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Report: No surgery for Brandon Weeden

Brandon Weeden AP

The right thumb of Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden may or may not be “really screwed up,” but it doesn’t appear to need surgery to get him back to full health.

Weeden went to see a hand specialist to find out the extent of the damage to his thumb and Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that he’s been told that he doesn’t need surgery. According to Schefter, Weeden could be ready to get back on the field as early as next week.

That would mean a decision for Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, who has already said that Weeden is guaranteed nothing more than consideration for the starting job in the weeks to come. A quick return could work in his favor if Brian Hoyer struggles in his start against the Vikings this weekend, although the full criteria for the decision remain known only to the Browns.

If Weeden isn’t in Cleveland’s long-term plans, and the fact that he could lose his job after two weeks largely because of injury suggests he isn’t, then they could move in almost any direction at quarterback while setting their sights on 2014 and beyond.

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Ravens hire Joe D’Alessandris as offensive line coach

Ravens Helmet Getty Images

The Ravens have filled their vacant offensive line coach position, hiring veteran assistant Joe D’Alessandris.

He replaced Juan Castillo, who went to Buffalo to work on coach Sean McDermott’s staff.

D’Alessandris is entering his 40th year of coaching and ninth as a pro. He spent three seasons with the Chargers but was out of coaching last year.

He’s also worked in the CFL and the World League, as well as with the Chiefs and Bills.

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Marcus Mariota “should be back” when Titans get rolling this offseason

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 24: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans is carted off the field after fracturing his fibula during the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 24, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had a metal plate implanted to his fractured fibula in a surgical procedure three weeks ago and a Wednesday update on his condition from coach Mike Mularkey was a positive one.

Mariota was instructed to keep weight off the leg for two months after surgery and had a recovery timeline of 4-5 months before he’d be able to ramp up his football activity. That would fall around the time the Titans are going through organized team activities this offseason and Mularkey said that timeline remains in place during an appearance with Jared Stillman and former Titans General Manager Floyd Reese on 102.5 The Game.

“I spoke with Marcus this afternoon,” Mularkey said. “He actually had an appointment, and they did a good thorough checkup on him. He’s on track. He’s doing great. He should be back when we get this thing rolling. I can’t tell you exact times of when he’s going to practice, but he should be ready for the season, which is what we want him for. But he’s doing good. He’s going to be a very good patient, if I have anything to do with it.”

Whether it comes in OTAs or during training camp, the Titans will likely be cautious with their franchise quarterback when he first resumes on-field work as the goal will be to have him ready to roll come September.

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PFT’s conference championship game picks

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 30: A fan of of the Green Bay Packers stays in his seat after the defeat against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on October 30, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The season is getting closer and closer to its final act. The last Sunday with more than one game has arrived, and MDS and I are separated by only one game with three left.

Last week, I correctly picked three of the four games. MDS was 2-2. He’s 6-2 and I’m 5-3 so far in the postseason.

This week, keep reading to see what we think about the two games that will determine the Super Bowl participants.

Packers at Falcons

MDS’s take: Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are playing the quarterback position better than anyone else in the league right now. So this game should be a shootout, with 300-plus passing yards from both quarterbacks, and 30 or so points for both teams. The difference, I think, will be the Falcons’ ability to make plays both on the ground and through the air. I expect Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman to combine for more than 100 rushing yards and to help the Falcons protect a late lead. The Falcons will win a close one and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 33, Packers 30.

Florio’s take: Before Week One, I picked the Packers to get to the Super Bowl and win it. And then came the playoffs, where I had a chance to pick the Packers over the Giants, and didn’t. Next came the divisional round, where I had a chance to pick the Packers over the Cowboys. And didn’t. So now the Packers are one game away from making my September prediction at least half-accurate (the Ravens were my AFC choice), and I’m sorely tempted to pick against them again.

I’m stupid, but not that stupid. Aaron Rodgers has reached a higher level of performance, and he has sustained it regardless of who is running routes and catching passes. Yes, the Falcons have been great. The Falcons are good enough to advance. But in a toss-up game, I’ve got to go with the guy who made one of the best tosses we’ve ever seen to earn the spot in the NFC finals.

Florio’s pick: Packers 37, Falcons 31.

Steelers at Patriots

MDS’s take: Both of these teams’ offenses struggled in the divisional round, with the Patriots throwing as many interceptions in one game as they had thrown in 16 games of the regular season, and the Steelers failing to get to the end zone and winning on field goals. I think the AFC Championship Game may be a defensive struggle as well, perhaps with a defensive touchdown making the difference. In the end, I like the Patriots to win a close game and get to their seventh Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Steelers 20.

