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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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Report: Adrian Peterson skipping start of Vikings OTAs

Peterson Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he had an idea when running back Adrian Peterson was going to show up for work.

At some point this week, someone can ask him if he knew it wasn’t going to be soon.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the less-than-gruntled running back won’t be on hand when the Vikings begin OTAs Tuesday.

The Vikings have said they weren’t interested in dealing Peterson, and with the draft come and gone, any realistic window for moving him is closed.

But now, the absences become costly for Peterson, who has a $250,000 workout bonus that hinges on his appearance at 90 percent of the team’s OTAs and minicamps.

Whether he shows up this week and in time to collect remains to be seen, but the current plan is for him to not be there Tuesday.

Of course, losing a quarter of a million is one thing for most of us, but Peterson’s set to make $13 million this year. So whether this is just posturing, it’s at least the latest sign he’s not happy in Minnesota.

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Rally to support Tom Brady draws about 150 people outside Gillette Stadium

Fans Attend "Free Tom Brady" Rally Getty Images

On Sunday, we learned something: if you hold a rally supporting a star quarterback suspended due to allegations of deflated footballs, they will come.

Approximately 150 people attended Sunday’s “Free Tom Brady” rally outside of Gillette Stadium, the Boston Globe reported, citing Foxborough, Mass. police for the crowd estimate.

Brady, the Patriots’ four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, has been banned for the first four regular season games of 2015 by the NFL. He is appealing.

The demonstration, per a Facebook page advertising the event, was intended to “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

According to media reports, the demonstration included a recently married couple that is not honeymooning in Bermuda in solidarity with with the Patriots after Brady’s four-game suspension.

“We want to be here to support our Patriots, and until that ban is lifted we’re not going on our honeymoon,” said Paul Goodrow of Watertown, Mass., according to the Boston Herald. “Our whole house is like a man cave.

“The NFL debacled this so-called Deflategate. It’s just ridiculous. It’s all because of fans from other states who hate us because they ain’t us. I believe that he is innocent. This is just a smear campaign against the Patriots.”

There was no indication any Patriots staff were present for the rally.

New England begins its organized team practice activities on Tuesday.

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All but one team will hold OTAs this week

The New England Patriots Workout In Foxborough, Mass. Getty Images

In less than four weeks, all NFL clubs will have wrapped up their organized offseason workouts.

Not surprisingly, then, the upcoming week will be a working one around the league.

Thirty-one of 32 NFL clubs will hold organized team practice activities (OTAs) between Tuesday, May 26 and Friday, May 29. Only the Rams will not be holding any club-overseen workouts this week.

OTAs are non-padded, non-hitting practices in which coaches can instruct players. Players can wear helmets, and full team drills are allowed, per the CBA between NFL teams and players.

The majority of clubs will have OTAs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before calling it a week. However, others will mix in a day off. The Patriots, for instance, are set to work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Here are the days in which teams will hold OTAs this week:

Arizona: Tuesday-Thursday.

Atlanta: Tuesday-Friday.

Baltimore: Tuesday-Thursday.

Buffalo: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Carolina: Tuesday-Thursday.

Chicago: Wednesday-Friday.

Cincinnati: Tuesday-Thursday.

Cleveland: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Dallas: Tuesday-Thursday.

Denver: Wednesday-Friday.

Detroit: Tuesday-Thursday.

Green Bay: Wednesday-Friday.

Houston: Tuesday-Thursday.

Indianapolis: Tuesday-Thursday.

Jacksonville: Tuesday-Thursday.

Kansas City: Tuesday-Thursday.

Miami: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Minnesota: Tuesday-Thursday.

New England: Tuesday; Thursday-Friday.

New Orleans: Tuesday-Thursday.

N.Y. Giants: Wednesday-Friday.

N.Y. Jets: Tuesday-Thursday.

Oakland: Tuesday-Thursday.

Philadelphia: Tuesday-Thursday.

