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PFT’s Week 11 picks

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

That five-game lead over MDS has grown to seven, with seven weeks left.

If anyone is capable of blowing this lead, I am.

This week, we disagree on three games.  Last week, we were 10-3-1 and 8-5-1, respectively.  (I would have predicted the Rams-49ers would end in a tie, if I’d known games could end in ties.)

For the year, I’m now 93-52-1.  MDS is 86-59-1.

Dolphins at Bills

MDS’s take: NFL Network gets the week started with a pretty lousy game, with the Dolphins reeling and falling out of AFC wild-card contention, and the Bills even further behind in the AFC East. I’m expecting the difference in this one to be Bills running back C.J. Spiller, who will do to the Dolphins’ defense the same thing that Titans running back Chris Johnson did to the Dolphins’ defense last week. Spiller will have a big game and lead the way as the Bills win.

MDS’s pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 20.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins have cooled off.  The Bills were never hot.  It’ll be cold on Thursday night in Buffalo.  More importantly, it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins recovering  from Sunday’s debacle against the Titans in only four days.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 28, Dolphins 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Falcons are no longer undefeated and no longer viewed by many people as the best team in the league, but a home game against the Cardinals should be a nice way for Atlanta to get back in the W column. The Cardinals’ defense might be able to keep this game close, but Arizona’s offense won’t be able to do anything.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 16, Cardinals 9.

Florio’s take:  This is precisely the kind of game the Cardinals could steal.  The Falcons, fresh from their first loss, view Arizona as a show-up-and-win opponent — the puff-pastry appetizer to a two-pack of tough steaks in the form of the Bucs and Saints on a short week.  And the Cardinals have had two weeks to get ready for this one.  If I didn’t have a seven-game lead over MDS entering the week, I’d consider calling for the upset.  Instead, I’ll play a little prevent defense.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 35, Cardinals 21.

Buccaneers at Panthers

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have talented young quarterbacks, but it’s Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman who has taken a big step forward recently, while Carolina’s Cam Newton is looking shaky. The Bucs are entering the NFC playoff conversation with a win in Carolina.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take:  When the Bucs beat the Panthers 10 weeks ago, it was regarded as a surprise.  When the Bucs beat the Panthers this time, it won’t be.  Tampa has gradually improved, and Greg Schiano could soon be getting some coach of the year buzz.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 24, Panthers 16.

Browns at Cowboys

MDS’s take: This is the first of three straight home games, all against teams with losing records, for the Cowboys. So their schedule is setting up for them to go on a nice little run. After saving their season against the Eagles, the Cowboys won’t blow their season against the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 23, Browns 16.

Florio’s take:  The Cowboys get ready for their Thanksgiving date with the Redskins by feasting on the team that is the color of sweet potatoes, both fresh and digested.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 27, Browns 17.

Packers at Lions

MDS’s take: When the Lions get their passing game going, they’re as dangerous an offense as there is in the NFL.  The Vikings were doing all they could to stop Calvin Johnson on Sunday, and he still went over 200 receiving yards. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions usually don’t get their passing game going until their defense and special teams have already given up an early lead. And the Packers are not the kind of team the Lions want to be playing catchup against.

MDS’s pick: Packers 23, Lions 20.

Florio’s take:  The Packers are ready to make their move to the top of the division.  The Lions already have made their move to the bottom.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 27, Lions 14.

Jaguars at Texans

MDS’s take: Given that Florio is way ahead of me in our season picks contest, I’m tempted to take the Jaguars here because I’m going to need to hit on some big upsets if I’m going to have any chance of catching up. But even though I think the Texans might be due for a letdown after their big win in Chicago, the Jaguars are so bad that the Texans should beat them even if they turn in their worst effort of the season.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Jaguars 13.

Florio’s take:  Didn’t this used to be an actual rivalry?  It’s not anymore, thanks to the fact that one team has an 8-1 record, and the other is 1-8.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 41, Jaguars 17.

