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  • By Eric Drennan | FME News Service
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BELTON — There was turf freshly adorned with logos, player introductions with spotlights and the feeling of football in the air.

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis says the club has signed the second of its two first-round draft choices, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

Loomis says the 6-foot-6, 314-pound Ramczyk, who was drafted 32nd overall out of Wisconsin, has signed a four-year contract. Ramczyk's signing means all seven of New Orleans' draft choices are under contract in advance of training camp.

Ramczyk could compete for a significant role this season because starting left tackle Terron Armstead will miss at least half of the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery.

Ramczyk started all 14 games at left tackle last season for the Badgers, who averaged 203.1 yards rushing per game.

The lineman was voted first-team All-America and All-Big Ten after allowing one sack.


For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr and general manager Reggie McKenzie never doubted the two sides could reach a long-term contract agreement to keep the quarterback with the Raiders before Carr's self-imposed training camp deadline.

Carr was open about how much he wanted to spend his entire career with the organization and after a decade searching for a franchise quarterback the Raiders weren't about to let a player they drafted and developed leave just as he was becoming a star.

So the two sides were able to agree on a five-year, $125 million extension that makes Carr the NFL's richest player, at least temporarily, and won't hinder the team's ability to give its other young stars like AP Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, receiver Amari Cooper and guard Gabe Jackson new contracts before they hit free agency.

"I think that both sides wanted it to get done," Carr said Friday. "It was two family members just figuring out how to get along, and we did. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not just to take every single dime that we could."

Carr will still get plenty. The $25 million per year in new money is the richest contract ever in the NFL, beating out the $24.8 million a year Andrew Luck got from Indianapolis. That could be surpassed with Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Washington's Kirk Cousins in line for new deals soon.

But Carr is not worried about that and the Raiders are pleased to have the face of their franchise under contract through 2022 as they prepare to move to Las Vegas in 2020.

"From the outset, both sides wanted the deal done, and I felt our guys did a great job getting together and hammering it out," McKenzie said. "We both wanted the same thing. That part was easy. We could tell that Derek wanted to be here. And we let him know, without a doubt, that we wanted him here."

Carr has transformed the Raiders from a perennial loser into a contender after being drafted in the second round in 2014. He was part of a stellar draft class with Mack and Jackson that has been key to Oakland's turnaround.

Carr has helped the Raiders go from an 0-10 start his rookie season to 12 wins and the franchise's first playoff berth since 2002 last year to possible Super Bowl contenders this season.

Last year's run was derailed when Carr broke his leg in the second-to-last game of the regular season and the Raiders then lost their first playoff game in Houston.

But with Carr healthy, most of the other key players back and Marshawn Lynch providing a boost at running back, the Raiders are hoping for even bigger things this season.

Carr has thrown for 11,194 yards in his first three seasons and ranks fourth all-time with 81 touchdown passes through three years, trailing only Dan Marino, Luck and Peyton Manning. He has shown dramatic improvement each season in his career and was at his best last year when he led seven fourth-quarter comebacks while completing a career-high 63.8 percent of his passes. He threw for 3,937 yards with 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

"I think I've set a standard for myself, the organization and for this team, personally, that no amount of money is going to matter. It doesn't matter," he said. "You can give me a dollar, you can give me $25 million, it doesn't matter to me. My goal is that I make sure I give everything I have to this organization. There's no pressure, there's no, 'We'll be on the 1-yard line and I won't give it to Marshawn, I'll throw it.' None of that stuff. I don't care about the stats, that's not my No. 1 objective."

Carr has no extravagant plans for his new-found riches. He wants to eat some Chick-fil-A, buy something nice for his wife, Heather, and donate money to his church and charity groups in places like Haiti that are important to him.

His teammates had other ideas. Cornerback Sean Smith suggested he buy a fancy European sports car, tackle Donald Penn had a list of gifts he wanted, but mostly his teammates congratulated him on the deal.

"All of my teammates to a man said, 'Man you work your tail off, you deserve it,'" Carr said. "I don't feel like I deserve it. But just them saying that grabbed my heart because they're the ones I go to battle with, they're the ones I work with every single day. What they have to say really matters to me. I do know I will have to owe them all a big dinner. That will be fun."


More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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TOKYO (AP) — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got a quick lesson in the ancient sport of sumo during a visit to Japan.

Brady, who visited China and Japan this week on a tour promoting football, stopped in at the Sakaigawa sumo stable in Tokyo on Thursday and stepped into the ring with sumo wrestler Goeido.

The pair took turns pushing each other from one end of the ring to the other.

The 39-year-old Brady, who led the Patriots to the Super Bowl title last season, described the opportunity to learn about sumo as 'incredible" while adding that the wrestlers are "very strong" and are "strong in mind and body."

"For them to welcome me means very much to me," Brady was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency. "It's hard to describe in words how special that was."

