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Week Five Friday 10-pack

As the new ’68 VW bus rolls toward the train that will roll me to New York, I justify the write off by banging out the weekly Friday 10-pack.

This week, the write off extends to Tuesday, thanks to the Vikings-Jets Monday night game in the New Meadowlands Stadium.

I’ll be joining Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, and Greg Coleman of the Vikings Radio Network for the third quarter of the game, with the goal of being a little less disastrous than Christian Slater on Monday Night Football in 2006.

And so this week’s edition of the Friday 10-pack puts a little extra focus on the Monday night game.


1.  What will Favre do?

When the Vikings’ offense lines up to play the Jets on Monday night, quarterback Brett Favre will face a dilemma.

When Moss takes off down the field, drawing a cornerback from the line and a safety over the top, will Favre choose to try to be on the front end of one of those legendary rainbows that splash down into Randy’s arms, with Moss somehow securing possession even as he’s draped by two or three men — and possibly an official?  Or will Favre check down to one of the guys who’ll be facing single coverage, like Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, or Adrian Peterson?

Favre acknowledged the dilemma during his press conference on Thursday.

“I’m like everyone else,” Favre said. “I’m watching the Monday night game, and I’m like, ‘He’s only been thrown to one time?’  So what if he’s covered?  That’s the thing about Randy.  So what if he’s covered?  But does that mean you just throw it to him and you got four other guys that are wide open?  There’s this added pressure.  Maybe it’s just I’m getting old.”

Favre needs to forget about the pressure and just play.  And he needs to defer to the coaches when it comes to distributing the football.  In some cases, it will make sense to chuck it deep, even if Moss is triple-covered.  In other cases, the smart move will be to take what the defense gives Favre.

And that’s why Favre is feeling pressure.  He knows his nature meshes with winging it deep, on pretty much every drive.  And in what apparently will be his final season (unless it isn’t), Favre finally has a guy who reliably will be in position to catch one out of every two or three of those bombs.  

How can Favre resist?  

2.  Revis need to zip it.

Earlier this year, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis called Randy Moss a slouch.  In Week Two, that slouch blew by Revis and made a one-handed grab for the ages, as Revis was playing the Al Czervik broken arm routine

Now, with Revis still recovering from a Moss-induced hamstring strain that traces to Revis’ August holdout, Revis again is taking shots at Moss, claiming that Randy shut it down in the second half of Pats-Jets game.  Revis even has influenced Antonio Cromartie, who by all appearances held Moss in check on a day Revis couldn’t, to join in the chorus, even though it minimizes Cromartie’s accomplishment from Week Two.  

Revis, who seems like a smart guy, isn’t smart enough.  He should take a cue from Bill Belichick and smother Randy in verbal bouquets.  Few other players find more motivation from external sources than Moss, and Moss will be even more ready to face the Jets, thanks to Revis and Cromartie.

3.  Pats set a dangerous precedent.

The circumstances were familiar.  A disgruntled receiver who wants more money from his current team or a trade to a new one begins to cause trouble, agitating and distracting until he gets what he wants or the whole thing explodes.

Five years ago, the “original 81” took that situation to the extreme, pushing the Eagles to the breaking point and beyond after Terrell Owens’ performance against the Patriots in the Super Bowl prompted Owens to push for a new contract.  The Eagles refused to relent, concerned in part that other players could thereafter try to talk their own way out of town.

With the “other 81” (who is now back to being the “original 84”), the Patriots decided not to dig in their heels, giving Moss what he wanted before the situation involved shirtless situps or press conferences featuring guys saying “next question.”  (OK, the second thing still happened anyway.)

Some will now say that the Patriots have set a dangerous precedent.  And anyone who would say that would be right.  Moss has given any future Patriot who wants a new deal or a trade to a team who’ll give him one a blueprint for getting out.

But here’s the thing.  Moss’ talent level and his accomplishments made the team more likely to relent.  Also, when the Pats acquired him in 2007, the transaction represented at a certain level a deal with the devil.  They knew that, eventually, the Moss who metastasized through the Minnesota and Oakland organizations would return, and they accepted the fact that, when it happens, they’ll deal with it.

Moving forward, the precedent that has been set may not be a problem because the Pats seem to be recommitting to the notion of acquiring only those guys who want to be there.    

