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Week Four Friday 10-pack

It’s Friday morning.  And since the news flow often slows down on Friday morning, we need to fill space.

So we fill space with 10 story lines emanating from the upcoming slate of games.

It’s harder with two or three storyline-worthy teams on a bye, but we eventually found a way to milk the cow this week.


1.  Jets could soon be soaring.

After a disappointing Monday night loss to break in their half of the
New Meadowlands Stadium (it’s sort of like Fred and Barney sharing a
swimming pool
), the Jets have won two in a row against their primary
division rivals.  And they’ve done it with cornerback Darrelle Revis and
linebacker Calvin Pace injured, and with receiver Santonio Holmes on
suspension.

So what happens when those guys come back?

The Vikings could find out on Monday, October 11, when Holmes definitely
be back — and when Revis and/or Pace could be dressed and playing, too.

Considering the level of play that the Jets have achieved without them,
the Jets could be poised to run away with the division.  Until then,
they won’t even have to switch to missiles to shoot down the Bills.

2.  Last chance for Mangini?

The Browns have been competitive in each of their first three games.  But they’ve lost each one.

After this weekend’s visit from the Bengals, the Browns play the Falcons, Steelers, and Saints.  Then comes the bye week.

As a result, a loss to Cincinnati on Sunday would make an 0-7 start
likely, and team president Mike Holmgren could decide to part ways with
coach Eric Mangini.  And so Sunday’s game could be Mangini’s last and
best chance to preserve his job beyond October 31.

If the Browns don’t win in Week Four, and in turn don’t pull off an
unlikely upset of the Falcons, Steelers, or Saints, there’s a chance
that, when the Jets come to Cleveland on November 14, coach Rex Ryan
could be looking across the sideline at his identical twin, Browns
defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

3.  Running back injuries confirm 18-game season concerns.

With Colts president Bill Polian sparking a belated debate regarding the
wisdom of an 18-game season, one of the primary concerns is (or at
least should be) the impact of two additional games on the short-term
and long-term health of the players.

Indeed, with seven running backs (Steven Jackson of the Rams, Pierre
Thomas of the Saints, Jahvid Best of the Lions, Ray Rice of the Ravens,
Cedric Benson of the Bengals, Fred Taylor of the Patriots, and Knowshon
Moreno of the Broncos) already dinged up after only three games and
Reggie Bush of the Saints out with a broken leg, the league and
the union need to be very concerned about the potential consequences of
additional games on the players who take the brunt of the punishment in
the 16 games that already are played.

Though the move from 14 to 16 games in the ’70s occurred without much public discussion or debate, the three-channels television universe and the absence of talk radio and the Internet fueled that outcome.  Besides, players continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger.  When they hit each other, the bones and ligaments we all possess are at more risk than ever before.

4.  Team of destiny wanted.

Last year, it was obvious after three weeks that the Saints and Colts
were headed for big things.  New Orleans hung 45 on the Lions, winning
by 18, and 48 on the Eagles, winning by 26.  Held under 30 by the Bills,
the Saints still won by 20.

The Colts started more slowly, beating the Jags by two and the Dolphins
by four.  By Week Three, however, the Colts had taken down the defending
NFC champions (the Cardinals) by 21.

This year, none of the three remaining undefeated teams have rolled over
their opponents consistently.  The Steelers and the Chiefs won close
games in Week One and Week Two before notching 20-plus point victories in
Week Three.  The Bears have won by five points, seven points, and three
points.

The absence of a team that clearly and definitively is taking care of
its business has reinforced the sense of parity that could be laying the
foundation for a playoff run with plenty of teams still alive, and a
postseason in which anything can happen.

For now, the Steelers are the team most likely to emerge as the team to
beat, but first they have to beat the Ravens on Sunday.  If the Steelers
can’t — and if the Bears lose on the road against the Giants — the
off-this-Sunday Chiefs could be the only undefeated team left after four
weeks of action.

Somewhere, Pete Rozelle will be smiling broadly.

5.  Time for Texans to prove themselves.

When the Texans toppled the Colts to open the season, the team that has
played eight years without a playoff berth seemed to be destined to
finally bust through to the postseason.  But then the Texans struggled
to beat a Redskins team that suddenly has inherited the stink of the
Rams, and the Texans lost fairly convincingly to in-state rivals who
were on the ropes, in danger of being punched through.

So are the Texans a contender, or did they merely give the first game of the season the Daytona 500 treatment?

