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Packers-Lions, Raiders-Cowboys, Steelers-Ravens on Thanksgiving

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A baseball conflict prevented the Ravens from getting the Super Bowl champions’ traditional Thursday night Week One home game. But they will get a Thursday night home game on NBC.

The NFL’s 2013 regular season schedule includes the Ravens hosting the Steelers on Thanksgiving night. Baltimore and Pittsburgh have one of the NFL’s best rivalries, so it’s easy to see why the league wanted to put that game in one of the NFL’s marquee time slots.

A harder decision to understand is what the NFL is doing with the mid-afternoon game on CBS: The Raiders will visit Dallas. Almost everyone expected the Cowboys to host the Broncos on Thanksgiving, and it would seem that Peyton Manning and Co. would make for a much more attractive Thanksgiving opponent for Dallas. But the NFL has decided to put the Silver and Black on Thanksgiving instead.

And Thanksgiving will open on FOX with the most common Thanksgiving rivalry in NFL history, Packers at Lions. This will be the 21st time that the Lions and Packers have met on Thanksgiving.

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Myles Garrett “totally healthy” after foot sprain in OTAs

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The Browns got a scare when first overall pick Myles Garrett had to limp off the field during one of their minicamp practices last month, although the worst fears subsided when the defensive end was diagnosed with a sprain.

Garrett provided a positive update on his status a couple of weeks ago and coach Hue Jackson gave an even rosier one when he spoke to the media on Wednesday. Jackson said they’ll be watching to make sure that Garrett doesn’t suffer any setbacks, but that there’s no immediate concern about his ability to get on the field.

“We will definitely monitor him, but I think he’s totally healthy,” Jackson said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “Maybe hasn’t done all the conditioning that you would like to see right before training camp, but I think he’s up to speed and ready to go, and he’s looking forward to it.”

Garrett was added to give the Browns a disruptive player up front and he should be seeing plenty of playing time right off the bat as long as his health cooperates in the coming weeks.

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No Falcons on PUP list, but Julio Jones and others will be limited

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With training camps opening around the league this week, teams have been placing players who aren’t ready to practice on the physically unable to perform list.

The Falcons aren’t one of the teams making those moves. Coach Dan Quinn said at a Wednesday press conference that the team will not be putting anyone from their 90-man roster on the list, which means that everyone will be available to practice.

Not everyone will be practicing in full, however. Quinn said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, that wide receiver Julio Jones will be among the players limited in practice. Jones had foot surgery and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said recently that the wideout has “healed up very, very well.”

First-round pick Takkarist McKinley will also be limited after shoulder surgery and those two will be joined in taking on a reduced workload by wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

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Thomas Davis says contract talks are ongoing

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Panthers tight end Greg Olsen talked about a potential training camp holdout as part of his push for a new deal with the team, but reported on time Tuesday and said that he made the call because he “didn’t feel like it was right to add fuel to the fire and be a distraction” after the team’s recent General Manager change.

Olsen also said that he is prepared to play out his contract after failing to get a new deal done before camp. Linebacker Thomas Davis also expressed his desire to sign a new deal with the team this offseason and said Wednesday that his own situation is continuing to play out.

Davis said recently that talks got underway while Dave Gettleman was still with the team and took issue with suggestions that the nature of those talks had something to do with why Gettleman was fired. On Wednesday, Davis told reporters at Panthers camp that the talks have continued with Marty Hurney taking over interim duties in Gettleman’s absence.

Davis is in the final season of a three-year deal and turned in strong play during each of the first two years of the pact.

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Cody Kessler will open camp as Browns “starter” at quarterback

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The Browns aren’t making a quarterback decision yet. But when they start training camp, someone has to work with the starters.

That person, according to Browns coach Hue Jackson, will be Cody Kessler.

He deserves a chance to walk out there first,” Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

That seems traditional, if not eventual.

After drafting DeShone Kizer in the second round and accepting Brock Osweiler as part of Houston’s salary dump, they have what could be an interesting, if not exceptional competition.

