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PFT’s Week Seven picks

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Down three games with three disagreements last week, I envisioned forging a tie with MDS in the PFT picks contest.

And of course he swept me.

Now down six — six! — through six weeks, I’ve got a chance to cut the margin to four (or see it grow to eight) based on two disagreements this week.

MDS went 11-4 for the week; I was a mere 8-7.  He’s now 63-29 for the year, and I’m 57-35.

Read on for this week’s prognostications.

Seahawks at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Seahawks on the road are always a precarious pick, and I’m tempted to choose Arizona in an upset. But Carson Palmer is just throwing too many bad passes for an opportunistic Seattle secondary not to give him trouble. The Seahawks’ defense will lead the way in this one.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 14.

Florio’s take:  Somebody in the league office hates the Cardinals.  In a four-day span, they will have played both the 49ers and the Seahawks.  Arizona held its own against the Niners, and Arizona will do the same against the Seahawks.  But two moral victories in less than a week won’t do much to propel a team toward the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, Cardinals 14.

Buccaneers at Falcons

MDS’s take: A year after earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, Atlanta is all but out of the playoff race already this season. But a bad Tampa Bay team coming to town should be just the thing to get the Falcons their second win of a disappointing season.

MDS’s pick: Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take:  The game that many thought would help determine first place (for now) in the NFC South will determine last place in the division (for now, and possibly for longer).  The Falcons had an extra week to get ready, the Buccaneers continue to be in disarray, and the home team still has enough talent to pull out the win.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17.

Rams at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Rams are coming off a dominant win over the Texans and are, at 3-3, a lot better than most people thought they’d be. But Carolina is playing excellent defense, and St. Louis is playing mediocre offense, and so I like the Panthers to win a low-scoring game at home.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 17, Rams 9.

Florio’s take:  Here’s a game that likely will be underrated but could produce a potential wild-card contender in the NFC.  Both teams have been inconsistent, and both teams won in Week Six over franchises currently in a funk.  Edge goes to the home team, as long as the Panthers can get the upper hand early.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Rams 21.

Bengals at Lions

MDS’s take: Overall the Bengals are a more talented team than the Lions, and a good Cincinnati secondary is going to make things tough for Detroit’s offense. But the Lions have played well at home and the Bengals have been shaky on the road, and so I’m going to take the Lions.

MDS’s pick: Lions 20, Bengals 17.

Florio’s take:  Usually, the Bengals play up and down to the level of the competition.  This week, the competition level is roughly equivalent.  And the Lions won in Cleveland, where the Bengals lost handily.  Oh, and Calvin Johnson appears to be getting healthy.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 27, Bengals 20.

Chargers at Jaguars

MDS’s take: Despite major injury issues, San Diego is a better team than just about anyone expected. Playing in the same division as the only two undefeated teams in the NFL makes it unlikely that the Chargers will make the playoffs, but they will get over .500 with an easy win in Jacksonville.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 28, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  Yes, I’m tempted to pick the upset here.  The Chargers have beaten three teams that are supposedly better than San Diego, and they’ve lost to three teams that are supposedly worse.  Plus, they’re traveling across the country on a short week to play a team that gave the Broncos more of a game than anyone would have imagined.  Then I’m reminded of the overall quality of the Jacksonville roster.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 28, Jaguars 10.

Texans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Texans totally melted down on Sunday, and now they’re traveling to play a Kansas City team that’s playing defense as well as anyone in the league. This could get ugly.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 7.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs are what the Texans were supposed to be.   Swarming defense, competent offense, and undefeated through six weeks.  This could be Correction Sunday for the Chiefs, but not at the place that cranked up 137.5 decibels last weekend — and not against a team that could be dialing up Case Keenum at quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Texans 17.

Bills at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Bills’ pass rush could provide real problems for Ryan Tannehill, and if EJ Manuel were healthy I’d like the Bills to go to Miami and pull an upset. But with Thad Lewis as the starting quarterback, I don’t think the Bills will put many points on the board in Miami.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Bills 13.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins have had two weeks to prepare for Thad Lewis and company.  While Lewis looked good against the Bengals, he’s and several teammates are a little banged up.  Maybe Miami coach Joe Philbin ultimately will get a shot at his former pupil in Green Bay — you know, the one-hit wonder in whom Philbin had zero interest.  Which should have told Seattle and Oakland everything they needed to know.

