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Week 17 Monday 10-pack

Green Bay Packers quarterback Flynn hands off the ball against the Detroit Lions during the second half of their NFL football game in Green Bay Reuters

It’s the first Monday of the year, and it’s the last Monday 10-pack of the year.

I miss the days when football season ended before December 31.

As a setup goes, that’s all I got.  Let’s get on to the 10 takes from a 32-team season-ending Sunday.

1.  Packers should strongly consider franchising Flynn.

In 2008, after the first annual Brett Favre retirement, the Packers drafted two quarterbacks.  The gesture was interpreted by some (i.e., by us) as a bolting of the door behind Favre and the blocking of it with large pieces of furniture.

Brian Brohm, who entered the 2007 college football season as one of the top prospects, slid to the Packers in round two, pick 56.  LSU’s Matt Flynn was an afterthought, with pick number 209 in round seven.  Four seasons later, Brohm is long gone — and Flynn showed on Sunday that he’ll be the hottest commodity in the 2012 free-agent market.

If he gets there.

Like Matt Cassel of the Patriots in 2009, the Packers should think about slapping the franchise tag on Flynn, in order to trade him to a quarterback-needy team.  With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III the best options in the draft, teams like the Redskins and Dolphins and Browns and maybe the Seahawks will be clamoring for a proven commodity like Flynn.

The risk, of course, is that Flynn would sign the franchise tag but no serious offers would come for his services, given that the starting point for a long-term deal would be the one-year guaranteed salary of $14.5 million or so in 2012.  If that would happen, the Packers would be stuck with a backup earning roughly $6.5 million more next year than starter Aaron Rodgers, who is due to earn a base salary of $8 million next season.

The other side of the coin is that Flynn will walk away with plenty of coins in his pockets — and zero compensation to the team that transformed him from a seventh-round pick into a guy who’ll be the most coveted quarterback not named Luck or Griffin.

2.  Rex should be on the hot seat.

Though it’s too early to fire Jets coach Rex Ryan, who has two appearances in the AFC title game in three seasons as a head coach, he deserves the pressure that goes along with the accountability for guaranteeing a Super Bowl win (and, even more importantly in New York, a win over the Giants) and failing to deliver.  Only so many times can a head coach protect his players and assistants by saying “put the blame on me” until someone decides to put the blame on him.

Yes, his players seem to still believe.  More importantly, the owner seems to still believe.  But the players and the owner may believe a little less in 2012 — especially if Rex emerges from a disappointing 2011 season (in light of the expectations fueled by Ryan) as brash and bold as ever.

Beyond the boundaries of his team, Rex has become a caricature.  (Some would say he already was one.)  If that sense ever makes its way into the locker room, and eventually it should, it’ll be time to move on.

Apart from all the words, it’s one specific action that could, as a practical matter, put Rex in a position to be coaching for his job in 2012.  The misguided decision to make receiver Santonio Holmes a captain, given that Holmes spent much of the year not acting like a captain, could come back to haunt Ryan.

Arguably, it already is.  And now Rex has a mess on his hands, especially since a guy who spent much of Sunday acting like he didn’t want to be with the Jets signed a long-term, big-money deal before the season.

3.  Steelers fleeced Jets on Holmes.

Speaking of Santonio, Steelers fans didn’t care much for the abrupt decision to trade Holmes to New York for a fifth-round pick in 2010.  With a four-game suspension for violation of the substance-abuse policy coming on the heels of Ben Roethlisberger’s misadventures in Milledgeville, it was perceived that the Steelers’ decision was driven less by football strategy and more by public relations sensitivities.

But the Steelers were looking ahead.  With Holmes due to miss the first four games of the 2010 season and one wake-n-bake away from a one-year suspension, the Steelers opted to unload a potential headache — especially since the Steelers knew they’d never tie their hands by giving Holmes a huge contract.

