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PFT’s Week Two picks

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Getty Images

Last week, MDS and yours truly disagreed on only one pick.  I trusted the J-E-T-S, and he didn’t.

So I finished 11-5, and he’s already in second place with a 10-6 mark.

This week, we’ve doubled our disagreements.  Which means that there’s a good chance I’ll be in second place by next week at this time.

Tune in to PFT Live this Thursday and every Thursday for MDS and yours truly talking about three or four of Sunday’s games.  And, yes, there may be gloating.

Bears at Packers

MDS’s take: This is about as close as a Week Two game can get to being a must-win for the Packers. Lose here and they’re two games behind the Bears, plus the Bears have the tiebreaker edge, plus they’re 0-2 at Lambeau Field, plus they’re behind the Lions and Vikings in the NFC North as well. Jay Cutler will have a good game against the Packers’ suspect pass defense, but Aaron Rodgers will have an even better game, and the Packers will win with their backs to the wall.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Bears 31.

Florio’s take:  The Packers have beaten the Bears in five of their last six games.  And other than the 2010 NFC title game, none has been bigger than Thursday night’s contest at Lambeau Field.  If the Packers lose, the team that was 15-1 in 2011 will fall to 0-2 in 2012, with 25 percent of the home schedule completed.  Look for the Packers’ defense to find something close to their groove — finally — and for Green Bay to get things moving in the right direction with a strong offensive output.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 28, Bears 24.

Chiefs at Bills

MDS’s take: Picking the Bills burned me in Week One, costing me the head-to-head battle with Florio in last week’s picks. Will I learn from that mistake and avoid the Bills this time? Nope. I think the Bills are a better team than they showed against the Jets and should win a close one at home.

MDS’s pick: Bills 14, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Bills went to Arrowhead in Week One and spanked the Chiefs.  This year, the Chiefs return the favor in Week Two.  (And as long as MDS keeps picking the Bills, I’ll keep building an edge in the season-long contest.)

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 34, Bills 21.

Saints at Panthers

MDS’s take: Can Cam Newton do to the Saints’ defense what Robert Griffin III did? Or is the Panthers’ offense going to lay an egg for the second week in a row? In a game that will leave the loser in a big hole in the NFC South, I’m picking the Panthers in a home upset.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 27, Saints 24.

Florio’s take:  The loser of this game will fall to 0-2.  For the Panthers, that would be a problem.  For the Saints, it would be grounds for panic.  Caught napping last Sunday against the Redskins, the Saints wake up in a big way.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 42, Panthers 24.

Browns at Bengals

MDS’s take: Both of these teams looked bad in Week One, but the Browns seem to be on a different level of bad, because Brandon Weeden just doesn’t look like he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Joe Flacco showed on Monday night that a good quarterback can beat the Bengals deep, but Weeden is not a good quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals lose the games they’re supposed to lose, and they win the games they’re supposed to win.  That trend held on Monday night, and it’ll hold on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 28, Browns 16.

Vikings at Colts

MDS’s take: Andrew Luck had four turnovers in his debut against the Bears, but what would really concern me about that game if I were a Colts fan is that the Colts’ defense didn’t look any better than it did last year. Christian Ponder will have his second consecutive big game and the Vikings will start a surprising 2-0.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 27, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Andrew Luck will always be compared to Peyton Manning.  And Peyton Manning lost the first home game of his career.  So if Luck can pull this one off, he’ll already be ahead of the curve.  Though the Vikings aren’t nearly as good as they were the year that Peyton Manning entered the league, they’re good enough to spoil Luck’s debut at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Colts 20.

Texans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert looks like he’s taken a big step forward since last season, and Jacksonville should put some points on the board. But the Jaguars won’t be able to keep pace with the loaded Texans offense, and this game could get ugly.

MDS’s pick: Texans 35, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take:  Jaguars owner Shahid Khan wants to remove the tarps at EverBank Field.  His players may want to hide under them when the Texans come to town.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 35, Jaguars 17.

