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NFL morning after: Week One is so much fun

Anquan Boldin of the San Francisco 49ers falls as he is being tackled by Jerron McMillian of the Green Bay Packers during their NFL season home opener football in San Francisco Reuters

Football is back. Can you believe it?

Can you believe the day’s two biggest favorites, the Patriots and Colts, had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Bills and Raiders?

Can you believe the Giants turned the ball over three times in the first six minutes on Sunday night?

Can you believe that Adrian Peterson ran for a 78-yard touchdown the first time he touched the ball — and then gained just 15 yards on 17 carries the rest of the way?

Can you believe that Tyrann Mathieu needed only one quarter as an NFL player to make exactly the kind of ball-hawking play he was famous for at LSU, stripping Jared Cook to save a touchdown?

Can you believe that the beleaguered Jets actually won their opener, in the most ridiculous manner possible, with a Buccaneers penalty setting up the game-winning field goal?

Can you believe that three different games started with safeties and had scores of 2-0 in the first quarter?

Can you believe Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, with 112 rushing yards, is currently the NFL’s leading rusher?

This is why Week One of the NFL season is so much fun: We go from no football at all for seven months to 10 games at once, and about a hundred things you never expected all happening simultaneously. About two hours after kickoff of the early games on Sunday, I was so exhausted just trying to follow it all that I wasn’t sure if I’d make it for the nine hours or so of football that were still ahead of us.

But I made it, just like you did, just like millions of Americans who have been desperate for the return of the NFL, who spent all day Sunday on their couches obsessing about football and wondering how we survived these long months without it.

Here’s what went through my mind as I watched it all unfold:

Is it too much to ask that the officials know the rules? Referee Bill Leavy admitted after the 49ers beat the Packers that he and his crew had wrongly given the 49ers a free play, calling it third down after offsetting penalties when it should have been fourth down. The 49ers used that extra down to score a touchdown, and the Packers have every right to be furious about it. It’s one thing for an official to miss a call because he didn’t have a good angle to see it. It’s much worse for the officials to get a ruling like that wrong, even after they had time to review and discuss it.

Ndamukong Suh needs to get a grip. The season just started, but Suh was in midseason form when it came to costly penalties for illegal hits: Suh drilled Vikings center John Sullivan in the knee after DeAndre Levy intercepted a pass, drawing a penalty that cost the Lions a touchdown on Levy’s return. There was absolutely no reason for Suh to hit Sullivan (Levy was already well past him), and it was yet another example of Suh hurting his team while trying to hurt an opponent. Suh had a good game for most of the day: He pressured Christian Ponder into an interception, and he was a big part of a stout defensive effort that saw the Lions bottle up Adrian Peterson for most of the game. But a good game most of the day isn’t good enough. Suh needs to cool it, and if he can’t, Lions coach Jim Schwartz needs to bench him.

The Jaguars may be worse than last year. And last year they were 2-14. Jacksonville simply couldn’t do anything against the Chiefs, who looked like a much better team than a year ago with new coach Andy Reid running the show. I don’t even know what to say about the Jaguars, but I will note that they were the first team in NFL history to lose a game by the score of 28-2. So, there’s that.

Anquan Boldin was the best player in the NFL on Sunday. Boldin is a perfect fit in the 49ers’ offense, and they desperately needed him to step up when No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree went down. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a great track record of making the right personnel calls, but after a Week One in which Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards and the Ravens got whipped by the Broncos, I wonder if Newsome is thinking he should have found a way to make room for Boldin under the Ravens’ salary cap, instead of trading him to San Francisco.

Calvin Johnson had a touchdown overturned on the Calvin Johnson rule. Johnson made a leaping catch at the 1-yard line, stuck the ball across the goal line, then fell to the ground and had the ball wobble when he hit the ground. The official on the field ruled it a touchdown. The referee looked at the replay and changed the call to incomplete pass. Johnson has been here in Week One before, having an apparently game-winning touchdown catch overturned in the opener against the Bears three years ago. He’s probably getting sick of the rule that bears his name.

