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Week Eight picks

The inability of referee Scott Green to properly apply the supposedly clear rule regarding going to the ground when making a catch not only cost the Vikings a win.  It also prevented me from extending to two my streak of victories over Rosenthal.

Yes, he beat me by one game in Week Seven, and the difference was the outcome of the Vikings-Packers game.

For the week, Rosenthal got 10 right and four wrong.  I was 9-5.

For the year, Rosenthal is 69-35.  I’m 65-39.

And though it pains me to type this (in part because I’ll never hear the end of it from him), Rosenthal currently has a better showing than all of the ESPN “experts,” including the Accuscore projections and the fan-based picks. 

Maybe he should apply for a job there.  They probably need someone with a sturdy shine box.


Broncos vs. 49ers in London

Florio’s take:  When the league picked this game to be the 2010 English export, it didn’t look like a bad choice.  The 49ers were viewed as the favorite to win the NFC West, and the Broncos were regarded as a middle-of-the-road team with the potential to improve.  Seven weeks into the season, the 49ers have only one win and the Broncos have two.  The decision to thrust quarterback Troy Smith into the starting lineup smacks of the desperation coach Mike Singletary surely is feeling, and even though Denver lost to one Bay Area team by 45 in Week Seven, Week Eight likely will bring a seventh loss for the Niners.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 30, 49ers 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The NFL should send teams to London earlier in the season, before they show how bad they really are.  The depleted Broncos defense gets worse every week, and the 49ers defense just made Matt Moore look like, well, Matt Moore from 2009.  This is a crossroads/gut check/insert cliché game for both coaches.  I trust Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton far more than Mike Singletary and Troy Smith.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 31, 49ers 21.

Jaguars at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  Four prior games between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less.  Continuation of that trend would help Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, even if the Jags lose.  One more 20-plus-point blowout (the Jaguars already have suffered four) could get Del Rio fired.  The return of David Garrard and the departure of Tony Romo could help, but probably not enough.  But at least the Jags will possibly lose by less than 20.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 27, Jaguars 17.

Rosenthal’s take:  Jon Kitna versus the Jaguars secondary.  The immobile quarterback versus the force that provides no resistance.  If I was a betting man, I’d stay far away from this one because both teams are about as trustworthy as Florio’s hairpiece.  At least the Jaguars seem like they care. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Jaguars 20, Cowboys 16.

Dolphins at Bengals

Florio’s take:  From 1978 through 2000, the Dolphins won nine straight games over the Bengals.  Cincinnati has won the last two, but they haven’t played since Bill Parcells put his thumbprint on the Dolphins.  More importantly, the game won’t be played in Miami, where the Fins are 0-3.  Though the Bengals found some punch on offense against the Falcons, the Dolphins are more talented, more desperate, and (after believing they got screwed against the Steelers) more feisty.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Bengals 16.

Rosenthal’s take: Chad Henne has quietly improved all season, and he should do well against a Bengals secondary without Adam Jones and possibly Johnathan Joseph.  Carson Palmer is also playing better, but it seems to take a 21-point deficit to warm him up.  The Bengals defense is providing too many chances for failed comeback attempts.

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 24, Bengals 21.

Bills at Chiefs

Florio’s take:  Some (I’m looking at you, Rosenthal) think that Bills coach Chan Gailey has something up his sleeve for his most recent former team.  Pointing to an unlikely strong showing by Buffalo’s offense against a complacent Ravens defense, Rosey thinks the Bills can give the Chiefs a run for their money.  Let’s see if Rosey puts his money where his mouth is.  Arrowhead Stadium has been a-rockin'; Gailey and his team would be wise to not go a-knockin’.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 31, Bills 14.

Rosenthal’s take:  I’m not sure people have really wrapped their mind around the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Bills racked up 514 yards on the Ravens.  514! The Harvard product is a joy to watch, with decisive, difficult throws often into tight windows.  He’s a great runner and seems to like contact.  And he has a red beard.  The Bills will keep losing most weeks because their defense is an embarrassment, but at least they’ll be fun to watch.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chiefs 34, Bills 31.

