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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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Wednesday morning one-liners

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The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle is bullish about the chances of keeping the Bills in Buffalo.

Said Dolphins G.M. Dennis Hickey of his draft philosophy, “You work according to best player available. There’s always variables when it comes to the draft, whether it’s the player evaluation part and there’s always the medical aspect. Then there’s evaluating the character and the makeup of the player. There’s so many variables. But we feel like it’s a good draft and we’re excited about it. We continue every day to try to build the best 53-man roster and of course the offensive line is part of that.”

Players on the Patriots joined other Boston athletes to commemorate the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

With three 30-year-old starters, don’t be surprised if the Jets draft an offensive lineman.

Former Ravens LB Ray Lewis sold his oceanfront mansion in Florida for $4.77 million, $500,000 less than he paid for it in 2004.

Lots of people think the Bengals will draft Ohio State CB Bradley Roby.

It’s been a year since the feds raided the headquarters of Pilot Flying J, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s family business, and no one knows where the investigation will end.

The Steelers drafted nine players in 2009, and none of them are still in Pittsburgh.

The Texans have now signed six unrestricted free agents: DT Ricardo Mathews, DT Jerrell Powe, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, FS Kendrick Lewis, SS Chris Clemons and RB Andre Brown.

The Colts, who already used their first-round pick on RB Trent Richardson, might try to trade down in the second round to acquire more picks.

Jaguars coach Gus Braadley is talking up Jadeveon Clowney’s passion for the game.

Titans WR Nate Washington embraces the “old man” role in the locker room.

Broncos LB Von Miller is working hard at rehabbing his image.

A receiver or safety would make sense for the Chiefs in the first round.

The Raiders are showing interest in former Oregon S Terrance Mitchell.

The Chargers are working out local prospects today.

Does Cowboys coach Jason Garrett concentrate on the wrong things?

The Giants remain in the market for a backup quarterback after one of their targets, Matt Flynn, signed with the Packers.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is accused by one writer of letting his ego get in the way of making the right personnel decisions.

Washington would like to draft a tall receiver, but that’s not the team’s top priority.

Notre Dame DT Louis Nix could be a draft target of the Bears.

Should the Lions trade up to draft Clemson WR Sammy Watkins?

Although he’s struggled elsewhere, Matt Flynn always seems to fit in Green Bay.

New Vikings strength coach Evan Marcus has the players working more with free weights and less with machines.

Auburn DE Dee Ford could make sense for the Falcons.

The Panthers need a receiver, and one mock draft has them getting USC WR Marqise Lee.

The Saints are looking at bolstering the secondary in the draft.

Buccaneers RB Mike James says he’s recovering from a broken ankle and, “I’ve got a good opportunity to do what I need to do to get back in the swing of things and get acclimated with everything.”

After just missing the playoffs last year, expectations are high in Arizona for the upcoming Cardinals season.

The 49ers’ signing of WR Brandon Lloyd represents his career coming full circle.

The Rams have honored a local middle school for its students’ commitment to physical activity.

The Seahawks are showing a lot of interest in wide receivers during the pre-draft process.

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Houston schools stop using “Redskins” and other insensitive names

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

As the NFL team in Washington continues to defend its use of the name Redskins, the franchise often points out that many high schools use the name. What the team doesn’t point out is that many schools are dropping the name, too.

Despite the team’s claim that “70 different high schools” use the name Redskins, several reports have indicated that the number is actually lower than that, and the Redskins are counting high schools that have already stopped using the name. The latest school to drop the name is Lamar High School in Houston, which announced this week that it will stop going by the name Redskins and start calling its teams the Texans.

That decision was part of a new policy announced by the Houston school district, preventing schools from using team names that are viewed as insensitive. Teams called the Indians, Warriors and Rebels are also changing their names.

The Washington Redskins, however, say they will never change.

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Blake Bortles in Houston for meeting with Texans

Blake Bortles AP

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles has long been connected as a possibly fit for the Houston Texans with the No.1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Texans need a quarterback. Bortles is a quarterback. It kind of makes sense, right?

