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Ditka says a stroke won’t keep him down: “I’m Iron Mike”

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Mike Ditka was back to talking football on Monday morning, three days after he was hospitalized in Chicago with a minor stroke.

The 73-year-old Ditka appeared on Mike and Mike in the Morning and said he’s feeling fine and eager to get back to work as an ESPN analyst after watching football from his couch on Sunday.

“I feel pretty darn good. I’m optimistic. I feel good about everything: I’m Iron Mike,” he said. “I watched almost all the games.”

Ditka’s speech sounded fine and he was sharp and aware of all the day’s news in the NFL, and he said he viewed his stroke as more of a speed bump than a life-altering event.

“I was kind of driving down the highway of life really fast, and I had a flat tire,” Ditka said “I’m OK. You don’t expect those things to happen, but they come up on you.”

A Hall of Fame tight end who played for the Bears, Eagles and Cowboys, Ditka coached the 1985 Bears to the championship at Super Bowl XX.

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Jeff Burris gets a promotion on Dolphins’ defensive staff

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As Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell continues to shake up the coaching staff he inherited from the fired Joe Philbin, former NFL player Jeff Burris has received a promotion.

Burris’s title has changed from “defensive assistant” to “assistant defensive backs coach.” That might sound like a minor distinction akin to the difference between “assistant regional manager” and “assistant to the regional manager,” the Dolphins’ website makes clear that the move is considered a promotion.

Burris was an All-American at Notre Dame and a first-round draft pick of the Bills in 1994, and he played cornerback for 10 seasons in the NFL with the Bills, Colts and Bengals. He has been with the Dolphins since 2013 and has previously served on the coaching staffs at UMass and on the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions, as well as having a coaching internship with the Bills.

The Dolphins have also confirmed, as PFT reported, that Lou Anarumo has been promoted to defensive coordinator and Kevin Coyle has been fired.

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Victor Cruz to meet with doctors next week

Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham AP

The Giants won’t have wide receiver Victor Cruz in the lineup against the 49ers on Sunday night and they should have a better idea of when he’ll be able to make his first appearance of the 2015 season next week.

That’s when Cruz is scheduled to have his injured calf reevaluated by doctors. Cruz had platelet-rich plasma therapy done on the calf last week and explained on Thursday, via Jordan Raanan of, that doctors said it would take 10 days to see if it worked well enough for him to ramp up his rehab work.

Cruz doesn’t need that examination to give him confidence in his ability to come back and help the team this season.

“I’m thoroughly convinced at some point this year I’ll be back on the field playing at high level,” Cruz said.

While Cruz likely has plenty of company in believing he’ll be back on the field at some point this season, the high level part of things is going to be a harder sell until he’s actually able to do it.

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Ahmad Brooks won’t play this week after death of sister

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Injury reports come and go, and news of players in and out of lineups can make our eyes glaze over sometimes.

And sometimes, you remember these are human beings playing games.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks won’t play this week against the Giants, after the death of his sister.

Agent Greg Williams said that Brooks’ 40-year old sister Casandra died of Lupus.

Brooks has been having a tumultuous last few months, including facing a misdemeanor count of sexual battery, though the league chose to not place him on paid leave, and he has played as normal for the 49ers so far this season.

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Jason Peters says he’s playing this week

Jason Peters AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly raised the possibility that the Eagles would be without left tackle Jason Peters against the Saints this week, but Peters shared a different opinion of his chances of playing through the quadriceps injury that knocked him out of the Week Four loss to the Redskins.

Kelly said that he didn’t want to be caught short on players again this week after watching Peters leave the loss to Washington after just a handful of snaps, although Peters says that’s not something that Kelly has to worry about. Peters, who was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, said that he’s going to play against New Orleans and explained why he won’t be forced out of the game again this week.

“Because I am who I am,” Peters said, via Reuben Frank of CSN Philly.

It’s always hard to argue with an answer that worked so well for Popeye, but the Eagles will probably still be weighing all of their options in the next few days before deciding whether to put Peters in the lineup on Sunday. The risk of losing him mid-game (and perhaps aggravating the injury) and forcing an already beleaguered offensive line to shuffle its pieces on the fly may be one they are unwilling to take.

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Dolphins make Anarumo defensive coordinator

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The Dolphins will promote defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo to defensive coordinator, a source told PFT.

