NFL owners have backed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and invited the league's players to get the deal over the line.

Plans to expand the fixture schedule have proved a divisive issue amid a push for a 17-game regular season.

The existing deal expires at the end of next season and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently insisted player welfare continued to be a priority.

The NFL said in a statement on its website that the new CBA would "transform the future of the game".

Now, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) will need to examine the terms on the table and give a two-thirds majority approval, before all players are then given the chance to vote.

Only then can the CBA be enacted, and there is no guarantee of the players' support. Initial talks within the NFLPA will reportedly begin on Friday.

Speaking last month, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who is an NFLPA vice-president, accused the NFL and team owners of putting a "price tag" on player safety in pushing for the extra game.

He and other suspect the move is a stepping stone to an 18-game season.

Sherman said ahead of the Super Bowl: "I don't think it's something the players are interested in, honestly. If that's the point they're negotiating on, I think these negotiations are going to go a lot longer than anticipated."

The NFL said in its statement on Thursday: "Following more than 10 months of intensive and thorough negotiations, the NFL players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players - past, present and future - both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL's second century is even better and more exciting for the fans.

"The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new collective bargaining agreement. The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement.

"Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms.

"Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time."

A report on the NFL website said the CBA proposal included an option for the future 17-game schedule, along with increasing the players' share of revenue from 47 to 48 per cent - reportedly rising to 48.5 per cent in the event of the 17-game season being implemented.

It also includes the plan to expand the play-offs to make it a 14-team competition, starting immediately.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is confident NFL convert Christian Wade can make the Buffalo Bills' active roster next season.

Wade left rugby union side Wasps to pursue a career in the NFL and the former wing - a one-cap England international - was allocated a spot with the Bills as part of last year's International Player Pathway programme.

The 28-year-old showed he is a quick learner when taking a 65-yard run for a touchdown on his very first touch in the preseason.

Wade spent the 2019 NFL campaign with the Bills but was not promoted to the active roster - meaning he is still yet to appear in a regular-season game - but Allen feels that could change next season if his ascent continues.

"I do. I definitely do," Bills starting QB Allen told Omnisport of Wade's chances.

"He's got the speed. Obviously, learning a new game, there's some challenges there, just as far as little things that guys that have been playing for so long know. The little nuances of the game of football are just a little different.

"But he's learning not to pitch it back, he's running forward, he's holding onto it so if he keeps doing that, we'll be just fine.

"He is awesome. Just how he attacks each day.

"In the preseason he did exceptionally well, he took his first carry 65 yards. Just a great kid that wants to learn, wants to work. We've become really good friends with him and his fiancee.

"To make the transition and do that, it's unbelievable. I'm pulling for him, I'm rooting for him, I love being around him. He's such a vibrant character too."

Bills head coach Sean McDermott will have more say in whether Wade is one of the 53 men on the final roster.

And he believes Wade's work ethic stands him in excellent stead.

"What a great ambassador for the game in terms of the UK and he's done a phenomenal job, just the positive energy and juice he brings to our football team every day is impressive," McDermott added.

"I think it's just being comfortable. Last year it was so new, going to play a new sport.

"It would be like me going over to the UK to play rugby or what have you. He's just made so many strides since coming to us less than a year ago.

"The sky's the limit. It's a matter of the hard work that he puts in. I know he's a hard worker and we'll see where it goes."

Adrian Peterson will remain with the Washington Redskins after the team activated their 2020 contract option to retain the running back.

Washington had until February 25 to exercise their club option, which ensures them of Peterson's services for next season on a $2.25million salary and keeps him out of free agency.

Peterson will carry a cap hit of $3.1m and his dead cap figure would have been just $750,000, but his importance to the Redskins was underlined by their move to keep him, which was announced on Wednesday.

A month ahead of his 35th birthday, Peterson has kickstarted his career with the Redskins, starting 31 of their 32 games in the last two seasons, rushing for 1,940 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The seven-time Pro Bowler has added 37 catches, 350 yards and a further score through the air and will remain with the rebuilding team, who have second-year pro Dwayne Haskins at quarterback.

Ron Rivera, the team's new head coach, hailed Peterson's professionalism as he sets about improving on a disappointing 3-13 season.

"Adrian Peterson is the epitome of what it means to be a pro in this league," said Rivera, whose team hold the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

"Adrian's leadership and passion towards the game of football will set an example of what is expected of the players in this program moving forward."