Beating the Raiders won’t mean conclusively that the Texans are legit,
but losing will mean that Houston isn’t ready to hang with the likes of
the Colts and the Titans in arguably the best division in the
conference, if not the league.

6.  Desperation shifts from Dallas to New York.

Last week, a strong sense of desperation emerged in Dallas, where the
Cowboys had lost their first two games — and faced falling to 0-3 at
the hands of an upstart team from Houston that had started the year 2-0.

The Cowboys found a way to push the dark cloud away last week, and it
now has settled in New York, over the Rubble half of the Fred-and-Barney
pool.  (That’s the third Flintstones reference of the day.  And it’s not even 1966.)

The Giants, after beating the Panthers (who have turned out to be
toothless, de-clawed, malnourished house cats), have been spanked by the Colts and
Titans in successive weeks.  Only 14 days after losing decisively in
Indy, the Giants cannot afford to be embarrassed again before a national
audience.  (On NBC.)

With their backs firmly pressed against the wall and the Bears
overachieving their way through two of their three wins, look for the
Giants to get their act together, if only for a night.

And who knows?  Three years ago, the Giants lost their first two games
and gave up 80 points in the process.  More than four months later, they
only won the Super Bowl.

7.  Fins, Pats face “must” wins.

Yeah, it’s only Week Four.  But with the Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots
getting an early start on their round-robin routine, neither the
Patriots nor the Dolphins can afford to drop to 0-2.

The Dolphins need it even more; they play the Jets in New York on
December 12 and the Pats in New England on January 2.  Already in danger
of being swept by the Jets, the Dolphins can’t afford to lose at home
to New England, if the Dolphins have genuine designs on winning the
division.

The Patriots need this one, too.  But they still get the Jets and the
Dolphins at home.  For the Dolphins, the season could potentially be over less than a
month after it began.

8.  Loss to Browns could help the Bengals in the long run.

The Bengals, despite their 2-1 record, don’t project the same vibe as
they did a year ago.  With a good defense (Week One at New England
notwithstanding) and a capable running back, the Bengals have relied too
heavily on the passing game.

Though T.O. has thrown the offensive line under the bus without overtly
throwing the offensive line under the bus, questions persist regarding
quarterback Carson Palmer.  Whether he has lingering elbow issues or he
simply has lost his zip on the ball, the Bengals seem to be in the same
style of denial that plagued the Panthers in 2009, when they refused to
face reality regarding quarterback Jake Delhomme.

And so a loss to the Browns could help jar the Bengals into facing
reality.   Eventually, they need to ask themselves whether Palmer
truly represents the future of the franchise at the quarterback
position.

With a base salary of $11.5 million due to Palmer in 2011, we’ve got a
feeling that, win or lose on Sunday, the notoriously frugal Bengals will
think long and hard about paying that much money to a guy who has no
career playoff wins, and whose best days may be fading far behind him.

9.  Snyder’s biggest test could be coming.

For more than 11 years, Daniel Snyder has owned the Redskins.  And for
most of that time, Snyder has been impatient when it comes to the men
who are coaching the team.

After two years, Norv Turner was dumped.  (A playoff appearance likely
saved him in 1999.)  Marty Schottenheimer lasted a season.  Steve
Spurrier made it for two.  But for his resume and Hall of Fame bust, Joe
Gibbs may not have made it four years.  Jim Zorn lasted only two.

And throughout most if not all of Zorn’s final year, Snyder was wooing
(or at least planning to woo) Mike Shanahan, the presumed savior of the
franchise.

In Week One, it appeared to be a brilliant move, thanks to an unexpected
win over the Cowboys.  But after blowing a 17-point lead against the
Texans and somehow losing by 14 against the Rams, the Redskins face what
could be a very long day at Lincoln Financial Field.

It gets no easier with the Packers and Colts coming to town, followed by trips to Chicago and Detroit.

Yes, Detroit, where the Lions managed to beat the Redskins in 2009, for
their first win in 22 games.  After a bye, the Redskins have the Eagles
again, the Titans, the Vikings, the Giants twice, and the Cowboys
again.

It all easily could add up to a losing season.  Though the outcome may
be better than 4-12, it easily could be yet another two-digit collection
of losses.  And then Snyder will have to find a way to resist the urge
to act, and to instead commit to staying the course.

Given the open and obvious salivating for Shanahan, there’s no way
Snyder can make a change after only one year.  Based on his history,
however, Snyder surely will approach 2011 with questions swirling in his
mind as to whether there might be another guy out there whose name
Snyder should pencil onto the top of the latest version of his wish
list.

