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PFT’s Week Nine picks

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The good news last week?  MDS gained only one game on me.  The bad news?  MDS got only seven of the 14 games right.

Yep, that 12-1 performance from yours truly in Week Seven is now the chunk of filet between a moldy pair of 6-8 slices of counterfeit Wonder bread.

At one point, it was looking disastrous.  Thanks to the Giants, Broncos, and 49ers, a nauseating 3-8 start was salvaged.  Sort of.

This week, we again disagree on only one game.  And it all comes down to Monday night.

For the year, I’m now 73-45, and MDS is 69-49.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: Matt Cassel is back as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, and the result will be more or less the same as the first time Cassel started against the Chargers this year: He’ll throw multiple interceptions and the Chiefs will lose.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Chiefs 13.

Florio’s take:  The Chargers already have beaten the Chiefs in Kansas City.  Then again, who hasn’t?  Norv Turner’s week-to-week employment lasts at least another week.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Chiefs 16.

Broncos at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Bengals’ defense has been a mess this season, and Peyton Manning is getting better every week. Manning will throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns and the Broncos will cruise.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Bengals 17.

Florio’s take:  The schedule softens for a Denver team that looks to be much better than the one that made it to the final eight a year ago.  The Bengals, on the other hand, are starting a rough patch that will make a rough season even rougher.  Roughly speaking.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 31, Bengals 17.

Ravens at Browns

MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset here, as the Ravens have struggled to put teams away while the Browns have played competitive football even in defeat. But while the Browns will keep this one close, the Ravens will manage to hold them off.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 23, Browns 21.

Florio’s take:  Cleveland’s old team returns to town, nearly 17 years to the day after Cleveland’s old team declared its intention to leave.  The Browns will make it interesting, but the Ravens know they need to step it up now in order to hold off the Steelers, who are making their move and who face the Ravens twice in three weeks, starting later this month.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Browns 14.

Cardinals at Packers

MDS’s take: This looks to me like the easiest pick on the board. Aaron Rodgers will have another big game, Clay Matthews will have a couple sacks, and the reeling Cardinals will lose their fifth straight.

MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Cardinals 12.

Florio’s take:  After nearly losing to the Jags, the Packers will be on guard for a Cardinals team that hits the road on a short week after a Monday night mess.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 35, Cardinals 20.

Bills at Texans

MDS’s take: Speaking of easy games to pick, there’s no way the Bills’ defense slows down Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Co. I do think C.J. Spiller could have a big game against the Texans’ run defense, but the Bills’ offense won’t be able to keep up the scoring pace.

MDS’s pick: Texans 35, Bills 21.

Florio’s take:  $100 million can buy a lot of Super Bowl rings.  That may be the only way Mario Williams ever gets one.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 30, Bills 17.

Dolphins at Colts

MDS’s take: If the playoffs started today, these two teams would earn the two AFC wild card berths. Who saw that coming before the season? I look for the Dolphins to take a big step toward the playoffs with a big win in Indianapolis, and I expect a lot of people to be talking about Joe Philbin as a coach of the year candidate after his team gets its biggest win of the season.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 27, Colts 14.

Florio’s take:  A pair of top-ten quarterbacks have winning records through eight weeks, and neither has a III at the end of his name.  Despite III wins in a row, the Dolphins remain underrated.  Will they still be if they’re VIII-III when hosting the Pats?

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 23, Colts 20.

Lions at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The Lions’ m.o. is the same every week: Start slowly and get better as the game goes on. Some games, like last week against the Seahawks, that results in a last-minute come-from-behind win. Other games, like two weeks ago against the Bears, that results in a last-minute touchdown followed by a failed onside kick and a loss. So which will it be this week? I’m betting neither. The Lions have finally found an opponent they can beat from pillar to post and will win easily in Jacksonville.

MDS’s pick: Lions 27, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  With the Jaguars outscored 95-20 at home at home this season and the Lions beginning to show some signs of life, this is precisely the kind of game that Jacksonville should win.  I’ll take my chances.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 28, Jaguars 17.

Bears at Titans

MDS’s take: The Bears’ defense will make life miserable for Matt Hasselbeck and hold Chris Johnson to less than 20 yards. Chicago wins this big.

MDS’s pick: Bears 27, Titans 13.

Florio’s take:  It’s tempting to take the Titans, who have played well lately.  Especially since the Bears were sluggish at best against the Panthers.  But a good team finds a way to win games it seems to be trying to lose.  On Sunday, the Bears will be less complacent.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 27, Titans 17.

