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Cook says Favre could play “better than a lot of them out there today”

Favre Getty Images

When Brett Favre retired, I decided that he wouldn’t be regarded as actually gone for good until at least two seasons go by without Favre playing.

Two seasons have now gone by without Favre playing.  So, of course, his agent is now talking about Favre playing.

Today, he could play today,” Bus Cook said Monday night at a speaking event in Mobile, Alabama.  “I saw him the other day.  He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in, physically.

“His arms look like a blacksmith’s arms.  He rides a bike probably 30-50 miles a day.  He runs four or five miles a day.  He’s coaching at the high school and they’re undefeated.  He loves it.  His body fat is 7.5 percent and he weighs 225 pounds.  He could play today, better than a lot of them out there today.”

Cook may be right.  There are plenty of bad quarterbacks in the NFL.  And Favre arguably is better, even right now, than many of them.

But none of this means Favre is inclined to return.  I’d always thought he’d consider a Roger Clemens-style half season with a contending team that needs a quarterback.

This year, there really isn’t.  Even if there were, the chances of a Favre return at age 43 (he’ll turn 44 next month) are slim.

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T.J. Lang pulls out of Pro Bowl, Josh Sitton takes his place

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19: Josh Sitton #71 of the Chicago Bears moves to block Nigel Bradham #53 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on September 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Eagles defeated hte Bears 29-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang spent five seasons as the starting tandem of guards for the Packers before the run ended with Sitton’s release ahead of the start of the 2016 season.

Sitton landed in Chicago shortly after being released, where he started 12 games for the Bears and garnered enough votes in the Pro Bowl process to be in position to replace an NFC guard who dropped out of the game. Sitton got that call on Monday and he’ll be replacing Lang.

Lang left Sunday’s NFC Championship Game loss to the Falcons after aggravating a foot injury. He’s also been dealing with a hip injury and will have arthroscopic surgery on Friday to deal with it. Lang is headed for free agency and said after the loss that he wants to remain in Green Bay.

Sitton won’t be able to reunite with Lang in Orlando, but he will get a chance to play with Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari again as Bakhtiari was also named as an injury replacement on Monday.

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Andy Dalton replaces Tom Brady in Pro Bowl

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 29:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the third quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium on September 29, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is preparing for the Super Bowl, so Brady is being replaced in the Pro Bowl by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

The Pro Bowl will be played this Sunday, Jan. 29, in Orlando.

Dalton also went to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2014. His call-up comes after a season in which he threw for 4,206 yards, the second-most in Bengals history behind his 4,923 in 2013.

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Add David Bakhtiari to the Pro Bowl roster

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: David Bakhtiari #69 of the Green Bay Packers cools off during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 11, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The changes keep on coming to the rosters for this week’s Pro Bowl in Orlando.

Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari is the latest addition to the fun. He was announced as the replacement for Eagles left tackle Jason Peters, who has pulled out of the game because of an injury.

Bakhtiari started all 19 games that the Packers played this season and has missed only three games over his four years in Green Bay. He was named to the All-Pro second-team by the Associated Press, finishing behind Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith but ahead of the guy he’s replacing on the NFC roster.

It’s the first time Bakhtiari has been named to the Pro Bowl and he is the first Packers tackle to be selected for the game since Chad Clifton in 2010.

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Ladarius Green hopes next season “works out a lot better”

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04:  Ladarius Green #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot come up with a pass while being defended by Eli Apple #24 of the New York Giants in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on December 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 2016 season didn’t go as hoped for Steelers tight end Ladarius Green as it started and ended with injuries, but he said on Monday that he wants to be back in Pittsburgh for another chance next season.

Green, who signed with the Steelers last offseason, missed eight games while recovering from offseason ankle surgery to open the season and he missed the final five games with a concussion, which made it two straight years with brain injuries for the tight end. There were reports that lingering issues from the 2015 concussion also contributed to his early absence, but Green said that the ankle was the only issue and said Monday that he is ready to start working on a more positive outcome the next time around.

“Frustrating season but everybody has one. I hope it’s the only one I have,” Green said, via ESPN.com. “I’m going to go train as soon as I get home, and hopefully next season works out a lot better.”

Green had 18 catches for 304 yards and a touchdown in the six games he did play and seemed to fill a role in the Steelers passing game. That could be a boost in 2017, but Green will have to be healthy enough to provide it.

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Patriots open as three-point favorites to win the Super Bowl

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  New England Patriots fans cheer during the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vegas is expecting the Patriots to win a close and high-scoring Super Bowl.