Kellen Winslow lives! Kellen Winslow caught exactly one pass all year in 2012. You could be forgiven if you thought Winslow was done. But he’s not done, not by a long shot. Winslow had seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown and was the Jets’ best offensive playmaker in their win over the Buccaneers. Winslow’s bad knee will never allow him to be the kind of player he looked like he’d be coming out of college, but he still has something left, and he’ll be a great security blanked for rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

Danny Amendola did what Danny Amendola does. The Patriots’ new go-to receiver did both of the things people thought he’d do: He caught a bunch of passes (10 for 104 yards) and he got hurt (missing some time with a strained groin). If Amendola can stay healthy, he’s going to be a great fit for Tom Brady and Co. But given Amendola’s history, that’s a big “if.”

The Saints are in first place in the NFC South. Last year, the Saints’ defense was a debacle. Through one game this year, the Saints are 1-0 and the rest of the NFC South is 0-1, and the New Orleans defense looked good in the opener against Atlanta. Sean Payton is back, and the Saints are back.

Have you ever heard of Cid Edwards? Edwards was a good-but-not-great running back for the Cardinals, Chargers and Bears in the 1960s and 1970s. He never had 1,000 yards in a season, never made a Pro Bowl, never was an important player on a playoff team. So why am I bringing up Cid Edwards today? Because in 1972, in his first game with the Chargers, Edwards had 100 receiving yards and 97 rushing yards. No other NFL player had ever reached 100 receiving yards and 90 rushing yards in his first game with a new team until Sunday, when Reggie Bush had 101 receiving yards and 90 rushing yards in his first game with the Lions. Bush is a perfect fit in the Lions’ offense, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the league in yards from scrimmage this season.

All Larry Fitzgerald needs is a competent quarterback. Fitzgerald doesn’t need a good quarterback — which is a good thing, because I’m not sure that Carson Palmer, at age 33, still qualifies as a good quarterback. But Palmer is at least a competent quarterback, and you couldn’t even say that for any of the other quarterbacks the Cardinals have had since Kurt Warner retired (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer, Derek Anderson and Max Hall). Now that Fitzgerald has someone competent throwing him the ball, expect him to resume putting up big numbers. Fitzgerald scored two touchdowns on Sunday after scoring only four touchdowns all season last year.

We have 16 more of these Sundays. Yesterday was a lot of fun. We have a lot more fun ahead of us.

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Aaron Hernandez murder trial gets underway

Aaron Hernandez AP

While many of Aaron Hernandez’s former Patriots teammates are preparing to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Hernandez is in a Massachusetts courtroom for the first day of his trial on charges that he murdered Odin Lloyd.

The trial got underway on Thursday after a slight delay caused by the failure of one member of the 18-person jury to appear for service. That juror was replaced and the attorneys for both sides delivered their opening statements.

In his opening, prosecutor Patrick Bomberg said, via the Boston Globe, that Hernandez and two other men took Lloyd “to a secluded, isolated area in North Attleborough, a town where Odin Lloyd knew no one but the defendant and the defendant’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins. There Odin Lloyd was shot 6 times. He was killed and he was left in a secluded area.”

Bomberg said that a joint with DNA from Hernandez and Lloyd was found near Lloyd’s body, a footprint at the scene matched Hernandez’s sneakers and that surveillance video from Hernandez’s home security system shows Hernandez, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace returning to Hernandez’s home without Lloyd shortly after the crime allegedly occurred.

Hernandez’s attorney Michael Fee countered by saying that the investigation was “sloppy” and that the evidence against his client is circumstantial. Fee also argues that the prosecution has not found a motive for Hernandez to murder someone he describes as a friend who Hernandez smoked marijuana with frequently.

Several members of the Patriots organization and former pro and college teammates of Hernandez’s are on the witness list for the trial. Wallace and Ortiz will be tried separately.

