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Sunday night wrap-up: Rodgers is back, so are Packers

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Yeah, that stuff Aaron Rodgers was saying the other day about his own play not being up to par?

Never mind.

Rodgers was back to MVP Rodgers, and he dragged the Packers back to looking like champions along with him.

He was laser-sharp while carving up the Texans 42-24 Sunday night, completing 24-of-37 passes for 338 yards and six touchdowns, the same amount the Texans had allowed in their 5-0 start. (Watch the highlights here.)

And it wasn’t as if Rodgers stood back with clean pockets all day.

He stood in and took shots and delivered passes, he scrambled for first downs and more when plays broke down. He read through progressions, and found guys who weren’t the first choice.

In short, he was Rodgers again.

And as long as that’s the case, the 3-3 Packers are as good if not better than any team in the NFL.

Here’s another thing: They’re without their best wideout in Greg Jennings, although Jordy Nelson is quickly making that a debate. And a guy with bad hands (James Jones) has caught multiple touchdowns in three straight games.

Those things don’t happen in a vacuum, or with anything short of the best quarterback in the game throwing it to them.

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

1. The Texans didn’t look like the undefeated team that really hadn’t been pushed.

Or maybe they did.

The Texans were able to beat five teams by an average of 15.2 points per game coming into this one, and it might not be an accident that all five were AFC teams. In fact, the toughest of the lot might have been the Jets game, and the Jets can play a physical style you see more often in the other conference.

But from Connor Barwin trying to play buck-buck like Fat Albert on a field goal, to Danieal Manning trying to punch out from the bottom of a pile, the Texans played without much composure, which doesn’t bode well for the games that matter in January, when somebody else might punch back.

2. It’s not exactly breaking news to say that J.J. Watt is having a phenomenal year.

But with two more sacks, pushing him to 9.5 in six games, it becomes more amazing with each passing week.

A 3-4 defensive end is simply not supposed to do be able to do this. The job description, as originally written, doesn’t come close to what Watt is capable of doing. Ends in the 3-4 are supposed to contain the run, be solid and clog lanes for outside linebackers to make the glory plays.

It’s not like a receiver leading the league in rushing, but it’s at least the equivalent of a tight end leading the league in receiving yards, and speaks to his singular talent.

3. The Packers can’t keep inside linebackers healthy, but that doesn’t cover up the fact that one of them is playing very well.

Desmond Bishop was lost for the year with a preseason hamstring, and his replacement D.J. Smith left the game with a knee injury after a suspect block by Texans left tackle Duane Brown.

But the other Packers inside linebacker, A.J. Hawk, has been more than just solid of late, playing very well against the run. The Packers (who were also missing nose tackle B.J. Raji) held Texans running back Arian Foster to 22 yards on 13 carries in the first half, when the run game was a viable option.

Hawk has taken a lot of criticism, and it’s easy to make a case that he’s overpaid. But he’s played well when the Packers needed him most.

4. One other quick note on the Brown hit on Smith.

The Texans have now ceded the moral high ground, and can no longer complain about linebacker Brian Cushing’s season-ending injury from a block of similar intent by Jets guard Matt Slauson.

You can’t have it both ways, fellas.

A wise man told me once there’s a difference between innocent and righteous. Just because it wasn’t flagged doesn’t make it right.

5. The Texans spent a lot of money ($48.75 million for five years) on cornerback Johnathan Joseph, and they’re  not getting a return on their investment lately.

There was no injury reported during the game, but he came out for a few plays for backup Alan Ball.

The Texans struggled last week in the secondary against the Jets, and if they were playing a team with actual receivers (and more of a quarterback), it might have cost them then.

It caught up with them Sunday night.

Joseph is a good cover player, but his two-week lapse is noticeable, and something they can’t afford.

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Tom Coughlin, Odell Beckham clear the air about hamstring

Tom Coughlin AP

It wasn’t hard to read the frustration in coach Tom Coughlin’s tone, regarding Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham’s hamstring problems.

So the rookie sat down with his old-school coach to make sure they were on the same page.

“We had that talk today and it was just kind of like, ‘I know I’m new and we don’t know each other that well,’ ” Beckham said, via Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News. “So over time you get to know people, and the bad part about it is your first impression is the kind that lasts forever, so you don’t ever want to leave a bad impression.