10.  Rams have a chance to make some noise.

Based on their pattern of three wins in 2007, two in 2008, and one in 2009, the Rams were on track to go 0-16 in 2010.

Already, they’ve blown that trend out of the water by climbing to 1-2.

This weekend, the Rams have a chance to break a 10-game losing streak to
the Seahawks, a string that dates back to 2004, when St. Louis took
three games from their division rivals, include two in the usually
impenetrable Qwest Field.

If they can — and if the Cardinals lose in San Diego — the Rams will
find themselves in a  three-way tie atop the division after four weeks.

With three of the next four games against the Lions, Bucs, and Panthers,
the Rams could be on the right side of .500 at the bye.  And that could
give them the confidence they need to make a serious run at the
division crown and the postseason home game that goes along with it.

Sure, they likely won’t win the division.  But the fact that they won’t
be dead in the water with 25 percent of the season in the books is
nothing short of stunning.

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Mike Zimmer: Maybe I didn’t do enough last offseason

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 1: Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on field before the game against the Chicago Bears on January 1, 2017 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings slipped from a division title in 2015 and 5-0 start to the 2016 season to an 8-8 finish that left them outside of the postseason.

That’s left coach Mike Zimmer and the rest of his staff with a clear goal for the 2017 season and the coach said in an interview with the team’s website that they are already “grinding” to put together a team that can achieve better results this time around. Zimmer also said that he’s wondered if “maybe I didn’t do enough” at this time last year when pondering the disappointing record.

One way he’s working to combat that feeling is by spending more time in offensive meetings than he has in the past to learn about what the team’s offensive coaches think about both their unit and the defenses that are trying to stop them from putting points on the board. Zimmer said his meetings with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and company left him with the feeling that “the heart of the problem” was a poor running game.

The team has already made one move related to that shortcoming by releasing guard Brandon Fusco and there are pending decisions on left tackle Matt Kalil and running back Adrian Peterson that will further shape the look of next season’s Vikings offense.

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After Cooley questioned McCloughan’s drinking, team’s silence speaks volumes

Chris Cooley AP

Last week, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley, who works for the team and for a Dan Snyder-owned radio station, questioned on the air whether General Manager Scot McCloughan has been drinking. The team declined to comment.

But declining to comment doesn’t make a story go away, and a column today in the Washington Post suggests that the team’s silence speaks volumes. Columnist Jerry Brewer suggests that Cooley’s speculation about McCloughan’s drinking may have been planted by the team in an effort to reduce McCloughan’s popularity.

McCloughan has been open about his problems with alcohol in the past. For his employer to use that in an attempt to discredit him would be disturbing.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, however, and the Washington Post column features that possibility in a broader picture of a power struggle in Washington in which President Bruce Allen is really calling the shots, and McCloughan is being put in his place. It can’t be a comfortable position for McCloughan to be in, but he’s been muzzled by the team, and we apparently won’t hear his side of it any time soon.

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Bears hire Zach Azzanni as wide receivers coach

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31:  Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Chicago Bears celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on October 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Curtis Johnson left the Bears to return for a second stint on Sean Payton’s coaching staff in New Orleans, which means that the Bears were in the market for their third wide receivers coach in the last three seasons.

They found one in the college ranks. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that the team hired Zach Azzanni to fill the opening on John Fox’s staff. Azzanni is the third new offensive position coach in Chicago this year.

Azzanni spent the last four seasons at the University of Tennessee and coached the wideouts at Wisconsin in 2012 before moving to the Volunteers. He also worked at Central Michigan from 2007-09 and helped Steelers star Antonio Brown develop into a player who would be selected in the sixth round of the draft before rising to the top of the position.

The Bears would love to see Azzanni have the same kind of impact on their receiving corps, which could move on without Alshon Jeffery as he’s set for free agency next month.

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Garoppolo has some say in his immediate future, too

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the New England Patriots come out on to the field prior to the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo shrugs at questions about his future by saying “your guess is good as mine,” the truth is that he has slightly more say than the rest of us regarding what will happen. No matter how things play out, what Garoppolo wants will be a major factor.

