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PFT’s Week Eight picks

Washington Redskins v New York Giants Getty Images

Week Seven was a very lucky week for yours truly.  With an unlucky 13 games on the schedule, I got 12 of them correct, with only a late comeback from the Titans blocking an unprecedented piece of perfection.

More importantly, MDS and I disagreed on three games.  Thanks to the Cowboys, Saints, and Colts, my two-game season-to-date lead has been extended to five games.

For the year, I’m now 67-37, and MDS is 62-42.

MDS will join Thursday’s PFT Live to discuss this week’s picks.  There will be no gloating.

At least not by him.

Buccaneers at Vikings

MDS’s take: After I was burned by picking the Bucs last week on the way to going 0-for-3 on games where I disagreed with Florio, I’m playing it safe this week. Tampa Bay still looks to me like a team that’s headed in the right direction, but right now the Vikings have too much for the Bucs on both sides of the ball and should win this one comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 27, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings get a chance to show how different they are this year against one of the teams to whom the Vikings blew a big halftime lead last year.  This time, if the Vikings are up by 10 or more at the break, look for them to close it out with a defense that finally is good enough to hold leads.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 21, Buccaneers 19.

Panthers at Bears

MDS’s take: Cam Newton is going to bounce back from this slump he’s in eventually. He’s too talented not to. But the Bears are the wrong team for a young quarterback to bounce back against. Chicago’s relentless pressure will force a few turnovers and lead to another loss for the Panthers.

MDS’s pick: Bears 20, Panthers 10.

Florio’s take:  Rattled by the ouster of G.M. Marty Hurney, racked by injuries, and reeling from the sad-sack demeanor of Cam Newton, the Panthers are poised to get plastered.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 31, Panthers 10.

Chargers at Browns

MDS’s take: The Chargers have had two weeks to lick their wounds after that disastrous Monday night meltdown against the Broncos. They’ll come in to Cleveland focused and motivated and win this one comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 31, Browns 17.

Florio’s take:  If Mike Holmgren’s current team can knock off the Chargers, the Chargers could be Mike Holmgren’s next team.  Though a house-cleaning could still be coming, the Chargers will likely do enough to reverse a bad two weeks of blown leads and stickum, allegedly.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 24, Browns 17.

Seahawks at Lions

MDS’s take: Mistakes keep killing the Lions, whether it’s penalties, turnovers or special teams coverage breakdowns. If the Lions could get out of their own way they could go on a run down the stretch and still contend for a wild card berth, but that doesn’t look likely at this point. Seattle is the team that looks like a playoff contender, and the Seahawks will take another step in that direction with a win on the road.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 17, Lions 14.

Florio’s take:  If this one were set for Seattle, it would be a no brainer.  In Detroit, the Seahawks have an opportunity to prove that they’re capable of beating better-than-bad teams in a place other than CenturyLink Field.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 17, Lions 16.

Jaguars at Packers

MDS’s take: In the biggest mismatch of the week, the Jaguars’ offense will look even worse than usual without Maurice Jones-Drew, and Aaron Rodgers will have his third consecutive huge game.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Jaguars 3.

Florio’s take:  The Packers have never beaten the Jaguars at Lambeau Field.  Then again, these teams have played there only once.  The Jags will want to forget their second trip to town.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 45, Jaguars 21.

Dolphins at Jets

MDS’s take: I’m impressed that the Jets aren’t going down without a fight. When they lost Darrelle Revis and got blown out by the 49ers, I figured the Jets were finished, but they’ve played good football for the last three weeks, even if they have only one win to show for it in those three games. The Jets will beat the Dolphins in a low-scoring game and get back to .500.

MDS’s pick: Jets 13, Dolphins 10.

Florio’s take:  Despite the injuries and the ineffectiveness and the uncertainty, the Jets have improved over the past few weeks.  They’re good enough to complete the sweep of a Dolphins team that has improved even more discreetly.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 30, Dolphins 20.

