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PFT’s Week Three Picks

Ben Getty Images

Last week, I had my chance to pull even with MDS.  Thanks to a Panthers defense that was playing not to lose and a blown coverage at the goal line that guaranteed it, I had prevailed in the only disagreement of the day.

But then came the night game.  And I was one of the “ignorant idiots” who thought the 49ers could beat the Seahawks in Seattle.

The result was a push for the week, with both of us getting 12 right and four wrong.  For the year, I’m 23-9, and MDS is 24-8.

This week, all hell will break loose, Breaking Bad style.  We disagree on SIX of the games.  For all the picks from Week Three, scroll baby, scroll.

Chiefs at Eagles

MDS’s take: Can Andy Reid return to Philadelphia and get his team to 3-0? It would be a great story, but I don’t see it happening: Chip Kelly’s offense will put too many points on the board for Reid’s more conservative offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Chiefs 27.

Florio’s take:  Week Two helped everyone make better sense of Week One.  And it appears through both games that the Chiefs doing what coach Andy Reid wants them to do, and that the Eagles are still a work in progress under Chip Kelly.  This may be Big Red’s only chance to win another game in Philly.  It’s unlikely he’ll squander it.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Eagles 20.

Texans at Ravens

MDS’s take: The defending Super Bowl champions just haven’t looked particularly good on either side of the ball this season, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. J.J. Watt is going to make life miserable for Joe Flacco as Houston wins a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Texans 17, Ravens 9.

Florio’s take:  Both teams are banged up a bit, and each has struggled.  Give the home team the edge — even though Ed Reed could end up making the difference for Houston.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 24, Texans 21.

Packers at Bengals

MDS’s take: I like the way the Bengals’ defense is playing, but I like the way Aaron Rodgers is playing more. Expect Rodgers to have a big game as the Packers improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take:  Green Bay’s defense is better, and its offense at times is unstoppable.  The Packers offensive line has been holding up well enough to let 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers play like a serious contender for 2013 NFL MVP.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 31, Bengals 27.

Giants at Panthers

MDS’s take: I viewed both of these teams as playoff contenders heading into the season, but the loser will be 0-3, and it’s awfully tough for any team to dig itself out of a hole that deep. Both teams have offensive problems that need to be corrected, and I have more confidence in Tom Coughlin and his staff to figure out a way to cut down on the turnovers than I have in Ron Rivera and his staff to find a way to get Cam Newton making big plays again. So I’m leaning toward the Giants in a close one.

MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year in Week Three, the Giants blew out the Panthers in their own building.  And the Giants still didn’t make the playoffs.  This year, it won’t be as ugly against a Panthers team that has been playing not to lose — and that has no one to cover Victor Cruz.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 27, Panthers 17.

Rams at Cowboys

MDS’s take: I’m not really sold on either of these teams as NFC playoff contenders, although the NFC East looks so weak that the Cowboys just need to hang around .500 all season to stay in the race. I see the Cowboys getting above .500 with a close home win over the Rams.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 21, Rams 17.

Florio’s take:  The all-time series is tied at 11-11 in the regular season, and 4-4 in the postseason.  The easy pick is the Cowboys, who held serve (finally) against the Giants in Week One to start the season.  But the right pick could be the Rams, who held off a Cardinals team that beat the Lions — and who rebounded from a deep deficit against the Falcons to make a game of it on Sunday.

Florio’s pick:  Rams 24, Cowboys 23.

Browns at Vikings

MDS’s take: I was tempted to pick the upset before the Browns traded Trent Richardson because I thought Richardson could move the ball effectively against the suspect Vikings run defense. But I just can’t pick a team to win on the road with Brian Hoyer as its starting quarterback and no running backs who have carried the ball a single time all season.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 20, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Bernie Kosar.  It doesn’t matter.  The Trent Richardson trade puts extra pressure on the passing game against a Vikings team playing the first game of its final season in the Metrodome.  Adrian Peterson will show the Browns what they hoped they were getting when they traded up with Minnesota to take Richardson.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 27, Browns 14.

Buccaneers at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Bucs have played better than their 0-2 record suggests. The Patriots have played worse than their 2-0 record suggests. This is a close game, but in the end the Patriots will pull it out at home.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Pats are 2-0 and could be 0-2.  The Bucs are 0-2 and could be 2-0.  But New England is the team with the franchise quarterback and the coach with enough pelts on the wall to justify antisocial behavior.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 20, Buccaneers 10.

