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PFT’s Week 17 picks

Griffin Reuters

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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Chargers lose Melvin Ingram for at least eight weeks

San Diego Chargers Minicamp Getty Images

The injury woes that have plagued Melvin Ingram continue.

Ingram, the outside linebacker who was the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in 2012, has been placed on injured reserve with the return designation. That means he’ll miss at least the next eight weeks.

Ingram had started the first two games of this season but suffered a hip injury last week against the Seahawks. Ingram missed 12 games last year with a torn ACL.

The Chargers haven’t announced a corresponding move to fill Ingram’s spot on the 53-player roster.

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Saturday one-liners

Dick LeBeau AP

Rookie OT Seantrel Henderson has been impressive in Buffalo.

Trading up to draft Dion Jordan looks like a mistake for Miami.

Patriots RB Shane Vereen may not be a workhorse, but he has an important role to play in New England’s offense.

The Jets will have their hands full with the Bears’ receivers.

Jeremy Zuttah is showing himself to be a leader on the Ravens’ offensive line. (Maybe they should move him to the front office, which also needs some leadership.)

Bengals CB Pacman Jones says he isn’t particularly worried about facing Titans QB Jake Locker.

Browns QB Johnny Manziel swears he’s proud of Brian Hoyer.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau says of Panthers QB Cam Newton, “He’s the quintessential modern quarterback.”

Texans WR Andre Johnson is on pace to reach 950 career receptions in his 158th game, which would tie him with Marvin Harrison for the fastest pace ever to that milestone.

The Colts may need to blitz more to bring pressure on the quarterback, which is lacking with Robert Mathis out for the season.

With 10 points in the last six quarters, the Jaguars need more offense.

Titans TE Delanie Walker has picked up the new offense quickly.

Broncos DT Marvin Austin plans to play tomorrow, even after his father died yesterday.

Ron Parker was pressed into playing safety on short notice but acquitted himself nicely for the Chiefs.

The Raiders may be without two starting linebackers on Sunday.

The players in the Chargers’ secondary take pride in their tackling.

Cowboys K Dan Bailey is looking to set a franchise record.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin is loosening up by allowing music on the practice field.

Eagles CB Cary Williams doesn’t give a damn about his reputation.

Kirk Cousins has exercised patience throughout his football career. (But he only had to wait until Week Two to get to play this year.)

The Bears are happy for their old pal Devin Hester breaking the NFL return record on Thursday.

Lions WR Ryan Broyles has been inactive for the first two games of the season, but he’s hoping to get his chance.

Packers GM Ted Thompson will live and die with his philosophy of building a team by drafting talent and developing it.

The Vikings are preparing for a loud atmosphere in New Orleans.

Falcons WR Harry Douglas got some good news on the injury front.

The Panthers’ turnover margin is plus-6 through two games.

The father of Saints DE Cameron Jordan will be rooting against the Saints on Sunday.

The Bucs need to find a way to overcome adversity.

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams says defensive end Robert Quinn is playing well against the run.

The Seahawks’ tackling has left something to be desired through two games.

The Niners have been outscored 35-3 in the final two quarters in the first two weeks.

Cardinals DL coach Brentson Buckner says Calais Campbell’s 10-tackle effort in Week Two “can be a regular day for him.”

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Brandon Marshall questionable, Dee Milliner doubtful for Monday night

Dee Milliner AP

After a limited practice Saturday, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall is questionable for Monday night’s game at the Jets, according to the league’s injury report.

The practice was Marshall’s first since suffering an ankle injury in the season-opening loss to Buffalo. He caught three TD passes in the Bears’ Week Two win at San Francisco despite not practicing at all.

The Bears’ other starting wideout, Alshon Jeffery, is questionable with a hamstring injury. But like Marshall, he played through the injury a week ago, and he’s put in three limited practices this week. These would seem to be positive signs for his readiness for Chicago’s second consecutive road game in primetime.

While the Bears appear on track to have Marshall and Jeffery, they will not have center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle). Both have been ruled out for a second straight game. Brian de la Puente will replace Garza, with Michael Ola to step in for Slauson.

The Bears will also be without outside linebacker Shea McClellin, who has missed the last two practices with a hand injury. Jon Bostic reportedly could get the call in his place against New York.

The Jets, meanwhile, are in danger of not having cornerback Dee Milliner in the lineup Monday night against Chicago’s strong passing game. Milliner is doubtful with quadricep and ankle injuries, and he missed a second straight practice on Saturday. Darrin Walls could start if Milliner can’t go.

