb made 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season. By much diminished comparison, Adams came up with 38 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns. Even with only one football for Rodgers to throw on any snap, look for Adams' decent numbers as a rookie to shoot up this season. He had a whale of an offseason with Rodgers and others feeding him the football, so much so that head coach Mike McCarthy touted Adams as an MVP in those spring workouts. And, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Adams, a second-round draft pick, had a few moments when he stepped out of the shadows of the dynamic duo of Nelson and Cobb last season. Buoyed by six catches for a season-high 121 yards and a touchdown in the divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys, Adams ranked second on the team in the playoffs with eight receptions.

      --Work in progress: Cornerback.

      A position of depth in recent years took a big hit when longtime starter Tramon Williams and heir apparent Davon House left Green Bay early in free agency, signing with the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively.

      Then, April rolled around for the start of the Packers' spring workouts and Casey Hayward promptly suffered a foot injury. Hayward's absence from the field most of the next two months didn't help fill the starting void opposite first-time Pro Bowl selection Sam Shields. Hayward, who when healthy has been a playmaker out of the slot his first three pro seasons, is penciled in to shift outside and replace Williams.

      Still, there's no telling the readiness for Hayward in a full-time role until he is back contributing on the field, which is expected to happen at the outset of training camp. As insurance, general manager Ted Thompson invested his first two draft picks this year in cornerbacks. First-round choice Damarious Randall, a converted safety out of Arizona State, projects to contribute right away in the slot, at the least.

      Former basketball star Quinten Rollins, who set records stealing the ball on the hard court, is an intriguing second-round selection from Miami (Ohio). He stepped in for Hayward on the perimeter during the spring work.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFC East camp preview: Pressure on Giants
    By The Sports Xchange

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Preliminary forecasts for the next five weeks in northern New Jersey are calling for high levels of heat.

    • Not that New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, his staff or his players will notice. That is because for the team, which reunites at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the start of training camp on Thursday, the heat is on -- really on.

      They can thank the fact that they have gone three consecutive seasons without a playoff berth, a span in which their won-loss record actually deteriorated.

      With last year's 6-10 mark particularly a bitter pill to swallow given how the season unfolded, team co-owner John Mara stood before the media at the end of the season and agreed with a reporter's conclusion that the 2015 campaign carried a "win-or-else" mandate.

      With those words echoing weeks after being made, general manager Jerry Reese and Coughlin created perhaps the most highly competitive training camp in their respective regimes, a camp where few jobs are safe.

      On offense, all eyes will be on the biggest competition of them all: the offensive line. This unit will, for the first time under Coughlin, have five new starters across the board, and for the third season in a row, a rookie is expected to be one of those starters.

      The offensive line combination of rookie Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard, Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle isn't set in stone, according to Coughlin, who is still trying to figure out how to compensate for the absence of injured left tackle Will Beatty.

      "Our plans are to continue to try to figure out how this line is going to fall out, who is going to be where," he said at the start of the spring workouts. "We will probably try some different combinations to get there."

      Coughlin also didn't rule out the possibility of adding another veteran currently on another team's roster who might shake free during camp cuts as a possibility.

      On defense, the Giants are starting from scratch after finishing 29th overall last season. Perry Fewell was replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, who shot to stardom as a first-time NFL coordinator thanks to his 2007 and 2008 Giants defenses finishing as top-10 units both seasons.

      Unfortunately for Spagnuolo, defensive ends Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and linebackers Antonio Pierce and Kawika Mitchell didn't follow behind him into the doors of the QDTC.

      Instead, Spagnuolo is facing the challenge of trying to implement his aggressive, attacking scheme with a group whose question marks include the identities of the starting defensive ends, safeties, and nickel cornerback, and the health of middle linebacker Jon Beason.

      While the personnel issues sort themselves out, Spagnuolo does have an idea of the identity he wants his defense to have.

      "I think we all can agree in here that if you are going to be good on defense, it needs to be aggressive," he said. "If you look around the league, I think all good defenses in this league function that way. We would like to get to that point as well. How and when and where we will get with all that, we will see as we go."

      That is a lot of uncertainty for a team that has its collective feet to the fire, but if there is one thing that Giants fans can expect from the team this year is that they are not going to go down without a fight.

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 30: Entire team reports

      July 31: First practice

      Aug. 11-12: Joint practices with Bengals at Cincinnati

      Aug. 27: Camp ends

      --Team strength: Running back.

      For the first time since the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Giants have perhaps their most diverse running backs corps, a unit that offers a little bit of everything and whose members can be mixed and matched to various situations. The addition of veteran Shane Vereen gives the corps its missing ingredient: a legitimate threat out of the backfield. Starter Rashad Jennings, who is expected to do the bulk of the work between the 20-yard lines, probably will see most of the between-the-tackles work. Second-year man Andre Williams' role likely will be limited to that of a short-yardage and goal-line back, and Orleans Darkwa will see spot duty. The diversity, along with a hopefully improved offensive line and the return of fullback Henry Hynoski, should go a long way toward boosting the NFL's 23rd-ranked running game from 2014 toward being a top-10 unit.

      --Breakout player: Outside linebacker Devon Kennard.

