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Week Three Monday 10-pack

The third week of the 2010 season provided plenty of memorable highlights and outcomes. 

From an overtime thriller in New Orleans to a couple of 0-2 underachievers getting things pointed in the right direction to what nearly became an overtime thrilled in Miami, we hope the next 14 weeks are just like this one.

Then again, some teams would prefer to forget all about Week Three.  For 10 story lines focusing on the good and the bad from Week Three, read on.


1.  Coughlin out, Cowher in?

Two years ago, the Giants started the season 0-2, giving up 80 points in
two games.  This year, after a sloppy Week One win against a grossly
overmatched Panthers team, the Giants have surrendered 67 in two even
sloppier losses.

Publicly, coach Tom Coughlin has taken the blame.  Privately, he has
begun the process of holding his players accountable.

Whether it works remains to be seen.  The Giants are becoming every bit
as dysfunctional as they were when Coughlin somehow pulled a Super
Bowl-sized rabbit out of his hat.  The championship season has become
largely forgotten, however, especially as the Giants become upstaged in their new
stadium by the look-at-me Jets, at whom New York and the rest of the
country are looking, both for what they do on the field, and what they
do off it.

After the Giants collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs,
co-owner John Mara blew a gasket.  This year, if the Giants fail to
qualify for the postseason, he’ll do more than talk tough.

Coughlin has one year left on his contract, and the Giants will have to
decide after 2010 whether to re-up Coughlin’s deal — or whether to move
on.  If they choose to thank the 64-year-old coach for his
contributions and pay him not to work for the franchise in 2011, the
most obvious candidate to replace him becomes Bill Cowher.

The 15-year coach of the Steelers, who resigned after the 2006 season,
recently said that he’s looking for the “right situation.”  And former
Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis, who called Cowher’s coming resignation
at the outset of the 2006 season, sad earlier this year that Cowher
covets” the Giants job.

Unless and until Coughlin can get his Giants to play disciplined,
winning football, a guy who led the Steelers with square-jawed intensity
could become the ultimate answer to the cross-town team led by a
player-coach who doesn’t actually play.

2.  Tebow takes a big step backward.

Entering the regular season, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow occupied the
No. 2 spot on the depth chart, behind starter Kyle Orton and ahead of
Brady Quinn.  Per a league source, Tebow was under the impression that
he’d be the top backup all year.

After only two games, Tebow fell to No. 3.  Inactive for Sunday’s game
against the Colts, the elevation of Quinn prevented Tebow from entering
the game before the fourth quarter, essentially eliminating the team’s “Wild Horse”
single-wing package.  As it turns out, neither Quinn nor Tebow entered
the game at all.

Following the 27-13 loss to Indy, Bronco coach Josh McDaniels downplayed
the situation.

“Just made a decision after the week of practice,” McDaniels said. 
“Brady had a good week and it wasn’t anything about Tim — we just felt
like Brady was probably better equipped at this point to handle this
style of game plan, the style of defense that they played.  Again, they
get very few reps anyways, but the reps that they get — we felt more
comfortable doing that.”

Whether it’s a one-time thing remains to be seen.  The fact that Tebow
believed he’d be the No. 2 guy all year makes the move surprising.  The
possibility that he’ll stay at No. 3 shows just how far he has to go
before he becomes the full-time starter.


3.  Pink slips coming soon?

The desperation that has prompted so many quarterback changes could soon
result in a flurry of firings.  Coordinators could be the initial
scapegoats in some cities.  But with bye weeks beginning,
underperforming head coaches could soon find themselves staying home for
the rest of the year, with pay.

The Panthers have looked putrid, and if they hit their break at 0-5,
coach John Fox could be out the door.

The Browns, who are 0-3 but just as easily could be 3-0, face the
Bengals, Falcons, Steelers, and Saints before their bye.  And if the
Browns are 0-7, Eric Mangini may not get a chance to host the Patriots
and the Jets in consecutive weeks — which likely would drop Cleveland
to 0-9, anyway.

Another potential candidate for a bye week “buh-bye” is Jaguars coach
Jack Del Rio.  As one league source explained it, multiple factions
currently are clashing in Jacksonville.  “If [Del Rio] survives the
season,” the source said, “he likely won’t survive the offseason.”