Florio’s pick:  Dolphins 27, Bills 20.

Patriots at Jets

MDS’s take: The Patriots have been dealing with injuries all year, and Jerod Mayo is their most significant injury yet. New England is ripe for an upset. Unfortunately, the Jets looked absolutely terrible on Sunday against the Steelers, and they just don’t look like they have the weapons on offense to pull the upset.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Jets 7.

Florio’s take:  The Jets almost beat the Patriots in Foxborough in Week Two.  Since then, New England has lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo for the season.  Aqib Talib could miss the game, and even if Rob Gronkowski plays how much can be expected after a nine-month layoff.  Some will call this an upset.  Under these precise circumstances, it really isn’t.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 20, Patriots 17.

Cowboys at Eagles

MDS’s take: In the battle for first place in the NFC East, I like Nick Foles to keep the Eagles’ offense running smoothly and create a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. The suspect Dallas defense is going to have a tough time keeping up with Philadelphia’s big-play offense.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 35, Cowboys 28.

Florio’s take:  Whether Nick Foles or Mike Vick or Matt Barkley, Chip Kelly’s offense is poised to run rings around a more-porous-than-expected Dallas defense.  And Philly’s defense quietly has improved to the point where it can keep the Cowboys in check, especially with DeMarco Murray missing this one.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 31, Cowboys 21.

Bears at Redskins

MDS’s take: Chicago has been beating bad teams all season, with wins over the Vikings, Steelers and Giants. That trend will continue for another week in Washington.

MDS’s pick: Bears 21, Redskins 20.

Florio’s takeRobert Griffin III is getting better, but he’s still not close to the guy he was last year.  Ditto for the team.  In 2012, Washington dug out of a 3-6 hole.  This year’s start could be even worse.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 26, Redskins 17.

49ers at Titans

MDS’s take: With Jake Locker out and Ryan Fitzpatrick in, the Titans are just not going to beat a good team like the 49ers. San Francisco is over its early-season hiccup and is now beginning its long march toward challenging Seattle for NFC West supremacy.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 34, Titans 17.

Florio’s take:  The Titans perform well at home against teams from the NFC, and they played well on the road last Sunday in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.  But the 49ers have hit their stride in recent weeks, with a balanced offense and a defense that still has punch, even without Aldon Smith.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Titans 17.

Browns at Packers

MDS’s take: I don’t think Brandon Weeden is as terrible as some people make him out to be, and I don’t think Brian Hoyer was ever going to be Cleveland’s long-term answer at quarterback. Still, the Browns have looked like a team that finds ways to win with Hoyer at quarterback, and a team that finds ways to lose with Weeden at quarterback. That will continue on Sunday, when an injury-riddled Packers team will capitalize on some Cleveland mistakes.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Browns 24.

Florio’s take:  That three-game winning streak will quickly be forgotten when the losing streak reaches two.  Despite the injuries, the Packers continue to deliver on both sides of the ball.  The turnaround from a 1-2 start continues.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Browns 24.

Ravens at Steelers

MDS’s take: I’ve gone back and forth on this one a few times, but in the end I think Baltimore’s defensive front is too much for the injury-depleted Steelers offensive line. The Ravens win a close, hard-fought, defensive struggle.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Steelers 16.

Florio’s take:  The defending champs visit Pittsburgh for the first time since hoisting the latest Lombardi.  If the Steelers can run like the Packers did against Baltimore and throw the ball smartly and quickly, the home team in this tarnished (for now) rivalry can hold serve.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Ravens 10.

Broncos at Colts

MDS’s take: In one of the marquee games of the season, Peyton Manning will remind the Colts that they cut one of the best players in NFL history a year and a half ago. Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense will score plenty of points against a mediocre Denver defense, but Manning and Co. will score even more.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 48, Colts 38.

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning’s homecoming acquired some extra levels of intrigue this week, thanks to Colts owner Jim Irsay.  While some think Irsay took a shot at Peyton to get inside his head and other thinks Irsay was simply being Irsay, the man some call the best regular-season quarterback in NFL history will further cement his legacy.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 49, Colts 24.

