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PFT’s Week Four picks

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Getty Images

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have complained about the Monday night debacle.

After all, I picked the Seahawks to win by a point and, thanks to the replacement officials, Seattle won by two.  Since MDS picked the Pack, it allowed me to win the weekly contest with MDS by two, 9-7 versus 7-9.

Given the crazy, upside-down games from Week Three, I’ll take a winning record and run with it — as quickly as the Seahawks ran with their unwarranted win.

For the season, I’m now 27-21, and MDS is 26-22.

This week, we disagree on three games.  All 15 of our picks appear below.

Browns at Ravens

MDS’s take: Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has actually looked decent the last two weeks, after a disastrous Week One. But the Ravens’ defense will bring far too much heat for Weeden to handle. I look for Haloti Ngata to pound Weeden into the turf a few times on Thursday night.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 27, Browns 6.

Florio’s take:  The Browns are another close loss or two away from imploding completely.  They won’t have to worry about another close loss on Thursday night.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 31, Browns 13.

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: I still don’t believe the Panthers are as bad as they’ve looked this season, and that by the end of the year they could be fighting for a playoff spot. But Atlanta is the wrong place for the Panthers to try to get back on track.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 23, Panthers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Falcons have beaten the Panthers four straight times, scoring 31 points exactly in each game.  Atlanta could be on track to clinching the division by Thanksgiving.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 31, Panthers 14.

Patriots at Bills

MDS’s take: This is a fascinating game in the AFC East race, one that could establish the Bills as the favorites to win the division. I’ve been saying all year that the Bills have made the right moves to become playoff contenders this season, but I just think the Patriots, with their backs against the wall, are going to come out focused and ready to play their best game of the season.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Bills 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bills have beaten the Pats only once since the last time the Pats had a losing record.  Buffalo is moving in the right direction, but New England needs this one badly.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 30, Bills 23.

Vikings at Lions

MDS’s take: Another fascinating divisional game, as the Vikings have a real opportunity here to establish themselves as surprising contenders in the NFC North. However, I see far too many matchup advantages for the Lions’ receivers against the Vikings’ secondary.  Not just Calvin Johnson (who has a matchup advantage over every defensive back in the league) but also receivers Nate Burleson and Titus Young and tight end Brandon Pettigrew should be able to get open and get points on the board in Detroit.

MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Vikings 24.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have won three straight in the series, but the Vikings are gaining confidence,  The Lions continue to be more flawed than anyone realized.  Receiver Jerome Simpson returns from suspension in time to help the Vikings take advantage of Detroit’s biggest weakness.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Lions 16.

Titans at Texans

MDS’s take: The Texans are the best team in the AFC South by such a large margin that the question for me isn’t whether they’ll win the division but how quickly they’ll clinch. My guess is some time around Week 11. This win will be another step toward that.

MDS’s pick: Texans 34, Titans 10.

Florio’s take:  Yeah, I picked the Titans to win the division.  And if they upset the Texans on Sunday, the Titans will thrust themselves into the conversation.  And if they upset the Texans, it will mean that I picked this specific game incorrectly.  Despite last weekend’s epic in Nashville, the Titans aren’t nearly as good as I thought they’d be.  The Texans are much better than I thought they’d be.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 24, Titans 13.

Chargers at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Chiefs looked pretty good against the Saints on Sunday, and the Chargers looked pretty bad against the Falcons on Sunday. But I’m expecting the Chargers to win, in a game that I have a hunch will come down to special teams, where the Chargers will make plays and the Chiefs will make mistakes.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Chiefs 21.

Florio’s take:  One week often changes everything.  Last Sunday, the Chargers went from elite to “meh” status, and the Chiefs showed they’ve got some fight.  Home team gets the edge in this one, especially if Jamaal Charles saved some yards for Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 24, Chargers 22.