Bengals at Chiefs

MDS’s take: Cincinnati’s big win over the Giants could be the first step toward a surprise late-season run back to the playoffs, and there’s no way the Bengals will stumble against a terrible Chiefs team.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  Logic tells us that the winless-at-home Chiefs should fall to a Bengals team that found a way to knock off the defending NFL champions.  But the Chiefs are due to finally get that second pickle.  It won’t do much to make things better in Kansas City, but things won’t get worse — at least not this week.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 23, Bengals 20.

Colts at Patriots

MDS’s take: I’m a believer in the Colts, in the sense that I believe they are going to make the playoffs this season. But that’s largely because the Colts have an easy schedule the rest of the way, with four games remaining against teams that currently have losing records. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, this is one of the toughest games the Colts still have to play, and I just don’t think the Colts’ defense is good enough to keep Tom Brady and company in check. This game may be a first-round playoff preview, but it’s not a close game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  A year after the annual Colts-Patriots game lost its luster with the absence of Peyton Manning, the arrival of Andrew Luck could help restore the sizzle.  With the Colts better than folks realize and the Pats not quite as good as believed, the Colts could steal this one.  They likely won’t, but they could.

Florio’s pick:    Patriots 28, Colts 24.

Jets at Rams

MDS’s take: Neither one of these teams is very good, but the Rams have a lot of young guys who look like they’re hungry and playing as hard as they can in every game, while the Jets have a bunch of veterans who look like they give up when they fall behind and anonymously snipe at each other in the media. Advantage Rams.

MDS’s pick: Rams 21, Jets 17.

Florio’s take:  Last week, Pete Carroll got a little revenge against the team that once fired him as its head coach.  This week, Brian Schottenheimer gets a shot at revenge against the team that fired him without really firing him as its offensive coordinator.  The fact that the Rams currently are good and the Jets aren’t will make it easier.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 20, Jets 10.

Eagles at Redskins

MDS’s take: Stick a fork in the Eagles. They’re already on the first five-game losing streak of Andy Reid’s career, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that losing streak extend all the way to the end of the season.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 28, Eagles 13.

Florio’s take:  The struggling Philly offense finally finds an equally struggling defense.  And the struggling Philly defense finally finds digs deep and finds a way to avoid getting torched.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Redskins 21.

Saints at Raiders

MDS’s take: There’s not much doubt after the Saints beat the Falcons that New Orleans has turned this thing around. It should be easy to keep things going against a Raiders team that looks like it has given up on the season.

MDS’s pick: Saints 38, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  Dennis Allen knows the Saints offense well, given the time he spent there as a defensive backs coach.  Unfortunately, he lacks the personnel to slow it down.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Raider 20.

Chargers at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos may be playing the best football in the league right now. Peyton Manning has the offense humming, of course, but Von Miller is a defensive player of the year candidate, and Trindon Holliday is one of the most dynamic special-teams players in the NFL — at least as long as he remembers that you’re supposed to cross the goal line before you start celebrating your touchdown. This is a complete football team, and the Broncos will all but wrap up the AFC West with an easy win over the Chargers.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Chargers 13.

Florio’s take:  This one will look a lot more like the second half of their last meeting, not the first half.  And it could be the final two halves of football for Norv Turner in San Diego.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 31, Chargers 17.

Ravens at Steelers

MDS’s take: Ben Roethlisberger’s injury came at the worst possible time for the Steelers.  Before Big Ben got hurt, I was expecting the Steelers to beat the Ravens both this week in Pittsburgh and two weeks from now in Baltimore, and to take the lead in the AFC North. But with Byron Leftwich in for Roethlisberger, I like the Ravens.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers have played the Ravens close without Ben Roethlisberger.  And that’s when the Ravens actually had a great defense.  If the Steelers can run the ball effectively and if Byron Leftwich can start his elongated throwing motion quickly enough to get the ball out before Terrell Suggs plants him into the ground, the Steelers can hold serve at home.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 17, Ravens 13.

Bears at 49ers

MDS’s take: In a battle of teams that may be playing without their concussed starting quarterbacks, I have more faith in the 49ers’ ability to win by running the ball and playing good defense.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 24, Bears 16.

Florio’s take:  Though the Bears likely won’t have another five-game free fall like they did last season, the losing streak will extend at least to two — regardless of who ends up playing quarterback for either team.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 20, Bears 13.

