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Ravens, 49ers win to set up Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl

Baltimore Ravens head coach Harbaugh argues that New England Patriots' Brady kicked his player as he slid to the turf on a first half run during the NFL AFC Championship football game in Foxborough Reuters

Jack Harbaugh played one year of professional football, with the AFL’s New York Titans in 1961. He began a long career as a high school and college coach in 1964. But Jack Harbaugh’s lasting impact on the game of football will be the fact that he had two sons in the two years between ending his playing career and beginning his coaching career.

On Super Bowl Sunday, John Harbaugh (born in 1962) will coach his Ravens against Jim Harbaugh (born in 1963) and the 49ers. Jack Harbaugh surely had high hopes for his two sons half a century ago, but even the proudest of fathers probably couldn’t have had such high hopes for what his two sons could accomplish in the family business.

Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh will be the dominant storyline in the two-week run-up to the Super Bowl. It will be the storyline you’re sick of hearing about long before kickoff. But it’s also a storyline we all should appreciate: This really is something special, to see two brothers coaching against each other on the biggest stage in American sports.

When the Ravens met the 49ers on Thanksgiving in 2011, it marked the first time two head-coach brothers faced each other in the NFL. John Harbaugh said at the time, “I think it’s an amazing thing. It’s an historic thing. It’s very special.”

To meet in the Super Bowl will be even more special. Perhaps most of all to Jack Harbaugh.

Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s action:

Colin Kaepernick is the player I’m most excited to see on Super Bowl Sunday. The 25-year-old Kaepernick is in only his second NFL season and will be starting only his 10th NFL game when the 49ers play the Ravens in two weeks. And if he leads the 49ers to a win, he’s going to change the way people think about the quarterback position. Kaepernick is an amazing runner, but he doesn’t have to run to beat you. In last week’s win over the Packers, Kaepernick set an NFL record with 181 rushing yards. So this week, the 49ers would surely make Kaepernick’s running a major part of the game plan, right? Wrong. Kaepernick had just two runs for 21 yards. But the threat of Kaepernick running to the outside helped open up Frank Gore running up the middle. Gore interrupted Kaepernick’s postgame press conference to hug Kaepernick and tell reporters how great his teammate is: “He can do whatever — throw the ball, run the ball,” Gore said. “He’s a different quarterback, man.”

Was Tom Brady trying to kick Ed Reed? With 20 seconds left before halftime, Brady foolishly slid feet-first and then failed to call timeout, running the clock all the way down to four seconds and costing the Patriots a chance to take a shot into the end zone. But he did something else on that play that raised some eyebrows as well: He lifted up his foot with Ravens safety Ed Reed approaching, as if he was trying to kick Reed. Just like with Ndamukong Suh on Thanksgiving, I don’t know if it was an intentional kick. But it sure looked suspicious.

For a first-team All-Pro, Dashon Goldson sure can be a liability in coverage. Goldson is the 49ers safety who got burned on Julio Jones’s first-quarter 46-yard touchdown, and as good as Goldson is at delivering big hits, he struggles staying with fast receivers on deep routes. Look for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who loves to throw deep, to test Goldson in the Super Bowl.

No one knows what constitutes a catch in the NFL anymore. When Atlanta’s Harry Douglas caught a big pass late in the fourth quarter, Jim Harbaugh challenged it and was sure he was going to win, and he went nuts on the sideline when he lost the challenge and the catch was upheld. I thought he was going to win the challenge, too, but I didn’t know for sure because no one ever knows for sure what a catch is in the NFL anymore. It’s simply impossible to accurately predict how a replay review of a close catch is going to be ruled.

Don’t go, Tony. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez says he plans to retire, but for my own selfish reasons I hope he changes his mind. Gonzalez is one of the most fun players to watch in the NFL, a player who always goes about his business the right way and is still among the game’s best tight ends at age 36. Plus, he’s five months older than me, and I’m not ready to concede that that means he’s at the right age to retire. I hope Gonzalez is in the playoffs with the Falcons again a year from now.

The 49ers need Aldon Smith to get his groove back in the Super Bowl. In the first 13 games of the regular season, Smith had 19.5 sacks. In the last three games of the regular season and two games of the playoffs, Smith has zero sacks. Whatever is wrong with Smith, San Francisco is going to have a tough time winning the Super Bowl without its best pass rusher stepping up.

David Akers is a liability for the 49ers. Akers led the league in missed field goals during the regular season, and he missed his only attempt in Atlanta on Sunday. If the Super Bowl comes down to a last-second 49ers field goal attempt, no one in San Francisco will feel confident as Akers takes the field.