New England is a three-point favorite over Atlanta, and the over-under is set at 58.5, which would suggest the oddsmakers are expecting a final score in the neighborhood of Patriots 31, Falcons 28.

That over-under is the highest in Super Bowl history, topping the 57 for Saints-Colts in 2010. The under was the winning bet in that game, as the Saints won 31-17.

This is the fifth time the Patriots have been favored to win in their seven Super Bowls during the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, and they’ve never covered as favorites: They were favored by seven points to beat both the Panthers and the Eagles and won both of those games by three, and they were favored by 12 and 2.5 points in their two upset losses to the Giants. The Patriots were 14-point underdogs when they upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, and the line was a pick ’em when they beat the Seahawks two years ago.

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Johnny Manziel offers advice to Donald Trump, of course

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23:  (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump reads the first of three Executive Orders he will sign in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, January 23, 2017.  This one concerned the withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The others will be a US Government hiring freeze for all departments but the military, and "Mexico City" which bans federal funding of abortions overseas.   (Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images) Getty Images

Welcome to 2017.

The President of the United States just got some advice on how to handle the pressure of social media from an unlikely source — former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Manziel tweeted out this afternoon a suggestion that perhaps Donald Trump should minimize his social media focus.

Trump has always used his Twitter account like a cudgel, taking daily swipes at his enemies and doubters. Of course, he’s also the most powerful man in the free world, despite video released during the campaign in which he bragged he could put his hands on women in any way he pleased because he was famous.

Manziel wasn’t so lucky, as the Browns terminated his contract after allegations of domestic violence from a former girlfriend in Texas (which led to a plea bargain and a restraining order). Then again, there was also the small matter of the NFL suspension, the stint in rehab, and the not being good at football.

Manziel admitted recently he was “lost in the sauce,” and hopes to come back in to the league if he can convince anyone he can be held accountable.

That’s probably a long shot.

Then again, . . .

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Joe Thomas is rooting for the Patriots, for one specific reason

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Offensive tackle, Joe Thomas #73 of the Cleveland Browns poses for a portrait at the 2007 NFL Players Rookie Premiere on May 19, 2007 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns have never been to the Super Bowl, and they probably won’t be during the remaining time tackle Joe Thomas has with the team. Thus, his interest in the NFL’s annual championship game will come from other factors.

Specifically, Thomas wants to see what would be one of the most awkward moments since Commissioner Pete Rozelle handed a Lombardi Trophy to Raiders owner Al Davis.

“As much as I’d like to see my buddy [Alex Mack] win a Super Bowl, I would sure love to see [Commissioner Roger Goodell] have to hand a SB trophy to [Tom] Brady!” Thomas tweeted.

The comment could make Patriots fans pine more openly for Thomas to be traded to New England. Until he’s an official member of the team, it’s safe to say he’ll be an honorary Patriot.

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Dez Bryant named to Pro Bowl in Julio Jones’ spot

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on before a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dez Bryant had a down year, by his own standards.

But he’s still a Pro Bowler.

The Cowboys wide receiver was named as a replacement to the all-star game, in the place of the Falcons star.

Bryant missed three games with injuries and had 50 receptions for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers are well off his usual production, as the Cowboys offense evolved this year.

While his numbers were always better with Tony Romo, Bryant never made any noise about his diminished stats as quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott led them to the top seed in the NFC this year.

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Belichick explains defensive improvement in simple terms

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on prior to the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

For much of the 2016 season, the defense seemed to be a major weakness for the Patriots. Over time, however, the defense steadily improved.

On Monday, reporters asked coach Bill Belichick to explain the biggest factor for this development.

“Preparation, practice, execution,” Belichick said. “There’s no magic wand. You’ve just got to go out there and, look, there are five eligible receivers. Usually we get at least four of them out [running pass patterns]. In man-to-man coverage you’ve got to cover them. We’ve got to rush the passer, contain the quarterback, stop the run.

“Zone coverage; it’s a short throw. You’ve got to be on the receivers tight or a good quarterback can get the ball into those windows. Again, good execution of zone coverage, getting to the receivers, filling up those spaces so it’s hard to throw the ball in there. It really just comes down to playing good team defense in both the running game and the passing game and on the goal line, which gets into a whole new set of defensive calls and techniques. We’ve had a couple of big stops down there, too, over the course of the year.”

More specific improvement occurred later in the year, as the stakes of the games increased.

