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PFT’s Week One picks

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With the start of the NFL regular season comes the start of a new picks competition.  This year, MDS will pit his prognostication skills against the proprietor of this portal.  At least I can proudly say I’m currently tied for the lead at 0-0.

And given that we disagree on only one game, I’m guaranteed to be no more than one game back after one week.

Cowboys at Giants

Florio’s take:  That Dallas playoff win by the Giants in 2007 not only fueled a Super Bowl run but also sparked the first of seven wins by New York in nine games against their NFC East rivals.  Underestimated by many (not me) as they try to become the first team to repeat in nearly a decade, the Giants should be able to continue the string of eight straight defending champs who launch the ensuing season with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 30, Cowboys 24.

MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset in an attempt to put some distance between myself and Florio right off the bat, but this looks like a tough game for the Cowboys to win. The Giants’ pass rush is going to give Tony Romo fits, and Romo likely won’t have his favorite target, tight end Jason Witten. The Super Bowl champions will begin the 2012 regular season the way they ended the 2011 regular season, by beating the Cowboys.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 14.

Colts at Bears

Florio’s take:  In 1961, a far less heralded rookie quarterback who would become a Hall of Famer launched his career with the Vikings (and the life of an expansion team) with a win over the Bears.  Though the Colts in many ways feel like a first-year franchise, lightning likely won’t be striking again, 51 years later.  Andrew Luck looks to be the real thing, but he’ll have to wait for a Week Two visit from the Vikings to get his first NFL win.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 27, Colts 13.

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck has looked outstanding in the preseason, but I’m not falling into the trap of thinking a new franchise quarterback means the Colts are going to pick up right where they left off when Peyton Manning was healthy. Even if Luck is outstanding when the games count for real, the Colts have all kinds of problems on defense, and I like Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Matt Forte to have big games on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Colts 17.

Eagles at Browns

Florio’s take:  A reunion of the Green Bay mafia will be conducted on Sunday, with various branches of the Mike Holmgren tree coming together in Cleveland.  But the Factory of Sadness will likely continue to churn out chagrin for the denizens of the Dawg Pound.  Though Mike Vick may not be able to stay healthy all season, he’ll be ready go to in Week One.  And so will the rest of his teammates.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 35, Browns 20.

MDS’s take: I’m not sold on the Eagles, but I am sold on the Browns — sold on the idea that they’re the worst team in the league this year. It’s going to be a rough season in Cleveland.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Browns 7.

Rams at Lions

Florio’s take:  Even when the Rams won the Super Bowl, they couldn’t win in Detroit.  Now that the Lions are moving closer to a Super Bowl berth of their own, this one could get ugly.  Quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Rams 10.

MDS’s take: Jeff Fisher is going to turn the Rams around, and they’re going to be a much better team this season than they were last season. An upset over the team coached by Fisher’s old protege Jim Schwartz wouldn’t surprise me, but I’ll pick Detroit in a nail-biter.

MDS’s pick: Lions 21, Rams 20.

Dolphins at Texans

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins won’t truly experience Hard Knocks until they get a look at the Texans’ defense.  I rarely predict a shutout.  It’s not really all that much of a stretch on this one.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 20, Dolphins 0.

MDS’s take: This looks like Week One’s biggest mismatch. Ryan Tannehill will have a steep learning curve adjusting to the NFL, while Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and the Texans’ offense will be in midseason form. This is a beatdown.

MDS’s pick: Texans 34, Dolphins 7.

Falcons at Chiefs

Florio’s take:  Last year, I had a feeling that the much-hyped Falcons wouldn’t fare well on a Week One trip to the Midwest, against the Bears.  This year, the Falcons are on the road to the Heartland again, against the Chiefs.  But they’ve got too much firepower, notwithstanding the firewater-influenced fanatics at Arrowhead.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Chiefs 24.

MDS’s take: Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel has expressed disappointment with his team’s performance in the preseason, and with good reason.  The Chiefs have looked shaky on both sides of the ball. Kansas City
got off to a very rough start last season and never recovered, and the start of this season could be rough as well.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 28, Chiefs 10.

Jaguars at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The battle for Matt Barkley would have been a hell of a lot more compelling in Week 17.  When the talent level is equally suspect, the home team gets the edge.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 20, Jaguars 17.