And so the Steelers didn’t simply get a fifth-round pick.  The Steelers also received the peace of mind that comes from dumping a wideout who would have been a major pain in the butt for the balance of 2010, and who simply no longer factored into their plans.

Meanwhile, the Steelers traded that fifth-round pick to the Cardinals for cornerback Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round pick.  And with that sixth-round pick the Steelers found their 2011 MVP in round six of the same draft.  Receiver Antonio Brown has become almost everything Holmes was as a player, without creating any of the headaches or other issues that go hand in hand with having Holmes on the team.

Advantage Steelers.

4.  Texans-Bengals game could be the key to the AFC playoffs.

I’ve been concerned throughout much of the 2011 season that, once the Texans get to the postseason, a lack of playoff experience would keep them from being successful.  But their first opponent is the Bengals, a team with young players having no playoff experience and, by all appearances, no players having any positive playoff experiences.

So the Texans, who beat the Bengals last month after trailing 16-3 at the half and 19-10 after three quarters, will have a very good shot at holding off the No. 6 seed.  Taking a broader look at the AFC field, the outcome of that game could have a huge bearing on the determination of the eventual conference champion.

If Houston holds serve at home, it will be time for a return to Baltimore, where the Ravens’ eight regular-season wins included a trouncing of the Texans.  The Steelers, after most likely beating Denver, will head to New England.

Though Baltimore would have to face one of those two potent teams (either Pittsburgh at home, where the Ravens won 35-7 in Week One or the Patriots in New England, where the Ravens won in the playoffs two years ago, 33-14), the Ravens wouldn’t have to play both of them.  Which, for the Ravens, is nice.

If, in contrast, the Bengals upset the Texans, Cincinnati would head to Foxboro — and Pittsburgh would return to Baltimore with a burst of momentum and a shot at becoming the latest wild-card winner to catch a division rival flat-footed after a bye week and knock them out of the playoffs.  If Baltimore manages to beat the Steelers for a third time this year, the reward would be a trip to New England.

The converse is true for the Pats.  A win by the Bengals keeps New England from having to play both Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  If Houston wins, the Patriots would have to face a Steelers team that gave New England one of its three 2011 losses before inviting the Ravens back to town.

One way or the other, the outcome of Saturday’s game will make the path to Indy considerably easier for New England or Baltimore, by sending the Steelers to one place or the other.

5.  Crossroads for Daniel Snyder.

The Redskins became the property of Daniel Snyder in 1999.  In the 13 seasons since then, Snyder has employed (excluding interim hires) six head coaches.  Other than Snyder’s boyhood hero, Joe Gibbs, no coach has made it more than two seasons on the job.

Mike Shanahan has just completed his second season on the job.  Recently, Shanahan has been subtly justifying his two losing seasons by explaining that much work needed to be done to improve the bad team he inherited.  And while there’s no indication that Shanahan will be fired, there likewise was no indication that the end was coming three years ago for Shanahan in Denver.

The bigger question for Snyder is whether he’s willing to stay the course not only now but after the 2012 season.  If Shanahan and G.M. Bruce Allen position themselves to land Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the draft, it would be foolish to give Shanahan only one year to work with the new quarterback.

And so Snyder needs to realize that, by deciding to keep Shanahan now, Snyder essentially is deciding to keep Shanahan for 2013 — and possibly for 2014.

6.  Another Manning/Leaf dilemma coming?

Speaking (twice now) of Luck and Griffin, what once was a one-man show at the top of the draft quickly has become another Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf conundrum.  On Sunday’s Football Night In America, former Colts coach Tony Dungy explained that Colts vice chairman Bill Polian has shown a willingness to go against conventional wisdom in the draft, taking Edgerrin James in 1999 over Ricky Williams and Dwight Freeney over Albert Haynesworth in 2002.

Dungy even said he’d personally lean toward Griffin, the Heisman winner and architect of a 67-point explosion in Baylor’s bowl win.

