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Report: Manning had a fourth surgery

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---A day after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay made it clear that the decision whether to play for the team rests with Peyton Manning, pictured above, and his willingness to take a pay cut, Sports Illustrated reports new details about the quarterback’s physical condition. According to SI, Manning underwent four, not three, neck procedures over a 19-month span, has bone spurs just above the spot of fusion surgery in September, and may require further fusion.

---Here's John McClain's take on Mario Williams, who McClain says several teams may be in a position to offer the free agent defensive end $50 million as a signing bonus. Think Ralph Wilson would really like to hand over that kind of cash?

---Detroit is on the rise and Lions president Tom Lewand says his team will be smart with its money this off-season.

--- Sporting News ranks its top 50 draft prospects. Penn State DT Devon Still ranks No. 10.

---Retired NFL players are still hoping for improved benefits. Bills Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure told the AP that "I'm going to fight `em to the end."

---Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times reports preliminary contract talks between the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco are expected to launch next week at the NFL scouting combine, according to Flacco's agent, Joe Linta.

---Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been in Los Angeles working on his throwing mechanics with new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone according to Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Draft pick for Lynch jumps to fifth-rounder

The Bills will receive the Seattle Seahawks' fifth-round draft pick in April's draft as part of their compensation for the trade of running back Marshawn Lynch, according to a report on the team's official website, buffalobills.com.

The original trade of Lynch called for Buffalo to receive a fourth-round pick in 2011 (which it used on offensive tackle Chris Hairston) and a conditional sixth-round pick that could be improved based on Lynch's playing time. That pick will jump up to the fifth round, according to the report, after Lynch rushed 285 times for 1,204 yards and 12 TDs in 2011 for Seattle.

The Bills now have nine picks in April's draft, seven of their own along with the fourth-round pick of Baltimore they received in exchange for Lee Evans.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

 

Time to play tag

---Teams can begin franchising players on Monday and here's a quick rundown on candidates from CBS Sports. According to NFL.com, the tag figure for wide recievers this season, you know guys like Stevie Johnson, is $9.4 million.

---Colts owner Jim Irsay, the Colts’ owner, told ESPN that quarterback Peyton Manning was more than welcome to stay in Indianapolis, as long as he reworked his contract: “We want this to be his decision. We want him back if he wants to come back. We can work out the contract if he wants to work it out. It’s going to be Peyton’s call.” Yeah, ok.

---The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have rolled over all available resources into the 2012 salary cap in anticipation of being more active in free agency.

---Randy Moss to the Cowboys? Don't think so.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Routt on Bills: 'Sky's the limit'

---Free agent cornerback Stanford Routt came away impressed with his Buffalo visit on Monday, adding he liked the Bills potential to win.

“They beat the New England Patriots, a team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl,’’ he said. “I don’t really see that as anything you can look down upon obviously everyone can get better accept the one team that wins the Super Bowl. I think the sky’s the limit because you can see that there’s the right pieces here in place.’’

Routt, who was released last week by Oakland, toured the area and the Bills facilities in his first stop on his free agency tour.

“Today was a good day,’’ Routt said. “I got a chance to see the city a little bit, see the staff, met a couple of those guys and I like the atmosphere around here.’’

Routt was released by Oakland last week in part because the Raiders did not want to pay him a $5 million bonus. One of the top free agents on the market Routt, a native of Austin, Texas, has reportedly received interest from Dallas, Tennessee, Detroit, Kansas City and Minnesota.

“I have a couple of more [visits] as soon as I leave here,’’ he said. “The beauty of this situation is that it happened so early that I have a chance to take my time and look at things from a broader perspective and just make the right decision when it’s all said and done.’’

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Packers hire Van Pelt

090319_VanPeltAlex_300---Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy has hired former Bills player and coach Alex Van Pelt as the team's running backs coach. Van Pelt has tutored Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay as quarterbacks coach the last two years.

Van Pelt, pictured right, played nine seasons with the Buffalo Bills and has been an offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and offensive quality control assistant. Prior to his two-year stint in Tampa Bay, he spent four seasons coaching with the Bills, one (2009) as offensive coordinator and one (2008) as quarterbacks coach.

Prior to joining the Bills as a quality control assistant in 2006, he briefly spent part of the off-season coaching at UB under Turner Gill. McCarthy coached Van Pelt at Pitt and was given strong consideration for the Packers' quarterbacks job when McCarthy was hired in 2006.

At the time, McCarthy said of Van Pelt: "He is someone I'm very fond of. Alex Van Pelt will be a coach in the NFL some day. Maybe here."