“But at the same time I’m just trying to reassure him that he knows how hard it is for me to not be practicing.”

Beckham missed OTA time with the hamstring problem as well, giving Coughlin a limited scope to see the 12th overall pick in the draft.

“We just had a discussion, that’s all, player [and] coach, trying to get to know each other better,” Coughlin said. “I see his frustration and he sees our frustration — but don’t make anything more of it than it is. It’s a coach wanting a player on the field and the player wanting the player on the field.”

Beckham had tests which showed no structural damage, so it’s a matter of day-to-day recovery. He said he hopes to play in some preseason games, which would certainly help Coughlin get to know him even better.

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Kelvin Benjamin feels like “a new man” after knee scare

Kelvin Benjamin AP

Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin was able to smile after his first NFL injury scare, saying he felt like “a new man” after a precautionary MRI revealed only a bone bruise.

(If that new man was Calvin Johnson, the Panthers’ passing game should be OK.)

Benjamin’s MRI revealed no structural damage, and the indication that his absence will be measured in days rather than weeks.

I’m coming back even harder, 10 times harder,” Benjamin said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “I’m getting a lot of treatment, just get better.”

Benjamin didn’t practice yesterday, and the team has today off, so there’s no rush.

“I think they just want to take their time on it,” he said. “I woke up [Tuesday] morning like a new man. I was telling them it feels way better. But they were still telling me still take your time with it.”

In his absence, the Panthers rotated Marvin McNutt into the starting mix with Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.

And that should tell you all you need to know about the importance of Benjamin’s return.

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Kyle Rudolph visits PFT Live on Wednesday

Rudolph AP

On Sunday, he signed a long-term, big-money deal with the Vikings.  On Wednesday, he’ll give PFT Live a little of his time for free.

We think.

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph inked a five-year, $36.5 million contract that can be worth up to $40 million.  I’ll ask him about that and other stuff related to the 2014 edition of the team, his fourth NFL season, and the first year with coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner during the show that streams right here at 12:00 p.m. ET.

If you have questions for Rudolph or questions for our daily (mostly) PFT Planet segment, ask them via Twitter.

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Dr. Jerry Jones declares Tony Romo “100 percent”

Jerry Jones AP

If you had any lingering concerns about Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo taking the day off yesterday rather than install the two-minute offense, let Dr. Jerry Jones set your mind at ease.

He is 100 percent. He’s 100 percent,” Jones said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He’s just being real smart and sensitive about having come off the back surgery. He’s certainly not losing any ground from the standpoint of opening up against San Francisco [in the regular-season opener].”

The good doctor’s son Stephen had said earlier Tuesday that Romo was practicing, but then coach Jason Garrett said he was giving Romo the day off since they were working on the faster-paced part of the program.

“I just had a brief visit with him on the way out to practice,” Doctor Jerry said. “We feel real good. We’re really pleased with the way he’s practicing and the work he’s getting done and what he’s doing both on and off the field, but nothing in any way would concern you certainly about his back.”

A healthy Romo is a key for the Cowboys trying to get off their perpetual 8-8 slide, so giving him days off in July is probably a prudent use of Owner Jerry’s money.

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Jerry Jones doesn’t “make a lot” of Raiders meeting with San Antonio

Jerry Jones

Tuesday night brought news of the Raiders talking to officials from San Antonio as part of what the city manager called “preliminary due diligence” about a possible move to the city for the stadium seeking team from Oakland.

There’s no sign that any move is imminent, not least because any relocation would need the approval of 23 other owners. One of those owners has had his team hold parts of training camp in San Antonio in the past and Jerry Jones called the town “very important” to the Cowboys franchise while discussing word of Raiders owner Mark Davis’ conversations.

Jones didn’t say whether that importance would make the Raiders moving to San Antonio problematic, but he didn’t sound overly worried about having to protect the Alamo from outside invaders.

“I don’t make a lot of this. At all,” Jones said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s not … something I necessarily would be familiar with. Again, my interest in San Antonio is because how important it is to the Cowboys, and our history of having our training camp there and the fact that we’ve got such a tremendous fan base in San Antonio.”

Jones and Texans owner Bob McNair will surely have more to say if things move forward in San Antonio. For now, though, they can focus on getting their own teams back into the playoffs.

