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PFT’s Week Six picks

Robert Griffin III,  Jonathan Massaquoi,  Jonathan Babineaux AP

Last week, the “mild” concussion to RG3 prevented me from taking a “major” lead over MDS in the picks contest.

Robert Griffin III exited, the Redskins lost, and what would have been a two-game win for the week turned into a push, with both of us going 10-4.

This week, Robert Griffin III is back, and his team’s game against the Vikings once again will decide whether someone gets a two-game swing, or whether we tie once again.

For the year, there’s still no tie.  I’m leading the way at 49-28, and MDS is 47-30.

Steelers at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans have been blown out in four of their five games this season, and I see this as the fifth. The Steelers have their problems, especially with age and injuries on defense, but Chris Johnson and Co. aren’t the team to exploit those problems.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 28, Titans 10.

Florio’s take:  Four years ago, former Titans running back Lendale White desecrated a Terrible Towel at the tail end of a regular-season game that secured home-field advantage in the playoffs for Tennessee.  Since then, the Titans haven’t been the same.  And the difference will never be as obvious as when the Steelers return to Nashville.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 24, Titans 9.

Raiders at Falcons

MDS’s take: Sunday’s biggest mismatch will take place in Atlanta, where the Falcons will have far too much for the Raiders to handle. The undefeated Falcons have had a couple close calls in the last couple weeks, but not this time.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 35, Raiders 13.

Florio’s take:  Could it be that the Falcons are 5-0 because they’ve already played three members of the AFC East?  After they move to 6-0 by beating the fourth member of the AFC West, it’ll be team to consider whether the Falcons can keep it up against teams from slightly more successful divisions.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 38, Raiders 20.

Cowboys at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Ravens’ offense was surprisingly flaccid (that’s what she said) against the Chiefs, but at home against the Cowboys, the Ravens should move the ball effectively. Ray Rice will have a big day as the Ravens win.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 24, Cowboys 17.

Florio’s take:  The team that closed down Texas Stadium by spanking the Cowboys will welcome them to a slightly more hostile environment with a similar result, thanks to superior talent on both sides of the ball.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 28, Cowboys 17.

Bengals at Browns

MDS’s take: The Browns are a better team than their 0-5 record suggests: They’ve played competitively against good teams. They’ll play competitively in the battle for Ohio, too, but they’ll come up short again.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 21, Browns 20.

Florio’s take:  This could be the Browns’ best chance to get a win before their Week 10 bye.  It also could be the Bengals’ best chance to restore their confidence before a three-game home stand against the Steelers, Broncos, and Giants.  The Browns have been competitive.  When in doubt, however, go with the team that isn’t 0-5.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Browns 23.

Rams at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Hardly anyone has noticed it, but the Dolphins’ defense is actually quite good. Miami will put a lot of pressure on Sam Bradford and win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 14, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  Arguably the best game of the weekend, Rams coach Jeff Fisher gets a shot at the team he spurned.  With tough defenses and underrated offenses, the Miami offense should be able to do more against the St. Louis defense than vice-versa, given the absence of Danny Amendola.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 14, Rams 12.

Colts at Jets

MDS’s take: I was impressed with how well the Jets’ defense played against a good Houston passing game on Monday night: This defense looks a lot better without Darrelle Revis than I expected. I think they’ll give Andrew Luck enough trouble to eke out a close win.

MDS’s pick: Jets 19, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:  What once appeared to be a cream puff after a pair of sledgehammers won’t be nearly as easy for the Jets.  While the Colts will be better than expected, expecting them to go on the road and beat the Jets seems to be a little much, especially since the Jets are becoming increasingly desperate.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 20, Colts 14.

Lions at Eagles

MDS’s take: If the Lions’ defensive linemen were playing as well as their reputations (and their paychecks) say they should, I’d pick Detroit to force a bunch of Michael Vick turnovers and win this game. But the Lions just aren’t getting the kind of pressure you have to get to make Vick make mistakes, and so the Eagles will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The Lions think they can recapture last year’s attitude simply by wanting to.  It’s not that easy, especially when the team remains flawed on both sides of the ball.  The Eagles have more talent — enough to overcome Mike Vick’s inevitable mistakes.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Lions 17.