4.  Will Cushing be the same?

Though most of the attention in Houston this week centers on receiver Andre Johnson, who’ll be a game-time decision a week after missing a game due to a lingering ankle problem, another player who should be watched carefully going forward is linebacker Brian Cushing, the two-time (literally) 2009 Associated Press defensive rookie of the year.

Cushing returns from a four-game suspension.  Unlike the other high-profile players whose quarter-season banishments have ended (Santonio Holmes of the Jets and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers), Cushing’s punishment arose from a violation of the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances.

Assuming, then, that Cushing actually cheated and that his multiple excuses (as the league concluded) hold less water than a fettucini strainer, the question will be whether he can play at the same level without the benefit of the steroids he took before chasing them with hCG in order to kick-start his natural production of testosterone, which shuts down during a steroids cycle.

If Cushing merely used steroids to speed the recovery of an injured knee in order to ensure that he’d be able to play in Week One of his rookie year, he should be able to play as well without them.

Until, of course, he gets injured, and he’s forced to rehab without the use of impermissible chemicals.

5.  Eagles are taking a huge gamble.

When the Eagles travel to San Francisco for a Sunday night game against the desperate and thus dangerous 49ers, they’ll have two quarterbacks:  Kevin Kolb and Mike Kafka.

If Kolb should have his helmet planted into the Candlestick turf like the stump of a used Christmas tree, the rookie from Northwestern will be pressed into service.

And so the Eagles are taking a huge gamble by not having on the roster a veteran with knowledge of and experience in the West Coast offense.  Last year, when Donovan McNabb went down and Kolb stepped up, the Eagles brought back Jeff Garcia in an effort to beef up a depth chart that otherwise included only Mike Vick.  How, then, can the Eagles choose to fly blind with the only alternative to Kolb being an unproven, unaccomplished, and (in comparison to Vick) dramatically less talented first-year player?

6.  Door should be open for Kolb.

The Eagles apparently are willing to assume (or at a minimum hope) that they won’t have to resort to Mike Kafka until Mike Vick returns from a rib/chest injury.  But what if Kevin Kolb plays as well as he did when Donovan McNabb had a rib/chest injury in 2009?

Coach Andy Reid
already has said that Vick remains the starter, something Reid said about Kolb when Kolb was injured.  If Vick was able to alter that status quo, it’s only fair that Kolb should be able to do the same thing.

Though Kolb currently is saying only the right things, Kolb has to be thinking that the door is open.  If he plays incredibly well (admittedly a big “if”, but not impossible), he needs to have a chance to take his job back.

And if Kolb doesn’t get the same consideration Vick received, Kolb will have clear cause to be upset.     

7.  Peppers comes home.

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers returns home on Sunday.  The one-time high-profile Carolina rookie has a simple goal — demolish the Panthers’ current high-profile rookie, quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Though the Panthers may not win the game, they’ll surely be obsessed with preventing Peppers from having an impact.  They paid him millions, especially in his final season with the team, and he often complained.  At times, he underachieved.  At other times, it seemed that he didn’t give his all on every play.

If coach John Fox has any desire to finish out the season, he’ll find a way to use Peppers’ past words and actions (or inactions) to fire up the troops to give their best possible effort.  With quarterback Jay Cutler out due to a concussion, the Panthers have a chance to pull this one off.

And if the Panthers were to win only one game this year, like they did in the season that put them in position to pick Peppers, they’d likely want the one win to come against Peppers and his new team.

8.  Keep an eye on Kyle Orton.

When the Broncos traded quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears for a pair of first-round draft picks, quarterback Kyle Orton was tacked onto the deal as an afterthought.

In his second season with the Broncos, Orton is anything but a forgotten man.

Orton currently leads all quarterbacks with 1,419 yards passing, a pace that would shatter Dan Marino’s all-time single-season record.  Though on one hand it’s not surprising given the extent to which the Broncos have tilted their offense toward throwing the ball, the players still need to execute, and no one ever dreamed that Orton would be able to do it.

If he can fire missiles throughout M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Orton will move even closer to being regarded as an elite quarterback.

The truth could be that he’s already there.

9.  Colts have no silver lining.

Many league observers assume that the Colts’ slow start (they’re 2-2) represents a major shift from their recent history of 10-0 launches to the season.  The reality, however, is that it’s the second time in three years that the Colts have struggled in September and October.

