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Sunday night wrap-up: 49ers kicking it old school

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The handshake was anti-climactic, a civil exchange that wouldn’t have been worth mentioning without the context.

It was the bludgeoning Jim Harbaugh’s guys gave Jim Schwartz’s on the field that made this one noteworthy.

The 49ers pounded the Lions into submission in prime time, sending a message that they’re still going to win games by being more physical than your side.

The 49ers ran for 148 yards in a 27-19 win over the Lions, with Frank Gore looking like a young man again and pacing the offense.

They also held a potent offense to four Jason Hanson field goals for the meaningful 58 minutes, bullying the Lions at the line of scrimmage.

It’s become fashionable to say it’s a passing league, as if minimizing old ways takes away their effectiveness. But the two most dominant-looking teams of the day were the 49ers and the Texans, who get it done in the old style.

You might not want to watch it every week, but when it’s executed well, it’s still an impressive thing to watch.

Here are five more things we learned on Sunday Night Football:

1. Alex Smith has grown beyond being compared to a Trent Dilfer-style handler, whose only job is to not screw it up.

He makes plays occasionally, and he even bled for good measure. Those third-down conversions late were beautifully designed and beautifully executed.

But the beauty of Smith in this offense isn’t what he does, it’s what they don’t bother asking him to do, and him being OK with that.

He’s got an average arm, but makes up for it by throwing (and not throwing) at the right time.

He’s a prime example of the fit being more important than the talent, and he and Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman fit together perfectly.

They could do different things with a better player, but Smith has also grown to the point where they’re able to work with him.

2. The Lions are missing something on offense.

It’s easy to pin it on suspended running back Mikel Leshoure, who will return next week.

But if not him, it needs to be someone. They need some degree of balance, and the cast of characters they’re using at the moment (Kevin Smith, Joique Bell) aren’t getting it done.

Leshoure would probably suffice. In a perfect world, they could use him in tandem with Jahvid Best, still on the PUP list because of his post-concussion issues. Best’s ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield would be especially useful on third down, where the Lions struggled so much early.

3. Harbaugh can talk about No. 1 receivers all he wants. It’s his fullbacks and tight ends that make his offense go.

Vernon Davis is a matchup nightmare, and not just for the Lions. I’m not sure (short of a young Dennis Rodman) who is capable of covering this guy.

But Delanie Walker’s role as the move tight end/fullback shouldn’t be overlooked.  He doesn’t turn up in box scores often, but he’s excellent at rooting out linebackers.

He had a number of tooth-rattling blocks that made Frank Gore look faster than he really is, and rarely gets mention. Consider this a small step toward catching up.

4. Speaking of which, Randy Moss gets a lot of credit from opposing defensive backs. Why is another question.

He had four catches for 47 yards and a score last week, one for 14 against the Lions.

This isn’t the Moss that can knock the top off a defense, but they sure play him that way when he’s on the field.

5. Matt Stafford is a very good quarterback.

Matt Stafford threw some very bad balls.

His first half pick was quacking before Dashon Goldson got his hands on it, and he threw a few in the dirt as well. He also locks onto Calvin Johnson to the exclusion of other targets.

Maybe it was windy, or maybe the 49ers forced him to look more erratic than he actually is. Either way, he did not leave this one looking good.

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Colts agree to terms on extension for long snapper Matt Overton

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The Indianapolis Colts announced Tuesday they have agreed to terms on a contract extension with long snapper Matt Overton.

While the team didn’t announce the length of the contract, Overton tweeted he’ll be with the Colts the next four years. Overton was going to be a restricted free agent upon the start of the new league year next week. His new contract should run through 2018.

Overton has played in all 48 games over the first three years of his career with 22 tackles on special teams.

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McCoy-for-Alonso swap would be a rare, fascinating NFL transaction

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It feels like a baseball trade. That’s how the proposed swap of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso feels.

It feels distinctly un-NFL.

Such player-for-player, big-contract-for-little-contract deals just don’t happen in the NFL. They’re baseball things. You know the drill: Team A acquires a veteran for the stretch run and sends young, untested, cheaper players to Team B.

Yes, NFL teams are willing to give out big deals. However, because the vast bulk of the money in those deals is not guaranteed, few teams are willing to take them secondhand. They are tailored financial instruments that generally just fit one team and one team only.

Instead, most clubs act as vultures, waiting for highly paid players to be released before swooping in to show interest, usually offering less money than the player received previously. It is logical economic behavior, but the rhythm of the dance is tedious.

