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PFT’s Week 12 picks

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The good news is that I went 10-4 last week, thanks to every overtime game falling the way I’d pick them.  The bad news is that MDS went 13-1, chopping my seven-game lead down to four.

The worst news, potentially, is that we disagree on four games this week.  Which means that MDS can catch me.

Along the way, MDS pulled off the first-ever hole-in-one in the PFT picks battle, correctly guessing the score of the Saints-Raiders game, 38-17.

So, yeah, MDS had a pretty good week, relegating me to muttering, “Son of a bitch.”

But, hey, I still have the better season record, at 103-56-1.  MDS is 99-60-1.

For now.

Texans at Lions

MDS’s take: The Texans looked very vulnerable on Sunday, needing to rally in the fourth quarter just to force overtime before beating the Jaguars. So a Lions win wouldn’t shock me here. But Detroit’s loss to Green Bay on Sunday likely ended the Lions’ playoff hopes, and I see them coming out flat on Thanksgiving.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Lions 10.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have lost 11 of 12 Thanksgiving games.  Make it 12 of 13 when the one-loss Texans come to town, four days after getting a wakeup call against the one-win Jags.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Lions 17.

Redskins at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Cowboys are surprisingly back in the NFC East hunt, less because they’re playing better than because an easy stretch in their schedule has coincided with the Giants’ annual November swoon. They should keep it going against an inconsistent Redskins team.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 24, Redskins 20.

Florio’s take:  The Cowboys are 6-0 all time against the Redskins on Thanksgiving.  Though Washington never has rolled in to Dallas with a quarterback as good as Robert Griffin III on the roster, the Cowboys are too close to the top of the division to stumble now.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Redskins 20.

Patriots at Jets

MDS’s take: I give Rex Ryan a lot of credit for having his team playing hard in the face of adversity last week, and I think Rex will put together a good game plan to stop a Gronkowski-less Patriots offense. But the problems with the Jets’ own offense are real, and not getting any better. The Patriots will win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  A possible classic is in the offing, the first-ever nationally-broadcast Thanksgiving night NFL game on a major network.  The fact that the Jets won on Sunday makes it more interesting.  The fact that the Pats have been pounding teams lately makes it potentially less interesting — except to see which players get hurt on the PAT team in the fourth quarter.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Jets 24.

Vikings at Bears

MDS’s take: If Jay Cutler is back, this is a game the Bears should win handily. If Cutler is out, all bets are off. But it’s looking like Cutler will be cleared to return, and the Bears should turn things around with a convincing win.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings emerge from their bye week with a six-game stretch that doesn’t look quite as challenging given the Bears’ two-game losing streak.  But the Bears know they need to reverse the slide now, and the Vikings’ second-year quarterback simply isn’t as good as the second-year quarterback who picked the Bears apart on Monday night.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 30, Vikings 17.

Raiders at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Raiders look like they’re ready to give up on the season, and the Bengals look like they’re ready to go on a run. This one won’t be close.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 34, Raiders 10.

Florio’s takeCarson Palmer returns to Cincinnati, with a team far worse than the one for which he notoriously refused to keep playing.  He’ll tell himself he doesn’t feel regret.  And if he tells himself enough, maybe he’ll believe it.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 28, Raiders 13.

Steelers at Browns

MDS’s take: Given the uncertainty surrounding the Steelers’ quarterback situation, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Browns take this one. But I think Charlie Batch will surprise some people by running the offense competently and putting points on the board, and the Steelers’ defense will give Brandon Weeden trouble.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Browns 7.

Florio’s take:  Whether it’s Charlie Batch or Brian Hoyer or Ben Roethlisberger or Kordell Stewart or Terry Hanratty under center, the Steelers will find a way to get things back on track against a Browns team that isn’t nearly as bad as their record would suggest.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 17, Browns 13.

Bills at Colts

MDS’s take: After getting demolished by the Patriots, the Colts need this one. I like Andrew Luck to have a big game against a suspect Buffalo defense, and the Colts to get a win that allows them to keep pace with the Steelers and a game ahead of the Bengals in the AFC wild card race.