Panthers at Redskins

MDS’s take: In a game with all eyes on Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, I like Redskins running back Alfred Morris to steal the show with a big game against a suspect Panthers run defense.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 24, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take:  The quarterbacks should put their respective Heisman Trophies on the line for this one.  If they do, Robert Griffin III will have bookends.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 33, Panthers 23.

Buccaneers at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Raiders are actually playing some surprisingly good football lately, to the point where I wouldn’t rule out a run at an AFC playoff spot. Carson Palmer will put a lot of points on the board as the Raiders win their third straight game.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 34, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take:  This rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII will turn out a little bit better for the Silver and Black, which surprisingly remain in striking distance for a playoff berth.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 27, Buccaneers 20.

Vikings at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Both the Vikings and the Seahawks are coming off disappointing Week Eight performances, but I have a lot more faith in Seattle’s ability to turn things around at home.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 23, Vikings 16.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings were exposed last week against the Bucs, and offensive coordinator Bill Mugrave could be exposed to unemployment if he doesn’t get the team back on track.  Good luck with that in Seattle, against that defense.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, Vikings 9.

Steelers at Giants

MDS’s take: The Steelers have played well at home and badly on the road this season, and that will continue against the Giants, who will win their fifth in a row.

MDS’s pick: Giants 28, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take:  It’s a simple formula in New York.  Play great against great teams.  Play not-so-great against not-so-great teams.  The Steelers currently fall closer to the former category.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 35, Steelers 27.

Cowboys at Falcons

MDS’s take: Despite the Falcons’ 7-0 record and the Cowboys’ 3-4 record, I see this as a close game.  The Cowboys are playing competitive football and the Falcons have had a tendency to let weaker teams hang around. But the end result will be something we’ve already seen a couple times this season.  Dallas failing to pull it out in the end.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 24, Cowboys 21.

Florio’s take:  If the Cowboys spot the Falcons 23 points, the Falcons won’t let them back into it.  And with their only non-flex visit to Sunday Night Football, the Falcons aren’t about to stumble against an inferior team.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 31, Cowboys 20.

Eagles at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have probably already run out of chances to turn their season around, and the Eagles are rapidly running out of chances, too. But the Saints’ defense is so weak that Michael Vick can’t help but have a better game on Monday night, and the Eagles will win in New Orleans.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  For a team that may not be making it to the playoffs, delivering a knockout punch to the Eagles on national TV in the Superdome could be the next best thing.  Maybe a certain T-shirt will be making another appearance; at least ESPN isn’t regulated by the FCC.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 27, Eagles 24.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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LB Preston Brown is fighting for a starting job with the Bills.

A good review of the Dolphins cornerbacks.

LB Brooks Ellis is trying to make the Patriots with medical school as a backup plan.

A call for patience with Jets QB Christian Hackenberg.

Getting to know Ravens rookie LB Tyus Bowser.

A look back at the David Shula era with the Bengals.

The Browns gave $25,000 of helmets to a local high school.

Said Steelers WR Antonio Brown, “You can always raise the ceiling. You can get better or worse. You’ve got to continue to grow and get better.”

There’s plenty of time to brush up on the point spreads for the Texans’ 2017 games.

Colts T Anthony Castonzo is looking for consistency this season.

TE Marcedes Lewis‘ role with the Jaguars should grow this year.

A 2016 highlight film for Titans QB Marcus Mariota.

Broncos K Brandon McManus and P Riley Dixon spent time with Mexican soccer star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

Ron Parker has made a good partner for Eric Berry at safety for the Chiefs.

Said Raiders DE Mario Edwards, “We were a couple games away from making it to the big one. I believe the defense and the team as a whole is just hungry to get back to that point.”

Chargers RB Branden Oliver hopes to stay healthy this year.

Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson has no doubts about Dak Prescott.

Giants WR Sterling Shepard wants more yards after the catch in 2017.

RB LeGarrette Blount’s modest deal with the Eagles is the latest in a career filled with them.

QB Kirk Cousins and WR Terrelle Pryor are getting on the same page with the Redskins.

A look back at the Bears players who served in World War II.

How did the Lions do in the 2014 draft?

Vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball isn’t well known, but he’s important to the Packers.

Maurice Jones-Drew thinks Vikings rookie RB Dalvin Cook will play a big role.

Falcons CB Desmond Trufant was a sure tackler last season.

Catching up with former Panthers WR Armanti Edwards.

A pair of healthy fibulas loom large for the Saints defense.

Games against the Vikings, Giants, Cardinals and Lions could determine the Buccaneers’ playoff fate.

