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David Irving's future with the Cowboys depends on if he can become more reliable -- both on and off the field.

David Irving’s future with the Cowboys depends on if he can become more reliable — both on and off the field.

FRISCO, Texas — David Irving is the ultimate tease.

In eight games, Irving’s seven sacks were second on the defense to DeMarcus Lawrence’s 14.5. He had 19 quarterback pressures. The coaches credited him with 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, six pass deflections and a forced fumble.

“I keep thinking, ‘What if I had played all of the games?’” Irving said. “I probably could’ve got 15, 16, maybe more [sacks]. So I just got to come back next year, stay the hell out of trouble, hopefully don’t get injured and see what I can do next year.”

Irving missed the first four games last season because of a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He missed the final four games because of a concussion. There is nothing he could do to avoid the latter, but he could have done everything differently to avoid the former.

In 2016, Irving had four sacks, five tackles for loss, 26 quarterback pressures, five pass deflections and four forced fumbles, including three in one game. By the end of the season, he was the Cowboys’ best defensive lineman.

There are just not many people on the earth at 6-foot-7, 285 pounds who can do the things Irving can do on a football field.

When he came back from his suspension, he played mostly defensive end, but he shifted inside when the Cowboys moved Maliek Collins to nose tackle.

“Honestly, it doesn’t make any difference; put me at nose guard, left end, right end, three-technique, it really doesn’t matter,” Irving said. “Wherever I can make plays, wherever I can help the team. I’m capable of playing any position on the line, so wherever the coaches need me, wherever my team needs me.”

As for his health, Irving said he is “progressing slowly but surely.” The headaches are less frequent, and he hopes to be working out fully in a few weeks.

“It’s weird, man,” he said. “You’ve just got to rest up. Some days you have good days. Some days you have bad days, but the bad days are not coming as much.”
Consistency has been Irving’s issue, on and off the field. His talent will give him chances others won’t get, but he confounds coaches at times. He did not practice in part of the offseason for reasons not really known. He did not show up for the first reporting day of training camp at The Star before the Cowboys went to Oxnard, California.

Irving’s future depends on becoming more reliable. He is set to be a restricted free agent. The Cowboys are likely to give him the second-round tender in hopes that 2018 becomes the year he puts it all together, on and off the field.

Had Irving already showed he was responsible, the Cowboys might have opted for a long-term deal with a bigger financial commitment.

As he addressed the media Monday, Irving on multiple occasions talked about staying out of trouble, which is likely something he heard from the coaches in his exit interviews.

“You’ve got to be mature,” Irving said. “You have to be an adult. You have to be responsible. When you’ve got something to lose, it’s much easier to stay out of trouble. I’m definitely going to be staying out of trouble.”

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Davante Adams has made some remarkable returns from concussions in his young NFL career.

There was the Thursday night game against the Bears last season. Four days after he was concussed at Dallas, he caught 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in what he called “a statement game” after getting hit and being able to “show [something to] my teammates more than anything, my teammates and the coaches.”

Then there was the game at Dallas on Oct. 8. Ten days after he was taken off the field on a gurney and spent a night in the hospital after Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan’s hit, Adams caught seven passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns — including the game-winner with 11 seconds to play.
Both times he returned without missing a game.

Davante Adams, who has 74 catches for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, suffered a third head injury in two seasons on Sunday.

Davante Adams, who has 74 catches for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, suffered a third head injury in two seasons on Sunday.

This time, there’s no reason for the Green Bay Packers’ budding star receiver to play again the rest of the season after he was concussed on Sunday at Carolina, where Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis leveled him with an illegal block that led to a suspension.

If Adams is indeed the future cornerstone of the receiver group, as it would appear he is, the Packers would be foolish to risk a third head injury in the same season.

And from Adams’ perspective, the idea of playing another down of football without a new contract wouldn’t be a wise business decision.
Adams is nearing the end of his rookie contract, which, as a second-round pick in 2014, added up to a total of $3.933 million. He should be in line to collect more than 10 times that over his next four-year deal.

