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WR Ja’Marr Chase ‘wouldn’t mind’ reunion with Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow

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Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who opted out of his final season at LSU before turning pro, says he is open to a reunion with his former teammate and quarterback Joe Burrow in Cincinnati.

“I wouldn’t mind going back with Joe,” Chase said Wednesday. “If we go back together, we’re trying to do nothing but get back our chemistry and have some more fun.”

Cincinnati, which selected Burrow No. 1 overall last year, owns the fifth pick in this year’s draft, and Chase said he has spoken with the Bengals during the pre-draft process.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. lists Chase as the No. 2 wide receiver in the draft, behind Alabama‘s DeVonta Smith, and the No. 4 overall prospect.

In January, Burrow was asked about Chase and the possibility of getting back together. He too said he “wouldn’t mind” reconnecting.

“That’s a really good player. It’s pretty easy to throw to him when he has 5 yards of separation every snap,” Burrow said. “He’s an exciting player and a great guy and a friend as well. He was fun to play with.”

With Burrow as his quarterback, Chase had 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019 and won the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver.

Chase told the SEC Network that he would let his results and film from his superb 2019 season speak for him when asked to make his pitch as the top wide receiver in this year’s draft class.

“It’s very important for me [to be the first receiver picked], not just because I dreamed of it, but I worked my butt off to get here,” Chase said. “I don’t want nobody to take that from me. I’m not letting anyone take it from me. So I’m gonna keep working.”

Chase joined a number of his former LSU teammates and ran an unofficial 4.38-second 40-yard dash during the Tigers’ pro day on Wednesday. He also posted an 11-foot standing broad jump and a 41-inch vertical jump.

“I would say I kind of surprised myself,” Chase said of his 40 time. “I was going for a low 4.4, but last night I was feeling good about my starts and felt like I could get a 4.3 this morning. And I did it.”

Chase wasn’t the only potential first-round receiver to take part in the pro day. Terrace Marshall Jr., whom Kiper rates as the sixth-best receiver in the draft, ran an unofficial 4.38-second 40-yard dash as well.

Marshall appeared in seven games, catching 48 passes for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns, before opting out last season.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley coy on Week 1 status — ‘We’ll see’

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NORTH CALDWELL, N.J. — New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley‘s knee is feeling “pretty good” after ACL surgery last year, but there is still uncertainty how much he will do at training camp and if he will be ready for Week 1.

Barkley said that is not a conversation he has had with coach Joe Judge. Quarterbacks and injured and rehabbing players are scheduled to report to camp Thursday, with rookies reporting Wednesday.

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Barkley said with a smile at his annual Saquon Barkley Football ProCamp at West Essex High School when asked if he expected to be full-go at the start of camp.

How about Week 1?

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he repeated. “Taking it day by day. Just listening to my body. Whenever I’m able to get out there, just make sure I’m 110%. Not just for … my well-being, but just so I go out there and compete at a high level and show the world who Saquon is.”

Barkley is not expected to be full-go for the start of training camp, a source told ESPN last month.

The running back was moving well and even competed against some of the 200 kids, grades 1-8, in attendance Monday in 1-on-1 drills. There appeared to be no restrictions.

This was, kind of, the plan.

“I’m a big kid at heart,” Barkley said. “We were talking to see about how much I could do. I said I’m just going to go with the flow. I said probably my kid at heart would take over. Just have fun. And it means a lot. I’m just happy these kids came out. I thank the families for making these kids come out. I want to make sure that I leave a lasting impression.”

Barkley was among a group of prep and college football coaches working with the kids. His involvement was evident, despite still rehabbing the injury.

Barkley and the Giants have been reluctant to put a timetable on his return ever since he suffered the injury in Week 2 of last season.

The Giants open the regular season against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12, nearly 11 months after the major surgery on Barkley’s right knee. He also had MCL and meniscus damage.

Barkley seems OK with playing it cautiously.

“Kind of have to play that by ear,” Barkley said of his expectations. “When it comes to rehab, rehab is never a straight line. Just play that by ear. Listen to your body, and whatever your body is telling you, go with that.”

The Giants aren’t going to put Barkley on the field in live situations until he is 100%. It’s entirely possible that might not be until October.

“We are going to make sure that we take Saquon’s rehab at the correct rate for his individual body and injury,” Judge said during minicamp last month. “It’s not any mirror of anybody else’s injury out there. We have to make sure that we let him get it at his pace and put him on the field [when he] can play 100% aggressive and confident and he’s going to play safe and he can play effective.”

The idea is to bring Barkley along slowly to make sure he is healthy for the duration of the 17-game season and, hopefully, a postseason. It could be shortsighted to have Barkley take his usual 85% of snaps Week 1 against the Broncos or in the first few games.

Having Barkley, 24, return to his rookie season form and usage in the first few weeks of the 2021 season was never realistic, though the damage to his knee has healed according to plan, sources have insisted.

Now it’s a matter of getting on the field for practice. Or more aptly, when?

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Dallas Cowboys ‘pumped up’ as training camp begins with ‘Hard Knocks’ – Dallas Cowboys Blog

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FRISCO, Texas — On Tuesday, a portion of the Dallas Cowboys‘ team will fly to California for the start of training camp. On Wednesday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Mike McCarthy will hold a state of the team news conference. On Thursday, the players will be on the practice field in Oxnard, California.