Whether Del Rio survives the season depends on whether the Jaguars can
turn things around, quickly.  Outscored by a total of 50 points in two
weeks, things get no easier next week, when the Colts come calling.  (It also doesn’t help that the Jags are stuck in a division with Indy, Tennessee, and Houston.)

In San Francisco, Mike Singletary could be on the hot seat, too — if
anyone there had the nerve to actually communicate the decision to fire him. 
(Would you?)

Then there’s Raiders coach Tom Cable, who faces some risk of being fired
every minute of every day, of every season.

4.  Time to change inherently unfair fumble rule.

While watching the Chargers-Seahawks game, which Seattle surprisingly
won, a play late in the first half reminded us of one of the most
inequitable rules in all of sport.

When an offensive player fumbles the ball out of bounds, his team keeps
possession.  But when an offensive player fumbles the ball out of the
end zone that his team is trying to invade, the ball is regarded as
having been recovered by the other team, and it’s placed at the 20.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora described it as a “long-standing rule, in
place for decades.”

That’s fine, but that doesn’t make it fair.

It simply makes no sense to punish the offensive team for getting so
close to the end zone, losing the grasp on the ball near paydirt, and
then losing possession even if the other team never actually recovers
it.  

Instead of giving the ball to the defense at the 20, the rule should
give the ball to the offense, at the opponents’ 20.  Some would argue
that possession should be awarded at the line used for the try after a
touchdown.  Either way, possession shouldn’t be handed over the defense
when the defense has done squat to secure possession.


5. Jets, Falcons seize control of their divisions.

With 13 games to go, a lot can — and will — happen.  But two teams
confidently can claim that, for now, they rule the four-team roosts in
which they reside.

Both the Jets and the Falcons went on the road and knocked off rivals
who had been 2-0.  So now the Dolphins will have to win in New York and
the Saints will have to win in Atlanta in order to avoid what amounts to
a three-game swing in the standings — 2-0 versus 0-2, plus ownership
of the tiebreaker.

Coupled with the Jets’ win over the Patriots, New York has come a
long way in only 13 days

Ditto for the Falcons, who lost a heartbreaker in Week One and suddenly
have broken the Saints’ hammerlock on the NFC South.  It likely was the biggest win of quarterback Matt Ryan’s three-year career.

Again, there’s a long way to go.  For now, though, the Jets and Falcons
have to be feeling pretty good about where they are.


6. Chiefs are for real.

When a team exceeds expectations, expectations eventually will be
adjusted.  For that reason alone, look for the Chiefs to continue to
downplay their success, in the hopes that no one will believe that
they’re a legitimate contender to win the AFC West.

But they are.  Already, the 3-0 Chiefs possess a two-game lead over the rest
of the division, and they’ve toppled the perennial top dogs from San
Diego.

Moving forward, the Chiefs benefit from a fourth-place schedule.  While
the Chargers play the Ravens and the Patriots, the Chiefs get the Browns
and the Bills. (All four AFC West teams play all four AFC South teams
in 2010.)  Those two games could end up making a huge difference, if the
race gets tight in late December.

The biggest question mark comes at quarterback, but that question mark
became an exclamation point, at least for a day, when Matt Cassel
completed 16 of 27 for 250 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception
— good for a passer rating of 111.7.

It’s the kind of triple-digit performance that became commonplace for
Cassel in 2008, when he replaced Tom Brady in New England.  Now that
Cassel could be clicking with Charlie Weis, the guy who helped make Tom
Brady into Tom Brady, there could be even more strong performances from the
player whom many regard as the weak link on a slowly-improving
franchise.

Until then, the Chiefs would prefer that we all regard them as
slowly-improving, with no reason to think that they may be headed in the
direction that their 3-0 record suggests they’re heading.

7.  Dallas Desperadoes deliver for Wade.

Backed against the wall, the Dallas Cowboys proved the value of a single
NFL weekend by avoiding an 0-3 start, pulling into a three-way tie for
second place in the NFC East, and getting themselves back on track for a
season that still could end with a Super Bowl.

Desperation suited the Cowboys well on Sunday in Houston, and now
they’ve got time during their bye week to continue to tweak the offense
and refine the defense and prepare to continue the push toward and
beyond .500.