Chiefs at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: I’m not sure if Matt Cassel’s concussion makes the Chiefs more or less likely to win on Sunday, but either way I don’t see it happening: Tampa Bay’s run defense is good enough to contain Jamaal Charles and win this game.

MDS’s pick: Bucs 17, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  This pair of potential playoff teams has been disappointing so far.  Those Chiefs fans who have been waiting for Brady Quinn to get a chance to play may be feeling regret, along with other negative emotions, before this one is over.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 13, Chiefs 9.

Bills at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I’m permanently off the Bills bandwagon. The Cardinals’ offense isn’t very good, but it doesn’t need to be to move the ball on this Bills unit. For all the money the Bills’ defensive front is making, you’d think they’d have one of the best pass rushes in the league, but you’d be wrong.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 20, Bills 10.

Florio’s take:  Yeah, the Cardinals aren’t as good as the Pats or the 49ers.  But they’re good enough to find a way to overcome a Buffalo team that has plenty of flaws on both sides of the ball — including an offensive line that’s currently even worse than Arizona’s.  Which is saying a lot.  Or not much at all.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 20, Bills 16.

Patriots at Seahawks

MDS’s take: I’m having a hard time getting a read on either of these teams. Are the Patriots the team that turned in a disappointing effort at home against the Cardinals, or the team whose offense has been all but unstoppable against the Bills and Broncos? Are the Seahawks the team that dominated Dallas or the team whose offense could hardly move the ball at all in their other four games? I don’t know, but I think the Patriots’ offense is good enough to put a lot of points on the board against a good Seattle defense.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Seahawks 14.

Florio’s take:  After the Seahawks beat the Cowboys by 20, I said I’d never pick against the Seahawks at home again.  But I hadn’t looked at the schedule.  The Pats won there in 2008, without Tom Brady.  With him, the Pats will run their all-time record at CenturyLink Field to 2-0.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 27, Seahawks 17.

Giants at 49ers

MDS’s take: Tom Coughlin says no one is giving his team a chance in this game. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say the Giants don’t have a chance, but I would say the way the 49ers have played the last couple weeks, on both sides of the ball, I have a hard time seeing the Giants’ path to a win.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 31, Giants 17.

Florio’s take:  This is precisely the kind of game the Giants ordinarily win.  And if they hadn’t won in San Francisco in January en route to a Super Bowl victory, the Giants would win.  No amount of Rodney Dangerfield cliches from coach Tom Coughlin will overcome the fact that the 49ers are hungrier and, for now, better.  There’s a chance it will get ugly.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Giants 24.

Vikings at Redskins

MDS’s take: Florio foolishly picked the Redskins last week, allowing me to escape with a tie in our Week Five picks. I hope he does it again this time.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Redskins 13.

Florio’s takeAdrian Peterson returns to the scene of his serious knee injury, and Robert Griffin returns to the scene of his “mild” concussion.  The Redskins have lost eight in a row at FedEx Field, and the Vikings have won three straight there.  With the talent gap between these two teams fairly narrow, it just feels like it’s time for both trends to end.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 27, Vikings 21.

Packers at Texans

MDS’s take: I never would have believed 10 months ago, when the Packers were on a 20-game winning streak, that they’d lose six of their next 10 games. But Green Bay will be 4-6 in its last 10 after losing to the Texans on Sunday night.

MDS’s pick: Texans 24, Packers 14.

Florio’s take:  Anyone who says this is a “must” win for the Packers hasn’t looked at their upcoming schedule.  They’ll bottom out at 2-4, and then the rebound will begin.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Packers 20.