But here we have the Bills reportedly showing significant interest in McCoy, who’s due $9.75 million in salary in 2015, $6.9 million in salary in 2016 and $7.6 million in salary in 2017, per NFLPA records. That’s the epitome of a splash trade.

On the other hand, the Eagles could be set to get significant salary-cap relief. A third-year pro from Oregon, Alonso is due about $1.7 million in combined salary over the next two seasons.

Some will praise the Eagles for their fiscal responsibility. Others will cheer on the Bills for swinging for the fences for McCoy, who doesn’t turn 27 until July.

Some will compare this proposed deal to the 2004 swap that sent cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick to Denver and running back Clinton Portis to Washington. However, in that case, both players got new contracts from the trading clubs. That’s unlikely to happen here. The Eagles would have ample reason to let Alonso — who’s coming off an ACL tear — play out at least the next year of his deal. And McCoy surely doesn’t figure to get more money if he’s dealt. At best, he’ll keep what he has.

Nevertheless, the Bills are set to take on quite a bit of money — on paper, about $24 million in salary, per NFLPA data. That doesn’t happen often in pro football trades, and it’s unlikely to be a common occurrence. (On Twitter, veteran agent Mike McCartney expressed surprise the Eagles were able to potentially move McCoy, given his high 2015 salary-cap number.)

But the Bills’ outside-the-box deal-making intrigues. As the salary cap goes up, teams with an an abundance of cap space may have greater ability to take on big existing deals for the right player. Also, draft picks are more valuable than ever under the existing rookie wage scale, making them perhaps tougher with which for clubs to part. Perhaps a few more player-for-player deals could allow clubs to fill needs and create financial flexibility.

Hey, maybe the Bills and Eagles are on to something.

Whatever the case, this sure was something.

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Dallas County D.A. has Wal-Mart police report

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Last week, former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said he had “no knowledge” of any incident at a Lancaster, Texas Wal-Mart on July 11, 2011 involving Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.  As it turns out, someone in his office does and/or did.

In response to a Texas Public Information Act request sent by PFT to the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, Assistant D.A. Laura Anne Coats forwarded on Tuesday a copy of the same incident report that the Lancaster Police Department previously sent to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

There’s one key difference in the version obtained by NFL Media and the version sent to PFT.  The version obtained by NFL Media, transmitted with a cover letter dated February 17, 2015, indicates that it was printed by the Lancaster Police Department that same day.  The version submitted to PFT by the Dallas County District Attorney reveals that it was printed on August 7, 2012 by the Lancaster Police Department, more than a year after the incident but still more than two years ago — while Watkins was still the District Attorney.

“Because there was no arrest and no complainant, the incident never comes to the District Attorney’s office,” Watkins told Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan last week.

But the incident did indeed come to the Dallas County District Attorney, on or about August 7, 2012.  If it hadn’t, the District Attorney’s office never would have had a copy of the incident report from the Lancaster Police Department printed on that date.  The question becomes whether the District Attorney has anything else relating to the incident; a second request under the Texas Public Information Act for additional, specific information regarding the incident and any investigation has been prepared and sent to the Dallas County District Attorney.

For now, it’s clear the incident that appeared to be a faint, open-and-shut blip on the Lancaster, Texas radar screen somehow made its way to the ultimate law enforcement authority in all of Dallas County, which at last count had a population of 2.48 million.

While no video of the incident has emerged, it remains difficult to believe no video existed, especially since Wal-Mart routinely secures its many retail properties with surveillance cameras.  It also remains difficult to understand the decision of the responding officer not to immediately enter the Wal-Mart security office after someone reported that a woman was pulled and dragged from a car registered to Bryant but the alleged victim then claimed that she wasn’t “injured or assaulted in any way.”

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Josh McCown discusses his decision to join the Browns

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After quarterback Josh McCown somewhat surprisingly was cut by the Buccaneers, he joined PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss the situation.  After McCown somewhat surprisingly decided to join the Browns, he returned to PFT Live to talk about the situation.

McCown address his decision, how close he came to joining the Bills, whether he has spoken to Johnny Manziel (McCown hasn’t), and whether McCown got an advance look at the team’s new uniforms before putting pen to paper (he didn’t).

To hear the whole thing, click the thing in the thing below.

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Reports: Ted Ginn visiting Titans, 49ers

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Free agent receiver Ted Ginn has two more visits lined up.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Ginn visited the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday. Ginn will then head west for a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

The Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns have also expressed interest in Ginn.

Ginn was released by the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 23.

Ginn caught just 14 passes for 190 yards in his only season in Arizona while primarily contributing as a return specialist. He played for the 49ers from 2010-12 and the Panthers in 2013.