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Dan Snyder pays for funeral of Redskins’ super fan “Chief Zee”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stepped up to cover the funeral expenses of one of the team’s biggest supporters.

According to Carol Maloney of NBC 4 in Washington D.C., Snyder was the anonymous donor that paid for the funeral of Zema Williams, a.k.a. “Chief Zee.”

Williams, who passed away earlier this month, would attend games in full Native American-style headdresses while decked out in team colors.

Snyder isn’t exactly the most revered figure in the D.C. sports scene. The Redskins have won just one playoff games since Snyder assumed ownership of the franchise in 1999. He’s meddled with personnel decisions, had eight different head coaches in 17 years and been involved in several questionable lawsuits during his ownership of the team.

However, the gesture to cover the funeral costs of one of the team’s most visible fans is a nice one to make.

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Eric Berry may skip all of training camp, preseason

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 27:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs enters the field at Arrowhead Stadium during pre game against the Cleveland Browns on December 27, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the Chiefs not signing safety Eric Berry to a long-term deal before July 15, the franchise-tagged player remains without a contract. Under the terms of the tender, he can show up just a few days before the start of the regular season and still get the full amount of his $10.8 million salary.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Berry may do just that, skipping most if not all of training camp and the preseason, losing no money to fines but still getting the full $10.8 million salary.

The sole risk comes from the team’s ability to rescind the tag — something Chiefs coach Andy Reid did not once but twice during his time with the Eagles. Doing so would make Berry a free agent, and he would be hard pressed to get a deal on the open market that averages $10.8 million per year.

Under prior Collective Bargaining Agreements, the franchise tag for a given position was driven by the average of the five highest cap numbers in the prior year. Under the 2011 CBA, the tag is determined by the five-year average percentage of the overall cap that the franchise tag has consumed. With the growth of the cap outpacing in recent years the growth of the market at most positions, some franchise-tagged players — like Berry — instantly become the highest paid player at his position, albeit for only one year.

If the Chiefs would remove the tender, would another team pay Berry $10.8 million for 2016, or a multi-year deal averaging that much? Probably not.

It would be an unpopular move, to be sure. Berry has become a national inspiration given his recovery from cancer and his performance last season. But with Berry due to make more than any other safety and with the prospect of Berry showing up not fully prepared for Week One while still making $10.8 million, the Chiefs have to at least consider doing what Reid previously did with linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive tackle Corey Simon.

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Browns OLB Armonty Bryant pleads guilty to drug charge

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Armonty Bryant pleaded guilty on Wednesday to lesser charges stemming from an arrest last December.

According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Bryant pleaded guilty to attempted drug possession – a first-degree misdemeanor – after being initially indicted on two charges of felony drug possession.

Bryant had pleaded not guilty to the prior two charges back in February.

Bryant has already been suspended for the first four games of the season due to violations of the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Further discipline could be levied from the league for his guilty plea in this case. Per Ulrich, a league spokesman said the incident “will be reviewed under our policies.”

Bryant appeared in 14 games for Cleveland last season and finished the year with 5.5 sacks.

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“Bronco for life” Von Miller says everything is back to normal

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 13:  Outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos performs a "dab" pose as he is introduced during player introductions before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 13, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the dust settled on his record-setting six-year, $114.5 million contract, Broncos linebacker Von Miller met with reporters on Wednesday in conjunction with the opening of training camp. Less than two weeks after the protracted negotiations ended, Miller provided an assessment of the situation.

“It’s back to normal,” Miller said, via comments distributed by the team. “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go play football. I talked to John [Elway] this morning and I told him that I get to play with [receiver Demaryius Thomas] for about nine years. I get to play with [cornerback] Chris [Harris Jr.] for 9-10 years so that’s some of the stuff that I’m excited about. I’m aware of the expectations, but we have high expectations for all of us. I’m ready to get back to work and contribute to the locker room, the same stuff that I’ve been doing.”