Redskins at Lions

Florio’s take:  For the third straight year, these two franchises meet in Detroit.  In 2008, the Redskins kept the Lions winless by only eight points.  In 2009, the Lions ended a 19-game losing streak with a win over the ‘Skins.  Assuming Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, back after suffering a shoulder injury in Week One, won’t throw four passes to DeAngelo Hall, the rested, ready, and confident (perhaps delusional) Lions should be able to get it done.  Last week’s meltdown by the Chicago offense concealed the fact that the Washington offense isn’t dramatically better, and the Lions look to be in line for their second win of the year.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Redskins 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Signs the Lions have come a long way:  (1) they are still talking playoffs after a 1-5 start and it doesn’t seem completely insane; (2) they’ve outscored their opponents this year (thanks Rams!); (3) they are favored against a 4-3 Redskins team and I’d still give the points.

Rosenthal’s pick: Lions 24, Redskins 17.

Panthers at Rams

Florio’s take:  Like the other team that will contend for the NFC West crown, the Rams are tough at home and soft on the road.  This week, a win at home would pull the Rams to 4-4, and it would end a four-game losing streak against Carolina, a slide that began in St. Louis nearly seven years ago with a double-overtime loss to the eventual NFC Super Bowl representatives.  This time around, the Rams simply have the better team — which given the state of the Panthers isn’t really saying much.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Panthers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The Rams are winless on the road, so it’s good the league loaded them up with home games before a three-game road trip after Thanksgiving.  The Panthers finally found a passing game, which could make them a dangerous spoiler the rest of the way.  Every game for the Rams is dangerous because they aren’t that talented, but they’ve responded very well to losses this year.

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 22, Panthers 20.

Packers at Jets

Florio’s take:  The Jets remain the hottest team in the NFL, with a swarming defense and a sufficiently competent offense.  Receiver Santonio Holmes had two extra weeks to hone his timing with quarterback Mark Sanchez, which should result in an even more souped-up passing attack.  The Packers aren’t remotely close to being Super Bowl ready, and without again getting a couple of gift calls on touchdown plays they can’t expect to win this one.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 27, Packers 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The Packers lost another linebacker for the season, while the Jets are fully healthy after their bye.  Revis Island is ready to re-open with tougher immigration laws and there’s a sense New York hasn’t played their best despite being 5-1.  All logic points to the Jets. (I’m sure Florio is taking his beloved Jets.)  All the more reason to take the Packers, who are ready to go on a run.

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 26, Jets 21.

Titans at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Vince Young likely will return for a Tennessee offense that did fairly well without him.  But the two Tennessee losses have come against teams that run a 3-4 defense, the preferred attack of the Chargers.  And the Charger

s have much more talent than their 2-5 record suggests.  Assuming that the late surge in Week Seven against the Patriots woke up the four-time defending AFC West champions, the Chargers will stay alive for at least another week.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 23, Titans 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans have a knack for frustrating opponents and forcing them into mistakes.  The Chargers have a knack for frustrating their fans and making unforced errors.  The Titans lead the league in takeaways and have scored the most points off turnovers.  The Chargers have the most giveaways in the AFC.  Add it up, and Norv Turner’s head should explode sometime in the third quarter.

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 26, Chargers 21.

Vikings at Patriots

Florio’s take:  Vikings coach Brad Childress has been talking lately.  A lot.  His words regarding the officiating in Sunday night’s loss to the Packers got him a $35,000 fine.  His barbs directed at the Patriots and Bill Belichick could get Chilly a butt-whipping on par with the 31-7 defeat his team absorbed from Belichick and company four years ago.  Brett Favre, who won’t play only if he can’t move, will be jumping on his “broke foot” when things go well, and he’ll be walking like John Wayne with hemorrhoids when things go poorly.  Count on plenty of Rooster Cogburn on Preparation H sightings.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Vikings 13. 