Falcons at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Eagles know their backs are against the wall, and the Falcons have been scraping by with three straight close wins. This looks to me like the day when the Falcons’ luck runs out, and the last unbeaten team in the league gets beaten.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Falcons 21.

Florio’s take:  Andy Reid is 13-0 after the bye week.  Sometimes, there’s no need for elaboration.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Falcons 23.

Redskins at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers took a big step toward the playoffs with last week’s win in Cincinnati, and I like them to keep it going against the Redskins. Look for Steelers tight end Heath Miller to have a big game against the Redskins’ defense, just as Giants tight end Martellus Bennett, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez have in the Redskins’ last three games.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 28, Redskins 27.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers are 20-2-1 at Heinz Field against NFC teams.  But Heinz Field has never seen anything like RG3, who’ll run circles around a Polamalu-free Pittsburgh defense.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 23, Steelers 20.

Patriots at Rams

MDS’s take: The Rams’ secondary has been playing well and the Patriots’ secondary has been leaving receivers wide open, and I’m tempted to pick the upset for that reason. But with Danny Amendola hurt I don’t think the Rams have the ammunition to take advantage of the Patriots’ problems on defense, and I think New England’s running game can churn up yardage at Wembley Stadium and lead the Patriots to a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 16, Rams 10.

Florio’s take:  The team whose name pays homage to the men who kicked the butts of the Brits like to kick butt in Britain.  Though it won’t be a blowout like it was three years ago against the Bucs, the Pats should be able to build a fourth-quarter lead.  And hold it.  For a change.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 27, Rams 21.

Colts at Titans

MDS’s take: Titans running back Chris Johnson took advantage of a bad Bills defense last week, and he should be able to take advantage of a bad Colts defense this week. Johnson will go for about 150 yards and the Colts’ offense won’t be able to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Titans 28, Colts 21.

Florio’s take:  The winner of this one won’t likely challenge the Texans for the division crown but would be very much alive for a wild-card berth.  The Titans continue their knack for playing in — and winning — exciting games.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Colts 24.

Raiders at Chiefs

MDS’s take: I’m not a believer in Brady Quinn as the Chiefs’ long-term answer at quarterback, but as a short-term fix who won’t turn the ball over as often as Matt Cassel, Quinn should be able to lead Kansas City to a home win over a bad team.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 20, Raiders 16.

Florio’s take:  Oakland has won five straight times at Arrowhead Stadium.  With an extra week to prepare and everyone on the hot seat, if the Chiefs don’t beat the Raiders at home now, they possibly never will.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 24, Raiders 10.

Giants at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Completing a season sweep of the Giants would go a long way toward getting the Cowboys into playoff contention, but I don’t see it happening. The Cowboys’ defense will miss linebacker Sean Lee, Giants quarterback Eli Manning will have a big day, and the Giants will improve to 4-0 all time at Cowboys Stadium.

MDS’s pick: Giants 31, Cowboys 20.

Florio’s take:  The Cowboys aren’t nearly as good as they were in Week One, when they beat the Giants in New Jersey.  The Giants are the same, but this time they won’t get complacent.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 35, Cowboys 27.

Saints at Broncos

MDS’s take: Two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks will be on the field in Denver, but Drew Brees has to play against a good Broncos secondary, while Peyton Manning gets to play against a terrible Saints secondary. Advantage Peyton.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 42, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  When he was the head coach of the Panthers, John Fox held his own against Sean Payton’s Saints.  This time, Fox has a great quarterback — and the Saints don’t have Payton.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 38, Saints 28.

49ers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals’ great start to the season may come to a screeching halt on Monday night.  A home loss to a division rival would be tough for Arizona to overcome, and a win at Arizona will be another step for the 49ers toward establishing themselves as the clear favorites to win the NFC West.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 20, Cardinals 13.

Florio’s take:  Once atop the NFC West, the Cardinals are close to completing their slide to the basement.  Blame it on the lack of a high-end quarterback and an offensive line to protect him.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Cardinals 13.