And with Kessler having the most background with Jackson and the system (dating all the way back to last year when he was a third-round pick), he gets the ceremonial duty of the first reps of the competition.

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If Texans dig in, Duane Brown holdout could last a while

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The Texans reacted to the Duane Brown holdout for a new contract by pretending that he’s not holding out for a new contract. If they continue that posture, Duane Brown may be holding out for a while.

There is no contract dispute,” G.M. Rick Smith said Tuesday. “Duane is under contract for two more years. That’s our position.”

Brown is a vested veteran, so he won’t lose a year toward free agency by failing to show up within 30 days of the regular-season opener. Also, and as we explained a couple of years ago in the context of first-round picks in the fifth year of their contracts, the Joey Galloway ruling from a generation ago allows a player under contract to miss up to eight regular-season games without having his contract tolled.

Thus, Brown can skip all of training camp, all of the preseason, pay the fines, give up eight game checks, return for the back half of the 2017 season, repeat the process in 2018, and become a free agent in 2019.

“But he signed a contract!” you may say. Sure he did. And the same system that allows a team to rip up a contract whenever it wants allows the player to incur fines, miss up to eight game checks, and get credit for the year under that contract.

It will be easy for the pundits to claim that Brown eventually will cave. That may be the case. But he’s skipped the full offseason program, he remains dug in, and if the team is going to act like it’s not a contract issue because he has a contract, it may still be a while before Brown shows up.

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Jim Schwartz expects Timmy Jernigan to have big impact on pass rush

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The Eagles drafted defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round and signed defensive end Chris Long as a free agent in a clear attempt to increase the effectiveness of their pass rush off the edge.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sees another offseason acquisition helping the pass rush as well, although it won’t be from the edge. The Eagles traded for defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and Schwartz believes that putting Jernigan alongside Fletcher Cox will turn out to be a big plus to the team’s efforts.

“I do like the guys we have up front,” Schwartz said in comments distributed by the team. “It’s not just drafting a guy like Derek or bringing a guy like Chris in. I think Tim Jernigan is really going to be a big addition for us. He was hard to handle inside. Last year when Fletch had such a good start, that first month, teams adjusted. They started taking him away, and we didn’t win enough one on ones away from him because that other tackle got the one on ones. Well, that happened in OTAs, and Timmy’s able to get good pressure. So I think that was — I don’t know if it flew under the radar, but it was an important acquisition for us. I think that will affect our pass-rush as much as bringing a first-round draft pick or veteran player into the mix.”

Cox had four sacks in the first four games, but only picked up 2.5 the rest of the way. If he’s able to up that total, it will be a good sign for the Eagles defense whether Jernigan or someone else picks up the credit for creating more opportunities up front.

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Vikings finalizing extension for Everson Griffen


The Vikings are close to wrapping up a new contract with pass-rusher Everson Griffen.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Vikings are finalizing a four-year extension with Griffen which should allow him to finish his career there.

The 29-year-old Griffen had two years left on his existing deal, and was set to make $6.9 million this year and $8.4 million in 2018.

The former fourth-round pick has found his stride with the Vikings, with 30.5 sacks the last three seasons, including 8.0 last year.

He’s also been incredibly durable, as he’s only missed one game over the last six seasons.

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Buccaneers place Jacquies Smith on PUP list

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Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith isn’t quite ready to return to a full workload after suffering a torn ACL in the first game of the 2016 season.

The Buccaneers placed Smith on the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday. He’s eligible to be activated at any point during training camp, but won’t be participating in practices until he does.

Smith was a restricted free agent this offseason and took a visit with the 49ers before signing his tender with Tampa. He had 13.5 sacks during the 2014 and 2015 seasons and would be a useful addition to their pass rush mix if he’s able to get back to full health this season.

Third-round linebacker Kendall Beckwith, who tore his ACL at LSU last year, and fifth-round running back Jeremy McNichols, who had offseason shoulder surgery, have avoided the list ahead of their first pro camp.