What’s that, you say? The Patriots can trade him whenever and wherever they want? That’s true, but if Garoppolo supposedly will be fetching a first-round selection plus more for the Patriots, it’s unlikely that the team giving up the picks will do so without Garoppolo agreeing to extend a contract that expires after the coming season. Otherwise, that team could end up playing the Kirk Cousins-style franchise tag game with Garoppolo in 2018 and 2019, coughing up a lot more money then than it would take to get him under contract for the next several years now.

But Garoppolo can flatly refuse to do a new contract with another team, which would make him far less attractive in trade. Let’s say the Browns want him, and that he doesn’t want to be the next name on back of the Shirt of Slapd–ks. If he says (through his agent), “I’m not interested in playing for you and I will never sign a long-term contract,” why would the Browns do the deal?

So, yes, Garoppolo has plenty of say. The fact that he’s not saying that shows he’s currently committed to the Patriot Way — and that it ultimately could be the Patriots with whom he signs a second contract, waiting patiently for Tom Brady to retire.

What’s that, you say? No one knows when Tom Brady will retire. His agent likely has an idea, and Garoppolo is represented by the same firm. So, yes, Garoppolo not only has plenty of say but also has an idea when the job will become available in New England.

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New Jersey man sentenced to five years in prison for Giants ticket scam

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 26:  A general view of the exterior of MetLife Stadium is seen before the New York Jets take on the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on October 26, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

A scheme to scam 16 people out of money they thought was going toward personal seat licenses for Giants season tickets has led to a five-year prison sentence for the man who was running the con.

NJ.com reports that John Gorman has been sentenced to that jail term by Ocean County Superior Court Judge Patricia B. Roe and has also been ordered to repay $116,550 to his victims. Gorman, who was once a Giants season ticket holder, advertised the fraudulent PSLs on Craigslist starting in 2008 but never delivered when MetLife Stadium opened for business in 2010.

Gorman’s scam was helped by the fact that he shares the same name as the Giants’ director of ticketing, which bolstered his online claims to be an employee of the team when convincing his victims to part with their money. An employee of the team claiming to sell PSLs out the back door apparently didn’t tip anyone off until Gorman failed to produce PSLs, but should probably be a red flag to anyone who might find themselves being pitched in the future.

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Bills say Tyrod Taylor is medically cleared

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills is tackled by Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills say quarterback Tyrod Taylor is healthy enough to play — and potentially healthy enough to get cut.

A team source told Adam Schefter that Taylor has been medically cleared from his January groin surgery.

It’s significant that this is coming from a team source, rather than directly from Taylor. The Bills can cut Taylor by March 11 and not have to pay his $27.5 million guarantee, but only if he can pass a physical. If the Bills choose not to pick up Taylor’s guarantee, it’s still possible that Taylor could file a grievance and claim he isn’t yet healthy.

If the Bills cut Taylor, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If he’s still on the team after March 11, that means the Bills are committed to him as their quarterback.

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Report: Julius Thomas gets thumbs up on physical

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes against  Dwight Lowery #33 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The proposed trade that would send tight end Julius Thomas from Jacksonville to Miami requires Thomas to pass a physical with the Dolphins before it can go forward and Thomas was in South Florida to take that exam on Tuesday.

It was something more than a formality for Thomas as he has missed 16 games with a variety of ailments over the last four seasons. Thomas has never played a full 16-game slate as a result of those injuries.

Those past issues reportedly won’t get in the way of the trade moving forward, however. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Thomas “got the thumbs up” from the team after the exam and that his visit with the team will wrap up on Wednesday.

The trade can’t get an official thumbs up from the two teams until the new league year starts on March 9 and the fact that it is a non-binding agreement means there could still be a change of heart, although there’s little reason to think that will happen with all moving forward without issue thus far.

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Martellus Bennett not expected to re-sign before free agency

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots attempts to catch the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during the second quarter during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Patriots won the Super Bowl, tight end Martellus Bennett noted that free agents from championship teams often receive a premium on the open market.

It appears Bennett will get the chance to see if he gets that treatment next month. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Bennett will not sign a new deal with the Patriots ahead of the start of the new league year. That doesn’t preclude a return to the Patriots and Bennett fit well with the team, but the chances that someone on the open market will bowl him over are great enough that Rapoport believes it will be hard to keep him in New England.

Bennett isn’t giving any sign of what path he may be taking on social media. He took a break from recounting meetings with celebrities ranging from Sinbad to Magic Johnson to say that he’ll “figure it out when it’s time to figure it out.”

That time will be here fairly soon and Bennett’s market should come into clearer sight pretty quickly in the free agency process.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at New Era Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The debate rages about whether the Bills will keep QB Tyrod Taylor.