At a time when the NFL is considering a move from 18 games, it’s
important to remember the impact of a single NFL game when a total of
only 16 are played.  The significance of each and every contest makes
each and every one dramatic and memorable; for the Cowboys, who
faced full-blown implosion after only two weeks, a single game changed
everything.

If the season is “enhanced,” that quality could quickly be diminished.

8.  Steelers could run the table.

We know it’s way too early to say this, but we’re going to say it
anyway.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could go undefeated.

It’s unlikely.  Eventually, they’ll surely lose.  But if they can get past the
Ravens on Sunday in the last game without Ben Roethlisberger and if he
pumps up an offense that is complemented by the best defense in the
league, the Steelers will be unstoppable.

If they get to 16-0, it won’t have happened against a slew of patsies. 
They play at Miami and at New Orleans, and they host the Patriots and
the Jets.

Still, there’s already something special about this team, and it could
become even more special if Roethlisberger helps light up a scoreboard
that rarely will reflect many points from the opposition.

9.  Vick’s historic redemption tour continues.

As the football-watching world waits for Mike Vick’s triple-digit
passer-rating performances to drop dramatically, as they always have done in the past, Vick has instead put his
foot harder on the gas, authoring his best performance to date with the
Eagles.

In a 28-3 win at Jacksonville, Vick completed 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 119.2.

In 10 quarters, Vick has thrown six touchdown passes and not a single
interception.

He’ll face his toughest test yet next week, when Donovan McNabb returns
to Philly for a game that Eagles fans will want to win more than any
non-playoff game in franchise history.  And regardless of how well
McNabb does or doesn’t play, another strong showing from Vick could make
McNabb’s performance moot.

Meanwhile, at some point we need to acknowledge that we’re witnessing
one of the most compelling stories in league history.  Rather than
merely returning to the level he occupied before missing two years while
in prison, Vick could be on the verge of reaching new heights — and of
becoming the franchise quarterback he never quite became in Atlanta.

10.  Saints need to lose their blind spot for Garrett Hartley.

Kicker Garrett Hartley forever will occupy a position in the pantheon of
Saints stars, thanks to his delivery of the franchise’s first NFL title
via a 40-yard overtime kick in the NFC Championship and a trio of
40-plus-yard field goals in the Super Bowl.

But kicker remains one of the most fungible positions in football, and
if a guy can’t do his job there are plenty of others who can, and who will.

The challenge for coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis will be to
forget about the things Hartley did in the past, and to focus on what
he’s doing now.

Or, more importantly, on what he’s not doing.

Two missed field goals in Week One allowed the Vikings to hang around
much longer than they should have, and a redirection from 49ers
defensive tackle Ray McDonald may have prevented Hartley from being the
goat in Week Two.

The goat he was on Sunday, when he missed an overtime chip shot after
knuckling the game-tying kick that forced the extra session.

Peter King reported on Sunday night that the Saints will bring in
kickers this week
.  It shouldn’t simply be a shot across Hartley’s bow. 
Kickers need to be much more reliable than Hartley has been.  And if
Hartley continues to receive extra consideration for what he did in last
year’s Super Bowl, the Saints won’t win another one this year.

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Doug Pederson: Competition has sharpened Nelson Agholor

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The Eagles signed a pair of wide receivers this offseason in Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery and drafted two more, something they probably wouldn’t have felt the need to do if Nelson Agholor had thrived after they made him the 20th pick of the 2015 draft.

Agholor has caught 59 passes for 648 yards and three touchdowns over two seasons and went through a crisis of confidence last season that led to time on the bench along with the offseason moves to shore up the receiving corps. Those moves lessen the need to rely on Agholor, but coach Doug Pederson said this week that he thinks they’ve also pushed the wideout to be better.

“As I’ve said all along, competition, man, sharpens you,” Pederson said, via ESPN.com. “And that’s what I’ve seen from Nelson. He’s done a great job already this spring.”

Agholor switched jersey numbers since the end of last season, which makes for a nice bit of symbolism for a player who could use a fresh start in his third year. He said that he’s learned the need for “a process and continuous progression” rather than making a giant leap all at once, although a modest-sized jump would help ensure he continues the process in Philly.

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John Harbaugh lobbied for loosening the celebration rules

AP

Ravens coach John Harbaugh deserves some of the credit for the NFL’s decision to ease up on celebration penalties.