Rosenthal’s take:  After the Patriots released Lawyer Milloy then lost to the Bills 31-0 to open the 2003 season, ESPN’s Tom Jackson said the “Patriots hate their coach.”   Three weeks after New England traded Randy Moss to Minnesota, it’s the Vikings that seem to hate their coach.  The rest of the country hates Brett Favre, who seems to know it and wear it on his face during every depressing press conference.  This is the week Moss begins to realize how good he had it in Foxborough.  

Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 24, Vikings 14.

Buccaneers at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  Bucs coach Raheem Morris thinks he has is the best team in the NFC.  Less than two years ago, the Cardinals actually were the best team in the NFC.  Though the Cardinals have looked horrible at times, the managed to take down at home a Saints team that thumped the Bucs in their own stadium.  And that’s good enough for me.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 24, Buccaneers 20.

Rosenthal’s take: The “best team in the NFC” isn’t favored in Arizona, where the Cardinals are 2-0 this season.  If the Bucs are to live up to Raheem Morris’ hype, this is a game they win going away.  Arizona’s passing game is a mess, while the running game isn’t much better.  It’s a miracle they are 3-3. Still, these teams are more similar than different.  And they’ll have the same record after this one.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cardinals 19, Bucs 14.

Seahawks at Raiders

Florio’s take:  Here’s the toughest call of the week.  Tony Dungy thinks the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC.  Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson thinks his team is the most talented in the entire NFL.  The Seahawks had been unable to win on the road before taking down the Bears two weeks ago.  Before a far=less-than-full stadium against a Raiders team buoyed by a 59-point uprising against the Broncos on Sunday, the Raiders likely will finish an unlikely ascension to .500 at the halfway point of the season.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 27, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: Every time the Raiders win a game, they say they turned the corner.  Even though they haven’t won back-to-back games since 2008, I’m just crazy enough to believe them this time.  The Seahawks whole offensive gameplan seems to be “don’t throw interceptions” but they need a little more than that on the road.

Rosenthal’s pick: Raiders 23, Seahawks 16.

Steelers at Saints

Florio’s take:  At one point in September, it looked like this game would feature a clash of the best two teams in the league.  It remains half right, with the Steelers among the best of the bunch and the Saints sliding toward irrelevance.  Though the defending champs’ backs are being pushed against the wall, that 13-point loss to the Browns means the days of dominance have ended, at least for now.  A one-dimensional offense is no match for a multi-faceted Steelers defense, and this one could turn into a rout, which would mean the ratings will only double those from Game Four of the World Series.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 34, Saints 21.

Rosenthal’s take:  A lot of tough games to pick this week. I’ve debated this one for days, but the tiebreaker goes to the Steelers.  Even though Pittsburgh’s pass defense has looked shakier the last two weeks, New Orleans has struggled against far worse groups.  At some point, it’s worth recognizing the 2009 Saints passing attack just may not come back.

Rosenthal’s pick: Steelers 27, Saints 24.

Texans at Colts

Florio’s take:  The Texans obsessed over their Week One visit from the Colts, and it paid off.  Since then, the Texans have been roughly average.  They get another crack at the Colts on Monday night, at a time when plenty of Indy players are missing.  But as long as Peyton Manning remains healthy, the Colts will be tough to beat, especially at home.  Manning realizes the importance of not being swept by the Texans — and not falling to 0-3 in the division.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 33, Texans 27. 

Rosenthal’s take: Dallas Clark and Austin Collie will be missed, but I’m not really that worried about the Colts offense in this game. They have great depth and the Jeff George Colts could score 30 points on this awful Texans defense.  The bigger question is whether the Colts defense can snap out of their funk.  At home, in a huge division game, I’ll take my chances they make enough plays.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 38, Texans 31.

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Wes Welker calls drug policy system “clearly flawed”

Wes Welker AP

After learning that he would be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs policy, Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker elected to express issues over the policies themselves while expressing ignorance over his violation of those policies.