“[A]s the season goes on and you get into games like we’ve had the last few weeks, Miami was a playoff team; that was kind of like a playoff game,” Belichick said. “Baltimore, Denver were those big kind of games at the end of the season. Then the last two we’ve had — I think that’s where teams, players, units, I mean, that’s where those levels really get identified because you’re playing against the very best teams, the very highest level of competition. Some of that really remains to be determined in this year.”

Part of the challenge for the Patriots defense was to adjust to lineup changes, including most notably the in-season trade of linebacker Jamie Collins.

“We made some changes during the year,” Belichick said. “We always make changes. It’s a process you go through. You put players in certain situations and certain groupings together and some work better than others, or maybe you see more potential in a certain player or group of players or combination of players than others, and you decide to move forward more with that or maybe you do it less because you don’t feel as good about it or players develop or improve or whatever it is and it’s just an ongoing process. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

It also doesn’t happen automatically.

“There’s no switch that you can flip,” he said. “It comes through a lot of hard work, a lot of meetings, a lot of communication on how we’re going to do things and then a lot of on-the-field execution at actually doing them at a good competitive level so that we can gain confidence in each other as a unit as to how that’s going to happen in a live game situation. Working hard, continuing to improve and guys taking whatever opportunities they get and either moving forward with it or possibly somebody else getting an opportunity and moving ahead of a player at a point in the season. That’s just a competitive situation. We’re going to play the best players and basically everybody will get a chance to do it somewhere along the line, and the players that play the best will play more and the players that don’t do it as well need to improve and need to change their playing time status or they’ll continue to not get the playing time behind somebody else who is performing better.”

These are simple, obvious concepts, and it’s refreshing to hear one of the most successful coaches in league history underscore the importance of the meat-and-potatoes aspect of playing defense. The specific schemes and the knowledge regarding what an offense may do are critical to the success of a defense, but Belichick has accurately explained some of the key aspects of building the foundation of a great defense.

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Jason Kelce, Darren Sproles added to Pro Bowl

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 22:  Running back Darren Sproles #43 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs for a 25 yard touchdown against the New York Giants during the first quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 22, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons are going to the Super Bowl, so center Alex Mack and running back Devonta Freeman will not be heading to Orlando for the Pro Bowl this week.

They’ll be replaced by a couple of players from another team with an avian name. Eagles center Jason Kelce and running back Darren Sproles have been added to the NFC roster for this year’s game.

It’s the second time that Kelce has been named to the Pro Bowl during his six-year NFL career. He started every game for the Eagles this season, the third time in the last four years that he’s been in the lineup for each game that the Eagles played.

Sproles has now been selected for the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years, but he was named as a return specialist in his last two appearances. Sproles ran 95 times for 438 yards and two touchdowns and caught 52 passes for 427 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season while also averaging 13.2 yards on 17 punt returns.

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Pats fan who pulled alarm at Steelers hotel told cops he was drunk

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: The New England Patriots mascot interacts with fans during the 2015 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Well, this one is pretty much #asexpected, but it’s worth entering into the record simply because it’s one of the most to-the-point quotes ever.

According to Cristela Guerra of the Boston Globe, the man who was arrested for pulling a fire alarm at the Steelers hotel Sunday morning told State Police he had a motive.

I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan,” Dennis Harrison told State Police, according to the report filed for his arrest for disturbing the peace and setting off a false fire alarm.

He pleaded not guilty in court this morning, and was released on personal recognizance.

The police report said Harrison was at a party in Revere when he was dared to pull off the stunt. That, and apparently a snoot-full was all he needed to get a ride to the hotel and find an alarm.

His genius plan was foiled when his getaway car bolted, and he began to walk away. When cops approached him, he said he was waiting for an Uber to pick him up, before admitting he had not. He then spilled the beans.

“Harrison informed me that he knowingly and willingly activated the fire alarm system with the sole purpose of attempting to disrupt the Pittsburgh Steelers football team,” Trooper Bryan Erickson wrote, adding that Harrison “expressed regret over committing the prank.’’

Considering the Patriots won, it’s reasonable to wonder whether his remorse is genuine. Or whether his hangover has subsided.

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Matt Prater replaces Matt Bryant in Pro Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Matt Prater #5 of the Detroit Lions celebrates with teammates after kicking the game winning field goal in the fourth quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now that we have the Super Bowl participants set, the players on the Patriots and Falcons who were elected to the Pro Bowl will need to be replaced from the other 30 teams in the league.

