Cardinals ready to see ‘the best Robert Nkemdiche’

Robert Nkemdiche had a season to forget in 2016.

The Cardinals selected the defensive lineman out of Ole Miss with the 29th overall pick, but Nkemdiche only saw the field in five games and registered just three tackles on the entire season. The one headline the rookie made was when his coach Bruce Arians called him out for a lack of “maturity.”

One year later, Nkemdiche is back at the Cardinals’ facility, looking to right whatever wrongs derailed his first season as a professional athlete.

“It’s staying on the path of what I am doing, staying focused, trying to be as pinpoint perfect, not being on the [mental error] sheet and not making minute mistakes,” Nkemdiche said to the team’s website of his mentality entering 2017. “Keep working hard, take it day by day.”

According to those immediately surrounding Nkemdiche, the end has come into organized team activities with a different attitude toward the game.

Veteran defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said of the second-year pro, “He’s changed. For the good. He’s changed.

“I’m very proud of him. I’m not going to tell him to his face yet, but toward the end of training camp, I’ll probably tell him. Because I know he’s trying to become a dominant player. He’s trying to step up and make his name and make a role for himself, and that’s all you can ask of him.”

Nkemdiche’s defensive line coach, Brenston Buckner, was equally optimistic, but cautioned that attitude improvements in May don’t automatically translate to the regular season.

“People want football to be microwavable, Buckner explained. “Football is not microwavable, especially on the defensive line.”

The coach continued: “I told him, ‘Robert, you don’t have to be anything but the best Robert Nkemdiche you can be, and I’m cool with that. If you give me 100 percent of Robert Nkemdiche — not what people expect you to be — give me what you can give me, your honest 100 percent, I’m going to be cool.’”

Arizona’s players and staff can be patient with Nkemdiche now, as we’re in the pigskin doldrums of May. But come September, the Cardinals will be relying on the lineman to fill some massive shoes, literally. The hole left by Calais Campbell on the Cardinals’ three-man defensive line is notable and one that Nkemdiche, as a former first-rounder, is expected to occupy.

If Nkemdiche fails to get his game or his work ethic right by the season’s dawn, then the Cardinals will have to reckon with yet another failed first-round selection. But all indications are, as of now, that the end will get a fresh start in 2017.

Medical tents for players will be on NFL sidelines in ’17

Medical tents will be a permanent fixture on NFL sidelines this season.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the development at the Spring League Meeting on Tuesday, a few months after the small, mobile units gained popularity at the college level for their ability to aid doctors and trainers in doing their job without a raucous crowd bearing down on them from the stands.

“We also spent a fair amount of time on health and safety as we normally do,” Goodell said. “Dr. [Allen] Sills, our new chief medical officer is here, and he obviously made a presentation to the membership. He’s only three weeks into the job, but there are several things that he reported on, including this year we will be using medical examination tents on the sidelines which you may have seen to some extent on the college level.

“It’s an opportunity for us to have a better examination because it will ensure privacy for a short period of time so doctors can go ahead and make the appropriate diagnosis.”

The tent would save teams time running to a locker room and still grant them the requisite atmosphere to conduct a thorough review. As Jeff Allen, a pioneer in sideline medical tents, told USA Today back in October of last year, the “most critical time in evaluating is five-to-10 minutes after the injury, and to have that type of environment makes a difference.”

Some other notes from Goodell:

» Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis voiced his frustration with relaxed celebration rules on Tuesday, suggesting it would set a bad example for “young people.”

In response, Goodell said he hopes — and believes — the current crop of NFL players will prove Lewis wrong.

“Well I’ve heard it from Marvin before,” Goodell said. “We’ve had these discussions over the last couple years. And I think the players will prove him wrong on that. I think the players will do this in a way that will be responsible, show good sportsmanship, and do it in a way I think is entertaining but also respectful.”

» The commissioner conceded that Oakland was a bigger market than Las Vegas. But there is one reason the league is warming to the Raiders’ future home: Faster growth. When asked by a reporter about abandoning the larger market, Goodell cited Vegas’ potential as one reason to be optimistic about the change.

