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PFT’s Week Eight picks

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It would be fair to call Week Eight the first unofficial lull of the 2013 season.  Six teams are off, including the defending Super Bowl champions.  The other Super Bowl team has been exiled to London, for a friendly against the Jaguars.

Of the 13 games on the slate, some of the worst teams will play in prime time.  Tonight, it’s the winless Bucs.  Sunday night, the hapless Vikings.  Monday night, the listless Rams.

Throw in recent Monday night game between Minnesota and the Giants and technically the evening kickoff in London and it’s as bad a five-game cluster of football under the lights that the NFL ever has seen.

But we’ll still watch, because it’s the NFL.  And it’s on TV.  And in three-and-a-half months it’ll be gone until next September.

I’ll be paying particular attention to two of the games, since MDS and I disagree on the outcomes.  Our full slate of Week Eight picks appears below.

Last week, I swept the two games on which we differed, finishing 10-5 to his 8-7.  For the year, he’s now 71-36, and I’m 67-40.

Panthers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Looking at the Buccaneers’ remaining schedule, this actually appears to be one of their more winnable games, at home on a short week against a .500 team. But the Panthers have been playing good football, and they’re not going to get tripped up in Tampa.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Buccaneers 6.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers have been taking care of business against bad teams.  They get another chance to do it on Thursday night, against one of the worst teams.  The next challenge for Carolina will be to beat a good team.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 17.

Cowboys at Lions

MDS’s take: This is a tough one. The Lions are favored and I rarely pick against a team with a winning record at home. But the Lions’ secondary was leaving receivers wide open all day against the Bengals, and Tony Romo and Dez Bryant should be able to put up big numbers in Detroit. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ defense looked outstanding last week against Philadelphia. I see the Cowboys winning a close game.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, Lions 27.

Florio’s take:  A shootout could be coming at Ford Field, and the Lions know their margin for error is shrinking.  The Cowboys, at 4-3 and in the NFC East, won’t have a margin for error until late December.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 38, Cowboys 35.

49ers at Jaguars

MDS’s take: This is an easy one. The 49ers are playing tough, physical football on both sides of the ball, while the Jaguars are making mistakes all over the place. The fans in London are going to see the Jaguars and be horrified at the idea that this is the quality of football the NFL plans to send across the pond on a regular basis. (Next year the Jaguars “host” the Cowboys at Wembley Stadium, and we can already pencil in the Cowboys as 14-point favorites in that game.)

MDS’s pick: 49ers 34, Jaguars 10.

Florio’s take:  The good news?  Folks in Jacksonville don’t have to witness this “home” game in person.  The bad news?  It’ll be on TV.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 40, Jaguars 13.

Browns at Chiefs

MDS’s take: I keep thinking the Chiefs are ripe for an upset, and then I keep looking at their schedule and thinking they’re a lot better than every team they’re going to play, at least until the Broncos come to town on November 17. Jason Campbell might be a better option than Brandon Weeden, but the Browns just aren’t good enough on offense to move the ball effectively against that tough Chiefs defense.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 20, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  The Chiefs continue their tour of backup quarterbacks.  A loss feels inevitable before the home-and-home showdowns with the Broncos, but it’s not likely to happen this week.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Browns 13.

Dolphins at Patriots

MDS’s take: With all their injuries, I don’t think the Patriots are any better than the Dolphins on either offense or defense. But I do think the Patriots are a lot better than the Dolphins on special teams, and I look for a big play in the kicking game to be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Dolphins 13.

Florio’s take:  The two teams that most (like us) assumed would be battling for supremacy in the division are now struggling to stay competitive.  The Dolphins don’t have the running game to take advantage of the Pats’ porous post-Wilfork run defense, or the offensive line to keep Patriots defenders off of Ryan Tannehill.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 24, Dolphins 20.

Bills at Saints

MDS’s take: Buffalo has a better defense than most people realize, and the Bills’ pass rush is going to give Drew Brees a tough time. But the Bills’ offense will struggle in front of a hostile New Orleans crowd, and the Saints will win in a closer game than most people are expecting.

MDS’s pick: Saints 23, Bills 20.