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Reporter who broke #DeflateGate says fans have threatened him

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When you’re in the news business, you anticipate blowback when you break a story that casts someone in a negative light.

But Indianapolis writer Bob Kravitz, who works for television station WTHR, said he was floored by the volume of response from Patriots fans after he wrote the first story about #DeflateGate.

“Feedback? Hell, it’s been a tsunami of hatred,” Kravitz said, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “My office voice mail is full. My emails are overflowing from New England fans. The tweets are just out of control. It’s gotten very personal, very mean-spirited, some anti-Semitic remarks, some threats to my well-being, but, then, I didn’t expect otherwise.

“I’ve been in the business for over 30 years and I’ve developed some very thick skin over the years. I’m a big boy; I can handle it. I’ll say this: New England fans are among the most vocal and passionate I’ve ever seen, which is a good thing.”

Kravitz said the last week and a half “has been the most insane period of my professional life.”

“Other writers keep jokingly coming up to me and saying, “This is all your fault,’’ but I’m quite sure this story would have gotten out whether I reported it or not,” he said. “An NFL investigation into allegations of cheating is a big thing; surely, someone would have caught wind of it. As it happened, I’m the one who heard about it and confirmed it and reported it — accurately, I might add.”

That reporting has caused many Patriots fans to misplace their anger, with social media giving the bullies a louder voice.

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Marshawn Lynch to reporters: I ain’t got nothing for you all

marshawn AP

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch made his final media appearance of Super Bowl week, and it was the strangest one yet.

Lynch turned the tables on a few reporters who gathered around his podium, asking them why they felt the need to continue peppering him with questions when he had already made it clear he wasn’t going to answer.

“All week I done told you all what’s up. And for some reason you all come back and do what you did,” Lynch told the assembled media. “I don’t know what image you all are trying to portray me, but it don’t matter what you all think, what you all say about me. Because when I go home at night, the people I look in the face, my family, that I love, that’s all that matters to me. So you all can go make up whatever you’re going to make up”

Lynch indicated that it angers him that reporters won’t respect his privacy.

“I come to you all’s event, you all shove cameras and microphones down my throat,” Lynch said. “I ain’t got nothing for you all. . . You all will sit here doing the same thing. I’m here preparing for a game.”

Lynch set a timer on his table and sat there for only five minutes. At about the two-minute mark, he indicated that his patience was already wearing out.

“I’m not about to say nothing. So for the remainder of my — what’s that, three minutes? — because I’m here, I’m available for you all. All my requirements are fulfilled. So now for the next three minutes I’ll just be looking at you all like you’re looking at me.”

Lynch did answer one question directly: When a reporter asked him where to buy Beast Mode gear, Lynch answered, “Beastmodeonline.com.”

And then his five minutes were up, and he left. He won’t have to face reporters again until after the Super Bowl.

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Carroll says refs will help Seahawks figure out Patriots’ formations

Carroll Getty Images

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is confident that his defense won’t be confused by the Patriots’ unusual formations in the Super Bowl, thanks to some help from the officials.

The Patriots have successfully disguised which players are eligible receivers and which players are ineligible receivers in this year’s playoffs. But Carroll said at his press conference today that he’s been told that the officials will do a more thorough job of making it clear to the defense which receivers are eligible, and which players are lined up in ineligible positions.

The NFL rules are clear: Players with ineligible jersey numbers must report to the referee if they’re going to line up as eligible receivers, and players with eligible jersey numbers must report to the referee if they’re going to line up in ineligible positions. The referee, in turn, must announce those declarations. But in this year’s playoffs, both the Ravens and the Colts have been confused by the Patriots’ formations, which have included trick plays with running back Shane Vereen lined up as an ineligible lineman, and plays with lineman Nate Solder lined up as an eligible receiver.

Now, according to Carroll, the officials will change their mechanics so that it’s clearer to the defense whether each player is eligible or ineligible. That’s an advantage to the Seahawks, and something the Ravens and Colts wish would have been done for them.

