AP Photo/Chris CarlsonChargers first-round pick Mike Williams (7) has been forced to watch during most of the team's offseason program due to a back injury.

SAN DIEGO -- Injured on the first day of rookie minicamp 12 days ago, Los Angeles Chargers first-round pick Mike Williams did not practice for a second straight week due to tightness in his back.

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters on Tuesday that he's hopeful the rookie receiver can return to the field next week, but with less than a month left in the team's offseason program, the Clemson product's development is taking a hit.

"I'd like to see him out there next week because he's getting behind right now, and we've got to get him back out on the field," Lynn said. "If he wasn't a rookie it would be different. But he has so much to learn, and some of this you can only learn on the field."

Lynn said receivers coach Nick Sirianni is helping Williams stay prepared with work in the meeting room, along with keeping him appraised with what's happening on the field during team drills.

Still, Lynn said Williams is missing out on important, physical reps on the field with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, including making route adjustments and adapting to a changing defense on the run.

"Obviously, it's nothing he can't catch up on," Rivers said. "But this to me is valuable time, especially at his position. With all of the things we ask for from our receivers formation-wise and all of the things we do like no-huddle, it would be good for him to be out there doing this.

"Hopefully, it's sooner rather than later. But obviously he's involved in the meetings and everything, so it's nothing he can't get caught up on when we get to (training) camp, or hopefully before then. But certainly it would be good to have him out there."

While Williams has not practiced, someone who has looked good just seven months removed from ACL knee surgery is No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen, who made a handful of nice catches during team drills.

"He's making all of the cuts, but he's been looking that way for the last month and a half," Lynn said. "And now we just implemented him in team (drills), and he looks good.

"We still have to limit him a little bit. He wants to be out there every play, but we've got to protect him from himself. But he's a competitor."

Lynn said receiver Dontrelle Inman's need for core surgery recently came as somewhat of a surprise, but the team is hopeful to get him back healthy by the start training camp at the end of July.

"We thought it was best he go ahead and get this taken care of now, so that we're not dealing with this during the season," Lynn said.

TAMPA, Fla. -- It might not be a starting gig, but new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is embracing the opportunity to be Jameis Winston's backup. The two have known each other for less than 48 hours, but Fitzpatrick already sees things heading in the right direction.

“There’s a reality to the NFL, which, especially at quarterback ... there are 32 guys that get to go in as a starter, and I didn’t have that option," said Fitzpatrick, who last week signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $3 million. "I looked at different situations. [The Bucs] are a team, I think, [that are] going to be really good this year."

After a team outing at Top Golf on Monday, Fitzpatrick joined the Bucs for their first OTA practice Tuesday. He was particularly impressed with the way Winston interacted with teammates and his love of football. He said he hopes he can be a second set of eyes for Winston out on the field and in the film room for game preparation.

Al Bello/Getty ImagesRyan Fitzpatrick said he looks forward to working with and sharing some of his experiences with Bucs starting quarterback Jameis Winston.

"In terms of preparation and leadership and all those things, he's got something really special about him," Fitzpatrick said. "You can tell that right away."

Fitzpatrick said he also understands that, as the undisputed starter and franchise quarterback, Winston has to take the lead in their relationship.

"There’s a lot of things that I’m gonna see or start talking to him about," Fitzpatrick said. "If he doesn’t want to listen to them, he doesn’t have to or he can tell me to stop. There’s a lot of things you can’t learn unless you actually experience it. And so maybe help him avoid a lot of the mistakes I’ve made in my career, or even just a few of them. I think that’s part of my job here."

Winston has been very receptive to getting feedback from Fitzpatrick.

"I’m a learner, so whatever Ryan has to tell me, it’s something that I don’t know, so I am going to listen to him," Winston said. "He’s probably had other guys that shooed him away. I’m going to listen to him. This guy’s been in this league for a long time. I’m happy to have him here. I think it’s going to work in our advantage to have a guy like that here, so I am looking forward to working with him.”

Winston didn't have a true on-field mentor his first two seasons in the league. The Bucs' previous backup, Mike Glennon, still was learning the ropes of the league himself.

“It’s like having another coach there because of the experience that he’s had," Winston said. "It’s different being coached by someone who’s played the game, physically played in the NFL and someone who hasn’t played in the NFL, but now you have another coach beside you. So his experience is going to mean a lot to us.”

