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Notre Dame Pro Day attendees knock Te’o as a first-round prospect

Manti Teo AP

As the calendar approaches April, the pre-draft spin cycle will soon hit overdrive.

The rules are simple.  Teams that don’t like a player will say good things about him, hoping that someone with a higher pick will take the player, which will push a more viable prospect down the board.  Teams that like a player will say bad things about him, hoping that he’ll still be there when the team makes its pick.

It’s important to keep those rules in mind when considering any off-the-record assessments of players by scouts and coaches who, depending on the teams for which they work, may be hoping to influence what other teams will or won’t do.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports spoke to scouts and coaches from multiple unnamed teams who attended the Monday Pro Day workout of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.  And none of those folks regard Te’o as a first-round pick.

“Nice player, but not worth a first-round pick.  Not in my view,” said an unnamed “AFC personnel man.”

“He’s not a star,” an AFC head coach said.  “If I’m taking a linebacker in the first round, I want a guy who can change my defense.  Trust me, I’ve been wrong about linebackers before, but this guy doesn’t fit the bill of what I spend a high pick on.”

“[H]e’s not good enough in my view,” an NFC defensive coordinator said.

We don’t doubt for a second that these sources said what Cole says they said.  But without knowing which team they work for, it’s impossible to know whether they really mean it.

It’s a common reality of the pre-draft process.  Scouts and coaches knock certain players, possibly because the scouts and coaches believe what they’re saying — and possibly because they have an agenda.  When it comes to the draft, everyone has an agenda.  When it comes to the strategy-driven NFL, everyone periodically (or more often) tells untruths to advance their agenda.

We’re not saying it’s right or it’s wrong.  That’s just the way it is.  But that makes it impossible to put much stock in the things being said by unnamed sources who may be secretly hoping that the player they’re knocking slides into their laps.

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Despite Lions’ surge, Caldwell doesn’t regret waiting for Cooter

Jim Caldwell, Chip Kelly AP

The Lions’ season turned around quickly when they fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and promoted Jim Bob Cooter to that role midseason.

But head coach Jim Caldwell said he doesn’t regret waiting this long to make the move, despite the fact they’re 3-1 since then and just dropped 45 points on the Eagles.

“No,” Caldwell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “That’s probably the simplest way [to answer that]. Like I said, it’s not that easy. It’s a difficult transition what we’re going through right now, even just in terms of our offensive system and how it’s functioning. It’s an unusual change.”

The Lions were 1-6 before Caldwell made the move, and the results have been dramatic. Quarterback Matt Stafford said he loved Cooter’s more aggressive play-calling, though that’s not the only reason things have turned around.

As much as anything, they’ve cut down on turnovers (three in four games after 18 in the first seven), and protected Stafford better and run the ball more, all things which lead to the opportunity for a more wide-open offense.

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Report: Bills lose Alex Carrington for rest of season

<> of the New England Patriots of the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Getty Images

The Bills came into Sunday’s game with injury issues on their defensive line and it appears they only got worse during their 30-22 loss to the Chiefs.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive end Alex Carrington tore his quad tendon and will have surgery on Monday to repair the injury. Per the report, Carrington’s season is over.

Carrington started in Kansas City because Mario Williams missed the game with a foot injury he suffered in the team’s Week 11 loss to the Patriots. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams also announced last week that he will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the season, so the Bills will need to dig a bit deeper on the depth chart for help up front on defense over the final five weeks.

Carrington was a third-round pick of the Bills in 2010 and played for the Rams in 2014 before returning to the Bills as a free agent during the offseason.

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Colts place Ahmad Bradshaw on IR for third straight year

Ahmad Bradshaw, Jude Adjei-Barimah AP

The Colts have turned their season around with an old quarterback.

But he won’t be able to rely on his old running back the rest of this season.

The Colts announced that Ahmad Bradshaw was going on injured reserve, after suffering a wrist injury against the Buccaneers.

This is his third straight season which has ended on IR, playing just 17 games for the Colts over that span. In 2013, it was a neck injury, with a broken leg sidelining him last year.

He came back on Oct. 14, and caught three touchdowns in six games. The Colts filled his roster spot by bringing back running back Zurlon Tipton.