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Zimmer will make pitch to Peterson on Wednesday

Zimmer AP

Twelve days ago, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made during< em>PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio the pitch he’d present to running back Adrian Peterson, if Zimmer had the chance to do so.  On Wednesday, Zimmer finally gets that chance.

Via Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Zimmer and G.M. Rick Spielman will fly to Houston on Wednesday to meet with Peterson.  Last week’s ruling in Peterson’s federal-court challenge to his suspension, coupled with the league’s decision to return Peterson to the Commissioner-Exempt list, authorizes the face-to-face meeting.

On Monday, Spielman told reporters that the Vikings have been in contact with Peterson.

Peterson has expressed lingering concern about returning to Minnesota. His father, Nelson, recently confirmed reports that Peterson believes Vikings executive Kevin Warren worked with the NFL to keep Adrian away from the field in the 2014 season, even after Peterson resolved his criminal child-abuse case by pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges.

Ultimately, money will become a major factor, with the Vikings presumably willing and able to pay Peterson more than anyone else would — especially since a new team also would have to compensate the Vikings. The more Peterson is worth financially, the more he’s presumably worth in trade.

Zimmer’s PFT Live appearance from Indy, including the pitch he’d make to Peterson, appears below.

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C.J. Spiller says Bills informed him of LeSean McCoy deal

C.J. Spiller AP

As news broke that Buffalo had a deal in place to acquire Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, Bills running back C.J. Spiller was at NFL Network studios. And as Spiller related on Tuesday’s “NFL Total Access,” NFLN analyst Willie McGinest was the first to tell him of the trade.

Soon enough, though, the Bills were on the phone with Spiller to tell him they had made the deal — a move that all but ends Spiller’s career with Buffalo.

“[McGinest] walked in and said, ‘Did ya’ll hear that Kiko’s getting traded to the Eagles for Shady?’ ” Spiller said. “And to me, I thought he was joking, like just trying to play a joke on me, because he’s a Patriot, and I was a former Bill.

“But then, he put it on TV, and I seen it, and then probably about five minutes later, management called me and told me that they (were) going in that direction, and pretty much giving me a ‘Thank you for your services.’ ”

Spiller was then asked how he felt about the prospect of going into free agency in search of a new team.

“My feeling is still the same. Nothing’s changed,” Spiller said. “The gameplan’s still the same. The only thing is that I won’t be returning to Buffalo.”

Spiller indicated he was open to returning to the Bills, but the sixth-year pro said he understood players often have to change teams.

“Very few guys get to play (their) whole career at one team, but you know, unfortunately, that don’t happen in this business, and I found out today that that don’t happen in this business,” the 27-year-old Spiller said, smiling as he finished his thought and handling the moment about as well as anyone possibly could, given the circumstances.

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Rosenhaus: Eagles say no LeSean trade yet

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In response to the report that the Eagles will ship running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, agent Drew Rosenhaus contends that the deal isn’t done yet.

“I just spoke with the Eagles organization and there is no trade for LeSean at this time,” Rosenhaus said on Twitter.  “There have been discussions but nothing finalized.”

Nothing can be finalized until Tuesday, March 10 at 4:00 p.m. ET.  So the information the Eagles provided to Rosenhaus is correct, even if the two teams have struck a deal in principle.

Even if an agreement has been reached between the two teams, either side can back out.  If McCoy makes it clear that he’s not on board with the deal, the Bills may not want him.  So, basically, stay tuned.

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Report: Eagles, Bills swapping LeSean McCoy, Kiko Alonso

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As it turns out, the Eagles didn’t approach running back LeSean McCoy regarding a possible pay cut because the Eagles had other plans for McCoy.  Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Eagles will trade McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The agreement can’t be finalized until the start of the new league year, next Tuesday.  In theory, either side can back out until the clock strikes 4:00 p.m. ET  on March 10 and the paperwork is submitted.

It’s unclear whether other compensation will be involved.  For now, it appears to be a straight-up deal, player for player.

McCoy is due to earn $10.25 million in 2015.  Alonso, a second-round pick in 2013 who missed all of 2014 due to an offseason ACL tear, is due to earn a base salary of only $745,000.

Despite a slow start last season, McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards.  It’s unclear whether the Bills will attempt to restructure or extend his contract.  It’s also unclear whether McCoy will welcome the change of scenery from Philly to Buffalo.

