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A pair of Packers take home monthly honors

Eddie Lacy AP

The Packers looked long and hard at replacing Mason Crosby as their kicker this summer, but they ultimately decided to stick with the foot that they knew.

That decision has worked out pretty well for them. Crosby has made just under 90 percent of his field goals this season and his work in October was good enough for him to be named the NFC special teams player of the month.

Crosby started the month by making all five field goals he tried in a victory over the Lions and then made 8-of-10 the rest of the way as the Packers went 4-0 during the month to grab control of the lead in the NFC North. It’s the second time Crosby has been a monthly honoree in his NFL career.

Crosby isn’t the only Packer enjoying some acclaim for his October work. Running back Eddie Lacy returned from a concussion at the start of the month and went on to run for 395 yards, which was enough to make him the NFL offensive rookie of the month. He picked up 47 more receiving yards, giving him an average of 110.5 yards from scrimmage each week.

That’s been vital to a Packer team missing wide receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley, as has Crosby’s ability to make the kicks he was missing last season.

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Will Beatty out for Giants too

during the first quarter in a game at LP Field on December 7, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. Getty Images

The Giants are parting ways with several veterans who suffered season-ending injuries in 2015.

Guard Geoff Schwartz and linebacker Jon Beason were informed that they won’t be back with the team next season. Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports was the first to report that left tackle Will Beatty has been added to the list as well.

Beatty tore his pectoral while lifting weights in May and was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the season. He never made it back, however, and had shoulder surgery near the end of the year to compound his injury issues.

Beatty, who spent four years as the team’s starter on the left side of the offensive line, was set to make $6.625 million in 2016 with a cap hit of over $9.1 million. The Giants will get over $4.1 million of that back if Beatty is deemed a pre-June 1 cut and Dan Graziano of reports that neither he nor Schwartz was approached about taking a pay cut.

Last year’s first-round pick Ereck Flowers took over for Beatty in 2015 and will likely remain there while the Giants address the right side of the offensive line this offseason.

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Giants releasing Schwartz, Beason

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

The Giants plan to release veteran offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and linebacker Jon Beason, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported Wednesday.

Beason and Schwartz both signed big contracts with the Giants before the 2014 season. The Giants had acquired Beason in an Oct. 2013 trade with the Panthers.

Injuries limited Beason to four games in 2014 and five in 2015. Beason, 31, hasn’t played a full season since 2010.

Schwartz was limited to two games in 2014 at right tackle due to injury. He started 11 games at guard last season.

The Giants save about $6 million in cap space by releasing Beason and about $3 million with Schwartz’s release.

Schwartz will be 30 this summer. His younger brother, Mitchell Schwartz, will also be a free agent if he doesn’t strike a deal with the Browns over the next four weeks.

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Bruce Irvin prepares to cash in on open market


Last year, the Seahawks could have exercised the fifth-year option on Bruce Irvin’s rookie contract. They didn’t.

With Super Bowl 50 placing an even greater premium on pass rushers, it means that Irvin will soon be leaving Seattle.

Barring a new contract or the use of the franchise tag (both of which are believed to be highly unlikely at this point), Irvin will sign elsewhere — on a deal that easily will surpass $10 million annually.

Irvin’s ability to get after the pass comes during a free-agency cycle with not many quality pass rushers even available. Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon is the other big name to watch.

A first-round pick in 2012, Irvin had eight sacks as a rookie. Last year, in a contract year, he had 5.5.

Still, the 2016 free-agent pickings are slim. And Irvin is in the right place at the right time. And it’s safe to say at this point that someone will pay him, possibly more than he deserves.

Regardless of whether Irvin deserves it, he’s going to get it. Because teams are going to make getting after the quarterback a huge priority.

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Watching Michael Oher slide underscores Levi’s turf woes

HockeyRinkGetty Getty Images

There have been varying reports on the quality of the turf at Levi’s Stadium for Super Bowl 50.

But it’s obvious that there were times it affected the quality of play.

In a video clip posted by Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers left tackle Michael Oher appears to be on skates, unable to do anything but slide backward under pass rush.

To his credit, Oher kept the play blocked, allowing Cam Newton plenty of time to get a pass off.

But the extreme lack of traction he showed can only be explained by a few things. One of them — that Oher was wearing curling shoes — seems unlikely. The other — a surface not conducive to football — seems more likely.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was playing nice in the aftermath, saying the surface was “outstanding.”

But Rivera is gracious like that, and saying that his team didn’t have any problems with the turf isn’t backed up by the image of Oher gliding gracefully backward like Dorothy Hamill.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib wasn’t afraid to call it “terrible,” and it’s likely that Oher would probably agree. The 49ers have had plenty of problems growing grass, and it appears the NFL isn’t faring any better there.