Can the Dolphins find two new starting guards?

Patriots assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski or coaching assistants Nick Caley, Mike Pellegrino or Cole Popovich are among the in-house candidates to replace departed tight ends coach Brian Daboll.

A look back at Jets RB Matt Forte during the 2016 season.

Recently retired Ravens WR Steve Smith will let himself get out of shape so he’s not tempted to make a comeback.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis spoke at a Cincinnati school on Tuesday.

K’Waun Williams’ injury grievance against the Browns will be heard on May 16.

The Steelers have added depth at punter and long snapper.

Here’s a breakdown of the Texans’ offensive line.

Could the Colts draft Florida State RB Dalvin Cook?

The Jaguars re-signed backup OL Tyler Shatley.

The Titans could use both of their first-round draft picks on cornerbacks.

Could Jay Cutler return to Denver?

The Chiefs led the league in interceptions in 2016. Here’s a look at their five best.

Raiders OT Donald Penn has high hopes for 2017.

Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco likes to bring in his scouts and have them make their case for their favorite players.

Some former Cowboys are heading into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Here’s a look at some defensive linemen the Giants could target in the draft.

Would a return of DeSean Jackson be too expensive for the Eagles?

Washington QB Kirk Cousins has Jordan Rodgers on his side.

Could the Bears find a trade partner who wants Jay Cutler?

The Lions want to improve their running game, and Christian McCaffrey could be an option.

Here’s a look back at some of the players who were part of the Packers’ late-season run.

Will the Vikings draft a replacement for Adrian Peterson?

Here’s a look back at Falcons WR Julio Jones‘ Combine performance.

Panthers FB Mike Tolbert respects the way the Panthers handled his release.

The Saints need to add a pass rusher and a cornerback.

It’s the offseason, so here’s a list of Buccaneers players who share names with presidents.

The Cardinals face a tricky salary cap situation.

New 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh worked with head coach Kyle Shanahan for four years in Houston.

The roots of Pete Carroll’s coaching tree are continuing to spread.

Rams RB Todd Gurley is playing some offseason basketball, and the headline the Rams put on a story about it could scare some fans.

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Jay Cutler would have plenty of leverage over trade discussions

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 28: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears speaks to the media after the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 28, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Bears 13-9. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Once it became clear that coach John Fox would return for a third season with the Bears, it became even more clear that quarterback Jay Cutler would not be back for a ninth. Now that the word is out regarding the team’s effort to find a trade partner for Cutler, the first question becomes whether the Bears will find one.

The second question becomes whether Cutler will accept it.

Yes, if he wants to earn a $12.5 million salary and up to $2.5 million in per-game roster bonuses, he will. But if he chooses not to show up at his next destination, Cutler won’t have to return a penny of the $54 million he received over the last three years. With no signing bonus on the deal he signed three years ago, there’s no obligation to return any of the compensation paid to Cutler under the terms of the contract.

It gives Cutler plenty of leverage, preventing the Bears from simply dumping him onto any team that will take him, regardless of whether Cutler has any desire to play there.

Ten years ago, the player Cutler supplanted in Denver — Jake Plummer — was traded to the Buccaneers against his wishes. Plummer retired, he didn’t earn a salary of $5.3 million, and he eventually paid back $3.5 million of $7 million in bonus money as part of a settlement with Tampa Bay. With no such complication for Cutler, he can slam the brakes on any trade by simply saying, “I’m not going there.”

It’s always better for a player to be a free agent, and that could be the end result of his time with the Bears. Then the question becomes whether anyone wants Cutler at all.

The team that makes the most sense continues to be the 49ers, where former teammate John Lynch is now the G.M. and the son of the man who drafted Cutler 11 years ago is now the head coach.

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Philip Rivers gets emotional in return to San Diego

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers waves to the fans after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 30-21 at Qualcomm Stadium on September 14, 2014 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

Even if he hasn’t been gone long, Philip Rivers was back home for a night, so you’ll have to pardon him if that hit him.

The quarterback of the Los Angeles Chargers was back in San Diego Tuesday night, to see teammate Nick Hardwick honored at the San Diego Hall of Champions dinner. And though he has a new professional address, it’s clear the bonds he created at the old one run deep with him, as he got emotional as he spoke.

“I hope you’ll always see me as a [San Diego Charger],” Rivers said, via Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “My time here and my love for San Diego will always be great. I’ll be forever grateful for my time there.”