49ers at Jets

MDS’s take: If not for the injury to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, I’d be very tempted to pick the 49ers to lose their second straight road game. But that Revis injury is devastating to the Jets not only because it radically changes what they can do on defense, but also because while seeing players and coaches on the Jets talking this week, you could practically feel the entire locker room deflating at the loss of their best player. I think the Jets are going to come out looking very bad on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 27, Jets 14.

Florio’s take:  The difference between the 49ers defense and the Jets defense is that the 49ers didn’t put all their eggs in one island.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 20, Jets 13.

Seahawks at Rams

MDS’s take: The Seahawks don’t have any time to send thank-you notes to the league office for their gift on Monday night, because they’ve got a road trip to St. Louis on a short work week. I like the way Jeff Fisher’s defense is playing, and I think Russell Wilson will feel a lot of pressure, but Seattle’s defensive line will have Sam Bradford under pressure, and the Seahawks will win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 10, Rams 9.

Florio’s take:  Short week, significant travel, improving opponent, and guilty conscience add up to trouble for the Seahawks in St. Louis.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 14, Seahawks 12.

Dolphins at Cardinals

MDS’s take: It’s taken me a while to learn to believe in the Cardinals, but I’m there now. Which probably means they’re going to lose. But I’m picking them anyway.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 24, Dolphins 7.

Florio’s take:  This has the potential to be one of those early-season “correction” games.  But how can the Dolphins win if they can’t score any offensive touchdowns against once of the best defenses in the league?

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 17, Dolphins 6.

Bengals at Jaguars

MDS’s take: I loved the game Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden called on Sunday against the Redskins. Look for Bengals receiver A.J. Green to have another big day against the Jaguars.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 28, Jaguars 24.

Florio’s take:  It would be fitting for the Bengals, a week after finally winning a game they were supposed to lose, to lose a game they’re supposed to win.  But the Bengals are better than the Jaguars on both sides of the ball — and the Jaguars will have a hard time keeping up with a suddenly dynamic and diverse offense.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 24, Jaguars 14.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: It says something about what we’ve come to expect from Peyton Manning that he had 330 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers on Sunday against a very good Texans defense, and yet everyone is talking about how he’s just not the same. Playing a weak Raiders defense will result in Manning looking a lot better, and the Broncos improving to 2-2.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning won’t need much arm strength to move the ball against a defense that can’t do much to stop him.  Or anyone.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 27, Raiders 17.

Saints at Packers

MDS’s take: Raise your hand if you predicted these two teams would be a combined 1-5 heading into this game. I see the Packers’ problems as much more correctable than the Saints’ problems, and I see Aaron Rodgers having a big day against a shaky Saints defense.

MDS’s pick: Packers 27, Saints 17.

Florio’s take:  The Saints can thank the Seahawks and the replacement officials for what they’re about to endure.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 45, Saints 17.

Redskins at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Bucs have a bad offense and a good defense; the Redskins have a good offense and a bad defense. I like Tampa Bay’s defense to keep it close and the Redskins’ defense to give up a big play at the wrong time.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 14, Redskins 10.

Florio’s take:  That win over the Saints in New Orleans is looking less impressive by the week.  And the Bucs are better than their record would suggest.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 20, Redskins 16.

Giants at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles need to bounce back in a big way after laying an egg against the Cardinals. I think they’re going to, with Michael Vick finally making it through a game without a turnover.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 21.

Florio’s take:  Eagles coach Andy Reid does his best work when his back is against the wall.  And his back is already against the wall.  And he said just enough this week to put his quarterback’s back against the wall, too.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Giants 24.

Bears at Cowboys

MDS’s take: As impressive as the Bears’ defense has been, I think they’ll struggle with the explosiveness of Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who should have a huge game in a Dallas win.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 34, Bears 20.

Florio’s take:  If the Cowboys can keep Tony Romo in two or fewer pieces (factoring in the possibility of the partial loss of an ear), the Cowboys should win this one.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 26, Bears 17.

