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NFL morning after: Oh, those crazy Jets

Arizona Cardinals v New York Jets Getty Images

The New York Jets aren’t good. But they are fun.

No, no, they’re not fun if you’re a fan of the Jets — I wouldn’t wish the experience of being a fan of this team on anyone. They’re fun for fans of the NFL’s other 31 teams because no matter what ridiculous thing happens with your team, you can say, At least we’re not the Jets.

Think about it: There are two 11-1 teams in the NFL right now, the Texans and the Falcons, and neither one of them has garnered as much media attention as the 5-7 Jets. Most of that media attention has been about what a clown show the Jets’ quarterback situation is, with Mark Sanchez struggling through another mediocre year and the much-hyped arrival of Tim Tebow turning into a big nothingburger. And then on Sunday, after Sanchez had completed just 10 of his 21 passes for 97 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions, Jets coach Rex Ryan finally decided he had seen enough of Sanchez’s poor play. Except that Tebow was out of the game with broken ribs. So Ryan had no choice but to put in third-string quarterback Greg McElroy.

And then McElroy proceeded to march the Jets down the field and for the only touchdown of the game, leading the Jets to a 7-6 win over the Cardinals. And just like that, a third name was added to the Jets’ quarterback circus.

On the 53-man rosters of the two teams playing on Sunday, there were six quarterbacks: Sanchez, Tebow and McElroy for the Jets, and Ryan Lindley, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton for the Cardinals. McElroy is the only one of the six who had never started an NFL game before, but he’s probably the best quarterback on either team.

Yes, I do think McElroy is the best quarterback on the Jets. Ryan was noncommittal after the game about whether McElroy would start next week, but the Jets might as well give him a full week of practice with the first-string offense and see what he can do in their next game, Sunday at Jacksonville. Because even if you don’t think McElroy is any good, here’s the truth about Sanchez and Tebow: Both of them stink.

That’s what makes the Jets so funny. This whole quarterback controversy is between two guys who aren’t good quarterbacks, two guys who probably aren’t any better than McElroy, a former seventh-round draft pick out of Alabama who until he took the field in place of Sanchez on Sunday had never played in an NFL game.

And McElroy probably isn’t the answer, either. There was a reason that NFL scouts watched him play at Alabama and didn’t think he was a high pick, and there was a reason that the Jets never bothered to put him on the field until Sunday. But McElroy should get the opportunity to prove himself.

Of course, for the Jets, the worst-case scenario might be McElroy playing just well enough down the stretch, against a soft schedule (all four of the Jets’ remaining opponents have losing records), to make people think he deserves to compete for the starting quarterback position next year. Because the only thing crazier than the mess the quarterback situation was this year would be a three-way quarterback battle with McElroy, Sanchez and Tebow next year. But while Jets fans would probably prefer not to have another quarterback controversy, it would give the rest of us a good laugh.

Here are my other thoughts on Sunday in the NFL:

The Chiefs did an amazing thing. A day after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and killed himself in front of coaches and team officials, the Chiefs somehow managed to play — and win — a football game. Romeo Crennel — who witnessed Belcher’s suicide — somehow managed to pull his team together for Sunday’s game. Jamaal Charles — whose wife is the cousin of Kasandra Perkins, the girlfriend Belcher killed — somehow managed to gain 127 yards on Sunday. Crennel called playing football “the best thing we could do, if for no other reason it takes our minds off our misery for a few hours.”

Peyton Manning had the best four-yard completion in NFL history. In the funniest play of the day, Manning was rolling to his right on third-and-1 and not finding anyone open. But just as he was about to get pushed out of bounds by Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, Manning saw that running back Knowshon Moreno had been knocked to the ground and was just lying there. So Manning threw the ball right into Moreno’s breadbasket, and although Moreno didn’t even see the ball coming, he did manage to hold onto it for a four-yard gain and a first down. Even the hard-nosed Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano was chuckling on the sideline at the way Manning had just picked up a first down against his team.

Tom Brady gets division title No. 10: Brady is the first player in NFL history to be the quarterback for 10 division-winning teams, after the Patriots clinched the AFC East on Sunday. Brady is ahead of Peyton Manning (who won eight division titles with the Colts and clinched the ninth division title of his career when the Broncos won the AFC West on Sunday) and Joe Montana (who won eight division titles with the 49ers and added a ninth with the Chiefs) as the quarterback with the most division titles.