      Last season, the fifth-round pick showed flashes of being a pass-rushing force off the edge. Kennard, out of USC, finished third on the team in sacks (4.5) behind defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (12.5) and Damontre Moore (5.5). With Pierre-Paul's availability for the 2015 season a glaring question mark, it would not be surprising if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo calls upon Kennard, the projected starting outside linebacker, to be that pass-rushing threat off the edge.

      --Work in progress: Offensive line.

      The pectoral injury sustained by left tackle Will Beatty once again made the offensive line a worry for the Giants' coaches.

      At the start of OTAs, head coach Tom Coughlin made it clear that the team was planning to look at some different offensive line combinations in training camp, where it will have a chance to see the players with the pads on.

      During OTAs, Coughlin and the Giants stuck with a combination that, from left tackle to right tackle, featured Ereck Flowers (first-round draftee), Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz and Marshall Newhouse.

      The Giants did have a visit with Jake Long in June just to gauge the veteran's interest and to see where he was in his rehab from his second torn ACL injury.

      Ideally, the Giants would like to stick with what they have, but the problem is their depth at offensive tackle is so thin that should Flowers or Newhouse get injured, it would rock the unit's foundation.

      Also worth noting is offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's response to a question concerning Flowers.

      "We like him as a future left tackle, and I'm very confident in him right now," McAdoo said.

      He might not have much of a choice.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    AFC North camp preview: Bengals aim to sign Green
    By The Sports Xchange

    CINCINNATI -- With the Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas contracts setting the wide receiver market for an A.J. Green extension, it is not a question of if the Cincinnati Bengals will get a deal done but when.

    • And for the Bengals, it can't come soon enough. In a training camp that doesn't have many personnel issues, wrapping up a contract with Green is one of the major issues when drills begin Friday at the team's practice fields adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium.

      Contract extensions generated headlines three of the past four Bengals training camps and preseasons. In 2011, cornerback Leon Hall and tackle Andrew Whitworth agreed to extensions the day before the final preseason game. In 2013, it was defensive tackle Geno Atkins' turn, as he signed on Labor Day. Last year, quarterback Andy Dalton got his deal done midway through training camp.

      As with Dalton and Atkins' deals, getting Green's done will help set the salary structure for free agency next offseason. Considering the Bengals have $16.85 million in cap room and carried over nearly $8.7 million from last season, they have the room to do it.

      Another reason to get it done now is because the Bengals have a large group of key players in the final year of their contracts. Besides Green, other starters going into the final year are Hall, Whitworth, cornerback Adam Jones, tackle Andre Smith, safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson along with wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. All of them will not be back, meaning that this is the last shot for a current group that head coach Marvin Lewis built since 2011.

      Besides Green's contract, the other focus on the offense remains the same as it was for the past three years: Can Dalton prove he is a big-game quarterback? The Bengals are the first team in NFL history to go one-and-out in the postseason four straight years, and Lewis tied Jim Mora Sr. for the most playoff games coached without a victory (six).

      A big key to the offense will be balance. Jeremy Hill led the league in rushing the last nine weeks of the season, but most of that was due to injuries to Jones, tight end Tyler Eifert and Green. By the time the Bengals got to the playoffs, they were one-dimensional because of a lack of receivers.

      Said Lewis during minicamp about his expectations for the offense: "Be an aggressive, attacking type of offense. Be physical at the line of scrimmage and so forth. And then we've got to go out and do it play after play after play. That's what is important. We get to do those things once the fall rolls around."

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 30: Team reports

      July 31: First practice

      Aug. 11-12: Joint practices with Giants in Cincinnati

      Aug. 19: Camp ends

      --Team strength: Running back.

      Jeremy Hill is a three-down back who can wear teams down and also possesses an extra bit of speed when he gets to the second level. Giovani Bernard dealt with injuries last year but is a good change-of-pace option who can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Coach Marvin Lewis said he expects both backs to get an equal amount of carries, but Hill will be the starter.

      --Breakout player: Cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

      Last year's first-round pick saw only 62 defensive snaps in 2014, but that was mostly by design. Cornerback is one of the hardest positions to come in and immediately contribute as a rookie because of a lack of technique, but Lewis said he was pleased with how Dennard approached things during OTAs and minicamp.

      --Work in progress: Tight end.

      Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wants to run the ball, and he loves two-tight end sets. However, after third-year pro Tyler Eifert, the Bengals are looking for that second tight end from a field of five rookies or first-year players who have never taken an NFL snap. Tyler Kroft, a third-round pick from Rutgers, is the leader in the clubhouse.

      Also in the mix could be second-rounder Jake Fisher, a tackle from Oregon. Not as a long-range option, but Fisher is a nimble athlete and a high school tight end who may be able to work at the spot in a pinch. He did catch some balls during the spring.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFC North camp preview: Even with Suh gone, Lions expected to contend
    By The Sports Xchange

    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- In coach Jim Caldwell's first season with the Detroit Lions, the team went 11-5, advanced to the playoffs and fell one game short of winning its first division title since 1993.