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Oakland mayor says “continued progress” being made with the Raiders

raiders1 Getty Images

If Raiders owner Mark Davis flirted with San Antonio to get the attention of Oakland, it worked.

After news broke of Davis visiting Texas recently for a tour of potential stadium sites (and after Davis acknowledged it via messages posted on the team’s Twitter feed), Oakland mayor Jean Quan took to Twitter to address the effort to placate — and keep — both the Raiders and A’s over the long haul.

“Oakland is working to help build new ballparks for both the Raiders and the A’s, and we’re seeing progress on both fronts,” Quan said.  “We are making continued progress at the table with the Raider and the world’s third-largest real estate firm talking about Coliseum City.  The 10-year lease extension for the A’s includes a commitment from the teams’ owners to sit down to talk building a new Oakland ballpark.”

In June, Davis said that talks on a new stadium had occurred, but he bemoaned the lack of progress.  It’s unclear whether he’d agree with Quan’s assessment that progress actually has been made.

The real question becomes whether progress toward a new stadium in Oakland will be made now that Davis has shown the powers-that-be in Oakland that he has some power, and that he’s willing to consider using it.  Especially with a lease that last for only 10 more games.

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Report: No structural problems with Lardarius Webb’s back

Lardarius Webb AP

The Ravens got more worried about cornerback Lardarius Webb’s back after his Friday injury had not resolved itself in time for Monday’s practice, which led them to send him for more tests in hopes of finding out when he’d be able to get back to work.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that doctors found no structural damage to Webb’s back during their examination. It is thought to be a muscular problem that will be treated with rest and rehabilitation.

In other words, it is going to take some time for Webb’s back to get well enough for football action. The Ravens don’t think that his availability for the season opener is at risk at this point and a cautious approach from here will be designed to keep Webb on track for early September.

Webb had 74 tackles and two interceptions last season, making a successful move from a torn ACL back to the top of the depth chart at cornerback in Baltimore.

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Man faces charges for urinating on Art Modell’s grave

MODELL AP

A Browns fan that made a video of himself urinating on Art Modell’s grave may find himself in jail as a result of his decision to vent his anger in that manner and share it with the world.

Authorities in Maryland said Tuesday that they will charge the man, whose identity has not been revealed beyond being a Browns fan with disorderly conduct in a cemetery. The charge carries a possible penalty of two years in jail and a $500 fine.

“Everyone who has buried a loved one has the right to believe that their final resting place will be treated with respect,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said in a statement, via the Associated Press. “Bringing charges against this individual should act as a deterrent to others and assure the rest of us that no matter who you are, indecencies will not be committed against your final resting place.”

Modell’s son David thanked the police and prosecutors for their work on the case, adding that being angry at his father for moving the Browns to Baltimore doesn’t give people the right to break the law.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

EJ Manuel AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan wasn’t happy when QB Tajh Boyd took a hit in practice: “We don’t hit our quarterbacks, period,” Ryan said. “That’s why they’re in the red jersey. You got to be smart.”

Bills QB EJ Manuel’s position coach thinks the sky is the limit for his potential.

Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor says he’s OK with his players making mistakes, as long as they learn from them.

Said Tommy Kelly of trying to earn a job on the Patriots’ defensive line, “This is a very hard team to make, so if you don’t go out there and put it on the line every day, you ain’t going to be here. Simple as that.”

The Ravens’ new national anthem singer made his debut at an open practice.

Bengals WR Mohamed Sanu has done a little of everything in practice, including throwing a touchdown pass and taking a handoff in the backfield.

Said Browns RB Ben Tate of taking issue with a defensive player taking him to the ground, “It is a little frustrating but I understand that they need to work. But you know it’s a line and you know when they cross that line offensively we have gotta let them know that its not acceptable. So that is really what it was about just setting the tempo that, ‘Hey, you are not going to bully us. You know what I am saying?’ Everybody’s pro defense, defensive head coach but I am letting them know, ‘It don’t matter, ya’ll not gonna bully us.”

Steelers OL David Snow has been waived/injured after suffering an injury on the first day of camp.

Texans DE J.J. Watt was already the NFL’s best defensive lineman, but he may be getting even better.

Colts QB Andrew Luck may be ready to take a leap forward in his completion percentage.

Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis is having a strong camp.