The only other pressing Jets injury concern is the status of wideout Eric Decker, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. However, Decker did see his first practice work of the week on Saturday, putting in a limited workout.

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In Rice case, what does “accountable” really mean?

Goodell AP

Commissioner Roger Goodell has said on multiple occasions that he’s accountable for the many problems with the Ray Rice investigation and ultimate suspension.  But what does it really mean to be accountable?

For players, coaches, team executives, and owners who break the rules, it means fines and suspensions.  For teams, it means fines and the potential loss of draft picks or salary cap space.

For folks in the league office, accountability looks to be simply a word.

To confirm that, look no farther that the deposition given by Goodell in the Super Bowl ticket fiasco lawsuit.  PFT has obtained a copy of the 317-page document, and an intriguing exchange between Goodell and lawyer Michael Avenatti begins at page 119.  It appears below.

Q.  Who has been held accountable, if anyone, with the NFL with regard to what happened with the temporary seats?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection, vague.

Goodell:  What do you mean, accountable?

Q.  Have you ever used the word accountable?

Goodell:  Yes, sir.

Q.  All right.  What do you understand the word accountable to mean?

Goodell:  You’ve asked me in the beginning that you wanted me to make sure that I understand the question.  I’m trying to understand your question.

Q.  That’s not my question.  My question is what do you generally — what have you generally understood the word accountability to mean when you’ve used it.

Goodell:  Is that the first question that you asked or — I’m asking for a clarification on your question.

Q.  I’m going to strike the question and I’m going to ask you another question.

Goodell:  Okay.

Q.  All right.  What have you generally understood the word accountable to mean when you’ve used it?

Goodell:  That you are responsible, and that you take responsibility.

Q.  And that you make good on your failure, right?

Attorney Thad Behrens:   Objection.  It mischaracterizes his testimony.

Goodell:  I think I answered your question.

Q.  Have you held anyone with the NFL accountable for the failures relating to the temporary seats at Super Bowl 45?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection, vague.  You can answer.

Goodell:  Again, I’ve been very clear.  We’re all accountable for this.  Our staff has worked hard to contact those fans to make the offer.  We continue to still make good on those offers, and we will do so.  So yes, we’re all accountable for that.

Q.  Have you caused anyone to be disciplined in connection with their — the failures relating to the temporary seat issues at Super Bowl 45?

Goodell:  To be disciplined?

Q.  Yeah.  You’re familiar — you’re familiar with the word disciplined, right?

Goodell:  Yes.

Q.  Okay.  I mean you hand out discipline on a consistent basis, in connection with being the leader of the NFL, in an effort to protect the shield, right?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection.  You’re badgering the witness.

Goodell:  (Laughing).

Q.  No, I’m stating a fact.  I mean he — it’s well known that he does that.  Right, Mr. Goodell?

Attorney Thad Behrens:  Objection.  This is outside the scope.

Goodell:  I apply discipline –

Q.  Okay.

Goodell:  — in the context of violation of our policies.

Q.  All right.

Goodell:  — when a team violates policies, lawyer or other individuals involved with the NFL.

Q.  Have you applied any discipline whatsoever in connection with the failures surrounding the temporary seating issues at Super Bowl 45?

Goodell:  Discipline wouldn’t be the word I would use.  There are people that recognize our responsibility, and there was an impact for that, for all of us.

Q.  Have you caused anyone to lose their job over the failures in connection with the Super Bowl 45 temporary seats?

Goodell:  No, I have not.

The questioning then focused on whether any employee has suffered a consequence to his or her job because of the Super Bowl ticket fiasco.  Goodell explained that, generally, it can affect bonus payments and promotions.  Pressed for the name of any person affected by the situation, Goodell did not provide one.

Many have assumed that, in the Rice case, one or more key employees of the league office will be held accountable with the loss of their jobs.  Based on the Super Bowl ticket fiasco, however, that assumption could be erroneous.

After all, if anyone in the upper reaches of the NFL loses his job now, it could become very hard to explain why the axe of accountability didn’t fall one level higher.

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Vikings add Charles Johnson to fill Adrian Peterson’s roster spot

charlesjohnson AP

The Vikings have added a player to the roster to fill the spot vacated by putting Adrian Peterson on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list that most people had never heard of until this crazy week in the NFL.

