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NFL morning after: Aaron Rodgers makes it look easy

Washington Redskins v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Did Aaron Rodgers even break a sweat on Sunday?

I suppose he probably did, over the course of a three-hour game that saw him throw 42 passes, completing 34 of them for a franchise record 480 yards and four touchdowns. But the remarkable thing about the way Rodgers has played the quarterback position for the Packers over the last few years is that he does things we’ve never seen before, and it doesn’t even look hard.

As Rodgers was marching the Packers down the field on three straight long touchdown drives in the first half, it looked like he and his receivers were playing a really intense game of catch. Washington’s defense might as well have not even been on the field, because Rodgers just threw everywhere he wanted to throw, and found someone open every time. Over the course of the day Rodgers engineered five touchdown drives and had a sixth that would have gone for a touchdown if not for James Jones fumbling at the 1-yard line.

Amazingly, Rodgers revealed after the game that he was less than 100 percent physically.

“I didn’t feel great before the game,” Rodgers said. “My neck was sore and stiff. I was hurting pretty bad.”

Despite playing through some pain, Rodgers didn’t have any interceptions on Sunday, which has become the norm for him. Rodgers has only had 1.7 percent of his passes intercepted in his career, the lowest interception rate in NFL history. Rodgers has had three different seasons with eight or fewer interceptions, and he’s on pace to do that again this year. Do you realize how hard it is to play a full season and throw so few interceptions? Let’s put it this way: Peyton Manning is probably the best I’ve ever seen at reading defenses, but Manning has thrown more than eight interceptions every year he’s been in the league.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that he knows he’s lucky to have Rodgers running his offense.

“Aaron spoils you. He makes it look easy,” McCarthy said.

Yes he does.

Here are my other Week Two thoughts:

Chip Kelly’s offense is fun to watch, but . . . Maybe the Eagles only looked great in Week One because they were playing a terrible Washington team. In Week Two, the Eagles lost to the Chargers and it looked like the real story in Philadelphia is that the Eagles’ defense is going to lose them a lot of games. The flip side of having a fast-paced offense like Kelly’s is that it makes life rough for your defense when your offense doesn’t sustain any long drives. The Chargers had the ball for more than 40 minutes of Sunday’s game, and the Eagles’ defense looked exhausted by the end.

Richard Sherman proved his greatness. In Week One against the Packers, 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin was unstoppable. In Week Two against the Seahawks, Boldin caught one pass, in garbage time. The difference? In Week Two, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was covering Boldin. Sherman proved once again what a truly great cornerback he is.

Dontari Poe is a beast. Poe, the Kansas City defensive tackle, sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo twice and showed off an incredible blend of strength and speed in whipping the Cowboys’ offensive line. A whole lot of people criticized the Chiefs for spending the No. 11 overall pick on Poe last year, saying Poe was just a workout warrior at the Combine who didn’t produce on the field. Poe is making those people eat their words.

Washington safety Brandon Meriweather should be suspended for the safety of his opponents — and himself. Meriweather lowered his head and launched into Packers running back Eddie Lacy, knocking Lacy out of the game with a concussion. Shortly after that, Meriweather lowered his head into Packers running back James Starks, and this time it was Meriweather who bore the brunt of the collision, and Meriweather was knocked out of the game. Meriweather has a history of helmet-to-helmet hits, and the NFL needs to say enough is enough and suspend Meriweather before he seriously hurts someone else, or himself.

Let’s appreciate history. During Sunday’s Eagles game, the official Twitter account of Monday Night Football compared Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to Barry Sanders.

I like McCoy and think he looks good in Chip Kelly’s offense, but get real: I knew Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders was a favorite player of mine. LeSean McCoy is no Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders led the league in rushing four times, was second in the NFL in rushing three times, was third once, fourth once and fifth once. That’s right: Sanders played 10 NFL seasons and was a Top 5 rusher all 10 years. McCoy is in his fifth NFL season, and in his first four years he never led the league in rushing, never was second and never was third. He was fourth in the league once, in 2011, and other than that has never been in the Top 10. I think we’re too quick sometimes to anoint every good player as a future Hall of Famer. McCoy is a fine rusher, but he’s not Barry Sanders. Not even close.

