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Richard Marshall chooses the Chargers

marshall AP

As the Chargers try to close the broad gap between themselves and the Broncos in the AFC West, they’d added a defensive back who only recently became available.

Per a league source, former Dolphins cornerback Richard Marshall has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Chargers.

The Jaguars also were in the mix to sign Marshall, who collected $6.1 million for a total of four games with the Dolphins.

Marshall also has played for the Cardinals and Panthers.  In San Diego, he joins a depth chart currently topped by Shareece Wright and Derek Cox, with Johnny Patrick and Steve Williams as the primary backups.

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PFT Live: A spot on the roster for Tebow?

Mike Florio talks about Tim Tebow’s absence of playing time in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Lions. He also analyzes Michael Vick’s on-field production from 2010 to 2012.


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Anquan Boldin shining in mentor role for 49ers

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers knew they were getting a proven receiver for their money, when they took Anquan Boldin’s contract off the Ravens’ books this offseason.

But they’re getting more than their money’s worth in the lessons Boldin is sharing with a young receiving corps, sharing 10 years of NFL experience every day.

Q has been so good with the younger guys, trying to teach them how to be professionals,” wide receiver Kyle Williams told Jim Trotter of “He’s not just teaching them what to learn, but how to learn it, how to learn concepts and how you can see certain things in coverages. I think his whole mentality, his whole approach to this game is something we all can learn something from. He’s so serious about it. He doesn’t play around.”

That includes not even taking time to celebrate his Super Bowl win with the Ravens, including a visit with the President which he skipped. Coming close with the Cardinals showed him how small the margin was, and he didn’t want to give it away.

“For me it doesn’t change,” Boldin said of his motivation. “That’s the reason why I didn’t go to the ring ceremony at the White House. If you take time to celebrate, you kind of lose that edge, lose that hunger.”

That professionalism is going to be huge for the 49ers this year. In the absence of injured Michael Crabtree, he could end up a safety net for Colin Kaepernick, giving the third-year quarterback someone to rely on as he grows in the game as well.

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PFT Live: Tight availability at tight end for Ravens

Mike Florio chats with CSN Baltimore Raven Insider Clifton Brown about the  Ravens’ Thursday night loss to the Panthers and how the loss of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson at tight end will affect the Ravens going forward.


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PFT Live: $14 for stale popcorn

Mike Florio takes questions from twitter and answers phone calls from fans around the country. Florio does not expect much from RB Felix Jones in Pittsburgh and discusses the Browns chances to make waves this season. Plus, the worst stadium food that Mike Florio has ever had.


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John Pagano on Dwight Freeney: We need him every down

Dwight Freeney AP

When Dwight Freeney became a free agent early in the offseason, many people predicted he’d wind up playing for a 4-3 team that was looking for him to rush the passer from the spot he filled for all but one year with the Colts.

Part of that was based on Freeney being 33, which is often an age where a player moves into a situational role, and part was based on Freeney’s struggle to fulfill all of the responsibilities of an outside linebacker after Indy switched to a 3-4 scheme last season. An injury to outside linebacker Melvin Ingram opened up an opportunity in San Diego, however, and Freeney is about to start another season with a team that primarily runs the 3-4.

And he’ll again be asked to do everything that an outside linebacker has to do as opposed to concentrating solely on getting after the quarterback. Defensive coordinator John Pagano, brother of Colts coach Chuck, said that the team is looking for Freeney to be on the field every down.

“He’s going to be an every-down guy for us,” Pagano said, via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. “Need him on first, second, third down. He’s going to play all downs. If you spot guys here and there, they never get into the defense. They never get the defense. They don’t understand the whole process of the defensive calls. That’s the mindset he has. Otherwise, you never learn the why. He is a why guy.”

The Chargers are expected to use Freeney in multiple looks so that he’s not as exposed at linebacker as he was last season, but a heavy workload may still take its toll on his effectiveness wherever Freeney lines up. The Chargers have an intriguing defensive line, but they’ll need pressure off the edge to take pressure off their defensive backs and asking Freeney to provide it consistently while playing most of the snaps is something less than a sure thing.

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Marshall visits Jaguars, could pick new team Friday

Marshall Getty Images

Cornerback Richard Marshall unexpectedly became a free agent earlier this week, cut by the Dolphins as he was closing in on a $4.55 million base salary for 2013.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Marshall could pick his next team as soon as today.

Marshall visited the Jaguars on Friday, according to the source.  That follows a Thursday visit to the Chargers.

For now, the finalists are Jacksonville and San Diego.