Goeido, a 31-year-old winner of last September's Autumn Grand Sumo tournament, said of the NFL superstar: "He has a lot of explosive power. I feel energized. It's stimulating to have an opportunity to come in contact with athletes from a different sport."

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The Lexus at the gas station off Highway 231 piqued the interest of the curious 12-year-old riding his bike nearby. When the man stepped out, dressed in business casual, it was clear he didn’t look like the drug dealers around Campbellton, Fla.

The boy on his bike wondered how this man could afford his car, his clothes.

“What do you do?” he asked.

“I work on computers for IBM,” the stranger replied.

Champ Kelly didn’t know what IBM was, nor did he have a computer. His mother was a drug addict and his father, a drug dealer at the time, wasn’t around as much as either would have liked. Nonetheless, Kelly decided that day in 1992 he was going to work at IBM.

“When I make it out of here,” he would think to himself as a high schooler, “I want to make sure I come back and give back.”

Kelly graduated from the University of Kentucky in three-and-a-half years with a degree in computer science. He worked at IBM for four years, but football was his passion.

The current director of pro scouting for the Chicago Bears, Kelly started a charity called “Heart Power Inc.” and runs the C.H.A.M.P. football camps in Kentucky and Florida every June.

Kelly says he didn’t want to become what he saw, and he tells his story to the kids at his camps.

“The lesson for me was if I can model what I want these kids to be, it gives them something tangible that they can touch; that they can see a different flavor from what they’re accustomed to,” he says.

Kelly’s day job is to use his pro scouting to make the Bears better. His personal mission, though, is “to show every child I encounter how to identify a purpose other than money, so they can truly learn their worth.”

The ability to do both began in Campbellton during a challenging childhood that Kelly carries with him every day.


“We made it, didn’t we Champ?”

Marcia Kelly said those words to her son on Nov. 27, 1979, one day after she went into labor on her 20th birthday. Kelly was ‘Champ’ before he was Anthony, the name his mother put on the birth certificate in case he ever ran for president.

The sometimes tumultuous, other times loving, bond between mother and son had begun. For every positive childhood memory, there were also stretches where Marcia’s crack addiction left Kelly without his mother.

“There would be patches where the woman I love was there, the woman who gave birth to me and gave her all to me was there,” Kelly said from Halas Hall in early June. “But there were patches where she was gone, she was lost. Throughout high school, I had a hard time with the fact that she was an addict because I didn’t understand how someone could say they love you but leave you and not be there for you.”

Kelly was raised by his grandparents in the house where his now 79-year old grandmother, Mary, "the stern one" still lives. His grandfather, June, was "loving and kind-hearted" and worked for the same lumber company for 50 years. His father, Michael, moved to nearby Dothan, Ala. after separating from Marcia. He would come in for birthdays or Christmas, or bring his son to spend time with cousins in Alabama.

Surrounded by poverty, drugs and alcohol, Kelly says he was “truly raised by a community.” Those in Campbellton noticed he was different. He was special. That’s how a dealer became the one to teach Kelly to stay away from drugs.

Kelly took bus 41 to school every day in sixth grade and it got the kids to school early. To pass the time, he would join the schoolyard basketball games. Even though he wasn’t very good, one of the players would always pick Kelly for his team. Not wanting to let “the cool guy” down, Kelly would practice at home every day.

One day, the cool guy — who was also a drug dealer — said to Kelly, “Hey, listen, you leave these streets alone. I don’t want you doing none of this stuff. You’re going to be an athlete. You’re going to be good.”

“My identity became wrapped up in sport.” Kelly said.


Rob Armstrong’s uncle and younger brother played baseball in adult summer leagues on Sundays for Campbellton. One day, a 12-year-old athlete caught his eye.

Kelly noticed Armstrong, too, considering the Armstrongs were the only white men at the game in what Champ said the participants called “The Negro League.”

In a game between Campbellton and State Line, Kelly — who had played Little League earlier in the day but was good enough to compete with the adults — came up to bat. The outfield inched in, noticing his small stature, and he launched a double over their heads.

“I knew Champ from umpiring Little League but I was in shock he was playing against these grown folks,” Armstrong recalled. “It’s amazing he remembers how I looked and felt at the time.”

When Kelly crossed home plate later in the inning, he saw “this white guy kind of smirking at me.” That guy became Kelly’s football coach at Graceville High School. Armstrong’s children Kurt and Kase now attend the C.H.A.M.P. Camps.

“He was the kind of kid they don’t have to pay you to coach,” Armstrong said. “… He was a competitor, and you weren’t going to find anybody tougher than him on the field.”

Kelly played quarterback, defensive back, kick returner and sometimes kicker for Graceville, which was playing in the lowest classification in Florida. The team competed with less than 20 players.

When Kelly was a senior, his team made it to the state semifinals. They never lost a district game.

Kelly said that he had close calls growing up, nearly getting caught up in the drugs and alcohol that consumed many. But his grandparents provided stability. “It wasn’t always ideal,” he said, but it made him stronger, and the athleticism helped get him his way out of Campbellton on a football scholarship to Kentucky.

