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8/30/2014
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News and Views
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Tony Romo Confirms He'll Skip The Exhibition Opener (8/4 9:17 PT)

The Facts: Romo expects to sit out Thursday’s preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers, which led to extended work for the quarterback Sunday. “We’ve talked about it a little bit, and we’re going to be smart,” Romo said. “… Most likely I’ll probably sit out the San Diego game and play in Game 2 and go from there.”  Reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Diehards Line: No surprise here. In 2013, Romo sat out the Hall of Fame Game before playing 12 plays against Oakland in the second of five preseason games. Romo, who had surgery to repair a herniated disk in December, returned to practice Sunday after back-to-back days off. He took the most reps he’s had so far in training camp, throwing 25 passes in 7-on-7 and team drills. The Cowboys practice Monday and Tuesday before departing for San Diego. Romo said he expects to take one of those days off.

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Andy Dalton, Bengals Agree To Contract Extension (8/4 9:16 PT)

The Facts: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan, the Bengals and Dalton reached agreement on a six-year, $115 million contract extension. Reported by FootballDiehards.com

Diehards Line: While the details of the contract are not available, the new deal is a clear indication of the Bengals' commitment to Dalton. As Profootballtalk.com pointed out, the former second-rounder has kept them consistently competitive, but hasn’t delivered a playoff win yet. Clearly the Bengals expect that to change. ... Stay tuned. We'll have more details as they come to light.

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Rob Gronkowski Won't Work In Joint Practices With Washington (8/4 9:15 PT)

The Facts: The Patriots are getting some work in against the Redskins this week, but they’re not using one of their biggest stars. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Gronkowski is being held out of the joint workouts. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: There have been no reported setbacks in Gronkowski’s return from knee surgery. He said recently he wasn’t going to change his playing style, but the Patriots are clearly modifying his work load so that he’s ready for the regular season opener. He’s been doing individual work during Patriots camp and all indications are he's on schedule to be ready Week 1. Fantasy football owners can understand and appreciate the team's desire to keep it that way.

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Josh Gordon Practicing While Awaiting Word On Appeal (8/4 9:14 PT)

The Facts: There has been no news on Gordon’s appeal of his potential suspension, after his hearing went all day Friday and was scheduled to continue today. But even if he won’t continue to play for the Browns this season, he’s going to get in a little work. According to Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, Gordon was in uniform and practicing this morning with the team.  Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: As PFT notes, the Browns have backed Gordon throughout the process and owner Jimmy Haslam has said the team wasn’t going to cut the talented-but-troubled wideout. But the decision on whether he'll play this year or not should come soon. In the meantime, Gordon is on the field doing his thing.

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Aaron Rodgers Thinks Tougher Officiating Will Help Passing Attacks (8/4 12:44 PT)

The Facts: Rodgers expects passing offenses around the NFL to be even more productive this season than they were last season, thanks to a stricter emphasis on illegal contact, pass interference and defensive holding. Rodgers said after officials worked a Packers practice that the way the officials are calling those penalties this year, it can only help quarterbacks and wide receivers. “I think you’re going to see the passing game reffed a little more tightly this year,” Rodgers said. Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: As PFT's Michael David Smith reminded readers, the best pass defense in the NFL last year was in Seattle, where opposing teams often complained that the Seahawks’ defensive backs got away with grabbing and holding receivers. Rodgers said he hopes penalties are called just as strictly in the Packers’ season opener at Seattle as they were when officials visited the Packers’ practice. “I was joking with this crew that we might want them to head up to the Pacific Northwest in about a month,” Rodgers said. Smith went on to suggest that if the NFL is serious about its officials getting strict with defensive backs, that will be bad news for teams like the Seahawks with physical pass defenses, and good news for teams like the Packers who rely on their passing offenses. And that will be good news for fantasy football owners as well.

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Could Bears Be Interested In Kyle Orton? (8/4 12:40 PT)

The Facts: On Saturday, GM Phil Emery talked about the possibility of bringing back Orton, a former Bear who was traded to acquire Cutler in 2009. "I have great respect for Kyle," Emery told ESPN Radio. "Great leadership skills, guys really like playing for him, big arm. So the skill set is there. But as far as where he's going in his career. ... That we don't know." Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: The Bears entered training camp with legitimate question marks behind Jay Cutler. They're still there. Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer remain the two most likely replacements to inherit the backup role so capably held down by Josh McCown in 2013. Clausen and Palmer have no history of NFL success, leading to speculation the Bears could bring in another option. Orton was released by the Cowboys last month after sitting out the team's offseason program. Orton had been contemplating retirement, but Jerry Jones says Orton intends to continue his career. The Bears have twice tried to re-acquire Orton in the years since they traded the quarterback. Don't be surprised if a third attempt is in the works.