    • Despite that strong season, there are plenty of questions about the Lions team that will try to dethrone the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

      The 2015 season will be filled with questions and comparisons after the team lost Ndamukong Suh in free agency; but, with nine starters returning on each side of the ball, there are reasons to expect the Lions to contend again this year.

      The Lions had the No. 2 defense in the NFL last year; and, with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin back after interviewing for head-coaching jobs, the unit should continue to keep them in games.

      The offense was inconsistent in 2014, but players have boasted this offseason about their improved comfort in Joe Lombardi's scheme.

      When he arrived in Detroit, Caldwell talked about winning championships. During minicamp in June, he was happy to hear quarterback Matthew Stafford was setting lofty goals -- though neither would share those benchmarks.

      "I'm a great believer in self-fulfilling prophecy," he said. "Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. So, I do believe that they should have lofty goals, they should have set high standards, and hopefully they'll measure up."

      Whether those goals result in the franchise's first playoff win since 1991 remains to be seen. And if the team is going to take the necessary step forward, Stafford will have to begin fulfilling more of his considerable potential. Stafford threw just 12 interceptions last year, which was an improvement from 19 the year before. But he also averaged just 7.1 yards per attempt and completed just 60.3 percent of his passes, so Stafford has to be more accurate and Lombardi has to put him in better positions to excel.

      While Stafford has the weapons to thrive with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, along with second-year tight end Eric Ebron and rookie running back Ameer Abdullah joining Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, he'll have to see how his new-look offensive line performs. Center Dominic Raiola had played all but one game of Stafford's career and left guard Rob Sims had been with him since 2010, but neither was re-signed and the Lions figure to undergo a youth movement up front.

      First-round pick Laken Tomlinson likely will replace Sims and 2014 third-rounder Travis Swanson should be the starting center. Veteran Manny Ramirez will compete at both spots and could provide depth on a team projected to have five starters age 26 or younger.

      The defense, meanwhile, has plenty of experience. Replacing the departed Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley will be difficult, but the Lions hope former Ravens star Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, whom the Saints didn't sign as a restricted free agent, can fill in the interior. Veterans such as DeAndre Levy, Glover Quin, Stephen Tulloch, James Ihedigbo and Rashean Mathis should keep morale high, too, after they lost the high-profile star Suh.

      Plus, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and cornerback Darius Slay could continue to improve and provide more consistent playmaking to keep the defense strong up front and on the back end.

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 28: Rookies report

      Aug. 2: Veterans report

      Aug. 3: First practice

      --Team strength: Linebackers.

      DeAndre Levy has been one of the top traditional 4-3 linebackers in the NFL the past couple of seasons. In 2015, he'll have a group of experienced linebackers next to him. Stephen Tulloch returns to the middle after missing most of 2014 with a torn ACL. Tahir Whitehead likely will start on the strong side after playing well in Tulloch's spot last year, while 2014 second-round pick Kyle Van Noy and Josh Bynes, who was a substitute for Whitehead at times, provide good depth.

      --Breakout player: Eric Ebron.

      There are doubts around the 10th overall pick from last year due to his unimpressive hands, but Ebron has the speed and strength to be a true mismatch in the NFL. If he runs better routes and gets a few more opportunities, Ebron could become an explosive third option behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

      --Work in progress: Offensive line.

      The Lions added some pieces this offseason, but that remains the team's biggest question mark. Cornelius Lucas likely be the starting right tackle until LaAdrian Waddle recovers from his knee injury, and unsigned veterans Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims are being replaced by younger players.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFC East camp preview: Cowboys feel primed for title run
    By The Sports Xchange

    OXNARD, Calif. -- Nobody expected the Dallas Cowboys to be considered Super Bowl contenders a year ago.

    • Heck, most expected them to finish 8-8 or worse and for head coach Jason Garrett to be fired at the end of the season.

      Of course, that was before the Cowboys became one of the surprising breakthrough stories of 2014, finishing with a 12-4 record, winning the NFC East and coming within a controversial non-catch by receiver Dez Bryant of reaching the NFC title game for the first time since 1995, the last time they won the Super Bowl.

      It comes as no surprise that the Cowboys are considered prime Super Bowl contenders before the 2015 season. They remain the best team in the NFC East and they have ranked just behind the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers as the cream of the conference.

      The Cowboys didn't care what outsiders thought last year and they don't care this year.

      They will open training camp this week with the Super Bowl as their goal, but with the primary focus of defining themselves for themselves just as they did a year ago.

      "Any coach or player or staff member, if you don't have the goal of winning the Super Bowl you are in the wrong profession," Garrett said. "Everybody has that goal. We define ourselves by what we do. We did that last year. We have to do that again this year. Everybody will understand that really well.

      "Don't let other people define you. We define ourselves by what we do. When I did this press conference a year ago, we were probably regarded as a bottom-five or bottom-10 team in the league. One of the best things our team did last year was that we defined ourselves. We didn't listen to any outside forces who said we weren't this or we weren't that. We just went to work every day. We have to do that again. They might think differently of us this year. It really doesn't matter. We define ourselves by what we do. That starts (Tuesday)."

      Still there is no question that the Super Bowl is the Cowboys' goal after last season's coming of age campaign and an offseason in which they accomplished almost everything they wanted, save for the acquisition of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in a trade.

