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Week 12 Thanksgiving 10-pack

Packers Lions Football

We’ve moved the Friday 10-pack to Thursday, since posting it on Thursday puts the Thanksgiving games in play for our 10 takes regarding the coming weekend of games.

I also needed to get it done early because I’ll be spending Thursday night preparing to host The Dan Patrick Show on Friday, a process which may look a lot like achieving and maintaining a turkey-induced stupor.  Primarily because that’s precisely what it will be.

1.  At least the NFL tried to give us good games on Thanksgiving.

Every year, complaints arise regarding the quality of the games played on the fourth Thursday in November.  This year, the NFL did something about it.

Though the Lions continue to have a hammerlock on the early game, the NFL picked the Patriots to be the visiting team.  (Because CBS will televise the game, the road team had to be from the AFC; this year, the choices were the Jets and the Patriots.  Either way, a quality opponent would have been pegged for the game.)

For the afternoon contest, the NFL earmarked a game that, as of April, looked to be one of the 10 best of the year — Saints at Cowboys.  Though the Cowboys’ struggles have made the game less intriguing, the NFL opted not to take advantage of its captive audience by offering up the weakest home game on the Dallas schedule.  (Then again, the Lions already were booked.)

The night game — Bengals at Jets — also looked as of April to be a potentially great game, given that the Bengals and Jets both made the playoffs in 2009.  Who knew that the Bengals would be after 10 games The 2-Ocho Show?

Short of moving Thanksgiving to September, the risk that games that looked great in April will be relevant in November applies to every NFL season.  All we can ask is that the NFL attempt to provide quality games.

Even if the Lions and Cowboys would lose their automatic home games, there’s no way of knowing that the games picked prior to the season will involve quality teams by the time the games are played.  What if the Vikings had “earned” a home game on Thanksgiving as a result of their 2009 performance?  Or the 49ers, based on the widespread belief that they’d be much improved in 2010?

In April, every season is a crapshoot.  At least the NFL has finally decided to shoot for something other than crap on Thanksgiving.

2.  Favre could thrive under Frazier.

The decision of Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier to keep brett Favre at quarterback makes sense.  Frazier will earn the job for 2011 only by winning games, and Farve at quarterback gives Frazier the best chance to do that.

The Vikings don’t need to know what Tarvaris Jackson can do; he had relevance only when a change of quarterbacks may have belped salvage a playoff berth.  And Frazier has no interest in developing Joe Webb to become the possible starter for the next regime.

So what of the notion that Favre will continue to produce more turnovers than a baker on an IV full of Red Bull?  Without former coach Brad Childress peering over Favre’s shoulder and constantly telling him what to do and what not to do, it’s entirely possible that Favre will perform better.

Even though reeling off six in a row likely won’t be enough to edge out one of the three-loss teams currently in position to take both of the wild-card spots, a strong finish to the season would partially rehab Favre’s fading legacy — and it would give Frazier a fighter’s chance at keeping the job.  Having Childress out of the picture will make if easier for Favre to just relax and play.

3.  Delhomme’s revenge.

Earlier this year, the Carolina Panthers discarded quarterback Jake Delhomme like an empty bottle of screw-top wine.  And for good reason.  Ever since the completion of the 2008 regular season, Delhomme had been playing like a guy whose Gatorade had been spiked with a full bottle of screw-top wine.

On Sunday, Delhomme will get his first start since Week One, due to Colt McCoy’s ankle sprain.  Coincidentally, that start will come against the Carolina Panthers.

So the game will provide Delhomme with a shot at redemption, a chance to prove the Panthers wrong.

Then again, given that Delhomme received a contract worth $20 million guaranteed before the 2009 season, it’s the Panthers that should be thinking about revenge.

Either way, the link gives a sliver of meaning to an otherwise meaningless game.

4.  It’s getting no easier for Mike Vick.

If the Eagles and quarterback Mike Vick struggle at Soldier Field on Sunday, it’ll be easy to blame the Sports Illustrated jinx, given that he graces the magazine’s cover this week.  But we’re not much for jinxes, unless the person to be jinxed allows himself to think that the jinx exists.