MDS’s pick: Colts 28, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  A potential playoff knockout game, with the winner in pretty good shape to make it to January and the loser, well, not.  The Colts aren’t as bad as their loss to the Pats would indicate, and the Bills aren’t as good as their win over the Fins would suggest.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Bills 17.

Titans at Jaguars

MDS’s take: I give the Jaguars a lot of credit for coming out and playing hard against the Texans on Sunday, but the reality is they’re just a bad football team in all phases of the game. The Titans aren’t great either, but they should beat Jacksonville comfortably.

MDS’s pick: Titans 34, Jaguars 17.

Florio’s take:  Giving the Texans their best shot and losing in heartbreaking fashion will either help a bad team find its groove or grease the skids for an epic collapse.  I’m guessing the latter, especially with the Titans still in position to bogart a wild-card berth.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Jaguars 10.

Broncos at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Broncos have all but clinched the AFC West. No way they lose to the worst team in the division, and maybe the worst team in the league.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 38, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs wanted Peyton Manning, but he didn’t want them.  He’ll get a chance to prove why he made the right choice on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 34, Chiefs 10.

Seahawks at Dolphins

MDS’s take: In Seattle, this game would be a blowout. In Miami, I’m tempted to pick the Dolphins, because the Seahawks have struggled so much on the road. But the Dolphins have been finding ways to lose recently, and I suspect they’ll do that again on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Dolphins 17.

Florio’s take:  The next step for the Seahawks is to find a way to consistently win away from home.  And they can’t get much farther away from home than Miami.  So why not start there?

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Dolphins 9.

Falcons at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: This is a huge opportunity for Greg Schiano’s Buccaneers to show they’re legitimate NFC playoff contenders, but I don’t think they’re ready to take that step. The Falcons will stay ahead of the NFC pack with a win in Tampa.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 21, Buccaneers 20.

Florio’s take:  The Falcons have looked shaky in the past few weeks, and the Bucs have had a solid four games.  The Bucs have the run defense and the running game to give Atlanta a glimpse of the flaws they need to fix before the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 27, Falcons 24.

Ravens at Chargers

MDS’s take: I don’t believe the Ravens are as good as their 8-2 record suggests, and they’re bound to come back to the pack in the AFC eventually. But after the Chargers’ loss to the Broncos on Sunday, San Diego isn’t going anywhere. The Chargers will come out flat and the Ravens will win.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 20, Chargers 16.

Florio’s take:  The Ravens are getting closer to a fifth straight postseason, and Norv Turner is getting closer to a third coaching postmortem.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Chargers 20.

Rams at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals’ offense will be a mess until they can get their quarterback situation straightened out, but Arizona’s defense is good enough that the Rams will lose a low-scoring game in the desert.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 10, Rams 7.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals have no one to play quarterback and, more importantly, no one to cover Danny Amendola.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 20, Cardinals 10.

49ers at Saints

MDS’s take: This is a fascinating game, with the Saints making a furious run toward the playoffs after a disastrous start to the season, and the 49ers coming off a Monday night when they looked unstoppable. If there’s any defense that can slow Drew Brees and Co. down, it’s the 49ers’ defense. I like San Francisco to get a big road win.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Saints 27.

Florio’s take:  By the end of Thanksgiving weekend, we’ll be giving thanks for one of the great games of the 2012 season.  The Saints may not be able to keep it going, but they’re not ready to stop now.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, 49ers 31.

Packers at Giants

MDS’s take: With the Cowboys closing in on them in the NFC East, the Giants can’t afford to lay an egg like they did two weeks ago against the Bengals. I believe the bye week will help Tom Coughlin’s crew right the ship, and the Packers will be handed a tough conference loss.

MDS’s pick: Giants 24, Packers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Giants annual theme song is Wake Me Up When November Ends.  November is ending.  The Giants are waking up.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 38, Packers 35.

Panthers at Eagles

MDS’s take: A lousy Monday night game ends the week on a down note. Neither of these teams is any good, but at least the Panthers don’t look like they’ve completely quit on the season.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take:  Yep, this one sure looked a lot more interesting when the schedule came out in April.  The only question is whether the cries of “Fire Andy” will be drowned out by the chants of “We Want Gruden.”  In the background, the Eagles will prove to be the slightly better of two bad teams.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 24, Panthers 14.