After meeting with the Oakland Raiders on Monday, Bortles arrived in Houston Tuesday night for a meeting with the Texans on Wednesday.

Bortles met with Texans’ brass at the combine and general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien were both on hand for Bortles’ pro day workout as well.

They’ve been great,” Bortles said from the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, via James Palmer of CSNHouston.com “He’s a great guy and a great coach. I’m just excited to get here, meet everybody and sit down and talk with everybody again. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Bortles, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater are the three likely selections the Texans have to choose between if they want to take a quarterback with their top selection in the draft. Houston also has scheduled a pre-draft visit with Manziel set for next week.

The Texans know they are taking a quarterback at some point in the draft. If it will be at No. 1, Bortles and Manziel seem to have become the two options Houston is focusing on the most.

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Report: Pair of South Carolina prospects wanted for police questioning

Coastal Carolina v South Carolina Getty Images

A pair of prospects from the University of South Carolina is apparently wanted for questioning by police in relation to an incident at a New York City nightclub last week.

According to TMZ, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton are “wanted for questioning at the very least” stemming from an alleged attack at Greenhouse nightclub.

A club promoter allegedly suffered “extensive facial injuries” after being allegedly attacked by three men. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

With less than four weeks to go until the NFL Draft, college prospects are still directly under the spotlight of teams as they continue to adjust and tweak their draft boards. While the investigation is still in its preliminary stages, it likely won’t benefit Quarles and Hampton to have their names tied to a police investigation.

Both players are expected to be drafted based on projections. However, if they are found to be involved in this incident it could affect just when teams decided to take a chance on the,.

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Chris Johnson says Jets visit went well but no decision yet

Cory Redding, Chris Johnson AP

Free agent running back Chris Johnson visited with the New York Jets on Tuesday. It was his first visit since being released by the Tennessee Titans earlier this month.

After visiting with the Jets, Johnson decided to take in Tuesday night’s game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. While at the game, he spoke with multiple reporters regarding his visit.

Per Josina Anderson of ESPN, Johnson said “I had a great visit with the Jets. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

Johnson reiterated those thoughts to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News but added he’s “not ready to make my decision.

Johnson had a down year in 2013 for Tennessee but still posted his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. However, the 3.9 yards per carry were the lowest mark of his career.

The Jets ranked sixth in the league in rushing last season with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory as the primary options out of the backfield. Johnson would likely work in as part of a rotation alongside Powell and Ivory should he elect to sign with the Jets. But, Johnson is also a home run threat whose speed could be a real addition to the lineup.

For now, Johnson isn’t ready to make a decision as he’s possibly holding out for a better offer from the Jets or another team. However, if he doesn’t make a decision soon, teams may elect to wait until after the draft to re-evaluate their needs and Johnson may have to wait to find a new home.

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Lions intend to split the running back role between Bush and Bell

BushBell Getty Images

The Lions have a pair of potent tailbacks.  And they plan to use both of them.  Perhaps equally.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday that Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will share the load.

“[T]his game is a violent game anymore and it’s hard for one running back to get all the carries,” Lombardi said.  “So much like they did last year, I see these guys kind of having a split role and both being very productive.”

Last year, Bush and Bell became the first teammates in league history to rack up both 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.

Based on salaries, Bush likely is in line to be the starter.  But Bell will get plenty of opportunities, and the shared role will help both guys stay healthy deeper into the season — and to play deeper into the decade.

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Derek Carr isn’t lacking in confidence

DerekCarr Getty Images

When it comes to the 2014 crop of rookie quarterbacks, most consider three of them to be at the top of the heap:  Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, and Johnny Manziel.

There’s a fourth guy who believes he’s better than all of them.

Appearing on NFL Network on Tuesday, Fresno State’s Derek Carr was asked whether he’s the best quarterback in the draft.

Absolutely,” Carr said.  “And I say that with respect to all of the other guys because they are great competitors and all of those good things.  Of course it’s not easy for me to answer a question like that but I absolutely think so.  There is no doubt in my mind and we can turn the film on, sit down and watch it, and we’ll talk about it and I’ll convince you.”