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49ers Release WR Jon Baldwin (8/4 12:39 PT)

The Facts: The Niners announced Sunday they waived Baldwin after less than a year with the team. In a corresponding move, San Francisco claimed wide receiver L'Damian Washington off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Last August, the Niners sent wide receiver A.J. Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire Baldwin in a trade of two struggling former first-round picks. The change in scenery didn't help Baldwin, who had three catches in seven games last season. Multiple Niners beat reporters had noted that Baldwin wasn't moving well at all. Baldwin, 24, could struggle to latch on to another team this summer.

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Hakeem Nicks Off To A Slow Start In Indianapolis (8/3 1:26 PT)

The Facts: Last year’s contract year didn’t go so well for Nicks. This year’s contract year isn’t off to a stellar start. Per Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, OC Pep Hamilton didn’t exactly rave about the former Giant. “I don’t know if I can say that I’ve seen enough,” Hamilton said. “I think he is still working to get himself in game shape. His talent is well documented and his ability to be a productive receiver in the league is without a doubt something that we are not questioning, he’s a special talent.” Reported by Profootballtalk.com

Diehards Line: The talent is undeniable. But as PFT's Mike Florio asked, "how can Nicks not show up for the most important training camp of his life in game shape?" Fantasy football owners who have rolled with Nicks the last two season are painfully aware the numbers haven't been there. As a result, Nicks didn't have many suitors in free agency. He signed a modest one-year deal with the Colts in the hopes of hitting the market again, and striking it rich, in 2015. But with T.Y. Hilton coming into his own and Reggie Wayne recovered from a torn ACL and the Colts perhaps not planning to use three-receiver sets on an extensive basis, Nicks could have a hard time getting to the end zone this year, because, as Florio suggested, "he could have a hard time getting on the field."

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Trent Richardson Working At Full Speed And Looking More Comfortable (8/3 1:25 PT)

The Facts: After showing up for camp with a tender hamstring that prompted HC Chuck Pagano to go easy on him early in training camp, Richardson is coming off an impressive week of practice. It’s been obvious Richardson is more comfortable in the system. He’s gone from thinking too much after taking the handoff to running off his natural instincts and with explosion. “He’s getting back to 100 percent, so I think some of those runs you’re starting to see, the hard work, the full offseason, the comfort with the scheme, the terminology, being around the offensive guys, the guys that are lined up in front of him blocking and seeing him starting to put a foot in the ground, see a hole, burst through the line of scrimmage, all that stuff is coming,” Pagano said. Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: As ESPN.com's Mike Wells suggests, Richardson’s role in the offense became even more important once fellow running back Vick Ballard was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Richardson, the likely starter, and Ahmad Bradshaw are the Colts' two primary running backs. Still, as Wells wrote: "Practice is one thing, but Richardson will be judged off what he does when the games count. If last week was any indication, he’s definitely on his way to improving on the 2.9 yards per carry he averaged last season. ..." Fantasy football owners seem to be gaining confidence in Richardson. His ADP has climbed to RB20 putting him firmly in RB2 territory.

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DeAndre Hopkins Making A Leap Forward (8/3 1:18 PT)

The Facts: While Andre Johnson remains on the sidelines, Hopkins is leaping forward -- and upward -- during the Texans’ training camp. Hopkins hauled in several impressive catches Saturday, building on his impressive early work during camp.  Reported by the Houston Chronicle

Diehards Line: The 6-1, 207-pound Hopkins entered preseason practices vowing to improve on his inconsistent rookie season, when he collected 52 receptions for 802 yards and two touchdowns, but too often disappeared from games. According to Chronicle staffer Brian Smith, Hopkins entered camp in excellent shape and has easily been the Texans’ premier receiver with Johnson dealing with a hamstring strain. “He’s one of the guys out there that I think is much improved from April 7, when we started, to where we are now,” HC Bill O’Brien said. “He just has to keep it going. He’s a very hard worker. It’s very important to him. He’s a guy that really, in our opinion, gets better and better every day. So just got to keep it going. ...” Hopkins’ progress -- and the team’s play at quarterback -- is worth watching.

