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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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Geronimo Allison settles marijuana possession charge

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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison settled a marijuana charge stemming from an arrest last September.

According to the Associated Press, Allison reached a deal with prosecutors in Manitowoc County to a lesser ordinance violation charge which will require Allison to pay a $330.50 fine and complete community service.

Allison was stopped for speeding in September and was arrested after a search of his vehicle turned up cigars with marijuana.

The matter could still subject Allison to league discipline.

Allison caught 12 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns last year in his rookie season with the Packers.

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Joe Thomas sees the draft as a soap opera with unpaid actors

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Ten years ago, tackle Joe Thomas opted not to attend the draft. He recently explained that he didn’t want to be an unpaid actor in the NFL’s top offseason drama.

“The idea of going to New York for five days and kinda being paraded around by the NFL as they make money off your every step, and the whole purpose is just for publicity for me to stand there in a suit and go, ‘Look at me everybody!’… That sounds horrible,” Thomas tells Graham Bentsinger in a new interview that debuts this weekend.

It also sounded horrible to the NFL that Thomas didn’t want to go along with the thing that is constantly sold to players as some sort of an honor.

“It started turning into, ‘The teams are gonna think you’re a prima donna and they’re not gonna wanna draft you anymore because you’re shunning the draft’ . . . to try to coerce me into showing up to the draft,” Thomas said. “And I really thank my agent, Peter Schaffer, for just being real upfront about it and saying, ‘Look, these guys are just BS-ing you. They’re just doing what they can to try to get you there, because they need the actors for their TV show.’ . . . And they get all these players to show up for free and they become part of the soap opera of the NFL, which is great for some guys. . . . But then there’s the guy that just plummets in the draft and he’s there sweating it out. He’s got five cameras in his face.”

Joe gets it, as he usually does. The whole process is packaged and sold to the players as a privilege, with no one from the league’s perspective ever admitting that having the players participate makes a show about nothing possibly about something. The draft doesn’t need to have a stage; it doesn’t even need to have a gathering. Everything can happen electronically, with no boos or no bear hugs and no parade of young men in fancy suits who are providing free content for the Ultimate Reality Show’s ultimate reality show and ultimately getting no compensation for it.

That doesn’t mean I’m not excited for the draft. But it does mean that every player who will be marching out to greet the Commissioner should be getting paid to be there. The Commissioner, and everyone else attending the draft on behalf of the league or one of its teams, definitely is.

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Will Trubisky be the No. 1 overall pick?

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The Browns claim that they have known who they’ll be taking with the first overall pick for two weeks. But it may not be the guy most think it will be.

Adam Schefter of ESPN is pushing the prospect of the Browns shaking up the top of the draft by tapping a quarterback with the first overall pick.

“I continue to hear that Mitchell Trubisky is square in consideration and may turn out to be the No. 1 pick,” Schefter said, via Rotoworld.com. “Now I know everyone thinks Myles Garrett’s going to be the pick, and I will not be surprised if that’s the case. . . . But I have got very smart, very well-connected people telling me over the last 24 hours that they think Trubisky’s going to be the No. 1 pick.”

That’s some next-level hedging, and it cuts against the idea that the Browns know what they’ll be doing — unless the Browns simply aren’t saying what they’re doing in the event they find a way to trade down with someone who wants Garrett, which allows them to take Trubisky in a lower spot and to claim Trubisky is the guy they wanted all along.

Several days ago, Schefter authored a curious article that showcased strong opinions from Warren Sapp against Garrett being the top pick. It felt like a favor to someone with the Browns. And maybe the goal wasn’t to break the tie within the organization but to lay the foundation for emerging from the first round without the supposed consensus No. 1 pick.

Maybe the Browns will emerge from round one with Trubisky. The former North Carolina quarterback joins Thursday’s PFT Live. For those of you who are up late and checking out the latest pre-draft news and information at PFT, you get to see it now.

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Buzz builds for Gareon Conley being picked in round three

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No one currently expects Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley to be selected in round one, given a rape allegation that likely won’t be resolved in his favor by Thursday night. Currently, the thinking is that someone will take a flier on him before the conclusion of Friday night’s proceedings.

