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Week 12 Thanksgiving 10-pack

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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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Jonathan Kraft: We never apologized to Chris Mortensen

Jonathan Kraft AP

Maybe 11 of the 12 calls were apologies.

Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft said during an interview tonight on 98.5 The Sports Hub that while he’s not mad at Chris Mortensen, that he never apologized to the ESPN star reporter though Mortensen said he did.

“I think that throughout the whole situation that transpired, a lot of respected reporters have received information that was false and really could have only been leaked by the league,” Kraft said during the team’s pregame show. “And in the ordinary course we’ve talked to some of those reporters and we told them that we don’t blame them for the misinformation. We blame their sources for using them.”

While Mortensen said earlier this week the Kraft and his father had apologized, the son made it clear that didn’t happen. But rather than banging on Mortensen himself, Kraft reiterated their anger was with the league for not correcting the erroneous reports that 11 of the 12 balls used in the AFC Championship Game were significantly deflated.

“Still, it hasn’t been corrected publicly. I think when the Wells report came out, some of those details were made public,” Kraft said. “We’ve still never gotten an explanation from the league why the erroneous reports weren’t corrected. And I think the sources for the misinformation are the only ones who should be apologizing to the reporters. We haven’t, and we really have no need to.”

So while Mortensen’s version of the apology may not square with Kraft’s version of events, the salient point remains that Mort should not be the focus of this situation — the league officials who fed him the bad information should be.

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Robert Griffin III not cleared to play after all

Robert Griffin III AP

Amid questions about whether Robert Griffin III really suffered a concussion last week comes word tonight that not only is Washington saying Griffin did suffer a concussion, but that he still hasn’t been cleared to play in this week’s preseason game.

In a statement issued by the team on Friday night and attributed to NFL independent neurologist Robert N. Kurtzke, it was revealed that Griffin can’t play yet.

“Per discussion with Neuropsychologists and with Anthony Casolaro M.D., we had anticipated yesterday that the patient would be cleared for full participation in gameplay this weekend; however, upon further scrutiny today of the neuropsychology data, I agree with the neuropsychologist that he should be held from gameplay this weekend and be retested in one-two weeks before a firm conclusion to return to gameplay can be made,” the statement said.

So now Griffin won’t play this week. And despite coach Jay Gruden’s claims that Griffin is the starter, it raises the question of whether Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy could do enough in the third preseason game to take the starting job away from Griffin. The Washington quarterback saga is far from over.

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NFL suspends R.J. Dill for taking testosterone while not in the NFL

Dallas Cowboys v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

NFL players remain subject to the league’s strict performance-enhancing drug-testing policy even after they think their careers have ended, as a little-known player named R.J. Dill has found out the hard way.

Dill, an offensive lineman with the Cowboys who was suspended for the first four games of this season, said in a statement today that the banned substance he took — prescription testosterone — was something he needed for medical reasons, and he only took it after he failed to make a roster last year and thought his career was over. That doesn’t matter to the NFL. Testosterone is banned by the NFL except when a player gets an exemption for extraordinary circumstances (such as a player whose body stopped producing testosterone because he lost his testicles to cancer), and so when Dill returned to the NFL and tested positive for testosterone, he was suspended.

“I saw my doctor, and blood tests revealed that my testosterone levels were very low,” Dill said. “My doctor suggested that I undergo testosterone replacement therapy, and I accepted the recommended treatment. I completed one round of testosterone replacement therapy in November of 2014, and almost immediately, I felt like my old self again. At this time I was not under contract with any NFL team, nor was I actively pursuing an NFL career.

“Then, in January of 2015, I unexpectedly received a call from the Dallas Cowboys. They were interested in signing me to a futures contract, and after passing a physical, I signed a contract and immersed myself in training for the 2015 NFL season. Unfortunately, my excitement was subdued when in May 2015 I was told by the NFL that I had failed a drug test. While my doctor had told me that the residual amounts of the testosterone would be out of my system about eight weeks after treatment, that was not accurate, and I failed a drug test a full six months after I had received the prescribed treatment.”