That player is receiver Charles Johnson, who was signed off the Browns’ practice squad.

Johnson was initially a seventh-round pick of the Packers last year and didn’t make Green Bay’s 53-man roster but did make the practice squad. The Browns then signed Johnson away from the Packers’ practice squad and put him on the active roster, although he didn’t play in any regular-season games.

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was the Browns’ offensive coordinator last year, so Johnson arrives already knowing Turner’s offense.

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Ravens reiterate that ESPN report contains “inaccuracies,” without identifying one

Byrne Getty Images

In response to Friday afternoon’s bombshell report from ESPN regarding the Ravens’ gross mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation, the Ravens said only that the report contains “numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings.”

But the Ravens didn’t mention a single error, inaccuracy, false assumption, or misunderstanding. And they still haven’t.

Speaking to the media in connection with the Ray Rice jersey exchange, in which more than 7,000 fans participated, Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said (via Rick Ritter of CBS Baltimore), “There are inaccuracies in the report. We’ve been transparent and will continue to be.”

Exactly when have the Ravens been transparent?  Sure, plenty of folks started talking after the second Rice video was released.  Before that, however, the Ravens seemed to be focused on privately and publicly propping up Rice, wrapping their arms around him even though, according to the ESPN report, the organization knew that he had swung his closed fist into his then-fiancée’s jaw, knocking her “the f–k out.”

This is new territory for us,” Byrne said.  “It’s an unusual time for the franchise.  We’re learning as we go.”

They need to be learning — and they need to be sharing — exactly what they contend is wrong with the ESPN report.  If there are “numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings,” it should be easy to identify and rebut them.  After all, the topic has been a fairly hot one for the franchise in the last 12 days, and previously.

“Right now we’re focused on Cleveland and will address this next week,” Byrne said.

Sorry, but that’s not good enough.  The story is too big and its implications too significant to justify hiding behind a looming game day.  Besides, it’s not as if the players will be the ones crafting the response.

The deliberate delay creates the impression not of transparency but more damage control.  Instead of standing up and telling the truth, it seems the Ravens have used the cover of an approaching contest to justify planning and plotting a plausible response to the report.  One that will preserve the employment of as many people as possible.  One that will keep the league office from dropping the hammer on anyone who may have misrepresented to the Commissioner the severity of the incident.

One that will keep relevant law-enforcement officials from commencing the process of exploring whether any state of federal laws were broken in connection with the team’s apparent effort to minimize Rice’s ultimate legal responsibility, to shorten his suspension, and to keep the public from realizing exactly what Rice had done.

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Underappreciated Darren Sproles glad to show “I still have it”

sproles AP

Darren Sproles has been underappreciated throughout his football career. Maybe that changed after his fantastic performance on Monday night, but probably not.

Sproles, who in leading the Eagles to a win over the Colts on Monday night became the first player ever to top 150 receiving yards, 25 rushing yards and 25 punt return yards in the same game, thinks he may have proven some people wrong if they believed before that game that he was slowing down at age 31.

“It’s just telling some people that I still have it,” Sproles told Philly.com. “It’s still me. That’s the reason I do it.”

To see how underappreciated Sproles has been, just consider:

– Sproles has never been selected to a Pro Bowl — not even the year he set the NFL’s all-time record for total yards in a season. As noted by Philly.com, Sproles has more all-purpose yards than any player since he entered the NFL in 2005, and every other player in the top 10 in all-purpose yards since 2005 has been to at least two Pro Bowls.

– Sproles lasted until the fourth round of the NFL draft despite an All-American career at Kansas State and an insanely impressive Combine workout that showed off not just his good speed and agility but incredible upper-body strength: He managed 23 reps on the 225-pound bench press, a stronger showing than many big, powerful NFL running backs including Marshawn Lynch (20 reps) and Steven Jackson (16 reps).

– After four excellent seasons with the Chargers, they let him walk. After three excellent seasons with the Saints, they traded him for a fifth-round draft pick.

The Eagles are the beneficiaries of that. Chip Kelly has raved about Sproles not only for what he does in games but for his work ethic, calling him, “the most fit guy on the team.” The Eagles may be the first team that really appreciates how much Sproles has to offer.

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Details of Kaepernick fine still not clear

Kaepernick AP

The NFL has fined 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for “direct[ing] abusive language toward your opponent.”  Kaepernick has appealed.  Beyond that, not much is known.