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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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Lions put LB Kyle Van Noy on injured reserve with designation to return

Kyle Van Noy, MarQueis Gray AP

The Lions will be without their second-round pick for at least eight games.

The club is placing rookie outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy on injured reserve/designated for return, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com reported Tuesday. The 24-year-old Van Noy is recovering from sports hernia surgery.

In a corresponding roster move, the club re-signed defensive end Darryl Tapp, whom it released on Saturday, Twentyman said.

A BYU product, Van Noy was the No. 40 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s currently listed as a backup to Tahir Whitehead in Detroit’s 4-3 scheme.

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Tune in to PFT on NBCSN for Paul Burmeister’s debut

Burmeister

It’s a big day for NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk.  Today’s edition marks the debut of Paul Burmeister.

A former Iowa quarterback and one of the original on-air employees at NFL Network, Burmeister joins NBC as the show’s co-host, and his first appearance happens today.

Joining him at the big desk in the last week in the current studio (swanky new digs are coming next week) will be Jason Taylor and Ross Tucker.  I’ll be at the road desk in Seattle.  Jointly (I’m in one of the weed-legal states, after all), we’ll get you up to date on the news of the day, with reaction to and analysis of the most important topics.

The Five Questions series continues with a look at the AFC East and the AFC West, and we’ll consider where Michael Sam’s best fit would be for 2014.

So tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET.  Until then, give Paul a welcome in the comments.

Then again, given the content of many of the comments, maybe that’s not a good idea.

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Browns signing Vinston Painter off Broncos practice squad

Kenneth Boatright, Brock Osweiler, Will Montgomery, Vinston Painter AP

The Browns are continuing to shuffle their roster ahead of the start of the regular season.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports that Cleveland is signing offensive lineman Vinston Painter off of Denver’s practice squad and adding him to their 53-man roster. The move will be guaranteed three weeks of pay at the active roster level even if the team should decide to move in a different direction.

Painter has not played in a regular season game since the Broncos made him the 173rd pick in last year’s draft, but has seen time at tackle and guard in practices and the preseason. He’s the third offensive lineman added to the roster since the team set their initial 53-man roster, joining waiver acquisitions Ryan Seymour and Caylin Hauptmann as new members of the Browns.

The Broncos have signed long snapper Kevin McDermott to the practice squad to take Painter’s place.

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Jackson Jeffcoat lands on Redskins practice squad

Jackson Jeffcoat, Andrew McDonald, Germi Morris AP

Jim Jeffcoat played in a lot of Cowboys-Redskins games during his career in Dallas, but his son might find himself on the opposite side of those games in the future.

The Redskins announced that they have added linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat to their practice squad. The younger Jeffcoat spent training camp with the Seahawks after signing with Seattle as one of the highest profile undrafted free agents in May.

Jeffcoat wasn’t able to make Seattle’s 53-man roster, but he did win the Big 12 defensive player of the year and Ted Hendricks Award for the top collegiate defensive end during his final year at Texas. Brian Orakpo won the same award in 2008 and he’s set to be a free agent after the season, so Jeffcoat could work his way into Washington’s future plans if he does well in practice this season.

The Redskins also signed offensive lineman Braxton Cave to the practice squad and dropped linebacker Chaz Sutton and offensive lineman Tevita Stevens.

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No word yet on Josh Brent

Josh Brent AP

With Josh Gordon, Aldon Smith, and Jim Irsay now suspended, there’s only one name left on the league’s suspension docket.

But it’s not really a suspension; for unretired Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent, the Commissioner has not yet ruled on his request for reinstatement.

So what is he waiting for?  Practice begins in earnest (and in Valley Ranch) on Wednesday for Week One.  Not reinstating Brent before then operates as a de facto suspension of at least one week.

Unlike a suspension, for which Brent would have appeal rights, there’s nothing Brent can do about it, other than wait for the Commissioner to decide that Brent should return.