At 34, Fitzpatrick has been a backup and a starter. He has had to learn a handful of different offenses and has seen every kind of defense. He has been on a New York Jets team that had 10 wins and was on the brink of reaching the playoffs two years ago. He also has been on some very bad teams, such as the one that went 5-11 last season, with his struggles playing a major role in it.

Meanwhile, Winston, who is just 23, went 6-10 his rookie season and 9-7 last year. He's on the right track.

“I’m not gonna tell him how to throw a football," Fitzpatrick said. "He was the No. 1 [draft] pick for a reason. He knows how to throw a football. I’m not gonna tell him how to interact with anybody. He has his own personality, which I think is great for this team and for these guys."

Richard Cashin/Icon SportswireWhen he's healthy, Rob Gronkowski is the game's top tight end and the Patriots rewarded him for that appropriately by restructuring his contract.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When it comes to contractual dealings, the New England Patriots are often shrewd with how they use leverage to their advantage. Specifically, when they have leverage on their side, many agents have relayed that it can be challenging to get the team to budge.

This is a big part of what makes Tuesday's revised contract for tight end Rob Gronkowski so notable.

The Patriots weren't obligated to do anything. In addition, Gronkowski is coming off an injury-shortened season that further lessened his own leverage.

Yet the club revised the 2017 portion of Gronkowski's deal -- giving him a chance to increase his earnings based on playing time or performance -- without touching the final two years of 2018 and 2019, per agent Drew Rosenhaus (and as reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter).

That's a rare precedent for the team to set at a time when it had all the leverage on its side.

But at the same time, high-ranking club officials might counter by saying Gronkowski is a rare player who has regularly played by the team's rules when it comes to his contract (e.g. no holdouts, no public discord etc.). When healthy, he's the game's top tight end, and he is also a difference-maker in the community as one of the most popular Patriots of all-time.

So on the surface, this appears to be the often-hard-line-at-the-negotiating-table Patriots doing Gronkowski a solid, while possibly looking to keep relations solid in the coming years if the sides revisit an extension past 2019.

We often hear about teams asking players to take pay cuts, but it's a bit rare to see this: A club willingly revising a rehabbing player's contract that has three years remaining on it to give him a chance to earn more money.

It's another layer to the often unique dynamics between the Patriots and Gronkowski.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets are calling it an open competition at quarterback. Whatever. We know how this will turn out.

It'll go like it did Tuesday on the first day of OTAs, with well-traveled veteran Josh McCown in the starting role.

McCown received the majority of the first-team reps in team drills, and he demonstrated vocal leadership and a solid command of the offense. There were a few hiccups, including an interception, but it was a workmanlike first day. For those into stats, he completed 11 of 16 passes unofficially.

Josh McCownEd Mulholland/USA Today SportsJosh McCown showed vocal leadership and a solid command of the offense on a workmanlike first day of practice.

Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg were the Nos. 2 and 3 quarterbacks, respectively. In fact, Hackenberg worked exclusively on the far field during team drills -- they practiced on two fields simultaneously -- so it was difficult to get a read on his debut. He threw at least one interception.

The quarterbacks will rotate throughout the nine remaining OTA practices, with each getting an equal shot to work with the starters.

"We're giving everybody a great opportunity to show themselves and see if they can be the starter," offensive coordinator John Morton said.

Coach Todd Bowles said it's "wide-open" and declined to provide a timetable for when he will name a starter. It probably won't be until the preseason. He said he needs to see his candidates perform in games before making a decision.

"Obviously, you want to see them start to separate at some point," Bowles said. "It's going to come down to playing in games. As far as getting more reps in practice as we go, we'll see what happens."

In other words, Bowles might pare it down to a two-man competition at some point. Ideally, he'd like to have a front-runner for the start of training camp. That way, he can give that player the majority of the first-team reps to prepare him for the season.

Something tells me McCown will win by a TKO. Not only is he familiar with their West Coast-based offense, but he's also a natural leader and has been well-received in the locker room. He's embracing his role as a mentor to Hackenberg and Petty and sharing his experiences from early in his career. This is McCown's 10th team, so, yeah, he could tell some stories.

"When I'm talking to Christian and I'm talking to Bryce, I feel like I'm talking to myself back then," the 37-year-old McCown said. "That's what I want to share with them and make their journeys better."

Hackenberg and Petty were unavailable to the media. The Jets are restricting access to the quarterbacks the next four weeks, limiting them to two sessions apiece over the six days of media availability.