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Nick Foles expects to be back in Philadelphia next year

Foles AP

Yes, Nick Foles has heard the trade rumors. But no, he’s not worrying about them.

While making the rounds at radio row this morning, the Eagles quarterback said he expects he’ll still be the Eagles quarterback come next year.

“Yeah you hear about it,” Foles said, via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. “You are going to hear about it every single year. That’s just part of it. The main word is ‘rumor.’ You can’t put too much into it. . . . I plan on being in Philly.”

With Foles’ inconsistent play before his broken collarbone, and the easy dot-connecting from Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to coach Chip Kelly, it’s reasonable to think his future might not be so secure.

But until Foles hears from Kelly, he’s not going to put much stock into any of the reports.

“I only listen to Chip Kelly. That’s what is most important. He is the one that will make the decision,” Foles said. “Right now all I am going to do is work because I plan on being back in Philadelphia and playing with my team. That’s all I ever thought. So that is what I plan on doing and I’m not looking at it any other way.”

Of course, Foles opened the door to a lot of this speculation himself. He threw 10 interceptions in eight games before his injury, after throwing two picks and leading the Eagles to the playoffs the year before.

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League says incidents of racial slurs on field dropped sharply

Kaepernick Getty Images

Either the NFL is becoming a more respectful place, or players just want to keep their money in their pockets.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the number of on-field incidents involving racial slurs and abusive language dropped sharply this season.

The league enacted rules to punish players who used slurs during games, and told the Fritz Pollard Alliance that there were only six incidents this year, down from 29 during the 2013 season.

“I think it says very clearly that the players understand the gravity of what we’re trying to do,” said John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance. “I think the clubs and everyone else are to be congratulated. The key thing here is we’re talking about respect. It’s about respect and dignity. Ideally it should be zero. But it’s headed in the right direction.”

While the rule created a gray area that many thought officials would struggle with, the numbers indicate that the rule’s working. It’s unclear where Colin Kaepernick’s penalty falls on their scale, since he was penalized for it on the field but later had his fine cut in half.

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Bruce Irvin sees Seahawks’ defense as one of the all-time greats

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin thinks Seattle’s defense is one win away from establishing a legacy as one of the all-time greats.

“I definitely feel like we’ll go out as one of the top defenses to ever play the NFL,” Irvin said. “But, we got to win first. I don’t want to talk about winning the game. We just got to prepare and keep practicing. Those guys are a really good team so we got to stay focused and really bust our tail if we really want to win Sunday.”

Irvin said he believes that not only do the Seahawks have the best starting 11 in the NFL, but they have plenty of backups who would be starters on other teams.

“I think on defense we go 13, 14 or 15 deep so we got our twos and threes can be starters somewhere else,” Irvin said.

Can the Sehawks be remembered alongside the Steelers of the 1970s and the Bears of the 1980s as the greatest defenses in the history of the sport? If they were to shut down Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls, it would be hard to argue against them.

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Richard Sherman won’t say if he’ll miss Super Bowl for son’s birth

sherman AP

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and his girlfriend are expecting a baby soon, and Sherman isn’t saying if he’d miss the Super Bowl if the baby comes on Sunday.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Sherman said, via ESPN. “We’re not thinking about the possibility.”

Sherman’s girlfriend, Ashley Moss, is in Arizona and will give birth at a local hospital if she goes into labor in the next five days.

Having a son on the way put Sherman in a contemplative mood.

“It’s someone that actually depends on you for everyday living,” Sherman said. “Everything they do is dependent on you and how you provide and how successful you are.”

Some NFL players have missed games for the births of their children, and some NFL players have missed the births of their children for games. But we’ve never heard of a player grappling with that decision before the Super Bowl. It’s a decision Sherman hopes he doesn’t have to make.

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Belichick on Junior Seau: “I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach him”

Super Bowl XLII Getty Images

We will learn Saturday whether the late Junior Seau is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

This morning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about the former New England linebacker’s legacy, as well as what it would mean to have the 12-time Pro Bowler in the Hall of Fame.