      But no one gets everything.

      The Cowboys are still on the hunt for a starting running back but every other thing they tried came up roses.

      The top priority was retaining Bryant and making him happy. He was signed to a five-year, $70 million contract two weeks ago, ending his threats to boycott the season and putting him on the field for training camp.

      "To get him signed and ready to go to start camp is exciting," Garrett said in his first comments since the signing. "He is a great football player but more important he is a great teammate. He is passionate about the game. He is passionate about the team, his teammates. We are excited to see him out there."

      Garrett is also happy to avoid the distracting story line of what a Bryant holdout would have brought to training camp.

      "I don't think anyone wants those types of things," Garrett said. "You don't want holdouts. You don't want the business of the NFL to creep in as you get close to the season. The business is real. You have to take the emotions out of it. But it's fun to have him back. It's fun to have in him in the fold and on the practice field as we start training camp."

      Quarterback Tony Romo had his first healthy offseason in three years and will head into training camp 100 percent for the first time since 2012.

      The best offensive line in the NFL got even better with the addition of La'el Collins, an undrafted rookie free agent with first-round talent who could start at left guard.

      The defense should be better because of the return of linebacker Sean Lee from injury and the additions of defensive ends Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory and cornerback Byron Jones in the draft and free agency.

      The Cowboys got a win when Hardy's NFL suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy was reduced from 10 games to four.

      Cornerback Morris Claiborne, who has been a disappointment since coming to the team with the sixth overall pick in 2012, is also a source of optimism because of a successful return from knee surgery that might allow the Cowboys to play Jones at safety.

      "It's all about the production on the field," executive vice president Stephen Jones said in affirming the team's highly productive offseason. "We obviously feel like we got a lot accomplished. We theoretically got done what we felt like we needed to do to make our team better and take the next step. Now we'll see if it happens."

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 28: Team reports

      July 30: First practice

      Aug. 17-18: Joint practices with Rams in Oxnard

      Aug. 28: Camp ends

      --Team strength: Offensive line.

      The Cowboys' offensive line was considered the best in the NFL last year when it placed three players in the Pro Bowl: left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. They return their entire unit from a year ago while also adding a first-round talent in undrafted rookie free agent La'el Collins, who was considered a top 15 pick before questions about the murder of an ex-girlfriend made him untouchable. Once cleared, Collins signed with the Cowboys and could replace Ron Leary at left guard.

      --Breakout player: Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford.

      Crawford had a nice bounce-back season last year after missing the 2013 campaign with a torn Achilles. He replaced Henry Melton in the starting lineup at defensive tackle, recording 33 tackles and three sacks. The Cowboys expect marked improvement in 2015 as Crawford gets more comfortable at defensive tackle. He played defensive end his first two years in the league. He had 37 hurries last year so he has talent to rush up the middle. The key in 2015 is for him to finish those hurries with sacks.

      --Work in progress: Running back.

      The Cowboys have yet to find a replacement for the departed DeMarco Murray. Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden are the most likely starters at this point. But the team doesn't trust the speedy Randle, who has yet to carry a full load for a full season. McFadden has been injured almost every year and averaged less than four yards per carry the past three seasons with Oakland.

      The Cowboys also have no one to get the tough yards in short-yardage situations. They will be looking for options throughout training camp.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFL notebook: League, NFLPA engaged in Brady settlement talks
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFL and the NFL Players Association reportedly have engaged in talks regarding a potential settlement of Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal.

    • Sources told FOX Sports that the two sides have had an open line of communication in recent days after reports last week of the NFLPA's proposal being ignored by the league office. The talks also were confirmed to ESPN.

      The talks could lead to a reduction of the four-game suspension levied on the New England Patriots quarterback, but sources told ESPN it is unlikely the sides will reach a settlement.

      Tuesday will mark five weeks since Goodell heard Brady's appeal. A FOX Sports source said Brady has become frustrated with the lack of a decision from the commissioner.

      The NFLPA and Brady's camp are planning to move their litigation to federal court if Goodell doesn't wipe out the ban. Sources told ESPN that Brady might be willing to admit to a failure to comply with the investigation in exchange for a fine, but no suspension.

      --Former Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin is retiring from the NFL.

      Martin, a second-round pick of the Dolphins in 2012, was preparing for training camp with the Carolina Panthers but was battling a back injury.

      Martin spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers.

      He played his first two seasons with the Dolphins but in 2013 took a leave of absence, sparking what became an independent investigation into a bullying scandal with teammate Richie Incognito as the central antagonist.

      --The Houston Texans placed outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney on the list for the physically unable to perform.

      Clowney can come off the PUP list any time before the start of the season; but, if he remains on PUP once the season begins, he will have to sit out the first six games.

      Last week, Texans Dr. Walt Lowe said Clowney "looks spectacular" seven months removed from microfracture surgery on his right knee.

      --The New England Patriots placed defensive tackle Dominique Easley and seven others on the list for the physically unable to perform.

      Easley, the team's 2014 first-round draft choice, played in 11 games as a rookie but struggled with a surgically repaired knee that ultimately forced the Patriots to put him on injured reserve in December.