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Casey Hayward “probably” hitting open market

505348432 Getty Images

The Packers drafted a pair of cornerbacks early in the 2015 draft, which may contribute to Casey Hayward playing elsewhere in 2016.

Hayward is set to become a free agent next month and the 2012 second-round pick thinks that chances are good that he won’t resign with Green Bay before the new league year starts on March 9.

“They normally wait til closer to the deadline,” Hayward told Rob Demovsky of in a text message. “But we shall see. I’ll probably hit the market.”

Hayward started 11 regular season games and both playoff games for the Packers while spending most of his time in the slot. Damarious Randall, the first-round pick last year, and Sam Shields profile as the starting outside corners with Quinten Rollins, 2015’s second-rounder, an option to move into the inside role should Hayward move on to another club.

Hayward didn’t have an interception in 2015, but helped the Packers hold opposing offenses to the league’s lowest completion percentage when throwing to slot receivers. That should make for a good market if he and the Packers can’t agree on a contract before the start of free agency.

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Lynn Swann should tread lightly when talking about Hall of Fame qualifications


Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann makes a good point about the Hall of Fame credentials of Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. Megatron simply may not have done enough in nine NFL seasons to earn a spot in Canton. By making the case against Johnson, however, Swann opens himself up for questions about his own spot in the Hall of Fame.

There’s no way the bronze bust will disintegrate, but that doesn’t mean folks can’t ask how Swann made it and argue that he shouldn’t have. Ultimately, he made it for two reasons: team accomplishments and his performance in Super Bowl X. So when Swann says Johnson doesn’t have the team accomplishments to get in, Swann is boosting his own presence by pointing out that it’s more about team achievements than individuals ones.

Indeed, if it’s about individual achievements, Swann has no business being there. He’s 222nd on the all-time receiving yardage list, via Pro Football Reference.

Not 22nd. Two hundred and 22nd.

The knee-jerk response will be this: The game has changed dramatically since then, allowing plenty of more modern players to pass him by. It’s a fair point, until considering the list.

The guy at 221, Jerry Smith with 5,496 yards, played from 1965-77. Chris Burford at 219 played from 1960-67. Ray Renfro at 218 played from 1952-63.

How about Max Speedie at 209? He generated 5,602 yards from 1946-52. Danny Abramowicz at 201 played from 1967-74. Gail Cogdill at 198 played from 1960-70.

Calvin Johnson is at 27, with 11,619 yards. That’s well over twice the amount that Swann generated for his career. And if Calvin Johnson had played for the Steelers of the ’70s, he’d easily be in the Hall of Fame.

Johnson may not make it as a Lion. But Swann probably shouldn’t have made it as a Steeler.

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Rams sign former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter

Colter AP

Kain Colter wasn’t able to unionize college football players at Northwestern, but at least he gets to be the answer to a trivia question.

Via Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register, Colter became the first player signed by the Rams since relocating to Los Angeles.

Colter went to camp with the Vikings in 2014 as a wide receiver, and spent the year on the practice squad there, but was released in May.

Colter was out of the league last year.

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Chargers complete overhaul of coaching staff

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 30:  Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish drops back to pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers didn’t make a change at head coach this offseason, but Mike McCoy’s staff did get a serious renovation at the end of a 4-12 campaign.

There will be 11 coaches in positions they weren’t in last season, nine of whom are new to the organization. The last two of those new arrivals were announced on Tuesday with the team naming Tommy Rees as offensive assistant and Marquice Williams as special teams assistant.

Rees will be familiar to Notre Dame fans after starting 30 games at quarterback for the Fighting Irish between 2010 and 2013. He played with several Chargers, including college roommate and current center Chris Watt.

“It is definitely a different type of situation,” Watt said, via the team’s website.  “I don’t even know how to go about describing it!  But when we are on the field, it will be all business and very professional.  I think it will be fine, but it is definitely strange and a little different.”

Rees was a graduate assistant at Northwestern last season. Williams has interned with the Bears and Lions and spent the last four seasons at the University of South Dakota.

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Philly Brown: Talib “immature,” but hope he isn’t suspended

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Corey Brown #10 of the Carolina Panthers runs after a catch as  Aqib Talib #21 of the Denver Broncos grabs his facemask during the tackle in the second quarter during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the first half of Super Bowl 50, Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib picked up a personal foul for throwing Panthers wide receiver Philly Brown to the ground by his facemask.

After the game, Talib said that he did it on purpose because he “just had to show [Brown]” after exchanging words with him earlier in the game and that he didn’t think it was a big deal since the Panthers gained just over a yard as a result of the foul occurring on the Broncos’ three-yard-line. The NFL may not agree as they’re considering suspending Talib, who was also suspended one game during the 2015 season for poking Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the eye.

Brown said on Twitter Tuesday that he doesn’t want Talib to be suspended, especially if it would keep him out of the Panthers’ trip to Denver next season.