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Cowboys had entrusted social media accounts to Lucky Whitehead


After hearing Tuesday’s comments from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett about the decision to cut receiver Lucky Whitehead, I was ready to take the position that the Cowboys were, despite the criticism, doing Whitehead a favor by not sharing chapter-and-verse details about other problems and concerns that the team had about Whitehead.

It’s entirely possible, for example, that Whitehead is one of those guys who’s always in the middle of drama, and who always has an excuse. While each and every excuse may eventually pan out, for some people there’s always something.

By not explaining it that way, the Cowboys arguably did Whitehead a favor, since other teams currently are considering claiming him on waivers. If the Cowboys had shared all of the other things that gave them concern about Whitehead, maybe other teams would pass.

But here’s the thing. The Cowboys apparently didn’t view Whitehead as having poor judgment, because the Cowboys previously had entrusted Whitehead with a function that could have created major embarrassment for the team. As agent Dave Rich explained on Wednesday’s PFT Live, the Cowboys previously had given Whitehead total control of their Snapchat and Instagram accounts — on multiple weekends.

Think about that one. If Whitehead was a guy who consistently made stupid decisions, would he have been given the keys to two of the primary social media accounts owned and operated by America’s Team?

So here’s the apparent truth. Pushed against the ropes by criticism of their failure to hold players (hard gulp) accountable, the Cowboys decided to make an example of a guy who already was in danger of being cut between now and Labor Day Weekend. If it had been Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, or Ryan Switzer, the Cowboys would have circled the wagons even if it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity.

At a minimum, the Cowboys would have waited for word on whether it actually was a case of mistaken identity before dumping the player.

Thus, the message is the same in Dallas as it is anywhere else. Don’t get in trouble and expect to still be employed, unless you’re good enough to get in trouble and still be employed. For those players, the team still will find a way to not hold them (hard gulp) accountable.

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Patriots add another joint workout, this one with the Lions

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The Patriots obviously see value in practicing against another team during training camp  — since they just scheduled their third one.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters they’ve added a joint practice with the Lions in Detroit.

They were already holding joint workouts with the Jaguars (at home) and the Texans (on the road), coinciding with their first two preseason games.

Belichick has long felt getting work against another team is a good thing, and keeps them sharper than working against themselves.

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Contract may be an issue for Jordan Matthews at Eagles camp

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Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews is heading into the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and he’s due to make $1.1 million this season. The team and the player don’t appear to be close to an agreement on a new deal, and that may be an issue in Philadelphia.

Matthews has been limited this offseason with a knee injury, but the Philadelphia Daily News reports that there is talk in the building that Matthews could have practiced more in the spring and the real issue is his contract, not his knee.

Matthews was the Eagles’ No. 1 wide receiver last year, catching 73 passes for 804 yards and three touchdowns, but he was drafted to play in Chip Kelly’s offense, not Doug Pederson’s offense, and Pederson and Howie Roseman have largely moved on from players who were acquired during Kelly’s tenure. The Eagles have added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith this offseason, as well as fourth-round rookie Mack Hollins, and they may be ready to move on from Matthews after the season.

So whether Matthews is unhappy with his contract or not, his best bet to get a better one will be to have a good year this year, and hit free agency healthy in 2018.

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Lucky Whitehead’s agent: He wouldn’t accept a return to the Cowboys

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David Rich, the agent for former Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead, says Whitehead is so upset that he was cut after being wrongfully accused of shoplifting that he now wouldn’t return to the Cowboys even if they wanted him back.

Asked this morning on PFT Live whether Whitehead would come back if the Cowboys asked him to, Rich answered, “No.” Rich explained that while Whitehead loved his experience in Dallas, he’s hurt that the Cowboys didn’t believe him when he explained that the report of his arrest was false. Even when the police confirmed that they arrested another man who had given them Whitehead’s name, the Cowboys wouldn’t backtrack on their decision to let him go.

“I can’t speak for Lucky, we’d have to have a conversation about it because he loved being a Cowboy so much. I can’t put into words — this dude loved it, loved it as much as I’ve ever had a player love an organization. Loved it,” Rich said. “This guy was arguably the most popular player on the team, which is interesting to have this happen to him, but I don’t think so. . . . They basically sat across the table, eye to eye, man to man, and he said, ‘I need you to believe me, coach.’ And they said, ‘We think you’re a liar.'”

