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HOUSTON -- His coach and team owner have both said they believe Jadeveon Clowney can get back to being the player he once was after his rehabilitation from microfracture surgery.

What does Clowney think?

"I'm very confident about that," Clowney said, speaking for the first time since his Dec. 8 surgery. "This rehab's going to help me a lot to get back towards playing."

The December surgery was Clowney's second surgery during the 2014 season on his right knee. He suffered a torn lateral meniscus and articular cartilage damage in the Houston Texans' season opener and had arthroscopic knee surgery the next day. Though the Texans had hoped that surgery was all he needed, Clowney's knee did not respond as they'd hoped. He experienced pain and swelling that limited him on the field.

Following the microfracture surgery, Clowney had to stay off his feet for six or seven weeks, he said.

"Oh man, I thought it was going to be real rough but I had my family around me a lot so it kind of went by fast being at home," he said. "The minute they told me I could walk I took off."

Clowney did not have a visible limp while walking around during an appearance at a Puma store in Houston. It's the result of four or five hours of daily rehab.

"Rehab is (a lot) tougher than playing," Clowney said. "You gotta be in there earlier than everybody, you've gotta leave later than everybody. That's a lot tougher than playing."

He declined to reveal specifics on where he is in his rehab, but agreed with Texans coach Bill O'Brien's characterization that last week was one of his best weeks of rehab.

"Very encouraged," Clowney said. "Everything is looking good right now for me. I'm feeling better than I was previously. Just hoping to stay on this track and work towards getting back."


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PHOENIX -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked Wednesday about some the team’s players who are coming off injuries.

He said the only two players who might not make it back for the start of the 2015 season are wide receiver Paul Richardson (ACL surgery) and nickelback Jeremy Lane (arm surgery and ACL surgery).

“That’s a long process to get back,’’ Carroll said of Lane, who suffered a compound wrist fracture and a knee-ligament tear on his interception in the Super Bowl. “It’s about how he handles the final stages of it.”

Richardson, a rookie last season out of Colorado, tore his ACL in the playoff game against Carolina. He also tore the same ACL while in college.

“We’re hearing he’s doing exceedingly well,” Carroll said of Richardson. “His mentality is good. He’s been through it before so he knows the staging and all that. We expect him to have a full recovery.”

The Seattle secondary is a banged-up bunch, but Carroll said things look good for free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Tharold Simon, both of whom had shoulder surgery.

“Everything we’re hearing is things are going really well and the surgeries were very successful,” Carroll said. “There’s just a time frame we have to make it through.”

Thomas had surgery for a torn labrum. Carroll was asked if he expects Thomas will be ready to go by September: “Oh, yeah, certainly.”

Kam Chancellor is recovering from a torn MCL in his left knee and cornerback Richard Sherman is recovering from a torn elbow ligament.

Carroll also said 2014 rookie defensive end Cassius Marsh is 100 percent healthy after suffering a broken foot in October.

“He’s in great shape,” Carroll said of Marsh. “That’s a tremendous addition. It’s like a brand new draft choice for us because he didn’t really get a chance to get started last year. Cassius is a really high-energy, creative and productive football player. We can’t wait to get him out there. He’s in great shape and looks terrific.”

The Miami Dolphins re-signed veteran safety Louis Delmas to a one-year contract Friday, despite Delmas recently suffering a torn ACL in December. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the contract is worth $3.5 million.

But the big news in this signing is Delmas made it clear that he’s ahead of schedule in his knee rehabilitation and will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. Delmas played in 13 games last year for Miami and was an important cog in the defense until the injury. Delmas recorded 63 tackles and one interception last season.

“The knee is great,” Delmas said on a conference call Friday. “My doctors and my training staff have been doing a great job of managing me and making sure I’m doing everything protocol-wise to be able to play the first game of the season.

“I definitely know that I will be ready for the first game of the season.”

If healthy, Delmas will be penciled in as Miami’s starting free safety for the second straight year opposite Reshad Jones. The pair worked well together and led Miami to the NFL’s sixth-ranked pass defense. This signing decreases the chance of Miami drafting a safety (Landon Collins?) in the first round with the No. 14 overall pick.

Delmas also will be reunited with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. They were teammates for four seasons with the Detroit Lions.