Raiders at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Both of these offenses looked like they leave a lot to be desired in their Week One losses, but I have a lot more faith in Carson Palmer turning things around than I have in Ryan Tannehill turning things around. The Dolphins, who started last season 0-7, will take another step toward another dismal start.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 24, Dolphins 6.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders may need sunglasses to dull the glare of all those empty orange seats.  And it will only get more empty in the second half.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 24, Dolphins 17.

Cardinals at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Cardinals somehow seem to keep playing in close, competitive, exciting games: Last year 13 of their 16 games were decided by a touchdown or less, and they went down to the wire against the Seahawks in Week One as well. So will they be in a close game again? No. The Patriots win this one easily.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 34, Cardinals 14.

Florio’s take:  The two hottest teams over the last 10 regular-season games get together in Foxboro, but there’s still a huge gap between the 9-1 Patriots and 8-2 Cardinals.  Actually, there’s a pretty big gap right now between the 9-1 Patriots and 31 other teams.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 31, Cardinals 13.

Buccaneers at Giants

MDS’s take: Greg Schiano had his team playing exactly the kind of tough, physical football he promised they would play in Week One against the Panthers, while the defending champion Giants looked surprisingly out of sorts in their Week One loss to the Cowboys. But the Giants are still the Giants and the Buccaneers are still the Buccaneers, and Week One will look like an anomaly when this game is over.

MDS’s pick: Giants 27, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take:  This is the kind of game that Giants could have lost, if they’d beaten the Cowboys in Week One.  But since the Giants lost to the Cowboys in Week One, they’ll be guarding against another letdown — and quarterback Eli Manning will do what he has to do to propel the team in an early must-win situation.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Buccaneers 17.

Ravens at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles won ugly in Week One, while the Ravens won big. Much like they did last year, the Eagles look like a team that’s less than the sum of its parts, and I like the Ravens to go to Philadelphia and win.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take:  A week after barely beating the toothless new Browns, the Eagles get a taste of the old Browns.  By the time it’s over, Mike Vick may need Jeffrey Lurie to push the wheelchair.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 30, Eagles 21.

Redskins at Rams

MDS’s take: I liked the way the Rams’ defense looked in the first game of the Jeff Fisher era: Yes, they gave up 355 passing yards to Matthew Stafford in a loss to the Lions, but they also mixed up their coverages and picked Stafford off three times. The Rams will do a better job of containing Robert Griffin III than the Saints did, but the problem for St. Louis is that the offensive line is a mess, and they’re not going to be able to put many points on the board.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 20, Rams 13.

Florio’s take:  If the Rams had known how RG3 would make his NFL debut, the price for the pick that was sent to the Redskins would have been a lot higher than three ones and a two.  And the Rams may regret sooner rather than later the decision to not simply pick Griffin themselves.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 28, Rams 20.

Cowboys at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Russell Wilson struggled against the Cardinals’ defense, and he’s going to struggle again against an athletic Cowboys defense that can limit Wilson’s mobility. The fans in Seattle may be calling for Matt Flynn soon.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Seahawks 6.

Florio’s takeTony Romo returns to Seattle for the first time since he fumbled the snap on a field goal that would have secured a win in his first career playoff game.  This time around, the defense will be the difference, especially since the Seahawks’ receivers are banged up.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Seahawks 13.

Jets at Steelers

MDS’s take: No one saw the Jets’ offensive explosion coming last week, so maybe I’m underestimating them here, but I just don’t like Mark Sanchez’s chances of moving the ball effectively against the Steelers’ defense.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers saw some Tebowing late in Sunday’s loss to the Broncos.  The Steelers will be hoping to see none of it on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Jets 10.