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Dwayne Harris: We took win for granted

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 29: Wide receiver Dwayne Harris #17 of the New York Giants carries the ball against linebacker Preston Smith #94 of the Washington Redskins in the third quarter at FedExField on November 29, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham said after Sunday’s loss that there was “no explanation” for the lack of fight that his team showed during the first three quarters of a game that could have given them a comfortable lead in the NFC East.

One of his fellow wideouts has some explanation, although it’s not one that Beckham or anyone else in the organization should be happy to hear. Dwayne Harris said he thinks that the team’s lack of fire was caused by overlooking the challenge that the Redskins presented after beating them the last five times they played.

“I think we were ready to play but we probably took this team a little bit for granted because … I don’t know,” Harris said, via “I don’t know everyone else’s mindset but we came out slow. I think everyone was ready to play but we came out too slow.”

Every season brings several results that make it clear that no NFL team can afford to go into a game expecting that they can just go through the motions and get a victory. The Giants should know that better than anyone given how many times they’ve dropped games to mediocre or worse competition in the Tom Coughlin era, to say nothing of the times they’ve stepped up to win games as underdogs.

It’s not a mistake that they should make again over the final five weeks, but making it once might have been enough to dash their hopes of winning a division title.

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Report: Rob Gronkowski may only miss one game, if that

Brock Osweiler AP

Given his history and his importance to their offense, it’s natural that the Patriots held their breath when tight end Rob Gronkowski was carted off last night.

They can apparently exhale.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Gronkowski is “unlikely to miss more than one game,” and may not miss that one.

The Eagles would certainly take the absence, as it would leave Tom Brady with precious few possibilities to throw to. But it’s good news for the Patriots as they look to the playoffs, and because Bill Belichick looks like he secretly enjoys messing with reporters who ask injury questions.

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Jack Del Rio told alma mater no thanks when they called

Jack Del Rio, Dyrol Prioleau AP

Chip Kelly apparently wasn’t the only NFL head coach who was approached in some fashion about the Southern Cal opening.

According to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, the Trojans called Raiders coach Jack Del Rio about the opening, but he told them he wasn’t leaving his current gig.

Del Rio was a natural name for their short list, since he was a two-sport star at USC, as a linebacker and a catcher on the baseball team.

But with him just embarking on his second stint as a head coach (he was 68-71 in nine years with the Jaguars), it was likely too soon for him to consider going back to the alma mater.

The Raiders are 5-6 this year and on the fringe of the AFC playoff chase, with a promising young quarterback and hints of stability.

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Broncos suddenly have a contracts problem for 2016

Brock Osweiler AP

Good news, Broncos! Quarterback Brock Osweiler looks like he can play the position at a high level!

Bad news, Broncos! Copy and paste the above here!

In the fourth year of his rookie contract, Osweiler is now only five regular-season games away from becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency. And if he hits the open market after with last night’s snow-globe takedown of the Patriots on his resume, one of the handful of teams with horrible quarterback situations (you know who you are) will gladly pay Osweiler big money to take the reins.

Meanwhile, Broncos linebacker Von Miller is also rocketing toward unrestricted free agency, and the Broncos (like every NFL franchise) have only one franchise tag to use. So at least one of those two guys will need to be signed to a long-term deal before the deadline comes and goes for applying the tag to the other.

Meanwhile to the meanwhile, quarterback Peyton Manning has a $19 million base salary for 2016.

The easiest decision will be to move on from Manning. The harder decision will be to determine how much of Manning’s $19 million should go to Osweiler. If Osweiler decides to push for the open market (and his agents at CAA surely will know what the market will bear for him), the Broncos may need the full $19 million and then some in order to tag the quarterback — and they’ll also need to break the bank for Miller in order to keep him off the market, too.

Some would say it’s a good problem to have. Others would say the only good problem is no problem. Either way, 2016 has plenty of challenges for the Broncos. It’ll be here the moment the 2015 postseason concludes.

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PFT Live: Brian Hoyer, Kurt Coleman, Dolphins talk with Armando Salguero

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 29: Brian Hoyer #7 of the Houston Texans motions while playing against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter on November 29, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans got quarterback Brian Hoyer back in the lineup on Sunday and kept their winning streak going with a 24-6 thumping of the Saints that moved them to 6-5 and kept them even with the Colts in the AFC South.