Harbaugh confirmed that he’s been stating his case within the league for calling fewer penalties on celebrations, saying the game of football ought to be fun.

“Let’s have some fun. Let’s enjoy it,” Harbaugh said. “I really like it when our guys celebrate. I like it when our guys score touchdowns. I want to score a lot of touchdowns. I want to see a lot of celebrations. I want our guys to have fun, and I want our fans to have fun.”

Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is a vocal critic of the NFL’s new, more relaxed celebration rules, Harbaugh says he doesn’t think there was much opposition to the rule change.

“Some of these decisions are really tough that the decision-makers in the NFL have to make, and they are close calls,” he said. “This was not one of them. This was an easy one, and I think they did the right thing.”

Most fans seem to agree.

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Robert Woods reiterates his plan to be Rams’ No. 1 receiver

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The new-look Rams need a game-changing receiver. Free-agent arrival Robert Woods recently reiterated his belief that he can be that guy.

After saying in March, “I feel like I definitely am a No. 1,” Woods explained this week that “I always come in attacked the season trying to be the No. 1 receiver,” via Gary Klein of the L.A. Times.

The former Bills (and USC) receiver became the Rams’ top priority in free agency after Pierre Garςon picked the 49ers. Now, Woods has a chance to make a major impact in the stadium where he played college football, given the departures of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick.

Woods will likely be one of the top options on a depth chart that includes Tavon Austin, Pharoh CooperMike ThomasCooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds.

Woods has been clicking with quarterback Jared Goff, working out together on their own and developing chemistry during OTAs.

In four seasons with the Bills, Woods caught a total of 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best performance came in 2014, with 65 catches for 699 yards and five scores.

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Tom Brady files for a host of TB12 trademarks

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It’s not clear when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will retire from football. When he does, it is clear what he’ll be doing: Making a ton of money by selling products and services that carry the TB12 brand.

Via Mark Shanahan of the Boston Globe, Brady has filed for a wide variety of trademark protections for potential products carrying his TB12 brand, from foam exercise rollers, to athletic bags, shirts, sleepwear, and meal kits. Applications also have been filed for TB12 resistance bands, medicine balls, kettle bells, and jump ropes.

The clearest indication of Brady’s plan to take his methods for staying fit and healthy to the public comes from his effort to obtain trademark protection for TB12 educational services, described (per the Globe) as “seminars for certification of instructors, personal and athletic trainers, consultants, therapists, and medical professionals in the fields of diagnostic medical testing, physical therapy, physical rehabilitation, sports medicine, health, nutrition, cognitive training and development, and concussion awareness.”

Brady has said he plans to play at least until he’s 45. It’s possible that the widespread rollout of products bearing the TB12 trademark will happen before he has stopped playing.

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Jim Caldwell isn’t interested in Kaepernick, but believes in him

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The Lions don’t have a veteran backup to quarterback Matthew Stafford. They’re nevertheless not interested in adding Colin Kaepernick.

Via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, coach Jim Caldwell recently said that Kaepernick won’t be pursued by the team.

“[W]e have the guys that we want at this point in time,” Caldwell said.

Who they have other than Stafford is 2016 sixth-rounder Jake Rudock and 2017 sixth-rounder Brad Kaaya. That doesn’t mean Caldwell believes Kaepernick to be unable to play well.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’s capable,” Caldwell said. “I was on the other side of the field [with the Ravens]. Actually, I was in the press box, but nevertheless when he was playing for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. That was only a couple years ago. So, I don’t think that his skill level has diminished to the point where he would be completely ineffective in this league, so we’ll see.”

If Stafford gets injured, Caldwell will be facing more pointed questions about why the team doesn’t have a quarterback with playing experience, whether it’s Kaepernick or someone else. For now, the “someone else” list is down to the likes of Robert Griffin III, Christian Ponder, Shaun Hill, Luke McCown, and Dan Orlovsky.

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Former Packers president dies at 98

Judge Robert J. Parins, a former Packers president credited with transforming the franchise after 20 years of struggles, has died. He was 98.

Upon his retirement, Judge Parins pushed for the hiring of Bob Harlan to take over the team. It marked a dramatic shift in the 66-year practice of entrusting the publicly-owned company to a local civic leader. Under Harlan, the franchise became a perennial contender, winning a pair of Super Bowls and appearing in another.