MDS’s take: Who’s more likely to play and play well in this one, Maurice Jones-Drew or Adrian Peterson? Jones-Drew is healthy and says he’s been staying in shape, but one week isn’t enough to completely learn an offense after a lengthy holdout, and I see Jones-Drew struggling early this season in much the same way Chris Johnson did last season. Peterson didn’t play at all in the preseason, but from all accounts he has recovered from last year’s season-ending torn ACL, and I like him to have a big game in Week One.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 23, Jaguars 16.

Redskins at Saints

Florio’s take:  In a May appearance on PFT Live, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan joked that he hoped Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be suspended for Week One.  That would have been Washington’s only chance to steal a win in a Superdome that will be rocking almost as loud as it was the night they reopened the place in 2006.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 38, Redskins 22.

MDS’s take: The Saints feel like they have a point to prove, and they’ll be motivated, and the Superdome will be a hostile environment for Robert Griffin III. I think the Redskins’ offense is going to be better than most people expect, and they’ll put some points on the board against the Saints, but Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense will score more.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Redskins 24.

Bills at Jets

Florio’s take:  Lost in the hand-wringing regarding the Jets’ offense is the fact that the defense is still pretty good.  Good enough to outscore a Bills team that, while improving, isn’t ready to steal one on the road to start the season.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 15, Bills 10.

MDS’s take: This looks to me like one of the most interesting matchups of Week One, because the Jets are desperate to show that their terrible offensive showing in the preseason didn’t mean anything. Unfortunately for the Jets, I think the Bills, bolstered by the addition of Mario Williams, have exactly the kind of defense that can pressure Mark Sanchez and force him into a multiple-turnover game. The
chants for Tim Tebow be deafening by the end of this game.

MDS’s pick: Bills 10, Jets 3.

Patriots at Titans

Florio’s take:  The last time these two teams got together, the Patriots scored 59, and the Titans scored nothing.  While much has changed in Tennessee since 2009, enough players are still there to remind the teammates and the coaches of that day.  And it would matter if the Titans had the horses of defense to keep up with New England’s offense.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Titans 26.

MDS’s take: The consistency of the Patriots in the salary-cap era in the NFL is nothing short of remarkable. The Patriots look, once again, like one of the best teams in the NFL, and Bill Belichick’s defense will give fits to Titans quarterback Jake Locker, making his first NFL start.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Titans 17.

Seahawks at Cardinals

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals didn’t have a shot at quarterback Russell Wilson, given that they sent their second-round pick to Philadelphia for a quarterback who is now second string.  But coach Ken Whisenhunt may be wishing that the team had traded up six spots to get the Seahawks’ new starter; Wilson looks to be better than anything the Cardinals have at the position, which may be enough to pull off a Week One division road win.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Cardinals 21.

MDS’s take: Russell Wilson emerged as the starter in Seattle after one of the most impressive performances in the NFL preseason, while John Skelton became the starter by default in Arizona because Kevin Kolb was one of the least impressive players in the NFL preseason. Advantage: Seattle.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 20.

49ers at Packers

Florio’s take:  When one of the best offenses meets one of the best defenses, the game will turn on how the other offense fares against the other defense.  The Packers defense has improved just enough to hold serve at Lambeau Field in the season opener.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 30, 49ers 27.

MDS’s take: The NFL schedule makers gave us a potential NFC Championship Game preview in Week One, and I see the Packers’ offense picking right up where they left off last year — and the Packers’ defense looking better.

MDS’s pick: Packers 27, 49ers 14.

Panthers at Buccaneers

Florio’s take:  The Bucs are laying the foundation for a very good team.  The Panthers are on the brink of being a very good team.  Cam Newton will be out to prove last year was no fluke, and an improved defense will keep it from turning into a shootout.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 31, Buccaneers 21.

MDS’s take: Cam Newton won’t have a sophomore slump — he’ll be every bit the player this year that he as a rookie, and the Panthers will have a better team around him. Greg Schiano will turn the Bucs around, but there are going to be growing pains along the way, and they’ll struggle against the Panthers’ offense. This will be the Panthers’ first statement that they’re a team to be reckoned with in the NFC.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 30, Buccaneers 14.