Vikings at Giants

MDS’s take: One of the worst Monday night games in recent years will be memorable for Josh Freeman’s first start with the Vikings, and for the Giants’ first win of the season.

MDS’s pick: Giants 21, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  Eleven days to get ready.  Home game.  National audience.  Bad defense.  Quarterback rushed to the field for his first start with the team.  If the Giants can’t win this one, they may not win any.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 35, Vikings 27.

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Steelers planning for life after Roethlisberger

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No one is taking seriously the retirement musings of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The team nevertheless realizes that he’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and they’re beginning to plan accordingly.

“I think we’ve been in that mindset for the last several years, that’s what this business tells us to be in,” coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Network in an interview that will be televised on Wednesday. “We better start sharpening our sword in terms of evaluation of quarterbacks and what’s available to us or potentially available to us, that’s just due diligence. So yes, we have.”

It makes plenty of sense for the Steelers to be looking for their next quarterback, even if Roethlisberger ultimately objects to the use of a high draft pick on a quarterback when it otherwise could be used on getting him help as he pursues a third Super Bowl win. Still, it doesn’t seem to be a major priority, at least not for now.

“I think because of [Roethlisberger’s] durability and how he plays, I don’t know that we have that level of urgency, but we are taking ourselves mentally through the process,” Tomlin said. “Not an easy one, obviously, but it is what it is. It’s an element of the business. Guys can’t play forever and he acknowledges that and we acknowledge that.”

In the two decades between the retirement of Terry Bradshaw and the drafting of Roethlisberger, the Steelers lacked a true franchise quarterback. Not coincidentally, they also didn’t win a Super Bowl during that same gap.

It will nevertheless make for an awkward year (or two, or three) if the Steelers draft Roethlisberger’s replacement before he needs to be replaced. That should be a very real factor for the team as it decides whether to roll the dice on the next franchise quarterback before the current one walks away.

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John Elway, Jerry Jones haven’t talked about Tony Romo

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Although the annual meetings technically began Sunday in Arizona, plenty of league personnel already have been here working on plenty of things via plenty of meetings discussing plenty of topics.

During the time that Broncos G.M. John Elway and Cowboys owner/G.M. Jerry Jones spent together, however, one specific subject has not been broached.

“We’ve been here all week and [Tony Romo’s] name never came up,’’ Elway said Sunday, via Mike Klis of 9news.com.

Many have assumed that Jones, who is believed to have told Romo on March 8 that he’d be released before changing his mind, wanted to delay the move until at least the league meetings, given the possibility of a trade offer. The Broncos seemed to be poised to make a run at Romo when it appeared he’d be released; they’ve sent strong and consistent signals that they won’t trade for him.

The Texans have done the same, but the current thinking is that, if any team blinks and makes an offer to the Cowboys, it will be the Texans.

Then there’s the possibility that Jones doesn’t want Romo to play for the Texans. At this point, Jones may prefer to see Romo retire to broadcasting. That way, Romo would never do what Peyton Manning did after the Colts moved on from him — thrive elsewhere and win a Super Bowl.

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How often do teams draft QBs? Less than Jets

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It took some researching, but one positive can be drawn now as it relates to the Jets and their meager quarterback situation.

They’ve been trying.

By one measure, like no team has.

Pro Football Talk collected data over the past decade to analyze how each NFL franchise has approached the quarterback position in the draft. The Jets selected an NFL-high seven over that span, including one in each of the past four drafts. Two of those four, Geno Smith a New York Giant and Tajh Boyd out of the league, are no longer with the club.

It is, of course, tongue-in-cheek to characterize this activity as “positive”; inserting rookies into a huddle and seeing who sticks isn’t an ideal spring rite of passage. Jets GM Mike Maccagnan recently allowed the team may take another dive into the 2017 quarterback class. Josh McCown currently sits atop his depth chart.

Mark Sanchez in 2009 is the Jets’ lone first-round quarterback in the past decade.

The Broncos drafted the second-most quarterbacks with six. Two were first-rounders: Paxton Lynch in 2016 and Tim Tebow in 2010.

The Browns are one of six teams to have selected five since 2007. No organization, however, has invested more in rookie quarterbacks during this period. Each of Cleveland’s five QBs was taken during the draft’s first three rounds. Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn were all first-round picks.

New England seems to have a preference for when it goes quarterback.