In either city, Marshall would have an opportunity to crack the starting lineup.  In Miami, Marshall actually was on the first-string, but at that salary the Dolphins couldn’t justify keeping him.

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David Wilson to start at running back for Giants

New Orleans Saints v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants’ depth chart currently has two players listed as their starting tailback, but only one of Andre Brown or David Wilson will be on the field for the first snap against the Cowboys on September 8.

During an appearance on ESPN Radio on Friday, General Manager Jerry Reese said that Wilson, the team’s first-round pick in 2012, would be that player.

“We expect [Wilson] to be our starter, and be in the backfield with Andre Brown, who had a terrific season going last year until he got hurt,” Reese said. “[Brown’s] had the injury bug a little bit since he’s been in the league. But if he can stay healthy, and David Wilson comes on like we expect him too, we think we can have a pretty dynamic backfield.”

It’s not surprising that Wilson wound up with the job. He has a game-breaking gear that Brown doesn’t have and the team didn’t draft him where they did to sit behind a player who has played 14 games in his four NFL seasons.

Starting isn’t everything, though, and the preseason has revealed that the Giants still prefer Brown as a third down back because he is a more capable pass blocker than Wilson. If Wilson can’t pick that part of the game up to the satisfaction of the coaching staff, the split of playing time might be closer than some expect because the Giants will want to avoid both big hits on Eli Manning and the predictability that can come into an offense when defenses know that certain plays are off the board due to the personnel on the field.

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PFT Live 08/23: Clifton Brown, PFT Planet

Mike Florio chats with CSN Baltimore Raven Insider Clifton Brown about the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night game against the Panthers and the Ravens missing Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson at Tight End. Then, Florio takes calls and tweets from PFT Planet.







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Dolphins start the process of paring roster

Matt Scott, Alonzo Highsmith AP

Teams have to reduce rosters from 90 players to 75 by next Tuesday.

The Dolphins are just getting a head start on the process.

The team announced they had waived five players Friday: Guards Jeff Braun and Chandler Burden, defensive tackle Chris Burnette, linebacker Alonzo Highsmith and wide receiver Kenny Stafford.

Highsmith is the notable name of the bunch, primarily because he shares a name with the former Oilers, Cowboys and Buccaneers running back and Packers personnel man who happens to be his dad.

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Vikings break off stadium talks

Vikings Stadium Football AP

The headline makes the situation look worse than it is, but three weeks ago it would have been inconceivable.

According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, the Vikings have broken off talks aimed at finalizing the team’s new stadium pending resolution of an investigation regarding the owners of the franchise.

The development potentially will delay groundbreaking for the stadium, which currently is set for November 7.   To stay on track, the stadium deal needs to be finalized by September 15.

There’s a concern that, if the construction doesn’t begin in November 2012, the stadium may not be ready in time for the 2016 season.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority decided in the wake of a New Jersey lawsuit resulting in a finding of fraud and civil racketeering by owners Zygi and Mark Wilf to investigate the Wilfs.  The Vikings and the Wilfs surely aren’t happy about that.  And the one way they can exert a little leverage is to say, essentially, “Once you decide you can trust us again, we’ll talk.”

Plenty of additional dominoes have to fall before the stadium deal blows up and the Vikings join the Lakers in Los Angeles.  But the chances of that happening are a lot more significant than they were last month at this time, when the possibility of the Vikings leaving was nil.

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Joe Flacco: I love Ray Lewis, but his speeches didn’t even make sense

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

When Ray Lewis was asking his teammates if any dogs were in the house, Joe Flacco wondered what all the woofing was about.

For the second time this offseason, Flacco has said that while Lewis was a great player and teammate, the pregame speeches that were intended to fire up the locker room often left Flacco feeling more confused than anything else. In March, Flacco said Lewis used to lose him while addressing the team, and now in an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Flacco has said that as he takes more of a leadership role, he’s not leading the way Lewis did.

“That’s not me,” Flacco says. “I love Ray, and I love how he always spoke from the heart, but if you listened to those speeches, a lot of them didn’t even make sense. He meant everything he was saying, but I didn’t know what he was talking about 90 percent of the time.”

Flacco also said that the Ravens had grown too dependent on letting the Lewis-led defense win games, with the offense basically just being tasked with not losing.

“I don’t think they’d won more than one playoff game from the time they won the Super Bowl in 2000 to the time I got there. So we obviously needed to take another step,” Flacco said.

Flacco is right about that: After the 2000 Ravens won the Super Bowl, the 2001 Ravens won one playoff game, and then the Ravens didn’t win any more playoff games until Flacco arrived in the 2008 NFL draft. His arrival put the Ravens over the top, and he sounds confident that he can keep the Ravens on top, even without Lewis’s pregame speeches.

