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PFT’s Week 11 picks

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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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Report: Patriots will not consider drafting Joe Mixon

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Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is the most controversial player in this year’s draft, a first-round talent who was caught on tape hitting a woman in an incident every bit as ugly as the one that ended Ray Rice’s career.

Some teams have confirmed, however, that they’re still considering drafting Mixon. Other teams won’t give him a thought. We can add the Patriots to that latter group.

According to the Boston Herald, the Patriots absolutely will not even consider drafting Mixon.

That means the Patriots will join the Dolphins, who also have reportedly decided they don’t want Mixon and his baggage on their team.

But for Mixon, all it takes is one team willing to overlook his past in favor of his future. There will surely be at least once such team, even if many others think he’s more trouble than he’s worth.

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Jay Gruden was disappointed by the firing of Scot McCloughan

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Washington head coach Jay Gruden was sorry to see G.M. Scot McCloughan go.

Gruden said at the league meeting that he was upset when he learned McCloughan had been fired.

“I was disappointed,” Gruden said, via Liz Clarke of the Washington Post. “I like Scot; I liked working with Scot. I think he’s a good person and a great talent evaluator. Anytime you lose someone, it’s disappointing. But at the end of the day, it’s professional football. Anyone who has been around it understands that change is going to happen.”

Gruden’s public comments stand in contrast with some of the anonymous sources out of Washington who bad-mouthed McCloughan out the door and suggested that he has a drinking problem that contributed to his firing. Gruden wouldn’t say directly when asked if the team needed to fire McCloughan.

“I’m not going to say it had to be made. It was made,” he said. “That’s all I can live with. When decisions are made of that magnitude, you reflect on the good things you learned from Scot and the good things he did for the team. And you move forward.”

Gruden sounds like he would have been perfectly happy to keep working with McCloughan. But the higher-ups in the organization, owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen, apparently thought otherwise.

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Jaguars bump offseason reporting date back after NFLPA challenge

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Doug Marrone is the newly appointed head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. New head coaches in the NFL are permitted to begin their offseason programs a week earlier than incumbent coaches in order to give new staffs a chance to get a head start.

However, Marrone had already been coaching in Jacksonville for the last two seasons as an assistant on Gus Bradley’s staff. And that distinction has led to a butting of heads between the Jaguars and the NFL Players’ Association.

The Jaguars had received approval from the NFL to begin their offseason program on April 10 along with the other teams with new head coaches. However, the NFLPA challenged the Jaguars’ status of having a new head coach since Marrone served as interim head coach to end last season.

“Our position is that Doug Marrone is a new head coach this season after serving as interim head coach for the last two games of the 2016 season,” Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said in a statement released by the team.

Following conversations with the league, the Jaguars have revised their offseason program to begin on April 17.

“We are glad to now know our reporting date, although we had planned to begin on April 10, and we had already invited our players to come in on that day,” Coughlin said.

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L.A. Chargers gift jersey to all season-ticket holders

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The Chargers are trying.

No one can accuse them of less.

They’ve run the Los Angeles Marathon as a relay team. They’ve eaten a team-themed chili dog at Pink’s Hot Dogs, a Hollywood staple. They’ve made a gaggle of L.A. radio and TV appearances, including “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Tight end Jeff Cumberland, who missed all of 2016 to injury, wore his Chargers jersey during a Kingdom Day Parade appearance. He also attended a Clippers-Lakers game where we was jeered and the club’s logo was booed on the big screen.

And this is all since the Jan. 12 move.

On Tuesday, the franchise made the latest effort to endear itself to its new market, gifting all season-ticket holders a Philip Rivers powder-blue home jersey. The jerseys are available in both male and female classifications.

“Fight for L.A.” is the former San Diego franchise’s marketing slogan.

This is the newest round.

“To show our appreciation for you, we are offering exclusively to all 2017 Season Ticket Members a Philip Rivers powder blue Nike Game Jersey for each Season Ticket Member,” the official notice to customers reads, via Vincent Bonsignore of the L.A. Daily News. “Yes, a Nike Game Jersey for you to wear at all home games at StubHub Center!

“This is our way of saying thank you from your Los Angeles Chargers.”

During their final years in San Diego, the Chargers did make an effort to enhance the perks provided to season-ticket holders, be it through such events as exclusive practice access and conference calls with the general manager or head coach.

Even so, some in San Diego viewed the jersey as an upgrade.

Said one former customer on Twitter: “10 yrs as a season ticket holder the best we got was a shirt that said ‘We’re All In’ during a season they were planning their escape to L.A.”

In any event, it’s a gesture.

The L.A. Chargers haven’t lacked for those.

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John Schneider on idea of trading Richard Sherman: “We listen to everything”

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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman may find it hilarious there’s talk he could be traded. However, General Manager John Schneider didn’t exactly slam the door shut on the concept on Tuesday.

In meeting with Seattle reporters at the league meetings, Schneider said that they listen to every proposal that comes their way.