In 2008, the Colts opened at 1-2 and later slid to 3-4 before catching fire, winning nine in a row.  That year, however, Peyton Manning was hampered in the early going by late-offseason surgery to clean a staph infection out of his knee.

This year, Manning is fine, notwithstanding rumors of lingering nerves problems in his neck.

So if we accept the fact that Manning is firing on all cylinders (and his numbers suggest that he is), the Colts have no reason to think things will get much better as the season unfolds.  It could be, then, that the pack finally is catching up to the Colts, and that the days of 12-or-more-win seasons are done.

At least for 2010.

10.  Uprising of the winless teams?

In one of the most parity-driven seasons since former Commissioner Pete Rozelle decided that seeing the Steelers, Cowboys, and Raiders competing for every Lombardi Trophy, four teams have been unable to navigate the first four weeks of the season with a win.

This week, each of the four winless teams could change the “0” to a “1” in the win column.

In Buffalo, the Bills welcome the up-and-down Jaguars, who probably are feeling a little too good about themselves after pulling off an unlikely win over the Colts.  In Detroit, the close-but-no-cigar Lions could have an exploding stogie in store for the Rams, who probably are feeling a little to good about themselves after winning two games in eight days.  In Charlotte, as mentioned earlier, the Panthers welcome Julius Peppers home, without having to face Jay Cutler.  And in San Francisco, the better-than-their-record Niners get an Eagles team that won’t have Mike Vick.

Don’t be shocked if each of these four 0-4 teams find a way to further prove the parity premise by pushing the bottom of the pack a step closer to the front.

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College coaches want more time, information for early draft entries

Alabama Football Monday Saban Presser Aug. 31 AP

University of Alabama Coach Nick Saban and his counterpart at Arkansas, Bret Bielema, told reporters at the Southeastern Conference’s annual meetings Tuesday they’d like to see the NFL and NCAA pursue rule changes that would give underclassmen draft entries more flexibility to return to school if they may go undrafted or may be drafted later than initially thought.

Under the current rules, underclassmen must declare for the NFL Draft by mid-January. Among the potential changes Bielema and Saban have proposed is a combine-like event for underclassmen that would allow those players to better assess how they’re perceived by NFL evaluators.

“If you ask the NFL, ‘How can we maintain trust with our players when you’re giving us inaccurate information?’ Their response is ‘We don’t know enough about the guys to really give you the information because all we can really go on is film evaluation,'” Saban said. “That’s why we have a combine and all these other things. We want accurate information when that’s all said and done in December.”

Thirty players who gave up remaining college eligibilty to enter the 2016 NFL Draft went undrafted. An NBA rule change implemented for this year gave basketball prospects more time to evaluate their decisions and allowed them to participate in the league’s pre-draft combine ahead of the deadline to stay in the draft or return to school. The feedback those players got from NBA teams is something Bielema wants college football players to be able to receive from NFL evaluators.

“If (an underclassman) could sit down with NFL people or personnel people that are making the decisions firsthand, I think it could be a great resource,” Bielema said. “And you know what? It works out better for everybody. Graduation rates to go up. Success rates go up. Failure rates go down. Kids are in school longer. Kids are in preparation to be in the NFL to play longer.”

A potential rule change involving early draft entries is something Bielema has discussed previously — probably for reasons that benefit him, as the coach at Arkansas — and it sounds like something various people related to the SEC want to pursue. How realistic it is, or what else can be done to avoid players making really bad decisions, remains to be seen.

College football season ends about six weeks before the annual NFL Scouting Combine and just about the time the second semester starts at most universities. The NCAA doesn’t have much of a track record of being kind to athletes who want to get paid for playing but then try to return to college sports.

“Well, we’re in our first year of the new basketball reality. I’ve talked to a few of our coaches who have had the experience. I think the feedback’s been positive,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “The young people have real-time, very valid information on their draft status. And they know up front not to compromise their eligibility from an NCAA standpoint.

“There is conversation about how might you accomplish this same outcome in football. That is a little bit different. The timing of the end of the semester, when the draft occurs, preparation for the draft, what type of feedback might be there. The NCAA could change with no alteration of the NBA’s draft timeline, practically speaking. I’m not sure that happens from an NFL standpoint. It’s a good idea. There’s likely some thought and work that needs to be contributed to see if that good idea can become a reality.”