Per a league source, the current buzz has Conley going at some point before the end of the third round.

The risk is obvious; Conley could be charged, prosecuted, and ultimately convicted of a first-degree felony. But he also could be exonerated, either by the alleged victim not pursuing the case or prosecutors deciding based on the witness testimony from the hotel room where the rape allegedly occurred that Conley would be able to establish sufficient reasonable doubt to make a trial a losing proposition.

At some point as the seven rounds unfold, the potential reward will outweigh the risk. The current thinking is that this will happen at some point before the end of round three.

If he’s guilty, he shouldn’t be drafted at all. If he’s innocent, his draft stock shouldn’t be affected at all. His current draft stock reflects the reality that few know exactly what happened in that Cleveland hotel room and, for now, no one knows what will happen moving forward.

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Tebow is hitting .246 for the Fireflies

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Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow continues to draw customers to the Columbia Fireflies ballpark. Despite not hitting a home run since cranking two in his first three Single A games, Tebow continues to play well enough to pass the eyeball test.

He’s batting .246 through 18 games, with 16 hits and 16 strikeouts in 65 at-bats. On Wednesday, Tebow had three hits in four at-bats, including a triple.

Attendance on Wednesday for the Fireflies was below 3,200, down sharply from the average of 5,704 through the team’s first 11 home games.

Tebow turns 30 on August 14, so the clock on his development continues to tick and tick and tick. Still, in less than a year he’s gotten to the point where he is getting a hit roughly once in every four tries. While that won’t propel him to the Mets any time soon, it’s progress.

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Emmanuel Sanders: Paxton Lynch has shed “deer in headlights” look

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When last we heard from Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders about the quarterback competition in Denver, he was saying all the right things about both of the candidates. He still is, but with more detail.

“I was just watching Trevor [Siemian] walk around and he’s walking around with that same confidence,” Sanders told reporters on Wednesday after a minicamp practice. “You put him in the shotgun, and he can sling it around. You see Paxton [Lynch] and you see an opportunity at hand being a young guy last year.

“Paxton was like that deer in the headlights, walking around big-eyed. Now, he’s more relaxed. It’s going to be interesting to see how Paxton takes his second year. Hopefully he gets that Memphis swag back. [We’ll] see those two guys compete and see who wins the job.”

Whoever wins the job will be slinging it around, and that makes Sanders very, very happy.

“Obviously, we’re going to throw the ball a lot more,” Sanders said. “There are a lot of underneath routes. Today we were able to throw the ball down the field. I think Bennie [Fowler] and Paxton connected on a deep ball. . . . I’m excited. I remember [Mike McCoy’s] offense from 2014. I labeled it, ‘Wide Receiver Avenue.’ It’s very pass happy and that’s everything as a receiver you could want. I’m excited.”

Broncos fans should be excited, too. The offense didn’t do enough to complement the team’s defense last year, and the Broncos didn’t make it to the playoffs. A passing game with punch could make all the difference that Denver needs.

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Giants lawyers release more Eli Manning emails to media

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Nearly two weeks ago, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a memorabilia fraud lawsuit against the Giants produced an email that arguably contains smoking-gun evidence of quarterback Eli Manning’s involvement in the scheme, with Eli asking the team’s equipment manager for two helmets that can “pass as game used.” On Wednesday, the lawyers representing the Giants and Manning released emails aimed at showing Eli was not involved.

But the article from ESPN.com, which quotes an email reflecting a 2012 effort by Manning to get equipment manager Jeff Skiba to secure Manning’s primary helmet and his backup helmet, contains no emails or other specific factual information that would explain why or how the 2010 “pass as game used” email doesn’t mean what it seems to mean.

Per the ESPN.com article, the lawyers claim that the plaintiffs “have no evidence of what was even produced after those emails were sent and have no direct knowledge of Manning producing anything that turned out to be fake.”

“The Manning defendants produced all of their documents concerning Mr. Manning’s equipment that he provided to Steiner Sports for the simple reason that they have nothing to hide and vehemently deny that they ever provided Steiner Sports with equipment they did not believe was game-used,” the attorneys representing the Giants and Manning wrote in an item submitted last week to the court presiding over the case.