The wait for the 2021 NFL season is about to end.

“Pumped up,” Stephen Jones said.

During their organized team activities and minicamp this offseason, the Cowboys saw quarterback Dak Prescott look like he had no ill effects from the compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that he suffered in the fifth game of the 2020 season. While offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La’el Collins did not play a game together in 2020 and were not involved in competitive parts of spring practices, Jones said they will be ready to go.

There are some questions about how much wide receiver Amari Cooper (ankle), defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (back) and defensive tackle Trysten Hill (knee) will do early on during training camp, but Stephen Jones does not expect extended absences for any of them or any other players who are coming off injury.

“We are going to be careful,” Stephen Jones said. “We are going to ease into it with any one of them. If anybody who might need a little bit [of time], we are not going to rush into it because it’s a journey. We feel everybody will be ready to roll.”

The Cowboys have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, finishing a disappointing 6-10 in McCarthy’s first season, but interest remains high, with Prescott’s return among the biggest storylines of the NFL season.

His return will face even more scrutiny with the Cowboys being featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

Dallas is the first team to appear on the series for a third time, and Stephen Jones confirmed the Cowboys did not ask to be selected.

“Jerry was at the league meetings and we kind of got informed we were doing it,” Stephen Jones said. “It wasn’t really a lot of asking. It is great for the league.”

It might not be the best of circumstances for the Cowboys to have so much attention put on them, but the organization is taking a bigger-picture view on the impact of selling the brand after a year in which fans were limited or not allowed to attend games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Stephen A. Smith explains why he’s excited that the Cowboys will be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this season.

“All these things leading up to the season are huge, whether it’s minicamps and OTAs, whether it’s training camp, whether it’s ‘Hard Knocks,’ whether it’s preseason games, all the things that go with this, I think is a big part of our game,” Stephen Jones said. “It’s a natural buildup to get our fans fired up about going to our football games. Obviously our world has been through a lot with the pandemic. You can’t just assume you’re going to flip the switch and everything is going to be fine.

“We feel a lot of buildup, including ‘Hard Knocks,’ is a good thing to get people fired up about reconnecting and rolling.”

The Cowboys first appeared on “Hard Knocks,” in 2002 and finished 5-11 that season. Their second appearance came in 2008 and they missed the postseason with a 9-7 record with an uber-talented team that was done in partly because of locker room turmoil.

“At the end of the day, you got to go to work. You got to go execute. You have to have everything come together, have your leadership, have your culture right and go win football games,” Stephen Jones said. “A little bit of that comes with the Cowboys. You are always going to be in the limelight when you are with this organization. That is part of it. At the end of the day, we believe — although obviously it hasn’t played out for us in quite some time right now — it will be really good for us.

“It can add a hardness and have us ready. I have a lot of confidence in this team with Dak leading it. He’s special. … You put him in place and get this offensive line group healthy. Heck, our whole group is ready to make a statement and take the next step.”

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NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin rips Dallas Cowboys for not meeting COVID-19 vaccine threshold

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FRISCO, Texas — Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin is disappointed that the Dallas Cowboys are not among the teams to reach the 85% vaccine threshold that would ease COVID-19 restrictions during training camp, which begins this week.

“Yeah, and it should upset them,” Irvin said of the Cowboys recently at the opening of the Dallas chapter of Merging Vets & Players, which brings together combat veterans and former pro athletes. “It should upset them. Dude, you’re not thinking right. You’re not thinking right. Whatever you got, I don’t give a damn. … Nothing else can be more important. You’re not going to get this [winning a Super Bowl] easily. Nothing else could be more important. … Jimmy [Johnson] made that abundantly clear [during Irvin’s playing career]. Nothing else is more important. And not being one of the [teams] says there’s other things to a great number of people on this team that are more important than winning championships, and that makes me worried.”

While the Cowboys have not reached the vaccine threshold, their percentage of vaccinated players is not known. A source told ESPN’s Kevin Seifert that 13 NFL teams have reached the threshold. The Cowboys will have a lab at their Oxnard, California, training camp site to test unvaccinated players on a daily basis and vaccinated players weekly.

Unvaccinated players will not be able to leave the team hotel and must wear masks and remain distanced from people inside the facility, according to protocols. Vaccinated players will not be required to wear masks, can eat meals with other vaccinated players and have no limitations in the weight room.

While Irvin’s comments were directly related to the Cowboys, his stance is the same regardless of the team.

“If you’re not one of them teams [at the threshold], are you really thinking about winning a championship? You see what I’m saying,” he said. “OK, so now if you’re not getting vaccinated and you got all these other teams that are getting vaccinated …”

As a player, Irvin said, he would do more than encourage teammates to get vaccinated.

“Somebody in that damn locker room [should say], ‘Hey man, we’re going to have a chance, are you vaccinated?'” Irvin said. “Let’s go through this because this could be a two-week healthy dude missing games, and in this league, this ain’t the NBA. In this league that could be it for you. The right person misses two weeks, that’s it. Your ass is out.”

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