Luck still has one more chance to create some separation, when Stanford takes on Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.  Despite the obsession over measurables and the things a guy can do when not wearing pads, scouts seem to be influenced heavily by performances on the big stage.

What Luck does with it could ultimately determine whether Luck and Griffin will become another Manning and Leaf dilemma, which despite being a no-brainer in hindsight was a much closer call in 1998.

7.  Pay the Cruz.

Giants receiver Victor Cruz has made, in two seasons, the unlikely climb from undrafted free agent to superstar.  Nearly as shrewd as the Giants’ decision to give him a chance was their decision to sign him to a three-year contract.

And so Cruz remains contractually obligated to show up for mandatory offseason workouts and training camp in 2012, despite being slated to earn a paltry $490,000.

But the Giants need to send a message to the locker room that stellar play will be rewarded.  While they could force Cruz to continue to prove himself — and to bear the injury risk — for the final year of his rookie deal and a season as a restricted free agent, the best move would be to find a way to pay him a fair salary that reflects not only his skills and abilities but also the contributions he made during a season that seemed destined for failure again.

In each of the last two games, a long-yardage catch-and-run from Cruz gave the Giants the upper hand.  It’s only right to put a lot more money in the guy’s pockets.

8.  Broncos should get Quinn ready to play Sunday.

Tebowmania landed with a thud 15 days ago, with the Patriots providing the rest of the league with the blueprint for turning the page on the NFL’s flavor of the month.

As a result, Tim Tebow has played worse than poorly the last two weeks, with as many turnovers against the Bills and Chiefs (six) as Tebow had in his 10 prior games combined.

Enter the Steelers, who have made crafted their legacy over the past two decades by methodically building a lead and then gradually choking off the opposing offense.

As a result, if the Broncos want to have a realistic shot at advancing, it may be prudent to be ready to pull off a Rocky-style switch to southpaw, by switching from the southpaw to Brady Quinn.

This isn’t a long-term indictment of Tebow.  It’s a recognition of the fact that, at least for now, he has bumped up against his ceiling.  The goal on Sunday is to win one game, and it could be that the only way to do that will be to know when to flip the switch from the unconventional quarterback to the guy whose abilities would defy the Steelers’ preparation.

9.  MJD deserves high praise.

Every year, there’s a sense that Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has reached the limit of his abilities, and that a regression is coming.  Every year, he simply continues to play at a high level.

This year, on a team with no passing offense to draw safeties away from the box, Jones-Drew piled up 1,606 rushing yards, more than 240 yards better than Ray Rice, who finished at No. 2.  Jones-Drew added 374 receiving yards, which gives him 1,980 yards from scrimmage.

At a time when former USC tailback Reggie Bush is still trying to become the best running back in the game, the former UCLA running back who entered the league in the same draft as an afterthought to Bush is what Bush has always wanted to be.  Unfortunately for Jones-Drew, the Jaguars may not be able to develop a decent passing game before the window closes on his prime.

10.  Packers defense is even worse than the Patriots.

All year, the media has harped on the Patriots’ porous defense, barely noticing the Swiss cheese sieve in Green Bay.

At the end of the season, the numbers don’t lie.  The Patriots gave up 411.1 yards per game, and the Packers gave up 411.6.

The Packers also finished with a worse pass defense, giving up 299.8 yards per game.  The Pats surrendered, on average, 293.9.  That’s 34.1 yards per game more than the third-worst pass defense, the Saints.

Fittingly, the three worst pass defenses are complemented by the three best pass offenses.

And so, if the top two seeds make it to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl (or if the Saints get there instead of the Packers), it could be time to reduce the field from 100 yards to 50, put up nets at either end, and just call the game what it will be — arena football.

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Ex-NFL player Antonio Armstrong and wife killed by their teen son

antonioarmstrong

Former NFL linebacker Antonio Armstrong and his wife were shot and killed by their teenage son in their home in Houston on Friday, police say.

