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INDIANAPOLIS — Saquon Barkley ran headlong, without any hesitation, into the NFL’s scouting combine Thursday.

The Penn State running back, who some NFL talent evaluators believe is the top-rated prospect in this year’s draft, said he has no cause for concern if any of the NFL’s have-nots at the top of the draft board, including the winless Cleveland Browns, select him in April.

On the Browns, who hold the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the opening round to go with a 1-31 record over the last two seasons combined, Barkley said it would be “awesome” if Cleveland made him one of their picks.

“That’s awesome, something bigger than you,” Barkley said. “You go to a team like that, obviously they’ve had some rough years, but I think they’re a couple pieces away. They do have a lot of young talent, new offensive coordinator. … You want to be part of something like that, that’s something bigger than yourself, that’s something you leave a legacy of being part of something special.”

But Barkley has obviously done some homework about the teams at the top of the board. Inthe span of about 12 minutes, he referenced: being a teammate of New York Giants players Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Eli Manning; the fact Colts quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t play last season because of a shoulder injury; and that he was a New York Jets fan growing up.

The Giants, Colts and Jets, respectively, have the second, third and sixth overall picks in April’s draft. The only team Barkley didn’t reference in the draft’s top six was the Denver Broncos, at No. 5.

“But any team, in my mind, that would pick me would be a good fit,” Barkley said. “… I’m just going to keep my head low and be ready to work.”

Barkley rushed for at least 1,076 yards in all three of his seasons at Penn State, including 1,496 yards in 2016 and 1,271 yards this past season. He also caught 54 passes in 2017 and closed out his career with back-to-back seasons with 18 rushing touchdowns.

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Hamstring forces Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence out of team drills on first day of minicamp

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are being extra careful when it comes to Trevor Lawrence‘s hamstring.

The tightness that limited Lawrence last week in OTAs reemerged during the first day of mandatory minicamp on Monday, forcing the Jaguars to keep him out of team drills. Coach Urban Meyer said that’s likely to happen on Tuesday as well.

“Our trainers and Schotty [passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] are being a little cautious because right now when you’re a month out, you yank a hamstring now you’re going to miss the early part of the training camp,” Meyer said. “That’s that one muscle that, you guys have all seen it like I have, you pull a hamstring at this point you’re going to miss all your summer conditioning so we’re being somewhat conservative on it.

“But he actually could play a game if he had to.”

Lawrence did some work off to the side while the rest of the team did their stretches and warm-ups, but he did participate in individual drills and 7-on-7 sessions. He did not participate in 11-on-11 drills.

Lawrence said he would rather be practicing fully, but understands the Jaguars’ approach.

“It’s been about a week and trying to work it back to full capacity and yeah, it’s a little frustrating just not being able to go full speed, but I’m feeling good,” Lawrence said. “I’m just trying to not have any more setbacks, so taking it slow. Got some good reps today. So start getting more and more each day this week and kind of work back into it.”

The Jaguars have one more day of mandatory minicamp and then break until training camp starts in late July.

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Madden NFL 22 teases cover athletes with goats

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The Madden NFL 22 game cover will be released later this week. The day when we see which superstar nabs the cover is another big date on the NFL’s offseason calendar.

To promote this year’s cover release, EA Sports is teasing the identity of the athlete with literal goats. Former cover athlete Peyton Hillis interacts with the animals and reacts to the cover.

The video seems to promise two GOAT (greatest of all time) athletes. Given his Super Bowl win last season and his untouchable status as the NFL’s greatest QB, it’s safe to assume that Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady will be one of the athletes featured.

But who could join him? Could it be Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, who lost to Brady in Super Bowl LV? Maybe it’s a former or current Brady collaborator. Whomever it is, the ungulate ad men in the video aren’t saying.

Who do you think will be joining Brady?



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WR Jamison Crowder agrees to pay cut to remain with New York Jets, source says

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder, the team’s leading receiver the last two seasons, avoided the possibility of being released by agreeing to a pay cut, a source confirmed Monday.

Crowder was due to make a non-guaranteed $10 million in base pay for 2021, the final year of a three-year, $28.5 million contract. Details of the renegotiated contract weren’t immediately available, but the new deal is expected to significantly lower his $11.4 million cap charge.

The Jets are among the league leaders in cap space (about $27 million), but they approached Crowder recently about a reduction. Crowder, who turns 28 on Thursday, skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason as the two sides haggled over the contract. NFL Network first reported the agreement.

The Jets’ mandatory minicamp starts Tuesday, and Crowder is expected to attend.

Coach Robert Saleh was optimistic that a deal would get done, saying 10 days ago that “Jamison’s definitely got a role here and we’re excited to have him.”

After signing receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole in free agency, and drafting Elijah Moore in the second round, the Jets had the leverage in talks with Crowder. He led the team with 59 catches and 699 yards in 2020, but his production was down because he missed four games due to leg injuries. The Jets also finished 32nd in total offense for the second straight year.

Even though Crowder is back, it will be interesting to see if his role diminishes in the regular season. Moore, selected 34th overall, has impressed the coaches in offseason practices. Like Crowder, he’s a slot receiver.

In another contract-relation development, safety Marcus Maye reported to the facility Monday ahead of the minicamp. Maye, who signed his franchise-tag tender ($10.6 million) earlier in the offseason, skipped the voluntary practices as the two sides attempt to negotiate a long-term deal. The deadline is July 15. If they can’t agree to a deal, Maye will play the 2021 season for the amount of the tender.

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