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Week 12 Thanksgiving 10-pack

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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Adam Vinatieri still having fun, not thinking of retiring at age 44

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Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is the oldest player in the NFL at age 44, but he doesn’t appear to be winding his career down.

Vinatieri isn’t even thinking about retiring yet, according to the Colts’ website.

“Yeah, you know I still love the game as much as I ever have,” Vinatieri said. “It’s fun running out onto the field. It’s much more fun playing in the playoffs. Cleaning out your locker the first week of January is not a whole lot of fun and it always leaves a lousy taste in your mouth. I still love running out onto the field. I still think I can help our team win games and why not keep going?”

Vinatieri turns 45 on December 28, meaning in the Colts’ Week 17 game he’s set to become the eighth player in NFL history to play at age 45. The oldest NFL player ever was George Blanda at 48, and the next-oldest was Morten Andersen at 47. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Vinatieri play until 2019 or 2020 and make it to 47 or 48. Maybe even longer.

Vinatieri was one of the better kickers in the league last year, hitting 27 of his 31 field goal attempts and making all 44 of his extra point tries. As long as he can keep playing at that level, there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep having fun.

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Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has slimmed down

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Perhaps recognizing he was running out of chances in the NFL, New York Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has dropped weight and looks to be in much better shape during OTAs.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, Seferian-Jenkins is down to 260 pounds per his agent Brian Fettner.

The light went on, and he’s really dialed in,” Fettner said.

Seferian-Jenkins was suspended for the first two games of the upcoming season after a DUI arrest last year. The former second-round pick was dumped by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season after the arrest as it reached a breaking point with the team. Injuries and a general lack of production, combined with the emergence of Cameron Brate, led to his exit from Tampa Bay.

Seferian-Jenkins caught just two passes for 10 yards in seven games played for the Jets last season after being claimed off waivers.

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Jonathan Williams looking to seize backup role to LeSean McCoy

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With the New England Patriots stealing away Mike Gillislee in restricted free agency, Buffalo Bills running back Jonathan Williams knows there’s a significant opportunity for him to step up into the prime backup role to LeSean McCoy.

It’s an opportunity Williams doesn’t intend on squandering.

You know every day I just come out here and try to do my best,” Williams said, via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. “I’m learning from one of the best backs in the league in LeSean McCoy. This offensive scheme is a great scheme for any running back, so every day I’m just taking it one day at a time.

“You definitely see that opening, but like I said, I’m trying to take it one day at a time and keep getting better.”

McCoy has also missed five games due to injury over the past two seasons, which would give the occasional spot starting opportunity for Williams as well if such injuries continue.

Even with McCoy and Gillislee on the roster last year, Williams appeared in 11 games and received 27 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. He also lost two fumbles in that span, which is an area he’ll need to solidify if he’s getting an increased workload this year.

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Giants moving Mykkele Thompson to cornerback

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With depth at the safety position seemingly solidified following the addition of Duke Ihenacho last week, the New York Giants are moving a former fifth-round pick from safety to cornerback.

According to James Kratch of NJ.com, the Giants have moved Mykkele Thompson to cornerback.

Thompson is practicing at the position during the team’s OTAs. He’s appeared in just one game for the Giants after being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. A knee injury derailed his season last year and landed him on injured reserve in September.

With Landon Collins, Ihenacho, Darian Thompson, Andrew Adams and Nat Berhe still left at safety, Thompson has a better chance of contributing at cornerback if he can make the transition successfully.

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Mike Zimmer: “One eye or two, it doesn’t matter. I’ll be back”

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Maybe it’s the fact that Mike Zimmer didn’t get his first chance to be an NFL head coach until he was 57 years old, but he’s not intending on walking away from the gig any time soon.

Despite an eighth eye surgery last week that is forcing him to sit out some of the team’s offseason program, Zimmer remains fully committed to serving as head coach of the Vikings.

I’ll be back shortly,” Zimmer said Friday, via Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press. “One eye or two, it doesn’t matter. I’ll be back. We can put that retiring thing to bed quickly.”

Zimmer said he intends to return to the Vikings on June 4, just one day before his 61st birthday. He missed one game last year after continued issues with his eye led to previous surgeries. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson has been filling in for the Vikings in Zimmer’s absence.

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Federal judge tosses cheerleader lawsuit

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U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup threw out a lawsuit on Thursday night claiming the NFL and its owners conspired to suppress wages of cheerleaders.

According to Sudhin Thanawala of the Associated Press, Alsup tossed the case due to a lack of evidence. However, he gave the plaintiff – a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader listed as Kelsey K. – the chance to re-file the suit by June 15. Attorney Drexel Bradshaw stated their intention to follow through with the re-filing of the suit.

“To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only ‘ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,'” Alsup said in his filing. “The complaint must answer the basic questions of ‘who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?'”

The complaint sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

A separate suit between former cheerleaders of the Oakland Raiders and that team was settled earlier this month. The former Raiders cheerleaders accused the franchise of paying them less than minimum wage for their services over several seasons of work.

