• Arians: Palmer 'wore out' his arm before '16 season

    The Cardinals’ disappointing showing in 2016 was a tale of two seasons for Carson Palmer.

    By midseason, coach Bruce Arians felt compelled to defend his quarterback. Palmer was struggling behind an injury-ravaged offensive line while wideouts Michael Floyd and John Brown disappeared for long stretches. From Thanksgiving through the end of the season, though, Palmer had recaptured the form that had propelled him into the 2015 MVP race.

    As it turns out, there was another reason for Palmer’s early-season woes.
    Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show last week, Arians revealed Palmer entered the season with fatigue in his throwing arm after overworking in the months leading up to September.

    “He’s one of the hardest working dudes I’ve ever been around, so we have to pull the reins back on him,” Arians explained. “Last year, he came in to September, he had already wore his arm out by overthrowing all summer. We found a nice regimen, [and by] November and December he was playing as good as he’s ever played.”

    Palmer acknowledged in May a new regimen was needed to adapt to his NFL twilight years.

    “I don’t think I’ve done a good job the last eight or nine years of my career,” Palmer said at the time. “I’ve treated the last eight or nine years like I was 24, 25, 26, like the first eight or nine years of my career.”

    The regimen referenced by Arians included sitting out Wednesday practices down the stretch and curtailing Palmer’s throwing in March and April.

    By the time the Cardinals were wrapping up their offseason program in June, Arians was delighted to find Palmer’s arm was “stronger than ever.”

    If Palmer follows an impressive offseason with a bounce-back campaign during the regular season, perhaps he’ll forego the retirement dance next February.

    “Every year’s going to be another question at the end of the season how he feels,” Arians told Eisen. “Competitively, he’ll never quit. His wife will probably have to tell him this is it.”

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  • New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been away from the team’s organized team activities in recent weeks, sources with knowledge of Fairley’s situation have told NFL.com in recent days. His absence comes in light of medical tests that have put his NFL future in question, as Fox Sports’ Jennifer Hale reported.

    NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the medical issue being tested is a heart condition that previously came up in Fairley’s pre-draft physical. The lineman has played with the condition for seven years in the league, Rapoport adds.

    Fairley, who signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Saints in March, visited a cardiologist last month and since then has been away from OTAs and out of communication with many of his teammates, sources say, adding that players who usually speak to Fairley on a regular basis have been unable to reach him.

    When reached by NFL.com last week, Fairley’s agent, Brian Overstreet, denied his client had visited a doctor recently.

    “He’s good, just doing his own thing,” Overstreet said, adding that he speaks to Fairley every day. Overstreet declined to say when Fairley would be back to work.

    Inside the Saints’ facility, information on Fairley’s status has been kept tight. One staffer told NFL.com everyone knows Fairley is dealing with a medical situation, but the full details aren’t known by many.

    A Saints spokesman did not reply to NFL.com’s request on Friday for information on Fairley’s status.

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  • Demarcus Lawrence, like most of us, would prefer to forget about 2016.

    The Cowboys defensive end’s third season began with a four-game suspension and ended with a back injury. Lawrence, who totaled eight sacks in a breakout year in 2015, finished with just one QB takedown through nine games one season later.

    That token sack, among other things, had Lawrence all hot and bothered during organized team activities this week.

    “A one-sack year? That’s not me,” Lawrence told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Thursday. “I’ve already got that in my mind, you know, that I’m going to be the best. When my son grows up, I want him to say, ‘Man, my dad was a beast.’ The film don’t lie. I’ve just got to make sure I put it on the film now.”

    Part of Lawrence’s frustration over last season’s production and Dallas’ unproven front seven going into 2017 could stem from the fact that he is entering a contract year. Lawrence is slated to make roughly $1.2 million in the final season of his rookie deal, but swears he isn’t thinking about those numbers heading into the preseason.

    “I mean, my job is my job. I can’t sit here and try to put pressure on top of myself,” Lawrence continued. “I’ve got enough pressure coming off an injury, coming off a one-sack year.

    “My goal is 10-plus sacks all the time. I feel like I can be a Pro Bowl player, I just haven’t lived up to those expectations dealing with the injuries and my personal issues.”

    Regarding his ailing back, Lawrence added that he is “feeling great” and is in “the best shape possible to go out and do everything I can this year.”

    Lawrence remains the most threatening piece in the Cowboys’ front seven, which this offseason saw the addition of rookie pass rusher Taco Charlton through the draft but the subtraction of Randy Gregory and David Irving due to respective one-year and four-game suspensions.

