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Week Four power rankings

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

1. Texans (five first-place votes):  On Monday night, Jets fans will witness “ground and pound” in a very different way than they ever envisioned.

2. Falcons:  The road to the Superdome will be going through the Georgia Dome.

3. Ravens:  A showdown with the Texans is inching closer and closer.  Contusions are likely.

4. 49ers:  Maybe they should have built that new stadium in Youngstown.

5. Cardinals:  Only one stat matters.  Points scored vs. points allowed.

6. Patriots:  The offense finally has found the accelerator.  And the pedal is pressed to the metal.

7. Packers:  The offense is getting closer to finding the accelerate.  And the pedal will be pressed to the metal.

8. Bears:  In Jay Cutler’s defense, there’s a good chance Mike Tice ripped one before sitting on the bench.

9. Eagles:  This year, Fly, Eagles Fly! will depend on their ability to Run, Eagles Run!

10. Giants:  If we’re going to worship Eli Manning every time he pulls out a late win, we need to at least mention when he fails.

11. Broncos:  If torching the Raiders means Peyton Manning is Peyton Freaking Manning, then Ryan Tannehill is Dan Freaking Marino.

12. Vikings:  Unlike last year, the Vikings know how to build a lead — and how to hold a lead.

13. Bengals:  This team can go as far as A.J. Green can take them, which is potentially very far.

14. Chargers:  Norv Turner finally realizes how ridiculous he sounded when talking about making Ryan Mathews a workhorse.

15. Rams:  From Cortnoris to Legatron, the Rams are leading the NFC West in great nicknames.

16. Seahawks:  The team that rounds out the top half of the rankings is technically in last place in its division.

17. Bills:  G.M. Buddy Nix said in August that the Patriots don’t scare him.  (Sometimes, there’s no need for a punchline.)

18. Steelers:  There’s a chance this team simply isn’t as good as they think they are.

19. Cowboys:  Tony Romo tabled contract talks so it wouldn’t become a distraction.  If he hadn’t, maybe he would have thrown eight interceptions on Monday night.

20. Redskins:  A dramatic ending doesn’t completely obscure the collapse that preceded it.

21. Panthers:  A team that has nothing to lose can’t afford to play like it has something to lose.

22. Jets:  A team that has everything to lose is playing like it’s already lost everything.

23. Buccaneers:  A team that loses 13 of 14 games shouldn’t be surprised when it loses customers.

24. Titans:  Losing Jake Locker for a few weeks could help the guy who lost his job to Locker win it back.

25. Lions:  The losing likely will continue for the Lions.

26. Colts:  Regardless of team allegiance, every NFL fan should be a Chuck Pagano fan.

27. Chiefs:  The Brady Quinn era finally could be coming.  Don’t blink.

28. Saints:  The scoreboard says World 4, Saints 0.

29. Jaguars:  So when does that train leave the station again?

30. Dolphins:  But for that collapse against the Cardinals, the Fins would be in a four-way tie for first place.

31. Raiders:  The fact that they somehow beat the Steelers is the only thing keeping the Raiders out of the basement.

32. Browns:  Maybe Jimmy Haslam now hopes he isn’t approved to become the team’s owner.

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Unnamed scout on Kevin White: “He’s like Larry Fitzgerald”

TCU West Virginia Football AP

West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White is just about a lock to hear his name called in the first round of next week’s draft, with all but the matter of whether he’ll be the first player at his position to be taken to be decided.

In his latest mock draft, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris projected the Mountaineers star to come off the board at No. 7 to Chicago, calling White one of “a handful of foundation pieces in this draft.”

As a senior at West Virginia, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound White hauled in 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. He then proceeded to run an impressive 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

White also received some high praise in Nolan Nawrocki’s 2015 NFL Draft Preview. In White’s scouting report, Nawrocki quoted an unnamed scout who called the West Virginia receiver “the top player in the East hands down.”

Said the unnamed scout: “He is the reason they are in every game. He’s like Larry Fitzgerald.”

On PFT Live in March, White said Fitzgerald, the Cardinals’ star receiver, had given him good advice about competing in the NFL.

“He’s kind of like my mentor, somebody that I look up to that’s in the NFL,” White said.

