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PFT’s Week Nine picks

Chiefs Getty Images

Alas, I failed to gain any ground on MDS in Week Eight.  I didn’t lose any either.  We each went 10-3, splitting the two games on which we differed.

This week, we disagree on three games.  Which means I can cut his four-game lead down to one.  (I was always good at math.  Speling not so mutch.)

For the year, he’s 81-39, and I’m 77-43.

For a complete look at this week’s picks, just keep on reading.

Actually, I don’t care if you keep reading.  The click already has been registered.

Bengals at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Bengals are surging and the Dolphins are falling. I see Cincinnati winning big and NFL Network televising another Thursday night game that many fans will turn off at halftime. Also, never bet against a team that wears black and orange on Halloween.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Dolphins 10.

Florio’s take:  This is precisely the kind of game that the Bengals can lose.  Road game against an overmatched opponent with four straight losses and general disarray.  But a skeptical nation will be watching this one while discreetly bogarting its children’s Halloween candy.  One of the best teams in the AFC will step up, or risk not being perceived as one of the best teams in the AFC.

Florio’s pick:  Bengals 31, Dolphins 20.

Chiefs at Bills

MDS’s take: The Bills’ defense is good enough to hold the Chiefs’ offense in check, so this game should be close into the fourth quarter — certainly closer than you’d think for an 8-0 team facing a 3-5 team. I have a funny feeling a big play on special teams late in the game will give this one to the Chiefs.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 17, Bills 14.

Florio’s take:  It’s time.  The Chiefs have flirted with disaster the last two Sundays at home, narrowly beating the Texans and the Browns.  This week, the Chiefs go on the road, where they really haven’t been tested this year.  The Bills have easily beaten the Chiefs each of the last two years.  While this one won’t be a blowout, it’s time for someone to score more points than the last undefeated team in the NFL.

Florio’s pick:  Bills 23, Chiefs 20.

Falcons at Panthers

MDS’s take: The Falcons are finished. The Panthers are playing great football right now. Carolina has won three straight games by more than two touchdowns, and Sunday will make it four in a row.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 35, Falcons 17.

Florio’s take:  It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers can recover from a 10-point deficit.  With the defense playing as well as it is, that may not happen any time soon.  With some tough games looming, the Panthers could get a tough test from a team fighting for its playoff life.  Based on how the Falcons played in Arizona last week, it won’t matter.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Falcons 17.

Vikings at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Cowboys’ defense may be shellshocked after what Calvin Johnson did to them on Sunday, but there’s no way the Vikings’ terrible passing game is going to make big plays in Dallas. The Cowboys will probably only need to win eight games to win the NFC East, and they’ll earn their fifth win on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 27, Vikings 13.

Florio’s takeAdrian Peterson returns home to Texas to face a team that could really use him.  Even without him, they have enough firepower to defeat a Vikings team that could be worse than the 3-13 edition from 2011.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 35, Vikings 17.

Saints at Jets

MDS’s take: I expect Rex Ryan’s defense to rebound from last week’s disaster in Cincinnati and play well against the Saints’ offense, but I don’t expect Geno Smith to play much better than he did last week. As a result, the Saints win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Saints 20, Jets 14.

Florio’s take:  It’s a Ryan twins reunion in New York.  Even though the Jets are doing better than expected, they aren’t good enough to close a major gap in talent one week after being blown out by the Bengals.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, Jets 17.

Titans at Rams

MDS’s take: The Rams were more competitive than I expected them to be in Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks, but the Kellen Clemens-led offense is going to be in a lot of low-scoring losses the rest of the season. That’s what I expect to happen when Jeff Fisher’s old team comes to town.

MDS’s pick: Titans 14, Rams 13.

Florio’s take:  The Titans play their first game ever without owner Bud Adams — and against long-time coach Jeff Fisher.  With Tennessee having two weeks to get ready and the Rams operating only six days after a physically and emotionally draining loss to the Seahawks, this could be the ugly result everyone expected on Monday night.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 27, Rams 13.

Chargers at Redskins

MDS’s take: Washington is just not a good team in any phase of the game: The offense still looks like it needs last year’s Robert Griffin III, the defense allows too many big plays in the passing game and the special teams are an absolute disaster. San Diego will put a lot of points on the board and win an easy one.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 31, Redskins 17.