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Browns experimenting with Ogbah at 3-4 defensive end

BEREA, OH - JUNE 1, 2016: Linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah #90 of the Cleveland Browns takes part in drills during an OTA on June 1, 2016 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Emmanuel Ogbah Getty Images

As a pass rusher, Browns rookie Emmanual Ogbah naturally would play defensive end in a 4-3 defense and linebacker in a 3-4. In Cleveland, where the 3-4 remains the base defense, Ogbah spent the offseason as a linebacker. Now that camp has arrived, the Browns have given him a try at defensive end.

“We’re going to try a little bit of everything,” coach Hue Jackson told reporters on Friday. “We’re going to put our best players out there on defense. Obviously, we are going to try him there. We’re going to put him back at outside linebacker. We’re just trying to find a lot of different combinations now that Des [Bryant] is going to be down to see if we can put our best guys out there. If he gives us something there, then it’s going to help our football team. We’re going to try anything and everything that we can to give guys opportunities that showcase their abilities and talents.”

Jackson confirmed that Ogbah played linebacker exclusively during OTAs, with the switch happening only in training camp.

“We’re going to play him at defensive end some and take a good look at him,” Jackson said of Ogbah. “As you guys know, this time of the year is evaluation time for all of our football team. Now, you can do some of that. Move guys around and see what’s the best fit for our football team to help us win.”

Jackson disputed the notion that Ogbah moved to defensive end because of perceived difficulties with dropping into coverage as a linebacker during the offseason program. Instead, Jackson pointed out that having Ogbah play multiple positions gives the defense a greater degree of flexibility on defense.

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49ers add defensive lineman

UFC Fighters meet San Francisco 49ers Players Getty Images

The 49ers announced Friday that they’ve added defensive lineman D.J McBryde to their training camp roster.

McBryde, 24, signed a two-year deal with the team. McBryde broke into the NFL last season with the Eagles and spent six weeks on their active roster before catching on with the Packers practice squad last November. He signed a futures contract with the Packers in January but was waived last week.

He was a three-year contributor and one-year starter at UConn.

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49ers sign Joshua Garnett

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 7: Joshua Garnett #65 of the San Francisco 49ers goes through drills during the 49ers Rookie Camp at Levi Stadium on May 7, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Joshua Garnett Getty Images

The 49ers traded back into the first round to pick guard Joshua Garnett. Finally, the Stanford product is under contract.

The team has announced the Garnett has agreed to terms. As usual, it’s a four-year deal with a team-held option for the fifth year.

Garnett won the Outland Trophy in 2015, which goes to college football’s top lineman.

The acquisition leaves one one unsigned first-round pick: Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa.

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Todd Bowles doesn’t rule out carrying four quarterbacks

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets during play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 19, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not long ago, the Jets were trying to sell the idea that Geno Smith would be the team’s starting quarterback. Now, they’re trying to sell the idea that Smith, the only quarterback inherited by the current regime, won’t be dumped in favor of 2015 draft pick Bryce Petty and 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg.

Keeping Smith could mean keeping four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Coach Todd Bowles was asked on Friday how conceivable keeping four quarterbacks would be.

“It’s conceivable,” Bowles told reporters. “It all depends on the strengths and weaknesses of other positions, because you have to steal from a position to keep a position and we have pretty good competition right now at about five positions, at least. It’s going to come down to seeing who we’re able to keep and who’s able to perform and who’s able to do things where we can steal one from another and who can play a dual role and have some versatility. It’s early, but we’ll see how it works out.”

Bowles pointed out that he once played on a Washington team that carried four quarterbacks, but that it happened in the days before the salary cap.

Bowles also made it clear that counting reps won’t be the best way to spot the man in danger of being cut.

“It’s not just if you get the least reps, you’re not going to be on the team,” Bowles said. “Sometimes you only need a little bit to show a lot and that’s at every position and that’s how we evaluate. We’re not going to evaluate somebody because they start out third team — and I’m not just talking about the quarterback spot — so you can make plays in a small amount of time to make an impact depending on what our need is for making this team.”

