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Pats’ Rob Gronkowski gets buzz cut for charity

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski shaved his own head as part of the One Mission Buzz Off at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. The event, now in its eighth year (it was Gronk’s sixth consecutive), has raised more than $7 million for children with cancer. To date, more than 5,000 heads have been shaved at the Buzz Off, and Gronkowski’s appearance — in which he shaves his own head and then shaves others’ — often is one of the highlights.

What it is like to be Gronk in this setting? He gave us an all-access pass to find out.

What is it like to be Rob Gronkowski as he walks from getting his head shaved to the media area? Big welcome from the crowd.

This is what greeted those buzzing their heads today at Gillette Stadium. As expected, Rob Gronkowski’s appearance was a highlight.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski gets his head shaved for the sixth year in a row at the One Mission Buzz Off for kids with cancer at Gillette Stadium. He says he likes the “summer vibe.”

Rob Gronkowski gets set to shave the heads of his brothers, Gordie and Glenn, as part of the event. He raises his clippers into the air as the crowd cheers.

Rob Gronkowski didn’t do his brother Glenn (left) any favors with his buzz work. But as usual, it is all smiles with the Gronkowskis.

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Baldwin mum on Wilson not being held accountable

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Star quarterbacks have been treated differently than their peers from the beginning of time.

Is that reality creating problems in Seattle?

Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin was asked Tuesday to respond to an ESPN The Magazine article suggesting that some teammates believe Wilson has been, at times, shielded from critique by Seattle’s coaching staff.

“I don’t know,” Baldwin told KIRO-AM in Seattle. “Honestly, I didn’t even read the entire article. I read parts of it. Didn’t really have time to read the whole thing. I think Pete [Carroll] does a fantastic job of handling different individuals differently. We all have our different personalities. We all act different ways. And Pete does a fantastic job of accommodating those personalities. He’s done it with me. He’s done it with Russ, with [Richard Sherman], with [Marshawn Lynch], with all of us. And he does a great job at it.”

ESPN The Magazine’s piece zeroes in on Sherman, writing that the star cover man “has told teammates and friends that he believes the Seahawks should have won multiple Super Bowls by now. And with just one trophy and the window closing fast, he has placed responsibility for that failing on the two faces of the franchise: Wilson and Carroll. Sherman, who like Wilson declined comment for this story, thinks Carroll hasn’t held Wilson or many young Seahawks to the defense’s championship standard.”

Along those lines, Baldwin was later asked if Carroll’s guiding message to the team over the years still has the same impact on longtime veterans that it does with rookies and newbies to Seattle.

“If I’m being honest, no,” Baldwin told the radio station. “I’ve heard it for going on seven years now, so I know what he’s going to say when he says it. But it doesn’t get lost. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it doesn’t have the same impact. It doesn’t have the same impact because I’ve heard it. It doesn’t get lost.”

Said Baldwin: “The first meeting that we have, he raises out the ball and says, ‘It’s all about the ball. We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to steal it from the offense and take care of it when we have it on offense.’ And those things don’t change. And that’s probably one of the things that I love most about Pete is his consistency when it comes to his philosophy. He’s not going to waver on that. He has a solid foundation on the way he wants to run his program, his philosophy on offense, on defense and special teams. And he sticks to that. He can be adaptable when it comes to the different personalities, but when it comes to his philosophy, he doesn’t change.”

If players on the team are bent out of shape over Wilson receiving favored treatment, it has yet to sink the ship.

The Seahawks have weathered their share of storms during Carroll’s massively successful run in the Pacific Northwest. They invite their players to exude their true personalities — and, so far, it’s worked.

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Ezekiel Elliott injures head in car crash, misses practice

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Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday after he suffered a head injury in a “minor car accident” on Sunday night, the team announced.

Elliott worked off to the side of practice Wednesday as a precaution, NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported. After the session ended, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Elliott would not practice Thursday and would return on Tuesday. He said Elliott was the passenger in a car that was rear-ended on Sunday night. The team learned about the incident on Monday, Garrett added.