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Ex-NFL player suing former financial advisor for fraud

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A former unnamed NFL player has brought a lawsuit against his former financial advisor, Kenneth Ray Cleveland, alleging he deliberately mismanaged more than $4.5 million in the player’s funds

According to the Associated Press, Cleveland was indicted on seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of felony money laundering.

Instead of investing the player’s money, he allegedly used the money to pay other clients and use on personal expenses, including his home mortgage and credit cards.

The charges against Cleveland would bring a maximum of a 10-20 years in jail and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden is also currently involved in a lawsuit against his former financial advisor.

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Cowboys’ Nolan Carroll arrested for DWI

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Cowboys cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested for driving while intoxicated early this morning.

WFAA in Dallas reports that Carroll was arrested by Dallas Police and released at 2:45 p.m. after posting bond.

The Cowboys signed Carroll to a three-year, $10 million contract in March. He played the last three years for the Eagles and four years before that for the Dolphins.

The 30-year-old Carroll started all 16 games last season in Philadelphia and has been penciled in as a starter in Dallas as well.

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Adam Peters wanted Reuben Foster from the get-go

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Some scoffed at the claim from the 49ers that they managed to get two of the top three players on their draft board with picks No. 3 and 31 in the draft. The 49ers nevertheless insist that they had decided early on to pursue Foster.

Via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, G.M. John Lynch recently explained that when he spoke with Adam Peters before hiring him from the Broncos, Peters already had a plan for the 49ers’ first pick in the draft.

“We’ve got the No. 2 pick,” Lynch said to Peters. “Who are you taking? . . . Without hesitation, he said ‘Reuben Foster.’”

Lynch was careful to explain that Peters’ initial impression shouldn’t be regarded as a slap at the guy they took after trading down from No. 2 to No. 3.

“A lot has transpired then and [Peters] loved Solomon Thomas, too, I don’t want to get that mistaken,” Lynch said. “But he was a huge champion of Reuben Foster. Like I said, so much transpired from there to there. But [Peters] was big on that one. I know that.”

Peters knew that he wanted Foster while studying film of Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland a year ago.

The big joke was you turned on Alabama to watch anyone and you couldn’t stop watching [Foster],” Lynch said. “He just kind of kept jumping out at you. So I think while we are all proud to have claimed him, it was pretty easy to do so.”

The wait until pick No. 31 surely wasn’t easy, but team after team after team passed on Foster before the 49ers made the pick, one spot before the Saints reportedly intended to do so. Foster slide due to concerns about his shoulder and a positive drug test at the Scouting Combine from a dilute sample. While that may have scared others away, it didn’t impact the 49ers.

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Martellus Bennett sends Aaron Rodgers some weird texts

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Packers tight end Martellus Bennett has made it a point to get close to quarterback Aaron Rodgers since signing with Green Bay.

But the way he’s gone about it one you might not expect, at least until you consider the source.

Via Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin, Bennett has his own way of communication with his soon-to-be-bestie.

“I send a lot of emojis and GIFs and stuff like that to him. Other than that, it’s just conversations,” Bennett said. “That’s pretty much it. I tell him things like, ‘I like chocolate chip cookies. What kind of cookie do you like?’ I just tell him little things. Like, ‘Hey, look my daughter did this today. She’s jumping, or she learned to use the potty.’ Stuff like that.

“It’s just conversation, making friends.”

As they progress through the early stages of Organized Team Activities, Bennett’s also learning that the best way to earn his new quarterback’s love is knowing what he’s doing on the field, in terms of learning the playbook.

“I’m always talking to him on the field, too, trying to see what he wants,” Bennett said. “‘Hey, how did that look?’ or he’ll give me the thumbs up. Or if I’m in another group, I always look back at him, ‘Hey, is that what you want? Is there something different you want on this?’ Always trying to figure out, just trying to have those conversations on and off the field, trying to get know each other as players, and as people.”

Rodgers may have an easier time in those conversations, as you can only wonder his reaction the first time he glanced at his phone to see a poop emoji (or worse) from his new tight end.

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Charles Woodson glad to see Marshawn Lynch wearing No. 24

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The No. 24 Raiders jersey worn by Charles Woodson wasn’t given to anyone last year after Woodson retired, but when Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to join the Raiders, he was given the number. And Woodson is pleased with that.

I’m excited about it for Marshawn to have a chance to come home and play in front of friends and family,” Woodson told ESPN. “That number 24, that’s something special with the Raiders. I don’t think there’s anybody more worthy than Marshawn to wear that number.”

Woodson sees signing Lynch, a hometown hero, as a “business decision” in Oakland. He also understands both the Raiders’ business decision to leave for Las Vegas and Oakland’s decision not to pour any more money into a stadium than they already had.

“They needed a stadium and it’s big business,” Woodson said. “It’s hard to hear, but you go where the financing is. The [Oakland] mayor wasn’t willing to give up money she didn’t have, so kudos to her, too. But I’m also happy for Mark Davis, getting the stadium — they need a stadium — and moving the franchise forward.”