“He was just different. He had ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is,” Armstrong said. “… There’s plenty of reasons why to fail, why not to be successful. But Champ never felt like he was going to fall through and let other things become a distraction or change his priorities.”


Six years after the encounter at the gas station, Kelly was at the right place to reach his goal of working for IBM. There was just one problem, and it was kind of a big one — he still didn’t have a computer. He spent so much time working on the computers at the Center for Academic Tutoring Services (CATS) that they gave him a key to the building to use the computers through the night.

During one of those late nights at CATS, an athletic trainer named Stephanie was struggling with a paper. Kelly offered her help, and Stephanie — now Kelly’s wife — admits now she was skeptical that the jock would be of service.

Kelly made a deal with Stephanie: if he helped her get an ‘A’ on her paper, she had to help him catch bugs for an insect biology class. And that was the first date, collecting insects at a park in Lexington.

“Stephanie is special because when you grow up in a childhood like mine, you have some inherent problems, some skeletons,” Champ said. “One of mine is trust. She became the first girl I ever really trusted.”

Stephanie says that Champ doesn’t trust until it’s earned, while she trusts until it’s broken.

“That’s our big difference,” she said. “He did have some pretty difficult situations growing up and it’s definitely not anything to brag about. It’s not fun. But I think that’s what’s made him and he’s used that pedestal he’s been getting to give back and show these other kids in his exact same situation growing up that there’s another way besides living in the streets and selling drugs or making bad choices.”

As graduation neared, Kelly had a girlfriend and a passion, but he still didn’t have a job. That changed after what he calls “the best catch of my life.”

On Nov. 17, 2001, Kentucky lost a heartbreaker to No. 6 Tennessee, 38-35. Trailing by 7 points in the fourth quarter, Kelly caught a 62-yard touchdown pass, the only score of his college career.

Selected to do the post-game press conference, Kelly was still in his full uniform, pads and everything, when he spotted Lee Todd, the university’s president. Before addressing the reporters, Kelly approached Todd.

“Doctor Todd, I don’t know if it speaks well to the university that an engineering major in computer science graduates in three-and-a-half years and doesn’t have a job offer. I don’t know what’s going on,” Kelly told him.

It turned out that Dr. Todd had started DataBeam, which was bought by IBM. He made a few calls, and Kelly ended up working for the same company as the man in the nice car.


In his first four years after college, Kelly worked for IBM, played for the Lexington Horsemen in an indoor league, worked on his master’s degree, coached at Lexington Christian Academy and ran a camp called ‘Skills’ with his college teammate and roommate Dougie Allen, where they worked with kids on speed and conditioning.

On Sundays, Kelly would set up his television and computer so he could watch multiple NFL games at once. He took notes and analyzed the games. Stephanie noticed he would make commentary before the announcers.

At IBM, Kelly would find himself drawing up plays for his high school team. He wanted to work in the NFL, where he could follow his passion and also have the visibility to pursue running a charity.

So he began writing letters. Three times a year for four years, Kelly wrote letters to all 32 NFL teams. He told them he played in college and was “completely passionate about the game of football.” He told them about his work ethic and unique qualifications, having worked for IBM.

“I knew this was what I wanted to do,” he said.

He caught a break after being the victim of layoffs at IBM. He had stopped playing football but wanted to be involved in personnel. The Horsemen serendipitously needed a wide receivers coach and then a general manager. Kelly filled both roles.

That’s how his career in scouting began. He got to meet more NFL personnel evaluators at Pro Days and took his team to Bengals training camp, where he met Duke Tobin and Marvin Lewis.

The scout who finally offered Kelly a job, though, had recruited him to play college football at Rice a decade earlier.

“Champ’s coaches would tell me what a fine young man he was, well respected in the high school as a student, as a person. He had winner written all over him,” said Jim Goodman, who was the Broncos’ director of college scouting at the time.

Kelly got a job as a Northeast area scout, but after a year-and-a-half, he impressed the Broncos enough that they wanted him in Denver to help with the evaluation process.

“He was a guy that left no stone unturned,” said former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan. “He’s a tireless worker. Great character. It’s hard to find those guys. He had a great feel for players. Everything you look for in a guy.”

He had accomplished another lofty goal, making it into an NFL scouting department, but before Kelly could truly give his all to his job, his family, and his charity, he had to forgive.


“You forgive and let go of all that angers you, all that’s tying you down, that’s holding you back, that’s clenching your fists. You let that go, and now you’re able to truly experience life, where you could give without expecting anything back, and you learn what your true purpose is,” Kelly said.

For him, forgiving his mother began at a gas station in Lexington.

One night in college, Kelly was pumping gas at a Shell station at the intersection of Red Mile Road and Broadway when it started raining. Two women who had walked to the station asked him for a ride. When they got in the car, they asked to be driven to the women’s center at the local Salvation Army.

