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PFT’s Week Ten picks

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The lead is back to five.

Last week, we disagreed on one game:  Eagles at Saints.  I took the home team, MDS took the road team.  And I ended up 10-4 for the week to MDS’s 9-5.

This week, we disagree on twice as many games as last week.  Which sounds better than two.

For the year, I’m 83-49, and MDS is 78-54.  Yep, that’s a five-game lead.  Which definitely sounds better than two.

Colts at Jaguars

MDS’s take: The 5-3 Colts have an easy enough schedule the rest of the way that if they just win the games they should win, they’ll finish the season with a winning record. One of the games they should win is this one, and I think they will.

MDS’s pick: Colts 20, Jaguars 17.

Florio’s take:  The last time the Colts visited Jacksonville, a win by the home team ensured that Andrew Luck would head to Indy.  The Colts return as a playoff contender, intent on avenging a September home loss to the Jaguars.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 27, Jaguar 20.

Raiders at Ravens

MDS’s take: For a 6-2 team, the Ravens have a lot of question marks, especially on their aged and injured defense. But the Raiders have even more problems on defense, and I like Baltimore to win a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 35, Raiders 31.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders aren’t as bad as you’d think, and the Ravens aren’t as good.  Look for Baltimore’s decimated run defense to thrive against Oakland’s decimated running game, and for the Ravens to do enough to fend off the Steelers as a pair of games against Pittsburgh loom on the schedule.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 31, Raiders 14.

Broncos at Panthers

MDS’s take: Broncos coach John Fox will win back at his old stomping grounds in Carolina, where Peyton Manning will pick apart the Panthers’ defense while Von Miller will make Cam Newton’s life miserable.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 28, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take:  John Fox returns to Charlotte with a quarterback far better than any he ever had when he coached the Panthers.  Against a team with plenty of guys Fox knows very well.  The Carolina winning streak ends at one.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 30, Panthers 20.

Giants at Bengals

MDS’s take: I could pick this game with confidence if I knew which Giants team was going to show up. Will it be the team that showed up for 60 minutes and pounded the 49ers, or the team that sleepwalked through long stretches of close wins against the Redskins and Cowboys, and a close loss to the Steelers? Given the way the Giants have played the last three weeks I’m tempted to go with the upset, but the Bengals’ defense has been so bad this season that Eli Manning simply has to have a good game.

MDS’s pick: Giants 29, Bengals 25.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are in a free fall, and the Giants are caught in the early stages of their annual midseason swoon.  I’ve got more faith in the Giants getting it done, especially since Eli Manning will surely have the benefit of some insights from his big brother, who won four days ago in Cincinnati.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 31, Bengals 20.

Titans at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins missed a golden opportunity to establish themselves as the AFC wild-card frontrunners on Sunday against the Colts, but I still like the way this team is playing, especially on defense. The Titans got a tongue-lashing from their owner after another bad loss on Sunday against the Bears, but that won’t be enough to shake them out of their doldrums.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 35, Titans 17.

Florio’s takeJake Locker returns, his left shoulder coincidentally healing at the time Matt Hasselbeck lost his hot hand.  Locker will learn what everyone else has learned this year.  The Miami defense is pretty good.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 17, Titans 13.

Lions at Vikings

MDS’s take: When these teams met in Week Four in Detroit, the Vikings were bolstered by two kick return touchdowns and won 20-13. But the Lions have shored up their special teams problems, Vikings kickoff returner Percy Harvin is hurt, and the Lions should earn their first NFC North victory of the season in the rematch in Minnesota.

MDS’s pick: Lions 23, Vikings 10.