The team fired Kevin Coyle as defensive coordinator Thursday, three days after firing head coach Joe Philbin and replacing him with interim coach Dan Campbell.

Anarumo, 49, has been with the team as defensive backs coach since 2012. He previously was a college assistant coach for 23 years and spent 2004-2011 at Purdue.

The Dolphins are off this weekend after falling to 1-3 in London last week. They play at the Titans on Oct. 18.

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Report: Dolphins parting ways with Kevin Coyle

Kevin Coyle AP

Before the Dolphins fired coach Joe Philbin on Monday, there were reports that had defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle on the chopping block as well.

During interim coach Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference, he said he wasn’t ready to talk about potential changes to the staff which meant Coyle was still employed if not exactly safe and sound in the job. Reports that the Dolphins had reached out to Jim Schwartz, Mike Smith and Greg Schiano about taking over their defense didn’t do much to make things any cozier.

The other shoe reportedly dropped on Thursday. Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the Dolphins have decided to fire Coyle.

There’s no word on who will take over the Dolphins defense with Coyle out of the picture. Whoever does get the reins will be tasked with bringing together a defense that balked at playing Coyle’s scheme and held a closed-door meeting with coaches last week about making changes to it.

The new coach will also be tasked with finding a way to get big-ticket defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to perform at a level closer to the one he was at in Detroit before signing a huge contract with Miami as a free agent this offseason. It’s a full plate with a little more than a week to go before the Dolphins are back on the field.

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Roddy White on his role with Falcons: “It’s really not a controversy”

Roddy White ,Devin Hester AP

OK now, it’s settled — Roddy White is totally and completely gruntled.

The Falcons veteran wide receiver said Thursday that he met with coach Dan Quinn about his role in the offense, after comments that could reasonably be construed as dissatisfaction with becoming a third option in the passing game. And he swears he’s OK with that.

It’s really not a controversy,” White said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “My role is what it is. I’ve talked to DQ and we’ve gotten past that. It’s just certain things that just get out into the media and certain people just take it way too far. I’m on positive note. We are 4-0 and that’s what it is right now.”

Of course, that’s a whole lot different than earlier this week, when he expressed displeasure with the amount of blocking he was doing, now that Leonard Hankerson has emerged as the No. 2 option behind Julio Jones.

White, the Falcons all-time leading receiver, has six catches for 92 yards for the undefeated Falcons. And at the moment, he has other concerns, as he missed practice Wednesday to be with his mother, who had surgery. White said she’s “doing well,” which is certainly good news.

But his position coach also said White’s not grumbling behind the scenes.

“My room is good,” veteran assistant Terry Robiskie said. “Everybody is good. Everybody is having fun. Rod is the same guy. He doesn’t catch his 12, 20 balls, but at the same time we score a touchdown he’s high-fiving we were up in the third quarter the starters were done.”

“I saw him on the sideline high-fiving with Eric Weems, joking with Eric Weems. Winning is fun. No matter what a prideful guy you are, when getting your’re ass whipped, ain’t no pride in that. You are miserable.”

And White, no matter what he might have said, apparently is not.

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Jay Gruden: Matt Jones hasn’t lost my trust

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 04: Matt Jones #31 of the Washington Redskins gets tackled by Fletcher Cox #91 of the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on October 4, 2015 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images) Getty Images

In Week Two, rookie running back Matt Jones had 146 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the Redskins’ 24-10 victory over the Rams.

Jones also lost a fumble in that game and he lost another one near the end zone in the team’s Week Three loss to the Giants, a performance that was followed by a drop in playing time against the Eagles in last week’s victory. Coach Jay Gruden said that the reduction in snaps wasn’t because the team lacks faith in Morris’s ability to hold onto the football.

“He’s never lost my trust,” Gruden said, via Rich Tandler of “A couple of weeks ago it was Alfred [Morris] who was in my doghouse and he’s not. It’s just the way to works out with the handoffs and the carries. I like both of those guys.”

Public comments from coaches about playing time are usually best taken with a grain of salt, but the first four weeks bear out the fluidity in the Washington backfield. Morris has seen the most snaps three times and played less than Jones and third-down back Chris Thompson against the Giants. Thompson barely played against the Rams, but has averaged 31 snaps in the other three games of the season.

Losing fumbles isn’t a good look for any back and it’s a particularly bad one for a rookie, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones back in the mix against Atlanta this weekend.

