Running back Isaiah Pead latest Ram to be suspended

A little more than a week after the NFL announced a one-game suspension for St. Louis guard Rokevious Watkins, another Rams player has been sidelined.

Running back Isaiah Pead will also be suspended for the first regular-season game without pay for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. It’s not known what specifically Pead did to fall into trouble with the league. Of course, the second-year player from Cincinnati will be able to participate in the remainder of the club’s offseason program as well as training camp and preseason before he gets a short timeout.

The Rams drafted Pead in the second round last year, 50th overall, but he contributed little and was primarily used on special teams. He had only 10 carries all season but figures to be in the mix in what could be a wide-open competition for the starting job now that Steven Jackson has moved on to the Atlanta Falcons.

Daryl Richardson rushed for 475 yards last year playing behind Jackson. He’s in the thick of things along with Terrenace Ganaway and Zac Stacy, a fifth-round draft pick from Vanderbilt. Really, Pead might be the player St. Louis is looking to lean on the most. Fortunately, a one-game suspension won’t foul things up for him too much.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Britt vows to be receiver he was in 2011

Kenny Britt has had a very checkered career as a Tennessee Titan.

He has had plenty of off-field incidents that have plagued him, and just when it appeared Britt was on his way to becoming an elite wide receiver in 2011, he blew out his knee in the third game of the year. He wasn't the same player last year when he came back, despite posting a career-high 42 catches.

Now, Britt tells that he is going to be better than ever in 2013.

“I'm gonna be the receiver I was two years ago, and I'm probably gonna be even better than that because I've focused more on football than I ever have in my life the last few months. I'm excited to see what I can do this year,” Britt said. “They're counting on me to be on the field and to do the right things on the field and off the field. They expect me the be the pro athlete I should be and I'm gonna be.”

If that's the case, then Britt's timing is good because he enters a contract year this year, with the Titans already buying some insurance for the future by drafting Justin Hunter in the second round in April.

Britt admits he was a step slow last year.

“Last year, seeing the ball come out of the quarterback's hand, it was coming out a little bit faster, and I was coming out of my break a little bit slower,” he said.

But now, he says his goal is to stay healthy and productive on the field and off. The rest, he says, will take care of itself.

“Every year is important to me, but this year it's important for me to come out and stay healthy,” Britt said. “I feel good. I feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, so I'm excited about this year. I'm not going to worry about the contract, because that's for later. I'm just more worried about me staying healthy.”

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Greg Jennings does all he can to downplay twisted ankle

The last thing the Minnesota Vikings want to see is their investment on the sideline.

But Greg Jennings says not to worry.

It’s May,” the high-priced addition to the team’s passing game said on Thursday.

Jennings suffered a “twisted” ankle in Tuesday’s OTA, according to Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The injury is not expected to be serious but there is caution with Jennings who missed eight games last season with a core muscle problem, missed time in training camp with a concussion and was held out of three games during the 2011 season with a knee injury.

“It’s May,” Jennings repeated. “I don’t think right now counts as much. It’s important. But it really doesn’t count as much as September and August. Really September through hopefully February.
“It is May. It is May. And I’m perfectly fine.”

Tommorrow, just for clarification, is June. So, the calendar is moving along and the point is Jennings is missing some time on the field with new quarterback Christian Ponder.

“That was the first thing I said. I’m like, ‘Really? Of all days,’ ” Jennings said. “ ‘Now the media is here and I’m not practicing. Great.’ ”

The good news? Jennings says he plans to be back on the field Tuesday when the Vikings resume OTA workouts. It will be June. But this isn’t expected to be a setback for Jennings, who believes he can build a relationship on the field with Ponder quickly. That is what the club is banking on after signing Jennings away from the Green Bay Packers with a $45 million, five-year contract that includes $17.8 million guaranteed.

“With a guy like Christian, he’s very smart. So it can happen,” Jennings said, per the report. “It can definitely happen. It’s one of those things where you kind of pick each other’s brains. And then once you’re on the field working together, that chemistry just starts to form itself.

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Another bust WR named Williams signs with Argos

The Toronto Argonauts have signed another former first-round wide receiver who washed out of the NFL.

And his name is Williams, as well. Reggie Williams, a first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2004, has signed with the CFL squad, per Adam Caplan.

Last week, the Argonauts signed well-traveled former first-round pick Mike Williams, who was drafted by the Lions in 2005 and last played in the NFL in 2011 with the Seattle Seahawks.

Reggie Williams last played in the NFL in 2008 as he spent four years in Jacksonville.

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Freeney indicates collusion took place

Count Dwight Freeney among those who believe that NFL owners engaged in collusion this off-season regarding free agency.

While many have hinted at that, Freeney, who recently signed with the Chargers, only after Melvin Ingram tore his ACL, went on the record with CBS Sports regarding the matter.

“I basically think the owners got together and decided not to spend the cash on free agents,” Freeney explained. “I definitely think that's part of it. I think the owners made a pact. There's only 32 of them and none of them broke ranks. I think they all decided not to spend money.”

It can certainly be argued that Freeney isn't the same player now at age 33 that he was in his prime with the Indianapolis Colts. His production also declined when the Colts switched to a 3-4 last year after he had spent his entire career as a 4-3 rush end. He will play the 3-4 primarily in San Diego as well.

But there does appear to be some validity in Freeney's statement. Cliff Avril, in the prime of his career, got only $15 million over two years from Seattle. Elvis Dumervil got $12 million guaranteed from the Ravens, and John Abraham remains unsigned, even though he had 10 sacks a year ago.

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Tom Coughlin still bummed by Hakeem Nicks' absence

Credit Tom Coughlin for being consistent.

Last week, the New York Giants coach said he was upset Hakeem Nicks was not present for voluntary OTA’s.