The No. 3 overall pick 11 years ago, Fitzgerald has had a stellar career, one that figures to garner him serious Hall of Fame consideration. If White is in the same ballpark as Fitzgerald in terms of impact, some club is going to be very happy to have turned in a card with his name on it next Thursday in Chicago.

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Winston initially kept crab leg incident from Harbaugh, Fisch

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The primary headline this week regarding quarterback Jameis Winston arose from his about-face regarding the notion that he shoplifted crab legs from a grocery store in 2014.  Setting aside for now the question of whether Winston’s latest version of the events is accurate (Deadspin has made a persuasive case that it isn’t), there’s more to the story.

Specifically, there’s more to the story of how the story emerged.  Specifically, Winston initially omitted the story about the crab legs when generally asked about getting in trouble in the past.

In the episode of ESPN’s Draft Academy during which Winston provided an alternative version of the crab-leg caper, Winston and quarterback Bryce Petty met with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch as part of the preparation process for interviews at the Scouting Combine.

Harbaugh at one point asked Winston, “Any discipline when you were in high school?”

“Yes sir,” Winston said.  “I was disciplined for one game against John Carroll for laughing at my coach ’cause he cried, and he felt that I disrespected him.”

“What about in college?” Harbaugh said.

“In college, I got disciplined for a game against Clemson for standing up on a table and saying something wrong,” Winston said.  “That’s the only time I got disciplined in college.”

“Any encounters with the police?” Harbaugh said.

Winston then explained the incident involving a BB gun fight while hunting squirrels.

“The police had rolled up on us and thought I had an assault rifle,” Winston said.

Winston said nothing about the crab legs, for which he was cited for shoplifting and suspended from the Florida State baseball team.  Fisch pointed out the failure to mention the crab legs, and Winston reacted as if he’d forgotten about it.

“That’s like the elephant in the room for you,” Fisch said.  “I mean, everyone’s going to want to know what happened.  So don’t like by accident only talk about the BB gun and your high school coach crying and forget about the fact that everybody on SportsCenter read about that incident.  Because then it looks like you’re covering it up or you’re hiding it.”

“I screwed up, I f–ked up,” Harbaugh suggested as a quick way to deal with the situation.  “I f–ked up, learned from it.  You know, be serious as a heart attack.”

Then the alternative story emerged.

“How am I supposed to handle like if I just got them for free?” Winston said.

And that’s when Winston offered up the same version that he undoubtedly later gave to anyone from the NFL who asked him the question at the Scouting Combine or elsewhere.

For teams that already have decided that they’re comfortable with Winston, this surely won’t change their minds.  For teams that already have decided they’re not, it definitely won’t.  But for anyone still on the fence, maybe it will have an impact.

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Ray Rice tells Rutgers football players to “not make the mistakes that I made”

Navy v Rutgers Getty Images

Before Rutgers held its spring football game Friday night, a prominent former Scarlet Knights star addressed the team:

Ray Rice.

Rice, the former Ravens running back who has been out of the NFL since being released by the Ravens in September, told Steve Politi of New Jersey Advance Media he wanted to give the current Rutgers players some life advice.

“I just shot them straight. I’m sure if you speak to them, they’ll give you a lot better explanation of what I told them, but I gave them the message to go out there and not make the mistakes that I made,” Rice told Politi. “If I can help them understand, then I’ve made an impact. It costs no money to give them a good message like that.”

Rice was released by Baltimore after video surfaced of him striking his now-wife in an Atlantic City elevator. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who asked Rice to talk to his players, told New Jersey Advance Media the former star running back had some valuable knowledge to share.

” . . . Ray made the wrong decision, and he’s held himself accountable to it, and he’s paid the price for it, and I thought today was an opportunity for him to deliver a message to try to prevent one of our young people doing that in the future,” Flood told Politi.

Rice rushed for nearly 5,000 yards in just three seasons at Rutgers and is the school’s all-time leading rusher.

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Irsay says it’s not “Super Bowl or bust” for Pagano

Irsay Getty Images

Last month, a report emerged that the Colts and coach Chuck Pagano aren’t expected to strike a new deal before the final year of his contract expires.  Owner Jim Irsay has remained silent, fueling speculation that Pagano could be on the outs if the team doesn’t get to the Super Bowl.