Broncos at Chargers

MDS’s take: In the battle for first place in the AFC West, I like Peyton Manning to step up with a big game and the Broncos to outscore the Chargers.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 35, Chargers 31.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers consistently have bedeviled Peyton Manning, and that was when Manning had a much better supporting cast.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Broncos 23.

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John Schneider: Seahawks will look at veteran backup QB options

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 7:  Quarterback Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks to throw against the Oklahoma State Cowboys November 7, 2015 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Horned Frogs 49-29. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) Getty Images

Backup quarterback may be the biggest uncertainty for the Seattle Seahawks as training camp gets set to begin on Saturday.

For the first time since Russell Wilson won the starting job in 2012 over Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn, the Seahawks don’t have a veteran option sitting behind Wilson on the sidelines.

Undrafted rookie free agent Trevone Boykin and 2015 undrafted free agent Jake Heaps are the only two quarterbacks on the roster outside of Wilson. Jackson, who handled the duties for the last three years, likely won’t be back after allegedly pulling a gun on his wife and being charged with aggravated assault.

While general manager John Schneider said that Boykin has done some nice things over the offseason since being signed in May, he also said the team would keep looking for quarterback options elsewhere as well.

“Yep, absolutely. And we do that with every position. We’ll have one, two, three guys like on standby,” Schneider said.

“I like all our players, I’m just never really one of those guys that’s like, ‘Yeah, we got this. We got this.’ You know what I mean?” he added. “Pete’s job is to instill confidence in people and he does a great job; it’s one of his best attributes, making everybody feel great about themselves and instilling confidence in their abilities. My job is to be forward thinking and our staff – Dan (Morgan), Trent (Kirchner), Scott (Fitterer) – to be ready for what’s coming next if it doesn’t work out.”

Schneider said he believes Boykin would have been a third- to a fifth-round pick if not for his legal troubles prior to the Alamo Bowl with TCU in December. He also said that he believes Boykin has handled the transition to becoming a professional well so far.

“Great athlete, tons of arm strength,” Schneider said of Boykin. “I like the way he dialed himself in as a pro in that short period of time he was here, kind of studying and watching Russell and learning as much as he possible can. He started putting together some practices that were consistent all the way through instead of – he’s a rookie, so that’s why that’s impressive.”

However, that won’t keep Seattle from seeing what else is available. The Seahawks reportedly put in a waiver claim on Connor Shaw earlier this month. As teams release veterans – like the Rams did by cutting Nick Foles on Wednesday – Seattle will likely be inquiring about potential fits as Wilson’s backup.

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Paul Posluszny believes Jaguars are most talented team he’s been on

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Paul Posluszny has been on a lot of bad football teams.

He’s never experienced a winning season in nine years in the NFL. A pair of 7-9 teams in Buffalo are the best he’s been a part of during his career.

Posluszny knows bad rosters when he sees them. That’s why he’s hopeful this year is different with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

According to Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com, Posluszny believes the 2016 Jaguars are the most talented team he’s been a part of during his NFL career.

“I would definitely say so,” Posluszny said Wednesday. “Especially with depth, the group that we have here is the most talented since I’ve been in Jacksonville, for sure. It’s exciting because you say, ‘Hey, we have guys that can be elite players at multiple positions.’ It’s been a long time since we’ve had that.”

That bar isn’t exactly a high one to clear. Jacksonville has won just 19 games in five seasons since Posluszny joined the team in 2011.

However, this iteration of the Jaguars seems far less anemic than in previous years. The offense showed it can move the football and score points with consistency last season and the defense has been bolstered by the additions of Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Amukamara, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack.

Potential doesn’t mean anything though unless it translates to wins and losses, but the Jaguars seem positioned to be much more capable of finding victories than they’ve been in nearly a decade.

Maybe even good enough for Posluszny to be a part of a winning team for the first time in his career.

