Dustin Keller

Documentary Links Peyton Manning, Other NFLers To PEDs

9:50pm: Manning has issued a strongly worded denial through the Broncos (Twitter link via Albert Breer of NFL.com):

“The allegation that I would do something like that is complete garbage and is totally made up. It never happened. Never. I really can’t believe somebody would put something like this on the air. Whoever said this is making stuff up.”

9:04pm: In 2011, when Peyton Manning was recovering from a career-threatening neck injury, an Indianapolis anti-aging clinic supplied him and his wife with human growth hormone – which is on the NFL’s banned substances list – according to a pharmacist who worked at the clinic, Travis Waldron and Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post write.

Guyer Institute pharmacist Charlie Sly claims he was “part of a medical team that helped [Manning] recover.” Sly made that statement to Liam Collins, a British hurdler who went undercover for an Al Jazeera documentary, “The Dark Side,” centering on the global epidemic of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

“All the time we would be sending Ashley Manning drugs,” says Sly on video, unaware that Collins was taping him. “Like growth hormone, all the time, everywhere, Florida. And it would never be under Peyton’s name, it would always be under her name.”

Sly also declares that Manning and his wife showed up at the clinic after normal business hours for intravenous treatments.

In response, Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, rejected Sly’s allegations to Al Jazeera and referred to them as “outrageous and wrong.”

“The treatment he received at the Guyer Institute was provided on the advice of his physician and with the knowledge of team doctors and trainers,” said Condon, who neither confirmed nor denied that growth hormones were sent to Manning’s wife.

“Any medical treatment received by Ashley is a private matter of hers, her doctor, and her family,” Condon said.

As noted by Waldron and Grim, the league banned HGH in 2011 but didn’t begin testing for it until 2014. No NFL player has ever tested positive for it.

In addition to Manning, Sly and fellow pharmacist Chad Robertson name Packers linebackers Mike Neal and Julius Peppers, Steelers LB James Harrison and ex-NFL tight end Dustin Keller as players they supplied with banned substances. Neal, Peppers, Harrison and Keller are all linked to hormone supplement Delta-2, which Sly says is designed to stay ahead of drug tests.

Further, Sly contends to have provided prescription painkiller Percocet to Packers LB Clay Matthews, whom Sly says also attempted to obtain Toradol – another painkiller. Toradol is banned in many countries, but not the United States.

Harrison issued a denial to Al Jazeera, while Neal, Peppers, Matthews and Keller didn’t respond to the network’s request for comment, per Waldron and Grim.

Tight End Notes: Finley, Keller, Davis, Jags

The league’s most productive tight end became the league’s highest-paid tight end earlier today, with Jimmy Graham agreeing to terms on a four-year deal with the Saints. Although we’re still waiting on all the specifics, the contract reportedly has an average annual value of $10MM, which would be the highest per-year amount ever for the position.

While Graham’s contract saga appears to be over, there are a handful of other players looking to sign or restructure contracts of their own. Let’s round up the latest on a few tight ends around the NFL….

  • Tom Pelissero of USA Today reported last night that Jermichael Finley would undergo a series of medical tests this week and would send those results to all 32 NFL teams in hopes of generating interest. Today, Pelissero passes along a series of quotes from the former Packer explaining why he wants to continue his playing career rather than trying to collect a $10MM insurance policy and retiring.
  • Finley’s explanation: “It’s a pride issue now. I’ve got a lot of pride. I’ve been playing this game for free for 20 years when I was a kid, so it ain’t about the money. It ain’t about how much I can get and how much my agent can get and whatnot. It’s all about the love of the game. We all know the money’s going to come and it’s going to go. I just want to go out there and be able to showcase these skills that I’ve been working on for months now, since I got hurt in October.”
  • Dustin Keller, who is coming off a serious knee injury, is still making progress in his recovery, according to Pelissero (via Twitter). Keller hopes to play this season, but isn’t in a rush to sign with a team.
  • It’s safe to assume that Graham’s new annual value of $10MM becomes a target for Vernon Davis as he attempts to negotiate a new deal with the 49ers, writes Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. In my opinion, it’s probably also safe to assume the Niners won’t pay him that much. Davis is currently in line for base salaries of just $4.7MM in 2014 and $4.35MM in 2015, though his cap hit is more sizable due to bonus money.
  • A pair of tight ends who are eligible for extensions weighed in via Twitter on Graham’s new contract, with Jordan Cameron of the Browns and Julius Thomas of the Broncos passing along their congratulations. Presumably, both players will also have Graham’s deal in mind when they negotiate their own extensions.
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union examines the tight end situation for the Jaguars, who will need to figure out their third player at the position behind Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor.