Of the five Bill Belichick drafted in this 10-year span, four were taken in the second or third round.

No team recently has invested less in a rookie quarterback than the Chargers. Despite scouting the position heavily, they are one of five teams to have selected an NFL-few two quarterbacks the past 10 years. Brad Sorensen in 2013 and Jonathan Crompton in 2010 were seventh- and fifth-round picks, respectively. Neither remains on the roster.

Like the Chargers, the Steelers and Giants acquired a franchise quarterback during the 2004 draft. And like the Chargers, they’ve yet to make a sizable draft investment in his successor. The Steelers’ only quarterbacks taken in a decade are 2013 fourth-rounder Landry Jones and 2008 fifth-rounder Dennis Dixon. All three of the Giants’ quarterback picks came between rounds four and six.

The Texans and Bears, despite a current need, have drafted just three quarterbacks in 10 years. Tom Savage in 2014 is Houston’s only such pick the past five drafts. All three of the Bears’ selections came in the fifth and sixth rounds. San Francisco hasn’t drafted a quarterback before the sixth round in five straight years.

A franchise that drafts several quarterbacks but hits on none is not rewarded for its effort.

The Jets can attest to this.

They’ve invested in a rookie quarterback year after year, hoping at some point someone will come along to fill their vacancy for good. But when that doesn’t transpire, a year passes, and the franchise finds itself in the same situation as it did a year before.

So here they are, beside other teams, sifting through a market for what can seem a mythical good.

The search continues.

 

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Bruce Allen insists Kirk Cousins will be the Washington quarterback in 2017

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For a team in a town known for politicians who speak in absolutes that are often absolutely untrue, take this for whatever you will: Washington president Bruce Allen insists that Kirk Cousins will be the team’s quarterback in 2017.

That’s why we franchised him,” Allen told CSN Mid-Atlantic.

“I can’t keep up with the rumors,” Allen added. “Kirk and I have talked almost a dozen times this offseason, and we get to laugh when we hear these different rumors. We haven’t talked to anyone.”

The fact that they haven’t talked to anyone doesn’t mean they won’t, especially with the entire NFL gathered in Arizona for the annual league meetings.

“Our goal from the beginning has been long-term [contract],” Allen said. “I’m still hopeful and confident we’ll do it.”

Of course, that depends on what the definition of “the beginning” is. At the beginning of Cousins’ initial contract year, Washington didn’t want to talk. At the beginning of when they decided to engage Cousins, it was too little and too late to avoid the franchise tag launch sequence. At the beginning of the franchise tag period in 2016, Washington didn’t want to fully guarantee two years of the tag (i.e., $19.95 million plus $23.94 million) at signing. At the beginning of the dance this year, it likely will take the 2017 franchise tag ($23.94 million) and the 2018 transition tag (a 20-percent increase over this year’s pay, or $28.73 million), fully guaranteed at signing to get a long-term deal done.

Otherwise, Cousins can play out the season, pocketing two years of tag money and forcing Washington to decide whether to use the right-of-first-refusal-but-no-compensation transition tag in 2018 or the franchise tag for a third time, at a 44-percent increase (by rule) over this year’s amount. That approach would cost Washington $34.47 million next year, running Cousins’ three-year haul to $78.36 million.

Or they could entertain trading him now, getting 2017 draft-pick compensation and/or players in return and freeing up $23.94 million in cash and cap space and avoiding the likelihood that he walks away next year with only a 2019 compensatory draft pick in return.

But they insist they aren’t entertaining trading him now, which could be code for, “We don’t want to see desperate to trade him or we won’t get as much as we could.”

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Not much suspense left for Raiders to Las Vegas vote

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NFL owners just walked into their opening session of a meeting at which they’ll decide the destination of the Raiders.

And there’s not much suspense left as to how the vote is going to go.

The sense of optimism as the owners walked into the Arizona Biltmore Resort was real, and no one expects anything but affirmation for the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas.

“We’ll find out tomorrow,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said as he walked into the meeting. “It’s gonna be an exciting day for Vegas.”

When Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked by moments earlier, he was asked if he thought the Raiders had the votes need (24) to approve the move.

“Hope so,” Kraft said as he passed.

That was the prevailing sentiment, as commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN earlier there wasn’t much reason to think another outcome was possible.

