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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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Wes Welker calls drug policy system “clearly flawed”

Wes Welker AP

After learning that he would be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs policy, Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker elected to express issues over the policies themselves while expressing ignorance over his violation of those policies.

In an email to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Welker relayed the standard line from players following drug suspensions that he would “NEVER knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way.”

However, Welker then turned his attention to the system that led to his suspension in the first place. Welker called the drug testing programs “clearly flawed” and vowed to attempt to get the issues corrected in the future.

“I have never been concerned with the leagues performance enhancing or drug abuse policies because under no scenario would they ever apply to me, but I now know, that (drug-policy procedures) are clearly flawed, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they are corrected, so other individuals and teams aren’t negatively affected so rashly like this,” Welker said.

Welker did not elaborate on what part of the process he took issue with. However, the policies themselves were collectively bargained as a part of the CBA that was signed between the league and player’s union in 2011.

A first offense for a violation of the performance enhancing drugs policy is a four game suspension. The four game suspension is actually a five-week ban as the Broncos have their bye week in Week 4.

The league officially announced the suspension Tuesday night. He will be eligible to return to the team on Monday, October 6.

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Wes Welker officially suspended first four games of season

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The NFL officially announced Tuesday night that Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker will miss the first four games of the season after violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy.

The four game suspension will actually be a five-week ban in total as the Broncos bye week falls in Week 4. Welker is eligible to return to the team’s active roster on Monday, August 6. He will miss games against the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. All four teams won at least 10 games last season.

“Tonight’s news regarding Wes is very disappointing for our team, but we understand the league’s authority in this area. While it’s unfortunate to not have him to start the year, I have full confidence in our wide receivers and expect that group to continue playing at a high level,” head coach John Fox said in a statement.

“I have no doubt that Wes will remain focused on his preparations for the season and stay in excellent shape during his time away from the team.”

The banishment under the PED policy happened because Welker took MDMA, a banned substance under the substance-abuse policy, that had been cut with amphetamines, a banned substance under the PED policy.

The timing of the announcement was somewhat odd. It comes late on a Tuesday night and the Broncos had likely already built a game plan with the assumption Welker was going to be available to play this week. In addition, if the suspension had been announced before final cuts on Saturday, the team could have kept an additional player during cuts as Welker would have been placed on the reserve/suspended list.

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Welker may not be suspended for Week One

Welker AP

The good news for the Broncos and receiver Wes Welker is that he may not be suspended for Week One.  The bad news for the Broncos and Welker is that it may not matter, since he has yet to be cleared to play.

The worst news for the Broncos is that, if the NFL had finalized the Welker suspension by Saturday, the Broncos would have been able to keep someone they’d cut on the roster for at least the first four weeks of the season, since Welker would have been placed on the reserve/suspended list based on his four-game suspension for violating the PED policy.

One of the many things learned the during StarCaps case was that suspensions routinely are announced by Tuesday, since that’s the start of the work week.  As of Wednesday, Welker will practice and in turn be eligible to be paid for the week.

It means that, when Welker eventually is suspended (he will be), he’ll be more likely to miss a game that he would have been able to play, in light of his most recent concussion.  It also means that someone like safety Duke Ihenacho could have been kept around for the first month of the year.

For now, it means that, if Welker receives clearance to play on Sunday night against the Colts, he’ll be in the lineup — barring a dramatic departure by the NFL from its past practices.

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Brent will appeal decision to delay his reinstatement

Brent Getty Images

Former Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent has ended his retirement. The league, however, hasn’t.

Brent won’t be reinstated for 10 weeks. Brent’s agent, Peter Schaffer, tells PFT that Brent will appeal the decision.

“We are going to invoke our appeal right,” Schaffer said by phone. “We were truly hoping that the Commissioner’s response to Josh’s request for reinstatement would be one that we wouldn’t have to appeal, and that it would be fair and based on precedent. The last thing we thought we’d have to do today would be appeal the decision.”