Pittsburgh: Tuesday-Thursday.

St. Louis: None.

San Diego: Tuesday-Thursday.

San Francisco: Wednesday-Friday.

Seattle: Tuesday-Wednesday; Friday.

Tampa Bay: Tuesday-Thursday.

Tennessee: Tuesday-Thursday.

Washington: Tuesday-Thursday.

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Kris Durham worked out for Saints and Cowboys

Kris Durham, Dwayne Gratz AP

Veteran free agents trying to catch on with a team before the end of offseason work are running short on time, but they can be heartened by the fact that teams are still taking a look at who’s available on the open market.

Wide receiver Kris Durham was a guest on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi and said that he’s had workouts with both the Saints and Cowboys recently. Durham played for the Titans last season.

The Saints recently added Josh Morgan to their receiving corps and Drew Brees has talked up the chance to see Nick Toon and Seantavius Jones get more looks behind Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks during the 2015 season. Throw in Joe Morgan and Durham would likely have a tough route to playing time in New Orleans.

Dallas has a bit less depth with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley backed up by a group of players short on experience and Durham played for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in Detroit. Mickey Spagnola of the Cowboys website adds that the team also worked out former 49ers first-round pick A.J. Jenkins and reports there’s a good chance the team adds a “somewhat veteran” wideout in the coming weeks.

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Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman likely to split reps in Atlanta

devontafreeman AP

Steven Jackson is out after two years as the Falcons’ top running back. At the moment, the plan is for last year’s fourth-round pick and this year’s third-round pick to split the job of taking Jackson’s place.

Devonta Freeman, who had 65 carries for 248 yards as a rookie last year, and Tevin Coleman, a rookie from Indiana, will be in a two-back system with equal reps, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

Whether Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sticks with a two-back system throughout the season remains to be seen. Both Freeman and Coleman will get the opportunity to separate himself during training camp. But it will be an equal opportunity for both players.

It also remains to be seen what the Falcons will get out of Antone Smith, who played very well in limited action last season before breaking his leg. Smith has played very sparingly so far in his career, but when he has had the ball in his hands, he’s been fantastic: He has averaged 9.9 yards on 29 carries and 15.5 yards on 15 catches. A trio of Freeman, Coleman and Smith may make the Falcons better at running back without Jackson than they were with him.

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ESPN says NFL lawyers “recommend” Goodell handle Brady appeal

Lawyers

There’s apparently a little-known principle of journalism that goes like this: Fool me once, shame on me. Now fool me again!

Four months after allowing itself to provide the primary catalyst for #DeflateGate via a false report that sparked a frenzy, ESPN is currently helping to boost artificially the perception that there are no problems at all with the decision of Commissioner Roger Goodell to personally handle the appeal of the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Appearing as of this posting on the front page of ESPN’s NFL page is this headline: “Lawyers endorse Goodell hearing Brady appeal.” With no explanation of which lawyers to which the headline refers, it isn’t clear who exactly is endorsing the decision. Which prompted me to click on the story. Which made the link pretty good click bait.

So I clicked. And I was greeted with this headline: “Lawyers recommend Roger Goodell hear Tom Brady appeal.” Which is actually a little stronger than “endorse.” Which prompted me to read more than the headline, in order to find out who was doing the recommending.

Here are the first two sentences of the article: “Attorneys for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have recommended that Goodell reject the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension. While Goodell still could step aside as arbitrator, he would be doing so against the advice of his lawyers.”

Which apparently makes it all OK.

The article then says nothing more about who made the recommendation or why the recommendation was made or whether Goodell relied on the recommendation in making the decision to handle the appeal. It cites no sources, named or unnamed, for the report that Goodell’s lawyers made the recommendation, and it credits no reporter until the very end of the story, where it adds in italics, “ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In all, it looks and feels like an effort to artificially legitimize Goodell’s decision to handle the appeal to a potentially skeptical public. The clear takeaway isn’t that Goodell is intent on handling the appeal personally; it’s that the lawyers advised him to do it. So he’s not doing what he wants to do in order to ensure that he decides the matter in light of the broader business interests of the league or because he simply wants to control everything, he’s simply doing what the lawyers have told him to do.