“I don’t think Talib should be suspended. I hope he plays when we travel to Denver next year. He was frustrated that’s what immature pros do!!” Brown wrote.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn’t offer an opinion about whether Talib should be suspended, but said, via the Charlotte Observer, he wished Talib wouldn’t have done it and said the cornerback’s admission “adds credence to the argument” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made last week about ejecting players who commit two personal fouls in a game.

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Mike Tolbert hopes he gets a chance to return to Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03:  Mike Tolbert #35 of the Carolina Panthers is introduced during their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Mike Tolbert did something in the Super Bowl he hadn’t done with the Panthers — lost a fumble.

And he hopes he gets a chance to make up for it.

The veteran fullback, who is about to become an unrestricted free agent, said he wanted a chance to return to the Panthers next season.

“Do I want to be? Yeah. Do they want me is the question,” Tolbert said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “I can’t sign a contract by myself. It remains to be seen.”

Tolbert has done plenty of good things for the Panthers since arriving in 2012. And he had always taken good care of the ball, with his last fumble in 2011 when he was with the Chargers. But he bobbled it twice in the Super Bowl, recovering one of them.

The 30-year-old Tolbert said he thinks he still has four or five seasons left “at a high All-Pro level.”

And while his are the kind of contributions that are hard to quantify, he’s been a big part of the Panthers offense since arriving. He can run in short yardage, block, and is a good receiver out of the backfield in addition to playing special teams. He’s made two Pro Bowls in his four seasons with the Panthers, and had four touchdowns this year.

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Lynn Swann doesn’t see Megatron as a Hall of Famer

Calvin Johnson AP

Former Steelers receiver Lynn Swann retired at age 30 with 336 catches for 5,462 yads and 51 touchdowns. But Swann says that Calvin Johnson, who’s expected to retire at the age of 30 with 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns, shouldn’t join him in the Hall of Fame.

“I would think that it would be difficult for Calvin Johnson at this point to be considered a Hall of Famer,” Swann told the Detroit News. “Calvin Johnson has an extreme amount of talent and ability, but when you start to look at his team, the success of his team and did he lift that team; he made them a little bit better, but at the end of the day, I’m not quite sure.”

That argument is, frankly, ridiculous. Swann is essentially saying that because he won four Super Bowl rings on a 1970s Steelers team that was among the most talented ever, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. But because Johnson suffered the fate of being drafted onto a team built by Matt Millen, he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.

Super Bowl rings are a team accomplishment, and no one would dispute that Swann was on much, much better teams than Johnson. But the Hall of Fame is about individual accomplishment, and on that score Megatron easily beats Swann. Megatron owns the all-time NFL record for receiving yards in a season, led the league in receiving yards twice and led the league in catches and touchdowns once each. Swann never led the league in catches or yards and was only in the Top 5 in either category once, in 1977, when he was fourth in the league in receiving yards. Johnson was a first-team All-Pro three times; Swann was a first-team All-Pro once. Johnson was a six-time Pro Bowler; Swann was a three-time Pro Bowler.

But Swann harps on team accomplishments.

“Hard to say he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame when his team hasn’t gotten to a Super Bowl, and they don’t get a chance to get into the playoffs,” Swann said. “And that’s for a lot of guys across the board. If he had broken every passing record, like Danny Fouts, who didn’t win the Super Bowl, then yeah, I think there’s going to be consideration.”

Fouts didn’t actually break every passing record, but he and Swann are friends and former broadcasting colleagues, so apparently Swann is willing to bend the facts for a buddy. For Megatron, Swann would prefer to keep the Hall of Fame doors shut.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Marshawn Lynch AP

Should the Bills cut LeSean McCoy?

Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall, who died last year at age 79, was diagnosed with CTE.

Dante Scarnecchia could be just what the Patriots’ offensive line needs.

Jets G Brian Winters is getting a $1 million raise.

In Baltimore, they say the Broncos’ defense doesn’t compare to the 2000 Ravens.

Can the Bengals win their first Super Bowl a year from now?

The Browns could be interested in QB Brock Osweiler.

The Steelers signed a guard to a future contract.

A former Texans linebacker is heading to the CFL.

Although Colts K Adam Vinatieri is about to become a free agent, he doesn’t appear interested in signing elsewhere.

The Jaguars get 1.8 times as much revenue from a game in London as a game in Jacksonville.

Michael Griffin said he had a feeling the Titans were going to cut him yesterday: “As soon as that phone call came in, I told my fiancée, `Hey, I think I’m about to get released.’ You never get a phone call like that, especially early in the morning of the offseason from the head coach. So I just knew.”

Broncos GM John Elway commended Gary Kubiak for the way he handled the quarterback position all season.

Tony Gonzalez is hoping to be added to the Chiefs’ ring of honor.