Titans at Chargers

MDS’s take: Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips had an excellent game against the Raiders, and he’s going to make Titans quarterback Jake Locker’s life very difficult on Sunday. The Chargers will be off to their first 2-0 start since 2006.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 24, Titans 17.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers begin what could be one of their final seasons in San Diego  in style.  Except for all the empty seats at the stadium.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 21, Titans 17.

Lions at 49ers

MDS’s take: The Lions survived with an unimpressive win over the Rams at home, while the 49ers had an extremely impressive win over the Packers on the road. San Francisco may just have the best team in the NFL.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 27, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The 49ers have gotten better since the last time these two teams met in Detroit.  The Lions haven’t.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Lions 17.

Broncos at Falcons

MDS’s take: The loss of starting cornerback Brent Grimes is a huge blow to the Falcons, and Peyton Manning is the worst quarterback to face for a team trying to adjust to an injury in the secondary: Manning will find places to pick apart the Falcons’ secondary and get a big road win against a good team.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Falcons 28.

Florio’s take:  Last year, Denver’s defense kept games close long enough for the quarterback to do something heroic.  This week, they’ll do the same thing — without having to give up so few points.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 38, Falcons 35.

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DeMaurice Smith: NFL refused to give up power over players in 2011

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When it comes to the power of Commissioner Roger Goodell over NFL players, the NFL Players Association routinely absorbs criticism for failing to take back that power four years ago, during the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

Apart from the question of whether it would have made sense to trade something that helps all players in exchange for something that would protect, as a practical matter, only a few per year is the question of whether the NFL ever would have taken anything in exchange for the ability to have final say over certain matters regarding player conduct. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith says the NFL simply wasn’t interested in giving up the league’s powers.

“That was a subject of our negotiations, and the owners’ response was what their response is now: They’re not interested in changing the policy,” Smith told Jim Trotter of ESPN.com. “That doesn’t mean, however, that the players should give up on the issue. The owners’ response to the drug policy in 2011 was that they did not want to change, and the players continued to negotiate that until we reached a resolution in 2014. One of the more powerful arguments for neutral arbitration and for a collectively bargained personal conduct policy is what happened last year. If there was ever an instance that demonstrated a need for a collectively bargained process, it’s a process that the NFL got wrong in [Ray] Rice that led to it being overturned, that it got wrong in [Adrian] Peterson that led to it being overturned.”

The Rice and Peterson outcomes show that the Commissioner’s power has limits, and the NFLPA has enforced those limits successfully in multiple high-profile cases, from the Saints bounty scandal to the Rice case to the Peterson case, and now in the Greg Hardy and Tom Brady suspensions. Even if the league has no interest in further reducing the power the Commissioner holds, the union can continue to challenge on a case by case basis the way the Commissioner tries to use it.

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June 21 looms as key date for Oakland stadium effort

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In early June, the Chargers will commence the process of figuring out whether they can stay in San Diego. Within a few weeks, the Raiders will learn more about whether they can stay in Oakland.

Raiders owner Mark Davis explained to ESPN’s John Clayton that an update on the efforts of Floyd Kephart to find the extra money needed for an Oakland stadium will be provided by the end of next month.

“They are attempting to come up with that $400 million gap through some type of a real estate development deal,” Davis said. “By June 21, they’re supposed to come with a financing plan to the city and the county and then to us. We’ll see if it’s a doable deal or not. We’re hoping that it is.”

Davis wants to build a new Oakland stadium in the site of the current one, with a $500 million private contribution that includes a $200 million loan from the NFL. The estimated price of a new Raiders stadium in Oakland is $900 million — far cheaper than most modern football venues.

“If we were to be in Oakland, we don’t really need to have all the bells and whistles on the stadium,” Davis said. “What we want is a football stadium. We don’t need massive clubs and things of that nature. The three things that are most important to me in a stadium up here would be ingress, egress and parking. The reason I bring those things up is that it makes it easy for people to get in and out and the parking. Tailgating is such a major part of the Raiders game day experience for our fans, that it’s something that I’m not willing to give up. Parking is such an important thing. If we have those things and were able to build a football stadium, similar to Seattle or something of that nature, we’d be more than happy.”