The move underscores the willingness of the Bills to spend big in an effort to parlay their 9-7 finish in 2014 into the team’s first playoff appearance since 1999.  From Philly’s perspective, the trade makes it abundantly clear that coach Chip Kelly runs the show — and that there are no sacred cows.  Last year, DeSean Jackson got the heave-ho; this year, LeSean McCoy gets a one-way ticket out of town.

It also reunites Alonso with the man who recruited him to Oregon.  Which will serve only to fuel speculation that Kelly plans to do whatever it takes to get the quarterback he recruited to Oregon.

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Titans awarded outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi on waivers

Jonathan Massaquoi AP

The Titans are taking a flyer on a pass rush prospect.

Tennessee has been awarded ex-Falcons defensive end/outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi on waivers, the team said Tuesday.

A fourth-year pro from Troy, Massaquoi recorded 70 tackles and six sacks in his first three seasons with Atlanta. He’s under contract for one more season at $660,000 in salary, per NFLPA records.

All things considered, the 26-year-old Massaquoi couldn’t have landed in a much better spot even if he had picked it. The Titans are not deep at outside linebacker, and starter Derrick Morgan is slated to test unrestricted free agency.

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Raiders cut Tyvon Branch

Tyvon Branch, Benson Mayowa AP

The Raiders have officially let go of one of their homegrown defensive starters.

The club announced the release of safety Tyvon Branch on Tuesday. His impending departure was first reported last week by Jason La Canfora of CBS.

Branch was due $5.5 million in salary in 2015, according to the NFLPA.

An eight-year pro from Connecticut, Branch has played his entire career with the Raiders, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. His market could be tied to whether he can convince clubs that any durability concerns are a thing of the past. He does not turn 29 until December, which could play in his favor.

Branch started the 2014 season on a tear, notching 30 tackles in his first three games. However, a broken foot suffered in the Raiders’ Week Three loss at New England ended his season. The previous year, Branch had been limited to just two games with a broken leg.

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Eagles will cut Trent Cole

Trent Cole AP

Trent Cole is on the way out of Philadelphia.

The Eagles had been hoping to get Cole to take a pay cut, but that hasn’t happened. Now Cole is expected to be released within the next 24 hours, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.

Cole is a good pass rusher who has 14.5 sacks in the last two seasons, but with his cap number scheduled to be $11.6 million this season, it’s no surprise that the Eagles felt like that was more than they could justify spending.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who has been given full control of all personnel decisions, clearly wants to get rid of the aging and expensive veterans on the roster. Todd Herremans and Cary Williams have all been sent packing, and now Cole is on the way out as well.

Kelly is clearing plenty of cap space. He may have plans to make a splash when free agency begins next week.

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Report: Greg Hardy to meet with league on Wednesday

Greg Hardy AP

Last week, the NFL said that defensive end Greg Hardy can’t be reinstated to active duty because he hasn’t been disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy and therefore can’t be reinstated from a suspension.

That’s true, but it’s not quite the entire story. Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list while the league looks into last year’s arrest on domestic violence charges, however, and would like to have that rectified with free agency starting on March 10.

Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that Hardy will have a meeting with the league in New York on Wednesday in an effort to do that. While the Panthers have reportedly made the decision to move on without Hardy, there will surely be other teams interested in his services and a clear idea of his availability will just as surely impact the offers they make to secure his services.

A judge found Hardy guilty last July, but Hardy appealed and the case against him was dismissed when his accuser failed to appear for a jury trial last month. The NFL requested court files from the bench trial as part of their own investigation, but were rebuffed and they would need to get the transcript of the trial directly from Hardy’s attorney.

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Cam Newton was on stage moments before gunfire at private party

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s no stranger to near-misses lately.

But after suffering two broken bones in his back in a car wreck in downtown Charlotte late last season, he was close to another potential tragedy over the weekend.

According to WSOC in Charlotte, Newton was on stage in a downtown nightclub moments before shots were fired Saturday night.

Newton was at the nightclub Label (and was photographed with Young Jeezy) moments before gunfire rang out during a party which coincided with the CIAA basketball tournament.

Newton was on stage during the private party, but quickly ducked for cover when the shots inside the club were heard.

Two people suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting, and no arrests have been made.

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Toronto Argonauts sign ex-Bengals RB Bernard Scott

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A former Bengals and Ravens running back is headed to the Canadian Football League.

The Toronto Argonauts have signed Bernard Scott, a five-year NFL veteran. The club announced the move on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Scott rushed for 1,059 yards and five touchdowns on 249 carries in his stints with the Bengals (2009-2012) and Ravens (2013).

Scott is one of four running backs currently listed on Toronto’s roster, with former Texans back Steve Slaton another notable name in the backfield.

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