For Vick, the bigger concern should be opposing defenses studying ever bit of tape from his performances to date, building on game plans that slowed him down and trying to devise the one tactic that will shut him down and/or knock him out.

Though the Bears present the latest challenge, a pair of games against the Cowboys, a rematch with the Giants, and a date with the Vikings remain.  With each passing week, defenses will be trying even harder to be the team that solves the Vick riddle, preferably by putting him back on the injury report.

Look for the Bears, mired in a seven-quality-teams-but-only-five-spots chase for the postseason, to pull out all the stops.

5.   Monday night loser could still be alive.

Thanksgiving weekend wraps up with a Monday night game between the 49ers and Cardinals.  It presents a rare stinker on ESPN’s 2010 slate.  But it’s not as bad as it appears, if we ignore the fact that each team has a record of 3-7.

If the 5-5 Seahawks lose on Sunday against the Chiefs, the loser of Monday night’s game will remain only two games out of first place with five games to play.

Sure, the loser will be a woeful 3-8.  But if we can get past that won-loss record, the reality is that the loser can still get hot in December and steal the division and reset its record to 0-0 in the single-elimination tournament that will commence with the NFC West champion hosting a playoff game.

6.  In Atlanta, home-field advantage possibly hangs in the balance.

The game of the week undoubtedly occurs in the Georgia Dome, where the red-hot Packers take on the red-hot Falcons.

Under quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have won 18 games and lost only one at home.  Under quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have scored a total of 76 points in consecutive games against the Cowboys and Vikings.

The Packers are more than a good offense; their defense has allowed only 10 points in three games, including the pitching of a shutout of the Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

With these two teams destined to play beyond January 2, this game will go a long way toward determining where the second game may occur.  And regardless of what happens this time around, the location of a January rematch will have a lot to do with its potential outcome.

7.  Keep an eye on Tom Brady’s foot.

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has no qualms when it comes to talking about his injuries.  Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is more apt to talk about his hair.

And so it’s impossible to know the exact diagnosis of and prognosis for Brady’s current foot injury, which caused him to miss practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and to be listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, a rare departure from his usual designation as probable.

Sporting a defensive line that could give the Patriots flashbacks to Super Bowl XLII and a Detroit team that is otherwise irrelevant in NFL circles, it’ll be interesting to see whether these Lions use their rare national spotlight as an occasion to roar, by pouncing on Brady’s bum foot.

8.  Colts are suddenly in trouble.

If the season ended today, the Colts’ season would be over.  And while they’ll play four of their final six games at home, the Colts face the prospect of missing the playoffs — and of winning fewer than 10 games — for the first time since Jim Mora refused to use the “P” word.

The slide very well could continue on Sunday night, when the surging Chargers come to town.  The Chargers have played the Colts well in recent years, providing Indy with a consistent thorn in their side.

And while both of the quarterbacks have had to overcome injuries to their supporting cast on offense, the Chargers are getting healthy a lot faster than the Colts.  And the Chargers will have receiver Vincent Jackson back, for the first time all year.

It could spell trouble once again for the Colts.  At 6-5, the Colts would have to make like the Chargers and finish strong in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

9.  Bucs get their chance to impress.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have handled every team they’ve faced, with the exception of the three elite franchises they’ve played — the Steelers, Saints, and Falcons.

This weekend, the Bucs draw the Ravens.  On the road.

On paper, this is another game that Tampa should lose.  If the Bucs find a way to win, it’ll be time to take this team seriously.

Actually, it’s already time to take this team seriously.  With upcoming games against the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks, 10 wins could be in the offing.  With the Ravens, Falcons, and Saints also on the docket, victory in any one of those games will help the Bucs do the unthinkable — nailing down coach of the year honors for Raheem Morris, and possibly executive of the year recognition for Mark Dominik.  With a roster devoid of pricey veterans, the Bucs are one of the few teams that is playing like a true team.

10.  Chargers are following form, and will likely continue to do so.

After the Chargers lost five of their first seven games, we said (one or twice, or more often) that the team eventually would try to follow a slow start with a fast finish — and fail.

