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NFL morning after: A Sunday of football, the best TV show ever

Aaron Dobson AP

The late, great Hall of Famer Art Donovan was in an old ESPN commercial, back when ESPN first began airing NFL pre-game and post-game shows, in which he pointed out that if you watched both of ESPN’s Sunday NFL shows, plus both of the NFL games airing in your own local market, you’d spend more than eight hours on Sunday watching nothing but football. As the idea of that much football in one day sunk in, Donovan proclaimed, “I love it!”

Now, of course, there’s a lot more pre-game and post-game coverage than there was back then, plus there’s the Sunday night game, which didn’t exist back then. Now you can turn on the TV for the first pre-game show, on NFL Network, at 7 a.m. Eastern, and keep watching football through the Sunday night game on NBC, which often ends after midnight, then watch the various highlight shows that keep going well after midnight. Forget eight hours of football, you can spend 16 hours or more in front of TV watching nothing but football.

And I love it.

The NFL is America’s best and most popular television show, and there’s simply no such thing as too much of it. I think nothing of turning on pre-game shows at 7 in the morning on Sunday and leaving some football, either live games or NFL news and highlight shows, on my TV until I go to bed after midnight. During the offseason, I love a good TV binge — I can go back to Breaking Bad or The Wire or Seinfeld or Arrested Development over and over and over again — but I’ve had my fill of any of those great shows long before I’ve watched 16 hours in one day. There really is no such thing as too much football.

Think about how great the television programming was yesterday, for those of us who can watch all the games on the Sunday Ticket package. In an insane rush of fantastic finishes starting around 4 p.m. Eastern, we got four different thrilling endings within minutes of each other:

— The Jets beat the Patriots in overtime after New England fans found out the hard way that you’re not allowed to push your teammate into the line to try to block a field goal.

— Washington beat Chicago 45-41 in a crazy back-and-forth battle that featured six rushing touchdowns, three passing touchdowns, a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown.

— Cincinnati beat Detroit on a 54-yard field goal as time expired.

— The Bills kicked a go-ahead field goal with 31 seconds left, then hung on for dear life as the Dolphins maneuvered into position for a last-second Hail Mary that fell incomplete in the end zone.

That kind of drama beats anything you’ll ever get in scripted television, but that was just a few minutes of Sunday’s football binge. We also got:

Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis, in which the Colts legend turned Broncos quarterback suffered his first loss of the season in front of fans who cheered him loudly when he was introduced before the game, then cheered even louder when the Colts won.

— The Steelers beating the Ravens on a field goal on the last play of the game.

— Two of the most talented receivers you’ll ever see, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, putting up 155 yards apiece in Bengals-Lions.

— Monte Kiffin’s Dallas defense stepping up in a big way, completely shutting down Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia offense in a 17-3 win.

Philip Rivers continuing his ridiculously efficient season passing the football by completing 22 of 26 passes in a win over the Jaguars. Rivers has now completed 73.9 percent of his passes this season. (The all-time single-season record is 71.2 percent, set by Drew Brees two years ago.)

Case Keenum leading the reeling Texans to a surprisingly competitive performance against the undefeated Chiefs before ultimately falling to Kansas City, the league’s most pleasant surprise.

Watch all of that football, all day long, and you’re going to be exhausted and bleary-eyed by the end of the day. But it’s still not too much football. There’s no such thing as too much of sitting in front of your TV watching football.

Here are the rest of my thoughts on a great Sunday in the NFL:

The first three touchdowns of the day were scored by the defense, and Matt Schaub wasn’t even playing. Mr. Pick Six himself was out for the Texans’ late afternoon game, but the early afternoon games got started with not one, not two, but three quarterbacks giving up the ball to a defensive player who took it to the house. First we had Sam Bradford throw an interception that Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn returned for a touchdown. Then we had Ryan Tannehill throw an interception that Buffalo’s Nickell Robey returned for a touchdown. Then we had Mike Glennon fumble a ball that Atlanta’s Thomas Decoud returned for a touchdown. It was Geno Smith and Jeremy Kerley, of all people, who got on the board for the Jets’ offense and ended the league-wide run of defensive touchdowns. (And Smith would throw a pick-six of his own later in the first quarter.)