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Marshawn Lynch will be holding out

Marshawn Lynch AP

The Seahawks managed to coax running back Marshawn Lynch to show up for a mandatory minicamp amid concerns he would hold out.  Now, Lynch won’t be showing up for training camp.

Former teammate Michael Robinson, who’s currently working for NFL Network, said on the air moments ago that Lynch said he’ll hold out.

The move exposes Lynch to $30,000 per day in fines, along with (after five days) partial forfeiture of his $6 million signing bonus.

In 2012, Lynch signed a four-year, $30 million contract.  He’s due to earn $5.5 million in 2014, with a cap number of $7 million.

The move comes a day after the Chiefs bumped the 2014 pay of Jamaal Charles from $3.9 million to $8.3 million, via a two-year extension that puts him under contract for four years, $28 million.

Lynch’s holdout represents the first significant negative development for the defending Super Bowl champions, who gave long-term contracts in the offseason to safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.

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Browns may use Manziel in a specialty package

Manziel AP

For a guy who lived through the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow debacle in New York, Browns coach Mike Pettine doesn’t seem to be concerned about his quarterback competition in Cleveland becoming a potential two-man show.  In fact, it looks like that’s what Pettine wants.

During his interview with Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, Pettine said that the team is considering using Manziel as a Wildcat-style change-of-pace in his rookie year.

We’ve already talked about it,” Pettine said regarding the possibility of using both Manziel and Brian Hoyer in the same game.
“We’ve already installed elements of it in the spring.  We ran some of the zone-read stuff in practice and Kyle [Shanahan] incorporated some of the mobile quarterback elements of what he did in Washington.  We’re still going to go back to the beginning in pads, but as we get going, some of the stuff that’s more game-plan-specific that we don’t want to show, we might work on in our walk-throughs as opposed to a public practice.”

Pettine wisely didn’t point to the Sanchez-Tebow experiment as justification for doing it.

“That’s how Colin Kaepernick got his start in the NFL, as a package quarterback,” Pettine said of the former 49ers backup.  “On the other side of the ball, I’ve seen that give defenses some trouble.  I think there’s positives and negatives to it.  You’re taking your starter off the field.  You have his rhythm and continuity to take into account, but at the same time defensively you’re now forcing a team to basically come up with two game plans.  I mean, there are pluses and minuses to it and it’s something I’m sure will be discussed at some point.”

In theory, the Jets wanted Tebow because of the pressure that preparing for two quarterbacks puts on a defense.  And if former offensive coordinator Tony Sporano had any faith at all in Tebow, the Jets may have actually used him.

The Jets and Pettine nevertheless got a first-hand look at the challenge of dealing with two quarterbacks in September 2012, when Kaepernick rushed five time for 50 yards and a touchdown coming off the bench and showing the Jets how to properly employ a two-quarterback system.

If the Browns could pull it off, the dilution of the ability of the opposing defense to fully prepare for each guy could help both guys thrive.  The only downside is that, as Manziel has more and more success, more and more fans will be clamoring for him to be something other than a part-time player.

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Marcell Dareus passes physical

Marcell Dareus AP

Bills defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Alan Branch passed physicals on Thursday, per the NFL’s transactions.

By passing their physicals, Dareus and Branch are now cleared to practice. The 24-year-old Dareus failed a conditioning test last week and had been placed on the non-football injury list, while Branch was placed on the non-football illness list.

ESPN’s Field Yates first reported Dareus and Branch had passed physicals.

Dareus and Branch are key members of the Bills’ defensive line, with Dareus (7.5 sacks in 2013) a potential standout. However, off-field issues have been a concern with Dareus, the Bills’ 2011 first-round pick.

In other Bills roster moves, the club waived/injured first-year cornerback Brandon Smith and was awarded undrafted rookie center Jared Wheeler on waivers from Carolina. Wheeler is a Miami (Fla.) product.