On Thursday, Coughlin repeated himself as the Giants star wide receiver remains absent without an explanation, according to the coach.

At one point, Hakeem told me that he was going to be here, and then he was not here,” Coughlin said after Thursday’s session, according to Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. “Now, the strictest interpretation, as everybody knows, is it’s a voluntary program.”

Coughlin used the word “disappointed” when addressing Nicks’ lack of participation.

“It’d be great to have all of our guys working and feeling good about the progress we’re making, and that type of thing,” Coughlin said. “That’s just from a coach’s perspective. You deal with some of this, pretty much on a yearly basis. And it’s a product of our system and that’s the way it is. I can complain all I want, but nevertheless, it is our system.”

Coughlin said he has not spoken to Nicks so he doesn’t know specifically what is going on. From the sounds of things, quarterback Eli Manning is in the dark too.

“I don't know what the exact circumstances are,” Manning said. “It’s a tough situation. You always want everybody there, and you want them back here for practice as soon as possible. I’m not going to say this is not an important time, because I think it is, but it’s kind of a tough situation.”

Nicks’ agent Peter Schaffer has publicly stated Nicks’ absence has nothing to do with the contract status of his client, who is entering the final year of his deal. The Giants have also been working without wide receiver Victor Cruz, who has not signed his tender as a restricted free agent.

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Raji's goal to dominate this season

Is B.J. Raji next in line for a big pay day from the Green Bay Packers?

The club’s biggest moves this offseason were writing contract extensions for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, making them the NFL’s highest-paid players at their respective positions.

Logic would indicate that Raji, the standout defensive tackle, could be next. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract at 26 and knows a big season could help him accomplish his goals.

I want to get back to the Pro Bowl,” Raji said, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think that I have that ability. And I want to help other guys get to the Pro Bowl who haven't been there. I want to obviously help us get back to being a top-five defense. And I just want to dominate the game, from Week 1 to whenever we're done playing and just have an impact in every football game.”

Raji is putting a focus on getting off blocks better this season. It’s something he’s making a concerted effort on at this point even when contact in practices is not permitted. It will be a focus in camp and the season. If he is successful, it will lead to him disengaging more blockers and wrapping up more ball carriers and maybe a few more quarterbacks.

That, of course, could lead to a big pay day.

“I'm confident everything will take care of itself,” he said.

He’s got reason to believe. The Packers have consistently done a good job of taking care of their own. We’ll see how this season shakes out for Raji.

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Maturing Cam Newton interested in becoming a captain

Cam Newton is seemingly making all the right moves this offseason.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback has reportedly dropped about 12 pounds this offseason (down to 243) with a goal of being a little more elusive. He has said all the right things about the offense as the club transitions from Rob Chudzinski to Mike Shula at offensive coordinator. Heck, Newton even went back to school at Auburn this offseason to work on wrapping up his degree.

At some point, Newton would to wear the captain’s “C” for the Panthers too. That is what he said, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. Newton is clearly taking more of a leadership role and while it often takes time to be recognized and designated as a captain, it appears he’s going about things the right way.

“I recognize – and everyone knows around the league – when you’re a team captain that’s not just a patch on the jersey. You’re holding yourself to a higher standard with being accountable,” Newton said, per the report. “I’m going about it each and every day and trying to make that happen.

“Team captain is solely based off of your peers. I’m going about it each and every day, trying to do my part to prove not only to my team, but first myself, that’s a big responsibility on the field and off the field.”

The Panthers have typically had two captains on offense and those roles have been filled by veterans – left tackle Jordan Gross and wide receiver Steve Smith – in recent seasons. Often times, clubs make sure the quarterback is one of the players wearing a C. It might be hard for Newton to win a vote this year, but he’s clearly making progress and keep in mind he played well in the second half of last season. It will be interesting to see how he begins 2013.

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RG-3 thinks game will slow down for him

There is no benefit to Robert Griffin III being sidelined this spring as he recovers from a knee reconstruction.

But one of the things he’s been able to do more is study his game in the film room. That will help the Washington Redskins quarterback if it helps him change the way he plays.

A lot of film work, watching the film – alone and with the coaches, within the rules of the CBA,” Griffin said after the team’s OTA today, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post. “That part of it helps, and I was talking to the guys about (it) toward the end of last year, being slowed down kind of slowed the game down for me, because I had to slow down, and it made me have to get through all of my reads. That’s what I’m getting forward to doing this upcoming season: getting through every single option that I need to get through, and while at the same time, being able to use my legs as a weapon.”

There is plenty Griffin can learn as a young quarterback with just one season of experience. He can learn defenses better. He can understand coverages and how they work against certain plays. It should all help him react more quickly. But most would agree he needs to play smarter in terms of keeping himself from being hit hard in the open field so often. He’s said he is not going to change how he plays but he can still be a dynamic athlete and be a little smarter.

Griffin completed more than 65 percent of his passes last season which was a fine start.

“I’m not a big stat-guy … but for me personally, you just work on everything: footwork, you can always be more accurate,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone complete 100 percent of their passes throughout a whole season, so you can always do that. For me, the biggest part was mastering the offense first, so I can continue to beat teams with my mind and get guys in the right position. Really, it’s about getting the guys around you to play better, and play for you.”

We’ll see how he does when he returns this season against what will be a challenging schedule.

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Texans, Antonio Smith open to extension

Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith says he wants to stay with the club beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of the season, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston.

Smith was originally a fifth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2004, but has been with the Texans since signing there as a free agent in 2009. Smith, 31, has 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons in Houston.

According to Berman, Smith said, “I told them I wanted 2 be here & I wanted to spend the rest of my career here. They told me they are open to doing an extension.”

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