They were addicts and talked to him about their children.

After sharing with the women that his mother was also an addict, Kelly said, “I don’t understand how you can say you love your child and you want to do all of this for your child, but you obviously don’t love him more than you love your addition.”

“Honestly, the only thing that got your mother coming back was you,” one of the women said in response. “That addiction was such a sickness, such a craving, we can’t even explain it. We love our kids. It’s a true sickness.”

Kelly said it took that insight to help him understand Marcia’s sickness, and “the immense love that she had for me allowed her to come back.”

Marcia was bed ridden for most of her final year of life. She was small in stature, Kelly said, “but she was feisty. … It didn’t take her long to let you know you weren’t going to walk over her. She raised me the same way. Don’t take junk from anybody. This world’s not going to give you anything. You’ve got to be tough.”’

Marcia’s kidneys ultimately failed her, likely a result of a staph infection.

“She couldn’t fight anymore,” Kelly said.

Marcia died at the age of 46. Before she did, she told her son, “Champ, I’m sorry. I wasn’t the mother that you deserved. But I want you to know that I loved you with everything in my body,”

“She owned up to her mistakes,” Kelly said. “She did love me and she showed me strength through her death.”

Kelly said forgiving his mother was “probably the best thing and the hardest thing, but also probably the biggest showing of strength that you could have.”

“[Marcia] really encouraged Champ,” said Allen, Kelly's best friend. “I can see how her memory lives on through him and the type of person he is, and how he tries to influence other people’s lives around him.”

Kelly’s father, Michael, “cleaned up his act” when Kelly was in high school and is a bigger part of his son’s life now.

“I want him to be a grandfather for my three little girls,” he said.

Kelly takes his three daughters Claire (5), Chloe (3) and Carolina (6 months) to Campbellton to stay with his grandmother every year in the house where he grew up. They’ll also take the 20-minute drive to Dothan, Ala. to visit his father and cousins.

“I want [my daughters] to experience and understand that part of their life, their history as well,” Kelly said. “Being in an interracial relationship, you have to be intentional. We live in the suburbs, we don’t even run across many minority people up here sometimes. I have to be intentional about making sure my girls understand this side of where they come from.”


Last week’s C.H.A.M.P. camp took place at Tates Creek High School in Lexington, one mile from Honey Jay Court, where 19-year-old Devontae Edwards was shot and killed on May 28.

Edwards was found in the backyard of a home with multiple gunshot wounds. His death is under investigation and no arrest has been made.

Edwards was Kelly’s cousin, and a former participant in the camps. As challenging as it is for Kelly to talk about his past to kids, this was “extremely difficult.”

“I told the coaches the night before about Devontae to signify the significance of having this camp and having a chance to try to impact the life,” he said. “That’s a tragic, tangible example of what can happen, and it happens so frequently and so often around this country.

“…This situation is a touchy topic for me. I think it’s really imperative that we stop talking and start acting to remedy this,” Kelly continued. “It was my family this time, it could be yours the next, or it may have already been yours. That’s how bad it is now. My childhood wasn’t ideal, but what these kids are facing now is on another level.”

Kelly says that, when he was growing up, kids fought. Now, they shoot.

“I don’t even think they understand mortality,” he said. “They feel that life is not finite, that they will live on forever.”

That’s where Kelly hopes his camps, with football players and coaches volunteering to teach the game and offer an outlet, can show kids the right path.

“This only comes from kids seeing, feeling, witnessing and experiencing authentic love for them, and that’s what we try to provide at our camps,” he said. “We want them to see us celebrate their successes on the field, but we also want them to see us choke up and almost become vulnerable and cry when we talk about our path to where we’ve come.”

Allen said that Kelly “takes whatever the world throws at him and makes the best out of it and survives and thrives through that. … It’s hard for a lot of people to go through life, and he goes through some pretty difficult and tough situations and still smiles and keeps that faith.”

Kelly prepared notes to talk about his life and his camps. The attention-to-detail scout for the Bears didn’t want to leave anything out. He admits feeling vulnerable doing interviews about his personal life, but he knows the impact it could have.

“I talk about my past because I’m hoping there is some kid that is sitting in my situation right now who is looking for hope,” he said, “looking for an example of a way to get out.”

The man at the gas station showed the boy on the bike an example of a way out, a way to avoid becoming what he saw. This weekend, Kelly will return to the dirt roads in the Florida panhandle, and the kids at his camp will be able to see someone they can aspire to be.

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This is a partial story from our 2017 Pro Football Weekly NFL Fantasy Magazine, including in-depth scouting reports for all 32 teams; our "Super 50," the NFL's elite, ranked overall and by position; fantasy football 2017 Draft board and so much more. Order your copy, bundled with the 2017 Pro Football Weekly Preview Guide here to read the rest.