If that can’t happen, happiness would come via a move to Carson, in a joint stadium to be shared with the Chargers. Which has sparked an unlikely alliance between Davis and Chargers owner Dean Spanos.

“Dean and I have always seen each other but we’ve rarely talked, and I think it was a competitive-type thing,” Davis said. “We did have a vicious and we still do have a very vicious rivalry going on the football field. But once Dean and I got together about three or four months ago to talk about this project, we really got along. We have similar business principles and things are working out pretty good in that respect.”

It’s believed that a shared stadium would end the twice-per-year rivalry by resulting in one of the two teams changing conferences. Davis calls that angle premature.

“That hasn’t been brought up to me yet,” Davis said. “That hasn’t even been one of the discussion points. I know it’s been brought up by other people in the media and things of that nature, but that issue hasn’t been brought up. I think that’s something that the League will deal with when the time comes.”

Or “if” the time comes. Davis presumably hopes it’s an “if” not a “when.” And it’s possible that his use of “when” was a slip that reveals what he truly wants for the Chargers.

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Saturday one-liners

Fred Getty Images

Some big names could be bounced by the Bills, including RB Fred Jackson.

Should the Dolphins be concerned about their interior offensive line?

Yes, the Patriots opened a portion of Friday’s OTA session to the media; no, the players didn’t have numbers on their shirts — or for the first time on the backs of their helmets.

Former Chan Gailey pupil Kordell Stewart believes the Jets new offensive coordinator will help QB Geno Smith flourish.

Young defensive players were happy to see veteran Ravens LB Daryl Smith participate in OTAs.

The tackle-rich Bengals likely aren’t inclined to trade one to Denver.

The Browns have dumped LS Christian Yount, which suggests that Charley Hughlett will get the job in 2015.

Steelers DT Daniel McCullers shed 15 pounds through a no soda, Doritos, or video-game-binge diet.

Jaguars receivers coach Jerry Sullivan says his unit lacks a “drum major,” but it has “a lot of guys I trust.”

Titans K Ryan Succop didn’t arm wrestle QB Marcus Mariota for No. 8; Succop simply gave it to him.

Colts P Pat McAfee sold out 1,600 tickets to a July 11 standup comedy show; a second show has been added.

Here’s the story behind the giant bruise on the leg of Texans DE J.J. Watt.

LB Von Miller will be used on the strong side in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.

Chiefs WR Kenny Cook can relate to S Eric Berry; Cook overcame Hodgkin lymphoma in high school.

New Raiders RB Roy Helu is the “most excited I’ve been to play football in the NFL thus far.”

Expectations are increasing for second-year Chargers CB Jason Verrett.

Cowboys DE Randy Gregory calls himself “a little bit goofy” and an “introvert.”

Here are the three biggest surprises from the first week of Giants OTA sessions.

Should the Eagles have used RB Darren Sproles more often in 2014?

Could CB Chris Culliver be the key to improving the Washington secondary?

Bears undrafted rookie DT Terry Williams is known as the “Swamp Monster.”

Lions DE Corey Wootton says he never felt comfortable in the Minnesota defense last year.

Packers DL B.J. Raji has embraced yoga.

The Vikings have outgrown their Winter Park headquarters, and could move from Eden Prairie to Chanhassen.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan likes the increased pace of practice under Dan Quinn.

Here are five observations on the Panthers’ OTA sessions from the past week.

Compete Street” has appeared at the Saints’ practice facility.

CB Alterraun Verner is encouraged by the depth the Buccaneers are building at cornerback.

Get to know Cardinals QB Phillip Sims.

The 49ers have added a ring of artificial turf around the grass field.

Seahawks S Kam Chancellor says he’s had the strongest offseason of his career.