Alshon JefferyThomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesAlshon Jeffery put up disappointing numbers with the Bears last season but already looks like a dangerous option for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

PHILADELPHIA -- The first thing you notice when looking out onto the Philadelphia Eagles' practice field is the new-look receiving corps.

As Carson Wentz commanded the offense during Tuesday's first day of OTAs, he was flanked by the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Alshon Jeffery and burner Torrey Smith -- two of the Eagles' top free-agent acquisitions in an offseason dedicated to bolstering the support system around the young quarterback. Tuesday was the first time that Wentz was able to test his new weapons out against an opposing defense. While there were a couple glitches along the way, he got a taste of what his new wideouts bring to the table -- particularly Jeffery.

In one sequence, Wentz took a quick drop and fired an intermediate pass to Jeffery that was a little high-and-outside. With linebacker Mychal Kendricks quickly descending on the play, Jeffery extended his long arms and snatched the ball out of mid-air, prompting Kendricks to slap his hands together in frustration.

"It's been great with him," said Wentz of Jeffery. "He plays on-time, he knows what he is doing. His catch radius is impressive; that's the first thing that jumps out at me. So I'm just looking forward to continuing to build on that relationship."

The receivers did Wentz no favors his rookie season, finishing second-to-last in receiving yards (1,849) and tops in drop percentage (5.8), per ESPN Stats & Information. So the Eagles' front office went out and inked Jeffery (1 year, upwards of $14 million) and Smith (3 years, $15 million) then drafted North Carolina's Mack Hollins and West Virginia's Shelton Gibson in the middle rounds. With a good amount of firepower now on the offensive side of the ball, things should open up for all parties involved.

"I expect Alshon to have a big year," said Smith. " You can't double-team everyone. So for myself and Alshon and really the whole receiving corps, when you have speed on the outside, Alshon obviously plays the way he plays the game -- he can stretch the field and he's a big body -- you have [tight end Zach] Ertz inside, Jordan [Matthews] in the slot, teams are going to have to pick their matchups."

Jeffery, who served a four-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drugs policy in 2016, is coming off a down year by his standards. Working with three different Bears quarterbacks, he found the end zone just twice and finished with 52 catches for 821 yards. The expectation is that he will re-establish himself as one of the league's best receivers while working on a one-year prove-it deal and alongside a young QB in Wentz who could very well blossom in Year 2, especially now that he has some quality playmakers at his disposal.

"I think this offseason, the approach has been great," said Wentz. "I think we've added on both sides of the ball guys that can help us both in free agency, through the draft. I'll tell you one thing: I love the guys in that locker room, and I think we have a chance to do something special."

Vance JosephAP Photo/David ZalubowskiVance Joseph said his players were excited for OTAs, but they were a little "too fast."

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Usually it’s the first-year coach who’s a little too hopped up for the initial 11-on-11, offense versus defense work of the offseason.

But Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph was cool, calm and collected when he discussed his team’s need to dial it back a bit.

"Even walk-throughs, it was even too fast," Joseph said. "They’re excited to be here."

A few moments later, Joseph added: "It’s a team that’s not satisfied with what happened last year … it makes my job easy when it comes to motivating this football team."

The Broncos had their first of 10 allowable OTA practices Tuesday. Those practices are part of "Phase 3" of the offseason program. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, practices in Phase 3 can include the first offense versus defense on-field drills of the offseason.

The players are in helmets, jerseys and shorts -- no pads -- and no intentional contact is allowed. That includes 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 team drills.

At one point in Tuesday’s practice, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who was going for an interception, jumped over wide receiver Demaryius Thomas' back in what turned into a collision.

"I did not (expect that kind of collision)," Joseph said with a smile. "It’s against the rules; we don’t that. We want 10 practices where we get better but we don’t lose anyone. … We’re stressing staying off the ground, taking care of each other, but guys get competitive, they want to make plays. We’ve got to do a better job of that (Wednesday)."

Aaron RodgersAP Photo/Matt LudtkeAaron Rodgers said that new tight end Martellus Bennett "brings a different type of attitude" that he hopes rubs off on the Packers.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Confidence wouldn’t seem to be a problem for a team that made it to the NFC Championship Game last season, but it sounds like Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers believes that could be one of the missing ingredients for a return to the Super Bowl.

And Rodgers thinks new tight end Martellus Bennett brings just that.