Cardinals at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints have started 2-0 without their offense really breaking out yet. Week Three will be when we see Sean Payton’s offense shine.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Cardinals 10.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals are better than anyone thought they’d be.  And that will serve them very well.  But not in New Orleans against the Saints, who also are better than anyone thought they’d be.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Cardinals 24.

Chargers at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans’ defense is a lot better than it was last year, and I think Gregg Williams deserves a lot of the credit. Before he was known for Bountygate, Williams was known for devising aggressive schemes that gave opposing quarterbacks fits, and that’s what he’s doing in Tennessee this season. His defense will give Philip Rivers fits on Sunday as the Titans improve to 2-1.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Chargers 10.

Florio’s take:  The franchises that squared off in the first two AFL title games get together, with both so far looking like potential playoff teams.  Flip a coin, throw a dart, light a match.  What the Chargers did in Philly was more impressive than what the Titans did in Pittsburgh.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Titans 25.

Lions at Redskins

MDS’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one: When Washington has the ball, I could see Robert Griffin III having his best game of the season against a suspect Lions secondary, but I could also see a talented Lions line making life miserable for Griffin. When Detroit has the ball, I could see Matthew Stafford putting up huge numbers against a defense that has looked terrible this year, but I could also see the Lions struggling if Reggie Bush is at less than 100 percent. Ultimately, I think the story of the game will be that Washington still doesn’t have its defensive problems fixed.

MDS’s pick: Lions 31, Redskins 30.

Florio’s take:  The Lions have never ever ever never ever never won in D.C.  The Redskins have never ever ever never ever never won in 2013, dating back to January.  Though we don’t know whether No. 21 will be available, it’s time for Detroit to end an 0-21 road streak that dates back well before the commencement of the Curse of Bobby Layne.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Redskins 20.

Falcons at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins’ defense is good against the pass and bad against the run. Unfortunately for the Falcons, with Steven Jackson out they can’t take advantage of Miami’s biggest weakness. The Dolphins will improve to 3-0 with a low-scoring win.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  Could the 13-3 Falcons plunge to 1-2?  Yes they could, thanks to an improving Dolphins team that has started the season with a pair of road wins.  Injuries aren’t helping matters for the defending NFC South champions, who’ll need to help their offensive lineman in order to ensure Matt Ryan doesn’t join the list of the limping.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 24, Falcons 20.

Bills at Jets

MDS’s take: It’s billed as the battle of AFC East rookie quarterbacks, but neither Buffalo’s EJ Manuel nor New York’s Geno Smith will be able to do much in a game that will be dominated by defense. I’m picking the Jets to win by a field goal.

MDS’s pick: Jets 9, Bills 6.

Florio’s take:  This battle of rookie quarterbacks will overshadow a far more intriguing subtext relating to the return of former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to face his former boss, Rex Ryan.  The road team simply has the better overall talent.  Which means that, at least for now, the servant becomes the master — and the Bills become the third-best team in the division.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 20, Jets 17.

Colts at 49ers

MDS’s take: Last year the Colts got a lot of good breaks on the way to a surprising playoff run. This year the Colts are getting all kinds of bad breaks, and they’re crashing back to earth. The 49ers will rebound from Sunday’s loss in Seattle and beat the Colts easily.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Colts 10.

Florio’s take:  It’s a Stanford reunion, with Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh and Coby Fleener and Pep Hamiltion reminiscing about their mutual dislike of Pete Carroll and Cal.  After, of course, the 49ers take care of business against a team that saw five of its six total losses in 2012 come when playing away from home.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 35, Colts 20.

Jaguars at Seahawks

MDS’s take: In one of the most lopsided games in recent NFL history, the question isn’t so much who will win as by how much. I think it’s the Seahawks by a lot.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 38, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  The CBS affiliate in Orlando will be apologizing again.  If the Seahawks can beat one of the best teams in the league by 26 in Seattle, this one could be historic.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 45, Jaguars 6.

Bears at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers’ offense has been dismal this season, and the Bears’ defense isn’t going to make things any easier. The Bears improve to 3-0 and the Steelers drop to 0-3.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Steelers 10.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers rarely are on the mat.  When it happens, they find a way to get up.  Eight years ago, they were left for dead after a loss to the Bengals, and the Steelers sparked a run that resulted in a Super Bowl win by beating the Bears at Heinz Field.  Though it’s way too early to even think about playoffs in Pittsburgh (except for the baseball team), it’s not too early to envision a proud franchise mustering enough punch to bring the 2-0 Bears back down to earth a bit.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Bears  16.