Pro Bowl voting begins way too early. The NFL allowed fans to start voting for Pro Bowl rosters on Sunday morning, when some teams had only played five games and some had only played six. Why on earth are we voting for Pro Bowlers now, when they’ve still got two-thirds of the season to play and the game is more than three months away? If the NFL wants to make the Pro Bowl more relevant, how about waiting until the end of the season to vote, so fans can actually vote for guys who had good years?

Jimmy Johnson said something about Jerry Jones masked as something about Jim Irsay. Asked on the FOX pregame show about Irsay’s comments tweaking Peyton Manning last week, Johnson said, “Just because a guy has money and owns an NFL team, doesn’t mean he’s smart.” Johnson was ostensibly talking about Irsay, but I think he was also taking a little shot at Jerry Jones, his old boss in Dallas with whom Johnson has had a famously prickly relationship.

Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner ever. Hester’s return touchdown was the 19th of his career, tying him with Deion Sanders for the most return touchdowns in NFL history. But most of Sanders’ return touchdowns came on defense. All of Hester’s were kick returns. There’s really no one who has been even close to the kind of consistent big-play threat returning kicks that Hester has been throughout his NFL career. Usually, once a return man establishes himself as one of the best in the league, opposing teams start kicking to him differently and limit his effectiveness. They punt high to force him to fair catch, or they punt out of bounds. On kickoffs, if they’re not sure the kicker can boot it out the back of the end zone, they tell him to kick it high and short to help the coverage team get into position to make the tackle. The amazing thing about Hester is that he’s still scoring touchdowns even after opposing teams have come to realize that they must kick away from him. As soon as a team’s attempted punt out of bounds ends up staying just barely inbounds — which is what happened with Washington on Sunday — Hester makes them pay for it.

The top picks in the next two drafts had big days on Saturday. It may be too early to talk about the top pick in next year’s NFL draft, and it’s definitely too early to talk about the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. But I’ll do it anyway. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney spent as much time in Tennessee’s backfield as their own running backs on Saturday, looking like the kind of one-man wrecking crew who absolutely deserves to be considered the top pro prospect in college football right now, despite some talk that he was off to a slow start this season. And then there’s Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. A redshirt freshman, Winston won’t be eligible for the draft until 2015. But his performance on the road against No. 3 Clemson, in which he completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, leaves little doubt that he’s good enough to play in the NFL. No, I don’t mean he will be good enough to play in the NFL. I mean he’s good enough right now, and the only thing holding him back is the NFL’s three-year eligibility rule. Winston is better right now than either of his two immediate predecessors at Florida State, EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder, ever were. And Manuel and Ponder were both first-round draft picks. Winston has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback.

I hate it when coaches won’t be aggressive. Tennessee’s Mike Munchak punted on fourth-and-inches in the third quarter while the Titans were trailing 24-0. What was Munchak afraid of? Your team is losing and needs to do something. If you’re just going to give up on fourth-and-inches, you might as well give up on the game. If there’s anything that’s not fun about a day watching football, it’s watching a bunch of punts from coaches who don’t have the guts to go for it.

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Bucs not concerned about Winston giving up football for baseball

Winston AP

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty of reasons to potentially be concerned about quarterback Jameis Winston.  But they continue not to be, in large part because they’ve done their homework on him.

One potential area of concern comes from the possibility that, if discouraged by the difficulty of adjusting to the next level of football, Winston will trade in the pigskin for the horsehide, leaving the NFL and embarking on a baseball career.  That’s a possibility the Buccaneers have considered, and they’re confident it won’t happen.

It always has been my dream, but I’m just playing football right now,” Winston said in February, leaving the door slightly ajar for the possibility of playing baseball and football professionally.

For the Buccaneers, who wasted the first overall pick 29 years ago on a running back who opted for baseball (Bo Jackson), the nightmare scenario would entail Winston deciding that football at the NFL level is much harder than he thought it would be, and opting instead to give baseball a try.  For that reason, Tampa Bay’s research on Winston has included getting a frank assessment of his baseball prospects.  While a role as a major-league relief pitcher wouldn’t be impossible for Winston, it wouldn’t be automatic, either.  In turn, it wouldn’t provide the kind of quick-fix that could tempt a guy to trade NFL football for Major League Baseball.

