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Browns zeroing in on No. 1 pick in 2017 NFL Draft

Browns zeroing in on No. 1 pick in 2017 NFL Draft

BEREA, Ohio -- For nearly 30 minutes, Sashi Brown kept Cleveland's draft plans close to the vest, deflecting some questions, dodging others.

The team's top football executive was intentionally vague on a number of subjects, including which player the Browns will select with the No. 1 overall pick, though it appears Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is the choice.

But as he was wrapped up his news conference, Brown, who has spent the past year acquiring picks for this draft, finally gave a definitive answer. Asked if the team will trade for a veteran quarterback on draft weekend, he didn't mince words.

"No," Brown said firmly.

His comment would seem to ends months of rampant speculation that Cleveland is angling to acquire New England's Jimmy Garoppolo or Cincinnati's AJ McCarron to help solve their decade-old search for a franchise quarterback.

So there is no gray area, Brown was asked if a deal could happen before next week's draft.

"Could we in theory? Yes," he said after standing at the podium. "But are we planning on it or is that the plan? No."

And with that, Cleveland's seemingly endless quarterback quest took another twist.

But as the Browns prepare to pick a draft class he described as "momentous" for an organization still recovering from a 1-15 season, Brown feels the team is well positioned to add players that will "return to winning here in Cleveland."

Garrett appears to be the head of that rookie group.

Brown said the team has received calls about a possible trade for the No. 1 pick, but indicated the Browns will likely keep it, and that they've zeroed in on who they want.

"We feel really good about picking at one," he said, "and I'll leave it at that."

Both Brown and Andrew Berry, the club's vice president of player personnel, gushed when talking about the Aggies All-American, who has emerged as the consensus best player on the board in 2017.

Garrett could transform Cleveland's defense, giving it a ferocious edge rusher opponents will have to scheme to stop. The Browns don't have enough of those players on their roster.

The team has spent a lot of time getting to know Garrett over the past few months.

"We learned a lot about what makes him tick, what motivates him, how he spends his down time, how he spends his time with his teammates," Brown said. "You can learn a lot. He is an enjoyable young man, very bright. Whatever team gets him, particularly if it's us, would be proud to have him."

One of the only criticisms of Garrett is that it appeared he took plays off during his three seasons in college. Berry, though, said the Browns don't have any issues with Garrett's competitiveness.

"Sometimes those concerns are a little bit overstated," he said. "Every prospect is going to have his weaknesses. There is no such thing as a perfect player."

Or a perfect draft.

But with the No. 1 pick, No. 12 and six in the top 65, the Browns are in a commanding position to fill needs.

The biggest remains at quarterback, and Cleveland, which has started 26 QBs since 1999, could not only come away with Garrett but with the best young passer available as well. If they need to move up from 12, the Browns have the resources with 11 picks.

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky is believed to be Cleveland's highest-rated quarterback, and his Northeast Ohio roots could make him irresistible to the team he grew up rooting for.

Trubisky started only 13 games for the Tar Heels, and his lack of experience could deter teams ahead of the Browns from taking him. A Garrett-and-Trubisky package would be considered a smashing success in Cleveland, where fans treat the event like the Super Bowl they've never gotten.

Brown isn't feeling any more pressure to get this draft right, but he knows it's vital not to get it wrong.

"We are not trying to take some approach where it is this draft or bust," he said. "My job is to make sure that our organization makes a series of good decisions. When you do that over time with a good plan, strategy and alignment, you are going to be good in this league. We have seen this in our division. The teams that we play against have all been together a long time and have those systems very right.

"That is what we are heading toward."

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players

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AP

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players

CHICAGO -- Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

It's the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain disease that can cause a range of symptoms including memory loss.

The report doesn't confirm that the condition is common in all football players; it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE. Many donors or their families contributed because of the players' repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before they died.

"There are many questions that remain unanswered," said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. "How common is this" in the general population and all football players?

"How many years of football is too many?" and "What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years," she noted.

It's also uncertain if some players' lifestyle habits - alcohol, drugs, steroids, diet - might somehow contribute, McKee said.

Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death - depression, impulsivity and behavior changes. He was not involved in the report.

McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, "while there's still a chance to do something about it." Currently, there's no known treatment.

The strongest scientific evidence says CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death, although some researchers are experimenting with tests performed on the living. Many scientists believe that repeated blows to the head increase risks for developing CTE, leading to progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Combat veterans and athletes in rough contact sports like football and boxing are among those thought to be most at risk.

The new report was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players or nearly 90 percent of brains studied. That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players, seven of eight Canadian Football league players and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players.

A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis by examining brain tissue, using recent criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, McKee said.

The NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and said the league "will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes."

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

The journal update includes many previously reported cases, including former NFL players Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler, Dave Duerson and Ralph Wenzel.

New ones include retired tight end Frank Wainright, whose 10-year NFL career included stints with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Wainright died in April 2016 at age 48 from a heart attack triggered by bleeding in the brain, said his wife, Stacie. She said he had struggled almost eight years with frightening symptoms including confusion, memory loss and behavior changes.

Wainright played before the league adopted stricter safety rules and had many concussions, she said. He feared CTE and was adamant about donating his brain, she said.

"A lot of families are really tragically affected by it - not even mentioning what these men are going through and they're really not sure what is happening to them. It's like a storm that you can't quite get out of," his wife said.

Frank Wycheck, another former NFL tight end, said he worries that concussions during his nine-year career - the last seven with the Tennessee Titans - have left him with CTE and he plans to donate his brain to research.

"Some people have heads made of concrete, and it doesn't really affect some of those guys," he said. "But CTE is real."

"I know I'm suffering through it, and it's been a struggle and I feel for all the guys out there that are going through this," said Wycheck, 45.

In the new report, McKee and colleagues found the most severe disease in former professional players; mild disease was found in all three former high school players diagnosed with the disease. Brain bank researchers previously reported that the earliest known evidence of CTE was found in a high school athlete who played football and other sports who died at age 18. He was not included in the current report.

The average age of death among all players studied was 66. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed.

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

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AP

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.