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Case Keenum not looking over his shoulder

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 22: Quarterback Case Keenum #17 of the St. Louis Rams sits on the turf during a game against the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

On what coincidentally was the first day of the NFL draft in 1999, I ran a half marathon roughly 30 miles outside of Columbus, Ohio. Several hundred people showed up to trudge through neighborhoods and back roads. Five or six miles in to the 13.1-mile race, I came to a spot where it wasn’t clear whether to turn right or keep going straight. Based on the markings on the road, it looked like I should turn right, but the lead pack(s) had gone straight.

So I decided to turn. And it quickly became obvious that roughly 50 people who had been in front of me had gone the wrong way. Which meant that, halfway through a half marathon, I was in first place.

I knew it wouldn’t last. But I enjoyed it while it did. And I didn’t bother to check behind me, because I knew that ultimately there was nothing I could do to hold off the guy who was going to win. (Along with plenty of others.)

I thought of that day for the first time in a long time after I saw this headline at ESPN.com: “Arriving at camp above Rams’ depth chart, Case Keenum not looking over his shoulder.”

There’s no reason for Keenum to look over his shoulder. It’s just a matter of time before he’ll be passed by rookie first-rounder Jared Goff.

Sure, the Rams may try to make it look like Keenum has a chance to play most or all of the season, for the same reason they toyed with everyone for two-plus weeks before making it known that Goff would be the first overall pick. They also may want to give Goff a chance to build confidence by creating the impression that he actually accomplished something instead of having the starting job handed to him.

So enjoy the lead while you can, Case. Eventually, you’ll be looking at the back of a blue jersey with “GOFF” in gold letters.

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Chris Clemons tells Seahawks he’s retiring

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Defensive Chris Clemons #91 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up before a game against the San Francisco 49ers on October 18, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 13-6.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Veteran defensive end Chris Clemons has told the Seattle Seahawks he is retiring and will not be reporting to training camp on Friday.

Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network was the first to report that Clemons second tenure with Seattle was over before it really ever got started. The team confirmed Clemons had informed them of his retirement on Thursday night.

Seattle acquired Clemons from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 along with a fourth-round draft pick in exchange for defensive end Darryl Tapp. Clemons quickly became Seattle’s most dominant pass rusher, recording 33.5 sacks over the next three seasons. Clemons became a salary cap casualty following the Seahawks win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.

Clemons had 11 sacks in two seasons with the Jaguars before being released and re-signing with Seattle in April.

Clemons, 34, would have been fighting for a spot on the back-end of Seattle’s roster. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark are the top three edge rushers for the Seahawks. Clemons would have been competing with younger players such as Cassius Marsh, Ryan Robinson and undrafted free agent signings David Perkins and Montese Overton.

Instead, Clemons has elected to call it a career. Despite not earning a starting role in the first six years of his career, Clemons still compiled 69 sacks in his 12-year career.

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Jason Peters questions Chip Kelly’s methods

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Tackle Jason Peters #71 of the Philadelphia Eagles on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Eagles prepare for their first season without Chip Kelly as head coach, a key member of the offense has opted to point out some of the factors that undermined the team’s performance under the man who preceded Doug Pederson.

“We practiced on Tuesdays when Chip was here, and you felt it on Sundays,” tackle Jason Peters said Thursday, via CSNPhilly.com. “I did anyway.”

Regardless of the days on which practice happens, Peters questioned Kelly’s emphasis on constant uptempo workouts.

“If you run 100 times in a row, back to back to back, don’t you think your 50th time you’re going to be a little slower?” Peters said. “But if you get a little bit of a rest, you’re going to be a little bit faster. . . . It’s give and take. When you go back to the huddle and you get that wind, you’re just a little stronger when you go back to the line, so I think it will help.”

Beyond wearing out the players, Peters thinks the Eagles had a hard time out thinking opposing defenses.

“I mean, this is the National Football League, and if the running back is to the left and you’re running the zone read, where do you think the ball is going?” Peters said. “To the right. . . . They caught up to us. . . . We just needed to change a little bit up, especially with [quarterback Sam Bradford] back there. They know he’s not gonna run it, so it kind of put our hands behind our back. . . .