Peterson enters his 13th NFL season fifth all-time in rushing yards with 14,216, a total which is 1,054 behind Barry Sanders, and fourth in career rushing touchdowns having scored 111.

Greg Olsen has joined the Seattle Seahawks on a one-year contract reportedly worth $7million.

Tight end Olsen was a free agent after being released by the Carolina Panthers and will now link up with quarterback Russell Wilson in a deal that has $5.5m in guarantees.

"The Seahawks are adding one of the NFL's most accomplished tight ends for the 2020 season," read the team's statement confirming the move.

Olsen, 34, spent nine seasons with the Panthers, having started his career with four seasons at the Chicago Bears, who selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft.

The veteran had three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons between 2014 and 2016, becoming the first TE in NFL history to achieve the feat.

Injuries restricted him to 16 outings across the next two seasons before he managed just 597 yards and two touchdowns across 14 games in 2019 as the Panthers struggled to a 5-11 record with starting QB Cam Newton ruled out for most of the season.

Seattle, meanwhile, impressed with an 11-5 record before reaching the divisional round of the playoffs, where they fell to a 28-23 loss against the Green Bay Packers.

Olsen strengthens their TE options with Will Dissly coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, while Ed Dickson has only started one game in the last two years, Luke Willson is an unrestricted free agent and Jacob Hollister is a restricted free agent.

Drew Brees has confirmed he will return for the 2020 NFL season. 

The quarterback is poised to enter free agency but looks set to sign fresh terms with the New Orleans Saints after the 41-year-old revealed he will eschew retirement and play on for a 20th season in the league. 

He posted on Instagram: "My feelings about the 2020 season! I look forward to the grind and the journey, for the reward at the end will be worth it!!! Love you #WhoDatNation. Let's make another run at it!"

Last season Brees helped the Saints to a 13-3 record despite missing five games with a thumb injury.

He threw for 2,979 yards and 27 touchdowns with just four interceptions in 11 regular-season games. However, the Saints suffered a shock 26-20 overtime defeat to the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

The former Chargers quarterback joined the Saints in 2006 as a free agent after five seasons with the then San Diego franchise. Brees led the Saints to their only Lombardi Trophy with victory in Super Bowl XLIV at the end of the 2009 season.

He owns the NFL records for career passing yards, completions, touchdown passes and highest career completion percentage.

Brees' performance against the Vikings was overshadowed by that of backup Taysom Hill, who completed the game's longest pass, ran for 50 yards and caught a touchdown pass in just 23 offensive snaps.

Hill, who will be a restricted free agent when the new league year starts in March, has expressed a desire to earn a starting quarterback job. 

Teddy Bridgewater went 5-0 in his time as starter in Brees' injury-enforced absence and is expected to draw significant interest when he enters the market as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Mason Rudolph said Myles Garrett's claim the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback racially abused him prior to their on-field brawl in November is a "bold-faced lie" and "1,000 per cent false".

Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after he ripped off Rudolph's helmet and hit him over the head with it in the closing stages of the Cleveland Browns' Week 10 victory over the Steelers.

Although Garrett initially apologised for his actions, he subsequently accused Rudolph of using a racial slur, a claim that was vehemently denied by the Steelers signal-caller at the time.

Following an investigation, an NFL spokesperson said the league found "no evidence" to support Garrett's allegation.

After being reinstated by the Browns this week, Garrett again said Rudolph racially abused him, telling ESPN: "He called me the N-word. He called me a 'stupid N-word'."

Responding to a clip of the interview on Twitter, Rudolph said: "1,000 per cent false. Bold-faced lie. I did not, have not, and would not utter a racial slur.

"This is a disgusting and reckless attempt to assassinate my character."

Rudolph's attorney and agent Timothy M. Younger suggested legal action could be taken against Garrett.

A statement posted by Younger read: "We waited to hear the entire interview. Garrett, after originally apologising to Mason Rudolph, has made the ill-advised choice of publishing the belated and false accusation that Mr. Rudolph uttered a racial slur on the night in question.

"Not that Mr. Garrett claims that Mr. Rudolph uttered the slur simultaneously with being taken down, and before Mr. Garrett committed a battery by striking Mr. Rudolph on the head with a 6 lb helmet.

"His claim is ludicrous. The obviously was not the first time Mr. Rudolph had been sacked by an African American player. Mr. Garrett maliciously uses this false allegation to cox sympathy, hoping to be excused for what clearly is inexcusable behaviour.