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If Fitzpatrick goes elsewhere, he’ll be taking true market value

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets on the sidelines against the Houston Texans in the second quarter on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

In response to the news that Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick may be inclined to take less money elsewhere than what the Jets are offering based on principle, a league source with extensive experience negotiating contracts has hit the nail on the head regarding that possible outcome.

As the source explained it, taking less elsewhere would equate to Fitzpatrick signing a deal that reflects his true value on the open market.

“If a player ‘takes less’ to go somewhere else, he is really only being paid what the actual market will bear,” the source said.

It’s the flip side, as the source points out, of the “hometown discount,” which teams often try to squeeze players into taking. Teams try to use the emotional connection to squeeze the player into taking less. When that happens, people get upset.

So why should a player squeeze a team into paying more than what the market will bear — especially when the team necessarily is already offering more than the market will bear?

In this case, the market for Fitzpatrick is somewhere below the quality of the offer the Jets have made. Even if Fitzpatrick believes he deserves more, his only alternative (other than waiting) is taking less.

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PFT, NBC extend deal into 2023

NBC

July 1 will mark the seventh anniversary of the PFT-NBC partnership, which launched on that day back in 2009. So why not sign up for another seven years?

PFT can confirm with a high degree of confidence (in lieu of saying “that’s news to me“) the report from Eric Fisher of SportsBusiness Journal that a long-term extension has been executed between NBC and PFT. Strengthening our confidence in this report is the fact that NBC separately has announced the deal.

According to a source with knowledge of the agreement (i.e., me), the digital deal runs through the 2022 NFL season and into 2023. The new agreement relates only to the digital relationship between NBC and PFT, pursuant to which PFT licenses all content directly and exclusively to NBC.

NBC has been a great partner, fueled by strong relationships with multiple NBC Sports employees in digital, TV, and radio. Hopefully, the first seven years and second seven years will be followed by another seven years and more, with PFT and NBC doing business until I croak with my crocs on, and beyond.

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Broncos wideout Cody Latimer calls cops on girlfriend, bails her out

Cody Latimer AP

Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer called the cops on his girlfriend, and ended up in trouble himself.

According to Mike Klis and Jeremy Jojola of KUSA, Latimer was arrested for failing to appear in court to pay an old traffic ticket, leading to him paying $311.50 to settle that charge.

But that was the ordinary part of the day. According to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Latimer called the cops at 2:40 a.m. Monday , saying his girlfriend “put her hands on him.”

His girlfriend, 25-year-old Jaimee Rando, was arrested for assault and disturbing the peace. But Latimer posted her bail on Tuesday afternoon.

He wasn’t at Broncos practice Tuesday, with coach Gary Kubiak saying it was for personal reasons. Latimer has been a disappointment on the field, as the former second-rounder has just eight catches in two seasons.

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Falcons trying Tevin Coleman as a kick returner

Tevin Coleman AP

The Falcons are giving running back Tevin Coleman a look as a kickoff return man during their organized team activity (OTA) practices.

With Devin Hester at 33 and recovering from offseason surgeries, giving Coleman at least a look in the return game is a spring experiment that could end up being a long-term fit.

“With that speed and making one cut is very similar to playing running back,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters about Coleman. “If he can add another value to the team, that’s certainly something that we’ll look at.”

A third-round pick in 2015, Coleman played in 12 games as a rookie and posted two big games but took a back seat to Devonta Freeman’s career year. Coleman carried 87 times for 392 yards and a touchdown.

Coleman returned 30 kickoffs during his college career at Indiana and took one back for a touchdown.

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Lions add rookie TE after placing Wright on IR

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Lions addressed a shortage at tight end by signing Ben McCord on Tuesday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported.

McCord went undrafted last month. He was a four-year contributor at Central Michigan who caught five touchdown passes as a senior.

The Lions lost Tim Wright to a torn ACL last week. Wright was waived-injured by the Lions, and after clearing waivers he was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list Tuesday.

With Eric Ebron sitting out due to an undisclosed injury last week, the Lions were shorthanded for practice after Wright’s injury. McCord will get a chance to make an impression, and the team will likely keep an eye on the waiver wire through the summer as it looks to improve depth at the position.