Florio’s take:  With or without tight end (receiver) Jimmy Graham, the Saints are too tough to beat in their own building, even though the Bills are looking better than anyone thought they would.  As long as Drew Brees can avoid getting flattened by Mario Williams, the Saints should continue to strengthen their grip on the NFC South.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 35, Bills 20.

Giants at Eagles

MDS’s take: The NFC East is so bad that the Giants could get themselves into the division race with a win in Philadelphia. I don’t see it happening, though. Monday night’s win was about as ugly a win as an NFL team can earn, and the Giants still look like a lousy team.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Giants 13.

Florio’s take:  The Eagles haven’t been much more this year than the best of some bad teams.  They’ll get another chance to do it on Sunday, and in the process snap a nine-game home losing streak.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Giants 17.

Steelers at Raiders

MDS’s take: The Steelers have a history of dropping games on the road against bad Raiders teams, but I don’t think it will happen this time. Pittsburgh looks like it’s turning things around and should roll against a Raiders team that isn’t playing particularly well in any phase of the game.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 24, Raiders 10.

Florio’s take:  Another week, another once great rivalry that has lost its luster.  Pittsburgh is starting to get on a roll; the Raiders aren’t as bad as we thought they’d be but still not good enough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Raiders 13.

Jets at Bengals

MDS’s take: This doesn’t exactly have the feel of a huge game, but it’s one of only two this week matching up two teams with winning records. Give the Jets a lot of credit for getting to 4-3, but I’m still not convinced that they’re actually a good team. The Bengals should take this one and solidify their status as one of the top teams in the AFC.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 27, Jets 17.

Florio’s take:  The Jets have beaten the Bengals four straight times, and nine out of 10 dating back to 1992.  The trend gets reversed on Sunday, thanks to the fact that Cincinnati has the superior team on both sides of the ball.  Hopefully the locals will realize that, and buy up the remaining tickets.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 24, Jets 13.

Falcons at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I think the Falcons are better than their 2-4 record suggests. And I don’t think the Cardinals are any better than their 3-4 record suggests. So I’m tempted to take Atlanta in a slight upset. But the Falcons’ injuries on offense, combined with the impressive way the Cardinals’ defense is playing, makes me believe Arizona will win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 14, Falcons 13.

Florio’s take:  At 1-4, the Falcons knew they weren’t dead yet.  At 3-4 after Sunday, they’ll be in position to chase a wild-card berth in the NFC.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 27, Cardinals 17.

Redskins at Broncos

MDS’s take: If Peyton Manning wants to shake off last week’s disappointing loss in Indianapolis, he could hardly have picked a better defense to do it against than Washington’s, which has struggled all season and will now be without suspended starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather. This won’t be close.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 31, Redskins 17.

Florio’s take:  Mike Shanahan returns to Denver, the Mile High location of his mile-long house.  At least he’ll still have that after the game.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 48, Redskins 21.

Packers at Vikings

MDS’s take: Everyone is focusing so much on the Vikings’ problems at quarterback that hardly anyone has noticed how bad the Vikings’ defense is. Aaron Rodgers should have a field day, and the Vikings’ offense will continue to struggle no matter who’s playing quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Packers 31, Vikings 13.

Florio’s take:  Since 1992, the Packers have had three starting quarterbacks:  Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Flynn (twice).  In that same time, the Vikings have had Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Brad Johnson (again), Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte (again), Tarvaris Jackson, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, and Christian Ponder (again).  That pretty much sums up the state of this rivalry for the past 21 years.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Vikings 10.

Seahawks at Rams

MDS’s take: Pity Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens having to take on that nasty Seahawks defense in his first start in two years. It’s going to get ugly in St. Louis.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 34, Rams 6.

Florio’s take:  After the Rams have moved and people in St. Louis are tempted to lament the fact that their NFL franchise is gone, they’ll be able to look back on this game, and it will make them feel a little bit better.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 38, Rams 13.

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Absent commercial break, game will start no more than 65 seconds after score

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The NFL wants to move games along, to help keep millennials from moving along to something else. The new rule book explains exactly how that will happen following a score.