The Bills are at the 90-player roster limit.

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Knowshon Moreno on PUP list, but “won’t be too long”

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Dolphins made a couple of procedural moves on Thursday, placing running back Knowshon Moreno and center Mike Pouncey on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Pouncey is a good bet to remain on that list into the regular season after having hip surgery that will reportedly keep him out for half the year. Pouncey can go on the regular season version of the PUP list, which will require him to miss practice for at least six weeks but he won’t count against Miami’s 53-man roster.

Moreno’s stay shouldn’t be that long. The veteran back had knee surgery during the offseason and coach Joe Philbin said his conditioning needed some work, but Philbin doesn’t think it will be long before Moreno is in the mix with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.

“Not full throttle 100% reps yet but won’t be too long,” Philbin said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

Moreno signed with the Dolphins after running for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, his best production in any of his five NFL campaigns. Doing the same without Peyton Manning running a high-powered passing game may be difficult, especially if any other issues cut into his ability to compete for playing time this summer.

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Ray Rice not expected to appeal suspension

Rice AP

By rule, Ravens running back Ray Rice has the right to appeal the two-game suspension and one-game fine imposed on him by Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the personal-conduct policy.  Per a league source, initial indications are that Rice will not appeal the ruling.

Since the appeal is handled by the person who made the decision in the first place, the chances of getting the discipline reduced are small.  Likewise, the strong media and fan reaction to the ban as being too lenient would shift more directly and forcefully to Rice if Rice were to fight a suspension that his G.M., Ozzie Newsome, has been criticized for calling “fair.”

Rice has three days to appeal, so he has a couple of nights to sleep on it.  Until a final answer comes, share your thoughts on whether the suspension went far enough.

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Antonio Gates practices a day after his sister died of lupus

Antonio Gates AP

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates missed much of the team’s offseason program while dealing with a family situation that unfortunately had a sad ending.

Gates’ sister Pamela died at the age of 22 on Wednesday after a long battle with lupus. Gates also flew home after games last season to spend time with his sister, but was with the Chargers at practice on Thursday. Gates explained that he enjoyed being back on the field with his teammates while dealing with what he called the toughest thing he’s faced in his life.

“It puts me at ease, with all the things I’ve had to deal with from my family’s standpoint and a personal standpoint,” Gates said, via ESPN.com. “This is where I’m comfortable at — competing and doing the things I’m accustomed to doing playing football. And it takes a lot off of your mind.”

Everyone at PFT wishes Gates and his family well while dealing with Pamela’s loss.

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Raiders will cut Kevin Burnett

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Burnett AP

The Raiders won’t have cornerback D.J. Hayden in the lineup for a while after foot surgery and they won’t have linebacker Kevin Burnett in the lineup at all.

Multiple reports from Raiders beat writers have the team parting ways with the veteran linebacker. Burnett missed a portion of the team’s spring work because of an ankle injury and Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com reports that he was never medically cleared to participate in practices this summer.

The Raiders signed Burnett to a two-year, $5.25 million deal before last season and Burnett started all 16 games for the team last year. He didn’t play particularly well and the Raiders will go with either Sio Moore or Miles Burris across from rookie Khalil Mack this season.

Burnett was a second-round pick in Dallas in 2005 and has played for the Chargers and Dolphins in addition to the Cowboys and Raiders. If he’s healthy, he could get a look from a team in need of an experienced hand on defense later this summer or during the season.

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Low preseason ranking ruffles feathers in South Florida

Dolphins Getty Images

Some of you were surprised to see that the average vote of the PFT staff placed the Dolphins at No. 31 on the preseason power rankings.  That group included Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

As explained by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Ross was sufficiently concerned about the placement to pick up the phone and call coach Joe Philbin, who apparently said something along the lines of, “Those guys don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“I don’t think he knows the guys in our looker room or the guys that come to work in this building every single day from top to bottom,” Philbin said to Salguero, with the “he” actually being the “we” who voted on the best to worst franchises entering the 2014 season.

