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PFT’s Week 17 picks

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Well, it’s officially over.

With an eight-game gap and one week of games left, MDS and yours truly disagree on only five games.  Which means that, even if MDS sweeps, I’ll still be three games ahead.  (Math continues to be my strong suit.)

Of course, if I sweep I’ll finish with a 13-game lead.  And based on the five disagreements, I think I will.

Read on to see our picks and our takes for the final week of the regular season.  It all re-sets to 0-0 for the playoffs, at which time MDS will have a chance to exact revenge.  Or to fail again.

Last week, I was 11-5 and MDS went 10-6.  For the year, I’m now at 157-82-1, good for 65.4 percent.  MDS is 149-90-1, which keeps him at 62.0 percent.

Buccaneers at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Falcons wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but they say they’re playing to win in Week 17. They shouldn’t have much trouble winning against the Bucs, who have collapsed at the end of the season.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 34, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  The Bucs haven’t been the same team since they nearly beat the Falcons in Tampa.  The Falcons are still trying to prove that they’re one of the best teams in the league.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.

Jets at Bills

MDS’s take: Football fans, the Greg McElroy-Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterback matchup you’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Fitzpatrick will throw a couple of touchdown passes in what may be his final start in Buffalo.

MDS’s pick: Bills 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  The Jets have folded the tents, even though the circus is still in town.  Buffalo celebrates the news of a new lease with a home win to end the season, just in time for plenty of changes.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 27, Jets 14.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: At first glance this might look like a big game, matching up two playoff teams. But with the Bengals locked into the No. 6 seed and the Ravens highly likely to end up with the No. 4 seed, neither of these teams has a lot to play for. I think the Ravens, however, will be a little more motivated to build on the momentum from last week’s win over the Giants and will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 21, Bengals 14.

Florio’s take:  This meaningless game has plenty of meaning for the Bengals, who need to convince themselves that they can beat the Ravens, in order to obtain the confidence that they can do something else they haven’t done in an even longer time — win in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 27, Ravens 20.

Bears at Lions

MDS’s take: In 2000, the Lions were 9-6 heading into Week 17 and needed only to beat the 4-11 Bears to make the playoffs. Instead, the Bears pulled the upset and Lions owner William Clay Ford cleaned house and began the disastrous Matt Millen era. This year it’s the 9-6 Bears who need to beat the 4-11 Lions to have a shot at the playoffs. I’ll take the Lions to get their revenge in an upset.

MDS’s pick: Lions 28, Bears 24.

Florio’s take:  Rodney Harrison declared while watching the Lions lose to the Falcons that Detroit’s body language suggests the Lions have quit.  The Bears haven’t.  Sometimes, it’s that easy.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 24, Lions 10.

Texans at Colts

MDS’s take: The Texans are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while the Colts are already locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Houston has more to play for and is a better team and will win this one going away.

MDS’s pick: Texans 36, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:  The Texans have never won in Indianapolis.  They need it this time more than ever.  But the Colts will have coach Chuck Pagano back, and even if the Colts leave so much on the field that it will make it harder to win in the playoffs, they’ll leave it all on the field to beat the Texans.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 27, Texans 23.

Packers at Vikings

MDS’s take: This is the biggest game played in Minnesota since Brett Favre led the Vikings to a divisional playoff win over the Cowboys three years ago. Unfortunately for Vikings fans, they’re hosting a Packers team that’s peaking at the right time. I like Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers to a high-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Packers 35, Vikings 27.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings are playing for a postseason berth.  The Packers are playing for a bye.  The Packers remain the better team, and they have every reason to demonstrate that on Sunday.  To the delight of the Bears.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Vikings 21.

Dolphins at Patriots

MDS’s take: A win probably won’t be enough to earn New England a first-round playoff bye, but the Patriots will be motivated to try — and to wash out the bad taste of back-to-back disappointing performances, in a loss to the 49ers and a close win over the Jaguars.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 41, Dolphins 14.