Police were called to the Armstrongs’ home around 1:30 a.m. in response to shots fired, the Houston Chronicle reports. Daun Armstrong died at the scene and Antonio Armstrong died in the hospital a few hours later. KTRK reports that the couple’s 16-year-old son has been charged with murder. The couple’s two other children were at home at the time but were not harmed.

Relatives described the Armstrongs as a loving family and say they can’t imagine what could have led to such a situation.

“They kept them busy and they supported them in everything that they did. There was not any mark that they missed with their children,” a cousin of Daun Armstrong told the Houston Chronicle. “There was nothing that even could possibly have justified this situation. This doesn’t even make sense.”

Antonio Armstrong was an All-American linebacker at Texas A&M and a sixth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1995. He played briefly for the Dolphins and Rams and then spent four seasons in the Canadian Football League. In retirement he has worked as a personal trainer and was well known in his community as a volunteer youth coach.

Photo via Facebook.

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Coach fired for Dolphins bullying scandal now in trouble at Texas A&M

San Diego Chargers v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Jim Turner, the Dolphins offensive line coach who was fired for his role in a bullying scandal that embroiled the team, spent two years out of football after losing his job in Miami. This offseason he was hired at Texas A&M, where it didn’t take him long to get in trouble again.

Texas A&M has suspended Turner and tight ends coach Jeff Banks for two weeks without pay, and ordered them to complete 20 hours of community service, for inappropriate comments they made at an event for female fans.

Among the issues that surfaced at the event were changes to the school’s fight song, which presented lyrics including “We are Aggie women / We are filled with estrogen” and “We are putting down our dish towels / And taking off our gloves.”

The coaches also gave the women tips on playing football that were filled with sexual double entendres like “No penetration,” “Never bend over,” and “Don’t end up on your back.”

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin quickly moved to suspend Turner and Banks after reports of the sexist comments surfaced.

“There is absolutely no place in our program or in our University community for inappropriate conduct or degrading comments towards women, or anyone, regardless of intent,” Sumlin said in a statement.

Turner was fired after an NFL-commissioned investigation found that he fostered an atmosphere in which Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey regularly bullied teammate Jonathan Martin. Among the inappropriate actions Turner is alleged to have taken during his tenure as Dolphins offensive line coach was buying inflatable sex dolls for players as Christmas presents. Turner filed a defamation lawsuit against Ted Wells, the lawyer who led the NFL’s investigation.

Turner and Banks issued a joint statement in which they said, “We clearly understand now that our comments and slides were not appropriate or consistent with the values of our football program.”

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Browns experimenting with Ogbah at 3-4 defensive end

BEREA, OH - JUNE 1, 2016: Linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah #90 of the Cleveland Browns takes part in drills during an OTA on June 1, 2016 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Emmanuel Ogbah Getty Images

As a pass rusher, Browns rookie Emmanual Ogbah naturally would play defensive end in a 4-3 defense and linebacker in a 3-4. In Cleveland, where the 3-4 remains the base defense, Ogbah spent the offseason as a linebacker. Now that camp has arrived, the Browns have given him a try at defensive end.

“We’re going to try a little bit of everything,” coach Hue Jackson told reporters on Friday. “We’re going to put our best players out there on defense. Obviously, we are going to try him there. We’re going to put him back at outside linebacker. We’re just trying to find a lot of different combinations now that Des [Bryant] is going to be down to see if we can put our best guys out there. If he gives us something there, then it’s going to help our football team. We’re going to try anything and everything that we can to give guys opportunities that showcase their abilities and talents.”

Jackson confirmed that Ogbah played linebacker exclusively during OTAs, with the switch happening only in training camp.

“We’re going to play him at defensive end some and take a good look at him,” Jackson said of Ogbah. “As you guys know, this time of the year is evaluation time for all of our football team. Now, you can do some of that. Move guys around and see what’s the best fit for our football team to help us win.”