Dill attempted to get a therapeutic use exemption, but the NFL declined it, and so he is suspended. Realistically, Dill probably wasn’t going to make the 53-player roster anyway, and there’s a good chance he’ll get cut soon and be out of the league anyway.

The league’s rules are tough for players who have a legitimate medical need for testosterone and tough for players who use substances while they’re not even under contract to an NFL team, but that’s how it should be. Handing out permission slips for players to take otherwise banned substances would lead to huge numbers of players using those substances to get an edge. And allowing players to get out of the PED-testing policy by declaring their retirement would lead to a rash of players calling themselves retired, using banned substances, and then coming out of retirement and returning bigger and stronger thanks to PED use.

“It is very difficult for me to accept that a suspension is imposed by the NFL after I followed treatment prescribed by a medical professional during a time when I was not employed by an NFL team,” Dill said.

It’s easy to see why Dill feels that way. But it’s also easy to see why the NFL feels that it has to suspend him.

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Colts activate Donald Thomas from PUP list

Donald Thomas AP

The Colts felt good enough about guard Donald Thomas’s future to sign him to a four-year, $14 million contract before the 2013 season, but they’ve gotten very little return on that investment.

Thomas tore his quadriceps two games into the 2013 season and missed the rest of the year before returning to camp the next year just long enough to tear his quad again. Thomas missed all of last season as well, leaving him with little to show for his time with the Colts.

He’ll get a chance to change that now that the team has activated him from the physically unable to perform list. With a little over a week left before the cut to 53 players, Thomas is going to have to show the Colts he’s capable of helping them pretty quickly.

Thomas is due $3.5 million in base salary this season and it becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster at the start of the regular season. While that salary looks like a lot for a player who has played as little as Thomas, the Colts haven’t been thrilled with the play of their line and that could allow him to stick around.

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Michael Bennett fined for hit on Alex Smith

Michael Bennett AP

During a radio interview earlier this week, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett complained about the different treatment afforded to quarterbacks when it came to salaries and protection from officials.

Bennett referenced Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs’s much-discussed hit on Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford and wondered “what makes [a quarterback’s] life better than mine” since Bennett gets hit in the legs on every play. Given his feelings about the rules governing hits to quarterbacks, Bennett probably wasn’t pleased to find out that the league has fined him for a hit in last week’s game.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that Bennett has been fined $17,363 for a hit to the head/neck area of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Bennett was flagged for roughing the passer on Kansas City’s first offensive play of the game and later got a sack of Smith that went unflagged by the officials.

Bennett can appeal the fine and/or use it as the centerpiece for another entertaining radio spot at some point down the line.

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Saints aren’t sweating the Falcons getting a new Mercedes-Benz

GERMANY-INDUSTRY-ECONOMY

Even though their neighbors in the NFC South just got a newer model, the Saints might extend their lease on their current Mercedes-Benz.

The luxury carmaker already had naming rights to the Superdome, and recently announced they had purchased the naming rights to the Falcons’ new stadium as well.

The Falcons move into their new building in 2017, but Saints president Dennis Lauscha said that didn’t mean the Saints deal with Mercedes-Benz couldn’t be renewed beyond its current 2021 expiration, and that they weren’t caught off guard. Lauscha said he talked to Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon before the Falcons announcement.

“He contacted us and said, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to do this. We want to let you know we’re going to do this. We certainly mean no disrespect in any way, shape or form,'” Lauscha said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“Not that I’m aware of. I would go so far as to say is that we actually have our head of sponsorship in New York meeting with them (this week),” Lauscha said. “I don’t want to suggest that we’re signing a long-term or anything. I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just saying the relationship is very good. We’re very happy and they’re very happy.”

