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Friday, February 24, 2017

Football

Report: Giants will be ‘aggressive’ in trying to sign Jason Pierre-Paul

The New York Giants are going to have to pay big bucks to keep Jason Pierre-Paul around, and early indications are that they are willing to do that.

Ralph Vacchiano of SNY said this week that the Giants are planning to be “aggressive” in trying to sign Pierre-Paul to an extension. However, they may run into some issues with the salary cap, as they already have two defensive linemen in Damon Harrison, who signed a five-year, $46.25 million contract last offseason, and Olivier Vernon, who set the market last year with a five-year, $85 million deal that includes $52 million guaranteed.

So how can the Giants afford to pay top dollar to yet another member of their front seven?

That’s likely where the “aggressive” part comes in. Pierre-Paul has already said he has no intention of signing another short-term deal, but the Giants could get him for slightly less if they are able to come to an agreement before the start of free agency next month. Even if he is not planning to sign another one-year deal, perhaps JPP will show some loyalty to a team that stuck with him through a horrific accident.

One option for the Giants could be the franchise tag, but that would take up about half of the $35 million in cap space they currently have heading into 2017. The ideal scenario for New York is to get Pierre-Paul to sign a long-term extension before testing the market.

Chad Kelly might show up to combine despite not being invited

Chad Kelly

The NFL recently withdrew its invitation to Chad Kelly for the upcoming Scouting Combine, but that may not stop the Ole Miss quarterback from showing up.

In an email to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Kelly’s agent Duray Oubre said the quarterback’s camp is “still considering the possibility of traveling to the Combine along with Chad.”

As Florio notes, there may be a situation where Kelly would be barred from taking part in official NFL activities inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to secure meetings with scouts and front office executives. While he might irritate league officials, Kelly’s persistence may impress some NFL teams.

Kelly was reportedly uninvited from the Combine because of off-field issues, of which he has had many. You can read more about why his reputation has been tarnished here.

Rob Gronkowski says he will ‘no doubt’ be ready for start of 2017 season

Rob Gronkowski

The New England Patriots were able to win a Super Bowl without star tight end Rob Gronkowski, but it sounds like they will not have to think about playing without him in Week 1 of the 2017 season.

In an interview with ESPN’s Cari Champion this week, Gronkowski was not ambiguous when asked if he will be ready for the start of next season.

“Yes,” he said emphatically. “For sure. Yes. No doubt.”

Gronkowski is coming off his third back surgery since college, and those issues tend to linger. He’s only 27, but there has been plenty of speculation that his career may not last much longer. Gronk insists he has given no thought to retirement.

“I’m not really sure,” he said when asked how long he plans to continue playing. “I still love playing the game and, as of right now, I want to play as long as I can possibly play. My mindset is to keep on going.”

The Patriots know they cannot rely on Gronkowski to stay healthy, but it helps to know they can win games — and a championship — without him. While some believe New England should consider trading Gronk, his contract carries a team-friendly cap hit of just $6.75 million for 2017. Had Gronkowski not gotten injured, he probably would have held out for more money this offseason. The latest back surgery gives the Patriots leverage.

While one former NFL team doctor painted a grim picture of what Gronkowski’s life could be like after a third back procedure, Gronk does not sound overly concerned. Still, expect the Patriots to take it very slow with him this spring and summer.

James Conner receives clean scan before NFL Combine

James Conner

James Conner — and NFL teams interested in him — received good news on Thursday.

The former Pitt fullback received a clean scan, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Conner announced in Dec. 2015 that he had been diagnoses with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He went through chemotherapy, completing the treatment in May. Conner announced after that point that he was cancer-free.

Conner rushed for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, along with 302 rushing yards and four TDs. He rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Vikings GM won’t commit to Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson is under contract with the Minnesota Vikings through the 2017 season, but the team has not yet committed to bringing him back.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was noncommittal when asked about Peterson on Thursday.

There’s a good chance Peterson has played his last snap in Minnesota. He is due to count $18 million against the salary cap next season, and that number would somehow need to be slashed significantly for the Vikings to consider keeping A.P. around.

Peterson will turn 32 next month. He missed all but three games in 2016, and he rushed for just 1.9 yards per carry in the limited time he did see the field. While he still believes he is the best running back in football, a divorce may be inevitable. Peterson likely understands that, and tweets like the one he sent last week make it seem like he is already thinking about life elsewhere.

Aaron Rodgers calls out NFL for ‘fake news’ with his 40-yard dash time

Aaron Rodgers

Every official and unofficial stat sheet you can find from the 2005 NFL Combine indicates Aaron Rodgers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds, but for some reason the Green Bay Packers quarterback does not remember it that way.

Earlier this week, the NFL’s official Twitter account shared a throwback photo of Rodgers running the 40-yard dash before he was drafted. Rodgers insists he ran it in 4.66 seconds, not 4.71.

This isn’t the first time Rodgers has claimed the 4.71 time is wrong. He has spoken in past interviews about how he was actually faster after he had surgery to repair a torn ACL while in college at Cal.

“I went under the knife, I was a 4.95 40 guy,” Rodgers told Bill Simmons on HBO last July. “I came out, I ran 4.66 at the combine a year later.”

Running a 4.71 is fast for quarterbacks, but Rodgers apparently feels he is consistently being cheated out of 0.05 seconds. For comparison, Andrew Luck ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at his Combine. Derek Carr ran a 4.69. Marcus Mariota ran a blazing 4.48 two years ago.

All of the official results show Rodgers at 4.71 seconds, so he must believe there was a timing error of some sort. Or, he could just be trolling everyone like the time he claimed he saw a UFO. We wouldn’t rule either scenario out.

Jameis Winston criticized for giving sexist speech to young children

Jameis Winston

Giving back to the community is always something NFL players should be proud of, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston may find himself taking a lot of heat over a portion of a speech he gave to a group of elementary school students this week.

Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times was in attendance Wednesday when Winston spoke for 40 minutes to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, Fla. Things started out great, with Winston encouraging the children to be positive, work hard in school and chase their dreams. But when Winston decided to give a short pep talk to only the young boys in the room, his message quickly became cringe-worthy.

Winston noticed that a few male students in the room looked bored, so he tried to capture their attention.

“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” he said. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.

“But the ladies, they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”

Uh oh.

While it almost certainly was not his intention, Winston came off as incredibly sexist. One teacher, speech language pathologist Bonnie Volland, described how one of the young female students reacted.

“One of the girls turned around and looked at me and said, ‘I’m strong too,'” Volland revealed.

Jones said several adults in the room were “bothered” by what Winston said, though they chose not to comment on it publicly. Winston later admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully.

“I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn’t seem to be paying attention, and I didn’t want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up,” he said. “During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.”

As Jones alluded to, Winston’s own history with a sexual assault scandal should have raised his awareness of stereotypes. Telling a room full of children that ladies are “supposed to be silent” is a troubling message. At the very least, the 23-year-old Winston has a lot to learn about public speaking.

You can see the video of Winston’s pep talk below:

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