AJ McCarron isn’t worrying about Bills’ plans at QB

Listen, I can’t worry about that because it creates mental clutter for myself. So if I create mental clutter for myself, I can’t become the best player, the best teammate that I need to be for this team, McCarron said Tuesday during a break in Buffalo’s offseason workouts.

Everybody has labels for you… I can’t sit there worried about what somebody else thinks about me — a bridge quarterback or not that good of a quarterback — whatever it is, McCarron said. I know I trust in myself. I have self-confidence. I think that’s what makes people successful, and not worry about what my teammates and coaches think. I just go from there. I don’t worry about labels.

Labels aside, McCarron was unable to shake Dalton in Cincinnati. The former Alabama star has a legitimate shot to open the season as Buffalo’s starter — but keeping the job will be an entirely different story.

As the NFL draft nears, the Cleveland Browns are still doing their homework on quarterbacks. The final exam is quickly approaching, but the No. 1 pick remains an unknown to everyone, including coach Hue Jackson. On Tuesday, Jackson dismissed reports that general manager John Dorsey has settled on a quarterback and said the top prospects – Southern California’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen – remain in contention to be selected by the Browns.

I think they all are (in the mix) today, he said. I think we haven’t settled on that yet. Coming off a 0-16 season, the Browns, who haven’t been able to adequately fix their quarterback problem for years, are being thorough in their evaluation of what is considered a very strong QB class. Jackson and Dorsey have attended pro days and private workouts and the team has hosted the top four quarterbacks, along with 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, at its headquarters in Berea, Ohio. Jackson insists Dorsey hasn’t made up his mind on the top choice.

When I say this I mean it, John Dorsey and his group, they don’t come up for air, Jackson said. This is 24 hours, seven days a week, through the weekend. I’ve worked more on the weekends here than I ever had to be a part of this. That’s what John does. There’s no detail that we’re going to leave unturned. So there’s a lot of time being spent to get this right.

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Stafford: Matt Patricia brings’great energy’ to Lions

Allen Park — The confluence of a new season and a new coach has generated expected optimism and excitement around the Detroit Lions, not just with the fans, but with the players, who began the offseason program with voluntary workouts last week.

Matt Patricia — hired in February as Jim Caldwell’s replacement at the helm — has wasted little time making a good first impression with the team.

Lovullo said first base coach Dave McKay took blame for Saturday night’s base running miscue that cost Deven Marrero a home run. With two on and one out in the fourth inning, Marrero hit what appeared to be a three-run homer off Rich Hill over the left center field wall.

But Alex Avila, who was on first base, went back to the first base to tag up thinking the ball may be caught. In the process, Marrero passed Avila on the base path between first and second. Roberts appealed the play and the after a review, Marrero was ruled out.

It was pretty impressive how Dave… was accountable for the home run baserunning mistake, Lovullo said. He said it was his fault and I know he felt bad about it. I think we were all ball watching at the time.

But he’ll be champing at the bit if he sees Bryant line up against him in an actual game, something that Bryant has stated he’d like to do. Oh, it’d be even better [than in practice], Jones said, smiling. I am sure he is going to find a way to play against us at some point. I don’t think he’s going to lose his dominance anytime soon. He’s still got a lot more years left in him. Jones and Heath had only good things to say about their former teammate. Heath remembered how Bryant played down the stretch in 2014. Heath specifically pointed to the 158-yard, two-touchdown performance Bryant had against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, and the three-touchdown game at Philadelphia in December that season. The end of that season he was arguably the best receiver in the league at that point, Heath said. He’d always make crazy catches in practice, but we kind of got used to that.

We’d see it so much. As a rookie, I’d be kind of impressed by it and then I was like,’Well, that’s Dez just doing what he does.’ I just have a lot of memories of him doing amazing things on the field. That’s a thing of the past. Monday marked the beginning of a Cowboys era without Dez Bryant. The voluntary, nine-week off-season program is conducted in three phases. Phase One, which started Monday, is two weeks of activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only. It was good to see all the guys again, Heath said.

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Potential No. 1 overall pick Sam Darnold shines at soggy pro day

Given an out, USC quarterback Sam Darnold declined to move up his throwing session at his school’s pro day on Wednesday, choosing instead to throw under a steady rain in front of a throng of NFL decision-makers.

I don’t think it would have been fair to change the schedule with all of the other guys training for the pro day, Darnold said. So I just wanted my guys to be comfortable — my teammates — that was first and foremost.

Darnold said he has a couple visits lined up before the draft in April, but he did not disclose the teams.

Sam is not the kid you speed date; he’s the kid you marry. … People will fall in love the more they get to know him.

Darnold did not throw at the NFL scouting combine in February. However, he said it was important to answer questions about his throwing mechanics at his pro day, and he believes he’s worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.

