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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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Chiefs release DE Jerel Worthy from practice squad

Green Bay Packers Mini Camp Getty Images

Jerel Worthy, a 2012 second-round pick of the Packers, was released from Kansas City’s practice squad on Tuesday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

A Michigan State product, Worthy (6-2, 308) appeared in 14 games for Green Bay as a rookie, recording 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks. However, injuries have hindered his NFL career. He suffered a left ACL tear late in the 2012 season and spent most of 2013 on the PUP list. He also underwent back surgery earlier this year.

The 24-year-old Worthy had signed with the Chiefs’ practice squad in September after a brief stint with the Patriots. The Packers dealt Worthy to New England in August.

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Rice has filed grievance againt Ravens

Rice Getty Images

The Ray Rice litigation tree officially has sprouted another branch.

Per multiple sources, Rice has filed a grievance against the Ravens challenging the team’s decision to terminate his contract on September 8.  The Ravens cut Rice within hours after the video emerged of Rice striking his then-fiancée (now wife) in the head in an Atlantic City elevator.

Rice’s position is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement permits one punishment for infraction.  In July, the NFL suspended Rice two games for the assault.  Then, immediately after the video surfaced, the Ravens cut Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

If successful on both grievances, Rice would be eligible to receive $3.52 million from the Ravens.  That’s the amount he would have earned if reinstated as of Week Three of the regular season.

Rice’s grievance against the NFL has been set for November 5 and 6.  It’s unknown when the grievance against the Ravens will be resolved.

Regardless of Rice’s infraction, he has rights.  The Ravens and/or the NFL knew or should have known exactly what he did when he was suspended by the league for two games.  The move to cut him (by the team) and to suspend him indefinitely (by the league) obviously was driven by the intense public reaction to the elevator video.  And while the moves may have won the Ravens and the NFL points in the court of public opinion, the team and the league arguably (or actually) screwed this up by not getting all of the pertinent evidence before suspending Rice in July.

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Broncos PK Brandon McManus sits out Tuesday, expected to play

Britton Colquitt, Mitch McManus AP

The Broncos’ kicker was among four players sitting out practice on Tuesday, but he appears set to play Thursday night vs. San Diego.

Rookie Brandon McManus missed a second straight workout with a right groin injury, but coach John Fox indicated he should be able to suit up against the Chargers, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

The 23-year-old McManus has hit all 23 extra points and 6-of-7 field goals this season for Denver. He has also forced 28 touchbacks in 37 kickoffs. He has been on the injury report with the groin ailment since Week Three.

Tailback Montee Ball (groin), cornerback Omar Bolden (concussion) and linebacker Steven Johnson (ankle) also did not participate in practice on Tuesday. Bell, the Broncos’ starting tailback, has missed the last two games with his injury.

Cornerback Chris Harris (knee), safety T.J. Ward (knee), tailback Juwan Thompson (knee) and safety Quinton Carter (hamstring) were full participants in Tuesday’s workout, according to the injury report.

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Report: Chandler Jones out for “about a month”

Jones AP

Well, now we know why the Patriots traded for linebacker Akeem Ayers.  The Pats won’t have Chandler Jones for a while.

According to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, Jones suffered a hip injury against the Jets on Thursday night.  He’s expected to miss “about a month.”

A first-round pick in 2012, Jones has 4.5 sacks in his third NFL season.  He had 6.0 sacks as a rookie and 11.5 in 2013.

Per multiple reports, the Patriots also are expected to sign defensive lineman Alan Branch.  He was cut by the Bills after a DUI arrest in the preseason.

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Early exit on Sunday night could help Broncos starters in short week

Manning AP

As the Broncos prepare to host the Chargers only four nights after hosting the 49ers, Peyton Manning and other members of the starting offense picked up some extra rest by making an early exit from the blowout win over San Francisco.

Manning thinks that could help the Broncos be better prepared to face the Chargers on a short week.

“Certainly we had fewer plays offensively on Sunday night than we did last year on Sunday night,” Manning said.  “I think we were coming off a 90-play offensive game against the Titans.  So you would hope physically that would make a difference in how guys feel.  If you don’t throw the ball accurately or know who to block it doesn’t matter how you feel but I think this week is a physical challenge and a mental challenge, getting to know a team and also getting physically rested and ready to play so hopefully we can do that this week.”

On Sunday night, Manning took 50 snaps.  That should leave him feeling a lot fresher than he did after the 51-28 win over the Titans last December, which featured 91 snaps.

The extra rest could help the Broncos avoid what happened last year on Thursday night against their AFC West rivals.

“The Chargers flat outplayed us,” Manning said.  “It’s a reminder that there aren’t many secrets.  If you go out, don’t execute and make mistakes and have self-inflicted wounds, it’s going to be tough to beat any team, much less a good football team like the Chargers.  So we’re still into our preparation in the short week and hopefully we can play better this Thursday than we did last year on Thursday.”

