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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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NFL may see its first one-point safety

safety AP

A little-noticed aspect of the NFL’s new extra point rule is that we could see, for the first time in league history, a one-point safety.

If the defense gets the ball in the field of play on a conversion attemp, and then a defensive player takes the ball into his own end zone and is tackled, the result will be a one-point safety: The offensive team will get one point. That has never happened before in NFL history.

It had never happened before because it was virtually impossible: In the past, any time the defense took possession of the ball on a point-after attempt (either a one-point kick or a two-point conversion), the play was blown dead. A one-point safety was theoretically possible before, but it would have happened only if the defensive team had illegally batted a fumbled ball in the end zone.

One-point safeties have happened in college football, most notably in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, when Kansas State blocked an Oregon extra point and a Kansas State player picked up the ball and ran it into his own end zone. The college rule that gives the defense the opportunity to score two points by returning an interception, fumble or blocked kick to the opposite end zone means that defensive teams that take possession of the ball will try to run it back for a score, and sometimes those players end up getting tackled after backtracking into their own end zones.

With that rule now in place in the NFL, it will happen in the NFL eventually as well: Some defensive player is going to reverse field, get caught in his own end zone, and give up the first one-point safety in NFL history.

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Alouettes G.M. high on Michael Sam’s pass-rushing ability

Michael Sam AP

If Michael Sam is a success with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, the NFL might not get a shot at him until 2017.

Sam’s two-year deal is essentially two one-year contracts, with Montreal holding the option for 2016, Alouettes General Manager Jim Popp told PFT on Friday. The club has until the end of 2015 to exercise the second year of the deal.

Short of the Alouettes terminating the contract, Sam’s playing rights will belong to Montreal for the duration of the deal, Popp said. Also of note: the NFL’s CBA forbids clubs from signing “any player who in the same year has been under contract to a Canadian Football League club at the end of that CFL club’s season (regular season or postseason, whichever is applicable).”

The Alouettes have had interest in signing Sam, the former Rams and Cowboys defensive end, since last year. Negotiations “heated up really strong last week,” Popp said Friday.

Sam will work at both defensive end spots in Montreal, where he will get a chance to show he can get after the quarterback, especially on obvious passing downs.

“He can really turn and bend the corner,” Popp said, noting that Sam has “a great first step.”

The Alouettes already have an accomplished end in John Bowman, a 32-year-old Wingate (N.C.) University product who’s notched double-digit sacks in five of the last six seasons. And as Popp noted, Sam can also seek guidance from Alouettes defensive quality control coach Anwar Stewart, a recently retired productive pass rusher for Montreal.

As Popp sees it, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Sam’s skill set suits the Canadian game well.

“He’s just a classic tweener that excels in the CFL as a rush end,” Popp said.

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NFLPA not commenting on Roger Goodell’s refusal to recuse

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The players union is apparently going to wait through the holiday weekend before turning up the volume.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the NFLPA is declining comment on commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to hear Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said earlier on ESPN’s Outside the Lines: “If we don’t get a response by the end of next week, we’ll certainly increase the volume of the request.”

Of course, there’s also the possibility of filing a lawsuit on Brady’s behalf to prevent Goodell from hearing the appeal himself.

But with everyone heading out for the holiday weekend, they’re probably better served turning their criticism of Goodell as witness/arbitrator until the rest of the country’s back at work on Tuesday and ready to listen.

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Report: Goodell rejects NFLPA request to recuse himself from Brady appeal

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During an appearance on ESPN Friday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said that the union would “certainly increase the volume of the request” didn’t get a response from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to their request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady’s appeal by the end of next week.

According to multiple reports, the union has gotten their response and it is the one that most people were expecting after Goodell said at the league meeting this week that he wanted to hear from Brady himself. Goodell will not be turning the appeal over to a neutral arbitrator, which is a decision that’s sure to increase the volume from the union all by itself.

A date has not been set yet for the appeal and Smith said Friday that the union has not decided whether to file a lawsuit asking that Goodell be removed as the arbitrator before the appeal is heard. The NFLPA has said it intends to call Goodell as a witness, which is among the issues they feel demands that he recuse himself from the proceedings.

Goodell said that he looks forward “to hearing directly from Tom if there’s new information” that can help in “getting this right.” That’s raised speculation that the suspension could be reduced if Brady agrees to hand over the text messages that he was unwilling to provide Ted Wells during the investigation that preceded his report and Brady’s discipline.

