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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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John Madden: Super Bowl call will “torment” Pete Carroll forever

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks dejected after defeat to the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Seahawks 28-24.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks Pete Carroll acknowledged after the Super Bowl that he’d always regret the decision to pass at the goal line rather than run.

That’s almost easy to say now, at a time when he’s trying to insulate the coordinator who called the play, and the quarterback who threw the game-losing interception.

But one of the best coaches the game has ever known said the memory won’t get any easier with time.

That will torment him forever,” Hall of Famer John Madden told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “Winning one game is hard. Getting to the Super Bowl is hard. Then getting that close and losing has to be tough, because we only remember the winners of the Super Bowl.

“One of the biggest gaps in sports is the difference between the winning and losing teams of the Super Bowl. They don’t invite the losing team to the White House. They don’t have parades for them. They don’t throw confetti on them.

“Does it haunt you? Hell yes, it haunts you. I’m still haunted by some championship games.”

Madden’s Raiders lost five conference championship games in seven years, nearly taking the pleasure out of finally winning one.

But he doubts that Carroll having won one will take the sting away from the chance at a second.

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Kraft tells Larry King he hopes he helped Brady’s appeal

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There’s been plenty of talk around the NFL that Patriots owner Robert Kraft decided not to fight the NFL’s Deflategate penalties because the NFL has given a quiet assurance that Tom Brady will get a favorable ruling on the appeal of his four-game suspension. Now a report from Larry King (of all people) indicates that Kraft was thinking along those lines when he decided to accept the NFL’s punishment.

King wrote on Twitter that he talked to Kraft today, and that Kraft told him he’s hoping that accepting the NFL’s penalties will help Brady in his own fight against his four-game suspension.

It’s not often that NFL news is broken by Larry King, but this seems plausible. Even as Kraft has given up the fight against the Patriots’ sanctions, he still steadfastly supports Brady. It would make sense that Kraft would give up the fight against the league primarily because he wants to help Brady.

Although if that is Kraft’s intention, he probably would have preferred that King not tweet about it.

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“Free Tom Brady” rally set for Sunday outside Gillette Stadium

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Those aggrieved by Tom Brady’s four-game suspension are invited to a rally at a parking lot outside of Gillette Stadium on Sunday, per an announcement on Facebook.

The “Free Tom Brady rally” will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday and will “protest the unjust football arrest of half God half man Tom Brady.”

There is no indication the team has any connection to the rally.

The gathering, according to the announcement, will be “peaceful.”

As of this writing, 375 fans had indicated on Facebook that they would be attending.

One fan wrote: “Can’t be there but best wishes from England!”

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Tyrann Mathieu finally feels “free” after dealing with injuries

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 30:  Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Arizona Cardinals stands on the field during warm ups prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 30, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu had to overcome a lot just to stick in the NFL.

But once he got there, stuff kept happening which kept him from doing what he does best.

But after a series of injuries that limited him, he’s finally well and ready to get back to the player he was in 2013 before a late-season knee injury, which was followed by a broken thumb last year.

It just feels good to be free,” Mathieu said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

“He has a gleam in his eye that I didn’t see at all last year,” coach Bruce Arians said.

That’s saying something, because Mathieu was a playmaker on a good defense as a rookie, before the injuries took a toll on him. He admitted he was tentative last year, not confident in his own health.

“You try to stay as optimistic as possible,” Mathieu said. “But there is a reality to it, too. It’s kind of hard to keep telling yourself it’s going to be all right, especially when we got into the thick of everything last year, thinking that if I was 100 percent, I’d probably be able to help my team a whole lot more than I’m doing right now.”

So instead of playing freely, he worried about making mistakes.

“You play scared because you don’t want to give up a touchdown,” Mathieu said. “Or you play too aggressive because you don’t want to be singled out as if you’re not giving the effort. It’s kind of like the worst of both worlds.

“I’ve never thought about it as hard as I did last year. I was always thinking about something, rather than just going out there to play.”