It should be a long battle for the No. 2 cornerback job with the Cardinals.

There’s a lot of time for the Rams and DT Aaron Donald to work out a long-term deal.

The 49ers hope Aaron Lynch can boost their pass rush this season.

Five questions for the Seahawks as they get OTAs going.

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Cowboys haven’t given away Tony Romo’s locker

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Part of the reason people keep speculating about the possibility of Tony Romo returning to the Cowboys in the event of an injury to Dak Prescott might be that they keep talking about it.

But there’s also the small matter of some important real estate that makes people think he could still have one eye on his old job while working for CBS.

According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys have yet to give away their former quarterback’s old locker, and they certainly haven’t given away his jersey number 9 to anyone yet.

And while it’s easy to talk around the number issue (they don’t retire numbers but no one wear’s Roger Staubach’s 12 or Troy Aikman’s 8 either), coach Jason Garrett has done some re-arranging in the locker room this offseason, putting team leaders in different corners of the room. And Romo’s spot remains vacant, even with a 90-man roster.

All of these breadcrumbs point to a certain lack of finality in his decision to make the leap to broadcasting. And it’s also wondering what the backup plan at CBS would be, if Romo decided to ride back into Dallas on a white horse in case of emergency.

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Tuesday’s PFT Live talks a little hockey (again)

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At one point in the third period on Monday night, the chances of talking any hockey at all during Tuesday’s PFT Live dropped to “no way in hell.” But with the Penguins somehow finding a way to win without taking many/any shots over the final two periods of the Stanley Cup Final opener, hockey talk was back on the agenda.

So, yes, we’ll recap Game One, a 5-3 win by Pittsburgh over Nashville. Also, NBC’s Pierre McGuire (who joined us on Monday for a Cup Final primer) will help us make sense of what happened over the final 40 minutes — and what it all means for Game Two and beyond.

Darin Gantt of PFT also chime in on the NFL issues of the day, with his reaction to the comments from Giants co-owner John Mara regarding the letter-writing campaign from fans that apparently has influenced his view (and maybe the views of others in league circles) to not offer Colin Kaepernick employment.

We’ll also take a look at some of the top storylines for the coming season, along with everything else relevant to the NFL on the first official work day of a short week. Even though we worked on Monday. Which, once again, is not work.

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49ers working out veteran safety Jairus Byrd

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The 49ers aren’t afraid of bringing in competition at positions where they’re ostensibly covered for starters.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the 49ers are working out former Bills and Saints safety Jairus Byrd among a group of defensive backs today.

When well, Byrd has been a very good safety. But that was mostly in Buffalo, as he missed 15 games in two seasons with the Saints, after signing a six-year, $54 million contract prior to the 2015 season.

The 30-year-old Byrd’s worth a look, but the 49ers have a group of high picks at the position already, with former first-rounders Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward and second-rounder Jaquiski Tartt.

But with a new administration from the one that made those gentlemen high picks, nothing is secure, and every position is going to be up for grabs (like their logjam of inside linebackers with Navorro Bowman, Malcolm Smth and new first-rounder Reuben Foster.

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Adam Vinatieri still having fun, not thinking of retiring at age 44

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Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is the oldest player in the NFL at age 44, but he doesn’t appear to be winding his career down.

Vinatieri isn’t even thinking about retiring yet, according to the Colts’ website.

“Yeah, you know I still love the game as much as I ever have,” Vinatieri said. “It’s fun running out onto the field. It’s much more fun playing in the playoffs. Cleaning out your locker the first week of January is not a whole lot of fun and it always leaves a lousy taste in your mouth. I still love running out onto the field. I still think I can help our team win games and why not keep going?”

Vinatieri turns 45 on December 28, meaning in the Colts’ Week 17 game he’s set to become the eighth player in NFL history to play at age 45. The oldest NFL player ever was George Blanda at 48, and the next-oldest was Morten Andersen at 47. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Vinatieri play until 2019 or 2020 and make it to 47 or 48. Maybe even longer.

Vinatieri was one of the better kickers in the league last year, hitting 27 of his 31 field goal attempts and making all 44 of his extra point tries. As long as he can keep playing at that level, there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep having fun.

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Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has slimmed down

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Perhaps recognizing he was running out of chances in the NFL, New York Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has dropped weight and looks to be in much better shape during OTAs.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, Seferian-Jenkins is down to 260 pounds per his agent Brian Fettner.

The light went on, and he’s really dialed in,” Fettner said.