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Delvin Breaux catching notice in Saints practices

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The Saints picked two cornerbacks in this year’s draft as part of an overhaul to the group that started when they signed Brandon Browner as a free agent, but P.J. Williams and Damian Swann aren’t the only players on the coaching staff’s radar in their first NFL offseason.

There’s also Delvin Breaux, who signed with the Saints in January after playing two years with Hamilton in the Canadian Football League. Breaux landed on that side of the border after a stint in the Arena League jumpstarted a football career that slowed because of a spinal injury that kept him from playing in college. The long road to get to the NFL may pay off for the 27-year-old.

At 6-1 and 196 pounds, Breaux has the kind of size that teams look for at corner and there were several other teams interested in his services before he landed in New Orleans. Breaux says he feels comfortable playing anywhere in the secondary and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called him a “tremendous” player recently. Veteran cornerback Keenan Lewis gave a similar review of what he’s seen from Breaux thus far this spring.

“You’re definitely going to hear from him. Right now, you know, I’m very impressed at minicamp,” Lewis said, via the New Orleans Advocate. “The guy’s got talent. He just had to go through some of the things he went through. I can promise you that he will definitely be a star in the league this year.”

Browner, Lewis, Williams and Swann are pretty good bets to make the team at corner and Stanley Jean-Baptiste was a second-round pick last year, which may not leave a lot of spots up for grabs at the position. Breaux seems to be on the right track, though, and will be a player to watch as the summer unfolds if he stays on his current path.

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49ers hope this is the year Lawrence Okoye shows he can play

San Francisco 49ers' Okoye stands on the field before their NFL pre-season football game against Denver Broncos in San Francisco Reuters

The 49ers took a chance two years ago when they signed Lawrence Okoye, a British discus thrower who had never so much as put on a pair of shoulder pads. After spending 2013 on injured reserve and 2014 on the practice squad, this is the year the 49ers hope the decision to sign Okoye pays off.

The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Okoye has the physical tools to play defensive line in the NFL, and the 49ers need some depth on the defensive line after losing Justin Smith to retirement and cutting Ray McDonald. The San Jose Mercury News notes that Okoye could be part of the 49ers’ plans in replacing those losses.

“I’m not going to talk about what I deserve or possible roster spots. I’m just going to say we’ve got a great D-line,” Okoye said. “We’ve got some really good, young talent and we’re all competing. Whatever they do, they’re going to have a good D-line, that’s all I can say. I’m enjoying it, and I’m looking forward to training camp and the preseason.”

New 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula was Okoye’s position coach the last two years, and Okoye says he has a strong connection with Tomsula.

“I’m so happy for him. Without him, I wouldn’t still be in the league. It’s great for me to see that he’s getting his just deserves. He’s been such a good coach for such a long time,” Okoye said.

Tomsula has his work cut out for him this year in San Francisco. Getting a contribution from Okoye would help.

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Union hasn’t heard from Commissioner on recusal request, yet

Smith Getty Images

In a wide-ranging interview with Bob Ley of ESPN’s Outside the Lines, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith addressed the status of the union’s request that Commissioner Roger Goodell recuse himself from the appeal hearing in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for being “at least generally aware” of a scheme to deflate footballs.

Smith told Ley that the union has yet to hear anything in response to the formal request that Goodell step aside, due both to his status as a witness in the case and his inability to be impartial. The request apparently will be reiterated if a response doesn’t come soon.

“If we don’t get a response by the end of next week, we’ll certainly increase the volume of the request,” Smith said.

Goodell’s comments from Wednesday indicate fairly clearly that he still intends to handle the appeal personally. Smith declined to divulge whether a lawsuit challenging Goodell’s intent to serve as the arbitrator will be filed before or after Goodell issues a ruling on the appeal.

Earlier on Friday, the league office told PFT that a date has not yet been set for the Brady appeal hearing.

As to the arguments in support of a reversal of the suspension, Smith opted not to share many details. Most significantly, he pointed to the decision to embrace the recollections of referee Walt Anderson on all points except the question of which of the two pressure gauges he used when setting air-pressure levels before the game. The gauge that Anderson recalled using generated halftime PSI readings that are almost entirely consistent with the operation of the Ideal Gas Law.

Smith also provided this general assessment of the 243-page document generated by independent investigator Ted Wells: “The Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.”  As to the independence of the Wells investigation, Smith added, “You can’t really have credibility just because you slap the word ‘independent’ on a piece of paper.”