Garrett said the head injury isn’t serious, which makes sense given Elliott’s presence at the team facility. Due to the hands-off nature of offseason training activities and Elliott’s stellar grip on the offense, it makes sense to take all the precautions necessary.

The No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns during his Pro Bowl rookie season. With the club already envisioning an expanded role for Elliott in 2017, there is no reason to risk his well-being during a spring walkthrough.

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Browns sign first-rounder Myles Garrett to rookie deal

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The No. 1 overall pick inked his contract.

The Cleveland Browns announced Friday that Myles Garrett signed his four-year, fully guaranteed rookie contract. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports the deal is worth $30.4 million with a $20.25 million signing bonus and includes offset language. As with all first-round picks, the deal comes with a team option for a fifth season.

The consensus top prospect in the 2017 draft, Garrett compiled 31 sacks, 47 tackles for loss and forced seven fumbles during his college career at Texas A&M.

The 6-foot-4, 272-pound physical specimen immediately upgrades Cleveland’s pass rush. The rookie already received rave reviews from veteran Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas this offseason.

“I’m just impressed with his demeanor and his willingness to learn and his humbleness,” Thomas said of Garrett, “but also you see that fire that’s burning inside him to be great and I think those are the hallmarks of guys that have a chance to be really excellent football players.”

In new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense, Garrett can be a game-wrecking talent for years to come in the Browns’ latest rebuilding effort.

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Battery charge against Caleb Brantley dismissed

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The misdemeanor battery charge against Browns rookie defensive tackle Caleb Brantley was dismissed Wednesday due to “insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction,” according to Alachua County (Fla.) Court records.

Brantley, who played college football at the University of Florida, had been charged on suspicion of misdemeanor battery following an alleged physical altercation with a woman, according to a Gainesville Police Department report. Brantley at the time of the alleged incident was considered one of the top interior defensive line prospects in the 2017 draft, but fell to the sixth round after his charge came to light.

“I’m grateful for today’s ruling,” Brantley said in a statement released by the Browns. “I won’t take the opportunity the Browns have given me for granted and now I can shift all my focus on working hard to make this football team while also showing my teammates, coaches, the organization and this community the type of person I really am.”

The Browns selected Brantley with the 185th pick in the draft, and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported at the time that Cleveland deeply researched the matter and personally visited with Brantley before making the pick.

Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown told reporters after the draft, however, the team could decide not to keep Brantley depending on the investigation into the charge.

“Based on our information, we understood there was a reasonable chance that the charges would be dismissed,” Brown said in a statement. “As we have previously discussed, the allegations made regarding the incident were not something we take lightly. Caleb understands that we have an expectation and standard for every member of our organization. He’s a talented-young man with a great opportunity in front of him. Caleb must grow as a person from this situation. He is now able to move forward and focus on earning a spot on this roster.”

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Tom Brady will be on cover of ‘Madden NFL 18′

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Tom Brady can add one more line to the greatest résumé in NFL history: Madden cover boy.

The New England Patriots quarterback will be featured on the cover of Madden NFL 18, EA Sports announced Friday morning. It’s a first for the five-time Super Bowl champion, who follows in the footsteps of teammate Rob Gronkowski, the man on the cover of last year’s edition of the venerable gaming franchise. This marks the first time in Madden’s nearly 30-year history that teammates have been on the cover in back-to-back years.

It’s surprising Brady hadn’t previously garnered cover status given his myriad of accomplishments since entering the league in 2000. Brady, who turns 40 in August, is the oldest guy to grace the cover since John Madden himself was smiling maniacally for the cameras from 1988 through 2000. (Shameless plug: I did a complete power ranking of the 29 covers right here).

But Madden, like the rest of us, can no longer avoid a basic societal truth: Tom Brady has it all. And what he doesn’t have should be immediately turned over to him for fear of consequence. (I just purchased four copies of his $200 cookbook to appease the overlords.)