Raiders at Broncos

MDS’s take: This is going to be a more competitive game than most people think. The Raiders aren’t quite the doormats that people were expecting them to be. Still, with Tyvon Branch injured, I don’t see any way the Raiders keep Peyton Manning in check, and it’s going to be tough for Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders’ offense to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Raiders 23.

Florio’s takeRyan Clady or not, the better-than-expected Raiders still aren’t good enough to hang with the Broncos in their own building.  Look for another big night from Peyton Manning, who knows his supply of prime-time opportunities is dwindling.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 45, Raiders 20.

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Isaiah Crowell just hoping an NFL team gives him a chance

Isaiah Crowell, Jerome Howard

In 2011, although South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney immediately made his presence known in college football, the reporters who covered the SEC voted Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell as the conference’s freshman of the year.

Three years later, while Clowney (who was voted freshman of the year by the SEC’s coaches) is a candidate to be the first overall pick in the draft, Crowell is just hoping some NFL team will give him a chance. Crowell was kicked off the Georgia team after he was arrested in the summer after his freshman year, and he spent the last two seasons playing at Alabama State.

Now Crowell tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that when he talks to NFL teams, conversations always circle back to his off-field issues, even though charges were eventually dropped in connection with the weapons charges that led to his dismissal at Georgia.

Crowell is talented enough that there would be no doubts about his ability to make it in the NFL if he didn’t have any off-field issues. But because he does have off-field issues, it’s unclear where — or whether — he’ll be drafted. Crowell ran for 1,121 yards and 15 touchdowns last year at Alabama State, and that performance may have been enough to convince some team that he’s worth a draft pick. Just not as high a pick as he would have been had he stayed out of trouble and stayed at Georgia.

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Source: 49ers haven’t made decision on Aldon Smith’s option

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

On Sunday, we reported that the 49ers haven’t decided whether to pick up the 2015 option on linebacker Aldon Smith’s contract.  Since then, more pessimistic accounts have emerged.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reported that it’s “very unlikely” the option will be exercised.  Earlier on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN explained that the 49ers are “not expected” to extend the contract from a four-year deal to a five-year deal.

Per a league source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, however, the 49ers still haven’t made a decision.  And they don’t have to make a decision until May 3, the deadline for picking up the option.

The option-year salary of $9.75 million for Smith would be guaranteed for injury only until the first day of the 2015 league year.  At that point, it would become fully guaranteed for 2015.

Until then, the 49ers would owe Smith the money only if he suffers an injury that would render him unable to play not only this year but next year.  And if they decide to trade him at some point, the 49ers would be able to send to Smith’s new team a contract that covers more than one year.

Other than avoiding the small risk of a two-year injury, the only potential benefit of not exercising the option would be motivational.  The Lions, for instance, aren’t using it for defensive tackle Nick Fairley, in order to prompt him to play hard as he chases a long-term deal.  For Smith, who has 42 sacks in 43 career regular-season games, it’s not about on-field motivation; it’s about staying out of trouble.  The opportunity to earn $9.75 million in 2015 should provide all the motivation he needs in that regard.

Regardless, no decision has been made.  Yet.  The 49ers have roughly two weeks to deliberate.

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Texans bringing Teddy Bridgewater in for a visit next week

Teddy Bridgewater AP

The Jaguars will be taking a second look at Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater over the weekend and one of their AFC South rivals will also be bringing Bridgewater in for a meeting.

Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com reports that the Texans will host Bridgewater next week as they continue to peruse the quarterback options available to them in this year’s draft.

There was a time when Bridgewater was considered a possibility with Houston’s first overall pick, but it is harder to find people who think things will break that way. That doesn’t mean that he won’t wind up in Houston, however.

The Texans also have the first pick of the second round and they could opt to go for Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick before using that pick on a quarterback. Bridgewater could be in play for them if they stay put at the top of the round or if they decide to move back into the first round using that pick as part of a trade package.

That might not be where Bridgewater thought he’d wind up being selected when the process started, but there would be worse landing spots than Houston for a quarterback with designs on starting.

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Report: Rolando McClain expected to work with Ravens soon

Rolando+McClain+San+Diego+Chargers+v+Oakland+EbS0xbCdJoxl Getty Images

Rolando McClain’s comeback attempt didn’t get off to such a hot start, but the Ravens are apparently letting him continue to attempt it.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the plan is for McClain to join the Ravens “as soon as Monday” for the offseason program.