On several occasions, Miller reiterated his sentiment from the day the contract was signed — that he’s a Bronco “for life.” But it’s really not a “for life” arrangement. Even under the interpretation of Miller’s deal from those who negotiated it, the commitment may be as little as four years. The Broncos think the minimum duration is only three years.

Miller has played five years; unless he plans to retire after only eight or nine seasons, there’s a chance he’ll eventually be playing somewhere else.

For now, though, all is well.

“Everything is great,” Miller said of his relationship with Elway, whose negotiating tactics at times privately angered Miller. “Everybody know the type of respect that I have for Mr. Elway. I was his first draft pick here. We’ve always had talks. Not only this year, but my first year, my third year, my fourth year; all of the way up until this point. I don’t expect anything to change.”

Will Miller be in shape after skipping the entire offseason program?

“I never got too far away from working out or grinding,” Miller said. “I worked the same as I would during the season or during the offseason. I just had a lot of stuff in between to do, but I feel that I’m in shape. We got a great strength and conditioning staff with Luke Richesson. I’m going to follow their lead. They got me to this point to where I am now. I feel totally confident in my ability to get back on the football field.”

Despite a contract that makes him the highest paid player on the team by far, Miller resisted the notion that he’s the face of the franchise.

“I feel like our locker room should be the face of this franchise,” Miller said. “We got a great locker room. There’s not a locker room like this in the National Football League. Talking to the guys in the locker room that have come from other teams, that’s the first thing they say, that, this locker room is ‘second-to-none’ type of camaraderie that we have in the locker room. The leadership that we have, you just don’t get in the National Football League so that will be the strength of our football team and I’m a part of that.”

Miller definitely will be part of that for at least the next three or four years. And the pressure will be on him more than any other player to chase down and secure about Lombardi Trophy or two.

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Report: No NFL interview scheduled with James Harrison

John Brown, James Harrison

The NFL has not scheduled an interview with Steelers linebacker James Harrison regarding the Al Jazeera report accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

Harrison had posted a letter on social media from the NFL last month that informed him an interview would take place July 28, the first day the Steelers report to training camp. But the Post-Gazette story quotes NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis as saying no interview is scheduled to take place.

Earlier this month Harrison provided a sworn affidavit in which he denied any wrongdoing and any charges brought about by the Al Jazeera report.

The NFL had said it still wanted to talk with Harrison and other players named in the report, and Harrison originally said he’d love to talk with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — if Goodell came to Harrison’s house for the interview.

Retired quarterback Peyton Manning, one of the players named in the report, cooperated with investigators and was recently cleared of any wrongdoing.

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Boykin, Daniels sign with Bears

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback B.J. Daniels #5 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears signed cornerback Brandon Boykin and wide receiver B.J. Daniels on Wednesday.

Boykin played for the Steelers last season after being traded by the Eagles. The Panthers signed Boykin in March but cut him in May. He’s since worked out for several teams and has denied that injury issues have threatened his career.

Daniels has been both a quarterback and a wide receiver in his NFL career. A seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2013, Daniels played in eight games last year — two with the Texans and six with the Seahawks — as a backup wide receiver, gadget player and special teamer. The Texans waived him in April, and the Giants waived him in June.

The moves bring the Bears’ roster to the preseason max of 90 players.

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Pessimism swirls regarding Le’Veon Bell’s chances on appeal

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Yes, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has vowed to not miss any games after reportedly missing several drug tests. No, no one beyond a very small circle should have even known about the potential suspension until the appeal process had concluded.

Regardless, the cat has escaped from the bag — and based on information PFT has gathered there’s a strong sense Bell won’t be escaping the suspension.

Even with neutral arbitration now available in suspensions arising under the substance-abuse policy and the PED policy, none in the know believe Bell has a strong chance to win the appeal.

It’s been suggested that Bell changed phones and didn’t receive notice of the tests. If that’s his defense, it’s hard to imagine it flying. For a guy in the program, surely an obligation exists to notify all appropriate persons of a change in cell service. Otherwise, a guy could avoid testing simply by buying a new phone.

Bell’s appeal possibly will be finalized before Week One. For now, the smartest move for the Steelers will be to assume that DeAngelo Williams will once again carry the load early in the season after Bell makes his exit following the fourth preseason game.