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Brandin Cooks Continues To Make Waves (8/3 1:17 PT)

The Facts: The star of the New Orleans Saints' scrimmage on Saturday? The same guy who has been the star of their entire camp -- Cooks.  Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, the dynamic playmaker keeps managing to top himself with each passing day. Among his other highlights on Saturday, Cooks torched cornerback Rod Sweeting with a sharp cut for a touchdown of about 25-30 yards, leaped up to reel in a deep ball behind cornerback Patrick Robinson at the 1-yard line and broke a big gain on a kickoff return. Triplett went on to stress that expectations shouldn’t soar too high for Cooks based on a couple weeks’ worth of training camp highlights -- especially in a deep Saints offense that likes to spread the ball around. "But it really has been remarkable how consistent and versatile Cooks has been," Triplett wrote. "He has thrived by flashing his speed and quickness, as well as his ball-catching ability and instincts." Cooks, who put up monster numbers at Oregon State last season (128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 touchdowns) before posting some monster measurables at the NFL scouting combine (4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash) is starting to look very much like the right guy in the right place.

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Rookie WR Jared Abbrederis Suffers A Torn ACL (8/3 1:15 PT)

The Facts: Abbrederis, a fifth-round rookie receiver, has confirmed he suffered a torn right ACL. Abbrederis told reporters Saturday night he thinks he injured the knee in Wednesday's practice. However, the rookie took part in Thursday's entire workout and it was only later that tests were done on his knee. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: It is not the first ACL injury for the 23-year-old pass-catcher. Abbrederis injured his ACL during high school in a devastating collision that broke his femur. Abbrederis is expected to undergo surgery as soon as possible after his most recent knee injury. He wouldn't say he's done for season, but it's likely he will be rehabbing until the 2015 offseason.

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Julio Jones Not Worried About His Next Contract... Yet (8/3 12:17 PT)

The Facts: Jones, part of the 2011 NFL draft class, said he is not concerned about signing a new lucrative contract at this particular time. "That's on them to decide," Jones told ESPN.com following Thursday's practice. "I just have to come here and show up and work every day. I've got to make them feel like they want me here for the remainder of my career. The only thing I can do is keep working and keep my nose clean and just do the right things. I don't think about (a new contract). Money is good, but I don't think about it. When I'm on the field, I want to beat the guy across from me. I just come to work and play football."  Reported by ESPN.com

Diehards Line: Jones, 25, is signed through 2015 after the team picked up his fifth-year option worth $10.176 million. His tag-team partner, veteran receiver Roddy White, recently received a contract extension. This year, Jones will make $2,581,875 will a cap number of $5,149,735. Two members of his draft class -- Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith and Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson -- received contract extension this week. Peterson, who was the fifth-overall draft pick one slot ahead of Jones, received a five-year contract extension Peterson claimed was worth $70 million and reportedly $48 million guaranteed. Jones took notice. ... Jones missed 11 games last season after fracturing his right foot for the second time in a Week 5 loss to the New York Jets. Although Jones said he is 100 percent and is participating in training camp, the Falcons likely will wait until he gets through a full season healthy before addressing his contract situation. "When it comes, I'll deserve it," Jones said. "I don't like anybody giving me anything. I like to work hard for everything I get."

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Keenan Allen Has Added Increased Speed To His Repertoire (8/3 12:16 PT)

The Facts: Allen enjoyed a spectacular rookie season, but wanted to add another element to his game. During the offseason, Allen added speed to his impressive repertoire. "I'm a deep threat now," Allen said with a smile to U-T San Diego's Mike Gehlken. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: The 6-2, 22-year-old slipped to the third-round in the 2013 NFL Draft in part because he ran a 4.71 40-yard dash. However, part of that time was due to him dealing with a PCL injury. Now healthy, Allen was able to work on his speed during the summer. The added pace should help the receiver get deep more, but it also has sharpened his route running and can help keep defensive backs from recovering when the ball is in the air. ... Allen led all rookies last year with 1,046 yards on 71 catches, with eight touchdowns. Per Gehlken, all but two of those 71 catches were made within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. As NFL.com suggests, given his talent and tackle-breaking ability, if Allen becomes a more occasional deep threat, he will be a terror for defenses.