He was reinstated from the reserve/retired list this week, despite reportedly faring poorly in his conditioning test.

At this point, he’s a low-risk/no-risk investment.

If he’s interested in being a football player again, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome (a fellow Alabama man) appears inclined to give him a chance. If McClain doesn’t get in shape, the only thing they’ve wasted is time and a roster spot, of which there are 90.

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Andrew Luck had to get away from football for a few

Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman

Some quarterbacks decompress over the offseason by burying themselves in football (and possibly violating the CBA).

Others take a difference approach.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck spent a few months traveling the world, getting away from football before returning to work next week.

You do have to get away, at least in my mind you do, so I did,” Luck said, via the team’s official website. “I made sure I gave myself a solid month-and-a-half, two months to get back into football shape before starting this voluntary workout session.

“It’s something I think I did better this year than last year. Every year, hopefully [I’ll] continue to do better in balancing that time. I know getting away from football is as important almost as making sure your mind’s fresh and clear as the training aspect.”

Luck said his football itch returned in March, leading him to the feeling of, “I’ve really got to get this thing cranked up again.”

Luck made solid strides from his rookie year to his second, especially in terms of limiting turnovers (at least until the postseason). Now, he has a new weapon with which to work, after the Colts brought in Hakeem Nicks.

“I haven’t had a chance to throw with him. We’ve talked, though,” Luck said. “He’s a winner, a vet, a good football player. I’m very excited.

“Every off-season is key in building rhythm. That’s one of the bigger focuses as a quarterback. [It’s] either build on the rapport you have with guys like a T.Y. [Hilton] or Reggie [Wayne]. Also to integrate the new guys, sort of feel each other out football-wise. The work you put this off-season hopefully will pay dividends when the season comes.”

But for Luck, the work starts next week, when offseason conditioning begins.

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Saints re-sign WR Robert Meachem

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

One of the Saints’ primary deep threats is back for another season in New Orleans.

The club said Friday it had signed wideout Robert Meachem to a one-year contract. The 29-year-old Meachem caught 16 passes for 324 yards and two TDs in regular season play for New Orleans in 2013, then added three receptions for 109 yards in the playoffs.

The Saints’ first-round pick in 2007, Meachem (6-2, 215) has caught 171 passes for 2.800 yards and 27 touchdowns in his NFL career. He has played six seasons with New Orleans, including a five-season stint (2007-2011) at the outset of his career. He signed with the Chargers before the 2012 season but struggled in his time with San Diego, catching just 14 passes for 207 yards and two TDs in his lone campaign away from New Orleans.

Forty-two of Meachem’s regular season receptions have gone for 20 yards or more. What’s more, he had three catches of 40 yards or longer in the 2013 regular season, then hauled in receptions of 40 and 52 yards in the postseason.

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Jaguars doing more homework, working Bridgewater out

Bridgewater AP

The Jaguars have already had Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in for a visit.

Now, they want to see a little more.

According to Josina Anderson of ESPN, Bridgewater will have a second meeting and workout tomorrow with the Jaguars.

This comes right as reports are building that Bridgewater’s stock might not be as high as previously thought.

The Jaguars desperately need a long-term answer at quarterback. They also own the third overall pick in the draft. And the 39th.

Whether they think Bridgewater is more worthy of one than the other may dictate their interest. But after he had a lackluster pro day, he has a chance to convince them on a one-on-one basis tomorrow.

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PFT Live: Falcons talk with D. Orlando Ledbetter, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Mike Smith AP

The Falcons own the sixth pick in next month’s draft and they have sent some pretty clear signals about what direction they’d like to go with their top selection.

They’ve been meeting with the top offensive tackles and defensive front seven players as they try to formulate their plan for May 8. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution will join Mike Florio on Friday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss those options and we’ll find out what Ledbetter thinks is the team’s smartest course of action.

We’re also interested in hearing what’s on your mind as another week draws to a close. We’ll be taking questions from PFT Planet again, so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or by giving a call to 888-237-5269 during the show. 

It all gets underway at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Lots of teams looking at Demarcus Lawrence

M.J. McPeek, Demarcus Lawrence AP

The ability to get after the quarterback is prized by every team in the league, so it probably shouldn’t come as much surprise that Boise State defensive end/linebacker Demarcus Lawrence is taking a lot of visits ahead of next month’s draft.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Lawrence is expected to meet with the Redskins, Cowboys, Saints, Vikings, Steelers, 49ers and Jets before the draft. In addition, he’s also met with the Falcons and done private workouts with the Saints and Seahawks as teams try to determine where Lawrence will come off the board.