But the Chargers have shown that they can do it again, reeling off three wins and moving to within a game of first place in the AFC West.  And they’ll likely continue their climb to the playoffs.

Where they’ll likely lose in one of the first two rounds.

While, as mentioned above, they match up well with the Colts, the Chargers eventually would face the Patriots, Jets, Ravens, or Steelers.  And with five losses already in the standings, the Chargers will have to take their pass-first offense to an open-air stadium in the Northeast.  In the middle of January.

Moving forward, and as our friend Scott Caplan of XX 1090 in San Diego pointed out during our weekly Wednesday morning radio visit, the Chargers should redouble their efforts to figure out why they can’t win more games in September and October.  If they could emerge into November and December with a better record, they’d be able to force some of the other elite teams to San Diego in January.

Hey, at least the Chargers wouldn’t have to face a long flight home after losing.

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Chiefs sign tight end Ryan Taylor

Kansas City Chiefs v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Chiefs have added another tight end to the mix.

The NFL’s daily transaction report brings word that Kansas City has signed veteran Ryan Taylor to their roster. Taylor was released by the Dolphins earlier this month.

Taylor entered the league as a 2011 seventh-round pick of the Packers and played in 50 games for the team before being dropped from the roster last October. He spent a little time in Baltimore and then played eight games for the Browns to close out the season. Taylor saw most of his work on special teams, but did catch eight passes while he was with the Packers.

Travis Kelce has a lock on the starting tight end job for the Chiefs. Demetrius Harris, Richard Gordon and 2015 fifth-round pick James O’Shaughnessy will join Taylor in the scrum for backup work.

The Chiefs released guard Ricky Henry to make room for Taylor on the roster.

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Cowboys, Orlando Scandrick agree to new contract

Scandrick Getty Images

The Cowboys and cornerback Orlando Scandrick have come to terms on a new deal.

Scandrick had skipped the early part of offseason work because he was unhappy with his contract, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Scandrick will sign his new contract today.

The 28-year-old Scandrick still had four years left on his old contract, so the Cowboys had plenty of leverage if they wanted to tell him he wasn’t going to get more money. But the team has apparently decided that it’s important to keep its best cornerback happy.

Scandrick has played his entire eight-year career in Dallas, and now there’s a good chance that he’ll retire a Cowboy.

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Report: Hard Knocks narrowing its list, Browns not on it

Mike Pettine, Johnny Manziel AP

The Browns have one of the league’s top reality shows going anyway, but they don’t necessarily want it filmed around the clock.

And they may not have to worry about it.

According to Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, the Browns request to not be on the HBO training camp documentary has been granted. He mentions that Washington, along with the Bills and the Texans, are the likeliest subjects this year.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle has confirmed that the Texans are one of three finalists, and a decision could come as soon as next week.

With quarterback Johnny Manziel easing back into the football world after a stint in rehab, the presence of cameras 24-7 would have only added a layer of ridiculousness to what is already going to be an unusual camp. The Browns made it clear that the Manziel situation made them uneasy with the prospect of doing the show.

And since NFL Films doesn’t really want an “unwilling participant,” the Browns appear to be off the hook this year.

There were nine teams eligible to be “drafted” to do the show this year, in addition to the aforementioned four: The Giants, Vikings, Bucs, Rams, Jaguars and Titans.

The Bills could have been exempt since they have a first-year coach, but they’ve never been on the show and could volunteer.

New coach Rex Ryan is one of the most colorful characters in the league anyway, and generally welcomes the attention the way he used to welcome a G-D snack.

But there were reports the Bills weren’t interested, so we’ll see if they follow through. They’d clearly be the most interesting of the teams mentioned in the report, guaranteed to be good summer television.

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Excessive celebrations won’t result in longer PAT try

Baldwin Getty Images

The more we think about the supposedly simple change to the PAT procedures, the more complicated it all gets.

A reader posed an intriguing question regarding whether the new rule will result in fewer excessive celebration penalties during touchdowns, since the foul would move the two-point try to the 17 — or turn the single-point kick into a 47-yard field goal.