Mario Williams had a monster game. Williams was in Cam Newton’s face all day and was a huge part of Buffalo’s 24-23 win over Carolina. His 4.5 sacks were a career high and broke a Bills franchise record that was previously shared by two great pass rushers, Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett. Williams hasn’t always lived up to the massive contract Buffalo gave him last year, but he earned his play on Sunday.

Give credit to Philip Rivers. Rivers, quarterbacking a Chargers offense that’s depleted at every position and became even more depleted when receiver Malcom Floyd went down, played a fantastic game against the Eagles. Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and he led the drive that got San Diego into position for a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. Unlike Aaron Rodgers, Rivers doesn’t make it look particularly easy — it felt like an epic struggle as Rivers willed the Chargers to victory. But after Rodgers, Rivers was the next-best quarterback in the NFL on Sunday.

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Seahawks sign CFL products Jeff Fuller and Cameron Marshall

Cameron Marshall AP

The Seattle Seahawks have looked to the Canadian Football League before in search of talent and are hoping to unearth some more success from north of the border.

The Seahawks signed former Calgary Stampeders receiver Jeff Fuller and former Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Cameron Marshall on Thursday.

Fuller is another stab at finding a receiver with size from the CFL. Seattle signed Chris Matthews in 2013 after two seasons with Winnipeg. At 6-foot-5, Matthews was a large receiver the Seahawks didn’t have at the time. Fuller is similarly large at 6-foot-4. Fuller caught 47 passes for 619 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games for Calgary.

Meanwhile, with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks only had one running back under contract for 2016 in Thomas Rawls. Marshall rushed for 614 yards and five touchdowns in 18 games for Winnipeg last season.

Both Fuller and Marshall were undrafted out of Texas A&M and Arizona State, respectively. Both players spent time with the Miami Dolphins before heading to Canada to continue their careers.

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Friday’s PFT Live has Kevin Greene, Bradley Roby, more

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The first week of the early early shift ends Friday, with another three-hour edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. And Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby will be dialing in extra early, halfway through the 6:00 a.m. ET hour.

Later in the program, new Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene joins the program, along with Vic Lombardi of Altitude Sports in Denver.

All three hours can be heard on Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, the NBC Sports Radio app, and on terrestrial affiliates throughout the country. The final hour of the show can be seen on NBCSN.

And here’s where I’d add some sort of a witty or snarky or glib remark, but I’ve been rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m. ET to get ready for the show, and in my exhausted state I’m even more unfunny that usual. Tune in tomorrow to see just how unfunny I may be.

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Justin Tuck plans to sign one-day contract to retire with Giants

Justin Tuck AP

Defensive end Justin Tuck spent nine seasons lining up for the New York Giants. So it only seems fitting he’d retire in a Giants uniform.

According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, Tuck said during an appearance on the Giants’ team website that he intends to sign a one-day contract to retire with the Giants.

“One question we didn’t get asked that I’ve seen a lot of Giants fans tweet me is ‘Am I going to do a one-day contract with the Giants?’” Tuck said. “The answer to that is ‘Yes.’ We can’t do it yet because the league (year) doesn’t open until the second week of March. So for all the Giants fans out there asking me ‘Am I going to retire a Giant?’ Absolutely I am.”

Tuck announced his plans to retire earlier this month. While he spent the last two seasons of his career with the Oakland Raiders, the majority of Tuck’s success came in the Big Apple.

Tuck posted 60.5 sacks in nine seasons with the Giants. He posted at least 10 sacks in a season four times during his tenure in New York.

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McNair wants to end Super Bowl hosting curse

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No team hosting a Super Bowl in its own stadium has ever played in the game. Some think there’s actually a curse associated with hosting the game.

Regardless, with the torch now passed from San Francisco to Houston, Texans owner Bob McNair wants his team to be the first to qualify for a home game in the Super Bowl.

“It’s never happened that the host city, host team, played in the Super Bowl, so we’d like to break that record,” McNair said Thursday, at the unveiling of a Super Bowl countdown clock. “That would be wonderful and anything is possible.”

McNair likely had to grit his teeth a bit when praising coaches he had run out of Houston for winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos.