Florio’s takePhilip Rivers owns a 5-1 record against Mike Shanahan.  The Chargers are rested and the Redskins are reeling after suffering a 38-point second-half barrage against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 24, Redskins 14.

Eagles at Raiders

MDS’s take: Everyone has spent so much time in the last couple weeks asking what’s wrong with Chip Kelly’s offense that a lot of people are overlooking all the problems with the Eagles’ defense. When you can’t even force a turnover against the Giants’ offense — and the Eagles’ defense couldn’t last week — you know something is wrong. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor makes his share of mistakes, but the Eagles don’t have the defense to take advantage of those mistakes. Pryor will make enough big plays with his feet to win this one and make Kelly wish he had a quarterback like Pryor.

MDS’s pick: Raiders 20, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders complete a rare two-game sweep of Pennsylvania’s pro football teams without ever having to leave the Bay Area.  All four NFC West teams will be at or above .500 come Sunday, thanks to their ability to pulverize the teams of the NFC East.

Florio’s pick:  Raiders 17, Eagles 9.

Buccaneers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Buccaneers are playing as badly as any team in the NFL right now. Seattle is the toughest place to play in the league. The Seahawks can name their score.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 41, Buccaneers 13.

Florio’s take:  Two teams that entered the NFL together in 1976 couldn’t be more different in 2013.  While the Bucs still have the bragging rights that come from winning a Super Bowl, the Seahawks could be on course to match that achievement this year.  Tampa will be a minor speed bump along the path to New York

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 31, Buccaneers 10.

Ravens at Browns

MDS’s take: Browns quarterback Jason Campbell actually played well against the tough Chiefs’ defense, and the Ravens haven’t been playing well recently. Call me crazy, but I think the defending Super Bowl champions are going down in Cleveland.

MDS’s pick: Browns 20, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The team that used to be the Browns has beaten the Browns 11 straight times.  If the Ravens can’t run that streak to 12, their five-year run of playoff berths could be ending, too.  Rested and re-focused, the Ravens will find a way, as they always seem to do when they need it most.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Browns 10.

Steelers at Patriots

MDS’s take: The Patriots have had so many injuries that they feel like they’re going to fall apart at any moment, but there they are in their customary spot atop the AFC East. They’ll keep it going against the Steelers.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 27, Steelers 21.

Florio’s take:  The Steelers can win if they commit fully to the run, and if they can find a way to slow down a good-not-great New England offense.  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems to be too determined to prove he’s still a franchise quarterback to buy in to a run-based attack, even if the team’s use of the Wildcat means that the Steelers no longer view him as a true game changer.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 24, Steelers 21.

Colts at Texans

MDS’s take: Case Keenum may provide the Texans a spark, and the Colts may be due for a letdown. I’m tempted to pick Houston to pull off an upset and snap their five-game losing streak, but I just can’t pull the trigger on it.

MDS’s pick: Colts 21, Texans 20.

Florio’s take:  Two weeks after Peyton Manning returned to his adopted home of Indianapolis, Andrew Luck returns to his real home of Houston.  The question is which Colts team will come with him — and whether Case Keenum can build on his near miss against the Chiefs from Week Seven.  I’ll say the one that lost to the Chargers, and yes.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Colts 20.

Bears at Packers

MDS’s take: In this week’s only matchup of teams with winning records, the Packers will strengthen their grip on the NFC North race with a win over the Bears. Both teams are banged up, but the Bears’ loss of Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs makes it tough for them to win anywhere. I certainly don’t see them winning in Green Bay.

MDS’s pick: Packers 34, Bears 17.

Florio’s takeJosh McCown, Luke McCown, Cade McNown.  Either way, it’s a McLoss, McDog.  Green Bay keeps rolling toward another division title, as long as the quarterback doesn’t join the injured list.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 35, Bears 21.

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Buccaneers spoke to district attorney as part of Winston research

Meggs Getty Images

During Friday’s Outside the Lines on ESPN, Bob Ley said that William Meggs, the local district attorney in Tallahassee, claimed that he has not been contacted by the NFL or any team.  According to a Buccaneers source, however, that information isn’t accurate.