On Monday’s PFT Live, Mike Florio will talk to Hoyer about the victory over the Saints and everything that has fallen into place for the team during their four-game winning streak. A defense that’s allowed just 35 points in that span is at the top of the list, but we’ll find out about the offense as well during Hoyer’s visit.

Panthers safety Kurt Coleman will also drop by the show to discuss the even longer winning streak that the Panthers are on. Coleman had an interception return for a touchdown in the team’s Thanksgiving victory over the Cowboys, which is one of the things that we’ll talk about on Monday.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald will be on hand as well to discuss the team’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They’ve already fired their head coach and defensive coordinator so we’ll ask Salguero whose head will be the next to role in a dismal season in Miami.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time 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.

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Panthers sign Cortland Finnegan

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Cortland Finnegan #24 of the Miami Dolphins returns a fumble 50 yards to score a touchdown during the NFL match between the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium on September 28, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have added veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan for the stretch run.

Finnegan worked out for the team last week and the Panthers announced Monday that they have signed him to their 53-man roster. Finnegan played for Miami last season, but has been out of the NFL since the Dolphins released him in the offseason.

That departure did not come as much of a surprise as Finnegan’s play in 2014 showed the same signs of decline that he exhibited in St. Louis during the two previous years. Finnegan seemed to agree that the game had passed him by because he said he was retiring after getting dropped by the Dolphins, but there’s nothing like interest from undefeated teams (the Patriots also worked him out recently) to make you think twice.

Carolina has been stretched a bit thin at corner the last two weeks with Charles Tillman out of the lineup and Colin Jones has struggled in the slot with Bene’ Benwikere moving outside to take over for Tillman, who is expected to miss more time. They’ll hope for more from Finnegan as they try to continue the league’s longest current winning streak.

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Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington having MRIs after injuries

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Chris Johnson #23 of the Arizona Cardinals is hit by Ian Williams #93 of the San Francisco 49ers at the line of scrimmage during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals squeaked out a 19-13 victory over the 49ers when Carson Palmer rambled into the end zone for a touchdown and spike that gave his teammates a good laugh.

It might be easier to leave the running to the players who are on the team for their ability in that area, but the Cardinals were running low on options in Sunday’s game. Both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington left the game with injuries that General Manager Steve Keim said will have them in the MRI tube Monday.

Appearing on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim said that Johnson suffered a bone bruise to his knee and that Ellington is dealing with a toe injury. He termed both players as “day-to-day” pending the results of the MRIs.

The Cardinals will be in St. Louis next weekend and rookie David Johnson will get the call if neither back is able to get back on the field in time to face the Rams.

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Cross Chip off the list: USC announces Clay Helton is head coach

Chip Kelly AP

Any speculation that Eagles coach Chip Kelly — or any other NFL coach — could leave to coach USC can end. The Trojans have announced that Clay Helton, their interim head coach for most this season, will lose the interim tag and become the permanent head coach going forward.

When USC fired Steve Sarkisian this year, there was widespread speculation that Kelly could be interested in the job. That speculation only intensified as the Eagles’ season collapsed.

But USC Athletic Director Pat Haden announced today that Helton will keep the job. Helton has done solid work this season, leading the Trojans to a 5-2 record in the seven games since he took over. Helton will coach USC against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Saturday.

Haden wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t at least put out feelers to Kelly (and possibly to NFL coaches with USC ties, like Jeff Fisher and Jack Del Rio) to gauge his interest. But there apparently wasn’t enough mutual interest for a job to get done.

Whether Kelly leaves Philadelphia and returns to college remains to be seen, but he won’t be leaving for USC.

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Roddy White on QB change: “Who else we going to put in there?”

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Falcons owner Arthur Blank and coach Dan Quinn expressed confidence in quarterback Matt Ryan after yesterday’s latest loss.

Veteran wide receiver Roddy White took a whole lot more of a pragmatic approach to the situation, when asked about the possibility of benching Ryan.

Who else we going to put in there? That’s going to be our quarterback forever,” White said, via Vaughn McClure of “Isn’t going to ever happen. All that speculation, you might want to kill that. We’re going to play better. So let’s nip that in the bud.”