Megatron keeps going. The Lions are having a disappointing season, but Calvin Johnson is having a phenomenal season. He’s on pace to break Jerry Rice’s all-time single-season record of 1,848 receiving yards, and on Sunday he became the first player in NFL history to gain at least 140 receiving yards in four consecutive weeks. Johnson had an absolutely incredible one-handed catch on a deep ball along the right sideline, a great catch that came so easily for Johnson that he never even bothered to put his left hand on the ball, even when he was securing it as he was tackled. It doesn’t get any better than Megatron at the receiver position.

Adrian Peterson is keeping pace with Emmitt Smith. Peterson ran for 210 yards on Sunday, putting him over 8,000 rushing yards in his career, in the 85th game of his career. Likewise, Smith went over 8,000 yards in his career in the 85th game of his career. I have no idea if Peterson will have the longevity of Smith, but it’s remarkable that Peterson — who is having the best season of his career — is keeping pace with the NFL’s all-time rushing leader.

Aldon Smith moves ahead of Reggie White. Smith, the 49ers’ outstanding second-year pass rusher, had a sack on Sunday to give him 31.5 so far in his two-year career. That’s the most sacks that any player has ever had in the first two years of his career, surpassing White, the Hall of Famer who had 31 sacks in the first two years of his career.

Andrew Luck commands an offense like a 15-year veteran. The poise that Luck showed in throwing two touchdown passes in the final three minutes of Sunday’s 35-33 win in Detroit was stunning. By drafting Peyton Manning in 1998 and Luck this year, the Colts have set themselves up to have a quarter-century or so of superb quarterback play. Think how jealous Jets fans must be.

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Johnny Manziel admits he’s having growing pains

Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer AP

For all the attention he’s gotten thus far, Johnny Manziel is still the Browns backup quarterback.

He admitted Thursday it’s going to take him a minute to push through that, but the Browns appear willing to let him ease into it a little at a time.

It’s a process for me,” Manziel said, via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. “It’s not something that I should just come in here naturally because I played well in college and just know how to run this offense.

“It’s a complete 180 from everything that I’ve been used to. And it’s going to take time. It’s a process coming from a spread, air raid system in college to a pro style system that’s very unfamiliar [to] me as far as terminology and routes.”

Now, for a player of his — for lack of a better word — swagger, that sounds almost like humility. But Manziel said he thinks he will be able to make the adjustment with time.

“I think I’ll play whenever these coaches decide that I’m ready,” Manziel said. “I don’t think there’s any rush. For me, it’s whenever coach [Mike] Pettine, coach [Kyle] Shanahan and the staff here decide that. I don’t think they want to throw me into a situation I’m not ready for or something I can’t handle. I don’t know if they drafted me necessarily thinking that I should come in and start Week 1. I think they wanted to see where I’m at and how I progress.”

Using Manziel as part of specific packages is an option, as he brings and athleticism to the position Brian Hoyer doesn’t have. But the acknowledgement he has some ground to cover is probably a good one for the rookie, who will end up with the job eventually.

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Seahawks bumped up Marshawn Lynch’s 2014 salary

Marshawn Lynch, CJ Spiller AP

The Seahawks got their starting running back in camp today, and Marshawn Lynch got something out of his brief holdout.

A league source tells PFT that the Seahawks agreed to bump up Lynch’s base salary to persuade Lynch to report.

Under Lynch’s previous contract, he was due to make a $5 million base salary this year, plus $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and he could have earned another $500,000 in incentives if he had rushed for 1,500 yards. Now Lynch gets a base salary of $6 million (meaning the Seahawks effectively guaranteed the $1 million he previously would have had to earn), plus they’re taking $500,000 that he had been scheduled to get paid in 2015 and giving it to him now instead. In all, Lynch will make $6.5 million this year.

The Seahawks also agreed not to enforce the fines that they were entitled to dock him from the work he has already missed. We’re also hearing that the league office was pressuring the Seahawks to go after some of Lynch’s signing bonus money if he refused to report, as teams are permitted to do under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But the Seahawks resisted that.

Instead, the Seahawks and Lynch reached a deal amenable to both sides, and Lynch is in camp, making more money in 2014 than he was scheduled to make under his old deal.

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Peterson, Sherman, Haden contracts all comparable

Haden AP

Lost in the u-mad-bro back-and-forth between Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman regarding their one-up contracts is the fact that Browns cornerback Joe Haden got a pretty good deal, too.