Irsay has finally addressed the situation, opting to downplay the situation.

“These things are ongoing a lot of times behind the scenes,” Irsay said Friday night at a charity gala to support Pagano’s efforts to raise funds to fight cancer, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star.  “We’re working on contracts, whether it’s management, coaches, players.  We had discussions and it doesn’t mean that they won’t continue.  It’s not a Super Bowl-or-bust season or anything like that.”

Irsay’s comments leave the door open for a new deal before the season begins.

“Really, it’s only been two years, kind of, that he’s been coaching,” Irsay said, referring to the fact that Pagano missed most of his first year with the team while fighting cancer.  “So, he’s done a very good job and nothing rules out that we couldn’t have an extension done before the season.  And if not, we can still, I’m sure, work things out.”

Irsay said talks already have occurred regarding a new contract.  And Irsay seemed to blame the lack of a new contract on Pagano’s agent.

“There were some efforts to talk about it,” Irsay said.  “We just didn’t get there.  Sometimes that happens.  If you go back to the old days, there were no agents involved, either.  Now General Managers and coaches sometimes have agents. In fact, oftentimes. . . .  We’re real positive about Chuck Pagano and the things that he’s done.  It’s not a sign of anything extremely negative.  We just haven’t gotten anything done in terms of a long-term contract.”

Irsay’s words suggest that the absence of a contract doesn’t result from his reluctance to commit to Pagano, but from Pagano’s reluctance to commit to the terms the team has offered.  Which could set the stage not for Irsay to fire Pagano but for Pagano to walk away.

If he does, the vacancy in Indianapolis, with the presence of quarterback Andrew Luck, would become the most attractive job in the 2016 hiring cycle.

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Jets safety Jaiquawn Jarrett signs RFA tender

Jaiquawn Jarrett AP

A former second-round pick of the Eagles who’s rebuilt his career with the Jets has officially re-signed with New York.

Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, a restricted free agent, inked his one-year tender with the Jets on Friday, the club said.

The 25-year-old Jarrett started 5-of-14 games for the Jets in 2014, recording 40 tackles and intercepting two passes. Overall, he’s played 30-of-32 games with New York over the last two seasons. Jarrett will vie for playing time in a safety corps that includes 2014 first-round pick Calvin Pryor and ex-Charger Marcus Gilchrist.

A Temple product, Jarrett was the No. 54 overall selection in 2011. However, he lasted just 13 games with Philadelphia, which waived him early in the 2012 campaign. Nevertheless, Jarrett overcame that setback and earned his way back into the NFL, and he will be able to test unrestricted free agency after this season.

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Buccaneers re-sign RB Bobby Rainey

Bobby Rainey, Will Sutton AP

Running back Bobby Rainey has signed his one-year contract offer from the Buccaneers, the club said Friday afternoon.

A restricted free agent, Rainey was tendered a one-year, $1.542 million contract.

The 27-year-old Rainey has been one of the Buccaneers’ reserve tailbacks over the last two seasons. He rushed for 406 yards and racked up 315 yards receiving for Tampa Bay in 2014, appearing in 15 games (five starts). Rainey previously had stints with Baltimore and Cleveland.

Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Mike James and Rainey are the top veteran options in the backfield for Tampa Bay. A three-year starter, Martin has struggled to regain top form after a promising rookie season.

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Eagles withdraw restricted free agent offer to Chris Polk

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

Friday is the final day for restricted free agents to solicit offers from other teams, but that won’t stop running back Chris Polk from talking to teams other than the Eagles.

Polk was tendered at the original round level by the Eagles, which gave them the right to match any outside bid for Polk’s services. Polk didn’t sign his tender and didn’t sign an offer sheet with anyone else, but the league’s daily transaction report for Friday shows that the Eagles have withdrawn their $1.54 million tender offer for Polk’s services.

That makes Polk, who ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns last season, an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any other team at any point. That should give him an opportunity to find a home with fewer players in front of him on the depth chart as playing time in Philly figured to be sparse with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles on the depth chart.