In an email to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Welker relayed the standard line from players following drug suspensions that he would “NEVER knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way.”

However, Welker then turned his attention to the system that led to his suspension in the first place. Welker called the drug testing programs “clearly flawed” and vowed to attempt to get the issues corrected in the future.

“I have never been concerned with the leagues performance enhancing or drug abuse policies because under no scenario would they ever apply to me, but I now know, that (drug-policy procedures) are clearly flawed, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they are corrected, so other individuals and teams aren’t negatively affected so rashly like this,” Welker said.

Welker did not elaborate on what part of the process he took issue with. However, the policies themselves were collectively bargained as a part of the CBA that was signed between the league and player’s union in 2011.

A first offense for a violation of the performance enhancing drugs policy is a four game suspension. The four game suspension is actually a five-week ban as the Broncos have their bye week in Week 4.

The league officially announced the suspension Tuesday night. He will be eligible to return to the team on Monday, October 6.

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Wes Welker officially suspended first four games of season

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The NFL officially announced Tuesday night that Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker will miss the first four games of the season after violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy.

The four game suspension will actually be a five-week ban in total as the Broncos bye week falls in Week 4. Welker is eligible to return to the team’s active roster on Monday, August 6. He will miss games against the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. All four teams won at least 10 games last season.

“Tonight’s news regarding Wes is very disappointing for our team, but we understand the league’s authority in this area. While it’s unfortunate to not have him to start the year, I have full confidence in our wide receivers and expect that group to continue playing at a high level,” head coach John Fox said in a statement.

“I have no doubt that Wes will remain focused on his preparations for the season and stay in excellent shape during his time away from the team.”

The banishment under the PED policy happened because Welker took MDMA, a banned substance under the substance-abuse policy, that had been cut with amphetamines, a banned substance under the PED policy.

The timing of the announcement was somewhat odd. It comes late on a Tuesday night and the Broncos had likely already built a game plan with the assumption Welker was going to be available to play this week. In addition, if the suspension had been announced before final cuts on Saturday, the team could have kept an additional player during cuts as Welker would have been placed on the reserve/suspended list.

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Welker may not be suspended for Week One

Welker AP

The good news for the Broncos and receiver Wes Welker is that he may not be suspended for Week One.  The bad news for the Broncos and Welker is that it may not matter, since he has yet to be cleared to play.

The worst news for the Broncos is that, if the NFL had finalized the Welker suspension by Saturday, the Broncos would have been able to keep someone they’d cut on the roster for at least the first four weeks of the season, since Welker would have been placed on the reserve/suspended list based on his four-game suspension for violating the PED policy.

One of the many things learned the during StarCaps case was that suspensions routinely are announced by Tuesday, since that’s the start of the work week.  As of Wednesday, Welker will practice and in turn be eligible to be paid for the week.

It means that, when Welker eventually is suspended (he will be), he’ll be more likely to miss a game that he would have been able to play, in light of his most recent concussion.  It also means that someone like safety Duke Ihenacho could have been kept around for the first month of the year.

For now, it means that, if Welker receives clearance to play on Sunday night against the Colts, he’ll be in the lineup — barring a dramatic departure by the NFL from its past practices.

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Brent will appeal decision to delay his reinstatement

Brent Getty Images

Former Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent has ended his retirement. The league, however, hasn’t.

Brent won’t be reinstated for 10 weeks. Brent’s agent, Peter Schaffer, tells PFT that Brent will appeal the decision.

“We are going to invoke our appeal right,” Schaffer said by phone. “We were truly hoping that the Commissioner’s response to Josh’s request for reinstatement would be one that we wouldn’t have to appeal, and that it would be fair and based on precedent. The last thing we thought we’d have to do today would be appeal the decision.”

Schaffer pointed to the only other recent case involving a player found responsible for DUI resulting in death: former NFL receiver Donte’ Stallworth.