Unfortunately for those who hope to keep the “No Fun” in the NFL, penalty enforcement won’t change. Which means that an excessive celebration penalty following a touchdown will be enforced on the kickoff, not on the PAT.

So, basically, there won’t be any additional reasons for coaches to be upset with players who do dumb things after scoring touchdowns.

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Report: Belichick never believed Brady on deflation issue

Brady Getty Images

The popular theory regarding the somewhat surprising decision of the Patriots to not appeal the punishments imposed against the team by the NFL is that owner Robert Kraft and Commissioner Roger Goodell struck some sort of a behind-the-scenes deal, possibly one that entails reducing the four-game suspension imposed on quarterback Tom Brady. But there’s another theory that is simpler, both on the surface and beneath.

Maybe the Patriots just caved because they knew they couldn’t win and they didn’t want to do more damage to their relationship with their 31 business partners and the presiding body that binds them together.

Appearing recently on CSN New England’s Sports Tonight, Ron Borges of the Boston Herald offered up a tidbit that fits with the theory that the Patriots abandoned a fight they knew: (1) they wouldn’t win; and (2) would make things worse.

“[Coach Bill] Belichick never believed [Brady’s] story, from what I was told,” Borges said. “Because they all know. Why do you think all those retired quarterbacks, the Troy Aikmans of the world — Troy Aikman is about as nice a guy as I’ve ever met in football — nobody’s backed [Brady]. Nobody, not a single guy. Why do you think that is? Because they hate Brady? No. Because they’re not stupid. They know nothing’s done with those balls that the quarterback doesn’t want done.”

That’s pretty much what Brady said back in January, during that awkward are-you-a-cheater?-I-don’t-believe-so press conference that few found credible.

“When I pick those footballs out, at that point, to me, they’re perfect. I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that, I don’t want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in, taking any air out, to me those balls are perfect and that’s what I expect when I’m on the field,” Brady said.

So if he doesn’t want anyone to do anything to the footballs after that and if they do something to the footballs after that, they’re either making the footballs less perfect to Brady’s chagrin — or more perfect to Brady’s delight.

The Wells report has many flaws. The science is shoddy and suspect. And the team of high-priced sharks supposedly skilled and experienced in interrogating witnesses was unable to get a confession from a pair of maroons whose text messages made them seem guilty.

Even without a confession or a smoking gun from Messrs. Beavis and Butthead, the text messages made them seem guilty. Someone apparently was doing something to footballs that Brady had deemed to be perfect. Although the NFL historically failed to understand the dynamics of air pressure and historically failed to apply any sort of scientific principles to the pre-game inflation process and historically failed to properly supervise the footballs before kickoff and historically failed to ensure a clear chain of custody of the official game balls, the text messages point vaguely to misconduct. Although some league officials may have had an agenda against the Patriots during the AFC title game and after it (by leaking blatantly false PSI data to ESPN, which gave the situation a much more sinister feel), the text messages point vaguely to misconduct.

That’s perhaps why Belichick isolated Brady from the get go, telling reporters that the coach knew nothing about the preparation of the footballs, and that reporters would have to talk to Brady. Unless a deal was struck through the back channels to secure better treatment for Brady (if he accepts the obvious offer from Commissioner Roger Goodell to finally turn over that cell phone), the Patriots perhaps have decided that they should walk away from a fight they can’t win because they finally realize it’s also a fight they shouldn’t win.

Still, it’s also a fight the NFL has failed to convincingly win, thanks to a multi-million-dollar investigation that resulted in a puzzle pieces being jammed together to look like the lid of a different box. And that’s the biggest problem with this entire escapade. By failing to craft a report that withstood objective external scrutiny, Wells and company made it impossible for anyone to achieve a clear sense as to what did and didn’t happen. They were supposed to get to the truth. Instead, the developed a visceral sense of what the truth was, and they did an ineffective job of finding the truth and presenting it in a way that comes off as persuasive and accurate.