Schaffer pointed to the only other recent case involving a player found responsible for DUI resulting in death: former NFL receiver Donte’ Stallworth.

“It was the same exact situation,” Schaffer said. “Both were tragic and unfortunate.  Stallworth received a 16-game suspension.  I base everything on precedent.  The precedent was set.  But Josh will serve a 30-game suspension.”

That calculation treats Brent’s placement on the non-football injury/list list and his 2013 retirement as de facto suspensions. While it’s unclear whether the NFL would have suspended Brent in 2013 while he was awaiting trial, Brent’s retirement allowed the NFL to avoid a very delicate situation.

“It’s important that Josh voluntarily retired,” Schaffer said.  “He could have forced the NFL to go through a tremendous amount of scrutiny for allowing him to play pending trial or for attempting to suspend him before he had been proven guilty.  Where’s the incentive for someone to do that in the future?  Giving him twice what Stallworth received doesn’t seem to be acknowledge that.”

The procedure moving forward isn’t clear, given that Brent technically hasn’t been suspended.  Instead, his reinstatement has been delayed.  Schaffer believes that Brent should be allowed to play pending the appeal.

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Former Cardinals QB Max Hall arrested for shoplifting, cocaine

nfl_a_hall2_sy_300 AP

For a moment there, it looked like Max Hall was going to be the next Kurt Warner.

But he ended up more like Montana — Tony Montana.

According to the Arizona Republic, Hall was arrested Friday on suspicion of possession of stolen items and cocaine.

The report said Gilbert police were called to a Best Buy store, where they found Hall with “several stolen items from Best Buy and a nearby Walmart.”

He was also packing a “personal use quantity of cocaine,” which I guess depends on how often you use.

The former BYU quarterback — this latest one was a whole different kind of mission — started three games for the Cardinals in 2010, and was most recently working as an assistant coach at a high school

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NFL holds Irsay to higher standard, sort of

Irsay Getty Images

As expected, the NFL has lowered the boom on Colts owner Jim Irsay.  And the NFL believes that it held Irsay to a higher standard than the league’s players.

The NFL is correct.  Sort of.

A player who pleads guilty to a DUI ordinarily gets no suspension and a maximum fine of $50,000 for a first offense.  Irsay received a six-game suspension and a fine of $500,000.

It was also a higher standard when compared to the 2007 DUI of Dr. Jerry Buss.  The late Lakers owner was suspended only two games (they play 82 for the season) and fined $25,000.  (The NFL may not want to completely embrace NBA precedent, in the event that an NFL owner eventually is illegally recorded during a private conversation saying things that objectively would be regarded as inappropriate.)

The appearance of holding Irsay to a higher standard masks the inadequacy of the financial penalty.  The league office has advised PFT that there will be no monetary consequence beyond the $500,000.  Which means that Irsay will otherwise lose none of the money that he will earn during the six weeks that he’s suspended.

While the NFL’s constitution and bylaws cap any fine at $500,000, the league has no limit on the money that can be withheld when someone is suspended.  Saints coach Sean Payton, for example, lost more than $5 million during a full-year suspension for an overhyped bounty program that he had no involvement in establishing or maintaining.

Likewise, players routinely lose more than $500,000 during suspensions.  Broncos receiver Wes Welker, for example, will lose 4/17th of his $3 million base salary, 4/17th of his $3 million roster bonus, and 4/17th of his $2 million signing bonus allocation as a result of his four-game suspension for violating the PED policy.

That’s $1,882,578 in lost revenue for Welker.  And that’s well over three times what Irsay, a billionaire, will lose during a 50-percent longer suspension.

So while it generates a strong headline for an owner to be suspended, he’s not forfeiting anything close to the millions in revenue that will continue to flow into the team’s coffers.  The team he’ll continue to own will continue to generate enormous profits that he’ll continue to be able to do with as he pleases.

Ultimately, it’s not a real suspension unless the suspension comes without pay.  In this case, Irsay is being suspended with pay — minus an amount that, given his net worth and the revenue that will continue to be generated over the next six weeks, is roughly the equivalent of a speeding ticket.