The Bucs realize that nothing can be completely ruled out, but as they stand poised to make him the first overall pick in the draft, they’re confident that this Bo will know to stick with football.

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Report: Nike reaches deals with Mariota, Winston, three other top prospects

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptkxnmjimgjin2ixnjbiywvlodrkm2m5ztniymq4odzk AP

If it’s draft season, then it’s time for apparel companies to strike deals with some of the top incoming NFL prospects.

According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Nike has signed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to endorsement contracts.

News of the Nike deal with Winston comes as he faces a civil lawsuit regarding a sexual assault allegation levied by a Florida State student in 2012. Winston was never charged criminally in connection with the allegation.

“Jameis has stated his innocence regarding serious charges made against him. We’ll continue to monitor the situation,” a Nike spokesperson told ESPN.com.

Winston, Mariota, Gurley and Cooper played for schools that sported Nike-branded uniforms. Gordon, meanwhile, wore an Adidas-branded uniform at Wisconsin.

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Raiders show interest in Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

If the Vikings are going to trade Adrian Peterson, the Cowboys won’t be the only team interested.

The Raiders have also shown interest in Peterson, NFL Network reports.

In one important respect, the Raiders actually make more sense than the Cowboys: The Raiders have about $12 million more in cap space available than the Cowboys do. Peterson’s enormous cap hit would be tough for the Cowboys to squeeze in, but it would be doable for the Raiders.

But the Raiders aren’t exactly a team that’s one star player away from a championship, and adding an expensive veteran wouldn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. This move feels like a long shot.

For their part, the Vikings say they expect Peterson to play for them this year. It remains to be seen whether Peterson will try to force his way out, and whether some other team will offer a lucrative deal that makes the Vikings willing to part with their biggest star.

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Packers re-sign S Chris Banjo

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Packers reserve safety Chris Banjo has signed his exclusive rights contract offer from the club, according to the NFL’s Friday transactions.

Banjo, 25, was active for Green Bay’s final three regular season games and both of its postseason games in 2014. He spent most of the season on the practice squad. The previous season, Banjo appeared in every game for the Packers, earning a role on special teams.

Banjo is likely to compete for one of the backup safety spots behind Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2015.

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Raiders work out Vic Beasley in South Carolina

Discover Orange Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Getty Images

The Raiders took linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth pick in last year’s draft and it looks like they got a cornerstone for their defense to build around in the coming years.

That wasn’t enough to lift them past the fourth pick in this year’s draft, which they may use on a player to help Mack on that side of the ball. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and other Raiders coaches travelled to South Carolina on Friday to work out Clemson’s all-time sack leader Vic Beasley.

The team sent linebackers coach Sal Sunseri and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin to the workout as they try to sort out how Beasley would best fit into their 4-3 scheme. Wherever they might line him up, Beasley has the kind of speed off the edge that the Raiders Defense could use as they try to drop to a lower draft position in 2016.

Rapoport adds that the Jaguars have also sent defensive line coach Todd Wash for another look at Beasley, which could leave the Raiders looking in another direction come the end of the month.

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49ers working on new deal for Michael Wilhoite

Aldon Smith AP

In early March, there were reports that the 49ers were shopping inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite to other teams.

Patrick Willis and Chris Borland announced their retirements a short time later, which bumped Wilhoite into a more prominent position with the team. It looks like he’s on track to get a contract to match that new status.

General Manager Trent Baalke said Friday that the team is working on a new deal for Wilhoite, who is an exclusive rights free agent. He hasn’t signed that tender, which would pay him $660,000 a year after he started all 16 games while Navorro Bowman and Willis missed time with injuries.

“We’re working on something with him as we speak … He’s kind of in a unique situation. He was kind of caught in a numbers deal,” Baalke said, via the San Francisco Chronicle.