Seferian-Jenkins was suspended for the first two games of the upcoming season after a DUI arrest last year. The former second-round pick was dumped by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season after the arrest as it reached a breaking point with the team. Injuries and a general lack of production, combined with the emergence of Cameron Brate, led to his exit from Tampa Bay.

Seferian-Jenkins caught just two passes for 10 yards in seven games played for the Jets last season after being claimed off waivers.

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Jonathan Williams looking to seize backup role to LeSean McCoy

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With the New England Patriots stealing away Mike Gillislee in restricted free agency, Buffalo Bills running back Jonathan Williams knows there’s a significant opportunity for him to step up into the prime backup role to LeSean McCoy.

It’s an opportunity Williams doesn’t intend on squandering.

You know every day I just come out here and try to do my best,” Williams said, via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. “I’m learning from one of the best backs in the league in LeSean McCoy. This offensive scheme is a great scheme for any running back, so every day I’m just taking it one day at a time.

“You definitely see that opening, but like I said, I’m trying to take it one day at a time and keep getting better.”

McCoy has also missed five games due to injury over the past two seasons, which would give the occasional spot starting opportunity for Williams as well if such injuries continue.

Even with McCoy and Gillislee on the roster last year, Williams appeared in 11 games and received 27 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. He also lost two fumbles in that span, which is an area he’ll need to solidify if he’s getting an increased workload this year.

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Giants moving Mykkele Thompson to cornerback

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With depth at the safety position seemingly solidified following the addition of Duke Ihenacho last week, the New York Giants are moving a former fifth-round pick from safety to cornerback.

According to James Kratch of NJ.com, the Giants have moved Mykkele Thompson to cornerback.

Thompson is practicing at the position during the team’s OTAs. He’s appeared in just one game for the Giants after being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. A knee injury derailed his season last year and landed him on injured reserve in September.

With Landon Collins, Ihenacho, Darian Thompson, Andrew Adams and Nat Berhe still left at safety, Thompson has a better chance of contributing at cornerback if he can make the transition successfully.

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Mike Zimmer: “One eye or two, it doesn’t matter. I’ll be back”

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Maybe it’s the fact that Mike Zimmer didn’t get his first chance to be an NFL head coach until he was 57 years old, but he’s not intending on walking away from the gig any time soon.

Despite an eighth eye surgery last week that is forcing him to sit out some of the team’s offseason program, Zimmer remains fully committed to serving as head coach of the Vikings.

I’ll be back shortly,” Zimmer said Friday, via Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press. “One eye or two, it doesn’t matter. I’ll be back. We can put that retiring thing to bed quickly.”

Zimmer said he intends to return to the Vikings on June 4, just one day before his 61st birthday. He missed one game last year after continued issues with his eye led to previous surgeries. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson has been filling in for the Vikings in Zimmer’s absence.

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Federal judge tosses cheerleader lawsuit

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U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup threw out a lawsuit on Thursday night claiming the NFL and its owners conspired to suppress wages of cheerleaders.

According to Sudhin Thanawala of the Associated Press, Alsup tossed the case due to a lack of evidence. However, he gave the plaintiff – a former San Francisco 49ers cheerleader listed as Kelsey K. – the chance to re-file the suit by June 15. Attorney Drexel Bradshaw stated their intention to follow through with the re-filing of the suit.

“To state an antitrust claim here, plaintiff must plead not only ‘ultimate facts, such as conspiracy, and legal conclusions,'” Alsup said in his filing. “The complaint must answer the basic questions of ‘who, did what, to whom (or with whom), where, and when?'”

The complaint sought class action status on behalf of all NFL cheerleaders.

A separate suit between former cheerleaders of the Oakland Raiders and that team was settled earlier this month. The former Raiders cheerleaders accused the franchise of paying them less than minimum wage for their services over several seasons of work.

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Ex-NFL player suing former financial advisor for fraud

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A former unnamed NFL player has brought a lawsuit against his former financial advisor, Kenneth Ray Cleveland, alleging he deliberately mismanaged more than $4.5 million in the player’s funds

According to the Associated Press, Cleveland was indicted on seven counts of wire fraud and three counts of felony money laundering.

Instead of investing the player’s money, he allegedly used the money to pay other clients and use on personal expenses, including his home mortgage and credit cards.

The charges against Cleveland would bring a maximum of a 10-20 years in jail and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden is also currently involved in a lawsuit against his former financial advisor.

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Cowboys’ Nolan Carroll arrested for DWI

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Cowboys cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested for driving while intoxicated early this morning.

