“Report” of Gronk trade was a joke lacking any actual humor

Every once in a while in this business, the time comes to get a stick and scrape from feces from the bottom of the Foot-Joys. It’s not a pleasant task, but it has to be done, lest the feces get tracked all over the place.

The Bears were wise to keep Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator and retain starting cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. But at the second level of their base 3-4, they could use a dynamic, versatile playmaker who can thrive inside or outside. Fangio, formerly of San Francisco, can get his Patrick Willis/NaVorro Bowman-type here.

Speaking of San Francisco, Robert Saleh, its defensive coordinator formerly of Seattle, can get his Earl Thomas-type here for the secondary. Richard Sherman and Akhello Witherspoon will hold down the corners, and Jacquiski Tartt has a bright future at one safety spot. James would allow Sherman to shepherd a sequel to the Legion of Boom for the Seahawks’ biggest rivals.

Teams with new coaches can start their offseason workout programs this week, and the Cardinals and Bears will be the first to report, with Steve Wilks and Matt Nagy getting their teams to work tomorrow after the holiday weekend.

The Lions, Colts, Giants, Raiders, and Titans will begin next Monday, with the remaining 25 teams starting on April 16.

The nine-week offseason program is broken into three phases. The first two weeks (phase one) include strength and conditioning and rehabilitation work only. In phase two, which lasts three weeks, players can work out on the field in individual instruction drills and team practice on a separate basis (i.e. just the offense or just the defense).

When phase three of the program kicks in, teams can hold 10 days of OTA practices. Those can’t include live contact, but can include 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills.

Broncos to visit with Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen over next week

Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway made it clear that the team’s signing of Case Keenum in free agency wouldn’t take them out of the discussion of adding one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft.

So with that in mind, the Broncos are making sure to turn over every stone when it comes to the quarterbacks populating the top of team draft boards.

Porter is paid like a superstar, but he’s not a superstar. That’s not his fault. He can play in any system, in any lineup, and find shots against any style of defense. There is nobility in that.

This dude is everywhere. Sometime around the end of the 2014-15 season, the basic act of dribbling within a 15-foot radius of Kawhi Leonard became dangerous for anyone beyond the league’s expert ball-handlers. He just started straight-up snatching the ball out of people’s hands. He undressed Ben McLemore on two straight possessions at the start of last season, and I’m not sure McLemore has dribbled since.

And General Manager Les Snead was willing to give up his franchise-tagged player to do it.

Snead told Peter King of SI.com that he had discussions with the Saints a year ago about trading for Cooks, but didn’t have the ammunition to get the deal done.

The Saints were looking for a first-round pick for Cooks. The Patriots had one. The Rams didn’t, as a result of the Jared Goff trade. So Snead offered the Saints cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who the Rams had franchised two years in a row. As much as the Saints needed cornerback help at the time of the deal (before drafting a potential star in Marshon Lattimore), they chose the Patriots offer instead.

“At that time, we didn’t have a first-round pick and New England did, and that made all the difference,” Snead said. “We discussed [cornerback] Trumaine Johnson with New Orleans, but we could not trump New England’s one.”

Manziel needs to play well in Canada to get back to the NFL

The plan made sense — take #ComebackSZN to The Spring League, dominate it, get a spot on a 90-man NFL offseason roster, work to get from 90 to 53. The performance in his debut likely wasn’t sufficiently dominant to trigger steps three and four.

Still, to get to the NFL, Manziel will need to show a lot more than what he showed last night. Specifically, he needs to show something more than rolling to the right and waiting for someone to get open. If that’s all he can still do well, NFL defenses will shut it down quickly, and then he’ll be screwed.

CFL defenses will shut it down quickly, too. Which means that it makes sense for Manziel to take advantage of one more chance to get live reps with The Spring League before heading to the CFL. But it’s becoming more and more clear that his effort to get back to the NFL will include an attempt to show dominance in the Canadian league.

That’s why he found the feedback he received from NFL scouts funny.

“A lot of them were surprised that I caught the ball really well,” Bridgewater said. “I thought that was funny, because that’s like my biggest asset, catching. It’s like rebounding — you just go up and get it.”

Bridgewater, a forward who averaged 1.8 points per game over three seasons with the LSU basketball team from 2014 to 2017, worked out with the LSU football prospects at the pro day with hopes he can get a chance to join a professional team.

His hope is to mimic the transition Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates successfully made from playing basketball in college to playing football in the pros.

Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny are the stack on offense. Both Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are dangerous on the blue line, with Gostisbehere getting the edge as the quarterback on the power play.

NFL Execs: Johnny Manziel’s’Potential Is off the Charts’ Amid Comeback Attempt

NFL executives reportedly think Johnny Manziel’s potential is “off the charts,” according to B/R’s Mike Freeman, as the quarterback attempts to make an NFL comeback.

Freeman added:

“My bottom line is that there is no doubt in my mind that someone should sign him,” he noted. “I’ve seen enough of the quarterback skill. His endurance has not been an issue. I’ve never been around Johnny Manziel until this moment in time, but I see a very quick arm. I see very active eyes. He sees things and particularly when he’s on the move, those classic Johnny Manziel plays, I’ve seen those come up here.”

B/R’s Mike Tanier tried to put Manziel’s showing in context, however:

But Seifert reported that 17 NFL teams have been in attendance for the league’s practices, and they saw a number of nice plays from Manziel:

It’s unclear if Manziel will catch on with an NFL team, but if he doesn’t, he’ll likely continue his career with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who Seifert reported “covet” Manziel. Regardless, it appears Johnny Football will be on the field next season.

There was nothing super remarkable about the play, just more of what we have come to expect from the shoo-in for the Rookie of the Year award.

The dunk came during a second quarter in which the Sixers achieved all the separation they would need, and they went on to tie the franchise record for consecutive single-season victories with their 14th straight win, 109-97.

They are now 21-0 when holding opponents under 100 points; they are now at 50 victories, and they have the ability to lock up the No. 3 seed if they win their final two games — at Atlanta on Tuesday and home against Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

No matter what happens, Game 1 of their first round series will be at the Wells Fargo Center sometime next weekend.

“I wouldn’t want to play these guys in the first round, not with them having home court, not in this place,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.

Three and out: Minnesota Vikings’ 2018 NFL draft needs, prospect fits

In the build-up to the 2018 draft, USA TODAY Sports will take a look at each NFL team’s situation and needs.

Minnesota Vikings

1. Expect the offensive line to be addressed early in the draft, perhaps multiple times. The Vikings are giving QB Kirk Cousins $84 million over the next three years, now they need to protect him.

Advice: Minnesota doesn’t need to devote an early pick to this position after investing heavily in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. But Wisconsin’s Nick Nelson, Florida’s Duke Dawson and Texas’ Holton Hill will likely still be available in Round 3.

3. Kyle Rudolph is locked in as the Vikings’ top pass-catching tight end. He and WR Stefon Diggs led the team with eight TD catches in 2017, but no one else had more than four. Cousins surely wouldn’t mind another red zone weapon.

Advice: This year’s tight end class seems middling. But mid-round options include Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, Stanford’s Dalton Schultz, Central Florida’s Jordan Akins and Indiana’s Ian Thomas. Former first rounder Laquon Treadwell has yet to be a factor, so GM Rick Spielman could also consider big-bodied WRs like SMU’s Courtland Sutton or Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown, both likely to be Day 2 picks.

Barwin moved from linebacker to the defensive line after the Eagles switched to a 4-3 system, and his sack total dropped. The Eagles released Barwin last March even after he offered to take a pay cut, according to multiple reports.

Barwin visited the Cincinnati Bengals after he was released but opted for the familiarity of Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense he played for with the Texans and signed with the Los Angeles Rams last year.

Of all the reasons to be concerned about the Cubs’ offense in the early going, the main concern is probably Anthony Rizzo’s start. Before missing some games with lower back tightness, Rizzo was hitless in his previous three games, going a combined 0-for-15 in the process. No offense is going to score much when its No. 3-hole hitter has a .433 OPS. — Ken Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information

Luck and the organization are taking a cautious stance this offseason after getting burned by their open optimism last year.

If both the Browns and Giants stand pat with their first choices in the NFL draft later this month, this matchup will feature the top two picks in 2018 taking the field together. Might we see two future franchise signal-callers on the same gridiron? The opening week faceoff will certainly lead to myriad one-to-one comparisons between the top two players picked.