That was one of the great things he did,” Jack Koeppler, a deceased member of the Packers’ board of directors, said in 2006, via Cliff Christl of Packers.com. “It’s too big a business.”

Judge Parins also was responsible for removing full authority over the football operations from the head coach, instituting the current strong-G.M. arrangement.

Judge Parins is survived by his wife of 76 years, five children, 11 grandchildren, and 27 great-grandchildren. We extend our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Judge Parins, and to the Packers organization.

[Photo credit: Packers.com]

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Jalen Robinette faces “non-criminal disciplinary proceeding” at Air Force Academy

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The mystery regarding NFL hopeful Jalen Robinette’s omission from graduation at Air Force Academy is a bit closer to being resolved. But not by much.

Via the Denver Post, Robinette’s football agency has disclosed that Robinette “is currently awaiting a determination on a non-criminal disciplinary proceeding.”

“Due to privacy-related concerns, we are unable to comment on the circumstances,” the Air Force Academy said in a statement issued to the Post. “We can say that the circumstances do not involve any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and are unrelated to cadet Robinette’s professional football pursuits.”

Since the NFL draft, the unselected Robinette participated in rookie minicamps with the Bills and Patriots. He did not receive a job offer from either team.

The resolution to his status with the Air Force potentially could allow him to pursue professional football unfettered by the new requirement that at least two years of active duty be served. If Robinette is deemed ineligible to graduate or be commissioned as an officer in the Air Force, he could be given the option to reimburse the government for his education (valued at more than $400,000) and exit the military or enlist as a non-officer.

Ultimately, the final decision on Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be made by the Air Force. After that, more will be known about whether Robinette will be permitted to play pro football.

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Spike Lee is 0-for-1 as NFL reporter

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Spike Lee, Rob Lowe. Rob, Spike. (It’s not quite as poetic as the time David Letterman introduced Oprah and Uma.)

Five years after Rob Lowe incorrectly “reported” that Peyton Manning would retire, Spike Lee has “incorrectly” reported that the Seahawks have signed Colin Kaepernick.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Seahawks have not signed Kaepernick.

Lee has deleted the Instagram post that makes the claim. The tweet is still up.

Just as Lowe eventually was right (four years later), Lee could eventually be right, too. Kaepernick recently visited the Seahawks, and the Seahawks are the only team that has brought him to town in more than two months since he became a free agent.

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Vikings are looking for a kick returner

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The Vikings have had great kickoff returners for most of the last decade, with first-round receiver yielding to first-round receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Now, for the first time since Harvin arrived, it’s unclear who will be returning kickoffs for the Vikings.

“We’ve been fortunate to have some very talented returners who have played for us here in Minnesota,” special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer recently told the team’s official website. “I think when you have a good returner, that makes everyone else around them better. They listen more attentively during the meetings, they study harder.”

The Vikings currently may have a good kickoff returner. They just don’t know who it is.

“At the end of the day, there’s been a lot of talented guys that have been here and they’re fun to coach, but we’re going to find someone that’s a pretty special kickoff returner,” Priefer said.

The candidates include fifth-round receiver Rodney Adams and seventh-round receiver Stacy Coley, along with veteran punt returner Marcus Sherels (pictured).

“Maybe it’s by committee,” Priefer said. “We have several candidates and I’m excited about that. We drafted two guys who could do it. We’ve got guys on the roster that want to do it.”

Every team has guys on the roster that want to do it. The question is whether they can catch the ball, make a good decision as to whether to bring it out of the end zone (where applicable), gain enough yardage to give the offense the boost it needs, and not cough the thing up.

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Michael Vick plans to sign a one-day contract, retire as a Falcon

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It’s been a decade since Michael Vick went from a Falcons superstar to a convicted felon, and after his release from prison he’s been an Eagle, a Jet and a Steeler. But he’ll be remembered for his greatness in Atlanta, and that’s where he wants his career to come to an official end.

Vick told CBS Radio in Atlanta that he has talked with the Falcons about signing a one-day contract and officially retiring with the team that chose him first overall in the 2001 NFL draft.

Hopefully soon,” said Vick.

