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NFL morning after: Statement Sunday — or was it?

Falcons tight end Gonzalez celebrates after a touchdown against the New York Giants in the first half at their NFL football game in Atlanta Reuters

With six different games matching up teams with winning records, yesterday was hyped by the NFL as “Statement Sunday.” And while it didn’t deliver a lot of particularly competitive games, it certainly did deliver a lot of statements: Statements about the strengths of the Falcons, Packers, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys and 49ers, and statements about the weaknesses of the Giants, Bears, Ravens, Colts, Steelers and Patriots.

But the thing about statements made in the NFL in December is that they often don’t hold up in January. And I’m not so sure that the teams that made statements on Sunday are going to be the teams that continue to make statements in the playoffs. So let me go through a few of the statements that were made on Sunday, and explain which ones are true and which ones are false.

1. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC. FALSE: Yes, the Falcons can make the statement that they’re the best team in the conference, both on the strength of their 34-0 win over the Giants and on their status as the team with the best record in the NFC. But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.

2. The Giants are in danger. TRUE: The flip side of the Falcons’ blowout over the Giants is that it really did expose some serious problems with the Giants, namely that Eli Manning has been painfully inconsistent, and that injuries in the secondary have done major damage to the defense. Early in the season it looked like the NFC East would belong to the Giants, but now it’s a three-team race, and the Redskins and Cowboys actually appear to be in better shape. The good news for the Giants is that they’ll make the playoffs if they win their final two. The bad news is that the way they played on Sunday, I don’t have a lot of confidence that they’ll win their final two.

3. The Bears are in free fall and will miss the playoffs. FALSE: It’s easy to see why Bears fans are panicking, having lost five of their last six games. But Chicago’s schedule is about to get a lot easier, with trips to Arizona and Detroit. I see the Bears winning both games, finishing 10-6, and sneaking into the playoffs.

4. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Houston. TRUE: After the Texans’ disastrous loss in New England on Monday night, it would have been easy to disregard the Texans as legitimate title contenders. But the Texans clinched the AFC South with Sunday’s win over the Colts, and they’re now a win away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I think they’ll get that win against the Vikings on Sunday and ensure that if they rematch the Patriots, it will be in Houston.

5. The Broncos are the best team Peyton Manning has ever played on. TRUE: Does it sound premature to say that this year’s Broncos are better than Manning’s Super Bowl-winning 2006 team in Indianapolis? Maybe. But that team — like many of Manning’s teams in Indianapolis — had major holes on both defense and special teams that the Manning-led offense had to overcome. This Broncos team is winning every bit as much because of its defense as because of the Manning-led offense. If we could stuff these 2012 Broncos into a DeLorean and send them back in time to play any of Manning’s Indianapolis playoff teams, I’d pick these Broncos to win.

6. The Steelers blew it in overtime in Dallas and blew their postseason hopes. FALSE: The Steelers’ final two games are both at home, against the Bengals and the Browns, and if they win both they’re in the playoffs. I think Pittsburgh is going to do it.

7. New England’s Super Bowl hopes were dealt a big blow on Sunday night. FALSE: The Patriots’ loss to the 49ers probably means they’ll have to host a wild card team in the first playoff weekend, then win a couple of road games after that to get to the Super Bowl. But you know what? As much as I like the Broncos and Texans, I like the Patriots’ chances of winning at Denver and at Houston in back-to-back weeks. New England is still a formidable Super Bowl contender.

That’s where I stand on the statements NFL teams made on Sunday. And now here are my statements about the rest of Sunday’s action:

Adrian Peterson is making Eric Dickerson nervous. After his 212-yard effort on Sunday, Peterson needs to total 293 yards over the final two games of the season to break Dickerson’s NFL record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. Gaining 293 yards in two weeks isn’t easy, but it’s certainly doable for Peterson, considering that he has 366 in the last two games. In the last eight games, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards, a stunning yardage total that no NFL player has ever matched over an eight-game stretch of a season.

Calvin Johnson is making Jerry Rice nervous. After his 121-yard effort on Sunday, Johnson needs to total 181 yards over the final two games of the season to break Rice’s NFL record of 1,848 receiving yards in a season. Johnson tied an NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard game on Sunday, so totaling 181 yards over the next two games shouldn’t be a problem. Johnson also became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,600 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. Unfortunately for Johnson (and unlike Peterson), he’s threatening an NFL record while playing meaningless games for a bad team.