“[The coaches] call the play, and we execute it. But when the [opponents] know, and they’re professionals too, and they know what the play is, it’s tough.”

There’s no guarantee the Eagles will be any better with Kelly out, but fans of the team that has inherited should be concerned about the possibility that they’ll eventually be yearning for Jim Tomsula.

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DeMarcus Ware says he could play tomorrow

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 17:  DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos comes out of the tunnel during player introductions before the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos have placed linebacker DeMarcus Ware on the non-football injury list. But it sure sounds like he still is dealing with a football injury.

“It’s just a lingering back issue and everything,” Ware told reporters on Thursday. “Now, they are just being a lot more precautious. Are you going to beat him through training camp or are you going to really take care of the veteran and make sure he is ready for the season?”

Still, Ware doesn’t seem to be concerned by the team’s decision to characterize his football injury as a non-football injury.

“I don’t know what to categorize it — if it’s PUP or NFI — but you can’t do any of the field activities,” Ware said. “You have to sit back, watch the walk through and go through your treatment until they feel like you are ready for football activities.”

Whatever the label, Ware downplayed the condition.

“If I had the choice if the game was tomorrow, I’d be out there playing,” Ware said. “The timeline is what the trainers think and what [John] Elway and all those guys think, what they want to do right now and just going from there with their plan. . . . It’s just soreness and working through the soreness. I wouldn’t say there is any discomfort. Now it’s strengthening and making sure it’s strengthened through the whole season instead of just saying, ‘OK, you’re just ready to play the first preseason game.’ Let’s get it all the way to the point where it’s iron clad and it can withstand the whole season.”

The whole season includes the postseason. Last postseason, Ware was far from 100 percent.

“I was around 70 percent in the playoffs. Now, knowing everything is right and having some time off in the preseason to get everything stronger and a lot more stable, I’ll be at 94 percent when all said and done,” Ware said, referring to his number.

Along the way, Ware has a clear incentive to play as much as he can, and to get as many sacks as possible. After reducing his $10 million salary to $6.5 million, he can earn the $3.5 million back by racking up 13 sacks.

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Report: Bryant to coach high school football during suspension

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09:  Martavis Bryant #10 of the Pittsburg Steelers runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Benglas at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Suspended Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been training five days a week and will serve as a volunteer assistant football coach at a high school in Nevada this fall, ESPN reported Thursday.

“[Bryant] is as focused as I’ve seen him in a while,” his agent, Thomas Santanello, told ESPN. “He’s keeping very busy. He enjoys working with kids.”

Bryant, who’s suspended for at least a year, is back in the news this week because the Steelers are reporting to camp without him and because Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was serving a similar suspension for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, was recently reinstated.

Santanello said Bryant has stayed clean and complied with terms of the NFL’s drug program.

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said last spring that Bryant needs to “find himself” and understand he’s on the verge of losing “the privilege” of playing in the NFL.

Bryant, 24, has 14 receiving touchdowns in 21 career games. He was also suspended to start the 2015 season, and he can apply for reinstatement after the 2016 season.

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Tim Tebow: I feel like I can be an effective NFL quarterback

Indianapolis Colts v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Tim Tebow isn’t ready to close the door on the NFL just yet.

Tebow, who was in training camp with the Eagles last year but hasn’t played in a regular-season game since he was on the Jets in 2012, said on CBS Sports Radio that he still believes he can play.

“I mean, for me, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Tebow said. “I’m still young, I still feel really good. So is that something that I feel like I can be an effective quarterback in the NFL? Yeah, I really do feel like I could be. But I think at the same time, there are a lot of other things that I’m doing that I love and that I’m blessed to do.”

Tebow’s best bet if he wanted to continue his NFL career would probably be to develop in the Canadian Football League, but Tebow sounds more interested in pursuing his other life goals if the NFL doesn’t come calling.

