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Tony Gonzalez plans to play in Falcons’ third preseason game

Tony+Gonzalez+NFC+Championship+San+Francisco+D4AYlXZ6XCpl Getty Images

After getting some time off from training camp, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is ready to get to work.

Gonzalez told Jay Glazer of FOX Sports that he is getting ready to leave for the airport to fly to Atlanta today and plans to be at work with his teammates on Sunday. He also plans to play in the Falcons’ third preseason game, next Saturday against the Titans, which is typically the game when teams try to get as many of their starters on the field as possible.

“It’s time for me to get back there,” Gonzalez told Glazer. “I need to get some work with Matt [Ryan] and the offense. I’m excited.”

The 37-year-old Gonzalez said last year that he planned to retire, but he reconsidered in part because the Falcons told him they’d be flexible with his schedule and allow him to spend more time with his family during the offseason. Gonzalez, who led the Falcons with 93 catches last season, has always been dedicated to health and fitness and is expected to show up in Atlanta in excellent shape.

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Jerricho Cotchery has to live with what-ifs after Super Bowl drops

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Jerricho Cotchery #82 of the Carolina Panthers fails to make a catch against the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The call of an incomplete catch was upheld upon review.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Panthers scrambled to find capable wide receivers last season when star Kelvin Benjamin was injured, they put a certain amount of trust in veteran Jerricho Cotchery.

For the most part, he earned that trust, though his two drops in the Super Bowl were a difficult memory to carry into the offseason.

“If you’re in this game long enough, you’re going to have those moments where you can look back and say, ‘Man, I should’ve made that play and if I would’ve made that play, this would’ve happened,” Cotchery said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “The other night will be no different.”

While there’s some debating his first drop of the Super Bowl (Hey, at least Mike Carey thought it was a catch!), the second was clear, and forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal attempt that doinked off the upright.

Now comes the question of whether the Panthers will offer him a chance to return, as the 33-year-old’s about to become an unrestricted free agent. Asked if he wanted to return, he said yes, with a condition.

“For Carolina,” he said. “This is a special place, but I don’t know what the future holds right now, especially at this point in time in my career. I just don’t know anything. . . .

“I do know this — coming back here the past two years have just been tremendously wonderful for me. Bringing my wife back down to her home state and just playing ball here again, being before these fans, it’s been wonderful.”

But as the Panthers move forward, they might look for a guy with younger legs, if not better hands.

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Magic Johnson recruits Peyton Manning to the Rams

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The Rams reportedly are interesting in adding quarterback Peyton Manning. Former Lakers start Magic Johnson clearly is interested in the Rams adding Peyton Manning.

Peyton and Magic appeared Wednesday on The Tonight Show, and Magic made a public pitch to get Peyton to L.A.

“I tried to talk somebody out of retirement and come to the Rams,” Johnson told Jimmy Fallon, while pointing over his shoulder to Manning. “I said, ‘Man, if you play again, come to the Rams.’ I was working on him backstage. I will even chip in some money.”

Manning sat quietly, laughing through it all as the rest of his face assumed the shade usually reserved for the middle of his forehead after taking off his helmet.

“Look, look, look,” Magic said. “He’s turning a few colors over here.”

“I’m getting embarrassed,” Peyton said.

“I want to cheer for him if he don’t retire as a Ram,” Johnson later said. “I got my recruiting hat on right now.”

No one knows what Peyton Manning will do in 2016, but we’ve all known for years that Peyton very much likes to be fully in control of every situation. And it’s hard to imagine Peyton walked into last night’s situation without being fully aware that Magic would bring up the subject on the air. It’s also hard to imagine that Peyton wouldn’t have done everything in his power to persuade Magic not to bring it up, if Peyton didn’t want to be put on the spot.

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Broncos re-sign Jordan Taylor, and the guy they sent home last week

during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Getty Images

When Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was throwing on the side when he was injured, he sang the praises of wideout Jordan Taylor, who became his personal receiver when he threw.

So upon the recommendation, the Broncos kept him.

Via Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post, the Broncos signed Taylor and eight others from the practice squad to future deals Wednesday, including running back Kapri Bibbs, safety Ryan Murphy, guard Dillon Day, tackles Cameron Jefferson and Kyle Roberts, tight end Nick Kasa, defensive end George Uko and linebacker Zaire Anderson.

Murphy shows that they’re a forgiving organization, as he was sent home during Super Bowl week after he was involved but not arrested in a prostitution bust in San Jose last week.

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Brees picks up more leverage, sort of

Tony Romo AP

The news that more than half of Drew Brees‘ salary for 2016 became fully guaranteed on Wednesday wasn’t news. From the time the five-year deal was signed and filed, it was known that more than half of the base salary in the out years of the contract would become fully guaranteed on the third day of the waiver period.