While Philbin can get plenty of mileage in the locker room out of the lack of perceived respect inherent to the ranking, he actually should be glad that expectations are so low.  The lower the expectations, the easier it is for a coach to exceed them and, in turn, to remain the coach.

While reasonable minds may differ on whether the Dolphins currently sit below every NFL team not located in Oakland, there’s plenty of reason to think the Dolphins won’t take a step forward from last year’s 8-8 finish, which was punctuated by a pair of losses in winnable games.  The organization showed serious signs of dysfunction in the early portion of the offseason, via multiple reports creating the impression that G.M. Jeff Ireland lost a power struggle with V.P. of football administration Dawn Aponte, who had reportedly aligned with Philbin after Ireland reportedly tried to get Aponte fired.  The perception that no one wanted to succeed Ireland as the team’s G.M. bolstered the sense that things aren’t going so well in South Florida.

Then there’s the aftermath of the Jonathan Martin situation, with Richie Incognito gone but Mike Pouncey still there, showing signs that he really hasn’t learned anything from the experience and that he blames the controversy on the media.  The Dolphins looked the other way on Pouncey because Pouncey is one of the best centers in the league.  And of course he’s now out through at least the middle of the season after hip surgery.

When the Dolphins finished 27th in yardage and 26th points and allowed 58 sacks, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman took the fall.  Which means that his former pupil at Texas A&M, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, has to learn and adapt to a new offense.  Which may or may not work out.

Receiver Mike Wallace was a malcontent last year, his first after signing a big-money deal to jump from Pittsburgh to South Florida.  The offensive line is a work in progress at best, especially with Pouncey out.  And the defense, which finished in the bottom quarter of the league in points allowed but near the top 10 for yardage surrendered, has a long way to go before it can win games without much support from the offense.

So with no teams other than the Raiders standing out as having deep and profound deficiencies, it made sense to put the Dolphins behind the likes of the Titans, Jaguars (who should have been higher than 29, in my own assessment), the Bills, the Vikings, and the Buccaneers.  Ultimately, that’s the task for anyone who disagrees with the Dolphins at No. 31:  Point out a team other than the Raiders that is currently in worse overall shape.

Again, that’s good news for Philbin.  It gives him a way to get his players to affix a chip to their shoulders, and it gives him cover in the event the Dolphins don’t make it to the playoffs this year.  If they do — or even if they get close but don’t qualify — Philbin will have overcome major talent and organizational challenges that hopefully the organization led ultimately by Ross will be able to appreciate and reward.

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Floyd Reese: Fearing Al Davis, Bud Adams wanted to trade up with New Orleans for Vince Young

2006 NFL Draft Getty Images

It’s long been known the late Bud Adams coveted Vince Young in the 2006 NFL Draft.

And the Titans’ owner was even willing to trade up to get his man.

Via ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky, ex-Titans G.M. Floyd Reese recalled Thursday how badly Adams wanted Young, who had led Texas to the national title months earlier.

“The night before he draft, [Adams] goes, ‘You gotta call New Orleans and trade up,’” Reese remembered Thursday in an interview with 104.5 FM “The Zone” in Nashville.

The Titans held the No. 3 pick, while the Saints had the second overall choice. And as Reese recalled, Adams believed Raiders owner Al Davis had designs on trading into New Orleans’ spot.

Reese, as the former Titans’ executive told “The Zone” on Thursday, couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.

“I said, ‘WHAT?’” Reese recalled.

Adams, Reese said, insisted he check in with New Orleans and make an offer. And so the Titans’ G.M. did as he was told.

Now it was the Saints’ turn to be surprised.

“So I called ‘em and I said — and trading one spot — I said, ‘I need to trade with you guys, and I will give you a ‘two,’” Reese said. “They said, ‘A TWO?’ I said, ‘Yep, a two.’ They go, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘We want that spot.’”