That’s fine and it’s fair, but it sheds no light on why or how Manning sending an email in 2010 asking for two helmets that can “pass as game used” doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. If the email was taken out of context, what was the context and what does it mean within that context?

It would be ironic, to say the least, if lawyers accusing the Giants and Manning of fraud are perpetrating a fraud with an email that doesn’t mean what they claim it means. To date, however, there has been nothing from the the Giants, Manning, or their lawyers that specifically shows why or how that email has been warped, embellished, or otherwise bastardized by the plaintiffs. Producing emails that suggest there wasn’t a scam doesn’t erase the one email that suggests there was; the one email that suggests there was needs to be shown that it’s not what it seems to be in order to change the minds of those who look at that one email as proof of shenanigans.

I like Eli. I respect him and the work he does for worthy causes like the fight against the tragedy of childhood cancer. I want to believe that there’s nothing to any of this. It would be much easier if someone would provide, once and for all, an explanation of the “pass as game used” email that meshes fully and completely with the notion that Eli is being accused of something he didn’t do.

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Over-under on first-round quarterbacks is 3.5

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For the first time this year, Nevada casinos are taking bets on the NFL draft, and perhaps the most interesting bet revolves around how many quarterbacks will be selected in the first round.

Vegas sports books have set the over-under at 3.5, with the under a -200 favorite and the over a +170 underdog. In other words, the oddsmakers think three or fewer first-round quarterbacks is more likely than four or more.

North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky appears to be a sure-thing first-round pick, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes are likely first-round picks as well. If you think those three, and only those three, are going in the first round, then you’d bet the under.

But a surprise like Cal’s Davis Webb or Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer could end up in the first round as well, perhaps pushing the first round total to four or five. And could Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman, Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs or Miami’s Brad Kaaya go in the first round? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

The most likely outcome is that Trubisky, Watson and Mahomes hear their names called Thursday night, and the other quarterbacks do not. But the NFL draft is unpredictable enough that there are no safe bets.

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Marshawn Lynch will wear No. 24 in Oakland

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The Raiders officially don’t retire numbers. The number worn during two stints by cornerback Charles Woodson isn’t unofficially retired, either.

Via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, running back Marshawn Lynch will wear No. 24 with the Raiders.

Gehlken tweets that Lynch’s mother, Delisa, told 95.7 The Game that Woodson approved of the move. Fans will, too, by the thousands. The Lynch 24 jersey immediately will become one of the highest-selling in the league.

Lynch played at Oakland Technical High School, and he played college football at Cal. His arrival helps make Oakland Raiders fans move past the reality that the Raiders will spend a year or two (or maybe three) as lame ducks in the Bay Area before moving to Las Vegas.

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Mickey Loomis: No Malcolm Butler discussions “for quite some time”

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Earlier this week, Peter King of TheMMQB.com reported that the prospect of trading for Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and giving him a new contract had become “less attractive” to the Saints than it had been at other points this offseason.

Saints coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis have both been asked about Butler during media sessions this week and neither one said anything to rule out the possibility of a trade. They didn’t say anything that made it seem likely to happen either.

Payton said that nothing is “imminent” on Tuesday and Loomis said Wednesday that the topic hasn’t been on the table for the team recently.

“We haven’t really had any discussion for quite some time,” Loomis said, via the New Orleans Advocate. “Look, he’s their player. So, we’ll see how that evolves.”

King reported that the Saints don’t want to part with any of their three picks in the first two rounds in a deal for Butler. That could possibly change if things unfold differently than they expect when the draft gets rolling on Thursday night, but it certainly seems like Butler’s chances of leaving New England for New Orleans are slim.

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Jets waive five players

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Rookies will be flooding NFL rosters over the next week as teams make their draft picks and sign players who aren’t selected over seven rounds of selections in Philadelphia.

For some teams, that means they will need to clear space on their 90-man roster to make room for new arrivals. The Jets did just that on Wednesday.

The team announced that they have waived five players. Running back Brandon Burks is the only one with any regular season experience with the team. Burks spent time on their practice squad last season before being promoted to the active roster for the season finale. He ran the ball twice and lost four yards in a 30-10 victory over the Bills.