Florio’s take:  With a brutal post-bye schedule, this game could determine whether the Vikings will finish 6-10 or 5-11.  I’ll pick the Vikings now, primarily because it’s the last time I’ll pick them all season.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 23, Lions 20.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: In another rematch of a Week Four meeting, the Bills’ defense is in big trouble.  It probably won’t get quite as ugly for Buffalo as it did in the Patriots’ 52-28 win in September, but the Patriots will put plenty of points on the board.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  The Pats scored 45 points against the Rams in 60 minutes, and 45 against the Bills in 25.  New England needs to keep its foot on the gas in order to get ready for some tough challenges that are waiting in the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Bills 21.

Falcons at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have won three out of four, and a win here would signal that New Orleans really has turned its season around. Unfortunately, there are just too many holes on the Saints’ defense for New Orleans to stop a Falcons team that can attack with Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. This Falcons team just has too many weapons.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 27, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  Halfway to an unblemished regular season, the Falcons simply don’t have the feel of a 16-0 team.  With four games against the Saints and Bucs over the balance of the year, the Falcons most likely won’t be.  It starts now, with the Saints staking their claim for a wild-card berth by hanging loss No. 1 on Atlanta.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 28, Falcons 27.

Chargers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: With running back Doug Martin and a solid front seven on defense, the Bucs are becoming exactly the kind of team Greg Schiano wanted to build: A team that wins by running and stopping the run. Tampa Bay will do it again against a Chargers team that has yet to beat a good opponent all season.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 16, Chargers 14.

Florio’s take:  By playing last Thursday, the Chargers had some extra time to figure out how to stop the Muscle Hamster.  It won’t be enough.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 27, Chargers 21.

Jets at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Seattle is a tough team to play for anyone, but I see Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and his receiving corps having a particularly tough game against a good Seahawks secondary. Rex Ryan will have a good game plan to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks’ defense will lead the way to a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 12, Jets 7.

Florio’s take:  The Pete Carroll-Mark Sanchez reunion provides a great story line.  But the bottom line is that it’s foolish to pick against the Seahawks at home.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 21, Jets 13.

Cowboys at Eagles

MDS’s take: Until Monday night, I was still a believer in the Eagles’ ability to turn their season around. But Philly’s offensive line looked terrible, the defense looked like it has taken a step backward with the departure of coordinator Juan Castillo, and the Eagles look like they’re ready to pack it in for the season. The Cowboys may still make a run at the playoffs, but the Eagles are done.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Eagles 14.

Florio’s take:  It’s a early playoff game between two teams that are destined to miss the playoffs.  In the past two weeks, the Cowboys gave the Falcons a much better game in Atlanta than the Eagles gave the Falcons at home.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Eagles 21.

Rams at 49ers

MDS’s take: The 49ers’ defense has had a few letdowns, but when they’re on their game it’s just about impossible to score on them. And they’ll be on their game against a mediocre Rams offense.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 20, Rams 3.

Florio’s take:  Lost in the success of the Falcons and the Bears, the resurgence of the Packers, and the collapse of the Eagles, the Niners are ready to remind everyone that they may be the best team in the conference.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 27, Rams 9.

Texans at Bears

MDS’s take: In the best game of the week, the Bears’ opportunistic defense will try to force turnovers against a Texans offense whose quarterback, Matt Schaub, has only four turnovers all season. I like the Bears to get the best of it.

MDS’s pick: Bears 17, Texans 10.

Florio’s take:  The Texans haven’t been stepping up in high-profile games, which doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 19, Texans 13.

Chiefs at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers are on a three-game winning streak and the Chiefs are in a tailspin. The Monday night game will be over by halftime, and millions of Americans will go to bed early.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Chiefs 9.

Florio’s take:  Todd Haley gets a crack at the Chiefs.  But the Chiefs also get a crack at Todd Haley.  If this one were being played in Kansas City, I’d take the upset.  But it’s hard to imagine a one-win team toppling the Steelers in their own building.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 24, Chiefs 16.

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C.J. Spillman officially charged with sexual assault

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C.J Spillman has been officially charged with sexual assault stemming from an incident at the Dallas Cowboys team hotel last September.