Bennett won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots last season and then signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Packers in the early stages of free agency this offseason.

“He brings a different type of attitude,” Rodgers said Tuesday following an OTA practice. “He is a very interesting person. He's got a lot of great interests. He cares about football. He cares about dominating. He brings that grit and that attitude to the field where he wants to dominate the guy over him, whether he's blocking or catching passes. And I think he's going to bring some extreme confidence to the locker room, which we need."

The outgoing and outspoken Bennett seemed taken aback by Rodgers’ comments.

“Aaron said that about me? That was nice,” Bennett said. “I don't know what he means by confidence. I feel I'm a good-looking guy, different things like that. I mean overall, I talk to a lot of the guys all the time, conversations. I don't know, I think you just hope it rubs off on the other guys, [so you] recognize, compliment guys, pushing them to get better, letting them know 'Hey, that was a great catch. Good job. Hey, I really like that.' Or 'Hey, man how'd you do that? Show me how you did it.'

“So it's a lot of questions and a lot of, you know, you want to water other people's gardens. You just don't want to tend to your own garden all the time. That's where I feel most fulfilled as a person. Sorry to get philosophical, but yeah.”

Rodgers also pointed to Bennett as one of the possible new leaders on a team that suffered some key losses in free agency. Among the departures were three playoff captains: Micah Hyde, T.J. Lang and Julius Peppers.

“You look at our captain’s photo; three of those six guys are gone,” Rodgers said. “That’s a big loss in leadership, so we need guys to step up. I think there’s some natural guys who can step up, the three-, four-, five- and six-year guys who are now given opportunities to play a bigger role for us. David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan [Burnett] is already a natural leader for us, bringing in Marty into the mix, Mike Daniels, Nick Perry, the guys who have been paid or been here a while bring that kind of clout. We need those guys to fill some voids in the leadership department.”

Our days of ridiculing the NFL for its stodgy and uptight response to harmless player celebrations are over.

For the most part.

Probably.

It's almost definite.

OK, let's go with it.

The NFL announced Tuesday that it has relaxed its rules to allow for the kind of benign celebrations that entertain fans and allow players a sense of individuality and creativity. The decision was years in the making; as the first chart shows, touchdown celebration penalties have spiked by a factor of almost 10 since 2012. Player fines have also risen accordingly, as seen in the second chart. (The figures do not reflect possible reduction or reversal on appeal.)

Still, there is a fair amount of gray area within the new guidelines. Acts that are "spontaneous displays of emotion," in the words of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, will be allowed. But demonstrations that are deemed offensive, that delay the game or are directed at opponents are still prohibited.

The informed guess here is that officials will be instructed to err on the side of fun (for once), unless and until the issue gets out of hand. How should NFL players handle it?

Let's take a closer look, with some help from the NFL's GIF-loaded announcement to fans.

YES, YOU CAN DO THIS ...

Group celebrations

In an attempt to minimize the chances for a physical confrontation, the NFL long ago banned elaborate multi-player performances that became events unto themselves. Those of us with some gray in our hair remember the Washington Redskins' "Fun Bunch." In this photo, we see an example of the St. Louis Rams' "Bob and Weave," which debuted in 1999.

Isaac Bruce & Torry HoltJames A. Finley/AP PhotoA group celebration, such as Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt gathering in the end zone, is now allowed for the 2017 NFL season.

Going to the ground

Some players had gotten around this requirement in creative ways, none better than when retired defensive end Jared Allen kept his knee one inch above the ground during his signature lasso move. In this photo, you are reminded that Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb will be allowed to go to the ground for a snow angel. (Cobb wasn't penalized for it last season, either, as the NFL began backing away from the rule even then.)

Randall CobbMike Roemer/AP PhotoPackers receiver Randall Cobb was not penalized for celebrating his touchdown catch against Houston with a snow angel in the end zone.

Use the ball as a prop

This rule was responsible for so many of the most mystifying penalties we saw in recent years. Example: Redskins tight end Vernon Davis' penalty last season for using the football as a basketball and shooting a "jump shot" over the crossbar. Now we can go back to pretending the football is a baby and rocking it. Or, as then-Cleveland Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor tried last season, using it as "chalk" to evoke NBA star LeBron James' pregame routine.

Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis AP Photo/Alex Brandon"I don't consider the ball as a prop on that one," Jay Gruden said of Vernon Davis' celebration. "I might've done the same thing, but now we know and he won't ever do it again."