Here’s a great look at the background and upbringing of Rams G.M. Les Snead.

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Plaxico Burress avoids jail on tax evasion charges

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Steve Martin’s “I forgot” defense apparently works.

Former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress won’t be going to prison for failing to pay income taxes. Via TMZ, Burress avoided incarceration by simply paying the money he allegedly didn’t pay to the State of New Jersey in 2013.

Burress claimed he made a “simple mistake,” not by forgetting to pay (so the Steve Martin thing was a bit of a stretch) but by trying to pay via bad electronic check. He owed nearly $48,000.

Indicted last month, Burress faced up to a decade in prison. Seven years ago, Burress served almost two years after shooting himself in the leg with a gun in New York City. Which is far different from, and yet eerily similar to, performing with an arrow through the head while performing live from New York on Saturday night.

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Jets give Brandon Marshall a raise

New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall makes a catch during voluntary minicamp ahead of the NFL football season, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) AP

The Jets want to keep veteran receiver Brandon Marshall happy.

As a result, they’ve given him a raise, Field Yates of ESPN reports.

Under Marshall’s old contract, which the Jets assumed when they acquired him in a trade with the Bears, he was due a maximum of $24.3 million over the next three years. Now Marshall could make as much as $26 million in the next three years. The Jets have also added $1.3 million in full guarantees to Marshall’s deal.

For 2015, Marshall has gone from a $7.5 million base salary and $200,000 workout bonus to a fully guaranteed $9 million base salary, with no workout bonus. Marshall is getting an even bigger raise in 2016, when he goes from a $7.9 million base salary to a $9.5 million base salary.

Marshall did, however, accept a pay cut from $8.3 million to $7.5 million on his 2017 base salary, perhaps an indication from both sides that by then Marshall will be in his mid-30s and not the same player.

Overall, this is a great deal for Marshall and a surprising move for the Jets, who could have simply told him that he was stuck playing for the contract he already signed. They obviously don’t want Marshall to become disgruntled, and they’re willing to spend some money to make sure he’s glad to be a Jet.

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Chris Canty has some advice for Marc Trestman

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Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty skipped the team’s OTA session on Friday, for a very good reason. He was hanging out with us, at the NBC Sports studio in Connecticut for Friday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN.

But while Canty was out of sight, the Ravens weren’t out of mind. He spoke with Paul Burmeister about various subjects relating to the team, including the new offense under Marc Trestman.

“I hope they don’t change it very much,” Canty said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Canty praised the balance from 2014, establishing the run and (most importantly for Canty) keeping the defense off the field. And Canty hopes that balance continues with Gary Kubiak gone and Marc Trestman in as the offensive coordinator.

“Please, Coach Trestman, don’t change a whole lot,” Canty said, laughing.

Ravens fans surely feel the same way, given that the offense in 2015 was good enough to get to the divisional round of the playoffs — and to twice build 14-point leads over the Patriots in their own building.

For all of Canty’s chat with Burmeister, click the thing in the thing under this thing.

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Lawyer claims Shembo didn’t mean to kill dog

Shembo Getty Images

Every criminal defendant has a lawyer, and every lawyer for every criminal defendant says the criminal defendant didn’t do it.

In the case of former Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo, then, his lawyer claims Shembo is innocent.

Froelich added that Shembo owns a dog, and that Shembo has never injured the dog.

It’s unclear whether the Christopher Moltisante defense will work for Shembo. On one hand, there were no witnesses to Shembo’s alleged crime. On the other hand, the injuries to the dog were extensive, which means that Shembo had better have a pretty good explanation for how those injuries happened.

Then there’s the fact that Shembo’s ex will testify that Shembo admitted to killing the dog. Shembo may claim that he said he killed the dog accidentally, which makes the dog owner’s testimony regarding what Shembo actually said and his demeanor while saying it critical.