WFAA in Dallas reports that Carroll was arrested by Dallas Police and released at 2:45 p.m. after posting bond.

The Cowboys signed Carroll to a three-year, $10 million contract in March. He played the last three years for the Eagles and four years before that for the Dolphins.

The 30-year-old Carroll started all 16 games last season in Philadelphia and has been penciled in as a starter in Dallas as well.

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Adam Peters wanted Reuben Foster from the get-go

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Some scoffed at the claim from the 49ers that they managed to get two of the top three players on their draft board with picks No. 3 and 31 in the draft. The 49ers nevertheless insist that they had decided early on to pursue Foster.

Via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, G.M. John Lynch recently explained that when he spoke with Adam Peters before hiring him from the Broncos, Peters already had a plan for the 49ers’ first pick in the draft.

“We’ve got the No. 2 pick,” Lynch said to Peters. “Who are you taking? . . . Without hesitation, he said ‘Reuben Foster.’”

Lynch was careful to explain that Peters’ initial impression shouldn’t be regarded as a slap at the guy they took after trading down from No. 2 to No. 3.

“A lot has transpired then and [Peters] loved Solomon Thomas, too, I don’t want to get that mistaken,” Lynch said. “But he was a huge champion of Reuben Foster. Like I said, so much transpired from there to there. But [Peters] was big on that one. I know that.”

Peters knew that he wanted Foster while studying film of Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland a year ago.

The big joke was you turned on Alabama to watch anyone and you couldn’t stop watching [Foster],” Lynch said. “He just kind of kept jumping out at you. So I think while we are all proud to have claimed him, it was pretty easy to do so.”

The wait until pick No. 31 surely wasn’t easy, but team after team after team passed on Foster before the 49ers made the pick, one spot before the Saints reportedly intended to do so. Foster slide due to concerns about his shoulder and a positive drug test at the Scouting Combine from a dilute sample. While that may have scared others away, it didn’t impact the 49ers.

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Martellus Bennett sends Aaron Rodgers some weird texts

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Packers tight end Martellus Bennett has made it a point to get close to quarterback Aaron Rodgers since signing with Green Bay.

But the way he’s gone about it one you might not expect, at least until you consider the source.

Via Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin, Bennett has his own way of communication with his soon-to-be-bestie.

“I send a lot of emojis and GIFs and stuff like that to him. Other than that, it’s just conversations,” Bennett said. “That’s pretty much it. I tell him things like, ‘I like chocolate chip cookies. What kind of cookie do you like?’ I just tell him little things. Like, ‘Hey, look my daughter did this today. She’s jumping, or she learned to use the potty.’ Stuff like that.

“It’s just conversation, making friends.”

As they progress through the early stages of Organized Team Activities, Bennett’s also learning that the best way to earn his new quarterback’s love is knowing what he’s doing on the field, in terms of learning the playbook.

“I’m always talking to him on the field, too, trying to see what he wants,” Bennett said. “‘Hey, how did that look?’ or he’ll give me the thumbs up. Or if I’m in another group, I always look back at him, ‘Hey, is that what you want? Is there something different you want on this?’ Always trying to figure out, just trying to have those conversations on and off the field, trying to get know each other as players, and as people.”

Rodgers may have an easier time in those conversations, as you can only wonder his reaction the first time he glanced at his phone to see a poop emoji (or worse) from his new tight end.

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Charles Woodson glad to see Marshawn Lynch wearing No. 24

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The No. 24 Raiders jersey worn by Charles Woodson wasn’t given to anyone last year after Woodson retired, but when Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to join the Raiders, he was given the number. And Woodson is pleased with that.

I’m excited about it for Marshawn to have a chance to come home and play in front of friends and family,” Woodson told ESPN. “That number 24, that’s something special with the Raiders. I don’t think there’s anybody more worthy than Marshawn to wear that number.”

Woodson sees signing Lynch, a hometown hero, as a “business decision” in Oakland. He also understands both the Raiders’ business decision to leave for Las Vegas and Oakland’s decision not to pour any more money into a stadium than they already had.

“They needed a stadium and it’s big business,” Woodson said. “It’s hard to hear, but you go where the financing is. The [Oakland] mayor wasn’t willing to give up money she didn’t have, so kudos to her, too. But I’m also happy for Mark Davis, getting the stadium — they need a stadium — and moving the franchise forward.”

It remains to be seen who will wear No. 24 for the Silver and Black in Las Vegas in three years, but for now, anyway, the number is going from Woodson to Lynch, and 24 jerseys will continue to be hot sellers in Oakland.

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