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Antonio Smith’s appeal denied

Antonio Smith AP

The next time Texans defensive end Antonio Smith plays in a game, it will be the second week of the regular season.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that the NFL has denied Smith’s appeal of the suspension he earned for swinging Dolphins guard Richie Incognito’s helmet in Incognito’s direction after ripping it off of Incognito’s head during an altercation in a preseason game between the teams last weekend. PFT has confirmed  that the appeal was denied, and PFT has learned that the hearing officer was Ted Cottrell.

Smith was suspended for the two remaining preseason games and Week One of the regular season earlier this week. Smith will be able to attend team meetings for the remainder of the preseason, but he won’t be allowed to practice with the team until the suspension comes to an end. Smith won’t count against the team’s 53-man roster limit when they make their cuts later this month.

Jared Crick and Tim Jamison are the likeliest replacements for Smith on the defensive line until his suspension comes to an end.

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Bruce Allen: NFC East the SEC of the NFL

Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen AP

The NFC East remains a top television draw, and the size of the markets involved makes the teams in that division among the best-covered.

But its members may have a skewed vision of where they actually reside.

During an interview with ESPN 980 (via the Washington Post), Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen said his team resided in the league’s toughest division.

“There’s so many changes in the playoff teams each year — I think half of them change each year anyway,” Allen said. “And in our division, you know, we’re in the SEC of the NFL. This is the big leagues. I think when the Giants last won the Super Bowl, they won it with a 9-7 record. So we have to keep competing in our division, and that’s what our focus is.”

There’s only one problem with Allen’s SEC-NFC East comparsion.

The NFC East has won two of the last 17 Super Bowls (both by the Giants), while the SEC has provided nine of the 15 BCS national champions, with five teams contributing to the haul.

And besides, teams in the NFC East get punished for circumventing the salary cap from time to time.

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Cam Newton: Offense didn’t do its part on Thursday night

Carolina Panthers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

The Panthers defense and special teams had a great night against the Ravens.

Ted Ginn returned a punt for a touchdown and the defense scored three touchdowns to account for 28 of the team’s 34 points. As you would probably imagine, the offense wasn’t clicking on quite as many cylinders.

Coach Ron Rivera said that the offense had limited opportunities because of all the touchdown returns, but said that didn’t excuse them from averaging 3.5 yards per play when they were on the field. It also doesn’t excuse three sacks of quarterback Cam Newton nor several other missed blocks and dropped passes that left Newton lamenting his unit’s failure to hold up their end of things.

“When the defense plays like that, I feel like we let those guys down,” Newton said, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.

The offense clearly needs to be better than they were on Thursday, but the issues didn’t just crop up against Baltimore. The starting offense hasn’t scored a touchdown since the opening quarter of the opening preseason game and there hasn’t been much dynamism on display at any point. Some of that could be explained by not wanting to show too many tricks in the preseason, but the questions about whether offensive coordinator Mike Shula is the right man to run the offense will linger until the team proves otherwise.

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PFT Live: Ravens talk with Clifton Brown, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Carolina Panthers v Baltimore Ravens AP

The Ravens played their third preseason game of the year against the Panthers on Thursday night and we’ll be talking about the biggest developments in that contest during Friday’s edition of PFT Live.

Clifton Brown of CSN Baltimore will join Mike Florio to talk about a game that featured an offensive performance that left coach John Harbaugh to say that he wasn’t worried about the offense despite three return touchdowns for the Panthers defense. They’ll also talk about which receivers have done well for themselves in camp and a few of the biggest concerns heading into the regular season.

It won’t be all about the Ravens, however. PFT Planet can tell us which other clubs they want to discuss by getting on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or by giving a call to 888-237-5269.

You can watch it all live by clicking right here at noon ET.

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Mark Murphy doubts 18 regular or 2 preseason games


The 18-game schedule is like the NFL’s hole card, the thing that won’t go away, that might be “on the table” from time to time, though few expect it to happen.

But it’s interesting to see how those in the league address the topic, and how the view of scheduling changes over time.

In an interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Packers president Mark Murphy again said he didn’t expect to see an 18-game slate.

“I think with all the concerns about the health and safety of players, it’s hard to justify,” Murphy said. “To go from 16 to 18 regular-season (games) would be a lot more wear and tear. It would be additional games for your starters.”

Murphy has made similar comments about the regular season before. But while he previously said he could get behind a 16-game regular season with a two-game preseason, his latest remarks made it appear he’s realized that’s not happening either.

Murphy, who serves on the league’s management council executive committee, competition committee and health and safety committee, said there were a “couple issues there” with cutting the preseason in half.