Wide receiver Darius Jennings also spent time on the Jets’ practice squad last year while defensive lineman Julien Obioha spent the year on injured reserve. Linebacker Jeff Luc and long snapper Josh Latham both signed with the team this year.

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Report: Jahri Evans signing with Packers

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The Packers have said goodbye to a pair of guards in the last year with the release of Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang joining the Lions as a free agent, but they are reportedly bolstering their options at the position with the addition of another veteran.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Packers are signing Jahri Evans.

Evans has played for the Saints for the last 11 seasons, although he did spend last offseason with the Seahawks before being released and returning to New Orleans. He started every game for the Saints after making that return to the roster and has 169 career starts in the NFL.

There was a recent report that members of the Packers coaching staff were unhappy about Lang’s departure, which left them with Don Barclay, Kyle Murphy and Lucas Patrick as options at right guard. With Lane Taylor coming off a year as the starter on the other side, Evans will presumably join that group and leaves the Packers with a less pressing need to add help at the position in this week’s draft.

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Browns say they’ve known the No. 1 pick for two weeks

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It’s the season of smokescreens and horsesh-t, so why not throw some more of it onto the pile?

Browns executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown tells Mike Silver of NFL Network that the Browns know who they’ll be taking with the No. 1 overall pick, and that they’ve known it for two weeks.

This contradicts recent reports that the Browns were still debating whether to take defensive end Myles Garrett or quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the first pick, and it makes the effort by ESPN to trumpet Warren Sapp’s opinion that Garrett shouldn’t be the pick a waste of time, in hindsight.

This all assumes that Brown is telling the truth at a time when few do. The reason for something other than the truth is obvious; if the Browns keep the pick, they need to create the impression that everyone was and is on the same page, even if they recently weren’t.

Look for the Browns to conceal the identity of the pick for as long as possible, in the event that they trade the selection. If they do, and if no one knows who they wanted at No. 1, they can claim with a semi-straight face that they got at a lower spot the guy they would have taken at No. 1.

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Gareon Conley calls allegations “untrue, wrongful, and malicious”

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Former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, who faces a rape accusation only one day before the draft, has responded with a strongly-worded statement reiterating the denial previously articulated by his lawyer.

The six-paragraph statement comes under the headline “Statement of Gareon Conley Regarding Untrue, wrongful, and Malicious Allegations.” It reads as follows, in full:

“The allegations against me concerning the night of April 8/9 that have recently been reported in multiple media outlets are completely false. I did not commit a crime and have not been charged with a crime.

“I pride myself on doing things the right way on and off the field. The things being said about me and what happened that night are not true and don’t fit my character at all. I realize that I put himself in the situation and I could have used better judgment. However, I have worked tirelessly to put myself in position to have the honor of being an NFL draft pick and these untrue allegations are putting a huge cloud over my name and the NFL Draft.

“These allegations appear to be an attempt to ruin this once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and my family. There were several witnesses including another female, who were present the entire time and have given statements that give an accurate account of what took place. I am upset but realize that I am powerless when false accusations are made and people try to convict you in the court of public opinion. It’s sad that your neighbor can get dragged through the mud based upon untrue and malicious allegations alone.

“I am completely confident that as the facts actually come out my name will be cleared.

“I was excited about participating in Thursday’s draft but I have decided it would be selfish of me to stay and be a distraction to the NFL, the other players, and their families who have worked just as hard as me to enjoy the experience so I will not be in attendance.

“I hope and look forward to the honor of being an NFL player and working to be the best representative, player, person, and teammate I can be for the team and the community I will be in.

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Dan Skuta visits with Patriots

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The Patriots had offensive lineman Brandon Fusco in for a visit on Wednesday and he isn’t the only cap casualty from this offseason that stopped in for a meeting.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that former Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta was also at the team’s facility.

Skuta signed a five-year deal with the Jaguars as a free agent before the 2015 season, but was dropped after two years in a move that gave the Jaguars $4.1 million in cap space. He appeared in 26 games for the team over his two years in Jacksonville and recorded 58 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble over that span.

Skuta showed a bit more pass rushing punch while recording five sacks for the 49ers in 2014 and would give the Patriots an experienced depth option for the coming season if he does land a deal in New England.

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