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Is Justin Gilbert’s next move to offense?

Justin Gilbert AP

Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert was the first draft pick of the Ray Farmer/Mike Pettine regime. That often gets lost as 14 picks later, the Browns selected a much higher-profile player, Johnny Manziel.

Gilbert has been lost in the shuffle since.

He’s been in Pettine’s doghouse both last season and this season, and even though he returned an interception of Andrew Luck for a touchdown last December, his on-field success has been limited. This season, he’s barely been on the field at all except to return kickoffs. Still, the Browns aren’t giving up on Gilbert because of their investment in him — and because he’s big and fast and has tools the team thought it could develop when it drafted him.

Gilbert seems to be a natural with the ball in his hands, and that prompted a reporter to ask Pettine Thursday if the team has considered moving Gilbert to the offensive side of the ball. Pettine said the Browns have used Gilbert as a receiver at times in practice because of a shortage of available players.

And he doesn’t look out of place,” Pettine said.

Pettine was just answering a question, so there may be nothing deeper here. Or, maybe it’s worth a shot because the Browns aren’t using him on defense and are still searching for answers at receiver with the Dwayne Bowe Experiment yielding nothing and the Terrelle Pryor Experiment having been ended last month.

Later Thursday, Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said moving Gilbert to receiver is something he and Pettine “have talked about and are going to explore.”

Gilbert suffered a hip pointer in August during a joint practice with the Bills that lingered into September. He debuted in Week 3 vs. the Raiders, playing two special teams snaps and none on defense, and with the Browns short on cornerbacks last week in San Diego the coaches chose Johnson Bademosi, generally a special teams player, to play in nickel and dime defenses over Gilbert. Pettine wasn’t happy with Gilbert following a road rage incident in September for which he was cited but not arrested.

Last February, Farmer said Gilbert was dealing with a “very personal” issue that compounded his struggles as a rookie. The Browns have time to still get return on their investment, and Gilbert has time to rebound, too. But the question of whether it’s worth trying a position change, even on a part-time basis, to jumpstart what’s been a disappointing career is a valid one.

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Former Packers, Colts coach Lindy Infante dies at 75


Lindy Infante, who was chosen the NFL’s coach of the year in 1989 in Green Bay and later coached the Colts, has died at the age of 75.

Infante was a well-regarded offensive mind who led the Packers to a 10-6 record in that 1989 season, ending a long run of futility in Green Bay that had seen the Packers fail for 16 straight years to win more than eight games. He was fired as head coach of the Packers after going 4-12 in 1991. He returned as a head coach in 1996 with the Colts and took the team to the playoffs in his first season, but he was fired after going 3-13 in his second season. (The Colts had the worst record in the NFL that year and would go on to select Peyton Manning with the first overall pick in the draft.)

Infante played college football at Florida, where he was a very good running back. He’s a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. Infante also started his coaching career as an assistant at Florida and had several college jobs before he left for the NFL. In 1982 he was the offensive coordinator of a Bengals team that made it to the Super Bowl, and the next year he left the NFL to become head coach of the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League. After the USFL went belly-up, Infante became offensive coordinator of the Browns and did well there for two years, leading the Packers to hire him.

Although Infante’s career head-coaching record was only 36-60, he’ll be remembered for innovative offenses that moved NFL passing games forward.

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Sean Lee returns to practice

Devonta Freeman, Sean Lee AP

The Cowboys have defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain back from suspensions, which gives them a bit more to work with against the Patriots on Sunday.

They may also have linebacker Sean Lee on the field after he was forced out of last weekend’s loss to the Saints after suffering a concussion. Lee returned to practice on Thursday and participated in position drills during the portion of practice open to the media.

If Lee avoids setbacks and gets cleared to play on Sunday, it will mark the first time that he and McClain are in the lineup at the same time for the Cowboys. Lee missed all of last season, McClain’s first in Dallas, with a torn ACL.

The Cowboys are still waiting on defensive end Randy Gregory to return from an ankle injury to make their defense whole. He sat out Thursday’s practice along with wide receivers Dez Bryant and Brice Butler and tight end James Hanna.

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Patriots extend running back Dion Lewis for two years

Dion Lewis AP

Dion Lewis went from out of the league to starting the opener for the defending Super Bowl champions.