“It was the same exact situation,” Schaffer said. “Both were tragic and unfortunate.  Stallworth received a 16-game suspension.  I base everything on precedent.  The precedent was set.  But Josh will serve a 30-game suspension.”

That calculation treats Brent’s placement on the non-football injury/list list and his 2013 retirement as de facto suspensions. While it’s unclear whether the NFL would have suspended Brent in 2013 while he was awaiting trial, Brent’s retirement allowed the NFL to avoid a very delicate situation.

“It’s important that Josh voluntarily retired,” Schaffer said.  “He could have forced the NFL to go through a tremendous amount of scrutiny for allowing him to play pending trial or for attempting to suspend him before he had been proven guilty.  Where’s the incentive for someone to do that in the future?  Giving him twice what Stallworth received doesn’t seem to be acknowledge that.”

The procedure moving forward isn’t clear, given that Brent technically hasn’t been suspended.  Instead, his reinstatement has been delayed.  Schaffer believes that Brent should be allowed to play pending the appeal.

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Former Cardinals QB Max Hall arrested for shoplifting, cocaine

nfl_a_hall2_sy_300 AP

For a moment there, it looked like Max Hall was going to be the next Kurt Warner.

But he ended up more like Montana — Tony Montana.

According to the Arizona Republic, Hall was arrested Friday on suspicion of possession of stolen items and cocaine.

The report said Gilbert police were called to a Best Buy store, where they found Hall with “several stolen items from Best Buy and a nearby Walmart.”

He was also packing a “personal use quantity of cocaine,” which I guess depends on how often you use.

The former BYU quarterback — this latest one was a whole different kind of mission — started three games for the Cardinals in 2010, and was most recently working as an assistant coach at a high school

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NFL holds Irsay to higher standard, sort of

Irsay Getty Images

As expected, the NFL has lowered the boom on Colts owner Jim Irsay.  And the NFL believes that it held Irsay to a higher standard than the league’s players.

The NFL is correct.  Sort of.

A player who pleads guilty to a DUI ordinarily gets no suspension and a maximum fine of $50,000 for a first offense.  Irsay received a six-game suspension and a fine of $500,000.

It was also a higher standard when compared to the 2007 DUI of Dr. Jerry Buss.  The late Lakers owner was suspended only two games (they play 82 for the season) and fined $25,000.  (The NFL may not want to completely embrace NBA precedent, in the event that an NFL owner eventually is illegally recorded during a private conversation saying things that objectively would be regarded as inappropriate.)

The appearance of holding Irsay to a higher standard masks the inadequacy of the financial penalty.  The league office has advised PFT that there will be no monetary consequence beyond the $500,000.  Which means that Irsay will otherwise lose none of the money that he will earn during the six weeks that he’s suspended.

While the NFL’s constitution and bylaws cap any fine at $500,000, the league has no limit on the money that can be withheld when someone is suspended.  Saints coach Sean Payton, for example, lost more than $5 million during a full-year suspension for an overhyped bounty program that he had no involvement in establishing or maintaining.

Likewise, players routinely lose more than $500,000 during suspensions.  Broncos receiver Wes Welker, for example, will lose 4/17th of his $3 million base salary, 4/17th of his $3 million roster bonus, and 4/17th of his $2 million signing bonus allocation as a result of his four-game suspension for violating the PED policy.

That’s $1,882,578 in lost revenue for Welker.  And that’s well over three times what Irsay, a billionaire, will lose during a 50-percent longer suspension.

So while it generates a strong headline for an owner to be suspended, he’s not forfeiting anything close to the millions in revenue that will continue to flow into the team’s coffers.  The team he’ll continue to own will continue to generate enormous profits that he’ll continue to be able to do with as he pleases.

Ultimately, it’s not a real suspension unless the suspension comes without pay.  In this case, Irsay is being suspended with pay — minus an amount that, given his net worth and the revenue that will continue to be generated over the next six weeks, is roughly the equivalent of a speeding ticket.