“Football is just one thing that I love to do,” Tebow said. “But it can’t become your everything because eventually you’re not going to be able to play, whether that’s today or five years from now. And if it’s your everything, when you’re done what do you do?”

It’s good that Tebow has other things he wants to do, because his NFL career is almost certainly over. Whether he still thinks he can play or not.

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Josh Gordon: In the past, I’ve been a selfish player

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 07:  Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball during the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 7, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon met the media for the first time since he was reinstated by the NFL from a suspension that kept him off the field for all of last season.

Gordon reiterated the message that he’s grateful for the chance to return that he sent on Twitter after being reinstated and said there were times when he wasn’t sure if the Browns would want him back. He said he’s happy that they do and that he’s a different person than the selfish player that he’s been in the past. Gordon said he knows that just saying it doesn’t prove anything and wants to show how he’s changed by taking advantage of the support that the Browns are offering him.

“I have a great support staff here, moreso than I’ve ever felt before,” Gordon said, via the Akron Beacon-Journal. “It plays a part on both sides. Me wanting to give in to that support and allow them to help me and me wanting to be helped, as I opposed to before me trying to be selfish and do things on my own.”

Gordon said that quarterback Robert Griffin III is part of the support team and someone that he knows he can “count on and lean on” during the season. Gordon and Griffin have adjacent lockers, which Gordon said was no accident.

Gordon also addressed his relationship with a past Browns quarterback by saying that Johnny Manziel is always going to be his friend, but that they are “definitely two different people on two different paths.” Gordon said he has to do what’s right for him for the “sake of my career,” something that the Browns likely hope includes fewer nights with their former quarterback and more time spent focused on resuming a career that will remain long on promise as long as Gordon remains on the field.

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Drew Brees reiterates Week One contract negotiation deadline

NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 28:   Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is introduced before the preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 28, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Football season essentially has begun, with the opening of camp. But Saints quarterback Drew Brees is willing to continue to entertain contract offers from the team until football season actually launches, with Week One of the regular season.

Brees reiterated the deadline for doing a new deal during Thursday comments to the media from training camp in West Virginia.

“My approach is when the season is here it’s all about the season, I don’t want to be worrying about a contract or anything else,” Brees said. “My mind will be on the preparation week to week on the next opponent. If there’s something to be done, it’s between now and the season.”

Since it’s a deadline-driven business, the safest bet is a deal will come, if at all, in the days before the regular-season opener.

“Just to clarify, nothing is adversarial,” Brees said at one point on Thursday. “I have a great relationship with Mickey Loomis and have for my entire time here. This is just that part of the business let’s call it where, obviously, conversations happen in regards to the contract it’s between my agent Tom Condon and Mickey Loomis and, obviously, I am kept abreast as to the way those conversations are going. I think there’s a process to this and it isn’t an exact science and it isn’t an exact process. We’ll see how this shakes out over the next month and a half.”

While the questions from reporters have yet to focus on the ultimate hammer Brees holds, the 43.2-million pound elephant remains in the room. If the Saints use the franchise tag on Brees for what would be the third time of  his career, he would be entitled to a 44-percent raise over his $30 million cap number for 2016.

Which translates to a tag of $43.2 million. Which also translates to a low likelihood that the team would invest so much cap and cap space in a quarterback who turns 38 in January. Which means the market would set his value next year. Which means the anticipated market would set his value now.

Which means that Condon and Loomis need to get on the same page as to what Brees would be worth on the open market in order to get on the same page as to his value moving forward. From the player’s perspective, however, his age won’t be a factor in his value.

“I don’t see any reason why I can’t play at the highest level for the next five years minimum,” Brees said. “It really comes down to how long do I want to play.”

Eventually, it also may come down to where he wants to play. Because Brees may have the ability to do what he last did in 2006: Hit the market and look for his next destination.

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Rolando McClain not on Cowboys team plane to California

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Cowboys — or at least owner Jerry Jones — have stood by Rolando McClain despite his latest suspension.