The incident happened after the conclusion of a play in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Bears.  It drew both a flag and, as of Tuesday, a fine in the amount of $11,025.

The infraction arises under Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1(b) of the official rules, which prohibits “[t]he use of abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League.”

While Kaepernick has maintained that he said nothing offensive or profane, he is accused of using abusive language.  It’s unclear what that includes, especially since (per a source with knowledge of the situation) the letter informing Kaepernick of the fine doesn’t say what he supposedly said.

Kaepernick’s appeal process will shed plenty of light on the situation.  The league and the team undoubtedly will be scouring over any and all available audio generated by NFL Films or by the team.  Coincidentally, the 49ers had a microphone on receiver Michael Crabtree during the game.  A replay of the apparent incident, following an interception thrown by Kaepernick, shows Crabtree in Kaepernick’s immediate vicinity.

From the NBC broadcast, it’s clear that Bears defensive lineman Lamarr Houston gave Kaepernick a Cliff-Harris-to-Roy-Gerela-style attaboy after the turnover, that Kaeperick responded with a one-handed shove, and that side judge Laird Hayes intervened as the two men were jawing at each other. Perhaps Crabtree’s microphone or some other device picked up what Kaepernick said.

Either way, the details of this one will help all players understand what they can and can’t say during a game.

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Adrian Peterson breaks silence to say he asked for a polygraph

peterson AP

Adrian Peterson has made his first public comment since Wednesday, when the Vikings cast him aside as a result of widespread outrage following his indictment on charges of injuring his son. And his comment is that he asked for a polygraph test.

Peterson wrote on Twitter that he made the polygraph test and added, “Share that as well!” in an apparent belief that it’s an important part of the story that has been publicly overlooked.

It’s unclear why Peterson thinks that’s an important thing to share. A polygraph, or lie detector, is not particularly reliable and is not admissible in court. It’s also irrelevant to a case like Peterson’s, where the accused has already admitted what he did: Peterson acknowledged both to the police and through a statement released by his attorney that he beat his son with a switch, causing cuts and bruises to his son’s legs, back, buttocks and scrotum. The question a jury will ultimately settle is whether that constitutes negligent or reckless injury to a child under Texas law, not whether Peterson is telling the truth about what happened.

So let’s assume that Peterson asked for a polygraph because he wants to show he is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the “whooping” he says he gave his son. That changes nothing about the fact that the “whooping” left his son injured.

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Jameis Winston just doesn’t get it

jameis AP

Jameis Winston just doesn’t get it.

Winston, Florida State’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, doesn’t get how a leader is supposed to act, or for that matter how a decent human being is supposed to act. He certainly doesn’t get how NFL teams — all of them shaken over the last two weeks by the increased scrutiny on players’ off-field misconduct — want their quarterbacks to conduct themselves.

Florida State announced late last night that Winston will not play at all in today’s game against Clemson. He had initially been suspended for the first half of the game for screaming an obscene phrase in the student union; the suspension for the second half reportedly comes because Florida State discovered that Winston lied to school authorities about some of the circumstances surrounding that incident.

Winston, of course, has had many prior off-field incidents that will make NFL teams question whether his immense talent is worth the headaches. By far the most serious is the accusation from a female Florida State student that he raped her. Winston was not charged, and the Tallahassee Police Department botched that investigation so thoroughly that we’ll never know what really happened.

Winston’s other incidents were far less serious than a sexual assault, but the sum total of them is to question whether he cares at all about the potential consequences of his actions: He was arrested for shoplifting crab legs. He was involved in a BB gun battle that damaged his apartment complex, and hours later Florida State police stopped him and handcuffed him for carrying a pellet gun near campus (he said he was using it to shoot at squirrels). Before last season’s national championship game, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher kicked Winston out of practice and explained later that he wanted Winston to understand that “it’s not about you.”

Add all these things up, and it’s easy to see why NFL teams would decide that they simply don’t want to deal with Winston, no matter how good a quarterback he is. Winston appears to be a player with great talent who lacks the maturity to be a franchise quarterback. Kind of like Ryan Leaf.

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Goodell defends Mueller’s investigation

Mueller Getty Images

When is an independent investigation not really independent?  It depends.

Actually, it doesn’t.  True independence includes both the ability and willingness to ask questions and to make decisions unfettered by any concern other than getting to the truth.

For investigations that are aimed at securing the confidence of the public at large, the appearance of independence also becomes critical.