I feel like I’m definitely capable of going No. 1, Darnold said. What the Browns are doing right now is really good. They’ve got a lot of good pieces right now. I think going there and being able to lead the way I lead and play the way I play, I think it would be a good situation.

The team also agreed to a three-year deal to keep linebacker Brock Coyle, who started 10 games last season before undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

General manager John Lynch said McKinnon and Richburg were both high on the team’s priority list in free agency and he was glad to be able to lock both of them up as soon as the new league year started.

We see Weston as one of the top young interior offensive linemen in the NFL,Lynch said. His athleticism, intelligence and attitude are a perfect fit for our scheme. Jerick has proven to be an extremely versatile football player whose speed, elusiveness and tackle-breaking ability make him a very difficult matchup for defenses. We can’t wait to get them on the field with their teammates and coaches later this spring.

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NFL recommends simplifying language as to what defines a catch

The NFL has announced the final portions of a proposal to revise its controversial catch rule, one that would most notably eliminate the requirement to maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground.

We know the league is trying to avoid more controversial catch calls. But how can they do it? Here’s what the competition committee is likely to propose, its potential flaws and more.

The NFL has considered making similar changes in the past but decided against it because, former officiating chief Dean Blandino told ESPN, it would likely swap one set of controversies for another.

The Bills are suddenly now within striking distance to leapfrog the Jets in the draft.

If Cousins spurns the Jets, Maccagnan better be prepared to trade up with the Colts to secure the third pick. That would leave him with, at worst, the third Quarterback of the Future on his board.

He should also inquire about the first-overall pick to draft Sam Darnold (Browns GM John Dorsey also holds the fourth pick).

Dave Gettleman and the Giants own the second pick. Just imagine what he’d be asking should Maccagnan be forced to inquire about moving up. In that scenario, it would be called begging.

The Jets know from nightmares. It is up to Maccagnan to make sure this isn’t another one.

The 49ers started free agency Wednesday by getting some needed help for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, agreeing to a four-year contract with versatile running back Jerick McKinnon and a five-year deal with interior offensive lineman Weston Richburg just after the start of the new league year.

The two deals fill holes on the roster with McKinnon expected to replace departing starter Carlos Hyde and Richburg able to step in immediately as the starter either at center or guard.

McKinnon had his most productive season last year, when he ran for a career-high 570 yards while setting personal bests with 51 catches for 421 yards.

McKinnon replaces Carlos Hyde, who is leaving as a free agent for Cleveland. McKinnon has more speed and is a better receiving threat than Hyde and should fit well into coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

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Clay Helton: No issues with Sam Darnold’s competitive fire

Former USC quarterback Sam Darnold chose not to throw at the Scouting Combine. NFL Network chose to criticize Darnold for his decision, suggesting that he’s not a true competitor because he was unwilling to compete in something that, frankly, isn’t even a competition.

Darnold’s coach at USC takes issue with that characterization.

In my 24 years of experience all in college I have never been around a man that is more competitive than Sam Darnold, Helton told PFT Live. He loves to compete and loves to be able to show what he can do. When the timing is right he will.

Don’t be fooled by James Daniels’ positional designation. Pat Elflein is the Vikings’ starting center. But the offense needs help at both guard spots, as Nick Easton is still available in free agency and Joe Berger is pondering retirement, per Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.

Daniels began his collegiate career by playing guard and offensive tackle before making the switch to center as a sophomore. The 6’3, 306-pound lineman is an outstanding athlete, and he excels with his reach blocks, getting to the second level and working in space. He shouldn’t have any problem moving back to guard, either.

James is a hell of a developmental prospect, if you will, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said, per Land of 10’s Scott Dochterman. In my mind, he could go and play guard for anybody next year, just about anybody in the league.

They’d have become unrestricted free agents on March 14 had the team not picked up the extra years.

Dotson’s been one of the steadiest players on their roster, lending a physical presence to their offensive line. But he’s coming off a knee injury which cost him the final five games of the year. Conte’s a regular starter, and Robinson’s a core special teamer.

The full guarantee at signing is $3 million, and only $3 million. Another $4 million should be earned in 2018, if he passes the preseason physical. After that, it’s up to the 49ers as to whether the deal continues into 2019.

The full base value of the deal is $21.15 million, with another $18 million tied to per-game roster bonuses, annual 90-percent playing-time incentives, an annual Pro Bowl incentive, and an annual All-Pro incentive.

To get the full $39.15 million, Sherman will need to play all 48 regular-season games over the next three years, be on the field for at least 90 percent of the snaps, make it to the Pro Bowl every year, and qualify for the All-Pro team every year.

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Richard Sherman takes aim at Pete Carroll in war with Seahawks

Richard Sherman’s war of words against his former team wages on.