“We’re delighted to see the guys up in Denver succeed and you saw that they did it with their defense,” McNair said. “That’s what we’ve been working towards and we have a chance, so hopefully we’ll have that opportunity.”

But while defense clearly wins championships, an offense is at some point necessary to get there. The Texans have struggled at quarterback, and in a division with three potential franchise quarterbacks on the rosters of Houston’s primary rivals, it’s going to get harder, not easier, to win the division.

Two teams have come close to a Super Bowl home game. In Super Bowl XIV, the Rams played the Steelers in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In Super Bowl XIX, the 49ers faced the Dolphins at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.

Amazingly, no team hosting the Super Bowl in its home stadium has even made it to the conference championship round.

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Hasselbeck is “strongly leaning” toward playing again

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A quarterback who’ll turn 40 next month apparently is leaning toward retiring. A quarterback who’ll turn 41 later this year is leaning toward not retiring.

Colts quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck, who started eight games in 2015, could be back again in 2016.

“I haven’t really I guess made up my mind completely on it,” Hasselbeck told Brock & Salk of ESPN 710 in Seattle. “You’ve kind of got to count the cost of what it would mean, what you’re saying ‘yes’ to and what you’re saying ‘no’ to. My kids are getting older. But all in all I would say I’m strongly leaning toward playing again, and we’ll see.”

By thinking about playing past his 41st birthday, Hasselbeck may be creating the impression that he plans to play as long as possible. But he said that’s not the case.

“I’m not trying to play as long as I can,” Hasselbeck said. “I decided [that] I’m gonna play for five surgeries. That was like my mindset. Like five years or five surgeries. And I’ve only had one surgery in my entire life. I think it was a bad way to set a goal. I’m not sure.”

It’s not sure that the Colts want Hasselbeck, even if he chooses to play. Hasselbeck is due to become a free agent in March. Still, without enough competent quarterbacks to go around, someone will want him, if the Colts don’t.

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Offseason rules in full force

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 04:  A general view of the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility outside Arrowhead Stadium as the NFL lockout looms while negotiations are extended on March 4, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now that all 32 teams have completed the 2015 season, it makes sense to review the things that can and can’t be done until the offseason programs open in April.

The rules appear in Article 21, Section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Before the launch of the offseason program, players can’t participate in Club-supervised workouts, practices, group, or individual meetings with coaches, group or individual film study with coaches, or group or individual playbook study with coaches. This provision is the origin of periodic comments from coaches regarding their inability to communicate with players in the offseason.

Still, there’s no prohibition on phone calls or discussions that don’t amount to meetings, film study, or playbook study. If, for example, 49ers coach Chip Kelly simply wants to get to know quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Kelly can call Kaepernick and talk to him. But with Kelly taking the ridiculously extreme position that he can’t even talk about Kaepernick publicly, it seems that Kelly either doesn’t understand the rules or is being deliberately obtuse, possibly to enhance trade potential for Kaepernick by not taking a clear position on whether the 49ers want him during the window when interested teams might call.

Players nevertheless are allowed to work out in the team facility, with strength and conditioning coaches prevented from supervising workouts but permitted into supervise the weight room to prevent injury and correct misuse of the equipment. And plenty of players prefer to stay in shape that way, given the fact that it’s both familiar and free.

Regardless of the rules, football coaches who want to talk to their players will surely find a way to do it. In the five years since the new rules were promulgated, no coach ever has been accused to talking to players more than he should. Players who are truly committed to winning will do whatever they have to do, exercising discretion while also planning for an opportunity to compete more effectively in the coming season.

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Colts announce two more staff moves

Chuck Pagano, Mark Hittner AP

Colts Coach Chuck Pagano is keeping two assistants from last season on in new roles for 2016.

Veteran coach Jim Hostler will be the tight ends coach, and Tim Berbenich will stay as offensive assistant/assistant quarterbacks coach after being a defensive assistant in 2015.

Hostler had been the team’s wide receivers coach. In 16 NFL seasons he’s also been an assistant with the Bills, Ravens, 49ers, Jets, Saints and Chiefs.

The team’s release on Hostler and Berbenich said the 2015 staff has been finalized. The Colts cleaned out their defensive staff, hired and shuffled some offensive coaches and lost assistant special teams coach Brant Boyer to the Jets. Former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin came on as assistant head coach and will work with the offensive line.