According to Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News, a grand jury indicted Spillman on sexual assault chargers on Monday.

The incident allegedly occurred at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas on Sept. 20, 2014.

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett said they would wait for charges to be handed down before deciding on a course of action. With no charges being handed down last season, Spillman ultimately appeared in all 16 games for the Cowboys last season and recorded 16 tackles.

Spillman is now a free agent and that burden is no longer on the Cowboys to deal with.

Spillman has spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers.

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Mark Brunell doesn’t think RG3 is good enough

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Mark Brunell spent four years playing quarterback in Washington. And he thinks this should be the fourth and final year that Robert Griffin III plays quarterback in Washington.

Asked on ESPN if he thinks RG3 is good enough to succeed in the NFL, Brunell answered, “I do not.”

He has gone backwards,” Brunell continued, via the Washington Post. “It’s not just his decision-making, it’s his fundamentals. He’s taking too many hits, he’s quick to get out of the pocket. Last year was difficult to watch. Does he have the skill set? Yes, but we haven’t seen it in some time.”

Washington picked up Griffin’s fifth-year option for 2016, which suggests that the team still thinks he can be its franchise quarterback. But Brunell thinks Griffin may be gone before the 2016 season.

“This is a make or break season for RGIII, without a doubt,” Brunell said. “If he doesn’t fix those inconsistencies, this could be it for him.”

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NFLPA has short, simple response to Troy Vincent

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After inflammatory comments emerged from NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent regarding NFL Players Association spending on legal fees in cases arising from discipline imposed by the league, PFT extended separate invitations to the NFL and NFLPA to provide guests for Tuesday’s PFT Live to flesh out the issue.

Both requests were declined, but the NFLPA opted to issue a short response to Vincent, via Twitter.

“You consider infinite number of ways to respond to something like this,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said, linking the original item from ESPN.com, “and simple is best: ‘small.'”

The public reaction to Vincent’s comments has been as universal as any red state/blue state sports issue ever can be. The union is fighting on behalf of players whose rights were violated by the league. If the league didn’t impose more discipline than it should under the relevant policies, a fight wouldn’t be necessary.

The problem for both sides is that the NFL will continue to be inclined to overdiscipline players. Despite the public rebukes that necessarily occur when the Commissioner’s decisions are struck down, the P.R. fallout for 345 Park Avenue is minimal. Conversely, the perceived failure of the Commissioner to go far enough with misbehaving players nearly brought down his empire last year, in the Ray Rice case.

Apart from the legal fees that justifiably arise when the union is required to fight the league after the league goes too far with discipline is the question of actual waste. And many of you have noted that true waste arose from the NFL making #DeflateGate into a much bigger deal than it should have been, with millions spent on an investigation aimed perhaps not at getting to the truth, but at justifying a knee-jerk result selected early in the process, when no one from the league office realized that the PSI numbers generated by New England’s footballs were both below the 12.5 minimum and also in line with the normal operation of the Ideal Gas Law.

As to the issue of NFLPA legal fees, the smarter (but not necessarily better) approach by the league may have been to cajole one or more members of the media into making the argument. Between the reporters on the league’s payroll and the reporters who have a track record of open disdain for current NFLPA leadership (or both), it shouldn’t have been hard to make the point without forcing a senior member of NFL leadership to connect his name to the remarks.

Some would say it’s admirable for Vincent to express his views directly. The only problem in this case is that his views are substantively incorrect and ultimately not helpful to building the kind of relationship needed to avoid unnecessary fighting.

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Cowboys unsure who their starting running back will be

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Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has said he’s very comfortable with the group of running backs he has on his roster. But what the Cowboys don’t know is which one of those running backs will be primarily responsible for replacing the departed DeMarco Murray.

Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown says he isn’t sure if Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden or Lance Dunbar will be the starter, but he’s confident that some combination of the three of them will add up to a good running game.