One more game for Ray Lewis. The best defensive player of his generation — maybe the best defensive player in NFL history — will play his last game in two weeks in New Orleans. Lewis already has a Super Bowl MVP to his credit. Now he’ll try to give his career a storybook ending.

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PFT Live: Dolphins talk with Armando Salguero, Bills talk with Vic Carucci

Bill Lazor, Ryan Tannehill AP

The Dolphins liked what they saw from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver DeVante Parker at Tuesday’s organized team activity, which is a good development since they were two of the team’s biggest acquisitions this offseason.

On Wednesday’s PFT Live, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald will join Mike Florio for a closer look at which other players have also opened some eyes during the offseason program. From there, we’ll check in with three other teams for an OTA update.

Florio will talk Browns with Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, 49ers with Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area and Bills with Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News during the program.

We also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Washington parting ways with veteran cornerback Tracy Porter

LANDOVER, MD November 16: Washington Redskins cornerback Tracy Porter (22) knocks away a pass intended for Tampa Bay wide receiver Louis Murphy (18) bringing up a fourth down in the first quarter at FedEx field on November 16,  2014 in Landover, MD.    (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images) Getty Images

It sounded like it was just a delay and a long layover.

But Tracy Porter’s plane to Washington was apparently canceled, as the team released the veteran cornerback today.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, the decision to part ways with Porter saves $2.2 million in cap space. He was signed to a two-year, $6 million deal last year, but appeared in just two games.

When Porter and left tackle Trent Williams didn’t show for OTAs yesterday, Washington coach Jay Gruden said they had “flight issues.”

Here’s hoping Porter packed a parachute.

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Broncos excuse Antonio Smith from OTAs during investigation

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 20: Denver Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith hams it up for the camera May 20, 2015 during a portrait session at Dove Valley. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images) Getty Images

Teams usually want every player available to show up for OTAs.

But obviously for the Broncos, Antonio Smith is a special case.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, Smith will not participate in OTAs because of “personal reasons.”

That’s another way of saying “the Broncos don’t want him on their field wearing their or their sponsors’ logos while he’s part of an investigation in a child sexual abuse case in Texas.”

This is hardly an unexpected move, especially on the heels of the Bears’ release of Ray McDonald this week upon his latest arrest.

According to the report, Broncos General Manager John Elway met with coach Gary Kubiak and team president Joe Ellis about the matter, and had “several discussions” with Smith.

Smith hasn’t been charged, but the complaint is still being looked at by the Fort Bend County (Texas) District Attorney’s Office.

The Broncos signed the veteran defensive end to a one-year deal in April, saying they were unaware of the investigation at the time.

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Report: Washington releasing Chris Chester

Washington Redskins' OTA's Getty Images

Washington is parting ways with its starting right guard.

The club will release Chris Chester, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Chester has started 64 straight regular season games for Washington. Overall, he has started 111-of-137 contests since entering the NFL with Baltimore in 2006.

Chester was set to make $3.5 million in salary in 2015, per NFLPA data.

Second-year pro Spencer Long could be among the options to replace Chester at right guard. A Nebraska product, Long was a third-round pick of Washington in 2014, and he was listed as the top backup to Chester as a rookie.

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Freeman starts OTAs as starting tailback in Atlanta

Freeman Getty Images

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman may indeed be sharing touches in Atlanta this year. But one of them needs to be the starter.

And Freeman has started OTAs as the starter, as explained by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“I love the competitive attitude that Devonta brings,” coach Dan Quinn said Tuesday, via Ledbetter. “For me, when I talk about having the best offseason you’ve ever had, he’s one of the guys who says, ‘Coach I’m here. I’m ready.’ That shows you what kind of competitor that he is. . . . He doesn’t back down from anything. That’s one of the things I love about Devonta the most, [he’s ready for] every challenge.”

When Freeman appeared before the draft on PFT Live, he was even ready for the possibility of the Falcons taking running back Todd Gurley with the eighth overall pick in the draft. And the rest of Freeman’s teammates seem to be ready for the upcoming season, too; per Ledbetter, Quinn had 100-percent participation in the first OTA session of his head-coaching career.

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Texans look to be the choice for Hard Knocks

HardKnocksGetty Getty Images

Their head coach may not want it, but he’s apparently going to get it.

With all signs pointing to the Texans being the team that serves as the focal point for Hard Knocks in 2015, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says via Twitter that he expects the Texans to officially get the assignment.