Per the source, the Buccaneers have spoken to the district attorney’s office as part of an extensive due diligence process in which the team has engaged regarding Winston.

The communication occurred well in advance of Friday’s report, the source explained.  And it makes sense; having the first overall pick imposes an obligation to spend plenty of time and resources to research the players who potentially may be selected.  With Winston, that time and resources have been devoted, both as to the allegations made by Erica Kinsman and all other incidents that relate to him in any way.

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Mike Williams, Brad Smith added to PFT’s All-Unemployed Team

Mike Williams AP

Since published last week, PFT’s All-Unemployed Team has undergone a little turnover, with center Stefen Wisniewski (Jacksonville) and Michael Crabtree (Oakland) among those departing for the ranks of the job-holding.

With Crabtree gone, we had one spot open at wide receiver. However, we decided to add two receivers to the squad.

And both receivers, as it turns out, were one-time Bills.

However, Mike Williams and Brad Smith are different propositions for NFL clubs. The 27-year-old Williams has three 60-catch seasons to his credit. The 31-year-old Smith, on the other hand, has never caught more than 32 passes in a season.

Williams might have more upside. However, Smith can be used multiple ways. Smith has 134 career carries; Williams has one. Moreover, Smith is a former collegiate quarterback, and he has more special teams experience than Williams.

Williams might be a player who can still be developed. Smith, though, can do several things.

Whom do you prefer?

The answer probably depends on the club.

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Twenty years ago Saturday, Joe Montana called it a career

Joe Montana of the Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

As the 49ers’ Twitter feed points out, Saturday is the 20th anniversary of quarterback Joe Montana’s retirement from the NFL.

Montana’s departure came after two seasons with Kansas City, which traded a first-round pick for him in April 1993.

While Montana wasn’t able to finish his career with the franchise with whom he won four Super Bowls, the trade worked out well for him, the Niners and the Chiefs.

Let’s review.

The Chiefs made the postseason in both of Montana’s seasons as a starter. He led the club to a pair of playoff wins in ’93 — the franchise’s last two postseason victories to date. His Kansas City seasons were a bookend to a spectacular career that landed him in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

The 49ers, meanwhile, ended up trading the Chiefs’ first-round pick (No. 18, 1993) to Phoenix, as ProSportsTransactions.com notes. The 49ers then traded down again, landing at No. 26 in Round One, where they selected defensive Dana Stubblefield, who was a starter on their dominant Super Bowl XXIX-winning club of 1994.

But the 49ers’ draft haul from the Montana trade didn’t stop there.

In trading down for Stubblefield, the 49ers landed the No. 81 overall pick, a third-rounder. They packaged a second-round pick (No. 56) and the 81st pick to the Los Angeles Raiders for a second-round pick (No. 41).

It gets better. The 49ers then moved that 1993 second-round pick to the Chargers for San Diego’s first-round pick in the 1994 NFL Draft (No. 15 overall). The Chargers, for the record, took tailback Natrone Means, who helped that franchise get to Super Bowl XXIX.

So what did the 49ers do with the Chargers’ first-round pick? According to ProSportsTransactions.com, the 49ers traded it to the Los Angeles Rams for the No. 7 pick to take defensive tackle Bryant Young — who, like Stubblefield, was a starter at defensive tackle right off the bat. And when the Chargers and 49ers met in Super Bowl XXIX, Means rushed for just 33 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

To review: Joe Montana helped the 49ers win four Super Bowls, and when the franchise moved on from him, it picked up a couple of key pieces needed to win a fifth Super Bowl.

There’s a reason why the 49ers were as good as they were for as long as they were. Did they ever know talent, and did they ever know how to work the draft.

The words “Joe Montana, third-round pick” ought to ring a bell, too.

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Gates says he’s not looking to play less

Gates Getty Images

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates recently said that, instead of playing “the whole game” in 2015, he’s more likely to play only in those situation where he’s likely to get the ball.  He now says he didn’t say what it sounded like he said.

“For me, to put in all this work in all these years and have the opportunity to play and say I don’t want to play, I don’t know where people got that from,” Gates told Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.

They got it from his own words:  “With injuries and whatnot, I played a little bit more than they expected me to play last season,” Gates told TheMMQB.com.  “I was playing the whole game.  How I feel next year, it depends on how much volume they have me doing.  I’d like to come in on third-and-7s, red zones, those situations.  That’s what my contribution is at anyway.”