Jackson disputed the notion that Ogbah moved to defensive end because of perceived difficulties with dropping into coverage as a linebacker during the offseason program. Instead, Jackson pointed out that having Ogbah play multiple positions gives the defense a greater degree of flexibility on defense.

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49ers add defensive lineman

UFC Fighters meet San Francisco 49ers Players Getty Images

The 49ers announced Friday that they’ve added defensive lineman D.J McBryde to their training camp roster.

McBryde, 24, signed a two-year deal with the team. McBryde broke into the NFL last season with the Eagles and spent six weeks on their active roster before catching on with the Packers practice squad last November. He signed a futures contract with the Packers in January but was waived last week.

He was a three-year contributor and one-year starter at UConn.

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49ers sign Joshua Garnett

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 7: Joshua Garnett #65 of the San Francisco 49ers goes through drills during the 49ers Rookie Camp at Levi Stadium on May 7, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Joshua Garnett Getty Images

The 49ers traded back into the first round to pick guard Joshua Garnett. Finally, the Stanford product is under contract.

The team has announced the Garnett has agreed to terms. As usual, it’s a four-year deal with a team-held option for the fifth year.

Garnett won the Outland Trophy in 2015, which goes to college football’s top lineman.

The acquisition leaves one one unsigned first-round pick: Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa.

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Todd Bowles doesn’t rule out carrying four quarterbacks

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets during play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not long ago, the Jets were trying to sell the idea that Geno Smith would be the team’s starting quarterback. Now, they’re trying to sell the idea that Smith, the only quarterback inherited by the current regime, won’t be dumped in favor of 2015 draft pick Bryce Petty and 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg.

Keeping Smith could mean keeping four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Coach Todd Bowles was asked on Friday how conceivable keeping four quarterbacks would be.

“It’s conceivable,” Bowles told reporters. “It all depends on the strengths and weaknesses of other positions, because you have to steal from a position to keep a position and we have pretty good competition right now at about five positions, at least. It’s going to come down to seeing who we’re able to keep and who’s able to perform and who’s able to do things where we can steal one from another and who can play a dual role and have some versatility. It’s early, but we’ll see how it works out.”

Bowles pointed out that he once played on a Washington team that carried four quarterbacks, but that it happened in the days before the salary cap.

Bowles also made it clear that counting reps won’t be the best way to spot the man in danger of being cut.

“It’s not just if you get the least reps, you’re not going to be on the team,” Bowles said. “Sometimes you only need a little bit to show a lot and that’s at every position and that’s how we evaluate. We’re not going to evaluate somebody because they start out third team — and I’m not just talking about the quarterback spot — so you can make plays in a small amount of time to make an impact depending on what our need is for making this team.”

The Jets have no reason to admit that Smith or any other quarterback is in danger of being cut. They surely hope that someone will offer to trade for one of them. That’s why anything the team says about wanting to keep Smith should be taken with a grain of salt. They have to act like they want him in order to ever have any hope of training him.

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Bills hope Manny Lawson doesn’t have a long-term injury

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24: Manny Lawson #91 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a third quarter blocked kick recovery while playing the New York Jets at Ford Field on November 24, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Mario Williams gone, the Bills are counting on Manny Lawson stepping in and stepping up. For now, however, the Bills don’t have Lawson, because he injured himself working out on his own shortly before training camp.

While most stints on the non-football injury list will be temporary, the Bills are still waiting to learn more about Lawson’s absence. On Friday, G.M. Doug Whaley was asked whether Manny Lawson’s absence could be a long one.

“We’ll have to assess and get information from the medical staff here pretty soon and hopefully not,” Whaley told reporters. “We don’t anticipate it, but again, you never know with these things.”

Whaley said Manny Lawson suffered an upper body injury. If he’s not available, IK Enemkpali will have even more opportunities with the Bills.

“I’m excited about IK and I’ve mentioned that before,” coach Rex Ryan told reporters on Friday. “It may give him an opportunity to get the majority of the reps at the one.”