      Also placed on the PUP list were special teams captain Matthew Slater, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, offensive lineman Ryan Wendell, linebackers Dane Fletcher and Chris White and defensive tackles Vince Taylor and Chris Jones. Quarterback Matt Flynn was placed on the non-football injury list.

      --The NFL will start spot-checking the inflation of footballs this year in the wake of the Deflategate scandal.

      Mike Pereira, the league's former head of officiating, wrote an article Sunday on FoxSports.com, detailing the NFL's new football-monitoring procedures.

      According to Pereira:

      Each team will supply 12 primary and 12 backup footballs to the game officials 2 hours and 15 minutes before each game. Previously, the visitors had to supply just 12, though they could have supplied up to 24 for outdoor games.

      If a football is found to be below the minimum of 12.5 PSI or above the maximum of 13.5 PSI, it will be inflated or deflated to 13 PSI.

      --Guaranteed money is the hurdle the Seattle Seahawks must clear to sign quarterback Russell Wilson to a long-term contract.

      According to NFL Network, Wilson has not turned down any contract offer from the Seahawks, contrary to published reports, and negotiations are ongoing focused on the amount of guaranteed money in the deal.

      Wilson can become a free agent at the end of the 2015 season if he does not sign an extension.

      --Junior Galette reportedly passed his physical with the New Orleans Saints and was set to be released.

      The team's intent to cut the pass rusher was learned last Friday. He had to pass a physical first, and he told The Times-Picayune on Monday that he passed the exam. He had been recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.

      --Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the center of attention as training camp got underway over the weekend, doesn't see an end to his career for many years to come.

      Peterson's newly renegotiated contract runs through the 2017 season, when he will be 32 years old.

      "I don't see the end," Peterson told Peter King of TheMMQB.com. "Straight up and honest with you, I feel like, and I don't know if I'll do this, because I feel like once my mind tells me, 'You know what -- I'm not loving this game anymore,' I'll walk away whenever that time is. But I honestly feel I can play this game until I am 36 or 37 years old. And at a high level."

      --The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. The minimum-salary deal is for one year, NFL Media reported.

      The Buccaneers drafted Bowers in the second round in 2011, and he has played in 50 games (10 starts).

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    Patriots place Easley, seven others on PUP
    By The Sports Xchange

    The New England Patriots on Monday placed defensive tackle Dominique Easley and seven others on the list for the physically unable to perform.

    • Easley, the team's 2014 first-round draft choice, played in 11 games as a rookie but struggled with a surgically repaired knee that ultimately forced the Patriots to put him on injured reserve in December.

      Easley suffered two torn ACLs at Florida and underwent surgery before the 2014 draft. He reportedly did not require surgery this offseason.

      Also placed on the PUP list Monday were special teams captain Matthew Slater, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, offensive lineman Ryan Wendell, linebackers Dane Fletcher and Chris White and defensive tackles Vince Taylor and Chris Jones. Quarterback Matt Flynn was placed on the non-football injury list.

      Avoiding the list were linebackers Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins, defensive end Chandler Jones, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga. All but Collins sat out organized team activities this offseason.

      The Patriots report to training camp Wednesday.

      Players can come off PUP at any time during the preseason; but, if they remain on the list once the season begins, they must sit out six games.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    Texans place Clowney on PUP
    By The Sports Xchange

    In a move that was hardly unexpected, the Houston Texans on Monday placed outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney on the list for the physically unable to perform.

    • Clowney can come off the PUP list any time before the start of the season; but, if he remains on PUP once the season begins, he will have to sit out the first six games.

      Last week, Texans Dr. Walt Lowe said Clowney "looks spectacular" seven months removed from microfracture surgery on his right knee.

      "The real goal in the end is to have him be who he was before he got hurt," Lowe told Forbes.

      Texans coach Bill O'Brien has been hopeful last year's No. 1 overall pick will be ready to play in Week 1. Clowney has spent the offseason rehabbing and taking part in some weight room activities.

      Clowney was limited to four games in his rookie year, making just five tackles. He suffered a lateral right meniscus tear in the 2014 season opener, had arthroscopic knee surgery the next day and attempted to return to the field in the following month.

      Due to articular cartilage damage, Clowney underwent microfracture surgery on Dec. 8.

      As part of that rehab, the Texans reportedly have used blood flow restriction therapy, which is designed to minimize muscle deficits early in rehab. The Texans were the first team in the league to implement such training, which is also called "tourniquet" training.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    AFC East camp preview: New regime raises expectations for Jets
    By The Sports Xchange

    FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- There's one more change coming for the New York Jets following an offseason of upheaval. For the first time ever, the Jets will hold an entire training camp at their spacious facility in Florham Park, where players will report on Wednesday.

    • The Jets, who conducted training camp for decades at Hofstra University on Long Island before shifting to upstate Cortland in 2009, had training camp in Florham Park in 2011, but that abbreviated camp was hastily put together after the lockout in late July.

      However, one thing hasn't changed for the Jets: High expectations.