The Raiders are long shots in the Super Bowl LI odds.

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is looking forward to coaching Melvin Gordon.

Here’s a look at some defensive backs the Cowboys could target in the draft.

The Giants are in good enough cap shape that they’re not likely to cut anyone any time soon.

Should the Eagles draft a quarterback?

Are oddsmakers underestimating Washington’s chances in 2016?

Bears Hall of Famer Mike Singletary wonders if Cam Newton can take the heat.

Lions President Rod Wood is feeling optimistic about the 2016 season.

As usual under Ted Thompson, the Packers are in good cap shape.

The Vikings have plenty of offseason work to do.

Former Falcon Asante Samuel recently sold his house for $5.4 million.

Panthers QB Cam Newton will still be a hot commodity in the endorsement market, despite his disappointing Super Bowl.

The Saints are looking for a long-term answer at kicker.

Hall of Famer Donnie Shell will present Tony Dungy at the Hall of Fame.

The Cardinals need a better pass rush.

Kain Colter is the first signing for the Rams in Los Angeles.

The 49ers’ playing surface held up pretty well in the Super Bowl.

Marshawn Lynch’s retirement announcement was fitting for a guy who hated talking to the media.

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Stedman Bailey still hopes for NFL return

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 07: Strong safety Phillip Thomas #41 of the Washington Redskins is stiff armed by wide receiver Stedman Bailey #12 of the St. Louis Rams in the third quarter of a game at FedExField on December 7, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Stedman Bailey was shot in the head twice on November 24, leading to surgery and a lengthy hospital stay that ended with Bailey headed home just before the start of 2016.

Along the way, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said that Bailey was probably done playing football as a result of the injuries he suffered in the shooting but Bailey’s not quite ready to write himself off. In a YouTube video shot by Geoff Coyle of West Virginia Illustrated and titled “Steddy Ambition,” Bailey admits his doctors are doubtful about his chances of returning and outlines one potential fear that’s been expressed to him.

“My neurosurgeon was also extremely concerned about me making a return to the NFL, because when I did get shot in the head, it was pretty much like the worst kind of concussions that you can have,” Bailey said. “Just being that football is such a physical sport, guys have concussions all the time. I would say that’s probably the scariest part about it, because at the end of the day, I just want to have my mind functioning where I can be a good family man, be a good dad, just be myself. That’s one thing I think is scary.”

Bailey is running and lifting weights, although the amount of weight he’s working with is down significantly from where he was before the shooting. That’s not stopping him from trying to “continue to live out my dream,” although it seems there’s still a fair distance to go before Bailey can realistically hope to return to the field.

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Mario Williams: Given the opportunity, I’ll get back to what I was

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Mario Williams #94 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Michael Adamucci/Getty Images) Getty Images

Defensive end Mario Williams wasn’t a fan of the defensive scheme the Bills ran during the 2015 season and he didn’t have much of a problem letting people know about it.

Williams, whose production dropped to five sacks after he had 38 in his first three years with the Bills, complained about the way he and others on the defense were being used on multiple occasions during the season. The year wasn’t over before reports surfaced that the Bills would release Williams to save nearly $13 million in cap space, something that Williams believes will be the first step toward an on-field resurgence.

“It’s kind of crazy when you are asked to do something that is totally different, but yet as a whole it didn’t work out defensively,” Williams said, via Josina Anderson of “But yet I’m the one whose production has fallen off? Like, that is why I’m saying, I’m prepared for anything because I know I’m going to prove a point and that is not even a question in my mind. At the end of the day, if I’m not there, I’ll show you that I’m better than what I’ve been before. Like, that’s just a chip on my shoulder regardless of whether I am there or not, because given the opportunity I’ll get back to what I was.”

Williams repeated his dissatisfaction with not being allowed to “attack and get after it” in the Bills scheme, so it’s clear what he’ll be looking for in a next stop. The Bills are free to part ways with him at any time and Williams would likely prefer sooner rather than later so that he can talk to teams before free agency floods the field with other options.

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Nearly half the league still hasn’t won a Super Bowl


The NFL now has closed the books on 50 Super Bowls. And in a 32-team league, only 19 of the teams have ever won a Lombardi Trophy.

Which means that (abacus engaged) 13 teams have never won a Super Bowl. That’s nearly half of the entire league.

The non-champions are the Bills, Browns, Bengals, Jaguars, Texans, Titans, Chargers, Eagles, Vikings, Lions, Panthers, Falcons, Cardinals.

Since the Buccaneers exited that list in Super Bowl XXXVII, only the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV and the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII have joined the ranks of the Lombardi owners.

So as the NFL embarks on the next 50 Super Bowls, the question is how much smaller this bizarro baker’s dozen will be after the NFL plays what likely will be the next championship game that ditches the Roman numeral C for 100.

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