It remains to be seen who will wear No. 24 for the Silver and Black in Las Vegas in three years, but for now, anyway, the number is going from Woodson to Lynch, and 24 jerseys will continue to be hot sellers in Oakland.

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Adam Thielen: I have too much to do to think about how far I’ve come

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Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen’s place in the NFL looks a lot different this May than it did a year ago.

Thielen established himself as a regular on the special teams in Minnesota in 2014 and 2015, but he didn’t play much on offense and had 20 catches on his record heading into the 2016 season. Thielen got a chance to do more in his third season and made the most of it by catching 69 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns.

The undrafted player from Minnesota State parleyed that into a three-year extension that can be worth as much as $27 million, but he’s not spending his time thinking about the change in circumstances.

“I’m waiting until I’m done playing to reflect,” Thielen said, via the Pioneer Press. “I’ve got too much to work on, too many big goals, to reflect on anything. I’m just going to come out here everyday and try to get better and bring the same mindset I’ve brought since I got to the league.”

Thielen’s breakout year has him ahead of 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell on the depth chart at wideout for the Vikings. The team has been talking up Treadwell, but Thielen showed he was a reliable target last season and that will make it harder for Treadwell to race past him as they set up the receiving corps this offseason.

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John Harbaugh believes Memorial Day may be the most important holiday

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Memorial Day has always created conflicting emotions for me. It’s the unofficial start of summer and a time to have gatherings and relax. But it’s also an occasion for solemn and somber reflection regarding those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation, and for an expression of appreciation to the loved ones they left behind.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh recognizes the significant of the last Monday in May.

“I told the guys go home and enjoy your families,” Harbaugh said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “It may be the most important holiday of the year. Do we all enjoy getting in a car and driving where we want, doing what we want? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. . . .

“Memorial Day, for all of the people that have sacrificed to give us the chance to live the way that we do in this country, is something that we should all be very grateful for.”

He’s right. Our current way of life represents the cumulative result of conflicts that gave birth to our country, held it together, and opposed threats to it from other governments and extreme ideologies that resent the exercise of the freedoms on which America was founded. Without the many thousands who embraced serious injury and death since 1776, this nation would not exist in its current form and possibly would not exist at all.

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Cowboys quarterbacks coach: It’s “fun to speculate” about Prescott injury opening door for Romo return

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What if Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffers a serious injury early in the 2017 season? Would Tony Romo return?

It’s a topic that most fans don’t want anyone to entertain, for fear of jinxing the second-year signal-caller. Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson nevertheless opted recently to go there.

It’s fun to speculate about that, if Dak were to go down in Week Two, would Tony come back?” Wilson recently said, via Scout.com. “I don’t know the answer to that. I just don’t know. Do I think he’s capable of coming back and playing? Most definitely. Does he want to or what his commitment is to the network? I don’t know that, so it’s fun to think about, and it’s fun water-cooler topics to talk about [even without] information to make a definitive answer on that.”

Cowboys fans likely wouldn’t say it’s “fun” to think about what would happen if Prescott were to blow a tire in Week Two, regardless of whether Romo would or wouldn’t return. If Prescott were to go down, the Cowboys surely would try to lure Romo back, with owner Jerry Jones doing his damnedest to get CBS to ensure that Romo’s spot as the No. 1 analyst would remain safe and secure in 2018.

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Morris Claiborne aims high

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Cornerback Morris Claiborne entered the league five years ago as the sixth overall pick in the draft. His time in Dallas was largely a disappointment, largely due to the fact that he was unable to play far too often due to injury.

Now a Jet, Claiborne believes he can be successful. Highly successful. Extraordinarily successful.

I feel like I can be the No. 1 corner in this league if I’m healthy . . . when I’m healthy,’’ Claiborne recently told Mark Cannizzarro of the New York Post. “When I’m out there playing and I’m healthy and I’m on my game, I don’t feel like there is anybody better than me.’’

The problem is that he hasn’t been healthy, missing 33 of 80 regular-season games — one more than two full seasons of the five he has been in the league.

“When I was young, I felt like I had everything in front of me,’’ Claiborne said. “I felt like nothing can stop me. I was going to go do whatever it takes to succeed and be a Pro Bowl player that first year with the Cowboys. But, God had other plans for me, and I ended up taking a different route than most guys do.

“I don’t care where my career has been, I will never quit, I will never stop.’’

He knows that he needs to not stop playing in order to get what he wants.

“[T]hat’s the No. 1 goal,” Claiborne said. “Everything else comes after that. . . . Because when you’re on the field you can make those plays. But when you’re not, you have zero chance.”

Whether Claiborne can make plays for th eJets remains to be seen, as does whether he can stay on the field. It’s easy for a body to feel good in May. Once the regular-season rolls around, and the bumps and bruises pile up before existing ones can heal, it becomes a problem.

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