The Lions waived tight end Casey Pierce earlier this month after he spent last season on the team’s practice squad. Veteran Matthew Mulligan signed with the Lions in April.

McCord joins Adam Fuehne and Cole Wick as rookie tight ends trying to stick with the Lions.

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Kaepernick has perfect spring attendance, in line to collect bonus

Colin Kaepernick AP

Despite not being cleared for football activities, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has “taken an active role” in the team’s offseason workout program, Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reported Tuesday.

Kaepernick has financial interest in doing so. Maiocco reported that Kaepernick is in line to collect a $400,000 bonus for participating in at least 90 percent of the team’s offseason program, which concludes next week with a mandatory minicamp.

The report said Kaepernick has attended every session of the program since it opened on April 4. He had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder in November, then had surgeries on his left thumb and right knee after the season, so his participation has been limited.

The team expects Kaepernick to be cleared for full participation in time for training camp. The report said Kaepernick has done footwork drills and taken mental reps during the team’s OTA practice sessions.

New 49ers coach Chip Kelly has said he’s in “no hurry” to pick either Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert as his starting quarterback. The 49ers allowed Kapernick to talk with Broncos top executive John Elway earlier in the offseason about a potential trade, but the sides did not agree on a deal.

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Broncos QBs sharing first-team reps

STANFORD, CA - FEBRUARY 04:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos  stands on the field during practice at Stanford Stadium on February 4, 2016 in Stanford, California. The Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos are in their second week of on-field practice work, and the starting quarterback’s job remains open.

It’s so open that Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told reporters Tuesday that he’s splitting reps evenly among Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and rookie first-rounder Paxton Lynch. As for any kind of depth chart/pecking order, Kubiak said that will come later.

Per Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, Sanchez started with the first team in Tuesday’s practice but later took reps with the third unit. Siemian and Lynch also got first-team reps.

Sharing the reps is an interesting approach, but Kubiak clearly believes it’s the right one. Sanchez is the only competitor with real NFL experience, and though his draft position says Lynch’s time will come sooner than later, the Broncos are trying to repeat as Super Bowl champs and won’t rush him. Through the early practices, Siemian has played well enough to create some buzz.

It’s only May, but this figures to remain one of the most interesting — and apparently open — position battles in the NFL through the summer until a starter emerges, or until Kubiak has to pick one.

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Cowboys sign fourth-rounders, including Dak Prescott

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 14:  Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs looks to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Davis Wade Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Starkville, Mississippi.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys haven’t drafted many quarterbacks lately, and the one they took this year now has a contract.

Per the league’s official transaction wire, the Cowboys have signed fourth-round defensive end Charles Tapper and quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott, the 135th overall pick, was the first quarterback they’ve taken since using another fourth-rounder on Stephen McGee in 2009.

He was the consolation prize when they were unable to move back into the late first round to take Paxton Lynch, and an interesting prospect in his own right. He ought to have time to develop, as starter Tony Romo said he wants to play another four or five years.

As with other teams, they’re now down to just one unsigned pick, third-round defensive tackle Maliek Collins.

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J.J. Watt thinks he’ll be practicing soon

J.J. Watt AP

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt isn’t practicing with the team right now as he continues to recover from offseason groin surgery required to repair core muscle injuries he suffered during the course of the 2015 season.

The Texans obviously want to be sure Watt is 100 percent for the start of this season, so he’s been working out on the side while his teammates go through practices during OTAs. Watt said Tuesday that he expects his participation level will rise in the near future.

“I feel really good,” Watt said, via the Houston Chronicle. “As soon as I’m allowed, I’ll be out there. You guys know me well enough now to know that it’s not up to me. I think it will be soon.”

The Texans have two more OTAs this week, four over the next two weeks and then a three-day mandatory minicamp that ends on June 16. Watt should be doing more by the time that schedule wraps up, but may not be full go until training camp. That should work out just fine for the Texans defense as long as it ensures a healthy Watt come September.

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Report: Toxicology shows Will Smith was legally drunk

570a1c8ce3c36_willsmith Getty Images

Saints defensive end Will Smith, who was shot and killed in what has been described as a road rage incident, was legally drunk at the time, according to a new report.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that toxicology tests put Smith’s blood alcohol content at 0.24, or three times the legal limit of 0.08. An attorney for Smith’s family had previously claimed that Smith was not inebriated to the point where he couldn’t drive.