    With little help surrounding him, Lawrence will need to put up substantially better numbers than one sack and 11 tackles to help improve the Cowboys’ front seven, arguably their weakest position group, and keep Dallas afloat in the competitive NFC East.

    In a vital contract year, he intends to do so.

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  • It’s Memorial Day weekend, the start of beach season in the United States. Is your body ready for primetime?

    If not, don’t panic. Real beach/lake weather doesn’t start for several more weeks. And here’s even better news: We have a diet that could help you achieve the hot bod you’ve always wanted.

    The beacon in times of darkness, as always, is Cody Kessler. The Browns quarterback was looking to shed weight and gain strength heading into his second season, so he cooked up a plan with the team dietitian. The same exact thing, every day, for three months.

    Kessler’s meal plan, per ESPN.com:

    PRE-WORKOUT
    »PowerBar

    BREAKFAST
    » two (2) scrambled eggs » oatmeal with water » two (2) pieces of fruit » milk » water

    MID-MORNING SNACK (GO CRAZY)
    » almonds

    LUNCH
    » turkey and provolone sandwich (no toppings or condiments)
    » fifteen (15) baby carrots
    » banana
    » water
    » milk

    MID-AFTERNOON SNACK (WE’RE SO BAD!)
    » pretzels with peanut butter

    DINNER
    » cooked chicken breast
    » spinach
    » plain whole wheat pasta (no sauce or dressing)
    » milk
    » water
    Every day. Three months. No cheating.

    “I really never committed myself to a meal plan that strict,” Kessler said. “It was tough, but it was worth it.”

    Personally, a four-minute mile feels more plausible, but perhaps you have greater willpower than I. It worked for Kessler, who reached his fitness goals and didn’t even have to spend $200 for Tom Brady’s stupid cookbook.

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  • Who knew the 40-yard dash could even impact football players after the draft?

    After setting an NFL Scouting Combine record with a 4.22-second dash, John Ross challenged the fastest alive, Usain Bolt, to a race.

    On the opposite end, though, Lions cornerback Teez Tabor continues to face a negative stigma after clocking a time of 4.62 seconds. Now, the rookie cover man is using the criticism as motivation.

    “It adds fuel to the fire,” Tabor told reporters. “It’s like when you tell someone they can’t do something then you’re basically making them try even harder to do what you’re telling them they can’t do.”

    Tabor was a first-team All-SEC pick at Florida in each of the past two seasons, yet his disappointing performance in Indy led to a slide into the second round of the draft. Eight cornerbacks were already off the board when Detroit took Tabor with the No. 53 pick. Yet, he still remains confident in his abilities on the gridiron.

    “My strength is football,” Tabor said. “I play football. I don’t run track. I’m trying out for the NFL. Not the Olympics. So, I’m in a pretty good spot.”

    As he competes for snaps in a deep Lions stable of cornerbacks — including Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and former first-round pick D.J. Hayden — Tabor is also dealing with another issue in his uphill climb.

    NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport previously reported that Tabor badly injured his hamstring in a pre-draft workout with the Lions, which came after he admitted that a minor hamstring issue was the reason behind his slow 40 time. Tabor’s hamstring is still bothering him, even though he was able to participate in Detroit’s rookie camp this past weekend.

    “I’m just working tireless hours in the training room,” Tabor said. “We got great trainers. I’m just working really hard right now. Hopefully I’ll be about 100 percent by the time training camp comes so I can help the team.”

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  • LeGarrette Blount has had the opportunity to take handoffs from elite quarterbacks thus far in his career. After spending the majority of the past four seasons in huddles with Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, Blount seems eager to work with the newest quarterback he’ll be receiving carries from: Carson Wentz.

    “He’s a really talented player,” Blount said in a press conference Thursday. “Obviously, he’s one of the better quarterbacks of his draft class and generation. I think he has the potential to be a really special player. He has all the tools that are needed, and all the grind that is needed, and he has the mindset to maximize his ability if he just continues to work hard.

    “Carson is one of those guys you want to build a team around.”

    Blount has lined up behind a promising young first-round quarterback before. He signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2010, joining forces with Josh Freeman. The duo each had a productive campaign that year, including Freeman’s career-best season of 25 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Blount reached the 1,000-yard plateau, a feat he didn’t accomplish again until this past season.

    The 250-pound bulldozer was the latest weapon added to the Eagles’ arsenal this offseason after he signed on Wednesday. After bolstering the aerial attack with acquisitions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, Blount gives the ground game a more rugged, and more veteran, presence.