“It was probably a misquote or a misunderstanding,” Gates explained to Gehlken.  “I ain’t asking to play less.  Every time I’m in a game, I feel like I have the opportunity to make a play.  Why would I want to be on the sideline?  That defeats the purpose.  The only way you can contribute is by being in the game.”

So Gates doesn’t want to play less in 2015.  Regardless of whether he said he does.

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Marcedes Lewis takes pay cut to stay in Jacksonville

Marcus Gilchrist, Marcedes Lewis AP

Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis was on the trade block, but not anymore.

Lewis has agreed to a new deal and will stay in Jacksonville.

“I’m pumped to be a part of something exciting and be a big part of it,” Lewis told the Florida Times-Union.

The reports about Lewis’s new contract are calling it a “restructuring” and not a “pay cut,” but a pay cut is what it is. Lewis will turn 31 next month, was scheduled to cost $8.2 million against the Jaguars’ salary cap this season, and caught just 18 passes last year. Obviously, the Jaguars wouldn’t have kept him at his previous cap number.

Now Lewis will stick around another year, and although he’s no longer the top tight end in town after the arrival of Julius Thomas, he’ll get a chance to be a part of turning the Jaguars around.

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Bryant, Wells dispute lingers

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The sending in February of a cease-and-desist letter to the former adviser of Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant hasn’t resolved the situation.

Per multiple sources, Wells still has not complied with specific requests made at the end of the February 20 letter, a copy of which PFT has obtained.

“You have until 5 p.m. EST, Monday, February 23, 2015 to provide us with the requested money and materials, as well as written confirmation of your compliance with the demands set forth in this letter,” the communication from Jordan W. Siev to Wells states.  “Absent your full and immediate compliance with these demands, we will take all appropriate actions to enforce our client’s rights, which may include commencing litigation against you to assert claims of conversion, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, among other claims, seeking a preliminary injunction, and seeking an award of compensatory and punitive damages, and reimbursement of all of our costs and attorneys’ fees resulting from your actions.”

The letter specifically refers to a payment received by Wells on Bryant’s behalf from BioSteel Sports Supplements.  Bryant’s representatives contend that Wells kept the money.

It’s unclear at this point whether any legal action will be taken by Bryant against Wells.  According to one source, the primary purpose of the letter was to terminate the power of attorney Wells previously held on behalf of Bryant.

Ultimately, Bryant has the right to change agents and advisers, whenever he wants and for whatever reason.  Bryant made a comment Friday indicating he realizes his agents and advisers work for him, not the other way around.

“I’m the one making the decisions on who to trust and who to be surrounded by,” Bryant said, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.  “I’ve surrounded myself with people who I think deserve to be trusted.”

This implies that Bryant believes Wells and other former representatives/advisors didn’t deserve to be trusted.  Which could further alienate Wells, who had been Bryant’s closest confidant and adviser during the early days of his NFL career.

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Wisniewski lands in Jacksonville

Wis AP

Center Stefen Wisniewski has a new home.  Finally.

The free-agent lineman, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Jaguars, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.  The decision came after visits and/or discussions with the Titans, Jaguars, Patriots, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Bears, and Washington.

The short duration of the deal isn’t surprising; at this stage of the free-agency process, the big money is long gone.  So he’ll try to have a big year in Jacksonville and hit the market again in 2016.

A Pittsburgh native, Wisniewski played from the moment he arrived as a second-round pick in 2011, with 61 appearances and 61 starts.  As a rookie, Wisniewski played left guard; he shifted to center in 2012.  Wisniewski became displaced in Oakland when the Raiders signed Rodney Hudson last month.

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Rex Ryan goes after Jace Amaro again

Rex AP

Former Jets coach Rex Ryan continues to hold Jets tight end Jace Amaro accountable for his contention that the Jets weren’t held accountable in 2014, Ryan’s last one with the team.

It’s not the truth,” Ryan said Saturday morning on WFAN radio, via Dom Cosentino of NJ.com.

Rex then became more circumspect in his remarks about Amaro:  “That kid’s a little . . . he’s going to get . . . we’ll see what happens,” Rex told Kimberly Jones..