And now he has a measure of stability to go with it.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Patriots have given Lewis a two-year contract extension, which keep him with the team through the 2017 season. He got a $600,000 signing bonus, and can earn up to $1.8 million in incentives in 2016 and 2017.

Lewis has remained productive after presumptive starter LeGarrette Blount returned from his one-game suspension. He has the kind of versatility the Patriots always seem to find, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and showing ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He has fumbled, so he could always fall back in the doghouse, but for now he’s been a find for them.

And to think, last season he was deemed unworthy to be a Brown or a Colt.

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NFL set to test boundary cameras at MetLife Stadium this year

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As much as it would certainly pain the NFL to admit it, Patriots coach Bill Belichick probably has a point with his “challenge everything” theory.

But they’re about to try out another one of his ideas.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the league is about to test his idea of cameras along the boundaries of the playing field to assist with replay, trying it out at Jets and Giants games this year.

“It will be tested at MetLife Stadium a bit later this season, providing us with 10-12 games worth of data on viability, impact, and feasibility,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said.

That’s a significant step considering the previous excuse was that it was too expensive and could potentially interfere with sight lines. And while pylon cameras may be of little use, goal-line technology in soccer and the hawkeye system used in tennis has made officiating in those sports more accurate, so any step in that direction for the NFL would be worthwhile.


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Lions sign Ishmaa’ily Kitchen

Ishmaa'ily Kitchen AP

The Lions signed defensive tackle Andre Fluellen on Wednesday and they added another veteran at the position on Thursday.

The team announced that they have signed former Brown Ishmaa’ily Kitchen to their 53-man roster. Defensive end Phillip Hunt was released to make room for the new arrival.

Both moves come after the team placed Tyrunn Walker on injured reserve with a broken leg suffered in Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks. Doubling down on the additions suggests that the team is less than sure of Haloti Ngata’s status. Ngata injured his calf against Seattle and missed practice on Wednesday.

Kitchen spent the last three seasons with Cleveland and saw action in 40 games for the Browns. He had 78 tackles in those appearances. In addition to the newcomers, the Lions have rookie Gabe Wright, Caraun Reid and Jermelle Cudjo on the depth chart.

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PFT Live: Coaching hot seat, Week Five picks

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We had our first coaching casualty of the 2015 season this week when the Dolphins fired Joe Philbin four games into his fourth season on the job.

There may not be any other firings during the season, but there will almost certainly be other coaches losing their jobs once the season comes to an end. On Thursday’s PFT Live, Mike Florio will take a look at which coaches are in danger of being on that list when he takes the temperature on hot seats around the league.

Thursday also brings the start of Week Five, which means it is time for Florio and Michael David Smith to reveal their picks for all of this week’s games.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour through the links at PFT.

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Marvin Jones: Andy Dalton trusts us to go and get deep balls

Andy Dalton AP

Through the first four weeks of the season, no quarterback in the NFL has averaged more yards per attempt than Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

As you’d probably guess, the biggest reason for that has been Dalton’s sharp improvement on deep balls from where he was last season. Dalton has already connected on 20 passes over 20 yards and five passes over 40 yards after having 33 and seven in those two categories over the entire 2014 season, something that wide receiver Marvin Jones believes is a result of his trust in the receiving corps.

“We’re at a point right now where Andy really trusts us to be there, even if we haven’t separated from the corner, he knows we’re gonna get the separation,” Jones said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s what it’s all about — just run and homie go get it. That’s what it is. That’s pretty much all everything is. And that comes with trust, the trust that we’re gonna run and we know he’s going to put it out there for us and he knows when he puts it out there we’re gonna get it.”

Eight different Bengals receivers have gained over 20 yards on receptions already this season, adding a big play element to the Bengals offense that hasn’t been a big enough part of their attack in recent years.

They’ll be trying to keep it going against a very good Seahawks defense this weekend, which makes for this weekend’s most appealing matchup.

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Could Pagano be the next in-season firing?

Chuck Pagano AP

Now that the Dolphins have fired coach Joe Philbin, the football-following world is trying to figure out who may be next. And much of the chatter has centered on the men who will coach Thursday night’s game between the Colts and Texans.

Appearing earlier this week on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle said there’s no way Texans coach Bill O’Brien is even close to being on the hot seat, despite a 1-3 start punctuated by an embarrassing loss at Atlanta. Also appearing on PFT Live, Bob Kravitz of WTHR in Indianpolis said that the same can’t be said for Colts coach Chuck Pagano.