“[Suh brings] a lot of havoc,” Delmas said. “We’re definitely going to have fun. That’s one guy right there that can basically run a whole defense by himself. He has great enthusiasm, great energy to the ball and he’s a vicious player when it comes time to get to the ball.”

The Dolphins also re-signed backup running back LaMichael James on Friday.

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Recently-acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick won't be a full participant in the first leg of the New York Jets' anticipated quarterback competition because of, well, his leg.

Fitzpatrick, still recovering from a broken left leg, will be limited throughout the Jets' offseason practices, general manager Mike Maccagnan said Thursday. Fitzpatrick is expected to be ready for training camp.

Maccagnan said Fitzpatrick will be "involved in some of the offseason stuff," but added that the 32-year-old quarterback "may be limited to a certain degree in the OTAs [organized team activities]."

Incumbent Geno Smith, who likely will battle Fitzpatrick for the starting job, and third-stringer Matt Simms will receive the bulk of the practice reps in organized team activities. The Jets have a voluntary minicamp that begins April 28.

Fitzpatrick continues to rehab his leg, which he broke last Dec. 14 while scrambling against the Indianapolis Colts.

Hoping to create competition at their perennially weak quarterback position, the Jets acquired Fitzpatrick from the Houston Texans for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2016. Last season's backup, Michael Vick, is a free agent and won't be re-signed.

Maccagnan declined to call it an open competition between Fitzpatrick and Smith, but he did say it "will be a competitive environment and we'll see how it plays out." Neither Maccagnan nor new coach Todd Bowles has publicly endorsed Smith for the job.


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CINCINNATI -- Count Rey Maualuga among the believers.

While some around the Cincinnati Bengals are concerned about how well linebacker Vontaze Burfict will respond this offseason to microfracture surgery on his left knee, his teammate and fellow linebacker expects the recovery to go well.

Burfict
"I know Tez. He's a fighter. He'll come back," Maualuga said Friday following a news conference regarding the three-year contract extension he signed Thursday.

Maualuga was asked about Burfict because the Bengals' interest in re-signing him appears to have stemmed, in part, from the fact nobody knows yet what to expect.

Microfracture surgery is regarded as one of the most career-threatening procedures athletes can endure, with patience and persistence a necessary virtue.

"He's a tough guy," Maualuga said. "With the healing process, that's going to take some time. But with the spring and OTAs (organized team activities) and all of that, it's a chance for guys to get better. It's a chance for coaches to see what guys can be put in that role and look comfortable in it. We don't have to worry. We have time to find the right guys to take on that role if he doesn't come back in time."

Maualuga said he was optimistic the same old Burfict would be running around when training camp begins in July and August.

For now, that's the timeline the Bengals are hoping for. Head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther were told Burfict's slow recovery process ought to have him back in time for the start of camp. They likely will take it easy with him when he first gets on the field, but the hope is that when he's 100 percent, he will not have lost the explosiveness and burst that made him a virtual wrecking ball in the middle of the defense during the first two of his three seasons in stripes.

His 2014 season was almost completely derailed because of injuries, but Burfict, led the Bengals in tackles in 2012 and 2013. A former undrafted free agent, Burfict made the Pro Bowl following his second season before signing a contract extension that is scheduled to pay him about $20 million through 2017. He's still just 24 years old.

"Vontaze is a big reason for this linebacker group to be what we need it to be," Maualuga said. "With his presence and his understanding of the game, we're a lot more comfortable. If he's not out there, it's like we're playing not so much a catch-up game, but it's like that overall mindset is off for us. It changes a little bit."

Part of the reason Maualuga anticipates Burfict to make an adequate return is because he knows what drives him.

"Doctors are going to say what they want to say: 'This guy will come back in six months' or whatever," Maualuga said. "No, it's on the player. Just like my hamstring the first time [last season]. They said, 'Oh, it's going to be 6-9 weeks.' Well, I came back in four. It's all about how bad you want it and how fast you can come back."

Anyone who has spent time around Burfict knows there really is no questioning how much he wants to play at a high level again.
[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsCarson Palmer, who hopes to return in time for OTAs, has agreed to restructure his Cardinals deal.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has done his part to help the team's salary-cap situation.

Palmer said Thursday that he restructured his recently extended contract in an effort to give Arizona more flexibility to pursue free agents starting Tuesday.

"Yeah, I did that maybe a month ago, restructured and changed some things for salary-cap reasons," Palmer said.