Patriots Notes: Connolly, Ridley, Aiken

It’s tough for athletes to find work once their playing days are over. However, former Patriots offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka is proving otherwise. Earlier this week, Ring of Honor Wrestling (a second-tier pro wrestling promotion similar to WWE) announced that they have signed the 30-year-old.

Ojinnaka, or “Moose” as he’s known in the ring, was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2006 draft by the Falcons. He stuck around Atlanta for four seasons, appearing in 39 games. He spent 2010 with the Patriots before bouncing around to the Colts and Rams.

At the very least, we can be assured that the group of players still seeking a job for 2014 have a fallback plan.

Let’s take a look at some more Patriots notes from ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss

  • If the team were to release a veteran, Reiss thinks it would be offensive lineman Dan Connolly. The 31-year-old is set to earn $3MM next season, and the writer thinks the team could turn to cheaper, younger players.
  • In regards to a “surprise” release, the writer points to Stevan Ridley. Reiss ultimately believes that Ridley will make the team, but things could get interesting if undrafted running back Stephen Houston impresses.
  • If Rob Gronkowski misses time, Reiss thinks we’ll see “a de-emphasis on the tight end position” in New England. However, the writer could still see the team making a move for a veteran such as Dustin Keller.
  • When asked which undrafted rookie could stick around, Reiss said long snapper Tyler Ott has the best shot. The player’s cheap, three-year commitment would allow the Patriots to move on from the more expensive Danny Aiken.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Groves, Keller

With the NFL unveiling the first member of the Patriots on their Top 100 for 2014 list tonight, Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com looked back at the Pats players who have made the list in previous years. Tom Brady, unsurprisingly, has been a mainstay in the top 5, being named No. 1 in 2011 and No. 4 in 2012 and 2013. Aaron Hernandez made his first top 100 in 2013, but it’s a pretty safe bet that he won’t be featured in this year’s edition. Here’s more out of the AFC East..

  • Former Browns linebacker Quentin Groves visited the Patriots today, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (via Twitter). The Redskins are up next for the former Auburn standout and he’ll visit Washington D.C. tomorrow. The 29-year-old was expected to be a menacing pass rusher when he was taken with the 52nd overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he has yet to realize his potential. In six NFL seasons, Groves has recorded just 8.5 sacks for the Jaguars, Raiders, Cardinals, and Browns.
  • The Patriots are keeping in touch with tight end Dustin Keller, a source tells Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Keller suffered a major knee injury during the 2013 preseason with the Dolphins and is still working his way back to football shape. Keller caught 241 passes for 2,876 yards and 17 touchdowns in five seasons with the Jets, including career highs of 65 receptions for 815 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 when he last played a full 16-game season.
  • The Bills are working out former Kansas receiver and special-teamer Josh Ford, reports Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Ford recorded 14 special-teams tackles and blocked three kicks during his senior season with the Jayhawks.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

AFC East Notes: Jets’ QBs, Pats’ TEs, Woods

As our Zach Links wrote several days ago, Jets‘ offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has tilted the team’s quarterback competition in favor of second-year man Geno Smith, but Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com wonders if that is a good idea. Cimini writes that there are benefits and drawbacks to both Smith and Michael Vick, so a truly open competition would eliminate any confusion and would also create a “best-man-wins scenario.”