Of course, Mercedes-Benz is also going to be parking in a nicer driveway soon, so that might change.

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Lesser charges for Justin Hunter

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The charges against Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter stemming from a July 3 incident in Virginia Beach have been lessened to misdemeanor assault and battery, per The Tennesseean.

His trial begins next week, and a Friday statement from state prosecutors said information gathered from interviews with witnesses “better supports the charge of assault and battery.”

Prosecutors said that Hunter punched another man several times, which led the alleged victim to go to the hospital to be treated for a broken jaw. After being released on a $25,000 bond, Hunter was placed under a court-ordered curfew that runs from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and barred from drinking alcohol.

The Titans are hoping this can be the year Hunter puts it all together on the field. The NFL has monitored the case but Hunter has not been subject thus far to any league or team discipline.

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O’Brien says Mallett remains the No. 2 quarterback

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Oversleeping may have relegated Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett to third-string for Friday. But the move won’t be permanent, at least not yet.

Coach Bill O’Brien told reporters on Friday that Mallett remains the second-string quarterback, behind starter Brian Hoyer.

Beyond that, O’Brien didn’t have much to offer.

“[T]he situation with Ryan not being at practice [Thursday], that’s between Ryan and I,” O’Brien told reporters. “There are a lot things that I will explain to you and I realize that you have a job to do, I really do. I said that in the very first meeting with you this year. I have a lot of respect for you and your profession and what you’re trying to do with information and all those things. I get it. But some things are left within the team, and this is one of them. I’m not going to take any more questions on [Thursday] as it regards to Ryan Mallett.”

It’s no surprise that O’Brien either sent Mallett home or told him to stay home after showing up late for work; O’Brien’s former boss in New England routinely does the same thing in response to tardiness, even if the tardiness is the result of a blizzard.

Perhaps Tuesday night’s edition of Hard Knocks will have more details about Mallett’s sleep habits, or other topics aimed at keeping the audience awake.

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Not much precedent for notable August QB trades

Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

With the top two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, immediately installed as starters for their respective teams, it’s easy to assume that there’s been outside interest in young quarterbacks already on those rosters, Mike Glennon of the Bucs and Zach Mettenberger of the Titans.

In a league with more teams than quality starting quarterbacks and even fewer legitimate backup options, Matt Flynn and Michael Vick, just to name a couple, have recently found work. So a player like Mettenberger, for example, who’s in his second season and has shown he shares at least some traits with successful starters across the league would and should draw outside interest.

Earlier this week, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt sounded like Mettenberger isn’t going anywhere.

“In the league today it is very hard for one quarterback to make it through the whole season, so you better have a plan in case your starter doesn’t go,” Whisenhunt said. “So we certainly feel very fortunate that we have Zach, and what Zach brings to the table.”

While the Browns and Jets and Bills, possibly among others, might have good reasons to explore possibilities for boosting their quarterback stables over the next week or so as rosters are trimmed and decisions are made, history says teams don’t trade quarterbacks at this time of year, at least not good ones.

Ryan Mallett was traded last Aug. 31 from the Patriots to the Texans. Mallett started two games last season before getting hurt, then no-showed a practice this week after it was announced he’d lost a training-camp battle with Brian Hoyer for the starting job in Houston.

There have been nine August quarterback trades in the last 15 years. The vast majority of them involved journeymen such as Kelly Holcomb, Sage Rosenfels, John Beck and Brooks Bollinger. The Packers trading Brett Favre to the Jets in 2008 stands out as an exception, but that was a soap opera all its own after Favre, then 38, basically refused to report to the Packers.

Going back to last winter, Glennon rumors started swirling as soon as it became clear the Bucs would use the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft on a quarterback. The Bucs ended up cutting Josh McCown and keeping Glennon, who’s been playing as the No. 2 behind Winston.