If Manny Lawson’s absence is extended, the team may look to add players at the position — especially since first-rounder Shaq Lawson could be missing much of his rookie year.

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Jets’ GM says Geno Smith remains in team’s plans

Geno Smith AP

Jets quarterback Geno Smith was essentially demoted when the team re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this week, and Smith hasn’t hidden the fact that he’s not happy about it.

Still, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told reporters Friday that Smith remains in the team’s plans.

Asked if he expected Smith to be on the opening day roster, Maccagnan said he “assumes” that answer is yes and said the team likes Smith.

The team will almost certainly end up either moving on from Smith or second-year quarterback Bryce Petty after drafting Christian Hackenberg last spring. That’s a decision Maccagnan doesn’t have to make now, but Smith knows he might also be auditioning for other teams.

Jets Coach Todd Bowles praised Smith in the offseason. Whether that was about trade value or whether the team still thinks Smith could end up being in its long-term plans might is unclear, and a lot could depend on what happens over the next four or five weeks with all of the team’s quarterbacks.

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Roethlisberger honors Heath Miller on first day of camp

Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller AP

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger paid tribute Friday to retired tight end Heath Miller by wearing Miller’s No. 83 jersey for the start of training camp.

Friday marked the start of the Steelers’ first camp without Miller since 2004. He was a first-round pick in 2005 who caught 45 career touchdown passes and went to two Pro Bowls.

Miller announced his retirement in February.

The Steelers tweeted a video of Roethlisberger taking the field in the No. 83 jersey on their official Twitter account.

Ladarius Green figures as the team’s new No. 1 tight end after signing with the Steelers in March, but he’s starting camp on the PUP list. His absence means extra reps for tight ends Jesse James and David Johnson.

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Texans extend G.M. Rick Smith’s contract through 2020

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Houston Texans General manager Rick Smith watches the New York Jets and Houston Texans warm up on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the signing of quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller, the Texans were one of the busier teams in the early days of free agency.

They aren’t going to wait to see how those moves or any of the others they made this offseason work out before deciding on General Manager Rick Smith’s future with the team. The Texans have extended Smith’s contract, which was due to expire after this season, through the 2020 campaign.

“Rick’s doing a good job for us, and I think stability in the organization is important,” owner Bob McNair said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “He works hard. He’s very diligent. He communicates well. He knows what our objectives are. Rick has put together a good scouting staff, and he works well with the coaching staff. I thought this was a good time to get this done.”

Smith is the second G.M. in the history of the franchise. He succeeded Charley Casserley in 2006 and built the first Texans teams to advance to the postseason. They took a step back in 2013 and 2014 and had a rough draft in 2013 outside of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but returned to the postseason as AFC South champs last year and McNair clearly believes Smith will continue to be successful in the years to come.

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Panthers first-rounder Vernon Butler carted off practice field with cramps

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Draftee Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech arrives at the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the early days of training camp, the most dreaded sight is the flatbed cart.

It made its appearance at Panthers camp today, to haul first-round pick Vernon Butler off the practice field, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said moments later that Butler was suffering from cramps, alleviating some of the concern.

Butler is a key piece for the Panthers for several reasons, even beyond his presence on the field. Having another interior presence should help them keep waves of linemen coming, and add to a pass-rush that isn’t as well-stocked at defensive end.

But he’s also a useful deterrent/insurance policy in the ongoing Kawann Short contract talks, allowing General Manager Dave Gettleman some cover for the future if they can’t work out a deal with Short.

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Raiders parting ways with Roy Helu

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Roy Helu #26 of the Oakland Raiders rushes with the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on December 6, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders put running back Roy Helu on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp because he had surgery on both hips this offseason, but it’s going to be a brief stay.

The change isn’t because Helu is moving back to the active roster. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Friday that the team has removed Helu from the 90-man roster entirely and replacing him with defensive tackle Derrick Lott.