“I just know it’s not the truth, and for him or anybody else to pop off like that, I think is absolutely a joke,” Ryan said.  “Now, look, if David Harris would have said something, or D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, or someone, I would be hurt by it.  I would be absolutely devastated by it.  But a kid like that?  Nah.  I know him, and that doesn’t bother me one bit.”

If it did bother Rex, his comments presumably would be even stronger.  If that’s even possible.

He’s full of sh-t,” Rex recently told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com, “and I’ll remind him of that when we play him.  Look, we weren’t perfect, and I never said we were going to be perfect.  But that’s a f–king b.s. comment.”

So, basically, I don’t know whether I’d rather see the Bills face the Patriots on the first Thursday night of the season, or the Bills against the Jets on Sunday night.

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Medical re-check provides good news on Todd Gurley

Gurley AP

Former Georgia running back Todd Gurley appears poised to be the first running back selected in the first round of the draft in three years.

Gurley, who looked like a sure-thing first-round pick before suffering a torn ACL in November, had his surgically reconstructed knee inspected by doctors as part of the NFL’s medical-recheck today in Indianapolis. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Gurley’s knee checked out fine and there’s optimism that he’ll be good to go in time for training camp.

That likely means Gurley will go in the first round of the draft, something that we haven’t seen since 2012. In 2013 the first running back selected was Giovani Bernard with the fifth pick in the second round, and in 2014 the first running back selected was Bishop Sankey with the 22nd pick in the second round.

When healthy, Gurley is a powerful runner and kickoff returner with breakaway speed. If NFL teams are convinced he’ll be healthy in time to play a full rookie season, then he should be a high pick.

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Steelers’ doctors clear Jaelen Strong’s wrist

jaelen-strong-arizona-state-sun-devils-catching-pass Getty Images

We noted yesterday that former Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong would miss Saturday’s medical re-check in Indianapolis, and that he had a visit with the Steelers. As it turned out, Strong’s visit allowed the Steelers’ doctors to give Strong’s injured wrist a thorough check.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Strong went through a battery of tests on his wrist during his visit to Pittsburgh. According to Schefter, the Steelers’ doctors cleared Strong and are sending the results of his checkup to other teams.

It’s odd that Strong is getting the re-check from the Steelers’ doctors rather than going through the process that most players recovering from injuries go through in Indianapolis. It’s unclear whether every other team will be satisfied with getting a report from the Steelers’ staff.

Despite a report that Strong would need surgery to repair the broken bone in his wrist, Strong says he played five games through the injury and is fine.

Strong will attend the draft and is viewed as a late-first or early-second-round pick.

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Russell Wilson says Rangers want him to play baseball

Wilson AP

When some of the quotes first emerged from Russell Wilson’s interview with HBO’s Bryant Gumbel regarding Wilson playing baseball, it sounded like the musings of an elite, 25-year-old athlete who thinks he can do anything — but who surely would never undermine his football career by playing professional baseball.  Based on the full interview, it sounds like a stronger possibility.

After Wilson suggests that he may “push the envelope a little bit” and play football and baseball, Gumbel pounces.

“Let’s be blunt,” Gumbel says in an interview that debuts Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. ET.  “You played minor league ball for a while.  Correct me if I’m wrong.  Numbers were .227 average, five homers, 26 RBI.  If the numbers were better, would you [play baseball and football]?”

“I wouldn’t be worried about the statistics of it,” Wilson replies.  “I know I can play in the big leagues.  With the work ethic and all that, I think I definitely could for sure.  And that’s why the Texas Rangers got my rights.  And they want me to play.  Jon Daniels, the G.M., wants me to play.  We were talking about it the other day.”

The Seahawks G.M., John Schneider, was talking about it the other day, too.  And Schneider isn’t ready to assume Wilson would fail.

“I think one of the primary things that really attracted Russell to us — I know me in particular — was the confidence he has in himself and the goals, dreams, aspirations,” Schneider told KIRO radio.  “He’s off the charts in terms of his confidence level and the way he views himself, so it doesn’t surprise me that he would think that way.  Quite frankly, I haven’t thought much about the baseball aspect of it.  Based on the position that he plays in football, I think it would be difficult.  But the way he attacks everything, I don’t think you could put anything past him.”