Following a social media exchange Wednesday with the newly retired Joe Thomas, the 49ers cornerback took the former Brown up on his offer, appearing on the ThomasHawkpodcast, where he suggested the Seattle brass lost their way a little bitin terms of evaluating players following a mediocre 9-7 campaign last season.

I’m vengeful in that way,Sherman told MMQB.com.

Sherman isn’t the only member of the vaunted defense who was forced to flee the coup this offseason. Defensive end Michael Bennett was traded to the Eagles, whereas cornerback Deshawn Shead signed with the Lions.

As for the fate of Carroll, Sherman noted the Seahawks’ 2018 performance could factor into 66-year-old Carroll’s decision on the future.

I think that it depends on how this season goes for them. If they do great, get to the playoffs and continue to have the success, then I think he continues to go. But if things don’t go as planned and they don’t get to the playoffs and they have a rough year, then I think that’ll weigh into his decision. The legacy begins to get tainted at that point,Sherman said.

What is the most important thing in life is to be happy,McDonough told WEEI in Boston on Thursday. As much as it was a great honor to be the voice of ‘Monday Night Football’and you guys know me well enough, and certainly a lot of my friends and family do it wasn’t a tremendous amount of fun the last two years. When I took my ego out of it, when the conversation about a reboot of ‘MNF’ came up, when I took the ego part of it out, and rationalized it, I really could be fine with not being the voice of ‘MNF,’ then it became easy.

The nationally coveted gig was built for his sidekick, Jon Gruden. The event-television had been conceived around the longtime, personable head coach, with McDonough serving more as a straight man to Gruden’s X’s-and-O’s shtick.

And McDonough had a back-seat role for games that were not what they once were. Despite the $1.9 billion ESPN pays the NFL annually for the primetime package, the games that have gotten the billing have gotten increasingly worse.

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Browns continue to support Josh Gordon

Browns receiver Josh Gordon is an exclusive rights free agent. Which mean he isn’t a free agent at all. Which means the Browns have dibs on whether to offer him a one-year contract for the minimum salary for a player with his level of experience.

Based on comments from Browns G.M. John Dorsey to PFT Live at the Scouting Combine, it sounds like the Browns will.

The Phillies’ offseason work extended well into spring training and might not be finished yet, as they still look like a good fit for one of the remaining veteran free-agent starters. Yes, that’s true even after last week’s splashy signing of former Cubs ace Jake Arrieta . The signing allowed the Phillies to jump over the threshold between sellers and buyers into what could turn out to be what Scott Boras — Arrieta’s agent — likes to call Playoffville. If the Phillies ended up in the seller group, it wouldn’t have made much difference, as they have virtually nothing in the way of expiring contracts to be moved. Maybe that’s as good a sign as any that the slow-burning rebuild is finally coming to fruition. Indeed, things seem to be percolating in Philadelphia.

Hamels, 34, is coming off an uncharacteristically poor season in Texas. The lefty posted a 4.20 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and 1.98 SO/BB. The ERA was Hamels’ worst since 2009. The strikeout and walk numbers represented the worst figures the 12-year pro has posted in the majors.

Still, there’s reason to believe Hamels can bounceback and reinvent himself as a viable starter for years to come. Hamels owns a 3.37 ERA in over 2,300 career innings. We’re looking at a veteran that will likely figure it out and pitch well again soon.

It was a crazy process but obviously for me to be able to come back, I’m excited about that,McCown told The Post in a phone interview. I’m just looking forward to being able to continue to build with these guys and the chemistry and all that. I’m excited about being back.

For McCown, he had to wait for Kirk Cousins to pick a team before knowing where he would go. The Jets had a strong interest in Cousins but he chose the Vikings, where he will reportedly get a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal.

I just knew that he was kind of the prize, so to speak,McCown said. Everybody was going after him. I was just kind of waiting and being patient. It seemed like everybody kind of had their order of what they were going to do if they got Kirk and if not what would they do, what was Plan B. It was a matter of waiting that out.

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Flu could keep Ohio State DL Tyquan Lewis out of drills

Center Billy Price and defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis are two of three players to play 55 games in their careers at Ohio State. That durability has been replaced by bad luck at the Scouting Combine.

Nobody in the NFL has a larger contract relative to the other players at his position than Juszczyk. The Harvard product is in line to make $15.5 million in the first three years of his deal when no other active fullback deal calls for more than $6.6 million over the same time frame. Given that the fullback continues to be de-emphasized in offenses in favor of a third wideout or a second tight end, it’s unlikely that we’ll see many enormous contracts at the position anytime soon.

The two nine-figure contracts handed out to wide receivers under the current CBA are long gone, as Calvin Johnson has retired and Larry Fitzgerald is on a one-year, $11 million extension. Brown once had one of the biggest bargain veteran contracts in all of football, but after making $37.3 million over five years on his second deal, Brown got a huge raise to $17 million per year after the 2016 season.