Steelers at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Some say this could be the highest-rated regular-season game in NFL history.  Though the 1985 Bears-Dolphins game ultimately may keep the crown, the return of Peyton Manning could set the high-water mark for the entire 2012 season.  He wouldn’t have come back if he couldn’t get it done, and the Steelers have too many issues to come out of the gates with a road win.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

MDS’s take: This is a rematch of last year’s playoff meeting, but it’s a very different game with Peyton Manning at the helm in Denver and Tim Tebow off running the wildcat with the Jets. The result, however, will be similar: In a close, competitive game, the Broncos’ offense will get a late score to win it.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

Bengals at Ravens

Florio’s take:  Cincinnati gets its first chance in 2012 to win a game that it shouldn’t.  Though in time those wins will come, the Ravens have too much talent on both sides of the ball.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 31, Bengals 24.

MDS’s take: The Bengals took a big step forward last year with the emergence of a young offense led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. This is an opportunity for them to make a very big statement about re-ordering the AFC North, but I see the Ravens’ defense making a big statement that they’re not going to let their young rivals get the best of them just yet.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 16, Bengals 13.

Chargers at Raiders

Florio’s take:  Oakland is taking a step back in the hopes of eventually taking a giant leap forward.  The Chargers are trying to finally put the pieces together.  For now, advantage Chargers.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Raiders 21.

MDS’s take: In the game that will have those in the Eastern time zone drinking coffee late into Monday night and showing up to work bleary-eyed on Tuesday morning, the Chargers will get a big game from Philip Rivers and get a leg up on the Raiders in the AFC West.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 21.

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So why didn’t the NFLPA reduce Goodell’s power in 2011?

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A common theme has emerged in recent days regarding the suspension imposed by the NFL on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  And it goes a little something like this:  “The NFLPA has no room to complain because the NFLPA gave the Commissioner the power to do whatever he wants.”

While it’s true that the NFLPA gave the Commissioner the power to determine discipline under the personal conduct policy and in turn to resolve the appeal, those powers must be exercised properly and responsibly.  Failure to do so arguably has contributed to the current problems the NFL faces as a result of the Peterson case and, more importantly, the Ray Rice case.

It’s also important to consider the broader context.  In 2007, the late Gene Upshaw agreed to give the Commissioner broad authority to discipline players for off-field misconduct.  The league unveiled the revamped policy in connection with the suspensions of Adam Jones and the late Chris Henry.

In 2011, the NFL and NFLPA returned to the bargaining table for the negotiation of a new labor deal.  The primary struggle at that point related to money.  While the quality of the financial package remains the subject of periodic debate, the NFLPA also achieved unprecedented limitations on offseason workouts, training camp practices, and in-season practices.

If (and that could be a big if) the Commissioner would have traded his power over the personal conduct policy for the practice limitations, should the NFLPA have done that?  Doesn’t it make far more sense to achieve protections that directly benefit all players in lieu of protections that, as a practical matter, will help only a few?

Sure, all players are subject to the arbitrary application of the personal conduct policy, where the rules are whatever the rules have to be in order to reach the predetermined outcome.  But only two or three players find themselves caught in the gears of the personal conduct policy every year.  Every player experiences the impact of reduced practice time and less intense practice sessions.

The next time the NFL and NFLPA try to hammer out a new labor deal, that same question will emerge.  How much of the protections for the many will be sacrificed to ultimately protect a few?

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Falcons sign James Anderson

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The Falcons placed running back Antone Smith on injured reserve earlier this week, but they didn’t fill his roster spot with another running back.

They announced Thursday that they have signed linebacker James Anderson, who was a member of the Titans until earlier this week. Anderson had five tackles in seven games for Tennessee before they parted ways with him.

Anderson started 16 games for the Bears last year and spent the summer with the Patriots before being a somewhat surprising cut as the Pats pared down their roster in August. Anderson spent the first seven years of his career with the Panthers, who made him a third-round pick in 2006.

Assuming Anderson sticks on the roster, he’ll get a chance to square off against his former team in Week 17 in a game that could wind up determining the winner of a rather unspired race for the NFC South division crown.

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Matt Tobin returns to practice, may not return to starting lineup

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On Wednesday, it looked like the Eagles might have to make a change to their starting offensive line because of right guard Matt Tobin’s concussion.