What’s JaMarcus Russell up to these days? I ask because the Raiders chose Russell first overall in the 2007 NFL draft, leaving Johnson available for the Lions to draft second overall, and Peterson available for the Vikings to draft seventh overall. Sorry to have to bring that one up, Raiders fans.

Trent Richardson’s first touchdown run was a thing of beauty. If you love good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed football, it doesn’t get much better than Richardson taking a handoff up the middle at the six-yard line, plunging into the middle and getting stacked up just as he crossed the line of scrimmage, and then simply refusing to go down as he drove forward, churning his legs and getting help from his entire offensive line while the entire Redskins’ defensive line was trying to stop him, and finally falling forward through that massive rugby scrum and into the end zone. As a rookie Richardson hasn’t been the big-play runner the Browns were hoping they’d get when they traded up to take him with the third overall pick in the draft, but he might be the toughest runner to tackle in the league.

Randall Cobb is better than you realize. Cobb had an unreal leaping catch along the sideline in the second quarter in Chicago, picking up 31 yards on third-and-six and somehow getting both feet down in bounds despite taking a hard hit just as he was grabbing the ball. Cobb has been an excellent player for the Packers since arriving last season as a second-round draft pick, but I don’t know if most fans realize just how excellent. Cobb has 2,241 combined rushing, receiving and return yards this season, and 3,857 all-purpose yards so far in his NFL career. That’s an incredible career total for a guy who’s only 22 years old.

The Seahawks are stunning. After beating the Cardinals 58-0 last week, the Seahawks beat the Bills 50-17 this week. The last NFL team to score 50 or more points in back-to-back weeks was the 1950 New York Giants, who beat the Chicago Cardinals 51-21 and then beat the Baltimore Colts 55-20 a week later. (A note of caution for Seahawks fans: Those 1950 Giants were held to just three points in a postseason loss that year.)

I guess Cam Cameron wasn’t the only problem with the Ravens’ offense. The Ravens fired Cameron as their offensive coordinator last week. So how did the offense in Baltimore do in the first game without him? Badly: The Ravens had six three-and-outs, the most of any team in the NFL all season, as they lost 34-17. On Statement Sunday, the Ravens made a statement that they’re not contenders in the AFC, and Cameron made a major statement in his absence: Don’t blame me.

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Dolphins like what they’re seeing from Ndamukong Suh

DAVIE, FL - MAY 26: Ndamukong Suh #93 of the Miami Dolphins takes a break between drills during the teams first OTA's on May 26, 2015 at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins haven’t seen much of Ndamukong Suh so far, as he skipped offseason conditioning work.

But after their first day with him on the field for OTAs, they’re feeling better about their $114 million investment.

Suh made a quick impression, showing his burst and spending plenty of time in the backfield, but also a few false starts in his first day of work with his teammates.

That’s what he does, right?” center Mike Pouncey said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “That’s why they gave him all that money. … He’s coming off that ball full speed every play. He’s a guy who really uses the snap count to his advantage. He gets off the ball really fast, and that’s part of his game.”

Of course, he’s doing it all without the workouts within the team structure. He’s always chosen to work out on his own, and coach Joe Philbin said his new star “seems to be in pretty good shape.”

Suh wouldn’t talk about why he stayed away this spring, saying OTA attendance: “was automatic. I never miss practice.”

And when he got there, they were able to line him up next to Cameron Wake, giving the Dolphins a pair of explosive players to build a defense around.

“Whoever I line up next to, we always want to be somebody’s nightmare,” Suh said. “I’m a guy who’s always going to react, play off instincts. I think the best football players do that. I study the terminology in the classroom and when I’m at home. And, obviously, when I’m on the football field, if I hear something, I go with it. . . . Once I put my hand in the ground, it’s over.

“I was just going out there and playing as hard and as fast as I can. If I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to do it full speed. Especially being in the backfield, if I make mistakes. That’s what I was brought here for. That’s the way I know how to play, that’s the way I’ve been playing the last five years.”

And now that they’ve finally gotten a chance to see it, the Dolphins are OK with that, too.

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Bryce Brown joins Bills practice

Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Last week, Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn said that he was concerned about running back Bryce Brown’s ability to catch up after missing the first weeks of the team’s offseason program while taking time to deal with family matters.

The message seems to have reached its target. Brown joined the Bills for Tuesday’s practice, which will give him a chance to jump into the scrum for spots behind LeSean McCoy on the team’s depth chart. With Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and rookie Karlos Williams all in the mix as well, it should be a spirited competition in Buffalo.