Florio’s take: Bill Belichick likely will try to take away Antonio Brown, forcing the Steelers to run the ball into a two-gap front that could make Le’Veon Bell hesitate a little more than he already does before hitting the hole. Forcing the Steelers to sustain drives without mistakes on one hand and moving the ball largely at will against a defense that Tom Brady traditionally has managed to crack adds up to the Patriots emerging from the game with at least one more point than the Steelers.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 20.

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Melvin Gordon: Anthony Lynn is “perfect” coach for me

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Melvin Gordon #28 of the San Diego Chargers runs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon’s second season was a big step up from his rookie year as he made strides as both a runner and receiver while cutting down on the fumbles that marred his rookie year.

Gordon ran for 997 yards and had 419 more through the air in 13 games while seeing his average per carry and per catch go up as well. That work displayed more of the skills that made Gordon a first-round pick in 2015 and the running back believes that the arrival of Anthony Lynn as head coach will bring even better things in 2017.

Gordon said he is “fired up” to play for Lynn, who helped put together strong rushing attacks in Buffalo the last two seasons as the running backs coach. He’s also gotten good results from backs with the Jaguars, Cowboys and Jets over the course of his career.

“This really means a lot,” Gordon said, via the team’s website. “He obviously knows the game, so if he sees some wrinkles, I’ve got another set of eyes.  Everyone’s got some holes in their game, and he’ll bring some wisdom to help get my game right when I need it.  I’ve got someone who has been around the game for so long and coached some of the league’s best players.  He’ll know how to help me.  He’s perfect for me, so I’m excited to get this thing rolling under him.”

Lynn shares the affection for Gordon, who he says is “growing like a weed” as he progresses in his professional career. Another leap in 2017 and better health elsewhere on the offense would spell good things for the Chargers.

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QB who played for both thinks Kyle Shanahan’s like Bill Belichick

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 28: Quarterback Connor Shaw #9 of the Cleveland Browns sits with Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Quarterback Tyler Thigpen #4 during the first half of a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers are willing to wait for Kyle Shanahan, and one of his former quarterbacks thinks it’s a decision that will pay off handsomely for them.

Via Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer said working with Shanahan reminded him of his time in New England working under Bill Belichick.

Hoyer started 13 games for the Browns in 2014 with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator (going 7-6 as a starter), and spent his first three seasons with the Patriots.

“For me, you just know those two, when you see them in the building, they’re constantly thinking about football,” Hoyer said. “That’s the one thing I really admired about Kyle. You knew when he was there, he was putting the work in, that’s all he was focused on. He might walk by you in the hallway, and you’d say, ‘Hey what’s up, Kyle?’ and he’d keep walking.

“But that was because he’s working on third down or he’s worried about the red area. To me, his total commitment, his mind, he’s always thinking about it. That’s why I made the comparison. Bill was the same way. You’d see him in the hallway, ‘Hey Bill,’ and he’d just look up, and nod, and keep going. You knew he had so much he was thinking about.”

Hoyer also said the two share a perfectionist bent.

“There’s nothing fake about that, he wants everything be to perfect,” Hoyer said. “We’d be going over game plans and he’d be like, ‘I have it studied to a point where I pretty much know what they’ll call on third down. Just trust me, don’t worry about the percentages, I’ll take care of that. I just want you to execute the play.’”

Whether Shanahan can replicate the success he’s having on offense in Atlanta now, or Belichick’s sustained excellence, remains to be seen. But Hoyer’s also about to become a free agent, and buttering up a guy who will needed a quarterback or two can’t hurt.

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Broncos hire Brock Olivo as special teams coach

14 Nov 1999:  Brock Olivo #26 of the Detroit Lions stands on the field during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Lions 23-19. Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck  /Allsport Getty Images

The Broncos interviewed Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub for their head coaching opening. They hired his assistant to be one of their assistants.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, the Broncos are hiring Brock Olivo to coach their special teams.

Olivo played four years in the NFL with the Lions, and has worked for the Chiefs as an assistant special teams coach the last three seasons.

They also interviewed Bears assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower and former Saints special teams coach Greg McMahon.

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Report: Andrew Luck expected to start throwing in three months

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 01:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts is forced out of bounds by Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half of a game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts owner Jim Irsay announced on Thursday morning that quarterback Andrew Luck had surgery on his right shoulder and that the team expects he will be ready to play in Week One next season.

There’s a lot of time between now and then and Irsay wasn’t specific about when Luck might be expected to resume football activities ahead of the start of the season.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Luck is expected to resume throwing in three months, which would be around the time the Colts are ramping up their offseason work. Rapoport adds that a full recovery expected in six months. The latter date would fall in mid-July, which would seem to suggest that Luck will be participating in training camp this summer.

As with any recovery timeline, there are sure to be tweaks along the way as doctors see how Luck is recovering from the surgery in the coming months.

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Dick LeBeau will return for his 59th NFL season, at age 80

lebeau

Dick LeBeau will be 80 at the start of the 2017 season, his 59th as an NFL player or coach. And if you think he’s ready to retire, you don’t know Dick LeBeau.