Tobin was cleared to return to practice on Thursday, but it looks like change may be coming to the Philly line anyway.

Tobin, who has been filling in for Todd Herremans was lost for the season with an arm injury, said, via Reuben Frank of CSN Philly, that Andrew Gardner took all of the reps at right guard with the first team during Thursday’s session. Gardner has seen time at both tackles and right guard this season as the Eagles have shuffled people around to fill in for the four presumed starters that have missed time at various points this season.

The resulting lack of continuity hasn’t helped the offense and may be part of the reason why LeSean McCoy’s production has slipped despite his belief that he’s the same player that he was in 2014.

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Washington, Pittsburgh aren’t options for Jets-Bills

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Earlier today, PFT reported that the three primary alternative locations for the game between the Jets and Bills are Detroit, Toronto, and New Jersey.

ESPN also has identified a trio of venues, but with only one common place:  Detroit.  Per ESPN, the other choices are Pittsburgh and Washington.

A league source tells PFT that Washington and Pittsburgh are not options.  And that makes plenty of sense; both fields consist of grass, and both grass fields have in the past demonstrated problems with behaving like, you know, grass.

While both seem to be better (or at least not as bad) as in the past, it makes no sense to play an extra game on a grass field when the extra game can be played on FieldTurf at Ford Field.

For other reasons, Detroit is the best choice of any of the available options.  And it won’t be a surprise if, come Friday, the announcement is made that the game will be played in Detroit.

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Raiders fans buy newspaper ad calling for return of Hue Jackson

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The Raiders aren’t getting much else done, but at least they’re sparking the local economy.

Via CSNBayArea.com, a group of Raiders fans bought a quarter page ad in the Oakland Tribune, asking for the team to bring back Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as the team’s next head coach.

“Ever since our Super Bowl loss in 2002, our beloved Raiders organization has been having unsuccessful, losing seasons,” the ad read. “In 2010, we hired Coach Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator, who came in to work alongside then Head Coach Tom Cable. He aided the franchise to bounce back from a 4-12 record to an 8-8 record. Hue Jackson was promoted to Head Coach. Our players were motivated and wanted to play for Coach Jackson, and there was a huge shift in culture within the Raiders locker room. That season, our team went 8-8, just missing the playoffs. This success was in spite of the 132-day NFL lockout, losing our starting quarterback Jason Campbell to injury, and then losing our running back Darren McFadden. In addtion, our legendary, trendsetting, trailblazing owner, Al Davis passed away. Mark Davis assumed ownership while grieving his loss and it was Hue Jackson’s loyalty to the franchise that saw him take on more responsibilities.

“Despite the firing of Coach Allen, our record as of print is 0-10 and 0-16 over two seasons! Our team was in a better position with Coach Hue Jackson. Raiders Nation let your voice be heard; hire Hue Jackson in 2015!”

While a group of disgruntled fans buying ads (or airplane banners, or billboards) might not create fundamental change, it at least shows a degree of passion for a team that has done everything possible to kill it.

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Justin Blackmon pleads no contest to pot charge

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When last we heard about suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon, he was in a voluntary treatment program as he tries to tackle the substance abuse issues that have forced him to miss more than a year’s worth of game while seeing out an indefinite ban from the league.

Blackmon was in a courtroom in Oklahoma Thursday to deal with a marijuana possession charge. Blackmon was arrested in July when police officers found three grams of marijuana in Blackmon’s car after stopping him for a traffic violation.

Blackmon pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, which the Oklahoman reports will be dropped to a count of disorderly conduct if he doesn’t commit any crimes in the next six months. He also told the judge that he had completed his rehab program.

“I don’t anticipate [Blackmon] will have any problems,” Blackmon’s attorney Robert Gray said. “He’s going back to training and hopefully looks forward to reinstatement.”

Blackmon could be reinstated for the 2015 season and the Jaguars maintain the rights to their former first-round draft pick.

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Peterson appeal focuses on change in policy

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On Tuesday, the NFL suspended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  On Wednesday, the NFLPA appealed the suspension on his behalf.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA raises two primary arguments in support of the appeal.  First, the union argues that the NFL has applied a different standard to conduct that occurred before the NFL revised the domestic violence and sexual assault policy on August 28.  Attorneys call that ex post facto lawmaking, Latin for “after the fact.”