Whether he’ll find that spot on a depth chart before the draft is unclear. The general consensus is that it is a deep draft for running backs and teams may opt for younger backs before considering adding Polk to the mix.

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St. Louis stadium leaders optimistic about their efforts

Dave Peacock, Bob Blitz AP

The group trying to build a new stadium in St. Louis had a chance to pitch their plan to the NFL this week, and they apparently think it went well.

Stadium task force leader David Peacock said he was encouraged by the feedback he got from the league, as they try to build something that will either keep the Rams or attract another team if Stan Kroenke takes his to California.

We’re going to continue down the path we’re on,” Peacock told the Associated Press. “There was nothing coming out of this meeting to make us change course.”

Peacock and Robert Blitz didn’t get into many of the specifics of their 40-minute presentation, saying they showed league officials revised stadium plans and a video presentation about the $1 billion project.

Of course, there’s also the small matter of coming up with that money, as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon believes they can extend the bonds funding the Edward Jones Dome (i.e. public money) to pay up to $400 million, with seat licenses representing another $150 million. That leaves around $450 million for the league and Kroenke to come up with.

Of course, Kroenke seems intent on spending his money in Inglewood instead, so the civic effort in St. Louis might be pitching that plan to someone else.

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Report: Chiefs exercise 2016 option on Dontari Poe’s contract

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

When MDS ran through the pending fifth-year team options for 2012, he listed Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe as one of the players who would have their options exercised.

It seems the Chiefs agree with his assessment of the situation. Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the Chiefs have picked up the option on the fifth year of Poe’s rookie deal, which will pay him a little more than $6 million.

Poe has been a starter since the moment the Chiefs picked him with the 11th overall pick of the draft and he’s been an impact player for just about the same period of time. He’s made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons while racking up 10.5 sacks and providing Kansas City with a lot of push in the middle of the defensive line.

The Chiefs and Poe can work on a long-term contract between now and the expiration of the deal at the end of the 2016 season. That deal should be a lucrative one based on what Poe’s done in his first three years and doing so would allow the Chiefs to avoid the franchise tag headaches they’re experiencing with Justin Houston this offseason.

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Lions talking extension with DeAndre Levy, waiting to talk to Haloti Ngata

Haloti Ngata AP

Lions president Tom Lewand said early this month that and linebacker DeAndre Levy had yet to open up contract negotiations and, as a result, he couldn’t say whether the team’s talks with Levy would extend past the start of training camp.

Lewand should have a better idea of the timing the next time he addresses Levy’s contract situation. General Manager Martin Mayhew said Friday that the team has opened up talks with Levy. There wasn’t any characterization of the talks beyond “ongoing,” which means they’re further along than talks with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Ngata is set to become a free agent after next season, but Mayhew said that the team wants to give Ngata time to settle after the March trade that brought him to Detroit.

“I think they know we have an interest in doing something,” Mayhew said, via ESPN.com. “And I think we know they have an interest in doing something, but he just got here for his offseason program. Letting him get comfortable, get situated, and at some point we’ll start that dialogue.”

Mayhew also touched on safety James Ihedigbo’s absence from voluntary workouts, saying he understood from his own playing career the veteran’s feeling that he’s underpaid and deserving of a new deal. There wasn’t much sign about whether the Lions were amenable to giving him one, which leaves that as another situation to monitor as the offseason continues to unfold in Detroit.

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Greg Hardy flap escalated when teammate “called him a woman beater”

Greg Hardy AP

It didn’t take much imagination to see the latest twist in the Greg Hardy story, after he was involved in a verbal altercation with a teammate during the first week of Cowboys conditioning workouts

According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, the incident escalated when Davon Coleman referred to Hardy’s history of domestic violence.

He called him a woman beater,” a source told Getlin.

The first reports from FOX Sports said Hardy challenged Coleman’s effort during conditioning work.

Hardy is suspended for 10 games for last year’s domestic violence incident involving an ex-girlfriend. He has appealed that suspension, as you’d imagine.

But if Hardy can’t get through the first week of running and weightlifting without someone getting under his skin, imagine what’s going to be said when he takes the field against another team.

Coleman made the Cowboys last year as an undrafted rookie, and started the opener before injuries derailed his season.