Vick hasn’t actually officially retired yet, but he said he has now turned his attention to working with young people. He regularly makes appearances at schools and youth organizations to urge children not to make the kinds of decisions that he made, which landed him in prison.

“I think I got my fill,” said Vick. “Working with the kids allows me to decompress.”

Although Vick’s exit from Atlanta was ugly, 10 years later a one-day return to Atlanta would be a day that many Falcons fans would celebrate.

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William Gay is still at corner for the Steelers

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32-year-old cornerback William Gay could be moved to safety or, possibly, released by the Steelers. As noted by Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times, neither has happened — yet.

Gay continues to be the slot corner for the Steelers, with Artie Burns on the outside. That could change in time, based on the development of Senquez Golson and/or rookie Cameron Sutton.

Gay participated in 80.7 percent of the snaps in 2016 for a team that won the division and nearly got to the Super Bowl. He spent five years with the Steelers (winning Super Bowl XLIII) and one with the Cardinals before returning to Pittsburgh in 2013.

Last year, Gay went from starter to slot corner. He’s due to earn $2 million this year and $1.75 million in 2018.

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Saturday one-liners

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Cowboys RB Alfred Morris is still driving the 1991 Mazda that he bought for $2. (Take that, Vanny Woodhead.)

Is Cris Carter a mentor or an enabler for Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.?

Eagles DE Brandon Graham is ready to mentor rookie Derek Barnett.

WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. is fitting in nicely in Washington.

The Bears are still searching for their next Devin Hester.

Lions offensive players are getting more comfortable playing Cooterball.

Former Packers TE Mitchell Henry, 24, is battling leukemia.

The Vikings’ top two draft picks remain unsigned due in part to a disagreement over contract language.

The 2017 rookie class in Atlanta has graduated from Falcons University.

The father of Panthers rookie FB Alex Armah hoped Carolina would draft his son, and they did.

The Saints’ cornerbacks are “ready to roll.” (Which is better than being ready to be rolled, again.)

Here are the top 10 photos to come from the first week of Buccaneers OTAs.

Cardinals WR Jaron Brown wants to reward the team for its faith in him.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will speak at a Rams event on June 15; tickets are $550 or $5,000 for a table of 10.

The late Cortez Kennedy had his best season after switching his Seahawks number from 96 to 99 in honor of Jerome Brown.

49ers LB Navorro Bowman is back at full strength and ready to compete in the team’s new defense.

Bills S Joe Powell’s quest to make the roster was aided by a good decision in Tuesday’s OTA practice.

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill and WR DeVante Parker are developing great chemistry.

Patriots LB Jonathan Freeny continues to work his way back from a season largely lost to injury.

New Jets OT Kelvin Beachum isn’t healthy enough to participate in OTAs.

Steelers rookie LB T.J. Watt has been taking first-team reps at ROLB, but James Harrison continues to own that spot.

Browns QB DeShone Kizer will spend time between OTAs and training camp working with Tom House, at the suggestion of coach Hue Jackson.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants the offensive line to “prove a lot of people wrong.”

The Bengals are breaking in some new linebackers.

Texans DE J.J. Watt approves of the promotion of Mike Vrabel to defensive coordinator.

Former Colts DT Cory Redding allegedly was swindled out of $4.5 million.

Titans WR Rishard Matthews has changed his mind about Colin Kaepernick.

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns hopes to rebound from a season plagued by drops and injuries.

Jon Gruden claims he had no influence over former colleague and current Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s decision to trade up and draft QB Patrick Mahomes.

Raiders WR Amari Cooper is keenly aware of the major dip in production in the second half of each of his first two NFL seasons.

Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy says that rookie receivers Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie are “swimming” in their effort to pick up the offense. (Which is always better than “sinking.”)

Chris McCain could be the answer for the Chargers at the LEO position in Gus Bradley’s defense.

 

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Cowboys plan “significant” role for Ryan Switzer

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The Cowboys drafted a slot receiver when they already have a slot receiver. But rookie Ryan Switzer won’t simply be the backup to Cole Beasley.

Via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys plan to put both players on the field at the same time.

“He’s a classic slot receiver,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said, via Machota. “He has a similar game [to Beasley], but he has his own things. We would really like those two guys to be able to complement each other and run real similar route trees. Certainly a huge bonus with him is his ability to be a returner in our special teams.”