Coach Bill O’Brien, who comes from the Bill Belichick School of Absolute and Total Secrecy, probably isn’t happy about it. And as McClain noted during a Tuesday visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, O’Brien may have to watch his language with the NFL Films microphones littering the practice field. (Then again, that didn’t affect Rex Ryan.)

The Texans may not be the most popular choice, but they’ll have some intriguing story lines, including a quarterback competition, a star running back who has a history of being standoffish and obtuse with the local media, one of the very best defensive players in the game, and a No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft who is trying to regain his form after microfracture surgery. Plus, profane or not, O’Brien likely will be an engaging, entertaining, and compelling figure.

So while NFL Films and HBO could have done better, they also could have done a lot worse. The fact that they’ll be doing this year’s show with a team whose coach likely would have preferred to pass the baton suggests that maybe more teams coached by men who would be inclined to find a way out of the assignment will accept the fact that, eventually, every team will be doing it.

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FIFA indictments are a warning to other sports leagues, including NFL

fifa-logo-getty Getty Images

After years of being widely regarded as a thoroughly corrupt organization, the international body that runs the sport of soccer has been targeted aggressively by the U.S. government.

“Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release, “frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.”

Regardless of how this plays out for the nine FIFA executives who have been indicted and for FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who has not been indicted yet but could be once the nine indicted FIFA executives begin clamoring to cut deals with prosecutors, it’s a warning to every other sports league, including the NFL. If you become big enough and sufficiently controversial and notorious, the feds eventually will start poking around your business. And your business had better be in proper order, or the feds will keep poking around your business until there’s enough evidence to begin to present facts about your business to a grand jury.

Let’s be clear on this. There’s no specific reason to believe that the NFL or anyone connected to it currently is doing anything that would attract a full-blown federal prosecution. But enough issues and problems have arisen in recent months and years to possibly spark general curiosity regarding whether a crime or two may be lurking behind certain aspects of the NFL’s great fortune.

During his recent appearing on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, former federal prosecutor turned NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith pointed out the difference in treatment experienced by players who get in trouble and by owners who get in trouble.

“You have the cases of Mr. Irsay, where somebody unfortunately overdosed to death in his house, you have the case involving the owner in Cleveland where the business that he was connected with was found to be in violation of federal law, and you have the case of the [Wilfs] where a state court judge ruled that the owners of the Minnesota Vikings engaged in fraud,” Smith said. “One one hand you have a Commissioner who was overturned three times” in disciplining Saints players for the bounty scandal, Ray Rice, and Adrian Peterson, “and on the other hand you have a Commissioner who has looked the other way three times.”

In recent years, Congress has become the political body most commonly mentioned as potentially inclined to not look the other way when an NFL controversy goes mainstream. But the work of Congress typically occurs in public. Privately, prosecutors can scratch the surface and peel the onion and systematically compile the evidence that may or may not ever lead to an affirmative attack on what has become a very large American target.

Again, there’s no specific reason to believe that the NFL or anyone connected to it currently is doing anything that would attract a full-blown federal prosecution. But the FIFA case should serve as a warning to all sports leagues that the smoke of perceived incompetence could result in someone with subpoena power choosing to search for the fire of actual corruption.

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Mariota showing off his speed at Titans’ OTAs

Mariota AP

Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota is making an impression at Organized Team Activities. Not with his arm so much as with his feet.

After practicing against Mariota for the first time, Titans linebacker Zach Brown was surprised by what he saw.

He is faster than I thought,” Brown told the Tennessean. “He is an athletic quarterback. He didn’t win the Heisman for nothing. One time he took off – I was guarding Delanie [Walker] – and I turned around and I was like, ‘Where is he?’ He is fast. He impressed me. He is still a rookie and he has to learn, but he is a cool guy. I haven’t seen him get frustrated yet.”

Brown, who ran track at North Carolina, is one of the NFL’s fastest linebackers. He knows speed when he sees it. And he’s impressed with the speed displayed by Mariota.

Still, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt cautions that it’s way too early to get overly excited about Mariota.

“It’s a process. That’s why you want to give him as many reps as you can, to get him more comfortable, get him prepared,” Whisenhunt said. “I guess the best assessment would be some good, some bad, probably probably what you’d expect.”

It’s nice that Mariota has impressed as a runner, but Whisenhunt will only be happy when Mariota impresses as a passer.

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Derek Carr taking snaps, but isn’t throwing

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was held out of last week’s practices because of a right ring finger injury that coach Jack Del Rio and Carr’s agent both suggested was a relatively minor concern.

Carr wasn’t a full participant in Tuesday’s practice, but he looks like he’s on the road to proving them correct. Carr didn’t throw the ball during the session, but handed it off while taking part in individual drills.