Regardless of whether Brent deserves to be kept away from making a living in the NFL for longer than the 20 games he has missed since causing the death of teammate and close friend Jerry Brown while driving drunk, the failure to render a decision removes a portion of the incentive for future players to choose to retire in the face of a potentially awkward showdown for the NFL.  Brent could have insisted on coming to work in 2013 while awaiting trial, citing the presumption of innocence and the absence of CBA language that would have allowed the NFL to ensure that his appeal would be resolved before the start of the regular season.  If his appeal had moved like Josh Gordon’s, Brent could have played most if not all of the season, especially since his trial didn’t start until January.

He could have played all of 2013 under the cloud of a suspension, absorbed a one-year suspension after his conviction, and returned to football in 2015.  As it now stands, he’ll miss more games than if he’d held firm and played in 2013.

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Irsay is “firmly committed” to staying healthy

Irsay Getty Images

In response to his six-game suspension and $500,000 fine, Colts owner Jim Irsay has issued a statement in which he admits his error and reiterates his hope that the disease of addiction will be taken more seriously moving forward.

“I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere,” Irsay said regarding his guilty plea to DUI on Tuesday.  “Even more importantly, though, I am committed to do everything in my power to turn this whole experience into a positive event for myself, my family, and the community.

“In retrospect, I now know that the incident opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health.  I truly hope and pray that my episode will help in some small measure to diminish the stigma surrounding our country’s terrible and deadly problem of addiction.  It is a disease like other progressive, terminal diseases — one that can only be successfully treated by understanding, committed hard work, and spiritual growth.  I am deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love and support during these past few months from my family, friends, care-givers, and our great community.  Please know I am firmly committed to staying on my path to good health and I look forward to a great season.”

We wish Irsay the best as he continues to attempt to regain his health.  And we hope the NFL takes Irsay’s words to heart as it relates not only to persons with addictions who create public-safety hazards, but also to persons with addictions who don’t.

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Five questions: Seattle Seahawks

San Diego Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The defending Super Bowl champions are quickly closing in on the start of their 2014 season Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers.

The Seahawks were able to keep most of their young core in place this offseason and were able to sign Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin to contract extensions as well. While they did lose some key contributors off their championship team, an inevitability for any team in the salary cap age, Seattle has kept a roster together every bit as a talented as the one the won the title last year.

There aren’t many areas that remain in doubt for the Seahawks as the season gets set to begin. However, we take a look at five questions that could determine if Seattle is able to repeat as champion this season.

1. Could the Seahawks be even better than last season?

If the offense can translate its production from this preseason over to the regular season, they almost certainly will be better.

In 13 offensive drives led by Russell Wilson this preseason, Seattle scored on 11 of them with nine touchdowns, two field goals, a missed field goal and just a single punt. Richard Sherman said Monday that Wilson is being more decisive this season. Head coach Pete Carroll said Wilson has had a near-perfect offseason. With Percy Harvin fully healthy, the Seahawks offense looks much more explosive.

With a defense that looks to still be a force and a special teams unit that is strong as well, if Seattle’s offense can take several steps forward they could be tremendously difficult to beat this year.

2. Will Seattle’s offensive line hold them back?

The Seahawks offensive line was the one area of the team that underperformed consistently last season. Tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini missed a combined 15 games. Center Max Unger missed three more and the depleted unit struggled mightily in their absence.

This year, Seattle is going to start a rookie at right tackle in second-round pick Justin Britt and Okung is still working into game shape after missing most of the offseason following foot surgery.

On the positive side, left guard James Carpenter has lost a considerable amount of weight and looks more capable of moving adequately this year. Right guard J.R. Sweezy has appeared to take his game up another level as well.

The unit is much more adept at run blocking, which is still going to be the main focus of the team with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield and Percy Harvin potentially being used as a rusher at times as well. If they can adequately provide protection for Russell Wilson in the passing game, the offense should be able to accomplish much more this season.

3. Can the Seahawks get 16 games out of Percy Harvin?

Percy Harvin is noticeably exhausted about answering questions about his health. However, when you miss most of the last two seasons due to injury, it’s one of the only things to ask about.

Harvin has missed 22 regular season games over the last two years due to ankle and hip injuries. He’s only played all 16 games of an NFL season once in his career in 2011 with the Minnesota Vikings. But it’s already evident this preseason that the dynamic athlete that was firmly in the MVP conversation in 2012 is back.