Regardless, every criminal defendant in America is entitled to broad protections aimed at ensuring innocent people aren’t sent to jail. And plenty of guilty people have successfully taken advantage of those protections over the years.

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Rams’ picks are all unsigned, with financial counseling coming first

toddgurley AP

Most of this year’s NFL draft picks have already signed their contracts. But none of the Rams’ picks have.

That’s because the Rams’ policy is to give each player financial counseling before anyone signs a contract.

In each of the last two years, the Rams have signed all their picks en masse, after gathering the rookie class together and giving the players a course on financial management. Players are instructed on what the team calls “Financial Planning 101,” with information about how to invest and how not to go broke.

The Rams’ rookies will get signing bonuses of anywhere from $70,000 for seventh-round pick Martin Ifedi, all the way up to more than $8 million for first-round pick Todd Gurley. The Rams want to give those players the money they need to use that money wisely.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed upon in 2011 makes rookie contracts so straightforward that there’s little to negotiate, and little reason not to sign immediately. Except for the reason the Rams have found: Making sure players have some information about how to invest their money before they receive it.

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Matt Barkley: Tim Tebow’s an arm, he’s not taking my reps

tebow AP

When the Eagles signed Tim Tebow, fellow quarterback Mark Sanchez dismissed Tebow as a camp arm. Coach Chip Kelly disagreed.

Eagles third-string quarterback Matt Barkley agrees with Sanchez, suggesting that Tebow was brought in so the Eagles would have another guy to throw to the receivers after GJ Kinne switched from quarterback to wide receiver.

“He’s not taking my reps on the field,” Barkley said, via NJ.com. “He’s an arm we need for the team, with G.J. making the move to receiver. Tim’s just one of us. He’s trying to make the team just like we all are. It hasn’t effected my approach to how I feel the team thinks of me or how I’m going out to compete every day.”

But while the other quarterbacks seem to see Tebow as a camp arm, it’s up to Kelly, who insists that Tebow is on the team to be a quarterback.

And really, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to sign Tebow to be a camp arm because Tebow doesn’t have a good arm. Tebow’s strengths lie in his ability to improvise and make plays when things break down. If Kelly just wanted another passer to help work with the receivers in camp, he could have found a better passer than Tebow, who would have come with fewer distractions than Tebow. Kelly signed Tebow because sees something in Tebow’s potential to help the Eagles win in the fall, not just to work with the team in the summer.

Barkley should realize that because if Tebow makes the team, Barkley won’t.

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Kubiak wants Peyton practicing under center

peyton AP

In the latest sign that new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak will make significant changes to the offense, quarterback Peyton Manning has been spending his time under center at Organized Team Activities.

Kubiak said he knows Manning can run an offense in the shotgun, but he wants Manning to get work under center, and that’s the priority right now.

“That’s kind of the plan. We’re going to do that initially,” Kubiak said. “We know the other end of the stick (shotgun) is fine; that’s something that he’s been doing forever. So we’re going to spend a lot of time under center initially in our process and how we’re going to go about our teaching. We have a nine-day installation period that we have, so he’s going to be under [center] for a good three days before we move back, but he’s been very responsive, and he’s working extremely hard.”

Manning said he’s fine with making changes in Kubiak’s offense.

“Whatever they ask me to do, I feel like I can do it,” Manning said.

During his first three years in Denver, Manning was given free rein to run the show on the Broncos’ offense. But he won’t be given quite the same free rein this year. The Broncos are still Manning’s team. But even more, the Broncos are Kubiak’s team.

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Report: Chris Chester signs with Falcons

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Free-agent guard Chris Chester had lined up visits with the Falcons and Eagles. And he won’t be taking those visits.

Via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, Chester has signed with the Falcons. It’s a one-year, $2.8 million contract.

Washington released Chester earlier this week. In Atlanta, he’ll be reunited with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Chester signed with Washington in 2011, after five seasons with the Ravens. He started all 64 regular-season games in four seasons with D.C.