However, his contract, according to the NFL Players Association website, does not reflect those changes.

Palmer's extension, signed in November two days before he tore his ACL against the St. Louis Rams, called for him to earn a $1 million base salary in 2015, with a $9.5 million roster bonus given out on the fifth day of the league year, but his cap hit was $14.5 million.

Palmer met with the media Thursday for the first time since the day after Arizona lost to the Carolina Panthers in an NFC wild-card game in January. He said rehab for his left ACL has been "coming along great" in the 3½ months since he had surgery to repair the ligament and that he's hoping to return to the field this spring.


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Stevan Ridley shows his progress

March, 3, 2015
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Free-agent running back Stevan Ridley tweeted the following Tuesday morning:


In pointing out the date on which he underwent surgery on a torn ACL and then posting an Instagram video of him working out, Ridley is highlighting his progress at a time he's set to hit the open market for the first time in the NFL.

Ridley had shared some of his thoughts with Sirius XM NFL Radio on Friday.
[+] EnlargeStephen Tulloch
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiStephen Tulloch says he is "way ahead of schedule" in his recovery from surgery to repair a torn ACL, suffered while celebrating a sack of Aaron Rodgers in Week 3 last season.

Stephen Tulloch may not know about his status with the Detroit Lions for 2015, but the rehabilitation of his torn left ACL is something he is not worried about.

Tulloch said Sunday on SiriusXM Radio that recovery on the knee, injured celebrating a sack of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 3, is going ahead of schedule.

"I'm way ahead of schedule and I feel great," Tulloch said. "I was telling a friend of mine yesterday, man, it's crazy how you feel stronger than you did previous, before the surgery. Just training every day and working hard with my trainers and my rehab therapists, it's great and I'm looking forward to the season."

Tulloch is hoping that his return will be in Detroit and he is planning on reporting to the Lions on April 20 along with the rest of his teammates. He said neither he nor his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have heard from the Lions so he is operating as if he'll be with the franchise next season and said he received mail about the team's offseason program.


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David Quessenberry in remission

February, 25, 2015
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[+] EnlargeDavid Quessenberry, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins T lymphoblastic lymphoma in June and has since gone through six rounds of chemotherapy, will serve as the Texans' honorary captain on Thursday.
AP Photo/Pat SullivanDavid Quessenberry is in remission from non-Hodgkin T lymphoblastic lymphoma, having completed a series of chemotherapy treatments and radiation therapy.

HOUSTON -- Texans offensive tackle David Quessenberry is in remission from non-Hodgkin T lymphoblastic lymphoma, having completed an aggressive series of chemotherapy treatments followed by radiation therapy.

"I'm back into it," Quessenberry said. "We're training every day. We're enjoying this offseason time. I'm just using every day to get back to where I was before it happened. I know it's not going to take a week or a month, but hopefully in time I can get back to that point. .. Every day I feel myself getting stronger. Feel myself getting better."

Quessenberry will now undergo a 30-month maintenance period that will include lower doses of chemotherapy, but that might not preclude a return to the field. Quessenberry told reporters at an event at Texas Children's Hospital that he hopes to play football in 2015.


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He was no doubt the Atlanta Falcons' MVP through the first half of last season. Now, Antone Smith is just waiting to see what his NFL future holds.

The diminutive running back, who has averaged 49 yards per scoring play on seven career touchdowns, continues to patiently wait for news on a new a contract. While nothing has been relayed to Smith personally just yet, word at the NFL combine last week was Smith indeed is one of the players with an expiring contract the Falcons have prioritized to bring back. But there also were whispers in Indianapolis about the New York Giants being interested in Smith. Not to mention former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is now in Tampa and knows how special a talent Smith is.

Smith
Smith, who turns 30 in September, has low mileage with just 44 touches in five NFL seasons.

New Falcons coach Dan Quinn has emphasized the need for speed, which is Smith's biggest asset when he's healthy. Plus, owner Arthur Blank previously expressed a desire to keep Smith around for years to come.

"Who wouldn't want to be a Falcon?" Smith said. "Heck yeah, I want to be here."

There is one obstacle Smith has to overcome, however. He is still in the process of rehabbing the broken right leg that prematurely ended his 2014 season.

"I can't do too much right now," Smith said. "It's about getting strength back in the leg. It was a broken tibia. I have no idea when I'm going to start running again. But my thought is, I'm always going to be confident in myself. I'll be back to full strength."