Harvin says he’s as healthy now as he’s been since even before he got to college at the University of Florida. His presence on the field expands the field both horizontally and vertically for Seattle’s offense. The Seahawks are counting on Harvin being a big part of their offense. It’s now on Harvin to see if he can put all those questions about his health in the past.

4. Will the Seahawks run defense take a step back?

The Seahawks cut defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons this offseason for salary cap reasons. However, both players had been important pieces of Seattle’s run defense the last few seasons.

In their absence, Seattle has toyed with moving tackle Tony McDaniel to end in rushing situations with Kevin Williams replacing McDaniel along the line. There are also some new young cogs in their defensive line rotation as well that will be called upon for increased roles.

The Seahawks allowed Tampa Bay and St. Louis to rush for 200 yards against them in consecutive weeks last season before making an adjustment and getting the run defense righted. With key pieces such as Bryant and Clemons gone, it remains to be seen if they can find similar performance up front against opposing rushing games.

5. How does Seattle handle being the team on top?

It’s a position the franchise has never been in before. Several key players got big paydays this offseason as well.

But Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas swear they will be able to keep the focus in the right direction this season. The two talk about how they are competing on a daily basis to see which one of them is the last player to leave the team’s facility each day. Both players obsess over every minute detail they can find on tape in hopes of being completely prepared for games.

That focus trickles down to the rest of the team and the players and coaches are convinced they have turned the page on last season. The only way to truly know now is to play the games.

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Steven Jackson “extremely excited” to face Saints

Steven Jackson AP

Running back Steven Jackson was a spectator for most of Falcons training camp and all of their preseason games as a result of a hamstring injury, but he was able to get on the practice field as things drew to a close in August.

That put Jackson on track to play against the Saints in the regular season opener and nothing has knocked him off of it in the interim. Jackson said Tuesday that he’s ready for his first game action of the year.

“I’m extremely excited for Week 1,” Jackson said, via the team’s website. “It’s been a training camp that I missed the majority of the time, but I’ve been working hard physically and mentally to prepare for this coming Sunday; I feel good about it.”

Jackson missed four games last season and posted a career-low average per carry, something that was at least partially caused by the team’s poor offensive line play. The Falcons have worked to upgrade that area over the offseason and they’ll get their first chance to show they’ve turned the page against the New Orleans front seven on Sunday.

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Jim Irsay suspended six games, fined $500,000

Jim-Irsay-Getty Getty Images

It’s not Friday, and it’s not 5 p.m., but the NFL has tied up the one messy piece of business it had to do before games start this week.

The league announced that Colts owner Jim Irsay had been suspended for the team’s first six games and fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor account of driving while impaired.

The suspension begins tomorrow at 5 p.m., and Irsay “may not be present at the club’s facility, may not attend any practices or games, may not represent the club at league or league committee meetings or at any other team or league event, and may not conduct media interviews or engage in social media regarding any team or league matters.”

The Twitter ban is going to sting, more than the half-million fine, which is the most allowed under the league’s constitution and by-laws.

The league also noted that “Mr. Irsay will be subject to ongoing treatment, counseling, and testing as determined by medical professionals and the Indiana court.”

Drug testing is a condition of his probation, which he was sentenced to as part of the deal.

“I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players,” Goodell said in his letter to Irsay. “We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard.”

There will be no draft choice forfeiture for the Colts, since his conduct had nothing to do with the competitive balance of the league.

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Brian Waters announces his retirement

Waters Getty Images

Brian Waters had a lengthy and impressive career in the NFL.  That career is now officially over.

“After a long and wonderful career I have decided to retire,” Waters said in a statement.  “I want to thank the coaches, players and fans of the three great organizations that I had the pleasure of working for.  First the Dallas Cowboys for giving me my first and last chance of working in the NFL.  I will always be grateful.  Also the New England Patriots for the most successful season in my career.  It was a great ride.  Lastly the Kansas City Chiefs where I had pleasure of enjoying eleven wonderful seasons, which I will never forget.