Wilkerson was released by the Jets after a dismal 2017 season that saw him have little impact on the field before getting benched in Week 15 as a result of a missed team meeting. That was the latest in a string of missed meetings or late arrivals and Wilkerson did not play again for the Jets.

In Green Bay, Wilkerson will have the chance to renew acquaintances with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine after the men worked together with the Jets in 2011 and 2012. He’ll also have the chance to make his case that he’s a more committed player than he appeared to be at the end of his run with the Jets.Titans will release Matt Cassel, Eric Weems

The Titans announced on Thursday that running back DeMarco Murray will be cut loose and they added three more veterans to the discard pile on Friday.

In addition to confirming the release of safety Da’Norris Searcy, the Titans also announced that they’ve told quarterback Matt Cassel and wide receiver Eric Weems that they will be dropped from the roster as well.

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Same case as Robinson, but probably at a higher number. Watkins didn’t put up big numbers in the Rams’ offense but is still viewed by many as a top talent. — Graziano

The leaguewide demand at quarterback could obviously lead to a long-term deal, but Bradford’s knee is enough of a concern at this point that he might have to pick a spot (Arizona?) where he can prove himself healthy for a year before hitting the market again for one more big payday. — Graziano

Injuries have defined his career so far, but when he has been on the field, he has shown himself to be a strong option in the red zone. The tight end market should be interesting, and a lot of teams are looking, but Eifert has a lot to prove before he can get his long-term deal. — Graziano

He was aware of what I was doing and obviously I was aware of what he was doing, Olson said. His name was plastered everywhere. We just talked to each other and he asked if I was getting hounded by the media. I was like, ‘Uhh, honestly, no.’ I feel like nobody knows. It was good. I told him, ‘Stay healthy, keep it up, and good luck the rest of the way.’

Hoskins went on a riveting run with 11 homers in 79 at-bats in August before Olson topped it with 13 long balls in 79 ABs in September. For the season, Olson averaged one homer every 7.88 at-bats — the fourth-best ratio ever for a hitter with at least 200 plate appearances. Only Barry Bonds (in 2001), and Mark McGwire (in 1998 and 2000) have surpassed it.

My wife and I talk about my struggles, Bosh says. You have to have those conversations. A lot of guys in this league don’t talk to their wives. They go on the road, do what they want to do, they figure, ‘This is basketball, she won’t understand.’ It’s easy to keep that divide when you are playing. But when you are in the house 24/7, it’s a whole different world. It’s a sensitive topic, but it’s important. My wife and I are one person. I’m very lucky to be able to say that.

She has helped me realize I have to move on, create a new life. I’m a husband, I’m a father, and I’ve got to dive into that now.

In the meantime, Bosh says he’s navigating bills, doctor’s appointments and his financial portfolio. The next big thing has yet to materialize in his mind.

I have millions of dollars and I don’t know finance, Bosh says. I’ve had some bad things happen in my career. I’ve got to educate myself. I sit down with my finance guy once a month and go over everything, line by line.

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Ekman-Larsson, Kuemper lead Coyotes past Canucks, 1-0

The Canucks know they need to step up the offensive pressure early in games.

Jusuf Nurkic racked up 27 points (12-18 FG, 3-5 FT), 16 boards, 3 dimes and 3 swats against the Miami Heat on Monday. We’ve seen big nights like this from him before, but consistency has been an issue. What do you think the long-term ceiling is for this 23-year-old big?

After a night where almost all of the on-court action was incredibly one-sided, and without much in the way of individual standouts, André Snellings tries to figure out a way to cut through all the chaos of March’s NBA action to identify fantasy value.

André Snellings: The ceiling for Nurkic, as in the highest possible outcome, would be to average the kind of numbers that he put up on Monday. Nurkic has that kind of talent, as a huge man with great skills in the paint and a comfortability to face-up some, even from mid-range. However, there have been questions about his attitude in both of his stops so far — in Denver, and occasionally with Portland — that raises some uncertainty as to how close to his ceiling he can get.

Will the Jaguars re-sign Allen Robinson, or will the wide receiver suit up elsewhere in 2018? NFL Nation reporters take their best guess on what happens with every team’s biggest free agent.

The Eagles are still working on trying to re-sign Robinson, but he might want to parlay his surprise big season into a trip to the free-agent market. If he does, he’ll wait for the bigger names to sign their eight-figure-a-year deals, then pitch himself as a solid nickel option for a team looking to spend $5 million or $6 million per season. — Graziano

With every team I’ve been on, I’ve wanted to be a guy that people look at as a leader or say, ‘That guy is doing things the right way. I want to be like him,’ Chapman said. I haven’t dug too much into it. I don’t know if there’s a specific role where somebody gets a thing on their jersey. But I want to be there for anybody on our team, just like I’d expect them to be there for me and help us to be the best, most successful players we can.

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