After hibernating for the entirety of John Fox’s reign, Chicago fans hope an offensive awakening occurs under new coach Matt Nagy and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky . Nagy welcomes his mentor, Andy Reid, and former players to Solider Field this preseason. Clearly, Nagy won’t unleash his entire playbook, but the Bears should be far enough along in the process to show signs of life by Week 3. Add the fact that Patrick Mahomes will be slinging it in his regular-season tune-up and you’ve got a surplus of reasons watch. Plus, it’s the third game of the preseason, and as the late, great Dennis Green famously stated about the third game of the preseason:

“I’m not a perfect-feeling athlete right now,” Luck conceded. “… One thing I picked up upon myself is that I’m quite impatient as a person. It has gotten into places — looking back at the rehab — that maybe I shouldn’t have been in, in the first place.

“I don’t want to repeat those missteps. I cannot miss steps. I very, very strongly believe in that. Some things just take time and I’ve learned that. When I do get the urge to do something a little silly, I talk to myself and say it’s not worth it right now.”

This time around, those positive expectations are more guarded.

Sitting down with Around The NFL Podcast at the Annual League Meeting late last month, new coach Frank Reich expressed hope that teams selecting ahead of the Colts draft quarterbacks because of the strong belief that Luck will be ” ready to go ” in Week 1.

“You’re hopeful that he’s going to be there,” Reich added. “You plan that he’s going to be there. All the rehab is checking off all the boxes: Yep, we hit that stage. Stage one, stage two, stage three. It’s all been good. We’ll just have to keep progressing on down that road.”

Hunter Harvey gets first call up by Orioles to help out weary bullpen

The Orioles have recalled 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey from Double-A Bowie to bolster their weary bullpen.

Harvey, the son of former big league pitcher Bryan Harvey, has never pitched above Class A. The 23-year-old right-hander missed the 2015 season with an arm injury and had Tommy John surgery in July 2016.

Harvey pitched 18 2/3 innings last season for three low-level minor league teams.

Baltimore’s top pitching prospect arrived Monday after the Orioles played extra-inning games against the Yankees on Friday and Sunday. He replaces lefty Tanner Scott, who pitched Sunday and was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

“Complacency. I think that is kind of what happens to a young team with early wins.” — Gordon, on Orlando’s struggles after starting 8-4 this season.

Magic: Wrap up the season by hosting the Wizards on Wednesday.

Bucks: Finish the regular season with a trip to face the 76ers.

“It’s tough when Rudy gets going, everything goes in,” said Willie Cauley-Stein, who finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Gay had eight points, five rebounds, an assist and a block in the fourth quarter.

San Antonio outscored Sacramento 50-25 after Gay entered the game with 6:38 remaining in the third quarter.

“The way I was growing up, you learn you never have anything given to you, so you’ve got to go get it on your own,” Gay said.

Forbes’ fast-break layup off a steal by Kyle Anderson gave San Antonio its first advantage at 68-67 with 10:21 remaining. Sacramento went back ahead seconds later when Buddy Hield hit a 3-pointer, and the lead changed three times after that before Ginobili and Gay gave the Spurs’ the edge for good.

Gay and Ginobili had thunderous dunks in the final five minutes that helped San Antonio maintain small leads. Gay also had a 3-point play off a runner he tossed in and ripped the ball from Cauley-Stein while blocking the 7-footers shot.

Former Seahawk Jeremy Lane takes plea deal in DUI case

Jeremy Lane has agreed to a plea deal in his DUI case, TMZ Sports reported Tuesday.

The free-agent cornerback has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving after he was initially charged with driving under the influence earlier in March.

The charge stems from a Jan. 14 incident in which Lane was pulled over for driving 80 mph in a 60 mph zone. Lane admitted to police he had smoked marijuana earlier, but said he was not drunk.

Even though the NFC is loaded with potential and talent, that doesn’t mean familiar teams will be reaching the title game. The NFC actually has been a model of parity.

The Lions are the only NFC team that has not appeared in a Super Bowl, and the Seahawks are the only such team to make back-to-back appearances in the big game since the Packers did it after the 1996 and ’97 seasons. Since 1999, the NFC has seen 12 different teams make Super Bowl appearances. The AFC in that span has seen just six different teams reach the Super Bowl, and two of those were led by one QB in Peyton Manning.

The idea that the NFC outweighs the AFC in competitive nature and quality teams has been building for a few years. In both 2016 and ’17 there were just four teams in the NFC with fewer than seven wins. Last year alone saw three 9-7 squads fail to make the playoffs — thanks in part to the NFC South fielding three teams with double-digits wins.

“It locked up worse than it has in the past,” Rizzo said Sunday. “(Getting) treatment every day. It feels better. Don’t want to re-aggravate it.”