One player who hasn’t been swayed to get back to work with the team is guard Chris Williams. Williams, who started three games last year before hitting injured reserve with a back injury, hasn’t made a positive impression on coach Rex Ryan with his absence.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be planning on coming back or what; I haven’t seen him,” Ryan said. “I haven’t talked to him, I haven’t seen him. I don’t even know what he looks like. I know these are voluntary type things, so that’s fine. I don’t know if he’s better than all of the rest of these guys, because all the rest of them are here.”

The Bills aren’t settled on starters at guard, but Williams won’t be moving to the front of the class if he refuses to show up.

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LeBron’s guy Maverick Carter mentoring Johnny Manziel now

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Maverick Carter watch a game between the Miami Heat against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on February 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) Getty Images

LeBron James gave Cleveland a chance to celebrate last night, leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals with a cruise-control win over the Hawks.

But he’s providing another assist for the city’s football team as well.

As Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel tries to re-establish his career and life after a disastrous rookie year and stint in rehab, he’s enlisted the help of James’ consigliere, Maverick Carter.

He’s taken a big responsibility in making sure that Johnny’s doing all the right things,” Browns safety Donte Whitner said of Carter, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “[Manziel] has a mentor, somebody to talk to, certain things that he really didn’t have the ability [to do] or somebody to talk to before. It looks like it’s working out so far.”

Carter has been James’ longtime business partner/right-hand man, and given the close relationship between the two Cleveland celebrities, the link makes sense. Carter’s marketing firm LRMR represents Manziel, but the relationship runs deeper than that..

The two have been seen sitting court-side at Cavaliers playoff games, and spending time off the court with James, who has managed to become a global superstar without hitting the same potholes Manziel has.

Between Carter and Browns teammates Whitner and Joe Haden, there’s a support structure around Manziel now.

“We don’t really have to say anything,” Whitner said. “He’s been doing that any way. I remember last [year] they made a big fuss about Johnny being in Vegas for Memorial Day Weekend. Johnny was here in Cleveland for Memorial day weekend this year. So that’s another step that he’s taken.

“He understands that you can’t be in Vegas or Miami or any of these other places, you have to be here. If you have to come in a day or two extra for an hour or two per day, that’s what quarterbacks do. And no matter if you like it, you have to be here.”

Time and actions are what will fix things for Manziel now, but the fact he has a network in place to help him’s a solid step in that direction.

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Marqise Lee held out of practice with knee injury

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee had a hard time staying healthy during his rookie season and his second year isn’t getting off to a much better start.

Lee did not take part in the Jaguars’ first OTA session on Tuesday because of a knee injury he suffered during one of the team’s earlier workouts. After watching nagging injuries limit Lee last year, coach Gus Bradley said that the team would take a cautious route with the 2014 second-round pick.

“Marqise banged up his knee a little bit right in the middle of Phase Two,” Bradley said, via the Florida Times-Union. “He’s more day-to-day or week-to-week. I know he wants to get back here, but we’re being smart with him. We’ll see if he makes it back before the minicamp or not.”

In addition to injuries, Jaguars wide receiver coach Jerry Sullivan said recently that the team gave Lee too much too soon as a rookie. The knee injury will ensure that no one’s overloading Lee right now, although there’s not much substitute for the on-field work that Lee needs to do to grow as a player.

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Philip Rivers: It would be awesome to stay with Chargers

Tamba Hali, Philip Rivers AP

At various points this offseason it seemed like there was a chance that Philip Rivers wouldn’t be with the Chargers for the 2015 season with the years beyond that looking even murkier.

Rivers’s stated desire to let the season (and the final year of his contract) play out without discussing an extension, his apprehensiveness about potentially moving to Los Angeles with the team and trade rumors involving the Titans were the major fuel for that belief, but Rivers remains on the team and his tune about an extension has changed. Rivers reiterated Tuesday that he’s willing to talk about a new deal before the season gets underway and said he wants to remain with the team.

“You put in 11 years here, and we haven’t accomplished the ultimate goal,” Rivers said, via ESPN.com. “There’s been a lot of great memories, and a lot of awesome games, seasons, friendships, training camps and on and on. So that would be awesome [to stay]. Obviously, as players none of can choose how we all want it to work out. But if that’s how it works out, I’d be fired up.”

Rivers didn’t have an update on talks with the team, but things definitely seem to be moving in the direction of extending their working relationship after the more pessimistic outlook from earlier this year.