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Jets, Fitzpatrick finally stop the madness

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets jumps on the back of  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets during a television interview after their 26-20 overtime win against the New England Patriots  at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

At times, the drama reminded me of George Costanza’s house in the Hamptons. He knew it was fake. The parents of his dead fiancée knew it was fake. He knew they knew it was fake. They knew he knew it was fake. But they continued the ruse as George drove two hours toward the place with two solariums and horses named Snoopy and Prickly Pete because neither side was willing to say what both knew each other knew.

The Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally realized that, even in the absence of a hard deadline to get a deal done, the practical deadline had arrived. If Fitzpatrick was going to start for the team in 2016, he needed to be ready. With Fitzpatrick already missing the offseason program, the two sides needed to do what they could have done weeks ago — compromise toward a deal.

The Jets definitely compromised. They were willing to pay Fitzpatrick $12 million in 2016, but as part of a three-year deal with lower salaries on the back end and a much lower cap number in 2016. Instead, the Jets are paying $12 million, carrying the full amount on the cap (unless there’s a phony second or third year that automatically voids, which is entirely possible), including incentives that could bump the value to $15 million, and not retaining the ability to keep him around beyond this season.

Fitzpatrick compromised, too, perhaps realizing that his market value as to the other 31 teams was a lot lower than what the Jets were willing to pay him. So even if he had much more value to the Jets than to any other team, his options were to take the money from the Jets or to sit.

In the end, the Jets needed Fitzpatrick and Fitzpatrick needed the Jets and with camp opening they needed to get it done to part ways. They finally got it done.

Maybe it was my “pinch-or-get-off-the-pot” line that did it. Probably not, but as I’ve learned during the current political season that doesn’t prevent me from believing it did.

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Jets sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to one-year, $12 million deal

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Jets and their starting quarterback finally have a deal.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has signed a one-year, $12 million deal to return to the Jets for the 2016 season, according to multiple reports.

This ends a long negotiation that spanned the entire offseason and got contentious at times, with Fitzpatrick seemingly upset that the Jets weren’t willing to give him the kind of money that quarterbacks who had lesser seasons last year — like Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford — received.

In the end, however, they’ve come to an agreement that will bring Fitzpatrick back, and put back together a passing game that was surprisingly effective in 2016. The Jets think they can compete for a playoff spot this season, and now they have their leader.

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Saints GM: “No progress” on talks with Brees

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to pass during the third quarter of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Saints arrived in West Virginia for training camp Wednesday, general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters that the sides “have not made any progress” an a potential contract extension for veteran quarterback Drew Brees.

Though Loomis going on the record with that means it’s news, it’s no surprise to those who have followed the story. Brees recently said he hasn’t heard from the team regarding a possible extension in three months.

Considering Brees set a deadline of the start of the regular season for cutting off talks, this thing could get sticky.

Loomis said he doesn’t think the situation will become a distraction for the team, and Brees has been a good soldier. But the Saints have been hurting for salary-cap space, and getting a deal done earlier could have lessened the $30 million cap number Brees is carrying and helped the team in areas besides goodwill with its most important player.

Because Brees has already been given the franchise tag twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. That’s not going to happen, so the Saints have to get a deal done in the next five weeks or risk losing Brees next March.

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Shark bites Warren Sapp (then presumably spits and gargles)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 25:  The teeth and jaw of a Great White Shark are displayed after research into the biological mechanics of the predator July 25, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) including Dan Huber from the the University of Tampa, Florida in the USA, plan to remove muscles from the head of several sharks in order to create a digital shark, to help determine it's bio mechanics and potential "bite force".  (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images) Getty Images

Warren Sapp is now even for biting his ex-girlfriend.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle was bitten by a shark Wednesday.

Sapp was lobstering on a charter boat off the Florida Keys, when the shark reached out and did what Timmy Jernigan, his creditors and a pair of Phoenix prostitutes would probably like to do.

“It’s simple,” charter captain Jack Carlson said via text. “He was lobstering with me and a shark bit Sapp while he was grabbing the lobster. He’s OK.”