So the fact he’s out there now, running around in OTAs, is a positive sign. Because when the Honey Badger doesn’t care about making mistakes, he’s at his most dangerous.

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Marcus Mariota has the NFL’s best-selling jersey in May

Marcus Mariota AP

Titans fans are eager to throw their support behind new quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota has the NFL’s best-selling jersey for the month of May, Titans director of finance Stuart Spears told Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.

A study by a sports marketing company also found that Mariota ranks as the 39th most marketable athlete in the world. That may sound rather shocking for a player who hasn’t played a professional game yet, but Mariota was a popular Heisman Trophy winner at Oregon who enters the NFL with a significant fan base. It also helps that Mariota (unlike the only player drafted ahead of him, Jameis Winston) has a squeaky-clean image off the field.

So for now, Mariota is among the NFL’s top stars. But that popularity won’t last long unless he can prove himself on the field.

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On this day in 1985, the NFL ramped up its overseas efforts

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The NFL’s push to expand its international reach is no secret. Three regular season games are set for London in 2015, and the league has studied Brazil, Germany and Mexico as potential future game sites.

However, the league’s desire to grow its influence beyond the United States isn’t a new development. In fact, we’ve now reached the 30-year mark of the NFL’s serious concerted efforts to go international.

On this day in 1985, league owners approved a plan to play at least one overseas preseason game beginning in 1986, per the NFL’s Record and Fact Book. And beginning with a Bears-Cowboys matchup in London in ’86, the NFL scheduled at least one exhibition in another country for 18 consecutive years, according to footballgeography.com.

The NFL had previously staged preseason games outside of the United States, with a Cardinals-Chargers game in Tokyo in 1976 the first played outside of North America. However, they were not annual events.

But as the 1980s went on, the NFL’s international ambitions broadened. In 1989, the NFL would found and fund the World League of American Football, which lasted 15 seasons before the league decided to focus on staging regular season games outside of the United States.

Now, the NFL International Series has a foothold on the league calendar. The next logical question is whether an internationally based team will follow.

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Pats fan takes belief in Brady’s innocence to the grave

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Deflategate has taken a lot out of Tom Brady’s reputation across most of America. But in New England, Brady is as beloved as ever.

In fact, the extent to which some in New England are rallying around Brady has reached new highs — or lows, depending on your perspective.

We now have the late Patricia Shong of Auburn, Massachusetts, who passed away on Monday at the age of 72. Shong’s obituary ran in the local paper and told the story of her life, her family, her career and her favorite activities. And then it included a line about Shong’s continuing support of Brady.

“She would also like us to set the record straight for her: Brady is innocent!!” the obituary says.

That’s a popular sentiment in New England. But this is the first time we’ve heard it expressed from beyond the grave.

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Stephen Ross told Dolphins’ execs to go into win-now mode

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is tired of building for the future. He wants to win now.

That’s the message Ross has given his front office staff from Day One — and even before Day One. Dolphins G.M. Dennis Hickey says that when he was interviewing for the job, Ross said the time to win is now — and Ross vowed to pony up the money to make that happen.

Hickey said on 104.3 The Ticket that everyone in the front office and the coaching staff has been on the same page about the way to build the Dolphins, and that starts from the top, with Ross making clear from the beginning where his expectations were.

We’re a process-driven organization,” Hickey said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “Part of the process is collaboration, getting our coaches together with our scouts and getting them together to do their due diligence. The process is about making good, sound decisions that make sense.”

The Dolphins spent a fortune to sign Ndamukong Suh, and they’ve also spent a lot on players including Ryan Tannehill, Mike Pouncey, Cameron Wake, Branden Albert, Brent Grimes and Jordan Cameron. Those moves may help the Dolphins win now, but a day of reckoning is coming. Next year, the Dolphins are projected to be $17 million over the cap — putting them in by far the worst cap shape for 2016 of any team in the NFL. If the Dolphins don’t win now, they may regret the way they’ve structured their salary cap — because all those expensive contracts are going to make it harder to make more big moves in the future.