Rizzo has experienced this sort of ailment in the past but it’s never been serious. Temperatures in the 30’s on Monday are ripe for aggravating an injury, so the Cubs are playing it safe. The team is off Tuesday, giving Rizzo another day to heal up.

“Every time it’s a little different but generally it’s the same thing,” Rizzo said. “This is something that just grabbed. It’s usually upper (back); this is lower.”

Manager Joe Maddon indicated he wants Rizzo to back off game-day workouts, saying players take too many swings and ground balls throughout the season. Rizzo is off to a slow start, with just three hits in 28 at-bats.

The Cubs host the Pittsburgh Pirates in their home opener on Monday.

Packers’ Trevor Davis arrested for making bomb joke

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Trevor Davis was arrested Sunday and charged with making “criminal threats” after joking about a bomb at the Los Angeles International Airport, according to LAX police.

Public information officer Rob Pedregon told ESPN on Monday that Davis was taken into custody and released on his own recognizance pending a May 3 court appearance.

“Yesterday, Trevor Davis checked in at the Hawaiian Airlines ticket counter and was asked the usual questions about whether he was carrying any aerosol cans, knives, weapons or explosives,” Pedregon said. “Davis turned to his female companion and asked if she remembered to pack the explosives. He was then taken into custody and booked.”

“Obviously my stuff is there. I’m not worried about that,” he said. “It’s just smoothing out some delivery issues that I have, better direction to the plate, better timing, my arm’s dragging a little bit so everything’s kind of up in the zone … It’s rhythm, tempo and timing. I’m just a hair off right now.”

Ohtani could return to the lineup. He’s homered in three straight games as a designated hitter. Both teams start 1-0 left-handers, Tyler Skaggs for the Angels and Martin Perez for the Rangers.

Scandrick was signed with Dallas through the 2019 season and is set to earn base salaries of $3 million and $4 million, respectively, but was granted his request to be released by the Cowboys on Saturday.

Scandrick, 31, was selected by the Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He recorded 38 total tackles and three defended passes in 11 games last season while also failing to record a single interception for just the second time in his 10-year career.

Drury agreed the time away would be a good thing.

“I don’t want to be out there if I’m playing at 50 percent if it’s something that we can fix and get back out there and get healthy,” Drury said.

Second baseman Tyler Wade also left Friday’s game, exiting in the ninth inning with flu-like symptoms.

Golden Tate contract talks likely to wait until summer

The Detroit Lions have aggressively extended the contracts of a number of key contributors under general manager Bob Quinn, and if the pattern holds, wide receiver Golden Tate could be next on the docket.

Quinn said he hasn’t thought that far ahead, preferring to explore that possibility later in the summer, well into the offseason program, and with the chaos of the draft in the rearview mirror.

I think all those things, in my time here, have happened in the summer, Quinn said. I think our concentration and our focus right now is on the draft. Things that come down the road after that, they’ll come and go and we’ll talk through it.

The biggest difference is Tate’s age. He’ll turn 30 during training camp, which could limit how much the Lions are looking to invest in him, both in terms of contract length and financially.

Regardless, cap space shouldn’t be an issue. The team has approximately $11 million remaining and Quinn intends to enter the season with a healthy buffer, just for reasons such as this.

We always leave a buffer, Quinn said. I’m not getting into specifics about how much. But there’s practice squad salaries, there’s draft picks, there’s injury replacements during the season, there’s possible extensions in training camp.

There’s a myriad of things that we always keep a buffer for, he said. You’re never going to see us go close to the cap this time of year. That’s just not good business. You always have to keep that for contingency plans and for emergency plans during the year.

Maybe that’s good enough for Seattle these days: Dress different, act like the masses. It wasn’t good enough before, though, when the Seahawks nurtured an identity, lived by their own rules and stayed late at the playoff party every year.

Maybe this is Seattle’s new winning formula. It’s been other franchises’ winning formula, to be sure. But the Seahawks had their own formula, and if they had employed a more reliable kicker last season — another common theme they have adopted to their detriment — they might still be winning with it today.

Much of this, of course, is simply the way NFL business is conducted these days. Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas (if and when he is moved out) were going to face the fate of every player who signs a big deal in his prime. No matter how much they’ve won, how much they’ve redefined their positions and how much they’ve created unique identities, their team was going to want someone younger and cheaper sooner rather than later.