“I think we will have a vote, and I think we will have a positive vote,” Goodell said. “I think we are in pretty good shape.”

The actually balloting will happen tomorrow, but no one has voiced any opposition, with Chargers owner Dean Spanos among those saying he’d vote for the proposal as well.

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Bears, Packers cornerbacks both arrested in Iowa

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Two former college teammates who play for rival NFL teams reportedly were arrested together early Sunday morning following an incident at a bar in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Bears cornerback Deiondre’ Hall was cited under suspicion of interference, disorderly conduct and public intoxication; Packers cornerback Makinton Dorleant was booked for alleged interference, according to KWWL, an NBC affiliate in Eastern Iowa.

Dorleant’s agent declined comment. Hall’s was unavailable to speak by phone, he said.

Both players entered the NFL in 2016 from Northern Iowa.

Hall, 22, was a fourth-round pick who finished with seven tackles, an interception and three passes defensed in eight games. Dorleant, 24, played four games for Green Bay as an undrafted rookie. He made one tackle while predominantly seeing time on special teams.

Hall was shocked with a Taser during the incident, which centered at Sharky’s Fun House, an 18-and-up establishment.

Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times cited a police report when detailing that Hall allegedly “refused to answer questions, yelled at officers, tried to escape and spat in their faces. … Hall resisted as he was being placed in handcuffs, according to the report, and refused to get in the backseat of the squad car.”

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NFL hires a new chief medical officer, a neurosurgeon

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The NFL has hired a new top doctor to help with their concussion issue. And this time, he’s not a rheumatologist.

The league announced they had hired Dr. Allen Sills as their chief medical officer, a new full-time position they’ve created.

Sills was most recently a professor of neurological surgery, orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt, and was the founder and co-director of the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center.

“There is no higher priority for the NFL than player health and safety and we continually seek to raise our standards and then surpass them,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in their release. “We sought a highly-credentialed physician and leader with experience as a clinician and researcher, and Dr. Sills’ extensive experience caring for athletes makes him the right choice for this important position.”

Regardless Sills’ resume, which is extensive and impressive, that’s a long way from the league hiring Jets team doctor Elliott Pellman, the rheumatologist and Paul Tagliabue’s personal physician they put in charge of the league’s concussion committee. Pellman has since been nudged into retirement.

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Lions RB Theo Riddick had surgery to both wrists

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Theo Riddick, one of the NFL’s premier passing-game backs, is usually mindful of his hands.

This off-season, the attention is on his wrists.

The Lions veteran underwent surgery to both wrists following his December placement on injured reserve. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Riddick is expected to be ready for organized team activities, which begin in May.

Ability is less the issue in the Lions’ backfield.

Durability is.

Between ankle and wrist ailments, Riddick missed six games in 2016. He still finished with 53 receptions for 371 yards and five touchdowns while adding a career-high 357 rushing yards and a score. Ameer Abdullah suffered a Week 2 foot injury that ended his season. He also is expected to be ready for OTAs.

No Lions player gained more than 70 rushing yards in a single game last season.

Birkett postulated the team “could look to add a running back high in April’s draft or sign an aging veteran as insurance.” The April 27-29 draft is widely viewed to be well stocked at the position.

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Panthers defend letting Cam Newton play through shoulder injury

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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suffered a shoulder injury in Week 14, and last week decided to have surgery to repair the shoulder. Now the Panthers are facing questions about why Newton played the final weeks of the season after Carolina had been eliminated from playoff contention if his throwing shoulder was injured badly enough that he’d eventually need surgery.

But Carolina G.M. Dave Gettleman says the Panthers still try to win even when they’re out of playoff contention, Newton wanted to play and the medical staff thought he could.

We are in the business of winning,” Gettleman said, via the Charlotte Observer. “That’s what we’re here for. I just know that’s my responsibility – put the best club on the field and to win games, that’s Ron [Rivera’s] job. That’s why we’re all here. You talk about our culture here and the No. 1 priority is winning football games. Those conversations happen. Cam’s a football player. He wanted to play and the medical people felt it was fine, so we did.”

As Newton was playing hurt, the Panthers were shutting down Luke Kuechly with a concussion, but Gettleman says it’s not fair to compare the two situations.