If Wilhoite played out the year on his ERFA tender, he’d be in line to become a restricted free agent next year. With the change in circumstances for the 49ers, Wilhoite may not be going down that path.

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Tony Boselli’s son commits to Florida State

Boselli Getty Images

The son of Tony Boselli could be on his way to the NFL.

Via USA Today, Andrew Boselli has committed to Florida State.  A junior at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Boselli will be a member of the class of 2016.

“Coach [Rick] Trickett is just an offensive line coach — a technician — that knows how to teach,” Boselli said after visiting the school in February. “And they run a pro-style offense.  It’s a place that, if you want to go to the NFL, it a place you want to go.  They’ll teach you how to do it.”

Indeed they will.  With 18 players drafted in 2013 and 2014 combined, coach Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles are 10 draft picks in 2015 away from tying the three-year record for any school.

Elite high school football players play in college not because they want to but because they have to.  League rules, as validated by the NFLPA, prevent players from entering the draft until three years after the graduation of their high school class.  So the only choice is to play in college, and at college the players necessarily are majoring in football.

Why not select a school that is more likely to get the football player ready to play in the NFL? When the only compensation is the wholesale cost of an education (and snacks!), the least a college football program can do is prepare the player for the next level.

Tony Boselli played at USC, and he was the second overall pick in the 1995 draft.  A five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro, Boselli was elected to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s.

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Bruce Miller not attending 49ers offseason workouts

Bruce Miller AP

Last season, the 49ers drew criticism for their decision to allow defensive tackle Ray McDonald to keep playing after an August arrest on domestic violence charges.

Things are playing out a bit differently with fullback Bruce Miller following his March arrest on suspicion of spousal abuse. General Manager Trent Baalke said Friday that Miller isn’t taking part in the team’s offseason workouts and said the team will revisit his status as the case moves forward.

“Yeah, once again, they don’t have to be here at this stage in the season,” Baalke said, via CSNBayArea.com. “We sat down with Bruce and feel it’s very important for him to handle this situation and once it’s handled, we’ll move on from there.”

No charges have been filed in the Miller case at this time. The only mandatory practices before training camp come during the team’s June minicamp.

McDonald wasn’t charged in the domestic violence case, but wound up being released later in the season after being investigated for sexual assault.

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Tim Shaw: ALS weakens my body, not “my heart and mind”

Tim Shaw AP

Former NFL linebacker Tim Shaw, who announced in August he had been diagnosed with ALS, released a message Friday giving an update on how he was coping with the disease.

Shaw, who said he learned of his diagnosis one year ago Friday, signaled that while the disease had taken a toll on him, his resolve remained in tact.

“Today, tho my body struggles, my heart and mind grow stronger,” Shaw wrote on his Twitter account, posting a picture of him lifting a weight with his right arm.

The 32-year-old Shaw played seven NFL seasons, with his most extensive work with Tennessee from 2010 through 2012. Born in Exeter, England, Shaw played collegiately at Penn State.

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Dorial Green-Beckham visited Bengals, 49ers

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

If draft prospects were judged on talent alone, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham might be taken high in the first round.

The potential for off-field trouble is another factor, however, and Green-Beckham carries a lot of baggage. He was dismissed from the Missouri team after two drug arrests and a domestic violence allegation and then transferred to Oklahoma, but never played a game for the Sooners before declaring for the draft this year.

That makes it much harder to peg where Green-Beckham will land, but he’s drawing interest around the league. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Green-Beckham visited the Bengals on Thursday and also had a recent visit with the 49ers. They join the Vikings and Ravens as teams that have spent time with the wideout.

All of those teams could use a receiver of Green-Beckham’s ability, even if it might remain raw after two years of college experience. There are plenty of other teams in the same boat and one of them may make a bet that the ability outweighs the risk before the first night of the draft comes to an end.

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Ravens re-sign TE Phillip Supernaw

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Ravens have re-signed one of their reserve tight ends.

Phillip Supernaw, an exclusive-rights free agent, has signed his tender with the club, the team’s website said Friday.

The 25-year-old Supernaw appeared in six games for Baltimore in 2014, catching two passes for 27 yards. He previously had stints with Kansas City (2014) and Houston (2013).