“We’re very confident in what we have,” Brown said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We got some very good football players. With the addition of Darren it’s going to be a nice group. I can’t say who is going to be the lead dog right now, but those guys are going to compete and we’re going to do what’s necessary to win games. I think we have three capable guys who can go out and do what we need to do. I’m not concerned about it at all.”

As great as Murray was last season, Randle was also very good in limited action as his backup: Randle gained 343 yards on 51 carries, a whopping 6.7 yards a carry. He would seem to be the likely choice as the starter.

The addition of McFadden to go with Randle and Dunbar gives the Cowboys some depth in the backfield, and those running backs will be running behind the best offensive line in the NFL. Despite the loss of Murray, Brown’s optimism is justified: The Cowboys’ running game should be just fine, even if there’s not a clear-cut starting running back just yet.

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Jerry Jones donates $1 million to cancer initiative started by Bob McNair

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When an NFL owner is trying to raise money for charitable causes, they have 31 places around the league where they know they’ll find people with deep pockets who could help.

Texans owner Bob McNair wasn’t looking specifically to NFL owners to help provide the financing for Hope Lodge Houston, which the American Cancer Society would operate as a place for people battling cancer to receive free lodging and support services while in Houston to receive treatment. He and his wife Janice announced that their foundation will donate $1 for every $2 raised through December 31, up to $4 million, to help break ground on the lodge before the end of the year.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is helping to push them closer to their goal. The Jerry and Gene Jones Foundation has donated $1 million to the cause.

“Cancer is already daunting enough, but worrying about travel, lodging, and other necessities while enduring treatment can be a huge burden,” Jones said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Gene and I are proud we can help by joining Bob and Janice McNair and President George and Barbara Bush as they work to bring a Hope Lodge to Houston.”

McNair received a clean bill of health last year after a 10-month fight with two forms of cancer and announced the fundraising challenge a short time later.

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Kevin Coyle: Ndamukong Suh “everything as advertised”

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There was some uncertainty about whether defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh would take part in OTAs with the Dolphins this offseason because he’d routinely missed them when he was a member of the Lions, but any fears of his absence went unrealized.

Suh was more than just present at the offseason workouts as well. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said that Suh went through the workouts with so much energy that the team had to have him dial it down, which Coyle saw as a positive for a player who has lived up to his expectations thus far.

“Quite honestly, yeah, we had to tone him down there a little bit,” Coyle said on the Joe Rose Show on WQAM. “That was a good thing. We had to back him off because he’s really something. First of all he’s an extremely intelligent player. I’ve been totally impressed with his football knowledge and he comes out to the practice field. He’s extremely hardworking. He’s the first guy in line showing the younger guys how to do it. And I’ve never been around a more explosive, powerful man of his size and his athleticism. He’s been everything as advertised. Quite frankly, you can only do so many things in OTAs when you just have shorts and helmets on. I can’t wait to get going here at the end of July when we start training camp and get the pads on and get ready to go because he’s a rare talent and great addition for us.”

It’s a good bet that OTAs will be the only time that the Dolphins ask Suh to go at anything less than full speed and that the Dolphins will continue to avoid buyer’s remorse as long as he’s pushing it to the limit every Sunday.

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Golden Tate: We’re trying to become elite now

Golden Tate AP

The Lions won 11 games last season for the first time since 1991, which was good enough for a playoff berth in Jim Caldwell’s first season as the team’s head coach.

There haven’t been consecutive playoff appearances for Detroit since the 1995 team capped a three-year run of trips to the postseason with a loss in the Wild Card round. Wide receiver Golden Tate says that the team is shooting for the same kind of sustained run of regular season success right now while trying to establish themselves as the team to beat in the NFC North.

“I think it’s time for us to consistently, year in and year out, win ballgames,” Tate said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I think we have the personnel. I think we have the coach, the coaching staff. I think we have a heck of a fan base. It’s time. We’re trying to shake ‘the same old Lions.’ We’re trying to become — I thought we were good — I think we’re trying to become elite now. I think we’re trying to compete with the Packers and give them a run for their money and take over our division year in and year out.”