Here was Belichick’s response:

“Well, it’d mean a lot. I mean, it’s obviously got to happen,” Belichick said of Seau, who played for New England from 2006 through 2009 after a decorated career with San Diego. “I can’t imagine having a professional football hall of fame without Junior Seau in it.

“I’d say the one word that comes to me when I think about Junior and football (is) passion. He’s a very passionate guy, lot of energy, lot of enthusiasm, first guy in the building in the morning, watching film, lifting weights, ready for practice — always loved to practice — flying around on the practice field, energy before the game, on the sideline, during the game. Emotional player, but a smart player, player that played with a purpose, played with good physical skill but also good concentration, good awareness. Great team player, very supportive of his teammates.

“I mean, everybody in the locker room loved Junior. They loved what he did, and they loved the way that he interacted with the team. He was a great player, and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach him.

“We had a lot of great experiences together. Obviously, it was the end of his career. There were some things a little different than when he was in San Diego and so forth, but he brought a lot of energy and passion to our team, and I personally had a very good relationship with Junior.

“I love coaching him, and he always expressed how much he enjoyed playing on the New England Patriots, and that meant a lot to me.”

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Rex Ryan, Drew Brees and much more on huge PFT Live at noon ET

Drew Brees AP

There’s never a good day to miss PFT Live if you want to know the latest from around the NFL, but you really don’t want to miss Thursday’s show.

Mike Florio’s lined up a guest list studded with some of the biggest names in football. We’ve got Bills coach Rex Ryan, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the Eagles tandem of Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy to share their plans for offseason work they hope can get them to the Super Bowl next year. We’ve also got Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and Troy Aikman to share their memories of winning Super Bowls and former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown a couple of days before he finds out if he’ll join them in Canton.

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and Hall of Famer Warren Moon will also be on hand to make for a program as packed as any we’ve ever had.

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

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RGIII: Goal is to stay healthy and the rest will fall into place

The Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins Getty Images

Robert Griffin III got a new quarterback coach this week in Matt Cavanaugh and he told John Keim of ESPN.com that he’s excited to work with an experienced coach who “can help the operation run more smoothly.”

He’s also hoping to play a season without injury concerns for the first time in his NFL career. An ankle injury was the health obstacle that Griffin had to deal with in 2014 as it knocked him out in the second week of the season and then left him trying to catch up in a new offense late in the season. If he can stay healthy, Griffin said during an interview on 980 ESPN that he feels like everything else will work out for him and the Redskins.

“Stay healthy, go out and have fun and play the game, and the rest will fall in place,” Griffin said. “I think with the moves that we’ve made, that the coach and the G.M. have made, it will allow us to be in a better position to win games, and I think all the guys are excited about that. You never want to see guys go, coaches and players, but I know coaches have to do what’s best for the team, and we all hope and pray we end up winning.”

Griffin’s issues in Jay Gruden’s offense appeared to go beyond the ankle injury last year as he struggled in preseason and the opening weekend before going on the shelf and Gruden himself questioned Griffin’s fit for the scheme on occasion. The quarterback’s chances of changing that are nil if he’s not healthy, though, so the argument that getting things to fall in place starts there is a pretty sound one.

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Tom Brady calls James Develin the best fullback in the NFL

develin AP

The fullback position is an endangered species in the NFL. But Tom Brady says that when the Patriots do line up in a formation that features a fullback, they’ve got the best in the NFL.

Brady said today that New England’s James Develin is the best fullback in football and ought to get more recognition for what he does for the Patriots.

“I love James and I think he’s the best fullback in the league,” Brady said. “He doesn’t get as much credit for it because he doesn’t get as many opportunities, but any time we call on him he delivers.”

Develin was only on the field for about a quarter of the Patriots’ offensive snaps during the regular season, and he only touched the ball nine times. But he delivered in the AFC Championship Game with a touchdown catch, and Brady says that Develin delivers every time he’s on the field, whether he’s getting the ball or (much more often) blocking.