Reese continued: “And he goes, ‘You know something we don’t.’ He goes, ‘We’re not going to trade.’”

Said Reese, concluding his story: “I laughed about that forever.”

In the end, the Saints took Reggie Bush second overall, and the Titans selected Young with the next pick. The Titans got their quarterback, and they didn’t have to give up a second-rounder.

And now, thanks to Reese, we have quite the footnote to add to the history of the 2006 NFL Draft.

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Raiders put D.J. Hayden on PUP list after foot surgery

D.J. Hayden AP

A number of teams might have been worried about D.J. Hayden’s heart scare prior to last year’s NFL Draft.

But Hayden’s biggest problem at the moment is all the other parts.

According to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, the Raiders cornerback suffered a stress fracture in his foot which had to be surgically repaired.

The surgery was done four weeks ago, and Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Hayden’s recovery was estimated at between four and eight weeks. For now, he’s on the active/physically unable to perform list.

That could well take him out of training camp altogether, which would be a blow for the team and last year’s 12th overall pick.

It’s a big setback,” veteran defensive back Charles Woodson said Wednesday, before it was known Hayden had surgery. “As I’ve said many times, the most important thing in this game is being out on the field. There’s only so much being in the film room and studying plays can do for you. It can only take you so far. You need to be out there. . . .

“Hopefully it’s not anything that’s going to hold him out the whole camp. Hopefully he doesn’t have to worry about being on a [physically unable to perform list] or anything like that. He’s a guy we feel can help us out around here. It has the potential to be a setback. Hopefully it’s not.”

After fighting through the heart injury which nearly killed him, and complications from an abdominal surgery last season, Hayden hardly needs any more hurdles.

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Charles gets $8.3 million guaranteed

Charles Getty Images

Omitted from the news regarding the new contract obtained by running back Jamaal Charles from the Chiefs was the amount of the four-year, $28 million contract that is guaranteed.

It was possibly omitted because it wasn’t an eye-popping number.

Per a league source, only the first year of the deal is guaranteed, which it would have been as of Week One of the regular season anyway.  The total amount is $8.3 million, a dramatic increase in the $3.9 million Charles was due to earn in 2014.

Nothing beyond 2014 is guaranteed.  So if the Chiefs were to cut Charles after this season, he’d hit the market with $8.3 million in his pocket from the upcoming season.

Charles probably could have given up some of the total dollars in exchange for getting some injury-only guarantees in future years.  But why bother?  The money only gets paid in the event of a serious injury.  For what the player would have to sacrifice by way of salary, it makes more sense in some situations to simply buy a disability policy.

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Griffin takes another shot at the Shanahans

Griffin AP

Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has made little effort to conceal something that should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the team — Griffin and former coach Mike Shanahan and former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan didn’t see eye to eye.

Last month, Griffin applauded the absence of “ulterior motives” in the organization this year.  On Thursday, Griffin took a more direct, but still passive-aggressive, dig at the Shanahans, when asked by reporters about Griffin’s supposed inability to read defenses.

“You don’t go from the ability to read defenses one year and not have that ability the next, so I don’t believe that one bit,” Griffin said.  “And it’s really just a good thing to have two coaches that believe in you.  Sean and Jay have done a great job.  They’ve given me a lot on my shoulders in that quarterback room and I cherish that.  You want to be asked to do more or just to do the bare minimum.”

The comments imply that the Shanahan didn’t “believe” in Griffin, and that they wanted him to do “the bare minimum” when running the offense.

Then again, the latter observation could be a reflection of Kyle Shanahan’s approach to the quarterback position, given that past pupils like Rex Grossman have described Kyle as wanting the quarterback to run the offense precisely the way Shanahan wants it to be run, with limited discretion or thought on the part of the quarterback.  It’ll be interesting to see whether Kyle Shanahan insists on that kind of structure from his latest pupil, the man named Johnny Football who plays some of his best football when the predetermined plan has landed in the johnny.