Of course they’re not going to fix the problem by putting former seventh-rounder Sean Renfree in the game, but there’s clearly a problem that needs to be fixed.

The Falcons have lost five of their last six and four in a row, and the issue has been on the side of the ball they used to be able to trust the most.

In running out to a 5-0 start, the Falcons were averaging 32.4 points per game. Then they turned ice cold, with that number becoming 16.3 per game over the last six. They didn’t get to the end zone until the final two minutes against the Vikings, when it was already too late.

“To tell you the truth, our defense is playing really well, to me,” White said. “They’re getting stops. They’re getting turnovers. They’re allowing 20 points or less. We’re supposed to win those games, with the talent we’ve got on offense.

“Those guys [the defense] gave up 10 points over three and a half quarters against the Vikings, and we’re over here and we’ve got three points. We had three points until 1:30 left on the clock. That can’t happen. Can’t ever happen; not with the talent we’ve got. Our guys are too good.”

Or at least they used to be. The Falcons still have a chance to turn things around, but with a pair of games against the undefeated Panthers left, they better hurry if they want to matter down the stretch.

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Osweiler credits Peyton for halftime adjustments

Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler AP

Peyton Manning didn’t play for the Broncos last night, but he did help them win.

Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN that the Broncos made halftime adjustments based on Manning’s observations of the first half. Manning was watching from inside and went into the locker room to tell Osweiler what he saw.

“Peyton was fantastic at halftime. He came up to me and — you know Peyton — of course, he had a list of things ready to talk about that he saw out there. I’m not going to go into specifics, but he certainly did help me, and he helped this football team get a win today,” Osweiler said.

The question, however, is whether Manning helped Osweiler take his job: Did Osweiler play well enough in the second half to keep Manning on the bench?

“I’m not sure about that,” Osweiler said. “The one thing I do know, though, this football team got a tremendous win tonight against a great opponent, in front of the best fans in the world, and I’m just going to enjoy this win tonight.”

And Manning played a part of it, even if he wasn’t on the field.

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Dolphins fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor

Bill Lazor, Ryan Tannehill AP

After the Dolphins’ first ugly loss to the Jets this season, they fired head coach Joe Philbin. After the Dolphins’ second ugly loss to the Jets on Sunday, they’ve fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

Lazor was let go this morning, Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated reports. Quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will take Lazor’s place as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator for the rest of the season.

There’s been talk of dissension in Miami about the state of the offense, with interim head coach Dan Campbell seemingly having a different philosophy than Lazor. We noted yesterday that Lazor has limited quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage, and that may be contributing to Tannehill’s lack of development as a quarterback.

At 4-7, the Dolphins are in last place in the AFC East and likely heading for a major shakeup in the offseason. About the only good thing that could happen to the Dolphins down the stretch would be Tannehill showing some signs that he deserves his status as the franchise quarterback, and that wasn’t happening with Lazor calling the shots.

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Aaron Rodgers: We’ve got to buckle down our preparation

498896000 Getty Images

The Packers practiced on Sunday for the first time since their Thanksgiving loss to the Bears, which was their fourth loss in five weeks.

That losing skid has led to plenty of discussions about what’s going wrong in Green Bay, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. On Sunday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers pointed to the way the team is preparing for games as a place where they need to improve if they’re going to put themselves back on a winning track.

“It goes back to what you’re doing in your spare time and what you’re doing with your time in the facility,” Rodgers said, via “Being a pro is all about making sure you’re as ready as possible by the time the game hits. I think that’s the important thing for guys to remember here, especially young guys. We’re 15 games into the season, counting preseason. That’s a long grind for those guys, especially the rookies. This is the time where they really got to get through that wall, and the vets — the vets have had some [missed assignments] as well. So we’ve got to buckle down our preparation and make sure we’re ready to play.”

The team’s preparation was a topic of conversation on Thanksgiving with Cris Collinsworth of NBC saying during the game that the Packers had a players-only meeting recently that was centered on Rodgers’ issues with the team’s preparation. Rodgers said that there wasn’t a meeting and suggested something was conveyed incorrectly to the NBC crew before the game, but the message he’s delivering to his team is clear whatever the venue he’s using to express it.

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