But it’s worth wondering if the Packers and other teams might be concerned because Adams has suffered three concussions in the past two seasons.

Fellow Packers receiver Randall Cobb said Tuesday that Adams was “frustrated” after taking a second illegal hit this season.

Adams has never once talked publicly about money, saying only that he hopes his next contract is with the Packers, but he referenced his “livelihood” in a series of tweets directed at Davis, saying that players should “be in this together [and] look out for one another [and] not mess with a man['s] livelihood and hand out unnecessary concussions.”
Adams isn’t allowed to speak to reporters while he’s still in the concussion protocol so it’s unknown if he’s willing to play again this season without a contract extension — and with the playoffs out of reach — but when that idea was proposed to Cobb, he said: “Well, you tell him that. I’ll let you tell him that.”

On the day the Packers shut down Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the season, coach Mike McCarthy said the team also would play it safe with Adams.

“We’re going to be smart,” McCarthy said. “We’re not going to take any chances.

“You don’t release a player out of the protocol until he’s ready to play,” McCarthy added. “That’s the way we’ve always done it, whether that’s more conservative I can’t tell you as far as how we can compare it to other teams. But our players don’t come out of the protocol until we feel they’re ready to play. That’s why you’ll see we’ve had certain players be trial return in practice because there’s different stages that you have to go through, but until they clear, they’re not eligible to play.”

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The news Sam Bradford received Wednesday — his 30th birthday, no less — delivered a major blow to the veteran quarterback’s chances of landing a long-term deal.

Bradford was placed on injured reserve by the Minnesota Vikings in order to create a spot on the 53-man roster for Teddy Bridgewater, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list. Since leading the Vikings to a season-opening win over the Saints where he also suffered a noncontact injury, Bradford has faced ongoing problems with his left knee.

Over the past three months, the quarterback has dug into his own pockets to conduct an exhaustive search for an answer to his knee problems, making repeat visits to orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews, undergoing Regenokine treatments and trying out an arthroscopic procedure on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
The “good news” he received each time had to be frustrating. While there’s apparently no joint or structural damage, the inflammation has caused Bradford chronic pain.

Bradford was told by those who treated him that this was not expected to be a long-term issue. That’s the belief the Vikings said they had, too, until Wednesday.

“We all did, but it didn’t happen,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Nothing really changed, it just didn’t get better.”

The veteran quarterback, who came to the Vikings via a trade in September 2016 after Bridgewater went down with a catastrophic knee injury, will hit the market in 2018 as an unrestricted free agent. This season was supposed to help him secure a megadeal with Minnesota or elsewhere.

Sam Bradford's trip to IR because of chronic left knee pain could scuttle any hope for a big contract anywhere in 2018.

Sam Bradford’s trip to IR because of chronic left knee pain could scuttle any hope for a big contract anywhere in 2018.

Instead, the move to IR could cost him millions.

The 2017 season was Bradford’s chance to put up big numbers after spending a full offseason versed in Pat Shurmur’s system and lead the team on a playoff run. Doing that could have earned him his next big deal – aka Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford money – as evidenced by how many NFL teams are desperate for a solid starting quarterback.

Bradford, who is making $18 million from the Vikings this season between his $14 million base salary and $4 million roster bonus, could have been looking at a multiple-year deal worth over $100 million.

Now? Well, needless to say, Bradford probably doesn’t want to do much in the way of celebrating this crushing reality. But let’s keep things in perspective for a second.

Bradford has made $114 million over his eight years in the NFL. He could decide to retire now or take next season off and live comfortably.

The former top pick in the 2010 NFL draft (the year before the present CBA locked rookies in on a pay scale) made $65 million with the Rams over five seasons where he dealt with injuries to that same left knee that caused him to miss considerable time, including the entire 2014 season.

After being traded to the Eagles in 2015 and producing so-so results that year, Philadelphia re-upped his deal for $18 million guaranteed in 2016. He was then traded to the Vikings for first- and fourth-round picks when Minnesota desperately needed a quarterback.