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Staubach on Hardy: I wouldn’t want an abuser as a teammate

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If it were up to Hall of Fame Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, Greg Hardy wouldn’t be in Dallas.

Staubach said on KTCK-AM that while he admires the way Cowboys Executive Vice President Charlotte Jones Anderson has taken a leadership role in the NFL’s efforts on domestic violence, he still has a hard time justifying allowing a player like Hardy on the team.

“Well, it depends on getting a chance to understand the red flags . . . like the Hardy situation,” Staubach said. “Charlotte Jones is fantastic. She’s involved with the NFL on the committees. I think she had a hand in trying to understand that this guy deserves a second chance. I don’t have any tolerance toward domestic violence. If I was making the decision, it probably wouldn’t have been good for the Cowboys.”

Hardy missed 15 games last year and is suspended for 10 games this year for a domestic violence incident. Staubach said that’s not the kind of person he’d want as a teammate.

“I wouldn’t really enjoy being in the locker room with someone I knew was a domestic violence person. That’s how I feel,” Staubach said. “Today you know more about the personal lives of players. Back in the old days, there were some issues. But we never really had a domestic violence, smoking marijuana or . . . I’m sure it happened though, we just didn’t know about it. I would have really had a hard time with a teammate that you look at as a courageous, tough guy on the football field . . . to abuse a women in any shape or form, there’s just no excuse for it.”

The Cowboys have taken a lot of criticism for signing Hardy, but this criticism may sting the most. Few people are more respected in Dallas than Staubach, and Staubach doesn’t think Hardy belongs in the Cowboys’ locker room.

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Alouettes welcome Michael Sam, hope he becomes a football story

michaelsam AP

The Montreal Alouettes know there’s a social statement being made, with the signing of Michael Sam.

And while they’re clearly fine with being viewed as progressive, they’re also expecting what football teams expect from football players — production.

Alouettes president Mark Weightman, suddenly in the middle of an international story, said  he hopes the focus soon turns to what kind of player Sam can be.

We’re very excited because we have a very good football player on our hands. That needs to be the opening statement. We’re excited to see what he can do on the field,” Weightman said, via Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette. “I think we all see it as a positive thing. We, as a league, have always been very open to all players — regardless of race, background, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. This is just another example of it. And it’s a great opportunity for us to show that leadership with a guy like Michael.

“We got ourselves a fantastic football player who has a lot of strength of character, who demonstrated a heck of a lot of courage to do what he did by coming out before the [NFL] draft, before his professional career. I think that shows a strength of character and a strong . . . moral belief system. Those are the kinds of people that are good leaders. You want leaders on your team.”

Sam is slated to be in Montreal Monday, and will meet the media there Tuesday morning. And then when camp begins Wednesday, he can begin the path to showing he’s a football player and not just a guy hoping to become the first openly gay football player in the NFL.

If all he was interested in was celebrity, the CFL probably wouldn’t have been his destination. But if he’s serious about proving himself as a player, he has his opportunity, and he’s found a place which will welcome him.

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Houston “Hard Knocks” lets NFL put Watt front and center

Watt AP

J.J. Watt is just the kind of player the NFL wants to market, a fierce warrior on the field who turns into an easygoing, likable guy as soon as the game ends. So with process of elimination seeming to leave the Texans as the team that will be featured on this year’s Hard Knocks, it’s a good bet that NFL Films will put Watt front and center.

Watt is the NFL’s best defensive player but is not as well known to a mass audience as some of the league’s biggest stars. Hard Knocks is a way for the league to humanize Watt and bolster his popularity.

Hard Knocks also needs Watt because the Texans are, frankly, not as compelling a team as some of the past teams featured on the show. Coach Bill O’Brien isn’t made for reality TV the way Rex Ryan is, and although the Texans’ quarterback competition will be a major element of training camp, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett don’t exactly make for appointment television.