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Jordan Cameron Nicks Shoulder; Doesn't Sound Serious (8/3 12:15 PT)

The Facts: Cameron started Saturday's scrimmage but left with a shoulder injury. “Jordan Cameron hurt his shoulder, he should be fine,” HC Mike Pettine said. “It was more precautionary than anything else.” Reported by the Northeast Ohio News-Herald

Diehards Line: Cameron caught a pass for no gain on the opening possession and was targeted on an incompletion on the final play of the drive. We'll go ahead and take Pettine at his word until we have reason not to. It's safe to assume follow ups will be coming.

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DeSean Jackson Gets A Day Off To Rest Sore Legs (8/2 4:20 PT)

The Facts: Jackson did not practice on Saturday due to some discomfort in his legs, HC Jay Gruden said. “We held DeSean out,” Gruden said. “He had a little soreness in his legs.”  Reported by CSNWashington.com

Diehards Line: Gruden did not specify the precise nature of the soreness hampering the star wide receiver, who watched practice from the sidelines in a jersey and shorts. The session marked the second in full-pads -- including game pants -- since training camp opened 10 days ago. The team is off Sunday and will return to on Monday for the first of three joint practices with the Patriots. “Just trying to keep him fresh,” Gruden said. “He’s been running a lot. ...” We'll follow up as needed.

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Drew Brees Being Held Out Of Scrimmage With Strained Oblique (8/2 11:56 PT)

The Facts: The Saints held Brees out of Saturday's scrimmage because of a strained left oblique sustained in Friday's practice, coach Sean Payton said. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Brees will be evaluated over the next few days and is considered day-to-day. The Saints have Sunday off, which will give the quarterback at least another full day to rest. Veteran Luke McCown sits as Brees' primary backup with second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin and rookie Logan Kilgore battling for a roster spot. As NFL.com notes, Brees' strain is minor, but core body injuries do affect throwing motion and can be nagging. We'll be watching for more.

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Kelvin Benjamin Works Without Difficulty In His Return From Knee Injury (8/2 11:54 PT)

The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... Benjamin was back practicing in full pads after missing this week's work after tweaking his knee on Sunday.  Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: Benjamin wore a compression sleeve on his left leg but didn't appear to have any trouble moving and running routes, per the Associated Press. In fact AP sports writer Steve Reed shot out the following tweets during practice: "Benjamin picking up where he left off before his injury -- catching everything in sight." Reed added: "Cam [Newton] keeps going back to Benjamin. He's quickly becoming Newton's security blanket. Another catch there in team drills. ..." Sounds promising and in light of the team's overall lack of high-end talent at the position, it's also understandable. Indeed, the only real question about Benjamin is how quickly he can become a polished pro. We'll be watching for more.

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Maurice Jones-Drew Looking To Prove His Doubters Wrong... Again (8/2 12:15 PT)

The Facts: Jones-Drew never had to search for motivation. It came in daily doses from people questioning him because of his stature. Time and again, the 5-7 Jones-Drew silenced doubters with his play. Now that he's with the Raiders, he has found a new source of motivation from those who wonder if he has anything left. "I know what I have left," Jones-Drew said. "I know the work I put in this offseason to get to where I need to get to be able to play at a high level. I stopped worrying about what people were saying." Reported by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Diehards Line: Jones-Drew, 29, led the league in rushing in 2011, and he was atop the chart again in 2012 when he suffered a broken left foot. The injury limited him to six games and required surgery. Jones-Drew had two screws inserted into his foot, which forced him to relearn how to walk, let alone run. So, perhaps it's no surprise that last season Jones-Drew rushed for only 803 yards and 3.4 yards per carry, or almost 1 yard less than his previous career-low. With that came doubts about whether Jones-Drew still has what it takes to be an every-down back. He calls such talk "hilarious. ..." From a fantasy football perspective, Jones-Drew's price tag is going to scare anybody away. His current ADP (RB36) makes him a reasonable enough risk -- assuming we gain some clarity on the how the workload will be divided between MJD and Darren McFadden.

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Michael Crabtree's Injury Is To A Hamstring (8/2 12:14 PT)

The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Friday that Crabtree is "working through something" and could miss a week or two of practices. The good news is that Crabtree's issue is not foot or Achilles related, Harbaugh said. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, citing a source who has spoken to Crabtree, reported that the receiver is nursing a sore hamstring and should be back within two weeks. Reported by NFL.com

Diehards Line: As NFL.com suggests, the 49ers haven't always been realistic about injury timetables under Harbaugh. As long as Crabtree is back on the field in time for the third preseason game, it's reasonable to expect him to be at full speed for the season opener. We'll continue to follow up as developments warrant.

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