But if Belichick ultimately doesn’t believe Brady, there was no reason to keep fighting. And if Borges is right, the Patriots may have deeper issues to deal with regarding the relationship between franchise quarterback and coach and franchise quarterback and franchise.

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Michael Bennett: Playing for Pete Carroll is like playing for Willy Wonka

Gene Wilder AP

We have a feeling that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a pretty popular movie in the house when Martellus and Michael Bennett were growing up.

A couple of years ago, Martellus said that then-Bears coach Marc Trestman reminded him of Willy Wonka. That didn’t help Trestman all that much when Bears brass decided he was a bad egg after last season, but that left an opening for a Wonka-esque figure on the NFL sidelines. Enter Pete Carroll, or so says Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.

“It’s like playing for Willy Wonka,” Bennett said on 750 The Game in Portland, via the Tacoma News-Tribune. “He’s crazy. He wants to be young. He just is one of those guys who’s always up beat, wants to have a good time, and let’s you be yourself.”

And the snozzberries taste exactly like snozzberries in the team’s cafeteria to boot.

Bennett went on to compare Carroll quite favorably to Greg Schiano, who coached the Bucs when Bennett was in Tampa and earned poor marks for letting men act like men. Bennett and Carroll haven’t been seeing much of each other of late as the defensive end has stayed away from workouts in a quest to shake more money loose from the team.

They haven’t decided to send him to the taffy-pulling room or anything nearly as severe, but Bennett’s just a year into his deal and that may make the idea of a raise nothing more than pure imagination on Bennett’s behalf.

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Friday morning one-liners

Danielle Hunter AP

Bills LB Ty Powell wants to be more than a special teams contributor.

Getting to know a bit more about Dolphins rookie G Jamil Douglas.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman posted a video of his workout with QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

WR Brandon Marshall and CB Antonio Cromartie are having fun with their matchups at Jets practice.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh likes the change in extra points.

The Bengals will have a spirited competition at cornerback.

Browns QB Johnny Manziel gets back on the field next week.

Staying healthy is a goal for the Steelers offensive line.

Texans DE J.J. Watt showed off a picture of a nasty bruise from last season.

The Colts waived former college basketball player and aspiring offensive lineman Demarco Cox.

A negative take on the Jaguars’ uniforms.

Titans G Andy Levitre visited an elementary school to promote both reading and physical fitness.

TE Jeff Heuerman’s future with the Broncos still looks bright despite his torn ACL.

Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star shares his thoughts on which Chiefs rookies looked the best at minicamp.

Concern about Raiders QB Derek Carr’s finger injury is low.

The Chargers are shuffling through third quarterback options.

Would the Cowboys consider bringing RB Ray Rice onto their roster?

A look at how the Giants might deal with the loss of T Will Beatty.

A breakdown of the Eagles offensive line.

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and his wife welcomed a baby girl named Reese on Thursday.

A long Blackhawks game this week led to a remembrance of the longest Bears game in history.

Five things to keep an eye on during Lions OTAs.

K Mason Crosby likes working with Packers special teams coach Ron Zook.

Vikings rookie DE Danielle Hunter is learning how to use his size and speed at the NFL level.

A visit to Ellen DeGeneres’s television show offered Falcons owner Arthur Blank the chance to buy an $8,000 dress.

Said Panthers K Graham Gano of the new extra point placement, “I expect to make every kick, and that’s not something that will change. Nothing will change mentally or form wise.”

Saints rookies took a tour of New Orleans.

Which Buccaneers will be the most improved in 2015?

Cardinals G Mike Iupati bought a house once owned by NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire.

LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar represented the Rams at an event honoring St. Louis high school student-athletes.

49ers WR Dres Anderson got schooled on NFL life by his father Flipper Anderson.

Seahawks LB Kevin Pierre-Louis says he’s medically cleared for OTA work.

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John Harbaugh thinks weather will dictate more two-pointers

OWINGS MILLS, MD - SEPTEMBER 08:  Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens answers questions during a news conference at the teams training facility on September 8, 2014 in Owings Mills, Maryland. Earlier in the day the Ravens terminated the contract of running back Ray Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely after the release of video showing Rice striking his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Even though the distance for two-point conversions didn’t change this week, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he think we’ll see more of them.