NOPE, YOU STILL CAN'T DO THIS ...

Violent or offensive imagery

Players will still be penalized if they perform what can be perceived as a violent act, such as a throat slash or pretending to shoot a gun. The rule even extends to the use of an imaginary bow and arrow, as Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and New England Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks have done in the past.

Josh NormanChuck Burton/AP PhotoJosh Norman celebrates his interception with a "bow and arrow," and was penalized for the celebration in the Redskins' Week 4 game against Cleveland.

Sexually suggestive acts

For the most part, we'll leave this one to your imagination. But one to keep in mind is the "twerk" dance performed by Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. Those moves are considered suggestive and thus would still be penalized if seen.

Antonio BrownRob Carr/Getty ImagesEven with the NFL's relaxed celebration guideline, this move by Antonio Brown would still be penalized.

video

Where the next five Super Bowls will be played

May, 23, 2017
May 23
4:19
PM ET

On Tuesday, NFL owners voted to move Super Bowl LV (2021) from Los Angeles to Tampa after heavy rain fall delayed construction of L.A.'s new stadium by a year. The league granted Los Angeles Super Bowl LVI, set to be played in 2022.

Here's the list of where Super Bowls LII-LVI will be played:

Super Bowl LII (2018): U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Super Bowl LIII (2019): Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Super Bowl LIV (2020): New Miami Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Super Bowl LV (2021): Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Super Bowl LVI (2022): Rams' new stadium, Inglewood, California

Duane BrownAP Photo/Ric TapiaDuane Brown has two years remaining on his contract, but it does not include any guaranteed money.

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans left tackle Duane Brown was not at the first two days of voluntary OTAs, an absence that is thought to be contract related.

Brown has two years left on a six-year contract, but there is no more guaranteed money remaining on the deal. He is scheduled to make a base salary of $9.65 million in 2017 and $9.75 million the following season.

Because the OTAs are voluntary, he cannot be fined for not showing up. He would be subject to fines if he does not report to veteran minicamp in three weeks.

Brown, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate last season, is entering his 10th NFL season. He anchors a Texans offensive line that currently does not have a starting right tackle after the team put Derek Newton on injured reserve.

General manager Rick Smith has also said he wants to sign star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, to an extension during the offseason.

CINCINNATI -- Bengals coach Marvin Lewis isn’t cheering the NFL’s new relaxed stance on touchdown celebrations.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that the league will soften its strict policies on touchdown celebrations, allowing players to bring back group celebrations, use the football as a prop and get on the ground to celebrate. Many players complained last season about inconsistent and overly strict application of celebration penalties.

“I’m not for that at all,” Lewis, who is on the NFL Competition Committee, said of the change. “We had a good standard, and the whole standard has always been, you want to teach people how to play the game the correct way and go about it the correct way, and that’s not a very good example for young people.”

Lewis said he didn’t like the idea of emphasizing individuals in a team sport.

“The rules were changed for a reason, and I thought we had a good outcome,” he said. “Again, this is a team game, and ... I don’t understand why we want to give in to individual celebrations.”

Lewis coached Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, two players who came to define the era of “excessive celebration.” Johnson, in particular, was known for his outlandish celebrations, which included him donning a poncho and sombrero on the bench, doing a river dance, pretending to perform CPR on a football and using the pylon to putt the ball.

However, despite the numerous fines Johnson was hit with during his 10 seasons in Cincinnati, he was penalized only twice for unsportsmanlike conduct and once for taunting.

Owens, who was only in a Bengals uniform during the 2010 season, had several antics before that, including signing a football with a permanent marker, throwing popcorn in the air and running to the middle of the Dallas Cowboys star and celebrating there.video

videoFRISCO, Texas -- The NFL has decided to relax some of the rules on celebrations to allow players the chance to have some fun after big plays.

The No Fun League has decided to put some fun back into the game, provided it's tasteful, doesn't last too long and isn't directed at an opponent.

So does that mean Ezekiel Elliott can jump into the Salvation Army Red Kettle in 2017 without any retribution?

Maybe. A spokesman said the league would address these questions in the months to come.

To refresh the memory: after a 2-yard touchdown run, his 13th score of the season, in the second quarter of the Cowboys' win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Elliott raced through the end zone, hopped into the kettle and hid.

Though it might not have been spontaneous -- he said he thought about it in pregame warm-ups -- it was all in fun.