    “I’m one of the older backs here, so I definitely want to make sure the young guys stay on the right track,” Blount said. “They have a great group here, especially (Darren) Sproles, (Donnel) Pumphrey, (Wendell) Smallwood. All those guys. They’ve got a lot of good guys here.”

    The 30-year-old bruiser’s skill set nicely complements the rest of Philly’s backfield, and addresses a major need. Per NFL Research, the Eagles were one of NFL’s the worst teams in short-yardage scenarios last season. They ranked 26th in first-down percentage on runs (57.1 percent) and 21st in yards per carry (2.7) in those situations.

    Blount, on the other hand, moved the chains on 65 percent of his carries in short-yardage situations in 2016, while leading the league with 5.4 yards per carry on third- and fourth-and-short. Now, he becomes the latest piece to a team that he has high expectations for.

    “I chose this place as a place that I wanted to be,” Blount said. “A lot of guys that are here are going to be a big part of why this team is going to be successful in the future. So I want to be a part of that. I’ve been part of something special before, and you just get the feeling they have something special here.”

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  • Over the past few years, Blake Bortles has been the face of NFL offseason trope. Even with a new head coach in Jacksonville, it appears we can continue to expect a similar vernacular regarding the 25-year-old gunslinger.

    “He’s improved — there’s no doubt about it,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said Saturday at rookie minicamp, per the team’s website.

    Jacksonville picked up Bortles’ fifth-year option following an up-and-down 2016 campaign featuring 23 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin called the decision to exercise it “a smart business decision for the team,” which came a few months after Jags general manager Dave Caldwell said “I think we can win a Super Bowl with Blake.”

    It’s clear that we’re already strapped in for another jam-packed stretch of Bortles trope. And now, you can mark the “spent offseason undergoing complete mechanics rebuild with quarterback guru(s)” square on your Blake Bingo card.

    Per the team’s website, Bortles has worked this offseason with quarterback gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux to revamp his mechanics and fundamentals — and it’s already paying dividends.

    “There are certain things, as far as his elbow and his arm, that are much improved,” Marrone said. “I think there are still other things we’re still working on as well as everyone else at this stage.”

    With a little under four months until the Jaguars open their season against the Texans, we still have plenty of time to soak in the The Blake Bortles Redemption Tour.

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  • The Chicago Bears released the most senior member of their offense on Thursday.

    Chicago cut veteran wide receiver Eddie Royal after two seasons with the team. Royal was due $5 million in 2017, but will now count nothing against the Bears’ cap number.

    NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Royal is still struggling to recover from a turf toe injury and, despite progressing well, was “not ready yet.”

    An expensive option at a position the team addressed in the offseason, Royal ended up an expendable part of Chicago’s rebuild. The 10-year veteran recorded 70 receptions and 607 yards in 18 games over two seasons in Chicago.

    The Bears are hoping new additions Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and Rueben Randle can pick up that slack in spades.

    Chicago is also slated to meet with free-agent wideout Victor Cruz on Monday. Younger but more injury-prone than Royal, Cruz could be an intriguing replacement.

    The Bears announced concurrently that they waived defensive lineman Will Sutton, fullback Paul Lasike and offensive lineman Cornelius Edison. Entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, Sutton is a surprising cut until you factor in that he was owed nearly $2 million in 2017, per Spotrac.

    In other news, Chicago signed fourth-round running back Tarik Cohen and fifth-round offensive lineman Jordan Morgan to their four-year rookie deals.

    Here are Thursday’s other notable transactions and rumblings:

    1. Might we see a Cruz-Coughlin reunion in Duval? The former Giants wide receiver will visit his ex-coach in Jacksonville on March 23, per NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones. The connection makes sense from a personal perspective, but it’s safe to wonder if the Jaguars have room in their crowded wide receiver room for an oft-injured veteran.

    2. The Green Bay Packers signed cornerback Kevin King, the first pick of the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft at No. 33 overall, to his rookie contract.

    3. James Conner is officially under contract in the Steel City. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed the former Pittsburgh Panther and their third-round selection to his rookie deal on Thursday.

    4. The Los Angeles Chargers locked down Forrest Lamp on Thursday, signing the second-round guard to his four-year rookie deal.

    5. Second-round cornerback Quincy Wilson signed his rookie deal with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday.

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  • Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has accepted a role as a color commentator for Fox Sports, effectively ending Cutler’s 11-year NFL career.

    Cutler called the decision permanent.