The Broncos need to.  At stake is a two-game swing in the division, with the Broncos also trying to maintain its current lead for the top seed in the conference.

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Giants try out 15 on Tuesday

Pryor AP

As the New York Giants try improve on a record that Brandon Marshall would deem to be unacceptable, they’ve brought in a large cluster of guys for a Tryout Tuesday tire kicking.

Per a league source, 15 players worked out for the Giants today.

The eclectic group included a receiver, three tight ends, three running backs, a quarterback, two guards, a long snapper, two punters, and two kickers.

Specifically, those working out included receiver Jon Baldwin, tight ends Ted Bolser, Tony Moeaki, and D.J. Williams, running backs Alex Green, Felix Jones, and Dion Lewis, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, guards Jack Cornell and Antoine McClain, long snapper Tyler Ott, punters Jacob Dombrowski and Robert Malone, and kickers Travis Coons and Nate Freese.

Pryor’s workout may have been less about evaluating him for a contract and more about having a quarterback present to throw passes to the seven skill-position players who worked out.

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Colts add Olympian Jeff Demps to practice squad

London Olympics Athletics Men AP

The Colts are adding some speed to their practice squad.

Jeff Demps, who won a silver medal as a member of the U.S. Olympic 4×100-meter relay team, has signed with the Colts’ practice squad.

Alternating between track and football for years, Demps has spent time with the Patriots and Buccaneers but played in just two games in his NFL career, carrying one time for 14 yards, catching three passes for 21 yards and returning four kickoffs for 93 yards. As a running back at Florida, Demps ran for 2,470 yards on 367 carries, added 57 catches for 481 yards, and averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff return.

The Colts also added tight end Konrad Reuland to the practice squad and released quarterback Dominique Davis and wide receiver Chandler Jones from the practice squad.

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Eli Manning says Giants still have time to turn things around

Eli Manning AP

Giants quarterback Eli Manning says seven games into the season is far too early to get worried about the future, even after back-to-back losses to division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas.

Manning said that at 3-4, the Giants still have plenty of time to turn their season around and make a run for the playoffs.

“There is a ton of football,” Manning said, via Newsday. “If we handle our business and start winning games, we have a shot to be OK and in good shape.”

Teammates said Manning gave a similar pep talk in the locker room before players got some time off for their bye week. Manning has twice been part of a Giants team that struggled at times in the regular season but ended up winning the Super Bowl, and he says he knows this team is good enough to overcome its early season struggles.

“I think we have the talent, yes,” he said. “Some of it is developing just because we have some new guys playing at positions . . . There are still some young aspects to it, but there is definitely talent there. When you get through the growing pains of these young guys, they’re doing a lot of good things, there are just little mistakes that are keeping us from being very, very good. The more playing experience they get, the more practices, all of a sudden these young guys start making those plays and things start coming together. That’s when we’ll be at our best.”

With the Eagles and the Cowboys both playing very well, the Giants need to get to their best in a hurry, or else by the time they turn things around, they’ll already be out of contention.

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Brandon Marshall has no regrets about his Sunday outburst

Brandon Getty Images

There’s a recent trend for frustrated NFL players.  Blow up on Sunday, express no regrets about it during the week.

Last week, it was Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin.  This week, it’s Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.

Appearing on Inside The NFL, Marshall addresses his locker-room tirade, and he said that he’d do it again.

“Absolutely my voice was heard,” Marshall said, via quotes distributed by Showtime.  “The only thing I regret is that the door wasn’t closed.  I wouldn’t change any of my reactions, because they came from my heart and that’s how I felt and that’s how I still feel.  I think we have all the coaches we need.  I think we have all the players that we need to get the job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now.

“The problem right now is that we are not performing to our ability.  We just need to gel, we need to continue to come together, but the time is now.  We are halfway through the season and if any locker room has the guys to get it done, we do. . . .  We can get this thing turned around.”

The snippets circulated from Showtime don’t address whether Marshall was calling out quarterback Jay Cutler specifically or everyone.  It’s been reported that it was Cutler; we’ve heard it was broader than that.

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Jason Verrett practices, Brandon Flowers doesn’t

Jason Verrett, Brice Butler AP

The Chargers would presumably like to have both Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett available when trying to slow down Peyton Manning on Thursday night, but they’ll probably be happy if they have one of them.

Verrett was a limited participant in practice on Tuesday after missing last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs with a shoulder injury. Taking part in practice is certainly better than the alternative, but Verrett was limited in all three practices last week so it’s not necessarily predictive of whether he’ll be in the lineup against Denver.

Flowers is out with a concussion and the quick turnaround doesn’t leave him much time to progress through the protocol before kickoff. Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Flowers watched practice from the field with a helmet and visor on.

Linebakcer Jerry Attaochu was a limited participant after the team said he would not have participated in a Monday practice because of a hamstring injury. Running backs Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown, linebacker Manti Te’o and center Rich Ohrnberger all remained out for the Chargers.