“I want to thank the many family, friends and my hometown of Waxahachie, Texas for being great supporters. Finally I want to thank my kids for being my greatest motivations. I fought hard daily to make you proud me. If the rest of my life can be half as good as the last 15 years, I will be one of the luckiest people on earth.”

Waters spent 11 seasons with the Chiefs, one with the Patriots, and a final year with the Cowboys.  In 2012, Waters didn’t play.

A six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Waters was the 2009 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.  In time, he could gather momentum as a potential candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Arian Foster feeling “wonderful” heading into Week One

Arian Foster AP

Texans running back Arian Foster must not have gotten too many “mundane questions” during his session with the Houston media on Tuesday because he was more expansive than he was during preseason press availabilities.

Foster said he was happy to see defensive end J.J. Watt get rewarded for being a “hard-working cat” and said that he has something to prove to himself after last season’s back surgery. Foster, who didn’t play in preseason games after injuring his hamstring early in camp, says he feels “wonderful” physically even though he acknowledges that it’s unclear how the missed time this summer will affect him in the regular season.

“I feel like it could go both ways. If you’re a veteran player who understands how the game is played, it can work to your advantage. It can work to your advantage taking hits off in the preseason,” Foster said, via the Houston Chronicle. “On the flip side, it gets you used to the load you’re going to carry in the season. You just have to play the cards you’re dealt.”

Foster was averaging 4.5 yards a pop before he got hurt last season, right in line with his career average and should still be productive as long as he’s healthy enough to be in the lineup. That’s hardly a sure thing, but the Texans offense is counting on it all the same.

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Kevin Vickerson finds a home in Cincinnati

Kevin Vickerson AP

Kevin Vickerson appears to have found a home.

The veteran defensive tackle, who was cut by the Broncos Saturday, has apparently joined the Bengals, per a message he posted to his Instagram account.

The 31-year-old Vickerson lost his job with the Broncos to Marvin Austin, but he started 11 games for them last year.

Frankly, he was one of the most accomplished players released this weekend, which says as much about the waiver wire as it does Vickerson.

In Cincinnati, he’ll back up Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, adding depth to an already good defensive line.

UPDATE: 3:25 p.m. ET: You’ll notice that link doesn’t work anymore, which could mean Vickerson has deleted the photo of a big Bengals shirt with his thankful mention to a higher power. The Bengals haven’t announced anything, so maybe they won’t. Stay tuned.

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Charlie Powell, NFL player and heavyweight contender, dies at 82

charliepowell

Charlie Powell, who signed with the 49ers when he was 19 and played seven seasons in the NFL between stints as a pro baseball player and a heavyweight prizefighter, has died at the age of 82.

U-T San Diego reports that Powell died on Monday and had been suffering from dementia for years.

Powell’s list of athletic accomplishments reads like it must be fiction: He was such a good multi-sport athlete in high school that he had contract offers to play baseball with the St. Louis Browns and basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters, he had football scholarship offers from Notre Dame and UCLA, and he was a champion in both the 100-yard dash and the shot put. At first he went the baseball route, but after becoming bored in the minors, he decided to become the NFL’s youngest player.

“I didn’t like baseball as much as I thought I would,” said Powell. “But because I was already a professional, I could sign with an NFL team without going to college.”

That turned out to be a wise move. Powell was so ferocious a pass rusher for the 49ers that he was once, before sacks were officially counted in the NFL, credited with sacking Hall of Fame Lions quarterback Bobby Layne so many times in one game that Powell alone backed the Lions up a total of 67 yards. Powell would play five seasons for the 49ers and two more for the Raiders.

But football wasn’t even Powell’s best sport. That would be boxing. Early in his NFL career Powell boxed in the offseason, and after he retired from football he focused on fighting exclusively, rising to the point where he was once ranked as the No. 4 heavyweight in the world. His notable opponents included the unbeaten Cassius Clay in 1963 and the former champion Floyd Patterson in 1964.

In a 1998 column, Jim Murray wrote that Powell compared favorably to the greatest all-around athletes in American history, noting that “Jim Thorpe and Jackie Robinson never had to tee it up with heavyweight champions of the world. And Michael Jordan couldn’t hit the curveball, either.” There was nothing in sports that Charlie Powell couldn’t do.

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