    “I don’t really see anything else happening,” Cutler said on ESPN 1000′s Waddle and Silvy Show on Friday. “I’m happy with where I am in my life and in the future going forward. So we can go ahead and stamp that — it’s permanent.”

    Cutler, 34, will start in a three-man booth alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and analyst Charles Davis, allowing Cutler to get adjusted in the same way that Troy Aikman did when he entered broadcasting in 2002.

    It is unknown whether Cutler has a clause in his TV deal that would allow him to leave for a quarterback job, though Fox does have a history of putting such clauses in contracts. Brady Quinn, for instance, briefly left his role at Fox in 2014 to attend Dolphins training camp — something his contract allowed him to do — before later returning to the network with the same clause in his new deal.

    Cutler flew to Los Angeles and auditioned with Burkhardt on April 27.

    Earlier on Friday, Cutler released a statement after Fox made the news official.

    “Words can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who helped me along my journey,” Cutler said. “I started playing tackle football at the age of 10 and was so lucky to have supportive parents and great coaches along the way that made my path possible. If I listed each person individually, this would quickly turn into an essay, but you know who you are and I wouldn’t be in this situation without you. So thank you.

    “To my parents, my sisters, my wife and kids — thank you for putting your wants and needs on the back burner while I played a game every Friday, Saturday or Sunday. You made it all possible.

    “I recently read a quote that struck a chord with me at the time. It was attributed to Henry Rollins (but with the Internet these days, you can never be too sure). ‘I did that, I gave everything I had to give to that. Now, if I returned to that it would be repetition — it might be fun repetition, but it wouldn’t be meaningful repetition.’ Thank you to everyone along the way. You made my dream come true.”

    Fox has been searching for a new analyst to work alongside Burkhardt after John Lynch left to become the San Francisco 49ers’ general manager earlier this offseason.

    Cutler’s knowledge of the NFC, after an eight-year stint in Chicago, should be an asset to the network because Fox broadcasts the NFC package of games. His first Fox game will be the Bears’ third preseason game, at Tennessee on Aug. 27.

    Cutler, whom the Bears released on March 9, had conversations with the New York Jets and Houston Texans before the draft, but the talks ultimately went nowhere, sources said.

    In a statement tweeted out by the Bears, chairman George H. McCaskey expressed his support for the next phase of Cutler’s career.
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    Cutler will be the second high-profile quarterback to leave the playing field for the broadcast booth this offseason. Former Cowboys star Tony Romo joined CBS last month.

    Cutler holds almost every passing record in Bears franchise history, though he likely will be remembered for leading Chicago to only one playoff appearance in eight seasons. The veteran quarterback played in just five games last season because of thumb and shoulder injuries. He also suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and underwent surgery in December.

    Cutler led the Bears to the NFC Championship Game in 2010 — a contest he left because of a knee injury — and posted a career-best 92.3 passer rating in 2015, but those achievements were overshadowed by his struggles protecting the football. Cutler cycled through six offensive coordinators in Chicago. The Bears’ revolving door of playcallers also contributed to Cutler’s erratic play.

    Cutler said he sensed in January the Bears intended to release him but that he holds no grudges against the team he rooted for growing up in Indiana.

    “I grew up a Bears fan and I still have a lot of my Bears stuff,” Cutler said. “I was a Bears fan as a kid, I was a Bears fan growing up. It’s not like I’m not going to be a Bears fan just because they released me and I’m not playing anymore. I’m happy to go back to being a Bears fan with all the loyal Chicago fans, because that’s kind of where I started.”

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  • Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Michael Oher was cited for misdemeanor assault after allegedly getting into a physical altercation with an Uber driver in Nashville last month, police confirmed to NFL.com.

    According to a citation provided by the Nashville Police Dept., the Uber driver said he got into an argument with Oher while giving him and four other people a ride in downtown Nashville on April 14.

    After the two confronted one another outside the vehicle, the driver said Oher knocked him to the ground after he moved his hands toward Oher’s face. He also said Oher kicked him in the leg while he was on the ground. The other passengers in the car then got out and restrained Oher, the driver said.

    According to the citation, Oher was listed as suspected of using alcohol near the time of the incident.

    “We are aware of an incident involving Michael Oher,” the Panthers said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”

    Oher has been ordered to appear at the Davidson County (Tennessee) Sheriff’s Office for booking on May 8, according to the citation, which was issued on the same day as the incident.

    Oher, who missed the last 13 games of the 2016 season, was placed in concussion protocol in September. He was the subject of the 2009 film, “The Blind Side.”

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