But the strange career of the former top-10 pick has taken yet another turn.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, McClain wasn’t on the Cowboys team plane to California for training camp, with no apparent explanation.

While McClain is suspended for the first 10 games of the regular season for his latest substance abuse policy violation, Jones has been in his corner throughout.

McClain was also missing for a large portion of the voluntary offseason work, which reportedly angered his coaches. Then again, Jones denied that and said coaches were lobbying for McClain’s return, so maybe he’ll make another excuse for a guy who has had plenty made for him.

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Tomlin: Bell appeal to be heard in mid-August

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell apologized to the team on Thursday for his reported missed drug tests and pending four-game suspension being a distraction, but in a meeting with reporters at the team’s training camp site Bell didn’t say much else about his situation.

That’s understandable as Bell prepares to appeal the suspension. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t want to say much about Bell’s appeal but said it’s his understanding that the hearing will be held sometime around mid-August.

That doesn’t affect the Steelers’ plans for now because the team has a reliable backup in DeAngelo Williams and because Bell is still rehabbing a knee injury.

Last week, Bell wrote on his Instagram account “I’m not gonna miss any games. Trust me.”

Thursday, Bell said he was notified of his missed test in March. He had told Pittsburgh reporters in June that he hadn’t missed or failed a test, but a recent report said he missed several drug tests.

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Geno Smith: You want to be out there, but you play cards you’re dealt

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets walks off the field against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on November 1, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ryan Fitzpatrick is back with the Jets and coach Todd Bowles confirmed for those with any doubt that he’s still on top of the team’s depth chart at a Thursday press conference.

That pushes Geno Smith back down to No. 2 after he spent the offseason running the offense while Fitzpatrick and the Jets did their extended contract tango. Smith knew enough to not be shocked by Fitzpatrick’s signing, but the news still delivered a blow to a player who was hoping for a chance to play in Week One.

“I’m not disappointed,” Smith said, via NJ.com. “I’m kind of pissed off. But it’s not a detrimental thing. It’s not something where I’m pissed off at anyone, because we all want to be out there. We all know that one quarterback gets to go out there on Day 1. That just adds fuel to the fire, but not in a negative way. I don’t want that to become like a headline or something like that, because it’s not what I’m trying to say. It’s more as a competitor, as a quarterback, knowing what I’m capable of, and really believing in myself, knowing the work that I put in over the offseason. You want to be out there. But you’ve just got to kind of play the cards that you’re dealt.”

Smith was asked if he was upset about being a backup and said he wasn’t and “explained [his feelings] very clearly” about wanting to be on the field.

During his press conference, Bowles shot down speculation that Smith’s roster spot could be in jeopardy because the Jets have four quarterbacks on the roster. He added that Smith would remain Fitzpatrick’s backup unless Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg put up “great” performances that forced a change in the order.

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Schneider’s new deal dumps Green Bay clause

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The prior contract applicable to Seahawks G.M. John Schneider reportedly included a provision allowing the Wisconsin native and Packers shareholder to leave to become the G.M. in Green Bay. Schneider, without confirming that his prior deal had that term, says his new one doesn’t.

No,” Schneider told reporters on Thursday, via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. “There’s been lots of whispers about a lot of things and it’s a small league, and I’m from a small home town.”

The clause largely had become irrelevant, given that all signs point to Eliot Wolf becoming the successor to Ted Thompson in Green Bay. But if giving up the ability to walk helped get Schneider the deal he wanted, it had a lot more value than the non-stock stock certificate he previously bought from the Packers.

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Ladarius Green starts on PUP list for Steelers

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With Heath Miller retired, the Steelers need a competent tight end to enhance their offense. They signed Ladarius Green to be that guy.

The official launch of the Ladarius Era has been delayed. Via multiple reports, Green has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, with an ankle injury. He had offseason surgery on that ankle.

Receiver Shakim Phillips also in on the PUP list, after having a sports hernia repaired. Defensive tackle Devaunte Sigler begins on the shelf due to failing the conditioning test.

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