“It’s two different cases and I’m not going to go down there,” he said. “There’s always conversations with injuries. We have this crazy idea we should care about them as people. They’re going to have long lives beyond their NFL careers.”

Unlike a concussion, Newton’s shoulder injury isn’t the kind of ailment that raises concerns about his life after football. And so the Panthers said he could keep going at the end of 2016, even if it affects his readiness when training camp opens in 2017.

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Vegas gambling issues falling on deaf ears within NFL

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When it comes to the potential practical consequences of putting a professional football team in Las Vegas, the NFL isn’t completely ignoring the situation. It seems, however, that not nearly enough people are taking the situation as seriously as they should.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, some are indeed sounding alarms about moving a team to the nation’s gambling capital. Those alarms seem to be obscured by the sound of the league’s looming jackpot.

As noted on Saturday, the NFL can’t (and thus isn’t even trying to) reconcile its desire to put a team in Las Vegas with its supposed aversion to all things gambling. But if, after the owners get together this week with a chance for any opponents to chime in, the league gives the Raiders the green light to leave Oakland for Las Vegas, it will be important for both the team and the NFL to have clear plans in place for plopping players, coaches, executives, and other team employees into a place where gambling is more prevalent than good food quickly.

Put simply, players and their families will be moving into a place where gambling is everywhere. While some have argued that nearly any player on any team already is within driving distance of a casino, casinos in most places are destinations. In Las Vegas, where both casino games and sports betting are legal, a player can’t walk out of his apartment without being smacked in the face by the “here it is, why aren’t you here?” prevalance of it.

At some point, the lure of gambling will tempt everyone — even those who believe they are sufficiently self-disciplined to avoid it. At some point, someone connected to the team will develop a gambling problem. At some point, someone with a gambling problem will develop a significant gambling debt. At some point, someone with a significant gambling debt will be ripe to be compromised.

The league needs to be ready to prevent it (which may be impossible) and to spot it when it happens (which may be just as difficult). And even if the league manages to keep it from ever happen for the duration of the Raiders’ stay in Las Vegas, the league needs to be ready to hear more of the same-old conspiracies about corrupt officiating and points shaving, realizing that a layer of craps-table felt will make the tin-foil hats seem less nutty.

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Seahawks keep adding linebackers

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The Seattle Seahawks have used 2017 free agency to load up in one specific area of the roster. They’ve now added three veteran linebackers to the team.

Via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, the Seahawks have signed Terence Garvin. The former West Virginia defender (he played there with former Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin) spent 2016 with Washington. Before that, Garvin had three years with the Steelers.

He joins Arthur Brown and Michael Wilhoite as new Seattle linebackers. Beyond adding depth to the linebacking corps, Garvin will help on special teams. As Condotta notes, the departure of tight end Brandon Williams created a need on the third leg of the football stool.

Garvin, 26, has played in 59 career regular-season games with one start in four NFL seasons.

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Franco Harris: I have no pain, but if I ever do I’ll use marijuana

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Franco Harris played in the NFL into his mid-30s, carried the ball more than 3,000 times, and often lined up as a blocking fullback on plays when he didn’t get the ball. He also played in an era of full-contact practices that would make today’s players weep. Throw in his status as a three-year starter at Penn State and his high school football career, and it’s safe to say he was in tens of thousands of collisions on the football field.

And he has something surprising to say: At age 67, he feels fine, mentally and physically.

“Even during my playing days, I really didn’t have to do anything with pain management,” Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’ve never had any long-term pain. I’ve been pretty lucky all the way back to high school. I’m even more amazed that at 67 I’m not dealing with more issues.”

But Harris knows the time may come when an old football injury — or just age — catches up with him. And as a result, he’s become an advocate for marijuana as a safer painkiller than opioids.

“I will tell you this, if it ever comes to a point where I do need pain management, I’d feel very lucky and happy now that we have medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania,” Harris said.

Harris is urging the NFL to take marijuana off its banned substance list and allow players to use it if prescribed by a doctor, which is now legal in most states.

“The NFL is reviewing its position on medical marijuana,” Harris said. “They’re really reviewing their whole pain management regimen and how those things are handled, but if you don’t mind me giving you my personal feeling, I feel in any state that has approved medical marijuana, the league should remove medical marijuana from being a banned substance. I feel that recreational marijuana should be a banned substance in the NFL, but medical marijuana has a different composition.”