Which apparently makes it all OK.

It’s a distinction without a difference, since: (1) the lawyers work for him and will be inclined to tell him what he wants to hear; and (2) the lawyers presumably are moving in lock step with Goodell on his intent to make the decision without deferring to anyone truly neutral and independent, who would then have the power to scuttle the findings and conclusions that Ted Wells charged the league millions of dollars to reach, possibly at the direct or indirect behest of the league.

As NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “The Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.” And that’s a common dynamic in American business. Lawyers routinely provide an “independent analysis” that gives credence and credibility to the thing the client wants to have credence and credibility when judged by someone else.

It’s still unclear whether that’s exactly what happened as to the findings of the Wells report. It’s very clear that’s what happened as to the “recommendation” that Goodell personally handle the Wells report. And it’s abundantly clear that ESPN has gone out of its way to help sell to the public the notion that the decision has a degree of credence and credibility that ultimately is meaningless — even though it was ESPN that undermined its own brand by passing along blatantly false information in the early days of #DeflateGate that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs measured at two full pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.

ESPN’s ongoing willingness to carry water for the league on this topic is surprising in light of the lie it was told. Then again, with hardly anyone wagging a finger at ESPN for allowing itself to be so grossly manipulated, it’s easy for ESPN to react to the situation like Kevin Bacon taking a paddle to the ass in Animal House.

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Lane Johnson puked his way through brutal offseason workouts

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson wasn’t interested in rest and relaxation this offseason.

Johnson spent five weeks early in the offseason doing a workout routine based around mixed martial arts principles and devised by Jay Glazer and former UFC champion Randy Couture. Johnson said it was the most brutal thing he has ever been through, but when it was time for Organized Team Activities to start, he surprised himself with how much he had improved.

“The first couple days, I was puking non-stop,” Johnson said. “It was terrible. Going into OTAs now, I’m in the best shape of my life. I notice now I’m a lot quicker with my hands and a lot stronger with my hands. I don’t have to really think about it. It comes naturally.”

Johnson thinks these workouts are going to take him to the next step in his career.

“I want to be elite at my position in the NFL, and I felt that this would help me get there,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of confidence about what’s ahead of me. I think I’m getting close to being elite. Last year was a big stepping stone from my rookie year and I just have to be more aggressive and more violent going into Year 3.”

If Johnson can develop into an elite offensive tackle, all that puke will be worth it.

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49ers want to “cause confusion” on defense this season

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Among the many changes to the 49ers this offseason is the decision to hand the reins of the defense to coordinator Eric Mangini after they parted ways with Vic Fangio.

Fangio has been followed out the door by linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Justin Smith and others from last year’s defense and the holdovers will be utilized in a different fashion by Mangini. Safety Antoine Bethea said that the defense is moving away from Fangio’s fairly straightforward approach as Mangini, whose move from tight ends coach back to defense may have confused some during the 49ers’ offseason upheaval, tries to keep offenses guessing about what the 49ers will do.

“Coach Mangini, his thing is we’re going to cause confusion,” Bethea said, via CSNBayArea.com. “The opposing offense isn’t going to know what we’re going to be able to do each down. It could be bringing the pressure. It could be dropping eight into coverage. But it’s just keeping the offense on their heels. However, you want to look at it, I think it’s going to be a good deal for our defense.”

Bethea said that “everybody has to know what everybody else is doing” in the defense, something that could cause some confusion for the 49ers if a team with shifting personnel doesn’t have things nailed down come the regular season. Bethea and coach Jim Tomsula both said that the team would use OTAs to see what new wrinkles work and which should be discarded when the team gets to training camp, but the end philosophical change offers more proof that 2015 is going to be about new directions for the 49ers.