The Lions won’t be able to lean on Ndamukong Suh up front on defense this year, which means they’ll have to plot a different course to the playoffs in 2015. One hope is that the offense will be more effective in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s second year at the reins, something Tate and other Lions receivers will work on with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta before training camp.

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Brett Favre: “I think I could play”

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Herschel Walker isn’t the only middle-aged former NFL player who thinks he could still play in the NFL. Brett Favre says he could, too.

“I think I could play,” Favre tells Sports Illustrated in a “Where Are They Now?” double issue. “As far as throwing, of course. I could make all the throws I made before. . . . We’re not trying to start some he’s-coming-out-of-retirement deal. . . . But I could play.”

Plenty of former NFL players probably feel the same way, because they still feel like the guys they were when they played in the NFL. They won’t realize that they can’t until they try, and very few ever return after a multi-year absence from the game.

Regardless of whether Favre could play now, he could have played longer in Green Bay, if he hadn’t made such a hasty decision seven years ago to retire.

“Had I [taken my time deciding], I would have come back and played,” Favre said. “The drama would have been avoided.”

That response overlooks the fact that the Packers pushed him for an early decision, possibly because the Packers knew that by pushing Favre for an early decision, Favre would decide to retire — and the Packers could start the Aaron Rodgers era. If that was the plan, the performance of Aaron Rodgers since Favre retired has vindicated it.

This year, Favre finally returns to Green Bay. And the Packers can be confident that Favre won’t be unretiring one final time before his number 4 is finally retired.

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Colts bring back defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton

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The Colts brought back one of their own, now that he’s healthy.

The team announced they signed defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton.

He spent the last two years with the Colts, but was on injured reserve all last season because of a knee injury. He was originally a seventh-round pick by the Jaguars in 2012.

The 6-foot-2, 323-pounder gives them another big body up front, and someone they have experience with. He played in both playoff games for them in 2013, so they have an idea what he can do.

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NFL sets July 9 date for supplemental draft

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The date is set for the NFL supplemental draft.

The supplemental draft will take place on July 9, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

No team has made a supplemental selection since the Browns used a second-round pick on Josh Gordon in 2012, so the supplemental draft has become a non-event the last couple years. But this year there’s a good chance that a supplemental pick will be used: Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle, who declared for the supplemental draft last week, is an NFL talent who has a real shot of helping some team this season.

West Georgia defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey, West Georgia defensive end Darrius Caldwell and North Carolina Central wide receiver/kick returner Adrian Wilkins are also available in the supplemental draft.

If a team uses a supplemental pick on a player, that team loses the corresponding pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Players who are not selected in the supplemental draft become free agents.

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Jim Brown “encouraged” Johnny Manziel isn’t “still in denial”

Johnny Manziel, Jim Dray AP

Last summer, Browns icon Jim Brown said that he didn’t mind the amount of attention that quarterback Johnny Manziel received for his off-field social life because he remembered what life was like as a player.

Brown has a different opinion about enjoying the nightlife after the way Manziel’s rookie season with the Browns played out. Manziel went to alcohol rehab after an underwhelming rookie season and has talked about wanting to “close that chapter in my life” as he tries for better results in 2015, something that Brown finds encouraging.

“I’m encouraged, because Johnny is addressing his situation, and that’s speaking to the world,” Brown said, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “That message is encouraging. He’s going to give himself the best chance to succeed. Now if he were still in denial, we’d have a different conversation. If he didn’t go to rehab, this would be totally different. … What I would have said to Johnny, or would have hoped he’d do, he’s doing. So I’d say to him, ‘Your commitment to allow the world to know you want to work to change your life, I encourage and support you.’ It would be that simple. I wouldn’t try to impart any great wisdom on him, because it’s a day-to-day process that he’s got to live with.”