LeBeau, a Hall of Fame defensive back for the Lions and one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL season, confirmed that he will be back as the Titans’ defensive coordinator next season. The only question for LeBeau was whether head coach Mike Mularkey would bring him back; once Mularkey told LeBeau he wanted him to return, LeBeau immediately agreed.

“The only question in my mind was from the standpoint that somebody’s got to want you to work,’’ LeBeau said. “When Mike said he wanted me to stay, there was no doubt.”

LeBeau said he’s proud of the growth he saw in the Titans’ young players last season and believes they can get better with another offseason of work.

“It was really fulfilling for me to watch our players have some success and to see our team have some success, and that is really why you coach. You are just a teacher. It was a rewarding year,” LeBeau said. “We didn’t get where we wanted to get, and we know we have work to do. But it was not the type of thing you want to run away from. I want to see if we can get this thing over the top. If I were a younger person you wouldn’t even think about [walking away]. Things are headed in the right direction. I try not to pay much attention to the age aspect.”

Eventually, Dick LeBeau’s time in the NFL will come to an end. But it won’t be his 59th season. And no one should bet against his 60th, either.

Photo via Tennessee Titans.

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Adrian Peterson contract question will be resolved sooner than later

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 18: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs on field during pregame introductions before playing the Indianapolis Colts on December 18, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Adrian Peterson has said he’d like to stay with the Vikings. Teammate Chad Greenway thinks there’s a good chance Peterson won’t be back.

Much more will be known soon.

Peterson’s contract pays him a $6 million roster bonus on March 11. Once the Vikings make that payment, they’ll be as a practical matter locked in for another $12 million in salary ($11.75 million) and workout bonus ($250,000).

So if Peterson is going to be squeezed to take less, the time to squeeze is now. Which means the questions will be: (1) how much less than $18 million will the Vikings offer?; (2) how much would another team be willing to pay?; and (3) would Adrian Peterson be willing to force his release so that he then could sign a new contract with the Vikings or someone else whenever he wants?

Peterson has made it clear that he doesn’t like the grind of the offseason program and training camp. He could avoid much of it by becoming a free agent and picking his next destination later in the year.

If that’s what he wants to do, he’ll have an easy way to make it happen. He’ll simply need to refuse to take a penny less than the $18 million he’s due to make in 2017.

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Browns fire Robert Nunn, finalize five other assistant hires

Osi Umenyiora, Robert Nunn AP

The Browns continue to tweak their coaching staff, and have fired another one.

The team announced a number of hires, many of which have already been reported.

They also added defensive line coach Robert Nunn to the group of fired defensive coaches, though he wasn’t in the initial wave of guys let go.

Nunn has 17 years of NFL experience, and was previously with the Giants for six years.

“Over the last two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing coaches and have had some difficult decisions to make,” coach Hue Jackson said in a release. “As I’ve said before, that’s part of my responsibility in my role as head coach of this football team as we are constantly striving for improvement and success. Coaching is always going to be about teaching and it was very important that we found the right coaches that will come in and be able to help our players reach their full potential. We always talk about creating the right environment for our players to succeed and I believe the group we’ve been able to assemble will help us accomplish just that.”

The five assistants named to the staff in the team’s release include Jerod Kruse (assistant defensive backs), Clyde Simmons (defensive line), DeWayne Walker (defensive backs), Blake Williams (linebackers) and Bob Wylie (offensive line).

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Cowboys’ Byron Jones reaction to final pass: “Really, Rodgers?”

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18:  Byron Jones #31 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after a touchdown scored by Adam Humphries #11 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit tight end Jared Cook on a seemingly impossible pass to set up the game-winning field goal on Sunday, all Cowboys safety Byron Jones could do was shake his head in disbelief.

Jones, who was the closest Cowboys defender to Cook but couldn’t quite get there to break up the pass, said on KRLD that

“It’s one of those plays where it’s just like, ‘Really, Rodgers?’ I mean, he threw a dime on the move,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “You don’t see stuff like that. Quarterbacks like that, they find those small holes in the zone and they can just take advantage of it, and Rodgers was able to do that.”

Jones says he defended the play the right way. There was just no stopping Rodgers.

“So we were in a zone coverage, Cover 2,” Jones said. “I’m an underneath dropper, and you know, we all understand what Rodgers is gonna do. We understand he’s gonna leave the pocket, so the play’s gonna be extended. The zone kind of gets all warped up when he holds the ball and he’s running outside the pocket. I kept my eyes on Rodgers like I’m coached to do and tried to defend my seam, and then of course you got Cook sneaking behind me and he catches it on the sideline.”

After that catch the Packers kicked the game-winning field goal, and the Cowboys’ season was over. Jones couldn’t do anything about it, and he doesn’t think there was anything anyone could have done to stop Aaron Rodgers.