As the NFL continues to face criticism over widespread use of painkillers distributed by team doctors, it’s surprising that the league hasn’t been more willing to consider permitting medical marijuana. Players like Harris speaking out may change that.

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Michael Irvin: Ezekiel Elliott has to learn how big being a Cowboy is

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Hall of Fame Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin thinks there’s a special kind of scrutiny that comes with being a star player on the Dallas Cowboys, and Ezekiel Elliott needs to learn that.

Irvin said on KRLD that Elliott has to understand that the kind of attention he got as a star player in college will be dwarfed by the attention he’s getting now that he’s a star player in Dallas. Irvin said the incident in which Elliott pulled a woman’s top down in public demonstrated a kind of immaturity that isn’t acceptable for a Cowboys star.

“Not to ever make an excuse for anybody, but he’s a young guy,” Irvin said, via the Dallas Morning News. “And I don’t mind a guy having fun and all of that. But I need him to understand the enormity of everything surrounding him. I know Ohio State is huge, but the Dallas Cowboys are something different. Everything you do, anything you do . . . that’s going to get out, that’s going to be a story. And you have to try to stay away from that. As I was watching it, I remember when I first saw it . . . I checked my calendar. Is this Mardi Gras? When you watch it, you can see the wheels turning in his head . . . don’t do it; don’t do it. But he does it. He just has to be careful, man.”

Irvin had plenty of his own off-field problems during his time as a Cowboy, so some would say he has no standing to criticize Elliott. But perhaps Irvin is uniquely qualified to understand why Elliott needs to clean up his off-field act. There’s a perception around Elliott that he needs to grow up, and Irvin is only the latest to say so.

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Cardinals doing their homework on incoming quarterbacks

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The Cardinals know that the end is near for quarterback Carson Palmer. Because, as Cardinals G.M. Steve Keim said during a recent appearance on PFT Live, Palmer is willing to mentor a young quarterback, it makes sense to bring a young quarterback into the fold which Palmer is still playing.

It therefore also makes sense for the Cardinals to be taking a close look at the incoming crop of signal callers. Which, as explained by Kent Somers of azcentral.com, they are doing. They’ll be doing it with private workouts.

“I would stray away from Pro Days if I could,” Keim said, via Somers. “They’ve become so big that you don’t have the individual attention you need. You’re wasting some time.”

The Cardinals will be investing some private time in working out Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and presumably the rest of the quarterbacks at the top of the class.

“I think there are five or six really good arms in this draft,” coach Bruce Arians said, via Somers. “Whether there are five or six quarterbacks, that’s what we have to find out. I’m feeling more and more there are a couple of sleepers who, because of their offenses, didn’t show as much as they are capable of.”

In other words, folks are trying to make sure the perceived second or third cut of quarterbacks doesn’t include another Dak Prescott. Over the past decade or so, the Cardinals have done very well when acquiring established quarterbacks in the waning years of their careers (Palmer, Kurt Warner). They’ve struggled when drafting quarterbacks (Matt Leinart, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Logan Thomas) or rolling the dice by trading for — and paying — and unproven guy (Kevin Kolb).

The stakes are high in 2017. The perennially downtrodden Cardinals have been competitive and relevant in recent years only when they’ve had Palmer and Warner. They need someone who will play as well as either guy, and stick around a lot longer.

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NFL to consider unlimited challenges, as long as they’re successful

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Under current NFL rules, a coach may challenge two calls per game, and if replay reviews prove him right on both of them, he gets a third challenge. Three is the limit.

If a proposal before the Competition Committee this week is approved, there will be no limit, and coaches can keep challenging as long as they’re successful.

Washington has proposed a rule that would permit an unlimited number of successful challenges. If the challenges are unsuccessful, the limit would still be two.

That rule proposal would seem to have a lot of headwind in an offseason in which the NFL has made faster-paced games a top priority. More challenges means more replay delays, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has acknowledged that replay delays are a problem.

So it seems unlikely that the rule would be adopted. A team challenging four, five, six or more times a game could slow the game to a crawl, even if the coach is correct. Of course, the real issue is that officials shouldn’t be making enough mistakes that a coach could have four, five or six successful challenges in the first place.

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