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No decision yet on Josh Gordon lawsuit

Egg timer Getty Images

On Monday, we reported that Josh Gordon will decide in the next day or two whether to sue the NFL in response to his one-year suspension for his latest violation of the substance-abuse policy.

As of Tuesday, no decision has been made.

Look for something to happen quickly, especially since practice gets rolling on Wednesday for the regular-season opener against the Steelers.  Since Gordon, if he sues, will ask for a preliminary injunction that will allow him to play while the litigation is pending, the sooner he gets the process rolling the more time a judge will have to consider whether to allow Gordon to keep playing.

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Saints bring back Shayne Graham

Shayne Graham AP

Three days after releasing both kickers in their cut to 53 players, the Saints have brought one back.

The team has re-signed kicker Shayne Graham, according to the NFL’s Tuesday transactions.

In a corresponding roster move, the club waived second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin.

Graham, 36, connected on all four field goals (long of 39 yards) and 4-of-5 extra points in preseason play. However, the club parted ways with Graham and Derek Dimke after the exhibition slate.

But now, Graham is back, and seemingly so for the regular season opener at Atlanta.

The move leaves Luke McCown as the lone backup behind Drew Brees. It would not be a surprise if the Saints re-signed Griffin to the practice squad, but he will have to clear waivers first, and it will be interesting to see if he’s picked up after a solid preseason (48-of-77 passing, 530 yards, three TDs, one interception, 90.3 QB rating).

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Source: Welker took Molly at Kentucky Derby

Welker

Wes Welker’s good day at the Kentucky Derby turned out to be not so good.

His winnings that day exceeded $57,000.  But human error resulted in the Broncos receiver being overpaid by nearly $15,000.

Now, he’ll lose a lot more than that due to his four-game suspension.

Per a league source, the banishment under the PED policy happened because Welker took MDMA, a banned substance under the substance-abuse policy, that had been cut with amphetamines, a banned substance under the PED policy.  (Here’s where all the Walter Whites in the crowd will try to claim in the comments and on Twitter that MDMA and amphetamines are the same thing.  They’re not, Jessie.)

As happened with Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, pure MDMA wouldn’t have triggered a violation under the PED policy.  The presence of amphetamines resulted in a one-strike, four-game suspension.

If the NFL and NFLPA had struck a deal on HGH testing, Welker likely wouldn’t have been suspended.  It’s believed that the new drug-testing policies that will become effective if/when a final agreement is reached on HGH testing will result in amphetamines shifting to the substance-abuse policy during the offseason.

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Greg Robinson not in Week One starting lineup

Robinson Getty Images

The second overall pick in the draft will start the season on the second string.

Rams guard Greg Robinson, a tackle whom the team has moved inside, has moved behind Rodger Saffold on the depth chart at left guard, via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-DispatchDavin Joseph will start at right guard.

Joseph, who joined the team in May, makes it easier for the Rams to take it slowly with Robinson, who’s still adjusting to life in the NFL, where the playbook and the protections is far more complicated than the offense at Auburn.

Still, it’s a disappointment for the second player off the board to not be starting.  If the Rams were able to capture a Mulligan, they’d surely take the quarterback who won’t be starting in Jacksonville.

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Wes Welker suspended four games for violating PED policy

Denver Broncos Super Bowl XLVIII Media Availability Getty Images

Broncos receiver Wes Welker has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

According to multiple reports, Welker tested positive for a banned amphetamine.

Welker becomes one of the highest-profile NFL players to be busted for a PED violation. Welker led the league in receptions three times while with the Patriots, and he was a component of the best offense in the NFL last year with the Broncos.

There’s been much talk in recent days about whether Welker would be healthy enough to play in Week One after suffering a preseason concussion, but now that talk is moot: Welker will miss four games regardless of whether he is cleared by the league’s concussion protocol.

The Broncos should be in OK shape at receiver even without Welker, thanks to the signing of free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the drafting of rookie receiver Cody Latimer.