The Jets have no reason to admit that Smith or any other quarterback is in danger of being cut. They surely hope that someone will offer to trade for one of them. That’s why anything the team says about wanting to keep Smith should be taken with a grain of salt. They have to act like they want him in order to ever have any hope of training him.

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Bills hope Manny Lawson doesn’t have a long-term injury

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24: Manny Lawson #91 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a third quarter blocked kick recovery while playing the New York Jets at Ford Field on November 24, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Mario Williams gone, the Bills are counting on Manny Lawson stepping in and stepping up. For now, however, the Bills don’t have Lawson, because he injured himself working out on his own shortly before training camp.

While most stints on the non-football injury list will be temporary, the Bills are still waiting to learn more about Lawson’s absence. On Friday, G.M. Doug Whaley was asked whether Manny Lawson’s absence could be a long one.

“We’ll have to assess and get information from the medical staff here pretty soon and hopefully not,” Whaley told reporters. “We don’t anticipate it, but again, you never know with these things.”

Whaley said Manny Lawson suffered an upper body injury. If he’s not available, IK Enemkpali will have even more opportunities with the Bills.

“I’m excited about IK and I’ve mentioned that before,” coach Rex Ryan told reporters on Friday. “It may give him an opportunity to get the majority of the reps at the one.”

If Manny Lawson’s absence is extended, the team may look to add players at the position — especially since first-rounder Shaq Lawson could be missing much of his rookie year.

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Jets’ GM says Geno Smith remains in team’s plans

Geno Smith AP

Jets quarterback Geno Smith was essentially demoted when the team re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this week, and Smith hasn’t hidden the fact that he’s not happy about it.

Still, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told reporters Friday that Smith remains in the team’s plans.

Asked if he expected Smith to be on the opening day roster, Maccagnan said he “assumes” that answer is yes and said the team likes Smith.

The team will almost certainly end up either moving on from Smith or second-year quarterback Bryce Petty after drafting Christian Hackenberg last spring. That’s a decision Maccagnan doesn’t have to make now, but Smith knows he might also be auditioning for other teams.

Jets Coach Todd Bowles praised Smith in the offseason. Whether that was about trade value or whether the team still thinks Smith could end up being in its long-term plans might is unclear, and a lot could depend on what happens over the next four or five weeks with all of the team’s quarterbacks.

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Roethlisberger honors Heath Miller on first day of camp

Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller AP

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger paid tribute Friday to retired tight end Heath Miller by wearing Miller’s No. 83 jersey for the start of training camp.

Friday marked the start of the Steelers’ first camp without Miller since 2004. He was a first-round pick in 2005 who caught 45 career touchdown passes and went to two Pro Bowls.

Miller announced his retirement in February.

The Steelers tweeted a video of Roethlisberger taking the field in the No. 83 jersey on their official Twitter account.

Ladarius Green figures as the team’s new No. 1 tight end after signing with the Steelers in March, but he’s starting camp on the PUP list. His absence means extra reps for tight ends Jesse James and David Johnson.

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Texans extend G.M. Rick Smith’s contract through 2020

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Houston Texans General manager Rick Smith watches the New York Jets and Houston Texans warm up on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the signing of quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller, the Texans were one of the busier teams in the early days of free agency.

They aren’t going to wait to see how those moves or any of the others they made this offseason work out before deciding on General Manager Rick Smith’s future with the team. The Texans have extended Smith’s contract, which was due to expire after this season, through the 2020 campaign.

“Rick’s doing a good job for us, and I think stability in the organization is important,” owner Bob McNair said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “He works hard. He’s very diligent. He communicates well. He knows what our objectives are. Rick has put together a good scouting staff, and he works well with the coaching staff. I thought this was a good time to get this done.”