Speaking of McCown, he was traded from Miami to Carolina in August 2008. With Johnny Manziel injured and likely done for the preseason, Thad Lewis moves to the No. 2 spot behind McCown with the Browns. Lewis was traded in August 2013 from Detroit to Buffalo.

So, these August movers do not form an elite club. And though there could be talks and even a few calls made over the next week to 10 days, what Whisenhunt said about the Titans keeping Mettenberger has generally been the rule. The same reasons teams would be interested in a young quarterback are the same reasons his current team would have an awfully high asking price.

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Chris Johnson returns to practice

Chris Johnson AP

When Chris Johnson hurt his hamstring last week, word from the Cardinals was that he was expected to miss a week or two before returning to the field.

Johnson has made it back on the early end of that timeframe. According to multiple reports from Cardinals practice on Friday, Johnson is in pads and taking part in practice with the team.

Sunday’s matchup against the Raiders might be too quick a turnaround for Johnson to get in his first game action with the team, but he could see a few carries next week if his hamstring holds up well after practicing.

Whether Johnson plays in the preseason or not, he should still compete for snaps in the backfield with Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson as Arizona looks for a more effective running game than they featured last year. The younger Johnson ran 13 times for 66 yards last week while Ellington has had five carries as the starter in both preseason outings.

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Saints spending one-fifth of their cap space on players not on the team

Jimmy Graham AP

Every NFL team has some dead money on its salary cap, money that is allocated to a certain player who’s no longer on the team. But no team is allocating cap space like the Saints.

In New Orleans, 20 percent of the cap is dead money, according to Spotrac. Among the players who count huge amounts against the Saints’ salary cap even though they’re no longer on the team are tight end Jimmy Graham ($9 million), guard Ben Grubbs ($6 million), linebacker Junior Galette ($5.45 million) and linebacker Curtis Lofton $5 million).

The Saints’ cap situation has been problematic for a while now, and the problem isn’t going away. Based on the contracts they already have, the Saints are projected to be $7.3 million over the cap next year.

The team with the lowest dead cap number is the Bengals, who have less than $1 million allocated to players no longer on the team. Bengals owner Mike Brown has been criticized at times for being miserly, but if you’re going to criticize the Bengals for that, you also have to credit them for being smart enough to make the playoffs four years in a row while not mortgaging the future with high-priced contracts for players who don’t last.

The player with the league’s highest dead-cap number is Ndamukong Suh, who counts $9.737 million against the Lions’ salary cap this year even though he signed with the Dolphins in March. After Suh, the highest dead cap number in the NFL is $9.5 million, the amount of the Ravens cap that is allocated to Ray Rice.

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Reggie Wayne on playbook: They’re throwing a lot at me right now

Reggie Wayne AP

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is wrapping up his first week as a member of the Patriots and it’s been full of new things.

Wayne is wearing a new number on a new team after spending 14 years with No. 87 on the back of a Colts jersey and he’s also trying to lear a new offensive playbook with limited time to cram in all the new information before the start of the regular season. The scheme may be new but the experience brings back some old memories.

“Like a rookie,” Wayne said, via the Boston Herald. “They’re throwing a lot at me right now. I’m not getting very much sleep. I feel like a rookie all over again.”

Other veteran wideouts have struggled to pick up the Patriots offense quickly enough to make an impact for the team, so it’s not surprising to hear that Wayne’s working hard to pick everything up. With Brandon LaFell on the PUP list and Julian Edelman out of action for almost all of August, the Patriots may need that work to pay off early in the season.

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Eric Winston glad Jonathan Kraft “coming around” on player discipline

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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft said in a recent radio interview that he thinks the league needs to take a look at possible changes to the way player discipline is meted out by the league office.

“There probably needs to be a rethinking so that the league office and the Commissioner aren’t put in a spotlight in a way that detracts from the league’s image and the game, even if the league office is doing the right thing, or the wrong thing, or whatever you think,” Kraft said. “It probably needs to be rethought for the modern era that we’re in and the different things that are coming up that I don’t think people anticipated and how the public wants to see them treated.”

