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nflTitans go for experience at kicker in Ryan Succop (The Associated Press)
The Tennessee Titans preferred to go into the season with an experienced kicker, not with an undrafted rookie. They feel they got the best one still available in Ryan Succop. The Titans agreed to a one-year deal with Succop on Monday and waived rookie Travis Coons to make space. "There were a number of guys that were available or that were out there," coach Ken Whisenhunt said of Succop.
nflArmed with new deal, Chiefs' Smith looks forward (The Associated Press)
Alex Smith didn't have much choice when he was traded from San Francisco to Kansas City last year. One day after signing a four-year extension that should solidify his future through the 2018 season, Smith expressed relief at being able to focus solely on football - rather than negotiations that had been going on for months, and that were threatening to bleed into the regular season. ''As much as you don't want to think about those types of things,'' Smith said, ''you can't help but they sit in the back of your head: 'I'm playing for a contract, I'm playing for this and that.' Sometimes you can just be an added distraction. I was hoping and really happy that it got done.'' Smith said he made it clear to his agent, Tom Condon, he wanted an agreement done before the start of the season.
nflNFL Preview Week: 12 second-year players ready to break out (Shutdown Corner)
Coaches often say that the biggest growth in an NFL player occurs between the first and second season. Rookie confusion can lead to second-year clarity and a sense of being unencumbered. In this rush-to-judgment league, it's easy to forget last year's draft class. But here are some of the second-year players who might be ready to remind everyone just how good they still are: Cleveland Browns pass rusher Barkevious Mingo — When you listen to him talk this preseason, the words "comfortable" and "confident" are used a lot. That's because Mingo, who was always seen as a work in progress entering the league, now has his body and mind properly shaped to be an impact player. The Browns will have a strong top three edge rushers with Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and Mingo and can rotate them and keep them fresh. Mingo likely will be an open-side rusher (the offense's left side) and will be his best to use quickness and length to distract and disrupt quarterbacks. He had three of his five sacks in his first three NFL games but wore down. Now, in Year 2, Mingo should have the stamina to put up double digits in that category. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football! ]
nflAP source: Chiefs' Alex Smith agrees to extension (The Associated Press)
When he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason, quarterback Alex Smith professed his admiration for coach Andy Reid and his excitement at playing for the storied franchise. Smith signed a $68 million extension Sunday to remain with the Chiefs through the 2018 season, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. He is a special individual with a lot of ability and we are fortunate to have him here.'' Smith and his agent, Tom Condon, had been discussing an extension for several months, and both sides were hopeful that a deal would be reached by the regular season.
nflNFL Preview Week: Top 10 wild cards for the 2014 season (Shutdown Corner)
One year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were a joke, the Houston Texans were a Super Bowl contender, the Carolina Panthers were (at best) a middling team and Chip Kelly was an intriguing fascination, but also as the proverbial college coach coming to the big, bad NFL. How much our opinions changed of them in short order. Four months from now, most of what we know will be unwritten or rewritten. There will be some out-of-left-field developments, some behind-the-scenes contributors and some unexpected changes to the NFL landscape. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football! ] We're here to try to predict those. Call them the "wild-card" factors — the either-or propositions around the league that could sway a team (or teams) from 6-10 to 10-6, from putting their coaches on the hot seat to putting the team in the postseason derby. Here's our list of the top 10 for the 2014 NFL season: Rob Gronkowski — The New England Patriots have the best all-around tight end when he's healthy (Jimmy Graham is the better receiver of the two), as the classic "Y" player in this offense who can be as devastating as a run blocker as he is a seam splitter and red-zone threat. But Gronkowski has been saddled with injuries the past two seasons and is coming off a torn ACL last season, and he did not play a snap in the preseason so we're left to speculate his availability for Week 1 and for the remainder of the season. The Patriots are just a different animal offensively with Gronk on the field, and healthy. Tom Brady had an up-and-down 2013 season, with his lowest full-season completion percentage since 2003. But Brady was markedly better with Gronk in the lineup from Weeks 7-14:   Games Completions Attempts Passing yards Touchdowns Interceptions Completion % Yards/attempt 7 (with Gronk) 182 284 2205 13 5 64.1 7.76 9 (without Gronk) 198 344 2138 12 6 57.6 6.22 2013 total 380 628 4343 25 11 60.5 6.92 Brady trusts Gronkowski more than anyone not named Julian Edelman, and the relationship and symmetry with Danny Amendola appears stronger in Year 2. Watch for the development, too, of two bigger targets outside in Brandon LaFell and Tim Wright, along with two excellent screen/short passing game options in running backs Shane Vereen (who missed half the season with a wrist injury that affected his ability to catch the ball) and rookie James White. But Gronk is the biggest X-factor. His mere (healthy) presence can make the Patriots' offense a top-five unit again, and that means this could be another Super Bowl team. Referees calling things tighter — Book it: The greater emphasis on calling pass interference, defensive holding and illegal contact from the preseason will linger into regular season. There's no throwing on the brakes, so to speak — not when refs have been instructed to call these pass-related infractions much tighter. To ask them to go back to the other enforcement of the rules would be disingenuous and pointless. Now, could we see a settling in back toward the norm by midseason? Sure, or after defenses complain. That's also bound to happen. It will be a major talking point if, say, the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks opener is marred by a maelstrom of yellow flags because the world will be watching on Thursday night. If that happens, then everyone's radars — which already have been attuned after the preseason madness — will be up for the rest of Week 1. It very well could be the takeaway talking point after the first slate of games. The Seahawks are the team believed to be the one that could be the most affected by stricter enforcement of these penalties, but there are others. The Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams and others will feel the effects with how handsy they get on opposing receivers. Teams will have to adjust. There might be a leveling off of the flags at some point, but expect the preseason flurry to carry over into the early part of the season.
» NFL News
Raiders start rookie Carr, not Schaub, at QB
The Oakland Raiders have named rookie Derek Carr their starting quarterback.
NFLRaiders tab rookie Derek Carr as starting QB (Yahoo Sports)

Oakland rookie Derek Carr will start the season opener against the New York Jets. Coach Dennis Allen announced Monday that Carr got the nod ahead of Matt Schaub, who struggled in the preseason and has been hampered by a sore elbow. Carr will be the first rookie to start the season opener at quarterback in Raiders history. Carr was a second-round pick out of Fresno State in May. He will become the 18th starting quarterback for the Raiders since the start of the 2003 season.


Welker practices, not cleared for contact
Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker (concussion) returns to practice.
NFLGronk promises he will play Sunday; Dolphins ready (Yahoo Sports)

Star tight end Rob Gronkowski stood in front of his Gillette Stadium locker Monday and announced he will be playing in the New England Patriots' opener at Miami this Sunday. Meanwhile, the news hardly caught the Dolphins by surprise. ''I'm super excited,'' said Gronkowski, who didn't play in any of the four preseason games as he completed his recovery from December right knee surgery. Super pumped, super excited and just preparing for the game.'' The pronouncement came as a bit of a surprise in a locker room not known for players ''breaking news.'' ''Yeah, yeah, I'm just getting it out of the way there,'' Gronkowski said.


Niners OG Boone ends holdout, practices
San Francisco 49ers right guard Alex Boone ended his holdout Monday by reporting and passing a physical, the team announced.
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