The variety of teams showing interest in Lawrence and the variety of the schemes they run suggest a feeling that Lawrence can fit as an edge rusher in either a 4-3 or 3-4 base defense. Lawrence’s college production backs up that feeling, although teams are likely also interested in finding out whether the off-field issues that led to three one-game suspensions for Lawrence at Boise are under control as he moves into the professional ranks.

Lawrence has been projected as a second-round pick, but could move into the first day if a team decides he’s the answer for their pass rushing needs.

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Manning, Gase “visit” to Saban may have violated offseason rules

Manning AP

The meeting between former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning and current Alabama coach Nick Saban will raise plenty of eyebrows among Volunteers fans who voluntarily wear on Saturdays in the fall an objectively unattractive shade of orange.

The session also should raise some eyebrows at 345 Park Avenue, for entirely different reasons.

As Saban explained it, Manning was accompanied by offensive coordinator Adam Gase.  Saban also said that Manning and Gase were “making some visits.”

“To be honest with you, [Manning] was just trying to learn so he could be a better player,” Saban said.  “I think a lot of people would say, ‘Wow, the guy is one of the best, if not the best, and certainly from a career standpoint probably about as good as anybody’s been in the history of the league.  After all the experience and knowledge that he has, he’s going out and trying to seek more knowledge and understanding of the game of football so he can play better.”

That’s admirable.  It’s also a potential CBA violation.

The new labor deal, struck in 2011, places clear limits on offseason activities.  Under Article 21, Section 2(a)(ii), players “are not permitted to participate in . . . group or individual meetings with coaches” prior to the start of the team’s official offseason workout program.

The Broncos have yet to start their official offseason program.  Gase and Manning aren’t allowed to meet.  Either Saban is lying (because “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach“), it looks like they met.

Per a league source, Saban’s characterization of Manning and Gase making arm-in-arm visits to college coaches could be incorrect.  The Manning-Gase-Saban meeting at Alabama may have happened by chance, with Manning coming in to meet Saban and Gase, who once worked for Saban, happening to be in the area at the same time.

Regardless, it appears there was a meeting between player and coach before the start of Denver’s offseason program.

The Broncos declined comment on the issue.  The NFL has not yet responded to an email message seeking confirmation that the rules prohibit meetings between players and coaches prior to the start of the team’s offseason program.

Then again, confirmation likely isn’t necessary.  The rule is clear.  In the three years since the rule was created, it’s the first time evidence has arisen of a potential violation.

UPDATE 11:27 a.m. ET:  NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tells PFT that the league is looking into the situation.

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NCAA’s leaders are sealing its fate

Emmert AP

When things go badly, human nature searches for someone else to blame.  Even when responsible party does the right thing and admits fault for an undesirable outcome, the internal wiring at a minimum sparks with the temptation to pin it all on another person.

When the NCAA suffers the fate that inevitably is coming, on a timetable much faster than anyone envisioned, president Mark Emmert should have no temptation to blame lawyers or unions or judges or senators or agents or parents or the media or anyone else.  Emmert’s ongoing remarks about the state of college athletics, where more and more people are realizing that the “student-athlete” label has been for decades a scam to get free (or at least very cheap) labor, are serving only to broaden and strengthen the notion that something must be done to protect current and future student-athletes from being exploited by a system that pays everyone except the student-athletes.

Most recently, Emmert made an ill-advised appearance on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning.  Our friends at CFT have chronicled some of the highlights (lowlights), capped by the notion that student-athletes are “taking seats from a paying student.”

Yes, Emmert actually said that.  By saying that, Emmert clumsily painted student-athletes, whose collective efforts bring in far more dollars per person than those paying full freight, as freeloaders.

Emmert and the conference commissioners and the university presidents and the athletic directors would be far better off saying nothing.  That would at least delay the day of reckoning, giving the NCAA and the schools ample time to plan for change — and more opportunities to profit obscenely from the structure that currently is in place.

Instead, Emmert’s effort to stop the slow bleed could nick an artery, resulting in a public outcry for change so big and so loud that someone in a position of power will see a tangible political benefit to accelerating the process of bringing sweeping change to the world of college athletics.

Which in turn will bring change of some sort to the NFL, which continues to benefit from the free farm system known as college football.  If/when (when) college football players must be paid fair market value, the farm system may not be free.  And it may not be nearly as vast as it currently is.