“But,” he went on, “at the same time, I hope the people understand here, too, that I do have to move forward and get excited about where we’re headed.”

Rivers told the crowd how grateful he was for his 13 years there, about how people would come up to him in grocery stores to thank him.

“I certainly appreciated San Diego’s passion for us on the field and just in general the people in the community, and their support,” he said. “And, I’d like to think that they appreciated the passion I played with.

“I feel like the people here see the real me.”

It will probably be harder for him to create the same kind of bond in Los Angeles, as the Chargers try to establish themselves as the second football team while playing in a half-scale soccer stadium. But they will at least have the benefit of a guy who appears to put his entire personality into wherever he is.

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Buccaneers, Lawrence Tynes reach settlement in MRSA lawsuit

Lawrence Tynes AP

After a nearly two-year legal battle, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former kicker Lawrence Tynes have reached a settlement in a lawsuit over Tynes’ contraction or MRSA in 2013.

Via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the settlement was reached on February 10 in Hillsborough County court agreeing to “jointly stipulate and agree to dismissal” of the suit.

Three members of the Buccaneers contracted the infection in 2013. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – otherwise known as MRSA – is a virulent staph infection resistant to antibiotics treatment. Tynes, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Johnthan Banks all dealt with the infection during the season. Tynes sued the Buccaneers seeking $20 million and claimed that the infection ended his career. Neither Tynes or Nicks played another game after their bouts with the infection.

Tynes has said that the issue has left him in daily pain. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

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Tom Brady’s stolen jersey listed as worth $500,000 on police report

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in action against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the hunt for Tom Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey continues, the authorities have attached an official value to the item: $500,000.

That’s the number appearing on the police report posted on Twitter by James Palmer of NFL Media. And that matters for reasons beyond media coverage or hype; the value makes the crime a first degree felony under Texas law.

The number meshes with an estimate provided by Ken Goldin of Goldin Associates. As a practical matter, the item has limited value because anyone who buys it can’t display it without risk of the authorities seizing it.

Last week, Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed confidence that the jersey would be found. During a PFT Live interview, Brady seemed surprised at that revelation.

The item remains missing, and the bigger issue could be that folks with access to NFL locker rooms have had sticky fingers for years when it comes to game-used memorabilia. Regardless of whether Brady’s jersey is found, the NFL needs to beef up its efforts to secure property that, as Brady’s jersey demonstrates, can be extremely valuable.

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Payton addresses speculation, expects Cooks back with Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints catches the ball for a first down against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 16, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints Coach Sean Payton told Sirius XM Radio Tuesday that he “absolutely” expects wide receiver Brandin Cooks to be back with the team in 2017.

“If you really want to cut down to the chase, he’s a magnificent kid,” Payton said, per the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “[He’s] a worker. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a tremendous player. He practices 100 miles per hour. You have to slow him down some. He’s got a great rapport with Drew [Brees].”

There had been some speculation that the Saints could look to move Cooks in order to help fix their leaky defense. That seems to have stemmed from comments Cooks made after he went without a touch in a blowout win late last season over the Rams.

“It was unusual; sometimes that happens,” Payton said. “And generally those things are an agent-driven complaint. And he’s too sharp of a guy, and he understands it all. He and I have met several times, and I think what’s most important is these guys come in the start of the week and they see their name stamped on plays.

“We’re up till 2 in the morning thinking about ways to get him open, get him on the right matchup. And when the players know that, I think they know they’re getting a real good script. Now, whether it plays out that way on a given Sunday, sometimes it doesn’t. But, more often than not, a guy like him, you have to get the ball to, and he’s explosive.

“But, I see him playing here.”

A first-round pick in 2014, Cooks had eight touchdown catches last season and has 20 over his three-year career. The Saints have until May to decide whether they’ll pick up the fifth-year option on Cooks’ contract for 2018.

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Derius Swinton returns to Bears’ staff

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Bears will hire Derius Swinton as their assistant special teams coach, Alex Marvez of The Sporting News reported.

Swinton was the 49ers’ special teams coach last season. He had been assistant special teams coach with the Bears in 2015 before joining the 49ers.

Prior to that, Swinton worked with the Broncos, Chiefs and Rams. He has eight previous seasons of NFL coaching experience.

New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan hired Richard Hightower as his special teams coach after Hightower spent last season as assistant special teams coach with the Bears, allowing Swinton to return to that role after he wasn’t retained in San Francisco.

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