Second, the NFLPA describes the punishment of Peterson as “wildly disparate” in comparison to past punishments imposed on other players.  The union points to the six-game suspension imposed Tuesday and the nine games missed while on paid leave.

The union also has asked that Commissioner Roger Goodell recuse himself as the appeal officer in the case, pointing to alleged partiality and bias.  Specifically, the NFLPA contends that the criticism that has been directed to Goodell and the NFL in recent months regarding the handling of off-field misconduct makes it impossible for him to be properly objective and unbiased.

The letter initiating the appeal also includes a lengthy summary of the facts, which includes a contention that executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told both Peterson and his agent (presumably Ben Dogra) that “the time Mr. Peterson agreed not to be on the football field would be considered ‘time served’ if and when the NFL assessed discipline against Mr. Peterson.”  This expands the potential dispute over what Vincent did or didn’t say from one-against-one to two-against-one.

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Karlos Dansby is loading up on mashed potatoes — and lobster

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While the rest of us will be loading up on turkey for the next week, Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby has a different meal in mind.

Dansby, who doesn’t seem likely to make it this week because of a sprained MCL, has a unique way of eating while he’s rehabbing.

According to Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dansby was singing the praises of of eating lobster and mashed potatoes.

I’m feeding like a vampire drinking blood,” Dansby said. “I’ve got to feed it. For a vampire to bounce back, he’s got to get his blood and I’ve got to keep getting the lobster mash in my body right now. I’m eating a lot, man.”

Whatever the healing properties of lobster and mashed potatoes might be, Dansby might be on the cutting edge of medical and culinary technology.
If he’s able to get back for Sunday’s game at Atlanta, however, the Browns will doubtless be serving it up to all their injured players.
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Justin Pugh misses second day of practice

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Geoff Schwartz may be making his Giants debut at right tackle.

Justin Pugh, the Giants’ usual starter at the position, missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday with a quad injury that forced him out of last Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Coach Tom Coughlin said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, that the team has two or three options to fill in for Pugh against the Cowboys on Sunday night and they were looking at them in practice.

Schwartz was originally signed to play guard, but he’s one of those options after missing the first 10 games of the season with a toe injury. Charles Brown replaced Pugh last weekend and is presumably another one of those options, although Coughlin quite accurately said that Brown did not play well when asked about Brown’s rough outing against the Niners.

Vacchiano reports that James Brewer is the third option and that Schwartz would likely replace John Jerry at right guard if he doesn’t get the call to replace Pugh.

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Soldier Field: Problem with clocks has been rectified

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During last Sunday’s Bears-Vikings game, the game clocks at Soldier Field malfunctioned during the Vikings’ final drive and officials kept the official time on the field.

After his team lost, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was upset about the problem and the Bears said technicians weren’t yet sure what went wrong. The Bears play at home again this Sunday against Tampa and the team says that the problem has been rectified.

Soldier Field spokesman Luca Serra said a team from Daktronics, the scoreboard manufacturer, was on site this week working to correct the problem. Serra didn’t specify the problem, but says the company assured the issue has been rectified.

“That was a first,” Serra said, via the Chicago Tribune, “and we’d like to say a last. But the [clocks] are ready for Sunday.”

The company ran game simulations with the scoreboards on both Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the repair process, but offered no word on whether the Bears were able to extend their winning streak in those virtual contests.

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Detroit, Toronto, New Jersey are primary alternatives for Jets-Bills

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If the Week 12 game between the Jets and Bills can’t be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, it will be played at a different location.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the three options for an alternative venue are Detroit, Toronto, and New Jersey.

A decision currently is expected to be made by Friday afternoon.

If the game remains in Buffalo, it most likely would be played on Monday or Tuesday night.  Even though the snow won’t be falling by the time Monday and Tuesday roll around, the snow still needs to be cleared — and it will be difficult to have police and emergency personnel present for the game.

Detroit makes the most sense as an alternative destination.  Logistically, it could be difficult to get two teams and their personnel clearance for a quick trip to Canada, and it would be competitively unfair to give the Jets an extra home game.  With Detroit being the hometown of the late Ralph Wilson, who founded the Bills in 1960, it would be fitting for Detroit to host a Bills game in the same year he passed away.