"I mean it's just sitting there right in the end zone, you know. It's the perfect celebration," Elliot said after the game. "They're one of our biggest partners, so I had to show them a little bit of love."

Elliott drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the celebration and a brief admonition from coach Jason Garrett, but ultimately the NFL opted not to fine him.

"Well, he shouldn't have done it. I thought it was creative, but he shouldn't have done it," Garrett said after the game. "You know that's how the league is going to rule on those things. You have to understand what's legal and what's not legal. You can jump into the stands in Green Bay, but you can't jump into a Salvation Army bucket in Dallas. You've got to be careful about snow angels. All of these different things that we do. So we have to be more mindful of that. I've got to coach that better."

Snow angels are now legal. Elliott's jump might be deemed OK before the season starts.

The best part of the celebration is what it did for the Salvation Army. In a little more than 12 hours after Elliott's celebration, the charity raised more than $182,000 in online donations.

Chris ThompsonJoe Robbins/Getty Images"There's nobody who's better as a third-down back" than Chris Thompson, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

ARLINGTON, Va. -- When the Washington Redskins drafted Samaje Perine, running back Chris Thompson knew what it meant for him. Not much. Thompson’s role in the Redskins’ offense is secure and, in fact, might increase. That’s the feeling he’s received early in the offseason.

As the Redskins begin organized team activities, Thompson is the one running back who knows his role. Incumbent starter Rob Kelley will battle Perine, the rookie fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, for the starting job. Regardless of who wins that competition -- and they could well split time -- Thompson will remain the third-down back. And, perhaps, then some.

“I have a feeling I might get a little more this year,” said Thompson, who is playing on a one-year contract. “I just see how the workouts and everything are going, when we’re working together as a group. I’ve gotten somewhat of a feeling just through that.”

That doesn’t mean he’ll become Washington's lead running back. Thompson, at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, has had durability issues in the past, and the Redskins don’t want to wear him out. But they also know he’ll produce. The quandary remains how to keep him fresh and productive.

That’s not to say there’s no room for more touches. Thompson’s 117 touches from scrimmage last season ranked 47th in the NFL. That’s an average of 7.3 per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he averaged 6.03 yards every time he touched the ball (5.24 on the ground; 7.12 through the air). His combined yardage total of 705 ranked 37th, but only one back ahead of him -- New England's James White -- had fewer touches.

“Chris’ role is big,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “There’s nobody who’s better as a third-down back than Chris. He has a huge role on our team. Whether he does more on first or second down will be determined. I’m sure he will. He’s so valuable on third down, I have to keep him in that role for now.”

Thompson has improved each of the last two seasons. Not coincidentally, he’s been healthy each of the last two years. After missing 12 games his first season (followed by a year spent mostly on the practice squad), Thompson has missed only three games in the last two seasons. It makes a difference in the offseason as well, allowing him to work on his game rather than rehab.

“It helps me focus on little things I needed to work on, like my quickness, my route-running,” Thompson said, “I know my route-running is big for me to make it in this league. I worked on that a lot. That was my biggest focus now that I didn’t have to worry about healing. That was my main goal this whole offseason.”

If his route-running improves, it makes Thompson that much tougher to defend, which, of course, boosts the offense. After his first two years -- and after an injury-filled past in college -- he wondered if he’d ever reach this spot. He was hurt his last two years at Florida State and as a rookie.

“At that point you would think someone would get rid of you and try to move on,” Thompson said. “But they stuck with me and believed in me. I worked my butt off to get to where I am now. I figured out things along the way to keep myself healthy. It’s been working out. For me, it’s up from here.”

Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesEzekiel Elliott still has the cloud of a possible suspension hovering over him.


FRISCO, Texas -- In February, Darrelle Revis was arrested on a charge of felony assault. In March, the charge was dismissed. On Monday, the NFL said the free-agent cornerback and one of the best cornerbacks of his generation would not face any league-imposed discipline for the incident.

All it took was three months.

Last July, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was questioned by Columbus, Ohio, police after a former girlfriend alleged an incident in which Elliott forcibly pulled her out of a car. The district attorney chose not to pursue charges against Elliott because of conflicting stories. Witnesses at the scene said they did not see an assault occur.

Ten months later, the NFL said the incident remains under review.

How can Revis' case be wrapped up in three months and Elliott's still be under review?

"Every matter is different," a league spokesman said by e-mail.