      Most teams coming off 4-12 seasons and breaking in new regimes are embarking upon full-scale rebuilding projects. But new coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan will be looking to win right away after Maccagnan spent his first few months on the job wheeling and dealing.

      Maccagnan, with an assist from formerly penny-pinching owner Woody Johnson, spent more than $100 million in free agency, where he lured former Jets All-Pro cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie back into the fold. He also addressed two more areas of need by acquiring wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick via trades.

      All four players are on the older side of 30, which means there's a definite sense of urgency around the Jets. But the player with the most pressure on him is a relative youngster: third-year quarterback Geno Smith, who doesn't turn 25 until October.

      If Smith can develop into a game manager, correct his turnover-prone ways and mature a bit more on and off the field, then the Jets may have both a shot at dethroning the New England Patriots atop the AFC East and their long-term answer at quarterback.

      If not, then Fitzpatrick will be behind center sooner than later and the Jets will be in the unenviable position of looking for a franchise quarterback while fielding a roster that otherwise is built to win now.

      Of course, that's nothing new for the Jets, who have been looking for the next Joe Namath for the last 39 years. But it's a situation with which they'd rather not remain familiar.

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 29: Entire team reports.

      July 30: First practice.

      Aug. 27: Camp ends.

      --Team strength: Cornerback.

      New general manager Mike Maccagnan wasted little time addressing an area ex-general manager John Idzik left barren. Maccagnan -- with an assist from owner Woody Johnson's suddenly open wallet -- signed future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to turn the league's worst cornerback corps into one of its best. Unlike Idzik, who talked a good game about fostering competition but did little to actually create it, Maccagnan also bolstered the Jets' depth at the position by signing free agent Buster Skrine. That means Dee Milliner, a first-round pick just two years ago, is the Jets' No. 4 cornerback. Not bad.

      --Breakout player: Strong safety Calvin Pryor.

      The hard hitter struggled as a rookie last season, when he played out of position under coach Rex Ryan, who often ignored the safety position. But Maccagnan signed Marcus Gilchrist to play free safety, which will allow the ferocious Pryor to patrol the back end of the secondary and deliver the jarring hits he became famous for at Louisville.

      --Work in progress: Quarterback.

      What else? The Jets embody the cliche that if you have more than one quarterback you have none. Geno Smith showed flashes of improvement this spring, especially during minicamp, but he has always looked better in shorts than in uniform.

      Ryan Fitzpatrick provides Smith his first legitimate competition for the starting job since Mark Sanchez was injured in August 2013, but Fitzpatrick's track record of providing a quick spark before fading fast doesn't suggest he is the season-long answer. Boom-or-bust, cannon-armed fourth-round pick Bryce Petty is at least a year away from vying for the starting job.

      The best-case scenario for the Jets is that Smith matures, on and off the field, this summer and establishes himself as the starter for a team with playoff aspirations. More likely, the Jets will have to hope to get half a season's worth of competence out of Smith before hoping that Fitzpatrick has enough gas to get them over the finish line.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    Buccaneers re-sign DE Bowers
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed defensive end Da'Quan Bowers on Monday.

    • The minimum-salary deal is for one year, NFL Media reported.

      The Buccaneers drafted Bowers in the second round in 2011, and he has played in 50 games (10 starts), tallying 70 tackles (17 for loss), seven sacks, seven passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFC East camp preview: All eyes on Bradford as Eagles' camp opens
    By The Sports Xchange

    PHILADELPHIA -- All eyes will be on the quarterback position when the Philadelphia Eagles open training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Sunday.

    • The Eagles will have at least 10, and possibly as many as 12, new starters this year. The most significant of those will be quarterback Sam Bradford, who was acquired from the St. Louis Rams in March.

      Bradford has torn the ACL in his left knee twice in the last two years. But it didn't dissuade Eagles coach Chip Kelly from swapping his old starting quarterback, Nick Foles, and a 2016 second-round pick for Bradford, who is entering the final year of his contract.

      "It's not easy to trade a young quarterback you had been developing (Foles) who had a terrific year the year before and got hurt last year," owner Jeff Lurie said in March. "But you have to go on your evaluations.

      "There was an opportunity to do an upside gamble with an outstanding young quarterback (Bradford) who you hope can become healthier throughout his career. It's so hard to find a franchise quarterback. It sets the ceiling on what you have as a team. Do you want to take upside gambles or not? You have to make that decision."

      Bradford suffered the second ACL tear last August. The Eagles' doctors feel there's about a 10 to 12 percent chance of reinjury.

      "That's 88 to 90 percent (chance) of full recovery," Kelly said. "That's what we went with."

      The Eagles took it slow with Bradford in the spring. He wore a brace on the knee during OTAs and minicamps and didn't participate in any 11-on-11 team work. But that is expected to change when training camp opens. Last month, Bradford said if he isn't doing 11-on-11 work when camp opens, "there's something dramatically wrong."

      Kelly has said Bradford will "compete" for the starting quarterback job with Mark Sanchez, who started eight games last year after Foles broke his collarbone. But Bradford has a $13 million cap number this season. If he's healthy, he will be the season-opening starter.