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No decision yet on Josh Gordon lawsuit

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On Monday, we reported that Josh Gordon will decide in the next day or two whether to sue the NFL in response to his one-year suspension for his latest violation of the substance-abuse policy.

As of Tuesday, no decision has been made.

Look for something to happen quickly, especially since practice gets rolling on Wednesday for the regular-season opener against the Steelers.  Since Gordon, if he sues, will ask for a preliminary injunction that will allow him to play while the litigation is pending, the sooner he gets the process rolling the more time a judge will have to consider whether to allow Gordon to keep playing.

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Saints bring back Shayne Graham

Shayne Graham AP

Three days after releasing both kickers in their cut to 53 players, the Saints have brought one back.

The team has re-signed kicker Shayne Graham, according to the NFL’s Tuesday transactions.

In a corresponding roster move, the club waived second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin.

Graham, 36, connected on all four field goals (long of 39 yards) and 4-of-5 extra points in preseason play. However, the club parted ways with Graham and Derek Dimke after the exhibition slate.

But now, Graham is back, and seemingly so for the regular season opener at Atlanta.

The move leaves Luke McCown as the lone backup behind Drew Brees. It would not be a surprise if the Saints re-signed Griffin to the practice squad, but he will have to clear waivers first, and it will be interesting to see if he’s picked up after a solid preseason (48-of-77 passing, 530 yards, three TDs, one interception, 90.3 QB rating).

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Source: Welker took Molly at Kentucky Derby

Welker

Wes Welker’s good day at the Kentucky Derby turned out to be not so good.

His winnings that day exceeded $57,000.  But human error resulted in the Broncos receiver being overpaid by nearly $15,000.

Now, he’ll lose a lot more than that due to his four-game suspension.

Per a league source, the banishment under the PED policy happened because Welker took MDMA, a banned substance under the substance-abuse policy, that had been cut with amphetamines, a banned substance under the PED policy.  (Here’s where all the Walter Whites in the crowd will try to claim in the comments and on Twitter that MDMA and amphetamines are the same thing.  They’re not, Jessie.)

As happened with Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, pure MDMA wouldn’t have triggered a violation under the PED policy.  The presence of amphetamines resulted in a one-strike, four-game suspension.

If the NFL and NFLPA had struck a deal on HGH testing, Welker likely wouldn’t have been suspended.  It’s believed that the new drug-testing policies that will become effective if/when a final agreement is reached on HGH testing will result in amphetamines shifting to the substance-abuse policy during the offseason.

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Greg Robinson not in Week One starting lineup

Robinson Getty Images

The second overall pick in the draft will start the season on the second string.

Rams guard Greg Robinson, a tackle whom the team has moved inside, has moved behind Rodger Saffold on the depth chart at left guard, via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-DispatchDavin Joseph will start at right guard.

Joseph, who joined the team in May, makes it easier for the Rams to take it slowly with Robinson, who’s still adjusting to life in the NFL, where the playbook and the protections is far more complicated than the offense at Auburn.

Still, it’s a disappointment for the second player off the board to not be starting.  If the Rams were able to capture a Mulligan, they’d surely take the quarterback who won’t be starting in Jacksonville.

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Wes Welker suspended four games for violating PED policy

Denver Broncos Super Bowl XLVIII Media Availability Getty Images

Broncos receiver Wes Welker has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

According to multiple reports, Welker tested positive for a banned amphetamine.

Welker becomes one of the highest-profile NFL players to be busted for a PED violation. Welker led the league in receptions three times while with the Patriots, and he was a component of the best offense in the NFL last year with the Broncos.

There’s been much talk in recent days about whether Welker would be healthy enough to play in Week One after suffering a preseason concussion, but now that talk is moot: Welker will miss four games regardless of whether he is cleared by the league’s concussion protocol.