With Beasley taking care of a sore hamstring, Switzer has been getting first-team reps in the slot.

“His role is significant,” Lineman said. “You can see right now he’s getting reps that we wouldn’t have . . . if he wasn’t here. He complements Beasley and also gives us some big-time needed depth at that position.”

Switzer also has big-time skill. Earlier this week, he made a one-handed catch at the sideline and got both feet in before stepping out.

It makes sense to have two slot receivers, beyond depth concerns. There are two slots, and the notion of having Beasley on the inside of one wideout and Switzer on the inside of the other creates fascinating possibilities for the offense, regardless of whether Ezekiel Elliott is lined up in the backfield or Jason Witten is playing tight end.

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Lions add Matt Asiata to running back depth chart

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A month after passing on running backs in the draft, the Lions have decided to add one in free agency.

Former Vikings running back Matt Asiata has agreed to terms with the Lions, who worked him out early this month.

“Anybody knows who has seen him work, he’s a good special-teamer,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of Asiata. “He’s tough. He’s a very good pass protector and he carries the ball. He runs behind his pads. He’s always been a very, very effective player in this league.”

Asiata is, along with John Kuhn, one of only two running backs in the NFL who has averaged less than four yards a carry in each of the last five seasons. So it’s safe to say the Lions won’t be counting on Asiata to break many long runs. But as a short yardage back and special teams contributor he may be able to help the Lions. He joins a depth chart in Detroit that also includes Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington.

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OBJ drops a hint as to his mindset, otherwise remains silent

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Let me begin by saying this: Odell Beckham Jr. has every right to not show up for voluntary workouts. The problem at this point isn’t his absence but his failure to provide any explanation for it.

Often, players stay away in order to exert leverage, with the goal of getting a new contract. Also, and as PFT has recently pointed out, if all players were to band together and boycott voluntary workouts, they’d quickly get a major concession from the league in order to make those mandatory-as-a-practical matter practices truly mandatory. The problem as it relates to Beckham’s decision to treat voluntary-in-name-only workouts as optional is that he has provided no information, directly or via leaks from his representatives to the media, as to the reason(s) for his absence.

Regardless of whether no player must be present, Beckham’s teammates are. As they do things they’d probably prefer not to do but feel like they should do in order to properly prepare for the coming season, it would be useful to at least know why one of their highest-profile teammates believes he doesn’t need to join them. (If any of them had access to Beckham’s reasoning and wanted to knock down the criticism of Beckham, those teammates would be the ones sharing with the public the reason(s) for Beckham’s absence.)

Instead, Beckham has built a mystery, opting to work out with people like Johnny Manziel and Cris Carter in the very same week that OTAs began. The obvious reaction to the timing is why wait until the very week when OTAs began to work out with Manziel and Carter?

Likewise, and as noted here on Friday, Beckham’s decision to engage in workouts and drills away from the team puts his 2017 salary and his fifth-year guaranteed-only-for-an-injury-happening-at-work option a risk. As a result, more than $10 million is riding on Beckham not suffering, for example, a Teddy Bridgewater-style catastrophic knee injury while not on Giants property.

And yet the silence from Beckham as to the reason(s) for his absence continues. Most recently, Beckham has added a twist of defiance and hinted at his mindset, retweeting via his Twitter page messages attacking those who have criticized Beckham for not showing up.

Consider these tweets from Roland Martin that were repeated by Beckham: (1) “If the workouts are VOLUNTARY, then he doesn’t have to show up“; (2) “I’m sick of folks acting like star athletes must always do what a coach asks“; and (3) “When training camp is mandatory, then show up.”

At a time when the Giants have made it clear that they expect Beckham to mature, it’s fair to ask whether Beckham is handling his business in a mature way. Yes, he has every right to stay away. But his stubborn silence has created a vacuum for hot takes, assorted speculation, and ultimately another distraction.

If Beckham were to simply announce his plans and, if he doesn’t plan to show up until the workouts become mandatory, some tangible reason other than “it’s voluntary,” the cottage industry arising from trying to figure out where he is and what he’s doing and why he’s not with the team and whether he’s going to join his teammates will grow. As will the questions for his coach and teammates who are left to explain that which Beckham, for whatever reason, won’t.

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