So it will be Watt around whom the upcoming season of Hard Knocks will be featured. At a time when many well-known players are getting attention for the wrong reasons, the NFL will like that.

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Moss shows up for high school graduation of fan in Minnesota

Moss Getty Images

In 1998, then-Vikings rookie Randy Moss made good on his vow to rip up the league. Along the way, he befriended a toddler named Kassi Spier.

Kassi fought leukemia as a four-year-old in 2000. In 2004, her father died in a car accident. In 2013, Kassi learned that she had a brain tumor.

On Friday, Kassi Spier graduated from high school. And her friend Randy Moss was there for it.

Via inforum.com, Moss traveled to Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, a 2,500-resident town 45 miles southeast of Fargo, to hand Kassi Spier her high school diploma at Friday’s commencement ceremony.

Moss last played in the NFL in 2012, appearing in Super Bowl XLVII with the 49ers. He started his career with the Vikings, spending 1998 through 2004 in Minnesota. He returned to the Vikings for a brief stretch in 2010.

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New coordinator aside, few changes expected on Steelers’ defense

Ryan Shazier, Keith Butler AP

Dick LeBeau is out and Keith Butler is in, but the Steelers’ defense isn’t changing.

That’s the word from Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward, who says the change at defensive coordinator is the only difference for the Steelers. Heyward says the Steelers’ D will still run the same schemes with Butler (who has been the team’s linebackers coach for the last 12 years) as it did under LeBeau (who has moved to the Titans after spending the last 11 years running the defense in Pittsburgh).

“I don’t think there are going to be too many changes,” said Heyward. “It’s going to be the same details. We will have a couple of new wrinkles, but we won’t share them now.”

The Steelers’ defense had a rough year in 2014, and they need to change something. But those changes will have to come from the players. The coaches are going to run the same system they’ve been running in Pittsburgh for a long time.

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Hernandez claims he’s running out of cash

Hernandez Getty Images

After nearly two years of legal maneuverings in multiple criminal cases and with no income, it’s no surprise that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is running out of cash.

One of his lawyers, John Fitzpatrick, made that argument to a Massachusetts judge on Thursday in connection with the efforts of the mother of Odin Lloyd, Ursula Ward, to find assets that can satisfy the wrongful death lawsuit filed previously against Hernandez.

Ward’s lawyer, Douglas Sheff, hopes to obtain more information about property owned by Hernandez. Already, his $1.3 million North Attleboro home can’t be sold. Also, a court order has blocked Hernandez from selling a 2005 Hummer.

The families of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu have also filed wrongful death claims against Hernandez, as has Alexander Bradley, who claims Hernandez shot Bradley in the face in February 2013.

Still pending is an effort by Hernandez to recover the remainder of his August 2012 signing bonus — $3.25 million from the Patriots. That money presumably will go to any victims who can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Hernandez injured or killed them. With Hernandez also convicted via proof beyond a reasonable doubt of killing Lloyd, the civil action against Hernandez arising from Lloyd’s death is a slam dunk.

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No developments yet in Mariota talks

Marcus Mariota, former Oregon quarterback and overall No. 2 NFL football draft pick by the Tennessee Titans, answers questions during a news conference Friday, May 1, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. Mariota was selected by the Titans in the first round Thursday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) AP

The Titans and quarterback Marcus Mariota had intended to commence contract negotiations this week. If they did, they didn’t get very far.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, no developments are expected this week.

Mariota is the only pick taken in the top seven who has not yet signed. Because the first overall pick in the draft (quarterback Jameis Winston) signed a deal that includes offset language for the fully-guaranteed four-year deal and the third overall pick (linebacker Dante Fowler Jr.) agreed to a contract that has no offset language (allowing Fowler to get paid twice, if he gets cut), the question of whether Mariota’s language will include offset language could become a major sticking point.

Otherwise, the deal could be done very quickly, especially since the ceiling has been set by Winston and the floor by Fowler.

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