"Despite other players and the referee being in the immediate vicinity, there are zero corroborating witnesses – as confirmed by the NFL.

"Although Mr. Rudolph had hoped to move forward, it is Mr. Garrett who has decided to utter this defamatory statement – in California. He is now exposed to legal liability."

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said: "I support Mason Rudolph not only because I know him, but also because I was on that field immediately following the altercation with Myles Garrett, and subsequently after the game.

"I interacted with a lot of people in the Cleveland Browns organisation – players and coaches. If Mason said what Myles claimed, it would have come out during the many interactions I had with those in the Browns organisation.

"In my conversations, I had a lot of expressions of sorrow for what transpired. I received no indication of anything racial or anything of that nature in those interactions."

Running back David Johnson will not be cut by the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, general manager Steve Keim has confirmed.

Johnson was an All-Pro in 2016 after accruing 2,118 all-purpose yards and, despite missing 15 of the 16 games the next season, he was given a three-year $39million deal on the eve of the 2018 season.

However, Johnson has failed to live up to that contract since, rushing for just 1,285 yards combined across the past two campaigns and losing his starting spot to Kenyan Drake last season when the Cards acquired him in a trade with the Miami Dolphins.

Arizona want to keep Drake, who is due to enter free agency, but Johnson is owed a guaranteed $10m in 2020 and has a salary cap hit of more than $14m, so Keim acknowledged it does not make financial sense to move on from the 28-year-old.

"Cutting him is not an option," Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

"Not only the cap hit, but you're still paying him the cash as well, and it wouldn't be responsible for me or the organisation for me to do that.

"If David Johnson isn't the starter, he still has a significant role. He still creates big-time mismatches in the passing game, he still brings kick-return ability.

"There are a number of things, and you can't just have one back. You have to have a platoon of backs. We've seen that. So there are enough carries to go around."

Johnson was drafted by Keim in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft after Arizona missed out on their preferred target Ameer Abdullah to the Detroit Lions.

It looked like a stroke of good fortune after two seasons and Keim is hopeful Johnson can still deliver on the gridiron, though he would not discuss the possibility of a trade.

"I still have a lot of faith in David," Keim added.

"He's got tremendous skills, he's a great person, he works extremely hard.

"I think it was one of those things [last season], if you look at the big picture, Chase [Edmonds] got hurt, David got hurt, we made the trade [for Drake], and Kenyan Drake came in and he got the hot hand."

Josh Norman is ready to "start something new and fresh" after confirming he has been released by the Washington Redskins.

Norman joined the franchise on a five-year contract worth $75million in April 2016, making him the highest paid cornerback in the history of the NFL at the time.

However, the 32-year-old fell out of favour towards the end of the 2019 season. He did not start in their final six games, suggesting his spell with Washington was coming towards an end.

In releasing the player, the Redskins – who are yet to officially confirm the roster move - will save $12.43m in salary cap space.

"It's their choice not mine," Norman told Julie Donaldson of NBC Sports Washington. "Now I can start something new and fresh."

Norman previously played for the Carolina Panthers, where he worked with new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera.

The fifth-round draft pick was named first-team All-Pro after the 2015 season but failed to agree terms on a new long-term contract in Carolina, leading to him becoming an unrestricted free agent.

In his four years with the Redskins, Norman had seven interceptions and eight forced fumbles.

 

Reinstated Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has once again alleged he was racially abused by Mason Rudolph prior to their brawl in November.

Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after he ripped off Rudolph's helmet and hit the quarterback over the head with it in the closing stages of the Browns' Week 10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Although Garrett initially apologised for his actions, he subsequently accused Rudolph of using a racial slur, a claim that was vehemently denied by the Steelers signal-caller.

Following an investigation, an NFL spokesperson said the league found "no evidence" to support Garrett's allegation.

However, after being reinstated earlier this week, Garrett has again said that Rudolph racially abused him, telling ESPN's Outside The Lines: "He called me the N-word. He called me a 'stupid N-word'."

Garrett said he did not want his initial accusation to be made public, adding: "I didn't want to try to use it as justification for my actions because there's nothing to justify. Like, there's nothing I can say or do to justify what I did on that day. I'm not saying I didn't do anything wrong.

"I know what happened, I know what I heard. People say things when they're heated, or full of emotion. I leave it on the field. He said it, but that was three months ago, four months ago now. I leave that behind.