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Aldon Smith says he’s remained sober, expects to meet with Goodell soon

Aldon Smith AP

With word of Ravens running back Ray Rice’s two-game suspension being announced on Thursday, we may be drawing closer to learning what kind of discipline the league has in store for 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith.

Smith pleaded no contest to three weapons charges and a DUI this offseason and reports were that he’d meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell soon to discuss his situation. On Thursday, Smith confirmed, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, that he expects to have a meeting with Goodell soon but that no date has been set yet.

Barrows also reports that Smith said he has remained sober since checking into a rehab facility after being arrested for DUI last September. Smith missed five games while in rehab, something Goodell said could be a factor in any penalty that is ultimately handed down.

The sobriety may also help persuade Goodell to opt for lesser discipline, but Smith has racked up enough negatives that it would be surprising if he’s in the 49ers lineup for the first few weeks of the regular season.

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Mike Priefer: I’ve learned a hard lesson

Minnesota Vikings Media Access Getty Images

The Vikings suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer last Friday night after an investigation into claims by the team’s former punter Chris Kluwe that Priefer made homophobic remarks while speaking to the team.

Priefer made his first public comments about the suspension, which is for three games with the potential to go down to two games after Priefer completes sensitivity training, and said he made a mistake that went “way below the bar” by making the remarks. Priefer reiterated the apology that he made on Friday and said he’s learned a lesson.

“I’m not going to change the way I coach and I’m not going to change the way I teach,” Priefer said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “But I’ve learned a lesson. I have learned a lesson here. That’s a great thing about this situation, I’m going to look back and say something good had to come from this. But I learned a hard lesson, I’ve got to be sensitive to other people in what I say and that’s not going to happen again.”

Priefer didn’t go into specific detail about what he said and will undergo sensitivity training during the first week of the regular season. General Manager Rick Spielman indicated that the team considered firing Priefer, but thought a suspension was more appropriate. Coach Mike Zimmer said he stands behind Priefer because he’s a good person that made a mistake.

“We all make mistakes,” Zimmer said. “We all try to learn from our mistakes. And I think this guy is a very high-character, quality person that I want to stand behind. Honestly, I want to stand behind him because I know what is inside of him, I know what’s in his heart. And he made a mistake, and if anyone here hasn’t made a mistake, I want you to raise your hand, because I know I’ve made plenty.”

Kluwe and the Vikings are working toward a settlement that would avoid a lawsuit from Kluwe alleging wrongful discharge and defamation of character. Should that happen, Priefer and the team will be closer to fulfilling Priefer’s desire to “move on” from the investigation.

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Pierre-Paul says he’s “110 percent,” thinks he’ll remain with Giants past 2014

Jasn Pierre-Paul AP

After going 7-9 last season, there are several Giants veterans on the spot heading into the 2014 season.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is right at the top of that list. Pierre-Paul battled injuries early and late while putting forth performances far below the standard he set on the way to a Super Bowl title in 2011, leading him to call it a “lost year” on Thursday. Getting Pierre-Paul back to form is big for a team that doesn’t have many proven pass rushers and it’s big for Pierre-Paul as well.

He’s entering the final year of his contract and what was once assumed to be a big extension is less certain after Pierre-Paul’s poor 2013. The defensive end says he’s “110 percent” now, though, and expects to remain with the team.

“I’m not gonna lie,” Pierre-Paul said, via the New York Post. “Seeing Tuck gone, it’s on my mind a little bit. I think I’m going to be here next year. Honest. Because I know how I play and I know what kind of game I bring.”

Listing the players who are 110 percent or in the best shape of their lives heading into training camp would take most of the month, so such statements should always be taken with an oversize grain of salt. Pierre-Paul has to produce once the whistle blows or his future, Giants or otherwise, is going to be a lot dimmer than it was 12 months ago.

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