With four touchdowns of 40 or more yards last season, Smith ranked third in the league behind Green Bay's Jordy Nelson (seven) and Washington's DeSean Jackson (five), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Smith had five touchdowns overall on 36 touches while playing in 10 games.

"He made us more explosive," former Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice said of Smith. "His percentage of explosive plays were lights out."

Smith's speed and explosion would be ideal in new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's outside-zone blocking scheme, which depends on a one-cut-and-go mentality for the running backs. Shanahan, Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have raved about how second-year back Devonta Freeman could thrive in the new system. And the Falcons could add another veteran back such as Justin Forsett, with Steven Jackson expected to be released.

No matter what, there should be a place in Shanahan's offense for a dynamic playmaker such as Smith.

"That system can fit any back," Smith said. "The sky's the limit in that system. If I am a Falcon, that would be my pedigree right there."

Not to be forgotten is Smith's contribution on special teams as a gunner. He led the Falcons with 10 special-teams tackles during the 2013 season.

The humble Smith, as usual, downplayed his significance to the team.

"I feel like I'm just like anybody else," Smith said. "I just like to play football. I never really look at how valuable I am. I just want to play."

Carroll on Lynch: Hope it works out

February, 20, 2015
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[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
AP Photo/Gregory PayanPete Carroll said the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch have been negotiating an extension for "a great deal of time now."

INDIANAPOLIS -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll refuses to believe rumors Marshawn Lynch might retire, claiming he never has considered the possibility of losing the mercurial running back.

"We're always preparing for the future with him," Carroll told reporters Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "We've never thought of the future without him. Hopefully, it will work out."

Carroll's comments came two days after general manager John Schneider indicated he wouldn't be shocked if Lynch decided to quit football.

Lynch's hesitancy to commit could have something to do with his contract situation. He's entering the final year of his contract, due to make $7 million. The two sides have been negotiating an extension for "a great deal of time now," according to Carroll, who said the Seahawks have made "big offers" to their leading rusher.

Carroll said he hasn't had direct contact with Lynch, who turns 29 in April.

The Seahawks don't seem concerned with the wear-and-tear factor. In the past four years, Lynch has 1,181 carries for 5,357 yards in the regular season, playing 63 games. That doesn't include eight playoff games over that span, with 164 more carries for 784 yards.


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INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Tom Coughlin met with the media Thursday at the NFL combine. Here's what we learned about the New York Giants:

Coughlin is likely to get a contract extension: Just like last year, when the Giants tacked one more year onto his deal so he didn't have to go into the season as a lame duck, Coughlin is likely to have his deal extended through 2016. He said there would be news on that at some point soon, though he didn't say what the news would be.

Weston Richburg is likely to play center: Coughlin said the 2014 second-round pick, who started 15 games at left guard as a rookie, is a center and would be "given every opportunity" to compete for the starting center job. Coughlin didn't say this, but 2014 starting center J.D. Walton is a likely cap cut whose release would save the Giants $3 million against this year's cap.

Victor Cruz is coming along: Coughlin said Cruz, the star wide receiver who tore his patellar tendon in Week 6, is doing well in his recovery and is planning to start running again soon. The Giants hope Cruz can recover in time for training camp, but they acknowledge his injury was quite serious and will give him the time he needs to recover.

Pass rush is a priority: Even if they re-sign or franchise Jason Pierre-Paul as expected, Coughlin indicated the Giants would be looking to add another pass-rusher this offseason. Coughlin didn't make it sound as though he expected Mathias Kiwanuka (another likely cap casualty) back next season, and while he said he likes Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore, Coughlin said the Giants would like to add to that arsenal as well.