“We listen. We listen to everything you would think,” he said. “We’re in a lot of stuff. We try to pride ourselves on that. I think I’ve told you guys before we walk away from 98 percent of the deals that we’re involved with or talking about. But at least we know that we’ve knocked down their door, we’ve gone in there and checked it out. We’re not just going to assume. We always just have to constantly be thinking about the organization and how we’re going to move it forward.”

The idea of trading Sherman came about after former NFL executive Michael Lombardi said in a podcast that he’d heard Seattle would be open to trading the All-Pro cornerback.

“I truly believe, based on what I hear around the National Football League, that the Seahawks would in fact, for the right deal, trade Richard Sherman,” Lombardi said as part of a larger discussion surrounding the New Orleans Saints interest in New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.

The practicality of a deal for Sherman this year doesn’t seem feasible. Sherman’s contract isn’t particularly advantageous for Seattle to try to move him. Additionally, they need him. With Deshawn Shead expected to be out well into the regular season following a torn ACL sustained in the playoffs, Seattle’s cornerback depth is currently lacking.

However, the fact Schneider didn’t go out of his way to shrug off the idea is notable. Sherman twice blew up at members of Seattle’s coaching staff on the sidelines during games. He publicly criticized offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for calling a pass from the 1-yard line in a December game against the Los Angeles Rams, doubled down on the comments the following week, threatened to ruin the career of a media member and generally remained an issue for the remainder of the season.

The “right deal” probably doesn’t exist right now for Sherman. That doesn’t mean it won’t exist in the future. And Seattle might just be willing to pull the trigger when the time comes.

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Lions president asks favor of NFL schedule-makers

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The Lions lost their first five games in 2015 before winning seven of their final 11.

They started 1-3 in 2016 before winning eight of their next 12.

To say NFL schedule-makers were responsible for these slow starts would be a stretch. But in light of the arrangement of late, Lions President Rod Wood said Tuesday he’s kindly submitted a request to the powers that be before next month’s 2017 schedule release: Please, not again.

Wood told reporters he asked the NFL not to assign the Lions three road games in their first four weeks. Such has been the case the past two regular seasons.

Before that stretch, it hadn’t happened to Detroit since 2011.

The Lions went 10-6 that year, winning their first five games en route to the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1999. The results were less favorable when the schedule began the same in 2010; Detroit lost its first four games in a 6-10 year.

The Browns, Dolphins, Rams and Raiders are the only other clubs who began 2016 with three of four games on the road.

Only the Lions were doing so for a consecutive year.

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Goodell doesn’t think Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed shocked by the simple suggestion that such a thing could be possible.

When asked directly at the end of the league’s owners meetings if he thought former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was being blackballed for last year’s political protests, Goodell said he saw no evidence of that.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said. “My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams.

“But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Of course, if there was an active collusion happening, it’s unlikely they’d have held a committee meeting on the topic and read the minutes to Goodell to make sure he was caught up.

But a guy that teams wanted to trade for a year ago (namely the Broncos) suddenly can’t find a home as a free agent. The reports that he’s asking for too much money and a starting job have been refuted, leaving many to wonder if there’s not a bigger issue — even if the commissioner sees no evidence of it.

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Roger Goodell says he will attend regular season opener in New England

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It has become customary in the NFL for the first game of the regular season to be hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion. It is also customary that Commissioner Roger Goodell personally attends the first game of the season.

It just so happens that game will be in New England this year, which is a place Goodell has seemingly avoided at all costs since Deflategate began during the 2014 postseason.

But just like Goodell was forced to present Patriots owner Robert Kraft with the Lombardi Trophy in February in Houston, Goodell said Tuesday at the league meetings in Phoenix that he will be attending the season opener.

“I plan to be at the kickoff game,” Goodell said.

Goodell has reportedly not attended a game in New England since the AFC Championship in 2014 that sparked the Deflategate controversy. Goodell’s postseason appearances last year came in Atlanta for their Divisional Round game against the Seahawks and NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

That New England drought is now set to end on Sept. 7 with the Patriots home opener.

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Roger Goodell: Discussion of celebration rules tabled

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The NFL cleaned up some rules changes already today, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he wanted to get more information before proceeding on modifications to the league’s celebration rules.

Goodell said he asked owners to table the proposal to loosen the league’s collective ties, saying he wanted to talk to more players before any changes are made.

A vote could still be taken at their May meeting, but Goodell said he needed time to gain “clarity” to the rule, and allow players “more ability to express themselves” while maintaining order and decorum.

While the simple act of letting players have a bit more freedom on the field is nice, reaching across the aisle and getting input from players on any topic is an important step. Along with this week’s ban on leaping over the line of scrimmage on kicks (which was suggested by the NFLPA), there’s at least some notion that the league is willing to work with labor. That’s not an insignificant thing.

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Jerry Jones: Tony Romo has options, we’ll know by training camp

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggested today that it could be four months before Tony Romo’s future is clear.

Asked today at the league meeting when he’ll know Romo’s status for the 2017 season, Jones said a decision would be made by training camp.