Many still wonder why the NFL would have wanted to find the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady guilty. At one level, this was about re-establishing the Commissioner’s role as “The Enforcer,” proving to the world that he’ll never again go too easy on anyone suspected of wrongdoing. At another level, it created an opportunity for one or more league officials with a bias against the Patriots to initiate the launch sequence for full-blown investigation and punishment by, most significantly, leaking false PSI information to ESPN, which created the impression that someone must have messed with the air pressure and which placed the Patriots, who didn’t know the true readings until March, on their heels.

After ESPN reported that 11 of 12 New England footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum, the NFL never corrected the record. The real numbers ultimately appeared in May, as part of a lengthy report that never even acknowledged the false leak that ultimately allowed Ted Wells and company to milk millions from the league’s coffers in an investigation that, if the real numbers had been released at the outset, probably would have never happened.

This didn’t start as a grand conspiracy. It started based on halftime readings below 12.5 PSI and ignorance at to the application of science to football air pressure, and it grew into an occasion to re-establish the potency of the Commissioner.

At a time when many believe the Commissioner’s strings are manipulated from above, this case may have been sparked by his strings being manipulated from below. And now the NFLPA is hoping to get the case resolved by someone who has no strings attached to the league or any of its teams.

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Brees dodges #DeflateGate questions

Brees Getty Images

This time around, Drew Brees doesn’t need an explanation.

Three years after the Saints found themselves in the cross hairs of a league investigation that had the feel of a mouse being hunted with an elephant gun, the Patriots find themselves in the same situation. With the Patriots, however, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is keeping a much lower profile.

“Honestly, I’m just worried about my team and doing what we need to do to win a championship, and to your point, being on that side of it at one time, it’s a difficult situation, it’s not favorable for either side to have to go through something like that,” Brees said earlier this week on ESPN Radio, Nick Underhill of New Orleans Advocate. “You hope for the best resolution, and then it’ll be back to playing football.”

Brees had more (but not much more) to say about the process of preparing footballs for game play.

“Honestly, I’ve never given it that much thought,” Brees said. “I really haven’t. You know, there is a process by which we pick footballs before a game. You kind of break them in, in practice, you kind of rub them down, whatever, but once they’re out on game day, you’ve got other things to worry about other than what the balls are like.

“You know, you’re focused on throwing to the right guy, being on time, where are the defenders, who’s coming to get you. You’ve got enough things going on, but honestly, I really have never given it that much thought other than, I like the balls broken in a certain way, but then after that, I think you just play ball with whatever ball comes up.”

It’s no surprise that Brees is keeping a low profile. Most players are. Still, like many other players who don’t play for the Patriots, Brees opted not to rush to Tom Brady’s defense. Which, when considering the volume of the players who have opted not to rush to Brady’s defense, says something.

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Twenty-four years ago Friday, the NFL moved to add two teams

Carolina Panthers v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 1980s saw the NFC dominate the NFL, winning eight of 10 Super Bowls. The 49ers were the team of the decade, capturing four championships. Teams were prone to make music videos. Coaches were known to wear wonderful sweaters.

However, one thing we didn’t see in the 1980s was NFL expansion. The league stayed put at 28 teams, just as it had since 1976, when Seattle and Tampa Bay came on board.

But at the start of the 1990s, the NFL wanted to get bigger. And 24 years ago today, the league’s teams approved a plan to expand by two teams by 1994.

Ultimately, the two new teams — the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars — did not start play until 1995. They were followed by the “new” Cleveland Browns (1999) and Houston Texans (2002).

The question now, of course, is when a Los Angeles-area team or teams follows these additions.

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Bills say they still don’t want to do “Hard Knocks”

Rex Ryan AP

It sure looks like the Texans can be on “Hard Knocks” if they want to, since the other alleged finalists swear they don’t want to.

Washington has already indicated a lack of interest, and now the Bills have affirmed theirs.

They said in March they didn’t want to, and a team source tells Mike Rodak of ESPN.com that they’re still not.

They’re not on the list of teams which could be compelled to do it, since they have a first-year coach, but a report this morning listed them as a finalist for the show.

That’s kind of a shame, as Texans coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who will make compelling television. We already know Rex Ryan does.

And even though O’Brien has seemed indifferent about the show in the past, it’s looking more and more like he’s got it.

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Colts rookie Phillip Dorsett making a fast first impression

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 21: Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett of Miami looks on during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 21, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts definitely had bigger needs than another wide receiver in the first round of the draft.

But after their first look at him, they don’t think Phillip Dorsett is just another wide receiver.

It’s definitely not too big for him,” quarterback Andrew Luck said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com. “He fits in very, very well.”

Of course, the fit has been the biggest question. The Colts are well-stocked at the position with T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson starting, and Donte Moncrief, Duron Carter and Vincent Brown in reserve.