Schneider also declined to say whether the Seahawks would try to stop Wilson from playing baseball.  It was smart to sidestep the question, because a football-only ultimatum from N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien sparked Wilson to transfer to Wisconsin.

“I’ll never forget it,” Wilson says.  “I’ll never forget the times that people have told me that I couldn’t do something.”

That’s ultimately good news for Schneider and the Seahawks, because Wilson believes the interception at the end of Super Bowl XLIX won’t define him.

“Even if you don’t get back [to the Super Bowl]?” Gumbel says.

“I’ll get back.”

“You’re sure of that.”

“I’ll get back.”

Whether and how often he gets back could depend on how much of the team’s salary cap is devoted to him.  That wasn’t a topic that came up in the interview with Gumbel.  Soon, it’ll be an issue far more important than his lingering baseball dream and Super Bowl nightmare.

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Trent Baalke thinks Aldon Smith is primed for a big year

Aldon Smith AP

Aldon Smith has had so much off-field trouble during his time with the 49ers that there’s been talk that General Manager Trent Baalke should have just cut him. But not only is Baalke not getting rid of Smith, Baalke says Smith is primed for a big 2015 season.

He’s got a great look in his eye. He’s doing well,” Baalke told ESPN. “For anybody that’s been in a situation like Aldon’s been in, every day is a process. But he’s doing exceptionally well and he’s probably in as good a shape as he’s been in a long time.”

Smith missed nine games last season because of an NFL suspension, and when he did play he didn’t play particularly well, with just two sacks in seven games — a sharp decline from his 42 sacks in 43 games in his first three seasons. But Baalke said that Smith has had perfect attendance during offseason workouts and is even taking the lead with his teammates.

“[He’s] starting to develop into a leader out there, which is great to see and been a pleasure to watch,” Baalke said.

For the 49ers, who have experienced plenty of losses elsewhere on the roster, a return to form for Smith would go a long way toward getting their defense back on track. Baalke likes Smith’s chances of making it happen.

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New schedule-release target is Tuesday or Wednesday

2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Few targets move like the one that eventually will trigger the release of the NFL’s regular-season schedule.  Originally planned for next Thursday, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the finalists are now Tuesday and Wednesday.

The schedule is and has been ready to go.  As another source tells PFT, the league circulates the finished product to some of the more influential owners for “beta testing” before making it officials.  It’s unclear whether any of the owners have the juice to force changes to the schedule; some adjustments would require more effort than shuffling a couple of games around.  It could be that Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose job partially entails keeping a constituency of 32 as happy as possible, wants some of the key members of the group that determines his terms of employment to feel as if they are involved.

And they should be.  It’s ultimately their sport.  Besides, a fresh look at the 256-game slate from a self-made billionaire or two (and even from some of the guys who had the billions handed to them at birth) can’t hurt.

Regarding the specific day for releasing the schedule, NFL Network typically has a strong voice in the process.  Currently, the word is that NFLN prefers Wednesday.

Either way, the wait for applying the “when” to the “who” and the “where” will end soon.

And it’s not as trivial an exercise as some would suggest.  Apart from letting fans make travel plans games the intend to attend or permitting fans to begin anticipating key prime-time and other high-profile games, individual teams will know whether they’ll be facing an array of cream puffs to start the season, a murderer’s row, or something in between.  For some franchises, the won-loss record at the end of September could be a major factor in whether the team does or doesn’t get to the postseason.

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New Colt Andre Johnson not focused on facing the Texans

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

When the NFL schedule comes out next week, some fans will circle the dates of the Colts-Texans games, when Andre Johnson will face his old team. But Johnson isn’t thinking about that.

Johnson, who signed in Indianapolis last month after 12 seasons in Houston, says he’s not motivated by revenge, anger or any animosity toward the Texans.

“Everybody thinks I went to the Colts to try to get back at the Texans, and stuff like that,” Johnson told ESPN. “That had nothing to do with it. I just went to the best place where I felt that was the best fit for me where I can have the best chance to win a championship. It wasn’t about circling dates or nothing against the Texans. I had 12 great years.”

Johnson’s return to Houston in a Colts uniform may be emotional for him, for his teammates and for fans. But once the ball is kicked off, it’s just another game.

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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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