Commissioner Roger Goodell blurred those lines while defending on Friday the decision to ask former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice case.  Whether Mueller actually behaves independent of any concern other than getting to the truth will be impossible to prove without getting inside his mind.  While his extensive service as FBI director provides a patina of credibility, plenty of people who have held plenty of big titles have succumbed to human nature or other factors that result in the person straying from the goal of doing the right thing in every situation and circumstance.

The bigger question is the appearance of independence.  The selection of an employee of a law firm with multiple tentacles to the NFL prevents the investigation from having the appearance that it will indeed be independent.

“The law firm that he works for is a law firm with extremely close ties to the NFL,” CNN’s Rachel Nichols said to Goodell.  “You guys paid that law firm to help you negotiate some television deals.  The president of the Ravens, who will be key in this whole investigation, worked at that law firm for more than 30 years.  Why hire someone with even the appearance of impropriety and how do you expect us to accept everything?”

“I respectfully disagree,” Goodell said.  “You are questioning the integrity of the director of the FBI.  Yes, that firm has represented us in the past.  They have also been on the other side in litigation against the NFL.  So this is a highly respected individual, the longest serving director in the FBI.”

Nichols wasn’t satisfied.  (J. Edgar Hoover probably wasn’t, either.)

“Part of the idea of this is to restore public trust,” she said.  “So even if he does a flawless investigation isn’t there an element here of your leaving the door open for doubt?”

“Well, Rachel, unfortunately we live in a world where there is a lot of litigation,” Goodell said.  “A lot of law firms and maybe people have had some interaction with us in the past.  Robert Mueller has not.  The law firm may have.  We are hiring Robert Mueller, his credentials to do an independent investigation reporting to the owners and I’m confident that will be the case.”

But there are thousands of law firms and thousands of lawyers capable of doing a fair and impartial investigation.  Mueller’s appointment gives the investigation credibility on the surface, because he ran the FBI.  The failure to pick a lawyer from a firm with no past connection and, most importantly, no aspiration for any future connection to the NFL prevents the investigation from having the appearance of independence.

Ultimately, the decision to pick Mueller was just another mistake in the chain of blunders that has turned the NFL on its head.  At a time when it’s become very popular for people connected to the NFL to talk about getting it right, how about we stop saying it and start doing it?

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Josh McCown expected to miss several games with thumb injury

joshmccown Getty Images

A bad start to the season for Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown is getting worse.

The thumb injury McCown suffered in Thursday night’s loss in Atlanta is likely to force McCown to miss “several weeks,” a source told Alex Marvez of FOX Sports.

That would mean Mike Glennon, the 2013 third-round pick who became the starter during his rookie year, will start. Glennon showed some promise during his rookie season, but the new regime in Tampa obviously didn’t think he was ready to start, because the Bucs gave McCown a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason to become the starter.

Unfortunately, McCown hasn’t done much with the starting job: After throwing just one interception in 224 passes last season, McCown has thrown four interceptions in just 68 passes this season. Although Bucs coach Lovie Smith has insisted that McCown is the starter when healthy, Glennon will get an opportunity to show he deserves to keep the starting job.

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Week Three skill position injury report — Friday

Arian Foster AP

Here’s a rundown of skill position players in Sunday games listed on the Week Three injury report. Inactives are declared 90 minutes before game time:

OUT

Giants WR Odell Beckham (hamstring).

Washington QB Robert Griffin III (ankle).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (hand).

Bengals WR Marvin Jones (foot).

Jaguars WR Marqise Lee (hamstring).

Saints RB Erik Lorig (ankle).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

Dolphins RB Knowshon Moreno (elbow).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (hamstring).

Bengals TE Alex Smith (biceps).

Browns RB Ben Tate (knee).

Chiefs RB/WR De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring).

DOUBTFUL

Steelers RB Dri Archer (ankle).

Bengals RB Rex Burkhead (knee).

Eagles WR Josh Huff (shoulder).

Lions RB Montell Owens (hamstring).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

QUESTIONABLE

Chargers WR Keenan Allen (groin).

Rams WR Tavon Austin (knee).

Panthers WR Jason Avant (thigh).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder).

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (ankle).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Panthers WR Jerricho Cotchery (thigh).

49ers TE Vernon Davis (ankle, knee).

Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar (knee).

Washington PK Kai Forbath (right groin).

Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (foot).

Jaguars TE Clay Harbor (calf).

Rams TE Cory Harkey (knee).