Florio’s take:  The Pats still have a crack at a bye.  That’s all the incentive they need to take out the Dolphins for the second time this month.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 34, Dolphins 17.

Panthers at Saints

MDS’s take: It’s a meaningless game for both teams, but that doesn’t make it a bad game: Both of these teams have been playing good football in recent weeks, despite falling short of the playoffs. I like the Panthers to keep their winning streak going and make a statement that they’re a team to keep an eye on in 2013.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 24, Saints 21.

Florio’s take:  New Orleans is trying to finish on a high note.  And they are succeeding.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 34, Panthers 10.

Eagles at Giants

MDS’s take: The Eagles quit on Andy Reid months ago. The Giants have looked in the last couple weeks like they quit on Tom Coughlin. Both of these teams are slouching toward the end of the season, but the Giants have more to play for.

MDS’s pick: Giants 14, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  The Giants are playing for pride, along with a sliver of hope that they could make it to the playoffs if enough other teams lose.  If the Giants find a way in, there’s a pretty good chance they won’t lose again.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Eagles 20.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: This game is meaningless, and I’m tempted to pick the Browns on the theory that the Steelers will be feeling a hangover from their disappointing Week 16 loss. But the Browns have gone in the tank over the last couple of weeks, and at this point I’m not sure I’d pick them to win on the road against anyone.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Browns 9.

Florio’s take:  The Browns haven’t swept the Steelers since 1988, 11 years before the current edition of the Browns was born.  With rampant changes looming in Cleveland, the Steelers still have enough gas in the tank to avoid getting punked by the franchise they’ve owned since 1999 (even though the Browns are now technically owned by a guy who still owns a chunk of the Steelers).

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Browns 10.

Jaguars at Titans

MDS’s take: Last time the Titans suffered a humiliating blowout loss and were called out by their owner, they responded by winning the next game. I think they’ll do it again.

MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Jaguars 14.

Florio’s take:  Bud Adams isn’t happy with his coaching staff.  He’ll be slightly less unhappy after Sunday, but still unhappy enough to clean house.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Jaguars 16.

Chiefs at Broncos

MDS’s take: Knowing they need to win in order to earn a first-round playoff bye, the Broncos will pound the Chiefs, who have nothing to play for other than the first pick in next year’s draft — which Kansas City will earn by losing.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Chiefs 10.

Florio’s take:  With 10 straight wins each by at least seven points, the Broncos could be the best team in the playoff field.  They’re definitely good enough to continue chasing a bye week.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 34, Chiefs 10.

Raiders at Chargers

MDS’s take: With Norv Turner virtually assured of being fired after the game, his team will send him out a winner in an AFC West contest that doesn’t really matter for much of anything.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 24, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take:  Norv Turner has one last chance to change the owner’s mind.  It won’t matter.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 24, Raiders 10.

Cardinals at 49ers

MDS’s take: San Francisco will shake off Sunday night’s thrashing in Seattle to clinch the NFC West.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Cardinals 3.

Florio’s take:  The Niners are on the brink of squandering the NFC West title that we were ready to hand them back in September.  If they can’t beat the Cardinals and Brian Hoyer at home, San Fran doesn’t even deserve to be in the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 31, Cardinals 13.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: No one wants to play the Seahawks right now. They’re destroying everything in their paths. The Rams will be no different.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 45, Rams 7.

Florio’s take:  The Seahawks, who lost their first round of NFC West games, have been exacting revenge in a big way.  They finish the job on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 41, Rams 17.

Cowboys at Redskins

MDS’s take: In the biggest game of the day, the Cowboys will ride Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to a high-scoring win. I suspect that Robert Griffin III is hurting more than he’s letting on and won’t be able to move as effectively as he did in the Redskins’ Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys. Dallas will take the NFC East crown.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 31, Redskins 28.

Florio’s take:  For the second straight year, the NFC East title game returns to prime time in Week 17.  For the second straight year, the home team advances.  For the second straight year, the Cowboys come up short.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 24, Cowboys 21.

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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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