Helu signed with the Raiders in March 2015, but he was hurt during training camp and wound up getting just 17 carries and nine receptions in nine appearances with the team. His hip problems suggested more of the same could be on tap this season and the Raiders will look elsewhere for backs to complement Latavius Murray.

They have 2016 fifth-rounder DeAndre Washington, Taiwan Jones, George Atkinson and Jalen Richard on hand to compete for that role now.

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Eli, Cruz say Beckham needs to be careful with his emotions

Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr. AP

Giants receiver Odell Beckham’s 2015 season ended with a suspension for repeated personal fouls in an ongoing skirmish with Josh Norman. Beckham’s veteran teammates want to see 2016 go differently.

And so, quarterback Eli Manning told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, the veterans on the Giants have talked to Beckham about keeping his emotions in check.

“Odell knows what he needs to do,” Manning said. “He’s got to be careful with his emotions and make sure that doesn’t affect his play. You want to get in that right temperament, be at your best, play your best football and he’s got to make sure he controls that, where we’re getting his best and his actions don’t affect the team in a negative way.”

Receiver Victor Cruz added that Beckham, as a young star in the NFL, needs to consider what kind of reputation he wants to have.

“I think he understands that this past year, since last season, has been a little bit of a whirlwind, in that regard, and he understands that — he wants people to know him for him and how he’s a great player, great person, and how he wants to be perceived and I think he’s really taken charge of that,” Cruz said.

Beckham already has the “great player” part down. He may have some work to do rehabbing his personal image, after the ugly ending to last season.

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Kubiak admits the obvious: 2015 Broncos offense “did not play well at all”

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos  reacts against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure via free agency of Brock Osweiler, the Broncos official website referred to the quality of the team’s quarterback play in 2015 as “sub-optimal” and “near-replacement-level.”

On Friday, coach Gary Kubiak didn’t use such specificity in connection with the quarterback position. But he used a broad brush to paint a not-so-flattering picture regarding the team’s offensive performance in 2015.

“We’re talking about a group,” Kubiak told reporters. “We’re not talking about a position. You go back to last year and you look at us, we finished in the middle of the pack. I think we finished 16th. Out of 12 playoff teams, I think we we’re like sixth offensively, but we feel like we did not play well at all. That tells you the standard that we have, the standard that I have and [offensive coordinator Rick Dennison] has, and what we want to do. We’ve got to improve as a team. We can’t turn the ball over as much as we did last year and we’ve got to play better up front. If we do those things with the players we’ve got, we’re going to be a better offense. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a group, not a player.”

Fine, but it’s hard not to throw stones at an entire offense without hitting the former leader of it in the red splotch on his forehead. Quarterbacks get the credit when offenses thrive and the blame when they sputter. The Broncos sputtered on offense last year, and the play of Peyton Manning was a big factor in that.

This year, if the Broncos can get more out of the quarterback position, they can be better on offense and, if they perform as well as they did defensively in 2015, hoist another Lombardi Trophy.

On Friday, Mark Sanchez had the first crack at leading the first-team offense. After he threw an interception to cornerback Chris Harris Jr., however, Trevor Siemian entered and, according to Mike Klis of 9news.com, remained the No. 1 quarterback for the rest of the day.

With multiple options and no clear-cut leader at the position, that’s likely how it’s going to go. With Kubiak wanting to protect the ball, the one that does will play. Until he doesn’t, at which point someone else will play.

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Richardson missing from Jets practices for personal reasons

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets warms up prior to playing the Oakland Raiders in their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on November 1, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets have excused defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from their training camp practices due to personal reasons, Jets coach Todd Bowles told reporters Friday.

Bowles said he expects Richardson to be absent for a couple days.

The Jets started camp on Thursday.

Richardson, 25, had five sacks last season after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He has 16.5 sacks in three seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

Richardson is suspended for the Jets’ season opener vs. the Bengals for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He’s still allowed to participate in camp and the preseason.

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