After selecting league MVP Matt Ryan as a sleeper and Carson Palmer as a bust in this space last season, we're inclined to first grab an icepack for our back after patting it so hard, then use some of the same dart-throwing methods again: age/injury concerns and tenuous depth chart alterations continue to be our biggest hints at potential busts.

Busts usually qualify as as busts because they've had either a history of fantasy success, or ridiculous expectations heading into the current season, driving up their perceived ranking. One of fantasy's mightiest passers in 2016 and the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year are hard passes for us this year.

We place an increased emphasis this season on the coaches who play a big hand in fantasy success and failure, and we didn't shy away from tabbing some busts from good teams. Remember, the Falcons were a bad team two years ago, the Cardinals on the doorstep of the Super Bowl, and as always the case in the NFL, change happens quickly and often without notice.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants

Shiny toys are great, and we love the potential of rookie Evan Engram and veteran Brandon Marshall in this offense. We loathe the Giants' failure to earnestly address Manning's offensive line, which received just one unremarkable upgrade — former Chargers first-round flameout D.J. Fluker. The Giants think Manning's dud of a 2016, when fantasy's QB21 posted a measly 6.4 yards per attempt — his lowest since 2007 — and 26 touchdowns (tied for the second-lowest total since 2012), was on him as much or more than his blocking. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the 36-year-old who still lacks a dependable edge blocker and lead back.

Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals

Given the choice in recent years between drafting Hill or Giovani Bernard, fantasy owners may have preferred betting on a Bengals playoff win, or Adam "Pacman" Jones completing anger management lessons, before either. Now, Hill is coming off another plodding sub-4.0 YPC campaign, masked by his gaudy goal-line plunge production, and Cincinnati's offensive line has gone from Achilles' heel in 2016 to likely state of emergency without Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth. Speaking of red flags, controversial second-round RB Joe Mixon is a Bengal now — surprised? — so Hill and the rest of the team's volatility somehow increases even further. In this magazine, Mixon is the given the slight edge to be the most impactful of the Bengals' backs, but no telling who eventually wears the crown.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers

It's certainly possible the NFL's reigning touchdown receptions leader, now two years removed from ACL surgery, regains the explosion that was clearly missing a season ago (13.0 YPC was his lowest since 2010). It seems more likely that, at age 32, Nelson's days as a dominant downfield weapon are numbered. Moreover, with the arrival of free agent TEs Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, both viable threats in the red area where Nelson remained unstoppable, the likelihood he snares double-digit touchdowns for the fourth time in his past six healthy seasons decreases. As Davante Adams continues to ascend, and Randall Cobb aims for a rebound, Nelson, because of his unrivaled rapport with Aaron Rodgers, likely will be drafted higher than he should be.

Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

Unlike the Titans' arrow, decidely pointing up, Walker's may be slowly reversing course. He caught a career-high seven touchdowns last season, but Walker's yardage total dipped to a three-year low — he logged at least 55 yards just once in the final seven games, after doing so in 17 of his previous 24 — and he turns 33 before his 13th season opens. Tennessee also lost one of the game's better blocking tight ends, Anthony Fasano, potentially increasing Walker's onus in that area, and spent the fifth overall pick and some June free-agent cash on fellow inside power players, Corey Davis and Eric Decker, respectively.

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This is a partial story from our 2017 Pro Football Weekly NFL Fantasy Magazine, including in-depth scouting reports for all 32 teams; our "Super 50," the NFL's elite, ranked overall and by position; fantasy football 2017 Draft board and so much more. Order your copy, bundled with the 2017 Pro Football Weekly Preview Guide here to read the rest.

After selecting league MVP Matt Ryan as a sleeper and Carson Palmer as a bust in this space last season, we're inclined to first grab an icepack for our back after patting it so hard, then use some of the same dart-throwing methods again: offensive continuity and/or familarity, offseason improvements and strong finishes again helped us identify sleepers.

We focus on sleepers who can be found once the core of your club is intact — think Round 5 and beyond — and don't reccomend trying to trying to find lightning in a bottle too early, where it's harder to rebound if you miss.

We place a big emphasis this season on the coaches who play a big hand in fantasy success and failure, and we didn't shy away from tabbing some sleepers on bad teams; remember, the Falcons were a bad team two years ago, the Cardinals on the doorstep of a Super Bowl, and is always the case in the NFL, change happens quickly and often without notice.

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers

Few individuals in the NFL received more reinforcements this offseason than Winston. After getting the much-needed speed threat, DeSean Jackson, to prevent defenses from shading toward Mike Evans, Winston's arsenal added perhaps the Draft's best TE prospect in a decade, O.J. Howard. Winston finished his sophomore campaign as QB16 with Jacquizz Rodgers as his RB1 and Adam Humphries as his WR2. Now, Doug Martin is back, and it's an odd year so look out. Jackson and Howard give Winston, who loves looking deep, targets in every part of the field. A young O-line had another offseason to gel and could add $19 million guard J.R. Sweezy, who missed his first year with the Bucs with a back injury. Indeed, it's all in front of Winston — likely including too many fantasy QBs on your draft board lacking his Year 3 upside.

Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots

Bill Belichick spent the offseason collecting running backs like they're Super Bowl rings. For fantasy owners, already loath to guess Belichick's backfield pecking order, that may seem as cruel a joke as 'Deflategate.' The air may quickly come out of the sails for Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and James White. Not Gillislee, the new and improved LeGarrette Blount, whose RB7 finish last season was the highest by a Patriots back in more than a decade. Like Chris Hogan a year earlier, Gillislee was poached by Belichick in restricted free agency from the Bills, and he's another superb fit in a deadly offense given his touchdown propensity (12 career end zone trips on just 169 touches) and sneaky juice.

Cameron Meredith, WR, Bears

One pro scouting director called Meredith the future of the Bears' WR corps last December, as Chicago's decision on Alshon Jeffery still looomed and Kevin White was recovering from a second broken leg in as many NFL seasons. He lacks the speed to run away from defenders — that's White's forte, at least before his injuries — but Meredith's rise from backup college QB to Chicago's most reliable receiving threat has been rapid and impressive. In addition to being adaptable, Meredith quietly has demonstrated big-play ability, particularly in the Bears' catch-and-run offense, as evidenced by a respectable 16 of his first 77 career grabs counting as the explosive variety.

Julius Thomas, TE, Dolphins

Thomas found the end zone a combined 24 times over two seasons in 2013-14; only Jimmy Graham was more prolific among tight ends. The question is, was that the result of Thomas finally being healthy and working with a Hall of Fame quarterback, or is Adam Gase just that good. Ryan Tannehill will never be confused with Peyton Manning or Dan Marino, and Thomas' durability concerns at age 29 aren't going away, so it must be Gase. Miami's passing game lacks an elite red-zone threat, and Thomas, healthy enough for Miami to choose over Branden Albert ahead of a draft loaded with tight ends, has always been that.

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When Champ Kelly and his wife Stephanie drove from Denver to Kentucky for their wedding, Heart Power Inc. was born.

“The whole drive across Kansas, he’s talking about his vision and how he wants to set it up,” Stephanie said with a laugh.

Kelly had been in the Broncos’ scouting department and finally had the platform to build the type of charity he had dreamed of while growing up on the dirt roads in rural Campbellton, Fla.

During the road trip, Kelly called his high school coach Rob Armstrong to lay out the plans. Then he talked with Dougie Allen, his best friend and former roommate, as the two loved to do work in the community together back in Lexington.

“Heart Power” comes from a Vince Lombardi quote that resonated with Kelly.

“The intense focus that once you decide what you want to do, nothing can stop you short of success. Basically what that quote says,” he said. “That's the heart power. I want those kids that we're able to come in contact with to know that if they set their goal and their focus on something greater than themselves, that nothing can stop them. They can get there.”

He didn’t necessarily want the football camps to have his name on it, but C.H.A.M.P. stands for Character, Heart, Attitude, Motivation and Pride, so it was the clear winner. The free camps took place this month in Lexington and Panama City, Fla.

“We want these kids to have the opportunity to see something other than their current environment,” said Kelly. “Some kids are only around alcoholics and drug dealers and negative environments. We want them to be in a place where they’re going to get people devoting their time and investing in them who are all successful in all different genres and walks of life.”

Coaches volunteer their time for the camps, which can host 250 kids. Stephanie helps organize lodging for the coaches and all the meals. Champ helps recruit the coaches and runs the football portion of the camps along with Allen and other former coaches and players.

When the Bears hired Ryan Pace in 2015, Kelly got the opportunity to move up in the front-office hierarchy. Now the team’s director of pro scouting, Kelly continues to balance the busy life of an NFL scout with his charity.

“We all have busy lives and a lot of demands on our time but I give Champ credit how he has made it a point to keep his charity a constant even as he has grown and achieved success across the NFL,” Pace said.

There are only a few weeks a year when the NFL world truly quiets down, and Kelly uses two of them for the C.H.A.M.P. camps.

Armstrong, whose children attend the camps, has heard Kelly speak about what he went through. It’s the message of perseverance that sticks with the high school football coach.

“You weren’t going to beat him in the classroom, you weren’t going to beat him on the field, you weren’t going to beat him in a talking contest. He would win that too,” Armstrong said. “That’s just the kind of person he is.”

The hope in the Kelly family is to one day expand the camps to the Chicago area, and Kelly knows he would have the support of the organization and Bears fans.

“One of the reasons I love this organization and I love being here is we are so community minded, and that stems from the top, the McCaskey-Halas family,” Kelly said. “That love for the community and the city, it's tangible inside of this building. You feel it. Once we do get rolling, there's no telling what we'll be able to accomplish.”