“Derek was able to take some snaps,” Del Rio said, via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. “We’ll bring him along. Things with him are progressing.”

Bair reports there’s “some hope” that Carr will resume throwing by next month’s minicamp and a stronger belief that all will be well for training camp, an outlook supported by the fact that the team is comfortable enough with Carr’s condition to have him on the field at all this week.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

NFL Draft Football AP

The Bills want to run as many plays as possible at OTAs.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wants to see how his players finish. (If they don’t finish in the playoffs, Philbin may be finished.)

Here’s a look at the Patriots’ rookie class.

The Jets hired seven new scouts.

Ex-Ravens DT Terrance Cody has an August court date on felony animal cruelty charges.

The Bengals demand versatility from their linebackers.

Browns coach Mike Pettine saw some sloppiness on the first day of OTAs.

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell says he has no one to blame but himself for his suspension at the start of the season.

After canceling yesterday’s OTA due to severe weather, the Texans’ OTA schedule now features practices today and tomorrow, plus June 1-2, 4, 8-9 and 11-12.

Colts DT Art Jones says last season was “frustrating as hell.”

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley isn’t thrilled that DE Chris Clemons has chosen to skip voluntary offseason work.

There’s really no quarterback competition in Tennessee, where the job is Marcus Mariota’s.

Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison loves the give and take with Peyton Manning.

Justin Houston is staying away from the Chiefs, but teammate Tamba Hali says they’re in touch.

Raiders rookie TE Clive Walford is standing out at OTAs.

In San Diego, Melvin Gordon is trying to get No. 25 from Darrell Stuckey.

Here’s a look at the top players on the Cowboys’ roster.

Tom Coughlin has shied away from joint practices in the past, but the Giants have agreed to hold one with the Bengals.

Did the Cowboys’ line make DeMarco Murray, and if so, what kind of player will he be in Philadelphia?

DeSean Jackson skipped OTAs to watch basketball.

Ex-Bear Marcus Spears is ripping his former team.

Lions backup QB Dan Orlovsky says RB Theo Riddick is too good not to put on the field.

Here are some of the questions facing the Packers at the start of OTAs.

What can the Vikings expect from rookie LB Eric Kendricks?

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is taking a hands-on approach to the team’s pass rush.

The Panthers want to see what they have from rookie WR Devin Funchess.

Saints rookie Hau’oli Kikaha was one of the best pass rushers in college football history.

Will the Glazers pony up to get Tampa a Super Bowl?

The Cardinals need their running game to take a step forward.

Former Rams G Davin Joseph and LB Will Herring remain unrestricted free agents, the only two players from the Rams’ free agent pool who haven’t signed contracts yet.

After 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick made a mess on social media on Tuesday, former Packers TE Tom Crabtree called him “#7tupid.”

There’s still no progress on a new contract for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

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Steelers putting an early emphasis on two-point conversions

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

It might not be the biggest play they run this season, but it’s the first, and that might mean something.

When the Steelers opened the offensive team drill portions of yesterday’s OTAs, they didn’t start at the 20 as they normally do. They moved to the 2-yard line, where they practiced two-point conversions to begin the day’s work.

“Coach told me we were going to do it, and I was a little prepared for it,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It was a little surprising knowing that we haven’t put in red zone yet and they haven’t put in red-zone defense yet. That’s going to be a big part of the game now: teams consciously going for two or at least debating it.”

Tomlin talked to his players about it before the drill, but didn’t expound afterward, saying: “We are not going to talk about it. We are just going to do it.”

With extra point attempts moved back to the 15, there will be more incentive for teams to go for two. But while many coaches will stick with the routines that they’re used to, some coaches will be more daring.

Tomlin’s 10-of-13 on two-pointers as Steelers coach, making all four of their attempts last year. Since 2001, the Steelers have a league-best 72.7 percent conversion rate on two-pointers.

And with an offense that’s so prolific in every area of the field, getting some early work on the new plays only makes sense.

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DeVante Parker draws rave reviews for early OTA work

Parker Getty Images

With most of the NFL conducting OTA sessions on Tuesday, it was hard for any one player to stand out. Dolphins rookie receiver DeVante Parker did.

Praise popped up for Parker on Twitter throughout the team’s practice session. Afterward, quarterback Ryan Tannehill added his two cents.

DeVante was great today,” Tannehill said, via the team’s official website. “We’ve been seeing [it] for the past few weeks just working on air, but today against the defense you got to see him make some tough catches with defenders on his back in traffic, and that’s what you want to see. You’ve got a guy with a big body who’s able to make strong catches with his hands in traffic. That’s when you’re able to cut it loose.”