But Dorsett could separate himself the same way he separates from cornerbacks, with his speed. He averaged more than 24 yards per reception last year at Miami, and is falling into a system with a star quarterback who can throw a deep ball.

“All of his balls are catchable and he’s so smart,” Dorsett said of Luck. “He knows what to do. He knows where to put the ball.”

Luck can only put it in one set of hands at once, however, so Dorsett’s role this year might be unclear, as he works on returns and working his way into the starting lineup down the road.

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Patriots keep Wells report website active

Wells Getty Images

Yes, the Patriots decided not to appeal the punishment imposed against them by the NFL. No, the Patriots haven’t changed their minds about the outcome of the Ted Wells investigation.

The strongly-worded, 20,000-word rebuttal to the Wells report remains active with a link from the front page of the team’s official website, three days after owner Robert Kraft explained that the Patriots won’t be exercising the right to appeal the $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. The response to the Wells report likely will remain active indefinitely.

If it remains active indefinitely, it also could be updated and supplemented based on additional information and analysis of the 243-page report that failed, in the opinion of many, to adequately prove that tampering occurred prior to the AFC title game.

So while the Patriots have dropped their appeal rights, they haven’t dropped their concerns about the process, the investigation, or the conclusions.  Those concerns presumably will continue to be on display, during quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal and beyond.

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Report: Texans favorites to be on “Hard Knocks”

Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets - Game Two Getty Images

Earlier on Friday, there was a report that the Texans, Redskins and Bills were the three teams under consideration to be featured on this summer’s edition of “Hard Knocks.”

It seems that the Texans may be ahead of the other two teams in terms of who will wind up on the program. Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com reports that the Texans are the favorites to be given a time slot on HBO.

There were reports in March that the Bills weren’t interested in doing the show and the league couldn’t compel them to do it because they have a new coaching staff this offseason. John Keim of ESPN.com also reports Friday that the Redskins do not want to do the show and that they are “not one of the finalists.”

If the Texans do wind up on the show, you can probably expect that the team’s quarterback competition and Jadeveon Clowney’s return from microfracture surgery will provide heavy doses of drama. And they might even carve out a little bit of time for defensive end J.J. Watt, who you may have heard a few things about in recent years.

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Report: Bills still want to extend Dareus before camp

Marcell Dareus AP

Earlier this offseason, Bills General Manager Doug Whaley called signing defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to a contract extension the team’s top priority after the draft.

Dareus was suspended for the opening game of the regular season on Thursday for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but it doesn’t seem to have changed anything about the team’s desire to hold onto the 2014 All-Pro. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team still hopes to sign Dareus to a new deal before training camp.

While the suspension is unfortunate, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to the Bills after Dareus was arrested last year on charges of possession of synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia. If they were interested in extending him with the knowledge of that arrest, the fact that the league disciplined him doesn’t give much cause for a change of heart.

Dareus is set to make $8.06 million in 2015 as he plays out the final year of his rookie contract.

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Mike Shanahan: Injuries aren’t why RGIII has struggled last two years

Robert Griffin III,

When Robert Griffin III landed in the NFL in 2012, the Redskins closed the regular season with seven straight wins to take the NFC East and advance to the playoffs.

Griffin missed one of those games with a knee injury, which served as a preview of the more serious knee injury he’d suffer in the playoff loss to the Seahawks. Griffin rehabbed through the next offseason and then struggled in 2013 in an offense that was designed to limit Griffin’s runs in hopes of having him develop into a more traditional quarterback.

It didn’t happen, which led to squabbling with Mike Shanahan before Shanahan was fired as the team’s head coach. Griffin had another serious injury last year and continued to struggle in Jay Gruden’s offense, but Shanahan doesn’t think the injuries have been the quarterback’s problem.

“I don’t think getting hurt has anything to do with it,” Shanahan said of RG3 on the Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan, via CSNWashington.com. “In college he didn’t have a route tree, didn’t have a playbook. That does take some time. … If you take a QB like that you must run the kind of system that allows them to be successful … I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop back quarterback. He hasn’t done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out.”

No one who has watched Griffin the last two years would argue that he looks as comfortable in the offense as he did as a rookie, although you have to wonder why the Redskins made such a big play for Griffin if they weren’t willing to give him that time or run an offense more suited to his needs. The answer to the latter is largely because of the injury risk involved with running a smaller quarterback repeatedly against NFL defenses, but the failure to do the former may lead to the end of Griffin’s time in Washington without much to show for the investment they made in him.

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