Let’s take a quick look around the rest of the AFC East:

  • In the same piece, Cimini writes that although Jets‘ right guard Willie Colon is expected to be fully healthy by training camp, his injury has revealed the glaring lack of experienced depth along the team’s offensive line, which Cimini believes should be addressed with a veteran acquisition or two.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com writes that, since we have reached that magical June 1 date, the Patriots are in a good position to add quality depth to their tight end group by signing a player like Dustin Keller or Jermichael Finley.
  • In a separate piece, Reiss empties out his notebook from the Patriots‘ first week of OTAs.
  • The Bills primarily utilized the unique route-running ability of departed wide receiver Stevie Johnson out of the slot last season, and head coach Doug Marrone believes Robert Woods can excel in that role, writes Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News.
  • Much like Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly, new Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor utilizes a system that focuses on tempo, and James Walker of ESPN.com examines the budding relationship between Lazor and third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Lazor’s expectations for his young signal-caller.
  • In a separate piece, Walker wonders if Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace is ready to break out in 2014.

Sunday Roundup: Pats, Jags, Browns

With the increasing importance of tight ends in today’s game–the current average for tight ends on a roster is 5.5–it is not surprising that the Patriots have brought in veteran free agent TEs Dustin Keller, Ben Hartsock, and Nate Byham for tryouts over the past couple of weeks, writes Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com. The team has two open spots on its 90-man roster, and would like to add more depth to the tight end position with Rob Gronkowski currently unavailable to practice. If the Patriots do decide to pull the trigger on any of those players, Reiss expects it will be after June 1, so they can protect their compensatory picks.

Now for some more notes around the league on this Sunday morning:

  • In the same piece, Reiss says that if the Patriots are looking to add a veteran linebacker, James Anderson might be their guy. He was in for a tryout last week, and he offers solid coverage abilities. Again, if New England were to sign him, it would be after June 1.
  • Finally, Reiss takes a look at the players the Dolphins drafted with the picks they received in the Brandon Marshall trade and comes to an obvious conclusion: the Bears got the better end of the deal.
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union examines UDFA Allen Hurns‘ path to the Jaguars‘ roster and what attracted the team to Toby Gerhart, who currently tops the Jacksonville’s depth chart at running back.
  • Chris Boden of CSNChicago.com offers his early projections as to how the Bears‘ final roster might shake out, with the caveat that injuries and veteran additions will inevitably happen.
  • Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com looks at a number of Browns-related topics in his weekly mailbag, including several clarifications on the Josh Gordon saga and an early look at the right tackle position battle.
  • Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers an early take on the 49ers‘ roster battle at inside linebacker.

Dustin Keller Visiting Patriots

While most teams focus on next week’s draft, there are still plenty of free agents looking for jobs, and the Patriots are hosting one for a visit today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Schefter reports (via Twitter) that former Jets and Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller is visiting New England.

Keller, 29, set career highs in 2011 with 65 receptions and 815 receiving yards, but has seen his last two seasons derailed due to injuries. Before the 2013 regular season got underway, the veteran tight end suffered a significant knee injury, tearing his ACL, MCL, and PCL, and missed the entire season as a result. However, Keller’s agent recently told Jordan Raanan of NJ.com that his client is “good to go” and will be ready to play in 2014.

Assuming Keller is indeed healthy – and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that a physical on his knee “went very well” – he looks like a good fit for a Patriots offense that relies heavily on its tight ends. Rob Gronkowski is also on the comeback trail after a similar knee injury, but even if he’s back to 100% for the start of the season, New England will want to add another tight end to its roster. The club could also prioritize the position in the draft.