The Giants are meeting with running backs: One of the items on the Giants' offseason agenda is a change-of-pace, big-play-threat running back to fill the role they had carved out for David Wilson last year. One of the many players with whom they've met here is Indiana running back Tevin Coleman, who had 14 rushing touchdowns of 43 or more yards and eight of 64 or more yards in college.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith met with the media Thursday at the NFL combine. Here's what we learned about the Houston Texans:
  • Clowney has done right things: Smith talked a lot about being proud of various players and one was Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick last year who had microfracture surgery in December after suffering a lateral meniscus tear and articular cartilage damage. Smith said he's been pleased with Clowney's approach to what will be a difficult rehab. "I do think that he can be a very impactful player and reach his potential," Smith said. Said O'Brien: "The first six weeks were very important because he couldn't put any weight on the knee. He had to be really disciplined in whatever he could do rehab-wise. He had to be very disciplined doing that, and he was."
  • Jackson, Mallett are priorities: Cornerback Kareem Jackson and quarterback Ryan Mallett are among the pending free agents the Texans are prioritizing. Smith and O'Brien talked about hoping to keep Mallett in the fold. Smith beamed when talking about Jackson. He mentioned how proud he was of Jackson's development. "I just like him as a man. I'm proud of him. I'm very proud of how he has matured over the course of his career." Smith credited part of that development to Jackson working with and watching fellow cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who is four years older than Jackson.
  • Smith wants Newton to keep growing: We've known Derek Newton was one of the players the Texans hoped to re-sign and Smith gave a voice to that. Smith also talked of being proud of Newton, saying he took to the Texans' system well and he still has a few more levels to get to when it comes to his play. I asked if he thinks Newton will continue that development with the Texans: "Oh, absolutely. I really do. You talk about a guy who was drafted in the seventh round and improved and developed into a good player. That's what you want. You want to keep those guys around." It certainly would be a reward on the work they've put in developing him.
  • Keenum impressed O'Brien: Being released can't be easy on the ego, and the way Case Keenum handled returning to the team that released him, and taking over right away as the starting quarterback in Week 16, impressed O'Brien. "He did it," O'Brien said. "Took over the leadership of that position. That role in the offense. Did a good job with his huddle command ... I think he's a very viable quarterback for us moving into the future."
INDIANAPOLIS -- While no final decision has been made, Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Nick Roach may not play this season because of continued concussion symptoms that first appeared last preseason and cost him the entire 2014 season.

Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said Wednesday that Roach is still experiencing symptoms and he has not been cleared. Roach suffered a concussion Aug. 22 in a preseason game at the Green Bay Packers. He was put on the injured reserve after he missed several games. McKenzie didn’t say any decisions were made, but he sounded as if the team is worried about Roach’s ability to play again.

“You’ve got to start looking out for the player. We’ll continue to communicate with the medical staff and I’ll talk to Nick and we’ll make the decision,” McKenzie said. “But I’m in the best interests of the player and as much as we’d love him to be our signal caller on defense, I don’t want to risk life-long injury if he goes out there. Especially if he has any, not discomfort, but any type of feeling within him that something’s not right. And for it to last this long is not a good thing.”

Roach, who Oakland signed as a free agent from Chicago in 2013, didn’t miss a defensive play in his first season with the Raiders. He was replaced by Miles Burris last season. McKenzie acknowledged Oakland will be looking for a middle linebacker.

Meanwhile, starting outside linebacker Sio Moore is not expected to be ready until training camp due to his recovery from a hip injury that ended his season in December and required surgery. While Moore will miss the OTA season, McKenzie expects him to have no trouble being ready for the season.
INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Dallas Cowboys begin their official offseason program in April, linebacker Sean Lee will be a full participant.

Lee
Claiborne
"I think Sean is ahead of target," executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Lee suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the first day of organized team activities last May and missed the season. This is the second rehab Lee has gone through after tearing his right ACL at Penn State.

The Cowboys replaced Lee with Rolando McClain at middle linebacker during the 2014 season and they are not sure where Lee will play in 2015.

A lot of it will be determined by what the team elects to do with McClain, who is a free agent. If McClain re-signs with the Cowboys, then Lee could play the weak-side linebacker spot.

"We'll put him in the best spots, but that has certainly been talked about -- Sean at weak," Jones said. "But that doesn't mean he will, for sure, be there. We're kind of looking at a group of guys who can do all of them."

The recovery of cornerback Morris Claiborne has gone slowly, as expected. Unlike Lee he will not be ready for the offseason program as he comes back from a torn patellar tendon, and he might not be ready for the start of training camp. It is quite possible that he will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list.

If that's the case, then it will be the fourth straight year he will not go through a full camp because of injuries.

"Of course it is (a concern)," Jones said. "But you never know when a player is going to turn the rock over and obviously getting him beefed up and ready to go. We've got great trainers, great rehab people, great strength and conditioning people and he needs to get in line and do the right things and good things will happen for him."

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