Plenty of franchises are interested in having that conversation with a potential franchise quarterback.  In a separate appearance on the league-owned broadcast channel, Carr rattled off a list of teams with which he has met.

“Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa, Minnesota – just the first that come off the top of my head,” Carr said.  “Tennessee.  I’ve been with them, working out with them, visiting with them, talking to them, the whole process.  Those have been the initial ones so far.”

Carr’s brother, David, was the first pick in the 2002 draft.  After five years as the starter in Houston, Carr has served as a backup with the Panthers, Giants, 49ers, and Giants again.

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Trump has realistic shot of being approved

Trump AP

Despite the bluster, the bravado, and the convenient revisions to the history of his antagonism of the NFL, billionaire Donald Trump would have a good chance of being approved as owner of the Bills, if the family of Ralph Wilson decides to sell the team to him.

“I don’t see why not,” a source with direct knowledge of the dynamics of team ownership told PFT on Tuesday.  “He’s the only one saying it will stay in Buffalo.”

But what of Trump’s thirst for attention, his potential inability to put the greater good above his own interests, his tendency to be belligerent and combative with real or imagined enemies?

“I don’t think there are nine people to stop him,” the source said, in reference to the fact that nine “no” votes from other owners can block the sale.

Of course, a vote of the owners won’t matter unless the Wilson family chooses to sell the team to Trump.  It’s one thing for Trump to talk publicly about buying the franchise.  It’s quite another to put the cash and financing together to make the purchase.

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Anthony Barr intrigued by playing in Dallas

Barr AP

The Cowboys need defensive linemen.  And multiple defensive linemen in the draft pool would like to play for the Cowboys.  The question is whether they’ll be there when the Cowboys are on the clock.

And whether the Cowboys will move up the board to get them.

A day after Pitt’s Aaron Donald visited Big D, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr arrived.  And he talked about his interest in the Cowboys.

“There’s pros and cons to every team and everywhere you go, but if I were a Cowboy, that would be really a blessing, truly a dream come true – a team I watched growing up,” Barr said, via the team’s official website.  “It would just be surreal.  I would be really appreciative to be here.”

During his visit, Barr spent time with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

“He showed me a lot of tape of [Julius] Peppers and Simeon Rice and [Warren] Sapp, so I think he wants me playing that defensive right end position to go after the quarterback, and that’s something I’m all for,” Barr said.

Barr also was a little star struck by the folks from the team with the blue star.

“I met Jerry Jones last night, and I couldn’t believe it,” Barr said.  “I couldn’t even talk at first, like, ‘This is Jerry Jones.’  It was a pretty cool experience, so these guys get my respect right off the bat.”

He’ll get their respect if he becomes a Cowboy, and if he helps lead the team back to the days of glory.

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Report: 49ers “very unlikely” to pick up option on Aldon Smith

AldonSmith AP

The 49ers have until May 3 to decide whether to extend the contract of linebacker Aldon Smith from four years to five.  In the wake of his latest off-field incident, we reported that the 49ers haven’t made a decision on whether to pick up the option.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the team is “very unlikely” to extend the deal.

Kawakami also believes that Smith “probably” won’t play for the 49ers in 2014.  The mechanism for Smith’s unavailability is unclear.  He could be suspended by the league under multiple policies and/or he could be placed on the non-football injury/illness list by the team if he has had a relapse of his alcohol issues.

The decision not to exercise the option reinforces the notion that the 49ers may indeed be done with Smith, at least for now.  Exercising the option would guarantee his 2015 salary of $9.75 million for injury only.  As of next March, it would be fully guaranteed.

For now, Smith’s 2014 salary also is guaranteed.  A suspension would wipe out the guarantee, however.  Likewise, if the 49ers were to place Smith on the NFI list, they wouldn’t have to pay him.

The risk of owing him $9.75 million in 2015 remains small.  Which would make a decision not to pick up the option confusing.  If the 49ers are done with Smith, why not trade him?  He’d be more attractive in trade if his new team would control his rights for two years.

Regardless of how the situation plays out, the 49ers clearly are exploring their options.  And those options include Smith never suiting up for the 49ers again.