But they obviously have less invested in him than Hardy, so it’ll be curious to see how this story develops. But a guy who got a harsher-than-he-expected punishment for a number of mitigating factors isn’t doing a good job of showing he can control his temper.

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Chiefs have spoken to Justin Houston’s representatives in “last three days”

Justin Houston AP

Mike Florio reported last week that the Chiefs had yet to start contract talks with linebacker Justin Houston about a long-term contract since using the franchise tag on their top pass rusher before the start of free agency.

Those talks have apparently gotten underway. Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said Friday that he’d spoken to Houston’s camp this week.

“If you’re going to ask me if I’ve had conversations with his representatives, I have,” Dorsey said, via the Kansas City Star. “I’ve had conversations with his representatives — or we have — in the last three days.”

There was nothing further about the content of the conversations, but the fact that the two sides are talking is an encouraging sign for their chances of agreeing to a multi-year deal before the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign them. Dorsey and the rest of the Chiefs brass have remained optimistic about their ability to get things done with Houston, so we’ll see in the coming weeks if this is the first step toward an agreement or if the talks lessen that optimism.

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Report: Greg Hardy has “verbal altercation” with teammate on Friday

Greg Hardy AP

The 10-game suspension that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy received from the league this week doesn’t kick in until the start of the regular season, which means Hardy is free to take part in offseason workouts with his teammates.

One of those workouts was reportedly the setting for a contentious moment between Hardy and one of those teammates on Friday. Mike Garafolo and Alex Marvez of FOX Sports report that Hardy was involved in a “verbal altercation” with defensive end Davon Coleman during the team’s conditioning session and had to be separated by teammates.

Coleman’s agent Michael Loeffler confirmed that the two men exchanged words and that there was no physical fight between the two men. The incident was reportedly sparked by Hardy taking issue with Coleman’s effort during the conditioning work.

While it certainly isn’t ideal for two teammates to get into a scrap of any kind, these kinds of things happen often during practices and teams move past them without further incident. We’ll see if this falls into the same category and the Cowboys surely hope that it does so that this week’s negative headlines regarding Hardy are the last ones he’ll generate while a member of the team.

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T.J. Clemmings dealing with stress fracture in his foot

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh Getty Images

Pitt offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings ranks among the top players at the position in this year’s draft class, but teams may be reevaluating where he falls on their draft boards.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Clemmings has a stress fracture in his foot that was discovered during a recent visit with a team. He adds that Clemmings’s agent Mike McCartney said that Clemmings had no idea of any problem with his foot and that Clemmings has felt no pain as a result of the fracture.

It’s hard to know how much the discovery will impact Clemmings’s draft standing as different teams will surely have different opinions about how much of a red flag it is for a prospect whose landing spot has been projected anywhere from the middle of the first round to the top of the second.

There are several tackle prospects with similar projections, including LSU’s La’El Collins, Florida’s D.J. Humphries and Oregon’s Jake Fisher, which could make Clemmings’s injury fodder for some last-minute shuffling as teams figure out their plans for next week.

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Dolphins sidestep questions about Dion Jordan

Dion Jordan AP

Dolphins pass-rusher Dion Jordan is skipping the team’s offseason conditioning workouts.

Which is certainly his right, they’re voluntary.

But the tone Dolphins officials took today regarding the 2013 No. 3-overall pick was certainly interesting.

Via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum was asked about Jordan’s missing the start of workouts and replied: “If someone choses not to be here, that’s their decision.”

Later in the press conference, General Manager Dennis Hickey was asked about Jordan’s love for football, before pausing and saying the press conference was about next week’s draft.

They later sidestepped questions as to whether Jordan would be on hand for mandatory minicamps.

Jordan has been a disappointment in every sense of the word for the Dolphins, who gave a first- and a second-round pick to move up to get him. He’s responded with 3.0 sacks in two seasons, and they haven’t been able to really figure out what position he plays, bouncing from defensive end to linebacker.

And judging by their tone, they might be open to the idea of bouncing him elsewhere.

With his Oregon pedigree, the Eagles would land on the list of usual suspects if they tried to trade him, despite the fact he hasn’t torn an ACL lately.

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