“You’ve got loss of revenue — you don’t have much TV revenue from that, but you do have ticket revenue,” Murphy said. “And then the other big issue is being able to really evaluate and develop young players. Taking away those two game opportunities, especially since we have so many fewer practices [in training camp], . . . you don’t block and tackle [in practice] so the games are really important in terms of evaluating.”

Murphy suggested that one possibility was building an extra bye week in between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season. But that’s already happening in a sense, with every team closing the preseason on next Thursday, to clear the weekend.

Either way, it’s clear the league realizes there’s some degree of problem with the current exhibition product, but isn’t wild about giving away money to fix it.

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Kenbrell Thompkins could be the anti-Hernandez for the Pats

Thompkins AP

It’s fitting that a season marred by murder charges against one of the Patriots’ top tight ends could be salvaged in part by an undrafted wideout who was arrested seven times before his 19th birthday.

Kenbrell Thompkins was signed before Aaron Hernandez’s arrest and possibly wouldn’t have been signed after it.  The rookie has emerged as one of the best receivers on the roster.  He started Thursday night’s preseason game against the Lions, catching eight passes for 116 yards.

The cousin of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, Thompkins’ history was recently detailed by the Boston Herald.  At age seven, he shot himself in the arm.  In middle school, he was selling drugs.  An arrest for armed robbery prompted one of multiple expulsions from high school.  Later, Thompkins was busted for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and he served 28 days in jail.

A convoluted path through college football ended in Cincinnati, where Brown helped persuade coach Butch Jones (who coached Brown at Central Michigan) to give Thompkins a chance.  Though Thompkins caught only 34 passes for 541 yards and two touchdowns in his final season with the Bearcats, he has quickly shot up the depth chart in New England, starting the team’s two most recent preseason games.

With second-rounder Aaron Dobson and free-agent arrival Danny Amendola destined to get plenty of playing time, Thompkins could be nailing down one of the outside spots when Amendola lines up, as he inevitably will, in the slot.

Thompkins’ history fits the profile of the kind of player that the post-Hernandez Patriots may try to avoid.  But the rookie’s potential performance, if coupled with good behavior, could make it harder for teams like the Patriots to know when to give a guy with a troubled past a chance to turn his life around, and when to avoid the player at all costs.

By all appearances, Thompkins has changed his life.  Given their experience with Hernandez, the Patriots may be in much better position to draw a reliable line between guys who truly have separated from past troubles, and those like Hernandez who merely say all the right things.

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A.J. Green will likely play on Saturday, but he won’t play much

Cincinnati Bengals v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Bengals have had several key players sidelined at various points this summer by injuries, with wide receiver A.J. Green’s bruised knee starting things off at an early training camp practice.

Green returned to practice last week, but didn’t play in the team’s second preseason game. It looks like he’ll take that next step on Saturday when the Bengals travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys.

“At some point you will see A.J. Green. He may be beside me in warmups. I think he’s making the trip,” Lewis said, via the Bengals website. “It will be good to at least play a little bit and it will be fun for him to play. He wants to play. He’s ready to play and we’ll go from there.”

Green won’t be playing much, however. Lewis said he’s not a subscriber to the theory that a team’s starters have to play deep into the third preseason game of the year — “It’s way different than it used to be,” he explained — and Green’s not a player worth pushing one snap beyond what’s necessary given his importance to the team’s offensive scheme.

The status of other players, like tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive end Carlos Dunlap, is less certain.

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Luke Kuechly got mad, then got even

Luke Kuechly AP

Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was angry when he was flagged for hitting Ravens wide receiver Aaron Mellette in the head, because it negated his breakup-turned-interception.

As it turns out, that was bad news for the Ravens. Two plays later, Kuechly picked off Joe Flacco, showing the kind of instincts alarming for a player so young.

“He doesn’t get mad often,” Panthers linebacker Jon Beason told Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. “But when he does, good things seem to happen.”

In addition to the pick, Kuechly forced a fumble which was recovered for a touchdown, at times living in the Ravens backfield.

It was the kind of performance the Panthers are growing accustomed to from last year’s first-rounder.

“I’m a big fan of ‘Luuuuuuuke’ Kuechly,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. “He’s just a person that holds himself to a standard that failure is not an option for him.

“For him to not get the favor of the call, . . . [and] to come back and get an interception, that’s just a testament of who Luke is.”

Having him in the middle of that defense (a job which used to belong to Beason) is going to keep the Panthers competitive this year. Particularly after they invested their first two draft picks in defensive tackles to keep traffic out of his way, he should be able to continue to make such plays.

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