There’s an alternate universe where the Atlanta Falcons don’t blow a 28-3 third-quarter lead in the Super Bowl and Matt Ryan or perhaps Julio Jones are on the cover of this game. It’s one more indignity for Falcons fans to process during what we imagine continues to be a very difficult time. Ludacris is not getting out of bed today when he hears about this.

On the bright side, Falcons fans don’t have to hear about the infernal “Madden Curse,” a jinx so powerful it once allowed Calvin Johnson to finish a season with an NFL record 1,964 receiving yards. There will be hot takes across the span of your basic cable package today claiming that Brady has now put himself in great danger to see his unparalleled career cruelly compromised by the decision to enter into a business relationship with Electronic Arts Inc.

Counterpoint: Last year, Tom Brady whooped up on Father Time the way Ralphie destroyed Scott Farkus in A Christmas Story. Maybe Brady’s greatest accomplishment will come this year, when he wins his sixth Super Bowl ring and debunks the “Madden Curse” once and for all.

And yes, this is perhaps the greatest reverse jinx ever perpetrated by a sad Jets fan with nothing to lose.

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Cowboys to pump brakes on LB Jaylon Smith’s minicamp workload

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FRISCO, Texas — Jaylon Smith’s return to 11-on-11 work will have to wait until the organized team activities.

After saying during the draft that the Dallas Cowboys’ 2016 second-round pick would participate in the upcoming minicamp for the 2017 rookies, coach Jason Garrett said Sunday night that Smith will go through the meetings and walk-throughs only.

The Cowboys are in Phase 2 of their offseason program, which includes on-field teaching sessions as well as strength and conditioning work. After such a long layoff, the Cowboys want to be smart with Smith’s work on the field and not overly tax him from the start.

“He’s going to do the veteran stuff on the field on Tuesday and Thursday, so I don’t anticipate him doing a lot on the field over the weekend,” Garrett said at the Taste of the Cowboys event benefiting the North Texas Food Bank.

Smith did not play last season as he recovered from a serious knee injury that included nerve damage. He has done everything up to this point in the Cowboys’ offseason program as the nerve that affected his ability to lift his left foot continues to regenerate.

At the draft, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Smith has regained feeling and some movement in his toes that has the club encouraged he could have a full recovery and not need a brace for his foot when the season starts.

The Cowboys begin their organized team activities in two weeks. The offseason program ends after the June 13-15 minicamp.

“It seemed like he handled the work well last week, and he’s just done an amazing job right from the start with his rehab, taking it day by day, making progress, and we’ll continue to do that,” Garrett said. “If he takes that approach, that’s when he’s going to have his most success. That’s what he’s done up to this point.”

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Saquon Barkley won’t rule out skipping bowl game

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Some college players wouldn’t even consider skipping a bowl game to protect their NFL draft stock. Others, however, won’t dismiss out of hand the possibility.

Count Penn State running back Saquon Barkley in the latter group.

“I would have a hard time doing it,” Barkley, one of college football’s top returning players, told Sports Illustrated. “But I’m not going to sit here and say I would never do it. I don’t know. I could be in a situation next year where I have close to two broken ankles, God forbid, or something going on in my upper body and I can’t play in a game if I’m considering playing in the NFL.”

If Barkley’s remarks come across as lacking certainty, forgive him. After all, there are all kinds of factors, which don’t unveil themselves in May, that would weigh heavily in such a decision. Is the player regarded as a high draft pick? Is the player fully healthy? Is a championship at stake? And how might college teammates react to an early exit? These are questions Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey had to answer for themselves before skipping their bowl games, and their draft outcome (chosen Nos. 4 and 8 overall, respectively) was none the worse for it. This year’s most prominent example of a player whose draft value fell resulting from a bowl injury was Michigan TE Jake Butt, who was a fifth-round selection after tearing an ACL in the Orange Bowl.

According to at least one NFL personnel director, top players like Barkley will now be all the more tempted to make the choice Fournette and McCaffrey made.

Barkley (5-foot-11, 223 pounds) ran for 1,496 yards for the Nittany Lions last year with 18 touchdowns. The school has clocked him at a blazing 4.33 40-yard dash, and he enters his junior year this fall. He’s got a long way to go before even making the decision about whether to turn pro, much less whether to sit out a game before doing so.