That group includes Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, whose first trip to the Pro Bowl will be superseded by his first trip to a far more significant game. The NFC will still have a kicker named Matt on hand, however.

Lions kicker Matt Prater is the choice to replace Bryant and he’s coming off a very strong season. Prater was 31-of-36 on field goals during the regular season and made all seven of his tries from 50 yards or more. He also went 31-of-33 on extra points and made six kicks that won or tied games for the Lions with in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

Prater is the first Lions kicker to make the Pro Bowl since Jason Hanson in 2000 and will be making his second appearance in the game.

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Julio Jones creates nightmare for man who advised against trade

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons runs after a catch for a 73 yard touchdown against Damarious Randall #23 of the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Patriots prepare to face the Falcons in the Super Bowl, New England coach Bill Belichick will have to come up with a game plan rivaling some of his best work, including Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams and Super Bowl XXV against the Bills. He’ll draw that assignment because, six years ago, one of his pupils ignored a suggestion from Belichick.

As explained in Michael Holley’s book War Room, Belichick advised Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff against the move from No. 27 in the first round of the 2011 draft to No. 6, due to the high cost for jumping 21 spots.

Dimitroff nevertheless pressed ahead, in an effort to improve an offense that couldn’t keep up with the Packers in the team’s most recent games, a 48-21 playoff loss at home in January 2011.

“This may have been a once-in-a-career type move,” Dimitroff told the Boston Globe in 2013. “We felt that we were in the right place as an organization with the amount of veteran talent we had and the amount of youthful talent we had and the quarterback we had in place. It was a time that was right for us to get ourselves a very explosive player.”

They did, and it has worked. Even if the Browns hadn’t squandered the picks they got for Jones, the move worked for the Falcons. Jones consistently has been among the best receivers in football, and he proved his worth with an exclamation point in a Georgia Dome boat race fueled by his nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Now, Belichick must spend the next 13 days coming up with ways to stop Jones, thanks to the fact that Dimitroff was smart enough to know when to ignore typically sage advice.

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Howie Roseman revises explanation for Eric Rowe trade

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:   Eric Rowe #25 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cornerback Eric Rowe had an interception in the AFC Championship Game and will be heading to the Super Bowl with the Patriots five months after they acquired him in a trade with the Eagles.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman explained at an end-of-season press conference that the Eagles made the trade because they didn’t foresee signing Rowe to a contract extension. It was an answer that struck many as odd because Rowe won’t be eligible for an extension until after next season. Rowe said,via the Delaware News Journal, that it was a “really, really weird” answer and Roseman apparently agrees with that assessment.

During an appearance on WIP in Philadelphia Monday, Roseman said the answer “didn’t make any freaking sense” and tried to provide one that did a better job.

“It’s the first week of the season and we get this offer, and it’s the Patriots,” Roseman said, via ESPN.com. “And we’re not sitting there thinking we’re getting over on Bill Belichick, maybe the best evaluator of defensive backs in the history of the NFL. What we were thinking about was where he was on our depth chart at the time. And at that time the starting three [cornerbacks] were Nolan [Carroll], Leodis [McKelvin] and Ron Brooks. Jalen Mills at that point in camp had beat him out, so he was the fourth guy. When we spoke with our coaches, they said Malcolm [Jenkins] would be the next guy in the slot. So for where we were and what his role was at the time, we thought it was pretty good value.”

The Eagles got a conditional fourth-round pick in return while Rowe made seven starts and steadily took on a larger role in the New England . That number isn’t reflective of the amount of snaps Rowe is playing now as he only saw action in nine games and it may not be reflective of how things would have played out if he’d remained in Philly, but any explanation of the trade won’t change the fact that the Eagles need to boost their cornerback play in 2017.

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Antonio Brown skips out on post-game media obligations

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the New England Patriots during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

A week after Steelers receiver Antonio Brown gave the public unauthorized access to the locker room via Facebook Live, Brown bolted the locker room without providing any access whatsoever.

Via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown declined to talk to reporters after the loss at New England. “Maybe he felt he said about in locker room a week earlier,” Bouchette observed.

The league, which may not be able to fine Brown for violating the league’s social-media policy now that the team reportedly has fined him $10,000, could fine Brown for ditching his media obligations.

Brown’s antics, which apparently were part of his contract with Facebook, apparently were encouraged by Facebook — and could prompt the league to come up with ways to block Internet and cell service in the locker room during the period when social-medial activity is prohibited.

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