All three deals were strong; whether one guy or another got the “best” deal resides in the eye of the beholder, as influenced by the specific factors considered.

Peterson got the most in “new money,” thanks to another $50,000 added to the final-year base salary that pushes the average from $14 million (which Sherman got) to $14.01 million.  Haden’s deal averages $13.5 million in new money.

But Haden has the highest “true” guarantee at signing, with $22.678 million, more than $6 million more than Peterson’s $16.25 million.  At signing, Sherman received $12.431 million fully guaranteed.  Haden also pockets the most total cash in each year through 2018.  Starting with $20.878 million in 2014.

Then again, Haden started with a higher base salary for 2014 than Peterson and Sherman.  Haden, due to make $6.678 million, had the bulk of that money shifted to a signing bonus, dropping the base salary to the minimum.  Which allowed Haden to craft a higher guarantee out of the gates.

When it comes to the conversion of injury-only guarantee to fully-guaranteed money through the February 2016 waiver period (which comes days after Super Bowl 50), Peterson leads the way with $42.6 million.  Haden through the same point will have $41.078 million guaranteed.  Sherman will see $35 million become fully guaranteed by then.

All three deals are very good.  Peterson got his with two years left under contract, a point that shouldn’t be overlooked given the injury risk he managed to push to the team.  With Sherman and Haden, even a Brewster’s Millions effort to spend every penny would make it hard for the trio to run out of cash in their lifetimes.

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Don Jones says he learned after discipline for Michael Sam tweet

Don Jones AP

Dolphins cornerback Don Jones says he has learned a lot in the last couple months, after his reaction to Michael Sam becoming the NFL’s first openly gay player got him suspended from the team.

When TV cameras captured Sam kissing his boyfriend, Jones reacted by calling it “horrible.” The Dolphins’ response was to send Jones home from offseason work and say he couldn’t return until he completed sensitivity training. Now Jones says he realizes his choice of words was poor.

“I didn’t intend [any] harm,” Jones told the Miami Herald. “I just made a bad mistake. I had to learn from it.”

Jones said that he has no animosity toward gays, despite what his tweet suggested.

“I don’t have [a] problem with gay [people],” Jones said. “Shoot, I do have a bunch of family members that are gay. My brother, my cousins. I never really had a problem.”

On some teams, Jones’s tweet probably would have resulted in nothing more than a stern talking-to, but the Dolphins are particularly sensitive about the need for players to treat each other with respect after the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin fiasco last year. Jones put something stupid on Twitter, but he deserves credit for dealing with it forthrightly and moving on.

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Marshawn Lynch ends his holdout, reports to Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch AP

Reports on Thursday afternoon indicated that running back Marshawn Lynch was set to make his delayed arrival to Seahawks camp in the next 24 hours, but the team didn’t have to wait that long for Lynch’s return.

Lynch arrived at the Seahawks’ facility a bit later on Thursday, a moment broadcast on NFL Network and shared on Twitter by Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. Curtis Crabtree of PFT is at the team headquarters and passes along word that Lynch’s arrival at the building was met by loud cheering from an auditorium and that a Brinks truck pulled up to the facility a few minutes later.

If the earlier report from ESPN about Lynch not getting a new deal is correct, the truck is just a humorous coincidence. There are reportedly some “financial concessions” coming Lynch’s way, which could be the forgiveness of the fines that Lynch accumulated while staying away from the team.

Either way, Lynch is back now and should resume his place as a centerpiece of the team’s offensive attack. With a salary that could reach $7.5 million due next season, it will be interesting to see if this is Lynch’s final year in Seattle as the Seahawks will need to keep some money free for possible extensions for quarterback Russell Wilson and other younger players finishing up their rookie deals.

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Redskins rookie regrets letting teammates cut his hair

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzlmdq5n2fhzdayzdhmnme0nty4mmewmdi4zjmzn2q2 AP

Kicker Zach Hocker found himself in a position familiar to many NFL rookies at training camp on Wednesday.

Hocker was supposed to perform a skit to amuse his veteran teammates, but came up empty. As an alternative, he offered to cut his hair however his teammates decided and wound up with a shaved head except for a strap of hair across the middle of his head.

Kai Forbath, Hocker’s competition for the kicking job, did the shearing. The results, which you can see at right, don’t say much for his future as a hairdresser but make it easy to understand why Hocker probably wishes he had just done a five minute reading from Dr. Seuss instead of offering up his locks.