The option that was once seen as most likely was the Cowboys releasing Romo and letting him decide for himself what to do next. But it now seems that the Cowboys want to hold onto him, potentially to find a trading partner.

Jones also said he and Romo have spoken recently, that they’re doing great, and that Romo has “a lot of options.” That would seem to suggest that one option Romo is considering is retiring and moving on to a television job. That might be the option Jones likes best: Jones has always loved Romo and would probably rather see him retire a Cowboy.

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NFL offering research to help find safer and position-specific helmets

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The NFL isn’t trying to get into the helmet business. But they are willing to share their concussion research with manufacturers in an effort to end up with better helmets.

NFL executive vice president of health and safety policy Jeff Miller brought Dr. Jeff Crandall, the chairman of the league’s head neck and spine engineering subcommittee to meet with reporters Tuesday at the owners meeting. And while Crandall said the science is still a few years away, the eventual benefit could be position-specific helmets in hopes of reducing the chances of concussions.

Crandall said that since different position groups already wear unique cleats or shoulder pads for the specific demands of the jobs, customizing helmets is a logical next step.

“We know that players in different positions receive different types of severity and frequency of impacts,” Crandall said. “So we think a position-specific helmet makes sense.”

For instance, linemen tend to receive lower severity hits to the head at a higher frequency than skill position players, the result of banging into each other on every snap as opposed to taking high-speed hits in the open field. So focusing the protection at the front of the helmet would be a more effective way to protect linemen.

Crandall, the director of the Center for Applied Biomechanics at the University of Virginia, said the first step is coming up with a reliable sensor to detect impacts, and the hope is that one can be found by 2018 or 2019. If that can be found, they’re willing to share the research with manufacturers, in hopes of such helmets being available by 2020.

Miller also reiterated that concussion rates were down 8.7 percent during the 2016 regular season, and down around 10 percent when you include the preseason. They also noted that there has been a 40 percent reduction in concussions suffered from helmet-to-helmet hits, which they see as evidence that rules changes are helping make the game safer. Of course, that means more concussions are coming from helmet-to-body contact, but the league hopes their research efforts can help lead to better equipment.

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Jason Garrett: Nothing has changed with Tony Romo

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The Cowboys are still holding onto Tony Romo, weeks after they were reportedly set to release him, and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said today that “nothing has really changed since the end of the season.”

Romo is keeping a low profile, but reports are starting to surface that he’s unhappy with the Cowboys, who have made Dak Prescott the starting quarterback. There have also been reports that Romo might quit playing entirely and take a television job.

With Romo’s $14 million salary this season, it seems unlikely the Cowboys would keep him around as Prescott’s backup. And Romo might just decide not to play at all if he’s not going to be a starter. But it could be months before we get any clarity about Romo’s situation. For now, Garrett says, the situation is the same as it was before: Romo is on the Cowboys, as Prescott’s backup.

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Cowboys extend all 3 coordinators’ contracts

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You get an extension.

You get an extension.

And you get an extension.

The Cowboys saw to it that all three coordinators’ contracts were extended before players convene in April for voluntary workouts. ESPN’s Todd Archer reported Tuesday that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia signed off on their agreements.

Linehan and Marinelli were entering the final year of their respective deals, per Archer.

It is unclear by how many years each coach’s contract was extended.

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Eagles kick tires on CB Patrick Robinson

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Cornerback Patrick Robinson must prove he can stay healthy before seeing another large contract.

The Eagles are providing him that chance.

Robinson agreed to a one-year deal Tuesday, the team announced. He joins Philadelphia following an injury-marred year in Indianapolis, hence his contract being of the “prove it” variety worth the veteran minimum, a source confirmed to Pro Football Talk.

The Colts signed Robinson in 2016 to a three-year, $13.5 million contract following a 16-game campaign in San Diego.

But he played only seven games, suffering a concussion in the season opener and later a groin injury that landed him on injured reserve. He has been diagnosed with multiple concussions during the past two years.

Robinson, 29, arguably was the Chargers’ most valuable off-season acquisition in 2015. He similarly arrived there on a one-year deal and showcased the versatility to contribute outside and in the nickel. He finished with 59 tackles and an interception.

In 2010, the Saints drafted Robinson in the first round out of Florida State.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported the contract is worth $1 million. Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice first reported a deal was imminent.

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Vikings begin push to put Jim Marshall in Canton

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The Vikings hope that a player who once ran the wrong way with the football will end up running right into Canton.

Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf told PFT Live on Tuesday that the team has embarked on an effort to get defensive end Jim Marshall, a key member of the Purple People Eaters, into the Hall of Fame. Marshall would be eligible for consideration by the Senior Committee.

A fourth-round pick of the Browns in 1960, Marshall spent 1961 through 1979 with the Vikings, appearing in 282 straight games with 270 consecutive starts. He still holds the career record for the recovery of opponents’ fumbles with 29.

Marshall, 79, also appeared in four Super Bowls with the Vikings. Fellow Vikings defensive linemen Alan Page and Carl Eller previously made it to Canton.

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