Extra Points: Options, Rice, Keller, Visits

As our fifth-year option tracker shows, we’re still waiting on many teams to make their official decisions on 2015 options for players who were drafted in the first round in 2011. The deadline arrives on May 3, so we still have nearly two more weeks before all those contract situations are resolved, but Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com has decided to take his best guess at the upcoming decisions. In La Canfora’s view, 17 options are “no-brainers” to be exercised, while 10 are virtually certain to be declined — the remaining five, including Aldon Smith‘s and Mark Ingram‘s, among others, are still up in the air.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Jets offered Sidney Rice a larger contract than the Seahawks did, but the receiver wanted to return to the Super Bowl champs, he said today on 710 ESPN in Seattle (Twitter link).
  • Tight end Dustin Keller remains unsigned, but the agent for Keller says his client is “good to go” after missing the 2013 season with a serious knee injury, tweets Jordan Raanan of NJ.com.
  • After visiting the Jets today, TCU cornerback Jason Verrett will move on to the Rams on Tuesday and the Texans on Wednesday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).
  • Rapoport passes along a couple more draft updates on Twitter, writing that LSU running back Jeremy Hill is visiting the Bengals today and previously visited the Titans. Rapoport adds that Florida offensive lineman Jon Halapio has worked out for the Dolphins, Buccaneers, Browns, and Colts.
  • Boston College defensive end Kaleb Ramsey will work out for NFL scouts on campus this Wednesday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
  • According to reports from Wilson, Gil Brandt of NFL.com, and Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley is visiting the Rams, Patriots, Browns, and Cowboys this week.
  • We heard last week that Nebraska guard Spencer Long has visits lined up with the Eagles, Chargers, Dolphins, and Falcons, and Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net says (via Twitter) Long will also visit three other clubs.

AFC Notes: Mack, Wimbley, Brown, Steelers

It was reported that the Browns wouldn’t hesitate to match an offer sheet for Alex Mack containing $22M guaranteed, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union gives reasons why the Jaguars can afford to overspend for Mack if they so desire.

Here’s a handful of other AFC notes:

  • Jets GM John Idzik, on the job 15 months, has cut ties with three of his predecessor Mike Tannenbaum’s nine first-round picks (Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller and Mark Sanchez). Cornerback Kyle Wilson could be next out the door, writes ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini, who cites Wilson’s unimpactful play as the reason he’s on the hot seat. In 2,195 defensive snaps over four seasons, Wilson has managed just six impact plays. Says Cimini: “Clearly, the organization has added competition, so Wilson will have to raise his game if he wants to play out his contract in New York.” Wilson has one year remaining on his rookie deal.
  • The Steelers “have been able to reshape their roster despite the constraints of the salary cap,” writes ESPN.com’s Scott Brown, who details how the team took advantage of a rule in the CBA that allows teams to hand out veteran minimum contracts and get a cap discount. In that that type of contract, the max signing bonus allowed is $65k, and the Steelers have done three such deals this offseason.
  • The Steelers’ website posted a free agent update, listing key additions and subtractions for all four teams in the AFC North.
  • The Titans and Kamerion Wimbley are still trying to work out a restructured contract, reports Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean (via Twitter).
  • Free agent running back Andre Brown, previously of the Giants, will visit the Texans today, reports Pro Football Talk.

Extra Points: Pats, Ravens, Bears, Keller

The Patriots raised eyebrows this week with a string of quarterback draft prospect visits, and overthecap.com’s Aaron Fitzgerald says the team has structured its salary cap to allow for the addition of Tom Brady‘s successor.

Miscellaneous lunchtime news, notes and links. . .

  • The Ravens are expected to draft a safety, and ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley discusses the merits of three of the top available, saying Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward might be the best fit. Last year’s first-rounder, Matt Elam, who did not produce an abundance of impact plays as a rookie, is expected to be used closer to the line of scrimmage more often next season. Says Hensley: “The Ravens can’t afford for Elam to disappear so much in games this year.”
  • Dustin Keller, who tore his ACL, MCL and PCL and also dislocated the knee last August, is not yet 100 percent, but “hasn’t been ruled out and remains on the Dolphins’ radar,” writes ESPN.com’s James Walker.
  • A brief, position-by-position analysis of the Jaguars’ off-season moves is provided by Jacksonville.com’s Ryan O’Halloran, who describes under-the-radar free agent acquisition Dekoda Watson as an “ascending player.”
  • During an edition of ESPN’s First Draft podcast (listen here), ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay campaigns for the Bears to draft Pittsburgh three-technique Aaron Donald 14th overall, saying the team’s Plan B would be “panic” in a scenario where Donald is off the board. McShay also called Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert the most overrated player in the draft.
  • Georgia Tech pass rusher Jeremiah Attaochu, recovered from a torn hamstring injury, worked out for scouts at GT’s pro day yesterday, and has visits scheduled with the Colts, Eagles and Patriots.
  • A list of reported prospect workouts/visits as well as head coach and general manager sightings at various pro days can be found on NFL.com.