The fact that the Saints neither cut Brees nor restructured the deal before Wednesday gives Brees extra leverage. If they cut him at this point, the Saints will take a $20.85 million cap charge for 2016. If the contract has offset language, however, the extra $10.85 million that vested on Wednesday would disappear if he were cut and then signed by a new team for that much money, which undoubtedly would happen. (If there’s no offset language for the 2016 salary, there’s no way the Saints would cut him at this point.)

Here’s one last point on Wednesday’s trigger. It’s accepted in league circles that a vesting date tied to the waiver period in February is used not to give the team a chance to cut a player, but for funding purposes. If the team wants to retain the ability to cut the player, the vesting date is tied to the start of the league year in March. When teams cut players before a vesting date tied to the waiver period in February, it’s viewed by agents as a major breach of etiquette, making it harder to get agents to agree to use that device in future deal.

As of March 9, Brees hits the books for $30 million in 2016, which will make it very difficult for the Saints to put a competitive team around him. The only way to reduce the number will be to extend the contract — unless Brees unilaterally decides to take less cash in 2016.

Putting a value on an extension becomes the challenge. In 2012, Brees parlayed significant leverage into a then-record contract worth $20 million per year. How much will he want per year at age 37? Another $20 million per year? Or will he want to get back to the top of the market, where Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers currently is making $22 million per year?

However it works out, an extension would allow the Saints to convert a huge chunk of the $19.75 million base salary into a signing bonus, spreading it over multiple years and reducing the cap number significantly for 2016. Apart from the raw numbers of an extension, the structure of a new contract will say plenty about the duration of the team’s commitment to Brees.

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Thursday’s PFT Live has C.J. Anderson, Rick Spielman, Orlando Pace

Zz03OGJmZjcyZTE4MDBhNjJiNDg2ZWNkZjJhOTllNGQxZQ== AP

If you’re up late, get to bed. If you’re up early, welcome. Now stick around for Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.

The three-hour show, starting at 6:00 a.m. ET with a full replay at 6:00 a.m. PT, has for a limited time a one-hour simulcast on NBCSN, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET. During that hour on Thursday, the guests include Broncos running back and unsung Super Bowl hero C.J. Anderson, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, and new Hall of Fame offensive tackle Orlando Pace.

The rest of the show will include plenty of news, analysis, and hot takes. It’ll also be interesting to see if PFT Live producer Rob “Stats” Guerrera continues his unblemished streak of wearing a solid-colored sweater over a dress shirt with a gigantic collar.

Well, “interesting” may not be the best word to describe that. Regardless, dial us up on Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, and any of the fine affiliates broadcasting the program.

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Jim Irsay promises “shocking” contract for Andrew Luck

Zz0zMjU3M2NhMzViNjUzOTZmM2Q2MGYyYzUzNDk0NWYyNg==-1 AP

Peyton Manning has made it to two Super Bowls since the Colts let him go. The Colts are still trying to get to one.

The heir to Manning’s throne in Indianapolis becomes the biggest beneficiary of the ongoing quest to win championships.

Owner Jim Irsay has made some strong promises about the next contract to be signed by quarterback Andrew Luck. Via the team’s official website, Irsay recently said the eventual deal will be “shocking,” promising that Luck will make more than $20 million per year.

It’s shocking that Irsay would call it shocking, since the goal should be to do the best possible deal under the circumstances, not to hand the checkbook to Luck and say, “Shock me.”

It’s also a bit shocking that Irsay is willing to pay Luck before his rookie contract expires. Twice, Peyton Manning had to play every game of every contract with the Colts before getting another one. With Luck injured and ineffective for most of 2015, why not let him play out the fifth and final year of his deal before signing him to a blockbuster contract?

If anything, last year gave the Colts more than a little leverage in long-term talks. Irsay has squandered it in one sound bite.

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Andy Dalton still hasn’t thrown since thumb injury

Zz1mMmFiMzI3ZTU3NDk4ZGNhZGVmYTQ3MzE1YWE4ODk3MA== AP

If the Bengals had made it past the wild-card round, they would have needed quarterback A.J. McCarron to keep playing. And if they’d made it all the way to the Super Bowl, they apparently would have still needed McCarron.

Starter Andy Dalton, who broke a thumb in December against the Steelers, told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he still hasn’t thrown since suffering the injury.

Not throwing yet but will soon,” Dalton said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “Just being conservative with my hand and waiting for it to be officially 100 percent before I start up.”

The injury happened nearly two months ago, as Dalton made a tackle after throwing an interception.

Dalton, by the way, finally has recovered a pair of suitcases that fell off his truck on a highway in Texas. Which is good because I’m not sure I would have been able to sleep if a guy who can afford to buy new stuff hadn’t found his old stuff.