After eight seasons in Tennessee, Michael Griffin says of this year’s group: “It’s a different team now. It’s a different team in the fact that it’s different all the way around. You see this team in a positive direction, aimed in the right direction. The guys we’ve brought in the last two years, the coaching staff — all of this you can see where this team can go.”

Broncos DE Derek Wolfe is looking healthy and strong in camp.

Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson is hoping to break the all-time franchise record for career tackles.

Matt Schaub is settling in as the Raiders’ starting quarterback.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy believes in giving players plenty of rest during camp.

Eagles QB Nick Foles says his great numbers last year mean nothing this year.

After not playing at all this year, Giants TE Daniel Fells has a chance to be a starter this year.

Cowboys LB Sean Lee is staying involved, even though he’s out for the year with a knee injury.

Washington backup QB Kirk Cousins is driving his grandma’s van.

Here’s a look at the state of the competition to back up QB Jay Cutler in Chicago.

Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron has dropped some passes, but coach Jim Caldwell is not concerned.

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is finding QB Teddy Bridgewater to be a quick study.

Packers S Sean Richardson has been able to overcome a serious neck injury.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan has confidence in Atlanta’s revamped offensive line.

Panthers undrafted rookie WR Marcus Lucas is catching a lot of touchdown passes in practice.

There’s pressure in New Orleans on S Jairus Byrd, who comes to the Saints with high expectations.

Said Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith of RB Jeff Demps, “When you have the title ‘fastest man in the NFL,’ you search for ways to do something with him.”

Rams DE William Hayes is recovering from three offseason surgeries.

Cardinals WR Michael Floyd may seem like the No. 2 receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald, but Floyd says there is no No. 1 or No. 2 in Arizona.

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch’s holdout could get expensive.

After a year off, 49ers WR Brandon Lloyd is enjoying being back in the NFL.

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Peterson gets $15.3 million signing bonus

Peterson Getty Images

Usually, a reporter publishes a player’s “guaranteed” money in a new contract without explaining how much is fully guaranteed at signing, how much is guaranteed for injury only, and when injury-only guarantees convert to full guarantees in the future.  For players like Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, the vague, incomplete information has initially come directly from them.

Peterson tweeted late Wednesday that he has signed a five-year, $70 million extension with $48 million guaranteed.  (It’s actually $70.05 million over five, a small difference but also an important one.)  Per a source with knowledge of the contract, only $47.3 million becomes fully guaranteed.  The full $48 million is guaranteed for injury only, for now.

The best guaranteed money in any NFL contract comes from the signing bonus.  According to the source, Peterson gets $15.3 million from the Cardinals.

Then, by the fifth day of the 2015 waiver period (which comes the week after Super Bowl XLIX), a total of $27.8 million will have become fully guaranteed, for skill, injury, and cap.

By the fifth day of the 2016 waiver period, $42.619 million becomes fully guaranteed.  By the fifth day of the 2017 waiver period, the rest of the $47.3 million becomes fully guaranteed.  The last $700,000 never becomes fully guaranteed.

The formula gives the Cardinals three different opportunities to move on before the guarantees fully vest, but the triggers come very early in the offseason, forcing Arizona to make a quick decision in early 2015, 2016, and 2017.  If/when they decide to move on, Peterson would the market more than a month before the start of free agency.  (In contrast, the 49ers have until April 1 each year to make a decision on Colin Kaepernick, three weeks after the start of free agency.)

Again, Peterson finagled this contract with two years left on his rookie deal.  He’s the first first-round pick in the rookie wage scale era to get a second contract.  For the rest, it could be a while until deals start getting done.

 

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Dolphins’ line coach is concerned about his options at center

Mike Pouncey AP

Dolphins center Mike Pouncey is injured and may not return until late in the regular season, and the performances in training camp of Pouncey’s potential replacements have the team worried.

After a practice in which new center Shelley Smith (who has never played center before) had two bad snaps to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and in which backup center Sam Brenner was carted off with a leg injury, Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton acknowledged there are issues.

Obviously, I’m concerned,” Benton said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We’ve got to find a way to be good at that position.”

Benton said he doesn’t know how well Smith is going to play at center but hopes to see a good preseason performance out of him.

“It’s unclear in the sense there’s a lot unclear until you get to that first game,” he said. “We’ll know a lot after that first preseason game. I’m optimistic. To say confident is probably a little stretch.”