We don’t need to go through the entirety of Bradford’s contract history, so in sum, the veteran quarterback made $24 million from the Eagles and will end 2017 making $25 million from the Vikings.

There’s a miracle scenario out there that could keep things in line for Bradford. He’s eligible to come off IR after eight weeks, which would be the first week of the playoffs. If Minnesota makes the postseason, he’s healthy and the Vikings aren’t getting what they need out of Bridgewater, maybe Bradford shocks the world, leads the team to the Super Bowl and secures his dream-come-true deal.

Maybe there’s a .001 percent chance that happens, but even still, future teams are going to have pause over handing out a big contract because there’s so much uncertainty over whether his knee is going to continue to be a problem.

In all likelihood, Bradford’s future will consist of shorter, possible one-year deals for a reduced price. A look around the league’s quarterback situations could put him in a place like Washington or Miami next season. Maybe Cleveland or another team that drafts a quarterback could sign him to compete with their younger player for a spot.
Is the Bradford era in Minnesota over before it ever really got started? Possibly. Bridgewater just so happens to be a free agent in 2018 as well. If the Vikings aren’t confident that he’s their guy for the long-term, Bradford could be back next year, albeit for a reduced price and shorter duration. He won’t get the franchise tag that was being thrown around in discussions several months ago.

Minnesota wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on a big extension with Bradford before the season started, and the other 31 teams in the NFL won’t likely be eager to do the same going forward.

This was supposed to be a year of leverage for Bradford; a chance to get another favorable extension that would increase his net worth among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.

What this season instead revealed was an injury issue that he could no longer outrun and may cost him his next big payday.

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The reported four-year, $50 million extension for Telvin Smith underlines how valuable the Jaguars feel the linebacker is.

The reported four-year, $50 million extension for Telvin Smith underlines how valuable the Jaguars feel the linebacker is.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A weakside linebacker who isn’t a big-time pass-rusher generally isn’t considered a premium player.

That’s not the case when it comes to Telvin Smith and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The team’s decision to sign him to a four-year contract extension worth $50 million clearly means it views him as an integral part of the franchise’s future. He certainly has played a crucial role in the Jaguars’ turnaround in 2017; they’re one of the NFL season’s biggest surprises at 4-3 and tied for first atop the AFC South.

Smith might be undersized at 215 pounds, but his speed and athleticism help him make up for his lack of bulk. He leads the team with 58 tackles and is responsible for three of the defense’s league-high 16 takeaways. He has two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and a fumble recovery.

Smith had frustrated Jaguars coaches with his freelancing and being out of position early in his career after the team drafted him out of Florida State in the fifth round in 2014, but he became one of the Jaguars’ most reliable players last season. He consistently makes plays against the run despite his size and has been good in coverage against running backs and tight ends.

In less than two seasons, Smith has become one of the league’s better defensive players. He has more tackles, interceptions, fumble recoveries and defensive touchdowns than any other Jaguars player since 2014. He also ranks third in pass breakups.

He’s not a pass-rusher (just 6.5 career sacks), but the Jaguars run a 4-3 defense that doesn’t blitz much and tries to get pressure on the quarterback by rushing just four. Smith has excelled in coverage and has been matched up one-on-one with running backs and tight ends at times.

Another reason the team needed to lock up Smith: He has been the emotional leader of the Jaguars’ defense over the past two seasons.

Remember, Smith called a players-only meeting in April 2016 because he was tired of losing — at that point he had lost 24 with the Jaguars, more than he had lost in his previous six seasons playing football — and wanted to make sure his teammates weren’t getting used to it.

Smith also called the defense together after the Jaguars’ fourth organized team activity this past spring to tell his teammates he felt they should have been more advanced in their development. He wanted to make sure the team’s mind was in the right place.

“With the players that we have, I just think as a team we should be further than we are,” Smith explained at the time. “As players, we’ve got to do our part in the sense of it’s not scheme, none of that. It’s what do we want? What’s our mentality going to be?”

The Jaguars wanted to make sure they kept Smith around for an additional four years, because in their eyes he’s a premium player.