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49ers bring back Josh Johnson, again

Johnson Getty Images

Just like there was a fifth Beatle, there’s a 54th 49er.  And his name is Josh Johnson.

Once again, Johnson has been re-signed to the San Francisco roster the Tuesday after a game, giving the team a third quarterback for practice.  Each of the last two weeks, the 49ers have cut Johnson in advance of a game, signing another player to the 53-man roster who is more likely to contribute when it’s time to play.

This is the last time the 49ers will be able to make Johnson the unofficial 54th man on the roster.  San Fran’s next game comes after the trading deadline.  If Johnson is cut at that point, he’ll be exposed to waivers, and any team can claim his contract.

If Johnson clears waivers, he can re-sign with the 49ers the following Tuesday, giving the 49ers a third quarterback — and as a practical matter a 54th player — for yet another week.

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Phil Emery defends Jay Cutler as a “winning quarterback”

Jay Cutler AP

There’s a lot of negative feelings about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in Chicago right now and some of the aggrieved parties got a chance to air their grievances directly to management on Tuesday.

Bears General Manager Phil Emery took part in an online chat on the team’s website and predictably faced many questions about his quarterback, who has turned the ball over 10 times this season. Among the questions Emery fielded was one asking for his take on Cutler’s performance in light of the “enormous contract” the quarterback signed in the offseason.

“Jay Cutler is a winning quarterback in this league and no matter how you analyze the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, if you have a winning record you are an elite player at that position,” Emery wrote. “I’ll say it again: Jay has enormous skills and he continues to improve in all areas as a football player. I know he has some throws he would like to have back, but all of our players have had plays that they would like to have back.”

Giving quarterbacks won-loss records ignores too much of what goes into winning and losing games, but Emery is using it as criteria so it bears mentioning that the Bears are 8-10 with Cutler at the helm over the last two years. It also seems a stretch to think that Cutler is going to morph into a dramatically different quarterback nine years into a career that has been marked by the same kinds of swings between good play and crushing mistakes.

That’s not the worst thing in the world. Cutler is completing more passes than ever and actually has a lower interception percentage than the last two seasons, but that still comes with downsides that have gotten in the way of the winning quarterback leading a team with a winning record.

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Report: Titans trading Akeem Ayers to Patriots

Akeem Ayers AP

The Titans are reportedly set to deal one of their recent second-round picks.

Tennessee has agreed to send outside linebacker Akeem Ayers to New England, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported Tuesday.

The trade is pending a physical, Wyatt reported. Terms of the deal are not known.

For the 25-year-old Ayers, the trade is an opportunity to start fresh. A starter in his first three seasons with the Titans, Ayers has been a backup this season in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme, appearing in just two games. He is in the final year of his contract. Ayers (6-3, 255) had surgery on both knees in the offseason.

A UCLA product, Ayers was the No. 39 overall pick in 2011. He’s recorded 232 tackles, nine sacks and two interceptions in 50 games (43 starts).

In New England, Ayers could get a look as a strong-side linebacker in 4-3 fronts and an outside linebacker in “30” fronts. The Patriots are a base 4-3 defense, a scheme in which he has experience.

UPDATE 4:47 p.m. ET: According to Jason La Canfora of CBS, the teams are swapping draft picks in the deal. The Titans will get a sixth-round selection, while the Patriots will get a seventh-rounder and Ayers, per CBS.

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Washington puts Brian Orakpo on IR, brings back Everette Brown

Cleveland Browns v Washington Redskins 8-18-2014 Getty Images

Washington knew it was going to need another pass-rusher on short notice, so a familiar face made sense.

After putting Brian Orakpo on season-ending injured reserve, they signed Everette Brown.

Orakpo was lost to a torn pectoral muscle last week.

Brown, a former second-round pick, was in camp with them this summer, but didn’t make it through final cuts.

He’s also spent time with the Panthers, Chargers, Lions, Eagles and Cowboys. He has some ability as a 3-4 rusher.

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Plans for Favre’s Lambeau return in November on hold due to Bart Starr’s health

FAVRE AP

The Packers will be retiring Brett Favre’s No. 4 and putting him in the team’s Hall of Fame next year, but Favre was planning an earlier return to Lambeau Field that now looks unlikely to happen.

Favre was planning to join Bart Starr on the field for the team’s November 9 game against the Bears, but told Ed Werder of ESPN that Starr’s recent health troubles make it unlikely to happen. Starr recently had a heart attack and two strokes and Favre said that he’s averse to taking part if Starr is unable to participate.

“I’m sure they could, but it was my idea to do it, and now that Bart can’t, I just don’t think I will,” Favre said.

Had the appearance taken place, all three Packer quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl would have been at Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday that Starr’s health should be the focus rather than any delay in Favre’s return.

“I think the key here is Bart and his health. That’s the most important thing,” Rodgers said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

There were no concrete plans for what the appearance would entail, although Werder reports there were discussions about the two quarterback serving as honorary captains and participating in the pre-game coin toss.

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