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Raiders announce one-year lease to remain in Oakland

Mark Davis Getty Images

For at least one more year, the Raiders will remain in Oakland.

The Raiders announced today that they have agreed to a one-year lease extension to play at O.co Coliseum for the 2016 season. The agreement includes an additional two years of team options, giving the Raiders the choice to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018 as well.

Raiders owner Mark Davis called the deal a “win-win situation” and said he’s optimistic that a deal can get worked out that will keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Raiders have hired real estate executive Larry MacNeil, who helped the 49ers with their move into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, to help the Raiders negotiate a deal for a new stadium in Oakland.

“It gives us an opportunity to work on a permanent facility here in Oakland,” Davis said. “It gives us some certainty for this season as well as flexibility for the next two seasons. . . . My heart is here in Oakland.”

As they attempt to encourage more Bay Area fans to support them in Oakland, the Raiders have also announced that they will not raise season ticket prices.

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Super Bowl fans spent $151.92 each on food, drink, stuff

food-and-beer-at-the-super-bowl-are-even-more-expensive-than-we-imagined Getty Images

Going to the Super Bowl is a rare and special thing. So rare and special that the people who show up for the game happily accept the fact that everything is really expensive, forking over whatever the price may be for grossly overpriced food, beverages, and merchandise.

Via SportsBusiness Journal and ESPN.com, that mindset allowed for $6.2 million to be spent on food and beverages, an average of $87.57 per person. According to SBJ, another $4.6 million was spent on merchandise, pushing the total per person expenditure to $151.92.

That’s $151.92 for each of the 71,088 who attended. Which resulted in another $10.8 million flowing through the cash register.

When it comes to food and drink only, the record high came at MetLife Stadium two years ago, when fans spent an average of $94.60.

Meanwhile, I spent $59.64 on eight medium-sized pizzas from a national chain that needs no free advertising, feeding nine people and providing four days and counting of lunch and/or dinner for me since then. Which would explain why I’ve been spending so much time in the bathroom.

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No offset language in Brees guaranteed salary

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The Saints definitely will be keeping quarterback Drew Brees for 2016.

Wednesday’s non-news news that $10.85 million of his $19.75 million base salary had become fully guaranteed omitted a piece of new news that means Brees will not be going anywhere. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Brees deal has no offset language for 2016.

This means that, if the Saints were to cut Brees, he’d still get the full $10.85 million without reduction for any money earned elsewhere, meaning that the Saints would carry $20.85 million on the books for Brees in 2016, no matter what.

If the deal had offset language, the Saints could have moved on from Brees if the two sides failed to work out a new deal for 2016 and beyond, since someone else surely would have paid Brees that much for the coming season — and the Saints would have gotten a dollar-for-dollar credit for the guaranteed pay.

So as it now stands, Brees has maximum leverage. He can either proceed with a $19.75 million base salary and a $30 million cap number, or he can sign an extension that reduces the cap number in exchange for cash and other considerations beyond the current season.

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Nate Allen back with Raiders

Nate Allen, Nick Foles AP

Earlier this week, the Raiders parted ways with safety Nate Allen shortly before his $4.9 million salary for the year would have become guaranteed.

The move didn’t cost the Raiders any dead money under the cap and freed up space to use on other acquisitions. Or re-acquisitions in the case of Allen.

The Raiders announced Thursday that they have brought Allen back to the roster. They didn’t announce the terms, but it’s a good bet that it is for less than the guaranteed salary he was set this season to make before getting bounced and not as long as the four-year, $23 million deal they signed him to before last season.

Allen only played in five games for the Raiders last season because of a knee injury and had 14 tackles and an interception while making three starts. Allen spent his first five seasons with the Eagles.

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Announcement of new Raiders lease expected at 6:00 p.m. ET

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 12:  A general view during the Oakland Raiders game against the San Diego Chargers at O.co Coliseum on October 12, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders didn’t have a lease to play in Oakland or anywhere else for 2016. They apparently have one now.

It’s believed the Raiders and the Joint Powers Authority will announce at a press conference to be held at 6:00 p.m. ET that the Raiders have reached a deal to remain at the O.Co Coliseum for 2016.