A “Note” inserted after Rule 4, Section 6, Article 2 (who said the rule book is too long and complicated?) states that, after a post-touchdown try or a field goal, “the teams will have 40 seconds to align prior to the ball being made ready for play,” and that “[w]hen the 40 seconds have elapsed, the 25-second play clock will begin.”

This provision won’t apply when a commercial break happens following a try or a field goal.

It means that the kickoff and kick return teams will have to be in place before the 40 seconds expire, and that at that point the 25-second window for kicking off shall start. Which means that 65 seconds will be the maximum lag from score to kickoff, and that it could be a lot shorter than that.

 Which means that, if you’re going to hit the bathroom between score and kickoff, you may want to put a TV in there.
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Raiders, Gareon Conley talking

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Ideally, Raiders first-round cornerback Gareon Conley would know whether he’ll be charged with sexual assault before he signs a contract with the team. The ideal scenario may not be happening.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Raiders and Conley are talking. According to another source, Conley has still not learned whether he’ll face formal charges arising from an incident occurring in April.

The Raiders drafted Conley with full knowledge of the existence of the allegation. And the Raiders presumably assumed (or at least hoped) that the case would be closed (or that charges would be filed) before the opening of training camp. With eight days to go, that hasn’t happened.

So the question remains: Will the Raiders sign Conley before the case is resolved and, if so, what protections will they seek for a situation that they knew about when they made Conley the pick? The player has every right to hold firm with the position that he should get exactly what any other player would have gotten as the 24th pick in the draft. But the Raiders have every right to refuse to do that, and to move forward without him — until the team knows that he won’t be facing indictment, trial, and possibly conviction and incarceration.

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Ron Rivera: Marty Hurney is right guy for this situation


The Panthers shook things up this week by firing General Manager Dave Gettleman, but their choice of a short-term replacement ensured that they won’t be in uncharted water during the 2017 season.

Marty Hurney was introduced as the interim General Manager on Wednesday, which should prove to be an easy enough fit given Hurney’s decade as the team’s G.M. before being fired in 2012. Hurney acquired quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly and others still with the team during that span and he was on the job when coach Ron Rivera was hired, which Rivera thinks will help keep this week’s front office machinations from being “a big distraction.”

“I think right now, this is the right guy for the right time and situation,” Rivera said, via the team’s website. “He understands our culture, he understands most of these players — a lot of these players he has been around. I’m excited about it.”

Another change will come at the end of the season when the Panthers will look for a permanent replacement for Gettleman. The team’s results between now and then will likely determine whether or not that would be of greater concern for Rivera.

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No finding of guilt in Trevone Boykin probation violation case

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Seahawks quarterback Trevone Boykin has a court date in August on marijuana possession and public intoxication charges, but a probation violation arrest stemming from those charges is no longer an issue.

Boykin was arrested in March on the first two charges and arrested again the next month for violating the probation he received for a 2015 arrest in San Antonio. There was the possibility of a year of jail time as a result of that violation, but Boykin will not be serving any time.

Boykin pleaded no contest to the charge earlier this month and was fined $1,500 to close the case. Boykin’s attorney said, via Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune, that there was “no finding of guilt” in terms of the probation violation.

The hearing  on the other charges is set for August 22 in Dallas, which falls between two Seahawks preseason games although it is unlikely Boykin will be required to attend the preliminary courtroom session.

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Takk McKinley not expected to be ready for start of camp

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The Falcons believe first-round pick Takkarist McKinley can bring the same kind of energy to their defense that he brought to the draft.

And they’re willing to wait for it.

According to Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report, McKinley “is scheduled to sit out the early days of training camp” because of his surgically repaired shoulder.

The Falcons report to camp next Wednesday.

McKinley had surgery on March 3 to correct the torn labrum he played through at UCLA. He said at the combine his recovery was expected to take 4-6 months. The front end of that has obviously already passed, but the latter estimate would push up against the start of the regular season.

He had 10.0 sacks last year for the Bruins while playing through the injury, so they’re hoping he can complement Vic Beasley and add to a young defense.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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Gauging the expectations for Bills DE Shaq Lawson this season.

The Dolphins’ improvement has people there excited about being a football town again.

Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s contractual future could become messy, soon.

The Jets are hoping to get more from the TE position this year.

A look at some breakout candidates in Ravens camp.

A man tried to use former Bengals WR Chad Johnson’s identity at a Louis Vuitton store in Colorado.

A rebuilt offensive line is one reason for optimism for the Browns.

With big money comes big expectations for the Steelers offense.

Texans G Jeff Allen has something to prove, according to teammates.

The latest update on Colts QB Andrew Luck’s shoulder isn’t much of an update.

The Jaguars WRs have a lot on the line this year.

A list of 50 things about the Titans, which seems like an awful lot.

The Broncos hope to sweeten up their defense this year.

Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt will carry a heavier burden than some rookies this year.

The Chargers look at their own offensive line (though they should have done so before now).

Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch has added a local institution soul food restaurant to his portfolio.

The Cowboys are offering a limited number of free tickets to training camp practices.

Giants WR Odell Beckham responded to pleas to reach out to a fan fighting cancer.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson doesn’t foresee giving up play-calling duties this year.

Washington WR Josh Doctson is under pressure to perform after his injury plagued rookie year.

How will the Bears adjust to a new-look WR corps?

The Lions have some competition for LB jobs.

Former Packers CB Casey Hayward is still salty about his departure.

Vikings LB Eric Kendricks can’t wait to see old friend Adrian Peterson in the opener.

Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff to host a build-a-bike day.

The Panthers are encouraged by QB Cam Newton’s progress in his shoulder rehab.

Taking a look at how the Saints’ special teams stack up.

The Buccaneers have some new faces in the secondary to create competition.

There are some legitimate questions about the Cardinals offense heading into camp.

The Rams could struggle until they stabilize their offensive line.

49ers legend Joe Montana thinks it was a mistake to let Jim Harbaugh leave.

Will the Seahawks K change prove to be a good move?

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Wes Welker doesn’t fear that his brain “is going to explode”

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Former wide receiver Wes Welker suffered at least six documented concussions during his 12-year NFL career, and he admits there were some things he’d do differently as a player, in hindsight.

At the same time, he’s trying not to worry about what’s in store for him in the future as a result of those persistent head injuries.

“I can’t sit here and worry about it; I don’t want to live my life that way,” Welker said, via Mike Reiss of “Is there a possibility [of long-term implications]? Maybe, I don’t know. We’ll have to see how everything kind of happens, I guess.

“I’m going to try to do everything I can to put myself in a position where I’m healthy and hopefully good. If I’m good, then great. At the same time, I’m not going to live my life worrying if my brain is going to explode at any second.”

Welker used to refer to himself as the “poster child” for concussions, and went through a stretch of three in nine months beginning with the start of the 2013 season. And while he was hailed as a player for his toughness and willingness to go across the middle, that also put him in harm’s way.

“I don’t know if I’d really change much — who I am or how I went about my business — because a lot of that aggressiveness and the reason [for success] was because of the way I played,” he said. “When I felt like I wasn’t playing that way, I wasn’t playing to my best ability.”

“Do I wish, looking back, [that I] would have gone out of bounds or gotten down, earlier in my career especially? There’s always a warrior mentality, but trying to be smart about some of those things; I mean, yeah, I probably would have. When you don’t have any concussions and you’re just kind of going out there recklessly, you’re 20-something years old, you don’t think about it. You just go play.”

Of course, he has an opportunity to share that wisdom now, as he’s taken a job as an offensive/special teams assistant with the Texans. Hopefully he can convince some of the players he’s working with to do as he says and not as he did.

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Jay Cutler expected to call Bears’ Week One game

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What does Jay Cutler really think of his former team? We’ll find out in Week One.

FOX is planning to assign Cutler, along with Charles Davis and Kevin Burkhardt, to the Week One Bears-Falcons game. Cutler retired this offseason to work for FOX after 11 NFL seasons, the last eight of which were with the Bears.

Cutler is also expected to make his preseason debut calling a Bears game.

If he’s willing to be candid and honest, Cutler should have some good insights about his former teammates and coaches. Cutler didn’t always see eye-to-eye with everyone in Chicago, and that should make for more interesting commentary than a former player who only has positive things to say about his old team.