With extra points moved back to the 15, the kicks aren’t that much more difficult, but Harbaugh said there will still be a difference.

It is going to encourage more two-point conversion tries,” he said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “There’s no question about it, especially in windy stadiums. Maybe later in the year when it means the most will probably see the most attempts.

“I know one thing, we’re going to spend more time defending two-point conversions and practicing two-point conversions because it’s going to be a bigger part of the game.”

Harbaugh’s a former special teams coach, so it figures that he’s going to have a different perspective on any changes in the kicking game. And he said he needs time to study the possibilities.

“I’m really interested in finding out more of the specifics — penalties, what if we jump offsides, what if they jump offsides,” Harbaugh said. “I can’t wait to see the details.”

Coaches are creatures of habit, so even the small act of shaking up their practice routines is notable. And if the weather encourages more coaches to abandon what is still a safe point for the chance at an extra one, then the league will have gotten the bump it was looking for.

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Kelvin Benjamin to miss some OTA time with hamstring injury

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 21:  Kelvin Benjamin #13 of the Carolina Panthers during the game at Bank of America Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Panthers take the field for OTAs next week, they’ll do it without last year’s first-round pick.

Via Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is nursing a hamstring injury and won’t participate next week.

Benjamin had a solid rookie season, with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. His numbers tapered off late in the season, but they hope the addition of second-rounder Devin Funchess will help, giving quarterback Cam Newton a pair of big targets to help the offense develop.

While Benjamin’s hamstring’s not a major concern, the time lost is still at least an inconvenience. The Panthers have traditionally been slow starters, and Newton missed all of last year’s OTA season while recovering from ankle surgery, which may or may not have contributed to that.

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Dante Fowler set for ACL surgery next week

Dante Fowler Jr. AP

It’s been a couple of weeks since Jaguars first-round pick Dante Fowler tore his ACL while taking part in his first NFL practice and that means it is just about time for Fowler to have surgery to repair the injury.

Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports that Fowler’s surgery has been scheduled for next week.

The Jaguars ruled Fowler out for the season a day after he suffered the injury, leaving him with almost a full year before the team will start their preparations for the 2016 season. The plan is for Fowler to spend much of that time rehabbing at the team’s facility while also taking part in meetings with the rest of the defensive linemen in order to keep him mentally in the mix while he recovers physically.

Fowler is optimistic about his ability to bounce back to form after the injury, a feeling that’s supported by the similar recoveries we’ve seen from a lot of other players in recent years. That doesn’t make the loss of his rookie season any easier to swallow, but the long view still holds promise for the Jaguars and Fowler.

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Dang, even Bud Grant’s making #DeflateGate jokes now

CANADA - DECEMBER 03:  Bombers' Bud Grant looks as if he just swallowed the canary. He had just won his fourth Grey Cup in six years of coaching Winnipeg.   (Photo by Barry Philp/Toronto Star via Getty Images) Getty Images

Bud Grant might be old school, and he might be old, but he’s certainly got the hang of this social media thing.

Specifically, the former Vikings coach has learned how to troll folks on Twitter.

While promoting his latest garage sale, Grant sent out of photo of some autographed footballs, which appear more probable than not to not be inflated to a range between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI.

A sticky note is attached to one which reads: “These balls are not from New England (Air pump broken :( ).”

So not only is the 88-year-old Grant making #DeflateGate jokes, he also dropped a frowny face at the end of it.

We may have reached the end of the internet, or perhaps a glorious new beginning.

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League to share survey results with St. Louis, San Diego, Oakland

Questionnaire Getty Images

Now that the NFL’s 32 business partners have seen the information, it’s time to share it with the people trying to throw money and new buildings at them.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the league’s home market studies of St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland were given to owners this week, and will now go to the groups trying to keep the Rams, Chargers and Raiders where they are.