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Vernon Davis heads to free agency with no postseason stats

Zz05Mjg4NTIyMzRjYzE0MmZmMTdjMzk3NGQ1MDhlZDkwNA== AP

Tight end Vernon Davis finally won a ring. But his contributions to the effort were minimal.

Traded to the Broncos from the 49ers in the last year of his contract, Davis caught no passes in three postseason games. He also had no receptions in a Week 17 win that clinched the top seed in the AFC. His last catch came on December 20 at Pittsburgh, when Davis had one reception for five yards.

For whatever reason, things never clicked between Davis and Peyton Manning, especially after Manning’s return to the lineup in Week 17. And so Davis, who said after being traded that he’d been dreaming of playing with Peyton since leaving college, ended up doing nothing with Peyton in crunch time of the 2015 season.

It suggests there’s a potentially great untold story regarding why Davis and Manning never connected. Maybe at some point that story will surface, especially as Davis tries to persuade another team to sign him to a contract worth something more than the veteran minimum.

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Hakwins says (again) that widening field would cut down on injuries

Andrew Hawkins AP

Writing that it’s a “fact” that players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before, Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins took to Twitter Wednesday to say it would “logical” for the NFL to explore widening the field to cut down on injuries.

Hawkins believes the big hits pass catchers take between the numbers could be standard tackles with more space available. He played in the Canadian Footbal League before sticking with the Bengals but wrote that he’s advocating the NFL to widen the field by 3-4 yards, not to make it 65 yards wide as it is by CFL rules.

Hawkins said basically the same thing three years ago, when the topic was discussed in NFL circles but ultimately didn’t make it to the competition committee. At the time, NFL V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson basically said the idea was old news and something he wasn’t sure would make the game safer.

Hawkins had his 2015 season ended by a second concussion in November. He was hospitalized overnight for observation after being hit by Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones following an interception.

Back in 2013, Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian took Hawkins’ side and pushed for the NFL to explore widening the field.

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Jerry Jones hates not being a Super Bowl participant

Zz05ZWUxNGYxMjAzMjIyM2E0NWJkYjUwYzYxM2ZjMTQ2YQ== AP

The Dallas Cowboys appeared in eight of the first 30 Super Bowls. They’ve appeared in none of the last 20. And that drives owner/G.M. Jerry Jones crazy.

“I hate it,” Jones said over the weekend at the NFL Honors ceremony, via the Dallas Morning News. “I scream in my pillow when I go home at night when we’re here. I want [the Dallas Cowboys] to be here so bad, but it’s filling my bucket up so we can go.”

Still, experiencing the Super Bowl makes Jones want to get back even more.

It’s inspirational,” Jones said. ” It makes you want to just empty your bucket to get in here and have this kind of experience. We feel that way. It’s deliberate.”

For 2016, the Cowboys once again have hope, and it starts with the ability of quarterback Tomy Romo to have a big year.

“Candidly, I’m just counting on Tony to come back and have some of the greatest years, if not the best years, of his career,” Jones said. “We want to make sure that we’ve got him the supporting cast. . . . We tried to do it this year. We didn’t get here. We’ll keep trying to get it done.”

Along with the other 31 teams. And all of them are currently 0-0, with seven months to get ready for the chase to win the 51st Super Bowl trophy to be awarded by the league.

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Jim Fassel blames Cam’s Super Bowl performance on his gold shoes

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  A detail of the shoes worn by  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers prior to Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now we’ve heard everything about Cam Newton and the Super Bowl.

Jim Fassel, the former coach who took the Giants to the Super Bowl after the 2000 season, had what may be the strangest assessment yet of Newton’s Super Bowl-losing performance on Sunday. According to Fassel, Newton set the stage for his disappointing game with his choice of footwear in pregame warmups.

“All of the numbers pointed to Carolina. And when I saw Cam Newton walk out in gold shoes — ‘MVP’ — I switched my mind, essentially, right then,” Fassel said on Mile High Sports 1340. “I said, ‘That’s not what a starting quarterback, MVP, leading his team — and I had a lot of respect for him during the season — that’s not what happens.’ You don’t do that. And I said, ‘This guy’s already become soft,’ and that’s what he was.”

It’s true that Newton wore gold shoes with “MVP” on them in pregame warmups, before switching to the blue shoes he and his teammates wore for the game. Why Fassel thinks those shoes had anything to do with Newton’s style of play, however, is unclear. Newton has always had a unique fashion sense, and it didn’t seem to hurt him during the regular season or the first two games of the postseason.

There are legitimate things to criticize about Newton’s Super Bowl performance, from his fourth-quarter fumble to his quick press conference departure. But criticizing his footwear is silly.