"I know something was said. I don't want to make it a racial thing, honestly. It's over with for me and I'm pretty sure it's over with for Mason so we just want to move past it and keep on playing football."

Following Garrett's initial allegation, Rudolph's attorney, Timothy M. Younger, told ESPN: "This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett.

"The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason's integrity which is far worse than the physical assault. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment."

Rudolph himself said Garrett's claim was "totally untrue".

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert does not believe Ben Roethlisberger "is at the end of the road" amid doubts over the quarterback following an elbow injury.

Roethlisberger underwent surgery on his right throwing elbow in September and was expected to make a full recovery and return for the 2020 NFL season, though question marks remain.

There has been speculation the 37-year-old – who turns 38 next month – and two-time Super Bowl champion could retire but Colbert said Roethlisberger is on track in his rehab.

"All signs are good at this point, and where that goes, we're hopeful he can make a complete recovery," Colbert said. "As of right now, he's on schedule for that. Where it goes from here remains to be seen.

"He had an injury to his right arm, but other than that, he's relatively healthy. We're not minimising the right arm injury to a right arm quarterback, but we don't think he's at the end of the road."

Colbert added: "Optimistically, [Roethlisberger] is on schedule to return and we hope to return to maybe even a better Ben Roethlisberger than he was previous to the injury.

"In the meantime, we understand who our backups are. We're comfortable with who those backups are. I thought they did a great, representable job in 2019 under the circumstances."

Steelers veteran Roethlisberger suffered the injury in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Roethlisberger, who hurt his right elbow in a 28-26 loss to the Seahawks, was seen shaking his throwing arm at various points during the first half of the team's home opener and even left for the locker room before returning to the sideline to play through the injury.

In April, the six-time Pro Bowler signed a two-year contract extension with the Steelers through the 2021 season.

Since being drafted by the Steelers in 2004, Roethlisberger has played 218 games, and completed 4,651 passes for 56,545 yards and 363 touchdowns.

Former sprinter and Jamaica’s most decorated male sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt, has added his take on whether Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, can make the U.S. Olympic team as a sprinter.

Myles Garrett has been reinstated by the NFL and has rejoined the Cleveland Browns' active roster.

Star defensive end Garrett was handed an indefinite suspension after removing quarterback Mason Rudolph's helmet and hitting him with it during the Browns' 21-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 14.

He missed the rest of a 2019 season that the Browns finished 6-10, a campaign that cost head coach Freddie Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey their jobs.

Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, was told he would have to meet with the commissioner's office prior to a decision being made over his reinstatement.

After meeting with Roger Goodell on Monday in New York, Garrett will be able to link up with the team and join the Browns for offseason activities in April.

"We welcome Myles back to our organisation with open arms," said Andrew Berry, the Browns' executive vice-president of football operations and general manager.

"We know he is grateful to be reinstated, eager to put the past behind him and continue to evolve and grow as a leader. We look forward to having his strong positive presence back as a team-mate, player and person in our community."

A Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2018, Garrett has recorded 30.5 sacks in his three seasons in the league.

Cam Newton's future with the Carolina Panthers depends on his health, according to team owner David Tepper.

Panthers quarterback Newton is out of contract in 2021 and there are doubts over the 2015 MVP's future in Carolina, where Matt Rhule is the new head coach.

Newton endured another injury-hit season, with the 30-year-old making just two appearances due to a foot problem as the Panthers finished 5-11.

"Listen. I'm not a doctor,'' Tepper said on Tuesday. "I've said it a million times, is he healthy? He's not a doctor.

"There's a lot of different things that can happen. Is he healthy? And then we can talk.''

Tepper added: "Look, I've said again and again about it, it's a question of how healthy he is.

"That's still the number one overwhelming thing, to see how healthy he is and to figure out when he's healthy or not. Everything comes from that.''

Philip Rivers will enter free agency after 16 years with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The 38-year-old quarterback has set in excess of 30 franchise records in his long career with the Chargers but stated last month that his time in Los Angeles is likely to be over.

It was announced by the Chargers on Monday that the two parties had mutually agreed for Rivers to depart.

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said: "After stepping back a bit from last season, we reconnected with Philip and his representatives to look at how 2019 played out, assess our future goals, evaluate the current state of the roster and see if there was a path forward that made sense for both parties.