Smith is the second G.M. in the history of the franchise. He succeeded Charley Casserley in 2006 and built the first Texans teams to advance to the postseason. They took a step back in 2013 and 2014 and had a rough draft in 2013 outside of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but returned to the postseason as AFC South champs last year and McNair clearly believes Smith will continue to be successful in the years to come.

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Panthers first-rounder Vernon Butler carted off practice field with cramps

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Draftee Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech arrives at the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the early days of training camp, the most dreaded sight is the flatbed cart.

It made its appearance at Panthers camp today, to haul first-round pick Vernon Butler off the practice field, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said moments later that Butler was suffering from cramps, alleviating some of the concern.

Butler is a key piece for the Panthers for several reasons, even beyond his presence on the field. Having another interior presence should help them keep waves of linemen coming, and add to a pass-rush that isn’t as well-stocked at defensive end.

But he’s also a useful deterrent/insurance policy in the ongoing Kawann Short contract talks, allowing General Manager Dave Gettleman some cover for the future if they can’t work out a deal with Short.

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Raiders parting ways with Roy Helu

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Roy Helu #26 of the Oakland Raiders rushes with the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on December 6, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders put running back Roy Helu on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp because he had surgery on both hips this offseason, but it’s going to be a brief stay.

The change isn’t because Helu is moving back to the active roster. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Friday that the team has removed Helu from the 90-man roster entirely and replacing him with defensive tackle Derrick Lott.

Helu signed with the Raiders in March 2015, but he was hurt during training camp and wound up getting just 17 carries and nine receptions in nine appearances with the team. His hip problems suggested more of the same could be on tap this season and the Raiders will look elsewhere for backs to complement Latavius Murray.

They have 2016 fifth-rounder DeAndre Washington, Taiwan Jones, George Atkinson and Jalen Richard on hand to compete for that role now.

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Eli, Cruz say Beckham needs to be careful with his emotions

Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr. AP

Giants receiver Odell Beckham’s 2015 season ended with a suspension for repeated personal fouls in an ongoing skirmish with Josh Norman. Beckham’s veteran teammates want to see 2016 go differently.

And so, quarterback Eli Manning told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, the veterans on the Giants have talked to Beckham about keeping his emotions in check.

“Odell knows what he needs to do,” Manning said. “He’s got to be careful with his emotions and make sure that doesn’t affect his play. You want to get in that right temperament, be at your best, play your best football and he’s got to make sure he controls that, where we’re getting his best and his actions don’t affect the team in a negative way.”

Receiver Victor Cruz added that Beckham, as a young star in the NFL, needs to consider what kind of reputation he wants to have.

“I think he understands that this past year, since last season, has been a little bit of a whirlwind, in that regard, and he understands that — he wants people to know him for him and how he’s a great player, great person, and how he wants to be perceived and I think he’s really taken charge of that,” Cruz said.

Beckham already has the “great player” part down. He may have some work to do rehabbing his personal image, after the ugly ending to last season.

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Kubiak admits the obvious: 2015 Broncos offense “did not play well at all”

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos  reacts against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure via free agency of Brock Osweiler, the Broncos official website referred to the quality of the team’s quarterback play in 2015 as “sub-optimal” and “near-replacement-level.”

On Friday, coach Gary Kubiak didn’t use such specificity in connection with the quarterback position. But he used a broad brush to paint a not-so-flattering picture regarding the team’s offensive performance in 2015.

“We’re talking about a group,” Kubiak told reporters. “We’re not talking about a position. You go back to last year and you look at us, we finished in the middle of the pack. I think we finished 16th. Out of 12 playoff teams, I think we we’re like sixth offensively, but we feel like we did not play well at all. That tells you the standard that we have, the standard that I have and [offensive coordinator Rick Dennison] has, and what we want to do. We’ve got to improve as a team. We can’t turn the ball over as much as we did last year and we’ve got to play better up front. If we do those things with the players we’ve got, we’re going to be a better offense. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a group, not a player.”