To learn more about Heart Power and the C.H.A.M.P. Camps, go to heartpowerinc.org

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BOSTON (AP) — A person familiar with the situation says the New England Patriots have agreed to terms on a deal with former New York Jets linebacker David Harris.

The new two-year pact could be worth as much as $6.75 million, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the deal has not yet been announced.

Harris, a 2007 second-round pick from Michigan who has spent all 10 of his NFL seasons in New York, was released earlier this month by the Jets in a series of offseason moves to cut high-priced veterans. He was the franchise's second-leading tackler.

He now moves within the division to play for Bill Belichick, who has lauded Harris' play in the past. It also gives the Patriots some veteran depth to pair with Dont'a Hightower.


For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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HONOLULU (AP) — Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Letroy Guion has been charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicant in Hawaii.

Honolulu police booking records show Guion was arrested early Wednesday in Waikiki. He was released after posting $500 bail.

Packers spokesman Aaron Popkey said in a statement that the team is aware and will refrain from making further comment because it's a legal matter.

Guion's agent, Seth Katz, declined to comment on the arrest. He said Guion was on vacation in Hawaii and Wednesday was his birthday.

Guion started 15 games last season, making 30 tackles. The nine-year veteran agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.25 million in February 2016.

He was suspended without pay by the NFL for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.


For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Suffice to say, Derek Carr's first return to a real NFL game later this summer will be a lot happier than his last exit from one.

Carr agreed to terms on a record-breaking five-year, $125 million extension through 2022 Thursday, less than six months after his broken fibula on Christmas Eve ended his MVP-caliber third season and the Raiders' best shot at returning to the Super Bowl in nearly a decade-and-a-half.

Carr's average annual salary of $25 million is $406,000 more than Andrew Luck's, making him —for now — the NFL's highest-paid player. The deal is expected to include $70 million guaranteed, which would trail league-wide only the $87 million Indianapolis promised Luck.

"Now it's done! From the jump I've wanted to be a Raider 4 life. One step closer to that! Blessed!!! Business done! Let's just play now!!!" Carr tweeted Thursday after news of the deal, which ESPN's Adam Schefter hinted Wednesday was nearly complete, broke.

Carr, 26, was the 36th overall player selected in 2014. He tossed 28 touchdowns to six interceptions last season, his second Pro Bowl campaign, leading the Raiders with his clutch ways (seven fourth-quarter comebacks, No. 2 in NFL history) to a 10-3 mark and their first playoff appearance since 2002.

Carr's value to Oakland, however, was never more apparent than after his broken leg, as the Raiders, who promptly lost backup Matt McGloin to injury one week later, were dismantled by Houston in the playoffs behind overmatched fourth-round rookie Connor Cook.

Now, one of the NFL's brightest futures under center has been secured by the Raiders, who'll look to complete their Super Bowl quest before relocating to Las Vegas in 2020. With another record extension looming, for reigning defensive MVP Khalil Mack, the Raiders will bring to Vegas one of the league's highest-rolling QBs and pass rushers. That's a potentially special formula, but it also increases the onus on Reggie McKenzie to continue a recent hot streak in the draft that's netted OG Gabe Jackson, DL Mario Edwards, Jr., and DBs Karl Joseph, Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu in addition to Carr and Mack.

McKenzie spent wildly in free agency the past two offseasons to land Osemele, Bruce Irvin, Michael Crabtree and Rodney Hudson, to name, a few, before taking a measured approach this spring with the Carr and Mack extensions imminent. It could take as much as $70 million guaranteed — the same promise Denver made Von Miller — to lock up Mack, so add cap creativity to McKenzie's list of priorities next to continued draft success.

Of course, having a franchise quarterback and one of the NFL's most electrifying young offenses can mask plenty of deficiencies, as we saw a year ago prior to Carr going down. The Raiders' plan is to ensure Carr isn't going anywhere other than Oakland and Las Vegas for a long time.

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This is a partial story from our 2017 Pro Football Weekly NFL Preview Magazine, including in-depth scouting reports for all 32 teams; our "Super 50," the NFL's elite, ranked overall and by position; fantasy football 2017 Draft board and so much more. Order your copy, bundled with the 2017 Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide, here to read the rest.


After pulling off the most dramatic Super Bowl comeback ever, Bill Belichick's Patriots orchestrated perhaps the most aggressive and unorthodox offseason we've seen by a defending Super Bowl champion. Largely eschewing the typical growing pains that accompany replenishing via the draft —New England's four-man class is the smallest by a reigning champ in the common Draft era—he used unrestricted free agency (CB Stephon Gilmore), restricted free agency (RB Mike Gillislee) and, most notably, the trade market (WR Brandin Cooks, DE Kony Ealy, TEs Dwayne Allen and James O'Shaughnessy) to buoy Tom Brady, 40 and seemingly still improving, and his constantly evolving roster.

Indeed, Belichick essentially made every trade but the one we all expected — backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady told owner Robert Kraft he plans to play six or seven more years. Meantime, Belichick geared up for their 18th season together like it's their last.