But for now, he’s leaving all options open.

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Bears draft Mitchell Trubisky, 49ers take Solomon Thomas after teams swap Nos. 2, 3 picks

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The San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears swapped the Nos. 2 and 3 picks in the NFL draft, and the Bears used the second selection on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky of North Carolina.

In swapping spots with the Bears, the 49ers get Chicago’s third- and fourth-round picks (Nos. 67 and 111) in this draft and a third-rounder in 2018.

With the third pick, the 49ers chose defensive lineman Solomon Thomas of Stanford — the highest pick of a Cardinal player in any draft. He played just two seasons at Stanford.

Trubisky told ESPN after his selection that he had no idea the swap was happening and that he did not get a call to alert him to his selection.

“I didn’t think I was going to get picked until the commish made the call,” he said. “It was crazy. It’s a dream come true. It’s as surreal as it gets.”

Trubisky, who had just 13 starts in college, is the highest drafted quarterback by the Bears in the common draft era and first quarterback taken by the Bears since Rex Grossman in 2003.

The Bears had a clear need at quarterback after the club released Jay Cutler. However, most expected them to wait to address the position until Day 2. Veteran Mike Glennon, who the Bears signed in free agency, is scheduled to earn $16 million guaranteed in 2017.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace announced earlier in the offseason that Glennon is the team’s unquestioned starter, but Glennon’s long-term future in Chicago now looks bleak.

Meanwhile, recently hired 49ers GM John Lynch selected a player from his alma mater and, believe it or not, a former classmate.

For the Niners, Thomas will be expected to instantly improve a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2016 in yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and was fifth-worst in the NFL in pressures generated per dropback.

The 49ers have now used their top pick in each of the past three drafts on the defensive line, having selected Arik Armstead in 2015 and DeForest Buckner last year. Thomas has been projected as a left defensive end in coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defensive scheme with the versatility to move to the three-technique defensive tackle spot in passing situations.

Thomas could also theoretically play the right defensive end spot, also known as the “Leo” or “Elephant,” the position where the best pass rusher is expected to line up. At his pro day in March, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he believed Thomas was capable of playing all over the defensive line.

“I believe he can line up probably anywhere inside that he wants,” Shanahan said.

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Niners strongly considering a quarterback with draft’s No. 2 pick

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PHILADELPHIA — With four days to go before they are officially on the clock for the 2017 NFL Draft, the 49ers are still internally debating their No. 2 pick.

While most believe the first pick will be potentially transformative pass-rusher Myles Garrett from Texas A&M, San Francisco can go a number of different ways.

According to several sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking, the 49ers are still strongly considering taking a quarterback second overall. That would be somewhat of a surprise, considering they signed presumptive starter Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in the offseason — and they have Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins potentially as an option for 2018. Taking a quarterback high would likely end any chance at Cousins.

But the team does not yet have a long-term answer at quarterback, and those who know coach Kyle Shanahan well insist North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky would best fit what he does on offense. Trubisky is considered by some to be the top QB in the class, though evaluations at this position differ more greatly than any other spot in this draft.

San Francisco has done extensive homework on each of the top passers. If the 49ers are on the clock and poised to take Trubisky — over players like LSU’s Leonard Fournette or Stanford’s Solomon Thomas — it could create an interesting dilemma.

Several teams are plotting potentially trading up with the Niners or others for a quarterback, gauging the price and weighing options. The Browns are one of those teams, as are others who could draft a QB high.

At this point, Cody Kessler, who the Browns like, would be the starter.

The Browns front office believes Trubisky is the top draftable QB, sources say, but could they dissuade the 49ers from taking him by trading draft capital to get up from No. 12 to No. 2? Could they end up with picks 1 and 2, using the stockpiled selections to make a bold move?

Or does Cleveland choose patience, hoping their quarterback of choice is there for them if they sit tight or trade up just a few picks? At this point, that has not been decided.

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