“I kind of regret it now,” Hocker said, via ESPN.com. “In the moment it was fun, but now I wish I had thought of something funny for the team … I didn’t anticipate this. I got up on the stage and they put up three pictures for the team to vote on. This was my look. They let me have it and there I went.”

Hocker said he wants to shave off the remaining hair before the team’s preseason opener next week, but his teammates have yet to give him the green light.

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Reggie Wayne feeling no pain in Colts camp

Reggie Wayne AP

There’s going to be concern with any player coming off an ACL.

When that player is a 35-year-old wide receiver such as Reggie Wayne, people are going to be watching his every move.

But so far, Wayne has cruised through camp as smoothly as since the day he pulled into camp in an Indy Car.

And the work he’s done on the field is just as fast.

“Like I’ve been saying, so far, so good,” Wayne said, via Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. “I haven’t had any problems, nothing out of the norm.

I haven’t had any pain. Nothing has set me back. Just go out there and be the Reggie of old.”

Wayne’s condition has been foremost on the Colts’ mind since he tore his right ACL last October, and the fact he’s coming along so well is a huge boost.

But because of the way Wayne has worked throughout his career, it’s also not a surprise.

“That’s the way it looked to me,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “When you go back, you watch it live and then you go back and watch it on film. It’s really incredible.

“But again, it probably doesn’t shock anybody here. It certainly doesn’t shock me. We all know his mindset, his work ethic and his determination, and how bad he wanted to get back.”

With so many other Colts going down in practice, there’s a bit of breath-holding with Wayne. But so far, the knee has held up, and he’s looked like his old self.

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Steve Gregory signs with Chiefs

Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Chiefs have a couple of safeties on the injured list right now, which may have helped them decide to add some depth at the position.

Agent David Canter announced on Thursday that his client Steve Gregory has signed with the Chiefs for the coming season.

Gregory was released by the Patriots in February after playing 26 games with the team over the last two seasons. Gregory started 23 of those games, recording 116 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Eric Berry left Chiefs practice early on Thursday with an ankle injury, although coach Andy Reid and others have downplayed the severity of the injury since Berry was removed from the field. Sanders Commings had ankle surgery on Thursday, however, and that absence could stretch a bit longer.

Even with everyone healthy, Gregory would be a viable competitor with Husain Abdullah for the starting spot next to Berry. He’ll get the chance to win that job over the next month or so.

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Fred Jackson is old, but he doesn’t feel old

fredjakcson AP

Fred Jackson is 33 years old. Which is ancient for an NFL running back. Jackson was the oldest running back to carry the ball in the NFL last year and will be again this year, and when Jackson agreed to a contract extension with the Bills yesterday, there were questions about why on earth a team would extend the contract of a player who’s already long in the tooth.

Except that Jackson is still playing well: Last year he ran 206 times for 890 yards, added 47 catches for 387 yards, and scored 10 touchdowns. And Jackson says he feels like he’s in great shape and ready to turn in another good year this year.

“I had a tremendous offseason with our strength and conditioning coaches, I think they did a great job getting me to where I am today, so I’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit,” he said. “I’m hungry and motivated. I think a renewed sense of getting this thing turned around, with some of the moves we made in the offseason putting the pieces around us I think that’s got to have a lot of guys excited, and I’m one of them.”

If Jackson can top 800 yards again this year, he’ll join some truly elite company. Only seven players in NFL history have rushed for 800 yards at age 33 or later, and they’re all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Walter Payton, John Riggins, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka and John Henry Johnson. Jackson isn’t an all-time great like those players, but he’s had a long and impressive career in Buffalo. And he’s not done yet.

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Michael Crabtree sits out Thursday’s practice

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Earlier this week, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said that he thought wide receiver Michael Crabtree is “a step or two quicker” than he was last season.

Crabtree has had more than a year to recover from the offseason Achilles tear that cost him 11 games during last year’s regular season, so it stands to reason that he’d be moving better this year than he was after his return to the team in 2013. The 49ers would surely like things to stay that way, which may explain why he wasn’t participating in practice on Thursday.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports that Crabtree did not take part in Thursday’s session after leaving the field before the end of practice on Wednesday. Maiocco said Crabtree didn’t suffer any obvious injury during the session, but that he did receive some attention from a trainer during the session.