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Bruce Arians says Carson Palmer wore out his arm throwing too much last offseason

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The Arizona Cardinals scaled back Carson Palmer’s workload in practice last season and have limited him in offseason practices as well this spring and summer. According to head coach Bruce Arians, the biggest reason for that was Palmer had thrown so much last year that he wore down quickly once the season started and his production suffered.

He’s one of the hardest working dudes I’ve ever been around, so we had to really pull the reins back on him,” Arians said on the Rich Eisen Show. “He’ll overwork all the time. Last year, he came in to September, he had already worn his arm out by overthrowing all summer. We found a nice regimen, (by) November and December he was playing as good as he’s ever played.”

Palmer averaged 284 yards passing per game with just seven touchdowns and five interceptions through his first six starts last season. His passer rating was just 83.4 through that stretch. In five December starts, Palmer had an 11-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio as his rating improved to 95.9.

Finding a way for Palmer to perform at a peak level with be of paramount importance for the Cardinals this year. If easing back on his workload helps that come to fruition, the Cardinals will have made the right call.

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Saints place Travin Dural, Devaroe Lawrence on non-football injury list

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With rookies reporting for training camp on Wednesday, the New Orleans Saints placed wide receiver Travin Dural and defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence on the non-football injury list.

The non-football injury list is for physical ailments sustained outside of the NFL work environment. Both Dural and Lawrence dealt with injuries in college at LSU and Auburn, respectively.

The NFI list works similarly to the physically unable to perform list in which players still count against the 90-man roster limit in preseason and can be activated any time before the start of the regular season upon completion of a physical. Players must be on the NFI or PUP lists from the start of training camp in order to be eligible for the in-season versions of the lists, which would require the players to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before being eligible to return.

Dural caught 37 passes for 758 yards and seven touchdowns with LSU in 2014. He appeared in 38 career games, catching 100 passes for 1,716 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Lawrence appeared in 21 games with Auburn, recording 45 tackles with 1.5 sacks.

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Ike Taylor: “Strong possibility” Le’Veon Bell will hold out

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Former Steelers cornerback and current NFL Network analyst Ike Taylor knows Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell well. And Ike seems to know Bell well enough to know what he is thinking about doing when training camp opens for the Steelers.

Appearing Wednesday night on Total Access, Taylor said there’s a “strong possibility” Bell will hold out.

Taylor added that Bell wants to be paid like a No. 1 running back and a No. 2 receiver combined, given that Bell finished second on the team last year in receptions and receiving yards. Taylor also seemed to suggest what it would have taken to get a deal done; by saying that the team should offer Bell $3 million more per year and given that the team’s last offer reportedly averaged $12 million annually, it looks like Bell wants exactly what he suggested he wanted in a rap song last summer: $15 million per year.

Although the Steelers and Bell currently can’t sign a long-term deal until after the regular season ends, the Steelers can offer Bell more than his current $12.1 million franchise tender on a one-year deal. So they could still, if they want, increase the tender to $15 million — and Bell has every right to stay away until they do.

Indeed, he can stay away until only days before the start of the regular season, and still get his $12.1 million. The only question is whether the Steelers would become exasperated and decide to assign the duties of No. 1 running back (and No. 2 receiver) to someone else.

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Terrell Owens praises Dak Prescott, takes subtle shot at Jason Witten

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Terrell Owens has made his feelings known about Tony Romo and Jason Witten. In 2008, in what ended up being Owens’ final season in Dallas, the receiver grew jealous over Romo and Witten’s relationship, accusing the two of holding private meetings to draw up plays.

So it comes as no surprise that Owens would praise Romo’s replacement, Dak Prescott, while taking a subtle shot at Witten.

Owens compares Prescott to a “taller version” of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

This guy played lights out, rookie of the year,” Owens told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his podcast. “There is only a lot of upside to that guy. What I saw visually, the eyeball test, which he passed, he played well beyond his year in the league. I can only imagine what this guy is going to be in the years to come.”

Owens said all Prescott needs to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl is “the right people,” which includes “a good tight end.”