The Broncos should be in OK shape at receiver even without Welker, thanks to the signing of free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the drafting of rookie receiver Cody Latimer.

Welker will not be permitted to practice with the team during the suspension. He will be eligible to return in Week Five.

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NFL says Josh Brent can return starting Week 11

Dallas Cowboys v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The NFL has will allow Josh Brent, the Cowboys defensive lineman who killed teammate Jerry Brown while driving drunk, to return to the Cowboys this year. But Brent isn’t eligible just yet.

Brent cannot play until Week 11. He is suspended for the first 10 games of the season and not allowed to participate in any team activities for the first six weeks of the season. He can begin practicing in Week Nine. He will not be permitted to return if he is involved in any prohibited alcohol-related incidents.

If Brent believes he deserves to re-join the Cowboys sooner than that, he has five days to appeal the decision. Brent has already missed the end of the 2012 season after his car crash in December of that year, and the entire 2013 season as well. In all, he’ll have missed 30 games by the time he’s eligible to play in Week 11.

The Cowboys have indicated that they will bring Brent back once the NFL gives it the OK. So as long as Brent stays out of trouble, expect him to be with the Cowboys late this season.

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Steelers’ defense preparing to face both Manziel and Hoyer

Mike Tomlin AP

Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback for the Browns against the Steelers on Sunday, but he’s not the only quarterback the Steelers’ defense is preparing to face.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he thinks Johnny Manziel will play on Sunday, and the Steelers have to be ready for that.

We anticipate them using both in some capacity, and I think that’s the appropriate approach for us to take,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin coached Hoyer briefly when Hoyer spent some time on the Steelers’ roster in 2012, and Tomlin said he has always thought highly of Hoyer as a smart, well-prepared quarterback. But the Steelers also have to be ready for the threat Manziel brings, particularly as a runner.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that [Hoyer] is the guy they’ve chosen to go with,” said Tomlin, “but that being said, we have a great deal of respect for Johnny Manziel and his talents and what he did to get to this point in his career. We fully expect them to utilize him in some capacity in this football game. They didn’t draft him in the first round to watch, and we understand that.”

The possibility of a two-quarterback system makes the Browns one of the NFL’s more unpredictable offenses heading into Week One. Tomlin doesn’t know exactly what to expect against Cleveland, but he does expect to see Johnny Football, and not just Johnny Clipboard.

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Bears place Marquess Wilson on injured reserve/recall

Marquess Wilson AP

If Marquess Wilson is to return to the Bears’ lineup, it will have to be after midseason.

The club has placed Wilson, the second-year wide receiver from Washington State, on injured reserve with a designation to be recalled, the club announced.

The 21-year-old Wilson suffered a broken collarbone early in training camp. He was expected to compete for the club’s No. 3 receiver role.

With Wilson’s roster spot open for the time being, the Bears re-signed cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was released on Saturday. The 31-year-old Hayden missed the 2013 season with a torn hamstring, but he appeared in 16 games (two starts) for Chicago two seasons ago.

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Cowboys plan to add Michael Sam to practice squad

michaelsam AP

Michael Sam is about to find an NFL home.

The Cowboys plan to bring in Sam for a physical and sign him to the practice squad if he passes, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the Cowboys spent time today calling players to gauge their reaction to signing Sam. Apparently the reaction was what it should have been: If he can help the team, he should be signed. The Cowboys think having Sam on the practice squad could help.

There’s been much talk since the Rams cut Sam that teams are avoiding him because they don’t want the attention of having the NFL’s first openly gay player on their roster. But in the case of the Cowboys — where owner Jerry Jones thinks there’s no such thing as bad publicity — if anything Sam’s status as the NFL’s highest-profile practice-squad player may be a bonus.

A seventh-round draft pick out of Missouri who was the SEC’s defensive player of the year last year, Sam had a good preseason but wasn’t able to crack the 53-man roster in St. Louis. In Dallas, where the Cowboys are in desperate need of help on defense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him eventually get added to the active roster. Dallas looks like a good fit for Sam.

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