Fine, but it’s hard not to throw stones at an entire offense without hitting the former leader of it in the red splotch on his forehead. Quarterbacks get the credit when offenses thrive and the blame when they sputter. The Broncos sputtered on offense last year, and the play of Peyton Manning was a big factor in that.

This year, if the Broncos can get more out of the quarterback position, they can be better on offense and, if they perform as well as they did defensively in 2015, hoist another Lombardi Trophy.

On Friday, Mark Sanchez had the first crack at leading the first-team offense. After he threw an interception to cornerback Chris Harris Jr., however, Trevor Siemian entered and, according to Mike Klis of 9news.com, remained the No. 1 quarterback for the rest of the day.

With multiple options and no clear-cut leader at the position, that’s likely how it’s going to go. With Kubiak wanting to protect the ball, the one that does will play. Until he doesn’t, at which point someone else will play.

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Richardson missing from Jets practices for personal reasons

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets warms up prior to playing the Oakland Raiders in their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on November 1, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets have excused defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from their training camp practices due to personal reasons, Jets coach Todd Bowles told reporters Friday.

Bowles said he expects Richardson to be absent for a couple days.

The Jets started camp on Thursday.

Richardson, 25, had five sacks last season after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He has 16.5 sacks in three seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

Richardson is suspended for the Jets’ season opener vs. the Bengals for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He’s still allowed to participate in camp and the preseason.

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Dennis Pitta: I don’t feel like I’ve lost a step

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 07: Tight end Dennis Pitta #88 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by linebacker Emmanuel Lamur #59 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on September 7, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Cincinnati Bengals won, 23-16. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tight end Dennis Pitta avoided a spot on the physically unable to perform list this week, leaving him eligible to take part in practices with the Ravens as they opened training camp.

Pitta didn’t practice at all last year as his twice-broken and dislocated hip was never well enough for him to get on the field. Pitta contemplated retirement in the offseason, but restructured his contract with the team in order to give it another go.

After the first two practices, Pitta told reporters that he’s not thinking about his hip unless he’s being asked about it and that he feels his chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t suffered as a result of his long layoff.

“I don’t feel like I’ve lost a step,” Pitta said, via ESPN.com. “I don’t feel like I’m any slower or do anything different than I did a couple of years ago, in my opinion. That’s my goal. I want to be the lead guy.”

Whether he’s the lead guy at tight end or part of a group with Benjamin Watson and Maxx Williams, getting Pitta back in a form close to where he was in the past would be a big win for the Ravens offense. So far, it looks like there’s good reason for optimism about his chances of doing that.

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RG3 says he’s fine with Hue’s hesitation to name starter

BEREA, OH - APRIL 21, 2016: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Cleveland Browns drops back to pass during a voluntary mini camp on April 21, 2016 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Robert Griffin III Getty Images

Robert Griffin III got the first reps with the first-team offense as the Browns opened training camp Friday, but Browns coach Hue Jackson has been adamant that the team does not yet have a starting quarterback.

As he did throughout the spring, Griffin said he’s just “having fun” and whatever level of uncertainty may exist hasn’t affected his thinking or his work.

“I think Coach is going to come out and see what he needs to see and make that decision,” Griffin said, per the team’s official camp transcript. “It’s our job as players to put our best foot forward.”

Jackson has said he’ll name a starter before the team plays its first preseason game, and since the spring it’s seemed like Griffin’s job to lose. Friday marked the first of 11 practices the Browns have on their schedule before their Aug. 12 preseason opener at Green Bay.

“At the end of the day you come out here every day having to work to be the guy, to be the best,” Griffin said. “Even when they name the starter you still have to come out here and work and prove it every single day. Nothing’s ever going to be given to you.

“I don’t worry about things that I can’t control. If [Jackson] asks me to stand up in front of the team and present something, I’m going to present something. If he says, ‘Don’t tell me anything,’ then I’m going to sit there and take notes. At the end of the day, you don’t worry about what you can’t control. Coach has decisions that he has to make, and your job is to make that decision easy for him.”

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