To say the Dolphins will have a good offensive line this year is probably a stretch.

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Report: Cowboys fear Demarcus Lawrence has a broken foot

DeMarcus Lawrence AP

For a defense that couldn’t afford to take any more hits after the loss of Sean Lee to injury earlier this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys had to watch another key defensive piece get carted off the practice field.

Second-round defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was taken off the field by cart after going down with an injury during Tuesday’s practice.

According to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys fear Lawrence has suffered a broken foot.

While the extent of the damage is still uncertain, it is an injury that can require a substantial recovery period.

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones missed the final 11 games of last season after breaking a screw in his surgically repaired foot. Houston Texans lineman David Quessenberry missed the entire season after breaking a bone in his foot in practice prior to the start of the season.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the Cowboys could place Lawrence on the short-term injured reserve list for the start of the regular season, which would force him to miss at least eight game before being eligible to play.

For a defense that was ranked dead last in 2013, it’s a blow the Cowboys couldn’t afford to take.

UPDATE 1:00 a.m. ET: According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Lawrence did suffer a broken foot and is expected to miss 8-10 weeks. The injury will require surgery to repair the damage.

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Peterson’s deal technically makes him the highest paid corner in new money

Peterson AP

Continuing a trend among highly-paid cornerbacks to announce their new contracts via Twitter with basic financial information, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has informed the tweet-watching world that he has signed a five-year, $70 million extension with $48 million guaranteed.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the deal is actually with $70.05 million over five years, a minor distinction that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL based on a new-money analysis.  Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman signed in May four-year, $56 million extension, worth $14 million a year in new money.  Peterson’s average is $14.01 million.

While Peterson was a little low on the total amount, he’s also a little high on the guaranteed money.  We hope to have more details about the guaranteed money in the morning.

The key for Peterson comes from both shifting the injury risk to the team and getting a big-money extension with two years left on his rookie contract.  Sherman and Browns cornerback Joe Haden got their new deals with one year left on existing deals.  Peterson becomes the first 2011 first-round pick to get a long-term deal despite having two years remaining under contract.

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Patrick Peterson announces five-year extension with Cardinals

Cardinals Camp Football AP

Cornerback Patrick Peterson has reached an agreement with the Arizona Cardinals on a five-year contract extension.

Peterson had two more seasons left on his rookie deal with the Cardinals after Arizona picked up the fifth-year option on his contract earlier this offseason. Peterson announced his new deal via his Twitter account.

While we won’t know what the deal is truly worth until getting a closer look at the numbers, Peterson’s deal is right in line with the extensions given to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

According to Peterson’s self-reported numbers, Peterson would bring in more total guaranteed money ($48 million) than Sherman ($40 million) or Haden ($45 million). However, not all of that money is likely fully guaranteed.

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Cam Thomas faces a Ron Mexico-style lawsuit

Thomas AP

Two years before Mike Vick became known as a dogfighter, he was sued for giving a woman herpes.  The case introduced the football-following world to Ron Mexico, the alias Vick allegedly used when seeking treatment.

Now, Steelers defensive lineman Cam Thomas faces a similar lawsuit.  Without the creative alternative name.

Via 10News.com in San Diego, a woman filed on May 30 a civil complaint against Thomas for sexual battery, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud through intentional concealment, and negligence.

The woman, who sued under the name Adrienne E., accuses Thomas of attempting to shove her from a moving car, using a “hot flat iron on her hair” during an argument, and choking her until she passed out.

Adrienne E. also claims that the couple had unprotected sex on multiple occasions, and she contends that she at one point asked Thomas about bruises and sores in the area of his genitalia.  He allegedly explained that the condition arose from the “girdle he wears in practice and during workouts.”  She claims that she contracted herpes from Thomas.

Via TMZ, a lawyer who represents Thomas claims that the plaintiff is a “bitter girl” who is “angry, vindictive and mean” because Thomas has “another woman, and a baby in his life.”

Thomas becomes the second Steelers player this year accused of assaulting a female.  Last week, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and his twin brother, Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, were sued by a trio of persons who contend they were assaulted at the brothers’ birthday party in Miami.  Maurkice allegedly punched a woman in the face, rendering her unconscious.  He denies the allegations.

Thomas signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers in free agency.

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