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Kam Chancellor: Seahawks working harder than ever after Super Bowl loss

Kam Chancellor Getty Images

A year ago, the Seattle Seahawks were trying to overcome the hangover of winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

This offseason they have to battle the hangover of losing a Super Bowl in epic fashion.

However, strong safety Kam Chancellor said that he believes the members of the team are working harder than ever this offseason as they attempt to become the first team to appear in three straight Super Bowls since the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills.

“I told a lot of people it feels like this offseason everybody is working their hardest,” Chancellor said after the team’s first OTA on Tuesday. “I’ve seen guys out here busting their tails. The whole offseason has just been going fast tempo. Guys are lifting like crazy. It’s just like the mindset is just sharper. It’s just sharpened even more. We know we’re more focused, more driven and just ready for the first game of the year.”

Head coach Pete Carroll agreed with Chancellor’s assessment.

“I feel it too,”he said. “I felt it right since the first days that the guys came back. … We’ve had great work and their attitude has been on it and it’s all we can ask for.”

Despite the MCL tear he suffered in practice the Friday before the Super Bowl, Chancellor is in the best offseason shape of his career. The knee injury did not require surgery and he fully participated in Tuesday’s workouts. Surgeries over the last several offseasons and lingering injuries had limited Chancellor over the past few years.

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Christian Ponder accepting of backup role with Raiders

Christian Ponder Getty Images

While Christian Ponder may be taking first-team reps right now, Ponder has no illusions of his role with the Oakland Raiders.

He’s the backup quarterback to Derek Carr and he’s accepted that role.

“My job, I understand, is the backup and I’m here to help Derek and help this team out,” Ponder said, via the team’s official website. “It is exciting for me to be out there right now taking first-team reps, but I know that this is Derek’s team right now. But I am bringing a competitive nature to it. I know Derek is a very competitive guy, and so is Matt McGloin. Bringing some competition in the room only helps all of us.”

Ponder signed with the Raiders this offseason after spending his first four years with the Minnesota Vikings. He is getting the first-team reps in OTAs due to Derek Carr being sidelined with a finger injury on his throwing hand.

Ponder is learning a new offense and the additional reps should help him pick up the system that much quicker. But Carr had a strong rookie season and established himself as the Raiders’ starter going forward. Carr passed for 3,270 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year.

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Seahawks complete draft class with signings of Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett

Tyler Lockett Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks signed their top two draft picks on Tuesday to finalize their rookie class.

Defensive end Frank Clark and wide receiver Tyler Lockett each signed their contracts after taking part in the first OTA of the offseason Tuesday afternoon. Per league rules, the contracts are four-year deals.

Clark – selected with the No. 63 overall pick in the second round –  has worked at both defensive end spots and inside at defensive tackle during his first few practices with the team.

The Seahawks sent four picks to Washington to move up to No. 69 overall in the third round to grab Lockett. He’s expected to be the team’s kickoff and punt returner in addition to adding to the team’s depth at receiver.

Seattle signed their six other draft picks soon after the draft.

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Mario Williams “ecstatic” about playing for Rex Ryan

Mario Williams AP

Bills pass rusher Mario Williams is excited about the new defense in Buffalo.

Williams said that as he learns new coach Rex Ryan’s scheme, he sees it as a perfect fit for what he does.

“Understanding the defense, I love it,” Williams told the Buffalo News. “It gives everybody ample opportunities to just do different things and just be able to bring different looks, different angles, and attacks, stuff like that. So I’m ecstatic.”

The Bills’ defense was plenty good last year as well, but Williams thinks Ryan has what it takes to make it better.

“Obviously, with the scheme, with Rex, anything’s possible. So I think right now, we’re just doing building blocks. But the sky’s the limit, so I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of changes and things as we progress and become readapted to a hybrid defense,” Williams said.

Ryan always exudes confidence as a coach. His players are taking after him.

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Kaepernick apologizes for insensitivity to Houston flooding

Kaepernick Getty Images

Earlier today, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a bizarre remark regarding the flooding in Houston on social media. He has now apologized for it.

I’m so sorry about my insensitive post earlier today,” Kaepernick said. “I didn’t fully understand how many people are struggling in Houston right now and I feel horrible. My prayers are with everyone there.”

It’s good that Kaepernick apologized. It would have been much better if he’d realized not to use the Houston flooding or any other natural disaster as the punchline for the promotion of his vow to be a much better player in 2015.