Cardell Hayes has been charged with murdering Smith and attempting to murder his wife Raquel, who was also shot in the incident. Hayes’ lawyer is claiming the shooting was self defense.

Surveillance cameras and witness statements indicate that that Smith’s SUV bumped Hayes’ Hummer and drove off before Hayes caught up to Smith, rammed into the SUV, and shot him in an ensuing argument.

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Tim Wright goes on IR, after tearing his ACL

Calvin Johnson, Timothy Wright AP

It was at least a little curious last week when the Lions put tight end Tim Wright on waivers, but now we know why.

The team announced this afternoon that Wright reverted to injured reserve after clearing waivers, and that he had torn his ACL.

The Lions acquired Wright in a trade with the Buccaneers (after they had previously traded him to the Patriots and later brought him back).

He played in nine games last year, catching nine passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. The Rutgers product has 13 touchdowns over his three NFL seasons.

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Carson Wentz says the Eagles have “an awesome quarterback room”

Quarterback Carson Wentz throws a pass during the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie minicamp at the team's NFL football training facility, Friday, May 13, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) AP

On the outside, it appears that the Eagles’ quarterback situation is something of a mess, with the declared starter Sam Bradford not hiding his disappointment that the team traded up to draft Carson Wentz. But from Wentz’s perspective, everything is great.

Wentz said that he, Bradford and Chase Daniel have quickly developed a good rapport and are getting along well, with the two veterans helping the rookie learn to be a professional.

“So far it’s been great,” Wentz said. “Working with Sam, working with Chase, we’ve got an awesome quarterback room. A lot of really good discussions about the playbook, about life, it’s been great. And then on the practice field, they’ve been great for me. We have a really good relationship, so nothing but great things to say about those guys.”

Wentz is putting a happy face on what could be perceived as an uncomfortable situation. We’ll see in three months how happy everyone is when one quarterback is named the starter and the other two have to bide their time on the bench.

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Report: Malcolm Butler will be at OTAs this week

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 20:  Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass intended for  Harry Douglas #83 of the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots opened up the OTA portion of their offseason schedule last week without cornerback Malcolm Butler and his absence was accompanied by a report that Butler wants a new contract as he heads into his third year with the team.

Butler’s not required to be at any team practices until next month’s mandatory minicamp, but it doesn’t look like he will be missing in action for much longer. The Patriots will hold two more OTAs on Wednesday and Thursday this week and Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Butler will be in attendance.

Howe adds that the “strong indication” is that Butler’s absence last week was not part of a push for a new contract and that Butler wants to avoid “unnecessary attention” this offseason after missing a flight on his way to practices last year.

Butler is set to make $600,000 in 2016, which is certainly a bargain price for a player in his role for the Patriots but it isn’t one that there’s much pressure for the Patriots to adjust. Butler is set for restricted free agency after the season and extending a first-round tender would likely be enough to ensure that he doesn’t leave town until 2018 at the earliest.

With linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower progressing toward unrestricted free agency, Butler may be third in line among New England defenders for extension talks in the immediate future.

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Broncos could keep Ware on sideline until training camp

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 27: outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after sacking the quarterback while playing the Detroit Lions in the first quarter on September 27, 2015 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) Getty Images

A week after saying that outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware would likely be limited through OTA practices and minicamp due to back issues, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday that Ware might not do any on-field work until the Broncos open training camp in late July.

Given that Ware is going to be 34 this summer and is very much a proven player, that’s probably a smart move. It’s notable because those back issues sidelined Ware at two different times last season and because the Broncos are counting on him to be a productive pass rusher.

A week ago, Kubiak said Ware sitting out the start of OTAs was “more preventative than anything” and said “we’ll probably make decisions on DeMarcus day to day based on how he is feeling.”

Ware had 7.5 sacks last season, 4.5 in the first four games before the back flared up, though he recovered well enough to play in the postseason and had two sacks in the Super Bowl. He took a pay cut in the offseason to stay with the Broncos.

A first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2005, Ware came to the Broncos in 2014. He’s only missed eight games in his career, all in the last three seasons, and has 134.5 career sacks.

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