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Ron Rivera learns NASCAR lessons can apply to football

RonRivera AP

When it’s the offseason, NFL coaches are limited in the work they can do with players, so they have to learn from each other.

But instead of turning to other football coaches, Panthers coach Ron Rivera spent time with NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus, who has led Jimmie Johnson to six titles.

The geographic proximity makes it easy, but Knaus also had some experience in a similar situation to the one Rivera’s in now.

In 2010, with three races to go in the season, Knaus once replaced his entire seven-man pit crew, which — without knowing much about car racing — seems vaguely analogous to Rivera blowing up his wide receiver corps this offseason.

This guy may jack the car up a 10th of a second faster, but he doesn’t work as well together with others,” Rivera said via David Newton of ESPN.com, “while this guy may be a 10th of a second slower, yet he works well with everybody. We’re the same way. It’s about, ‘How does this guy fit in the locker room?’”

That sound you hear is a bus being driven over Steve Smith, an obvious shot at the best player in franchise history, who was cut earlier this offseason for reasons that had nothing to do with football.

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Chuck Pagano: It’s an important offseason for Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson AP

The Colts kick off their offseason program on Monday and it promises to be a big one for running back Trent Richardson.

Richardson’s in-season arrival in a trade with the Browns cost the Colts a first-round pick and got them a back who wound up being benched in favor of Donald Brown near the end of the season. The Colts have maintained faith in Richardson and the back said after the season that he thought his struggles were due in part to insufficient time to pick up the offense, something coach Chuck Pagano says Richardson has to do this offseason.

“It’s going to be very, very important for [Richardson] to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will,” Pagano said, via the team’s website. “He wants to be great. He’s got all the talent. He’s got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn’t believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign.”

Brown is in San Diego now, but Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw are back in Indy and we’ve already seen the Colts move on from Richardson when they felt there were better options. There’s no reason to expect anything different next season if Richardson hasn’t shown that his slow start with the team was just a matter of being in unfamiliar surroundings.

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Jimmy Clausen looking for a second chance to compete

Jimmy Clausen AP

When the Panthers drafted Jimmy Clausen in the second round of the 2010 draft, the hope was that he’d develop into their starting quarterback.

That never happened. Clausen played poorly in 13 games as a rookie and the Panthers drafted Cam Newton after going 2-14, leaving Clausen with a seat on the bench that he never relinquished the next two seasons. Clausen then hurt his shoulder in preseason last year, forcing him to injured reserve before his contract with the Panthers came to an end.

Clausen is working out with trainers and says his shoulder is almost 100 percent, but that hasn’t helped him get a job yet this offseason. Clausen hopes that changes so that he can resume his quest for a starting job in the league.

“That’s what I want. The only thing I can ask for is an opportunity — a legit opportunity to compete to be a No. 2 and hopefully work my way up,” Clausen said, via USA Today It’s tough. Obviously, I’m a competitor and want to get somewhere and compete.”

There hasn’t been much tape of Clausen for teams to evaluate since that dismal rookie year and there hasn’t been so much as a murmur of interest in his services around the league this offseason, which doesn’t bode well for a resurrection of his stalled career. Perhaps that changes if a team feels the need for an extra arm in camp this summer, but things look dim for Clausen on the second chance front.

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Popp says Johnson isn’t trying to get back to the NFL

Chad AP

Former NFL receiver Chad Johnson/Ochocinco/Johnson has become new CFL receiver Chad Johnson.  (Or, perhaps eventually, Chad Quatre-Vingt-Cinq.)

Regardless, Johnson supposedly has no aspiration to parlay his arrival in the CFL into a return to the NFL.  That’s what long-time Alouettes G.M. Jim Popp told Ross Tucker and Brad Hopkins of SiriusXM NFL Radio on Friday.

Popp also insisted that adding Johnson, who last spent time in the NFL nearly two years ago with the Dolphins after a lackluster 2011 season with the Patriots, isn’t a publicity stunt.

It may not be a stunt, but it’s definitely generating publicity.  The question is whether it will result in productivity.  While plenty of young players have used the CFL as a way to attract the attention of the NFL, precious few aging NFL players have gone to Canada and made an impact.  If Johnson plays at a high level, it will be noteworthy in large part because it will be unprecedented.

Until then, NFL fans and NFL media will pay more attention to the CFL.  Which means more publicity.  Even if the goal wasn’t to get more publicity.

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