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Army vet Daniel Rodriguez trying to make most of chance with Rams

Daniel Rodriguez AP

Memorial Day weekend has its fair share of gatherings around the grill, swimming in sunny weather and other fun, but none of that should get in the way of remembering that the holiday honors those who have given their lives in service to the country around the world.

Rams wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez doesn’t need that reminder. Rodriguez did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was wounded during the Battle of Kamdesh, while in the Army and his football career began with a promise to a friend who was killed in combat. Rodriguez went to community college, worked on his game and landed as a walk-on at Clemson.

“It was just one of those things where I felt that if I had any purpose in life, I needed to make sure that I kept my word to a friend, and live my life in a way that honored those who had died,” Rodriguez said, via the Rams website. “I needed to make sure that I represented myself well on behalf of my friends who were killed. And that was just trying to live through a promise.”

Rodriguez, who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for his service in Afghanistan, wasn’t drafted, but met with Rams personnel at the postseason Medal of Honor Bowl and his pro day and got an invite to try out at the rookie minicamp.

“When they invited me, I was like, ‘Heck yeah, I would love to try out. I’ve got nothing to lose,'” Rodriguez said. “They flew me out here and I thought I was only going to be here for a two-day trial. And they said I had a pretty good workout, made some plays, and they offered to have me stay. It was one of those things that I couldn’t really believe happened, and it was all a whirlwind. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had invitations to other minicamps down the road, and I was just trying to take advantage of every one. And this one was the first one and it stuck. Honestly, it was a blessing in disguise.”

Rodriguez has a long way to go to make the Rams’ 53-man roster, but he overcame long odds to get this far and it’s a safe bet that he’ll have plenty of people rooting for him to continue his stay in St. Louis well past this summer’s cutdown day.

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Report: Brooks Reed may miss start of OTAs

Baltimore Ravens v Houston Texans Getty Images

Linebacker Brooks Reed may miss the first set of organized team activities with his new team.

The Falcons signed Reed to a five-year deal as a free agent in March and is expected to be a starter for the team in the fall, but Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that Reed may be on the bench as the team moves into the next phase of workouts this week. Reed reportedly suffered a groin injury during the team’s recent veteran minicamp.

McClure describes the injury as a minor one, but the Falcons don’t have much reason to push it toward being something more significant at this point in the offseason. O’Brien Schofield is expected to take Reed’s reps with the first team.

The Falcons may have several offensive linemen on the sideline when they start OTAs as well. Left tackle Jake Matthews, center Joe Hawley, tackle Sam Baker and interior lineman Peter Konz are all on the way back from injuries, as are safety William Moore and running back Antone Smith.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Mario Williams AP

Mario Williams is preparing for a change in his role on the Bills Defense.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is looking forward to the team’s organized team activities.

The chance to see QB Jimmy Garoppolo in a game could prove to be a positive for the Patriots.

Jets coach Todd Bowles shared his thoughts on making evaluations at non-contact practices.

The Ravens are spotlighting TE Nick Boyle’s minicamp highlights on their website.

Checking in on the chances of the Bengals reaching an extension with WR A.J. Green in the near future.

Will Josh McCown give the Browns a 30-something success story at quarterback?

Said Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt, “I have made some progress, but I am in my second year and I still have a lot to learn.”

The Texans’ uniforms didn’t get much love from ESPN.com’s Uni Watch.

Colts G Donald Thomas is trying to regain his spot in the lineup.

TE Connor Hamlett took a brief break from football before signing with the Jaguars.

A look at some of the best rookie seasons in Titans history.

The Broncos are preparing options for PATs based on this season’s rule changes.

How will the playing time break down on the Chiefs defensive line?

The Raiders hosted a tour of the USS Hornet for military families.

Stadium issues continue to dominate the Chargers landscape.

Ten things to know about Cowboys rookie OL Chaz Green.

The Giants are moving Bennett Jackson from corner to safety.