Via Omar Kelly and Chris Perkings of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Parker was “catching everything thrown his way,” and he was “impressive” against veteran defenders like cornerback Brent Grimes.

Parker still has a long way to go before he’s making those plays in pads against full contact, and an even longer way to go before getting it done in games against guys like Darrelle Revis. But at a time when this is the closest thing to football we’ve seen since football season ended, it’s encouraging for Dolphins fans that they may have used the 14th overall pick in the draft on a player who is poised to become a difference maker — especially since they got him for a lot less than what they paid to get Ndamukong Suh.

It was also smart of the Dolphins to unload disgruntled wideout Mike Wallace onto the Vikings. If Minnesota hadn’t acquired him before the draft, the Vikings may have used pick No. 11 to reunite Parker with fellow former Louisville standout Teddy Bridgewater.

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Blake Bortles sees “big difference” after offseason work

Blake Bortles AP

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles set out to refine his game this offseason by working with quarterback guru Tom House and others in California.

His tutors were pleased with the results of Bortles’s labor and the reviews from Jacksonville are positive as well. Tight end Marcedes Lewis said he noticed a positive change in Bortles’s footwork, coach Gus Bradley said “we’ve seen really good improvement” and Bortles is pleased with where his mechanics are after the offseason attention.

“To me, it’s a big difference,” Bortles said, via ESPN.com. “To the guys that I worked with it’s a big difference. It’s just more efficient. It’s better. It’s something when I was able to talk to [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] a while back, there were things we wanted to work on to fix. It was good because we were on the same page with things I was trying to fix anyways.”

Bradley also said that he “appreciates” the work Bortles put in on his own this offseason and it’s certainly a good development for the team that their 2014 first-rounder is doing what he can to improve his game. As always, though, the effort will have to be matched with execution for Bortles and the Jacksonville offense to take the strides necessary for a climb toward a winning record.

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Adrian Peterson set to show up, for Adrian Peterson Day

Detroit Lions v Minnesota ViKings Getty Images

Some things are just bigger than OTAs.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who is staying away from the team’s practices, will make his first extended public appearance next month.

What’s the occasion? Well, none other than Adrian Peterson Day in his hometown of Palestine, Texas.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Peterson is expected to attend the June 13 shindig, which has been held each year since 2007.

Adrian will be there; that’s the plan,” family friend Kenneth Abrams said. “It will be business as usual. We’re a small town [of about 18,000] and everybody supports him, but I think it will be bigger this year.”

Peterson’s not busy with OTAs, as he’s still exerting whatever leverage he has (not much) to get loose from the Vikings. But they’ve got no real reason to let him go, and don’t seem particularly interested in doing so.

So it might be worth checking out the parade at Adrian Peterson Day, just to see who sponsors a float.

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Bills giving all their quarterbacks chances with the ones

mattcassel AP

As the Bills begin installing their revolutionary offense-without-a-quarterback, they’re going to let all the guys on the roster have some degree of a shot at running it.

According to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, the Bills split reps evenly among the four passers in OTAS Tuesday.

Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel each took snaps with the starters, while Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel worked with the backups.

The Bills are working on two fields at the same time, a plan designed to create maximum repetitions during the preseason work. And they plan to rotate, with Manuel and Taylor working with the starters today, with Cassel and Tuel with the reserves.

“You just keep rotating your guys like that,” Ryan said. “So they’re all going to get to work with each other. It’s not that big a deal right now. But the big thing is you want to evaluate all your players, not just the first team or second team. You want everybody and to give guys fair chances and a lot of times, the cream will rise to the top and you’ll see something.

“Some guy will pop off the tape that maybe you weren’t so sure of, and now you feel pretty good about him. And then, likewise, you might have somebody that you think you were counting on that really isn’t showing up.”

Ryan, as is his custom, praised a lot of guys, and said Manuel showed flashes that belie the idea that he might be on the bubble.

“The thing that stands out to me, it appears that EJ is getting a pretty good grasp of this system,” Ryan said. “He’s believing in what he’s seeing and he’s letting it rip. And that’s kind of what you want from the guy.

“Know what you’re seeing, believe in it, be right and pull the trigger. Let it fly. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do with all of these quarterbacks. It seems like it was pretty sharp.”

The Bills already have a good defense, and they’ve collected a bunch of impressive parts on offense. But until or unless they can get baseline competent play from any of their quarterbacks, it might not matter.

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