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Report: Rolando McClain’s workout with Ravens “not a roaring success”

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

In a recent interview with the Carroll County Times, linebacker Rolando McClain indicated he wanted to restart his NFL career with the Ravens, who hold his rights after his retirement last spring.

Well, McClain reportedly had a workout with the Ravens, and the first accounts of that meeting are not flattering for the 2010 first-round pick.

According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network, McClain’s workout, from what she was told, “was NOT [her emphasis] a roaring success,” with the linebacker not completing the conditioning part of the exercise.

According to Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times, the workout was conducted Tuesday, and it “did not go well.”

Speaking at the NFL meetings in March, Ravens coach John Harbaugh made it clear the club would welcome back McClain, but only if he were diligent about his craft.

“If he’s working his rear end off, then I’m kind of excited about him,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “If he’s not, then I’ve got no interest in him being on our team.”

The 24-year-old McClain last appeared in an NFL game in 2012 with Oakland.

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Falcons waive Saeed Lee, Adam Nissley

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Falcons waived defensive back Saeed Lee and tight end Adam Nissley on Tuesday, the club said.

Lee and Nissley spent the 2013 season on injured reserve.

The 23-year-old Lee signed with the Falcons last May after going undrafted out of Alabama State. He reportedly suffered a leg injury in training camp.

Nissley, 25, also spent the 2012 season on injured reserve. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nissley suffered two ACL tears in his time with the Falcons. A UCF product, Nissley signed with Atlanta in April 2012.

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Source: Schedule release planned for April 22

NFL Getty Images

When it comes to the 2014 schedule, the NFL has said that the target for the release is mid-April, but that the schedule won’t be released this week.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL currently plans to release the schedule on Tuesday, April 22.

The unveiling of the schedule could be shifted to Wednesday, April 23 or Thursday, April 24.  For now, though, the plan is to pull the sheet off the 256-game slate on Tuesday.

Look for the schedule to be announced in prime-time, with a multi-hour event on NFL Network and something similar to that on ESPN, complete with (if last year’s trend holds) an effort to make preliminary picks for games to be played in December.

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NCAA begins circling the wagons, starting with food

Burger Getty Images

The NCAA has done plenty of huffing and puffing in the wake of the effort of Northwestern’s football team to unionize.  The NCAA will now try to blow their house down.

With food.

On Tuesday, the NCAA’s Legislative Council determined that student-athletes “can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation.”

So now college football coaches can punctuate meetings by saying, “Let’s go eat a goddamn snack.”

The move won’t become official until April 24, if/when the NCAA Board of Directors approves the move.  It would be a shock if they nix it, since preventing something that many assumed already was available to student-athletes could be the moment that the push to secure significantly better treatment for them fully crystallizes.

Then again, that may have already happened.

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NFL could discipline Aldon Smith without resolution of pending charges

Smith Getty Images

The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy gives a player the benefit of the doubt when he finds himself in one wrong-place/wrong-time situation.  The policy isn’t as forgiving when it happens two or more times.

With 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith now involved in a second incident that falls under the Personal Conduct Policy, he could be disciplined before either or both situations are resolved in court.

“With respect to repeat offenders, the Commissioner may impose discipline on an enhanced and/or expedited basis,” the league’s Personal Conduct Policy states.  “In such cases, the timing and nature of the discipline will be determined by the Commissioner based on several factors including, but not limited to:  the severity of the initial charge and the later charge, the facts underlying the later charge; the length of time between the initial offense and later charge; and the player or employee’s compliance with counseling and other programs.”

Last year, Smith was charged with multiple felony counts arising from the alleged possession of illegal weapons.  He now faces an eventual felony charge arising from the allegation that he made a false claim of having a bomb while in an airport security line.

With a pair of pending felony incidents, that could be enough to prompt the NFL to move against Smith sooner rather than later.

Multiple players have been suspended by the NFL while charges were still pending.  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games (reduced to four) without ever being even arrested or charged.

Smith’s multiple alcohol-related arrests fall under the substance-abuse policy.  The NFL could be influenced by those incidents when deciding whether to discipline Smith before either of the two non-alcohol charges has been resolved.

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