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Ex-NFL receiver Josh Morgan charged, accidentally shot himself

Josh Morgan AP

Former NFL wide receiver Josh Morgan is facing misdemeanor weapons charges after he accidentally shot himself.

Morgan was charged with misdemeanor reckless use of a firearm in Virginia, TMZ reports. The charge reportedly comes as a result of an accidental shooting in which Morgan was cleaning his gun and shot himself. His injuries were not serious.

The case brings to mind that of Plaxico Burress, who spent two years in prison after accidentally shooting himself in the leg. Burress, who was possessing the gun in New York illegally, was convicted of a felony.

The 30-year-old Morgan was a sixth-round draft pick of the 49ers out of Virginia Tech in 2008. He played three years in San Francisco, two in Washington and one in Chicago. He was cut after spending training camp with the Saints last year.

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George Toma: Sod on Levi’s field was second-best we’ve had at a Super Bowl

during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Getty Images

The quality of the playing field at Levi’s Stadium has been an issue since the stadium opened and it was an issue for some players during Super Bowl 50.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward each criticized the surface after Denver won the game and a video showing Panthers tackle Michael Oher looking like he was wearing roller skates while trying to pass protect has been making the rounds online.

Other players, including Von Miller, had no complaints and NFL turf consultant George Toma, who has worked on the fields at all 50 Super Bowls, said he hasn’t seen many better fields in the history of the game.

“I’m an 87-year-old man and I’ve been in this game for 74 years and been to 50 Super Bowls,” Toma said, via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. “And I thought this was the second-best sod we’ve had at a Super Bowl.”

Toma said the turf in Miami for a rainy Super Bowl XLI, which was also won by a Peyton Manning-quarterbacked team, was the only one better than the one the Broncos and Panthers played on last Sunday. Toma said that players are “hard-headed” about which cleats to wear and that “all they had to do was their change cleats” to get better footing.

CBS reported early in the game that several players on both teams were doing just that, although the Oher video shows that different players had different experiences on a field that the NFL’s longtime turf guru says was perfectly fine.

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Bill Polian: Peyton Manning could be a G.M. “immediately”

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with his son Marshall Manning and Bill Polian after defeating the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Peyton Manning hasn’t shared his plans for the future, but if he wants to one day become a General Manager, one of the best to ever do that job thinks he’s ready now.

Hall of Famer Bill Polian said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Manning was a “football nerd” who used to have in-depth conversations about personnel with him when they were both with the Colts.

“During our 14 years together in Indianapolis, he would often discuss with me prospects coming out in the draft, SEC players he’d seen, players he’d seen in other parts of the country,” Polian said, via the Indianapolis Star. “He pays close attention to the rosters of the other players in the league, with specific attention to the AFC.

He knew the strengths and weaknesses of every player on every defense in the AFC and many on offense, because he met them and got to know them at the Pro Bowl and soaked up information. He is a football nerd, as am I. He’s more than prepared to do that job.”

Many have wondered what path Manning will pursue — once he stops drinking beer — but Polian said he could start soon, and not need much time to get up to speed.

“All he would need would be a brief tutorial on the league rules and things like the general terms of trades and contract language — of which he’s also very familiar, because of his own contract,” Polian said. “He’s well-prepared to do that. He could step right from the playing field into a role like that, because he’s ready. I don’t know that he will, but if someone wanted him to do it, he would be ready immediately to do it.”

The teams most closely linked with Manning as an executive — the Titans and Browns — have each made hires on that side of the ball recently.

But if Manning indicated he was interested in pursuing such an option, there would likely be even more teams interested in giving him that chance.

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Dungy would take Harrison over Owens “every day of the week”

during the game between the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts on December 28, 2008 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Getty Images

Former coach Tony Dungy will be entering the Hall of Fame with one of his former players in Indianapolis, receiver Marvin Harrison. Appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Dungy was asked whether his teams game planned to stop Owens, given the recent comments from former linebacker Jonathan Vilma that his team’s didn’t.

“It depends on where he was,” Dungy said. “There were some places where you knew he was gonna be a big factor.”

Dungy then offered a comparison of Owens and Harrison: “Terrell Owens was a great receiver but I’ll say this, if I’m going for Marvin Harrison or Terrell Owens I’m taking Marvin Harrison every day of the week. Just as productive, just as hard to defend and made his teams better. There still is to me a characteristic that goes into that. I’m not taking anything away from Terrell Owens’ ability but when you get traded or released five times in your prime and you’re a great player but teams are not re-signing you, that says something.”

Dungy’s comments mesh with the widespread belief that Owens didn’t make it over Harrison due to Owens’ disruptiveness. Presumably, Owens eventually will make it. But if the concerns about T.O. are significant, it could take a while.

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