A projection of the Eagles starting defense.

A look at Redskins RB Alfred Morris’s best performances from his first three seasons.

Bears tight ends are forging quick bonds this offseason.

CB Rashean Mathis wants to be a mentor for younger Lions cornerbacks.

The Packers have one roster spot available.

The Vikings will need some unexpected contributors to step up this season.

Falcons WR Julio Jones is branching out into the restaurant business.

Comparing the Panthers’ front seven to the 2003 defensive front.

If the Texans appear on “Hard Knocks,” the Saints could make a cameo or two.

Buccaneers defensive line coach Joe Cullen said preparing to face the Lions last season made him aware of DE George Johnson, who joined the Bucs in a trade this offseason.

Checking out the inside linebacker possibilities with the Cardinals.

Who are the breakout candidates for the Rams this year?

Running through the contenders to replace 49ers DE Justin Smith in the lineup.

Previewing the choices defenses will have to make when facing the Seahawks this season.

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Goodell’s quest for “new information” makes for confusing Brady appeal

Goodell AP

Apart from the question of whether Commissioner Roger Goodell possesses sufficient independence to ever serve as the arbitrator in cases involving NFL teams and NFL players is the question of whether he possesses the basic competence to do so.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Goodell isn’t a lawyer. And an arbitration definitely is a legal proceeding.

The first question for any legal proceeding is determining the legal standard to apply. In an appeal, sometimes the entire process starts over again from scratch (the Latin-loving lawyers call that “de novo” review). Most appeals apply deference to significant portions of the work that was done by a lower tribunal.

When former federal judge Barbara Jones overturned the indefinite suspension of former Ravens running back Ray Rice last year, she used the “abuse of discretion” standard, which gives (Captain Obvious alert) a range of discretion to the person who made the initial decision. The hearing officer on appeal may have reached a different decision if handling the case from scratch, but if the person who made the initial decision exercised discretion properly, the decision should be upheld.

Rice’s case arose under the Personal Conduct Policy. The suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady flows from Article 46 of the labor deal, which gives the Commissioner full power over matters regarding the integrity of the game. The standard for Brady’s case is believed to be “arbitrary and capricious,” which is similar to the “abuse of discretion” test. The person handling the appeal may not agree with the decision, but the decision stands unless the person who made it had no reasonable grounds to do so, or failed to engage in an adequate consideration of the circumstances.

Regardless of the specific wording of the standard, the initial Brady decision is expected to receive “very substantial weight” on appeal.

For all appeals that aren’t “de novo,” the record of evidence becomes frozen in place when the appeal commences. Which means that, unless the appeals officer is starting from scratch, no new evidence should be considered. Which makes one of the comments this week from Commissioner Roger Goodell confusing, to say the least.

Asked whether Brady would receive another chance to cooperate with the investigation by surrendering text messages and emails, Goodell said this: “We have a process here. It’s long established. I look forward to hearing directly from Tom. If there is new information or there’s information in helping us get this right, I want to hear directly from Tom on that.”

“New information” shouldn’t matter under the “abuse of discretion” or “arbitrary and capricious” standard. The quest for “new information” has ended at that point. So if Goodell is considering “new information,” he’s not handling the appeal the way he should.

If there’s “new information,” Brady should ask to re-open the investigation, allowing Wells to do whatever it is that he charged the NFL millions of dollars to do, and then giving Vincent a chance to reconsider the punishment, with Goodell waiting to review the matter on appeal. That apparently won’t be happening, which introduces a major flaw into the process.

A separate problem arises from the reality that, even though Goodell tried to distance himself from the initial decision by delegating it to executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, the suspension shows the fingerprints of the man whose signature appears on every football the NFL uses.

“[O]nce we had the [Ted] Wells report, our staff — led by Troy Vincent, who handles these matters on a regular basis and has all spring — immediately began meetings,” Goodell said. “I participated in some of those meetings so I understood the discussion that they were having. Troy made a recommendation. I authorized him to go ahead and issue that as I do in every other case.”