» Last week, Gisele Bundchen, the wife of Tom Brady, told CBS This Morning that the Patriots quarterback had a concussion in 2016 and has had others in the past. However, Brady never was listed on a Patriots medical report with a concussion. Since then, Brady’s agent, Don Yee, has come out and said that Brady never was diagnosed a concussion. The NFL also addressed the matter, stating they found “no records that indicate that Mr. Brady suffered a head injury or concussion, or exhibited or complained of concussion symptoms.”

Goodell addressed Bundchen’s comments directly:

“Well, I think you also saw the statement that I think his agent made in that he hasn’t been diagnosed with a concussion or wasn’t last season. But this is something that’s an ongoing issue for us. We want to make sure that the proper medical care is given to every player. The responsibility is a shared responsibility for our teams, our medical professionals, the players themselves. We put in a lot of safeguards that I think are incredibly important in changing the culture and I think that’s what we’ve done. But there’s still more work to be done. And we’ll continue to do that. We do not have any records that indicate that Tom suffered any kind of concussion or head injury. But we will continue to work with the [NFL Players Association] and see what we can do to improve the protocols.”

Pete Carroll: Seahawks’ run game ‘roaring right back’

The Seattle Seahawks’ run game struggled in 2016 due to Marshawn Lynch’s departure, injuries to running backs and a disastrous offensive line.

With the ground game unable to pound out yards, it discombobulated the rest of the operation. During the 2016 regular season, Seattle passed on more than 60 percent of its plays, per Next Gen Stats; in 2015, that number was a tad over 51 percent.

Coach Pete Carroll told 710 ESPN Radio in Seattle this week the Seahawks plan to get back to running the ball more in 2017.

“We definitely will,” Carroll said, via ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia. “We lost 100-something runs last year. And that was basically the story. That was basically the tale of why everything came about as it did. The defense had to do some more stuff. We had to throw the ball more. We had to pass protect more and all of that because the running game got knocked up.

“With the quarterback being a mess and the running back situation, everybody being banged up, we were just unable to find it. So I think we’ll come roaring right back at it.”

Last year, the Seahawks’ run game ranked 23rd in efficiency by Football Outsiders, after finishing third, first, seventh and first the previous four years, respectively.

The addition of Eddie Lacy beefs up the backfield that already boasted pint-sized bulldozer Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. The trio could form the most dynamic backfield in the NFL, if they stay healthy.

Browns signing Jason McCourty to two-year deal

The Cleveland Browns need help in the secondary. On Tuesday, they found it.

Free-agent cornerback Jason McCourty told NFL Network’s Courtney Fallon he’s signing a two-year, $6 million with the team. The deal includes $2 million guaranteed, the defensive back said.

The former Titans starter had dinner with Browns coaches and team brass Monday night, paving the way for a signing.

McCourty was tossed into the free-agent pool in April after the Titans released him following eight seasons with the team. He started 90 games in Tennessee and piled up 13 interceptions. A sixth-round selection out of Rutgers in the 2009 NFL Draft, the 29-year-old veteran was a three-time team captain with the Titans.

In Cleveland, McCourty lands as an instant starter alongside Pro Bowl cover man Joe Haden. The Browns also have Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun at the position, but McCourty adds something else: proven experience in coordinator Gregg Williams’ scheme after the duo worked together in 2013.

Cleveland was victimized by opponents last season, finishing the year as the 21st-ranked defense in the NFL.

After fourth-round cornerback Howard Wilson suffered a fractured kneecap at rookie minicamp, the need for help was real at the position. McCourty fits the bill.

Arizona Cardinals release LB Daryl Washington

Daryl Washington was recently reinstated by the NFL, but he won’t return as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals released Washington on Thursday. The linebacker met with team president Michael Bidwill, general manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians earlier this week.

“After meeting with Daryl Washington, we have collectively decided it is best to release Daryl and give him the opportunity to continue his career elsewhere,” the team said in a statement.