Carlson posted a photo of the bite on Instagram, writing: “Warren Sapp attacked by a shark while lobstering. #epicbattle. . . .

“The shark wanted the lobster just as bad as Sapp. Sapp got the lobster and the Shark got his lick in too.”

Sapp apparently hung up when Auman tried to ask about the incident.

The shark was unavailable for comment, though he’s probably considering going vegan.

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Ravens add a wide receiver, linebacker

Cedric Benson,  Kavell Conner AP

The Ravens handled some pre-camp business as players reported for training camp Wednesday, and in the process they signed wide receiver Dobson Collins and linebacker Kavell Conner.

Collins, 29, has played the last five years in the Canadian Football League. He previously spent time with the 49ers and Eagles.

The Ravens had previously announced that wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman would start camp on the physically unable to perform list, and Mike Wallace did not pass his conditioning test Wednesday, so Collins should be in line for reps at the start of camp.

Conner, also 29, played the last two seasons with the Chargers and previously played four seasons with the Colts. He’s played in 78 career games, starting 46, and has three career fumble recoveries and two sacks.

Conner was a seventh-round pick of the Colts in 2010.

Their signings put the team’s roster at the preseason max of 90 players.

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Joe Flacco will wear knee brace, may not play much in preseason

Joe Flacco AP

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s recovery from last year’s torn ACL and MCL has gone well enough that Flacco avoided the PUP list to start training camp and all indications from the offseason are that he’s right on track for a return to the lineup in Week One.

It’s less clear whether he’ll be doing much in the team’s preseason games. Flacco met the media on Wednesday and said his focus is on the team’s September 11 opener against the Bills rather than on getting his feet wet during the exhibition season.

“The goal is to make sure I’m as healthy as possible, regular season, Game 1,” Flacco said. “I’m not ridiculously worried about playing a ton in the preseason.”

One plus to preseason action would be a chance to see how he responds to taking hits as that’s not something that will happen during Ravens practices this summer. The flip side of that is the risk of what taking the wrong hit could do to his health, so the Ravens will have to balance both before making a call. Whether his next game action comes in August or in the regular season, Flacco will take the field wearing a brace on his left knee.

“If it helps a little bit, that’s huge,” Flacco said. “I’m not going to leave it up to risk and then have something happen and say, ‘What if?’ I’m going to wear it. There’s no reason not to.”

Flacco said his knee has felt “really good” in the workouts he’s done with rookies and injured veterans over the last few days. Whatever he needs to do in regards to braces and preseason playing time to keep it that way will likely be just fine with the Ravens.

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Saints sign Hakeem Nicks

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:   Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants is tackled by  Chris Maragos #42 of the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 35-30.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Hakeem Nicks is heading to New Orleans.

The veteran receiver is signing with the Saints, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Nicks worked out for the Saints in May, but there’s been little talk about him since then.

New Orleans has a very young and inexperienced receiving corps, so Nicks may provide some veteran leadership. But it’s fair to wonder whether the 28-year-old has much left: Last year he managed just seven catches for 54 yards in six games.

Overall, Nicks has played seven NFL seasons and caught 356 passes for 5,081 yards and 31 touchdowns.

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Mike Wallace didn’t pass Ravens conditioning test

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 25: Mike Wallace #11 of the Minnesota Vikings looks down field after a play during an NFL game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 25, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Vikings defeated the Lions 28-19. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens haven’t officially signed tackle Jake Long yet because he wasn’t able to pass a physical and he’s not the only member of the team whose fitness was found to be lacking as the team gets set for training camp.

The team announced Wednesday that wide receiver Mike Wallace, who signed with the team as a free agent following his departure from the Vikings, failed to pass his conditioning test. Wallace will need to pass that test before he’ll be permitted to practice with the team.

There doesn’t appear to be a major issue keeping Wallace from passing the test. The Ravens’ tweet announcing his failure said that they expect him to pass it in the next few days and coach John Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun, that Wallace passed five of the six benchmarks required by the team.

It’s not the best first step, but it should be forgotten fairly soon if Wallace is on the field soon and making plays down the field once games start.

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