Those marketing surveys in St. Louis included fan questionnaires and focus groups which asked about ticket preferences, PSLs and premium seats, and whether they’d support a different team. Local business leaders were also polled to see the interest in buying luxury suites and premium seating or sponsorships.

The basic studies have been completed,” NFL Los Angeles point-man Eric Grubman said. “The information we’ve gotten, we’ve shared it with the clubs. We’re getting ready to share it with representatives from the markets. We wanted the clubs to be able to digest it before we gave it to the markets.”

St. Louis leaders Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz are expected to share whatever they learn from the league with the public once they know it, but at the moment they haven’t received the package.

Once they have the data, civic leaders can presumably adjust their plan (i.e. try to shake the money tree and see what else might fall out). But Grubman said in each of the markets, he’s gathered there are plenty of people eager to keep the teams.

“I’ve got to tell you, in each of these three markets there is not a time when I’m there that I don’t sense the tremendous support and appreciation of the fans for the team,” Grubman said.

Now they just have to see if those fans are sufficiently committed to doing what it takes to keep the teams, and at what level.

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Reggie Bush wants to return punts this year

Reggie Bush

Early in Reggie Bush’s NFL career, he returned punts in addition to his offensive duties and he showed a knack for it while returning four punts for touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Saints.

Bush continued returning punts through the end of his tenure in New Orleans, but six 2011 opportunities with the Dolphins are the last time he’s been seen in that role. Bush signed with the 49ers this offseason and he may get a chance to turn back the clock. Bush was fielding punts at Thursday’s practice and said it was his idea to get back on special teams.

“It was my idea,” Bush said, via CSNBayArea.com. “I told the coaches I wanted to return punts again. And they were excited about it. We’re still working at it, still chipping away. And we look forward to being an all-around great special teams.”

Bush said he didn’t think he’d “gotten rusty” after several years of leaving punt return duties to other players and that he’s looking forward to having another avenue to getting the ball in his hands.

Carlos Hyde is expected to be the No. 1 back for the Niners this year, leaving Bush and Kendall Hunter to pick up complementary touches out of the backfield. However that works out for Bush, returning punts would offer him another chance for him to impact games and for the 49ers to maximize their return on investment in Bush’s services.

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Chargers’ Nick Novak thinks new rule makes kickers more valuable

Nick Novak AP

NFL kickers have been split on the league’s new rule moving extra points back 13 yards, with some saying it’s an unnecessary attempt to make them less relevant, while others say it will reward the league’s better kickers.

Count Chargers kicker Nick Novak in the latter camp.

“I think it makes my job that much more exciting,” Novak told U-T San Diego. “There could be games where I may not get any work, just lighting up the scoreboard and scoring touchdowns, which is a good thing. Now, I have the privilege of kicking 33-yard field goals, maybe four of five a game — I call them field goals because they’re from 33 yards. And I may kick four or five field goals. My workload is going to go up. It’s exciting to showcase what I can do. I think it increases the value of a kicker, too.”

Novak may be right, although the reality is that a 33-yard extra point is still an easy kick for every NFL kicker. A kicker who would struggle with the longer extra point wouldn’t be in the NFL in the first place, and so this new rule won’t change kickers’ jobs much one way or the other.

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Dennis Hickey: “Reasonable expectation” Branden Albert is ready for regular season

Branden Albert Getty Images

In February, Miami Dolphins tackle Branden Albert was uncertain if he would be ready to play in time for the team’s 2015 season opener after tearing his ACL and MCL last November.

However, Miami general manager Dennis Hickey now believes that Albert has a decent chance to be ready to play in time for the Dolphins’ Week 1 game at Washington.

In an interview with Alex Marvez and Mark Dominik on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Hickey said there is a “reasonable expectation” Albert will be good to go.

“It’s been a long rehab but he’s really attacked it every day,” Hickey said. “Reasonable expectation is for him to play opening day and so, still a lot of rehab to go but we really like his progress. He’s out there with him team working out and we’re really encouraged by what we’re seeing with him.

Albert suffered the knee injury in a game against the Detroit Lions in early November and missed the rest of the season. Ja’Wuan James started the final seven games for Miami in place of Albert last season.

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