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Harbaugh “wouldn’t want any other quarterback” than “superstar” Flacco

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Is Joe Flacco elite? It’s a question that has become a punchline in some circles. And coach John Harbaugh seems to be ready to punch anyone who would ask that question.

Someone asked that question, with different and more words, during a Friday press conference. And Harbaugh defended Flacco aggressively.

Joe Flacco’s been a great quarterback from the day he got here,” Harbaugh said. “You wanna look back and say this has been the most talented offense in the NFL for the last seven years and they carried Joe Flacco, you can say that if you want, but it’s ridiculous. Joe Flacco is a great player, he’s only gonna get better. I think he’s hitting his stride, hitting the peak of his career. And I wouldn’t want any other quarterback in the National Football League. Period, end of story. So just write than and be done with it, because that’s the last I really want to hear about it.

“This guy is a superstar in the National Football League, and I’m thrilled to have him and I can’t wait to see what he does with all that young talent around him.”

They’ll need more young — and cheap — talent around Flacco in 2016, once his cap number shoots from $14.55 million to $28.55 million. With the head coach speaking of Flacco in such glowing terms, it’s going to be expensive to both knock down that cap number and to extend his stay indefinitely beyond the current season.

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NaVorro Bowman returns to team drills, doesn’t like knee brace

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With multiple inside linebackers surprisingly retired, the 49ers need to get Navorro Bowman back. And they’re moving closer toward doing just that.

Bowman returned to team drills on Friday, joining the 49ers for an OTA practice session more than 16 months after tearing an ACL in the NFC title game at Seattle.

“It’s great having him back out on the field,” coach Jim Tomsula said regarding Bowman on Friday. “Then also the road he’s traveled here in the last year and a half. It’s just awesome to have him out there and I think he’s really enjoying himself.”

Bowman’s not enjoying one thing — wearing a brace on his surgically-repaired knee.

“He is not, they are not friends,” Tomsula said of Bowman and his brace. “But, we really want him to wear it. Just why not, that’s all. And you know what, he’s doing great with it, he is. But, you know Bo. He’s something else, just pushing, pushing, pushing.”

Patrick Willis and Chris Borland called it a career after the 2014 season, making Bowman a key component of a defense that is squarely in transition, especially with defensive lineman Justin Smith retired, too.

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Browns’ offense appears to be moving on from Manziel

Manziel AP

Josh McCown is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback in Cleveland, to the extent that Johnny Manziel, a first-round pick of the Browns last year, appears to be largely an afterthought at Organized Team Activities.

After reporting on the first week of OTAs, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland describes Manziel as “a fish out of water” in the offense the Browns are installing. Grossi writes that the Browns don’t seem to be developing Manziel so much as they’re moving on from him.

At the practice the media were allowed to watch, Manziel seemed to eager to run and not confident enough in his passing. And Grossi reports that one source who witnessed another practice says Manziel was actually even worse in a session that the media didn’t see.

The bottom line is that 13 months after he was drafted, Manziel still hasn’t done anything to make the Browns think he’s ever going to be their franchise quarterback. McCown is the starter for now, and someone else will probably need to be found to be the long-term answer in the future.

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Brady appeal hearing set for June 23

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The deadline for setting Tom Brady’s appeal hearing came and went on Wednesday without a date being set. A date has now been set.

PFT has confirmed that the appeal hearing will commence on June 23, and that it will continue if necessary on June 25. The news was first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.

On Thursday, a source with knowledge of the situation told PFT that the NFL and NFL Players Association had agreed to extend the Wednesday deadline, and that the NFL had offered a pair of dates that weren’t ideal for the union. The NFLPA had responded with a pair of weeks that worked, and the NFLPA was waiting for the league to respond.

Brady and the NFLPA wanted the hearing to be conducted in June, in order to ensure that sufficient time will be available to go to court and challenge the outcome of the internal appeal process.

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