Rams QB Shaun Hill (thigh).

Cardinals TE Rob Housler (hip).

Washington WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder).

Raiders RB Maurice Jones-Drew (hand).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Colts WR Hakeem Nicks (illness).

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer (right shoulder).

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce (thigh).

Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (concussion).

Vikings WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Raiders WR Rod Streater (hip).

Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh).

PROBABLE

Lions RB Joique Bell (knee).

Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee).

Browns WR Travis Benjamin (knee).

Panthers WR Corey Brown (ankle).

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Eagles TE Zach Ertz (knee).

Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Ravens QB Joe Flacco (illness).

Chargers TE Antonio Gates (hamstring).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Texans TE Garrett Graham (ankle).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee).

Seahawks TE Cooper Helfet (knee).

Washington RB Roy Helu (quadricep).

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (groin).

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (ankle).

49ers RB Carlos Hyde (calf).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Jaguars RB Storm Johnson (ankle).

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (back).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Titans RB Dexter McCluster (foot).

Broncos PK Brandon McManus (right groin).

Seahawks RB Christine Michael (hamstring).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle).

Steelers WR Lance Moore (groin).

Saints WR Joe Morgan (knee).

Panthers TE Greg Olsen (calf).

Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (chest).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen).

Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Panthers RB Mike Tolbert (chest).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs).

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst (right finger).

Bills WR Robert Woods (ankle).

Washington RB Darrel Young (neck).

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Bruschi says it’s time for a new Commissioner

Goodell AP

So how is Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Friday press conference being received?  Based on a couple of former players who currently work for ESPN, not too good.

On ESPN, Mark Schlereth and Tedy Bruschi made some strong comments in response to Goodell’s remarks.  Bruschi’s remarks were particularly pointed, and strong.

We needed someone to go up there and be a leader,” Bruschi said.  “To be a leader and say something substantial.  To give all of the public out there, all of the fans, all of the former players, all of the current players.  To give them hope that things will be done right, and that wasn’t done because I don’t think Roger Goodell is the guy that can do that anymore.”

Bruschi then was reminded that Goodell has said he hasn’t considered resigning.

“Fixing a mistake is one thing, but he can’t escape this,” Bruschi said.  “He can’t escape this.  Because the NFL, a big thing about them also is image.  How the NFL is portrayed.  And as long as Roger Goodell is leading the NFL and he’s the face behind the shield, you will have the same emotions you had today, watching that press conference, listening to him speak in circles, wondering, ‘Man, what is this guy talking about?’  So as you continue and move forward and Roger Goodell is the Commissioner, you will continue to feel that way every time you see him.

“In my opinion, in my personal opinion, being a former player that spent 13 years in this league trying to do the right thing, I want a new Commissioner to lead my league.  I want a new Commissioner to go out there and say the right things and be that leader, because right now, Roger Goodell is not that.  And I don’t think he can ever be that.  Roger Goodell needs to step down and move on, and we need new leadership.  The big reset button needs to be pressed on the NFL right now, and it starts by Roger Goodell stepping down.”

That won’t happen until owners begin to share Bruschi’s feelings.  Currently, there’s no indication that any do.  After Friday’s events, from a heavily criticized press conference to another bombshell report from ESPN suggesting a full-blown coverup, who knows where this thing is heading?

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ESPN stands by its Ravens report

Rice Getty Images

The Ravens contend that ESPN’s very thorough, heavily detailed, and thoroughly troubling report regarding the Ravens’ mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation contains “numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings.”  But the Ravens haven’t identified any “errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings.”

Regardless, ESPN isn’t flinching.

“We stand by our reporting,” an ESPN spokesman told PFT on Friday night.

Considering that ESPN once canceled the popular Playmakers series under overt and express pressure from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, it’s safe to assume ESPN dotted all i’s and crossed all t’s before loading the cannon and aiming it at the Ravens and, as a practical matter, the league office.  The fact that ESPN and the NFL have a multi-billion-dollar broadcast partnership makes the report inherently more credible.

Put simply, ESPN isn’t going to swing and miss on something this important when it potentially undermines such an important relationship.

Meanwhile, the Ravens seem to be flailing.  If they dispute any, some, or all of the facts contained in the report, they should say so.  Surely, they know whether each and every allegation or statement on such an important and persistent issue is true.  Addressing the alleged “errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings” should be simple.

Under the circumstances, it’s definitely necessary.

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