“You just put the right people around him,” Owens said. “[If] Dez Bryant [is] the playmaker he was a couple of years ago, and he gets some other added pieces, a good tight end, and defensively they stop some people, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

In three seasons in Dallas, Owens made 235 catches for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns.

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Ron Jaworski retires as chairman and president of Maxwell Football Club

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Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski’s status at ESPN isn’t known. His status with the Maxwell Football Club is; Jaworski has retired as chairman of the board and president after more than 20 years with the organization.

Jaworski, who will become Chairman of the Board Emeritus, will be replaced two people. Former NFL player Shawn Wooden becomes the chairman of the board, and Maxwell Football Club Senior Counsel Mark Dianno becomes the president and CEO.

Founded in 1935, the Maxwell Football Club annually presents a variety of football awards, including the Maxwell Award (best college football player), the Bert Bell Award (best pro football player), the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player in college football), the George Munger Award (best college football coach), and the Greasy Neale Award (best pro coach).

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Jerry Hughes eager to get back to double-digit sack seasons

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After double-digit sack seasons in 2013 and 2014, Jerry Hughes had only 11 sacks the past two seasons combined. The Bills pass-rusher seemed ill-fit in Rex Ryan’s defense, but he also battled hamstring issues last season.

“Last year just being banged up as the season got long, dealt with some hamstring issues,” Hughes told Alex Marvez and Bill Polian on SiriusXM. “I really wanted to kind of come in early in the offseason and nip that in the bud quickly so that way I can go out there this fall and perform at high level like I know I can.”

Hughes, who has 31 sacks in four seasons in Buffalo after three unproductive seasons in Indianapolis, offered high praise to new coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

“Night and day just on how very detail-oriented they are, starting Day One when we walked into the building,” Hughes said.

Hughes expects a return to Frazier’s 4-3 scheme to benefit him and the team. The Bills ranked fourth in total defense in 2014, the year before Ryan arrived, but fell to 19th each of the past two seasons playing Ryan’s complex hybrid.

The Bills, as their fans are painfully aware, have not qualified for the playoffs since the 1999 season and have not won a playoff game since the 1995 season.

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Rooney Rule is showing its age

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In 2002, with the very real threat of litigation looming, the NFL addressed its abysmal minority hiring record by adopting the Rooney Rule. Fifteen years later, the rule named for the late Steelers chairman and Hall of Famer Dan Rooney is showing its age.

It started as a provision requiring at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for each head-coaching vacancy. It evolved to include General Managers and other high-level team executives. And it initially had razor-sharp teeth, with former Lions G.M. Matt Millen fined $500,000 for failure to comply with the rule when hiring coach Steve Mariucci, and with the league vigilant about closing loopholes, like the one the Cowboys exploited by conducting a perfunctory phone interview with Dennis Green before hiring Bill Parcells.

Now, it feels like the NFL is watching loopholes emerge, and shrugging at them. Apart from the curious failure of teams like the Jaguars and Chiefs to disclose the names of minority candidates interviewed to comply with the Rooney Rule earlier this year, the Panthers have now provided a clear blueprint for a stopgap, one-year G.M. hire that circumvents the Rooney Rule.

If a team decides after the draft (as teams sometimes do) to hire a new G.M. and the owner knows who he’ll hire, the owner can easily avoid an inclusive search by tapping the brakes until the eve of training camp, firing the G.M., and hiring the replacement on an “interim” basis. That’s quite possibly what Panthers owner Jerry Richardson did in bringing back Marty Hurney for a year; if so, it’s not like anyone will admit that.

Curiously, the Fritz Pollard Alliance has no issue with the league’s decision to allow the Panthers to hire a G.M. for an entire season without complying with the Rooney Rule. And it’s just the latest example of the group responsible for promoting the hiring of minorities getting along by going along instead of being a staunch and zealous defender of the letter and integrity of the Rooney Rule.

Whether because of improvements in minority hiring, a dramatically decreased threat of liability, or a national political climate arguably conducive to glossing over the seemingly clear requirements of hiring practices that promote diversity in an industry that hasn’t had nearly as much as it should over the decades, the rule that bears the name of Dan Rooney seems to be softening. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

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