"As we talked through various scenarios, it became apparent that it would be best for Philip and the Chargers to turn the page on what has truly been a remarkable run.

"We agreed that making this decision well before free agency would allow everyone to put themselves in the best position for success in 2020.

"I've said before that Philip can still compete at a top-starter level and, in a perfect world, number 17 is your quarterback forever.

"Obviously, we live in an imperfect world where the only constant is change. I think Philip's tremendous perspective, both when it comes to football and when it comes to life, helped lend clarity to a very complex situation."

Rivers is unsure what the future holds after his remarkable career with the Chargers came to an end.

"I am very grateful to the Spanos family and the Chargers organization for the last 16 years," said Rivers, a man described by owner Dean Spanos as "the heart and soul" of the franchise.

"In anything you do, it's the people you do it with that make it special. There are so many relationships and memories with coaches, support staff and team-mates that will last forever, and for that I am so thankful.

"I never took for granted the opportunity to lead this team out on to the field for 235 games. We had a lot of great moments, beginning in San Diego and then finishing in LA. I wish my team-mates and coaches nothing but the best moving forward.

"I'm not sure what the future holds, but my family and I look forward to seeing what God has planned for us next."

The Chargers have the sixth pick in the draft and already have veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the ranks

Patrick Mahomes has made the same impact on the NFL that The Beatles did on music and the "rock star" Super Bowl MVP is well on his way to greatness with the same mindset as Pele.

That is according to Adam Cook, the man who nurtured the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback's phenomenal talent at Whitehouse High School in Texas.

Mahomes' stardom was catapulted to another stratosphere when he inspired the Chiefs' stunning 31-20 Super Bowl comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium on February 2.

The 2018 NFL MVP got the Chiefs out of a hole to end their 50-year wait for a Super Bowl triumph.

Cook witnessed Mahomes' ability in a variety of sports and saw his signal-calling qualities at close quarters in his roles as quarterback coach, offensive coordinator and head coach at Whitehouse.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury got Cook a ticket for what he described as "the experience of a lifetime" of seeing his former student's finest hour on a glorious Sunday in Miami.

Cook knew Mahomes was something special when he first coached him in the fifth grade and is not surprised to see him striking the right notes at the highest level.

Asked if the 24-year-old can become an NFL great, he told Omnisport: "No doubt about it, that is what you are seeing. It's something we kind of expect, I expect it for him.

"Any time you want to talk about the greats; Dan Marino never won the Super Bowl, some great players never achieved that. The discussion you get is they never did win the big one, well Patrick has been the league MVP, he's won a Super Bowl and won Super Bowl MVP.

"He's already established himself as a Hall of Famer. Those are the things you are going to look at, the numbers he has put up. But knowing he's only 24 years old, if he keeps doing what he's doing and keeps his head level right, keeps working like he's been doing, yes, he could go down as one of the greatest.

"Definitely in my mind he's becoming the face of the NFL. He's so exciting, he's so fun to watch. He's got good people around him and he is where he is now because of the decisions he has made in his life.

"There is nothing wrong with wanting to be great, it's just are you willing to pay the price for being in those positions? That's the key and Patrick has made sacrifices in his life.

"He's like a rock star, much like The Beatles. Their lives were never the same, they ultimately changed everything about rock. They influenced so much of what we listen to today and I think Patrick is doing that to the NFL. He's changing the way the game is played."

That will be music to the ears of Chiefs fans, as will Cook's comparison of their prized asset to the legendary Pele.

Cook, now athletics director at Whitehouse, added: "I spent a year looking into sports psychology and read some great stuff about Pele.

"It was never about holding the trophy up, it was about the rituals and doing those little things right so he could enjoy the game.

"He'd put a towel on his head before games and picture himself in Brazil as a young kid kicking the ball around, he'd visualise himself doing all those things he needed to do to win the game and not necessarily the end product of winning the game.

"I think Patrick has that same mindset. His mindset will be to go back to the work, making sure his body is right and making sure he has a long career and stays ahead of all the competition out there.

"He was good at whatever sport he played at school, but it shouldn't be forgotten that he put so much work in. You couldn't get him out of the gym, he would be throwing whenever he could. He just loved to play and get better.

"I know a couple of years ago the Kansas City Chiefs had to tell him to quit playing basketball, because he was out there dunking on people. If you get a ball out there he's going to compete.

"He's probably the greatest competitor I've ever been around."

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