Absent any further information about an injury, it would seem to be a precautionary move to give Crabtree some rest now in hopes that it keeps him on the field for the more important business to come this season.

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Jace Amaro says going from Texas Tech to Jets like going from Chinese to English

New York Jets Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

Jets tight end Jace Amaro is back at practice after missing a little time with a knee injury, but feeling better physically is only part of the battle for the second-round pick.

The more significant part is trying to adjust from Texas Tech’s wide-open offense to the one that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is running with the Jets, a task that Amaro likens to going from Chinese to English. Amaro spent Wednesday getting razzed after dropping a pass and getting chewed out by Mornhinweg for running incorrect routes before ending the day with a one-on-one chat with General Manager John Idzik.

“A lot of people have high expectations for me. Right now, I’m trying to figure it all out,” Amaro said, via ESPN.com. “I have high expectations for myself, I know what I can do. I’m making a lot of things a lot more difficult than they should be, just because I’m not completely comfortable with the entire organization yet, from the playbook to not knowing how the coaches coach, little things like that.”

There’s still more than a month to go before the start of the regular season, but the current rate of Amaro’s transition to the NFL suggests that the Jets will have to scale back some of their early plans for him heading into his rookie year.

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Report: Marshawn Lynch ending holdout

Marshawn Lynch AP

It looks like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has decided not to be all about that holdout, boss.

Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Lynch is expected to end his holdout in the next 24 hours and report to work with the Seahawks.

Per the report, Lynch will not be receiving a new deal from the Seahawks to replace the two years he has left on his current pact or any added money. He will be receiving “financial concessions” on his current deal, however. Those concessions are not spelled out, but could involve the Seahawks waiving the nearly $500,000 in fines that Lynch has accrued during his absence from the team.

Lynch’s return should allow the Seahawks to return to business as usual on offense, although there’s a chance that Christine Michael will see more time in the backfield this season as Seattle begins to plan for a future without Beast Mode.

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Falcons DT Peria Jerry to retire

Atlanta Falcons v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, the club’s first-round pick in 2009, will retire, the team announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old Jerry recorded 67 tackles and 5.5 sacks in five seasons with Atlanta. The club re-signed him in March. Overall, Jerry played in 64 games, making 29 starts. He missed 14 games of his rookie season after suffering a knee injury that required surgery.

The Falcons invested heavily in their defensive line in the offseason, signing nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson and drafting defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman in Round Two. The club has transitioned to a 3-4 scheme after employing a base 4-3 defense in previous years.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict negotiations with Bengals hit impasse

Vontaze Burfict AP

There were optimistic signs about the state of negotiations on an extension for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, but it has been a while since the last one and the latest word isn’t as sunny.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that talks between the team and Burfict have hit an impasse. There’s no word on whether the talks will continue in hopes of finding a way around said impasse, but, for now, it appears things will be in a holding pattern.

Burfict is entering the final year of the three-year pact he signed as an undrafted free agent and will become a restricted free agent after the season as long as the Bengals tender him a qualifying offer. That seems like the very least they’ll do after striking gold with Burfict, who fell out of the draft because of character concerns and responded by leading the NFL in tackles during his second season.

Another year like that would only drive Burfict’s price up on a long-term deal, which may mean the issue now is that the Bengals haven’t come up with an offer big enough for Burfict to pass up on the chance for more money down the road. If that’s the case, the deal may have to wait a while because Burfict’s restricted free agent status means he won’t be leaving the team unless the Bengals don’t want him anymore.

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PFT on NBCSN invades Saints camp

Saints AP

Pro Football Talk on NBCSN has moved temporarily (and technically partially) to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for a two-day visit to Saints camp.  I’ve made the drive to The Greenbrier, toured the impressive practice facility (including a world-class weight room outfitted with Rogue equipment), watched practice, heard several Rob Ryan “F” bombs (but not nearly enough), rooted for fights, and interviewed six key figures from the organization.

From coach Sean Payton to quarterback Drew Brees to safety Kenny Vaccaro to defensive end Cam Jordan to running back Pierre Thomas to receiver Marques Colston, we obtained a good look at where the Saints are, and where they’re going.

Tune in tonight for portions of the Payton, Brees, and Vaccaro interviews.  The full Payton interview was included in Thursday’s PFT Live; the other five will be used in full on Friday.

Until the show begins at 5:30 p.m. ET, cast your vote in today’s poll question.  Which coincidentally relates to the Saints.

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