Kravitz said he feared Pagano may have been fired by the oft-impulsive Jim Irsay if Indy had lost its Week Three game at Tennessee. Looking at the schedule over the next five weeks, consecutive wins over the Titans and Jaguars give Pagano no reason to exhale.

After traveling to Houston (where the Colts erased a huge deficit last year to win on a Thursday night), the Colts host the Patriots and the Saints before heading to Carolina for a Monday night game. Then, Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis, perhaps for the final time.

Win one or none of the next five and lose in ugly fashion to Peyton’s Broncos, with the bye week coming immediate afterward, it could be the end of the road for Pagano.

So how much of the noise regarding the coach’s job security is being heard by the players?

“Very little I’d say,” tight end Coby Fleener told PFT Live on Monday. “I think at least from my perspective I do the best I can to not read any of the news. And so regardless of whether we’re playing well or playing poorly it ultimately leads to an emotional roller coaster.”

Over the next month, that roller coaster could be going mainly downhill.

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Hasselbeck goes from emergency room to starting lineup

Matt Hasselbeck AP

Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is going from the emergency room to the starting lineup.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Hasselbeck will start tonight, as Andrew Luck’s injured shoulder is still not sufficiently healed for him to play. Schefter also reports that Hassebleck was in the emergency room until 2 a.m. on Tuesday, dealing with a virus.

The Colts listed Hasselbeck as questionable with an illness on this week’s official injury report, and he didn’t practice this week because he was sick. If he’s too sick to make it through tonight’s game, the Colts are down to third-string quarterback Josh Johnson, who has spent only a few days on the team.

The 40-year-old Hasselbeck, the NFL’s oldest non-kicker, has played OK this year, completing 30 of 47 passes for 282 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. The Colts will hope Hasselbeck is feeling well enough that he can continue to avoid mistakes in tonight’s game against the Texans.

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Rex: Mariota won’t have his way with our defense

Marcus Mariota AP

The Titans and quarterback Marcus Mariota return from their bye week to face the Bills on Sunday, which gives Mariota a chance to build off his strong first month as an NFL player.

Mariota was the offensive rookie of the month for September after throwing eight touchdown passes and posting the second-highest passer rating of any quarterback in the first three games of his career. To keep it going, Mariota will have to solve the Buffalo defense, something Bills coach Rex Ryan doesn’t see happening.

Ryan said Mariota “looks impressive” and called him a “real talent,” but is confident he’ll have the right answers for the second overall pick of the 2015 draft.

“I don’t think the kid will have his way against us,” Ryan said, via the Tennessean. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

When Ryan was with the Jets, his defenses did very well while facing quarterbacks in their rookie seasons and it’s not hard to see why a unit using a variety of coverages, blitzes and alignments would cause problems for an inexperienced signal caller. If Mariota can prove Ryan wrong on Sunday, he’ll buck that trend and continue to make his case as the franchise quarterback for the present and future in Tennessee.

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Goodell: Networks struggling in prime time, NFL bucks the trend

Roger Goodell AP

As the NFL weighs its options with the Thursday Night Football television contract, Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to remind everyone that there’s no more valuable programming on American television than pro football.

Goodell pointed out at Wednesday’s league meeting that the NFL continues to have outstanding television ratings, and that this year’s Thursday night package is off to a particularly strong start, with much higher ratings than last year.

“Ratings are incredibly healthy right now. We’re seeing increases, particularly on Thursday night, double-digit increases. This in light of the fact that obviously networks continue to struggle in prime time and we’re bucking the trend,” Goodell said.

CBS currently has the Thursday Night package, but the NFL has the option to open it up to bidding from other networks for 2016 and beyond. All of the broadcast networks would be interested, as would several cable outlets, and the NFL will be able to command hundreds of millions of dollars to the rights to the games.

The increase in viewership is probably more a reflection of better games this year than anything else: This year’s three CBS Thursday Night games have featured one game that went to overtime, one game decided on a last-minute touchdown, and one game that was competitive late into the fourth quarter, whereas last year’s first three CBS Thursday night games were decided by 20, 42 and 31 points. But Goodell is right that NFL ratings remain very strong, and it’s hardly a surprise that he wants to remind everyone of that as the league shops around its Thursday night package.

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