Goodell participating in disciplinary meetings is no different than an owner participating in draft meetings; eventually, the owner’s preferences will become a factor. And when Goodell “authorized” his top football lieutenant to make the initial decision to suspend Brady four games, Goodell may as well have been making the decision himself.

And now he’ll be handling the appeal. Under a standard that shouldn’t allow for “new information” to be considered. Which will do nothing to dissuade the NFL Players Association from arguing that the NFL is, once again, making it up as it goes.

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Art Rooney II hopes NFL will soon hold games in Mexico and Germany

Art Rooney II AP

One of the members of the NFL’s International Committee is optimistic the league will soon stage games in two countries in which it has shown interest.

In an interview with his club’s website, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he “would be disappointed” if the NFL wasn’t holding games in Germany and Mexico “within the next five years.”

Said Rooney, according to Steelers.com: “The audience in those two countries — there are enough NFL fans in both to support a game, and so it’s really a matter of being able to put together a stadium situation that would work well for us, as well as being able to put together a broadcasting and digital media-style programming so the games can be broadcast in those countries as well being played there.”

On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would “evaluate” Germany, Mexico and Brazil as game sites. However, as Rooney told Steelers.com, Germany and Mexico are more likely to host a game before Brazil.

Said Rooney: “Brazil is the one I would say is the newest discussion, and my guess is there will have to be a little longer lead time in developing that.”

The NFL will hold three regular season games in London in 2015. Overall, the league has scheduled 14 games in London since 2007.

At some point, the league would figure to play a game elsewhere, whether in Europe or somewhere else outside North America. And as Rooney sees it, Germany and Mexico are at the head of the line.

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Doug Whaley: All our quarterbacks are on equal footing

EJ Manuel AP

Last week, Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman denied a report that the Bills were thinking about parting ways with third-year quarterback EJ Manuel before the start of the 2015 season.

General Manager Doug Whaley was on the same page during an appearance on The Jim Rome Show. Whaley called the report “just someone trying to get something stirred” during the offseason and said that the team remains excited about Manuel’s future in the NFL. That excitement wasn’t enough to stop the team from acquiring Matt Cassel and it isn’t enough to lift Manuel ahead of Tyrod Taylor or Jeff Tuel in the pecking order at this point in the offseason, however.

“I look for him to come in and compete and try to take the job,” Whaley said. “Everybody has got an equal footing. It’s a clean slate for all four of our quarterbacks. We’re not tied to anybody. We just want the best man to start. It’s exciting for us.”

The Bills may not be making any plans to cut Manuel at this point and there isn’t much reason for them to be in that mode. If all four quarterbacks really are on equal footing, though, then Manuel can end up fourth on the depth chart at the end of August and leave the Bills with a decision to make.

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A.J. McCarron sees himself and Andy Dalton as two future stars

Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron AP

At the moment, A.J. McCarron is stuck behind Andy Dalton on the quarterback depth chart in Cincinnati. But McCarron doesn’t see himself as a backup for long

McCarron told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he is OK with being behind Dalton on the depth chart for now, but he thinks he and Dalton will both be stars in the future.

“If you’re not going to dream big, then why dream?” he said. “I want to compete. Andy’s our starter, I know that. I love Andy to death. Andy’s always been there for me. He’s been like a big brother to me. But I’m going to compete and try to push him the best I can and have his back — always. He’s our starter, I know that, but I want to make him better in every way that I can. Like I told him, hopefully one day me and him can be retired and look back on it and we’re both 100 million-dollar guys. That’s my dream. And I’ll always be that way. So that’s what I want to do.”

McCarron won two national championships as the starting quarterback at Alabama, but he spent his rookie season on the sideline after the Bengals drafted him in the fifth round last year. He’s got a long way to go before he’s a $100 million guy. But it’s good to dream big.

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