      "It's always an open competition," Kelly said. "You still have to go out and win your job. If Sam goes out in the preseason and throws 14 interceptions, and Mark throws 14 touchdowns, I can't sit there and tell our team that Sam's going to start and Mark's not going to start. It doesn't work that way."

      There are a lot of questions heading into training camp. Who will replace guards Todd Herremans and two-time Pro Bowler Evan Mathis, who were both released? Who will be the starting wideouts?

      Will third-year tight end Zach Ertz show enough blocking prowess to wrestle the starting job from veteran Brent Celek? What's going to happen at the crowded inside linebacker spot, where newcomer Kiko Alonso joins Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans?

      Can Walter Thurmond make the transition from corner to safety? Can Nolan Carroll beat out rookie second-round pick Eric Rowe for the cornerback job opposite Byron Maxwell?

      CAMP CALENDAR

      Aug. 1: Rookies and veterans report.

      Aug. 2: First practice.

      --Team strength: Defensive line.

      Ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton and nose tackle Bennie Logan haven't missed a start in two seasons. They are one of the league's best 3-4 lines. They are solid against the run. Cox and nickel rusher Vinny Curry are keys to a pass rush that put up 49 sacks last season.

      --Breakout player: Tight end Zach Ertz.

      Ertz is one of the league's better pass-catching tight ends but has had his snaps limited because of his shortcomings as a blocker. He still managed to catch 58 passes last season and figures to benefit from the arrival of Sam Bradford.

      --Work in progress: Offensive line.

      Kelly took a major gamble by getting rid of both of his starting guards - two-time Pro Bowler Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. Both were 33 but were still playing well. Center Jason Kelce and tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson all are Pro Bowl-caliber players, but the two likely replacements for Mathis and Herremans -- Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin -- have 15 combined starts.

      Behind those five, there isn't a lot of depth. The Eagles didn't select an offensive lineman in either of the last two drafts. If they get another rash of injuries like last season, their offense could be crippled.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    AFC East camp preview: Brady's status still hangs over Patriots
    By The Sports Xchange

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The biggest issues facing the defending champion New England Patriots heading into 2015 can be boiled down to the two key aspects of the passing game in a passing league: Who will throw the ball to open the team's title defense and who the heck is going to keep other teams from throwing it all over the field?

    • Quarterback Tom Brady's uncertain availability heading into the new season is something that head coach Bill Belichick and his team have really never had to deal with. Aside from returning after a 2008 torn ACL that cost him all but a single quarter of action that season, Brady has been the unquestioned, unchallenged and reliable-as-a-Maytag leader of the Patriots' passing attack.

      But Brady's four-game suspension in the wake of the Deflategate scandal and as yet unresolved appeal that was heard by commissioner Roger Goodell on June 23 has left the quarterback spot for training camp practices, preseason reps and potentially the first month of regular-season action a bit unclear.

      Brady could miss four games, no games, anything in between or take his appeal to the courts and keep the issues unresolved for an unknown period of time.

      That means Belichick may not only have to prepare second-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo to start the Thursday night opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but also keep veteran Matt Flynn ready to go while also giving Brady all the reps he needs to assume his usual spot atop the depth chart at whatever point he's allowed to do so.

      The good news for Belichick and the team's fans is that when Brady does take over the offense it appears to have all the makings of another Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman aerial show.

      Things aren't nearly so certain nor so optimistic in the back end of the New England pass defense in the post-Darrelle Revis era in Foxborough. Revis and Brandon Browner, who also is gone after just a single season at Gillette Stadium, helped transform the pass defense into a complementary factor in the team's championship run a year ago. Now, though, what remains is a cast of unproven, unknown or reclamation projects.

      Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler will be given the chance to take over Revis' left corner role after starting just a single game as an undrafted rookie last fall. Third-year developing player Logan Ryan could win a starting job on the right side. Free agent Robert McClain could replace departed veteran Kyle Arrington in the slot. Veteran signing Bradley Fletcher will have the opportunity to rebuild his career after a dismal year in Philadelphia.

      The only thing that's assured in the back end is that fresh off a new nearly $50 million contract, captain Devin McCourty will be expected to carry more of the load both as an experienced leader and a playmaker, something that he certainly was not asked to do in 2014 working behind Revis and Browner.

      The NFL is a passing league. The Patriots are a passing team on offense and a team that's struggled to stop the pass over the years save for last fall's one-year rentals of Revis and Browner.

      The passing game will be in the spotlight of bright sunshine this summer on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium as questions abound not just about a pass defense that's used to such focus, but also a Brady-led (maybe) passing game that's going to once again carry the team as far as it goes this fall and winter.

      CAMP CALENDAR

      July 22: Rookies reported

      July 29: Veterans report

      July 30: First practice

      Aug. 19-20: Joint practices in West Virginia with New Orleans

      Aug. 15 (tentative): Camp ends

      --Team strength: Tight end.

      Rob Gronkowski openly talked about making quarterback Tom Brady look like himself again as of Week 5's win over the Bengals last fall. The All-Pro tight end is indeed the key that puts Brady and the offense over the top. Gronkowski had a fully healthy offseason for the first time in years and was easily the most impressive and energetic player on the field throughout spring practice. Now, the addition of former Bills tight end Scott Chandler adds even more potential to the position. Chandler is a huge (6-foot-7) target that the Patriots clearly appear poised to use in tandem with Gronkowski not just in the red zone, but all over the field. The duo should give defensive coordinators and opposing players headaches, especially working with Brady and the rest of the impressive New England aerial attack.