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Chad Greenway not sure if he or Adrian Peterson will be back next year

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 03:  Chad Greenway #52 of the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson #28 react after their game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Green Bay Packers with a score of 20 to 13.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chad Greenway has gone to work every day the last 10 years with Adrian Peterson.

And he’s not sure if either one of them will be back with the Vikings next year.

The veteran linebacker told Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he wasn’t sure about his own status (after playing out a one-year contract he presumed would be his last), but had a suspicion about the way things would go with the former MVP running back.

“That’s a question that everybody has on their mind. My opinion, and I’m guessing, is he wouldn’t be back,” Greenway said. “That’s just basing it off contract numbers. But I’m sure the folks in the organization want Adrian to retire a Viking, I’m sure they want him to finish here. But that’s going to come up to those two sides coming together and making a decision and making an agreement on something that makes sense for the club and makes sense for Adrian.

“I’m not sure if they can get that done, and that’s obviously up to Rick [Spielman] and Coach to figure that out. But obviously I think we all want him to finish as a Viking, I think that would just make sense for him and his career. Whether that makes sense for him or not, that’s yet to be determined.”

Peterson’s due to make nearly $18 million in salary and bonuses next year, obviously far too much for a 31-year-old coming off knee problems and with generally declining production. But Greenway said after having conversations with Peterson, he might be inclined to do what’s needed to hang around.

“I have had conversations with him, and he would love to be a Viking and finish his career here,” Greenway said. “And I think that’s something he’s motivated to do. I think the club is motivated to get something done. Obviously a lot of factors weigh in on that, but we’ll see what happens.”

The biggest factor is financial, because unless he’s willing to take far less than scheduled, the other stuff might not matter.

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Dennis Thurman joins list of defensive coordinator candidates in D.C.

Dennis Thurman AP

Being a Rex Ryan assistant is proving to be a helpful line on the resume when it comes to getting an interview for the Redskins’ defensive coordinator job.

Josh Reed of WIVB reported on Thursday morning that Dennis Thurman is expected to interview for the opening and Adam Caplan of ESPN followed that up with word that Thurman’s interview will take place on Thursday. Thurman was Ryan’s defensive coordinator with the Jets and Bills from 2013 until Ryan was fired in Buffalo last year and previously served as a defensive backs coach for the Jets and Ravens.

The Redskins have also interviewed Mike Pettine, who preceded Thurman as the defensive coordinator with the Jets, and Rob Ryan, who joined his brother’s staff for the 2016 season in Buffalo.

Jason Tarver, Greg Manusky and Gus Bradley are others who have spoken to the team about the opening created when they fired Joe Barry after the end of the regular season.

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Aaron Rodgers climbing up the all-time postseason rankings

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws a pass in the first half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has rewritten the NFL’s postseason record book, but he’s not the only quarterback playing on Sunday who has a particularly impressive postseason record.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is also staking a claim for being one of the best postseason passers in NFL history.

In his big game on Sunday against the Cowboys, Rodgers passed Dan Marino and is now fifth in NFL history for career postseason touchdown passes, with 33. Brady has 58 postseason touchdown passes and may put the record out of reach, but if Rodgers and the Packers keep playing well, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pass the other three players ahead of him — Joe Montana with 45, Brett Favre with 44 and Peyton Manning with 40 — in the coming years.

And Rodgers now has a postseason passer rating of exactly 100.0, which puts him fourth all-time, behind only Bart Starr (104.8), Kurt Warner (102.8) and Drew Brees (100.7).

Rodgers is also eighth all-time in postseason completions, ninth in postseason pass attempts and eighth in postseason passing yards, right behind Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in all three categories.

If the 33-year-old Rodgers can keep playing well into his late 30s, and if the Packers can put a good team around him, he may be remembered alongside Brady as the most productive postseason passers ever.

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Jim Irsay: Andrew Luck recovering from shoulder surgery

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 01:  Andrew Luck #12  of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball durling the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts owner Jim Irsay was back on Twitter Thursday morning, but he still isn’t discussing anything having to do with coach Chuck Pagano or General Manager Ryan Grigson.

His latest post isn’t lacking for newsworthy information, however. Irsay announced on Twitter that quarterback Andrew Luck had surgery on his right shoulder.

Luck made multiple appearances on the injury report during the 2016 season as a result of his shoulder, although the only injury that caused him to miss time was a concussion. He was limited to seven games during the 2015 season and the Colts attributed his absence in two of those games to a shoulder injury. He also missed time with a lacerated kidney that year.

Those injuries speak to the pounding that Luck has taken over the last couple of years and explains the many calls that have been made for the team to improve their offensive line play. That remained a need this offseason even before Thursday’s reminder of Luck’s injury issues.

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