Tight end could be a position the Ravens address in the draft after losing Owen Daniels to Denver and with Dennis Pitta coming off a second significant hip injury. If Pitta cannot recapture his best form, second-year pro Crockett Gillmore could be the top target at the position.

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NFL declines to clarify website article tampering exception

Adrian Getty Images

On Thursday, the Cowboys posted on their official website an article explaining why the team should be interested in Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  Some wondered whether statements of interest in a player under contract with another team violates the tampering rules.

At first blush, it seemed clear that there was no violation, based on this language from the Anti-Tampering Policy:  “Articles that appear on the website of a club that identify prospective free agents that the team might be interested in, or that rate prospective free agents, shall not be considered violations of the Anti-Tampering Policy unless they include a direct quote or expression of interest by an employee of the club (other than the author of the article) about a specific player.”

But as multiple readers quickly pointed out, Peterson isn’t a “prospective free agent”; he’s under contract with the Vikings for three more years.  So PFT asked the NFL for clarification on the question of whether the website article exception to the tampering policy encompasses Peterson, who won’t be a free agent for three years.

“We do not have a comment,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email.

Absent clarification from the league, it remains unclear whether a team-owned website may write articles expressing interest in players under contract with other teams who are not “prospective free agents,” and it remains unclear what constitutes a “prospective free agent.”

For those of you who think this is part of an anti-Cowboys vendetta (because some of the fans of any team we scrutinize in any way automatically assume we’re motivated solely by hatred of said team), the Cowboys aren’t alone in this boat.  Last month the Cardinals’ website had an article containing quotes from receiver Larry Fitzgerald regarding the potential addition of Peterson.

We can already hear the “why do you hate the Cardinals?” emails being typed.

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After losing Gore, 49ers talk up Hunter and Hyde

Kendall Hunter AP

Before the start of free agency, the 49ers thought they would keep running back Frank Gore. As it turned out, Gore left to sign with the Colts.

But the 49ers feel good about two running backs who have stayed in San Francisco.

San Francisco General Manager Trent Baalke has talked up running backs Kendall Hunter and Carlos Hyde as both looking ready to play a big part in the 49ers’ offense this season. Hunter missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in training camp, but Baalke said Hunter has worked hard to get ready to go for this year’s camp.

He has progressed very well,” Baalke said, via NBCBayArea.com. “Talk about a guy that works. . . . He’s a grinder.”

And Baalke told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee that Hyde has slimmed down to his lowest weight since he was an underclassman at Ohio State. Baalke described Hyde as looking “extremely good.”

If Hyde and Hunter are as good as Baalke thinks, and if Reggie Bush has something left, the 49ers may be in good shape at running back. Even after losing one of the best they’ve ever had in Gore.

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Which quarterback will take the most snaps for the Browns this year?

Browns AP

The Browns will be wearing new uniforms this year, but it’s still unclear which quarterback will be taking the snaps when the real games start.

So which quarterback will take the most snaps this year?  That’s the subject for today’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN poll question.

Answer the question and then dial us up at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, which will take a closer look at the news of the day and also ponder the draft plans of the Patriots and the Seahawks.

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Report: Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall had foot surgery

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Broncos re-signed linebacker Brandon Marshall as an exclusive rights free agent last week, which was an easy decision for them after Marshall put together a strong 2014 season while starting 13 games.

The time Marshall missed came late in the season when he was diagnosed with a foot sprain. He returned for the playoff loss to the Colts, but it appears that the foot issue wasn’t totally resolved.

Vic Lombardi of CBS4 in Denver reports that Marshall had foot surgery last month. Lombardi adds that Marshall should be ready for training camp, although missing time this offseason could impact how quickly he’ll be able to make the move from outside linebacker in last year’s 4-3 look to playing on the inside of Wade Phillips’s defense.

He’ll be playing next to Danny Trevathan, who is coming off an injury-wrecked season thanks to three knee injuries that limited him to three games. He says, via the team’s website, he’s back to 100 percent now, however, and plans on the 2015 season being “a big comeback for me.”

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