Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers gave in to the NFLs ultimatum that they cooperate with the leagues investigation into their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs for one reason:We werent willing to fall on the knife for something we didnt do, Matthews told reporters in Kansas City following the Green Bay Packers preseason game Thursday night against the Chiefs, a 17-7 loss.Both maintained their innocence from the start when they were linked to PEDs by an Al-Jazeera America report in December, but they (along with Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison) werent cleared until Wednesday?-- a week after they finally agreed to sit down with league investigators.They agreed to talk after the NFL said the players could face a suspension if they didnt cooperate by Aug. 25.Peppers said he wouldve liked the situation to have been resolved sooner.I feel like we all couldve handled the situation a little differently to get better results, [but] Im pleased with how it turned out, Peppers said. Thats pretty much it.Matthews said he was never worried about being suspended until the league gave them a deadline to talk, but he is still bothered that he had to answer to what he called ridiculous allegations.Whos to say that somebody can just come out and say anything and next thing you know youre sitting down for something thats absolutely ridiculous, as it was in this case, Matthews said. Like I said, I maintained my innocence. I really had nothing to worry about until those ultimatums were put in place, and at that point, we sat down for the interviews and were ultimately cleared.When asked whether he made the decision to be interviewed by the league on his own or if the NFL Players Association told him to do it, Peppers said: It was a process.There was a lot of back-and-forth for months, Peppers said. We communicated with the PA back and forth about how to best handle it, so I think last week we came to a decision that we needed to just go ahead and do it and hopefully get it resolved, and thats what happened. Nike Free 3.0 V5 Clearance
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.5 million, one-year contract on Friday. Hawkins, who turns 41 in December, will compete with Rex Brothers for the closers role at spring training. NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan has made no secret of his desire to be considered the NFLs best at his position, the kind of reputation built by playing well against the top pass rushers.Not only has Jack Conklin been one of the leagues most impressive rookies, hes already considered one of the leagues top right tackles.Lewan and Conklin, along with the rest of the Titans, have allowed just 18 sacks, fifth fewest in the NFL, after allowing Tennessee quarterbacks to be sacked a league-worst 54 times in 2015.Their protection of Marcus Mariota will be tested heavily Sunday when Von Miller and his NFL-high 13 + sacks and the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos (8-4) visit looking to pad their league-leading 36 sack total.Theyre unbelievable pass rushers, and theyre great football players, not just pass rushers, Lewan said Wednesday. Having this opportunity is huge, and its awesome. I cant wait.Mariota missed four games as a rookie after being hurt in the pocket. Through the 12 games he played in 2015, he was sacked 38 times. This season only Oakland (12) and the Giants, Pittsburgh and Washington (all tied with 16) have allowed fewer sacks than Tennessee. The Titans also rank seventh allowing a sack per pass attempt on 4.7 percent of passes.The quarterback has noticed how much less he finds himself scrambling away from pass rushers.Those five guys up front have done an incredible job, Mariota said. As we go forward, we can always improve in certain areas. I can always get the ball out quicker, throw the ball away, but those guys up front have done a great job and have made my life a whole lot easier.Improving the offensive line had been at the top of Tennessees to-do list in recent years, and first-year general manager Jon Robinson made the key moves to set up this unit.Robinson signed veteran center Ben Jones away from Houston to anchor the middle, then traded back up to No.dddddddddddd 8 overall to take Conklin out of Michigan State. Conklin has started every game at right tackle, helping bookend the line opposite Lewan.He doesnt look like a rookie, Miller said on a conference call. He doesnt look like a rookie for sure -- very athletic. He has all the abilities to be an elite tackle in the National Football League.The Titans have protected Mariota so well that theyve now kept him from being sacked at all in four of their last eight games. That has coincided with Mariota throwing at least two touchdown passes in each of those games, with Tennessee going 5-3 in that span.Broncos coach Gary Kubiak is very familiar with Jones, having coached the lineman in Houston. Kubiak also credits Mariotas improved play with helping the Titans quarterback avoid some sacks.Obviously, as coaches, you try to protect your quarterback as best you can, Kubiak said. At the same time, as quarterbacks play more and more, they can protect themselves, too. I think all those things go hand-in-hand, but you see how much more comfortable he is and, obviously, theyre very good up front.Conklin watched Miller earn MVP honors at Super Bowl 50 in February and now is preparing to face the linebacker who has posted double-digit sack totals in five of his first six seasons. Yes, Conklin says that feels a little weird. The rookie insists hes over being star struck this deep into the season.What we focus on is everyones just another player, Conklin said. If we stop focusing as much of who they are and just what we have to do on each play, it takes a little bit away from it.---For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org
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