      --Breakout player: Linebacker Jamie Collins.

      As impressive as Collins was in his second season last fall -- leading New England with 109 tackles while adding four sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries -- the versatile, athletic linebacker still has plenty of room to grow as he gets more experience. Collins is the modern mold for a linebacker with the ability to rush the passer, play the run and cover down the field. There is no question that an ascension to the Pro Bowl or even All-Pro status could be in the cards for the former second-round pick and budding New England defensive star.

      --Work in progress: Secondary.

      Devin McCourty will start at safety. The other safety spot and two or three starting cornerback jobs are total unknowns. The turnover in the back end could easily be forecast as the fatal flaw in the 2015 Patriots. A lot may be expected of surprise Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and many other unknown, unproven defensive backs.

      McCourty is fresh off a new contract for nearly $50 million. That will bring huge expectations and, with Darrelle Revis gone, those expectations will be more difficult to fulfill.

      The Patriots return the core of a high-powered passing attack. They may need it, as scoring a lot of points may be required given the unknowns and low expectations for the defensive backfield. Maybe Butler, Logan Ryan and free-agent addition Bradley Fletcher will work their way into a solid unit and be a pleasant surprise in the back end. Maybe.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    NFL, NFLPA engaged in Brady settlement talks
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFL and the NFL Players Association have engaged in talks regarding a potential settlement of Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal.

    • Sources told FOX Sports that the two sides have had an open line of communication in recent days after reports last week of the NFLPA's proposal being ignored by the league office. The talks also were confirmed to ESPN.

      The talks could lead to a reduction of the four-game suspension levied on the New England Patriots quarterback, but sources told ESPN it is unlikely the sides will reach a settlement.

      On Sunday, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti issued a stern denial that he has tried to influence NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to take action on the scandal.

      Goodell said last week there is no timeline for a ruling in the appeal of Brady's suspension. Speaking at a fundraiser in Pennsylvania, Goodell said, "We will make a decision as quickly as possible."

      Brady appealed the suspension on June 23 at NFL headquarters in New York. Goodell said the league is being very thorough to consider all aspects of the appeal.

      Tuesday will mark five weeks since Goodell heard Brady's appeal. A FOX Sports source said Brady has become frustrated with the lack of a decision from the commissioner.

      The NFLPA and Brady's camp are planning to move their litigation to federal court if Goodell doesn't wipe out the ban. Sources told ESPN that Brady might be willing to admit to a failure to comply with the investigation in exchange for a fine, but no suspension.

      The NFL reportedly is looking at more than 400 pages of documentation as it prepares its decision.

      The investigation began after the Jan. 18 AFC Championship game when 11 of 12 game balls tested at halftime of the Patriots' win over the Indianapolis Colts were found to be below PSI minimums.

      NFL investigator Ted Wells found that it was "more probable than not" that Brady was aware of the process.

      Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who chose not to fight team penalties -- a $1 million fine and two draft picks docked -- sent Goodell a signed affidavit supporting Brady for the June appeal.

      Patriots veterans report to training camp Wednesday, but Brady arrived at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday as he waits the decision from the commissioner.

      The four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback hopes to take the field when the Patriots open their title defense against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, Sept. 10. If Brady still is suspended for the season opener, backup Jimmy Garoppolo would get the start.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    Saints release Galette
    By The Sports Xchange

    As expected, Junior Galette was released by the New Orleans Saints on Monday.

    • The team's intent to cut the pass rusher was learned last Friday. He had to pass a physical first, and he told The Times-Picayune on Monday that he passed the exam. He had been recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.

      Galette, who has 22 sacks over the past two seasons and just signed a four-year, $41.5 million contract last September, is being investigated by the NFL for two alleged assaults.

      The NFL has talked to Galette about his arrest in January for domestic simple battery, and the league is now investigating a 2013 video that purportedly shows Galette striking a woman with a belt during a scuffle in South Beach, Fla.

      Galette, 27, was not charged in the domestic violence incident, which allegedly took place on Jan. 5 at his home in Kenner, La.

      The beach video came to light last month, and the Saints forwarded it to the NFL.

      On Friday, Galette told The Times-Picayune the decision by the Saints is "the worst call they've ever made. It was a terrible call to kick me when I'm down."

      The legal issues weren't the only reasons the team decided to part ways with Galette, according to The Times-Picayune, which reported that his attitude and behavior changed for the worse after he signed his contract.

      He got into a fight with a teammate before a preseason game last year but still was voted captain a few days later, the newspaper reported. The team then signed him to the extension, and sources told The Times-Picayune that the team quickly regretted the decision.

      Said one source: "He stayed focused long enough to get paid. Then the real Junior came out."

      Galette joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and had 12 sacks in 2013. He tallied 10 sacks last season.

      Galette will cost the Saints $5.45 million against this year's salary cap and $12.1 million next year.