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Norv Turner: Jerick McKinnon is “our running back”

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The Vikings claimed running back Ben Tate off waivers on Wednesday, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Thursday that his arrival was not going to result in a change at the top spot of their depth chart.

Turner said that the team saw an opportunity to add a back they liked with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both out of practice because of injuries. Asiata is unlikely to play because of a concussion, but Turner said McKinnon is still the team’s top back if his lower back injury allows him to play.

“We’re excited about Jerick and what he’s done and I see him as our running back,” Turner said, via the Pioneer Press. “He’s been limited in practice last week and couldn’t practice [Wednesday]. So you got to protect yourself, obviously with Matt not being able to practice [Wednesday] and in doubt as to whether he’ll play or not.”

McKinnon said it was good to know that Turner has that kind of faith in him and that he doesn’t expect the injury to keep him out of practice the entire week or out of the game on Sunday.

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Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas remain out of practice

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The Broncos Offense is coming off their lowest point total of the Peyton Manning era and it’s still looking decidedly questionable whether they’ll have wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas with them as they try to put up a more robust showing against the Dolphins this weekend.

Sanders and Thomas were on the sideline at practice Thursday, just as they were on Wednesday, due to injuries suffered against the Rams last weekend. Andrew Mason of the team’s website reports that both players are wearing jerseys and taking “mental reps” as their teammates work out.

For Sanders, that’s certainly better than being kept inside as part of the concussion protocol although it doesn’t offer any insight into his chances of getting cleared to either practice or play in time for Week 12. Thomas has called himself “day-to-day” as a result of his ankle injury, which should keep the possibility of a quick return to the field alive into the weekend even if he doesn’t practice on Friday.

A depleted receiving corps for Peyton Manning isn’t going to make things any easier for the Broncos, although a full deck might not help them all that much if their struggling offensive line isn’t able to stand up to a good Dolphins defensive front.

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Marshawn Lynch to appeal $100,000 fine

Lynch AP

On Wednesday, the NFL fined Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch $100,000 for failing to comply with the league’s media policy.  On Thursday, Lynch’s agent informed PFT that Lynch will appeal the fine.

Agent Doug Hendrickson told PFT by phone that Lynch, who was so banged up after the first half of the game that he didn’t go to the locker room, was even more banged up after the game ended.  Lynch changed quickly (as he always does), and then he went to the team bus and laid down.

Lynch, according to Hendrickson, then realized he had skipped out (as he usually does) without talking to reporters.  So Lynch immediately called Hendrickson.  Here’s the conversation, as recounted by Hendrickson.

“Dude, I screwed up,” Lynch told Hendrickson, referring to the failure to talk to reporters before leaving the locker room.

“Go back in,” Hendrickson replied.

“I can’t even move,” Lynch said.  “My back’s killing me.”

Lynch then suggested talking to Mike Silver and Michael Robinson of NFL Media as an alternative to returning to the locker room.

In the end, Lynch’s interview with Silver was far more meaningful than any perfunctory remarks he would have made while trying to get out of the locker room and to the bus.  That point surely will be made during the appeal.

Another point that should be made will be that, routinely, the things players and coaches say during mandatory media availability are meaningless.  From “on to Cincinnati” to “day to day” to “I’m just trying to be a good teammate” to “focusing on San Francisco,” the spirit of the media policy routinely is violated.

Perhaps in the end the NFL will once again suspend all or part of the fine, with a commitment from Lynch that he’ll comply going forward.

That’s what happened after he was fined $50,000 last year.  The league deferred collection of the amount, but vowed to reinstate the fine and to add another $50,000 if he violated it again.

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Julio Jones misses second day of practice with illness

Julio Jones, Josh Norman AP

If there’s a hot team in the NFC South right now, it might be the Falcons, winners of two in a row (which means two of their last seven).

But with their first-place spot on the line against the Browns this weekend, there’s reason to worry about their offense.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wide receiver Julio Jones was not at practice today, his second straight absence.

Jones was held out yesterday with what was described as an illness, with no other word.

Wide receiver Harry Douglas was back on the field today, after missing yesterday’s work with a foot problem.

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