Rich said he can understand why the Cowboys felt that they had to take a stand when the report came out that Whitehead was arrested, but once they were able to document through travel records that Whitehead was more than 1,000 miles away at the time of his alleged shoplifting arrest, the Cowboys should have reconsidered. But Rich also said he thinks the decision to cut Whitehead was at least as much about on-field issues as off-field issues.

“I think they’d already moved on from Lucky. I think they had already decided it was too much of a distraction, I think they drafted Ryan Switzer . . . who does a lot of the things Lucky does, so they just decided he was unnecessary,” Rich said.

As for whether Whitehead will get claimed on waivers today, Rich said, “I can’t see why any team with a 90-man roster right now that needs return help wouldn’t pick him up.”

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Saints add a few new guys to the mix as camp approaches


The Saints are churning the last few spots on the roster leading into training camp, with more moves to come.

According to Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints have signed veteran offensive lineman Martin Wallace and defensive back Dejaun Butler, in addition to the previously reported offensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli.

Their camp starts Thursday, and they’ll need to make some corresponding transactions by then, or once these become official.

Wallace has been with seven teams since entering the league as an undrafted rookie, playing in a grand total of one game — for the Browns in 2013. He’s versatile, which should help considering the injuries they’ve already stacked up on their line (Terron Armstead, Max Unger, and Senio Kelemete are headed for the PUP list).

Butler, an undrafted rookie corner from Hawaii, worked out for them during rookie minicamp.

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The official PFT preseason power rankings landing page

It’s over. It’s done. The full 32-team PFT preseason power rankings are posted, with all teams ranked from top to bottom.

We’re not saying you should click every single link and then come back here, but you should click every single link and then come back here.

And then you should insert comments about how accurate and fair the various assessments are.

1. New England Patriots.

2. Atlanta Falcons.

3. Green Bay Packers.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers.

5. Dallas Cowboys.

6. Oakland Raiders.

7. Seattle Seahawks.

8. Kansas City Chiefs.

9. New York Giants.

10. Tennessee Titans.

11. Miami Dolphins.

12. Denver Broncos.

13. Houston Texans.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

15. Detroit Lions.

16. Baltimore Ravens.

17. Carolina Panthers.

18. Philadelphia Eagles.

19. New Orleans Saints.

20. Minnesota Vikings.

21. Cincinnati Bengals.

22. Arizona Cardinals.

23.  Buffalo Bills.

24.  Los Angeles Chargers.

25. Washington.

26. Indianapolis Colts.

27. Los Angeles Rams.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars.

29. San Francisco 49ers.

30. Chicago Bears.

31. Cleveland Browns.

32. New York Jets.

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Vikings rookie Ifeadi Odenigbo hurt foot on swimming pool gate

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The Vikings were without the services of quarterback Taylor Heinicke for a good chunk of last season while he recovered from a foot injury he suffered while trying to kick in a locked door before training camp.

That means Heinicke can empathize with rookie defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo even if Odenigbo’s own off-field foot injury wasn’t quite as serious. Odenigbo, a seventh-round pick, suffered a deep cut to his foot when he caught it on a loose piece of metal on the gate of the swimming pool at the Eden Prairie hotel that housed players during Vikings OTAs.

“The gate closed on me, and it had some chipped metal and it went right into my heel, so that was my Achilles’ heel,’’ Odenigbo said, via the Pioneer Press. “It was a freak accident. When I was going (through the gate), it just nicked my heel and blood was gushing everywhere. It was a big, deep cut. There was too much skin ripped off for me to have stitches. It was pretty gross. … It was like a fishing rod went into my skin and you yanked the skin out.”

Odenigbo was able to participate in the final practices of the spring, although he said he wasn’t able to wear cleats as a result of the injury and that it “still hurts to put pressure” on the injured foot. That could set him back as he tries to make the team and the back-to-back foot injuries may have other Vikings players watching where they step a little more closely in the future.

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