Only twice in Super Bowl history has the previous year's loser held a parade after the next season — and neither the 1971 Cowboys, '72 Dolphins, nor arguably any other club, suffered a loss nearly as stunning as squandering a 28-3 lead midway through the third quarter. Coach Dan Quinn's Falcons have a lot going for them, including the return of reigning MVP Matt Ryan and the most prolific offense since "The Greatest Show on Turf." Quinn's 'D,' after getting the most mileage from its rookie class of any club in nearly four decades, clearly is talented and ascending, and may have added the missing piece in fiery first-round pass rusher Takk McKinley.

Yet, Ryan's offense lost Assistant Coach of the Year, now-49ers boss Kyle Shanahan, and Atlanta fired defensive coordinator Richard Smith. One more minor change: the Falcons are cutting the ribbon on their brand new home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. So much for continuity.


Just 12 miles separates the Los Angeles Coliseum, temporary home of the relocated Rams, and 30,000-seat StubHub Center, where the Chargers will call home before co-tenanting in Rams owner Stan Kroenke's Inglewood palace, set to open in 2020.

A pair of rookie head coaches — the Rams' Sean McVay, at 31 the youngest in NFL history; and the Bolts' Anthony Lynn, a longtime running backs coach who parlayed a season as coordinator into his new post — take over last-place clubs vying for the loyalty of Los Angelenos, who've historically failed to support one NFL franchise, much less two. The Chargers appear closer to competing, with Philip Rivers finally getting the support he needs this offseason and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa catalyzing a sneakily talented 'D.' Kroenke took a critical step toward increasing the Rams' credibility by firing Jeff Fisher. McVay tabbed renowned defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, nearly four decades the head coach's senior, and he brings a wealth of knowledge and inherits Aaron Donald and a destructive front seven potentially portending another swift turnaround.

Then there are the Raiders, set to abandon Oakland for Las Vegas — but not until 2019. Will their old fans turn out to watch a potential Super Bowl contender? Will McVay and Lynn succeed in their quest to re-brand and rebuild simultaneously?


2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year Ezekiel Elliott, selected fourth overall, led the NFL in rushing as a rookie. No. 2 on the list? Fellow 2016 rookie Jordan Howard, plucked by Chicago 146 picks, and nine backs, later. Fast-forward a year. The Jaguars and Panthers made Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey the fourth and eighth overall picks, respectively — equaling the total of top-10 backs in the past four drafts combined.

The Raiders lured Marshawn Lynch from retirement, while New Orleans guaranteed Adrian Peterson, the NFL's second-active leading rusher and future first ballot Hall of Famer, $3.5 million after Minnesota declined his option. The Saints also have former first-rounder Mark Ingram, coming off his finest season, and sent a 2018 second-rounder to the Niners to move up nine spots for Alvin Kamara. The Vikings signed Latavius Murray (3 years, $15 million) to replace Adrian Peterson then spent a second-rounder to end first-round talent Dalvin Cook's slide. Is the RB position really devalued? Depends which team you ask. Is it as important as ever? No question.


Adding another character risk, second-round RB Joe Mixon, doesn't figure to buy additional time for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. The NFL's second-longest tenured coach, and No. 1 on our offseason coaching bubble list, is coming off a 6-9-1 campaign, Cincinnati's first season since 2010 missing the playoffs, where Lewis is 0-7 as a head coach. Lewis didn't get his annual one-year extension; he's officially a lame duck.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano and rookie GM Chris Ballard have an arranged marriage — for now. Even amid a rebuild, with franchise passer Andrew Luck and an annually disappointing 'D' that received a serious talent influx, Pagano may not be able to afford a third straight postseason no-show.

Chicago's John Fox, 9-27 through two seasons, just saw his young and emboldened GM Ryan Pace punt on 2017. Pace traded up for the No. 2 overall pick, Mitch Trubisky, who's due for a redshirt year behind $18.5 million bridge builder Mike Glennon.

Todd Bowles' job security beyond 2017 could be tied to a Jets QB room anchored by Josh McCown and Christian Hackenberg.


We couldn't be more impressed with the offseasons of Cleveland and San Francisco, but which last-place clubs with fewer holes to fill did the best work closing their divisional gaps? Remember, the rise of a bottom dweller is practically an annual occurrence in the NFL. How about Philadelphia and Carolina, both taking a page from the Bill Polian handbook of surrounding their franchise passers with talented targets. Carson Wentz received two big-play free-agent WRs, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and a trio of explosive mid-rounders to open up the offense, allowing Howie Roseman to spend his biggest draft resources to restock the defense.

The Panthers' stop-unit started regaining its dominance after a tough opening to its 2015 conference title defense. Thus, David Gettleman invested early in two of the more dangerous space players in the draft, McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, for Cam Newton, whose efficiency, and durability, spiraled following his MVP 2015 campaign.

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