The Raiders had no other options for the coming season. The broader question is whether the Raiders and the powers-that-be within the Joint Powers Authority will strike a deal to build a new stadium, or whether the Raiders will move elsewhere. Last week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf explained that her goal was to first get a lease in place with the Raiders and then to come up with a long-term stadium solution.

Potential options for the Raiders, if not in Oakland, include Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego (if the Chargers leave for L.A.), and Las Vegas. The possibility of the Raiders playing in Sacramento or sharing a stadium with the San Francisco Giants (not the 49ers, the Giants) also has been floated.

The most obvious solution — sharing a venue with the 49ers — continues to be at the bottom of the list.

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Jahri Evans refused pay cut, plans to play this year

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Before they cut him last week, the Saints offered to let veteran guard Jahri Evans hang around, as long as he took less money.

Agent Jerrold Colton told WIP Radio that the Saints offered Evans a reduced salary, after doing the same thing a year ago.

“The Saints came to us for the second year in a row about doing a little contract adjustment and pay cut this year,” Colton said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We weren’t going to do it again.

“He’s healthy and hungry and looking forward to the next chapter of his career.”

The Saints saved $3.1 million by cutting the 10-year veteran, and had to do it when they did because $2 million of his salary would have become guaranteed this week.

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Bob McNair: No reason Texans wouldn’t be able to draft a quarterback

MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 17:  Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers throws a pass during a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.  The Tigers defeated the Rebels 37-24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last month, Texans owner Bob McNair said that the team was working on ways to improve at quarterback this offseason and the topic was on his mind again on Thursday.

McNair was at an event for the Houston Super Bowl committee to discuss the road to Super Bowl LI next year and the discussion turned at one point to what the Texans would have to do to play the game in their home stadium. McNair pointed out that the Broncos “did it with defense” and said that he thought his team needed a reliable quarterback who “won’t take anything away from us” in order to have a shot at following in Denver’s footsteps.

That quarterback could come to town via the draft. McNair sounded like he expects to see the team use a draft pick on a signal caller later this year.

“There are a number of quarterbacks out there, college quarterbacks coming out and I think we have a good chance at getting one of them,” McNair said, via the Houston Chronicle. “There are four or five of them who look like they have enough talent and size and athletic ability. I don’t know any reason why we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

While drafting a quarterback won’t guarantee the Texans reliable play or the improvement they’d need to make it to the Super Bowl, it’s hard to argue with Houston going that route if there’s a player they think can be a starter in Bill O’Brien’s offense. Brian Hoyer isn’t going to be a long-term answer at the position and Tom Savage, a fourth-round pick in 2014, hasn’t played enough for the Texans to know what they have with him.

That leaves them without the solution they need at quarterback and, as McNair mentioned, no reason not to extend their search into this year’s draft class.

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Archie Manning: “I’m not going to blast” Cam Newton for walk-off

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts after a play against the New Orleans Saints during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) Getty Images

Archie Manning knows something about Super Bowl-losing quarterbacks bailing early.

So maybe that’s why he’s not joining the chorus criticizing Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for leaving his press conference abruptly Sunday night.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, the elder Manning compared it to when his son left the field after Super Bowl XLIV without shaking hands.

It’s really hard, really, really hard,” Manning said. “I like Cam. I’m not going to blast Cam. As a parent you say, ‘I wish he’d have handled it a little different.’ But it hurts.”

When Peyton lost to the Saints in 2010, he left the field without congratulating anyone else. But Archie said Peyton texted Sean Payton and Drew Brees from the locker room that night.

But nothing matched the furor Newton triggered by huffing off the podium after losing to the Broncos.

“He did catch flak about it,” Archie said of his son. “I don’t think until that game I ever had enough sympathy for the losing team in a Super Bowl. You’re really probably the second-best team out of 32 that year, but you come away from that game and feel like you’re 32nd instead of second. I can remember that. I remember how hurt [Peyton] was. . . .

“It’s a hard time, winning the Super Bowl or losing the Super Bowl. Cam, he’ll learn from it.”

Peyton did, and has handled losses gracefully since then. And while Newton said in the aftermath he wouldn’t necessarily change things, it’s hard to imagine the natural process of time won’t lead him a different way.

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