Brown doesn’t think the change in Manziel’s off-field habits will necessarily boost him to better things on the field. Brown said last year that he thought Manziel had “something going on” as a player and said this year that Manziel “creates action,” but added that Manziel is going to be a star or a bust without laying a bet on which side of the line the 2014 first-round pick would wind up on.

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Jeremy Hill focused on breaking more tackles this year

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After Bengals running back Jeremy Hill ran for 40 yards on 13 carries against the Buccaneers last season, he said there wasn’t a lot of running room available because the Bucs were playing eight men in the box.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson didn’t care for Hill’s read on what happened to the running game that afternoon. Jackson said that running backs are supposed to break tackles and that Hill’s “job is to run through somebody and come out the other side” regardless of what the defensive front looks like on a given play.

Getting past initial contact was a focus for Hill this offseason and Jackson said that the back did a good job laying the groundwork for better results.

“For me, it’s just getting that acceleration from the first level to the second level,” Hill said, via ESPN.com. “I’m just trying to lift my acceleration up and miss more tackles. That’s the biggest thing for me. The first guy got me down way too much last season.”

ESPN Stats and Info had Hill averaging 2.29 yards after contact during his rookie season, which was good for fourth in the league last season and helps explain why Hill became such a big part of the offense in the second half of the season. If he becomes even harder for defenses to stop this time around, the backfield work in Cincinnati may not be as balanced as Hill expected earlier this offseason.

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Brian Dixon set to go on trial during Saints’ training camp

Josh Lenz, Brian Dixon

Saints cornerback Brian Dixon may miss some of training camp as a result of his March arrest.

Dixon is scheduled to go on trial in Florida on August 3, the Times-Picayune reports. The Saints will be in training camp in West Virginia at that time.

Dixon was arrested for resisting arrest without violence after a traffic stop in Miami Beach. He has accused the arresting officers of racial bias.

As an undrafted rookie last season, Dixon became a surprisingly important player to the Saints, appearing in all 16 games.

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How much is Russell Wilson worth?

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In his latest interview, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson once again declined to talk about his contractual expectations. But he mentioned two salaries numbers for 2015 — $1.5 million (the amount he’s due to earn under his current contract) and $25 million.

Some have brushed it off as a random figure, plucked from the sky. Others believe it possibly reveals what Wilson is actually targeting.

The numbers came after Wilson was asked what he deserved, provoking this question from Wilson: How much would you pay me?

So we’ll put that question out to PFT Planet. How much would you pay him per year?

The options are below, and we’ll be discussing the issue during Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, which also will feature phone visits from two-sport athlete Brandon Magee, former NFL player and current multimedia superstar (or something) Ross Tucker, and Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.

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Bud Dupree: We want to be the group that revives Steelers defense

Bud Dupree AP

The Steelers have a long history of riding strong defenses to playoff berths, but that trend has slowed in the last couple of years as the team has said goodbye to several fixtures of the unit without getting the same production in their place.

They’ve spent high picks on defensive players in each of the last three drafts with a particular focus on linebackers. Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree have been the team’s last three first-round selections and Dupree says that they want to be part of the core that brings about a revival of the old defensive ways in Pittsburgh.

“I want to be in that group that brings it back,” Dupree said, via Cleveland.com. “We want to bring back that hunger, that eagerness to go after the quarterback.”

Dupree said he takes particular motivation from the chance to join players like Joey Porter, Greg Lloyd and James Harrison as star outside linebackers in the Steelers system. Harrison is still around and Dupree said he’s learned a lot from the veteran about how to thrive in the NFL during their short time working together.

Expecting Dupree to turn into that kind of linebacker as a rookie may be asking too much, but the Steelers need some of their young defenders to make significant strides if there’s going to be a reprise of the old days in 2015. With a strong offense already in place, getting that would leave the team well positioned for another playoff berth.

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