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911 call: Ray McDonald broke down door, tried to take baby

raymcdonald Getty Images

The mother of Ray McDonald’s ex-fiancée called 911 early on Monday morning to report that McDonald had acted violently toward her daughter, broke down a door when she locked herself inside to avoid him, and tried to forcibly take their baby.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that an emergency call made at 3:48 a.m. said that the 6-foot-3, 290-pound McDonald “broke down” the door and tried to take the baby.

“She said she received a call from her daughter . . . advising that her boyfriend Ray McDonald was being violent,” a dispatcher said on a call relaying the call from McDonald’s ex-fiancée’s mother. “She tried to lock herself in her bedroom but he broke the door down . . . Ex is trying to leave now with her infant.”

Police showed up to the ex-fiancée’s apartment, but by that point she and the baby were safe, and McDonald had left. Police determined that the woman had been assaulted, and they found McDonald at a San Jose home registered to his former 49ers teammate Justin Smith. McDonald was arrested and has since been released on $15,000 bail. He was released by the Bears hours after his arrest.

McDonald was also arrested and accused of assaulting his ex-fiancée nine months ago, while she was pregnant. He was ultimately not charged in that case after she declined to cooperate with the investigation.

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Browns sign OL Eric Olsen, LB Mike Reilly

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Browns have added some experienced offensive line depth, signing fourth-year pro Eric Olsen on Tuesday, the club said.

The 26-year-old Olsen has appeared in 23 NFL regular season games, making four starts as an extra blocker with New Orleans in 2012. He was most recently with the Titans, playing five games for Tennessee last season. Olsen (6-4, 306) has also had stints with Denver, Washington and Pittsburgh.

The Browns also announced the signing of rookie linebacker Mike Reilly, who notched 27 sacks over the last three seasons at William and Mary. The 6-foot-3, 261-pound Reilly tried out for the Browns two weekends ago at the club’s rookie minicamp.

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Kaepernick makes weird remark about Houston flooding

Kaepernick Getty Images

At times, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has come off as sort of a goofball. Some thought that his public persona reflected the influence of former coach Jim Harbaugh, who came off as sort of a goofball more frequently.

Now that Harbaugh is gone, the question is whether Kaepernick will still come off as sort of a goofball at times. Today, the answer is yes.

Via Samer Kalaf of Deadspin, Kaepernick used a photo of the flooding in Houston as the backdrop for this message: “I warned you the #7tormsComing,” with a #Houston hashtag.

Kaepernick then regained his senses and deleted the Instagram version of the message. But he didn’t get rid of the corresponding Twitter entry. And then he added, “No disrespect intended! Prayers up!”

And then Kaepernick applied the foam to the faux pas with a shirtless photo of himself and this kernel of random inspiration: “Just livin! #WhoDoYouLove #IDontGetTired.”

The trio of messages likely makes many 49ers fans long for the days of Kaepernick showing up on Twitter wearing a Dolphins hat. And it possibly makes some 49ers fans long for the days when he won’t be wearing a 49ers helmet.

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Cowboys sign third-round pick Chaz Green

Eastern Michigan v Florida Getty Images

The Cowboys have finished a contract with their third-round pick, signing Florida offensive tackle Chaz Green on Tuesday. The transaction was announced in the NFL’s personnel notice.

Green (6-5, 300) made 30 starts for Florida from 2011 through 2014, making starts at right and left tackle in his final season. He could serve as a backup on a deep Dallas offensive line that also added former LSU standout offensive tackle La’El Collins after the draft.

Green is the sixth Cowboys draft pick to finalize a contract. Only Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones (Round One) and Minnesota linebacker Damien Wilson (Round Four) are unsigned.

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Antonio Brown: “Not my business” to discuss contract, but “I’ve got enough” money

Antonio Brown AP

Last month, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown’s absence from the start of the Steelers’ voluntary offseason workout program was accompanied by reports that he was thinking about staying away from the team for a while in hopes of landing a new contract.

That turned out to be incorrect as Brown was back a week later after spending time with his newborn, but Brown still fielded questions about his contract as the Steelers started OTAs on Tuesday. Brown said it was “not my business” to talk about his contract and referred questions about his deal to agent Drew Rosenhaus, although he was willing to offer his opinion that all is well for him financially.

“This is a community that I love,” Brown said, via ESPN.com. “My kids go to school here. I want to keep a good reputation. Obviously money’s not important to me. I’ve got enough. The organization has extremely blessed me. I’m ready to play football.”

Brown signed a six-year deal with the Steelers before the 2012 season, which leaves him with three years to go on the pact and little leverage to force the Steelers to address the deal by staying away from practice this offseason.

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