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Just visiting (update)

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---Stanford Routt just arrived at the Bills training facility as planned.

---Free agent cornerback Stanford Routt today is scheduled to visit the Bills, one of several teams interested in his services. Routt, pictured above, was released by Oakland last week in part because the Raiders did not want to pay him a $5 million bonus due last week although they apparently managed to pony up $7.5 million for Richard Seymour.

Routt signed a huge contract before last season and spent seven years in Oakland. Detroit and Minnesota have also expressed interest in signing Routt, who had six interceptions and 28 pass break ups over the last two seasons.

---With help, Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff has moved on from his AFC title game miss although he is surprised there wasn't more backlash.

---A pair of high level wide recievers seek new deals and it looks like Philadelphia will franchise free agent WR DeSean Jackson, while Marques Colston will likely hit the market.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Gronkowski undergoes ankle surgery

---Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal first reported that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski underwent surgery today on the ankle that hindered his performance in last Sunday's Super Bowl. Gronkowski is expected to be fully ready for the start of OTAs.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

 

Buffalo market ranked ninth for Super Bowl

---When NBC Sports reported that Super Bowl XLVI was the most-watched show in U.S. television history with 111.3 million viewers, it said Buffalo ranked ninth among markets by virtue of its 52.9 rating. Here’s the list for the top 15 markets in terms of local rating for the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl on Sunday, with TV market size rank in parenthesis:

1. Boston (7) 56.7
2. Indianapolis (26) 56.4
3. Norfolk (43) 54.2
4. Columbus (32) 54.1
5. New Orleans (52) 54.0
6.(t) Nashville (29) 53.5
6.(t) Jacksonville (50) 53.5
8. Pittsburgh (23) 53.0
9. Buffalo (51) 52.9
10. Kansas City (31) 52.1
11. Milwaukee (34) 52.0
12. Cincinnati (35) 51.6
13. Richmond (57) 51.4
14. Atlanta (9) 51.3
15. Denver (17) 51.2

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Hoops star Harris eyes football

Paul Harris, one of the greatest scholastic basketball stars Western New York ever has produced, says he's going to an NFL Scouting Combine. Harris, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, posted a tweet saying he was going to try out at the combine as a tight end. We suspect he's talking about one of the new regional combines that the NFL his holding - essentially open tryouts where players pay a $190 registration fee to enter. Harris, who starred at Niagara Falls High and Syracuse University, recently was released by minor-league Maine of the NBA Development League. Harris is not on the official invite list for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Regional combines are being held through February and March. There's one in the New York metro area on Feb. 25. There's one in Cleveland on March 17. The top players from the regional combines will get invited to a super regional combine in Detroit on March 30-31. It's too bad Harris doesn't have a better outside shot. He'd be in the NBA.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Routt reportedly to visit Bills

The Buffalo Bills are giving the initial impression they're going to be players in this year's free agent market.

Buffalo is one of two teams who have reportedly already scheduled a meeting with ex-Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt, who was released by Oakland in the first surprise move of the NFL offseason Thursday. That report comes from ESPN's Josina Anderson, who quotes Routt's agent, William Vann McElroy, as saying "as of right now Buffalo has him flying in on Sunday for a Monday visit, but I will keep you posted."

Routt was released less than a year after signing a monster extension with the Raiders. Routt signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract last February that included $20 million in guarantees over the first two years. The team then restructed the deal in August by adding two years, making it a $54.5 million contract.

Those deals were orchestrated by late Raiders owner Al Davis, though, and it's clear new Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie didn't view Routt as a $10 million a year player.

Routt got the big contract after grading out as one of the league's top cover cornerbacks in 2010. The opposition's 39.4 percent completion rate when throwing at him was the lowest of any player targeted at least 60 times that season, according to STATS LLC. That made Oakland comfortable enough to allow Nnamdi Asomugha to leave as a free agent, making Routt its No. 1 cornerback.

He regressed in 2011, though, committing an NFL-high 17 penalties. He also allowed eight touchdown passes, second most in the league, according to STATS, although his completion rate of 47.4 was again strong.

Routt, 28, has played 110 games with 53 starts since being drafted in the second round by Oakland in 2005. Tennessee is the other team with a scheduled visit, although Routt will likely attract plenty more attention on the open market.

He joins a deep class of free agent cornerbacks that also includes the likes of Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan, Kansas City's Brandon Carr and San Francisco's Carlos Rogers, among others.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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