In 2014, Ray Rice was suspended for just two games after he punched his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel elevator but was suspended indefinitely after video of the incident was made public. Last season, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown was suspended one game for a domestic-violence incident with his wife.

Last October, documents in which Brown admitted he physically, verbally and emotionally abused his wife emerged. The Giants cut Brown, whom they signed to a two-year deal after the 2015 season.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has been upset with the pace of the Elliott investigation. He believes the due process of law should supersede what the league can impose and that essentially Elliott is being treated unfairly.

Since the July incident, Jones has supported Elliott.

"There is just nothing," Jones said from the combine in February. "I know I would have heard about it. I would have the information if there were something. I know that."

When the Cowboys' season ended in January, Elliott said he wanted "closure."

"I would rather it not drag on this long," Elliott said. "If there was something to find, which there's not, they would've found it by now. The police did a very thorough investigation. It just seems like they're dragging their feet right now. Who knows, man? I'm just ready for it to end."

According to the league’s personal conduct policy, a player can be punished by the NFL even if he does not face legal punishment. A first-time violation of the policy carries a six-game suspension, but it also allows for a lesser penalty if mitigating factors are involved.

The Cowboys' third-round pick, Jourdan Lewis, has a court date in July for a misdemeanor domestic-violence charge in March. Jones said the Cowboys did their due diligence on the incident and are confident in Lewis' character.

Lewis believes the charges will be dropped.

"I think I will be exonerated from everything," Lewis said. "I'm completely innocent. I believe that wholeheartedly. And I'm just going to have to see what happens in my next trial date."

Because this happened before he was selected by an NFL team, Lewis would not face an NFL penalty. Since Elliott's incident happened after he was selected by the Cowboys, he could face possible discipline.

Because the incident remains under review, the Cowboys almost have to prepare for the possibility of some kind of penalty to Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards last season.

Losing Elliott for even one game would hurt the Cowboys' playoff chances.

The NFL doesn't care about playoff chances. It doesn't want to look bad should something arise in the future.

So it remains under review evidently -- with no end in sight.

Tyus BowserRob Ferguson/USA TODAY SportsTyus Bowser's ability to rush the passer and drop into coverage makes him a candidate to start as a rookie.


OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Tyus Bowser gave up playing basketball after two seasons at the University of Houston. He still looks like a dual-sport athlete on the football field, though.

Bowser, the Baltimore Ravens' second-round pick, is one of the most well-rounded defenders in this draft, whether it came to crashing the edge to sack quarterbacks, dropping back to cover tight ends or chasing down running backs from behind. His ability to impact the game all over the field gives him a good chance to start opposite Terrell Suggs at outside linebacker.

He noticed that his improvement in football coincided with him focusing on just that sport.

"Growing up with my mom, she always taught me to put in the effort in whatever you are doing," Bowser said. "This is what I am doing -- playing football. I am putting 100 percent effort into it. Anything that I am doing, I am making sure I am being my best at it."

Coming out of high school, Bowser totaled 24 sacks in football and averaged 16.8 points per game in basketball. He stopped playing basketball at Houston after only getting into four games in two seasons.

Where his basketball skills come into play the most is in coverage. Bowser dropped back on nearly half of the third downs that he played.

"I played shooting guard, so I am out on the wing trying to play against quicker guys," Bowser said. “I just felt using that and what I did in basketball to be able to cover receivers and running backs and tight ends -- I feel like that contributed a lot."

Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said Houston dropped back Bowser more than you would like because he's such a great pass-rusher. But this area of his game showed off his unique tools.

"Just watching him move in coverage, he opens his hips, he runs with guys vertical, and he's just got a good feel and spatial awareness, which I think playing basketball helps guys on defense," Hortiz said. "Especially out in space, he can feel the guys coming into zone and close up well. So you see the basketball player when he's in coverage, certainly."

Bowser is also a high-level pass-rusher. He can dip his shoulders coming off the edge and brings an explosive, low first step off the snap.

His 8.5 sacks in eight games last season led Houston, and his 21.5 career sacks ranked as the seventh-most in school history.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. raved about Bowser's long arms, great closing speed and tremendous athleticism. At the NFL combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds (fifth-fastest among linebackers), registered a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap (led all LBs), recorded a 10-foot-7 broad jump (third among LBs) and bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times (tied for eighth among LBs).

"He's one of the most underrated pass rushers in college football," Kiper said. "He's ideal for 3-4 teams coming off the edge."

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