Outside of a retweet of a story about Kraft’s comments from 49ers CEO Jed York, there hasn’t been much comment from ownership around the league about Kraft’s suggestion but NFLPA president Eric Winston liked what Kraft had to say. Winston said he’s “glad they’re coming around” and “starting to see what we’ve been seeing and what we’ve been saying” about the way NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wields his power over player discipline.

“I don’t want to keep pointing fingers at the league office, but that’s really what it is in the sense of running these rogue investigations that are clearly against the CBA,” Winston said, via USA Today. “An ex-commissioner has said so. Federal judges have said so. Arbitrators have said so. A lot of people can say, ‘Oh, well that’s just a partisan union hack.’ But don’t take my word for it. Take their word for it. Take federal judge David Doty recently questioning whether they know what the CBA says, because it’s clear to everybody but them that they’re not following it.”

Winston says he thinks every owner would see that the current system is “detrimental” to the game, something that doesn’t seem to be the case based on sentiments they’ve shared publicly.

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Crime rate among NFL players is relatively low, with some caveats

rayrice AP

The widespread perception that the NFL has a crime problem is contradicted by a detailed study of player arrests, which found that NFL players are arrested less often than men in their 20s and 30s as a whole.

Alex Piquero, a professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, says people who think NFL players are inordinately finding themselves in legal trouble are wrong.

“The data show that it’s not true. Over a 14-year period, for most types of crime, the general population has a greater rate of arrests than players in the NFL,” Piquero said.

Piquero’s research compared arrests of NFL players to crime data from the FBI for arrests among all men in the United States aged 20 to 39, stretching from 2000 to 2013. In every year, the crime rate was higher for American men in their 20s and 30s than for NFL players.

“The data show that the perception that NFL players are overly criminal compared to the U.S. population is false,” Piquero said. “In fact, when you look at the forest and not the trees, the trends over the 14-year period show that the general population has higher arrest rates than NFL players do.”

That’s not to say this research makes the NFL look great. For starters, NFL players are far wealthier than average men aged 20-39, which means they have far greater resources to keep themselves out of trouble — and far less incentive to commit crimes like theft. Other research has indicated that NFL players’ crime rates may be higher than crime rates of other wealthy Americans.

The researchers also weren’t able to determine whether rates of domestic violence — the crime that has brought the most negative attention to the NFL in the last year — are higher, lower or the same within the NFL as the general population.

And this research relies on media reports to determine how many players are arrested. But that may understate the actual number of arrests in the NFL because it’s possible that some players’ arrests are never reported.

Add it all up, and it’s not so clear that NFL players break the law any less often than American men as a whole. It may be more a matter of NFL players doing a better job of making their problems go away before an arrest hits the news. Especially if they’re taking Cris Carter’s advice.

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Chargers don’t see a problem with Melvin Gordon’s pass protection

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Running back Melvin Gordon came out of Wisconsin without much experience as a pass catcher or pass blocker, although that didn’t stop the Chargers from making him their first-round pick.

They also didn’t let that limited experience stop them from installing him at the top of their backfield depth chart either. Pass protection is going to be important if Gordon is going to be on the field often enough to play that role and if the Chargers are going to strike the right balance on offense this season.

All of that makes it a good sign that running backs coach Ollie Wilson says that he hasn’t seen anything from Gordon to suggest that he lacks the pass protection skills he needs to play in the NFL.

“I know this: When he matches up, he’ll put his head in and strike somebody,” Wilson said, via ESPN.com. “He’s a big-bodied guy, and he’s long, so he keeps people off of him. I don’t see what people say, that he won’t pass protect. I’ve had no problem with it.”

Wilson’s one concern with Gordon in that area is recognizing and adjusting to blitzes during the course of games. There’s only so much work that can be done on that front without actually playing in games so it seems Gordon will be proving himself under fire this season.

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