“He really, at that position, can bring a significant element of toughness because you’re blocking for the guy with the ball, and he takes a lot of pride in that,” Brady said. “Hopefully he gets some opportunities on Sunday and hopefully we make the most of them.”

Develin rarely gets the opportunity to do anything more than block. But even if that’s all he does, the Patriots know that’s a lot.

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Eagles promote Ed Marynowitz as Chip Kelly’s personnel executive

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles have had a hard time finding someone from the outside to take a job as a personnel executive under Chip Kelly in the team’s reshuffled personnel department so they’ll be sticking with someone already in the organization.

As PFT reported on Thursday morning, the Eagles promoted Ed Marynowitz to the role of vice president of player personnel. Marynowitz was the assistant director of player personnel in an Eagles front office that will have a new look this season with Kelly taking over all personnel decisions and former General Manager Howie Roseman pushed into a role with different responsibilities.

“Ed is someone who has really impressed me going back to my interview process with the Eagles two years ago,” Kelly said in a statement. “He’s very bright, detailed, organized and his vision was aligned with what we want to accomplish. I spoke with a lot of people outside of our organization over the past few weeks and in the end, Ed was the most impressive. I can’t tell you how well thought of Ed is in the scouting business. What many people in the football community told me matched exactly what I thought of him from Day One. When you work with him and meet with him regularly – which I have done over the last two years – you appreciate how smart and thoughtful he is,” added Kelly. “I’m excited to continue working hand-in-hand with him for the next several years.”

The Eagles identified a handful of other candidates for the job, but several of them opted to stay in their current jobs rather than jump to the Eagles for a position without decision-making power on the roster.

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Patriots hail Rob Gronkowski’s beautiful football mind

Rob Gronkowski AP

Everybody sees Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as a harmless meathead, but his teammates see a different side.

He is, they say, “brilliant.”

No, really.

“If you meet Rob for 10 or 15 minutes, you might get an impression that may or may not be what it’s like to have him in your office, in a classroom and on the field for six, seven hours a day,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. “It might be a little bit different . . . Potentially.”

Gronkowski has to be smart to handle the multiple roles the Patriots demand of him, and they say he handles it easily.

“Rob’s a very bright guy,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “We ask a lot of him. And he won’t let us down. He refuses to let us down with what we ask of him.

“He’s obviously very intricately involved in the running game. He’s involved in the passing game. We move him all over the formation. We put him outside, we put him inside, we motion him. He’s involved in third down, red zone. He’s involved in everything. I kind of relate it to the quarterback position. . . .

“When you talk about his demeanor in the meeting room, he’s like Tom Brady. When you talk about the way he prepares and practices, same thing.”

While that might not be consistent with some of his frat-boy antics, the results on the field indicate that there’s something to it.

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Russell Wilson wants to feed the Beast on zone-read runs

Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch AP

Russell Wilson had one of the best rushing seasons for a quarterback in NFL history in 2014, carrying 118 times for 849 yards and six touchdowns. But Wilson says he rarely plans to run.

Asked about the Seahawks’ zone-read offense, Wilson said those plays are almost always intended for him to hand off. Wilson only keeps the ball himself if he sees the entire defense collapse around Marshawn Lynch and knows he’ll have a huge hole to run through.

“In terms of our zone read, I’m honestly trying to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch 99 percent of the time,” Wilson said. “That 1 percent I’ll take if it’s just wide open for me. I want to feed the Beast. I want to hand him the football and that’s what makes him the best running back in the National Football League.”

The Seahawks averaged 172.6 rushing yards a game in the regular season, and no other team even averaged 150 yards. Seattle had by far the most proficient rushing attack in football, and Wilson is proud of that.

“I think it makes it very challenging for a defense to figure out who to stop,” Wilson said. “If they get Marshawn, then I’m over here in the other direction. It’s tough in terms of that, but I think, like I said, the ultimate goal is to hand the ball off to the best running back in the National Football League.”

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