Welker will not be permitted to practice with the team during the suspension. He will be eligible to return in Week Five.

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NFL says Josh Brent can return starting Week 11

Dallas Cowboys v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The NFL has will allow Josh Brent, the Cowboys defensive lineman who killed teammate Jerry Brown while driving drunk, to return to the Cowboys this year. But Brent isn’t eligible just yet.

Brent cannot play until Week 11. He is suspended for the first 10 games of the season and not allowed to participate in any team activities for the first six weeks of the season. He can begin practicing in Week Nine. He will not be permitted to return if he is involved in any prohibited alcohol-related incidents.

If Brent believes he deserves to re-join the Cowboys sooner than that, he has five days to appeal the decision. Brent has already missed the end of the 2012 season after his car crash in December of that year, and the entire 2013 season as well. In all, he’ll have missed 30 games by the time he’s eligible to play in Week 11.

The Cowboys have indicated that they will bring Brent back once the NFL gives it the OK. So as long as Brent stays out of trouble, expect him to be with the Cowboys late this season.

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Steelers’ defense preparing to face both Manziel and Hoyer

Mike Tomlin AP

Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback for the Browns against the Steelers on Sunday, but he’s not the only quarterback the Steelers’ defense is preparing to face.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he thinks Johnny Manziel will play on Sunday, and the Steelers have to be ready for that.

We anticipate them using both in some capacity, and I think that’s the appropriate approach for us to take,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin coached Hoyer briefly when Hoyer spent some time on the Steelers’ roster in 2012, and Tomlin said he has always thought highly of Hoyer as a smart, well-prepared quarterback. But the Steelers also have to be ready for the threat Manziel brings, particularly as a runner.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that [Hoyer] is the guy they’ve chosen to go with,” said Tomlin, “but that being said, we have a great deal of respect for Johnny Manziel and his talents and what he did to get to this point in his career. We fully expect them to utilize him in some capacity in this football game. They didn’t draft him in the first round to watch, and we understand that.”

The possibility of a two-quarterback system makes the Browns one of the NFL’s more unpredictable offenses heading into Week One. Tomlin doesn’t know exactly what to expect against Cleveland, but he does expect to see Johnny Football, and not just Johnny Clipboard.

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Bears place Marquess Wilson on injured reserve/recall

Marquess Wilson AP

If Marquess Wilson is to return to the Bears’ lineup, it will have to be after midseason.

The club has placed Wilson, the second-year wide receiver from Washington State, on injured reserve with a designation to be recalled, the club announced.

The 21-year-old Wilson suffered a broken collarbone early in training camp. He was expected to compete for the club’s No. 3 receiver role.

With Wilson’s roster spot open for the time being, the Bears re-signed cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was released on Saturday. The 31-year-old Hayden missed the 2013 season with a torn hamstring, but he appeared in 16 games (two starts) for Chicago two seasons ago.

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Cowboys plan to add Michael Sam to practice squad

michaelsam AP

Michael Sam is about to find an NFL home.

The Cowboys plan to bring in Sam for a physical and sign him to the practice squad if he passes, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the Cowboys spent time today calling players to gauge their reaction to signing Sam. Apparently the reaction was what it should have been: If he can help the team, he should be signed. The Cowboys think having Sam on the practice squad could help.

There’s been much talk since the Rams cut Sam that teams are avoiding him because they don’t want the attention of having the NFL’s first openly gay player on their roster. But in the case of the Cowboys — where owner Jerry Jones thinks there’s no such thing as bad publicity — if anything Sam’s status as the NFL’s highest-profile practice-squad player may be a bonus.

A seventh-round draft pick out of Missouri who was the SEC’s defensive player of the year last year, Sam had a good preseason but wasn’t able to crack the 53-man roster in St. Louis. In Dallas, where the Cowboys are in desperate need of help on defense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him eventually get added to the active roster. Dallas looks like a good fit for Sam.

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