“I want to thank the Cardinals organization, especially Mr. Bidwill and Steve Keim for drafting and believing in me, and their continued support,” Washington released in a statement. “We’ve had some really positive and productive discussions this week, and at the end of the day we mutually agreed it was best for both sides to get a fresh start. I’m in the best shape of my life, and very much look forward to the next opportunity, where I will again play at an All-Pro level and help my team make a championship run.”

Washington, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2013, was conditionally reinstated by the NFL earlier this week. He had been suspended since May 2014 for violating the league’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The ban was tied to a marijuana violation, for which Washington sought counseling.

The Cardinals’ decision to part ways with Washington came a day after Bidwill told Adam Schein on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio the team needed to process whether the linebacker could be part of their plans.

Arizona ultimately decided to let the 30-year-old linebacker pursue other opportunities.

Once one of the rangiest linebackers in the NFL, upon his reinstatement Washington insisted he was in the “best shape” of his life.

Given the time away from playing and off-field history, it would be a surprise if a team gave Washington a shot to play in 2017.

Long lines, hot prices at Eddie Lacy’s garage sale

Have you ever wanted to own previously-worn athleisure items that were sweated upon and laundered by a one-time Pro Bowler?

Well, residents of De Pere, Wisconsin, welcome to your halcyon days.

Former Packers running back Eddie Lacy is kicking off his much ballyhooed garage sale this weekend and if you thought the weather was hot in Northeastern Wisconsin, check out these prices. Lacy-worn hats and shirts are going for a cool $50 while Packers hoodies are going for $100.

Among the other items for sale: T-shirts and tanks for $5, including what seems to be a gold alligator print. PlayStation games were going for $10 apiece while brand new, in-box Under Armor cleats were going for $25. For the non-football fan, Lacy was also selling Tide, candy canes, Reynolds Wrap and Chunky Soup.

According to a grainy Facebook live broadcast from the yard sale, Lacy had a line stretching all the way down the block. A man named Gavin interviewed by the local news station showed up moments after Lacy posted the information on Twitter and the line out of Lacy’s driveway was still about 100 people deep when he arrived. Another woman drove in from Iowa.

My favorite part of the video is the collision between two very different, devoted worlds. The hardcore garage-sale people seem to care little for who owns the house or what sort of Packers merchandise is there, like the man hoisting Lacy’s nightstand and humping it down the driveway. The Packers fans, meanwhile, are waiting in amusement park lines with the hope of scoring some $2 socks.

The silver lining in all of this is that the money goes to a good cause. Lacy is donating proceeds to the Freedom House, a homeless shelter in nearby Green Bay. It reaffirms what many Packer fans waiting on the sidewalk said: Lacy was always good to the locals, and he will be missed.

If nothing else, $5 for a designer tank is one hell of a deal.

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley won’t face discipline from NFL

Gareon Conley, the Oakland Raiders’ first-round draft pick who is accused of sexual assault, will not face discipline from the NFL.

That’s because the alleged incident occurred before the NFL draft. The news was confirmed Tuesday by league spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Two days before the NFL draft, which began Thursday, it was reported that a 23-year-old woman had accused Conley of sexually assaulting her on April 9 in a Cleveland hotel. No charges have been filed in the case, and police are continuing to investigate.

Conley, who has denied the allegations, calling them “completely false,” met voluntarily Monday with Cleveland police to submit a statement and a DNA sample.

Conley also took a polygraph test before the draft, at the request of the Baltimore Ravens, which his lawyer said he passed.

Under the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the woman’s allegation could still come into play if Conley is ever involved in another incident after his NFL career begins. Under the policy, “conduct occurring prior to the players’ association with the NFL” will be considered when weighing discipline. The policy also provides for “enhanced and/or expedited discipline, including banishment from the league with the opportunity to reapply” for repeat offenders.

Conley is a former Ohio State cornerback. He was drafted with the No. 24 overall pick.